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Tuesday, June 26, 2018

The Lost Vintage by Ann Mah

The Lost Vintage by Ann Mah
Published by William Morrow ISBN 9780062823311
Hardcover, $26.99, 372 pages

Often when I read books with dual timelines, one story is much more interesting to me than the other. Not so in the case of Ann Mah's novel, The Lost Vintage. 

Kate is a sommelier living in San Francisco preparing to take the Test- an extremely difficult exam to be become a Master of Wine. She knows most of the wines that will be on the test, but she is weak in the area of French Burgundy, which is ironic since her family has owned a vineyard in the Burgundy region for generations.

She decides to go visit her cousin Nico and his wife Heather, where they run the run the family vineyard with her Uncle Philippe. Kate's mom left France years ago and has little to do with her family, something that bothers Kate as she does not know the reason why.

Heather and Kate take on the task of cleaning out the huge basement, filled with so much stuff it looks like an episode of Hoarders. While cleaning it out, Kate discovers that there is a hidden cellar filled with hundreds of bottles of wine hidden during the German occupation in WWII.

She also discovers that she had a great-aunt whom no one talked about- Helene. Uncle Philippe is tight-lipped about Helene, and doesn't want Kate and Heather asking any more questions about Helene or WWII.

Kate and Heather discover that Helene was accused of being a "horizontal collaborator", a woman who had sex with the German occupiers in exchange for better treatment by the soldiers. Helene was assaulted and shunned by the townspeople, and she died shortly after the war ended.

This information devastated Kate and Heather. Kate was ashamed that her relative could have done the things they accused her of. They look for Helene's journal to find out why she did what she did.

The reader has access to Helene's journal, and we see her beginnings as a young woman, interested in becoming a scientist before the war dashes her dreams. She and her father hide English soldiers and Jewish families in their hidden cellar, and Helene works for the Resistance. How does she end up a collaborator?

The Lost Vintage is a wonderfully written novel, and fans of The Nightingale and The Women In The Castle, will find this story just as interesting. Mah weaves these stories together seamlessly, and the tension as Helene works to help the Resistance and Kate searches for a missing bottle of a vintage wine that could save her family's vineyard from financial ruin ratchets up page by page. (And both stories are equally intriguing.)

My husband and I recently visited some old vineyards in the Chianti region of Italy, so I was endlessly fascinated by Mah's vivid descriptions of life as a wine maker. Her descriptions of the delicious meals eaten by Kate's family is heaven for people like me who enjoy "foodie fiction". (And I could live forever on what Nico calls "the three c's for dinner- charcuterie, cheese and crudites", with wine of course.)

If you enjoy traveling to another place in your books, reading The Lost Vintage will send you to the Burgundy region of France without ever leaving your home. I highly recommend it.

Thanks to TLC Tours for putting me on Ann Mah's tour. The rest of her stops are here:

Instagram Features

Tuesday, June 19th: Instagram: @shereadswithcats
Wednesday, June 20th: Instagram: @hollyslittlebookreviews
Thursday, June 21st: Instagram: @read.write.coffee
Friday, June 22nd: Instagram: @absorbedinpages
Saturday, June 23rd: Instagram: @onceupon_a_bookdream
Sunday, June 24th: Instagram: @sweetbookobsession
Monday, June 25th: Instagram: @theloudlibrarylady

Review Stops

Tuesday, June 19th: Instagram: @theliteraryllama
Thursday, June 21st: Kahakai Kitchen
Tuesday, June 26th: bookchickdi
Wednesday, June 27th: Girl Who Reads
Thursday, June 28th: Reading Reality
Friday, June 29th: Instagram: @alittlebookishlife
Monday, July 2nd: Wining Wife
Tuesday, July 3rd: Instagram: @writersdream
Wednesday, July 4th: Jathan & Heather
Thursday, July 5th: 5 Minutes For Books

Monday, June 25, 2018

Summer Reading

Reprinted from The Citizen:
Memorial Day festivities are over, so now we turn our thoughts to the upcoming summer season. That means, for many of us, a time to get some sun, relax and read a good book (or two or three).
Dorothea Benton Frank’s latest novel, “By Invitation Only,” fits the bill of a traditional beach read. Single mom Diane’s son is getting married to a young woman from an uber-rich Chicago family. Diane’s family owns a small peach farm in South Carolina. While cultures collide, we get fireworks and a wonderful read filled with tasty food scenes that will make you drool. 
By Invitation Only
Eloisa James is an immensely popular historical romance writer, and her latest is the second in her fun new Wildes of Lindow Castle series. “Too Wilde to Wed” focuses on North Wilde, heir to the family dukedom, who when we last left him had been jilted by his fiancee. It’s two years later and North returns home from war to find his former fiancee working as a governess at the castle. Can he win her back? This one is sure to be a steamy read. 
Too Wilde To Wed
If you enjoyed the Broadway show “Wicked” or TV’s “Once Upon a Time,” Danielle Teller’s “All The Ever Afters” is a great read for you. We see Cinderella from the point of view of Agnes, her stepmother, who had a very difficult life before she married Cinderella’s father. It’s a unique look at the Cinderella story. 
All The Ever Afters
If your tastes run to literary fiction, Sarah Jessica Parker has a new imprint at Hogarth, and her first novel is Fatima Farheen Mizra’s “A Place For Us,” the story of a Muslim American family who come together for a family wedding. The family members deal with tradition, faith, loyalty, love, betrayal — all things that bind us together. Mirza is getting rave reviews for her first novel. 
A Place For Us
For mystery fans, Lisa Scottoline’s “After Anna” begins with a well-respected doctor on trial for the murder of his adult stepdaughter, a young woman who recently joined the family. It’s a real whodunnit. 
After Anna
Fans of Patricia Highsmith will want to try Christine Mangan’s “Tangerine.” Set in 1956 Tangiers, we meet Alice Shipley, who has moved there with her husband from England. Alice is not happy there, preferring to stay cooped up in their apartment while her husband is out and about. When her old college friend Lucy shows up out of the blue, we discover that years earlier, a man Alice dated ended up dead and the women haven’t seen each other since. What does Lucy want now? The setting here plays a key role, and you’ll find yourself sweating from the heat of Tangiers. 
There are some terrific books out there for people who prefer true stories. Tara Westover’s “Educated” shares her story of growing up in a poor Utah family of seven children who did not attend school, but rather worked with their father scrapping metals, a dangerous thing for young children to do. How Tara and some of her siblings ended up going to college and getting Ph.D.’s is astounding, and a tribute to the human spirit. I could not put this one down. 
Michelle McNamara’s “I’ll Be Gone In the Dark” recounts her search for California’s Golden State Killer, who murdered 12 people and raped over 50 women in the 1970s. McNamara unexpectedly passed away in her sleep, and her husband and researchers finished the book. The amazing end to the story is that the man was finally caught last month, using a DNA match through an internet genealogical website. 
I'll Be Gone In The Dark
Allison Pataki is best known for her historical fiction, but “Beauty in the Broken Places” is about how her life was upended when her 30-year-old doctor husband had a stroke on an airplane while they were on their way to Hawaii, and she was five months pregnant. Her faith, family and friends, along with her own strength, helped them through. 
Beauty in the Broken Places
And finally, for a good laugh, David Sedaris is back with “Calypso,” about his vacation home and the hilarity and insanity that happened there when he invites family to visit. 
Diane La Rue is a member of the National Book Critics Circle and blogs about books at http://bookchickdi.blogspot.com. You can follow her on Twitter @bookchickdi, and she can be emailed at laruediane2000@yahoo.com.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Topical Fiction at Bryant Park

This week at the Bryant Park Reading Room, the subject was topical fiction with authors Tayari Jones and Lisa Ko discussing their books, An American Marriage and The Leavers, respectively.
Lisa Ko and Tayari Jones

I got a copy of Jones' An American Marriage at last year's Book Expo and devoured it when I got home. She has such a way with language and her characters, I think she is one of the best writers in America today.

Lisa Ko thinks so too; she introduced Tayari Jones by saying that as she read Jones' Silver Sparrow, she had a notebook by her side, decoding the structure of the novel to discover how Jones wrote it. (I agree with her, Silver Sparrow is brilliant.)

Tayari Jones introduced Lisa Ko by congratulating her on getting nominated for a National Book Award for her debut novel The Leavers. Ko also won the Bellwether Award before the book was even published. That is a lot to live up to!

Jones read a scene from her book, the one where Roy has just been sentenced to 12 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. Listening to her words wash over the crowd was mesmerizing.

An American Marriage is about Roy and Celestial, married for just 18 months when he is sent to prison. Their marriage is not perfect, but what does a separation like that do to a marriage? Although the story deals with the issue of incarceration (Jones mentions that 1 in 6 women in this country have a loved one incarcerated- a husband, son, brother- and how that disrupts gender expectations).

But at it's heart, it's the story of a marriage and what happens when the husband is gone. Can a marriage survive that? Read An American Marriage to find out.

Jones also discussed getting a phone call from Oprah, hearing that her book had been chosen for Oprah's Book Club and what that meant to her. She also talked about trying to figure out how to write the story in the first person. Telling it from just Celestial's point of view wasn't the whole story, so she added Roy's story. When she included the point of view of Celestial's childhood Andre, it became an animated love story.

The Leavers couldn't be more topical. Polly, an undocumented Chinese immigrant, goes to work one day at a nail salon in New York City and never comes home. Her eleven-year-old son Deming is all alone until he is adopted by a white couple, moved upstate, and renamed David.

The story is told from the point of view of both Polly and Deming, and tells how they tried to find their way back to each other. Given the recent events this week on the US/Mexican border, this is a story that will resonate with anyone who watches the news.

The Leavers is about "finding a sense of belonging when it's taken away", according to Ko. She reads a piece to the audience about Polly's journey to the United States, and the $47,000 she has to repay the smugglers who got her out of China.

Both authors talked about people finding things in their books that they had not intended, and how different audiences react to their books. Jones says that some white people who have read her book ask her if Roy is guilty (and it is very clear in the book that he is not guilty). She said she thinks "You can't even trust a hypothetical black man?" when she hears that comment.

Ko said that people read from their own personal perspective, and she stated that some white adoptive parents have told her that they don't like how she wrote the adoptive parents in her book.

Jones said that it's not necessarily race, but proximity to the issue that affects how people react. She met white people in Tennessee who had loved ones incarcerated, and they could relate to her book very well. I found that to be very insightful.

When asked what books they enjoyed as children, Ko liked the Choose Your  Own Adventure series, and Jones loved Charlotte's Web because she felt unappreciated like Wilbur the pig.

An audience question about how the authors write was interesting. Jones writes on an old-fashioned typewriter. (Anyone who follows her on Twitter has seen her collection of typewriters). Ko keeps many notebooks, and never leaves home without one to jot down ideas. She writes in longhand in the park, uses her Notes app on her phone, and edits on her computer, printing it out and writing on the paper to edit.

An American Marriage is one of the best novels I read this year, I was pleased to buy Jones' first novel Leaving Atlanta, and have it autographed.  She was very excited to see the new edition of her book, it was the first time she had seen it. I also bought a copy of Ko's The Leavers as it has been on my radar for a long time.
Tayari Jones

It was such an interesting conversation, thanks to Bryant Park for hosting these terrific author events. More information about their events can be found here.

My review of An American Marriage is here.
My review of Silver Sparrow is here.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Book Club Girl's A Night Out

Last week I had the pleasure of attending Book Club Girl's A Night Out, featuring authors Kate Quinn (The Alice Network) and Jennifer Robson (Goodnight From London), along with Saskia Marrleveld, who narrated both audiobooks.

Kate Quinn and Jennifer Robson

The event was held at the HarperCollins offices in downtown New York City, and it was my first visit to the beautiful building. The main office area is very open and spacious, and there are the usual display of Harper books along the walls that one would expect, along with some special displays, like a cool antique letterpress, and a display dedicated to Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird and Go Set A Watchman. (I was particularly interested in the Harper Lee display as she lived a few blocks from where I live in New York City.)
Two of my all-time favorites were on display

The walls have some beautiful graphics

An antique letterpress

The Harper Lee display

They had a huge spread of snacks and beverages to welcome the many book club members in attendance. After we all settled into a large conference room, the discussion began.

It was an evening dedicated to historical fiction, so there were more than a few questions about research. Both authors do a great deal of research for their books. Kate Quinn had previously written book set in ancient Rome, so her foray into WWI and WWII was new to her.

There was a real life Alice Network of spies in WWI, and the women who made up the network were the most successful spies at that time because women were generally not noticed. Men would feel free to speak about sensitive topics in front of them because they would never suspect that a woman could possibly be capable enough to be a spy. (That elicited groans of recognition from the mostly female audience). Quinn also got a laugh when she mentioned that espionage was one of the world's oldest professions.

Jennifer Robson was writing a book, and her main character wasn't working. Her editor suggested that she write a book about her grandmother, a woman who worked in a newsroom in Canada. She began by running errands, filling scotch bottles for the male reporters, and eventually worked her way up the editorial ladder when many of the men went off to war.

From that, Robson's character of Ruby, a female journalist who finds herself in the middle of London in WWII, was born.

The authors discussed their own book clubs, how much they enjoy speaking and Skyping with book clubs, how much of their research doesn't make it into their books, the embarrassing questions that readers ask romance writers about their own sex lives, the possibilities of sequels, and what comes first- a great story or a great idea?

They spoke about their writing process, and the importance of just "putting your bum in the chair" and writing for five minutes everyday in a notebook to get started.

Quinn previewed her upcoming book, The Huntress, which has a triple timeline. It's partially set during WWII, and features a teen girl photographer, and a female Russian fighter pilot who joins forces with an English journalist to find a Nazi hiding in the United States. It's also based on a true story, and one of The Alice Network characters has a cameo appearance.

Robson's new book, The Gown, is particularly timely. It's about the women who made Princess (now Queen) Elizabeth's wedding gown. With so much interest in the recent royal wedding, and the Netflix series The Crown, this one is sure to have a lot of readers.

Saskia Maarleveld spoke of how she got involved in narrating audiobooks (she went to NYU for acting and decided it wasn't for her), her process, the luxury of being able to work in yoga pants from home, and her expertise in doing the many accents required for some books. She narrates 60-70 books a year, which impressed the audience.

The audience was gifted with early galleys of the upcoming books, The Huntress and The Gown, as well as The Alice Network and Goodnight From London, and had the opportunity to get their books signed. It was a fantastic event, and we all look forward to more of these in the future.

Thanks to Jennifer Hart (the Book Club Girl) and her wonderful William Morrow team, they made the evening memorable.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

A Place For Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza

A Place For Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza
Published by SJP for Hogarth ISBN 9781524763558
Hardcover, $27, 400 pages

For actress Sarah Jessica Parker's first book under her SJP imprint at Hogarth, she chose Fatima Farheen Mirza's stunning debut novel A Place For Us. 

Set in California, the novel opens at the elaborate Indian wedding of Hadia, the eldest child of an American Muslim family. Her parents, Layla and Rafiq, and sister Huda are there to celebrate. The youngest child, her brother Amar, is also there, and it is the first time in three years that the family has seen Amar. There is tension, with everyone walking on eggshells around Amar. Layla begs her husband not to say anything that will upset Amar.

The book then moves back in time, and we see the family at different points in their life together. Layla had a special relationship with her son, an easy closeness that escaped Rafiq. Amar was a quiet boy who liked poetry, and he did not have many friends except for Abbas, an older boy who looked out for Amar.

Hadia was the typical eldest child, she worked hard to get good grades and eagerly tried to please her father. She also had a crush on Abbas, the most popular boy in school.

We see their family life through the eyes of each of the family members. Layla and Rafiq are devout Muslims, and pass their strong beliefs onto their children. They expected to arrange marriages for their daughters, and hoped to make good matches for all of their children.

Mirza writes so beautifully, I found it difficult to believe that she is just 27 years-old. She is able to capture the voices of not only the children at various life stages, but she renders the voices of Layla and Rafiq so vividly for such a young person.

Her language is so eloquent it took my breath away, and I had to re-read several sentences to fully appreciate them, like this:
"As she glided between guests and stopped to hug women she had not yet greeted, it occured to Layla that this was what she might have pictured her life to look like once, when her children were young and she knew who her family would contain but not what life would be like for them."
The theme of this brilliant book might best be expressed by something Hadia thinks- "How were they to know the moments that would define them?" A Place For Us is filled with the moments that come to define each of the family members, and the ones that lead to Amar's estrangement from his family.

The truly saddest part of the book comes in part four, which is narrated by Rafiq. Until this point, we don't really know exactly what he is thinking. He pours his heart out, and the scene where he goes to Amar at the wedding had me in tears.

Although the book moves back and forth in time, and even shifts within chapters, Mirza is such a skilled writer that the reader is never confused. She will be a powerful voice in literary fiction for years to come.

 A Place For Us is a compelling story about faith, family, and fathers and sons. I was so moved by it, I didn't want it to end. When I finished it, I wanted to hug it to my chest and just sit quietly and comtemplate it. It is a beautifully rendered story about an American family, and one that I encourage everyone to read. It is the best book I have read this year, period.

Thanks to TLC Tours for putting me on Fatima Farheen Mirza's tour. The rest of her stops are here:

Fatima Farheen Mirza’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Monday, June 11th: The Cue Card
Monday, June 11th: @prose_and_palate
Tuesday, June 12th: Simone and Her Books and @simoneandherbooks
Monday, June 18th: @booksonherbrain
Monday, June 18th: @bookpairings
Monday, June 18th: Booklover Book Reviews
Tuesday, June 19th: @bookoffee
Wednesday, June 20th: Bookchickdi
Thursday, June 21st: @readingbringsjoy
Friday, June 22nd: Literary Quicksand
Monday, June 25th: Broken Teepee
Tuesday, June 26th: @outofthebex
Wednesday, June 27th: A Bookish Affair
Thursday, June 28th: Prose and Palate
Tuesday, July 3rd: Some Kind of a Library and @somekindofalibrary
Thursday, July 5th: Patricia’s Wisdom
Monday, July 9th: Ink and Fable and @inkandfable
Tuesday, July 10th: Kahakai Kitchen
Thursday, July 12th: 5 Minutes for Books

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Boardwalk Summer by Meredith Jaeger

Boardwalk Summer by Meredith Jaeger
Published by William Morrow ISBN 9780062748065
Trade paperback, $15.99, 384 pages

Meredith Jaeger's novel Boardwalk Summer tells the story of two women in two different time periods. In 1940, Violet Harcourt longs to be in the movies, but her marriage to a violent man thwarts her dreams. In 2007, Marisol Cruz's hopes of a college education in history ended when she became pregnant.

No one knows that Violet's husband Charles, a club owner in Santa Cruz, beats her physically and emotionally abuses her. When Violet decides she can no longer take it, she hitches a ride to Hollywood to try her luck at acting.

The Hollywood she discovers is not the one where she is discovered in a soda shop. Jaeger shows us the seedier side of Hollywood in the 1940s. Thousands of young women, all vying for stardom, are taken advantage of by men who use them to get what they want, and then abandon them.

Marisol is raising her young daughter Lily with the help of her parents. She waitresses at a diner, and when the opportunity arises to work for the local historical society, she is excited. Marisol's grandfather, Ricardo Cruz, grew up working on local farms with his family until he became a trapeze artist and performed at the boardwalk on Santa Cruz.

Marisol idolized her grandfather and when she went through his personal papers, she discovered that he was friends with Violet Harcourt, the Miss California winner who left for Hollywood and died mysteriously a few months after her return home.

With the help of a young man Marisol met at the diner, she discovers her family's connection to Violet and sets out to find out why Violet died.

What I found most interesting about Boardwalk Summer is that the setting is unique. Not a lot of books are set in Santa Cruz, so we get to see a different place. You can almost smell the ocean and taste the cotton candy while reading. Marisol's interest in local history, and her grandfather's career as a trapeze artist, is fresh as well.

I also liked the way Jaeger sprinkled real Hollywood figures into the storyline. Famed director Ernst Lubitsch has a cameo in the book, in a key scene involving Violet.

The author drops in some hints as to where the story is going, so careful readers will pick up on those and be rewarded for their prowess. There are two big twists at the end- one I found a little too convenient- that the reader may or may not see coming.

Some of Jaeger's storylines have relevance today. Marisol's grandfather is originally from Mexico, and she still faced nasty racially-charged comments from people, and the issue of women in Hollywood being sexually harassed back in the 1940s unfortunately still continues today as we see in the #MeToo movement.

Thanks to TLC Tours for putting me on Meredith Jaeger's tour. The rest of her stops are here:

Tuesday, June 19th: bookchickdi
Wednesday, June 20th: Reading Reality
Thursday, June 21st: Bibliotica
Friday, June 22nd: Literary Quicksand
Monday, June 25th: Instagram: @oddandbookish
Tuesday, June 26th: A Chick Who Reads
Wednesday, June 27th: Instagram: @hollyslittlebookreviews
Thursday, June 28th: Instagram: @notthepathtonarnia
Tuesday, July 3rd: BookNAround
Wednesday, July 4th: Tina Says…
Thursday, July 5th: Instagram: @writersdream

Monday, June 18, 2018

Matchmaking for Beginners By Maddie Dawson

Matchmaking for Beginners by Maddie Dawson
Published by Lake Union ISBN 9781503900684
Hardcover, $24.95, 370 pages

The summer reading season is now in full swing and I just finished a book that perfectly fits the bill. Maddie Dawson's Matchmaking for Beginners is a charming story, with wonderful characters and a premise that hooks the reader right away.

The story opens with elderly Blix at a party at her niece's home in Virginia. Blix doesn't usually leave her home in Brooklyn to visit her family; she finds her niece Wendy to be a a grasping social climber. But her great-nephew Noah is bringing his fiancee Marnie to meet the family, and something told her she needs to be there. (You see, Blix has special powers, sort of like a witch. But her real forte is matchmaking.)

Wendy embarrasses Marnie at the party (she feels Marnie is marrying above her station), and Marnie finds herself outside the party where she and Blix hit it off. Blix tells Marnie that Marnie is destined to have a big life, but Marnie just wants a normal, quiet life, with a husband, kids, and a nice house.

Marnie and Noah marry, but the marriage ends after two weeks, and Marnie goes home to Florida with her parents and her perfect sister Natalie. She runs into her old high school boyfriend and they rekindle their relationship. Things are going so well, it now looks like maybe Marnie will end up with the normal life she wants.

Until the day she gets a letter from a lawyer in New York. It seems that Blix has left her home in Brooklyn to Marnie in her will. But they only spoke a total of three times, why would she do that? That is a question that Noah and his mother want answered too; they believe the house should be theirs.

Marnie has to go to New York to settle the will, and discovers that in order to inherit the house, she must live in it for three months. Her family and boyfriend are upset by this, but Marnie decides to stay. After three months, she can sell the house, have some money, and go home.

She meets the tenants who live in Blix's home: a single mom and her young son (who adored Blix) and Pat, a mysterious man who lives in the basement and never leaves his apartment. She befriends  Lola, Blix's best friend and next door neighbor. Marnie becomes involved in their lives, and even finds a job working in a florist shop.

Marnie has always felt that she had a knack for matchmaking, and begins to acknowledge that maybe Blix and she were more alike than she realizes.

The characters in Matchmaking for Beginners are beautifully drawn. The family that Blix created in her home is such a New York thing- total strangers coming together, and Marnie fits right in, taking Blix's place.

The story had me turning the pages, wanting to know more about these characters and wondering which path Marnie would choose for her life. I was utterly charmed by Matchmaking for Beginners, and I would love to read a prequel about Blix and how she got to be where she ended up. I highly recommend Matchmaking for Beginners.

Thanks to TLC Tours for putting me Maddie Dawson's tour. The rest of her tour stops are here:

Instagram tour stops:

Monday, May 28th: @girlsinbooks
Monday, May 28th: @booknerdingout
Tuesday, May 29th: @createexploreread
Thursday, May 31st: @spinatale
Friday, June 1st: @bribookishconfessions
Friday, June 1st: @beccasbookishlife
Saturday, June 2nd: @ladyofthelibrary
Saturday, June 2nd: @jessislibrary
Wednesday, June 13th: @chaptershoe

Review tour stops:

Monday, May 28th: A Bookish Way of Life
Tuesday, May 29th: Bewitched Bookworms
Tuesday, May 29th: BookNAround
Wednesday, May 30th: What is That Book About – guest post
Thursday, May 31st: Kahakai Kitchen
Friday, June 1st: Not in Jersey
Tuesday, June 5th: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom
Wednesday, June 6th: From the TBR Pile
Friday, June 8th: Thoughts on This ‘n That
Monday, June 11th: A Bookish Affair
Wednesday, June 13th: Books & Bindings
Monday, June 18th: bookchickdi
Tuesday, June 19th: Literary Quicksand
Thursday, June 21st: Chick Lit Central – author Q&A
Thursday, June 21st: Patricia’s Wisdom
Wednesday, June 27th: Midwest Ladies Who Lit
TBD: Books a la Mode – guest post

Monday, June 4, 2018

All the Ever Afters by Danielle Teller

All The Ever Afters by Danielle Teller
Published by William Morrow ISBN 9780062798206
Hardcover, $26.99, 384 pages

I'm not a particular fan of fairy tales, but I do enjoy a good retelling or re-imagining of a classic story, so Danielle Teller's All The Ever Afters caught my attention.

Told from the point of view of Agnes, Cinderella's stepmother, we get a different take on Cinderella. Agnes' mother died in childbirth, when she was just a small child. Her father was very poor and couldn't care for three children, so Agnes was sent off to work at the Aviceford Manor house at the age of ten.

She ended up as an assistant in the laundry, where the young child did most of the actual work, while the laundress verbally and physically abused her. It was a brutal life for a child, sleeping on the pantry floor, working sunup to sundown.

One day, she was called to assist Emont, the Lord of the Manor. He was lying passed-out drunk, and Agnes helped clean him up.

Soon Agnes grew up, met a sweet-talking man and fell in love. She became pregnant, and they married, only for Agnes to discover that he was not the man she thought he was.

Agnes was a clever, hardworking woman, and she found her way to becoming a brewer, making ale and selling it at a small tavern. She was quite successful, raising her two daughters Charlotte and Matilda, until circumstances arose that took her livelihood away. (Let's just say that times were not kind to women.)

When Agnes ends up working back at the Manor, the lady of the manor had just given birth to a baby girl, Elfilda, called Ella. Agnes cared for Ella, nursing her, carrying her around while she worked. Lord Emont recognized Agnes as the young child who helped him years ago, and they form a friendship.

Soon Agnes' good business sense helps Lord Emont in running the manor, and eventually the two become close and marry. Ella is not happy about the situation, and neither are Charlotte or Matilda. Ella is a quiet child, standoffish. She doesn't like to ride horses, like her mother did. She loves beautiful gowns and is frequently off in her own world.

Interspersed in the story are journal entries from the Royal Court, where Ella is now married to Prince Henry. Ella has three young children, and Agnes, Charlotte and Matilda are not quite insiders, yet not outsiders either.

We learn from Agnes a different side to Ella and Henry's love story- meeting at the ball, dropping her shoe, the search of the kingdom for Ella using the shoe- it's all here, albeit with a unique viewpoint and spin.

All The Ever Afters is a wonderful story, especially for people who love Broadway's Wicked and TV's Once Upon A Time. It's got a feminist twist to the story, with Agnes using her brains and compassion to make her way in a world that is not kind to women who are not conventionally beautiful or rich. She fiercely loves her daughters, and would do anything to protect them. I recommend it.

Thanks to TLC Tours for putting me on Danielle Teller's tour. The rest of her stops are here:

Instagram Stops

Wednesday, May 23rd: Instagram: @theshybooks
Thursday, May 24th: Instagram: @readforevermore
Saturday, May 26th: Instagram: @shereadswithcats
Sunday, May 27th: Instagram: @read.write.coffee
Monday, May 28th: Instagram: @_ebl_inc_
Tuesday, May 29th: Instagram: @lavieestbooks

Tour Stops

Wednesday, May 23rd: A Chick Who Reads
Thursday, May 24th: Reading Reality
Friday, May 25th: Instagram: @thepagesinbetween
Monday, May 28th: Instagram: @Novelmombooks
Tuesday, May 29th: Stranded in Chaos
Thursday, May 31st: Broken Teepee
Monday, June 4th: bookchickdi
Wednesday, June 6th: Literary Quicksand
Thursday, June 7th: Instagram: @worldswithinpages
Friday, June 8th: Jessicamap Reviews
Monday, June 11th: A Bookish Affair