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Joan

The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes (2013)

girlyouleftbehindSophie and Liv struggle through tragedies, tough decisions, and community ridicule nearly a century a part. A hauntingly beautiful portrait of Sophie with penetrating eyes painted by her impressionist husband connect the womens' plights across time. Liv feels a deep connection to Sophie and risks everything to keep the painting out of the wrong hands.

Sophie is left behind in occupied France during WWI as her husband goes off to fight. Liv is left behind after her husband's untimely death in 21st century London. Liv meets Paul and finds out he is on the opposing side of her quest to keep Sophie's portrait. Their relationship develops in opposite directions. She is not sure if he can pull her out of her deep depression left by her husband's death, financial ruin, and public criticism, or push her further down.

As Liv finds herself at the end of all hope, Jojo Moyes allows the reader inside the mind of Sophie on the brink of death at the hands of the enemy. In The Girl You Left Behind, parallel narratives converge as the two women continue to struggle. A satisfying epilogue ties up loose ends in both worlds, yet leaves enough for the reader's imagination to wander a bit.
IPPL Staff

The Blessings by Elise Juska (2014)

blessingsI really enjoyed Elise Juska’s latest novel, which centers on a large, Irish Catholic extended family living in North Philly. Told in alternating points of view by various family members and spanning 15 years, The Blessings is a lovely, sometime heartbreaking, tale of a family and what unites them.
Jez

Landline by Rainbow Rowell (2014)

index.aspxGeorgie McCool has just gotten the opportunity of a lifetime: a pilot for her very own TV show, which she co-writes with her best friend. There’s a catch, though: it’s due next week. Right after Christmas. When Georgie decides to skip the holidays and stay in LA to finish writing scripts, her husband Neal takes their two daughters to Omaha without her, leaving her alone for a week. Georgie can’t get Neal to answer her calls until she uses the landline at her mother’s house…but ends up reaching Neal in the past, just before he’s supposed to propose!

Landline explores the length of a relationship from beginning to end, but not necessarily in that order, through the use of slight magical realism in the form of a phone that can call the past. The reader can connect with Georgie in her moments of love and longing, and explore the full spectrum of emotions through this unusual will-they/won’t-they scenario, all the while rooting for Georgie and Neal to come together in both the past and present and fearing the consequences if they don’t. The fantasy element is minimal and the focus here is on Georgie’s life and relationship with her husband Neal. With half its story rooted in the 80s and 90s, Rainbow Rowell’s latest novel is a great choice for GenLit readers, as well as readers of women’s fiction.

Rowell recently did a Q&A session with readers on Goodreads about Landline and her previous books, Eleanor & Park and Fangirl.
Mary

Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen (2014)

After the death of her husband, Kate Pheris awakens from her grief just in time to avoid moving in with her domineering mother-in-law Cricket. Kate takes her free-spirited eight year old daughter Devlin on an unexpected road trip to Lost Lake, Georgia, a resort owned by her great-aunt Eby. Kate has fond memories of a magical month spent at the lake. When she arrives, however, Kate finds the resort in disrepair with Eby reluctantly planning to sell it to a developer. A cast of charming characters, a dash of magical realism, and the serenity of Lost Lake provide an enjoyable read that’s all about finding second chances.

Check out Sarah Addison Allen’s latest novel Lost Lake today.
Joan

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh (2011)

From flowers to foster care, from motherhood to mental illness, Vanessa Diffenbaugh takes them all on and creates a very special character by the name of Victoria. She creates the perfect setting for a book about the meaning of flowers - San Francisco! The reader cries for Victoria and roots for her to succeed. She is her own worst enemy. In The Language of Flowers, Diffenbaugh keeps us in suspense until the last minute as to what Victoria's fate will be.
Mary

Finding Casey by Jo Ann Mapson (2013)

I read Finding Casey without realizing that the book is a sequel to Solomon’s Oak, but I still found the book enjoyable as a stand-alone story. I had read some of Jo Ann Mapson’s novels from the 1990s and was delighted to rediscover her work. Glory Vigil, her new husband Joseph, and their adopted daughter Juniper are settling in to their new lives in New Mexico. At 41 years old, Glory is preparing for the birth of her first child and fixing up their old home in Santa Fe. Juniper is in college and thriving, but she carries with her the burden of not knowing what happened to her sister Casey who disappeared. Mapson creates an intriguing plot, multifaceted characters, and captures the essence of Santa Fe.
Denise

Light on Snow by Anita Shreve (2004)

Really enjoyed this book! Story is told by a 30-year-old woman, recounting her life-changing experience of finding an abandoned baby in the woods when she was 12 years old. Each character is well drawn and believable. The storyline is captivating and emotional.

Check out Light on Snow by Anita Shreve today.

 
Denise

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman (2010)

I loved this book! Beautiful writing, delightful characters, and charming setting…what more can you ask for? The story is heartwarming and sentimental without being maudlin; with a great mix of humor, warmth, and insightful pearls of wisdom.

The setting is 1960s Savannah, Georgia, and the colorful cast of characters brings to life the essence of "southern hospitality.” It’s one of those books that I didn’t want to end. I wish I had women in my life like the women in this book.

Checkout Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman
 
 
Jennifer

If You Were Here by Jen Lancaster (2011)

Do you have a mild obsession with HGTV? Not a huge fan of the Twilight craze? Then you'll probably enjoy the hilarious and often painful story of Mia and Mac and their first foray into home ownership and renovation

Mia writes Amish zombie romances for teens and shares scathing thoughts of "rival" Stephenie Meyer. She also has a deep abiding love for all things John Hughes...which proves to be her downfall. Ready to escape a crazy situation in a rental house in Chicago, Mia decides it's time to find her dream house in the suburbs. And that's when the nightmare begins.

Throughout the book, Lancaster makes several nods to Hughes and his trademarks. It's often laugh-out-loud funny. If You Were Here is a good beach read. And while I haven't read her memoirs, you can get an idea of her writing style by visiting her blog, Jennsylvania.

Check out If You Were Here by Jen Lancaster today.

 
IPPL Staff

Spotlight: It Takes a Woman

Sometimes it just takes a woman to get everyone going on the right path. Each of these three light romantic stories is about a young woman who moves in, shakes things up, gets every problem straightened out, and, oh yes, finds love along the way.

The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer (1950)
When practical and straightforward Sophy visits her London aunt after a lifetime on the Continent, she finds life in her aunt's house in constant turmoil. All the young people are involved with unsuitable matches, owe money to questionable personages, and in general, are in a constant state of disruption – until Sophy takes charge.

A Song for Summer by Eva Ibbotson (1998)
Young Englishwoman Ellen Carr has always dreamed of living in Austria and cooking wonderful Viennese food. She has her chance when she gets a job as housemother at an alternative school on the outskirts of Vienna. But what an alternative! The children are running wild and the teachers are all eccentric misfits. It is the late 1930s and the world is about to fall apart. Well, Ellen can't do much about that, but she can set everyone else in ship shape order.

Roommates Wanted by Lisa Jewell (2007)
Leah Pilgrim enjoys watching the comings and goings of the mismatched characters living in the rambling house across the street in her London neighborhood. But across the street Toby, owner of said house, is in despair. He wants to sell up and move away, but how can he abandon his houseful of lonely heart boarders? Leah to the rescue!
Mary P.

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles (2011)
On New Year’s Eve in a Greenwich Village jazz club waiting for 1938 to begin,  Katey Kontent and Eve Ross meet Tinker Grey, a handsome banker.  Swept into the “smart set,” Katey rises from the secretarial pool to working at a new flashy magazine.  The novel paints an inviting portrait of New York in those heydays of pre-WWII, limos at 21 Club, screwball comedies, smoky jazz clubs, cocktails at the St. Regis, and nothing and no one is as they seem.  It is a great story showing how spur of the moment decisions can affect your entire life.

Find out more about the book in this Q & A with the author.
IPPL Staff

I Still Dream About You by Fannie Flagg

I Still Dream About You by Fannie Flagg (2010)
A charming and heartwarming  book. I laughed and I cried.  It was well worth the wait.

Check out the author's website for more about the book.

If you like Fannie Flagg's books take a look at our list of  funny mysteries to discover your next favorite read.
IPPL Staff

Mrs. Kimble by Jennifer Haigh

Mrs. Kimble by Jennifer Haigh (2003)
In her first novel, Jennifer Haigh tells of three women who marry the same man, Ken Kimble. Birdie, his first wife, struggles to hold herself together following his desertion. Then he finds Joan, a lonely heiress shaken by personal tragedy, who sees in Kimble her chance at happiness. Finally there is Dinah, a beautiful woman who is half his age. Ken Kimble is revealed through the eyes of the women he seduces and you’re not going to like him very much!

The author makes no judgments, but rather her story is a revelation of the human condition at its best and worst. She deals a steady hand of emotions, but with a deft touch. And as one review put it, “The book raises as many questions as it answers, and in that lies its true significance, a certain authenticity of voice that compels one to read on in spite—or perhaps because of—the contradictions.”

Read an interview with the author about Mrs. Kimble.
Jennifer

Baking Cakes in Kigali by Gaile Parkin

Baking Cakes in Kigali by Gaile Parkin (2009)
A beautifully written novel set in Rwanda, Baking Cakes in Kigali eloquently demonstrates that life isn’t always black and white. Angel is a baker with a booming cake business; she is a wife; and she is a mother to her five orphaned grandchildren.

The family moves from Tanzania to Rwanda for better opportunities. They settle in a community of people from all walks of life – aid workers from the West, refugees trying to rebuild, and so many affected by AIDS.

Check out this debut author’s thought-provoking and enjoyable story set in a foreign land. If you enjoy Alexander McCall Smith’s The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, I think you’ll like this book.
Mary

The Blind Contessa's New Machine by Carey Wallace

The Blind Contessa’s New Machine by Carey Wallace (2010)
You can judge this book by its cover—the writing is as lovely as the book jacket. Young Carolina spends a solitary childhood discovering the mysteries and beauties of the woods and small lake on her father’s property. Turri, an eccentric married neighbor, also delights in the gifts of the lake. When Carolina begins to suspect she is losing her eyesight, she informs her aristocratic fiancé Pietro and her parents. Only Turri believes that she is not joking, but is truly going blind. As the blindness overtakes her, Turri teaches her to see in her dreams. When Carolina receives Turri’s latest invention--a typing machine to help her communicate--her friendship for Turri evolves into a love affair.

Click here to read a interview with the author about her work on this novel.