Book Review: Catching Air – Sarah Pekkanen

Catching Air coverTitle: Catching Air
Author: Sarah Pekkanen
ISBN: 9781451673531
Pages: 352
Release Date: May 6, 2014
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Source: Publicist
Rating: 4 out of 5

Summary:

Kira Danner is falling apart with her non-stop job at a law firm. So when her husband, Peter, proposes to her that they quit their jobs and move to Vermont to help run a B&B that Peter’s brother, Rand, and his wife, Alyssa, have purchased, she jumps at the chance. But Rand and Peter haven’t gotten along in recent years, and the close quarters of the B&B might be more than the brothers can handle. As Kira gets to know Alyssa, manages the kitchen, and deals with demanding guests, each member of this foursome has to deal with their own struggles and figure out what they truly want out of life.

Snapshot Review:

Sarah Pekkanen’s breezy fifth novel is just as winning as all her previous books. All of her characters are intriguing, though it’s the women who are really the stars of Catching Air. Kira and Alyssa don’t really know each other when they agree to live and do business together, but they really hit it off as the novel progresses. It’s wonderful to watch them become closer, but also to see each of their lives unfold in ways they didn’t expect. Readers will enjoy getting to know these women and will revel in the cozy atmosphere of the B&B. As always, Pekkanen emotionally engages the reader; it’s difficult not to be invested by the time the last pages are turned. If you’re looking for quality women’s fiction with vibrant, realistic characters, then Sarah Pekkanen is always a great choice.

Other books by Sarah Pekkanen:

The Best of Us
The Opposite of Me
Skipping a Beat
These Girls

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Book Review: Hidden – Catherine McKenzie

Hidden coverTitle: Hidden
Author: Catherine McKenzie
ISBN: 9780544264977
Pages: 304
Release Date: April 1, 2014
Publisher: New Harvest
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Source: Publicist
Rating: 4 out of 5

Summary:

When Jeff Manning is hit by a car and killed walking home from work, his wife Claire is devastated, as expected. But Tish, Jeff’s coworker, is also blindsided by Jeff’s death, unable to cope. Who was Jeff to Tish? What secrets was Jeff keeping from his wife?

Snapshot Review:

A thoughtful and emotional novel, Hidden takes a premise that seems cliche and turns it into something new. McKenzie writes sympathetic, three-dimensional characters that readers will immediately connect with.

Full Review:

Hidden by Catherine McKenzie is an examination of two womens’ grief at the loss of one man, Jeff. At the beginning, it’s not clear what the nature of Tish and Jeff’s relationship was. Were they just good friends? Were they having an affair? Or was it something in between, a nebulous and complicated relationship that didn’t really have any sort of definition? McKenzie handles this tension well, ensuring that there are no easy answers in this novel.

It’s easy to jump to conclusions about what Jeff and Tish were up to in Hidden, and I’ll admit I was a bit disappointed by the premise. After all, “widow finds husband’s secrets after his death” is a plot that’s been done quite frequently, and one thing I’ve always admired McKenzie for is that her plots are really unique. But I’m glad to say that McKenzie handled it very well. Both Claire and Tish act in unexpected ways; this novel isn’t a cliche, even if that’s what the summary might imply.

Indeed, McKenzie is excellent at writing the unexpected, which shows on every page of Hidden. It’s not just Jeff that had his secrets. Before she and Jeff met, Claire dated Jeff’s older brother, Tim. It’s always been a source of tension between Jeff and Claire; but how does Claire actually feel about Tim? It’s been easy to ignore him, given that he lives out of the country, but of course he will return for Jeff’s funeral. Claire must face her own difficult issues with Tim’s return. (And before you start worrying, no, this isn’t widow-falls-into-bed-with-ex-at-an-inappropriate-time either. McKenzie is too smart and bold for that.)

The author richly develops both Tish and Claire; readers will be able to sympathize with both women. McKenzie takes a premise that has been done before and reinvents it, making it something new and unique. If you enjoy smart women’s fiction, Catherine McKenzie’s books should absolutely be on your list; she’s such a talented author and breathes life into her stories and characters in a way that’s really difficult to do.

Other books by Catherine McKenzie:

Forgotten

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Book Review: Lost Lake – Sarah Addison Allen

Lost Lake coverTitle: Lost Lake
Author: Sarah Addison Allen
ISBN: 9781250019806
Pages: 304
Release Date: January 21, 2014
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Women’s Fiction, Magical Realism
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 out of 5

Summary:

Kate has been sleepwalking through life in the year since her husband died, content to let her pushy mother-in-law run things and make decisions for her and her eight-year-old daughter Devin. But when she finally wakes up and takes stock of what’s happening, she doesn’t like the passive woman she sees. When Devin finds a postcard from Kate’s great aunt, Kate remembers the summers she used to spend at her aunt’s summer cottages. The two decide to take a road trip to see if the resort is still there and to escape from life, just for a little while.

Snapshot Review:

Lost Lake is a heartwarming story of a woman finding a new lease on life after her husband’s death. Kate certainly isn’t in a good place when the novel begins, so it’s good that she and Devin get away together. Lost Lake, the name of Kate’s great aunt’s resort, is the perfect place to recharge after a difficult time, but it’s facing its own challenges. Allen fills this novel with memorable, unique characters, each of whom has something they must overcome. Add to that a richly described setting and Allen’s trademark touches of magic, and you’ve got a sweet novel that’s fully entertaining.

Other books by Sarah Addison Allen:

The Girl Who Chased the Moon
The Peach Keeper
The Sugar Queen

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Book Review: Safe with Me – Amy Hatvany

Safe with Me cover

Title: Safe with Me
Author: Amy Hatvany
ISBN: 9781476704418
Pages: 352
Release Date: March 4, 2014
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Summary:

Ever since Emily was born, she’s been the center of Hannah’s world. When her daughter dies in a tragic accident, though, Hannah’s world comes apart. The one solace Hannah has is the knowledge that though her daughter is gone, other children are alive because of Emily’s organs. One of these kids is fifteen-year-old Maddie, who is finally getting the chance to embark on a normal life. But Maddie feels anything but normal as she goes to high school for the first time and must also manage her father’s rages and her mother, Olivia’s, refusal to stand up to them. When chance brings Hannah, Olivia, and Maddie together, will Hannah find a new family, or will a deception ruin everything?

Snapshot Review:

Amy Hatvany once again deals with serious issues, such as the death of a child and spousal abuse, in this smart, compulsively readable novel. Fans of Hatvany’s will enjoy her sharp writing while those new to her books will appreciate the depth of her work.

Full Review:

Amy Hatvany has taken on some difficult issues in her novels, such as alcoholism, disability, and homelessness, and Safe with Me is no exception. This time, it’s Hannah’s grief at the death of her child, Olivia’s acceptance of her husband’s abuse for the sake of her daughter, and Maddie’s troubles with the life of a normal teenager. Readers will appreciate how smart and thoughtful this novel is as Hatvany deftly writes these difficult and troublesome situations in intricate and believable ways.

Each of these characters is fully fleshed out, and readers will sympathize with each of them. It would be so easy to blame Hannah for her inability to move on, to blame Olivia for not getting herself out of a horrible situation, and to write off Maddie as experiencing trivial teen issues, yet Hatvany doesn’t allow the reader to do that. She delves deep into each of them, bringing them to life for the reader. Their struggles become the reader’s struggles; it’s so easy to become emotionally invested in this book and these characters. Even when they make bad decisions (which happens often—after all, they’re realistic), it’s sympathy rather than frustration that the reader feels. These characters are incredibly well done and are a testament to Hatvany’s writing prowess.

“Women’s fiction” these days has a bit of a negative connotation, but it doesn’t have to. Fiction aimed at a female audience can be just as smart, savvy, and sharp as any other genre, which Amy Hatvany proves with Safe with Me. It’s easy to enjoy this novel while also contemplating the many questions it provokes. Book clubs should take note of this title, though readers may want to have a box of tissues at hand while reading.

Other books by Amy Hatvany:

Best Kept Secret
Heart Like Mine
Outside the Lines

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Book Review: Soy Sauce for Beginners – Kirstin Chen

Soy Sauce for Beginners

Title: Soy Sauce for Beginners Author: Kirstin Chen ISBN: 9780544114395 Pages: 256 Release Date: January 7, 2014 Publisher: New Harvest Genre: Cultural Fiction, Women’s Fiction Source: Publisher Rating: 4 out of 5 Summary: After the break-up of her marriage, 30-year-old Gretchen returns home to Singapore, to the family business she’s tried to escape all her […]

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Book Review: The Book of Secrets – Elizabeth Arnold

The Book of Secrets

Title: The Book of Secrets Author: Elizabeth Arnold ISBN: 9780553592535 Pages: 464 Release Date: July 2, 2013 Publisher: Bantam Genre: Women’s Fiction Source: Publisher Rating: 4 out of 5 Summary: Chloe Sinclair has tried so hard to let go of the horrors of her past: her dead son, Gabriel, to name just one thing. That’s […]

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Book Review: The Book of Someday – Dianne Dixon

The Book of Someday cover

Title: The Book of Someday Author: Dianne Dixon ISBN: 9781402285721 Pages: 368 Release Date: September 3, 2013 Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark Genre: Women’s Fiction Source: Publisher Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Summary: Three women: Olivia, Micah, and AnnaLee. Olivia is dating Andrew, a man that seems too good to be true. But she feels as though […]

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Book Review: The Husband’s Secret – Liane Moriarty

The Husband's Secret cover

Title: The Husband’s Secret Author: Liane Moriarty ISBN: 9780399159343 Pages: 416 Release Date: July 30, 2013 Publisher: Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam Genre: Women’s Fiction Source: Publisher Rating: 4 out of 5 Summary: Three women: Cecilia, Rachel, and Tess. They know of each other, but aren’t necessarily friends, but something that no one could have predicted will bring them […]

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