#NGEW2019, Women's Fiction-Interests

A Life of Their Own by Pauline Tait

I am a huge fan of Pauline Tait’s series for children, The Fairy in the Kettle, and I could not wait to read her first “adult” book, A Life of Their Own.

Kate is on the run from an abusive husband. She and her two kids are quietly leaving him and moving across the country to place she had only dreamed of – Colorado. She has no plan, no idea how they will survive but she knows she has to get herself and the kids away from the abuse. She arrives at a guest home run by an older couple who treats them as family instead of guests. It is the first sign of kindness in a very long time for Kate. She also runs into an old flame who never stopped loving her. Soon, she is working for him and living on his ranch. But will Kate ever truly get over the abuse and the scars it has left on her.

A Life of Their Own is a sweet, very short book about hope and the healing power of love. I enjoyed reading it and the story itself kept my attention until the end. However, there were a few concerns that I had. The language is very dated. If this had been a piece of historical fiction or set in a different country other than the US, I might have understood. But Americans no longer speak in this stilted, very formal style of English. For example, I cannot remember the last time – if ever – a mother has referred to her kids as children. They’re kids as in “hey kids, let’s go” not “children we must leave.” There were multiple examples of British phrases used that are not used in the US. I had to look up what a “fleece” was because the mother bought two of them for the kids. (It’s a type of jacket) and, while I know what “tuck in” means in the UK, if you told an American sitting at a table to “tuck in,” they would get up and go to bed. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE British writers but if a book is going to be set in the US then it would be great if the author knew a bit more about American lifestyles and slang.

The bottom line is that A Life of Their Own is very sweet romance and if you can turn off that inner questioning voice, you will enjoy it. I did enjoy it. I just saw the flaws as well.

I received my copy of A Life of Their Own from #Netgalley

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#NGEW2019, Book Reviews, Domestic Noir/Thriller, Dystopian/Near Future Fiction, Fiction, Women's Fiction-Interests, Young Adult

The Grace Year @Kim_Liggett

This summer has been the season of feminist books for me and I have loved each and every one of them! Adding to the latest feminist reads is The Grace Year by Kim Liggett. I have to admit that it was labeled as a “young adult” book but everything about this book is geared toward women of all ages. It is phenomenal!

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In this dystopian novel, the women live very subjugated lives along side men who rule with an iron fist. They are not allowed to gather and talk with one another in public, not allowed to hum or sing believing that they are using their “magic” to seduce or trick men – because we all know that men are easily seduced or tricked. Yes, we do. When they sixteen years old, the girls are sent away to a camp far in the woods to survive on their own for a year in order to rid themselves of their “magic” and come back pure and ready for marriage. The woods surrounding them are filled with “poachers” who are waiting for the girls to make a wrong move so they can skin the women alive, capture their magic and sell it back to the men in the county. There are outcasts and usurpers and these girls know that they do not want to become either of those women. Only a few will survive their “grace year” and those who do never breathe a word about what transpires in the woods. Until now. Tierney is determined to survive this year and prove there is no magic at all. As the girls become more insane and more of them are dying and being killed by the poachers, Tierney is targeted as one who much be cast out. Survival  becomes her only goal – will she succeed?

The Grace Year has been compared to The Handmaid’s Tale and The Power but in all truthfulness I found The Grace Year far more interesting and realistic. We live in a world where women who once were gaining ground, marching on the road to equality, suddenly find themselves at the mercy of very angry, emphasis on very, men. Not just in the US but in so many countries all over the world. We now are marching backward with no say over our own bodies, no say over the world in which we live as we watch strong, intelligent women being mocked by those with half of their intellect. We are, literally, just shy of the ignorance that the males portray in The Grace Year. Sadly, we women are allowing this to happen without whimper.

However, what I found most refreshing was the end of this book. Without giving away what transpires, the women who were raging against one another form a bond. They begin making subtle changes to themselves and toward their group as a whole. They discover that there are men in their county who are willing to stand up for them, who help them and those who have been outcast. While the story itself is extremely dark, horrifically brutal – this really is a story of hope. If only we, as women, could or would bond together as a whole, stop tearing one another down, just imagine the power that we would have and the good that we could do for the world. That is the essence of this book: Hope.

This is a long-ish book and I thought, at first, that perhaps it needed editing to make it more palatable to those who no longer read longish books. However, there is nothing to edit. This book is perfect as it and well worth the time it takes to read it. In fact, I stayed up all night to finish it because I had to know the ending. It was beautiful! If you do not read another book this year, I encourage you to read The Grace Year and then follow it up with Athena’s Choice by Adam Boostrom. We’ll make a good feminist out of you yet.

My thanks goes out to #netgalley, @WednesdayBooks @StMartinsPress and #KimLiggett for allowing me to read and review this incredible book on sale October 8, 2019.

#historical fiction, #NGEW2019, Book Reviews, Domestic Drama-Dysfunctional Families, Fiction, Recent Reads, Rapid Reviews, RomCom, Women's Fiction-Interests

Recent Reads, Rapid Reviews

As most of you know, I was off for several months due to illness and, although I couldn’t read, thought I wouldn’t read, I somehow managed TO read a lot of books. I’m also determined to do justice to those authors who sent me books to review. What this means is that I am quite behind with my reviews and I really hate to be behind at anything. Recently I read a post on the Bibliophile Book Club’s blog where she did a series of short but thorough reviews. Taking off on her idea, I will be doing the same until – if ever – I am caught up once more. Fingers crossed and thanks to the Bibliophile Book Club for such a great idea. Please be sure to check out their blog!

Recent and Rapid

MONTAUK by Nicola Harrison

By now I’m quite sure or hope that many of you have read Montauk, one of the best summer reads for 2019. It is, however, a engrossing tale that surpasses the usual summer fare making it a delight to read any time.  Set in the pre-WWII days of New York, it is the story of a woman who married “above her station” without fully comprehended all that would involve. When her husband tells that they are going to travel to Montauk for the summer, she assumes they will be there together. Sadly, she was mistaken and soon learns that not only is she alone, her husband is cheating on her with any woman who will allow it. Feeling displaced with the rich at the resort, she turns to the people who actually live in Montauk, the town, where she discovers friendship, grudging acceptance and more.

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I don’t usually read books set in the era as it is one of my least favorite times in American history. However, Montauk – the resort area – was actually envisioned and created by a developer from my home state. He built a resort here in Indiana and also developed Miami Beach, Florida. Naturally, my curiosity got the best of me. Montauk, the book, is more than just a romance or even historical fiction, it is a story of a woman trapped in the male dominated world of the early 20th century, a world full of lies, hypocrisy, misogyny and class wars. Her struggle becomes the struggle of all women from that era and one that many women today can relate to as well. The writing is brilliant, the characters come alive off of the pages and the story line is unforgettable. I highly recommend Montauk to any and all!

POLITE SOCIETY by Mahesh Rao

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Polite Society is a modern day re-telling of Emma, by Jane Austin set in India. Normally I’m not a fan of re-tellings because I like the original too much, with the possible exception of fairy tales and fables. However, because of the caste system or class structure in India, this particular version works well. The story is cleverly written with a lot of wit and charm. Sadly, for me, I didn’t enjoy Polite Society as much as I had hoped. I think there is too much feminist in me to think anything about this type of social construct is acceptable. I prefer to imagine that all of this died with the Victorian era even though my intellectual side knows differently.

THE WISDOM OF SALLY RED SHOES by Ruth Hogan

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I have been a fan of Ruth Hogan’s work since I read The Keeper of Lost Things which I loved. The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes was a quite a different story but Hogan’s flair and writing style remained constant. Two very different women come together in this story to create magic in this uplifting tale of wisdom, personal growth and grief. It touches on homelessness among women, the loss of a child, and the commonality that all women have with one another regardless of our social conditions. The characters are brilliantly written, so real you will feel as though you know them personally and the humor within keeps the story from becoming too heavy despite the subject matter. You will laugh, cry and fall in love these women and their story. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

NOTE: Many thanks to the authors, #Netgalley, #Edelweiss, #StMartinsPress, #CrookedLaneBooks for my copy of these books

#NGEW2019, Book Reviews, Fiction, Women's Fiction-Interests

The Islanders #MegMitchellMoore

The moment that I realized The Islanders was set on Block Island, I knew that I wanted to read it. Block Island is a magical place so different from other New England islands because of its history and its remoteness to the mainland. After reading The Islanders, I know I made the right choice. The book is brilliant.

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Three strangers come together over a summer spent on Block Island: Anthony, a writer whose first book was a huge success but who is struggling with his second attempt; Joy, who runs the popular cafe on the island who has had a long run of success but now is feeling pressure from a new arrival on the island and Lu, a former attorney now SAHM who is on the island while her surgeon husband flies back and forth to the mainland. As each of these three develop a friendship over the course of the summer, they begin to reveal the small secrets that they each are hiding from their families and, at times, from themselves. As the summer draws to a close, the three must decide how they will confront the secrets and changes in their lives that have transpired over the summer.

A riveting summer tale, Meg Mitchell Moore, has given us more than an ordinary “beach read,” she has delivered a story that touches on our own fears, joys and anxieties while also showing us the joy and closeness of friendship and, sometimes, intense romantic relationships. The characters are real, very human and their feelings are those that each of us has experienced so that the story itself is one that draws you in and keeps you hooked until the very last page. Regardless of whether you read it under the sparkling summer sun or by a winter’s fire, you will treasure Moore’s writing in The Islanders.

#NGEW2019, Dystopian/Near Future Fiction, Fiction, Tags and Challenges, Women's Fiction-Interests, Young Adult

Athena’s Choice #AdamBoostrom

The year is 2099 and all of the men are gone…

In a near future world, a Y-virus has killed all of the men and a smattering of women. In the aftermath, women have built what appears to be a utopian society. Through scientific breakthroughs and frozen sperm replication, they are still procreating, have quite nearly eliminated maternal and fetal deaths and have found cures for nearly all diseases. The female population discovered that, when using technology for good rather than for empire building and war, there were amazing discoveries just waiting to be had – and so they did create them. It is a world that is, quite literally, at our fingertips today except, well, you know. Men. And war.

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Athena is a 19 year old young woman who is at the heart of a mystery. There are some women who wish to bring back men – their sons, brothers and husbands – not literally, of course, they just miss the male presence. These women have initiated the Lazarus Project but someone has “stolen” the genome and for a mysterious reason to be explained throughout the book, Athena is at its core.

This is a bit more YA, perhaps because of Athena’s age and narration, but never the less, I found the story completely captivating. The Science Fiction portion of the story was mesmerizing and, upon further research, I discovered that nearly everything mentioned in the book, we are on the cusp of having – if only funds weren’t diverted elsewhere, namely WAR. This is very much (!) a book about feminism. At my age, through my experiences, as an American living with a president who is gunning for yet another needless war, who has humans trapped in a concentration camp in hellish conditions where children are dying, who believes that Twitter rants are more important that dealing with mass flooding in one-third of our country, where newborn and maternal deaths are on the rise for the first time in over 100 years… I’m not so sure that living in a female utopia would be such a bad thing. Every war, every disease, every horrific thing in our world’s history has been the result of male ego. So I found it completely enjoyable to read a book where there was none of this. None.

I loved that the book was enriched with so many different fonts and inserts. Throughout there were advertisements for various products that Athena was seeing or thinking about purchasing. It was a method to introduce the world building without going through the entire world building introduction in the beginning. I appreciated this because I often do not read sci-fi or fantasy because the world building part is quite boring for me. There also were throw-backs to Athena’s school work and, if you paid attention to it, you were being given clues to how the book would end. I suspect that some of the other reviewers skimmed over these and missed key parts of the story. They were hidden gems.

In the end, we are left with Athena’s Choice. Men or No Men or ….. you’ll have to read the book to know the other choices. There is no answer in the book. The choice is one for us all to think about. I know what my choice would be, without any doubt at all!

Winner of the 2019 National Indie Excellence Award for Visionary Fiction.
Winner of the 2019 Maxy Award for Science Fiction.
Finalist for the 2019 NIEA for Science Fiction.

I simply cannot recommend this book highly enough! Thank you to #Netgally and especially to the author, Adam Boostrom, for such a remarkable, thought-provoking, visionary tale!

#NGEW2019, Book Reviews, Fiction, RomCom, Tags and Challenges, Women's Fiction-Interests

A Summer to Remember #SueMoorcroft #PublicationDay

Happy Publication Day to Sue Moorcroft. Join us by the sea as we enjoy A Summer to Remember! 

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I discovered Sue Moorcroft over the holidays with her marvelous story, A Christmas Gift which really touched my heart. When I saw her newest book, A Summer to Remember, I could not wait to read it. Actually, at the time I got it, the book was simply titled  “New Book by Sue Moorcroft”  but I knew that regardless I would love it – and I did!

Clancy has had the worst of all luck – her fiancé has dumped her for his former lover which left Clancy homeless and also jobless since she, her fiancé and their best friends all worked at a start-up that they built from the ground up. Somehow, it became Clancy who was the odd man out of the equation but, because she was the financial wiz of the group, at least she walked away with resources. Her cousin, Alice, was part owner of seaside inn in need of a caretaker so Clancy packs up her things and without much thought, she heads off to Nelson’s Bar, an inlet on the sea not a place to drink, and sets up shop on a tiny piece of land where everyone knows one another, is not fond of her cousin Alice, there is no cell reception and where Alice’s ex-fiancé lives along with his brother, Adam, who is the co-owner of the inn. A lot of exes in this story but it works. Trust me, it isn’t nearly as confusing as I just made it sound. Naturally there is an on-again, off-again romance between Clancy and Adam but there is much conflict and baggage that it seems that the two of them are not to be together.

What I found most intriguing about A Summer to Remember, is the aspect that I enjoy in all of Moorcroft’s books – the value and realism of her characters. Each of them, from the main characters to the secondary ones, are very vivid and real. They are extremely flawed just as we all are. They are bad tempered, sometimes rude, some very prejudiced, all of whom are growing and changing throughout the book. There is a pair of young men in this book whose secondary storyline was so poignant and brilliantly told that, for me, they became a very integral part of the story itself. I came to care for those two lads quite a lot. When talking with Ms. Moorcroft about the book she told me a bit about the research that she did regarding these two young men and their story and what I learned made their characters even more meaningful. I would encourage you to read A Summer to Remember just for these two fellows and their story alone. Except that I loved every single person in the book, even the snippy older townspeople who were far too opinionated for me and reminded me of some of my own neighbors.

I absolutely loved A Summer to Remember. It’s a marvelous summer read, a fabulous women’s lit book and a great general fiction tale. I highly recommend it! And now, of course, I have to sit it here and anxiously wait for her next book. <sigh> You will find me in the “M” section of the bookstore.

Thank you to #Netgalley, @SueMoorcroft, and @AvonBooksUK for my copy of my new favorite book. You can find it on sale today at amazon

 

#NGEW2019, Fiction, Tags and Challenges, Women's Fiction-Interests

#PublicationDay Swimming For Sunlight @AllieLarkin

Swimming for Sunlight is an uplifting story full of love, friendship, growth and multi-generational comradery that will fill your heart with joy from beginning to end.

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amazonKatie Ellis suffered a double loss as a child; her father died of a heart attack as they were playing in the water and her mother abandoned her shortly thereafter. As a result, despite an abundance of love from her grandmother, Nan, and the caring of all of Nan’s friends, Katie suffers from debilitating anxiety disorder which now has cost Katie her marriage. The one thing she has fought for and won in the divorce settlement is her faithful-fearful dog, Bark. Now Katie is moving back in with Nan to be surrounded once more by a wonderful community of friends.

As someone who suffers from extreme social anxiety, I related to Katie and her faithful pooch very much. As she plunges herself into helping her Nan reconnect with Nan’s friends from the past, Katie slowly begins to heal and we, as readers, are able to see her growth – after a harrowing fall to the very bottom of an emotional fallout. It is through the help of the community, her own childhood friends and the love of her dear pet that we watch Katie learn to deal with her anxiety – and that of Bark’s as well.

There are a number of characters in Swimming for Sunlight in addition to the primary ones of Katie and her Nan and each play an integral part in the story. Larkin does a beautiful job of developing them to their fullest, slowly revealing their true nature so that we see their strengths and weaknesses as well, just as we would our own friends and neighbors. She then weaves their storylines in with Katie’s brilliantly. I loved Swimming for Sunlight. It came into my life at exactly the right time when I needed it most and filled it with warmth and happiness. I hope it will do the same for many other readers.

Many thanks to #Netgalley, #AllieLarkin and @AtriaBooks for my copy of #SwimmingForSunlight available today!

Book Reviews, Domestic Noir/Thriller, Fiction, Women's Fiction-Interests

Alice’s Island #DanielSanchezArévalo

A happily married woman’s perfect life shatters when her husband turns up dead hundreds of miles away from where he should have been. Suddenly she discovers that there was a part of him about which she knew nothing at all.

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I’ve never read anything by this author from Spain before reading this novel but already want to read everything he has to offer!  Alice’s Island was not at all what I was expecting. I thought it would be the run-of-the-mill cheating husband, husband dies, wife finds out, oh no oh no, boring read and instead it is more domestic drama where, yes, the husband had secrets and dies but the wife and her two children are the primary focus as they are searching for answers, putting their lives back together, coming to grips with the reality of their new situation. This is a very character driven novel and Arevalo does a marvelous job creating intriguing, multi-dimensional characters that will fascinate and hold you captive throughout. I highly recommend Alice’s Island for those who like suspense over thrillers, slow burning, character driven novels.

Thank you to #IAWR for my copy of #AlicesIsland

#NGEW2019, Book Reviews, Fab Fiction Fridays, Tags and Challenges, Women's Fiction-Interests

We Never Told #DianaAltman

There are stories relating to women that are as timeless as time itself. As advanced as society may become, there are issues that women and their children deal with that seem never to change. We Never Told is one such tale.

41646617amazonWe Never Told revolves around a Hollywood socialite, Violet, and her two daughters, Sonya and Joan. Violet lives the epitome of the luxurious lifestyle of the “rich and famous,” cycling through husbands, attending parties, living a life of style and glamour until Sonya is fourteen years old. That summer, her mother tells her two daughters that she has to go away for treatment of a tumor. She leaves the girls in the care of the housekeeper and makes them swear to tell no-one, not even their father who has visitation rights. Even after the housekeeper has a heart attack and leaves the girls alone, they tell no one for months on end. They simply endure and care for themselves. It becomes a secret that lives between them – thus the title for this book. They never told a soul. After their mother’s death years later, the daughter’s finally realize what had actually happened to their mother. We, of course, do not learn this until the end of the book – although I’m quite sure most astute readers can guess. It isn’t the end result that is important to the story,  it the is the story itself. And that is where the beauty lies with We Never Told.

It doesn’t matter where families live, in New York, California or Mississippi. It doesn’t matter if it is 1790, 1990, or 2019, there still are things that certain things that families keep secret, certain actions that are not talked about from teenage pregnancy to drug use to mental illness. If you scratch past the surface in every family, you will find a secret that family is hiding. Families also are a sum total of all of their parts, no child is raised in a vacuum – from parents to grandparents. aunts, cousins, school teachers or coaches – we all are a result of the influences of those around us. That is the beautiful lesson of We Never Told. Altman weaves together an incredible story of women, children, families, care-takers, the world in the late 20th century and that of today and makes each aspect of her story completely relevant to now. While of the book takes place in the 20th century, it isn’t historical fiction, but a timely read for today’s generation. It is one that I highly recommend.

Thank you to #Edelweiss, #SheWritesPress and #DianaAltman for my advanced copy of #WeNeverTold. It will be on sale June 11, 2019.

Book Reviews, Domestic Noir/Thriller, Fiction, Women's Fiction-Interests

Cold Waters: Normal Alabama 1 #DebbieHerbert

Wow! To say that I like Southern Noir is an understatement and when it done well, it knocks my socks off. Cold Waters, my Amazon First Reads selection for March knocked it out of the park and into the parking lot beyond. This is one amazing chilling, twisty, dark book!
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amazonWhen Violet was 14 years old, tragedy struck in the town of Normal, Alabama and the town blamed Violet for its loss. A young girl vanished without a trace, the last person to see her was Violet, who was found wandering in the forest where the two often explored and went skinny dipping in the murky lake that ran through town. After being declared psychologically unwell, in a fugue state, Violet was sent to the state mental hospital. Now she has returned to Normal, in more ways than one, to claim her meager inheritance left to her by her mother, and to help her sister care for her father. But the town has not forgotten that fateful day and nothing in Normal is quite normal at all.

As Violet attempts to recall the tragic events surrounding the night that her best friend died, it appears that someone is making sure she is unable to do so even it means she loses what little hold she has on her fragile thread of sanity. The characters that surround Violet, generally, are the most vile characters I’ve run across in literature in a long while; but, they are as realistic as I have encountered as well. I felt as if I knew each and every one of them. They are the people who border on sociopathy, and some who are outright psychopaths, who go out of their way to ensure that others fail, whose only goal is make sure that they come out on top. And then there are those who think they are doing the “right” thing when, in fact, everything they do worsens Violet’s situation more. It is a sad thing to think that the state mental hospital might have been safest place for Violet to spend a decade of her life but with friends and family like hers, it is the truth.

I honestly thought that this was going to be a paranormal book when I selected it. The confusion with any book set in the “deep south,” is that it often is difficult to separate the south’s folk tales, folklore and superstition from magical realism. What they believe in is so culturally engrained into the fabric of their existence that it is who they are without question, without their realization. The superstition in Cold Waters felt like home to me. It created a darker and more believable atmosphere for the book and for me, as a reader, because it is what I know and what I lived for the majority of my life. While this is a book about murder and solving a historic crime, ultimately it is about this poor young woman finally having the opportunity to gain strength and opportunity to stand on her own two feet with the realization that she is not any less normal than the rest of us. Cold Waters is a book I highly recommend for those who enjoy multiple genres from suspense and mystery to women’s literature to noir and southern fiction.