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July 27, 2020

4 Books for Fans of Women's Fiction

by Susan Roberts


Women's fiction is an umbrella term for women-centered books.  Some of the books that I've reviewed are very different but all fit under the umbrella.
Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

The Bitter and Sweet of Cherry Season by Molly Fader

The Bitter and Sweet of Cherry Season
June 2020; Graydon House; 978-1525804557
audio, ebook, print (320 pages); women's fiction
“It was surprising how sharp happiness was. Bitter and sweet all at once.”

I decided to buy this book when I saw that it was set in Michigan.  Once I started, I realized that the book was so much more than the setting - it was a well-written family story about three generations of women and the secrets that they kept.  The story is told alternately by the three women and their secrets unfold gradually until the big secret near the end that threatens to destroy all that they've built.

Hope is on the run with her ten-year-old daughter, Tink.  They have nowhere to hide until Hope remembers her estranged aunt's farm in Michigan.  She goes with no idea of whether she'll find shelter there but she is desperate to keep her daughter safe.  Her aunt Peg comes to the door, rifle in hand to see who has shown up at her isolated farmhouse after dark.  When she finds out who it is, she invites Hope and Tink into the house and is totally shocked to see Hope's black and blue face from a recent beating.  She invites them to stay for a few days which soon becomes longer as they develop a relationship with each other.

Hope is in her late 20s.  She's spent much of her previous life taking care of her mother as her health deteriorated.  She tried to be a good mother to Tink but after her mother died, she got more depressed until she met a man who made her feel better about herself.  The man was anything but good to her and she and her daughter fled into the night to get away from him.  Hope needs to learn to love herself and to quit blaming herself for things in her past.  Tink is 10 years old and doesn't have a lot of friends in school.  She is a quiet solitaire child who was negatively affected by her mother's depression and her grandmother's death.  When she arrives at the farm with her mother, she hasn't spoken in several weeks due to trauma.  Peg is Hope's aunt and is the owner of Orchard House, the family farm in Michigan.  Hope's mom had fled the farm at a very young age because she hated the life there with their strict parents and had never returned.  Peg is an unlikable grouchy woman who appears to have no friends and not much of a life beyond the farm and the cherry crop.  But is everything and everyone what they appear to be in the beginning?  As the secrets are revealed, the women begin to grow closer until the final big secret comes to light.  Can Peg and Hope and Tink become a real family or will the secrets that they keep from each other stop them from learning to accept each other?

This is my first book by this author and after reading this, I plan to look up some of her older books.  I enjoy reading about strong women - which all three of these women are even though they may not realize how strong they really are.  I loved the relationship that developed between them and I enjoyed seeing Hope start to let down her barriers and begin to accept other people.  I was thrilled to see Tink begin to accept life and become a fun little girl and to see Peg learn to accept her past mistakes...but will the changes stay positive or will they all fall back into their old ways?  The mistakes of the past are never far behind, and soon the women find themselves fighting harder than ever for their family roots and for each other.

 

The Spa at Lavender Lane by Phyllis Melhado

The Spa at Lavender Lane
May 2020; Black Rose Writing; 978-1684334643
ebook, print (249 pages); women's fiction
"From behind the gilded two-way mirror in her elegant atelier office, Nadia Demidova could monitor everything going on in the sunny reception salon below.  Spying on customers was a questionable tactic, she knew full well, but it had proved to be an extremely useful one, nonetheless.  She had learned early on during her twenty-five year reign as mistress of Lavender Lane, one of the world's most exclusive spas, that the difficult guests would reveal themselves practically the moment they arrived."
(p 1)

This debut novel is a fun book to read.  Just the descriptions of the treatments that the women get at Lavender Lane make you feel more relaxed but also jealous that you can't afford to get the same treatment as these women do at $1,000 dollars a day.  Still, it's fun to read and dream about.

The Spa claims “rest, relaxation, and the rejuvenation of mind, body and spirit” and women sign up for 10-day sessions to help them feel better about themselves.  The new group checking in as the novel begins are very different from each other: a burned-out Fifth Avenue retail executive...a striking former model and Chicago socialite... an overweight Texas housewife on the brink of her second divorce and her beautiful, teenage daughter...and a CEO who, unhappy with recent plastic surgery, is secluded in her room.  Will their ten days at the spa make them feel better about themselves and love their lives again?  Will they remain critical of each other or will any friendships be formed?

My favorite character was Charlotte, an overweight woman in the midst of a divorce from her husband.  She has checked into the spa with her teenage daughter who is a difficult teenager and almost anorexic so that she can become a model.  Charlotte was hoping that the spa would help them re-connect with each other but it appears to be driving them further apart.  Charlotte eats the 'rabbit food' at her meals but has a supply of candy bars in her room to help her over the stress.

This is a fun book to read with just the right amount of bitchiness and friendship wrapped together.  It would be a great book to read on your next beach trip.


Lost in Oaxaca by Jessica Winters Mireles

Lost in Oaxaca
April 2020; She Writes Press; 978-1631528804
ebook, print (328 pages); romance
This debut novel takes place in Mexico - specifically in the rugged mountain terrain of Oaxaca.  What started out as a traditional romance novel ended up being so much more.  I learned about the language of the area, some of the customs, and the lifestyle of the people who live here.

Camille is on a quest to find her protégé and bring her home for her concert that will pave the way for her to launch her career as a concert pianist.  Young Graciela had fled to Oaxaca to help her sick mother so Camille headed there to find her.  Camille had been studying to be a pianist until an accident caused damage to her hand and ended her career.  She now taught piano lessons and Graciela was her one hope of feeling like a winner again.  Camille is totally out of her comfort zone on the bus trip to Oaxaca and when the bus is in an accident and she loses her passport and money, she is in over her head.  She's befriended by a local man who takes her to his village so she can decide what to do next.  She is definitely attracted to him but he isn't happy with her plan to take her student home and knows that it's more to help her feel like a success than it is for Graciela.

This is a story of self-discovery, love, and forgiveness with romance sprinkled in.  It touches on issues like immigration and the life of undocumented workers in the US.  I learned a lot about the people and the culture in this part of Mexico and found this book to be both entertaining as well as educational.  I highly recommend this book!

Buy Lost in Oaxaca at Amazon

Claire, Wading Into the Danube By Night by Jeffrey Condran

Claire Wading into the Danube by Night
March 2020; Southeast Missouri State Univ Press
978-1732039940; print (192 pages); short stories
 
Author of the award-winning Prague Summer returns with a new story collection that explores American lives both at home and abroad in the age of anxiety—a world gone sour with regret, where only the small intimacies that sometimes blossom between people offer any kind of hope or possibility for redemption. In the title story, a seemingly idyllic European vacation ends abruptly when a woman goes missing, leaving her lover to come to terms with the disappointingly minor role he’s played in her life. In “Salt of the Earth,” the story of a Manhattan restaurant is told through the lives of its employees, reminding us that turmoil can be assuaged one savory bite at a time and that some spaces, through the time we spend there, can become sacred. Jeffrey Condran’s Claire, Wading Into the Danube By Night is an intense and sophisticated collection of stories in which characters travel the world in search of truths that aren’t always comfortable, and companionship.

My Comments: I don't read many short stories but I'm glad that I made an exception with this book of stories.  These are multi-layered stories that are interesting and well written but also make you think about finding hope and redemption in life.

My favorite stories in this collection were: Gepetto’s Workshop and 1983.


Susan Roberts lives in North Carolina when she isn't traveling. She and her husband enjoy traveling, gardening and spending time with their family and friends. She reads almost anything (and the piles of books in her house prove that) but her favorite genres are Southern fiction, women's fiction, and thrillers. Susan is a top 1% Goodreads Reviewer. You can connect with Susan on FacebookGoodreads, or Twitter.


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2 comments:

  1. Keep up the good work
    https://aab-edu.net/

    ReplyDelete
  2. a wonderful collection of books and reviews. glad you enjoyed them all
    sherry @ fundinmental

    ReplyDelete

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