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Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The Silver Shoes by Jill G. Hall

The Silver Shoes by Jill G. Hall
Published by She Writes Press 9781631523533
Trade paperback, $16.95, 336 pages

Jill G. Hall's novel, The Silver Shoes, tells the tale of two women connected to the titular shoes. Anne is an artist who lives in San Francisco but her boyfriend Sergio lives in New York City. On one of her visits to Sergio she visits a thrift store where she finds an amazing pair of silver shoes. They even fit her feet, which are on the large side. (Sergio affectionately calls her "Bigfoot".)

Anne wants Sergio to ask her to move in with him, or even better, to marry him. She would like to know that their relationship is moving forward, but Sergio never seems to want to have that discussion.

Anne works as a valet in San Francisco to make ends meet while she pursues her passion, her art creations. She has been getting a foothold in the art world in San Francisco having sold some of her pieces at a gallery, but she would like not to struggle so much financially.

In 1929, Clair lives with her long-widowed father at the Waldorf Hotel in New York City. Her mother died when Clair was just six, and her mother's sister June, a teacher and suffragette, has helped to raise her. (I loved Aunt June.)

At Clair's coming out debutante party, her father has declared that she will marry Farley, a man over ten years her senior whom she had not yet met. She disliked him immediately; he was a boring braggart who seemed to only care about money.

Clair meets the vivacious Winnie, a clerk at Macy's, and hiding it from her father, she accompanies Winnie to a speakeasy. At first frightened, Clair loosens up and begins to enjoy the music and dancing. Soon she is sneaking out more and more with Winnie, praying not to get caught by her father or the doorman at the Waldorf.

Everyday Clair passes a store window where she sighs over a pair of silver shoes, studded with rhinestones. How she would love those shoes- but her father would say that only floozies wear shoes like that.

Hall does a wonderful job telling both women's stories. Anne and Sergio's relationship seems very realistic, and she doesn't make Sergio the bad guy here, a guy who is afraid of commitment. I think many women will relate to Anne's situation.

Clair's story was a little more enlightening to me. You don't often think of women in the 1920's America being forced into an arranged marriage. And again, Clair's father could have been a one-dimensional character, but Hall gives him more shades than that.

I also enjoyed being immersed in 1920's New York City- the Waldorf, Macy's, the entertainment venues. I got a real feel for what it was like living at that time in the city where I now live.

Eventually, Clair and Annie are connected by the shoes, and I found that very satisfying. The ending to Clair and Annie's individual stories was more surprising to me, but they were both women who came into their own strength when they needed it most. I recommend The Silver Shoes, especially for those who enjoy books set in two different timelines.

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

Monday, September 17th: BookNAround
Tuesday, September 18th: bookchickdi
Thursday, September 20th: A Chick Who Reads
Monday, September 24th: A Bookish Way of Life
Tuesday, September 25th: Ms. Nose in a Book
Wednesday, September 26th: Wining Wife
Wednesday, September 26th: Books and Bindings
Monday, October 1st: Broken Teepee
Tuesday, October 2nd: I Wish I Lived in a Library
Wednesday, October 3rd: Reading Reality
Thursday, October 4th: Instagram: @writersdream
Friday, October 5th: Write – Read – Life
Friday, October 12th: Instagram: @the_need_to_read

Friday, September 7, 2018

Two Perfect Books for the Weekend

Reprinted from the Citizen:
It’s hard to believe we’ve come to the unofficial end of summer. Why do summers go by so fast, and winters drag on? If you want to hang on to a little bit more of summer, this month’s Book Report has a few books that will help you do that.au
Miriam Parker’s delightful debut novel, The Shortest Way Home, begins as Hannah and her boyfriend, Ethan, are celebrating their impending business school graduation with a trip through Sonoma wine country before their move to New York City, where Hannah will begin a coveted job at Goldman Global Investment Research. 
They end up at a lovely small family-owned winery, Bellosguardo, where Hannah becomes enchanted by Tannin, the family dog, and the beautiful setting. Hannah strikes up a conversation with the owner’s son, William, and after awhile, she begins to brainstorm some terrific ideas to drum up more business for the small winery.
Hannah is the kind of person who likes to talk to the locals to find out where the best places are; Ethan likes to research and plan, and follow that plan to the letter. Ethan prefers to observe, Hannah prefers to interact.
Hannah can’t get the small winery out of her head, and when she discovers that she left her wallet at the winery, she returns and meets William’s mother, Linda, who offers Hannah a summer job at the winery working on marketing.
Her excitement gets the best of her, and Hannah decides to take the job, which doesn’t pay much, but allows her to live in a sweet little cottage at the winery. Ethan is dumbfounded that Hannah is willing to give up a high-paying job in New York to work at the small winery. He is also concerned what this will do to their relationship, as he loves Hannah and hopes to marry her.
I adored The Shortest Way Home. If you are a wine lover, as I am, this book is for you. It will have you planning a trip to beautiful wine country, or in the case of central New Yorkers, heading over to one of the many lovely local wineries in the Finger Lakes region to taste the best of what it has to offer.
I also think Parker realistically portrays the difficulties of owning a small family business, and the incredibly hard work it is to keep a business afloat. I related to Hannah and Ethan’s habit of looking at a business and coming up with ways to make it more successful (my husband and I like to do that, too). 
The Shortest Way Home is the perfect book to end with this summer. Pour a glass of your favorite white wine, take it out to your comfy front porch chair and settle in for an enchanting read.
Elin Hilderbrand sets most of her books in Nantucket, and her latest book, The Perfect Couple, is no exception. What is different is that this book has a murder mystery at its center. Celeste is about to marry Benji, whose wealthy family has a summer home on Nantucket.  
Benji’s mom is a popular author, having written a series of mysteries for 20 years, although her last book was rejected by her publisher. His dad owns a successful hedge fund. Celeste’s parents are solidly middle-class, her dad works at a clothing store in a mall in Pennsylvania, and her mom is suffering from breast cancer and not doing well.
When the maid of honor is found drowned the morning of the wedding by Celeste, the police are sent in to discover if it was an accident or a murder. Everyone at the wedding seems to be hiding something, from the married man who was having an affair with the maid of honor, to the best man who is keeping a big secret from the groom, to the family friend (frenemy?) lurking at the edges of the wedding festivities.
Characters from Hilderbrand’s previous books pop up to give her fans an added level of enjoyment. I liked the sunny setting of the wealthy Nantucket enclave and the juxtaposition of the relationships of Benji’s wealthy parents and Celeste’s middle-class parents.
Hilderbrand has written a classic beach read with a twist, and if you bring this book to the beach to read, be sure to put on plenty of sunscreen because you won’t be leaving your chair until you finish every last page of this intense novel.

If you read

BOOK: The Shortest Way Home by Miriam Parker
COST: Hardcover, $26
LENGTH: 320 pages

BOOK: The Perfect Couple by Elin Hilderbrand
PUBLISHER: Little, Brown and Co.
COST: Hardcover, $30
LENGTH: 481 pages
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.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

The Boy at the Keyhole by Stephen Giles

The Boy at the Keyhole by Stephen Giles
Published by Hanover Square Press ISBN 9781335652928
Hardcover, $25.99, 272 pages
Stephen Giles' debut novel, The Boy at the Keyhole, begins with nine-year-old British Samuel, left in the care of the family housekeeper Ruth. Samuel's father died and left his wife, Samuel's mother, to deal with the mounting debt of the family factory business, as well as the family estate.

Samuel's mother has been gone 116 days so far. She sends Samuel postcards from her trip abroad to the United States, where she is trying to secure bank loans to keep the factory afloat.  She left suddenly, in the middle of the night, without saying goodbye to Samuel. The only one who saw her leave was Ruth.

Ruth is a stern woman, and is not happy to be left caring for a young boy not her own. She has had to let most of the other staff go, as she is unable to pay them. She has taken to selling baked goods at the farmer's market to make enough money to feed herself and Samuel.

Samuel has many questions about his mother and her trip, questions that Ruth brushes off. When Samuel's schoolmate suggests that perhaps Ruth murdered Samuel's mother and buried her in the cellar, Samuel finds himself drawn into a web of wondering exactly what happened to his mother.

What kind of mother leaves her only child without saying goodbye? He adores his mother, and she adores him. His suspicions lead him to search the house for clues, angering Ruth. Why won't she let him talk to his Uncle Felix? Why is she lying to him and others?

The Boy at the Keyhole takes place almost exclusively at the estate, and as I was reading it, I could picture this as a stage play or movie. We see the story through Samuel's eyes, and as his paranoia and suspicions grow, so do ours. Did Ruth kill Samuel's mother and if so, why?

Giles tightens the screws slowly, and reveals things about Samuel's mother that a nine-year-old wouldn't understand. Ruth certainly seems to be hiding something, and the case that Samuel builds against her is convincing.

I read The Boy at the Keyhole in one sitting, as I couldn't stop reading until I knew what the heck happened to Samuel's mother. There are more than a few nailbiting scenes, and the ending is an unexpected jolt that sent me back to re-read it to make certain I knew what had happened.

If you are a fan of books like Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca, The Boy at the Keyhole is the perfect read for you. I highly recommend it to everyone who likes a good, smartly-written two-character psychological drama.

Thanks to TLC Tours for putting me on Stephen Giles' tour. The rest of his stops are here:

Instagram Tour:

Monday, September 3rd: @bookpairings
Tuesday, September 4th: @hotcocoareads
Wednesday, September 5th: @worldswithinpages
Thursday, September 6th: @novelmombooks
Thursday, September 6th: @dropandgivemenerdy
Friday, September 7th: @biblio-files
Saturday, September 8th: @booksbeforebedtime
Sunday, September 9th: @jennblogsbooks “Sock Sunday”

Review Tour:

Tuesday, September 4th: The Book Diva’s Reads
Wednesday, September 5th: Mama Reads Blog
Thursday, September 6th: Bookchickdi
Friday, September 7th: Cheryl’s Book Nook
Monday, September 10th: Literary Quicksand
Monday, September 10th: Books Before Bedtime
Tuesday, September 11th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Wednesday, September 12th: Bewitched Bookworms
Thursday, September 13th: Mrs. Mommy Booknerd
Thursday, September 13th: Rockin’ Book Reviews
Friday, September 14th: Thoughts from a Highly Caffeinated Mind
Monday, September 17th: Girl Who Reads
Tuesday, September 18th: Buried Under Books
Wednesday, September 19th: From the TBR Pile
Thursday, September 20th: @wherethereadergrows
Friday, September 21st: A Bookworm’s World
Monday, September 24th: ReadWonder
Tuesday, September 25th: Kritter’s Ramblings
Tuesday, September 25th: @booksncatsncoffee
Tuesday, September 25th: Books and Cats and Coffee
Wednesday, September 26th: Sweet Southern Home
Wednesday, September 26th: @lesa_cap
Thursday, September 27th: Books & Bindings
Friday, September 28th: What is That Book About