Book Review – To the Moon and Back by Jill Mansell

Over the past few years, Jill Mansell has become one of my go to authors.  Whenever I’m in need of a new book and I don’t have one in mind, I search the Kindle store for one of hers and I’ve never been disappointed.  To the Moon and Back is the fifth novel I’ve read by Jill Mansell, and like all of her others, I was thoroughly entertained with her witty humor and storytelling.

What would you do if the love of your life was tragically killed?  Could you pick up the pieces and move on?  Unfortunately, Ellie Kendall finds herself in that situation when her husband dies in a car accident.  A year after his death, she realizes she needs to move out of their flat which had suddenly become rundown by low income tenants and find a new job with colleagues who won’t look at her as though she’s about to break at the drop of a hat.

With her move across town, Ellie finds a new friend in her new neighbor, Roo – who is true to form to all of Mansell’s supporting characters.  She’s a former pop star diva, once mistress turned do-gooder to pay for her sins.  Her new job?  It’s perfect.  She lands a job as an assistant to Zach McLaren – a successful entrepreneur.  Like all of Mansell’s novels, there’s twists and turns along the way and nothing is ever as straightforward as it seems to Ellie.  As she heals and starts to move on with her life, she faces opportunities that force her to decide if she’s really ready to jump back into the dating pool.

Whether it’s your first or fifth Jill Mansell book, you won’t be disappointed.  It’s perfect for a warm summer day by the pool or a perfect one to save for those early, chilly fall nights at home.

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Source for image above is Amazon

Book Reviews – Baby Proof and Love the One You’re With by Emily Giffin

As you can probably guess by now, Emily Giffin is one of my favorite authors.  So this week I have two more of her books to share with you!  Baby Proof  and Love the One You’re With are Ms. Giffin’s third and fourth novels.  Like Something Borrowed and Something Blue, she takes on tough life situations with an interesting perspective.  I hope my reviews do them justice and you give them a try!

Baby Proof

Growing up, most girls dream of becoming a mom one day, but not Claudia.  It was never in her plan. Now, as a successful book editor, she couldn’t be happier to have found her husband Ben, who shares her “no kids for me” philosophy…that is, until his biological clock starts ticking.  She loves Ben, but a baby was never part of Claudia’s life plan so she moves out and ultimately agrees to a divorce.

Claudia begins to live the single life again living with her college roommate and starts a steamy love affair with her colleague, Richard.  However, when she suspects Ben has found a new, young love interest to perhaps bear his children, Claudia begins to doubt her decision.

Like all of Giffin’s novels, Baby Proof tackles tough life decisions, and drives home the point that some decisions don’t have a right and wrong.  “There are trade-offs and sacrifices” in life, and there comes a point when you have to realize nothing is perfect.  We can have the best laid plans for our life, but sometimes, we have to change our plans.

As I said, I wasn’t sure what to expect with this book given the subject matter, but like always, Giffin intertwines a few subplots with her strong character development to make Baby Proof a page turner until the very end.

Love the One You’re With

When I hear the phrase “love the one you’re with,” I automatically think settling. I wasn’t sure what to expect with the plot of this book, but once again, Ms. Giffin didn’t disappoint me. In fact, Love the One You’re With is one of my favorite Emily Giffin books!

Not long after her wedding, Ellen has a chance encounter with a past love, Leo, and afterward, she’s left wondering whether her life with her husband Andy is truly what she wants or if it’s what she has decided to settle for. When Ellen and Andy move from New York City to the suburbs of Atlanta for Andy’s career, her internal battle intensifies with resentment. As Ellen’s marriage begins to fall apart, she’s forced to choose between the life she has with Andy and the life she thought she lost long ago with Leo.

What I loved most about this book even more so than the other three books I read by Emily Giffin, was how real it was. Whether or not you’ve been in the same situation as Ellen or not, I think most readers will be able to identify with her internal battle. We all know what’s “right,” but sometimes we can’t help but wonder what if. The what if may not be better and we know that, but yet we still wonder. As Ms. Giffin so poignantly says “it’s simply human nature to have an occasional, fleeting interest in someone whom you once loved.” But is pure human curiosity enough to take a leap of faith?

Love isn’t straightforward. “Things are seldom as neat and tidy as that starry-eyed anecdote” shared with family and friends. Love isn’t a constant fairy tale painted with romance day in and day out; it’s a “choice to commit to something, someone, no matter what the obstacles or temptations stand in the way.” Ms. Giffin illustrates this so well with her innate ability to characterize raw human emotion as she tempts her heroine and poses the age old ethical question: do you stray or do you love the one you’re with?

I hope you enjoy both of these books as much as I did!  Load them on your Kindle and head to the beach or the pool for an afternoon of some great reading!  If you’d like book reviews like this email directly to you each week, sign-up here for my weekly book review newsletter!

Book Review – Sweet Salt Air by Barbara Delinsky

I’ve been a fan of Barbara Delinsky for several years. Looking for Peyton Place and Lake News are two of my favorite books, and Sweet Salt Air ranks right up there with them!

While they haven’t seen each other in 10 years, Nicole invites Charlotte back to her family’s home on Quinnipeague – an island off the coast of Maine – to help write a cookbook on the cuisine unique to the island. Throughout the summer, they reconnect but are forced to face secrets from the past and realities that threaten to change their lives. I was drawn into the story from the beginning. Ms. Delinsky’s attention to detail and character development feed the plot seamlessly!

After reading Sweet Salt Air, I was ready to book a trip to Maine.  I wanted to walk along the rocky beaches and taste some of the amazing food that’s part of Nicole and Charlotte’s cookbook.

Sweet Salt Air on Amazon

Sweet Salt Air is a perfect beach read!  Just be prepared to be hungry after reading about all of the delicious Maine cuisine!

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Source for image above is Amazon.

Book Review – And One Last Thing… by Molly Harper

A few years ago, I was looking for a book to read over a snowy weekend.  I was looking for an author I hadn’t read anything by.  I found And One Last Thing by Molly Harper. It was funny, light-hearted at times, and above all else entertaining. I love a book with a certain element of “fluff,” and this fit the bill perfectly!

From the first page, you’re thrust into the heart of the story when 30 year old Lacey Terwilliger mistakenly receives a bouquet of flowers from her husband that was intended for his mistress. Suddenly, the life she knew comes crashing down as she deals with the realization that her husband has been having an affair with his assistant. Lacey’s pain, rage, and embarrassment are characterized so well. In her fit of anger, she sends a mass email detailing her husband’s affair to his clients, friends, and family. As the email goes viral and becomes an Internet sensation, she escapes to her grandmother’s lakefront cabin to avoid the media frenzy and the craziness of the divorce.

While it’s a predictable theme in most chick lit books, she went to the cabin seeking solitude, but that’s when she meets Monroe, her sexy, new neighbor. However, it’s not as cut and dry as boy meets girl and they live happily ever after. Monroe has a rule to keep his distance from divorced women, and that suits Lacey just fine. However, in time they develop a friendship that eventually leads to intimacy, and in the end, Lacey ultimately has to decide if she can take a chance and love again.

As the reader, you’re in Lacey’s head for the entire book. You know what she’s thinking and why she’s doing what she’s doing, no matter how crazy it may be. (Skinning dipping in the middle of the night? You’ll know why! And you’ll laugh through the ordeal, which involves Monroe thinking she is committing suicide!) And that mass email is so carefully written as the typical wronged wife. However, as crazy as Lacey is at times, I found myself cheering and laughing as she said “one last thing.”

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The Meet Cute of Julia and Drew

About two years ago, I wrote a post about how the meet cute of Julia and Drew came to be. However, this past weekend, I went for a long run and went past the park and gazebo, which were the inspiration for the scene. (Check out the picture below!) So I thought I’d revisit it and give you a little sneak peek of the scene too!

“The late August humidity was oppressive. The air felt heavy. It was like a snowsuit clung to my legs with every stride. As I reached the bike path surrounding the park, the sun disappeared behind clouds rolling in from the west. The shade was a welcome change and helped take my mind off of the heat so I could enjoy the peacefulness of the park.

I felt the built up tension from work gradually disappear as I hit my stride. I was about halfway around the loop when I felt a large drop of rain hit my forehead. I closed my eyes for a moment and hoped that I imagined it. As three more large drops hit my face and arms, I knew it wasn’t my imagination so I quickened my pace in an effort to beat the worst of the storm. I was over a mile away from my house so as the rumble of thunder got louder, I realized it would be a losing battle. Within seconds, I was in the middle of a complete downpour. Multiple lightning strikes illuminated the darkened sky so I sprinted towards the gazebo in the center of the park.

When Luke and I were young, my dad would take us down to the park after dinner most summer nights. Bill Merina was, and still is, a kid at heart. The three of us created our own version of tag, and the gazebo was home base. I was so young when we played that I don’t remember all the rules, but we ran around and up and down the steps of that gazebo more times than anyone could count. Back then, it was new with fresh varnish to keep it safe from the elements. Now, it looked worn and weather beaten, but it was the perfect place to ride out the storm.

When I reached the small wooden structure, I noticed another runner had taken shelter as well. His back was turned to the entrance as he looked out over the park to watch the storm. I took my cell phone out of my pocket to call my mom, but I had no service. “Damn it!” I cursed. With my outburst, I noticed the other runner turned. “Sorry.” I quickly apologized as I held my cell phone up in the air in every direction possible trying to find some sort of signal. “Of all times not to have a signal.” I mumbled under my breath. “Julia?” The man said. I froze for a second. I knew that voice. It had been a while; heck, it had been a decade, but I knew that voice.”

If I rewind 8 years, there was a hot and humid, August evening when I decided to squeeze in a quick run before thunderstorms swept through. I knew I’d be cutting it close with the dark storm clouds off to the West, but I was certain I had at least 25 minutes for a quick run. Unfortunately, luck wasn’t on my side that day. I was about a mile away from my house when the sky opened up and I had to make a very quick dash to find cover.

I’ll be honest. That night I didn’t think too fondly of the run. My sneakers were completely water logged, and I had had to peel off my soaking wet clothes as soon as I came in the front door as my husband tossed me a towel from upstairs. However, the next day, as I thought about how convenient it would have been to have been near a structure of any kind along the bike path, the premise of Julia and Drew’s meet cute came to me. What if two runners – more specifically, two former classmates – found the same place to take cover during a storm?

From there, the idea for The Other Side of Later took off in my head. I thought about the gazebo by the park I spent many summer nights as a kid. I felt like I caught lightning in a bottle. My mind was in overdrive. I couldn’t type fast enough. Idea after idea flowed onto the screen. That being said, there were rewrites on top of rewrites. Some ideas from the early drafts never panned out. But the circumstances of how Julia and Drew reconnect? That never changed. I knew a summer thunderstorm was the perfect way to start their story.

Check out The Other Side of Later on Amazon.

Summer Reading Time!

At the end of the month, it will be Memorial Day weekend and I don’t know about you, but this warm weather we’ve been having has me thinking about the beach!  As I’ve been posting for the past few weeks, starting Thursday, May 25th I’ll be emailing a weekly newsletter with book review of some great summer reading books!  If you haven’t signed up yet, make sure you do by clicking here.

In the meantime, I thought I’d tell you about one of my favorite book series, The Callaways by Barbara Freethy.  The series revolves around a large, firefighting Irish Catholic family in San Francisco.  Jack and Lynda Callaway have the stereotypical his, hers, and ours family – his four boys, her two girls, and their set of fraternal boy girl twins.  Each book follows one of their now adult children.  While the ending of each book may be a bit predictable, there are twists and turns, mystery and suspense, and romance and passion thrown into each story.

On A Night Like This

So This is Love

Falling for a Stranger

Between Now and Forever*

All a Heart Needs

That Summer Night

When Shadows Fall*

Somewhere Only We Know

Each book is a standalone story, but one of my favorite parts about the series is that each subsequent book gives you little updates on how characters from previous books are doing.  I grew so fond of the series that I was a little upset when I finished book #8, but there’s good news!  Ms. Freethy has continued the series with the Callaway cousins.  I’ve read the first few and they’re just as good!  If you’re looking for books to put on your summer reading list, The Callaways series by Barbara Freethy is a must!

P.S. – Asterisks represent my favorites.  If you read the series, I’d love to know if you liked it and which books were your favorites!

Finding that peace of mind

If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter, you probably know that along with writing I love to run.  It’s a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.  Most days, I have a goal in mind – a certain distance, a particular pace.  But some days, it’s not about the miles or the time on my watch; it’s about the road in front of me and the peace of mind I get in return.

So it goes without saying that one of my favorite passages to write in The Other Side of Later was the running scene in Chapter 3. Julia runs through Sea Grass on a familiar route.  As she tries to ease the tension of her workday, she relishes in the memories she finds along the path. Like Julia, each time I lace up my sneakers and go for a run up and down the same streets I have since high school, I feel comfort. There’s a normalcy that keeps me grounded.

I hope you enjoy this excerpt from Chapter 3 of The Other Side of Later.

My sneakers ran on automatic pilot down a familiar path on Oak Street towards Veterans Park. After college, Aaron and I settled in my small hometown, whose Jersey Shore charm is undeniable while its name — Sea Grass— is unoriginal at best. Years ago, before the town became a suburb of Atlantic City, a majority of the area along the bay was covered with sea grass. As the story goes, fishermen, who used the area for crabbing, would refer to the track of land as Sea Grass. Through the years, as more people settled in the vicinity, the name stuck. While the name may have seemed generic and like any other small shore town, there were memories down every street and around every corner. Oak, the main street through town, appropriately name for the tall oaks that lined both sides, hosted the annual Memorial Day and Fourth of July parades. Each summer the bay front properties line with shops and restaurants were invaded by tourists or shoebies as us permanent Jersey Shore residents called them. This was home to me.

The late August humidity was oppressive. The air felt heavy. It was like a snowsuit clung to my legs with every stride. As I reached the bike path surrounding the park, the sun disappeared behind clouds rolling in from the west. The shade was a welcome change and helped take my mind off of the heat so I could enjoy the peacefulness of the park.

I felt the built up tension from work gradually disappear as I hit my stride. I was about halfway around the loop when I felt a large drop of rain hit my forehead. I closed my eyes for a moment and hoped that I imagined it. As three more large drops hit my face and arms, I knew it wasn’t my imagination so I quickened my pace in an effort to beat the worst of the storm. I was over a mile away from my house so as the rumble of thunder got louder, I realized it would be a losing battle. Within seconds, I was in the middle of a complete downpour. Multiple lightning strikes illuminated the darkened sky so I sprinted towards the gazebo in the center of the park.

Please check out The Other Side of Later on Amazon!

Do you remember the moment that changed your life?

Every so often I like to give a sneak peek of The Other Side of Later.  Today, I’m sharing the prologue.  I hope you enjoy it!

Do you remember the moment that changed your life? You know, the one you think back on from time to time and know without doubt it was a turning point. It’s funny because so many times, it seems like such an ordinary moment. It can happen anywhere in the blink of an eye. Sitting in class, walking through the supermarket, driving through town on an all too familiar path. Everyday occurrences change into life altering situations.

I was in college. It was my junior year at Belpark University – a small liberal arts school just south of Philadelphia. I remember it like it was yesterday. The sky was blue; the air was brisk. It was a beautiful October day. Leaves were changing colors, and the temperatures were finally cool enough to drink a latte on my way to class without working up a sweat.

The coffee bar in the lobby of Centennial Hall, the second home for Belpark business majors, added pumpkin muffins to their pastry selection and the aroma permeated the air as I stepped into the building. I was in a little bit of a rush, but I knew I’d have to buy one before the end of the day.

“Julia!” I heard as I reached the second floor. I looked to see one of my classmates waving me over to the student lounge. “Did you get the last two questions for DB Systems?”

Database Systems was a core course for marketing information systems majors. While I was a marketing major, not MIS, I had still opted to take a few electives to broaden my skill base. “Yeah, I think so.” I replied as I tossed my coffee cup in the nearby trashcan.

“Do you think you can you help me? I’m kind of stuck.”

“Sure. I have to drop this off to Dr. Meade.” I held up a file folder with my independent research proposal for the following semester. Dr. Meade, my advisor, was expecting it. “I’ll be back in five minutes.”

As I rounded the corner on my way to Dr. Meade’s office, I hit something and I hit it hard. Unable to catch my balance, I stumbled backward and landed on the floor. The folder with my proposal as well as my agenda datebook and notebook flew out of my arms and papers went flying all over the hallway. I looked around to survey the extent of my paper spill before looking up to meet my human roadblock – Aaron Morgan.

Aaron was a senior finance major. I had never actually met him before, but Belpark was a small school and the College of Business even smaller so most upperclassmen were familiar faces. However, Aaron wasn’t just a senior finance major. He was the guy every girl at Belpark talked about. He was at the top of his class coming off an internship at one of Philadelphia’s top financial companies in addition to being a two year captain of the crew team and vice president of the College of Business honor society. When that was coupled with his 6’2” stature, crystal blue eyes, and golden tan, he was quite the catch, and most definitely, not the guy I wanted to act like a complete klutz in front of.

“Julia?” I heard as I came out of my daze. “It is Julia, right?” Aaron said to me as he knelt down and started to pick up my scattered papers. I couldn’t figure out how he knew my name.

After a pause I let continue for way too long, I finally replied. “Yes, I’m—I’m sorry for all this.” I said as I started to get up and pick up my papers. “I need to watch where I’m going.” I was so embarrassed. It was bad enough to run into someone and have papers go flying, but did it have to be Aaron Morgan? This was how I was going to meet him? It couldn’t be a causal conversation by the punch bowl at the upper classmen social scheduled for the following week? Or maybe at the College of Business football game tailgate? Or even in the basement of a frat house when we were both slightly inebriated? It had to be like this.

“Are you okay?” He asked with genuine concern.

“I’m fine.” I said quickly as I continued to gather and stack all my papers together. My homework for DB Systems. I reached across the hall where I noticed the printout of “The Raven” for Experiencing Lit. And of course, all of the documentation for my proposal was no longer neatly tucked into the pockets of my folder; it covered the hallway. “I just have to get all of this stuff back together. Dr. Meade is expecting it.”

We continued to gather the papers. “I think we got it all.” He said as he handed me a large pile of papers.

“Thank you.” I replied without looking up praying that I could just get my papers together and somehow make the embarrassing situation disappear.

“You’re sure you’re okay?”

I looked up at Aaron. “I’m fine.” I said with a smile. “My ego took a little hit after that klutzy move, but I’m really okay.”

“I should have watched where I was going too. I’m sorry I knocked you over.” He extended his hand down to me.

I laughed a little bit as he pulled me up. “No harm done.”

“Alright then. Have a good one, Julia.” He said as he briefly touched my arm and continued down the hall.

Later that day, I was in line at the small coffee bar getting my pumpkin muffin when I heard him call my name.

“Julia?” Unlike our first meeting that day, I saw Aaron coming towards me before we met face to face.

“Hi.” I replied.

“Hey, I’m sorry for knocking you down earlier.”

I looked down and shook my head. “You really don’t need to apologize. I should have looked where I was going. I was in a rush.” I said with a smile and turned from the counter to leave.

“Finished for the day?” He asked.

I nodded. “Yeah, my classes are done.” I replied.

“Me too. I was heading to the food court. Do you want to grab dinner?”

I looked up at him. “Sure.” I replied, and that was the four letter word that most definitely twisted the fate of my life.

As embarrassed as I had been hours earlier, I was equally relaxed as we settled into a conversation that lasted long after we finished the mediocre bistro wraps and lukewarm minestrone soup, which were the food court specials that evening. Classes, family, high school – we talked about anything and everything. Afterwards, he walked me to my apartment, and the following night, we went on our first official date.

At first, I was the typical starry eyed girl completely enthralled by his good looks and undeniable charm. But after a while, almost everything about my life was about Aaron. I didn’t think of possibilities that didn’t include him; I didn’t do the independent research study second semester junior year; I also didn’t study abroad in London the first semester of my senior year. My life was consumed by him. I thought he was perfect, and over time, I convinced myself I couldn’t find better, or if I could, that guy wouldn’t want me. So instead of running in the opposite direction after so many red flags, I created my own fairy tale.

Two days before my graduation, he surprised me with a trip to New York City and proposed in our hotel suite overlooking Times Square. The story made my friends swoon, and to be honest, my heart skipped a beat every time I told it. I was caught up in a world of flowers, cakes, invitations, and dress fittings. The wedding I dreamed of since I was a little girl came to life. Everything was perfect, and I even convinced myself the groom was too. But once the flowers died, the cake eaten, invitations discarded, and the dress worn, the reality of my not so perfect groom came to light.

Two years later at 25, I was pregnant and alone.

 

If you enjoyed the prologue, please check out The Other Side of Later on Amazon!

Book Review Newsletter

Get your summer reading list ready!

I make it no secret that one of my favorite things to do in the summer is relax on the beach with a good book. It’s rejuvenating to escape reality for a little bit while I listen to the waves crash against the sand and smell the sweet salt air! I don’t know about you, but sometimes, the hardest part is finding the right book. I hope I can make that a little easier for you this summer! Starting Thursday, May 25th, I’ll be emailing a weekly newsletter featuring book reviews for some great summer reading books!

All you have to do is click the link below to sign-up!

http://www.dkhamiltonauthor.com/newslettersignup/

The Shellfish

I make it no secret that I love my hometown area, and the setting for The Other Side of Later reflects that.  The streets, the park, the businesses are based upon places that have a very special place in my heart.  The Shellfish, where Julia and Drew have their first date, is no different.  The Shellfish represents the restaurant I hope everyone has.  It’s the place you and friends head to catch up; it’s the place you and your spouse (or significant other) go for date night; it’s the place with familiar faces – even it’s not familiar names – whenever you walk in.  My Shellfish is The Anchorage Tavern.  It’s familiar and it’s one of the many places that make this area my home.  I hope you enjoy this excerpt from The Other Side of Later about The Shellfish.

The Shellfish was only a five minute drive from my house. It had been a local landmark and watering hole for generations. The building was built in the mid-1800s, and as the story goes, it transitioned from a hotel to a tavern over time, survived prohibition, and kept going strong ever since. While most restaurants along the bay became inundated with tourists during the summer months, the Shellfish almost always remained a local crowd. Summer nights saw the bar packed with not only the baby-faced 21 year olds, but also the old familiar faces of the baby-boomer era. Everybody drank; everybody danced; everybody was friends. The building itself was a spectacular site. Its four story Victorian structure with a large wrap around porch overlooking the bay was unique among the smaller shops and restaurants. Inside, I would always see the same several faces seated at their designated stools at the bar. I didn’t frequent the Shellfish enough for everyone to know my name, but it was always a familiar scene.

I hope you enjoyed the excerpt.  If you’d like to read more, please check out The Other Side of Later on Amazon.