Thursday, May 13, 2021

New in PaperbackThe Falling Woman by Richard Farrell

The Falling Woman by Richard Farrell
Published by Algonquin Books ISBN 9781643751399
Trade paperback, $16.95, 352 pages

In Richard Farrell's debut novel The Falling Woman, Erin is fighting a tough battle with pancreatic cancer. When she and her husband Doug, who has been by her side caring for her, receive the latest test results, the news is not great. She is not in remission, but she will need to continue treatment, to keep fighting.

Erin is tired, and not sure how much longer she can fight. She decides to fly to a cancer survivors retreat, something that concerns Doug. The flight that Erin is on crashes over the Kansas farmland, and it appears there are no survivors.

But Erin is thrown from the plane and lands in a barn. She is found by the owner, and taken to the hospital. Before she can be questioned by the authorities as to what happened, Erin disappears.

Charlie is an investigator for the NTSB. This accident is the first major case he is assigned to, and if he does a good job, he will move up the ranks and gain respectability. He is assigned to identify the 123 bodies, a gruesome and difficult task, but one he takes very seriously.

When rumors of a female survivor swirl, the media leaps on the story. The lead investigator assigns Charlie to track the woman, and determine whether she exists or it is a hoax. This upsets Charlie, he feels it is a waste of time, and he is in a no-win situation.

Erin hides out in a cabin in Virginia, she has decided not to tell anyone that she is alive. Her husband and daughters have already mourned once, and they will have to mourn all over again when she dies of cancer.

Charlie tracks her down and tries to convince her that she must come forward. She owes it to her family, and the families of the other six women who hold out hope that it is their loved one who is the survivor.

The scenes between Charlie and Erin are the heart of this intriguing story. Can he convince her to come forward and save his job or will Erin convince him that she is entitled to live out her final days in peace? Charlie also confides in Erin about a major step he and his wife have to decide.

We see the government bureaucracy at work as the higher-ups in the NTSB want to shift blame for anything that can go wrong with the investigation, and I found the steps the investigators took at the crash sight intriguing.  I liked the character of Lucy, the investigator who put forth the idea that other people have survived plane crashes and maybe someone did here as well.

There is action and two characters thrown together who have to convince the other of what is morally right. The Falling Woman feels like a cross between The Fugitive movie and Ann Napolitano's novel Dear Edward.  Readers will spend time wondering what they would do in Charlie and Erin's positions. Farrell's first novel is thought-provoking, it will be interesting to see where he goes with his next one.

Thanks to Algonquin Books for putting me on Richard Farrell's tour.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

The Woman with the Blue Star by Pam Jenoff

The Woman with the Blue Star by Pam Jenoff
Published by Park Row Books ISBN 9780778389385
Trade paperback, $17.99, 336 pages

Author Pam Jenoff adds to her growing canon of WWII stories about courageous women with her latest novel, The Woman with the Blue Star. 

Sadie is eighteen years-old when she and her parents are forced to flee into the sewer tunnels of Krakow to avoid being captured by the Nazis and sent to a concentration camp. Pawel, a handyman who Sadie's father showed kindness to, repays him by hiding Sadie's family and an Orthodox family- a father, his adult son Saul, and his elderly mother- in the sewer and bringing them small stores of food when he can.

They escaped with few belongings, and are forced to live in a cramped area of the sewer. The smell is atrocious, and the boredom is nearly as bad as the fear of being discovered by the Nazis. One day, Sadie wanders to the sewer grate and on the street above, her eyes meet a woman close in age to her.

Ella peers down and she is shocked to see Sadie. Ella's father is deceased, and she lives with her stepmother, a woman who entertains German soldiers in the family home, much to Ella's disgust. Ellas's stepmother reminds her repeatedly that she can kick Ella out of her home anytime she wishes.

Ella decides that she must help Sadie, even if it puts her own life in jeopardy. She brings Sadie food, and they form a deep friendship. Ella even takes things further, becoming involved in the resistance movement, risking her own life.

Jenoff based her novel on the true stories of Jewish people who hid in the sewer tunnels in Krakow during the war. I had never heard these stories, and she does an admirable job placing the reader right down there with Sadie and the others. You can feel the claustrophobic atmosphere surrounding you as you read, and wonder if you yourself would have the courage to do what Sadie and Ella did.

At its heart, The Woman with the Blue Star is a story of the bond of friendship that bring two young women together, and the courage they show, in the face of grave danger. The amazing resilience of the human spirit is on full display as well. Fans of Kristin Hannah's The Nightingale will want to add this to their To-Be-Read list.

Thanks to Harlequin for putting me on Pam Jenoff's tour.

Friday, May 7, 2021

Friday 5ive- May 8, 2021

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

1) Spring has sprung here in NYC and in addition to the pollen in the air, we have beautiful tulips blooming, like these pretty ones in shades of pink along 72nd St.

2) Sunday is Mother's Day, and one of the things I most grateful that my mother gave me is a love of reading. She read my favorite book to me, Miss Suzy, countless times and I even have a copy of the book in my collection. Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there!

3) I finished my 9th virtual bike ride, this one was a 340 mile Tour de Fleur Virtual Spring Challenge. We virtually rode a route that included Buffalo and Eric County Botanical Gardens and six more, such as Sonnenberg Gardens, in Western New York. We got some great swag for this one- gardening gloves, a packed of wildflower seeds, a tote bag, t-shirt, and of course a fun medal.

4) If you are a 30 Rock  and The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt fan, you must head over to the Peacock streaming network (it's free!) and watch Girls 5Eva, a comedy about a 90's girl group that is having an unexpected resurgence. Renee Elise Goldsberry (Hamilton), Busy Phillips (Dawson's Creek), the always hilarious Paula Pell (A.P. Bio), and singer Sara Bareilles play the reunited band as they try again for stardom. The writing is sharp and one-liners fast and furious, and Sara Bareilles is a revelation. She is so funny and a really terrific actress. I watched the premiere episode and can't wait to binge the rest. Tina Fey executive produces. 

5) I read two terrific books this week that I enjoyed a great deal. Susan Mallery always writes characters we care about and her new novel,  The Stepsisters, continues in that vein. Daisy, Sage and Cassidy are related in various ways- stepsisters, half-sisters- and haven't seen each year in years. They never got along, and now circumstances bring them together as adults. Can they reach a truce or maybe even have a true sisterly relationship? My full review publishes on May 24th.

Ellen Meister's The Rooftop Party will appeal to anyone who wants a peek at the behind-the-scenes on the addictive shopping channels. Dana is a successful host on the Shopping Channel who wants to get her acting career moving. When the new CEO of the company is pushed off the roof at a staff party, Dana can't remember what happened and fears she may have done it after he tried to force himself on her and possibly roofied her drink. With the help of her hilarious  and efficient Tennesee beauty-pageant assistant Ashlee (I loved her!), Dana must find out the truth before her NYPD detective boyfriend assigned to the case does. It's a rom-com mystery mix and it's a fun read. My full review posts on May 25th.

Stay safe and socially distant, wash your hands, wear a mask when necessary, and get your vaccine if you are able. We all want to have a fun summer.

Thursday, May 6, 2021

New in Paperback- Hieroglyphics by Jill McCorkle

Hieroglyphics by Jill McCorkle
Published by Algonquin ISBN 9781643751382
Trade paperback, $16.95, 336 pages

When a book pulls you into its orbit as Jill McCorkle's Hieroglyphics does, you know you are in for something special.

Lil and Frank are elderly, retired and moving from the home where they raised their family in Boston to North Carolina to be near their daughter and grandchildren. Frank also grew up in that area, and one thing he wants to do is see the house where he lived with his mother, brother and stepfather.

Frank knocks on the door of his old home, and finds single mom Shelley living there with her young son Harvey. Shelley works as a stenographer at the courthouse, and has to record the trials of people charged with horrific crimes.

She is haunted by the terrible things that people do, and her young son Harvey is obsessed with ghosts, graveyards and serial killers, which upset the other children and teachers with whom he comes into contact.

Shelley is reluctant to allow Frank into her home, knowing that women who are too trusting get killed. Frank leaves, but he is drawn to the house and trying to come to terms with how his life there as young boy affected his adult life.

Frank's father was killed when he was young boy, and Lil lost her mother to cancer when she was a young girl. When they began dating, these losses bonded them together.

While packing up their old home, Lil finds notebooks and letters that she kept. In these notebooks she logged her daily life, filled with mundane things such as the weather for the day, and her daily tasks. They were also filled with more- her deeper thoughts about her marriage, her struggles as a woman, wife, and mother.

McCorckle brings her characters to life through their memories. When Lil remembers lovingly taking out the Christmas ornaments to decorate the tree, or how being alone in her dance studio reminded her of her mother, although these memories belong to Lil, they bring to mind our own memories.

Through Frank and Lil, we see how marriage can be difficult, and through Shelley we see how tough it is to be a single parent with a child who others see as an outsider.

Hieroglyphics is the kind of book that sneaks up on you. As you read, you are drawn into Lil, Frank and Shelley's interior worlds, and you find yourself feeling as if you know these characters on a  deeper level. As McCorkle writes, "A story is easier to fall into than your own life." I highly recommend Hieroglyphics.

Thanks to Algonquin Books for putting me on Jill McCorkle's tour.

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

New Girl In Little Cove by Damhnait Monaghan

New Girl in Little Cove by Damhnait Monaghan
Published by Graydon House ISBN 9781525811500
Trade paperback, $16.99, 336 pages
If you are charmed by the lovely cover of Damhnait Monaghan's debut novel, New Girl in Little Cove, wait until you read the delightful story inside.

Rachel O'Brien left the metropolis of Toronto for the small town of Little Cove in Newfoundland, which, while technically part of Canada is a province unto itself.

After the death of her beloved father, and her mother heading to Australia on sabbatical, Rachel takes the only job she can get as a French teacher at a small Catholic high school in Little Cove. She replaces the teacher who ran away with the parish priest.

Set in 1985, we meet the interesting people in the small town of Little Cove. The first person she encounters is Phonse, the kindly school handyman who is also a mean fiddle player. He directs her to the home of Lucille, the woman who rents Rachel a room.

Rachel has a hard time adjusting to the small town vibe of Little Cove. Everyone is curious about her, and in true small town manner knows everybody's business. There is no library, big grocery store, or  restaurants. A fun Friday night is hanging out with the Holy Dusters, Lucille and her friends who hook beautiful rugs.

The other new teacher at school is Doug, who has lived in Little Cove his entire life, caring for  his mother. Rachel is attracted to Doug, but he has a fiancee who lives elsewhere. Rachel works hard to connect with her students, but she has a few missteps, including one that could seriously jeopardize her employment. 

Seeing Little Cove through the eyes of Rachel is enlightening. As she gets to know the residents, she becomes attached. Growing up she played the violin, and Phonse gave her fiddle lessons that she put to good use as she joined him and some of her students playing in the local pub. Her rescue of a dog that fell through the ice makes her hero in the eyes of the town.

New Girl in Little Cove  combines elements of the Broadway show Come From Away and Schitt's Creek, with a dash of Netflix's Derry Girls. If you enjoyed any or all three of those (like I did), pick up New Girl in Little Cove. It will put a big smile on your face as you read, and if you come from a small town, or wish you did, you'll love it even more. I give it my highest recommendation, and I can't wait to read what Damhnait Monaghan writes next.

Thanks to Harlequin for putting me on Damhnait Monaghan's tour.