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The Recipe Club by Andrea Israel and Nancy Garfinkel

The Recipe Club by Andrea Israel and Nancy Garfinkel is a narrative mostly written in emails and letters, shifting from a budding friendship between young girls and blossoming into adulthood.  Beyond the emails and letters, the novel also includes recipes, which mesh well with the story as each of the girls deals with lost loves and problems with family, including Lovelorn Lasagna.

The novel begins after Valerie and Lilly have endured a 26-year silence in their friendship.  After an attempt to regain their lost companionship, the narrative shifts to letters written as children and the start of their recipe club.  Recipes are garnered from their parents, family, and friends and often coincide with events in the girls’ lives.  Many of the letters are ripe with adolescent angst and childlike retorts as they quarrel over ideals and perspectives.

“It was so awful.  I was standing in a crowd of other girls I know, and the boys came up to inspect us like we were fruit to be picked.  I only got asked to slow-dance once, by a kid who looks like Ichabod Crane with zits.  We stepped on each other’s feet so hard that I was actually relieved to sit by myself for the rest of the night.”  (page 136 of hardcover)

Valerie is a straight-laced student and highly moral girl who doesn’t understand her friend Lilly as she begins to emulate her free-spirited, actress mother more and more and rebel further against her straight-laced father.  Val spends a great deal of time wondering whether her friendship with Lilly is solid and kowtowing to her friend’s desires and opinions.  In many ways these letters get a bit trying, but eventually Val evolves into a stronger woman.  Lilly’s letters are very self-centered, which also can be exhausting, but eventually Lilly is reformed.

Overall, The Recipe Club is an interesting collection of letters, emails, and recipes that illustrate the frustrations women find in relationships with one another.  The time passes quickly with these women, but in the end, the women reach a satisfying place in their relationship.

This is my 47th book for the 2010 New Authors Reading Challenge.

Barnacle Love by Anthony De Sa

Barnacle Love by Anthony De Sa is broken into two distinct narratives; one for Manuel Rebelo and one for his son, Antonio.  The first portion follows Manuel from his boyhood into his adulthood as he struggles with the expectations of his mother for greatness on the island of Sao Miguel, Acores, and his dream of seeing the wider world and eventually settling in Canada.  Unlike his brothers and sisters, Manuel’s light hair and blue eyes reminded his mother of her husband, who was lost at sea.  Effectively, he becomes her substitute companion and weighs him down with her expectations until he finally breaks free to live his dreams.  Unfortunately, he finds that his dreams are not so easily realized.

“Manuel used his forearms to part the stalks of corn.  His blood coursed through him.  He forged ahead, swiping at the brittle stems, nursing the anger that had pressed on him ever since he had arrived back home and Silvia had said no.”  (page 97)

De Sa uses a fast-paced narrative intertwined with folklore, tradition, and imagery to paint a picture of Manuel’s life, his homeland, and his new home in a way that they become almost surreal.  Is this man truly living his life here or is this his dream/nightmare made real.  Once Antonio takes over the narrative, the nightmare grows more surreal as family members become more like caricatures rather than people.

At times the narrative is disjointed and jostles readers from one point in time to another, making them wonder what happened in the intervening years.  However, the story does not lose its edge.  It demonstrates that love, even between father and son, mother and son, and even siblings is not always smooth and without obstacles.  Can forgiveness and love triumph over the wrongs each feels the other has done and will their dreams become reality?

“‘My husband used to say that men are all barnacles.  A barnacle starts out lie swimming freely in the ocean.  But, when it matures, it must settle down and choose a home.  My dear husband used to say that it chooses to live with other barnacles of the same kind so that they can mate.'”  (page 108)

Barnacle Love relies heavily on ocean imagery and the surreal-ness of its characters to illustrate the hurt that comes with family, but also the great love that stirs beneath its bristling core.  Anthony De Sa has created a memorable journey of Portuguese-Canadian immigrants that will leave readers wanting more and spending additional time trying to figure out the characters’ motivations.

This is my 46th book for the 2010 New Authors Reading Challenge.

Darcy’s Voyage by Kara Louise

Kara Louise’s Darcy’s Voyage is a re-imagining of Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen that places Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet on Pemberley’s Promise on their way to America.  Louise knows these iconic characters and retains their personalities easily through dialogue and internal monologue, and the novel uses shifts in point of view to provide readers with more than one side of the story.

Lizzy is going to America to visit her Aunt and Uncle Gardiner who have expanded his business to the New World, while Darcy is headed to America to fetch his sister Georgiana after she visits her companion’s family in America and her companion falls ill.  Traveling by sea in those days could be rough and some passengers never made it to their destinations.  With a backdrop of adventure and possible disaster, Lizzy and Darcy strike up a rapport that defies convention.

“‘This is something I have to do.’  Elizabeth looked out the window.  She saw the masts of the ships, some with sails completely unfurled and already sailing, and others with sails still furled tightly about their masts.  Elizabeth’s heart skipped a beat as she suddenly felt a wave of excitement pour through her.  Yes, this will be a life-changing adventure.  I will not be the same when I come back!”  (page 15 of ARC)

Louise’s rendition of the story is imaginative, and the shifts in POV — while numerous and sometimes from paragraph to paragraph — are not jarring enough to push readers out of the story. Readers will enjoy how Darcy and Lizzy interact with one another on board the ship and how the expectations of society are always on their minds.  Louise has captured the essence of these characters and added her own flare to the story.  Darcy’s Voyage is well worth the read.

Thanks to the author and Sourcebooks for sending a copy of Darcy’s Voyage for review.  Don’t forget to check out the giveaway of this book.

About the Author:

Ever since Kara Louise discovered and fell in love with the writings of Jane Austen she has spent her time answering the “what happened next” and the “what ifs” in Elizabeth’s and Darcy’s story. She has written 6 novels based on Pride and Prejudice. She lives with her husband in Wichita, Kansas. For more information, please visit her website, Jane Austen’s Land of Ahhhs.

This is my 7th book for the Jane Austen Challenge 2010.

This is my 3rd book for the Everything Austen II Challenge.

This is my 45th book for the 2010 New Authors Reading Challenge.

Ghost Hunt by Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson

Ghost Hunt by Jason Dawes and Grant Wilson is due out this September for young readers and contains not only short stories, but also a guide the Ghost Hunters use on every investigation, plus activity pages.  If you haven’t seen this show on television, you are missing out on one of the originals and best investigative teams examining the paranormal.  They never go into a case believing the ghosts are there, but enter homes with the assumption that noises and events mostly have logical explanations.

In this chapter sampler, readers get a glimpse into the short stories (based on investigations done by the TAPS team) available in the full book.  In each of the short stories, kids are at the center of the haunting activities.  This angle will help young readers see themselves in the stories and relate to the characters, but the prose does not condescend to readers in the way that some stories of this nature would, but it does explain some of the technology used in the investigations.

From ‘Pennies from a Ghost,’ “The sound grew louder, louder, LOUDER.  A deep throaty rumble.  Like thunder, Scott thought.  But it wasn’t thunder.

Without warning, a burst of light appeared on the wall across from the boys’ beds.  Scott heard Jerry make a strangled sound.  The light flickered.  It seemed to hover in the same place.”  (page 5 of the sampler)

Young readers will be engaged by the ghost stories and investigations, and will have a fun time working through the TAPS steps in the guide from the interview to the sweep of the house and the collection and analysis of evidence.  The guide also includes a glossary of terms used in the book and the guide to help readers not only understand the investigative techniques, but also expand their vocabularies.  Overall, Ghost Hunt would be a fun addition to the bookshelves of young paranormal fans.

***Thanks to Anna from Diary of an Eccentric for passing along her extra copy to me.

This is my 44th book for the 2010 New Authors Reading Challenge.

Mr. Darcy’s Little Sister by C. Allyn Pierson

C. Allyn Pierson‘s Mr. Darcy’s Little Sister is full of intrigue and societal maneuvering as Georgiana, Mr. Darcy’s sister, prepares for her presentation and first Season.  The novel begins just as Georgiana learns of her brother’s engagement to Elizabeth, and she worries that her new sister will not like her.  In Pierson’s novel, Georgiana is full of teen worries about who will like her and how she will be judged for her actions — no matter how mundane.

Coupled with a few shifts in point of view by the omniscient narrator, accomplished through breaks in the chapters or through diary entries from Georgiana, readers not only experience Miss Darcy’s anxieties, but also the concern her new sister, Elizabeth, and her brother feel as she nears adulthood and possible marriage.

“He looked over at his sister, who was across the room talking to Jane by the fireplace, and his expression softened.  Elizabeth’s eyes followed his gaze.  Georgiana’s light brown hair glowed golden in the firelight and her eyes looked as green and limpid as water.  They twinkled at the outer corners when she smiled, as she did now at something Jane was saying.”  (Page 44 of ARC)

Pierson wonderfully sets each scene with detailed imagery of the characters, their dress, and their homes.  Each detail serves to create an atmosphere of regency society, and the expectations of that society on young women.  However, in some cases, the narrative gets bogged down in flowery details of gowns and other elements, which can detract from the action and intrigue in the later portions of the novel.

Readers spend a good third of the novel getting to know Georgiana and her role in as Mr. Darcy’s sister, and her new role as sister-in-law to Elizabeth.  While Pierson does well examining these relationships given what little is seen of Georgiana in Jane Austen’s original work, her Georgiana is often a petulant child in a young woman’s body.  Readers may find her anxieties and reactions to events over the top or out of character with the Georgiana they remember from Austen’s novel.  However, the author does an excellent job evolving her character into a strong and decisive young woman.

Overall, Mr. Darcy’s Little Sister is about the societal expectations placed on wealthy and lower class, young women during the regency period.  Whether upholding their honor or engaging in activities out of a sense of duty, these women steeled themselves against prying and disproving eyes and held their heads high in times of adversity.  Georgiana may not start off as the young woman that readers expect, but she sure blossoms into a refined and dignified young lady.

About the Author:

C. Allyn Pierson is the nom-de-plume of a physician, who has combined her many years of interest in the works of Jane Austen and the history of Regency England into this sequel to Pride and Prejudice. She lives with her family and three dogs in Fort Dodge, Iowa.

Special thanks to the author and Sourcebooks for sending me a copy of the book for review.

***If you’ve missed the giveaway for this novel, please check out Pierson’s guest post and the giveaway details for US/Canada readers. ***

This is my 43rd book for the 2010 New Authors Reading Challenge.

This is my 6th book for the Jane Austen Challenge 2010.

This is my 2nd book for the Everything Austen II Challenge.

Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning

Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning is the first in the MacKayla Lane fantasy/paranormal series and is a wild ride into the unseen aspects of our own world where the Fae live among us behind masks. Mackayla has a pretty carefree life in Georgia as a bartender and part-time college student living at home with her parents.  Her sister Alina lives in Ireland where she attends college full-time, but the sisters remain close and talk on the phone almost daily.

Unfortunately, this charmed life comes to an end when her sister is murdered in a foreign country, and it seems like the police simply give up on the case.  Haunted by the images of her sister’s mangled body and the deterioration of her family, Mac decides its time to go to Ireland and track down a killer.  Once there, she’s faced with startling images and a realization that she’s not as normal as she thought she was.

“It was gray and leprous from head to toe, covered with oozing open sores.  It was sort of human, by that I mean it had the basic parts:  arms, legs, head.  But that was where the resemblance ended.  It’s face was twice as tall as a human head and squished thin, no wider than my palm.  Its eyes were black with no irises or whites.”  (Page 94)

Moning’s writing is vivid, and MacKayla is a strong female lead in this suspenseful book that incorporates the paranormal.  Once in Ireland, Mac’s world is flung in many different directions and she has to determine which end is up and what the best route to take is.  She’s feisty — even when she’s in denial — particularly when faced with beings more powerful than herself and one’s that attempt to impose their will on her.  With additional characters, including some Fae and the imposing Jericho Barrons, there are plenty of twists and turns in this novel.

Readers will enjoy their introduction to the Fae world and to Mac.  Moning is a wonderful writer.  As a first introduction to this paranormal world, readers will find they can still be grounded in reality.  Darkfever provides just a taste of Mac’s new world and will leave readers wanting more.

About the Author:

Karen Marie Moning was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, one of four children. She graduated from Purdue University with a BA in Society and Law. After a decade of working with insurance litigation and arbitration, she quit her job to pursue her dream of a writing career. Four manuscripts and countless part-time jobs later, Beyond the Highland Mist was published by Bantam Dell and nominated for two prestigious RITA awards. Author of the beloved HIGHLANDER series and the thrilling new FEVER series, featuring MacKayla Lane, a sidhe seer. Her novels have appeared on The New York Times, USA Today, and Publisher’s Weekly bestsellers lists, and have received many industry awards, including the RITA.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours, Random House, and Karen Marie Moning for sending me a copy of Darkfever for review.

Giveaway for US/Canada only:

1 copy of Shadowfever, the newest book in the series that hits stores in December.

1.  Leave a comment about if you’ve read about the Fae or what you would like to know about the Fae.

2.  Tweet, Blog, Facebook, etc. and leave a link for a second entry.

Deadline:  Sept. 10, 2010, 11:59PM EST

Giveaway for International (outside US/Canada only):

1 copy of Darkfever, the first book in the series, gently used.

1.  Leave a comment about what part of my review intrigues you most.

2.  Tweet, Blog, Facebook, Etc. the giveaway and leave a link for a second entry.

Deadline is Sept. 10, 2010, 11:59PM EST

PLEASE BE SURE TO TELL ME WHICH BOOK YOU ARE ENTERING FOR.

See the rest of the MacKayla Lane tour stops.

This is my 42nd book for the 2010 New Authors Reading Challenge.

This is my 14th book for the 2010 Thriller & Suspense Reading Challenge.

Because All Is Not Lost by Sweta Srivastava Vikram

Sweta Srivastava Vikram‘s Because All Is Not Lost is a new chapbook of poems about grief and recovery.  While recovering from grief is never the same for everyone, these poems speak to the void that death can leave.

“One day she will stop/digging up maggots of loss/breeding in her memory.//” (From Convalescence, page 18)

Vikram uses simple imagery and encapsulated stories to illustrate grief and the possible reactions to loss.  In the introduction, the poets explains her inspiration for the collection, the deaths of her grandfather and her mother’s sister.  The collection is sad and weighs heavily on the reader, and readers should consider taking each poem in separately to absorb their meaning.  However, there are rays of hope within the poems.

From A permanent address, “Flood of affection is what I get from her -/jasmine flowers mixed with olive and a soft kiss// of assurance.  She whispers/that it was a recurring nightmare./That I was safe” (page 20)

Because All Is Not Lost is a chapbook that will affect readers like no other poetry collection. Readers will be absorbed by the grief and the glimmers of light as the narrators deal with emptiness and blame.

***Thanks to the poet Sweta Srivastava Vikram for sending me a copy for review***

Now for the global giveaway; 2 copies up for grabs:

1.  Leave a comment about a moment of loss you’ve felt and how you dealt with it.

2.  Blog, Facebook, or Tweet this giveaway and leave a link here.

Deadline Aug. 27, 2010, at 11:59 PM EST

This is my 10th book for the Clover Bee & Reverie Poetry Challenge.

This is my 41st book for the 2010 New Authors Reading Challenge.

How to Be an American Housewife by Margaret Dilloway

Margaret Dilloway‘s How to Be an American Housewife is reminiscent of Amy Tan and Lisa See’s fiction in that the main characters are of Asian descent and struggle with cultural differences and generational gaps that hamper their ability to relate with one another smoothly.

“After the first hour watching scratchy TV in the blood lab, I wished I had a book with me.  Charlie and I weren’t big readers.  Books were too expensive and library books were full of germs from all the people who had checked them out.”  (page 123 of ARC)

Shoko is a Japanese woman who marries an American soldier, Charlie, shortly after the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima.  She tells her story of how she moved from a happy childhood to a tumultuous adolescence at a time when her nation was occupied by a foreign invader and her family had lost its position in the caste society.  She’s an independent woman still beholden to Japanese traditions, though she takes time out to find true love.

“I understood then that my skills in school or in sports would not make my life come about in the way I wished.  I took my bows at that recital, vowing I would learn what I needed and make the best marriage possible.”  (page 6 of ARC)

Her trip down memory lane, unfortunately, is a bit stilted with little emotion, which could make it harder for readers to connect with Shoko.  However, once readers are engaged with Shoko’s struggles as an American housewife as she adapts to different cultural norms and strives to raise her children properly.  Mike and Suiko, her children, are as different as night and day, with Mike floating through life and Suiko taking her responsibilities to heart even to the detriment of her own dreams.  Shoko’s relationship with her children is strained, but she must soon learn to rely on them when she tries to reunite with her estranged brother, Taro.

Dilloway’s novel is captivating as Shoko continues to tell her story and when her daughter, Sue takes over the narration when she heads to Japan to learn about her family’s past and reconcile her family after many decades of silence.  As a debut, it is solid in drawing dynamic characters and creating fun dialogue between Shoko and Charlie and between Sue and Helena, Shoko’s granddaughter.  Three generations populate these pages, but really How to Be an American Housewife is a story about the strong, independent women in this family.

About the Author:

Margaret Dilloway was inspired by her Japanese mother’s experiences when she wrote this novel, and especially by a book her father had given to her mother called The American Way of Housekeeping. She lives in Hawaii with her husband and three young children.

Please follow her on Twitter, check out her blog, and view the reading group guide for her debut novel.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours, Penguin, and Margaret Dilloway for sending me a copy of How to Be an American Housewife for review.

This is my 40th book for the 2010 New Authors Reading Challenge.

A Hundred Feet Over Hell by Jim Hooper

Jim Hooper‘s A Hundred Feet Over Hell is a true account of the 220th Reconnaissance Airplane Company, with which his brother Bill served as one of the Myth Makers flying single-engine Cessnas that were extremely vulnerable to artillery and other ground fire.  These men were charged with flying over hot zones and locating the enemy for bombers, giving precise coordinates for dropping bombs and napalm.

“Rather than sharing our joy at his return, Bill was angry.  Not because of the crippling wound received in an unpopular war — he accepted that as part of what he had signed on for.  The anger came from being here.  In a demonstration of uncompromising loyalty over logic, it was, he believed, a betrayal of the warrior family he’d left behind.”  (Page xi)

Hooper has captured the essence of these men and their time in Vietnam from their crazy stunts to the moments when they feared for their lives.  Through alternating points of view the stories unfold quickly as one man feeds off and expands on the story being told by their friend and colleague.  Readers will meet characters like Doc Clement and Charlie Finch, but these men are not characters, but real human beings who lived through the harsh realities of war.

“Bill Hooper:  . . . I can’t remember more of that day, save weeping in the privacy of my room.  Perhaps the saddest thing of all was that I would learn to be unemotional about killing, eventually joining others who were very good at it.”  (Page 23)

Hooper pulls no punches in the organization of this book and doesn’t seem to modify the military language these men used on a regular basis; some examples include VC for Viet Cong and DMZ for demilitarized zone, which is clearly a misnomer, to the lesser known terms DASC for Direct Air Support Control Center and Kit Carson scout for those former Viet Cong recruited to assist with counterintelligence.  Readers of military history and fiction are likely to understand many of these acronyms and terms easily, but others may have to refer to the provided glossary.  However, once they get a grip on the terminology, readers will plunge into the narrative easily, getting to know each of the soldiers and how they coped with the war.

A Hundred Feet Over Hell by Jim Hooper will remind readers of those in-the-field journalistic interviews with soldiers and those documentaries where one soldier begins a story only to be continued by another soldier, providing a deeper impact.  Each man shares their fears, their triumphs, and their more embarrassing moments.  One of the best books about the Vietnam War, not about infantry.

Please check out this book trailer to see what these men flew over enemy territory without armor or weapons.

A Hundred Feet Over Hell

Please also check out these great photos.

About the Author:

After graduating with a degree in Slavic Studies from the University of South Florida, Jim Hooper worked as a documentary research-writer for WFLA-TV in Tampa, with weekends set aside as a skydiving instructor and team captain. He gave up television after three years to devote himself full time to jumping out of airplanes, logging over 3000 freefalls and building the world’s premier skydiving center in Zephyrhills, Florida. His thirst for adventure unfulfilled, he sold the business in 1984 to realize a long-held dream of being a war correspondent and author, making his home in England and setting off for Africa.

I want to thank Lisa Roe at Online Publicist and the author Jim Hooper for sending me a copy of A Hundred Feet Over Hell for review.

This is my 39th book for the 2010 New Authors Reading Challenge.

This is my 7th book for the 2010 Vietnam War Reading Challenge.

Unincorporated Persons in the Late Honda Dynasty by Tony Hoagland

As part of the Graywolf Press — one of my favorite small presses that publishes poetry and fiction — Spotlight on Small Presses (click on the badge at the bottom of the post for the tour stops), I chose a poetry book to review, which I picked up at the 2010 Book Expo America.

Unincorporated Persons in the Late Honda Dynasty by Tony Hoagland is his first collection of poems in 10 years, according to the Graywolf representative at the expo.  The collection features poems that call into question the realities of the modern world from our dating rituals to our trips to the mall food court.

In “Big Grab,” Hoagland suggests language is taking on meanings that are less than they are.  “The Big Grab,/so the concept of Big is quietly modified/to mean More Or Less Large, or Only Slightly/Less Big than Before.// Confucius said this would happen –/that language would be hijacked and twisted/”  (page 5).  This collection not only tackles the language changes our society faces and what those changes mean, but it also looks carefully at the world of celebrity in “Poor Britney Spears.”

Expensive Hotel (page 24)

When the middle-class black family in the carpeted hall
passes the immigrant housekeeper from Belize, oh
that is an interesting moment.  One pair of eyes is lowered.

That’s how you know you are part
of a master race — where someone
humbles themselves without even having to be asked.

And in the moment trembling
from the stress of its creation,
we feel the illness underneath our skin —

the unquenchable wish to be thought well of
wilting and dying a little
while trying to squeeze by

the cart piled high with fresh towels and sheets,
small bars of soap and bottles
of bright green shampoo,

which are provided for guests to steal.

Hoagland’s crisp language and vivid imagery is deftly weaved with philosophical and societal questions we all should be answering or at least asking.  Has modern society twisted our culture into something worthwhile or is it something that should be tossed in the trash as a bad experiment.  However, there are moments of humor and deep sarcasm throughout the volume that offset one another to make readers ponder what the poet really desires from the modern world.  Readers will come away from the collection with a new focus on examining society and their part in it –whether they decide to continue assimilating is up to them.  Unincorporated Persons in the Late Honda Dynasty is a thought-provoking collection that urges readers to be unique and to think outside the box.

This is my 9th book for the Clover Bee & Reverie Poetry Challenge.

This is my 38th book for the 2010 New Authors Reading Challenge.

Free to a Good Home by Eve Marie Mont

Eve Marie Mont‘s Free to a Good Home is a delightful read about Noelle Ryan whose husband, Jay, has finally told her his deepest secret — he’s gay — effectively obliterating her dream and forcing her to reassess her life.  Noelle has a successful, if stressful, career as a veterinary technician, but she occupies most of her time with her family and the dogs at the shelter, rather than coping with her own problems.  She’d rather solve everyone else’s problems and be the good person that everyone leans on when they need consoling or help.

“‘Sure,’ I say, handing him my cup.  He’s cute.  Messy brown hair, crinkly eyes, and that sexy clenched jaw thing.  Too cute.  A turn-your-brain-to-clotted-cream cute.”  (page 32)

Noelle is passionate about saving animals and finding them homes, but she’s also passionate about helping people, including her WASP ex-mother-in-law, Margaret, who made her marriage miserable. However, what will get to readers is how much of a doormat Noelle is when it comes to Jay; he asks her to do many unthinkable favors including taking care of his mother.  Many readers will want to scream at this character and beat her back to her senses.  While Jay is not a bad guy per se, he crosses the line in his relationship with Noelle, which effectively prevents her from moving on with her life even after she meets a gorgeous musician named Jasper.

“‘Luxwood Victorian Gardens.’

‘They make it sound so pleasant.  Like you’re staying in some luxurious estate, Blithewold Mansion for the physically impaired.’

‘Well, they have to do that to get people in the door.  They can’t very well call the place Let-Us-Steal-Your Independence Gardens.’

‘Feed-Us-Flavorless-Food-Courtyard.’

‘Watch-Jeopardy-Until-You-Die-Village.'”  (page 193)

However, Mont’s writing is engaging and dramatic and even humorous.  If you love animals and a bit of romance in your summer reading with a good dose of drama, Free to a Good Home will fit your needs.

About the Author:

Eve Mont lives with her husband, Ken, and her shelter dog, Maggie, in suburban Philadelphia, where she teaches high school English and creative writing. Free to a Good Home is her first novel, which was released on  July 6, 2010. She is currently working on her second novel.

http://www.literaryescapism.com/new-author-challenge10

This is my 37th book for the 2010 New Authors Reading Challenge.

The Lace Makers of Glenmara by Heather Barbieri

Heather Barbieri‘s The Lace Makers of Glenmara is set in Ireland as the main character, Kate Robinson, leaves her life in the United States to take the journey to her ancestral lands that she was supposed to take with her mother.   She leaves her home after failing to make it with her own clothing line and the break-up of her relationship with Ethan.  After a rough journey in the rainy countryside, Kate happens upon the small village of Glenmara and its quirky residents from motherly widow Bernice to abrasive Aileen.

“Everyone had been so sure she and Ethan would get married, that she would catch the bouquet at the medieval wedding they attended that March (the couple being devoted not only to each other but to the Society for Creative Anachronism), the event at which he left her, if not at the altar, just southwest of it, next to an ice sculpture of a knight in shining armor that had begun to melt, a moat of water at his feet, his sword soon no more than a toothpick.”  (Page 6)

Switching between points of view, Kate’s perspective is rounded out by the narration of William the traveler, Aileen, and Bernie.  Readers will be drawn into the stories of Kate and her friends as they search for peace and acceptance among themselves and others. Each of these women deals with not only sorrow and loss, but also shaken confidence.

“‘Like Colleen said, mistakes aren’t necessarily a problem,’ Bernie told her.  ‘Sometimes they lead you in a different direction.  Who says you always need to follow the rules?  Breaking the pattern can be the very best thing, even though it can be scary at first.'”  (Page 91)

Barbieri creates a cast of characters as tumultuous as the weather and diverse as the scenery of Ireland.  Kate is broken, and many of the other characters are broken as well.  It takes lace making and camaraderie to heal.  Glenmara, unfortunately, is a town in the middle of nowhere where religion is more than a passing moment on Sundays.  Can these women overcome their own fears and rekindle the beauty within themselves?

The prologue to the novel, however, that outlines what you need to sew and draws parallels between sewing and life changes is a bit overwrought, especially when Kate becomes part of the lace making guild.  Readers are likely to draw those parallels on their own without shining a bright light on it.

Meanwhile, the evolution of these characters and what they cultivate through their friendships is an amazing transformation for these women that will leave readers wondering what relationships in their lives have transformed them.  Barbieri’s writing is captivating and will pull readers into the Irish countryside.  An emotional evolution for the characters and readers set against the backdrop of beautiful Irish hills and cliffs.  Be ready to jump off and join them.

Check out the rest of the TLC Book Tour stops.

About the Author

Heather Barbieri is half-Irish. Her paternal ancestors left counties Donegal and Tipperary  after The Great Famine and worked in the coal mines of Eastern Pennsylvania before settling in Butte, Montana. Her impeccably dressed maternal grandmother was a descendant of a lady-in-waiting to Queen Victoria and instilled an avid interest in fashion in her granddaughters. Barbieri’s first novel, Snow in July (Soho Press), was selected as a Book Sense Pick, a Glamour magazine “Riveting Read,” and a Library Journal Notable First Novel. Before turning to writing fiction full-time, she was a magazine editor, journalist, and film critic. She lives in Seattle, Washington, with her husband and three children, and is currently working on her third novel.

Also check her out on Facebook.

This is my 3rd book for the Ireland Reading Challenge.

This is my 36th book for the 2010 New Authors Reading Challenge.