Happiness – The Crooked Little Road to Semi-Ever After by Heather Harpham

Overview

A shirt-grabbing, page-turning love story that follows a one-of-a-kind family through twists of fate that require nearly unimaginable choices.

Happiness begins with a charming courtship between hopelessly attracted opposites: Heather, a world-roaming California girl, and Brian, an intellectual, homebody writer, kind and slyly funny, but loath to leave his Upper West Side studio. Their magical interlude ends, full stop, when Heather becomes pregnant – Brian is sure he loves her, only he doesn’t want kids. Heather returns to California to deliver their daughter alone, buoyed by family and friends. Mere hours after Gracie’s arrival, Heather’s bliss is interrupted when a nurse wakes her, “Get dressed, your baby is in trouble.”

This is not how Heather had imagined new motherhood – alone, heartsick, an unexpectedly solo caretaker of a baby who smelled “like sliced apples and salted pretzels” but might be perilously ill. Brian reappears as Gracie’s condition grows dire; together Heather and Brian have to decide what they are willing to risk to ensure their girl sees adulthood.

The grace and humor that ripple through Harpham’s writing transform the dross of heartbreak and parental fears into a clear-eyed, warm-hearted view of the world. Profoundly moving and subtly written, Happiness radiates in many directions – new, romantic love; gratitude for a beautiful, inscrutable world; deep, abiding friendship; the passion a parent has for a child; and the many unlikely ways to build a family. Ultimately it’s a story about love and happiness, in their many crooked configurations.

Review

I do not even know where to start. I usually do not read books where children might be harmed. I usually cannot get through them. When I was asked to read this story, I didn’t actually catch on it was about a child. I saw love story and the cover and thought, “ok, looks pretty good.” OH BOY!! What a ride!

The blurb of this memoir says it is a love story. I guess it kind of is. But to me, that is not where the focus lies. The focus is really about the challenges facing a family who has a sick child. I cannot fathom going through everything this mother and this whole family went through.

Heather is a new mother and apparently single, even though this was not what she intended. She finds herself in an impossible situation when something is terribly wrong with her newborn daughter. And like the title says…”The Crooked Little Road to Semi-Ever After” that is where the story leads. And, believe me, it is crooked!

This is a super good read and so well written. I really thought I was reading a fiction tale. It is engrossing is many places. When I had to actually put the book down because life happens, I found myself thinking about Gracie. It is a tear-jerker and heart wrenching in places, but it is ALL heart and soul!

Please do not fail to read this one! Excellent!

I received this memoir from the publisher for a honest review.

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Manipulation by Louise Ashton – Book Spotlight and Excerpt

Overview

Emma and Shane become new parents. Emma thought she now had the family set up she always wanted but then Shane starts to go away for work regularly. Does Emma need to be suspicious of Shane’s whereabouts, or is it all in her head?

Excerpt

MANIPULATION

Hi!” Emma greeted her partner Shane.

“I want you to have an abortion” Shane demanded.

“Excuse me? Why?” Emma asked Shane.

“We’ve been going out for only a few months, so having a baby with you now would be wrong” Shane explained.

“No! I want this baby whether you like it or not. Look, I am going on holiday next week, so we’ll talk about it when I return” Emma said.

“Fine” Shane nodded in agreement.

A week later, Emma went away on holiday to France and enjoyed the sights of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

However, Emma’s mind was somewhere else during the trip.

Emma had just told her parents that she was pregnant only a few days before she went on holiday, and they were understandably surprised at the news, to say the least!

“I didn’t even know you were dating someone!” Emma’s Mother exclaimed.

“Does the Father know?” Emma’s own Father asked.

“Yes” Emma had replied.

“What did he say?” Emma’s Mother asked Emma.

“He wants me to have an abortion, but I have refused” Emma exclaimed, visibly upset.

On holiday in Paris, Emma was with her best friend Courtney, who didn’t know of the news.

“Your mind is definitely elsewhere on this trip” Courtney remarked to Emma.

“Oh, just boy problems” Emma said, shrugging her shoulders, as she thought back to the early days of meeting Shane and enjoying their time together.

“What’s up with you and Shane then?” Courtney asked, concerned for her friend.

“Oh, we can’t agree on a couple of things, that’s all” Emma said.

“Nothing to worry about, I promise “Emma continued.

“Okay, if you’re sure. You would let me know if something is troubling you, wouldn’t you Emma?” Courtney urged Emma to explain further.

“Of course, Courtney” Emma assured her friend.

“Come on!” Courtney grabbed Emma’s arm. “Let’s go shopping!”

“Okay” Emma exclaimed, as they both went to the market to find some boutiques to look in.

“Don’t forget to see the Arc de Triomphe!” The tourist guide shouted out to Emma and Courtney.

“We won’t!” Courtney shouted back to the tourist guide.

That night Emma felt really tired, but just had so many things running through her mind. It was hard for Emma to fall asleep.

“What will Shane say to me when I return to home to London?” Emma thought to herself as she tossed and turned in the hotel bed.

“What if Shane’s decision is final and I keep the baby and he doesn’t want anything to do with me and the baby?” Emma cried herself to sleep.

“It’s the last day of our holiday!” Courtney exclaimed as Emma and Courtney went down to the restaurant for breakfast the next morning.

“It sure is!” Emma agreed, as she walked over to the buffet table with Courtney and decided on what to have for breakfast.

Author bio

Louise Ashton is a mother of one child. She is from Essex, England. Louise enjoys reading autobiographies. Louise currently has five books published on Amazon in Paperback format and eBook format.

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The Dirty Book Club by Lisi Harrison

Overview

From the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling series The Clique comes Lisi Harrison’s debut adult novel about four modern-day strangers who inherit a dirty book club that was started in the 1960s.

M.J. Stark’s life is picture-perfect—she has a dream job as a magazine editor, a sexy doctor boyfriend, and a glamorous life in Manhattan. But behind her success, she can’t shake a deep sense of loneliness. So when her boyfriend offers her a completely new life in California after a promotion does not go her way, she decides to give it try. Once there, M.J. is left to fend for herself in a small California beach town, with only the company of her elderly neighbor, Gloria.

One day M.J. receives a mysterious invitation and a copy of Prim: A Modern Woman’s Guide to Manners. She recognizes the book as an outdated classic, but when she opens it, she discovers that it’s actually a copy of Fear of Flying by Erica Jong and the invitation is to join Gloria’s secret book club—one that only reads erotic books. Out of curiosity, M.J. goes to the meeting at a local bookstore, and discovers three other women who have also been selected by the club’s original members—who have suddenly left the country to honor a fifty-year-old pact. As these unlikely friends bond over naughty bestsellers, each woman shares not only the intimate details of her own sex life, but all areas of her life. Inspired by the characters in the novels they read—and the notes passed down by the club’s original members—the new members of The Dirty Book Club help each other find the courage to rewrite their own stories and risk it all for a happy ending.

Review

M.J. leaves her stressful job, which she has given all of her time and energy, and follows her boyfriend to California. She ends up being bored out of her mind and she befriends her elderly neighbor. This neighbor has a secret!

Well, this book is exactly what it says. It is about a secret book club. This book club is unique in that it only reads dirty books and it is as funny as it sounds. The club also comes complete with a secret key, secret rituals and anonymity.

For this to be the author’s debut adult novel, I am very impressed! So many great things occur in this read. I love that the author incorporates how woman were in the past to how they are now. Also, how relationships have changed, yet have stayed the same, for the most part.

I throughly enjoyed the characters and their affect on each other. Some of the new members of the book club start off on the wrong foot. But, life or maybe it’s the book club tends to pull them together and make them stronger. The insertion of humor makes this a must read. It is the perfect blend of seriousness and flippancy!

These ladies solve all the worlds’ problems, plus a few of their own. Through many trials and hardships, these women come together and create a bond they never expected. This is a read about overcoming society’s expectations, friendships and the strength of women.

I received this novel from Netgalley for a honest review.

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Curve Peligrosa by Lily Iona Mackenzie

Curva Peligrosa

By Lily Iona MacKenzie

Genre: Literary magical realism

When Curva Peligrosa arrives in Weed, Alberta, after a twenty-year trek on the Old North Trail from southern Mexico, she stops its residents in their tracks. With a parrot on each shoulder, a glittering gold tooth, and a wicked trigger finger, she is unlike anything they have ever seen before. Curva is ready to settle down, but are the inhabitants of Weed ready for her? Possessed of an insatiable appetite for life and love, Curva’s infectious energy galvanizes the townspeople, turning their staid world upside down with her exotic elixirs and unbridled ways. Toss in an unscrupulous americano developer and a one-eyed Blackfoot chief, stir them all together in the tumult of a tempestuous tornado, and the town of Weed will never be the same again. A lyrical account of one woman’s journey and the unexpected effects it has on the people around her, Curva Peligrosa pulses with the magic at the heart and soul of life.

Review

This is a unique and strange read. Curva is a rare individual with uncommon energy. She has a mysterious talent. You will just have to read the book! She keeps you entertained and amazed with her magic elixirs and her peculiar ways. She turns the town of Weed on its ear.

This story does jump around a little and can be hard to follow in spots. But Curva just keeps you coming back for more.

About the Author

A Canadian by birth, a high school dropout, and a mother at 17, in my early years, I supported myself as a stock girl in the Hudson’s Bay Company, as a long-distance operator for the former Alberta Government Telephones, and as a secretary (Bechtel Corp sponsored me into the States). I also was a cocktail waitress at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco, briefly broke into the male-dominated world of the docks as a longshoreman (I was the first woman to work on the SF docks and almost got my legs broken), founded and managed a homeless shelter in Marin County, co-created The Story Shoppe, a weekly radio program for children that aired on KTIM in Marin County, CA, and eventually earned two Master’s degrees (one in creative writing and one in the humanities). I have published reviews, interviews, short fiction, poetry, travel pieces, essays, and memoir in over 150 American and Canadian venues. My novel Fling! was published in 2015. Curva Peligrosa, another novel, will be published in September 2017. Freefall: A Divine Comedy will be released in 2018. My poetry collection All This was published in 2011. I have taught at the University of San Francisco for over 30 years, and I blog at http://lilyionamackenzie.wordpress.com.

On Twitter: @lilyionamac
On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lily.iona.mackenzie/

On Amazon: http://amzn.to/2tQb5eS

EXCERPT: Bones Will Be Bones

They didn’t think much about it when the wind picked up without warning late one summer afternoon and a dark cloud hurtled towards them over the prairies. Alberta residents are used to nature’s unpredictability: snowstorms in summer; spring thaws during severe cold snaps; hail or thunderstorms appearing out of nowhere on a perfect summer day. At times, hot dry winds roar through like Satan’s breath, churning up the soil and sucking it into the air, turning the sky dark as ink. Months later, some people are still digging out from under the spewed dirt.

But this wasn’t just a windstorm. A tornado aimed directly at the town of Weed, it whipped itself into a frenzy. To the Weedites, it sounded like a freight train bearing down on them, giving off a high-pitched shriek the closer it got, like a stuck whistle. The noise drowned out everything else. Right before the tornado hit, a wall of silence descended, as if the cyclone and every living thing in the area had been struck dumb.

And then a completely intact purple outhouse dropped into the center of town, a crescent-shaped moon carved into its door. It landed right next to the Odd Fellows Hall and behind the schoolhouse. Most people thought the privy had been spared because its owner—Curva Peligrosa, a mystery since her arrival two years earlier—had been using it at the time.

Meanwhile, the tornado’s racket resumed, and Curva sat inside the outhouse, peering through a slit in the door at the village dismantling around her. The funnel sucked up whole buildings and expelled them, turning most of Weed upside down and inside out. Unhinged from houses, doors and roofs flew past, along with walls freed from their foundations. The loosening of so many buildings’ restraints released something inside Curva. Never had she been so aroused. It was more exhilarating than riding the horse she’d bartered for recently, a wild gelding. The horse excited her, especially when she imagined herself riding its huge organ. In the midst of the noise and clatter, just as the tornado reached its climax, Curva had hers.

A heavy rain followed, some of it seeping into Curva’s sanctuary and dampening the walls as well as her nightdress. So much rain pelted the town it created a flood that overran the main street. Protected from the worst of the storm, Curva drowsed and dreamt that she fell through the hole in the seat, landing on the ground with a soft thud next to a pile of bones, each about ten inches long, worn smooth from the elements. She grabbed one and—still aroused—used it, waking to the melting feeling of another orgasm and the sound of rain pelting the roof.

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Luna Rising by Selene Castrovilla

Luna Rising

By Selene Castrovilla

Genre: Women’s Fiction

About the Book

Life begins at thirty-eight for Long Island mom and writer Luna Lampanelli, when she kicks her secretly gay husband to the curb. She’s got her freedom, but what she wants is love. Luna knows she doesn’t need a man to exist, but try telling that to her heart. Against the advice of Sunny, her snarky best friend, and Jiminy, the cautioning voice in Luna’s head who just won’t shut up, Luna sets course to find a mate. Luna speed and on-line dates her way into several short-lived, surreal relationships. There’s Ari, the humorless Israeli who refuses to assimilate – to America, and to humanity. There’s Alex, the young and handsome ex-crackhead who informs Luna he doesn’t want to be monogamous—while they’re in bed. There’s Memphis, the wild-eyed sadomasochist. There’s Red, angry and crippled, who becomes the catalyst for Luna to join Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous. But before Luna can proceed to recovery, she meets the elusive but oh so appealing Trip. He’s emotionally unavailable and has the Madonna-Whore Complex, but how can Luna (aka “whore”) let him go when she enjoys his dry wit so much, and his body even more? Humorously haunting and packed with unspeakable truths, Luna Rising follows a woman’s funny and heart-breaking struggle to relate with un-relatable men and an un-relatable world, and to figure out something even more un-relatable: herself.

Review

This novel is about making mistakes in life. And righting those mistakes without taking yourself for granted.

Luna divorced her dead beat husband and is exploring her new found freedom. She makes some HUGE mistakes along the way. After Luna’s 20th or so mistake (yes I embellished), the story got a little monotonous. She continues to make the same bad judgements and sometimes dangerous decisions. She never learns from her mistakes. This got old for me toward the end of the book. However, I did enjoy Luna. She was just a little flighty and I wanted to “Gibbs slap” her many times.

I know it sounds like I did not enjoy this read but it is actually funny, charming and a little risqué. A perfect read for any day of the week!

Maybe there are no mistakes, Luna mused. Maybe there are only experiences to learn from.

About the Author

Selene Castrovilla debuts in women’s fiction with Luna Rising, but she’s no stranger to publishing. An award-winning teen and children’s author, Selene believes that through all trends, humanity remains at the core of literature. Her novel Melt, Book One of the Rough Romance Trilogy, received six honors including the IndieReader Discovery Award Grand Prize for Fiction. Revolutionary Friends: General George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette, her third nonfiction picture book about the American Revolution, was the recipient of four awards including Booklist Top Ten Biography for Youth, International School Librarians’ Honor Book and Eureka! California Reading Association Honor Book. A companion book, Revolutionary Rogues: John André and Benedict Arnold, is hot off the presses. Selene holds an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from The New School and a B.A. in English from New York University. She lives on Long Island with her two sons and too many cats, where she sits on her deck in the summer, fall and spring (and at her picture window in the winter) and writes. She loves the color purple and coffee. Selene plays well with others, but with words even better. She is so grateful to do what she loves. National Book Award winner Jacqueline Woodson calls Selene “a writer worth watching.” Visit www.SeleneCastrovilla.com.

https://www.facebook.com/SCastrovilla/
@SCastrovilla

https://www.amazon.com/Luna-Rising-Selene-Castrovilla/dp/0991626192 https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32963894-luna-rising https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/luna-rising-selene-castrovilla/1125286165

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The Room on Rue Amélie by Kristin Harmel #XOXperts

For fans of Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale and Martha Hall Kelly’s Lilac Girls, this powerful novel of fate, resistance, and family—by the international bestselling author of The Sweetness of Forgetting and When We Meet Again—tells the tale of an American woman, a British RAF pilot, and a young Jewish teenager whose lives intersect in occupied Paris during the tumultuous days of World War II.

When newlywed Ruby Henderson Benoit arrives in Paris in 1939 with her French husband Marcel, she imagines strolling arm in arm along the grand boulevards, awash in the golden afternoon light. But war is looming on the horizon, and as France falls to the Nazis, her marriage begins to splinter, too.

Charlotte Dacher is eleven when the Germans roll into the French capital, their sinister swastika flags snapping in the breeze. After the Jewish restrictions take effect and Jews are ordered to wear the yellow star, Charlotte can’t imagine things getting much worse. But then the mass deportations begin, and her life is ripped forever apart.

Thomas Clarke joins the British Royal Air Force to protect his country, but when his beloved mother dies in a German bombing during the waning days of the Blitz, he wonders if he’s really making a difference. Then he finds himself in Paris, in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, and he discovers a new reason to keep fighting—and an unexpected road home.

When fate brings them together, Ruby, Charlotte, and Thomas must summon the courage to defy the Nazis—and to open their own broken hearts—as they fight to survive. Rich with historical drama and emotional depth, this is an unforgettable story that will stay with you long after the final page is turned.

Review

Ruby meets the man of her dreams, gets married, and moves to Paris. Her life is pretty grand until WWII breaks out. Her parents beg her to come back to America. She is determined to stay with her husband even though things are not what they used to be between them.

Ruby ends up helping downed pilots escape out of France. She knows it is dangerous work but she is determined to help stop the Nazis. Especially after her Jewish neighbors were taken. Ruby agrees to take in their daughter, Charlotte, to raise as her own.

Many story lines going on in this read, which I just love. There are also many wonderful characters. Charlotte and Ruby are both strong and determined to hold their own in a world falling apart around them. Thomas, the downed RAF pilot, also plays a major role in this novel. I ADORED Thomas. He is strong and gentle all at the same time.

As many of you know WWII is one of my favorite time periods and this author knows how to deliver. To me, and this is my opinion only, this read was not as good as her novel When We Meet Again. But, it is still a fabulous read. I just felt that Ruby was overly dramatic in places, especially when she talked about her husband or about Thomas. The danger surrounding Ruby and Charlotte is intense and this keeps the story moving quickly. I loved learning about the resistance and the downed pilots.

Once again! Kristin Harmel delivers with a wonderful tale! PLUS, THIS COVER IS AMAZING! COVER LOVE!

I received this book from Simon and Schuster as part of XOXPerts.

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Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang

Overview

“Bristles with charm and curiosity” —Winston Groom, New York Times bestselling author of Forrest Gump

“Told with brains and heart” —Michelle Gable, New York Times bestselling author of A Paris Apartment

“A wholly original and superbly crafted work of art, Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance is a masterpiece of the imagination.” —Lori Nelson Spielman, New York Times bestselling author of The Life List and Sweet Forgiveness

“Charlotte’s Web for grown-ups who, like Weylyn Grey, have their own stories of being different, feared, brave, and loved.” —Mo Daviau, author of Every Anxious Wave

Orphaned, raised by wolves, and the proud owner of a horned pig named Merlin, Weylyn Grey knew he wasn’t like other people. But when he single-handedly stopped that tornado on a stormy Christmas day in Oklahoma, he realized just how different he actually was.

That tornado was the first of many strange events that seem to follow Weylyn from town to town, although he doesn’t like to take credit. As amazing as these powers may appear, they tend to manifest themselves at inopportune times and places. From freak storms to trees that appear to grow over night, Weylyn’s unique abilities are a curiosity at best and at worst, a danger to himself and the woman he loves. But Mary doesn’t care. Since Weylyn saved her from an angry wolf on her eleventh birthday, she’s known that a relationship with him isn’t without its risks, but as anyone who’s met Weylyn will tell you, once he wanders into your life, you’ll wish he’d never leave.

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance tells the story of Weylyn Grey’s life from the perspectives of the people who knew him, loved him, and even a few who thought he was just plain weird. Although he doesn’t stay in any of their lives for long, he leaves each of them with a story to tell. Stories about a boy who lives with wolves, great storms that evaporate into thin air, fireflies that make phosphorescent honey, and a house filled with spider webs and the strange man who inhabits it.

There is one story, however, that Weylyn wishes he could change: his own. But first he has to muster enough courage to knock on Mary’s front door.

In this warm debut novel, Ruth Emmie Lang teaches us about adventure and love in a beautifully written story full of nature and wonder.

Review

Weylyn is orphaned at a very young age. Through some strange circumstances he is raised by wolves. YES WOLVES! Right there… I would usually stop and put the book down. That would be it for me. But something about Weylyn kept me reading. He is smart, funny and especially quirky. I was riveted to his story and the many people affected by him.

There are so many fabulous characters in this read. One of the best besides Weylyn is his foster sister, Lydia. I loved her attitude and her smart mouth. She and Weylyn are attached at the hip and she protects him through thick and thin. Then enters Merlin. The pig! Yes, a real pig. He is absolutely adorable. I now officially want a pig!

This novel is narrated in many voices. It is told by people touched by Weylyn in some form or fashion. Here are just a few of the people with a tale about Weylyn. Mary is a friend and eventually runs away from home to live in the wolf pack. Lydia is his foster sister. Meg Lowery is his teacher and eventually his adopted mother. There are several more but these are my favorites. These people touch Weylyn’s life and help guide him to be…well to live in a shack in the woods. JUST READ THE NOVEL!

This is an unusual and unique story! And to tell you the truth, I am shocked that I enjoyed it as well as I did. It is described as fantasy, which is one of my least favorite genres. However, it did not read like a fantasy novel at all. Now, it does have a little magic in it. But that just adds to the charm of Weylyn and, of course Merlin!

Oh and for the record…there is not a Little Turtle, Mississippi. There is an Alligator, Mississippi. 😂. You must read the book!!!!

Thanks to St. Martins Press for an advanced reader’s copy of the amazing read.

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