REVIEW: MRS., BY CAITLIN MACY

In the well-heeled milieu of New York’s Upper East Side, coolly elegant Philippa Lye is the woman no one can stop talking about. Despite a shadowy past, Philippa has somehow married the scion of the last family-held investment bank in the city. And although her wealth and connections put her in the center of this world, she refuses to conform to its gossip-fueled culture.

Then, into her precariously balanced life, come two women: Gwen Hogan, a childhood acquaintance who uncovers an explosive secret about Philippa’s single days, and Minnie Curtis, a newcomer whose vast fortune and frank revelations about a penurious upbringing in Spanish Harlem put everyone on alert.

When Gwen’s husband, a heavy-drinking, obsessive prosecutor in the US Attorney’s Office, stumbles over the connection between Philippa’s past and the criminal investigation he is pursuing at all costs, this insulated society is forced to confront the rot at its core and the price it has paid to survive into the new millennium.


Offering a peek behind the surface of the wealthy families scrambling to reach the top of New York society, Mrs. spotlights an elegant but flawed woman who gives new meaning to the word aloof. Philippa is stylish, smart, and a bit of a drunk. Because she has a way of appearing elegant, she can almost hide her flaws of poor mothering, drinking too much, and ignoring the other women who are her contemporaries in the motherhood game of the Upper East Side. But behind her façade are some very dark secrets, and what she is hiding could affect several others in the world she inhabits.As the other women, like Gwen and Minnie, try to delve into what Philippa is hiding, they might discover that the answers would be better left alone.

The story is told mostly from Gwen’s point of view, and she was the most likable character. Minnie was hard to read; elusive might more clearly define her. The men, like Gwen’s husband Dan and Philippa’s husband Jed, carry a lot of their own dark issues. Perhaps the most shade should be thrown on Minnie’s husband John, who can be called many things, but good is not one of them.

As the tale unfolded, I found myself losing interest. The big secrets had been revealed, and I felt like yawning a bit. There didn’t seem to be enough to keep my attention once I saw how events would come to fruition. In fact, I didn’t really care for any of them except Gwen, although Philippa was a curiosity I wouldn’t mind exploring a little more. I didn’t understand why the women were drawn to any of the men, other than the obvious financial reasons.

Just when I was about to give up on the book, abruptly and with a big splash, their lives all changed, seemingly in sharp defining moments, making this one a 4 star read.

***

REVIEW: CORNELLI, BY JOHANNA SPYRI

Many writers have suffered injustice in being known as the author of but one book. Such has been the fate of Johanna Spyri, the Swiss authoress, whose reputation is mistakenly supposed to rest on her story of Heidi. To be sure, Heidi is a book that in its field can hardly be overpraised. But the present story is possessed of a deeper treatment of character, combined with equal spirit and humor of a different kind. Cornelli, the heroine, suffers temporarily from the unjust suspicion of her elders, a misfortune which, it is to be feared, still occurs frequently in the case of sensitive children….

I loved reading Cornelli during my childhood and perused it many times over the years. My copy was a hardcover version given to my mother in her childhood, which she then passed on to me. I loved the colorful illustrations, which immediately refreshed my memories of the various scenes of the story.

As I read it again in its Kindle format, I brought out my print format so that I could check the illustrations once again.

The story was an emotional one for me, as the feelings aroused in childhood were elicited once again as the story unfolded:  a tale of strict caretakers and a sensitive child, a combination of events that led to the opposite outcome the adults had hoped to see.

I was pleased once again that a kind older woman helped Cornelli’s father to understand what had happened to her and assisted him in turning things around. Another family was also part of the solution.

I loved rereading my childhood favorite on my Kindle. 5 stars.

***

REVIEW: LILLIAN BOXFISH TAKES A WALK, BY KATHLEEN ROONEY

lillian-boxfish-takes-a-walk

 

 

 

“In my reckless and undiscouraged youth,” Lillian Boxfish writes, “I worked in a walnut-paneled office thirteen floors above West Thirty-Fifth Street…”

She took 1930s New York by storm, working her way up writing copy for R.H. Macy’s to become the highest paid advertising woman in the country. It was a job that, she says, “in some ways saved my life, and in other ways ruined it.”

Now it’s the last night of 1984 and Lillian, 85 years old but just as sharp and savvy as ever, is on her way to a party. It’s chilly enough out for her mink coat and Manhattan is grittier now—her son keeps warning her about a subway vigilante on the prowl—but the quick-tongued poetess has never been one to scare easily. On a walk that takes her over 10 miles around the city, she meets bartenders, bodega clerks, security guards, criminals, children, parents, and parents-to-be, while reviewing a life of excitement and adversity, passion and heartbreak, illuminating all the ways New York has changed—and has not.

 

My Thoughts: Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk is a delightful journey through the streets of Manhattan, reminding the reader of the times in which this character lived: 20th Century life with all of its quirks, just as Lillian relishes her own idiosyncrasies.

Lillian is the kind of character women might emulate, with her independent streak a mile wide, and her insistence on finding her way on her own a metaphorical “walk through the streets.” A perfect salute to a time long gone, I enjoyed how the walk offered the character an opportunity to reminisce about her life, from the 1930s to the momentous New Year’s Eve in 1984.

She looked back at her celebratory moments, but also those that revealed her vulnerabilities. When she suffered from a “breakdown” of sorts, and when she realized that, to some, she was no longer relevant, we could relate, as everyone has both good and bad to reflect on in a long life.

Despite her realizations, however, she is stalwart and determined to move forward on her own terms. She is definitely a character to root for…and her candid assessments of her life will make her a memorable one. Here’s to Lillian! Five stars.

cropped-again-5***

REVIEW: JUST SAY YES, BY ALYSSA GOODNIGHT

26155246

 

 

Jade Moran is a web designer and a single mom to thirteen-year-old Evie; the two of them are managing without a man in their lives. Evie isn’t so sure she is all in for that, however, and she sets in motion a whole new era when she persuades her mom to visit a new restaurant, The Pantry, and introduces her to Opal, the woman who believes in the magic of food. A “kitchen witch.”

Max Gianopoulis has taken up residence in The Pantry at his own table where he works as if it is his office. He, of course, is a hunk…and he happens to be a contractor. Jade needs a new kitchen remodel, as she is sick of the 70s style appliances and vibe in her own.

Somehow they connect on this issue, at least, and before long, more is going on. Predictably, the two are hot for each other.

Fun characters included Max’s grandmother, Yia Yia Cleo, and his younger sister Tessa, who is a roller derby girl.

I liked that Evie wasn’t a belligerent teen, as so often seems to happen in books. She had her own mind and had her ways of working her mom, with the little “say yes” game they had going on. But she was not working to undermine her, so that felt good to me.

Set in Austin, Texas, there was a great Southwestern feel to the story, and the food definitely fit in nicely, too. In some ways, Just Say Yes felt a little too smooth, so I liked when an obstacle presented itself in the form of Jade’s ex-husband. Watching everything play out afterwards was very satisfying. A 4 star read.

REVIEW: HOUSE OF WONDER, BY SARAH HEALY

81egKf8ODWL

 

 

Growing up on Royal Court in Harwich, NJ, was full of poignant memories for Jenna, now an adult with her own preschool daughter Rose.

But the memories of a childhood with her twin brother Warren would be bittersweet, as now in adulthood, Warren and her mother are both considered a blight on the old neighborhood. Her mother, Priscilla, once Miss Texas, has turned into a hoarder, and Warren is “weird” to those around him. He is a loner with obsessive behaviors and habits, but to Jenna, he will always be the beloved twin who was there for her. And she wants to be there for him.

When the neighbors rise up to protest the Parsons home and Warren, Jenna will do whatever she can to clear her brother’s name against the allegations of the neighbors, some of whom have been sending harassing letters.

But there is still some good in that old neighborhood, Jenna discovers, as she reconnects with a high school flame, Bobby Vanni, now a resident at the nearby hospital, and the single father of Gabby, Rose’s new playmate.

House of Wonder is narrated by Jenna’s first person voice, and also flips back into the past where we see Priscilla (Silla) growing up in the 50s and 60s, with a horrible stepmother Hattie, and the loss of her own mother. Secrets veil the past for Priscilla…and probably set in motion some of her present day habits and behaviors. But beneath the secrets lie the freedom from the scourge of the past and an offering of hope for the future. A delightful story that earned 4.5 stars.

REVIEW: NORA ROBERTS LAND, BY AVA MILES

91UxRlZpifL._SL1500_She grew up believing in happily-ever-after, and at her mother’s knee, she learned to love Nora Roberts’s novels and how each one seemed to follow a pattern of finding out that dreams can come true and love conquers all.

But grown-up journalist Meredith Hale, a New Yorker, has just been dumped and divorced by her husband, Richard Sommerville, another journalist, now interested in a political career. And he has lashed out at her about how her belief in Nora Roberts’s view of the world had ruined their marriage.

Determined to prove to herself that love like that does exist, Meredith heads to her home town of Dare, Colorado, to find her hero and then write about it. There she works for the family newspaper.

Meanwhile, Richard has blackmailed one of his journalists, Tanner McBride, previously a war correspondent, into taking on a project that will definitely sabotage Meredith’s plans…and hopefully keep her from using information she has about him.

What will happen to Meredith and Tanner when they finally connect? Will the instant attraction between them lead to more? What unexpected events will seemingly derail whatever they have between them? And what will be Meredith’s final conclusions about her premise?

Nora Roberts Land (Dare Valley Series, Book 1) mimics the famous author in its basics: vulnerable girl meets hunky man and they rise about a series of conflicts and finally begin a relationship. Throw in a few obstacles that they overcome and you have true love. Add in necessary ingredients, like sheer determination (by the woman) and gutsy moves by both man and woman, and you have a combustible mix and interesting characters.

The only thing that really saved this predictable novel was that I realized, despite the copycat notions, that there were a few fun and suspenseful elements that kept me reading. Otherwise, I would have had to say that this story was merely a copy of the originals created by Nora Roberts. But I was happy to conclude that the ride was a fun one, and fans of Nora Roberts will probably enjoy this book. 3.5 stars.

REVIEW: TRAIL MIX, BY PAULITA KINCER

23161252
Jess and Andi had met years before when their daughters were taking ballet classes. Something clicked between them, and their friendship had continued, even as now their children are entering adulthood. The teenage years have presented challenges for them, and the empty nest is looming.

Andi has always exercised, while Jess avoids it, but counts calories and watches carbs. But neither woman feels good about her physical condition. Each would love to lose weight and tone up her body.

So when Andi finds out about a hike up the Appalachian Trail, from Georgia to Maine, she is determined to do it. But first she has to persuade Jess.

Not at all interested, Jess finally wavers and agrees. She wants to leave her troublesome daughter Meaghan for a while, and her younger daughter Sydney is going to France on a trip.

Andi is proud of her son Liam, but reluctant to discuss Taylor, who is behaving like a spoiled brat. Getting away now seems like perfect timing.

Leaving behind their children and husbands, they begin a journey that will change their lives in unimaginable ways. Jess’s husband Mike is opposed and not at all supportive; Andi’s husband Rex is more amenable. None of the children seem at all interested, being typically self-absorbed.

What will Jess and Andi learn about themselves as they challenge their bodies? Will they discover that their friendship is tested by their very different goals? How will they overcome the conflicts between them? And how will their journey end?

At times, I really could not stand Andi, often sprinting ahead and leaving Jess behind to struggle. Sometimes it seemed as though Andi only cared about her own needs. Her competitive nature seemed to dictate her choices.

However, as some issues were resolved between them and as they realized what the other could contribute, they learned a lot about how to overcome challenges. A delightful read that was so much more than a story about hiking, Trail Mix was a book I could not put down. 5.0 stars.