We're posting some reviews at our Amazon account, as either they've been sitting in queue for a while and deserve their time in the sun, fall under our new featuring policy, or they're new reads that we couldn't wait to post at the blog. You can check them out at the links below. Hope we can help you find your next favorite book!
When I think of addiction, I think of the classics: Alcohol. Drugs. Maybe even sex. I certainly don’t think of love. And, yet, that’s exactly the addiction with which Shary Hauer struggles.
Insatiable: A Memoir of Love Addiction is Hauer’s account of her decades’ long battle with that very addiction, a compulsion that has shaped and touched every corner of her life, one she can trace back to a young age, one she can identify but with which she continues to battle. With heart and candor, Hauer offers us a glimpse of what it’s like to literally be addicted to something so basic and necessary, so organic and seemingly simple. Something many find, but not usually at the cost Hauer has paid.
I’ll admit it: I approached Insatiable with some skepticism. Love addiction? Really? But Hauer anticipated such doubt, and early in her story, she confirms: “The tricky part about love addiction, unlike alcohol, drug, and other addictions, is that people don’t take it seriously. They don’t think of it as a bona fide addiction. I didn’t.” Yet, as I read, as Hauer shared and explained, my skepticism faded, replaced with the greedy curiosity of someone reading someone else’s diary – and with the drive of a reader handed a beautifully crafted work. Indeed, I devoured Insatiable.
And if I’m being honest, I identified with much more of Hauer’s story than I’d have ever imagined. Though I don’t meet the definition of a love addict, I could truly feel myself in Hauer’s story, particularly as to her craving for the excitement of a new, blossoming love. Who hasn’t relished the rush of feeling pretty, special, and desired, the feelings that almost always seem to flow from a new relationship? But Hauer has taken her need for that spark to a whole new level. She says it best:
"My high was the anticipation, the fantasy, the romance, the rush of a new relationship. I got into and stayed in relationships not because I fell in love with the man but because I craved being wanted. I needed a man in order to be more of a woman. When I wasn’t in a relationship, I felt dead. I perked up, resuscitated, looked better, talked better, and felt better when there was promise of a new relationship. The anticipation of fresh love. A fresh source of adoration. It was never really about the man."
I most enjoyed reading about Hauer’s relationships, seeing for myself the ways in which her addiction affected the very thing she wanted most: love and affection, companionship and intimacy. There’s John and Patrick, Byron and Vernie, James and Doug. More than once, as Hauer dove into yet another relationship, I found myself yelling at her, wanting to warn her she was walking into the fire or, at the very least, repeating the cycle that had cost her so dearly in the past.
Not only did I enjoy Hauer’s story, I also grew quite fond of her. Addiction aside, Hauer is a really interesting person, to say the least. She’s self-aware, funny, and smart. She has built a successful business from the ground up; a career she loves, which is no easy feat. She enjoys her life despite her addiction. And, although one might assume otherwise, Hauer is a strong woman, one set on working through her own “stuff,” never trying to take the easy way out by blaming everything on someone else. There’s no pity party here. There are only hard-learned lessons and the bravery of a woman willing to confront her addiction with the hoope that maybe, just maybe, next time she will get it right, next time she will fall in love with a man for who he is and not for the “fix” he provides. In my heart, I wish Hauer nothing more than this. Thanks to Shary Hauer for the book in exchange for an honest review.
Love and lust to the beautiful allure of France,Losing the Light by Andrea Dunlop was everything required to hook you from the first scene. This being Dunlop's debut novel it's nothing short from stunning. From the beautiful setting to the complex and layered characters, Losing the Light is a lovely treat that will grab your heart and thrill you at the same time.
Brooke is happily living in New York City with her fiancee. She receives an invite to attend a party and she can see from the details this party involves a man from her past. This man, Alex, is someone who she has tried to forget about and all the memories he encompasses. As she runs into him at the party he does not recognize her at first but connection between them is palpable. This feeling of emotion transports Brooke back to France, a time where she was caught up in a web of friendship, betrayal, love and seduction.
The story takes you through the past and the complicated friendship of Brooke and Sophie, a beautiful, wealthy girl who is everything Brooke isn't. Together they embark on a semester abroad in tempting France where they indulge in the lifestyle and the culture. While there, they meet Alex and are taken into his life of luxury and wonder. With Alex and his circle of friends life is exciting and carefree. Brooke starts to develop feelings for Alex as does he, but she can't seem to escape the shadow of Sophie. This new friendship of three is everything Brooke has ever wanted but at times the ruin of her time in France. From the sparkling coasts to the seductive nights of indulgence, Brooke starts to discover everyone is not what they seem.
Losing the Light is one not to be missed. If you are craving a little getaway that has all the things we long for, then this is it! Dunlop writes so beautifully about friendships and love against a picture perfect setting only her words could do justice. This is a perfect debut for her as I am sure we will see lots of amazing things from her. I am thinking maybe even a revisit to these characters as they are unforgettable and will have you guessing until the twist-worthy ending.
Thanks to Atria for the book in exchange for an honest review.
Losing the Light is part of BookSparks' "My Winter is Booked Tour." Enter to win this book, along with the other three on the tour and some swag by February 29th!
Courtney Marzilli is a book blogger and beauty junkie. She's always had a love for reading and hopes to share this love through her blog. Her favorite genres are women's lit, mysteries and pop culture non-fiction. When her nose is not buried in a book, she is off on adventures with her family near the Boston area. You can find Courtney at her blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Today we're pleased to feature Amy Koppelman, whose latest novel, Hesitation Wounds was recently published. She's here as part of Hello...Chick Lit's blog tour to answer some questions for us. Hello...Chick Lit is also giving away THREE print copies of Hesitation Wounds for readers in the US and/or Canada as part of this tour. Amy Koppelman is the author of two critically acclaimed novels, A Mouthful of Air and I Smile Back. She received her undergraduate degree from University of Pennsylvania, and an MFA in fiction from Columbia University. Koppelman and her screenwriting partner adapted I Smile Back for the screen. The film, starring Sarah Silverman, premiered at the 2015 Sundance, Toronto and Deauville Film Festivals. Amy lives in New York City with her family. She is an outspoken advocate for women’s mental health. Visit Amy at her website and on Twitter.
Synopsis of Hesitation Wounds: Dr. Susanna Seliger is a renowned psychiatrist who specializes in treatment-resistant depression. The most difficult cases come through her door, and Susa is always ready to discuss treatment options, medication, and symptom management but draws the line at engaging with feelings. A strict adherence to protocol keeps her from falling apart.
But her past is made present by one patient, Jim, whose struggles tear open Susa’s hastily stitched up wounds, revealing her latent feeling that she could have helped the people closest to her, especially her adored, cool, talented graffiti-artist brother.
Spectacularly original, gorgeously unsettling,HESITATION WOUNDS is a novel that will sink deep and remain—like a persistent scar or a dangerous glow-in-the-dark memory.
What is your favorite compliment you've received about your writing.
I think the favorite compliment I ever received came from a psychiatrist who emailed me after my first book came out. She wrote to say that she had a patient in the throes of Postpartum Depression who desperately needed medication but her patient's husband and mother where dead set against it. They simply couldn't wrap their heads around why their wife and daughter would need "to take medicine for having a baby". Anyway, the psychiatrist went on to say that she gave each of them a copy of A Mouthful of Air and told them to read it-that maybe after reading it they would understand. And then did! After they read it they understood that PPD is an illness and together they were able to get the new mom to take medication. I couldn't believe it. My novel helped someone.
Often, even now, three books in, I wonder why I write. No, I know why I write but I question why I bother trying to get what I write published. I don't have a huge audience which is to say I'm not very successful as far as book sales are concerned. I'm not sure if that's because the subject matter I write about is hard or because I'm always published on independent presses (because my novels are deemed "too dark" by the mainstream presses). I may never know the reason my novels don't get much exposure so when I get down I remind myself that book sales, while they'd be nice-are not the metric by which I should judge success or failure. All that matters is that I keep the faith that over time the people who need my books find them. Each and every time someone emails me to tell me how one of my novels helped them-or shows interest in reviewing a book- well it gives me a sense of purpose, a reason to continue writing. Which makes this a good time to thank you for reading and reviewing Hesitation Wounds. This book is very close to my heart. I hope it resonated with you.
What is some constructive feedback you've found helpful?
The best constructive feedback I've gotten (and what I tell writers) is to write what you write. What I mean by this is don't try to "game" the market. If a collection of linked short stories is all the rage that doesn't mean that you should change your novel into a collection of linked sort stories. Don't try to figure out what the next "big thing" is going to be. If you're writing fiction, in particular literary fiction, hold steadfast to the story you want to tell and tell it the way you want to tell it.
What is your usual writing routine?
Oh gosh, people always ask me this and I really don't have a good answer. I'm lousy insofar as routine goes. Some days I write all day. Other days I don't write at all. The only thing that I do consistently-is when I write I write from the purest part of myself. I don't care about how it will be accepted or not accepted. Writing, for me, comes from the purest part of my heart.
Which authors have inspired you?
There are so many writers that inspire me. I guess the writers that inspire me the most are the honest writers, the ones who don’t/who aren’t scared to show the worst parts of themselves in their work. Anna, my teenage daughter, really inspires me. She writes with abandon – with a ferocity-a determination to seek and articulate her truth…When I catch a glimpse of her sitting on her bed, laptop on her lap, clinking away at the keys mining her thoughts and feelings I remember why it is I became a writer in the first place. The purity of her intention makes me feel like I’ve become calculating in my work-that I have started to think about what will resonate and that’s not what it’s about—certainly not what it should be about. The good news is every so often she will ask me what so and so will think of something she’s written or if this essay is as good as the last one and I think-well, see, she does care about other peoples’ opinions which makes me feel slightly less jaded!
As far as professional writers/novelists go well some of my favorite are: Carver, Yates, Bowles, Wharton, Petterson, Salinger, Roth, Karr, Canin, Paley, Percy, Styron. I have been trying to learn a little about poetry. Right now I’m reading a book of poems by Zbigniew Herbert that are blowing my mind. Check out one of them here.
And of course there are the playwrights: Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, Eugene O’neil -- doesn’t get better than that.
If Hesitation Wounds was made into a movie, who would you cast in the lead roles?
I recently finished the adaptation and am about ready to send it out. I've held back because I'm trying to make a list of actors that can play her from ages 17-45 . So far it's a very, very short list. If you have any suggestions, feel free to send them my way.
What is something that always makes you laugh?
Laugh? Hmm. Oh I know! The television show Scandal. I chuckle at least once an episode. Sometimes I laugh because a scene is actually funny. Sometimes I laugh because a line of dialogue is just so badass I can't believe it. Sometimes I laugh at the absurdity of a situation. Whatever it is I can pretty much guarantee you'll find me smiling at the end of an episode.
What TV show were you too young to appreciate when it originally aired but would totally watch as an adult?
A couple years ago I re-watched the first season of Dallas and wow! I mean I remembered that Victoria Principal was gorgeous but not just how gorgeous. And Bobby and JR Ewing. Oh my gosh Sue Ellen! I highly recommend it especially if you have a day or two to binge watch it.
Thanks to Amy for visiting us and Hello...Chick Lit for including us on her blog tour, as well as sharing her book with our readers. ~Interview by Melissa Amster
How to win: Use Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway. If you have trouble using Rafflecopter on our blog, enter the giveaway here.
We love the last name of the author whose book we're featuring today because it starts with "chick." (And her first name is cool for all fans of another author named V.C....) Check out Nookietown, the debut novel of V.C. Chickering that just published yesterday! Thanks to St. Martin's Press, readers in the US and/or Canada have THREE chances to win!
A funny, emotional and at times racy novel about a service connecting married men (with their wives' consent!) and divorced women. TV rights already sold to Warner Brothers! Nookietown is the story of two friends-Lucy, divorced, and Nancy, long-time married, and what happens when Nancy asks Lucy to sleep with her husband to save the marriage. Together they discover that most of the wives in town are bored of having sex with their husbands. It seems they wish someone else would jump in once and a while and take up the slack, someone they could trust to not break up their marriage but occasionally satisfy the imbalance of desire. The husbands in town would give anything for a little sexual variety, and the divorcees in town are crazy-horny but striking out online and don't want a serious commitment. Lucy, Nancy and their friends embark on a barter business arrangement with other adventurous wives and divorcees in town wherein the wives sub-contract the divorcees of their choosing to sleep with their husbands. The divorcees are vetted to make sure they have no interest in breaking up marriages and the wives get to decide how often, with whom, and what will and won't transpire. It's a win-win-win. For a little while. Then it all goes to hell in a hand-basket. Nookietown is a racy romp that pushes buttons. It's about married sex, divorced sex, monogamy, infidelity, truth, desire and shifting allegiances between friends. But most importantly, it's funny. Ask yourself, "Would I sign up for The Program?" Then ask your friends if they would. Your friends may surprise you. You may even surprise yourself!
V.C. Chickering has written for Comedy Central, MTV, Lifetime, TLC, Discovery, NickMom and Oxygen television networks as well as for BUST, Cosmopolitan, and The Washington Post magazines. She's written screenplays; has a local newspaper column entitled "Pith Monger;" and a blog. She lives in New Jersey with her family where she also writes and performs witty, original songs for the alt-bluegrass/indi-jazz band, Tori Erstwhile & The Montys. Visit V.C. at her website, Facebook, and Twitter.
How to win: Use Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. If you have trouble using Rafflecopter on our blog, enter the giveaway here.
Any Smashfans here? If so, you'll recognize the name Theresa Rebeck, as she created the show. Her novel, I'm Glad About You, is out today for your reading entertainment! Thanks to Putnam, we have THREE copies to share with some lucky US readers!
In I’M GLAD ABOUT YOU, Rebeck introduces Alison Moore and Kyle Wallace, former high school sweethearts in Ohio. Growing up, they spent six volatile years in alternating states of misery and bliss thanks to Kyle’s mid-fifties’ Catholic values and Alison’s pragmatic determination to shed her Midwestern roots. Despite their fiery physical attraction to each other, Alison broke Kyle’s heart a half-dozen times before they finally called it quits. Intense and ambitious, Alison then headed to New York to make it as an actress, while the quietly introspective Kyle went off to medical school and into pediatrics with noble dreams of tending to children in third world countries. But even as fate drives these mismatched souls forward and apart, each finds it tough to let go of the past. After countless dispirited auditions, Alison gets a lucky break landing a small role on a nighttime soap. Soon she’s television’s “it” girl and on the fast track to stardom. She’s as far from Cincinnati and her seven siblings as she ever imagined she’d be when she realizes the spotlight isn’t what it’s cracked up to be; it’s nasty and isolating and, at times, terrifying. Kyle’s life gets complicated when Evangeline “Van” Shelly sets her cap for him and engineers a wedding shortly afterward. Bold, blonde and beautiful, Van knows she’ll never find another man to match Kyle for intelligence, grace, and steadiness, and she believes she has the key to making him forget all about Alison. Kyle soon finds himself stuck in a mundane practice in suburban hell and a distracted husband and father, wondering what could have been. So when Alison and Kyle find themselves back in their hometown for the holidays, it’s inevitable that their paths cross. Emotionally bruised and battered, they are forced to see each other in the startling reality of their respective choices. The stage is set for an explosive reunion, one that will have repercussions for years to come. Provocative and illuminating, I’M GLAD ABOUT YOU delivers the signature elements Theresa Rebeck is best known for—challenging characters, brilliant dialogue, and a refreshing point of view on life’s most difficult passages. The result is a riveting study of the rewards offered to, and sacrifices required from, those seeking a meaningful life.
Theresa Rebeck was named one of the 150 Fearless Women in the World by Newsweek in 2011. She has had more than a dozen plays produced in New York, including Seminar and Omnium Gatherum (cowriter), for which she was a Pulitzer Prize finalist. Referred to by The New York Times as “one of her generation’s major talents,” she was the creator of the NBC drama Smash and has a long history of producing and writing for major television and film successes. She is the author of Three Girls and Their Brother(2008) and Twelve Rooms with a View (2010). She has taught at Brandies University and Columbia University. Theresa lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her family. Visit Theresa at her website, Facebook, and Twitter.
How to win: Use Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. If you have trouble using Rafflecopter on our blog, enter the giveaway here.
We're doing a new series at the blog for readers to do either guest posts or interviews. One reader will be featured each month, and if it's a theme month, that will be the focus. Today we are pleased to introduce Hailey Fish, who is answering some questions for us. She's also celebrating her birthday, so send good wishes her way!
Hailey is a 25 year-old voracious reader with a reading list that will never end! She lives at home with her parents and 14 year-old Maltese that acts more like a cat and she's the youngest of four siblings. She's on the autism spectrum but you'd never know it because she's smart, funny, and always willing to try new things. Hailey aspires to be a writer, even though she's suffered from writer's block for years! She reads anything from chick lit to women's fiction to crime fiction to mystery suspense to romantic suspense. Hailey has a book blogbut not nearly as active with it as she'd like to be. She enjoys hanging out with her girls, going to bingo, being a loving auntie to her three nephews (one is her best friend's son!) and two nieces. She's a young girl at heart because she still enjoys watching Disney movies. Hailey has met a lot of authors in her 25 years of life and hopes to meet many more. She works as a valet dispatcher at a casino and hopes to attend college for creative writing. She loves kids so she thinks she would be good at teaching preschoolers or teaching language arts or even English class. Visit her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.
What book were you hesitant to pick up but then loved once you read it?
The book I was hesitant in picking up was The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult because of the tough subject matter. I read the first few pages but didn't think I could read it alone. I ended up reading it with my mom and am so glad we read it together. She was able to explain certain passages that I had trouble understanding.
What does the term "chick lit" mean to you?
Girl meets boy, girl falls in love with boy, something bad happens but then there is a happily ever after.
What are the next three books in your TBR pile?` Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll (reading it with my mom when she comes home from Australia) Those Girls by Chevy Stevens and The Night Sister by Jennifer McMahon What is your favorite thing about having a birthday in February?
When I was in school, I was always out of school for winter break! Also because I'm a Pisces and the description of it fits me to a T! Which celebrity do you admire most?
The celebrity I admire most is Melissa McCarthy because even though she's a "big girl" she doesn't let the fat-shamers bring her down. She is funny, beautiful, creative, talented, an all around great woman!
What is something nice that someone did for you recently?
The other day I went to a book signing and met Lisa Gardner and Joseph Finder. The nice thing was the fact my book friends Rachel and Cory bought me Joseph's newest book even though it was a little pricey. Rachel had also bought all of us dinner which happened to be expensive.
After five years as a stay-at-home mom, Gabby Schaefer can't wait to return to work. Oh, to use the bathroom in peace! No twins clamoring at the door, no husband barging in, no stepdaughter throwing a tantrum. But when her plans are derailed by some shocking news and her husband's crushing expectations, Gabby must fight for the right to have a life of her own.
Getting pregnant is easy for Hayley Batchelor. Staying pregnant is the hard part. Her husband is worried about the expensive fertility treatments and frantic about the threat to her health. But to Hayley, a woman who was born to be a mom should risk everything to fulfill her destiny—no matter how high the cost.
Nicole Lord is still shell-shocked by a divorce that wasn't as painful as it should've been. Other than the son they share, her ex-husband left barely a ripple in her life. A great new guy tempts her to believe maybe the second time's the charm…but how can she trust herself to recognize true love? (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)
I loved The Girls of Mischief Bay (see my review from last year), so I was thrilled that another book was being published in this series. The Friends We Keep was a great follow-up and left me wanting the series to continue even further. I enjoyed getting updates on what Pam, Shannon, and Nicole were up to. It was nice to continue Nicole's story, since I was left hanging at the end of the previous book. Her story was even more interesting and exciting this time around. I hope to see more of Pam and Shannon's stories in future books.
I liked the characters that were added in to this story. Gabby reminds me of some friends of mine, and even of myself in some ways. I was so frustrated over the predicament she was placed in and couldn't wait to see that get resolved in some way. That definitely kept me turning pages. As for Hayley, I felt more conflicted. Sure, I felt bad for her and couldn't imagine being in her shoes. However, I ended up sympathizing more with her husband and felt like I was in his shoes. I couldn't stand her sister though.
Just like The Girls of Mischief Bay, this story produced some tears for me, as well as made me smile. If you haven't checked out this series yet, definitely add both books to your must-read list.
Since I cast the previous book, here's my cast for this one:
Nicole: Still picturing Kaley Cuoco
Gabby: Elisabeth Moss
Hayley: Amanda Seyfried
Morgan (Hayley's sister): Vanessa Lengies
I had trouble casting the men from this book, but I'm sure Hollywood could come up with someone great for each role.
Thanks to Mira for the book in exchange for an honest review.
By Becky Gulc ‘Tamsin and her best friend Michelle have been inseparable since they were teenagers. Even now they spend all their time together, along with Patrick, Michelle's handsome husband. So when Tamsin hears a rumour that Patrick is having an affair, she is furious. Unwilling to ignore it, Tamsin plots a scheme to catch Patrick in the act, using her assistant Bea as live-bait. It should be fool proof. After all, Tamsin can trust Bea with anything. From her daily coffee order to fetching her dry-cleaning, writing reports and doing all the filing - Bea does everything with a smile on her face. Except Tamsin never considered Bea might have her own agenda. And if she does, then Tamsin really needs to watch her back . . .’ (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon UK)
It may only be February but I’m already fairly certain that Strictly Between Us is going to make it onto my ‘best of 2016’ list. This was a real page-turner of a book from start to finish.
So we know from the synopsis that Patrick is a questionable husband. What the synopsis doesn’t let you in on is that a drunken episode between Tamsin and Patrick occurs; this is revealed very early on in the novel, so I don’t feel I’m giving anything away here. I was shocked about this when Tamsin protests to be so close to Michelle, but oh boy does this lead to an interesting novel.
The book is cleverly written. Despite what happens, Tamsin remains a likable character. This was so important to get right as it’s only her viewpoint we have insight into for the first part of the novel. Somehow, even though she’s done something terrible, as a reader we can forgive her. The arrogance of and manipulation by Patrick sees to that! Tamsin is in an impossible situation: She doesn’t want to lose her friendship with Michelle. which is so important to her, she can’t risk her finding out the truth, but then she doesn’t want Michelle to be putting up with a philandering husband either! What a mess!
Cue Bea, Tamsin’s assistant who is amazing at her job and provides a listening ear to Tamsin whenever she needs one. These aren’t just colleagues, but good friends too, or at least that’s the way it appears to Tamsin. When Bea is sent on a mission to test Patrick, she reluctantly does so, but with what consequences...well these are unraveled slowly throughout the novel.
Bea’s viewpoint begins to be introduced mid-way through the novel, a clever narrative structure. By this point we’ve built up an image of her, put her on a pedestal, and now it gets even more interesting. Question is who is going to play the smarter game in the end? And can there be any kind of happy ending for anyone?
I was truly stumped as to how this novel could end happily for Tamsin and how she and Michelle would be able to maintain their friendship if all is revealed. I would say that the ending is satisfying, sad, but it felt very appropriate. What happened? Well I truly recommend this book so you can find out for yourselves. A fantastic read.
The Witch’s Market is the story of a young Chinese-American professor, Eileen Chen, who specializes in folk religion at a San Francisco college. Though her grandmother made her living as a shamaness, as a professor Eileen publicly dismisses witchcraft as mere superstition, until one day she accidentally discovers that she has supernatural abilities.
To learn more about real witches – and herself – Eileen travels to the Canary Islands, long rumored to be home to these mysterious women. As she travels around, Eileen is struck by the lush beauty of Tenerife and its blend of Spanish and Moroccan culture. Hearing about the mysterious death of the young woman in the notorious Past Life Lake, Eileen becomes preoccupied by her tragic fate and resolves to discover how she met her end in this lonely place.
Gradually Eileen is drawn into her exotic surroundings, unexpectedly finding romance with a handsome young furniture maker. But the real witches have discovered her and so Eileen must learn to make her way in this new world, seductive but ominous, where love, greed, and vengeance can be as powerful, or as destructive, as any magic.
"Yip combines legend, mythology and Gothic elements into a magical coming-of-age tale." ~Bobbi Dumas, The New York Times
Mingmei Yip believes that one should, besides being entertained, also get something out of reading a novel. Her new novel is The Witch's Market, by Kensington Books. Her other novels include: Secret of a Thousand Beauties; Skeleton Women ; The Nine Fold Heaven; Peach Blossom Pavilion, Petals from the Sky; and Song of the Silk Road. Besides writing, Mingmei is also a children's book writer and illustrator, a professional player of the Guqin, calligrapher and painter. Visit her at her website, Facebook, and Twitter.
Be careful what you wish for. If you’re a witch, you might just get it. Amandine Bisset has the power to feel the emotions of those around her but it’s a secret she only shares with her friends—all professors, all witches—when they gather for the Cambridge University Society of Literature and Witchcraft. Lately though, Amandine senses the ties among her colleagues beginning to unravel. If only she had her student Noa’s power to hear the innermost thoughts of others, she might know how to patch things up. Unfortunately, Noa regards her gift as a curse and so when a seductive artist asserts he can cure her, Noa jumps at the chance, no matter the cost – the price she’ll pay is a high one. Noa’s not the only witch in over her head. Mathematics professor Kat has a serious case of unrequited love but refuses to cast spells to win anyone’s heart. Her sister, Cosima, is not above using magic to get what she wants, sprinkling pastries in her bakery with equal parts sugar and enchantment. But when Cosima accidentally bewitches Kat’s best friend George, she conjures up a dangerous love triangle.
Photo by Jeffrey Santos
Menna van Praag was born in Cambridge, England, and studied modern history at Oxford University. Her first novella, Men, Money, and Chocolate—an autobiographical tale about a waitress who aspires to be a writer—has been translated into twenty-six languages. Her first work of fiction, The House at the End of Hope Street, was inspired by an idea van Praag had to set up a house for female artists to give them a year to fulfill their artistic ambitions. You can learn more about Menna on her website, Facebook, and Twitter.
Thanks to Mingmei Yip and Ballantine Books for sharing a copy of these books with our readers.
How to win: Use Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. If you have trouble using Rafflecopter on our blog, enter the giveaway here.
Did you miss our Chick Lit Cheerleader last month? She and our Go-to-Gay are taking turns posting on a bi-monthly basis, so Jen will be here during the even months, even if she's a little odd at times. Today she's making us jealous by talking about the annual beach trip she takes with some fabulous chick lit authors. Melissa A. even hopes Jen will sneak her into her luggage next year... Time for a vicarious vacation!
Beach Babe Bound
The more years that pass by, the less adventurous I consider myself. Ask others who know me well and they’d probably disagree. That tells me my powers to go full hermit, without interference, are going according to plan. Is it just me, or did you just envision Plankton from Spongebob Squarepants wickedly wringing his hands, too?
It’s not that I’m afraid of adventures, just know that if the confetti and mischief flies beyond the hours of 5:00 AM to 9:00 PM I’m going to tap out. I keep Amish hours. Nothing good happens after 9:01 PM, people, and if it does? —there’s a DVR for that. Too much Golden Girls perhaps? Naw… they have way more spunk than I do.
Yet leave it to a distinct group of ladies to keep me up past my bedtime; wicked city women! For five days out of the year, I kick my stick-in-the-mud self to the curb, and live the life of sun, sand, and heart-sisters.
L to R: Josie, Eileen, Me
Once upon a time, there were three little girls who went to the police academy. Wait—sorry—that’s Charlie’s Angels. Sorry, Charlie. Once upon a time, there were seven women who were all writers: Eileen Goudge, Francine LaSala, Meredith Schorr, Julie Valerie, Samantha Bailey, and Josie Brown. One from the Midwest, three from New York, one from Virginia, one from Toronto, and one from the hills of San Francisco. They were each assigned very hazardous duties: writers, full time jobs, client wranglers, freelance content spinners/editors, hubbies, children, carpool, jogging through the streets of Manhattan. But Eileen Goudge took them away from all that and now they work for her … happily in the kitchen while consuming wine, staring into the ocean surf on the California coast, every January.
At Karen's house for tea. Top (L to R): Francine, Josie, Me Bottom (L to R): Karen (Eileen's sister), Julie, Meredith, Samantha, Eileen
Do you have a friend who simply “gets it”? You share common interests, common occupations, or even common life paths. There’s immediate understanding. No need to explain why you give a hoot about metadata, works in progress, or the thrill of a new storyline.
But there’s more to it than that…
What if sharing a profession, being social media hounds, and part-time wine lushes made you aware of someone, yet genuine love is what keeps you together? For me, I connect deeply and can’t imagine my life without their friendship, loyalty, trustworthiness, the no-holds-barred/no phony baloney honesty, and the safety I experience being myself even when I might—or might not—wear a bra or shower for a couple days. Sprinkle in the unconditional love they selflessly give in the midst of my joy or tears and that’s pretty freaking special, isn’t it? Something I cherish and hold in my heart until we Beach Babes gather same time next year. Only 11 months and an extra day to go. Curse you, Leap Year!
Front to back: Francine, Meredith, Josie, Me
As I slip and slide through my daily hustle-bustle, I do realize how lucky I am. A group of women I admire more than words could say, my Beach Babes, are plucking along in their day-to-day lives, too. It’s amazing how time seems to stand still when we reunite—like never left. They’re a text, tweet, or phone call away and sometimes, that’s just enough knowledge for me to cling to when I need them most. And right now, that person is Meredith Schorr. She’s the only Babe who understands we must fight the dead and fear the living! That’s right friends…it’s time for The Walking Dead season premiere. See how I brought it all back around to TV? You’re welcome.
There’s a well-known saying that “Behind every successful man is a great woman.” A lesser-known, but just as important, saying is “Behind every psychopath is a woman who says she had no idea.” John Wayne Gacy, the BTK Killer, and Robert Lee Yates all committed their crimes while married and leading seemingly normal lives. After the horror and relief that followed these killers finally being caught, their wives became the center of attention. What did she know? When did she know it? How could she not know she was married to a psychopath?
In Fiona Barton’s debut novel, The Widow, the psychopath in question is Glen Taylor, and his unfortunate wife is Jean. As the novel opens, Glen has already been tried and convicted in the press over the disappearance of poor toddler Bella Elliott. However, the actual British justice system has thrown out the case, ruling that the police entrapped him in a chat room. When Glen is hit and killed by a bus four years later, reporter Kate Waters thinks Jean is finally ready to give that interview that points the finger at Glen. Now the world will know once and for all exactly what Jean knew and when she knew it.
Barton has given herself quite a challenge. For the novel to work, Jean has to be sympathetic, but in order to be sympathetic, she has to be in the dark about Glen’s double life. To be in the dark, she has to be a bit dim, and that makes her unsympathetic, or at least difficult for readers to identify with. As such, Jean is a hairdresser who married Glen at 19, and easily accepted Glen’s answers for why he was no longer working at the bank or why he needed to spend hours locked up alone with his computer when his new job was making deliveries. For the novel to deliver, Barton needs to show and develop Jean so that readers will understand her choices and even admit they would do the same in similar circumstances. I’m not sure Barton achieves that by the novel’s end.
Kate is the second part of the novel’s equation. When I took on this book, I inferred the bulk of the story would be the relationship between these two women. I expected more of a women’s fiction character-driven novel than a mystery. This assumption turned out to be wrong. Kate is a very good reporter. She has no problem manipulating Jean into signing an exclusivity agreement with her newspaper, or wearing her down so Jean ends up saying things she didn’t mean to. And Kate is driven equally by her desire to find Bella as she is to beat the newspaper across town. But I got no sense of who Kate was as a person beyond her reporter role. I’m not even sure whether she had a family.
Truthfully, the most dynamic character in the book is not a woman at all, but the man in charge of the investigation, detective Bob Sparkes. Bob is committed to finding Bella, and determined to nail Glen for the crime. When his case is thrown out of court, he’s devastated. Close to retirement, he lets the case affect his relationship with his wife. He is well-rounded, pro-active and sympathetic in a way that neither woman is.
Point of view is an issue. Not only are readers with Jean, Kate and Bob, but we also get a peek inside the head of minor characters. Unlike most mystery writers, Barton does not use POV to create questions of guilt. One character I’d liked as the real killer was absolved when Barton went into that person’s head. And when the killer is finally revealed, Barton does that through point of view, as well.
The Widow moves back and forth in time from Bella’s disappearance to Glen’s death four years later and Jean’s big interview. In between, Jean spends a lot of time in narrative and flashback going over her relationship with Glen, which began when she was seventeen. The bulk of the story, timewise, takes place in the days, weeks and months following Bella’s disappearance. We’re mostly in Bob’s point of view in these sections as he follows every lead to find the girl.
Because of this, the novel is much more about the mystery of Bella’s disappearance than the mystery of Jean’s knowledge. This surprised me, as I was expecting the guilt of the widow’s husband would be established so the story could firmly be about her. Instead, this is just as much Bob’s story as Jean’s. As mysteries go, it’s well-written – not on the same level as The Girl on the Train or Mary Kubica’s Pretty Baby, but a laudable first effort. But I was expecting something more like a Liane Moriarty tale, and it can’t be measured with that yardstick.
Despite its shortcomings, I enjoyed The Widow, and I’m hoping this book is the first in a string of many by Fiona Barton. There’s nothing more enjoyable for a reader than watching a writer grow and mature with each book, and I am confident Barton will follow that path.
Thanks to Berkley/NAL for the book in exchange for an honest review.