Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Dress Shop of Dreams

The Dress Shop of Dreams by Menna van Praag

It's Cora Carraway's birthday. Just an ordinary day in her regimented, unexciting life.She likes it that way. Ever since her parents died in a mysterious fire over twenty years ago, Cora chooses to live simply and uncluttered, following the same pattern day in and day out. She has followed in her illustrious parents' footsteps, working as a scientist in a sterile university lab with Dr. Baxter, a mentor she has admired for years. Today she will visit her beloved grandmother, Etta, at her tiny dress shop, a somewhat magical store filled with alluring clothes made of luxurious fabrics adorned with lace and sparkling sequins. There's something special about this place; every customer who walks through the little blue door feels empowered when they leave. It's as if they suddenly feel beautiful and self-assured. And there's something special about Etta, too......

Etta is determined that Cora finds contentment and happiness with childhood friend, Walt. She knows all too well the heartache of losing that one, true, irreplaceable love. Cora can't go down that same path. "Some people don't see the things under their noses. They mistake the everyday for what's ordinary and unimportant. They need shaking up". These are the words that Etta lives by. So with her trusty needle and thread, Etta slowly puts in motion a plan to bring these two lost souls together. However, along the way, she encounters unexpected obstacles that threaten to shatter the dream she carries in her heart for her only granddaughter.

Many memorable supporting characters intertwine with the main plot with stories of their own to add a touch of mystery and intrigue to this novel. It is a lovely, enchanting story of hope and second chances. Falling into the genre of magical realism,  this book explores the beauty in all of us. We just must open our hearts to attaining what might seem like the impossible.

Even without Etta's magic........

Monday, January 12, 2015

The Magician's Lie

The Magician's Lie by Greer Macallister

The art of illusion. Magicians continue to fascinate and intrigue us with their effortless ability to do the impossible. Even the most skeptical audience can't explain the trickery right before their eyes.

This debut novel by a most talented author will hook you from the very first page. The main character isn't real, but the historical research behind the story is; I highly recommend you put this one on your list for the New Year and enter the mesmerizing world of magic.

It's the turn of the 20th century and patrons are filling venues far and wide to witness the magical talents of  The Amazing Arden. As one of the few female illusionists in the country, her fans watch this particular night as she plunges an ax into a coffin-like box, splitting a man's body in two.  Blood gushes onto the stage. Minutes later, the victim is whole again much to the delight of the audience. But later, after Arden makes her exit from the theater, the mutilated body of another man is discovered under the stage. There's only one conclusion. Arden is indeed a cunning murderess.

Virgil Holt is the local sheriff in Janesville, Iowa. By now, news has spread that the famous Arden escaped after murdering her husband during a thrilling show in Waterloo. Virgil is nursing wounds of his own; his life is on a downhill spiral. By a stroke of luck, he encounters the disheveled Arden and takes her into custody. Maybe this is his lucky break.  He can make a name for himself with her arrest.

Confined to a chair with three sets of handcuffs, Arden begs Virgil to listen to the sordid details of her life before he brings her to justice. As her story enfolds, he struggles to draw a line between fact and fiction. Should he believe her claim of innocence or is this the tale of an accomplished woman born to deceive?

Suspenseful, fast-paced, and enlightening, this novel may leave you with many unanswered questions.

Is it real or all a magician's lie?

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Saving Grace

Saving Grace by Jane Green

Grace and Ted Chapman turn heads wherever they go. They are the perfect couple. He is a wildly successful novelist, she is his chic, stylish, sophisticated wife. But what happens behind closed doors would shock even their most ardent admirers. Perception is not always reality.....

When Grace meets literary giant Ted Chapman,the attraction is instantaneous. Suddenly she is in the spotlight, not only as a talented chef and assistant cookbook editor, but now  as the wife of a famous writer, living in a picturesque farmhouse in upstate New York. Only she knows the other side of Ted; his dark, brooding moods that often erupt in waves of dangerous fits of anger and uncontrolled outbursts, much like that of her own mother. It's best if no one knows the details of Grace's childhood in England, the torment of living with a mentally disturbed parent. Grace lives in fear every day that she, too, could suffer from this hideous affliction.

The bright shining light in their lives is daughter, Clemmie, a talented writer in her own right who feels a special connection to her father. And then there's Ellen, Ted's personal assistant. Beloved and indispensable, Grace panics at the thought of Ellen leaving to care for her elderly mother. The thought of replacing her is soon appeased when Beth enters their lives. Plain and unassuming, Beth's superior organizational skills are just what Grace needs to deal with Ted's volatile moods. That is until suspicious events begin to make Grace question Beth's motives. Perfect Beth may want a perfect life of her own.......

Soon Grace enters a world of  precarious uncertainty. She begins to piece together past events and suddenly realizes she must escape for her own safety before it's too late. Her only hope is to return to her homeland and the comforting arms of Lydia, her old college roommate's mother who loves her unconditionally. As the suspense builds, so does her innate fear that the life she once knew is beginning to unravel right before her eyes.

Undoubtedly, British author Jane Green personifies the term "chick lit". This novel is no exception. If you are looking for an engaging book to start the New Year, definitely add this to your list. The manifestation and effects of mental illness and paranoia are masterfully examined. True friendship, unexpected love, and listening to your heart are all topics that should make this an excellent choice for enthusiastic discussion at book clubs. As an added benefit for those of you with culinary talents, some great recipes accompany each chapter.

The list is growing for new and dynamic books being released in 2015. I'm looking forward to sharing many of them with you at The EZ Book Nook. Hope you'll join me!