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.


 

Night of Miracles by Elizabeth Berg

Night of Miracles by Elizabeth Berg

Pub. date: November 13, 2018 – Random House

Review galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

Lucille Howard is getting on in years, but she stays busy. Thanks to the inspiration of her dearly departed friend Arthur Truluv, she has begun to teach baking classes, sharing the secrets to her delicious classic Southern yellow cake, the perfect pinwheel cookies, and other sweet essentials. Her classes have become so popular that she’s hired Iris, a new resident of Mason, Missouri, as an assistant. Iris doesn’t know how to bake but she needs to keep her mind off a big decision she sorely regrets.

When a new family moves in next door and tragedy strikes, Lucille begins to look out for Lincoln, their son. Lincoln’s parents aren’t the only ones in town facing hard choices and uncertain futures. In these difficult times, the residents of Mason come together and find the true power of community—just when they need it the most. (publisher)

My take:  I liked this follow-up as much or maybe even more than The Story of Arthur Truluv. We met Arthur, Maddy and Lucille in that book and the story continues in Night of Miracles. I found the characters in the small Missouri town of Mason charming and recognizable. I grew up in a small midwestern town and know “these people” and wanted to know them all – from octogenarian Lucille to Tiny, the town cabbie to Iris, a new arrival to town (and several more people). They’re all at various stages in life and learning to let go of long-held fears. I loved their courage to move forward despite their current and past challenges. The novel is told in short chapters that felt like vignettes but soon became connected. It was a comforting read that I quite enjoyed and recommend to fans of Elizabeth Berg and novels with a small town setting.


 

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.

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

  • Eligible (4:19:16 RH)Title:  Eligible: A modern retelling of Pride & Prejudice
  • Author:  Curtis Sittenfeld
  • Genre:  Literary Fiction
  • Pages:  512
  • Publish date:  April 19, 2016 – Random House
  • Source:  Publisher/NetGalley

Description:  From the “wickedly entertaining” (USA Today) Curtis Sittenfeld, New York Times bestselling author of Prep and American Wife, comes a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice. Equal parts homage to Jane Austen and bold literary experiment, Eligible is a brilliant, playful, and delicious saga for the twenty-first century.
 
This version of the Bennet family—and Mr. Darcy—is one that you have and haven’t met before: Liz is a magazine writer in her late thirties who, like her yoga instructor older sister, Jane, lives in New York City. When their father has a health scare, they return to their childhood home in Cincinnati to help—and discover that the sprawling Tudor they grew up in is crumbling and the family is in disarray.
 
Youngest sisters Kitty and Lydia are too busy with their CrossFit workouts and Paleo diets to get jobs. Mary, the middle sister, is earning her third online master’s degree and barely leaves her room, except for those mysterious Tuesday-night outings she won’t discuss. And Mrs. Bennet has one thing on her mind: how to marry off her daughters, especially as Jane’s fortieth birthday fast approaches.
 
Enter Chip Bingley, a handsome new-in-town doctor who recently appeared on the juggernaut reality TV dating show Eligible. At a Fourth of July barbecue, Chip takes an immediate interest in Jane, but Chip’s friend neurosurgeon Fitzwilliam Darcy reveals himself to Liz to be much less charming. . . . 
 
And yet, first impressions can be deceiving.   (publisher)

My take: I don’t consider myself an Austen scholar – not even close! – but I love her books. Even if you’re not a fan of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice I would recommend Eligible based on my enjoyment from reading it. It’s highly readable – addictive, I’d say. I was very happy I’d tossed it in my bag when I went on vacation.

I loved thoroughly modern Lizzie and her endearing sister Jane. Her other siblings added to the plot, for sure. Mr. and Mrs. Bennett were similar in temperament to the parents in P&P. I loved the occupations held by Darcy and Bingley and how the modern predicaments of all characters moved the plot.

Curtis Sittenfeld’s retelling of P&P is fun yet addresses the same basic issues as the original. There are distinct differences but I was happy about them – most made me laugh in a good way. I won’t spoil with specifics but I’ll recommend Eligible to anyone looking for an entertaining novel.

US Giveaway: A Small Indiscretion by Jan Ellison (signed copy)

a small indiscretion

A Small Indiscretion: A Novel
By Jan Ellison
Published by Random House
Hardcover: 336 pages
January 20, 2015; $27.00 US/ $32.00 CAN; 9780812995442

Description
A Small Indiscretion fixes an unflinching eye on the power of desire and the danger of obsession as it unfolds the story of one woman’s reckoning with a youthful mistake.

At nineteen, Annie Black trades a bleak future in her washed-out hometown for a London winter of drinking to oblivion and yearning for deliverance. Some two decades later, she is married to a good man and settled in San Francisco, with a son and two daughters and a successful career designing artistic interior lights. One June morning, a photograph arrives in her mailbox, igniting an old longing and setting off a chain of events that rock the foundations of her marriage and threaten to overturn her family’s hard-won happiness.

The novel moves back and forth across time between San Francisco in the present and that distant winter in Europe. The two worlds converge and explode when the adult Annie returns to London seeking answers, her indiscretions come to light, and the phone rings with shocking news about her son. Now Annie must fight to save her family by piecing together the mystery of her past — the fateful collision of liberation and abandon and sexual desire that drew an invisible map of her future.

A Small Indiscretion is a riveting debut novel about a woman’s search for understanding and forgiveness, a taut exploration of a modern marriage, and of love — the kind that destroys, and the kind that redeems.

Author Bio
Jan Ellison 
is a mother of four and a novelist, essayist and short-story writer. Her first book, A Small Indiscretion (Random House 2015) is a literary suspense novel about a harrowing coming-of-age, a marriage under siege, and a mother who must excavate the truth of her past. It was an Oprah Editor’s Pick and a San Francisco Chronicle Book Club Pick.

Jan’s essays and stories have appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Narrative Magazine and elsewhere, and she received an O. Henry Prize for her first short story to appear in print.

Jan is a graduate of Stanford and San Francisco State University, where she spent seven years earning an MFA when her children were small. Jan had a brief career at a Silicon Valley startup, marketing risk management software to derivatives traders. The company went public, Jan became a mother, and instead of leaning in she leaned out, became a stay-at-home mom, and began to write.

Jan’s experiences living and traveling abroad after college continue to fuel much of her writing. She also left Stanford for a year at nineteen to live and work on a shoe-string in Paris and London. She took notes on yellow legal pads, and years later, those notes provided the inspiration for her first novel.

Jan grew up in Los Angeles and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband of twenty years and their children.

For more information please visit http://www.janellison.com and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter


Praise for A Small Indiscretion:

“Delicious lazy day reading…just don’t underestimate the writing.” —Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 Editor’s Pick
“Ellison is a tantalizing storyteller…moving her story forward with cinematic verve.” —USA Today
“Lovely writing guides us through, driven by a quiet generosity.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“Ellison’s debut novel is both juicy and beautifully written.” —Flavorwire 
“Ellison writes gracefully, with moments of startling insight.” —The Rumpus

US Giveaway of a signed copy

Please click here and fill out the form

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a small indiscretion

Spotlight/US Giveaway: A Small Indiscretion by Jan Ellison

a small indiscretion

Description
A Small Indiscretion fixes an unflinching eye on the power of desire and the danger of obsession as it unfolds the story of one woman’s reckoning with a youthful mistake.

At nineteen, Annie Black trades a bleak future in her washed-out hometown for a London winter of drinking to oblivion and yearning for deliverance. Some two decades later, she is married to a good man and settled in San Francisco, with a son and two daughters and a successful career designing artistic interior lights. One June morning, a photograph arrives in her mailbox, igniting an old longing and setting off a chain of events that rock the foundations of her marriage and threaten to overturn her family’s hard-won happiness.

The novel moves back and forth across time between San Francisco in the present and that distant winter in Europe. The two worlds converge and explode when the adult Annie returns to London seeking answers, her indiscretions come to light, and the phone rings with shocking news about her son. Now Annie must fight to save her family by piecing together the mystery of her past — the fateful collision of liberation and abandon and sexual desire that drew an invisible map of her future.

A Small Indiscretion is a riveting debut novel about a woman’s search for understanding and forgiveness, a taut exploration of a modern marriage, and of love — the kind that destroys, and the kind that redeems.


 

Author Bio
Jan Ellison is a graduate of Stanford University and San Francisco State University’s MFA Program. She has published award-winning short fiction, and was the recipient of a 2007 O. Henry Prize for her first story to appear in print. Her work has also been shortlisted for The Best American Short Stories and the Pushcart Prize. She lives in Northern California with her husband and their four children. A Small Indiscretion is her first book.

For more information please visit http://www.janellison.com and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter


 

Reviews
“This voice is alive. It knows something. It will take us somewhere. The magic is accomplished so fast, so subtly, that most readers hardly notice… A Small Indiscretion is rich with suspense…astonishing … Delectable elements of this terrific first novel abound: Its characters are round and real…Ellison gives us an achingly physical sense of family life … Lovely writing guides us through, driven by a quiet generosity … This voice knows something, and by the end of the novel, so do we.” — San Francisco Chronicle, A&E, by Joan Frank

“The literary equivalent of a day spa: sink in, tune out, turn page, turn page, turn page. Delicious, lazy-day reading…just don’t underestimate the writing.”— Oprah’s Book Club Editor’s Pick, Oprah’s Book Club 2.0, by Leigh Newman

“An engrossing, believable, gracefully written family drama that reveals our past’s bare-knuckle grip on our present.”  — Emma DonoghueNew York Times bestselling author of Room

“A stunning debut by Jan Ellison . . . Like the photograph that arrives in the mail and sets in motion the plot of this gorgeous novel, A Small Indiscretion reminds us of the intensity of youthful desire and of the fragile nature of a marriage built on secrecy.” — Ann PackerNew York Times bestselling author of The Dive from Clausen’s Pier

“It might be convenient if our mistakes would fade with time rather than hunt us down complete with consequence, but that wouldn’t make for the kind of taut, hypnotic story Jan Ellison tells. The impact of narrator Annie Black’s ‘small’ indiscretion is anything but, and in a brilliantly paced unraveling, Ellison makes vivid the sometimes tragic interplay of choice and fate, lust and love, youth and adulthood — which can bring its own mistakes. Absorbing, chilling, and moving, A Small Indiscretion is the debut of an elegant writer who will be known and admired from the start.” — Robin Black, author of Life Drawing

“An emotional thriller of the Anita Shreve variety, with revelations that continue and relationships that evolve until the final pages . . . Connoisseurs of domestic suspense will finish this book in a few breathless sittings, then wait eagerly for Ellison’s next trick.”
— Kirkus Reviews

“[A] cleverly constructed debut . . . a deftly crafted, absorbing novel that peels back the layers of Annie’s character as it reveals the secrets of her past and present.”
— Booklist


US Giveaway

Please click here and fill out the form

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a small indiscretion

Published by Random House
Hardcover: 336 pages
January 20, 2015; $27.00 US/ $32.00 CAN; 9780812995442


Still Life with Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen

Vine- Still Life With Bread Crumbs

  • Title:  Still Life with Bread Crumbs
  • Author:  Anna Quindlen
  • Genre:  Fiction
  • Published:  January 2014 – Random House
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  Still Life with Bread Crumbs begins with an imagined gunshot and ends with a new tin roof. Between the two is a wry and knowing portrait of Rebecca Winter, a photographer whose work made her an unlikely heroine for many women. Her career is now descendent, her bank balance shaky, and she has fled the city for the middle of nowhere. There she discovers, in a tree stand with a roofer named Jim Bates, that what she sees through a camera lens is not all there is to life.

My take:  Rebecca Winter, famous for a serendipitous photo series years earlier, recently won a prize for her photography that generally means she’s “old news” in the art world. She now rents out her New York City apartment and lives in a tiny and dilapidated cottage in the woods so that she can afford to pay her father’s rent, her mother’s nursing home bills and occasionally send her son a check.

Rebecca hears animals in her roof above her bed every night and one day meets Jim Bates, a roofer several years her junior. He takes care of the animal issue and eventually becomes a friend. They are charmingly awkward around each other.

As Rebecca hikes the woods she discovers what look like memorials – the kind you’d see along the highway. These are white crosses with mementos of a girl’s youth. Rebecca photographs them not knowing their actual meaning and origins – and the result is a new photography show. What will happen when she learns the truth behind the photos?

I loved this book and I loved Rebecca. She needed to step away from her life to find out if that was the life she wanted to define her – to find out if there might be more in store for her. The first half of the novel quietly built up to the point where I couldn’t stop reading. The characters are beautifully developed and achingly true. I know I’ll be thinking about Tad and Sarah and Jim and Rebecca for a while.

True Life with Bread Crumbs would be a wonderful selection for book groups.

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.

The Homecoming of Samuel Lake by Jenny Wingfield

Title:  The Homecoming of Samuel Lake

Author:  Jenny Wingfield

Genre:  Fiction

Published:  July 2012 – Random House Trade Paperbacks – 352 pages

Synopsis:  Every first Sunday in June, members of the Moses clan gather for an annual reunion at “the old home place,” a sprawling hundred-acre farm in Arkansas. And every year, Samuel Lake, a vibrant and committed young preacher, brings his beloved wife, Willadee Moses, and their three children back for the festivities. The children embrace the reunion as a welcome escape from the prying eyes of their father’s congregation; for Willadee it’s a precious opportunity to spend time with her mother and father, Calla and John. But just as the reunion is getting under way, tragedy strikes, jolting the family to their core: John’s untimely death and, soon after, the loss of Samuel’s parish, which set the stage for a summer of crisis and profound change.

In the midst of it all, Samuel and Willadee’s outspoken eleven-year-old daughter, Swan, is a bright light. Her high spirits and fearlessness have alternately seduced and bedeviled three generations of the family. But it is Blade Ballenger, a traumatized eight-year-old neighbor, who soon captures Swan’s undivided attention. Full of righteous anger, and innocent of the peril facing her and those she loves, Swan makes it her mission to keep the boy safe from his terrifying father.

With characters who spring to life as vividly as if they were members of one’s own family, and with the clear-eyed wisdom that illuminates the most tragic—and triumphant—aspects of human nature, Jenny Wingfield emerges as one of the most vital, engaging storytellers writing today. In The Homecoming of Samuel Lake she has created a memorable and lasting work of fiction.

My brief take:  Oh my goodness! What a wonderful novel! I loved being immersed in the southern setting and I loved the Lake family. Jenny Wingfield’s characters and story completely pulled me in.

My heart was captured by Swan. She had a remarkably mature empathy for the people in her life but expressed it in such an age-appropriate way that it made me smile. My heart went out to her as shocking events unfolded but I was left feeling uplifted and optimistic for what the future would hold for her.

Swan is the main character but the other members of her family (immediate and extended) are interesting and endearing. They could probably each have their own novel – and I would want to read them!

The Homecoming of Samuel Lake will be on my 2012 Favorites list. Highly recommended.

Disclosure:  I received this book from the publisher. 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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Paris in Love: A Memoir by Eloisa James

Title:  Paris In Love: A Memoir

Author:  Eloisa James

Genre:  Memoir

Published:  April 2012 – Random House

My take:  Two weeks after her mother died of cancer Eloisa James was diagnosed with cancer. After coming through successful treatment the author and her husband decided to make some changes that involved getting rid of stuff and taking sabbaticals from their jobs. They sold their house and moved the family to Paris for a year.

While working on an academic book (EJ is Mary Bly in her academic/real life) and a historical romance novel James tweeted about daily life in Paris. Topics included French food, clothes, diet and exercise to offset the food, children’s school issues, and many other aspects of living in Paris.

James also included a few essays. One particularly touching essay titled Rose explained the motivation for the Paris adventure. I was caught off guard by the emotion it evoked.

At the end James compiled a list of recommended museums, places to eat, stores to buy food or clothing, etc. It would be helpful to anyone planning their own trip to Paris. I really enjoyed Paris In Love. The unusual style of short entries and essays worked for me and I think fans of memoirs will enjoy it. It’s going on my travel book shelf because Paris is on my bucket list!

Source:  Giveaway win from the publisher.

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

The Girl Who Chased The Moon by Sarah Addison Allen

About The Girl Who Chased the Moon

In her latest enchanting novel, New York Times bestselling author Sarah Addison Allen invites you to a quirky little Southern town with more magic than a full Carolina moon. Here two very different women discover how to find their place in the world…no matter how out of place they feel.

Emily Benedict came to Mullaby, North Carolina, hoping to solve at least some of the riddles surrounding her mother’s life. For instance, why did Dulcie Shelby leave her hometown so suddenly? Why did she vow never to return? But the moment Emily enters the house where her mother grew up and meets the grandfather she never knew—a reclusive, real-life gentle giant—she realizes that mysteries aren’t solved in Mullaby, they’re a way of life.

Here are rooms where the wallpaper changes to suit your mood. Unexplained lights skip across the yard at midnight. And a neighbor bakes hope in the form of cakes.

Everyone in Mullaby adores Julia Winterson’s cakes. She offers them to satisfy the town’s sweet tooth and in the hope of bringing back the love she fears she’s lost forever. In Julia, Emily may have found a link to her mother’s past. But why is everyone trying to discourage Emily’s growing relationship with the handsome and mysterious son of Mullaby’s most prominent family? Emily came to Mullaby to get answers, but all she’s found so far are more questions.

Is there really a ghost dancing in her backyard? Can a cake really bring back a lost love?

In this town of lovable misfits, maybe the right answer is the one that just feels…different.


* * * * * * *


My review: Sarah Addison Allen has worked her magic again. There’s an enchanting vibe to each of her novels yet I find them quite believable (ok, the apple tree in Garden Spells and the wallpaper in The Girl Who Chased The Moon are exceptions). You could call them modern fairy tales.

The Girl Who Chased The Moon has interesting characters. There’s Emily who, after her mother’s death, goes to live with Vance – her very tall grandfather – in Mullaby, North Carolina. He’s a bit odd but very nice. Emily finds that many of the people in Mullaby are a little on the quirky side and dealing with their own issues. One of those people is Win, a member of the most prominent family in town. Win’s uncle died because of Emily’s mother – at least that is the story he’s heard all his life. What is Win’s quirk? You’ll have to read the book.

Although it may seem like this is Emily’s story I think it is equally Julia’s. She is a neighbor to Emily and bakes cakes in hopes of attracting a certain person. She leaves the window in her kitchen open so the aroma will bring that person to her. There’s so much more to her story but I’ll just say I really enjoyed it.

Many other characters add to this sweet tale of hope and second chances. My only complaint is that it was too short. I wanted to keep reading about Emily, Vance, Win, Julia and all the people of Mullaby. This is one of those novels I just know I’ll read again.




About Sarah Addison Allen

Sarah Addison Allen is the New York Times bestselling author of Garden Spells andThe Sugar Queen. She was born and raised in Asheville, North Carolina, where she is currently at work on her next novel. You can visit Sarah Addison Allen’s website at: www.sarahaddisonallen.com.







Review copy from Random House and Pump Up Your Book

The Secret of Everything by Barbara O’Neal


The Secret of Everything by Barbara O'Neal: Book Cover

Tessa Harlow enjoyed leading hiking tours until the hike that had a nightmarish ending. Feeling tremendous guilt and responsibility for the incident she goes to her father’s home to heal. From the time of the accident she has flashbacks from her early childhood – memories that don’t make sense. Feeling a pull to the area where she spent the first years of her life, Tessa heads to New Mexico to scout possible hiking tours and that’s where her journey really begins. By meeting people who are new to her but from her past Tessa starts to put pieces together that lead her to the truth of her early years.


I enjoyed Tessa’s journey of discovery and how she learns to make reparations. It seems that more than a few characters in the book are looking for a way to make amends in their lives and find that they can help each other along the way. The depth given to the major characters had me pulling for each one. My favorite was Natalie, the daughter of Tessa’s lover. Natalie is grieving the loss of her mother and is acting out. Tessa feels a connection and wants to help her. I loved how the author makes that happen.

Barbara O’Neal’s writing is beautiful and evocative. Her descriptions of sights, smells, and sounds give wonderful atmosphere to Los Ladrones – the small New Mexico town where the story takes place.

I enjoyed reading The Secret of Everything and look forward to more novels by Barbara O’Neal.


Review copy from Random House (via LibraryThing Early Reviewers)


Cleopatra’s Daughter by Michelle Moran (and a giveaway)


A few years ago I read The Memoirs of Cleopatra by Margaret George. It is a huge book (900+pages) that made me a fan of historical fiction. What a story! When I heard about Cleopatra’s Daughter, I was very interested to see how the story continued. Author Michelle Moran immerses the reader in Rome at the time of Octavian. After he conquered Egypt (and following the suicides of Marc Antony and Cleopatra), Octavian takes Cleopatra’s children back to Rome. The story, narrated by Cleopatra Selene, points out the differences (and a few similarities) of Rome and Alexandria. It also shows the paranoia and fear the Romans lived with – slaves and wealthy alike. The book is filled with familiar historical names (senators, poets, relatives of Caesar) and events.


There’s a mystery to be solved – who is Red Eagle? He’s making trouble for slave owners and must be stopped. Could he be a freedman? A close friend of Octavian? A slave? Moran writes about the treatment of slaves as well as all the classes in Roman society. She also portrays a judicial system that left much to be desired – open air courts are depicted where the verdicts were known before the facts of the case were laid out.

There are detailed descriptions of many Rome landmarks such as the Pantheon, Circus Maximus, and Roman Forum. Moran includes a map of Rome in the age of Augustus (Octavian) as well as a map of the Roman Empire (in the age of Augustus). A timeline is provided that leads up to the deaths of Marc Antony and Cleopatra. Also helpful is a glossary. I really appreciated finding out what happened to all the main characters in the Afterword. I’ve added a book to my TBR list from one of the many resources.

From the gorgeous cover to the last page, Cleopatra’s Daughter is a wonderful book and one that I recommend to fans of historical fiction, the Ptolemies, and the Roman Empire.
Review copy from Michelle Moran and Random House. Release date is September 15, 2009.

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Giveaway!

Michelle Moran and Random House are providing a hardcover copy of Cleopatra’s Daughter and a paperback copy of The Heretic Queen for a giveaway! I’m going to do separate drawings.

To enter: leave your email in the comment box (sorry – no email, no entry). You also must tell me which book you would like to win.

If you want to enter for both books you must do two separate comments.

This giveaway is world-wide!

Giveaway ends at 9pm EDT, this Friday, Sept. 11. Winners will be announced on Saturday, Sept. 12.
Giveaway is now closed

Cover Image

Shanghai Girls by Lisa See – Review and a giveaway

Cover Image


Lisa See tells the story of Chinese sisters Pearl and May Chin. The story begins in Shanghai where they live a carefree life of affluence. This fun and easy life soon changes for the 19 and 22 year old sisters. Their father has gambled away all the family’s money and his daughters are part of the deal to cancel his debts. This sets in motion a series of events that find Pearl and May on their way to the United States.

Once again, Ms. See shows her wonderful gift of story-telling. Pearl, the older and more educated sister, tells the story. I was swept up in the saga of the Shanghai Girls – twenty years of their hopes, dreams, disappointments, joys and sorrows. I could see the colors and smell the aromas of L.A.’s Chinatown. See’s descriptions are quite vivid and detailed.

I was shocked when I turned the last page (not realizing it was the last page). It seems to me there’s a lot more story to tell. And I look forward to reading it.

Shanghai Girls will be published May 26, 2009
You can read more about Lisa See at her website.

Thanks to Random House and LibraryThing Early Reviewers

And now, the giveaway of my gently read ARC!

1. I can offer it to residents of the U.S. and Canada only, no P.O. boxes

2. Giveaway ends Friday, April 17th at noon, EDT

3. For 1 entry, comment here and leave your email address
Giveaway Ended