The Wednesday Letters by Jason F. Wright

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This book I have to say was exactly as advertised. It is described as a literary fiction book focused on family secrets. Not something I usually go for, but the premise of the book caught my attention – a couple who wrote letters to each other every week pass away and their children find the letters. That seemed quite interesting to me, so I picked it up.

The story follows the three children of Jack and Laurel. Matthew is the eldest and lives with his wife in New York where they are having trouble getting pregnant. Samantha is a single mother who took a job with the local police force to stay close to home and raise her daughter. Malcolm is a hothead who fled the country after getting in a fight with his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend. All three descend on the bed-and-breakfast their parents ran after their death and unwittingly discover the letters their father, Jack, wrote to Laurel every Wednesday since their marriage night. Within the letters, family secrets are discovered, hearts are broken, and family ties strained. Old loves add more strain to the situation. The epilogue at the end is actually an envelope glued to the back cover with a letter inside.

I can’t say the story line was very surprising, but there was enough interest to keep me reading. The book was full of emotion and easy to relate to. It’s actually interesting that through the whole book, you are rooting for Malcolm. There were a couple twists and turns, but it was fairly straightforward. It was really nice to read letters from Jack to Laurel throughout to gain information as the children were. It broke the book up nicely and gave you different perspectives on the events in the book. The end result of all the secrets and family drama was surprising in a way you wouldn’t expect.

The characters were amazing well-developed, particularly Jack who was only known through his letters. You don’t really get a feel for Laurel because everything you learn about her is second-hand. Aside from Jack, Malcolm and Rain are the next mostly developed characters. Matthew is probably the least developed of the siblings, but you get an image of him easily. The other characters in the small town are brought to life through simple interactions with the members of the family and through the letters being read. The story flowed well and moved nicely. There were no awkward areas where the story was dragged along. Between the letters, people arriving for the viewing and funeral, and Malcolm’s issues with his history, there was always something to move toward.

If you like literary fiction or family fiction, this would be a great book for you. I thought it was good, but not something I would pick up again. I feel like it would be more for people in their thirties or older. I’m almost thirty and I think a little more life experience would make the book more connectable and memorable. It does teach some great life lessons and gives some good advice on love.

My rating:

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Delayed Penalty (Crossing the Line #1) by Shey Stahl

I was quite surprised by this book. First off, it is not really a novella – it’s a full length book. Secondly, it was what I had hoped for when reading hockey romance. Not a focus on sex, but a focus on relationships and the game. I had never read anything by Ms. Stahl before, but I will be looking into more of her work.

The story follows Evan and Ami. Evan is a 20/21 year old professional hockey player for the Chicago Blackhawks. Ami is a 17/18 year old orphan who Evan found almost dead from a brutal rape. Evan feels drawn to her and doesn’t leave her side during her recovery. Ami is drawn to him when she awakes from her coma. The begin a friendship and a deep connection grows between them throughout the story. I was fascinated by how the author portrayed Ami’s rape from Evan’s viewpoint. Usually you just read about the victim and all she is dealing with, but not here. It is how Evan handles the emotional pitfalls he feels as her friend and lover. Ami doesn’t remember much of her attack, so most of the memory comes from Evan. Throughout the story, Evan is constantly looking for the attacker because not knowing just rips him apart. They eventually find the guy, and there is more emotional upheaval at his arrest.

I loved the deep emotional quality of the book. Every character is thoroughly fleshed out and has a personality. You get to meet Evan’s family (who are from Pittsburgh by the way, my hometown – Go Pens!) and several teammates. You also meet Callie, a lively woman who tends to sleep with everyone on the team, but becomes a great friend to Ami. You read mainly from Evan’s point of view, but there is a lot of Ami in there as well. I wasn’t super drawn to Ami, but she is a lovable character and solid. I preferred Evan and Callie, they seemed more animated and fascinating.

I would recommend this book to anyone who loves hockey. It is not a lighthearted romance by any means, so if that’s what you’re looking for don’t read this one. However, if you are looking for a well-developed story with a strong emotional pull and intricate characters, this is a good book.

My rating:

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Portland Storm: The First Period (Books 1-4) by Catherine Gayle

I found this series on sale in the Amazon Kindle store and thought I’d give it a shot. It turned out to be a fantastic little series so far. The third book was quite short, more like a set of deleted scenes, but it helped to bridge the gap between books 2 and 4. My favorite was the first book, Breakaway. I can’t wait to find more books in the series. The novellas were actually quite long, but I was still able to finish each under 4 hours.

You do need at least rudimentary knowledge of hockey to read the books. There are a lot of sections where it focuses on the male lead and what he is doing in the game, so the reader needs to understand a little of the game to be able to follow.

One thing I did really like was the fact the novellas only had a couple sex scenes in each. They are not overrun with them. Mostly it focuses on the emotional development and hardships of the couple instead of the sex, which is fantastic in my opinion. The author does a phenomenal job portraying the inner turmoil and true emotions of her characters in a way I rarely see. The strong emotions she digs into fascinate me.

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Breakaway – Book 1

I absolutely loved this book. It follows the story of Dana and Eric. Dana and Eric grew up together, and both played hockey. Eric left with Dana’s brother, Brenden, to go to college and Dana went to a different college. Dana was a star hockey player on her college team until she was gang raped after a game by a group of rival fans. She decided after seven years of counseling, she needed someone she trusted to help her learn how to deal with intimacy again and aid her in conquering her panic attacks. Eric is not at all happy with the idea but has been in love with her for years, so he gives in and agrees to help her.

Anyone who suffers from panic attacks, or survived rape or abuse will be able to relate very strongly with Dana. Her portrayal is amazingly realistic to what panic attacks are like and how hard it is to heal from sexual violence. As an abuse survivor, I was able to relate to her extremely well and found the book to be a great example of what a loving, healing relationship can do. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes romance or is struggling to recover from sexual violence.

My rating:

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On the Fly – Book 2

After the first book, I shouldn’t have been surprised to find the second book as emotionally strong and tangled. You follow the story of Brenden and Rachel. Brenden is Dana’s brother and has just been called up from the minor league. He is struggling with trying to prove he deserves to be in the major league and also with the relationship that has developed between Eric and Dana. Rachel is running from her husband who she found out and successfully convicted of abusing her daughter. Throughout the book she struggles a lot with trust, overprotectiveness, and insecurity over her growing feelings for Brenden. An added obstacle is her learning the ropes of her new job – secretary for the Portland Storm General Manager, taking over for the retiring Martha.

It was endearing to see these two people slowly cross the obstacles in front of them and find each other, in particular how they became a family with Rachel’s two children. You also get to learn more about the other team members and begin to really get a feel for the different personalities. The only thing I didn’t particularly like was how abruptly it ended. But that is really my only complaint. Other than that, I thought it was a brilliantlyl written work.

My rating:

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Taking a Shot – Book 3

This is actually considered an in-between novella. It is just a short snippet, very quick, that helps segue between On the Fly and Light the Lamp. It is the story of Jamie “Babs” Babcock taking Katie to her prom. I don’t want to give away something that happens in On the Fly, but I will say it is important that she is able to go. I thought it was a great way to portray a small development between these two characters, as their love story has been woven through each book so far. However, it was very quick and I hoped for more. It makes sense to read it, but I cannot wait for their actual full-length novella to come out next week.

My rating:

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Light the Lamp – Book 4

This is another book I greatly enjoyed. The book follows Liam and Noelle. Liam is a widower who is still grieving for his wife who was hit by a drunk driver while she was trying to change a tire. He finds Noelle on the highway, trying to fix her car, and insisted on taking her somewhere safe until the car cooled down. He later finds out she is homeless and jobless and insists she go home with him. The story unfolds as the fall in love and struggle to become emotionally close. You also learn about Liam’s Light the Lamp foundation that helps addicts begin to put their life back together.

It is a very emotionally charged book. I found I was very able to relate to Liam. His struggles to deal with the death of his wife and the love he is developing for a new woman are strong and realistic. I had a harder time relating to Noelle, but she is so sweet and genuine you have to like her. Her emotions do come through very strongly as well, especially with her fighting to maintain her independence and need to make the world a better place.

My rating:

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