Wednesday, June 15, 2022


Author:  Kaitlyn Greenidge
Publication Information:  Algonquin Books. 2021. 336 pages.
ISBN:  1616207019 / 978-1616207014

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley and a publisher's blog tour free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "I saw my mother raise a man from the dead."

Favorite Quote:  "I do not know what I am or what I will have become by then. I am not sure I ever knew myself. I used to think this was a failing. Something to hide from. How could I be a righteous woman, to serve the world as you did, if I did not know myself? But that seems like sos little of a concern, now. I may not know myself, but I know the loneliness of love. I know that the world is too big to be knowable."

***** BLOG TOUR *****


Libertie - the character and the story - are not what I expect. The book description speaks of a coming of age a story, a journey of self-discovery, and a journey of what it means to be a black woman in the 1860s. In the United States, that is the time of the Civil War, slavery, escape, and the fight for freedom.

Libertie Sampson is a young woman at the time. She was named by her father for "his longing. As a girl, I did not realize what a great burden this was to bear. I was only grateful." She lives with her mother, who is independent, strong, a voice in the community, and a  doctor. The opening sentence of the book speak to her role and the times. The good doctor helped black people escape to a better life; one of the methods was to medicate them such that they appeared virtually dead and to transport them in coffins! This is the opening scene of the book.

The beginning of the book sets up for a powerful, emotional story of the times and of history. The fact that the book description states that it is "inspired by the life of one of the first Black female doctors in the United States" lends itself to that image. I imagine that reference is to Libertie's mother. Unfortunately, this book is not her story although that is a story I wish to read. I want to know her story because she is Black, a woman, a doctor, and a single mother at a time when any one of those individually presents a challenge. All together, I cannot imagine. I want to know her story because of the quiet strength she displays and the strength she tries to pass on to Libertie. I want to know her story because I want to know all she has survived

This is, however, Libertie's story and her elusive search for freedom and independence. Unfortunately, this tale and this characters has a negative tone from beginning to end. I suppose finding her name a burden in the opening paragraphs of the book should have been an indication. Libertie's search for independence throughout the book seems to lead away and be structured as an escape from something rather than a move towards. Each steps seems to be an escape from what comes before. School from her mother's house. Marriage from school and her mother's expectations. Haiti from the United States. And more. At every turn.

At each turn, Libertie finds that what she escapes too is not quite what she envisions and does not provide her with what she seeks. At each turn, her vision of her situation focuses on what it is not rather than what it is. Her independence and happiness remain elusive. Much of the book conveys that negative tone, making it challenging to invest in Libertie as a character or to cheer for her happy ending. Even the ending leaves me doubtful that the next turn in Libertie's life will bring her what she seeks.

About the Author

Kaitlyn Greenidge's debut novel is We Love You, Charlie Freeman (Algonquin Books), one of the New York Times Critics' Top 10 Books of 2016. Her writing has appeared in the Vogue, Glamour, the Wall Street Journal, Elle, Buzzfeed, Transition Magazine, Virginia Quarterly Review, The Believer, American Short Fiction and other places. She is the recipient of fellowships from the Whiting Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, the Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University and the Guggenheim Foundation. She is currently Features Director at Harper’s Bazaar as well as a contributing writer for The New York Times. Her second novel, Libertie, is published by Algonquin Books and out now.

About the Book

Coming of age as a freeborn Black girl in Reconstruction-era Brooklyn, Libertie Sampson is all too aware that her purposeful mother, a practicing physician, has a vision for their future together: Libertie is to go to medical school and practice alongside her. But Libertie, drawn more to music than science, feels stifled by her mother’s choices and is hungry for something else—is there really only one way to have an autonomous life? And she is constantly reminded that, unlike her mother, who can pass, Libertie has skin that is too dark. When a young man from Haiti proposes to Libertie and promises she will be his equal on the island, she accepts, only to discover that she is still subordinate to him and all men. As she tries to parse what freedom actually means for a Black woman, Libertie struggles with where she might find it—for herself and for generations to come.

Inspired by the life of one of the first Black female doctors in the United States and rich with historical detail, Kaitlyn Greenidge’s new and immersive novel will resonate with readers eager to understand our present through a deep, moving, and lyrical dive into our complicated past. 

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

Thursday, June 9, 2022

Golden Girl

Golden Girl
  Golden Girl
Author:  Elin Hilderbrand
Publication Information:  Little, Brown and Company. 2021. 384 pages.
ISBN:  0316420085 / 978-0316420082

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "She receives a message from the front office: a new soul is about to join them, and this soul has been assigned to Martha."

Favorite Quote:  "Nothing in this world feels as good as hope."

In the opening pages of this book, Vivi Howe dies in a hit and run accident. She leaves behind three children, an ex-husband, an upcoming book, and the secrets of a lifetime. A sudden death brings to light all the things left unresolved. Things we think we are going to have time for. Things we think we can get to later. Except that the later is not to be. It also brings to light what priorities were and perhaps what they should have been.

When one of the things left undone is a will, it brings to bear so many more issues. There is a career, wealth, a house, children, alimony for the ex-husband, royalties on books, but no will. I find that challenging to follow, but perhaps. It's a niggling point, but one that can be overlooked in the story.

The plot of this book is itself contrived. Vivi dies, but there is a place in the beyond. She has an assigned guardian. She has a room from which she can watch what happens among the living. Beyond that, she has three "nudges." That's kind of like three wishes. She has the ability, not to completely change things but to "nudge" someone or something in the direction she chooses. She cannot, however, nudge the outcome of that. Where will she use the nudges? 

The beautiful Nantucket summer setting brings forth the idea of a summer beach read. This book avails itself of that setting but then turns from the summer beach read into an attempt to tackle issues plucked from the headlines. Left among the living are Vivi's three children, her children's father, and someone from Vivi's past. Among the living is also the investigation of the culprit behind the hit and run. First and foremost, the chief suspect in the hit and run is a person of color - perhaps the only person of color on Nantucket. Then, there is the daughter who is propositioned at the restaurant at which she works. Is she believed? Is she not believed? There are the wealthy and the not. There are the teenagers with secrets and angst of their own. It's a quick read that tries to do a bit too much.

As you might expect in an Elin Hilderbrand book, by the end, resolutions are reached. Perhaps, most importantly, the children (some of whom are adults) find a way to cope with the loss of their mother. "We honor Mom by offering forgiveness. You know how she treats the characters in her books? She gives them flaws, she portrays them doing horrible things - but the reader loves them anyway. Because Mom loves them. Because they're human."

While not quite a lighthearted summer beach read, the book is a quick, entertaining while it lasts, and leaves the lesson of forgiveness which is always important to remember.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

Sunday, June 5, 2022

The Boardwalk Bookshop

The Boardwalk Bookshop
  The Boardwalk Bookshop
Author:  Susan Mallery
Publication Information:  MIRA. 2022. 432 pages.
ISBN:  0778333299 / 978-0778333296

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley and a publisher's blog tour free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "I thought there'd be more sex."

Favorite Quote:  "Crap happens all the time. You can't avoid it, but you can develop skills to deal with it. Bad things are in your future... I can't tell you what or when, but they're going to happen. The secret isn't to avoid the. The secret is to be strong enough to survive them... I'm suggesting there are ways to strengthen  your sense of self and to add to your emotional tool kit, if you will, so that when the bad stuff happens, you can cope."

***** BLOG TOUR *****


I have to admit. I choose to read this book based simply on the title. The summer, the beach, and a bookshop ... a perfect combination. The fact that it's from Susan Mallery who writes lovely escapist beach reads is an added bonus. This book ticks all the boxes.

Strangers whose paths cross become friends. Friends turn into the family you choose. Bree, Ashley, and Mikki all happen to meet when all three are looking at a property on the beach for their respective businesses. Bree owns a bookstore. Ashley owns and runs a bakery. Mikki has a gift shop. Individually, none of them needs the size of the space, and none of them can afford it on their own. So, these three strangers join forces and decide to colocate their businesses. Three women supporting each other and building each other up, three business owners, three entrepreneurs, three friends. A lovely setup for a story.

In their personal lives, each suffers her own challenges. Bree bears the scars of childhood neglect and a marriage that was based on anything but love. Ashley wonder if the man she thinks is the love of her wants the same things that she does and how far she is willing to compromise. Mikki is divorced but contemplating where her future lies. Tied in are relationships with parents, in-laws, and children.

The book has its share of romance and physical descriptions. Fortunately, the focus stays on the story and the growth of these three women through their individual challenges and in their friendship.

As in other Susan Mallery books, some of the situations are exaggerated. Some of the characters are a little too perfect. Yet, enough of the characters and the events are relatable and ring true. The characters of the three women ring true and keep me engaged through the story even though I know exactly where it is going to end. That is part of what makes it a perfect summer beach reach. I know what to expect, and it delivers.

Also, as with other Susan Mallery books, in the middle of the romance and lightheartedness, the book deals with serious issues. Emotional abuse of a child is perhaps the most significant one in this book. It presents the issue through the lens of an adult who grows up as a neglected child - one who at best is ignored and at worst repeatedly told that her birth was an unexpected surprise and that her presence is an intrusion to her parents' lives. She grows up feeling unlovable and incapable of love. She repeats the patterns of her childhood as an adult. She shuts down emotionally, preferring the lack of feeling to the possible chance of being betrayed again. What I appreciate about this book is that there is no instant solution - through the right guy or the right friends. It depicts the help of professionals and specifically states the work and time that must go into healing. At the same time, it does emphasize the role family and friends can play - for staging an intervention to being there to taking the time to understand and love, flaws and all. This, for me, is the lasting image of this book.

About the Author 

SUSAN MALLERY is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of novels about the relationships that define women's lives—family, friendship and romance. Library Journal says, “Mallery is the master of blending emotionally believable characters in realistic situations," and readers seem to agree—forty million copies of her books have been sold worldwide. Her warm, humorous stories make the world a happier place to live.

Susan grew up in California and now lives in Seattle with her husband. She's passionate about animal welfare, especially that of the two Ragdoll cats and adorable poodle who think of her as Mom.

About the Book

With her unique brand of witty, emotional storytelling, Susan Mallery's latest is a heartfelt tale of friendship between three women brought together by chance who open a bookshop together on the boardwalk of the California beaches and ultimately become one another's family. Fans of Elin Hilderbrand, Robyn Carr and Susan Wiggs will love The Boardwalk Bookshop!

Brought together by chance, Bree, Mikki, and Ashley become fast friends and open up a beachfront bookshop together, bringing together their three different businesses. To celebrate, each Friday at sunset they pop open champagne on the beach and enjoy the sunset together. Little did they know that that chance meeting and this simple ritual would make them one another’s family.

Bree owns the bookshop. Funny that she can’t stand authors. They’re far too demanding. But when NYT bestselling author Harding Burton, the memoirist who wrote about being paralyzed as a teenager and how he fought his way back, comes in, Bree never expected to actually like him. But anything beyond casual sex is out of the question for her. She trusts no one—a brutal first marriage and a painful childhood taught her well. Still as much as she wants to walk away, she can’t quite do it…

Ashley, Harding’s brother, owns the muffin shop and she has her own problems. She’s been happily in love with her boyfriend, Seth, for eight years. He’s thoughtful, supportive, kind, generous…but he hasn’t proposed and, she can’t hold it in any longer. When he announces that marriage isn’t for him, she’s shocked. And as much as she wishes this was enough, the truth is that she wants to be married. But what now?

And Mikki, the gift shop owner, is getting a second chance. She married her high school sweetheart, but three kids and completely different interests made them drift apart until they divorced a few years ago. They’re still close for the kids, but when someone new enters her life, he makes her feel appreciated and alive. Suddenly Mikki’s ex is making her dinner and asking her advice and Mikki must choose between the man she loved and let go of—and a chance for a brand new beginning.

Q&A with Susan Mallery
What are your Favorite: food, beverage, pet, place visited, place you would like to visit, car, etc?
  • Favorite food: Chocolate and bread are tied for first place.
  • Favorite beverage: wine—I’m a big fan of Washington wines, which is why I wrote The Vineyard at Painted Moon, a book that came out in 2021.
  • Favorite pet: A mom isn’t supposed to have favorites, but I’ll confess just to you—Alex, my cat, is my guy. He always wants to be close to me, and I love that, too. You’ll often see him when I do virtual events, usually demanding dinner and affection, in that order. I do love my dog Kelli, too, but she’s more into her daddy than she is me.
  • Favorite place visited: My husband and I enjoy cruises. We’ve visited so many wonderful places, but one country whose beauty surprised me was Estonia. It’s filled with historical character and charm, and the people are warm and delightful.
  • I also love visiting my hometown, Los Angeles. That’s why I set The Boardwalk Bookshop in LA, so I could spend a few months in California—in my imagination, that is.
  • Place I would like to visit: Our next cruise will be to the British Isles, and I’m very excited. I’ll share pictures on Facebook and Instagram. I’m @susanmallery in both places, if you’d like to travel there vicariously.
  • Favorite car: My husband’s a total car guy. I’m mostly indifferent, though there are features I love. Heated seats are very nice, but a heated steering wheel is true luxury. When I need to know what kind of car a character would drive, I describe the character to Mr. Mallery and let him decide.
Tell us about your latest book, who is the main character(s) and what can we expect when we pick it up?
The Boardwalk Bookshop is about three strangers—Bree, Mikki and Ashley—who lease a beachfront retail location together and the friendship that blossoms among them. Bree owns the bookshop, Mikki the gift shop, and Ashley the bakery. I wanted to explore the transformative power of friendship. Because they have one another, these women are empowered with the strength and courage to change their lives. The Boardwalk Bookshop is an emotional, uplifting story that you’ll finish with a happy sigh. And I hope it will inspire you to strengthen your own bonds of friendship.

Bree is one of the most wounded characters I’ve ever written—hurt by neglectful parents when she was young, and by repeating that pattern with the man she married. Now widowed, she’s determined to protect herself at all costs. Then Ashley’s brother comes to her bookshop, a motivational author and adventurer who has inspired the world with his story. . . and teaches her that loneliness is a choice she doesn’t have to make. If only she can find the courage to risk her heart again.

Mikki is kind of rocking her divorce, or so she thinks. She and her ex have remained friends, and the whole family still celebrates holidays together. But when she starts dating again and meets a guy with real potential, things get messy fast. Mikki is one of those women who goes into mom mode for anyone in need of nurturing. She also has a wicked sense of humor and a very special, secret relationship that I know will make readers laugh. And maybe blush.

The youngest of the three friends, Ashley is deeply in love with the guy of her dreams. And he loves her, too! Finally, she found The One. Except she’s about to discover that Seth doesn’t believe in marriage. He believes that love is stronger when people make a choice every day to stay together. Can she be happy with him forever, even if she never becomes his wife?

Which of the characters in The Boardwalk Bookshop would you want to have a drink/coffee and a chat with?
I love them all, but if I have to choose, I’ll go with Bree. She’s the most complicated and the most snarky, and I find snarky, complicated women endlessly amusing. Plus, she owns a bookshop! Hello!

Buy Links
Barnes & Noble:
Google Play:
Apple Books:

Social Links

Twitter: @susanmallery
Facebook: @susanmallery
Instagram: @susanmallery
Author website:

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

Thursday, June 2, 2022


Author:  Edward Rutherfurd
Publication Information:  Doubleday. 2021. 800 pages.
ISBN:  0385538936 / 978-0385538930

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "At first he did not hear the voice behind him."

Favorite Quote:  "Put another way, if we want things to stay the same, we must change."

An Edward Rutherfurd book is a commitment - this one at 800 pages, but one that is usually worth the time for a fan of historical fiction. The books depict history as a story (which it is!) and cover in depth the titled place. This one does and doesn't.

Some of Edward Rutherfurd other books trace the history of a place somewhat like James Michener from the beginning to current times. This one does not. For its length, this actually covers a relatively short period of time in Chinese history. China has a history going back thousands of years. This book begins only in the early 1800s in the years leading up to the First Opium Wars. It also stops at somewhat the beginning of Mao's Cultural Revolution, shortening the time period even more.

This time period in history naturally lends itself to a comparisons to today's drug cartels and drug wars. The history of the opium "business" is presented as is the lack of concern for the individual or social impact of the drug use. To those involved, it is simple a "trade", perhaps one they have invested their lives in. The fact this disparity continues in different contexts today is a disturbing. Simply a "trade" with life and world altering implications.

Based on the timing, a significant portion of the book is the perspective of the British and Americans who find themselves in China at this time - the government officials, the merchants, the pirates, the military, the missionaries, and more. Their perspective, while fascinating, brings a different outlook and vision of the culture and people of China. For parts of the book, it feels the "China" in the this book is missing with this outsider's perspective. It also feels that the story being told is some of the outside stereotypes and the elitism of the colonialists. It does not necessarily depict the majesty - inventions, art, poetry, and so much more - that his part of Chinese history.

At the beginning, the shifting perspectives cause the story to scatter a bit as it is unclear how the characters relate or how the story will come together. Story lines end and pick up, making it at times challenging to follow a thread. Some of them go into detailed descriptions which I find less engaging - particularly those of arms and battles. As expected, some perspectives are more interesting than others. For me, unequivocally, the Chinese perspectives are the ones that draw me in for that is why I chose to read a book titled China!

Despite all of this, ultimately the story and the characters all do come together into a cohesive image. It's like looking at a painting up close and seeing the individual brush strokes and then slowly - very slowly - backing up until the brush strokes disappear into an overall image. It is not the epic image of China I expect, but nevertheless a look at a point in Chinese history.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.