Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Hill Women

Cassie Chambers grew up in Owsley County, one the most impoverished communities in the Appalachian Mountains. Her mother Wilma, both beautiful and smart, left the family tobacco farm to attend a small college nearby.  As frightened as she was leaving home, Wilma knew this was the key to a better life for her family and herself. Cassie was often looked after in the ramshackle home of her Granny, Papaw and Aunt Ruth. She ran barefoot through the fields with her cousins and other local children. Even though the family struggled to make ends meet, her days were filled with an abundance of love and hard work, the mainstream of their lives. As Cassie matured, she strove for the same accolades her mother had, good grades and an upward climb on the steep education ladder. An opportunity for a unique boarding school in New Mexico during senior year took Cassie away for the first time. A turning point, this filled her with even more drive and determination, which served her well through the most prestigious academic institutions of Yale College and Harvard Law. Always torn between two very different worlds, it took years for Cassie to truly understand and honor the beauty she found in these heroic mountain women who were creative, brave, loving and tireless. With deep admiration and respect for her family, Cassie yearns to find a compromise that will allow her the rewards she has earned and ways to make real change in the lives of these often forgotten women. Highly recommend this compelling work of non-fiction which reads like a novel. Loved it!

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Recipe For A Perfect Wife

Alice Hale is a young woman striving for success at a high-end Manhattan publishing firm. Newly married, she has an adoring analytical husband, a nightmare boss and a top notch best friend. Overnight her world comes crashing down. With her career destroyed, Nate surprises Alice with a beautiful fixer upper in the burbs and all the time in the world to get pregnant and finally write her novel. Feeling displaced in her new home by strange noises and thoughts of the original owner, Alice discovers a box in the basement filled with the life of Nellie Murdoch, a 1950’s housewife. Upon realizing their lives reflect startling similarities, Alice begins to find solace in cooking her way through Nellie’s antiquated recipes; Baked Alaska, Jellied Salads and Tuna Casserole. When additional secrets bloom in the garden the truth for both women is shockingly revealed. Highly recommend this clever, phenomenal story of what it means to be a woman and how very far we have come (or not) in the last 50+ years. If you loved bestseller Julie & Julia, don’t miss this soon to be released awesome read!!

We Met in December

Jess is moving to London. Finally! Having grown up in a quaint, unremarkable seaside town with a mediocre job and erratic mom, Jess is starting over in a magnificent Notting Hill house with four strangers. Treasuring this opportunity for new beginnings, (her real life!) Jess snags a dream job in publishing and the chance to live in a zip code she never dared to dream. These twentysomethings become fast friends; cooking, drinking and binge watching their favorite shows. Only rule to follow - no couples in the house. But of course, in walks Alex. The handsome boy next door (literally!) who left his prestigious law position to study nursing, who is as kind as he is gorgeous. Throughout their year living together, from one Christmas celebration to the next, Jess learns the true meaning of family, friends and love. Fall into the holiday spirit with this enjoyable, sweet, feel-good romantic read.

Christmas Shopaholic

Becky Brandon loves her family, her job and most of all - Becky loves Christmas. She counts the days to lose herself in gingerbread houses, festive trees, and of course, hence the name, the Christmas shopping. As the holiday quickly approaches her once dependable parents experience a mid-life crisis, moving to a hip London neighborhood and leaving Becky as Christmas Day host for the very first time. Obsessed with tradition and the perfect gift for her husband, Becky is thrown for a loop when her handsome rock star ex-boyfriend moves into the neighborhood, her vegan step sister mysteriously shows up sans husband and much of her precious shopping turns into an online fiasco. This laugh-out-loud, adorable holiday fix is just what you need when the demanding list grows out of control. Take a wonderful break with this fun celebration of friendship, family and shopping!

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Travel Light, Move Fast

Alexandra Fuller races to her beloved father’s deathbed while on vacation in Budapest. As she and her mother navigate this primitive healthcare system, they reminisce a lifetime of memories leading up to this moment. Alexandra expertly narrates her profound love for her father as she continues to fascinate us with their family’s outrageous African bush experiences. She beguiles the reader with the pandemonium that surrounded their various homes, farms and near fatal daily chaos. Alexandra simultaneously reflects on her present situation, including painful divorce, raising three children thousands of miles from “home” while living in Wisconsin and increasing difficulties mounting with her only sister. Alexandra is a magnificent storyteller and I am always mesmerized by life in the bush, but this fourth recount of the Fuller experience did not grasp my imagination as the others did. Reading like short stories loosely sewn together, the end felt disconnected and it would probably not be impactful as a standalone if you hadn’t read her other work. Alexandra’s first, “Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight” is one of my ALL time favorite reads EVER.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone

Lori Gottlieb is a therapist living and working in Los Angeles, California. As a single mom with a busy practice, Lori takes pride in all her responsibilities and juggles her days with care. One day her world comes crashing down when her fiancĂ© unexpectedly ends their relationship. Lori’s future suddenly seems uncertain and the pain is affecting every aspect of her life. And then she finds Wendell, her new therapist. In this sudden roll reversal Lori is on the couch and hoping this stranger - who was strategically selected for age and maleness - will commiserate with her romantic loss and help justify her anger and resentment. But she couldn’t be more wrong. Wendell forces Lori to dig much deeper than she has ever gone before. Interspersed stories of her very personal journey with Wendell and a handful of her most unique patient relationships, Lori Gottlieb shares her innermost thoughts of her “therapist” and “therapy” experiences. Funny, smart and quick witted, Lori is a talented storyteller and clinician. This excellent, thought provoking read is an unputdownable therapy marathon, feels like I just finished a two day session! 

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Grace After Henry

Grace begins to see Henry everywhere she turns. She either has a vivid imagination or is hallucinating because Henry unexpectedly died in a tragic accident only two months earlier. At times Grace feels like she can’t go on as everyone near and dear encourages her to find strength in the life Henry would have wanted. Some days she can barely eat a meal or get out of bed and Grace is terrified she may forget Henry’s essence. One day Andy, a handyman, comes to fix the apartment and he is the spitting image of Henry. As she begins to feel more and more connected to Andy, Grace questions the honesty of her desires. This very simple story tackles the most painful moments of a sudden loss and the guilt associated letting go of ones grief. Additional colorful characters are found in Grace’s best friend Aoife and her grumpy, well-meaning neighbor Betty. This simple, well written story was an enjoyable read. 

The Floating Feldmans

It’s Annette’s 70th birthday and even though her grown children live across the country and avoid almost every phone call, she insists they must be together for her big day. The (once) perfect daughter Elise and off-the-grid son Freddy submit to mom’s demand and they all meet up for a celebration cruise. Elises’s grown children tag along and her well meaning husband reveals his own hidden secret. Claustrophobic cruise ships filled with buffet lines and smiling staff who secretly want to strangle this bizarre demanding family made me sea sick without leaving the couch. Unfortunately, each and every character was so completely unlikeable and a little too over the top to be funny. The family shenanigans are endless and even though I wanted to like this book and it got so much hype, I was about to jump overboard.

High Achiever

Tiffany Jenkins is a drug addict. She lies, cheats and steals to maintain her addiction. Hurting every single person in her life, Tiffany has disappointed her family, friends and all but destroyed her boyfriend who happens to work in law enforcement. Like watching a train wreck, every move Tiffany makes is a painful bad decision and the reader cannot look away. Deep down inside, past her drug addiction one can glimpse a sweet, smart, caring young woman who has lost all self control to drugs. This fast paced, intense memoir documents her journey through her 6 months of incarceration in a Florida prison and flash backs of how she wound up there in the first place. Tiffany had some problems and issues growing up that can be attributed to addiction but it’s never just one thing. The sad fact is addiction will destroy your life. It is not something you can beat on your own and help is out there. You can only truly change if YOU want to. This honest glimpse into one addicts life leaves the reader with hope and an open heart. Addiction is more prevalent than some would like to believe and no-one is immune to it’s effects. Tiffany is now sober and helping others, sharing her story with the world. This brave memoir is a must read.

American Princess

The life and times of Alice Roosevelt is as mesmerizing as any political drama one can imagine! Alice Lee Roosevelt Longworth was born in 1884. Theodore Roosevelt, her father, was devastated when his wife died just days after Alice was born. Unable to face his grief or look into those bluest of eyes, Theodore left Alice with a relative until he remarried a few years later. Off to a rough start, with future siblings much younger than herself, Alice became the rebel of the family. Pushing every rule, boundary and limitation, Alice raced through their White House years as a headline in every newspaper. Her natural intelligence, curiosity and burning desire to be of importance to her larger than life father, Alice educated herself with much more than dainty lady like manners. She became knowledgable, outspoken and well known in every political circle. Marrying a charming senator and living a fast paced D.C. life at the turn of the century provides endless entertainment for Alice, the American Princess of her time. This read prompted my own curiosity about the Roosevelts and the internet provided extensive detail and fascinating photographs of every character portrayed. Thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend this well written fabulous novel by Stephanie Marie Thornton.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Bringing Down the Duke

Miss Annabelle Archer, country girl, daughter of a vicar is an orphan. She lives with her miserable cousin Gilbert and helps cares for his five children. As brilliant and fiercely independent as she is - women are not permitted to live alone nor determine their own destiny in 1879 England. Annabelle, completely overeducated by her father finds a place at Oxford alongside one of the very first group of women allowed to study there. She manipulates a scholarship in return for volunteering with the women’s suffrage group, protesting the women’s marital possession act and right to vote. Annabelle manages to infiltrate the highest political influencers by coercing an invitation to the Duke of Montgomery’s ball. A beautiful bluestocking, Annabelle raises quite a few eyebrows. She cares not for a suitor as much as someones ear to affect the parliament. Annabelle is shocked to find herself completely enthralled with the duke himself for she has never imagined a man existed with both dueling wits and breathtaking charm as Sebastian Devereux. This historical romance novel is filled with passion and perseverance, a wonderful read and superb debut by author Evie Dunmore. Lucky for us a sequel is in the works!

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Wild Game

When Rennie Brodeur is 14 years old, her mother gently awakens her from a deep summertime sleep. Malabar tells her that their family friend, Ben Souther has kissed her and make no mistake, she kissed him back. Having already accepted her parents divorce, Malabar’s marriage to Charles and summers in Cape Cod, young Rennie is enamored with the idea of being her mother’s confidante. Sworn to secrecy she begins a ten year journey of deception, lies and convenient cover ups for Ben and Malabar’s illicit affair. As a young girl Rennie sees it as romantic, true love - something her mother desperately deserves. They are two halves of a whole, Malabar constantly reminds her. Rennie spends her younger years drowning in guilt but when high school ends her travels shine a different light on this suffocating secret. Rennie looks long and hard in the mirror and faces the burden of the baggage she has been carrying for a decade. This memoir is the story of a mother and daughter’s relationship pushed to every possible limit. It takes years for Rennie to discover the balance she must maintain to survive at all. Could not put down this mesmerizing and beautifully written memoir. An absolute must read!

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

An Unorthodox Match

Lola Howard was raised by a single, free spirited mother in San Jose, California. She craved the normalcy often witnessed in other homes; security, safety, and most importantly, spirituality. After finding and losing her first love during college, and after her hard earned career is shattered to pieces, Lola is at the end of her rope. Loneliness and depression has dug a hole she can no longer escape. Struggling to restart her life in NYC, fate and her latest roommate introduce her to the ultraorthodox community of Boro Park, Brooklyn. Changing her name to Leah and finding solace with many charitable families, Leah begins to truly feel God’s presence for the first time in her life. In her early thirties she believes it is not too late to marry and have a family of her own. When match after match deflates all her efforts Leah volunteers to help in the home of a devout scholar named Jacob who has been recently widowed. The unexpected connection she feels with his children fills an empty space in her heart. Based on her past, she is not qualified to be matched with such a man. Leah struggles to navigate this difficult world that welcomes outsiders with open arms, while never truly accepting their history. Leah and Jacob search very deep in their hearts to follow the word of God while conforming to the community’s ideals. Highly recommend this meaningful novel of love and hope. I often have mixed feelings about these stories but honestly, I couldn’t put this one down.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Everyone's A Critic

Laura Spellman is a talented, successful and bitter literary critic. Making and breaking careers of every author she reviews. Never married and friendless, Laura feeds on the prestige of her position and prizes she has accumulated. As publishing world pressures mount, Laura can no longer avoid the Swedes request to take a group of simpleton book lovers on a literary tour through Paris. One traveler named Tess is a bouncy blondes who writes the commercial chick-lit Laura loathes. Tess’s bag of books begin to stalk her, one showing up at every turn. Laura’s world is slowly collapsing as she entertains these nobodies, fights a sudden illness and begins to doubt her reality. This sardonic short story is a perfect mix of the darkest humor and creepy suspense for any true book lover. Jennifer Weiner, thank you, this is an awesome home run!

The Family Upstairs

Libby Jones has just turned 25 years old. She has been waiting her whole life for this moment. The letter has finally arrived that will reveal her true identity, her birth family. But this long awaited letter offers little more than inheritance instructions. It is shockingly more than she has ever imagined. A valuable mansion in the very posh neighborhood of Chelsea. When Libby was just an infant the police discovered her alone in this house. A seemingly cared for crying baby abandoned alongside three dead bodies. A note regarding the baby’s care and the seemingly peaceful bodies lying side by side suggests a suicide pact. The sparse food, little furnishings and handmade uniform clothing gives the impression of cult behavior. The police accept the scenario and close the case, reports written and quickly forgotten. The baby is adopted. The burning question is what happened to the other four children who lived in this house? Libby is convinced the answers are hidden within these walls and the mystery surrounding their disappearance. Lock the doors and leave on the light while you immerse yourself in this unputdownable chilling thriller.

Don't Even Breathe

Maggie Novak is spending Halloween with her sister and niece in their quiet Florida suburb, trick-or-treating and parading their costumes with all their neighbors. As lead homicide detective she is called away to investigate a murder scene near a swampy lake out by the highschool. Reported by two suspicious teenagers, a body burnt to a crisp, has been discovered.  At the crime scene Maggie is flooded by memories of a night she regrets that has haunted her for the last 20 years. Although the body is unidentifiable, a purse nearby reveals the license of a woman Maggie has never heard of, Dana Cullen. Maggie is completely flummoxed when other clues suggest it is Rita, her childhood friend, who along with her entire family perished in a house fire two decades ago. These impossible coincidences lead Maggie down a treacherous path where she reveals double identities, revenge and murder. As evidence begins to converge Maggie must choose whether to distance herself from the emotional trauma of her past or follow these clues that betray these long time buried secrets. A well written, fast paced novel, there is nothing better than a Halloween Night murder to get you in the spooky spirit of things!

Saturday, October 26, 2019

All This Could Be Yours

Victor Tuchman has suffered a massive heart attack and now this gargantuan  man lies on his deathbed. Each family member confronts years of misery caused by this man. A lifetime of abuse towards his son Gary and daughter Alex, physically and mentally, have made them only too glad that the end is near. His wife Barbra, a cold woman who has held her husband’s criminal secrets and suffered his atrocious behavior for the last 50 years does not shed a tear as she paces the hospital floor counting her steps. Throw in two granddaughters (neither in attendance) a grieving daughter-in-law (Gary’s wife) and the unbearable heat that leaves this Jewish northeastern clan displaced in the heart of New Orleans and there you have it … the most dysfunctional miserable family on the planet. Only a diehard reader may understand why I still say the writing was excellent as I suffered through this hopeless story but did not enjoy the ride.