Apples Never Fall

Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty

The Delaney family ran a tennis school in the suburbs of Sydney for several decades. Recently retired, Joy Delaney feels like she and husband Stan are in a rut. No grandkids are on the horizon, and none of their four children became a tennis star. Then Joy, 69, after sending a garbled text, goes missing on Valentine’s Day, 2020. Amy, Logan, Troy, and Brooke cope in varying ways, and Stan is a suspect in Joy’s disappearance, as they had been seen arguing that morning. Then the story goes back to the September, 2019, with the four younger Delaneys reacting to their parents’ unexpected house guest, Savannah. Savannah, who’s almost like another daughter, cooks beautifully, cleans, and enjoys shopping with Joy. There must be a connection, but how? This is a great read for fans of relationship fiction and psychological suspense. There is quite a bit about tennis, though not a strong sense of place. The main focus is the Delaney family and their relationships, and of course, Savannah. While not a quick read at over 450 pages, this novel is hard to put down. Readalikes include Watch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown, All Adults Here by Emma Straub, and Watching You by Lisa Jewell.

 

Brenda

 

Early Morning Riser

Early Morning Riser by Katherine Heiny

Small town life in northern Michigan is this focus of this novel about family life, friendship, love, and teaching second graders. Jane is new in town when she meets Freida, who sings and plays mandolin, and then Duncan, who is charming but seems to have dated almost every other woman in town. Duncan moonlights as a locksmith, while his day job is woodworking, restoring furniture, but never quickly. Sweet and slightly slow Jimmy is his helper, who later helps bring Jane and Duncan together after a breakup. There are many funny passages about teaching second grade, especially guest speakers and field trips that never go quite according to plan. A cranky toddler often steals the scene later in the story. Aggie, Duncan’s ex-wife, and her second husband Gary are often present, especially for Taco Tuesdays, which might feature Aggie’s pork chops rather than actual tacos. Even trips to an ice cream shop to check out someone’s crush are both awkward and hilarious, as are a few of Jane’s thrift store outfits. Quirky characters, found family, happiness and occasional disaster all make for a delightful and memorable read. Readalikes include Musical Chairs by Amy Poeppel, All Adults Here by Emma Straub, and books by Jodi Thomas and RaeAnne Thayne.

 

Brenda

The Last Thing He Told Me

The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave

On their houseboat in Sausalito, California, Hannah receives a cryptic note from her husband Owen. All it says is “Protect her”. Her 16-year-old stepdaughter Bailey gets a longer note and a duffle bag full of money in her locker before Owen vanishes. Owen is a coder for The Shop, a technology firm. On the news, Hannah learns that Owen’s boss has been arrested for financial fraud.

Hannah is a talented and successful woodturner, crafting tables and other furniture, but struggles to connect with Bailey, who lost her mother when she was little. Hannah knows how important Bailey is to Owen, and they travel to Texas to follow up on some clues. The story goes back and forth a couple years in time, to show how Owen and Hannah met and fell in love, before Hannah realizes she knows very few facts about Owen’s past.

This is the fifth novel and first thriller by Laura Dave. I enjoyed Eight Hundred Grapes, so I thought I’d try her new bestseller. This was not the suspense book I was expecting, although it definitely lives up to the hype. The compelling story is intricately plotted, and I guessed wrong on a couple of plot twists, but this is primarily a book about relationships and priorities, focusing on resilient, quick-thinking Hannah and how her relationships with Owen and Bailey develop. Readalikes include The Expats by Chris Pavone, Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell and Watch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown.

Brenda

Paris by the Book

Paris by the Book by Liam Callanan

Leah and Robert are raising their daughters Ellie and Daphne in Milwaukee. Leah, once a film student, is a speechwriter at a university. Robert writes books for children and teens, and often disappears for days to write, simply leaving a note. One time he doesn’t return. Leah finds tickets for a long-promised trip to Paris, and takes the girls, 12 and 14, to France. Daphne speaks fluent French, Ellie and Leah only a little. With unexpected ease, they end up running an English language bookstore in the Marais district, living in an apartment upstairs, and taking care of young British twins. Robert and Leah connected over the Madeline books by Ludwig Bemelmans and Albert Lamorisse’s film The Red Balloon. Leah and the girls looks for clues all over Paris, hoping for a glimpse of Robert, while the police back home think he may be dead. The main focus of the story is about Leah, Ellie, and Daphne and how they adapt to life in Paris while dealing in their own ways with the mystery of Robert’s disappearance. This is a good choice for readers who enjoy contemporary novels about parenting, books about Americans abroad, lovers of Paris, or fans of Madeline.

Brenda

You Me Everything

You Me Everything by Catherine Isaac

A heartwarming book about second chances and dealing with a serious illness set in southwest France. Jess broke up with Adam a few weeks after their son William’s birth. He didn’t seem interested in being a father or settling down. 10 years later, Jess, a creative writing teacher in Manchester, takes William to spend the summer with Adam at the chateau and cottages he’s remodeled in the Dordogne region. Jess’ mother Susan is quite ill and it’s her wish that William and Adam develop a close relationship. Adam is quite busy, but two of Jess’ friends arrive for vacation, along with three children. Full of gorgeous scenery, good food, and family drama, this is an engaging summer read. Along the way, there are cookouts, castles to tour, a waterfall to slide down, along with some romance.

Brenda

 

The Garden of Small Beginnings

The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman

I was not expecting a novel about a widow with two young girls to be laugh-out-loud funny. Lillian’s husband died suddenly three years ago. She fell apart, but her sister Rachel helped pick up the pieces. Lillian is a textbook illustrator, and her daughters Annabel and Clare are now five and seven. A new work assignment has the whole family taking a gardening class, led by a Dutch master gardener. The class bonds over pizza and gardening, and a couple of romances have potential. Though conversations are very frank, especially when Lillian’s sister-in-law comes to visit, there are no sex scenes. The characterization is top notch and the witty dialogue, both spoken and internal, is great. It will not surprise the reader to learn that the author has three kids and several pets, as Annabel, Clare, and their new friend Bash often steal the scene. This first novel was a delight to read. More, please!

Brenda

My Name is Lucy Barton

lucy barton jacketMy Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

I don’t know if a short review can do this book justice, but I’ll try. In less than 200 pages, in silences and in words never spoken, the author tells the story of a miserable childhood and the enduring, deep love of a mother and daughter. Lucy Barton, enduring a lengthy hospitalization for an infection after an appendectomy, is surprised and delighted when her mother arrives in her hospital room for a five-day visit. In the mid-1980s Lucy is married and living in Manhattan with her husband William and two young daughters. The AIDS crisis is just beginning. Lucy’s mother tells her stories about their neighbors in rural Amgash, Illinois, where Lucy grew up, the youngest of three children. Lucy is never so happy as when her mother is talking, but they must carefully talk around and never mention Lucy’s childhood. The family lived in a garage until a relative died, and Lucy vividly remembers being cold, dirty, and often hungry. Then there was her father, who apparently went into rages when he remembered World War II. Her brother and sister still live near their parents, but Lucy escaped, thanks to a college scholarship, and is now a published writer. Elizabeth Strout’s writing here is spare and tender, and very moving, and sure to be nominated for an award or two.
Brenda