The First Husband: A Novel by Laura Dave

Title:  The First Husband: A Novel

Author:  Laura Dave

Genre:  Fiction

About:  Annie, a travel writer in her early 30s, returns home from a recent trip to find that her long-time boyfriend (the one she thought would eventually be her husband) has decided he needs a break from her. She’s not completely shocked by the bad news because she had just watched Roman Holiday and something bad always happens after she watches that movie. But she manages to move on each time. This time she moves into a completely unexpected relationship which takes her on a journey to figure out what or who she wants.

My thoughts:  At  244 pages The First Husband is a fast, funny, and heartfelt novel about the roads taken and sometimes not taken to find grown up love – the kind that lasts.

Laura Dave’s characters are charming and quirky and most seem to be on the same quest as Annie. There’s a lot of emotion packed into this story as it twists and turns its way to a satisfying conclusion.

The First Husband is one of those books that had me thinking about it long after I finished reading it – always a good sign.

Recommend?  Yes! Read it on the beach or your favorite backyard chair or in your house. Just read it!

Source:  Viking

Spotlight on HOTEL NO TELL by Daphne Uviller and a Q&A with the Author

Hotel No Tell features the return of Super in the City‘s beloved Zephyr Zuckerman. On the verge of 31, Zephyr is now a junior investigator with New York City’s Special Investigations Commission (SIC). She’s undercover as a concierge at the Greenwich Village Hotel, trying – and failing – to track down a missing hundred grand. Her detective boyfriend has moved out because of their disagreement about reproducing (he wants kids, Zephyr doesn’t), and she’s left with her Holland Lop bunny named after a famous atheist, an old friend who’s married and miserable in suburban motherhood, and one new friend who’s a wedding planner in dire need of an exorcist.

It soon becomes clear that the trouble at the hotel goes much, much deeper than a little old-fashioned laundering. Before Zephyr can master the reservation system, she is yanking at the threads of a multi-million dollar egg donation scandal and re-examining her own motives for opting out of parenthood.

About the author
A former Books/​Poetry editor at Time Out New York, Daphne’s reviews, profiles, and articles have been published in The Washington Post, The New York Times, Newsday, The Forward, New York Magazine, Oxygen, Allure, and Self, for which she used to write an ethics column.

Super in the City, her debut novel, is available in paperback and Kindle editions, and still getting rave reviews! Click on the right side of the screen for more information.

Daphne also co-edited, with Deborah Siegel, the acclaimed anthology Only Child: Writers on the Singular Joys and Solitary Sorrows of Growing Up Solo. Available in paperback and Kindle editions.

A third-generation West Villager, Daphne lives in the Hudson Valley with her husband and two children.

Q&A with Daphne Uviller, author of Hotel No Tell

Q: You used to work for a New York City law enforcement agency. How much of Zephyr’s adventures in Hotel No Tell come from your actual experience?
A: I worked for a watchdog group that investigates crime and corruption in the public school system. None of the cases that the fictional SIC handles is identical to any real one I worked on. But, certainly, I drew on the hubris of our perps and the astounding ability of people to deny to themselves that they’re committing a crime. For instance, I make mention of a school principal taking kickbacks, which was the theme of more than a few of our cases. I also borrowed from the enormous and enormously entertaining personalities of my former colleagues. One thing that is completely true: most of the investigators were named Tommy.
Q: Zephyr’s investigative skills could use a little honing. Is this the right career for her?
A: She’s definitely not the smooth, gun-slinging, clear-thinking cop of so much popular fiction. She fails to catch last names, she can’t describe what people look like, she’s a little rash in a lot of her actions. But she’s nosy, genuinely curious, and innately caring. She gets people to talk to her. I wanted to capture the reality of people having unusual talents, not uniform ones, of showing how people can have skills that can’t be described on a resume. She’s learning on the job and I love that about her. She’s who a lot of us would be if we were thrown into her position.
Q: Zephyr is adamant about her decision not to have children, so much so that, at the beginning of the book, she and Gregory have broken up over it. You have two kids; are you worried what they’ll read into this?
A: First of all, I hope they’ll remember that I’m not Zephyr. Fiction is many things for a writer, including an outlet for exploring paths not taken. I felt very strongly that Zephyr not go the mommy route. I’m living it; I don’t want to read about it, let alone write about it. (That said, I shoveled some of my darkest feelings onto Lucy, and doubled it by saddling her with twins.) So I started there – my lack of interest in making her a mother – and then went further. Why not have her struggle to make peace with her child-free status be her personal challenge, as the quest for professional identity was in Super? Let’s examine the societal assumption that we’re all supposed to have kids, when the truth is that parenthood is tough, so tough that at some point, all parents wonder why they took it on. Without children there would be, as Zephyr says, more time, more money, less stress, more sleep, more growth of the mind. But by the end of the book I was more convinced than ever that I had made the right decision for myself and that Zephyr had made the right one for herself.

Q: Which is quite an accomplishment, given that Zephyr is often plagued by a lack of resolution to her problems.
A: One of Zephyr’s stumbling blocks is her belief that you need to tie up loose ends in order to move on to the next stage of life. By the end of Hotel, Zephyr is accepting the discomfiting fact that you can’t wait for certain unknowns to resolve – both in the criminal case she has mostly solved, and in her personal struggle with potential parenthood – in order to move forward. Wait forever and you’ll never grow up.

Q: But wouldn’t you say the book itself has an almost comical number of closures in the final chapter?
A: It’s true – in the plot itself, I love not only to tie up loose ends but to provide delicious and, I hope, funny and satisfying and surprising connections – perhaps as an antidote to those pesky loose ends. E.M. Forster’s directive [“only connect”] can be applied to storytelling as much as to real life.

Q: Right after Super in the City was published, you, like Lucy, were unwillingly transplanted to the suburbs. How has it been living away from the city while writing so intimately about it?
A: When we first moved away, I complained so much that a friend of mine who’s a lit professor rolled her eyes and promised to list me on her syllabus for Writers in Exile, right next to Salman Rushdie. Friends had lofty hopes for my situation, suggesting that it could be some deep new angle from which to view my city. It hasn’t been. What it has been is a great way to keep living there in my head, even as I live somewhere else. In fact, continuing to write about the city may contribute to my current identity problem: I still haven’t managed to say “I live in the Hudson Valley.” I say, “We’re living in the Hudson Valley, but we still own my childhood apartment in the Village.” It’s juvenile, I know.

Q:How did you come up with the idea of an egg donor scam?
A: Close friends were going through the process of selecting a donor and asked my opinion of the three finalists. It’s not like I didn’t know about egg donation, but watching people I loved go through the process — and getting to have a small voice in selecting the seeds of my future niece or nephew — really set my mind racing. I remembered seeing ads in my college newspaper recruiting egg donors, and I’ve always wondered why society treats it as a much bigger deal to give eggs than sperm.

Q:Other than the invasive process (and because of that, the money), why is it a bigger deal?
A: I don’t think it is. I think it’s all a huge deal. In fact, I wonder whether the boys I knew when I was nineteen who were donating to get some beer money now have any regrets. It has repercussions: imagine learning that your husband donated when he was younger, that your children have biological half-siblings you don’t know about.

Q: Zephyr’s newest friend, Macy St. John, is a lovable but cursed wedding planner whose company is called No Divas. Fess up: were you a bridal diva?
A: I can safely say I was not. I err in the other direction, which has caused my husband to declare me so low maintenance that I’m high maintenance. I came up with the idea for a business for no-frills clients after our caterer tried to schedule a two-hour meeting about our wedding cake. I declined and told him to make it white and make it taste good. A similarly non-diva friend who was planning her wedding at the same time came up with the name of the imaginary company that, years later, would find its way into this book.

Q: But you didn’t wear $13 sandals from Payless on your wedding day, the way Macy’s client does.
A: Yes, in fact. I did.

Q: Why another book about Zephyr?
A: I considered doing an entirely unrelated book, but suspected that any protagonist I created would be Zephyr again, with a different name. I was preoccupied with my recent exodus from the city and new status as mother of two. I inflicted both these states onto Zephyr’s good friend Lucy, which then freed me up to write about Zephyr and the life I was fantasizing about – still in the city and childless. It was clear to me that, if these were my preoccupations, it would be natural to keep writing about Zephyr. That said, it’s definitely a stand-alone book, too — you don’t have to have read Super to enjoy Hotel.

Q: Will this be a trilogy?
A: I doubt I’m done with Zephyr, but I plan to take a break from her and first write something completely different. I’m toying with historical fiction, something I swore I wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot cursor.

♦  ♦  ♦
All materials provided by BookSparks PR

Faith: A Novel by Jennifer Haigh

Title:  Faith: A Novel

Author:  Jennifer Haigh

Genre:  Fiction

About:  (from Goodreads) When Sheila McGann sets out to redeem her disgraced brother, a once-beloved Catholic priest in suburban Boston, her quest will force her to confront cataclysmic truths about her fractured Irish-American family, her beliefs, and, ultimately, herself.

My thoughts:  I had misgivings about reading a novel about the topic Ms. Haigh tackled in Faith but it’s much more than a novel about abuse. It’s about a family and how each member handles a shocking allegation against one of their own.

Told by the sister of the accused, the story is one of discoveries about her mother, father, and brothers. Haigh explores themes of family loyalty, faith in various forms, and forgiveness.

Jennifer Haigh’s writing is what carried me through the book in a few hours. I was completely absorbed in the story and very glad that I read the book.

Recommend?  Yes. It would be a great bookclub pick – so many discussion possibilities.

Source:  Harper Books

My Favorites in 2011 (so far) and a Giveaway

 Tuesday is Armchair BEA’s big Giveaway Day! We’ll be doing giveaways all week here, but if you’re hosting a giveaway for Armchair BEA-goers on your own site, this is the day to post about it there and link it up here! And if you’re not hosting a giveaway, today’s suggested posting topic is “Best of 2011”: share some of your favorite books so far this year, and/or the the books being promoted at BEA that you hope will end up among your favorites for the year!

Here are my favorite books of 2011 (so far):



I’m going to give a book from my favorites list to one lucky winner.

Go to this link for the Giveaway Form. Ends tonight, May 24 at 10pm (eastern).


♦ ♦ ♦

PS I know I should be able to embed the form in the post but for the life of me I tried to follow the directions with disappointing results *sigh*

Armchair BEA – Nice to meet you!

Welcome! My name is Mary and I’ve blogged about the books I read at Bookfan since 2008. I read mostly fiction but also enjoy an occasional memoir, cookbook, etc.

I would have loved to attend BEA in NYC but all three kids are moving in the next ten days (one cross-country) and my husband and I are lending a hand where needed. Also, one of the kids on the move will be getting married in a few months so our travel budget is going toward that happy event. It’s all good!

I read every day and it’s not unusual for me to be in the middle of two or three books at a time (different genres). You can find me on Twitter   so feel free to share your twitter name. I mention that because I’ve discovered some wonderful books via tweets from book bloggers. I use Twitter to stay in touch with authors, bloggers, publishers, PR folks, etc. and also to tweet links to my reviews.

I look forward to meeting other Armchair BEA bloggers this week. Thanks for visiting!

Mistress of Rome by Kate Quinn

TItle:  Mistress of Rome

Author:  Kate Quinn

Genre:  Historical Fiction

About:  (Goodreads synopsis)  Thea is a slave girl from Judaea, passionate, musical, and guarded. Purchased as a toy for the spiteful heiress Lepida Pollia, Thea will become her mistress’s rival for the love of Arius the Barbarian, Rome’s newest and most savage gladiator. His love brings Thea the first happiness of her life-that is quickly ended when a jealous Lepida tears them apart.

As Lepida goes on to wreak havoc in the life of a new husband and his family, Thea remakes herself as a polished singer for Rome’s aristocrats. Unwittingly, she attracts another admirer in the charismatic Emperor of Rome. But Domitian’s games have a darker side, and Thea finds herself fighting for both soul and sanity. Many have tried to destroy the Emperor: a vengeful gladiator, an upright senator, a tormented soldier, a Vestal Virgin. But in the end, the life of the brilliant and paranoid Domitian lies in the hands of one woman: the Emperor’s mistress.

My thoughts:  Kate Quinn’s characters are fully formed and her setting was carefully researched. Mistress of Rome is a story full of intrigue, politics, and romance – all come together to make for a good read.  At times it got too gory for me but I guess that made the gladiator scenes all the more real. One of the characters seemed really over the top but she moved the story forward – that’s for sure. All in all, it is an entertaining novel.

Recommend?  I think fans of historical (Roman) fiction might enjoy it!

Source:  I bought it.

Here, Home, Hope: A Novel by Kaira Rouda

Title: Here, Home, Hope: A Novel

Author: Kaira Rouda

Genre: Fiction

About: (Goodreads synopsis)  Kelly Mills Johnson becomes restless in her thirty-ninth year. An appetite for more forces her to take stock of her middling middle-American existence and her neighbors’ seemingly perfect lives. Her marriage to a successful attorney has settled into a comfortable routine, and being the mother of two adorable sons has been rewarding. But Kelly’s own passions lie wasted. She eyes with envy the lives of her two best friends, Kathryn and Charlotte, both beautiful, successful businesswomen who seem to have it all. Kelly takes charge of her life, devising a midlife makeover plan.

My thoughts: Kaira Rouda’s debut novel tells the story of how one woman figures out how to take control of her life and help others at the same time.  Kelly is at a point where her two sons don’t need her like they did when they were little boys. After a health scare Kellly feels a nagging pull to change things but she’s not sure what or how. She starts a T2C list – Things to Change. Her list is written on Post-it notes which are strewn around her kitchen and car to remind her of specifics to change such as:

  • Capitalize on skills
  • Don’t compare yourself to others
  • Don’t forget the care and feeding of friends
  • Take it one day at a time

She soon discovers that the grass isn’t always greener elsewhere – her friends’ lives aren’t as perfect as they seem. One day a realtor friend asks Kelly, who is known for her exquisite decorating, to help stage a house she is selling. Kelly agrees to help her friend and the house sells immediately. She realizes this could be a new career and starts the wheels in motion. Although I thought it all came together a bit too easily I was cheering for her as things fell into place.

I think Here, Home, Hope would be a great book club selection. Any woman will be able to relate to Kelly and her friends on some level and might even want to use Kelly’s T2C list as a template for making changes in her own life.

Recommend? Yes, I enjoyed it and look forward to Kaira Rouda’s next novel.

Source: BookSparks PR

Saturday Snapshot – May 14



Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce of At Home With Books.  It’s easy to participate – just post a picture that was taken by you, a friend, or a family member and add your link on Alyce’s site.

♦  ♦  ♦

When my son stopped by the house last Sunday

he asked if I’d noticed the basketball hoop lately. I said “No. Why?”

He told me to take a look.  This is what I saw:

And then I looked a little closer:

The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley

TItle:  The Winter Sea

Author:  Susanna Kearsley

Genre:  Historical Fiction

About: (Goodreads synopsis)  Carrie McClelland came to Scotland to research her next book. Renting a cottage in the same town where her story takes place, Carrie embarks not only on her novel, but on a romance with her landlord’s handsome son, Graham Keith. When the boundary between past and present begins to blur, Carrie finds herself channeling memories not her own. Pulled deeper and deeper into the memories of the past, Carrie realizes these visions are more than the means to another bestselling novel, but also a way to right the wrongs of the past and create a future with the man whose love is her destiny.

My thoughts:  Although this is the first of Susanna Kearsley’s books I’ve read it won’t be the last. The Winter Sea slowly pulled me into the story – which I liked because it gave me a good sense of setting, story, and characters. I liked the dual-history aspect of the story almost writing itself using the author who may or may not be related to one of the characters. The possibility of genetic memory is explored – a concept I find intriguing.

Kearsley weaves a story of Scotland during a time of great upheaval with enough historical detail that made me understand what was at stake and why the characters would risk everything for the greater good. They are faced with heart-breaking decisions and sacrifice which gives the novel an emotional undertone. Once I was pulled into the novel I found the pace to be such that I didn’t want to stop reading – which is how I like historical fiction to make me feel.

I was satisfied with how Susanna Kearsley wrapped up the story and am happy to report she is now writing a sequel to The Winter Sea.

Have you read any other books by Ms. Kearsley?  If so, can you recommend one for me to read?

Recommend?  Yes!

Source:  I bought it.

Mailbox Monday – May 9


Hosted in May at MariReads

For review:

(Goodreads synopsis) After her father’s sudden death, fifteen-year-old Eleanor is quickly crowned Duchess of Aquitaine and betrothed to King Louis VII. When her new husband cannot pronounce her given name, Alienor becomes Eleanor, Queen of France.

Although Louis is enamored of his bride, the newly crowned king is easily manipulated by the church and a God that Eleanor doesn’t believe in. Now, if she can find the strength to fight for what she wants, Eleanor may finally find the passion she has longed for, and the means to fulfill her legacy as Queen.

Giveaway win from Sharon’s Garden Of Book Reviews  – click on the link and visit Sharon’s fantastic blog. It’s a favorite of mine:

(Goodreads synopsis) A heartbroken woman stumbled upon a diary and steps into the life of its anonymous author.

In her twenties, Emily Wilson was on top of the world: she had a bestselling novel, a husband plucked from the pages of GQ, and a one-way ticket to happily ever after.

Ten years later, the tide has turned on Emily’s good fortune. So when her great-aunt Bee invites her to spend the month of March on Bainbridge Island in Washington State, Emily accepts, longing to be healed by the sea. Researching her next book, Emily discovers a red velvet diary, dated 1943, whose contents reveal startling connections to her own life.

What was in your mailbox?

Guest Post by Wendy Wax, Author of Ten Beach Road

I guess we could call this week Ten Beach Road Week at Bookfan! I’m pleased to share this space with author Wendy Wax. She writes about her latest novel and the inspiration for the setting of Ten Beach Road. Take it away, Wendy!

♦ ♦ ♦

The House at the Heart of TEN BEACH ROAD

Wendy Wax

Ten Beach Road, which came out May 3rd, is a story about three strangers who lose almost everything in a Ponzi scheme, except co-ownership in what turns out to be a dilapidated beachfront mansion named Bella Flora.

Madeline Singer, a homemaker who’s celebrating her newly emptied nest right up until the moment it starts filling back up, Avery Lawford an architect and HGTV host who thinks playing ‘Vanna’ to her now ex-husband on their show is the worst thing that can happen until he elbows her out completely, and Nicole Grant, well-known dating guru and matchmaker who’s already battled her way out of poverty once, arrive at Bella Flora planning to put their sole remaining asset up for sale, only to discover just how far from ready this once-fabulous home is.

Caught between a rock-and-a-hard-place choice, they elect to stay on and, with the help of a local (and infuriating) contractor, work to bring Bella Flora back to life, bit by backbreaking bit.

They’re joined over that long sweat soaked summer by Madeline’s unexpectedly pregnant daughter and Avery’s estranged mother, which is a whole lot of estrogen for one house to absorb—especially when the renovation forces them to share a single bathroom and no air conditioning.

I got to tour a number of wonderful homes while trying to imagine Bella Flora and heard some really inspiring stories of both restoration and renovation in the process. I also developed a somewhat unhealthy addiction to HGTV!

In the end I decided to make Bella Flora a Mediterranean-Revival style home, with the foot thick walls, high ceilings and strategically placed balconies and windows that made them so popular in Florida and California in the 1920s.  The Don CeSar Hotel, a fabulous example of this period and style, stands at the northern end of Pass-a-Grille, the Florida beach community where I grew up and not far from the southernmost tip of this barrier island where I placed Bella Flora. Of course, I had to mentally move a condo building to claim Bella Flora’s fabulous view of the pass, where the Gulf of Mexico and the bay meet, but I figure that’s one of the perks of writing fiction.

In the end, this wonderful house became a character in its own right as well as the catalyst that helps Madeline, Avery and Nicole rebuild their own lives.

I’m attaching a few photos of the kinds of details that made Bella Flora so special to me, and I hope, once you’ve read Ten Beach Road, to you as well.


Ten Beach Road by Wendy Wax

Title:  Ten Beach Road

Author:  Wendy Wax

Genre:  Fiction

About:  Three women, strangers to each other, receive the news that their life savings is gone. Their trusted financial advisors invested their money in what turned out to be a Ponzi scheme and the person who stole their money is nowhere to be found. But all is not lost. The women find that each owns a third of a dilapidated beachfront mansion. They meet in Florida to rehab the place and put it on the market.

My thoughts:  Ten Beach Road is the story of how three women lose everything and against all odds hope to land on their feet emotionally, financially and with their self-respect intact.

Madeline’s nest is empty and she’s ready to enjoy life with her husband. The shocking financial news is just a drop in the bucket compared to what he tells her.

Avery, a well-known tv personality, is used to people leaving her but she’s worked hard for her money and now that she’s lost that too – well, it’s almost too much.

Nicole, a successful matchmaker, grew up in abject poverty. She and her brother vowed they’d never be poor again but she finds herself back at square one.

All three have secrets they don’t want the others to know. Some of the secrets are people who start to show up at the mansion and add a lot to the story. Situations arise that show the women at their best and worst.

Given the timely topic I thought Ten Beach Road was an interesting and entertaining look at how three people handle themselves at a time of great financial loss. As serious as that sounds, I looked forward to reading more of the book each time I picked it up. Wendy Wax tells a good story!

Recommend?  Yes, throw it in the beach bag and lather up with the sunscreen because you won’t want to stop reading.

Source:  Joan Schulhafer Publishing & Media Consulting

* * *

Giveaway of one finished copy (courtesy of the publicist!)

Open to US residents

Click here to fill out form


Interview: Wendy Wax

The following Q & A is an excerpt from materials provided by the publicist.
TEN BEACH ROAD goes on sale today. More information can be found at

You grew up in St. Pete Beach and on Pass-a-Grille Beach, yet this is the first time you’ve set a book there? Why TEN BEACH ROAD and not one of your earlier ones?

Actually, Tanya in The Accidental Bestseller got to live in St. Petersburg and on the very last page there are these movie-like blurbs at the end laying out the friends’ futures. Tanya’s rewarded with a home on St. Pete Beach and a sixty foot houseboat. So I guess even two books ago I was nostalgic about life on the water and back on the beach. In Ten Beach Road I put a derelict beachfront mansion at the heart of the story and, frankly, I rarely think ‘beach’ without the words St. Pete or Pass-a-Grille in front of it.

Do you believe that setting plays a more important role in this novel than in other of your books?

Definitely. I could have put Madeline, Avery and Nicole’s sole remaining ‘asset’ anywhere, but I think this particular setting contributes a lot to the story and the protagonists’ friendship and growth. Another setting would have demanded a very different kind of house and a very different experience for the main characters. And, of course, you can’t conjure up a threatening hurricane just anywhere. As much as I believe in the importance of setting, I still tend to be spare in my descriptions of places and people. That’s mostly because, as a reader, I don’t enjoy tons of information about setting or character appearance. I only want the bare bones so that I can envision things myself.

You’re known for exploring the importance of women’s friendships in your work. In Magnolia Wednesdays, Vivi seemed to have to learn how to be a friend. In The Accidental Bestseller, four women may have been guilty of taking the strength of their friendship for granted. In TEN BEACH ROAD you seem to be taking a closer look at issues such as trust, risk taking, honesty, and mother/daughter relationships. Do you agree? Did you start out in this direction? Or did the characters take you there?

I don’t start out with ‘themes’ in mind, but I seem to have some issues that I keep coming back to. In fact, I’ve had a number of interviewers point out that I seem to keep writing about ‘secrets.’ When asked why, I didn’t have an answer, so I now say “that’s a secret.” The mother-daughter relationships in Ten Beach Road were intentional, but I didn’t know how they’d play out until I began writing. Watching a story and characters evolve in unexpected ways is one of my favorite parts of the process. There are a lot of things you simply can’t know or imagine about characters until you’ve spent time with them.

Did your past life as host of the Tampa radio program Desperate and Dateless have anything to do with you choosing matchmaking as Nicole’s high-profile career?

Well, I’d like to say yes but the truth is I was a radio person who ended up hosting Desperate & Dateless back when I was both of those things. Nicole was inspired by an article or two I saw, which led me to a book about a real dating guru/matchmaker. I was kind of fascinated with the idea of making a living that way. I made her a matchmaker to the affluent, because I wanted her rise from poverty to be marked, and the loss of her fortune deeply emotional.

Can you tell us anything about your next book? Setting? Situations? When it may be published?

My next book, currently titled Reality Check, is scheduled for release in June 2012. Two estranged friends living very different lives are about to mix it up in ways they never could have imagined—but I did!

♦ ♦ ♦

Please stop by tomorrow for my review of TEN BEACH ROAD