Motherhood, Martyrdom and Costco Runs, by Whitney Dineen

There was a moment several years ago, when I’d struck up a conversation with another mom at the local playground. My towheaded two-year old had been playing nicely with her two young daughters, and we were sharing parenting nostalgia while we watched our children frolic in the early morning sunshine.

All had gone well, until I made the grave mistake of being completely honest with this woman, who didn’t know me, granted. But we’d been conversing about temper tantrums and meltdowns, and I asked her, “Do you ever feel like you want to just go running outside into the street, screaming at the top of your lungs?” She quickly assured me that NO, that had never happened to her, she never felt the need to run away from her precious little angels, and made sure to hastily plop those two angels inside their double-wide stroller, leaving me and my honesty in the dust.


Reading Whitney Dineen’s latest novel about her own experiences with parenthood, womanhood, and all things Costco, reminded me of that moment and several others I’ve had in my parenting journey. The moments where we don’t feel we’ve really earned that Mommy Gold Star. So often, I feel as though we’re told to put on this brace face, to never show the true colors of what’s going on in our lives, especially if it’s not considered “favorable”. The truth is, life isn’t perfect. There is no sugar coating how hard it can be to shape and mold the future. Dineen tells us about it in a way that brings emotional humor and depth to what’s really happening.

In so many of her reflections, it’s apparent how much her daughters have shaped who she is today, even if at times she laments a little on the freedom she used to have before they were in the picture. Such an honest, candid response. Yet, she appreciates the impact they’ve had on her. It’s particularly touching how she goes into detail on the struggles she had to conceive, her own postpartum experiences. A voice for mothers everywhere who often feel alone, fearful of judgement.

And Costco! I laughed hard when I read the moments that happen in Costco, and could totally relate to the bathroom woes she deals with every single time she steps foot inside of a Costco. She has to map out her shopping route in order to incorporate a stop (or two, or three) to the bathroom, because her girls just can’t help themselves. Or the multitude of questions they always ask Dineen, the questions no parent wants to answer. Then there’s the conversations she’ll have with her husband, or her mother. Even the Costco check-out guy. It’s just all so funny!

This is a must-read for any parent- those who have been in the trenches long enough to know when to duck and cover, to those who are just starting out. And while I never saw that mom at the playground ever again (most likely, she was trying to avoid me at all cost), if I were able to see her now, I’d totally give her Motherhood Martyrdom and Costco Runs as a loving gift, from one mom to another.

Originally reviewed for Chick Lit Central

Left Hanging, by Cindy Dorminy

As a nurse and single mom, Darla Battle hides her loneliness behind a smile. But when she discovers that the new cute doctor everyone is talking about is her daughter’s father, she knows she needs to keep her distance from the man who abandoned her and their child, Stella.

When Theo Edwards returns to Nashville to finish his medical training, he never expects to run into Darla, a girl he spent one night with seven years ago. For reasons he can’t fathom, her attitude toward him is frosty, but he still hopes to ignite the spark they once felt.

Once Darla realizes Theo doesn’t know he’s Stella’s father, she has no idea how to tell him the truth. And the longer she waits, the more difficult it becomes. When the situation spins out of control, can the two come together for the sake of their daughter? Or is forgiveness out of reach? (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)


Darla and Theo’s story had me hooked right from the beginning, primarily because Cindy Dorminy has created characters that are easy to invest in. When the two meet, spending one unforgettable night together, I wanted to know what that experience would do to them, and for them. And it felt like a very relatable situation. Many of us have thrown caution to the wind, done a few things that go against our character, much like Darla and Theo had done.

There was the perfect mix of tension and suspense while Darla tries to figure out how to deal with Theo. She knows she needs to tell him about Stella, but she can never find the right time to do it. While she’s waiting, she spends time with him, rediscovering what made her feel so attracted to him, wanting to steer clear of him, too. Theo has always felt as though Darla had been the one who got away, literally, and will do anything it takes to get her to fall for him again.

A gigantic catastrophe brings the two together in the most inopportune way, forcing Theo to face up to his responsibilities, and Darla to let go of the reigns a little bit. It’s a huge turning point for both characters. Can they set it all aside for the love of their daughter? Will this completely destroy any chance they have at picking up where they left off seven years ago?

**Potential spoilers, but nothing major**

I appreciated all the little nuances in Left Hanging, like the idea for Stella’s name (she was named after her paternal Grandmother, something Theo doesn’t connect the dots to until much later), to the dyslexia Darla’s best friend has, revealed in an interesting way as the story progresses. Every character is unique and realistic, creating an environment a reader can get lost in, from page one to the very end.

Originally reviewed for Chick Lit Central

Crossing the Street, by Molly D. Campbell

Beck might make a living writing erotica, but art does not imitate life, not in the least. The only time she could ever claim that she may have experienced anywhere close to it, would be when she were still with her ex-boyfriend, Bryan. Only, they’re no longer together, hadn’t been for a long while. He settled down and started a family with the one person in her life that Beck feels is her arch nemesis, the one person that could really destroy her into oblivion.

There were quite a few contrasting moments in Crossing the Street. Beck regales her single life, one without children, a personal choice she’s held onto as tightly as she can. Yet, when you witness the interactions she has with the little girl who recently moved into the neighborhood, a girl who is just as messed up and confused as Beck is, there is a much softer side to Beck. There is a deep connection between the two characters. She also claims she is better off alone, but has a hard time letting go of the new boyfriend who is practically perfect. Or the constant traffic that bombards her life, the friends, her family. A seemingly never-ending procession of people who she can’t live with but can’t ever imagine herself without. And while these contrasts might make Beck off-kilter, it makes her human. It makes her real.


Probably the most dynamic relationship here is the one Beck has with her sister. There are a lot of issues left unresolved, on both ends. When the chips are down, often times we have no one else to turn to but our family, and both women have a lot to prove to the other. Is there reliability there, can they salvage their damaged relationship and find some new norm? Or, is it doomed?

This story is simplistically told, in a way that makes you feel as though you’re hearing a story from a good friend. No unnecessary flourishes. No unwanted baggage. Just the unfolding of a woman’s life while she carries around a lot of emotional scars from her past, scars that prevent her from moving forward. The type of scars the majority of us have dealt with in our own lives, bringing an honesty to Beck and the people in her world.

Originally reviewed for Chick Lit Central

Royally Wed- The Poser, by Pamela DuMond

**May contain spoilers for previous books in the Ladies-in-Waiting series (see reviews for Part-time Princess and Royally Wed)**

For Lucy Trabbicio, American commoner and former cocktail waitress, royally wed sex is the best sex… until she discovers that she’s NOT royally wed!

Lucy and hot Prince Nicholas Frederick are finally married but they still can’t take their hands off each other. Romantic interludes happen fast and furious and frequently outside of the bedroom: the Mile High Club, museums, palace events, the Venice Carnival Masquerade Ball…


But Lucy and Nick are thrust into marital limbo when the legality of their marriage is called into question—the ceremony was performed by an impersonator; a poser. Now Nick must serve his obligatory National Guard duty while Lucy travels to Italy with her ladies in trouble—oops—LADIES-in-WAITING to track down the poser and solve the dilemma before the paparazzi finds out and blows the scandal wide open.

Will Lucy and Nick get their Happily Ever After? (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon)

That is a good question!

For Lucy, life is never easy. Just when she’s finally feeling as though the drama in her world is settling down, something always comes along to mess everything up! And this time, it’s in the form of a wayward priest who was never who he claimed to be, thus making their nuptials an up in the air whirlwind of conundrums! If she’s not legally wed to her hot Prince Nicholas, what happens to Fredonia?

I love how Pamela DuMond tells it like it is. There are plenty of racy scenes, the kind you can get blissfully lost in, and while a blush may creep up your cheek a time or two, it’s totally worth it! And of course, this wouldn’t be a Royally Wed story without Lucy’s entourage. As with previous novels in the series, they completely round everything out, adding wonderful layers to Lucy’s existence. I’m still in love with Royal Nana, probably the funniest character so far. I’m always eager in finding out what’s going to come out of her mouth next, or what sort of antics or tricks she has up her sleeve.

If you haven’t read the Ladies-in-Waiting series yet, I highly recommend it! As for this Lady-in-Waiting, I’m looking forward to reading the fourth book in the series, Royally Wed: The Cock-Up, and finding out what happens after the colossal cliffhanger Lucy finds herself in at the end of this book.

Originally reviewed for Chick Lit Central

Playing House, by Laura Chapman

She’s a work in progress . . .

Bailey Meredith has had it. As an assistant at a prestigious interior design firm, she’s tired of making coffee and filing invoices. She’ll do just about anything to get out from under the paperwork and into the field for real experience. Then she sees an ad for a job that seems too good to be true.

He’s a fixer upper . . .

Wilder Aldrich knew she would be perfect for the crew the moment he saw her. His hit home improvement show only hired the best, and Bailey had potential written all over her. It isn’t just her imaginative creativity and unmatched work ethic that grabs his attention. There’s just something about her.

With chemistry on screen, it’s only a matter of time before sparks fly behind the scenes as well. But with Bailey’s jaded views on romance and a big secret that could destroy Wilder and everyone he cares about, are either of them willing to risk it all for love? (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

I’m not nearly as skilled as I’d like to be with a hammer, and have no clue how to decorate, but I love home improvement shows. Which is why the premise of Playing House appealed to me as much as it did. Yet, as often is the case with anything you read by Laura Chapman, there’s more to it than that. So much more.


When it comes to the small screen, we’re only privy to the scenes that are given the green light. How much of it is real can be a toss up. Bailey can only imagine what might be in store for her, in choosing to work for a show that only showcases successful outcomes, never the work that goes on behind the scenes. Given her situation, however, there’s not much choice in the matter. It’s either that, or continue to feel undervalued with her current employer.

And for Wilder, Bailey is like a breath of fresh air. He’s been locked inside deadlines and contractual obligations for so long, he has a hard time imagining what life was like before the show. Before he’d been thrust into a spotlight. Those things don’t apply to Bailey and don’t mean much to her, which only makes her all the more attractive. And, she’s feeling him, too, yet she knows picturing any sort of future with Wilder is totally off-limits. No ifs, and’s or but’s about it.

I really appreciated the honest look at what might potentially go on behind the scenes of a home improvement show. Given some of what I’ve seen in the headlines as of late, I’m guessing it’s not far off. There are plenty of smiles and cordial attitudes to go around, and we can often forget that the people we see on the television are still real people with lives that go on behind the scenes. And sometimes, a scenario is created in order to not only project a certain look or feel to the outside world, but to protect the people we love. I really felt that when Bailey and Wilder are at a loss on how to proceed in their own lives. On finding a way to skirt the line of what’s morally right or wrong.

I’ve read nearly all of Laura’s novels, and while I love them all, there was something particularly special about this one. I really felt a deep emotional connection to the characters and the rough situations they find themselves in. Maybe because I’ve gone through my own tough times, too, and I could relate and identify with Bailey, with Wilder, and even with a few of the others who make life hell for everyone around them. Playing House deserves every single one of the five stars I’ve given it.

Originally reviewed for Chick Lit Central

Super 40, by Lucy Woodhull

I didn’t know what to expect when I started reading Super 40. Sure, I was aware that it was a super-heroine novel, an ordinary woman who ends up with a radioactive tampon and the ability to shoot cramp-inducing lasers from her fingers. That premise in and of itself is entirely unique and unusual. But little did I know that in essence, the story of Shannon Johnson and her ability to change and save the world would have so many layers to it, a message for every woman who feels as though she’s getting lost behind the shuffle of society.

Shannon is nearing forty, an age she’s trying desperately to avoid. She thought she’d be farther ahead in life. Not living with her parents, divorced, childless. There’s so much she wanted to accomplish, an entirely different person she wanted to be when she grew up. So, when she finds herself with new superpowers, this creates a new outlook on life, or so she thinks. She could never have anticipated the amount of responsibility that comes from being a super-heroine, the choices she’ll have to make to save others, or save her own pajama-clad skin. It’s enough to drive any normal person insane.


While figuring it out, Shannon discovers an inner strength she never knew had been there. And while having the ability to bring a full-grown man down to his knees writhing in pain may have a little something to do with it, ultimately, she finds out that she’s had a lot of power inside her the whole time. It’s an affirmation for most of us who think we’ve passed our prime in life.

There are a whole slew of interesting superhero characters. Like Dolly Poppin’, Shannon’s telekinetic teleporting partner in fighting crime.Or Karma Kameleon, the hottest crime fighter in town. Even an anti hero, aptly named Antihero, gets in on the game, making this novel an incredibly interesting read. There was never a dull moment, full of action and suspense from start to finish, giving me an enlightened look at what it’s like to feel down and out, and doing what it takes to change that perspective on life.

Originally reviewed for Chick Lit Central

Don’t Mean A Thing, by Renee Conoulty

What if you finally took the lead, but life refused to follow?

Thirty-year-old introvert, Macie Harman, has finally found a career she is passionate about, and after months of training, she’s begun her new job in the Royal Australian Air Force. Leaving behind her family, friends, and the life she knew, Macie has travelled to the other side of the country where the only person she knows is Rachael, the extroverted girl she went through basic training with. Everywhere Macie goes, Rachael is there too.

While looking for a way to widen her circle of friends in her new town, Macie discovers a local swing dancing class. The jazz music captures her heart, and Matt, the sexy swing dancer, sweeps her off her feet. Matt has claimed the tropical Northern Territory as home and has no plans to leave. He loves his teaching career with its predictable routine and has a great bunch of friends. All he wants now is the right girl to make his house a home.

Military life is tougher than Macie expected, and not everyone can deal with the inevitable separations and last minute changes. Is this exciting but unpredictable life something Macie wants to fight for, or could she give it up and put down roots with Matt? (synopsis courtesy of Amazon)

At first glance this novel appears to be all about romance, and trust me, there’s plenty of that to go around. Macie falls hard for Matt, even though she’s had her heart broken before by a man who wasn’t willing to be with a strong, independent woman. So, she’s very concerned about Matt’s intentions, and whether she sees a future with him. Rachael has plenty of love life to go around. So do a lot of other secondary characters, lending into the romance.

However, I felt as though the strongest vein was the one pertaining to Macie’s passions in life. She loves to travel, she loves her job. She’s worked hard to get to where she’s at, having a hard time coming to grips with the possibility of having to give it all up for someone. That’s what ruined her prior relationship. Will it be the final straw for Matt?


I could totally relate to Macie. I suppose most of us could. I can think of several times in my life when I’ve given up something I’ve wanted or felt I needed in order to maintain the status quo, to keep others happy. I think the real work happens when you find a way to compromise, so both people in the relationship are able to fulfill their passions in life. It’s not always easy, it doesn’t always happen, but you can always hope. And, Macie has to try and find balance, or it will never work.

Life has a way of changing up the things that matter most to us, our life goals and passions often pliable. I appreciated Renee Conoulty’s take on what it means to find who you really are in not only a relationship with other people, but in the relationship that really matters most; the one you have with yourself. I don’t think there are enough motivating novels out there that support a character who tries hard at achieving her goals, never giving up. It’s incredibly motivating!

Originally reviewed for Chick Lit Central

A Mom On The Run

GCC Creative Writing

Creative Writing at Glendale AZ Community College

Africanist, artist & woman

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