Sun
May 31 2015 1:00pm

An Unexamined Life: Women’s Fiction Best Bets for May 2015

Canterbury Sisters by Kim Wright

“The life which is unexamined is not worth living”
-Socrates

The women in this month’s selection of books, have no cause to worry. It doesn’t matter if their story is told in a lighthearted manner or if it’s filled with danger and drama, each woman is on their own emotional journey as they question the circumstances that brought them to this point in their life. Of course it’s not where they want to be—-as they deal with the hand they have been dealt—romantic heartbreak, death, financial instability, addiction, and much more. But in the end, their lives will be transformed. 

Contemporary:
Canterbury Sisters by Kim Wright

In the vein of Jojo Moyes and Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, a warm and touching novel about a woman who embarks on a pilgrimage to Canterbury Cathedral after losing her mother, sharing life lessons—in the best Chaucer tradition—with eight other women along the way.

Che Milan’s life is falling apart. Not only has her longtime lover abruptly dumped her, but her eccentric, demanding mother has recently died. When an urn of ashes arrives, along with a note reminding Che of a half-forgotten promise to take her mother to Canterbury, Che finds herself reluctantly undertaking a pilgrimage.

Within days she joins a group of women who are walking the sixty miles from London to the shrine of Becket in Canterbury Cathedral, reputed to be the site of miracles. In the best Chaucer tradition, the women swap stories as they walk, each vying to see who can best describe true love. Che, who is a perfectionist and workaholic, loses her cell phone at the first stop and is forced to slow down and really notice the world around her, perhaps for the first time in years.

Through her adventures along the trail, Che finds herself opening up to new possibilities in life and discovers that the miracles of Canterbury can take surprising forms.

Strengths: Noteworthy characters; Realistic mother-daughter conflicts; Intriguing pilgrimage; Historical Element; Upbeat ending
Measure of Love: Dash
Introspection Level: Medium
Thoughts: Wright has become one of my favorite women’s fiction authors. Notable storytelling balanced with satisfyingly introspectiveness.

Sound of Glass by Karen White

Sound of Glass by Karen White

The New York Times bestselling author of A Long Time Gone now explores a Southern family’s buried history, which will change the life of the woman who unearths it, secret by shattering secret.

It has been two years since the death of Merritt Heyward’s husband, Cal, when she receives unexpected news—Cal’s family home in Beaufort, South Carolina, bequeathed by Cal’s reclusive grandmother, now belongs to Merritt.

Charting the course of an uncertain life—and feeling guilt from her husband’s tragic death—Merritt travels from her home in Maine to Beaufort, where the secrets of Cal’s unspoken-of past reside among the pluff mud and jasmine of the ancestral Heyward home on the Bluff. This unknown legacy, now Merritt’s, will change and define her as she navigates her new life—a new life complicated by the arrival of her too young stepmother and ten-year-old half-brother.

Soon, in this house of strangers, Merritt is forced into unraveling the Heyward family past as she faces her own fears and finds the healing she needs in the salt air of the Low Country.

Strengths: Poignant and Moving, Imaginative, Compelling; Historical element; Upbeat ending,
Measure of Love: Teaspoon
Introspection Level: Medium
Thoughts:  The underlying secret is both disturbing and understandable, making this one of White’s most captivating novels. A definite page turner.

The Art of Baking Blind by Sarah Vaughan (U.S. Release)

The Art of Baking Blind by There are many reasons to bake: to feed; to create; to impress; to nourish; to define ourselves; and, sometimes, it has to be said, to perfect. But often we bake to fill a hunger that would be better filled by a simple gesture from a dear one. We bake to love and be loved.

In 1966, Kathleen Eaden, cookbook writer and wife of a supermarket magnate, published The Art of Baking, her guide to nurturing a family by creating the most exquisite pastries, biscuits and cakes. Now, five amateur bakers are competing to become the New Mrs. Eaden. There's Jenny, facing an empty nest now that her family has flown; Claire, who has sacrificed her dreams for her daughter; Mike, trying to parent his two kids after his wife's death; Vicki, who has dropped everything to be at home with her baby boy; and Karen, perfect Karen, who knows what it's like to have nothing and is determined her facade shouldn't slip.

As unlikely alliances are forged and secrets rise to the surface, making the choicest pastry seems the least of the contestants' problems. For they will learn—as Mrs. Eaden did before them—that while perfection is possible in the kitchen, it's very much harder in life.

Strengths: Multi-generational characters; Appealing premise; British Culture; Historical element; Upbeat ending
Measure of Love: Dash
Introspection Level: Medium
Thoughts: My first book by this author, but it won’t be my last. Thoroughly enjoyed the characters and the cook-off challenge.

It's Not Me, It's You by Mhairi McFarlane

It's Not Me, It's You by Mhairi McFarlane (U.S. Release)

An achingly funny story about how to be your own hero when life pulls the rug out from under your feet. From the author of the bestselling YOU HAD ME AT HELLO

Delia Moss isn’t quite sure where she went wrong.

When she proposed and discovered her boyfriend was sleeping with someone else—she thought it was her fault.

When she realized life would never be the same again—she thought it was her fault.

And when he wanted her back like nothing had changed—Delia started to wonder if perhaps she was not to blame…

From Newcastle to London and back again, with dodgy jobs, eccentric bosses and annoyingly handsome journalists thrown in, Delia must find out where her old self went—and if she can ever get her back.

Strengths: Appealing Characters; Comical situations; HEA
Measure of Love: Teaspoon
Introspection Level: Low
Thoughts: One of the more lighthearted reads, even if the heroine has copious problems. Perfect for readers who love Chick-Lit.

Dear Caroline by Kristy Woodson Harvey

One baby girl.
Two strong Southern women.
And the most difficult decision they’ll ever make.

Frances “Khaki” Mason has it all: a thriving interior design career, a loving husband and son, homes in North Carolina and Manhattan—everything except the second child she has always wanted. Jodi, her husband’s nineteen-year-old cousin, is fresh out of rehab, pregnant, and alone. Although the two women couldn’t seem more different, they forge a lifelong connection as Khaki reaches out to Jodi, encouraging her to have her baby. But as Jodi struggles to be the mother she knows her daughter deserves, she will ask Khaki the ultimate favor…

Written to baby Carolina, by both her birth mother and her adoptive one, this is a story that proves that life circumstances shape us but don’t define us—and that families aren’t born, they’re made…

Strengths: Poignant; Dual Viewpoint of adoption;Engaging Characters;Upbeat ending
Measure of Love: Teaspoon
Introspection Level: Medium
Thoughts: Love how the author illustrated the strength of family. A moving story!

The Knockoff by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza

The Knockoff by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza

An outrageously stylish, wickedly funny novel of fashion in the digital age, The Knockoff is the story of Imogen Tate, editor in chief of Glossy magazine, who finds her twentysomething former assistant Eve Morton plotting to knock Imogen off her pedestal, take over her job, and reduce the magazine, famous for its lavish 768-page September issue, into an app.
 
When Imogen returns to work at Glossy after six months away, she can barely recognize her own magazine. Eve, fresh out of Harvard Business School, has fired “the gray hairs,” put the managing editor in a supply closet, stopped using the landlines, and hired a bevy of manicured and questionably attired underlings who text and tweet their way through meetings. Imogen, darling of the fashion world, may have Alexander Wang and Diane von Furstenberg on speed dial, but she can’t tell Facebook from Foursquare and once got her iPhone stuck in Japanese for two days. Under Eve’s reign, Glossy is rapidly becoming a digital sweatshop—hackathons rage all night, girls who sleep get fired, and “fun” means mandatory, company-wide coordinated dances to Beyoncé. Wildly out of her depth, Imogen faces a choice—pack up her Smythson notebooks and quit, or channel her inner geek and take on Eve to save both the magazine and her career. A glittering, uproarious, sharply drawn story filled with thinly veiled fashion personalities, The Knockoff is an insider’s look at the ever-changing world of fashion and a fabulous romp for our Internet-addicted age.

Strengths: Snarky and Comedic Parody; Larger than life characters; Upbeat ending
Measure of Love: Dash
Introspection Level: Low
Thoughts: While I know little of fashion, I do understand how confusing the new way of communicating can be. Great melee between the tried and true, and the new and trendy.

Far End of Happy by Kathryn Craft

Ronnie's husband is supposed to move out today. But when Jeff pulls into the driveway drunk, with a shotgun in the front seat, she realizes nothing about the day will go as planned.

The next few hours spiral down in a flash, unlike the slow disintegration of their marriage-and whatever part of that painful unraveling is Ronnie's fault, not much else matters now but these moments. Her family's lives depend on the choices she will make-but is what's best for her best for everyone?

Based on a real event from the author's life, The Far End of Happy is a chilling story of one troubled man, the family that loves him, and the suicide standoff that will change all of them forever

Strengths: Perceptive; Suspenseful; Emotional; Reconciliations and concessions.
Measure of Love: Dash
Introspection Level: Medium
Thoughts: Not an easy book to read, especially when you know that it is based on real events, but it is a very insightful story.

Fantasy:
Hugo and Rose by Bridget Foley

Rose is disappointed with her life, though she has no reason to be - she has a beautiful family and a perfectly nice house in the suburbs. But to Rose, this ordinary life feels overshadowed by her other life - the one she leads every night in her dreams.

After a childhood accident, Rose's dreams take her to a wondrous island fraught with adventure. On this island, she has never been alone: she shares it with Hugo, a brave boy who's grown up with her into a hero of a man.

But when Rose stumbles across Hugo in real life, both her real and dream worlds are changed forever. Here is the man who has shared all of her incredible adventures in impossible places, who grew up with her, even if they aren't what either one imagined. Their chance encounter begins a cascade of questions, lies, and a dangerous obsession that threatens to topple everything she knows. Is she willing to let go of everything she holds dear to understand their extraordinary connection? And will it lead her to discover who she truly wants to be?

Strengths: Imaginative; Affecting; Unpredictable; Upbeat ending
Measure of Love: Dash
Introspection Level: Medium
Thoughts: Surreal view of alternate fantasy world.

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”
 
Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.
 
Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.
 
The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.
 
But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.

Strengths: Imaginative; Action Packed; Valiant heroine; Upbeat ending
Measure of Love: Teaspoon
Introspection Level: low
Thoughts: There is plenty to keep you turning the pages—wonderful friendships, cantankerous, hero, farcical garments and plenty of danger.

***

Learn more about the books mentioned in this post: 

Canterbury Sisters by Kim Wright  
Sound of Glass by Karen White  
The Art of Baking Blind by Sarah Vaughan  
It’s Not Me, It’s You by Mhairi McFarlane  
Dear Caroline by Kristy Woodson Harvey  
The Knockoff by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza  
Far End of Happy by Kathryn Craft  
Hugo and Rose by Bridget Foley  
Uprooted by Naomi Novik  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Scarlettleigh, blogger

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1 comment
Maggie Boyd
1. maggieboyd66
Loved The Sound of Glass. I will have to check out The Cantebury Sisters and Uprooted.
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