Fiction, Southern Saturdays, Women's Fiction-Interests

Hard Cider

Hard Cider is a meandering, tangled tale that takes you on an emotional path toward a beautiful resolution.

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Women’s Contemporary Fiction is not a genre into which I often delve. The scenarios in the book either are so far from my wheelhouse that I cannot relate, or they mirror my own problems so closely that there is no escape or joy in the reading for me. However, because I absolutely adore hard cider, I had to give this book a try. What a wonderful surprise I had in store for me within the covers of this book!

Abbie Rose Stone has retired from teaching, navigated the stormy seas of infertility, adoption, raising her somewhat eclectic family to adulthood and, now, is ready to begin the next chapter of her life – one of her own choosing – making hard cider. Neither her sons nor her husband are completely on board with Abbie’s plan, but this is her passion and something she wants to do, with or without their support. As she prepares her orchard, meets with other growers and learns her trade, she begins to feel confident in what she’s doing. That confidence, however, is threatened when a young woman comes to Abbie with a secret that could potentially destroy the tenuous threads of Abbie’s family.

When I began reading Hard Cider, I felt as though I was trapped in a maze that was going no where. There is a bit of skipping forward from one time to the next that left me rather confused. The author spends a great deal of time on minute daily details of Abby’s life and then skips entire months or years into the future. At first, this was frustrating; however, as I continued following along Abbie’s story, I found that this style worked really well. Not only did it work, the details and the flowing prose of Abbie’s thoughts, deeply pulled me into her life and that of her family. Soon realized that the conversations Abbie was having with her grown children were, in fact, some of the more difficult conversations I’ve had with my own adult kids. The messages she would tell herself in order to remain calm while discussing problems with her husband – yep, I had done, said and thought those things as well. Rather than boring me or pushing me to set the book aside as “too familiar” with my own life, I was further drawn into the story as I related more and more to Abbie and her life. I, too, began an “adventure” at mid-life, one that had no support from my immediate family. Watching as Abbie grew as a woman and as an entrepreneur helped me to see how I, too, could grow and change. It is, in essence, a “coming of age” story for women in the 21st century. It helped, too, that I love heirloom apples, cider making and hard cider because there is a lot of information about this process within the book which also highlights the incredible beauty of the Midwest that I have come to love so dearly.

I suspect that this might not be a great read for men; it is, after all, labeled as Contemporary Women’s Fiction. However, I would not categorize it as “chick lit” either. Hard Cider is a solidly written story about women, their strength, character and growth. It’s a short read, very enjoyable and one that I highly recommend.

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Southern Saturdays, Thriller

The Cyprus Papers

The Cyprus Papers is a fast paced thriller that you will not want to put down until you know the ending….

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For this week’s Southern/Midwest Saturday, I bring you a new author: C.W. Bordener. Bordener is originally from Chicago, studied in my home state of Indiana and now resides in D.C. where he is a financial consultant. His financial expertise is very apparent in his writing which is interesting and intriguing. Bordener is to financial espionage what Grisham was to legal thrillers in his early days.

In The Cyprus Papers, financial consultant Emily is tasked with the financial forensics of a political rising star – a Congressman who is prepping for a run for the White House. However, in doing due diligence, Emily soon discovers a paper trail with deadly results. Every where she turns, she is one step behind a mastermind killer. With her life in tatters, she has two choices – give up and give in or follow the trail to its ultimate, and deadly, conclusion.

This was a quick read for me since I refused to put it down until I was finished. There is a lot of political drama and references to world events that contained a lot of information but Bordener writes this in such a way to make it fascinating rather than overwhelming. There were details revolving around DC were spot on, something that writers who do not live in the beltway have a difficult time mastering. These details helped, not only to flesh out Emily’s character, but to bring the book to life in a very real, salient manner. This topic is very current – from the Panama Papers to the Cypriot international money laundering schemes – The Cyprus Papers very much mirrors today’s reality. If you enjoy espionage, political intrigue or well written, fast paced thriller, then you definitely will enjoy The Cyprus Papers.

 

Southern Saturdays

Not That I Could Tell

untitledFive women gathered around the fire-pit, happily sipping their wine while their baby monitors crackled in a circle. By morning there only would be FOUR. 

Not That I Could Tell is the sophomore novel by Jessica Strawser, a captivating tale of suburbia, the secrets that are hidden behind neighbors’ closed doors and the question we all ask ourselves – how well do we really know our neighbors?

Clare hosts the party for the women in the neighborhood to christen her new patio. They are simply thrilled to have a night away from the kids, a chance to gossip among themselves and to share secrets with one another that, normally, they would tell no one. However, one of the women – Kristin – has a dark secret that she has shared with no one. They never suspect the things she has kept hidden – no one would believe her if she told them. When the women awaken, Kristin and her children are gone without a trace. Did she leave willingly or did something more sinister happen to her? Suspicion falls on her husband, a doctor, but some – like new neighbor Izzy – want to give him the benefit of the doubt. Is he innocent as Izzy believes or is she walking into danger as the other women fear?

There are those who have compared this book to Sally Hepworth’s, The Neighbor Next Door; however, while both books draw on the idea of suburban housewives, Strawser does a better job of keeping her characters believable. These women, all of them, are women that I feel as though I know or have known. Strawser is a Midwestern writer and the story is set in a small town in Ohio, so the characters and the community seem quite familiar to me as a reader from the Midwest. That said, the book does have some flaws, the largest is that it is too long – or rather, it could have done with some editing. There were conversations that these characters had with themselves – in their own heads – that were repetitious. After a while I found myself skipping over some of them because I wanted to scream, “I get it!” This wasn’t enough to detract from my overall satisfaction with the book, but it does keep me from rating the book higher. I had this same issue with Strawser’s first novel, I Almost Missed You, so hopefully by her third book someone will get the message.

For a second book it’s amazing, most fall far short of the first. For a domestic thriller, it is top notch. As a mystery, it is a slow burner, so if you like fast paced thrillers this is not for you. However, I highly recommend it and am very pleased to say that we, in the Midwest, have another good writer to add to our shelves.