Books I Love! The Summer Seekers by Sarah Morgan is Women’s Fiction on the Road

It took me all summer and then some to get into this book but am I glad I did! I listened to the audiobook, narrated by Georgina Sutton, and it completely captivated me on so many levels. It’s great women’s fiction, an enlightening “coming of age” novel for a woman in mid-life and her octogenarian mother, and a woman in transition, with many truths laid bare. Even the teenage daughters grow a bit. A wonderful read!

About the Book

Get swept into a summer of sunshine, soul-searching and shameless matchmaking with this delightfully big-hearted road trip adventure!

Kathleen is eighty years old. After she has a run-in with an intruder, her daughter wants her to move in to a residential home. But she’s not having any of it. What she craves—what she needs—is adventure.

Liza is drowning under the daily stress of family life. The last thing she needs is her mother jetting off on a wild holiday, making Liza long for a solo summer of her own.

Martha is having a quarter-life crisis. Unemployed, unloved and uninspired, she just can’t get her life together. But she knows something has to change.

When Martha sees Kathleen’s advertisement for a driver and companion to share an epic road trip across America, she decides this job might be the answer to her prayers. She’s not the world’s best driver, but anything has to be better than living with her parents. And traveling with a stranger? No problem. Anyway, how much trouble can one eighty-year-old woman be?

As these women embark on the journey of a lifetime, they all discover it’s never too late to start over.

My Take

From the moment they take off you know the cross-country adventure of Kathleen and Martha will be transformative and fun. Each has something to prove, both have something to come to terms with: For Kathleen, it’s old heartbreak and abandoned relationships, for Martha it’s poor choices and a divorce. Liza, too, has to come to grips with her marriage (is it failing?) and finding herself after devoting years to raising her spoiled, unappreciative twin daughters.

As a lover of anything British I checked out this audiobook and found myself on an American journey across Old Route 66, a road much traveled for those seeking answers, change, growth, opportunity and adventure. Our unlikely duo find all. Back in England, Liza takes her own adventure full of temptations and a rebirth of her previous self, whom, she finds, she’s been missing for quite a long time.

The narration is superb, the clipped British tones of Georgina Sutton carrying the story well.

Recommended for lovers of strong women’s fiction, heroines of an unexpected age, romance on the road, and renewal stories.

About the Author

Sarah Morgan is a USA Today and Sunday Times bestselling author of romance and women’s fiction. She has sold over 21 million copies of her books and her trademark humour and warmth have gained her fans across the globe.

Sarah lives near London, England and when she isn’t writing or reading, she likes to spend time outdoors hiking or riding her mountain bike. 

Join Sarah’s mailing list at http://www.sarahmorgan.com for all book news. For more insight into her writing life follow her on Facebook at http://www.facebook/AuthorSarahMorgan and on Instagram at @sarahmorganwrites Contact Sarah at sarah@sarahmorgan.com

Great Escapes! Mary Alice Monroe’s The Beach House Has All the Feels of Summer

I came to know the work of Mary Alice Monroe fairly recently and read the last two books in this series first. This summer I decided to start at the beginning and picked up The Beach House, which was republished with a new (gorgeous!) cover. I was immediately whisked away to a Lowcountry summer with characters I quickly fell in love with, and started putting together the backstory of this family saga. And the turtles! Musn’t forget the turtles. What a writer!

Description

Caretta Rutledge thought she’d left her Southern roots and troubled family far behind. But an unusual request from her mother—coming just as her own life is spinning out of control—has Cara heading back to the scenic Lowcountry of her childhood summers. Before long, the rhythms of the island open her heart in wonderful ways as she repairs the family beach house, becomes a bona fide “turtle lady” and renews old acquaintances long thought lost. But it is in reconnecting with her mother that she will learn life’s most precious lessons—true love involves sacrifice, family is forever, and the mistakes of the past can be forgiven.

My Take

When I fall in love with a book I’m delighted to find that it’s one of a series. The more books in the series the better. I can read them one after another until sated, and wait impatiently for the next. I approached this series backwards, reading the last two first before starting on Book One. I absoultely loved The Lowcountry Summer series and whipped through that before finding Ocean Boulevard, and this summer’s Summer of Lost and Found. When I saw the new cover for the first in The Beach House series I knew I had to go back to the beginning of the Rutledge family’s story and picked up The Beach House. This is the kind of summer book that grips you and puts you right into the heart of a family and their different dramas, easily choosing sides and rooting for your favorite characters. The story of Lovie is heartbreaking. Cara’s transformation is inspiring. The beautiful beach scenes put you right on the Carolina coast. The romances between Cara and Brett and Lovie and Russell are swoon worthy. This is a book you can visit again and again. I can’t wait to read the next in the series.

Recommended for readers of gripping women’s fiction and books about environmental issues, and beach lovers.

About the Author

New York Times bestselling author Mary Alice Monroe found her true calling in environmental fiction when she moved to coastal South Carolina. Already a successful author, she was captivated by the beauty and fragility of her new home. Her experiences living in the midst of a habitat that was quickly changing gave her a strong and important focus for her novels.

Monroe is the New York Times bestselling author of 22 novels, published worldwide, and the author of two children’s picture books. She writes richly textured stories that delve into the complexities of interpersonal relationships and the parallels between the land and life. 

Monroe has achieved many lists, including the New York Times, USA Today and SIBA and starred reviews. She has received numerous awards, including several Readers’ Choice Awards, RT Lifetime Achievement Award, the Girls Scouts of America Woman of Distinction Award, the 2008 South Carolina Center for the Book Award for Writing and was featured at the National Festival of the Book, the 2008 International Book Award for Green Fiction for The Butterfly’s Daughter, the 2015 Florida Book Festival Distinguished Author Award, and the ASPCA Henry Bergh award for Children’s Fiction. Monroe’s A Lowcountry Christmas won the 2017 Southern Prize for Fiction. Her novel, The Beach House, was adapted into a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie starring three-time Golden Globe nominee Andie MacDowell, Minka Kelly, and Chad Michael Murray. In 2018 Mary Alice Monroe was inducted into the South Carolina Literary Hall of Fame. 

Mary Alice is an active conservationist and serves on the Board of the South Carolina Aquarium and The Leatherback Trust. She is a frequent speaker at book festivals, conferences, and private events. Monroe is also a frequent contributor to magazines and online blogs.

Mary Alice Monroe is published by Gallery Books and Aladdin Books, Simon & Schuster. Her agent is Faye Bender of The Book Group. 

Monroe lives with her family on Isle of Palms, a barrier island off Charleston, South Carolina. For additional information, go to http://www.maryalicemonroe.com.

Books I Love! Murder on Principle – Drop Everything and Read Eleanor Kuhns Latest Will Reed Mystery

This is the tenth in Eleanor Kuhn’s Will Rees mystery series. I love these books! They’re original and unexpected. This one’s got an interesting plot twist: smallpox. How timely. Read it when you’ve got nothing else to do after you pick it up.

About the Book

Will Rees faces a moral dilemma when a slaveholder is murdered while attempting to recapture a former slave: should he pursue lawful justice or should he let the killer go free?

November 1800, Maine. After helping their long-time friend Tobias escort his wife, along with a liberated slave and her child, from the Great Dismal back to Durham, Will and Lydia Rees’s lives are interrupted when a dead body is found near their home.

The body is that of Mr Gilbert, a slaveholder from the Great Dismal. Was he murdered in pursuit of the former slaves?

When it’s discovered Gilbert was infected with smallpox, and Gilbert’s sister arrives demanding justice and the return of her absconded slaves, Will is torn. Finding the killer could lead to the recapture of the former slaves. Letting them go free could result in a false arrest and endanger the Durham community. Will must make a choice . . .

My Take

It’s easy to get lost in Eleanor Kuhn’s world of 1800’s Maine. The series is painstakingly researched and the characters are written so well. You’ll think you’re in the mystery alongside Will and Lydia, feel the fear of the escaped slaves, and despise the elegant southern plantation mistress who comes to take them back to Virginia. The issue of race is deep in this story as abolitionists and sympathizers with the slave owners do battle. The smallpox outbreak – and the doctor’s ingenious way to offer a vaccination – is taken right out of today’s headlines. I couldn’t stop reading and spent a delightful Saturday afternoon trying to figure out the killer. Kuhns gave us several good options, but the ending came as a surprise. Highly recommended for those who enjoy historical fiction and cozy mysteries.

About the Author

ELEANOR KUHNS is the 2011 winner of the Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel competition. She lives in New York, received her master’s in Library Science from Columbia University, and is currently the Assistant Director at the Goshen Public Library in Orange County, New York.

Connect with Eleanor Kuhns

Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook

Books I Love! TJ Newman’s Falling is a Wild Ride in the Sky

I first learned of this book and author on NPR’s Fresh Air podcast (July 6). The combination of debut author, flight attendant, hijacking, kidnapping, New York Times bestseller, and a Universal deal on the film rights intrigued me and I just had to read it. Wow, what a ride! Both the book and the author’s story.

About the Book

You just boarded a flight to New York.

There are one hundred and forty-three other passengers onboard.

What you don’t know is that thirty minutes before the flight your pilot’s family was kidnapped.

For his family to live, everyone on your plane must die.

The only way the family will survive is if the pilot follows his orders and crashes the plane.

Enjoy the flight.

My Take

A pilot is preparing for a flight, but his wife is angry with him. He’d promised he’d be home for their son’s Little League opener but he was called in at the last minute, and, duty bound, could not say no to his boss. So there’s tension immediately. Then the cable man arrives, or so they think, which sets off the chain of events. The reader is with all of these characters throughout the book, on land and in the sky, and we meet a number of other key players throughout the story, including the three flight attendants on board who are charged with keeping the passengers safe and calm for what will be a dangerous and unpredictable flight. These characters are all likable and easy to identify and empathize with, very real and human. The character development was great. You can even empathize with the terrorists, who are, after all, humans too with a horrifying backstory that motivates their dastardly act.

There is some political drama which makes a point but does not veer away from the story.

The chapters are short and move quickly; the pace is excellent. I could not stop reading, needing to know what would happen next. And Newman did not disappoint. You want to read this.

This is an author with a brilliant future.

About the Author

T. J. Newman,a former bookseller turned flight attendant, worked for Virgin America and Alaska Airlines from 2011 to 2021. She wrote much of Falling on cross-country red-eye flights while her passengers were asleep. She lives in Phoenix, Arizona. Falling is her first novel.

Connect with TJ Newman

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Books I Love! Kristen Harmel’s The Forest of Vanishing Stars is a Richly Researched, Inspiring Novel

Book Description

The New York Times bestselling author of the “heart-stopping tale of survival and heroism” (People) The Book of Lost Names returns with an evocative coming-of-age World War II story about a young woman who uses her knowledge of the wilderness to help Jewish refugees escape the Nazis—until a secret from her past threatens everything.

After being stolen from her wealthy German parents and raised in the unforgiving wilderness of eastern Europe, a young woman finds herself alone in 1941 after her kidnapper dies. Her solitary existence is interrupted, however, when she happens upon a group of Jews fleeing the Nazi terror. Stunned to learn what’s happening in the outside world, she vows to teach the group all she can about surviving in the forest—and in turn, they teach her some surprising lessons about opening her heart after years of isolation. But when she is betrayed and escapes into a German-occupied village, her past and present come together in a shocking collision that could change everything.

Inspired by incredible true stories of survival against staggering odds, and suffused with the journey-from-the-wilderness elements that made Where the Crawdads Sing a worldwide phenomenon, The Forest of Vanishing Stars is a heart-wrenching and suspenseful novel from the #1 internationally bestselling author whose writing has been hailed as “sweeping and magnificent” (Fiona Davis, New York Times bestselling author), “immersive and evocative” (Publishers Weekly), and “gripping” (Tampa Bay Times).

My Take

What a remarkable read! I was swept away from the start, into the heart of the forest, richly written with vivid details, and into the heart of Yona, our brave but innocent heroine. This is a World War II novel unlike any I’ve read, and was woven with the results of the author’s deep research, which only made the book more gripping.

Yona is kidnapped by a mysterious gypsy-like woman at age two and spends the next 20 years with her captor living deep in the forest, avoiding humanity, hunting and gathering their food, and venturing into nearby villages in the dark of night to take what they need. However, Yona’s captor, Jerusza, is a brilliant and worldly woman who teaches her everything she knows about the forest, the world, and survival. Far from the safety of their forest, war is raging across Europe and the Holocaust is in full throttle.

When Jerusza dies, Yona is left alone, but soon encounters a band of Jewish refugees, innocents in the wilderness, whom she realizes need her help, which she is driven to provide regardless of the danger to herself. With them she discovers, love, betrayal, and loss.

This is my first novel from this author; I will be reading more.

Highly recommended for readers who enjoy historical fiction with strong heroines, suspense, lush landscapes, and an inspiring ending.

About the Author

Kristin Harmel is the New York Times bestselling, USA Today bestselling, and #1 international bestselling author of The Book of Lost Names, The Winemaker’s Wife, The Room on Rue Amelie, and a dozen other novels that have been translated into 28 languages and sold all over the world.

A former reporter for PEOPLE magazine, Kristin has been writing professionally since the age of 16, when she began her career as a sportswriter, covering Major League Baseball and NHL hockey for a local magazine in Tampa Bay, Florida in the late 1990s. After stints covering health and lifestyle for American Baby, Men’s Health, and Woman’s Day, she became a reporter for PEOPLE magazine while still in college and spent more than a decade working for the publication, covering everything from the Super Bowl to high-profile murders to celebrity interviews. Her favorite stories at PEOPLE, however, were the “Heroes Among Us” features–tales of ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

In addition to a long magazine writing career (which also included articles published in Travel + Leisure, Glamour, Ladies’ Home Journal, Every Day with Rachael Ray, and more), Kristin was also a frequent contributor to the national television morning show The Daily Buzz and has appeared on Good Morning America and numerous local television morning shows.

Kristin was born just outside Boston, Massachusetts and spent her childhood there, as well as in Columbus, Ohio, and St. Petersburg, Florida. After graduating with a degree in journalism (with a minor in Spanish) from the University of Florida, she spent time living in Paris and Los Angeles and now lives in Orlando, with her husband and young son. She is the co-founder and co-host of the popular web series and podcast FRIENDS & FICTION.

Connect with Kristin Harmel

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Books I Love! Hour of the Witch by Chris Bohjalian Will Haunt You

Description

A young Puritan woman—faithful, resourceful, but afraid of the demons that dog her soul–plots her escape from a violent marriage in this riveting and propulsive novel of historical suspense from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Flight Attendant.

Boston, 1662. Mary Deerfield is twenty-four-years-old. Her skin is porcelain, her eyes delft blue, and in England she might have had many suitors. But here in the New World, amid this community of saints, Mary is the second wife of Thomas Deerfield, a man as cruel as he is powerful. When Thomas, prone to drunken rage, drives a three-tined fork into the back of Mary’s hand, she resolves that she must divorce him to save her life. 

But in a world where every neighbor is watching for signs of the devil, a woman like Mary—a woman who harbors secret desires and finds it difficult to tolerate the brazen hypocrisy of so many men in the colony—soon becomes herself the object of suspicion and rumor. When tainted objects are discovered buried in Mary’s garden, when a boy she has treated with herbs and simples dies, and when their servant girl runs screaming in fright from her home, Mary must fight to not only escape her marriage, but also the gallows. 

A twisting, tightly plotted novel of historical suspense from one of our greatest storytellers, Hour of the Witch is a timely and terrifying story of socially sanctioned brutality and the original American witch hunt.

My Take

Venturing into 1660’s Boston through this book was more than just a time travel. Life, even a pampered life, was hard then, none of the modern conveniences we take for granted, such as central heating, running water, and plumbing. No supermarkets either. No automobiles. The population was small enough so that everyone knew everyone else’s business and gossip was the city’s favorite past time. People were ugly, unforgiving, judgmental. Women’s rights were nonexistent. Wives were considered to be an extension of their husbands, their child at best, in need of guidance and discipline to keep them on a heavenly path.

Our heroine, Mary Deerfield, who left her family home of privilege and wealth to marry a man far older than herself and without the means to keep her in the lifestyle she was accustomed to, finds herself unable to bear children, “barren,” and the victim of her husband’s creative cruelty which leaves her scarred and with a hunger for vengeance. She is not afraid of him, no, and asks the magistrates that a divorce be granted. She is refused and returned to her husband’s home where his abuse, physical, mental, and emotional, continues. But our heroine devises other means to satisfy her need for vengeance, to escape her loveless marriage, and to find happiness with the man she does love.

The characters in this novel, the townsfolk, are a provincial bunch, worse than a small town Facebook page spreading rumors, lies, and gossip shamelessly while piously sitting through church services for hours on Sunday, hypocrites all. It is this stream of venom that leads to Mary’s demise. It seems everyone else knows what’s being said about her but her. She is not nearly as tuned in to the party line as the rest of her neighbors. The book is interesting in that it seems not much has changed since the 1660’s, except perhaps the technology. In any era, people are the same: quick to judge, blame, gaslight, and throw someone else under the bus to save their own selves. With the town talk so pervasive it was fun trying to stay ahead of the story to figure out what happens next and whether or not Mary escapes her inevitable doom. It kept me on my toes. I read the 400 page book in two days.

Recommended for fans of richly researched historical fiction and women’s fiction told from a man’s point of view. This one will haunt you.

STa

About the Author

CHRIS BOHJALIAN is the #1 New York Times best-selling author of twenty-two books, including The Red Lotus, Midwives, and The Flight Attendant, which is an HBO Max limited series starring Kaley Cuoco. His other books include The Guest Room; Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands; The Sandcastle Girls; Skeletons at the Feast;and The Double Bind. His novels Secrets of Eden, Midwives, and Past the Bleachers were made into movies, and his work has been translated into more than thirty-five languages. He is also a playwright (Wingspan and Midwives). He lives in Vermont and can be found at chrisbohjalian.com or on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Litsy, and Goodreads, @chrisbohjalian.

Great Escapes! Viola Shipman’s The Clover Girls is a Trip Back to 1980’s Summer Camp

A perfect read to take you back to youthful summer days!

Description

“Like a true friendship, The Clover Girls is a novel you will forever savor and treasure.” —Mary Alice Monroe, New York Times bestselling author

Elizabeth, Veronica, Rachel and Emily met at Camp Birchwood as girls in 1985, where over four summers they were the Clover Girls—inseparable for those magical few weeks of freedom—until the last summer that pulled them apart. Now approaching middle age, the women are facing challenges they never imagined as teens, struggles with their marriages, their children, their careers, and wondering who it is they see when they look in the mirror.

Then Liz, V and Rachel each receive a letter from Emily with devastating news. She implores the girls who were once her best friends to reunite at Camp Birchwood one last time, to spend a week together revisiting the dreams they’d put aside and repair the relationships they’d allowed to sour. But the women are not the same idealistic, confident girls who once ruled Camp Birchwood, and perhaps some friendships aren’t meant to last forever…

Bestselling author Viola Shipman is at her absolute best with The Clover Girls. Readers of all ages and backgrounds will love its powerful, redemptive nature and the empowering message at its heart.

My Take

What a joy this was on so many levels! I discovered this author on the Friends & Fiction Show. To my surprise, Viola Shipman is the pen name of Wade Rouse. To think a man wrote this gorgeous book that probes deep feminine issues and ponders the emotional decisions women make that impact and change their lives forever, changing themselves in the process. I got lost in it immediately and didn’t come up for air until I finished it.

The four woman at the heart of the story, The Clover Girls – Emily, Veronica, Elizabeth, and Rachel – are decades past their summer camp days and lifelong friendship pact. Left behind were backstabbing plots, deep hurts, broken hearts, and lost dreams. Their adult lives have been disappointing and difficult and all are “lost,” unsure of their purpose, their places in the world. All of this is etched out in the inner thoughts of each character, the thread that drives the tapestry of this richly woven novel. As they break through the pains of their past and rekindle their friendship, long dormant, they emerge with renewed purpose, both personally and as The Clover Girls. Throughout all is the music and pop culture of the ‘80’s: TV, fashion, John Hughes movies, Molly Ringwald, Boy George, Madonna, and so much more.

I never went to summer camp so am unfamiliar with all that goes on there but reading this book gave me a certain nostalgia for easier times and the benefits of long summer days outdoors, by a lake, with friends who are everything, and I’m certain I missed out on a good thing.

Recommended for lovers of women’s fiction, the 80’s, and women who long to go back to their girlhood and fix things.

About the Author

Viola Shipman is the pen name of Wade Rouse, a popular award-winning memoirist and internationally bestselling author of 12 books translated into 20 languages and selected as Today show Must-Reads, Indie Next Picks and Michigan Notable Book. Rouse chose his grandma’s name, Viola Shipman, to honor the woman whose heirlooms inspire his fiction. He lives in Michigan and California, and hosts Wine & Words with Wade, A Literary Happy Hour, every Thursday.

Connect with Viola Shipman

Viola Shipman Website

Wade Rouse Website

Books I Love! The Ride of Her Life is an Engrossing Tale of a Woman’s Quest to Realize a Lifelong Dream

Description

The triumphant true story of a woman who rode her horse across America in the 1950s, fulfilling her dying wish to see the Pacific Ocean, from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Perfect Horse and The Eighty-Dollar Champion.

“The gift Elizabeth Letts has is that she makes you feel you are the one taking this trip. This is a book we can enjoy always but especially need now.”—Elizabeth Berg, author of The Story of Arthur Truluv

In 1954, sixty-three-year-old Maine farmer Annie Wilkins embarked on an impossible journey. She had no money and no family, she had just lost her farm, and her doctor had given her only two years to live. But Annie wanted to see the Pacific Ocean before she died. She ignored her doctor’s advice to move into the county charity home. Instead, she bought a cast-off brown gelding named Tarzan, donned men’s dungarees, and headed south in mid-November, hoping to beat the snow. Annie had little idea what to expect beyond her rural crossroads; she didn’t even have a map. But she did have her ex-racehorse, her faithful mutt, and her own unfailing belief that Americans would treat a stranger with kindness.

Annie, Tarzan, and her dog, Depeche Toi, rode straight into a world transformed by the rapid construction of modern highways. Between 1954 and 1956, the three travelers pushed through blizzards, forded rivers, climbed mountains, and clung to the narrow shoulder as cars whipped by them at terrifying speeds. Annie rode more than four thousand miles, through America’s big cities and small towns. Along the way, she met ordinary people and celebrities—from Andrew Wyeth (who sketched Tarzan) to Art Linkletter and Groucho Marx. She received many offers—a permanent home at a riding stable in New Jersey, a job at a gas station in rural Kentucky, even a marriage proposal from a Wyoming rancher. In a decade when car ownership nearly tripled, when television’s influence was expanding fast, when homeowners began locking their doors, Annie and her four-footed companions inspired an outpouring of neighborliness in a rapidly changing world.

My Take

The simple idea of a woman setting out on horseback alone to traverse the country – from Maine to California – in 1954 was enough to get me to pick up this book. Once I started turning pages I couldn’t stop. Annie’s early life was interesting, as she was raised on a remote farm with no modern conveniences, and I enjoyed those well-written early chapters that sucked me into the story. She was never a woman used to comfort, thus she faced her journey with practicality and little expectations for aid. But as the story wound on it became even more fascinating. It describes a way of life long gone as Annie made her way along country roads, avoiding highways becoming more and more congested with cars and danger, and finding kind, generous, trusting strangers along the way who provided food, shelter and support. I wondered how or if someone could make a similar journey today.

Throughout the story I felt like I was riding right behind Annie on Tarzan, little Depeche Toi on my lap. The descriptions of the struggles she faced due to winter weather, cold, heavy rains, overnight stays in jail cells because those were the only available rooms in town, illness, and injuries to her horses were gripping. The beauty she encountered in nature and the landscape, and the goodness she found within the hearts of townsfolk was heartwarming and inspiring. She traveled without GPS, or even a decent map of the country, relying on regional maps and instructions from those she passed on how to get to her destination. It took her a lot longer than she expected but she finally made her way to California, although with some disappointment.

Highly recommended for those interested in Americana, women’s history, and a good road trip.

About the Author

If you want to know why I’m a writer, you’d have to thank Mrs. Barclay, the children’s librarian in the Malaga Cove Library in Palos Verdes, California, and my mother. who has read more books than anyone else I know, and who carted me to the library from the time I could barely walk. From the day I sounded out my first board book (Ann Likes Red), read my first poem (Block City, by Robert Louis Stevenson) and was swept up in my first long chapter book, (Little House in the Big Woods) I’ve been a passionate reader and fascinated by the lives and personalities of my favorite authors. But I was a late bloomer. I spent my twenties and thirties working as a nurse-midwife and raising four children. When I turned forty, I decided that I didn’t want to be one of those people who thought she had a book in her but never gave it a try, and I sat down to write my first novel. Now, writing is my full-time pursuit. My passions are horses and all animals, my children, singing in a choir, and long road trips through the backroads of America. I care deeply about issues that affect women and children, and especially those who are fleeing danger. But my favorite hobby is still the one that Mrs. Barclay and my mom got me started on– reading.

Connect with Elizabeth Letts

http://www.elizabethletts.com
Twitter: @elizabethletts
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/eightydollarchampion
instagram: elizabethletts

Books I Love! Hunter Biden’s Memoir Beautiful Things is a Raw, Honest Look at Addiction

Description

“I come from a family forged by tragedies and bound by a remarkable, unbreakable love,” Hunter Biden writes in this deeply moving memoir of addiction, loss, and survival.

When he was two years old, Hunter Biden was badly injured in a car accident that killed his mother and baby sister. In 2015, he suffered the devastating loss of his beloved big brother, Beau, who died of brain cancer at the age of forty-six. These hardships were compounded by the collapse of his marriage and a years-long battle with drug and alcohol addiction.

In Beautiful Things, Hunter recounts his descent into substance abuse and his tortuous path to sobriety. The story ends with where Hunter is today—a sober married man with a new baby, finally able to appreciate the beautiful things in life.

My Take

From its first pages I knew Hunter Biden’s memoir Beautiful Things would be a beautiful book, not because of its subject matter for that is extremely ugly, but because of the writing, and the way he presents his story with raw honesty. I doubt he held much back because the tale he tells of his spiral into alcohol and crack addiction following the death of his beloved brother Beau is harrowing, and I can’t imagine much worse. The Biden family’s story is well-known by anyone paying attention to recent events in America: A wife and mother, a baby daughter and sister killed in a tragic car accident. Two brothers left motherless and injured in a hospital, forging a lifelong bond that remains strong even through death. A father who becomes President of the United States at one of the worst times in our nation’s history. In spite of the tragedy and politics they are a simple family at their core, loving one another deeply and persevering in spite of their pain, building lives of service, using their own experience to comfort others. Hunter’s story is the dark side of all of that love and altruism. His story leaves us with a glimpse into a world that most of us never encounter, except perhaps in the movies, or on TV, or in novels. Here are some of his observations I will carry with me forever:

“The most insidious thing about addiction, the hardest thing to overcome, is waking up unable to see the best in yourself.”

“Sobriety is easy. All you have to do is change everything.”

“Even when the ghosts of addiction have been banished, they still exist.”

As a nurse who encounters people with addictions often and a woman who once cared for a man plagued with similar demons these words help me to empathize and better understand those who fall into the belly of this beast. Recommended for lovers of memoir, addictions specialists, and readers who enjoy entering new (though ugly) worlds.

About the Author


Hunter Biden is a lawyer and an artist. A graduate of Georgetown University and Yale Law School, Hunter has worked as an advocate on behalf of Jesuit universities, and served on numerous corporate and nonprofit boards, including as vice chairman of Amtrak and chairman of the board of World Food Program USA. The son of Joe and Jill Biden, Hunter is the father of three daughters: Naomi, Finnegan, and Maisy. He lives with his wife, Melissa Cohen Biden, and their son, Beau, in California.

Books I Love! 5-Stars for Sarah Moon’s Middletown, Terrific #YA

Description

Thirteen-year-old Eli likes baggy clothes, baseball caps, and one girl in particular. Her seventeen-year-old sister Anna is more traditionally feminine; she loves boys and staying out late. They are sisters, and they are also the only family each can count on. Their dad has long been out of the picture, and their mom lives at the mercy of her next drink. When their mom lands herself in enforced rehab, Anna and Eli are left to fend for themselves. With no legal guardian to keep them out of foster care, they take matters into their own hands: Anna masquerades as Aunt Lisa, and together she and Eli hoard whatever money they can find. But their plans begin to unravel as quickly as they were made, and they are always way too close to getting caught.

Eli and Anna have each gotten used to telling lies as a means of survival, but as they navigate a world without their mother, they must learn how to accept help, and let other people in.

My Take

This audiobook had me from the start with its story of two teenage sisters coming to grips with their mother’s alcoholism. Eli (13) and Anna (17), aka Peanut Butter and Banana, are determined to stay together when their mom ends up in a 90-day rehab and will go to several extremes to make this happen. At the same time they’re dealing with a few other angsty issues such as Eli’s crush on her best girlfriend and the bully at school who makes each morning miserable, and Anna’s chasing after a boy known as “The Jacket,” while conflicted about taking on the mom role for her sister. This story has a full slate of social issues in addition to alcoholism and coming out: sexual abuse, abandonment, poverty, and more, but the story doesn’t get bogged down with it. Instead, the author uses tight dialogue, snappy little comebacks, relatable characters and a fast pace to keep it all moving. The narrator did a terrific job keeping all of the characters straight and bringing the appropriate emotion to each role. Recommended for YA readers of all ages.

About the Author

Sarah Moon is a teacher and writer. She lives and works in Brooklyn, New York, with her wife, Jasmine, and their daughter, Zora. She is the coeditor of THE LETTER Q, a young adult anthology. Her first YA novel was the critically acclaimed SPARROW; the second is MIDDLETOWN, publishing in 2021 with Levine Querido.

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