Category Archives: Contemporary

Teen Tuesday Review: The Search for Us by Susan Azim Boyer

Title: The Search for Us by Susan Azim Boyer
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult, Fiction
Length: 297 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher


Two half-siblings who have never met embark on a search together for the Iranian immigrant and U.S. Army veteran father they never knew.

Samira Murphy will do anything to keep her fractured family from falling apart, including caring for her widowed grandmother and getting her older brother into recovery for alcohol addiction. With attendance at her dream college on the line, she takes a long shot DNA test to find the support she so desperately needs from a father she hasn’t seen since she was a baby.

Henry Owen is torn between his well-meaning but unreliable bio-mom and his overly strict aunt and uncle, who stepped in to raise him but don’t seem to see him for who he is. Looking to forge a stronger connection to his own identity, he takes a DNA test to find the one person who might love him for exactly who he is—the biological father he never knew.

Instead of a DNA match with their father, Samira and Henry are matched with each other. They begin to search for their father together and slowly unravel the difficult truth of their shared past, forming a connection that only siblings can have and recovering precious parts of their past that have been lost. Brimming with emotional resonance, Susan Azim Boyer’s The Search for Us beautifully renders what it means to find your place in the world through the deep and abiding power of family.


The Search for Us by Susan Azim Boyer is a thoughtfully written young adult novel.

Half-siblings Samira Murphy and Henry Owen find each other through DNA testing and theis lives could not be more different. Samira’s family barely scraps by and she shoulders burdens she should not be expected to bear. Henry family dynamics are complicated and he is growing increasingly unhappy with parental expectations. After learning of each other’s existence, Samira and Henry decide to find the father whose absence is felt in very different ways.

The Search for Us is a very compelling young adult novel with a refreshingly unique plot. Each of the characters are vibrantly drawn and quite endearing. The storyline is well-written and tackles heartrending, socially relevant issues. The various settings and characters spring vividly to life. The chapters alternate between Samira’s and Henry’s perspectives and this provides thought-provoking insight into their respective lives.  Susan Azim Boyer deftly handles sensitive subject matter and brings this engaging young adult novel to a heartwarming conclusion.

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Filed under Contemporary, Fiction, Rated B+, Review, Susan Azim Boyer, The Search for Us, Wednesday Books, Young Adult

Review: Deadlock by James Byrne

Title: Deadlock by James Byrne
Dez Limerick Book Two
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
Length: 359 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher


In this sequel to the highly praised The Gatekeeper, Dez Limerick, one of the best new thriller heroes returns.

Desmond Aloysius Limerick (“Dez” to his friends and close personal enemies) is a man with a shadowy past, certain useful hard-won skills, and, if one digs deep enough, a reputation as a good man to have at your back. Now retired from his previous life, Dez is just a bloke with a winning smile, a bass guitar, and bullet wounds that paint a road map of past lives.

Jaleh Swann, a business journalist hot on the trail of an auditor who was mugged and killed, lands in the hospital just one day after her Portland apartment is ransacked. When Jaleh’s sister, Raziah, reaches out to an old friend for help, Dez has no choice but to answer. The Swann sisters have been pulled into a dizzying web of cover-ups and danger. At the center lies an insidious Oregon-based tech corporation, Clockjack, which has enough money and hired guns to silence just about anyone—including this rag-tag trio. Luckily, Dez’s speciality is not just to open doors, but keep them open—and protect those working to expose Clockjack’s secrets.

More stands in the way of the truth than just one corporation. When hired thugs come to the finish the job and attack the Swann sisters at the hospital, Dez does what he does best. Now, the two captured men (and the corpse Dez left behind) attract the attention of not just Clockjack, but of the Portland police, the D.E.A, and the U.S. Marshalls. Dez and the Swann sisters are on the run from powers beyond their control and means. Outnumbered, under resourced and outgunned, Dez must use all his skills to keep his friends safe and stand up to corporate conniving. After all, the one thing Clockjack didn’t count on? A good man with a simple job to do.


Deadlock by James Byrne is an edge of the seat, suspense-laden thriller.

Dez Limerick is unique, likeable, and very easy to under estimate. He is charming but deadly and fiercely loyal with a strong moral compass. But Dez will do whatever it takes to protect his friends and by extension, their family.

When his friend, singer Raziah Swann, asks him to protect her sister, Laleh, Dez moves quickly to help them.  In order to ensure the sisters’ safety, he must figure out why Laleh has become a target. His quest for answers takes him to Clockjack Solutions, a tech company that, on the surface, seems on the up and up. However, appearances can be deceiving and Dez comes up against ruthless people who will do anything and everything to protect their shocking plans.

Deadlock is an adrenaline-filled mystery that moves at a blistering pace. Dez is a larger-than-life hero that is very easy root for. The storyline is well-developed with breath-taking twists and turns. With a jaw-dropping epilogue, James Byrne brings this second installment in the Dez Limerick series to a very intriguing conclusion.

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Filed under Contemporary, Deadlock, Dez Limerick Series, Jack Byrne, Minotaur Books, Mystery, Rated B+, Review, Suspense, Thriller

Review: Home for the Challah Days by Jennifer Wilck

Title: Home for the Challah Days by Jennifer Wilck
Holidays, Heart and Chutzpah Book One
Publisher: Harlequin Special Edition
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 293 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by the Author



Turning the bitterness of the past…

Into a sweet future!

When big-city advocate Sarah Abrams returns home for the High Holy Days, she’s got a lot on her mind—especially whether to marry her perfect-on-paper boyfriend. The last person she wants to encounter is Aaron Isaacson, her first love and the one who broke her heart. But after Aaron and Sarah join forces to fight an act of hate, it’s clear that their deep connection never abated. If only they could forgive one another for the past…in time for a sweet new start!

From Harlequin Special Edition: Believe in love. Overcome obstacles. Find happiness.

Holidays, Heart and Chutzpah

Book 1: Home for the Challah Days


Home for the Challah Days by Jennifer Wilck is a charming romance that also features topical issues.

Sarah Abrams and Aaron Isaacson are former sweethearts whose lives went in separate ways. After college, Aaron returned home to take over the family deli while Sarah moved to DC to turn her dream into reality. After a ten-year separation, Sarah returns to her hometown for a couple of weeks to mull over a possible life-altering decision.

Sarah is very goal-oriented with a life plan firmly in her mind. An unexpected question sends her into a bit of a tailspin so she decides a vacation at home will assist her with her choice. This becomes a turning point as her tunnel vision about her life begins to widen and distance provides her with much needed clarity.

Aaron is very dedicated to his family and he is nursing a ten-year pain that makes it difficult for him to be around Sarah. He impetuously lashes out in anger as circumstances begin to occur outside of his control. Aaron can be very rigid and he does not communicate as well as he could.

The sparks definitely fly between Sarah and Aaron. But she has not been completely forthcoming about certain aspects of her personal life. When unexpected events occur within their community, she begins to see that her current path might not be her only choice.

Home for the Challah Days is a delightful romance with vibrantly drawn characters and a close-knit community. Sarah and Aaron undergo tremendous growth when they realize their goals and dreams change over time. Their small town is diverse and helpful in times of need. Unexpected societal situations explore out of the ordinary solutions when shocking incidents occur.  Jennifer Wilck brings this marvelous romance to a realistic and heartfelt conclusion. Highly recommend!

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Filed under Contemporary, Harlequin Special Edition, Holidays Heart and Chutzpah Series, Home for the Challah Days, Jennifer Wilck, Rated B+, Review, Romance

Friday Feature Review: The Second Chance Store by Lauren Bravo

Title: The Second Chance Store by Lauren Bravo
Publisher: Avon
Genre: Contemporary, Friendship, Fiction
Length: 444 pages
Book Rating: C+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher


If clothes can get a second chance, why can’t we? Brimming with life, love, and the stories bound up in even the most everyday items, The Second Chance Store is a tale of friendship, loss, and dusting yourself off and starting over—a novel filled with humor and a testament to the enduring power and joy of charity shops.

City dweller Gwen feels like she’s living a secondhand life. She’s thirty-eight, perpetually single, and in dire need of a dentist’s appointment. Her friends are busy procreating in the country, and conversations with her parents seem to revolve entirely around hedge borders and the trash pickup schedule. Above all she’s lonely. But then, isn’t everyone?

Then she’s let go from a job she drifted into a decade ago and never left, and Gwen realizes it’s time to make a change, starting with cleaning out her apartment. In the charity shop where she literally and metaphorically unloads her baggage, she discovers a group of weird and wonderful people devoted to finding a new home for donated items that have lost their use elsewhere. Gwen volunteers there—and finds a new home for herself among her fellow workers while discovering joy in the untold stories of secondhand things.

Now it’s time for Gwen to get out of her life in pause, and to find a way to move forward with bravery and humanity—and more regular dental care.


The Second Chance Store by Lauren Bravo is a lovely novel of new friendships and beginnings.

After losing her job, Gwen Grundle takes stock of her life which comes up lacking. Deciding to make changes, she begins volunteering at a local charity shop. Gwen works with an eclectic group of people where she also finds unexpected connections and friendships. She also reflects on her strained relationship with her parents. Will Gwen find the impetus to pick up the pieces of her life and find happiness? Or is she doomed to repeat the mistakes of her past?

The novel’s pacing is a little slow as Gwen struggles to find the energy she needs to move forward after losing her job. Two unexpected plot twists offer the reasons for how she ended up in her current situation. Gwen is not the most likable character but the people she meets at the charity shop are quite interesting. In between chapters are short vignettes about the objects that end up in the charity shop. While the importance of these detours is not always apparent, they do play a vital role in the unfolding story. The novel ends on an uplifting note that readers will appreciate.

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Filed under Avon, Contemporary, Friendship, Lauren Bravo, Rated C+, Review, The Second Chance Store

Review: Escape to Florence by Kat Devereaux

Title: Escape to Florence by Kat Devereaux
Publisher: Harper Paperbacks
Genre: Contemporary, Historical (’40s)
Length: 270 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher


Moving between the Second World War and the present, an exhilarating debut novel in the vein of Jennifer Robson, Kate Quinn, and Natasha Lester, about two women, decades apart, whose fates converge in Florence, Italy.

Only fourteen, Stella Infuriati is the youngest member of her town’s resistance network during World War II. Risking torture and death, she relays messages, supplies, and weapons to partisan groups in the Tuscan hills. Her parents have no idea, consumed instead by love and fear for their beloved son, Achille, a courier and unofficial mechanic for a communist partisan brigade.

Then, after 1945, Stella seemingly vanishes from the records. Her name and story are overshadowed by the tragic death of her brother—until a young writer arrives in Tuscany in the spring of 2019, uncovering long-buried secrets.

Fleeing an emotionally abusive marriage and a lonely life on an isolated estate, Tori MacNair has come to Florence, the beautiful city her grandmother taught her to love, to build a new life. As she digs into her family history with the help of Marco, a handsome lawyer, Tori starts to uncover secrets of the past—truths that stretch back decades, to a young woman who risked everything to save her world . . .


Escape to Florence by Kat Devereaux is an engaging debut that seamlessly moves back and forth between the present day and World War II.

In the past, Stella Infuriati is part of the resistance in her small Italian town along with her brother, Achille.  She keeps her activities hidden from everyone including her parents. After the war’s end, Stella’s disappearance remains unsolved.

In the present, Tori MacNair returns to Florence where she spent many happy vacations with her beloved grandmother. She is also in the midst of a divorce and working a book. During her research, Tori has discovered an unexpected mystery about her grandmother’s time in Italy.

Tori and the other people she meets in Italy are very likable characters. However, her mother, sister and her soon to be ex-husband are absolutely insufferable. Tori has become a pushover who avoids conflict and she is a little quick to forgive.

Escape to Florence is an engrossing novel with a lovely setting. The Italian towns spring vividly to life in the past and the present. Stella’s story arc is incredibly fascinating as is Tori’s search for her grandmother’s connection to Italy. Kat Devereaux brings to intriguing novel to a wonderful conclusion.

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Filed under Contemporary, Escape to Florence, Harper Paperbacks, Historical (40s), Kat Devereaux, Rated B, Review

Review: Inside Threat by Matthew Quirk

Title: Inside Threat by Matthew Quirk
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Political Thriller
Length: 428 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher


An electrifying thriller from the author of The Night Agent now on Netflix, an attack on the White House sends the President and his top aides to take shelter in a top secret government facility buried deep underground—but they soon discover the threat is locked inside with them.

Assume the worst. Code Black.

The day that every secret service agent trains for has arrived. The White House has been breached; the President forced to flee to a massive doomsday bunker outside DC to defend against whatever comes next. Only the most trusted agents and officials are allowed in with him—those dedicated to keeping the government intact at all costs.

Among these is Erik Hill, who has given his life to the Secret Service. They are his purpose and his family, and his impressive record has made him a hero among them. Despite his growing disillusionment from seeing Washington corruption up close, Erik can’t ignore years of instincts honed on the job. The government is under attack, and no one is better equipped to face down the threat than he is.

The evidence leads him to a conspiracy at the highest levels of power, with the attack orchestrated by some of the very individuals now locked in with him. As the killers strike inside the bunker, it will take everything Erik Hill has to save his people, himself, and his country.


Inside Threat by Matthew Quirk is an adrenaline-fueled political thriller.

A security breach at the While House leads to moving President James Kline and the First Lady Dr. Sarah Kline to a secure, underground bunker. Secret Service Agents Eric Hill and Amber Cody are among the agents who accompany them along with a handful aides. They are met by Lt. Col. Bruce Drumm whose insider information about the facility prove to be invaluable after a murder reveals the stunning truth: the killer is one of them.

Eric (and readers) do not know who to trust before or after the murder. This includes the President and his closest inner circle. Eric is incredibly jaded but he never forgets the only lives that matter are the President and First Lady. Despite his doubts, he and Cody do everything possible to protect them from an unknown enemy.

The underground bunker is from the Cold War era and is impenetrable. The numerous nooks and crannies provide perfect hiding places for the unknown assailant. One shocking turn after another lead to unanticipated conclusions that thoroughly shake up Eric, Amber, and their allies.

Inside Threat is full of non-stop action that keeps the pages turning at a blistering pace. The characters are well-developed and the inability to tell friend from foe keeps everyone off balance. The storyline is well-executed and never delves into politics. With plenty of suspense and devilishly clever plot twists, Matthew Quirk brings this pulse-pounding thriller to a highly satisfying conclusion.

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Filed under Contemporary, Inside Threat, Matthew Quirk, Mystery, Political Thriller, Rated B+, Review, William Morrow