The Sunshine Sisters isn’t all sunshine

32867521The Sunshine Sisters by Jane Green is about the relationships within one family.  Ronni Sunshine is the perfect selfish Hollywood diva who cares more about her image than her three daughters who can’t wait to get away from her, and a husband who can’t make her happy no matter what he does.  To the general public, Ronni is a wonderful person who has the perfect family.  But behind closed doors it’s another story.  Ronni is narcissistic and often a cruel mother.

When the veil comes off and her mood comes out, Ronni treats her daughters differently and the daughters react in different ways to Ronni’s cruelness.  Nell, who is the oldest, withdraws within herself and when she turns 18, flees to a farm a few miles away where she befriends the owner, who becomes a stable mother figure.  Nell seemed like a genuine, down-to-earth person who worked tirelessly to fill the voids she didn’t get from her childhood.

Meredith takes a lot of abuse from Ronni.  She is told she needs to lose weight, that she isn’t pretty enough.  This breaks Meredith and she flees to England to stay with relatives.  Meredith is a people pleaser and wants everyone to be happy.  Because of her mother’s comments over the years, Meredith doesn’t feel she deserve to be treated with respect, which leads her to be engaged to a who acts like she isn’t good enough as herself.

Then there is Lizzy who doesn’t take any crap from Ronnie.  While growing up, she laughed at the things Ronni said and did, never taking it seriously.  Lizzy really came across just as selfish and self-centered as Ronni.  Now a famous TV chef, Lizzy doesn’t care who she hurts with her actions, including her husband and child.

The main focus of the book is bringing the three girls together again to be with Ronnie, who has become ill and wants them by her side as she passes.  Once again making everything about her and bringing the attention to her, the center of attention.  This story is also about the relationship between the sisters, who are not close and are so very different.

The Sunshine Sisters shows that families can look all rainbows and sunshine on the outside, the inside, behind closed doors, might not be what it seems.  It’s probably why on the news, the neighbors say “they were such a nice and loving family” when something goes wrong with a family member or an entire family.

I have four older sisters so it was interesting for me to see how the sisters were very different yet could support each other after being reacquainted. There were relationships where I wanted to smack people on the back of the head and relationships where I wanted to stand up and cheer.

I have pretty much read all of Jane Green’s books and have enjoyed every one of them.  Like her other books, I had a hard time putting The Sunshine Sisters down.  When I wasn’t reading the book, I found myself thinking about the sisters.  The Sunshine Sisters looks like a fun cheerful book, but instead it dives into family dynamics that aren’t so filled with sunshine.

Book Description:
The New York Times bestselling author of Falling presents a warm, wise, and wonderfully vivid novel about a mother who asks her three estranged daughters to come home to help her end her life.

Ronni Sunshine left London for Hollywood to become a beautiful, charismatic star of the silver screen. But at home, she was a narcissistic, disinterested mother who alienated her three daughters.

As soon as possible, tomboy Nell fled her mother’s overbearing presence to work on a farm and find her own way in the world as a single mother. The target of her mother s criticism, Meredith never felt good enough, thin enough, pretty enough. Her life took her to London and into the arms of a man whom she may not even love. And Lizzy, the youngest, more like Ronni than any of them, seemed to have it easy, using her drive and ambition to build a culinary career to rival her mother’s fame, while her marriage crumbled around her.

But now the Sunshine Girls are together again, called home by Ronni, who has learned that she has a serious disease and needs her daughters to fulfill her final wishes. And though Nell, Meredith, and Lizzy are all going through crises of their own, their mother s illness draws them together to confront old jealousies and secret fears and they discover that blood might be thicker than water after all.

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The Light We Lost asks the question: is a first love your one true love

33637339When I first started reading The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo, I wasn’t sure if I was going to like it. I didn’t understand why Lucy Carter was telling Gabe Samson about their relationship from when they first met. It felt weird to me. I thought maybe it was a look back at what their life was like.  But I soon got used to the narration and was pulled into Lucy’s life.

Lucy first met Gabe on September 11, 2001 while they are in college.  On a rooftop under a grey cloud of ash, she kissed him for the first time and lost her heart forever. They move in together and start planning their life.  But Gabe is unfulfilled living in New York and being in a relationship. As he pursues his photography, he realizes he needs to go abroad and capture the struggles and political turmoil.  He wants to head to the Middle East and asks Lucy to go with him. But Lucy loves her job and knows following Gabe around the world will only make her resent his pursuit of his passions while she suppresses hers. So Gabe leaves and they move on living separate lives.

Lucy eventually meets Darren and even though she keeps comparing him to Gabe, she loves him differently but just as much as Gabe. They marry and soon have their daughter Violet. Even though Lucy has a wonderfully supportive husband and a good marriage, she seems to be connected to Gabe. She looks for his photos, she emails with him and she takes his phone calls. When he is in town, she drops everything to see him.

There were times I wanted to smack Lucy for what she was doing to her marriage. There were times I wanted to smack Darren for his jealousy even though Lucy was with him and I wanted to smack Gabe for always pulling Lucy back into his life making it hard for her to leave him in the past where he belonged.  The character I loved the most was Violet.  What an adorable little girl.

This book made me smile but it also made me cry and it broke my heart in so many different ways. As the book progressed and things were revealed, I never would have expected the revelation at the end. It really made me change my view of Lucy’s narrative. This book snuck up on me. I almost abandoned after about 50 pages and I’m so glad I stuck it out. This was such a good book. If you pick this book up, give it a chance because it won’t disappoint.

Book Description:
Lucy is faced with a life-altering choice. But before she can make her decision, she must start her story—their story—at the very beginning.

Lucy and Gabe meet as seniors at Columbia University on a day that changes both of their lives forever. Together, they decide they want their lives to mean something, to matter. When they meet again a year later, it seems fated—perhaps they’ll find life’s meaning in each other. But then Gabe becomes a photojournalist assigned to the Middle East and Lucy pursues a career in New York. What follows is a thirteen-year journey of dreams, desires, jealousies, betrayals, and, ultimately, of love. Was it fate that brought them together? Is it choice that has kept them away? Their journey takes Lucy and Gabe continents apart, but never out of each other’s hearts.

This devastatingly romantic debut novel about the enduring power of first love, with a shocking, unforgettable ending, is Love Story for a new generation.

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The Life of a Vaudeville Star

30320011I think Nicola Italia has become my new favorite romance writer.  This time in The Vaudeville Star, we are introduced to Ruby Mae Sutton, a southern belle from Mississippi who is sent off to finishing school in Connecticut when she is 15.

Ruby has been madly in love all her life with Ford Rutledge, who is engaged to her sister.  Ruby doesn’t want Ford to marry her sister.  She thinks her cold-hearted sister is very wrong for Ford.  So she decides to convince him, putting him in a compromising position, hence sending Ruby to finishing school.

While at the finishing school, Ruby discovers her singing voice and decides she wants to be a vaudeville singer.  Ruby builds fans including the King of New York who becomes obsessed with Ruby.  This is also where Ruby meets Ford again and finds her love for him still exists.

The characters are well developed and their personalities came through strong.  As I was reading, I felt invested in the characters’ lives and was cheering for them.  At almost 300 pages, I thought there was more to tell.  I wanted more of Ruby, Ford, Bessie and the other Vaudeville performers.  This book was well worth my time and it will be well worth your time.  Pick it up today.

Book Description:
On a Mississippi Plantation, Ruby Mae Sutton throws herself into the arms of the only man she has ever loved, Ford Rutledge.  At fifteen years old, she has given her heart away and is not ashamed to brazenly declare her love to the twenty-five-year-old man, who is also the fiancé of her sister.

But Ford has no intention of taking advantage of the blond beauty, even though her reckless behavior causes his engagement to be broken.  Ruby is sent off in disgrace to a boarding school in Connecticut, where she remains for the next three years.

Once in Connecticut, Ruby discovers her singing voice and decides to leave after graduation for the bright lights of New York and the vaudeville stage.  Ford also decides to make his home in New York and suddenly finds himself face-to-face with Ruby Sutton, the very grown and very beautiful rising star of the vaudeville stage.

As Ruby’s star ascends, she makes a huge conquest with the King of Manhattan: William Parker.  King Parker begins to take an interest in Ruby’s career, and more importantly Ruby herself, as Ford finally realizes he is in love with her.

King finances a tour to Europe as his interest in Ruby takes a turn toward the more obsessive.  Ruby finds herself torn between her true love for Ford and the obligation she owes King.  She must tread carefully between the two men, and the brutal murder of someone they all know causes everyone to wonder who had the motive.

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Murder at The Dollhouse

30039173The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis is such a fascinating story!  This is a story about Rose Lewin who in 2016 moved into the Barbizon Hotel in New York City with her newly divorced boyfriend and Darby McLaughlin who in 1952, moved from Ohio into the hotel to attend classes at the Katherine Gibbs secretarial school.

Barbizon Hotel had a long history as a safe and secure place for young women who came to New York City to study, look for a job or look for a husband.  Over the years it eventually was turned into condos.

Rose, a former network reporter takes a job that is a step down so she can be with her boyfriend.  As she is leaving the building, she meets an unfriendly elderly resident in the elevator.  She finds out that a few of the long-term tenants of the former hotel are living on the fourth floor.  She learns that the unfriendly woman was involved in an accidental death that took place back in the 50’s.

As Rose starts to investigate the accident from the 1950’s, we learn about Darby’s life at the Barbizon Hotel where she wasn’t treated nicely by the women on her floor and how she becomes friends with the hotel’s maid named Esme.  Esme introduces Darby to the darker side of New York City.

The story switches back and forth between Darby’s story from the 1950’s and Rose in 2016.  It shows how their lives progress and eventually intertwine.  I remember reading about rooming houses in New York where women lives with a housemother.  The Barbizon hosted famous women like Sylvia Plath, Liza Minelli, Candace Bergen and Joan Crawford.

I loved this book and found it so fascinating.  It was hard to put it down.  Fiona does a great job pulling the reader into the lives of the women at Barbizon Hotel.

I was able to read this book through the First to Read Program from Penguin Random House.

Book Description:
Fiona Davis’s stunning debut novel pulls readers into the lush world of New York City’s glamorous Barbizon Hotel for Women, where a generation of aspiring models, secretaries, and editors lived side-by-side while attempting to claw their way to fairy-tale success in the 1950’s, and where a present-day journalist becomes consumed with uncovering a dark secret buried deep within the Barbizon’s glitzy past.

 When she arrives at the famed Barbizon Hotel in 1952, secretarial school enrollment in hand, Darby McLaughlin is everything her modeling agency hall mates aren’t: plain, self-conscious, homesick, and utterly convinced she doesn’t belong—a notion the models do nothing to disabuse. Yet when Darby befriends Esme, a Barbizon maid, she’s introduced to an entirely new side of New York City: seedy downtown jazz clubs where the music is as addictive as the heroin that’s used there, the startling sounds of bebop, and even the possibility of romance.

Over half a century later, the Barbizon’s gone condo and most of its long-ago guests are forgotten. But rumors of Darby’s involvement in a deadly skirmish with a hotel maid back in 1952 haunt the halls of the building as surely as the melancholy music that floats from the elderly woman’s rent-controlled apartment. It’s a combination too intoxicating for journalist Rose Lewin, Darby’s upstairs neighbor, to resist—not to mention the perfect distraction from her own imploding personal life. Yet as Rose’s obsession deepens, the ethics of her investigation become increasingly murky, and neither woman will remain unchanged when the shocking truth is finally revealed.

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Sri Lanka tea plantations are a fascinating topic

25237718It’s always enjoyable to read a good historical literature, especially when it’s set in a location I know nothing about.  That is one of the great things about The Tea Planter’s Wife by Dinah Jeffries.

The story starts in 1925 as 19-year-old Gwendoline meets Laurence Hooper and quickly marries him.  She sails to Ceylon to join Laurence at his tea plantation.  Life on the plantation has a big racial divide between the British Colonists who own the plantations and the workers who are Indian Tamils and the Sinhalese.

The residents of the Hooper tea plantation are very interesting.  We meet Nick MacGregor, the plantation manager who treats the workers like objects and not human beings.  Gwen doesn’t understand why Nick treats the workers this way.  She believes the workers deserve a better life and wants to give them better health care, better living conditions and better nutrition.  Nick doesn’t like Gwen butting into his business when she tries to befriend the workers.

There is Laurence’s sister Verity.  This woman is very messed up and jealous of any female who is more important to Laurence than she is.  Verity has an aversion to working and acts like Laurence needs to support her.  She’s a spoiled little brat who I wanted to just go away.  I think I even said “go away, go away, go away” when Verity yet again moves into the plantation house.

Then there is ex-mistress Christina Bradshaw who blatantly flirts with Laurence right in front of Gwen.  Christina and Laurence do business together but Christina wants more.  Another character I wanted to go away and leave Laurence and Gwen alone.

The Tea Plantation’s Wife highlights a very volatile time in history and Jeffries does a great job bringing the era to life.  There are also lots of secrets in this family that are hidden for many years and slowly come to light.  Because of this story, I have researched more information about Ceylon and about tea plantations in Sri Lanka. This is definitely well worth the read.  I was able to read this book through the First to Read program with Penguin Random House.

Book Description:
#1 International bestselling novel set in 1920’s Ceylon, about a young Englishwoman who marries a charming tea plantation owner and widower, only to discover he’s keeping terrible secrets about his past, including what happened to his first wife, that lead to devastating consequences

Nineteen-year-old Gwendolyn Hooper is newly married to a rich and charming widower, eager to join him on his tea plantation, determined to be the perfect wife and mother. But life in Ceylon is not what Gwen expected.

The plantation workers are resentful, the neighbours treacherous, and there are clues to the past – a dusty trunk of dresses, an overgrown gravestone in the grounds – that her husband refuses to discuss.

Just as Gwen finds her feet, disaster strikes. She faces a terrible choice, hiding the truth from almost everyone, but a secret this big can’t stay buried forever…

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Take me to the South of France

25546135I’ve always had a fascination with Europe.  Living in an ancient house in a small village in the south of France sounds like heaven.  I don’t speak the language but I don’t care, I would live there anyway.  In The Promise of Provence by Patricia Sands, I get to live in the south of France through Katherine, a 55-year-old woman who need to escape after finding a note from her husband asking for a divorce instead of an anniversary card.

Katherine decides to get away so she takes part in a house swap that takes her from Toronto to south of France.  For two weeks she enjoys mixing with the locals and immersing herself in the French culture where she makes friends with the neighbors.  France is such a pull, that Katherine goes back for a longer stay.

This book took me away to a beautiful part of the world and made me want to immediately participate in a home swap so I can live for a little while in Provence.   The thought of living in a chateau, riding a bicycle down to the town square to purchase local wares, sounds like heaven.  Sands does such a great job with descriptions I was right there next to Katherine living in the south of France.  This was so worth my time and I can’t wait to read the other two books in the trilogy so I can spend more time in the south of France.

Book Description:

On the evening of her twenty-second wedding anniversary, Katherine Price can’t wait to celebrate. But instead of receiving an anniversary card from her husband, she finds a note asking for a divorce.

Fifty-five and suddenly alone, Katherine begins the daunting task of starting over. She has her friends, her aging mother, and her career to occupy her, but the future seems to hold little promise—until, after a winter of heartbreak, Katherine is persuaded to try a home exchange holiday in the South of France.

In Provence, bright fields of flowers bloom below medieval hilltop villages with winding cobblestone streets. Charmed by the picturesque countryside, the breathtaking Côte d’Azur, and the enchantment-filled boulevards of Paris, Katherine feels life opening up once again. Lavender perfumes the air, and chance encounters hint at romance and passion. But memories of heartbreak and betrayal linger—and her former life waits for her back home. Can she find the courage to begin again?

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Amy Snow shows anyone can have strength and courage

24993261I always enjoy stories that take me back in time with a glimpse of what it could possibly have been like in the 1800’s, 1700’s and further.  This time Tracy Rees takes us back to England from 1831 to 1848 with the story of Amy Snow.  As a baby Amy was discarded in a snow drift to die alone.  Luckily rambunctious 8-year-old Aurelia Vennaway hears her cries and insists they must keep Amy, much to her mother’s disapproval.

Aurelia is a great role model for Amy.  Treating her like a little sister, letting Amy spend lots of time in her room and treating her different than the other servants.  Aurelia’s parents, especially her Mom, treat Amy horribly.  Even the servants treat Amy differently since she receives special attention from Aurelia.  As the girls grow older, Aurelia is diagnosed with a debilitating illness that she won’t survive.  So Aurelia leaves on a trip before Lady Vennaway can marry her off to a man she doesn’t love.

Once back from her trip, she goes downhill fast.  After the reading of Aurelia’s will, leaving Amy with just 10 pounds, Aurelia’s parents barely give Amy time to pack before she is booted from Hatville Court.  Amy immediately sets off on a scavenger hunt that Aurelia has set up for her.  This sets in motion a trip where Amy will find out what kind of woman she can become and how to find her own way to a happy future.

This is Rees’ debut novel and she does a great job of bringing to life Amy Snow as we watch her stumble along trying to figure out what Aurelia wants her to know.  Sometimes she is scared, sometimes frustrated and there are moments that are funny as she struggles with this world outside of Hatville Court.

If you are a fan of historical fiction, you might like this one.  Yes, there are times you want to smack Amy on the back of the head, but she is a very naïve young woman who is traveling on her own for the first time.  I really enjoyed Amy and was cheering her on, hoping she would end up with a happy life on her own without Aurelia to guide and support her.  There are some revelations along the way that made me understand why certain characters reacted at the beginning.

Book Description:

Left to perish on a bank of snow as a baby, Amy has never known love, never known family.  Reluctantly given shelter at nearby Hatville Court, she is despised by the masters and servants alike.  The beautiful Hatville heiress, Aurelia Vennaway, is Amy’s only advocate – she becomes the light of Amy’s life, and the centre of her existence.  So when Aurelia dies young, Amy’s world collapses. But Aurelia leaves Amy with one last gift.  A bundle of letters with a coded key. A treasure hunt that only Amy can unlock.  A life-changing secret awaits… if only she can reach it.

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