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Synopsis: An account executive in a Mad Men world, Anna Wyatt is at a crossroads. Recently divorced, she’s done a lot of emotional housecleaning, including a self-imposed dating sabbatical. But now that she’s turned forty, she’s struggling to figure out what her life needs. Brainstorming to win over an important new client, she discovers a self-help book–Be the Heroine, Find Your Hero–that offers her unexpected insights and leads her to a most unlikely place: a romance writers’ conference. If she can sign the Romance Cover Model of the Year Pageant winner for her campaign–and meet the author who has inspired her to take control of her life–she’ll win the account.
For Anna, taking control means taking chances, including getting to know Sasha, her pretty young colleague on the project, and indulging in a steamy elevator ride with Lincoln Mallory, a dashing financial consultant she meets in the hotel. When the conference ends, Anna and Lincoln must decide if their intense connection is strong enough to survive outside the romantic fantasy they’ve created. Yet Lincoln is only one of Anna’s dilemmas. Now that her campaign is off the ground, others in the office want to steal her success, and her alcoholic brother, Ferdie, is spiraling out of control.
To have the life she wants-to be happy without guilt, to be accepted for herself, to love and to be loved, to just be–she has to put herself first, accept her imperfections, embrace her passions, and finally be the heroine of her own story. (publisher)
My take: I so enjoyed this novel about a woman’s journey to accepting herself for who she really is – not the person she thought she should strive to be in order to be accepted by others (her parents, professors, boss, etc.). Liza Palmer’s story is funny, heartbreaking, poignant, and ultimately uplifting. I think many women will relate to some aspect of Anna’s personal life or career issues. I found her likable and sympathized with her struggles.
I love the way Palmer tells a story and she didn’t disappoint with Girl Before a Mirror. I liked it all. From Anna’s cheerful colleague, Sasha, to Lincoln, the dashing hero, to Helen, the encouraging and inspiring mentor – they all combined to help Anna figure things out. It’s an entertaining novel that I’ll recommend to friends.
Synopsis: The women of Bliss County have a pact—to find husbands. The right husbands.
One already has: Hadleigh Stevens, who married rancher Tripp Galloway a few months ago. Now Melody Nolan thinks it’s her turn. Melody has recently found success as a jewelry designer, and her work is the focus of her life. She’s not exactly unhappy, but she wants more. She’s always been attracted to Spence Hogan, the local chief of police, but she’s convinced that Spence, a notorious charmer, isn’t what you’d call husband material.
Spence is a good cop who isn’t scared of anything—except love. And he’s done everything he can to preserve his reputation as a womanizer—a reputation that keeps marriage-minded women, including Melody, at bay. And yet…there’s something about Melody he can’t forget. Something his heart can’t ignore. (publisher)
My take: It’s been a while since I’ve read one of Linda Lael Miller’s books. The Marriage Charm reminded me why I enjoy her romances. The characters are regular people and they deal with fairly normal life situations.
You can tell Miller knows her setting – the descriptions of small towns and rural mountain areas made me feel like I was right there. There’s a bit of mystery and drama in the crime Spence is trying to solve that involves many of the town’s citizens.
It all added up to an enjoyable way to spend a few hours reading. I’ll probably go back and read the first book (The Marriage Pact) in the series and look forward to reading the next.
Praise for Linda Lael Miller
“Linda Lael Miller creates vibrant characters and stories I defy you to forget.”
—#1 New York Times bestselling author Debbie Macomber
“Miller’s name is synonymous with the finest in western romance.”
—RT Book Reviews
“Miller’s masterful ability to create living, breathing characters never flags….[The] romance won’t disappoint.”
THE MARRIAGE CHARM LINDA LAEL MILLER February 2015
$7.99 U.S./$9.99 CAN. ISBN-13: 978-0373778928
The daughter of a town marshal, Linda Lael Miller is a #1 New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of more than one hundred historical and contemporary novels, most of which reflect her love of the West. Raised in Northport, Washington, the self-confessed barn goddess now lives in Spokane, Washington. Linda hit a career high in 2011 when all three of her Creed Cowboys books—A Creed in Stone Creek, Creed’s Honor and The Creed Legacy—debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list.
Linda has come a long way since leaving Washington to experience the world. “But growing up in that time and place has served me well,” she allows. “And I’m happy to be back home.” Dedicated to helping others, Linda personally finances her “Linda Lael Miller Scholarships for Women,” which she awards to those seeking to improve their lot in life through education.
More information about Linda and her novels is available at http://www.lindalaelmiller.com. She also loves to hear from readers by mail at P.O. Box 19461, Spokane, WA 99219.
Book arrivals (linked to Mailbox Monday)
Last week on Bookfan:
I was able to get a couple of walks outside last weekend. We had temps near 40°F – balmy :)
Read while on the treadmill:
My take: Lily is a healer who flees London when the burning of witches is becoming commonplace. She trusts no one but herself and fears she’ll be mistaken for a witch so she disguises herself and heads north.
Roderick has been sent on an errand for his chieftain. On his way home he discovers a boy on the side of the road, almost frozen and near death. He then discovers the boy is a woman, Lily, and takes her with him to his home. Could it be she’s the one with “the gift” his grandmother predicted he’d find? And will he be able to convince Lily to stay?
I thoroughly enjoyed Margaret Mallory’s Highland novella. Her descriptions and well-paced plot made the characters and setting come to life and kept me turning the pages. This is a stand alone story but, as noted by the author at the end, has appearances of characters from past novels. Recommended.
Synopsis: In Glory, Kansas, a fairy-tale wedding has local tongues wagging. But through this false engagement, can a wounded warrior and the woman he’s protecting find true love?
Byron Hawkins doesn’t want to be responsible for anyone ever again. The former Black Ops soldier is better at taking lives than saving them. But on a mission in Tunisia to deliver a package to safety, Byron is dismayed to find that the precious cargo is actually a hostage rescue, and that his orders are to take Damara Petrakis back to U.S. soil and hide her in plain sight—as his newlywed wife.
Back in Byron’s hometown of Glory, Kansas, petite, fierce Damara keeps surprising him; she may be royalty, but she’s fully trained in martial arts and will sacrifice anything for her country. As the town rallies around the returning hero and his bride-to-be, he’s finding that it’s way too easy to play the part, and after the hell he has seen, that terrifies him. Byron didn’t want another life to save, but the passionate beauty he’s sworn to protect might just turn the tables and save him instead. (publisher)
My brief take: Unfaded Glory started off at breakneck speed and kept up the pace for much of the book. The synopsis tells you what you need to know.
I thought Sara Arden did a terrific job with conveying Byron’s internal struggle to go on living when the rest of his special forces team didn’t. Little did he know that Damara would be able to make him want to live – and by doing so, he would save her.
Unfaded Glory is a story about love, trust and courage. Recommended to fans of the series and Sara Arden.
When Flannery, a young scientist, is forced to return to Austin after five years of research in Nigeria, she becomes torn between her two homes. Having left behind her loving fiancé without knowing when she will return, Flannery learns that her sister, Molly, has begun to show signs of the genetic disease that slowly killed their mother.
As their close-knit circle of friends struggles with Molly’s diagnosis, Flannery must grapple with what her future will hold: love and the pursuit of scientific discovery in West Africa, or the pull of a life surrounded by old friends, the comfort of an old flame, family obligations, and the home she’s always known. But she is not the only one wrestling with uncertainty. Since their college days, all of her friends have faced unexpected challenges that make them reevaluate the lives they’d always planned for themselves.
A mesmerizing debut from an exciting young writer, Migratory Animals is a moving, thought-provoking novel, told from shifting viewpoints, about the meaning of home and what we owe each other—and ourselves. (publisher)
About the author:
Mary Helen Specht‘s work has appeared in numerous publications, including the New York Times and Bookslut. A winner of the Richard Yates Short Story Award, among other prizes, she is a former Fulbright scholar to Nigeria and Dobie Paisano writing fellow. She earned a MFA in creative writing from Emerson College and now teaches creative writing at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas.
Praise for Mary Helen Specht and MIGRATORY ANIMALS
“A finely wrought first novel. . . . Specht weaves fascinating details on snowflakes, weaving, birding, genetics and engineering, plus a spot-on-portrait of Austin.”
“Specht’s vivid debut probes the nature of family, the notion of home, and the tender burdens of both. . . . Specht’s distinctive prose — rich with sharp observations, nimble language, and lyrical imagery — makes the novel a quirky and memorable read.”
— Publishers Weekly
“An ambitious, highly accomplished debut novel. . . . Specht moves among a deep cast of characters and corresponding perspectives with absolute mastery. This is the best kind of novel, one that’s filled with knowledge–about America, Africa, climate change, weaving, and snow, just to name a few of the core concerns of this fine book. But most important, and impressive, is Specht’s sure handling of the interior life, and the ways in which we help to make or break those around us.”
— Ben Fountain, author of Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
“A novel of tremendous scope and insight that succeeds both as an exploration of larger global concerns and an acute examination of the most intimate parts of our lives. Mary Helen Specht is a terrific writer — passionate and generous, wry and insightful — and Migratory Animals is a wonderful and very moving debut.”
— Molly Antopol, author of The UnAmericans
“Mary Helen Specht’s lyrical novel reminds me of the work of both Claire Messud and Barbara Kingsolver. Migratory Animals is a luminous debut about a group of young friends finding their place in the world. Rich with love and heartbreak, it’s the book I’ll be wanting to share with all my friends.”
— Amanda Eyre Ward, author of How To Be Lost
“This emotionally nuanced debut shimmers with all the intricate, singular beauty of the snow crystals that beguile Flannery, one of the novel’s many unforgettable characters. The men and women of Mary Helen Specht’s imagination inhabit a world of breathtaking vividness, where life’s pains and pleasures ripple through to marvelous effect. A heartbreaking, edifying, and resonant work of art.”
— Keija Parssinen, author of The Ruins of Us
“In prose as quirky and elegant as its characters, Specht proves that — after confusion, missteps, even denial — a village can embrace you. Each of these characters set on saving the world in his or her fine-tuned way is forced to face the bad news life inevitably delivers. One by one, they lower their sights and love each other fiercely, protectively, making a community more beautiful than the one they first envisioned because it’s real. This big, dreamy novel flies by as swift as time.”
— Debra Monroe, author of On the Outskirts of Normal
“A beautifully precise group portrait in which Mary Helen Specht manages to capture not just a particular set of characters but a generational mood and moment. Without forcing any answers, it asks a powerful, probing question: how should you behave when life suddenly gets real?”
— Stephen Harrigan, author of Remember Ben Clayton
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About the book: Alex Sherman-Zicklin, former punk ‘zine pioneer, is a mid-level marketing executive in Los Angeles whose wife Figgy’s fourteenth TV pilot attempt becomes a huge Emmy-winning hit. Overnight, she’s sucked into a mad show-business vortex, while Alex–who has quit his job to become the family’s domestic first responder–falls in with a posse of “plus ones,” a group of men uniquely able to school him in his new role. In this wickedly honest debut novel, Christopher Noxon taps into his own experience as the husband of an acclaimed Hollywood writer/producer to deliver a story about fatherhood, fame, marriage, and a modern family in the fast lane.
About the author: Christopher Noxon is an author, journalist, and illustrator. His debut novel PLUS ONE grew out of his experience raising three children and managing a household after his wife, TV producer Jenji Kohan, created the programs Weeds and Orange Is the New Black. He’s also the author of the nonfiction book Rejuvenile: Kickball, Cartoons, Cupcakes and the Reinvention of the American Grown Up. As a journalist, he has written for the New Yorker, Details, New York Times Magazine, Los Angeles Magazine, and Salon. He has also covered the Democratic National Convention for Reuters; lived as a patient with recovering addicts for a Playboy feature about troubles with drug rehab; and was the first journalist to report on actor Mel Gibson’s ties to an ultraconservative Catholic splinter group in a feature for the New York Times Magazine. He lives in Los Angeles.
“For fans of Rainbow Rowell and similar keenly insightful truth tellers, this fresh male take on modern relationships is too smart, focused, and funny to pass up.” –LIBRARY JOURNAL
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All treadmill exercise this week. I keep meaning to add some resistance training but somehow never get around to it. Maybe next week… In addition to finishing The Martian I also completed One Wish and Hearth Stone.
Synopsis: Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first men to walk on the surface of Mars. Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first man to die there.
It started with the dust storm that holed his suit and nearly killed him, and that forced his crew to leave him behind, sure he was already dead. Now he’s stranded millions of miles from the nearest human being, with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive–and even if he could get word out, his food would be gone years before a rescue mission could arrive. Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to get him first.
But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills–and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit–he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. But will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him? (publisher)
My brief take: I read/listened via whisper sync (Kindle/Audible). RC Bray’s narration is perfect and made the book almost unputdownable (yep, I used that word).
I was totally out of my reading comfort zone when I picked up this book and now I’d recommend it to anyone. At the end, when certain characters were pacing, I was up and pacing with them. The Martian is interesting, funny, thrilling and a great read. That’s all I’m going to say. Except, if you haven’t read it put it on your list!
It’s no surprise The Martian was voted Best Science Fiction book in the 2014 Goodreads Choice Awards. It was also a 2014 Audie Award Finalist, Science Fiction. Highly recommended.
Note: At the end of the book (but not the audiobook) there’s a Reader’s Guide and an Author Q&A. My Kindle edition also has an essay by Andy Weir: How Science made Me a Writer. Not sure if that’s in the paper edition. Anyone?
Synopsis: From the New York Times bestselling author of GARDEN SPELLS comes a story of the Waverley family, in a novel as sparkling as the first dusting of frost on new-fallen leaves…
It’s October in Bascom, North Carolina, and autumn will not go quietly. As temperatures drop and leaves begin to turn, the Waverley women are made restless by the whims of their mischievous apple tree… and all the magic that swirls around it. But this year, first frost has much more in store. (partial synopsis from the publisher)
My take: First Frost picks up ten years after we left the Waverly family in Garden Spells. Once again Sarah Addison Allen enchanted me with her characters, setting, and story.
Claire has a successful candy business but longs for something more. She’s just not sure what that might be.
Sydney also has a longing. She wants to have a baby with her husband. All attempts have failed and she’s not sure what to do. Also on her mind is daughter Bay, now a high school student. Sydney worries that Bay will repeat mistakes from her own past and wonders if she can prevent that from happening.
One day a stranger arrives in town bringing with him the goal of changing things for a certain Waverly. Will he be successful? No spoilers here!
As usual, I was charmed by Sarah Addison Allen’s storytelling. It’s a tale about allowing yourself to be who you know you are and not what others say you should be. I loved it all and hope for another Waverly story someday soon.
Note: If you haven’t had the pleasure of reading Garden Spells I recommend you do so before First Frost. You’ll meet the Waverlys and discover their secrets and gifts from the beginning.
Synopsis: To Americans, King George III has long been doubly famous – as the “tyrant” from whom colonial revolutionaries wrested a nation’s liberty and, owing to his late-life illness, as “the mad king.” In A Royal Experiment, he is also a man with a poignant agenda. He comes to the throne in 1760, at age twenty-two, determined to be a new kind of king, one whose power will be rooted in the affection and approval of his people. He is equally resolute about being a new kind of man, a husband able to escape the extraordinary family dysfunction of his Hanoverian predecessors and maintain a faithful, companionable marriage and domestic harmony.
… His wife, Queen Charlotte, shares his sense of moral purpose, and together they can raise their tribe of thirteen sons and daughters in a climate of loving attention. But in a rapidly more populous and prosperous England, throughout years of revolution in America and in France, the struggle to achieve a new balance between politics and privacy places increasing stress on George and Charlotte as their children grow into adulthood. The story that roils across the long arc of George’s life and reign is high drama – tragic and riveting. (from the book flap)
My take: If you’re a fan of books about anything royal you’ll want to read A Royal Experiment. Author Janice Hadlow’s meticulous research of the Hanoverians is obvious and presented in a way that the reader feels she is missing no detail about their lives. You’ll get an insider’s look at the ups and downs of being one of the family. I was dismayed and, at some points, even felt sympathy for all involved.
At 600+ pages this is a big book and the print is not large (think textbook) – so be prepared. For that reason alone it’s one to consider for the eReader. I was glad to see a section that included portraits of all the principals. Also helpful is a family tree. A Royal Experiment is an interesting work that almost begs for its own cable series. I would definitely tune in!
With frigid temps and several new inches of snow we stayed at home most of the week. I read a lot and watched a Netflix dvd: The Railway Man – anyone see it? Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman star. It’s based on the true story (and memoir of the same title) of Eric Lomax.
Book arrivals: (linked to Mailbox Monday)
Last week on Bookfan:
Snow and frigid temps kept me on the treadmill this week. The silver lining was more reading time – but I really miss walking outdoors.
While walking I read on the iPad and finished First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen, The Marriage Charm by Linda Lael Miller and started reading One Wish by Robyn Carr.
I hope all #FitReaders were able to get some exercise and can avoid the nasty flu and other bugs going around the US. If it’s summer where you live, I’m a bit jealous at the moment ;)
Have a good week!
Synopsis: The small mountain town of Nugget, California, is way off the beaten path. But somehow it helps the lost and lonely find a new beginning in life—and in love…
One solitary day at a time is the only way cookbook writer Emily Mathews can restart her life—and cope with consuming loss. Still, the former city girl is finding all kinds of odd inspiration and advice from Nugget’s proudly eccentric residents on everything from new recipes to opening her heart again. Especially when it comes to her rugged rancher landlord …
His no-drama new tenant is the first break Clay McCreedy has had in a long time. He’s got his hands full enough dealing with his wife’s scandalous death and his sons’ unresolved grief. Clay can’t help but be drawn to Emily’s quiet understanding and strength. When their fragile trust turns into passionate healing, he longs for much more. And when both their pasts come calling, he’s determined not to walk away… (publisher)
My brief take: Stacy Finz’s story is one of people trying to move forward after experiencing life-altering loss. Separately, Emily and Clay are barely hanging on but once they get together they find support, compassion and the possibility of a new life.
Clay’s sons figure prominently in the novel. They too are working through the fall-out from the loss of their mother. I thought Finz wrote a realistic look at grief from a child’s perspective as well as the adults.
I haven’t read the first book in the series yet but by the end of this second book I felt caught up with the previously featured characters and many secondary characters. I look forward to reading the third book in the series.
Barbara Mutch’s stunning first novel tells a story of love and duty colliding on the arid plains of Apartheid-era South Africa
When Cathleen Harrington leaves her home in Ireland in 1919 to travel to South Africa, she knows that she does not love the man she is to marry there —her fiance Edward, whom she has not seen for five years. Isolated and estranged in a small town in the harsh Karoo desert, her only real companions are her diary and her housemaid, and later the housemaid’s daughter, Ada. When Ada is born, Cathleen recognizes in her someone she can love and respond to in a way that she cannot with her own family.
Under Cathleen’s tutelage, Ada grows into an accomplished pianist and a reader who cannot resist turning the pages of the diary, discovering the secrets Cathleen sought to hide. As they grow closer, Ada sees new possibilities in front of her—a new horizon. But in one night, everything changes, and Cathleen comes home from a trip to find that Ada has disappeared, scorned by her own community. Cathleen must make a choice: should she conform to society, or search for the girl who has become closer to her than her own daughter?
Set against the backdrop of a beautiful, yet divided land, The Housemaid’s Daughter is a startling and thought-provoking novel that intricately portrays the drama and heartbreak of two women who rise above cruelty to find love, hope, and redemption.
BARBARA MUTCH was born and raised in South Africa, the granddaughter of Irish immigrants. She is married with two sons and divides her time between Cape Town and London.
“If you loved The Help, try The Housemaid’s Daughter…The friendship at its center will leave your heart singing.” – Good Housekeeping UK
“A shared love of the piano brings two women together across the racial divide of apartheid South Africa in Mutch’s debut novel…her setting is a fascinating one, and she does an excellent job of showing the horrifying effects of apartheid law on individual lives…Readers who loved Kathryn Stockett’s The Help may also appreciate this historical tale of female friendship across racial lines…”
“Mutch’s sprawling debut spans five decades of South Africa’s richest—and most painful—history…a vividly drawn setting and Ada’s consistent, special voice drive the story and keep the pages turning.”
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