The Kept Woman

The Kept Woman: a novel by Karin Slaughter. New York: William Morrow, 406 pages. ****

Slaughter once again weaves an intricate tale of murder, revenge, and control. With the discovery of a body at an abandoned construction site and the realization that the vast amount of blood found there does not belong to the murder victim, sends Will Trent on a mission to confront his past. Throw in an accused rapist, who is a connected athlete both politically and powerfully, who happens to own the site where the body is found and Will's life gets even more complicated. Partially told through the eyes of Will's lover, Sara Linton, the GBI medical examiner, and stalker, ex-wife Angie Polaski, exposes their tangled relationship with Will and his past.

I love Karin Slaughter as an author and relish her complicated plots with all of their devious twists and turns and The Kept Woman does not disappoint. What Slaughter does best is to develop complex characters and expose social issues (physical and emotional abuse, abandonment, corruption) in a roller coaster of emotions.

I received a copy from BookSparks for a review.

Karin Slaughter is the #1 internationally bestselling author of more than a dozen novels, including the Will Trent and Grant County series and the instant New York Times bestselling standalones Cop Town and Pretty Girls. There are more than thirty-five million copies of her books in print around the world. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

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A House for Happy Mothers

A House for Happy Mothers: a novel by Amulya Malladi. Lake Union Publishing, 2016. 391 pages. ***
Priya has everything going for her...a stable marriage, fulfilling career, a family who loves her, everything but what she really wants ---a baby. She becomes consumed by the thought of motherhood and convinces her husband to consider a surrogate. In an Indian village, Asha and her husband are struggling to provide for their two children, especially their gifted son. With money in short supply, there is no chance of him getting the education he deserves.  Asha reluctantly agrees to be a surrogate to earn extra money for her family and moves into the Happy Mothers House to finish out her pregnancy. Priya tries too hard and doesn't understand what Asha is feeling and experiencing as a pregnant woman who has to distance herself from the child growing inside her.

I am conflicted about this book, I enjoyed reading it, but it seemed somewhat disjointed. It will make an interesting companion read to Most Wanted by Lisa Scottoline. Both of the main characters are likable and their situations and station in life are vastly different, joined by the desire to make a better life for their families. The premise of the story is a good one and different from other plots, but I felt it lacked an emotional connection for me.

I received a copy for a review.

Amulya Malladi is the author of six novels, including The Mango Season and The Sound of Language. Her books have been translated into several languages. She has a bachelor's degree in engineering and a master's degree in journalism and works as a marketing executive for a global medtech company. She lives in Copenhagen with her husband and two children. She loves to connect with her readers on her Facebook page at www.facebook.com/amulyamalladi and on her website at www.amulyamalladi.com.

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Swear On This Life

Swear On This Life: a novel by Renee Carlino. New York: Atria Paperback, 2016. 303 pages. ****

Emiline is stalled in her writing and is working as an adjunct instructor at UC San Diego when her roommate raves about a bestselling novel from unknown author, J. Colby, and urges her to read it. Emiline reluctantly starts it only to discover that it is the story of her life! The mysterious J. Colby must be her childhood friend and first love, Jase. How dare he write the story of her unhappy, desperate childhood and from her point of view. Emiline only has one choice to find her childhood friend whom she hasn't seen in over a decade and to confront her past.

Carlino drew me in from the very beginning, Emiline's story is compelling and heartwrenching. Told in alternating voices lends authenticity to this emotional tale of lost love and friendship. Do we each have that "one person" in our life or are there many for different stages of our life? Whatever the answer, Carlino tugged at my emotions and had me cheering for Jase and Emiline to be reunited. I won't give away any more of the story, but if you enjoyed Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid, you will love this one too.

I received a copy for a review.

Renee Carlino is a screenwriter and the bestselling author of Sweet Thing, Nowhere but Here, After the Rain, and Before We Were Strangers. She grew up in Southern California and lives in the San Diego area with her husband, two sons, and their sweet dog, June. To learn more, visit Renee Carlino.

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Amish Quilts

Amish Quilts: Giftable Inspiration Along With Quilting Tips. Featuring the Photography of Richard Brunstetter Sr. With Inspiration from Wanda E. Brunstetter. Ohio: Shiloh Run Press, 2016. *****

Wanda's fascination with quilts began when she was a young girl and would study a quilt made by her Grandmother. It is a scrappy one made with pieces of clothing her family members had worn.

Her husband, Richard, is a photographer who has an eye for quilts which is clear in his photographs.

The pages of this book are beautifully illustrated with gorgeous quilts and include a verse from the Bible and a "Quilting Tip" for each photograph. The quilts featured are traditional in design, but not necessarily quilts that are associated with the Amish in color choice. (at least what is evident in the Lancaster Pennsylvania Amish) They are all beautiful!

This book is a lovely companion to The Hawaiian Quilt and Wanda E. Brunstetter's Amish Friends  Harvest Cookbook.

I received a copy to review.

Follow Wanda E. Brunstetter on Facebook.

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The Hawaiian Quilt

The Hawaiian Quilt by Wanda E. Brunstetter and Jean Brunstetter. Ohio: Shiloh Run Press, 2016. 279 pages. ***** Recipes, History of Hawaiian Quilts and Discussion Questions included.

Twenty-year-old Mandy Frey seems to have it all...a loving family, an Amish boyfriend who wants to marry her, three best friends and yet, she yearns to visit Hawaii. Convincing her three friends to go with her on this trip of a lifetime, Mandy's adventurous spirit leaves her and one of those friends stranded in Hawaii. An unexpected prolonged stay forces Mandy to re-evaluate what is important to her and to make life altering decisions. Gideon is waiting for her in Indiana, but handsome and fun-loving Ken is in Hawaii. Which one will Mandy choose and how does a Hawaiian quilt bring her true love?

Wanda and Jean as a team keep getting better and better. I love that they have branched out to Hawaii and brought Hawaiian quilts into the story. Hawaiian quilts are unique and complex, representative of the beauty of the islands. The writing team has captured the sights and smells of the islands in their descriptions of the Vog, flowers, water and sand. They never disappoint and this book is probably one of my favorites (I know I say that with every new release).  Their books provide comfort, inspiration, and solace in this crazy world in which we live. 

I received it with a copy of Amish Quilts: Giftable Inspiration Along With Quilting Tips and the Wanda E. Brunstetter's Amish Friends Harvest Cookbook. All three will make a wonderful holiday gift to your favorite person!

I received a copy for review. 

New York Times bestselling author, Wanda E. Brunstetter and her husband live in Washington State but take every opportunity to visit friends in Amish settlements throughout the States.

Jean Brunstetter enjoys writing about her Amish friends' simple way of life, and takes every opportunity to visit Amish communities. 

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Wanda E. Brunstetter's Amish Friends Harvest Cookbook

Wanda E. Brunstetter's Amish Friends Harvest Cookbook: over 240 recipes for using and preserving the Bounty of the Land by Wanda E. Brusnstetter. Ohio: Shiloh Run Press, 2016. 223 pages. *****

Wanda states in her introduction that she reached out to "the folks of various plain communities through The Budget newspaper as well as my numerous contacts within the communities of Amish and Mennonites." The result is a lush cookbook of over 240 recipes with gorgeous photographs and "Advice from Amish Gardeners." (the 20 pages of advice make the purchase of this book worthwhile) The recipes are varied with everything from "Carmelized Sweet Potatoes" to "Six Day Ketchup."

I particularly like the "Index by Key Ingredients" in addition to the "Index of Recipes by Section."

Included is a "Reflections on the Amish Family Garden" by Mary Alice Yoder of Topeka, Indiana.

I highly recommend this beautiful cookbook, it will make a perfect gift paired with The Hawaiian Quilt and Amish Quilts: Giftable Inspiration Along with Quilting Tips

I received a copy to review.

Follow Wanda E. Brunstetter on Facebook.

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The Lucidity Project

The Lucidity Project: a novel  by Abbey Campbell Cook. Berkeley: She Writes Press, 2016. 288 pages *****

Finding no solution to her depression, Max Dorigan decides to kill herself. Waking in the hospital and  embarrassed by her actions, Max downplays the incident and dismisses it as an accident. Confronted with the truth, she agrees to participate in The Lucidity Project, an unconventional rehabilitation program on a remote resort in the Caribbean. Meeting the program director, Dr. Micah McMoneagle, Max feels an immediate dislike which grows into a confusing attraction. Max really believes that she doesn't belong in this program when she discovers that others in her group have psychic powers and can see ghosts. Dr. McMoneagle has found a way to allow people to enter each other's dreams and to help each other face their fears. Max struggles to understand and accept who she really is and what her recurring dream of drowning means in the context of what she is meant to do on this earth.

This is one of those books that when you read it, you must have an open mind and go slowly because there is a lot going on. Cook's writing style is subtle as she pulls you into the story. I found myself trying to predict where she is going (don't bother, you won't be able to figure it out) and admiring the way in which she layered each individual's fears and personal demons. Some reviews have criticized the lack of a clear cut genre, is it fantasy? new age fiction? Some books don't need a label, just a quiet place to enjoy it. I was in no hurry to get to the end and I hope that the author writes  more stories in a similar format it was so unpredictable and fresh in current fiction. Well done!

I received a paperback copy from BookSparks for a review.

Abbey Campbell Cook studied creative writing at UC Berkeley. She now writes (and sometimes sings and dances) about her ongoing quest for spiritual and physical wellness on her blog, Adventures in Woo Woo Land, which often includes pictures of Channing Tatum in his underwear (Ryan Gosling, too, if you're lucky). The Lucidity Project is her first novel.

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