Saturday, November 21, 2020

REVIEW: A Timeless Christmas by Alexis Stanton


 Title: A Timeless Christmas
 Author: Alexis Stanton
 Publisher: Hallmark Publishing
 Publication Date: October 2018
 Genre: Time Travel Romance / Christmas Holiday
 Buy the Book: Amazon | BN | Audible

 Description: They’re from two different   centuries, but they’re perfect for each other.

 Megan Turner is in love with the past. As a tour guide at a beautiful historic mansion, she tells visitors about its original owner, Charles Whitley. An inventor and businessman in the early 1900s, he rose from poverty to wealth…only to disappear without a trace.

Charles was always intrigued by the future. He just never expected to go there. But when he repairs a mysterious clock he bought on his travels, he’s transported to the twenty-first century, with his home decorated for Christmas and overrun by strangers.

Charles is determined to find a way back to his own era, especially when he learns about what happened after he left. But as Megan introduces him to the wonders of smartphones, pizza, and modern holiday traditions, they both feel a once-in-a-lifetime connection. Could it be that, somewhere in time, they belong together?

My Thoughts: A sweet story about a man who travels from 1902 to the present day to discover his home has been decorated for Christmas and turned into a museum with strangers walking about. Charles Whitley was a man ahead of his time in 1902. A wealthy and successful businessman and inventor, he made his mark on the world in 1902, lives in a beautiful mansion he designed and has a fiancĂ©e that he keeps at arm’s length. Upon returning from a trip to Paris, he begins working on a clock and in the blink of an eye is transported to the 21st century.

He meets the staff that run the museum that used to be his home and despite the amazing changes he has seen and the attraction he feels for Megan Turner, the historian who reenacts the role of his housekeeper, Rosie, he is determined to return to his own time to live the life he was meant to have before he disappeared.

Megan loves her job at the museum and loves history. Her dream is to teach history at the university. The last person she ever expects is to meet the real Charles Whitley in his study, newly arrived from 1902 and quite annoyed at the intrusion of strangers in his home.

This story was a very quick read. Charles adapts exceedingly well to his surroundings but when he learns what has transpired since he left his time, he is determined to go back. Megan and the rest of the staff at the museum easily suspend disbelief and accept Charles assertions that he is THE Charles Whitley. In the present day, he learns to let his hair down a little bit and enjoy the festivities of the holiday. I had a little bit of an issue how Megan bought him a cell phone, food and personal care items and loaned him a bunch of her brother’s clothes without really knowing him, but since it’s Christmas and she’s moved by the spirit of giving, I can accept it. Charles is a true gentleman throughout the story and though their attraction to one another is plain to see by everyone around them, they never get past the hugging stage.

I really enjoyed this story and thought Charles and Megan were fantastic characters, well written and easy to relate to. I recommend this book to readers who love time travel and Christmas themes but also readers who are looking for something sweet to add to the flavor of the holiday.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of A Timeless Christmas from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


Monday, November 16, 2020

Review: A Better Man by Leah McLaren

  
  Title: A Better Man
  Author: Leah McLaren
  Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  Publication Date: July 2015
  Genre: Women’s Fiction
  Buy the Book: Amazon | BN | Audible

  Description: Every couple has a wish list.

  Maya wants
  Nick to come home earlier
  To engage with their children
  To engage with her

Nick wants . . .
A divorce

Having decided that their marriage is over, Nick is determined to leave quickly and with dignity. But when he looks into the financial realities of splitting up, he realizes that more of his hard-earned income than he can handle will go to Maya. Then a mutual friend proposes that Nick improve the marriage in order to end it amicably, because the better father and husband he is, the more self-sufficient Maya becomes and the cheaper his pay-out will be at the end.

But as Nick sets out to be a better man, he starts to feel like one. Time with his kids, dinners with his wife, fewer hours in the office has the strange effect of making him happier. As Maya starts to feel appreciated by her husband again, she starts to blossom, to unclench her fists from the parenting reins and start to do things for herself.

Nick and Maya feel like they are falling back in love. How odd, how funny, how serendipitous. But if Maya knew what had promoted this marital metamorphosis? Then it would be war.

A BETTER MAN is the story of a modern marriage on the rocks, how we constantly change in and out of relationships, and the price of love.

My Thoughts: Of all the species on the planet, humans have been given the amazing ability to think and feel, not just behave on instinct. We have the ability to feel empathy and compassion, make decisions based on logic, facts and evidence. Humans also have the ability to resolve conflict. Unlike the animals we share this planet with, humans can also demonstrate selfishness, greed, corruption and hate, just to name a few.

Nick and Maya Wakefield are that couple that appear to have it all. Amazing careers, beautiful twins, secure, cushy lifestyle. Somewhere along the way, she and Nick have lost the spark that brought them together in the first place. Maya gave up her career in law to be a stay at home mother and is consumed with over-protectiveness, bordering on obsession. I got the impression that Nick is a bystander in his home, not quite participating, just observing. Nick decides he wants out and after he talks to his best friend, Gray who is a divorce attorney, Nick is given the news that divorce will cost him more than he is willing to give up. Gray suggests to him that he should improve his marriage, become a better husband and father before splitting up so that the settlement will weigh more in his favor.

This whole premise knocked me back a little bit. Become a better husband and father, improve your marriage BEFORE YOU END IT? Wait, what? Isn’t the point of improving your marriage is so you don’t end it? This philosophy, though seriously messed up, was quite intriguing to me and what drew me into this story. Nick takes Gray’s advice to heart and actively sets out to be a better husband and father. Devoting more time to the family, spending time at home, picking up the slack and taking a more active role in the relationship. Nick is thoroughly shocked and amazed that he actually begins to FEEL like a better man. Maya notices it too and though she is confused and suspicious in the beginning at the practically overnight change she is seeing in her husband, she quickly embraces and accepts it and begins to relax more and be less obsessed about maintaining control over the household and everyone in it.

Though I thought it was shady of Nick to speak to Gray behind Maya’s back and thought it exceedingly underhanded of him to change on the surface so it would benefit him, I sensed that he really did change. I hoped he would come clean to Maya about not only why he changed his behavior on the outside, but how it also changed him on the inside. Just when I thought these two had struck the mother lode with the fix to all relationship problems, the proverbial cat is let out of the bag. Saying Maya doesn’t react well to the news is an understatement of epic proportion. She quickly moves out of their home with the children and starts divorce proceedings. She is completely unwilling to speak to Nick at all, which I totally understood, but it still frustrated me.

I liked both of these characters and wanted to see them succeed in their marriage. I didn’t agree with Nick’s tactics and I didn’t agree with Maya’s “take no prisoners” reaction but I could relate to both of them and where they were coming from. I couldn’t help but think if they had applied this kind of drive into making their marriage a priority in the first place, they wouldn’t be in this mess. As the most advanced and evolved species on the planet, humans sure know how to muck it up and do it well. I enjoyed this author’s voice and writing style. The story moves at a nice pace with enough detail to keep the reader engaged.

My Final Verdict: An all too realistic story-line for the times we live in but underneath the few top layers of two people all too ready to throw in the towel are two people who learn that sometimes pride needs to be chucked out the window and fighting for love is worth it. I recommend this story to anyone who has been in a relationship, which is most, if not all of us. We’ve all been there, at that cross-roads, when we have had to decide whether to throw in the towel or give it another shot.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of A Better Man from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


Tuesday, November 03, 2020

REVIEW: Danger in Plain Sight By Burt Weissbourd


  Title: Danger in Plain Sight (Callie James Thrillers #1)
  Author: Burt Weissbourd
  Publisher: Blue City Press
  Publication Date: September 2020
  Genre: Mystery / Thriller
  Buy the Book: Amazon | B&N | Audible

  Description: It took fourteen years to construct a safe world for her and her son--      and only one night for her ex to unravel it.

  Celebrated Seattle restaurateur Callie James is more than a little thrown when her ex-husband, French investigative reporter Daniel Odile-Grand, shows up after fourteen years asking for her help. Even more disturbing: as she throws him out, Daniel is deliberately hit by a car, hurled through the front window of her restaurant--broken, bloody and unconscious. He flees from the hospital and breaks into Callie's apartment, where he passes out. Reluctantly, Callie hides him. When she gets back to her restaurant, two assassins walk in, insisting that she find Daniel for them by tonight or pay the consequences.

Overwhelmed and hopelessly out of her depth, Callie hires the only man she knows who can help her: Cash Logan, her former bartender, a man she had arrested for smuggling ivory through her restaurant two years earlier, and who still hasn't forgiven her.

The assassins blow up her restaurant. It's Callie's nightmare. And the worst is yet to come as she and her unlikely, incompatible ally discover that the most perilous dangers are far closer to home than they'd imagined.

My Thoughts: The story started out really slow for me and there were a lot of characters to meet and get to know before anything of noteworthy importance happens. Callie James has rebuilt her life with her son after her marriage to a French philandering journalist ends with her pregnant and her husband not wanting anything to do with the child. Fast forward fourteen years and Callie has found success in Seattle with her restaurant and raising her son. Her life is moving forward as she wants it until the day her ex-husband comes into her restaurant asking for her help. She throws him out and after he is deliberately run down in front of her, Callie agrees to hide him. Getting to this point seemed to take a long time, but the story quickly takes off from here. She is confronted by some hired thugs looking for Daniel who threaten her and that’s just the beginning. Callie decides to seek the help of Cash, a former employee she turned in to the authorities for smuggling a few years prior. She knows he has connections and will know what to do.

I was really surprised Cash agreed to anything, especially helping Callie. He is pretty bitter and appears to carry a grudge. He demands an exorbitant amount of money and the deed to her restaurant in exchange for his help and, of course, Callie agrees. I really liked Cash and his associates, Doc and Andre. On the surface, they appear to be laid back without a care in the world but are really seasoned mercenaries who take their assignment of protecting Callie and her son seriously.

Things go from bad to worse when her restaurant gets blown up and it seems there is no where she can go and be safe. I understood why she was helping Daniel, but I really resented this character through most of the book. He cheats on her, flushes their marriage down the toilet and tells her she has no right to have a child he doesn’t want, but has the unmitigated gall to show up expecting her to help him because his latest investigative story has gotten the attention of some very bad people who are not going to sit back and allow themselves to be exposed by Daniel. Sucks to be you, Daniel. Luckily for him, Callie has a bigger heart and believes it’s important for her son to know his father.

My Final Verdict: I ended up enjoying this story, though the romance between Callie and Cash seemed ill-timed and out of place in this story. I feel that plot device would have better introduced in the second or third book. With their previous history, I had a hard time accepting their feelings were legitimate. I am curious to see where this series goes next and fans of the thriller genre will find this an enjoyable read.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of Danger in Plain Sight from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.




Saturday, October 17, 2020

REVIEW: Milked by Lisa Doyle


  Title: Milked
  Author: Lisa Doyle
  Publisher: Simon & Fig
  Publication Date: November 2014
  Genre: Women’s Fiction
  Buy the Book: Amazon | BN

  Description: By and large, Amanda Keane makes pretty good decisions. Okay, she   might not have the best taste in men, but she’s got great friends, a good job, and an   independent spirit. That is, until her 30th birthday ushers in a whirlwind romance   with a sexy Irish musician who leaves her, not at the altar as she imagined, but   accidentally pregnant. And when he disappears, she’s downsized out of a job, her apartment is robbed, and lapsed health insurance coverage leaves her with a C-section to pay for, Amanda is launched headfirst into the life of a broke single mom. But her friend and uber successful ob-gyn, Joy, clues her in to an unlikely temp position with one of Chicago’s celebrity elite that just may be the answer to all her woes. Or could it be just the beginning?

It’s with serious trepidation that Amanda embarks on her surprisingly lucrative new career: underground wet nurse to the offspring of Chi-town’s rich and famous. Amanda must quickly understand how to live at the whims and mercy of the one percent as she deals with the irony of nursing – and loving – someone else’s child, while still making ends meet for her own daughter. And then there’s Cute Daycare Dad (aka Dan), who’s obviously interested in her. But can she afford to tell him what she really does for a living? Is her new job (something she thought went out with the 19th century) a shameful thing? Just another way of selling her body. Or does it have something to teach her after all?

A novel of motherhood, its many demands, and all the little triumphs along the way, MILKED is a warm and witty debut about making tough choices and traveling the roundabout road to happiness.

My Thoughts: This story isn’t like anything I have ever read and that’s probably why I found it so interesting and entertaining. This story is about a young woman who seems to have a good grasp on her life, good friends, good job but has never found the relationship and family she wants to settle down for. After a passionate fling with a hot, Irish musician, she finds herself pregnant and alone. Then to add insult to injury, she loses her job, her apartment is burglarized, and she is quickly running out of money. Just when things appear to be at their worst, her friend tells her about an opportunity for some temp work as a nanny with an elite Chicago family. A nanny with a special skill set that Amanda happens to have being a new mother herself. This family needs a wet nurse and Amanda is more than qualified as she has weaned her daughter, but her milk supply has not diminished. At first, I was shocked by the notion that this is something she would consider. I must be honest and say it took me several beats to wrap my mind around the idea of a stranger breast-feeding your child. Ironically, a lot of people would find it off-putting, so much so, that Amanda is expected to sign non-disclosure agreements to protect the privacy of the family she works for. What made this story interesting for me is how adept Amanda is and how much she enjoys the job.

I really liked Amanda and her determination to make a home for herself and her daughter, though I was glad when she finally relents and gets help tracking down the father so he can provide financial support. That was the only thing I did not like about this book was how long it took Amanda to go after him. She should have done it months earlier, but when she finally did, things went smoothly, and she is successful. I didn’t care for the families Amanda works for. I thought they treated Amanda poorly and though she only works for two families in this story, that was more than enough. What starts out as a way to put food on the table and keep a roof over her head inspires Amanda to become a lactation consultant, helping families who are struggling with breast-feeding and the anxiety that often compounds the problem.

Amanda’s love interest is Dan, a single father she meets at the day care center she takes her daughter to. They have an instant connection and I liked him, but he doesn’t know what Amanda’s nanny gig really entails and it would be an understatement to say it doesn’t go well when he finds out.

My Final Verdict: Overall, this was a very entertaining story with characters I found easy to relate to and like. The story moved at a very enjoyable pace and though the idea of a wet nurse might be odd for some people, I applaud the author for tackling this subject and making it thought-provoking. I recommend this book to fans of women fiction who are looking for something a little different without taking too far a detour to the happy ending.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of Milked from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


Saturday, September 05, 2020

REVIEW: The Switch by Beth O'Leary

Title: The Switch
Author: Beth O’Leary
Publisher: Quercus
Publication Date: April 2020
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Buy the Book: Amazon | BN | Audible

Description: Eileen is sick of being 79.
Leena's tired of life in her twenties.
Maybe it's time they swapped places...

When overachiever Leena Cotton is ordered to take a two-month sabbatical after blowing a big presentation at work, she escapes to her grandmother Eileen's house for some overdue rest. Eileen is newly single and about to turn eighty. She'd like a second chance at love, but her tiny Yorkshire village doesn't offer many eligible gentlemen.

Once Leena learns of Eileen's romantic predicament, she proposes a solution: a two-month swap. Eileen can live in London and look for love. Meanwhile Leena will look after everything in rural Yorkshire. But with gossiping neighbors and difficult family dynamics to navigate up north, and trendy London flat mates and online dating to contend with in the city, stepping into one another's shoes proves more difficult than either of them expected.

Leena learns that a long-distance relationship isn't as romantic as she hoped it would be, and then there is the annoyingly perfect - and distractingly handsome - school teacher, who keeps showing up to outdo her efforts to impress the local villagers. Back in London, Eileen is a huge hit with her new neighbors, but is her perfect match nearer home than she first thought?

My Thoughts: A charming story about a young woman and her grandmother and their plan to switch places for two months. Leena is on a forced leave of absence after bombing a major presentation at work. Leena’s grandmother, Eileen, is nearly 80, single and ready to mingle. Both feel a change of scenery would do them the world of good. Leena needs peace and tranquility and Eileen is looking to meet eligible men in the big city. Leena is also carrying a lot of resentment towards her mother over the death of her sister and Eileen is convinced that time together will help her daughter and granddaughter resolve those issues. Leena and Eileen both must navigate new surroundings to find their place and purpose.

This story was easy to follow, and I liked Leena and Eileen a great deal. Leena takes after her grandmother in many ways and I enjoyed their interactions. They adjust very well to their respective situations and appear to thrive in their new surroundings. The supporting characters gives the story more depth and a sense of camaraderie and family.

My Final Verdict: A book about grabbing life by the tail and hanging on, relationships, forgiveness and second chances will interest readers of several genres.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of The Switch from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


Sunday, August 09, 2020

REVIEW: The Misadventures of a Playground Mother by Christie Barlow

Title: The Misadventures of a Playground Mother (A School Gates Comedy, #2)
Author: Christie Barlow
Publisher: Bookouture
Publication Date: September 2015
Genre: Chick-Lit
Buy The Book: Amazon  | BN | Audible

Description: New term. New dramas. New friendships. And that’s just the parents…

After a year of country living, Rachel Young is finally getting into the swing of things. Her four kids are happy and content at the village school, and she’s managed to navigate the choppy (shark-infested) waters of the playground mafia.

Or… so she thought.

When playground mum Penelope Kensington moves herself and her kids into Rachel’s home, after discovering husband Rupert has been having an affair, Rachel knows she must ask them politely to leave. The problem is, Penelope never takes no for an answer.

As Rachel tries to deal with Penelope, she also meets new school mum Melanie. Melanie is a breath of fresh air, but her arrival sends ripples of gossip through the playground. Melanie has a few secrets in her closet, and it seems she’s not the only one…

My Thoughts: When I started this book, I had no idea it was the second book in a series. When I began reading, there was a slight struggle as the “getting to know you” bit the reader gets with meeting the characters already happened in the first book. Having said that, the author does an excellent job of bringing the reader up to speed so I didn’t feel I missed out on too much. This story picks up not long after the first book and centers on Rachel Young who has adjusted fairly well to her surroundings and found her place amongst all of the other school mothers.

I have to say that I’m not surprised that Rachel tries so hard to extricate herself from all things Penelope. I absolutely could not stand the woman and was surprised that Rachel spoke to her, much less interact with her on any level. The author does a fantastic job of giving the reader a good sense of Rachel’s irritation and frustration with Penelope throughout the story and there were some moments that made me roll with laughter. I love it when the villain gets their comeuppance.

I enjoyed the side relationships with the other couples and though I didn’t care for him at first, Penelope’s ex, Rupert turned out to be pretty decent. The story moved at a decent pace and once I got through the initial confusion was very easy to follow and stay entertained.

My Final Verdict: I really like this author’s voice. She has a wonderful ability of creating characters that are easy to like as well as dislike and stories that draw the reader in so completely, the reader can easily lose themselves between the pages for several hours. I recommend this story to fans of the chick-lit genre as well as readers who enjoy reading about the underdog beating adversity and coming out on top.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of The Misadventures of a Playground Mother from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


Monday, July 20, 2020

REVIEW: Searching for Steven by Jessica Redland

Title: Searching for Steven (Whitsborough Bay, #1)
Author: Jessica Redland
Publisher: So Vain Books
Publication Date: June, 2015
Genre: Chick-Lit, Women’s Fiction
Buy The Book: Amazon | BN | Audible

Description: When Sarah Peterson accepts her Auntie Kay’s unexpected offer to take over her florist’s shop, she’s prepared for a change of job, home and lifestyle. What she isn’t prepared for is the discovery of a scarily accurate clairvoyant reading that’s been missing for twelve years. All her predictions have come true, except one: she’s about to meet the man of her dreams. Oh, and his name is Steven.

Suddenly Stevens are everywhere. Could it be the window cleaner, the rep, the manager of the coffee shop, or any of the men she’s met online?

On top of that, she finds herself quite attracted to a handsome web designer, but his name isn't even Steven...

During this unusual search, will Sarah find her destiny?

My Thoughts: Searching for Steven by new to me author Jessica Redland is the first book in a series that all take place in the fictional town of Whitsborough Bay. I really liked this story and the author does a wonderful job of breathing life into not only the characters, but the town itself. A place a person can really feel at home at, whether they are just visiting or make Whitsborough Bay their home. Sarah Peterson grew up here and when she left to go to university, she didn’t look back. Sometimes life has a way of making you go home. After her long-term relationship ends (much later than it should have), Sarah receives an offer from her Aunt to take over her flower shop and make it her own. Seems old Auntie Kay has some oats of her own she is ready to sow and is embarking on her own adventure.

Sarah doesn’t hesitate too long before taking Auntie Kay up on her offer and chucks the loser boyfriend and the crap job into the bin and starts packing. Sarah and her two best friends find a tape of a reading she had twelve years ago. Everything on the tape has come true except for the bit that she will be meeting the man of dreams…and his name is Steven. Sounds exciting, doesn’t it? I could not wait for Sarah to hustle her bustle and get up North to start this thrilling next chapter. When Sarah gets there, she discovers there are Stevens everywhere! And to complicate matters, she feels a strong attraction and connection to a man whose name is NOT Steven.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story as Sarah navigates all the changes in her life, which she does quite well, actually. I admired the speed at which she adapts to moving home and starting her own business, turning it into something just as special as Aunt Kay’s was. I loved getting to know all the characters in the story and I am sure they will be making reappearances in later books. Sarah’s search for Steven was hilarious, both online and offline. She feels she has to make an effort to find Steven though she is really attracted to Nick and to make things more complicated, the man she loved during university shows up again, apparently determined to give their relationship another go.

The story moves at a great pace and I was thoroughly entertained, while anticipating what would happen next. The characters were easy to relate to and I was wishing Nick’s name was Steven because I thought he was super awesome.

My Final Verdict: I highly recommend this book to readers who love a sweet story about grabbing the brass ring and taking a chance at finding your destiny. Fans of the chick-lit and women’s fiction genres should put this entire series on the top of their to be read pile.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of Searching for Steven from the author in exchange for an honest review.


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I am not a professional reviewer, but I love to read and share my opinions on my reading with others who are interested. I work full time but my ideal perfect day would be to curl up with a good book. The majority of the books I review here are from my private collection and my reviews are provided purely for entertainment purposes. I receive no compensation whatsoever for sharing my thoughts and review on any book. If you would like me to review your book, please email me at sharalsbooks@yahoo.com Happy Reading! :o)