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Family

“His Favorites” Exposes Guilt and Vulnerability

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With sparse, lyrical language, author of His Favorites (Scribner), Kate Walbert, shines a light on women’s rights as she tells us about Jo’s tragic and unsettling experiences.  After being in a deadly accident at 15 years old with her best friends, Jo, a wild and now emotionally broken high school student is sent off to boarding school. Her life at home crumbled and her friendships broken, the new beginning for her life away at school held the strong potential of not going in the right direction.  Memories and stories weave together our understanding of who Jo is…and how an irresponsible female teenager, faced with tragedy and then coerced by a sweet talking man, may not possess the support needed to fight back…

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Tall Poppy Review: Fragile Friendships in “The Glass Wives”

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In Amy Nathan’s The Glass Wives (Saint Martin’s Press), a devastating end becomes a beginning of sorts for Evie and Nicole Glass. When Richard Glass is killed in a tragic accident, Nicole is a sudden widow. But what does that make Evie, his ex-wife? Financial instability and an unknown future plague both women, and as they are thrust into the unknown they find themselves flailing. Hoping to find some security and longing for family in the midst of such loss, Nicole proposes that she and Luca, her toddler son, move in with Evie and her twins Sam and Sophie. Against her own better judgement, Evie agrees. As unexpected bonds form between the children, Evie and Nicole engage in a cautious…

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“The Lost Family” Covers Marriage and Love Post-WWII

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Jenna Blum, author of the bestseller Those Who Save Us, is back with another novel, one that is equally heartbreaking and haunting. Covering topics of grief and love, Blum artfully and skillfully reminds us that the past never seems to stay there, and that the repercussions can still be felt decades and generations later. The Lost Family begins in 1965 Manhattan. World War II may be over, but the memories are always present for Peter Rashkin, who survived Auschwitz, but lost his wife and daughters. Now, trying to make a new life for himself, he becomes the owner and head chef of a restaurant called Masha, a namesake to his lost wife. People from all over come to eat and savor the…

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Tall Poppies Review: Tina Ann Forkner Wakes Up Emotions

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My oh my but I have a thing for the Talleys. I must—I just finished reading Tina Ann Forkner’s Waking Up Joy  (Tule Publishing) for the second time. Joy Talley is the 40-something who has tasked herself with preserving her parents’ rural Oklahoma homestead as well as their large, rambunctious, and often complicated family. As one of five creative and opinionated siblings myself, I can relate to their brand of crazy. They may be bossy, hot-to-trot, or off their rockers, but the Talleys are fiercely loyal and never less than entertaining. As the book opens, Joy is in a bit of a spot. After falling from her roof while trying to pull an evil charm from the chimney, and then…

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The Elegance and Beauty of a Struggling Family

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In her heartfelt and elegantly written debut of a beautiful, struggling family, it’s clear that Fatima Farheen Mirza is a gifted writer. She is more than able to make you feel every character’s emotions, while offering compassion for different views, gradually revealing different aspects of each story to create a multilayered tapestry. A Place For Us begins at Hadia’s wedding in California, where the family gathers to celebrate a marriage based on love, rather than one that was arranged. Huda, the middle child, is determined to be like her sister more and more, headstrong and bold. Lastly, Amar, Hadia’s younger brother who ran away three years earlier, has returned for the celebration, taking his place as the brother of the bride.…

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Interview with Maxine Rosaler, Author of “Queen for a Day”

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It is bold work to invite us into the world of children who are eligible for special education—and their long suffering parents. Maxine Rosaler does this in her novel, Queen for a Day, through her main character, Mimi Slavitt and her young son, Danny. We, the audience, are alongside Mimi as she attempts to accept and comprehend her autistic son’s world. In the process, Mimi — and so we the readers — are introduced to the other mothers and their children, whom she encounters along the path, and the social system that provides aid. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2015-2016, 6.7 million students between the ages of three and 21 received special education services. Among the…

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“That Kind of Mother” Takes on the Challenges of Race and Motherhood

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Rebecca Stone desperately needs help with her newborn and Priscilla, a La Leche nurse from the hospital comes to her rescue. Having experience being a mother herself when she was a single, teen mother many years ago, Priscilla leaves her job at the hospital to become the nanny for Rebecca’s baby. Rebecca feels extremely close to Priscilla, confiding her fears, the hopes and dreams she had for herself and has for her child. She looks at Priscilla as a source of stability in her life, all while learning how to care for a child, and just what it means to be a mother.  Priscilla ends up changing the way that Rebecca looks on not only motherhood, but also the world…

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Tall Poppies Review: ‘Family Trees’ Captivates with Story of Love, Family and Heartbreak

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Family Trees by Kerstin March is a beautifully written story that captivates the reader with a cast of interesting characters and stunning landscape. The story unfolds against the gorgeous backdrop of Lake Superior with Shelby Meyers, a young local woman who lives and works with her grandparents at their family owned orchard in Bayfield, Wisconsin. I at once fell in love with not only Shelby’s intelligence and independence, but also her salt of the earth grandparents and her spunky best friend. The community of Bayfield and its residents come to life in a way that invites readers to feel like we are a part of it. One of the things I love most about this novel is how March brings Lake…

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The Secrets to a Stress-Free Holiday: 5 Tips for Survival from Author Madisyn Taylor

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For most of us, when we think about the holiday season it evokes a feeling of excitement, anticipation, peacefulness, beauty and more. As the holidays get closer, we often begin to fall into our old patterns that have plagued us for our adult lives. The feelings of needing to buy gifts for everybody, having a ready supply of hostess gifts, dealing with family members, hosting the perfect party and the ever mounting list of expectations. When overwhelm sets in, it’s time to take a breath and find a remedy for these problems. In your own life, you can make a list of what stressors you are reacting to. On a piece of paper on the left hand side write down everything…

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The Freedom to Love is Paramount in Ariana Mansour’s ‘He Never Deserved Me’

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For most American women, we cannot conceive of marrying a man we don’t love, much less marrying a man our parents and community chooses for us. Not to say that this doesn’t happen in some regions and/or faiths, or that it wasn’t a more common phenomenon in another time and place, but since the women’s liberation movement of the 1960s and the mainstreaming of modern feminism, American women have been fighting for respect; not just respect of our persons, but of our needs, desires, passions and our choices. We won’t always make the right choices as life is overwrought with bad mistakes that began with the purest of intentions. But, we should be allowed to make those mistakes in a…

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Chaos Hits Home for the Holidays in ‘The Boyfriend Swap’

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If you are looking for an escape this holiday season, The Boyfriend Swap by Meredith Schorr is just what you need! We step in on an unforgettable character, Robyn, who is a teacher dating an actor. Her family would like for her to meet a guy with ambition and some success but they are always disappointed with the creative types she is drawn to. Sydney is a lawyer at her father’s law firm and she is dating a lawyer. Her father is obsessed with the law and tends to talk business incessantly; something she has no patience for. Ann Marie is Robyn’s roommate and she works for Sydney at the law firm.  The three girls were together at a wine party and…

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Tall Poppies Review: ‘Perennials’ Unfolds Beautifully

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Julie Cantrell has long been one of my favorite authors, a writer whose pages I know I can turn to for stunning language, heartfelt stories and flawless character development. Her latest, Perennials, is no exception, and I found myself completely invested from the very first page. Lovey Sutherland’s Arizona life, complete with her successful career as an advertising executive, her centering yoga routine and her supportive, loving friends, is, on the surface, what she has always wanted. Free from the past she left behind in her hometown of Oxford, Mississippi—and the blame she faced when a fire in her childhood, perceived to be her fault, changed everything—in many ways Lovey has created the future she has always imagined. Even still,…

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‘The Best of Us’: Joyce Maynard’s Memoir on Love, Loss and Life

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I highly recommend reading Joyce Maynard’s The Best of Us, but just make sure you have a box of tissues. Maynard finds the love of her life in her 50s, many years after being divorced and raising her children as a single mother. She and Jim, her new love, had a wonderful connection and were enjoying life to the fullest. And then their future was shattered when he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She stood by him, provided hope and continued to look for treatments and solutions until the end. Her love story is beautiful and devastating as she chronicles the time before she meets Jim, during their love affair and his battle with this devastating disease, and afterward when she…

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‘White Fur’: Is Love Really More Powerful Than Money?

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The more I think about this novel, the more I love White Fur by Jardine Libaire. It’s the 1980s and Elise, a school dropout and recently homeless young girl is living in New Haven with a friend she met on the street. Jamey is one of the white, privileged and wealthy guys in the apartment next door; the longtime buddies are students at Yale and everything material has been given to them on a silver platter. The unlikely attraction between Elise and Jamey is powerful, lustful and trepidatious on Jamey’s part, as Elise is from low-class, poor, unsophisticated stock, and although she has big love for her family and knows what she wants out of life, his fancy and pretentious family and…

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Disney Pixar’s ‘Coco,’ Not Just for Kids

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For the past few years, Disney has been turning our favorite classic stories into live-action films.  These revivals remind us that sometimes, kids movies aren’t just for kids. In theaters this holiday season is Disney Pixar’s Coco, a beautifully animated film that takes place in Mexico. Lucky for us, the companion book Coco: A Story about Music, Shoes, and Family, has been released for us, as well! Twelve-year old Miguel Rivera just wants to be a famous musician, like his idol Ernesto de la Cruz, the most famous musician and film star in Mexico’s history. But Miguel’s family has a generation-old ban on music, and tell him to focus on the shoe-making shop that family runs, instead. A desperate attempt to prove his musical…

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