Tuesday, February 27, 2024

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 Divorcees by
Rowan Beaird.
The book is being released by Flatiron Books on March 19, 2024.

The book's jacket copy says: Lois Saunders thought that marrying the right man would finally cure her loneliness. But as picture-perfect as her husband is, she is suffocating in their loveless marriage. In 1951, though, unhappiness is hardly grounds for divorce--except in Reno, Nevada.

At the Golden Yarrow, the most respectable of Reno's famous "divorce ranches," Lois finds herself living with half a dozen other would-be divorcees, all in Reno for the six weeks' residency that is the state's only divorce requirement. They spend their days riding horses and their nights flirting with cowboys, and it's as wild and fun as Lake Forest, Illinois, is prim and stifling. But it isn't until Greer Lang arrives that Lois's world truly cracks open. Gorgeous, beguiling, and completely indifferent to societal convention, Greer is unlike anyone Lois has ever met--and she sees something in Lois that no one else ever has. Under her influence, Lois begins to push against the limits that have always restrained her. How far will she go to forge her independence, on her own terms?

Set in the glamorous, dizzying world of 1950s Reno, where housewives and movie stars rubbed shoulders at gin-soaked casinos, The Divorcees is a riveting page-turner and a dazzling exploration of female friendship, desire, and freedom.

Review: Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

Diane Setterfield draws misty trails across her stories in ways that both obscure and illuminate, challenging her readers to uncover the truth she writes. Her settings are the otherworldly that sit opaquely on top of a solid reality and her characters draw a reader in through fascination and curiousity. She is a master of language. I first encountered her work through The Thirteenth Tale and then in Bellman and Black, the former of which I liked more than the latter, and I bought Once Upon a River several years ago in order to once again immerse myself in her work. And then as is common with books I buy, it languished, unread, on my shelf for literal years, until now, when I picked up this unsettling, dreamy, and immersive fairy tale of a story about the power of storytelling and want and loss.

In 1887, on the evening of the winter Solstice, at The Swan, a rural inn on the banks of the River Thames, as a public room full of people drank and listened to the publican's storytelling, a man three quarters frozen through, and dripping river water, burst into the room carrying the body of a four year old girl and promptly collapsed. The child had drowned and was beyond help but the man could still be saved. Rita, a local nurse, was called to assist with the unconscious man. She saw the body of the child and confirmed to herself by all measures that the small girl was dead, only to then witness the girl come back to life with a gasp. The man who saved her regains consciousness but has no idea who the child is, leading to confusion and speculation. Was she the missing child of the Vaughns, wealthy local landowners whose baby was kidnapped several years before? Was she missing daughter of a thief from a local farming family who disapeared when her mother died by suicide and was last seen being led to the river before her mother's death? Was she the young sister of the parson's cleaning lady? Each of these three possibilities diverge and then come together just as the River Thames and its tributaries meander toward the sea. Each of these missing girl stories is like a tributary of the great river--sometimes taking over and sometimes meandering slowly like a trickle but always weaving inexorably back to the main story. There is a fourth, and supernatural, possibiliy as well. Could this mute child be the daughter of Quietly the boatman who is said to haunt this stretch of the river? Threaded through these larger tales are smaller stories that also flow into the greater story, that of Daunt, the photographer who saved the girl and who finds himself falling in love with his nurse; that of the local farmer, the son of royalty and a Black maid, who has created his own wonderful, much loved family; and that of the solitary, haunted woman who cleans for the parson, keeping quiet about the history of abuse she has suffered and continues to suffer.

The line between the realistic and the supernatural is a thin one and this story straddles it well with its slowly rising tension, its lush descriptions, the ongoing question of the child's identity, and the hypnotic feel of the prose itself. In the person of the reanimated little girl and the various characters' great desire for her to be their missing child, all of the characters are all faced with the secrets and heavy guilt each carries. Setterfield has taken a complex plot, stirred in elements of magical realism, Victorian sensibilities, the hold of superstition, and questions of belonging and identity in this paean to the power and importance of storytelling. The ending of this mesmerizing tale starts to come apart a bit, as if the answer to the question of the child's identity must be hurried along so that all of the other plot threads could be neatly tied up too. Despite this oddly curtailed conclusion after so many pages of slowly heightening the suspense, the story as a whole was an engrossing one that keeps a reader turning the pages hoping for the truth, or at least a satisfying resolution to each of the major and minor story lines.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

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 Funeral Ladies of Ellerie County by
Clare Swinarski.
The book is being released by Avon Books on March 12, 2024.

The book's jacket copy says: Armed with a Crock-Pot and a pile of recipes, a grandmother, her granddaughter, and a mysterious young man work to bring a community together in this uplifting novel for readers of The Chicken Sisters.

Esther Larson has been cooking for funerals in the Northwoods of Wisconsin for seventy years. Known locally as the "funeral ladies," she and her cohort have worked hard to keep the mourners of Ellerie County fed--it is her firm belief that there is very little a warm casserole and a piece of cherry pie can't fix. But, after falling for an internet scam that puts her home at risk, the proud Larson family matriarch is the one in need of help these days.

Iris, Esther's whip-smart Gen Z granddaughter, would do anything for her family and her community. As she watches her friends and family move out of their lakeside town onto bigger and better things, Iris wonders why she feels so left behind in the place she is desperate to make her home. But when Cooper Welsh shows up, she finally starts to feel like she's found the missing piece of her puzzle.

Cooper is dealing with becoming a legal guardian to his younger half-sister after his beloved stepmother dies. While their celebrity-chef father is focused on his booming career and top-ranked television show, Cooper is still hurting from a public tragedy he witnessed last year as a paramedic and finding it hard to cope. With Iris in the gorgeous Ellerie County, though, he hopes he might finally find the home he's been looking for.

It doesn't seem like a community cookbook could possibly solve their problems, especially one where casseroles have their own section and cream of chicken soup mix is the most frequently used ingredient. But when you mix the can-do spirit of Midwestern grandmothers with the stubborn hope of a boy raised by food plus a dash of long-awaited forgiveness--things might just turn out okay.

Includes Recipes

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

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.

Finlay Donovan Rolls the Dice by
Elle Cosimano.
The book is being released by Minotaur Books on March 5, 2024.

The book's jacket copy says: Finlay Donovan and her nanny/partner-in-crime Vero are in sore need of a girls' weekend away. They plan a trip to Atlantic City, but odds are--seeing as it's actually a cover story to negotiate a deal with a dangerous loan shark, save Vero's childhood crush Javi, and hunt down a stolen car--it won't be all fun and games. When Finlay's ex-husband Steven and her mother insist on tagging along too, Finlay and Vero suddenly have a few too many meddlesome passengers along for the ride.

Within hours of arriving in their seedy casino hotel, it becomes clear their rescue mission is going to be a bust. Javi's kidnapper, Marco, refuses to negotiate, demanding payment in full in exchange for Javi's life. But that's not all--he insists on knowing the whereabouts of his missing nephew, Ike, who mysteriously disappeared. Unable to confess what really happened to Ike, Finlay and Vero are forced to come up with a new plan: sleuth out the location of Javi and the Aston Martin, then steal them both back. But when they sneak into the loan shark's suite to search for clues, they find more than they bargained for--Marco's already dead. They don't have a clue who murdered him, only that they themselves have a very convincing motive. Then four members of the police department unexpectedly show up in town, also looking for Ike--and after Finlay's night with hot cop Nick at the police academy, he's a little too eager to keep her close to his side.

If Finlay can juggle a jealous ex-husband, two precocious kids, her mother's marital issues, a decomposing loan shark, and find Vero's missing boyfriend, she might get out of Atlantic City in one piece. But will she fold under the pressure and come clean about the things she's done, or be forced to double down?

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

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 Last Days of the Midnight Ramblers by
Sarah Tomlinson.
The book is being released by Flatiron Books on February 13, 2024.

The book's jacket copy says: Perfect for fans of Daisy Jones and The Six and Almost Famous, a gripping debut about the complicated legacy of a legendary rock band and the ghostwriter telling their story

Three Rock and Roll icons. Two explosive tell-all memoirs. One ghostwriter caught in the middle.

Anke Berben is ready to tell all. A legendary model and style icon, she reveled in headline-grabbing romances with not one but three members of the hugely influential rock band the Midnight Ramblers. The band members were as famous for their backstage drama as for their music, and Anke is the only one who fully understands the tangled relationships, betrayals, and suspicions that have added to the Ramblers' enduring appeal and mystique. That is most evident in the mystery around Anke's role in the death of Mal, the band's founder and Anke's husband, in 1969.

When Mari Hawthorn accepts the job to work with Anke on her memoir, she is dead set on getting to the truth of Mal's death. She has always been deft at navigating the fatal charms of celebrities, having grown up with a narcissistic, alcoholic father. As she ingratiates herself into the world of the band, she grows enchanted, against her better judgment, by these legendary rock stars. She knows she can't get pulled in too deep, otherwise she'll compromise her objectivity--and her integrity.

Filled with all of the glamour and attitude of rock and roll, The Last Days of the Midnight Ramblers is a bighearted page-turner that will appeal to fans of Daisy Jones and The Six and Almost Famous.

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