A Stunning Debut

Beautiful Disaster - Laura Spinella

I am most impressed that this is a debut novel.  It is superbly written.  I was immediately immersed in the story and had a hard time putting it down.  When it comes down to it, I am a romantic and I love to lose myself in a quality love story.  I particularly like that it is not all sugar and spice and all things nice.  It is raw and emotional and complicated.  It just felt believable.


Spinella did a fantastic job on character development.  Although I never really connected with Mia, she truly fascinated me.  She was an interesting and complex character.  Flynn worked his way under my skin fairly early in the book.  I would not say I found him lovable but I was oddly attached to him.  Together, they are dynamic.


I highly recommend reading this book.  You don’t have to be a fan of romance to enjoy it.  It is really a finely crafted, beautiful story.  What an absolutely remarkable debut.  I will be reading more by Laura Spinella for certain.

The Sassy Belles by Beth Albright

The Sassy Belles - Beth Albright

This was such a fun book to read.  There is really nothing quite as charming as Southern fiction when it is done well.  The cozy mystery aspect kept me engaged all the way through.  It was easy to read and thoroughly enjoyable all the way through.


The author did a fabulous job of creating entertaining and quirky characters.  She also did a great job of showcasing the unique culture that exists in southern communities.  I really enjoyed the special best friends bond between Blake and Vivi.  They made me smile and even laugh out loud a few times.


I would definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for a light, fun read.  This was a wonderful debut.  It is obvious that Beth Albright is full of talent and is an author to watch.  This book is the first in a trilogy featuring the Sassy Belles.  I will be reading the other two for sure.

The Wisdom of Hair? Are you kidding me?

The Wisdom of Hair - Kim  Boykin

I really tried to like this book but just couldn’t.  Aside from a very few entertaining scenes, I found it to be pages and pages of mind-numbing drivel.  In my opinion, the plot was weak and the characters were poorly developed and, generally, unlikeable.  The story skipped around a lot and was, in general, unfocused.  There was very little to do with wisdom, hair, beauty school or beauty salons and that was extremely disappointing.   


I seldom give books 1 star ratings/reviews because I generally don’t even make it to the end.  The only reason I even made it to the end of this one is because I was interested in the side story of Sara Jane.  For that reason only, I am giving this book 1.5 stars.

The Orphanage of Miracles by Amy Neftzger

The Orphanage of Miracles - Amy Neftzger

Leopards and foxes and kings, oh my.  This magical adventure in, to quote the author, “The Land of Make Believe,” is very well done.  It is books like this that gave me my love of reading as a child.  It engages the imagination from start to finish.


I loved the characters in this book.  The girls are strong and brave and the boys are kind and compassionate.  They are interesting, curious, and generally likeable.  The lessons they learn during the story are clearly relevant to their lives. 


The book is made up of two separate stories that merge in the end.  It alternates between the two but the common thread is evident all the way through.  The end sets up nicely for the sequel, which is not yet released.


I would definitely recommend this book to the targeted age group as well as to adults as a fun and engaging read.  Kudos to Cory Basil for a fabulous cover and illustrations.  Although I usually try not to compare authors, I have to say that Amy Neftzger’s writing reminds me a lot of Neil Gaiman, who happens to be one of my favorite authors.  I am planning to read, not only the sequel to this book, but other works of this author.

It was unique

Cooley & Rose - Terry Perrel

This book really didn’t do much for me.  I had a hard time getting into it and it really did not hold my attention.  It has a unique storyline, but it never really gained my interest.  I was also very disappointed with the ending.  It didn’t fit with the whole story.  I really didn’t think that anything was resolved.  It just ended.  Done.  Finished.


Overall, character development in the book was pretty good.  I could not stand the main character, Rose.  She irritated me and was generally unlikeable.  By the time I started to see changes in her, I didn’t care any more.  I never really cared for Cooley, either, but he was a little more tolerable to me.  The changes he went through were a little more believable.  My favorite character was Johnnie Rae.  She was a secondary character in the story but I felt more interested in and connected to her than any of the others.


This was not a terrible book but I didn’t really enjoy it.  It is Ms. Perrel’s debut novel.  I see promise in her writing and hope that she can refine her style a little in the future.  I would probably consider reading more of her work.

Great fun

Time Flies - Claire Cook

I cannot remember the last time I had so much fun reading a book.  This book totally entertained me from start to finish.  What’s not to love about a road trip in a classic car with classic rock blasting away?  I didn’t want it to end.


I have to say I loved the quirky characters in the book.  They made me laugh out loud.  The book is written in first person in Melanie’s POV.  I really liked her understated spunkiness.  From the time she cut up her marriage bed, I was a fan.  Her best friend, BJ, is her champion.  BJ is outspoken and in-your-face.  They make a great pair.


I really recommend this lighthearted, fun book.  I kept thinking it would make a fun movie.  Although I did see Must Love Dogs, this is my first Claire Cook read.  I really like her writing and plan to read more of her books.

So Sweet and Charming

Wedding Cake and Big Mistakes - Nancy Naigle


I had so much fun reading this book.  It is an absolutely charming and sweet romance.  There is a little mystery added in just to keep things interesting.  What would Adams Grove be without a little mystery?  I love this charming little southern town.



This is the third book in the series but, so far, it is my favorite.  This book really focused on the developing relationship of Connor and Carolanne rather than focusing on the mystery as in the past books.  My one disappointment was how the reconciliation between Carolanne and her father, Ben, was handled. I was honestly expecting more conflict and struggle between these two.


I really enjoyed being back in Adams Grove for this book.  It was fun spending time with these wonderful characters again.  This is such a great series of books and I recommend it for anyone who enjoys a light, enjoyable read.  Although, the first two books can be read in any order, you will want to read “Sweet Tea and Secrets” before this one or you might find yourself a little lost.

The Dream You Make - Christine Nolfi

This book is charming and heartwarming. Without fail, I have enjoyed every one of Nolfi’s novels. This is perhaps my favorite. I was immediately pulled in and became attached to the characters very quickly. I laughed, I cried, and I got frustrated. I didn’t want it to end.

The characters are splendidly developed. They are complex and relatable. At times they frustrated me but they persevered and that is what makes them so special. It is enjoyable watching them change during the course of the story. In particular, I loved watching Dillon flourish under Annie’s care. She sure wasn’t perfect but she really didn’t need to be. Of course, there is an entire supporting cast of quirky characters that infused Nolfi’s trademark humor into the story. It just wouldn’t be the same without them.

I highly recommend reading this book. Just read it because you want a great summer read. My overall rating is 4.5 stars. Another hit from one of my favorite authors.

Unsound - Toby Neal


Only a volcano can cure some things. Dr. Caprice Wilson, police psychologist, has spent her life unraveling the mysteries of the human mind-only to find herself in a deep crisis. Caprice prescribes herself a walkabout and goes hiking on Maui-but the solitary retreat she has in mind does not go as planned. Caprice faces an enemy she never knew she had and wrestles with questions of hope, identity, loss, and the nature of psychopathy in a cat-and-mouse game with survival at stake.


My review:

This was a pretty good book but it fell short in a couple of ways for me.  It is categorized as a mystery but the description kind of sets it up as a suspense-thriller.  Although it was an interesting story, it was neither a mystery nor suspenseful for me.  I thought I was getting on the rollercoaster but found myself on the scenic tour train instead.  There were a couple of scenes where things got kind of intense but I never really ever felt the urgency that is characteristic with suspense.  There was really no mystery to solve either.


I realize that this is fiction, but it should have some level of plausibility to it.  I cannot say too much about it without spoiling it, but the circumstances behind Caprice’s “solitary retreat” were completely unbelievable to me.  Supposedly, Bruce has had lots of experience with this in the past, yet he lets her go off on her merry way with no more than a promise.  Sure, right, that’s gonna happen.  This was the major inconsistency that spoiled things for me but there were other little things that just made me shake my head.


I gave this book 3.5 stars because, once I got over my disappointment, it was actually quite easy to read.  I didn’t feel like setting the book aside and not finishing.  It is a quick read, and like I said, it is an interesting story.  The characters are interesting and so very human.  I found myself attached to Caprice and I cared about what happened to her.  I liked her.  Oddly, I actually found myself liking Russell which made me wonder if perhaps I had Stockholm.  It is evident that Toby Neal possesses tremendous talent as I really enjoyed her writing in general.  I have two of her books from the Lei Crime series she wrote and fully intend to read them.

The Pitman's Daughter - Marjorie DeLuca I really enjoyed this vivid tale. Ms. DeLuca transported me to a different time and place so brilliantly that I almost felt that I was right on Crag Street experiencing life alongside these dynamic characters. Although they had hard lives, the sense of community came shining through.

The characters in this book are very skillfully created. They are all very authentic and unforgettable. I really appreciated how realistic their relationships with each other are represented. I also particularly liked that the author used genuine dialect for the dialog and included footnotes for the meaning of some of the words and phrases she used.

I would highly recommend reading this book. It flows very well from start to finish. Ms. DeLuca does a fantastic job of spanning decades without becoming tedious. She is a very talented author with fantastic story-telling abilities. I really look forward to seeing what she may write next.
The Baker's Daughter - Sarah McCoy This is a poignant tale that spans decades and shows us what true courage and beauty is. I really loved this book from prologue to epilogue. I was transported to a different time and place, and back, flawlessly. Ms. McCoy did a masterful job of using letter writing and email correspondence to help tell the story. She wove two parallel stories into one cohesive unit. She even included the recipes for the breads referred to throughout the book.

The thing I love about historical fiction is that once in a while, I learn something new. I was vaguely aware that the SS ran a “breeding” program during the Nazi regime. This book really gives us a look at what the Lebensborn program was really about including the affect of the “education” of the children.

The characters in this book are very easy to connect with and very likable. Although the story revolves around Elsie and Reba, all of the people in their lives play intricate roles in the story as a whole. We get to know them through their relationships as well as directly.

This is a definite must read if you like historical fiction. I have nothing but high praise for Ms. McCoy for a beautifully written story. I do hope she continues to write novels of this caliber.
The Time It Snowed in Puerto Rico - Sarah McCoy I have to say that there really wasn’t much I liked about this book at all. Young adult, coming of age novels are a favorite genre of mine but I just could not get into this book. I mainly couldn’t stand Verdita. My dislike of her was so profound that by the end of the book there was no reconciling the change in her. It was totally unbelievable to me.

I could not get what the point of the book was. It is written in the first person, from Verdita’s point of view. I understand that she is an 11 year old girl and that, often, 11 year old girls do not make a whole lot of sense. The only things in the book were reactions to random events. There was no cohesiveness in the story.

There was some very lovely descriptive writing in the book that I enjoyed. I also enjoyed the cultural traditions and references that were part of the book. This is what I truly enjoyed about the book. I really wish there had been more references to island culture. Unfortunately, I would not recommend it as a must read.

Mistaken: First Impressions Are Never What They Seem

Mistaken: First Impressions Are Never What They Seem - Karen   Barnett I enjoyed this book. I didn’t realize until I got it that it was a Christian Fiction book. What attracted me to the book was the cover first, then the time period and geographic setting. I had worried it would be a little “preachy” for me. I was pleasantly surprised by it. Overall, I thought it was a strong and interesting story. I was pulled in from the start.

The characters in the book were well developed and believable. I liked that they were not overly righteous and acknowledged their own faults and shortcomings. There was an interesting dynamic with all the different characters and how they interacted. I enjoyed watching their relationships develop. The internal dialog and conflicting emotions made the story compelling. I have to admit, the happily ever after ending was satisfying after what they went through to get there.

I would recommend this book. You don’t have to be a fan of Christian Fiction to enjoy it. It was not overly religious, just a clean, sweet romance. There are some biblical references, but they are sparingly and appropriately used for each situation. All in all, very well done.
The Wishing Hill: A Novel - Holly Robinson I liked this book but didn’t love it. I thought the story was basically good but parts of it really dragged for me. I really like the author’s writing style but I was never really invested in the story. I didn’t feel as though I couldn’t wait to pick it up again when I had to put it down. The ending is what really disappointed me. There was a lot that was left completely unresolved for me and this caused my opinion of the book as a whole to slip drastically.

The characters in the book are very well developed and suited for their respective roles in the story. I really did like Juliet and I thought Claire was very intriguing. I also enjoyed the romance that developed between Giles and Claire. It was quite interesting to watch the relationship between Claire and Juliet as it progressed in stages. The characters and their relationships were really the most enjoyable aspect of the book for me. I will probably read more of this author’s books.