Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Waiting on Wednesday

This meme was hosted by Breaking the Spine and is meant to highlight some great pre-publication books we all can't wait to get our grubby little mitts on. I'm choosing to continue the tradition even though she has stopped.

The Woman at the Wheel by
Penny Haw.
The book is being released by Sourcebooks Landmark on October 3, 2023.

The book's jacket copy says: Inspiring historical fiction based on the real life of Bertha Benz, whose husband built the first prototype automobile, which eventually evolved into the Mercedes-Benz marque.

"Unfortunately, only a girl again."

From a young age, C├Ącilie Bertha Ringer is fascinated by her father's work as a master builder in Pforzheim, Germany. But those five words, which he wrote next to her name in the family Bible, haunt Bertha.

Years later, Bertha meets Carl Benz and falls in love--with him and his extraordinary dream of building a horseless carriage. Bertha has such faith in him that she invests her dowry in his plans, a dicey move since they alone believe in the machine. When Carl's partners threaten to withdraw their support, he's ready to cut ties. Bertha knows the decision would ruin everything. Ignoring the cynics, she takes matters into her own hands, secretly planning a scheme that will either hasten the family's passage to absolute derision or prove their genius. What Bertha doesn't know is that Carl is on the cusp of making a deal with their nemesis. She's not only risking her marriage and their life's work, but is also up against the patriarchy, Carl's own self-doubt, and the clock.

Like so many other women, Bertha lived largely in her husband's shadow, but her contributions are now celebrated in this inspiring story of perseverance, resilience, and love.

Monday, September 18, 2023

Review: Kiss Me in the Coral Lounge by Helen Ellis

Helen Ellis is pretty reliable for the reader looking for light and oftentimes relatable humor. She is the person who you'd like to have as a friend because her filter is a little askew but not malicious. I've read a collection of her quite entertaining, definitely offbeat short stories (American Housewife) and several of her generally enjoyable essay collections (Southern Lady Code is my pick for the best) so I was looking forward to Kiss Me in the Coral Lounge: Intimate Confessions from a Happy Marriage.

These short essays, many of which are a result of settling into her NYC apartment with Lex, her husband of twenty years, during the pandemic, are mildly humorous but not quite as laugh out loud funny as I'd hoped, maybe because I'm the long time inhabitant of a similar marriage. Ellis is quite candid about her life with her husband and pokes fun at him and, more often, at herself throughout the collection. Her gentle hyperbole makes for heartwarming and appealing storytelling. She's quirky, finding humor in the mundane, and looking at things just a bit slant, writing about her husband's (and her friends' husbands) snoring and all the failed solutions for it, learning to tend plants and turning their apartment into a jungle during the pandemic, her particular and exacting instructions for their cat sitter, using stickers--which she adores--to commemorate her sex life with her husband, her views on death, and more.

There is much to enjoy here and it is a quick read but ultimately it didn't make me laugh out loud and I forgot a lot of it as soon as I closed the book. To be fair, this might be because I come from a family filled with our own brand of crazy (for instance, my youngest once told me that when he was home alone every sound was a serial killer, and his ever empathetic sister questioned why it had to be a serial killer since they only had to kill him, we claim gifts and other items of interest belonging to others by asking if we can have whatever it is on that person's "last day," and like Ellis, my parents have debated who can be trusted to be their "plug-puller" at the end of life--spoiler, it's not my sister or me but our husbands, which probably tells you more than you need to know about us, and my father has requested that his ashes be spread over the ever malfunctioning septic field because he's spent so much time up to his knees in it in life that he might as well spend eternity there too) so Ellis and her friends and family's brand of crazy is less entertaining kookiness and more just everyday, normal daily life to me. Most people think she and this book are outrageously funny. Me? I think she's moderately amusing in this collection and wonder (not really) if we're distant branches on the same, not right family tree. That said, most readers will get a lot of chuckles out of this light and easy read.

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Waiting on Wednesday

This meme was hosted by Breaking the Spine and is meant to highlight some great pre-publication books we all can't wait to get our grubby little mitts on. I'm choosing to continue the tradition even though she has stopped.

All You Have to Do Is Call by
Kerri Maher.
The book is being released by Berkley Books on September 19, 2023.

The book's jacket copy says: Chicago, early 1970s Who does a woman call when she needs help? Jane.

The best-known secret in the city, Jane is an underground women's health organization composed entirely of women helping women, empowering them to live lives free from the expectations of society by offering reproductive counseling and safe, illegal abortions. Veronica, Jane's founder, prides herself on the services she has provided to thousands of women, yet the price of others' freedom is that she leads a double life. When she's not at Jane, Veronica plays the role of a conventional housewife--which becomes even more difficult during her own high-risk pregnancy.

Two more women in Veronica's neighborhood are grappling with similar disconnects. Margaret, a young professor at the University of Chicago, secretly volunteers at Jane as she falls in love with a man whose attitude toward his ex-wife increasingly disturbs her. Patty, who's long been content as a devoted wife and mother, has begun to sense that something essential is missing from her life. When her runaway younger sister Eliza shows up unexpectedly, Patty is forced to come to terms with what it really means to love and support a sister.

In this historic moment when the personal was nothing if not political, when television, movies, and commercials told women they'd "come a long way, baby," Veronica, Margaret, and Patty must make choices that will change the course of their lives forever.

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Waiting on Wednesday

This meme was hosted by Breaking the Spine and is meant to highlight some great pre-publication books we all can't wait to get our grubby little mitts on. I'm choosing to continue the tradition even though she has stopped.

Mother-Daughter Murder Night by
Nina Simon.
The book is being released by William Morrow and Co. on August 29, 2023.

The book's jacket copy says: High-powered businesswoman Lana Rubicon has a lot to be proud of: her keen intelligence, impeccable taste, and the L.A. real estate empire she's built. But when she finds herself trapped 300 miles north of the city, convalescing in a sleepy coastal town with her adult daughter Beth and teenage granddaughter Jack, Lana is stuck counting otters instead of square footage--and hoping that boredom won't kill her before the cancer does.

Then Jack--tiny in stature but fiercely independent--happens upon a dead body while kayaking. She quickly becomes a suspect in the homicide investigation, and the Rubicon women are thrown into chaos. Beth thinks Lana should focus on recovery, but Lana has a better idea. She'll pull on her wig, find the true murderer, protect her family, and prove she still has power.

With Jack and Beth's help, Lana uncovers a web of lies, family vendettas, and land disputes lurking beneath the surface of a community populated by folksy conservationists and wealthy ranchers. But as their amateur snooping advances into ever-more dangerous territory, the headstrong Rubicon women must learn to do the one thing they've always resisted: depend on each other.

Friday, August 25, 2023

Review: Death of a Bookseller by Bernard J. Farmer

Put books on the cover of a book and I'm guaranteed to pick it up. I'm almost even guaranteed to buy it. In this particular case, Death of a Bookseller was destined to come home with me. I mean, seriously, look at that gorgeous cover! Now I know, as well as anyone, the adage that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover but we all do it. And while Bernard J. Farmer's bibliomystery didn't live up to the cover, it was a pleasant enough read for a couple of hours.

Sergeant Wigan is heading home after his late evening shift when he meets a cheerful and inebriated man. Michael Fisk is celebrating his acquisition of a first edition copy of Keats' Endymion, owned and inscribed by the author, an excedingly rare and valuable find for a runner and collector in the antiquarian book trade. Rather than arresting him, Wigan escorts Fisk home, eventually striking up a friendship with the otherwise lonely man and starting to learn about the business of collecting from him. When Fisk is subsequently found murdered in his study some time later, the Keats book missing, Wigan is called to assist the D.I. assigned to the case because of his knowledge of the surprisingly cutthroat business of rare books.

Wigan is a kindly and honest policeman with a strong moral streak and he knows when he doesn't know something, having no trouble relying on others to help him when his own knowledge is lacking. When another book runner, an unpleasant, argumentative man defended by no one who knows him, is arrested for the murder and sentenced to hang, Wigan is troubled because he is certain the man didn't do it, convicted instead on circumstantial evidence that the D.I. forced around him instead of thoroughly examining all avenues. Sure of this impending miscarriage of justice, Wigan investigates on his own time, jeopardizing his police career. He meets and talks to many colorful characters in the antiquarian trade, from humble barrow boys selling books out of wheelbarrows, to runners who scour secondhand stores, estate sales, and such for undiscovered prizes, to buyers working for wealthy clients, the wealthy collectors themselves, and respectable, or seemingly respectable, book shop owners. As the time when the convicted man will be hanged grows closer, Wigan and the tradesmen who are helping him seem to be hitting nothing but dead ends.

The first half of the mystery is quite slow and drawn out while the second half takes on a much tenser and desperate pace. The writing is simple, direct, and accessible; it feels sturdy and workmanlike. Wigan is not really an investigator for much of the story but is the person around whom all of the information coalesces. The ultimate solution to the crime was a bit out of left field and the confession offered up was simply strange, compelled by almost nothing. There is a thread of occultism dotting the story, ultimately important to the denouement, but awkwardly inserted. Where Farmer really shines is in the depiction of police procedures of the 50s and the truthful depiction of the surprisingly less than genteel and scholarly antiquarian book trade and the eccentric characters who practiced it. The mystery itself was simply the hanger on which to hang Farmer's observations of the chicanery surrounding the buying and selling of old books. Over all it was enjoyable enough, if not a thrilling exampe of the genre.

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Waiting on Wednesday

This meme was hosted by Breaking the Spine and is meant to highlight some great pre-publication books we all can't wait to get our grubby little mitts on. I'm choosing to continue the tradition even though she has stopped.

The Breakaway by
Jennifer Weiner.
The book is being released by Atria Books on August 29, 2023.

The book's jacket copy says: Thirty-three-year-old Abby Stern has made it to a happy place. True, she still has gig jobs instead of a career, and the apartment where she's lived since college still looks like she's just moved in. But she's got good friends, her bike, and her bicycling club in Philadelphia. She's at peace with her plus-size body--at least, most of the time--and she's on track to marry Mark Medoff, her childhood summer sweetheart, a man she met at the weight-loss camp that her perpetually dieting mother forced her to attend. Fifteen years after her final summer at Camp Golden Hills, when Abby reconnects with a half-his-size Mark, it feels like the happy ending she's always wanted.

Yet Abby can't escape the feeling that some-thing isn't right...or the memories of one thrilling night she spent with a man named Sebastian two years previously. When Abby gets a last-minute invitation to lead a cycling trip from NYC to Niagara Falls, she's happy to have time away from Mark, a chance to reflect and make up her mind. But things get complicated fast. First, Abby spots a familiar face in the group--Sebastian, the one-night stand she thought she'd never see again. Sebastian is a serial dater who lives a hundred miles away. In spite of their undeniable chemistry, Abby is determined to keep her distance. Then there's a surprise last-minute addition to the trip: her mother, Eileen, the woman Abby blames for a lifetime of body shaming and insecurities she's still trying to undo.

Over two weeks and more than seven hundred miles, strangers become friends, hidden truths come to light, a teenage girl with a secret unites the riders in unexpected ways...and Abby is forced to reconsider everything she believes about herself, her mother, and the nature of love.

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Waiting on Wednesday

This meme was hosted by Breaking the Spine and is meant to highlight some great pre-publication books we all can't wait to get our grubby little mitts on. I'm choosing to continue the tradition even though she has stopped.

It's Not a Cult by
Lauren Danhof.
The book is being released by Alcove Press on August 22, 2023.

The book's jacket copy says: Mona Awad's All's Well meets Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt in Lauren Danhof's darkly humorous debut, in which a daughter races to save her mother from a dangerous cult before it's too late.

Glinda Glass is truly trying her best. After dropping out of her graduate school program, she moves back to her childhood home with her mom--who has not only joined a cult, the Starlight Pioneer Society, but has also become enraptured by its charismatic and menacing leader, Arlon. Meanwhile, Glinda spends her days working in the Drench-the-Wench dunk booth at the local Renaissance fair with her only friend Troy--who may be falling in love with her.

When Glinda learns that the cult will be turning her family's home into their commune, she decides to take matters into her own hands--by infiltrating the cult and taking it down from the inside. There, she realizes things are far more sinister than she could have ever imagined and that she must get her mom out from under the spell of Arlon by any means necessary.

But Glinda can't do it on her own; to save her mother, she'll have to confront her own history of trauma and grief and repair her relationships with her sisters and Troy, no matter the cost.

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