REVIEW: MRS. FLETCHER, BY TOM PERROTTA

 

Eve Fletcher is trying to figure out what comes next. A forty-six-year-old divorcee whose beloved only child has just left for college, Eve is struggling to adjust to her empty nest when one night her phone lights up with a text message. Sent from an anonymous number, the mysterious sender tells Eve, “U R my MILF!” Over the months that follow, that message comes to obsess Eve. While leading her all-too-placid life—serving as Executive Director of the local senior center by day and taking a community college course on Gender and Society at night—Eve can’t curtail her own interest in a porn website called MILFateria.com, which features the erotic exploits of ordinary, middle-aged women like herself. Before long, Eve’s online fixations begin to spill over into real life, revealing new romantic possibilities that threaten to upend her quiet suburban existence.

Meanwhile, miles away at the state college, Eve’s son Brendan—a jock and aspiring frat boy—discovers that his new campus isn’t nearly as welcoming to his hard-partying lifestyle as he had imagined. Only a few weeks into his freshman year, Brendan is floundering in a college environment that challenges his white-dude privilege and shames him for his outmoded, chauvinistic ideas of sex. As the New England autumn turns cold, both mother and son find themselves enmeshed in morally fraught situations that come to a head on one fateful November night.

My Thoughts: Mrs. Fletcher is a story that delves into the lives of ordinary people, situations that could happen to anyone, and I love how the author often takes us to places that we don’t expect to go.

At first I wasn’t that interested in what was happening to Brendan, the college son, who was kind of a jerk, IMO. But then I started to see his perspective, probably because he was the only first person narrator throughout the novel. Could some of his actions stem from inexperience? Was he really as crude as he seemed, or had he simply had poor role models?

Then there was Eve, the attractive mother who was still struggling after her divorce, and now had an empty nest to ponder. As she starts spreading her wings, finding new people and situations to explore, I just knew that where she was going might end up being regrettable. Could her new addiction to porn lead her down questionable pathways? I also enjoyed how a middle-aged woman like Eve was navigating dating life for the first time after her divorce via social networking.

Supporting characters like Margo, the transgender professor; Amanda, the young woman who worked for Eve at the Senior Center; and Julian Spitzer, the young guy who had been bullied by Brendan in high school…all kept my interest as I followed along with their adventures and how their lives connected with Eve. A 5 star read.***An e-ARC came to me from the publisher via NetGalley.

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REVIEW: ONE GOOD THING, BY WENDY WAX

 

Before you can fix it up, you might have to tear it down…
 
Embroiled in a battle to regain control of their renovation-turned-reality TV show, Do Over, Maddie, Avery, Nikki, and Kyra find themselves holding tight to the frayed ends of their friendship and relationships.
 
Maddie must face the realities of dating a rock star once again topping the charts and dealing with her hapless ex-husband, while Avery is caught up in family drama even as she attempts to transform a tiny cottage into a home for the newly impoverished heiress who helped bankroll their last renovation. Put on bedrest, a hugely pregnant Nikki can’t quite believe love can last, or trust in her own maternal instinct. And Kyra, who has secretly put Bella Flora at risk in an attempt to salvage Do Over, must decide whether to accept a desperately needed bail out from her son’s famous father that comes with far too many strings attached…
 
But friendship is made for times like these, to keep each other—and their dreams—from crumbling.

My Thoughts: I have been a fan of this series from the very first book. An assorted cast of characters have remained at the core of these books, including One Good Thing. Supporting characters come and go, but the basic ones who were there from the beginning have kept me coming back for more.

Maddie is my favorite. For me, she is the glue that holds them together. Avery and Nikki each have their unique talents, and Kyra is good with the camera and the production end.

They have their men, although there are issues and conflicts threatening those relationships. Then, for Maddie, her newest man brings out a part of herself that she thought was gone. But he also taps into her insecurities. Not because of anything he does, but because of who he is. A handsome and famous rock star.

Kyra’s former relationship with a celebrity, who fathered her son, is never completely over, since he is in and out of their lives, despite his marriage to his co-star. Kyra sends mixed messages, allowing him to pull her strings, while vacillating between wanting him and rejecting him. I could understand her frustration and the pull she feels for him. But her behavior veers toward selfish and narcissistic, in my opinion, but perhaps she is simply too young and inexperienced to make good choices. She is keeping secrets and putting the others at risk by some of her decisions, which made her hard to like.

No matter how I felt for the characters individually, though, I was rooting for them in their attempts to turn their business and their lives around. I could not stop turning the pages, and while I had my eye trained on what I hoped would happen, there were still some surprises, which made the story another good thing. 5 stars.

***

CURL UP WITH “THE SECRET LANGUAGE OF SISTERS”

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Welcome to another Waiting on Wednesday event, hosted by Jill, at Breaking the Spine.

Every week, we gather around the blogosphere and search out the upcoming book releases, sharing our thoughts and blurbs.  Today, I am eager to feature an upcoming release from a favorite author.  I love spotlighting eagerly anticipated books!  

The Secret Language of Sisters, by Luanne Rice, will be released on 2/23/16.

 

 

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Blurb:  New York Times bestselling adult author Luanne Rice makes her dazzling YA debut with this gorgeous, unputdownable story of love, hope, and redemption.

When Ruth Ann (Roo) McCabe responds to a text message while she’s driving, her life as she knows it ends. The car flips, and Roo winds up in a hospital bed, paralyzed. Silent. Everyone thinks she’s in a coma, but Roo has locked-in syndrome — she can see and hear and understand everything around her, but no one knows it. She’s trapped inside her own body, screaming to be heard.

Mathilda (Tilly) is Roo’s sister and best friend. She was the one who texted Roo and inadvertently caused the accident. Now, Tilly must grapple with her overwhelming guilt and her growing feelings for Roo’s boyfriend, Newton — the only other person who seems to get what Tilly is going through.

But Tilly might be the only person who can solve the mystery of her sister’s condition — who can see through Roo’s silence to the truth underneath.

Somehow, through medicine or miracles, will both sisters find a way to heal?

***

I have enjoyed several adult books by this author, so I am eager to see what she will do with the YA genre.  What do you think?  Does it capture your interest?

***

REVIEW: EIGHT HUNDRED GRAPES, BY LAURA DAVE

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Georgia Ford grew up in the beautiful wine country of Sonoma County, California, and even though she left her family’s home to seek a different way of life, the values she learned at home formed the core of her. In LA, she is a real estate lawyer and her fiancé is an architect, but she has never forgotten her family and home.

So as her wedding day approaches, she is eager to enjoy the comfort of the family, with her parents, and brothers Finn and Bobby, and the celebration of the Last Harvest party that will happen just days before her wedding.

But on the day she is trying on her wedding dress for final alterations, she glances out the window and is stunned to see her fiancé Ben in a situation that will change everything. His secrets will alter the course of their lives. She flees the store, still wearing the wedding dress, and drives up to Sebastopol, expecting the comfort of the familiar home and family.

However, more secrets await her there, as she walks in on an unexpected series of events. Will Georgia find a way to face what has happened to her, and what is unfolding before her at the winery?

Eight Hundred Grapes: A Novel was a light and enjoyable read, with plenty of drama, especially the kind that occurs in families all the time, but in Georgia’s situation, everything seems to be happening at once. But could the events unfolding be a form of synchronization, something her father has always believed in? A coordination of events operating in union? Will everything that is happening signify that something better is just around the corner?

Narrated from Georgia’s first person perspective, the story flows back and forth in time, showing the beginnings of the vineyards and The Last Straw winery, and offering a glimpse of the characters in a variety of situations. Without revealing too much of the story’s details, I will simply say that I was not sure how everything would turn out, as there were some unexpected turns at the last minute, but as I reached the conclusion, I sighed with satisfaction. 4.5 stars.

REVIEW: HELLO FROM THE GILLESPIES, BY MONICA MCINERNEY

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Angela Gillespie has the perfect life…or at least it is according to her annual Christmas letter. And, for the most part, she has felt happy with her choices. But something has gone awry in the past year or so, leading to strange inexplicable feelings that suddenly come tumbling out as she types her annual letter. What if she told the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but?

Thirty years on a sheep station in Australia was not the life she had planned.

Why is Nick shut away in his office all the time? Who is Carol and why are they Skyping continuously about the Gillespie family reunion in Ireland? Why is Nick obsessed with sorting out his family tree? And why is Angela suddenly imagining the life she might have had? If only.

In the midst of her cathartic letter, an emergency happens, and she leaves it on the computer, unsent.

What occurs next will lead to a rollicking and sometimes painful aftermath, when something totally unplanned turns into unimaginable consequences. Helpful hubby decides to send it (without reading it, of course).

And now, each of her three oldest children have had meltdowns of various kinds and ended up back at home, Twins Victoria and Genevieve have their own special communications and exclude their younger sister Lindy, much to her chagrin. Her whininess is unbelievably annoying, and as she sits sewing cushions and imagining her success, she becomes more than a little bit adolescent-like. Young Ig, who is ten, is the only one who truly should be behaving as a child, but he has a precocious nature that makes him seem odd to the others. And he has an imaginary friend.

Hello From the Gillespies feels like a family saga as it unfolds in layers and as we watch the characters deal with the lives they ended up with and as they learn to make the best of things. But then tragedy truly does strike, and everything does change even more in ways that none of them could have anticipated.

A story that takes the reader away into family moments they might recognize, with the sibling rivalries and sparring to the gradually changing relationships between the parents, and we also see how life chisels away at the bonds until it will take something dramatic to bring them all back to one another. Five stars.

REVIEW: HIDDEN, BY CATHERINE MCKENZIE

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When a life is abruptly interrupted due to a sudden death, those left behind must struggle to piece together unanswered questions, while grieving for the loss.

Jeff Manning had just started walking home from work after a difficult day, focused on what had happened and blinded by the sun in his eyes, when he is struck by a car and killed.

His wife Claire learns about the accident right away, but Jeff’s colleague Tish, who lives in another city, hears nothing and wonders about the unanswered texts she has sent him. By the time she learns of his death on the following Monday, she has spent a frantic weekend wondering and worrying.

Hidden is a story about relationships, mistakes, forbidden emotional connections, and secrets that linger long afterwards. The story is narrated in alternating viewpoints, including Jeff’s, which takes us back to events that happened before his death and lends his perspective to a story that had me questioning everything. As we soon learn, in bits and pieces, there is always more to the story than what appears on the surface. And each person has a different view. The suspense builds as we try to piece it all together for ourselves.

Meanwhile, the author reveals the family dynamics in each of the households: Tish, her husband Brian, and her pre-adolescent daughter Zoe, are all struggling with issues that have nothing to do with Tish and Jeff, and they, too, are in the dark. Keeping secrets can be a very difficult thing to do under the best of circumstances, but in the aftermath of a death, emotions run high.

Claire has to deal with her son’s grief, as well as coming face-to-face with her ex-boyfriend Tim, who was also Jeff’s brother. These dynamics add another layer to the story.

I thoroughly enjoyed the story, since the writer’s style had me guessing throughout; at the end, there were still many questions and only a few answers, but I loved the journey. Definitely a five star read for me.

REVIEW: THE BOOKSTORE, BY DEBORAH MEYLER

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When Esme Garland leaves England for a Ph.D. scholarship at Columbia, in New York, her life is mapped out before her.What she doesn’t count on is how her life is thrown into chaos after she meets Mitchell, a professor at a private school, and a member of a wealthy family. Then when she becomes pregnant, and when Mitchell walks out on her, I said to myself: “Good riddance to bad rubbish.”

She finds a part-time job at The Owl, a neighborhood bookstore, and soon becomes immersed in the life of the staff, the customers, and the neighborhood. It is a small, untidy place chock full of books that almost topple, but lend their own special ambience to the place. George is the owner, and Luke is a laconic assistant who slowly becomes a good friend. It is a neighborhood place for homeless people and other eccentric individuals who frequent it, not necessarily to buy books, but to linger.

Just as Esme starts to find her own niche, and has settled into her routines, Mitchell wants back into her life.

But can she trust him, since he left before by saying he didn’t want her? Is he playing some kind of game that has more to do with his family than her? How will his demands on her change her plan for her life? And how will she resolve these issues?

I found it difficult to put up with Esme’s inability to see through Mitchell, and I especially could not stand him, his behavior, or his attitudes. There were so many red flags that I, the reader, could see…but naturally, the characters have their own perspective. The fact that they were all “people” at whom I could yell when they did not do as I thought they should, and the fact that I regularly tried to “warn” them of pitfalls, was definitely a testament to the strength of the characters. Even when I didn’t like what they were doing, I could not stop reading.

I liked how the true importance of the shop in the lives of the people who entered its doors stood out as a reminder that, despite the transitory nature of bookstores in this day and age, this particular shop was precious to those who loved it.

I liked how the story ended, and even though The Bookstore was more about the relationships of the people that came through the place, sometimes settling in for a bit, it was also a backdrop for their lives and their friendships. 4.0 stars.

A CONTEMPORARY PERSPECTIVE ON DATING — A REVIEW

As Renee Greene approaches her thirtieth birthday, still single and not in a viable relationship, she and another friend, Mark, decide to give online dating a try.

Their experiences range from funny to horrific, with humiliation showing up all too often.

Even as Renee optimistically approaches each connection, open to the possibilities, she is also wary because of all the relationship “failures” of her life thus far.

Click: An Online Love Story is told completely through e-mails between Renee, her friends Shelley, Mark, and Ashley, and the potential dates.

It took awhile to get into the flow of this kind of story-telling. And then I did. But as I finally started to feel connected to the style, something happened midway through the book, and I lost the flow. It became difficult to focus, and I kept having to check back to see who each e-mail was to and from. There were a barrage of e-mails, with varying addressees, which felt confusing; my eyes started to cross.

The story and the characters were likeable, and I could relate to most of them. I think I would have found a combination of e-mails and ordinary story-telling more reader-friendly; but for those readers who can handle the format, I would recommend this very contemporary perspective on dating. I also liked the little surprise twist at the end leading to a “feel good” conclusion. 3.5 stars.

FINDING A SAFE HAVEN — A REVIEW

 

 

 

When Jayne Sullivan headed to a small town in Maine, she was determined to capture images of a reclusive artist. But almost from the very first moments after her arrival, nothing is turning out to be what she expected.

First she is captivated by a mysterious handyman, Reed Kimball, and then she begins to discover various townspeople who seem to vary from unfriendly to strange.

While sorting out the events as they unfold, and before she can catch her breath, she is abducted and held prisoner in a damp basement, with no hope that she’ll ever escape. Her captor wears a mask and a cloak, and all she can see is a pair of intense blue eyes.

Fortunately, she is trained in martial arts and is able to break free, using skill and the element of surprise. But her journey toward finding the answers to the strange goings-on in this frightening town are only beginning. And never mind ever finding the artist who is definitely determined to hide.

Who can she trust and what can she know to be true? Suddenly everyone starts to look like the potential abductor and any pair of blue eyes could be those of her captor. Can she even believe in the goodness in Reed, who rescued her on the road after her escape?

All of the characters in Midnight Exposure seemed potentially suspect, including law enforcement. Even as I started to figure out who might have targeted Jayne and several others, I was thrown a curve at the end of this exciting page-turner that was a great mix of mystery and romance. As much as I enjoyed this book, I had trouble liking most of the characters. The author’s ability to evoke emotions with her characterizations is a plus. The motivations that drove the killer stretched credibility, however, so I’m awarding this one four stars. Recommended for fans of suspense and romance.

THE SLIPPERY NATURE OF MEMORY — A REVIEW

Both the title and the opening lines drew me in immediately, as I knew that this would be a tale about family secrets and the cost of keeping them.

Drowning Ruth [Hardcover] begins in 1919, with Amanda Starkey’s role as a nurse during the war. But from there, we weave in and out of periods of time, both backward and forward, learning the story of Amanda and her sister Mathilda, who drowned mysteriously one night in November later that year, and the subsequent journey of Mathilda’s daughter Ruth.

The details are slipped in during these moments of reflection, like “doses” of medicine surreptitiously fed to a resistant patient. Later we hear Ruth’s voice, as she ages, from the confused thoughts about family events and drowning to later moments of increasing clarity. For Ruth is convinced that she drowned.

We can see from the beginning that the relationship between Amanda and Mathilda (Matty) is conflicted. There is a close bond–they are almost enmeshed–and yet the rivalry is readily apparent.

Other important characters are brought forth almost casually, like Clement Owens: his role in Amanda’s life will not be apparent for awhile.

What really happened to Mathilda Starkey, and what secrets have kept Amanda from moving on? How does the truth eventually come out, and what ramifications will unfold?

In some ways, the slipping back and forth through time felt confusing, and yet it also seemed appropriate. Like floating thoughts that slip in and out of our minds, these snippets seemed to show us the nature of memories.

I had hopes that Ruth would finally detach from the enmeshed relationship with Amanda, but alas: she seems to become the clone of her aunt, falling into her same patterns, living on the farm like a recluse. An emotionally disturbing story, I know that I won’t forget it. Four stars.