Have You Seen Luis Velez? by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Have You Seen Luis Velez? by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Published: May 21, 2019 – Lake Union Publishing

Review copy from the publisher and Little Bird Publicity

Description: Raymond Jaffe feels like he doesn’t belong. Not with his mother’s new family. Not as a weekend guest with his father and his father’s wife. Not at school, where he’s an outcast. After his best friend moves away, Raymond has only two real connections: to the feral cat he’s tamed and to a blind ninety-two-year-old woman in his building who’s introduced herself with a curious question: Have you seen Luis Velez?

Mildred Gutermann, a German Jew who narrowly escaped the Holocaust, has been alone since her caretaker disappeared. She turns to Raymond for help, and as he tries to track Luis down, a deep and unexpected friendship blossoms between the two.

Despondent at the loss of Luis, Mildred isolates herself further from a neighborhood devolving into bigotry and fear. Determined not to let her give up, Raymond helps her see that for every terrible act the world delivers, there is a mirror image of deep kindness, and Mildred helps Raymond see that there’s hope if you have someone to hold on to. (publisher)

My take:  On the day that seventeen-year-old Raymond’s closest (and only) friend moves to California he meets Mrs. Gutermann in the hallway of their New York apartment building. She’s in her nineties and is blind. She’s been waiting for the man who helps her with errands, etc. for several weeks. He doesn’t answer his phone and she’s worried. She asks anyone who passes her in the building if they’ve seen Luis Velez. One thing leads to another and Raymond finds himself on a quest to find out what happened to Luis. Along the way he’ll find a new friend or two – especially in Mrs. G.  I loved their relationship – how it grew and the impact it had on both of them. Truly special. They have things to learn from each other. On a larger scale I liked how the novel (and all of the books I’ve read by this author) makes the point that if people would act out of kindness and empathy the world would be a better place. I’m so glad I had the chance to read this book.

There are discussion questions included.


About the author:

Catherine Ryan Hyde is the author of more than thirty published and forthcoming books. An avid hiker, traveler, equestrian, and amateur photographer, she has released her first book of photos, 365 Days of Gratitude: Photos from a Beautiful World. Her novel Pay It Forward was adapted into a major motion picture, chosen by the American Library Association for its Best Books for Young Adults list, and translated into more than twenty-three languages for distribution in more than thirty countries. Both Becoming Chloe and Jumpstart the World were included on the ALA’s Rainbow Book List, and Jumpstart the World was a finalist for two Lambda Literary Awards. Where We Belong won two Rainbow Awards in 2013, and The Language of Hoofbeats won a Rainbow Award in 2015. More than fifty of her short stories have been published in the Antioch Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, Ploughshares, Glimmer Train, and many other journals and in the anthologies Santa Barbara Stories, California Shorts, and New York Times bestseller Dog Is My Co-Pilot. Her stories have been honored in the Raymond Carver Short Story Contest and the Tobias Wolff Award and nominated for the O. Henry Award and the Pushcart Prize. Three have been cited in Best American Short Stories. She is the founder and former president (2000–2009) of the Pay It Forward Foundation and still serves on its board of directors. As a professional public speaker, she has addressed the National Conference on Education, spoken at Cornell University twice, met with AmeriCorps members at the White House, and shared a dais with Bill Clinton. For more information and book club questions, please visit the author at http://www.catherineryanhyde.com.


 

Sunday Post

Book arrivals:  (linked to Mailbox Monday)

     

Last week on Bookfan: 


Reading plan for this week:


 

 

The Yankee Widow by Linda Lael Miller

The Yankee Widow by Linda Lael Miller

Published: May 7, 2019 – MIRA

Review galley provided by the publisher and NetGalley

Description: Caroline is the young wife of Jacob, who together live on a farm raising their daughter just outside of Gettysburg. When Jacob joins the Northern army, no one anticipates he will not return. Then Caroline gets word that her husband is wounded, and she must find her way alone to Washington City and search among the thousands of casualties to find him.

When Jacob succumbs to his injuries, she brings his body home on the eve of the deadliest battle of the war. With troops and looters roaming the countryside, it is impossible to know who is friend and who is foe. Caroline fights to protect those she holds most dear while remaining compassionate to the neediest around her, including two strangers from opposite sides of the fight. Each is wounded… Each is drawn to her beauty, her kindness. Both offer comfort, but only one secretly captures her heart. Still, she must resist exposing her vulnerability in these uncertain times when so much is at risk.

In The Yankee Widow, gifted storyteller Linda Lael Miller explores the complexities and heartbreak that women experienced as their men took up arms to preserve the nation and defend their way of life. (publisher)

My take:  I’ve always been intrigued by the Civil War. My (3x)great grandfather left his family and farm to fight with the northern army. His portrait hung on the wall in my parents’ home. I didn’t truly appreciate the extent of his sacrifice until I began to read accounts of the war – told from various perspectives. Linda Lael Miller’s novel The Yankee Widow is the story of Caroline, a young widow from outside of Gettysburg, PA. Her husband left his young family and farm to fight in the northern army only to succumb to injuries incurred at Chancellorsville. Caroline is left to carry on which is no small task. The war is brought to her front yard as she is grieving the loss of her husband. She must step outside her grief and help with injured men from both sides of the war. Two such men will become central to her story and could very well decide her future. One thing she is certain of: she will make the decision. Showing a strength of character from the beginning of the novel we see even more growth in Caroline as she becomes aware that there are no easy answers except the decision to treat others with compassion – no matter where they are from. The story is filled with vivid battle descriptions that put me in the middle of those scenes. Heartbreaking, to be sure.

Linda Lael Miller swept me along with her story, turning the pages and wondering how Caroline would prevail. For once I was happy a novel ended with a cliff-hanger – I can’t wait to read what happens next. Recommended to fans of the author and historical fiction with a dose of romance.


 

Early Summer Reads Spotlight

A book blogger knows it’s time to get better organized when the NetGalley list is longer than its been in the past ten years…  I have more arcs to read but these are the NG titles. So, I’m listing the books I can’t wait to read in June and July 2019. 

From the author of book club favorite The Salt House comes a deeply affecting novel about a teenage girl finding her voice and the military wife who moves in downstairs, united in their search for the true meaning of home.

Sixteen-year-old Libby Winters lives in Paradise, a seaside town north of Boston that rarely lives up to its name. After the death of her mother, she lives with her father, Bent, in the middle apartment of their triple decker home—Bent’s two sisters, Lucy and Desiree, live on the top floor. A former soldier turned policeman, Bent often works nights, leaving Libby under her aunts’ care. Shuffling back and forth between apartments—and the wildly different natures of her family—has Libby wishing for nothing more than a home of her very own.

Quinn Ellis is at a crossroads. When her husband John, who has served two tours in Iraq, goes missing back at home, suffering from PTSD he refuses to address, Quinn finds herself living in the first-floor apartment of the Winters house. Bent had served as her husband’s former platoon leader, a man John refers to as his brother, and despite Bent’s efforts to make her feel welcome, Quinn has yet to unpack a single box.

For Libby, the new tenant downstairs is an unwelcome guest, another body filling up her already crowded house. But soon enough, an unlikely friendship begins to blossom, when Libby and Quinn stretch and redefine their definition of family and home.

With gorgeous prose and a cast of characters that feel wholly real and lovably flawed, This Is Home is a nuanced and moving novel of finding where we belong.


New York Times bestselling author Karen Hawkins crafts an unforgettable story about a sleepy Southern town, two fiercely independent women, and a truly magical friendship.

Sarah Dove is no ordinary bookworm. To her, books have always been more than just objects: they live, they breathe, and sometimes they even speak. When Sarah grows up to become the librarian in her quaint Southern town of Dove Pond, her gift helps place every book in the hands of the perfect reader. Recently, however, the books have been whispering about something out of the ordinary: the arrival of a displaced city girl named Grace Wheeler.

If the books are right, Grace could be the savior that Dove Pond desperately needs. The problem is, Grace wants little to do with the town or its quirky residents—Sarah chief among them. It takes a bit of urging, and the help of an especially wise book, but Grace ultimately embraces the challenge to rescue her charmed new community. In her quest, she discovers the tantalizing promise of new love, the deep strength that comes from having a true friend, and the power of finding just the right book.

“A mesmerizing fusion of the mystical and the everyday” (Susan Andersen, New York Times bestselling author), The Book Charmer is a heartwarming story about the magic of books that feels more than a little magical itself. Prepare to fall under its spell.


Stay calm, keep smiling, and watch your step. In this marriage of secrets and lies, nothing is what it seems.

For days, all of Denver, Colorado, has worried over the fate of a missing child, little Tanner Holcomb. Then, a miracle: handsome, athletic Johnny Bradley finds him, frightened but unharmed, on a hiking trail miles from his wealthy family’s mountain home.

In a heartbeat, his rescuer goes from financially strapped fitness trainer to celebrated hero. The heat of the spotlight may prove too much for Johnny’s picture-perfect family, however. His wife, Veronica, despises the pressure of the sudden fame, afraid that secrets and bitter resentments of her marriage may come to light. And she’s willing to do anything to keep them hidden.

But when a shocking revelation exposes an even darker side to Tanner’s disappearance, Veronica realizes that nothing in her life can be trusted. And everything should be feared.


Meet Nina Hill: A young woman supremely confident in her own…shell.

The only child of a single mother, Nina has her life just as she wants it: a job in a bookstore, a kick-butt trivia team, a world-class planner and a cat named Phil. If she sometimes suspects there might be more to life than reading, she just shrugs and picks up a new book.
 
When the father Nina never knew existed suddenly dies, leaving behind innumerable sisters, brothers, nieces, and nephews, Nina is horrified. They all live close by! They’re all—or mostly all—excited to meet her! She’ll have to Speak. To. Strangers. It’s a disaster! And as if that wasn’t enough, Tom, her trivia nemesis, has turned out to be cute, funny, and deeply interested in getting to know her. Doesn’t he realize what a terrible idea that is?

Nina considers her options.
1. Completely change her name and appearance. (Too drastic, plus she likes her hair.)
2. Flee to a deserted island. (Hard pass, see: coffee).
3. Hide in a corner of her apartment and rock back and forth. (Already doing it.)

It’s time for Nina to come out of her comfortable shell, but she isn’t convinced real life could ever live up to fiction. It’s going to take a brand-new family, a persistent suitor, and the combined effects of ice cream and trivia to make her turn her own fresh page.


She’s doing all the wrong things for all the right reasons.

After four months of unemployment, former book editor Clara Montgomery is officially stuck—stuck sleeping on her little brother’s ugly couch in Queens, stuck scrolling through job listings in search of a new editorial position…and just desperate enough to take on a temporary gig clearing out abandoned storage units. If nothing else, she’s determined to keep her rapidly dwindling savings account intact.

Unfortunately, she is in no way prepared for stumbling upon dead snakes or dealing with glass jars that she’s convinced are full of pickled eyeballs. And why does everything seem to smell like beets?

Then Clara comes across a unit that was once owned by an escort service and finds the brothel “résumé” of a younger Caspian Tiddleswich, an astonishingly famous British actor. She has no intention of cashing in on her discovery, but her awkward attempts to reassure Caspian that his secret is safe go awry. Now Caspian is convinced that Clara is a blackmailer, the tabloids have her pegged as Caspian’s newest girlfriend…and Clara begins to find the A-lister’s charms more irresistible than she expected.


 

Spotlight: The Yankee Widow by Linda Lael Miller

I’ve been waiting for this book to publish for a long time. Over the past few years Linda Lael Miller would update, hint about it, etc. on her blog which put it firmly on my wish list. I’ll post my review soon. In the meantime, here’s what we have to look forward to in THE YANKEE WIDOW.

The Yankee Widow by Linda Lael Miller

Published: May 7, 2019 – MIRA Hardcover

Description:

A richly layered saga is set against the backdrop of the Civil War

In The Yankee Widow, gifted storyteller Linda Lael Miller explores the complexities and heartbreak that families experienced as men took up arms to preserve the nation and defend their way of life.

Told in a smart, assured and compelling voice, this is the story of Caroline, the young wife and childhood sweetheart of Jacob, who together live on a farm raising their daughter, Rachel, just outside of Gettysburg. When Jacob joins the Northern army to do his duty and help save the Union, no one anticipates he will not return. Caroline gets news that he is wounded and has been taken to Washington, DC, with his regiment, and so she must find her way there and navigate the thousands of other wounded soldiers to find him.

Thus begins this novel that focuses on the strong women and men of both sides and both races who sacrificed so much and loved so well during this critical juncture in American history.

You can purchase this book at these online retailers:
Amazon | Amazon Canada | Barnes & Noble | B-A-M
Book Depository | Chapters | Harlequin
IndieBound | iTunes | Powell’s


About the author:

The daughter of a town marshal, Linda Lael Miller is a #1 New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of more than 100 historical and contemporary novels, most of which reflect her love of the West. Raised in Northport, Washington, Linda pursued her wanderlust, living in London and Arizona and traveling the world before returning to the state of her birth to settle down on a spacious property outside Spokane.

Linda traces the birth of her writing career to the day when a Northport teacher told her that the stories she was writing were good, that she just might have a future in writing. Later, when she decided to write novels, she endured her share of rejection before she sold Fletcher’s Woman in 1983 to Pocket Books. Since then, Linda has successfully published historicals, contemporaries, paranormals, mysteries and thrillers before coming home, in a literal sense, and concentrating on novels with a Western flavor. For her devotion to her craft, the Romance Writers of America awarded her their prestigious Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007.

Long a passionate Civil War buff, Linda has studied the era avidly for almost thirty years. She has read literally hundreds of books on the subject, explored numerous battlegrounds and made many visits to her favorite, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where she has witnessed re-enactments of the legendary clash between North and South. Linda explores that turbulent time in The Yankee Widow, a May 7, 2019 MIRA Books hardcover, also available in digital and audiobook formats.

Dedicated to helping others, “The First Lady of the West” personally financed fifteen years of her Linda Lael Miller Scholarships for Women, which she awarded to women 25 years and older who were seeking to improve their lot in life through education. She anticipates that her next charitable endeavors will benefit four-legged critters.

More information about Linda and her novels is available at http://www.lindalaelmiller.com


 

The Southern Side of Paradise by Kristy Woodson Harvey

The Southern Side of Paradise by Kristy Woodson Harvey

Published: May 7, 2019 – Gallery Books

Review copy provided by the publisher

Description: With the man of her dreams back in her life and all three of her daughters happy, Ansley Murphy should be content. But she can’t help but feel like it’s all a little too good to be true.

Meanwhile, youngest daughter and actress Emerson, who is recently engaged and has just landed the role of a lifetime, seemingly has the world by the tail. Only, something she can’t quite put her finger on is worrying her—and it has nothing to do with her recent health scare.

When two new women arrive in Peachtree Bluff—one who has the potential to wreck Ansley’s happiness and one who could tear Emerson’s world apart—everything is put in perspective. And after secrets that were never meant to be told come to light, the powerful bond between the Murphy sisters and their mother comes crumbling down, testing their devotion to each other and forcing them to evaluate the meaning of family.  (publisher)

My take:  Kristy Woodson Harvey takes readers back to Peachtree Bluff – home base to the Murphy family. No matter how far away life takes them they know they can always go home to Peachtree Bluff when all they need is family. Reading the third book, The Southern Side of Paradise, was like coming home. I love the small coastal town setting where everyone knows everyone, the mostly quirky characters, and the Murphy family with all their issues. Life is never dull. This book is overflowing with secrets that come to light, life-changing decisions that need to be made, and a family of sisters and mother who, no matter how annoyed, disappointed, or sad they make each other, will always be the safe harbor when life gets rough. I’m sad to see this trilogy end but also excited to see what Kristy Woodson Harvey dreams up next. Read this trilogy in order. You’ll love it!


Praise for Kristy Woodson Harvey:

With Kristy Woodson Harvey’s signature charm, wit, and heart, The Southern Side of Paradise is another masterful Peachtree Bluff novel that proves she is a “Southern writer with staying power” (Booklist).
One of the hottest new Southern writers.” —Parade.com
 
“Writers come and writers go, but Kristy Woodson Harvey is here to stay. The warmth, wit, and wisdom of this novel pave her way into the exclusive sisterhood of southern writers.” —The Huffington Post 
 

“The south is known for breeding brilliant storytellers and Kristy Woodson Harvey has proven herself to be one of the south’s most heartfelt female driven authors of our generation.”—Jaime Pressly, star of CBS’s Mom