What You Wish For

“Pay attention to the things that connect you with joy.” —What You Wish For by Katherine Center

**Many thanks to NetGalley, Macmillan Audio, and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Author: Katherine Center Narrator: Therese Plummer

(3.99 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Contemporary Romance / Women’s Lit.

Format: Audiobook

Publication Date: July 14, 2020, by Macmillan Audio

320 Pages (Hardcover) ; 9hr 56 min (audio)

#WhatYouWishFor #KatherineCenter

The point is to be happy anyway. As often as you can.

One of the running themes I have heard over the past 6 months is that we should all be doing things that give us a more positive outlook on life. Whether that means baking sourdough bread, crocheting booties for your Pomeranian, joining the latest Tik Tok dance craze, or (most likely for me) reading more books!

There’s a new outlook on the phrase “If it feels good, do it.” because people just need a good pick-me-up these days. And, if her book history has taught us anything, Katherine Center is the way to go when you need a feel-good title.

Her latest release, What You Wish For, is no exception. Let’s check out the blurb…

Samantha Casey loves everything about her job as an elementary school librarian on the sunny, historic island of Galveston, Texas—the goofy kids, the stately Victorian building, the butterfly garden. But when the school suddenly loses its beloved principal, it turns out his replacement will be none other than Duncan Carpenter—a former, unrequited crush of Sam’s from many years before.
When Duncan shows up as her new boss, though, he’s nothing like the sweet teacher she once swooned over. He’s become stiff, and humorless, and obsessed with school safety. Now, with Duncan determined to destroy everything Sam loves about her school in the name of security—and turn it into nothing short of a prison—Sam has to stand up for everyone she cares about before the school that’s become her home is gone for good.

The world keeps hanging on to this idea that love is for the gullible. But nothing could be more wrong. Love is only for the brave.

OK, so that was a big buildup for a book that I only felt meh about, which was utterly surprising to me! I usually am able to get all the way down with KC’s books. Want proof? Check out my previous reviews for How to Walk Away and Things You Save in a Fire – both 4 solid stars!

So what went wonky here? Well, I’ll come to that shortly, but let’s first look at what went right. Katherine Center’s books are feel-good, empowering stories that leave you thinking about more than just the characters and plot. They tug at your heart and encourage you to do more and be better. They are stories that open your eyes to the human condition and help you see the light at the end of all of life’s dark tunnels.

I know that sounds a bit over-the-top, but it’s truly how reading her books makes me feel – like there’s a bigger picture, and I need to be seeing it.

I’m not happy because it comes easily to me. I bite and scratch and claw my way toward happiness every day.

What You Wish For, specifically, encourages resilience and determination in the midst of crippling hardships. Even though it deals with some pretty tragic topics, overall it is upbeat and even funny. But…

I really struggled with the writing style on this one. If you’re really into inner dialogue, then this is your sourdough bread and butter. There is SOOOO much of it, and, yes, it’s distracting. It takes away from the current action, causing you to do deep dives into the main character’s back-and-forth self-judgment and bootstrap-pulling for a length of time that then forces the author to circle back and remind you (and herself, maybe?) what was going on before you got sucked into that abyss of a brain monologue. Frankly, it’s exhausting.

It makes me wonder if I may have had a different opinion if I had been reading the book myself instead of listening to it on audio. I listened to the audiobook version as narrated by Therese Plummer, who is… committed (to say the least). It felt a lot like performance art rather than the usual audiobook narration that we’re used to. Which fit the main character’s personality to a tee, but didn’t necessarily endear me to her skittish, indecisive, flamboyance.

Overall, I appreciate the lofty goals of this book, it just didn’t have the same satisfying effect that her previous releases have had on me. I really do wish I could give it more than 3 stars for the author’s sake, but in all honesty, that is rounded up.

Listen to Katherine Center read an excerpt of What You Wish For
(Courtesy katherinecenter.com)

Want even more? Visit KatherineCenter.com

Katherine Center

Katherine has been compared to both Nora Ephron and Jane Austen, and the Dallas Morning News calls her stories, “satisfying in the most soul-nourishing way.” Katherine recently gave a TEDx talk on how stories teach us empathy, and her work has appeared in USA Today, InStyle, Redbook, People, Vanity Fair, The Atlantic, Real Simple, Southern Living, and InTouch, among others. Katherine lives in her hometown of Houston, Texas, with her fun husband, two sweet kids, and fluffy-but-fierce dog. -bio from katherinecenter.com


Musical Chairs

“Life is a perfect combination of chance and choreography.” —Musical Chairs by Amy Poeppel

**Many thanks to NetGalley, Atria Books/Emily Bestler Books, and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Author: Amy Poeppel

(4.07 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Contemporary Romance / Women’s Lit.

Format: E-Book

Publication Date: July 21, 2020, by Atria/Emily Bestler Books

416 Pages (Hardcover)

#MusicalChairs #AmyPoeppel

She was at the edge of something new, in that space before you begin.

If 2020 has taught us nothing, it has taught us about canceled plans. Graduations, weddings, parties, concerts — so many events in the past six months have been canceled or modified. One may cry about missing out on a prom, another may be angry over not being able to celebrate a 40th birthday, and yet another may take it all in stride, postponing events for a year (or so) and looking forward to better days. It all depends on the type of person you are.

As for my family, we had to cancel a highly anticipated cruise, modify my daughter’s 12th birthday, and we, sadly, won’t be able to attend the funeral of my 94-year-old grandmother who lived out of state. I had three very different reactions to each of those events because I had plans for the first two and would have made plans for the last. Making plans and having those plans thwarted is a big deal.

What does any of this have to do with Musical Chairs? Bridget, the main character, makes plans to spend a romantic summer with her boyfriend. And in catastrophic pandemic-style, things don’t quite go her way — on any front. Let’s check out the blurb…

Bridget and Will have the kind of relationship that people envy: they’re loving, compatible, and completely devoted to each other. The fact that they’re strictly friends seems to get lost on nearly everyone; after all, they’re as good as married in (almost) every way. For three decades, they’ve nurtured their baby, the Forsyth Trio—a chamber group they created as students with their Juilliard classmate Gavin Glantz. In the intervening years, Gavin has gone on to become one of the classical music world’s reigning stars, while Bridget and Will have learned to embrace the warm reviews and smaller venues that accompany modest success.
Bridget has been dreaming of spending the summer at her well-worn Connecticut country home with her boyfriend Sterling. But her plans are upended when Sterling, dutifully following his ex-wife’s advice, breaks up with her over email and her twin twenty-somethings arrive unannounced, filling her empty nest with their big dogs, dirty laundry, and respective crises.
Bridget has problems of her own: her elderly father announces he’s getting married, and the Forsyth Trio is once again missing its violinist. She concocts a plan to host her dad’s wedding on her ramshackle property, while putting the Forsyth Trio back into the spotlight. But to catch the attention of the music world, she and Will place their bets on luring back Gavin, whom they’ve both avoided ever since their stormy parting.

With music as a guide for the synchronized movement of the group, knots untangle and the dancers glide. Such is life.

Let’s start by saying that this book is aptly named. There are so many moving parts, so many pieces of the plot-puzzle to fit together, and so many players trying to create this picture. What am I saying? There are like a thousand characters in this book. OK, OK, I’m exaggerating, but there really are quite a lot. Who is Frank again? And is James the caretaker or is it John? Or was it Paul (or another one of the Beatles’ names – although definitely not Ringo)? And the boyfriend’s name is “Sterling”. Seriously. It is NOT a spoiler alert to tell you now that this dude does not last long. I rue the day I have to read an entire book where one of the main character’s names is Sterling. Hard pass. (Plus, it doesn’t pass the When Harry Met Sally “Rock me big [insert guy’s name here]” test. According to Harry, if your guy’s name sounds good in that sentence, he’s a keeper. If not, no big loss.

Once you get used to the masses of people popping in and out of every chapter, you will enjoy the chaotic action and summery atmosphere of this charming book. With plenty of quirky circumstances and a cornucopia of relatives, friends, friends of relatives, and animals occupying every paragraph, you can almost hear the manic notes of a high-speed game of musical chairs as you read. There were guinea hens and goats. A flock of each.

What is life but a series of inspired follies? Never lose a chance: it doesn’t come every day.

It’s like being invited to a friend’s family reunion where you’re immediately introduced to three dozen people and you have to keep them all straight or you will be denied punch and chocolate cake at the end. It’s a daunting task, but hey, what else have you got to do?

Musical Chairs strikes a comfortable balance between uncomfortable reality and folly-filled humor that made it a joy to read over a few idle summer evenings. It is a welcome escape into someone else’s chaos for a while that did my heart and mind good.

Here is Amy Poeppel guaranteeing that this novel is NOT autobiographical!
(Courtesy Amypoeppel.com)

Want even more? Listen to an excerpt of Musical Chairs here
(Courtesy Simon & Schuster)

Amy Poeppel

Amy Poeppel is the author of the novels MUSICAL CHAIRS, LIMELIGHT, and SMALL ADMISSIONS. Originally from Dallas, Texas, she lives with her husband and three sons in New York City and Frankfurt, Germany. Her writing has appeared on The Rumpus, The Belladonna Comedy, Mock Mom, and Working Mother. -bio from goodreads.com


The Shadows

“Some part of you suspected he might be capable of doing something awful.” –The Shadows by Alex North (synopsis)

**Many thanks to NetGalley, Macmillan Audio, and the author for the opportunity to read a free audiobook ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Author: Alex North

(3.90 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Crime Thriller

Format: Audiobook

Publication Date: July 7, 2020, by Macmillan Audio

#TheShadows #AlexNorth

Absence of evidence was not evidence of absence.

Ironically, I started reading this book about a day or two after my coworker and I had a conversation about lucid dreams. She had been suffering from a particularly scary nightmare. Having had my own recurring nightmares when I was much younger, I told her a trick that one of my grandparents had shared with me all those years ago.

It involves practicing taking control of your dream while you’re dreaming, so that you’re no longer just a bystander. It really helped me to end some pretty intense bad dreams and I hope it will eventually help her too. We had a great discussion about some methods that she can try, and then we went on about our day.

Little did I know that the subject of dreams – specifically lucid dreaming – wasn’t quite done with me yet. And when I started reading Alex North’s latest release, The Shadows, it felt eerily familiar. Let’s read the synopsis…

You knew a teenager like Charlie Crabtree. A dark imagination, a sinister smile–always on the outside of the group. Some part of you suspected he might be capable of doing something awful. Twenty-five years ago, Crabtree did just that, committing a murder so shocking that it’s attracted that strange kind of infamy that only exists on the darkest corners of the internet–and inspired more than one copycat.
Paul Adams remembers the case all too well: Crabtree–and his victim–were Paul’s friends. Paul has slowly put his life back together. But now his mother, old and senile, has taken a turn for the worse. Though every inch of him resists, it is time to come home.
It’s not long before things start to go wrong. Reading the news, Paul learns another copycat has struck. His mother is distressed, insistent that there’s something in the house. And someone is following him. Which reminds him of the most unsettling thing about that awful day twenty-five years ago.
It wasn’t just the murder.
It was the fact that afterward, Charlie Crabtree was never seen again…

People are there, large as life and taken for granted, and then they aren’t.

Thankfully, my dreams didn’t entice me to murder anyone, and I am able even now, to think my way out of some uncomfortable dream situations. But the subject of lucid dreams was really only one part of this multilayered crime thriller. Of course, the top layer is the crime itself – or, in this case, the crimes. Horrific. If you’re at all squeamish about knives or details about child murder, then tread carefully.

But there are also threads of other stories here. Paul’s past relationship with his first love, Jenny, and his current relationship with his ailing mother offer intriguing story lines as the more treacherous plot plays out around him. DI Amanda Beck (from The Whisper Man) also appears in this novel – chasing down leads on copycat murders.

Was it strange to think of the dead as friends?

Ultimately, I was underwhelmed. Save for one huge plot twist that left me reeling, The Shadows didn’t keep me as engaged and page thirsty as The Whisper Man did. It is a fine thriller, I just feel that this release lacks the supernatural oomph that I was expecting and anticipating. In addition to that, the action plodded along with a few open plot holes at the end that just didn’t come together neatly.

Nevertheless, I will still pick up the next Alex North book without hesitation. I don’t know who he is, but it’s clear that he can certainly catch my attention with his creepy thrillers!

Alex North

Alex North was born in Leeds, England, where he now lives with his wife and son. Alex North is a British crime writer who has previously published under another name. -bio from goodreads.com


A Sweet Mess

“Bake a chance on love.” –A Sweet Mess by Jayci Lee

**Many thanks to NetGalley, St. Martin’s Griffin, and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Author: Jayci Lee

(3.65 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Contemporary Romance

Format: Kindle

Publication Date: July 14, 2020, by St. Martin’s Griffin

Pages: 315 (Kindle version)

#ASweetMess #JayciLee

He didn’t understand his feelings, but at least he knew how to feed her. Because that’s what chefs do.

Ingredients for a great romance novel? (Surely, you knew this was coming, right?) One might add likeable characters, throw in a little insta-love, toss in some awkward (but steamy) situations, and then finish it all off with a fridge full of circumstances trying to keep them apart.

If that’s really all it took to make a romance novel great, then we’d have a LOT more award-winning books about folks falling in love, and many, many more authors clamoring to write them. Unfortunately, it actually takes a little more than that. Let’s see what A Sweet Mess is all about…

Aubrey Choi loves living in her small town nestled in the foothills of California, running her highly successful bakery away from the watch of her strict Korean parents. When a cake mix-up and a harsh review threaten all of her hard work and her livelihood, she never thought the jaded food critic would turn out to be her one-night stand. And she sure as hell never thought she’d see her gorgeous Korean unicorn again. But when Landon Kim waltzes into her bakery trying to clean up the mess he had a huge hand in making, Aubrey is torn between throwing and hearing him out.
When she hears his plan to help save her business, Aubrey knows that spending three weeks in California wine country working with Landon is a sure recipe for disaster. Her head is telling her to take the chance to save her bakery while her heart—and her hormones—are at war on whether to give him a second chance. And it just so happens that Landon’s meddling friends want them to spend those three weeks as close as possible…by sharing a villa.
When things start heating up, both in and out of the kitchen, Aubrey will have to make a choice—to stick it out or risk her heart.

Love ends. Then what? You’ll be cast aside. Forgotten and alone. Don’t you remember how much it hurts? Please, you must never risk your heart.

Let’s just cut to the chase and say that I struggled with this book. I had high hopes for its plot: a baker and a food critic accidentally fall for each other and then face all of the obstacles that come along with their attraction – it seems like it would be a sure thing. However… 

Here’s why it didn’t work for me: The static, repetitive dialogue, irrational decision-making by two adults (joined by other distracting plot points), and a highly confusing narrative structure made me wish that this thoroughly adorable couple had been dropped onto the pages of an altogether different book. Unfortunately, this one only managed to leave a bitter taste in my mouth.

If you keep hiding, then you won’t have anything to lose, because you’ll have nothing worth having.

So, ultimately it turned out that this wasn’t the book for me, but I’m glad to see that, according to many Goodreads reviews, other readers fully enjoyed it and thought it was the perfect Sweet Mess.

Jayci Lee

Jayci writes full-time now, and is semi-retired from her fifteen-year career as a defense litigator. She loves food, wine, and travelling, and incidentally so do her characters. Books have always helped her grow, dream, and heal, and she hopes her books will do the same for you. -bio from jaycilee.com

Julybrary – The Winston Brothers Series

⇒ “Everyone in Green Valley, Tennessee knows that the six bearded Winston brothers have been imbued with an unfair share of charm and charisma… and are prone to mischief.” – Penny Reid

A few years ago, I got a free Kindle download of Truth or Beard, Penny Reid’s first Winston Brothers book — a spin-off of her Knitting in the City series. I had every intention of reading the book right away – I was intrigued by the book cover and finding a cute, funny romance is always a bonus with free downloads.

However, as any reader with an overflowing TBR list can tell you, reading that book right away was a long-shot at best.

So here we are, many moons later, and I am just now getting around to experiencing Penny Reid’s Winston boys… er… men. And, man oh man, am I sorry that I waited so long!

If you are already familiar with Jethro, Billy, Cletus, Duane, Beau, Roscoe, and their sister, Ashley, then you are in good company with this large family from small-town Tennessee. And if you’ve never really thought about serving your romance up with an extra large dose of sexy beard and classic literary middle names, then you may end up being as surprised as I am now that this whole brotherhood has now made my Man Crush Monday list:

-Penny Reid

What makes a good romance for you? Is it all about the characters; how beautiful they are or how hot their chemistry is? Is it all about the circumstances of the story; their meet-cute or how they overcome obstacles? Or is it all about the boom-chicka-wow-wow for you? <wink, wink!>

Whatever it is, I am sure that you’ll find some element of everything you love about reading romance in this series by Penny Reid. The characters are quirky and comical, each in their own way. The story lines are well-thought out and connected, even though each book could be read as a standalone (but why would you want to do that?!?! You wouldn’t, so let’s just forget I ever said anything. Moving on…)

The thing I like best about this series is that it managed to actually make me laugh! Not just an acknowledgement like, “Yes, that was humorous, now on to the next paragraph.” Nope. This was a genuine stop-reading-for-a-moment-because-I-just-lost-my-place-in-the-book-because-I-was-laughing kind of humor (even though I was listening to it on audiobook, the general example still applies.)

Let’s look at each of these books in publishing order…


This is Duane’s story. He’s the serious twin. His brother Beau is the one everyone likes. Everyone, including Jessica James – who has had the hots for Beau Winston since childhood. And she has hated Duane. But, as we all know, there’s a thin line… well, you know.


This eldest Winston brother hasn’t always been on the right side of the law and there used to be a time when he much preferred pushing the limits rather than toeing the line. But those days are behind him now. And he’s not looking for anyone to rock his boat – that is, until Sienna Diaz comes to town.


Fan favorite, Cletus, is easily the brains of the brotherhood. He always has a trick up his sleeve and his personal motto should just be, “I’ll handle it.” (In actuality though, it’s more like, “Hold my sausage.”) So what could be more of a mismatch than Cletus and Jennifer Sylvester, the Banana Cake Queen?


This Winston brother is the one the whole town loves – especially all the ladies! He’s got a ladykiller reputation and the looks to back it up. Beau finds a way to spread his charm around everyone he meets – until he meets Shelly Sullivan.


You know how it is when your ex keeps popping up everywhere? Well, that’s where Roscoe is now. For years Simone Payton has been on his mind, and for those same number of years, Simone has been trying to forget about Roscoe Winston.

Scarlet St. Claire

OK, no, I am not trying to trick you. I know Scarlet isn’t technically one of the Winston brothers, BUT her story is pivotal to perhaps the most anticipated story of the whole lot. Scarlet St. Claire is Claire McClure and she and Billy Winston can’t stand to be in the same room with each other. But why…?


His name is William Shakespeare. Not joking. But nothing about Billy is a joke. He is serious. He doesn’t laugh, doesn’t even smile. He is moody and quiet, and stubborn. And he is heart-wrenchingly in love.

Intrigued? You should be. I am loving getting to know this family and experiencing all of their forays into love. I am starting book #5 now, which I want to read so fast, but then it’ll only put me that much closer to the end of the series and… noooooo! Just noooooo!

What will I do without these beards in my life? Thankfully I won’t have to find out for another 2 books, and then there are the Cletus cozy mystery spin-offs and the Knitting series, and… Penny Reid, you’ve got me hooked!

Penny Reid

Tell Me Lies

“Margot’s clients all lie to her, but one lie could cost her family and freedom.” -Tell Me Lies by J. P. Pomare

Author: J.P. Pomare Narrator: Aimee Horne

(3.79 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Thriller / Mystery

Format: Audiobook (Audible Original)

Publication Date: March 5, 2020, by Audible Studios

Length: 6 Hrs, 20 mins (Audiobook)

#TellMeLies #JPPomare

Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies…

Little Lies, -Fleetwood Mac

You’re sitting on the psychologist’s couch, spilling all of your life’s secrets in the hopes that once you leave their office, you’ll have all the answers you need in order to not make a complete mess of the entire rest of your life. I’ve never been to a psychologist, but that’s pretty much how it goes, right? But do you ever think about who was on that couch just before you, or who will arrive right after you?

Ultimately, that one professional analyzes your problems and concerns and the problems/concerns of countless others throughout the entirety of their career. We’ve all heard that it takes a special type of person to be a teacher, but I think that saying is also true for a psychologist. They have to compartmentalize all those issues and still deal with their own lives everyday.

But what happens when the psychologist’s work comes home with her? Well, let’s check out the blurb…

Margot’s clients all lie to her, but one lie could cost her family and freedom. Psychologist Margot Scott has a picture-perfect life: a nice house in the suburbs, a husband, two children, and a successful career. On a warm spring morning, Margot spots one of her clients on a busy train platform. He is looking down at his phone, with his duffel bag in hand as the train approaches. That’s when she slams into his back and he falls in front of the train. Suddenly, one tragedy leads to another leaving her, her family, and her patients in danger. As misfortune unfolds, listeners will soon question Margot’s true role in all of these unfortunate events.

Oh no, no, you can’t disguise. (You can’t disguise, no you can’t disguise)

Little Lies, -Fleetwood Mac

I’m a firm believer that everyone can benefit from a little therapy. Whether it be unburdening yourself, sharing in order to overcome an addiction, or getting in touch with long-repressed emotions tied to deep-seated fears – therapy can be a great way to overcome. And a good therapist may be the shepherd you count on most to get you to the mountain top.

That’s what Margot thought she was doing for her clients. After all, she went to school for this and everything! But, try as she might, she can’t figure out the personality of one of her most mysterious clients. That failure could end up costing her everything – including her own sanity.

Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies…

Little Lies, -Fleetwood Mac

I needed an audiobook to travel with during my long work commute. I picked this one out of the Audible Originals selections at random and I ended up being so glad that I did! As the drama of this story built, suddenly my commute became entirely too short.

This is my first time reading anything by J.P. Pomare. I try to go easy in reviews for authors who are new to me, but with this book, that wasn’t even necessary. It really is a good book!

I urge you – for this book’s sake – not to read the reviews that reveal too much of the story. Much of its charm is the steady pace and the way the story unfolds – tidbits here, tiny clues – all of which eventually add up to a plot twist that made me hit pause and rewind just to listen to it again!

If you’re still on the fence about whether or not this book would be something that you’d enjoy, leave me a comment and we’ll discuss it. I’ll ask you questions, you’ll answer, and I may even give you a reading assignment for next week. And then I’ll send you a ginormous bill in the mail! Sound good?

J. P. Pomare

J.P. has always been drawn to the dark. He grew up on a horse-racing farm in small town New Zealand with two brothers, a sister, two cats and two border collies. A first love for literary fiction quickly developed into a taste for sharp, fast paced story telling. Stories that surprised him, stories that tied a cold knot in the pit of his stomach. His work has been widely published in journals including Meanjin, Kill Your Darlings, TLB review of books and The NZ Listener. He has also won, and been short-listed for a number of prizes. -Bio adapted from JPPomare.com

Blog Tour | The Bitter and Sweet of Cherry Season

Blog Tour | It was surprising how sharp happiness was. Bitter and sweet all at once. –The Bitter and Sweet of Cherry Season by Molly Fader

**Many thanks to Graydon House Books and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Author: Molly Fader

(4.42 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Contemporary Women’s Fiction

Format: Kindle

Publication Date: June 9, 2020, by Graydon House Books

Pages: 384 (Kindle version)

#TheBitterAndSweetofCherrySeason #MollyFader #GraydonHouseBooks #NetGalley

Hope had said that whatever she’s been running from wasn’t going to follow her here, but something had. It was grinding that girl down to nothing.

Say you’re sorry. Remember when your mom or dad made you say that to whatever other kid you had wronged in some way? Most likely, you were never really sorry, but you may have said it anyway to keep the peace. And if you were the wronged little kid, you may not have wanted to forgive, but you did it anyway just to keep life moving forward.

Willingness to request and/or receive forgiveness can make all the difference in the trajectory of a life. Let’s read the blurb to see why…

Three generations of women come together at the family orchard to face secrets from the past and learn to believe in the power of hope and forgiveness.
In cherry season, anything is possible…
Everything Hope knows about the Orchard House is from the stories of her late mother. So when she arrives at the northern Michigan family estate late one night with a terrible secret and her ten-year-old daughter in tow, she’s not sure if she’ll be welcomed or turned away with a shotgun by the aunt she has never met.
Hope’s aunt, Peg, has lived in the Orchard House all her life, though the property has seen better days. She agrees to take Hope in if, in exchange, Hope helps with the cherry harvest—not exactly Hope’s specialty, but she’s out of options. As Hope works the orchard alongside her aunt, daughter and a kind man she finds increasingly difficult to ignore, a new life begins to blossom. But the mistakes of the past are never far behind, and soon the women will find themselves fighting harder than ever for their family roots and for each other.

…she’d long resigned herself to the fact that everyone liked hope and wanted hope – but that didn’t necessarily mean they liked and wanted her.

Hope only had one place she could turn, so when she landed in the driveway of her aunt Peg’s farm, she needed to believe that there was refuge here – a safe place. Maybe Peg wasn’t familiar to her, but she was family, and that was all that counted.

As this novel opens, there are so many uncertainties. We are tossed into a potentially dangerous situation with a woman and her selectively mute daughter who are fleeing from a dangerous person who may or may not be in pursuit of them. Talk about a quick way to instantly draw me into a book!

…hope was running things now and hope had endless expectations.

Fader’s book captured me and held me throughout, and, honestly I wasn’t ready for it to end. I kinda figured out at least one of the ending points, but that still did not take away from the journey.

This is a touching story about new beginnings and learning to forgive yourself and others for past mistakes. It demonstrates the power of family ties and the strength of love through the years. At the last page, I still hadn’t had enough of this newfound family, their friends, and the Orchard House.

If it’s growing it can’t be ruined. If it’s got roots, it still has a chance.

The Bitter and Sweet of Cherry Season ultimately is a meaningful look at reuniting loved ones torn apart by secrets. Mentions of depression and drug use may be triggering, but aren’t graphic. The book features an emotionally abusive partner and some violent situations. Fader’s experience hasn’t failed her with this novel, and I gladly recommend it as a perfect summer (or fall, winter, spring) read!

The Bitter and Sweet of Cherry Season is available now at any of the following retailers:

Molly Fader

Molly Fader is the author of The McAvoy Sisters Book of Secrets. She is also the award-winning author of more than forty romance novels under the pennames Molly O’Keefe and M. O’Keefe. She grew up out-side of Chicago and now lives in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter, @mollyokwrites.

What Can I Read to Understand More About Black Lives Matter?

“Race and racism is a reality that so many of us grow up learning to just deal with. But if we ever hope to move past it, it can’t just be on people of colour to deal with it. It’s up to all of us – Black, white, everyone – no matter how well-meaning we think we might be, to do the honest, uncomfortable work of rooting it out.” – Michelle Obama

You’ve seen the protests, you’ve heard the news, and you’ve formed your own opinions. But there’s always room for you (and me) to learn more about the Black Lives Matter movement, how America got to this point, and where we expect to head in the future. The following books can help us broaden our perspectives and enlighten our communities. There is SO much more material available, but these five are a great starting place…

Author: Ijeoma Oluo

(4.52 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Nonfiction / Race / Social Justice / Politics

Publication Date: January 16, 2018, by Seal Press

An honest conversations about race and racism including how to have tough but constructive conversations about everything from police brutality to racist jokes. Ijeoma Oluo is a Seattle-based author whose work has been featured in the New York Times, Washington Post, Elle, The Guardian, and more.

Author: Patrisse Khan-Cullors & Asha Bandele

(4.51 Stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Nonfiction / Memoir / Race / Social Justice

Publication Date: January 16, 2018, by St. Martin’s Press

NY Times bestseller Khan-Cullors’ memoir about being raised as a black woman in America who eventually also becomes the co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement along with Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi. Patrisse Khan-Cullors is an artist, public speaker, Fulbright scholar, and a freedom-fighter from L.A.

Author: Robin Diangelo

(4.51 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Nonfiction / Race / Social Justice / Politics

Publication Date: June 26, 2018, by Beacon Press

An exploration of the phenomenon of white fragility characterized by emotions such as anger, fear, guilt that result in defensive moves that white people make when challenged racially, and how those moves can prevent meaningful dialogue across the races. Diangelo is an author, lecturer, and trainer on issues of racial and social justice.

Author: Angie Thomas

(4.51 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Young Adult / Social Justice / Contemporary

Publication Date: February 28, 2017, by Balzer + Bray

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter strikes an uneasy balance between her own poor neighborhood and the fancy prep school where she attends school. When her childhood best friend is shot and killed by police, his death becomes a national headline, divides a community, and could put Starr personally in danger. Angie Thomas is a bestselling, award-winning author, former teen rapper, and creative writer who was born and raised in Mississippi.

Author: Ta-Nehisi Coates

(4.38 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Nonfiction / Race / Memoir

Publication Date: July 14, 2015 by Spiegel & Grau

In an extended letter to his fifteen-year-old, Coates puts readers inside a dad’s honest and heartfelt conversation with his son about racism’s direct affect on people who look like them. Coates explores the past, confronts the present, and offers a vision for the future. Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and is an award-winning author living in New York City.

The Woman in the Mirror

“Rotten, stinking, hated love. Love is for fools, bound for hell.” –The Woman in the Mirror by Rebecca James

**Many thanks to NetGalley, St. Martin’s Press, and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Author: Rebecca James

(3.85 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Historic / Gothic

Format: Kindle

Publication Date: March 17, 2020, by St. Martin’s Press

Pages: 324 (Kindle version)

#TheWomanInTheMirror #WomanInTheMirror #RebeccaJames

Shadows crawl over the moors, spreading dark against dark. Their torches dance, lit from the fire at the barn. Burn her! Drown her!

Full disclosure, I read this ARC way back in March, but I’m just now getting around to reviewing it on the blog. Please do not read anything negative into my delay. Chalk it up, instead, to just being wholly and entirely distracted by Covid-19 and having to quickly relocate from my office at work to my home office around the same time as I was reading this book. But let’s get into it now…

Governess Alice Miller loves Winterbourne the moment she sees it. Towering over the Cornish cliffs, its dark corners and tall turrets promise that, if Alice can hide from her ghosts anywhere, it’s here.
And who better to play hide and seek with than twins Constance and Edmund? Angelic and motherless, they are perfect little companions.
Adopted at birth, Rachel’s roots are a mystery. So, when a letter brings news of the death of an unknown relative, Constance de Grey, Rachel travels to Cornwall, vowing to uncover her past.
With each new arrival, something in Winterbourne stirs. It’s hiding in the paintings. It’s sitting on the stairs.

It’s waiting in a mirror, behind a locked door.

There was nobody for miles around, just her, the house, and the wide sprawling sea. But she wasn’t afraid. It simply didn’t occur to her to be afraid.

Somehow that blurb doesn’t quite do this book the proper justice. It doesn’t completely make me want to grab this book and start voraciously reading – which is exactly what you should do.

I finished it in one sitting – a rarity for me with any book, even ones that I eventually rate 5 stars. The Woman in the Mirror was just that intriguing! What will sell me on a book faster than almost anything else? Atmosphere. And this book has LOADS of it!

I am different. Winterbourne knows I am different. This house is my salvation.

It’s a Gothic creeper featuring a spooky house, eerie twins, and shadowy events that can’t be explained using common sense occurring along a dual timeline (1947 and 2018). Set on the foggy Cornwell coast, this story will drag you into its dark secrets right from the prologue.

I really enjoyed this march into madness from the POV of likable, but not entirely trustworthy main characters. I was actually surprised that the book captivated me as much as it did, as quickly as it did. It was that good.

But it was our fault she ended up like that. We drove her to it. Did she really lose her mind? Or did we steal it from her?

This is the book that I really wanted The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware to be – authentically moody and creepy with an underlying ominous tone that didn’t seem forced or manufactured. It didn’t pan out for that book, but this one gives me everything I was lacking from that other reading experience. This book is a ghost story, a forbidden romance, and a witch hunt all wrapped into one deliciously tragic tale. You should definitely read it!

Rebecca James

Rebecca James worked in publishing for several years before leaving to write full-time, and is now the author of several novels written under a pseudonym, as well as The Woman in the Mirror under her own name. Her favorite things are autumn walks, Argentinean red wine and curling up in the winter with a good old-fashioned ghost story. She lives in Bristol with her husband and two daughters. -bio from US.Macmillan.com