Here’s to Us by Elin Hilderbrand

heres to us

Here’s to Us will be published on June 14, 2016 by Hachette Book Group.

Deacon Thorpe, celebrity chef and well-known bad boy with a healthy appetite for living life to the fullest, has passed away unexpectedly at his summer cottage in Nantucket. Left behind are two ex-wives, his widow, and three children (one from each marriage). The only connection between Laurel, Belinda, and Scarlett is their love and devotion for Deacon, even after his many faults, addictions, and poor decisions. His three wives couldn’t be any more different. Laurel was his high school sweetheart, Belinda is a high-profile actress who won him over with money and glamour, and Scarlett was the younger, bombshell nanny which he couldn’t resist.

Deacon’s will designates that the whole family gather at the Nantucket cottage to spread his ashes at sea, which brings us to the story. His family, along with his best friend, Buck, begrudgingly head for Nantucket to spend the weekend together. As if the story needed to be livened up even more; Buck has always had his eyes on Deacon’s first wife, Laurel. There is also a bit of drama going on with each of Deacon’s adult children, Angie and Hayes. Throwing these headstrong, grieving family members together in cramped quarters (with a lot of wine and whiskey, of course) makes for some interesting confrontations, to say the least. As memories of Deacon are shared and secrets are uncovered, tensions run high and some surprisings things occur. The plot moves along rather quickly, all taking place during one weekend, with flashbacks to the past mixed in to give readers background information on each of the women’s relationships with Deacon.

Sound like a crazy plot? It is! But, as always, Elin Hilderbrand makes it work oh so well, with just the right amount of humor, drama, romance, and cat fights. She has created the recipe for a great romantic drama which readers will absolutely love until the very last page. Another really cool addition to this book are the actual recipes that are included, such as Deacon’s famous Fluffy White Champagne Cake with Champagne Candied Strawberries and Clams Casino Dip, to name a few. As with all of her novels, Elin set this story in her hometown of Nantucket, causing readers such as myself to long for the quaint streets and beautiful beaches. I would love to visit Nantucket some day and catch a glimpse of some of the places mentioned in her novels. I loved this book, and I can’t wait for it to be released this summer.

First Comes Love by Emily Giffin

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The bad news is that we have to wait until June 28th for this beauty to be published! The good news is that it is totally worth the wait! I love, love, LOVE this book. I’ll try to do it some justice with my review.

First Comes Love is filled with highly relatable family situations and candid conversations among the characters. The characters are likable, despite their flaws. They seem real, and Giffin goes a wonderful job of making them come to life. At times, the scenes are hilarious, while at others tender and heartfelt.

The story begins as the family is approaching the 15 year anniversary of Daniel’s tragic and untimely (at the age of 25) death due to an auto accident which was of fault to no one. Each character’s outlook on life and circumstances for the past 15 years demonstrate the different ways loss & grief can affect relationships between siblings, spouses, parents/children, and even best friends.

Sisters Meredith and Josie are about as opposite as can be, with regard to their personality and life choices. Yet, their tumultuous relationship is refreshing, as it proves that they can put love first despite their differences and overcome some major rough times. They likely wouldn’t have a thing to do with each other, save for Josie’s love for her younger sibling Meredith’s 4 year old daughter, Harper. Meredith is a high profile lawyer and busy mother, living with constant stress and strain in her marriage to Nolan, her late brother Daniel’s best friend. Josie is a 1st grade teacher, life of the party, but worried about finding “the one” because she is getting closer to 40 and has always wanted to be a mother.

Nolan & Meredith’s marriage is particularly true-to-life, because in reality no marriage is perfect. Marriage takes work by both parties, whether the parties love each other or are “in love,” or both. Giffin makes a point that with social media, everyone seems even more worried about keeping up appearances and appearing perfect in front of the world. It is mentioned by one of the characters that everyone assumes that everyone else has the perfect life and marriage, when in reality most everyone struggles at some point – and that’s ok. Life wasn’t meant to be perfect. It’s meant to be lived. Much of the beauty found in life is revealed in times of tragedy and struggle. Everything about this book is relatable, which makes me love it more.

Emily Giffin has a knack for realistic fiction and she slams a home run with this one. I truly loved The One & Only (released May 2014), but I enjoyed this story so much more because of the message it sends – love truly does come first.

I already miss these witty characters, and wish I could spend more moments in their lives. I want to be there for Josie and Gabe, but also for Nolan and Meredith as they are all about to experience a major life change when the story comes to an end. Sequel, please? 

 

 

Miller’s Valley by Anna Quindlen

9780812996081_8119b.jpgMiller’s Valley is set to be published on April 5, 2016.

I’ve always been a big fan of whatever Anna Quindlen writes, one of my favorites is Black and Blue. Quindlen has a knack for making the reader feel like they are really submersed in the story and in the life of the family being portrayed. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with this story, but I was pleasantly surprised with the outcome.

This is the story of Mary Margaret Miller, who goes by Mimi. It’s a coming of age story, in which the reader watches Mimi grow up and move on with life over and over again, despite some road blocks along the way. The largest of which being the fact that the government plans to flood the valley in order to build a dam, like they did to the neighboring town of Andover a few years back. Along with the day to day stress of family life in a rural farming community is the constant impending doom of when their home and life as they know it be flooded out from under them.

Mimi is not the type to cause any trouble within her family, because there are plenty of others doing that for her. Her older brother, Tommy, also her mother’s pride and joy, is and always will be a playboy, in and out of trouble for as long as Mimi can remember. Mimi grew up on the farm, one of the last remaining Millers of Miller’s Valley, where her family before her has lived for generations. Her father is a farmer and fix-it man, while her mother is a nurse at the local hospital. Mimi’s aunt Ruth lives in the little house just behind her parents house, and she has refused to leave the house for years. Mimi goes through school getting good grades and attempts to leave Miller’s Valley, things keep happening with her brother Tommy, father, aunt Ruth, or mother to hold her back.

My favorite part of this book are the deep relationships between Mimi and the other characters. Mimi narrates the story, so the reader gets to know how she thinks and recognizes all the times where she holds back what she really feels led to say or do, because she is appeasing someone else or keeping the peace, or what little is left of it. Her childhood relationships with friends, Donald and LaRhonda, sibling relationships with Ed and Tommy, and even the parent-child relationships with her father and mother are interesting and keep the reader’s attention. Will Mimi end up like her aunt Ruth, refusing to leave her home or Miller’s Valley? Or will she finally do what Tommy encouraged her to do, get out of Miller’s Valley while she can, in order to make a life for herself? You’ll want to read it to find out. Great story. I especially loved the ending, where Mimi as an old woman looks back on her life and really puts everything in perspective.

The Summer of Good Intentions – Wendy Francis

This novel will be published July 7, 2015.

This was my first summer read for the season to come. When I saw that my favorite summer read author, Elin Hilderbrand, endorsed this book and author, I simply had to read it. I enjoyed the story line, and the writing kept me entertained and intrigued. I appreciated that their wasn’t a lot of nasty language or graphic sexual scenes. The story follows three sisters and their divorced parents as they make their annual trek to their summer house on the Cape for the month of July. Each chapter switches back and forth between the perspective of one of the three sisters, Maggie, Jess, and Virgie, as well as their aging father, Arthur. The month starts out with not much excitement, as each sister and their families learn to wind down from the hustle and bustle of busy lives. As the month goes on, however, there are some minor and some major events which shape the story line. At times, I laughed out loud, and cried at others. I hope Wendy Francis writes more of these summer reads, because I really enjoyed it.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

nightingaleThe Nightingale by Kristin Hannah is a fabulous choice for historical fiction fans or any fiction readers. Set during World War II in and around war ravaged Paris, it is a story which alternates between two sisters and what they each must endure to survive the war. Older sister Vianne and her young daughter Sophie are left to fend for themselves when Vianne’s husband Antoine is called away to serve in the war. The hardships begin when a series of Nazi soldiers decide to billet in their home, taking and using whatever and whomever they please. Vianne’s younger sister, Isabelle is rebellious and passionate. She makes it her goal to make a difference and do something to fight back against the Germans who are taking over her city and her home, no matter the danger and risks. The thing that I loved most about this book is that is centered around female characters fighting for their lives and those of innocent children. It really paints a truthful (though heartbreaking and unfathomable at times) portrait of the war’s effect on women. I challenge you to read this book with dry eyes. I certainly couldn’t. I will even go out on a limb and say this is the best book that I have read about World War II and the Holocaust so far. Close seconds are Jodi Picoult’s The Storyteller and Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay. Amazing, just amazing.

Winter Street – by Elin Hilderbrand

Winter Street was wonderful. I picked it up and read it cover to cover in one marathon reading session because it was so good. Elin Hilderbrand has a knack for hooking the reader with real family drama that the reader must keep reading to find out the outcomes. In years past, Starbucks lattes have been known to throw me into the Holiday spirit. However, this year, I can say for certain that it was Winter Street by Elin Hilderbrand. After finishing the book, I just want to make a Christmas dinner and decorate cookies with my mother. The book had many humorous moments that left me laughing out loud. Also included was some romance, but not over the top romance. I love the way Elin weaves in a little romance without being too “Fifty Shades”-ish. Even though the plot weaves back and forth between family members, the story is seamless and intriguing the whole way through. The ending leaves us hanging quite a bit, but that simply means there is hope for a forthcoming series. That makes me happy and excited. Thank you, Elin, for writing such wonderful stories.