Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Review - Watching Over You

Title:
  Watching Over You
Author:  Lori Foster
Series:  McKenzies of Ridge Trail #3
Publisher:  HQN Books
Genre:   Romance
Format:  Kindle ARC
No. of Pages:   384
Date of Publication:   December 28, 2021
My Rating:   5 Stars

DESCRIPTION:

The McKenzies of Ridge Trail
Book 3: Watching Over You


MY THOUGHTS:

Cade had his story. Reyes had his. Now, Madison has hers. The chase was on almost from the moment Madison McKenzie set eyes on former cop Crosby Albertson. However, he shut her down flat. Now that Madison's father, Parrish McKenzie, has hired Crosby, Madison's feelings for the rugged guy grow even deeper.

Parrish has trained his children well. They champion the cause of saving women from desperate situations, especially human trafficking rings. Madison has superior computer skills along with the elite physical training she got along with her brothers. Even though she is not sure why her father has hired Crosby, she cannot deny how a ray of hope shines with regard to her feelings for him.

Crosby has his reasons for accepting this new job with a family he is certain is full of secrets. Crosby has a few of his own. Balancing his career and personal life causes him to tow a fine line, but Crosby's reasons are borne of necessity. Knowing that he will soon be working very closely with Madison soon proves to be of great benefit for the circumstances in his life. More than that, Crosby would no doubt have personal gain if he admits his attraction to Madison.

Surprisingly there is a secondary love story in this already compelling book. Factor in the wonderful romances that are brewing, with tension and danger facing everyone involved, this fabulous story by Lori Foster proved to be a terrific read. Crosby and Madison are well matched, as is everyone else in this terrific series. 

Many thanks to HQN Books and to NetGalley for this ARC for review. This is my honest opinion.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Since first publishing in January 1996, Lori Foster has become a New York Times, USA Today, and Publisher’s Weekly bestselling author. She lives in Central Ohio where coffee helps her keep up with her cats and grandkids between writing books. For more about Lori, visit her website at www.lorifoster.com, like her on Facebook or find her on Twitter, @lorilfoster.

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Monday, December 27, 2021

BLOG TOUR - The Good Son


DESCRIPTION:

From one of America’s most beloved storytellers, #1 New York Times and #1 USA Today bestselling author Jacquelyn Mitchard, comes the gripping novel of a mother who must help her son after he is convicted of a devastating crime. Perfect for book clubs and fans of Mary Beth Keane and Jodi Picoult—this novel asks the question, how well does any mother know her child?

For Thea, understanding how her sweet son Stefan could be responsible for a heinous crime is unfathomable. Stefan was only 17 when he went to prison for the negligent homicide of girlfriend, college freshman Belinda McCormack—a crime he was too strung out on drugs even to remember. Released at 21, he is seen as a symbol of white privilege and differential justice by his local community, and Belinda’s mother, Jill McCormack, who also happens to be Thea’s neighbor, organizes protests against dating violence in her daughter's memory.

Stefan is sincere in his desire to start over and make amends, and Thea is committed to helping him. But each of their attempts seems to hit a roadblock, both emotionally and psychologically, from the ever-present pressure of local protestors, the media, and even their own family.

But when the attacks on them turn more sinister, Thea suspects that there is more to the backlash than community outrage. She will risk her life to find out what forces are at work to destroy her son and her family…and discover what those who are threatening them are trying to hide.

This is a story in which everything known to be true is turned inside out and love is the only constant that remains.

BUY LINKS:
MY THOUGHTS:
 
Title:   The Good Son
Author:  Jacquelyn Mitchard
Publisher:  MIRA
Genre:   Psychological Thriller
Format:  Kindle ARC
No. of Pages:   352
Date of Publication:   January 18, 2022
My Rating:   4 Stars

Stefan's future completely fell off track when he was sent to prison for the murder of his girlfriend, Belinda. Stefan was high on more than one drug and cannot even remember her devastating death. He has now been released, and at the age of 20, must decide on how to start over again. As if he doesn't have enough on his plate, especially since his heart breaks everyday for Belinda, he is never allowed to forget his crime.

His mother is his truest champion, his father a close second. But, things are definitely strained between the three of them. Then, everyone in town won't let him forget, not even for a moment. Will Thea, Stefan's mother, be able to wash away the past by the love she has for him? Will it be enough?

Meanwhile, Thea begins to receive strange calls and notes. Someone has something meant to be kept secret. Will this secret further impact Stefan. In fact, what happened on the night Belinda died? 

From the very beginning, it was impossible not to feel for both Thea and Stefan. As a mother, just trying to place myself in her shoes was heartbreaking. For Stefan, it was clear to see that he was a remarkable young man who got caught up in a haze of drugs at the time when Belinda died. His actions after his release prove his character, even if no one seems to be able to forget what happened.

With a lot of drama, a lot of emotion, Stefan and Thea's journey was played out in this book. It was more than clear that Stefan wanted to do right even if his challenges seemed insurmountable. Then for Thea, she was forced to learn that a mother's love was not as powerful as she would have imagined it to be. Considering also the intrigue with the happenings involving secrets increased the drama and tension in this riveting story. Lastly, as things came to a close shocking twists were truly stunning.

Many thanks to MIRA and to NetGalley for this ARC for review. This is my honest opinion.

Please enjoy the following excerpt:
1

I was picking my son up at the prison gates when I spotted the mother of the girl he had murdered.

Two independent clauses, ten words each, joined by an adverb, made up entirely of words that would once have been unimaginable to think, much less say.

She pulled in—not next to me, but four spaces over—in the half circle of fifteen-minute spots directly in front of the main building. It was not where Stefan would walk out. That would be over at the gatehouse. She got out of her car, and for a moment I thought she would come toward me. I wanted to talk to her, to offer something, to reach out and hold her, for we had not even been able to attend Belinda’s funeral. But what would I say? What would she? This was an unwonted crease in an already unaccustomed day. I slid deep into my down coat, and wished I could lock the car doors, although I feared that the sound would crack the predawn darkness like a rifle shot. All that Jill McCormack did, however, was shove her hands into the pockets of her jacket and lean against the back bumper of her car. She wore the heavy maroon leather varsity jacket that her daughter Belinda, captain of the high school cheer team in senior year, had given to her, to Stefan, and to me, with our names embroidered in gold on the back, just like hers.

I hadn’t seen Jill McCormack up close for years, though she lived literally around the corner. Once, I used to stop there to sit on her porch, but now I avoided even driving past the place.

Jill seemed smaller, diminished, the tumult of ash-blond hair I remembered cropped short and seemingly mostly white, though I knew she was young when Belinda was born, and now couldn’t be much past forty. Yet, even just to stand in the watery, slow-rising light in front of a prison, she was tossed together fashionably, in gold-colored jeans and boots, with a black turtleneck, a look I would have had to plan for days. She looked right at my car, but gave no sign that she recognized it, though she’d been in it dozens of times years ago. Once she had even changed her clothes in my car. I remember how I stood outside it holding a blanket up over the windows as she peeled off a soaking-wet, floor-length, jonquil-yellow crystal-beaded evening gown that must, at that point, have weighed about thirty pounds, then slipped into a clean football warm-up kit. After she changed, we linked arms with my husband and we all went to a ball.

But I would not think of that now.

I had spent years assiduously not thinking of any of that.

A friendship, like a crime, is not one thing, or even two people. It’s two people and their shared environs and their histories, their common memories, their words, their weaknesses and fears, their virtues and vanities, and sometimes their shame.

Jill was not my closest friend. Some craven times, I blessed myself with that—at least I was spared that. There had always been Julie, since fifth grade my heart, my sharer. But Jill was my good friend. We had been soccer moms together, and walking buddies, although Jill’s swift, balanced walk was my jog. I once kept Belinda at my house while Jill went to the bedside of her beloved father who’d suffered a stroke, just as she kept Stefan at her house with Belinda when they were seven and both had chicken pox, which somehow neither I nor my husband, Jep, ever caught. And on the hot night of that fundraising ball for the zoo, so long ago, she had saved Stefan’s life.

Since Jill was a widow when we first met, recently arrived in the Midwest from her native North Carolina, I was always talking her into coming to events with Jep and me, introducing her to single guys who immediately turned out to be hopeless. That hot evening, along with the babysitter, the two kids raced toward the new pool, wildly decorated with flashing green lights, vines and temporary waterfalls for a “night jungle swim.” Suddenly, the sitter screamed. When Jill was growing up, she had been state champion in the 200-meter backstroke before her devout parents implored her to switch to the more modest sport of golf, and Belinda, at five, was already a proficient swimmer. My Stefan, on the other hand, sank to the bottom like a rock and never came up. Jill didn’t stop to ask questions. Kicking off her gold sandals, in she went, an elegant flat race dive that barely creased the surface; seconds later she hauled up a gasping Stefan. Stefan owed his life to her as surely as Belinda owed her death to Stefan.

In seconds, life reverses.

Jill and I once talked every week. It even seemed we once might have been machatunim, as they say in Yiddish, parents joined by the marriage of their son and daughter. Now, the circumstances under which we might ever exchange a single word seemed as distant as the bony hood of moon above us in the melting darkness.

What did she want here now? Would she leave once Stefan came through the gates? In fact, she left before that. She got back into her car, and, looking straight ahead, drove off.

I watched until her car was out of sight.

Just after dawn, a guard walked Stefan to the edge of the enclosure. I looked up at the razor wire. Then, opening the window slightly, I heard the guard say, “Do good, kid. I hope I never see you again.” Stefan stepped out, and then put his palm up to a sky that had just begun to spit snow. He was twenty, and he had served two years, nine months and three days of a five-year sentence, one year of which the judge had suspended, noting Stefan’s unblemished record. Still, it seemed like a week; it seemed like my entire life; it seemed like a length of time too paltry for the monstrous thing he had done. I could not help but reckon it this way: For each of the sixty or seventy years Belinda would have had left to live, Stefan spent only a week behind bars, not even a season. No matter how much he despaired, he could always see the end. Was I grateful? Was I ashamed? I was both. Yet relief rippled through me like the sweet breeze that stirs the curtains on a summer night.

I got out and walked over to my son. I reached up and put my hand on his head. I said, “My kid.”

Stefan placed his huge warm palm on the top of my head. “My mom,” he said. It was an old ritual, a thing I would not have dared to do in the prison visiting room. My eyes stung with curated tears. Then I glanced around me, furtively. Was I still permitted such tender old deeds? This new universe was not showing its hand. “I can stand here as long as I want,” he said, shivering in wonderment. Then he said, “Where’s Dad?”

“He told you about it. He had to see that kid in Louisville one more time,” I told him reluctantly. “The running back with the very protective grandmother. He couldn’t get out of it. But he cut it short and he’ll be home when we get back, if he beats the weather out of Kentucky this morning, that is.” Jep was in only his second season as football coach at the University of Wisconsin–Whitewater, a Division II team with significant chops and national esteem. We didn’t really think he would get the job, given our troubles, but the athletic director had watched Jep’s career and believed deeply in his integrity. Now he was never at rest: His postseason recruiting trips webbed the country. Yet it was also true that while Stefan’s father longed equally for his son to be free, if Jep had been able to summon the words to tell the people who mattered that he wanted to skip this trip altogether, he would have. But he couldn’t quite bring himself to say it’s a big day, our son’s getting out of prison.

Now, it seemed important to hurry Stefan to the car, to get out of there before this new universe recanted. We had a long drive back from Black Creek, where the ironically named Belle Colline Correctional Facility squatted not far from the campus of the University of Wisconsin–Black Creek. Stefan’s terrible journey had taken him from college to prison, a distance of just two miles as the crow flies. I felt like the guard: I never wanted to see the place again. I had no time to think about Jill or anything else except the weather. We’d hoped that the early-daylight release would keep protestors away from the prison gates, and that seemed to have worked: Prisoners usually didn’t walk out until just before midday. There was not a single reporter here, which surprised me as Jill was tireless in keeping her daughter Belinda’s death a national story, a symbol for young women in abusive relationships. Many of the half dozen or so stalwarts who still picketed in front of our house nearly every day were local college and high-school girls, passionate about Jill’s work. As Stefan’s release grew near, their numbers rose, even as the outdoor temperatures fell. A few news organizations put in appearances again lately as well. I knew they would be on alert today and was hoping we could beat some of the attention by getting back home early. In the meantime, a snowstorm was in the forecast: I never minded driving in snow, but the air smelled of water running over iron ore—a smell that always portended worse weather.

Excerpted from The Good Son by Jacquelyn Mitchard. Copyright © 2022 by Jacquelyn Mitchard. Published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

#1 New York Times bestselling author Jacquelyn Mitchard has written nine previous novels for adults; six young adult novels; four children’s books; a memoir, Mother Less Child; and a collection of essays, The Rest of Us: Dispatches from the Mother Ship. Her first novel, The Deep End of the Ocean, was the inaugural selection of the Oprah Winfrey Book Club, and later adapted for a feature film. Mitchard is a frequent lecturer and a professor of fiction and creative nonfiction at Vermont College of Fine Arts in Montpelier. She lives on Cape Cod with her husband and their nine children.


Social Links:
Author Website
Facebook: Jacquelyn Mitchard
Twitter: @JackieMitchard
Instagram: @jacquelynmitchard
Goodreads

BLOG TOUR - Cry Wolf

Title:   Cry Wolf
Author:  Hans Rosenfeldt
Series:  Hannah Wester #1
Publisher:  Hanover Square Press
Genre:   Mystery/Thrillers
Format:  Kindle ARC
No. of Pages:   399
Date of Publication:   December 28, 2021
My Rating: 4 Stars

DESCRIPTION:

The first standalone Swedish crime novel by Hans Rosenfeldt, creator of the TV series The Bridge as well as Netflix’s Emmy-winning Marcella.

A dead wolf. A drug deal gone wrong. A female assassin of rarely seen skill. Hannah Wester, a policewoman in the remote northern town of Haparanda, finds herself on the precipice of chaos.

When human remains are found in the stomach of a dead wolf, Hannah knows that this summer won’t be like any other. The remains are linked to a bloody drug deal across the border in Finland. But how did the victim end up in the woods outside of Haparanda? And where have the drugs and money gone?

Hannah and her colleagues leave no stone unturned. But time is scarce and they aren’t the only ones looking. When the secretive and deadly Katja shows up, unexpected and brutal events start to pile up. In just a few days, life in Haparanda is turned upside down. Not least for Hannah, who is finally forced to confront her own past.

BUY LINKS:
BookShop.org | Harlequin | Barnes & Noble
 Amazon | Books-A-Million | Powell’s

MY THOUGHTS:

The crime might have begun in Sweeden, but policewoman Hannah Wester finds that the gruesome murder in fact has to do with a mega drug deal in Finland. So, if the murder happened there, why is the case in the hands of Hannah and her boss Gordon?

Then there is Katja, a deadly woman who is colder than the largest block of ice. What does Katja have to do with the drug deal, the body that was found and other nefarious events? 

The book is called Cry Wolf because the murder victim's remains were found in the body of a wolf and her pup. As this was quite a tragic start to the book I will most certainly say that my attention was grabbed right from the very beginning. Then the story grew in major proportions as depth, twists, intense characters, violence and personal issues all came together in this hard-hitting book. 

This intriguing book is the first book in a new series and I did love the crime solving parts of the book although some of the violence was rather difficult to read. It was a pivotal start to what is sure to be a compelling series. 

Many thanks to and to NetGalley for this ARC for review. This is my honest opinion.

Please enjoy the following excerpt:
Everything had gone according to plan.

First their arrival.

Be the first in place, park the jeep and black Mercedes be-side each other on a rutted clearing in the middle of the forest, used by lumber trucks and harvesters for loading and U-turns, then position the coolers to face the narrow forest road they’d just come down. The ruts beneath them, the nocturnal birdsong around them, the only thing besides absolute silence until the sound of engines announced the arrival of the Finns.

A Volvo XC90, also black, drove up. Vadim watched as Artjom and Michail took their weapons and left the Mercedes, while he and Ljuba climbed out of their jeep. He liked Ljuba, thought she liked him, too. They’d gone out for a beer together a few times, and when they asked her who she wanted to drive with, she’d chosen him. For a moment he considered telling her to wait in the car, take cover, say he had a premonition this might go wrong. But if he did that, what would they do afterwards?

Run away together? Live happily ever after?

That would be impossible once she knew what had happened. She’d never betray Valerij; she didn’t like him that much, he was sure of it. So he said nothing.

The Volvo stopped a few meters in front of them, the engine switched off, the doors opened and four men stepped out. All of them armed. Looked around suspiciously as they fanned out.

Everything was still.

The calm before the storm.

The Finnish leader, a large man with a buzz cut and a tribal tattoo wrapped around one eye, nodded to the smallest of the four Finns, who holstered his gun, walked behind the Volvo and opened the trunk. Vadim also backed up a few steps to un-lock his jeep’s trunk.

So far everything was going according to their plan.

Time for his plan.

A bullet from a rifle with a silencer on it entered just beneath the eye of the large Finn closest to the car. The sudden explosion of bone, blood, and brain matter as the projectile made its way through the back of his head made the others react instinctively.

Everyone started shooting at the same time.

Everyone except Vadim, who threw himself behind the shelter of the jeep.

The man with the tattoo on his face roared loudly, hugged his trigger, and immediately took down Michail with four or five shots to the chest. Artyom answered with gunfire. The tattooed man was hit by two bullets, staggered back, but re-gained his balance and turned his weapon on Artyom, who threw himself behind the cover of the Mercedes, but it was too late. Several bullets hit his legs from the hip down. Shrieking in pain, he landed on dry gravel. The tattooed man continued bleeding, roaring, and shooting as he moved toward the Volvo, determined to make it out of here alive. But a second later he fell to his knees gurgling, let go of his weapon and pressed his hands to what was left of his neck.

Somewhere more shots were fired, more screams could be heard.

Artjom slid up into a sitting position, while trying to stop the blood that gushed from his thigh in the same rhythm as his racing heartbeat. Then another series of shots, and he went still, his gaze turning from desperation to emptiness, his lips forming some soundless word before his head slumped onto his chest.

The third Finn had thrown himself into the cover of a shallow ditch with a good view beneath the parked cars. A round of concentrated fire from his semi-automatic had hit Artjom in the back. Vadim realized that he, too, must be visible and flung himself around the jeep to hide behind one of its large wheels. When he got to the side of the car, he saw the smallest of the four Finns lying dead on the ground.

Ljuba wasn’t visible.

Another round of shots sounded from the ditch at the forest edge and bullets hit the metal on the back of the wheel, puncturing the tire. One went through the rubber and hit him in the side, just above his butt. The pain was a white-hot flash through his body. He closed his eyes, swallowed a scream, leaned his forehead against his knees and made himself as small as he could. As he slowly let the air in his lungs out again, he realized the gunfire had ceased.

It was silent. Completely silent.

No movement, no voices, no roar of pain or betrayal, no bird-song, nothing. As if the very place itself were holding its breath.

He peeked out carefully from behind the jeep.

Still silent. And still.

Slowly, slowly he raised his head for a better view. The sun hung below the trees, but still above the horizon; the scene in front of him was bathed in that particular soft, warm light of the midnight sun.

He rose cautiously to his feet. A bullet was still lodged in his muscle and tissue, but it didn’t seem to have damaged any vital organs. He pressed his hand to the wound. Blood, but no more than he could stop with a compress.

“Ljuba?”

Ljuba was leaning against the rear bumper of the Finn’s car, breathing shallowly, the front of her gray T-shirt beneath her jacket soaked in blood, the gun still in her right hand. Vadim assessed the damage. The blood was running out at a steady rate, so it hadn’t nicked an artery. No air bubbles, so her lungs were probably intact. She might very well survive.

“Who shot us?” she asked, out of breath, grabbing Vadim’s jacket with a bloody hand. “Who the fuck started shooting?”

“He’s with us.”

“What? What do you mean with us? Who is he?”

“Come on.”

He gently took the gun away from her, pushed it into his pocket before standing up, leaned forward and helped her to her feet. She grimaced from the pain of exertion but managed to stand. With his arm around her waist and her arm around his shoulders, they walked out into the open area between the cars. When they reached the rise where the tattooed Finn had fallen, Vadim stopped, gently removed Ljuba’s arm, released his supportive grip from around her waist, and backed away with two large steps.

“I’m sorry…”

Ljuba’s gaze was uncomprehending at first, but she soon realized what was happening, why he’d brought her here. Seconds later a bullet pierced her temple and she was thrown to the ground.

Vadim pressed his hand to the wound on his lower back and stretched, let out a deep sigh.

In the end, everything had gone according to plan.

Excerpted from Cry Wolf by Hans Rosenfeldt, Copyright © 2022 by Hans Rosenfeldt. Published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Hans Rosenfeldt is a Swedish screenwriter, radio presenter, novelist and actor. He created the Scandinavian series The Bridge, which is broadcast in more than 170 countries, as well as the ITV/Netflix series Marcella

Social Links:

Author Website - none
Instagram: @hansrosenfeldtofficial
Facebook: @hjorthrosenfeldt
Goodreads

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Review - E. R. Nurses

Title:  E. R. Nurses
Author James Patterson, Matt Eversman and Chris Mooney
Publisher:  Little, Brown and Company
Genre
:   Memoirs
Format:  Audiobook ARC
No. of Pages:   304
Date of Publication:   October 11, 2021
My Rating:  4 Stars 
DESCRIPTION:

James Patterson and Matt Eversmann present the medical frontline heroes who work to save our lives every day: E.R. Nurses.

Around the clock, across the country, these highly skilled and compassionate men and women sacrifice and struggle for us and our families.

You have never heard their true stories. Not like this. From big-city and small-town hospitals. From behind the scenes. From the heart.

This book will make you laugh, make you cry, make you understand.

When we’re at our worst, E.R. nurses are at their best.

MY THOUGHTS:


James Patterson and his co-writers have brought together this compilation of over 50 E.R. Nurses from all over. As a person with empathic feelings I didn't know how I would be affected by these stories. I had this book as an audiobook ARC so I am not sure if the actual nurses dictated their own stories or if there was a series of narrators. In any case, I found the book to be a quick, riveting read.


Whether an E. R. nurse at the height of Covid in the ICU, a pediatric nurse or a flight nurse, these stories certainly evoked many emotions in me as I read. Of course. some were rather tragic, but then there were some very humorous ones as well. 


As one who has been hospitalized dozens of times I felt as if I could relate to some of these nurses and their stories. One nurse, for example, Angela from New York, used signification compassion in her care (as I am sure the majority do). Just one example of many. But the underlying theme I picked up on was HOPE. Never once giving up hope, even if all that can be done is to offer a patient comfort until the very end. Then there was the nurse who came across Kavorkian. I hadn't heard that name in years. Or a nurse who unknowingly came in contact with a serial killer.


This book cemented the fact that sometimes hope is all we have and nursing is about making and preserving human connection. Lastly, the most touching part of this book is for those patients who come back and say Thank You for the care they received from nurses. This especially touched me because E. R. Nurses rarely see a patient after they leave the emergency department.


Many thanks to Little, Brown and Company 
for this ARC for review. This is my honest opinion.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

James Patterson has created more enduring fictional characters than any other novelist writing today with his Alex Cross, Michael Bennett, Women’s Murder Club, Private, NYPD Red, Daniel X, Maximum Ride, and Middle School series. As of January 2016, he has sold over 350 million books worldwide and currently holds the Guinness World Record for the most #1 New York Times bestsellers. In addition to writing the thriller novels for which he is best known, he also writes children’s, middle-grade, and young-adult fiction and is also the first author to have #1 new titles simultaneously on the New York Times adult and children’s bestseller lists.

The son of an insurance salesman and a schoolteacher, Patterson grew up in Newburgh, New York, and began casually writing at the age of nineteen. In 1969, he graduated from Manhattan College. He was given a full ride to Vanderbilt University’s graduate program in English but dropped out after a year, knowing that he wouldn’t be able to continue reading and writing for pleasure if he became a college professor.

Instead, he moved to New York to become a junior copywriter for the advertising agency J. Walter Thompson, eventually becoming CEO of its North American company.

In 1976, while still working for J. Walter Thompson, Patterson published his first novel, The Thomas Berryman Number, with Little, Brown and Company. After being turned down by thirty-one publishers, it won the Edgar Award for Best First Novel. Patterson’s 1993 novel, Along Came a Spider, his first novel to feature Alex Cross, was also his first New York Times bestseller in fiction.

In 2001, Morgan Freeman starred as Alex Cross in a film adaptation of Along Came a Spider, and Tyler Perry also played the character in the 2012 film Alex Cross. A film adaptation of Patterson’s middle-grade novel Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life was released in theaters in October 2016.

For his initiatives to help kids become passionate readers and for his philanthropic efforts, Patterson was awarded the National Book Foundation’s 2015 Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community.

James Patterson has donated more than one million books to students, emphasizing some of the most under-resourced schools and youth programs in the country. In 2015, Patterson donated $1.75 million to public school libraries throughout the United States, $1 million to independent bookstores, and a further $250,000 in holiday bonuses to individual bookstore employees. He also gave $1 million to independent bookstores in 2014.

Patterson has recently donated over $26 million to his and his wife’s alma maters—the University of Wisconsin, Vanderbilt University, and Manhattan College—and he has established over four hundred Teacher Education Scholarships at twenty-four colleges and universities throughout the country. Patterson has also donated over 650,000 books to U.S. soldiers at home and overseas.

In May 2015, Patterson launched a new children’s book imprint at Little, Brown, called JIMMY Patterson, that is unwaveringly focused on one goal: turning kids into lifelong readers. This imprint also provides resources, strategies, and programs to serve teachers, parents, librarians, and booksellers. Patterson invests proceeds from the sales of JIMMY Patterson Books in pro-reading initiatives.

Patterson has also founded ReadKiddoRead.com, a website designed to help parents, teachers, and librarians ignite a new generation’s excitement for reading. Awarded the National Book Foundation’s Innovations in Reading Prize and the American Library Association’s Great Websites for Kids, the site features thoughtful book reviews from a variety of genres and age ranges, a large and lively Facebook community, and contributions from other authors.

Mr. Patterson’s awards for adult and children’s literature include the Edgar Award, the International Thriller of the Year Award, and the Children’s Choice Award for Author of the Year.

He lives in Palm Beach with his wife, Sue, and his son, Jack.


- - - - - 

Hailed as “one of the best thriller writers working today” by Lee Child and “a wonderful writer” by Michael Connelly, Chris Mooney is the international bestselling author of twelve novels, most recently, The Snow Girls. His fourth book, The Missing, the first in the Darby McCormick series, was a main selection of the International Book of the Month Club and an instant bestseller in over thirteen countries. The Mystery Writer’s Association nominated Chris’s third book, Remembering Sarah, for an Edgar Award for Best Novel. Foreign rights to his novels have been sold to twenty-eight territories. He has sold nearly two million copies of his books.

Chris teaches writing courses at Harvard and the Harvard Extension School, and lives in the Boston area with his wife and son. His new novel, Blood World, will be released in August of 2020.

BLOG TOUR - First Kiss at Christmas


DESCRIPTION:

At 25 years old, preschool teacher Kayla Harris is embarrassed to admit she's never been kissed. When Tony DiNunzio and his grieving nephew show up in her classroom, she can't help being drawn to both of them. If only her insecurities-and his guilt over his sister's death-would stop standing in their way.

As Christmas approaches, can these three come together to form a family... not just for the holidays, but forever?

BUY LINKS:
BookShop.org | Harlequin | Barnes & Noble
 Amazon | Books-A-Million | Powell’s

MY THOUGHTS:
 
Title:   First Kiss at Christmas
Author:  Lee Tobin McClain
Series:  The Off Season #5
Publisher:  HQN Books
Genre:   Romance
Format:  Kindle ARC
No. of Pages:   352
Date of Publication:   October 28, 2021
My Rating:   5 Stars

Kayla Harris looks out the window and sees a scruffy man approaching a upset young child at the town's playground. As she starts to rush to the child's aid, the child does calm down in the arms of the man. That does not explain why the child was there by himself at first and then the man showed up. Why is he looking so rough? Kayla is a preschool teacher and children are her first priority.

She soon learns that Tony DeNunzio is the boy's uncle. The child's name is Jax and Kayla is more than curious as to why the two are together.

One night out with her friend Amber has Kayla confessing that she has reached the age of twenty-five without ever being kissed. This discussion leads Kayla to making a resolution to kiss a man before the end of the year. Will she be able to do it? Find someone that she would be that comfortable with?

This story is very, very touching. For starters, Amber is plus-sized, but has tremendous self-confidence. Then there is Jax. All he has is Tony. (Well, he has another aunt and uncle, but Tony has taken guardianship of him.) Jax just about broke my heart. His clinginess, sensitivity and sadness came right through the pages of this book. Also, there is Tony, trying to learn how to become a father all of a sudden, especially when considering how Jax tragically lost his mother Stella.

As Kayla rents out a cottage to Tony and Jax, she gets to know them, especially once Jax gets enrolled as a student. Meanwhile, there is a side story, and it is rather significant. There are unclear details about Stella's death, and it soon becomes apparent that perhaps Tony and Jax may not be safe. Will they every get past losing Stella and remain safe and become a family of two? What about a family of three with Kayla? Is the baggage that both Kayla and Tony carry too much for a loving and lasting relationship to develop?

I was thoroughly enamored with this touching story. I admit to crying for Tony and Jax. I felt like their pain was my pain. I also felt for Kayla as I am also a plus-sized woman. Then there is the story itself and how wonderfully it developed, even with the air of intrigue in this story. Lastly, the dogs in the story - did they steal the show for me? Maybe. Just maybe.

I love Lee Tobin McClain's writing. She manages to connect her readers to her characters, thus making me feel like she is sitting in my living room relating said stories to me.

Many thanks to HQN Books and to NetGalley for this ARC for review. This is my honest opinion.

Please enjoy the following excerpt:
1

KAYLA HARRIS CARRIED a bag of snowflake decorations to the window of her preschool classroom. She started putting them up in a random pattern, humming along to the Christmas music she’d accessed on her phone.

Yes, it was Sunday afternoon, and yes, she was a loser for spending it at work, but she loved her job and wanted the classroom to be ready when the kids returned from Thanksgiving break tomorrow. Nobody could get as excited as a four-year-old about Christmas decorations.

Outside, the November wind tossed the pine branches and jangled the swings on the Coastal Kids Early Learning Center’s playground. A lonely seagull swooped across the sky, no doubt headed for the bay. The Chesapeake was home to all kinds of wildlife, year-round. That was one of the things she loved about living here.

Then another kind of movement from the playground caught her eye.

A man in a long, army-type coat, bareheaded, ran after a little boy. When Kayla pushed open the window to see better, she heard the child screaming.

Heart pounding, she rushed downstairs and out the door of the empty school.

The little boy now huddled at the top of the sliding board, mouth wide open as he cried, tears rolling down round, rosy cheeks. The man stood between the slide and a climbing structure, forking his fingers through disheveled hair, not speaking to the child or making any effort to comfort him. This couldn’t be the little boy’s father. Something was wrong.

She ran toward the sliding board. “Hi, honey,” she said to the child, keeping her voice low and calm. “What’s the matter?”

“Leave him alone,” the man barked out. His ragged jeans and wildly flapping coat made him look disreputable, maybe homeless.

She ignored him, climbed halfway up the ladder, and touched the child’s shaking shoulder. “Hi, sweetheart.”

The little boy jerked away and, maybe on purpose, maybe not, slid down the slide. The man rushed to catch him at the bottom, and the boy struggled, crying, his little fists pounding, legs kicking.

Kayla pulled out her phone to report a possible child abduction, eyes on the pair, poised to interfere if the man tried to run with the child.

One of the boy’s kicks landed in a particularly vulnerable spot, and the man winced and adjusted the child to cradle him as if he were a baby. “Okay, okay,” he murmured in a deep, but gentle voice, nothing like the sharp tone in which he’d addressed Kayla. He sat down on the end of the slide and pulled the child close, rocking a little. “You’re okay.”

The little boy struggled for another few seconds and then stopped, laying his head against the man’s broad chest. Apparently, this guy had gained the child’s trust, at least to some degree.

For the first time, Kayla wondered if she’d misread the situation. Was this just a scruffy dad? Was she maybe just being her usual awkward self with men?

He looked up at her then, curiosity in his eyes.

Her face heated, but she straightened her shoulders and lifted her chin. She was an education professional trying to help a child. “This is a private school, sir,” she said. “What are you doing here?”

The little boy had startled at her voice and his crying intensified. The man ignored her question.

“Is he your son?”

Again, no answer as he stroked the child’s hair and whispered something into his ear.

“All right, I guess it’s time for the police to straighten this out.” She searched for the number, her fingers numb with the cold. Maybe this situation didn’t merit a 911 call, but there was definitely something unusual going on. Her small town’s police force could straighten it out.

“WAIT. DON’T CALL THE POLICE.” Tony DeNunzio struggled to his feet, the weight of his tense nephew making him awkward. “Everything’s okay. I’m his guardian.” He didn’t owe this woman an explanation, and it irritated him to have to give one, but he didn’t want Jax to get even more upset. The child hated cops, and with good reason.

“You’re his guardian?” The blonde, petite as she was, made him feel small as her eyes skimmed him up and down.

He glanced down at his clothes and winced. Lifted a hand to his bristly chin and winced again.

He hadn’t shaved since they’d arrived in town two days ago, and he’d grabbed these clothes from the heap of clean but wrinkled laundry beside his bed. Not only because he was busy trying to get Jax settled, but because he couldn’t bring himself to care about folding laundry and shaving and most of the other tasks under the general heading of personal hygiene. A shower a day, and a bath for Jax, was about all he could manage. His brother and sister—his surviving sister—had scolded him about it, back home.

He couldn’t explain all of that, didn’t need to. It wasn’t this shivering stranger’s business. “Jax is going to enroll here,” he said.

“Really?” Another wave of shivers hit her, making her teeth chatter. Tony didn’t know where she’d come from, but apparently her mission of mercy had compelled her to run outside without her coat.

He’d offer her his, but he had a feeling she’d turn up her nose.

“The school is closed on Sundays,” she said.

Thank you, Miss Obvious. But given that he and Jax had slipped through a gap in the playground’s loosely chained gate, he guessed their presence merited a little more explanation. “I’m trying to get him used to the place before he starts school tomorrow. He has trouble with...” Tony glanced down at Jax, who’d stopped crying and stuck his thumb in his mouth, and a surge of love and frustration rose in him. “He has trouble with basically everything.”

The woman shook her head and put a finger to her lips, then pointed at the child.

What was that all about? And who was she, the parenting police? “Do you have a reason to be here?” he asked, hearing the truculence in his own voice and not caring.

She narrowed her eyes at him. “I work nearby,” she said. “Saw you here and got concerned, because the little guy seemed to be upset. For that matter, he still seems to be.”

No denying that. Jax had tensed up as soon as they’d approached the preschool playground, probably because it was similar to places where he’d had other bad experiences. Even though Jax had settled some, Tony could feel the tightness in his muscles, and he rubbed circles on his nephew’s back. “He’s been kicked out of preschool and day care before,” he explained. “This is kind of my last resort.”

She frowned. “You know he can hear you, right?”

“Of course he can hear, he’s not...” Tony trailed off as he realized what she meant. He shouldn’t say negative things about Jax in front of him.

She was right, but she’d also just met him and Jax. Was she really going to start telling him how to raise his nephew?

Of course, probably almost anyone in the world would be better at it than he was.

“Did you let the school know the particulars of his situation?” She leaned against the slide’s ladder, her face concerned.

Tony sighed. She must be one of those women who had nothing else to do but criticize how others handled their lives. She was cute, though. And it wasn’t as if he had much else to do, either. He’d completed all the Victory Cottage paperwork, and he couldn’t start dealing with the program’s other requirements until the business week started tomorrow.

Jax moved restlessly and looked up at him.

Tony set Jax on his feet and gestured toward the play structure. “Go ahead and climb. We’ll go back to the cottage before long.” He didn’t know much about being a parent, but one thing he’d learned in the past three months was that tiring a kid out with active play was a good idea.

Jax nodded and ran over to the playset. His tongue sticking out of one corner of his mouth, forehead wrinkled, he started to climb.

Tony watched him, marveling at how quickly his moods changed. Jax’s counselor said all kids were like that, but Jax seemed a little more extreme than most.

No surprise, given what he’d been through.

Tony looked back at the woman, who was watching him expectantly.

“What did you ask me?” Sometimes he worried about himself. It was hard to keep track of conversations, not that he had all that many of them lately. None, except with Jax, since they’d arrived in Pleasant Shores two days ago.

“I asked if you let the school know about his issues,” she said. “It might help them help him, if they know what they’re working with.”

“I didn’t tell them about the other schools,” he said. “I didn’t want to jinx this place, make them think he’s a bad kid, right from the get-go. He’s not.”

“I’m sure he isn’t,” she said. “He’s a real cutie. But still, you should be up front with his teachers and the principal.”

Normally he would have told her to mind her own business, but he was just too tired for a fight. “You’re probably right.” It was another area where he was failing Jax, he guessed. But he was doing the best he could. It wasn’t as if he’d had experience with any kids other than Jax. Even overseas, when the other soldiers had given out candy and made friends, he’d tended to terrify the little ones. Too big, too gruff, too used to giving orders.

“Telling the school the whole story will only help him,” she said, still studying Jax, her forehead creased.

He frowned at her. “Why would you care?”

“The truth is,” she said, “I’m going to be his teacher.”

Great. He felt his shoulders slump. Had he just ruined his nephew’s chances at this last-resort school?

MONDAY MORNING, KAYLA welcomed the last of her usual students and stood on tiptoes to look down the stairs of the Coastal Kids preschool. Where were Tony and Jax?

She’d informed two of her friendliest and most responsible students that a new boy was coming today and that they should help him to feel at home. If he didn’t get here in time for the opening circle, she’d tell all twelve of the kids about Jax.

But maybe his uncle had changed his mind about enrolling him.

Maybe Kayla’s mother, who was the principal of the little early learning center, had decided Jax wasn’t going to be a good fit and suggested another option for him. That would be rare, but it occasionally happened.

Mom said Kayla fretted too much. Probably true, but it was in the job description. Kayla felt a true calling to nurture and educate the kids in her care. Sometimes, that meant worrying about them.

The Coastal Kids Early Learning Center was housed in an old house that adjoined a local private school. Kayla’s classroom was one of three located upstairs, and from hers, she could see down the central staircase to the glassed-in offices. Her mother was welcoming a few stragglers, but there was still no sign of her new student.

She turned back to face her students. “Good job sharing,” she said to redheaded Nicole, who was holding out a plastic truck to her friend. “Jacob, we don’t run in the classroom. Why don’t you look at the new books on our reading shelf?”

After making sure all the kids were occupied with their morning playtime, she stepped out into the hall. If she could flag down her mother, she’d try to find out what was going on with Jax.

And then Tony came into the school, holding Jax’s hand.

Kayla sucked in a breath. Wow. He cleaned up really well.

Not that he was entirely cleaned up; he still had the stubbly half beard that made him look a little dangerous, and his thick, dark hair was overlong. But he wore nice jeans and a green sweater with sleeves pushed up to reveal muscular forearms. He knelt so Jax could jump onto his back for a piggyback ride, then stood easily, and Kayla sucked in another breath. There was something about a guy who was physically strong.

He stopped and spoke to Kayla’s mother—she’d been occupied with another parent right inside the office, apparently—and then, at her gesture, headed up the stairs toward Kayla’s classroom.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Lee Tobin McClain is the bestselling author of more than thirty emotional, small-town romances described by Publishers Weekly as enthralling, intense, and heartfelt. A dog lover and proud mom, she often includes kids and animals in her books. When she's not writing, she enjoys hiking with her goofy goldendoodle, chatting online with her writer friends, and admiring her daughter's mastery of the latest TikTok dances.


Social Links:
Author Website
Facebook: @leetobinmcclain
Twitter: @LeeTobinMcClain
Goodreads

BLOG TOUR - The Secret of Snow


DESCRIPTION:

When Sonny Dunes, a So-Cal meteorologist who knows only sunshine and 72-degree days, has an on-air meltdown after she learns she’s being replaced by an AI meteorologist (which the youthful station manager reasons "will never age, gain weight or renegotiate its contract."), the only station willing to give a 50-year-old another shot is one in a famously non-tropical place--her northern Michigan hometown.

Unearthing her carefully laid California roots, Sonny returns home and reaclimates to the painfully long, dark winters dominated by a Michigan phenomenon known as lake-effect snow. But beyond the complete physical shock to her system, she's also forced to confront her past: her new boss is a former journalism classmate and mortal frenemy and, more keenly, the death of a younger sister who loved the snow, and the mother who caused Sonny to leave.

To distract herself from the unwelcome memories, Sonny decides to throw herself headfirst (and often disastrously) into all things winter to woo viewers and reclaim her success: sledding, ice-fishing, skiing, and winter festivals, culminating with the town’s famed Winter Ice Sculpture Contest, all run by a widowed father and Chamber director whose honesty and genuine love of Michigan, winter and Sonny just might thaw her heart and restart her life in a way she never could have predicted.

BUY LINKS:
 Amazon | Books-A-Million | Powell’s

MY THOUGHTS:
 
Title:   The Secret of Snow
Author:  Viola Shipman
Publisher:  Graydon House Books
Genre:   Romance
Format:  Kindle ARC
No. of Pages:   320
Date of Publication:   October 26, 2021
My Rating:   4 Stars

Southern California has done Sonny Dunes quite well. She has been a meterologist for years and her career was flawless. However, she is being replaced by an AI unit. How undignified. Not only must she return home to start over, but she is now in the middle of a harsh Michigan winter. 

Things do not go smoothly for Sonny. In fact, although she finds a new job rather quickly, there is definitely tension there. Part of that tension is her new boss, and they did not get on well when they were in school. Also, she left her past behind but now she must deal with some unresolved issues. While Sonny starts over she must work to mend fences with her mother as the two did not part on good terms.

As if that is not plenty enough for Sonny to cope with, she agrees to work with director of the chamber of commerce, Mason Carrier. The teo will be working together for the town's winter festivals. Sonny finds herself drawn to Mason and that proves surprising to her, especially as she is in a turning point in her life. All of this comes together in a heartwarming story that proves that life can begin anew.

Many thanks to Graydon House and to NetGalley for this ARC for review. This is my honest opinion.

Please enjoy the following excerpt:
"And look at this! A storm system is making its way across the country, and it will bring heavy snow to the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes before wreaking havoc on the East Coast. This is an especially early and nasty start to winter for much of the country. In fact, early models indicate that parts of western and northern Michigan—the lake effect snowbelts, as we call them—will receive over 150 inches of snow this year. One hundred fifty inches!”

I turn away from the green screen in my red wrap dress and heels.

“But here in the desert...” I wait for the graphic to pop onscreen, which declares, Sonny Says It’s Sonny... Again!

When the camera refocuses on me, I toss an adhesive sunshine with my face on it toward the green screen behind me. It sticks directly on Palm Springs, California.

“...it’s wall-to-wall sunshine!”

I expand my arms like a raven in the mountains taking flight. The weekly forecast pops up. Every day features a smiling sunshine that resembles yours truly: golden, shining, beaming.

“And it will stay that way all week long, with temperatures in the midseventies and lows in the midfifties. Not bad for this time of year, huh? It’s chamber of commerce weather here in the desert, perfect for all those design lovers in town for Mid-Century Modernism Week.” I walk over to the news desk. The camera follows. I lean against the desk and turn to the news anchors, Eva Fernandez and Cliff Moore. “Or for someone who loves to play golf, right, Cliff?”

He laughs his faux laugh, the one that makes his mouth resemble those old windup chattering teeth from when I was a girl.

“You betcha, Sonny!”

“That’s why we live here, isn’t it?” I ask.

“I sure feel sorry for the rest of the country,” says Eva, her blinding white smile as bright as the camera lights. I’m convinced every one of Eva’s caps has a cap.

“Those poor Michigan folk won’t be golfing in shorts like I will be tomorrow, will they?” Cliff says with a laugh and his pantomime golf swing. He twitches his bushy brows and gives me a giant wink. “Thank you, Sonny Dunes.”

I nod, my hands on my hips as if I’m a Price Is Right model and not a meteorologist.

“Martinis on the mountain? Yes, please,” Eva says with her signature head tilt. “Next on the news: a look at some of the big events at this year’s Mid-Century Modernism Week. Back in a moment.”

I end the newscast with the same forecast—a row of smiling sunshine emojis that look just like my face—and then banter with the anchors about the perfect pool temperature before another graphic—THE DESERT’S #1 NIGHTLY NEWS TEAM!—pops onto the screen, and we fade to commercial.

“Anyone want to go get a drink?” Cliff asks within seconds of the end of the newscast. “It’s Friday night.”

“It’s always Friday night to you, Cliff,” Eva says.

She stands and pulls off her mic. The top half of Eva Fernandez is J.Lo perfection: luminescent locks, long lashes, glam gloss, a skintight top in emerald that matches her eyes, gold jewelry that sets off her glowing skin. But Eva’s bottom half is draped in sweats, her feet in house slippers. It’s the secret viewers never see.

“I’m half dressed for bed already anyway,” she says with a dramatic sigh. Eva is very dramatic. “And I’m hosting the Girls Clubs Christmas breakfast tomorrow and then Eisenhower Hospital’s Hope for the Holidays fundraiser tomorrow night. And Sonny and I are doing every local Christmas parade the next few weekends. You should think about giving back to the community, Cliff.”

“Oh, I do,” he says. “I keep small business alive in Palm Springs. Wouldn’t be a bar afloat without my support.”

Cliff roars, setting off his chattering teeth.

I call Cliff “The Unicorn” because he was actually born and raised in Palm Springs. He didn’t migrate here like the older snowbirds to escape the cold, he didn’t snap up midcentury houses with cash like the Silicon Valley techies who realized this was a real estate gold mine, and he didn’t suddenly “discover” how hip Palm Springs was like the millennials who flocked here for the Coachella Music Festival and to catch a glimpse of Drake, BeyoncĂ© or the Kardashians.

No, Cliff is old school. He was Palm Springs when tumbleweed still blew right through downtown, when Bob Hope pumped gas next to you and when Frank Sinatra might take a seat beside you at the bar, order a martini and nobody acted like it was a big deal.

I admire Cliff because—

The set suddenly spins, and I have to grab the arm of a passing sound guy to steady myself. He looks at me, and I let go.

—he didn’t run away from where he grew up.

“How about you, sunshine?” Cliff asks me. “Wanna grab a drink?”

“I’m gonna pass tonight, Cliff. I’m wiped from this week. Rain check?”

“Never rains in the desert, sunshine,” Cliff jokes. “You oughta know that.”

He stops and looks at me. “What would Frank Sinatra do?”

I laugh. I adore Cliff’s corniness.

“You’re not Frank Sinatra,” Eva calls.

“My martini awaits with or without you.” Cliff salutes, as if he’s Bob Hope on a USO tour, and begins to walk out of the studio.

“Ratings come in this weekend!” a voice yells. “That’s when we party.”

We all turn. Our producer, Ronan, is standing in the middle of the studio. Ronan is all of thirty. He’s dressed in flip-flops, board shorts and a T-shirt that says, SUNS OUT, GUNS OUT! like he just returned from Coachella. Oh, and he’s wearing sunglasses. At night. In a studio that’s gone dim. Ronan is the grandson of the man who owns our network, DSRT. Jack Clark of ClarkStar pretty much owns every network across the US these days. He put his grandson in charge because Ro-Ro’s father bought an NFL franchise, and he’s too obsessed with his new fancy toy to pay attention to his old fancy toy. Before DSRT, Ronan was a surfer living in Hawaii who found it hard to believe there wasn’t an ocean in the middle of the California desert.

He showed up to our very first official news meeting wearing a tank top with an arrow pointing straight up that read, This Dude’s the CEO!

“You can call me Ro-Ro,” he’d announced upon introduction.

“No,” Cliff said. “I can’t.”

Ronan had turned his bleary gaze upon me and said, “Yo. Weather’s, like, not really my thing. You can just, like, look outside and see what’s going on. And it’s, like, on my phone. Just so we’re clear...get it? Like the weather.” My heart nearly stopped. “People need to know how to plan their days, sir,” I protested. “Weather is a vital part of all our lives. It’s daily news. And, what I study and disseminate can save lives.”

“Ratings party if we’re still number one!” Ronan yells, knocking me from my thoughts.

I look at Eva, and she rolls her eyes. She sidles up next to me and whispers, “You know all the jokes about millennials? He’s the punchline for all of them.”

I stifle a laugh.

We walk each other to the parking lot.

“See you Monday,” I say.

“Are we still wearing our matching Santa hats for the parade next Saturday?”

I laugh and nod. “We’re his best elves,” I say.

“You mean his sexiest news elves,” she says. She winks and waves, and I watch her shiny SUV pull away. I look at my car and get inside with a smile. Palm Springs locals are fixated on their cars. Not the make or the color, but the cleanliness. Since there is so little rain in Palm Springs, locals keep their cars washed and polished constantly. It’s like a competition.

I pull onto Dinah Shore Drive and head toward home.

Palm Springs is dark. There is a light ordinance in the city that limits the number of streetlights. In a city this beautiful, it would be a crime to have tall posts obstructing the view of the mountains or bright light overpowering the brightness of the stars.

I decide to cut through downtown Palm Springs to check out the Friday night action. I drive along Palm Canyon Drive, the main strip in town. The restaurants are packed. People sit outside in shorts—in December!—enjoying a glass of wine. Music blasts from bars. Palm Springs is alive, the town teeming with life even near midnight.

I stop at a red light, and a bachelorette party in sashes and tiaras pulls up next to me peddling a party bike. It’s like a self-propelled trolley with seats and pedals, but you can drink—a lot—on it. I call these party trolleys “Woo-Hoo Bikes” because...

I honk and wave.

The bachelorette party shrieks, holds up their glasses and yells, “WOO-HOO!”

The light changes, and I take off, knowing these ladies will likely find themselves in a load of trouble in about an hour, probably at a tiki bar where the drinks are as deadly as the skulls on the glasses.

I continue north on Palm Canyon—heading past Copley’s Restaurant, which once was Cary Grant’s guesthouse in the 1940s, and a plethora of design and vintage home furnishings stores. I stop at another light and glance over as an absolutely filthy SUV, which looks like it just ended a mud run, pulls up next to me. The front window is caked in gray-white sludge and the doors are encrusted in crud. An older man is hunched over the steering wheel, wearing a winter coat, and I can see the woman seated next to him pointing at the navigation on the dashboard. I know immediately they are not only trying to find their Airbnb on one of the impossible-to-locate side streets in Palm Springs, but also that they are from somewhere wintry, somewhere cold, somewhere the sun doesn’t shine again until May.

Which state? I wonder, as the light changes, and the car pulls ahead of me.

“Bingo!” I yell in my car. “Michigan license plates!”

We all run from Michigan in the winter.

I look back at the road in front of me, and it’s suddenly blurry. A car honks, scaring the wits out of me, and I shake my head clear, wave an apology and head home.

Excerpted from The Secret of Snow by Viola Shipman. Copyright © 2021 by Viola Shipman. Published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Viola Shipman is the pen name for Wade Rouse, a popular, award-winning memoirist. Rouse chose his grandmother's name, Viola Shipman, to honor the woman whose heirlooms and family stories inspire his writing. Rouse is the author of The Summer Cottage, as well as The Charm Bracelet and The Hope Chest which have been translated into more than a dozen languages and become international bestsellers. He lives in Saugatuck, Michigan and Palm Springs, California, and has written for People, Coastal Living, Good Housekeeping, and Taste of Home, along with other publications, and is a contributor to All Things Considered.


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