Tuesday, September 17, 2019

The Helpline


A 30-something numbers wiz uncovers surprising truths about herself, her small Australian town and the people in it.

When Germaine Johnson loses her job as a senior mathematician at an insurance company, the 30-year-old Australian numbers wiz and sudoku aficionado's life is upended. Data points, algorithms and variables are how Germaine--with a very high opinion of herself and her abilities--navigates the world. She may be mathematically brilliant, but her social skills are dismal. This makes her virtually unemployable, until her cousin Kimberly offers a lead on a job at a council office in the city of Deepdene. The facility manages the senior citizens helpline, a phone-in service for older residents who need advice, or are lonely and need someone to talk to.

Perceptive, painfully exacting and over-achieving, Germaine soon catches the attention of Deepdene's mayor, who asks her to deal with a parking problem plaguing the senior center and an adjacent golf club. The task brings Germaine in contact with Don Thomas, who owns the club. She instantly recognizes good-looking Don as Alan Cosgrove, the 2006 national sudoku champion. Alan was once a very positive influence--from afar--in Germaine's life. "Sort of like the father I never had," admits Germaine, who is instantly starstruck and smitten. But why has Alan changed his name? Why is he managing a golf club? And is there really a parking problem, or is something else actually going on in town?

These questions form the basis of The Helpline, a clever and moving—often madcap--journey through the realities of everyday life, local politics and power plays. Debut Australian novelist Katherine Collette delivers a hilarious story that is sure to charm readers.




Atria Books, $26.00 Hardcover, 9781982111335, 304 pages 

Publication Date: July 23, 2019

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 (July 23, 2019), link HERE

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Aunt Poldi and the Vineyards of Etna


The second novel in a fun, cozy mysteries series about a Bavarian expat-turned-amateur-sleuth on a quest for justice in her adopted Sicilian hometown. 
Sicily's most obstinate Bavarian expat--a retiree turned amateur sleuth--lands in more hot water in the second installment of Mario Giordano's clever, cozy mystery series. Readers were first introduced to Isolde Oberreiter (aka "Poldi")--a spirited, sensual, 60-year-old widow--in Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions. Poldi relocated to a peaceful Sicilian village intending to live out her days while drinking herself to death. Instead, her handsome handyman was murdered, she became swept up in the search for his killer and sparked a romance with Detective Chief Inspector Vito Montana.
Murder and mayhem find Poldi again in the second book, as Mount Etna spews ash, the water supply to Poldi's community is cut off and a neighbor's dog is killed by poison. When an anti-Mafia district attorney dies from a blow to the head with a full bottle of locally produced wine, Poldi deems it part of a larger conspiracy. She's led to the vineyard, where another body is found. Inquisitive, Vespa-driving Poldi goes in search of answers--and justice. Amid her (mis)adventures, she tangles with the locals, the owner of the vineyard, her now-jealous beau and even the Mob. 
Poldi's story is narrated by her nephew--an unemployed, aspiring novelist who is often summoned from Germany when Auntie Poldi is in trouble. He, along with a cast of lovable, madcap characters, becomes embroiled in a plot with as many strands as a pasta bowl heaped with steaming spaghetti. Giordano's passion for the dramatic absurdity of Sicilian life, culture and traditions overflows with fun and wit.  

Aunt Poldi andthe Vineyards of Etna (An Aunt Poldi Adventure: Book Two) by Mario Giordano, translated by John Brownjohn

Houghton MifflinHarcourt, $26.00 Hardcover, 9781328919021, 368 pages 

Publication Date: March 5, 2019

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 (March 26, 2019), link HERE

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

The Wonder of Lost Causes


A tender, affirming story of how an abused rescue dog helps an 11-year-old with cystic fibrosis and his hardworking mother to heal.
Nick Trout (Dog Gone, Back Soon; The Patron Saint of Lost Dogs) delivers a beautifully written, poignant story infused with gentle humor and compassion. Jasper Blunt is a precocious, very lovable 11-year-old battling cystic fibrosis and its complications. Kate, Jasper's hardworking single mother, is struggling to keep her son healthy and make ends meet while working hard as a rescue shelter veterinarian on Cape Cod in Massachusetts.
When a mysterious and badly abused dog arrives at the shelter with health problems of his own, Jasper and the dog form an instant bond--the dog looks out for the boy, who intuitively knows what the dog is feeling. Jasper claims he can communicate with the mutt and even believes the dog told him his name, Whistler. This intrigues, yet worries, Kate. Might Jasper, plagued with breathing problems, hearing loss and a host of other ailments, also be growing delusional? When Jasper lobbies Kate to adopt Whistler, she resists. After all, their apartment building does not permit pets. But when Whistler's background and his true origin are ultimately discovered, Jasper and Kate face a big decision that takes them on an adventurous journey. Might the Blunts need Whistler as much as he needs them?
Trout's well-paced narrative is filled with big, resonant scenes that render the story surprisingly suspenseful. As Whistler's history unfolds via the points-of-view of Jasper and Kate, revealing their innermost thoughts and fears, the mother-son bond deepens. This tender, inspirational story--forged with themes of deliverance and hope--overflows with profound meaning.

The Wonder of Lost Causes: A Novel by Nick Trout

William Morrow Paperbacks, $16.99 Paperback, 9780062747945, 464 pages

Publication Date: July 9, 2019

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 30, 2019), link HERE


Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Under Currents


A chilling suspense novel about the far-reaching implications of rampant and hidden domestic abuse.
The harrowing, far-reaching implications of domestic abuse are central to Nora Roberts's Under Currents. The novel begins in Lakeview, an upscale lakeside community in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, where Graham Bigelow, an upstanding surgeon, and Eliza, his stay-at-home wife, raise two children: 14-year-old Zane and 11-year-old Britt. The foursome may look like an idyllic family--they have everything money can buy. But at home, Dr. Bigelow is a cruel, abusive and tormenting figure who beats his complicit wife and their innocent children. With the help of a trustworthy family friend, Zane confronts his violent father, who--along with his mother--is ultimately sent to prison.
The action then moves ahead 18 years. Zane, now a successful lawyer, returns from Raleigh and resettles in his old hometown, while Darby McCray, a Baltimore landscaper recently divorced from her own abusive husband, takes up residence in Lakeview in order to make a fresh start. Zane and Darby start a romance, but the deep pain of their pasts complicates their relationship--along with the re-emergence of Zane's father, released from prison and seeking vengeance.
Readers can always count on Nora Roberts (Shelter in Place, Come Sundown) to deliver high-octane thrillers that focus on the bonds of small-town life, dark secrets and the prospect of new love complicated by evil lurking around sharp corners. She doesn't disappoint in Under Currents, a chilling, suspenseful story that proves how appearances can be utterly deceiving.

Under Currents by Nora Roberts

St. Martin’s Press, $28.99 Hardcover,  9781250207098, 448 pages

Publication Date: July 9, 2019

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 (July 12, 2019), link HERE


Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Evvie Drake Starts Over


A smart romantic comedy about two lost, wounded souls who lean on each other as they step into their futures. 
Linda Holmes, host of the NPR podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, makes her fiction debut with a bright and lively romantic comedy that charts the course of 33-year-old widowed and childless Eveleth "Evvie" Drake of Calcasset, Maine. A transcriptionist, Evvie saw her life derail when her husband, Tim, died in a car crash on the very day Evvie was ready to leave him. Family and friends were completely unaware of Tim's dark, abusive side and Evvie's exit plan. This includes her closest friend, Andy, whose wife walked out on him and their two young children. 
Evvie's planned escape riddles her with guilt. And when small-town talk of Tim keeps circling back to Evvie, it exacerbates her isolation. But her life changes with the arrival of Andy's pal Dean Tenney, a pitcher for the New York Yankees who's struggling with an emotional block that has rendered him unable to throw a baseball straight. 
Andy asks Evvie to let Dean rent the small apartment in the back of her house so Dean can have privacy as he attempts to regroup. Evvie agrees, but sets conditions: Dean will not ask Evvie any questions about her marriage or her deceased husband. And Evvie will not ask Dean why his successful pitching career tanked to the point that he's known as "Baseball's Exiled 'Head Case.' " 
Evvie Drake Starts Over, ripe with amusing wit and charm, skillfully explores regret and longing, friendship, love and forgiveness, and the challenges posed by reinvention. Holmes has a firm grasp on the realities of everyday life and the difficulties of carving out happiness in the modern world.

EvvieDrake Starts Over: A Novel by Linda Holmes

Ballantine Books, $27.00 Hardcover,  9780525619246, 304 pages

Publication Date: June 25, 2019

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 25, 2019), link HERE


Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Summer of '69


One uncertain summer on Nantucket Island changes the lives and loves of every member of an extended family.

Elin Hilderbrand (The Perfect Couple) dips into historical fiction, setting Summer of '69 in the era of the Vietnam War and Woodstock, a landmark moon landing and the scandal of Ted Kennedy's Chappaquiddick car accident.
With history playing out, the Foley-Levin family of the greater Boston Area had planned to spend another summer at "All's Well," the Nantucket home of Exalta Nichols, the family matriarch. This year, however, the family is splintered, everyone facing the uncertainty of personal challenges: Kate--Exalta's widowed, remarried daughter and mother of three adult children of her own--is worried sick about 19-year-old Tiger, who fights for his country and his life after he's drafted into the Vietnam War. Rebellious Kirby is a hardworking 21-year-old; the free spirit and civil rights activist grapples with a taboo love and bristles against the ramifications of the Kennedy scandal. Blair, a 24-year-old intellectual, feels neglected as she endures a difficult pregnancy with twins while her husband is wrapped up, manning Mission Control for NASA. Jessie--the only offspring of Kate and her second husband, David, a lawyer--is a sensitive, love-sick 12-year-old swept up in family drama, preteen angst and the judgments of her elitist grandmother. 

Hilderbrand weaves the secret struggles, weaknesses and strengths of her well-developed cast into a rich tapestry. Hot-button issues--classism, racism, anti-Semitism, abortion, women's rights and the polarization of war--add resonant depth to Hilderbrand's trademark Cape Cod Islands setting and well-plotted multiple storylines. Once again, Hilderbrand shines, continuing to stretch her literary range with great success.

The Summer of ‘69 by Elin Hilderbrand

Little, Brown and Company, $28.00 Hardcover,  9780316420013, 432 pages

Publication Date: June 18, 2019

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 21, 2019), link HERE

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

The Editor


In this refreshing, imaginative novel of self-discovery, a debut author has his work--and his life--edited by the inimitable Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

Steven Rowley (Lily and the Octopus) explores the complicated relationship between mothers and sons in his wise and deeply engrossing second novel, The Editor. Set in Manhattan in the early 1990s, the story centers on James Smale, an aspiring writer in his late 20s, who has worked "a never-ending string of toxic, depressing temp jobs" and is in a committed--although maybe not forever--relationship with Daniel, a loving and spirited companion who works in the theater.

The book opens with a dramatic and dynamic scene that establishes the tone of the novel: James is summoned to the high-powered offices of Doubleday--the book company has expressed interest in his novel, The Quarantine, a semi-autobiographical story about an emotionally estranged mother and son. Nerves and self-consciousness plague James as he waits in a conference room, and matters grow even more overwhelming when in walks Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis--former first lady of the United States who has become an esteemed editor in the last third of her life.

That moment marks the start of a working relationship that will later turn into friendship. Perceptive, analytical and astute Jackie becomes a literary mentor to James. She also raises questions--on the page and off--that gently nudge James to dig deeper into the emotional landscape of his fraught relationship with his mother and the rest of his family.

The resonance of Rowley's originality and sensitivity shines on every page. He has written a refreshing, superbly crafted novel of hard-won self-discovery filled with big, well-paced scenes and a pitch-perfect blend of humor and compassion that will charm and fully engage readers.

The Editor: by Steven Rowley

Putnam, $27.00 Hardcover,  9780525537960, 320 pages

Publication Date: April 2, 2019

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 9, 2019), link HERE

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

I Owe You One


A fun, lighthearted story about a spirited 20-something woman tangled up in family, business and romantic woes.
Fawn "Fixie" Farr is dependable and loyal--the youngest child in a British family that owns and operates a West London home-goods store that sells everything from licorice to hardware to children's toys. Since Fixie's father's death, Fixie has honored him by preserving and growing the business he started, working alongside her mother and older siblings Jake and Nicole. "Family loyalty is a big thing" to 27-year-old Fixie, who earned her nickname because of her penchant for fixing things and people--and keeping everything in its proper place.
But all that's challenged when domineering Jake starts socializing with posh people and wants to overhaul the business to appeal to a more upscale crowd. When Fixie's mother has a health scare and takes a hiatus from the shop, normally non-confrontational Fixie locks horns with Jake and his high-minded plans, along with beautiful, yet "drifty and vague" Nicole, and her uncle, who steps in to lend a hand. Along the way, Fixie's former crush Ryan returns from an unsuccessful stint in Hollywood, and Fixie rescues the laptop of handsome investment manager, Sebastian, who, in his gratitude, proclaims to Fixie, "I owe you one." If Fixie takes Seb up on his offer, might it prove the impetus finally to upend the status quo of her life?
A cast of quirky characters infuses this briskly paced, lighthearted story. Kinsella (My (Not So) Perfect Life) adds another entertaining meet-cute rom-com to her long line of escapist fictions.

I Owe You One: A Novel by Sophie Kinsella

Dial Press, $27.00 Hardcover,  9781524799014, 448 pages

Publication Date: February 5, 2019

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 8, 2019), link HERE


Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Signs from the Other Side




Was thrilled to be a featured guest on the always-inspiring podcast, SIGNS FROM THE OTHER SIDE with host Fern Ronay. Fern is the author of the hit romantic comedy, Better in the Morning, a novel I adored - really looking forward to reading the sequel (slated for Fall 2019). 

SIGNS FROM THE OTHER SIDE is a podcast devoted to true stories of people who have had mysterious experiences and encounters with mystical forces that go beyond the realm of coincidence. 

I had the opportunity to talk to Fern and share funny stories about the (quirky, often exasperating) Yorkshire terrier that inspired my novel, The Thing Is, and how, after the dog prematurely passed, I received a series of remarkable signs  that ultimately culminated with a hair-raising 'out of this world' birthday gift from the dog!

The conversation was a lot of fun...Via the podcast, Fern certainly does this contentious world of ours a great public service by promoting what is good, hopeful and affirming (and truly important) in this life. Hope you'll tune in to the show. Enjoy!

Listen to the podcast on any of the platforms below (click on links to connect to each platform):
Listen on iTunes 
Listen via Instagram
Listen on Blog Talk Radio
Listen on Stitcher



Wednesday, May 15, 2019

In Dog We Trust


A part-time dog walker's life is dramatically changed when she's named trustee and legal guardian for a pack of pampered Labrador retrievers.
Beth Kendrick (Once Upon a Wine, Cure for the Common Breakup) returns to Black Dog Bay, a fictional seaside town in Delaware that's become a refuge to the broken-hearted and romantically challenged over four previous novels. This installment features 27-year-old Jocelyn Hilliard, who runs a linen and laundry service for area condos and rental units with her mother and wise-cracking best friend, Bree. Jocelyn has her life upended when she rescues a dog from a busy street and, as a result, is offered a job caring for and walking a pack of Labrador retrievers--pedigreed, pampered, future world champion show dogs--who are owned by rich curmudgeon Peter Allardyce.
When the elderly Mr. Allardyce dies several months later, his will surprisingly appoints Jocelyn as the guardian and trustee for the beloved Labs. He also names her as financial fiduciary of the trust and benefactor of his lavish beach house mansion. The news leaves those in Allardyce's circle up in arms--including highfalutin show-dog trainer Lois and Liam, Allardyce's estranged son. Both feel they are more deserving and far better trustee candidates than Jocelyn. Thus begins a tangled legal battle that tests Jocelyn's patience and her judgments of people, while also forging her strength and resolve on the road to finding true love.
Kendrick's breezy style and quick wit enliven more serious themes centered on family, love, work, class differences and the universal human need for love and forgiveness

In Dog We Trust: A Novel by Beth Kendrick

Berkley, $15.00 Paperback, 97803999584251, 336 pages

Publication Date: January 8, 2019

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 22, 2019), link HERE




Wednesday, May 1, 2019

The Songbird


In this tender novel, the bonds among inhabitants of a British estate transcend the stories, burdens and secrets of their lives.
Prolific author Marcia Willett (Summer on the RiverChristmas in Cornwall) returns to the bucolic English countryside in The Songbird. The old Georgian estate Brockscombe Farm consists of a house, owned by the aging Francis Courtney, and three cottages.
In one cottage lives Charlotte, a 32-year-old web designer, her husband, Andy, and their five-month-old. The second cottage is home to William, Andy's father and Francis's cousin. William has been separated for several years from Fiona, Andy's mother. She left him to pursue an affair and a highfalutin architectural career in London, but begins paying regular visits to bond with her new grandson.
William shares his cottage with his other cousin, Kat, a retired ballet dancer in her 60s. She is a creative spirit coming to grips with the death of her Polish lover. And the third cottage is empty until Tim, on sabbatical, arrives to take a six-month lease. Connected to the others through Charlotte's sister, Tim is trying to regroup after a painful break-up. He is also secretly battling a neurological disease in its early stages. The atmosphere in Brockscombe proves as healing as the warm acceptance Tim receives from his new neighbors. But will they treat him differently if they know the truth?
Willett is an elegant writer and an unhurried storyteller. She understands people and the private burdens they carry, while empathizing with the consequences of their actions. This moving, multigenerational saga slowly reveals the essence of her fully realized cast of characters as the intimate stories of their lives unspool with tender, hopeful grace.

The Songbird: A Novel by Marcia Willett

Thomas Dunne Books, $27.99 Hardcover,  9781250177414,288 pages

Publication Date: December 4, 2018

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 (December 14, 2018), link HERE

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Cat Flap


A successful, British executive--a wife and mother--has her mind and soul metamorphosed into the family cat.
In his novel Cat Flap, British journalist Alan S. Cowell presents a modern fable: Dolores Tremayne--wife, mother and a successful corporate executive of African British descent--wakes one day and discovers that part of her has migrated and metamorphosed into the body of the family's "finely bred, highly pedigreed" indoor cat.
The human Dolores sets off on a Lufthansa flight bound for a high-powered business meeting with a prestigious car company in Munich, Germany. Her feline self--her mind and soul, aka "X"--stays behind and gains a surprising glimpse into the daily life of her sexy, white husband, Gerald, a former drug dealer-user and stalled novelist. His first book had been "well-received, if not well sold or marketed" and a three-book commitment looms over him, along with his daily, demanding responsibilities as a house-husband to his and Dolores's two little girls.
One day, when Gerald exits the apartment, curious X slips out and follows him. She discovers that he is a serial philanderer juggling numerous shocking exploits. Being trapped in the body of a cat shutters all of Dolores's emotional human instincts and reactions. However, through some creative ingenuity, X and human Dolores join forces as avenging spirits.
Cowell (The Terminal Spy) has never shied away from exploring dark themes in his writing--those found in newspaper journalism, politics, war, risk taking and spying. Readers will eagerly suspend their disbelief, immersing themselves in Cowell's cleverly conceived, satirical novel that probes contemporary issues of race, identity and sexuality. 

Cat Flap by Alan S. Cowell

St. Martin's Press, $24.99, Hardcover, 978125014659, 240 pages

Publication Date: July 31, 2018

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 (August 3, 2018), link HERE