A Million Junes is a magical love story

30763950Two families who hate each other for generations.  I’m sure the first thing you think of is the feud of the Hatfields and McCoys.  But there are two other families that have hated each other for generations – the O’Donnells and the Angerts.

In A Million Junes by Emily Henry, the O’Donnells and the Angerts have held a grudge against each other for generations.  Generations of fathers that worked hard to stay away from each other even though they used to be best of friends.  Enter the younger generation who want to be together despite the feud.

June O’Donnell is the latest in a long list of Jacks and Juniors.  As the daughter Jack O’Donnell, one of the rules she must follow is to stay away from any of the Angerts.  June has been curious of Saul Angets, who lives across the field and through the woods.  She has internet stalked this forbidden guy.  She has seen him from afar.  Then they meet and the pull they have towards each other can’t be denied.  Such a pull it makes them wonder why their families began feuding in the first place.

Besides a love story, this is a magical story.  There are a lot of magical things that happen in June’s world.  Cherry trees grow overnight from a seed.  If you leave shoes in the yard, Coywolves will come and get them so make sure they aren’t your favorite pair.  And there are white floaty, fluffy balls that can soak into your skin and show you a memory, a memory that might not be yours.  The memories will feel real like June is being transported back in time.

This story might not be for everyone.  You have to like magical stories that stretch your beliefs.  But I think if you like a story with a little bit of magic, laughs, family drama, and an enjoyable love story, you will find that Emily Henry will take you on a journey that will make you fall in love with June and Saul and look at dandelion dust floating in the wind differently.

Book Description:

For as long as Jack “June” O’Donnell has been alive, her parents have had only one rule: stay away from the Angert family. But when June collides—quite literally—with Saul Angert, sparks fly, and everything June has known is thrown into chaos.

Who exactly is this gruff, sarcastic, but seemingly harmless boy who has returned to their hometown of Five Fingers, Michigan, after three mysterious years away? And why has June—an O’Donnell to her core—never questioned her late father’s deep hatred of the Angert family? After all, the O’Donnells and the Angerts may have mythic legacies, but for all the tall tales they weave, both founding families are tight-lipped about what caused the century-old rift between them.

As Saul and June’s connection grows deeper, they find that the magic, ghosts, and coywolves of Five Fingers seem to be conspiring to reveal the truth about the harrowing curse that has plagued their bloodlines for generations. Now June must question everything she knows about her family and the father she adored, and she must decide whether it’s finally time for her—and all the O’Donnells before her—to let go.

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat

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I Found You has many different meanings

35184176I Found You by Lisa Jewell is a suspenseful thriller featuring three separate stories that slowly merge together.  First we meet Alice Lake, a single mom of three children – Kai, Jasmine and Romaine and their three dogs (Hero, Sadie, and Grif) living in a small house by the shore in Ridinghouse Bay.  Alice sees a man sitting on the beach in the pouring rain not moving for hours.  He has lost his memory, not knowing who he was and why he was sitting there.  Against her best friend Derry’s advice, Alice gives the man a warm coat and brings him inside her house and her daughter Romaine names him Frank.

Then we meet Lily Monrose from Ukraine who has only been back from her honeymoon for 10 days and now lives in London with her husband Carl.  One night Carl doesn’t come home from work, which is out of character for him.  She realizes that she doesn’t completely know her husband.  When she brings in the police, they quickly discover no person with his name exists.

We then head back twenty years to 1993 when the Ross Family (Tony, Pam, Gray and Kirsty) decide to vacation for two weeks in Ridinghouse Bay.  When Gray (17) and Kirsty (15) are out for a walk, Gray notices a guy staring intently at Kirsty.  It makes Gray uncomfortable.  The next day the family is on the beach and the same guy is sitting next to them.  He soon befriends the family and invites them over for tea at the large estate across the way.  Mark Tate (19) is visiting his aunt Kitty who recently lost her husband.  Mark quickly becomes obsessed with Kirsty and he starts to come across as a crazy, evil person.

The narrative switches back and forth between the three storylines slowly weaving back and forth bringing them together at the end.  Throughout the book, you don’t know exactly who the strange man on the beach could be.  Is it Gray or is it Mark.  And who is Lily’s husband?  Is it Gray or is it Mark?  Is the stranger on the beach and Lily’s husband the same person or are they two different people?  Lisa Jewell kept me guessing and kept me second guessing my selections.  I found I could not put this book down.  I wanted to know what was happening and I wanted answers.  This is a great thriller just in time for summertime.

Now that I’ve been done with the book for a few days, I understand the title pertains to several characters of the book.  It also means something different for each of the characters.

Book Description:
A young bride, a lonely single mother, and an amnesiac man of dubious origin lie at the heart of New York Times bestselling author Lisa Jewell’s next suspenseful drama that will appeal to fans of Liane Moriarty and Paula Hawkins.

In a windswept British seaside town, single mom Alice Lake finds a man sitting on the beach outside her house. He has no name, no jacket, and no idea how he got there. Against her better judgment, she invites him inside.

Meanwhile, in a suburb of London, twenty-one-year-old Lily Monrose has only been married for three weeks. When her new husband fails to come home from work one night she is left stranded in a new country where she knows no one. Then the police tell her that her husband never existed.

Twenty-three years earlier, Gray and Kirsty are teenagers on a summer holiday with their parents. Their annual trip to the quaint seaside town is passing by uneventfully, until an enigmatic young man starts paying extra attention to Kirsty. Something about him makes Gray uncomfortable—and it’s not just that he’s playing the role of protective older brother.

Two decades of secrets, a missing husband, and a man with no memory are at the heart of this brilliant new novel, filled with the “beautiful writing, believable characters, pacey narrative, and dark secrets” (London Daily Mail) that make Lisa Jewell so beloved by audiences on both sides of the Atlantic.

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat

The Light We Lost asks the question: is a first love your one true love

33637339When I first started reading The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo, I wasn’t sure if I was going to like it. I didn’t understand why Lucy Carter was telling Gabe Samson about their relationship from when they first met. It felt weird to me. I thought maybe it was a look back at what their life was like.  But I soon got used to the narration and was pulled into Lucy’s life.

Lucy first met Gabe on September 11, 2001 while they are in college.  On a rooftop under a grey cloud of ash, she kissed him for the first time and lost her heart forever. They move in together and start planning their life.  But Gabe is unfulfilled living in New York and being in a relationship. As he pursues his photography, he realizes he needs to go abroad and capture the struggles and political turmoil.  He wants to head to the Middle East and asks Lucy to go with him. But Lucy loves her job and knows following Gabe around the world will only make her resent his pursuit of his passions while she suppresses hers. So Gabe leaves and they move on living separate lives.

Lucy eventually meets Darren and even though she keeps comparing him to Gabe, she loves him differently but just as much as Gabe. They marry and soon have their daughter Violet. Even though Lucy has a wonderfully supportive husband and a good marriage, she seems to be connected to Gabe. She looks for his photos, she emails with him and she takes his phone calls. When he is in town, she drops everything to see him.

There were times I wanted to smack Lucy for what she was doing to her marriage. There were times I wanted to smack Darren for his jealousy even though Lucy was with him and I wanted to smack Gabe for always pulling Lucy back into his life making it hard for her to leave him in the past where he belonged.  The character I loved the most was Violet.  What an adorable little girl.

This book made me smile but it also made me cry and it broke my heart in so many different ways. As the book progressed and things were revealed, I never would have expected the revelation at the end. It really made me change my view of Lucy’s narrative. This book snuck up on me. I almost abandoned after about 50 pages and I’m so glad I stuck it out. This was such a good book. If you pick this book up, give it a chance because it won’t disappoint.

Book Description:
Lucy is faced with a life-altering choice. But before she can make her decision, she must start her story—their story—at the very beginning.

Lucy and Gabe meet as seniors at Columbia University on a day that changes both of their lives forever. Together, they decide they want their lives to mean something, to matter. When they meet again a year later, it seems fated—perhaps they’ll find life’s meaning in each other. But then Gabe becomes a photojournalist assigned to the Middle East and Lucy pursues a career in New York. What follows is a thirteen-year journey of dreams, desires, jealousies, betrayals, and, ultimately, of love. Was it fate that brought them together? Is it choice that has kept them away? Their journey takes Lucy and Gabe continents apart, but never out of each other’s hearts.

This devastatingly romantic debut novel about the enduring power of first love, with a shocking, unforgettable ending, is Love Story for a new generation.

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Geekerella is a fun modern-day twist on Cinderella

33224718Growing up, Cinderella was and still is one of my favorite Disney stories.  I love when an author takes an old story and puts a new twist to it.  Geekerella by Ashley Poston is a fantastic young adult story about Elle Wittimer who grew up watching an old popular sci-fi series with her father – Starfield.  She’s a huge fan and blogs about the show.  One morning her dreams come true when a new adaptation is announced.  But the excitement doesn’t last long when she finds out Prince Carmindor will be played by Hollywood’s up and coming ‘it’ boy Darien Freeman.  Elle quickly rants about casting on her blog (she doesn’t hold back how she feels) and overnight becomes an internet sensation.

Darien is also a huge Starfield fan but doesn’t want to let on that he was a big geek growing up.  In fact, when his casting is announced on a national morning show, he blows an answer to a trivia question even though it was a no brainer.

Elle’s father who has passed away, used to run a Comicon type convention called ExcelsiCon.  Darien has been committed to attend the convention but he hate them as he is supposed to meet fans and small when he really just wants to let his geekiness come out.  After texting the phone number he thinks is for the organizer of ExcelsiCon, he ends up texting Elle.  This soon turns into a constant text conversation between the two.

Staying true to the Cinderella classic, Elle lives with her terrible Stepmother and stepsisters.  Elle decides to enter the Cosplay contest at ExcelsiCon in hopes to win the prize money and move to California, away from her evil Stepmother.  Just like the original Cinderella story, there is a “fairy Godmother” who is actually Sage, her young supervisor in the Food truck painted like a huge pumpkin and called what else, The Magic Pumpkin.

I loved this story!  This is such a fun twist on the Cinderella story with very modern day characters and modern situations.  The characters are fun and a little nutty.  I enjoyed Elle with her hopes and dreams and fandom of a sci-fi TV show.  I enjoyed Sage who doesn’t really give a crap and I liked Darien who you kind of wonder if some child stars or any celebrities have issues like he does.

I thought this was a lot of fun to read and it definitely can be read over a weekend because you won’t want to put it down.

The one thing I had an issue with is Elle and Damian talking to a stranger through text messaging.  With online pedophiles, I found this a little creepy as you don’t know who is on the other side.  Other than that, I recommend this book.  If I read books more than once, this would be on my rotation.

Book Description:
Cinderella goes to the con in this fandom-fueled twist on the classic fairy tale.

Part romance, part love letter to nerd culture, and all totally adorbs, Geekerella is a fairy tale for anyone who believes in the magic of fandom. Geek girl Elle Wittimer lives and breathes Starfield, the classic sci-fi series she grew up watching with her late father. So when she sees a cosplay contest for a new Starfield movie, she has to enter. The prize? An invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball, and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. With savings from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck (and her dad’s old costume), Elle’s determined to win…unless her stepsisters get there first.

Teen actor Darien Freeman used to live for cons—before he was famous. Now they’re nothing but autographs and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Carmindor is all he’s ever wanted, but the Starfield fandom has written him off as just another dumb heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, Darien feels more and more like a fake—until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise.

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat

The Life of a Vaudeville Star

30320011I think Nicola Italia has become my new favorite romance writer.  This time in The Vaudeville Star, we are introduced to Ruby Mae Sutton, a southern belle from Mississippi who is sent off to finishing school in Connecticut when she is 15.

Ruby has been madly in love all her life with Ford Rutledge, who is engaged to her sister.  Ruby doesn’t want Ford to marry her sister.  She thinks her cold-hearted sister is very wrong for Ford.  So she decides to convince him, putting him in a compromising position, hence sending Ruby to finishing school.

While at the finishing school, Ruby discovers her singing voice and decides she wants to be a vaudeville singer.  Ruby builds fans including the King of New York who becomes obsessed with Ruby.  This is also where Ruby meets Ford again and finds her love for him still exists.

The characters are well developed and their personalities came through strong.  As I was reading, I felt invested in the characters’ lives and was cheering for them.  At almost 300 pages, I thought there was more to tell.  I wanted more of Ruby, Ford, Bessie and the other Vaudeville performers.  This book was well worth my time and it will be well worth your time.  Pick it up today.

Book Description:
On a Mississippi Plantation, Ruby Mae Sutton throws herself into the arms of the only man she has ever loved, Ford Rutledge.  At fifteen years old, she has given her heart away and is not ashamed to brazenly declare her love to the twenty-five-year-old man, who is also the fiancé of her sister.

But Ford has no intention of taking advantage of the blond beauty, even though her reckless behavior causes his engagement to be broken.  Ruby is sent off in disgrace to a boarding school in Connecticut, where she remains for the next three years.

Once in Connecticut, Ruby discovers her singing voice and decides to leave after graduation for the bright lights of New York and the vaudeville stage.  Ford also decides to make his home in New York and suddenly finds himself face-to-face with Ruby Sutton, the very grown and very beautiful rising star of the vaudeville stage.

As Ruby’s star ascends, she makes a huge conquest with the King of Manhattan: William Parker.  King Parker begins to take an interest in Ruby’s career, and more importantly Ruby herself, as Ford finally realizes he is in love with her.

King finances a tour to Europe as his interest in Ruby takes a turn toward the more obsessive.  Ruby finds herself torn between her true love for Ford and the obligation she owes King.  She must tread carefully between the two men, and the brutal murder of someone they all know causes everyone to wonder who had the motive.

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat

Sri Lanka tea plantations are a fascinating topic

25237718It’s always enjoyable to read a good historical literature, especially when it’s set in a location I know nothing about.  That is one of the great things about The Tea Planter’s Wife by Dinah Jeffries.

The story starts in 1925 as 19-year-old Gwendoline meets Laurence Hooper and quickly marries him.  She sails to Ceylon to join Laurence at his tea plantation.  Life on the plantation has a big racial divide between the British Colonists who own the plantations and the workers who are Indian Tamils and the Sinhalese.

The residents of the Hooper tea plantation are very interesting.  We meet Nick MacGregor, the plantation manager who treats the workers like objects and not human beings.  Gwen doesn’t understand why Nick treats the workers this way.  She believes the workers deserve a better life and wants to give them better health care, better living conditions and better nutrition.  Nick doesn’t like Gwen butting into his business when she tries to befriend the workers.

There is Laurence’s sister Verity.  This woman is very messed up and jealous of any female who is more important to Laurence than she is.  Verity has an aversion to working and acts like Laurence needs to support her.  She’s a spoiled little brat who I wanted to just go away.  I think I even said “go away, go away, go away” when Verity yet again moves into the plantation house.

Then there is ex-mistress Christina Bradshaw who blatantly flirts with Laurence right in front of Gwen.  Christina and Laurence do business together but Christina wants more.  Another character I wanted to go away and leave Laurence and Gwen alone.

The Tea Plantation’s Wife highlights a very volatile time in history and Jeffries does a great job bringing the era to life.  There are also lots of secrets in this family that are hidden for many years and slowly come to light.  Because of this story, I have researched more information about Ceylon and about tea plantations in Sri Lanka. This is definitely well worth the read.  I was able to read this book through the First to Read program with Penguin Random House.

Book Description:
#1 International bestselling novel set in 1920’s Ceylon, about a young Englishwoman who marries a charming tea plantation owner and widower, only to discover he’s keeping terrible secrets about his past, including what happened to his first wife, that lead to devastating consequences

Nineteen-year-old Gwendolyn Hooper is newly married to a rich and charming widower, eager to join him on his tea plantation, determined to be the perfect wife and mother. But life in Ceylon is not what Gwen expected.

The plantation workers are resentful, the neighbours treacherous, and there are clues to the past – a dusty trunk of dresses, an overgrown gravestone in the grounds – that her husband refuses to discuss.

Just as Gwen finds her feet, disaster strikes. She faces a terrible choice, hiding the truth from almost everyone, but a secret this big can’t stay buried forever…

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat

 

Take me to the South of France

25546135I’ve always had a fascination with Europe.  Living in an ancient house in a small village in the south of France sounds like heaven.  I don’t speak the language but I don’t care, I would live there anyway.  In The Promise of Provence by Patricia Sands, I get to live in the south of France through Katherine, a 55-year-old woman who need to escape after finding a note from her husband asking for a divorce instead of an anniversary card.

Katherine decides to get away so she takes part in a house swap that takes her from Toronto to south of France.  For two weeks she enjoys mixing with the locals and immersing herself in the French culture where she makes friends with the neighbors.  France is such a pull, that Katherine goes back for a longer stay.

This book took me away to a beautiful part of the world and made me want to immediately participate in a home swap so I can live for a little while in Provence.   The thought of living in a chateau, riding a bicycle down to the town square to purchase local wares, sounds like heaven.  Sands does such a great job with descriptions I was right there next to Katherine living in the south of France.  This was so worth my time and I can’t wait to read the other two books in the trilogy so I can spend more time in the south of France.

Book Description:

On the evening of her twenty-second wedding anniversary, Katherine Price can’t wait to celebrate. But instead of receiving an anniversary card from her husband, she finds a note asking for a divorce.

Fifty-five and suddenly alone, Katherine begins the daunting task of starting over. She has her friends, her aging mother, and her career to occupy her, but the future seems to hold little promise—until, after a winter of heartbreak, Katherine is persuaded to try a home exchange holiday in the South of France.

In Provence, bright fields of flowers bloom below medieval hilltop villages with winding cobblestone streets. Charmed by the picturesque countryside, the breathtaking Côte d’Azur, and the enchantment-filled boulevards of Paris, Katherine feels life opening up once again. Lavender perfumes the air, and chance encounters hint at romance and passion. But memories of heartbreak and betrayal linger—and her former life waits for her back home. Can she find the courage to begin again?

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat