A Wilder Rose

Title: A Wilder Rose

Author: Susan Wittig Albert. She is the author of several historical novels, including The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter series.

Genre: Historical Fiction

Readers: Blogger From Grind to Whine Stacey, metrics analyst Mary, stay at home parents Shawna and Marina, and lawyers Cait and Abby R.

Summary: In 1928, Rose Wilder Lane—world traveler, journalist, much-published magazine writer—returned from an Albanian sojourn to her parents’ Ozark farm. Almanzo Wilder was 71, Laura 61, and Rose felt obligated to stay and help. To make life easier, she built them a new home, while she and Helen Boylston transformed the farmhouse into a rural writing retreat and filled it with visiting New Yorkers. Rose sold magazine stories to pay the bills for both households, and despite the subterranean tension between mother and daughter, life seemed good.

Then came the Crash. Rose’s money vanished, the magazine market dried up, and the Depression darkened the nation. That’s when Laura wrote her autobiography, “Pioneer Girl,” the story of growing up in the Big Woods of Wisconsin, on the Kansas prairie, and by the shores of Silver Lake. The rest—the eight remarkable books that followed—is literary history.

But it isn’t the history we thought we knew. For the surprising truth is that Laura’s stories were publishable only with Rose’s expert rewriting. Based on Rose’s unpublished diaries and Laura’s letters, A Wilder Rose tells the true story of the decade-long, intensive, and often troubled collaboration that produced the Little House books—the collaboration that Rose and Laura deliberately hid from their agent, editors, reviewers, and readers.

Our Take: Lovers of Little House may find their dreams shattered when they read this novel of the truth behind how the books were written. Those who are big time LH gurus may find nothing new here. While some of our readers found the book to enrich their Little House love, others were more disenchanted.

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Lookaway, Lookaway

Title: Lookaway, Lookaway

Author: Wilton Barnhardt

Genre: Commercial Fiction

Readers: Blogger From Grind to Whine Stacey, lawyer Abby R., research assistant Rosie T., stay-at-home mom Emry and small business owner Samantha.

Summary: Jerene Jarvis Johnston and her husband Duke are exemplars of Charlotte, North Carolina’s high society, where old Southern money—and older Southern secrets—meet the new wealth of bankers, boom-era speculators, and carpetbagging social climbers. Steely and implacable, Jerene presides over her family’s legacy of paintings at the Mint Museum; Duke, the one-time college golden boy and descendant of a Confederate general, whose promising political career was mysteriously short-circuited, has settled into a comfortable semi-senescence as a Civil War re-enactor.  Jerene’s brother Gaston is an infamously dissolute bestselling historical novelist who has never managed to begin his long-dreamed-of literary masterpiece, while their sister Dillard is a prisoner of unfortunate life decisions that have made her a near-recluse.

As the four Johnston children wander perpetually toward scandal and mishap. Annie, the smart but matrimonially reckless real estate maven; Bo, a minister at war with his congregation; Joshua, prone to a series of gay misadventures, and Jerilyn, damaged but dutiful to her expected role as debutante and eventual society bride. Jerene must prove tireless in preserving the family’s legacy, Duke’s fragile honor, and what’s left of the dwindling family fortune. She will stop at nothing to keep what she has—but is it too much to ask for one ounce of cooperation from her heedless family?

Our Take: This is one of those books that depends a lot on the reader. Either you connect with the characters and enjoy the book, or you find them insufferable and you don’t like the book. It’s a bit of a crap shoot, but if a novel about a dysfunctional Southern family sounds up your alley you may want to give it a try.

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Murder for Choir

Title: Murder for Choir

Author: Joelle Charbonneau. She is the author of several books for adults and young adults. This is the first in her Glee Club Mystery series.

Genre: Mystery

Readers: Lawyer Abby R., policy wonk BakingSuit and teacher Ninian.

Summary: Even as a struggling opera singer, Paige Marshall has never seen anything like the cutthroat competition of the Prospect Glen High School show choir. Coaching these championship-hungry students may be her toughest gig yet…

Especially when her best young male singer is suspected of killing the arrogant coach of Prospect Glen’s fiercest rival. To clear his name, Paige will have to sort through a chorus of suspects, and go note-for-note with a killer who wants her out of the spotlight for good.

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The Best of Us

Title: The Best of Us

Author: Sarah Pekkanen. She is the author of several previous novels including The Opposite of Me, Skipping a Beat and These Girls.

Genre: Commercial Fiction, Chick Lit

Readers: Nonprofit director Kimberly, librarian Erin, lawyer Abby R. and stay-at-home moms Sarah L. and Katie.

Summary: Following a once-in-a-lifetime invitation, a group of old college friends leap at the chance to bring their husbands for a week’s vacation at a private villa in Jamaica to celebrate a former classmates’ thirty-fifth birthday.

All four women are desperate for a break and this seems like a perfect opportunity. Tina is drowning under the demands of mothering four young children. Allie needs to escape from the shattering news about an illness that runs in her family. Savannah is carrying the secret of her husband’s infidelity. And, finally, there’s Pauline, who spares no expense to throw her husband an unforgettable birthday celebration, hoping it will gloss over the cracks that have already formed in their new marriage.

The week begins idyllically, filled with languorous days and late nights of drinking and laughter. But as a hurricane approaches the island, turmoil builds, forcing each woman to re-evaluate everything she’s known about the others—and herself.

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Crossing the Paris

Book: Crossing on the Paris

Author: Dana Gynther, this is her first novel.

Genre: Historical Fiction

Reviewers: Consultant Alila, student Selina, lawyer Abby R. and stay-at-home-moms A Military Mommy and Megan V.  Want to know more about our readers? Just click their names to see their bios and get links to their reviews.

Publisher Summary: In 1921,the SS Paris leaves Le Havre on her maiden voyage. Aboard, passengers dine in glittering grandeur on French cuisine, served by hundreds of unnoticed servants and chefs. Below the waterline, the modern oil-fired engines throb day and night. And for three women, this voyage will profoundly change their lives.

Traveling first class, elderly Vera Sinclair is reluctantly moving back to Manhattan after thirty wonderful years abroad. In cozy second class, reveling in her brief freedom from family life, Constance Stone is returning after a failed mission to bring her errant sister home from France. And in the stifling servants’ quarters, young Le Havre native Julie Vernet is testing her wings in her first job as she sets out to forge her own future. For all three, in different ways, this transatlantic voyage will be a life-changing journey of the heart.

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