Cephalopod Coffeehouse August 2017–ANY DREAM WILL DO-A Review

0ed81-coffeehouseHi there! Welcome one and all to the Cephalopod Coffeehouse, a cozy gathering of book lovers, meeting to discuss their thoughts regarding the tomes they enjoyed most over the previous month. Pull up a chair, order your cappuccino and join in the fun.

This month I’m featuring a sweet, clean romance from Debbie Macomber. ANY DREAM WILL DO features a female ex-con who builds a new life with the help of a little divine guidance. This is the fourth book in the New Beginnings series which includes THE GIRL’S GUIDE TO MOVING ON and IF NOT FOR YOU, but is easily enjoyed as a standalone.

About the book:
Shay Benson adored her younger brother, Caden, and that got her into trouble. When he owed money, Shay realized she would do anything to help him avoid the men who were threatening him, and she crossed lines she never should have crossed. Now, determined to start fresh, she finds herself in search of a place to stay and wanders into a church to escape from the cold.

Pastor Drew Douglas adored his wife. But when he lost her, it was all he could do to focus on his two beautiful kids, and his flock came in a distant third. Now, as he too is thinking about a fresh start, he walks through his sanctuary and finds Shay sitting in a pew.

The pair strike up a friendship—Drew helps Shay get back on her feet, and she reignites his sense of purpose—that, over time, turns into something deeper, something soulful, spiritual, and possibly romantic. Even Drew’s two children are taken with this woman who has brought light back into their lives. Perhaps most important, Shay learns to trust again as she, in turn, proves herself trustworthy to her adopted community.

But Caden’s return to town and a disastrous secret threaten to undo the life Shay has tried so hard to rebuild. It will take the utmost courage and faith if she and Drew hope to find healing and open their hearts to a brighter future.

My Review:
Shay Benson served three years after taking money form the bank where she worked to help her younger brother, Caden, pay off his drug supplier–and save his life. It’s time she never wanted to spend, but she didn’t have anyone left in her life to keep her or Caden out of harm’s way.

Now freed, she has $100 and some hand-me-down clothes with which to begin again. Tired and cold in the December weather, Shay stops into a church to find a little warmth. She also find Pastor Drew Douglas, a man still fighting his grief over the passing of his beloved wife three years prior. Pastor Drew makes it his mission to help Shay find shelter, and his connection with a womens’ center gets Shay not just a place to stay, but also counseling and job training. Over the course of a year, Shay and Drew see each other sporadically. His friend runs her jobs program, and she sometimes watches his daughter in a center-sponsored childcare. Both his children, surprisingly, gravitate toward Shay and want to include her in family dinners and special moments.It’s not long before Drew acknowledges his own attraction to Shay’s gentle nature and abundant kindness.

Though, it’s not all easy. Drew’s parishoners aren’t keen on him marrying an ex-con–not when there are so many “decent” women to marry. And, Drew’s bombarded by offers on many side before he recognizes that Shay is the gal for him. Naturally, there are some crises, and Shay falls under suspicion of wrong-doing–only to have things turn out sunny in the end.

I’ll be honest, I’m not a fan of religious romance, but I really appreciate the delicate position of a minister looking for love. It brings an interesting gravitas to a romance. There’s no steam here, but there are plenty of feels. Drew’s plagued by doubt and guilt–in his faith and his love. Shay’s a good woman who had a bad start in life, and she’s paid her dues more than twice. I was glad she found a good stable man to love her, but she’s not going to take any guff from him either. I sure liked the ‘atta girl moments, and had a few times where I shook the bed holding in my laughter. Poor Pastor! Those eligible ladies sure had high hopes, and he’s called tot he carpet a few times defending Shay from some nasty allegations. Expect a hefty helping of redemption in this one, and all the folks who initially cast a gimlet eye on Shay ended up being smitten with her in the end. Its a sweet read, and I enjoyed it.

Interested? You can find ANY DREAM WILL DO on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other discount book outlets like Target, WalMart and your library, undoubtedly. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

about the Author:
Debbie Macomber is a #1 New York Times bestselling author and one of today’s most popular writers with more than 200 million copies of her books in print worldwide. In her novels, Macomber brings to life compelling relationships that embrace family and enduring friendships, uplifting her readers with stories of connection and hope. Macomber’s novels have spent over 990 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. Sixteen of these novels hit the number one spot.

There’s so much more to know about her, but I’d suggest heading to her website, Facebook, or twitter for all that!

Thanks for popping in and don’t forget to pop in and see my fellow Coffeehouse reviewers sharing their fave reads of the month.

Unexpected Strength IF NOT FOR YOU–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary romance from Debbie Macomber. IF NOT FOR YOU is the third book in her New Beginnings series, but easily enjoyed as a standalone. I did read A GIRL’S GUIDE TO MOVING ON, the second book, and I liked it too.

About the book:
An emotionally stirring novel that shows how obstacles can be overcome, differences can be strengths, and sometimes a choice can seem wrong even though it’s absolutely right

If not for her loving but controlling parents, Beth Prudhomme might never have taken charge of her life and moved from her native Chicago to Portland, Oregon, where she’s reconnected with her spirited Aunt Sunshine and found a job as a high school music teacher. If not for her friend Nichole, Beth would never have met Sam Carney, although first impressions have left Beth with serious doubts. Sam is everything Beth is not and her parents worst nightmare: a tattooed auto mechanic who’s rough around the edges. Reserved and smart as a whip, Beth isn’t exactly Sam’s usual beer-drinking, pool-playing type of woman, either.

But if not for an awkward setup one evening, Beth might never have left early and been involved in a car crash. And if not for Sam who witnessed the terrifying ordeal, rushed to her aid, and stayed with her until help arrived Beth might have been all alone, or worse. Yet as events play out, Sam feels compelled to check on Beth almost daily at the hospital even bringing his guitar to play songs to lift her spirits. Soon their unlikely friendship evolves into an intense attraction that surprises them both.

Before long, Beth’s strong-willed mother, Ellie, blows into town spouting harsh opinions, especially about Sam, and reopening old wounds with Sunshine. When shocking secrets from Sam’s past are revealed, Beth struggles to reconcile her feelings. But when Beth goes a step too far, she risks losing the man and the life she’s come to love.

My Review:
Beth is a 25 y/o sheltered woman, striking out on her own to build a career and life outside of her mother’s stern grasp. She’s relocated to Portland, Oregon to be near her dear Aunt Sunshine and take a position as high school music teacher. Her meek, but kind, physicist father has guaranteed that momma bird will stay back in Chicago for at least six months, before she’s able to come and inspect Beth’s new life.

Beth is a delicate-looking woman, and a new colleague offers to set her up with he husband’s best friend, Sam. Sam is not delicate. He’s a bearded, tattooed mechanic, and a darned good one. Still, he’s not excited to meet Beth at his buddy’s home and the set-up date is a awkward as can be. They develop a camaraderie about being set-up, and when the expectations of “no thanks” are realized on both sides, they part with smiles. Sam and Beth take the same route home, which is how Sam witnesses Beth’s tiny car getting broadsided when a texting teen runs a red light.

Beth’s in bad, bad shape, and Sam’s, well, he’s by her side in an instant, and holds her hand while calling 911. Beth’s pain is immense, and Sam’s gruff voice and tight grasp are pivotal in keeping her from fading out altogether. This unlikely couple, who could barely spend a dinner together, soon become very good friends. Sam visits Beth in the hospital, and a rapport grows. They share conversation, at first, but soon it’s clear that they want more than just a friendship. They make music together–and I mean that in the literal sense. Sam brings his guitar, and Beth plays the rehab center’s piano. The music solidifies their bond, and Sam longs for the day Beth will walk out of rehab and into a relationship. Which is odd, because Sam hasn’t dated in more than a decade.

Beth is a cock-eyed optimist, and has her heart set on fixing everyone around her, including her never-married Aunt Sunshine and Sam, who grieves a lost child. But her well-meant efforts don’t bring about the desired results. At first.

Beth is a nice gal, but she’s so naive. It was good to see her grow and develop into a strong adult, now that her mom’s not pulling her strings. Sam’s a decent guy, and I was glad he found love–even though he was rather stubborn about it. There’s a subplot regarding Beth’s mom, aunt, and a man they both loved back in college. The one that got away, if you will. Well, that was a darker plotline clearly developed as a foil to Beth and Sam’s romance. That said, it’s nice that the family rift was healed after so many years. This book ends with an HEA, but it’s a quiet romance. Don’t expect more than some chaste kissing on the page.

Interested? You can find IF NOT FOR YOU on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other discount book outlets like Target, WalMart and your library, undoubtedly. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

about the Author:
Debbie Macomber is a #1 New York Times bestselling author and one of today’s most popular writers with more than 200 million copies of her books in print worldwide. In her novels, Macomber brings to life compelling relationships that embrace family and enduring friendships, uplifting her readers with stories of connection and hope. Macomber’s novels have spent over 990 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. Sixteen of these novels hit the number one spot.

There’s so much more to know about her, but I’d suggest heading to her website, Facebook, or twitter for all that!

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Cephalopod Coffeehouse Feb 2016–A GIRL’S GUIDE TO MOVING ON–A Review

0ed81-coffeehouse
Hi there! Welcome one and all to the Cephalopod Coffeehouse, a cozy gathering of book lovers, meeting to discuss their thoughts regarding the tomes they enjoyed most over the previous month. Pull up a chair, order your cappuccino and join in the fun.

I’m so excited to share a review for a newly-released novel from best-selling author Debbie Macomber. A GIRL’S GUIDE TO MOVING ON is a bittersweet book about two women rebuilding their lives after leaving their cheating husbands.

A Girl's Guide to Moving On (New Beginnings, #2)About the book:

In this powerful and uplifting novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author Debbie Macomber, a mother and her daughter-in-law bravely leave their troubled marriages and face the challenge of starting over. Leaning on each other, Nichole and Leanne discover that their inner strength and capacity for love are greater than they ever imagined.

When Nichole discovers that her husband, Jake, has been unfaithful, the illusion of her perfect life is indelibly shattered. While juggling her young son, a new job, and volunteer work, Nichole meets Rocco, who is the opposite of Jake in nearly every way. Though blunt-spoken and rough around the edges, Rocco proves to be a dedicated father and thoughtful friend. But just as their relationship begins to blossom, Jake wagers everything on winning Nichole back—including their son Owen’s happiness. Somehow, Nichole must find the courage to defy her fears and follow her heart, with far-reaching consequences for them all.

Leanne has quietly ignored her husband’s cheating for decades, but is jolted into action by the echo of Nichole’s all-too-familiar crisis. While volunteering as a teacher of English as a second language, Leanne meets Nikolai, a charming, talented baker from Ukraine. Resolved to avoid the heartache and complications of romantic entanglements, Leanne nonetheless finds it difficult to resist Nikolai’s effusive overtures—until an unexpected tragedy tests the very fabric of her commitments.

An inspiring novel of friendship, reinvention, and hope, A Girl’s Guide to Moving On affirms the ability of every woman to forge a new path, believe in love, and fearlessly find happiness.

My review:

4.5 Stars for this double heartbreak, double romance story.

The title is completely accurate.  Leanne and Nichole are women who suffer the same ailment: cheating husbands. Leanne is Nichole’s mother-in-law who suffered 35 years in a loveless marriage to a philandering husband, Sean. When she learns that her son Jake is following Sean’s misguided footsteps, she informs Nichole, stay-at-home mother to her only grandchild Owen. Nichole does what Leanne never had the strength to do: walks away. And this gives Leanne the courage to get a divorce as well.

The book opens two years after this marital discord, with Leanne and Nichole having apartments in the same building and having built a close and loving relationship. Leanne dotes on Owen and assists with childcare as Nichole struggles to provide for herself. Her divorce has not been finalized because Jake has blocked her at every step, in the effort to wear her down and coax her into returning to him. Sean had no compunctions regarding the loss of his marriage; couldn’t wait to get Leanne out of his life and home. They’d maintained separate bedrooms for years.

In order to stay focused on the positive, and not get mired in depression, Leanne and Nichole build a “guide” of four tenets to see them through. They have to let go of their hurt, to volunteer, to build new friendships, and be open to new experiences. These principles form a strong foundation, but can’t keep out all the hurt.

That said, it is through these outreaches that both Leanne and Nichole find new love for themselves and with new partners. Men who are completely different from their suave, wealthy, cultured ex-husbands are able to turn Leanne and Nichole’s heads by being kind, compassionate, honest and sincere. The road to happiness is long, arduous and littered with missteps, however. I really admired these characters and how they kept their cool amid some contentious encounters. Jake is a selfish manipulative jerk who is unsettled by Nichole’s desire to start over. His double standard is classic and nearly comical. Sean’s got no interest in Leanne until he witnesses another man finding her attractive. And, yet, Leanne has some unfinished business with Sean that can only be handled with time and careful attention.

This is a heavy read. There is hope and heartbreak, in roughly equal measure. The ending is well done, with characters who make positive choices for themselves and find healing and happiness again. It was interesting to notice the details that were important to these women. Having been lied to to and cheated on, how they interacted with other men was measured and guarded. That felt so incredibly real, and approachable, as a reader. The love stories that build here are very sweet and so tender. That said, it’s a squeaky-clean romance, with constant attention to religious interest–so I expect this will be a bestseller for the Christian readership. I had wished for a little more intimacy, to be truthful. Part of the book read like a journal, with both Nichole and Leanne speaking directly to the reader. It didn’t unsettle me, as I prefer first-person close POV, but it might be an issue for other readers.

Interested? You can find A GIRL’S GUIDE TO MOVING ON on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other discount book outlets like Target, WalMart and your library, undoubtedly. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

Thanks for popping in. Be sure to check out my fellow Coffeehouse reviewers sharing their fave books of the month. And, keep reading my friends!