The Cottage At Glass Beach by Heather Barbieri

Title:  The Cottage At Glass Beach

Author:  Heather Barbieri

Genre:  Fiction

Published:  May 2012 – Harper

About:  Wanting to flee the humiliating mess brought on by her husband’s infidelity Nora Keane goes home with her two daughters to Burke’s Island, Maine after receiving an invitation from an aunt.

My take:  I loved the setting, Nora, her daughters, and the people of Burke’s Island. I also loved the fairytale-like tone of the novel – even though I wish that aspect had been developed a bit more. In going home Nora is able to discover things about her past as well as come to know her aunt. She also finds that some people on the island aren’t thrilled by her visit. Add some family secrets and a mysterious character or two to the mix and you’ve got an intriguing novel.

I appreciated how the author showed how the two daughters worked through/expressed their feelings about their parents’ separation. And Nora needed to figure out what to do now that papers had been filed. She truly seemed adrift – which all seemed like an honest portrayal of a woman and her daughters – given their situation.

I’ve had some time to think about The Cottage at Glass Beach since I finished reading it. At first I wasn’t sure I liked the vague ending but after some reflection I decided it’s true to life. Much of our future is uncertain but we can continue to focus on what matters most.

Source:  Harper

Disclosure:  See sidebar. I was not compensated for my review.

Objects of My Affection by Jill Smolinski

Title:  Objects of My Affection

Author:  Jill Smolinski

Narrator:  Xe Sands

Genre:  Fiction

Published:  2012 – Blackstone Audio (9cds – 10.5 hours)

My take:  Organizer Lucy Bloom had to sell her house and most of her possessions in order to pay for her son’s stay at a drug rehab facility. She also broke up with her boyfriend over her son’s behavior. So she’s without a home, son and a relationship – pretty much everything is gone. Her new job is a challenge. She is to organize and clean out a famous artist’s (Marva Meier Rios) home which is filled to the brim with stuff.

Lucy and Marva begin to see segments of their lives in a different way as they help each other figure out how to let go. I was surprised by how much I liked this novel. At times it was deceptively light – I laughed several times – but if you ever saw one of Oprah’s hoarders shows you know there are some deep issues there. Sure the lessons seem obvious but it’s much more than that. These characters are complex and maybe a bit like people we all know. I also enjoyed the supporting characters – Marva’s son Will and Lucy’s ex-boyfriend Daniel to name two.

There are small twists and turns that had me listening way past the point where I’d planned to stop. I kept walking, cleaning, driving… you get the picture. I was pulling for Lucy and Marva right through to the end. I love it when that happens.

There are those things you keep, things you let go of, and it’s often not easy to know the difference.

from Objects of My Affection by Jill Smolinski

Xe Sands did a fine job voicing Jill Smolinski’s characters – both male and female. It was so easy to listen to her – again with the walking, cleaning, driving 🙂 She conveyed the emotions of the characters perfectly. This is the first time I’ve listened to Sands read a book and in the future there’ll be no hesitation to grab audiobooks with her name listed as narrator.

I recommend this audiobook to fans of Fiction – women’s or otherwise, Jill Smolinski, and Xe Sands.

Source:  Blackstone Audio; Audio Jukebox

Disclosure:  See sidebar. I was not compensated for my review.

The Queen’s Vow by C.W. Gortner

Title:  The Queen’s Vow: A Novel of Isabella of Castile

Author:  C.W. Gortner

Genre:  Historical Fiction

Published:  June 2012 – Ballantine Books

Pages:  400

From the synopsis:  No one believed I was destined for greatness.
 Young Isabella is barely a teenager when she and her brother are taken from their mother’s home to live under the watchful eye of their half-brother, King Enrique, and his sultry, conniving queen. There, Isabella is thrust into danger when she becomes an unwitting pawn in a plot to dethrone Enrique. Suspected of treason and held captive, she treads a perilous path, torn between loyalties, until at age seventeen she suddenly finds herself heiress of Castile, the largest kingdom in Spain. Plunged into a deadly conflict to secure her crown, she is determined to wed the one man she loves yet who is forbidden to her—Fernando, prince of Aragon.
From the glorious palaces of Segovia to the battlefields of Granada and the intrigue-laden gardens of Seville, The Queen’s Vow sweeps us into the tumultuous forging of a nation and the complex, fascinating heart of the woman who overcame all odds to become Isabella of Castile.

My take:  The Queen’s Vow is a riveting novel about a determined young woman on her way to becoming Queen of Spain. I thoroughly enjoyed C.W. Gortner’s confident and honorable Isabella. From the start she shouldered responsibility with grace and dignity. She kept her head as she met challenges and made unimaginable decisions with far-reaching consequences for her people. She had good intentions and thought she was carrying out God’s wishes but hindsight shows that even good intentions don’t always bring the desired results.

Gortner’s beautiful writing and exciting story kept me enthralled. Isabella and her husband Fernando spent much of their reign at war. Also, in an effort to convert all non Catholics in their country to Catholicism, they went so far as to begin the Inquisition. Because of the author’s meticulous research and ability to relate the facts with clarity I now have a better understanding of this time in history. Isabella also did good things for Spain. She supported women’s education and the arts and was commited to bringing her country to the same level as the rest of the prominent European countries. For good or bad, Isabella definitely had an impact on her beloved Spain.

The Queen’s Vow is a story of royal intrigue, politics, a touch of romance, and a good deal of controversy. I recommend it to fans of Historical Fiction, Spanish history, and the author. I plan to track down a copy of Gortner’s novel The Last Queen– the story of Isabella’s daughter Juana. After meeting Juana in this book I’m interested in finding out what happened in her lifetime.

 

♦  ♦  ♦

C.W. Gortner is the author of The Last Queen, The Confessions of Catherine de Medici and The Tudor Secret.  He holds an MFA in Writing with an emphasis in Renaissance Studies from the New College of California. In his extensive travels to research his books, he has danced a galliard in a Tudor great hall and experienced life in a Spanish castle. His novels have garnered international praise and been translated into thirteen languages to date. He is also a dedicated advocate for animal rights and environmental issues. He’s currently at work on his fourth novel for Ballantine Books, about the early years of Lucrezia Borgia, as well as the third novel in his Tudor series,The Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles (US) or Elizabeth’s Spymaster (UK). Half-Spanish by birth, C.W. lives in Northern California.


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Spotlight: Wildflower Wishes Book App

New York Times bestselling author Patti Callahan Henry’s new book app WILDFLOWER WISHES is available for downloads now. It is the first book app EVER to be created through the inspiration of one scene from a novel, rather than encompassing the entire novel itself or focusing on the author Inspired by a gorgeous garden scene in Callahan Henry’s latest COMING UP FOR AIR (paperback; May 22, 2012; St. Martin’s Griffin) the Wildflower Wishes App is a greeting app created by a dream design team at Chronicle LLC.  The free app comes with five wildflower icons that hold a special meaning (I’m sorry; I love you; Good luck.)  Additional wildflowers can be purchased for $0.99 – and all can be sent to email, other WW friends or Facebook along with a heartfelt personal message – with just the click of a finger!  It is a gentle and simple gesture that can be shared to celebrate graduation, birthdays, anniversaries and more. The paperback edition of COMING UP FOR AIR will feature the QR code for the Wildflower Wishes App on the cover!  How cool is that?

Flowers that will be initially available with others added for special occasions:

Infinite Love – Bellflower

I Am Grateful – Bluebells

Sending Encouragement — Black Eyed Susan

Thinking of You – Zinnia

A Mother’s Love – Impatiens

Pure Loyal Love — Daisy

Bond of Love — Honeysuckle

Purple Hyacinth — I am sorry; Please forgive me

Don’t forget me — Forget me not

I will never forget you – Everlasting

Sending Protection — White Heather

Sending Cheer — Crocus

Sending Courage and Daring — Edelweiss

Sending Good Luck — Clover

Sending Perserverance — Chicory

Farewell — sweet pea

Secret Love — Acacia

Love at First Sight – Gloxinia

♥  ♥  ♥

This is a Forget-Me-Not.  You hit SEND, the flower will post wherever you like with the following “Don’t Forget Me” message, and then you can attach a personal note.

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I’m intrigued and plan to check it out!

You can read my review of Coming Up For Air by Patti Callahan Henry here.