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Posts Tagged ‘women’s fiction’

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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wendy walkerWorking Girl Reviews is excited to welcome Wendy Walker to our blog today.  

1.  Wendy, thanks so much for visiting with us and answering a few questions. Your novel, FOUR WIVES is up for review here at WGR. Tell us about the book and what inspired the story.

Four Wives was inspired by my life as a stay-home mom in the suburbs. All around me, I saw women who were conflicted by their deep love and commitment to raising their kids and the empty space that existed having left their other callings. This issue formed the first character I developed for the novel, whose name is Love Welsh. As I thought about this community and the people around me, I saw other issues worth exploring and I created characters and plot to give life to those issues. At the same time, I wanted Four Wives to be a fun, fast-paced read with lots of suspense. What resulted, I hope, is just that – a great read with deeper issues that linger long after the book is finished.

2.  FOUR WIVES paints a portrait of life in the suburbs as idyllic on the surface, but far from rosy in reality. Do you feel this could be true of any community—city, rural, small town, or more a symptom of wealthy suburbia?  

I think because these small, insular suburban communities are so homogeneous, there is a greater propensity to hide any thoughts or feelings that truly question the life choices that have been uniformly made. Here is an example of what I mean. Most of the families in these communities have working dads and stay-home moms. The women will talk about their discontentment with this situation up to a point, but it is only with their trusted friends (and sometimes not even then) that they will confess a deeper unhappiness that might lead to a change such as going back to work or even divorce.

3.  Your bio states that you’re a former commercial litigator and investment banker. Does this mean your desire to write came later or was it put on hold while pursuing your other career?

It came later for sure. I quit work as a lawyer when I had my first son. I really wanted to create more balance in my life, which had been so focused on work. But as I settled into stay-home life, I realized I was growing anxious and unhappy, so I tried to find something I could do in a few hours here and there each week that would be intellectual, meaningful and also a potential gateway to a career that I could pursue while being at home with my kids. Writing was what I found, and of course it had been in the back of my mind somewhere. My first inclination was actually to write legal thrillers!

4.  On your website it says you were trained as a competitive figure skater and are a long time supporter and board member of the Figure Skating in Harlem organization. Tell us more about this organization and your involvement.

FSH is a fantastic organization that targets at-risk girls in Harlem. By providing them with a full-service afterschool program, which includes skating and educational components, the girls gain self-esteem and self-discipline. This program has incredible success keeping girls focused on their studies and themselves during years that often lead to teen pregnancy and substance abuse. I became involved at its inception almost 12 years ago because it was started by my best friend from college, Sharon Cohen. You can check out FSH at http://Figureskatinginharlem.org !

5.  You have a new release coming in September 2009 titled SOCIAL LIVES. Is it along the same lines as FOUR WIVES or totally different?

Social Lives has the same basic structure as Four Wives in that it follows a few characters whose lives are intertwined. This time, however, the women live in an even wealthier community driven by hedge fund wealth, and the issues that underlie the characters and plot are a bit more serious and timely. From teenage promiscuity to the predicament of a wife whose husband is about to lose everything to a hedge fund scandal (sound familiar?), this book moves quickly and surprises readers all the way to the last page.

6.  Some of WGR’s readers are aspiring writers and, as most writers looking to be published, they’d appreciate knowing what it was like for you. Was it a long process? Did you send a hundred or so submissions, receive any rejections…?

It was long, but worth it! I started writing as a hobby with intention and because I was having babies during the first five years after I began, it took me about that long to finish a novel. The key for me in finding an agent and eventually selling my first book was getting professional feedback and revising heavily. As a self-taught writer, I knew I needed this and I found a wonderful writing professor who critiqued my work. This was so important for me and I found an agent soon after by sending out about 60 submissions using the books that are out there on literary agents and the like. There are many ways to break in and the first things any writer should do are perfect their manuscript, use any and all connections to get their work read, and then blanket the market to find an agent.

7.  Besides family and writing, what are your other passions?

I’m not sure I even remember! I love seeing my close friends for hours at a time over dinner or a walk. I like to run and hike and do so almost every day. But really, my work is writing and I love it. For so many years, it was my escape from the daily grind of raising kids and taking care of a house and I still view every hour that I am writing as leisure time. That is the very best part of this job for me!

8.  What’s a typical day like in the life of Wendy Walker?

Wake up to three little boys climbing in my bed. Make breakfast, get them dressed, drive them to school or camp. Then a run in the woods, and home to work. I start out with some PR or editing side jobs, and then hunker down on the floor by my fire or by my picture windows in my study to write. There is always lots of coffee involved! I can do this indefinitely, but usually only have a few hours before it’s time to pick up kids and drive them all over for sports and activities. From 2pm on, I am a mom again and that consumes me completely. By 9pm, I am usually in my bed watching some TV while I wait for my oldest to finish reading and puttering in his room so I can tuck him in. Then I tuck myself in. Very dull, but I wouldn’t change a thing!

9.  Is there anything about you that your readers would be surprised to learn?

OK here goes. I actually don’t read as much as other writers do and I don’t read books in my own genre (yikes!). I find that if I do this, my own writing style and process starts to take on the tone of what I am reading at the moment. So that leaves vacations and plane rides, of which I have few. Instead, I watch movies and great character- driven TV to keep my sense of storytelling alert. Also, I am an editor for the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, so look for my books under those titles as well!

10. Wendy, thank you for spending time with us today. Anything else you’d like to share with our readers? Where’s the best place to go online to find out more about you and your work?

I think the message I really want to convey is that while my work is packaged in a way that resembles Desperate Housewives and the like, my novels are truly driven by real-life issues that I believe impact women everywhere. I have been so pleased to find that readers relate to my characters and the struggles they face. This is always my intention when I sit down to write and I hope that readers who enjoy this type of book will find me! You can learn a lot more at wendywalkerbooks.com. Thanks so much!!

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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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beyond_the_quietBeyond the Quiet
by Brenda Hill
Vanilla Heart Publishing, 2009
Buy Link: http://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Quiet-Brenda-Hill/dp/1935407082

 
Emotionally abused as a child, Lisa Montgomery learned at an early age to keep her feelings well hidden, believing that the only way to be loved and accepted was to be perfect. As an adult, she finds stability and happiness in Mac Montgomery. When Mac loses his battle with cancer after twenty-five years of marriage, forty-four year old Lisa is devastated. On her own for the first time in over two decades, she returns to her job as a real estate agent, desperate to escape the pain of losing her husband and determined to carve out a new life for herself. Just when things seem to be getting better, she receives a strange notice in the mail; a letter stating that Mac’s post office box is due for renewal. The couple had always received their mail through home delivery, so thinking it must be a mistake, Lisa heads to the post office to straighten it out. What she discovers is the beginning of a nightmare as Mac’s secret life of lies and betrayal begin to unravel.

This book took me on an emotional roller coaster ride; a ride that pulled me along and refused to let me go until it reached its final destination. I was gripped by Lisa’s situation from the opening scenes, and with each turn of the page I found myself making more of an emotional investment. Lisa deals with some tough issues that any woman can sympathize with: an alienated daughter, a friend’s betrayal, a husband’s deceit. The plot took many twists and turns as Lisa made her journey to self-discovery, learning how to love again, how to live again. I was right there in every scene, feeling her joy, her anguish, and her outrage.

Brenda Hill succeeded in creating a character that I truly cared about and even loved, and placed her in a setting that became as real to me as my own neighborhood. Beyond the Quiet is a love story, but more than that, it is a life story. It is the story of what it means to be a woman.

Honeybee

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