Contemporary Fiction #bookreview: Takes One to Know One by #SusanIsaacs @GroveAtlantic

Takes One to Know One by Susan Isaacs

My review: 4 of 5 Stars

Lots of sleuthing and snark make Takes One to Know One enjoyable reading. I delighted in the characters and the crisp dialogue. The pace was steady, not a gripping page-turner. The mystery of Pete Delaney and the witty chatter of Corrie Geller kept me reading despite the slower pace. Toward the end the drama increased quite a bit, and the suspense and intrigue grew. The only real action came late in the book but made for a tense few chapters where I learned a bit about self-defense and zip-ties. If you don’t mind the strong language and like cozy mysteries, Takes One to Know One should be appealing. 

In accordance with FTC guidelines, please note I received a free copy from the publisher via BookishFirst in exchange for an honest review. 

Contemporary Fiction Book Review: Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane

My Review:

4 of 5 Stars

If you like family drama, Ask Again, Yes fits the bill. Keane writes a story with a tight grasp of time, place and character. But it is tragic. This is not a happy story, but it is definitely juicy and intense. Ask Again, Yes delves deeply into the lives of two families forever connected by one horrible event. I disagreed with the author’s assessment of her characters’ well-being at the end. She tied up some very messy lives just a bit too nicely. Nevertheless, the drama and the flawed but interesting characters kept me turning the pages. It was a fast, dramatic read.


“Once a cop always a cop, the guys said when they visited. But the more they said it the less it rang true” (p. 169).

“Kate thought about their wedding day as a conclusion to something, where he thought about it as a beginning. Rising action versus falling action. They were reading two different books” (p. 309).

I ordered this book from the Book of the Month Club.

Book Review: The Cowboy Takes a Bride by Lori Wilde (Jubilee, Texas Book 1)

The Cowboy Takes a Bride by Lori Wilde
My review: 3.5 of 5 stars

The Cowboy Takes a Bride is a contemporary romance featuring flawed but likable characters Joe Daniels and Mariah Callahan. The story is humorous, emotionally honest, authentic and dramatic. Though it’s a bit too sappy sometimes, it is an enjoyable book perfect for curling up with under a blanket on a cold night. It’s a quick, light read. I especially got a kick from Dutch Callahan’s words of wisdom.


“Never pull a fast one on someone who can outdraw you” – Dutch Callahan (p. 219).

“If you spent your life being a chameleon, how did you know what was really you and what was merely the milieu you’d adapted to” (p. 299).

Now and Forever Spotlight Tour and $10 Giveaway

About the Book:

Can Shaan and Ruhi face their biggest fears and unite together?

Shaan and Ruhi Ahuja, very much in love Indian newlyweds, discover each other in Simi K. Rao’s Now and Forever—the sassy and sexy sequel to Inconvenient Relations. After getting the scare of their lives while traveling in the Grand Canyon, Shaan and Ruhi go back home to one dilemma after another. Shaan’s job is in jeopardy, and one of Ruhi’s closest friends, Sunshine, needs her. How will Shaan and Ruhi handle life’s hurdles, while still trying to get to know each other as husband and wife? Will they be able to forsake all others and consolidate their relationship?

Book Links:
Goodreads * Amazon

Personality talks, it walks and rocks
This statement is
absolutely true. At least it is for me. For example, how often have you come
across someone who’s gorgeous to look at but then they start talking and you
realize they aren’t so hot at all. You almost wish they hadn’t opened their
mouths. The opposite also holds true.  
Its personality or
character that makes or breaks a person. The same goes for a good novel too.
What I’m getting at is character development. I may get drawn to a book by its
attractive cover and plot summary but if the characters are insipid, if they
don’t talk to me or get under my skin my interest quickly dissipates and I will
usually dump the book.
I’d like to say the
characters in my books have several dimensions (they aren’t necessarily
schizophrenic), with subtleties that are revealed slowly or kept hidden like
many people we all know and acquaint ourselves with. I cannot write my
characters unless I know them or I am them. Often I also live and dream
them. They are my friends; I talk to them. I ask them how they feel then jot
down what they say.
Inconvenient Relations and its sequel Now and Forever have some
interesting characters. Please note that it is vital to read Book 1 to enjoy
Book 2 because essentially this story is a study of a relationship and its
various phases.
An imperfect yet perfect
Ruhi or my
chile dulce
(sweet chili pepper) as her spouse Shaan likes to call her, starts
of like any young woman from a cherished background, with dreams of building a
future with her one-in-a-million husband who has been carefully picked for her
by her parents. But her hopes are challenged right from page one. She is
coerced into taking on a role that is quite alien to her or maybe had been held
back and didn’t have the chance to manifest thus far. It isn’t uncommon for
certain personality traits to reveal themselves only under times of duress.
Instead of bowing down and mutely accepting what destiny has doled out to her, Ruhi
chooses to stand up to it. She shows her husband the mirror by turning the
tables on him. She disguises her vulnerability in a bold and brazen avatar. She
is a novice hence perhaps rash in her ways and often undiplomatic in her
conversation yet she is also coy and secretive. All in all, she is a clever and
maddening bundle of fun and mischief who adroitly twists her willing hubby
around her little finger and exhibits no qualms about it. She loves him with a
passion and won’t stop at anything to get him what is rightfully his. She is a
woman to be reckoned with.
Sona munda Shaan Ahuja (heat factor to the power of infinity) is a
gorgeous nerd who falls for the wrong woman and ends up paying for it dearly.
He quashes the dreams of his new bride by announcing on their wedding night
that he loves another and then surprise, surprise finds himself in a pickle.
Shaan is a sensitive man with an arrogant streak who is devoted to his wife and
his job. He is at once a jealous lover and a possessive husband. He falls for
his wife at the outset and doesn’t recognize it or is kept from acknowledging
it by his ego and maybe his insecurity. Regardless she drags his feelings out
in the open after a cat and mouse game and they have a grand time until life
tests him again. But then he has his trump card at his side.

I cannot conclude
without talking about
Sunshine, who happens to be my favorite character
in the books. A frail septuagenarian, she is the catalyst in Ruhi and Shaan’s
bonding. But don’t be deceived, this little old lady has a verve for life that
is rare even among those a quarter her age. Enough said, I need to leave
something for my books. Happy reading!

About the Author:

Simi K. Rao was born and grew up in India before relocating to the U.S., where she has lived for several years. The inspiration for her books, and other projects, comes from her own experience with cross-cultural traditions, lifestyles and familial relationships, as well as stories and anecdotes collected from friends, family and acquaintances.
Rao enjoys exploring the dynamics of contemporary American culture blended with Indian customs and heritage to reflect the challenges and opportunities many Indian-American women face in real life.
Much of Rao’s down time is devoted to creative pursuits, including writing fiction, poetry and photography. She is an avid traveler and has visited many locations around the world.
A practicing physician, Rao lives in the United States with her family.

Contact the Author:
Website * Blog * Facebook * Twitter * Goodreads

Other Books in the Series:

Shaan Ahuja found himself bowing to tradition and agreeing to an arranged marriage to the beautiful Ruhi Sharma. He went through the motions but had no intention of carrying through on his vows. His last foray into matters of the heart with an American girl had left him scarred and unwilling to try again. Thoroughly disillusioned and disgruntled he wasted no time in making his intentions clear to Ruhi on their wedding night. But, he was completely unprepared for what his new wife had in mind.

This multi-cultural contemporary romance story of an arranged marriage is a beautiful blending of showing the Indian and American cultures. Readers will learn more about the Indian heritage and the romance that happens behind closed doors in an Indian relationship in Simi K. Rao’s Inconvenient Relations. This coming of age story about true love explores multi-cultural issues.



1) A $10 Amazon gift card
2) A kindle copy each of Inconvenient relations and Now and Forever.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

A Study in Short Fiction

“A short story is a love affair, a novel is a marriage. A short story is a photograph; a novel is a film.”
― Lorrie Moore

A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories (Barnes and Noble Modern Classics edition) by Flannery O’Connor (Georgia Author and winner of the National Book Award for The Complete Stories in 1972)
My review: 5 of 5 stars

With authentic southern dialect, O’Connor manages to shock the reader in a way so matter of fact that the effect is stunning. Good and evil, religious themes, and the dark side of humanity are explored and exposed, but not without a healthy dose of dry humor. Readers will appreciate her excellent use of imagery, metaphor, and personification, all of which magically convey character, tone, and theme in a few short pages. I believe O’Connor is the foremost example of a short fiction writer, particularly of southern writers. She’s a master of the form. Highly recommended!


“In case of an accident, anyone seeing her dead on the highway would know at once that she was a lady” (p. 2, A Good Man….).

“They looked like the skeleton of an old boat with two pointed ends, sailing slowly on the edge of the highway” (p. 22, The River).

“True genius can get an idea across even to an inferior mind” (p. 134, Good Country People).

Study Guide

The Isle of Youth by Laura Van Den Berg
My review: 4.5 of 5 stars

The Isle of Youth is a collection of short stories featuring a variety of women mired in secrecy and deception. Most live quiet lives of desperation. The female characters are well-imagined with much depth. Each story contains conflict and tension. Many of the women make bad choices and must live with the consequences. This collection is imaginative and sensual with an immediate sense of conflict and tension in each. The characters are unique. These are not stories of the average woman in normal situations. Such is the draw and fascination with this collection. Definitely recommended.


“Other people’s lives were no less impossible to understand than my own” (p. 15, I Looked for You, I Called Your Name).

“We knew what it was like to want something so badly, it burned a whole inside you” (p. 33, “OPA-LOCKA).

“It was a terrible flaw, our ability to see where our lives were leading us” (p. 62, OPA-LOCKA).

“It felt very strange to not know where I was in time” (p. 121, Antarctica).

More Reviews

Voice of America by E.C. Osondu (Nigerian author and Winner of the Caine Prize for African Writing)
My review: 4 of 5 stars

In this collection of stories, Osondu portrays Nigerians (both in his homeland, and here in America) in an honest, unflinching light. He uses fascinating details to underscore the violence and desolation like how displaced children in refugee camps, the result of civil wars, name each other by the T-shirts they receive from foreign aid workers offering help. He offers intimate portraits of desperation and judgement, as well as insight into cultural differences and beliefs. He highlights the differences between Americans and Nigerians that result in cultural misunderstandings, and he doesn’t sugarcoat the problems in Nigeria. An illuminating read. Strongly recommended.

“Any white man that eats peppers must return to Lagos” (p. 31, Our First American).

“…the sky was wide enough for many birds to roam without their wings touching each other” (p. 36, Jimmy Carter’s Eyes).

Article in The Guardian

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout (3 starred reviews and winner of the Pulitzer Prize)
My review: 4 of 5 stars

Olive Kitteridge is unique among short story collections because the stories are connected by a single character; Olive links everyone together. Except for the fact that each story has its own beginning, middle and end, Olive Kitteridge could just have easily been read as a novel. While the writing is excellent, and the characters well crafted, the pace of the book is rather slow. I think the short story format slowed it down. Rather than one chapter pulling the reader greedily into the next, stories played out individually and made the book easy to set down. On the other hand, each story captivated the reader. So, I enjoyed the read; it just took me awhile to complete it. Though I will say that the clever use of foreshadowing created some suspense and helped to move the book along.

Olive Kitteridge is a book for people who enjoy short fiction and character driven stories. The stories are about the people in a small town in Maine and how their lives intersect with Olive. Depending on the point of view, Olive can be seen as judgmental, rude, and bitter while at other times she is sympathetic, honest, observant, almost wise. She is a complex woman, and as such, opinions vary widely about her. Crosby, Maine is also a character shaping the lives of those who live there. The author captures the sounds, the smells, and the essence of this small coastal town.

Favorite words:

loquacious: talkative
quiescence: dormancy, inactivity
corporeality: existing in bodily form


“He wanted to put his arms around her, but she had a darkness that seemed to stand beside her like an acquaintance that would not go away” (p. 6, Pharmacy).

“You get use to things, he thinks, without getting used to things” (p. 16, Pharmacy).

“–oh, insane, ludicrous, unknowable world! Look how she wanted to live, look how she wanted to hold on” (p. 47, Incoming Tide).

“People mostly did not know enough when they were living life that they were living it” (p. 162, Tulips).

Other Links:

Reader’s Guide
Author’s website
HBO’s ‘Olive Kitteridge’ May Be The Best Depiction Of Marriage On TV

Book Review: Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf

[simpleazon-link asin=”1101875895″ locale=”us”]Our Souls at Night: A novel[/simpleazon-link] by Kent Haruf

My review: 4.5 of 5 stars

As Kent Haruf’s last novel before his death, Our Souls at Night is bittersweet in more ways than one. The sparse but delicate prose managed to covey as much depth in the unspoken as in the spoken, perhaps more. I was immediately taken with Addie’s practicality, vulnerability and courage and Louis’ gentlemanly ways and honesty. Our Souls at Night portrays a simply story of two lonely people in their twilight years seeking comfort in one another and finding something deeper. It is an open, laid bare portrait of a life examined and intimacies shared. The novel is touching, hopeful and sad. Bittersweet and beautiful. I originally gave it five stars, but I lowered it slightly because the majority of our book club thought it merited only four. The ending seemed to be the sticking point. Many felt it was too abrupt, and I suppose it was. That abruptness felt right to me and aligned with the rest of the book, including the sudden way it began. Despite the different opinions about this aspect of the book, most enjoyed the read and related in some way to the characters. We were all moved by their experience. I highly recommend Our Souls at Night for fans of fiction that explores relationships and family. At only 179 pages, one can easily read this book in one quiet evening, and still be left with much to ponder.

For Book Clubs:

Reading Group Guide

New York Times Book Review

Video: Editor Gary Fisketjon discusses “Our Souls at Night” by novelist Kent Haruf with Book World’s Ron Charles

Book Review: The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

Reading Bear Enjoying The Rosie Project
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

[simpleazon-link asin=”1476729093″ locale=”us”]The Rosie Project: A Novel[/simpleazon-link] by Graeme Simsion

My review: 5 of 5 stars

Delightful, astute and uproariously funny! Don Tillman, professor of genetics, soars as a socially inept scientist in search of a wife. He approaches the job scientifically and soon discovers that love is more art than science. His adherence to routine and his need to approach life logically are recipes for misunderstandings and missteps that are often hysterical. Tillman’s clinical narration of the Wife Project and subsequent events results in deadpan delivery that hits the comic bull’s-eye. The author manages to be humorous as well as insightful and intelligent in the writing of The Rosie Project. Don is a gem of a man, and Rosie is the real deal. I fell in love with them both. Recommended for fans of romantic comedy and The Big Bang Theory.

Our book club chose The Rosie Project to discuss this month. The questions led to lively conversation about bad dates and how we see ourselves in general. Some participants shared personal experiences with students or relatives with Asperger’s Syndrome. Most readers enjoyed the book, but a couple were put off by the science and clinical narration. The Rosie Project proved to be an excellent book club choice.

*Contains language that may be offensive to some readers.


“In the animal kingdom, I would succeed in reproducing” (p. 3).

“Humans often fail to see what is close to them and obvious to others” (p. 82).

“Of course I was depressed: I lacked friends, sex, and a social life, because I was incompatible with other people” (p. 183).

“Emotions have their own logic” (p. 186).

“Love is a powerful feeling for another person, often defying logic” (p. 280).

For Book Clubs:

Reading Group Guide by Graeme Simsion (includes a link to an online Asperger’s test)
Reading Group Guide by Simon and Schuster (includes a Q & A with Graeme Simsion)

Weekend Read: At J.P. Moseley Park with The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

Bear Bench Rosie 8.16.15
Reading Bear chuckling about Don and skeletons in The Rosie Project and wanting to share this book with his friends.

Reading Bear with The Rosie Project ignoring the perils of Frisbee golf.
Reading Bear with The Rosie Project ignoring the perils of Frisbee golf already looking forward to the movie.

Reading Bear relaxing by the falls with The Rosie Project.
Reading Bear relaxing by the falls with The Rosie Project ready to read more by Graeme Simsion.

Book Review: The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty

The Husband's SecretThe Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dramatic and compelling

Women’s fiction is not a favorite genre of mine because it tends to be overly emotional and dramatic. But I read this book for book club and it wasn’t bad. The characters were well-developed with distinctive traits. The author managed to keep a sense of humor while dealing with complex emotions and the family mysteries were compelling. There were times where the story seemed to stagnate and the characters lost my sympathy, but with all the drama, there’s plenty of material for discussion.

View all my reviews

“Family life…had its own familiar rhythms, and it was perfectly possible to keep on dancing like you always have, even when your mind is somewhere else” (p. 55).

“All murder victims looked exactly like murder victims: beautiful, innocent and doomed, as if it were preordained” (p. 166).

“Death is too high a price for freedom” ( p. 204).

Favorite words:

spruik: address a meeting (Australian)
abseil: to rope down or rappel

The Match Maker Book Blast and $75 Giveaway

Match Maker Book CoverThe Match Maker by Karey White (The Husband Maker #2)

(Summary contains spoilers if you have not yet read book #1 The Husband Maker)

It’s been six months since Charlotte and Kyle broke up, and the Husband Maker strikes again. Kyle is officially engaged, while Charlotte is still nursing a broken heart.

In an effort to get Charlotte out of her rut, she and her best friend decide it’s time for some good old-fashioned matchmaking. While Aleena arranges for Charlotte to meet up with a handsome Scottish tourist, Charlotte gets her two best friends together. But when sparks start to fly between Aleena and Angus, Charlotte is left feeling more alone that ever–at least until the charming Scotsman becomes more than just a safe, rebound guy and teaches her that maybe, just maybe, she can dare to open her heart again.

The Match Maker releases on November 1st

Order your copy Now!



Match MakerDon’t miss the Blog Tour hosted by I Am A Reader
November 4th to 21st
Tour Schedule

The Husband Maker newThe Husband Maker by Karey White

Charlotte’s a girl with nicknames. She may not love being called Charles or Chuck, but the hardest nickname to take is the one she was given in college, the one that’s followed her now for too many years. They call her “the husband maker” and sadly, it fits. Every guy she’s dated since high school has gone on to marry the next girl they date. Not two or three girls down the road. The very next one.
Is she doing something wrong or is she just cursed?
When Kyle Aldsworth enters the picture and sweeps her off her feet, Charlotte begins to hope that maybe she’s not destined to be single forever. A senator’s son with political aspirations of his own, Kyle’s wealthy, handsome, and in need of a wife. Will Charlotte be disappointed yet again, or will she finally be able to make a husband for herself?


Karey WhiteAuthor Karey White

Karey White grew up in Utah, Idaho, Oregon, and Missouri. She attended Ricks College and Brigham Young University. Her first novel, Gifted, was a Whitney Award Finalist.

She loves to travel, read, bake treats, and spend time with family and friends. She and her husband are the parents of four great children. She teaches summer creative writing courses to young people and is currently working on her next book.

* Twitter * Facebook * Goodreads



$75 Book Blast Giveaway

$75 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash

Ends 11/23/14

Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader and sponsored by the publisher. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.


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