Dava Shastri’s Last Day by Kirthana Ramisetti

Domestic fiction is one of my favorite subgenres, especially novels that are set in situations that are different than my normal life. Domestic fiction is usually written by, for, and about women. It is also usually told through multiple viewpoints. My latest read fits all the above criteria!

Dava Shastri’s Last Day tells the story of Dava Shastri and her family. Dava Shastri is one of the world’s wealthiest women. Devastated by a brain cancer diagnosis at the age of seventy, Dava is determined to approach her death like she approaches everything else in her life – with planning and determination.

Dava’s reputation has always been important to her. She wants her name to live on for generations. Both her public and private legacies are of utmost importance, but her family members don’t feel quite as strong about keeping the Shastri name alive.

Dava summons her four adult children, their spouses, and children to her private island where she tells them her news. In addition to having a terminal illness, Dava has also arranged for the news of her death to be released early, so that she can read the obituaries and articles written about her before she dies. Since she spent her life dedicated to the arts and to the empowerment of women, Dava expected that the articles written after her death would focus on those topics. Instead she finds the articles to be significantly more scandalous, focusing on two secrets that have the power to destroy her life, secrets she hoped would stay buried forever.

Now that her secrets are published, her children know and the fallout is not great. Dava must use what little time she has left to come to terms with the life she has lived and the various decisions that have led her to this point.  Most importantly she must use that time to talk it out with her family and make peace with their past, present, and future.

This book is also available in the following format:

Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty

Liane Moriarty is known currently for her book, Nine Perfect Strangers, which was made into a limited Hulu series. She has nine adult novels that have been translated into forty languages and have sold more than 20 million copies all over the world. Moriarty has also written three books for children. Her latest adult novel had me on my toes until the very end.

Once you’ve hit a ball there’s no point watching to see where it’s going. You can’t change its flight path now. You have to think about your next move. Not what you should have done. What you do now. – Liane Moriarty, Apples Never Fall

Apples Never Fall is her newest novel, published in 2021. The above quote stuck with me throughout the book as it served as a metaphor both for tennis, which features predominantly in this book, and for life. This is a novel about marriage, siblings, and family, and the confusion and betrayal we feel when those we cherish lash out and hurt us.

The Delaney siblings are at a loss. Amy, Logan, Troy, and Brooke are all grown and out of their parents’ home, yet they all have a strong pull back to where they grew up, especially now that their mother has gone missing, seemingly without a trace and for no good reason.

The Delaneys are well known in their community. Stan and Joy, the parents, are tennis stars who set up their own tennis academy. They have been married for fifty years and people constantly talk about what a good match they are both on and off the court. Now they have sold the tennis academy and aren’t quite sure what to do with the rest of their lives. Their four children were all tennis stars, in their own right, of course, but Stan never truly believed any of them had the ability to truly make it. It’s okay though because they are all, mostly, settled into their adult lives and seem to have a handle on the future. At least on the surface they are, but even the happiest surfaces can be hiding secrets underneath.

Everything starts to bubble up when a strange young woman named Savannah shows up on Stan and Joy’s doorstep begging for help, bleeding after a domestic violence incident with her boyfriend. Stan and Joy take her in with almost no questions asked, much to their children’s chagrin.

Flash forward: Joy goes missing and Savannah is also nowhere to be found. All the children and Stan have been questioned. The police immediately hone in on Stan because he seems to be hiding something. Their children are also not being fully honest with the police and with each other. It doesn’t help that two of them think their father is innocent while the other two think that he may have hurt their mother. The more questions that are asked, the more each family member is forced to closely reexamine what they believe to be their family truths and core memories.

I particularly enjoyed this novel because it flashes back and forth between past and present. Each major characters’ point of view is also presented, including some peripheral random characters to add some color to the story. I listened to the audiobook version and really enjoyed the Australian narrator Caroline Lee.

This book is available in the following formats:

Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok

“In love and life, we never know when we are telling ourselves stories. We are the ultimate unreliable narrators.” – Jean Kwok, Searching for Sylvie Lee

Searching for Sylvie Lee is a mysterious suspenseful drama that tugs at the complicated lives of three women – two sisters and their mother. Every person in this story is full of secrets – some more deadly than others.

Sylvie is the beautiful and successful older daughter. She can do no wrong. Sent to the Netherlands by her parents when she was a baby, Sylvie spent the first nine years of her life living separate from her family. Sylvie is heading back to the Netherlands to visit her dying grandmother who raised her. Now Sylvie has vanished.

Amy is the baby of the Lee family. She looks up to her older sister Sylvie. Sylvie may be seven years older, but she basically raised Amy. The younger sibling who never quite measures up to her sister, Amy is trying to figure out what to do with her life. She has dropped out of college and moved back into her parents’ tiny apartment. When Amy learns that Sylvie is missing, she will do whatever it takes to find her. It is time for her to step up and help Sylvie. The more she explores Sylvie’s disappearance, the more secrets she discovers.

Ma is broken. When she moved to the United States from China, she and Pa were newly immigrated and too poor to raise their eldest daughter Sylvie. They made the difficult decision to send her to the Netherlands to be raised with family. She was only supposed to be there for a little while, but it was nine years before Sylvie brought home to help take care of Amy. Their relationship has been a bit strained as a result, but Ma loves Sylvie and Amy.

When Sylvie disappears, the whole family is thrown. She is the solid middle of their family that they all revolve around. They have to find her. She wouldn’t just disappear without letting one of them know.

This book is also available in the following formats:

Careful What You Wish For by Hallie Ephron

Hallie Ephron is known for writing mystery and suspense novels. Her newest novel Careful What You Wish For is her latest offering.

Emily Harlow is a professional organizer. She loves to help people declutter their lives which is a bit ironic because Emily’s own life is a complete mess. Her husband is a hoarder. He has filled their basement, attic, and garage with all of the treasures that he has found at different yard and estate sales. Emily and her husband have an understanding though that she will not touch his finds. This marriage compromise is slowly making Emily’s life more stressful as his belongings spread throughout more of the house.

Desperate to get back to some sort of normalcy, Emily is relieved when she has two new clients sign up. One is an elderly widow finally ready to clear out her house of any reminder of her husband. Said husband also left behind a storage unit that the wife had no idea existed. Emily’s other new client is a young wife who wants to get rid of all of her belongings that have been sitting in the garage ever since she moved in with her husband. You see, her husband didn’t allow any of her belongings into the house. At all.

After the initial meetings, Emily discovers that both of her new clients are hiding something. The mess Emily finds herself in has the power to destroy her life. She must get creative in order to find her way out or she may lose her marriage, her job, or even her life.

This book is also available in the following formats:

Pottering by Anna McGovern

Do you feel twinges of guilt when you take a lazy day? Do you spend hours on your phone or computer and come away feeling dissatisfied with how you’ve spent your time? Did you use to have hobbies or household chores you enjoyed, but you’ve fallen out of the habit? Do you love British culture, especially cozy British voices? If your answer is yes to any of these, you may want to pick up Pottering: A Cure For Modern Life by Anna McGovern.

This slim volume, published in 2020, is a treatise and how-to guide on “pottering” (what we in the U.S. would probably call “puttering”). It’s the ultimate restful activity: moving around your home or community in a leisurely way, doing little tasks as they occur to you, savoring the process and not rushing or trying very hard at all. In the gentle chapters, McGovern describes the various aspects of pottering, including “Make Do With What You’ve Got”, “Don’t Try Very Hard”, “Movement”, “Keep It Local”, and so on, with lots of recommendations on how to make pottering work for you, both in terms of practical actions and mindset. It’s about being content and going with the flow, savoring the experience of taking your time and doing things you enjoy or are interested in, if not for long stretches at a time necessarily. Moreover, she’s very specific that phone scrolling and other digital activities are NOT pottering, as they take your attention away from the present time and place and keep you sitting still instead of moving around. As a whole, it brings to mind words like “self-care” and “mindfulness”, but is very grounded in everyday life and the physical reality of the home. It’s taking a rest and being kind to yourself — two things I think we could all do more of in life.

It reads with a hint of irony, of course, coming out of a year of pandemic, quarantine, and isolation in the home, but I think it puts a positive light on it, considering the long road left ahead before restrictions are fully lifted. As quarantine and isolation and being at home get extra stale, it doesn’t hurt to remember that being at home and taking our time can be a restful, enjoyable experience, a break from rushing and worrying and being over-scheduled. Even in small bursts, taking a step back to potter around the house can help reorder your thoughts, get a few little chores done, and just generally let you take a breather. I think one way I’d alter the definition of “pottering” to encompass our pandemic lives is to emphasize the “keep it local” and “movement” chapters, where she talked about the power of getting outside for a little walk. And, of course, never underestimate the value of taking a little while to sit and stare into space or out a window, maybe with a cup of something (which McGovern also recommends, occasionally). Pausing to be present and to reset helps to go into whatever’s next with a fresh perspective, and to process whatever emotion is going on – and crises both personal and global bring up a lot of emotions.

Whether pottering works for you in a moment of pandemic or not, the spirit of pottering is always good to remember: unplug from the digital sometimes and be kind to yourself, not obsessing and stressing over how productive you’re being, but trying to go with the flow and enjoy the moment you’re in.

The Daughters of Erietown by Connie Schultz

The world right now is uncertain. I find myself longing for times when family and friends could get together without care or worries. In an effort to feel more of that carefree spirit(without actually getting close to people), I have been searching for more books to read about families. Cue: literary generational fiction.

The Daughters of Erietown by Connie Schultz tells the story of Ellie and Brick. In the 1950s, Ellie and Brick are growing up in Clayton Valley, Ohio. Ellie wants to marry Brick McGinty. She wants to go to nursing school. It seems Ellie has finally figured out how she can get what she wants, even if her grandparents don’t approve.

Brick may be a basketball star at his high school, but he has big plans to go to college on a scholarship to play basketball. That is his chance to escape his abusive father, to be the first in his family to attend college, and to become a man that he can be proud of. Ellie and Brick are determined to succeed together and start a new life in a new place.

Their plans fall apart when Ellie finds out she is pregnant. Realizing that their big dreams will have to be put on hold, the two switch gears and begin to build their family. Ellie and Brick quickly discover that this new life is full of ups and downs. They have to rely on each other and work together to provide a stable and loving home for everyone. Just as they seem to settle back into a rhythm, someone knocks on their front door and delivers news that has the power to destroy their lives.

The Daughters of Erietown follows the evolution of women’s lives over fifty years. While each person in this story may have their own secrets, others have the power to reach out and destroy the precious balance that they have created. This novel discusses the known and the unknown, the whispers that may be true or not, and how you choose to deal with them.

This book is also available in the following formats:

Virtual Book Club – ‘Good Girls Lie’ on September 23

On Wednesday, September 23rd at 2pm,  Virtual Book Club will be discussing Good Girls Lie by J.T. Ellison. This book club meets virtually every week to discuss a book using GoTo Meeting. Information about how to join is provided at the end of this blog.

Want to learn more about Good Girls Lie? Read the following description provided by the publisher.

Perched atop a hill in the tiny town of Marchburg, Virginia, The Goode School is a prestigious prep school known as a Silent Ivy. The boarding school of choice for daughters of the rich and influential, it accepts only the best and the brightest. Its elite status, long-held traditions and honor code are ideal for preparing exceptional young women for brilliant futures at Ivy League universities and beyond. But a stranger has come to Goode, and this ivy has turned poisonous. In a world where appearances are everything, as long as students pretend to follow the rules, no one questions the cruelties of the secret societies or the dubious behavior of the privileged young women who expect to get away with murder. When a popular student is found dead, the truth cannot be ignored. Rumors suggest she was struggling with a secret that drove her to suicide. But look closely…because there are truths and there are lies, and then there is everything that really happened.

This book is also available in the following formats:

Virtual Book Club – Good Girls Lie by J.T. Ellison
Wed, Sep 23, 2020 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM (CDT)

Please join my meeting from your computer, tablet or smartphone.
https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/230386885

You can also dial in using your phone.
United States: +1 (224) 501-3412

Access Code: 230-386-885

New to GoToMeeting? Get the app now and be ready when your first meeting starts:
https://global.gotomeeting.com/install/230386885

Virtual Book Club – July 22

Something She’s Not Telling Us by Darcey Bell is the Virtual Book Club pick for Wednesday, July 22nd at 2pm (central.) We will be using GoTo Meeting to do this virtual book club! Information about how to join is listed below.

Curious what the book is about? Check out the following description from the publisher.

Charlotte has everything in life that she ever could have hoped for: a doting, artistic husband, a small-but-thriving flower shop, and her sweet, smart five-year-old daughter, Daisy. Her relationship with her mother might be strained, but the distance between them helps. And her younger brother Rocco may have horrible taste in women, but when he introduces his new girlfriend to Charlotte and her family, they are cautiously optimistic that she could be The One. Daisy seems to love Ruth, and she can’t be any worse than the klepto Rocco brought home the last time. At least, that’s what Charlotte keeps telling herself. But as Rocco and Ruth’s relationship becomes more serious, Ruth’s apparent obsession with Daisy grows more obvious. Then Daisy is kidnapped, and Charlotte is convinced there’s only one person who could have taken her …

Virtual Book Club
Wed, Jul 22, 2020 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM (CDT)

Please join my meeting from your computer, tablet or smartphone.
https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/674732437

You can also dial in using your phone.
United States: +1 (872) 240-3212

Access Code: 674-732-437

New to GoToMeeting? Get the app now and be ready when your first meeting starts:
https://global.gotomeeting.com/install/674732437

This book is also available in the following formats:

Oprah Book Club Pick – June 2020

Oprah has just announced her latest book club pick: Deacon King Kong by James McBride! Oprah is one of the celebrities featured on our Best Sellers Club. If you would like to make sure that you don’t miss a single one of Oprah’s book club picks, be sure to join our Best Sellers Club today!

Deacon King Kong by James McBride is her latest pick. A work of domestic psychological fiction set in 1969 in a housing project in South Brooklyn.

Need more information? Check out the information below provided by the publisher:

In September 1969, a fumbling, cranky old church deacon known as Sportcoat shuffles into the courtyard of the Cause Houses housing project in south Brooklyn, pulls a .45 from his pocket, and in front of everybody shoots the project’s drug dealer at point-blank range. The reasons for this desperate burst of violence and the consequences that spring from it lie at the heart of Deacon King Kong, James McBride’s funny, moving novel and his first since his National Book Award-winning The Good Lord Bird. In Deacon King Kong, McBride brings to vivid life the people affected by the shooting: the victim, the African-American and Latinx residents who witnessed it, the white neighbors, the local cops assigned to investigate, the members of the Five Ends Baptist Church where Sportcoat was deacon, the neighborhood’s Italian mobsters, and Sportcoat himself. As the story deepens, it becomes clear that the lives of the characters–caught in the tumultuous swirl of 1960s New York–overlap in unexpected ways. When the truth does emerge, McBride shows us that not all secrets are meant to be hidden, that the best way to grow is to face change without fear, and that the seeds of love lie in hope and compassion. Bringing to these pages both his masterly storytelling skills and his abiding faith in humanity, James McBride has written a novel every bit as involving as The Good Lord Bird and as emotionally honest as The Color of Water. Told with insight and wit, Deacon King Kong demonstrates that love and faith live in all of us.

This book is also available in the following formats:

I Owe You One by Sophie Kinsella

Sophie Kinsella was one of my favorite authors in high school. I stopped reading her when I went away to college, but recently started reading her books again when I discovered her newest book, I Owe You One.

I Owe You One tells the story of Fixie Farr. For as long as she can remember, Fixie has felt the urgent need to put things right. If a friend needs help, if a shelf is stained, if a picture is crooked, Fixie has to fix it. She starts to fidget, bouncing and moving around until things are back to normal.

This trait is something that her friends and family members often take advantage of, but Fixie has trouble acknowledging this. Ever since her father died, Fixie started to take his motto: ‘Family First’ even more to heart. If any family member asks for help, she is always willing to help for anything.

Stopping at a coffee shop on her way home, a handsome stranger asks her to watch his laptop so he can step out to take a call. Fixie agrees and actually ends up saving the laptop from destruction. As a result, the grateful owner Sebastian writes an IOU on a coffee sleeve, attaches his business card to it, and tells Fixie that he owes her and to let him know how he can help her. Fixie does not believe that this was genuine and laughs off his offer. She would never accept an IOU from a complete stranger.

When she arrives back home, her childhood crush Ryan shows up unexpectedly. Ryan is having a hard time getting a job, believing that he deserves much more than a mediocre job since he used to work in Hollywood. Learning that Seb owes Fixie a favor, they decide to ask Seb to give Ryan a job.

Seb and Fixie begin to have a relationship as IOUs flow back and forth between the two. These range from small insignificant and life-changing ones. Throughout all of these interactions, Fixie finds herself wanting to leave her current ‘family first’ focused life to find a life that makes herself happier. As tensions come to a head and her mother’s return home from a long vacation looms closer, Fixie realizes that she must make a change if she wants her family to start taking her seriously.

I enjoyed listening to this book. Watching Fixie grow throughout this book and seeing her character develop had me rooting that she would get the life that she wanted. Give this a read and let me know what you think.


This book is also available in the following formats: