On Ocean Boulevard by Mary Alice Monroe

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Dear Fellow Reader,

As far as I am concerned, it is a good day when the new beach reads for the year start arriving. Of course, when the release date for this book was planned, it was WAY before anyone was thinking about a pandemic. I am sure this is not what they wanted. The author was going to stop in my area on her book tour but now that has been canceled.

It could be the best time for a new book by Mary Alice Monroe. I am sure that we are all ready for something new. With most of us sheltering in place, “new” is not exactly happening. It is hard to have conversations when no one is doing anything.

download (7)On Ocean Boulevard is the sixth in the Beach House Series. It has been two years since the last book in this series, Beach House Reunion. It is time to catch up with the Rutledge family and what they have been doing. While all the members are part of the story, this book centers mostly on Linnea and Cara. Linnea is back from California jobless and without her boyfriend. She is feeling that she has failed and has returned with nothing. She is trying to keep an upbeat attitude. She came home for turtle time and she joins right in and helps the Turtle Team. Through that, she meets some new people.

In the meantime, Cara is getting married to David. While she is happy to marry him, she has some qualms about the wedding. She isn’t one for making a big fuss and it seems that this wedding is more than she asked for.

When an unexpected serious illness affects the family, Cara needs to re-evaluate her situation.

So, there are all the elements that we love in the Beach House Series. There is love, friendship, loss, and family. Since it has been two years since the last book, it might take you a few minutes to remember all the characters and where we left off. But it didn’t take me long to remember. It is a great relief from thinking about a pandemic. The is book is exactly what is needed right now.

I know that fans of these stories will enjoy the new relationships and character growth that are part of this new book in the series. This book will be published on May 19, 2020. (TOMORROW!)

(And that ever-present note – I was given a copy of this book in return for a fair review.)

Thanks for reading!

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Murder at the Mena House by Erica Ruth Neubauer

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Dear Fellow Readers,

I know times are tough and I hope you are doing well.  I have a fun mystery for you.  I found out about this book from my local bookseller. (I can’t rave about Boswell Books in Milwaukee enough.)

  In a recent newsletter, the owner wrote about talking to Erica Ruth Neubauer. She has recently released her new book, Murder at the Mena House.  In the interview, she talked about how she read Murder at the Brightwell and how she liked the time period and vibe of the book.  I reviewed Murder at the Brightwell back in January (https://cecooney.com/2020/01/10/oh-those-cozies-three-cozy-mysteries/) and that caught my attention.  The other thing mentioned in the interview was that this is the first in a three-book series and that the second book has been written already.  Nice to know it is a series (which I am a sucker for) and that 2/3 of it is written already  We won’t be waiting 6 years for the next one.

download (5)Murder at the Mena House takes place in Egypt in 1926.  Jane Wunderly is traveling with Aunt Millie.  Aunt Millie feels that Jane should be using the time traveling to find a new husband.  Jane’s husband was killed in the war and she has shown no interest in getting married again. (and why is that?)

When they arrive at the Mena House, there are several interesting guests.  She first meets Colonel  Stainton and his daughter Anna. She also meets the mysterious Redvers, a handsome banker. Although she gets the feeling that he isn’t really a banker. Anna Stainton shows obvious distain for Jane and Jane’s impression is that Anna is a spoiled socialite.

Then Anna is killed.  And Jane is under suspicion for her murder by an imperious local policeman.  Jane knows she needs to clear her name but she is not sure who can be trusted.

The story has many parts to it. There is murder, there is blackmail and the secrets it was hiding and there is the question as to why Jane is not looking for a new husband. It is all finely woven and reveled during the book.

By the end, there is only one thing not clear but there are two more books…

I enjoyed Murder at the Mena House. I think the author did a good job with character development and the unraveling of the story.

If you were interested in finding out from the author about her book and about her, you can watch an interview with her https://www.jsonline.com/videos/entertainment/books/2020/04/08/erica-ruth-neubauer-talks-her-new-mystery-novel-murder-mena-house/2953245001/

Thanks for reading.

 

 

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Saving Cee Cee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman

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Dear Fellow Readers,

How are you doing? Are you okay through this sheltering in place?  It is harder than ever would have thought, isn’t it?  Of course, part of the issue is that we have no solid idea when it will end. And even when it lets up, will you feel safe leaving the house?  These are strange times.

I would have thought that this would be a great time to get a lot of reading done.  I mean, isn’t this time made for readers?  Think of all the books that can come off the TBR pile!  Except that isn’t really what I have been doing.  Okay, yes, I have read several books, but I just don’t feel like reading sometimes.  I don’t feel like doing much most of the time.  Oh well, this too shall pass.

51DblsB19jLAnd I seem to be inclined to hit old favorites rather than picking up on some newer reads.  Take, for example, today’s book, Saving CeeCee Honeycutt.  It appealed to me because it takes place in the South and from the description, has a cast of crazy women.  My kind of book…

BUT the crazy southern woman in this book is really crazy.  That is not exactly my choice for light reading. Poor Camille Honeycutt has serious mental health issues.  Her husband has moved her from the South, and she is not coping well with his distance and his cheating.  She has breaks with reality, spends time buying pageant dresses at the local Goodwill store so she could regain her days as the Vidalia Queen. Poor CeeCee sees people making fun of her mother all the time. And her classmates make fun of her because of her mother.

But then her mother has an accident and is killed. Great Aunt Tootie shows up at the house and the next thing CeeCee knows, she is packed up and riding to Georgia with Aunt Tootie.  She is now in the town that her mother talked about all the time.  CeeCee, who is used to having to take care of herself is now in a home with women who care for her. She finds friends and grows up over the summer as she finds out how supportive women can be.

The book is sad at first. CeeCee is trying do deal alone with her mother’s mental illness as the townspeople and her classmates make fun of her mother.  Then as CeeCee lives with her great aunt, there is the small-town humor that can bolster her and show her what life can be like as a child rather than as a child having to act like and adult.

I enjoyed the story.

 

Thanks for reading.

 

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Hurricane Season by Nicole Melleby

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Dear Fellow Reader,

One of my pet peeves is when someone turns up their nose at a book because it is categorized as “YA” or Young Adult. (According to Wikipedia, Young adult fiction (YA) is a category of fiction written for readers from 12 to 18 years of age. While the genre is targeted to teenagers, approximately half the YA readers are adults. The subject matter and genres of YA correlate with the age and experience of the protagonist.)

There are so many good books that are in the category of YA that I think you are missing out on if you decide that you are going to skip this group of books. Books that come to my mind right away are the following:  The Book Thief, The Hate U Give, and The Fault in our Stars. These were books that I don’t think you should miss just because they are in the YA category.

So, when I am offered a YA book to read, I don’t necessarily turn it down. I think the plots can be interesting and bring a viewpoint that I may not have had as a youth. (or that I may not have now…) When I was asked to read an advanced copy of the book Hurricane Season by Nicole Melleby, I decided that I wanted to see what it was about and how it was written. Technically, the protagonist in the book is 11 so it is not a YA book. In my opinion, it should be at least in the YA category.

51Vh2bxhJGL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Hurricane Season tells the story of Fig Arnold. Fig is in 6th grade and is feeling alone. Not only is it easy to feel like the odd man out at that age, but Fig is not part of the popular crowd and she doesn’t have a mother. Fig’s mother left her at the age of 1 day in the hospital. Fig has been totally raised by her father. Her father loves her very much. He was a concert pianist and composer and once played all the top concert halls, but mental illness has taken that career away from him. His illness has them living in a small beach town and her father is drawn to the beach during hurricanes. This is dangerous and scary for Fig. Due to her father’s erratic behavior, (the police picked him up at the beach when a hurricane was about to hit and he came to school to get Fig out of class one day in a panic) their homelife is under the scrutiny of social service.

While living with her erratic father is hard for Fig, the thought of living without him is even worse. She takes on the cares of the world and feels she must keep it all a secret. The writing pulls you into the story and you feel terrible for Fig and you see that she has no idea how she can manage this situation.

As much as she doesn’t want to tell anyone, she finds a friend in one of her classmates who is willing to listen and not be judgmental. She also breaks through her fears and when her father has disappeared during a storm, she asks her new neighbor for help. These two connections help Fig. Through the neighbor’s kindness and intercession, her father starts to get the help he needs. The book does not show it as a magic pill to ease the situation but rather a process that has ups and downs but they start the hard work of getting her father better.

As a reader, you are drawn in and want to help Fig. She is trying so hard, but she is just a little girl. She is living a life that is way beyond what she should need to cope with at her age. You want to see that it will work out for her. There is no magic solution at the end but there is hope and love. Fig’s father loves her and doesn’t mean to do anything to hurt her or embarrass her. She knows this and she loves him despite being mad and frustrated sometimes.

This book has stayed with me in the last month or so since I read it. Now, there are a couple things about the book that I did question. The first thing is that Fig develops feelings for the cute high school girl who works at the library. I know that I am not in any way knowledgeable about such things, but I am always a bit taken back when an 11-year-old has sexual feelings. I’m not sure I knew anything about sex when I was that age. I understand that it can happen and that I may not be the norm. (But you always think that you are the norm, don’t you?) So, it was one thing for her to think about the girl but then she told her father about the attraction and she told the object of the attraction. Once again, I wondered if that would happen. Just because I would think that these feelings would be new to Fig and since she spends her life hiding things that she might not be as free to speak. And then she was rejected by the girl (nicely but still rejected) which didn’t see to phase her very much but that actually might be in keeping with an 11-year-old. Especially an 11-year-old with bigger fish to fry. I don’t know. I thought that it didn’t add to the story – it was a bit of a blip for me. The first place in the book where I kind of had the feeling of “what?”.

I think it is a story worth reading. I am glad that I did.

Thanks for reading!

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Code Name Helene by Ariel Lawhon

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Dear Fellow Readers,

I must admit a bit of fatigue with historical fiction centering around World War II. I am sure that is unfair to the genre, but I felt like I had read more than my fill.

And then I read a description of a book based on a real person. It intrigued me so I decided to read yet another one.

Code Name HeleneCode Name Helene is the story of Nancy Wake. Nancy Wake was an Australian who moved to  Paris. She was in her early 20s and working as a journalist for the American Hearst newspaper chain. As a woman, she could not get a byline and her stories were never treated the same as the men she worked with. That did not stop her from trying. At the beginning of the book, she and her photographer witness a scene that affects Nancy. On a tip, they go to a town in Germany. When they get there, they see that a Hitler Brownshirt has a Jewish woman tied to a waterwheel. He starts whipping her and threatens to take the whip to anyone who tries to help her. Over the silence of the crowd, the camera’s click catches the attention of the Brownshirts. They take the camera and destroy it. Nancy brought the story back and her editor tried to kill it because he said it wasn’t believable without the pictures. It was finally published but not with Nancy’s name. The incident served to awaken her to the cruelty of Hitler and her desire to fight against him.

Nancy starts by smuggling traveling papers and people across the border to evade the Gestapo. When France is invaded, she and her husband, Henri, know they must leave. They also know that they must be surreptitious and decide to leave separately and meet later.

The book opens on February 29, 1944, with  Helene jumping out of a plane into France. The second chapter takes place in 1936 with Nancy meeting a friend in a bar in Paris. It is one of those books that go back and forth in time. One chapter will be what is happening during the war and the next will tell Nancy’s background. I did not have any trouble following where we were in the story.

The tale not only tells us of Nancy Wake’s heroism but also her humanity. From bracing herself with her red lipstick to her silk nightgowns, she is a woman in battle but also a woman. She doesn’t want to live without a few of her feminine accouterments. I did not find that her personal affectations affected my view of her. I found them to make her more real.

I enjoyed the book. It is well worth reading. I was given a copy of the book so that I could give a fair review. The book will be published on March 31, 2020.

Thanks for reading.

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