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Review

Dupattas and Desire: “Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows”

in Girly Book Club by

For the month of October, all chapters of the Girly Book Club are reading Balli Kaur Jaswal’s Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows (William Morrow). Here’s our review: In this textured tale about Punjabi Indian women and sexual taboos, Balli Kaur Jaswal masterfully juxtaposes modern and traditional, West and East, and each generation’s definition of oppression, with a murder mystery woven into the cultural tapestry. Nikki Grewal has already disappointed her parents, identifying more as British than Punjabi Sikh. At 22 she tends bar at a London pub—a girl with half a law degree and no husband. She can’t believe her sister Mindi wants an arranged marriage. Nikki craves independence while Mindi wants a family; their goals couldn’t be more different. Nonetheless, Nikki…

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

in Fiction by

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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Debut Novel by Catherine Steadman is Bombshell Thriller

in Thrillers by

Psychological thrillers have been all the rage recently, beloved for their ability to grab your attention from the very first pages, pull you in, and become so intertwined and twisted that you’re forced to second-guess yourself… and Downton Abbey actress Catherine Steadman has done just that in her fast-moving, debut novel Something in the Water. Erin, a filmmaker in the middle of making a documentary of people in prison – which has the potential to be her professional breakthrough moment – and Mark, a good-looking investment banker with big plans for the future, are traveling in the beautiful and exotic Bora Bora for their dream honeymoon. Passionately in love, they can imagine nothing better than the sun, sand, and each other. But one…

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“My Family Was Crazy, So Now I’m a Psychiatrist”

in Non-Fiction by

One day at the age of 10, as a student at a New England boarding school, young Ned Hallowell was told to report to the school psychologist at the request of his mother. Getting right to the point, Dr. Merritt asked, “Well, how about if you tell me about your life so far?” “I remember starting to talk, and out of the blue the floodgates opened,” recalls Hallowell in his new memoir, Because I Come From a Crazy Family (Bloomsbury). “I talked and talked and cried and cried… Dr. Merritt sat there, not saying a word.” What Dr. Merritt said next, according to Hallowell, “makes me believe he was either the best or the worst psychologist on the planet. He…

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Lisa Halliday’s “Asymmetry” – The Hot Novel of 2018

in Fiction by

Back to Philip Roth, whose death still haunts some of us. A few months ago a first novel called Asymmetry was published whose author, Lisa Halliday, wrote about an affair she had with Philip Roth. I saw that the book had good coverage but then heard via another famous writer (who, by the way, ends up being mentioned in the novel) that it was a fine piece of fiction, a “must read.” I marked Asymmetry as weekend fare and polished it off over Father’s Day weekend. Roth apparently has said that Halliday “got him,” which was generous of him as the portrait of the great writer is microscopic, and surely a man as private as Roth must’ve groaned to see himself—warts and…

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Celebrating Lovely Imperfections in “Branching Out”

in Fiction by

Emotional and satisfying, Kerstin March’s novel Branching Out is a skillfully written love story that will truly touch the heart of readers. This isn’t a story about a perfect marriage, and that’s what makes it so very lovely in its deeply moving journey of love between two people. This is a story about loss, love, and forgiveness that readers will not want to put down until the very end. Written as a sequel to March’s novel Family Trees, we join Shelby Meyers and Ryan Chambers at their wedding, which is right where readers want them to be, but this stage of their journey may not be the happily-ever-after they have been dreaming about. Shelby and Ryan couldn’t come from more…

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Strange Stars: A Must-Read For Sci-Fi and Pop Music Fans

in Pop Culture by

Long, long ago, in a movie theater far, far away, a young lad named David Robert Jones watched a London screening of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 lost-in-space tale had a life-shaking effect on the person who would become David Bowie. At the time, Bowie was just a skinny singer with a dream, and a penchant for science fiction. After identifying with Robert Heinlein’s novel Starman Jones, about an Ozark farm boy who wants to go to space, Bowie devoured Ray Bradbury, Theodore Sturgeon, Isaac Asimov and all that the Golden Age of sci-fi could provide. Some of his earliest songs were abbreviated science fiction plots of strange worlds, strange creatures, stranger things. And in 1969, five days…

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The Elegance and Beauty of a Struggling Family

in Fiction by

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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Tall Poppies Review: “The Feathered Bone” Brings Light to the Darkness

in Fiction by

Sometimes we open a book of fiction hoping to escape to another place and time. While we read, we can imagine living in a world of wizards and gentle giants; diving 20,000 leagues under the sea; or flying in a hot air balloon over rainbows and yellow brick roads. At other times, fiction pulls us into the dreams and fears of those who live through hardships that most of us can hardly imagine. These are the stories that make news headlines, that cause us to shudder, and that move us to hold onto our loved ones a little bit tighter. They’re the stories that open our eyes to dire struggles in the world – and they’re the stories that inspired…

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Sarah Winman’s “Tin Man” is Heartbreaking and Tender

in Fiction by

A tender and beautiful story, Sarah Winman’s novel Tin Man is heartbreaking and wonderfully moving, focusing on the relationship between two people, first as young boys and then as adults, with an exquisitely written and introspective look into the experiences and intimacies that are shared in a relationship so close. At twelve years old, Ellis and Michael become friends, with shared similarities in their difficult family lives and less than stellar relationships with their fathers. The two spend a lot of time together, having fun and exploring their hometown, learning to swim, and more. Then, their close friendship becomes something much more. Ten years later, Ellis is married to Annie, and Michael is gone from the picture. Burdened with shame stemming from…

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In “Switch and Bait,” Ricki Schultz Spoofs Modern Online Dating

in Romance by

If sarcastic wit and sharp insight into modern dating culture are your cup of exotic tea, then meet author Ricki Schultz. Last year’s debut novel, Mr. Right-Swipe, threw readers into the world of online dating and was relatable to anyone who has ever been on a bad date, which excludes one or two ants that crawled through my kitchen last week and likely no one or nothing else. Fast forward to her latest comic romp, Switch and Bait, out this June from Grand Central Publishing. What has become Schultz’s trademark are irreverent humor and reflections into modern dating. The main character, Blanche Carter, was known as the “Love Doctor” in her sorority (interpret that as you may), but has now…

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Tall Poppies Review: Perfectly Timed, Socially Relevant, “What Happened That Night” Is a Must-Read

in Fiction by

Perfectly-timed and socially-relevant, What Happened That Night by Sandra Block is a page-turning thriller that will satisfy readers of Lisa Scottaline and Jessica Knoll. This story is an emotional and twisting ride that follows Dahlia and her new friend James on a journey of payback and justice for an unquestionably terrible act of violence. Dahlia is a student at Harvard when she is drugged and brutally raped by a string of attackers during a night out partying with her best friend. Five years later in what seems like a surprising twist of circumstances, someone leaks the video of the assault on-line, and Dahlia discovers what really happened on that awful night, getting a shocking look at her attackers and what they did…

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Sam Hooker’s “Peril in the Old Country” Is The Perfect, Dark Comedy Escape

in Fiction by

Rare is the author that writes like Sam Hooker. His latest book, Peril in the Old Country, draws the reader into a kaleidoscope of absurdist humor, stunning imagery, and a fantastical plot. Hooker is an expert when it comes to dark humor, and it clearly shows. In a land where rules are everything – also known as the Old Country – Sloot Peril is an accountant who’s really just trying to do the best he can and stay in the realm of mediocrity for as long as possible. That, unfortunately for him, is now what happens. Instead, he fixes an accounting error, gets invited to a high-class dinner party he doesn’t belong at, and finds out that he’s actually from…

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Comic Thriller “Death and Taxes” Pits an IRS Repo Squad Against the Mongolian Mob, Radioactive Cows and a Murderous Eunuch

in Fiction by

Mark Douglas is an IRS accountant, a former Marine content to hide out in his cubicle and audit suspicious tax returns. His latent thirst for action is satisfied by occasional forays into the field, armed with tear gas, a bull horn, and a rental truck to haul in whatever pays the back taxes of the most egregious evaders. Life is good for Mark. After long days at the office courting carpal tunnel syndrome, he joins his co-workers at their local watering hole to relive past glories deciphering fraudulent tax returns, ponder unexpected consequences of tax loopholes, and ogle busty barmaids. Mark’s boss, Lila, is a beautiful and sexy tax prodigy. One day, she discovers “odd jiggles” in three seemingly unconnected…

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

in Fiction by

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: Sonja Yoerg’s “House Broken” Tackles Tough Issues With Wit and Layers

in Fiction by

Veterinarian Geneva Novak relates better to animals than humans. Maybe not that surprising once we meet her dysfunctional family. When her mother is injured in an alcohol-fueled accident, Geneva’s husband convinces her that taking mom in, is the opportunity to repair their relationship. Toss in two teenagers with their own set of issues, a slew of family secrets and complicated sibling relationships and you have the ingredients for a perfect familial explosion. Sonja Yoerg tackles tough issues in this book with an unsentimental and unapologetic honesty. Her wicked wit and effortless writing lift this fractured family from the pages and into your heart. Told from the point-of-view of three characters and three generations, we’re drawn into the complexities of families…

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