The Family Next Door by Sally Hepworth

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4-Stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Four women wonder who the presumably single woman is who moves onto their family-friendly Pleasant Court street. And why does she feel comfortable speaking to them so familiarly almost immediately, as though she’s known them all for years? Perplexed, they watch Isabelle, wondering what her intentions are. Essie’s mother has misgivings about the mysterious neighbor from the start. She’s different from their little clan, and vague about her background, so why did she move from Sydney to Melbourne and into their neighborhood?

Each of the three families on Pleasant Court has its own secrets and insecurities that tidily remain hidden within the confines of their own homes, while outside appearances paint a very different, more pristine picture. They’re keeping secrets from their families, and secrets from their neighbors. But the women are slowly becoming unhinged by the various complexities affecting their lives. Fran is trying to run from her problems—literally; subconsciously burning through the fear and regret that prods her every day. Essie is detaching from her familial obligations; her husband and mother worrying about her, especially since her frightful episode a few years back. In their minds she’s fragile and unstable. Ange’s guilty conscience is eating her alive, even though she is the one everybody envies—the one with the great career, gorgeous husband, immaculate home and well-mannered kids. Little do they all know that Ange is insecure about said husband whom she can never seem to track down, and who gives her a niggling feeling about his activities when he’s not at home. What is everyone hiding, and who is the stranger on Pleasant Court?

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I like the way The Family Next Door starts out mellow, builds, and then reaches a crescendo. But after that it ends rather abruptly. The psychological buildup was intense, but the end result was tamer than I’d anticipated in some instances. Specifically when it came to the enigmatic neighbor. I think there could have been a little bit more dramatic effect in some cases. However, the story advanced forward easily overall, and I was eager to turn pages. But as far as the conclusion goes, I wanted just a bit more. Other than that it really was a great read. The way and time in which secrets were revealed was excellent. Each revelation came when I wasn’t expecting it and I was blown away by how the author executed those parts. It was very well done. I would definitely recommend this book.

Thank you Netgalley and St. Martin’s Press for an E-ARC of this book, in exchange I have provided an honest review.

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The Best Man by Kristan Higgins

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⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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After devouring Now That You Mention It recently, and loving it, I felt compelled to squeeze in another book by Kristan Higgins. So I went with the first book in her Blue Heron series, The Best Man.  She’s two for two now folks.  I loved this book too!  It’s more romance than women’s fiction, but equally enjoyable. Here’s a little glimpse into the plot…

Faith Holland’s fiancée, Jeremy Lyon, dumped her at the altar, and Faith blames his best man, Levi Cooper, for the breakup. To escape the humiliation of her failed nuptials, Faith flees to California intending to stay until the gossip subsides. Three years later her sister, Honor, calls her home to help out with a situation involving their dad. It won’t be easy facing the pity that well-intentioned friends will dole out, but Faith is looking forward to returning home to her family, their vineyard and Jeremy. Jeremy?! Besides, as an architectural landscaper she can do some renovation work on the family’s old barn and acquire other projects that will keep her occupied. She’ll need the distraction since she still loves Jeremy despite what he did to her. But wouldn’t you know it, the first person she runs into when she gets back to her hometown is Levi, now the police chief of Manningsport. She still hates him, and is forthcoming about her feelings towards him. He’s never seemed to like Faith and judging from his reactions to her arrival that hasn’t much changed. He is ruggedly handsome though, she can’t deny that. And when Faith finds herself in need of assistance on more than one occasion, it’s Levi who comes to her rescue. Might their hostilities be masking something that they’ve both been unwilling to confront for many years?

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Ahh….the enemies to lovers trope. I loved it!! There were so many great things about this book: watching the romance develop, the fully fleshed-out characters, the humor, the secret that Faith carries and how it affects her life with her family, her relationship with Jeremy, Faith’s adorable dog, Blue, and the surprise visitor who shows up in Manningsport and threatens to destroy everything. It all kept the plot moving. I enjoyed every component of the story. Kristan Higgins’s stories are like a jigsaw puzzle; a lot of little pieces that need to come together to form a complete picture. How she manages to reconstruct those pieces so effectively is what has me coming back for more.

The Best Man will make you laugh (I cracked up at the ladies’ verbal jabs at poor Levi), it will make you sad, it will have you rooting for the underdog. But in the end you will feel gratified that you’ve spent time with the Blue Heron family of characters. Definitely recommended for lovers of romance.

Are you a fan of Kristan Higgins?  What do you think of her books. Please share. I’d love to hear what you think. And thanks, as always, for visiting. Have a great day!!

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Now That You Mention It by Kristan Higgins – **TOP PICK**

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5-Stars

First I want to say that Kristan Higgins is hilarious. I spit out my drink more than once while reading this book. Hysterical. Her witty internal dialogue cracked me up too.

This was my first Kristan Higgins book and it was amazing. If it’s any indication of how well written her other books are, then she’s a new favorite author.

Here’s a little synopsis…

Poor Nora Stuart. Growing up her life was tragic for so many reasons, so she immersed herself in academics, determined to excel and thus win the coveted Perez scholarship to Tufts University, wherein she’d be gone from the town that ignored and taunted her. If that weren’t enough, she finds herself the most hated citizen of her native Scupper Island, Maine, through no fault of her own. But she eventually got her life together and became an attractive, successful doctor with a swoon-worthy boyfriend, great friends and an apartment she loved. Things were going great in her adult life until a “big bad event” happened and turned her safe, comfortable little world upside down. In addition, Nora has been devastated by her boyfriend, Bobby, when she overhears him talking about their imminent breakup while flirting with a colleague as Nora lay semi-conscious in the ER after being hit by a van. Hurt (both mentally and physically) and discouraged, she immediately ends the relationship and takes a trip back to Scupper Island, where her mother still lives, and where the folks still remember what happened to make her the most hated citizen there. Nora plans to convalesce on the island while attempting to forge a bond with her taciturn, stoic mother. Nora’s beloved father left their family when she was a young girl, never to be heard from again, and she hopes to get information that will lead to his whereabouts after all of these years, and hopefully come to finally understand from her mother why he left. Her teenage niece, Poe, lives with Nora’s mother, since Nora’s sister, Lily, is in jail. Poe isn’t the least bit enthused about her aunt’s visit. Undeterred, Nora presses on, determined not to allow her niece or her sister, who has made it clear that she’s not interested in hearing from her, or Scupper Island’s residents, further ruin her stint there. Can Nora find her true self and the love, acceptance, security and happiness she so desperately craves?

The highly-developed characters, which is what I loved most about this book, along with the vivid scenes bring this story to life in a way that will make it dwell indelibly in your memory-bank long after you’ve finished reading it. It was poignant, yet simultaneously humorous, suspenseful, and emotional. There was a bit of zany romance too. It seemed to have a little of everything, and it all fit together perfectly. Kristan Higgins is one hip lady, and she writes in a way that anyone, regardless of background, could easily relate to her storytelling. It was unputdownable and never dragged. I highly recommend it.

Thank you so much, Netgalley, and HQN Books, for a free e-ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review which I have given.

Have you read any books by Kristan Higgins? What did you think? Thanks, as always, for visiting. And have a wonderful day!

Every Serengeti Sunrise by Rula Sinara

img_4322-1💚💚💚💚💚 – 5 stars

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Every Serengeti Sunrise is Book 4 in the From Kenya, With Love series, and it has become my new favorite.

There’s still trouble in Kenya with poachers and native villagers killing elephants and leaving orphaned calves behind. The Busara Elephant Research and Rescue Camp provides care to these orphaned, injured young elephants. In book one, we met one of the camp’s operators, Anna Bekker, and her daughter, Pippa, who was four at the time. Pippa is all grown up now, and so is Haki, the son of the co-operator of Busara. Pippa and Haki’s relationship seems to have progressed to the next level. The two were always very close since they grew up together at the camp, along with Pippa’s cousin, Maddie, who often visited Busara and who is now a junior lawyer in Philadelphia, PA. Tension arises when Maddie is assigned to the Native Watch Global (NWG) case to defend the native Masai villagers in Kenya, while Haki and Pippa are allies of the Kenyan Wildlife Service (KWS), wildlife conservationists. Busara and its advocates are aware of the plight of the Masai farmers who have suffered crop damage and destruction from hungry wildlife, but they don’t believe killing the animals in retaliation is the solution to the problem. The villagers may even be contributing to the illegal ivory trade by selling the elephants’ tusks to poachers in compensation for their losses.

Haki has initiated a proposal that would impose stiffer fines on Masai farmers that kill elephants. Maddie is working with her law firm’s office in Nairobi to block the proposal. Haki is frustrated. What happened to the Maddie whose eyes widened with excitement at the wild animals roaming this land? To make matters worse, Haki and Maddie, despite being on opposing sides, can’t seem to keep their intense feelings for one another at bay. But what about Haki’s devotion to Pippa? What’s a guy to do?

This story pulled at my heartstrings. I loved so much about it—the rich descriptions of the Kenyan landscape with its sweeping views and wildlife all create an atmospheric quality that stimulates the imagination. The strong family dynamic that exists is endearing. I cried from both sad moments and happy ones. The intense ending had me an emotional mess, but in a good way. It was exciting and heartwarming. I can’t wait to see what happens in book 5.

I highly recommend this book. You will get the greatest enjoyment from it by starting with book 1, The Promise of Rain. You’re sure to love that one too. One of my absolute favorite Heartwarming books.

Thank you, Rula Sinara, for a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review which I have given.

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

Hello all. I’m getting back into the swing of things after 10 days of vacation in and around NYC. I’m hoping to get to share some great moments with you in a future post.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – 5 stars for sure I have to applaud Jodi Picoult for writing a book that would shine a spotlight on a topic that most people are reluctant to give thought to, discuss or acknowledge, institutional racism and white privilege in America. And she did this knowing that she’d get pushback from both blacks and whites; blacks because they wouldn’t feel that she could portray the black experience accurately, and whites because she will have exposed their privilege in such a blunt and transparent way that it will make them uncomfortable. I commend her for the immense research she put into this book in an attempt to shed light on this very delicate topic as accurately as her accumulated information and knowledge could allow. I think she did an excellent job. Her intention was not to use her status to bring awareness to the black community, since they already know how racism affects their daily lives. But her desire was to inform the white community, so that they might get a different perspective on the privileges they naturally possess, and how their achievements and accomplishments are sometimes at the expense of those who have been denied the same opportunities in life that could likely have propelled them to the same levels of success.

And now, a peek into the plot….. Ruth Jefferson is a highly skilled Labor and Delivery nurse. One day while performing routine duties on a newborn infant she notices the parents’ reluctance to talk to her or acknowledge her instructions. When the father, Turk Bauer, finally speaks, he orders Ruth to get away from his wife, and then demands to see Ruth’s boss and indicates that he and his wife, Brittany, do not want Ruth, or anyone who looks like her, to touch their baby, Davis. Ruth is black. A closer look at Turk’s exposed arm indicates a confederate flag tattoo. So that’s what this is about. Turk is a white supremacist.

Even though Ruth was told by her boss not to have contact with the infant, Davis was left in Ruth’s charge when an emergency erupted elsewhere in the hospital while they were short staffed. The baby went into distress but Ruth hesitated to intervene since she was told not to touch him. Although she aids other doctors to save his life, he dies. Turk overheard the doctor telling Ruth to “loosen up” on the chest compressions, so he blames Ruth for his child’s death. Before long, she is dismissed from the hospital and arrested as a criminal, charged with the murder of the Bauers’ son, Davis.

Jodi Picoult’s book is deep on so many levels. It’s definitely one of the most thought-provoking books I’ve ever read. It encompasses so much that it’s difficult to summarize into a review of reasonable length. Mostly, it expounds upon the harsh realities of racial inequality and prejudice (particularly black vs. white), and it depicts some of the animosities, hostilities and judgments that exist, mainly due to ignorance, stereotypes, and misinformation. At times hard to read, but not at all difficult to relate to for persons of color, Small Great Things continually highlights negative situations that confront black people on a daily basis. I think Ms. Picoult tried to include as many of these scenarios as she possibly could to show white America the challenges that blacks are faced with, and how this has, and continues to, stifle their progression; a reality that’s difficult for some to comprehend, which is understandable since it’s not their reality. Nevertheless, Jodi Picoult humbly acknowledges (in the author note portion) her former ignorance regarding racial issues and prejudice, her own natural-born privilege and entitlement, and how she has chosen to use it as a force for good—to bring awareness to racism. A small, great thing.

Jodi Picoult pulls no punches in her portrayal of these calamities facing our society today. Small Great Things will get you riled up at times, but I think that’s the author’s intention. This is a grown-up book for sure with a mature theme. Ruth’s trial was captivating and dynamic. At times this book shook me to my core. It was heart wrenching. It angered me. It frustrated me. This book will probably not go over well with persons who are very sensitive about race issues. Mostly during reading I felt like this…

Compelling, provocative, and emotive, Small Great Things is a book you will not easily forget. This was my first Jodi Picoult book, and it was an amazing read. Ms. Picoult is certainly a gifted writer.

Have you read Small Great Things? What did you think about it? Share your thoughts if you’re so inclined.

Have a great day!!

His Baby Dilemma by Catherine Lanigan

❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️ – 5 hearts

Grace Railton had a crush on Mica Barzonni ever since they shared a kiss as teenagers, but she didn’t get the sense that the attraction was mutual. Twelve years later when Grace’s aunt Louise has back surgery and Grace leaves her home in Paris to come help out at The Louise House, her aunt’s ice-cream shop in Indian Lake, Indiana, Mica and Grace get reacquainted. He’s still unimaginably handsome with his black hair and Mediterranean blue eyes. The only difference is that he’s lost the use of his left arm and shoulder after an injury he suffered while trying to repair his mother’s car. The two become caught up in emotions, but their cozy reunion is short lived. Grace returns to her career in Paris and Mica doesn’t hear a word from her until fifteen months later when she is back in Indian Lake, about to present Mica Barzonni with the shock of his life—their six month old son, Jules.

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My concept of Mica Barzonni

After this shocking revelation, is Grace serious about wanting Mica to take care of Jules for a few months while she goes back to Paris to nurture her current career opportunities? Mica isn’t happy about this proposition, and he makes his thoughts on that clearly known. There’s no doubt he still has feelings for Grace, which he doesn’t make known, but their goals are so dissimilar. Mica’s a farm boy interested in farm equipment and machinery. Grace is a fashion designer who grew up in pursuit of the next beauty pageant. Mica has always downplayed Grace’s ambitions, considering them foolish. In his mind they could never be compared to the hard work and dedication that’s needed to run a farm. But after observing her at work one day, in her element, he’s forced to admit that there’s a lot more to the fashion world than he’d realized. Might he have misjudged her? His feelings of anger and betrayal are being replaced by admiration and love. But Mica’s reluctance to express his feelings might cause him to lose Grace forever. And he may be running out of time since it seems there’s an interested Frenchman on Grace’s heels ready to snatch her up.

I have to admit that I wasn’t crazy about Grace when I started reading this book. She was a difficult character to assess initially. I felt like her work ambition was eclipsing her role as mother to little Jules. But as the book progressed she redeemed herself. I saw how much she loved her baby and how conflicted she was. I recognized that Mica was unsure of himself, mostly because of his accident and the perceived limitations it imposed. Also, he’d been a loner and a brooder for most of his life and it was difficult for him to be vulnerable with anyone, including Grace. The two of them drove me nuts at times, suppressing their feelings for each other, but I grew to love them. The scenes with Mica and Jules were so utterly heartwarming that it made me feel, momentarily, like I wanted to have a little baby around again. Well…a grandbaby maybe, LOL.

I LOVED this book. It touched me. And Catherine Lanigan’s worldliness with regard to subject matter—fashion and machinery in this case, gave me insight which I appreciated since I love learning new things when I read. Her knowledge, wisdom, and/or research shines through in her books and gives them a depth that I find particularly enjoyable. Definitely recommended for lovers of sweet romance.

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Thank you for reading. Have a great day!!

Under an Adirondack Sky by Karen Rock


⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Summary:

Rebecca Day’s job is in jeopardy. She works in the public school system as a school psychologist for at-risk teenagers, but it’s unlikely that her tenure will be approved since faculty and parents are not thrilled about her low-key disciplinary methods. Determined to prove her worth and retain her position, Rebecca proposes a retreat to Tupper Lake in the Adirondacks with the school’s troubled adolescents, initiating a pilot program that she feels will help them with their behavioral issues. For one of the troubled students she counsels, Connor Walsh, this program’s success is particularly important because if he doesn’t make significant progress he will be expelled from school. Aiden Walsh, his older brother and guardian, is too busy working long hours at the family business to give Connor the attention he needs. Rebecca observes Aiden’s distracted presence at meetings pertaining to his brother’s future and pegs him an uninterested workaholic. Aiden thinks Rebecca’s methods are overly lax and ridiculous. The two don’t hit it off very well, especially when Rebecca makes Aiden aware that he’s required to accompany Connor on their Adirondack adventure. Things start out rough, but time away from their everyday lives reveals unique circumstances and positive qualities that neither realized the other possessed. But can Aiden make his brother the priority when his heart is being pulled in another direction?

If you can imagine 20 troubled teenagers in the wilderness, and the verbal exchanges that take place amongst today’s youth, then you can get a pretty good picture of what’s taking place here. There’s irritability, competitiveness and quarreling. But in time the kids learn to interact together and they begin to see the value of teamwork and that life can still be worthwhile without their smartphones. I liked how the teens personalities are portrayed through their dialogue. You get a good sense of each character. The descriptions of the setting are great, and Karen Rock is definitely skilled in writing convincing romantic scenes that are suitable for a Heartwarming book.

I enjoyed this book. It had a down-to-earth feel that I think many would appreciate. I did.