The Girl You Left Behind

August 20, 2013

The Girl You Left Behind
By: Jojo Moyes
369 pages

I've been a fan of Jojo Moyes ever since reading, and loving, The Last Letter From Your Lover. Jojo Moyes writes compelling books that pull into the story line. Her latest is no exception. The Girl You Left Behind will transport you to 1916 during the German occupation. There you will follow the life of Sophia. You also travel to 2006 and see how life has been treating Liv. As you journey the stories of these two women, you will go all over the emotional map.

Sophia Lefevre 1916
Sophia and her siblings are struggling in their family's hotel during the German occupation. Le Coq Rouge has been a visiting spot for fellow villagers and friends alike, but things are about to change. Sophia's husband is off fighting, as is her sister's husband. As if that isn't difficult enough, Sophia is awoken one night to the news of her brother being beaten by German soldiers. 

Sophia is a gutsy woman. Knowing that hiding a piglet is a serious crime that could land them all in a camp, Sophia does the only thing she can do: she knocks the piglet unconscious, bundles it up in blankets, and passes it off as a sleeping infant. Did I mention she does this in front of German soldiers? While the plan works, the unwanted visitors don't leave without dropping some news: Le Coq Rouge will now be a dining place for German soldiers. Food will be delivered, and Sophia is expected to cook for her bitter enemies.

As she and her sister, Helene, have no choice but to follow these orders, Sophia does meet one soldier who seems to have a heart. The Kommandant, not only insists she take some of the food to feed her family, but he defends Helene's honor when a fellow soldiers makes an inappropriate pass at her. As you can imagine, Sophia struggles with finding a nice person dressed up as her sworn enemy. Her fellow villagers do, as well. It isn't long before they turn on Sophia.

Risking her very life, Sophia is prepared to do anything to guarantee the safe return of her husband, who is now known to be in a reprisal camp. She begs the Kommandant to free him. She's willing to give him the very painting he's always admired. She's even willing to give him herself. 

It isn't long after her return from the failed meeting that German soldiers arrive to take her. With her brother declaring she's getting what she deserves, and a few neighbors yelling obscenities, Sophia is positive she is being taken to her husband. She's positive the Kommandant kept his end of the bargain. Did he?

Liv 2006
Four years ago, Liv lost her husband. Money has now run out. She lives alone in the massive glass house her architect husband designed. It's as sparse as her life is. Friends have tried setting her up to no avail. Liv can't seem to get past her grief. However, everything changes on the anniversary of her husband's death.

With nowhere else to go, Liv goes to a gay bar. Her theory of being left alone turned out to be a good one. But all bets were off when it comes to her purse. A very drunk Liv finds her purse gone- along with her wallet, keys, everything. The bar owner has a brother, Paul, who's an ex-cop. Paul volunteers to see Liv home safely, but lets her crash at his house when she can't get home. 

Not knowing why, Liv tells Paul why she's so drunk. When he wipes smeared make-up from under her eye, Liv feels a charge. A charge she hasn't felt in years. Is she finally coming out of her grief? 

A twist in her life comes in the form of Paul. Paul now investigates lost things. His new case involves a painting stolen during World War I. A painting that hangs in Liv's house. How will this affect their futures? 

Jojo Moyes writes another gripping book. I warn you: it's not an upbeat book full of equal amounts joy and sorrow. The first half of the book is sad. Still, both stories hold that spark of hope and potential for the happy ending you long for. Jojo Moyes takes you all over the emotional map, but the story is one that won't leave you.

Rose Harbor In Bloom

August 13, 2013

Rose Harbor In Bloom
By: Debbie Macomber
Reviewed By: Betsey Brooks

Rose Harbor in Bloom is the second book in Debbie Macomber's Rose Harbor Inn series. Having loved the first book and it's main character, Jo Marie Rose, I was excited to sit down to see who was visiting the Inn and how Jo Marie was doing.
Everything was going along great. The Inn was full and Jo Marie was hosting an open house for the Cedar Cove Chamber of Commerce on Sunday. As she looked around at the inviting rooms and smelled the delicious smells coming from the kitchen, she couldn't help but feel proud of all she had accomplished. Of course Mark ,the handyman, had helped in many ways.

No more time for pats on the back, the guests had started to arrive.  Mary Smith, the first to arrive, is recovering from chemo therapy and requires very little but to rest- so she says. Annie Newton has organized a full weekend of events celebrating her grandparents fifty years of marriage. Kent and Julie Shives, Annie's grandparents, bring a few surprises of their own starting with their neighbor Oliver Sutton. 

In the midst of all this, Jo Marie receives a phone call from Lieutenant Colonel Milford to tell her that the remains of the helicopter her husband died in last year had been found. However his body had not been found with it. Can she care for her guests, host the open house and digest this new information? Why did Mary Smith choose to come to Cedar Cove and where does she disappear too? Can Annie pull this weekend of events off and deal with the surprise arrival of the bully from her past?

Yes, Debbie Macomber has written another winner again. I started Rose Harbor in Bloom and was immediately drawn into the story. I felt a kinship with the characters and was amazed how their lives were intertwined. So, set aside a chunk of time, find your favorite reading spot and disappear into this touching story. You will be glad you spent the time at the Rose Harbor Inn.

The Murders at Astaire Castle by Lauren Carr

August 11, 2013

Mysteries, castles, and werewolves—Oh my! I was privileged enough to receive a signed copy of this book in the mail...this was the 3rd book I have read by Lauren and it didn't disappoint! Lauren has a way of bringing you into the storyline and gets you involved in all the twists and mysteries that surround it! I read this book in just 3 days; it had me captivated from start to finish!

Mac Faraday, a retired homicide detective, once again finds himself involved in the middle of solving murders, all which started at the infamous Astaire Castle. It all started when Mac's half brother, David O'Callaghan, orders Mac to stay away from the south part of Spencer's mountaintop. Of course this perked Mac's curiosity as to why he couldn't go there. Heck, I would be the first to investigate this too! Turns out located behind Spencer Inn, hidden in the overgrown brush, is a grand estate known as Astaire Castle; cursed with suicides, disappearances, and signs of a werewolf! However, when everyone who stays at the castle ends up dead - I can see why its listed as one of the ten most haunted places in America. 

One of these mysterious deaths happened 10 years earlier when none other than Damian Wagner, a famous author, who was working on his final manuscript winds up dead as well as the other 2 residents he was with. Fast forward to present time when Mac takes it in his mission to find the killer, solve the deaths, and bring a logical solution to the fact that people swear werewolves are somehow involved. As the story unravels, more people get involved, which includes more victims, more people from the past showing up, and a killer that has years of experience in cleaning up crime scenes. Mac is not one to settle until the case is closed and that's not stopping now! 

This book is filled with murder, deaths, twists, and romance! This was such an easy and quick read and the expectation I had with this book was definitely met! Lauren is an amazing author and I can't wait to read more stories that she will write!

The Last Camellia

August 8, 2013

The Last Camellia
By: Sarah Jio
320 Pages
A Miss Book Lovers joint review

Addison is trying to outrun her past. However, it's keeping pace with her and threatening to be her unraveling. Flora is desperate to help her family. But her plans come undone when a family's secrets no longer stay secret.

Once again, Sarah Jio has written a book that sucks you in from page one. We both were glued from the very start. We couldn't wait to see what new story twist was going to unfold before our eyes- and there were many. By the time you have read the last word, you have gone through every emotion.

Flora is the beloved daughter of parents who are struggling with their own bakery. The 1940s are a tough time with World War II running it's path of destruction. Being the family oriented daughter that she is, Flora is willing to do anything to guarantee her parents' future financially. When her father is roughed up in an alley over money, Flora reaches the "desperate times call for desperate measures" point, so she accepts a rather dangerous assignment: pose as the nanny to a family who's vast property is rumored to house the last of the rare Middlebury Pink camellia stolen from royalty. Telling her family she's going to attend school overseas, she boards a ship for England.

As firm as Flora's plan seems to be for her, there are a few things she doesn't expect. One, is meeting the handsome Desmond on her trip overseas. They feel an instant connection, but she never expects to see him again. Flora is stunned when she does see him again and learns he's the black sheep brother to the children she cares for. Another thing Flora doesn't expect is have the maternal feelings for the children she's to be the nanny for.

Flora steps into a mourning family environment that comes with a mystery. The mother mysteriously died the year before. Also, women from the nearby village are going missing. It isn't long before Flora realizes there's a connection between the mother's death and the village disappearances.

Addison is a woman who has survived a tortured childhood that no child should have to endure. (We both had a hard time with the abuse scenes, but were thankful there weren't many of them.) Thinking she was finally free from Sean, the one responsible for her young life of sorrow and abuse, she does what she can to forge a new life for herself. Her real name, Amanda, is traded in for a new one- Addison. Sean is sent to prison, but what Addison didn't know was that he spent his sentence planning his revenge. When Sean is paroled, he begins contacting her with threats of destroying her new life. Addison never told her husband, Rex, about her childhood. and Sean is threatening to do it for her.

The chance of fleeing to the new mansion Rex's parents just bought in England is the opportunity to get away from Sean. While there, she explores the rooms and finds various things left behind from the previous residents. She learns of the missing village women, and before long, she's unraveling the mystery Flora stumbled upon. While learning what happened, Addison's own nightmare has followed her.

We are under the firm belief that Sarah Jio cannot write a bad book. With every one of her books, you are gripped from start to finish. You get thrown for a loop with every plot twist she throws at you. She writes stories full of characters you can't help but bond with. We rooted for Desmond and Flora to have a happy ending. We were excited when Sean got his in the end. We were floored when you read how Flora took matters into her own brave hands during a cab ride. The way everything ties together in the end is nothing short of breathtaking.

We hope you read The Last Camellia and love it every bit as much as we did. We hope you find the story one of strength and inspiration. We hope you read the book with a glass of wine handy and some chocolate.

Thank you, Sarah Jio, for writing books that forever stay with us. It is our honor and privilege to read your novels. We can't wait for the next one!

The Lavender Garden by Lucinda Riley

August 6, 2013

This is the 3rd book I have read by Lucinda Riley and it definitely didn't disappoint! Unfortunately I wasn't able to start the book as soon as I hoped, but the moment I opened the first page I couldn't put it down! It was mind-blowing with how wrapped up I was in the story! Lucinda is one of those writers who immediately pull you into the story, and even long after you finish the book, you are rethinking the storyline and how amazing the puzzle fell perfectly into place! 

Like the author's other books, this book takes place in two different times: one in France in 1999 and the other in France during WWII. Although a little slow to start, it develops into a fascinating story with great details and both characters you love, and ones you might want to throw a book at! Every time I immerse myself into her stories, I always enjoying reading both time periods! Sometimes I prefer one period over the other, but in the end I loved how both time periods were filled with adventures. Seeing how they come together in the end is always fascinating. 

This book was an amazing read and I look forward to her next book and her many more to come! Lucinda is such an amazing author and I am thrilled to add this book, along with the 2 others I have, to my bookshelf!I was fortunate enough to receive a signed copy of this book in a contest and let me tell you, that was a fabulous start to my weekend!! 


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