The Cold Millions by Jess Walter

The Dolan brother’s young lives were very hard. They were dirt poor and had no family left by the time they were in their teens. Gig, the older brother and Rye (Ryan) were hopping trains looking for work and a place to stay and a way to make money fast, legally or not. But this was during the early 1900’s and work was hard to find as was lodging. Gig felt responsible for his younger brother and tried to steer him on the right path.

But both had visions of making money and owning land and a house. They were always looking for jobs which would pay more, but this was a time when unions were just being organized and business owners were not very happy. Unfortunately many higher ups in the police department were on the payroll of rich business owners who would look the other way when union meetings were interrupted and brawls broke out.

But Gig believed in fair wage and was not afraid to fight for the cause. But when pro-union men took it upon themselves to take to the streets to talk about the cause, they were not only arrested, but were put into horrendous prison conditions where some died. Gig was arrested as was Rye who only sixteen followed his unknowing brother and spoke for the cause. This pivotal moment changes both their lives and the paths they will take forever.

Rye is soon released from prison and begins to assist the cause by going around to workers with a young pregnant woman who is a feminist and has been traveling to help collect money to hire a lawyer for all the men still in prisons. His brother was not so lucky. With Gig still in prison, Rye must decide if he wants to stay on the straight and narrow path they both have always believed in or forgo his principles and work for a powerful, shady business owner. A man who has no problem killing for what he wants.

Rye’s conscience and Gig’s inability to forgive himself for not taking care of his younger brother will haunt both of them for the rest of their lives. But trying to hold on to their beliefs and values will involve much effort, perhaps too much.

The Cold Millions is a heartbreaking tender story about two brothers who try to hold on to each other even as their lives become lost to both themselves and each other during a difficult time in our history.

A Good Day for Chardonnay by Darynda Jones

Get comfortable, pour yourself a nice glass of wine, preferably Chardonnay, and dive into the next installment of Sunshine Vicram’s intensely funny, shocking and always eccentric life as sheriff of a small town in New Mexico where people have very uncommon names…such as Crystal Meth and everybody knows everybody and everything about everybody! Although, there are still some secrets buried in this old town.

Called to the scene of a barfight Sunshine finds her not so secret crush, Levi Ravinder hurt and his friend in serious condition after a stabbing. Ravinder does not want to give up any information as to who or why the situation occurred and leaves the bar to begin his own investigation, much to the sheriff’s angst. Putting the pieces together will be difficult. Finding Levi even to answer questions, even more arduous.

Meanwhile her daughter Auri is falling in love and getting into her own trouble unbeknownst to Sunshine. She has taken it upon herself with two friends as her accomplices to look into a myth the town has lived with for many years in which people who visited the area were never heard from again. The rumor has always been there was a serial killer living amongst them. Auri seems to believe she knows who it is and is determined to prove it. A sheriff in training!

If that wasn’t enough, and in this town mystery and puzzles are never enough, a furry critter has taken up residence at the police station and seems to be ruling the roost as the officers are unable to or perhaps too nervous about getting rabies to find him.

As the plots thicken and the reader is given more information into Sunshine’s past, some questions will be answered only to have new mysteries start to take shape. There is never a dull moment in this rural oasis where bodies seem to stack up like pancakes. I tried to be like Sunshine with that line!

A Good Day for Chardonnay is completely laugh out loud amusing, yet has truly suspenseful story-lines and the most impressive back and forth dialogue I have ever encountered. The chapter headers are just as funny as the story itself. Darynda Jones has one incredible imagination and quite the way with words! I had a smile on my face from beginning to end, and the next installment can’t come fast enough!

Thank you #NetGalley #St.Martin’sPress #AGoodDayfor Chardonnay #DaryndaJones for the advanced copy.

The Sweetest Days by John Hough Jr.

This tear-jerker novel tells the story of two high school sweethearts during a volatile time in our history. Peter and Jackie meet and fall in love in a small town. But a tragic accident occurs and their lives are torn apart. Peter must grapple with guilt and Jackie struggles to understand what happened and what part she may have played in the tragedy.

Later, Peter and Jackie meet again and decide to marry. It just seems like that’s what they should do. They have a daughter. And just as they are heading into their twilight years, Jackie is given very bad news about her health. As Peter and Jackie try to understand what this means to their marriage and their lives, it also brings up never answered questions from their previous life together.

Peter, a former political speech writer has just written a novel and he and Jackie have returned to their hometown for a book signing. Jackie’s father, who is in the throws of dementia, still lives there. As Jackie begins the difficult task of telling her family about her illness, Peter can’t help think about what they endured to get to where they are now and if their marriage should ever have occurred. Unbeknownst to him, Jackie too has her reservations about their life.

But during the book signing there is a disruption. Peter and Jackie must begin to analyze their lives together and separately, including all the inadequacies they feel, especially on Jackie’s part. In order to do this they must revisit those painful memories from their youth which molded them to become the adults they are now.

Although difficult, they must begin the process of being totally honest with each other and forgive and let go of the anger, disappointment and what-ifs from their past relationship. They must put the past truly behind them in order to become strong for what may lay ahead.

And although their future is unknown, by putting all their questions about the past to rest they begin to rekindle or perhaps reshape the love and find that perhaps these are their sweetest days.

This beautifully written love story flows effortlessly as if you are watching a captivating movie unfold in your mind, even though you may know how it ends, you can appreciate the sweetness of the days it took you to get there.

Thank you #NetGalley #GalleryBooks #TheSweetestDays #JohnHoughJr for the advanced copy.

We Were Never Here by Andrea Bartz

Emily and her best friend from college, Kristen are on their annual girl’s getaway. This year they are in Chile, drinking, hiking and enjoying each other’s company. With Kristen now living in Australia for work, this is their only chance to play catch-up in person.

But, on the last night of their vacation, Kristen is charmed by a backpacker she met. She decides to take him back to their room. As Emily relaxes at the bar, she gets a frantic call from Kristen saying something went terribly wrong and she has to come back to the hotel room. There she finds blood and the backpacker dead. Kristen says he tried to get physical with her and she did not know what to do. Emily and Kristen decide they must get rid of the body. But what makes this situation worse is it is a repeat of what happened during last year’s girl’s getaway. Only it happened to Emily when she was violently attacked in their room and Kristen killed him.

During last year’s trip Emily brought someone back to their room and he became physical. Kristen came back to the room and saw what was happening and killed him. It was decided that they should dispose of his body in a remote area and wipe out any existence of themselves being in this area so it would look like they were never there.

So they once again attempt to discard the body and make it look as if they were never there. But Emily can’t believe this has happened again. She also cannot believe Kristen’s attitude toward the murder. She seems calm and collected. During the past year after the other murder, Emily was so traumatized she began having panic attacks. It was with Kristen’s help that she was able to get through the year.

As Emily returns home, back to her life and her new relationship, something she was hesitant to tell Kristen about as she always seemed to point out faults in her boyfriends which Emily would always agree with and end up breaking up with them. But she felt this relationship could be different and did not want Kristen’s input just yet. But as Emily is preoccupied with what happened while they were away, Kristen it seems is quite unfazed. Emily begins to wonder about her best friend.

And then Kristen suddenly shows up. She decided to leave her job and come back to be with Emily and her own family, her grandparents. Her parents had both died in a housefire when she was young. She begins to insert herself into Emily’s life and relationship. Emily starts to look at her best friend in a very different light and begins to dig into Kristen’s background, something she never imagined she would ever do.

Emily begins to discover Kristen has many secrets. She is not the person she thought she was and quite frankly could be very dangerous. But Emily has a bigger problem. She cannot tell anyone about Kristen because Kristen holds Emily’s murderous secrets. Emily is thrown deeper into Kristen’s craziness, while trying to pretend there is nothing wrong. She also is trying to protect her boyfriend from harm. But what may be even worse is Kristen starts to notice a difference in Emily’s behavior, and faced with the fact that she could be losing her best friend begins to go off the deep end. It seems Kristen will use everything in her arsenal to keep her obsessive relationship with her best friend…perhaps even kill again!

The old adage of keep your friends close and your enemies closer collide in We Were Never Here, a nail biter of a read with shocking twists and turns no one could ever see coming. The ending, an explosion of turmoil!

Thank you #NetGalley #BallentineBooks #WeWereNeverHere #AndreaBartz for the advanced copy. The book will be out in early August.

Kisses and Croissants by Anne-Sophie Jouhanneau

In this touching Young Adult novel, high school student and hopeful ballerina Mia Jenrow is getting ready to start her senior year. But rather than spend her summer goofing off, she has chosen to take the opportunity to go to Paris and participate in a ballet program in which not only is she able to sharpen her skills, but will also be judged at the end of the 6 weeks by prestigious ballet companies who invite some participants to join them.

Passion for dance runs in Mia’s family. Her mother was a ballerina but quit, without explanation. Family lure even has her great-great grandmother, a ballerina as well, posing for pictures for the painter Degas, although there has never been any actual proof. Her mother is not happy with Mia’s decision to go to France as she is afraid she will be be disappointed and let down. But Mia realizes this could be her last chance. She has been turned down by a prestigious New York Company and thinks if she spends the summer in this program, she may get another chance to audition for them.

On her first day in Paris she sees the one person she was relieved to leave behind…Audrey, her ballet nemesis and the most perfect and elegant ballerina she has ever come up against. She had already been accepted to that New York City Company! Now she realizes she must work even harder and have absolutely no distractions in her quest for perfection.

Enter Louis, a handsome, charming Parisian who catches her eye and he hers. Unfortunately for Mia, Louis has some heavy baggage he carries with him. His father is her ballet instructor whose work ethic is beyond anything she has ever experienced. He cannot know about them. And when she gets a part in the upcoming ballet, not only is Louis on her mind, but keeping up with Audrey is as well.

So in this beautiful City of Love, Mia must carefully navigate high standards of practice, being in love, listening to her mother’s disappointment at her decisions and if that was not enough, she and Louis have decided to try and confirm or debunk the family myth that her relative was in a Degas painting. When in Paris… what could possibly go wrong?

Well, Mia’s dreams may come crashing down around her if she does not get her priorities straight. But one thing is for sure, this summer will change Mia’s life forever!

Kisses and Croissants is an adorable, entertaining and funny young love story, filled with crushes, insecurities, jealousies, misunderstandings and many lessons to be learned.

Thank you #Goodreads #DelacortePress #Anne-SophieJouhanneau #KissesandCroissants for the advanced copy.

The Comfort Food Diaries by Emily Nunn

When professional food writer Emily Nunn’s life fell apart when her brother committed suicide, her relationship crumbled and she found herself suddenly homeless, and with her drinking increasing again she decided to check herself in to rehab. It was then Emily was able to begin to see how she became the person she was and how she could change and become a person she could love.

As Emily began to look back on her life, especially her childhood which was turbulent to say the least with two parents who could barely take care of themselves, and did not want to take care of the many children they had. Nothing was ever talked about, like her father moving out and another man moving in, or the narcissistic personality her mother had or her father’s drinking or her brother being gay. It was all left for them all just to speculate.

She also began to understand her rocky relationships with her siblings and how they too had been impacted by the lack of care their parents showed. Many had not spoken to each other for years, while others fled to another country just to get away. She too would learn that their treatment of her would trigger her low self-esteem issues and she would always blame herself for the arguments, most of the time not understanding what she had done to provoke the anger.

When asked what comforted her in times of stress, Emily realized it was food. It was the actual cooking, creating and the enjoyment of eating. It was especially satisfying to cook with others, be it friends or family.

So she goes on a quest to find not only herself, but to also reconnect with family she has not seen in years as well as friends, some of whom the relationship had not ended well, and spend time with them, learn from them and cook with them. Thus begins Emily’s journey of healing herself. With this comes a new understanding of what her life was like but what her life could be like when you let go all of the annoyance and hostility she had held in for so many years and she begins to find an inner peace as her travels continue. She also learns the word “family” means many things and you sometimes have to accept some relationships are just not meant to be.

Throughout her memoir while she gives us glimpses of her unusual past, she also tells stories of recipes and how they came about and the impact they had on her life and the memories they invoke. Some mouthwatering recipes, and yes they are in the book for the reader to enjoy if they choose were her Aunt Mariah’s Pot Roast, Father Tray’s Bran Muffins and Bea’s Magic Salad Dressing.

As this unexpected journey came it its conclusion, Emily learned many lessons about living. But her curiosity about food literally saved her life.

One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston

One Last Stop is a tender, unique, magical look at love. It goes well beyond your regular love story and into a realm of unknown which will keep you riveted until the very last word of the beautiful story.

August has moved many times. She is trying to complete her college education. But as a loner, she never really bonds with anyone or anything so there is never anything to keep her in one place. So when she gets bored, she just ups and finds another college.

Having had a difficult life, her mother lost her brother Augie years ago. They have never been able to find any record of him either alive or dead. August’s whole life has been taken up with files…her mother’s obsession of finding out just what happened to Augie. Needless to say her home life was nothing spectacular.

Now, August finds herself in New York City living with three very quirky roommates whose main goal in life is to get to know her and get her to open up. Not happening. They are able to help her get a job at a 24 hour pancake diner which will help her pay her rent and tuition, but will do nothing for the smell she seems to emit no matter how many showers she takes! Pancakes, syrup and bacon.

So as August gets use to her once again very lonely life, on her first day going to her new college as she is heading towards her train in the subway station she is pushed and coffee is spilt all over her shirt. And this shove will change August’s life forever. An adorable girl sees August in distress and hands her a scarf to cover her stains. She even loves the smell of pancakes and syrup! She thanks her not even knowing her name.

Now smitten, August looks for her mystery hero and finally find her on a train. Her name is Jane. She has everything, beauty, personality and cool clothes. Their relationship begins to grow. But there is one serious problem. Jane is stuck on the train. She does not remember her past but believes it is the 1970’s. And for some reason she cannot leave the train. August promises her that she will find a way to get her home, wherever that may be.

It is then that August opens up to her roommates about what is happening to Jane and thus begins a complex plan to try and help Jane return to her life from year’s ago. Although August knows Jane needs to return to where she belongs, she realizes that she may never again see who she believes is the love of her life. But August loves Jane enough to let her go.

Throughout this journey, August becomes with Jane’s help the person she never knew she could ever become. But with her renewed confidence in life, comes a sadness for her soulmate. Will there plan work? We won’t know until Jane gets off at the last stop.

The Last Stop has heroines and heroes, fairytale and intrigue, laughter and most of all love.

Thank you #NetGalley #Griffin #OneLastStop #CaseyMcQuiston for the advanced copy.

Yoga Pant Nation by Laurie Gelman

In this third installment of Laurie Gellman’s hysterical series we find Jen Dixon, class mom extraordinaire eagerly awaiting her last year in the elementary school system. It has been two years since Jen has given us an update and in that time so much has happened.

She is now a certified spin instructor looking for a job. Her son Max will be graduating elementary school and is eagerly awaiting the right of passage overnight class trip to Topeka . Her daughter gave birth to a daughter and has decided to be a single parent. Jen helps out by babysitting while her daughter works. Her parents seem to be having some mental issues…and not the usual ones. She has reluctantly committed to heading up a school fundraiser which hopes to raise $10,000. Oh and yes, she is once again the class mom of her son’s class!

So much for some Jen time!

But in this hilarious, incredibly relatable story we empathize as Jen sarcastically, comically plods her way through life. As she tries to hold herself together and keep control of her uncontrollable family, she does encounter some obstacles. And of course there is drama. Someone is bullying Max and he will not tell anyone why. Jen’s daughter’s baby daddy who found out late he was a dad, and his mother who lives in India are trying to take her granddaughter away for an extended trip back to India.

Her parents are acting strange. Staying in their pajamas all day. Forgetting to eat. Forgetting to get up from the kitchen table all day. It may be time to look for an assisted living facility, something Jen is dreading.

The school fundraiser group which Jen has aptly named We Fundraise Until Kingdom Come Team or WeFuckT for short has three women with the exact same name with one who does not do social media anything. Sadly, they are out of ideas as to how on earth to raise so much money.

With Jen’s cornucopia of problems, and her best friend now living in another state, can she push through and get everything done? But of course! And she craftily solves her dilemmas with love, empathy, anger and of course humor. My only wish would be we get to continue to read more of Jen’s misfortunes. I am addicted.

Thank you #NetGalley #HenryHoltandCo. #LaurieGelman #YogaPantNation for the advanced copy. The book will be out in July.

The Husbands by Chandler Baker

Nora Spangler is on track to become partner at her law firm this year. Although a woman, with a child, (which is frowned upon at work), another on the way (which no one knows about yet) and a husband who pitches in when he is told, she sucks it all up and attempts to do it all. Every day seems to be an uphill battle, juggling her young daughter Liv’s school and activities, making meals, demands at the office no matter what time of day, while practically begging her husband Hayden to help her. She is exhausted.

Until the couple begin to go house hunting for a bigger house and receive a call about an open house in a complex called Dynasty Ranch where it seems most of the women are CEO’s, authors, and doctors. When they arrive for the walk through Nora notices how engaged the husbands are to all their wives requests. Without even being asked. She begins to ponder her own relationship with her husband.

While there they discover that a recent accidental fire at the complex destroyed a house and killed the husband of one of the women, a famous author. She has asked Nora to look into the fire because she wants to file a wrongful death claim. Reluctantly she agrees.

As Nora begins her investigation and begins spending time with the women of Dynasty Ranch she starts to feel inadequate about herself and her relationship with her husband. She mentions this to one of the women and she suggests counseling with one of the neighbors who is a counselor. But nothing is really as it seems at the complex. As Nora delves deeper into the fire/death she finds she has more questions than answers. What if the fire was not really an accident? But what she does know is the husbands at the complex seem to make their wives lives so much easier. Now if only she could get Harley to be more helpful.

And that is what begins to happen! Harley begins to really take initiative. Nora has never been so happy! Until she finds out that not everything is really the way it looks. And now she has a dilemma. Does she choose the perfect life? Or does she go back to the exhausted, beaten down wife, mother and lawyer she use to be.

Dynasty Ranch is a perfect oasis for career women with families, but what happens when you discover the secrets which lie beneath the surface? If you are not careful, you could be its next victim.

The Husbands is The Stepford Wives on steroids. A fast paced thriller which many women readers will be able to relate to, trying to do it all and do it all well without guilt and with little support. The question is what would you rather have? The perfect husband or the messy life. You decide.

Thank you #Goodreads #FlatironBooks #TheHusbands #ChandlerBaker for the advanced copy. The book will be released in early August.

Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok

Searching for Sylvie Lee is a heartbreaking mystery which not only touches on racial stereotyping and immigration, but has incredible drama, secrets and misunderstandings which tear an extended family apart.

When an Asian couple immigrate to New York City, they have high hopes of all their dreams coming true. They believe this country to be the greatest place to raise a family, But as they get settled, they discover they are pregnant. Unable to care for a baby and try and work, they send their daughter Sylvie to a cousin’s house in The Netherlands where their grandma is taking care of another of the cousins. They believe they will be able to send for her when they get settled.

But seven years later, when they have a second child, Amy, Sylvie is still in The Netherlands. They now decide it is time for Sylvie to come to America and help with their new child. Sylvie is then sent to New York, leaving the only home she has really ever known. But she seems to adapt to the change easily, taking care of her sister Amy and excelling at whatever she does. Her young sister Amy not only looks up to Sylvie, but aspires to be just like her, always feeling as if she has fallen short of what Sylvie has accomplished. But both sisters adore each other.

When the family gets a call from their family in The Netherlands telling them their grandmother is near death, they decide it should be Sylvie who goes to be with her. They had the closest bond and felt she would want to be with her. Sylvie, married with an incredible job departs to be with her grandmother. But after her grandmother’s death, Sylvie disappears. At first they feel she just needed time to process the passing, but as time elapses, Amy realizes something is terribly wrong.

It is decided that Amy will travel to The Netherlands to help search for her sister. Not only is this totally out of Amy’s comfort zone, but Amy realizes this could be the opportunity to help her sister as she has helped her for all these years. As Amy traces Sylvie’s steps during her time in The Netherlands and her interactions with her cousins, she realizes Sylvie had many secrets. Although always seeming perfect on the outside, she was hiding feelings of extreme insecurity, sadness and regret. The fight begins as to how far the family should go to find Sylvie, worrying about how it would look to people if perhaps they find something, because everybody should have perfect lives, at least on the outside. Where IS Sylvie?

This moving story which opens up a floodgate of family secrets is both compelling and tragic. Not only is this family searching for Sylvie who is lost in so many ways, but they are searching for their own souls hoping to find their own way back to each other before it is too late.