Thursday, April 28, 2016

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Stars Over Sunset Boulevard, by Susan Meissner {ends 5/5}

Christine withdraws a paper-wrapped lump from inside the box, revealing at first just a flash of moss green and shimmers of gold. Then she pulls away the rest of the layers. The Robin Hood-style hat in folds of soft velvet, amber-hued fringe, and iridescent feathers feels ghostly in her hands, as though if she put it to her ear, it might whisper a litany of old secrets.

She has seen this hat somewhere before, a long time ago. 
Stella moves closer, brow furrowed. "That hat looks familiar to me."

"It does to me, too." Christine turns the hat over to inspects its underside for signs of its designer - a label, a signature, a date. She sees only a single name in faded ink on a yellowed tag:

Scarlett #13.

I love historical books, so it was no surprise that I really enjoyed Stars Over Sunset Boulevard, as it jumps between the '30s to '60s and present-day (2012). It also revolves around Gone with the Wind, one of the most famous movies of the past 100 years, so that element was interesting as well.

Official synopsis:
In this new novel from the acclaimed author of Secrets of a Charmed Life, two women working in Hollywood during its Golden Age discover the joy and heartbreak of true friendship.

Los Angeles, Present Day. When an iconic hat worn by Scarlett O’Hara in
Gone With the Wind ends up in Christine McAllister’s vintage clothing boutique by mistake, her efforts to return it to its owner take her on a journey more enchanting than any classic movie…

Los Angeles, 1938. Violet Mayfield sets out to reinvent herself in Hollywood after her dream of becoming a wife and mother falls apart, and lands a job on the film-set of Gone With the Wind. There, she meets enigmatic Audrey Duvall, a once-rising film star who is now a fellow secretary. Audrey’s zest for life and their adventures together among Hollywood’s glitterati enthrall Violet…until each woman’s deepest desires collide. What Audrey and Violet are willing to risk, for themselves and for each other, to ensure their own happy endings will shape their friendship, and their lives, far into the future.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Book Review: Lust & Wonder, by Augusten Burroughs

The leather squeaked as he uncrossed his legs and place the papers on the floor at his feet. He propped his elbows on his knees and asked me, "What were you too late for, Augusten?"

I looked into his eyes, and then my gaze shifted to clock behind his head. It was now almost nine forty-five. But he hadn't even noticed.

I'm the one who said, "I think we ran over."

When your psychiatrist forgets to look at the clock and is hanging on your every word, that's when you know, out of all his patients, you are the sickest.

I have read Augusten Burroughs' work before, most memorably Running with Scissors - which was also made into a movie (which I have also seen), with Gwyneth Paltrow. Dry, another of his memoirs, was written first but was the second one released; apparently Running with Scissors was actually written after Dry, but released first. His writing reminds me much of David Sedaris's, except a bit darker (though still witty), and I very much enjoyed this novel.

Official synopsis:
First came Running with Scissors. Then came Dry. Now, there's Lust & Wonder.

In chronicling the development and demise of the different relationships he's had while living in New York, Augusten Burroughs examines what it means to be in love, what it means to be in lust, and what it means to be figuring it all out. With Augusten's unique and singular observations and his own unabashed way of detailing both the horrific and the humorous,
Lust and Wonder is an intimate and honest memoir that his legions of fans have been waiting for.

In this memoir, Augusten talks about life in New York, as well as his relationships. He dates a man named Dennis for many years, eventually realizing he doesn't love him anymore, and he later realizes he's been in love with his book agent, Christopher, for even longer than that. Augusten and Dennis have a house together, though, and dogs, and it would be hard to separate their entwined lives; the novel contains details about this, as well as anecdotes about the small Massachusetts town where they chose to build a house. 

Friday, April 8, 2016

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Two-Family House, by Lynda Cohen Loigman {ends 4/15}

This night was different. Never before had she seen such longing, pain and relief braided together more tightly. Two mothers, two babies, born only minutes apart. She had witnessed tonight what pure woman strength could accomplish, how the mind could control the body out of absolute desperation.

She breathed in the air again, crisp and cold, clearing her head. It ahd been a good night, two healthy babies born to healthy, capable mothers. She couldn't ask for more. What happened now was out of her hands. Wholly and completely she put it out of her mind, said her goodbyes to the house on the steps and made her way home to go to sleep. There would be more babies tomorrow, she knew, and the constancy of her work would keep her thoughts from this place. She promised herself never to think of it again.

This novel was more interesting than I thought it would be, partially because of a twist near the end of the book that I didn't see coming. In a Q&A, the author says that some readers may have already figured it out; however, it blindsided me at the time, although makes more sense now, that I've had time to reflect on it.

Official synopsis:
Brooklyn, 1947: in the midst of a blizzard, in a two-family brownstone, two babies are born minutes apart to two women. They are sisters by marriage with an impenetrable bond forged before and during that dramatic night; but as the years progress, small cracks start to appear and their once deep friendship begins to unravel. No one knows why, and no one can stop it. One misguided choice; one moment of tragedy. Heartbreak wars with happiness and almost but not quite wins.

From debut novelist Lynda Cohen Loigman comes
The Two-Family House, a moving family saga filled with heart, emotion, longing, love, and mystery.

Rose and her husband, Mort, live in the first floor apartment of a house that Mort owns with his brother, Abe; Abe and Helen, his wife, live on the second floor. Mort and Rose have three girls, and Abe and Helen have four boys. When both Rose and Helen get pregnant around the same time, they are overjoyed, since the two soon-to-be born cousins will be around the same age. 

Monday, April 4, 2016

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Letters for Scarlet, by Julie C. Gardner {ends 4/11}

Growing up I heard all the cliches about marriage being hard, a give and take forged by sacrifice and compromise. Not ever day will be champagne and roses, Ma would say. You have to work at it, like a job. At the time I believed her. But after years of being a wife, I am starting to believe marriage is not about work, compromise or even champagne. Staying married is a decision. I only wish I knew what to decide.

So I was (and still am) in the middle of reading another book when I started this one - I was waiting in line for a movie screening, with a bad internet connection, and therefore I could only read a book on the Kindle app on my phone that I had already downloaded. This happened to be that book, and I was pleasantly surprised; I'll be honest and admit that when authors pitch me themselves (instead of through a PR company), their novels aren't always the best - but this one was very good.

Official synopsis:
Corie Harper is 28 years old when she is first visited by a ghost – in the form of a graduation letter she forgot she wrote. Although she spent a decade burying that desperate girl and her regrets, each page resurrects the past, dragging Corie back to a time when all she craved was Scarlet Hinden’s friendship and Tuck Slater’s heart. But she couldn’t keep them both and keep her word.

Scarlet is haunted in her own way, by memories of Corie and of a night that left her wishing she were dead. But Scarlet is not only alive, she’s carrying new life: a baby she never wanted and is terrified to have. Convinced she would be a disastrous mother, she questions whether or not she deserves the love of any man. Especially the father of her child.

Letters for Scarlet traces one friendship from deep roots to branches torn by broken promises and loss. An educator from a sleepy suburb of Los Angeles, Corie works through heartbreak writing letters she’ll never send. Scarlet, an attorney in San Francisco, turns to lies, betraying everyone who dares to breach her sturdy walls.

Their relationships teeter on the edge of dissolution: Mother and daughter. Teacher and student. Family. Lovers. Soul mates. But after a harrowing confrontation in a hometown cemetery, Corie and Scarlet resolve to face uncertain futures, armed not with easy resolutions but instead one simple truth: pain can take a lifetime to heal, but hope lasts even longer.

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