The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman
I really enjoyed this hilariously funny book.
When the publishing house 34-year-old Lillian works for wants her to illustrate a book on gardening, they send her to a course on how to garden. Her sister, Rachel, and her two daughters join her. There, they meet a good-looking teacher named Edward and a cast of characters that defy initial stereotypes.
I loved the relationship between Lillian and Rachel. They fight occasionally, but mostly they support each other in a way that’s nice to see. The seven-year-old daughter Annabel and the five-year-old Clare are the most adorable characters I’ve read in fiction in a long time.
Though Lillian lost her husband to a car accident almost four years ago, her sister, her daughter, and the cast of characters from her gardening class help Lillian move forward from the grief. The humor keeps the book from being depressing or maudlin.
The Distance Home by Orly Konig-Lopez
Emma takes a week off from her high-powered job in PR in Chicago to return to Maryland and take care of her father’s things after his death in a car accident. In addition to trying to mend the wounds of dealing with a depressed mother who died when Emma was young—Emma’s father told her that her mother had heart problems and ultimately died of a heart attack—she’s also trying to sort out her feelings for a father who was emotionally absent from her life.
When Emma was eight years old, they moved to this rural area and she discovered Jilli, her neighbor, who was nine at the time, and Jilli’s grandparents, who raised Jilli and ran a horse ranch that gave lessons to kids who wanted to compete and therapeutic services for soldiers with PTSD, kids with behavioral or emotional problems, and folks with a variety of disabilities.
Though for years they were best friends, Emma and Jilli have been estranged since an accident when they were sixteen. After the accident, Emma’s dad shipped her off to boarding school and the lies about that day have haunted her ever since.
Emma finds that though she’d stayed away from horses since the accident, returning to them is good for the soul, even to someone who rode them for ribbons end glory once upon a time. Fixing things with Jilli, Jilli’s grandparents, and her father’s ghost, is not as easy to do as getting back on a horse.
The novel is about finding oneself by looking at the past and reimaging one’s future. I got lost in the story and in the way animals can be great emotional support in difficult times. The characters—including the animals—were well drawn, with complex, believable traits.
Thanks to NetGalley and Forge Books for the opportunity to review this book.Read More
The Pictures by Guy Bolton
Detective Craine works for the LAPD as a fixer—bailing actors out of jail after a DUI and covering up instances of domestic violence among MGM’s stars. After the death of his wife, who was a minor actress, he wants to get out of the business, but when a producer dies in an apparent suicide, he’s called in to keep the press away as much as possible and spin whatever information does get out: The guy was a junkie and gay and had battled depression is the studio’s go-to story line.
For the first part of the book, it’s difficult to know who to root for. For example, a completely innocent black kid gets blamed for a brutal crime he didn’t commit. He, too, is found dead by apparent suicide.
The wife of the dead producer is Gail Goodwin. Craine realizes that something more is going on that the fact that several folks decided to commit suicide or are gruesomely murdered—he realizes it when he’s shot at a hotel while checking into things. Katherine Hepburn, Mae West, and Groucho have Cameo’s in the book, so if you’re a fine of this period in history of LA, you might like the mystery. For me, it was a little slow.
Thanks to NetGalley for the opportunity to review this book.
The Child by Fiona Barton
When the bones of a baby are found during an excavation, journalist Kate thinks there is a story there, even if finding who the mother was will be exceedingly difficult. Angela, whose baby was stolen from her years ago, is certain that the baby is hers, and Emma, who battles a mood disorder and has been treated for mental illness, reads everything about the remains obsessively.
Told from multiple points of view, the mystery of who this baby is will keep you turning pages. Kate is the force that keeps digging and unraveling secrets. She’s a tough, likeable protagonist. Jude, Emma’s self-absorbed mother, is well drawn as an odious woman who should never have become a mother.
Thanks to NetGalley for the opportunity to review this book.
Reservations (A Lola Wicks Mystery) by Gwen Florio
Florio keeps getting better and better. In the latest installment of the Lola Wicks mystery series, Lola, her husband Charlie, their seven-year-old daughter Margaret, and their three-legged dog Bub head to Arizona to spend time with Charlie’s brother’s family.
Charlie and his brother Edgar have had a strained relationship for years. Charlie still lives in Montana working as a cop outside the Blackfeet reservation. Edgar married a Navajo woman, and his wife Naomi persuaded him to take a job in the mines that employ much of the Navajo people in the area. Naomi repeatedly tells Lola that even though they have Ivy League educations, they returned to work for the Indians. She insinuates that they could be making more money elsewhere, but they seem to be doing pretty well for themselves, particularly compared to the other folks on the reservation.
The mines have rendered the drinking water useless and the air not much better. When the bombings begin, it’s unclear if it’s an environmental group or a member of the Navajo nation or just a rogue environmentalist. Lola’s investigative journalist’s instincts go on high alert, as do Charlie’s cop instincts.
I adore all the members of Lola’s immediate family, but I particularly adore Lola. It’s like Florio is writing about me—Lola has an aversion (and lack of ability) for anything domestic, she wears clothes that are comfortable and functional rather than fashionable, and she is terrified of heights.
The mystery that unfolds is extremely well done. I’m generally not a huge mystery fan, but I love Florio’s work because of the high literary quality.
Highly recommended.Read More