The Sweeney Sisters

The Sweeney Sisters by Lian Dolan

Expected publication:  April 28, 2020 – William Morrow

E-Galley courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss

Description:

Maggie, Eliza, and Tricia Sweeney grew up as a happy threesome in the idyllic seaside town of Southport, Connecticut. But their mother’s death from cancer fifteen years ago tarnished their golden-hued memories, and the sisters drifted apart. Their one touchstone is their father, Bill Sweeney, an internationally famous literary lion and college professor universally adored by critics, publishers, and book lovers. When Bill dies unexpectedly one cool June night, his shell-shocked daughters return to their childhood home. They aren’t quite sure what the future holds without their larger-than-life father, but they do know how to throw an Irish wake to honor a man of his stature.

But as guests pay their respects and reminisce, one stranger, emboldened by whiskey, has crashed the party. It turns out that she too is a Sweeney sister.

When Washington, DC based journalist Serena Tucker had her DNA tested on a whim a few weeks earlier, she learned she had a 50% genetic match with a childhood neighbor—Maggie Sweeney of Southport, Connecticut. It seems Serena’s chilly WASP mother, Birdie, had a history with Bill Sweeney—one that has remained totally secret until now.

Once the shock wears off, questions abound. What does this mean for William’s literary legacy? Where is the unfinished memoir he’s stashed away, and what will it reveal? And how will a fourth Sweeney sister—a blond among redheads—fit into their story? (publisher)

My take: The Sweeney Sisters is the story of three siblings mourning the death of their father, a famous author whose estate is in disarray and it would appear he had some monumental secrets. As they sort through the fallout they are faced with welcoming another sister into their fold. This is just one of the challenges they must deal with as each sister grapples with personal upheaval at the same time. Set in a tony Connecticut town, with the expected well-heeled characters, The Sweeney Sisters is an enjoyable novel that I recommend to fans of messy stories about family, sisters and secrets.


 

Meg and Jo by Virginia Kantra

Meg & Jo by Virginia Kantra

Published:  Dec. 3, 2019 – Berkley

Digital galley courtesy of Berkley and NetGalley

Description: The timeless classic Little Women inspired this heartwarming modern tale of four sisters from New York Times bestselling author Virginia Kantra.

The March sisters—reliable Meg, independent Jo, stylish Amy, and shy Beth—have grown up to pursue their separate dreams. When Jo followed her ambitions to New York City, she never thought her career in journalism would come crashing down, leaving her struggling to stay afloat in a gig economy as a prep cook and secret food blogger.

Meg appears to have the life she always planned—the handsome husband, the adorable toddlers, the house in a charming subdivision. But sometimes getting everything you’ve ever wanted isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

When their mother’s illness forces the sisters home to North Carolina for the holidays, they’ll rediscover what really matters.

One thing’s for sure—they’ll need the strength of family and the power of sisterhood to remake their lives and reimagine their dreams.  (publisher)

My take: Meg and Jo is inspired by Little Women and not a retelling. That increased my enjoyment of the novel. Honestly, I read and loved Little Women when I was a ‘tween back in the 1960s but I haven’t revisited in the decades since. Virginia Kantra’s story centers around older siblings Meg and Jo. Meg is married with twin toddlers. Jo lives in NYC, writes a food blog and works in a restaurant. Both sisters are trying to stay in control of the moving parts of their lives. Sometimes they are successful and sometimes not so much. Life will change for both when their mother has a health crisis and needs them to take over the running of the farm until she is well again. This is a family story full of the usual dynamics and challenges. When all the siblings come home they fall back into the rolls they had as young girls. There’s a lot of truth in that – at least I could relate. There are twists and turns and things fall into place perhaps a bit too easily but I liked Meg and Jo and look forward to reading Amy and Beth’s story.


 

Twenty-One Truths About Love by Matthew Dicks

Twenty-One Truths About Love by Matthew Dicks

Published:  November 2019 – St. Martin’s Press

Book courtesy of the publisher

Description: Daniel Mayrock’s life is at a crossroads. He knows the following to be true:

1. He loves his wife Jill… more than anything.
2. He only regrets quitting his job and opening a bookshop a little (maybe more than a little)
3. Jill is ready to have a baby.
4. The bookshop isn’t doing well. Financial crisis is imminent. Dan doesn’t know how to fix it.
5. Dan hasn’t told Jill about their financial trouble.
6. Then Jill gets pregnant.

This heartfelt story is about the lengths one man will go to and the risks he will take to save his family. But Dan doesn’t just want to save his failing bookstore and his family’s finances:

1. Dan wants to do something special.
2. He’s a man who is tired of feeling ordinary.
3. He’s sick of feeling like a failure.
4. He doesn’t want to live in the shadow of his wife’s deceased first husband.

Dan is also an obsessive list maker; his story unfolds entirely in his lists, which are brimming with Dan’s hilarious sense of humor, unique world-view, and deeply personal thoughts. When read in full, his lists paint a picture of a man struggling to be a man, a man who has reached a point where he’s willing to do anything for the love (and soon-to-be new love) of his life. (publisher)

My take:  It’s so tempting to write my thoughts about this book in a list because I just spent a few hours reading a book that is written in lists. I’m kind of tired of lists. That said, I liked the idea of the novel. My feelings about Dan the list maker ranged from sympathetic, annoyed, horrified, back to sympathetic, relieved. I enjoyed the secondary characters (Dan’s wife, his new friend Bill, his employee Steve). I mention them because it surprised me to connect to them only through list mentions. This is the first book by Matthew Dicks that I’ve read and I will look into reading more.  Recommended to people looking for something a little different in fiction.


About the author:

Matthew Dicks is a writer and elementary school teacher. He has been published in the Hartford Courant, featured at the Books on the Nightstand retreat, and is a Moth StorySLAM champion. He is the author of four previous novels, Something Missing, Unexpectedly Milo, Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend, an international bestseller, and The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs. His novels have been translated into more than 25 languages. Dicks lives in Newington, Connecticut, with his wife Elysha, and their two children.

Meet Matthew Dicks:

11/20   That Book Store – Wethersfield, CT

11/21    Simsbury Public Library – Simsbury, CT

11/22    RJ Julia – Madison, CT

11/23   Connecticut Historical Society – Hartford, CT


 

Seven Letters by J.P. Monninger

Seven Letters by J.P. Monninger

Published:  October 8, 2019 – St. Martin’s Griffin

Book courtesy of the publisher

Description:  Kate Moreton is in Ireland on sabbatical from her teaching position at Dartmouth College when she meets Ozzie Ferriter, a fisherman and a veteran of the American war in Afghanistan. The Ferriter family history dates back centuries on the remote Blasket Islands, and Ozzie – a dual citizen of Ireland and the United States – has retreated to the one place that might offer him peace from a war he cannot seem to leave behind.

Beside the sea, with Ireland’s beauty as a backdrop, the two fall deeply in love and attempt to live on an island of their own making, away from the pressures of the outside world. Ireland writes its own love stories, the legends claim, and the limits of Kate and Ozzie’s love and faith in each other will be tested. When his demons lead Ozzie to become reckless with his life―and Kate’s―she flees for America rather than watch the man she loves self-destruct. But soon a letter arrives informing Kate that her heroic husband has been lost at sea, and Kate must decide whether it is an act of love to follow him or an act of mercy to forget.  (publisher)

My take:  This is the story of Kate and Ozzie. They meet, fall in love, and then life takes unexpected turns. I was surprised that everything seemed to happen quickly where these two were concerned but decided it was the author’s story to tell and I was along for the ride.

I loved the setting. I know Ireland is wonderful and magical because I’ve been there more than once. Monninger did a beautiful job with description. I also liked learning a bit about the Blasket Islands. Although set mainly in Ireland the story travels to Italy, Canada and the US.

There were a few times when I felt lost because of ‘time gaps’  but I quickly got up to speed. The seven letters serve to catch the reader up as the story progresses and by the time I’d read the seventh I was satisfied with the resolution. As I read I felt a bit of a folktale tone – something I didn’t know I liked. I enjoyed Seven Letters and recommend it to fans of the author and contemporary fiction.


About the author:

J.P. Monninger, author of The Map That Leads to You, is an award-winning writer in New England and Professor of English at Plymouth State University.


 

The Confession Club by Elizabeth Berg

The Confession Club by Elizabeth Berg

Expected publication date:  Nov. 19, 2019 – Random House

Review book courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description: When a group of friends in Mason, Missouri, decide to start a monthly supper club, they get more than they bargained for. The plan for congenial evenings—talking, laughing, and sharing recipes, homemade food, and wine—abruptly changes course one night when one of the women reveals something startlingly intimate. The supper club then becomes Confession Club, and the women gather weekly to share not only dinners but embarrassing misdeeds, deep insecurities, and long-held regrets.

They invite Iris Winters and Maddy Harris to join, and their timing couldn’t be better. Iris is conflicted about her feelings for a charming but troubled man, and Maddy has come back home from New York to escape a problem too big to handle alone. The club offers exactly the kind of support they need to help them make some difficult decisions.

The Confession Club
is charming, heartwarming, and inspiring. And as in the previous books that take place in Mason, readers will find friendship, community, and kindness on full display.
(publisher)

My take:  I’ve enjoyed Elizabeth Berg’s Mason series. The Confession Club is book three and although I suppose it could stand alone I highly recommend reading the books in order. At the forefront in this book are some familiar characters: Iris and Maddy. Iris meets a handsome stranger who becomes important to her. But he has secrets. Maddy is back in Mason and feels haunted by her previous demons. She and her young daughter stay with Iris and she winds up joining the Confession Club. It’s a group of women of a certain age. At each meeting one person reveals something about herself that she’s never shared before. These women are mostly north of fifty and have regrets, hopes, and secrets. Ultimately the meetings become an exercise in trust and compassion. The women find courage they didn’t know they had and also discover the power of forgiveness – of others and themselves. Berg used a fairly light touch addressing some serious issues. As the novel drew to a close I wished it could have gone on for a few more chapters. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye! Recommended to fans of Elizabeth Berg, women’s fiction and small town fiction.


 

Coming Home for Christmas by RaeAnne Thayne

Coming Home for Christmas by RaeAnne Thayne

Expected publication:  September 24, 2019 – HQN

Book courtesy of HQN, NetGalley and Little Bird Publicity

Description:  Hearts are lighter and wishes burn a little brighter at Christmas…

Elizabeth Hamilton has been lost. Trapped in a tangle of postpartum depression and grief after the death of her beloved parents, she couldn’t quite see the way back to her husband and their two beautiful kids…until a car accident stole away her memories and changed her life. And when she finally remembered the sound of little Cassie’s laugh, the baby powder smell of Bridger and the feel of her husband’s hand in hers, Elizabeth worried that they’d moved on without her. That she’d missed too much. That perhaps she wasn’t the right mother for her kids or wife for Luke, no matter how much she loved them.

But now, seven years later, Luke finds her in a nearby town and brings Elizabeth back home to the family she loves, just in time for Christmas. And being reunited with Luke and her children is better than anything Elizabeth could have imagined. As they all trim the tree and bake cookies, making new holiday memories, Elizabeth and Luke are drawn ever closer. Can the hurt of the past seven years be healed over the course of one Christmas season and bring the Hamiltons the gift of a new beginning?  (publisher)

My take:  If, like me, readers of the Haven Point series have been wondering about Luke and Elizabeth Hamilton – this is their book!  Her disappearance several years earlier sparked many wild theories among locals, none that placed Luke in a positive light. When Elizabeth comes back to Haven Point she reveals what happened. RaeAnne Thayne gives readers a plausible, emotional story. This novel touches on depression (clinical and postpartum) and my heart went out to Elizabeth and the family she left behind. Coming Home for Christmas is a story of forgiveness and courage – and love. Perfect themes for the season. Recommended to fans of the series, RaeAnne Thayne, and a good Christmas story.


About the author:

New York Times and USA Today best-selling author RaeAnne Thayne loves words. Her love affair started as soon as she learned to read, when she used to devour anything she could get her hands on:  cereal boxes, encyclopedias, the phone book, you name it! She loves the way words sound, the way they look on the page, and the amazing way they can be jumbled together in so many combinations to tell a story.

Her love of reading and writing those words led her to a fifteen-year career in journalism as a newspaper reporter and editor.

Through it all, she dreamed of writing the kind of stories she loved best. She sold her first book in 1995 and since then she’s published more than 60 titles. Her books have won many honors, including three RITA Award nominations from the Romance Writers of America and a Career Achievement Award from RT Book Reviews.

RaeAnne finds inspiration in the rugged northern Utah mountains, where she lives with her hero of a husband and their children. She loves to hear from readers and can be reached through her website a http://www.raeannethayne.com


 

Harry’s Trees by Jon Cohen

Harry’s Trees by Jon Cohen

Paperback Published:  June 25, 2019 – MIRA

Book courtesy of the publisher

Description:

When you climb a tree, the first thing you do is to hold on tight…

Thirty-four-year-old Harry Crane works as an analyst for the US Forest Service. When his wife dies suddenly, he is unable to cope. Leaving his job and his old life behind, Harry makes his way to the remote woods of northeastern Pennsylvania’s Endless Mountains, determined to lose himself. But fate intervenes in the form of a fiercely determined young girl named Oriana. She and her mother, Amanda, are struggling to pick up the pieces from their own tragedy—Amanda stoically holding it together while Oriana roams the forest searching for answers. And in Oriana’s magical, willful mind, she believes that Harry is the key to righting her world.

Now it’s time for Harry to let go…

After taking up residence in the woods behind Amanda’s house, Harry reluctantly agrees to help Oriana in a ludicrous scheme to escape his tragic past. In so doing, the unlikeliest of elements—a wolf, a stash of gold coins, a fairy tale called The Grum’s Ledger and a wise old librarian named Olive—come together to create a golden adventure that will fulfill Oriana’s wildest dreams and open Harry’s heart to a whole new life.

Harry’s Trees is an uplifting story about the redeeming power of friendship and love and the magic to be found in life’s most surprising adventures. (publisher)

My take:  Life is not without tragedy but the secret is to persevere, keep moving forward. Maybe, just maybe, one will find moments of happiness and contentment. That’s the lesson for us all but especially Harry, Amanda and Oriana.

Jon Cohen created lovely main characters and then added quirky, flawed secondary characters that formed the kind of novel I needed at the moment. It was heart-tugging, magical, tender and, at times, quite funny. And who doesn’t like a story that stresses the immense value of libraries and books!

Recommended.