The Precious Jules by Shawn Nocher

The Precious Jules

Honestly, the beginning of this novel was torturous to read. I almost put it down. What a tough subject matter. My Goodreads synopsis.


Brilliant writing. Deep and soulful. Very tough subject matter. Nocher has nailed it! The wonderful/awful family named Jules brings everything to the table. How would you handle having twins and one is disabled? And you have a house filled with children and another one on the way? Just the thought is humbling and sad. A tragic family drama filled with seemingly very real people.

The opening chapter gives you a good idea what it was like for the mother and the siblings to live in a tortured world where little Ella existed. Like I said above, it was really hard to read. Then, the second chapter moves decades later to a time where the Beechwood Institute is closing its doors after two hundred years of housing retardants. Ella Jules has lived at Beechwood since she was eight-years-old. She has five siblings she’s not seen in almost forty years. She has been living and thriving with Lynetta who’s been her loving companion and caretaker at the institute all this time. Ella is at the mercy of the state as to where she will live and with whom. Her parents are aging and yet they want to bring her back to the family home where they think they can care for her. But, Lynette has petitioned to keep Ella with her as she is the only person who truly knows Ella and understands her. So there is that. However, the siblings still remember the horror of living with Ella and they are against this reunion. So much so that they have planned a reunion at the family home so they can keep this move at bay.

Told in exquisite prose, great empathy, deep emotion, and what appears to be an abundance of research, THE PRECIOUS JULES tells a story that riveted me to the page. Kept drawing me back in. Each character is important. Each has his or her own memory of Ella. Not a story to be taken lightly, this heart-wrenching tale has plenty of twists and turns, many secrets, and a solid ending.

Anytime I hear about a place like this Beechwood Institute for retardants I am just madder than a hornet. For people to have been so treated over the years is shameful. Not much good ever came from places like this and this is no different. What went on in the halls and rooms within this dastardly place? I shudder at the thought.

So, there you have it dear readers. Do you dare dive into THE PRECIOUS JULES? I dare you. It’s an important read.

My review copy came from Blackstone Publishing in exchange for an honest review. It’s brilliant and harrowing. It could win awards in literary fiction. It was an outstanding read!

Gilt by Jamie Brenner

One perfect diamond is all it takes to divide a family. Could one summer be enough to fix it?

The Pavlin family built an empire on love. As the first jewelers to sell diamond rings exclusively for proposals, they started a tradition that has defined engagements ever since. But when an ill-fated publicity stunt pits the three Pavlin sisters against one another for a famous family jewel, their bond is broken. No ordinary diamond ring, the Electric Rose splinters the sisters, leaving one unlucky in love, one escaping to the shores of Cape Cod, and the other, ultimately, dead.

The above is from Goodreads and is a good starting point.

I love Jamie Brenner’s writing. It’s breezy and fun but always about intriguing characters that sparkle and pop and hold your interest throughout each book. A lot of her books take place in Provincetown, Mass. This one is back and forth from Provincetown to Manhattan. I love that aspect. The topic is family angst and jewelry. Oh boy, I’m all in.

The Pavlin family grew their family jewelry business into a dynasty when they started the wedding campaign. They were the first company to actually make a diamond the gem of choice for proposals. The Electric Rose was a humongous diamond that was used to promote this event. When Gemma’s parents were killed in an untimely accident, her mother was wearing the diamond. From then on it was said to be cursed.

Gemma was tossed out of the family at one point. We find out why much later in the story. Her aunt has been in receipt of The Electric Rose and keeps it hidden away in a vault.

Off to Provincetown. Summer brings ranks of tourists and the small town is filled to the brim. Gemma is determined to get that diamond back. After all, it belonged to her mother. Gemma ends up hanging out in Provincetown and working on what she loves most: designing and making jewelry. With the help of one of her aunts she is able to do just that. But what is going to happen to that rogue gem?

I loved this book. Intelligent women, each with her own issues. Brenner has a way with showing her characters in the real light of day. And Provincetown is such a summertime outrageous place.

I read GILT digitally. Made available through NetGalley, and from the publishing house of Penguin Random House in exchange for an honest review. I loved, loved it. Add it to your TBR pile for summer.

Julie Brenner

Vacationland by Meg Mitchell Moore

Vacationland

Love the cover. Immediately drops you right onto the beach. In this case the beach off Penobscot Bay on the coast of Maine. Louisa is taking her three children to her parents’ home in this dreamy part of Maine. She’s trying to escape all the stress and drama at home in Brooklyn. Her husband is staying behind trying to wrap up a seemingly never-ending circle of searching for funding for his Podcast start up. It’s been going on for a very long time and Louisa is at her wit’s end. She’s way behind writing her book and the deadline clock is ticking louder and louder in her head every day.

Another young woman, Kristie, much younger, is riding a Greyhound bus to this same destination. She’s carrying a small suitcase and $761 in cash. And a lot of baggage. Her mother recently passed away and left her with a lot of questions and this address.

They both have issues that will come to a complete meltdown at the end of the book. Meanwhile, Louisa discovers her dad has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and is basically in and out of his own life. Her mother is in denial. The cottage which is huge, is a big part of the story. And Louisa’s three children add so much to the story. Mysteries are solved. Kids run away. Where is hubby? Wasn’t he coming to visit at some point? And is there an old love interest in the picture. And we continue to hear the loud ticking clock in Louisa’s head as she strives to finish her manuscript.

Meg Mitchell Moore

Moore has certainly nailed the sense of place. She’s delivered believable characters you will be drawn to. And some pretty great food for summer.

My physical review copy arrived from the generous people at William Morrow Publishing, a division of Harper Collins, in exchange for an honest review. Another big hit. I loved it. Definitely add it to your summer pile! And thanks William Morrow.

The Lies I Tell by Julie Clark

Summertime is the perfect time of year for a page-burning psychological thriller. Unputdownable, brilliantly written, with characters that leap from the page. THE LIES I TELL has it all.

I became a fan of Julie Clark when I read her THE LAST FLIGHT a couple years ago. A real heart-thumper. She’s done it again with her newest novel that is on sale tomorrow.

Meg Williams has many names. She changes her identity each time she moves to yet another locale. She might be a real estate agent, a life coach or even a college student. She’s recently decided to move back home to Los Angeles. She’s become a con artist and is on a tear to get revenge on the man who ruined her life. But she’s about to come across the one woman who might stop her. Kat is a reporter who has her own agenda: to take down Meg. She’s been following Meg in secret for years; now is her chance to catch up.

I found myself wild to find out how this would end up. I could not figure it out. That is a good thing.

Make a note to put this one on your summer reading pile. You’re going to love it!

My physical review copy was provided by Source Books in exchange for an honest review. Definitely a keeper. I loved it!

Horse by Geraldine Brooks

What can I say? Geraldine Brooks is one of the finest writers living today. She’s already won a Pulitzer. With her brand new novel, HORSE, she most certainly is on her way toward yet another!

I did not devour HORSE. I savored it. I did research while reading it because there is so much true history in this magnificent story. I craved more knowledge about the greatest racehorse in American history. I wanted to know more about behind the scenes in horse racing. And I wanted to know all about the paintings.

The novel shifts back in forth in time from 1850 when the horse was born, to 1954 when we meet Martha Jackson who is a gallery owner who often takes risks, to 2019 in Washington, D.C. where we meet Jess who is a scientist from Australia who unearths the skeleton of Lexington hidden away, forgotten, in an attic in the Smithsonian Institute. She and Theo who is a Nigerian-American art historian are an unlikely duo but their story is tantamount to making this novel so compelling.

So much deep research has gone into making this book wonderful. I loved Lexington from the moment of his birth. His ethereal bond with the young black enslaved Jerret wrapped itself around my heart and stayed there. Jerret and Lexington have a wonderful and unstoppable bond.

Lexington

In the 1800’s slavery was very much an issue. Brooks brilliantly shows us the dark side of slave ownership. Our hearts break when Jerret’s father is able to buy his own freedom but not Jarret’s. And they call him Black Jerret. So there is that.

The scenes closer to present day are not without their own issues with race. I do love that the scientist is a young woman. Yes, young women are scientists. Not all young women want to grow up to be wives and mommy’s in this day and age. And Theo’s character is super. When he pulls a picture of Lexington from the top of a heap of trash tossed to the street by his neighbor, he has no idea what he has.

This is an amazing story based on truth. It is embedded in art, science, and love and obsession. And it throbs with racism.

I watched The Belmont last week and had just read HORSE. I had a new outlook on the race. Mixed feelings. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j8uRNel2aG8

The character of Jarret was inspired from an old issue of Harper’s Magazine. A wonderful character who will be remembered always.

There are insightful pages in the back of the book filled with more research to go to about Lexington. Yes, he was really the greatest racehorse in American history, and he’s been hidden away.

I received a digital review copy of HORSE by Geraldine Brooks from Penguin Random House via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I see GREAT things ahead for HORSE. It is a stunner. I loved it!

Jackie & Me by Louis Bayard

Jackie & Me

I love, love, love this cover. Honesty, Jackie might walk off this page at any given moment.

Many people have been fascinated by the infamous Kennedy family for seemingly ever. So a lot has been written over the years about Jackie and Jack.

This new novel adds another layer to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Most of this story takes place before Jackie meets John F. Kennedy.

Louis Bayard is an award winning novelist with many books under his belt. This new novel is well researched and presents us with yet another look into the sophisticated and wild world of the Kennedy family.

John F. Kennedy was not in the market for a bride. That is until his father reminded him that it would help his climb up the political ladder to the presidency, and, so, he decided Jackie would be the one. She had all the right assets. But he wasn’t quite ready…. Enter Lem Billings, Jack’s best friend. And, so, Lem becomes the “First Friend.”

An unlikely friendship, but Bayard fills this delightful novel with wit, laughter, and insight. I kept thinking of the photo on the front cover….

My physical review copy was provided by Algonquin Publishers in exchange for an honest review. A great new look inside the magical and challenging life of one of America’s most beloved women.

The Hotel Nantucket by Elin Hilderbrand

THE HOTEL NANTUCKET

I’ve read every one of Elin Hilderbrand’s novels. Wait, no, I missed last year. She has written dozens of them. She is the queen of the beach read. The reason I missed last year is because right off the bat the main character was killed off and became a ghost. I don’t do ghosts well. I passed. Low and behold there is a ghost in this new novel. But she’s not the main character and manages to move the story along wonderfully.

Lizbet Keaton snags a super position as General Manager of the recently renovated Gilded Age Hotel Nantucket. The larger than life hotel has a history and comes complete with its own ghost: a chamber maid who was murdered in 1922 and no one has solved the crime. The new owner of the hotel is Xavier Darling, a London billionaire with more money than good sense. He is rarely seen in the story. But his wealth hovers constantly. He has spared no expense and descriptions of the place shiver with reality. It’s a gorgeous venue.

Our family are total foodies so the scenes and descriptions in the eateries on the island really impress me.

There are many levels to this story. Every character has some sort of drama going on. Some right out front, others much more undercover. Multiple affairs are happening, some right in broad daylight. It’s summertime and things are heating right up. Nantucket is rocking and rolling mostly with very high rollers.

An eight-year-old girl staying at the hotel has become intrigued with the ghost story and is determined to solve the cold case. She is so smart and is a bright and enthusiastic addition to the story. She’s visiting the hotel with her mother and siblings and they have a huge dog. They were upgraded to a luxury suite upon check in because of a misunderstanding. Lizbet was responsible… what a family.

And we add Richie to the mix. Who is Richie? Good question. He’s living in his car. He’s broke. And he’s the new night front desk clerk. But he’s much more than that.

Toss in a $1000 bonus to one deserving employee every week, and you can only imagine the jostling for the money position every single day. Does bring more drama to the table?

A celebrity chef is brought on board to run the restaurant in the hotel. Of course romance is in the air.

It’s a quick and really light read. You find yourself on the beach, in Nantucket with amazing food and formidable shops and restaurants. The weather is balmy after the winter, and you find yourself leaving that cold winter behind and being quickly drawn into the island mentality that is simply divine.

My review copy was sent by the generous publishing people at Little Brown in exchange for an honest review. It did everything I wanted it to do. I was at the beach for two days, virtually and loved it.

Elin Hilderbrand

Search For Treasure by Mary Alice Monroe and Angela May

Search For Treasure

I couldn’t be more excited about this sequel to THE ISLANDERS. We’re back on Dewees Island, just off the coast of Isle of Palm near Charleston, South Carolina.

Jake Potter is staying with his grandmother Honey once again. But, this time he’s got his dad with him. And Macon and Lovie are chomping at the bit to get the threesome back on the beach and involved with something new: a real life treasure they are determined to unearth.

Being on Dewees Island means being prepared to unplug, get back to basics and enter the wonderful world of nature.

Monroe and May have managed to include all manner of flora and fauna. Plus, as you can see, there is this huge and very famous alligator.

When two visiting boys act up and act out, the threesome have to deal with drama. And it’s a learning kind.

Mary Alice and Angela

I loved this second in the series and hope for more next summer.

Would be a great book to listen to as a family, possibly on vacation, roadtrip. It’s content is very safe and yet the story holds up wonderfully for all ages. I devoured my copy. I’m sure you’ll devours yours as well.

My physical review copy arrived from Aladdin Press, a division of Simon & Schuster, in exchange for an honest review. It’s wonderful. Loved it!

Tracy Flick Can’t Win by Tom Perrotta

Many of you will remember Perrotta’s ELECTION. That’s where Tracy Flick first appears. They even made a movie of the book starring Reese Witherspoon. It was a total hit. Well, Perrotta is back twenty some years later. Tracy is a middle-aged assistant principal in New Jersey. Her ambitions have changed. Her situation has changed. Instead of aspiring to becoming president of the United States, she’s hoping to step into the principal’s job when he announces his imminent retirement.

I kept thinking of one of my daughter-in-laws while reading this novel. She is an assistant principal at a local high school. Stressful job!

Tracy’s world has narrowed. She’s the mother of a ten-year old daughter. There’s a lot of drama. Issues of #MeToo are involved. Behind the scenes conspiracy are rampant.

Perrotta writes with an unusual wit. You can’t help but route for Tracy. She can be her own worst enemy.

Toward the ending of the novel things go haywire. A bit crazy. It was an interesting read and so well written. Those of you looking for closure for Tracy will surely get it.

My review copy was provided physically from Scribner Books in exchange for an honest review. It’s a good read.

A note: Elaine Newton has added this novel to her summer reading list. Just saying. link highlighted. Please keep in mind that the Philharmonic created this newer list just this week. The first list they gave has disappeared…..

It All Comes Down To This by Theresa Anne Fowler

It All Comes Down To This

Warning: This amazing novel takes place in Maine. Boom!

I love good novels set in Maine. Most of you who know me do realize I have never set foot in the state. But I sure hope to one day. Reading about Maine in various forms makes me happy.

Theresa Anne Fowler is one of my favorite novelists. She’s so darn good. This new book takes us into the world of the Geller sisters who are trying to catch their breath and move on after their mom is diagnosed with terminal cancer. After she passes they discover that her will is set up so that the three women will get together at the Maine cottage and spend time together one last time. Her intent is for them to sell the cottage and split the proceeds. However, stuff is going on in each one of their lives.

Beck is the oldest sister. She’s a free lance writer who is stagnating in a loveless marriage. She sees the cottage as her opportunity to move in and write her book.

Claire is the middle girl. She’s a cardiologist, recently divorced. She is in love with a man she has no business being in love with. So there is that.

Sophie is the youngest. She’s an Instagram influencer and the whole family believes she’s wildly famous and richer than Midas. Well, truth be told, she’s poor as a church mouse and drowning in debt. Oh my.

Beautifully flawed characters. Amazing scenes by the ocean in Maine. A very unlikely love interest. Three women who don’t yet know just how much they need one another.

My review copy of IT ALL COMES DOWN TO THIS arrived via UPS from the wonderful publishing people at St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review. Well, honestly, I loved it and think everyone needs a copy in their summer reading bag!!