Review: The Frog Prince


I have been enjoying reading Jane Porter's books this year. Her novels let you escape into a story with real characters and real struggles.
The Frog Prince is entertaining and keeps you guessing. Jane Porter captures the fear, pain and insecurity Holly feels having had her life turned upside down on her honeymoon when her husband says he doesn’t love her. We follow Holly as she relocates, creating a new life for her self filled with new friends, dating, learning to accept herself. This book is an exploration into marriage, mother/daughter, sibling, friendship, and dating relationships.

An exploration for the reader as to why we need love, what makes a person special, do we suffer from family guilt, can we move forward and put past relationships behind and most important is there happy ever after?
BWAV rating of this book:4 stars
Type: Fiction, 384 pages Trade paperback

Synopsis:
Holly Bishop is the proverbial, small-town good girl. She always follows the rules, thinks of others first, and she never, ever makes mistakes. Until she marries the man she thought was her Prince Charming, who confesses on their honeymoon that he's not sexually attracted to her. Now, 14 months later, Holly's marriage is in the toilet, along with her self-esteem. Determined to start over, she moves to San Francisco, where she must navigate the landmines of dating in the big city. In the shadow of the Golden Gate and amid a population of wacky Bay Area eccentrics, Holly will discover that nice girls don't always finish last. In fact, they sometimes end up with everything they'd ever wanted.

Reviews:
“A painfully funny, utterly true story for every woman who has ever wondered what happeds after the fairy tale ends. I absolutely loved this book!” – Susan Wiggs, USA Totday bestselling author

Review: Driving Sideways


MMBC – January 2009 selection
Driving Sideways is the first novel for Jess Riley. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband and dog. Click here for an author Q&A or visit her blog for entertaining posts!

Added Jan 20: Click here for our author Q&A and here for our discussion (view comments below post)

I thoroughly enjoyed this book! The Manic Mommies book club selected this for their first 2009 selection and it’s such an entertaining story, great job ladies! This is the story of Leigh, it takes place a year after receiving a kidney transplant. She decides to take a road trip from Wisconsin to California to meet Larry’s family (the donor) and reunite with her mother. She has many stops planned along the way and props for her adventure – she is so excited to use her newly acquired metal detector and kayak. Her plans take a slight turn at a rest stop in Minnesota, when a 17 year old girl named Denise needs a ride to California and joins the adventure.

This story takes place in six days and keeps you on your toes. Each pit stop and overnight stay turn out exactly like they should, which isn’t always what you are expecting. I feel I shouldn’t share any of the details in the pages as I might share something special that you wish you could experience as you read the book (the plot keeps building as the story progresses). I highly recommend this to anyone from book clubs to a vacation read. A must read!

I will be posting an author Q&A and notes from our book discussion the week of January 19th.

Type: Fiction, 320 pages, Trade Paperback
Synopsis:
Leigh Fielding wants a life. Seriously. Having spent the past five years on dialysis, she has one simple wish: to make it to her thirtieth birthday. Now, thanks to the generosity of the late Larry Resnick and his transplanted kidney, it looks like her wish may come true.

With her newfound vitality (and Larry’s kidney) in tow, Leigh hits the road for an excursion that will carry her from Wisconsin to California, with a few stops in between: Mount Rushmore, the Badlands, the Rockies, Las Vegas–and a memorable visit to thank Larry’s family for the second chance.

Yet Leigh’s itinerary takes a sudden detour when she picks up a seventeen-year-old hitchhiker, Denise, a runaway with a bunch of stories and a couple of secrets. Add a long-lost mother, a loaded gun, an RV full of swingers, and Hall and Oates’s Greatest Hits to the mix, and Driving Sideways becomes a hilarious and original journey of friendship, hope, and discovery.

Reviews:
“Driving Sideways is a gorgeous novel . . . hugely entertaining and very touching. Jess Riley’s voice is irreverent and wonderful, and her writing is genius.” –Marian Keyes, author of Anybody Out There?

"A hopeful and hilarious debut ... Jess Riley may well be my new favorite author." –Jen Lancaster, author of Bitter is the New Black

“Brilliant . . . Jess Riley proves herself a huge new talent.”–Kristy Kiernan, author of Catching Genius

On Chesil Beach


Reviewed by Lisa

Ian McEwan is one of the most distinguished novelists of his generation, born in England and spent much of his childhood traveling with his father. McEwan has been writing short stories and novels since the mid-1970’s.

This novel is the story of the wedding night of a couple whose history and courtship are told through flashbacks. McEwan writes in such a way that the reader is left with a vivid picture and understanding of the characters. The crux of this story is that what is left unsaid is often as important as what is said. I can't say I enjoyed the book because it was, in a way so depressing---the idea that people could feel that they knew each other well enough to get married but be so unable to communicate with each other does not make for a comfortable read. If you're going to read McEwan, I would recommend "Atonement" rather than "On Chesil Beach."

Type: Fiction, 224 pages, trade paperback

Synopsis:

The #1 bestselling author of Saturday and Atonement brilliantly illuminates the collision of sexual longing, deep-seated fears and romantic fantasy in his unforgettable, emotionally engaging new novel.
The year is 1962. Florence, the daughter of a successful businessman and an aloof Oxford academic, is a talented violinist. She dreams of a career on the concert stage and of the perfect life she will create with Edward, the earnest young history student she met by chance and who unexpectedly wooed her and won her heart. Edward grew up in the country on the outskirts of Oxford where his father, the headmaster of the local school, struggled to keep the household together and his mother, brain-damaged from an accident, drifted in a world of her own. Edward’s native intelligence, coupled with a longing to experience the excitement and intellectual fervour of the city, had taken him to University College in London. Falling in love with the accomplished, shy and sensitive Florence – and having his affections returned with equal intensity – has utterly changed his life.
Their marriage, they believe, will bring them happiness, the confidence and the freedom to fulfill their true destinies. The glowing promise of the future, however, cannot totally mask their worries about the wedding night. Edward, who has had little experience with women, frets about his sexual prowess. Florence’s anxieties run deeper: she is overcome by conflicting emotions and a fear of the moment she will surrender herself.
From the precise and intimate depiction of two young lovers eager to rise above the hurts and confusion of the past, to the touching story of how their unexpressed misunderstandings and fears shape the rest of their lives, On Chesil Beach is an extraordinary novel that brilliantly, movingly shows us how the entire course of a life can be changed – by a gesture not made or a word not spoken.

While my Sister Sleeps


Barbara Delinsky has written several novels (non-fiction and fiction). Her background in sociology comes in handy when writing novels focused on family dynamics and situations. As mentioned in her biography, we know these characters, we are them - character-driven studies of marriage, parenthood, sibling rivalry, and friendship.

I’m a marathon runner, follow the running community and Olympic level athletes… I couldn’t put this book down, wanting to know see how the characters would develop throughout the story.

The mother, Kathryn, has strong reactions related to Robin’s heart attack. Her immediate reaction is blame – this would not have happened if…. Molly, the youngest daughter, has her own opinions, emotions and struggles with the idea of her sister being brain dead. Kathryn is trying to make the right decisions from the view of a mother and Molly is trying to represent her sister, often saying ‘what would Robin want’.

The story begins to unfold when Robin’s journals are found. The family begins to see a side to Robin that they were unaware and her views and values start to surface as the days go by. Without giving away any details, the family finds a way to come to terms with the accident.

A complex story with each family member struggling to accept Robin's fate. There are several storylines surrounding Robin’s hospital room to keep the reader engaged and wanting to know more.

Type: Fiction, 368 pages, hardcover
Readers Guide: Yes

Scheduled for release February 17, 2009

Synopsis:

At 27, Molly Snow is the youngest of three siblings. Feisty but hard-working, she has always been overshadowed by her older sister, Robin, an elite marathoner who is favored to shine at the upcoming Olympic trials. When Robin suffers a heart attack during a training run and fails to regain consciousness, her family is devastated.

As Molly's parents fold under the heartbreak and her brother retreats into the cool reserve that is threatening his marriage, Molly is the one left standing. By default, she is thrust into the role of family spokesperson, not only with friends and the media, but at Snow Hill, the family's hugely successful tree and plant nursery. More crucially, Molly becomes her sister's voice when Robin can' t speak for herself. In the process, she finds her own voice.

While My Sister Sleeps is more than a coming-of-age story. Taking place over six days, this novel explores a family in crisis, peeling away layers of relationships to expose one startling truth after another. Mother to daughter, sister to sister - it is a story of rising to a challenge and making hard decisions, then loving enough to let go.

Reviews:
Delinsky delves deeper into the human heart and spirit with each new novel – Cincinnati inquirer.

House of Daughters


Sarah-Kate Lynch has written three novels, bread making, cheese and now wine! She also writes two columns in the New Zealand Woman's Weekly, New Zealand's best-read magazine.

I love learning while reading a novel and House of Daughters delivers. This is the story of three sisters, I might say four if you add in the vineyard.

When Clementine’s father dies and her long lost sister arrives for the funeral and reading of the will, they are surprised to learn of a third sister that they knew nothing about.

Sophie, the youngest sister, joins the family shortly after Clementine discovers she exists. This novel is filled with the French language, follows the winery over four seasons and has a storyline that thickens as the book progresses.

Type: Fiction, 320 Pages, Trade paperback
Reader's guide: No

Synopsis:

Family rivalries, long-ago love affairs, and forgotten scandals blend in this sparkling novel set in the Champagne province of France…


With effervescent wit and clear-eyed insight, Sarah-Kate Lynch explores the rivalries and bonds of sisterhood amidst the lush countryside of France's Champagne province. Clementine is the rightful heir to the House of Peine, the vineyard that has been in the family for generations. She has spent her whole life caring for the vines, not to mention caring for her sour brute of a father. But now that the Peine patriarch is dead, his will stipulates that Clementine must share the vineyard with a half-sister she hasn't seen in twenty years and another she didn't even know existed. As one vineyard brings three estranged siblings together, readers will savor this heartfelt toast to sisterhood and inspired celebration of Champagne.

The 19th Wife


David Ebershoff is the author of three novels and his fiction has won a number of awards. His books have been translated into fifteen languages to critical acclaim. Ebershoff has taught creative writing at New York University and Princeton and currently teaches in the graduate writing program at Columbia University.

I was excited to read ‘The 19th Wife’ after hearing how well researched and written this novel was. I learned so much and didn’t want to put this book down. Although Eberhoff is quick to explain that this is a work of fiction, you will enjoy the biographical nature of his writing, it is filled with facts and articles.

The story starts with a murder and quickly dives into the history of the Mormon faith and polygamy. While reading this book you will be amazed to learn about the culture and expectations within a household and the hierarchy of the wife’s and children. Part of the story is told from the view of a teenage boy who was kicked out for holding hands with his sister, he returns to help investigate the murder of his father after learning his mother is accused of killing him.

I encourage you to read the author’s Q&A for more details.
Type: Historical fiction, 514 pages, hardcover
Reader's guide: Yes

Synopsis:
Faith, I tell them, is a mystery, elusive to many, and never easy to explain.

Sweeping and lyrical, spellbinding and unforgettable, David Ebershoff’s The 19th Wife combines epic historical fiction with a modern murder mystery to create a brilliant novel of literary suspense.

It is 1875, and Ann Eliza Young has recently separated from her powerful husband, Brigham Young, prophet and leader of the Mormon Church. Expelled and an outcast, Ann Eliza embarks on a crusade to end polygamy in the United States. A rich account of a family’s polygamous history is revealed, including how a young woman became a plural wife.

Soon after Ann Eliza’s story begins, a second exquisite narrative unfolds–a tale of murder involving a polygamist family in present-day Utah. Jordan Scott, a young man who was thrown out of his fundamentalist sect years earlier, must reenter the world that cast him aside in order to discover the truth behind his father’s death.

And as Ann Eliza’s narrative intertwines with that of Jordan’s search, readers are pulled deeper into the mysteries of love and faith.

Reviews:
Ambitious. . . impressive. . Ebershoff demonstrates abundant virtuosity, as he convincingly inhabits the voices of both a nineteenth-century Mormon wife and a contemporary gay youth excommunicated from the church, while also managing to say something about the mysterious power of faith." – The New Yorker

"Wonderfully lyrical. . . . it does that thing all good novels do: It entertains us." – Los Angeles Times

Promise not to Tell


Reviewed by Lisa

"Promise not to Tell", a ghost story/murder mystery and also a story about how choices we make can affect us for the rest of our lives. By moving the story back and forth from the past to the present, the author pulls you in and makes it difficult to put down this book. Interesting characters, unusual settings, and more than one mystery make this one worth reading."

Type: Fiction, 256 pages, Trade paperback

Synopsis:
Forty-one-year-old school nurse Kate Cypher has returned home to rural Vermont to care for her mother who's afflicted with Alzheimer's. On the night she arrives, a young girl is murdered—a horrific crime that eerily mirrors another from Kate's childhood. Three decades earlier, her dirt-poor friend Del—shunned and derided by classmates as "Potato Girl"—was brutally slain. Del's killer was never found, while the victim has since achieved immortality in local legends and ghost stories. Now, as this new murder investigation draws Kate irresistibly in, her past and present collide in terrifying, unexpected ways. Because nothing is quite what it seems . . . and the grim specters of her youth are far from forgotten.

More than just a murder mystery, Jennifer McMahon's extraordinary debut novel, Promise Not to Tell, is a story of friendship and family, devotion and betrayal—tautly written, deeply insightful, beautifully evocative, and utterly unforgettable.

Reviews:
“A great, dark, spooky book for the summer.” – The Today Show

"'What's the worst thing you've ever done?' That's the question, posed by a stranger, that 41-year-old Kate Cypher can't get out of mind in McMahon's impressive debut.... McMahon's gift is the deliciously twisty way she subverts all your expectations, keeping you guessing with wry wit and feverish chills. 'The dead can blame,' one character says. And the truth, this whipsmart novel reminds us, can break your heart. 4 out of 4 stars" – People

“McMahon unfurls a whirlwind of suspense that alternates between 1971 and 2002…. Combining murder mystery and coming-of-age tale with supernatural elements, this taut novel is above all a reflection on the haunting power of memory. A-" – Entertainment Weekly

Flirting with Forty


Flirting with Forty’ is fourth book written by Porter under the category of Modern Lit. She has also written over 20 romance novels. This book has been made into a lifetime movie starring Heather Locklear (original air date, Dec 6).

I really enjoyed reading this book – I enjoy reading ‘chic-lit’ to relax and escape into a story for a few days. Porter always does a great job developing characters and situations.

This is the story of Jackie, a divorced mom with two kids and a full time job just trying to survive from day to day. Her friends are still married and she feels a little lost, not knowing where she fits anymore. She terribly misses the idea of marriage.

She and a friend decide to go to Hawaii for a few days to celebrate Jackie’s 40th birthday, where she meets Kai, a surf instructor. The story continues to develop when Jackie returns from her vacation with memories of Kai, dealing with her ex-husband, friends, family, and life. As a parent myself, I was able to feel the emotions she was feeling throughout the story. I felt her insecurities, desires for her children and her struggle to accept herself.
Type: Fiction, 356 pages trade paperback
Synopsis:
Jane Porter's highly successful novel about a divorced single mom who finds an unexpected romance with a much younger man while on vacation in Hawaii has been selected for her exciting mass market debut.He got the second home and the Porsche. She got the kids and a broken heart. Now Jackie Laurens, post-divorce and heading toward the big four-oh, is on vacation in sunny Hawaii and facing her upcoming birthday-alone. But not for long. She's soon falling for Kai, her gorgeous, much younger surf instructor, and their wild passionate fling becomes the biggest surprise of her life.Back home in Seattle, Jackie has to struggle with single parenthood and her memories. Kai hasn't forgotten her, yet thousands of miles of ocean and an age difference that feels even bigger lie between them. And, of course, Jackie's friends disapprove. When a choice must be made, can she, will she risk everything for her chance at happiness?

Reviews:

“A terrific read! A wonderful, life-and-love affirming story for women of all ages.” – Jayne ann Krentz (NY Times bestselling author)

“Strongly recommended. Porter’s thoughtful prose and strong characters make for an entertaining and thought-provoking read.” – Library Journal

Darcy's Story: Pride and Prejudice Told From A Whole New Perspective, written by Janet Aylmer


Reviewed by Lisa

“Darcy’s Story” attempts to explain the motives, actions and feelings of Mr. Darcy from Jane Austen's "Pride & Prejudice." To make this more realistic, the author has lifted many conversations from the original and has also recreated whole scenes from Darcy's point of view. I was looking forward to this book as a lover of "Pride & Prejudice" but was disappointed. The writing was not particularly exceptional, the author frequently used the device of recapping bits of conversation which I found unnecessary, and, in the end, I didn't feel like the author had given me anything more than what I may have mentally penciled in regarding Darcy. The book is a quick read and lovers of Austen will likely still enjoy it merely because it gives you a chance to revisit beloved characters.

Type: Fiction, 288 pages; Trade Paperback

Synopsis:
When Elizabeth Bennet first met Mr. Darcy, she found him proud, distant, and rude—despite the other ladies' admiration of his estate in Derbyshire and ten thousand pounds a year. But what was Mr. Darcy thinking?

Jane Austen's classic Pride and Prejudice has long stood among the most beloved novels of all time. The story of Elizabeth Bennet's blossoming romance with "haughty, reserved, and fastidious" Fitzwilliam Darcy has enchanted readers for nearly two centuries. Yet, Mr. Darcy has always remained an intriguing enigma—his thoughts, feelings, and motivations hidden behind a cold, impenetrable exterior . . . until now.

With the utmost respect for Austen's original masterwork, author Janet Aylmer loving retells Pride and Prejudice from a bold new perspective: seeing events as they transpire through the eyes of Darcy himself. One of world's great love stories takes on breathtaking new life, and one of fiction's greatest romantic heroes becomes even more sympathetic, compelling, attractive, and accessible, all through the imagination and artistry of a truly gifted storyteller.

Reviews:
This novel is getting great reviews on BN.COM

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