The Appeal by Janice Hallett

The Appeal by Janice Hallett is the most unique, cleverly written/told story I have ever read! It grips you from the first page, so much so you are tempted to read the last page! Don’t! It is so worth the satisfaction of going along for the ride.

Told in email and text form, The Appeal tells the story of a local English theatre group, The Fairway Players. Their last play has ended, and they are beginning the auditioning process for the new play. The group has been together so long, there are no real surprises as to who will get the leads, but there are a few new additions to the Players, a husband and wife just back from overseas. Director Martin Hayward announces he will not be able to participate in the next play due to the diagnosis of a brain tumor in his two-year-old granddaughter Poppy. He goes on to tell them there is an experimental drug in the United States which her doctor suggests looks promising, but it is very expensive and even though the Haywards have money, even they cannot afford what could be considered a miracle cure.

So, as a group they decide to take on the challenge of raising the money to assist the family, while rehearsing for the new performance. They not only seek donations but put on a fancy gala with all the proceeds going to a charity set up for Poppy. They also sell raffle tickets at extraordinary prices to be drawn during the show. T-shirts are made and email blasts go out pleading for money to help poor Poppy.

But there are a few members who question the authenticity of the charity, and even of Poppy’s illness. The talking, or rather emailing behind each other’s back is remarkable.

As the email and text chains are read, we begin to see the personalities of the group emerge. There is a needy, mousy woman who wants to be included in this clique so badly she would do anything to become friends with just about anybody. Hayward’s wife Helen, the star of the Fairway Players and always the lead is in some ways fragile, the newcomers, especially the wife, seem curious as to what is really going on.

Then, as everything begins to build, the questions, the rehearsals, the charity meetings, something tragic happens after the dress rehearsal. Someone dies.

As the lawyers sift through all the information which they have gathered, they begin to breakdown who would possibly want to kill and for what reasons. The suspect list is gathered and analyzed with different scenarios played out until they all agree on one.

Although the reveal is shocking, the story itself is filled with humor, backstabbing, plot twists and secrets. It also takes on social media in a mockingly, serious, helpful, yet harmful way. The moral? Sometimes using social media can be a killer!

My Wife is Missing by D.J. Palmer

My Wife is Missing is a story which takes you on an incredibly breathless journey as to what could have happened to a man’s family while they were on vacation in New York City. The story goes between the day they went missing to the days and months leading up to their disappearance.

Michael Hart takes his wife Natalie and their two small children on vacation to New York. Yes, Michael and Natalie have been having some problems lately, but he feels this could be a step in the right direction to getting back where they once were. But when he returns from getting take-out on their first day, he discovers them all gone, except for his son’s teddy bear which is in the hallway near their hotel room. All signs of them are wiped out, including their luggage. Panic stricken; Michael calls the police.

But as he begins to learn that his wife may have taken the children willingly and concocted this vacation to leave him, he can’t understand why she would do this…or maybe he can.

Natalie has taken the children and ran. She is afraid of Michael. She knows what he has done and what he is capable of doing. She is petrified of him. She is afraid he will kill them all. She has not slept in months worrying about what he will do. Because of the insomnia, her brain is fuzzy, and she seems to be having time lapses and become extremely paranoid. This is the right plan to keep them all safe. But she knows Michael will try and hunt them down and because of this she continues to panic.

As Michael, with help from an off-duty policeman, begin to get lucky and pursue Natalie, he hopes their life together will be able to be fixed. He wants the chance to explain why he did what he did. He knew it was a stupid risk, but they were not in a good place. Then someone was found dead who worked in Natalie’s office. That seems to have made things even worse.

As Michael gets closer to Natalie’s whereabouts, Natalie’s decisions become even more deranged. She begins to formulate a plan to make sure Michael can never do something like this again. A decision she may have to live with for the rest of her life!

My Wife is Missing is a suspenseful thriller which when all the pieces of the mystery come together makes for an explosive, powerful, surprising ending. Don’t always think you know everything about someone….

Thank you #NetGalley #St.Martin’sPress #D.J.Palmer #MyWifeisMissing for the advanced copy.

Fly Girl by Ann Hood

Author Ann Hood has had nothing short of an incredible adventurous and at times heartbreaking life. Fly Girl answers in part where her incredible imagination came from.

Even at the young age of six, Hood wanted to travel to places she had always dreamed about, and not just by her family’s station wagon. She wanted to go where the trains would take her, never thinking there would ever be any other mode of transportation. Until one day when she was told to look up and couldn’t believe her eyes.

Then this incredible mode of transportation was born, called the airplane. It fascinated and excited Hood. So, when she was in High School and told her guidance counselor that she wanted to be a flight attendant and a writer she was told to think more realistically.

But in 1978 as Ann was graduating from college and her parents were expecting her to become a teacher, Hood made a bold decision. She wanted to be a flight attendant and travel and write books. In her mind not only would she be able to do two things she loved, but she could get paid for them as well. So, while all her friends were entering workforces at schools and businesses, she was applying to airlines to become a flight attendant.

Unfortunately, it was not as easy as you would imagine getting hired into the airline industry. For every one hire there were thousands of applicants. There were many interviews and hoops a person had to go through. But when it finally happened for Hood, she chose to become a TWA flight attendant. And she was ready!

After the rigorous training the attendants endured, they were prepared, willing and able to fly the friendly skies. They are much more than the person one sees serving drinks and meals and putting on a show as to where the emergency exits are and what to do in case of a crisis.

Flight attendants are therapists, problem solvers, emergency handlers and sometimes even baby deliverers. All with a smile on their face and an I know how to handle this attitude. Thus begins the truly funny, interesting sometimes heartbreaking anecdotes which Hood witnessed throughout her years of flying.

From a passenger breastfeeding their cat, yes, read that again, to a man who took such a tantrum because they had run out of lasagna that the plane had to be met at the gate by police, or the man who flew pantless because he had a job interview and didn’t want to look wrinkled. We learn of her romances some of which began high in the sky. But for every funny story, there are some which were heartbreaking. When a man boarded the plane with red eyes from crying Hood consoled him as he told her he had just lost his brother. Hood had no idea in just a few short months she would be the one being consoled on a flight for the same reason.

Of course, as one would expect there was sexism not only by the passengers but also some men who worked in the industry. Some thought flight attendants were stupid, or just waiting to meet Mr. Right. Hood to this day corrects someone when they say stewardess. They are flight attendants.

But between flights to London, Cairo, Greece, the United States and beyond, Hood wrote when she could. On the plane, going to the plane on layovers. Even when she actually sold her first book she still continued to fly, loving the freedom of air travel so much. Something she still loves to this day.

Included in the memoir is an interesting retrospective of the history of stewards flying and how certain ways things are done came to be.

Hood’s memoir is wonderfully well-written, funny, sentimental with a glamorous flair of the time period in which she flew. She explains the reason she wrote the book was because her friends would always beg her to tell stories of when she flew and always seemed riveted when she told one. I can understand why.

Thank you #NetGalley #W.W.Norton&Company #AnnHood #FlyGirl for the advanced copy.

Misadventures in the Screen Trade by Alison Ripley Cubitt

Alison Ripley Cubitt has lived quite a full, brave life for her young age. She has had to overcome personal tragedies and sexism but has also been able to find love and succeeded in breaking her own personal glass ceiling.

At her first job as a receptionist with male bosses who don’t really give her due credit proves you really do have to start somewhere, but Alison takes this experience and moves forward accepting jobs along the way which take her hours of commuting to get to, enduring a long-distance romance and tolerating higher ups who feel they have only their own careers to worry about. But Alison endures.

Her time in Italy, where at a moment’s notice the banks decided to close down and she could not access her money and had to eat pizza for a month until she was able to get back into her account would have made some just go home. I don’t even think that crossed her mind, as it did I might say, to me…

She finally lands what she feels will be her dream job with the Disney Company. On her first travel assignment with them she must endure not only incredibly cold weather, difficult employees but a few public relation nightmares which would have many others give up, but Alison weathers all the storms, even with a boss who perhaps wishes she were not there. She came into the job which touts the happiest place on earth slogan with such high expectations, but unfortunately, she could see the writing on the wall.

But, instead of quitting, she picks herself up and pursues other creative avenues to continue with her career. And thus, she goes from a receptionist to many other jobs, to getting a degree and working for the BBC.

If that was not enough, she created an acclaimed documentary, and has written several books solo and with her now husband. The stories within the book are an example of a determined woman who looks at life as a series of challenges and rather than feel defeated, she learns and grows and succeeds.

Thank you #Alison Ripley Cubitt for sending me a copy of your book! I can’t wait to see where life takes you next!

Book Lovers by Emily Henry

Emily Henry, author of Beach Read and People We Meet on Vacation has written another wonderfully funny, sensitive, enjoyable love story which has the makings of a Hallmark movie.

Nora Stephens loves books. That’s why she thrives as a literary agent. One of her clients is Dusty Fielding whose books are set in a small town called Sunshine Falls, North Carolina. But to her disbelief, no one seems very interested in her next novel, all except Nora.

Enter Charlie Lastra a book editor in New York who Nora meets to discuss Dusty’s next book. It does not go well. Not only does he think the book is a failure which Nora can’t believe, but the two seem as if they would never have been able to work together anyway.

Time moves forward and just as Noral predicted Dusty’s new book is a hit. With more money than she ever thought she would make; she finally is able to relax. She gets together with her pregnant sister Libby who she has been neglecting because she has been so busy. The two sisters are very close. Their mother died suddenly years ago, and Nora had to step in and become a surrogate caretaker, a job she still feels obligated to do and would not think of giving up, even though Libby is happily married with children.

Libby’s favorite author is none other than Dusty Fielding. Since she will be giving birth again soon, she has the idea that she and her sister should have one last hurrah and visit Sunshine Falls to see what the place really is like. They could spend the month of August there with Nora working remotely and they could even put together a bucket list of Sunshine Falls activities. Although this doesn’t seem to be the vacation of a lifetime Nora would have chosen for them, she can never say no to Libby, so, off they go!

But Sunshine Falls initially does not seem to be the happy place they thought. There is one cab in town which only goes certain places and lets you out to walk the rest of the way, the bookstore is the only place with spotted Wi-Fi and the one restaurant in the town does not cater to vegetarians and ordering salads is just about against the law! But they are there to bond, so Nora decides to just sit back and relax and enjoy her time with Libby. Then she sees what could only be described as a ghostly apparition…what possibly could her nemesis Charlie Lastra be doing in Sunshine Falls? I mean, he hated Dusty’s last book!

And so, begins the love/hate relationship between two people who desperately both love books…but just not each other. Then they are thrown together by the literary gods and must work together. What could possibly go wrong!

As time goes by during their visit Nora and Libby begin to learn about each other and how the trauma of their mother’s death perhaps had never been fully put to rest. With Nora now busy working with Charlie whom she begins to see differently, she also begins to feel her sister somehow slipping away from her. She just can’t figure out why.

What’s going on?

Book Lovers is a sentimental reader’s dream, filled with funny, crazy characters and even a smoking hot construction worker! The witty dialogue entices the reader to read on, but also makes them wish the story will never come to an end.

Thank you #NetGalley #Berkley #EmilyHenry #BookLovers for the advanced copy.

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

Elizabeth Zot has her work cut out for herself. A woman in the 1960’s, she understands facts, Chemistry, and that the fact that as a woman she will not be allowed into the scientific men’s club no matter how hard she tries. So, when she begins working at the Hastings Research Institute she is treated as a less than glorified secretary and gopher instead of the astute chemist she really is.

Calvin Evans is a brilliant prize-winning chemist who made the mistake of accidently assuming Elizabeth Zot was “just a secretary”. She immediately proves him wrong. As a result, they fall in love and become the fodder for all their gossipy co-workers who look at Elizabeth as just a gold digger who has a chance to marry well.

But Elizabeth and Calvin know better. They not only become partners in Chemistry, but in life as well. They are practical, organized and live a routine with their dog Six-Thirty who Elizabeth begins to teach words, which he seems to understand. They live in a happy test-tube bubble!

Until suddenly Elizabeth finds herself alone with a daughter no less, and her dog. After being fired from the Hastings Institute for being pregnant, Elizabeth realizes she must provide for her growing family. And through a series of what anyone else would call good luck, but to Elizabeth is embarrassing unluck, she finds herself the star of a… please don’t call it a cooking show, but…a cooking show called Supper at Six. So, Elizabeth does what she always does, and makes the cooking show about Chemistry, much to her producer’s chagrin.

But Elizabeth’s way of teaching how to cook is revolutionary to women, and needless to say misunderstood by men. When asked by a man why on earth she would want to wear pants rather than a skirt she responds with well why do you? As the show becomes more popular, she begins challenging the women who watch to become more independent and question their status quo, explaining they are able to do whatever they want in life. Needless to say, this does not go over well with some men and even some women!

But as we follow Elizabeth Zot’s unapologetic journey in life and the way she looks at everything so differently, especially for that time period, we are given a clear vision of where women were and where women should be and could be. An example her daughter exudes even in her young life.

Lessons in Chemistry is a wonderful, funny, heartwarming journey back to the past with wonderfully crafted characters, a beautifully told love story and many lessons to be learned about life.

Thank you #NetGalley #Doubleday #BonnieGarmus #LessonsinChemistry for the advanced copy.