PRETTY BABY meets MOMMY DEAREST, this coming of age drama jumps from Ryan as a young girl in the 70"s to the present where she is forced to confront her past and her mother's unsavory business deals. You can't choose your family and Ryan would not have chosen to have Fiona, who is known more for her sudden disappearances than her cuddly mothering skills. Ryan is such a pretty little girl- a grown up seductive face in a little girl body whose look at 10 years old was just what men wanted for ads and a movie. Now Ryan is an adult and a mom herself when she comes back to New York for a funeral after living a quiet life. She begins to remember the events that shaped her future and made her grow up way too fast and must confront her mother's role when a scandal and questionable photos come to light. Right away I thought of Brooke Shields as a real life model for Ryan - a child model and actor whose innocence was stripped when she was made to act and look older and seductive. Kiddie porn, stage moms and the power of childhood friends to save you all play out in this powerful and disturbing look at manipulation and innocence lost. 4 stars
Two sisters on the run after one gets involved with a powerful white man's son and commits a murder in self defense and the other finds herself with shattered dreams, pregnant and not married. Violet knows that these men will not rest until she is found and silenced permanently so she travels far changing her name and her past to protect herself and her sister. She doesn't know that the man after her is desperate and needs the big paycheck her being found offers to save his dying son in the hospital. Marigold had everything going for her until she found herself pregnant so to protect herself and her baby she marries a man she doesn't love while trying to hide her sister's whereabouts. Horrific conditions, KKK atrocities and no police intervention due to the color of their skin, this is a thrilling chase and a Civil Rights history lesson rolled into one. 4 stars
31 ordinary people who made major strides in the creation of this magnificent city - their stories along with background of what the city was like at the time provide insight with a broad timeline.
These are somewhat average people who you probably haven't heard about before and some of their contributions seemed insignificant at the time but they added to the progressive spirit and character of New York City. Most were immigrants or first generation Americans from artist's muses to politicians to criminals and their victims or those whose one voice stood out for justice amidst so many. Sam Roberts, as the obit writer for the NEW YORK TIMES provides an interesting history lesson that is a must for every resident of New York or those interested in New York as an example of how immigrants made this country what it is today. 3 1/2 stars
Just as she brought life into the mom of LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE, Sarah Miller adds depth to the steadfast mom in LITTLE WOMEN. We see Marmee in a new light struggling with her husband off at war with little money coming in and full responsibility for four young women at home. We could see her as a pitiful figure but Marmee is anything but, somehow managing to feed and clothe everyone and give whatever is left to those in greater need. She works tirelessly but we are also able to see her fears and her desire to make all her girl's dreams and ambitions come true. There is a quiet elegance to her character but more importantly, an iron will to go along with her big heart.
This is just what historical fiction mixed with the classics should be like. 4 stars
A road trip between a mostly absent father and his 10 year old son across America could be the last chance to bond or a complete disaster. Brendan is a filmmaker who won't be up for Father of the Year but he thinks he can make it up to Brenlyn by taking him on a cross country road trip using an outdated travel guide from the 30's. Stopping in iconic and less well known cities starts off as complete boredom for Brenlyn but will end as a coming of age adventure. The banter between father and son is wonderful and there are both funny and frightening situations. I had a difficult time with what seemed like a bit of rambling prose. There is a lot going on in this story - a flawed father looking for redemption and a son searching for a role model. 3 stars
Just like DAVID COPPERFIELD was the social commentary of its time, DEMON COPPERHEAD is its successor in every way. Instead of the slums of London we find ourself in the heart of Appalachia where everyone is a cousin or knows one of your cousins and the life expectancy is short and not at all sweet. Demon is born into a tough life that gets tougher when his teenage mom dies leaving him in the foster care system that basically is a front for child slave labor. There is a bright side when a caring art teacher sees great promise in his art and a coach sees football glory and a different path. It is a bumpy path that Demon sets out on filled with a little joy and a lot of sorrow thanks to the opiod epidemic that touches everyone. Even when you feel it is a lost cause you can't stop yourself from hoping that Demon will turn it around. Barbara Kingsolver's coming of age saga is guaranteed to shock and anger you but also open your eyes so that maybe we can be that person who holds out a hand instead of walking away. Readers of GLASS CASTLES, DOPESICK and HILLBILLY ELEGY will find so much to love. 4 1/2 stars
An achingly beautiful story of how a tragic event forever changes the lives of one family and like ripples on a pond, that of the family next door as well. The Wilf family are like most in this suburb - mom, dad and two teenage kids until a horrible car accident leaves them unmoored. Next door lives a lonely little boy who can only find peace and understanding by searching the night sky. These two families are joined in a myriad of ways - a signal fire alerting another to light a signal and so on. There are moments of great joy and great sorrow, quiet talks and loud arguments but with an undercurrent of calm searching for answers and redemption. My words fail to capture how perfect these little bits of stardust fit together to create this corner of the universe. This is one book you want to read slowly and savor the moments. 4 1/2 stars
A slim selection of short stories that include people in turmoil haunted by memories or by their own sense of failure. One is a young girl whose birthday is overshadowed by her little sister and gathers attention from someone less than perfect. Another is an elderly woman haunted by the death of her son and the neighbor boy she thinks is causing her pain. They left me feeling unsettled. 3 stars
A dystopian world where everyone has an ocular implant that tracks you and either rewards or punishes good and bad behavior with Descoin currency. Once ,a much younger Sonya was the poster girl for the Delegation but has since been locked away in a prison community for life. Her only chance to be let out comes in a dangerous mission to find a child who was taken from her parents and relocated to another family after the revolution. Does she trust those in power - no. Does she want to escape this life - yes and agrees to their terms. As she digs deeper into those in power now as well as those before and her own parent's involvement things get a bit murky. Not just a mash up of young adult thrillers like HUNGER GAMES and Roth's own DIVERGENT, this is a deep dive into politics, morality and a serious search for redemption in a messed up world.
Another unbelievable WWII story but with a different spin. This story involves German women caught up in the propaganda of war. Heim Hockland was one of several estates advertised as homes for unmarried mothers but really were breeding farms for the Reich making sure that the next generation had perfect Aryan bloodlines. Gundi is there because the baby's real father can't be named, Hilde is there as a true believer convinced that her SS boyfriend cares about her and Irma works there as a nurse wanting to believe that she is giving care to women who need it and sees it as a chance to start over. All three will learn the sad truth behind the plush furnishings but only two will see it for the madness it represents. This will appeal to readers of less well known stories of war especially from a German perspective. 4 stars
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