Book Review: Hurricane Season

Hurricane Season – Lauren K. Denton – Thomas Nelson – Published 3 April 2018

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Synopsis

Betsy and Ty Franklin, owners of Franklin Dairy Farm in southern Alabama, have decided to put life’s disappointments behind them. At least in theory. Ty manages their herd of dairy cows, while Betsy busies herself with the farm’s day-to-day operations and tries to forget the longing for motherhood set deep in her heart. But when Betsy’s free-spirited younger sister Jenna drops her young daughters off at the farm to attend a two-week art retreat in Florida, Betsy’s carefully constructed wall of self-protection begins to crumble.

As those two weeks stretch much farther into the hot Alabama summer, Betsy and Ty learn to navigate the new additions in their world and revel in a home that’s suddenly filled with the sound of laughter and life. Meanwhile, record heat promises to usher in the most active hurricane season in decades.

Four hundred miles away, Jenna is fighting her own battles. She’d once been free to travel and pursue a career in photography, but all that changed with the appearance of two pink lines on a plastic stick and a boyfriend who hit the road. At Halcyon art retreat, she finally has the time and energy to focus on her photography. As the summer continues, she wonders how her rediscovered passion can fit in with the life she’s made back home with her two children.

When Hurricane Ingrid aims her steady eye at the Alabama coast, Jenna must make a decision that could affect both her and her children’s futures, and Betsy and Ty find themselves protecting their beloved farm as well as their own hearts.

My thoughts

Storms can bring great destruction, but they can also bring a time for discovering what lasts, what holds together even through the harshest weather, and what comes out better for the rain. Hurricane Season is a book truly evocative of Southern summer and which captures the complications of family relationships, the desire to see dreams fulfilled, and the trials that test marriages and break hearts.

When Betsy receives a voice message from her sister, Jenna, asking if she can leave her two young girls with her while she attends a photography camp, Betsy knows it will test everything inside her. It will bring back the harsh memories of negative test results and the guest room that never became a nursery. It will strain further her relationship with her husband, something that was only now slowly returning to normal. But Betsy never says no to her sister and so two sweet, young girls descend on Betsy and Ty’s farm and home. For Jenna it is a time to finally follow her dreams of photography. For Betsy and Ty it is a time of facing the past’s hurt and faded dreams, while reconnecting as a couple. But as a hurricane looms, will this family survive everything the summer has in store for them?

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Book Review: The Sweet Smell of Magnolias and Memories

The Sweet Smell of Magnolias and Memories – Celeste Fletcher McHale – Thomas Nelson – Published 23 May 2017

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Synopsis

Jacey and Colin shared the three most intense days of their lives together, waiting for help as Mississippi floodwaters surrounded them. Jacey knew Colin was the love of her life—until her rescue boat went under water, along with Colin’s last name and pieces of Jacey’s memory.

As Jacey walks down the aisle as the maid of honor in her friend’s wedding a year later, the last person she expects to see is Colin. The biggest surprise, though, is that the man of her dreams is not wearing jeans and flip-flops as he did when he held her through those long nights of the flood. He’s the preacher.

As Jacey’s memories come flooding back, it’s almost more than she can take. The fate of the young family trapped with them haunts her. The unwavering honesty—and support—of her best friend Georgia forces her to take a fresh look at herself. She’s spent her life afraid of love. But this flood is opening Jacey’s heart in the most unexpected ways.

My thoughts

The Sweet Smell of Magnolias and Memories is a lighthearted tale of friendship, misunderstandings, and missed chances.

Jacey Lang spent three terrifying days atop a roof during a terrible storm. She shared that experience with a young family and (possibly) the man of her dreams. But a traumatic accident during their rescue left Jacey with scattered memories and no way to reconnect with Colin. One year later Jacey accidentally finds Colin again – at the end of the isle at her best friend’s wedding, as the preacher. Uncertain what the future holds for them, Jacey must deal with her returning memories about the accident and the fate of the young family, while Colin comes to terms with his family’s past.

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Book Review: The Hideaway

The Hideaway

The Hideaway – Lauren K. Denton – Thomas Nelson – Published 11 April 2017

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Synopsis

When her grandmother’s will wrenches Sara back home from New Orleans, she learns more about Margaret Van Buren in the wake of her death than she ever did in life.

After her last remaining family member dies, Sara Jenkins goes home to The Hideaway, her grandmother Mags’s ramshackle B&B in Sweet Bay, Alabama. She intends to quickly tie up loose ends then return to her busy life and thriving antique shop in New Orleans. Instead, she learns Mags has willed her The Hideaway and charged her with renovating it—no small task considering Mags’s best friends, a motley crew of senior citizens, still live there.

Rather than hurrying back to New Orleans, Sara stays in Sweet Bay and begins the biggest house-rehabbing project of her career. Amid Sheetrock dust, old memories, and a charming contractor, she discovers that slipping back into life at The Hideaway is easier than she expected.

Then she discovers a box Mags left in the attic with clues to a life Sara never imagined for her grandmother. With help from Mags’s friends, Sara begins to piece together the mysterious life of bravery, passion, and choices that changed Mags’s destiny in both marvelous and devastating ways.

When an opportunistic land developer threatens to seize The Hideaway, Sara is forced to make a choice—stay in Sweet Bay and fight for the house and the people she’s grown to love or leave again and return to her successful but solitary life in New Orleans.

My thoughts

The Hideaway is absolutely charming, featuring two intertwined stories of love, self-discovery, and the search for peace.

Deep in the heart of the South is a dilapidated, quirky, and much-loved old home. The Hideaway is a shelter for those who are lost or want to escape society. For Sara, growing up there with her equally quirky grandmother, the Hideaway was embarrassing and as a young adult she quickly escaped to New Orleans to start her own business. Now her grandmother is dead and Sara has been left with the Hideaway, its remaining occupants, and the task of refurbishing the house. But the longer she stays, the harder it is to imagine leaving. She also begins to uncover the secrets her grandmother closely guarded and starts to fall in love with the charming contractor refurbishing what is quickly becoming her home.

This book is written in two sets of alternating chapters. The first from Sara, present day as she returns to her childhood home after the death of her grandmother. The other chapters are written from the perspective of Mags, Sara’s grandmother, dating from the 1960s as Mags escaped an unfaithful husband, learned to love again, stand on her own feet, and never again let someone’s judgement shape who she was.

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Book Review: Everything We Keep

Everything We Keep

Everything We Keep – Kerry Lonsdale – Lake Union – Published 1 August  2016

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Synopsis

Sous chef Aimee Tierney has the perfect recipe for the perfect life: marry her childhood sweetheart, raise a family, and buy out her parents’ restaurant. But when her fiancé, James Donato, vanishes in a boating accident, her well-baked future is swept out to sea. Instead of walking down the aisle on their wedding day, Aimee is at James’s funeral—a funeral that leaves her more unsettled than at peace.

As Aimee struggles to reconstruct her life, she delves deeper into James’s disappearance. What she uncovers is an ocean of secrets that make her question everything about the life they built together. And just below the surface is a truth that may set Aimee free…or shatter her forever.

My thoughts

I have mixed emotions finishing this book. I loved some sections, disliked others, liked the main characters and then wanted to slap them for being so stupid. I had no trouble slipping into this book. I was captivated by Aimee’s story and then intrigued by the mystery. It was a true rollercoaster of emotions.

Aimee’s life is turned upside down when her fiancé is proclaimed dead after being missing for months. Gone are her dreams of marrying her childhood sweetheart, starting a family and maybe even opening a restaurant of her own. But moving on with her life is hard when she has doubts that James is truly dead.

The first two thirds of this book set up the mystery but then focused on the emotion of the story. We get to know Aimee and watch first her heartbreak and then as she slowly begins to recover from James’ death. She opens her cafe. She also wants to start a new relationship but holds herself back as the doubts about James’ disappearance refuse to stay silent. Scattered throughout are chapters from Aimee’s childhood and youth. In these flashbacks, we get to experience her and James’ friendship and their love story. It made the story and Aimee’s loss that much more real.

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Book Review: Clear To Lift

Clear To Lift

Clear To Lift – Anne A. Wilson – Forge Books – Published 12 July 2016

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Synopsis

Navy helicopter pilot Lt. Alison Malone has been assigned to a search and rescue team based at Naval Air Station Fallon, Nevada, near the rugged peaks of the Sierra Nevada, and far from her former elite H-60 squadron. A rule follower by nature, Alison is exasperated and outraged every time she flies with her mission commander, “Boomer” Marks, for whom military procedures are merely a suggestion. Alison is desperate to be transferred out of the boonies, where careers stagnate, and back to her life and fiancé in San Diego.

Alison’s defenses start to slip when she meets mountain guide Will Cavanaugh during a particularly dicey mission. Will introduces her to a wild, beautiful world of adventure that she has never known before. Stranded on a mountain during a sudden dangerous blizzard, Alison questions every truth she thought she knew about herself. When Will braves the storm to save her life, she must confront the fact that she has been living a lie. But is it too late to change course?

My thoughts

Set amongst the beautiful Sierra Nevada landscape, Clear To Lift is a compelling story of adventure, love, family and self-discovery. The tension, both romantic and life-and-death-danger, leaps off the page, drawing you into this epic story. It is unforgettable, addictive and just so much fun! With vibrant characters, a strong and relatable heroine, blizzards, storms, unexploded bombs, a gorgeous Labrador search and rescue dog, doughnuts and a very ruggedly handsome mountain guide, this book has everything I needed to make it unputdownable. I loved it.

I’ve got to say I was a little worried that Clear To Lift wouldn’t live up to the very high expectations that reading Hover, Anne A. Wilson’s first book, created. I shouldn’t have worried. Clear To Lift met all those expectations and more. I was biting my nails after the danger-laden first chapter and couldn’t wipe the grin off my face after the second. I love the world that Wilson creates. The team banter and comradery, the tension during a mission, and the times they let off steam is all so real you feel like you are strapped into the H-1 helicopter right along with the crew.    Continue reading

Review: Hover

Hover

Hover – Anne A. Wilson – Forge Books – Published 2 June 2015

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Synopsis

Helicopter pilot Lt. Sara Denning joins a Navy battle group with little fanfare—and that’s just the way she likes it. After her brother Ian’s tragic death, her career path seemed obvious: step into his shoes and join the Naval Academy, despite her fear of water. Sara’s philosophy is simple—blend in, be competent, and above all, never do anything to stand out as a woman in a man’s world.

Somewhere along the way, Sara lost herself—her feminine, easygoing soul is now buried under so many defensive layers, she can’t reach it anymore.

When she meets strong, self-assured Lt. Eric Marxen, her defenses start to falter. Eric coordinates flight operations for a Navy SEAL team that requests Sara as the exclusive pilot. This blatant show of favoritism causes conflict with the other pilots; Sara’s sexist boss seems intent on making her life miserable, and her roommate and best friend, the only other woman on the ship, is avoiding her. It doesn’t help that her interactions with Eric leave her reeling.

The endgame of the SEALs’ mission is so secret, even Sara doesn’t know the reason behind her mandated participation. Soon, though, the training missions become real, and Sara must overcome her fears before they plunge her into danger. When Sara’s life is on the line, can she find her true self again and follow the orders of her heart before it is too late?

My thoughts

Fantastic. Hover is a book that just gets better and better.

I initially read a sample of the first 100 pages of this book. I was highly intrigued from the very first page. In fact, I loved every one of those 100 pages. But the question is, having now read the whole book, do I still love it? Yes. Resoundingly, YES! In fact this book only gets better and better. My previous comments stand: I was blown away with how great it was. I was sucked in from page one. I was laughing, intrigued, excited. I wanted more. I wanted to know what happened next.

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