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Monday, December 5, 2022

The Sunshine Girls by Molly Fader

The Sunshine Girls by Molly Fader
Published by Graydon House ISBN 9781335453488
Trade paperback, 368 pages, $17.99





As Molly Fader's fascinating character study The Sunshine Girls opens, people in Greenboro, Iowa are gathering for the funeral of BettyKay Beecher, a highly respected nurse who gave so much of her time and talents to her small town. 

BettyKay's older daughter Clara has returned home for the funeral. Clara is a successful corporate lawyer in Chicago, where she lives with her wife Vicki. Things are strained back home as Vicki wants to start a family, but Clara is reluctant.

Clara's younger sister Abby is married with two young children. While Clara hasn't been home much,  Abby has spent much of her time with her mother following the death of BettyKay's husband, their father, three years ago. Clara tells Abby that she is leaving directly after the funeral, and Abby is dismayed that Clara is leaving Abby alone to clean out their mother's home.

When a stunning woman saunters into the funeral home, everyone is shocked to see that it its Kitty Deveraux, a famous Hollywood actress, who has walked up and placed a pink button  in the coffin. Why is Kitty Deveraux at their mother's funeral? Does it have anything to do with the memoir their mother wrote about her time as a nurse in Vietnam during the war?

Clara and Abby invite Kitty back to their mother's home and once there, Kitty tells the women that she knew their mother when they were young nursing students and roommates in nursing school in Iowa in the 1960s. Along with Jenny, a brilliant woman and one of the only Black women in their nursing school, they were inseparable.

I truly loved the story of BettyKay, Jenny, and Kitty in nursing school. This unlikely trio of women became lifelong friends, supporting each other through good times and bad. We see how difficult the life of a young nursing student was, and how their strong friendship sustained them.

Through their discussions with Kitty, they discover things about their mother that they never knew, things that Aunt Jenny never told them. Jenny tells them to beware of Kitty and her stories, but Kitty is determined to tell all of the secrets she has kept about her and BettyKay's lives.

Molly Fader has said that her own mother's stories about nursing school in Iowa in the 1960s inspired this wonderfully moving story, and you can feel that love in the book. The characters feel so real, and their friendship is deeply meaningful. It is a love letter to strong women and how they have to overcome the things that happen to them along the way.

I did wish there was more of BettyKay and Jenny's lives in Vietnam, I feel like that could be another equally interesting book. As a fan of the the 1980s-1990s show China Beach, I found myself wanting to know more about that time in their lives. Fans of The Seven Lives of Evelyn Hugo will want to read this one too.

I loved The Sunshine Girls, and I read it in one sitting not wanting the story of these strong women and their deep friendship to end. I give it my highest recommendation.

Thanks to Harlequin for putting me on their Fall 2022 Women's Fiction Blog Tour.


 


Monday, November 21, 2022

Book Are Great Gifts Guide

Reprinted from auburnpub.com

It looks like the holiday shopping season is in full gear already, so it’s time for our annual Books Are Great Gifts Guide. Books make great gifts because they are never the wrong size or color and they’re easy to wrap. And if you’ve been invited to Thanksgiving dinner this year, why not bring a book as a host gift instead of the usual flowers or wine? 




In Nonfiction: For your father-in-law who wakes up to CNBC everyday, When McKinsey Comes to Town by Walt Bogdanich and Michael Forsythe about how the consulting company has become the major player in the world (for good and bad) is a good choice. 



Your uncle the history buff would enjoy Stacy Schiff’s new biography The Revolutionary- Samuel Adams that takes a fresh look at an historical figure. Jon Meacham’s And There Was Light is his latest book about Abraham Lincoln. 


For your aunt the movie buff, give her the Paul Newman memoir The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man. 



The sister who listens to True Crime podcasts will want to read Kathryn Miles’ Trailed about the murder of two female hikers in the Shenandoah National Park, and the journalist who tries to find the killer. 



Sharon Gless’ memoir Apparently There Were Complaints is for someone who read Matthew Perry’s recent memoir Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing. Both share their stories of Hollywood and addiction that almost destroyed them. 

 



Baseball is over, but if your son can’t wait until pitchers and catchers report in February, give him three-time Major League Baseball Manager of the Year’s Joe Maddon's memoir (written with Tom Verducci) The Book of Joe



Your nephew the musician will appreciate Bono’s memoir Surrender- Forty Songs, One Story. For your best friend who just turned fifty and could use a good laugh, Laurie Notaro’s Excuse Me While I Disappear is just the ticket. 





For the cook on your gift list, it’s that time of year for Ina Garten’s new cookbook, Go-To Dinners filled with recipes she made during pandemic. The baker in the family would appreciate a copy of The King Arthur Baking School, and maybe you’ll get some delicious treats as a thank you. 





In Fiction: Historical Fiction is a perennial favorite and Susan Elia MacNeal’s WWII story Mother Daughter Traitor Spy about a mother and daughter team who spy on the growing Nazi movement in Los Angeles is for fans of Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale. 



Allison Pataki’s The Magnificent Lives of Marjorie Post fictionalizes the life of a woman of major accomplishments whom most of us don’t know about but should, and your mom would love it. 



For your sister-in-law who enjoys watching all the Hallmark Christmas movies starting the day after Halloween, Susan Mallery’s Home Sweet Christmas takes readers back to the holiday-loving town of Wishing Tree for romance and holiday atmosphere. 



Romance fans have been patiently waiting for Lyssa Kay Adams newest in her Bromance series and it’s holiday-themed- A Very Merry Bromance; your best friend would love it. 



For the Mystery reader, Patricia Crisafulli’s The Secrets of Ohnita Harbor has a librarian sleuth, a missing historical icon from an Italian saint, and a setting that stands in for Oswego- what more could you want? 



Deanna Raybourn’s Killers of a Certain Age has movie written all over it. It’s about four 60-something female assassins who upon retirement find themselves targeted for assassination. It’s fast-paced and clever.



Books are wonderful to put in children’s stockings, and if you have a wee one, Mo Willems’ Pigeon Will Ride The Roller Coaster is a good one. Beginning chapter book readers love Nick Bruel’s funny Bad Kitty series.





The A to Z Mysteries series  by Ron Roy is popular with chapter book readers, and for fans of the popular Netflix series, The School of Good and Evil, the books by Sonan Chainani would make great stocking stuffers.





Rick Riordan’s newest series, The Trials of Apollo is filled with action and mythology.




Graphic novels are still growing in popularity, from Diary of a Wimpy Kid to The Babysitter’s Club to Amulet series among the most popular. 








For the older teens, Marissa Mayer’s Cursed continues her successful books that reimagine fairy tales. Fantasy readers would love Tracey Deonn’s Bloodmarked, a sequel to Legendborn





You can support your local bookstore by purchasing books from them in person, online, or through Bookshop.org, which has raised over $23 million for independent bookstores. If you buy any book of your choosing at my Bookshop page,  (use the search bar to find any book) my 10% commission goes to The Book Cellar, a used bookstore run by volunteers and whose proceeds benefit branch libraries of the New York Public Library. Happy Thanksgiving to all!








Friday, November 18, 2022

Friday 5ive- November 18, 2022

Welcome to the Friday 5ive, a weekly post featuring five things that caught my attention this week.   


1) The guys in my husband's family were on their annual golf trip in Florida this week and while they were at a restaurant at dinner, they ran into Frank Thomas, retired first baseman for the Chicago White Sox. While this is interesting enough, what makes it crazy is that Thomas is my younger son's all-time favorite athlete. Thomas is the reason my son's favorite team is the White Sox (instead of the NY Yankees or NY Mets, hometown teams). When he sent me a text saying that Thomas was in the restaurant, I thought he was pulling my leg until he sent a photo. The group hung out at the bar with Thomas and said what a nice guy he was. It's always wonderful when someone you've looked up to your entire life turns out to be everything you hoped. A million to one odds he'd be at the same restaurant as my son, a million to one odds Jerry. (Seinfeld reference)





2) Next weekend would have been my dear friend Lisa's birthday. She was my best friend during my college years, and we had so many unforgettable times (and probably some we did forget due to too much alcohol haha). One of those times was when I went up to stay with her at her family's camp on Hadlock Pond, and we went to see Tina Turner in concert at Saratoga Performing Arts Center. We danced and sang along, and had so much fun. Lisa's laugh was so contagious and her smile lit up a room. When I saw that Mattel was releasing a Tina Turner Barbie doll, I ordered it and  now it sits on my shelf. Every time I see it, it reminds of my friend and all of the great times we had. I really miss her.


3)  My Broadway tour continued this week with a trip to see the revival of Into the Woods. The cast for this amazing Stephen Sondheim show is a who's who of some of the most talented Broadway performers-  Stephanie J. Block and Brian d'Arcy James as the Baker's Wife and the Baker were perfection, Krysta Rodriguez played a plucky Cinderella, Kat Geraghty's take as Red Robin Hood was delightful, Gavin Creel and Andy Karl were flat-out hilarious as the Prince brothers, and Patina Miller was astonishing as the Witch. She had a real Eartha Kitt vibe in the first act, and her transformation in Act II was astonishing. The first act has so many laughs, and Act II's more somber turn is sobering. I loved this show, if you come to NYC during the holiday, you must see this show before it closes on January 8th.


4)  I binged all ten episodes of Netflix's The Crown. Imelda Staunton carries on in the fine tradition of brilliant actresses who played Queen Elizabeth in this series (Claire Foy and Olivia Coleman, who both won Emmys for their performances). Jonathan Pryce was wonderful as Prince Phillip, and I thought Lesley Manville's performance as Princess Margaret in episode 4- Annus Horriblis- was simply heartbreaking. She should win the Emmy for sure. There is so much of interest in this season, even outside of the royal family. I liked the episode about the Fayed family and Sydney Johnson, who was a valet to King Edward. Charles and Diana take center stage this year, and Dominic West as Charles and Elizabeth Debicki as Diana are excellent. I felt that each character was portrayed empathetically, you do feel for all of them, except for Martin Bashir, what an awful man. What did you think of The Crown


5) I read Silas House's brilliant novel Lark Ascending this week. Set in a not-too-distant future, where the United States (and the rest of the world) has been ravaged by fires, civil war and a government run by the Fundies (fundamentalists who impose their extreme beliefs on the citizens), Lark and his parents flee to Ireland on a boat with other refugees. Once there, Lark is the only survivor and he makes his way across Ireland on foot, where he meets up with a stray dog (dogs have all but disappeared) and a woman on her own. It's a dystopian tale, where Lark and his companions have to avoid other survivors who scrounge for food and shelter and the people who want to lock them up. The writing is simply gorgeous, and this is a book you will find yourself sinking into, as the world around you recedes. It has a similarity to Cormac McCarthy's The Road, but Lark Ascending seems more urgent given the realities of our times, and Lark continues to hold on to hope. It's one of the best books of the year. 

Have a safe, healthy and happy Thanksgiving.


Friday, November 11, 2022

Friday 5ive- November 11, 2022

Welcome to the Friday 5ive, a weekly post featuring five things that caught my attention this week.


1) The weather has been so crazy once again. On Monday, the temperature was 72 degrees and it was strange to see ice skaters at Rockefeller Center skating when it was so warm out. I'm sure there were people wearing shorts and t-shirts out there.


2) Times Square always has something interesting to look at (besides the Naked Cowboy), and now they have three huge globe displays, featuring the Broadway shows Aladdin, The Lion King, and Wicked.


3) I saw Six, the Broadway musical about the six wives of Henry VIII. It was so cleverly done, each of the six wives sang a song about their lives and why they had it the toughest out of the six, set in a rock concert setting. (It's hard to beat Anne Boelyn and Katherine Howard, the two wives who were beheaded.) Each actress had an amazing singing voice, it was hard to choose who was the best. The small female band consisted of a keyboard player, guitarist, bassist, and drummer in keeping with the Girl Power theme of the show. The songs were fantastic too, and you can bet that people will be searching for more information on these ladies when they get home. I did enjoy the two page spread in the Playbill titled A Little Bit of Her-Story that gave us a brief sketch of each of the wives. Go see this one for fun, music, and a little bit of history that you can throw out at your next party to impress your friends.


4) I binged all ten episodes of Bad Sisters on Apple TV+ this week. The Irish series follows the Garvey sisters who, in a desperate move to save their sister Grace from her horrific husband John Paul, attempt to kill him. The series moves back and forth in time, starting with JP's funeral, and we see why each of the sisters had their own reason to want him dead. (John Paul may be the most despicable character on all of TV.) Throw in two brothers (the owners of the insurance agency where JP had a life insurance policy) who suspect foul play and have their own reasons for wanting to find out exactly how JP died. Sharon Horgan, who created and starred in Amazon Prime's series Catastrophe (which I loved), plays the oldest sister Eva who raised her sisters after their parents died in an accident, and she is fabulous as always.  All of the performances are excellent. I actually had my hands over my mouth in the last episode when we find out how JP died. I did guess one twist, but the end shocked me. This one lives up to the hype. 

5) I read Laurie Notaro's humorous memoir Excuse Me While I Disappear- Tales of Midlife Mayhem. Notaro never fails to make me laugh, and this book hits particularly close to home for anyone in the 50s and 60s. Her tales of trying to figure out how to cast her favorite show (Escape to the Chateau) from her phone to her TV without flying in her nephew from Phoenix to do it, keeping track of all of the pills she takes for "sore eyes, dry eyes, dry mouth, rubber-band knees, achy toes, low blood pressure, high blood pressure", and all of the post-menopausal women who can't sleep and are on Facebook at 3am exchanging recipes, painting their toenails, and posting pictures of puppies that are not theirs, had me laughing out loud, sometimes in recognition. The schemes she comes up to stop life's annoyances are worthy of I Love Lucy. If you are "of a certain age" as they say and like to laugh, this one is for you. 


Have a safe, healthy week. Get your flu shot if you haven't already.



Friday, November 4, 2022

Friday 5ive- November 4, 2022

Welcome to the Friday 5ive, a weekly post featuring five things that caught my attention this week. The weather has been glorious here this week, 70 degrees in the first of November is all right with me.

1)  Wendell Pierce is one my favorite actors, so I was excited to see him as Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman on Broadway this week. I lucked out and scored a $35 rush ticket and got a great orchestra seat to see this magnificent production. Pierce was absolutely mesmerizing, and his interpretation of an iconic role in American theater will go down as legendary. You could hear a pin drop in the house during his powerful monologue. Sharon D. Clarke was his equal as his wife Linda, a proud woman who fiercely loves her husband. Everything about this production was fantastic. It was interesting how differntly this play resonated with me at my age now than it did when I read it in high school. I admit I had tears rolling down my face at the end of the show, and I wasn't the only one, I could hear sniffles all around me. This show is a must-see, and I would have gladly paid full price to see it.


2) After watching Matthew Perry's interview with Diane Sawyer last week, I got a ticket to see him interviewed by former Entertainment Weekly editor-in-chief Jess Cagle about his memoir Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing at Town Hall on Wednesday. The discussion was fascinating (Cagle is a terrific interviewer), and Perry seemed more at ease and comfortable in this setting than with Sawyer. He also looked better in person I thought, other than his pants and socks were too short, which he joked about. He also joked when drinking his water saying "Vodka- that's an odd choice". Perry spoke of his twenty some-odd years he has spent in and out of rehabs, and the $9 million dollars he has spent on booze and drugs and rehabs trying to get sober. When Cagle asked him why he wrote the book now, Perry said that he finally feels secure enough in his sobriety to do it. He told of taking 1800 milligrams per day of opioids, a number that is unfathomable. He said he often felt three things throughtout his life that contributed to his problems- he felt needy, that he wasn't enough, and that he didn't matter. The crowd was made up of many millenials who began watching Friends during the pandemic, and they felt free to yell out Chandler's lines during the discussion. I started reading his book, and it is enlightening and well written. More on that next week.


3) Early voted began this week in NYC, and I voted on Tuesday night after work. The process couldn't have been easier, and the NYC Board of Elections did a great job making it run smoothly at my polling place. Tuesday is Election Day (why is it not a national holiday?), and if our democracy is to survive, we all have to play our part and vote. I hope you will. 



4)  I just watched the last few episodes of Netflix's Derry Girls, and I know I wrote about it a few weeks ago, but the three season series finale was so brillantly done it deserves another shout-out. This season concludes with the characters voting in a referendum on the Good Friday Agreement as to how Northern Ireland should be governed. It was hoped that this agreement would end the violence that plagued the country for years. There's even a special surprise guest at the end. Seriously, watch this series, you won't be sorry.



5)  I'm still on my nonfiction kick, reading Ann Hood's memoir Fly Girl about her years working as a TWA flight attendant during the anything-goes 1970's. The things the women in that job had to put up with would shock people today. Hood shares her experiences at the training school in Kansas, where the competition to get into the school was tougher than getting into Harvard. They had to learn everything about all the different types of aircraft they would be working on, and any small infraction could lead to being dismissed from school. Once they got their "wing" (singular, only pilots got to wear two wings on their lapel), they could exit their flight only to find a supervisor waiting for them just outside the jetway ready to weigh them to make sure they were under the maximum required weight or measure their skirt to make sure it wasn't too short or long. One of the most interesting things I learned was that for first class passengers, the flight attendants had to slice chateaubriand tableside, and toss salads in the aisle. Now you can barely get a bag of chips. Hood loved her time as a flight attendant (until the end), traveling the world and frequently able to take her parents with her. The experiences she shares in Fly Girl will make you nostalgic for a time when people dressed up in fancy clothes to fly as you look around the airport and see people looking as if they are going to a sleepover at a friend's house and it's bedtime. 



Have a safe, healthy week and don't forget to VOTE.