Wednesday, April 29, 2020

142 Ostriches

Familial dynamics are complicated and messy--even more so when there is a death in the family.

A deeply moving story about a young woman who inherits an ostrich ranch and must fight family strife and dysfunction.

April Dávila's first novel is wise, moving and beautifully rendered. She sets 142 Ostriches on Wishbone Ranch, an ostrich farm in Sombra, a remote California town entrenched in the Mojave Desert.

The heroine, 24-year-old Tallulah Jones, is ready to fly the coop to take a Forest Service job in Montana when her Grandma Helen dies in a mysterious car crash. She is the person who rescued 13-year-old Tallulah from her irresponsible, alcoholic mother in Oakland, Calif., and brought her to live on the ostrich ranch 11 years ago. The news derails and defers Tallulah's plans. All along, Helen had groomed Tallulah to take over the 50-year-old ranch. She was adamantly opposed to her granddaughter's plans to escape to Montana. This leaves Tallulah to question the timing of her grandmother's death: Was it really an accident?

Helen's absence reunites and unsettles the extended family. This includes Tallulah's estranged mother, Laura; aunt Christine, a level-headed wife and mother who lives nearby; and erratic recovering meth-addict uncle Steve. When everyone learns that Helen has bequeathed the ostrich farm to Tallulah, emotions and rebelliousness run high in the family--and in the ostrich flock, when the sensitive birds suddenly stop laying eggs. Contentiousness further escalates when Tallulah considers selling the farm.

She is a young woman faced with difficult choices in her quest to rise above the perils of familial dysfunction. The result, Dávila's stellar debut, is infused with richly drawn characters, tightly focused suspense and authentic detail about farm and desert life.

Kensington Books, $15.95 Paperback

9781496724700, 272 pages

Publication Date: February 25, 2020

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 24, 2020), link HERE

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

St. Francis Society for Wayward Pets

Who can resist a novel where a dog resides at the heart of the action? (Not me, that’s for sure!) Add a knitting club and themes of second chances and that ups the ante.
A colorful story of Women’s Fiction about a washed-up writer whose life changes after inheriting her birth-mother’s estate—and her memories.

In one day, 36-year-old Seattle sportswriter Maeve "Mae" Stephens is laid off from her newspaper job, learns that her boyfriend (a left fielder for the Mariners) is cheating on her, and gets mugged for $32 in her wallet. No sooner does down-on-her-luck Mae move in with her parents (who lovingly adopted her as a baby) when she receives a phone call informing her that her birth mother, Annabelle, has died in a freak accident. An old friend of Annabelle invites Mae to attend the funeral in the small town of Timber Creek.

For years, Mae wrote Annabelle letters, which were returned to her unread. But with life at a standstill, Mae sets off for Timber Creek and learns she is the beneficiary of Annabelle's worldly possessions, including her house, an old VW and a moody cat. When a wayward bulldog is found chained to the front porch, Mae extends her stay. She's befriended by curious townsfolk, including a handsome but blocked writer and a group of women as tight-knit as the colorful sweaters they craft to keep local animals warm. Is there more than meets the eye to the idyllic town--and to the story of Annabelle's life?

As Mae learns more about the woman who gave her up and why, she also discovers herself--who she is and what she wants out of life. Annie England Noblin (The Sisters Hemingway, Pupcakes) spins a poignant, heartwarming story about secrets and lies, strangers and lovers.

William Morrow Paperbacks, $16.99 Paperback, 9780062748317, 384 pages

Publication Date: January 14, 2020

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 as published via Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (February 11, 2020), link HERE

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

The Authenticity Project

This is a fun, clever, very modern story offering a poignant message of hope!

A notebook created for the purpose of confessing intimate, personal truth turns British strangers into friends as they form an unlikely bond of trust.

Online, everyone's lives look happy and perfect, which makes Clare Pooley's (The Sober Diaries) charmed novel, The Authenticity Project, a fresh, welcome and necessary change of pace.

Monica is a single, 37-year-old Brit who gave up her corporate law to open a London café. She discovers a simple exercise book left behind in her coffee shop, with three words etched on the cover: "The Authenticity Project." The first page reads: "Everyone lies about their lives. What would happen if you shared the truth instead...? Not on the internet, but with those real people around you?"

Intrigued, Monica learns the book was initiated by 79-year-old Julian Jessop, who committed his truth to its pages. Julian expresses the deep-seated loneliness he's experienced for five years, since the loss of his wife, Mary, whom he appreciated only once she was gone. Julian created the Authenticity Project to purge his own feelings and deliberately left the book with his story behind, hoping that whoever read his entry would be inspired to share their own story in its pages and then leave the book for others to do the same.

Monica searches for Julian online and discovers he is a famous portrait painter. In the meantime, she leaves the notebook, with her entry added, in a local wine bar. It lands with a cocaine addict, Hazard, who takes it with him as he sobers up on a remote island in the South China Sea. What ensues is a clever story of how the notebook travels from person to person, six strangers who ultimately discover each other and form bonds of commonality, friendship and love.

The Authenticity Project: A Novel by Clare Pooley

Pamela Dorman Books, $26.00 Hardcover, 9781984878618, 368 pages

Publication Date: February 4, 2020

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 as published via Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (February 7, 2020), link HERE

To read the longer form of this review as published on Shelf Awareness for the Book Trade (January 7, 2020), link HERE