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Dodgers by Bill Beverly

Source: LibraryThing Early Reviewers
Hardcover, 304 pgs.
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Dodgers by Bill Beverly is not a feel-good coming-of-age story. East is 16 and has been standing watch outside drug houses in Los Angeles’ The Boxes neighborhood for two years. When the heat turns up, he finds himself adrift. But Fin, the big man, asks him to step in and do something he’s never trained for or even thought about — kill a key witness who’s hiding in Wisconsin. East is just one of four set out on the road in a minivan to get the job done and with little contact to the players-that-be at home. These boys will have to make grown-up decisions and decisions that they will have to live with forever.

“He had been at the old house before them, and he had seen things they had never seen. He had seen a reverend shot on the walk, a woman jump off a roof. He had seen a helicopter crash into trees and a man, out of his mind, pick up a downed power cable and stand, illuminated. He had seen the police come down, and still the house continued on.” (pg. 5 ARC)

“East looked up and tried to swallow the bad taste in his mouth. Above them, a big plastic dinosaur spun on a wire. Cars rushed by out on the highway, and East had to keep himself from staring down each one. Things moving. At first, the ride had felt like getting out, like being set free. Into nothing. But since Vegas, this felt like being stuck back in it. Like every headlight that rolled past was pointed at him.” (pg. 67 ARC)

East has been the big brother to half-brother Ty, but Ty has left home and disappeared into the network until this trip north. They don’t communicate at all, and when they do it’s strained at best. Their relationship is the backbone of the crew and how it operates. Will these four boys reach their destination in one piece, will they kill each other, and will the mission be accomplished? Beverly has created a tension-filled story that journeys across country, and readers are worried that the mission will be accomplished even as they want East to find peace and redeem himself.

Dodgers by Bill Beverly is a harsh look at gang life, but it also is a look at the boys caught up in it. The young men who feel trapped by their lives, who set boundaries for themselves, but then must break them or face harsh consequences. Even when they feel that they are free from it all, it comes back around, like shadows waiting behind the trees ready to snatch them back into the black hole.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Bill Beverly grew up in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and studied at Oberlin College and the University of Florida. His research on criminal fugitives and the stories surrounding them became the book On the Lam: Narratives of Flight in J. Edgar Hoover’s America. He teaches American literature and writing at Trinity University in Washington, D.C.

Good Taste: Simple, Delicious Recipes for Family and Friends by Jane Green

Source: Berkley
Hardcover, 192 pgs.
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Good Taste: Simple, Delicious Recipes for Family and Friends by Jane Green is more than just a cookbook, it’s family dinner or a gathering of friends in which Green shares not only where her recipes come from, but some of the stories behind them or that churn up in her memory. The narrative accompanying each recipe is like sitting across the table from Green. Readers will picture her dinner parties and family gatherings happening in much the same way — Green mixing ingredients across the kitchen island while her guests munch, chat, and help out. These are the family and friend gatherings that are the most fun because everyone is not only enjoying the food but the company of one another.

“I realized quickly that for me, having people over is less about the food, and more about comfort, warmth, nurture. It is about creating the kind of welcoming environment that instantly makes people feel relaxed and cared for, that truly brings meaning to the concept of food being love.” (pg. ix)

I particularly loved her early advice about putting out nuts and cheese and fruit, rather than hors d’oeuvres that can make people full before the meal is even served. Many of my own family gatherings were this way, and we were all very hungry when the meal was served. And who doesn’t like the smell of fresh baked bread — Potato, Gorgonzola, and Sage Bread is one recipe I’ll be trying when I have more time.

What I did make from the cookbook was dessert — you knew it had to be dessert, didn’t you? Warm chocolate and Banana Cake, a recipe that was her mother’s special dessert, and like her mother, my grandmother kept many of her recipes in her head and what was written down is in some kind of code that needs a key to unlock. Despite these encryption techniques, Green has recreated a delicious and moist dessert that people will want seconds and thirds of! I know I did, even though our Confectioners’ sugar has somehow vanished!

Good Taste: Simple, Delicious Recipes for Family and Friends by Jane Green is a wonderful cookbook and my family enjoyed the chocolate cake. My daughter gobbled it up every chance she got, which is unusual as she generally doesn’t prefer sweets. For this cake, she made an exception.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Jane Green is the author of seventeen novels, including sixteen New York Times bestsellers. She has over ten million books in print, and is published in over 25 languages. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Sunshine Beach by Wendy Wax

Source: Penguin Random House
Paperback, 420 pgs.
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Sunshine Beach by Wendy Wax is the fourth in a series of books in which ladies taken for all their worth in a Ponzi scheme work together to renovate homes on reality TV. I would recommend reading these books in order because there are some spoilers in this one for previous books.

Maddie, Avery, and Nikki are struggling after the end of their last Do Over season ended with the renovation at Mermaid Point in the Florida Keys. Maddie is still seeing former rocker William Hightower, and she’s trying to reconcile her former wife and homemaker status with that of groupie turned girlfriend of a rockstar who is regaining his footing in the music business. Meanwhile, Avery is struggling to regain her confidence as the skilled contractor everyone knows her to be, and Nikki continues to deal with trust issues and learning to lean on others for support.

“But there was far more wishful thinking wrapped up in her pronouncement than she wanted to examine. The last time they’d had this conversation she’d insisted the future looked so bright it would require sunglasses. But at that moment she’d settle for a flashlight and a really good road map.” (pg. 32 ARC)

“‘It’s not a matter of trying, Avery. You believe or you don’t.’ Chase slung an arm around her shoulders and pulled her close. ‘You need to get all the way on board, or I’m going to have to give you some serious noogies.’ He knuckled his fist in her hair.” (pg. 247 ARC)

After quitting at the end of the last season on camera, the ladies are determined to find their own renovation project and re-create their show from scratch. There’s a little bit of sun on the horizon when Maddie’s daughter, Kyra, stumbles upon a forgotten hotel in the dunes. Lucky for the team, they just happen to know the owners, and all they need to do is convince them that even the darkest memories can be shined up.

Wax has become a go-to author for me for summer reads and for read that help me escape when I need it. Her female characters are strong, but they also need support to — from one another and from the men in their lives. This series of books also combines these wonderful elements with beaches and renovation shows — my secret addiction (looks like the secret is out)! Sunshine Beach by Wendy Wax was a wonderful read and it was like a visit with old friends. I can’t wait to catch up with them again on the beach!

RATING: Quatrain

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About the Author:

Award-winning author Wendy Wax has written eight novels, including Ocean Beach, Ten Beach Road, Magnolia Wednesdays, the Romance Writers of America RITA Award finalist The Accidental Bestseller, Leave It to Cleavage, Single in Suburbia and 7 Days and 7 Nights, which was honored with the Virginia Romance Writers Holt Medallion Award. Her work has sold to publishers in ten countries and to the Rhapsody Book Club, and her novel, Hostile Makeover, was excerpted in Cosmopolitan magazine.

A St. Pete Beach, Florida native, Wendy has lived in Atlanta for fifteen years. A voracious reader, her enjoyment of language and storytelling led her to study journalism at the University of Georgia. She also studied in Italy through Florida State University, is a graduate of the University of South Florida, and worked at WEDU-TV and WDAE-Radio in Tampa.

Bukowski in a Sundress by Kim Addonizio

Source: Penguin
Paperback, 224 pgs.
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Bukowski in a Sundress by Kim Addonizio is a memoir written as a series of personal essays that’s not only about the writing life, but also loving what you do so much that no matter how on the outside you are, you keep plugging away. Addonizio never shies away from her less than sober moments or her self-doubt.  She takes life on full force, and she makes no excuses for that.  It’s what life is for — living.  In “Plan D,” she talks about having a plan to give you some sense of control, but in all honesty, those plans don’t always work out.

As many of you know, I’ve written poems and submitted them and received a ton of rejection of late.  This book hit my bookshelf at the right time.  “How to Succeed in Po Biz” brings to light the difficulty with being a poet, what it takes is determination and a will to struggle through it all to achieve even just a modicum of success.  Royalties are small and many poets find other sources of steady income or work toward small awards and fellowships to keep working on their craft without the drudgery of a full-time job, or at least only requiring a part-time job.

Addonizio has always been a fresh poet to me, and as she writes in her essays she remembers those very low moments when she met failure, thought about giving up, and went forward anyway.  This perseverance, sheer will is what poets need.  She’s by turns vulnerable and well shielded from the barbs that come with writing poetry — the title of the book stems from one critic’s comment about how she was Bukowski in a sundress.

Bukowski in a Sundress by Kim Addonizio is utterly absorbing.  I read it in a day, and I’m still thinking about everything she said and how it applies to my current struggles with poetry and the publishing industry, especially as someone outside academia.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Poet:

She’s the author of several poetry collections including Tell Me, A National Book Award Finalist. My latest, My Black Angel, is a book of blues poems with woodcuts by Charles D. Jones, from SFA Press. I published The Palace of Illusions, a story collection, with Counterpoint/Soft Skull in 2014. A New & Selected, Wild Nights, is out in the UK from Bloodaxe Books.

Due summer 2016: Mortal Trash, a new poetry book, from Norton. And a memoir, Bukowski in a Sundress: Confessions from a Writing Life, from Penguin.

I’ve written two instructional books on writing poetry: The Poet’s Companion (with Dorianne Laux), and Ordinary Genius: A Guide for the Poet Within. Visit her website.

 

 

 

 

 

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M Train by Patti Smith (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audiobook, 6 CDs
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M Train by Patti Smith, narrated by the author, is a poetic and meandering memoir that illustrates how the writing life can not only be rich with inspiration but also frustratingly slow and difficult.  Smith spends much of her time drinking black coffee in different cafes, and as she interacts with those she meets and in her projects, she is still holding on to the pain of loss, as her husband passed away too young.  While the loss of her husband is there with her as she rides the subway (there is an M train in New York City that travels between Queens and Manhattan), travels to Tangiers and other foreign locations, it does not take center stage.

Memories drag her daily ruminations into different directions, and these memories are all that are left of those she loves and who have inspired her as a woman, an artist, a poet, and as a person.  She is obsessed with crime dramas and coffee, and her writing is on napkins, in blank pages of books she’s reading (for the upteenth time), and on scraps and in notebooks.

You can see some elements of the memoir online.

Like the dilapidated bungalow she buys on Rockaway beach just before Superstorm Sandy, Smith endures the everyday erosion of life, the waves that threaten to break us and smash us into pieces.  The only testament to our strength is to continue onward and to move forward through our lives chasing our passions and enjoying every moment we are graced with.  Her empty house on Rockaway is where her memories rattle around, emerging only when necessary, allowing her to look back on how much her life has evolved and how much she wants to hold onto as much of it as she can.

The self-narrated M Train by Patti Smith is numbing in the amount of loss in one person’s life, but her life is not that different from that of others who struggle against the tidal wave of loss.  Memory can help us hold onto those we love, but even those are eroded by time.  Many of us have a hard time moving on, and in her memoir, she explores this in depth.

Rating: Quatrain

Photo: © Jesse Dittmar

About the Author:

Patti Smith is a writer, performer, and visual artist. She gained recognition in the 1970s for her revolutionary merging of poetry and rock. She has released twelve albums, including Horses, which has been hailed as one of the top one hundred albums of all time by Rolling Stone.

Please visit her Website.

 

 

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (audio)

Source: Audible
Audiobook, 11 hrs.
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The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins — narrated by Clare Corbett, Louise Brealey, and India Fisher — is a mystery in which a woman with low self-esteem, who is an alcoholic, continues to stalk her ex-husband, mostly at a distance.  Rachel Watson’s divorce and drinking caused her to lose her job, but she still wakes up like clockwork to take the train into London so her roommate is unaware that she’s lost her job. She has some money saved, and even though she could be moving on with her life and getting a new job, she wallows in her sorrow at the bottom of a bottle, creating perfect, imaginary lives for the people she sees out the train windows.

Jason and Jess become a couple that she can imagine lives in marital bliss, but in reality, Megan and Scott Hipwell have a marriage that has lost its appeal, at least for Megan. She desires something more than what she has with Scott, who she fails to see as controlling even as he goes through her emails on a regular basis.  She wants her life to be more than just sitting at home waiting for her husband to come home.  Like Rachel, she is dissatisfied with what her life has become.

Rachel, meanwhile, is on the outside of her ex-husband’s life with his new wife and daughter, who continue to live in the house she and he used to live in, and she’s on the outside of the world looking in, much like she’s staring out the train windows.  She’s searching for something, she needs to belong to something, but what she ends up entangling herself in is something that could lead to her own death.  Meanwhile, her ex-husband’s new wife Anna is terrified of Rachel, worried that her stalking will turn to something more.

Listening to the audio was never boring and the different narrators helped when Hawkin’s story changed points of view.  Moreover, the narrator for Rachel really put you in the mindset of a broken woman who was down on herself, blamed herself, and was unable to break out of her self-destructive cycle of drinking and blacking out.  Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train is a twisted tale of the suburban lives we often perceive as idyllic, and the lives we believe we have but actually do not.  How well do we know our spouses, their experiences, their families, and how well do they know us?  Many of us have inner demons or secrets we would rather not face, so we lie about them to ourselves and those we love.

Rating: Quatrain

About the Author:

Paula Hawkins worked as a journalist for fifteen years before turning her hand to fiction. Born and brought up in Zimbabwe, Paula moved to London in 1989 and has lived there ever since. The Girl on the Train is her first thriller.

My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audiobook, 8 CDs
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My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem, narrated by Debra Winger, is not only about the feminist movement, but also literally about her life as an activist and a woman on the road, who practiced the art of active listening.  Learning in India of a decentralized way of making decisions and interacting, Steinem learned that discussing different points of view on an even plane, without hierarchy, can be much more productive and diplomatic.  Debra Winger is a great narrator because her cadence is very similar to Steinem’s narration of the introductory material.

I love how her parents left their mark on her early on – a mother who wanted a different life than the one she lived and a father who had a hard time staying still, traveling and selling as much as possible.  Her early life and how she travels from one place to the next are captivating, but there are times that the narrative wanders pretty far afield, leaving readers at sea as to what time period they are in until she mentions another year or date.  Steinem, co-founder of Ms. Magazine, has a deep fear of public speaking on her own, though she would speak before groups with others.

Among the most memorable events are the large convention she organizes for the women’s movement, her talk at Harvard University that was mostly male, and her interactions with taxi drivers and others on the streets because she does not drive.  As someone who gets that question a lot about why I don’t drive, this part of the story resonated with me.  I want to be and remain connected to my world, and separating myself in a car alone is not accomplishing that at all.  Steinem says that her adventure begins the moment she walks out the door.

Her discussion of the election process is very similar to what I as a mere voter expected, even though she had more of an insider’s perspective.  In particular, her struggle during the Democratic primary to choose between President Obama and Hillary Clinton was fascinating.  While many people voted because they wanted a woman president and others voted for a black president, Steinem’s thought process was more detailed based upon their track records and their abilities, and more.  For those interested in politics and the political process, these aspects of the book are wonderful, and for those who listen, they will see that they need to adopt Steinem’s ability to listen and examine the minute details of each candidate before voting.

My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem, narrated by Debra Winger, is engrossing in that it provides a detailed account of the women’s movement, the civil rights movement, and the political process.  How did women get the vote, how did they use and keep it, and are voices of women heard now?  Steinem is optimistic in our ability to change and evolve into a more inclusive society through careful listening toward shared solutions.

***I read this as part of Emma Watson’s Book Club on GoodReads***

About the Author:

Gloria Marie Steinem is an American feminist, journalist, and social and political activist who became nationally recognized as a leader of, and media spokeswoman for, the women’s liberation movement in the late 1960s and 1970s. A prominent writer and key counterculture era political figure, Steinem has founded many organizations and projects and has been the recipient of many awards and honors. She was a columnist for New York magazine and co-founded Ms. magazine. In 1969, she published an article, ” After Black Power, Women’s Liberation”, which, along with her early support of abortion rights, catapulted her to national fame as a feminist leader.

The Absent One by Jussi Adler-Olsen (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audiobook, 12 CDs
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The Absent One by Jussi Adler-Olsen, narrated by Steven Pacey and translated by K.E. Semmel, is the second book in the Department Q series — though you don’t have to read the previous one to follow along with this one — and Detective Carl Mørck is leading the new department with his assistant Assad in Copenhagen, Denmark.  This department’s focus is cold cases, reopening them to find new clues with fresh eyes, and what Mørck finds is a little more is disturbing.  Reviewing a case of murders from 1987 that involved a gang of young men and women, the detective, Assad, and his new assistant Rose Knudsen are forced to reassess their world view and the motivations of killers.

Adler-Olsen creates a set of murders that are not only over-the-top, but the perpetrators are as well.  Their hyped-up sense of pleasure from beatings, killings, and torture is reminiscent of the television show American Horror Story.  Some of these killers come from the upper echelons of society, and like those before them, they believe they are untouchable because of their place in society and what they have accomplished.  It’s clear that these accomplishments are not enough to sustain their attention or satisfaction; these are men and women who are dissatisfied with their success and are seduced by the dark side (pun intended).  Despite these absurdly crazy characters, and the absent one from the murderous gang who seems to stay enough on the radar to attract the attention of Detective Mørck but not her cohorts, the story has great tension and a layered revealing of events that keep readers hooked.

The Absent One by Jussi Adler-Olsen, narrated by Steven Pacey and translated by K.E. Semmel, is a well paced thriller with bits of comedic banker between Mørck, Assad, and Rose that will leave readers wondering about what they missed in book one if they start here.  This seems like a series readers will get sucked into without really knowing how.  The unusual characters, the foreign setting for U.S. readers, and the noir quality of the situations will entice readers to enter Adler-Olsen’s world cautiously.

About the Author:

Author Jussi Adler-Olsen began in the 1990s to write novels after having followed a comprehensive career as publisher, editor, film composer for the Valhalla-cartoon and as bookseller.

He made his debut with the thriller “Alfabethuset” (1997), which reached bestseller status both in Denmark and internationally just like his subsequent novels “And She Thanked the Gods” (prev. “The Company Basher”) (2003) and “The Washington Decree” (2006). The first book on Department Q is “Kvinden I buret” (2007) and the second “Fasandræberne” (2008). The main detective is Deputy Superintendent Carl Morck from the Department Q and he is also the star of the third volume, “Flaskepost fra P” which was released in the fall of 2009 and secured Adler-Olsen ”Readers’ Book Award” from Berlingske Tidende-readers, the Harald Mogensen Prize as well as the Scandinavian Crime Society’s most prestigious price ”Glass Key”. The fourth volume in the Department Q series, “Journal 64” was published in 2010 and he was awarded the once-in-a-lifetime-prize of “The Golden Laurels” for this in 2011”. In December 2012 the fifth novel was published, “Marco Effekten”.

Photo Credit: Eric Druxman

About the Translator:

K. E. Semmel is a writer and translator whose work has appeared in Ontario Review, Washington Post, World Literature Today, Southern Review, Subtropics, and elsewhere. His translations include books by Naja Marie Aidt, Karin Fossum, Erik Valeur, Jussi Adler Olsen, Simon Fruelund and, forthcoming in winter 2016, Jesper Bugge Kold. He is a recipient of numerous grants from the Danish Arts Foundation and is a 2016 NEA Literary Translation Fellow.

All the Words Are Yours: Haiku on Love by Tyler Knott Gregson

Source: Penguin Random House
Hardcover, 144 pgs.
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All the Words Are Yours: Haiku on Love by Tyler Knott Gregson is a collection of haiku poems — though not all of them include references to nature — about love and all of its manifestations. This small collection, however, is just a taste of what love can mean, bring, and be to many of us. These verse reveal a poet who is romantic and optimistic, as these poems espouse not only how passionate love can be but also how transformative and consuming it is.

I am broken down
and shattered into pieces
You are still barefoot
Your soul knew my soul
long before we needed skin
to spend a life in.
Lay down your roots now, 
let them wrap tight around mine,
sink deep in the soil.

In each of these short haiku, readers will get a glimpse of the form and its power to punctuate a feeling or a moment, so that they can stop and listen to their own feelings and thoughts, compare their own past and present loves, and be more introspective. Gregson lays his heart out and is unafraid of those who would poke fun at his cheesy lines or his unabashed love expressed in intimate ways. It’s like peering into his life, watching how he forms attachments, reveres them, and carries them forward.

All the Words Are Yours: Haiku on Love by Tyler Knott Gregson could be a romantic gift for your spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend on an anniversary, as an every day gift, or something special for Valentine’s Day, that most commercial of holidays.  However, Gregson’s haiku also challenges the traditional use of the form, driven by nature imagery, to consider more abstract things as natural because we are aware of them — such as love or the soul.  Some of these haiku also leave you breathless.

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.

A Week at the Lake by Wendy Wax

Source: JS Publishing & Media Consulting
Paperback, 432 pgs.
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A Week at the Lake by Wendy Wax is less of a chicklit romance and more of a story about friendship that has been tested when Emma Michaels backs away from her college friends Serena Stockton and Mackenzie Hayes without explanation and again when they agree to meet again for a retreat at Lake George.  Emma has been a single mother to Zoe for nearly 15 years, and her parents and siblings from Hollywood’s elite have been kept out of their lives for some time.  Although Emma enjoys acting, she takes jobs on her own terms, and she’s tried her best to shelter her own daughter from that fast-paced life.  Serena, on the other hand, may be a beautiful starlit that many men drool over, but her work is mainly as the voice of Georgia Goodbody in a cartoon.  Mackenzie is the least famous of the three, who moved back to the Midwest with her husband to run a local theater and make costumes when her dreams of motherhood were quickly dashed.

“‘We could put you in the bottom of a canoe and float you out into the lake like a Viking warrior,’ Mackenzie said.
‘As long as nobody tries to set me on fire,’ Emma said.
There was laughter, all of them glad to see any sign of the ‘old’ Emma.”  (page 132)

The friendship between these women has been strained, but each of them is excited to head to the lake and reconnect.  Serena continues to have a string of shallow affairs with married men, and Emma has focused her attentions on her daughter, Zoe, and her work.  MacKenzie has had a relatively quiet and routine life, and her life is the most disrupted by the events that happen to these women.  Readers will enjoy getting to know these women, the nuances of their friendships, and the struggles they have in their own lives.

A Week at the Lake by Wendy Wax is a heavier book than most chicklit books, given that these women deal with some significant crises of confidence, emotional baggage, and real-life pain.  Wax creates some strong and flawed female characters, and readers will love how these women interact with each other, how friendships can be tested and nearly break, and how they resolve their larger issues.  This was another winner, and if you haven’t read Wax’s books, you better get started.

About the Author:

Award-winning author Wendy Wax has written eight novels, including Ocean Beach, Ten Beach Road, Magnolia Wednesdays, the Romance Writers of America RITA Award finalist The Accidental Bestseller, Leave It to Cleavage, Single in Suburbia and 7 Days and 7 Nights, which was honored with the Virginia Romance Writers Holt Medallion Award. Her work has sold to publishers in ten countries and to the Rhapsody Book Club, and her novel, Hostile Makeover, was excerpted in Cosmopolitan magazine.

A St. Pete Beach, Florida native, Wendy has lived in Atlanta for fifteen years. A voracious reader, her enjoyment of language and storytelling led her to study journalism at the University of Georgia. She also studied in Italy through Florida State University, is a graduate of the University of South Florida, and worked at WEDU-TV and WDAE-Radio in Tampa.

Also Reviewed:

The Cake Therapist by Judith Fertig

Source: Tandem Literary
Paperback, 304 pgs
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The Cake Therapist by Judith Fertig will have mouths watering all over these pages as these gorgeous confections meld savory and sweet and extrapolates memory, emotion, and the past from flavors.  Claire “Neely” Davis returns to her hometown to clear her head after yet another slip-up by her husband, Luke, a famous NFL player.  She leaves behind her five-star life in New York for a life that requires a bit more grit and persistence.  Slowly she finds that she has more than one bakery talent — she sees the lives of others in flavor and color, much like her grandmother did.

Even as she works through her own emotional issues, she dives head first into work.  She’s building her business, Rainbow Cake, from the ground up, but she’s also reconnecting with her past and her family.  Her grandmother’s home will not be vacant because she’s been moved to a nursing home.  Her hometown friends are happy to have her back, and while she’s still recovering, she begins to feel at home too.

“‘It’s a gift, you dope.’  I pressed the box into his stomach.  He read the card that said, ‘Thank you for helping me feather my new nest.’  He opened the box and saw a tiny cake shaped like a bird’s nest in three small round layers of tender, browned-butter vanilla cake with an apricot filling.  A ‘nest’ border of piped rum and mocha buttercream enclosed a clutch of pale blue marzipan eggs and a sugar-paste feather.  The complicated yin and yang of rum and mocha, the ‘everybody loves’ vanilla, Mr. Social white chocolate, tart and witty apricot, and artistic marzipan — all said ‘Gavin’ to me.”  (pg. 16)

Her culinary skills also come in handy when helping her employees and some others in the town cope with their own situations at home and from the past.  As she helps them see the strength in themselves, she becomes more sure of herself and that path she must take into the future.  Claire is an emotional mess, and like many of us, she throws herself into work and something she’s passionate about, leaving the heavier stuff on the back burner.  She often helps others, and that helps her work through her own issues, sometimes without even realizing it.

The Cake Therapist by Judith Fertig is a delightful confection and perfect for summer reading by the pool with some cake and delightful coffee — tea if you’re into that sort of thing.  Fertig has a clear talent for writing foodie fiction, and perhaps that is because of her background in cooking and writing cookbooks.  Bon appétit!

About the Author:

Novelist and cookbook author Judith Fertig grew up in the Midwest, went to cooking school in London and Paris, and now lives in the Kansas City area. Described by Saveur Magazine as a “heartland cookbook icon,” Fertig debuts a new novel that engage the mind, the heart, and all five senses—and celebrates cookbooks that reflect her love of bread, baking, barbecue, and the fabulous foods of the Heartland.

Novels you can read like cookbooks. Cookbooks you can read like novels. That’s what you get when an English major studies at École de Cuisine La Varenne (formerly in Paris) and The Cordon Bleu in London plus The Iowa Writers Workshop. Fertig often weaves storytelling into her books. Follow her on Twitter.