When Laurie Sassalyn’s cherished Aunt Dot dies at the age of 93, Laurie returns to her hometown of Calcasset, Maine to settle her estate. Laurie is also licking her wounds after calling off her wedding, having decided that like Dot, she never wants to marry. Dot’s house is filled with mementos from her adventure-filled life, and while Laurie was young, it helped provide Laurie with a retreat from her own home that she shared with four brothers and never-ending chaos. Now that Laurie is almost 40, she’s built a life and home like Dot’s for herself in Seattle, where she lives in peace as a freelance nature writer with a busy social life with friends.
Laurie believes that Dot’s things deserve respect and intends to go through each item before returning to Seattle. She has hired a professional declutterer to help her with the valuables. This man takes a keen interest in a wooden duck that Laurie uncovered hidden in Dot’s cedar chest. Laurie knows that this duck was somehow important to Dot, and isn’t sure she wants to part with it, but the declutterer insists it is worthless. Laurie lets the duck go, but cannot stop thinking about it, and when she enlists the help of her life-long friend June and her high school boyfriend Nick Cooper – now the (divorced) town librarian, the two encourage her to dig into the duck’s history.
The more time Laurie spends in Maine, the more she begins to doubt her life choices. She is drawn to Nick, but knows she will be leaving soon. She misses her hometown and friends there, but isn’t willing to sacrifice her independence. Laurie has some choices to make -but first, she has a duck to recapture.
Flying Solo by Linda Holmes is a warm and funny, cozy romantic read, perfect for these early Autumn days. With likeable, atypical characters who have real-world problems and no easy solutions, this novel is about being comfortable in one’s own skin, celebrating one’s independence and ability to compromise, and the road not taken.
The Desert Flowers Detective Agency is at it again. This time Tanya Cook, pretending to be a home health care aide, is fleecing her clients. Detective Poppy Harmon poses as a weakened elderly widow needing assistance and hires Tanya as her aide. It is a trap. Tanya and her two partners are arrested. Someone does not want Poppy to testify in court and attempts to kill her. Sadly, her neighbor is killed when the woman borrows Poppy’s car, and it goes over a cliff. Poppy’s new air conditioner unit explodes after a phony technician supposedly repairs it. Most people assume Poppy died in that explosion
Poppy masquerades as Matt Flowers’ advisor, his elderly Aunt Bea, when he appears on a reality show titled “My Dream Man”. Matt and Poppy fear that Jesse, the bachelorette on the show, is the stalker’s next target.
Mika Suzuki is 35, single, and broke, living in her best friend’s house and has just lost her most recent job. She is floored when she receives a phone call from Penny, the daughter she gave up for adoption 16 years previously when Mika was a college freshman. The two begin to talk regularly and truly start to bond. Mika is overjoyed to get this chance to connect with her birth daughter, but when Penny decides she wants to visit Mika in Portland, Oregon, Mika panics.
Mika, ashamed of her life, has lead Penny to believe that she owns her own home, is a successful art gallery owner, and has a long-term boyfriend. To prevent a catastrophe, Mika’s friends decide to help her construct her fabricated dream-life for Penny’s visit —one that quickly falls apart when Penny discovers Mika hasn’t been honest.
As Mika wrestles with how to repair their new relationship, she must confront issues from her past, including her family’s immigration from Japan when she was young, her relationship with her impossible-to-please mother, and the circumstances of Penny’s birth. Mika also needs to decide what to do about her budding feelings for Thomas, Penny’s adopted, widowed father. As Mika spends more time with Penny and Thomas and begins to work on herself, she wonders if she will ever feel she deserves good things.
Mika in Real Life by Emiko Jean is a smart, endearing, and sometimes funny novel about relationships between mothers and daughters, the power of good friendships, and learning to love oneself. Mika is a flawed and realistic character that you’ll root for from the first page. Pick up Mika in Real Life and prepare to be surprised by this tender and sincere story.
In November 2016 three momentous things happened. Donald Trump was elected president; the Chicago Cubs won the World Series; and Bud Sullivan died. Bud and Rose Sullivan were owners of JP Sullivan’s, a restaurant and bar in Oak Park, Illinois for decades. Three generations lived and breathed the restaurant. After Bud dies, the extended family is particularly concerned for Rose as she enters assisted living. Without Bud, the restaurant is floundering. Teddy would love to take control, but no one seems to listen to him. After Rose’s death it is suggested that the grandchildren invest their inheritance to update Sullivan’s. Unfortunately, there does not seem to be interest in that. Gretchen, Jane, and Teddy have other plans for their money and not everyone agrees.
I was curious about the title of the book and was unfamiliar with the phrase. A bittersweet story full of family drama.
Were you among the 6.9 million people who watched Serena Williams play her probable-last tennis match at the U.S. Open last week? If so, you helped break a record. It was the largest audience of any tennis match in ESPN’s 43-year history! And, while this year’s action wrapped up at Arthur Ashe Stadium yesterday, fear not, you can still get your tennis on. Just pick up this winner of book, Carrie Soto is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid.
Carrie Soto is a tennis legend who rises to fame in the 1980s under the coaching of her father Javier. She is fierce and unrelenting, and her determination to win and unapologetic style of play have earned her the nickname, “the Battle Axe” and made her unlikable to most of her competitors and plenty of fans. But by the time she retires from tennis, she is the best player the world, having shattered every record and claimed twenty Grand Slam titles. Now, it is 1994 and at age 37, Carrie has been retired from tennis for six years. When she learns that seasoned-player Nicki Chan is attempting to break her record, Carrie decides to come out from retirement to defend her status. Will she be able to reclaim her place in tennis history against the odds?
Carrie Soto Is Back is more than just a book about a fictional tennis player. This novel explores the ups and downs that accompany celebrity and the double standard that exists between how men and women are treated in the world of sports. It is also a story of personal growth that features a beautiful father/daughter relationship, a slow-building romance, and a complex protagonist who struggles with how she presents herself and is seen. Readers of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, Daisy Jones and the Six and Malibu Rising will recognize some cross-over characters in Carrie’s story, finishing the author’s “quartet” on women and fame. Carrie Soto is Back, like those others, can be read independently, but why not deep dive into all of these smart and compelling novels that put women front and center?
It is the Jazz Age in New York City when Dorothy Parker and three other prominent professionals form a bridge club. Jane Grant is the first woman reporter at the New York Times. She is determined to launch a new magazine she calls The New Yorker. Winifred Lenihan is a beautiful and talented Broadway star. Peggy Leach is a magazine assistant at Conde Nast by day and a brilliant novelist by night. These four women form a firm friendship and part of their friendship includes keeping Dottie safe from herself. She attempts suicide twice.
Name-dropping and drama are important parts of this novel. Wild drinking parties despite Prohibition and infidelity also play a main role in this fast-paced book.
Pilot Ward Millar makes a last-minute decision to bail out over North Korea. Unfortunately, even with a parachute, Ward breaks both of his ankles and is easily captured by the North Koreans and Chinese. Ward needs medical attention which his captors provide haphazardly if he shares information, mostly false information, with them.
At home when Ward’s wife, Barbara, receives notification that her husband is missing in action, she believes he still alive. Barbara is a woman of deep and sustaining faith and refuses to believe that Ward is dead despite what family and friends have to say.
North Korean soldier Kim Jae Pil is a Christian. He and his family have kept their faith secret to survive. Kim is forced to serve as a solder but wants to and plans to escape from the army and reunite with his family. Ward and Kim eventually meet and together plan their escape.
This novel is based on the true story of an American POW during the Korean War and a North Korean soldier who became unlikely allies. They were united in their shared faith in God during a daring escape to freedom. The novel is a story of courage, determination, unlikely friendship, and enduring faith.
Both Iris and Gwen love working at the Right Sort Marriage Bureau. Gwen Bainbridge, a war widow, is seeking to regain custody of her young son and to regain control of her finances. In 1944 after Gwen’s husband was killed, she attempted suicide and was committed to an asylum. Her in-laws were given custody of Ronnie, Gwen’s son. Iris Sparks, a former spy, is happy to have left her old life behind but cannot totally escape it.
It is 1946 when pregnant Helena Jablonski, a Polish widow, shows up at the Right Sort Marriage Bureau to make a connection with Iris. Helena needs help and was told Iris could help her.
Sadly, Helena is killed in Iris’ apartment. Even though Gwen had been warned by her attorney and psychiatrist that being involved with another murder investigation could jeopardize her ability to regain custody of her son, both Gwen and Iris become involved in solving the murder.
The fourth entry in the Sparks & Bainbridge mystery series is a fun quick read. (Their matchmaking business is less important in this entry in the series.) I heartily recommend reading them in order.
During WWI General Pershing needed reliable efficient telephone operators in France. The men assigned to that task were too slow for communication needs at the front. Pershing decided to allow women to join the US armed forces for the first time. These women became part of the Army Signal Corps. In 1917, Grace Banker from New Jersey, Marie Moissec (a French vocalist) from France, and Belgian-born Valerie DeSmedt from Los Angeles became members of the Signal Corps. Those who joined the Signal Corps had to be fluent in French and English. (The nickname for these women were “hello girls” and they far outpaced their male military counterparts.) The women underwent rigorous training and were often stationed close to the front. In addition to the dangers of war, they also battled the Spanish flu pandemic.
After the war these women were not official recognized as military veterans until more than 60 years after their service. They were denied the benefits male veterans received until that time.
The character of Grace Banker is based on Grace D. Banker who was an AT&T switchboard instructor before being recruited. She served as Chief Operator of telephone for the AEF (American Expeditionary Forces) and led thirty-three women telephone operators. She earned a Distinguished Service Medal for her work during WWI.
The author does a wonderful job of bringing a rarely emphasized part of American history to life. I learned a lot. ~Emma