Wrapped in Rain by Charles Martin

Book Blurb:

An internationally famous photographer, Tucker Mason has traveled the world, capturing things other people don’t see. But what Tucker himself can’t see is how to let go of the past and forgive his father.

On a sprawling Southern estate, Tucker and his younger brother, Mutt, were raised by their housekeeper, Miss Ella Rain, who loved the motherless boys like her own. Hiring her to take care of Waverly Hall and the boys was the only good thing their father ever did.

When his brother escapes from a mental hospital and an old girlfriend appears with her son and a black eye, Tucker is forced to return home and face the agony of his own tragic past.

Though Miss Ella has been gone for many years, Tuck can still hear her voice—and her prayers. But finding peace and starting anew will take a measure of grace that Tucker scarcely believes in. 

My Thoughts:

If my memory serves me correctly, I think last time I wrote about Charles Martin, I said he was my favorite new writer. This is the fourth book of his I have read, and I surprisingly wasn’t quite as wild about this one. First of all, even though I am a Christian, I don’t like books that hit you over the head with it and come across as preachy. This one wasn’t completely that, but it was more overt than his other books. What I appreciated in his other books is how he so eloquently got the message across through his themes. I did like the characters, and thank goodness the boys had Miss Ella in their lives. Tucker shows great growth from the person he was from all he endured and witnessed as a youth growing up with an abusive, alcoholic and neglectful father. I think what didn’t quite work so well for me this time was the back and forth between past and present. It just didn’t quite flow as well for me, although he does write beautifully. I would still recommend the book. It just wasn’t my favorite.

My Rating: 3.5 – 4 Stars

Paperback: 374 pages

Published: April 11, 2006 by Thomas Nelson Inc (first published March 1st 2005)

Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain

Book Blurb:

North Carolina, 2018: Morgan Christopher’s life has been derailed. Taking the fall for a crime she did not commit, she finds herself serving a three-year stint in the North Carolina Women’s Correctional Center. Her dream of a career in art is put on hold—until a mysterious visitor makes her an offer that will see her released immediately. Her assignment: restore an old post office mural in a sleepy southern town. Morgan knows nothing about art restoration, but desperate to leave prison, she accepts. What she finds under the layers of grime is a painting that tells the story of madness, violence, and a conspiracy of small town secrets.

North Carolina, 1940: Anna Dale, an artist from New Jersey, wins a national contest to paint a mural for the post office in Edenton, North Carolina. Alone in the world and desperate for work, she accepts. But what she doesn’t expect is to find herself immersed in a town where prejudices run deep, where people are hiding secrets behind closed doors, and where the price of being different might just end in murder.

What happened to Anna Dale? Are the clues hidden in the decrepit mural? Can Morgan overcome her own demons to discover what exists beneath the layers of lies? 

My Thoughts:

I have really enjoyed every Diane Chamberlain book I have read, and this one did not disappoint. They usually touch on some societal issues, and this one scratched the racial surface, but not in a beat you over the head way. It is a well-researched work of historical fiction set in the South, and the story is told in alternating timelines from the past and present. Her characters were fully developed, and I enjoyed the strong women characters. Small town settings always appeal to me, and I particularly enjoyed the storyline of restoring a piece of art. The storyline felt true to me, and I could envision the time and place the story was set. Another winner by Chamberlain

My Rating: 4.5 Stars

Hardcover 391 pages

Published: January 14, 2020 by St. Martin’s Press

The Lying Life of Adults by Elena Ferrante

Book Blurb:

Giovanna’s pretty face is changing, turning ugly, at least so her father thinks. Giovanna, he says, looks more like her Aunt Vittoria every day. But can it be true? Is she really changing? Is she turning into her Aunt Vittoria, a woman she hardly knows but whom her mother and father clearly despise? Surely there is a mirror somewhere in which she can see herself as she truly is.

Giovanna is searching for her reflection in two kindred cities that fear and detest one another: Naples of the heights, which assumes a mask of refinement, and Naples of the depths, a place of excess and vulgarity. She moves from one to the other in search of the truth, but neither city seems to offer answers or escape.

My Thoughts:

Ferrante’s Neopolitan books have gotten rave reviews, and many people I know have enjoyed them very much. Unfortunately, I haven’t read those yet, but I was interested in reading this stand alone in hopes that it would be as good as the quartet. Maybe it’s because I had high expectations, but this book just didn’t grab me. It is well-written, but I just wasn’t very invested in the story of characters. The family is very dysfunctional, and I found it hard to understand why they acted like they did. It was very frustrating the way the main character was placed in between family members.

My Rating: 3.5

Hardcover: 336 pages

Published: September 1, 2020 by Europa Editions

One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London

Book Blurb:

Bea Schumacher is a devastatingly stylish plus-size fashion blogger who has amazing friends, a devoted family, legions of Insta followers–and a massively broken heart. Like the rest of America, Bea indulges in her weekly obsession: the hit reality show Main Squeeze. The fantasy dates! The kiss-off rejections! The surprising amount of guys named Chad! But Bea is sick and tired of the lack of body diversity on the show. Since when is being a size zero a prerequisite for getting engaged on television?

Just when Bea has sworn off dating altogether, she gets an intriguing call: Main Squeeze wants her to be its next star, surrounded by men vying for her affections. Bea agrees, on one condition–under no circumstances will she actually fall in love. She’s in this to supercharge her career, subvert harmful anti-fat beauty standards, inspire women across America, and get a free hot air balloon ride. That’s it.

But when the cameras start rolling, Bea realizes things are more complicated than she anticipated. She’s in a whirlwind of sumptuous couture, Internet culture wars, sexy suitors, and an opportunity (or two, or five) to find messy, real-life love in the midst of a made-for-TV fairy tale. In this joyful, razor-sharp debut, Bea has to decide whether it might just be worth trusting these men–and herself–for a chance to live happily ever after

My Thoughts:

When I first started listening to this book, I wasn’t sure that I was going to finish it. The TV show Bea participates in is definitely a Bachelorette styled show. I’ve watched a few of those. At first it was like a train wreck, and I couldn’t quit watching, but now I’m to the point that I just think it’s a waste of time and can look away. Thus, I didn’t think I would enjoy the book. However, I did enjoy it, so I was glad I stuck with it. The saving grace is that Bea makes a growth journey which made the book more appealing to me than just finding the love of her life. If you are looking for a light read, you might be interested in this one.

My Rating: 3 Stars

Paperback: 432 pages

:Published: July 7, 2020 by Dial Press

Melania and Me by Stephanie Winston Wolkoff

Book Blurb:

The former director of special events at Vogue and producer of nine legendary Met Galas, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff met Melania Knauss in 2003 and had a front row seat to the transformation of Donald Trump’s then girlfriend from a rough-cut gem to a precious diamond. As their friendship deepened over lunches at Manhattan hot spots, black-tie parties, and giggle sessions in the penthouse at Trump Tower, Wolkoff watched the newest Mrs. Trump raise her son, Barron, and manage her highly scrutinized marriage.

After Trump won the 2016 election, Wolkoff was recruited to help produce the 58th Presidential Inaugu­ration and to become the First Lady’s trusted advisor. Melania put Wolkoff in charge of hiring her staff, organizing her events, helping her write speeches, and creating her debut initiatives. Then it all fell apart when she was made the scapegoat for inauguration finance irregularities. Melania could have defended her innocent friend and confidant, but she stood by her man, knowing full well who was really to blame. The betrayal nearly destroyed Wolkoff.

In this candid and emotional memoir, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff takes you into Trump Tower and the White House to tell the funny, thrilling, and heartbreaking story of her intimate friendship with one of the most famous women in the world, a woman few people truly understand.

How did Melania react to the Access Hollywood tape and her husband’s affair with Stormy Daniels? Does she get along well with Ivanka? Why did she wear that jacket with “I really don’t care, do u?” printed on the back? Is Melania happy being First Lady? And what really happened with the inauguration’s funding of $107 million? Wolkoff has some ideas

My Thoughts:

I found this book to be very interesting. Knowing that Stephanie was writing the book because she had been drug under the bus over the Trump inauguration, I expected the whole book to be a bashing of Melania and the Trumps. It was not. She spent a good portion of the book telling the story of the friendship she thought they had, describing the traits she observed in her friend, and the process of how she got involved in the presidential inauguration and how that transpired. Although Ivanka wasn’t the subject of the book, I was struck by how manipulative Ivanka appears to be. After the way Stephanie was hung out to dry, I can understand why she is wanting to set the record straight. This is just another instance of the questionable spending by the Trumps and doing what they want for themselves and not caring who gets hurt in the process.

My Rating: 3.5 Stars

Kindle Edition:351 pages

Published: September 1, 2020 by Gallery Books

The Comeback by Ella Berman

Book Blurb:

Grace Turner was one movie away from Hollywood’s A-List. So no one understood why, at the height of her career and on the eve of her first Golden Globe nomination, she disappeared.

Now, one year later, Grace is back in Los Angeles and determined to reclaim her life on her own terms.

So when Grace is asked to present a lifetime achievement award to director Able Yorke—the man who controlled her every move for eight years—she knows there’s only one way she’ll be free of the secret that’s already taken so much from her.

The Comeback is a powerful and provocative story of justice in the #MeToo era—a true page-turner about a young woman finding the strength and power of her voice.

My Thoughts:

I have usually liked the books I’ve read that have been part of the Read with Jenna book club selections, and I enjoyed this one as well. It is a well-written book that examines what happened to a girl’s emotional development and the damage done to her by abuse in the movie industry as a child actress. It doesn’t go into great detail about all of the abuse but enough to get the picture. The book felt very real. Berman has done an excellent job of getting inside the main character’s mind and developing the struggle as she tries to put her life back together. Although it is a heavy subject, there is hope in the book as well. Although this is a #metoo type of book, it was apparently started before that movement.

My Rating: 4 Stars

Hardcover: 378 pages

:Published August 3, 2020 by Berkley

Convince Me by Nina Sadowsky

Book Blurb:

Justin Childs is handsome, likeable, smart. A devoted son to his mother, Carol; a loving husband to his wife, Annie; and a sure-footed, savvy business partner to his best friend from college, Will. To so many, the perfect man.

He’s also a liar. And now he’s dead.

When Justin’s body is retrieved from the wreckage of a car accident, his death leaves his loved ones with more questions than answers. In life, his charm and easygoing nature inspired trust, making him friends wherever he went. Now that he’s gone, the cracks begin to show: disturbing discrepancies in his company’s financials, unaccounted-for absences, a medical record that appears to be entirely fabricated.

As the secrets and betrayals pile up, Annie, Carol, and Will realize their beloved Justin was not the man they thought he was. And why was he found dead with Valium in his system when he notoriously detested drugs? Was the crash that killed him really an accident—or did Justin finally get caught in something he couldn’t lie his way out of?

Convince Me is a chilling look at what makes a sociopath in an age of untruth—and a high-octane, surprising read to its very last page.

My Thoughts:

I had never read any books by Nina Sadowsky and was unfamiliar with her until she did an interview at my library. I was intrigued, and my colleague highly recommended her books. I will say I was not disappointed. This thriller was well-developed, being told from three points of view: Justin’s wife, his best friend and partner, and his mother. The story kept me flying through the pages and was well-plotted in revealing what was really going on. I look forward to reading her other books, and if you like psychological thrillers, I can recommend this one.

My Rating: 4 Stars

Length: 288 pages

Published: August 4, 2020 by Ballantine Books

The Heir Affair by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan

Book Blurb:

After a scandalous secret turns their fairy-tale wedding into a nightmare, Rebecca “Bex” Porter and her husband Prince Nicholas are in self-imposed exile. The public is angry. The Queen is even angrier. And the press is salivating. Cutting themselves off from friends and family, and escaping the world’s judgmental eyes, feels like the best way to protect their fragile, all-consuming romance.

But when a crisis forces the new Duke and Duchess back to London, the Band-Aid they’d placed over their problems starts to peel at the edges. Now, as old family secrets and new ones threaten to derail her new royal life, Bex has to face the emotional wreckage she and Nick left behind: with the Queen, with the world, and with Nick’s brother Freddie, whose sins may not be so easily forgotten—nor forgiven.

My Thoughts:

I previously read The Royal We which is the first book in this trilogy. At the time I read it, I didn’t realize that it was going to be a trilogy. I really enjoyed The Royal We, giving it 4 Stars, and had high hopes for this one as well. I am pleased to say that I also enjoyed this one a lot. I had forgotten some of the backstory, but that did not detract from my enjoyment of this one. I would recommend, though, that if you haven’t read the first one, you might want to start there. There are definitely elements reminiscent of the royal family, but that was fine with me. The characters are likable, and you’ll find yourself pulling for them for things to work out. This is a fairly light read and reads at a quick pace. If you like books about royals, I’m sure you will like this one.

My Rating: 4 Stars

Hardcover: 464 pages

Published: July 7, 2020 by Grand Central Publishing

The Guest List by Lucy Foley

Book Blurb:

The bride ‧ The plus one ‧ The best man ‧ The wedding planner ‧ The bridesmaid ‧ The body

On an island off the coast of Ireland, guests gather to celebrate two people joining their lives together as one. The groom: handsome and charming, a rising television star. The bride: smart and ambitious, a magazine publisher. It’s a wedding for a magazine, or for a celebrity: the designer dress, the remote location, the luxe party favors, the boutique whiskey. The cell phone service may be spotty and the waves may be rough, but every detail has been expertly planned and will be expertly executed.

But perfection is for plans, and people are all too human. As the champagne is popped and the festivities begin, resentments and petty jealousies begin to mingle with the reminiscences and well wishes. The groomsmen begin the drinking game from their school days. The bridesmaid not-so-accidentally ruins her dress. The bride’s oldest (male) friend gives an uncomfortably caring toast.

And then someone turns up dead. Who didn’t wish the happy couple well? And perhaps more important, why?

My Thoughts:

The premise for this book sounded right up my alley. A remote, isolated island which was the setting for a wedding and a dead body. This book is told through the point of view of several characters where they provide information about the present and past. At first I found it interesting and was invested, but some of the storytelling seemed to go on longer than it needed to to fill me in on the situation, causing the book to start to drag somewhat. Toward the end, though, the book picked back up full steam drawing me back in. I did not find most of the characters to be particularly likable, and the boys from school were so immature in their actions that I found them frustrating which took away from my enjoyment. If it weren’t for these factors, I would have considered this book excellent. The book had a twist at the end that I didn’t see coming, and it kept me guessing there toward the end as to who was responsible for what happened. Foley did an excellent job with the setting, providing a creepy and dangerous atmosphere.

My Rating: 4 Stars

Hardcover: 330 pages

Published: June 2, 2020 by William Morrow (first published March 19th 2020)

The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory

Book Blurb:

When freelance writer Nikole Paterson goes to a Dodgers game with her actor boyfriend, his man bun, and his bros, the last thing she expects is a scoreboard proposal. Saying no isn’t the hard part–they’ve only been dating for five months, and he can’t even spell her name correctly. The hard part is having to face a stadium full of disappointed fans…

At the game with his sister, Carlos Ibarra comes to Nik’s rescue and rushes her away from a camera crew. He’s even there for her when the video goes viral and Nik’s social media blows up–in a bad way. Nik knows that in the wilds of LA, a handsome doctor like Carlos can’t be looking for anything serious, so she embarks on an epic rebound with him, filled with food, fun, and fantastic sex. But when their glorified hookups start breaking the rules, one of them has to be smart enough to put on the brakes…

My Thoughts:

Jasmine Guillory is a hot romance writer these days, so I was really looking forward to reading one of her books. I found out afterward that this is a companion one to her debut, The Wedding Date, so I don’t know if it really matters if I didn’t read that one first. Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy this one as much as I was anticipating given her popularity. It started out good to me with the dilemma of receiving a proposal at a ball game in front of thousands, when the main characters wasn’t expecting it and had no intentions of marriage. It made me ponder what I would do in that situation. Say “yes”, so as not to embarrass my boyfriend, and tell him “no” later or just say “no” to begin with. The writing wasn’t particularly strong and I just never got invested in the characters. The positive that I did appreciate about the book is the variety of diversity portrayed by the characters. I may try another one to see if this one just didn’t hit me right at the time and place I listened to it, but I’m not in a rush to do so.

My Rating: 3 Stars

Length: 325 pages

Published: October 30, 2018 by Berkley Books