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Jane Austen Lives Again by Jane Odiwe

Source: Author Jane Odiwe
ebook, 275 pgs.
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Jane Austen Lives Again by Jane Odiwe requires readers to suspend disbelief, and those fans of Jane Austen who wish she had written more than her 6 novels will surely have no problem doing that.  Her death is averted by her physician, who has discovered the secret to immortal life with the help of the Turritopsis dohrnii in 1817.  When Austen awakens she is in 1925, just after The Great War.  Many families, including rich families, have fallen on hard times and experienced great loss as many lost sons, brothers, and husbands in the war.  Times have changed for women, and Austen is able to get work outside the home to support herself, and although her family has passed on and she’s effectively alone in the world, she pulls up her hem and gets to work as a governess to five girls at Manberley Castle near the sea in Stoke Pomeroy.

“Having lived cautiously, and under strict rules and regulations for so long, Miss Austen felt the winds of change blowing across the Devon landscape.”

Cora, Emily, Alice, Mae, and Beth are a bit more to handle than Austen expects, especially as she is a little younger than she had been before the procedure.  Upon her arrival, Austen is faced with staff who are eager to gossip, which rubs her the wrong way because she prefers to make up her own mind about people.  The heir to the castle, William Milton, is one person who keeps her on her toes, and as Austen gets caught up in the drama of others, she begins to realize that her life would be empty without the Miltons in it.

Odiwe is one of the best writers of Jane Austen-related fiction, and it shows as she weaves in Austen’s own novels into her own novel.  Emma, Sense & Sensibility, Pride & Prejudice, and more are illustrated in a variety of situations here, and Austen is at the center of them all.  However, readers should be warned that Odiwe is not rehashing these plots point for point.  Jane Austen Lives Again by Jane Odiwe is her best novel yet, and if there were something to complain about, it would be that it could have been longer.

Rating: Cinquain

About the Author:

Jane Odiwe is an artist and author. She is an avid fan of all things Austen and is the author and illustrator of Effusions of Fancy, consisting of annotated sketches from the life of Jane Austen. She lives with her husband and three children in North London.  Check out Jane Odiwe’s blog here.

Other Reviews:

Fudge Brownies & Murder by Janel Gradowski

Source: Janel Gradowski
ebook, 209 pgs.
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Fudge Brownies & Murder (Culinary Competition Mystery #4) by Janel Gradowski, which also includes recipes that will make your mouth water, can be read as part of the series or on its own.  Amy Ridley is a foodie and food competition veteran who always seems to find herself drawn into solving local murders, using her unusual amateur sleuthing skills.  As she helps out her newlywed friends and makes sure Carla’s pregnancy brownie cravings are kept in check with new varieties, Amy has stretched herself into a foodie blog and into part-time work at the local market where other vendors from town sell their wares to customers.  What she finds, even as she’s getting better at blogging and creating new recipes, is that the local market crowd can be a deep pool of sharks waiting to take a bite, especially around the holidays in Kellerton, Michigan.

“Ester Mae’s bluish-black locks were teased and hair sprayed into an inflated up-do that a crow could easily nest in.”

Ester Mae is a brash woman who loves Southern cooking, and she has no qualms about stealing customers any way she can.  But look out if you get into her cross-hairs.  Amy only gets a small taste of Ester Mae’s attitude at the latest competition, but what she sees is a strong willed older woman who knows what she wants.  Amy is balancing all her new roles with the help of yoga and her yoga teacher and friend, Rori.  When someone ends up dead at the new culinary competition, Amy is less personally involved until her friend comes under suspicion.

“He blinked at Amy’s reasoning or Amy logic, which is what he called her ideas that were on the crazier side.”

Fudge Brownies & Murder (Culinary Competition Mystery #4) by Janel Gradowski is another fun cozy mystery that brings Amy Ridley into the middle of another murder investigation.  While she’s trying to help her friends prepare for their new arrival and keep things moving in her business venture, she also stumbles upon her own feelings about motherhood and while she tries not to think about them too deeply, she knows this is an issue she’ll have to confront soon.  Gradowski’s characters are always quirky and fun, and Amy tries to investigate murders without getting into face-to-face confrontations with suspects, but sometimes even the most careful sleuth can find themselves in a bit of danger.

About the Author:

Janel Gradowski lives in a land that looks like a cold weather fashion accessory, the mitten-shaped state of Michigan. She is a wife and mom to two kids and one Golden Retriever. Her journey to becoming an author is littered with odd jobs like renting apartments to college students and programming commercials for an AM radio station. Somewhere along the way she also became a beadwork designer and teacher. She enjoys cooking recipes found in her formidable cookbook and culinary fiction collection. Searching for unique treasures at art fairs, flea markets and thrift stores is also a favorite pastime. Coffee is an essential part of her life.

Other books by this author, reviewed here:

The Lost Journals of Sylvia Plath by Kimberly Knutsen

Source: Media Buck Book Publicity
Paperback, 384 pgs.
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The Lost Journals of Sylvia Plath by Kimberly Knutsen is an ambitious novel that weaves in elements of Sylvia Plath’s life subtly, and the Lavender family is on the edge of crisis.  Katie is a mother of three whose wild ways secure her in a nuclear family, one that she is ill-equipped to navigate without stumbling.  Wilson is a former addict attempting to finish his PhD, while engaging young students in women’s studies courses.  Much of the novel is a series of flashbacks to Katie’s tormented past and an event that changed her forever, before Katie’s sister arrives on her doorstep to stir up even more trouble.

“Victimized by sex is the human race. Animals, the fortunate lower beasts, go into heat. Then they are through with the thing, while we poor lustful humans, caged by mores, chained by circumstance, writhe and agonize with the appalling and demanding fire licking always at our loins.” – Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

Knutsen’s novel seems to explore Plath’s comments about sex and married life as personified in Katie.  She has a husband who is her best friend, but she cannot confide in him about her lustful need to conquer their younger neighbor, Steven.  Meanwhile, Wilson has felt trapped from day one after Katie announced her pregnancy, but like an addict, he dives in head first into the marriage pool.  He wants to give it his all, but even as he does, these strong personalities cannot live in the same space without arguments and other adverse effects.

“There were two worlds when I was a kid.  The Cinderella world, with its fancy light, is the one I miss.  It lasted until I was eight.  Then it disappeared.” (pg. IX)

“There was a second world.  It was the texture of pumice.  It was the taste of metal in my mouth.  It was the stopped heart, the brain that could never catch its breath.  This world eclipsed the Cinderella world, and it visits me still in the night, sliding along the edges of the room, slipping into my mouth to sit in my throat, acrid and black, its tendrils snaking down to hook, but good, my heart.” (pg. X)

Although Wilson is meant to be rewriting Plath’s lost journals — those that went missing or were destroyed as his doctoral dissertation — he finds his hours spent in the office not writing.  Perhaps he has lost faith in his knowledge of women since his marriage to Katie has begun to crack, or perhaps he has come to the conclusion that he is a farce of the genius image he has created throughout his academic career.  Knutsen examines the illusion of a happy marriage, especially between traumatized people.

The people in this world are highly damaged and have lost their moral ground, but rather than fight against the nature they are familiar with to create a new life, a changed life, they step into their old shoes.  The Lost Journals of Sylvia Plath by Kimberly Knutsen is about lost souls whose lives are documented only by their relations and themselves.  Some readers may have a tough time reading some of these situations and the language, but overall, Knutsen has captured the darker side of trauma and its long-term effects.

Check out my interview with Knutsen, here.

2015-08-17 05.00.08-3 (1)About the Author:

A native Portlander, Kimberly Knutsen is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She has an MA in English from New Mexico State University and a PhD in English from Western Michigan University. She has won many fellowships and awards for her writing and has published short stories in The Hawaii Review and the Cimarron Review. She has written a novel, The Lost Journals of Sylvia Plath, and is currently finishing a second novel, Violet.

Kim comes to Portland from Kalamazoo, Michigan where she taught writing and women’s studies at Western Michigan University and Kalamazoo Valley Community College. She loves working with her students at CU and is continually amazed by their intelligence, creativity, kindness and wisdom.

Miss Emily by Nuala O’Connor

Source: Penguin
Paperback, 256 pgs.
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Miss Emily by Nuala O’Connor is told from two points of view, including that of poet Emily Dickinson, and the reader is given a glimpse into the secluded life of the poet through her own eyes as well as those of the new maid and Irish immigrant, Ada Concannon.  Concannon has had wanderlust for some time, and her daydreams have pushed her out of favor with the family her siblings and mother work for, pushing her into a new life in America.  Although she will miss her sisters and family very much, she’s eager to see the world beyond her home.

“‘You cultivate possessiveness,’ Vinnie once told me.  ‘You smother Sue, and every other acquaintance, with friendship.'” (pg. 27 ARC)

“Oh, chimerical, perplexing, beautiful words! I love to use the pretty ones like blades and the ugly ones to console.  I use dark ones to illuminate and bright ones to mourn.  And when I feel as if a tomahawk has scalped me, I know it is poetry then and I leave it be.”  (pg. 40 ARC)

The Dickinson’s are well respected in Amherst, though Emily’s recent withdrawal from society has become part of the town’s gossip.  As a maid in the Dickinson household, she is privy to the inner workings of the family but is also expected to maintain its secrets.  O’Connor has created a believable Emily in terms of action and manner, and her portrayal of immigrants, particularly the Irish, rings true.  O’Connor adopts Dickinson’s style of economical word use to tell her story and it works really well.  These foil characters work well together, as a mutual respect blossoms and friendship emerges between these women.

“But how can I explain that each time I get to the threshold, my need for seclusion stops me? The quarantine of my room–its peace and the words I conjure there–call me back from the doorway.  Ada could not truly appreciate that the pull on me of words, and the retreat needed to write them, is stronger than the pull of people.”  (pg. 52-3 ARC)

“From now on I shall be candle-white.  Dove-, bread-, swan-, shroud-, ice-, extraordinary-white.  I shall be blanched, bleached and bloodless to look at; my very whiteness will be my mark.  But inside, of course, I will roar and soar and flash with color.” (pg. 121 ARC)

Readers will be thoroughly taken in by this novel about Dickinson and the Irish immigrant’s life, and O’Connor provides a real motivating factor for Emily’s seclusion from the outside world.  As Ada’s life is threatened, Emily is forced to act and in so doing, she must leave the home in which she finds solace.  Miss Emily by Nuala O’Connor is stunning and one that should not be missed.  A definite best book of the year.

About the Author:

Born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1970, Nuala O’Connor is a fiction writer and poet. Writing as Nuala Ní Chonchúir she has published two novels, four collections of short fiction, a chapbook of flash fiction and three full poetry collections – one in an anthology. Nuala’s third novel, Miss Emily will be published in 2015.

Nuala holds a BA in Irish from Trinity College Dublin and a Masters in Translation Studies (Irish/English) from Dublin City University. She has worked as an arts administrator in theatre and in a writers’ centre; as a translator, as a bookseller and also in a university library.

Nuala teaches occasional creative writing courses. For the last four years she has been fiction mentor to third year students on the BA in Writing at NUI Galway. She lives in County Galway with her husband and three children.

The Visitant by Megan Chance

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Source: TLC Book Tours
Paperback, 339 pgs.
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The Visitant by Megan Chance is a ghost story with Gothic romance elements, reminiscent of the Brontes but not as dark.  Elena Spira arrives in Venice in the late 1900s (given the use of Bromide as a cure) with high expectations of caring for Samuel Farber in a plush palazzo, but Ca’ Basilio is rundown and falling apart, with few rooms furnished, a staff that’s very abrasive, and a family with dark secrets.   Samuel’s ailments are a secret as well, as the Basilio family believes him to be merely the victim of a robbery and beating, but there are those in the house who are aware of his true sickness.  Nero Basilio is Samuel’s best friend and when he returns from his trip to Rome, Elena captures his attention.  As he fervently pursues her, Samuel warns her against his darker nature given her virginal innocence, but it’s clear he has designs on her as well.

“When I was finished, the trunk was still half-empty.  So sad, really, that a life could be compressed to so few things.  Three or four books, a photographic portrait of my parents and me.   Should someone wish to write my biography, a paragraph would be enough.” (pg. 88 ARC)

Elena wants more from her life that the future that awaits her if she fails in her mission to return Samuel to health.  Her one mistake led her to this place of desolation, and her success can not only affect her own life, but that of her parents.  Her failure would be devastating for them all.  But even as she finds the palazzo in disrepair and the family without a fortune to repair it, she’s less curious about the house than one would expect in a ghost story, particularly one with Gothic elements.  However, given her heavy guilt, her focus remains where it should be for the most part, though she is not unaware of the oppressive spirit of the house and its former inhabitant.

Chance weaves a captivating story from beginning to end, though Elena could have been a little more perceptive about Nero than she was given her past mistakes, which are referenced a few times.  In the fall season and Halloween around the corner, The Visitant by Megan Chance is a good fit.  It provides enough ghostly elements and enough mystery to keep readers going, and the romantic elements are not over the top.  Another solid novel from this author.

Other reviews:

Inamorata

About the Author:

Megan Chance is a critically acclaimed, award-winning author of historical fiction, including Inamorata, Bone River, and City of Ash. Her novels have been chosen for the Borders Original Voices and Book Sense programs. A former television news photographer and graduate of Western Washington University, Chance lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two daughters.  Visit her Website, Facebook, and Twitter pages.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dark Sparkler by Amber Tamblyn

Source: Harper
Paperback, 128 pgs.
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Dark Sparkler by Amber Tamblyn, an actress herself, has embarked upon an ambitious collection that looks at the narcissistic and self-mutilating world of Hollywood through the eyes of actresses’ whose lives ended prematurely by their own hands or through the actions of others.  From the famous Marilyn Monroe to the less well-known Barbara La Marr, Tamblyn calls into question the need for perfection among female actresses and how hard it is to find work once these actresses reach a certain age.  There’s also one poem about Lindsay Lohan, which readers may have various reactions to, including shock, dismay, and possibly laughter. (if you want to read what happened when she read the poem, beware it is a bit of a spoiler about the poem)

From "Thelma Todd" (pg. 3-5)

At the bar I run into Nancy,
drinking away her forties,
her eyes are flush broken compasses.
Lost between age fifteen and fifty.

Fermented blood.
Deep-sea drinker.

I do not look into her ocean.
The fish there float to the bottom.
I fear I'll go down there too,
identifying with the abyss.
Washed up.
Banging on the back door of a black hole.

These poems are at best depressing and at worst horrifying. These sparkling actresses are snuffed out by the pressures of Hollywood, but they also have their own demons chasing them. Tamblyn’s sense of the tragic is acute when exposed in lines like these: “But first she said, I’m sorry, Charles, it’s over between us,/tied together the sheets of their love letters,/climbed out the window of his soul.//” (from “Dominique Dunne,” pg. 25) and “I’m going to floss my teeth with the public hair/of the Hollywood night air,/memorize my lines before I snort them.//” (from “Bridgette Andersen,” pg. 30-1) These women’s lives and those of living actress continue to become objectified, and it’s hard to imagine living with that on a day-to-day basis. In many ways, the collection almost suggests to those female actresses who have lived in Hollywood longer, continue to work, and do not fall into a spiral of depression that they are the exceptions.

There is a sense of fight in these poems, as if Tamblyn is calling attention to these tragic stories not only to encourage female actresses to shun these arbitrary pressures, but also to call attention to the public’s role in these tragedies. Celebrity lives have become fodder for the American public, and these poems want to demonstrate the darkness that can follow such attention. Dark Sparkler by Amber Tamblyn is an ambitious collection of poems that will have readers thinking about their own roles in celebrity gossip and objectification.

About the Poet:

Amber Rose Tamblyn is an American actress, author and film director. She first came to national attention in her role on the soap opera General Hospital as Emily Quartermaine. She also starred in the prime-time series Joan of Arcadia, portraying the title character. Her feature film work includes roles in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, The Grudge 2, The Ring, and 127 Hours; she had an extended arc as Martha M. Masters on the main cast of the medical drama House, M.D. She also had a starring role on the CBS sitcom Two and a Half Men during its eleventh season as Jenny, the illegitimate daughter of Charlie Harper.

 

 

 

 

Lives of Crime and Other Stories by L. Shapley Bassen

Source: L. Shapley Bassen
Paperback, 194 pgs.
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Lives of Crime and Other Stories by L. Shapley Bassen is an odd little short story collection in which the characters are hit with an unimaginable situation and they must cope with the ripples that disturbance creates.  Like many short story collections, some stories will resonate more easily than others.  The title story, Lives of Crime, has a surprise ending, while others are a little more predictable and some are cryptic.  Bassen provides a wide range of characters in a variety of dark situations, including one in which a student’s idea could be published under a credentialed professor’s name, rather than his own.

One of the best stories in the collection, Triptych, involves the restoration of artwork and the lonely life one restorer. Once she finds happiness with someone in her building and things seem to be going well, fate intervenes and turns her world upside down.  As echoes of the art world play out in reality, Bassen creates a series of devastating events that could leave some depressed in the corner.  However, like other stories in the mix, the reader is held at arms length from the characters by the narrative style.

Lives of Crime and Other Stories by L. Shapley Bassen is a collection of vignettes in the lives of those who are unaware that their fate is about to be taken out of their hands.  Each story is intriguing, but many felt unfinished or like they had abruptly finished before the reader was satisfied.  However, the unique situations and characters do provide readers with a lot to ponder, particularly about how they would react in similar situations.

About the Author:

L. Shapley Bassen‘s half dozen plays include Atlantic Pacific Press’s 2009 prizewinner, a comedy, The End of Shakespeare & Co , directed by Pulitzer judge George W. Hayden (Audio excerpt published online). Two more prize winners, from the Fitton Center in Ohio, the one-acts Next of Kin and The Reckoning Ball (the day Brooklyn’s Ebbett’s Field was torn down), were produced in 1998 and 1997. Next of Kin has also been published twice recently in Prick of the Spindle and Ozone Park Journal and was produced in 1999 at NYC’s The American Theatre of Actors. Ms. Shapley-Bassen was a 2011 Finalist for the Flannery O’Connor Short Fiction Award, and currently (2013) she is Fiction Editor at The Prick of the Spindle. In 2009, she was on the team of the first 35 readers for successful start-up Electric Literature. She was co-author of a WWII memoir by the Scottish bride of Baron Kawasaki and won a Mary Roberts Rinehart Fellowship. Her stories, book reviews, and poems appear in many lit magazines and zines, including The Rumpus, Horse Less Press, The Brooklyner, Press 1, Melusine, New Pages, and Galatea Resurrects. She is a reluctant ex-pat New Yorker living in Rhode Island, now at work on a new play, Dramatic Anatomy.

The Race for Paris by Meg Waite Clayton

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Source: TLC Book Tours
Hardcover, 336 pgs.
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The Race for Paris by Meg Waite Clayton is riveting from the start and a careful blend of fact and fiction about WWII and the female reporters and photographers who were often relegated to the field hospitals and sidelines while their male counterparts were allowed closer to the front and on reconnaissance missions.  Clayton’s characters tough cookies, and they have to be as they face the possibility of death once they’ve ignored their orders to remain at the field hospital.  Liv Harper, an Associated Press photographer know for her blurred faces, and Jane, a reporter for the Nashville Banner, find themselves accompanied by Fletcher, Liv’s husband’s friend.  Fletcher is a British military photographer who often goes it alone in the field to gather intelligence with his photos for the Allied forces, but he’s had a flame burning for Liv ever since he met her.  This unlikely trio is determine to make it to Paris before the other reporters to photograph and tell the tale of its liberation.

“That was the way it was, covering war.  The little bits of detail you could get on paper or on film were just that, little bits that didn’t tell the whole story.  And you couldn’t possibly capture the whole of it no matter how far back you stepped.” (pg. 217 ARC)

Liv has secrets too, and only Jane is aware of some of them.  While Fletcher and Liv are striving toward the front as if chased by ghosts, Jane is tagging along, not so much for the good of her career as someone who cushions the blows that they receive along the way.  She becomes the sounding board for each of them, while she keeps her own council.  Jane is a strong woman, though timid, while Liv is a wild wire set to explode.  Fletcher has taken it upon himself to protect them both, though his desire for Liv often steers him into danger.  While Clayton’s triangle here could be construed merely as a romantic tug-of-war, it is isn’t.  There are more nuanced dynamics at play here, as WWII has touched Fletcher and Liv in very different ways and Jane is observing it as it plays out.

The Race for Paris by Meg Waite Clayton looks through the lens of journalists during one of the most sweeping, horrifying, and tense wars in our world history to provide an encapsulated view of the fighting, the discrimination against female journalists, and the battles dedicated people had to endure to achieve their goals.

About the Author:

Meg Waite Clayton is the New York Times bestselling author of four previous novels: The Four Ms. Bradwells; The Wednesday Sisters; The Language of Light, a finalist for the Bellwether Prize; and The Wednesday Daughters. She’s written for the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the San Jose Mercury News, Forbes, Writer’s Digest, Runner’s World, and public radio. A graduate of the University of Michigan Law School, she lives in Palo Alto, California.

Find out more about Meg at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

 

 

 

 

Bleedovers by William Todd Rose

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Source: TLC Book Tours
ebook, 176 pgs.
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Bleedovers by William Todd Rose is the second dystopian novella starring Chuck Grainger — you’ll want to read Crossfades first — a man who works for a secret organization that helps lost souls cross The Divide. Grainger has become “famous” within the agency, although his fame is not something he’s comfortable with, especially when his supervisor reminds him of all the protocol he broke during the last Crossfade mission. Beyond his noteriety, he has experienced many sleepless nights related the ordeal, which he thought ended on the battlefield on the Crossfades. Evidence begins to pile up that the battle may not have been won.

Rose has created a world in which even readers who shy away from science fiction and more fantasy-related fiction can get swept up in by providing just enough technical detail to keep the story grounded and believable. Grainger has been a man on a mission and content in his work as a Whisk, but his nightmares have given him pause. He’s unsure if he wants to continue, but he finds that he has little choice when Bleedovers become more common than before. Marilee Williams enters our story, bringing with her special gifts that The Institute has enhanced to help with Non-Corporeal Manifestations (NCMs). Grainger, who acts like a lone cowboy in his work, is suddenly forced to work more closely with his partner, Control, and Marilee. The dynamics between Control and Grainger have evolved since the previous novella, and while Control could usually sense when he went off script, in this novella she is less like the voice of reason and more like a partner.

“The energy comes from Crossfades. As they jump from Crossfade to Crossfade, NCMs collect tiny bits of residual energy. They store it up, like a battery bein’ charged.”

Bleedovers by William Todd Rose is a strong second novella in a series, and readers will want more of this strange world. There is so much more to be explored. Is the last battle the end, or are there more to come? Will Grainger be able to fully free himself from the past and his notoriety? Rose has a gift for creating believable science fiction worlds that are wrought with real, and even imagined, dangers around every corner.

About the Author:

William Todd Rose writes dark, speculative fiction from his home in West Virginia. His short stories have been featured in numerous anthologies and magazines, and his work includes the novels Cry Havoc, The Dead & Dying, and The Seven Habits of Highly Infective People, and the novella Apocalyptic Organ Grinder. For more information on the author, including links to bonus content, please visit him online.

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The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach by Pam Jenoff & Giveaway

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Source: Pam Jenoff
Paperback, 384 pgs
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The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach by Pam Jenoff is a sweeping tale set during World War II, as a sixteen year old Adelia Monteforte comes to America to live with her aunt and uncle in Philadelphia without her Jewish parents, who stayed behind in Trieste, Italy.  She feels like an outsider with the relatives she’s never met before, and she realizes that her limited English and mostly secular upbringing is not what they expected.  While she speaks English, she still feels as though she’s an outsider, until she becomes like a sister to the Connally brothers.  Despite their perceived differences in religion and upbringing, Adelia becomes Addie, molding herself in the cracks of the local family she meets at Chelsea Beach.

“Robbie turned to his mother.  ‘Can we keep her?’
‘Robbie, she isn’t a puppy. But I do hope you’ll join us often,’ she added.
‘Because we really need more kids, ‘ Liam said wryly.” (pg. 38)

Jenoff’s World War II novels are always captivating, full of missed chances and second chances, moments of horror and tragedy, but also moments of hope and happiness. These snippets of time are those that her characters treasure, and they provide that kernel of hope that readers hold onto until they reach the end. Addie is a young displaced woman looking for a home, and she thinks that she’s found it with the Connallys until tragedy strikes close to home and she’s left in the breeze. She has to decide what to do for herself for the first time since coming to America, and while she chooses to go to Washington, D.C., with a half buried hope of finding her childhood crush, she also wants to do something more.

The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach by Pam Jenoff is an addicting read with its twists and turns and the realities of rationing and the closeness of war.  Jenoff is a master at characterization and romance in a way that is both fanciful, but realistic.  Her characters often have to struggle with more than the things that keep them apart, and for that, readers will be grateful.  Her books are not to be missed, and this summer read should be at the top of your lists.

About the Author:

Pam Jenoff is the Quill-nominated internationally bestselling author of The Kommadant’s Girl. She holds a bachelor’s degree in international affairs from George Washington University and a master’s degree in history from Cambridge, and she received her Juris Doctor from the University of Pennsylvania. Jenoff’s novels are based on her experiences working at the Pentagon and also as a diplomat for the State Department handling Holocaust issues in Poland. She lives with her husband and three children near Philadelphia where, in addition to writing, she teaches law school.

U.S. residents, leave a comment below about your favorite beach activity by Aug. 26, 2015, at 11:59 PM EST.  Win a bag and book!

ChelseaBeach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

French Coast by Anita Hughes

Source: the author
Paperback, 304 pgs.
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French Coast by Anita Hughes is gorgeous and not just because its set at Cote D’Azur and the Cannes Film Festival.  Serena has come to France for the biggest opportunity of her journalistic career, even though her fiance Chase is set to announce their engagement and his bid for mayor of San Francisco.  Serena is going to interview Yvette Renault, the former editor of French Vogue.  Along the way, the life she expected is swept away from her and she has to contend with secrets she never saw coming.  While she remains as focused on her work as she can, she finds herself befriending Zoe, who is on a trip of her own to uncover family secrets and save her parents.

“‘At least you know where your father is,’ Serena said, adding cream and sugar.  ‘I haven’t heard from my parents in days. I keep expecting my father to call and say it was all a mistake.’

‘We’re the ones who are supposed to be falling in love with the wrong men and making our parents frantic,’ Zoe said as she tore apart an almond croissant.

‘Maybe we’re part of the wrong generation.’ Serena sipped her coffee.  ‘We should have been young in the sixties.'” (pg. 155)

Serena and Zoe are like ships passing in the night, but it’s clear they have an instant friendship that will last, and despite drifting since coming to France, Serena has a purpose and dives into her work.  Nick is a knight in shining armor of sorts, returning Serena’s lost wallet and phone, and eventually, they spend afternoons and evenings together talking about not only their work but their dreams.  Don’t be fooled, however, because this is not a straight-forward romance novel.  While there is romance for many of these characters, there is heartbreak and choices to be made about their careers and their futures.

French Coast by Anita Hughes is a delightful read for the summer months and beyond.  Serena is a strong woman who is sure about her career, but little else at least until fate plays its hand.  Hughes is a talent and her books are always delightful reads to pop in the beach bag or to read out on the deck or at the pool.  This one has the right amount of mystery thrown in as well, making it even more engaging.

About the Author: (photo by Sheri Geoffreys)

Anita Hughes was born in Sydney, Australia and had a charmed childhood that included petting koala bears, riding the waves on Bondi Beach, and putting an occasional shrimp on the barbie. Her writing career began at the age of eight, when she won a national writing contest in THE AUSTRALIAN newspaper, and was named “One of Australia’s Next Best Writers.” (She still has the newspaper clipping.)

She received a B.A. in English Literature with a minor in Creative Writing from Bard College, and attended UC Berkeley’s Masters in Creative Writing program.

Other Reviews:

Rome in Love by Anita Hughes

Source: the author
Paperback, 320 pgs.
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Rome in Love by Anita Hughes is an enjoyable jaunt in Italy with a young actress, Amelia Tate, remaking Roman Holiday, a movie that made Audrey Hepburn famous.  She is thrilled to be making a movie, and while her fiance supports her, he also seems eager to be married and take her away from the spotlight so she can be at his side as he makes deals.  Italy is often considered a home for romance and love, but in Hughes’ hands, it also becomes a place of contemplation and pivotal life decisions.  Amelia’s beginnings in Italy on the set of Roman Holiday mirror those of Audrey Hepburn, including the love of acting, the break up with a fiance, and the entrance of a new love interest.  However, unlike Hepburn, Tate has decided to allow herself to be seen as a maid at the hotel, rather than the actress she is.  In her ability to blend in, she makes friends with a real princess, Sophie, and finds a friend in Philip, an expat journalist who is trying to make a career for himself away from his stockbroker father.

Like many of us who wish that our lives were different and can sometimes take on new personas online, Amelia is quick to masquerade as a maid because it gives her the freedom from the paparazzi and the other trappings of Hollywood, but it also doesn’t come with the financial or other stresses of being a real maid.  Sophie is similar in that she’s enjoying Rome’s arts and music and shopping before she returns home to marry her childhood friend, Leopold, in an arranged marriage.  In many ways, Rome becomes the home of imposters, with each of these characters trying out different lives and enjoying their time without the pressure of those lives.

Hughes easily builds the scene in Italy through food, art, music, and more, but in many ways, here characters here are lacking something.  Readers may find that they are more attached to Audrey Hepburn than they are Amelia, who spends a great deal of time waiting for things to happen, rather than acting.  Sophie’s story is intriguing, and readers may almost want to hear more of that story.  However, Amelia’s romance with Philip is one fraught with misunderstandings, which are by turns amusing and frustrating.  Rome in Love by Anita Hughes is entertaining and a great summer read that will take readers on a trip to Europe, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

About the Author:  (photo by Sheri Geoffreys)

Anita Hughes was born in Sydney, Australia and had a charmed childhood that included petting koala bears, riding the waves on Bondi Beach, and putting an occasional shrimp on the barbie. Her writing career began at the age of eight, when she won a national writing contest in THE AUSTRALIAN newspaper, and was named “One of Australia’s Next Best Writers.” (She still has the newspaper clipping.)

She received a B.A. in English Literature with a minor in Creative Writing from Bard College, and attended UC Berkeley’s Masters in Creative Writing program.

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