Thu
Oct 15 2015 1:00pm

Do the Thing You Think You Cannot Do: Women’s Fiction Best Bets for October 2015

After You by JoJo Moyes

You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, “I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.” You must do the thing you think you cannot do.

— Eleanor Roosevelt

It would be erroneous to say that we all face the same hardships. But no matter what the tribulation, we all have to draw on our inner strength to do the think we think we cannot do, which something this month’s heroines discover. Their journeys are as varied as their challenges, but each are inspiring in their own way.

After You by JoJo Moyes

How do you move on after losing the person you loved? How do you build a life worth living?
 
Louisa Clark is no longer just an ordinary girl living an ordinary life. After the transformative six months spent with Will Traynor, she is struggling without him. When an extraordinary accident forces Lou to return home to her family, she can’t help but feel she’s right back where she started.
 
Her body heals, but Lou herself knows that she needs to be kick-started back to life. Which is how she ends up in a church basement with the members of the Moving On support group, who share insights, laughter, frustrations, and terrible cookies. They will also lead her to the strong, capable Sam Fielding—the paramedic, whose business is life and death, and the one man who might be able to understand her. Then a figure from Will’s past appears and hijacks all her plans, propelling her into a very different future. . . .
 
For Lou Clark, life after Will Traynor means learning to fall in love again, with all the risks that brings. But here Jojo Moyes gives us two families, as real as our own, whose joys and sorrows will touch you deeply, and where both changes and surprises await.
 
After You is quintessential Jojo Moyes—a novel that will make you laugh, cry, and rejoice at being back in the world she creates. Here she does what few novelists can do—revisits beloved characters and takes them to places neither they nor we ever expected.

Strengths: Believable grief stages; Enthralling Characters; Unique scenarios; Uplifting Ending
Measure of Love: Teaspoon
Introspection Level: Medium
Thoughts: Engrossing theme about the difficulties of moving forward amid grief and loss!

Pretending to Dance by Diane Chamberlain

Pretending to Dance by Diane Chamberlain

Molly Arnette is very good at keeping secrets. She and her husband live in San Diego, where they hope to soon adopt a baby. But the process terrifies her.

As the questions and background checks come one after another, Molly worries that the truth she's kept hidden about her North Carolina childhood will rise to the surface and destroy not only her chance at adoption, but her marriage as well. She ran away from her family twenty years ago after a shocking event left her devastated and distrustful of those she loved: Her mother, the woman who raised her and who Molly says is dead but is very much alive. Her birth mother, whose mysterious presence raised so many issues. The father she adored, whose death sent her running from the small community of Morrison Ridge.

Now, as she tries to find a way to make peace with her past and embrace a future filled with promise, she discovers that even she doesn't know the truth of what happened in her family of pretenders.

Told with Diane Chamberlain's compelling prose and gift for deft exploration of the human heart, Pretending to Dance is an exploration of family, lies, and the complexities of both.

Strengths: Thought-provoking ethical dilemma; Intriguing secrets; Genuine concerns; Uplifting ending
Measure of Love: Dash
Introspection Level: Medium
Thoughts:  Masterful combination of many themes—family estrangement; living with disabilities and adoption.

Finding Amos by J.D. Mason, ReShonda Tate BillingsleyBernice L. McFadden

Three national bestselling authors join talents in a multi-dimensional novel that illustrates the importance of love, family, and forgiveness.

After a lifetime of womanizing, making babies, and then disappearing and taking no responsibility for his actions, Amos Davis has finally reached an impasse—literally crashing his car down a one-way street. It may be the only road to redemption for the aging musician, now afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease, for it has brought together the three daughters he abandoned. But when it comes to their deadbeat dad, their hearts may already be sealed…

Cass, the child of Amos’s mistress, has had enough heartache, from losing her mother to the tragic end of her marriage. Amos was never there for her—why should this talented cake maker be sweet to him now?

Toya, always the “other woman” in her affairs with married men, was deeply scarred by Amos’s public denial of her existence years ago. Will seeing him again send her further down a troubled path?

A gifted writer, Tomiko channels her pain into her stories of the father she never knew. In her imagined world, she is safe—but will she ever risk her heart on real love?

A powerful interplay of memory and reality, this emotionally taut novel weaves the voices of three authors to deliver an unforgettable tale of one man’s struggle to make peace with his failures, his family and the destinies of those who must forgive to move forward with their own lives and dreams.

Strengths: Authentic characters; Complex relationships; Convincing Conflict; Uplifting ending

Measure of Love: Teaspoon
Introspection Level: Medium
Thoughts:  Skillful collaboration. Engrossing exploration of abandonment issues.

The Last Midwife by Sandra Dallas

The Last Midwife by Sandra Dallas

It is 1880 and Gracy Brookens is the only midwife in a small Colorado mining town where she has delivered hundreds, maybe thousands, of babies in her lifetime. The women of Swandyke trust and depend on Gracy, and most couldn't imagine getting through pregnancy and labor without her by their sides.

But everything changes when a baby is found dead...and the evidence points to Gracy as the murderer.

She didn't commit the crime, but clearing her name isn't so easy when her innocence is not quite as simple, either. She knows things, and that's dangerous. Invited into her neighbors' homes during their most intimate and vulnerable times, she can't help what she sees and hears. A woman sometimes says things in the birthing bed, when life and death seem suspended within the same moment. Gracy has always tucked those revelations away, even the confessions that have cast shadows on her heart.

With her friends taking sides and a trial looming, Gracy must decide whether it's worth risking everything to prove her innocence. And she knows that her years of discretion may simply demand too high a price now...especially since she's been keeping more than a few dark secrets of her own.

With Sandra Dallas's incomparable gift for creating a sense of time and place and characters that capture your heart, The Last Midwife tells the story of family, community, and the secrets that can destroy and unite them.

Strengths: Fascinating historical setting: Multi-faceted characters; Uplifting ending
Measure of Love: Dash
Introspection Level: Medium
Thoughts:  Gritty realism and engaging storytelling.

The Lake House by Kate Morton

The Lake House by Kate Morton

Living on her family’s idyllic lakeside estate in Cornwall, England, Alice Edevane is a bright, inquisitive, innocent, and precociously talented sixteen-year-old who loves to write stories. But the mysteries she pens are no match for the one her family is about to endure…

One midsummer’s eve, after a beautiful party drawing hundreds of guests to the estate has ended, the Edevanes discover that their youngest child, eleven-month-old Theo, has vanished without a trace. What follows is a tragedy that tears the family apart in ways they never imagined.

Decades later, Alice is living in London, having enjoyed a long successful career as an author. Theo’s case has never been solved, though Alice still harbors a suspicion as to the culprit. Miles away, Sadie Sparrow, a young detective in the London police force, is staying at her grandfather’s house in Cornwall. While out walking one day, she stumbles upon the old estate—now crumbling and covered with vines, clearly abandoned long ago. Her curiosity is sparked, setting off a series of events that will bring her and Alice together and reveal shocking truths about a past long gone...yet more present than ever.

A lush, atmospheric tale of intertwined destinies, this latest novel from a masterful storyteller is an enthralling, thoroughly satisfying read.

Strengths: Intriguing Mystery; Authentic engaging characters; Unexpected Culprit; Uplifting ending
Measure of Love: Dash
Introspection Level: Low
Thoughts: A definite page turner. Great mystery! Wonderful kismet ending

Another Woman's Daughter by Fiona Fussman

Set against the tumultuous background of apartheid South Africa, a powerful and moving debut about family, sacrifice, and discovering what it means to belong…

Celia Mphephu knows her place in the world. A black servant working in the white suburbs of 1960s Johannesburg, she’s all too aware of her limitations. Nonetheless, she has found herself a comfortable corner: She has a job, can support her faraway family, and is raising her youngest child, Miriam.

But as racial tensions explode, Celia’s world shifts. Her employers decide to flee the political turmoil and move to England—and they ask to adopt Miriam and take her with them. Devastated at the prospect of losing her only daughter, yet unable to deny her child a safer and more promising future, Celia agrees, forever defining both their futures.

As Celia fights against the shattering violence of her time, Miriam battles the quiet racism of England, struggling to find her place in a land to which she doesn’t belong—until the call of her heritage inexorably draws her back to Africa to discover the truth behind her mother’s choices and uncover a heartbreaking secret from long ago…

Strengths: Riveting setting; Historical element; Poignant scenarios: Uplifting ending
Measure of Love: Dash
Introspection Level: Medium
Thoughts: Brilliant exploration of discrimination and a difficult time.

Named of the Dragon by Susanna Kearsley

Named of the Dragon by Susanna Kearsley (Notable Reprint)

SOMEWHERE IN THE HEART OF LEGEND
LIES THE KEY TO HER TERRIFYING DREAMS

The charm of spending the Christmas holidays in South Wales, with its crumbling castles and ancient myths, seems the perfect distraction from the nightmares that have plagued literary agent Lyn Ravenshaw since the loss of her baby five years ago.

Instead, she meets an emotionally fragile young widow who's convinced that Lyn's recurring dreams have drawn her to Castle Farm for an important purpose—and she's running out of time.

With the help of a reclusive, brooding playwright, Lyn begins to untangle the mystery and is pulled into a world of Celtic legends, dangerous prophecies, and a child destined for greatness.

Strengths: Enthralling mystical element; Marvelous Gothic atmosphere; Captivating characters; Uplifting Ending
Measure of Love: Teaspoon
Introspection Level: Medium
Thoughts: Excellent illustration of  Kearsley’s talent in mixing past and present. First published in 1999, it features a young boy named Rob McMorran, who is later the hero in Firebird.

Chance Harbor by Holly Robinson

Chance Harbor by Holly Robinson

Catherine and Zoe are sisters, but even their mother, Eve, admits her daughters are nothing alike. Catherine is calm and responsible. Zoe is passionate and rebellious.  Nobody is surprised when Zoe gets pregnant, drops out of college, and spirals into drug addiction.

One night Catherine gets a call from Zoe’s terrified daughter, Willow, saying her mother has abandoned her in a bus station and disappeared. Eve blames herself, while Catherine, unable to have children, is delighted to raise Willow as her own. 

Now, five years later, Eve is grieving her husband’s death and making reluctant plans to sell the family’s beloved summer home on Prince Edward Island. But a series of unexpected revelations will upend the family and rock three generations of women.

Strengths: Diverse characters; Complex family history; Challenging Conflicts; Uplifting ending
Measure of Love: Dash
Introspection Level: Medium
Thoughts:  Robinson is a master at creating likeable flawed characters.

House Trained by Jackie Bouchard

Alex Halstad, a childless-by-choice interior designer and dog mom, is a true perfectionist. But her orderly life turns chaotic when the teenage daughter her husband, Barry, never knew he had shows up on their doorstep...with a baby girl of her own in tow. While Alex’s dog enthusiastically welcomes the new arrivals, Alex struggles with the loss of her steady routine. She desperately needs peace and quiet to get her business back on track before Barry finds out she’s spent most of their savings. Meanwhile, the arrival of the girls stirs up old insecurities, and Alex can’t help but worry that Barry’s ex will make an entrance too. With her tidy life a distant memory, will Alex be able to learn from her dog the true meaning of love and acceptance?

From bestselling author Jackie Bouchard comes a humorous and heartwarming look at how life creates opportunities to love in surprising ways.

Strengths: Pleasing characters; Plausible marital conflicts; Realistic family bonds and friendships; Uplifting ending
Measure of Love: Teaspoon
Introspection Level: Medium
Thoughts: Lighthearted but insightful, especially about bias toward childless woman.

Christmas Chocolat by Kate Defrise

Christmas Chocolat by Kate Defrise

In this warm, engaging debut novel, four siblings make their way home, where their father, the memory of their mother, and long-held family secrets all collide just in time for Christmas

For Maggie Arnaud and her siblings, childhood Christmases meant lavish feasts and beloved rituals. The day began with hot chocolate and cougnole de Noel—the sweet, rich bread traditional in their parents’ native Belgium. Those special holidays ended with their mother’s death, and their father has grown more distant each year. But now, he has summoned his grown children once again. And none of them is eager to expose their imperfect lives to his scrutiny…

Jacqueline is an opera singer living in Brussels—outwardly successful but yearning for a deeper fulfillment. Near Philadelphia, cookbook writer Maggie’s career and marriage are in turmoil. Colette, an aspiring clothing designer in California, lost her boyfriend and her savings in one blow. And roving younger brother Art is still searching for something—or someone. Armed with their insecurities, rivalries—and their mother’s most delicious recipes—the Arnauds gather in Pennsylvania. But a good meal does more than feed the body—it awakens memories, nurtures bonds, and might even bring a family back together.

Strengths: Scrumptious food theme; Distinct characters; Complex familyrelationships;Uplifting ending
Measure of Love: Teaspoon
Introspection Level: Medium
Thoughts: Compelling story of fractured family.   

Love Someone Like You by Susan Fox

Love Someone Like You by Susan Fox

With its breathtaking terrain and welcoming people, the Western town of Caribou Crossing is the perfect place for a heart to heal, and for love to blossom once more…

Since the death of her husband three years ago, young widow Sally Ryland has kept to herself and focused on her struggling business, Ryland Riding. Folks assume she’s still grieving, because Sally has never shared the truth about her abusive marriage, or the trust issues that remain. But when a sexy rodeo rider from her past turns up for a visit, he’s a reminder of the feisty woman she once was—and maybe still could be…

Ben Traynor was always attracted to Sally, but he didn’t move fast enough. Now what Sally needs is patience and gentleness. With an injury keeping him from his next rodeo, Ben has the perfect excuse to stick around and help with her chores—and her healing. And as Sally finds the courage to face her demons and open her heart again, she’ll have to decide if what she has with Ben is more than safety, gratitude, and short-term passion, but a forever love…

Strengths: Noteworthy topic; Appealing new and recurring characters; Western setting: HEA
Measure of Love: Tablespoon
Introspection Level: Medium
Thoughts: Pleasing story of second chance at love. 

Italian Wife by Kate Furnivall

Isabella Berotti is an architect, helping to create showpieces that will reflect the glory of her country’s Fascist leaders. She is not a deeply political sort, but designing these buildings of grandiose beauty helps her forget about the pain she’s felt since her husband was murdered years ago. One of her greatest accomplishments is the clock tower in the town of Bellina, outside Rome.

But as she is admiring it one day, a woman approaches her, asking her to watch her ten-year-old daughter. Minutes later, to Isabella’s horror, the woman leaps to her death from that very clock tower.

There are photos of the woman right after the suicide, taken by Roberto Falco. A propaganda photographer for Il Duce,he is expected to show his nation in the most flattering light. But what Roberto and Isabella have seen reflects a more brutal reality, and in a place where everyone is watching and friends turn on friends to save themselves, their decision to take a closer look may be a dangerous mistake.

Strengths:  Startling intertwined lives; Remarkable historical details and setting; Diverse characters; Uplifting ending
Measure of Love: Dash
Introspection Level: Low
Thoughts: Imaginative storytelling using historical facts!

Copygirl by Sassa Mitchael

Copygirl by Sassa Mitchael

Mad Men meets The Devil Wears Prada in this lively debut about a young woman working at the hippest ad agency in New York...

So. You want to work in advertising. The glitz, the glamour, the cocktail-fueled brainstorming sessions and Xbox breaks. Sounds like a dream job, right?

Wrong. The reality can be a nightmare. There are five simple rules for succeeding in the ad world—and I think I’ve already broken every single one…

1) Never let them see you cry. Even if your best friend breaks your heart. And posts it all over social media.

2) Be one of the boys. And, if you were born with the wrong equipment, flaunt what you've got to distract them while you get ahead.

3) Come up with the perfect pitch in an instant—or have your resumé ready to go at all times.

4) Trust no one. Seriously. If you don't watch your back, they'll steal your ideas, your pride, even your stapler.

5) Most importantly, don’t ever, under any circumstances, be a CopyGirl.

Trust me. I know…

Strengths: Amusing author’s voice; Appealing characters; Fun media integration; Uplifting ending 
Measure of Love: Teaspoon
Introspection Level: Low
Thoughts: Engaging young heroine in a figuratively speaking Rocky Balboa type of challenge!  

 Good Neighbor by Amy Sue Nathan

Good Neighbor by Amy Sue Nathan

Izzy Lane never thought of herself as a liar. In fact, she's always played by the rules. She's an excellent mother, has loyal friends, and a rich career as a school counselor. Fresh from a new divorce, however, Izzy feels like she needs a little fun. So when, on a whim, she starts a blog it seems like a rather benign indulgence. But as her online quips begin to gain traction, Izzy makes a slip. Somehow a new boyfriend winds his way into the picture. The problem? Izzy makes him up.

What, at first, feels like a harmless fib quickly spins out of control and Izzy must figure out how to balance fantasy and reality. Keeping up appearances while managing an absent ex-husband, two very nosy friends, a toddler son, and full-time job soon prove impossible, and Izzy feels utterly lost. It's only when her long-time neighbor and surrogate mother, Mrs. Feldman, re-enters her life that Izzy begins to see the mess she's made. And it's with Mrs. Feldman's guidance that Izzy learns to face reality, find comfort in new norms, and open herself up to the possibility of real love.

Strengths: Multi-generational friendships; Believable motivation; Trendy backdrop; Uplifting Ending
Measure of Love: Dash
Introspection Level: High
Thoughts: Oh, the slippery slope of a white lie. Excellent exploration of the damage!

The Hundred Gifts by Jennifer Scott

With the holidays around the corner, empty-nester Bren Epperson realizes that for the first time in decades, she has no large family to cook for, no celebration to create.  So she starts teaching a holiday cooking class, and it’s a hit—until Virginia Mash, the old lady upstairs, bursts in complaining.  Rather than retaliate, Bren suggests that the class shower Virginia with kindness—and give her one hundred gifts.  So they embark on the plan to lift a heart.  Along the way, amidst the knitting and the making and the baking, they’ll discover the best gifts can’t be bought and family celebrations can be reborn.

Strengths: Genuine mid-life issues; Multi-generational friendships; Touching benevolence; Uplifting ending
Measure of Love: Dash
Introspection Level: Low
Thoughts:  Perfect example of heroine gaining strength courage and confidence!

Smoke by Catherine McKenzie

Smoke by Catherine McKenzie

From the internationally bestselling author Catherine McKenzie comes an evocative tale of two women navigating the secrets and lies at the heart of a wildfire threatening their town.

After a decade long career combating wildfires, Elizabeth has traded in her former life for a quieter one with her husband. Now she works as the local arson investigator in a beautiful, quaint town in the Rockies. But that tranquil life vanishes when she and her husband agree to divorce and a fire in nearby Cooper Basin begins to spread rapidly. For Elizabeth, containing a raging wildfire is easier than accepting that her marriage has failed.

For Elizabeth’s ex-friend Mindy, who feels disconnected from her husband and teenage children, the fire represents a chance to find a new purpose: helping a man who has lost his home to the blaze. But her faith is shattered by a shocking accusation.

As the encroaching inferno threatens the town’s residents, Elizabeth and Mindy must discover what will be lost in the fire, and what will be saved.

Strengths:  Unique backdrop and career for heroine; Authentic relationship issues; Multi-faceted characters; Uplifting ending
Measure of Love: Dash
Introspection Level: Medium
Thoughts:  Absorbing mixture of suspense, and inter-personal relationships.

***

Learn more about the books mentioned in this post: 

After You by JoJo Moyes  
Pretending to Dance by Diane Chamberlain  
Finding Amos by J.D. Mason, ReShonda Tate Billingsley, Bernice L. McFadden  
The Lake House by Kate Morton  
Another Woman's Daughter by Fiona Fussman  
Named of the Dragon by Susanna Kearsley  
Chance Harbor by Holly Robinson  
House Trained by Jackie Bouchard  
Christmas Chocolat by Kate Defrise  
Love Someone Like You by Susan Fox  
Italian Wife by Kate Furnivall  
Copygirl by Sassa Mitchael  
Good Neighbor by Amy Sue Nathan  
The Hundred Gifts by Jennifer Scott  
Smoke by Catherine McKenzie  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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2 comments
Lee Brewer
1. LeeB.
After You was excellent. Named of the Dragon is my second favorite Kearsley book (after Mariana). Will check out the other titles. Thanks!
Maggie Boyd
2. maggieboyd66
I'm a total Named of the Dragon fan girl. Love that book! I think Kate Morton's The Lake House looks intriguing, as does the Italian Wife and Pretending to Dance. Great look at some intriguing books. Thanks!
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