Skip to content

Big thanks to @peggy_lampman for sending me a copy of her book for review! 👏🏻 This was a book as lovely as its cover. Although it is mostly about two cousins who open a diner in a run down section of Detroit, it’s also about trying to get the neighbors to frequent the establishment rather than letting it become the next trendy yuppie eatery. Lots of good food descriptions, a restaurant staff with diversity, and characters to root for, make this a satisfying read. My favorite part was that the romances didn’t all work out in the end (nothing annoys me more than having to ruin a perfectly good book with a romance you can see coming from a mile away)! Pick this one up when you need a sweet read as a palate cleanser after all the creepy October selections. ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 #lakeunion #thewelcomehomediner #peggylampman #bookblogger #bookreview #bookreviewer

A post shared by Donna Cimorelli (@ondbookshelf) on

1

When We Were Worthy Book Cover When We Were Worthy
MaryBeth Mayhew Whalen
Fiction
Lake Union Publishing
September 12, 2017
Paperback
278
Free from publisher via SheReads

When the sound of sirens cuts through a cool fall night, the small town of Worthy, Georgia, hurtles from triumph to tragedy. Just hours before, they’d watched the Wildcats score a winning touchdown. Now, they’re faced with the deaths of three cheerleaders—their promising lives cut short in a fatal crash. And the boy in the other car—the only one to survive—is believed to be at fault. As rumors begin to fly and accusations spin, allegiances form and long-kept secrets emerge.

At the center of the whirlwind are four women, each grappling with loss, regret, shame, and lies: Marglyn, a grieving mother; Darcy, whose son had been behind the wheel; Ava, a substitute teacher with a scandalous secret; and Leah, a cheerleader who should have been in the car with her friends, but wasn’t. If the truth comes out, will it bring redemption—or will it be their downfall?

 

My review:

What an enjoyable read! I felt like I was lifted into this small town, where football is king of the fall season. Of course along with the football, comes the privileges of not only the football players, but the cheerleaders. It's this kind of adulation that forms the crux of this story. Just how much can you get away with if you are one of "the chosen"? In this case.......quite a lot. However, this novel is much more than that, it also delves into the grief of two mothers, who find themselves on opposite sides of a tragedy. It's about a young girl with a secret that can bring down the entire football program, but at what cost?  It's about a small town where everyone knows everyone and everything that goes on, and has an opinion about it. And it's about a teacher who has been accused of a crime that she may not have committed. The novel is told through the perspective of four people, and the writer does a great job of weaving in and out of chapters to complete the picture of what really happens one fateful night following a home game. The story flowed well, the characters were all interesting and the suspense of what happened kept me turning pages as fast as I could! I even shed a tear or two over the letter near the end (you'll know what I mean if you read it).

A great book for anyone whose been privy to the happenings within a high school, particularly in regard to the social hierarchy.  A great expose of small town life, and the courage to rectify a wrongdoing.

This was a SheReads pick for fall. Click the link to be directed to their website, and look for other reviews on social media under #SheReads.

The Stolen Marriage Book Cover The Stolen Marriage
Diane Chamberlain
Fiction
St. Martin's Press
October 3, 2017
Hardcover and Advanced Reader Copy
384
Free from publisher

"In 1944, twenty-three-year-old Tess DeMello abruptly ends her engagement to the love of her life when she marries a mysterious stranger and moves to Hickory, North Carolina, a small town struggling with racial tension and the hardships imposed by World War II. Tess's new husband, Henry Kraft, is a secretive man who often stays out all night, hides money from his new wife, and shows no interest in making love. Tess quickly realizes she's trapped in a strange and loveless marriage with no way out. The people of Hickory love and respect Henry and see Tess as an outsider, treating her with suspicion and disdain, especially after one of the town's prominent citizens dies in a terrible accident and Tess is blamed. Tess suspects people are talking about her, plotting behind her back, and following her as she walks around town. What does everyone know about Henry that she does not? Feeling alone and adrift, Tess turns to the one person who seems to understand her, a local medium who gives her hope but seems to know more than he's letting on. When a sudden polio epidemic strikes the town, the townspeople band together to build a polio hospital. Tess, who has a nursing degree, bucks Henry's wishes and begins to work at the hospital, finding meaning in nursing the young victims. Yet at home, Henry's actions grow more alarming by the day. As Tess works to save the lives of her patients, can she untangle her husband's mysterious behavior and save her own life?"--

My review:

When a new Diane Chamberlain book comes along, you can count on me to be reading it. Not only is Diane a local author, but her books are always superbly crafted, and frequently about a subject that I knew nothing about prior to reading. This one involves a polio hospital that was built in Hickory NC, to treat the many victims of the polio epidemic of 1944. Tess, a registered nurse, goes to work at the hospital, but before the story progresses to this point we learn about her loveless marriage to Henry, and the man she left behind in Baltimore.  There are many questions revolving around Henry, his families open resentment of Tess, and the household's second generation maid and her family. We also have an accident, a secret stash of money, and a woman trying to make sense of it all, while desperately working toward making the best of her situation among this strange cast of characters. The writing is sharp, the various plots are all engaging and interesting, and there are a few twists thrown in by Chamberlain to keep you on your toes as a reader. The ending was a bit too tidy for me, but that is on me, and takes nothing away from this great read. I would also be remiss if I didn't comment on the absolutely gorgeous cover of this book. All of the raindrops that you see are raised up and shiny! If you are a cover lover like I am, this is a collector's item 🙂

Another fantastic novel by Diane Chamberlain. If you are already a fan, you will not be disappointed by this one. If you haven't read any of her work, please rectify that immediately!

2

Caroline: Little House, Revisited Book Cover Caroline: Little House, Revisited
Sarah Miller
Historical Fiction
William Morrow
September 19, 2017
Hardcover
368
Free from publisher

In this novel authorized by the Little House estate, Sarah Miller vividly recreates the beauty, hardship, and joys of the frontier in a dazzling work of historical fiction, a captivating story that illuminates one courageous, resilient, and loving pioneer woman as never before—Caroline Ingalls, "Ma" in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s beloved Little House books.

In the frigid days of February, 1870, Caroline Ingalls and her family leave the familiar comforts of the Big Woods of Wisconsin and the warm bosom of her family, for a new life in Kansas Indian Territory. Packing what they can carry in their wagon, Caroline, her husband Charles, and their little girls, Mary and Laura, head west to settle in a beautiful, unpredictable land full of promise and peril.

The pioneer life is a hard one, especially for a pregnant woman with no friends or kin to turn to for comfort or help. The burden of work must be shouldered alone, sickness tended without the aid of doctors, and babies birthed without the accustomed hands of mothers or sisters. But Caroline’s new world is also full of tender joys. In adapting to this strange new place and transforming a rough log house built by Charles’ hands into a home, Caroline must draw on untapped wells of strength she does not know she possesses.

My review:

The Little House series of books were some of my absolute favorite books of elementary school. I like to think they were the foundation for my love of reading today, particularly since I still love a good family saga. I will gravitate toward anything relating to Laura Ingalls Wilder, and I jumped at the chance to read this book from Ma's perspective. Taking place from when the family decides to leave the big woods, and through their time on the prairie, it describes the thoughts and actions of Caroline. Full of events that occur in the original books, it includes the girls Laura, Mary and baby Carrie, but this is definitely Caroline's story. I found it very interesting to get her views on things, specifically her hesitation to leave the woods, and her intense fear and dislike of the Native Americans they encounter at their new home. I must admit that this was a surprise to me, and was quite uncomfortable to read, but I applaud the author for not sugarcoating this aspect of who Caroline was. I was impressed with the obvious research the author put into the novel, with an author's note that explains not only her research, but the times when the timeline is not quite accurate for the continuity of the story. At times I felt that the book dragged a bit, but being that it was Caroline's life at the time, I certainly would not have wanted the author to make things up to liven up the story.

Overall a well written portrait of the matriarch of one of the most beloved middle grade series. If you are/were a fan of the Little House books, I think you would enjoy the story from a new perspective, even if you may not feel quite the same way about Caroline after reading her thoughts and opinions.

3

Little Fires Everywhere Book Cover Little Fires Everywhere
Celeste Ng
Fiction
Penguin Press HC
2017
Paperback
352
Publisher via BookExpo

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned - from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules. Enter Mia Warren - an enigmatic artist and single mother - who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community. When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town--and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia's past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs. Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of secrets, the nature of art and identity, and the ferocious pull of motherhood - and the danger of believing that following the rules can avert disaster.

My review:

Make no mistake about it, this will be one of the best books you will read this year! Ms. Ng knocked it out of the park with her sophomore novel (her first was the highly acclaimed Everything I Never Told You). This had all the ingredients of a 5 star read for me, except for one glaring fact. I am the mother of two adopted daughters (from China)! Without revealing too much about the plot, suffice it to say that I don't know that I've ever hated a character more than Mia! I hated that she got involved in the custody issue, and when the reader finds out the reason behind her doing so, I hated her even more!! I'm going to try not to rant here, but I was also insulted by the lawyer implying that there were no Asian dolls available back in 1998. I beg to differ. My daughters came to the US in 1997 and 1999, and they both had several dolls that looked like them including Cabbage Patch, Barbie (Kira 1998), Mulan (which was released in 1998) and American Girl. I know that is nitpicking, but it still rankled with me. I thoroughly enjoyed all the other characters and plots in this book, and the writing was fabulous!

This is a must read book. Definitely worthy of 5 stars, but I gave it 4 because I couldn't see both sides of the one subplot when the issue hit a bit too close to home. Do yourself a favor (except perhaps if you are an adoptive mom) and get yourself a copy of this one!

2

The Other Alcott Book Cover The Other Alcott
Elise Hooper
Fiction
William Morrow
September 5, 2017
Paperback
432
Free from publisher

We all know the story of the March sisters, heroines of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. But while everyone cheers on Jo March, based on Louisa herself, Amy March is often the least favorite sister. Now, it’s time to learn the truth about the real “Amy”, Louisa’s sister, May. Stylish, outgoing, creative, May Alcott grows up longing to experience the wide world beyond Concord, Massachusetts. While her sister Louisa crafts stories, May herself is a talented and dedicated artist, taking lessons in Boston, turning down a marriage proposal from a well-off suitor, and facing scorn for entering what is very much a man’s profession. Life for the Alcott family has never been easy, so when Louisa’s Little Women is published, its success eases the financial burdens they’d faced for so many years. Everyone agrees the novel is charming, but May is struck to the core by the portrayal of selfish, spoiled “Amy March.” Is this what her beloved sister really thinks of her? So May embarks on a quest to discover her own true identity, as an artist and a woman. From Boston to Rome, London, and Paris, this brave, talented, and determined woman forges an amazing life of her own, making her so much more than merely “The Other Alcott.” “Elise Hooper’s thoroughly modern debut gives a fresh take on one of literature’s most beloved families.

My review:

Confession time before continuing with this review. I have never read Little Women! I know, I know, but I have to gear myself up for really long books, and just never got around to this one (although I do own a copy). I'm not sure whether that fact has any bearing on my review, but I wanted full disclosure. This was a perfectly good  read, but it did contain a few problems for me. I thought the story was interesting, it seemed well researched, and it flowed well. I am not an artist, and I did get a bit bored with some of the longer passages about May's art. The dynamics of the family members was the most entertaining part of the book for me, although I can't say that I came away really liking any of them (why couldn't Anna take care of the parents?). I did appreciate the various settings described throughout (Rome, London, Paris, Boston), and the peeks that were given of some of the other famous artists of that time period. The insertion of letters was also a plus for me.

A good read, maybe a bit too heavy on the creation of art, but probably one that will have even more impact for those who have read Little Women.

 

My thanks to @williammorrowbooks for this free copy for review. This title released 8/22. 📖📖📖📖📖📖📖📖📖📖📖 Interestingly, I recently came across an article that said that Myrtle Beach (where our beach house is, and this picture was taken) is one of the top spots for UFO sightings! I decided it was a sign that I should read this book, even though I have absolutely no belief in such things. While I enjoyed the part of the story where Lucy is looking for evidence of what happened to her brother, the spaceship stuff was just beyond my interest. There was quite a lot going on in this story, but suspending my feelings about UFO's kind of took away from my enjoyment of the subplots. I also think this was a bit too long, for me it kind of dragged in places. ⭐️⭐️💫/5 While this was not really for me, if this world (or out of this world) is of interest to you, definitely give it a try. 📖📖📖📖📖📖📖📖📖📖📖 Lucy Durant was only fourteen-years-old when she lost her older brother. First to his paranoid delusions as he became increasingly obsessed with UFOs and government conspiracies. Then, permanently, when he walked into the desert outside Bishop, California, and never returned. Now on the tenth anniversary of Nolan's mysterious disappearance, Lucy is still struggling with guilt and confusion--her memories from that period are blurry and obscured by time, distance, and alcohol. Now an adult, she's stuck in a holding pattern, hiding out at her father's house, avoiding people, and doing whatever she can to keep herself from thinking about Nolan. But when a series of unsettling events leads Lucy back to Bishop, she is forced to reconcile with her estranged mother and come to terms with the tangled memories of her past to discover what really happened to her brother all those years ago. Told in Lucy and Nolan's alternating voices, Everything We Lost is a psychological mystery exploring family, beliefs, obsessions, the nature of memory, and fear of the unknown--a haunting, compelling story that will resonate with readers long after the last page is turned. #everythingwelost #valeriegeary #williammorrow #bookblogger #bookreview #ondbookshelf

A post shared by Donna Cimorelli (@ondbookshelf) on

2

The Salt House Book Cover The Salt House
Lisa Duffy
Fiction
Simon and Schuster
June 13, 2017
Paperback
304
Free copy from publisher via SheReads

In the coastal town of Alden, Maine, Hope and Jack Kelly have settled down to a life of wedded bliss. They have a beautiful family, a growing lobster business, and the Salt House—the dilapidated oceanfront cottage they’re renovating into their dream home. But tragedy strikes when their young daughter doesn’t wake up from her afternoon nap, taking her last breath without making a sound.

A year later, each member of the Kelly family navigates the world on their own private island of grief. Hope spends hours staring at her daughter’s ashes, unable to let go. Jack works to the point of exhaustion in an attempt to avoid his crumbling marriage. Their daughters, Jess and Kat, struggle to come to terms with the loss of their younger sister while watching their parents fall apart.

When Jack’s old rival, Ryland Finn, threatens his fishing territory, he ignites emotions that propel the Kelly family toward circumstances that will either tear them apart—or be the path to their family’s future.

Told in alternating voices, The Salt House is a layered, emotional portrait of marriage, family, friendship, and the complex intersections of love, grief, and hope.

My review:

What a lovely novel, with such great characters you just want to wrap them up in a big hug and tell them it's going to be ok. The book centers around a family torn apart by the death of the youngest child. Both parents and the two remaining sisters tell the story in alternating chapters. We explore how this tragedy has impacted each of them, and how they are trying to go on with their lives. The writing was lovely, especially the characters. They were so real, and so raw with emotions, that they leapt off the page! I loved the setting of coastal Maine (a yearly vacation spot for me while growing up in Vermont), the first romance of sixteen year old Jess, the pain and guilt of the mother, and the innocence of the now youngest sister. While I liked the initial response mechanism of Jack, I wasn't as interested in the whole rivalry sub plot. Putting that small opinion aside, this books packs a whallop of a punch in terms of how does a family come back from a devastating event, or do they?

This is a book that I highly recommend for the writing, the emotional punch, the wonderful characters, and the ways we attempt to battle back from tragedy.

This was a monthly pick of the SheReads book club. To read more about them clink this link and follow all the reviews and discussion about this book on social media using #shereads.

 

2

Map of the Heart Book Cover Map of the Heart
Susan Wiggs
Fiction
William Morrow
August 8, 2017
Hardcover
320
Free copy from publisher

An accomplished photographer, widow, and mother, Camille Palmer is content with the blessings she’s enjoyed. When her ageing father asks her to go with him to his native France, she has no idea that shes embarking on an adventure that will shake her complacency and utterly transform her.

Returning to the place of his youth sparks unexpected memories—recollections that will lead Camille, her father, and her daughter, Julie, who has accompanied them, back to the dark, terrifying days of the Second World War, where they will uncover their family’s surprising history.

While Provence offers answers about her family’s past, it also holds the key to Camille’s future. Along the way, Camille meets a handsome American historian who stirs a passion deep within her she thought she’d never experience again.

My review:

I had a love/hate relationship with this book. There was some great plot material to enjoy, and made me want to delve in further. I'm going to talk about that first, and leave my semi-rant for later 🙂 I really enjoyed the mystery of Henry's past, which takes the characters to France to explore what happened to his family in the midst of World War II. It was riveting to see things unfold, mostly through the aid of old family photographs. I also really liked the sub plot involving the teenage daughter of the main protagonist. It was lovely to see the transformation of this girl, from body image self loathing, to being comfortable in her own skin. I thought she was well written and was really rooting for her. I was very satisfied, and loved the endings for both Julie and Henry. Where things fell apart for me was the obligatory romance. I could see it coming within the first twenty pages. Man and woman meet and instantly dislike each other, but then can't stop thinking about each other, then end up having to work together, yada yada yada, YAWN! I'm not really a fan of romances in books, but if there has to be one, please let it happen naturally and not have me know what is going to happen before I've gotten twenty pages in. Phew, rant over 🙂

If you are a fan of romance books, I think this book will definitely fit the bill. It is well written, with characters to root for, and a mystery on the side. I found myself rolling my eyes over the romance, but I thoroughly enjoyed the other aspects. If you like a predictable romance along with some great sub plots, by all means read this one.

2

Best Intentions Book Cover Best Intentions
Erika Raskin
Fiction
St. Martin's Press
August 15, 2017
Hardcover
288
Publisher

"Marti Trailor--social worker on hold, mother of three, wife of a successful obstetrician, daughter of a Congressman--is ready to go back to work. She's thrilled when the perfect opportunity falls in her lap. The catch? The job is at her husband's hospital and he seems not to share her enthusiasm. Undeterred, she takes the position counseling vulnerable young women as they prepare to give birth. Marti quickly begins to feel like she is making a difference in the lives of her clients. Soon, though, she finds herself caught up in the dark side of the medical center--with its long hours, overworked doctors and entrenched practices. When she witnesses something she can't unsee, Marti, who has always done her best to keep a low-profile, finds herself thrust under a dangerous spotlight with all of Richmond, Virginia watching. In her captivating domestic suspense novel Best Intentions, Erika Raskin weaves together high stakes hospital politics, the pressures of family life, and the consequences of trying to do the right thing"--

My review:

I was excited when I read that this story revolves around a hospital setting, since I worked in hospitals before my "Mom life". Not surprisingly those aspects were what I enjoyed the most about the book. I was captivated by the work that Marti was doing as a social worker, responsible for helping at risk new moms. I enjoyed the behind the scenes look at the stress of hospital workers, the ways that certain hospital mishaps are glossed over (or covered up), and the seedier side of some of the higher ups in command. What I wasn't as interested in was the character of Marti herself. Parts of her I really liked (the social worker), but parts of her annoyed me (her dealings with her husband, and some of her over the top behavior). Also, all of the aberrant behavior of the hospital staff didn't work for me, even though it ultimately did figure into the plot.  The little snippets at the beginning of each chapter that threw you into present time took a while to get used to, and kind of upset the flow of the book for me. I thought the trial at the end was a nice way to add drama and climax to the plot, and I did enjoy it.

All in all, this was a decent read. It's short, has some parts that were great and some parts that I could have done without, but a good story with an even better setting. Check out some of the other reviews on Goodreads, I have bookish friends who really loved this one.