Wow. Isn’t it strange how much faster time flies the older we get? I have been AWOL from this blog since April — for six whole months! And it felt like only a few weeks slipped by. I’m so far behind on my TBR Challenge reviews (sorry, SuperWendy!), seasonal reading lists, book and movie recommendations, as well as my rambling thoughts and opinions on both obscure and timely topics.
Rest assured that even though I dropped off the grid for a while, I have indeed kept up with my TBR reading. I took notes and everything. So, in an effort to not feel like a total failure at follow-through, I’m going to include the past five months of TBR Challenge reviews that I missed in this one blog post.
Buckle up, gang. This is likely to be a lengthy post.
Late Fall by Noelle Adams
This is life. After summer, the green leaves always change colors and fall off the trees. Dogs die, no matter how much you love them. Land is sold, even if you used to tell yourself you were going to die on the property. And people get old.
Ellie Davenport has watched the same valley change with the seasons since she was a child. A sharp and intelligent woman, she’s enjoyed a stellar professional career, a full love life featuring interesting men, and a small but loving circle of family and friends.
Now she’s on the other side of the valley, retired, alone, and the view is much different. She wants to believe that it’s just as beautiful from this side, looking back at her life, but the self-sufficient resiliency she’s always depended on to keep her path straight and people at arm’s length isn’t as reliable in the crowded and socially uncomfortable microcosm of assisted living.
The discovery that her old work rival, Dave Andrews, is just down the hall, just as annoyingly handsome, and keeps showing up on her daily hike is most definitely a disaster and not at all interesting.
I would have thought that, living as long as he has, some of that arrogance would have been burned off through the fires of life, but evidently it hasn’t been. He’s still the same jackass who showed up in my office one day and told me my budget for periodicals would be cut in half starting immediately.
Dave isn’t just the same as he always was. Loss has a way of moving into the the heart and changing people. Except — sometimes a long walk with a smart woman can show you just how much room you still have left for love.
I don’t know if you’ve ever tried it, but telling yourself there’s nothing to hope for doesn’t ever work.
We’re human beings, after all. Hope is what we do.
A unique enemies-to-lovers romance set in an assisted living retirement community. Pacing of the story is done well. This is a subtle story about falling in love during the sunset years and the romance is handled with both a delicacy and a realistic approach that I found refreshing. What I liked best about this book was the validation that, even as we age, we are still inherently ourselves on the inside, tempered by wisdom and maturity. It is a story about the fears and challenges of aging, the rediscovery of self, and an affirmation of the hope of love, no matter at what age it may find you. It is also equally about coming to terms with the changes in both our circumstances and ourselves as we grow older. I liked the author’s use of the character’s memories and past experiences to illuminate her feelings and view of present day situations. I found the character’s practical, realistic outlook to be evocative and inspiring as I am now firmly entrenched in middle-age and heading toward retirement age. She’s always been fiercely independent and self-sufficient and has a difficult time admitting the need for help and support. Like real life, this story runs the gamut of human emotions. There is both laughter and tears, anger and sadness and joy. I thought it was a good story and will probably re-read it in the future.
June: Comfort Read
Thorn Jack by Katherine Harbour
They call us things with teeth. These words from Lily Rose Sullivan the night of her death haunts her seventeen-year-old sister, Finn, who has moved with her widowed father to his hometown of Fair Hollow, New York. After befriending a boy named Christie Hart and his best friend, Sylvie Whitethorn, Finn is invited to a lakeside party where she encounters the alluring Jack Fata, a member of the town’s mysterious Fata family. Despite Jack’s air of danger and his clever words, Finn learns they have things in common.
One day, while unpacking, Finn finds her sister’s journal, scrawled with descriptions of creatures that bear a sinister resemblance to Jack’s family. Finn dismisses these stories as fiction, but Jack’s family has a secret—the Fatas are the children of nothing and night, nomadic beings who have been preying on humanity for centuries—and Jack fears that his friendship with Finn has drawn the attention of the most dangerous members of his family—Reiko Fata and vicious Caliban, otherwise known as the white snake and the crooked dog.
Plagued with nightmares about her sister, Finn attempts to discover what happened to Lily Rose and begins to suspect that the Fatas are somehow tied to Lily Rose’s untimely death. Drawn to Jack, determined to solve the mystery of her sister’s suicide, Finn must navigate a dangerous world where nothing is as it seems.
This book checked all the boxes on what I love and crave in a book. A modern interpretation and retelling of the old Scottish ballad Tam Lin, this story is part paranormal romance, part horror story, part folklore, and part-mystery. Based on traditional Celtic lore and symbology regarding the Fae, and sprinkled liberally with quotes from Shakespeare, Yeats, and Lady Gregory, it is steeped in Gothic atmosphere, gorgeous settings, and sensory description.
This book is an opposites-attract love story with impossible odds, set in an isolated small college town in upstate New York that is, beneath the surface, a long-held stronghold of the Fae. It is lyrical and mysterious, full of light and darkness, with life and death struggles. It is populated with the living and the dead, and those who are trapped in between. Where an ordinary young woman, grieving the loss of both her sister and her mother, becomes a champion in the face of malevolence and dark desires.
It touched on so many of my literary interests and personal weaknesses that I loved every moment of this book. It was exactly what I needed. The world-building was fantastic. This is a perfect read for Autumn, especially with Halloween fast approaching, as that is the time frame of the book. The story wrapped around me like a familiar blanket and I was indeed comforted. This is the first book in a series and ends with a HFN.
July: Favorite Trope
Sunshine After the Rain by Daisy James
A summer that changes everything…
Frazzled workaholic Evie Johnson has finally had enough! When she’s blamed for a publicity disaster at the art gallery she loves, she decides to flee the bright lights of London for the sun-drenched shores of Corfu and turn her life upside-down.
Under the shade of the olive trees, she picks up her dusty paintbrushes and begins to chase the dreams she had put aside for so long. But she never expected to bump into drop-dead-gorgeous Sam Bradbury – and certainly not whilst wrapped only in a towel!
A summer fling is the last thing Evie wanted but a few stolen kisses under the stars might just begin to change her mind…
This book had two of my favorite things going for it: forced proximity and the virtual-vacation of an exotic locale. Corfu, Greece, to be exact. It’s also a friends-to-lovers romance and a journey of one woman’s rediscovery of both her lost passions and her true self. All in all, it’s a fun, entertaining adventure. The plot was a tad simplistic and predictable in places, but sometimes all I want is a quick, easy romance that I know will have a HEA. Artists, Greek Islands, and escapism, with a little comedy thrown in for good measure. What’s not to like about that?
by Sam Burns
Devon Murphy has never believed that there were fairies at the bottom of the garden, but when he’s in an accident on his way to his grandmother’s house and comes face to face with the biggest, baddest wolf he’s ever seen, he’s forced to reconsider.
When his grandmother asks him to look into a string of suspicious accidents, he finds a much bigger mystery to unravel. From his childhood best friend to the too-attractive Deputy Wade Hunter, everyone in Rowan Harbor seems to have something to hide. Devon has to get to the bottom of it all before the accidents turn deadly.
This is book one of a very addictive urban fantasy series, so be warned. You may want to immediately binge read all the rest of the available titles one right after the other just like I did. (There are currently seven books out, with three more planned.) This was a fast-moving, charming and enchanting read, and I fell in love with both the characters and the town.
The small seaside town of Rowan Harbor, OR is populated with a variety of supernatural beings hiding in plain sight of the few humans living among them. This series is billed as a trilogy of trilogies (9 books total) which follows three couples but each book is a complete story unto itself, although (not counting this first one) they probably cannot be read as stand alone books. This first book centers on prodigal grandson Devon, who is urgently summoned home by his grandmother, and deputy sheriff Wade, who happens to be his best friend’s little brother all grown up and grumpy. The fated-mates/soulmates trope is strongly utilized in these books, but it is written well and entertaining to watch unfold as Devon fights to ignore it and figure out what exactly is going on in his hometown. The plots are not too heavy or complex, but they are addictively intriguing, satisfying, and enchanting.
The world-building in this urban fantasy series is subtle and excellent. This is book one and it contains a great deal of world-building, character introductions, setting up the larger over-arcing story, etc., yet still delivers an engaging romance with a satisfying HFN.
by Marshall Thornton
Where would you go if you could travel to any part of your past? That’s the question Terrance faces on his 45th birthday—and right away, he knows. He wants to go back to 1992 and not meet Mr. Wrong. But what begins as a journey to change the past becomes a trip to find the future. From the writer of Femme comes a story of best friends, time travel and going backward to move forward.
This was as close as I could find to a historical read in my TBR list. A big part of this book does take place in the past — the recent past of 1992, but still the past – so I went with it.
If you could go back in time and make different choices, would you? This was a fast-paced, fun, feel-good story about choices, friendships, and second chances. It’s a friends-to-lovers romance. Although lighthearted and, at times, laugh-out-loud funny, this is not a superficial story. It is layered and nuanced with realizations, perspectives, emotions, and insights. A surprisingly enjoyable read.
Okay, now we’re all caught up on How I Spent My Summer (hint: reading. I spent most of the past six months reading), I need to get busy on this month’s TBR Challenge: Paranormal review of Wolfsong (Green Creek #1) by T.J. Klune.