Reclusive literary legend M. M. “Mimi” Banning has been holed up in her Bel Air mansion for years. But after falling prey to a Bernie Madoff-style Ponzi scheme, she’s flat broke. Now Mimi must write a new book for the first time in decades, and to ensure the timely delivery of her manuscript, her New York publisher sends an assistant to monitor her progress. The prickly Mimi reluctantly complies—with a few stipulations: No Ivy-Leaguers or English majors. Must drive, cook, tidy. Computer whiz. Good with kids. Quiet, discreet, sane.

When Alice Whitley arrives at the Banning mansion, she’s put to work right away—as a full-time companion to Frank, the writer’s eccentric nine-year-old, a boy with the wit of Noel Coward, the wardrobe of a 1930s movie star, and very little in common with his fellow fourth-graders.

As she slowly gets to know Frank, Alice becomes consumed with finding out who Frank’s father is, how his gorgeous “piano teacher and itinerant male role model” Xander fits into the Banning family equation—and whether Mimi will ever finish that book.

My Thoughts: For some reason, I kept putting off reading Be Frank With Me, a book I downloaded in March 2016. The blurb obviously grabbed my attention enough for me to buy the book. So why did I wait so long?

Whatever my reluctance, I was immediately captivated by the nine-year-old boy Frank. A brilliant child with a head full of random facts, he also seemed to capture the affection of Alice, the new assistant. His strange behavior and odd costumes did not endear him to other children, but some of the staff at school found him lovable and tried to protect him from the others. However, the principal who arrived at the school late in the book was so smug and off-putting that he set off a chain of disastrous events that would change everything.

I had issues with the inappropriate and unreliable Xander, who also had his likable characteristics. His tendency to pop in and out of Frank’s life made me very curious about how he came to be part of this dysfunctional group.

Alice, as our narrator, offered her own theories as she, too, questioned Xander’s role. Was he a former lover of Mimi’s? Was he Frank’s father?

Mimi was self-absorbed, unreliable, and definitely unlikable most of the time. But then she would do something wonderful and make you question everything you thought you knew about her and her family.

Tragic events bring the story to an unexpected denouement, and then we are left trying to imagine what will happen to the characters. A 4.5 star read for me.






On a movie set in Portland, Oregon, Director Dean Arnette is closing in on the final moments, the final scenes. Then the unexpected happens. A gun is fired. The body double is shot, and all hell breaks loose.

Two months later, Cassie Kramer has checked herself into the psychiatric wing of Mercy Hospital, where she struggles with what seem like hallucinations and blackouts. And to deal with the disappearance of her sister Allie, who was the star of the movie Dead Heat, and whose failure to appear on the day of the last filming had led to her double being shot.

Had someone targeted Allie? Was the shooting an accident, or had someone purposely changed the blanks for real bullets?

Police are all over the situation, beginning with the shooting of Lucinda Rinaldi, who survived, and focusing also on Allie’s disappearance. Had someone abducted her, or was she missing as some kind of publicity stunt?

After She’s Gone delves into the lives of a Hollywood family: Jenna Hughes, mother, and her two daughters, Cassie and Allie. Since Allie has become the star, the rivalry between the two of them has caused some to think Cassie may have done something to her sister. The family had also suffered terrifying events in the past when a stalker targeted them…so now Jenna and her husband Shane have relocated to Falls Crossing, Oregon.

Determined to find her sister and clear her own name, Cassie has checked into Mercy Hospital’s psychiatric unit, worried that her occasional blackouts might mean that she knows more than she realizes.

After leaving the hospital, Cassie flies back and forth between LA and Portland, trying to find answers, and knowing that there is something suspicious about almost everyone who knew her sister. Her behavior, while understandable, seemed frenetic and illogical at times.

Then there are the secrets that surfaced as the story came to a close. Secrets that finally revealed who has targeted the family…and why. The novel was a page turner that moved at a fast pace, although there were so many red herrings and characters to wonder about that sometimes it was hard to keep everything straight. As the final denouement approached, there were some last minute misdirections that kept me guessing until the last pages. 4 stars.





Our story begins in 1917, when Loretta Young is a child named Gretchen, and has already begun her movie career.

Fast forward to 1934, and we meet a young novice named Alda Ducci, whose work in a home for unwed girls has come to an end because of rules she cannot follow.

Soon the priest has arranged for her to have a place in the home of Gladys Belzer, the mother of Loretta Young. She is the new assistant for Loretta.

The descriptions of Sunset House, where Loretta—and now Alda—live are the stuff of dreams. Hollywood dreams.

Loretta’s somewhat platonic relationship with Spencer Tracy ends just as she is ready to star in a movie with Clark Gable. Soon the two of them will be romantically linked.

All the Stars in the Heavens offered a glimpse of the Golden Age of Hollywood, and the pages were filled with characters based on real people. A “factional” story, this one could have captivated me completely, but instead I found myself plodding along, wishing the story would move more quickly. Perhaps the story did not engage me because I expected too much…or perhaps because I am easily distracted these days. Many readers loved this book, so I am simply going to give it 3.5 stars, and recommend that potential readers consider the reviews of others before deciding.





Madelyn (Maddy) Carson had some very strict rules for her personal life. As a script supervisor for The Wrong Doctor, a soap, she definitely chose not to date actors.

So when she begins dating one of the show’s executives, Craig Williams, she tells herself she is not technically breaking her own rules.

When she gets an idea for a reality show based on her hometown in Wolf County, and collaborates a bit with Craig before presenting the idea to their boss, she is totally unprepared for Craig’s betrayal, which definitely makes her question her own rules.

Then when Adam, one of the actors on the show, asks her out and pursues a relationship with her, she begins to wonder if she needs that rule book.

Scared Scriptless: A Novel was a delightful story about life behind the scenes in Hollywood, and the author definitely knows her material, as she starred in Days of Our Lives for several years, and has been on other TV shows as well.

The story is narrated in the first person voice of Maddy, a character I could not help but root for. I recommend this book for all who love stories about Hollywood, and those who have read any of Sweeney’s books. 4.5 stars.



Welcome to some bookish (and serendipitous) fun today as we share Book Beginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader; and as we showcase The Friday 56 with Freda’s Voice.

To join in, just grab a book and share the opening lines…along with any thoughts you wish to give us; then turn to page 56 and excerpt anything on the page.

Then give us the title of the book, so others can add it to their lists!

If you have been wanting to participate, but haven’t yet tried, now is the time!


Today I’ve grabbed a book from next week’s stack.  The Empty Glass, by J.I. Baker takes another look at the fascinating life (and death) of Marilyn Monroe.


Beginning:  After awhile, everything started to blur.

I felt that I’d spent hours, days, lying on the floor of this hotel room with my face against the wood and my eyes open wide as the air came through the vent near my head.  The whoosh was all I heard—then the door closing, the keys in the lock, the footsteps on the floor stopping as I turned to see the patent leather shoes before my eyes, the stub of a cigarette dropped between them, burning.


P. 56:  The guard looks briefly up at me but doesn’t say a thing.  He leaves the room and locks the door.


So…what do you think?  I am not sure what’s going on in these scenes, but I’m eager to find out.

Blurb:  In the early-morning hours of August 5, 1962, Los Angeles County deputy coroner Ben Fitzgerald arrives at the home of the world’s most famous movie star, now lying dead in her bedroom, naked and still clutching a telephone.  There he discovers The Book of Secrets – Marilyn Monroe’s diary – revealing a doomed love affair with a man she refers to only as “The General.”  In the following days, Ben unravels a wide-ranging cover-up and some heartbreaking truths about the fragile, luminous woman behind the celebrity.  Soon the sinister and surreal accounts in The Book of Secrets bleed into Ben’s own life, and he finds himself, like Monroe, trapped in a deepening paranoid conspiracy.  The Empty Glass is an unforgettable combination of the riveting facts and legendary theories that have dogged Monroe, the Kennedy’s, the Mafia, and even the CIA for decades.  It is an exciting debut from a remarkable new thriller writer.


Now I’m off to check out your excerpts!