‘Daughters of the Bride’ by Susan Mallery

dotb smSTORY: With Joy, Love and a Little Trepidation, Courtney, Sienna and Rachel Invite You to the Most Emotional Wedding of the Year… Their Mother’s

Courtney
~ The Misfit ~

As the awkward one, Courtney Watson may not be as together as her sisters, but she excels at one thing—keeping secrets, including her white-hot affair with a sexy music producer. Planning Mom’s wedding exposes her startling hidden life, changing her family’s view of her—and how she views herself—forever.

Sienna
~ The Free Spirit ~

When Sienna’s boyfriend proposes—in front of her mom and sisters, for crying out loud—he takes her by surprise. She already has two broken engagements under her belt. Should she say “I do” even if she’s not sure she does?

Rachel
~ The Cynic ~

Rachel thought love would last forever…right up until her divorce. As Mom’s wedding day draws near and her ex begs for a second chance, she’s forced to acknowledge some uncomfortable truths about why her marriage failed, and decide if she’ll let pride stand in the way of her own happily-ever-after.

REVIEW: I’m really glad to have chosen this particular book as my first Susan Mallery read.

In one word, this was a DELIGHT! I enjoyed it immensely, from the characters (and there are many!) through the dialogue and onward to humor, shedding a tear or two along the way.

This heartwarming story can teach all of us about family ties and what they really mean. It also perfectly takes you through some very emotional situations that require forgiveness and unconditional love, without it being too “preachy”.

If you want to be entertained and taken on a rollercoaster of emotions, this is the book for you!

Melanie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

‘Captains and the Kings’ by Taylor Caldwell

katk-tcSTORY: Joseph Francis Xavier Armagh is twelve years old when he gets his first glimpse of the promised land of America through a dirty porthole in steerage on an Irish immigrant ship. His long voyage, dogged by tragedy, ends not in the great city of New York but in the bigoted, small town of Winfield, Pennsylvania, where his younger brother, Sean, and his infant sister, Regina, are sent to an orphanage. Joseph toils at whatever work will pay a living wage and plans for the day he can take his siblings away from St. Agnes’s Orphanage and make a home for them all.

Joseph’s journey will catapult him to the highest echelons of power and grant him entry into the most elite political circles. Even as misfortune continues to follow the Armagh family like an ancient curse, Joseph takes his revenge against the uncaring world that once took everything from him. He orchestrates his eldest son Rory’s political ascent from the offspring of an Irish immigrant to US senator. And Joseph will settle for nothing less than the pinnacle of glory: seeing his boy crowned the first Catholic president of the United States.

Spanning seventy years, Captains and the Kings, which was adapted into an eight-part television miniseries, is Taylor Caldwell’s masterpiece about nineteenth- and early twentieth-century America, and the grit, ambition, fortitude, and sheer hubris it takes for an immigrant to survive and thrive in a dynamic new land.

REVIEW: Believe it or not, I read this book twice. The first time I read it was in the late seventies and now. The reason for me reading it the first time was because I watched and loved the mini series of this novel.

You know how they say “the book is better than the movie”? Well, not in this case. After I read the novel the first time, after I saw the series, I felt that the characters were much better flashed out in the series than in the book.

I’m afraid my observations stayed the same. If you really want to find out more of what this story is all about, get the mini series.

Melanie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

‘The Sound of Thunder’ by Taylor Caldwell

tsot-tcSTORY: The son of a socialist German shopkeeper, Edward Enger has one dream: to turn his father’s modest delicatessen into an empire. With an astute head for business and talent for making money, he achieves success beyond his wildest imagination. Yet something is keeping him from enjoying his extraordinary good fortune.

Fourteen-year-old Edward believed he would love ten-year-old Margaret Proster all the days of his life . . . until she moved away. Now, she has returned and is planning to marry another man, someone very close to Edward. His need to succeed at all costs drives him to take on this latest challenge, along with more mortgages, more debt, and speculative investments on Manhattan’s burgeoning Wall Street. A man does not become powerful without making enemies, and as his family life begins to unravel, a day of reckoning is nearing. Soon Edward will have to confront a painful event from his boyhood—a secret buried deep inside that he has never told another living soul.

A man in the right place at the right time, Edward’s meteoric ascent coincides with the rise of America’s middle class as the nation transforms from an agricultural and industrial force to a financial world leader. But his success comes at a great cost in this towering novel of love and sacrifice by one of our most gifted storytellers.

REVIEW: Let me start by saying that I’m not afraid to tackle “thick” tomes (I am a Diana Gabaldone fan, so I’m familiar with books that run over a thousand pages), but this novel that ran just a bit over five hundred pages, would have been so much better if it ran a bit over three hundred pages. There was so much of the story that was just “filling” that I had no other choice but to “skim” through those pages.

The bones and the structure of the story wasn’t bad, but I think the pacing made the story less interesting and appeared to drag at times.

As for the characters, they were all interesting and some were just a bit too over the top, but they kept my interest but by the end, the story wrapped too quickly and left me frustrated.

For me, this read was just okay.

Melanie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

‘Unpunished’ by Lisa Black

u-lbSTORY: Maggie Gardiner, a forensic expert who studies the dead, and Jack Renner, a homicide cop who stalks the living, form an uneasy partnership to solve a series of murders.

It begins with the kind of bizarre death that makes headlines–literally. A copy editor at the Cleveland Herald is found hanging above the grinding wheels of the newspaper assembly line, a wide strap wrapped around his throat. Forensic investigator Maggie Gardiner has her suspicions about this apparent suicide inside the tsunami of tensions that is the news industry today–and when the evidence suggests murder, Maggie has no choice but to place her trust in the one person she doesn’t trust at all . . .

Jack Renner is a killer with a conscience, a vigilante with his own code of honor. In the past, Jack has used his skills and connections as a homicide detective to take the law into his own hands, all in the name of justice. He has only one problem: Maggie knows his secret. She insists he enforce the law, not subvert it. But when more newspaper employees are slain, Jack may be the only person who can help Maggie unmask the killer– even if Jack is still checking names off his own private murder list.

REVIEW: I’ve decided to broaden my horizons and read a book that had no dukes and duchesses, so I grabbed this thriller. I figured if I love thriller and mystery in movies, I may as well find out if the same applies to the written word.

This is the second book in the Gardiner and Renner series (let me note that I haven’t read the first one) and the main characters are Maggie and Renner, she a forensics expert, he a homicide detective. Both are searching for a killer, so the plot wasn’t bad. What I had trouble with is the two leads. I was hoping for some sparks, and couldn’t find any.

In the end I have to say the book was good, but I just wished it concentrated more on character development, rather than the plot and unlimited data of  the newspaper industry.

Melanie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

‘My Not So Perfect Life’ by Sophie Kinsella

mnspl-skSTORY: Katie Brenner has the perfect life: a flat in London, a glamorous job, and a super-cool Instagram feed.

Ok, so the real truth is that she rents a tiny room with no space for a wardrobe, has a hideous commute to a lowly admin job, and the life she shares on Instagram isn’t really hers.

But one day her dreams are bound to come true, aren’t they?

Until her not-so perfect life comes crashing down when her mega-successful boss Demeter gives her the sack. All Katie’s hopes are shattered. She has to move home to Somerset, where she helps her dad with his new glamping business.

Then Demeter and her family book in for a holiday, and Katie sees her chance. But should she get revenge on the woman who ruined her dreams? Or try to get her job back? Does Demeter – the woman with everything – have such an idyllic life herself? Maybe they have more in common than it seems.

And what’s wrong with not-so-perfect, anyway?

REVIEW: Catherine (Cat) Brenner lives in London and battles the tube travel commute every day which take her well over an hour one way. Her boss, Demeter, complains about her 25-minute commute, which makes Cat roll her eyes. Cat works at a branding and strategy agency called Cooper Clemmow. Demeter is married with two children, makes an enormous salary, and lives in a stunning house. Cat, on the other hand, lives in a tiny room and barely makes enough to get by.

Demeter is juggling lots of contracts and depends on her assistant to help her. Unfortunately, Demeter is not liked by many in the office because they feel as though they were passed over for her job.

Cat is trying hard to make friends at work and to try and get noticed by her boss. One day, a handsome man named Alex asks Cat to help him look over some items to decide if they would be worth supporting/branding them. She soon finds out that he is Demeter’s boss. She dreams about how wonderful it would be to date him. She gets embarrassed when her drunken co-worker tells Alex at the office Christmas party that Cat has a crush on him. Mortified, Cat cannot face him.

Cat’s name is actually Katie and she grew up on a farm in the countryside. Her mother passed away when Katie was little and it was her father who raised her. Katie heads home for the Christmas break. Her Dad has always had a lot of get-rich schemes that never paned out. Katie suggests that he offer a country vacation spot complete with yurts, great good, and lots of games and exercise. She even does up a fabulous brochure and after working it through, it becomes a reality. This is a good thing because as soon as Cat gets back to work after Christmas break, Demeter fires her. Totally shocked, she heads back home and tells her Dad she is on sabbatical from her job. So, she delves in and works to make the vacation spot a success.

They get many people coming and enjoying themselves. When Demeter and her family show up, Katie disguises herself and does all she can to get back at Demeter under the guise of healthy exercise. But when Alex arrives to see Demeter, things get really rough.

This is a terrific story that only Sophie Kinsella can write. I have loved all of her books and this one did not disappoint. Grab a copy of this book and come join the fun. I’m betting you will love the story.

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

Connie for b2b

‘The Dressmaker’s Dowry’ by Meredith Jaeger

tdd-mjSTORY: An exquisite ring, passed down through generations, connects two women who learn that love is a choice, and forgiveness is the key to freedom…

San Francisco: 1876

Immigrant dressmakers Hannelore Schaeffer and Margaret O’Brien struggle to provide food for their siblings, while mending delicate clothing for the city’s most affluent ladies. When wealthy Lucas Havensworth enters the shop, Hanna’s future is altered forever. With Margaret’s encouragement and the power of a borrowed green dress, Hanna dares to see herself as worthy of him. Then Margaret disappears, and Hanna turns to Lucas. Braving the gritty streets of the Barbary Coast and daring to enter the mansions of Nob Hill, Hanna stumbles upon Margaret’s fate, forcing her to make a devastating decision…one that will echo through the generations.

San Francisco: Present Day

In her elegant Marina apartment overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge, Sarah Havensworth struggles to complete the novel she quit her job for. Afraid to tell her husband of her writer’s block, Sarah is also hiding a darker secret—one that has haunted her for 14 years. Then a news headline from 1876 sparks inspiration: Missing Dressmakers Believed to be Murdered. Compelled to discover what happened to Hannelore and Margaret, Sarah returns to her roots as a journalist. Will her beautiful heirloom engagement ring uncover a connection to Hanna Schaeffer?

REVIEW: Sarah Havensworth, age 30, and her husband, Hunter, are at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco attending a fancy charity event hosted by Sarah’s mother-in-law, Gwyneth. Sarah does not care for mingling with large crowds of people but when Gwyneth asks for her help with these charity events, she knows she cannot refuse.

Sarah’s master’s thesis is due soon. It consists of a novel she hasn’t finished writing due to writer’s block. She is more interested in the history of San Francisco and has written many well-received articles along that line. When she searches for stories of old San Francisco, she discovers one about two missing dressmakers in the late 19th century. The girls were thought to have been murdered. Thus begins Sarah’s story.

Hannalore Schaffer – San Francisco – 1876

Hanna and her siblings are at the mercy of their drunken father. He takes what little money they earn and then beats them. Often, Hanna will go hungry so her siblings can eat. Hanna works as a seamstress at a tailor’s shop and hides some of the money she makes under a floorboard at home. She hopes to save enough to run away with her siblings.

Margaret O’Brien works with Hanna and is in a similar situation having the responsibility for the care of her many siblings.

One day, two gentlemen come into the shop for repairs to some clothes. Their names are Lucas Havensworth and his cousin, Robert. Lucas is very kind to the girls but Robert is arrogant with them.

One Sunday afternoon, Margaret and Hanna meet to enjoy a few hours walking around San Francisco. There, they see Lucas and Robert who stop and talk to them. As the two men prepare to depart in a carriage, a drunk man accosts Hanna and Margaret, but Lucas intervenes and punches the man. The man becomes very angry and swears he will kill the girls one day.

The story switches back and forth from 1876 to present day San Francisco. We see the very desperate way many people in the city lived and how they struggled. We also see the enormous amount of drinking and opium places and the people addicted to them. As Sarah delves further into researching what happened to the girls, she finds she being threatened by someone who doesn’t want her to find out the truth. In addition, she is hiding something very awful from her own past.

For some reason, this book just didn’t grab me as being realistic. I’m not sure I can say that I would care to recommend the book. I believe this is the author’s first novel so I look forward to reading what she writes next as I think every author needs second chances.

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

Connie for b2b

‘The Mistress’ by Danielle Steel

tm-dsSTORY: Natasha Leonova’s beauty saved her life. Discovered on a freezing Moscow street by a Russian billionaire, she has lived for seven years under his protection, immersed in rarefied luxury, while he pursues his activities in a dark world that she guesses at but never sees. Her home is the world, often on one of Vladimir Stanislas’s spectacular yachts manned by scores of heavily armed crew members. Natasha’s job is to keep Vladimir happy, ask no questions, and be discreet. She knows her place, and the rules. She feels fortunate to be spoiled and protected, and is careful not to dwell on Vladimir’s ruthlessness or the deadly circles he moves in. She experiences only his kindness and generosity and believes he will always keep her safe. She is unfailingly loyal to him in exchange.

Theo Luca is the son of a brilliant, world famous, and difficult artist, Lorenzo Luca, who left his wife and son with a fortune in artwork they refuse to sell. Lorenzo’s widow, Maylis, has transformed their home in St. Paul de Vence into a celebrated restaurant decorated with her late husband’s paintings, and treats it as a museum. There, on a warm June evening, Theo first encounters Natasha, the most exquisite woman he has ever seen. And there, Vladimir lays eyes on Luca’s artwork. Two dangerous obsessions begin.

Theo, a gifted artist in his own right, finds himself feverishly painting Natasha’s image for weeks after their first meeting. Vladimir, enraged that Lorenzo’s works are not for sale, is determined to secure a painting at any price. And Natasha, who knows that she cannot afford to make even one false move, nevertheless begins to think of the freedom she can never have as Vladimir’s mistress. She cannot risk her safety for another man, or even a conversation with him, as Theo longs for a woman he can never have.

From Moscow to the Riviera, Paris, and London, The Mistress is a riveting tale of vast fortune, cruelty, creative genius, and daring courage, as uncompromising individuals chart a course for collision.

REVIEW: The 500 foot yacht, Princess Marina, named for his mother, is owned by Vladimir Stanislos, 49, one of the richest men in Russia whose worth is estimated at $40-$50 billion. His mistress is Natasha Leonova, 26, whom he has been with for 7 years. She had a very poor life as a child and he rescued her off the streets of Russia. She was very sick with pneumonia and he nursed her back to health. Natasha knows that he refuses to have any children with a mistress. But she is the perfect companion who always knows what he needs from her. Vladimir is an art lover and collector and Natasha enjoys it as well. They spend time on their yacht or at one of their other residences around the world.

Maylis Luca is the widow of famed artist, Lorenzo Luca. Their son, Theo. is also a talented artist. Maylis owns a posh restaurant in Cap d’Antibes which displays a number of Lorenzo’s paintings, but none are for sale. Occasionally, Theo helps out at the restaurant when they are short handed.

One night, Vladimir and Natasha have dinner at the restaurant. Both are very taken with Luca’s paintings and want to buy one. However, Maylis gives them a firm no even though Theo encourages her to sell it. Theo thinks Natasha is very beautiful, but he does not care for Vladimir and his arrogant manner. However, when Vladimir offers an outrageously high figure for the painting, Maylis accepts the offer.

Theo is so obsessed with Natasha that he spends an enormous period of time painting her from memory working until he feels it is perfect. When he gifts her with the painting, Vladimir becomes jealous and revenge erupts.

This is a typical Danielle Steel novels that rambles along making it a very easy read. Of course, there are a lot of repeated sentences but that is the signature of this particular author. I have read a number of her books but not all. I chose to read this particular novel because it takes place in my beloved Paris and the south of France. If you are looking for a nice story with lots of descriptions, do pick up this book. It is quite good.

Connie for b2b