Aunt Nellie B by Dixiane Hallaj

Aunt Nellie B

by Dixiane Hallaj

Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Women’s Fiction

Five stars

 

Aunt Nellie B plunges us into the life of Charli as a girl, a young woman, and an old woman. Through the latticework of time Dixanne weaves Charli’s tale of discovery, adventure, trial, and family. As a child, Charli watches her mother and aunts battle a mysterious curse that destroys their marriages. Through her creative eavesdropping, the girl tries to discover how to break the curse for herself and ensure her happily ever after, chronicling her discoveries in her journal. As a young woman, Charli has failed to escape the curse for the first time. We watch her frightening flight from her prince and the inner and outer struggle to break free. Through these times she finds comfort in her childhood journals. As an old woman, she strives to hold together her connections to her family through her daily efforts and attachment to the journals of her childhood. She now strives to rescue her child and other family members from the curse. Is the curse real or a child’s imaginings? Does it matter?

Dixanne took on a very challenging method of storytelling for Aunt Nellie B and triumphed. This story could have so easily become lost in the confusion of when an event happened or how it fit in with other events, but Dixanne handled the complexities with mastery. Her separation of child voice, young woman voice, and old woman voice continued to be both separate and unified in the character speaking them. I could believe that young Charli wrote the diary and the voice of old Charli came out just as distinct as her older self. Instead of confusing me, the style increased my anticipation of what came next and in what timeline.

I loved the personal dynamics and relationship of the all of the characters in Dixanne’s story. She crossed social and cultural boundaries with fluid ease. Charli’s family felt like real, dynamic people, and the main character’s insights into their personalities gave them a lot of depth. When the author introduced a fantastic element of her story, the characters all expressed their doubts and disbeliefs. I found that delightful! Their little quirks such as switching to Spanish when discussing secrets, or fears that divided them, made them feel like a real family.

Dixanne has written a fascinating and thoroughly enjoyable story of personal tragedy, courage, and redemption.  I approve this title for Awesome Indies. http://awesomeindies.net

I received this book from the author for the purposes of an unbiased review.

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Restoration by Elaine D. Walsh

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Restoration

by Elaine D. Walsh

Genre: Women, Contemporary Fiction, Drama

Convicted serial killer Randall Wright’s crimes included more than murder. He also destroyed a family. But death by lethal injection is the worst punishment the state of Florida can give him, so Tess Olsen, one of the “other victims” can exact no retribution. Randall Wright didn’t kill Tess in the traditional sense, but he did kill her dreams, wreck her ability to connect to others, and destroy her family.  Why did her mother, Alish, fall in love with a murderer when she had a stable, happy family? Why did she leave them all for this monster? And why did she not see the evil he wrought on her daughter? How could he deceive Alish so, and how could she be so blind?

Tess, now an adult, still struggles with the pain of her broken family and smothered artistic spark. She lives a hollow life of temporary flings with men and a career of restoring artwork instead of creating her own. Will Randal Wright’s execution set her free from the fear that still strangles her? Can she find a real relationship with the chivalrous art critic, Ben, who pursues her heart and not her body? Will she ever be restored?

Elaine writes a gripping story of the far-reaching destruction that an evil person can wreak whether they live in freedom or not. She also explores the terrible layers of wrong in divorce and the different ways it affects the survivors. Tess’ sensitive nature is prostrated by the betrayal of her mother, plunging her into an existence of helplessness and misery. No other family member is tortured so much as Tess, but Randall Wright didn’t return their kindness with horrors either.

Though dark and brooding, the tale also zings with the energy of Tess’ hope for release and thirst for justice. She hopes for Randall’s death and for her mother’s eyes to be opened. Ben gives her hope for a bright future of love, though she wrestles with her confidence that she deserves such a life. The characters around her also begin to open her up and relieve her of some of her icy suffering as they show her kindness and care about her.

Restoration is a deep and varied tale that highlights the best of people and the worst. I thoroughly enjoyed Tess’ journey through her psyche and her wrestle with herself.

I approve this title for Awesome Indies. http://awesomeindies.net

I received this book from the author for the purposes of an unbiased review.

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Amazon Paperback

Barnes and Noble / Nook

Other ebooks at Smashwords

March by Sunni Overend

March

by Sunni Overend

Genre: Contemporary, Women

Apple March has fallen short of her dreams. Instead of designing clothes, she manages a boutique. Her reasons for leaving the Emmeline Gray Academy of Design are shrouded in mystery. Her friends and family urge her to rekindle her passion for design, but the Academy’s influence reaches deep into the design world of Melbourne. Apple’s friend Charlie Beauchamp seems to have some important connections. She met him when he discovered her broken down on the side of the road, and he fixed her car by clunking her engine with his croquet mallet. He seems like magic. He draws the fatherless girl into the cream of Melbourne society with his friendly open nature and seemingly miraculous ability to fix the broken. Will Apple find romance with Charlie, or anyone else? Will she overcome the secret tragedy of Emmeline Gray Academy and design once again?

Sunni has crafted an engaging tale of fashion and romance in Melbourne and beyond. Apple is a lovable character, if a bit timid, with plenty of supportive friends to help her. Sunni makes us feel for her and want her to succeed even though we can’t be completely certain if she did the horrible thing that got her ejected from Emmeline Gray Academy or not. The sense of mystery about the event made it feel more important and scandalous when it was revealed in the end.

All the men surrounding Apple (and hitting on her) were handsome but not all good. The romantic situations thrilled and the betrayals stung me just as they did Apple. Sunni’s descriptions of places and fashion made me love them too.  Once or twice the action flagged enough for me to wonder how things would pick up and go, but overall I couldn’t wait to see what would happen next for Apple and all her friends. March was an ideal read for a summer afternoon. (Go Northern Hemisphere!) I approve this title for Awesome Indies. http://awesomeindies.net

I received this book from the author for the purposes of unbiased review.

Buy on Amazon

Book extract: http://www.sunnioverend.com/files/extract.pdf

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17973433-march

Love and Other Subjects by Kathleen Shoop

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Love and Other Subjects

by Kathleen Shoop

Genre: Contemporary, Women’s

Five stars

Carolyn Jenkins is a new teacher, brimming with optimism and ready to save the world. Well, she’s at least ready to save her class full of kids from a life doomed to illiteracy and menial jobs. Life, however, turns out to be more complicated and dismal than her idealistic vision. The reality of an inner-city school and a broken system threatens to ruin her dreams. Her personal life isn’t doing so hot either. After breaking up with her long-time boyfriend, Alex, her BFF roommates Laura and Nina aren’t necessarily supportive. When she meets a mysterious older man named Jeep, Carolyn gains the courage to move forward with her life-changing plan. Over the school year, Carolyn learns the dirty truth about the school where she works, Klein the sadistic principal who is also her boss, and about Jeep’s crazy family. Can Carolyn push past all this imperfection to grasp happiness or will she lose everything she hoped for?

Carolyn was a character of radical highs and lows. Her optimism and quirky courage warred with her negativity and over-analasys of the faults in her life, others, and herself. It was kind of annoying at first and showed her extreme immaturity. Kathleen uses all the awful setbacks in Carolyn’s life to expose her immaturity, aggravate her moodiness, but also to bring out her strength and mature her. I liked Carolyn more and more through the book as I left behind her spoiled whininess and sympathized with her.

The other characters served well to help Carolyn suffer more, but they were also her strength. I liked the juxtaposition of the different personalities of Nina and Laura, who Carolyn also worked with, and their different perspectives on life. Jeep, the love interest, was a great elusive temptation and ideal in Carolyn’s life. I don’t think I could have thought of a crazier name for him, and pairing him with a brother-in-law named Ford was just hilarious.

This book entertained me and drew me through the story without boredom. The pacing was great and I loved all the subtle details of conversation and background. Thanks for the great read, Kathleen!

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Mark of the Loon by Molly Greene

Mark of the Loon

by Molly Greene

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Contemporary Fiction

Madison Boone is a real estate agent and house “flipper”  in Sonoma, California. In her hunger for the next house to renovate and resell for profit, she comes across the fascinating B estate. With the help of her best friend and lawyer, Genevieve Delacourt, Madison acquires the Blackburne estate. It seems she has taken it right from under the noses of a mysterious buyer who has sinister motives. What kind of amazing  payout could cause such aggressive action from the other buyer? What mysteries are hidden in the quirky old home among all the memories and mementos left by the Blackburnes? Who is lurking around outside the house? Can Madison let herself open up to Gorgeous Cole Welles?

This mystery novel was the embodiment of everything you imagine when moving into a home. “What if there is more to this place than I thought?” It’s what you always think. You know you do! Every exciting flight of fancy is explored and this time there is something behind all the suspicions. We also get a healthy dose of romance for the main character and her friends.

Molly writes a rich story full of lush descriptions. Her characters are deep and chock full of relevant issues for women. She explores divorce, career priorities, living alone, bereavement, and other issues women face.

The only thing I didn’t love about the book was the sometimes excessive description, especially at the beginning of the book. All the descriptions were beautiful and gave me an exact picture of what was being described. But it felt like it interrupted the story on more than one occasion. This is really a personal preference though. I know that more than one of my friends would pinch me for saying that.

The style was a very natural, gradual one, with mysteries popping up here and there amidst regular life. Madison was an engaging character that I could really connect with. Her fears about being hurt by others and her drive to ignore her pain by covering it up with busyness really spoke to me. I also really liked the subtle insertion of hints of the paranormal without so much that it became a paranormal book. It added to the mystery and gave it a wider appeal.

Now I have to go and figure out what I can unlock with that mysterious key I found under my baseboards!

Buy on Amazon!

Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/mollygreene
Website/blog: http://www.molly-greene.com

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5561802.Molly_Greene

About the Author:

Molly Greene is an author, blogger and freelance writer with an extensive real estate background. Her debut novel, Mark of the Loon, is available on Amazon. Molly has renovated six homes over the years and is currently completing number seven, all the while plotting her next book and her next life adventure. Visit her blog at http://www. molly-greene.com and follow her on Twitter! https://twitter.com/#!/mollygreene

When Girlfriends Break Hearts by Savannah Page

When Girlfriends Break Hearts

by Savannah Page

Genre: Chick-lit, Women’s fiction, Contemporary Fiction

Life is sweet, her job is great, and her dreams are coming true until bitter betrayals descend on Sophie. Her relationship with her dreamy boyfriend Brandon explodes when he confesses to one of the worst misconducts a couple can face. Control-obsessed Sophie faces one of the biggest challenges of her life as her friendship is tested with her cherished circle of friends. Can she learn to forgive, reconcile, and carry on with her life?

When Savannah Page labels this book as “chick lit”, she is not kidding. If you have too much testosterone for stories including “feelings”, relationships, decorating, gardening, or girls nights with baking and chick movies, this book is not for you. The rest of us will love it!

Savannah’s characters are peppy and fun, and her plot is meandering but realistic. I felt like Sophie and her friends could be real people here in Seattle. I enjoyed Sophie’s personal growth from a woman who clung to her sense of control over her life, to maturity in understanding “letting go” of things for her good and the good of those she loves.

I did feel that the action of the book struggled after the climax. The descriptions turned to introspection, and skimped some on the dialogue and action. Many transitional scenes took away from the power of the message. The message held true, though, and brought some important lessons that everyone needs to know.

Savannah serves a warm, delicious serving of tangy life, drizzled with spicy drama, and topped with a sweet fluffy dollop of  sisterhood. Sophie would certainly have a bestselling menu item at “The Cup and the Cake” with that kind of entrée!

Website and Blog: http://www.savannahpage.com

Facebook: /SavannahPageAuthor  ( http://www.facebook.com/SavannahPageAuthor )

Twitter: Savannah_Page    ( http://twitter.com/Savannah_Page )

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5378484.Savannah_Page

Book Available (ebook) on Amazon ~paperback coming soon on Amazon~