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.

 

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Wrong in All the Right Ways by Tiffany Brownlee

Title: Wrong in All the Right Ways
Author: Tiffany Brownlee
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: Henry Holt BYR/Macmillan
Pub. Date: July 17, 2018
Summary/Blurb:
An attraction between foster siblings sets fire to forbidden love in this contemporary reimagining of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights. Emma’s life has always gone according to her very careful plans. But things take a turn toward the unexpected when she falls in love for the first time with the one person in the world who’s off-limits: her new foster brother, the gorgeous and tormented Dylan McAndrews. Meanwhile, Emma’s AP English class is reading Wuthering Heights, and she’s been assigned to echo Emily Bronte’s style in an epistolary format. With irrepressible feelings and no one to confide in, she’s got a lot to write about. Distraught by the escalating intensity of their mutual attraction, Emma and Dylan try to constrain their romance to the page―for fear of threatening Dylan’s chances at being adopted into a loving home. But the strength of first love is all-consuming, and they soon get enveloped in a passionate, secretive relationship with a very uncertain outcome.
Wrong in All the Right Ways marks the exciting debut of a fresh voice in contemporary teen fiction.
Pages: 341
About the Author
Tiffany Brownlee was born in San Diego, California, but currently lives in New Orleans, Louisiana, where she works as a 7th Grade English Teacher. Her debut novel, Wrong in All the Right Ways—a YA remix of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights—is set for publication in Summer 2018.

 

 

Librarian Laura’s Review 

Brownlee’s debut novel, a modern-day re-imagining of Bronte’s classic, Wuthering Heights, will have readers swooning over the forbidden romance and the tension between main characters Emma and Dylan.

Skipping two grades in high school, exceptionally smart 16 year old Emma is in her senior year at the top of her class. Emma is pretty much a loner, focusing all of her time and energy on studying, with the hope of getting away from Cedar Pointe to pursue a career in the publishing industry. An added bonus for going away to college in less than a year is that she’ll be out from under the roof of her overbearing, controlling father, a former baseball star who makes everything Emma does into a fiercely competitive endeavor.

Thrown for a loop by her parents, Emma is told that she is getting a foster sibling. Her little brother, Matthew, age 8, is excited, hoping to have a playmate. Emma, on the other hand, is concerned about losing more attention from her parents the last year she will be under their roof. Thinking she’ll get another kid brother or sister like Matthew, Emma is surprised to get Dylan, a very handsome, mysterious boy her age as the new foster sibling. Dylan is an artist and very talented, but his painful past has taken its toll on him, as he tries to keep things hidden and puts on a happy face around Emma’s parents and people at school.

In the midst of receiving a new foster sibling into her family, things start looking up a bit for Emma when Karmin, the hot, popular girl encourages her to join the dance team and befriends her.

Emma and Dylan first try to deny their immediate attraction to one another, but it soon becomes impossible. Knowing they are breaking a cardinal rule of foster care, even though they are in no way blood-related, they have to keep their attraction a secret, causing them to long for the small bits of alone time they get with one another.

As with all forbidden romance, there are some bumps in the road, the first being star baseball player, Keegan, Karmin’s twin brother, who is attracted to Emma. Keegan is undeniably cute, kind, and everything Emma’s parents want her to have in a boyfriend. Plus, the baseball thing is a major hit with her father. However, Emma only wants what she really can’t have – Dylan.

As Emma and Dylan fall harder for each other, the stress and worry of trying to hide and uncertainty of the future with Emma going away to college proves to be too much. When tragedy strikes, Emma is forced to reveal her secrets to try to heal the sudden loss of so many firsts – her first kiss, first relationship, and first love. The ending is hopeful, with just enough uncertainty to keep readers guessing what will be in store next for Emma and Dylan. You’ll have to read it to find out for yourselves. I’m not in the business of spoiling endings!

Wrong in All the Right Ways is well-written with many connections to the well-known love triangle of Catherine, Heathcliff, and Edgar of Wuthering Heights. I can’t wait to read Tiffany’s next novel because I loved this one! I would recommend it for teens and also adults who enjoy quality YA literature.

Thanks to the publisher for providing me with a review copy of this book.

 

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.

Map of the Heart by Susan Wiggs

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Map of the Heart will be published August 22, 2017. I was in the mood for a love story, and this one was a perfect fit. This is a modern-day romance mixed in with a healthy dose of historical fiction, historical mystery, and a forbidden historical romance.

36 year old widow and single mother, Camille, has shut off her own heart from feeling happiness or true love, since her husband died in a tragic accident five years prior. At that time, she also gave up her favorite past-time which brought her the most joy – photography.

Camille spends her days trying to figure out the best way to deal with her moody teenage daughter and aging father, whose cancer is fortunately in remission. Part owner of Oh-La-La, a home-goods shop in downtown Bethany Bay, the New England touristy beach town she calls home, Camille also has a film developing business. She specializes in developing and restoring very old film.

Enter Finn, Malcolm Finnemore, but known only as Finn. He’s a handsome historian and professor who specializes in war and military history and volunteers his time recovering lost soldiers remains to give families closure. His own father, a soldier, disappeared during the Vietnam War before Finn was born, and Finn has been unable to find any clues to locate him, until a lost roll of film from his father’s camera was uncovered. The film could be images of the last place his father was alive, and it could even lead to his whereabouts. Giddy with excitement at the prospect of getting closer to finding his father, he contacts an expert, Camille, to restore and develop the very old, important film for him.

What follows is a series of sparks, then fires, then uncertainty, and passion in a romance made for the movies. Oh la la, indeed!

Camille’s father, Henri, who grew up in Bellerive, France, receives a box found in the attic at Sauveterre, and estate in southern France where he grew up and that he owns. Inside are some puzzling items that belonged to Henri’s mother, Lisette, who died during childbirth. There is little to no resemblance between Henri and his presumed father, Didier. Camille and Henri begin to question whether Didier Palomar, mayor of Bellerive and a Nazi supporter who was killed shortly after WWII ended, is actually Henri’s birth father.

Henri and Julie, Camille’s daughter, decide to spend the summer in southern France at Sauveterre, despite Camille’s resistance. She finally gives in after Julie is involved in an accident at school and Camille is unsure whether Julie is the bully or the bullied. Julie is miserable, and a summer away with a mystery to solve may be just what she needs to snap back into a happier childhood. And, of course, Camille realizes that Aix-en-Provence where Finn lives is very close to Bellerive. A summer in beautiful southern France AND a handsome, charming, single man dying to meet up with her as soon as possible – any woman in her right mind would be crazy to turn that down! Thank goodness, for the sake of the story, Camille lets go and heads to France.

The story switches back and forth to the 1940’s as readers get to know young Lisette and her remarkable story. Once the truth about Henri’s real father and Lisette’s past are revealed, readers will not be able to put the book down. I know I certainly couldn’t!

Map of the Heart is well-written with equal parts heartbreak and romance. The romance isn’t too steamy, but subtle and implied. I felt transported back and forth between the beach town of Bethany Bay and the picturesque estate of Sauveterre in the Var – both places that I would love to be. I loved the story and even the ending, which I sometimes do not like in romantic fiction. Fans of Elin Hilderbrand and Kristin Hannah will love this story.

The Obituary Writer by Ann Hood

This story alternates between9780393081428.jpg 1919 San Francisco and 1960’s Napa, California. In 1919, Vivien Lowe, an obituary writer, is holding on to a dream that her long lost love, David, is still alive somewhere. David has been missing since the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906, when it ripped Vivien’s home and entire world apart. Vivien knows grief all too well, which is how she is able to comfort complete strangers who have lost loved ones, when they come to her asking her to write an obituary.  Sadly, with both the Earthquake and the Spanish influenza, Vivien is very busy writing obituaries, and many of which are for young children. Vivien believes that dates (date of birth, date of marriage, date of death) do not matter so much as the deceased person’s story – their passions, their loves, their quirks. Her talent allows her to write perfectly fitting tributes for so many lives.

In 1960’s California, Claire is stuck in a loveless marriage with Peter. She is under-appreciated and her hopes and passions stifled by her husband on a daily basis. She wouldn’t dare leave him because of their young daughter, Kathy, and fear of what she would do on her own. Then, she meets Miles, a man who appreciates her, listens to her, and makes her come alive in ways she has never experienced before. Will she decide to remain with Peter, sacrificing any chance at future happiness? Or will she go against what is expected of her and attempt to start over.

This is a wonderful, historically-rich tale of family, loss, love, hope, and courage. Both Vivien and Claire are strong women and lovely characters who will draw readers in and capture their hearts. The author brings the two women together in a most unexpected and extraordinary way at the end. I would highly suggest this story for fans of historical fiction, romantic fiction, and mainstream adult fiction. It’s a quick read, but it will remain in your memory far after you turn the last page.

Falling by Jane Green

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Falling will be released on July 19, 2016 by Penguin Publishing Group. I’ve been a fan of Jane Green’s quick witted humor and true-to-life family drama ever since reading one of her early novels, Jemima J. Falling is sure to be a summer hit, and a great beach read.

This story was engaging, romantic, and enjoyable. I loved the characters, because they felt so real. Both Dominic and Emma have had their share of stress from family and work life. Emma meets Dominic when she moves from the hustle of New York to quaint Westport, Connecticut and rents a house from him. Convenient for her, Dominic’s house is right next door. As Emma starts fresh, exploring her passion for interior decorating and enjoying a slower pace of daily life, she gets to know Dominic and his young son. She finally starts to feel at home, a feeling she has never really felt before, not even while she was growing up in a well-to-do British home. Dominic is a great father and faithful friend. He falls hard for Emma. But, this isn’t your average love story where the ending is tied up in a neat little bow. The story is both touching and tragic. Even so, you won’t be disappointed.

I was taken aback by the twist of fate near the end of the story. It goes to show that one truly never knows how many days they have to spend with another person, which is all the more reason to cherish each and every moment spent together.

 

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

iletyougoI Let You Go will be published by Penguin Group on May 3, 2016.

Oh my goodness – this book is a roller-coaster ride! This book has it all – part police procedural, mystery, love story, and family drama. There are two story lines, both starting out with a tragic hit & run accident, killing a young boy named Jacob. Jenna Gray leaves her grief from losing her son and a fear-filled life for a remote seaside cottage on the Welsh coast. Meanwhile, seasoned police inspector, Ray, teams up with younger, beautiful inspector trainee, Kate, in an attempt to find the hit & run driver and bring some closure to Jacob’s mother. Ray’s home life is just about as stressful as his work life, due to the tension with his wife, a former police officer, and problems at school with his teenage son. Kate is young, energetic, easily accessible, and a great sounding board for Ray. Will he slip up and jeopardize his future, both at work and at home?

When Part 1 ended with a major twist, I had to go back and reread the first two chapters just to figure out what was going on. It really threw me for a loop, and after that I couldn’t put the book down. Part 2 picks up quickly, with jaw-dropping scenes and unimaginable, terrifying moments, as Jenna’s story is revealed piece by heartbreaking piece. The story line truly proves that things are not always what they seem.

This book made me cry for Jenna, and also gave me chills of terror. The writing is excellent, as even the ending leaves readers wondering if what people believed happened actually did transpire. Upon finishing, I was left with an unsettling, creepy feeling that can only be quelled with a sequel. I do hope Mackintosh writes many more novels. This is her first, and it’s an amazing accomplishment. Ray’s character reminds me a bit of Michael Connolly’s famous character, Harry Bosch. Fans of the Bosch series and of psychological thrillers such as The Girl on the Train, The Luckiest Girl Alive, and The Good Girl will enjoy this book. I highly recommend it.