Since I last updated, I finished 5 more books, making this year’s total books read 39. My goal for the year was 30, so I surpassed that goal!
After reading two of Sarah Morgan’s books, I decided to read another by her. The characters in First Time In Forever appeared briefly in Sunset In Central Park, so it was fun to go back and read their story.
“Windswept, isolated and ruggedly beautiful, Puffin Island is a haven for day-trippers and daydreamers alike. But this charming community has a way of bringing people together in the most unexpected ways… It’s been a summer of firsts for Emily Donovan. From becoming a stand-in mom to her niece, Lizzy, to arriving on Puffin Island, her life has become virtually unrecognizable. Between desperately safeguarding Lizzy and her overwhelming fear of the ocean—which surrounds her everywhere she goes!—Emily has lost count of the number of ‘just breathe’ pep talks she’s given herself. And that’s before charismatic local yacht club owner Ryan Cooper kisses her… Ryan knows all about secrets. And it’s clear that newcomer Emily—with her haunted eyes and the little girl she won’t let out of her sight—is hiding from something besides the crazy chemistry between them. So Ryan decides he's going to make it his personal mission to help her unwind and enjoy the sparks! But can Puffin Island work its magic on Emily and get her to take the biggest leap of trust of all—putting her heart in someone else's hands?”
Like her other books, First Time In Forever featured one of a group of girlfriends finding love. There were hints towards the other two stories that are in this same series, but the main story focused on Emily and Ryan. The love story was sweet and there was an obvious conflict that the characters had to get through before their happily ever after, which made the story interesting. I also enjoyed the setting of Puffin Island. It is not a real island, which is sad, because the book makes you want to go there!
I also picked up Smoke by Catherine McKenzie, as I really enjoyed her book Fractured, which I reviewed last week. While Fractured was more of a mystery, Smoke also contained a story that brought up questions, but I felt it was more of a book about relationships, between friends and between a husband and wife.
“After a decade-long career combating wildfires, Elizabeth has traded in her former life for a quieter one with her husband. Now she works as the local arson investigator in a beautiful, quaint town in the Rockies. But that tranquil life vanishes when she and her husband agree to divorce and a fire in nearby Cooper Basin begins to spread rapidly. For Elizabeth, containing a raging wildfire is easier than accepting that her marriage has failed. For Elizabeth’s ex-friend Mindy, who feels disconnected from her husband and teenage children, the fire represents a chance to find a new purpose: helping a man who has lost his home to the blaze. But her faith is shattered by a shocking accusation. As the encroaching inferno threatens the town’s residents, Elizabeth and Mindy must discover what will be lost in the fire, and what will be saved.”
The story of the fire is scary and it provides a dramatic backdrop to everything else that is happening in the town. I really liked all of the characters and exploring their relationships with one another. I definitely want to read more books by Catherine McKenzie.
Next up was another book by Sarah Morgan called Sleigh Bells In The Snow. This is the first in an earlier series by her that features the 3 O’Neill brothers and their extended family, who operate a ski resort in Vermont.
“Once upon a time, Christmas was Kayla Green’s favorite time of year. Now all the workaholic wants for Christmas is for it to be over—as fast as possible! So when duty calls her to snowy Vermont to close a deal with a new client, Kayla is grateful for an excuse to avoid the holidays for another year. Jackson O’Neil left a thriving business behind to return home and salvage his family’s resort—it’s in his blood, and he can’t let it fail. Now that he’s got marketing whiz Kayla Green working with him to put Snow Crystal on the map, success is on the horizon. The fact they strike enough sparks off each other to power all the Christmas lights in Vermont is just an added bonus. Kayla might be an expert at her job, but she’s out of her depth with Jackson—he makes her crave the happy-ever-after she once dreamed of, and it's terrifying. As the snowflakes continue to swirl, will the woman who doesn't believe in the magic of Christmas finally fall under its spell?”
Again, the setting of this book made me want to visit – and I’m not a fan of the cold weather! Kayla was and endearing character and the hurt she experienced as a young girl follow her into her relationship with Jackson. Of course, he ends up breaking through to her and so does the rest of his sweet family.
I recently came across an article by Barbara Claypole White, whose book Echoes of Family I recently reviewed. In this article, she recommends 16 family dramas that would be excellent book club reads. I was able to find a few of these books at the library and the first one that I read was The Things We Keep by Sally Hepworth. While the topic of the book is quite sad, I found the book uplifting and full of hope, and I really enjoyed all of the characters and how they took care of one another.
“Anna Forster is only thirty-eight years old, but her mind is slowly slipping away from her. Armed only with her keen wit and sharp-eyed determination, she knows that her family is doing what they believe to be best when they take her to Rosalind House, an assisted living facility. But Anna has a secret: she does not plan on staying. She also knows there's just one another resident who is her age, Luke. What she does not expect is the love that blossoms between her and Luke even as she resists her new life. As her disease steals more and more of her memory, Anna fights to hold on to what she knows, including her relationship with Luke. Eve Bennett, suddenly thrust into the role of single mother to her bright and vivacious seven-year-old daughter, finds herself putting her culinary training to use at Rosalind house. When she meets Anna and Luke, she is moved by the bond the pair has forged. But when a tragic incident leads Anna's and Luke’s families to separate them, Eve finds herself questioning what she is willing to risk to help them. Eve has her own secrets, and her own desperate circumstances that raise the stakes even higher.”
Anna has early onset Alzheimer’s, which is beyond scary, especially as she knows what will happen to her because it happened to her mother as well. Luke has a type of dementia that causes his ability to speak to become more difficult as time passes. While Anna’s brother hoped that she would bond with Luke because they are around the same age, he did not expect his sister to fall in love. One interesting thing about this book is that while it is told from various view points, it is also told in the present by one character and from the past by another character (Anna – as her view point gets closer to the present, it is interesting to note how her observations become more confused). Because Anna is not necessarily a reliable narrator and no one else is inside of her head, there is an event that keeps us wondering throughout the story as to what actually occurred. It is sad that the event is largely misunderstood. Although the book’s focus is on Anna, the stories of the other residents are not neglected. Eve and her relationship with the home’s gardener is a sweet touch, and we learn more about her and her story as the book goes on as well. Eve’s daughter Clementine is also one of the book’s narrators, and I enjoyed seeing her viewpoint as well. The hope that is provided in the book is that even though Anna and Luke may not remember each other (Anna refers to Luke as “young guy” in her head), they somehow still know that they love each other and they naturally gravitate to each other, showing that love is not only something they must remember, but something that they choose each and every time they see one another.
Finally, I read another book from Claypole White’s list – Five Days Left by Julie Lawson Timmer. While some things in this book reminded me of the one I previously mentioned, it was unique in that it featured two totally separate characters and families who never interact with one another. One of these characters ends up with a changed fate and one does not.
“Mara Nichols is a successful lawyer, devoted wife, and adoptive mother who has received a life-shattering diagnosis. Scott Coffman, a middle school teacher, has been fostering an eight-year-old boy while the boy’s mother serves a jail sentence. Scott and Mara both have five days left until they must say good-bye to the ones they love the most.”
Mara, a woman who was adopted and also has an adopted daughter, has found out that she has Huntington’s Disease. This disease is progressively taking away her independence, and as some of the things occur she finds ways to adjust to them, but others make her feel hopeless and unable to go on. I thought it was interesting that Mara, her parents, and her daughter are Indian, a culture that I do not often find featured in the books that I read.
Through an online forum, Mara has provided support to foster father Scott, who finds out that his foster son’s mother is getting out of jail and will bring her son home with her. I admired Scott and how he cared for his boy and the boy’s older brother as well. Although Mara provided support to Scott, Mara never told him or the other members of the forum about her disease, which was a bit frustrating. Also frustrating was the disconnect between the two stories, especially at the end. I found the ending significantly less hopeful than the previous book I mentioned above!
What have you been reading lately?