REVIEW: CARDINAL CABIN, BY JOANNE DEMAIO

 

Frank Lombardo’s never been spontaneous. The closest he’s come was accepting a side job chopping firewood for a lakeside community of rustic cabins. But with another lonely holiday season imminent, Frank’s sister urges him to be spontaneous because, seriously, who does he ever expect to meet out in the woods?

With a suitcase in hand and a bit of reluctance, too, Penny Hart arrives at Cardinal Cabin on Snowflake Lake. It’s only for a brief stay, though nobody knows where she is. Not her boss, not her friends…

Only Frank Lombardo. As the two unexpectedly meet at Addison’s hidden hideaway, a spontaneous kiss sets everything amiss. But can the magic of this quaint New England town keep these snowy sweethearts together?

My Thoughts: Winter in New England comes alive in Cardinal Cabin, as the author paints gorgeous word pictures of the snowy setting and gifts us with images of the interiors. I could see the little cabin that Penny Hart has rented, from the outside cardinal door knocker to the milk can holding sprigs of pine needles…and can sense how she might feel as though she has stepped into a Christmas card. We follow her as she immerses herself in her surroundings.

And then there is Frank Lombardo, the man who is not spontaneous, suddenly captivated by Penny with the copper hair. He is chopping wood when he hears her cry out; she has slipped and fallen. Picking her up leads to an unexpected and spontaneous connection.

Familiar characters reappear in Addison, where I’ve enjoyed visits in previous books. I like how the old favorite characters return, and then we meet some new ones. And along the way, we get to visit places like the Snowflakes & Coffee Cakes and Whole Latte shops.

The romance between Frank and Penny grows unexpectedly. Meanwhile, Penny settles in to her vacation, snapping photos to email to her office: she is a travel agent at Suitcase Escapes, and a contest is going on at the agency. Contestants must guess where Penny has gone for her getaway. She doesn’t like to travel, so her clever destination choice keeps her close to what she loves.

Near misses, some hilarious disguises, and a bad storm follow. Will the new pairing survive the New England winter and the hiding out required by the contest? Can a misunderstanding derail what they have begun? A beautifully wrought tale that made me want to spend Christmas in Addison, along with the characters. 5 stars.

 ***

REVIEW: LOVE LETTERS, BY DEBBIE MACOMBER

Summer is a busy season at the inn, so proprietor Jo Marie Rose and handyman Mark Taylor have spent a lot of time together keeping the property running. Despite some folks’ good-natured claims to the contrary, Jo Marie insists that Mark is only a friend. However, she seems to be thinking about this particular friend a great deal lately. Jo Marie knows surprisingly little about Mark’s life, due in no small part to his refusal to discuss it. She’s determined to learn more about his past, but first she must face her own—and welcome three visitors who, like her, are setting out on new paths.
 
Twenty-three-year-old Ellie Reynolds is taking a leap of faith. She’s come to Cedar Cove to meet Tom, a man she’s been corresponding with for months, and with whom she might even be falling in love. Ellie’s overprotective mother disapproves of her trip, but Ellie is determined to spread her wings.
 
Maggie and Roy Porter are next to arrive at the inn. They are taking their first vacation alone since their children were born. In the wake of past mistakes, they hope to rekindle the spark in their marriage—and to win back each other’s trust. But Maggie must make one last confession that could forever tear them apart.
My Thoughts: One of my favorite things about this author’s books is how she draws the reader into the settings and the middle of the characters’ lives. The stories are predictable, but comforting.

How can you help but empathize with each of them, with their troubles, their disappointments, and their memories of love?

Ellie was a character who had always felt abandoned by her father, and the way her grandparents and mother disparaged him only exacerbated those feelings. So she prickles whenever her mother offers her opinions about her new online romance that is now about to go “real.” Meeting Tom in Cedar Cove is a big step out of her comfort zone.

For Maggie and Roy, there seems no hope to repair their crumbling marriage. But Maggie brings along the love letter Roy sent her years before when they were apart. A letter that healed the breach. But will her big secret change everything?

Meanwhile, Jo Marie is still grieving her husband’s death, and a love letter she received afterwards, one he had written “just in case,” could make all the difference.

Mark Taylor, the handyman, was an annoying character who seemed to do everything in his power to irritate Jo Marie. Was it a game with him? Or was he trying to push her away for some reason?

Finding some of the answers in Love Letters would keep me turning the pages. In the end, I had the sense that there would be more to the story…in a future book. 4 stars.

***

REVIEW: THE OBSESSION, BY NORA ROBERTS

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Eleven-year-old Naomi Bowes woke during a hot night in her West Virginia home…and when she heard a noise, she got up. She followed her father into the woods, curious. What she found in the root cellar after he came back up and left….would change her life forever.

Rescuing the young woman named Ashley and reporting her father’s crimes to the police could have haunted her forever. But she decided not to be the daughter of serial killer Thomas Bowes for the rest of her life. Taken in by her maternal uncle Seth and his partner Harry, along with her mother and brother Mason, she had a good life as Naomi Carson, moving from Washington, D.C. to New York…and then, alone, all around the country, staying ahead of the news reports and gossip. Until finally she landed in Sunrise Cove, Washington, where she optimistically believed she had outrun her ghosts.

I really loved the new life Naomi was creating in Sunrise Cove, renovating a big old mansion and gradually becoming a part of the community. The descriptions of the home interiors as they slowly came together, along with her vision of life on the water, made me love how a grim story could turn into moments of beauty. Naomi’s photography career also kept me engaged, as she showed the reader what she saw through her lens, and how she brought life and creativity into each shot.

Meeting Xander Keaton, the man who owned a garage in town, who was someone so much more than he appeared on the surface…that event was the final straw that turned her life of beauty into one that included the possibility of love.

But suddenly, something is happening all around the small, lovely town. Girls are going missing and turning up dead…and not far from Naomi’s haven. Who, if anyone, is targeting her and dumping bodies in places that are familiar to her? What, if anything, do the photos on Naomi’s website mean to the killer?

When her FBI agent brother Mason comes to town, the pieces begin to fall into place. Will they finally unmask and capture the killer? Who will it turn out to be?

The Obsession was a page-turning thriller that was also so much more. Totally engaging. 5 stars.

BOOKISH FRIDAY: “SILVER BAY”

BOOKISH FRIDAY LOGO

Welcome to another Bookish Friday, in which I  share excerpts from books…and connect with other bloggers, who do the same.

Let’s begin the celebration by sharing Book Beginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader; and let’s showcase The Friday 56 with Freda’s Voice.

To join in, just grab a book and share the opening lines…along with any thoughts you wish to give us; then turn to page 56 and excerpt anything on the page.

Then give us the title of the book, so others can add it to their lists!

What better way to spend a Friday!

Today I am happy to feature a book from one of my favorite authors.  It has been on my Kindle for a while, so let’s “dust” it off and take a look.  I downloaded this book, Silver Bay, by JoJo Moyes, in August 2014.

 

 

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Beginning:  (Prologue – Kathleen)

My name is Kathleen Whittier Mostyn, and when I was seventeen I became famous for catching the biggest shark New South Wales had ever seen:  a gray nurse with an eye so mean it still looked like it wanted to rip me in two several days after we’d laid it out.  That was back in the days when all of Silver Bay was given over to game fishing, and for three straight weeks all anyone could talk about was that shark.

***

56:  She ripped it open, flanked by her friends.  They were all growing up, I noticed, losing the skinny little legs and the chubby cheeks.  In a couple you could already see the women they would become.  I had to fight my sadness at the thought that some would end up like Suzanne.  Dissatisfied, nagging…faithless.

***

Synopsis:  Liza McCullen will never fully escape her past. But the unspoiled beaches and tight-knit community of Silver Bay offer the freedom and safety she craves—if not for herself, then for her young daughter, Hannah. That is, until Mike Dormer arrives as a guest in her aunt’s hotel.
The mild-mannered Englishman with his too-smart clothes and distracting eyes could destroy everything Liza has worked so hard to protect: not only the family business and the bay that harbors her beloved whales, but also her conviction that she will never love—never deserve to love—again.

For his part, Mike Dormer is expecting just another business deal—an easy job kick-starting a resort in a small seaside town ripe for development. But he finds that he doesn’t quite know what to make of the eccentric inhabitants of the ramshackle Silver Bay Hotel, especially not enigmatic Liza McCullen, and their claim to the surrounding waters. As the development begins to take on a momentum of its own, Mike’s and Liza’s worlds collide in this hugely affecting and irresistible tale full of Jojo Moyes’s signature humor and generosity.

***

What do you think?  Does this story grab you?  Come on by and share your own snippets.

***

BOOKISH FRIDAY: “FOREVER, INTERRUPTED”

BOOKISH FRIDAY LOGO

Welcome to another Bookish Friday, in which I  share excerpts from books…and connect with other bloggers, who do the same.

Let’s begin the celebration by sharing Book Beginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader; and let’s showcase The Friday 56 with Freda’s Voice.

To join in, just grab a book and share the opening lines…along with any thoughts you wish to give us; then turn to page 56 and excerpt anything on the page.

Then give us the title of the book, so others can add it to their lists!

What better way to spend a Friday!

Today I’ll be excerpting from a book I am reading:  Forever, Interrupted, by Taylor Jenkins Reid, the story of a charmed romance interrupted too soon.

 

 

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Beginning:  (June) (Ben & Elsie – newlyweds)

“Have you decided if you’re going to change your name?” Ben asks me.  He is sitting on the opposite end of the couch, rubbing my feet.  He looks so cute.  How did I end up with someone so goddamn cute?

***

56:  (January) (Ben and Elsie are asking each other questions about their parents, their lives).

“That’s really sad,” he said.

“It is and it isn’t.  My parents and I aren’t close.  But they are happy in their way and I am happy in mine.  I think that’s what matters.”

***

Synopsis:  “Have you ever heard of supernovas? They shine brighter than anything else in the sky and then fade out really quickly, a short burst of extraordinary energy. I like to think you and Ben were like that . . . in that short time, you had more passion than some people have in a lifetime.”

Elsie Porter is an average twenty-something and yet what happens to her is anything but ordinary. On a rainy New Year’s Day, she heads out to pick up a pizza for one. She isn’t expecting to see anyone else in the shop, much less the adorable and charming Ben Ross. Their chemistry is instant and electric. Ben cannot even wait twenty-four hours before asking to see her again. Within weeks, the two are head over heels in love. By May, they’ve eloped.

Only nine days later, Ben is out riding his bike when he is hit by a truck and killed on impact. Elsie hears the sirens outside her apartment, but by the time she gets downstairs, he has already been whisked off to the emergency room. At the hospital, she must face Susan, the mother-in-law she has never met—and who doesn’t even know Elsie exists.

Interweaving Elsie and Ben’s charmed romance with Elsie and Susan’s healing process, Forever, Interrupted will remind you that there’s more than one way to find a happy ending.

***

What do you think?  Could you read this book without tearing up?  I know that I have the Kleenex nearby.

***

REVIEW: THE ROYAL WE, BY HEATHER COCKS & JESSICA MORGAN

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American twins Rebecca (Bex) and Lacey Porter have been inseparable for most of their lives. But then Bex transfers to Oxford University in London, and her life goes through some major changes.

At Oxford, Bex met Prince Nicholas of Wales, another student there, and the two of them became friends, watching a special TV show late at night.

And then one day, the friendship turned into something more, and they were in love.

But only secretly. Public romance for a royal with a commoner, and especially an American, was just not done, and for four years, the two of them kept their relationship secret (mostly). But Paparazzi and others in the media outed them over and over, which did not make it easier to go public officially.

Even though the beginning of The Royal We reveals that, at some point, the two were engaged, this event did not happen right away. And before it could, the two of them broke up after one too many official pairings of Nick with other, more “suitable” partners.

Based somewhat on the Will and Kate pairing, the story of Bex and Nick would not end with a happily-ever-after, at least not right away. Would they find their way back to each other? What horrific thrashing would each of them receive from the press? And how would Bex find a way to move on, or at least through the pain?

It was engaging to follow the journey of each twin, with Lacey joining Bex in London, yet her behavior was somewhat scandalous at times, especially with Nick’s brother Freddie, who bore a striking resemblance to Prince Harry. But then Lacey’s fun took a downward spiral, and Bex would have to wonder if her twin’s behavior would ruin her happiness.

I am a big fan of the Royals, and loved this re-imagining, as it made the Royal Pair seem more real. As I read the descriptions of lush places and royal haunts, I felt as though I were right there with them. And as we neared the end, there was plenty of suspense about what would actually happen. I enjoyed how it all came together, and my only complaint: the story was a bit long. 4.0 stars.