REVIEW: ALWAYS, BY SARAH JIO

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Enjoying a romantic candlelit dinner with her fiancé, Ryan, at one of Seattle’s chicest restaurants, Kailey Crain can’t believe her good fortune: She has a great job as a journalist and is now engaged to a guy who is perfect in nearly every way. As she and Ryan leave the restaurant, Kailey spies a thin, bearded homeless man on the sidewalk. She approaches him to offer up her bag of leftovers, and is stunned when their eyes meet, then stricken to her very core: The man is the love of her life, Cade McAllister.

Flashing back to 1996, and then fast-forwarding to 2008, “Always” is a gripping and emotionally thrilling novel of first love, lost love, and the power of healing.

Set in a Seattle that vibrated with the music scene of the 1990s, Cade McAllister and Kailey Crain were in the heat of new love: they were full of dreams, plans, and the building of connections. They were soul mates.

But then something happened. Something inexplicable. During that summer of 1998, Cade disappeared. For ten years, Kailey would wonder, would grieve, and then finally move on with Ryan Winston.

What did Kailey discover during the winter of 2008, after finding Cade on that sidewalk? How does she finally uncover the events of that final summer together in 1998? Who was responsible for Cade’s injuries? Will she be able to put the pieces together in such a way that Cade can be restored to her and to his life?

I could not stop reading this story, feeling the strength of that first love, despite the obstacles and the loss, and rooting for Kailey and Cade…while still feeling a bit sad for Ryan. Yes, I could predict a lot of what would ultimately happen, but that did not make it a “predictable” read for me, as there were numerous questions along the way. Mysteries to solve. So this book was another winning tale by this author. 5 stars.

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My e-ARC came to me from the publisher via NetGalley.

IT’S A WRAP! MINI-BLOGGIESTA FINISH LINE POST

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Yay!  It was a great party….and, as usual, I started out with a small list and then added some.  I visited a lot of other blogs…and I think a good time was had by all.  Check out the Mini-Bloggiesta Finish Line to see what everyone has accomplished.

Here is what I did:

 

 

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REVIEW: CLAIMING NOAH, BY AMANDA ORTLEPP

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Desire for a child is at the heart of Claiming Noah, and two couples in pursuit of baby love find themselves in a heartbreaking situation.

James and Catriona Sinclair, living in Sydney, Australia, go through IVF to achieve their goal, and after a couple of miscarriages, they finally reach full term with their son Sebastian. An extra embryo has been set aside, and the couple decide to donate it. Neither wants to risk losing the one remaining embryo through miscarriage.

Liam and Diana Simmons have also had no luck in achieving parenthood, and when their doctor suggests implanting a donor embryo, they have some misgivings. But they finally decide to go for it. Diana becomes pregnant and carries to term, giving birth to Noah.

Life does not go well for either couple, though. Catriona suffers from postpartum psychosis and is hospitalized, and upon her return home, she does not readily bond with Sebastian. She thinks he seems different than he was before, although she cannot pinpoint exactly what is troubling her about him. However a couple of months have gone by, so she puts her feelings down to the separation.

Meanwhile, Diana and Liam are having marital difficulties, with their relationship skidding toward even greater challenges. Then one day, as Diana and Noah go shopping, something happens…and their lives are also upended. In the aftermath, Liam expresses a distinctly cruel side, and the two are living parallel lives. Liam blames Diana, and she blames herself.

To avoid spoilers, I will say no more about the plot, except that what actually unfolds might surprise you. I had some of it figured out right away, but I still enjoyed watching it all reach a conclusion…and then was surprised by the epilogue that gave a peek into the future. I enjoyed this book, although the support characters were flat…and sometimes I didn’t really get a sense of who James was, except through occasional glimpses from the perspectives of others. Liam was a bully, but any other characteristics were also hard to see. Catriona and Diana were drawn in greater detail, and I rooted for them both. 4 stars.

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MINI-BLOGGIESTA! JANUARY 13-15…SIGN-UP * START

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It is that time again!  Mini-Bloggiesta, Olay!  I look forward to these events, even the “mini” bloggiesta.  Check out the Sign-Up Page here, to show your participation. (And now, here’s the START page).

Here are some items on my To-Do list...which may grow by the end of the weekend.

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Let’s party!

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REVIEW: MISSING, PRESUMED, BY SUSIE STEINER

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On a night in December 2010, DS Manon Bradshaw, of the Cambridgeshire police, is trying once again to find “the one.” Internet dating has been terribly disappointing, especially this latest one. But, at thirty-nine, she longs for a family, with children, so she keeps trying.

Back in her flat, while falling asleep, she listens to the police radio, as was her custom. But first she spends some time whining to best friend Bryony about her miserable dating life. Tonight’s radio is still a comfort…until it isn’t. There is a call to action…a missing person case.

Meanwhile, in her lovely Hampstead home, Miriam Hind is enjoying her Sunday, thinking of how glad she is to have a daughter, Edith, and imagines her caring for her in her old age. Her husband Ian, a surgeon, and a physician who treats the royal family, is out somewhere, enjoying the day.

All of these lives are about to be upended…the missing person case involves Edith Hind, and while the clues are puzzling, the detectives are consumed with following them. What we learn of Edith as we go along is that she is self-absorbed, narcissistic, and careless with others. Others will fall by the wayside during the quest and the publicity, including Edith’s friend Helena Reed.

Missing, Presumed kept me reading, and while there were many red herrings along the way, none of the troublesome mysteries would bring this reader to suspect what had actually happened. There were also some moments between colleagues that were enjoyable. I liked Manon, her partner, Davy, and another of her attempts at a relationship with a man called Alan Prenderghast. Sadly, a disappointment. But then she finds a ten-year-old boy, Fly Kent, whose brother Taylor has been killed…and whose mother is sick. She looks in on him, pays for someone to keep him fed, and waits.

In the end, I liked how the pieces came together, and look forward to reading more about Manon and her life. 4.5 stars.

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REVIEW: THE THINGS WE WISH WERE TRUE, BY MARYBETH MAYHEW WHALEN

 

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A hot summer day in Sycamore Glen, North Carolina, drew adults and children alike to the community pool, where they would chat with old friends, make new ones, and enjoy what seemed like the beginning of a perfect summer.

What looked like a perfect community at first glance was, like any neighborhood, imperfect, and while those who lived there all looked like nice people, some were more so than others. And most of them had secrets, old and new, that they worked hard to hide.

The Things We Wish Were True is an unveiling, in a sense, with our alternating narrators sharing the ordinary and superficial tidbits of life in Sycamore Glen, while gradually revealing just enough of the secrets they are holding…until finally, everything is unleashed.

Cailey is the first narrator, and she and her brother Cutter are new residents, drawn to the pool to keep boredom at bay, while their mother, Lisa, works hard to keep them fed and clothed. She is trying to ignore those who might steer clear of them because of their house, the “eyesore” of the neighborhood that has been home to a series of renters.

Zell Boyette, an older woman with an empty nest, takes the neighbor children to the pool while their single father, Lance Bryson, works. Zell feels a certain degree of guilt about why Debra, the wife and mother, left the family home a few months ago. But her lips are sealed.

Bryte, mother of three-year-old Christopher, and wife to the love of her life, Everett, holds tight to what she has…fearful that she could lose it at any moment.

Because her secret could lead to a great loss.

Especially once she realizes that Jencey Cabot is back in town with her two children, Pilar and Zara, and she could easily whisk Everett away…as she was his first love.

I loved the mix of characters with secrets, and I tried to guess them as I read along…but some were easier to guess than others.

At the dark end of the secrets was a big one right across the street from Zell’s cozy little house. Who would open the door on that one? Would any of the characters lose everything by the end? Could their secrets destroy them? And what near tragedy would start the spool unreeling, thus opening the door for revelations? A delightful book that I could not stop reading, I’m definitely recommending this for everyone who loves family stories and neighborhoods that seem too perfect. 4.5 stars.

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REVIEW: BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S, BY TRUMAN CAPOTE

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Holly Golightly was one of those inexplicable young women who could best be described as memorable, since those who knew her never quite forgot her. And yet they never really knew her, either.

The first person narrator of Breakfast at Tiffany’s was clearly enamored with her, and sets the scene for his introduction of her by describing the brownstone in the East Seventies of 1940s Manhattan where he first encountered her. Her apartment below his, where one could almost see her ready to take flight at any moment, was not really furnished, but contained packing crates and a jumble of suitcases. I could almost see her there, with her quirky style, and the sound of chatter and happy laughter created an eternal ambience of joviality and fun.

We don’t learn much about her, as she shares very little. There were hard times in her past, and in the end, she disappears from the scene, almost as mysteriously as she appeared.

Having seen the movie, I will always see Audrey Hepburn when I imagine this fictional character, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading the words that brought her to life for readers. A classic tale by a brilliant writer, this one earned 5 stars.

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