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Archive for the ‘Fiction – Women’s’ Category

Childproofed

By Reese Reed

Author Website: www.reesewrites.blogspot.com

BuyLink: https://www.createspace.com/Customer/EStore.do?id=3399630

Things have been so crazy around my house lately that having time to read was impossible. I finally carved out a few minutes, determined to at least start CHILDPROOFED by Reese Reed. If I’d known what a treat this story would be, I’d have put off bedtime a couple of hours to read it before now. At 194 pages, it’s a one sitting read and well worth the time.

Virginia is a thirty-year-old wife and mother who after the birth of her second child isn’t so sure motherhood is all it’s cracked up to be. Somewhere between changing diapers, middle of the night feedings, baths, bedtime stories, and the million other chores of motherhood, she’s lost herself—that young girl who was so carefree.

When Virginia learns that a hot young student at her husband’s school is after him, all her insecurities come crashing forward. Anxiety surfaces over the changes brought to her body by pregnancy, the fact that she barely has time to shower much less take time for a beauty routine, and uninterrupted lovemaking with Mark is a thing of the past. She wonders how he could possibly not prefer his gorgeous student aide to what waits for him at home.

Ms. Reed’s debut novel will strike a chord with mothers everywhere—an uplifting story of a young mother who temporarily loses herself, but then realizes she’s right there, exactly where she wants to be. Well written with a fast, steady pace and easy humor, it’s a great read for all busy mothers and yes, even those who haven’t yet ventured into motherhood. I also recommend it for all those fathers who’d like a little understanding of what’s going on with their wives.

–Willow

https://workinggirlreviews.wordpress.com

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Social Lives

By Wendy Walker

St. Martin’s Press – September 2009

Buy Link: http://www.amazon.com/Social-Lives-Wendy-Walker/dp/0312378165

 

When Wendy Walker’s Social Lives, a story about the trials and tribulations of three families in an exclusive Connecticut suburb, came my way for review, a part of me was prepared not to like it. Call it good, old-fashioned jealousy; I have a tough time feeling sorry for the ultra-rich. But despite my misgivings, with each turn of the page I found myself more deeply immersed in the lives and troubles of these characters.

Rosalyn Barlow has the most coveted social position in Wilshire. With her handsome billionaire husband and her multimillion-dollar estate, Rosalyn has made it her life’s work to know the right people, chair the best committees, and throw the perfect parties. In Rosalyn’s world appearances are everything. Little do the people of Wilshire know of the threads of turmoil that run through the Barlow family tapestry, threatening at any moment to unravel.

Jacqueline Halstead is one of Rosalyn’s closest friends. But when her husband’s bad investment decisions threaten to destroy the home she has created for her children, the ghosts of her dysfunctional childhood arise, throwing “Jacks” into survival mode. She devises a plan to save her family at all costs– even if it means bringing the Barlow family down.

The newest and youngest member of Rosalyn’s circle of friends, Sara Livingston just can’t seem to get anything right. From her clothes to her bright red mini van, every decision she makes seems to blow up in her face. With a house caught in restoration hell, a nanny who threatens to usurp Sara’s role as mother to her small daughter, and the strain of the devastating secret she keeps from her husband, Sara’s battered nerves cause her to look for friendship in all the wrong places.

I found the cast of characters in this novel to be absolutely delightful, with the secondary characters every bit as well drawn as the primary. From the Barlow’s angst filled and rebellious daughter, Caitlin, to Kelly, Jacks’ older and wiser sister, to Rosalyn, who lives in the lap of luxury and still manages to live in misery, Ms. Walker has nailed the complexities of human nature to a tee. Taking as its theme a collection of wealthy women in American suburbia, one might be tempted to think Social Lives is just another “love it and leave it” contemporary story. Not so. The author takes on some tough and important issues like teen sexuality, a friend’s betrayal, and marital infidelity. Kudos to Wendy Walker for handling them so powerfully and eloquently.

Reading this book, I found myself smiling one minute and wanting to cry the next. The story paints a brilliant picture of the lifestyles of the rich and famous, and yet it shows clearly that wealth does not necessarily equate to happiness. Indeed, money can bring with it its own unique set of problems. But mostly, the story proves that women are women, sharing the same fears, joys, struggles and concerns no matter what their socioeconomic background.  I highly recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys stories of women and their relationships.

— Honeybee

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Accordin- to-JaneAccording to Jane

By Marilyn Brant

Kensington, September 29, 2009

Genre: Light Contemporary Women’s Fiction

Author Website: http://www.marilynbrant.com

Pre-order buy link: http://www.amazon.com/According-Jane-Marilyn-Brant/dp/0758234619/

Bookworm Ellie Barnett is sitting in Sophomore English class with her newly assigned copy of Pride and Prejudice when sexy Sam Blain makes his move. Sam had been tormenting Ellie since kindergarten, but this was the first time he’d actually touched her skin and spouted blatant sexual innuendo. Although Ellie feels a strong physical attraction for Sam, he can annoy her more than anyone she knows. She feels she’s much too smart to allow a little thing like lust to override her good sense, especially with a boy as dangerous as Sam.

Ellie isn’t the only one who thinks Sam is the kind to stay far away from. Somewhere inside her mind Ellie hears another voice declaring Sam to be Ellie’s Mr. Wickham. Hearing the ghost of Jane Austen inside her head, Ellie decides she’s either crazy or suffering some terrible head injury. Jane convinces her she’s neither and that her ghost is there to guide her in the ways of life and romance, and that they both have lessons to learn from each other. Over the next twenty years Jane advises Ellie on all aspects of life, love, and romance, supporting her through many disastrous relationships. Ellie ignores most of Jane’s sage wisdom, preferring to tread her own path while searching for her Mr. Darcy.

When I first got this book for review, I knew it would be great fun and I was right.  According to Jane is an intriguing, appealing story full of warmth and wit. Although I consider myself more of a Bronte’ girl than Austen, I adore both Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility. So the plot for Ms. Brant’s novel greatly peaked my interest.

The author’s inspiration of having Jane Austen’s ghost living inside the heroine’s head was almost too delightful for words. But our heroine didn’t always find it so very delightful. Although she credits Jane with helping her get through high school and felt she was her best friend—the one person who was always there for her, she learned early on to block Jane’s presence when she needed to. And she especially needed to during the more intimately, sensual moments of her life.

Ms. Brant cleverly entangles the two women’s emotions and opinions, as Ellie seeks true love and Jane offers her, sometimes not appreciated, judgment of the men Ellie chooses to date. According to Jane is a fast read, perfect for the busy woman and the author has a definite gift for keeping you turning those pages. This is a book you don’t want to miss if you’re a fan of Austen, romance, coming of age, women’s fiction, or if you’re just looking for a highly entertaining story from an author with superb style and fresh voice.

–Willow

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Belva-Plain-WhispersWhispers

Belva Plain

Dell, March 1994 (Mass Market Paperback)

Buy Link: http://www.amazon.com/Whispers-Belva-Plain/dp/0440216745

 

Since I have read and enjoyed many of this author’s books in the past I was pleasantly surprised, while browsing at my favorite used bookstore, to come across a title I hadn’t seen before. Knowing without even reading the synopsis that I was going to like the book, I took it home and started reading it that same afternoon. As always, I was hooked by the opening sentence:

    ‘In dodging Robert’s hand, the furious hand aimed at her face, she fell and struck the edge of the closet’s open door instead.’

So begins WHISPERS, a gripping story of love and abuse in modern-day America.

When pretty, naive Lynn is swept off her feet by her handsome and charming boss, Robert Ferguson, at age twenty, it seems like a fairy tale come true. A rising star in a fast-growing company, the ambitious and loving Robert promises to make all of Lynn’s dreams come true. She has no reason to believe he won’t make good on those promises. However, as early as their tropical paradise honeymoon, the storybook romance is tarnished as Lynn discovers another side of Robert — a violent temper she never would have believed lurked beneath his charming exterior. Wanting to believe in his goodness and hoping for the best, she forgives his brutality and moves cautiously ahead into their future.

The years pass and the couple experiences all of the good and bad of life– the birth of children, the tragic loss of a child, friendships, success, and beneath it all, the ever present threat of Robert’s anger. Lynn tells herself the abuse is a small price to pay for all of the goodness the marriage holds, a lovely home, healthy children and the comforts of being the wife of a successful executive. Knowing she must be strong and keep the marriage intact for the sake of her children, she hides the scars, wipes away the tears, and goes on. But when her carefully concealed secret is discovered and her children begin to hear the faint whispers of gossip Lynn realizes she must look within herself and find the courage to leave.

With her classically eloquent writing style, Belva Plain paints a startling portrait of spousal abuse in corporate America and creates a realistic heroine in the character of Lynn Ferguson. So realistic that I found myself struggling along with her, almost believing with her Robert’s empty promises that things would get better. I was outraged at his cruelty, not only toward his wife, but toward shy, overweight Annie, his eleven-year-old daughter. I cried with Lynn through the bad times and cheered with her through the good. I was that wrapped up in the story.

Inspiring and evocative, WHISPERS is a story of a family’s heartbreak and redemption, and of a woman’s long journey back to herself. I recommend WHISPERS to anyone who enjoys finely crafted, resonating women’s fiction.

— Honeybee

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four-wives-paperbackFour Wives

By Wendy Walker

St. Martin’s Griffin Edition – April 2009

ISBN: 978-0-312-36772-5

Website: http://wendywalkerbooks.com

Buy Link: http://www.amazon.com/Four-Wives-Wendy-Walker/dp/0312367724

Affluent suburbia with its tree lined streets, pretty homes, and lush green lawns. An idyllic setting, but like the black fungus invading the verdant lawns, a plague of discontent has settled over the wives of Hunting Ridge. Four wives, four friends, living lives that are inherently the same, yet different. All stay at home moms, all filled with the same discontent, but using different means of coping.

Gayle Beck comes from ‘old money’ and takes pleasure in the social status it guarantees. Her life appears perfect to anyone looking from the outside. But inside her beautiful 1890’s farmhouse, things are far more sinister and getting worse each day. She deals with her husband’s rage, and a young son who continually grows quieter and unhappier. Gayle wonders how much longer she’ll be able to keep up the appearance of a woman in control; even with the aid of the many pills her doctor prescribes.

Janie Kirk is a woman of great beauty and expert homemaking abilities. She’s the perfect wife and mother. Janie likes her life in Hunting Ridge, but grows restless and dissatisfied with her passionless marriage and the husband who doesn’t know nor does he care to know the real woman he’s married to. Turning to a torrid affair could spell the end of everything for Janie.

Marie Pesseti, a part time divorce attorney struggling to have it all. Marie was going crazy being a full time, stay at home mom and opened her own small law office specializing in father custody cases. She feels she’s losing her husband and daughters to the Hunting Ridge way of life, which she abhors. Working a difficult case and dealing with a cute new intern, Marie is close to taking a step that may change her life forever.

Love Welsh, a former child prodigy and illegitimate daughter of the great Alexander Rice is Marie’s next-door neighbor. Love is having a difficult time keeping things together, her home is a mess and she rarely has time to do much more than brush her hair. She knows her life is a wreck and worries constantly about her children, but can’t seem to find the energy to rectify it. A letter from her estranged father causes the ghosts from Love’s past to resurface and things go from bad to worse. Love develops horrific, debilitating back pain, but all the medical tests fail to explain the reason for it.

When it fell to me to read and review FOUR WIVES, I wasn’t sure if I could do it justice. It just isn’t my kind of story. There’s nothing I dislike more than reading about women with expensive educations, too much money and do too much whining. Women who have it all, but are never happy. Women who are doing what many women would love to do—stay at home and raise their children instead of going to a back breaking job and leaving the kids in day care, so they can make enough money just to get by. But keeping an open mine, I turned to the first page. The excellent writing pulled me into the story. The phenomenal characterization kept me there.

Although I found these four women unlikable, I liked them anyway. All four women are devoted mothers and fearful of making any choices that would adversely affect their children. I became absorbed in their lives and couldn’t stop turning the pages. Even though their lives are so far from my own, I could see tiny pieces of myself in each of them. I too have suffered from a bad marriage, dissatisfaction, depression, restlessness, and bone deep weariness. I too have had to keep my silence, and make tough choices for the good of my children and my sanity.

The characters created on these pages are so real, I could easily picture them as friends or sisters and like my own family and friends, I took them into my heart, faults and all. I rooted for them to make the right decisions. I wanted to shake Gayle and kept hoping she’d tell her shrink to F-off, and then kick her good for nothing husband out of the house. Marie is a snotty little witch devoted to family, loyal to friends, full of strength, courage and integrity. I loved her and could definitely see her as a best friend. I wanted to alternately hug Love, and shake her. And Janie, I wanted to slap her, hug her. I cried for her. And in the end, she broke my heart.

Ms. Walker is a gifted writer and knows how to keep her reader’s eyes glued to her words. Skillful plotting builds the tension page after page. I kept waiting for the hump to come. The one where the story loses me for a while and I can put it down to tend to necessary chores. It didn’t happen and the chores were left until I’d turned that last page. I highly recommend this book to all women regardless of their life’s circumstances.

FOUR WIVES is about women and sentiment, passion and marriage, motherhood and most of all friendship. I defy you not to find a small bit of yourself within its pages. It’s been several days since reading this story and I can’t get these women out of my mind. They aren’t easy to forget and I imagine will be with me for a long time.

  –Willow

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–Working Girl Reviews

https://workinggirlreviews.wordpress.com

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Love-ChangesLove Changes

Marsha Casper Cook

Fideli Publishing 2008

ISBN 1-4196-2593-4

Buy Link: http://www.amazon.com/Love-Changes-Marsha-Casper-Cook/dp/1604141247/

Website: www.michiganavenuemedia.com 

Before I opened the first page of this book and even before I read the synopsis on the back cover I stopped to consider what the title of Marsha Casper Cook’s novel might mean. My first thought was that love is a vital part of life and every love must flow with changes to survive. As I glanced at the cover picture, I wondered if it was a picture of serenity or loneliness. Were the chairs empty in wait of a late night lover’s chat on the balcony or empty from missing love? The title along with the serene picture of two chairs sitting on a balcony with a pretty pot of flowers in the background intrigued me enough to open the cover and start reading. I’m glad I did. Love Changes is a good book.

Elaine Lewis is easy to dislike. First impressions are that she is selfish, unappreciative and unstable. Martin Lewis is easy to like. First impressions are that he is hardworking, loving and devoted to his wife. Elaine is a rich socialite who appears to flit from activity to activity simply to please herself. Martin is a well-respected doctor who overlooks much to honor his vow to love his wife no matter what. I refer to first impressions because as the story unfolds, readers get insight into Elaine’s past hurts and present pain. While the information doesn’t justify it, at least it shines light on Elaine’s actions. Many readers will hate Elaine early in the book, however continued reading will allow some readers to move from dislike of, to sorrow for, to cheering the recovery of this wounded, fearful woman.

To friends and family members the Lewis’ appear to be a happy couple with everything going for them and indeed they are until the birth of Stevie, a son with a disability proves to be a life change Elaine is unwilling to bear. Readers will be appalled by Elaine’s decision to give away her disabled son and by her later claim to all that he died in childbirth. Although Martin is a wonderful husband and is secretly involved in Stevie’s life readers will question his steadfast willingness to do things Elaine’s way to the point of not raising his son in his own home. Not until much later in the book do we see that selfishness alone does not motivate Elaine’s decisions.  Painful memories of a devastating childhood loss and a misguided desire to protect her son from herself are what lead her to act as she does. Doing what she feels is best for Stevie leads to misery in all aspects of her future. Elaine’s perfect life is a veil over her lies and secrecy.

Love Changes confronts some serious issues such as gambling, adultery, mental illness, abortion, and self preservation. Rather than sharing her problems with her husband Elaine turns to the horse track where she gambles on a daily basis. She later turns to other men, but none of her relationships can fill the hole her son left in her heart. She must find a way to reconcile the past or she will not live to see the future. Can Martin’s love hold strong through affairs, lies and loss? You will have to read to find out.

The author presents vivid scene descriptions, honest dialogue and believable characters. She skillfully depicts emotions and the inner turmoil of a troubled lady.  Although I found it a bit depressing, I nonetheless enjoyed Love Changes. The major characters were strongly defined and the minor characters were introduced in a natural progression allowing readers to get to know them and their role in Elaine’s life. Some of these individuals will be disliked by readers immediately; some will have redeeming qualities and others will be liked from the first. Readers will enjoy getting to know Stevie and cheer his ability to have a happy life despite his disability. His cheerful outlook on life comes in stark contrast to his mother’s gloomy view and made this reviewer wonder who had the true disability. Many characters play a role in Elaine’s life but none has a love as strong as her husband Martin. His is the love that can sustain Elaine Lewis. The author had a good mix of dialogue and narration. The dialogue was mostly natural, but I felt it was slightly overdone in a few scenes.

While not a happy life I enjoyed my journey with Elaine through her ups and downs. It was satisfying to see how love impacted her life and made changes for the good and the bad. Love changes all of us and I enjoyed the journey into Elaine’s world to see just how love changed her.

I would recommend adding Love Changes to your future reading list, but don’t expect a light fluffy book solely written to entertain. It is too serious a story for that. It may leave you feeling down in sections, but the message to appreciate what you have, be honest with those you love and don’t let past hurts keep you from future happiness make it a worthy story. Elaine can’t truly love until she forgives herself. She finally gets her head on straight but is it too late? Oh how her life would have been enriched had she learned to love and be loved years earlier. 

Love Changes may stir various emotional responses in readers, but I feel the ending will satisfy all. These kinds of stories can never close with every problem solved. Love Changes is a book that will make you think and maybe even make you want to hold those you love just a little closer.

–Pearl

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what-we-keepWhat We Keep

By: Elizabeth Berg

Ballantine Publishing, May 25, 1999

Buy Link: http://www.amazon.com/What-We-Keep-Ballantine-Readers/dp/0345423291/

I acquire books in many ways: A few are given to me as gifts, some I buy brand new, others I swap for at the used book store, occasionally I trade books with friends and many times I pick them up at yard sales. I am always on the lookout for a good read. I don’t know how I came across What We Keep by Elizabeth Berg nor do I remember how long I’ve had it sitting on my shelf. Inside the front cover is an address label for Helen B. Sawyer from the state of Vermont. I don’t know Helen and wonder when she put her label in the book. Did she take it on vacation and mistakenly leave it behind? Did she loan the book to a friend in hopes of getting it back? I will never know, but I set aside my twinge of guilt for reading her book realizing that if she thought it was worthy of a return label I should give it a try. I’m glad I did. I had never read any Elizabeth Berg books before this one, but I know I will be looking for her next time I visit a yard sale or book store.

What We Keep is a book about mothers and daughters, sisters and friends. It portrays evolving family dynamics, choices and changes. The book is mostly about a mother and her daughters, but my favorite relationship in the book is the one between the two sisters, Ginny and Sharla. Maybe it’s because I grew up sandwiched between sisters, but I always enjoy reading sister stories. In this case the relationship between the sisters comes across as very realistic. The story had some funny parts and in some sections I smiled to myself because I could see my sisters and I doing some of the very activities described by the author. The book is also sad and thought provoking. In this book the girls are having a carefree preteen summer until events align and the lazy days of a summer are interrupted by adult decisions that affect children in a life changing way. As the story unfolded I was captivated by the girl’s devotion to each other. Sure, they had their share of sibling rivalry and jealousy, but underneath it all they were fiercely devoted to each other. I love that relationship. On the surface it seems the Young’s have an ideal family but when free spirited Jasmine moves in next door, mother’s feelings of dullness and depression come to the surface.

The story flips back and forth between two perspectives. We hear from twelve year old Ginny who experiences the abandonment of her mother alternated with 47 year old Ginny who has been coaxed into flying to visit her mother, whom she hasn’t seen in 35 years. Ginny and Sharla were abandoned and betrayed together. Ginny and Sharla together travel the road to understanding and forgiveness. Both girls had given up on a relationship with their mother (Marion) years ago, but are making the trip nonetheless. It was Sharla’s idea to reconcile and Ginny only agrees to go because she suspects her sister might have cancer. Devoted as she is, she can’t let Sharla face mother alone after all these years. As Ginny’s flight wings its way west, she spends her time remembering her childhood: the time of happiness before things fell apart, the events that led to mother leaving and even her part in the prolonged estrangement. Most of the novel is told in flashbacks to childhood during the plane ride.

While reading the book I found myself sympathizing with Ginny and Sharla. I felt terribly sad that they went through their teen years without their mother. I really wanted them to reconcile with their mother early on. They desperately wanted her back at first, but she was off finding herself. As time passed they settled into a new routine and grew angry and distant. When mother felt ready to try again it was a case of not wanting the same things at the same time. I understood Marion’s plight but not her decision. I was angry with her choice but still felt compassion for her in her sorrow for her loneliness. She walked out and left her family and by the time she came back the circle had been closed and her efforts to regain a position in the family were not accepted. Of course the girls didn’t know the whole story and we eventually learn that what they thought to be true was tainted with a childlike perspective and purposeful omission of facts. In an effort to leave them one stable parent, mother took the blame for the breakup of the family. By not adding sordid details or mentioning their father’s actions the girls saw her as the sole villain. Father’s silence and her omission led the girls to place 100% of the blame at her feet. The truth comes out at the end of the story and looking back with a fresh perspective isn’t easy for the girls. Sometimes one has to look back to move ahead. The story reminds us that there are always two sides to every story and it is never too late to reconcile with a loved one.

I felt most of the characters were well developed and enjoyed getting to know them. For me the only drawback in character development in this book was father. Throughout most of the book he was just kind of there and pretty passive. We never really get a sense of his feelings, his struggles or his decisions. We learn things about him toward the end of the book ,but we don’t really know him. Since I didn’t know him or what he was thinking I could only be disappointed that he never admitted to his part in the breakup. It would have been nice to learn what he was thinking, as he sat in silence all these years. It seems cowardly of him to go to his grave content for his daughters to be alienated from their mother due to a partial truth. I may be taking it too far, but the revelation of his actions is something his adult daughters will now have to reconcile without the chance to talk to him: The hero dad they grew up with vs. the dad that played a real part in the destruction of the family. Nothing happens by itself and I think dad’s character could have been written a bit stronger and perhaps more insight given into his relationship with his wife and daughters.

Jasmine is a colorful character who adds a lot to the story. I enjoyed the addition of the teenaged character of Wayne to the story line and what it brought to the girl’s relationship. I was slightly disappointed that he didn’t reenter the story, as I was hoping we would at least get to see how his life turned out. I became sad when reading how dad tried to carry both roles after mother left. His attempts at cooking, shopping and listening were hard for the girls to accept because they so desperately wanted their mother for these duties. It was easy to understand how Ginny felt when her mom wasn’t there to go school shopping or to confide in the day she got her first period. The author drew the reader in by dealing sensitively with these emotions, which I believe are felt by all daughters who lose a mother.

This book touches on many issues affecting women in their relationships with each other. It explores the role of mother, sister, wife and friend. It touches on the hidden woman behind the happy smile, the artist within and the darkness of depression.

I found What We Keep to be an interesting story from start to finish. I enjoyed Berg’s descriptions in the story. I could visualize the town and the time period as she detailed houses, stores, clothing, cars and food of the 1950’s. It is a short book that could easily be read in one or two sittings. When I was about three quarters of the way finished, I thought I knew just how it would end. I was pleased to see that it was not as predictable as I thought. Although not a new release I think this would be an enjoyable summer novel for those who have not yet read it.

–Pearl

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