Thursday, April 21, 2016

Book Review: Some Women

Some WomenAuthor: Emily Liebert
Publication Date: April 5, 2016
Publisher: NAL

An engrossing and thought provoking novel that examines the intricacies of marriage, friendship, and the power of unexpected connections…

Annabel Ford has everything under control, devoting her time to her twin five-year-old boys and to keeping her household running seamlessly. So when her husband of a decade announces that he’s leaving her, without warning, she’s blindsided. And suddenly her world begins to unravel.

Single mother Piper Whitley has always done her best to balance it all—raising her daughter Fern by herself and advancing her career as a crime reporter. Only now that she’s finally met the man of her dreams, Fern’s absentee father arrives on the scene and throws everything into a tailspin.

Married to the heir of a thriving media conglomerate, Mackenzie Mead has many reasons to count her blessings. But with an imperious mother-in-law—who’s also her boss—and a husband with whom she can no longer seem to connect, something has to give.

She needed a whole new plan. A clear direction with which to forge ahead. Either that, or she feared she might stay lost forever.

It was a really bad idea to rummage through a friend’s dirty laundry. Even if you planned to wash, dry, and fold it for her.

“That's the funny thing about children. When they were around, you wanted peace and quiet. A mere moment to yourself. You felt absolutely desperate to go more than three minutes without hearing the word Moooooooom echoing throughout the house. To go to the bathroom or - if luck was really on your side - to take an uninterrupted shower. Yet, when they were absent, no matter how infrequently that happened, it felt as though someone had amputated your limb and left a stinging open wound in its place. And you craved them like a cold beer on a blistering summer day.”

I love stories that bring different characters from different backgrounds together and allow them to bond over the smallest things. The three women that form an unbreakable friendship in this story first meet in an exercise class. Their lifestyles and situations are all different, but it was not hard at all for me to bond with each of them. Emily Liebert has such a knack for writing stories that get you hooked right from the beginning. She puts so much thought into her characters. They are so believable and after just a few chapters you will find yourself longing to read from their perspective again. You will never be bored and the story will never lag!

There are very few authors who have a talent that lasts through every word, every sentence, and every page. Emily Liebert’s writing is so fluid and so eloquent that you might even have to pause and read back over certain sentences because of the beauty of the juxtaposition. Her characters give us hope and we revel in their successes and root for them in their defeats. Each of the women in this story have a difficult struggle they are facing, and Liebert shows, through her theme of friendship, how having the right people to believe in you and encourage you along can make all the difference. This is a perfect summer read that you don’t want to miss.

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at NAL in exchange for my honest review***

Monday, April 11, 2016

Book Review: The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem

The Beauty Queen of JerusalemAuthor: Sarit Yishai-Levi
Publication Date: April 5, 2016
Publisher: Thomas Dunne

The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem is a dazzling novel of mothers and daughters, stories told and untold, and the binds that tie four generations of women.

Gabriela's mother Luna is the most beautiful woman in all of Jerusalem, though her famed beauty and charm seem to be reserved for everyone but her daughter. Ever since Gabriela can remember, she and Luna have struggled to connect. But when tragedy strikes, Gabriela senses there's more to her mother than painted nails and lips.

Desperate to understand their relationship, Gabriela pieces together the stories of her family's previous generations—from Great-Grandmother Mercada the renowned healer, to Grandma Rosa who cleaned houses for the English, to Luna who had the nicest legs in Jerusalem. But as she uncovers shocking secrets, forbidden romances, and the family curse that links the women together, Gabriela must face a past and present far more complex than she ever imagined.

Set against the Golden Age of Hollywood, the dark days of World War II, and the swingin' '70s, The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem follows generations of unforgettable women as they forge their own paths through times of dramatic change. With great humor and heart, Sarit Yishai-Levi has given us a powerful story of love and forgiveness—and the unexpected and enchanting places we find each.

Many years after her death, when I found room in my heart for my mother, my Aunt Rachelika told me the secret of her suffering, the never-receding pain. But by then it was already too late to fix what had been broken between us.

I’m a woman of autumn, of yellowed falling leaves. I was born at its back door, two steps before winter.

But she was prepared to suffer a thousand deaths for a few minutes in Gabriel’s arms.

That’s how it is with old age. There are things you miss.

This beautiful and intricate tale brings four generations of women together: a family saga, to be exact. Each of these women are strong and complex characters. Not only are we given bright, wonderful female leads, but we are also given a historical fiction novel that transports us through time back to a time when Jerusalem was in the midst of political upheaval. If I had to choose, I could not choose which was my favorite the rich history lesson I received or the family dynamics. I was able to picture fully a place I had never been before; the cities, the food, and even the people meandering around the streets. The story was a thrilling journey and I had only the best guides to accompany me along the way.

The biggest complaint that I had while reading is that the book started somewhat slow, but it did pick up after the first few chapters. The more that is revealed about the family the more I found myself holding on and being less and less able to put the book down. I forgot to mention before that these women believe that their family namesake suffers from a curse. This curse is the bait and when family secrets start to unravel, any reader will be hooked. I am all for powerful relationships among women; they are sisters, mothers, and daughters and anyone will fall in love with their stories, hardships, and triumphs.

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Thomas Dunne in exchange for my honest review***

Friday, April 8, 2016

Book Review: Miller's Valley

Miller's ValleyAuthor: Anna Quindlen
Publication Date: April 5, 2016
Publisher: Random House

A novel about family and the secrets that we keep—a young woman learning to love and leave home and realizing that, maybe, she never quite left. From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Still Life with Bread Crumbs and Rise and Shine.

This story begins in the 1960s, and explores how Mimi Miller comes of age, over and over again.

As a young girl in Miller’s Valley, an ordinary farming town that may be facing its final days, Mimi is observing adults, selling corn, growing up and changing, and watching the world around her change, too.

As the years go by, the unthinkable starts to seem inevitable. Anna Quindlen’s novel takes us through the changing eras of Mimi and her family, as secrets are revealed, and the heartbreaks of growing up and falling in love with the wrong man are overcome.

A deeply moving, inspiring story of a young woman learning to love and leave, the place and family from which she comes.

My mother said if I shaved my legs before I turned sixteen I’d be cleaning the bathroom on Saturday for the rest of my life. We only had one bathroom but I wasn’t taking any chances.

I’ll remember that date for the rest of my life: August 21, 1966, the day Donald’s grandmother died and the day my brother Tommy enlisted in the Marines.

They called that Miller’s Creek because years ago it had been just a narrow little run of water, but once the dam went in it turned into something much bigger than that. I’d spent a lot of time around creeks when I was younger, looking for minnows and crayfish, and that was no creek. 
Miller’s Valley was different for me. A wonderful literary piece that will stay with me for months to come. The book comes in at just under 300 pages and is an easy 1 or 2 sitting read. Mimi Miller is the narrator of this wonderfully endearing story. Mimi does a wonderful job of allowing readers to feel a sense of belonging within her family. The characters feel more real than most; you will find yourself attached to them and missing them when the story is done. There is just enough drama, and humor, to make the characters feel like people you have known all of your life. The town is small and everyone knows everyone’s business. Gossip is rampant and neighbors stick together; well, most of the time!

The setting is, of course, a small town in the 1960’s. I immediately latched on to the town and the people in it. The time period was easy to pick up from so many descriptions and the way of life. Mimi’s family is a farming family and they depend on the land solely for their resources. I can relate so much with this story. I didn’t grow up on a farm but many of my friends did. I did, however, grow up in a very small town just like Mimi’s. Many of descriptions and anecdotes really hit home with me. Quindlen’s writing is very down to earth and feels like a pleasant conversation. This was my first book by Anna Quindlen, but after reading many reviews, I have decided to look into purchasing some more!

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Random House in exchange for my honest review*** 

Friday, April 1, 2016

Book Review: Brighton Belle

Brighton BelleAuthor: Sara Sheridan
Publication Date: March 29, 2016
Publisher: Kensington
Series: Mirabelle Bevan Mystery # 1

In post-World War II England, former Secret Service operative Mirabelle Bevan becomes embroiled in a new kind of intrigue…

1951: In the popular seaside town of Brighton, it's time for Mirabelle Bevan to move beyond her tumultuous wartime years and start anew. Accepting a job at a debt collection agency seems a step toward a more tranquil life. 

But as she follows up on a routine loan to Romana Laszlo, a pregnant Hungarian refugee who's recently come off the train from London, Mirabelle's instincts for spotting deception are stirred when the woman is reported dead, along with her unborn child. 

After encountering a social-climbing doctor with a sudden influx of wealth and Romana's sister, who seems far from bereaved and doesn't sound Hungarian, Mirabelle decides to dig deeper into the suspicious circumstances surrounding the death. Aided by her feisty sidekick--a fellow office worker named Vesta Churchill ("no relation to Winston," as she explains)--Mirabelle unravels a web of evil that stretches from the Brighton beachfront to the darkest corners of Europe. Putting her own life at risk, she must navigate a lethal labyrinth of lies and danger to expose the truth.

“Everyone was important during the war. Everyone. We worked together and we won.”

“People are so different in wartime. No one gets to be ordinary. Not really.”

“Most fellas like the races, though, Miss. It’s only human nature.”

“The sky was a sparkling succession of black diamonds on black velvet made crystal clear by the blackout.”

I am so glad that I requested a copy of this book for review. I was immediately taken with Mirabelle’s character and the way she told the story. Mirabelle clues readers in to her past pretty early on. We learn that she is mourning her lover and has just retired from her wartime job, since the book is set post WWII. Mirabelle’s life seems so plain and ordinary until the day a gentleman by the name of Bert Jennings walks in and delivers our mystery. Immediately after hearing his report, she feels she must investigate this story and she quickly gets herself involved pretty deep in what appears to be a murder of convenience. Mirabelle soon enlists the help of a woman named Vesta Churchill and together they go about trying to crack the case.

There is no way I could have predicted the ending of this book or the culprit of the crime. The list of victims was very long and I had to reread certain parts of the book to make sure I hadn’t missed anything. The time period is also one of my favorite time periods to read about. Sheridan writes the post WWII scene very vividly and portrays the time exactly how I imagine it would have been. The dialogue, the lack and food and resources, and of course the deteriorated streets and buildings. This book was easy to read and took me no time at all to finish. Now I just have to wait for Kensington to publish more of them!

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Kensington in exchange for my honest review***