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1. Me Before You – Official Trailer

ME BEFORE YOU was a breakout novel for the enormously talented author, Jojo Moyes . With the film version set to hit theaters this summer, even more people will fall in love with the world created by Ms. Moyes. I dare you to watch this trailer and not cry.

And if you’ve already read ME BEFORE YOU, and don’t know what to do with yourself until June 3rd, pick up a copy of the sequel, AFTER YOU.

 

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2. Dear Fang, With Love by Rufi Thorpe {Review}

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This heartbreaking and deceptively slim novel deals with big topics like the mental illness, abandonment, family relations and the Holocaust. After a long estrangement, Lucas wants to be back in his 17-year-old daughter Vera’s life, especially after she has a psychotic break. He takes her for the summer to his ancestral home in Lithuania. While Lucas tries to mend their relationship, he also learns about his grandmother’s life during WWII. This is a powerful novel from the author of The Girls from Corona Del Mar.

Summary:
Lucas and Katya were boarding school seniors when, blindingly in love, they decided to have a baby. Seventeen years later, after years of absence, Lucas is a weekend dad, newly involved in his daughter Vera’s life. But after Vera suffers a terrifying psychotic break at a high school party, Lucas takes her to Lithuania, his grandmother’s homeland, for the summer. Here, in the city of Vilnius, Lucas hopes to save Vera from the sorrow of her diagnosis. As he uncovers a secret about his grandmother, a Home Army rebel who escaped Stutthof, Vera searches for answers of her own. Why did Lucas abandon her as a baby? What really happened the night of her breakdown? And who can she trust with the truth? Skillfully weaving family mythology and Lithuanian history with a story of mental illness, inheritance, young love, and adventure, Rufi Thorpe has written a wildly accomplished, stunningly emotional book.

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3. {Review}Your Heart is a Muscle The Size of a Fist by Sunil Yapa

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Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of A Fist by Sunil Yapa

Little Brown, Release Date: January 12, 2016

Summary:

The Flamethrowers meets Let the Great World Spin in this electrifying debut novel set amid the heated conflict of Seattle’s 1999 WTO protests.

On a rainy, cold day in November, young Victor–a nomadic, scrappy teenager who’s run away from home–sets out to sell as much marijuana as possible to the throng of WTO demonstrators determined to shut down the city. With the proceeds, he plans to buy a plane ticket and leave Seattle forever, but it quickly becomes clear that the history-making 50,000 anti-globalization protestors–from anarchists to environmentalists to teamsters–are testing the patience of the police, and what started out as a peaceful protest is threatening to erupt into violence.

Over the course of one life-altering afternoon, the fates of seven people will change forever: foremost among them police Chief Bishop, the estranged father Victor hasn’t seen in three years, two protesters struggling to stay true to their non-violent principles as the day descends into chaos, two police officers in the street, and the coolly elegant financial minister from Sri Lanka whose life, as well as his country’s fate, hinges on getting through the angry crowd, out of jail, and to his meeting with the President of the United States. When Chief Bishop reluctantly unleashes tear gas on the unsuspecting crowd, it seems his hopes for reconciliation with his son, as well as the future of his city, are in serious peril.

In this raw and breathtaking novel, Yapa marries a deep rage with a deep humanity. In doing so he casts an unflinching eye on the nature and limits of compassion, and the heartbreaking difference between what is right and what is possible.

Review:

This compelling story of the WTO riots in Seattle in 1999 is told from many differing points of view. At the novel’s center is a homeless, young, black man named Victor who wants to sell marijuana to the protesters in order to make enough money to buy a plane ticket and get out of Seattle. Over the course of one day, the novel introduces us to seven people whose lives will be transformed by these cataclysmic events. The cast of characters includes Victor’s stepfather, the Chief of Police, cops and protesters that gives a very unique voice to this debut novel. Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist depicts how the protester’s non-violence led to retaliation from the police. One protester’s story about a murderer who is now a non-violent protester is extremely moving and will resonate with readers. This Rashomon-like narrative will appeal to fans of Jonathan Franzen, Garth Hallberg, Colum McCann or Rachel Kushner.

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4. {Review} And Again by Jessica Chiarella

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Summary:

In the spirit of Station Eleven and The Age of Miracles, this exciting literary debut novel, AND AGAIN by Jessica Chiarella, imagines the consequences when four ordinary individuals are granted a chance to continue their lives in genetically perfect versions of their former bodies.

Would you live your life differently if you were given a second chance? Hannah, David, Connie, and Linda—four terminally ill patients—have been selected for the SUBlife pilot program, which will grant them brand-new, genetically perfect bodies that are exact copies of their former selves—without a single imperfection. Blemishes, scars, freckles, and wrinkles have all disappeared, their fingerprints are different, their vision is impeccable, and most importantly, their illnesses have been cured.

But the fresh start they’ve been given is anything but perfect. Without their old bodies, their new physical identities have been lost. Hannah, an artistic prodigy, has to relearn how to hold a brush; David, a Congressman, grapples with his old habits; Connie, an actress whose stunning looks are restored after a protracted illness, tries to navigate an industry obsessed with physical beauty; and Linda, who spent eight years paralyzed after a car accident, now struggles to reconnect with a family that seems to have built a new life without her. As each tries to re-enter their previous lives and relationships they are faced with the question: how much of your identity rests not just in your mind, but in your heart, your body?

 

Review:

What if you were given a second chance on life? Would you take it no matter what it costs you? That’s the idea behind this debut novel about four very different, terminally ill patients who are chosen to live in genetically perfect, cloned bodies. Although they’re physically perfect they are still faced with issues to overcome; an artist has to re-learn how to paint, a politician has to fight with old vices and a former paralyzed woman has to reconnect with her family who moved on without her. Told in first-person accounts from all four protagonists, this book deals with some interesting and thought-provoking issues regarding the way our identity is formed and the balance between mind, body, and soul.  Chiarella has written an engaging debut novel that will keep readers turning pages.

AND AGAIN is a January Indie Next Selection.

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5. To Be Read: Girl Through Glass by Sari Wilson

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Summary:

An enthralling literary debut that tells the story of a young girl’s coming of age in the cutthroat world of New York City ballet—a story of obsession and the quest for perfection, trust and betrayal, beauty and lost innocence

“Powerful. Gripping. Incandescent. These are only a few of the words circling my mind after reading Girl Through Glass. This beautifully written novel drew me into the rarified world of dance, filled with passion, glory and heartbreak. As powerful storytelling kept me turning the pages, Wilson’s extraordinary voice whispered to me about the things that both bind and divide us: desire, ambition and love. This book will stay in my heart for a long time.” —Jean Kwok, New York Times bestselling author of Girl in Translation

In the roiling summer of 1977, eleven-year-old Mira is an aspiring ballerina in the romantic, highly competitive world of New York City ballet. Enduring the mess of her parent’s divorce, she finds escape in dance—the rigorous hours of practice, the exquisite beauty, the precision of movement, the obsessive perfectionism. Ballet offers her control, power, and the promise of glory. It also introduces her to forty-seven-year-old Maurice DuPont, a reclusive, charismatic balletomane who becomes her mentor.

Over the course of three years, Mira is accepted into the prestigious School of American Ballet run by the legendary George Balanchine, and eventually becomes one of “Mr. B’s girls”—a dancer of rare talent chosen for greatness. As she ascends higher in the ballet world, her relationship with Maurice intensifies, touching dark places within herself and sparking unexpected desires that will upend both their lives.

In the present day, Kate, a professor of dance at a Midwestern college, embarks on a risky affair with a student that threatens to obliterate her career and capsizes the new life she has painstakingly created for her reinvented self. When she receives a letter from a man she’s long thought dead, Kate is hurled back into the dramas of a past she thought she had left behind.

Told in interweaving narratives that move between past and present, Girl Through Glass illuminates the costs of ambition, secrets, and the desire for beauty, and reveals how the sacrifices we make for an ideal can destroy—or save—us.

 

Fun Facts:

  • Author Sari Wilson trained as a ballerina, and her emotionally gripping debut novel offers a privileged view into a romantic, rarified world, and the demanding life of a classical ballerina.
  • Fans of BLACK SWAN, Maggie Shipstead’s ASTONISH ME, and the Starz series FLESH AND BONE will love this exploration into the dance world.

 

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6. Books to Read in 2016

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A new book by Pulitzer Prize winner Elizabeth Strout is cause for celebration. Her bestselling novels, including Olive Kitteridge and The Burgess Boys, have illuminated our most tender relationships. Now, in My Name Is Lucy Barton, this extraordinary writer shows how a simple hospital visit becomes a portal to the most tender relationship of all—the one between mother and daughter. {Release Date: January 5, 2016}

 

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A “brilliantly done” (Sunday Times, London) comedy of manners that explores the unease behind the manicured lawns of suburban America from the Orange Prize–winning author of A Crime in the Neighborhood. Littlefield, Massachusetts, named one of the Ten Best Places to Live in America, full of psychologists and college professors, is proud of its fine schools, its girls’ soccer teams, its leafy streets, and charming village center. Yet no sooner has sociologist Dr. Clarice Watkins arrived to study the elements of “good quality of life” than someone begins poisoning the town’s dogs. Filled wtih suspense and social commentary, readers will love Suzanne Berne’s The Dogs of Littlefield. {Release Date: January 12, 2016}

 

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Reclusive literary legend M. M. “Mimi” Banning has been holed up in her Bel Air mansion for years. But after falling prey to a Bernie Madoff–style Ponzi scheme, she’s flat broke. Now Mimi must write a new book for the first time in decades, and to ensure the timely delivery of her manuscript, her New York publisher sends an assistant to monitor her progress. Julia Claiborne Johnson. {Release Date: February 2, 2016}

 

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Aidan Donnelley Rowley’s second novel, The Ramblers, will take your breath away. It focuses on three very different people who are struggling to find themselves in New York City in the week leading up to Thanksgiving. They must face their pasts in order to understand where they are going. Fans of J. Courtney Sullivan, Meg Wolitzer, Claire Messud, and Emma Straub, will devour this gorgeous and absorbing novel. Rowley writes regularly on her blog, Ivy League Insecurities, and is the founder of the Happier Hours Literary Salon. {Release Date: February 9, 2016}

 

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A fiercely independent divorce lawyer learns the power of family and connection when she receives a cryptic message from her estranged mother in this bittersweet, witty novel from Joshilyn Jackson, the nationally bestselling author of Someone Else’s Love Story and gods in Alabama. The Opposite of Everyone is an emotionally resonant tale about the endurance of love and the power of stories to shape and transform our lives. {Release Date: February 16, 2016}

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7. To Be Read: Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella

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From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Shopaholic series comes a terrific blend of comedy, romance, and psychological recovery in a contemporary YA novel sure to inspire and entertain.

An anxiety disorder disrupts fourteen-year-old Audrey’s daily life. She has been making slow but steady progress with Dr. Sarah, but when Audrey meets Linus, her brother’s gaming teammate, she is energized. She connects with him. Audrey can talk through her fears with Linus in a way she’s never been able to do with anyone before. As their friendship deepens and her recovery gains momentum, a sweet romantic connection develops, one that helps not just Audrey but also her entire family.

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8. Second Chance Summer by Jill Shalvis

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I just can’t get over the difference between these two covers for the same novel. The left one is the US version and the right is the UK version of Jill Shalvis‘ SECOND CHANCE SUMMER. Why do US titles love to feature hunky men on their covers while the British versions are much more magical and romantic? Personally, I much prefer the UK version. It is enchanting and so appealing to the eyes. But then again, I’m sure there are many readers out there who find the US version much more appealing.

Which one do you like? Which book would you gravitate towards?

And if you don’t judge a book by its cover and instead prefer to actually know what the book is about, here’s the summary of Shalvis’ latest release from Amazon:

Cedar Ridge, Colorado, is famous for crisp mountain air, clear blue skies, and pine-scented breezes. And it’s the last place Lily Danville wants to be. But she needs a job, and there’s an opening at the hottest resort in her hometown. What has her concerned is the other hot property in Cedar Ridge: Aidan Kincaid-firefighter, rescue worker, and heartbreaker. She never could resist that devastating smile . . .

The Kincaid brothers are as rough and rugged as the Rocky Mountains they call home. Aidan has always done things his own way, by his own rules. And never has he regretted anything more than letting Lily walk out of his life ten years ago. If anyone has ever been in need of rescuing, she has. What she needs more than anything are long hikes, slow dances, and sizzling kisses. But that can only happen if he can get her to give Cedar Ridge-and this bad boy-a second chance . . .

And here’s the summary from one of my favorite book review sites, I Heart Chick Lit.

What do you do when you run into the man who broke your heart?
 
Lily’s been back in Cedar Ridge for less than ten minutes when she bumps into Aiden, the former love of her life. So much for sneaking back into town unnoticed. And thanks to frizzy hair and armfuls of junk food, she’s turning his head for all the wrong reasons.
 
No one knows why Lily is home after ten years, and she’s determined to stay no longer than the summer. But Cedar Ridge and Aiden have other ideas. As they set about persuading Lily to give them a second chance, she finds herself falling under the spell of the Colorado mountains … and the one man she could never forget.

 

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9. The Signature of All Things Heading to TV

I’m so excited about this news! I really, really loved Elizabeth Gilbert’s The Signature of All Things. I loved the main character of Alma. She was feisty and strong and independent and just the exact kind of heroine you want to route for in a novel. So I was absolutely delighted to learn that Alma is coming to TV! And to PBS, no less! You know, the people who brought you Downton Abbey!

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From Shelf Awareness:

PBS station WGBH has optioned Elizabeth Gilbert’s novel The Signature of All Things, which U.K. film and TV production company Origin Pictures (Death Comes to Pemberley, Woman in Gold) is developing, Deadline.com reported. Emily Ballou (The Slap, Scott & Bailey, Case Histories) will adapt the novel for television. 

“Whenever I dreamed of seeing my novel transformed for the screen, I dreamt of working with exactly this team of people, and I’m delighted that my dream has come true,” said Gilbert 

“Readers all over the world fell in love with this unique character–the rare heroine of literature whose fortunes are neither rescued nor ruined by a man,” WGBH noted.

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10. Happiness for Beginners by Katherine Center {Review}

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A year after getting divorced, Helen Carpenter, thirty-two, lets her annoying, ten years younger brother talk her into signing up for a wilderness survival course. It’s supposed to be a chance for her to pull herself together again, but when she discovers that her brother’s even-more-annoying best friend is also coming on the trip, she can’t imagine how it will be anything other than a disaster. Thus begins the strangest adventure of Helen’s well-behaved life: three weeks in the remotest wilderness of a mountain range in Wyoming where she will survive mosquito infestations, a surprise summer blizzard, and a group of sorority girls.

Yet, despite everything, the vast wilderness has a way of making Helen’s own little life seem bigger, too. And, somehow the people who annoy her the most start teaching her the very things she needs to learn. Like how to stand up for herself. And how being scared can make you brave. And how sometimes you just have to get really, really lost before you can even have a hope of being found.

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I loved this book! I picked it up for two reasons: one, it reminded me of WILD by Cheryl Strayed (but fiction), and two, I have loved Katherine Center’s previous novels. This woman can write! She pulls you deep into the heart of her characters and has you not only routing for them every step of the way, but also learning things about yourself, as well. Her books and her writing always seems to have a hopeful, positive spin on life. Even when her characters are facing tough situations and their lives seem to be turned upside down, she brings that silver lining into every moment. Helen Carpenter was a relatable, likeable heroine and the love story wasn’t predictable, saccharine, or aggressive. This is the story of a woman discovering herself, discovering what she’s capable of and learning to love her life, even the ugly and difficult moments, because it all makes up a rich and interesting life. Brene Brown has written a quote for the cover of the book, “This wise, delicious, page-turning novel won’t let you go. Katherine Center writes about falling down, grwoing up, and finding love like nobody else.” I couldn’t agree more with her sentiments. Happiness for Beginners is thoughtful, sweet, and inspiring.

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11. Books To Pine For: THE HARDER THEY COME by T.C. Boyle

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SUMMARY:

Acclaimed New York Times bestselling author T.C. Boyle makes his Ecco debut with a powerful, gripping novel that explores the roots of violence and anti-authoritarianism inherent in the American character.

Set in contemporary Northern California, The Harder They Come explores the volatile connections between three damaged people—an aging ex-Marine and Vietnam veteran, his psychologically unstable son, and the son’s paranoid, much older lover—as they careen towards an explosive confrontation.

On a vacation cruise to Central America with his wife, seventy-year-old Sten Stensen unflinchingly kills a gun-wielding robber menacing a busload of senior tourists. The reluctant hero is relieved to return home to Fort Bragg, California, after the ordeal—only to find that his delusional son, Adam, has spiraled out of control.

Adam has become involved with Sara Hovarty Jennings, a hardened member of the Sovereign Citizens’ Movement, right-wing anarchists who refuse to acknowledge the laws and regulations of the state, considering them to be false and non-applicable. Adam’s senior by some fifteen years, Sara becomes his protector and inamorata. As Adam’s mental state fractures, he becomes increasingly schizophrenic—a breakdown that leads him to shoot two people in separate instances. On the run, he takes to the woods, spurring the biggest manhunt in California history.

As he explores a father’s legacy of violence and his powerlessness in relating to his equally violent son, T. C. Boyle offers unparalleled psychological insights into the American psyche. Inspired by a true story, The Harder They Come is a devastating and indelible novel from a modern master.

REVIEW:

Boyle’s brilliant new novel deals with right wing extremism and is based on one of the largest manhunts in California history. Vietnam vet Sten Stensen becomes a hero when he manages to disarm a robber on a bus who had been menacing elderly tourists. He comes home to find out that his son, Adam, has taken in with a woman who is the head of an anti-authoritarian movement. As Adam’s mind starts to go, he becomes schizophrenic and shoots two people. THE HARDER THEY COME is a riveting novel that will leave a lasting impression.

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco (March 31, 2015)

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12. National Book Award Finalists Announced

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And the finalists are…

Fiction:

An Unnecessary Woman” (Grove), by Rabih Alameddine, a Lebanese American artist who lives in San Francisco and Beirut. His novel tells the story of a reclusive translator in Lebanon.

All the Light We Cannot See” (Scribner), by Anthony Doerr. This historical novel set during WWII has been on The Post’s bestseller list for months and appeared on The Post’s mid-year list of “10 books we love, so far.

Redeployment” (The Penguin Press), a debut collection of stories by Iraq War vet Phil Klay, who is one of the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35authors for 2014.

Station Eleven” (Knopf), by Emily St. John Mandel, a staff writer at the Millions. This post-apocalyptic novel about a flu epidemic is one of the very few sci-fi novels that have ever been finalists for the NBA.

Lila” (FSG), by Marilynne Robinson. This companion to “Gilead” and “Home,” which won a Pulitzer Prize, tells the story of Rev. Ames’s wife.

The fiction judges are Pulitzer Prize-winning novelists Geraldine Brooks and Adam Johnson, California bookseller Sheryl Cotleur, literary critic Michael Gorra and National Book Award-winning novelist Lily Tuck. They considered 417 submissions.

 

Nonfiction:

(Courtesy of Bloomsbury)
(Courtesy of Bloomsbury)

 

Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?” (Bloomsbury), by Roz Chast, the first cartoonist to be a finalists in the Nonfiction category.

“No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War through Afghan Eyes” (Metropolitan), by Anand Gopal, a foreign correspondent and a fellow at the New America Foundation.

Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh” (Norton), by John Lahr, a former drama critic for the New Yorker and a Tony Award winner.

Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China” (FSG), by Evan Osnos, a staff writer for the New Yorker and former Beijing bureau chief for the Chicago Tribune.

“The Meaning of Human Existence” (Liveright), by E.O. Wilson, the biologist who has won two Pulitzer Prizes.

Young Adult:

(Courtesy of Nancy Paulsen)
(Courtesy of Nancy Paulsen)

 

“Threatened” (Scholastic), by Eliot Schrefer, who was an NBA finalist in 2012 for “Endangered.”

The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights” (Roaring Brook), by Steve Sheinkin, who was an NBA finalist in 2012 for “Bomb: The Race to Build and Steal The World’s Most Dangerous Weapon,” which was a Newbery Honor Book.

“Noggin” (Atheneum), by John Corey Whaley, who was a National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 Honoree for “Where Things Come Back” (2011).

Revolution: The Sixties Trilogy, Book II” (Scholastic), by Deborah Wiles, who was an NBA finalist in 2005 for “Each Little Bird That Sings.”

Brown Girl Dreaming” (Nancy Paulsen), by Jacqueline Woodson, who was an NBA finalist in 2002 for “Hush” and in 2003 for “Locomotion.”

The YA judges are authors Sharon Draper, Sherri Smith and Rebecca Stead; librarian Starr LaTronica; and bookstore owner Dave Shallenberger. They considered 294 submissions.

(Courtesy of Farrar Straus Giroux)
(Courtesy of Farrar Straus Giroux)

 Poetry:

“The Feel Trio” (Letter Machine Editions), by Fred Moten, co-founder of the literary press Three Count Pour. Letter Machine Editions, in Tucson, was founded just seven years ago and has published only about a dozen books.

“Citizen: An American Lyric” (Graywolf), by Claudia Rankine, an English professor at Pomona College.

The poetry judges are poets Eileen MylesKatie PetersonRowan Ricardo PhillipsPaisley Rekdal and Robert Polito, who is president of the Poetry Foundation. They considered 219 submissions.

Books written by U.S. citizens and published in the United States from Dec. 1, 2013, to Nov. 30, 2014, are eligible for this year’s National Book Awards.

{Information via Washington Post and Ron Charles}

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13. Olive Kitteridge Coming to TV

Here is your first glimpse of the HBO miniseries Olive Kitteridge based on the Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Elizabeth Strout. It looks stark, it looks honest, it looks raw and it looks beautiful. I love the tag line at the end of the trailer, “There’s no such thing as a simple life.” I think that just evokes such a heartfelt and honest sentiment. Isn’t that what we learn from superb novels? Isn’t that what we hope to see in great literature? I can’t wait to watch this miniseries (which airs on November 2nd and 3rd). I think I am going to read the book in anticipation for the movie.

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SUMMARY:

At times stern, at other times patient, at times perceptive, at other times in sad denial, Olive Kitteridge, a retired schoolteacher, deplores the changes in her little town of Crosby, Maine, and in the world at large, but she doesn’t always recognize the changes in those around her: a lounge musician haunted by a past romance; a former student who has lost the will to live; Olive’s own adult child, who feels tyrannized by her irrational sensitivities; and her husband, Henry, who finds his loyalty to his marriage both a blessing and a curse. 

As the townspeople grapple with their problems, mild and dire, Olive is brought to a deeper understanding of herself and her life–sometimes painfully, but always with ruthless honesty. Olive Kitteridge offers profound insights into the human condition–its conflicts, its tragedies and joys, and the endurance it requires.

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14. First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen

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 It has been a few years since we last heard from the incomparably talented Sarah Addison Allen. I absolutely adore her tales of magical realism and can’t wait to dive into First Frost! Sarah has a way of making you fall in love, head-over-heels in love, with stories and books. Her novels seem to capture that feeling you felt when you first connected with a book in a way that was truly magical. Perhaps it’s because she writes fairytales for adults, because she can distill specific emotions into just the right words at just the right time. I am really looking forward to First Frost and was delighted to see that it is a continuation from her debut novel, Garden Spells.

A magical new novel from the New York Times bestselling author of Lost Lake, featuring characters from her beloved novel Garden Spells. 

Featuring characters from her beloved novel, Garden Spells, Sarah Addison Allen’s new novel picks up ten years after that eventful summer when Claire Waverly’s wild half-sister Sydney returned to Bascom and Claire met her now-husband Tyler. Things have settled down and Claire finds she has slipped back into a place of tightly sequestered sameness. It’s comfortable. She likes it. But when her father Russell shows up he brings with him information that Claire doesn’t want to hear and that will challenge everything she thought she knew about herself. Filled with Sarah Addison Allen’s characteristic magic and warmth, this novel will reveal how the people who come into your life may not be the ones you expect, but they’re there for a reason. And they don’t change your one true voice, they make it louder.

FIRST FROST by Sarah Addison Allen

Release Date: January 20, 2015

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

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15. Bookfinds: The Dress Shop of Dreams by Menna Van Praag

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Every so often I will be posting about books that haven’t come out yet but that I am eagerly anticipating. One example is The Dress Shop of Dreams by Menna Van Praag. This book looks absolutetly delightful! So mark your calendars for December and get ready for a magical tale.

In the bestselling tradition of Alice Hoffman, critically-acclaimed author Menna van Praag makes her exciting Ballantine debut with this whimsical tale of buried secrets, hidden passions, and the undeniable power of love.

Etta Sparks’s cozy dress shop, tucked away at the end of a winding Cambridge road, is a magical place – anyone who steps inside the little blue door to glimpse the glorious silks and jewel-hued velvets can see they are someplace special. But only Etta knows the dresses she sells are actually magic – a few stitches from her needle and each gown imbues the wearer with the confidence to achieve whatever they set their mind too. The only two people the dresses don’t seem to work on are Etta, still nursing a heart broken 40 years ago, and her granddaughter Cora, who dedicated her life to science after her brilliant inventor parents died in a mysterious fire and doesn’t have time for things like magic or love. Determined to help Cora find happiness, Etta sews her magic stitch onto the shirt of Walter, the shy young man who works at the bookstore next door and has been in love with Cora for years. When she does, Etta sets in motion a surprising series of events, uncovering a lifetime of secrets that will change her granddaughter’s mind about love—and maybe even bring back something Etta thought she had lost forever.

THE DRESS SHOP OF DREAMS by Menna Van Praag

Release Date: December 2014

Publisher: Ballantine Books

 

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16. Bookfinds: Jennifer, Gwyneth & Me by Rachel Bertsche

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For fans of The Happiness Project and The Year of Living Biblically comes a pointed look at our fascination with celebrities, as one woman strives to remake herself in the image of her favorite stars.

What woman hasn’t seen pictures of Jennifer Aniston, Gwyneth Paltrow, or Beyoncé and wished she had their clothes, their abs, their seemingly flawless lives? For Rachel Bertsche, these celebrities are the epitome of perfection—self-assured and effortlessly cool. Yet lately, between juggling her career, her marriage, and her dream of becoming a mother, Bertsche feels anything but put together.

In Jennifer, Gwyneth & Me, Bertsche embarks on a quest to emulate her Hollywood role models—while sticking to a budget—to see if they really hold the keys to happiness. While trying to unlock the stars’ secrets, from Sarah Jessica Parker’s wardrobe to Julia Roberts’s sense of calm to—maybe one day—Jessica Alba’s chic pregnancy, Bertsche learns valuable lessons. A toned body doesn’t come easy or cheap, avoiding social media can do wonders for your peace of mind, and confidence is the key accessory for pulling off any outfit. But can she immerse herself in the A-list lifestyle and still stay true to herself? And will her pursuit of perfection really lead to happiness?

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17. Bookfinds: Scared Scriptless by Alison Sweeney

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Maddy Carson is a mass of contradictions. She loves her job as Script Supervisor on a hit TV show, but hates “Hollywood.” Super-organized and down-to-earth, Maddy is clearly one of the best at her job, and her strict dating rule – “No Actors!” – helps her keep focused on her career. However, a budding relationship with Craig, one of the executives at her company, may even propel her into the big leagues. Could Wolf County, her beloved hometown in the mountains, be saved from a financial crisis by creating a reality show featuring the eccentrics in the small ski village? Maddy is determined to try, even when she learns that Craig’s agenda doesn’t exactly line up with her altruistic goal.

Meanwhile, Maddy still has a full-time job to manage, her family to deal with, and a gorgeous new actor, Adam Devin, determined to wear down her resistance. Eventually Maddy must learn to break all her self-imposed rules and simply follow her heart.

Scared Scriptless offers an engagingly relatable heroine, laugh-out-loud humor, and a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at how television is made.

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18. Bookfinds: A Wedding in Provence by Ellen Sussman

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Ellen Sussman, nationally bestselling author of French Lessons, delivers a feast for the senses in A Wedding in Provence—a moving novel of love, forgiveness, and trust, set among the beaches and vineyards of southern France.

When Olivia and Brody drive up to their friend’s idyllic inn—nestled in a valley in the Mediterranean town of Cassis—they know they’ve chosen the perfect spot for their wedding. The ceremony will be held in the lush garden, and the reception will be a small party of only their closest family and friends. But when Olivia’s and Brody’s guests check in, their peaceful wedding weekend is quickly thrown off balance.

The first to arrive is Nell, Olivia’s oldest daughter from her first marriage. Impulsive and reckless, she invites a complete stranger to be her guest at the wedding—an enigmatic man who is both alluring and a bit dangerous. The next is Carly, Olivia’s youngest daughter, the responsible and pragmatic one. Away from her demanding job and a strained relationship, she feels an urgent need to cut loose—and for once do something brash and unpredictable. Then there is Jake, Brody’s playboy best man, and Fanny, Brody’s mother, who is coping with the fallout of her own marriage. And in the middle of it all is Olivia, navigating the dramas, joys, and pitfalls of planning a wedding and starting a new life.

A delicious, escapist, and utterly enchanting novel, A Wedding in Provence captures the complex and enduring bonds of family, and our boundless faith in love.

 

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19. Summer Reading: Emily Giffin’s THE ONE & ONLY

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In her eagerly awaited new novel, beloved New York Times bestselling author Emily Giffin returns with an extraordinary story of love and loyalty—and an unconventional heroine struggling to reconcile both.

Thirty-three-year-old Shea Rigsby has spent her entire life in Walker, Texas—a small college town that lives and dies by football, a passion she unabashedly shares. Raised alongside her best friend, Lucy, the daughter of Walker’s legendary head coach, Clive Carr, Shea was too devoted to her hometown team to leave. Instead she stayed in Walker for college, even taking a job in the university athletic department after graduation, where she has remained for more than a decade.

But when an unexpected tragedy strikes the tight-knit Walker community, Shea’s comfortable world is upended, and she begins to wonder if the life she’s chosen is really enough for her. As she finally gives up her safety net to set out on an unexpected path, Shea discovers unsettling truths about the people and things she has always trusted most—and is forced to confront her deepest desires, fears, and secrets.

Thoughtful, funny, and brilliantly observed, The One and Only is a luminous novel about finding your passion, following your heart, and, most of all, believing in something bigger than yourself . . . the one and only thing that truly makes life worth living.

 

 

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20. For The Chick Lit Newbie

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. Every week they post a new topic/top ten list and invite everyone to share their own answers. Here is my TOP TEN TUESDAY:

Top 10 Books I’d Give to Readers Who Have Never Read Chick-Lit!

 

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Watermelon by Marian Keyes

Marian Keyes can do no wrong. In my opinion all of her books are absolutely delightful and worth a read. But if you are looking for a starting off point, Watermelon was her first and it introduces readers to the Walsh family. This is a book I could certainly re-read (always a good sign)!

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For Better, for Worse by Carole Matthews

Once upon a time Kelly Ripa started a book club. It was short lived but it was so much fun to watch her have authors sit at a round table and discuss their work. She only picked “Chick Lit” titles and the conversations were so fun. I wish they did more of this type of programming on television today. Carole Matthews was one of Kelly’s first picks and ever since then I have always picked up her latest book. She is quite prolific and so much fun to read.

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Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella

Oh my god. I love these books. The movie doesn’t do them justice. And word has it that there is a NEW Shopaholic book scheduled for the fall. I. Can’t. Wait!

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Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner

I’m not sure how Jennifer Weiner would feel being put in the “chick lit” label. She has been very outspoken about women not receiving the same respect as their male counterparts and I really hope this doesn’t bother her. But honestly, I can’t make a favorite chick lit list and NOT include Jennifer Weiner. I will say that her writing is deep and authentic and her characters are flawed and wonderful. Chick lit, women’s fiction, literary fiction, fiction. Who cares how you label it as long as you read it and enjoy!

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Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding

Obviously this title goes without saying. What would a chick lit list be without our beloved Bridget? Fielding recently revisited Bridget in MAD ABOUT THE BOY. She did not disappoint. Many people were shocked by the current situation for Bridget, but the story rang true and I think Fielding did a fantastic job.

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See Jane Date by Melissa Senate

Harlequin had a book subscription service years ago (sort of like a book-of-the-month club) called Red Dress Ink. You could get a new chick lit title delivered to your door each month. It was so wonderful and every title was fantastic. I believe See Jane Date was the inaugural title so it holds a warm place in my heart.

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Jemima J by Jane Green

I love Jane Green. I love everything she writes. She’s brilliant and funny and smart. I just finished her latest, Tempting Fate, and she has yet to disappoint. Jemima J was her first and it has such a lovable heroine and a great story.

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The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank

This one topped bestseller lists across the country when it was released in 1998. Again, I think this was one of the earlier titles in the chick lit genre and really helped kickstart the public’s interest in the lives of single, spunky women.

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Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin

Emily Giffin’s books are delightful. They are fun to read and light and yet they always ask difficult questions. She puts her characters in compromising positions and you can’t turn the pages fast enough to find out how they are going to fix whatever mess they have gotten themselves into.

The_Devil_Wears_Prada_coverThe Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger

An inside look at the magazine world (specifically, VOGUE) by a woman who was there. Last summer the sequel, REVENGE WEARS PRADA, was released.

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21. Interview with Author Allison Winn Scotch on The Theory of Opposites

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Allison Winn Scotch‘s debut novel, The Department of Lost and Found, put her on the map as a smart and talented addition to the women’s fiction genre. She then followed up her stellar success with hits like Time of My Life and The One That I Want. Her high-concept novels take compelling plots (“What if you could go back in time and fix your mistakes? What if you woke up one day and all of your dreams had come true?”) and mixes them with well-drawn-out characters and realistic settings. In our interview, Allison talks about her latest novel, The Theory of Opposites. She discusses her decision to self-publish, the need for risk taking and the importance of finding your own voice.

Where did the idea or spark of inspiration come from for ‘The Theory of Opposites’?

I think it started by, well, just getting a little older and taking a look around and seeing some random, very difficult things happen to friends or people I know. Illness, accidents… things that none of us can prepare for and seem to happen at random. Parenthood certainly also played a role in my inspiration: As a mother, I like to think I can control everything that happens to my family, to me, in terms of keeping us safe and sound and happy and protected. But sometimes, life just happens… and whether that is fate or bad luck… that’s what I hoped to explore.

What was the most challenging aspect of writing ‘The Theory of Opposites?’

I took about a six-month break between writing the first few chapters and returning to the manuscript. I had almost lost my passion for writing due to outside pressures of the industry, and I sincerely thought that I was done with novel-writing completely. It was a hard time for me professionally: I really had to consider who I would be if I weren’t writing fiction, and I also had to decide how much my career contributed (or not) to my personal happiness. So this was certainly the most challenging aspect of the book: Do I write it at all? Did I want to put myself out there again? Slowly, over those six months, I gained some perspective and sort of re-strengthened my backbone, and eventually, I remembered this little book that I had started and left dwindling on my computer. I sat down and reread it, and it made me laugh and relit my passion. From there, honestly, the rest was pretty easy. I fell completely in love with these characters and just wanted to spend time with them every day. So I wrote almost daily and had a finished first draft (which then went through lengthy revisions!) within a few months.

What is the message you want readers to take away from your book?

That finding your own voice matters. That choice matters. That there is always an option to be your own best advocate. It’s probably not coincidence that this is the message of the book when I had to reteach myself that too.

You have been very public about your decision to go the independent publishing route. What has been the best and worst part of your journey?

Gosh, to be honest, and I’m not trying to be all Pollyanna-ish about this, but from start to finish, the experience has been almost entirely amazing. I was truly terrified of taking this route, but I also knew that, much like my answer above, if I didn’t, if I didn’t try to fix a system that had broken for me (traditional publishing), and I just sat around and complained about said broken system, that I’d be selling myself short. But to answer your question: I guess the best part of the journey has been the control that I now have over the book. Everything about this book was mine. The cover, the pricing, who I hired to work with me — the editors, the designers, all of that. It doesn’t mean that it has been perfect — I found some typos in the finished book and freaked out! (and corrected them) — but that ownership and the pride of ownership — is HUGE. In the past, I’ve filed a manuscript, and then it’s sort of ushered downstream by a team of people, some of whom are fantastic at their jobs, some of whom are not. But I just had to sit back and watch it go. No longer. I suppose the downside of indie publishing is that it is still very difficult to break into store space. In the past, I’ve had a presence at places like Target and Costco (and of course Barnes and Noble), and while we’ve had some initial conversations with these outlets, they are still unlikely to carry an indie book. So that stinks. Because of the low price point of Theory ($2.99), most of the book sales are e-books, which is totally fine, but it would be great to get the paperback out there in stores as well, not just via online outlets.

Describe your writing schedule. Do you outline? Any habits?

I don’t outline. I’ve tried that in the past, and it just does NOT work for me because I find myself backed into a corner with where I thought my characters should go… when in fact, they should go somewhere else entirely. I usually start with an idea — forTheory, it was: how much control do we have over our own lives — and then I develop my protagonist: who is she, how has she found herself in her current circumstances. And then, I just write. It sounds almost crazy, but this method works for me. When I’m writing a manuscript, I write every day except for weekends, though sometimes, I write then too. I like to take a long walk in the morning or go for a run, which always helps settle my brain and also fuel my creativity, and then by about 10 a.m., I sit down and just write, write, write for a few hours. If I’ve reached my designated word count for the day (somewhere between 1000 – 2000), I give myself permission to quit. Sometimes I do, sometimes, I don’t. But writing every day gets you in the habit of it, much like exercising every day. And then it doesn’t feel like a chore. And when I’m not working a manuscript, I surf a lot of gossip blogs. :)

What books are on your nightstand? What are you currently reading?

I have so many books that I’m dying to get to! I just bought Golden State by Michelle Richmond, The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick, and Before We Met by Lucie Whitehouse. Oh, and The Moon Sisters by Therese Walsh — just finished that, and it’s fantastic.

Which authors inspire you?

I have a long list of authors whose work has helped me over the years — everyone from Stephen King to Judy Blume to Jonathan Tropper to Nick Hornby to Laura Dave. But right now, authors who inspire me are those who are trying to challenge themselves a bit in their writing and their work: I love reading an author who surprises me. It doesn’t matter if they’ve written one book or 20. If I’m surprised by what happens and what I’m reading on the pages, it’s a home run.

What have you learned from this experience?

That taking a risk is worth it. In fact, this is really another big theme of the book too. There are so many times in our lives when it is just easier to accept the status-quo, to give into inertia, but for me, that wasn’t enough, and it wasn’t making me happy. If you want to make yourself happier, you have to work for it. There’s nothing wrong with that.

What is your advice for aspiring writers?

Keep writing; don’t think that your first draft is good enough… in fact, don’t think your fourth draft is good enough. Be open to constructive criticism: It works for a reason. Take your ego out of the equation: The best writers know that there is always room for improvement.

What are you working on now?

I’m actually working on some film stuff, which is fun because it’s a totally different experience and muscle. And I do celeb interviews for a few magazines, so I have a few of those in the pot. Oh my gosh, I moved to L.A. last year. How L.A. is this answer? :)

Find out more about Allison at her website and don’t forget to check out her blog for compelling information on the publishing industry.

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This interview originally appeared on The Huffington Post

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22. Interview with Author Susan Gloss on VINTAGE

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Susan Gloss is the author of the debut novel VINTAGE (William Morrow/HarperCollins), a charming story about friendship set in a vintage clothing shop. Each item of clothing has a story behind it and so do the women who find themselves drawn together in this emotionally complex and beautiful novel. Gloss let us into the world she created for VINTAGE and all the “what ifs” she found along the way.

Tell us the story behind the story. How did VINTAGE come to be?

The idea for the novel grew from many hours spent in thrift stores, antique shops, and flea markets. At first, I was buying a lot of items from those places, simply because they fascinated me–a box of baby clothes from the 1950s, a pair of Ferragamo shoes in a size I could never wear. At some point, my storage space and my cash flow couldn’t take this “fascination” anymore. So instead of compiling items, I began compiling the stories I imagined they contained. My husband and I joke that, if I hadn’t written VINTAGE, I would have ended up on the TV show Hoarders.

What was the most challenging aspect of writing VINTAGE?

Writing from multiple points of view. Each shift in viewpoint is also a shift in generation and background. There’s Violet, a divorced shop owner in her late thirties; April, a pregnant teenager; and Amithi, an Indian-American woman facing an empty nest. Getting each of these characters’ voices right, without letting one story drown out the others, was a balancing act.

What is the message you want readers to take away from your book?

At its heart, Vintage is a story about second chances. In our consumer culture, there’s an emphasis on whatever is new and flashy and unblemished. We use things up and throw them away. The same “use and toss” attitude ends up getting applied to people, too. With this novel, I wanted to explore the idea that a person’s history and imperfections make her beautiful, just like with a vintage gown.

Describe your writing schedule. Do you outline? Any habits?

My only true writing habit is coffee, and lots of it. I write whenever I can, wherever I can—early mornings, late nights, and weekends. I have a toddler at home, so I often have to get out of the house to make any real progress on a manuscript. I spend a lot of time at coffee shops and know what time all the ones in my neighborhood close.

What books are on your nightstand? What are you currently reading?

Right now I’m reading Bread & Butter by Michelle Wildgen, a novel about three brothers, two restaurants, and all the back of the house drama that unfolds when customers are out of earshot. I have to make sure I don’t pick it up on an empty stomach, though. The food descriptions are incredibly vivid.

Next up is Fallen Beauty by Erika Robuck, a historical novel about the poet Edna St. Vincent Millay. I’m a sucker for stories about the lives of writers.

Which authors inspire you?

Emma Donoghue for her incomparable ability to keep readers turning the pages, Jhumpa Lahiri for her heartbreakingly beautiful prose, Isabel Allende for the magical worlds she creates, and Helen Fielding for laugh-out-loud humor.

What have you learned from this experience?

Writing a novel is a solitary experience, but the process of launching it out into the world shouldn’t be. I’ve been lucky to be part of a group blog for first-time authors called The Debutante Ball. The blog is in its seventh year, and past members include bestselling authors Sarah Jio, Eleanor Brown, and Sarah Pekkanen. Every September the torch gets passed to a new batch of five debut authors. The group has been a lifeline for me while riding the ups and downs of publishing a first book. Each of the five “debs” posts once a week on the blog, but the real value takes place behind the scenes, where we have daily sanity checks via email.

What is your advice for aspiring writers?

My advice for writers comes from a Wallace Stevens quote I have framed next to my desk: “After the final no there comes a yes / And on that yes the future world depends.”

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

My grandfather told me that the most important skill is learning how to listen. He was right. And I’m still learning.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on a second novel, a standalone title set in the wine country of Spain. It’s slated to come out in summer of 2015.

Joan Didion famously explained that she writes “entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.” Why do you write?

I write because I have a very busy mind. I’m constantly asking “what if?” On the page, I can explore the “what ifs” in a productive way, rather than simply letting them spin around, gerbil-wheel style, in my head.

Susan Gloss

This interview originally appeared on The Huffington Post.

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23. Talking Books with Oprah

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24. The Ship of Brides by Jojo Moyes

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THE SHIP OF BRIDES by Jojo Moyes

 

1946. Four women from Australia are bound for England along with 650 other war brides on the HMS Victoria. This ship is not only transporting brides, but naval officers as well. Rules of honor, duty, and separation are strictly enforced but what happens within the confines of this ship will leave a lasting impact on all of their lives. A gorgeous historical novel told from the point of view of four unforgettable women; pregnant Margaret, wealthy Avice, teenage Jean and quiet Frances. Frances was by far my favorite character but I was fascinated by all of the women Jojo Moyes created. The Ship of Brides is based on real events, women traveling great distances by sea to meet up with their GI-husbands, most leaving their entire family behind for men they barely knew. Jojo Moyes is steadily becoming one of my favorite authors and the stories she weaves are absolutely stunning in detail with honest characters, captivating plots, and superb writing.

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25. The Summer Wind by Mary Alice Monroe

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The Summer Wind is the second book in Monroe’s Lowcountry Summer trilogy, following the New York Times bestselling The Summer Girls. This series is a poignant and heartwarming story of three half-sisters and their grandmother, who is determined to help them rediscover their southern roots and family bonds.

It’s midsummer and Eudora, nicknamed Dora, is staying at Sea Breeze, the family’s ancestral home on Sullivan’s Island. For years, Dora has played the role of the perfect wife and mother in a loveless marriage. Now her husband filed for divorce, her child is diagnosed with autism, and her house is on the market. Dora’s facade collapses under the weight of her grief and she suffers “broken heart syndrome.” Mamaw and the girls rally around Dora—but it’s up to Dora to heal herself as she spends the summer prowling the beach, discovering the secrets of the island and her heart. This is a summer of discovery for all the women of Sea Breeze. Carson returns from Florida to face life-changing decisions, Lucille confronts a health scare, and an unexpected visitor has Harper reconsidering her life’s direction.

When tropical storm winds batter the island, the women must band together and weather the tempest—both the one outside their windows and the raging sea of emotions within each of them. They must learn again what it means to be a sister. It is up to Mamaw to keep the light burning at Sea Breeze to guide the girls through the lies, the threats, and the rocky waters of indecision to home.

A great novel to help you keep those fleeting summer feelings alive and well as we approach fall and winter. Monroe easily transports her readers to a summer-state-of-mind. She also tackles very real, very poignant life issues. You will find yourself learning and growing through Dora’s journey. I could not put this one down!

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