Review: A year and six seconds: a love story

Why I picked it: I enjoyed Happens Every Day so much that when I saw that the author was writing 'part two' I wanted to read it. 

Synopsis: Isabel Gillies, the New York Times bestselling author of the memoir Happens Every Day, now picks up where she left off in the true story of her valiant yet sometimes bumbling efforts to pick herself up after her husband leaves her for another woman and she is told by a friend it "happens every day."

It is winter when she arrives home in Manhattan, with her two young sons in tow. Her husband has left her, and she's forced to move back in with her parents until she can figure out what to do next.

Determined to feel strong, remain lovable, and be productive, she creates and tackles a staggering to-do list, starting with (and not necessarily in order of importance): get along with her parents in tight quarters; find a preschool spot for son mid-year in Manhattan; break down only in front of best friend and not in front of children; receive one great, romantic kiss.

She makes her lists, she dates, she cries, she and her whole crowded family get the flu; and then, just when Isabel least expects it, she falls in love. A Year and Six Seconds is a buoyant, real, romantic comedy with an uplifting message, reminding us that while we all struggle and stumble at times, somehow we can come out just fine on the other side.

Type: Memoir

Quick Take: This is the first time I have read a second memoir from the same author, a part two of sorts.  I did think about this before deciding to read this book but I enjoyed Isabel Gillies' first book I(Happens Every Day) so much I wanted to give this one a try.

I didn't enjoy this book as much as her first one but I think I understand why.  This memoir focuses on the first year after a separation/divorce, from having to live with parents to rebuilding a life.  These are not experiences I have had to endure (and I hope I never will). It's a bit repetitive for my taste.

That said, the author is a wonderful writer who kept me interested. 

Rating: 3/5 stars

Review: The last letter from your lover

Why I picked it: The synopsis below grabbed me.  I love the idea of a mysterious letter mixed with a love story.  Hopefully a complicated love story.

Synopsis: It is 1960. When Jennifer Stirling wakes up in the hospital, she can remember nothing-not the tragic car accident that put her there, not her husband, not even who she is. She feels like a stranger in her own life until she stumbles upon an impassioned letter, signed simply "B", asking her to leave her husband.

Years later, in 2003, a journalist named Ellie discovers the same enigmatic letter in a forgotten file in her newspaper's archives. She becomes obsessed by the story and hopeful that it can resurrect her faltering career. Perhaps if these lovers had a happy ending she will find one to her own complicated love life, too. Ellie's search will rewrite history and help her see the truth about her own modern romance.

Type: Historical Fiction

Quick Take: I have mentioned this a few times but 2011 is the year of memory loss journey's in women's fiction - this is one of the better novels I have read this year with memory loss involved in plot.

I loved the concept, Ellie is in a car accident and has no memory of the accident... or of the man visiting her in the hospital.  This man is her husband.  It's clear that she feels a coldness from him and this is confirmed when she starts finding secrets letters in her home, signed 'B'.

This novel moves back and forth in time, I adored the story taking place in 1960.  Part two, starting in 2003, feels like a different novel but somehow it all worked for me.  If you enjoyed the movie 'Titanic', I think you will love Ellie's story.

Brilliantly written, my heart broke for Ellie, her husband and everyone involved. This would make for a great book club selection.

Rating: 4/5 stars
Source: NetGalley

Review: Tony and Susan

Why I picked it:  I picked it to read on vacation and reading the synopsis... this is my kind of book.

Synopsis: Fifteen years ago, Susan Morrow left her first husband Edward Sheffield, an unpublished writer. Now, she's enduring middle class suburbia as a doctor's wife, when out of the blue she receives a package containing the manuscript of her ex-husband's first novel. He writes asking her to read the book; she was always his best critic, he says.

As Susan reads, she is drawn into the fictional life of Tony Hastings, a math professor driving his family to their summer house in Maine. And as we read with her, we too become lost in Sheffield's thriller. As the Hastings' ordinary, civilized lives are disastrously, violently sent off course, Susan is plunged back into the past, forced to confront the darkness that inhabits her, and driven to name the fear that gnaws at her future and will change her life.

Type: Fiction

Quick Take:  This is a story inside a story.  This is important to note because I'm coming to the conclusion that I may not enjoy this format. 

To summarize quickly: Susan and Edward were married a long time ago, they haven't talked in years.  Edward asks Susan to read his manuscript.  This novel is about Susan reading Edward's manuscript while Arnold (her husband) is traveling.  She spends some time reminiscing.

I didn't enjoy the manuscript but... the manuscript was 80% of the novel.  I was more interested in the relationships between Susan, her husband Arnold and ex-husband Edward.  Looking back, I wish the story started after Susan finished reading the manuscript, exploring why she agreed to read Edward's novel and the impact this had on her stale marriage.  There's an interesting story in the pages, waiting to be exposed.

Rating: 2/5 stars
Source: Review Copy, NetGalley

Review: The Midwife's Confession

Why I picked it: Manic Mommies Book Club (October 2011 selection)
Synopsis: Dear Anna, What I have to tell you is difficult to write, but I know it will be far more difficult for you to hear, and I'm so sorry…

The unfinished letter is the only clue Tara and Emerson have to the reason behind their close friend Noelle's suicide. Everything they knew about Noelle—her calling as a midwife, her passion for causes, her love for her friends and family—described a woman who embraced life.

Yet there was so much they didn't know.

With the discovery of the letter and its heartbreaking secret, Noelle's friends begin to uncover the truth about this complex woman who touched each of their lives—and the life of a desperate stranger—with love and betrayal, compassion and deceit.

Type: Fiction

Quick Take: Another solid book club selection, filled with a lot to discuss.  Women enjoy talking about motherhood, from having babies to life as a mother.  Mix in a suicide with a secret life, this is a page turner. 

I'm not sure what I would do if I discovered that one of my closest friends was leading a double life.  This story is told through flashbacks and current day life, two friends unraveling a secret life while grieving. 

I have a page of topics/questions for our book discussion in October.  I can't wait to talk to the author!

Rating: 4/5 stars
Source: Review Copy

Review: Silver Girl

Why I picked it: I know it's summer when I see a new novel by Hilderbrand released.  I enjoy reading about the beach, with a story about women and life challenges.

Synopsis: Meredith Martin Delinn just lost everything: her friends, her homes, her social standing - because her husband Freddy cheated rich investors out of billions of dollars.

Desperate and facing homelessness, Meredith receives a call from her old best friend, Constance Flute. Connie's had recent worries of her own, and the two depart for a summer on Nantucket in an attempt to heal. But the island can't offer complete escape, and they're plagued by new and old troubles alike. When Connie's brother Toby - Meredith's high school boyfriend - arrives, Meredith must reconcile the differences between the life she is leading and the life she could have had.

Set against the backdrop of a Nantucket summer, Elin Hilderbrand delivers a suspenseful story of the power of friendship, the pull of love, and the beauty of forgiveness.

Type: Fiction (chick-lit)

Quick Take: It's not a secret that I enjoy Elin's work, I adored her last novel The Island.  After reading a few reviews for Silver Girl, I can see why some readers struggled with this book... noting that the label dropping was over the top.  This worked for me, it helped me understand Meredith's life before she loses everything.

Meredith and her husband were worth millions.  She never looked at a tag, shopped in the finest of stores and lived a spectacular life before losing everything: her family, money, self worth, homes, privacy and well... her security.

Connie is a wonderful friend, I believe I have a friend like Connie in my life but I hope I never have to find out! This is a good summer selection, involving friendship, scandal and little romance.  I thoroughly enjoyed it (just not as much as a few other novels by the author).

Rating: 3/5 stars
Source: Review copy (NetGalley)

Review: The Girl in the Garden

Why I picked it: I adore reading novels about life in India so this was an easy choice for me.

Synopsis: The redemptive journey of a young woman unsure of her engagement, who revisits in memory the events of one scorching childhood summer when her beautiful yet troubled mother spirits her away from her home to an Indian village untouched by time, where she discovers in the jungle behind her ancestral house a spellbinding garden that harbors a terrifying secret.

Type: Fiction

Quick Take: I LOVED this book, if you liked The Space Between Us you should read this one. 

This is a magical story about a young Indian girl, raised in America who travels with her mother one summer to visit family back in Southern India.

Told from the voice of an eleven year old smart/witty girl, Rakhee, who pushes the boundaries only to discover family secrets... forcing her family to make life changing decisions.  This novel is filled with family tradition, expectations, loss, love and emotion.  A wonderfully written novel that I wasn't able to put down.

I highly recommend this for book clubs, there is so much to discuss. Have you read it? 

Rating: 5/5 stars
Source: Review Copy/ NetGalley
Country: India

Review: Jerusalem Maiden

Why I picked it: This is my kind of book.  I enjoy reading about new cultures, making this a good choice for me.

From author's website: Inspired by my ten-generation family roots in Jerusalem, I wrote a "what-if" alternate life for my grandmother and her untapped artistic genius. Please read "The Story Behind The Story."

Synopsis: Esther Kaminsky knows that her duty is to marry young and produce many sons to help hasten the Messiah’s arrival: that is what is expected of young ultra-Orthodox women in Jerusalem at the end of the Ottoman Empire’s rule. But when her French teacher catches Esther's extraordinary doodling and gives her colored pencils and art lessons, Esther wonders if God has a special destiny for her: maybe she is meant to be an artist, not a mother; maybe she is meant to travel to Paris, not stay in Jerusalem.

In the coming years, as Esther sacrifices her yearning for painting and devotes herself instead to following God’s path as an obedient “Jerusalem maiden,” she suppresses her desires—until a surprising opportunity forces itself into her pre-ordained path. When her beliefs clash with the surging passions she has staved off her entire life, Esther must confront the hard questions: What is faith? Is there such a thing as destiny? And to whom must she be true, to God or to herself?

Type: Historical Fiction

Quick Take: In one word, I would describe this book as riveting.  I learned so much about a culture and time I knew nothing about... something I love to do while reading.

Esther isn't comfortable with the cultural expectations put on her as a young girl approaching adulthood, creating an internal struggle that is explored throughout the novel.  

She makes life challenging for her parents as she pushes the boundaries of that is expected of a young girl living in the time and faith she was born into. Esther feels responsible for something that happens at her family home while she's off enjoying her secret hobby, forcing her life to head in a different direction... one she may not have chosen for herself.

If you enjoyed The Red Tent, or The Diva and the Doctor you will love this book.  I couldn't put it down, and the ending left me wanting more. 

Rating: 5/5 stars
Country: Israel/France
Source: NetGalley

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