Finding Dorothy by Elizabeth Letts

Finding Dorothy is the interweaving of L. Frank Baum, writer of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz series, his wife Maud who sees the fruition of his work to the screen, and the behind the scenes making of the movie, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in the late 1930’s. The story also includes the terrible treatment of Judy Garland during the making of the movie from both the studio heads, director and sadly her own mother Ethel. It delves into how the famous song “Over the Rainbow” was almost cut from the movie. But most important who Dorothy is to the writer, his wife, and to Judy Garland.

This historical novel well researched by author Elizabeth Letts begins with a young Maud running through a neighbor’s yard and being terribly frightened by the scarecrow positioned on a post. This is an example of what I began calling little “Easter eggs” of scenes from the actual movie and how they came to fruition from the Baum’s own lives. The story continues with Maud and Frank meeting and falling in love, Frank an actor with an incredible imagination, and Maud a woman’s rights advocate, realist and the household financier.

During the filming of the movie itself, Maud decides to oversee its making to make sure it stays true to Frank’s book. She soon becomes Judy Garland’s protector and secret keeper. She sees the abuse of Garland from giving her diet pills as to not gain any weight because her costume is too tight as it is, to the mistreatment Garland endured from some of the men and even her mother who either agreed with them, or looked the other way.

This book will be enjoyed by anyone who has read the book series, or ever seen the movie. It gives insight into how the characters were developed and even where some of the infamous lines in the movie came from. Unfortunately it also is perhaps the introduction to a drug addiction which plagued Judy Garland her whole life and was the start of her great sense of insecurity. It delves into the love of Frank and Maud Baum, their family, their losses and their highs, but it is especially about the woman whose strength enabled the story to be told in both book and movie form. I highly recommend Finding Dorothy.
Thank you #NetGalley #Ballantine Books for the advanced copy. Finding Dorothy will be out on February 12.

Christmas Caramel Murder by Joanne Fluke

Having just read Fluke’s most recent book, Christmas Cake Murder, and after having had to review some very intense, sometimes depressing books, I decided to look on my own shelf for something light.

Christmas Caramel Murder did not disappoint. Although it was Fluke’s 2017 Christmas book, it was the quick, cozy mystery a book reviewer sometimes needs.

Hannah Swensen, owner of Lake Eden’s cookie store, The Cookie Jar, must try of clear her partner Lisa of a murder in which Lisa’s husband is a suspect himself.

In the meantime, The Lake Eden players are presenting A Christmas Carol at the community theater while Hannah herself is being visited at night by her own ghost.

With so many suspects, I must say it took me much longer to figure this one out!

My only disappointment was in the recipes at the end of each chapter. Usually I enjoy them and have even tried a few, but these seemed a bit more difficult than her average recipe.

Again, just your sweet, cozy read for a rainy day or when your brain is too filled to delve too deep!
I do enjoy the Hannah Swensen series by Joanne Fluke.

Kitchen Yarns: Notes on Life, Love and Food by Ann Hood

Author Ann Hood has lived quite a life. And her new book of essays Kitchen Yarns: Notes on Life, Love and Food is that proof.

During her life and career she has endured heartache, joy and love. She honestly writes about her sadness and depression, her time as an airline stewardess, her marriages and the deaths of her daughter and her brother. It seems she has had not just one life, but many. But she mostly writes about how those memories intertwine with her memories of food and how food played an integral part in her family, and still does. How it soothed her sadness or made her smile at a remembrance.

Her recipes invoke memories, some happy, such as her son Sam’s first foray into creative cooking by making Sam’s Potatoes at the age of five, to her late mother’s gravy and meatballs which as child Ann would dunk bread in and eat as her after school snack. Others are to entice a memory such as Grace’s Cheesy Potatoes a dish her daughter, who passed away suddenly at the age of five loved. I especially enjoyed the visual of her entire family, and extended family, renting a beach house and the debate over Tomato Pie.

A wonderful heartwarming book of essays which shows how food can invoke joy, sadness or even how just seeing a vegetable can bring you back to your childhood. It also shows Ann’s resilience and strength and her honesty about her life. There are some recipes I will take and place in my own recipe box and will remember Ann with a smile as I make them.

And if Ms. Hood ever reads this review, I for one have written September 24 into my calendar with a note which says Pasta with Butter and Parm.

One Fatal Mistake by Tom Hunt

One Fatal Mistake begins with a murder. But Joshua Mayo who is 18 and heading off to a great college, something he has spent his whole life trying to obtain has made one mistake, a fatal one.

His mother Karen and her ex-husband Teddy, Joshua’s father, will stop at nothing to make sure their son’s dreams come true. But can one fatal mistake lead to another and to another? Is it true what goes around comes around?

As Karen tries to assist Joshua in figuring out how to handle the situation, they come across a couple who themselves have made a fatal mistake in their lives. Is Karma real? And what happens when Karma’s collide?

This fast paced, heart racing story will keep you guessing throughout the book. I give One Fatal Mistake five stars for the anxiety I endured throughout the novel alone.

Thank you Berkley Publishing and Random House for the advanced copy. One Fatal Mistake will be out on February 5.

I Owe You One by Sophie Kinsella

Let me first say although I had heard of author Sophie Kinsella, I had never read one of her books. But I am here to tell you better late than never!

I Owe You One is the charming, funny story of Fixie Farr the “fixer” of all her family’s problems. Family is very important to Fixie and more so since her dad died. She is everyone’s caretaker.

The book begins as Fixie is in a coffee shop and saves the computer of Sebastian, the very handsome owner of an investment firm from serious damage. He is so appreciative that he writes her out an IOU to be used if she ever needs anything.

On the family front, Fixie’s family owns a cooking store named Farrs. After their dad’s passing their mom took over the store, but due to a health scare she decides to go on an extended vacation and leaves the three children Fixie, Jake and Nicole, along with their Uncle to run things. They all seem to have different ideas as to the future of the store. And their personalities are oil and vinegar…and Nicole…oh my goodness…the dialogue had me laughing out loud!

To add to the confusion, Fixie’s old crush Ryan returns from the United States, jobless and fixing to fix his sights on Fixie…

Add the IOU and the very dashing Sebastian and chaos ensues. Lessons are learned, especially by Fixie whose main purpose in life had always been just to make her family proud.

I Owe You One is a sweet story with snappy dialogue. I didn’t want the book to end! It was such a happy, very humorous story!

And rest assured I have already ordered a few more Sophie Kinsella books!

Thank you to #NetGalley #Random House #The Dial Press #Sophie Kinsella for the advanced copy. I Owe You One will be out On February 5.

The Witch Elm by Tana French

The Witch Elm is about a man named Toby who lives in Ireland. He is a carefree, lucky in life man who has never really had a care in the world. He has a great job, beautiful girlfriend, terrific friends and a loving family and extended family.

Until one night when he is awoken by a robbery and is almost beaten to death. While recuperating, he finds out his beloved Uncle Hugo who lives in the house where he had spent every summer as a child, is dying. Toby goes back to Ivy House to both take care of his uncle during his last days, as well as to try and recuperate from his own injuries.

While there a skull is unearthed in the garden of Ivy House and thus begins Toby’s quest to remember his past and all that could entail. He begins to question if his life had really been so carefree and lucky, if people in his life are trying to protect or hurt him and now due to his injuries what is he and what could he really be capable of.

Although The Witch Elm (in book form) is quite daunting at over 500 pages, more like a tome than a book, it was well worth the cumbersome read.

 

Adele by Leila Slimani

Adele: A Novel is the story of a woman who seems to have it all. She is a working journalist, she’s married to a doctor, she has a son and she has more money than she needs. But Adele is not happy. She has a problem. A big problem. A problem which could tear the life she has built apart. Adele loves sex, but not so much with her husband. Adele is obsessed with extra marital sex and affairs. All unbeknownst to her husband.

But as you continue to read you start to wonder if it is really about the sex or are there underlying issues which like an addiction, makes her crave with need, but afterwards feel guilty and dead.

The story follows her journey as she begins to feel tremendous guilt for what she has been doing, yet unable to stop herself begins to make mistakes…perhaps unconsciously? in the hopes of getting caught? One wonders.

The book is both sexually charged and extremely sad as your heart races and you feel Adele’s confusion and guilt and anxiety. There is a bit of embarrassment as you, the reader, are a fly on the wall and can almost feel and see the choices and sometimes mistake she makes.

Leila Slimani is also the author of The Perfect Nanny which was a New York Times Bestseller in 2018.

Thank you #NetGalley #Penguin Books for the advanced copy. Adele will be out on January 15.