Blog Tour & Book Review: To Catch A Dream by Audrey Carlan

To Catch A Dream by Audrey Carlan is being released next week, but a selection of readers across the blog-o-sphere had the opportunity to read an advanced copy direct from the publisher, alongside an invitation to share our thoughts.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Audrey Carlan is a #1 New York TimesUSA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of over 40 novels, including the worldwide phenomenon Calendar Girl serial, and her books have been translated into more than 30 languages across the globe. Audrey lives in the California Valley with her two children and the love of her life.

FROM THE PUBLISHER:
The #1 New York Times bestselling author of the worldwide phenomenon Calendar Girl series brings readers a poignant and honest look at life’s most complicated relationships.

When their mother passed away, Evie Ross and her sister were each given a stack of letters, one to be opened every year on their birthday; letters their free-spirited mother hoped would inspire and guide them through adulthood. But although Evie has made a successful career, her desire for the stability and security she never had from her parents has meant she’s never experienced the best life has to offer. But the discovery of more letters hidden in a safe-deposit box points to secrets her mother held close, and possibly a new way for Evie to think about her family, her heart and her dreams.

MY THOUGHTS:
This book was crafted with passion and that can be seen on every page. I was, admittedly, a little outside my comfort zone a number of times while reading, but can also say the bones of the story – the foundation and core – piqued my attention. The premise of a mother (who I still think was selfish and neglectful) guiding her children into adulthood through letters intrigued me, as did the nuances of family relationships as a whole. The setting was beautifully captured, especially as I read this in the dead of Canadian winter, craving sunlight and warmth like it will never arrive. The romance was fast developing (although it took a lifetime) and also broody – although I’m not sure broody is even the correct word. Alongside the heaviness or the weight of the relationship, there were also elements of sweetness as the author explored first loves and second chances! It wasn’t a perfect fit for me (and not every book will be), but I recognize that Carlan is a talented author and this series should have much success in the women’s fiction/romance market. It featured strong female characters, was well paced, and packed some strong emotion.

This title can be pre-ordered. It is a second in the series, but can be read as a standalone very easily. (I didn’t read the first title and wasn’t lost in the least.) Available in store next Tuesday for purchase. I leave you with my typical HQN disclaimer of reader discretion advised – adult themes, and all that – if you know, you know. My thanks to the publisher for the opportunity to read and review a digital ARC. All opinions are my own.

TO CATCH A DREAM
Author: Audrey Carlan  
ISBN: 9781335180933
Publication Date: March 9, 2021
Publisher: HQN Books



Susan Mallery’s Blog Tour for The Vineyard at Painted Moon – Book Review

It’s publication day for Susan Mallery’s The Vineyard at Painted Moon, a moving fictional exploration of complex human relationships between friends and family and those who are both. Mallery is one of my go-to authors when it comes to women’s fiction so I was eager to participate in the Vineyard at Painted Moon blog tour through Harlequin and NetGalley.

About the Book:

MacKenzie Dienes’s life isn’t perfect, but it’s as close as she could ever hope to get. Her marriage to Rhys, her best friend’s brother, is more friendship than true love. But passion is highly overrated, right? And she loves her job as the winemaker at Bel Apres, her in-laws’ vineyard. So what if it’s a family business and, even after decades of marriage and incredible professional success, she’s still barred from the family business meetings? It’s all enough…until one last night spent together leads to an incredibly honest—and painful—conversation. Rhys suggests that they divorce. They haven’t had a marriage in a long time and, while he wants her to keep her job at Bel Apres, he doesn’t think they should be married any longer. Shocked, MacKenzie reels at the prospect of losing the only family she’s ever really known…even though she knows deep in her heart that Rhys is right.

But when MacKenzie discovers she’s pregnant, walking away to begin a new life isn’t so easy. She never could have anticipated the changes it would bring to the relationships she cherishes most: her relationship with Barbara, her mother-in-law and partner at Bel Apres, Stephanie, her sister-in-law and best friend, and Bel Apres, the company she’s worked so hard to put on the map.

MacKenzie has always dreamed of creating a vineyard of her own, a chance to leave a legacy for her unborn child. So when the opportunity arises, she jumps at it and builds the Vineyard at Painted Moon. But following her dreams will come at a high price—one that MacKenzie isn’t so sure she’s willing to pay…

About the Author:

#1 NYT bestselling author Susan Mallery writes heartwarming, humorous novels about the relationships that define our lives―family, friendship, romance. She’s known for putting nuanced characters in emotional situations that surprise readers to laughter. Beloved by millions, her books have been translated into 28 languages. Susan lives in Washington with her husband, two cats, and a small poodle with delusions of grandeur. Visit her at SusanMallery.com.

My Thoughts:

There are some individuals who believe consumer book reviews are meant for other readers rather than the authors themselves. Others believe reader reviews can help an author hone their craft. I’m somewhere in the middle on this line of thought. I don’t think Susan Mallery needs help from some random middle-aged mom in rural Canada to sharpen her talents. I generally craft my public reviews for other readers. I’m posting that preface to say I actually enjoyed this novel so much that knowing I’d be posting about the title today, I still reached out to the author privately to say I loved the book.

First, my content clause. This is contemporary women’s fiction and deals with adult issues and adult themes – it’s not always hearts and rainbows. Much like real life, it’s not always squeaky clean and some may wish to avoid the mess. Reader discretion is advised.

Second, this novel had so much heart! It made me laugh at times. It made me feel warm and fuzzy. I felt strong emotions (and even some sympathy) towards Barbara (when you’ve read it, you’ll know.) I have never been more grateful for the very bump-free relationship I have with my in-laws. And Rhys? Well, Rhys had my feelings all over the place and by the end, I was done. I will admit I am not much of a wine drinker at all, but I was absolutely captivated by the charm of wine country and the closeness of the industry. Mackenzie appealed to me – realistically, we had very little in common, but she was my age and had been married for 16 years. It’s always fun to find some parallels between yourself and the heroine of the story. My only “complaint” was that it seemed to take a while to see any progress with Painted Moon itself – I want to know more about Mackenzie’s successes and less of the drama at Bel Apres even though that drama was necessary to the story as a whole.

Overall, this was an easy to read, enjoyable work of fiction highlighting the courage it takes to grab what you want when the world falls apart around you and the importance of crafting our own family through friendships with women who will stand by our side when life goes off the tracks. I enjoyed it so much I would actually love to see more about some of the other women and the community in general. A short series, perhaps, pretty please?

Available today from all major book outlets but I’d encourage you to shop your favourite local bookseller!

The Vineyard at Painted Moon
Susan Mallery
On Sale Date: February 9, 2021
ISBN 9781335912794, 1335912797

Blog Tour & Book Review: The Friendship List by Susan Mallery

Susan Mallery is one of my go-to authors when it comes to contemporary women’s fiction with a dash of steamy romance, quirky humour, and lots of heart. I wasn’t about to let the opportunity to participate in the Harlequin blog tour with fellow booklovers slip me by as Mallery’s newest release, The Friendship List, hit shelves yesterday.

From the Publisher:

Already a worldwide success in mass market and trade paperback formats, Susan Mallery’s newest hardcover is an emotional, witty, and heartfelt story about two best friends who are determined to help one another shake things up and live life to the fullest…only to discover that possibilities are everywhere–especially in the most unexpected of places.

Ellen and Unity have been best friends basically since birth, but they couldn’t be more different. Unity married her childhood sweetheart just after high school and became an Army wife, moving from base to base…until her husband’s shocking death in the line of duty leaves her a widow. Grief-stricken, it’s time for Unity to come back home to Ellen—the only person she can trust to help her rebuild her life. But Ellen has troubles of her own. Boys never seemed to notice Ellen…until one got her pregnant in high school and disappeared. Her son is now 17 and she’s wondering what to do with herself now that he’s heading off to college and he’s literally her entire world.

But now that Ellen and Unity are reunited, they’re done with their stale lives. It’s time to shake things up and start living again, knowing that they’ll always have one another to lean on. So they create a list of challenges they have to accomplish–everything from getting a tattoo to skydiving to staying out all night. And whoever completes the most challenges is the winner. But with new adventures and love just around the corner, there’s no such thing as losing…

My Thoughts:

Full of Mallery’s quirky humour and the strong bonds of friendships, this was a book that celebrated self-awareness, growth, and romance. The characters are quirky and real and the novel has a cadence that carries you from start to finish in a blink of an eye. While it wasn’t my favourite title by Ms. Mallery (her Fool’s Gold series has a few books to hold that honour), it was an easy-to-read contemporary story that will make you value your friends and want to try new things for yourself. You may find yourself wiping away a tear or two, groaning in frustration, or laughing out loud! You’ll be pulled in cover to cover and the ending will leave you feeling pretty content!

I was provided with a complimentary title via the publisher to download via NetGalley. I’ll leave my standard content warning for adult situations – reader discretion advised.

About the Author:

SUSAN MALLERY is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of novels about the relationships that define women’s lives—family, friendship and romance. Library Journal says, “Mallery is the master of blending emotionally believable characters in realistic situations,” and readers seem to agree—forty million copies of her books have been sold worldwide. Her warm, humorous stories make the world a happier place to live.

Susan grew up in California and now lives in Seattle with her husband. She’s passionate about animal welfare, especially that of the two Ragdoll cats and adorable poodle who think of her as Mom.

Buy Links:

Check your favourite bookseller or buy online.

The Friendship List: A Novel 
Susan Mallery
On Sale Date: August 4, 2020
ISBN 9781335136961, 1335136967
Hardcover
$26.99 USD, $33.50 CAD
Fiction / Romance / Contemporary 
384 pages

Book Review: Sunrise on Half Moon Bay by Robyn Carr

Robyn Carr is one of those writers that I will always invest time in – usually without disappointment. She authored by beloved Virgin River series (that I may not think Netflix did the best job of bringing to screen…) and a number of other titles that I’ve truly enjoyed. In general, what she does works and I find the cadence of her writing truly appeals to me. When I was initially invited to participate in the HarperCollins blog tour celebrating the release of her newest title, Sunrise on Half Moon Bay, I didn’t have to think twice. Of course I was going to participate. I went ahead and downloaded the digital ARC (advance reader’s copy) and then promptly forgot to confirm my participation in the tour. Whoops! Regardless, I’ve read the book and I’m sharing my thoughts.

Set in the stunning coastal town of Half Moon Bay, California, Robyn Carr’s new novel examines the joys of sisterhood and the importance of embracing change.

As always, the characters – whether you like them or not – are real. Real issues, real drama, real feelings. I didn’t love either of the lead characters when I started, but I was interested in their stories, and by the final chapter, they felt like friends (valued despite their flaws!) The voice of this novel, the descriptions, the dialogue, the characters, the setting – speak to the strength within us and the bonds of family. It spoke to triumph in change (or despite change), personal growth and maturity, the treasures of friendships. It didn’t however, truly speak to me.

It was easy to read and typically quick-moving (but not fast-paced, but not mind-boggling) – you don’t have to invest a lot of deep thought or heavy reading sessions to “get it”. It is, at face value, a feel-good, cuddle on the couch, piece of women’s fiction – a great way to pass an evening or two – while offering simple reminders about the value of finding your way and standing up for yourself. There were a few twists, but I wish it had a bit more scenery and perhaps a few more dynamic interactions. It’s not a world-changing piece of literature, but it worked for a Friday night read – a good title to toss in your bag for poolside lounging, sitting in airports, or tucked away on your back deck to escape the kids.

My thanks to the publisher for the complimentary copy of this title via NetGalley. Opinions expressed are my own.

Published by: Harlequin / Mira
Publication Date: April 14, 2020 (Available now!)

Book Review: The McAvoy Sisters Book of Secrets by Molly Fader

Here’s a throwback to a new title that was published July 16th. It’s been sitting on my digital to-be-read shelf since, oh, June 5th. How’s that for procrastination? The worst part of this confession is the knowledge that there are books that have been sitting there much longer. A girl only has so much time to read. (Seriously, if I could just do this for a living, that would be good, mmmkay?)

The McAvoy Sisters Book of Secrets piqued my interest when I first requested it – family secrets are always an interesting read – but then it languished. Wasn’t quite what I wanted to pick up, until over the last weekend, I did. This is another “Why did I wait so long????” titles. It was an excellent!

This family is dysfunctional and has a lot of healing to do. BUT…. they’re also still bound by incredible bonds of love. It’s a tale of shattered dreams, forgiveness, and healing and the ties that bind us through good and bad. Perhaps not entirely unique in it’s plotline – I had strong inklings of what happened in the past and where we were headed in the present, but there was just enough mystery to leave me waiting for the reveal. As a parent, it hit home. As a sister, it hit home. As a daughter, it hit home.

I would recommend for those who are fans of women’s fiction along the lines of Susan Wiggs, Luanne Rice, or Robyn Carr. It’s layered with nuances of family relationships and community. A great immersive read!

My thanks to the publisher, Harlequin – Graydon House, for providing an advanced copy to read (even if I did procrastinate! It was worth it.) A complimentary copy was granted to me via NetGalley. As always, opinions are my own.

Book Review: Not My Daughter by Kate Hewitt

In my last book review, I believe I mentioned that I’ve not been reading as much in exchange for some actual rest. This in turn means that I haven’t been reading as much… but I started the recently-published Not My Daughter by Kate Hewitt late last week and finally wrapped it up last night. In a very basic understatement, it was an amazing book.

Reminding me of my appreciation for Jodi Picoult’s novels, this is an emotional depiction of parenthood, family, friendship, love, life, and loss. While the characters weren’t always likeable, they were very real. As a couple struggles with infertility, this heart-wrenching novel explores raw struggles and the sacrifices we make for those we love. In an emotionally charged presentation, Hewitt challenges the reader as relationships are tested and decisions are made as a longed-for, much-loved child faces a terrible diagnosis.

Tears streamed down my face as I read the final chapter. As I put my reader down, I turned to my husband and said, “That was a horrible book.” But I didn’t mean it as a negative – I meant it was gut-wrenching, compelling, thought provoking, and just incredible – it grabbed me and didn’t let me go. I definitely recommend.

I was provided with a complimentary uncorrected advanced readers copy from the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions are my own. .

Publisher: Bookouture
Publication Date: May 2, 2019

Book Review: The View from Alameda Island by Robyn Carr

I’d like to preface this review by saying that Robyn Carr is one of my favourite contemporary women’s fiction authors. She’s pretty spectacular and there’s something about the way she pieces her words together that is easy to read and relatable. I know I’m not alone in this opinion as she’s a #1 New York Times Bestselling Author – she knows what works. In fact, so many people love her, that one of her beloved series, Virgin River, has been picked up for a Netflix series production. I’ve been looking forward to this book since I first started hearing about it as an anticipated release.

The View from Alameda Island is set for publication tomorrow (April 30, 2019) and it will pop up everywhere – grocery stores, bookstores, airports, libraries, etc. Here is the tagline description from the publisher:

A poignant and powerful story about how one woman’s best intentions lead to the worst of situations, and how love helps her to heal and ultimately triumph.”

Now, I read this last week so my thoughts aren’t entirely fresh, but I was, honestly, underwhelmed. I found it a bit slow to start and it just wasn’t my favourite of Ms. Carr’s stories. That being said, the further in I read, the more I enjoyed it. It was, as described, poignant – it touched on emotional abuse, physical abuse, divorce, strained family relationships, new beginnings, healing, and gentle romance.

Overall, I did enjoy the book – it was true to previous works in perhaps an overly formulaic way – as mentioned, not entirely my favourite. Maybe it was the fact that I read it after a very gripping novel or was a bit over-stressed last week -a bit of an it’s not you, it’s me situation?

As much as the primary characters carry the plot (and I did admire their strength and tenacity), I actually wanted to read more about some of the secondary characters and their development. (Perhaps written that way as a potential series???) I do not advise against reading this novel – in fact, I’d say give it a try – it has heart and soul and happily ever after – but it doesn’t get a definitive must-read recommendation from me (and I feel terrible actually saying that…) Sorry, Ms. Carr – I still love you! My opinions aside, I’m sure it will still pop up on best sellers lists and will be a great summer read. (PS – avoid if language and romantic scenes aren’t your thing…. I know some of my friends on here are cautious with content!)

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley. All thoughts expressed are my own.

Published by: Harlequin Mira
Publication Date: April 30, 2019