Friday, May 13, 2016

Review | Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal

Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal
Published by Pamela Dorman Books/Viking

Publish Date: July 28, 2015

Source: Book - Library, Audiobook - Library
Find it here:  Goodreads / Amazon 

When Lars Thorvald's wife, Cynthia, falls in love with wine--and a dashing sommelier--he's left to raise their baby, Eva, on his own. He's determined to pass on his love of food to his daughter--starting with puréed pork shoulder. As Eva grows, she finds her solace and salvation in the flavors of her native Minnesota. From Scandinavian lutefisk to hydroponic chocolate habaneros, each ingredient represents one part of Eva's journey as she becomes the star chef behind a legendary and secretive pop-up supper club, culminating in an opulent and emotional feast that's a testament to her spirit and resilience.

Each chapter in J. Ryan Stradal's startlingly original debut tells the story of a single dish and character, at once capturing the zeitgeist of the Midwest, the rise of foodie culture, and delving into the ways food creates community and a sense of identity. By turns quirky, hilarious, and vividly sensory, Kitchens of the Great Midwest is an unexpected mother-daughter story about the bittersweet nature of life--its missed opportunities and its joyful surprises. It marks the entry of a brilliant new talent. 
 (from Goodreads) 

Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal

My Thoughts:  Sometimes when I read a book, I fall in love with it but I have a hard time knowing exactly why I loved it so much. Characterization, story structure, setting, writing style - it could be any combination of these things. Perhaps I read the book during a really great time in my life...or maybe I have a great memory attached to it. In the case of this book, it was a combination of all of the above. I read Kitchens of the Great Midwest for the first time in January 2016 on a flight both to and from Boston to see my dearest friends. I almost missed the plane once because I didn't hear the announcement that it was time to board because, you know, reading. When I got to the end of the book, I loved it with a fierce, book-hugging love and yet I couldn't quite pinpoint why exactly. 

Note: This happens to me fairly often and is not a negative thing. It is, in fact, the opposite. It happens in the very best of circumstances and I would call these books: some of my favorites. 

I needed to figure out exactly why I couldn't stop thinking about this story, so I decided to reread, which was one of the best decisions ever. 

I added the audiobook to this reread and loved it even more. The thing that jumped out to me the most during my first read and even now is the structure of the story: the book starts out with Lars Thorvald, his wife Cynthia, and their new baby Eva. As we learn a little about Lars, we learn that he loves to cook, but not just anything - he loves good, quality food made from fresh ingredients. He wants his daughter Eva to grow up with a love for food that mirrors his, so from a very young age, he feeds her the best that he can afford. Food from scratch. Cynthia, Lars' wife, grows bored with the all of the food and the baby stuff, and takes off to pursue a career as a sommelier. Lars is left to raise Eva with the help of family. From here, the story belongs to Eva -- except that it sort of doesn't. 

See, after the first portion of the story centers around Lars, the second centers around someone else in Eva's life, and so on and so forth. Each portion of the story - vignettes, really - has a main character that is not Eva even as she continues to remain the star and focal point of the story until the very end. So while she is never the main character at any time in the book, this is still her story. Her coming-of-age, if you will. 

It is brilliant. I fell in love with this structure. Since I did not read any reviews or summaries or articles about Kitchens of the Great Midwest before I began it, this "new-to-me" style knocked me off of my feet as I moved through the book. I wasn't expecting it, but wow, I really loved it. This is such a neat way to read about Eva growing up and coming into her own: through the eyes of the people around her. 

Even though we spend only an abbreviated portion of the book with each character, I felt like I knew them well enough to enjoy them all. Sure, there are some that I felt like I knew a little bit better than others, but I think this was mainly because of personal favorites and preferences. I believe that each reader will "favorite" different portions of it, but every single section is equally essential because of the sequencing of Eva's life and because of the placement of all of these characters along the way. (I will say that the first time I had favorites and some characters that I didn't care for very much, but on the reread-with-audio, I loved the entire book and all of the characters.)

The Midwestern setting is super fun because it is so obviously Midwestern. I loved the traditions and customs and the accents and turns of phrases. The audiobook enhanced these things tremendously. 

This book is charming. Very, very charming. And such a great story. I have been purposefully vague with plot points, characters, and pretty much everything else related to the book. The best thing about my reread (aside from the accents on the audiobook) was being able to pick up on little details that I missed the first time; knowing how the book ends let me relax a little bit and dig deeper for these little things and I loved making the deeper connections in this story because they were in there, waiting for me, where I glossed over them during my first read. Names dropped here and there, associations, things like that. These little secrets made me smile to myself as I read. And I feel like I know the characters even better after a second read, which is always a plus. 

I'm not sure what J. Ryan Stradal has coming up for his next book, but I'm excited for it. And even after reading this one twice in a short period of time, I'm not ruling out yet another reread. I think this one goes on the "feel-good reads" shelf for me. This story makes me happy. I'd like to own a paperback copy of this book and I'd like for it to have tattered edges because I've returned to it often. I can see myself in so many of the non-Eva characters, and perhaps a teensy bit in Eva. Maybe that's another reason that I love this story so much? I love Eva, I love that she is whip-smart, super cool without trying to be, she does her own thing even when it isn't necessarily the coolest thing to do (like fangirl over food), and becomes successful and builds a career at what she loves. There is so much to love in this story, so much story here, and it is for both men and women. I love everything about it. I want everyone to read it. I think it is just THAT good. 

Or perhaps I just happened to pick it up at the right time for me. Either way, I totally recommend it. 

Audiobook Notes: The audiobook format of Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal is published by Penguin Audio and is 10 hours and 7 minutes, Unabridged. It is narrated by Amy Ryan and Michael Stuhlbarg who are both new to me as far as narration goes, but are absolutely perfect for their roles in this book. I cannot imagine having anyone else read these parts and found myself chuckling out loud throughout the book at their delivery during the humorous places and with particularly funny characters. The first time I read this book, I read print only and loved it, but adding the audiobook to the reread made the book POP! for me. I would easily recommend the audiobook format to readers that are looking to read this book for the first time or for those wanting to reread, like myself. This audiobook was a very good decision for me! I'll be looking to add it to my audio library as a purchase as soon as I can. 


Kitchens of the Great Midwest will appeal to fans of:

Contemporary Fiction
Romance: Very light, no triangle. Not the central 
focus of the book. 
Setting: Midwestern US.
Food, cooking.

Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal
is currently available for purchase.


Love the two different covers of this book!  

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Review | Summer Days & Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories (Anthology), Edited by Stephanie Perkins

Summer Days and Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories 
Edited by Stephanie Perkins
Published by St. Martin's Griffin
Publish Date: May 17, 2016

Source: Publisher
Find It: Goodreads / Amazon 

Maybe it's the long, lazy days, or maybe it's the heat making everyone a little bit crazy. Whatever the reason, summer is the perfect time for love to bloom. Summer Days & Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories, written by twelve bestselling young adult writers and edited by the international bestselling author Stephanie Perkins, will have you dreaming of sunset strolls by the lake. So set out your beach chair and grab your sunglasses. You have twelve reasons this summer to soak up the sun and fall in love.

Featuring stories by Leigh Bardugo, Francesca Lia Block, Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare, Brandy Colbert, Tim Federle, Lev Grossman, Nina LaCour, Stephanie Perkins, Veronica Roth, Jon Skovron, and Jennifer E. Smith.

Summer Days and Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories

My Thoughts:  Before I read My True Love Gave To Me, also edited by Stephanie Perkins, I didn't really think I read enough short story collections/anthologies. Perkins' previous collaboration with various well-known YA authors made me feel sort of excited about the possibility of shorter story collections because there are often periods in my life that I don't have a chunk of time to set aside to read but I still want to. I love that there is another book like My True Love Gave To Me for instances like these. (I'm sure there are probably others out there that I haven't found yet, but these are the two that I know!) 

Like the previous anthology, Summer Days and Summer Nights started out fairly strong and was fairly evenly distributed as far as diverse stories go - not only in terms of characters but types of stories. There truly is something in here for every reader, whether your favorite stories are contemporary, contemporary with issues, or fantasy.

One of the best things about reading a collective group of shorter stories is that almost always, I come across authors that I've read before AND I am exposed to new authors for the first time -- WHICH I LOVE. For me, this particular reading experience introduced me to work by Brandy Colbert, Tim Federle, and Jon Skovron. This is a very diverse of authors and storytellers, both the ones that are new to me and the ones that are not, in terms of their stories. The stories and romances are just as varied as the authors are, and I love that. 

Something fantastic about the first collection is that it included very real issues and characteristics, even though some of them were a little embarrassing for the characters: food allergies, trying to come to terms with low socioeconomic status, race issues. With this collection, there are new characteristics and issues PLUS PLUS PLUS one of the short stories is a continuation from the first anthology (shout out to Stephanie Perkins for this!). LOVED. Love love love that. 

I liked several of them, but I had two absolute favorites among this group: 
Stephanie Perkins' IN NINETY MINUTES, TURN NORTH pulled at my heart, not only because it is set in my own home of North Carolina, but because I love that she continued the story that she began in the first collection. More development for these characters and a broader setting made me *heart* this story as hard as I possibly could. 
Jennifer E. Smith's A THOUSAND WAYS THIS COULD ALL GO WRONG was a true winner. Can we get this story in a full-length novel, please? Smith gives us a girl with a mad crush on a very interesting boy, and he tells her a secret that could make or break their entire relationship before it ever gets going. Good. grief. I really loved this one, please make it a full-length story. (Now I'm just begging and that's never attractive.)
Special nods to the contributions from Leigh Bardugo and Veronica Roth! I loved their shorts also. 

Summer Days and Summer Nights is just a unique and fun and neat group of stories pulled together by Stephanie Perkins, again, for the second time. I'm beginning to see a trend with these collections that are edited by Ms. Perkins and I'm fairly certain that if I keep seeing more like this, I'll probably always pick them up and continue to reread them. 

I read this one slowly, a story at a time, and I think that's the best way to go about this collection and the one that was published before this one. I believe that they're most deliciously savored that way. 

I recommend Summer Days and Summer Nights to readers that love short story collections, readers that find themselves having to cram reading into small breaks of time, readers that love summer-y stories, and readers that are looking to find new YA authors to love. Just like with the previous My True Love Gave To Me collection during the holiday season, I absolutely see myself rereading this one next year and in the years to come as the seasons approach spring and summer. 


Summer Days and Summer Nights will appeal to fans of:

Young Adult Anthology/Collection
Summer-themed Stories

Summer Days and Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories
Edited by Stephanie Perkins
will be available for purchase on May 17, 2016. 


Stephanie Perkins has always worked with books—first as a bookseller, then as a librarian, and now as a novelist. She's the author of the international bestsellers Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door, as well as Isla and the Happily Ever After. My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories is her first anthology. Stephanie and her husband live in the mountains of North Carolina.

Find Stephanie Perkins:  Website | Tumblr | Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram 


Anthology Collection Edited by Stephanie Perkins: 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Review | Matt by R.C. Ryan

Matt by R.C. Ryan
Series: Malloys of Montana #1
Published by Forever

Publish Date: April 26, 2016

Source: Book - Publisher, Audiobook - Publisher
Find it here:  Goodreads / Amazon 

Raised beneath the big Montana sky, Matt Malloy was never meant to be a jet-setting businessman. But he'll do anything to protect the family ranch he shares with his brothers. Coming home after a two-week trip to Italy, Matt wants nothing more than to shed his suit and tie for a well-worn pair of jeans and ride his horse up to the cabin for some alone time. The last thing he needs is a big-city lawyer invading his privacy-even if she is the most beautiful woman he's ever seen . . . 

Vanessa Kettering has devoted her life to her work. As a passionate animal rights defender, she doesn't have room for anything else. But from the moment she meets Matt, she's taken with this rugged cowboy's lazy smile and tender touch. When a raging storm traps them inside his cabin for the night, one steamy kiss leads to another, sweeping them away with a force that's as wild and untamed as the land he loves. But when the morning light comes, will she lose her heart? 
 (from Goodreads) 

Matt by R.C. Ryan

My Thoughts:  I adore books and series with cowboys and ranch settings, so I'm thrilled to be catching The Malloys of Montana series at its beginning. Matt is a great series opener, taking the time to introduce the large and loving Malloy family while also providing a sweet, suspenseful love story. 

Matt Malloy is the oldest of the Malloy brothers, of the famous Malloy ranchers in Glacier Ridge, Montana. His parents died when he was just twelve, leaving Matt to take on a role-model position among his brothers, and his grandparents and uncle helped raise them. Matt is extremely loyal to both his family and to their land, and their family is highly respected by pretty much everyone they've come in contact with and dealt with, even on an international basis. One day after arriving home from a trip away for the family business, Matt agrees to an interview with an animal rights attorney in place of his grandmother to discuss wildlife issues for an animal rights group out of Washington DC. Matt is not expecting a female attorney, and certainly not one that is as sure of herself as Vanessa Kettering.

The meeting is to be conducted off-site from the main house, near a cabin in the wilderness part of the ranch. When a storm comes and leaves the two stranded and unreachable by vehicle or plane, they're stuck together for a while, which means that they have a chance to get to know one another beyond animal rights. When the storm is over and Vanessa is ready to return home, she learns some bad news: her father, a prominent Chicago criminal attorney, has received a threat on her life from one of the criminals that he is prosecuting, and Vanessa is in need of a safe house until her safety is secured. The Malloy's make an offer for her to stay at their ranch because it is more comfortable and the brothers know they can provide security for her on their remote land. Vanessa accepts the offer since staying will enable her to be able to study the wild animals that she represents in her line of work (plus she can see more of the handsome Matt Malloy). She accepts their offer, never expecting to fall in love with Matt, and also fall hard for the family and for the land. 


Matt and Vanessa had a great attraction right away and their romance developed slowly; I liked this because it felt authentic to Matt's slow and steady cowboy temperament and also to the ranch lifestyle. Vanessa fell for Matt's family almost as hard as she fell for Matt, and I can understand why - they're great. She fit in well there at the ranch. 

This secondary cast is great. Matt's brothers, Luke and Reed, are funny, loyal, and hard-working, and I'm eager to read their own stories as they are awarded books of their own in this series. Matt's grandparents, Gram Gracie and Frankie, were so much fun: Gracie is the only woman on the ranch, so she's fierce, independent, and well-respected. She can hold her own in the hills among the animals. Gracie studies the wild horses and has built a respected name for herself in the animal world. I think that she is one of my favorite characters in this book. She was a good support for Vanessa, particularly since Vanessa lived with only her father back in Chicago. Yancy, the family's resident chef, was also a lot of fun.  

I was surprised at how suspenseful this book was - I don't often read romantic suspense and may not have picked this one up had I known it was categorized as suspenseful - if this were the case, I would have missed out on something good. It wasn't crazy-suspenseful or nail-biting, but Vanessa is hiding out from criminals that have threatened her life, so there are some scenes (particularly toward the end) that caused me to turn off my audiobook and read in print because I can read quicker that way - I had to KNOW what was going to happen and what was coming next and the audiobook was slowing me down in the suspenseful parts. 

I'm excited about this new series. Matt is not a bossy alpha male (he's super gentlemanly and respectful, like the rest of the Malloy family) and this is not an over-the-top too-sexy, makes-you-blush read. This is a rugged, works-outside-on-the-land cowboy romance with plenty of swoony scenes and lots of kisses and doggone it, I'm ready for the next book RIGHT NOW. I recommend Matt by R.C. Ryan for fans of contemporary romance stories, particularly cowboy romances, ranch settings, and readers that enjoy great family relationships. 

Audiobook Notes: The audiobook format of Matt by R.C. Ryan is published by Hachette Audio and is 9 hours and 33 minutes, Unabridged. It is narrated by Loretta Rawlins who is new to me as a narrator. I enjoyed listening to Ms. Rawlins bring this story to life, particularly when there was talk of riding horses into the wilderness or in the hills, and I think she did a great job voicing Vanessa Kettering and Gram Gracie. If I could change anything about this book, I almost think that I would wish for alternating POV's with a male narrator voicing Matt Malloy's parts since the book is named for the male lead BUT Ms. Rawlins did a nice job and I would certainly recommend this audiobook to fans of listening. 


Matt will appeal to fans of:

Contemporary Romance
Romance: Quick attraction with slow-development. No triangle.
Setting: A ranch in Montana.
Large families/Great family relationships

Matt by R.C. Ryan
is currently available for purchase.


The Malloys of Montana Series (so far) by R.C. Ryan:  

Monday, May 9, 2016

Review & Giveaway: Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella

Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella 
Published by Delacorte BYR
Publish Date: June 9, 2015 

Source: Book - Publisher, Audiobook - Library
Find It: Goodreads / Amazon 

An anxiety disorder disrupts fourteen-year-old Audrey’s daily life. She has been making slow but steady progress with Dr. Sarah, but when Audrey meets Linus, her brother’s gaming teammate, she is energized. She connects with him. Audrey can talk through her fears with Linus in a way she’s never been able to do with anyone before. As their friendship deepens and her recovery gains momentum, a sweet romantic connection develops, one that helps not just Audrey but also her entire family.   (Goodreads)

Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella

My Thoughts:  Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella is probably one of the most-read books at my house! My family absolutely loves it. Each of my young adults has read it multiple times and they've shouted its praises to me over and over until I finally got the chance to pick it up and read it myself. (Before, whenever I would pull this book off of my shelf, one of my kids would pick it up and read it before I could, but I never stopped them because they all enjoyed it so much; it made me genuinely happy that they all found a book that they loved so much and loved discussing together.) 

Finding Audrey has a 14-year-old main character with severe anxiety disorder and also depressive episodes due to some event that happened before the book began. Her anxiety is a huge part of her life and it manifests itself in a very real way. In terms of this story, it isn't contrived or to narrow or too broad. It's also not too much the focus of the book. Throughout this book she is trying to figure out how to deal with her anxiety and move through it so that she can have a productive life. She has a therapist that is helping her, but it isn't until her brother's friend Linus begins to come around that she begins to make her biggest strides. Linus doesn't push her hard to make positive changes - he really just stays beside of her while she tries new things and improves, encouraging her, being there, and also while she stumbles here and there a little bit. His behavior is very mature and fresh for a story dealing with "mental health issues" and I loved it so much. (Also I cannot decide if Linus is my favorite character or it is main character, Audrey. I kind of loved them both.) 

Audrey's brother, Frank, is pretty funny too. His mother is convinced that he is addicted to online gaming and maybe he is/maybe he isn't - but he does spend a lot of time gaming...although there is a reason for it. His dialogue and actions are hilarious to me and I think that he added plenty of spunk to a story that could have otherwise been a little heavy. (Non-spoiler spoiler: this story is not heavy at all. It's the perfect amount of serious and humorous.) Their mother seemed obsessive to me. I actually felt a little bit sorry for Audrey and Frank because of her constant obsessive nagging (not sure nagging is the correct word here) because she clearly had issues of her own that she needed to work though and instead chose to focus on her children. Even so, her relationship with her husband was a pretty good one, also with humorous dialogue, and it was nice to see a relatively healthy marriage in a young adult book. This book is about dysfunction, but at the heart of it is a family that really does love one another and that is apparent even with all of the craziness and the bickering that happens here and there. 

This is my first Sophie Kinsella book - apparently her first YA book. I have not ventured into her adult books, but I liked this book enough that I would give them a try (although I wish she would write more YA, particularly since my family is such a huge fan of this one). I appreciate what she has done here with what I feel is a fair and accurate-for-some depiction of anxiety, and I would recommend this book to all ages readers. 

Audiobook Notes:  The audiobook format of Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella is published by Listening Library and is 6 hours and 36 minutes, Unabridged. It is narrated by Gemma Whelan, who has a lovely British accent which is fitting for this book, since it is set in that part of the world. I did keep forgetting that Audrey is a 14-year-old character because the narrator does not sound quite that young. Listening was a treat because of the humor in the book and I found myself laughing out loud at several points, particularly with Frank's scenes and dialogue. I very much enjoyed alternating this audiobook read with my print copy and would recommend the audiobook format with first time readers or those looking to reread. 


Finding Audrey will appeal to fans of:

Young Adult Contemporary with Issues
Romance: Slowly developing. No triangle.
Flawed characters. 
Character development. 

Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella
is currently available for purchase. 


Sophie Kinsella is the author of the bestselling Shopaholic series and the novels Can You Keep a Secret?, The Undomestic Goddess, Remember Me?, Twenties Girl, I’ve Got Your Number, and Wedding Night. Confessions of a Shopaholic was turned into a Hollywood movie. She lives in England. 

Find Sophie Kinsella:  Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads 


Thanks to the generosity of the publisher and the author, 
and to celebrate the release of Finding Audrey in PAPERBACK, 
I am able to give away one copy of this book to a lucky reader! 

(Us Only for this giveaway. Sorry International readers! 
Keep watching for more opportunities!) 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good Luck! 

Review | The Goodbye Year by Kaira Rouda

The Goodbye Year by Kaira Rouda
Published by Sparkpress
Publish Date: May 3, 2016

Source: Author/Publisher
Find It: Goodreads / Amazon / B&N

Melanie, a perfectionist mom who views the approaching end of parenting as a type of death, can t believe she has only one more year to live vicariously through her slacker senior son, Dane. Gorgeous mom Sarah has just begun to realize that her only daughter, Ashley, has been serving as a stand-in for her traveling husband, and the thought of her daughter leaving for college is cracking the carefully cultivated facade of her life. Will and his wife are fine as long as he follows the instructions on the family calendar and is sure to keep secret his whole other life with Lauren, the woman he turns to for fun (and who also happens to have a daughter in the senior class). 

Told from the points of view of both the parents and the kids, The Goodbye Year explores high school peer pressure, what it s like for young people to face the unknown of life after high school, and how a transition that should be the beginning of a couple's second act together empty nesting is often actually the end."

The Goodbye Year by Kaira Rouda

My Thoughts:  WOW. I started The Goodbye Year by Kaira Rouda and only put it down when I absolutely had to. When I was not reading it, I was thinking about it. I haven't been as engrossed in a book in a while and I loved every second of it.

The Goodbye Year features five different families that are dealing with their childrens' Senior Year/graduation/going off to college, which means that they are facing Empty Nests, and none of them are handling it as well as they would like to be. There are quite a few POV's telling this story - we hear from both parents and children - so the perspectives are both awesome and varied. These families have a broad range of issues going on: mothers that just don't want to accept that the youngest child is leaving home for college, substance abuse, body image issues, teens asserting themselves and becoming more independent, all sorts of marriage issues - it seems like there is a ton of stuff packed in here but the point is that every single family has something going on behind their closed doors and that while this book is indeed about these young people leaving home one day soon, it's also about the issues within the families and how these things weigh on the dynamic of the family as a whole. Some of these families will not survive Senior Year intact, and the reasons are pretty incredible. On the other hand, some of these family will survive, and their stories are pretty incredible too.

The author took time with each of these characters, developing them and giving us a nice glimpse into all of their lives, both personally and within other relationships. I love that even though there is a character cast, I never felt like I was lost among the crowd of characters - I was able to keep everyone separated easily throughout the story. There is a page at the beginning of the book that lists the characters in each family; I found it helpful while I was reading the first few pages. Beyond this, I found that I didn't really need this chart. So: the character cast is large, but quite easy to manage. 

Every single thing about this book boiled down to a story that I devoured. I loved every second of it. Granted, not all of these characters were people that I'd want to spend time around in real life, but I certainly enjoyed being entertained by them and peeping into their lives for a little while. When I got to the end of the story, I was satisfied with how things ended, but I'M TELLING YOU, I was so into everything that I probably could have kept going for who-knows-how-many-more-pages if they'd have been there. 

An interesting thing about The Goodbye Year is that while these characters were not all likable and each of them had flaws and weaknesses: I was able to pick out parts of myself in pretty much all of them. I'm not at the same place in my life that these characters find themselves, but I can certainly appreciate the emotional weight it put on both the women and the men in this book, and I can appreciate the message of hope and of valuing and repairing relationships of all types. 

I recommend this book to people that like a doggone good story. This will be such good poolside reading, beach reading, outside reading, whatever reading this summer. Or whenever! This was my first book by Kaira Rouda and I definitely need to find more of her books as soon as I can. I loved getting completely lost in this one. 


The Goodbye Year will appeal to fans of:

Romance: Multiple romances/couples.
Multiple POV's.

The Goodbye Year by Kaira Rouda
is currently available for purchase. 



Her youngest son was a failure who wouldn’t speak to her in complete sentences any longer. Their relationship had turned toxic and she didn’t know why. All she wanted was the best for him during their last year together but, as far as she could tell, all he wanted was to hide out in his bedroom playing video games and ignoring homework. He would not be ven- turing off to an Ivy League college. Dane might not even make it to community college. He might work in a print shop. This room could be his future? How will I ever show my face around town? Melanie wondered, pulling at her pearl necklace to keep it from choking her.

Suddenly the room started to spin, and as she looked at the sea of fluorescent parent faces, the scene began to flash black and white and her ears filled with a rushing water noise as if someone had opened a firehose. The last thing she remembered was turning, stricken, to grab Jud’s shoulder before everything went blank.

Melanie slowly opened her left eye, a crack, just enough to try to figure out where she was. It seemed to her, from her limited view and perspective, she was lying on the floor of a classroom. And that was simply disgusting. She opened both eyes and rolled to her right side—a move ingrained in her during yoga class as a way to end savasana aka lying down as if sleeping– and began to sit. Her stomach felt like she’d eaten an egg. She was mildly allergic to eggs, just enough to feel, well, like this. According to the article she’d read, feeling sadness because your useful life has ended was a sign of Empty Nest Syndrome, but fainting wasn’t. Was there something else wrong too, she wondered.

“Whoa, take it slowly, Mel,” Jud said, rushing to her side from wherever he had been lurking. Melanie was now sitting and would, no matter what Jud said, get herself up and out of here immediately. She realized the stools were empty, in fact the entire classroom was barren. Just her and Jud. Perfectly horrible. And why did he insist on calling her Mel?

“I’m fine, Jud, really,” Melanie said, as Jud helped pull her to standing. He had soft, mushy hands, she thought. Standing, she brushed at her dress and wondered if she’d exposed herself as she fell. She felt the back of her head for a bump and was relieved when she found nothing.

“I caught ya,” Jud said, puffing out his chest. “Good thing I happened to sit right next to you, eh? Do you have a lot of those fainting spells, Mel?”

“No, I’ve never fainted. Thank you for catching me. So embarrassing. Well, gotta go,” Melanie said looking around for her purse and spotting it on the shop table. She grabbed it and pulled out her lipstick for comfort.

“You shouldn’t drive. I’ll run you home and Sarah or somebody can drive you to the school tomorrow to grab your car. I insist.”

As much as Melanie loathed the thought, she did feel even dizzier than she’d felt when she’d arrived for Parent’s Night. Her stomach roiled. And clearly, she had missed a number of Dane’s classes already, if not all of them. “What period are we on?” she asked, rubbing the pearl necklace around her neck, hoping to manifest a sense of calm and normalcy she didn’t feel. She quickly swiped lipstick across her bottom lip and felt better.

“The night’s about half over, but for you it’s a wrap. I had Annie run around and get you the information from the rest of Dane’s teachers,” Jud said, patting Melanie’s hand, forcing her to notice the age spots and the intersecting veins protruding like angry snakes. Argh.

“Annie?” Melanie said, realizing now the high school queen bee would know Dane was in all regular classes, no AP classes for this one.

“Yes, I just texted my daughter’s friend and explained what was going on and she was happy to help. Did you know Ashley and Annie are rooming together at Harvard next year? Such good girls,” Jud said, steepling his hands together and then cracking his knuckles with a loud, precise movement.

“Such,” Melanie said, wondering how quickly she could make her escape from Crystal Beach High School if she had the weight of Dr. Nelson’s celebrity around her neck. She was high-profile enough, simply because her family lived behind the guarded gates of the most exclusive community in town. Plus, she was now the latest gossip item, the fainting episode would be the talk of the town. They’d never make it through the crowd. She needed an escape. “Jud, say, I’m going to run to the ladies room. I’ll meet you in the parking lot.”

“Are you sure you’re feeling alright, Mel?”

“—anie,” she said, finishing her name involuntarily. “Yes, yes, I’ll be fine,” she added hurrying out the door and into the foggy night. Melanie decided she actually should duck into a restroom and check her appearance before navigating the quad. She rounded the corner heading away from the now fog-enshrouded football field and dashed into the restroom. She’d been in here many times before, jockeying with teenage girls for a spot at the sink to wash her hands while they primped and reapplied makeup.

Melanie wondered if she had been that self-absorbed in high school and decided she probably had been, but it was still annoying. Since she never had a girl of her own, she took sublime pleasure in judging everyone else’s. Tonight, blissfully, the line up of sinks and mirrors were teen-free and she hoped she had the entire bathroom to herself. She glanced at her hair, noting the frizz that the fog and her overall state of mind had taken. She was a mess. Her face was ghostly white, even taking into account the fluorescent lighting. A toilet flushed, and Melanie hurried into the first stall to avoid talking to whoever was finishing up.

She heard the tap tap tap of the woman’s heels walking past the row of stalls, including the one Melanie had ducked inside, and heard her turn on the squeaky faucet.

“Wonderful evening, as always,” the woman said, to nobody Melanie assumed, and then she heard her laugh. A quiet, almost desperate laugh.

“Hello Sarah, nice to see you,” a second woman’s voice said.

Inside her stall, Melanie’s heart dropped at the sound of even more company.

“You as well. Wonderful night at the high school. They do such a nice job with this, and all things for the children,” Sarah said, and Melanie imagined Sarah applying powder to her perfect face as her mouth attempted a smile directed at the other woman.

“Thanks to you and your husband. You guys fund everything,” the other woman said. “I’m going to need David to step it up.”

“Actually, Lauren, he used to be quite involved before,” Sarah said, as Melanie heard the change of tone as clearly as the other woman must have.

“You mean before me. With his first wife,” the woman, Lauren, said.

“Yes, that’s what I mean. Have a good night,” Sarah said as Melanie heard her heels tap tap tap out of the bathroom, and the door bang closed behind her. Melanie imagined Sarah, dressed as she had been in silk screening class, in a skin-tight, vibrant blue designer dress, perfectly accessorized. With a simple sentence she’d shamed the poor woman Lauren who now stood staring at herself in the mirror. Sarah was a force in town, someone to fear, Melanie knew, and whoever the other woman was in the bathroom, she’d just been put in her place. Melanie realized she should go say hi, at least, and actually, she was curious as to who it was that had caused the queen bee to show her true colors.

“Hey, you in there?” a man’s voice floated into the bathroom, echoing off the thin mirrors and the cracked white ceramic tile.

Inside her hiding stall, Melanie’s heart thumped a beat. Was Jud trying to find her?

“Yes, I am,” answered Lauren, the woman Sarah had been talking to, in what could only be described as a seductive voice. Who was Lauren, Melanie wondered. Oh, of course, her husband David Potts owned at least five Mercedes dealerships in Southern California. Melanie had been told the scoop shortly after moving to town. David’s family had the business.

Lauren had been his young, hot secretary. It had been a scandal when they had married, what with the twenty-year age difference and David’s first wife and three young children. But everyone in town had eventually accepted the new Mrs. Potts, with the exception of Sarah it seemed. Melanie knew The Potts lived in a sprawling mansion along the coast in south Crystal Beach. And they had one daughter, Kiley, who was in Dane’s class. 

Mystery solved, Melanie was about to find the courage to extract herself from her hiding place and say hello to Lauren and her husband when she heard the unmistakable sound of two people making out.

Really, in the girls’ bathroom, Melanie thought, equal parts disgust and jealousy rising from the center of her being.

“Oh, oh,” Lauren said, a breathless, sensual sigh. Melanie knew then she was trapped in a romance novel, stuck in her stall in the girls’ bathroom. Could the evening get any worse, she wondered.


Kaira Rouda is a USA Today bestselling, multiple award-winning author of contemporary women's fiction and sexy modern romance novels that sparkle with humor and heart. Her women's fiction titles include HERE, HOME, HOPE, ALL THE DIFFERENCE and IN THE MIRROR. Her bestselling short story is titled, A MOTHER'S DAY. Kaira's work has won the Indie Excellence Award, USA Book Awards, the Reader's Choice Awards and honorable mention in the Writer's Digest International Book Awards. Her books have been widely reviewed and featured in leading magazines. 

Her sexy contemporary romance series set on INDIGO ISLAND includes: WEEKEND WITH THE TYCOON, Book 1; HER FORBIDDEN LOVE, Book 2; THE TROUBLE WITH CHRISTMAS, Book 3; and THE BILLIONAIRE'S BID, Book 4. Each of these novellas can be read as a stand alone, or enjoyed as a series. Her new series is set in LAGUNA BEACH and includes: LAGUNA NIGHTS, Book 1; LAGUNA HEIGHTS, Book 2; and LAGUNA LIGHTS, Book 3 coming winter 2015. She also helped launch Melissa Foster's The Remington's Kindle World with her bestselling novella, SPOTLIGHT ON LOVE, and is part of Carly Phillips Dare to Love Kindle World with THE CELEBRITY DARE.

Her nonfiction titles, REAL YOU INCORPORATED: 8 Essentials for Women Entrepreneurs, and REAL YOU FOR AUTHORS: 8 Essentials for Women Writers (available for free download on her website) continue to inspire.  

She lives in Southern California with her husband and four almost-grown kids, and is at work on her next novel. Connect with her on Twitter, Facebook at Kaira Rouda Books and on her website,

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