Friday, May 19, 2017

Miss You

Two Brits keep missing each other--and their chance for true and lasting love--over the course of 16 years.
Two young Brits repeatedly meet by chance but chronically fail to connect in Kate Eberlen's captivating first novel, Miss You. Their circuitous journey starts in summer 1997, when Tess and her best friend are traveling after high school graduation. In Florence, they cross paths with Gus, also a recent high school grad, who is traveling with his parents after the tragic death of his brother, the favorite son. A simple search for gelato first brings Tess and Gus together, but their encounter is fleeting because he feels inhibited in the presence of his parents. They return separately to London, and Gus heads to university to study medicine. Meanwhile, Tess defers academia because her mother dies after a battle with cancer; Tess must assume the care of her five-year-old sister, Hope, who has Asperger syndrome. 
What ensues is a compelling story--told in alternating points-of-view--about the sense of responsibility and guilt inflicted upon both. Miss You maps Gus and Tess's crisscrossing journeys over 16 years. They briefly meet again at London coffee shops, a Rolling Stones concert in Glastonbury and when Gus's children get temporary tattoos at the salon Tess manages. Detours, distractions, sacrifices and bad choices lead to life-changing betrayals by friends and lovers. This episodic, detail-rich narrative breeds suspense as readers grow eager to learn if fate will ever allow these two lost souls--who often feel trapped by the elusive nature of love and happiness--finally to find each other.  
Harper, $25.99 Hardcover, 9780062460226, 448 pages
Publication Date: April 4, 2017
To order this book on INDIEBOUND, link HERE

NOTE: This review is a reprint and is being posted with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (April 28, 2017), link HERE


Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Love, Alice

Two grief-stricken women cross paths and help each other come to grips with the mysteries of their respective lives.

Societal stigmas and taboos reside at the heart of Love, Alice by Barbara Davis (Summer at Hideaway Key). Set in Charleston, S.C., the novel focuses on 36-year-old Dovie Larkin, whose fiancĂ© committed suicide two weeks before their wedding. A year later, Dovie spends her lunch hours sitting graveside at the cemetery, still grappling with what happened and why, unable to pick up the pieces of her life.

One day, Dovie spots an elderly woman leaving a note at the striking angel grave marker of Alice Tandy, a young maid who died 32 years earlier and, to the bewilderment of locals, had been buried in a plot belonging to one of the richest families in town. After the woman leaves, Dovie reads the note: a mother's impassioned regret for having sent her young daughter to an asylum for unwed mothers in Cornwall, England, in the 1960s. Dovie, identifying with the unresolved grief expressed, soon discovers a trove of related letters in the cemetery's lost and found, and sets off in search of the writer, Dora Tandy, who has come to Charleston to learn more about the life--and death--of her long-lost daughter, Alice.

Hope, love and forgiveness permeate this beautifully rendered novel where both Dovie and Dora unearth answers to mysteries and reveal secrets that will come to define their respective lives and quests for peace.

Berkley, $16.00 Paper, 9780451474810, 432 pages
Publication Date: December 6, 2016
To order this book on INDIEBOUND, link HERE


NOTE: This review is a reprint and is being posted with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (January 3, 2017), link HERE

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Once We Were Sisters

A beautifully written memoir maps a woman's search for the truth about her beloved sister's life--and her mysterious death.
Novelist Sheila Kohler's first book of nonfiction, Once We Were Sisters, is an achingly beautiful memoir. The story probes Kohler's relationship with her sister, Maxine--two years older--and the bond they shared in life and in death. When Maxine was 39 years old, the devoted wife and mother of six was killed in a mysterious car crash that Kohler strongly believes was intentional. The driver of the car was Maxine's abusive husband--a successful and renowned heart surgeon with a relentless dark side. He survived the crash. 
Telling the story more than 35 years later, Kohler (The Bay of Foxes) seeks to find answers, identify the forces that precipitated Maxine's death and untangle her sister's life from her own. Despite their contrasting personalities, the two were close during a privileged upbringing in a suburb of Johannesburg, South Africa. They studied at exclusive boarding schools and later traveled abroad together. The death of their father in their youth, and a mother who frequently departed into her own alcohol-infused world, marked their lives, and both sisters married philandering husbands.
Kohler's search for literal and emotional truths, her abiding love for her sister--along with guilt and regret--propel this succinct narrative. Maxine's shattering death has deeply permeated and haunted every aspect of Kohler's life, especially her writing. Thankfully, the years have finally granted this gifted fiction writer the perspective and liberation to share her own story. 
Penguin, $16.00 Paper, 9780143129295, 256 pages
Publication Date: January 17, 2017
To order this book on INDIEBOUND, link HERE


NOTE: This review is a reprint and is being posted with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (February 7, 2017), link HERE 

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Everything Love Is

A haunting, rewarding memory novel about a man who goes in search of himself and learns the true meaning of love.
Claire King launches her beautiful second novel with a riveting scene on a train bound for Toulouse, France, in May of 1968. A mysterious young woman goes into sudden, violent labor. Sharing her train compartment is a midwife who, seeing her distress, offers help. But by the time this brutal, powerful scene is over, the woman--with no identification--will lose her life giving birth to a baby boy, who will be saved by the midwife, a married woman unable to have children, who will become the baby's mother. 
What follows is the story of Baptiste Molino, the infant, now a middle-aged bachelor, a man raised in the French countryside. Baptiste has lived a good--yet rather uneventful--life. He thinks he is fulfilled and happy until Amandine Rousseau, an attractive woman wearing green shoes, shows up at his door. During their first meeting, Amandine tells Baptiste she wants "something that makes me feel alive. Joy, passion, despair, something to remember or something to regret.... Perhaps after all this time, what I really want... is to fall in love." As Baptiste learns more about Amandine and her life, he feels challenged, and he begins to question himself: Is there something missing from his life? Is he truly happy? Amandine's presence causes ripples that turn into waves of memories that encourage Baptiste to go on a labyrinthine journey in search of himself.

King (The Night Rainbow) thoughtfully plumbs the tangled depths of the human psyche, the meaning of life and the evolution of love in its many incarnations. 

Bloomsbury USA, $27.00 Hardcover, 9781632865380, 384 pages
Publication Date: December 6, 2016
To order this book on INDIEBOUND, link HERE


NOTE: This review is a reprint and is being posted with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (January 3, 2017), link HERE 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Sleepwalker

A mother's sleepwalking leads to her eerie disappearance and a family's search for her--and for answers.

Domestic situations that go awry are common in the psychological suspense novels of Chris Bohjalian. In The Sleepwalker, Bohjalian examines sleepwalking (or parasomnia) and the devastating impact it has on a Burlington, Vt., family.

Narrator Lianna Ahlberg deconstructs events that took place when she was a 21-year-old college senior during the autumn of 2000. When her father, Warren, a professor, went away to a conference, she tended to her 12-year-old sister, Paige, and her mother, Annalee, who had a history of sleepwalking that included benign destructive behaviors--especially when Warren was gone. Annalee had been undergoing treatment at a sleep clinic, and it had been four years since she took a nocturnal journey. Therefore, Lianna's caretaking was merely a precautionary measure. Believing her mother was past the "witching hour" (the first three hours of sleep) and out of harm's way, she dozed off, only to wake the next morning and discover Annalee missing. As the family rallies to search for her, a piece of her nightshirt is found near a riverbank, and the mystery deepens when a detective working the case seems privy to eerie, intimate details about Annalee.

Bohjalian (The Guest Room) has written an absorbing, cerebral story that probes a family's haunted emotional response to the mother's disappearance, and how each copes with confusion and grief. As they plumb the depths of Annalee's life, they uncover secrets that ultimately reveal a startling truth. 


Doubleday, $26.95 Hardcover, 978038558916, 304 pages
Publication Date: January 10, 2017
To order this book on INDIEBOUND, link HERE

NOTE: This review is a reprint and is being posted with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (January 27, 2017), link HERE 

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Last Girl Before Freeway

An intimate, enlightening and entertaining biography of comedic icon Joan Rivers.
Leslie Bennetts (The Feminine Mistake) explores the peaks and valleys in the life of Joan Rivers, the heralded, often outrageous comic who paved the way for other women in show business. Rivers was an "insatiable overachiever" who defied her parents' expectations for a traditional life and relentlessly pursued a comedy career despite a long list of naysayers who felt Rivers lacked talent. She wanted "to make people laugh so she could feel loved in return." With fearless courage, Rivers battled her way to the top, plummeted time and time again and forged comebacks on ever grander scales.

Drawing from interviews with friends, fellow comics, rivals and Rivers's own words, the narrative probes the comic's insecurities, her tastes in decorating and entertaining, her love life and often contentious marriage, her fiery relationship with her daughter, her unmerciful ribbing of Elizabeth Taylor, and her many plastic surgeries. Rivers's rift with Johnny Carson precipitated the devastating heartbreak of midlife catastrophes, which inspired her to reinvent herself completely. Insightful, entertaining anecdotes bolster--and often dispel--stories manufactured by Rivers herself, which furthered a 60-year career that included an Emmy and a Grammy Award, a Tony nomination, reality TV programs, bestselling books and a successful QVC clothing and jewelry line. Beyond building a billion-dollar brand, Rivers generously lent her support to AIDS patients and many others.
This fascinating, well-researched portrait of a comedic legend--a "vastly influential trailblazer" and "business powerhouse"--will appeal to Rivers's fans and also earn her new ones. 

Little,Brown & Company, $28.00 Hardcover, 9780316261302, 432 pages
Publication Date: September 27, 2016
To order this book on INDIEBOUND, link HERE


NOTE: This review is a reprint and is being posted with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (November 15, 2016), link HERE 

Monday, February 27, 2017

Documentary: What is Philanthropy?

In the award-winning documentary, What is Philanthropy?, Salvatore Alaimo explores and analyzes the history and meaning of "giving"—what and why we give. Alaimo--a professor at the school of Public, Nonprofit and Health Administration at Grand Valley State University (Grand Rapids, Michigan)--sheds light and dispels myths surrounding the idea of charitable giving. The film demonstrates how philanthropy is not just about donating money, nor does it solely apply to the wealthy. In fact, in the USA, lower and middle-income earners actually give the most to charity as philanthropy is also about giving time, volunteering and advocating for social change.  

A wide-range of information is presented through Alaimo's lens depicting the role of how the federal government, the states, the private sector and individual citizens engage in philanthropy and how philanthropy touches everyday lives. The film offers a historical perspective of how, over the course of centuries, people--from Benjamin Franklin to Andrew Carnegie, among others--have pursued philanthropic causes. Interspersed throughout are interviews with learned scholars, academics, civil rights leaders, politicians and religious charity chairpersons from Judaic, Christian and Muslim backgrounds who offer their own insights, research and opinions about the role philanthropy has--and continues to--play in society at large. Also included are interviews with notables in current American culture who have used public platforms to promote larger philanthropic causes such as Estee Lauder and her work with the Breast Cancer Research Foundation; environmentalist Nell Newman--the daughter of Academy Award-winner, Paul Newman--and how her foundation, Newman's Own products, advocates for organic, sustainable agriculture; and NFL quarterback Alex Smith and how his foundation provides foster teens with resources and support as they transition into adulthood. 

Alaimo highlights those who work selflessly to promote causes such as Angel Flight, an organization where private pilots transport patients for medical care and treatments, and the efforts of people like Derreck Kayongo, a Uganda native, who started the Global Soap Project in the US, which collects used soap bars from American hotels and reprocesses them for shipment to impoverished nations such as Haiti, Uganda, Kenya and Swaziland. 

The most heartfelt aspects of the documentary showcase how smaller philanthropic foundations are often established after a person has suffered a deeply personal struggle and loss such as the Josie King Foundation, which advocates for a culture of patient medical safety. This foundation was established by the parents of Josie King in an effort to combat their personal grief after losing their 18-month-old to medical errors on February 22, 2001. Rounding out the film are moving stories of individuals who participate in giving via the likes of sewing circles and those who donate blood, platelets and even breast milk to charitable causes.

Along the way, Alaimo cleverly ties in clips from contemporary TV programs and movies to the theme of philanthropy. A portion of the film also depicts how social activism--including the pursuits of American Indians, the disabled, Gay Pride, Occupy Wall Street, voting rights, the death penalty and healthcare--also falls under the umbrella of philanthropy.  

What is Philanthropy? is well-balanced, lively and informative and is sure to stimulate lively debate, discussion and reflection for those--academics, students and social activists--who wish to more thoroughly understand the history and ideas of philanthropic "giving" in its many unique forms.

What is Philanthropy? a documentary (written/produced/directed) by Salvatore Alaimo
86 minutes; DVD $15.99; Blu-Ray $22.99
Distributed by Indiana University Presswww.iupress.indiana.edu )
Also available via Amazon.com - link HERE 

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Mercury

The marriage of a couple on the cusp of middle age comes undone by a beautiful Thoroughbred horse.

Multi-layered domestic dramas are Margot Livesey's specialty. In her novel, Mercury, she again probes contradictions in human relationships, this time orbiting the often perilous abyss of middle age and casting her gaze on matters of perception in both literal and figurative terms.

Donald Stevenson is a staid, 39-year-old surgical ophthalmologist-turned-optometrist who lives and works in a Boston suburb. In humble, intimate prose that percolates with impending tragedy, Donald recalls his life and tells how a chasm developed between him and Viv, his wife of nine years. A restless and impulsive former mutual fund financier, Viv gave up her unfulfilling professional life to pursue her earlier life's passion for horses, co-managing a stable called Windy Hill. There she cares for Mercury, a five-year-old, dapple-gray Thoroughbred, and forges such a deep bond that she pins her affections, hopes and dreams of winning a horse-riding championship upon the horse. After Windy Hill sustains a mysterious break-in, Viv--whose myopic, first-person account is sandwiched between Donald's telling of events--conveys how she secretly took security matters into her own hands to keep her adored Mercury from danger. The consequences of this decision become far reaching, life changing and soul shattering.

Livesey (The Flight of Gemma Hardy) is a reflective, insightful writer. She offers a well-drawn supporting cast and skillfully unravels details that heighten the suspense and surprise of a sobering story. She delves into divisive aspects of deceit, desire, regret and ideals, and how the choices people make can affect and torment innocent lives in extraordinary ways. 

Harper, $26.99 Hardcover, 9780062437501, 336 pages
Publication Date: September 27, 2016
To order this book on INDIEBOUND, link HERE


NOTE: This review is a reprint and is being posted with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (September 30, 2016), link HERE 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Dinner with Edward

A middle-aged writer and a 93-year-old widower, both facing changes, become friends through the satiating comfort of food.
Two lost souls bond over gourmet feasts in Dinner with Edward, a memoir by investigative journalist Isabel Vincent (Gilded Lily: Lily Safra). Isabel--a middle-aged newspaper reporter transplanted to New York City as her marriage comes undone--meets a dear friend for dinner. The friend's 95-year-old mother has recently died, and she fears her father, Edward, is giving up on life. She asks Isabel to check in on him occasionally, touting Edward's culinary prowess. Isabel's loneliness in a new city ultimately propels her to show up at Edward's apartment on Roosevelt Island, armed with a bottle of wine.
One meal turns into a weekly, culinary rendezvous where meticulous and debonair Edward, a self-trained cook, whips up savory and sweet feasts, paired perfectly with cocktails. "Edward was neither a snob nor an insufferable foodie. He just liked to do things properly." Over dinner, he conveys heartfelt details of his life, his creative pursuits and his enchanted marriage, ultimately becoming something of a teacher and protective father figure to Isabel. He offers wisdom and perspective as Isabel shares her adventures working for the New York Post, her crumbling marriage, difficulties in raising her daughter and her return to dating. 
Dinner with Edward emerges as a beautiful, passionate love story--wholly platonic--about two people whose lives are have undergone change, but who learn how to adapt and truly appreciate life again. Isabel Vincent's rich, perfectly paced narrative is served with as much wonder and gratitude as the deliciously conveyed indulgence of each satisfying, lingering meal. 

Dinner with Edward: A Story of Unexpected Friendship by Isabel Vincent
Algonquin Books, $23.99 Hardcover, 9781616204228, 224 pages
Publication Date: May 24, 2016
To order this book on INDIEBOUND, link HERE

NOTE: This review is a reprint and is being posted with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (June 3, 2016), link HERE 


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Paris for One and Other Stories

An entertaining novella and eight stories about women who are liberated--often unexpectedly--from the stagnancy of life.
In Paris for One and Other Stories, Jojo Moyes (One Plus One) presents a novella and eight short stories about lonely, often disillusioned women liberated from the stagnancy of life. 

In the title story, Nell--a 26-year-old Brit whose friends believe she "has never had a wild moment in her life"--plans a romantic, Parisian weekend getaway with her beau, only to be stood up at the 11th hour. Thus, Nell takes an uncharacteristic leap and sets off alone--launching a journey of self-discovery that leads to adventure and new love. 

The eight other tales deal with women at various ages and stages struggling to make sense of their choices and relationships. A woman finds a cell phone and revels in receiving intimate texts from a stranger. A lonely wife is lured by a slice of freedom amid the oppressiveness of marriage and the burdens of domesticity. A businesswoman's life is transformed when she literally slips into someone else's shoes. A pragmatic hard-working wife, struggling to make ends meet, longs for a new winter coat. A dinner party forces a once-adulterous wife to reconcile her feelings for an old flame. A surprise weekend getaway will either make or break a marriage. A media star's reputation comes undone via Twitter. A robbery in a jewelry store spices up the life of a salesgirl.

This entertaining collection highlights Moyes at her smart, clever best, as most of the stories end with an unexpected twist sure to satisfy readers looking for brief, pleasurable escapes.


Pamela Dorman Books/Viking, $25.00 Hardcover, 9780735221079, 288 pp
Publication Date: October 18, 2016
To order this book on INDIEBOUND, click HERE

NOTE: This review is a reprint and is being posted with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (October 28, 2016), link HERE

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Winter Storms: Book Three in the Winter Series

Winter Storms concludes a warm-hearted trilogy about a complicated Nantucket family whose loyalties and love run deep.

The Quinns of Nantucket reunite again in the final installment of the Winter Street series. As in Winter Street and Winter StrollElin Hilderbrand juggles an ensemble cast in a holiday setting. This time, however, the plot is structured amid four seasons, culminating at Christmas. 

Winter Storms launches in the spring. Family patriarch Kelley Quinn--a twice-married father of four adult children and the owner of the Winter Street Inn in Nantucket--is battling prostate cancer. He offers the inn for the wedding of his first wife, Margaret--a TV journalist and mother to three of the children--who has decided to remarry. Before the family convenes for the summer nuptials, Margaret and daughter Ava take a trip together, which complicates Ava's continued romantic woes. Patrick--the oldest child, having served prison time for insider trading--resumes life with his stressed, over-achieving wife, a closeted prescription drug addict. Kevin--the dithering middle child--opens a beachfront food venue that changes the dynamic with his long-term girlfriend. Throughout the seasons, Bart--a soldier stationed in Afghanistan, the son of Kelley and his second wife--remains missing in action. 

As each of the Quinn children comes to terms with personal dilemmas, Kelley reflects on his life. And when a nor'easter threatens to disrupt big celebratory plans for Christmas, the tightknit Quinns demonstrate what they mean to each other. Hilderbrand's trilogy reaches a well-resolved conclusion infused with a perfect mix of love, tears and joy.

**A quote from my review (above) was selected as a featured headline in an ad for this novel in The New York Times Book Review**
Little, Brown and Company, $26.00, Hardcover, 9780316261173, 256 pp
Publication Date: October 4, 2016
To order this book on INDIEBOUND, link HERE
NOTE: This review is a reprint and is being posted with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (October 11, 2016), link HERE


Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Today Will Be Different

A restless wife and mother tries to reboot her life only to have her quest go awry.

What does a restless, middle-aged wife and mother--a graphic artist and renowned animator of a legendary cartoon--have in common with a Catholic-turned-atheist hand surgeon to the stars; a makeup-wearing third grader named Timby, who got his name from an autocorrect spelling of the name Timothy; a frustrated poet who works at Costco; and a dog named Yo-Yo? They are the cast of quirky characters created by Maria Semple (Where'd You Go, Bernadette?) in her comic third novel, Today Will Be Different. 

Semple sets Today Will Be Different in the supposed "least religious city in America," Seattle, where scatterbrained, middle-aged Eleanor Flood--resettled from New York--narrates her angst. She feels stalled in her life, unfulfilled and failing those she loves. She wakes one morning and vows, determinedly, to live in the moment and be her "best self." As on any other day, she makes breakfast for her doctor husband and drops Timby off at his progressive, politically correct elementary school before going to her weekly private poetry lesson. But Eleanor's noble quest to reinvigorate her life goes awry when, during the course of one day, she's faced with a string of mishaps--starting with Timby faking a sickness at school--which snowballs when she comes face-to-face with a former employee, an "ingratiating wannabe... sweaty ass-kisser" she fired 10 years earlier, who is now a famous, accomplished artist. 

With a strong narrative voice, fast pace and her signature wit, Semple cleverly spins another raucously funny story wound around deeper implications about the unexpected ways life teaches us to find meaning.

Little, Brown and Company, $27.00 Hardcover, 978-0316403436, 272 pp
Publication Date: October 4, 2016
To order this book on INDIEBOUND, click HERE
NOTE: This review is a reprint and is being posted with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (October 18, 2016), link HERE