The Book Whisperer Reads a Romance

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As readers know, not all books are for all readers. I stepped way out of my comfort zone in choosing The Silver Linings Wedding Dress Auction by Mary Oldham. Mary Oldham has a terrific following of loyal readers who rave about her books. Oldham has received awards such as being a Golden Heart finalist with the Romance Writers of America in the areas of Contemporary Romance and Romantic Suspense.

The premise for The Silver Linings Wedding Dress Auction is excellent. Leslie Westcott has been engaged five times and bought beautiful wedding dresses five times, but five times she has not made it to the altar. A variety of factors intervene to keep Leslie from walking down the aisle. Still, she holds on to the dresses although she purchases a new one for each engagement.

Readers learn the whole story—or stories—through the chapters. The story begins with the publicity for the auction. Then Leslie details each engagement and what has happened to keep her from walking down the aisle.

Then Leslie’s aunt Trudel, who owns THE bridal shop in Portland, Trudel’s Wedding Boutique, sponsors an auction of wedding dresses to benefit Rachel’s House, a shelter for women in need. Leslie considers giving some or all of her wedding gowns to the auction. Then the unthinkable happens, Trudel, in a live TV interview, tells of Leslie’s misfortune of being engaged and yet not married and even gives her name to the reporter who is covering the publicity for the auction.

Readers may see a predictable end coming The Silver Linings Wedding Dress Auction. That won’t destroy the story for them. Indeed, it will add to the readers’ delight. A book club of women members would enjoy the story and the back story of how Leslie missed the mark with each of the five engagements.

The Book Whisperer Could Not Put Down The Good Sister

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The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth is a book I could not put down because I could not wait to see what happened next. Told by fraternal twins, Rose and Fern, in alternating chapters, The Good Sister will take readers on a wild ride with a number of ups and downs. One of the sisters is an unreliable narrator. Which one? Readers will have to determine that for themselves because that factor is key to understanding the whole story. No spoilers here!

Rose and Fern are quite close as sisters, perhaps closer than many other sisters because they are twins and because Fern has Asperger’s. Rose is extremely protective of Fern, keeping a close eye on her every activity. Does Rose do this out of love and concern for her sister, or does she have other motives? If so, what could they be?

Much of what we know about the girls as they are growing up comes from Rose. Fern focuses primarily on the here and now. As young teens, the girls went into foster care when their mother supposedly overdosed on drugs and fell into a coma. Mum is now in a nursing home receiving therapy. Fern visits her every Thursday after work. Rose never visits.

Fern works at the nearby library. She structures her life with routines. She has a certain time for getting up, doing yoga, getting ready for work, and going to work. She and Rose continue to eat dinner together three times a week.  Rose protects Fern, or so Fern believes.

When Fern discovers Rose wants a baby with her husband Owen, but she has a condition that won’t allow her to get pregnant, Fern decides, on her own (she thinks), that she can have a baby for Rose. The only fly in the ointment is she needs a father for the baby. Typical of Fern, she does her research on becoming a surrogate. Then Wally, aka Rocco Ryan, walks into the library.

Fern discovers on this journey to have a baby for Rose that she can connect with other people and that she can have friends. She still suffers from sensory overload when in a crowd, loud place, or brightly lighted area. She does find that she has also developed coping skills.

Hepworth has written a story of two sisters, of lies, of manipulation, and of love. It is a story worth reading. Book clubs will have the topics above to discuss as well as Asperger’s, possible bipolar disorder, sisterly love/hate, and friendship.

I look forward to reading Hepworth’s newest book, The Younger Wife. It is already sitting beside my chair for my next read!

The Book Whisperer HIGHLY Recommends The Maid

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The Maid by Nita Prose is a story that will stay with readers for a long time. Molly Gray, who has Asperger’s, is a maid at the Regency Grand Hotel. Molly takes great pride in her work. Molly struggles to understand the verbal and physical cues from other people. When Gran was alive, Gran helped her understand and cope with the many trials Molly encountered.

 Now, Molly is on her own, but she remembers all Gran has taught her and continues to try to figure out the cues she finds puzzling. Above all, Molly wants to connect with others and to have friends like everyone else. She would also like a boyfriend, but the one time she thought she had found someone she could love and trust, he turned out to be a scoundrel.

When she discovers Charles Black, a wealthy hotel patron, dead in his room when she went to clean it, Molly is thrown into a more than difficult situation. Although she reports the death, her trust in others is misplaced which gets her into serious trouble—accused of murdering Mr. Black.

Readers will find Molly charming and disarming. Her desire to return guest rooms at the Regency Grand Hotel to “a state of perfection” makes Molly the ideal maid. She follows the rules for cleaning and does an excellent job. She dons her pristine uniform each day with pride as she begins her cleaning routine.

Read The Maid to discover what happens to Molly and find out who her true friends really are. For book club members, The Maid will provide an animated discussion on such topics as trust, Asperger’s, hard work, betrayal, and salvation.

The Book Whisperer Enjoys a Laugh Out Loud Novel

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Readers seeking a wild ride with four “meddling Asian aunties” and one daughter/niece who has to deal with them will find Dial A for Aunties to be just the ticket. Jesse Q. Sutanto has created memorable characters in Meddelin Chan, a young woman with a college education who is helping her mom and aunties in their complete wedding business: hair and makeup, clothes, music, food, and photography. Meddelin is the photographer.

Meddelin fears she has lost her chance at true love when her college boyfriend tells her he has received a job offer to move from San Francisco to NY for a dream job after graduation. Meddelin feels she cannot tell her mom and aunties that she will leave them to follow Nathan, the love of her life. As a result, she breaks up with Nathan, leaving him completely in the dark about why she refuses to go with him.

The aunties and Meddelin are putting on the biggest wedding of their careers for some very wealthy clients. What could possibly go wrong? What if Meddelin’s mom has set her up with a date by pretending to be Meddelin on a dating site? How about an accidentally dead date in a food cooler? What if a pile of gifts worth at least a million dollars goes missing shortly before the wedding? Of course, this many troubles could not happen to one small group, or could they?

Read Dial A For Aunties to discover the truth and see if Meddelin can find true love. The story will keep you guessing and laughing.

Jesse Q. Sutanto grew up in both Jakarta and Singapore. She earned a master’s in creative writing at the University of Oxford. Sutanto has written books for young adults as well as adults. Dial A for Aunties will soon be a movie on Netflix. Four Aunties and a Wedding, the sequel to Dial A for Aunties, was published in March 2022.

The Book Whisperer Reads a Thriller

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Paul Batista has written a timely story In Accusation, a thriller. This fast-paced story will take readers on a terrifying ride. We are all familiar with the MeToo Movement and the stories behind it. What if there is another side? What if a well-known actor is accused by multiple young women of inappropriate behavior with them? How does he defend himself? Perhaps to the point also is another question: why have these young women targeted him?

Aaron Julian is a well-known and highly respected actor. He receives a call in the wee hours of the morning from his agent. Most of us know that phone calls after midnight do not contain good news. Certainly, Aaron is blindsided by what the agent tells him. Aaron learns that the young actresses will be on national TV on a morning show to accuse him, Aaron Julian, of inappropriate behavior.

What’s next? Clearly, Aaron must hire a lawyer, so he chooses Raquel Rematti, “a powerful defense lawyer.” Readers can expect that things do not go smoothly, especially when the plaintiffs’ attorney is found murdered. Does Aaron have something to do with that? How will Veda, Aaron’s pop-singer wife, handle this problem?

Readers have much to learn about Aaron Julian and his wife Veda as well as the young women who accuse Aaron.

The Book Whisperer Finds The Book Woman’s Daughter to be Amazing

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After reading The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson, I could not recommend the book to enough people. I chose it for two book clubs to which I belong. Everyone I know who has read the book has thoroughly enjoyed it, learned from it, and recommended it to others. When I learned that Richardson was writing a sequel, The Book Woman’s Daughter, I couldn’t wait to read it. I attended a virtual event featuring Kim Michele Richardson through Adventures by the Book; along with my ticket, I received a copy of The Book Woman’s Daughter as soon as it was published.

The Book Woman’s Daughter can certainly be read as a standalone novel. I do think, however, that those who have also read The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek will find a deeper, richer connection to the story.

When The Book Woman’s Daughter opens in 1953, Honey Mary-Angeline Lovett is almost 17. Her parents are being arrested for breaking the laws of KY. Honey’s father Jackson had dared “to marry a woman of mixed color – a blue-skinned Kentuckian.” Cussy Lovett, Honey’s mother, has a condition called methemoglobinemia, a “gene disorder that the ol’ doc over in Troublesome Creek said me [Honey] and Mama and the Moffits had.” Cussy has quite blue skin all over, but Honey’s disorder manifests itself in her hands and feet and only when she is stressed or agitated.  

As a minor and with her parents jailed, Honey could be sent to an orphanage until she is 18, or she could be remanded to the Kentucky House of Reform where she would be held until she was 21. She would be shackled and forced to do hard labor. And for what? Because the laws of KY were so antiquated and outdated! Her great fear is that the latter will be her fate if she cannot get to Troublesome Creek where a judge can name Retta Adams, 90, her guardian while her parents are in prison.

Honey, like Cussy, loves books. When she gets to Troublesome Creek, she sees an advertisement for a librarian to take books into the KY hills to isolated people just as her mother had done years before. Honey feels if she can get the job that will show she is capable of taking care of herself and she can contribute to living expenses with Retta.

This story takes place in 1953, but it might as well be 1900. People in towns have electricity, indoor bathrooms, and running water. People living deep in the hills of KY still have wood stoves for heating and cooking. They have well water and use coal oil lamps. Honey herself has to learn how to use a public telephone. She hasn’t seen a television and hardly knows what a radio is.

Needless to say, Honey encounters a number of obstacles in her path, but she also has friends who come to her aid. Her own ingenuity and innate intelligence serve her well too.  I highly recommend The Book Woman’s Daughter. It will make readers angry, make them laugh, and ultimately provide them with an excellent story. For book clubs, the topics for discussion are almost endless: interracial marriage laws, child marriages, child emancipation, and child prison labor camps. Other topics will include the stories from the Pack Horse Library Project and the ingenuity of the librarians who took materials to families buried deep in the hills of KY.

The Book Whisperer Enjoys Maisie Dobbs

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I have long been a fan of Maisie Dobbs, intrepid female PI. Jacqueline Winspear has created a character who is whip-smart, observant, and more than adept at figuring out knotty puzzles. For a recent selection for a mystery book club, a member chose Messenger of Truth for our discussion. It is book four in the series; it can easily be read as a standalone mystery. However, starting with book one allows readers to learn more about Maisie’s back story.

In Messenger of Truth, Georgina Bassington-Hope retains Maisie’s services to discover the truth about Georgina’s brother Nick’s death. Nick, Georgina’s twin, was a noted artist on the cusp of a major exhibition of his work. Nick has been secretive about the largest piece in the new collection. No one else has seen it; in fact, no one even knows where Nick has hidden the work. Much discussion swirls around what the piece depicts.

While the police quickly determine that Nick’s death is the result of a terrible accident, a fall from precarious scaffolding he was erecting for the large art piece, Georgina feels there is more to his death. Thus, she engages Maisie to find out the truth—as in messenger of truth.

As Maisie digs into Nick’s life, she discovers more and more about him as well as about his family. Maisie finds her office broken into and papers scattered everywhere. She also realizes some of her notes, particularly a map she and her assistant Billy created to help them sort out the details is missing. Who is also interested in Nick’s death? Or is something else afoot?

Maisie and Billy continue to work the case until they discover the truth. As is often the case, the truth is difficult to share with the family, but Maisie must.

Jacqueline Winspear has created a smart, industrious character in Maisie Dobbs. I enjoy books in a series because the author has an opportunity to show real growth in a character through the series. Secondary characters also play an important role in books in a series. Readers cannot go wrong with Maisie Dobbs.

The Book Whisperer Insists Mystery Lovers Must Read The Woman in the Library

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Until I received a NetGalley ARC of The Woman in the Library, I had not read anything by Sulari Gentill. After inhaling the story of The Woman in the Library, I will definitely be seeking other books by Gentill. The Woman in the Library will be published 7 June 2022, on what would have been my mother’s 107th brithday!

Book Riot has already named The Woman in the Library as part of its “15 Best New Mystery Books of 2022,” and BookBub includes it in its most anticipated books of 2022. I can understand why. In my review, readers can rest assured that I will include no spoilers whatsoever.

The story captivated me from the outset. Ellie Marney, NY Times bestselling author, describes The Woman in the Library as having “more layers than an onion.” That description is quite apt.

In this mystery within a mystery, Hannah Tigone is writing a mystery novel. She is in Australia and writing about a mystery that takes place in Boston in the winter. She has met Leo Johnson, an American would-be writer, who is advising her about places and incidents in Boston. He also throws in advice about American word usage when he deems some of the Australian usage unlikely for American characters.

As Leo’s and Hannah’s correspondence continues, Leo becomes more strident in his letters and in his advice. He suggests darker incidents than Hannah is using. To add to this story, Hannah also has a character named Leo in the story she sends to Leo Johnson for suggestions.

Now, to the fictional story that Hannah is writing. In that story, Winifred Kincaid, Freddie, a writer from Australia, has received a Marriot Scholarship which provides her with a stipend and a beautifully furnished apartment in Boston so that she can write unencumbered by a job and other distractions.

Freddie is sitting in the Map Room of the Boston Public Library in order to find inspiration so she can work on her mystery. As she thinks about her work, she notes the other people near her and starts taking notes about them, surmising why they are there and what their backgrounds might be. In her mind, they could be possible characters in her book.

Freddie names the other people this way: Freud Girl, Handsome Man, and Heroic Chin. While Freddie idly wonders about these three people, they all hear a loud scream. Clearly, the scream comes from a woman, but where is she and why is she screaming? Very quickly, guards usher people out of the room.

Now, Freddie, Freud Girl, Handsome Man, and Heroic Chin have a shared and frightening experience. They introduce themselves. Handsome Man is Cain McLeod; Freud Girl is Marigold Anastas; Heroic Chin is Whit Metters. They agree the scream requires discussion among themselves, so they retreat to the Map Room Tea Lounge to discuss the incident.

Thus, an unlikely friendship begins to develop among the four who had been strangers only hours before. What will readers learn not only about Freddie, but also about Cain, Marigold, and Whit? And how will Leo Johnson, the real person and the character, fit into the story. Only by reading The Woman in the Library can readers discover the whole truth. The revelations will be shocking and mind-tickling! The unexpected turns will keep readers guessing about the characters—the fictional characters as well as Hannah Tigone and Leo Johnson.

Sulari Gentill was born in Sri Lanka and grew up in Zambia and Brisbane, Australia. She has an impressive number of books already published. The Woman in the Library adds to that number.

The Book Whisperer Trusts You WILL Read Shadows of Berlin

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Readers of this blog may remember my temporary ban on WWII historical fiction. Shadows of Berlin by David R. Gillham, like The Mayfair Bookshop by Eliza Knight, is not completely a WWII novel. Both books, though, are rooted in WWII and forward.

David R. Gillham worked in the book business before turning to writing historical fiction himself. He had studied screenwriting before writing fiction. He has published three books: City of Women, Annelies: A Novel of Anne Frank, and, most recently, Shadows of Berlin.

Shadows of Berlin opens in NYC in 1955 by introducing readers to Rachel Perlman, married to Aaron Perlman. The two are very much in love despite Aaron’s mother’s unhappiness at Aaron’s choice of wife.

In the beginning, I found Rachel to be full of complaints and distrustful of herself. Rachel’s conversations with her dead mother reminded me somewhat of a contemporary story, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. In both stories, the absent mothers provide the two daughters much angst for quite different reasons.

As I found myself impatient with Rachel, I stopped to think for a moment. At that point, I realized that the experiences she had during WWII as a Jewish girl and in danger from all corners would certainly entitle her to her fears even though she has survived the war. She has lost all of her family except Uncle Fritz, who, though kind, does use Rachel as an ATM much of the time. Aaron distrusts Fritz and resents the money Rachel gives him.

Readers quickly learn of Lavinia Morgenstern-Landau, Rachel’s mother, who was a talented portrait artist. Rachel, herself, has inherited this talent, but she distrusts herself too much to begin painting again. Her psychiatrist suggests that returning to her painting again could be therapeutic. Rachel disagrees.

Shadows of Berlin takes readers through Rachel’s journey from the horrors of war into a new life in NYC. Rachel must come to terms about how she has managed to survive the war and has now arrived in NYC to start a new life. Other stories explore this issue of what one must do to keep body and soul together when faced with unimaginable choices.

Because of Uncle Fritz, Rachel discovers a self-portrait her mother painted before the war. It is now in the hands of a pawnbroker who wants $50 for the painting. That sum is out of Rachel’s reach unless she can find a way to get the money and purchase the painting which means so much to her since it is a connection to her mother.

Clearly, Shadows of Berlin will generate in-depth discussions in book clubs. Issues such as love, forgiveness, survival, and hope will give book club members plenty to discuss. Rachel has every opportunity to find happiness in her new life. That’s another point of discussion.

The Book Whisperer Demands You Read The Next Ship Home

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For readers seeking historical fiction unrelated to WWII, The Next Ship Home by Heather Webb will certainly fill the bill. Set in 1902, readers meet Alma Brauer, a German-American, who has a gift for learning languages and a desire to learn and, in fact, a wish to attend college. Alma is 22 and unmarried, living with her mother, stepfather, and siblings, mostly among other German-Americans. Sadly, her mother and stepfather do not support Alma’s desire to learn. In fact, her mother tells her, “It does you no good to have dreams. They leave you dissatisfied with your lot.”

Alma helps with the family’s bierhaus until her stepfather tells he has found her a job at Ellis Island. Of course, what that means is that she will be working two jobs—at Ellis Island and again at home when she leaves work at Ellis Island. While working at Ellis Island, Alma crosses paths with a young Italian immigrant, Francesca Ricci and her sister Maria. Because Alma has learned to speak Italian, she is brought in to help interpret since Francesca’s English is somewhat limited.

Meeting Francesca along with her work with other immigrants from a wide variety of countries opens Alma’s eyes.  Until her work at Ellis Island, “Alma had never questioned her parents’ views. In fact, they’d instilled their own unease within her, so she turned to the one thing that helped quell it: she learned their languages, those who had infiltrated their neighborhood and taken their jobs.”

The story evolves into several complicated issues including Alma’s stepfather’s insisting that she marry a man who is a supervisor at Ellis Island, the one who got Alma the job. Alma’s mother tells her, “You’re a burden, Alma. Another mouth to feed.”

Along the way, readers learn more about Alma and her brother Fritz who is an activist trying to get better working conditions for laborers. Francesca also plays an important role in the story. Following Alma in her work at Ellis Island, we learn to appreciate the different cultures that collide there as people flow into the US seeking better lives and freedom. We also discover that corruption and evil lurks in the hallways among some of the supervisors and vendors at Ellis Island.

Heather Webb has done a great deal of research into Ellis Island of 1902. Between chapters, she intersperses newspaper stories from the time about the corruption taking place and the attempts to clear out the wrongdoers.

I found The Next Ship Home, which is a threat to so many of the immigrants if they do not comply with whatever a supervisor insists upon, a compelling read. For book clubs, The Next Ship Home will provide much for discussion: women’s rights (or lack of), education, prejudice, overcoming prejudice, corruption, and opportunities.

Heather Webb has an impressive body of work. In addition to the novels she writes alone, she has teamed up with other authors such as Hazel Gaynor to create captivating stories from various time periods. Heather Webb is part of NovelNetwork which seeks to connect authors and readers. She will Zoom with book clubs.