Monday, August 10, 2020

All the Rivers

Liat is a beautiful Israeli translator spending a year working in New York City. She is apartment sitting for family friends and thoroughly exploring this dense exciting metropolis. One day Liat unexpectedly meets a friend of a friend, named Hilmi. She is immediately captivated by this handsome, charming, talented artist. The two quickly fall into a steamy, thoughtful friendship in and out of the bedroom. Their chemistry is undeniable. Their past is unavoidable. Hilmi is Palestinian. As they explore this bustling city, visiting art galleries, museums, and an endless array of restaurants they can no longer hide from the black cloud following every step they take. Friends cannot begin to understand, their families would be irreparably devastated. My heart was pounding for this couple, the dreamworld they were living in and self imposed deadline of their hearts. A hopeless romantic, I was immediately intrigued and in love with both characters, the politics and drama they cannot escape and literally could not put this book down. It was only afterwards (and I’m glad I waited because spoilers abound!) I found an array of articles written by and about the author and this novel. Highly recommend this 5 star read!⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Pull of the Stars

It is 1918 in Dublin, WWI is just ending and the Spanish Flu pandemic has in a sense taken over the world. Nurse Julia Power works in an understaffed hospital Maternity ward for flu patients. Since she has overcome a mild case, she is a perfect candidate to help as she will most likely not contract the virus again. In this dark, small, musty space Julia helps a variety of women get through some of the toughest days of their lives. She assists a rebellious (almost unheard of) female physician and an unexpected volunteer shows up called Bridie that surprises everyone she meets. It is an interesting novel with an imaginative cast of characters but to enjoy you must have some interest in obstetrics which is painstakingly described in detail throughout the book. Because it is Emma Donoghue and so well written, I had no trouble immersing myself in this gloomy scenario but there is not a lot of action here. The entire story is a hospital setting during a tough time in history. ⭐⭐⭐

Friday, August 7, 2020

Float Plan

Anna waits tables at a pirate themed bar in Fort Lauderdale. The last year spent in a haze as she grieves the loss of her fiancĂ© and the life she hoped to build with him. The sailboat they refurbished sits idly at the dock filled with memories of Ben and all of their dreams. As the day set for their maiden voyage approaches Anna decides to take her chances at it solo. She sets off on the journey alone towards the Bahamas. After a difficult night at sea Anna realizes she cannot complete the planned trip without some assistance. She looks for an experienced sailor to get her to Puerto Rico and through the Caribbean. That is when she meets Keane, a gorgeous Irishman who fits the bill and more. Following Ben’s itinerary, Keane and Anna sail well together and they both learn more about sailing and life than either of them ever expected. If you love the romance of the sea filled with sunsets, dolphins and hidden island treasures you will adore this wonderful tale that reads like a cool breeze on a hot day. Highly recommend - although not out until 2021 - so keep your eyes open for it’s release! Worth the wait! ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Without Her

Claudia and Hannah were inseparable at their all girl’s boarding school. Growing up in England and feeling abandoned by their parents these young girls bonded like sisters. Always dreaming of running away together the pair eventually attend Cambridge and their lives take completely different paths after graduation. Claudia follows her passion for filmmaking all the way to America and Hannah marries Phil and settles down into a somewhat predictable English life. It is many years later that Claudia receives an urgent message from Phil reporting that Hannah is missing. As Hannah’s oldest and dearest friend, he doesn’t know who else to turn to. Together they search out the many possibilities of Hannah’s sudden disappearance. This absolutely beautiful story is a witness to a most fragile and precious friendship. All the choices one makes throughout their lives affect not only themselves but those closest to them as well. The meaning of love, jealousy, loyalty and even friendship changes as we age and is redefined over our entire lives. This is a quiet, intense and very well written novel. New author for me, I would definitely read more of her work. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Verity

Lowen is a young ambitious writer struggling with her next deadline and publisher’s demands. She is offered an unlikely opportunity to co-write and finish a series for renowned author Verity Crawford who has mysteriously been incapacitated. Jeremy, the handsome husband has handpicked Lowen to spend some time at his home, in Verity’s office to read her notes and write in a style her fans are familiar with. Lowen discovers a manuscript that reveals Verity’s innermost thoughts and feelings and it scares her to death. Not one but two of their daughters have succumbed to tragic accidents. In this stately mansion lives the handsome Jeremy, his sweet little boy and Verity staring off in a comatose state. As Lowen grows attached to this complicated family, her affection for Jeremy grows and she cannot shake the feeling that she is being watched. Could not put down this absolute page turner. I don’t know how author Colleen Hoover was not on my radar but this thriller cannot be missed ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Come Again

Kate and Luke have been together since college and married for 28 years when Luke is diagnosed with a tumor and quickly passes away. Kate, a brilliant IT specialist has also recently uncovered a dangerous scandal at work which makes her despise her longtime boss even more than she already had. With no children, a frivolous mother and a handful of distant friends, Kate has pretty much decided it’s over. One day she mysteriously wakes up from an alcohol induced episode and it’s 1992. Kate has a chance to meet Luke all over again, change the future and maybe even save his life. This read had a really promising storyline that disappeared in an avalanche of words. I love stories based in London, I love romances and I love time travel. This would have had a great chance if it was edited properly. Sorry folks, this is barely ⭐

Friday, July 31, 2020

How To Date A Younger Man

Layne is a beautiful young woman living in Los Angeles. She has worked diligently her entire life to become a success. Now, in her mid 30’s, Layne works long hours establishing a name for her small law firm, defending clients and putting out small fires late into the night. But Layne knows there is something missing. Although surrounded by people all day, she finds herself feeling lonely. Dating has become an anxiety producing online battlefield and her therapist assures her that she has forgotten how to just have a good time. When Layne unexpectedly meets her friends younger brother who is a grad student, there are fireworks she has never experienced before. Griffin is painfully handsome, smart, sexy and - ten years younger - she could never .… Could she? This take-me-away read is an absolutely delicious break from reality. Have fun with this hot one!

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Thin Girls

Rose and Lily Winters are identical twins. Their parents are in a dysfunctional marriage. The mother, often cold, distant and obsessed with her weight didn’t stick around for long. Their father battled his own demons and pacified himself with alcohol. Rose and Lily only had each other. They were inseparable and their love ran deep and strong. As they approached high school their sameness became an obstacle and the twins subconsciously fought against the tides with food. Rose completely eliminating it and Lily gorging herself with it. Flash forward and at 24, just as Rose approaches her one year anniversary at the rehabilitation facility she swindles her escape to help Lily. It is finally her turn to do the saving. This debut novel by Diana Clark is well written, disturbing, scary and hard to put down. It is not an easy read. Anorexia and an array of eating disorders are horrible diseases and sadly prevalent in society today. From a very young age the media, our peers and often our own families distort the way we see ourselves. While the book focuses largely on Rose’s disorder it equally emphasizes the extraordinary bond between sisters and friends. With a distinctive voice this remarkable story unfolds and I am really glad I read it. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Sex and Vanity

Lucie Churchill is a young, beautiful woman of 19 when her very good friend invites her to the wedding of the year on the island of Capri. Lucie is swept away with the charm and romance of this magical setting. Her “half-Asian” beauty attracts quite a bit of attention, especially from an extremely wealthy and handsome guest named George. As their moment in the sun is quickly snatched away the story flashes forward 5 years to find Lucie engaged to the absolute bachelor of the year. As the couple and all of their perfectly wealthy, beautiful friends galavant down Fifth Avenue and through East Hampton, Lucie once again meets up with George and must admit that her feelings are real. Crazy Rich Asians in Capri and New York, with a diversity twist and plenty of humor. If you are a Kevin Kwan fan, Sex and Vanity is a quick, cute summer read. Perfect for a day at the beach!

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Older

As Liza Miller is about to turn 50 she returns from her cabin in the woods and publishes a novel, loosely disguised story of her life posing as a younger woman in the workplace. Sound familiar? The little troupe had split in many directions; Sexy Josh concentrating on his successful business in Brooklyn, Maggie now a mom and Kelsey is quickly building her career in Los Angeles as a producer. It is time for Liza to once again reinvent herself and more than anything she wants the truth to set her free. When Kelsey ops her book for a TV show, Liza heads west and gets caught up in an LA movie star crush. With all the fun flirting and crazy antics of Younger, this group never fails to entertain. Fans will go wild for this sequel to a show we wait for with bated breath. Pure rom-com enjoyment, an absolute must read for the beach this summer. Thank you Pamela Redmond, just the right amount of “Take me away!" during these crazy times!

I Was Told It Would Get Easier

Jessica Burnstein is a single mom and successful attorney living in Los Angeles. She is raising her daughter Emily with the help of an efficient nanny and a meticulous schedule. When mom and daughter duo set out on an upscale college tour, Jessica analyzes her highly stressful job and rocky relationship with her demanding teenage daughter. Overcompensating with lots of LOL’s this quick read was little too true/annoying. Perhaps it’s a timing issue and I am way past the college app extravaganza but this read felt repetitive while the storyline faded fast.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

28 Summers

Mallory is a young woman struggling with life in the Big Apple. She loves to read and dreams of writing but the fast paced, competitive nature of the city just doesn’t fill her heart. Unexpectedly, Mallory inherits a cottage on Nantucket. Her adored aunt, that most of the family misunderstood, has bequeathed her an idyllic ocean paradise. Mallory quickly adapts to island living. She makes friends, teaches high school English and lives in her own little dream world. When her brother visits with some friends, Mallory has an instant connection (love at first sight) with his old roommate Jake McCloud. He is on the fast track in D.C. as a lobbyist with his on again/off again girlfriend Ursula. Because they are young idealists (and hot for each other!) Mallory and Jake begin a “Same Time Next Year” (like the classic movie circa 1978.) As Jake’s wife climbs the political ladder it becomes more difficult to continue their promise to meet every Labor Day. This complicated romance is a delicious summer read. All the elements of sand and sun and just enough tears to contemplate the one that got away. Perfect for a day at the beach, or yard, or park or wherever you can escape! Thanks Erin Hilderbrand, I needed that!

Saturday, July 11, 2020

The Last Flight

Claire is married to a powerful man, a politician through and through. Although it began as a whirlwind romance a decade ago, their marriage is now a sham. Rory’s words slowly turned cruel and over the years became physical. The abuse Claire succumbed to overwhelmed every aspect of her life. Once upon a time this beautiful, independent woman had a career and friends. Rory has taken that all away. She  represents the family foundation and nothing Claire does meets her husband’s expectations. Claire finds herself at JFK airport being sent on yet another Cook Foundation task. Last minute changes alter her route and Claire’s meticulously crafted plan to disappear through Canada is upended. When an unexpected opportunity falls at her feet, she cannot resist. Switch places and tickets with a complete stranger, a woman named Eva. As this suspenseful thriller twists and turns in the most unexpected ways, freedom lies just up ahead. The question is … for whom. Could not put down this irresistible read. Narrated by both woman The Last Flight will take you far far away from the daily grind. Highly recommend this FABULOUS FIVE STAR summer read!! 

Monday, July 6, 2020

The Rural Diaries

Hilarie Burton Morgan recounts her life on Mischief Farm as a mother, wife and newcomer to a small quaint town in upstate New York. Realizing her acting dreams as a young woman, the “biz” wasn’t exactly what Hilarie hoped it would be. Not sure if it was just a case of the grass is always greener, Hilarie reached back to her feelings of childhood; a rural community and true friendships which were increasingly hard to find as her career shuttled her between LA and NYC. After a love at first sight intro to her actor (husband) Jeffrey, they quickly had a beautiful baby boy and purchased a farm filled with green hills and wide pastures. Their everyday struggles are written plainly and honestly. While Jeffrey chops wood between jobs, Hilarie holds the farm together, growing vegetables, caring for the animals and even saving the iconic town candy shop from ruin. Hilarie perfectly describes this charming search to find the place her family can truly call home. I picked this memoir up rather randomly and it was an absolute delight - well written, funny and heartwarming. The perfect summer read during these uneasy times. Thanks for sharing your story Hilarie! 

Friday, June 19, 2020

The Golden Cage

Faye had a shaky past growing up in a remote part of Sweden. Alone in the world, she changes her name and heads off to the big city to attend college, determined to make a better life for herself. Faye meets golden boy Jack. He is a handsome superstar who seems to know anybody and everybody. Jack takes her under his wing and Faye leaves school in her last year to support his endeavors. Unfortunately, as Jack’s success soars Faye is left at home with their daughter. Her opinions no longer valued, it seems the more money and status Jack acquires, the less he needs Faye at his side. When an affair is discovered Faye is set for revenge. Jack has no idea of her violent past or just how far she will go to seek revenge. This fast paced psychological thriller is unputdownable. Translated from Swedish is carries a different tone that I loved. Once you find your rhythm The Golden Cage is completely unputdownable. Highly recommend for your suspenseful summer pick!

What You Wish For

Sam Casey is the librarian at a quaint, eclectic elementary school on the island of Galveston. She has pink bangs, wears colorful clothing and delights in the children and everything that is books. When the head principal passes away the whole community is deeply saddened and Sam is shocked to discover that her old crush Duncan Carpenter has been hired to fill his shoes. Unfortunately Duncan has completely changed, and the fun loving kid hero aims to turn their school upside down.This cute, completely light hearted story had the Katherine Center flair of humor but for me lacked any substance. Unlike her other novels, which I adored, the characters and plot in this one did not grab me at all :(

Thursday, June 11, 2020

The Lies that Bind

Cecily is a beautiful young woman trying to make it in the big city. Originally from the mid-west, she finds herself stuck in a ho-hum job at a second rate newspaper. When her handsome boyfriend of three years refuses to talk about the future, she ends their relationship and finds herself in a seedy bar, alone at 2 in the morning. Just as she is about to cave and dial his number, a man approaches and tells her not to do it. Throwing all common sense to the wind and following her heart - Cecily begins an intense friendship with Grant that is filled with a passion she never before experienced. Grant has his own issues to deal with but their connection is unmistakable, he is her soulmate. And then 9/11. As quickly as this mysterious man entered her life, he vanishes. Desperately struggling to figure out what happened Cecily learns the meaning of love and just how important the truth really is. Another perfect summer read by author Emily Giffin (albeit with a twist!)  It’s a must for the beach!

Saturday, June 6, 2020

The Henna Artist

Lakshmi is alone in the city of Jaipur. It is the 1950’s and this simple young woman who escaped her arranged marriage at 15 years old will do anything she has to do for a better life and a brighter future. Fighting against traditional roles, she finds herself alone in the world with a very unique talent. She is both an artist and a healer. If only one good thing came out of her violent marriage, it was her mother in law, who taught her the many secrets of natural medicine. This captivating story will take you away to the noisy crowded streets of India. The caste system tries to keep Lakshmi in her place but her gifts have even the palace requesting her services. With careful planning she is building her own home and becoming quite a commodity. Appreciating every moment of her hard won independence, Lakshmi is thrown for a loop when her former husband reappears and some of the jealous ladies are more concerned with their reputations than the truth. Beautifully written, I highly recommend this colorful novel filled with the tastes, sounds and traditions of another place in another time.

Head Over Heels

Like most little girls Avery Abrams had one dream. To be an Olympic gymnast. Unlike most young girls, she was beyond good. Avery was the best and her promising career was real. She trained her entire childhood; no junk food, few friends, no sleepovers and eventually homeschooled. Avery and her loving parents sacrificed what most people take for granted. When she tragically injured herself at the Olympic trials, her one chance to lead the girls team was gone forever. Age wise, she was done. Avery dabbled in college gymnastics but her heart just wasn’t in it. Her disappointment so great that her life spiraled out of control for 7 years. Back home in the small town she grew up in, this former superstar has to learn to face her past and figure out some sort of future. When Coach Ryan (a former gymnast she crushed on throughout her teenage years) hires her to assist a promising young gymnast for the upcoming Olympics, Avery is finally ready to begin the healing process. Funny, well written and timely. This adorable romcom is filled with gymnastic dreams and the crushing reality of the sport. You will definitely be rooting for this all around winner.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Rodham

Hillary Rodham grew up in a small suburb in Illinois. Close with her lovely mother, tolerating her overbearing father and cheered on by her two brothers, she was a straight A student, a leader and an overachiever - always. After a successful college career and delivering her famous commencement speech at Wellesley Hillary went on to attend law school at Yale. It is at Yale that Hillary has her first true romance, with none other than Bill Clinton. From the start Bill is a smart, fast talking southern charmer and she cannot grasp how this handsome, popular boy is so smitten with her. Through hard work, determination and drive the world is her oyster and those close to her are shocked when she follows Bill and his proposal to Arkansas to teach at the university while he runs for office. This is where the sliding doors open - Hillary says no. She says no to his philandering, no to his undeniable allure and yes to a future where she can follow her own heart while it is still in one piece. The rest is - well, you’d have to read the book to find out! This work of fiction is beyond a doubt extremely creative and interesting but the truth is, I did not enjoy it. When Hillary Rodham Clinton lost the election in 2016 many of us were devastated for a multitude of reasons. I loved the idea of an alternative story to the one we all (think) we know. Unfortunately the daily mundane campaigning details, of which this book is filled, are kind of boring. This alternative scenario made the truth of politics all the more sad.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982

In the center of Seoul, South Korea, lives a small family. Kim Jiyoung is a recent stay at home mom, having left her office job to care for their young infant. At first the couple blames her swinging moods on postpartum baby blues. But when Kim Jiyoung begins acting strangely, mimicking voices of other women and sleeping for extensive lengths of time, her husband arranges for her to see a psychiatrist. After carefully detailing their present life this author takes us back through Jiyoung’s rather ordinary upbringing. From early childhood relationships at school, her desperate search for a career and the eventual meeting of her husband. This book was quite different than described in the summary. It was a  great success in Korea a few years ago and has recently been translated and rereleased. The obvious inequality of men and women in the South Korean workplace is displayed in detail, as is the basic struggle in this culture for the older generation to behave in one way and the more westernized, young adults to rebel. This novel had some very interesting views but failed to bring the story to life in the way I am accustomed. Because it was well written, interesting and very short - I was able to get through it but there was definitely something missing for me.

A Good Marriage

Lizzie Kitsakis works long, hard hours at a prestigious law firm in NYC. Her marriage to Sam is on on the rocks and although she loves him with all her heart, she doesn’t know how to fix this mess. Her new job at Young & Crane will at least help reduce their debt and fill a spot on her resume. Late one evening she gets an urgent collect call from Rikers Island Jail and shockingly finds herself speaking to one time friend and fellow Penn law student Zach Grayson. His wife has been murdered and he is being railroaded as a prime suspect. Pleading innocence, Zach swiftly guilts her into taking his case. Lizzie, both bright and tenacious, is quickly pulled into the underworld of Park Slope - investigating Zach’s marriage to the beautiful Amanda, his life of luxury and a group of private school moms that appear to have many secrets lurking beneath their fashionable surface. While battling her own marriage demons and hidden past, Lizzie learns that facing the absolute truth is the only path to freedom. Another fabulous thriller from author Kimberly McCreight. The many twists and turns make this read completely unputdownable. Exactly what I needed! 

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

That's Not A Thing

Meredith and Aaron are a young, successful couple making their mark in New York City. Recently engaged, Meredith is working for a prestigious law firm while Aaron finishes up a coveted residency saving the lives of babies. One night they are invited to an engagement celebration dinner at one of the hottest new culinary spots in the city. By random chance, the chef comes out to greet them and he is none other than Wesley, Meredith’s ex. The forbidden Wesley, love of her life whom she never got over and refuses to speak of. Throwing all good things for a crazy loop, Meredith is completely distraught that Wes is back in the states. When she learns that his shaky hands are signs of his recent ALS diagnosis, she can barely breathe. The what if’s of her past hauntingly return and although Aaron is a spectacular guy - how much understanding can one man possibly have? Meredith must decide exactly who she is going to be when she grows up. This fast paced heartbreaking love story has wonderful characters and a lot to think about. Highly recommend and don’t forget to have the tissues handy.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Kind of Famous

Layla Beckett’s lifelong dream has come true! After the last ten years as a number one fan and incognito fansite administrator, Layla has landed her dream job at a prestigious NYC magazine called The Rock Paper. A small town girl, she is both nervous and excited for her new life in the Big Apple. On Layla’s very first day she serendipitously meets and befriends a famed photographer/girlfriend of a rockstar, leading Layla to a life she never dared to imagine. Introduced to guitarist handsome Shane Morgan at a backyard bbq, she learns quickly the ins and outs, along with the many ups and downs of the music industry which is filled with these beautiful talented young artists. If you love music and fun romcoms, this is the latest sexy story from author Mary Ann Marlowe. Perfect snack for a much needed day at the beach.

Sea Wife

Juliet is depressed and boy does she hate that word. A lover of poetry, Juliet is a mother of two, deserter of her PhD and wife of Michael. She became progressively blue after the births of both of her children, now 7 and 2. Experiencing his own mid-life crisis, Michael’s long buried dreams of freedom on a sailboat are coming to fruition. All he has to do is convince Juliet, who has never sailed a day in her life. With their marriage on the rocks, both husband and wife admit a fork in the road is imminent. Cajoling her with visions of blue skies and sunsets, the novice sailors set off on their adventure in Panama aboard the newly christened “Juliet.” Each chapter filled with divorce docking, sleeplessness, bickering and the well known saying that voyaging is merely fixing your boat in exotic locations, suddenly those sunsets feel few and far between. Told in fascinating detail, Juliet explores what led her to this point with humor and honesty while Michael’s version is expressed through his daily log book turned diary. Mildly seasick from the swells of their marriage, relationship to their mothers and messy past - I devoured each and every page of Sea Wife, not wanting to miss a beat. Cannot believe with such detail that author Amity Gaige is not a sailor herself! I also am positive my husbands sailing dreams are now permanently crushed because I am quite sure that I would never, ever be brave/crazy enough to undertake this challenge!

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Your Blue Is Not My Blue

Aspen meets Justin while on her famous trek from Mexico to Canada, detailed in her first memoir Girl in the Woods. Falling in love at 19, she is excited to share her life with this handsome, mysterious man 10 years her senior, who literally saved her life in the woods. Quickly accepted by his family, the newlyweds explore the hills he grew up in and beatnik scene of Northern California. A bit naive, Aspen doesn’t think to ask questions regarding their finances or future plans. She is enjoying her newfound adult freedom, letting the days easily arrange themselves with Justin leading the way. The couple soon finds themselves in NYC so Aspen can return to college and focus on her writing career. Slowly their wandering thru-hiker existence is filled with school and writing responsibilities along with exorbitant rent to pay. As Aspen’s world expands, Justin’s free spirit begins to fade. A few years later, on a dark November morning Justin leaves to attend a friends funeral - and disappears. Aspen is left alone to pick up the shattered pieces of her young life. This honest, expressive memoir is heartbreaking and beautiful. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Aspen’s descriptive scenery and adventurous spirit as she deciphers the true definition of love.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Beach Read

January Andrews is a romance writer with a dreadful case of writer’s block. Penniless, mourning the loss of her father and her Mr. Perfect boyfriend, January is struggling to piece the puzzle of her life back together. With pressure from her agent to finish (ha! How about start!) the book she has committed to, she decides to spend the summer months at her father’s lake house before it sells. Much to her dismay it is filled with someone else’s memories and an annoying neighbor who turns the music up much too loud her very first night. The neighbor turns out to be Gus, her handsome secret college crush and fellow writer who has a tad more success in the ratings and evil sexy eyes that melt way more than her heart. The two writers in residence decide a small competition is in order. He will write the romance she is stuck on and she, the Great American Novel. And so begins this HILARIOUS and ADORABLE and DELICIOUS romcom by Emily Henry which I completely devoured on one perfect beach day. This fun, witty, well written story will grab your heart and make you believe in happy endings all over again.

Darling Rose Gold

Patty Watts is getting out of prison. After five long years this master manipulator is exhausted and cannot wait to reunite with her daughter Rose Gold and move on with her life. But Rose Gold is a grown woman now, 23. She has a job, lives on her own and recently, a newborn baby. Rose Gold is no longer the helpless child, wheelchair bound and surviving her mother’s carefully orchestrated emergencies. After years of endless fundraising and supporting the struggling duo this entire town paved the way to send Patty to jail and free her daughter from her dangerous clutches. Since Patty is an expert liar and sincerely believes her own fabricated stories, her love for Rose Gold runs deep and she will accept nothing less than winning her back. This outrageous take on a very real syndrome of Munchausen by proxy is a severe mental illness and form of child abuse. Author Stephanie Wrobel weasels her way into the very heart and mind of both mother and daughter with ease. Reminding me of The Act on Hulu, which I only watched a few episodes because it is so completely unpalatable, this fast paced, suspenseful book is full of unexpected twists and truly unputdownable.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Last Couple Standing

Four Baltimore couples who have been best friends since college find their lives turned upside down as they hit their forties. Now in the burbs, with kids, mortgages and typical mid life sagging, one by one they divorce. The last couple intact are Jessica and Mitch. Jessica is an attractive, insightful therapist and Mitch teaches high school English. With two adorable kids and a comedic rapport they decide to ward off the contagious D word and spice up their marriage with a twist. They decide a relaxed marriage would do the trick and are each allowed a sexual encounter outside the marriage, think free pass. Quickly their little experiment turns to disaster when simple things like jealousy, truth and family get in the way. Love the title and the cover but this romcom could have been so much more than a silly wrap that began about 1/2 way through. Any lessons, even funny ones were lost in the random shuffle. Not my best as far as romcoms go.

Big Summer

Daphne Berg is a young woman trying to make it in NYC. She juggles a nanny gig while building her Instagram name and plus-size community. Snapping glam pics of her fashionable outfits while having real life experiences, Daphne is quickly impressing sponsors while displaying their products. Unexpectedly Daphne’s onetime high school best friend and current nemesis Drue Cavanaugh reappears. It’s been six years since that awful night in a popular Manhattan bar destroyed what was already a decidedly unbalanced relationship. The wealthy, beautiful, perfect Drue is getting married and would like Daphne, her oldest and truest friend, to be a bridesmaid. As unlikely as this all sounds Daphne decides the possibility of rekindling their friendship and meeting a cute guy at the wedding is too good to pass. The extravaganza is to take place on Cape Cod and what is meant to be the wedding of the year becomes the disaster of the century. Always a fan of Jennifer Weiner, her romcoms never fail to entertain. Cute to the point of silly, the amusing characters and mocking of our collective online vanity kept me laughing out loud. Great for the beach this summer, that is of course if they decide to let us in.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Summer Darlings

It is the summer of 1962 and Heddy Winsome, a Wellesley girl is working as a nanny on the exclusive island of Martha’s Vineyard. Raised in Brooklyn by an Irish immigrant single mother, Heddy has worked night and day to attain a scholarship and get herself to college. Desperate for stability and a brighter future, Heddy leaps at the chance to spend the summer amongst socialites while searching for the final piece to the puzzle, a husband. Sweet and pretty with a shy demeanor, Heddy has no trouble turning heads and winning the favor of her employers. As her heart is torn between two very different men, Heddy witnesses the extraordinarily flawed world of the rich and privileged. Excellent character description in an idyllic setting, it is unfortunate that the build up for 75% of this novel leads to a rushed and implausible finale.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

The Heir Affair

Bex Porter and Prince Nicholas, heir to the throne, finally make it to the altar. As the adorable couple ultimately survived their rocky road to matrimony, they are devastated after the ceremony when a friend turned paparazzi publicizes a scandal they can not escape. After they spend their first newlywed months hiding out in the countryside, the happy couple returns to face the music and try to regain the Queen’s favor. The ups and downs of their rollercoaster life gently mimics royals we see on the news and the emotions many young couples experience. I waited five years for this sequel after devouring The Royal We, unfortunately it dragged for me and the characters felt completely contrived. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

My Dark Vanessa

17 years ago Vanessa Wye, a shy young girl received a scholarship to attend a fancy boarding school in New England. Extremely self conscious, as most young girls can be, Vanessa has trouble making friends and rarely speaks up in class. When her English teacher Jacob Strane praises her poetry and physical beauty Vanessa quietly revels in his attention. Twenty seven years her senior, Professor Strane should know better than to cross lines that are clearly marked but Vanessa believes this is true love. At 32 Vanessa still struggles with love, relationships, intimacy and the memories of Jacob. As she begins therapy to face her father’s death, the past collides with her present and Vanessa must first find the truth in order to face it. This book is dark, at times hard to read. My Dark Vanessa is a very well written, thought provoking novel of a troubled girl learning about friendship, first love, rejection and the life long affects that each decision can bring. Highly recommend this intimate, psychological novel that is literally unputdownable.

Monday, March 30, 2020

The Red Lotus

It is late on Saturday night when Austin turns up in the busy ER where Alexis is working the night shift. This pretty, intelligent doctor expertly cares for his arm and feels lucky to learn that this handsome charming guy works in the hospital administration office. Six months later they are exclusively dating and enjoying an exciting cycling adventure vacation in Viet Nam. Austin, an avid biker, heads out on his own one morning to pay respects at the exact location his uncle died and father was injured during the war. When Austin is late returning, Alexis becomes worried. When Austin disappears, she panics. The truth becomes harder and harder to grasp when every clue leads to a dead end. It would be so much easier to walk away from this mess but as more details are revealed Alexis begins to see patterns and is determined to find out the truth. This suspenseful thriller takes the reader through the hills of Viet Nam and busy streets of New York, following FBI agents, a worthy private detective and clever cast of suspects. Could not put down and highly recommend this well written, fast paced mystery that hit a little too close to home during these trying times. 

Monday, March 23, 2020

North

Challenge: To break the speed record (FKT - Fastest Known Time) running the 2,189 mile Appalachian Trail. He would have to run nearly 50 miles a day, every single day for, 46 days. After many accolades and more than twenty years competing, speaking and writing, Scott felt he was at a point in his life that needed another challenge. Scott Jurek, world renowned distance runner sets out in the spring of 2015 with his best friend/wife Jenny, to accomplish this great feat. While Jenny would provide supplies, meals and directions she also assisted Scott through injury, sleeplessness, bad weather and unwelcome strangers. Narrated by both Jenny and Scott this memoir reveals the depths of their marriage and the magnificent terrain they pass through. Friends of the most interesting nature meet up with them along the way offering motivation and advice. The physical demands strip Scott of every ounce of energy he tries to maintain but he once again proves to athletes everywhere how the mind controls so much of our bodies. A beautiful journey through nature, this tale of friendship and perseverance will equally inspire runners and non-runners alike.

And They Called it Camelot

In 1952 Jacqueline Bouvier was a highly educated, multilingual, beautiful young woman working at the Washington Times Herald, when John F. Kennedy asks her out for a drink. The very charming and extraordinarily handsome Congressman from Massachusetts quickly swept her off her feet and a year later they were married. On to the Senate and then campaigning for Presidency, Jackie became an integral part of John’s team. Embracing her role with diplomatic ease, this well dressed woman with a refined manner and brilliant smile won the hearts of every American. Jackie’s road is rocky from the start. Her all encompassing love and devotion to both John and his family is often overwhelming and arduous, but Jackie appears to manage even the very dark side with exceptional grace. This touching portrayal of her life, from her fictional perspective is riveting and tearful. Her public persona, deep desire to contribute to society and unwavering love for her children, John Jr. and Caroline, make this novel an unforgettable journey. Exceptional author Stephanie Marie Thornton brings the Kennedy’s to life - every word and nuance captures the magic of this golden family, the closest we have to American royalty. Highly recommend this fabulous new read! FIVE STARS!!!

Bimini Rocks

Sirena, a mermaid actress and avid scuba diver from Florida, arrives at Isabelle’s Hideaway ready to explore the beautiful waters of Bimini, a magical chain of islands in the westernmost district of the Bahamas. Isabelle, her dear friend and hotel proprietor has arranged for Sirena to dive with her handsome brother Blue. He immediately takes Sirena to visit a secret cave he found near the reef and rock formations on the unexplained Road to Atlantis. For hundreds of years the story of the sunken city has filled the dreams of every historian and fantasizer in the area, these divers included. Unexplained severe shaking underwater leads the duo to investigate explosions that resulted from an array of illegal business activities threatening the nature of this lovely island. Submerge yourself in history, marine life, suspense and even a little romance with this fast paced underwater adventure. Thoroughly enjoyed this debut author (scuba diver!) and easy read. Perfect getaway - especially if you are stuck at home! 

Saturday, March 14, 2020

The Grace Kelly Dress

In 1958 Rose is an orphaned seamstress working at madame’s fancy atelier. Only the most prestigious and wealthy customers can afford to have their wedding dresses designed at this historical establishment. Rose has a special talent and behind the scenes she is completing one of the most important gowns they have ever worked on. She is more than capable of the task but the question remains if she can hide the fact that she is head over heels in love with the bride’s handsome brother, who is engaged to another woman. 60 years later, Rocky, a recent twenty something tech success is getting her mother’s dress refitted for her own wedding. As Rocky’s mother Joan lovingly arranges every last detail of the upcoming nuptials, she cannot help but relive her own emotional past. Rocky cannot find it in her heart to share the truth: she wants a wedding that represents who she has become and doesn’t want to wear the dress. Flashing back to the origin and details that created this family heirloom - Rose, Joan and Rocky find that what they have in common is much more precious than what makes than different. A love story of weddings and truth, highly recommend this delightful, easy read. Perfect for a day at the beach!

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Fast Girls

Sports pioneers of the twentieth century; Betty Robinson, Helen Stephens and Louise Stokes were among the few female athletes headed to the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Nazi Germany. After years of fighting to be part of their local track and field teams, these fast and feisty runners overcame adversity at every turn. Repeatedly told their sex was too fragile to compete, reprimanded for this unladylike behavior, in addition to racial discrimination;  Betty, Helen and Louise, along with many others spent years proving their abilities and strength on and off the course. With a tiny taste of success in 1928 and 1932, the women were training hard to make the U.S. proud and refute Adolf Hitler’s attempt to prove his theories of Aryan racial superiority. As the politically charged Berlin Games became a powerful propaganda tool for Nazi Germany the athletes who had considered boycotting the events, continued to strive for greatness. Narrated by their personal histories and newspaper clippings, Fast Girls shares these often untold historical stories of champions who paved the future for female athletes everywhere.

Saturday, February 29, 2020

You Are Not Alone

Shay Miller lost her job. Her adorable roommate Sean suddenly has a girlfriend. Feeling sorry for herself, imagining things can’t get any worse, Shay witnesses a beautiful woman jump in front an oncoming train. Still shaken, she gives her statement to the police but can’t let go of this horrific event and decides to attend the woman’s memorial service. It is there she meets the Moore sisters. They are exquisite, fashionable and successful. A small group of their friends closely gather and Shay can barely imagine what life would be like if she had that kind of support. Surprisingly Shay continues to bump into the sisters, which statistically in NYC is unlikely. And just like that her life begins to turn around. A job, a new apartment, new friends. As things spins out of control Shay realizes there may be nothing she can do to stop it. Murder, intrigue and suspense fill the pages of this fast-paced story of deceit. Just how far would you go for your friends? Highly recommend this latest release from the amazing writing duo Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

The Last Train to Key West

Mirta Perez, Elizabeth Preston and Helen Berner. Three women that have little in common are brought together by The Great Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, the most intense Atlantic hurricane to ever make landfall. In Key West, Helen waits tables at the local diner. A born and bred local, she is 9 months pregnant and abused daily by her no-good fisherman husband, Tom. It’s a holiday weekend, the town is packed and The National Weather Service is unsure if this tempest will descend its wrath on the Florida Keys. Elizabeth who is escaping from her wealthy past and grim future marriage has traveled to Florida to find her long lost brother, whose help she desperately needs. Mirta, a socialite from Havana, sits in silence next to her handsome and powerful husband whom she barely knows. Fate has brought these three women together, to survive the storm of their lives and find their rightful place in the world. Over the course of this weekend these women must uncover the strength to protect themselves and act in good conscience. Gifted author Chanel Cleeton brings us back to the eye of the storm with a story of resilience, love and hope. A fast paced page turner you do not want to miss, will release June 2020.

Writers & Lovers

Casey Peabody is a writer. She is an artist through and through. Casey is a compilation of everything she has ever written and ravenously read throughout her young life. At 31 she never expected to feel so lonely, but since her mother tragically passed away this creative soul can no longer feel the words. The last 6 years Casey has spent traveling the world, waiting tables in bougie restaurants and working on her novel. She is exhausted by all the details that once inspired her, including all the men she cannot seem to hang on to. While working at a bistro in Boston near Harvard Square Casey crosses paths with a cast of quirky characters that may be just what she is looking for. She must dig deep inside herself to find the answers. Highly recommend this unique, imaginative journey of self discovery that is perfect for any book lover as the eloquent words of author Lily King take you away.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

This Terrible Beauty

Bettina Heilstrom is a young woman during World War II and has spent her entire life on the shores of Rugen, Germany. She had always been content with this quiet island living, working in her father’s fish shop. After both her parents are gone, the brutalities of war are on her doorstep. Resolved to remain alone, she unexpectedly marries Werner, not exactly love, but for companionship and maybe a chance to have a family of her own. Werner is a politico who works for a government agency. He derives great power controlling peoples lives with the information he gathers, including Bettina’s. When the Russians ultimately win control of the Eastern Bloc, a socialist republic is instituted and freedom is scarce. Bettina secretly falls in love with a writer/teacher named Peter and they begin a dangerous love affair. Flashing back from Bettina’s life in Chicago circa 1960 to her previous years in Germany, this now famous photographer must decide if she can start anew or if the past will haunt her forever. Excellent writing and a interesting history of postwar Germany that is rarely depicted.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Postscript

Holly Kennedy has spent the last seven years trying to build a new life for herself. After her husband’s tragic illness ended, Holly felt like she too disappeared. With much help from friends and family and most importantly a year of P.S. I Love You letters, Holly has finally found her way back to the living. She works in her sister’s shop, has a sexy tree trimming boyfriend and can see the future more brightly than ever. One day, as a favor to her sister’s podcast, Holly reflects in public for the very first time about her unexpected year of letters and adventures she received from Gerry after he died. Holly explains the pre-arranged monthly surprises that got her out of her house, anticipating all her needs and tremendous sadness. After the broadcast, a small group of terminally ill people form a club to create something similar for their loved ones and they want Holly’s help. Instantly threatening all the strides she has made personally, she still cannot resist the magnetic pull of Gerry’s love. Having waited more than a decade for a sequel to bestseller P.S. I Love You, (book & movie!) get ready to laugh and cry in Dublin with one of my all time favorite Irish authors, Cecilia Ahern.

Freedom Lessons

Colleen is a young woman on the cusp of realizing her dreams. She has just become an elementary school teacher and even though it is 1969 and America is deep in the Vietnam War, Colleen continues to envision a world where everyone is equal. When her husband is transferred to become a drill sergeant in Louisiana, Colleen quickly learns the deep South is nothing like New Jersey. She must disturbingly fight for the very basic freedoms and assistance all students deserve. Narrated alternately by Colleen; Frank - an outstanding local black high school student and Evelyn - an accomplished teacher and advocate who has become Colleen’s mentor. These different perspectives reflect the many ways that segregation, separate but equal and choice schools affected the painstakingly slow changes mandated in the United States with Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. A fictionalized account of the author’s own young life experiences, this dynamic teacher went on to become an educational advocate for the next forty years. Bravo, Eileen Harrison Sanchez, thank you for sharing your story; a wonderful, well-written historic reminder to keep moving forward, always striving to do even better for our children.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

The Girl with the Louding Voice

Adunni is a fourteen year old girl living in a small village in Nigeria. There is nothing she loves more than going to school. She dreams of becoming a teacher someday and helping all the village children learn how to read and write. When her mama unexpectedly passes away Adunni’s life changes dramatically. Her father quickly arranges a marriage as third wife to the old man who drives taxis so he can use her bride price to pay community rent. School is no longer an option and Adunni sees her future slipping away. Surviving both verbal and physical abuse, Adunni finds herself escaping to the big city of Lagos where she becomes a housemaid. It is while scrubbing floors with a toothbrush that Adunni embraces her louding voice. Realizing a slave does not always have chains you can see, Adunni is desperate to be heard, right the wrongs young women suffer and speak for those who cannot. With a little help she can once again find her future. Written in a surprisingly easy to follow broken English, this debut novel is a unique, deeply moving story of resilience and hope.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Where I Can Breathe


Guest Review and Author Interview 
by Sara Matthis
editor of the Marathon Keys Weekly

FROM A to Z

Hays Blinckmann is super happy she’s making people cry.  “I know it sounds weird, but I love it. It means people are connecting to this story,” she said, laughing. “I cry when I read it!”

The former Keys Weekly staffer (2015 to 2019) and Key West resident just published her second novel, “Where I Can Breathe,” on Amazon. It’s available in paperback or for Kindle. The positive feedback from readers is feeding a happy “high” as she rides the wave of another success. In fact, she’s already at work on her third novel. Her first, “In the Salt,” was published in 2015.

The Keys Weekly had the opportunity to read the book, and then sit down with the author and former colleague. We had questions. So. Many. Questions.

Do your first and second novels have similar themes? They’re both “dramedies” (dramatic comedy) about family — children and parents. And they’re both about the struggles of a family trying to stay together in the midst of alcoholism. Both feature large personalities and adversity. The difference is that “Salt” was an angry look at the family’s circumstance. “Where I Can Breathe” is much more compassionate and understanding.

You’re getting this question a lot, so we’ll go ahead and get it out of the way. How much is autobiographical? The only true-life part is that my late mother was an alcoholic who entered hospice. And the character of Agnes is based on my mother. My mother did grow up in the last half of the century, she was part of that generation that was lost between being housewives and feminists. She did her best to chart the new world as a young mother, in a time when things were constantly changing. I think they started their lives out with big dreams but things got in the way  — marriage, children, horrible events. 

Was the second novel easier to write? Writing for the Keys Weekly for four years was like getting up every morning and going to the gym. Then, when it was time to run the marathon, I was ready. I don’t want to say it was easier, but it was better. One thing I want to say is that when writing for the paper, I learned to write for other people. It wasn’t self-serving. In writing the second novel, I made the same adaptation; I was focusing on the subject and the end reader. 

For such a serious subject, there’s a lot of humor in this book. I grew up with a very good sense of sarcasm; there were high levels of that in my home, as well as comedy. It’s the way we dealt with our issues and I rely on sarcasm and humor to get me through horrible situations. It was so much fun writing these characters, and this dialogue. 

Who is your favorite character in “Where I Can Breathe”? Ansel. He’s just very large, and passionate, and angry and wears his heart on his sleeve. (His sister Abby and big brother Arthur have to be more metered. She’s a mom, he’s a businessman.) But Ansel is all over the place until Hector, his love interest, pulls him together.  I love Hector, the Cuban American doctor from Miami. A lot of people love that character. Ansel is the youngest in the story, and has the hardest time finding love. 

How long did it take you to write “Where I Can Breathe”? Well, I thought about it for two months, and then it took 10 weeks to write. I knew the ending and the beginning, I just had to fill in the middle. So a lot of the events were unscripted until I actually sat down to write it. I just had to answer the biggest question: How did this beautiful woman who seemingly had everything – wealth and family – choose to end her life on the most tragic note possible? How do you get from A to Z?

Can you describe a good writing day? I’m a mom. I’m a wife. I chauffeur to soccer practice. I have lunchboxes to make. So I wait until the kids go to school and my husband goes to work. I tried to put in four or five hours a day. On a good day, I would get 6,000 words. The funny thing is that sometimes it wasn’t like that. There would be a bunch of screaming, 10-year-old boys in the house and my husband using the chop saw outside. But if you’re really writing, and really dedicated, you do it.

I thought the parts about Agnes’ and Asher’s early life in New York City were really evocative. What was the inspiration? I drew on my grandfather’s annual New Year’s Eve party for his business associates. It was about breeding and education. And Agnes and Asher came at it from a disadvantage – trying to assimilate into the upper city echelon although they came from rural suburbia. It was a way to describe Asher’s drive by contrasting it with these socialites, that maybe didn’t have the same drive because they grew up so privileged. And Asher needed a wife that would play along. Plus, back in the ’70s, everyone wanted to be a tycoon. It was the American dream.

What’s the most satisfying part of this book? I think that readers start out wanting to hate some of the characters in “Where I Can Breathe,” but by the end, they couldn’t. And I didn’t want the readers to hate the characters. We’re human, though, so we want to see things in black and white – you want the villain and the good guy. But, listen, parents do horrible things, children do horrible things and the truth is somewhere in the middle where it’s murky. I love that the readers are responding to that natural sense of confusion and love and raw emotion that the family has for each other. Oh, and also that reviewer who wrote “This is not chick lit.” I love that.

What’s the third novel about? Well, it’s more mystery, not as “weepy.”

Oona Out of Order


In 1982 Oona is living in Brooklyn, New York. She is madly in love with her rockin roll boyfriend Dale and they are throwing a New Year’s party with all their friends to celebrate Oona’s birthday at midnight. Their band has been offered a killer gig to open for the coolest band, Oona is beautiful and only 18! The world is her oyster! But the darnedest thing happens. When midnight strikes Oona finds herself in the body of a middle aged woman, an unrecognizable version of herself. In a beautiful mansion her handsome assistant Kenzie begins to explain that it’s 2014, she is a generous philanthropist and along with her mother Madeleine, no-one else knows about this mysterious affliction Oona has developed. Every year on her birthday she is sent on a time traveling experience to another year of her adult life. Out of order. She can hop from 19 to 40 and will remain there for one year. As society, technology and her heart goes on a rollercoaster through time Oona tries to figure out the meaning and value of each day when she knows it’s all about to disappear. Oona experiences good years and bad, trying to leave clues for her future and past selves to smooth over the often confusing transition. WARNING: If you want to enjoy this unique, well written story you must be open to time travel that doesn’t always make sense. There is some meaning here but it is in tiny little bits scattered throughout and you just gotta roll with it.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

The Honey Don't List


Carey has spent the last decade working for America’s king and queen of home remodeling - superstars, Melly and Rusty Tripp. Their home decor stores, television series and books have been a smashing success. At 27 yrs old, Carey has essentially spent the last decade of her life working her fingers to the bone as Melly’s assistant. James is hired as Rusty’s nerdy sidekick/engineer and is expected to keep the handsome celebrity squeaky clean and out of trouble. At first Carly and James find themselves at extreme odds battling their level of importance over who has been there longer (Carey) and who has fancy degrees and a chip on his shoulder (James). As they begin to truly accept that their future success is completely dependent on the Tripp’s business, the duo make a plan to keep the rocky show on the road and prying social media fans at bay. The public must never find out that Melly and Rusty’s marriage is falling apart behind the scenes. Trapped on the tour bus from hell tests all of their shortcomings and the young colleagues finally take the boxing gloves off. This sweet, laugh out loud rom-com will have you begging for more and perhaps preparing your very own honey-do list. Add to your TBR, release date set for March 24th!

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

The Sun Down Motel


In 1982 Vivian Delaney left home in Illinois to make her way in the world. Young and pretty, she dreamed of the bright lights of NYC. After a creepy ride with a stranger she unexpectedly lands in Fell, New York. This chilly, broken down little town doesn’t have much to offer but she finds work as the night shift clerk at a dilapidated motel, she even finds a nearby apartment to share with another young woman. Viv figures she will save her money and make her move to the big city very soon. What Viv doesn’t count on is that The Sun Down Motel is creepy and haunted, the town has a string of unsolved murders and Viv has an insatiable curiosity for the morbid. Thirty-five years later Viv’s niece Carly shows up in Fell determined to find out what happened to her aunt. She weasels her way into a job at The Sun Down and the very same apartment her aunt once inhabited. As years of secrets begin to unfold this dual narration will take you on a hair raising rollercoaster ride. Highly recommend this absolutely unputdownable thriller that had me guessing until the very spine chilling end. Will be an incredible book club discussion. Perhaps our meeting at night - at a hotel will add to the fun?!