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The Glass Forest Book Cover The Glass Forest
Cynthia Swanson
Fiction
Simon and Schuster
February 6, 2018
Hardcover
352
Free from publisher

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Bookseller comes a gripping literary suspense novel set in the 1960s about a deeply troubled family and three women who will reveal its dark truths. In the autumn of 1960, Angie Glass is living an idyllic life in her Wisconsin hometown. At twenty-one, she’s married to charming, handsome Paul, and has just given birth to a baby boy. But one phone call changes her life forever. When Paul’s niece, Ruby, reports that her father, Henry, has committed suicide, and that her mother, Silja, is missing, Angie and Paul drop everything and fly to the small upstate town of Stonekill, New York to be by Ruby’s side. Angie thinks they’re coming to the rescue of Paul’s grief-stricken young niece, but Ruby is a composed and enigmatic seventeen-year-old who resists Angie’s attempts to nurture her. As Angie learns more about the complicated Glass family, staying in Henry and Silja’s eerie and ultra-modern house on the edge of the woods, she begins to question the very fabric of her own marriage. Through Silja’s flashbacks, Angie’s discovery of astonishing truths, and Ruby’s strategic dissection of her parents’ state of affairs, a story of love, secrets, and ultimate betrayal is revealed.

My review:

This is my kind of suspense novel! The story is heavily focused on developing the characters, and the mystery (while ever present), is not the main focus. There are not any contrived hit you over the head twists, although make no mistake, there were a few times when I was fooled. From the beginning of the book we learn that a man is dead, his wife has gone missing, and a teenage daughter has been left behind. Enter the man's brother and wife, who are the only remaining family members to care for the daughter. I knew that things were not as they seem right from the start, but the author skillfully doles out just enough information at a time to keep the reader engrossed in what exactly happened within this family. There are three women who are the voices in alternating chapters. The teenage daughter Ruby, and the brother's wife Angie are in present timeline, while the mother Silja is a chronicle from when she meets her husband until her disappearance. I loved the triple person perspective, and was completely engrossed in this novel. This book is very different from Ms. Swanson's previous novel The Bookseller, but I really liked them both!

This is a great novel that will have you mesmerized by the characters, and embracing the unsettling feeling while reading. You will soon realize that you never know what is going on within a seemingly ordinary family!

 

 

She Regrets Nothing Book Cover She Regrets Nothing
Andrea Dunlop
Fiction
Washington Square Press
February 6, 2018
Paperback
400
Free from publisher

In the tradition of The Emperor’s Children and The House of Mirth, the forgotten granddaughter of one of New York’s wealthiest men is reunited with her family just as she comes of age—and once she’s had a glimpse of their glittering world, she refuses to let it go without a fight. When Laila Lawrence becomes an orphan at twenty-three, the sudden loss unexpectedly introduces her to three glamorous cousins from New York who show up unannounced at her mother’s funeral. The three siblings are scions of the wealthy family from which Laila’s father had been estranged long before his own untimely demise ten years before. Two years later, Laila has left behind her quiet life in Grosse Point, Michigan to move to New York City, landing her smack in the middle of her cousins’ decadent world. As the truth about why Laila’s parents became estranged from the family patriarch becomes clear, Laila grows ever more resolved to claim what’s rightfully hers. Caught between longing for the love of her family and her relentless pursuit of the lifestyle she feels she was unfairly denied, Laila finds herself reawakening a long dead family scandal—not to mention setting off several new ones—as she becomes further enmeshed in the lives and love affairs of her cousins. But will Laila ever, truly, belong in their world? Sly and sexy, She Regrets Nothing is a sharply observed and utterly seductive tale about family, fortune, and fate—and the dark side of wealth.

My review:

Seeing that pink happens to be my favorite color, I absolutely ADORE this cover! And yes, I most certainly looked at the blurb and requested a copy pronto after falling for the cover. I would have been happy just to have the cover to look at, but the story was equally as appealing! I love a good story about rich people behaving badly, and while the people in this one only marginally fit that bill, it was about a woman trying to insert herself into the rich life after finding out her recently deceased father had been estranged from his wealthy brother (whew!). She meets her cousins, lives the lush city life, backstabs  a few people along the way to reaching what she considers her rightful place in the family. Some of the cousins were more accepting of her than others, which made for a fun subplot. I loved the writing, the characters, the settings and the hi-jinks of the rich.

Just a fun book with a great plot and characters, with a little lifestyles of the rich and famous thrown in. And can we just sit and admire this cover for a few more minutes?

 

 

Happy pub day to Where the Wild Cherries Grow by @lauramadeleineauthor. Thanks to @katiebassel and the generous people @stmartinspress for this free copy for review. First off, can we look at this beautiful book (and I slid the jacket cover up a bit to expose the gorgeous pink underneath)! I want nail polish in this color! But I digress, I need to tell you my thoughts on what’s inside the lovely cover. A well written story, told in dual timelines. A woman who escapes her shattered past to take up residence in the south of France, and a detective searching for her by using clues left behind, including an old diary left in the floorboards of her house. I really liked the south of France setting, and enjoyed the mystery of Bill trying to figure out where Emeline has gone. Overall a sweet story that I enjoyed. ⭐️⭐️⭐️ #bookblogger #ondbookshelf #lauramadeleine #wherethewildcherriesgrow #thomasdunnebooks #stmartinspress #publicationday

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The Great Alone Book Cover The Great Alone
Kristin Hannah
Fiction
St. Martin's Press
February 6, 2018
Advanced Reader Copy
448
Free from publisher

Lenora Allbright is 13 when her father convinces her mother, Cora, to forgo their inauspicious existence in Seattle and move to Kaneq, AK. It's 1974, and the former Vietnam POW sees a better future away from the noise and nightmares that plague him. Having been left a homestead by a buddy who died in the war, Ernt is secure in his beliefs, but never was a family less prepared for the reality of Alaska, the long, cold winters and isolation. Locals want to help out, especially classmate Matthew Walker, who likes everything about Leni. Yet the harsh conditions bring out the worst in Ernt, whose paranoia takes over their lives and exacerbates what Leni sees as the toxic relationship between her parents. The Allbrights are as green as greenhorns can be, and even first love must endure unimaginable hardship and tragedy as the wilderness tries to claim more victims.

My review:

It's pretty hard to top The Nightingale, but I really enjoyed this new release by Kristin Hannah. It's a different style than Nightingale, I would say more in line with most of her previous works (of which I have read a few). The setting of Alaska is absolutely a character in and of itself in this one, the descriptions of the beauty and isolation (particularly in winter) were wonderfully written. The other characters were so well defined, right down to my favorite supporting character Large Marge. There is a poignant scene with her that had me in tears! Be aware that there is abuse in this one, so if that is a trigger for you, I would not recommend. The book touches on the subjects of PTSD, survival skills, injury related brain trauma, and familial bonding, among others. As I was reading this one, it reminded me of another of this winter's blockbusters, My Absolute Darling (young girl protagonist, survivalists, nature setting). However I didn't like Darling because of the incest and excessive nature and gun descriptions, whereas The Great Alone was much more to my taste in not going over the top in these areas.

This was an absolutely beautiful exploration of Alaska in the 1970's, with some of the most well defined characters I've read about. It's not The Nightingale, but it's definitely worth all the hype it's been given. I highly recommend!

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As Bright as Heaven Book Cover As Bright as Heaven
Susan Meissner
Historical fiction
Berkley
February 6, 2018
Advanced readers copy
400
Publisher via Bookish First

In 1918, Philadelphia was a city teeming with promise. Even as its young men went off to fight in the Great War, there were opportunities for a fresh start on its cobblestone streets. Into this bustling town, came Pauline Bright and her husband, filled with hope that they could now give their three daughters—Evelyn, Maggie, and Willa—a chance at a better life.

But just months after they arrive, the Spanish Flu reaches the shores of America. As the pandemic claims more than twelve thousand victims in their adopted city, they find their lives left with a world that looks nothing like the one they knew. But even as they lose loved ones, they take in a baby orphaned by the disease who becomes their single source of hope. Amidst the tragedy and challenges, they learn what they cannot live without—and what they are willing to do about it.

My review:

Ahh Susan Meissner, you've done it again! One of my automatic buy authors returns with a fabulous historical fiction novel set amidst the Spanish flu pandemic of 2018-2019. We follow the Bright family as they navigate their new city of Philadelphia, where the patriarch has taken a job with his uncle, owner of a funeral parlor. This was back in the beginning of the shift from caring for the deceased at home vs. having them embalmed and viewed at a funeral home. Fascinating as this topic was unto itself, there is also the widespread panic and loss of lives from the flu, where no one is spared no matter what socioeconomic class you were from. I loved the Bright family, and along with getting to know them, we are treated to topics such as first love, men being called up to serve in the war, fostering an orphan child, speakeasys, mental health asylums, and the ever present tragedies of death. Ms. Meissner writes in her usual masterful style, and her characters and places leap off the page. Despite a small hitch with a too coincidental part of the plot, there was nothing else I would want from this book.

A definite read, especially for those looking for some historical perspective to the greatest pandemic (greater than the Bubonic plague for loss of life), which occurred a century ago. Another wonderfully written story of a family you will want to get to know.

4

I just finished this book (came out last May) and want to bring it to your attention, if you have not yet experienced it. What a lovely book! I was captivated by the characters and their story. Thank you @stephenpkiernan1 for writing this gem! All the historical fiction fans, and anyone who appreciates a well written story, this one is for you! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫/5 Stars Synopsis: On June 5, 1944, as dawn rises over a small town on the Normandy coast of France, Emmanuelle is making the bread that has sustained her fellow villagers in the dark days since the Germans invaded her country. Only twenty-two, Emma learned to bake at the side of a master, Ezra Kuchen, the village baker since before she was born. Apprenticed to Ezra at thirteen, Emma watched with shame and anger as her kind mentor was forced to wear the six-pointed yellow star on his clothing. She was likewise powerless to help when they pulled Ezra from his shop at gunpoint, the first of many villagers stolen away and never seen again. In the years that her sleepy coastal village has suffered under the enemy, Emma has silently, stealthily fought back. Each day, she receives an extra ration of flour to bake a dozen baguettes for the occupying troops. And each day, she mixes that precious flour with ground straw to create enough dough for two extra loaves—contraband bread she shares with the hungry villagers. Under the cold, watchful eyes of armed soldiers, she builds a clandestine network of barter and trade that she and the villagers use to thwart their occupiers. But her gift to the village is more than these few crusty loaves. Emma gives the people a taste of hope—the faith that one day the Allies will arrive to save them. #bookblogger #ondbookshelf #thebakerssecret #stephenkiernan1 #williammorrow

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Anatomy of a Scandal Book Cover Anatomy of a Scandal
Sarah Vaughan
Fiction
Atria/Emily Bestler Books
January 2, 2018
Advanced Reader Copy
400
Publisher via BookishFirst

An astonishingly incisive and suspenseful novel about a scandal amongst Britain’s privileged elite and the women caught up in its wake. Sophie’s husband James is a loving father, a handsome man, a charismatic and successful public figure. And yet he stands accused of a terrible crime. Sophie is convinced he is innocent and desperate to protect her precious family from the lies that threaten to rip them apart. Kate is the lawyer hired to prosecute the case: an experienced professional who knows that the law is all about winning the argument. And yet Kate seeks the truth at all times. She is certain James is guilty and is determined he will pay for his crimes. Who is right about James? Sophie or Kate? And is either of them informed by anything more than instinct and personal experience? Despite her privileged upbringing, Sophie is well aware that her beautiful life is not inviolable. She has known it since she and James were first lovers, at Oxford, and she witnessed how easily pleasure could tip into tragedy. Most people would prefer not to try to understand what passes between a man and a woman when they are alone: alone in bed, alone in an embrace, alone in an elevator… Or alone in the moonlit courtyard of an Oxford college, where a girl once stood before a boy, heart pounding with excitement, then fear. Sophie never understood why her tutorial partner Holly left Oxford so abruptly. What would she think, if she knew the truth?

My review:

I read a preview of this one through the BookishFirst site, and requested a copy. Imagine my surprise when I realized that this author also wrote one of my previous 5 star reads The Art of Baking Blind (click for review)! I say that I was surprised because this book did not seem like the same sort of genre, but it was obvious when I finished this one that Sarah Vaughan can write a fantastic story no matter the subject matter! Even though this is a thriller, it's definitely a slow burn type (generally my favorite). I like to have more character driven than plot driven thrillers. That's not to say that this one doesn't have plenty of twists and turns, but the characters are very well fleshed out and made the story just that much more enjoyable for me. I particularly liked Sophie, who I thought was very believable as she grapples with what to do about her marriage, and how she lost sight of herself through the years. Part of the novel takes place in a courtroom, which I am also usually intrigued with. The writing was sharp, the characters were well done, and the story after a bit of a slow start, was fast paced and engaging. While not the ending exactly as I had hoped, I was satisfied and felt it was tied up nicely.

After a bit of a slow start while the characters are introduced, this book is a fabulous character study of the people involved in a scandal. Well worth the read, especially if you like a bit of substance rather than just twists with your thrillers.

2

The Girls in the Picture Book Cover The Girls in the Picture
Melanie Benjamin
Fiction
Delacorte Press
January 16, 2018
Advanced Reader Copy
448
Publisher via BookExpo

A fascinating novel of the friendship and creative partnership between two of Hollywood's earliest female legends--screenwriter Frances Marion and superstar Mary Pickford--from the New York Times bestselling author of The Swans of Fifth Avenue and The Aviator's Wife It is 1914, and twenty-five-year-old Frances Marion has left her (second) husband and her Northern California home for the lure of Los Angeles, where she is determined to live independently as an artist. But the word on everyone's lips these days is "flickers"--the silent moving pictures enthralling theatergoers. Turn any corner in this burgeoning town and you'll find made-up actors running around, as a movie camera captures it all. In this fledgling industry, Frances finds her true calling: writing stories for this wondrous new medium. She also makes the acquaintance of actress Mary Pickford, whose signature golden curls and lively spirit have given her the title of America's Sweetheart. The two ambitious young women hit it off instantly, their kinship fomented by their mutual fever to create, to move audiences to a frenzy, to start a revolution. But their ambitions are challenged both by the men around them and the limitations imposed on their gender--and their astronomical success could come at a price. As Mary, the world's highest paid and most beloved actress, struggles to live her life under the spotlight, she also wonders if it is possible to find love, even with the dashing actor Douglas Fairbanks. Frances, too, longs to share her life with someone. As in any good Hollywood story, dramas will play out, personalities will clash, and even the deepest friendships might be shattered. With cameos from such notables as Charlie Chaplin, Louis B. Mayer, Rudolph Valentino, and Lillian Gish, The Girls in the Picture is, at its heart, a story of friendship and forgiveness. Melanie Benjamin perfectly captures the dawn of a glittering new era--its myths and icons, its possibilities and potential, and its seduction and heartbreak. Advance praise for The Girls in the Picture "Melanie Benjamin, known for her living, breathing portraits of famous figures, takes on the Golden Age of Hollywood, and the friendship between icons Mary Pickford and screenwriter Frances Marion. As riveting as the latest blockbuster, this is a star-studded story of female friendships, creative sparks about to ignite, and the power of women.

My review:

This is my third book by Ms. Benjamin. While I'm not usually a fan of biographies, she does it by way of historical fiction, which seems to make a world of difference, because I like what I'm reading. I can't say that this book tops The Swans of Fifth Avenue (review here), but it was very entertaining and a change of pace from the typical historical fiction war novels. I can't say that I knew much of Mary Pickford or Frances Marion going into the book, but I found that to be a good thing as I got immersed in the story and didn't have to worry about what was truth and what was fictionalized. Side note here.....My grandmother used to play the piano in the theaters for the silent movies, back in the day! I thought this was an excellent look at female friendship, which is not always rosy and constant amidst the flux of people's lives. These two women had their spats, but kept being drawn back to the other throughout their lives and careers. They seemed very real to me, even though they were within the pages of a book. The writing was excellent, the pacing was spot on, and I loved learning more about this era in the movies.

A well drawn novel about the early movie industry, and a friendship for the ages! Ms. Benjamin is a force to be reckoned with for her portrayal of early female figures in our history. I'm looking forward to what she comes up with next.

 

3

Carnegie's Maid Book Cover Carnegie's Maid
Marie Benedict
Historical Fiction
Sourcebooks Landmark
January 16, 2018
Advanced Reader Copy
288
Publisher via BookExpo

In the industrial 1860s at the dawn of the Carnegie empire, Irish immigrant Clara Kelly finds herself in desperate circumstances. Looking for a way out, she seeks employment as a lady's maid in the home of the prominent businessman Andrew Carnegie. Soon, the bond between Clara and her employer deepens into love. But when Clara goes missing, Carnegie's search for her unearths secrets and revelations that lay the foundation for his lasting legacy. With captivating insight and stunning heart, Carnegie's Maid tells the story of one lost woman who may have spurred Andrew Carnegie's transformation from ruthless industrialist into the world's first true philanthropist.

My review:

This was such a joy to read! Despite the slightly improbable way that the protagonist Clara comes to her job at the Carnegie estate, I was completely sucked into the story and put it out of my mind as the story progressed. I loved the character of Clara. She was feisty, even at the expense of her livelyhood, scared at her growing fondness for Andrew Carnegie which could put her out of a job, and never forgot her roots. These roots, and her disclosures about growing up poor and without the use of libraries and music, were written into the novel as the impetus for Andrew Carnegie's philanthropic projects the rest of his life. I loved the descriptions of the social events and the estate, and there were several notable secondary characters to add interest and impact to the novel. The writing was the perfect blend of just enough information to add impact to the story, but not enough to be extraneous.

A highly engaging story about a figure in history who changed the world for the better, and the fictionalized woman who may have been the inspiration for that change.

On a side note, I read this novel the weekend that I traveled to New York City to see my oldest daughter perform at none other than Carnegie Hall! This definitely added another fun dimension to my reading and enjoyment of this great book! We took a picture in front of the building to commemorate the occasion.

 

The Wife Between Us Book Cover The Wife Between Us
Greer Hendricks, Sarah Pekkanen,
Fiction
St. Martin's Press
January 9, 2018
Advanced Reader Copy
352
Publisher via BookExpo

A novel of suspense that explores the complexities of marriage and the dangerous truths we ignore in the name of love.
When you read this book, you will make many assumptions.
You will assume you are reading about a jealous wife and her obsession with her replacement.
You will assume you are reading about a woman about to enter a new marriage with the man she loves.
You will assume the first wife was a disaster and that the husband was well rid of her.
You will assume you know the motives, the history, the anatomy of the relationships.
Assume nothing.

My review:

This one was a fun "what the heck is going on" type psychological thriller. Fun may not be quite the right adjective, but considering how many times I changed my mind about what was happening, it became a game of sorts. It did take me until the second section to figure out the players since one of the protagonist is not named at the beginning. Once I figured out the players, while it didn't help me figure out the plot points, at least I had a grasp of the characters. As with any of these kinds of books, the review has to be very vague so as not to spoil the narrative. I will say that the writing was highly engaging, flowed seamlessly (hard to believe that it was co-written), and addictive page turning prose. While the final twist was totally unexpected, I'm not sure that it was even necessary to propel this as a first rate thriller.

Another addictive, page turning thriller that will have you flipping pages to figure out what makes these characters tick, and who is the real villain. A perfect book to devour in short order, you won't want to put this one down.