One Day in December by Josie Silver

41NHeAVyDlL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_I was in the mood for a Christmas-y romance and this one totally hit the spot! Debut novel, One Day in December, by British author, Josie Silver, is the December book choice of celebrity & avid book lover, Reese Witherspoon’s, Book Club called Hello Sunshine. I love a good forbidden romance, especially one as quirky as this one! Her writing style reminds me of JoJo Moyes and Sophie Kinsella.

Set in modern day London, this is the romantic comedy story of Laurie and Jack, unfolding in alternating viewpoints throughout the months of December since the moment they first spot each other as strangers in a bus station and fall instantly for one another after one glance. Talk about swoon-worthy! The problem is that neither know the other’s name or anything about them. Laurie is left to dream about “bus boy” and she keeps an eye out for him everywhere she goes, which no success of locating him again. She describes his features in vivid detail to her very best friend Sarah, and they both believe that “bus boy” is the one for Laurie, should she ever find him again.

Fast forward a year and the extremely beautiful Sarah begins dating Jack and she is convinced that Laurie must meet him and become chummy with him. Laurie agrees because she loves Sarah like her own sister. However, you may have guessed it, the moment she sees Jack, she is forced to hide her surprise and bury her true feelings. Jack is bus boy! Sarah has no idea she has fallen for Laurie’s “one that got away,” and Laurie is unsure whether Jack realizes who she is either. Thus follows a series of meetups (many in the month of December) over the years between the tragically tangled triangle of Laurie, Sarah, and Jack in which blissfully unaware Sarah falls deeper in love with Jack, and all the while Laurie tries to convince herself that Jack is not her 100%. Oh, the agony I felt for Laurie and Jack! Readers learn in Jack’s perspective that he too has often thought of the girl from the station, remembering her as well. But, will he ever tell Laurie? I guess you’ll have to read it, now won’t you!?

I would very highly suggest this book to any fiction readers. It’s such a sweet story with an ending that I know you’ll love. The author writes the characters right into the readers’ hearts, so that when Laurie cries, readers find tears in their own eyes. Read it! You won’t be sorry.

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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

The Perfect Couple by Elin Hilderbrand

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Bring on the Summer! Elin Hilderbrand, the queen of Summer beach reads, has created yet another fast-paced, intriguing, and highly addictive Nantucket-based beach novel full of secrets and romance. The Perfect Couple will be released on June 19th, and I highly suggest it!

Some popular characters from some of Elin’s previous novels make an appearance, including police chief Ed Kapenash.  The Chief and Nick, a state policeman known as “the Greek” and known by his movie-star good looks, are tasked with investigating the death of 29 year old Merritt Monaco, who was found floating on the each in the wee hours of the morning by Celeste Otis, the bride-to-be, on the day of the wedding. Merritt was Celeste’s best friend and maid of honor. As Ed and Nick begin to question those who were with Merritt up until her very last hour, more and more secrets will be exposed. The story flashes back to when Celeste, an assistant zoo director, first met her husband-to-be, Benji Winbury. The Winbury’s are extremely wealthy and have more money than they even know what to do with, a lifestyle which causes Celeste to feel uncomfortable and question her own upbringing at times. Benji’s mother, Greer, a mystery novelist, has made it her mission to hold the most lavish, memorable wedding Nantucket has seen in a while. Celeste is preoccupied by her mother’s declining health, as she is in the final battle with stage 4 cancer. Celeste wants to make her parents proud, and Benji is a perfect gentleman who will be able to provide for her every need and whim.  But is that more important than love? On the outside, Benji and Celeste appear to be the perfect couple. So, why did Celeste have a bag packed ready to leave the island hours before the wedding, when she was interrupted by the tragic discovery of her best friend’s body on the beach. Why would a happy bride-to-be be planning to leave her groom at the altar? And, perhaps the more intriguing question, with whom was she planning to leave the island with? Readers won’t find out the truth about Merritt’s untimely death until the final chapter.

This is one of my favorites from Hilderband, and I’ve read them all.  There is quite a bit more mystery involved in this novel than in her previous books. As with all of Elin’s stories, the paradise-like setting of Nantucket in all its island splendor is reverently portrayed, causing readers to be transported into the story and really get to know the characters. The beaches, night life, farmer’s markets, seafood, lavish homes, and the ferry rides all combine for a sensory overload. I’ve got to travel to Nantucket some day so that I can see it all with my own eyes. I can’t say enough good things about this book. I promise you’ll love it!

 

The Masterpiece by Francine Rivers

978-1-4964-0790-0The Masterpiece is contemporary Christian fiction at its best. Having read and loved Redeeming Love, one of Rivers’s previous novels, I had an inkling that I would enjoy her newest work, fittingly titled The Masterpiece.

Many times Christian fiction can become a little too squeaky clean, which distracts from an exciting or enticing story line and pace. Being a Christian myself, I know that no one is perfect and Christians have just as many faults as everyone else. Therefore, Christian fiction should be real and not put on an act, pretending to be completely wholesome and pure. This is one of the reasons that I love Francine Rivers’s novels. Her characters all have major flaws and pasts that haunt them. Many times they feel like or even try giving up, but God is not done with them yet. Rivers has a knack for writing long books with unique plot lines and memorable characters, and The Masterpiece is no exception.

The Masterpiece is a story of survival, grief, forgiveness, family, and love. Famous LA artist, Roman Velasco has a very checkered past, even though his future looks bright to those who don’t really know him. The only person he lets get a little closer to him turns out to be a young, single mother named Grace, who becomes his personal assistant. Grace has been through many a tragedy and trial in her young life, but she knows and loves the Lord and leans on him in everything. Her parents died when she was a little girl, and God has become her one true father. Because of all the pain and bad relationships in her past, Grace keeps her distance and doesn’t have any interest in becoming romantically involved with anyone. Her only goal is to be able to support herself and her infant, Samuel, so that they can be together full time and she can be a devoted mother to him. She is determined not to let her past dictate her future. Roman, on the other hand, is distrusting and unstable. He doesn’t know the Lord. He lets his past mistakes and pain eat at him daily, unable to forgive or forget the horrible things he has done and seen in his young life. In and out of foster care during his childhood, running from the authorities, and tagging with graffiti in a gang, he is no stranger to the streets. No one knows his real name or the circumstances of his upbringing.

As Roman gets to know Grace, he starts to open up and question her about her devotion to God. When a new tragedy strikes, will Roman be strong enough to survive it?

Though this is a very long book, do not be intimidated. It only took me two days to read it, and I loved it. The story takes place in California and many of the landscapes and settings that are described are beautiful and breathtaking. The plot reads quickly, because it switches back and forth from present day back to the time when both Roman and Grace were children and teenagers. It is through the flashbacks that readers are able to get a better picture of the horrible things that Roman and Grace have both endured in their lives. I would highly recommend this novel for fans of Christian fiction, contemporary fiction, women’s fiction, romance, and even mainstream fiction. It has a little bit of everything between its covers. The ending was a tad bit predictable, but that was to be expected with the kind of story it is. Even so, it was rather enjoyable all the way to the last page.

Thank you to Tyndale House Publishers for the complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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.