Book Preview: The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen

the missing manuscript of jane austenIn The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen (2012) by Syrie James, an American rare-books librarian finds a manuscript written by Jane Austen that has never been published.

Samantha McDonough has traveled to London with her boyfriend, and while he attends a medical conference, she tours Oxford University and its surrounding area, reminiscing about her time spent studying English Literature before she was called away to care for her ill mother.

While rummaging through a bookstore, she comes across a volume of poetry containing an unfinished letter that she recognizes as being written by Jane Austen to her sister Cassandra. It describes an early work that has been mislaid. With the help of Anthony Whitaker, a venture capitalist in need of cash and the owner of Greenbriar, the ancient estate where the missing book is hidden, Samantha locates the manuscript.

The two strangers read the newly discovered work together along with us, as their own story unfolds with considerably less drama.

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Book Preview: The Glass Kitchen

the glass kitchenThe Glass Kitchen (2014) by Linda Francis Lee takes a woman with a culinary heritage from Texas to Manhattan as she searches for a new life.

Portia Cuthcart has lost her dream. She planned to run the family restaurant established by her grandmother. But life interrupts with betrayal, and Portia heads for NY, where her sisters have settled.

She owns the garden apartment in a brownstone, and intends to live there even though her sisters have sold their interest in the building to Gabriel Kane, who expects Portia to do the same. As she settles into her new world, Portia begins to cook again, for her sisters and her new neighbors, and finds herself pulled into the family drama that swirls around her.

As she cooks for Kane and his daughters while making discoveries about her own family relationships, Portia uncovers truths about herself and the power of following her heart, and her magic.



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Book Preview: The Secret of the Nightingale Palace

the secret of the nightingale palaceThe Secret of the Nightingale Palace (2013) by Dana Sachs is my kind of book. First of all there is a road trip. Who can resist a cross-country adventure? But wait, there’s more! Did I mention inter-generational family bonding? What fun!

Anna Rosenthal is a thirty-five-year-old artist and widow who is struggling with the loss two years earlier of her husband. When she receives an unexpected call from her demanding, estranged grandmother Goldie, she learns that her elderly relative wants her to drive them across the country to San Francisco in the older woman’s Rolls Royce. Tough decision, right?

Goldie’s personality is sharp, and the two trade barbs along with pieces of themselves as they pursue Goldie’s mission to return precious artwork kept for old friends during their internment. But as all literal journeys tend to do, it unfolds as a trip into the nature of their relationship, their personalities, and Goldie’s secret past in San Francisco. Anna learns as much about her grandmother as she does about herself.

This well-written tale moves back and forth across decades and is narrated by both Anna and Goldie. I look forward to enjoying this intriguing book.

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Book Preview: The Guest House

the guest houseSomeday I hope to visit Cape Cod, a place that has always intrigued me. But for now, this native Californian will content herself with reading The Guest House (2013) by Erika Marks.

The local families of Harrisport, Massachusetts have spent generations watching wealthy families from out-of-state move into the huge summer cottages that dominate the best spots along the town’s Cape Cod beach. This story follows the lives of two of these families, one from the South and one local.

The Mosses and the Wrights have long harbored animosity toward each other. As a teenager, Edie had her heart broken when Tucker Moss left her. Years later, after a happy marriage to Hank Wright, Edie’s daughter Lexie had her heart broken as well when Tucker’s son Hudson left her for his high school sweetheart.

Now both mother and daughter have been sucked back into the Moss family doings. Tucker’s younger son Cooper has hired Lexi, a photographer, to help him in his preparation for historical designation of the family summer home. Edie gets involved as well, becoming reacquainted with Tucker’s best friend Jim Masterson.

Edie’s son Owen, who has also had his heart broken and life complicated by a Moss, is not happy with his mother’s and sister’s involvement with that family. In the process of working on the renovation of the guest house, a discovery is made that affects both families. This summer read is certain to satisfy those looking for a bit of drama and romance.

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Book Review: The Secret Garden

the secret gardenThe Secret Garden (1911) by Frances Hodgson Burnett is a well-loved classic children’s story that I had never read until the past week. Although it was written over one hundred years ago, it still has much to say about human relationships and the healing powers of nature, friendship, fresh air, and exercise.

When Mary Lennox is orphaned in India by an epidemic of cholera, she is sent to live with her uncle Archibald Craven in Yorkshire, England. Life at Misselthwaite Manor is much different from the life she led in India. The wind blows across the moors and the rain pours down. Martha Sowerby, the housemaid, encourages her to be more independent instead of catering to her every whim. Unfriendly, irritable Mary is still unhappy and isolated. With no companions her own age, she is sent out to play by herself. After befriending cranky Ben Weatherstaff, a gardener, she wanders in search of the garden that has been shut up for ten years. No one is allowed inside since her aunt died.

Mary is persistent, and not only discovers the buried key and the door to the garden (with the help of a curious robin), but she also wanders about the house in corridors where she is not allowed. Following the sound of a crying child, she discovers her cousin, Colin, who is an apparent invalid and in much the same state as she is herself.

The time she has already spent in the garden with the housemaid’s brother, Dickon, has taught Mary that she can be happy. She decides to try to convince her cousin to join them. Although a bit preachy at the end, this story had me in the garden with the children enjoying the flowers, sunshine, and fresh breeze off the moors, and trying to speak Yorkshire.


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Book Preview: Never Let Me Go

never let me goRecently I finished reading the novel The Remains of the Day (1989) by Kazuo Ishiguro. I was well into the book before I understood the subtleties of the story and appreciated its emotional undercurrent. Having seen the film long ago, I was fuzzy on the plot.

Today I present to you another of Ishiguro’s celebrated works, Never Let Me Go (2005), which was also adapted as a film (2010). As in his other work, the author introduces very human characters who are contained and controlled by their circumstances, which are not immediately clear but take the reader on an emotional journey.

Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy have had an unusual upbringing. Sheltered and isolated during childhood at Hailsham, a private school in the English countryside, they have been raised for a purpose. That purpose is gradually revealed to be a service to humanity as “donors.” Along with the bigger picture of the fates of these now-grown children, there is the relationship between the three friends that continues to evolve.

Ishiguro was born in Nagasaki, Japan. His parents relocated to England when he was five. He now resides in London, and is a British citizen. His work has won numerous awards.

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Book Preview: The Opposite of Maybe

the opposite of maybeThe Opposite of Maybe (2014) is the latest fiction by Maddie Dawson, pseudonym of journalist and author Sandi Kahn Shelton. It is a messy but charming tale of second chances that introduces Rosie and Jonathan, who have been together for fifteen years, happily unmarried and living the life in Connecticut that suits them both. Then Jonathan accepts a job opportunity on the other side of the country, in San Diego, and finally proposes marriage.

Rosie agrees to go with her fiance, although she has some reservations, but then backs out at the last minute in favor of moving in with her eighty-eight-year-old grandmother Soapie, who raised her. Soapie is slowing down and could use some help, but she has a boarder/gardener/personal assistant who fills the bill in his own quirky way.

Rosie doesn’t approve of Tony. He is a bad influence on her grandmother, but two weeks after Jonathan leaves the forty-four-year old discovers she is pregnant for the first time, and Tony is there for her. There are subsequent revelations about her mother, and Tony has complications of his own. Rosie must decide how to live with new priorities while being true to herself.

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