The Whole Town’s Talking by Fannie Flagg

  • the-whole-towns-talking-1129Title:  The Whole Town’s Talking: A Novel
  • Author:  Fannie Flagg
  • Genre:  Fiction
  • Pages:  432
  • Publish date:  November 29, 2016 – Random House
  • Source:  Publisher; NetGalley

My take:  The Whole Town’s Talking is the story of a town: Elmwood Springs, Missouri. Fannie Flagg introduces the reader to the town founder Lordor Nordstrom who came from Sweden in 1889 and found the perfect spot for the dairy farm he’d dreamed of having. Word spread and other immigrants followed. The town of Elmwood Springs grew from these early families.

Anyone who’s grown up in a small town will recognize the people of Elmwood Springs – they are everyman and woman. Flagg’s characters live ordinary lives and rise to unexpected occasions when needed. The Whole Town’s Talking (also the name of the weekly society column in the local newspaper) is a lovely, folksy tale that I enjoyed. The chapters are short making it an easy reading experience. I read it over the course of ten days which was unusually long for me but I’m glad it did because it never failed to make me smile and I want to enjoy a book like that for as long as possible!

In her wonderfully humorous and warm style Fannie Flagg explains the mysteries of life and death –  at least, how she sees them🙂  Recommended to fans of the author and stories about small town life.

And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer by Fredrik Backman

  • and-every-morningTitle:  And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer
  • Author:  Fredrik Backman
  • Genre:  Fiction
  • Pages:  96
  • Published:  November 2016 – Atria Books
  • Source:  Publisher; NetGalley

My take:  This is a novella about a boy and his Grandpa. Noah and Grandpa have a wonderful relationship – one that Grandpa considers his second chance since he wasn’t always around for his son, Noah’s dad. Grandpa and Noahnoah (that’s what Grandpa calls him) “get” each other. They like the same things. When Grandpa starts forgetting things Noah reassures him even though he’s not quite sure what’s going on.

Fredrik Backman’s characters get to me every time. This time it’s a tale about life through the eyes of an old man and a little boy. Maybe it’s because of where I am in my own life that I could relate. Backman had me smiling on one page and tearing up on the next.

I liked the simple illustrations that were sprinkled through the novella. It took only an hour or so to read and I was left smiling as I turned the last page. It was lovely. Recommended.

 

Spotlight/US Giveaway: The Next by Stephanie Gangi

  • the-nextTitle:  The Next: A Novel
  • Author:  Stephanie Gangi
  • Genre:  Fiction
  • Pages:  320
  • Published:  October 2016 – St. Martin’s Press

Description: Is there a right way to die? If so, Joanna DeAngelis has it all wrong. She’s consumed by betrayal, spending her numbered days cyberstalking Ned McGowan, much younger ex, and watching him thrive in the spotlight with someone new, while she wastes away. She’s every woman scorned, fantasizing about revenge … except she’s out of time.

Joanna falls from her life, from the love of daughters and devoted dog, into an otherworldly landscape, a bleak infinity she can’t escape until she rises up and returns and sets it right – makes Ned pay – so she can truly move on.

From the other side into right this minute, Jo embarks on a sexy, spiritual odyssey. As she travels beyond memory, beyond desire, she is transformed into a fierce female force of life, determined to know how to die, happily ever after.  (publisher)


Praise for THE NEXT:

Cathleen Schine called it “an elegantly written, thoughtfully sharp and surprisingly touching whirlwind of a book.”

Erica Jong said, “I was instantly hooked by Gangi’s vivid writing, her psychological acumen, and her sharp observation of love and life. She is a fascinating writer who understands love, sex, men, and women.”


stephanie-gangi-author-photo_credit-to-tramaine-georgeAbout the author:

STEPHANIE GANGI is a NYC novelist, poet, and by day, a corporate communications strategist. She is working on her second novel, and a chapbook of poems, More Than Four.

 

 

 


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Giveaway ends on October 27, 2016

Monsters: A Love Story by Liz Kay

  • Monsters- A Love StoryTitle:  Monsters: A Love Story
  • Author:  Liz Kay
  • Genre:  Fiction
  • Pages:  368
  • Published:  June 2016 – G.P. Putnam’s Sons
  • Source:  Publisher

Description:  Stacey Lane feels like a monster. Tommy DeMarco might be one.

Since her husband died eight months ago, Stacey’s been a certified mess—a poet who can’t write anymore, a good mother who feels like she’s failing her kids. She’s been trying to redefine herself, to find new boundaries.

Tommy has no respect for boundaries. A surprisingly well-read A-list Hollywood star, Tommy’s fallen in love with Stacey’s novel-in-verse, a feminist reimagining of Frankenstein, no less. His passion for the book, and eventually its author, will set their lives on a collision course. They’ll make a movie, make each other crazy, and make love—but only in secret. 

As Stacey travels between her humdrum life in the suburbs of Omaha and the glamorous but fleeting escape Tommy offers in Hollywood, what begins as a distracting affair starts to pick up weight. It’s a weight that unbalances Stacey’s already unsteady life, but offers new depth to Tommy’s.

Navigating desire, love, grief, and parenthood, and brimming with award-winning poet Liz Kay’s keen emotional insight and wry humor,  Monsters: A Love Story is a witty portrait of a relationship gone off the rails, and two people who are made for each other—even if they’re not so sure they see it that way.  (publisher)

My take:  So the synopsis tells you all about the novel. I’ll just say that reading it was like watching a traffic accident in slow motion – very uncomfortable. At the same time it was a surprisingly addictive read. I didn’t want to stop reading! It’s funny, shocking, frustrating, sad – and I liked it.

Stacey is not a very likable character and yet I really felt for her. She’s vulnerable yet strong – at least that’s the image she tries to put out there. Tommy has a mercurial temperament and I never trusted him. I wanted to but couldn’t. Put them both in the Hollywood setting, add alcohol and you’ve got a hot mess. They both have kids so that adds another layer to their relationship.

Liz Kay’s novel kept me reading when I really should have been doing other things. I love when that happens. Recommended to fans of novels about dysfunctional relationships.


About the author:

Liz Kay is a founding editor of Spark Wheel Press and the journal burntdistrict.  She holds an MFA from the University of Nebraska and was the recipient of both an Academy of American Poets Prize and the Wendy Fort Foundation Prize for exemplary work in poetry.  She lives in Omaha, Nebraska with her husband and three sons. This is her debut novel.


Praise for MONSTERS: A LOVE STORY

“Witty and so nimbly-worded, Liz Kay’s Monsters: A Love Story had me at hello. From the near-madcap improbability of the novel’s premise, to the punchy repartee and ping pong banter between Stacey and Tommy, it’s impossible to resist the book’s charms. But don’t be fooled. This is more than a feel-good read.” – Jill Alexander Essbaum, New York Times-bestselling author of Hausfrau

“Magical.” —Lucy Sykes, author of The Knockoff

“Stacey is a feminist poet in Hollywood – you got to love her for that alone. But you also love her because  she’s sharp, tough, and honest. The novel’s wry insights into messy relationships  put me in mind of  The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. and Emma Straub’s The Vacationers.” —Timothy Schaffert, author of The Swan Gondola

“Smart, witty, hilarious, raunchy, irresistible.” —Catherine Texier, author of Victorine

“Reads like a seduction. I couldn’t stop.” —Amy Hassinger, author of The Priest’s Madonna

Spotlight/US Giveaway: Girl in the Afternoon by Serena Burdick

girl in the afternoon (7:12)

Description:

Spotlight/US Giveaway: When the Moon is Low by Nadia Hashimi

when the moon is low

Now available in Trade Paperback

WHEN THE MOON IS LOW

by

Nadia Hashimi

Praise for WHEN THE MOON IS LOW:

“A must-read saga about borders, barriers, and the resolve of one courageous mother fighting to cross over.”  –  O, the Oprah Magazine

“Expertly depicting the anxiety and excitement that accompanies a new life, Hashimi’s gripping page-turner is perfect for book clubs.”  – Library Journal (starred review)

“A fascinating look at the unspoken lives of Afghani women, separated by generations and miles, yet achingly similar. This is a story to transport you and make you think.” – Shilpi Somaya Gowda, New York Times bestselling author of The Secret Daughter 


About the book:

In her bestselling debut, The Pearl That Broke Its Shell, Nadia Hashimi deftly wove a spellbinding tale of the heartache, hardship and triumph of Afghan women. In her follow-up, When The Moon Is Low, we meet Fereiba – a motherless young girl whose passion for learning helps her survive early heartbreak to become a successful educator paired in an arranged marriage that beats the odds and proves a love match. But when the Taliban come to power, Fereiba’s happy life crumbles, and she and her three children are forced to flee Kabul, headed for a glimmer of hope thousands of miles away in London, where Fereiba’s sister offers the promise of family and asylum.

With forged papers in hand, Fereiba and her children trek into the darkness of the Iranian mountains, eventually traversing Greece, Italy and France on their quest for stability and freedom. Through Fereiba’s eyes, we learn the kindnesses and cruelties experienced by thousands of refugees throughout Europe each day. But in a terrible turn of fate, Fereiba is separated from her oldest son, teenaged Saleem, in a busy market place in Greece. Will destiny ultimately make right the many losses and heartaches Fereiba has endured and reunite her with her son? Will Saleem, forced into adulthood under the worst circumstances, be able to fend for himself and be reunited with his family?

Nadia Hashimi paints a richly detailed, moving, and ultimately hopeful story about the strength and resilience of women and their families, the plight of migrants, and the refugee crisis we see in numerous regions of the world today.

Like The Pearl That Broke Its Shell, When The Moon Is Low is a heartfelt revelation of a novel, extremely readable and thought-provoking, with characters who haunt the reader long after the last page is turned.


About the author:

Nadia Hashimi’s parents left Afghanistan in the 1970s, before the Soviet invasion. In 2002, Hashimi visited Afghanistan for the first time. She lives with her family in suburban Washington, D.C. where she works as a pediatrician.

Social Media links:


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Giveaway (US/CA): Sister Dear by Laura McNeill

sister dear I’m excited to tell you about a giveaway of SISTER DEAR by Laura McNeill. You can check out Goodreads for more information about this novel. laura mcneill

Social Media for author Laura McNeill:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LauraMcNeillBks

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lauramcneillauthor/

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Click the link for a Rafflecopter giveaway of three copies of SISTER DEAR.

Good luck!

Fishbowl: A Novel by Bradley Somer

  • FishbowlTitle:  Fishbowl: A Novel
  • Author:  Bradley Somer
  • Genre:  Fiction
  • Pages:  304
  • Published:  August 2015 – St. Martin’s Press
  • Source:  Publisher

Description:  A goldfish named Ian is falling from the 27th-floor balcony on which his fishbowl sits. He’s longed for adventure, so when the opportunity arises, he escapes from his bowl, clears the balcony railing and finds himself airborne. Plummeting toward the street below, Ian witnesses the lives of the Seville on Roxy residents.

There’s the handsome grad student, his girlfriend, and his mistress; the construction worker who feels trapped by a secret; the building’s super who feels invisible and alone; the pregnant woman on bed rest who craves a forbidden ice cream sandwich; the shut-in for whom dirty talk, and quiche, are a way of life; and home-schooled Herman, a boy who thinks he can travel through time. Though they share time and space, they have something even more important in common: each faces a decision that will affect the course of their lives. Within the walls of the Seville are stories of love, new life, and death, of facing the ugly truth of who one has been and the beautiful truth of who one can become.

Sometimes taking a risk is the only way to move forward with our lives. As Ian the goldfish knows, “An entire life devoted to a fishbowl will make one die an old fish with not one adventure had.”  (publisher)

My take:  Fishbowl is the story of Ian the goldfish who finds himself on the adventure of a lifetime. He observes many goings-on along his way to the pavement. Each humorously titled chapter depicts a different scene on Ian’s trip.

As the description above notes there are all kinds of people who live in the building. What they need is connection to others so as not to feel lonely. I loved the various ways Somer showed that need in his characters. Not only the need but then actually taking the risk to reach for something more in life.

All this plays out in a quirky, funny, sexy, heart-breaking, and ultimately uplifting story of a brave goldfish named Ian. I’m so glad I had the chance to read it. Adding to the enjoyment of the novel is the clever visual of Ian’s plunge in the margins of the pages. When I finished reading the book I flipped (for lack of a better word) the pages quickly and laughed, knowing the outcome.


Bradley Somer_credit Nenad MaksimovicBRADLEY SOMER was born in Sydney, Australia and grew up in Canada and holds degrees in Anthropology and Archaeology. His short fiction has appeared in literary journals, reviews and anthologies. His debut novel, Imperfections, published in Canada, won the 2013 CBC Bookie Award for debut of the year. Bradley currently lives in a little old house in the city of Calgary, Canada, where he works on his writing projects and tries to ignore the wild growth that his backyard has become.

Spotlight/US Giveaway: If I Knew You Were Going To Be This Beautiful, I Never Would Have Let You Go by Judy Chicurel

9780425277966

Description:

Incisive and compelling stories link together to form a keenly observed coming of age novel. Unfolding during the summer of 1972 in a down-on-its-heels Long Island beach town, this moving debut explores the friendships and connections of young people on the cusp of adulthood, trying to make sense of the changing world that surrounds them with a mixture of fear and bravado.

Observed through the perceptive eyes of Katie, life among the denizens of Elephant Beach comprises a blend of clinging to convention and yearning for something more. Working class, and more than a little run down, the community percolates with generational tension. For Katie and her friends, just graduating from high school, there are limited expectations, and even those are often cut short by unplanned pregnancies and hasty teenage marriages.

During this one memorable summer, Katie and her friends will experiment with sex and drugs, fall in love and have babies, all the while holding the greater world at bay as they try to figure out what to do with their lives. Longstanding relationships will change forever or solidify into something immutable. A new generation, uneasy and unsure, will take the first steps toward the indeterminate future.


Praise for  IF I KNEW YOU WERE GOING TO BE THIS BEAUTIFUL, I NEVER WOULD HAVE LET YOU GO:

“An emotionally resonant collection of coming-of-age stories . . . moving.”—The Wall Street Journal

“[A] hauntingly written debut . . . lovely.”The Boston Globe

“. . . A beautiful and honest coming-of-age story. . . . A stunningly evocative portrait of a down-on-its-luck town and its people.”—Booklist, starred review


About the author:

Judy Chicurel’s work has appeared in regional, national, and international publications, including The New York TimesNewsday, and Granta. Her plays have been produced and performed in Manhattan. She lives by the water in Brooklyn, New York.


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Spotlight/US Giveaway: The Shell Seekers by Rosamund Pilcher

shell seekers Book Synopsis: An instant bestseller when it was first published in 1987, The Shell Seekers is an enduring classic which has touched the hearts of millions of readers worldwide.  A novel of connection, it is the story of one family, and of the passions and heartbreak that have held them together for three generations. It is filled with real people–mothers and daughters, husband and lovers–and inspired with real values.  Now for the first time in trade paperback, this magical novel—the kind of reading experience that comes along only once in a long while—is the perfect summer read, whether you are returning to it again, or opening the cover for the first time. At the end of a long and useful life, Penelope Keeling’s prized possession is The Shell Seekers, painted by her father, and symbolizing her unconventional life, from bohemian childhood to wartime romance. When her grown children learn their grandfather’s work is now worth a fortune, each has an idea as to what Penelope should do. But as she recalls the passions, tragedies, and secrets of her life, she knows there is only one answer…and it lies in her heart. Author Info: ROSAMUNDE PILCHER has had a long and distinguished career as a novelist and short-story writer, but it was her phenomenally successful novel The Shell Seekers that captured the hearts of all who read it and won her international recognition as one of the most-loved storytellers of our time.  The Shell Seekers was followed by September and then by Coming Home and Winter Solstice, which also became worldwide bestsellers.  She lives in Perthshire, Scotland.

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My brief take:  (read in 2009)

The Shell Seekers is the sweeping tale of Penelope Stern Keeling and her family. It’s also the title of a painting by her father and given to her when she married. We learn Penelope’s story in flashback form – much of it taking place during WWII. A fair amount is also in the present (at the time the book was published – the mid 1980s). If you’re a fan of family sagas and haven’t yet read The Shell Seekers, you’re in for a treat.
 
The chapters are titled after important characters in the story. I thought the book was a fair reading experience until the chapter “Richard” – that’s when it became a wonderful story for me. I couldn’t put the book down from that point on. I’m so glad I finally got around to reading it.


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The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson

  • the bookseller (Mar3)Title:  The Bookseller
  • Author:  Cynthia Swanson
  • Genre:  Fiction
  • Published:  March 2015 – Harper
  • Source:  Publisher

My take: The Bookseller is about Kitty, a thirty-something woman in 1960s Denver, CO who owns a book store with her best friend. Lately, Kitty has been having some vivid and strange dreams where she’s living a parallel life that is quite different from her real life. She is called Katharyn and has a husband and three children. In her dream life she finds herself daydreaming about her life as Kitty. She can’t figure out what’s going on until the dreams begin to jog some memories. As confusing as this might sound, I found it easy to follow.

Cynthia Swanson’s dual-storylines kept me turning the pages. It was apparent to me what was going on about midway through but that didn’t affect my enjoyment of the novel. It made me think about the imperfections in life and how they can change our idea of what would make us happy or content. The natural order of life, as well as unexpected circumstances, can make our lives turn on a dime.

The Bookseller is Swanson’s debut novel. I think it would be a good selection for readers looking for something a little different.

Us: A Novel by David Nicholls

  • US  Us coverTitle:  Us: A Novel
  • Author:  David Nicholls
  • Genre:  Fiction
  • Published:  October 2014 – Harper
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize

David Nicholls brings the wit and intelligence that graced his enormously popular New York Times bestseller, One Day, to a compellingly human, deftly funny new novel about what holds marriages and families together—and what happens, and what we learn about ourselves, when everything threatens to fall apart.

Douglas Petersen may be mild-mannered, but behind his reserve lies a sense of humor that, against all odds, seduces beautiful Connie into a second date . . . and eventually into marriage. Now, almost three decades after their relationship first blossomed in London, they live more or less happily in the suburbs with their moody seventeen year-old son, Albie. Then Connie tells him she thinks she wants a divorce.

The timing couldn’t be worse. Hoping to encourage her son’s artistic interests, Connie has planned a month-long tour of European capitals, a chance to experience the world’s greatest works of art as a family, and she can’t bring herself to cancel. And maybe going ahead with the original plan is for the best anyway? Douglas is privately convinced that this landmark trip will rekindle the romance in the marriage, and might even help him to bond with Albie.

Narrated from Douglas’s endearingly honest, slyly witty, and at times achingly optimistic point of view, Us is the story of a man trying to rescue his relationship with the woman he loves, and learning how to get closer to a son who’s always felt like a stranger. Us is a moving meditation on the demands of marriage and parenthood, the regrets of abandoning youth for middle age, and the intricate relationship between the heart and the head. And in David Nicholls’s gifted hands, Douglas’s odyssey brings Europe—from the streets of Amsterdam to the famed museums of Paris, from the cafés of Venice to the beaches of Barcelona—to vivid life just as he experiences a powerful awakening of his own. Will this summer be his last as a husband, or the moment when he turns his marriage, and maybe even his whole life, around?  (publisher)

My take: Douglas and Connie have been together for almost 25 years. They’re about to go on a European tour with their 17 year-old son when Connie tells Douglas she may want to leave him. This seems to come from nowhere and Douglas isn’t sure what to do. She wants to go on their holiday – making him think he can convince her not to leave him when they return. 

What follows is a road trip that had me laughing, wincing (at the things Douglas says to his wife and son), and feeling quite sad for the three of them as they near the end of the trip. The one I felt the most sympathy was their son, Albie. I won’t spoil by saying why but suffice to say, being the child, he suffered the strongest emotional toll.

Most novels I’ve read about marriage and children have been written by female authors. I was impressed by the emotional tone David Nicholls gave his story. It rang true. The story is told from Douglas’s POV and alternates from when Douglas and Connie first met 25 years ago to present day.

My biggest quibble is the length of the book – 400+ pages.  It seemed to drag a bit in the middle – maybe I’m in the minority on this issue. I’d recommend Us to fans of David Nicholls and novels about marriage and family.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

  • a man called oveTitle:  A Man Called Ove: A Novel
  • Author:  Fredrik Backman
  • Genre:  Fiction
  • Published:  July 2014 – Atria Books
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  In this bestselling and delightfully quirky debut novel from Sweden, a grumpy yet loveable man finds his solitary world turned on its head when a boisterous young family moves in next door.

Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon—the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him “the bitter neighbor from hell.” But must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?

Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations.

A feel-good story in the spirit of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, Fredrik Backman’s novel about the angry old man next door is a thoughtful and charming exploration of the profound impact one life has on countless others.  (publisher)

My take:  Although I don’t consider myself a cranky old woman, I share the quality of not going around “with a smile plastered to my face all the time” – and I’ve been asked “what’s wrong?” when absolutely nothing is wrong. So I kind of “got” Ove.🙂

Fredrik Backman peeled back the layers of Ove’s story (no spoilers here) and pulled me into an understanding of what made Ove – Ove. I was unexpectedly charmed by Ove and the rag-tag group of neighbors and a stray cat that became family to him – although he’d never call them family. I think my favorite (after Ove) was Parvaneh, the pregnant neighbor. She didn’t take him seriously yet demanded answers from him. I felt she was a daughter figure to him (but he’d never admit that). It was lovely to see their relationship, such that it was, develop. It struck me that a few of the characters mirrored Ove in some ways  but I’m not sure he would agree.

A Man Called Ove will be on my 2014 Favorites list. It’s a story about a man who had a plan but despite everything he tried to put that plan in motion, life had a plan of its own. It’s a charming, touching and emotional novel that I definitely recommend!

Mimi Malloy, At Last: A Novel by Julia MacDonnell

Mimi Malloy, At Last!_COVER

  • Title:  Mimi Malloy, At Last
  • Author:  Julia MacDonnell
  • Genre:  Fiction
  • Published:  April 2014 – Picador
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  Meet Mimi Malloy: A daughter of the Great Depression, Mimi was born into an Irish-Catholic brood of seven, and she has done her best to raise six beautiful daughters of her own. Now they’re grown, and Mimi, a divorcée, is unexpectedly retired. But she takes solace in the comforts of her new life: her apartment in the heart of Quincy, the occasional True Blue cigarette, and evenings with Frank Sinatra on the stereo and a highball in her hand.
Yet her phone is arguably the busiest in greater Boston—it rings “Day In, Day Out,” as Ol’ Blue Eyes would say. Her surviving sisters love to gab about their girlhood, while her eldest, Cassandra, calls every morning to preach the gospel of assisted living. And when an MRI reveals that Mimi’s brain is filled with black spots—areas of atrophy, her doctor says—it looks like that’s exactly where she’s headed, to spend her days in “a storage facility for unwanted antiques.”
Mimi knows her mind is (more or less) as sharp as ever, and she won’t go down without a fight. As she prepares to take her stand, she stumbles upon an old pendant of her mother’s and, slowly, her memory starts to return—specifically, recollections of a shocking and painful childhood, a sister who was sent away to Ireland, and the wicked stepmother she swore to forget.

My take:  Mimi Malloy’s daughters are so annoyed that she refuses to take care of herself despite her doctor’s warnings of stroke and certain death. She also will not leave her low-income apartment for a beautiful new senior home. She likes her independence and familiar surroundings, thank you very much.

When Mimi’s sister’s young grandson works on a genealogy project for school Mimi is asked to fill out a family history. She’s not one to live in the past so this is about the last thing she wants to do. After a little pestering she does as asked and that’s when she starts being visited by sisters and others who’ve passed. It’s as if they are leading her to discover details of their early lives that she remembers quite differently from the others.

Julia MacDonnell’s characters seemed so familiar to me. It was like watching and listening to my mother and her sisters gab at reunions when I was a young girl. Were the details the same? No. But the characteristics and era were. They grew up in tough times and had responsibilities way beyond their years. When someone “fell” she tried her best to get back up and move on. As Mimi’s daughters listen to their aunts and mother they realize they didn’t know them as well as they thought.

There’s so much more to the novel. The decisions made during tough times changed lives and are remembered quite differently by Mimi, her sisters, and her daughters. Their acceptance of the various perspectives lead to understanding on a new level.

I really liked this novel of family dynamics and perseverance and will recommend it to family and friends next time we’re together – there’s a reunion this summer!

Review/Giveaway: Just Destiny by Theresa Rizzo

Just Destiny (April 26)

  • Title:  Just Destiny
  • Author:  Theresa Rizzo
  • Genre:  Fiction
  • Published:  March 2014 – Smashwords
  • Source:  Author

Synopsis:  What would you do if your whole world fell apart? Jenny Harrison made some poor choices in the past, but marrying Gabe was the best thing she’d ever done. They had the perfect marriage, until a tragic accident leaves Gabe brain dead and her world in ruins. Devastated by grief, she decides to preserve the best of their love by conceiving his child, but Gabe’s family is adamantly opposed, even willing to chance exposing long-held family secrets to stop her. Caught in a web of twisted motives and contentious legal issues, Jenny turns to best friend and attorney, Steve Grant. Steve wants to help Jenny but he has reservations of his own. When something so private and simple turns public and complicated, will Jenny relent? What is Steve willing to sacrifice to help Jenny?

My take:  Theresa Rizzo’s novel is an emotional tale that made me ask myself “what would I do?” or “would I do that?”. For that reason I think  Just Destiny would be a good book group choice. Discussion questions are provided at the end of the book.

Jenny is caught in an ethical and, some might say, moral dilemma. She faces tough choices throughout the months following her beloved husband’s death. It’s bad enough she has to learn to live without Gabe but then to have people in her life make things even harder is disheartening.

Just Destiny’s layers are revealed at a good pace. Filled with characters that are believable (and many are flawed) it certainly held my interest as I wondered what would happen next in Jenny’s tumultuous  life. This book has romance, suspense, and courtroom drama so if those fit your preferred genres you’ll want to read Just Destiny.  I’m glad I had the chance to read it.

_____

About the author:

Theresa Rizzo is an award-winning author who writes emotional stories that explore the complexity of relationships and Theresa_2013_0279families through real-life trials. 

Born and raised in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, she currently lives outside of Boulder, Colorado with her husband of thirty years. She’s raised four wonderful children who are now scattered across the country. Theresa’s debut book, He Belongs to Me was a finalist in the General Fiction Category of The 2013 USA Best Book Awards!  Her second book, Just Destiny, was released March 31, 2014. Find Theresa on the web at www.theresarizzo.com, or connect with her on Facebooktwitter or Goodreads. Purchase Just Destiny at Amazon,  Barnes, NobleiBookstore & Smashwords.

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Giveaway

Theresa Rizzo has generously provided a digital copy of Just Destiny for one lucky reader.

Please click here and fill out the form.

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The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

trp

  • Title:  The Rosie Project
  • Author:  Graeme Simsion
  • Narrator:  Dan O’Grady
  • Genre:  Fiction
  • Published:  October 2013 – Simon & Schuster Audio
  • Source:  Purchased

Synopsis:  MEET DON TILLMAN, a brilliant yet socially challenged professor of genetics, who’s decided it’s time he found a wife. And so, in the orderly, evidence-based manner with which Don approaches all things, he designs the Wife Project to find his perfect partner: a sixteen-page, scientifically valid survey to filter out the drinkers, the smokers, the late arrivers. 

Rosie Jarman is all these things. She also is strangely beguiling, fiery, and intelligent. And while Don quickly disqualifies her as a candidate for the Wife Project, as a DNA expert Don is particularly suited to help Rosie on her own quest: identifying her biological father. When an unlikely relationship develops as they collaborate on the Father Project, Don is forced to confront the spontaneous whirlwind that is Rosie—and the realization that, despite your best scientific efforts, you don’t find love, it finds you.  (publisher)

My brief take:  The Rosie Project is Graeme Simsion’s charming novel about a socially awkward professor on the search for the perfect wife. When he meets Rosie he quickly determines she’ll not be a candidate for the Wife Project. These two people seem about as far apart on the compatible scale as two people could be so they don’t even think about a romantic involvement. That made their story even more enjoyable. It’s a bit of a comedy of errors at times that had me laughing as I listened. To that point – I’m glad I listened to the audiobook. Dan O’Grady did a great job voicing the various characters. His narration added to my enjoyment of the novel. Recommended.

That Part Was True by Deborah McKinlay

that part was true

  • Title:  That Part Was True: A Novel
  • Author:  Deborah McKinlay
  • Genre:  Fiction
  • Published:  February 2014 – Grand Central Publishing
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  When Eve Petworth writes to Jackson Cooper to praise a scene in one of his books, they discover a mutual love of cookery and food. Their friendship blossoms against the backdrop of Jackson’s colorful, but ultimately unsatisfying, love-life and Eve’s tense relationship with her soon-to-be married daughter. As each of them offers, from behind the veils of semi-anonymity and distance, wise and increasingly affectionate counsel to the other, they both begin to confront their problems and plan a celebratory meeting in Paris–a meeting that Eve fears can never happen.

My take:  Early on in my reading of this slim novel I wondered where it all was going and how would it end. I mention that because I found the end to be quite satisfying even though it was rather unexpected.

Being in the same age group (50ish) I could relate a bit to both Jack and Eve. That made the reading all the more enjoyable. Jack is grappling with why he can’t get a relationship right. Eve is dealing with her deep shyness (and something bordering on agoraphobia) that has shown itself in public recently leading to panic attacks.

I loved how the two counseled each other as they discussed cooking in their brief letters. I smiled often while reading the letters.

I’m not sure what more to reveal except to say that I’m glad I read That Part Was True. For readers who enjoy recipes included in novels like this, there are a few.

Audiobook: Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger

ordinary grace (audio)

  • Title:  Ordinary Grace (audiobook)
  • Author:  William Kent Krueger
  • Narrator:  Rich Orlow
  • Genre:  Fiction; Mystery
  • Published:  Recorded Books – March 2013
  • Source:  purchased

Synopsis:  New Bremen, Minnesota, 1961. The Twins were playing their debut season, ice-cold root beers were selling out at the soda counter of Halderson’s Drugstore, and Hot Stuff comic books were a mainstay on every barbershop magazine rack. It was a time of innocence and hope for a country with a new, young president. But for thirteen-year-old Frank Drum it was a grim summer in which death visited frequently and assumed many forms. Accident. Nature. Suicide. Murder. 
Frank begins the season preoccupied with the concerns of any teenage boy, but when tragedy unexpectedly strikes his family— which includes his Methodist minister father; his passionate, artistic mother; Juilliard-bound older sister; and wise-beyond-his-years kid brother— he finds himself thrust into an adult world full of secrets, lies, adultery, and betrayal, suddenly called upon to demonstrate a maturity and gumption beyond his years.
Told from Frank’s perspective forty years after that fateful summer, Ordinary Grace is a brilliantly moving account of a boy standing at the door of his young manhood, trying to understand a world that seems to be falling apart around him. It is an unforgettable novel about discovering the terrible price of wisdom and the enduring grace of God.  (publisher)

My brief take:  I highly recommend the audiobook edition of this novel. The narration by Rich Orlow is superb.

Just read the synopsis above. If that doesn’t grab you, well, never mind. I think it will. And, in the end, you’ll probably be glad you read (or listened to) it. I don’t want to say much more than what I posted on Goodreads:

. . .  A coming of age novel where ordinary grace meets the awful grace of God in a small town in Minnesota during one summer in the early 1960s.

It’s one of my 2013 Favorites.

The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg

the all-girl filling station's last reunion

  • Title:  The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion – A Novel
  • Author:  Fannie Flagg
  • Genre:  Fiction
  • Published:  November 2013 – Random House
  • Source:  Publisher

My take:  With her last daughter’s wedding behind her, Sookie Pool is looking forward to relaxing with her husband on a much-needed vacation when she receives a registered letter that turns her life upside down. The letter pushes Sookie on a journey of discovery as she tries to solve the mystery that has suddenly taken over her life.

Filled with colorful characters, my favorite of the book was Sookie. Although I didn’t identify completely with her there are certain aspects of Sookie that every woman will understand. I think we’re all on the same journey – just at different places along the way.

Fannie Flagg is one of my favorite authors. I adore her charming and funny way of telling a story that never fails to pull me completely in. That was the case in this novel. She also taught me about the WASPs (Women Airforce Service Pilots) of WWII. I’d always heard about the war effort on the home front but the WASPs were new to me. What an amazing group of women!

The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion is one of my favorite books of 2013. If you’re looking for a book that will make you laugh out loud and possibly learn something new you’ll want to read this wonderful novel.

Note:  You can learn more about the WASPs here.