REVIEW: BRIDGES, BY MARIA MURNANE

 

It’s a piece of news Daphne never expected to hear: Her globe-trotting friend Skylar, who vowed never to get married, is engaged! Time to celebrate in Manhattan—Skylar’s treat, of course. After years scaling the corporate ladder, she can more than afford it.

Daphne arrives in NYC with news of her own—the novel she’s finally finished appears to be going nowhere but the trash bin of every publishing house around. She’s devastated but plans to keep her disappointment under wraps, something that becomes trickier when she sees Skylar’s spectacular apartment. Could her life have been like this if she’d chosen a different path?

What Daphne doesn’t know is she’s not the only one with a secret. Skylar and their friend KC are also holding something back, but what? As the trip unfolds, the truth about each woman emerges, along with tears.

And laughter. And love.

My Thoughts: Who doesn’t love a great friends’ weekend? I definitely couldn’t wait to curl up with these three college friends for a Manhattan getaway, to celebrate something special, and to reconnect.

Bridges was the kind of story that resonated with me, as I have always enjoyed the special connections that I’ve felt with college friends. Add in the perfect setting of Manhattan, and there is nothing better. Girl talk, sharing secrets, and even trying new things.

Daphne was my favorite character, primarily because she was a single mother and an aspiring author. I loved watching her experience her first trip to Manhattan. I could see Skylar’s world from her perspective, including visualizing the fabulous apartment that she shared with her fiancé James. I walked the streets with her and her friends. From the Brooklyn Bridge to the cute boutiques and flea markets, I felt as though I was along for the ride.

I was a little intimidated by Skylar, and even by her soon-to-be stepdaughter Sloane…until one night when Daphne lost her cool and let Skylar have it. It was inevitable that old feelings of envy might creep into their moments together, but those conflicts made them all feel very real. When envy reared its head, the air was cleared and they grew even closer.

Events unfolded in unexpected ways, and by the end of the weekend, I wanted more. More of the friends and their unique connection, and more about Daphne’s writing experiences. 5 stars.

***My e-ARC came to me from the author/publisher via NetGalley.

***

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REVIEW: TUESDAY NIGHTS IN 1980, BY MOLLY PRENTISS

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The Manhattan art scene at the beginning of a new decade, the 1980s, is the premise of Tuesday Nights in 1980. We meet the main characters at different points in their lives, finally zeroing in on them as they navigate the new decade and struggle to express their art.

We are first introduced to Raul Engales, who has emigrated from Argentina, and then catch a glimpse of James Bennett and his wife Marge, as they join in with others for a New Year’s celebration at an art aficionado’s loft.

We see what each of their lives were like before, via flashbacks, and then we come to understand their particular gifts, which are unique. James’s synesthesia expresses itself via color, which is how he experiences his world, and how he interprets art through his column in the New York Times. Raul’s expression takes another form, but which surprisingly catches the attention of some gallery owners.

Enter Lucy Marie Olliason, who arrived a few months earlier from Ketchum, Idaho, and we see how her journey to Manhattan has been a fervent desire for years. I especially enjoyed watching her put her new life together…and then saw how she met up with Raul.

But things change, and just when everyone seemed firmly set on his or her path, a tragedy changes everything. How they each react to and inform their lives afterwards formulates the rest of their story.

While I enjoyed some of the stories and vignettes that gave us a peek into this unique world, the story plodded along for me, and I lost interest halfway through. I liked Lucy the most, and occasionally, James. Raul was a character with whom I did not connect, despite several instances that might ordinarily elicit my interest.

For me, this book earned three stars.

REVIEW: KATWALK, BY MARIA MURNANE

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Katrina Lynden’s staid and stable life in Mountain View, CA, has left her feeling miserable. As an accountant at an advertising firm, she is doing what was expected of her by her parents. Utilizing the skills she learned in college.

But something is missing from her life, and the structure that guides her each day is starting to feel like a noose.

So when Kat’s best friend Deb suggests that they quit their jobs and go to New York for a couple of months, for an adventure, she agrees. Even though her parents are horrified and advise against it.

Everything is all set, from giving notice to subletting an apartment in the East Village.

So when Deb cancels at the last minute because her company offered an astonishing promotion if she doesn’t leave, Katrina is forced to make a new plan.

Can she go it alone in New York? How will the shy, retiring persona she has inhabited for so many years take on such a challenge? And will she learn how to transform her life, even as she delights in her new experiences?

Katwalk is a fun venture outside the comfort zone, and I loved how the author took the reader along for the ride. Through Katrina’s eyes (dubbed Kat by her New York friends and neighbors), we see her new world as she experiences it, from the coffee house in the neighborhood to the yoga studio nearby. Rediscovering a long buried desire to paint, Kat is truly expressing a new incarnation as she evolves from the frightened young woman she once was.

Just as I suspected how things might unfold, it was still fun to watch it happen. A delightful character, Kat could be someone we all know and love. 4.0 stars.

EXPLOSIVE TIMES: A PORTRAIT OF 1960’S MANHATTAN — A REVIEW

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When P. I. Alex Novalis takes a case of a missing eighteen-year-old girl, Lydia Kravitz, he expects it will be a mundane matter. After all, he suspects she is with her artist boyfriend Jerry Pedrosian, a radical who is a rabble rouser.

The time is 1968 and the setting is Manhattan. Good Girl, Bad Girl (Alex Novalis) is narrated in the first person voice of Alex Novalis, who reveals his liberal leanings and his knowledge of the art world. However, he doesn’t seem that adept at investigating, moving along in a rambling way, reaching out for help from characters like Lydia’s friend Andrea, who appears to be playing games and withholding more than she reveals. Others are doing the same. And before the story ends, disaster and danger for all may be right around the corner.

At times, I enjoyed the conversational tone of the narrator, and how adeptly he painted the scenes of the counter-culture times, but when he described his investigation, he appeared to be “telling” a rambling tale of a somewhat lackadaisical journey. At these times, the story fell flat for me. I didn’t like any of the characters and, except for the scenes that depicted Manhattan in the sixties, there was little to engage me. Three stars.

GLITZY TABLOID TALE — A REVIEW

In a way, reading Hot Property: A Novel was a bit like leafing through the pages of tabloid magazines. It definitely offered more than a peek into the glamorous lifestyles of the wealthy New Yorkers, especially those in the market for very expensive property.

The story showcases The Chases, who own a real estate company that caters to those wealthy clients. Elizabeth, the matriarch, is bookended by her lookalike daughters Kate and Isabel (one dark, one blond). And their cute little dogs go with them everywhere.

Sometimes I wanted to turn away, as if I might overdose on the splendor of it all, but I kept turning those pages. Because, despite the glitz and glamor, there were intriguing little morsels tucked away: Teddy Wingo, a man who is up to no good; and a very strange Countess, Delphine, who looks at all kinds of properties, but never seems to buy anything. But always sends Isabel delightful goodies after each showing, thus keeping her appetite whetted.

The descriptions of the property were matched only by the wonderful dining establishments, the clothes, and the shoes. By the time I reached the final page, and finally satisfied my curiosity about Teddy Wingo and Delphine, I was quite ready for it to be over, though. I was especially annoyed by the endless descriptions of characters that looked like one or another movie star. Please! Describe the character, don’t take the lazy way and toss in a movie star lookalike. The first or second or even third time, it was kind of cute. After awhile, not so much.

Nevertheless, because the story was somewhat captivating and there was a bit of a plot, and the writing voices were believable, I’m giving this one four stars.