The Family Tabor: A Review

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Cherise Wolas’ second novel, The Family Tabor, was the latest Advance reading copy that this pedometer geek reader read. It was obtained through a First Reads Goodreads giveaway. This is the extended review.

The Family Tabor

By Cherise Wolas

Published by Flatiron Books, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-250-08145-2

This novel is a character-driven novel of a family in crisis. Although at first, the lives of the characters appear to be perfect, at least superficially. It is only as the story progresses that the characters begin to fray.

The patriarch of the family, Harry Tabor, is selected as Palm Springs’ Man of the Decade for his work enriching the lives of others in outstanding and uncommon ways. He calls his family back to spend a weekend in celebration of the gala where he is to receive this honor of a ‘life well lived.’ For thirty years, he has been the head of a humanitarian enterprise that brings hope and promise to people who are persecuted by resettling them in the United States. One afternoon while playing tennis, Harry comes to grips with his past.

His family comes to Palm Springs, but each of his children (Phoebe, Camille, and Simon, with wife Elena and two daughters Lucy and Isabel in tow) has their own issues to hide. His wife Roma does too, and even Harry is about to realize that all is not as perfect as once believed.

Phoebe, a high-powered attorney, is pretending to have the perfect boyfriend in Aaron Green, but she has made him up. Will the family figure it out before the weekend is through?

Camille, a social anthropologist, is not sure what to do with her life. Her life spent studying the little known natives is now over, and now back home, she is having difficulty fitting in. To go back to where she felt most comfortable, to marry her partner Valentine are some of the issues for Camille.

Simon, also a lawyer, is not sleeping through the night. His wife Elena and he are on the edge of falling apart over religion. She is Roman Catholic and he is Jewish, and where it once didn’t matter, it suddenly does. Especially in regards to their children, Lucy and Isabel.

Roma, wife, mother, and child psychologist knows there are secrets that her children are keeping from her, but how to get them to talk. Not only that, but she feels even Harry is hiding something.

All the action of the novel basically takes place at the family home during the weekend as the siblings and parents interact.

Trying to keep Camille and Phoebe straight throughout the novel was difficult as so much of the time since they were often together.

While this pedometer geek reader has not yet read the author’s debut novel, The Resurrection of Joan Ashby, this reader was aware of the story since it has been suggested by one of its members for the library book group. Because of having heard about the novel, it was a delight to see the reference to her first novel when the author mentions Elena reading an Ashby’s book, Fictional Family Life. 

Having read The Family Tabor, this reader might be ready to read her first one in the near future.

 

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Tell Me You’re Mine: A Review

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The latest ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) read by this pedometer geek reader was Tell Me You’re Mine by Elisabeth Norebäck. This is her domestic suspense debut. First published in Sweden in 2017 under the title of Säg att du är min, this novel was translated from Swedish by Elizabeth Clark Wessel. It was obtained through a First Reads Goodreads giveaway and this is the extended review.

Tell Me You’re Mine

By Elisabeth Norebäck

Published by G.P. Putnam’s Son

An imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, 2019

This heart-racing, pulse-pounding suspenseful thriller does not quit until the very last page. There are enough twists and turns to keep a reader guessing as to who is telling the truth and who is lying. As paranoia sets in for the various characters, the reader will begin to doubt everyone and question the legitimacy of the claims being made.

Three women, two of whom are mothers and one, a daughter, make up the gist of this tale of guilt, grief, and the delicate balance between love and obsession. It blurs the line between hope and madness, and will ask the question: whose daughter is she?

The story is told through the three main characters’ own perspective, and each of them has issues that affect each of them.

Stella is a family therapist and in the process of treating one young woman, she believes she has found her long-lost daughter, Alice, the daughter who disappeared twenty years ago when she was a very young mother. Although she is living a wonderful life with a loving husband and son, she still cannot let go of the idea that her daughter is still alive.

Kerstin is a mother who loves her daughter, Isabelle, but she is afraid of losing her, too. Her daughter is living away from her for the first time, and Isabelle has been acting strangely since her father died. That Isabelle has chosen to see a therapist only makes Kerstin even more afraid for her and wants her to come home.

Isabelle is a young woman who is seeking professional help for her anger issues by seeing a therapist. Yet the therapist seems to be too invested in her, asking questions that she is uncomfortable with.

Overall, this debut novel by Elisabeth Norebäck may keep a reader up all night reading, or at least this was the effect it had on this pedometer geek reader. In addition, this reader is glad to read that the author is working on her second novel.

The Optimist’s Guide to Letting Go: A Review

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Amy E. Reichert’s The Optimist’s Guide to Letting Go was the latest novel this pedometer geek reader had the pleasure of reading. The review copy was obtained through a First Reads Goodreads giveaway, and this is the extended review.

The Optimist’s Guide to Letting Go

By Amy E. Reichert

Published by Gallery Books, 2018

An imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5494-2

In Reichert’s mainstream novel, her protagonist, Gina Zoberski, is part of the sandwich generation…wedged between a critical parent (Lorraine, her mom) and a sullen teen (May, her daughter)…as well as dealing with her own grief at the loss of her spouse, Drew.

Walling herself off by writing lists (daily to-do lists, etc.), being overly optimistic (otherwise, she’d cry), and running her food truck, Grilled G’s (a gourmet grilled cheese restaurant—this is not just your standard grilled cheese), Gina finds herself changing in the aftermath of her mother’s debilitating stroke. It is through her mother’s stroke that Gina discovers a mystery; it is a family secret that is forty years in the making and will bring the generations together.

Told in bits and pieces over the course of seven days, each of the main characters (Gina, Lorraine, and May) relives the past while dealing with the present reality; the author does this seamlessly, blending these moments into the whole, and this adds to the enjoyment of the story.

Each section is divided by a question. Eventually, those questions make sense, giving the reader an aha! moment.

Overall, delightful, emotional, and poignant, it is a story of mothers and daughters and the changing dynamics between them.

This is the first of Reichert’s novels that this pedometer geek reader has read, but based on this one, there are several other novels (The Simplicity of Cider, Luck, Love & Lemon Pie, and The Coincidence of Coconut Cake) that this reader plans to read in the future.

 

 

Hollywood Heir: A Review

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Hollywood Heir, written by Ruth Cardello, was the latest First Reads Goodreads giveaway novel this pedometer geek reader read. It is the fourth book of a five-book romance series. This was read in an e-book format, but it is available in other formats. This is the extended review.

Hollywood Heir

By Ruth Cardello

Published by Montlake Romance, 8/2018

ISBN: 9781503903845

Although this novel is the fourth of five romances about the Westerly family of billionaires, it can be read as a stand-alone; on the other hand, some of the family dynamics and drama from the previous romances were only guessed at by this reader. In a nutshell, a plant psychologist meets a man who is trying to lay low and remain incognito.

Sage Revere is an ethno-botanist and a self-styled plant psychologist, who looks for those in need or feels they are in need of her help to be happy. Plants are just one way for Sage to select and then engage her clients. When she keeps noticing a man with a large facial scar at her local coffee shop, she decides he needs her help. For what, she isn’t sure, but she knows she wants to make his unhappiness go away.

Unbeknownst to her, Eric Westerly is an actor with a successful superhero movie franchise, but he is also struggling to get his life back together after a stint in rehab. Thus, his disguise when he goes to get coffee daily.

Still despite getting off on the wrong foot with Eric (who claims his name is Wayne), Sage connects with him and discovers that they are more alike than what appears on the surface. As they get more acquainted, Eric knows that when he reveals his real identity, he may lose the woman he has come to love especially if his grandmother has anything to say about it.

This quirky contemporary romance with family issues makes for a fun read. As mentioned above, the book stands alone on its own merit; however, this reader suspects that a few of the family dynamics would make more sense if the previous books in the series were read. This reader plans to check them out in the near future.

Wtt trends…what is this with all these billionaires? Can’t regular guys be hot alpha males without having mega-bucks? It certainly seems like nearly every contemporary romance has a billionaire for the main male lead.  Also, a messy ponytail was sported by the female protagonist.

A couple of quotes (the first is rather long, the second is short, but spot on):

“He told me his head was full of horrible things people had said to him, too, but that the trick was to not let those voices rule you. Denying them doesn’t rid you of them. Facing them doesn’t silence them. You have to embrace them as part of your journey, see them as something that you use to make yourself stronger. I still sometimes hate what I see in the mirror, but then I try to look at myself through kinder, stronger eyes. I strive to be healthy rather than perfect. When that doesn’t work, I talk about it just to get it out of my head, and that helps.”  (71% in the e-book edition)

Trust was like a snowdrop; if trampled it had a difficult time recovering. (74% in the e-book edition)

 

 

 

Tempting Boundaries: A Review

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Tempting Boundaries by Carrie Ann Ryan was the latest novel read by this pedometer geek reader. It was received through a First Reads Goodreads giveaway. It is actually the second book in the Montgomery Ink series, and the previous novel, Delicate Ink, was also read and reviewed by the pedometer geek. This is the extended review. 

Tempting Boundaries

By Carrie Ann Ryan

Published by Fated Desires Publishing, 2014

ISBN: 978-1623221485 and 978-1623221478 (e-book)

In this second contemporary romance that features the Montgomery family, Decker Kendrick is interested in his best friend’s little sister, yet he won’t act on his feelings because of Griffin, his best friend. Decker is not good enough for her, he believes. He is an honorary Montgomery, having been accepted into the large family years earlier. Treated like a son, he can’t betray them by going out with Miranda.

Miranda Montgomery has loved Decker since she was a little girl. Now all grown up and on her own, she is ready to show him how much she wants him. Yet neither can be honest enough about their feelings. Much of the novel is about their individual internal dialogue with themselves about why they shouldn’t be together long term even as they have an off-the-chart sex life that includes mild domination and graphic language.

Will the couple ultimately end up together? Will the family that sports ink and are always talking about kicking someone’s ass, whether family or foe, accept that the pair deserves to have a chance of happiness?

Family dynamics still play a large part in the story, and the closeness of the Montgomery family is a both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because it is obvious that the seven siblings and their parents care about one another, but a curse because none of them seem to be able to keep a secret and that can often lead to trouble.

Like the previous novel, there are introductions to side stories (of other family members) which rather disrupt the flow of the main romance. The ending seemed rather rushed as well, but on the other hand, this story was better edited (fewer typos) and had very few  What-the-tuck trends.

 

 

 

The Lost for Words Bookshop: A Review

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The latest First Reads Goodreads giveaway this pedometer geek reader enjoyed was an uncorrected proof of Stephanie Butland’s The Lost for Words Bookshop. This is this reader’s introduction to her writing. It may be because she hails from the North East of England, but regardless of the reason, this was an enjoyable read. Furthermore, this reader will be searching out other books of hers. This is the extended review.

The Lost for Words Bookshop

By Stephanie Butland

Published by Thomas Dunne Books,

An imprint of St. Martin’s Press, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-250-12453-1

Originally published in Great Britain under the title Lost for Words by Zaffre Publishing, an imprint of Bonnier Zaffre, a Bonnier Publishing company, it is a character-driven story. At the heart of the story is Loveday Carew, a waiflike young woman with secrets.

Loveday (what a cool name!) Cardew prefers books to people, and she works in a little bookstore owned by Archie Brodie, a man with a history of his own. In a sense, the store is her whole life and gives her a way to stay tucked away, hidden from a past that haunts her. That is, until it isn’t.

Into her life come a poet, a lover, and a few suspicious packages. What is the significance of them?

The story is told from Loveday’s perspective, and she is a little snarky, a little damaged, definitely quirky, and wise beyond her years. And she digresses (something this reader and writer can relate to). Yet, all those things make her into a character that you’ll love.

Her story, her past, is slowly unraveled, and frankly it is heartbreaking, yet perhaps she will have a happily ever after anyway with a family she creates on her own.

This is a delightful read by an author who knows that books can be lifesaving and she even sets the story in a bookstore. She divides the different sections of the book by book genres (poetry, crime, history, travel, and memoir), too.

The book was described as perfect for fans of The Storied Life of A.J. Fikrey and The Little Paris Bookshop, and having read both of them previously, this pedometer geek reader would agree.

I’ll Never Tell: A Review

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Through NetGalley and author Catherine McKenzie, a copy of I’ll Never Tell was given to this pedometer geek reader. Having read all but her novel Forgotten, this reader had a pretty good idea of what to expect from a story from McKenzie. Still, this one surpassed expectations. Here is the extended review.

I’ll Never Tell

By Catherine McKenzie

Published by Lake Union Publishing, June 2019

ISBN: 9781542040358

Wow! What a twisted tale of a family…lies and secrets are just part of what makes this novel so suspenseful.

The story is told from the perspective of all the main characters (Margaux, Mary, Liddie, Kate, Ryan, Sean, and Amanda). Each of these characters’ point of view is represented.

The McCallisters are the owners of Camp Macaw, and every summer, the McCallister children (Margaux, Mary, Liddie, Kate, and Ryan) have the time of their lives, making good friends and participating in rituals established from when the camp was built. Into this nirvana, a deadly attack of one of the campers occurred.

Now twenty years later, the children are adults, and with the accidental death of their parents, they have returned. There is to be a memorial service and the reading of the will, and with that, family dynamics come to the forefront.

Who attacked Amanda Holmes? Which family member was the culprit behind the attack? As secrets are revealed and lies are uncovered, the siblings discover the truth.

Suspenseful and complex, this may be the author’s best novel to date as she teases out the story bit by bit with surprising twists throughout.

As for whodunit, I’ll never tell!

To the Duke, With Love: A Review

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The latest novel, which was received through a First Reads Goodreads giveaway, that this pedometer geek reader read, was Amelia Grey’s To the Duke, With Love. This was the second historical (regency) romance of hers that this reader had the pleasure of reading, and this is the extended review.

To the Duke, With Love

By Amelia Grey

Published by St. Martin’s Press, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-250-10251-5

This is the second book in The Rakes of St. James historical (regency) romance series. The idea behind the series is that three gentlemen (all dukes) played a horrible joke upon the young women coming out during the Season several years earlier; now as these men’s sisters are ready for their debut, the fear of retribution from the ton makes these men act differently to protect their sisters.

Like the previous novel in the series, the Duke of Hawksthorn’s younger sister, Lady Adele, is about to enter Society, but Hawk wants to circumvent any repercussions by arranging a marriage for her before the Season starts. He’s even picked out the man for her…IF he can convince him.

In the process, he meets the gentleman’s sister, Miss Loretta Quick, who has vowed to never marry after being in a similar situation (an arranged marriage) and wants nothing to do with the Duke’s plan.  Yet, sparks ignite between the Loretta and Hawk, and because of circumstances, he is forced to stay over. While he is there, a sick young boy appears at the door and is taken in by Loretta despite Hawk’s warning.

This romance is unique not only because of the introduction of a street waif, Farley, who plays a special part in the story, but also for the romance of Hawk and Loretta. Yes, there are romantic and spicy interactions between Loretta Quick and Hawk, but it is all the societal mores that neither of them believes in (leading them to break the rules) that contributes to the story.

Love the chapter headings from the book, “A Proper Gentleman’s Guide to Wooing the Perfect Lady” by Sir Vincent Tybalt Valentine. Here’s an example:   “A gentleman should never be talking to one young lady and allow his thoughts to wander to a different young lady.” (Chapter 7, page 86)

The author creates characters that are multi-dimensional. Her female protagonists are not simpering; they have a backbone and stand up for what they believe in. Her male protagonists are not only handsome, but have recognized that their past actions might affect current events.

There were some typos (missed words), but nothing so egregious that the reader couldn’t easily understand the story. Furthermore, this reader looks forward to reading more of Amelia Grey’s romances especially the remaining novel in this series, It’s All About the Duke.

Dirty-Talking Cowboy: A Review

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The latest First Reads Goodreads giveaway novel this pedometer geek reader had the pleasure of reading was Dirty-Talking Cowboy by Stacey Kennedy. The novel was read in a Kindle e-book format, but it is available in book form as well. This is the extended review.

Dirty-Talking Cowboy

By Stacey Kennedy

Published by St. Martins Press and Swerve, 2018

ISBN: 9781250307668

This contemporary romance begins in a cowboy bar called Kinky Spurs (loved the name). Kinky Spurs caters to a wide age range of people (those in their twenties and thirties) as the author puts it. To this reader, that statement was laughable as it is hardly a wide range of ages: however, that didn’t deter this reader from enjoying the book.

Green-eyed Emma, the female protagonist, has taken a part-time job at Kinky Spurs as she deals with the death of her beloved grandmother, Grams, who left her home and the farm of rehabilitated abused animals in her will to Emma. She is also nursing her own heart, which was broken by a man, Jake, and cost her a dream job in New York.

Enter Shep Blackwell, one of the owners of the Blackwell Cattle Company. Like Emma, he is mourning, but for him, it is the loss of his father and finding out he and his brothers and mother have inherited a business that is hanging on by a thread. Again, like Emma, his heart has been broken.

In a nutshell, there are two vulnerable and grieving people who meet up in this romance that all begins in the Kinky Spurs bar. From the moment Emma meets Shep Blackwell, sparks ignite in this spicy contemporary cowboy romance. Both have been burned by a previous love and both are grieving for loved ones, but can they set aside those issues (especially the trust issue) to find love among the lust?

For lust it is along with a little bit of kink (some minor bondage and domination) as the pair becomes involved after an accident with the newest animal, a horse soon re-named Bentley. For Bentley has been abused causing his own trust issues.

Without giving away any potential spoilers, this is a sexy romance, but there is some conflict as well. There are some sexual scenes and language, but most are not too graphic. The author introduces enough other characters that there is potential for spinoff stories for several other couples. Shep has two younger brothers; the Kinky Spurs staff is comprised of several other women, who are starting to connect with the brothers. There was even an excerpt of the next book in the series included.

Per usual, many of the What-the-tuck trends showed up in this novel as well as some typos; however, it was overall a fun read, and this reader looks forward to reading more from Stacey Kennedy in the future.

Quotes: “Sex was an endgame.” (26%)

“There are many reasons for someone to apologize, Emma, but again, feeling how you feel is not anything you should ever apologize for.” (47%)  This quote seemed relevant to many women who apologize for every little thing including their feelings…okay, may be speaking only of myself here.

 

Love and Other Consolation Prizes: A Review

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The latest Advanced Reader’s Edition this pedometer geek reader had the pleasure of reading was received through a First Reads Goodreads giveaway. It was Jamie Ford’s Love and Other Consolation Prizes. This reader had previously read another of his novels, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. This one was just as compelling a story about a little known event. This is the extended review.

Love and Other Consolation Prizes

By Jamie Ford

Published by Ballantine Books, 2017

An imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC

ISBN: 978-0-804-17675-0 (HC)/978-0-804-17676-7 (Ebook)

Just as the events in House on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet were based on historical events during World War II, the basis for this novel is inspired by a true story. Jamie Ford has dug into history once again, but this time it is during the period of the first world’s fair held in Seattle, Washington.

Two Seattle-based world fairs, separated by fifty-some years, are the setting for this little-known history of a young boy who is raffled off as a prize during the AYP (Alaskan-Yukon-Pacific Exposition). The family he forms with the residents of the Tenderloin, the high-classed brothel, will transform him. His two best friends, Maisie and Fahn, become the loves of his life.

Born in China to a poor woman who is dying of starvation, Yung is given away by her to give him a better life. At age five, this mixed-blood child is given to his “uncle” (who is not his uncle). Boarded on a ship, he sails to Seattle to a new life.

Now, renamed Ernest Young, although never quite fitting in, he makes his way in the world. At age twelve, after bouncing around from one boarding school to the next, Ernest is excited about going to the AYP. What he doesn’t realize at the time is that he is to be the prize of a raffle. He is won by Madam Flora, the madam of the Tenderloin, and his life will never be the same as he becomes a servant in this household. But more than that, he finally becomes part of the family that makes up the brothel.

The story is told in the past as well as the present (1962). His daughter Juju is a journalist, who wants to get ahead by writing a now-and-then story of Seattle’s two world fairs, but in so doing, she discovers her father’s past so he tells her the real story of his life. The problem, though, is his wife Gracie, who is suffering from dementia, and he wants to protect her. As the excitement of the 1962 fair begins, Gracie begins to remember more and begins to recall past events.

Alternating joyful moments with heartbreaking moments, this story is definitely worth the read. The characters are sympathetic; how can a reader not root for a happily every after for Ernest, Fahn, and Maisie? Ford brings to light the history of the time: the Suffragette movement, the political corruption of the red-light district, and the shameful slavery of many young Asians. He shows the hopefulness of the two different world fairs, too.

A couple quotes, which this reader particularly liked:

“Memories are narcotic, he thought. Like the array of pill bottles that sit cluttered on my nightstand. Each dose, carefully administered, use as directed. Too much and they become dangerous. Too much and they’ll stop your heart.” (Page 7)

“There are people in our lives whom we love, and lose, forever long for. They orbit our hearts like Halley’s Comet, crossing into our universe only once, of if we’re lucky, twice in a lifetime. And when they do, they affect our gravity. These people are special.” (Page 265)

Now, this reader plans to check out Ford’s other novel: Songs of Willow Frost.