The Love Story of Missy Carmichael

The Love Story of Missy Carmichael by Beth Morrey

Published: April 7, 2020 – G.P. Putnam’s Sons

E-galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description: The world has changed around seventy-nine-year-old librarian Millicent Carmichael, aka Missy. Though quick to admit that she often found her roles as a housewife and mother less than satisfying, Missy once led a bustling life driven by two children, an accomplished and celebrated husband, and a Classics degree from Cambridge. Now her husband is gone, her daughter is estranged after a shattering argument, and her son has moved to his wife’s native Australia, taking Missy’s beloved only grandchild half-a-world away. She spends her days sipping sherry, avoiding people, and rattling around in her oversized, under-decorated house waiting for…what exactly?

The last thing Missy expects is for two perfect strangers and one spirited dog named Bob to break through her prickly exterior and show Missy just how much love she still has to give. In short order, Missy finds herself in the jarring embrace of an eclectic community that simply won’t take no for an answer–including a rambunctious mutt-on-loan whose unconditional love gives Missy a reason to re-enter the world one muddy paw print at a time.

Filled with wry laughter and deep insights, The Love Story of Missy Carmichael is a coming-of-old story that shows us it’s never too late to forgive yourself and, just as important, it’s never too late to love. (publisher)

My take:  This is the story of Missy, a seventy-nine-year-old woman who until this point seems to have let life happen to her. It’s the story of the family she is related to and the unrelated people who welcome her into their fold and, against her better instincts, she decides to accept. I wouldn’t describe Missy as curmudgeonly but more as overly-cautious. Slowly the author revealed exactly how much Missy had on her plate, what she tended to, and what she ignored. For me it was a very slow reveal but I found the pay-off in the last parts of the novel. I loved Missy’s ‘adopted’ family of characters and, above all, I loved Bob the dog. Ultimately this is a heartfelt and uplifting story that I very much enjoyed.


About the author:

Beth Morrey‘s work has been published in the Cambridge and Oxford May Anthologies and shortlisted for the Grazia Orange First Chapter competition. Currently the creative director at RDF Television, she lives in London with her family and dog. THE LOVE STORY OF MISSY CARMICHAEL is her debut novel.


Praise for The Love Story of Missy Carmichael

The Love Story of Missy Carmichael is a generous-hearted story showing the transformative power of friendship and community, whatever our time of life. . . . A fabulously enjoyable book!”

—Sarah Haywood, author of The Cactus

 

“Here is a love story of the most important kind: that of coming to love oneself through accepting and returning the love of others.”

Elizabeth Berg, author of Night of Miracles

 

“Deeply moving, charming and filled with wit and empathy—you can read on every page the love and care that Morrey has for each of her characters and by the end you’ll love them too.”

Kathy Wang, author of Family Trust

 

“Masterful and a real page-turner. Missy is a joy . . . the humor and courage with which she faces loss and aging are handled with such wit and empathy. The world needs more assured female voices like Beth Morrey’s.

Her novel is a breath of fresh air!”

Felicity Hayes-McCoy, author of The Library at the Edge of the World

 

“A beautiful story about love, loss, guilt and the power of friendship.”

—Jill Mansell, author of Maybe This Time

 

“For everyone with an Eleanor Oliphant–shaped hole in their heart, this is the book to fill it.

Gorgeous characters, heartfelt storytelling and the sort of book that lifts your heart.”

Eithne Shortall, author of Grace After Henry

 

“Moving but not sentimental (just as Missy would like it), this is a deeply satisfying read. Missy is a fantastically real character, as complex, frustrating, vulnerable and surprising as any I’ve met in print. I miss her already.”

Eleanor Wasserberg, author of Foxlowe

 

“A soulful, refreshing and tender book.”

—Stephanie Butland, author of The Lost for Words Bookshop

 

“The most beautiful and the most moving book I’ve read in a long time.

It will comfort you and it will break your heart.”

—Emma Flint, author of Little Deaths


 

Spotlight/US Giveaway: More Than Words

More Than Words by Jill Santopolo

Paperback published:  February 2020 – G.P. Putnam’s Sons

Giveaway book provided by the publisher

Description:  Nina has always known who she’s supposed to be. But is that who she truly is? Nina Gregory has always been a good daughter. Raised by her father, owner of New York City’s glamorous Gregory Hotels, Nina was taught that family, reputation, and legacy are what matter most. And Tim–her devoted boyfriend and best friend since childhood–feels the same. But when Nina’s father dies, he leaves behind a secret that shocks Nina to her core. Soon, Nina begins to see the men in her life–her father, her boyfriend, and unexpectedly, her boss, Rafael–in a new light, finding herself caught between the world she loves, and a passion that could upend everything. MORE THAN WORDS is a heartbreaking and romantic novel about grief, loss, love, and self-discovery, and how we choose which life we are meant to live. (publisher)

Praise for More Than Words

“A smart, sexy, delicious novel.”

People

 

“Santopolo returns with the tender More Than Words.” 

Marie Claire

“Another gorgeously heart-breaking and romantic read. . . . This one is certainly going to sweep you up in feelings.” 

Bustle

 

“A heartfelt story about life, love, and taking chances in the aftermath of loss. . . . This is a charming and sexy crowd-pleaser.”

Publishers Weekly

 

“Nina’s struggle to decide between two men, one of whom represents her old life and the other who represents what she could be if she took a chance, is propulsive and compelling. The depiction of Nina’s grief for her father is vividly raw, made more real by her eventual understanding that he was an imperfect human being. Full of drama, scandal, and romance, [More Than Words] is sure to delight fans of Santopolo’s The Light We Lost.”

Kirkus Reviews

 

“The latest from best-selling author Santopolo is a bittersweet and reflective novel of grief, loss, and coming into one’s own. Fans of leisurely paced and character-driven novels will appreciate the time she spends developing Nina’s voice and ensuring that it’s heard.”

Booklist

 

More Than Words is an outstandingly poignant and honest novel. Jill Santopolo is a true master of matters of the heart. This is a tender and wise story about family, love, and self. I couldn’t put it down.”

Taylor Jenkins Reid, author of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

 

“The perfect combination of romantic and real. I dare you to put this book down.”

Leslie Cohen, author of This Love Story Will Self-Destruct

US Giveaway

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Spotlight/US Giveaway: If You Want To Make God Laugh

If You Want To Make God Laugh by Bianca Marais

Published July 16, 2019 – G.P. Putnam’s Sons

Description: From the author of the beloved Hum If You Don’t Know the Words comes a rich, unforgettable story of three unique women in post-Apartheid South Africa who are brought together in their darkest time and discover the ways that love can transcend the strictest of boundaries.

In a squatter camp on the outskirts of Johannesburg, seventeen-year-old Zodwa lives in desperate poverty, under the shadowy threat of a civil war and a growing AIDS epidemic. Eight months pregnant, Zodwa carefully guards secrets that jeopardize her life.

Across the country, wealthy socialite Ruth appears to have everything her heart desires, but it’s what she can’t have that leads to her breakdown. Meanwhile, in Zaire, a disgraced former nun, Delilah, grapples with a past that refuses to stay buried. When these personal crises send both middle-aged women back to their rural hometown to heal, the discovery of an abandoned newborn baby upends everything, challenging their lifelong beliefs about race, motherhood, and the power of the past.

As the mystery surrounding the infant grows, the complicated lives of Zodwa, Ruth, and Delilah become inextricably linked. What follows is a mesmerizing look at family and identity that asks: How far will the human heart go to protect itself and the ones it loves?


About the author:

Bianca Marais is the author of Hum If You Don’t Know the Words. She holds a certificate in creative writing from the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies, where she now teaches creative writing. Before turning to writing, she started a corporate training company and volunteered with Cotlands, where she assisted care workers in Soweto with providing aid for HIV/AIDS orphans. Originally from South Africa, she now lives in Toronto with her husband.

Praise for Bianca Marais:

“Set against the backdrop of the Mandela presidency, the Afrikaner Resistance Movement, and the burgeoning AIDS epidemic, the story offers a look into the staggering emotional cost of secrecy, broken family bonds, racism, and sexual violence. Marais once again showcases her talent for pulling beauty from the pain of South African history with a strong story and wonderfully imperfect characters.” Publishers Weekly

“A moving portrait of the choices women can make–and the ones we can’t. Beautifully crafted and powerfully drawn, this book had me in tears.” —Jill Santopolo, bestselling author of The Light We Lost and More Than Words

“A story of three remarkable women at crossroads in their own lives against the backdrop of South Africa at the moment of stunning transformation that will keep you reading late into the night. Marais deftly completes a writer’s hat trick, leaving you gutted, smiling through tears and soaring with hope.” —Steven Rowley, bestselling author of Lily and the Octopus and The Editor

“You will absolutely love this book. You will. Why? Because Bianca Marais’s heart is immense and full of love. With unsparing insight into the human condition, she unspools a tale that is at once heartbreaking as it is merciful, validating our frailty while eulogizing our endless capacity for generosity and love. We all need the deep refuge of Bianca Marais’s exceptional voice.” Robin Oliveira, author of My Name is Mary Sutter and I Always Loved You

“Radiant…A stirring ode to a country’s painful maturation.” O, The Oprah Magazine on HUM IF YOU DON’T KNOW THE WORDS

“Richly drawn…[The characters’] journeys and eventual love poignantly demonstrate that nothing is simply black or white.” USA Today on HUM IF YOU DON’T KNOW THE WORDS

 “With its vivid, emotional scene-setting, alternating narration and tense plotting, this novel is a thoughtful, compelling page-turner.” Good Housekeeping on HUM IF YOU DON’T KNOW THE WORDS


US Giveaway

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The Orphan’s Song by Lauren Kate

The Orphan’s Song by Lauren Kate

Published:  June 25, 2019 – G.P. Putnam’s Sons

Book courtesy of the publisher

Description: The historical adult debut novel by # 1 New York Times bestselling author Lauren Kate, The Orphan’s Song is a sweeping love story about family and music–and the secrets each hold–that follows the intertwined fates of two Venetian orphans.

A song brought them together.
A secret will tear them apart.

Venice, 1736. When fate brings Violetta and Mino together on the roof of the Hospital of the Incurables, they form a connection that will change their lives forever. Both are orphans at the Incurables, dreaming of escape. But when the resident Maestro notices Violetta’s voice, she is selected for the Incurables’ world famous coro, and must sign an oath never to sing beyond its church doors.

After a declaration of love ends in heartbreak, Mino flees the Incurables in search of his family. Known as the “city of masks,” Venice is full of secrets, and Mino is certain one will lead to his long-lost mother. Without him, the walls close in on Violetta and she begins a dangerous and forbidden nightlife, hoping her voice can secure her freedom. But neither finds what they are looking for, until a haunting memory Violetta has suppressed since childhood leads them to a shocking confrontation.

Vibrant with the glamour and beauty of Venice at its zenith, The Orphan’s Song takes us on a breathtaking journey of passion, heartbreak, and betrayal before it crescendos to an unforgettable ending, a celebration of the enduring nature and transformative power of love. (publisher)

My take:  The Orphan’s Song is a lush tale about two orphans who meet at an orphanage in Venice. They have an immediate connection that will ebb and flow over the next few years. Violetta grows to be a gifted singer with a future that is set by the people who’ve cared for her and nurtured her talent since her arrival at the orphanage. Mino, also an orphan, hopes to gain an apprenticeship to ensure a good future. Being orphans has left them with strong feelings about marriage, family, etc. As they grow into young adults their priorities change in ways they never anticipated.

This is a novel for fans of historical fiction. I enjoyed the theme of music and its importance to all people of this time. The Hospital of the Incurables trained young girls to sing in church. They were famous and revered throughout the city. I loved reading about carnevale and how it figured in Venetian society and culture. Lauren Kate’s descriptions put me into each scene. With all the drama of Mina and Violetta’s story the novel seemed like an opera – which, in my estimation, is perfect. I enjoyed The Orphan’s Song very much and hope Lauren Kate will continue to write historical fiction.


About the author:

Lauren Kate is the #1 New York Times and internationally bestselling author of nine novels for young adults, including Fallen, which was made into a major motion picture by Sony. Her books have been translated into more than thirty languages and have sold more than ten million copies worldwide. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, daughter Matilda, and son Venice (named after the city where The Orphan’s Song is set). 


 Behind the Book by Lauren Kate

“I found this story when I was lost. It was the winter of 2015, and I was in Venice promoting another novel. It was the first book tour where I had my two young children with me, and I remember racing home from events to nurse my son, to kiss my daughter before she went to sleep, to relieve my husband of caring for two jet-lagged toddlers under the age of three. On this cold night my event ran late, and by the time I left the bookstore, the wind was brutal, the city flooded with aqua alta – high tide. I splashed toward what I hoped was my flat, turning down one narrow alley, then another, everything almost familiar.

At last, I saw three words chiseled on a building’s stone façade’s – Ospedale degli Incurabili. Hospital of the Incurables. I looked up at this hulking structure, for which the surrounding streets had been named. What is it? Who were they? I circled the compound and, eventually, three more deserted Dorsoduro alleys led me home. But long after my children were tucked into bed, I was still thinking about the Incurables.

Research revealed the the Ospedale degli Incurabili – which now houses a fine arts college – was originally a hospital and orphanage for foundling children, dating back to the sixteenth century. For hundreds of years the Incurables took in orphans and raised them to be musicians. The orphanage attracted the most famous Baroque composers as teachers, and many of its musicians became famous, drawing audiences from around the world. The Incurables was the original music conservatory – and each one of its students had been abandoned as a child.

A novel appeared at my door, begging to be let in.

…To write it, I returned to Venice and spent ten days with Venetian historians, musicians, and caretakers of the former orphanage. I took violin lessons and became a constant patron of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. I read Casanova’s memoirs and Vivaldi’s musical theory. I fell more deeply in love with Venice than I imagined possible.

None of my novels has ever come to me so fully formed. Blame it on the Serene Republic and on these characters, still falling in love.

Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoy The Orphan’s Song.”

Praise for The Orphan’s Song:

“Kate’s enchanting story brings the canals and backchannels of Venice to vivid life and will appeal to fans of Elizabeth Chadwick.” —Publishers Weekly

 

“An operatic and opulently detailed tale of longing, secrets, and high-stakes quests for freedom, love, art, and home…Kate vividly conjures a city of beauty and pain, piety and criminality, helplessness and ruthlessness, while choreographing a suspenseful, soaring love story of anguish, ecstasy, risk, and stunning reversals.”

Booklist

 

“Kate mesmerizes in a tale that brilliantly recreates 1700s Venice—a city of high-stakes intrigue and earthly delights…A tangled knot of betrayal and love, lies and redemption.  Marvelous.

—Fiona Davis, author of The Masterpiece

 

“Gorgeous… Kate uncovers the intriguing, little-known origin of the era’s most famous Baroque musicians…Brimming with love, deception, and ultimately, surprising truth.

—Marie Benedict, author of The Only Woman in the Room

 

The Orphan’s Song plunges the reader into the streets and canals of eighteenth-century Venice, where the world of Carnivale roils with music, love, and intrigue. Lauren Kate is a masterful storyteller, with a stunning command of her rich historical material and the ability to draw forth the beautiful and intimate songs of the human heart.—Allison Pataki, New York Times Bestselling author of Sisi


The Good Sister by Gillian McAllister

The Good Sister by Gillian McAllister

Published:  June 11, 2019 – G.P. Putnam’s Sons

Review copy courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description: Martha and Becky Blackwater are more than sisters–they’re each other’s lifelines. When Martha finds herself struggling to balance early motherhood and her growing business, Becky steps in to babysit her niece, Layla, without a second thought, bringing the two women closer than ever. But then the unthinkable happens, and Becky is charged with murder. 

Nine months later, Becky is on trial and maintains her innocence–and so does Martha. Unable to shake the feeling that her sister couldn’t possibly be guilty, Martha sets out to uncover exactly what happened that night, and how things could have gone so wrong. As the trial progresses, fault lines between the sisters begin to show–revealing cracks deep in their relationship and threatening the family each has worked so hard to build. With incredible empathy and resounding emotional heft, The Good Sister is a powerhouse of a novel that will lead readers to question everything they know about motherhood, family, and the price of forgiveness. (publisher)

My take:  The Good Sister is a courtroom drama that pits sister against sister after a tragic event. The expert witnesses’ facts show what really happened so this is a cut and dry case. Or is it?

Gillian McAllister’s story is told from the perspectives of sisters Martha and Becky, other family members and assorted witnesses over the course of the trial. I had this case solved – a few times. I was so sure and then I wasn’t.

I was drawn into the novel because I could sympathize with both sisters in how they dealt with caring for a baby who cried almost constantly. Their guilty feelings over that and other individual issues added emotional layers to the story. Despite that, I didn’t quite connect to the characters. They seemed a bit flat. I don’t read many courtroom dramas so I don’t know how this fits in the realm for readers who do but I can say The Good Sister was a fast read that kept me invested to the very end when all was revealed.


About the author:

Gillian McAllister graduated with a degree in English from the University of Birmingham. She lives in Birmingham, England, where she works as a lawyer. She is the author of Everything But the Truth and Anything You Do Say, both Sunday Timesbestsellers in the UK. THE GOOD SISTER is her US debut.