The Weight of Lies by Emily Carpenter

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My review:

How well do you really know someone?  After reading The Weight of Lies you may ask yourself that question!  Meg Ashley, daughter of Frances Ashley, the cult classic horror novelist, is fed up with the neglect and lack of interest her mother has had in her for so many years.  For revenge, she agrees to write a tell-all book, the truth about her mom, the famous author, and about her troubled childhood as she prepares to rid her life completely of her self centered mother.  While conducting research and digging into the past, Meg begins to uncover some information that has to do with a murder her mother had written about in her best-seller, Kitten, several decades ago.  The fictional novel was based on a real murder and actual people, and the cult followers had their theories about who committed the crime in real life.  Arriving on Bonny Island, where the murder took place, Meg meets some of the people who appeared as characters in her mother’s book, and while digging deeper she begins to uncover information that leads her to believe she had been told some lies about her younger years.  As Meg is trying to understand crucial details about her own past she is also learning particulars about the murder.  Everybody is telling lies and Meg is unsure of who to trust, if anyone.  When she receives warnings to back off she knew she was getting close to solving the murder mystery and learning the truth about her past but she was in danger.

The Weight of Lies keeps you on the edge of your seat, guessing every step of the way!

As seen in Goodreads:

In this gripping, atmospheric family drama, a young woman investigates the forty­-year­-old murder that inspired her mother’s bestselling novel, and uncovers devastating truths—and dangerous lies.

Reformed party girl Meg Ashley leads a life of privilege, thanks to a bestselling horror novel her mother wrote decades ago. But Meg knows that the glow of their very public life hides a darker reality of lies, manipulation, and the heartbreak of her own solitary childhood. Desperate to break free of her mother, Meg accepts a proposal to write a scandalous, tell-all memoir.

Digging into the past—and her mother’s cult classic—draws Meg to Bonny Island, Georgia, and an unusual woman said to be the inspiration for the book. At first island life seems idyllic, but as Meg starts to ask tough questions, disturbing revelations come to light…including some about her mother.

Soon Meg’s search leads her to question the facts of a decades-old murder. She’s warned to leave it alone, but as the lies pile up, Meg knows she’s getting close to finding a murderer. When her own life is threatened, Meg realizes the darkness found in her mother’s book is nothing compared to the chilling truth that lurks off the page.

14681795-1.jpgAbout the author:

EMILY CARPENTER, a former actor, producer, screenwriter, and behind-the-scenes soap opera assistant, graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Auburn University. Born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama, she now lives in Georgia with her family. BURYING THE HONEYSUCKLE GIRLS, her first novel was published in 2016. THE WEIGHT OF LIES is her second novel.  You can visit Emily online at emilycarpenterauthor.com.

Posted in Authors, Book Reviews, mystery, suspense | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

I Found You by Lisa Jewell

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My Review:

I couldn’t help but get caught up in the nail-biting suspense and the misleading plot twists as the talented author, Lisa Jewell kept me guessing until the end in her latest novel, I Found You.
Present day Britain, Lily’s husband is missing; he went off to work in the morning and never returned.  Young and Ukrainian, Lily doesn’t know her surroundings and has little knowledge of her new husband’s friends and family.  She is extremely upset and worried and reports him missing to the police.   They don’t take her seriously and think he may have just decided to leave her. Lily is convinced he would never do that, she pushes them to look deeper,  and once the police inform her that his passport was fake, she is compelled to investigate his disappearance on her own.

Alice, a scattered, yet kind hearted mother lives by the beach with her 3 kids from different fathers.  She discovers a mysterious man sitting on the sand by the ocean for hours and once a storm moves in she cautiously approaches to give him a jacket.  He has lost his memory and has no idea who he is or how he got there.  Alice calls him “Frank” and she and her children welcome him in to their home while she tries to help him regain his memory.

In 1993, Kristy is on an annual family beach vacation with her parents and her older teenage brother, Gray.  They meet Mark, a nice young man, on the beach who is staying with his aunt.  Mark, 19 years old, shows interest in Kirsty and wants to spend more time with her.   Being 15 years old and having no dating experience, excited yet cautious, she agrees to go out with him. Things don’t go well…there is trauma, tragedy and heartbreak.

The missing husband, the unidentified stranger and the charming teenager,,,… these complex characters make you wonder how well do you really know someone.  Jewell keeps you guessing as the three stories get closer and closer to connecting, and what fun it is to try and solve all the mysteries before the truth is revealed.  An enjoyable literary escape!

93504.jpgAbout the author:

Lisa was born in London in 1968. Her mother was a secretary and her father was a textile agent and she was brought up in the northernmost reaches of London with her two younger sisters. She was educated at a Catholic girls’ Grammar school in Finchley. After leaving school at sixteen she spent two years at Barnet College doing an arts foundation course and then two years at Epsom School of Art & Design studying Fashion Illustration and Communication.

She worked for the fashion chain Warehouse for three years as a PR assistant and then for Thomas Pink, the Jermyn Street shirt company for four years as a receptionist and PA. She started her first novel, Ralph’s Party, for a bet in 1996. She finished it in 1997 and it was published by Penguin books in May 1998. It went on to become the best-selling debut novel of that year.

She has since written a further nine novels, as is currently at work on her eleventh.

She now lives in an innermost part of north London with her husband Jascha, an IT consultant, her daughters, Amelie and Evie and her silver tabbies, Jack and Milly.

Lisa’s Facebook page:
http://www.facebook.com/LisaJewelloff…

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The Lost Letter by Jillian Cantor

Available June 13, 2017

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My review:

Author Jillian Cantor truly knows how to draw a reader in…I could not put down this beautifully written book!  At the end of every chapter my heart was pounding in anticipation.  The Lost Letter is two compelling stories artfully woven together and destined to intertwine at the end.  The first takes place in the late 1930s Austria, and is about the Fabers, a Jewish family.  The father is an engraver and he has a young, non Jewish apprentice, Kristoff, living with them to learn the trade. Kristoff becomes smitten with the older daughter, Elena, a bit of a rebel, who is secretly learning to engrave stamps in the night.  When the war reaches their small town, the Fabers are in danger and Elena along with Kristoff become part of the Austrian resistance, using stamps to communicate right under the noses of the Nazis.  The desperation of making it through this horrible time and the hopefulness of love are palpable as the characters secretly help others escape while biding their time.

In late 1980s Los Angeles, a philatelist (stamp collector) is battling dementia and is living in an Alzheimer’s memory unit.  His daughter, Katie, is going through a divorce, sorting through her dad’s belongings and is getting his stamp collection appraised with the hope of finding a hidden gem.   An unusual stamp is found on an unopened letter which leads her on a quest for answers.  This fascinating journey takes Kate back to the 1930s Austria as she learns about the war, Austrian resistance and her father’s past.

The Lost Letter is historical fiction at its best; dual storylines, wonderful relationships, information about use of the stamp during wartime, paired with incredible storytelling by author Jillian Cantor makes this one of my favorite books this year!  Order your copy on AMAZON today!  I am so thankful to have received an advance review copy of this book from the Great Thought’s Ninja Review Team. All opinions are my own.

 

As seen in Goodreads:

A heart-breaking, heart-warming historical novel of love and survival inspired by real resistance workers during World War II Austria, and the mysterious love letter that connects generations of Jewish families. For readers of The Nightingale, Lilac Girls, and Sarah’s Key.

Austria, 1938.
Kristoff is a young apprentice to a master Jewish stamp engraver. When his teacher disappears during Kristallnacht, Kristoff is forced to engrave stamps for the Germans, and simultaneously works alongside Elena, his beloved teacher’s fiery daughter, and with the Austrian resistance to send underground messages and forge papers. As he falls for Elena amidst the brutal chaos of war, Kristoff must find a way to save her, and himself.

Los Angeles, 1989.
Katie Nelson is going through a divorce and while cleaning out her house and life in the aftermath, she comes across the stamp collection of her father, who recently went into a nursing home. When an appraiser, Benjamin, discovers an unusual World War II-era Austrian stamp placed on an old love letter as he goes through her dad’s collection, Katie and Benjamin are sent on a journey together that will uncover a story of passion and tragedy spanning decades and continents, behind the just fallen Berlin Wall.

A beautiful, poignant and devastating novel, The Lost Letter shows the lasting power of love.

Image-1-1.jpgAbout the author:

Jillian Cantor has a BA in English from Penn State University and an MFA from The University of Arizona. She is the author of award-winning novels for teens and adults including the critically acclaimed MARGOT, which was a Library Reads pick for September 2013 and also featured in O the Oprah Magazine, People, Ladies Home Journal, and Time.com. Her most recent book for teens, SEARCHING FOR SKY, (Bloomsbury US & UK, Scholastic book club) was nominated for the 2015 Carnegie Medal in the UK. Jillian’s next historical novel for adults, THE LOST LETTER, will be out 06/13/17 from Riverhead/Penguin. Born and raised in a suburb of Philadelphia, Jillian currently lives in Arizona with her husband and two sons.

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Option B is a heartbreaking story of loss as well as an inspirational guide to living.

Option B by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam M. Grant.

“From Facebook’s COO and Wharton’s top-rated professor, the #1 New York Times best-selling authors of Lean In and Originals: a powerful, inspiring, and practical book about building resilience and moving forward after life’s inevitable setbacks.” Goodreads.
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My review:

Sheryl Sandberg suffered a tragic and unthinkable loss when her husband died on vacation, and just like anyone else, she had to develop coping strategies and solutions to problems in order to work through her grief, comfort her children and get back to living.  Her personal story is honest, devastating and inspiring as she, along with her friend and co-writer, Adam Grant, present a lot of great information and ideas for those who have experienced a loss, also providing advice and suggestions for friends, family and coworkers on how to be supportive and understanding in Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy.

The book has expertly woven Sandberg’s personal stories with a more technical approach to grief.  Based on research, Sandberg and Grant suggest recovery from a tragedy can be stunted if you tend to think what happened is your fault, if you believe the bad thing that happened will affect all areas of your life and if you think the feelings of unhappiness will never end.  Once you realize none of these are true, you are better able to cope and are on the road to recovery.

They talk about the benefits of journaling to work through feelings and how to focus on the positives.  Sandberg says “Journaling helped me make sense of the past and rebuild my self confidence to navigate the present and future.”  “Adam suggested I write 3 things I have done well today”.  They suggest that “contributions are active” and they “remind us that we can make a difference”.   Also the suggestion of writing down 3 moments of joy experienced each day helps to remember there are still good things happening.

Another area of helpful advice revolves around building resilience in children and helping them develop 4 core beliefs: “1) they have some control over their lives, 2) they can learn from failure, 3) they matter as human beings, and 4) they have real strengths to rely on and share.”  Sheryl shares conversations with her children and although each person and situation is unique, it gives the reader ideas of how to help children process a death and cope with a painful situation.

In the wake of tragedy and loss we also learn about some possible positive repercussions.  At this crucial time there is opportunity to change your thought process and dig deep.  Post traumatic growth includes “finding personal strength, gaining appreciation, forming deeper relationships, discovering more meaning in life and seeing new possibilities.”

In Option B there are lots of great examples based on experts and research of how to face adversity head on and come out ok on the other side.  In addition, Sandberg talks about her experiences, how she made decisions about the children without her beloved partner, how humor is necessary and plays an important role in resilience and what is helpful to receive in terms of support and kind words from friends, coworkers and others.

This inspirational book is Sheryl Sandberg’s personal story along with fantastic suggestions for things to do and ways to think about life when faced with adversity.  It is a book everyone should read…a great gift as well.

 

As stated in Goodreads:

After the sudden death of her husband, Sheryl Sandberg felt certain that she and her children would never feel pure joy again. “I was in ‘the void,’” she writes, “a vast emptiness that fills your heart and lungs and restricts your ability to think or even breathe.” Her friend Adam Grant, a psychologist at Wharton, told her there are concrete steps people can take to recover and rebound from life-shattering experiences. We are not born with a fixed amount of resilience. It is a muscle that everyone can build.

Option B combines Sheryl’s personal insights with Adam’s eye-opening research on finding strength in the face of adversity. Beginning with the gut-wrenching moment when she finds her husband, Dave Goldberg, collapsed on a gym floor, Sheryl opens up her heart—and her journal—to describe the acute grief and isolation she felt in the wake of his death. But Option B goes beyond Sheryl’s loss to explore how a broad range of people have overcome hardships including illness, job loss, sexual assault, natural disasters, and the violence of war. Their stories reveal the capacity of the human spirit to persevere . . . and to rediscover joy.

Resilience comes from deep within us and from support outside us. Even after the most devastating events, it is possible to grow by finding deeper meaning and gaining greater appreciation in our lives. Option B illuminates how to help others in crisis, develop compassion for ourselves, raise strong children, and create resilient families, communities, and workplaces. Many of these lessons can be applied to everyday struggles, allowing us to brave whatever lies ahead. Two weeks after losing her husband, Sheryl was preparing for a father-child activity. “I want Dave,” she cried. Her friend replied, “Option A is not available,” and then promised to help her make the most of Option B.

We all live some form of Option B. This book will help us all make the most of it.

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SHERYL SANDBERG is chief operating officer at Facebook, overseeing the firm’s business operations. Prior to Facebook, Sheryl was vice president of Global Online Sales and Operations at Google, chief of staff for the United States Treasury Department under President Clinton, a management consultant with McKinsey & Company, and an economist with the World Bank.

Sheryl received a BA summa cum laude from Harvard University and an MBA with highest distinction from Harvard Business School.

Sheryl is the co-author of Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resillience, and Finding Joy with Wharton professor and bestselling author Adam Grant, which will be released April 24, 2017. She is also the author of the bestsellers Lean In: Women, Work,  and the Will to Lead and Lean In for Graduates. She is the founder of the Sheryl Sandberg & Dave Goldberg Family Foundation, a nonprofit organization that works to build a more equal and resilient world through two key initiatives, LeanIn.Org and OptionB.Org (launching April 2017). Sheryl serves on the boards of Facebook, the Walt Disney Company, Women for Women International, ONE, and SurveyMonkey.

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To learn more about Adam Grant click HERE.

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Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond

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My thoughts:

Living paycheck to paycheck comes with ongoing pressures and struggles, but in Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, Matthew Desmond introduces us to the poorest of the poor, people lacking basic needs, food, clothing and shelter.  The downward spiral is devastating and our system offers little hope for getting ahead.  Simply stated, when tenants miss work to take care of their children, their pay is docked, and then, unable to afford food and ultimately rent, they get evicted.  From homeless shelters to other dilapidated hovels or trailor parks where the landlord refuses to put money into repairs because tenants are not paying the rent, these people, highest percentage of them black women with children, are constantly struggling as they are thrown out on the streets.

In order to write this book, the author immersed himself into the life of poverty as a tenant in Milwaukee where he studies the trends eviction play in our society. There are many contributors, government subsidized housing, food stamps, shelters, employement opportunities, education, drugs and crime, that all play a part in the successes and failures of the evicted.

When speaking about the tenants:

“Rent was their biggest expense by far, and they wanted a decent and functional home in return.  They wanted things to be fixed when they broke.  But if Sherenna wasn’t going to repair her own property, neither were they.  The house failed the tenants and the tenants failed the house.”

In regard to the nearly hopeless situation for moms with kids searching for housing:

“In 1980…1 in 4 rental units was available to families without restrictions (extra deposit and monthly surcharges per child).  Eight years later Congress finally outlawed housing discrimination against children and families, but…the practice remained widespread.  Families with children were turned away in as many as 7 in 10 housing searches.”

Bravo to Matthew Desmond for tackling this topic with tons of research.  This extraordinarily brutal and honest book is winner of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction and is a must read in order to understand eviction, the toll it takes on tenants in the downward spiral of poverty, the landlords’ exploitation of the poor, and an economic system that is in desperate need of repair.  Desperation leads to drastic measures for both renters and landlords and our system has not done enough to provide realistic options to protect and nurture human life.

 

Summary as seen on Goodreads:
In this brilliant, heartbreaking book, Matthew Desmond takes us into the poorest neighborhoods of Milwaukee to tell the story of eight families on the edge. Arleen is a single mother trying to raise her two sons on the $20 a month she has left after paying for their rundown apartment. Scott is a gentle nurse consumed by a heroin addiction. Lamar, a man with no legs and a neighborhood full of boys to look after, tries to work his way out of debt. Vanetta participates in a botched stickup after her hours are cut. All are spending almost everything they have on rent, and all have fallen behind.

The fates of these families are in the hands of two landlords: Sherrena Tarver, a former schoolteacher turned inner-city entrepreneur, and Tobin Charney, who runs one of the worst trailer parks in Milwaukee. They loathe some of their tenants and are fond of others, but as Sherrena puts it, “Love don’t pay the bills.” She moves to evict Arleen and her boys a few days before Christmas.

Even in the most desolate areas of American cities, evictions used to be rare. But today, most poor renting families are spending more than half of their income on housing, and eviction has become ordinary, especially for single mothers. In vivid, intimate prose, Desmond provides a ground-level view of one of the most urgent issues facing America today. As we see families forced  into shelters, squalid apartments, or more dangerous neighborhoods, we bear witness to the human cost of America’s vast inequality—and to people’s determination and intelligence in the face of hardship.

Based on years of embedded fieldwork and painstakingly gathered data, this masterful book transforms our understanding of extreme poverty and economic exploitation while providing fresh ideas for solving a devastating, uniquely American problem. Its unforgettable scenes of hope and loss remind us of the centrality of home, without which nothing else is possible.

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About the author:

Matthew Desmond is an American sociologist and urban ethnographer. He is currently the John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard University and Co-Director of the Justice and Poverty Project. The author of several books, including the award-winning book, On the Fireline, and Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, Desmond was awarded a MacArthur “Genius” grant in 2015 for his work on poverty in America.

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The Salt House: A Novel by Lisa Duffy

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My Review:

In The Salt House, author Lisa Duffy masterfully takes us deep into the layers of emotions of the Kelly family as they work through feelings of guilt, responsibility and pain following a tragic family loss.  After losing their baby, Hope is paralyzed with her grief; she is having trouble moving forward and is unable to return to work.  She refuses to scatter the ashes and has been reluctant to continue with the renovation of The Salt House, the home the family loves and plans to move in to.  Jack, a lobster fisherman, throws himself into his work on the boat, is rarely home with the family and is neglecting his health.  Overcome with guilt, combined with  the sorrow of losing a child, and the stress it put on the marriage, the Kelly family’s world starts to cave in.  The daughters, Jess and Kat, are living and dealing with the loss of their baby sister in their own ways while baring the brunt of parental stress and disagreements at the same time they are trying to grow up.  So well written from each person’s point of view, the characters dig deep to expose their pain, past and current, and their journey together sets an example for how families can rescue each other from debilitating hurt and grief by facing it head on with truth and honesty.  I felt emotionally overwhelmed and shed many tears while I read The Salt House, a sign of a great book that really touched me, and when it ended I had feelings of renewal and hope for the future.  At under 300 pages, this is a great book to pick up this summer…I loved it!

As seen in Goodreads:

In the tradition of Jodi Picoult and Lisa Genova, this gorgeously written, heartbreaking, yet hopeful debut set during a Maine summer traces the lives of a young family in the aftermath of tragedy.

In the coastal town of Alden, Maine, Hope and Jack Kelly have settled down to a life of wedded bliss. They have a beautiful family, a growing lobster business, and the Salt House—the dilapidated oceanfront cottage they’re renovating into their dream home. But tragedy strikes when their young daughter doesn’t wake up from her afternoon nap, taking her last breath without making a sound.

A year later, each member of the Kelly family navigates the world on their own private island of grief. Hope spends hours staring at her daughter’s ashes, unable to let go. Jack works to the point of exhaustion in an attempt to avoid his crumbling marriage. Their daughters, Jess and Kat, struggle to come to terms with the loss of their younger sister while watching their parents fall apart.

When Jack’s old rival, Ryland Finn, threatens his fishing territory, he ignites emotions that propel the Kelly family toward circumstances that will either tear them apart—or be the path to their family’s future.

Told in alternating voices, The Salt House is a layered, emotional portrait of marriage, family, friendship, and the complex intersections of love, grief, and hope.

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Lisa Duffy is the author of The Salt House, her debut novel. She received her MFA in creative writing from the University of Massachusetts Boston. Her short fiction was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and can be found in The Drum Literary Magazine, So to Speak, Breakwater Review, Let the Bucket Down, and elsewhere. Lisa is the founding editor of ROAR, a literary magazine supporting women in the arts. She lives in the Boston area with her husband and three children.

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The Arrangement by Sarah Dunn

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My Review:

Suburban young couple, Lucy and Owen are looking to feel energized and happy in their relationship, to bring back the butterflies, so their exciting but not so well thought out solution was The Arrangement.  An open marriage for six months.  Break all the rules. Do what you want. With whomever you want. No discussing anything with each other.  They wrote out a handful of rules and agreed to follow them.  This could be just what they need, right?

The freedom is refreshing.  No trapped feeling.  A reason to get dolled up.  A feeling of less responsibility.  So Owen gets caught up with Izzy, a crazy woman who’s husband cheated on her.  She regularly seduces him and then asks him to do annoying chores around her house and although the sex is good, he starts to wish he never agreed to get involved with her or the Arrangement.  On the other hand, Lucy finds Ben, a nice guy who she schedules a weekly rendezvous with and starts to develop feelings for.  Thinking of Ben when she is not with him is nice, positive, and happy…the feeling of falling for someone. Then when she can’t make it to see him one day she has this burning desire to talk on the phone and realizes this may not just be a sexual fling.  With a child in the mix and the lies told to cover up what was agreed to be kept secret, Lucy and Owen’s relationship complications multiply, and here you have the experiment called The Arrangement!

Sarah Dunn gives us an extremely humorous and well written tale of a typical young couple in the suburbs trying to reignite the lost passion with an unconventional Arrangement… a little sexy, a little daring, a little disastrous and a hilarious and accurate depiction of marriage, family and community.   So enjoyable and quick – you should not miss it!

As seen in Goodreaads:

Lucy and Owen, ambitious, thoroughly-therapized New Yorkers, have taken the plunge, trading in their crazy life in a cramped apartment for Beekman, a bucolic Hudson Valley exurb. They’ve got a two hundred year-old house, an autistic son obsessed with the Titanic, and 17 chickens, at last count. It’s the kind of paradise where stay-at-home moms team up to cook the school’s “hot lunch,” dads grill grass-fed burgers, and, as Lucy observes, “chopping kale has become a certain kind of American housewife’s version of chopping wood.”

When friends at a wine-soaked dinner party reveal they’ve made their marriage open, sensible Lucy balks. There’s a part of her, though-the part that worries she’s become too comfortable being invisible-that’s intrigued. Why not try a short marital experiment? Six months, clear ground rules, zero questions asked. When an affair with a man in the city begins to seem more enticing than the happily-ever-after she’s known for the past nine years, Lucy must decide what truly makes her happy-“real life,” or the “experiment?”

 

Sarah Dunn (born 1970) is an American author and television writer. She is known for her novels ‘The Big Love’ and ‘Secrets to Happiness’, and the ABC sitcom American Housewife, starring Katy Mixon.

After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, Dunn spent several years working service jobs in Philadelphia, PA, the experience of which informed her first book, ‘The Official Slacker Handbook’. Shortly afterward, she moved to Los Angeles, CA, where she wrote for television series including Murphy Brown, Veronica’s Closet, Spin City, and Bunheads. With Spin City co-creator Bill Lawrence, Dunn penned Michael J. Fox‘s final episode of the series.

Dunn is also a novelist whose works include The Big Love (2005), Secrets to Happiness  (2009), and The Arrangement (2017). Her books have been translated into 19 different languages.

Dunn is a member of the all-female television writer group “The Ladies Room”, which also includes Vanessa McCarthy, Stephanie Birkitt, and Julie Bean. The group was founded in July 2016.  Dunn is married to former New York Observer executive editor Peter Stevenson. They married in 2007.

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The Widow of Wall Street by Randy Susan Meyers

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My review:

Inspired by the Bernie Madoff scandal in 2008, author Randy Susan Meyers takes us on an emotional journey inside a fictional Wall Street investment firm to witness how a Ponzi scheme could actually play out and the destruction of lives it could leave in its wake.  The Widow of Wall Street begins when Phoebe is visiting her incarcerated husband, Jake, in jail.  We then start at the beginning, when the couple meets as teenagers, and follow their relationship as the get married, raise children and grow a successful business and a nonprofit.  Phoebe is a hardworking mother of two and a trusting wife of her high school sweetheart.  Jake dreamed of financial success and dedicated himself to have the means to provide the conveniences and luxuries wealth brings.  Throughout his career he was focused, put in long hours and provided well for Phoebe, their children, and others close to him.  When he was charged with fraud upon the discovery of the Ponzi scheme he developed, Phoebe’s life was in shambles.  So many trusting friends and colleagues lost their fortunes, businesses lost funding and families lost their nest eggs.  Did Phoebe know what her husband was doing all those years?

I thoroughly enjoyed The Widow Of Wall Street.  With her thoughtful, well developed characters, Randy Susan Meyers recreated the tragedy of the real life scandal from the perspective of the woman behind the criminal.

I felt Phoebe’s devastation as her life crumbled; the happiness she embodied was built on lies and Jake’s crime caused her to lose her husband, her money, family, friends, home, and her identity, essentially her entire life as it once was.  She trusted him, hoped he was doing the right thing, and had been content in her life enough to choose not to inquire about things she wasn’t sure she really wanted to know about…finances and other women.  This is a cautionary tale as well as a story of love, trust, success, failure, betrayal and destruction. For some, the need for success becomes a compulsion and morality can fall by the wayside.  Relationships, emotions and commitment can cloud logic and truth and unfortunately the ripple effect is devastating.  With suspenseful storytelling and insight into the illusion of what seemed like a storybook marriage Randy Susan Meyers definitely delivered;  I highly recommend this book!

As seen on Goodreads:

What’s real in a marriage built on sand and how do you abandon a man you’ve loved since the age of fifteen?

Phoebe sees the fire in Jake Pierce’s belly from the moment they meet as teenagers in Brooklyn. Eventually he creates a financial dynasty and she trusts him without hesitation—unaware his hunger for success hides a dark talent for deception.

When Phoebe learns—along with the rest of the world—that her husband’s triumphs are the result of an elaborate Ponzi scheme her world unravels. Lies underpin her life and marriage. As Jake’s crime is uncovered, the world obsesses about Phoebe. Did she know her life was fabricated by fraud? Did she partner with her husband in hustling billions from pensioners, charities, and CEOs? Was she his accomplice in stealing from their family and neighbors?

Debate rages as to whether love and loyalty blinded her to his crimes or if she chose to live in denial. While Jake is trapped in the web of his own deceit, Phoebe is faced with an unbearable choice. Her children refuse to see her if she remains at their father’s side, but abandoning Jake, a man she’s known since childhood, feels cruel and impossible.

From Brooklyn to Greenwich to Manhattan, from penthouse to prison, with tragic consequences rippling well beyond Wall Street, The Widow of Wall Street exposes a woman struggling to redefine her life and marriage as everything she thought she knew crumbles around her.

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As seen on Goodreads:

I was born in Brooklyn, New York, where I quickly moved from playing with dolls to incessantly reading, spending most of my time at the Kensington Branch Library. Early on I developed a penchant for books rooted in social issues, my early favorites being “Karen” and “The Family Nobody Wanted.” Shortly I moved onto Jubilee and The Diary of Anne Frank.

My dreams of justice simmered at the fantastically broadminded Camp Mikan, where I went from camper to counselor, culminating in a high point when (with the help of my strongly Brooklyn-accented singing voice), I landed the role of Adelaide in the staff production of “Guys and Dolls.”

Soon I was ready to change the world, starting with my protests at Tilden High and City College of New York, until I left to pursue the dream in Berkeley, California, where I supported myself by selling candy, nuts, and ice cream in Bartons of San Francisco. Then, world-weary at too-tender an age, I returned to New York, married, and traded demonstrations for diapers.

While raising two daughters, I tended bar, co-authored a nonfiction book on parenting, ran a summer camp, and (in my all-time favorite job, other than writing) helped resurrect and run a community center.
Once my girls left for college, I threw myself deeper into social service and education by working with batterers and victims of domestic violence. I’m certain my novels are imbued with all the above, as well as my journey from obsessing over bad boys to loving a good man.

Many things can save your life–children who warm your heart, the love of a good man, a circle of wonderful friends, and a great sister. After a tumultuous start in life, I’m lucky enough to now have all these things. I live in Boston with my husband, where I live by the words of Gustave Flaubert: “Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.”

 

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No One Is Coming To Save Us by Stephanie Powell Watts

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No One Is Coming To Save Us by Stephanie Powell Watts

My Review:

In a small town in North Carolina an African American family is reaching for the American Dream. Life is hard and full of disappointments as it seems like a black cloud is over them. Ava is desperate for a baby yet she battles infertility and secretly reaches out to an online community for support and advise. Her husband Henry is upset about the decline in the furniture industry where he works, is cheating on Ava and feels disappointed in himself. Ava’s mother Sylvia’s life is stunted; she has never gotten over losing her son Devon and is married to Don, a man she doesn’t trust. JJ Ferguson, Ava’s old boyfriend is back in town, wealthy and living large on top of the hill. He has built a house overlooking the town and is hoping to get back together with Ava as he searches for the feeling of being home.

“We all get disappointed. ….We want what’s missing. Everybody wants what’s missing. “ Wealth, trust, fidelity, love…they all are searching for something to make them feel whole yet no one is spared of life’s challenges.

As Ava, JJ, Henry and Sylvia struggle to find happiness the occasional glimmers of light are not enough to make all their dreams come true.
“They could pretend they had the power to fix their lives. The trick was making themselves believe it. That’s what joy is, isn’t it? Belief for a little while that you have the power to mend everything?”

Stephanie Powell Watts has written an impressive debut as she skillfully weaves thoughts from the characters’ pasts with current goings ons – a true glimpse into how they physically experience life while recalling old memories. She gives us a snapshot of real life where little is perfect and few are satisfied. It is reminiscent of the fact that life can be challenging and making the most out of it gives us the biggest reward.

“If you can’t get what you want, want something else. “

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and look forward to more from Stephanie Powell Watts.

Purchase a copy of No One Is Coming To Save Us on AMAZON HERE.

Click hear to listen to Stephanie Powell Watts’ NPR Interview HERE

 

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Stephanie Powell Watts won the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence for her debut story collection, We Are Taking Only What We Need (2012), also named one of 2013’s Best Summer Reads by O: The Oprah Magazine. Her short fiction has been included in two volumes of the Best New Stories from the South anthology and honored with a Pushcart Prize. Ms. Powell Watts’s stories explore the lives of African Americans in fast food and factory jobs, working door to door as Jehovah’s Witness ministers, and pressing against the boundaries of the small town, post-integration South. Her forthcoming debut novel, titled No One Is Coming to Save Us, follows the return of a successful native son to his home in North Carolina and his attempt to join the only family he ever wanted but never had. As Ms. Powell Watts describes it, “Imagine The Great Gatsby set in rural North Carolina, nine decades later, with desperate black people.” Born in the foothills of North Carolina, with a PhD from the University of Missouri and a BA from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, she now lives in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania where she is an associate professor at Lehigh University.

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