Covet by Tracey Garvis-Graves

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Reviewer: Liz Grace-Davis
Tracey Garvis Graves, the New York Times bestselling author of On the Island, returns. 

What if the life you wanted, and the woman you fell in love with, belonged to someone else?

Chris and Claire Canton’s marriage is on life support. Downsized during the recession and out of work for a year, Chris copes by retreating to a dark place where no one can reach him, not even Claire. When he’s offered a position that will keep him away from home four nights a week, he dismisses Claire’s concern that time apart could be the one thing their fragile union can’t weather. Their suburban life may look idyllic on the outside, but Claire has never felt so disconnected from Chris, or so lonely.

Local police officer Daniel Rush used to have it all, but now he goes home to an empty house every night. He pulls Claire over during a routine traffic stop and runs into her again at the 4th of July parade. When Claire is hired to do some graphic design work for the police department, her friendship with Daniel grows, and soon they’re spending hours together.

Claire loves the way Daniel makes her feel, and the way his face lights up when she walks into the room. Daniel knows that Claire’s marital status means their relationship will never be anything other than platonic. But it doesn’t take long before Claire and Daniel are in way over their heads, and skating close to the line that Claire has sworn she’ll never cross.

Chris and Claire Canton never saw it coming. First they are living a nice and comfortable life with their two children. Then from one day to the next, Chris loses his job, struggles with the idea of not being able to financially support his family, and falls into a depression, which cuts right into the heart of their marriage.
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When love in a marriage fizzles out, when the only topics between people who once loved each other revolve around mundane daily chores or the children, some people pack their bags and leave, start over.  Others remain in their marriages and suffer behind closed doors while showing a different face to the outside world.  Claire remains in her marriage in the hope that things would improve.  When Chris finally gets a job, she’s hopeful that their relationship will finally heal, but things go from bad to worse. Now they have other problems facing them. Chris’s job keeps him away from her and the kids for long stretches of time. And when he is home, he doesn’t notice her and sleeps in a separate room.

While Claire takes care of the day to day responsibilities, her marriage unravels and loneliness overwhelms her.  Then Daniel Rush, a handsome policeman, enters her life, making her heart beat faster, making her feel like a desirable woman again. As they draw closer, she can’t get Daniel out of her head. Driven by both desire and mounting guilt, Claire sways between being faithful to the man she married—the man who no longer fulfills her as a woman—or giving herself to a man who would give anything to do just that. Until she reaches a point where Chris’s indifference and his time away from home no longer shreds her heart.

Will Claire offer her heart and body to another man that’s not her husband, or will she and Chris find a way back to each other before they reach a point of no return? You have to read the book to find that out.
This was a heart-wrenching story. With every page, my heart did not only bleed for Claire but for all the three people in the love triangle. Someone was bound to get hurt in the end.
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This beautiful book about broken love, forgotten promises, and new beginnings, pulls you right in, planting you in the heart of the story. You won’t be on the outside looking in.  The story will hit a chord with many married people, especially those who try to hold a marriage together from a distance.

TWFR Rating: 5 Stamps … An instant classic and a new favorite
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The Things We Set on Fire by Deborah Reed

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Reviewer: Ashley Mackler-Paternostro

A series of tragedies brings Vivvie’s young grandchildren into her custody, and her two estranged daughters back under one roof. Jackson, Vivvie’s husband, was shot and killed thirty years ago, and the ramifications have splintered the family into their own isolated remembrances and recriminations.

Sisters Elin and Kate fought mercilessly in childhood and have avoided each other for years. Elin seems like the last person to watch her sister convalesce after an attempted suicide. But Elin has her own reasons for coming to Kate’s side and will soon discover Kate’s own staggering needs.

This deeply personal, hauntingly melancholy look at the damages families inflict on each other—and the healing that only they can provide—is filled with flinty, flawed, and complex people stumbling toward some kind of peace. Like Elizabeth Strout and Kazuo Ishiguro, Deborah Reed understands a story, and its inhabitants reveal themselves in the subtleties: the space between the thoughts, the sigh behind the smile, and the unreliable lies people tell themselves that ultimately reveal the deepest truths.

Have you wanted to love a book simply because? Because you should, or because you wanted to, or because you’ve enjoyed other offerings from the novelist? That’s how I felt upon beginning my time with The Things We Set on Fire by Deborah Reed. I wanted to love it because this book is my kind of novel — deep with a richly woven narrative, complex and–okay, at times–maddening characters. It’s a story with soul. I should have loved this book, and I did love it, but then…

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Things We Set on Fire begins with a brazen act of violence so unexpected that it is bound to give the reader pause. That’s the way it’s designed, for shock and awe. It really is, all things considered, a brilliant way to begin a novel. It leaves one breathless with confusion and worry and does not allow them to set the novel aside, doesn’t allow for one to think ‘maybe this book isn’t for me…’ … it leaps, and you leap with it.

Vivvie was widowed too soon. Left to raise her daughters without the man she had loved since she, herself, was little more than a girl. The death of Vivvie’s husband has a ‘butterfly effect’ on her daughters, Elin–the oldest–and Kate–one year Elin’s junior–in many ways.

Maybe the girls were born destine to bicker and pick at each other mercilessly. Maybe it was the Florida heat that made them ornery. Or maybe it was stress of living in a home where their mother kept an ugly secret that turned her inside out and made her withhold her love that turned them into angry children. Whatever it was in  Elin and Kate’s childhood that proved to be a catalyst the anger they felt defined them. And then it happened, something that could have bonded them together. But no, it became a secret they were forced to share. It drove the wedge deeper and the guilt they both felt for having it only stood to break them further apart…leading to a betrayal that would come later in their lives.

The book opens to find the family grown and spread far and wide. From the Pacific Northwest Portland area to the sunny orange groves of Orlando, Florida. The distance between the girls and their mother isn’t accidental, it’s purposeful and deliberate, proving some families simply cannot stay close.

Vivvie is used to living alone now. Her children are grown and gone and are, for all intents and purposes, estranged from her. She works, she tends to her home, she smokes her cigarettes, she flirts with her neighbor, Wink, she keeps her pile of regrets close. Her life now is as peaceable as it is predictable as it is lonely, and considering what it once was when she had her husband and little girls under foot, it’s really only a shadow of what could have been.

Kate is dying by fate and she wants to die by choice. Something is ravaging her body, something in her genetics that is  bound and determined to take her away from her daughters slowly, methodically, cruelly. She makes the (selfish?) choice to beat it to the end–why fight the inevitable? A bottle of pills, a quiet night, two little girls sleeping in their beds. She’ll make the ‘leaving’ as simple as she can and spares them the horror of watching their mother–the only real and present parent they have–fade slowly away. But something in her plan went wrong and now she still very much alive, still very much dying and forced to face her mother and sister.

Elin is at a crossroads. Her life, from the outside, is a slice of perfect. A beautiful home, a handsome and worldly husband, a job, her dog. But what looks perfect from the exterior isn’t always so pretty inside: Her husband isn’t the man she believed him to be, and she could use some time away from him to collect her thoughts, or punish him, whichever comes first. So when Vivvie calls to tell her about Kate’s failed suicide attempt, she has no reason not to go home, expect the singular reason that kept away for a very long time.

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The Things We Set on Fire is a character book. There is little suspense, little danger, the book focuses most on telling you the story of three generations of women thrown back together and how their interconnected lives unfold when they are forced to not only face each other, but all the things they ran away from. To that end, the characters Reed created are both vibrant and authentic. There is an unmistakable truth to them. They aren’t written for you to like or love or even relate to…they are written merely in the vein of feeling real. They are flawed and erratically, helplessly human which only adds to the charm of this book. And as the novel picks up speed, you will find yourself drawn to them because Reed goes to great lengths to explain them to you, to tell you precisely what it is that makes them so broken so you can understand and care.

Things We Set on Fire is a beautiful book, but the things that make this novel beautiful–the intense use of flowery language, descriptors for even the most minute details–also prove to be the novel’s primary hurdle. The language is thick, verbose, at time staggering and causes the book, for me at least, to sag a little. I found myself getting lost in it, almost losing track of the story because I was so immersed in the way –for example–the fireflies looked. It’s not bad, and Reeds precise details of ordinary moments are lovely in moderation, but it came to be distracting page after page, sentence after sentence.

I liked this book very much…but I wanted to love it. Isn’t that always so disappointing? Regardless, The Things We Set on Fire is well worth the read and I have a feeling few will regret giving the novel time and I have a suspicion that fans of Deborah Reed will cheer.

Bonus: You can pick this book up now BEFORE it’s actual publication date in December on Amazon. Prime members can read for free, while non-Prime readers can get the book for a modest discount.

TWFR Rating: 4 Stamps…Really good, highly enjoyable!

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Weak at the Knees by Jo Kessel

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Reviewer: Tracy Santoria
“We got so busy living life that we forgot to live our dreams.”Danni Lewis has been playing it safe for twenty-six years, but her sheltered existence is making her feel old ahead of time. When a sudden death plunges her into a spiral of grief, she throws caution to the wind and runs away to France in search of a new beginning.The moment ski instructor Olivier du Pape enters her shattered world she falls hard, in more ways than one.Their mutual desire is as powerful and seductive as the mountains around them. His dark gypsy looks and piercing blue eyes are irresistible.Only she must resist, because he has a wife – and she’d made a pact to never get involved with a married man.But how do you choose between keeping your word and being true to your soul?Weak at the Knees is Jo’s debut novel in the new adult, contemporary romance genre – a story about love, loss and relationships, set between London and the heart of the French Alps.Due to descriptive sex scenes, this book is not appropriate for younger readers.

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I am going to be honest and say that when I first started reading Weak in the Knees, I expected it to be similar to the other love stories that are currently out there. Yes, it was a love story between a man and a woman but it was so much more. It showed you that love could be in so many places, including ones that you never imagined them to be. It examined love beyond the typical relationship. It brought you into the love between best friends and the connections that they share. It taught you that sometimes, love just happens and sometimes you can’t choose who you fall in love with. Weak in the Knees puts you on a rollercoaster of emotion and pulls you in because honestly, you cannot wait for the ride to come to a stop and see how it all ends.  
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I give this book 3 stars. Although it was a good book I would have liked to see more in depth story lines between some of the characters.  I think it would have drawn me in more and made me connect with the personalities on a deeper level. All in all it was an enjoyable quick read.
TWFR Rating: 3 Stamps … We liked it! 
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Jo Kessel is also hosting a giveaway! Be sure to look up additional dates for her tour for Weak in the Knees HERE … the more comments you make the better your chancing are of winning!

We Are Water by Wally Lamb

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Amazon & Barnes and Noble

Reviewer: Ashley Mackler-Paternostro

We Are Water is a disquieting and ultimately uplifting novel about a marriage, a family, and human resilience in the face of tragedy, from Wally Lamb, the New York Times bestselling author of The Hour I First Believed and I Know This Much Is True.

After 27 years of marriage and three children, Anna Oh—wife, mother, outsider artist—has fallen in love with Viveca, the wealthy Manhattan art dealer who orchestrated her success. They plan to wed in the Oh family’s hometown of Three Rivers in Connecticut. But the wedding provokes some very mixed reactions and opens a Pandora’s Box of toxic secrets—dark and painful truths that have festered below the surface of the Ohs’ lives.

We Are Water is a layered portrait of marriage, family, and the inexorable need for understanding and connection, told in the alternating voices of the Ohs—nonconformist, Anna; her ex-husband, Orion, a psychologist; Ariane, the do-gooder daughter, and her twin, Andrew, the rebellious only son; and free-spirited Marissa, the youngest. It is also a portrait of modern America, exploring issues of class, changing social mores, the legacy of racial violence, and the nature of creativity and art.

With humor and compassion, Wally Lamb brilliantly captures the essence of human experience and the ways in which we search for love and meaning in our lives.”

Wally Lamb is an incubator. Every five years, or every ten years, and only occasionally at other points in time, does this talented author bless our bookshelves with a new novel. When they arrive, they are gifts. His books, as they always are, are journeys into the human soul and not simply novels. They follow the arc of lives, allow the characters to seep in secrets, touch upon sensitive topics, unfold slowly over the course of hundreds of pages and leave the reader not only drawn into world which he so beautifully writes, but aching because they know they will have to sit and wait while he produces another — a wait that will feel unforgivably long.

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In his latest offering WE ARE WATER, as he has in the past novels This Much I Know Is True and The Hour I First Believed, Lamb returns us to quiet town of Three Rivers, Connecticut to bare witness to legacy of the Oh’s.

Annie Oh is a ‘angry’ artist. Her medium is other peoples trash. Street-found trinkets that — with nothing more than the creative veins that roils inside her and a loud voice she likens to a cyclone — she curates into treasures. Treasures that sell for thousands upon thousands of dollars to a fictional client list of not-so-fictional characters. Her life in New York City looks strikingly different from her once humble, erratic beginnings in America’s foster care system. She is also a newly minted lesbian and as WE ARE WATER opens, we find Annie stumbling ever closer to her wedding to the woman cultured her vibrant career, Viveca.

Orion Oh is trying to hold it together while simultaneously trying to reinvent himself in the third act of his life. His children have grown, his wife–whom he tried to love and understand for the duration of their 27 years together– is no longer his wife but a New York lesbian with a wealthy fiancee he blames for his marriage failing, and his job as a college psychologist has imploded around him after a two-part cataclysm: Lust and distraction. Orion is not trapped solely in the present, his past, too, proves be a divide he cannot overcome as it left him riddled with the shrapnel of estrangement and the hole that always existed in his personal history is one that never quite filled itself up.

Annie and Orion’s three shared children — Ariane, Andrew and Marissa — are as different as they are similar. Each struggles in their own way with change in their personal life — a wedding, a baby, a fledgling career that requires certain, yet questionable, moral compromises — as well the change of their parents. One could liken their mid-twenties struggles to the struggles that mid-fifties parents are in the throes of, drawing the conclusion that life, no matter one’s age, is little more than a endless loop of choices, chances and possible regrets. Ah, the brilliance of Lamb reveals itself yet again.

As the wedding of Annie (or Anna, the name given to her by the highfalutin society of art and prestige she now travels with) and Viveca draws near, so do the individual secrets that members of the Oh tribe have struggled to push away. Secrets and truths, the family must fully acknowledge both to move on…but the secrets they’ve kept will, in one single moment, lead to new secrets they’ll be forced to keep as they try to move forward.

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WE ARE WATER is an astute, and at times harrowing, novel which begs to be read. Weaving chaotic pasts together with the present, the books delves heavily into many of the social issues we face today  — race, class, marriage, parenting, forgiveness, mental illness and homosexuality. The book is not a light read by any means, but an amazing one that asks a reader to set aside all of her preconceived notions and look deeper into the core of where those notions stem from. Very possibly the best book of 2013, add this to you TBR list and move it right to the top.

P.S: Lovers of Lamb’s first best selling novel She’s Come Undone should by close attention as a familiar face appears in this novel (as is almost the status quo for Lamb).

WARNING: WE ARE WATER does contain graphic scenes of child abuse (both sexual and physical) that may be upsetting/disturbing to the reader. 

TWFR Rating: 5 Stamps … An instant classic and a new favorite

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Stardust Summer by Lauren Clark

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Reviewer: Ashley Mackler-Paternostro

Single mom Grace Mason doesn’t believe in miracles, magic, or love at first sight. She likes the quiet life, complete with her eight-year-old son, their tiny house, and her teaching job. For Grace, happiness means that nothing much ever changes in Ocean Springs, Mississippi.

Then, one thousand miles away, tragedy strikes. A massive heart attack leaves Grace’s estranged father comatose in an Upstate New York hospital. While a team of doctors fight to keep Henry Mason alive, Grace and Evan rush to his bedside to say their final goodbyes.

Henry’s passing brings little closure for Grace, but she finds herself inexplicably drawn to her new surroundings. What begins as a short trip results in an entire summer spent with Henry’s second wife, Kathleen, and her next-door neighbor, Ryan Gordon, the town doctor. When a series of unlikely events lead to Evan’s disappearance, Grace must face her worst fears to find her son and bring him back home.

Stardust Summer explores the complexities of forgiveness, what it means to be a family, and the fabulous possibility of falling in love—again.

STARDUST SUMMER begins at the end of one love story and at the start of another.

Grace Mason adores her son, Evan. She’s built her life around him, even her career as a teacher has been carefully selected to ensure she can spend as much time with him as possible in their small hometown of Ocean Springs, Mississippi. She’s happy, content even, but a tragic twist in her otherwise simple life will send Grace (with Evan in tow) to the Finger Lakes region of New York state to face old resentments and maybe find a way to put the past behind her.

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Ryan Gordon knows something about loss. His marriage has failed and it’s the sort of devastation he hasn’t come to terms with yet. His position as a small town doctor has left him overworked and now, to share the burden of the tragedy that draws Grace to his town.  He never imagined that in the middle of those two blows he’d find a new start…but life is sometimes surprising.

As Grace and Ryan meet, there is something undeniable happening between them, even if Grace is standoffish at first. But once she steps out of her own way in this charming, albeit at times dark, deep, novel…something magical happens, like the ‘stardust over the water in summer.’

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Beautifully written, STARDUST SUMMER is a journey of love and loss, redemption and second chances. Clark has created a cast of likable, relatable characters  which unfold themselves throughout the pages and ultimately leaves the reader wanting, heck, rooting for them to end up happy. Easily digestible chapters allow the reader to become quickly and fully engrossed in the story and Clark’s prose is, in a word, lovely. Written in the vein of startling romances with simple beginning and epic ends, a la Nicholas Sparks, this book is a must read for Women’s Fiction fans.

TWFR Rating: 4 Stamps…Really good, highly enjoyable!

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Lauren Clark is also hosting a giveaway!

Prize: Lauren will be awarding a $20 Amazon or B&N giftcard to TWO commenters over the course of her tour!

Enter Now! http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/28e43439/