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

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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.

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!

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

 

Two for Tuesday Part Two: Bridesmaids by @ZaraStoneley

cover152396-mediumA wedding you’ll never forget and a Rom-Com you won’t want to miss, Bridesmaids is the must-read, hilarious book for this summer! 

 

I fell in love with Zara Stoneley over the holidays with her fabulous book, No One Cancels Christmas, and had a feeling that I would really like her newest book, Bridesmaids. I was absolutely right, except I had no idea how much I would enjoy this delightful story and the characters involved – including the precious kitty who will steal your heart!

There are four school mates, four friends and four members of the bridal party and lots and lots of secrets. Not all of the school mates are friends with each others. Not all of them are privy to each other’s secrets and not all of them are happy for the bride to be. Now they have all come together for the hen party and wedding and what a wedding this one will turn out to be!

Jane is our protagonist around whom most of the secrets flow. Not everyone likes Jane, but it appears that everyone talks to her, although what she hears is not always what is true. Sometimes Jane interprets things according to her own conflicted past. Rachel is the bride to be and so happy that she is oblivious to much of what is swirling around her: a fiancé who has secrets of his own, Jane who is struggling after her own failed engagement, and two bridesmaids who cannot stand to be in the same room at the same time. They are Maddie and Sally – one is married to the other’s old boyfriend and the other never gave up hope of rekindling that flame. And then there is Beth – the outlier, single, new mom whose secret makes all other secrets look like child’s play. Welcome to the wedding! Enjoy the ride!

When British Rom-Coms are done well, they are witty, smart, sharp and laugh-out-loud hilarious. Bridesmaids is all of that and more! I, quite literally, found myself laughing so hard  at Jane and her friends, crying at times and then cheering for them at the end in a way that I seldom do for women’s fiction or “chick lit.” Zara Stoneley writes her books in such a way that each character has a very vivid personality and is relatable to someone that you know or have known in your life. You find yourself saying “oh yeah, I completely understand,” right along with the characters in the book. They are very real people while you are reading along with them. More importantly, though, Stoneley creates a story that is more than humorous. All of these characters are going through very complex issues in their lives from broken engagements to job insecurity to single parenthood and broken dreams. We watch as they slowly grow, come to subtle realizations about the next steps in their lives and become stronger as women – and men – so that by the end of the book you are as happy as they are with the way things turned out for their lives. It does have a happy ending although, wow, I wasn’t sure we ever would get these gals to that point!

If you loved Stoneley’s holiday tale or are looking for a delightful, heart-warming summer read, then this is the perfect choice for you. I absolutely adored it!

Thanks so much to #Netgalley, @HarperImpulse and #ZaraStoneley for my copy of #Bridesmaids. amazon

 

#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!

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