education pathways

Home » Women’s Fiction (Page 2)

Category Archives: Women’s Fiction

Advertisements

The Hope Jar–longing for love

The Hope Jar

by Wanda E. Brunstetter

The Hope JarSara grows up with her mother, her stepfather (from age six), and her doted upon half-brother. She has lots of unanswered questions about her biological father. When her mother passes away, Sara learns she has grandparents she has never met. In a letter her deceased mother encourages her to find them.

Michelle was taken away from abusive parents and separated from her brothers as all the children were put in foster care. As a young adult she finds herself unemployed, out of money, and in an abusive relationship with a boyfriend.

Through a misunderstanding, these two girls’ lives cross in Amish country in Pennsylvania. Just how long can Michelle, craving love and family, deceive Sara’s Amish grandparents? She is overridden with guilt. How will Sara feel about this familial triangle of which she should have been a part? Along the way in this interesting story, Michelle and the reader learn a lot about the Amish way of life. There is potential romance with an Amish man who is considering leaving the Amish traditions to become “English” and with a seminary student studying to be a pastor. Unfortunately Michelle’s deception makes it difficult for her to form relationships. 

The Hope Jar by Wanda E. Brunstetter has a few problems. The first should have been caught by an editor (and may have been in the edited final version). At one point Michelle, talking to herself, lists her abusers  and includes her foster parents. This contradicts all the other references to the foster parents which indicate a fairly normal teenage/parent relationship.  The second is the length of time it takes Michelle to leave her newly adopted home. Within the story that period gets a little repetitive although the author does add events to try to move the story along. Thirdly, things are left unresolved for both Michelle and Sara in respect to the Amish community and the grandparents. Those issues, however, will probably be resolved in the next book in the series, The Forgiving Jar, which is due for publication on February 1, 2019. I do like The Hope Jar well enough that I will be reading the next book.

I particularly like the device this book employs—prayer jars. These are old canning jars containing slips of paper that someone has written Bible verses and prayers on. Through reading a few of these at a time, Michelle begins to learn about the Christian faith, the desperate writer of the notes, and the way to healing for her soul.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Barbour Publishing (Shiloh Run Press) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Christian, General Fiction (Adult)

Notes: Although marketed as General Fiction, it is really a book women would prefer. There is romance, but the book is free of sex, profanity, and violence. It is the first book in The Prayer Jars Series.

Publication:   August 1, 2018—Barbour Publishing (Shiloh Run Press)

Memorable Lines:

Brad had the gift of discernment, and his intuitions about people were usually correct. His mother often said he would make a good minister because he understood people and could almost see into the windows of their souls. Brad saw his intuitions as a gift from God—one that would help him counsel and minister to people.

It hurt to think that her own flesh-and-blood parents had never cared much about nurturing their children or meeting their needs. Michelle’s mom and dad had so many problems they could barely function at times, much less provide a stable environment for their family.

“I don’t mean to feel bitter, but the hurt in my heart has festered like an embedded splinter. I heard it said once that hurt fertilizes bitterness, making it grow like a weed.”

Advertisements

Night of Miracles–tales of sweetly intertwined lives

Night of Miracles

by Elizabeth Berg

Night of MiraclesOne of the most interesting things in the world is people. Elizabeth Berg created a gentle, touching world in The Story of Arthur Truluv. Then she expanded on the core characters, adding more characters that tie into one another in Night of Miracles. The chapters are short; the novel is a character driven set of tales of common people living out their interesting lives looking for meaning in the everyday circumstances and the extraordinary ones.

Arthur Truluv’s legacy of calmness and kindness lives on in the family he adopted. His neighbor Lucille’s legacy is the culinary wisdom she imparts during an age of “fast” everything. Neighbors Jason and Abby learn the importance of living in the present. Tiny and Monica learn to share the love that has been in front of them all along. The chapters bounce back and forth from one storyline to the next. This is one of those stories I had to keep reading. I read the last of the book with tissue in hand, not because it is tragic, but because there is sweet sadness in knowing that life keeps progressing toward an inevitable conclusion and we can find happiness by reaching out to share life with others.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Random House for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Women’s Fiction

Notes: For those who enjoyed The Story of Arthur Truluv, this is not a sequel in the traditional sense. It takes a few of the characters from that book and builds a story around them. Although it could happen, I wouldn’t expect any more stories in this line. From my perspective the story has been told.

Publication:   November 13, 2018—Random House

Memorable Lines:

It was true what they told her on the first day of teachers’ college: you never forget some of your students. For Lucille, it was the cut-ups she could never keep from laughing at, the dreamers she had to keep reeling back into the classroom, and little Danny Matthews, with his ragged heart of gold.

At least Link loves to read. There’s always hope when a kid—or an adult, for that matter—likes to read.

All those years, and not one person that she had truly opened up to, or kept up with. Probably she expected her husband to be everything to her when it wasn’t his place to do that, even if he wanted to or could. Another thing she regrets: having made him feel that he was failing her when she was the one failing herself.

Back to McGuffey’s–over the years

Back to McGuffey’s

by Liz Flaherty

Back to McGuffey'sFrom Harlequin’s Heartwarming books comes Back to McGuffey’s by Liz Flaherty. This was my first in this genre of books, and it lived up to expectations. If you are interested in a steamy romance where the characters jump from shaking hands to bouncing in the bed, you will be disappointed. If, however, you want to focus on relationships and emotional needs, then Back to McGuffey’s fits the bill.

Kate Rafael is in her late thirties and hears her biological clock ticking. Ben McGuffey, having broken up with Kate, his longtime sweetheart, thirteen years earlier, still has feelings for her. Kate has lost both her house (to a fire) and her job. She is caught at a crossroads as she want to find a direction she can be passionate about. By the end of the book you will feel like you know the McGuffey family intimately, maybe wishing you could be a part of the Irish-rooted clan and their pub.

The characters are well-developed and interesting. I especially enjoyed the side story of Jayson, a young man with Down syndrome being cared for by his sister and the impact he has on others in the book. Another character whose story is gradually revealed is Mrs. Hylton-Wise, a harsh woman, secretive about her past.

I liked the book and was prepared to rate it as a four star book. I was so impressed, however, with the surprise ending that my rating jumped to five stars. After providing an adrenaline rush, the author wraps things up nicely for the McGuffeys and for the reader. 

I would like to extend my thanks to blogger Laurie at cozynookbks.wordpress.com, author Liz Flaherty, and Harlequin for providing this book to me in a giveaway with no expectations at all.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Romance

Publication:  2014—Harlequin

Memorable Lines:

Kate joined her, feeling useless—this woman was crying and there was nothing she could do but listen to the splintery sound of heartbreak.

He was hard on one’s patience. But he was loving and kind and he felt things with every bit as much intensity as someone who didn’t have Down syndrome.

The question caught him unaware, a condition he thought he might as well get used to because it was happening all the time.

Life on the Leash–amusing and light-hearted

Life on the Leash

by Victoria Schade

Life on the LeashIf you want a fun, relaxing novel, try Victoria Schade’s Life on the Leash—especially if you like dogs and chick lit. Schade is an animal trainer, and Life on the Leash is her first novel. Her main character, Cora, left the corporate world to do what she loves—teach pet parents how to train their dogs in a loving fashion. Her clientele in Georgetown can afford her services, and she can afford to be choosy. 

Cora tries to be professional in all of her sessions, but that is hard to do with flirtatious Charlie whose girlfriend is out of town. Complete this love triangle with Eli, the slightly geeky boy-next-door who works for one of her clients. Cora toys around with the idea of her own dog training show in opposition to one hosted by Doggie Dictator Boris Ershovich who claims to “fix” dogs through his harsh methods. 

Life on the Leash made a light-hearted read in the wake of several suspense novels. I found myself chuckling at some of the characters’ antics, gasping at a few unwise decisions, and sympathizing with Cora’s pet friendly stances. I found myself wishing that a few of her tips and tricks could have been explained thoroughly, perhaps in an addendum so as not to interrupt the story.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Gallery Books (Simon & Schuster) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Women’s Fiction

Notes: Expletives are sprinkled throughout the book.

Publication:   September 18, 2018—Gallery Books (Simon & Schuster)

The Summer Nanny–relationships and their impact

The Summer Nanny

by Holly Chamberlin

The Summer NannyThe term “women’s fiction” can connote quite a broad range of books. Thus I was unsure what to expect from The Summer Nanny by Holly Chamberlin. This story is actually two tales in one as best friends Amy and Hayley, from very different backgrounds and with very different prospects, decide to accept employment for the summer as nannies for wealthy vacationing families. Hayley is a product of a dysfunctional family with an alcoholic and abusive father. She loves academia, but rather than finish college has to work cleaning houses to support her family. Amy’s father passed away when she was a baby, but her mother, a gifted crafter of fiber arts, has raised her in a small but comfortable home in a loving atmosphere.

Amy and Hayley find personal challenges in their summer jobs. Naive Amy is hired by a narcissistic and controlling successful businesswoman who claims to want to mentor Amy. Hayley, on the other hand, finds relief from her home environment in her job as a nanny for two year old twins whose mother is teaching French at a community college as a favor to a friend. Both girls experience personal growth as a result of their jobs. Romance plays a role in this novel, but so do family connections.

The style of The Summer Nanny with its short chapters keeps the plot moving as the focus of the chapters alternates between the two main characters. The book is interesting, but some of the scenes could have been omitted without sacrificing the integrity of the plot or the points the author wants to make.

Although this book could be considered a “beach read,” it is not really fluff. The author encourages the reader to examine questions of the causes and results of two abusive situations and the responses of the characters involved in them. There are definite themes of right and wrong and the importance of choices.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Kensington Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Women’s Fiction

Notes: One of the recurring characters in the book is a lesbian and a subplot concerns her relationship status, but there are no descriptions of a physical relationship.

Publication:   June 26, 2018—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

Hayley was smart enough to know there was no possibility of completely throwing off one’s past, but there had to be ways to move into the future relatively unencumbered by traumas experienced when one was young.

Love and admiration transformed an average-looking human being into an angel of beauty. Contempt and dislike transformed an average-looking human being into a goblin.

“What with arts education funding being cut so drastically, I feel I have to do something. Kids need to learn visual thinking and creative problem solving.”

Til Death Do Us Party–TN wedding in Vegas

Til Death Do Us Party

by Vickie Fee

Til Death Do Us PartyTil Death Do Us Party is classified as a mystery, but definitely crosses over to the women’s fiction genre also. It is one-third of the way into the book before there is any hint of crime. This is good because, as part of a series, the author Vickie Fee supplies an abundance of background information and develops her characters so that it works well as a standalone. It is unfortunate for the reader who wants to focus on the mystery, however. The book also ends with several more chapters of personal events after the mystery is solved; these chapters are interesting and provide closure on various situations, but again they relegate the role of the mystery to a less than primary status.

Liv is a professional party planner, but also called upon by family and friends to use her investigative skills in times of crisis. In Til Death Do Us Party, Liv, her best friend Di and assorted family and friends accompany her widowed mother to Las Vegas for “Mama’s” wedding. When the wedding officiant collapses, things go downhill for the wedding plans and Liv has to go into high gear.

The author has a fun writing style, engaging the reader with both the Las Vegas setting and the Tennessee background of the character. There is a romantic triangle involving Di, her boyfriend Sheriff Dave Davidson, and her ex-con ex-husband Jimmy. Di’s renewed attraction to Jimmy is not believable, but the outcome is acceptable.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Kensington Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Mystery, Women’s Fiction

Notes: 1.  #4 in the Liv and Di in Dixie Mystery Series, but works well as a standalone

2.  The book concludes with Party Tips and Recipes for a Backyard Luau and

Movie Night under the Stars.

Publication:   March 27, 2018—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

Landing in Las Vegas was somewhat akin to touching down in Oz. We’d barely left the tarmac before being greeted by the flashing lights and ringing music of the airport slot machines.

Mama, who has a penchant for drama and could have pursued a career on the stage, or as a professional mourner—she can boohoo with the best—wasted no time launching into her performance.

I’ve found if you act like you have a right to be somewhere, most people assume you do.

Surprise Me–will surprises keep a marriage vital?

Surprise Me

by Sophie Kinsella

Surprise MeI have really enjoyed books by Sophie Kinsella and was looking forward to reading her newest book Surprise Me. At first I felt like I was the one “surprised” in a disappointed kind of way. The characters in Surprise Me are two-dimensional, the premise is bland, and the attempts at humor are not very effective—for the first half of the book. The novel was good enough for me to plug on, however, and I’m glad I did. The pace and interest pick up dramatically in the second half. The characters grow and develop and become people you can actually care about. The original proposition seems silly: how do you live with and love the same person for over sixty years?  I know the world is changing a lot in terms of longevity of marriages, but there are many examples that demonstrate the success of long marriages and the happiness of people in such marriages.

There are many surprises for the reader and the main character Sylvie as she discovers that she does not really know the people close to her as well as she thought she did. In encountering difficulties, she discovers a strength she never knew she had. There are a lot of negative feelings associated with this book and a lot less fun fluff than initially appears to be the case or is usually associated with Kinsella’s books such as the Shopaholic series. Although I came away with mixed feelings, I also took away some serious musings about the ability of testing in life to help build character.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Random House (Dial Press) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: General Fiction (Adult), Romance

Publication:  February 13, 2018 — Random House (Dial Press)

Memorable Lines:

Living with five-year-old twins is like living in a Communist state. I don’t quite count out the Shreddies into the bowls every morning to make sure things are equal, but… Actually, I did once count out the Shreddies into the bowls. It was quicker.

“Oh, marriage.” She makes a snorting sound. “Did you not read the disclaimers? ‘May cause headache, anxiety, mood swings, sleep disturbance, or general feelings of wanting to stab something.’ ”

“If we don’t stick up for the ones we love, then what are we good for?”

%d bloggers like this: