Here's a look back at five of our earlier Riveting Reviews Newsletters.
The Girl Who Chased the Moon By: Sarah Addison Allen
In the quaint town of Mullaby, North Carolina, Emily Benedict finally meets her mother’s father as she moves into her mother’s old room. She has never been to Mullaby before and she hopes to learn more about her mom and maybe even herself. However she finds herself in a town filled with secrets, where rumors about her family and her very, tall grandfather run rapid and strange lights appear in the night beckoning her to follow. As if this wasn’t enough to intrigue young Emily, her neighbor, Julia Winterson bakes the most heavenly desserts ever. Julia has several secrets of her own and her desserts carry the scents of love and dreams of a united, happier future.
Even though there is magic in every scene of this book, the main characters feel real and readers will be able to relate to them. Readers will be moved by the emotional stories connected to both Emily and Julia. These two characters form an ever-lasting friendship as they each crave what they have never had. As readers read this chapter their hearts and taste buds will be set aflutter. Sarah Addison Allen oozes Southern charm with every word in this book, from childhood and high school football, to adulthood with past regrets and hope for the future. A poignant, emotional tale that will grip each reader’s heart and soul.
Susan McBride and Kaya McLaren
The Union Street Bakery By: Mary Ellen Taylor
Daisy McCrae was abandoned at the bakery when she was just three years old. Thankfully the owners of Union Street Bakery took her in and made her a member of their family, but she still doesn’t feel like she belongs. Now that she has lost her job in DC and thanks to a handful of her mom’s margaritas, she is back at the family’s bakery. Living in her old room, still haunted by ghosts, she is forced to face her painful past, while using her money management skills to save the bakery from bankruptcy. Things get even more complicated when an old customer passes away and leaves her a journal that once belonged to a slave. Daisy has to rely on the help of her sisters in order to solve the mysteries of this ancient diary and continue the legacy of the Union Street Bakery.
Mary Ellen Taylor weaves a graceful and poignant tale within a tale in this book. She manages to balance several characters’ lives from the 1800s to present day. Chocked full of metaphors, readers will laugh and cry as they experience life in the McCrae bakery. Mary Ellen Taylor makes sure to include her readers in on each fascinating detail as the characters discover new truths from the past. At the end of the book, it contains a few of the characters’ famous recipes. Readers will only be disappointed by the fact that this book has to end, because they will feel as though they are a part of the McCrae family. A must read for those who want a little bit of historical mystery set during modern times, with a few morsels of family drama.
Similar Authors: Mary Burton and Karen White
A Place at the Table By: Susan Rebecca White
Alice and her twin James were inseparable. They knew exactly what each other was thinking at all times. Unfortunately their peaceful world is destroyed when they stumble upon a young man who was hanged and they discover the truth about their family. Flash forward roughly 60 years and Alice has become quite famous as an amazing chef and author. Meanwhile, Bobby has been abandoned by his southern Baptist family, because he is gay. He goes to New York for a fresh start and he finds himself in a quaint café, where he trains to become the head chef. Alice and Bobby share an exquisite palate that allows them to form a profound friendship, despite the harsh realities of the world.
This book describes the human emotions with every commanding detail, which will surely reach deep within readers’ hearts. Susan Rebecca White divides the book into several sections, organized by the main character’s point of view and the decade. The beginning of Bobby’s story is a bit slow and it is difficult to tell how old he is when his story begins. However readers get the chance to grow along with Bobby, as he learns to accept his homosexuality, deal with his shattered family and his quest to find an accepting God. The ending is very rushed and even though it tries to tie back into the stories of Alice and Bobby, readers will wish the author could have extended the ending. This is a thought-provoking tale of how we are all connected in this seemingly big world.
Anne Tyler and Elizabeth Bass
The Book Thief By: Markus Zusak
Liesel Meminger and her brother are on their way to Munich to begin their lives with their new foster family. When her brother dies, Liesel discovers a book and on a whim, she takes it. As she learns to adjust to life with Hans and Rosa Hubermann, she befriends her next door neighbor, Rudy Steiner. Hans teaches Liesel the power of words, by teaching her to read and write, which causes her thieving career to thrive. Words combined with a fulfilled promise, changes Liesel’s world forever. Growing up in Nazi Germany is difficult, especially for families who hid Jewish people.
Narrated by Death, Markus Zusak tells a softer side of German families during WWII. The main characters are poor and disagree with Hitler ways of life, which causes a few severe punishments to be doled out, too. The writing style feels more like poetry than literature, due to the abundant details, foreshadowing and Death’s direct dialogue with readers. The book starts out slow and can be quite grim for some readers, but before long the book takes on a life of its own. Readers will feel connected to Liesel, as though they share the same beating heart and they will wish for a few more details at the end. For fans of Young Adult books with deep subject matter, or fans of books set in WWII, this story is a must read, especially for reading groups.
John Boyne, Robert Cormier, Jerry Spinelli
The Diary of a Young Girl By: Anne Frank
This is the diary by Anne Frank, a young Jewish girl. Her family had to leave Amsterdam and hide from the approaching Nazis. When their location was discovered, they were forced to hide in an office building. This diary demonstrates the transition from being a young girl to being a young lady, during one of the most horrific times in the world’s history.
Anne Frank turned thirteen years old, when she started writing in her now infamous diary. In it she documents her daily life over the course of two years. She honestly writes about the details of the events that her family went through, as well as the emotions she and the seven others felt being trapped in the office building. What started out as innocent diary entries, typical for anyone her age, quickly turned into a documentary of the constant fear of being discovered mixed with the physical pains of being in hiding. This book will change readers’ lives.
Summer of My German Soldier By: Bette Greene
Patty Bergen craves a more caring relationship with her mother and father, but she has a pseudo-Christian mom, Ruth, who is the housekeeper. Her town has recently been designated to hold captured German prisoners, but during her summer break she comes across an escapee. Anton is not like the German prisoners, she has heard about through the town’s gossip. He is nice and caring. Patty has to choose between betraying her family and helping Anton remain safe.
By keeping the dialect true to both the setting and the characters, Bette Greene takes readers on a journey back in time, to the heart of a small community in the South. Though this can be difficult for some readers, it helps keep the story genuine. Told through the eyes of a twelve year old girl, young readers can relate to the main character’s emotions and struggles. Packed full of moral dilemmas, this book demonstrates the importance of acceptance and being nonjudgmental. Despite the fact that most readers had to read this in school, this is a wonderful book to go back and re-read, several times over.
Barbara Cohen, Louisa May Alcott
Necessary Lies By: Diane Chamberlain
At fifteen years old, Ivy Hart has known true heartbreak and what it means to be responsible for others. She takes care of her ailing grandmother, her mentally challenged sister and nephew, while going to school and working long hours on the tobacco farm. Her family is on welfare and is regularly visited by Grace County’s social workers, but she couldn’t even imagine how her life would change when she is introduced to Jane Forrester. Jane just got married and her husband wants her to be the typical country club wife, but she chooses to do more with her life. When she interviewed to be a social worker, she had no idea the types of people and the amount of poverty that she would be faced with on a daily basis. When she meets the Hart family, she feels a deep connection with the young girls and vows to help them, even if it costs her everything.
Necessary Lies is a poignant tale about doing what you feel is right, despite what everyone else says. This book is centered on the sterilization laws that North Carolina had in effect to prevent feeble-minded, poor people from reproducing. This subject matter is heartbreaking and could make the book a very depressing read, but Chamberlain makes sure that the characters and readers sense that feeling of hope. Chamberlain does an excellent job of demonstrating the strengths of the human spirit with each of her characters. By balancing the points of view, between twenty-two year old Jane and fifteen year old Ivy, readers will get to see the whole picture. This book is a must read for reading groups and fans Women’s Literature.
Jody Picoult, Ilie Ruby, Barbara Claypole White, Kristin Hannah
Guests on Earth By: Lee Smith
Highland Hospital is located in North Carolina and is the famed institute that treated Zelda Fitzgerald. Evalina Toussaint is a young girl who loves her Mom and her hometown of New Orleans, but when her Mom tragically has an affair with the wrong man, Evalina’s world is torn apart. Sent to the institute to receive treatment for her grief, she meets Zelda and finally begins to feel like she is at home again.
This book states that it is about the famed and mysterious Zelda Fitzgerald, but in reality it is the story of this young woman trying to find a way to survive her grief. Though there is never a true diagnosis for Evalina, readers will feel her pain as though it is their own. The cultural back drop of New Orleans and the Appalachian Mountains is beautiful. The book starts out slow and has several long moments throughout the book. However, it does provide an insider’s view into the treatment for patients during the beginning of the century.
Lynn York, Abigail DeWitt, Angela Davis-Gardner, Jean Reynolds Page
Love and Lament By: John Milliken Thompson
The year 1887, was special for Haw County, it was the year that the town got their first railroad, but for the Hartsoe family, it was the year their daughter, Mary Bet was born. Mary Bet suffered the loss of most her family member by the time she was fifteen and as she grows into a young woman she is faced with even more difficulties and must find a way to survive the worst.
Even though the book starts out with a family tree that warns readers of just how many lives are lost in the Hartsoe family, the emotional journey will be exhausting at times. The first half of the book is full of pain, grief and heartache, while the second half is focused on survival and perseverance. Thompson does a remarkable job of writing a poetic prose that will immediately whisk readers back in time. The rich metaphors bring the setting of Haw County alive, while Mary Bet’s strength will leave readers in awe. The narration was a bit strange at times, almost as though it is an outsider looking in and there is more to the story that is being glossed over. But overall, this is a must read for Southern Gothic Literature fans.
Amy Gail Hawkins, Elaine Hussey
An Unsuitable Bride By: Jane Feather
Alexandra Douglas has just learned the news of her father’s death, but there are even worse things to come. The lawyer gives her the unfortunate news that since her father divorced her mother, he declared her and her invalid sister, bastards. All of his fortune has been left to his current wife. Knowing she needs the money to pay for her sister’s care, Alexandra devises a plan to gain back her portion of the money. Peregrine is in town visiting an old friend, when he stumbles upon the old lady librarian. Sensing that there is more to this woman than her disguise reveals, he makes it his quest to get to know the truth, while hiding his own secrets.
Readers will immediately feel as though they stepped back in time from the very first page. Jane Feather does an excellent job of writing detailed accounts of dialect relevant to the times. Her main character, Alexandra, is forced to go undercover to regain her rightful inheritance, not out of greed but out of need for her sister’s care. Readers learn a lot about her mysterious ways through the delicate manner in which she treats the library books. She is obviously smart enough to deceive the family, but not smart enough to keep away from Peregrine. Readers who have not read the first two books in the trilogy will feel as though they missed some information, but they will quickly understand what previously happened. This storyline focuses on justice and righting wrongs, no matter the consequences.
This author recommends: Karyn Monk, Madeline Hunter, Laura Lee Guhrke
Texas Bride By: Joan Johnston
Despite the fact that Miranda Wentworth lost her parents in the Chicago fire, she has kept her and her five younger siblings safe in the nasty orphanage. Now that she is about to turn 18, she is being kicked out and risks losing her siblings. Her younger sister provides hope, when she tells Miranda that she responded to a mail-order bride ad in the newspaper. Desperate to keep her family together, she sneaks her youngest siblings out of the orphanage to start their new life. Little does she know, Jake Creed has a few surprises of his own, including a young daughter who is in need of a mother.
Joan Johnston gives readers a well-balanced story with this first book in her Mail-Order Bride Series. Readers will appreciate the inner struggles the main characters deal with, while trying to manage the turmoil of the Texas weather. Though Jake is a cowboy and his ranch is in need of repair, the story focuses on the turmoil of forgiving and accepting the past, in order to open up for future blessings. The ending gives readers closure between Jake and Miranda, while piquing the interest for the rest of Miranda’s family.
This author recommends: Catherine Hart, Sabrina Jeffries, Stef Ann Holm
The Unwilling Bride By: Margaret Moore
Lady Constance was betrothed to Merrick of Tregallas from the day she was born. She remembers him as a spoiled rotten child and doesn’t want anything to do with him, until she meets him as the dashing knight. Merrick refuses to return to Tregallas due to his dangerous past, but when he catches sight of his future bride, he wants to be a better man. Though his past may come back to haunt him and cost him his Lady before she is even rightfully his.
Margaret Moore writes about a strong, determined woman during a time period that women were supposed to not speak. She adds a subplot full of twists and turns that only add to the romantic storyline. Though this book is the third in a series, it works well as a stand-alone novel. There are many characters to keep up with, but the intrigue keeps readers entertained. Readers will be rooting for Merrick and Constance all the way until the end.
Margo Maguire, Kresley Cole,
Bride for a Night By: Patti Berg
Duncan Kincaid was thrilled to marry Cairo McKnight five years ago, but his adventurous spirit forced him to leave her the very next morning and he ended up in jail. Several months later, when he received the annulment papers he was heartbroken and devoted himself to his secretive mission. Cairo McKnight loved Duncan ever since she first met him, when she was a teenager. Being married to him, even for just one night was a life-changing experience…literally. She is a mom to the precocious little five year old boy, but she must decide whether Duncan has matured enough to handle the responsibilities of being a father.
This book is a cute story. There is a secondary romance between Cairo’s aunt and Duncan’s father that adds a different perspective on second-chance love. Overall the story is endearing, but a tad predictable. The author seems to rush through certain emotions and discussions, but as a whole the story is a fun, modern romance. Readers will enjoy taking the journey with Duncan and Cairo as they explore their past and uncover the secrets hidden within Montana’s land.
This author recommends:
Millie Criswell, Jenna McKnight, Sheridon Smythe
Kissing the Bride By: Sara Bennett
Heartbroken Lady Jenova vows to marry again because it has been two years since her husband’s death, but she refuses to marry for love. She asks her prominent friend, Lord Henry, for help. During their search for the proper groom, they grow closer and share a passionate kiss. Unfortunately for Lord Henry, falling for Jenova could cost him his friendship as well as his position.
Sara Bennett does a wonderful job weaving a tale of characters, who for the most part scheme together to awaken Jenova’s and Henry’s feelings for one another. The English setting plays a vital role in this story and described in exquisite detail. The characters’ garb and dialects are appropriate for the time, while Jenova’s and Henry’s relationship seems quite unique. Readers will want to read the series in order, but it isn’t necessary to appreciate this final chapter.
Similar Authors: Laurin Wittig, Marsha Canham, Sally MacKenzie
The Reluctant Bride By: Leigh Greenwood
Tanzy decided to become a mail-order bride in order to avoid a marriage to her cousin, after most of her family was killed in a horrific feud. However, when she travels to meet Russ Tibbolt, she finds him in the middle of a shootout. Distraught over the violence, she refuses to marry him, until they get to know each other better. Just one problem, their attraction for each other puts their lives in danger when the past returns.
This book is a tedious read, since the first half of the book is slow. However, the intrigue picks up towards the end, when Tanzy decides to go undercover to help Russ survive. Greenwood does a good job of describing the details of the western territory and the ‘town.’ Readers will enjoy feeling like they stepped back in time, while they worry for the character’s safety.
This author recommends Stobie Piel.
Similar Authors: Caroline Fyffe, Cynthia Woolfe
Bess and Nicole are both on a mystery/thriller kick. Here's what they are reading:
Bess recently finished Bill Noel's latest mystery, Dark Horse. She truly appreciated his creativity, especially matching character personalities with their names. As always, the unexpected ending was an enjoyable surprise. She also read Carolina Moon by Nora Roberts. This South Carolina based story shows a darker side of Nora Roberts with classic aspects of romance and conflict.
Nicole is currently reading 212 by Alafair Burke. This is a police thriller set in New York surrounding two murder stories. It is the third in a series, but it is easily read on as a stand-alone. She just started reading The Girl Before by J. P. Delaney. This is a psychological thriller and a debut for the author under this pseudonym. He has written numerous books under other names.
August is known as the Dog Days of Summer. August 1st is celebrated as a birthday for all the rescued dogs that have unknown birthdays. August 26th is known as National Dog Day. And we all know that dogs make great reading friends.
A few years ago, we shared photos of our pups sticking their noses in books. (You can see the fun album on our Facebook page.) This year, we want to know how much your furry friend loves books. For instance, Nicole's Ozzy curls up in her lap while she reads, and loves to listen to certain audio books with her. While her Jagger, shown below,) loves anything book themed, as he is known as her lovely assistant.
How much do your doggy pals enjoy books? Do they like book-themed items? Do they prefer to cuddle up with you and a good paperback? Or do the like to listen to various narrators through audio books?
Either way, this month is the perfect month to celebrate dogs and books!