Category Archives: women’s fiction

Dana Ridenour — Behind the Mask

The story follows a growing friendship between two women—Lexie, an FBI agent on her first undercover assignment, and Savannah, a young, naïve animal-rights activist. As the tagline on the back cover says, “You build relationships to betray relationships.” But is Lexie ready to betray her newfound friend to her bosses at the FBI?

Amazon lists this novel as a (Mystery, Thriller & Suspense > Mystery > Cozy > Animals), but there is no mystery to solve and it doesn’t even come close to what I consider a cozy. Thriller & suspense—maybe. More of a crime novel. It’s also listed a women’s fiction, which is probably closer. Not that it matters; it was a good read.

Lisa Genova — Every Note Played

Lisa Geneva captures your mind and your emotions. This is a sad, sad story. It’s a different kind of “horror” story, but the monsters aren’t aliens, werewolves, or ghosts. Instead they are a disabling disease and a dysfunctional family.

Richard and Karina are both talented pianists who met and married when they were studying classical piano in NYC. They were competitive, with Karina probably the more talented, until Karina fell in love with jazz. Early in their marriage Richard took a job in Boston where the jazz world was almost nonexistent. Karina followed and lost her connection to her new love—jazz. Then their daughter Grace was born. Karina gave up her career as a pianist to become wife, mother, and piano teacher at home. Richard became a renowned pianist, touring the world. Richard wanted more children; Karina wanted no more.

Resentment grew between them from early in the marriage. Deception and blame ruled. They divorced when Grace was a teenager.

Now, at the age of forty-five, Richard develops ALS. His arms and hands go first, leaving him divorced from his one true love, the piano.

Genova takes you on a trip through every emotion; there is even a little humor thrown in. She follows Richard’s thoughts and details of the disease as the ALS progresses. She gives us the emotional upheavals of ex-wife Karina as she takes Richard back into her home to care for him. She examines the disconnection between father and daughter and the regret that he wasn’t there for her as she grew up.

Every Note Played is a powerful and exquisitely written novel.

Kristin Hannah — The Nightingale

The Nightingale grabs you in the gut—powerful writing!

Hannah takes you on an emotional journey through the German occupation of France in World War II. She follows two sisters with contrasting personalities through horrible events and upheavals in their lives and the world around them. Vianne tries to accept the hardships and follow the rules to protect her daughter. Isabelle resists in every way that she can. She creates an escape route through the Pyrenees, leading numerous downed Allied airmen to safety in Spain.

Usually when I enjoy a book, I read into the wee, small hours of the night. With The Nightingale, I found I needed to stop often to escape the pull of this story. Hannah is an excellent storyteller. She does everything right—the historical research, the characters, the setting, the reactions of the women living through this terrifying time.

Hannah’s novel is probably the best writing I’ve found in a very long time.

An interview with Kristin Hannah about The Nightingale.

Fiona Barton — The Child

During an excavation in London to upgrade an old neighborhood, the skeleton of a newborn baby is found. The police estimate the burial to be thirty to forty years ago. This grabs newspaper reporter Kate Waters’ attention, and she starts digging to find people who lived on the street at the time. She finds an old story about a baby stolen from the hospital, but as the date of the burial becomes clearer some things don’t match. The missing child was kidnapped a decade earlier and in a different neighborhood. Working the story, Kate finds more information and secrets, plus some unexpected surprises.

Trying to figure out what had happened, the book held my interest from the beginning, but it didn’t really grab me until the latter part of the story, keeping me up late the last night to finish it.

I guess the novel would be women’s fiction, mystery, maybe literary, maybe psychological thriller. I know that I say I’m not into women’s fiction, but there are some very talented writers in that genre. Author Barton kept me reading and kept me guessing. I would definitely read another of her novels.

Amy Gentry — Good as Gone

Thirteen-year-old Julie is abducted from her home in the middle of the night as her ten-year-old sister Jane looks on in fear from the closet. Eight years later, Julie shows up at her family’s door. That’s the beginning and the end of two stories. The current story moves forward through mother Anna’s eyes as she begins to doubt that the girl who appeared on her doorstep is her daughter. And the story of Julie moves backward through the eight years as Julie takes on one persona then another to the time when she left her home.

This thriller is about the two women and how they deal with tragedy. A mother who drinks and hides from life, ignoring the daughter and husband who are still with her, cannot except that the returning daughter is lying and might not be who she says. The daughter who does whatever it takes to survive—changing names and life stories as she moves from one situation to another— is always running, always lying to herself as well as others.

As a writer, I found the point of view (POV) in this novel interesting, The Prologue is the only place the author uses sister Jane’s POV—third person past. In Chapter 1 we jump to the mother Anna’s POV—first person present. When the story shifts to Julie and her various role’s POV it’s third person past, until the last part of the book where it’s Julie’s POV—first person past. It sounds confusing but it works.

The book grabbed my attention and held it to the end.

Thrity Umrigar — The Story Hour

This author drills into the minds and hearts of her characters. She crafted a story that kept me reading until three o’clock this morning.

The book is built around two characters from diverse cultures and backgrounds. One woman is a professional (psychologist) in a comfortable almost idyllic marriage. The other is an immigrant wife, unappreciated by her husband, who works her hard and gives her nothing (emotionally or materially). The two women’s lives come together and they become friends.

Ms. Umrigar looks into the best and the worst of both women—their desire to help others, their hopes and dreams, passions, and ambitions. She also shows us their mistakes or “sins” as one of the women classifies them, despair, guilt, loneliness…

Whew! I make it sound dark and depressing, but it’s not. It’s a delightful story with all the three H’s I talk about other places in my blog—head, heart, and humor—and a new “H” for hope.

It’s also in the women’s fiction (or literary) genre I claim to not like. Yet I keep finding good books in that category. Another thing this novel has in common with others I like and have reviewed is the switching back and forth between two main characters.

All I can say is this book is a good read. Remember it kept me reading until 3 a.m.

Carol Cassella – Gemini

I am impressed. Cassella is an amazing writer! Gemini is a captivating story switching between two main characters with very different stories and lives.

A doctor becomes involved, against her better judgment, with discovering the identity of a “Jane Doe” in her care. “Jane” lies in a coma in the hospital after she is found alongside the road almost dead from a hit-and-run.

The author also follows a young artist growing up with her grandfather in a backwoods small town. We see her first love, marriage, motherhood, her frustrations, struggles to survive, her spirit, her connection to grandfather, son, husband, to the land.

The genre is medical mystery, but I think it could also be classified as women’s fiction or literary. There is so much to grab you and keep you reading—hopes and fears, love and loss, heartbreak and joy, family, communication, morality, medicine, genetics…

I’m going to find Cassella’s two earlier novels, Oxygen and Healer, and spend more sleepless nights reading her work.

Vanessa Diffenbaugh – The Language of Flowers

The Language of Flowers. Isn’t that an intriguing name for a book? Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s first novel is superb. She tells the story of a young women coming out into the world from foster care with no family, no home, no education, no job… She has a love and knowledge of flowers, which finds her a job and connects her to people. The story swings between her current life and a past life with a foster mother who wanted to adopt her.

The novel is probably classified as literary or women’s fiction. Not my first choice for reading, but this book is exceptional. Diffenbaugh grabs your attention (and your heart) and holds it from beginning to end.

Lisa Genova – Love Anthony

Love Anthony by Lisa Genova is not a first novel, but she’s a new author for me. The story is about two women living on Nantucket who have no connection until late in the book. One is the mother of three daughters in the process of divorcing her husband and the other is a woman hiding out on the island after losing her autistic son who consumed her life for his eight short years. I won’t get into the plot or the story or I might ruin it for you. The book was fascinating. The author pulls you in and doesn’t let you go.

I plucked the book off the library shelf because I liked the cover or maybe because it takes place on Nantucket. I love the ocean and the Massachusetts islands. I’ve spent some time on Martha’s Vineyard and taken a few trips to Nantucket. The book was a surprise because I didn’t read the reviews on the back or the synopsis on the inside flap. I might not have picked it up. I’m not sure this book has a genre. If does it’s probably women’s fiction or it might fall into the literary category. I read very few of either. They are usually too sad for me, or in the case of women’s fiction, I find the main characters to be too victimized or too wrapped up in their own problems (although by the end of the book they usually get better). In this case, both women were believable and intriguing. I loved this story.

Joanne Simon Tailele – Accident

Great writing!  I finished Accident in one night. The author must have done a lot of research for this book – alcoholism, women’s prisons, legal issues…on and on. But more important to me, her characters are up close and personal – you get right into their heads. The book holds the reader’s attention from start to finish. I’m delighted that I bought it.