Review: The Garden Lady by Susan Dworkin

About the book, The Garden Lady

The-Garden-Lady-cover

 

  • Paperback: 220 pages
  • Publisher: Susan Dworkin (July 18, 2018)

 

THE GARDEN LADY by Susan Dworkin is a novel about  unexpected love, the silence that becomes complicity, and the magic of redemption.  Urgent and compelling, the story resonates with today’s headlines as it poses the ethical question: How do we live with what we know but choose not to think about or act upon?

Maxie Dash, the heroine of THE GARDEN LADY, is a famous beauty, a fashion icon, the face of many national TV ads. Her first husband, a world-class photographer, took nude pictures of her, which are so beautiful that they now hang in museums.

On the cusp of her 50s, Maxie decides to make one more marriage, something permanent and restful, to a rich man who will guarantee her an affluent life and future security. Amazingly she finds the perfect man. Even more amazingly, she grows to love him. Albert shares Maxie’s passion for the opera and willingly supports her favorite charities. He indulges her delight in public gardens and allows her to endow the community with their beauty. All he asks in return is that she give him her love and her unswerving loyalty and agree to know nothing — absolutely nothing — about his business.

Maxie is sustained by her best friend, the designer Ceecee Rodriguez, whom she treasures as a sister. But she is shaken by the persistent enmity of Sam Euphemia, a fierce young business executive, who suspects Albert of terrible crimes.

Add Maxie Dash to the list of great heroines of contemporary fiction. Smart, funny, enjoying every moment of her hard-won success,  she ultimately faces the truth about her life, moves past denial and realizes that “her loyalty was a side effect of her greed and her greed was a crime against nature and her silence, her willful, terror-stricken silence, the true disaster.”  Her attempt to turn Garbage Mountain, a New Jersey landfill, into a beautiful park is key to her redemption.

THE GARDEN LADY reads like a thriller or a binge-worthy Netflix series. Entertaining and provocative, it is packed with ethical questions, dark humor and insight and offers us a female protagonist you will never forget.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Goodreads


About the author, Susan Dworkin

Susan-Dworkin-APSUSAN DWORKIN wrote the New York Times bestseller The Nazi Officer’s Wife, a tale of love and terror in the Third Reich, with the woman who lived the story, the late Edith Hahn Beer Other books include Making Tootsie, the inside story of the great film comedy with Dustin Hoffman and Sydney Pollack; The Viking in the Wheat Field about the eminent seed banker, Dr. Bent Skovmand; Miss America, 1945, Bess Myerson’s story; Stolen Goods, a novel of love and larceny in the 80s; and The Commons, about an agrarian revolt led by a pop star and set in the not-so-distant future. Susan was a long-time contributing editor to Ms. Magazine. Her plays are often performed in regional theatres. She lives in Massachusetts.

Connect with Susan:

Find out more about Susan at her website.


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

For a relatively short, fast-paced novel, Susan Dworkin packed a lot of story into The Garden Lady. It’s got a tragic childhood, a hard luck, rags-to-riches tale, a revenge saga, family drama, international smuggling and corporate crime, and passionate love affairs, all within  220 pages. If that seems overwhelming, fear not, because this tale is well told.

Dworkin excels at setting up characters with just a few phrases, and makes us see them from the moment of their first lines of dialogue. We know Maxie fears aging in solitude, we know her best friend Ceecee is fiercely loyal, we know the former has a tendency to choose men who are bad for her, until her first husband, whom we never meet “on camera” and only learn about in the final chapters of the novel (a pity, because his presence is felt throughout the book) and we know Ceecee’s  husband is a truly good man, who gives good advice.

And yet, as much as this novel is about Maxie and her push to build a memorial garden, it’s also about her last husband, Albert. Mysterious, rich, dangerous, involved in dubious business practices that Maxie chooses not to see, Albert is the point around which this story pivots, while Maxie is the observer and the observed.

While it’s typical for protagonists to be the heroes of their own stories, I felt as though Maxie, more often than not, was a prisoner of her own life. True, it was by choice. But a gilded cage you enter willingly is still, in the end, a cage. Even when she faces a potential nemesis in the form of Sam Euphemia, who suspects the truth of Albert’s business dealings, Maxie keeps her eyes closed, until, finally, she must force them open.

In many ways this novel is about awakenings – Maxie’s own awakening to her needs as a woman, as a wife, as a person – but it’s also about family. The families we are born to, and the families we choose.

It’s an interesting, if quirky, novel. Fast, compelling, and a bit unsettling, but I think that’s the intent.

Goes well with: an ante-pasta plate and red wine.


Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Friday, March 22nd: Jathan & Heather

Monday, March 25th: Bibliotica

Tuesday, March 26th: Instagram: @book.hang.o.ver

Wednesday, March 27th: Life By Kristen

Friday, March 29th: A Chick Who Reads

Monday, April 1st: Eliot’s Eats

Tuesday, April 2nd: Jennifer ~ Tar Heel Reader

Thursday, April 4th: Wining Wife

Monday, April 8th: bookchickdi

Thursday, April 11th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Friday, April 12th: Broken Teepee

Review: The Quintland Sisters, by Shelly Wood

The-Quintland-Sisters-coverAbout the book, The Quintland Sisters

• Paperback: 464 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (March 5, 2019)

“A historical novel that will enthrall you… I was utterly captivated…” — Joanna Goodman, author of The Home for Unwanted Girls

For fans of Sold on a Monday or The Home for Unwanted Girls,Shelley Wood’s novel tells the story of the Dionne Quintuplets, the world’s first identical quintuplets to survive birth, told from the perspective of a midwife in training who helps bring them into the world.

Reluctant midwife Emma Trimpany is just 17 when she assists at the harrowing birth of the Dionne quintuplets: five tiny miracles born to French farmers in hardscrabble Northern Ontario in 1934. Emma cares for them through their perilous first days and when the government decides to remove the babies from their francophone parents, making them wards of the British king, Emma signs on as their nurse.

Over 6,000 daily visitors come to ogle the identical “Quints” playing in their custom-built playground; at the height of the Great Depression, the tourism and advertising dollars pour in. While the rest of the world delights in their sameness, Emma sees each girl as unique: Yvonne, Annette, Cécile, Marie, and Émilie. With her quirky eye for detail, Emma records every strange twist of events in her private journals.

As the fight over custody and revenues turns increasingly explosive, Emma is torn between the fishbowl sanctuary of Quintland and the wider world, now teetering on the brink of war. Steeped in research, The Quintland Sisters is a novel of love, heartache, resilience, and enduring sisterhood—a fictional, coming-of-age story bound up in one of the strangest true tales of the past century.

Buy, read, and discuss The Quintland Sisters:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


Shelley-Wood-AP-Tyler-DyckAbout the author, Shelley Wood

Shelley Wood is a writer, journalist, and editor. Her work has appeared in the New Quarterly, Room, the Antigonish Review, Causeway Lit, and the Globe and Mail (UK). Born and raised in Vancouver, she has lived in Montreal, Cape Town, and the Middle East, and now has a home, a man, and a dog in British Columbia, Canada.

Connect with Shelley:

Find out more about Shelley at her website, and connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

Reality television – or any television – hadn’t been invented yet when the Dionne Quintuplets were born in Canada in 1934, but if it had been, their lives wouldn’t have been any less tragic, or crazy.

Their story, as told by Emma Trimpany, a seventeen-year-old midwife-in-training, is the dichotomy of the the fish and the fishbowl. Inside, Emma sees each of the five “Quintland Sisters”  – ripped from their family by the doctors who saw them as a means to fame and fortune – as a unique person, each with a name, a personality, her own personhood. But to outsiders it’s the similarities that attract, and people come from miles around to gawk at the girls in their specially-built playground.

What struck me about this book, which is a fictional retelling of a true story, is how much the Dionne Quintuplets’ story is so similar to the stories we see today – the OctoMom media frenzy ended up with similar product placement opportunities, and, while not precisely the same, the Hensel twins (the famous conjoined twins) have likewise been media darlings their entire lives.

Wood does an amazing job capturing the period, the Dionne family’s distress and confusion – sure, they’re uneducated and poor, but that doesn’t make them unfit parents. The juxtaposition of Depression-era austerity with the lavishness given to the girls, and not their parents was also quite well shown. I liked the device of using Emily as the point of view character, as she was closer in class to the Dionnes and closer in education to the doctors… she was the perfect betwixt-and-between person to let us see all perspectives.

Overall, I found the story to be unsettling, but I believe that was the intent. It should be unsettling to read about children being treated more like an exhibition than people.

Goes well with tea and strawberry cupcakes. Carnival food.


https://tlcbooktours.com/2018/02/karen-karbo-author-of-in-praise-of-difficult-women-on-tour-march-2018/Tour Stops for The Quintland Sisters

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Review Stops

Tuesday, March 5th: As I turn the pages

Wednesday, March 6th: Bibliotica

Thursday, March 7th: Bloggin’ ‘Bout Books

Friday, March 8th: Kritters Ramblings

Monday, March 11th: Iwriteinbooks’s blog

Tuesday, March 12th: Literary Quicksand

Wednesday, March 13th: A Bookish Affair

Thursday, March 14th: BookNAround

Monday, March 18th: Laura’s Reviews

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Thursday, March 21st: Lindsay’s Book Reviews

Review: Fatality in F, by Alexia Gordon – with Giveaway

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About the book, Fatality in F: A Gethsemane Brown Mystery

cvrfatalityinfGenre: Paranormal Cozy Mystery

Publisher: Henery Press

Date of Publication: February 26, 2019

Number of Pages: 234

Scroll down for Giveaway.

Fresh from solving her third mystery—and saving Dunmullach’s firstborn males from a vengeful ghost—Gethsemane Brown’s ready to relax and enjoy her summer. Her plans include nothing more dangerous than performing in the opening ceremony of the annual rose and garden show and cheering on Frankie Grennan, who’s entered his hybrid rose into the competition.

 

But when a mysterious stalker starts leaving Frankie floral bouquets as coded messages, Gethsemane fears a copy-cat may be planning to recreate the still-unsolved murders of the infamous Flower Shop Killer. Then Frankie’s main competitor in the rose show—and the reason his marriage failed—turns up dead in Frankie’s rose garden. Frankie takes first prize in the category “prime suspect.”

 

So much for a relaxing summer.

 

As bodies start dropping like rose petals, Gethsemane must judge the other suspects and find the real killer. Or rose bushes won’t be the only things dead-headed in Dunmullach.

Praise for the Gethsemane Brown mystery series:

Book 1, Murder in G Major

Winner of the 2017 Lefty Award for Best Debut Novel

2016 Agatha Award nominee for Best First Novel

Suspense magazine “Best of 2016” selection in Debut Novel category

Book 2, Death in D Minor

Runner-Up, 2017 Lone Star Bloggers’ Choice Awards, Best Mystery

Book 3, Killing in C Sharp

Starred review, Publisher’s Weekly, January 29, 2018

Buy, read, and discuss Fatality in F:

Amazon  ┃  Barnes & Noble  ┃  iBooks  ┃  Kobo  ┃ Goodreads


About the author, Alexia Gordon Alexia Gordon

A writer since childhood, Alexia Gordon won her first writing prize in the 6th grade. She continued writing through college but put literary endeavors on hold to finish medical school and Family Medicine residency training. She established her medical career then returned to writing fiction. Raised in the southeast, schooled in the northeast, she relocated to the west where she completed Southern Methodist University’s Writer’s Path program. She admits Texas brisket is as good as Carolina pulled pork. She practices medicine in North Chicago, IL. She enjoys the symphony, art collecting, embroidery, and ghost stories

Connect with Alexia:

Website ║ Facebook ║ Instagram  ║BookBub  ║ Twitter ║ Goodreads


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellI confess! I didn’t read the first three books in this series. Normally, that’s a no-no in the world of reviews, but Alexia Gordon’s characters are so vivid, and the world they inhabit is so well-drawn that everything I needed to know about Gethsemane Brown that wasn’t spelled out in this novel, Fatality in F, was made clear from context. Seriously, stepping into this series unprepared was NOT a problem, so if you happen to do so, don’t let it it throw you. This book is a fantastic story, and not knowing the backstory doesn’t detract from the experience one whit.

Here’s what’s important to know: Alexia Gordon combines mystery, cozy, romance and a hint of paranormal in the perfect combinations. She has the best-ever setting – a cute Irish town, a rose and garden show, and a private boys school – it’s like she checked every box in some ultimate fantasy combination for all of us who have PBS brains and Hallmark hearts and then put her own spin on it, because nothing is sappy. Music, math, esoteric knowledge of the language of flowers – she manages to make it all fascinating and relevant, and leave you wanting more.

At the heart of it, of course, is Gethsemane Brown. She’s eccentric. She’s brilliant. She’s the kind of person you want to observe from a distance before approaching with caution and then spending an intense afternoon with, trading stories (and shots of whiskey). Better yet, she has male friends who aren’t in competition to be romantic partners. She’s confident and strong without needing a man to complete her, and that’s really refreshing.

Fatality in F is the perfect cure for a gray winter day: a compelling mystery with shots of humor and and whimsy and plenty of grace notes that never fall flat.

Goes well with Irish stew with brown bread and your favorite whiskey.


Giveaway

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One winner receives a signed copy of Fatality in F and 

a $30 Gift Card to David Austin Roses

FEBRUARY 26-MARCH 8, 2019

(US ONLY)

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Tour Stops for Fatality in F

 

2/26/19 Sneak Peek Texas Book Lover
2/26/19 Playlist All the Ups and Downs
2/27/19 Review Chapter Break Book Blog
2/28/19 Review Reading by Moonlight
3/1/19 Top 5 List StoreyBook Reviews
3/1/19 Author Interview Max Knight
3/2/19 Review Bibliotica
3/3/19 Review Sybrina’s Book Blog
3/4/19 Top 5 List That’s What She’s Reading
3/4/19 Top 5 List The Love of a Bibliophile
3/5/19 Review Momma on the Rocks
3/6/19 Series Spotlight Kelly Well Read
3/6/19 Excerpt Syd Savvy
3/7/19 Review Forgotten Winds
3/7/19 Review Book Fidelity

 

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