Showing posts with label new york times bestselling author. Show all posts
Showing posts with label new york times bestselling author. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Make a Wish by Helena Hunting: "Spark House Sisters" Series

New York Times bestselling author Helena Hunting's comtemporary romance novel Make a Wish is book three of her popular "Spark House Sisters" series, which also includes When Sparks Fly (book one) and Starry-Eyed Love (book two).

Make a Wish will be published on Tuesday, January 24, 2023, but it is available for preorder on Amazon in Kindle, paperback and audiobook formats.

I was fortunate to listen to an advance copy of the audiobook through NetGalley. Here's my book review.

Make a Wish by Helena Hunting
Make a Wish is book 3 in Helena Hunting's contemporary romance series "Spark House Sisters" which features her signature "swoony heroes and quirky heroines"

A Charming, Often Hilarious, Heartwarming Contemporary Romance Novel

New York Times bestselling author Helena Hunting's website describes her lead characters as "swoony heroes and quirky heroines you'll fall in love with." I would say she writes genuinely likeable, thoughtful characters with good hearts and intentions, human failings and insecurities, authentic voices and often witty, flirtatious banter.

Bottom line: Hunting crafts well-developed characters you can't help caring about and rooting for.

Helena Hunting's "Spark House Sisters" Series

When I had the opportunity to listen to an advance copy of Helena Hunting's Make a Wish in audiobook format, I jumped at the chance to listen to this deservedly popular, New York Times bestselling author's latest contemporary romance. I was delighted to discover that the story holds its own as a stand-alone novel. However, I enjoyed it enough to want to go back to the beginning of the story by reading the first two books.

Here are the three books in this series about sisters Avery, London and Harley Spark, in order (links are for the Kindle editions on Amazon):

When Sparks Fly ("Spark House Sisters" Book 1—Avery's Story)

Starry-Eyed Love ("Spark House Sisters" Book 2—London's Story)

Make a Wish ("Spark House Sisters" Book 3—Harley's Story)

Make a Wish Synopsis

When Gavin Rhodes's wife, whom he adores, dies after giving birth to their daughter Peyton, his world collapses. Overwhelmed by grief, heartbreak and a misplaced sense of guilt, Gavin buries himself in his work and hires a vivacious, cheerful, energetic and responsible young woman as a live-in nanny for his baby girl.

Harley Spark's parents died when she was very young, so she knows how hard it is to grow up without a mom. Unlike Peyton, however, she and her two sisters had each other for support, and vice versa. Her grandma Spark also provided a loving, supportive and encouraging home as well as a love of fun and adventure. Harley is totally devoted to Peyton and tries to make up for the lack of both a mom and siblings in her life by playing the roles of both nanny and surrogate big sister.

Harley finds enormous satisfaction in providing a positive, upbeat and nurturing home environment for baby Peyton and her overworked, emotionally devastated dad. The arrangement works beautifully for a year and a half...until the fateful moment when 20-year-old Harley, trying to comfort an exhausted and still grieving Gavin (and indulge her secret crush on him), leans in and almost kisses him before he realizes what she is trying to do and abruptly pulls away.

Harley is horrified and mortified. Worse yet, her idyllic working and living situation suddenly evaporates as Gavin packs up his and Peyton’s things and moves to the other side of the state. He transfers the care of his baby girl to his late wife's strict and domineering mother, Karen, who takes on the role of mothering and educating her granddaughter with an almost religious zeal.

Harley is covered with guilt and remorse for her unusual lapse in judgment and she misses Peyton (and Gavin) tremendously. But when Gavin refuses to respond to multiple apologetic texts, she eventually has to make her peace with the consequences of having acted on her misguided impulse.

Harley loves being and working with kids, but reluctantly decides to give up her career as a professional live-in nanny, fearing another potential risk to her heart if she falls in love with another family who employs her. Instead, she joins her two sisters and their partners in running the family's event hotel, Spark House. In addition to doing some of the hotel's social media, Harley's favorite role has been organizing the children's themed birthday parties, for which she always dresses up in costume. Unfortunately, they are less profitable than other events, such as weddings, and seven years after Gavin's and Peyton's move, Harley's siblings let her know that the upcoming princess-themed birthday party for a local nine-year-old will be the last one at Spark House.

For the "last hurrah" birthday bash, Harley dresses up as a fairy princess. The last people she expects to run into among the young party guests and their parents are nine-year-old Peyton and her dad. Gavin, in turn, who is both a doting father and a good sport, is wearing a tutu. It's not exactly the outfit he would have chosen for an unexpected reunion with Harley, who is now in her late twenties and even more attractive than before.

Harley is so flustered at seeing Gavin again (especially when she is dressed in full-fledged princess attire with all the trimmings) that she breaks out in hives. Gavin is grateful that Harley is no longer his daughter's nanny, and their age difference is less significant. He hopes this chance encounter might lead to both closure concerning their awkward and abrupt parting and perhaps a different type of relationship moving forward. Peyton is simply overjoyed to see her beloved former nanny and playmate and can't wait to make more play dates for the three of them.

Gavin decides to move himself and Peyton back to their hometown. There are a several good reasons for the move, but one of the most compelling is for them to be near Harley again. Predictably, Karen becomes jealous and resentful of Harley and does her best to undermine the would-be couple's burgeoning relationship. Karen's interfering behavior angers and upsets both Gavin and Harley, but Gavin also feels guilty about moving Peyton out of her grandmother's home, control, and daily life and is reluctant to confront his mother-in-law.

Will Harley, who hates confrontation, find the courage to stick up for both her professional role and romantic relationship?

Why does Gavin feel guilty about his wife's death? Can he finally bring himself to truly risk giving his heart to a partner again unconditionally and stand up to his overbearing, jealous, threatened and still-grieving mother-in-law?

Will Peyton finally get her two biggest wishes, a mom and a sibling?

I can promise you a happy ending, but you'll have to read Helena Hunting's Make a Wish not only to find out the answers but also to enjoy the rich storytelling and the rocky road that ultimately leads to this trio's HEA (happily ever after).

Amazon Editors' Picks: Best Romance

I'm not the only reader who has fallen in love with the characters in Helena Hunting's Make a Wish. Even though its release date is nearly a week away at the time of this book review's publication, this new contemporary romance novel is one of Amazon Editors' top picks for Romance Books.

Two Excellent Audiobook Narrators

Fan favorite narrators Jason Clarke, Stella Bloom share the narration duties on all three of the "Spark House Sisters" audiobooks in this series. Bloom's pleasant but higher-pitched voice is the perfect foil for Clarke's bass, and both narrators are eminently "listenable." They are skilled at voicing both male and female characters, as well as both adult and juvenile characters, that are easily distinguishable. This was especially important because each chapter of is told from either Harley's or Gavin's point of view and read by Bloom or Clarke, respectively. I never struggled to identify which character was speaking, even during conversations among three or more characters.

They also spoke at an ideal pace for me, slow enough that I didn't have to concentrate on not missing anything, but also not so slow as to be soporific.

These seasoned narrators really bring the characters to life and enhance the reader's (or listener's) experience of the book. For that reason, I highly recommend the audiobook format for this contemporary romance series.

Here are links to all three audiobooks in order:

When Sparks Fly "Spark House Sisters" Book 1 Audiobook

Starry-Eyed Love "Spark House Sisters" Book 2 Audiobook

Make a Wish "Spark House Sisters" Book 1 Audiobook

10 Hours of Listening Pleasure

There is enough meat to the story to keep me happily engaged in listening to the audiobook for 10 hours. Key bits and pieces of information from the past are gradually revealed to us (and to the main characters) as the story unfolds, giving us more context and insight into each character's motivations, emotional challenges, desires and fears.

By the end of the book, I felt real empathy and compassion for all the characters, even the rigid, self-absorbed, bossy, subversive Karen.

More importantly, all the characters experienced authentic, significant growth from the beginning to the end of the story arc.

Adult Content

As in most contemporary romance novels, the relationship between the story’s hero and heroine includes physical intimacy.

While Hunting isn’t shy about describing the sexual aspect of Gavin and Harley’s romantic relationship as it evolves over time, I didn't feel the descriptions of their intimate encounters were gratuitous or excessively graphic, and those scenes certainly weren't a primary focus of the novel. The pair's relationship is built on a foundation of friendship and trust first. In fact, despite their obvious mutual physical attraction, both of them are very cautious about taking their relationship from friends to lovers.

However, if you are offended by premarital physical intimacy, that aspect of this book (and, presumably, the others in this series) might be a turn-off.

Fun But Not Fluff

The story flowed well and never dragged, and the narrators' characterizations did justice to Hunting's charismatic writing, keepping me engaged, entertained, and emotionally invested from beginning to end.

Harley's and Peyton's boundless enthusiasm, zest for life, optimism and love of unabashadly "girly" things like tutus and glitter crafts provide some much-needed lightness to balance the tragic deaths (and, in the case of Gavin and Karen, misplaced guilt) that weigh on the main characters' hearts.

Ultimately, it's a feel-good story about second chances. I hope you enjoy it.

Now, I'm off to download the first two books in the series.

Make A Wish By Helena Hunting: Spark House Sisters

by Margaret Schindel


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Thursday, January 4, 2018

One Perfect Word - Book Review

Book review of New York Times bestselling author Debbie Macomber's One Perfect Word.
One Perfect Word by Debbie Macomber
Will you be tapping into the power of one word in 2018?  One word, carefully chosen, can make a real difference in living more purposefully in the new year.  Debbie Macomber, beloved author of millions, shares with us, in One Perfect Word, how her chosen words have changed her life in profound ways.

For most of us, focusing on one significant word is much more realistic than wrestling with those pesky New Year's resolutions.  Over the years, I have set hundreds of resolutions.  It would be humiliating to tally up how many of those well-intentioned resolutions I have actually kept.  After reading One Perfect Word, I feel confident that I can, and will, experience meaningful growth in 2018.  There's no time like the present to begin.  Let's get started!

You may be wondering how to select your word.  As a Christian, Macomber's process is done prayerfully.  Some of her words over the years have included: passion, desire, balance, purpose, seek, wisdom, surrender, trust, believe, and hope.  Some people don't have to search very hard for their words.  The right words seem to find them.  Is there a word that keeps popping up in your life lately?  Perhaps that word is trying to get your attention and is saying 'choose me... choose me.'

So once Macomber has her word, what then?  Over the course of the year she reads, reflects, journals, meets with friends in her One Word weekly breakfast club for discussions, and enjoys creative Wordplay activities.  By giving yourself a whole year to slowly digest the gleanings of your word, there is plenty of opportunity to nourish your spirit without the rush or anxiety of looming deadlines.

It's not just Christians who delve into the One Word system of growth.  Individuals of all backgrounds have found this to be a powerful means of achieving desired outcomes. Due to the popularity of this process, there are one word themed books in many different genres.  Each of you can choose the method that best speaks to who you are and what you are seeking.  Perhaps you will develop a whole new personalized system to share with others in your circle.

This is the second time I have read One Perfect Word.  Macomber's book continues to inspire me to become all that I was created to be.  For me, it was the perfect way to start my new year.  I believe Christian book clubs, Bible study groups, and individuals of faith will find this to be a worthy read.

Have you ever selected a word for the year?  Do you have a word in mind for 2018?  I would love for you to share in the comment section below.

Happy New Year!  May 2018 be the Year of Abundant Becoming.






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Monday, August 21, 2017

Half-Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel by Jeannette Walls

Half Broke Horses; A True-Life Novel
Welcome to the book review of Half-Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel by Jeannette Walls. The thing is, I haven't completed the book, so can I really consider this a review?  I'm not sure. What I am sure about, this is one of those stories that is painted so vividly that you don't want to put the book down. It is one of those stories that as soon as you begin, you want to start asking folks if they've read this book. And if they say no, you want to tell them to start. That's what this book review is about. To encourage you to sit down and meet Lily Casey Smith.


Why I Chose Half-Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel 


I have a long list of books that are yet unread in my Kindle. There are so many books and so little free time. So why would I add yet another book to that list?  What would cause me to start a book that I hadn't even considered previously?

I was in the process of packing for my most recent camping trip and there was a commercial on the television about a soon-to-be-released movie titled The Glass Castle. The commercial went on describing the movie that is based on the best selling book by Jeannette Walls and so on and so forth.  So I stopped what I was doing an did a quick internet search to find out what all the hub-bub was about.

The Glass Castle: A Memoir is written by Jeannette Walls and has been "more than seven years on the New York Times Best Seller list". Some of my favorite books have never been, to my knowledge, on the New York Times best seller list. So that information does not guarantee that I'll purchase the book. I read the Amazon reviews and considered. Unfortunately, I really don't care for spending over $10 for a digital copy of a book so I did not click the "buy now" button.

However, I went on to look at the other books Ms. Walls had written. Half-Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel is advertised as "Laura Ingalls for adults" and that appealed to me. I read the "look inside" excerpt and was hooked. 

This story is about Ms. Walls' grandmother's life. The life of Lily Casey Smith. Ms. Lily began in Texas. Helping to break horses and raise her siblings. Flash floods, broken bones, and tornadoes were not unexpected parts of her children. Her father, gimpy, with a speech impediment, and a quick temper depended on her to help on the ranch. Her mother, a delicate and proper woman who was prone to fainting spells. Likely due to the tightness of her corset.  As Lily became older (a whopping 15 years old), she left the nest by teaching in frontier towns over 500 miles away from home. She filled the teacher vacancies the war created at these small town schools. However, the war ended and the teachers returned. Ms. Lily was forced to return home. 

As I said, I'm only halfway through the book and after her teaching stint, I've accompanied Ms. Lily to Chicago, have witnessed the impact of the growing ownership of cars by the public, and have seen her struggle with her mother's constant warnings of becoming a spinster. However, I believe that particular disaster is about to be avoided. Honestly this time. And just as she seems to be falling in love with a decent man, I understand that the Great Depression is looming on the horizon. I am anxious to witness how Ms. Lily navigates this true disaster.

I am glad to be reading the story of Lily Casey Smith before considering reading the memoir of Ms. Walls' life. I am also very glad to be reading this before watching the movie. If you think you'd enjoy a not-so-sweet adult version of Little House on the Prairie, you ought to take a peek at Half-Broke Horses. Not that I'm speaking poorly of the Little House series. I was a huge fan. But where Nellie was the anomaly, it seems the Nellie-like characters are the norm in Ms. Lily's life. 


selections available on Amazon

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The contributors on Review This! love to read. We enjoy a wide variety of genres. For the complete list of our book reviews click the site directory here.

The last book (series) I read that grabbed my attention and imagination like this was the Refined By Love series by Judith Miller. I could not put those books down! Rather than doze off after a chapter or two, I stayed awake, neglect housework, and devoured the three books in the series. For more details, see the review of The Brickmaker's Bride which is the first in that series.



I seem to currently be in the mood for stories of a certain time period in the earlier history of the United States. If you prefer more current memoirs and/or heartfelt stories involving dogs, check out Renaissance Woman's book review of Will's Red Coat. This is definitely one of those books on my to-read list, as soon as I come out of this historical mode. 






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Saturday, July 29, 2017

Book Review of Will's Red Coat by Tom Ryan

Will's Red Coat by Tom Ryan
What would happen today if we gave ourselves over, wholeheartedly, to a hurting soul?  What if we could let go of all expectations and simply concentrate on pure giving?  Tom Ryan, author of Will's Red Coat, lived the transformational answer to these questions when he responded to a Facebook post about a soul in desperate need.  Little did Ryan know at the time how that seemingly straightforward act of kindness would dramatically change him and forever alter the course of his life.

On the surface, this book would appear to be yet another memoir of a man and his dog.  Oh, but this is so much more than that.  There is a man, yes -- Ryan, the New York Times bestselling author of Following Atticus.  And there is a dog -- a deaf, mostly blind, senior dog that is raging against the dying light.  But this is not your typical rescue story of human saves animal, or animal saves his person.

This is a story of finding the life you have always wanted, and needed, by submitting to that which you would never have knowingly chosen.  Up front, Ryan thought he was providing a temporary last home for a dog that was expected to live only a very short time.  In essence, it was a hospice situation.  Ryan was offering Will a place, and space, to die with dignity.

Things are never this simple, though, are they?  This weak, angry dog wasn't ready to die without a fight, without experiencing the underlying beauty that is so easy to miss in life.  The heart of this book is how two souls, Tom and Will, became the beauty they were each seeking.

As an animal welfare volunteer who deals with abandoned, forgotten souls on a daily basis, I found myself deeply moved by the profound truths of this poignant story.  The truths you will discover when you read this book are these:
"It's never too late to trust again, to love or be loved again; and it's never too late to live again."  ~ Will's Wisdom
 Yes, this book will make you cry, but the tears will be joyous and healing.  They will be a celebration of the triumph of a life lived in full.  I found this book to be an incredibly beautiful tribute to what happens when you become who you were always meant to be.





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