Friday, June 23, 2017

{Review} ALLIE AND BEA by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Bea has barely been scraping by since her husband died. After falling for a telephone scam, she loses everything and is forced to abandon her trailer. With only two-thirds of a tank in her old van, she heads toward the Pacific Ocean with her cat—on a mission to reclaim what’s rightfully hers, even if it means making others pay for what she lost.

When fifteen-year-old Allie’s parents are jailed for tax fraud, she’s sent to a group home. But when her life is threatened by another resident, she knows she has to get out. She escapes only to find she has nowhere to go—until fate throws Allie in Bea’s path.

Reluctant to trust each other, much less become friends, the two warily make their way up the Pacific Coast. Yet as their hearts open to friendship and love from the strangers they meet on their journey, they find the courage to forge their own unique family—and begin to see an imperfect world with new eyes.


Mandy's Review:

How to begin.

When you begin to read the novel, it seems like a fairly straightforward story about two unlikely people winding up together in an unusual situation. When you finish reading the novel, you realize it has much more depth and weight to it than you first realized.

Bea is a 70-something lady who has been a widow for a few years. Her husband had left her a small savings that she's been trying to live on. The problem is her Social Security check was never quite enough to cover all the bills, so she had to use a little bit of the savings every month. One day, after writing checks for all of her bills and dropping them off, she gets a call from the IRS saying she owes $300. Bea willingly gives them her checking account information to pay them off, even though it would further deplete her meager savings. The call was a scam and her checking account was wiped out. All of her checks were going to bounce. Panicked, Bea decided to pack up what she held most dear into her van and drive to another city, living in her van until the new month rolled around and her next Social Security check gets deposited into her new checking account.

With no money in hand and only a quarter tank of gas, Bea sets off. This new way of life causes Bea to decide to be someone she's not: a scammer. So, in essence, the student becomes the teacher. It works a couple times allowing Bea to get enough gas to take her further north up the California coast. On her way, she sees a hitchhiker and refuses to pick her up ... until the girl runs out in front of the van, causing Bea to slam on brakes.

Grateful that Bea has stopped, Allie climbs into Bea's van begging her, screaming at her, to drive. Allie had barely escaped from a guy involved in a possible human trafficking ring. Of course, she wouldn't have been with him had her parents not been arrested for tax fraud causing her to be placed in a foster home where one of the girls threatened to hurt her real bad. Running away from the foster home landed her in a prostitute ring, which Allie REFUSED to do ... thereby pissing off the pimp and causing him to call the guy that Allie barely escaped from and then running into Bea.

The two drive up the coast, all the way into Washington state, learning things about themselves and each other that change them forever. It's on their way back down the coast where real life finally catches up with them.

What I love most about this novel is the character development. Bea goes from being a reclusive, negative Nancy to someone who cautiously learns to trust strangers and has started to give herself over to experiencing new things. Allie starts the novel as a privileged, naive young lady and becomes a homeless, street-smart pre-adult wiser than her years. The emotional impact of this novel happens to more than just Bea and Allie, they happen to the reader as well. There were two passages that really spoke to me:

"I'm changing my mind about what's wasteful and what's not," Bea said. "Seems all my life I had to make choices between what I considered wasting money and what I now see was wasting my life. If it keeps you from wasting your life, it can't very well be a waste, now can it?" 

"I guess I wonder why I didn't try to do more," Bea said ... "I had all these hours that added up to all these days, and I look back and it seems my goal was mostly to make them go away. But that's not a proper life. That's not really living."

We shouldn't wish our day, week, month away. We should enjoy what we have and make the best of what we have. We should try new things. We should open ourselves up to new experiences, even if they scare us. That's how we truly live. Spending money on experiences isn't wasteful if it keeps you from wasting your life. Spending money on experiences isn't wasteful if it helps you experience new things that helps you grow as a person.

My only wish was that Bea's ending was fleshed out a little more. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate how the novel ended but there's so much the reader doesn't know. How did Bea deal with all of the bounced checks? Did she ever go back to her home and take care of everything? Did she go back to visit her best friend? I guess her ending was left a little more open than Allie's and my curiosity is getting the better of me. Regardless, we could all learn something from Allie and Bea.

4.5 out of 5 stars.



*A physical copy was provided by the publicist, Little Bird Publicity, in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, June 19, 2017

{Review} ANY DAY NOW by Robyn Carr

Summary from Goodreads:

For Sierra Jones, Sullivan's Crossing is meant to be a brief stopover. She's put her troubled past behind her but the path forward isn't yet clear. A visit with her big brother Cal and his new bride, Maggie, seems to be the best option to help her get back on her feet.

Not wanting to burden or depend on anyone, Sierra is surprised to find the Crossing offers so much more than a place to rest her head. Cal and Maggie welcome her into their busy lives and she quickly finds herself bonding with Sully, the quirky campground owner who is the father figure she's always wanted. But when her past catches up with her, it's a special man and an adorable puppy who give her the strength to face the truth and fight for a brighter future. In Sullivan's Crossing Sierra learns to cherish the family you are given and the family you choose.


Mandy's Review:

I wanted to like this novel. I do enjoy a series of novels set in the same small-town setting with each novel focusing on one or two members of the town. And while there were things I did enjoy about Any Day Now there weren't enough to make me want to read the first novel in this series.

What did I enjoy? I enjoyed the idea of a campground in the middle of Colorado that is owned by on old man. A campground that soothes a troubled soul and helps people to find their way in life. I enjoyed the small-town feel where most everybody is there to support one another, where people give strangers a sense of familial belonging.

Sierra is one of those people. She came to Colorado to be near her older brother. Within a few days, she has a new job and her own place. With this new start, Sierra is hoping to be able to forget her past. Unfortunately, her past, like all of ours, has a way of catching up with her. It threatens her new peace, her new life, her new existence. She's scared to deal with it but Sierra knows that the only way to finally be rid of her past is to face it head-on.

Now, what I didn't like ... I didn't like how Sierra was written. I had other issues with the writing but Sierra is the main one. In the novel, the reader finds out Sierra is 30. The way she's written, though, makes her sounding and acting more like she's 20. Who she's supposed to be and who she actually is, in my head, don't jive. The two just don't mesh. I've been through A LOT of what Sierra has been through and, I can tell you, by the time I hit 30 I was more sure of who I was and who I wanted to be. Yes, I had some reservations and I was scared of certain things in a relationship but I found a way to deal with them and get (mostly) over them. I guess what I'm trying to say is that, by 30, a woman has reached her maturity and Sierra was written a little immaturely.

I feel like I'm talking in circles about Sierra so I hope you understand what I'm trying to convey about her. Overall, the novel is a quick read but not one that I'm interested to read again. It also doesn't interest me to read any more novels in this series. I'd say this is a 2.5 stars out of 5 for me, but don't let that stop you from giving it a whirl if this is your type of genre.


*A physical copy of the novel was provided by the publicist, Little Bird Publicity, in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

{Review} IN FARLEIGH FIELD by Rhys Bowen

Summary from Goodreads:

World War II comes to Farleigh Place, the ancestral home of Lord Westerham and his five daughters, when a soldier with a failed parachute falls to his death on the estate. After his uniform and possessions raise suspicions, MI5 operative and family friend Ben Cresswell is covertly tasked with determining if the man is a German spy. The assignment also offers Ben the chance to be near Lord Westerham’s middle daughter, Pamela, whom he furtively loves. But Pamela has her own secret: she has taken a job at Bletchley Park, the British code-breaking facility.

As Ben follows a trail of spies and traitors, which may include another member of Pamela’s family, he discovers that some within the realm have an appalling, history-altering agenda. Can he, with Pamela’s help, stop them before England falls?

Inspired by the events and people of World War II, writer Rhys Bowen crafts a sweeping and riveting saga of class, family, love, and betrayal.


Review:

I'm always on the hunt for a historical piece that doesn't get TOO factual. I love period pieces but so many of them get bogged down in factual events they forget that they're writing a fictional story. It's very frustrating to me because I have such a difficult time finding that perfect blend of fact and fiction set in the past. I even dreaded opening the pages of this novel while still hopeful that it wouldn't let me down. It did not disappoint. In Farleigh Field is that rare gem of a period piece with the perfect blend of fact and fiction.

Let's forget about the World War II aspect for a minute and let's talk about the love triangle. Ben, Jeremy, and Pamela have grown up together. Jeremy is devastatingly handsome and the son of a rich patriarchal family - what more could any female ask for? Ben is the son of a local vicar (priest), so he's not rich and, while he's good looking, he's not better looking than Jeremy. Can you guess where this is heading? I bet you can. Pamela is in love with Jeremy. Ben harbors an unrequited love for Pamela. The war brings about many changes, oftentimes within people. This is true of Jeremy, Ben, and Pam. All three go to work for the war effort but is it for Britain or Germany? Can the friendships, and love, survive the travesty of war?

This is one of THE BEST period fiction novels I have read in quite some time. The only issue I had with it is that some of the females seem a little too naive but, then again, that was how they were portrayed back then. That's how they acted. They couldn't appear to be smarter than the men of their time. So, taking that into account, I can become okay with it but I still don't like it - but that's just the modern, independent woman in me talking.

In Farleigh Field is my first Rhys Bowen novel but it will not be my last. I loved the writing style, the setting (Downton Abbey-esque), the imagery, the characters ... just, everything. I would highly recommend this novel to you period fiction fans who like more fiction than historical facts.


*A physical copy of this novel was provided by the publicist, Little Bird Publicity, in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, June 16, 2017

{Review} KNOLL by Stephen Hillard

Description:
(Taken from back cover)

Bus McIntyre, a small-town lawyer and Sixties survivor, is presented with evidence from the cold-case murder of his father Dean, a hard-drinking cop, four decades ago. It reveals Dean's ties to a dead Mafia kingpin - and the assassination of JFK. Meanwhile, Banner McCoy, a young NSA data analyst assigned to a project code-named KNOLL, goes into hiding when she learns its objective: eliminate anyone with information on what really happened in Dallas on November 22, 1963. When Bus falls into the agency's sights, all paths lead to a small Louisiana town full of secrets, where the late don's aged but indefatigable hit man awaits, determined to tie up all loose ends.


Charlene's Review:

Let me start by saying I have always been interested in the whole JFK conspiracy theory. KNOLL is a historical fiction based in part by truth and speculation, while leaving the mystery as to how/why for all the generations past and present. Using present-time characters with a tie to the past allows a whole new generation of readers, removed from the actual events, to delve into the mystery surrounding JFK's murder.

I stumbled through the back and forth of characters (Bus and Banner) between chapters and it confused me to no end, at first. I felt a little disjointed. And yet, it was this quality that ultimately led me into feeling the whole thriller part of the story. Feeling slightly out - of - sorts left me with an eerie feeling, like many experience while thinking back on this time in history. We may never know the TRUTH.

While the flow slowed me down, the eccentric but strangely emotion-evoking characters kept me reading. Seemingly unconnected people, all held together by a mysterious string of coincidences and circumstances. Bus's lone journey on his motorcycle especially speaks to the human condition - setting out on a journey to find the truth, and ourselves, in the process.

Whether you label it thriller, fiction, or mystery, or just read it as a book about a man seeking the truth about his father, KNOLL is a commendable work.


*A physical copy was provided by the publicist, FSB Associates, in exchange for an honest review.




Thursday, June 15, 2017

What We're Working On


Hello, again!

Since we've been gone for a year, I wanted to give you a quick update on what we're currently reading and the reviews that will be popping up on our blog. I've broken them down by reviewers, just in case you have a favorite:

Mandy's Current Reads/Future Reviews:

From Little Bird Publicity
IN FARLEIGH FIELD by Rhys Bowen
ANY DAY NOW by Robyn Carr
ALLIE AND BEA by Catherine Ryan Hyde
SUGAR PINE TRAIL by RaeAnne Thayne

From Goldberg McDuffie Communications
MRS SAINT AND THE DEFECTIVES by Julie Lawson-Timmer

From Random House
WHERE THE LIGHT FALLS: A NOVEL OF THE FRENCH REVOLUTION by Allison & Owen Pataki

From Viking/Penguin Books
HOW TO FIND LOVE IN A BOOKSHOP by Veronica Henry


Kathy's Current Reads/Future Reviews:

From the Author
RARITY FROM THE HOLLOW by Robert Eggleton
SHAKY MAN by Mark S. Parker

From Blue Rider Press & Plume at Penguin Random House
SIRACUSA by Delia Ephron

From Gallery Books
THE MAP OF BONES by Francesca Haig


Lupe's Current Reads/Future Reviews:

From Gallery Books
THE MAP OF BONES by Francesca Haig


Charlene's Current Reads/Future Reviews:

From FSB Associates
KNOLL by Stephen Hillard


We've just finished a giveaway for Bob Proehl's A HUNDRED THOUSAND WORLDS but I'll make sure you're in on the next giveaway we have.

Have a great day, everyone!!!
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