Stacking the Shelves (341)

Stacking the Shelves

Let’s see. Amazon had a sale, sorta/kinda. Audible had a sale, definitely. And here we are with the stack of my legally gotten gains. So many books, so little time! But…this is a three-day weekend in the U.S., so maybe just a bit more time.

Have a great holiday weekend!

For Review:
Aurora Blazing (Consortium Rebellion #2) by Jessie Mihalik
The Blue Eye (Khorasan Archives #3) by Ausma Zehanat Khan
Blues in the Dark by Raymond Benson
The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae by Stephanie Butland
A House of Ghosts by W.C. Ryan
The Magnificent Mrs. Mayhew by Milly Johnson
Peach Clobbered (Georgia B&B #1) by Anna Gerard
Sapphire Flames (Hidden Legacy #4) by Ilona Andrews
Southern Sass and Killer Cravings (Marygene Brown #1) by Kate Young
The Sweetest Fruits by Monique Truong
This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
The Twisted Ones by T. Kingfisher
The Wallflower Wager (Girl Meets Duke #3) by Tessa Dare
When We Believed in Mermaids by Barbara O’Neal
Word to the Wise (Library Lover’s Mystery #10) by Jenn McKinlay

Purchased from Amazon/Audible:
Children of Earth and Sky by Guy Gavriel Kay (audio)
The Inbetween Days by Eva Woods
The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang (audio)
The Reckoning (Children’s House #2) by Yrsa Sigurdardottir
Save Me From Dangerous Men (Nikki Griffin #1) by S.A. Lelchuk

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Guest Review: Finding Kat by Kimberley O’Malley

Guest Review: Finding Kat by Kimberley O’MalleyFinding Kat by Kimberley O'Malley
Format: ebook
Source: author
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: contemporary romance
Series: Windsor Falls #5
Pages: 314
Published by Carolina Blue Publishing on December 5th 2018
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleBook Depository
Goodreads

Kat De Luca loves her family, and working in their bakery, but wants something more, something different. Sebastian Walker, local Cardiologist, grew up in the ultimate dysfunctional family. He can’t imagine why Kat wants to change anything about her life. Can she make him understand? Will he accept what she wants? Will their sizzling attraction be enough to overcome their differences?

Guest Review by Amy:

Kat De Luca grew up in a small town, with an Italian family rich in history and tradition. She’s part of the fourth generation of her family to operate the best (only?) bakery in Windsor Falls. Her father, the current patriarch, is…  well, that’s complicated. We’ll get to him in a minute. And one early morning, Kat’s making bread and treats, and in walks – him.  Sebastian Walker, she’ll come to find out, who is a cardiologist and the best friend of the person who is marrying Kat’s best friend.  Katie’s been trying to set them up, but they both are decidedly single, and not overly inclined to change that. But wow, this guy is hot. He comes around again a few days later, when Papa is there, and things get crazy in a big, big hurry.

Escape Rating: A: Overall, I liked this story. I grew up in small-town America, and understand some of the pressures that come with it – everyone knows pretty much everyone, and there is often only one provider for any given service in town, so if you need that service, it is helpful to stay on good terms with that provider. Kat’s reluctance to admit the hots she has for the handsome Sebastian is, to my mind, quite sensible: doctors can’t always be there for you, as patients’ needs can get in the way, and, well, he’s her father’s cardiologist, after all, and is the best friend of the man who is marrying her best friend. If either relationship fails, drama a-plenty would be afoot, and that’s all best avoided. Isn’t it?

For his part, formerly confirmed-bachelor Sebastian just isn’t really all that interested in commitment, or hasn’t been in the past, anyway. But Kat is just different, somehow, and it takes our handsome hero a bit to figure it out. Sebastian and Kat join Katie and her beau Flynn when the couple-to-be decides to elope. Flynn’s family’s got big money, so off they go in a private jet for a few days in the Caribbean, and a hasty wedding. And the sparks start for our pair, of course. Nothing like sand and sea and no day-to-day worries to get the…erm…juices flowing, so to speak.  Ahem. This section of the story provides some lovely steam, explicit but not at all tawdry. The encounters are unfortunately brief, but quite intense for all their brevity.

I had some concern for a bit about Kat’s career path, and how that would influence things in her relationships with both her father and Sebastian; indeed, her father’s intransigence is a major driver of this story, as he’s just not having her innovate the way she wants, “betraying” him by baking something that’s not in the family tradition. Now, before you jump on me, I’m not knocking tradition. There’s always room for tradition, and if the little family bakery near my home ever stopped making their jalapeño, sausage, and cheese kolaches the way they’ve always done, I would cry. A lot. But Kat’s not asking to stop baking the traditional goods. After all, they’re still wildly popular! She’s wanting to add to the business by trying new things, in addition. But dear old Papa just isn’t having it. I found him to be a frustrating figure, and the closest thing this story has to an antagonist.

I’ve seen a lot of romances that involve the breathtakingly wealthy, and a lot where it’s regular, everyday folks, but this one gives us a healthy shot of the best of both. I hope you’ll find it an enjoyable, easy read, as I have.

 

Review: Mission: Her Safety by Anna Hackett

Review: Mission: Her Safety by Anna HackettMission: Her Safety (Team 52) by Anna Hackett
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: ebook
Genres: action adventure romance, contemporary romance
Series: Team 52 #5
Pages: 212
Published by Anna Hackett on May 20th 2019
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazon
Goodreads

A sexy, grumpy black ops scientist will do anything to track down the mysterious woman who broke into his lab.

After Dr. Ty Sampson catches a mysterious female intruder in his home and lab, he’s obsessed with finding out who she is and what she wants. He’s a man who trusts very few people and hates anyone in his space. His role as Team 52’s lead scientist brings him into contact with a host of powerful, ancient artifacts, so he knows the woman must be after something dangerous and he refuses to let her succeed.

River Elliott-Hall is good at finding things and prides herself on always getting the job done. When a very valuable painting by a master is stolen from a famous museum, it is her job to get it back. The trail leads her to the bright lights of Las Vegas and she’s heard rumors of the covert, black ops Team 52. But as she investigates if they know anything about the painting, she finds herself drawn into a battle of wits with a big, bad-tempered, and far-too-handsome genius.

Life has taught River and Ty to guard their hearts, so as these two circle each other, they warily agree to work together. Because it soon becomes clear that the painting is more than just a painting, and someone with a dangerous plan is working behind the scenes. Fighting their intense chemistry, Ty and River—along with Team 52—will risk everything to save the day, and both find themselves battling the unfamiliar needs to claim, protect, and keep each other safe.

My Review:

I find the title of this entry in the Team 52 series particularly ironic, as River Elliott-Hall doesn’t really need anyone to make her safety their mission – and she’d be downright insulted at the thought.

Which makes her a perfect heroine for this – or any other – of Anna Hackett’s action adventure romance series, whether they are even slightly science fictional – or not. The Team 52 series is mostly one of the “or nots”, so if you like a romance where there’s plenty of action and adventure both between and outside of the sheets, Team 52 or the Treasure Hunter Security series that it spun off of, might be just the ticket.

Team 52 is based just next door to Area 51. And yes, that slight joke is intentional. Because Team 52 deals with just the sort of artifacts that Area 51 is supposed to be housing. Consider it hiding in plain sight. Or plausible deniability.

Just like some of the more “out of this world” artifacts that used to get found on Earth in the Stargate series, Team 52’s job is to protect most of us from unscrupulous people taking advantage of some really cool, and very powerful gizmos that have been hidden and/or buried on this planet for more millennia than we think this planet has actually had intelligent life.

This particular adventure starts out relatively down to earth – the earth as we know it. Until the mystery gets a whole lot bigger.

River Elliott-Hall is former MI6. She currently freelances as, let’s call it, a retrieval artist. She gets hired when something really big and important gets stolen – and the original owners are willing to pay some serious money to get it back.

She’s after a painting by Leonardo da Vinci titled Salvator Mundi, stolen from the Abu Dhabi Louvre. As an original by the Renaissance genius, it’s worth not a small but actually quite a large fortune.

As a map to the location of the elixir that gave da Vinci his genius, it is beyond price. And also well within the purview of Team 52.

When River rifles her way through the homes of all of the members of Team 52, she puts herself and her job squarely in their sights. The museum can have the picture, as long as Team 52 gets to put the elixir out of the reach of anyone who might want to use and/or abuse it.

Banding together to accomplish both of their aims puts River Elliott-Hall squarely in the arms of Team 52’s resident real genius, Ty Sampson. And in spite of neither of them believing in either love or trust, they can’t manage to stay away from each other.

Not even under orders to “play it safe”.

Escape Rating B: I’m still finding the titles of this series to be more than a bit on the cheesy side for some reason. And I’m also starting to get a bit tired of the headless bod covers. Not that the bods aren’t bodacious and all that, but heads, please – as long as it’s not all the same head because that would be weird.

Irreverence aside, Mission: Her Safety was a fairly typical entry in the Team 52 series. By that I mean that the non-romantic action is non-stop, the romantic action is just a bit quick on the trigger, and that the macguffin they are chasing after is suitably dangerous and dangerously well-protected.

And that both the hero and the heroine have plenty of personal demons to exorcise before they can reach their own personal happy ever after – after the artifact and their enemies are suitably contained – one way or another.

(Pine boxes being a fine method of containment under the correct circumstances – the kind of circumstances that often occur during Team 52’s adventures.)

I liked Ty and River, and thought that in the end they made a great team, both professionally and romantically. It also worked really well that they had, let’s say not dissimilar family baggage to deal with – and that they initially weren’t dealing with it terribly well but in the same way.

One of the things that I liked very much was that the former partner and mentor that River was somewhat avenging was just that, a working partner and mentor without having ever been a romantic interest or a member of her birth family. Love takes many forms, and the need to find justice for a fallen loved one is not confined to those for whom we feel romantic love or to those who are part of our birth families.

In the end, I enjoyed Ty and River’s story, but it wasn’t a special entry in the series for me. My favorites are still Mission: Her Protection (book 1 in the series and highly recommended) and Mission: Her Defense (book 4).

Review: No Saving Throw by Kristin McFarland

Review: No Saving Throw by Kristin McFarlandNo Saving Throw by Kristin McFarland
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: mystery
Series: Ten Again #1
Pages: 272
Published by Diversion Books on May 19, 2019
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

A supremely geeky murder mystery perfect for Whovians, gamers, and Muggles alike.

Autumn has everything she could possibly want: Loving friends, a successful business, and a gaggle of nerds in her store every day.

Welcome to Ten Again, a tabletop gaming store that attracts nerds of every kind and fosters a community Autumn’s pretty proud of—a community that also keeps business afloat. And now that Autumn's in the running for a grant, Ten Again’s future is looking bright.

That is, until one of Autumn’s gamers is mysteriously murdered. With everyone in the mall as a suspect and accusations flying, Autumn is going to have to do some sleuthing of her own to save her shop. And to save her gamers from what seems to be an increasingly more dangerous fate

My Review:

You may be wondering exactly what a “saving throw” is, why Autumn Sinclair doesn’t have one – and why she needs one so very badly.

If you are familiar with role-playing-games like Dungeons and Dragons, you are already familiar with the concept of a saving throw. In those games, characters often stroll, walk, skulk or stride into danger – all of it controlled by rolls of multi-sided dice.

(All dice have multiple sides, the standard die you’re probably thinking of is a d6 – a six sided die.)

But if the person controlling the game so decides, the player may have the opportunity to roll a separate die to see whether or not their game-character, well, dies. That’s a saving throw.

Come to think of it, real life might be a bit easier if we all had a few chances to make a saving throw. Although loving this book is probably a bit easier if you didn’t need the above explanation.

Autumn is a business owner in her small community. The business she owns is Ten Again, an actually fairly successful gaming store. She’s just opened her doors this evening for what is supposed to be a multi-day, popular and profitable tournament for her store

Instead, tragedy strikes. One of her gamers, one of the members of her community, is killed in her building while the gaming event is going on. Pretty quickly, it looks like two of the other gamers are responsible for his death. And that a whole deck of really bad publicity is going to fall on the gaming community in general and Autumn in particular.

She’s completely right about the terrible publicity, the threats to her store, her community and herself. And while a bit far off about who really done it, she’s on the money about who didn’t, even if she has no clue about the whys and wherefores – at least not yet.

It’s up to Autumn and her friends to level-up their skills in detection and investigation before their game is over. Permanently.

Escape Rating B: No Saving Throw, the book, doesn’t need a difficult saving throw of its own. It’s a lot of fun. It’s a very twisty-turny little small town mystery. While it is extra special fun for those of us who have spent a lot of time on the geeky-nerdy side of the force, at its heart it’s basically a cozy mystery where everybody knows everybody else and where the long-standing relationships in the community provide a lot of the heart as well as a lot of misdirection on the path to solving the murder.

More than a bit of that misdirection is provided by the enmity between Autumn and Meghan. Autumn and Meghan are long-standing rivals, and have been since high school. Now in their early 30s, that rivalry has just added more depth as the years have gone by, moving from fighting over a cheating boyfriend to fighting over a potential renovation grant for the struggling mall that both of their retail shops occupy – at opposite ends, of course.

In the end, they’ll have to get over each other, and everything that has happened between them, to figure out who is using their feud to threaten both of them.

Part of the fun of this one was that I thought I knew whodunnit – only to discover that I was completely off base. And that successful misdirection makes the a-bit-too-neat typing up of all the little mysteries definitely worth playing – or reading – toward.

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Life is a Beach Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the fourth annual Life’s a Beach Giveaway Hop, hosted by The Kids Did It and The Mommy Island.

It’s time to ask that perennial summer question: What is a beach read anyway? Followed immediately by “Which ones should I read THIS summer?”

Pro tip: A good book is a good book forever. Just because something came out last year, last decade or even last century doesn’t mean it can’t be a good beach read this summer of 2019. It also doesn’t mean you can’t take a beloved book down off the shelf to re-read. As the saying goes, “A thing of beauty is a joy forever” and a great book can be, too!

So for you chance at either a $10 Amazon Gift Card or a $10 book from the Book Depository to help you stock up on YOUR summer beach reads, answer the question in the rafflecopter. May your summer be full to the brim with relaxing days, good friends and wonderful books!

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For more fabulous prizes be sure to visit the other stops on the hop!

Guest Review: Sworn to Forget by Maria Imbalzano

Guest Review: Sworn to Forget by Maria ImbalzanoSworn to Forget by Maria Imbalzano
Format: ebook
Source: author
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: contemporary romance
Series: Sworn Sisters #1
Pages: 340
Published by Wild Rose Press on July 18th 2018
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKobo
Goodreads

By all appearances, Nicki Reading is a star. PR director at a major music label, Nicki is sharp, successful, independent, and confidently calls the shots. She dates whom she wants, when she wants, with no strings attached. But beneath that shine, loneliness flickers. Events from her past prove love leads only to pain. Commitment is not an option.

Until Dex Hanover, a classy, principled, and prosperous CPA, enters the picture. Undeterred by his unhappy childhood, he has an amazing capacity to be both caring and generous, giving his free time as a mentor for a child from the projects. Dex wears his paternal yearnings on his sleeve, and he is at a point in his life where commitment is the only option.

Despite their opposing views, Nicki and Dex ignite each other. But will events from their pasts ruin their challenging relationship and prevent them from experiencing everlasting love?

Guest review by Amy:

I’m in the habit of saying nice things about books, even books that other reviewers might find questionable; sometimes, however…well, this time, about the nicest things I can say about this one is that I didn’t spot many typos, and I feel accomplished from actually getting to the end. Reader beware: I’m gonna bring the snark out for this one.

Nicki Reading is on a cruise with her soon-to-be-ex, and meets Dex Hanover, also on the cruise with his soon-to-be-ex. Okay, that sounds like nice spicy fare from the get-go, although both of them are happy to explain at tedious length why they are on a cruise with this other person, and their reasons for dumping their exes are perfectly viable. Because they don’t have any real private space, they hold off on the steamy bits until they return home – convenient, isn’t it, that the two lovebirds live in the same city, not at all far from each other? This would have been a short story, otherwise. Come to think of it, that might have been a mercy, really.

They start seeing each other, the sex is magnificent, things are ticking along pretty well, until abruptly, they aren’t. Dex proposes, and she turns him down flat. You see, Dex wants kids, and Nicki just doesn’t.

Escape Rating: D+: We spend fully half of a way-too-long book exploring why there is this disconnect–Dex wants a big family, and to be the father of several kids, because his father abandoned him and his family when Dex was a youngling (huh?). Nicki was a teen parent, who gave her baby up for adoption, and cannot – CANNOT, I TELLS YA – tolerate being around kids, knowing what a crappy parent she was to her own child by giving him up (again, I say, “huh?”)  I mean, I get why those things in their past hurt them, I really do. But both of them are letting it drive their personalities in weird directions, and they’re not even bothering to tell each other. If they would just communicate with each other, so they could understand each other better, but no, both of these folks are way, way too self-centered, almost to the point of narcissism, and way too determined to make themselves miserable over something that happened ages ago. At many points in the front half of the book, I almost gave up. These characters are nothing at all that I can identify with.

52% in (according to my book reader app), we hit on something resembling some plot:  Turns out that the child Nicki gave up fourteen years ago is not all that far away after all. He was adopted by one of her best gal-pal Denise’s brother-in-law and his wife, who were raising him fine until they were killed in an auto accident. The gal-pal and her husband now have Bobby with them, and are looking to adopt him.  But (PLOT TWIST!) he turns up with leukemia. So another gal-pal, Sam, an attorney, works to get at the real birth records, so they can maybe find a bone marrow donor for the boy.

You can probably write the next chapter or two, can’t you? Sam shows up at Nicki’s office to break the news to her, there’s a fit pitched, drama drama drama. And we know who the father is – Michael, who was “just a friend” to Nicki way back when (grin grin wink wink nudge nudge), and disappeared right as they got out of high school, never to be seen again (my eyes are rolling up in my head here) until recently…when he’s involved with Sam.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

Through this whole hot mess, Nicki is still pining over Dex, but nope-not-havin’-kids-and-that’s-what-he-wants…until she starts to come around to the idea of maybe possibly…so she hits him up.  Yep, he’s still interested. (PLOT TWIST!) and she gets pregnant.  So they’re gonna get married, happily-ever-after, gosh I’ll try my best even though I’m not keen on kids, all for you, baby.

(PLOT TWIST!) Until she miscarries.  And dumps poor Dex, right before the wedding.  It takes us a couple more really contrived twists and turns to get to a happy ending. But for me, the happy ending was not the honeymoon in Bermuda, but simply finishing this one and seeing THE END.

Other people have given this book good reviews, in several venues, and I had truly hoped for better.  It’s the first in a series about these four friends, the Sworn Sisters, but right now, I just can’t wrap my head around reading the second one (Sworn to Remember), which was recently released.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 5-19-19

Sunday Post

It’s  hard to believe that Memorial Day is next weekend. It feels early somehow. Also this is the first year that we haven’t lived in Duluth, GA. The town lines all the major thoroughfares with commemoratives for relatives and ancestors of current residents who served in one of this nation’s armed services, whether that service was during wartime or not. It does bring the significance of the holiday home as you drive by. I say that even though I have a serious problem with all of the markers being crosses. I understand that a simple wooden cross is really easy to create (and inexpensive for the town) but also feels like a slap in the face to anyone who served and was a member of another faith – or no faith at all.

I’ll get down off my soapbox now.

Our black cat, Lucifer, has finally started coming downstairs again during the day. We’re beginning to wonder if the poor baby has seasonal affective disorder as he kind of hibernated for most of the winter. But he’s been increasingly out and about in the house, and its wonderful to see him when we can actually see him. After all, he has the perfect camouflage to hide in the shadows at night. He’s still my nighttime reading buddy, but I love seeing him during the day!

Current Giveaways:

$10 Amazon Gift Card or $10 Book in the May of Books Giveaway Hop
$10 Amazon Gift Card or $10 Book in the May Flowers Giveaway Hop
$10 Amazon Gift Card or $10 Book in the Love in Bloom Giveaway Hop
$10 Amazon Gift Card or $10 Book in the You May Win Giveaway Hop

Blog Recap:

B- Review: Shadowblade by Anna Kashina
A+ Review: The Song of the Jade Lily by Kirsty Manning
Love in Bloom Giveaway Hop
You May Win Giveaway Hop
B+ Review: The Overdue Life of Amy Byler by Kelly Harms
Stacking the Shelves (340)

Coming This Week:

Sworn to Forget by Maria Imbalzano (guest review by Amy)
Life’s a Beach Giveaway Hop
No Saving Throw by Kristin McFarland (blog tour review)
Mission: Her Safety by Anna Hackett (review)
Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City by K.J. Parker (review)

Stacking the Shelves (340)

Stacking the Shelves

I know, I know, I already had an eARC of The Women’s War – but it’s a big book and I was hearing good things and the so many book, so little time conundrum is becoming a force of nature. SOOO I got the audio and I’m in the middle of it and it is SO GOOD that I’ll probably switch to the eARC just to find out what happens next faster. But the audio sure does make the time on the treadmill fly by!

For Review:
Beyond the Horizon by Ella Carey
The Border Keeper by Kerstin Hall
The Dearly Beloved by Cara Wall
Death in a Desert Land (Agatha Christie #3) by Andrew Wilson
The First Girl Child by Amy Harmon
The Gossamer Mage by Julie E. Czerneda
The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite
The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal
The MacInnes Affair by Blair McDowell
The Mage-Fire War (Saga of Recluce #21) by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.
Mission: Her Safety (Team 52 #5) by Anna Hackett
The Passengers by John Marrs
Playing House (Uptown #1) by Ruby Lang

Purchased from Amazon/Audible:
The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon (audio)
The Women’s War by Jenna Glass (audio)

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Review: The Overdue Life of Amy Byler by Kelly Harms

Review: The Overdue Life of Amy Byler by Kelly HarmsThe Overdue Life of Amy Byler by Kelly Harms
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: women's fiction
Pages: 332
Published by Lake Union Publishing on May 1, 2019
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleBook Depository
Goodreads

Overworked and underappreciated, single mom Amy Byler needs a break. So when the guilt-ridden husband who abandoned her shows up and offers to take care of their kids for the summer, she accepts his offer and escapes rural Pennsylvania for New York City.

Usually grounded and mild mannered, Amy finally lets her hair down in the city that never sleeps. She discovers a life filled with culture, sophistication, and—with a little encouragement from her friends—a few blind dates. When one man in particular makes quick work of Amy’s heart, she risks losing herself completely in the unexpected escape, and as the summer comes to an end, Amy realizes too late that she must make an impossible decision: stay in this exciting new chapter of her life, or return to the life she left behind.

But before she can choose, a crisis forces the two worlds together, and Amy must stare down a future where she could lose both sides of herself, and every dream she’s ever nurtured, in the beat of a heart.

My Review:

Even those of us who don’t need an actual #momspringa (because we’re not actual moms) can relate to Amy Byler’s need to take a vacation from her own life to see what’s working, what’s not, what might have been and what might be.

Not that Amy WANTS that vacation from the real, but she certainly does need it. Watching her embrace it makes for a fun and fascinating book, a story about friendship and sisterhood and learning that while having it all may be a myth, having all you really need is definitely possible.

And that “all” is different for each of us – as it is for Amy and her two best friends, Lena and Talia.

Our story begins when Amy spots her “ex” husband at her local small-town pharmacy. John left 3 years ago for a business trip to Hong Kong – and never came back. Leaving her with their two school-age kids, their historic fixer-upper of a house, a library degree that she hadn’t dusted off in ten years and not much else.

She ranted, she raged, she cried but most of all, she coped. Now he’s back and she’s sure that he’s going to disrupt her fragile but workable apple-cart. An apple-cart that has meant that she has turned over her entire life to being the “best” mother possible to make up for the dad who ran away to find himself with a younger woman.

Now he’s back in an attempt to “fix” his relationship with his children. And Amy knows she has to let him try – even though she rightfully doesn’t trust him at all. The kids will be better off with him in their lives – if he sticks this time. He doesn’t need to stick in Bucks County, but he does need to stick to his relationship with them.

He has one chance. She’s letting him have the kids for one week. The kids, who are not fooled by any of this, decide to take him for all he’s worth while he’s around. Not in a bad or entitled way, but making his responsibilities crystal clear – especially since he hasn’t paid a dime in child support while he’s been living it up in Hong Kong.

But that week leaves Amy with a giant-sized hole in her life. For the past three years she hasn’t done anything for herself. She doesn’t know what to do with herself without being constantly needed by her kids, who are now in their teens.

In desperation, she decides to go to New York City, the city she loved when she was single in her 20s, a lifetime ago. She finds a library conference to use as an excuse, and plans to spend a week with a friend she hasn’t seen in years.

When the week turns into an entire summer, and when her friend’s dying magazine uses Amy’s vacation for one last hurrah before they go all digital or fold, a new hashtag is born – #momspringa.

Amy’s #momspringa is both the breaking and the making of her – all at the same time. It makes her question her life and her purpose. Because if she’s not a mother 100% of the time, then who is she? And if she doesn’t take some fulfillment for herself, is she anyone at all?

Escape Rating B+: In the end, I loved this book, but I’ll confess that it had a hard start. And a slightly sticky bit near the end. At the beginning, Amy is extremely invested, understandably so, in being both a mother and more than a bit of a martyr about it.

While the situation makes total sense under the circumstances, I had a difficult time identifying with her until she starts breaking out of the concrete-lined rut she is stuck in – even though that rut is far from being all her own making.

In other words, I had a hard time relating to her intense investment in being a mother and sacrificing herself to that, because it’s not merely not my experience but not an experience I ever wanted.

Her problems with and resentments of the douchebag ex I was completely on board with. Even those of us who have met the “handsome prince” have kissed (and sometimes married) more than a few frogs along the way. And there’s no question this guy was a frog of a husband. Whether he’s also a frog of a father is a big part of the story.

But after the first third of the story, it’s all about Amy’s empowerment, Amy’s steadfast female friendships, and Amy’s journey to find a way to have a fulfilling life that is not 150% wrapped around her kids. Not that those kids aren’t supremely important, but Amy having some life just for Amy is important for them too.

There are also a lot of fun conversations between Amy and her daughter, and between Amy and the colleagues she meets at the conference, about the joys of reading, and about the love of books in general and some books in particular. There’s also some lovely feels about just how marvelous it is to match the right book with the right reader that I really identified with – after all, that is part of the reason that I started this blog and have kept up with it for so many years.

In the end, or rather in the middle, this was a book where I absolutely had to skip to the end to find out whether, after everything, Amy went back to the douchebag ex. Because if she did I was going to die.

I lived. And so does Amy Byler.

TLC
This post is part of a TLC book tour. Click on the logo for more reviews and features.

You May Win Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the You May Win Giveaway Hop, hosted by Mama the Fox!

“You May Win” is the opening line to many a giveaway. (Also many a scam, but this is not a scam, this is a bloghop. You really might win.)

Sometimes the prize is something you really, really would love to have. Sometimes its a castle in the air, a dream come true. Sometimes it’s something small but nice that you wouldn’t get for yourself. Usually it’s somewhere in the middle. Of course, there’s always one of the Disney giveaways that feature a night or two in Cinderella’s castle. That really IS a castle in the air.

Whenever I enter a big giveaway, I NEVER expect to win. Even if the game isn’t rigged – like the old McDonald’s Monopoly thing – the odds are really, really, REALLY long. Still it would be nice if it happened once.

The odds here are not really THAT long. You really might win. As per usual, here at Reading Reality you may win your choice of either a $10 Amazon Gift Card or a $10 Book from the Book Depository. Just answer the question in the rafflecopter for your very own chance!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And for more fabulous prizes, be sure to visit the other stops on this hop!

MamatheFox and all participating blogs are not held responsible for sponsors who fail to fulfill their prize obligations.