Thursday, June 23, 2016

Review | Up At Butternut Lake by Mary McNear

Up At Butternut Lake by Mary McNear
Series: The Butternut Lake Series #1
Published by William Morrow Paperbacks

Publish Date: April 8, 2014

Source: Library
Find it here:  Goodreads / Amazon 

It's been ten years since Allie Beckett crossed the threshold of her family cabin at Butternut Lake, Minnesota. Now, newly widowed after the death of her husband in Afghanistan, she's returned with her five-year-old son.

There, she reconnects with the friends she had in childhood-best girlfriend Jax, now married with three kids and one on the way, and Caroline, owner of the local coffee shop. What Allie doesn't count on is a newcomer to Butternut Lake, Walker Ford. 

Up at Butternut Lake follows these four unforgettable characters across a single summer as they struggle with love, loss, and what it means to take risks, confront fears, and embrace life, in all of its excitement and unpredictability.

Allie Beckett could never have imagined, when she ran away from her old life, that she was running into a whole new life, up at the lake…
  (from Goodreads) 

Up At Butternut Lake by Mary McNear

My Thoughts: This is a great read for summer and a great comfort read. 

Up At Butternut Lake by Mary McNear centers around Allie Beckett and her son Wyatt who are grieving the loss of their husband/father after he was killed in action in Afghanistan. This happened before the book begins. When the book opens, the mother and young son have just arrived at a small cabin on Butternut Lake, ready to begin a new life free from the sad looks and tones of voice that have plagued them in the year since Allie's husband has died. This is the cabin that Allie spent her summers as a young person so she has come to a place of some familiarity, but it is completely new for Wyatt. Allie is able to reconnect with her best friend from her teenage summers, Jax, and share some of the local venues that she loved when she was younger with Wyatt. It takes a long time for the two to feel at home, months actually, but eventually they do - and it is only with the help of some of the other locals. 

Walker Ford owns the cabin across the lake as well as the local boatyard. Allie's good friend from when she was younger, Jax, is married and pregnant with three young children - perfect for helping Wyatt get settled in with friends. Local diner owner Caroline remembers Allie from when she ate at the diner as a child and is a near-constant source of advice, a babysitter, and just a dear sweet friend to her. Everyone in a this small town - everyone - has issues of their own that they're trying to live with and deal with. Nothing really too heavy, but this is something that is notable in this book (we're not the only one dealing with problems, we don't have to feel alone, etc). This is actually brought to Allie's attention at one point, and it really does help her to settle down a bit and feel a little more comfortable in her new place - like she doesn't stick out like a sore thumb because she's carrying around her grief. Everyone is carrying around something. 

Besides the small-town Minnesota lake setting, which I loved, I adored the character-driven nature of this book. The synopsis reads like this is an Allie/Walker story, and in a way I guess it is. But I learned so much about Jax and Caroline and their own stories, and the author developed them so well that I feel like I have a pretty good handle on at least a portion of the town now, and I'm ready to jump right into the next book. Also, the author mentions in her note that this book has themes of confronting the past in order to move forward in life - this is something that pretty much all of the characters has to do in some way, and I love the way the author chose to write this into each character's story arc. 

Small-town companion series are some of my favorites, and I'm glad that I chose to finally begin the Butternut Lake Series. I'm also glad that I waited until 1) several of the books are already out so that I can binge-read and 2) summertime to start this, because this first book begs to be read on the porch or by the water. I am such a huge fan of women's fiction/contemporary fiction with romance, and while this book falls firmly into this category, I think there is plenty in here for guys to grab it if they want to as well.


Up At Butternut Lake will appeal to fans of:

Contemporary Fiction/Women's Fiction
Romance: Slowly Developing with no triangle.
Setting: Minnesota, US
Small town series
Character driven plot

Up At Butternut Lake by Mary McNear
is currently available for purchase.


The Butternut Lake Series: 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Review | Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo

Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo
Published by Knopf BYR

Publish Date: December 11, 2012

Source: Publisher
Find it here:  Goodreads / Amazon 

A wonderful, coming-of-age love story from a fresh new voice in YA fiction.

'Miss Amelia Hayes, welcome to The Land of Dreams. I am the staff trainer. I will call you grasshopper and you will call me sensei and I will give you the good oil. Right? And just so you know, I'm open to all kinds of bribery.'

From the moment 15-year-old Amelia begins work on the checkout at Woolworths she is sunk, gone, lost...head-over-heels in love with Chris. Chris is the funny, charming, man-about-Woolies, but he's 21, and the 6-year difference in their ages may as well be 100. Chris and Amelia talk about everything from Second Wave Feminism to Great Expectations and Alien but will he ever look at her in the way she wants him to? And if he does, will it be everything she hopes?
  (from Goodreads) 

Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo

My Thoughts:  I wanted to be emotionally knocked-over by this story

Amelia is 15 and works in a local grocery store. She is disillusioned by her parent's marriage, or maybe she is disillusioned by her mother's seemingly constant state of unhappiness with her lot in life as a mother and wife and working woman. Maybe she is disillusioned with both and dreads the prospect at potentially ending up much the same way. At any rate, she finds a friend and listener in 21-year-old Chris, one of her coworkers. 

Chris attends college nearby and loves to talk to Amelia about her thoughts. For one, she likes to read and Chris is really into literature. Chris also loves to hear Amelia's well-articulated thoughts on feminism - something she is just beginning to learn about - he finds that they can carry on intelligent conversations about the topic. Amelia is also pretty but doesn't realize her own beauty and therefore isn't overly flirty or slutty or anything like that. She's just regular Amelia, and that is increasingly attractive to Chris as the book goes on. 

Amelia and Chris begin writing letters to one another to continue the deep conversations that they have while at work. Soon Amelia is thinking about Chris all the time, talking to her BFF about him, googly-eyed over him. She has it bad. Surely he feels the same way, right? After all, he's talking to her so much and writing to her!? And there was that one time at that party...

Does Chris really like Amelia? Or is he still in love with his ex-girlfriend? Is he flirting with Amelia and "getting to know her" when he writes her all of these letters about engaging topics like her family dynamic and feminism? Or is he really just innocently having great conversation with someone that is on his own intelligence level? 

This has the potential to blow up both if these two declare their feelings and also maybe if they do not. Because there is a six-year age gap between these two and Amelia has already fallen in love. 


I wanted to fall in love with this book so badly. I remember working in a grocery store myself when I was in college (with both high school age and college age coworkers), and I could just SEE this entire book play out in my head. I could see Chris at war with himself over his state in life: too old to be working at the grocery store, needing to move on to a more permanent job, moving on from his ex-girlfriend that treated him poorly and did him wrong, and beginning to look for the type of girl that wants to settle down and commit. I could see Chris as a good-looking guy just having friendly banter with a younger teenage girl that he was tasked with training on a cash register, and the girl crushing-then-falling-for him. I could see Amelia reading nearly all of his interactions in the wrong way. I could visualize this situation just being exactly what it was.Except in my head, it was far more emotional and the potential outcomes felt like more of a sucker punch when I thought about it than when I actually read it. This emotional scene that I created in my head? THAT is what I wanted from the book. But the more I read, the further disconnected I became to the story. 

So, why the disconnect

- I didn't feel any emotional pull to either Amelia or Chris. I liked them both very much as characters, and in some weird way, I really wanted it to work out for them (totally not sure how that would have happened, by the way, but I was somehow here for it). But they were both very flat on the page. And for me, I need to be emotionally connected. Here, the story was good with good potential, but nothing really stood out with Amelia and Chris: no major plot points, no full development to these characters. 

- The use of alternating POV's: I liked it in the beginning, but began to not like it as the story progressed. Amelia's story is told in narrative and Chris tells his story by way of journal entries, which is a nice surprise. However, the switch in POV tells and retells the same period of time, and then tells and retells the same period of time, and so on. It was so jarring for me because I kept forgetting that both Amelia and Chris were telling their own views of the same period of time. I can appreciate that there was no redundancy between the two narrators, but the time frame needs to be more obvious because I kept forgetting that Chris was journaling the same period of time that I just read about until I recognized a scene that Amelia described in her narrative. 

Still, I did very much like the narrative vs. journaling aspect. That was really cool. 

- I loved that Amelia and Chris were able to have engaging conversations because it is important to have friends that challenge us and stimulate us, right? But I lost so much trying to keep up with Chris teaching Amelia about feminism. I am not anti-feminism at all (and neither is Chris, which is awesome) but this portion of the story read so much like a textbook to me that it really detracted from the emotion of the story. Is this book about the relationship between two people or is it about feminism? 

Several of my friends and many other readers have loved this book for several different reasons, so I recommend that potential readers seek out other reviews besides mine. When I have a hard time connecting with all of the characters, it tends to sway everything else about a story for me. I feel, I really feel, like if this book had been available to me in audiobook format, I might have been able to connect to it in more ways because audiobooks tend to draw more emotion from me (more senses are used!) but sadly there is no audiobook available as far as I am able to discern.


Love and Other Perishable Items will appeal to fans of:

Young Adult Contemporary
Romance: No triangles. 
Setting: Australia
Alternating POV

Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo
is currently available for purchase.


Check it out for yourself:

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Review | The Royal We by Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan

The Royal We by Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan
Published by Grand Central Publishing

Publish Date: April 7, 2015

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

"I might be Cinderella today, but I dread who they'll think I am tomorrow. I guess it depends on what I do next."

American Rebecca Porter was never one for fairy tales. Her twin sister, Lacey, has always been the romantic who fantasized about glamour and royalty, fame and fortune. Yet it's Bex who seeks adventure at Oxford and finds herself living down the hall from Prince Nicholas, Great Britain's future king. And when Bex can't resist falling for Nick, the person behind the prince, it propels her into a world she did not expect to inhabit, under a spotlight she is not prepared to face.

Dating Nick immerses Bex in ritzy society, dazzling ski trips, and dinners at Kensington Palace with him and his charming, troublesome brother, Freddie. But the relationship also comes with unimaginable baggage: hysterical tabloids, Nick's sparkling and far more suitable ex-girlfriends, and a royal family whose private life is much thornier and more tragic than anyone on the outside knows. The pressures are almost too much to bear, as Bex struggles to reconcile the man she loves with the monarch he's fated to become.

Which is how she gets into trouble.

Now, on the eve of the wedding of the century, Bex is faced with whether everything she's sacrificed for love-her career, her home, her family, maybe even herself-will have been for nothing.
  (from Goodreads) 

The Royal We by Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan

My Thoughts:  1) I wanted to love this book with all of my heart, but I didn't. 2) It took me a full month to read this, which tells me so much for a ChickLit book. 

Here are the things I liked about The Royal We

-I loved the time Nick and Bex spent at Oxford, their friendship, and their falling in love. Even though Bex is a normal American girl and Nick is a proper Prince, it felt swoony and fun. This is basically the beginning of the book. 

-I loved ALL of the parts of the story that had anything to do with Bex learning to be "royal" - as an American, I could eat that stuff for breakfast. I was raised to have good manners, but these are manners in the way of Southern etiquette and tradition. The proper royal way is something entirely different and I was absolutely captivated, just like I knew I would be - just like I am in real life. These parts are in the end of the book. 

Here are the things that I didn't love about The Royal We

-The entire middle of the book lagged. There are a few nuggets of story in there, and the actual story as a whole is great. But there is so much filler that probably at least one hundred pages of this book could GO AWAY and it would still be just fine. Do you know that this book is nearly 500 pages? This book is just too long for the type of story that it is. 

-The secondary characters. For one: Lacey, twin sister to Bex, is a real piece of work. She is an attention-seeking, trouble-making problem. And while her actions furthered the plot in many instances (as in, she caused a crap-ton of problems for Bex), I was amazed at how Bex just glossed over her actions like everything was okay. I adore my sisters too, but when we have issues, we get that junk squared away-and that is without the world watching us! 

-Lacey spends so much time in the spotlight with all of her issues and drama, and I wanted more of Nick. Actually, I think this book could have used more of his perspective throughout because at the end, when all is said and done, I don't really know how he felt about certain things throughout the story - I feel like he didn't get as much of a say. 

-I hated everything about the time Nick and Bex spent apart. This sounds whiny I'm sure, and I don't want to spoil it for anyone, so I'm going to leave it at that. The things that happened during that time made me sad and am I the only person that sees a connection to the events that happened later in the book? Is anyone talking about this? Because, yes, there is a connection to the events that happened later in the book...

-...which I also didn't love. Even though I love the characters that said event involved. Vague here, yes, so here is a link to this same review on my Goodreads profile with a tagged spoiler explanation if you want to see it:(view spoiler)

-BEX: Don't lose yourself for anybody. Any. Body. Even if he is a prince! When you find the right guy, he will love you FOR WHO YOU ARE. The Bex that leapt onto the pages at the beginning of the book is not the Bex that ends the story. What is the opposite of character development? I cannot think of the word just now...


LOOK. I don't mind fluffy stories. I don't mind ChickLit stories. But I really, really love the royals and stories about royals, even if they aren't based on real royals. So when I come across them and choose to read them, I guess I'm hard on them. This one just-the more I think about it, the more mixed up I feel. 

This premise is one that I enjoy every time that I read it: American girl falls for a prince, they get married and then happily ever after. But I've read much better versions of this story than The Royal We. If this book is based on real people, okay. But I just can't get with the way it went down because the end falls completely flat, without good resolution to some major events that occur near the end, and regardless of whether or not that is anywhere close to the real thing or not, it didn't feel good to me to read that story and be left wondering if everything is okay with these people. (I considered dropping this book over and over but ultimately I wanted to see how everything ended. BAH.) 

CLEARLY I'm in the minority here, so don't take my word here, go read other 4-5 star reviews on Goodreads. These are my thoughts, they are how I feel, and I stand by them-even though it makes me sad to say so. 

Audiobook Notes: The audiobook format of The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan is published by Hachette Audio and is 17 hours and 54 minutes, Unabridged. Christine Lakin reads this audiobook and does a heck of a job. It is incredible and if you are considering reading this book, I would highly recommend that you do it via audiobook or at least add the audio to your print read. She has great humor to go along with the banter that is written (these characters are funny, if a bit poorly-behaved) and her accents are on-point. Loved this audio!


The Royal We will appeal to fans of:

Contemporary Fiction/Women's Fiction/ChickLit
Romance: No triangle.
Setting: London
Fairytales & the Royals

The Royal We by Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan
is currently available for purchase.


Saturday, June 18, 2016

Review | Written In Red by Anne Bishop

Written In Red by Anne Bishop
Series: The Others #1
Published by Roc

Publish Date: March 5, 2013

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

No one creates realms like New York Times bestselling author Anne Bishop. Now in a thrilling new fantasy series, enter a world inhabited by the Others, unearthly entities—vampires and shape-shifters among them—who rule the Earth and whose prey are humans.As a cassandra sangue, or blood prophet, Meg Corbyn can see the future when her skin is cut—a gift that feels more like a curse. Meg’s Controller keeps her enslaved so he can have full access to her visions. But when she escapes, the only safe place Meg can hide is at the Lakeside Courtyard—a business district operated by the Others. 

Shape-shifter Simon Wolfgard is reluctant to hire the stranger who inquires about the Human Liaison job. First, he senses she’s keeping a secret, and second, she doesn’t smell like human prey. Yet a stronger instinct propels him to give Meg the job. And when he learns the truth about Meg and that she’s wanted by the government, he’ll have to decide if she’s worth the fight between humans and the Others that will surely follow.
  (from Goodreads) 

Written In Red by Anne Bishop

My Thoughts: I loved this! I loved this so much. The more I think about this story and world, the more excited I am that I've started this series. 

The world of The Others, aka the terra indigene, is complex and unique and so much fun. The characters in this story are just as cool as the setting. 

This book takes place in a world that is mostly non-human, so mostly everyone has cool things about him/her. Main character Meg Corbyn, for example, looks like a human but she is actually a blood prophet, which means that she can see glimpses of the future when she is cut or when she cuts herself. Simon Wolfgard looks like a human but is really a wolf that often takes a human form to communicate with and walk among humans without making them too afraid. There are also bears, ponies, crows, hawks, a few vampires, the Elementals, and Tess. (No one knows Tess' true terra indigene form, but they're all afraid of what it could be-she can be vicious). 

When Meg comes stumbling into Simon's bookstore during a snowstorm asking for a job, he is a little wary of hiring her. She doesn't have on boots and a warm coat, and she seems very unaware of her surroundings and the fact that human law doesn't apply in the world of the terra indigene. But he hires her anyway: she becomes the newest Human Liaison, the middle-man between the human communities and the terra indigene. Honestly, nobody ever really lasts long in that position and Simon doesn't think that Meg will either, as weak and pathetic as she appears. To his surprise and everyone else's, she is GREAT at it. She proves herself as a great communicator, a great advocate, and she really shows up for their community of mistrusted and feared non-humans.

But Meg has a secret: she isn't human either, and she is being hunted. As a blood prophet, a cassandra sangue, she is highly prized for what she is. When she walked away ran away from her old life, Meg had no idea that even the government would get involved in looking for her. Thankfully, when gained the trust of The Others, she won over a band of fiercely loyal protectors that almost always wins when put up against the human world. 

That doesn't mean that the humans don't try to come against The Others - and not only because they want Meg back. There are other people trying to work against the terra indigene too. Foolishly.


Written In Red is long, really long. It is a little slow to start and it lags in a couple of places. Setting up this world and developing the characters takes a little bit of time, but it is so worth it. By the last one-third to one-quarter of the book, there is a ton of action and it is unputdownable. 

I wasn't sure how I would like Meg in the beginning of the story - she is physically weak and she is unsure of almost everything. But there is a reason for all of this and while her weakness feels over-mentioned in the story, her growing strength is also addressed and thankfully she is developed on this point. She also develops a bit of a backbone, some tenacity. Meg still has some work to do, I think, before I want to call her confident, but I'll give her some grace and space because of what she has been through, because of this story, and because of where I think she may be headed in the future. I'm eager to see what comes for her. 

I was interested in Simon right away - I loved that he was a cautious character, unsure of what Meg was doing in the community and why she was there, etc. That cautiousness felt like a good-leader quality. When I added the audiobook, however, the narrator gave him a personality that sounded angry at least half of the time, almost like a grumpy, pissed-off jerk. As the story unfolded, I began to love his loyalty to the rest of the terra indigene and to Meg. LOVED. I have my eye on him, not only because I love his character, but because of what I feel is confusion between his personality in print vs. his personality on the audiobook. 

I also loved that this book did not feature romance heavily. I'm sure it will come eventually, since this series is long, and that's totally fine. But for now, the focus has been on the characterization, the world-building, and the relationships between Meg and all of the other members of the terra indigene community as well as Meg carving out her own place in that society - there really was not a place for a romance and I'm so grateful that the author didn't try to put one in there. It was great just the way that it was. 

The world is fun, the characters are fun, Meg and Simon are interesting, and I am starting the second book right now. 

Audiobook Notes:  The audiobook format of Written In Red by Anne Bishop is published by Penguin Audio and is 18 hours and 32 minutes, Unabridged. This audiobook was read by Alexandra Harris, who is new to me. I enjoyed this audiobook and plan to read this entire series via print + audiobook. I love the way she reads Meg's character. I think her voice is perfect for Meg's part, especially when she speaks with the unsureness that Meg has in the beginning and when she is talking to the young wolf pup Sam and to the terra indigene in their animal forms. She gives Meg a very kind and pure and sweet sound, which is consistent with her personality as well as her being a blood prophet (aka sweet blood). However, the voice used for Simon is so angry-sounding when us uses dialogue, so grumpy even. It completely changed the way I envisioned Simon from when I read the first few chapters without the audiobook, and to be perfectly honest, I much prefer his character slightly little less-hostile and angry, the way the print makes his personality feel. 


Written In Red will appeal to fans of:

Urban Fantasy
Wolves, Vampires, Shapeshifters, Elementals
Romance: None, but potential set-up for later installments.

Written In Red by Anne Bishop
is currently available for purchase.


The Others Series:

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Review | Forever Beach by Shelley Noble

Forever Beach by Shelley Noble
Published by William Morrow Paperbacks

Publish Date: June 7, 2016

Source: Publisher
Find it here:  Goodreads / Amazon 

From the New York Times bestselling author of Beach Colors and Breakwater Bay comes this heartwarming story of love, family, and redemption. Two young girls pledged to be best friends forever. Separated by circumstance and hurt, they are reunited years later as they struggle to put their differences aside for the sake of a special little girl—perfect for fans of Elin Hilderbrand, Jane Green, and Kristin Hannah.

Two women…
One little girl…
Can they forgive the past in order to ensure the future of an innocent child…?

Once a foster child herself, Sarah Hargreave can’t wait to finalize the adoption of her foster daughter Leila. Sarah longs to give her all the love and stability she was denied in her own childhood. She’s put her own friendships and even her relationship with Wyatt, her longtime lover, on hold in order to give Leila her full attention. 

When Leila’s biological mother suddenly reappears and petitions the court for the return of her daughter, Sarah is terrified she’ll lose the little girl she’s come to love as her own. Convinced the mother is still addicted to drugs, Sarah and her social worker enlist the help of high profile family lawyer, Ilona Cartwright. But when they meet, Sarah recognizes her as Nonie Blanchard who grew up in the same group foster home as Sarah. They’d promised to be best friends forever, then Nonie was adopted by a wealthy family, and Sarah never heard from her again. Sarah still hurts from the betrayal. But Nonie harbors her own resentment toward Sarah who she believes abandoned her when she needed her most.

Mistrustful of each other, the two women form a tenuous alliance to ensure Leila’s future, but when Leila’s very survival is on the line, they’ll have to come to terms with their own feelings of hurt and rejection to save the child they both have come to love.
 (from Goodreads) 

Forever Beach by Shelley Noble 

My Thoughts:  When I picked this book up, I thought it was going to be a light beach read based on this cover! It was clear within the first few pages of the book that there was much more story within these pages than a light beach read. And that's okay, because I like stories that have some meat to them. 

Forever Beach is the story of Sarah and Leila. Leila has been fostered by Sarah for a while now, several years, and is going through the adoption process. Leila's birth mother had seven children and a history of drug abuse and abusing her children, so they were all removed from her care. There have been multiple instances in which Leila has been through visitation with her birth mother, all resulting in regressive behavior and really, just trauma to Leila. (All of this happened prior to the start of the book.) As a child that aged out of "the system" herself, Sarah wants nothing more than to adopt Leila and give her a steady, loving home where she can feel peace and safety. 

In the first few pages of the book, we find that Leila is waiting not-so-patiently for the papers that let her know that the adoption is drawing near to finalization, but instead the papers that come through the mail indicate that the birth mother has come off of drugs, has gotten safe housing, and is requesting reunification with Leila. 

Sarah is heartbroken. And outraged. And scared for Leila. She's seen this before - the regressive behavior, etc - but she's also torn. Isn't reunification with the birth mother the best thing for families? Isn't that the ultimate goal? But she was so close to adopting this sweet girl that she loves so much! SO CLOSE. How should she feel? What should she do? 

Lucky for Sarah, one of her best friends work with Child Protection - Reesa - and is able to give good insight. She immediately begins to make some phonecalls but BOOM - things actually get a little crazier before they begin to get better. 


I've never really read a book that is this extensively about adoption/fostering. So this was, I think, an eye-opening story for me. The story is mostly from Sarah's perspective, so I was able to get the glimpse of everything from the eye of the adoptive mother's view, and her interest was that of Leila's best care. I enjoyed this book, but it was intense at times. 

This cast of characters was a good one, and they all brought to the story their own set of circumstances - too extensive to list out for a short review, but for example: Sarah had baggage from her childhood that she brought into her adulthood, and this affected how she raised Leila. Not necessarily in a bad way, but I think she definitely over-stressed herself. Thankfully, she had great friends to help her through the trials of fostering/adopting (because she did not have any family, you see). She needed their constant reminder that they were there for her, they were there for her, they were there for her. She sometimes sabotaged their efforts whether she meant to or not, because she was not used to so much unconditional help and kindness and love. This carried forth into the romantic relationship she had with Wyatt also, which I'll talk about more in just a bit. 

Sarah's friends were great. Reesa worked with the local social services as a social worker (she was GREAT at her job) which meant that she had a small amount of sway or push with getting information when Sarah needed it regarding Leila's case. But not too much. The thing with Reesa was that 1) she was incredibly burned out by the horrific cases she has had to deal with over approximately twenty years on the job and 2) her marriage was really stressful for her at the moment. Her portions of the story were captivating to me! I like her so much - great heart, great friend - but she has a lot going on. She could really have an entire book about her own life. Sarah's other friend Karen - great mother, great marriage, upbeat attitude - just great. I liked them both and the three friends together - great friendships, which I love in a book. I love the support that they all three gave one another, and I like that their significant others were included as well, in whatever capacity they were able to be/were needed. 

As far as romance goes, Sarah has a thing for Wyatt, but she doesn't want to commit until she knows for sure how things will play out with Leila. This is a good thing and a bad thing. She brings Wyatt around for a while, and then when things with Leila heat up (when there are visitations and Leila regresses, etc), she pushes Wyatt away. There is a point at which Sarah has to make a decision about Wyatt because either he won't wait forever or he will declare his true feelings or someone will snatch him up - or all three of these! I love the way that the romance was more of a side-plot and never the main focus of this story. Wyatt was a great character throughout the story, but the romance portion of the plot was just never the main focus. YES TO THIS! And I absolutely adored the relationship that Wyatt had with Leila. 

The big elephant in the room for me is Ilona Cartwright, Leila's attorney. Ilona Cartwright IS Nonie Blanchard, who used to be Sarah's roommate in their group home when they were children. The two loved each other so fiercely when they were children that they called one another sisters and pledged to write each other weekly when Nonie was adopted and Sarah was not. But the writing never happened for some reason, and the two never forgave one another when their friendship/sisterhood was not maintained. THIS is there I had a teensy bit of trouble. 

Ilona was a bit of a character. When she was first introduced, I liked her! I thought she would come in with her high-profile self and help Sarah out with Leila's best interests at heart. But the more we get to know Ilona, the more I grew to dislike her because of her misplaced motivations...

The Ilona/Sarah portion of the plot takes up a large chunk of the story, and I understand this because it shaped so much of both Ilona's life and Sarah's life. But with Leila's little life in the balance, and with her birth mother such a danger to her in the past and threatening her future, it drove me bananas waiting around for so much drama to unfold between these two. So really, if I could change anything about this book, it would be something about the Ilona/Sarah story arc - I'm not sure what - but I can't really put my finger on why it didn't work for me. Other readers may love it the way that it is (because there is great resolution!) but I felt like I was about to have a heart attack while I was waiting to see if Leila would be okay, and it largely had to do with two grown women acting like children. 

Ultimately, I liked this book a lot. This was my first book by Shelley Noble and I like that it had a beach setting and that the characters visited the beach often. I'd like to read more by Ms. Noble. I recommend Forever Beach by Shelley Noble to readers that enjoy good contemporary fiction and also to readers that are seeking out stories about adoption and/or fostering, because I do come across those readers from time to time. 


Forever Beach will appeal to fans of:

Contemporary Fiction/Women's Fiction
Romance: No triangle. Not the central focus of the story.
Adoption/Foster Care

Forever Beach by Shelley Noble
is currently available for purchase.