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tall poppy review

Tall Poppy Review: Perfect Drama For Moriarty Fans

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Not That I Could Tell (St. Martin’s Press) by Jessica Strawser examines life under the suburbia microscope. When a group of friends gather around a fire pit in one of their backyards, wine in hand, the conversation turns both dramatic and personal. A few days later, one of the women is missing and the friends are left to pick up the pieces of what they thought was her perfect life. Each of the friends has their own secrets and hidden truths, which makes for some juicy, page-turning drama! The character sketches in the book reminded me of Celeste Ng or Liane Moriarty. Each character has a distinct personality and complexity, which I loved. I think the idea that we never truly…

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Tall Poppy Review: Psycho Dysfunction in “Little Black Lies”

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A funny thing happened after I read Little Black Lies (Grand Central Publishing).  I met Sandra Block on Twitter soon after reading the book. I remember writing in 140 characters or less: I loved Little Black Lies. You should be a Tall Poppy Writer. I want to be your friend. I’m not sure why I wanted to befriend a woman who can write psychological dysfunction so well, but there are subtle humor and great depth in Sandra Block’s writing. In person, she is one of the funniest, kindest and smartest people I have ever met. Anyway, onto the book. Little Black Lies is the first of the Zoe Goldman trilogy. The book centers on Dr. Zoe Goldman, a psychiatric resident in…

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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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Tall Poppy Review: Ghosts of the Past in “One More Day”

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When someone dies, we may wish for more time with them. Just one more day. But what if that happened? What if they actually came back?This premise launches Kelly Simmons’s graceful and otherworldly suspense novel, One More Day (Sourcebooks Landmark) Carrie and her husband are mired in grief after the mysterious kidnapping of their son Ben. One second he was in his car seat. And the next, while his mother looked for change for parking, he was gone. The detectives have made no headway and the case is quickly turning cold. But then a year later, Ben returns. His parents are shocked and overjoyed. The detectives are astonished, as well as suspicious. But, there’s something odd about Ben’s reappearance. It’s been a whole…

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Tall Poppy Review: Magical Realism Served in Pies

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I’ve loved novels with elements of magical realism since before I was old enough to understand what the term meant. While Hogwarts, Narnia, and Middle Earth all have vast allure, there’s something bewitching about the idea of the magical in our own mundane world. Susan Bishop Crispell’s The Secret Ingredient of Wishes (Thomas Dunne Books) tells the story of Rachel Monroe, a 26-year-old who discovers at a young age that she has the ability to grant wishes. Unfortunately, her first experiences with her remarkable ability have disastrous consequences, and she grows up afraid of her own powers. For years, Rachel is able to avoid her gifts, until she attends the birthday party for her best friend’s daughter. She inadvertently grants the…

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Tall Poppy Review: Complex Recovery in The Art of Falling

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Imagine falling 14 stories from a city high rise and landing on top of a car. That’s what happens to Penelope Sparrow, a complicated character who has spent her entire life obsessively chasing her dream of becoming a successful dancer. Riddled with insecurities, struggling to adapt her body to the demands of the dance profession, and under the constant pressure of her loving but overbearing mother, Penelope wakes from this devastating trauma to face a heartbreaking new reality of brokenness. In The Art of Falling (Sourcebooks) Kathryn Craft has penned a story that takes us through the complicated challenges of recovery while braiding this emotional storyline through a web of intricate subplots. In this tale, we are challenged to consider our…

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Orly Konig Deftly Balances the Ebb and Flow of Grief

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People talk a lot about the different stages of grief and how you have to go through one after another until you finally come out on the other side of it, ready to face the world again. But what happens when life stalls at one of those stages? Carousel Beach (Forge Books) by Orly Konig takes readers deep beneath the surface of that question, navigating through the murky layers of fear and guilt and, ultimately, to the hope that lies at the heart of this touching novel. The story centers on Maya Brice, a restoration artist, and the beloved carousel she is painstakingly bringing back to life one animal at a time. A year after losing her grandmother and her unborn child,…

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Tall Poppies Review: In Praise of Difficult Women

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I’ve long been a fan of Karen Karbo, the award-winning author of the Kick-Ass Women series and more. This past fall, I holed up with Karen and about 20 other writer friends at a weekend long conference of our fellow Tall Poppy Writers at an Airbnb in Chicago. We shared a bathroom and brainstormed about the writing biz and our respective places in it. If you’d asked me then, I would have told you Karen Karbo isn’t the least bit “difficult.” But now I’ve read her latest book, In Praise of Difficult Women, (Foreword by the fabulous Cheryl Strayed) and I’ve changed my mind. Karbo has written a collection of essays about what it is to be a “difficult” woman…

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Tall Poppies Review: ‘The Moon in the Palace’ is Full of Forbidden Love, Intrigue, and Clever Women

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Palace intrigue, forbidden love, and clever women. Weina Dai Randel’s beautifully written, RITA-award winning The Moon in the Palace is full of all three and more. Set in China during the Tang Dynasty (seventh century), the novel follows the life of Mei, the future Empress Wu. From an early age, Mei is marked as a chosen one: “She would eclipse the light of the sun and shine brighter than the moon. She would reign over the kingdom that governs many men. She would mother the emperors of the land but also be emperor in her own name. She would dismantle the house of lies but build the temple of the divine. She would dissolve the kingdom of ghosts but found a…

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Tall Poppies Review: ‘Woman Last Seen in Her Thirties’ is an Empowering Story of Womanhood and Identity After 20

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When do we start to lose our identity? This is the question that permeates Camille Pagan’s heartwarming, humorous, and thoughtful book, Woman Last Seen in Her Thirties. Maggie Halfmoon has never questioned her identity. She stopped being a social worker years ago after a physical threat on the job. But her husband Adam was more than happy to take over as the breadwinner while she “leaned out” and took care of the kids. By all accounts, she has been happy. She has been a good wife, a good mom, a good daughter, and even a good daughter-in-law. Everything has been “good.” But one day her husband announces that he has fallen out of love and is leaving. Suddenly, Maggie is left…

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Tall Poppies Review: ‘The Phantom’s Apprentice’ Sees an Unforgettable Retelling of a Classic

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Retellings can be challenging. For those who are avid fans, it can be a stretch to see beloved characters from a different perspective. Heather Webb, however, has created a retelling with a life of its own, making direct comparisons all but impossible. I jumped head first into this book and never once found the niggling of what I “know” of the story tugging at my subconscious. In The Phantom’s Apprentice, we experience the much loved story from the point of view of Christine Daaé. Though she’s still the naïve, somewhat gullible character at the beginning, Webb has done a masterful job at building Christine into, dare I say it, a more modern, self-aware and assured young woman. I loved that…

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Tall Poppies Review: ‘Dreaming in Chocolate’ is Temptingly Sweet

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The best dreams are the ones that sweep you up into a magical adventure where there is hope and love… and chocolate. Set in a small, quirky mountain town where a magical chocolate shop is nothing short of expected, it’s easy to suspend belief and swallow whole Susan Bishop Crispell’s bittersweet tale of a single mother facing her young daughter’s failing health, and her own crisis of faith in the family’s special brand of magic. With the help of an enchanted apothecary table, Penelope works to grant every wish on young Ella’s bucket list while they feel time slipping by too quickly. But the family magic has failed Penelope in the past and she has no reason to believe it…

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