P.S. from Paris
Marc Levy translated by Sam Taylor
Self-Pub, Sep 2017
Kindle, 290 Pages
Also available in paperback, audiobook
Genre(s) Contemporary Romance, Foreign
Source Author's rep

Other books by this author

If Only It Were True, All Those Things We Never Said, Replay

My Disclaimer:
I was provided a complimentary copy of this book. I am voluntarily providing an honest review in which all opinions are fully my own. I am not being compensated in any way.
~ Judi E. Easley for Blue Cat Review

What it's about... 

Mia is an actress whose husband David, an actor, has cheated on her once more. In spite of currently starring in the same film with her husband, Mia flees London to hide in her friend's Paris cafe as a waitress.

Paul is trying to recapture his initial success by living in Paris. He thinks he may be in love with his Korean translator, though he can't quite understand why his books are so popular in Korea. 

Arthur, BFF of Paul, and his wife Lauren stop by to see Paul while on vacation. They hook Paul and Mia up on a dating service and hope for the best.

Can two ex-pats solve the problems of the world as well as their own love lives while staying "just friends"? They can try.

Technical Tidbits...  
The cover is mostly writing, but I'm a softie for couples under umbrellas. It's not great, but it's bright and open and it catches the eye. It certainly relates to the story, as well.

The storyline is very interesting and well executed, I felt. A novel way of handling the romance formula of bringing together the lovers who start about as far apart as they could be. It could only be worse if they really disliked each other.

The characters were well developed. You got to know them quickly and they became more rounded out as the story went on. You learned their secrets and idiosyncrasies. You could almost predict what would make them twitch.

The pace was very good. It was fast through the whole story with few exceptions. It kept you focused and totally involved in what the characters were doing, even the secondary characters were interesting.

The tension was there all the way to the end when it finally snapped.

And this is where you STOP if you don't want to see any SPOILERS...

The good, the bad, and the ugly...and how much it lit up my life... ✰✰✰✰

I kept wondering through the whole book why Paul never questioned why his books were so popular in Korea. Why he didn't check that situation out before it reached the point it did. Of course, then it would have spoiled the story. He really had his head down trying not to see what was really going on.

And his Korean translator/mistress who he suddenly decides he's in love with who he doesn't communicate with between books? What's with that? How can he see that as any sort of normal relationship? He's really hiding from life completely. Arthur and Lauren are right to try to get him involved with a real person!

There's the other side of Paul, though. Like when he takes Mia not to the opera but on top of the opera. Yes, he takes her to the rooftop of the opera house to see Paris at night. If that's not a romantic gesture, nothing is. They got in trouble for doing it, but OMG, imagine it! All of Paris at your feet! Lit up at night! Breathtaking. 

And at the Book Faire when everyone is talking about the wrong books, he can't seem to stop them. Because of politics, no one can change the program from what it has been scheduled to be without causing a lot of trouble and people getting into serious trouble. So he can't even really ask what's going on. And the Korean mistress is nowhere! Finally, he gets to sit and talk with the American Ambassador's partner and he has some idea about what's going on. Then his Korean editor shows up and lo and behold look who she is! She tells him the truth about her story and why it had to be a secret. I kept wondering why the political party allowed the books to be printed if they were that incendiary. It would be nothing to them to simply destroy the whole publishing company. But apparently, they allowed several books to be published.

Then Mia disappears and Paul writes his best book yet. He writes Kyong's story. He wins a huge writing award. And then he tells the story behind it all publically.

I loved the way the author ended this. The scene he created is very European in tone. And very romantic!

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Betrayal of Thieves
Legends of Dimmingwood, #2
C. Greenwood
Self-Pub, Dec 2012
Kindle, 181 Pages
Also available in paperback, audiobook
Genre(s) dystopian fantasy
Source purchased

Other books in this series

Magic of Thieves #1, Circle of Thieves #3, Redemption of Thieves#4, Journey of Thieves #5, Rule of Thieves #6

My Disclaimer:
I purchased a copy of this book at the current price. I am voluntarily providing an honest review in which all opinions are fully my own. I am not being compensated in any way.
~ Judi E. Easley for Blue Cat Review

What it's about...  

Following the Fists' raid on the band's hideout, Ilan returns to collect her hidden stash and runs into Terrac. Terrac is there to say good-bye to Ilan. He's finally going to continue on to become a priest as was intended before he was captured by the band. Their goodbye is interrupted by the Fists and they make a run for it.

Terrac isn't as quick as Ilan and ends up badly wounded and taken by the Fists. Ilan has to run. She meets up with a thief named Fleet and she gets to see the underside of the Praetor's city and meet some of it's less savory residents.

Ilan and Fleet set off to locate the priest, Hadrian, with the River folk to get his help because Ilan has decided she has to rescue Terrac from the Praetor's prison. She can't leave him suffering in the hands of the Fists.

Ilan is a girl with big, natural magic in a man's world that has banned magic and destroys those who have it. And somehow she is tied to the Praetor himself, something her parents never told her, something hidden.

Technical Tidbits...  
The cover is done by Michael Gauss for the whole series. They are magical! Absolutely wonderful! They catch your eye, they hold your attention. They relate to the story. They are beautiful artwork. C. Greenwood has chosen very well with these covers.

The storyline was ambitious but didn't seem to quite work out. It sort of fell apart at the end.

The characters have been developing since the first book and will continue through the whole series, I'm sure. Fleet was new and developed very quickly. He became a full-blown character in just a couple of chapters. Ms. Greenwood has a magical touch with characters.

The pace was a bit uneven, fast and frantic for awhile and then just sort of stop and totally idle. 

The tension was not maintained throughout the book because the pace kept changing and you'd wonder what was going on and the story would seem to wander off a bit.

And this is where you STOP if you don't want to see any SPOILERS...

The good, the bad, and the ugly...and how much it lit up my life... ✰✰✰

I had to put this book down and read something else to clear my mind. This is only 181 pages, but for some reason, it seemed to go on and on. I think this series would have been better done as just a couple of larger books and just tighten some things up. This doesn't feel like it should have been a book. It feels like a section of a book that's been stretched to be a book.

The storyline was meant to be a grand quest of rescuing Terrac from the Fists' prison, but he didn't need rescuing. He was wearing fine clothes and riding around with the Praetor's hunting party and training with the Fists themselves. No grand quest. It was a dud.

This whole book is held together by the characters. Ilan, Terrac, Fleet, Hadrian, and the Praeter are the anchors and the story just sort of bounces off them. The overarching story is the real grand quest and deserves to be done as a duology or trilogy so that it can be handled in depth and detail. Stretching it to these six short books has diluted it and distracted from the actual story. I intend to read the whole series of six books because I want to read the whole story, but I would have preferred to do it in fewer, richer books. It is available in a set of the six books, and if you decide to read it I suggest buying it this way and going through the whole thing as one story.

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LIMABEAN DESIGNS announces Premade Cover Group

Limabean Designs now has a Premade Cover Group. Beautifully designed premades in all different genres. Seasonal sales are offered. If you are in need of a cover, look no further! All covers made with love! Send a request to be added to the group. 

Aquamarine Sea, #1
Karen Stensgaard
Sandefur Metz Publishing Company, May 2017
Kindle, 285 Pages
Also available in paperback
Genre(s) Women's Lit, Debut Novel
Source Author

My Disclaimer:
I was provided a complimentary copy of this book. I am voluntarily providing an honest review in which all opinions are fully my own. I am not being compensated in any way.
~ Judi E. Easley for Blue Cat Review

What it's about...  

Kat has been widowed for about a year now. She's just closed down her internal audit business and isn't quite ready to move into a new field. She gets the idea from a picture on a bottle of Aquavit to take a cruise on a vintage clipper ship. In the process, she seems to be attracting men that she's not sure are right for her. Which man might be right for her and wait until her cruise is done? The cruise certainly seems to be very authentic. She has to have a wardrobe appropriate to the time of clipper ships and can't take any technology with her. How intriguing. 

Technical Tidbits...  
The cover is certainly colorful enough to catch the eye and has the bottle of Aquavit on it with the picture of the clipper ship. However, the overall look of the cover was just too garish to me. The mosaic background didn't create the right background for the bottle. The bottle just got lost in all that color and wasn't the focus. Something a bit quieter would have been better, I think.

The storyline was pretty good, but it's obviously only part of the story. Those of you who have read me for any time now know how I feel about stories that rely on more than one book to tell a story. For those of you who are new to my blog, I'll enlighten you. I feel a book should contain a complete story. It may be part of a larger story or a series, but you should not have to buy more than one book to get a story. I don't like cliffhangers or limp closings in books. I don't mind having questions when there is a continuing story as long as the book I'm reading has an ending to it. It needs to be the logical stopping point in a larger story if it's not a story all its own.

The characters needed more developing, but I suppose that will happen over time with the next book.

The pace was good. Kat is one of those characters that things just keep happening around and who doesn't sit still for long. She moved on from one thing to another and didn't let the dust settle.

The tension was amazing. I remember when I got to the last page I let out my breath, not realizing I'd been holding it. I had to let the tension go! But a cliffhanger, Ggrrrrhhh...

And this is where you STOP if you don't want to see any SPOILERS...

The good, the bad, and the ugly...and how much it lit up my life... ✰✰✰⭒

I'm sure you can guess what my big beef is with this book. I just can't stand it when a book ends on an extremely stressful cliffhanger. I don't know what the author has planned for this book, but this is the type of thing I'm used to seeing from self-published authors. Not from publishing houses. But since the author is the publishing house, I guess that really makes this a self-published work and that changes things. There really does tend to be a different tone to books that are published by publishing houses as compared to those that are self-published. That's not to take anything away from self-published authors. I really support them and am always happy to read and review their books. And I do love them! I do, however, find a difference in what I read because of editors and such. 

Now, back to the book. The three men in Kat's life were great. I thought they were a really nice assortment. Greg and his snap changes of personality. Charlie and his possible ulterior motives, and Matteo and his possible outside interests. They were all nice enough to be possibilities, but then they all had their faults as well. I really didn't like Greg from the beginning because of his age. The other two were okay until I found out about Matteo's little secret. Then when Kat finally manages to get to Denmark to see her brother-in-law and his unwelcoming wife, she gets told her husband had been planning on leaving her when he died. How could that be? And because she didn't need him anymore? Strange idea. Interesting concept to set off on a clipper ship with, though.

I'm intrigued with this clipper ship business. They have asked all sorts of questions. They have made all sorts of rules about what she can and cannot take. She has to have clothing that is authentic to the clipper ship time. She can't take anything from modern times with her. They pack it up and take it away! Even underwear! It makes you wonder just what is going to happen on this cruise. And she has just met three men. Is she really going to leave behind three new men while she sails off for months all alone? 

I have no idea when the next book is due out, but it should be interesting to see what happens and how many books this story is intended to last for. The author's profile says she has more books with Kat's adventures underway, so let's hope we don't have to wait for the next installment.

Please, sit down and eat with us...again.

Gone With the Wings
Meera Patel, Book #1
Leena Clover
Self-Pub, Jun 2017
Kindle, 243 Pages
Also available in paperback
Genre(s) Asian-American Cozy Mystery/Food
Source Author's Rep

Other books in this series

A Pocket Full of Pie #2, For a Few Dumplings More #3, Back to the Fajitas #4

My Disclaimer:
I was provided a complimentary copy of this book. I am voluntarily providing an honest review in which all opinions are fully my own. I am not being compensated in any way.
~ Judi E. Easley for Blue Cat Review

What it's about... 

Meera Patel is an Asian-American woman who has dropped out of grad school and now works at the local university library shelving books and telling students where to go. Yeah...

Meera's father is a highly regarded professor at this university and has an assistant that Meera absolutely can't get along with. The two young women have been enemies since they were young children. They even have trouble being polite to one another.

So when the assistant is found floating in a pond, Meera is the logical suspect. Even some of her friends and family look at her strangely. Then she is accused of a second crime and has no defense.

Meera's best friend, Tony, runs the gas station in town. He and Meera start trying to work out who really did it and if the two crimes are related so the police will stop harassing Meera.  

Technical Tidbits...  
The cover is rather delightful with its folk art painting look. The lovely medium teal blue with the fall colors against it really makes a lovely eye-catching color scheme. And the style of the artwork is charming. High marks for the cover!

The storyline was rather good. It's one I'm sure we've all read in any number of books and seen in movies. But Ms. Clover has added some aspects to distract from that.

The characters, for instance, were highly attractive and diverse given their culture and the fact that they still participated in the many aspects and festivals of their culture. They wore the costumes and used the many props of their culture without embarrassment or stigma. They kept the richness of their cultural activities alive through the celebration of their holidays, clothing, and food. Particularly their food. 

The pace was brisk and kept your attention on what was happening or might be coming up next. It seemed that there was always something going on. Usually another meal. The tension wasn't significantly helped by all the things that went on. Some things simply happened and really didn't seem to move the story along in any way. It was a side activity.

And this is where you STOP if you don't want to see any SPOILERS...

The good, the bad, and the ugly...and how much it lit up my life... ✰✰✰✰

I obviously don't like food anywhere near as much as the author does. It seemed like any time Meera stopped to breathe in the book, she had to eat. Whether she cooked the food or someone else provided the food. And we were treated to a full description of every item she ate. If she cooked it, we were given the whole list of ingredients and had to cook with her. They even talked about food a lot. It got to a point that I started skipping those parts. I hope I didn't miss anything important.

I did like the way Ms. Clover defined the relationship between Meera and Tony. They obviously had been friends since they were children and have remained close. They are just waiting for the right time to take their relationship over the line to make it more than a friendship. It was only mentioned once, but it set the tone for how they interacted with each other and others.

I'm not convinced of the believability of the conclusion. It just didn't seem feasible to me. Two schools, two states, two countries. Just too disparate for me. Just my opinion.

A question for the future series...
Who was the woman in the rental car who picked up the missing girl and was she the same woman who followed Tony and Meera to Wichita? Could it be she's finally fallen out of the tornado? I know that's more than one question, but it's all tied together as you'll see once you read the book.

728 wc

What's the difference?

Fleet Week Romance, #1
Marie Johnston
Self-Pub, Jun 2015
Ebook, 66 Pages
Only in Digital Format
Genre(s) Contemporary Romance, Military Romance
Source Author

Other books in this series

Shooter #2

My Disclaimer:
I was provided a complimentary copy of this book. I am voluntarily providing an honest review in which all opinions are fully my own. I am not being compensated in any way.
~ Judi E. Easley for Blue Cat Review

What it's about... 

Olivia has given David one last chance. If he stands her up again, they are finished. He can't accept that she's serious.

Kane is a Navy Lieutenant on a ship tied up at a pier in NYC for Fleet Week. He can't resist the lovely lady steaming over her phone at the table next to him.

With very limited time allowed by the ship, Kane works on convincing Olivia to attempt a long-distance relationship as his ship gets ready to leave on deployment for half a year or so. She agrees, but really isn't sure this is the thing for her or that it will work.

Can e-mail and the occasional phone call hold a relationship together? A fragile, new one? What's the difference between a workaholic boyfriend who stands her up and a boyfriend who isn't there and can only send emails? Olivia really has to think this one through.  

Technical Tidbits...  
The cover has that great blue with a Navy ship facing the Statue of Liberty so we know immediately where we are. In front of those is a very attractive young couple looking hot, but a bit shy, just like Kane and Olivia. And she's the one pulling back a bit. I think this cover really hits the spot on portraying the story and it's attractive into the bargain!

The storyline is very interesting and so much like real life. Having been in the Navy and married to a sailor, I'm aware of all sorts of ways sailors get together. When the ship is tied at the pier for a Fleet Week type thing, all sorts of things can happen. The wives who can, all travel to be their with their husbands wherever the ship has pulled in. The single guys go out on the town for the most part. 

And the lack of communication while the ship is underway is accurate. You never know when you'll be able to talk or send email. You write letters a lot, since you know those will be delivered fairly regularly. It's not easy, it takes effort.

The characters are great. They are real people you could get to know.

The pace is good. It's not terribly fast. The beginning has to move along because you have to feel they don't have much time. But then you have to feel the time dragging during the cruise while they are apart, so things slow down in the middle. They pick up again as the ship nears the end of the cruise and communication gets easier and Olivia starts to see what Kane was trying to tell her.

The tension is there throughout. I kept feeling like I should sit down and talk with Olivia about what Kane was going through and why it takes effort on both parties parts. And what a low-down dog her ex was!

And this is where you STOP if you don't want to see any SPOILERS...

The good, the bad, and the ugly...and how much it lit up my life... ✰✰✰✰✰

Olivia and Kane were absolutely adorable! They were both young, attractive people who just wanted to be in a solid relationship and be valued for what they were. Kane was the perfect man for Olivia to meet after the neglect she had suffered from David. Kane would almost worship her, and she needed someone who would really value her and bolster her up. It's not that she needed to be treated like a princess, but after being second best to David's ambition, she needed some bolstering.

Once she figured out what the difference is between a boyfriend who stands you up and one who just isn't there for months at a time, she starts to understand Kane more and more. And to value him!

When David pulls his nasty trick, I wanted to cry right along with Olivia. Did he really think that she would take him back if he did something like that? BUT, it bothered me that Kane immediately accepted what David said on the phone. Didn't he have any faith in Olivia? I know it was a strange situation, but why take David's word. Why didn't he ask to speak with Olivia?

This is only 66 pages, but there's a whole lot packed into it. The second book is about half again as long, so the series is getting larger, at least.

Turbulence and Triumph Books One & Two

Ocean's Justice
Ocean's Gift 
Turbulence and Triumph #1
Demelza Carlton
Lost Plot Press, Sep 2014
Kindle, 172 Pages
Also available in paperback
Genre(s) Fairy Re-tale in 6 Parts
Source Author

Ocean's Trial
Ocean's Gift 
Turbulence and Triumph #2
Demelza Carlton
Lost Plot Press, Sep 2014
Kindle, 158 Pages
Also available in paperback
Genre(s) Fairy Re-tale

Source Author

Other books in this series:
Ocean's Triumph #3, Ocean's Ride #4, Ocean's Cage #5, Ocean's Birth #6

My Disclaimer:
I was provided complimentary copies of these books. I am voluntarily providing an honest review in which all opinions are fully my own. I am not being compensated in any way.
~ Judi E. Easley for Blue Cat Review

What it's about...Ocean's Justice 

This is the first part of six, so there is no ending to this book. The story stops at a stopping place and picks up in the next book. To get the whole story, you must read all six books. I'm reviewing only the two that I read. This first one finds our main character, Maria, adrift on a raft at sea. She's nude, speaks no English (the language of the sailors of this ship that "rescue" her), but understands some Dutch. She has memories of a ship's fire and men dying when the ship sunk. She remembers a man named Giuseppe. And she has been turned out of her home for some reason.

William McGregor is a handsome Scotsman. He's a passenger on the Trevessa, looking for a bit of adventure along with his employment. He's not adverse to a lovely lady either. Mr. McGregor gives Maria his protection as the superstitious sailors are all for tossing the beautiful woman back to the ocean when she can't tell them her story. Either that or raping her. But William can't be everywhere to protect her, even though he tries.

In spite of life boats and the Captain's infamous canned milk, the weather, the sea, and sailors' superstitions have their way. Once more, Maria is adrift at sea and picked up by another ship. This time she's better prepared. 

Technical Tidbits...  
The cover is a bit on the plain side to me. Though I liked it. There are two covers, it seems. The one I had is the one with the mermaid on it that I show above. I like the composition and all. I just think it needs more color and embellishment, a bit more drama to make it match the story that's in the book.

The storyline is good. It's not totally original as this is a retelling of the fairy tale, The Little Mermaid. I haven't read the original story. I suppose someday I should do that, since there are so many retellings of it these days. I should know what the original is, so I can tell what these other authors are changing or embellishing.

The characters were fairly good. It was difficult to really know any particular character. There wasn't a lot of background on anyone. I think Mr. McGregor got the most detail actually. Maria is still something of a mystery, though you are supposed to "know" her already by knowing what she is. Ms. Carlton added some interesting touches to the crew, like Mr. Kaito, the green-tea drinking cook with the interesting fighting style. And Captain Foster who wanted all life boats to be stocked with canned milk. There's also young Charlie, who thinks Maria should be his because of their age similarities. He keeps interrupting William and Maria to get her to come and do things with him. 

The pace was fast. Poor Mr. McGregor was kept really busy trying to keep Maria safe. Between the weather and the other sailors with their ill intent, he really had his hands full right up until the final storm. That's when Maria took a hand in things, too.

The tension was pretty consistent right up until the end. It was like waiting to see who was going to stick a knife in your back in a dark place. Who's going to kill William? Or who was going to get their hands on Maria? What will the next rescue lead to?

What it's about...Ocean's Trial 
This book starts off right where the first one ends. Maria's been rescued by an English-speaking crew again, but this time there's no threat to her life. She's been kept a secret and smuggled to shore in Freemantle to live with Merry D'Angelo, a very nice widow. Her command of English has improved greatly, thanks to Merry, and she's posing as Merry's niece, a fisherman's widow.

She's working hard alongside the fishermen helping sell their fish and has earned their respect because she really knows her fish. There's one young fisherman who feels a lot more than respect for her, too. Tony and Maria work closely together and are great friends, and Tony would like to take their friendship further. But her pasts are catching up with her. Yes. Pasts. She needs to find out what happened to William McGregor in that final storm. Is he still alive and does he still love her? But older connections are catching up with her as well. And these may prove deadly. 

Technical Tidbits...  
The cover wasn't one that I really cared for. I didn't feel it said much about the story. There were so many dramatic scenes that could have been depicted on it. What was used was disappointingly drab.

The storyline is again, a continuation of the retelling of The Little Mermaid story. The author has created a wonderful "down under" freedom to the story by placing it in Australia.

The characters continue to develop as the story continues. We learn so much more about Maria's story when she meets up with a significant person from her past. We learn more about how her species see humans, as well and how different she really is.

The pace continues fast and furious in this second book, especially once Maria decides to take off on her journey.

The tension remained consistent throughout this second book. While some questions were answered from the first book, there were more questions piled on that now need answers and make you want to pick up the third book to get them.

And this is where you STOP reading if you don't want any SPOILERS...

The good, the bad, and the ugly...and how much it lit up my life... ✰✰✰✰

I kept trying to remind myself that voyages such as these would take months to complete and that there would be plenty of time for Maria to learn the language. However, there was nothing in the story to make me slow down and keep that thought in my head. Everything was happening fast and furious, so it seemed like she was something of a "Super Woman" learning the language very quickly with William. Then when she was with Merry, she learned to speak and act like a lady in a very short time. That was another leap forward.

It wasn't just the language, either. She understood the value of those pearls when she found the moaning oysters. She understood the beauty of them for jewelry and had a necklace made, as well the the financial aspect of them and how to get the best price for them. All this for a simple girl from the sea? Hhmmmm...

When Maria has her confrontation with her mother, her mother says Maria should just seduce the human male and get pregnant, then kill him and come home to become the head of the Council. Since Maria's older sister is dead, it is Maria's duty. There is a comment made about the older sister's death, but no explanation about how she died. Is Maria responsible for her sister's death somehow? Is that why she is banned from her home? Is getting pregnant by a human the only way she will be allowed to come home? I'm still confused about that. I still want an answer to that part. But Maria doesn't see humans as disposable. She's in love with William. She loves Merry almost as a mother. She loves Tony sort of like a brother, but maybe as more. That's why she needs to find out if William is still alive and loves her.

BTW, this being adrift thing is getting a bit old. She starts out adrift on a raft and the Trevessa picks her up. Then the Trevessa sinks in a storm and she's adrift in a life boat for Merry's friends to find her. Then at the end there she stows away on the way to Christmas Island. That's almost as bad as adrift. One of these days, she's going to have to buy a ticket and get her own cabin. She probably doesn't have that kind of luck. Seems to me the story of The Little Mermaid is a sad one all the way to the end.

You need to understand that I really do judge covers! Not with stars, but I love a great cover on a good book. There were so many good things that could have been on this second cover. Maria could have been in a life boat. They could have used the pearls somehow and brought that part out. Or Maria perched on the ship as she stowed away to Christmas Island. Maria at the fish market with that huge fish that only she could identify would have been a great cover.



These are the four covers for the other books in this series. I haven't read these books (just the synopses), but I feel they probably could be better, too. The one I like the best, is the last one on Ocean's Birth. It shows the drama of what Maria is up again and the main cause of the drama without giving away any part of the story. It is so dark, though. 

50 Years is a Long Time to Keep a Secret

The Stationmaster's Cottage
A River End's Love Story, Book 1
Phillipa Nefri Clark
Feb 14, 2017, 340 pages

Also available in paperback
Genre(s) Historical Romance, Contemporary Romance
Source NetGalley

Other books in this series:  

Jasmine Sea Book 2

My Disclaimer:
I was provided a complimentary copy of this book. I am voluntarily providing an honest review in which all opinions are fully my own. I am not being compensated in any way.
~ Judi E. Easley for Blue Cat Review

What it's about... 

Christie is a professional make-up artist just back from a big photo shoot. She lives with Derek.

Derek is a real estate developer with tickets to go on holiday to Lizard Island before Christie's even unpacked. No problem, he's packed for her. Let's go! 

But just as they are going out the door, Christie receives a telegram from Angus, a long-time family retainer, telling her that Gran has died and Christie is needed for the estate and the funeral. Well, of course, she is. Gran was her only relative. Gran saw to her after her parents died. And now she's dead.

Christie arrives in River's End grieving for Gran, confused about Derek and their relationship, and exhausted beyond belief desperately trying to understand what's going on or more accurately, what's happened.

She needs sleep, answers, and support. None of which is going to happen anytime soon, it seems. Why has Gran left her the cottage? What is the story behind the damaged painting in the tube? Why were the love letters never opened? Who was the older woman in the cemetery? What does the handsome surfer have to do with all of this? Why is his dog so sweet and he's so surly? And why has Derek left her to deal with all of this on her own? 

Technical Tidbits...  
I loved the cover with the parchment as a reference to the old letters. The picture of the old cottage with the key to the cottage or the box were nice touches as well. And the red ribbon to tie the letters up was another nice reference to the story. Together they all created a charming cover for a wonderful story!

The storyline was great. The author took us back and forth between the two main relationships and time to tell the whole story, which created nice depth to both stories. It added nice depth to the characters as well as you learned things that happened before and during their youth and current times. 

The pace was good throughout. Each time I thought it might start to lag, it would pick right up. It was just time to take a breath before moving in another direction.

The tension never lets up from page one until the end. It holds your attention in a way that doesn't let you relax enough to put it down until you know all the answers to Christie's questions. The quality of the writing is such that you are able to work things out right along with her and sometimes a bit before her. No magical surprises at the very end that you couldn't have foreseen

And this is where you STOP reading if you don't want to see any SPOILERS...

The good, the bad, and the ugly...and how much it lit up my life... ✰✰✰✰✰

Here sits Christie with the funeral of her last relative, so she thinks, and a complete mystery on her hands; and her boyfriend has gone off on holiday and is scheming with another woman against Christie. Me? I would have had a bit more to say before my flight and I would have blocked all Derek's calls. I never would have taken a single one of them. Instead, she's justifying what's going on and planning to straighten their relationship out when she gets home. How they have to support each other. Be more aware of each other's needs. Hmmm. No.

All this time, Derek is partying and planning to do a real estate deal along with his friend Ingrid. They want to develop the land the cottage is on. And everyone seems to know this but Christie! I thought they did her a favor when they interfered with her next job. It gave her the excuse she wanted to change the focus of how she worked. She can be angry about their meddling, but she really can't be upset about the outcome.

Martin Blake, a local artist building a wider renown with his colorful paintings. So different from his grandfather's work. 
He's drawn to Christie but doesn't like the trouble that comes with her. His dog, Randall, adores her and he trusts Randall's judgment about people.

Now, if Martin would only stop shutting down and sit and talk with Christie about things. And if Christie would share her part of the story with him, they would have the story all put together probably by lunch on the third day with just a few gaps. Gaps that Angus can help them fill in by reading Gran's letter to Christie so she can find the last puzzle piece. But, no, neither one can share what they know. Of course, if they did this would be a short story instead of a novel.

Frannie claimed to love Thomas and to be the best friend of Martha, Gran's younger sister. The three of them were always together, friends. Thomas and Martha had just had their engagement party when Frannie played the first part of her nasty trick that split them up. What kind of best friend would do that? That's not love. That's possession, control, jealousy. Then to follow through with the second act, that was just evil. For a sister to stand by and knowingly allow it to happen is unforgivable. And to keep that secret from the two involved for 50 years is inexcusable. To pass it off to an unknowing young woman is cowardly. 

I loved the times that Christie got to be alone in the cottage and to explore and discover its treasures. She had learned to care for plants from Gran. To find that the cottage had orchards and gardens made her very happy. It was something she had been missing in her city life. She even enjoyed cleaning it and making it her own. Making it a home. These were the breathing moments among the mad tension of the mystery about the letters, the painting, the lovers, and the handsome surfer.

What Happens After 50?

Invisible Women
Sarah Long
Bonnier Zaffre, 

Oct 5, 2017
Kindle, 273 Pages
Also available in paperback and audiobook
Genre(s) Women's Lit, Women's Passages
Source NetGalley

My Disclaimer:
I was provided a complimentary copy of this book. I am voluntarily providing an honest review in which all opinions are fully my own. I am not being compensated in any way.
~ Judi E. Easley for Blue Cat Review

What it's about:
Sarah Long has put herself into the ranks of Jill Mansell, Patricia Sands, Connie Chappell, and Anita Hughes with her book Invisible Women. She takes Tessa, Harriet, and Sandra, who have been friends forever and are now all passed their 50th birthday, and challenges them to find something worthwhile within themselves. Each of them sees something a bit different. Sandra is still slim and active and has the youngest child among the women. She still sees herself as young and sexy. She also has a young builder working around her house. Her husband is depressed and is in counseling with a life counselor who seems to be helping him a lot.

Tessa feels a bit frumpy and has just sent her "baby" off to university. She's been stalking her daughter on Facebook and runs into an old boyfriend of her own on there. He seems to be interested in getting together when he's in town on business to talk over old times. Her husband goes off to his high-paying job each day with some snipe at her. Lately he's been doing it more and more. She prepares gourmet meals and he has always enjoyed them. Now he's making remarks about how she's overdoing it.

Harriet's mother-in-law has always been healthy and independent, until this latest diagnosis. Now, she's living downstairs and Harriet is her caretaker. She takes her to all her doctor appointments and waits on her hand and foot. Her husband gets up and goes to work each day and leaves it all to her to handle. Then one of their dogs dies and her husband wants to have a talk with her.

Each woman seems to be at something of a decision time or change of passage in their life. One where what they've been doing is no longer going to work and it may hurt or it may feel really good, depending on how you look at it or how the other person in the relationship feels about it.

The technical bits and pieces:
The characters were done quite well, especially Tessa, who I think really got the most coverage in the book. I liked her the best, too. Sandra's story got the second most coverage it seemed, but it also seemed to be slipped into some cracks and into shadows. That may have been a perception, though, because I saw Sandra as sneaky. And then there was Harriet, who had small blocks of time to tell her story. Poor boring Harriet. She wasn't, but she was made to seem to be.

The storyline was excellent. This isn't an unusual storyline for Women's Lit, in fact it's fairly common. It's what the author does with it that makes the story. And Sarah Long had a wonderful time with it. She treated it like a new Christmas tree and decorated it in her own special way, made it her very own with excellent pacing and a tension that hung on to you right up until the very end.

So, if you don't want any SPOILERS, this is where you STOP reading...

My Review: ✰✰✰✰✰
I usually enjoy this type of book about a group of women, but this one by Sarah Long was particularly good. I think the tension and pace of it really made it good. There was no dragging, no lag to it. It just kept moving along and telling its story and holding my attention right up until the end.

I found myself reacting to the characters, not the writing, which tells me the author did her job well. For instance, it wasn't that I didn't like the way Sandra was written, I didn't like Sandra. She was sly and always had to have a man to play off of, even if it was her best friend's husband or her daughter's boyfriend. As long as it wasn't her own husband. I was glad everything ended up falling apart at the end in all her relationships, even though it meant she got her man.

I really like Tessa. She was usually upbeat and fixing something that sounded delicious to feed someone she loved. She worried about her son and daughter and hadn't quite totally settled into being an empty nester yet. She put up with her husband's snide remarks with more patience than I would. Then, when John finds her on Facebook and wants to get together for lunch while he's in London, she figures, why not? Now, that "why not" has a lot of guilt tucked into it, because married women aren't supposed to get together with old boyfriends. When John's trip gets cancelled and lunch turns into dinner at a fancy resort, it becomes an even guiltier secret. Now there are real lies involved. But she gets caught up in the whole thing and one thing leads to another until she has to stop and think about it. She makes her decision about what is important to her, her family or John. She asked herself the real questions. The practical questions about what her life would be like. How would she see her children? How would they view what she was doing? And she asked herself what was really important to her. And who she really loved.

It was no surprise when Tessa made her decision. You knew her values already. She wasn't Sandra. Tessa's family was her center. It's what she valued most. Her husband, Matt, was who she loved. And she needed to be close to her children. It was the way she faced her husband and dealt with the situation that was so amazing. He had a few surprises of his own, too. It was a really eye-opening conversation.

And don't forget Harriet. Yes, even she has her moment and her reward. Totally out of nowhere, but her husband, Sam, is a quiet one. But apparently he, too, appreciates what a good wife is worth over the years. So in the end, they all got what would make them the happiest. And you know how much I love a happy ending!

A story within a story...

Millie's Fling
Jill Mansell
Sourcebooks Landmark, Sep 2009
Kindle, 514 Pages
Also available in hardcover, paperback, audiobook
Genre(s) Women's Lit, Contemporary Romance
Source Amazon

My Disclaimer:
I purchased a copy of this book at the current price as part of a three book set. I am voluntarily providing an honest review in which all opinions are fully my own. I am not being compensated in any way.
~ Judi E. Easley for Blue Cat Review

My Review: ✰✰✰✰
This is a story within a story. It's a story by a woman writing a story by a woman about the day-to-day happenings in a woman's life. And what a life! If something can go wrong in Millie Brady's life, it usually does, in the weirdest way possible. She's out for a drive with her current boyfriend hoping he's not building up to asking her to marry him while they're pulled off in this lay-by when she sees a woman who looks like she's thinking of jumping off the cliff. Millie jumps out of the car and goes off to rescue the woman. The woman just happens to be Orla Hart, best-selling author and celebrity. Women being women and our author being Jill Mansell, they get to talking, her boyfriend leaves in a tiff, and the women become close friends.

Being a Jill Mansell novel, Orla decides to base her new novel on Millie's life. She pays her a chunk of money and Millie has to report to her about the things that happen in her life. And Orla wants ALL the dirt! But Millie's holding one certain thing back that Orla knows nothing about. And it might be the most important part of the whole crazy story.

Technical Bits 'n' Pieces:
The characters were very well developed. You really felt like you knew these people and could walk up to them and they would be real. Their histories were interwoven well and I loved the way Hugh kept popping up as everyone's website developer or computer geek. Word-of-mouth will do that for a small business person, ha, ha.

The story line was great overall, but it did get bogged down a bit in the middle when day-to-day got a bit pedestrian. I wanted things to happen, but nothing was happening for Millie. It was all business as usual for everyone. The pace ties in here with this. It was pretty fast for this type of book, except for the middle part where it seemed to bog down and sort of crawl. Once it picked up again, it was even crazier than ever.

There's violence that's only "women's stuff". And there's sex without the sex, if you know what I mean. It's either behind closed doors, upstairs, or fluffed over. The intent is there though, just not the graphics.

STOP here if you don't want any SPOILERS:
I had a really hard time with the fall-out from the wallet incident. It was one thing for Millie to pull the original prank of making the phone call once they had found the wallet. Wrapping it up and returning it with a note of apology was the appropriate thing to do when she'd found out that the owner's wife had recently died. But to try to call again to apologize was not appropriate. It was not to apologize. He was right, it was to make herself feel better, not him. She should never have done that. BUT, if she hadn't, we wouldn't have a book because Millie and Hugh would never have met.

Hester deserved to lose Nat! She cheated with a guy she'd been after for years! And Nat has to be totally soft between the ears to take what happened without getting pissed off. No guy accepts that without a blink and then they all work happily in the same place? Life just doesn't work that way. Hester isn't a very nice person, no matter how many pairs of earrings she sells at half-price to pimply teenagers.

I did love the way that Orla's great nemesis, Christie Carson the author who'd trashed her last book in his review, turned out to be the new love of her life. His review was what set her on the track of needing a new approach to writing and how she ended up writing Millie's book. I thought that was the best twist at the end.

It seems like in a Jill Mansell novel the "right" people get the prizes and the "wrong" people get what they deserve. Tim and his wife really deserved what they got - each other. And Millie's Mom ended up out in the cold. She did so much damage, but people didn't want reparation, they just wanted her gone.

What Mr. Easley's Class Thought of the Book...

When Zachary Beaver Came to Town
Kimberly Willis Holt
Square Fish, 2011
Paperback, 227 Pages
Also available in hardcover, paperback, audiobook
Genre(s) middle grade, coming of age
Source Mr. Easley

The red words painted on the trailer caused quite a buzz around town and before an hour was up, half of Antler was standing in line with two dollars clutched in hand to see the fattest boy in the world.

Toby Wilson is having the toughest summer of his life. It's the summer his mother leaves for good; the summer his best friend's brother returns from Vietnam in a coffin. And the summer that Zachary Beaver, the fattest boy in the world, arrives in their sleepy Texas town. While it's a summer filled with heartache of every kind, it's also a summer of new friendships gained and old friendships renewed. And it's Zachary Beaver who turns the town of Antler upside down and leaves everyone, especially Toby, changed forever.

With understated elegance, Kimberly Willis Holt tells a compelling coming-of-age story about a thirteen-year-old boy struggling to find himself in an imperfect world. At turns passionate and humorous, this extraordinary novel deals sensitively and candidly with obesity, war, and the true power of friendship.

When Zachary Beaver Came to Town is the winner of the 1999 National Book Award for Young People's Literature. This title has Common Core connections.


Kimberly Willis Holt is the author of the Piper Reed series, including Piper Reed, Navy Brat, Piper Reed, Clubhouse Queen, and Piper Reed, Rodeo Star. She has written many award-winning novels, including The Water Seeker and My Louisiana Sky, as well as the picture books Waiting for Gregory and Skinny Brown Dog. A former Navy brat herself, Holt was born in Pensacola, Florida, and lived all over the U.S. and the world—from Paris to Norfolk to Guam to New Orleans. Holt long dreamed of being a writer, but first worked as a radio news director, marketed a water park, and was an interior decorator, among other jobs. A few years after she started writing, her third book, When Zachary Beaver Came to Town, won a National Book Award for Young People's Literature. She resides in West Texas with her family.

My Disclaimer:
I was loaned a copy of this book by Mr. Easley. I am voluntarily providing an honest review in which all opinions are fully my own. I am not being compensated in any way.
~ Judi E. Easley for Blue Cat Review

My Review: ✰✰✰✰✰

The writing in this middle-grade book is simply wonderful. I wish Ms. Holt wrote for adults. The pictures she creates with her words are beautiful. This is what she wrote about the evening when they released the ladybugs just before sunset. "it's as if someone has dumped rubies from heaven. Soon they will land on the plants in search of bollworm eggs. But right now they are magic--red ribbons flying over our heads, weaving against the pink sky, dancing up there with Mozart...One group of ladybugs soars high into the sky, then suddenly dips low like a flock of birds flying perfect rhythm." If that doesn't paint a picture in your mind, nothing will.

The characters were well-done, too. Cal seems to be such a little stinker, when in fact he is the one who instigates some really nice things. He's the idea man behind Toby's action. For instance, he's the one who suggests going to the drive-in. He's also able to keep a secret, especially when it's not anything anyone else needs to know.

Toby. Poor Toby is having a really tough summer. His mother has supposedly gone off to a singing contest, but he knows the truth deep inside. He knows she's not coming back and he's really angry with her. So he stops reading her letters and won't speak with her on the phone. And he's there when the Army comes to Cal's family to tell them that Wayne won't be coming home from Vietnam. And he had so looked up to Wayne and all the thoughtful things he had done. He had been a real role model for people all over town. And when he finally gets a chance with Scarlett, she tells him she likes him because he's the nicest boy in town, but she doesn't like him that way. Then he and Cal have to remake their friendship and he learns that true friendship can't really be broken. It's a summer for taking steps away from childhood. For learning some hard truths. For finding out there are some things you can always count on. For learning what is worth the effort in life.

This is a middle-grade book, but it still has things to say to an adult. It would be a great book to share with a child in that middle-grade age and share its messages. Let's see what Mr. Easley's class has to say about the book. They were asked to answer these questions for me. 

What was your favorite incident in the book and why? Who was your favorite character in the book and why? What would you rate this book?

One student said: " My favorite character is Cal because somehow I can relate with him. I rate this book because it was a book where kids can relate to similar problems and how kids that are 12 have to solve these problems. My least favorite character is Tara because she is an annoying sister like my sister. Overall score is 100%"

Another student had this to say, "My favorite part was at the end of the book because it was a satisfying ending to the book. I'd rate it a 5/5 since there is so much complex storytelling that I haven't seen before."

One of the girls said " My favorite character is Kate because she's always doing the right thing. My favorite scene is when the military police officer people come and Mrs. McKnight already knows what they're gonna tell her and she gets all sad." Another student had this to say about that same scene. "My favorite part in the book is when they found out Wayne had died...because I can actually feel bad and think of what is gonna happen next. Also, it makes me think about the characters more and how their lives are about to change drastically. Also of how Toby is gonna react when he finds out since he wrote him a letter."

A couple of the other girls liked Scarlett, though, because she tried to be nice even when she was telling Toby she didn't like him as a boyfriend, just as a friend.

This was my favorite review by one of the girls because it is most like my own opinion of the book. "My favorite part of the book is the ladybug waltz because it brought different families together. And the way the author described that scene was very descriptive. It was almost like I was there. All the details it talked about, I could see the scene in my head. And this part of the book Cal and Toby forgave each other and everyone was thinking of Wayne and how he served in the army. My favorite character was Ms. Mertie Mae because even though they didn't talk about her a lot she always helped in a way. When they did talk about her no matter what she always had an answer. Rating ✰✰✰✰✰"

Well, I'd say all in all, they enjoyed the book! I did, too!