REVIEW: THE PRICE OF SALT, BY PATRICIA HIGHSMITH

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Set in Manhattan in the early 1950s, The Price of Salt takes the reader into a forbidden love between two women: one, Therese Belivet, a set designer, and a wealthy suburban wife and mother, Carol Aird.

It is nearly Christmas in the year the two meet, when Therese was working as a temporary employee at Frankenberg’s, a department store. The author describes the first moments, as the two gaze across the room at one another…and then Carol approaches, followed by a shop transaction that takes place involving a delivery. Could something momentous be happening?

It doesn’t take long before they are drawn together again, for a lunch, then drinks, and then a visit to Carol’s suburban home, and, at the very least, a friendship is developing. Carol and her husband are separated, and their daughter Rindy goes back and forth between them.

Nothing overt happens between Therese and Carol, but within a few weeks, they are traveling across the country, toward the West…and their lives are changing dramatically.

Meanwhile, Carol discovers something very sinister is happening, at the hands of her husband. Will the two be ripped apart? Will it be a question for Carol of losing her daughter?

The intense and somewhat obsessive love between them could end; in any case, their lives could be altered moving forward. Wondering what will happen and if the societal expectations of the times will dictate the course of their feelings is a reminder, once again, of how times have changed and how stultifying the world once was. A timeless tale that could be about any kind of forbidden love, gay, straight, or otherwise…and was captivating in its ability to describe the longing of two people reaching across barriers to be together. 4.5 stars.

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REVIEW: FOREVER, INTERRUPTED, BY TAYLOR JENKINS REID

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They likened their love to a supernova—shining brighter than anything else in the sky and then fading out really quickly. A short burst of extraordinary energy.

Ben Ross and Elsie Porter met in early January, on an ordinary rainy evening in the neighborhood pizza place. They had both ordered pizza to take out…and were waiting.

They started a conversation. The chemistry between them was electric, and before long, they had exchanged phone numbers. He called her the next day.

Like magic, they became inseparable almost immediately, and soon fell in love. They were married in early June, but nine days later, when Ben went out on an errand, he was struck by a truck and killed.

From there, Forever, Interrupted takes a turn, revealing in back and forth thrusts, their life, before and after it was interrupted so viciously. The story is narrated in Elsie’s first person voice, and we can feel what she is feeling as she struggles with the present while remembering the short past they had.

She has to deal with a number of obstacles, like not having a marriage certificate yet and having to contend with Susan, Ben’s mother, who is the legal next of kin.

Set in LA, Elsie’s life was a good one before Ben, but once they met, she couldn’t imagine any kind of life without him. Her best friend Ana is supportive and loving, but soon, and surprisingly, Susan reaches out to Elsie, apologizing for her behavior when they first met…and the two begin to forge a family relationship.

What happened to Elsie’s marriage certificate? Why was Ben so reluctant to tell his mother about their relationship? How will Susan and Elsie finally find a way to move on?

I loved this book, as I have loved the others I’ve read by this author. I felt so enveloped in the lives of the characters who are like real people, with all the flaws and fears of ordinary life interrupted by the loss of a loved one. This one was a 5 star read for me.

REVIEW: TRUST NO ONE, BY JAYNE ANN KRENTZ

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When Grace Elland discovers the body of her murdered boss, Sprague Witherspoon, in his bedroom, her life takes a dramatic turn backwards in time. The label on the vodka bottle found near him is a jolting reminder of her past and another murder she stumbled upon.

Sprague Witherspoon was a major leader in the motivational movement, and Grace was his chief marketing director. The one who created the cookbook, the blog, and the positive affirmations. The one who took his company over the top.

Grace and two co-workers, Millicent Chartwell and Kristy Forsyth, are now left with the challenge of finding new careers. But starting over will be difficult for Grace, as this new trauma forces her back into her traumatic past, where the nightmares began. And in the present, she is being stalked, apparently, beginning with a series of sinister e-mails coming from Sprague’s phone.

Could his daughter Nyla be responsible? Everyone knows she has a hateful attitude. Her fiancé is also someone Grace suspects. He clearly seems to be hanging around for Nyla’s inheritance.

Then Julius Arkwright, a very rich entrepreneur and connected to Grace’s friends Irene and Devlin Nakamura, comes into her orbit as a blind date. Will Julius step in and help Grace sort out the mystery? Will she be able to help him overcome his own dark past?

As everything escalates and the mystery thickens, Grace has to consider other possibilities, just when she and Julius might be taking their friendship to another level.

Trust No One was a riveting romantic suspense thriller that had me looking around every corner, and literally not trusting any of the characters. Even so, I was surprised by the ending. An enjoyable story that was slightly predictable, but definitely a read I recommend for fans of the author…and for romantic suspense stories. 4.5 stars.

REVIEW: GETTING EVEN, BY SARAH RAYNER

19286668Two friends, Orianna and Ivy, who also happen to be colleagues, are torn apart by the unexpected promotion of one of them.

Ivy is so enraged by Orianna’s promotion to Creative Director at their advertising agency in London, that she immediately begins a crusade, albeit sneakily, to get even.

Will Orianna, who originally believes that Ivy is taking everything pretty well, eventually discover the lengths to which her friend has gone? Will Ivy’s secrets, the ones that go beyond the current situation, be discovered?

Getting Even is a captivating tale of friendship, work, and romance…and how envy and lust can turn into something quite malevolent.

Even more compelling was how the author showed a variety of relationships and scandals within the workplace and in a local gym, and invited the reader to take a peek into the private lives of all the characters–some we were rooting for and others we loved to hate. And what fun to see how the various secrets and betrayals were finally revealed…and then to glimpse a final twist, making you wonder who really did come out on top. 4.0 stars.

REVIEW: WHAT NORA KNEW, BY LINDA YELLIN

81jZMIRrKRL._SL1500_New York writer Molly Hallberg is approaching forty years of age. Working for an online magazine in Manhattan, she longs for her own column, and hopes to avoid working in the family’s upholstery business.

Her marriage to Evan, who was supposed to be the one ended when he cheated on her. Now she is cynical and trusts nobody. Which is why she seems to have settled for dull, boring Russell, who feels comfortable.

When her boss assigns a piece on romance, in the style of “Nora Ephron,” Molly is at a loss. How can a cynic write such a piece? And, predictably, the article falls flat.

Along the way she meets a bestselling author named Cameron Duncan, who is charming, flirtatious, and with whom she connects. There is just one problem. How can she trust him?

I loved how Molly, the first person narrator, had conversations with famous people in her head, as if practicing for real-life interactions. She ruminated about scenes from Nora Ephron movies, like Sleepless in Seattle, When Harry Met Sally, and You’ve Got Mail.

Can Molly finally take a leap of faith, like the heroines in Nora’s movies? Is it possible for a cynic to learn to trust?
As Nora’s characters taught her:

“….You can’t settle for the wrong man; how can you not run toward love no matter how crazy romantic a fairy tale this story might seem?”

What Nora Knew was a fun journey along the road to romance, and I enjoyed the dialogue, the reminders of favorite movies, and the idea of creating your own happy ending. 4.0 stars.


SERENDIPITOUS CHANGE: A BREATH OF FRESH AIR — A REVIEW

3287Sarah Moon is a cartoonist, a wife, and a would-be mother. She thinks she has the perfect life, but while undergoing fertility treatments to achieve that dream of motherhood, she discovers that all is not as perfect as she’d believed. She finds her husband Jack in bed with another woman.

Fleeing from her life in Chicago, she returns home to Marin County, where she grew up as the daughter of an oyster farmer. In a place where she was the sarcastic and dorky artist, a place that reminds her of her social awkwardness. But the place she had shunned suddenly promises to be just what she needs.

And an old crush from high school, Will Bonner, is turning out to be her best friend. He is the Captain of the fire department, focused intermittently on a series of arson conflagrations that simmer like an undercurrent beneath the surface of the unfolding romance between Sarah and Will. Can Will and Sarah be more than friends? Will an unexpected pregnancy that had resulted from that last fertility treatment further complicate her life, or bring her just what she needs? And what explosive events will unfurl, revealing dark secrets beneath the surface of all their lives?

Just Breathe is one of those stories that unfolds in some predictable ways, but also offers a glimpse of realistic characters, beautiful settings, some intense drama, and that feel-good kind of life we all crave. Showing us the struggles two people must overcome resonated with me; and the challenge of Aurora, Will’s adolescent stepdaughter, complicated the budding romance between Sarah and Will, even as her presence added extra layers of complexity to the tale. Four stars.

MYSTERIOUS CONNECTIONS REVEALED: WAS IT SERENDIPITY? — A REVIEW

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Evelyn has been married to her husband for forty years–forty years since he slipped off her first wedding ring and put his own in its place. Delphine has seen both sides of love–the ecstatic, glorious highs of seduction, and the bitter, spiteful fury that descends when it’s over. James, a paramedic who works the night shift, knows his wife’s family thinks she could have done better; while Kate, partnered with Dan for a decade, has seen every kind of wedding–beach weddings, backyard weddings, castle weddings–and has vowed never, ever, to have one of her own.

As these lives and marriages unfold in surprising ways, we meet Frances Gerety, a young advertising copywriter in 1947. Frances is working on the De Beers campaign and she needs a signature line, so, one night before bed, she scribbles a phrase on a scrap of paper: “A Diamond Is Forever.” And that line changes everything.

As I read each of the vignettes that seemingly had nothing in common with each other, especially since we skipped ahead years to focus on the characters in each of the spotlighted times, this tale felt a little like a collection of short stories. The common element: diamonds. And specifically, engagement rings.

Some of the characters and their lives were more enjoyable than others….and at times, I was weary of trying to remember the characters from the previous stories about them. But gradually, as more details surfaced with each leap in time, and as more backstory was revealed, I started to feel connected to them.

In the end, many loose ends seemingly converged to reveal the mysterious connections between them all. The Engagements is an intriguing story that I would have enjoyed more if it hadn’t “sprawled” quite so much. Nevertheless, a book I’d recommend to Sullivan fans…and those who like to think of how much “serendipity” plays a role in our lives. 3.5 stars.

WOW — FIRST, BEST & ONLY — JAN. 11

 

Welcome to another edition of Waiting on Wednesday, our wonderful bookish event hosted by Jill, at Breaking the Spine.

To join, just click on the the logo and add your blog direct link to the list.  Celebrate with your own upcoming releases and visit everyone else, too.

Today I’ve decided to talk about Barbara Delinsky’s newest book, due out on 3/1/12:  First, Best & Only.

A passionate tale of love, tragedy and forgiveness by a best-selling author – Marni Lange was just seventeen when she fell passionately in love with the irresistibly sexy Brian Webster. Then a tragic accident tore them apart. Fourteen years later, Marni is now a successful businesswoman, about to appear on the cover of a national magazine – and come face-to-face with the world-famous photographer profiling her . . . Brian Webster. As Marni struggles with her attraction to the man who haunts her past, is she now brave enough to follow her heart and fight for what matters most?

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When the accidental events in our lives separate us from our loved ones, is there hope for a reunion?  Or is it serendipity when the loved ones find each other again?  Whatever is happening, isn’t it great to read such a story?

I hope you’ll stop by and share your own exciting books today.

AN EVOCATIVE TALE OF AMBITION & BETRAYAL — A REVIEW

They stood poised at the beginning of his promising writing career, forming a circle of friendships that included a group of expatriates living a Bohemian life in Paris; among them were such notables as F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and many others.

Ernest Hemingway had met and married Hadley Richardson in Chicago, a woman a few years his senior. He had already launched his writing life, and to finance his writer’s journey, Hemingway worked as a journalist for a time. His burgeoning writing career seemed to exist hand in glove with a hard-drinking and fast-living café life that did not celebrate traditional notions of family and monogamy. In these years, Hadley struggled with jealousy and self-doubt; ultimately, something major would smash their dreams of a lasting love.

A sometimes volatile relationship can still have, at its basis, a deeply abiding friendship, which overrides any great romance or grand passion, although they apparently had their share of those moments.

McLain has created a fictionalized version of factual events, digging deeper beneath the emotional layers of what other writers have chronicled about this first marriage of Ernest Hemingway. He would go on to marry four times in all, and his tragic demise was like the epilogue to a brilliant but captivating journey.

How Hemingway created his novels was also a fascinating exploration into the writer’s life. During his first marriage, he created and published The Sun Also Rises.

Throughout The Paris Wife: A Novel, I found myself wishing that events might turn out differently, that there might be a happy ending after all. What I found most satisfying throughout this story, however, were the playful and loving connections created at a tumultuous phase in the lives of these two, and how these connections would sustain them through some difficult times: bonds that would link them even after the marriage had ended. In a letter to Hadley, Ernest wrote of his admiration for her, and how she was the “best and truest and loveliest person I have ever known.”

Themes of loss, childhood trauma, and poor parental connections formed the foundation for what would unfold for these two, and for Hemingway himself in the years that followed. I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about this fascinating writer in the early years, with his “first love.” Five stars.

A LITTLE ROMANCE….

In this excerpt from “An Accidental Life,” Karin enjoys the romantic moments between her and her new boyfriend.

Hours later, they sat satiated while the waiter cleared the table.  They had made short shrift of the platters of food, finished two bottles of wine, and they were now contemplating whether or not they could stand up and leave this place.  “Ooh….” Karin moaned.  “I can’t believe I ate all of that!  But it was so scrumptious!”  She flashed him her dimpled smile.

Scott leaned in toward her, his voice low and seductive.  “I think a little dancing is in order, don’t you?  We can call it exercise, if you will,” he added, grinning like a mischievous boy about to reach inside the cookie jar.

Karin allowed herself to be swept onto the dance floor and the music surrounded them.  The band played those ballads, those country tunes, teasingly, just to lead the unwitting victims into acts of indulgence.  That music was just that…music.  It wasn’t something prophetic.  The songs weren’t being sung just for her and Scott, even though it felt like it.  And there they were again, playing that song: May I have this dance for the rest of  my life

Enfolded in his warmth, as their bodies curved together like one, she felt the pulsating of her heart, while her throat seemingly closed up.  Scott’s achingly soft voice in her ear reminded her that they were two people, even though they seemed melded together.  At first she thought the dance would go on forever…And then she was afraid it would end.