A fun-filled tale of new beginnings, sudden endings and the lighter side of the daily grind.
After a professional and personal meltdown in Orange County, Louisa “Lulu” Hallstrom packs her things and returns home to Seattle. With her $80,000-a-year job firmly in the rearview, Louisa takes the first job available—an entry-level admin position working for a lazy, mentally unbalanced boss. In desperate need of an apartment, Louisa hooks up with an old college friend who has morphed into a slovenly, militant environmentalist with a horrifying lack of domestic skills and hygiene. Louisa, her love life in similar shambles, finds herself at the mercy of online dating and its resulting grotesqueries. Her bad luck is compounded when she finds the body of a co-worker and becomes a suspect, a misfortune that’s surpassed by another concern: She might be the next victim. The engaging, unwitting Louisa helps first-time author Reinke successfully capture the fresh style of a light, well-paced mystery, impressively rendered with interesting, multidimensional characters. Reinke’s humorous, witty voice is accessorized by easygoing and accessible prose. Despite a few imperfections—slightly contrived dialogue, for example—Reinke wisely refrains from getting too fancy with inorganic plot twists; instead, she simply lets the story speak for itself. Louisa is a funny, endearing, self-deprecating and, above all, relatable heroine, whom just about every woman can relate to as she navigates a turbulent life, with a few laughs along the way. Hopefully we’ll be hearing more soon from Reinke and Louisa.
A refreshing, humorous read that strikes a winning balance between chick lit and light mystery.
Gray’s (A Delightful Arrangement, 2011, etc.) young-adult novel offers a unique twist on a classic.
Lizzie Egmont has her entire life planned out. A junior at the Jane Austen Academy, she plans to become managing editor of the school’s paper, graduate at the top of her class and receive an acceptance letter from Georgetown University—until her school goes coed, that is. When the first male student steps on campus, Lizzie’s dream scuttles off trajectory. Her classmates succumb to boisterous flirtations with the opposite sex, but Lizzie sees trouble. The academy has been sold and the owner’s identity carefully concealed by the new trustees and headmistress. When Lizzie overhears a conversation about plans to change the name of the school, she leaps into action. In the process, she discovers that the truth may cost her friendships and love. As expected from a “modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice,” the book retains the essence of its original cast: Lizzie is bold and beautiful beyond her own good; her love interest, Dante, is stunningly attractive and irresistibly brooding. Fans of Bingley, Jane and Wickham will not be disappointed since the author has taken great care to not only preserve their essences, but also relay them as believable, lovable and flawed teenagers. Dialogue is contemporary, hilarious and honest to Austen’s original characters—just reincarnated in 21st century California. Action and exposition fiercely move readers through a landscape of wealth and ambition, where literature comes to life as readers face contemporary YA issues of conformity, loyalty and identity. Despite its brevity, the novel presents a world just as resonating as those created in some novels triple the size.
Debut author Colleary chronicles 40 weeks of pregnancy in this irreverent account.
Sometimes sweet, sometimes sassy, screenwriter and blogger Colleary tells all with witty sarcasm and edgy, laugh-out-loud humor. She begins with conception and the results of a home pregnancy test before careening through laments of sleepless nights, mood swings, weight gain and nausea with snappy but snide remarks most pregnant women think but few express. Colleary’s book is a fun, literary romp for any woman who has experienced “The First Trimester Through Hell” and lived to read the tale. The former homecoming queen and INXS backup dancer, now the pregnant mommy of one, alternates between admitted snobbery (“I saw stay-at-home moms as the kind of women who sat in the fifth pew of fill-in-the-blank church, smiling with bland acquiescence, who thought Danielle Steele novels were literature”) and a self-deprecating appraisal of her blossoming physique (“Some days even my earlobes feel fat”). Each chapter notes the gestation time in weeks and days, recounted in diary style, and draws readers into one delicious admission after another. Colleary professes a jealousy for the skinny, overachieving Gwyneth Paltrow and a tendency toward fantasies involving George Clooney. She regales with funny tales of an overbearing lactation nurse screeching about the importance of colostrum and a would-be caregiver whose secret life, the author fears, will eventually be revealed on a daytime talk show. Colleary’s humor and warmth flow seamlessly from conception to birth in this well-written, snappy read.
A hysterical account of pregnancy that will resonate with readers who’ve been through it before.
Detailing how family dynamics, cultural diversity and past relationships shape who we are, debut novelist Hiatt subtly explores the cavern between a successful life and a meaningful one.
Kate, a young idealistic American, and Ryoki, a wealthy Japanese businessman—both divorced—pair up professionally when Ryoki needs an assistant quickly and it just so happens that Kate’s teaching position falls through. (Readers learn later that their mutually caring families have a hand in the “coincidence.”) Their two families deeply respect each other with a long-standing business partnership and friendship, though neither Kate nor Ryoki know each other. Ryoki reluctantly accepts Kate into his office; he seriously doubts her capabilities and is concerned she'll negatively impact his big project and professional reputation. After all, he demands a grueling pace from his assistant, and the responsibilities are enormous. Kate quickly proves that what she lacks in training, she makes up for with brains, intuition and hard work. In the office, she mothers and nags Ryoki for being a workaholic, and her quirks and eccentricities annoy him. Eventually, Ryoki notices that he feels differently when Kate is away. Hiatt uses interesting metaphors and visual descriptions as the love story slowly boils below the surface, though occasionally those unique metaphors are distracting. Ryoki's thoughts—a surprising amount of self-doubt and hurt—linger under his suit, but like Ryoki, we're never quite sure of Kate's thoughts. The reader and Ryoki want to know more about her, which keeps both pushing forward. He invites her to work for him in Brazil, arranging her quarters in a guest cottage outside his home. Kate wonders why he goes to such pains for a “temporary” assistant, and Ryoki wonders why himself. In Sao Paulo, they remain platonic and professional but as intimate as a couple can be without sex. Each secretly cherishes this escape from the life they had been living before—Ryoki especially—but in their tense, tender connection, he’s afraid to act on his emotions until another man threatens to swoop in and take Kate away from him.
An exceptional first effort that captures the harmony of two beating hearts.
A 20-year-old widow and her mother-in-law take a vacation to Ireland and find more than they ever expected.
Nine months have passed since the freak storm that killed Ben, the bedrock of two women’s lives: his wife, Brenna, and his mother, Anna. Deciding that a trip to Ireland—Anna’s ancestral home—is needed for their mental and physical well-being, the women head to Millway, in County Cork, to recover. As the two women ease into their vacation, they realize they are physically and emotionally needed in Ireland. Auntie Pat is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, which is progressing, and Bettie, her daughter, is stretched too thin trying to run the family B&B and care for her mother. Quickly establishing their intent to stay in Millway, both women find jobs and settle into the community. Brenna meets two men: Luke, a ladies’ man and all-around flirt, and Ryan, an elusive businessman from Cork, who says he’s only interested in being friends, even though his body language says otherwise. Both men will drastically influence Brenna’s life in ways she never imagined—and in ways only God could orchestrate. In this tightly written book filled with vivid Irish scenery and culture, characters are constructed so well that the reader might feel as if they’ve met before. Physical and spiritual encounters pull the reader into the story due to their surprisingly realistic nature, while characters grow and change seemingly because of God’s presence—or lack thereof—in their lives. Ruth skillfully and charmingly leads the reader through the winding paths of the human condition, tempered by divine guidance.