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.

 

As Dust Dances by Samantha Young

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As Dust Dances coverLibrarian Laura’s Review

Running from a past too painful to endure, American singer/songwriter, Skylar Finch, is homeless and playing music on the streets of Glasgow, Scotland. She spends her days busking for enough money to buy food and her nights sleeping in a tent wherever she can find a safe spot. Her most prized possession is her guitar, which was a gift from her late mother. She thinks no one recognizes her in Scotland, though she was once very famous in the United States.

From the first time Killian O’Dea of Skyscraper Records, a highly successful Scottish record label, hears Skylar playing on the street, he recognizes her and her obvious talent.  Winning her over and convincing her to sing for his label, however, will prove to be the bigger challenge for O’Dea than he imagined.

Skylar has been living on her own long enough to be very wary of others, and unwilling to trust strangers. She doesn’t want to go through any more pain or loss than she already has with losing her mother and leaving Micah and the other band members, who were essentially her family. Why is gruff but ridiculously handsome Killian so interested in signing Skylar up with his label? Will Skylar be able to trust Killian with both her career and her heart, or will a combined business and romantic relationship end up tearing them apart?

This book has some mature scenes and is not intended for readers under the age of 18. Thank you to InkSlinger for providing me with a review copy of this title.

 

About AS DUST DANCES:

Once upon a time Skylar Finch was the lead singer of a hugely successful American pop-rock band. But fame made her miserable. When years of living a lie suddenly ended in tragedy, Skylar fell off the map.

Eighteen months later she’s sleeping in a tent in a cemetery in Glasgow, making just enough money to eat by busking on the streets. She manages to avoid recognition, but not the attention of one of Glasgow’s ambitious A&R executives.

Killian O’Dea works at Skyscraper Records, Scotland’s most successful record label. Raised by his uncle and owner of the label, Killian’s upbringing would have been devoid of affection entirely if it wasn’t for his loving sister. Killian is unflinchingly determined to bring the label more success than ever, and the young homeless woman who busks on Buchanan Street is going to help him do that. Her music speaks to him in a way he refuses to over-analyze. All he knows is that if it can touch his dark soul, it’ll set everyone else’s alight.

Skylar makes it clear that she doesn’t want to sign with him. But when she experiences the dangerous reality of a woman sleeping rough, Skylar has no one else but Killian to turn to. An undeniable connection forms between them. But Skylar doesn’t want the career Killian is trying to forge for her, and when her past comes back to haunt her Killian will be faced with a decision that could ruin him. He must either free Skylar from his selfish machinations and destroy everything he’s ever worked for, or lose a woman who has come to mean more to him than he ever thought possible…

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Samantha Young-author-photo.jpgAbout Samantha Young:

Samantha Young is the New York Times,  USA Today  and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of adult contemporary romances, including the On Dublin Street series and Hero, as well as the New Adult duology Into the Deep and Out of the Shallows.  Every Little Thing, the second book in her new Hart’s Boardwalk series, will be published by Berkley in March 2017. Before turning to contemporary fiction, she wrote several young adult paranormal and fantasy series, including the amazon bestselling Tale of Lunarmorte trilogy. Samantha’s debut YA contemporary novel The Impossible Vastness of Us will be published by Harlequin TEEN in ebook& hardback June 2017

Samantha has been nominated for the Goodreads Choice Award 2012 for Best Author and Best Romance for On Dublin Street, Best Romance 2014 for Before Jamaica Lane, and Best Romance 2015 for HeroOn Dublin Street, a #1 bestseller in Germany, was the Bronze Award Winner in the LeserPreis German Readers Choice Awards for Best Romance 2013, Before Jamaica Lane the Gold Medal Winner for the LeserPreis German Readers Choice Awards for Best Romance 2014 and Echoes of Scotland Street the Bronze Medal Winner for the LeserPreis German Readers Choice Awards for Best Romance 2015.

Samantha is currently published in 30 countries and is a #1 international bestselling author.

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My Name is Venus Black by Heather Lloyd

9780399592188_1bf94Originally published in Library Journal, February 2018.

Readers meet Venus Black, age 13, in 1980 Washington state, as she is locked up in juvenile detention after a horrific event involving her stepfather Raymond. Her father died when she was 5, and soon after Inez, her self-absorbed mother, married Ray. The only positive aspect of their union is her developmentally disabled step-brother Leo, whom Venus loves fiercely. Later details emerge that Venus shot Ray who had been peeping into her bedroom for years. Inez refused to help, forcing Venus to ensure Leo’s and her own safety from Ray the only way she could. Leo is then kidnapped by Ray’s estranged brother, Tinker, who feels he is doing Leo a favor, rescuing him from Inez and Venus. Tinker rents a room from tattoo artist, Tony, and his 11 year-old daughter Tessa. Tessa cares for and loves Leo like a brother. At age 19, Venus is released, rents a room from Mike, and begrudgingly agrees to babysit his precocious 9 year-old niece, Piper. Venus eventually adores Piper like a sister, but when Piper moves away, Venus decides to find Leo, no matter the cost to herself or Inez. In the aftermath of finding Leo, Venus and Inez find forgiveness and hope for a loving future where Leo is loved by two families. While searching for Leo, Venus meets Danny, a determined cop who loves her despite her troubled past. At the end, Venus decides to start college and write her memoir as a way to heal and move forward. VERDICT: Fans of realistic fiction will enjoy Lloyd’s fast-paced, debut novel for the unique characters, captivating story-line, and beautiful tribute to the healing power of love.

The Magnificent Life of Esme Wells by Adrienne Sharp

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Review originally appeared in Library Journal, January 2018.

Young Esme Silver was born in pre-WWII Hollywood to Dina Wells, a 16-year old wanna-be actress star with the right looks, but very little talent. Her father, “Magic Ike,” gambler and small-time crook, spends his days at the horse track, dragging “Baby E” along as he makes one poor decision after another. Though she had little formal education and an unconventional childhood, Esme is street smart, tough, and resilient. After battling severe depression, Dina passes away in unfortunate, sudden circumstances. Ike then follows Benny Siegel to Las Vegas to start up the Flamingo hotel and casino. Esme, a knockout like her mother, is soon a showgirl in post-war Vegas. Using her looks and body, Esme, 18, becomes romantically involved with rich, casino boss Nate Stein, a ruthless man in his fifties. Esme secures a position as a burlesque dancer, using Stein and his money to keep her father in a job, but she doesn’t realize how deep Stein and his wealth penetrate every pore of sin city until it’s too late. The ending is unsettling, leaving readers unsure where 21 year old Esme will end up. Esme’s story shows a little known side of Vegas, that of a showgirl trying to earn a living in a city where everyone is out for themselves. VERDICT: Sharp’s coming-of-age tale paints a unique, detailed picture of both the 1940’s Hollywood movie industry and 1950’s Vegas and the difficult, often violent lives of mobsters, casino bosses, and showgirls living in the city of bright lights. (Publication date 4/10/18)

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

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Kristin Hannah has done it again! Her newest novel, The Great Alone, which releases in February 2018, is absolutely stunning.

The story begins in 1974 when Lenora Allbright (Leni) is 13 years old and once again the new kid at school, having changed schools multiple times mainly because of her father’s wrath and inability to keep a job. Leni’s father, Ernt, was captured and tortured during the Vietnam War, and since he has been back, his own family household has become the front line of battle with his white hot anger and temper. Leni’s mother, Cora, tries to tiptoe around Ernt in order to keep their glass house from shattering, but she rarely escapes the wrath of Ernt, which Leni witnesses it all the time. Just when Leni hopes they might finally settle down in one place so her father can be happy, Ernt loses yet another job, and the family is uprooted again. This time, however, her parents pack up the VW van and the family of three heads to a remote island in the Alaskan wilderness. One of Ernt’s war comrades who passed away in Vietnam, Bo Harlan, left Ernt his ramshackle homestead in Kaneq, on the Kenai Peninsula. Ernt feels this is a sign, and a big break for the family that they must not pass up. What they don’t realize then is that Alaska will change the course of Leni’s future forever. All of their futures, actually.

Other than a few neighbors down the road a ways, the Allbright’s rustic cabin is in an untamed area of Alaska, where the winters are unforgiving and severe and the wildlife extremely dangerous. Leni and her mother get to know some strong Alaskan women, learning all they can from them regarding planting, fishing, and preparing food and adequate shelter for winter. Large Marge, a former lawyer who runs the small general store in town, takes them under her wing and provides Leni a security she has never felt before. Ernt gets close to Bo’s father, Mad Earl Harlan and his clan, and together Ernt and Earl, both paranoid quick to rage, arrange all-out crazy plans for surviving when “TSHTF” with the government.

Meanwhile, Leni starts school with the very few other school-age inhabitants of Kaneq, including the only other student her age, Matthew Walker. Matthew’s family has been very successful in Alaska for many generations, starting with his grandparents who started the town of Kaneq. Matthew’s father, Tom, plans to use some of his wealth to modernize and improve Kaneq, opening up the island for tourism. This, and the fact that Tom seems to have a keen eye for his wife, Cora, only enrages Ernt Allbright more. Ernt directs his hatred and anger toward the Walkers and anything to do with their family, including Matthew, of course. Though her father forbids Leni from seeing Matthew, Leni grows closer and closer with him, finding in him a first best friend and first love all at the same time.

For Leni, the dangers outside of the cabin and in the wilderness are much less than those she faces in her own home. As the years pass and Leni grows up, she and her mother are both terrified to stay, and terrified to leave, knowing that Ernt will track them down no matter what. Now, at the age of 18 and graduating from high school, Leni dreams of going to college with Matthew and studying photography. However, her father forbids her from leaving Kaneq, in his mad fury to control each and every move she and her mother make. He even goes as far as to build a wall, locking the family on their property and locking everyone else out. A horrific tragedy strikes as Leni is finally able to make an escape, and what happens after will keep readers on the edge of their seats through a roller-coaster of fear, guilt, regret, love, and longing.

Hannah’s description of the land and stark beauty of Alaska are breathtaking. The author’s notes explain that Hannah’s own father ended up in Alaska in search of great adventure, and they have all “fallen in love with the Last Frontier.” Her experience with Alaska is evident in the atmospheric scenes throughout the novel. The writing is raw and real. Readers will feel the naked fear and loneliness of Leni and Cora as they struggle to survive in the great alone of Alaska, trapped in a family crisis with no easy way out. I couldn’t put this book down, much like my experience with all of Hannah’s novels. The fact that the setting for this novel was very personal for Hannah made it even more enjoyable for me as the reader. I would highly recommend The Great Alone to anyone who enjoys adventure, suspense, romance, and coming-of-age novels, because this one has it all.

Thank you to St. Martin’s Press for the review copy of this title.