It’s summer, and I’m out of school. That means ALL the adult books!
Settle in for some great new titles that are all out today, June 6, 2017!
The Sunshine Sisters by Jane Green
(Berkley Books – June 6, 2017)
Ronni Sunshine left London for Hollywood to become a beautiful, charismatic star of the silver screen. But at home, she was a narcissistic, disinterested mother who alienated her three daughters.
As soon as possible, tomboy Nell fled her mother’s overbearing presence to work on a farm and find her own way in the world as a single mother. The target of her mother s criticism, Meredith never felt good enough, thin enough, pretty enough. Her life took her to London and into the arms of a man whom she may not even love. And Lizzy, the youngest, more like Ronni than any of them, seemed to have it easy, using her drive and ambition to build a culinary career to rival her mother’s fame, while her marriage crumbled around her.
But now the Sunshine Girls are together again, called home by Ronni, who has learned that she has a serious disease and needs her daughters to fulfill her final wishes. And though Nell, Meredith, and Lizzy are all going through crises of their own, their mother s illness draws them together to confront old jealousies and secret fears and they discover that blood might be thicker than water after all.
Jane Green is one of the authors that I wait anxiously for new releases from every year, and mark their release dates on my calendar the minute I first hear of them. Thanks to Net Galley for this ARC so I could read this one even sooner! The Sunshine Sisters was a bit different than many of Green’s other books, but in a completely wonderful way. I connected deeply with all 3 of the sisters by halfway through the book, and absolutely loved the ending. This story deals with a lot of heavier/deeper topics, but still reads like a warm chick lit beach read. Jane Green retains her spot on my list of favorite authors!
I received a digital ARC of this title for review – all opinions are my own.
The Lost History of Stars by Dave Boling
(Algonquin – June 6, 2017)
In turn-of-the-century South Africa, fourteen-year-old Lettie, her younger brother, and her mother are Dutch Afrikaner settlers who have been taken from their farm by British soldiers and are being held in a concentration camp. It is early in the Boer War, and Lettie’s father, grandfather, and brother are off fighting the British as thousands of Afrikaner women and children are detained. The camps are cramped and disease ridden; the threat of illness and starvation are ever present. Determined to dictate their own fate, Lettie and her family give each other strength and hope as they fight to survive amid increasingly dire conditions.
Brave and defiant, Lettie finds comfort in memories of stargazing with her grandfather, in her plan to be a writer, and in surprising new friendships that will both nourish and challenge her. A beautiful testament to love, family, and sheer force of will, The Lost History of Stars was inspired by Dave Boling’s grandfather’s own experience as a soldier during the Boer War. Lettie is a figure of abiding grace, and her story is richly drawn and impossible to forget.
Quality historical fiction makes you seek out more information on the topic at hand, and this book did exactly that for me. I had only ever heard mention of the term “Boer” and did not truly have an understanding of the word, much less have any knowledge of the war that this book is based on or the history of Dutch and English colonization of South Africa (beyond what I read in Trevor Noah’s “Born a Crime”). This book has a helpful introduction that explains Boling’s impetus for writing this book and a brief history of the war that frames the story for readers like me, but of course after reading Lettie’s story, I was and am eager to seek out more factual content.
Boling did an outstanding job of writing from a young teenage girl’s point of view, and held nothing back in his description of the horrors of war and the concentration camps and the proclaimed “war against women and children”. I was concerned at first about reading from the God-fearing colonists’ POV, since we now are quite aware of how they came to claim the land from the people who originally lived there. However, Boling does include a scene in which an English soldier puts Lettie straight about how the English did the exact same thing to the Boers as the Boers did to the Zulus – slashed and burned and killed and took the land for their own. It’s interesting to ponder such an issue, given that writing from Lettie’s POV and the colonist’s POV IS a valid POV – not necessarily an accurate portrayal of the original events of the colonization, but Lettie and the Boers of her time were not the original colonists. This is the information she had been fed from birth.
This is the same discussion being had now about portrayal of the colonization of the US and American Indians……..can you write from a colonist’s POV without harming the colonized? Can we read Laura Ingalls Wilder and understand that this truly is how western settlers thought? Is it historically accurate describing things as Lettie does in this book because that is how she truly felt and understood her history, right or wrong? Should there have been parts of the story more accurately describing how Bina came to live with their family? When we read of American slavery, reading from a plantation owner’s perspective feels horrible to us, but if that is the way a person in that position felt and acted, is it a valid POV to write from? Should all fiction be written from the POV of the marginalized? All excellent points to ponder after reading this book, and certainly something that I will be following up on in additional reading on the Second Anglo-Boer War from the perspective of South Africans.
Thank you to Algonquin for providing me with a paperback advance reading copy of this book for review – all opinions are my own.
The People We Hate at the Wedding by Grant Grinder
(Flatiron – June 6, 2017)
Relationships are awful. They’ll kill you, right up to the point where they start saving your life.
Paul and Alice’s half-sister Eloise is getting married! In London! There will be fancy hotels, dinners at “it” restaurants and a reception at a country estate complete with tea lights and embroidered cloth napkins.
They couldn’t hate it more.
The People We Hate at the Wedding is the story of a less than perfect family. Donna, the clan’s mother, is now a widow living in the Chicago suburbs with a penchant for the occasional joint and more than one glass of wine with her best friend while watching House Hunters International. Alice is in her thirties, single, smart, beautiful, stuck in a dead-end job where she is mired in a rather predictable, though enjoyable, affair with her married boss. Her brother Paul lives in Philadelphia with his older, handsomer, tenured track professor boyfriend who’s recently been saying things like “monogamy is an oppressive heteronormative construct,” while eyeing undergrads. And then there’s Eloise. Perfect, gorgeous, cultured Eloise. The product of Donna’s first marriage to a dashing Frenchman, Eloise has spent her school years at the best private boarding schools, her winter holidays in St. John and a post-college life cushioned by a fat, endless trust fund. To top it off, she’s infuriatingly kind and decent.
As this estranged clan gathers together, and Eloise’s walk down the aisle approaches, Grant Ginder brings to vivid, hilarious life the power of family, and the complicated ways we hate the ones we love the most in the most bitingly funny, slyly witty and surprisingly tender novel you’ll read this year.
Cutting. That’s the best word I can think of to describe this book. Some family stories are warm and happy, and this is sharp and cutting and messy, and yes, at times, funny. Grinder shows family dysfunction in all its completely ugly reality, and has created characters who are simultaneously hateful and worth investing in. There were parts of this book that were just plain gross (read: the garbage can scenes), but in my opinion, when a book is gross and I keep reading, it’s a sign of quality writing and plot. I do wish more of the book had been set actually in England and involving the wedding. The last 20% was my favorite and there were a few laugh-out-loud moments toward the very end. If you have a family that sometimes drives you to tears, and if you understand that life isn’t all warm and fuzzy for all of us, this is the summer book for you.
Thanks to Net Galley for the digital ARC for review – all opinions are my own.
The Party by Robyn Harding
(Gallery/Scout Books – June 6, 2017)
In this stunning and provocative domestic drama about a sweet sixteen birthday party that goes horribly awry, a wealthy family in San Francisco finds themselves entangled in a legal battle, their darkest secrets revealed, and their friends turned to enemies.
One invitation. A lifetime of regrets.
Sweet sixteen. It’s an exciting coming of age, a milestone, and a rite of passage. Jeff and Kim Sanders plan on throwing a party for their daughter, Hannah—a sweet girl with good grades and nice friends. Rather than an extravagant, indulgent affair, they invite four girls over for pizza, cake, movies, and a sleepover. What could possibly go wrong?
But things do go wrong, horrifically so. After a tragic accident occurs, Jeff and Kim’s picture perfect life in a wealthy San Francisco suburb suddenly begins to unravel. A lawsuit is filed that irrevocably changes their relationship, reveals dark secrets in the Sanders’ marriage, and exposes the truth about their perfect daughter, Hannah.
This suspense/drama story really did suck me in, and I quickly became invested in the story. The premise is tantalizing and there so so many opportunities for this to have become a 5 star book – actually about mid-way through I was certain this was going to be 5 stars. However, (no spoilers!), enough things turned out to be not as shocking as I hoped they would be, or less appealing than I hoped they would be, that I ended up settling on this being a fast-past paced family drama that entertained me and brought up questions of what I would do as a parent. I liked it and will recommend it, and I look forward to reading more by this author.
Thanks to Net Galley for the digital ARC for review – all opinions are my own.
The French Wedding by Hannah Tunicliffe
(Doubleday – June 6, 2017)
Max is a washed-up rock star who’s about to turn forty and feeling nostalgic for his university days. All he says he wants for his birthday is to host his old friends at his house in the French countryside for a weekend of good food and reminiscing. But he has an ulterior motive: Finally ready to settle down, this is his chance to declare his undying love to his best friend, Helen.
Max’s private chef, Juliette, has just returned to her hometown after a nasty breakup and her parents’ failing health move her to sell her dream restaurant in Paris. Still reeling, Juliette throws herself into her job, hoping that the peace and quiet it offers will be the perfect cure for her broken heart.
But when Max’s friends arrive, the introverted, dreamy Juliette finds herself drawn out of her orderly kitchen and into their tumultuous relationships. A weekend thinking about the past spurs more than one emotional crisis, as the friends take stock of whether they’ve lived up to their ideals. Together for the first time in years, it’s not long before love triangles, abandoned dreams, and long-held resentments bubble over, culminating in a wedding none of them ever expected.
Food + France + Friends = a recipe for a book I am guaranteed to love. The descriptions and setting and characters in this book just made me warm and happy, even though the events themselves weren’t warm and happy all the time. Tunnicliffe created a sumptuous read that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about since finishing the book – I want to be a part of this group of friends and live in this area of France and eat all the delicious food and see all the beautiful things!
There is just one tiny thing that brought this down to a 4 star from 5 star for me, and that’s a twist toward the end that I wish hadn’t been a twist – I wish it had been a natural part of the story from the beginning, not a big reveal. No spoilers, but you’ll know what I’m referring to when you read it!
If you understand what it’s like to hit adulthood (and middle age) and realize that you are actually growing up, and that all your friends are too, this is the book for you. If you have friends you’ve known forever, and love books about France and food, add this to your TBR list immediately!
Thanks to NetGalley for the digital ARC – all opinions are my own.
Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
(Ballantine – June 6, 2017)
Two families, generations apart, are forever changed by a heartbreaking injustice in this poignant novel, inspired by a true story, for readers of Orphan Train and The Nightingale.
Memphis, 1939. Twelve-year-old Rill Foss and her four younger siblings live a magical life aboard their family’s Mississippi River shantyboat. But when their father must rush their mother to the hospital one stormy night, Rill is left in charge—until strangers arrive in force. Wrenched from all that is familiar and thrown into a Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage, the Foss children are assured that they will soon be returned to their parents—but they quickly realize that the truth is much darker. At the mercy of the facility’s cruel director, Rill fights to keep her sisters and brother together—in a world of danger and uncertainty.
Aiken, South Carolina, present day. Born into wealth and privilege, Avery Stafford seems to have it all: a successful career as a federal prosecutor, a handsome fiancé, and a lavish wedding on the horizon. But when Avery returns home to help her father weather a health crisis, a chance encounter leaves her with uncomfortable questions—and compels her to take a journey through her family’s long-hidden history, on a path that will ultimately lead either to devastation . . . or redemption.
Based on one of America’s most notorious real-life scandals—in which Georgia Tann, director of a Memphis-based adoption organization, kidnapped and sold poor children to wealthy families all over the country—Wingate’s riveting, wrenching, and ultimately uplifting tale reminds us how, even though the paths we take can lead to many places, the heart never forgets where we belong.
Heartbreaking and historically accurate, this story 100% lives up to the descriptions of being for fans of Orphan Train and The Nightingale. This is being added to my “Best of 2017” list, as well as my “Best Historical Fiction” list – I anticipate it being a top book club pick for years and years to come.
Wingate has done a phenomenal job of creating a fictional family to entwine with the true story of Georgia Tann and her despicable methods of obtaining (stealing) children for profit through the Tennessee Children’s Home Society from the 1920s-1950s. The Foss family, as Wingate describes, are entirely fictional, as is Avery Stafford and the Stafford family. However, they represent the demographics of the families involved in this little-known horrible part of US history, and help this story reach an untold number of new readers. There is a very thorough author’s note (more like a chapter) at the end of the book answering the inevitable question, “How much of this story is true?” that will satisfy the most curious of readers (like me!).
Required reading this summer – order it or request from your library now!
Thanks to NetGalley for the digital ARC – all opinions are my own.