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Archive for the ‘Chick Lit’ Category

paigePaige is despondent. Her family recently moved from central Virginia to Manhattan and she has to deal with acclimating herself to a new city and culture while her relationships with her parents, especially her mother, have been crumbling. She misses her old life, and her old friends, especially her best friend Diana. Paige floats around New York with a sensation of being lost, unsure of herself or what she wants.

Both her mother and father are writers (hence her unfortunate name, Paige Turner), but she is more like her grandmother, a painter. Introverted and quiet on the outside, Paige is full of life and emotions on the inside. She can’t express these feelings in words so she buys a sketchbook, determined to follow her grandmother’s rules that she came up with to teach herself to be an artist. Starting the first drawing is daunting, and brings to the surface more of her anxieties. Is she a good enough artist, what if she has nothing to draw about? Monologues of self-doubt constantly run through her head, even as the pages begin to fill up with sketches.

Entering her new school, Paige quickly falls in with Jules, her brother Longo, and his friend Gabe. The foursome is soon inseparable. Paige still struggles with self-doubt, and everything cool and fun she sees in her friends strengthens her inferiority complex, and fear that her lack of specialness will be discovered. Her inner voice promises that she can change. But how can she build a new self and remove those parts she dislikes most?

Ever practical, Paige makes a list of those aspects of her personality she dislikes the most and intentionally faces them with the help of her friends. She discovers that they too have things that they lack the courage to face, and she begins to coach them, even as she is developing and evolving herself. The image of a seed being planted and carefully tended to as it grows into a fragile shoot appears several times in the drawings and is particularly apt.

The writing is lyrical and evocative while being relatable to anyone who was unsure of themselves when they were a teenager. Paige has a knack of summing up complicated emotions using simple phrases. She states that “like fun house mirrors, different people reflect back different parts of me” and while mourning her loneliness early on, she states that she hates how all her “friends now live in picture frames.”

Recommend for young adults and graphic novel readers and anyone else who can relate to the heart wrenching process of finding yourself.

Search the catalog for Page by Paige

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secondtimeWhat would you do if you were given a financial boost so you could change careers? Four college friends get to explore the answers to that question in this charming story by Beth Kendrick.

Ten years after they all graduated with English degrees Brooke, Cait, Jamie, and Anna are employed, but not doing what they would really like to be doing. When an unexpected financial windfall gives them a little cushion to follow their dreams, they each take a risk.

Brooke buys Henley House, the off-campus dorm where the friends lived while in college. She intends to turn the old structure into a welcoming bed and breakfast. She’s joined by Jamie, who leaves L.A. to try her hand as a party planner; Anna, who leaves her stressful marital issues to bake specialty desserts; and Cait, who leaves a shaky associate professorship to write a novel. The book is about their friendship and their choices.

The book reminds me of those multi-character stories by Maeve Binchy or Debbie Macomber. The character interactions are important–and it is satisfying to see how these different lives fit together.

Second Time Around is a fun, easy escape. It has a little bit for everyone–romance, intrigue, home repair, baking–this hits all the popular trends! Perfect for hot summer days.

Check the WRL catalog for Second Time Around

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ivegotyournumberDays before her wedding, Poppy Wyatt loses her engagement ring.  Sometime between her girlfriends admiring the ring and passing it around.. and the luncheon programmers finishing up the raffle drawings.. and the hotel staff requiring everyone to evacuate the room for a fire drill… the heirloom ring disappeared.  Not only that, but when she goes outside to get a better cell signal, someone steals her phone.  Desperate to figure out what to do next, Poppy paces the hotel lobby and spies a cell phone in a trash can.  What luck–the phone works!  One problem solved.  Sort of.

The phone belongs to Sam Roxton’s personal assistant who quit without giving notice, so when Sam calls the number and reaches Poppy, she is able to convince Sam to let her keep the phone until she finds her ring  and she’ll forward all his messages.

The crazy plan works, but of course, Poppy reads all the texts that come to Sam and gets a pretty good idea of what’s going on behind the scenes in his office.  Sometimes she understands what’s going on better than Sam, who is too busy to read, much less return, most texts.

And because this is a Chick Lit with romantic elements, Poppy and Sam gain insight into each other through this odd arrangement.  And they like what they find!

I listened to most of this book on CD.  Jayne Entwistle is the reader. I loved listening to her perky British accent–she was perfect for Poppy!  It was easy to follow the narrative even with the texts and footnotes read aloud.  (Yes, there are footnotes in the book.  Why? Because Poppy’s self-important fiance is a scholar, and Poppy was impressed with the number of footnotes in his book.)

Personally, I never thought texts could be romantic, but I changed my mind after listening to the incredibly touching scene where Poppy and Sam are texting each other in the dark woods.

This is a light, fun, satisfying book.  I highly recommend it for poolside entertainment this summer.  I even enjoyed the secondary characters, even the snarky ones.  And rooted for Poppy’s happily ever after with Sam right from the beginning.

Check the WRL catalog for I’ve Got Your Number

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I typically choose beach reads in the fall or wintertime.  As temperatures drop below 50°F, cover images with hammocks and cerulean blue seas become irresistible and I pick them up for escape purposes, to tide me over until I can reach a beach in a warmer clime. It’s like a chocolate indulgence or an extravagant café selection — a little me-time fantasy.  Ocean Beach fit the bill this time.

The author’s work caught my eye months ago when this sequel to Ten Beach Road came out so I’ve had it on my to-read list ever since (and enjoyed Ocean Beach without having read the first book in the Beach series).  Since then, I’ve learned that Wax was once honored with the Virginia Romance Writers Holt Medallion Award for her debut romance 7 Days and 7 Nights in 2003. Now I’ve just learned that Wendy Wax has joined the Downton Abbey craze — using her fandom as the source of inspiration for her latest novel, While We Were Watching Downton Abbey

The scenario of Ocean Beach made me recall the 80′s television sitcom Designing Women.  A group of women friends, assembled in Wax’s typical ensemble-cast style, are collaborating on the renovation of an historic Art Deco home in the dreamy vicinity of Miami’s South Beach.  This project shows the promise of promoting the future success of their fledgling enterprise owing to the fact that their remodeling project is to be featured on a reality television show called Do Over.  However, they had not anticipated that such notoriety might stem from a camera focused much more on their private lives than their skills with refinishing and refurbishing old houses so they are soon wishing their dirty laundry wasn’t about to be broadcast for all to see.

Ocean Beach readers will find a little romance, troubling pasts and deeply hidden secrets, a bit of amateur detective work, and more than a few strained domestic relationships in this lively, dramatic novel. Fans of chick lit and romance are sure to enjoy turning its pages, preferably while relaxing on a sun-kissed beach.

Check the WRL catalog for Ocean Beach

If you’re interested in starting with Wendy Wax’s earlier books, try The Accidental Bestseller.

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clementineEach chapter in this entertaining, dark yet humorous debut novel counts down the 30 days pop-artist Clementine Pritchard has given herself to set her affairs in order before her suicide. She starts by crashing into the annoying car that blocks her driveway daily, tossing a teapot she never wanted anyway out of her apartment window, and flushing her medications for various psychoses–freeing her body from the numerous side effects she’s suffered from most of her life. The complex details of Clementine’s troubled history are revealed slowly with each day. I don’t want to reveal too much that will spoil the suspense for potential readers, but I quickly became fascinated with this flawed but loveable protagonist’s compelling story. I was not able to assume what had happened to her in the past or predict what she might do next, so the pages just kept turning.

It was uncomfortable but also quite funny watching her live her last days on the edge without the usual fear of consequences for her rash actions, eating her lovingly described extravagant last meals, and fearlessly speaking her mind. I found myself fearing for how she might pick up the pieces if for any reason she were not to have the courage to go through with her planned death. It all seems very considerate, how carefully she prepares so that no one will be terribly inconvenienced or have to go to any expense for her loss, yet she has falsely assumed that her death would cause no harm.  Clementine may have gravely underestimated her worth to significant others in her life. In the course of her last month, it turns out that some are not who they had seemed, and new people have entered her life unexpectedly.

I found this to be a very touching story and a quick read that was well worth my time. Anyone who’s ever contemplated suicide, even for just a moment, can relate to Clementine’s state of mind and the fact that suicidal thinking creates distance in relationships. Older teens may find appeal in this book’s emotionally intense themes of childhood abandonment, but recommenders should be aware that it contains adult sexual and drug-related content. I look forward to more contemporary fiction titles from Ashley Ream.

Look for Losing Clementine in the WRL catalog.

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With the popularity of British TV series like Downton Abbey, I think it is time to draw attention to a wonderful television series from 1973, Flambards.  It is set in the period from 1910 through World War I, and it includes many of the same issues of the changing relationships between the British ruling class and the people they felt they ruled over.

Christina is a teenage orphan who is passed around from elderly aunt to elderly aunt living in genteel but shabby conditions until Uncle Russell calls for her to be brought to  Flambards, the family’s crumbling ancestral home.  Christina is a child of her times, who obeys unquestioningly and misses all the deeper family currents.  She has been sent to Flambards because she is an heiress who will come into her fortune when she turns 21.  Uncle Russell requires her fortune to save Flambards which is crumbling into disrepair as he has spent all his money, time, and energy on fox-hunting.  In Uncle Russell’s mind the logical solution is for Christina to marry his eldest son, Mark, who is also her first cousin, and they will spend her fortune to save Flambards.

Uncle Russell is obsessed with fox hunting, even though he is confined to a chair and in constant pain after a hunting accident.  He lives through his sons as they hunt, which is fine for Mark who is only interested in hunting, drinking, and girls. His brother, Will, hates hunting.  Will is an intelligent, sensitive boy who wants to learn to fly in the new airplanes that are being developed.  Christina spends time with both her cousins, but Will is easier to get along with and she enjoys talking to him about planes.  The interest of the handsome groom, Dick, adds to the romantic tension, while the increasing drunken brutishness of Uncle Russell raises the drama.

Flambards is based on the series of novels by K.M. Peyton, which started with Flambards published in 1967, then went on to The Edge of the Cloud (1969), Flambards in Summer (1969), although the TV series doesn’t cover Flambards Divided (1981).  Our library doesn’t currently own the books although they are still in print.  As usual in comparisons between the screen version and the book, the books have more depth and background, but they cannot provide the  the gorgeous scenery, the galloping horses, and the wondrous early planes.

As I already said, Flambards is a good choice for fans of Downton Abbey and Upstairs Downstairs, but also I recommend it for lovers of romance and horses.  Oddly for a historical romance, I also recommend it for aviation fans.  Early planes like the Bleriot are integral to the plot of the story so the series creators made and flew radio controlled model working replicas of these early planes.  I actually thought that they made full-size planes until I researched it for this blog post, so they did a good job of hiding the planes’ size.  Either way, their flimsy, splindliness and air of imminent disaster is fascinating!

Flambards also has wonderful music, written by David Fanshawe.  As I am typing this I have the whistling refrain from the credits going through my head, and I’m anticipating spending some quality girl-time re-watching some of my favorite episodes.

Check the WRL catalog for Flambards

 

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Every summer, I gravitate toward at least one light beach read, but I don’t typically select Romance novels. On the Island caught my attention when a library user asked for it at the reference desk months before the print edition became available; the e-book had already become a bestseller.

Initially, I suspected it as a controversial storyline with a potentially inappropriate romance between an attractive female teacher and the sixteen-year old boy she is to tutor at his wealthy family’s vacation home on a Maldives island.  My verdict is that the romantic relationship is handled tastefully and might even be considered a soft read (although I haven’t read enough in the Romance genre to judge authoritatively).  There are interesting details about the characters and the plot that make this page-turner far more than a teenage boy’s “hot-for-teacher” fantasies come true.  T.J. recently survived cancer, Anna is not a sexual predator, and the two develop their strong friendship and survival bond long before any romance ensues.  You’ll have to read the book to find out how long they are on the island and whether or not they act on the attraction as mutually consenting adults.

The student and his tutor leave Chicago together, flying later than the rest of the family, and experience delays that result in a last-minute chance to fly on an unscheduled chartered seaplane.  They are the sole survivors washed up on an uninhabited island after their obese pilot dies of a heart attack and crashes in the Indian Ocean.  Some unbelievable coincidences seemed contrived to conveniently benefit the stranded castaways’ chances of survival, but I enjoyed the book without worrying over them too much.

On the Island is safely a fun novel that can be read in a single beach day or weekend.  Reading about this novel helped me learn a new word: robinsonade, a genre label for desert-island fiction named after Robinson Crusoe, of course.

Check the WRL catalog for On the Island.

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I love my job and one great aspect is exposure to all sorts of literature and encouragement to read things I don’t normally read. Romance is a genre I haven’t tried since I read Sloppy Sloshers  (as my Grandmother called her Regency Romances from authors like Georgette Heyer) as a teenager. I selected The Shunning by the complex method of walking along the Books on CD shelf and looking on the spine for a little red heart indicating romance.

Katie Lapp is 22 years old, which is old to be unmarried in her small Amish community. She is soon to be married to widower Bishop John, who has five small children from his first wife. Things already sound challenging, but Katie looks forward to becoming stepmother to five sweet children. What makes things difficult is that Katie has always been a rebel by Amish standards. She likes to sing songs that aren’t in the official Hymn book and has even hidden a forbidden guitar that belonged to her first love Daniel, who drowned on his nineteenth birthday. A shocking event on her wedding days leads Katie to be shunned by the Amish Community. No one is allowed to communicate with her in any way or they risk being shunned as well. Some of the saddest scenes are when Katie sits down to eat her dinner in her family kitchen, but at a separate table. Even her sweet and previously loving mother won’t talk to her.

For the Amish the event of Shunning is meant to be so horrible that the shunned person will fall back into line and do what the community requests. Katie finds the experience miserable but will she confess and repent? A revealed family secret, plus a growing feeling that she might not belong with the Amish leads Katie to consider the huge and desperate step of leaving the community.

The mystery in The Shunning was a bit predictable since I guessed two important secrets early in the book. The story moves at a moderate pace, which gives plenty of time to really care about the characters and their fates. Every character is nuanced. Bishop John is physically attracted to Katie, which is slightly creepy given their difference in age, but he is shown as a kind man who loves his children and will be a kind and loyal husband. Even the children are fully drawn characters. Although I selected The Shunning by the Romance sticker, I felt that the romantic elements aren’t extremely significant. The Amish are portrayed sympathetically and presumably realistically as the author Beverly Lewis grew up near Amish communities in Pennsylvania. I found the closeness of the families appealing, but was shocked by the harshness of their shunning.

The book was made into a movie in 2011. Like many adaptations, it misses the subtlety and depth of the book, but it was great to see what the Amish houses and community looked like – not quite what I pictured.  It has two sequels, The Confession and The Reckoning  which are currently on my bedside table waiting to tell me what happens to Katie and her family.

I recommend The Shunning if you are in the mood for a slower read with a glimpse into a contemporary and nearby, but exotic lifestyle. Try reading it  on a hot day when you need cooling off, as most the action occurs in a chilly Pennsylvania winter.

Check the WRL catalog for The Shunning.

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If your birthday is also Valentine’s Day, you probably either love all things hearts and flowers, or hate every pink and red bit of it. The fact that Piper’s birthday falls on Valentine’s Day means that she typically receives many heart-themed birthday gifts each year, but does not mean she believes in love. This year though, her best friends Claire and Jillian are determined that the three of them will not be alone on the most romantic day of the year. They devise “The Plan.” Some of “The Plan” involves things you might expect, such as hair highlights and new makeup techniques. Then the girls take things one step further.

When she’s not at school, Piper works at Jan the Candy Man, a candy store known for its creative confections. Piper, Claire, and Jillian borrow the kitchen one evening to make a new, special type of chocolate. A chocolate that incorporates the recipe Jillian found for a love potion. When the girls’ crushes start to notice them after eating the chocolates they are sure it’s coincidence—right?

Reading Love? Maybe is like watching a fun romantic comedy. You begin to root for the main characters in their struggle to find love. The subplots are also entertaining and even secondary characters have personality. Even Valentine’s haters will find something to love in this one.

Check the WRL catalog for Love? Maybe.

 

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As the song goes, “What a difference a day makes.  Twenty-four little hours.”  The events of The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight take place over the course of just one day.  It is a very momentous day for Hadley and Oliver.  They meet at the airport, on a transatlantic flight from New York to London.  Hadley might never have met Oliver if she had made her original flight.  But, in this case, the four minutes she was late made all the difference.

Hadley is on her way to her father’s wedding.  He left her and her mother for a job at Oxford two years ago, and never came back.  Hadley is still bitter about it, but she has been told in no uncertain terms that she must attend this wedding.  His wedding to “that British woman,” as Hadley refers to her soon-to-be stepmother.  Add to that her crippling claustrophobia, and she is really dreading this trip.  Then she meets Oliver.

Oliver is a British college student studying at Yale.  He is also on his way to London for a wedding, and he doesn’t seem any more excited about the prospect than Hadley.  He is very helpful in getting her through her fear of flying, however, as they talk the seven hour flight away.  By the time they arrive at Heathrow they have formed quite the attachment and, even though they go their separate ways, Hadley can’t help but hope they’ll meet again.

If you’ve done the math, you know that Hadley and Oliver’s flight has only brought us to the seven hour mark of the aforementioned twenty-four hours, so there’s a pretty decent chance their story doesn’t end there.  Odds are they’ve probably fallen in love at first sight.

Check the WRL catalog for The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight

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A teenage girl shoplifts a too-tight, red, sleeveless turtleneck from Walmart. Immediately afterwards, the only adult in her life (who turns out not to be her mother or official stepmother) drops dead in the checkout line. This roller-coaster start sets the tone for this stirring tale of Lutie and her young brother, Fate, as they struggle to survive alone.

The plot bounds along as appalling events follow closely one after another. The children end up living on the streets of Las Vegas where they are prey to a parade of unsavory characters who seem to offer a helping hand but really want to exploit them. Teenage Lutie is often flawed, sometimes to the point of not being likable, but I realized that she has adult responsibilities without any help or guidance. Ultimately, she knows she loves her shy, bookish brother and wants to do what is best for him. A series of plot twists and turns ensue including Lutie’s forays into child prostitution and drugs. I found this very plausible and and also very disturbing.

Lutie and Fate’s desperate situation and downward spiraling luck drew me into their story, but I found it increasingly difficult to believe that they would ever extricate themselves from the mess their lives had become. Readers of Billie Letts’ other novels, such as the popular Where the Heart Is, know that she leans towards tearjerking but heartwarming endings, and Made in the U.S.A. follows that pattern. Who knows, maybe some of the exploitative strangers are genuinely kind? And maybe Lutie will find a practical use for her gymnastic talents?

This book is for you if you like a fast-paced, human interest novel with strong, quirky characters, that shows the dark side of life but ultimately has a joyous ending. I was glad that their story ended how life should proceed rather than what often happens to the many real Luties and Fates alone and lost on city streets.

Check the WRL catalog for Made in the U.S.A.

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The last thing you want to do with a cheating ex-boyfriend is take a ten day trip through Italy. Only one thing would be worse – missing out on the trip of a lifetime because you’re avoiding him. Jessa has just caught her boyfriend, Sean, with another girl. The next day, when some girls would be curled up crying in bed with massive amounts of chocolate, Jessa leaves on a drama club trip abroad, with both Sean and his new girlfriend.

To help her get through the next week and a half, Jessa’s best friend, Carissa, has put together 20 envelopes with directions that Jessa should open two on each day of her trip. Each envelope provides a reason Jessa is better off without Sean and an instruction. Some of the envelopes instruct Jessa to be introspective, some instruct her to reap her revenge on Sean, and some offer revelations about her ex-boyfriend that Jessa would never have imagined.

Carissa’s envelopes are intended to help Jessa get over Sean and enjoy her trip. That might be too much to ask. Rome, Venice, and Tuscany are all romantic locales which are not intended to be visited with an ex-boyfriend and your replacement.

Check the WRL catalog for Instructions for a Broken Heart.

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It’s interesting to me how “women of a certain age” are becoming younger every year.  How does that happen?  And when the “middle-aged woman” of the title turns out to be your own age, you start to wonder…

Anyway.

The question Rose Lloyd faces is one that practically defines humanity: how does one start over in the face of loss? Over the course of her life, Rose has faced every kind of loss—the death of a beloved father and the imminent demise of her mother; the growing up and away of her own children; and a traumatic parting of the ways with the man she thought her soulmate. Now, the ultimate loss: her identity as a wife and a professional woman. Her husband leaves her for another woman, and the publisher of the newspaper where she edits the book section decides he wants a younger, fresher product to capture younger, fresher subscribers. Those betrayals are concocted by the same person, Minty, the young assistant she groomed and with whom she traded confidences.

And with the divorce settlement, she faces the loss of the house she has lovingly neglected, the garden she has painstakingly cultivated and the health insurance she’s relied on to care for her mother. In short, after every major prop in her life is stripped away she continues to lose the smaller ones that enabled her to build a comfortable life. Rightfully, she wonders if something else she has taken for granted will disappear and leave her completely vulnerable.

Another woman (or another author) might plot some delicious strike that would discredit Rose’s husband, humiliate his young lover, publicly expose the newspaper as a fraud teetering on financial ruin. Rose doesn’t even consider this. Instead, she begins rebuilding in the small ways that demonstrate the core strength of her character. As she reflects on and remembers her life, the reader comes to understand that only through her pain and previous losses has she developed the strength to start over.

There are no simple solutions in this story. Rose rightfully accepts that she contributed to the plateau her marital relationship had reached. Their easy partnership belied the growth her husband felt she was missing in him, but the price of that growth is painful to see in him. Minty (and what a perfect name for a seemingly callow young woman) is not a two-dimensional homewrecker. Rose watches as her children make their own relationship mistakes, but will neither rescue them nor chastise them; they have to grow up on their own. And the steps Rose begins to take offer no guarantees, but the sensation of being forced out of a role she had taken for granted offers its own kind of happiness.

Elizabeth Buchan has perfectly captured each of the characters, making them individuals whose joys and conflicts play out in the story. A couple of subplots also place Rose and her family in a three-dimensional world where actions have consequences that ripple in unexpected ways.  Those qualities may be fleshed out in the sequel to Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman, Wives Behaving Badly, so readers interested in post-chick lit might want to check that out as well.

Check the WRL catalogue for Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman

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Chick Lit meets mystery in Kyra Davis’s Sex, Murder and a Double Latte.

Sophie Katz is a successful mystery writer living in San Francisco.  When the movie producer interested in filming her novel commits suicide, Sophie is the only one who sees a suspicious connection to a murder scene in his latest movie.

After she receives several prank calls, discovers her car vandalized, and notices a book subtly rearranged on her shelf, Sophie tells the police that she’s in danger from the same killer— because these events mirror the scenes before the big murder in her latest book. The police brush off her concerns.

Even her quirky friends Dena, Mary Ann and Marcus think her overactive imagination is making connections between unrelated events.  But when Sophie decides to take on the role of investigator, her pals are there to help.  Of course they all jump to the wrong conclusion, but it’s fun watching them try.

And let’s not forget handsome Anatoly Darinsky.  Sparks definitely fly when the hot Russian and Sophie meet—and the heat ratchets up every time they get together.  But is he the good guy or the one who’s out to kill her?

Zany friends, handsome strangers, murder and frequent stops for coffee blend together delightfully in the first of the Sophie Katz series.

Readers who like Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum should check out Sophie Katz.

Check the WRL catalog for Sex, Murder and a Double Latte

 

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It’s Christmas Day and, like most families, the Sullivans are heading to Grandma’s house.  The six Sullivan siblings, however, have a grandmother like no other.  Arden Louisa Norris Sullivan Weems Maguire Hightower Beckendorf or “Almighty” as she is called by her family, friends, and Baltimore’s elite, is this family’s matriarch.  She is the source of the entire Sullivan fortune and she has invited the whole family to Christmas dinner to notify them of a change in her will.  Someone in the family has offended her greatly, so she is cutting each and every one of them out of her will.  She will leave all her wealth to her favorite charity, Puppy Ponchos (“[providing] rain ponchos for the dogs of people too poor to buy dog raincoats for themselves”), unless the guilty party confesses, in writing, by New Year’s Day.

While all six children, plus Daddy-O and Ginger, are in the running for “Most Offensive”, the family quickly determines that the only true candidates under consideration are the three girls: Norrie, Jane, and Sassy.  Not knowing which confession Almighty wants to hear, as each girl has recently misbehaved, we get to hear the confessions of all three girls.

Norrie has fallen for an “unsuitable” young man and is becoming more and more resistant to Almighty’s plans for her.  Norrie is to attend the Bachelors’ Cotillion with Brooks Overbeck, the boy she is supposed to like, but as time goes by Norrie’s desire to please her family begins to waver.  Her behavior at the Cotillion was certainly enough to make Almighty furious.

Jane is the family rebel.  She talks back, questions authority, and wants a tattoo.  Almighty is surely mad enough about Jane’s blog, myevilfamily.com, to write the whole family off.  In it, Jane explains the true, if less than ideal, history of the Sullivan/Norris clans.   She includes all the sordid details, from her ancestor’s support of the South during the Civil War, to what happened to all five of Almighty’s dead husbands, to the suicide of Ginger’s psychotherapist.  That could have been enough to push Almighty over the edge.

Sassy has survived a high fall and being hit by cars on two separate occasions.  She believes that surviving these accidents proves that she is immortal.  Then her luck takes a turn for the worse.  As bad things start to happen around her, Sassy thinks that her friends and family must suffer in exchange for her immortality.  She is, therefore, directly responsible for the death of her little brother’s goldfish.  And surely Almighty is most angry at her for the death of her sixth husband.

Hopefully, one of these confessions contains what Almighty wants to hear.

Check the WRL catalog for Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters.

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Francesca is at loose ends.  She had sudden success with her first novel a few years ago, but hasn’t been able to write anything worth publishing since.  Her marriage and whirlwind social life has fizzled.  And she needs a job or she’ll  lose her apartment.  She puts out offers to ghost write, and finally gets a bite.

Chicky wants the story of her parents, both vaudeville performers, to be published. Though not overly impressed with the opportunity to write a vanity bio, Francesca accepts because Chicky has promised to pay her well.  But after listening to the tapes Chicky recorded, Francesca gets drawn into the story of  Joe and  Ellie.  So it doesn’t matter too much that Chicky doesn’t really have the money to pay her promised fee.

The story switches between Francesca’s life (dealing with family and her failed marriage, writing, and finding a way to make ends meet) and Joe and Ellie’s (working on their vaudeville routine, raising a family, and finding love).  The two stories end up woven together in a satisfying package.

Check the WRL catalog for Looking for a Love Story

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Have you ever started a book thinking you pretty much know where the plot will go, and then wham! it throws you an unexpected twist?  If it’s well done, like Reich‘s Leaving Unknown, it ratchets up the enjoyment level.

Maeve’s story begins when, after squeezing time in for a little shopping therapy, her cell phone quits working because she forgot to pay the bill, her ancient car runs out of gas, and she gets fired from her job.   She swears it’s just bad luck that she can’t seem to get it together after graduating from college.   She ultimately decides she’s tired of being “Maeve-the-slacker” and packs up her car to go to California.  She’s going to stay with a childhood friend and run a marathon.  And maybe after that she’ll figure out what to do with her life.

Her plan is derailed when her car breaks down outside of Unknown, Ariz.  The town’s one mechanic has gone on an extended vacation, so she’s stuck waiting for him to return.  But being stuck in Unknown is the best thing to happen to Maeve.  She’s embraced by the quirky locals and takes on a couple jobs to make money for the upcoming car repairs.  It isn’t an overnight transformation, but Maeve finds a place where she fits in.

And that surprising plot twist takes the story from a typical chick lit to something more interesting and poignant.  But that’s all I’m going to say about it.  Read the book.

Check the WRL catalog for Leaving Unknown

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Names My Sisters Call MeYoungest sister Courtney just got engaged to Lucas – and one thing she wants to do before her wedding is reconnect with her free-spirited sister Raine, who hasn’t had contact with her since their older sister Norah’s wedding six years ago.

Complicating matters is Norah’s reaction to Courtney’s decision to find Raine – how could Courtney hurt her this way and doesn’t she realize Raine will ruin Courtney’s wedding as well?

Despite the dire predictions, Courtney travels with her fiancé to San Francisco to find Raine. But meeting with her sister again isn’t the wondrous reunion Courtney had envisioned. Courtney  senses Raine’s disapproval of her “tiny, contrained”  life to the point that Courtney begins to doubt her own decision to stay in Philadelphia and work in the orchestra while Raine escaped to… what?  Being a barmaid in San Francisco.

More complications crop up when Raine decides to come back home – with Matt, Courtney’s long-time crush and one-time secret boyfriend.

Courtney just wants everyone to get along. Or at least that’s what she thinks she wants.  She has to navigate the minefield of loving both sisters while being told what to do, justifying her profession after their subtle putdowns, and figuring out if she can commit to the man who says he loves her.

Issues of abandonment, sibling rivalry, and career choices make a funny, touching and true to life story.  Being the youngest of four girls, I’ve had my share of sister issues.  But none ever seemed as entertaining as reading the dynamics of Norah, Raine, and Courtney.

Check the WRL catalog for Names My Sisters Call Me

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