Winter in Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand

9780316435512_a7bb1Winter in Paradise will be released on October 9, 2018.

The start to her new Winter series, Winter in Paradise is a not a Holiday novel (like the Winter Street series), but it takes place in January, hence the “Winter” series. Most of the novel takes place on the island of St. John in the Virgin Islands, a much loved vacation and writing destination of the author, Elin Hilderbrand. All of her previous books take place on her beloved home of Nantucket. Readers will love the rich setting details Elin writes into each scene, allowing them to feel like they are experiencing St. John, right along with the characters.

Irene Steele lives in an immaculately restored Victorian home in Iowa City, Iowa. She has been happily married to Russ, a business man who travels frequently, for many years. They have raised two sons, Baker and Cash, who are both adults making their own decisions, both good and bad. Baker is a stay-at-home dad to his 4-year old son Floyd. He dabbles in day trading while his wife Anna, a cardiac surgeon, mostly supports the household. The younger son, Cash, lives in Colorado where he manages two outdoor supply stores (handed to him by his father), both of which he has run into bankruptcy. The only thing he has left to his name is his beautiful golden retriever, Winnie.

Irene is feeling blue, spending New Year’s Eve along with Russ away on yet another business trip. She has surrounded herself with luxury in her spare-no-expense home, but with no one else to share it with, she is sort of lost. Out of the blue she receives a phone call from the secretary of Russ’s mysterious business partner, Todd, whom Irene has never even met. She is told that Russ was involved in a helicopter crash in the Virgin Islands and that Russ, the pilot, and a local woman were all killed. Reeling from this news, she is then thrown for another loop when she is told that Russ has concerns there and owns a property. Irene decides that she must go to the Virgin Islands to tie up any loose ends with the property and figure out why Russ had a home thousands of miles away that she knew nothing about. What and who she uncovers in the Virgin Islands will change her life forever.

I won’t give away any more plot, because you’ll have to read it yourselves. Irene and Russ aren’t the only ones with drama in this family. Just wait until you read about Baker and Cash – like father, like son, as they say. Written in alternating points of view between five characters, the story unfolds over the course of just a few days. This book was fabulous. I couldn’t put it down! The story line has just the right amount of romance, betrayal, suspense, humor, and rich details of the Virgin Islands.  And, of course, it ends on a bit of a cliffhanger. I can’t wait for the next installment to come out (do I have to wait another whole year!?).

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A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult

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A Spark of Light will be released on October 2, 2018.

A Spark of Light is packed with fact-based research on both sides of the abortion debate. Readers will be absorbed into the impossible situations the characters on both side of the hotly debated issue are facing. This novel is thought-provoking and beautifully written. It really made me stop to consider both sides of the issue, even if I have always had my own personal opinion.

The book is written in a unique format, starting with the hostage standoff in terrifying full-swing and then each chapter thereafter going backward an hour in time, as readers see what each person in the abortion clinic at the time it was attacked was doing prior to coming to the clinic for various reasons. The Center is the only abortion clinic in the state of Mississippi, so many women drive for hours just to make their choice. Some (receptionists, nurses, doctor) were there working; some had come for mandated abortion counseling before their surgery.  Fifteen -year old, Wren, was taken there by her Aunt Bex to get on birth control without having to tell her single father, hostage negotiator Hugh McElroy. Olive, an older woman with stage 4 cervical cancer, was there for support, so that she wouldn’t have to receive the diagnosis alone before she went home to tell her beloved wife, Peg.

On his 40th birthday, Hugh McElroy, receives a call of an active shooter at The Center, the abortion clinic known for controversial and tense situations with protesters. He thinks its just another typical day on the job, until he checks his cell phone to find text messages from his panicked 15 year old daughter, Wren, who is inside the clinic with Hugh’s older sister, Bex. Hugh should take himself off the case, but he knows he won’t be able to trust the safety of the two people he loves the most to anyone else. So, he begins speaking to the gunman, George Goddard.

The point of view switches between Hugh, Bex, Wren, Olive, Joy (who has just had an abortion), Janine (a protestor who came to the clinic to spy), Izzy (a nurse who is pregnant and considering abortion), and the doctor who performs the abortions safely and responsibly, all the while comforting the young mothers in unthinkable situations, even though he considers himself pro-life. As the hours wind down, the characters are humanized with their many faults, but also highlighted by their bravery and love in the face of a terrifying situation.

Readers will encounter a few surprises by the end of the book which I didn’t see coming. I flew through this book and loved every page. Jodi Picoult never lets me down with her stories. They always have a hotly debated issue at their core, and she does a fabulous job of giving information for both sides and remaining unbiased. I very highly recommend this novel, as I do with all of Picoult’s novels. Can’t wait for her next one!

Thanks for reading! Be well.

Librarian Laura

Little Big Love by Katy Regan

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Originally published in Library Journal, March 2018

A modern family drama unfolds in alternating points of view of authentic voices between a 10 year old named Zac who likes to collect facts and cook, his single mother, Juliet, and her father, Mick.  Juliet and Zac live on Harlequin Estate in Grimsby, a seaside town in England which was a major fishing port. Zac’s father, Liam, left under mysterious circumstances after the tragic death of Juliet’s brother, Jamie, ten years ago. Only Mick, a recovering alcoholic and retired fisherman, knows the truth, but he hides behind grief, guilt, and his opinionated wife. Juliet drowns her sorrow with alcohol and food, and she and Zac have become overweight, causing Zac to be bullied. When the bullying at school escalates, Juliet is determined to get Zac healthy and happy. Convinced it will please his mom, Zac’s mission, a secret with best friend Teagan, is to find Liam. Soon, finding Liam becomes Zac’s top priority, but when the truth is revealed, there’s no going back, no matter the pain it brings. VERDICT: Fans of Jane Green and Susan Wiggs will enjoy Regan’s debut novel with strong family bond that explores the age-old question of what if and the aftermath of one poor decision.

 

Always, Forever, Maybe by Anna Mrose Ricci

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Originally published in School Library Journal, March 2018.

Gr. 9 & Up: High school senior, Bee, has been living in the shadow of her best friends, popular twins Jo and Eric, counting the days until she can move away from her demanding parents. When Bee begins dating Aiden, her relationship with Jo becomes strained, which further increases as she starts keeping secrets involving Aiden from Jo. The tone starts off lightheartedly, but quickly turns serious as Aiden’s true character is revealed. Bee is convinced that Aiden is the one, and she remains in the relationship as he becomes jealous, irrational, and violent. Her parents forbid the relationship, causing her to want Aiden even more. Readers will sense Bee’s fear, and the pressure of trying to please everyone but herself. When sudden tragedy strikes, Bee finally realizes she must leave Aiden before it’s too late. Rissi’s first YA novel gives an accurate, but heartbreaking picture of teenage relationships. Recommended for additional purchase, the story has mature language and sexual scenes, as well as real-life situations which teen readers will appreciate. VERDICT: Fans of Colleen Hoover will enjoy this modern day realistic fiction story, full of diverse characters and the important message that abusive relationships are never acceptable.