Stars over Sunset Boulevard

By Susan Meissner, New American Library

It’s Hollywood in 1939, often called the greatest year ever in American movies. Violet Mayfield and Audrey Duvall are both in the steno pool at Selznick International Pictures. Though their goals differ – Violet wants only to be a wife and mother; Audrey wants to be a star – they become roommates and fast friends. But this is a friendship marred by secrets, jealousy and sabotage. While Violet is working on the epic “Gone with the Wind,” a prop hat goes missing – an incident that proves pivotal to the story. While it took time for me to warm to the characters in this novel, and the story didn’t unfold as I expected, it was a rewarding read: complex, nuanced, and in the end, poignant. Movie buffs will enjoy the passing references to film folk like Selznick, his assistant Marcella Rabwin, the tragic Peg Entwhistle, and of course, Vivien Leigh.

A Girl’s Guide to Moving On

By Debbie Macomber, Ballantine Books

Two women leave their husbands almost simultaneously, and for the same reason: infidelity. Nichole, an upper-class wife and stay-at-home mom, believed her husband, Jake, was perfect until he got his most recent girlfriend pregnant. Leanne knew for years that her husband, Sean, was stepping out, but was terrified of doing anything to jeopardize their life together. The women, who end up living in the same apartment building, already know each other well – Nichole is Leanne’s daughter-in-law. The women form the “Girl’s Guide to Moving On,” based on Oprah-esque rules like “Don’t wallow in your pain” and “Let go in order to receive.” Macomber’s many fans may enjoy her latest, but it lacked emotional depth. Within the first couple chapters Nichole meets the mandatory hunky blue-collar guy who will take away her pain, and Leanne’s new love turns up in the English-as-as-second language class she teaches. I wish this book had been more complex and less predictable.

Highest Duty

By Chesley Sullenberger, William Morrow

With the release of “Sully” starring Tom Hanks, it’s time to go back to the book written by former U.S. Airways pilot Chesley Sullenberger in 2009. Earlier that year, after a collision with birds killed both engines of his Airbus shortly after takeoff, the captain had just minutes to determine a course of action that would save 150 passengers and five crew members. He safely landed the jet on the surface of the Hudson River, and in the aftermath found himself an unlikely media hero. He was interviewed on countless TV shows, invited to President Obama’s inaugural, and was asked to throw out the first ball at several Major League games. Like the man himself, this book, co-written with Jeffrey Zaslow, is earnest, thoughtful, and self-effacing – if a book can be soft-spoken, this one is. But it is also a glimpse into the mind and history of a gentleman who believes in following the rules, setting high standards, doing his duty and honoring his own heroes – especially the aviators who came before him. Subtitled “My Search for What Really Matters,” this book isn’t the most exciting read, but it’s a worthy investment of time. For thrills, see the movie.

A Thousand Naked Strangers

By Kevin Hazzard, Scribner

This rapid-paced, often side-splitting account is subtitled “A Paramedic’s Wild Ride to the Edge and Back” – and it lives up to the promise. In sometimes gory detail, the author relates what it’s like to respond to crime scenes, car wrecks, domestic violence incidents and more on some of the worst beats in Atlanta. Hazzard made his bones first as an EMT, and later as a paramedic with the city’s famous Grady Memorial Hospital. Though his was the ultimate dead-end job – low pay, poor working conditions, crazy hours – the author confesses that the adrenaline and excitement made it almost addictive. By the end, you’ll have a deeper appreciation for those ambulance jockeys.

The Friends We Keep

By Susan Mallery, Mira Books

The friends of the title have enough problems to keep an advice columnist hopping for months: from marital discord and divorce to infertility, jealousy, career-life balance, post-baby weight, snotty stepchildren, teen sex, glass ceilings – all the familiar First World problems. Hayley Batchelor’s marriage is threatened by her desperate quest, after many miscarriages, to have a biological child. Nicole Lord rolled through divorce, but she is hesitant to trust the new man on her horizon, a famous children’s book author. Gabby Schaefer has second-wife syndrome. Though her marriage is happy, she has a hard time bonding with her 15-year-old stepdaughter, whose absentee mother provides little love and few boundaries. There are few surprises in “The Friends We Keep,” the second entry in Mallery’s Mischief Bay series, but women will recognize themselves in these characters, and enjoy reading about their trials, troubles and efforts to change and grow.

Marjorie Preston reads as much as she writes, which is a lot. Reach her at mprestonwriting@gmail.com.

      Stars over Sunset Boulevard

      By Susan Meissner, New American Library

      It’s Hollywood in 1939, often called the greatest year ever in American movies. Violet Mayfield and Audrey Duvall are both in the steno pool at Selznick International Pictures. Though their goals differ – Violet wants only to be a wife and mother; Audrey wants to be a star – they become roommates and fast friends. But this is a friendship marred by secrets, jealousy and sabotage. While Violet is working on the epic “Gone with the Wind,” a prop hat goes missing – an incident that proves pivotal to the story. While it took time for me to warm to the characters in this novel, and the story didn’t unfold as I expected, it was a rewarding read: complex, nuanced, and in the end, poignant. Movie buffs will enjoy the passing references to film folk like Selznick, his assistant Marcella Rabwin, the tragic Peg Entwhistle, and of course, Vivien Leigh.

     

      A Girl’s Guide to Moving On

      By Debbie Macomber, Ballantine Books

      Two women leave their husbands almost simultaneously, and for the same reason: infidelity. Nichole, an upper-class wife and stay-at-home mom, believed her husband, Jake, was perfect until he got his most recent girlfriend pregnant. Leanne knew for years that her husband, Sean, was stepping out, but was terrified of doing anything to jeopardize their life together. The women, who end up living in the same apartment building, already know each other well – Nichole is Leanne’s daughter-in-law. The women form the “Girl’s Guide to Moving On,” based on Oprah-esque rules like “Don’t wallow in your pain” and “Let go in order to receive.” Macomber’s many fans may enjoy her latest, but it lacked emotional depth. Within the first couple chapters Nichole meets the mandatory hunky blue-collar guy who will take away her pain, and Leanne’s new love turns up in the English-as-as-second language class she teaches. I wish this book had been more complex and less predictable.

     

      Highest Duty

      By Chesley Sullenberger, William Morrow

      With the release of “Sully” starring Tom Hanks, it’s time to go back to the book written by former U.S. Airways pilot Chesley Sullenberger in 2009. Earlier that year, after a collision with birds killed both engines of his Airbus shortly after takeoff, the captain had just minutes to determine a course of action that would save 150 passengers and five crew members. He safely landed the jet on the surface of the Hudson River, and in the aftermath found himself an unlikely media hero. He was interviewed on countless TV shows, invited to President Obama’s inaugural, and was asked to throw out the first ball at several Major League games. Like the man himself, this book, co-written with Jeffrey Zaslow, is earnest, thoughtful, and self-effacing – if a book can be soft-spoken, this one is. But it is also a glimpse into the mind and history of a gentleman who believes in following the rules, setting high standards, doing his duty and honoring his own heroes – especially the aviators who came before him. Subtitled “My Search for What Really Matters,” this book isn’t the most exciting read, but it’s a worthy investment of time. For thrills, see the movie.

     

      A Thousand Naked Strangers

      By Kevin Hazzard, Scribner

      This rapid-paced, often side-splitting account is subtitled “A Paramedic’s Wild Ride to the Edge and Back” – and it lives up to the promise. In sometimes gory detail, the author relates what it’s like to respond to crime scenes, car wrecks, domestic violence incidents and more on some of the worst beats in Atlanta. Hazzard made his bones first as an EMT, and later as a paramedic with the city’s famous Grady Memorial Hospital. Though his was the ultimate dead-end job – low pay, poor working conditions, crazy hours – the author confesses that the adrenaline and excitement made it almost addictive. By the end, you’ll have a deeper appreciation for those ambulance jockeys.

  

   The Friends We Keep

   By Susan Mallery, Mira Books

   The friends of the title have enough problems to keep an advice columnist hopping for months: from marital discord and divorce to infertility, jealousy, career-life balance, post-baby weight, snotty stepchildren, teen sex, glass ceilings – all the familiar First World problems. Hayley Batchelor’s marriage is threatened by her desperate quest, after many miscarriages, to have a biological child. Nicole Lord rolled through divorce, but she is hesitant to trust the new man on her horizon, a famous children’s book author. Gabby Schaefer has second-wife syndrome. Though her marriage is happy, she has a hard time bonding with her 15-year-old stepdaughter, whose absentee mother provides little love and few boundaries. There are few surprises in “The Friends We Keep,” the second entry in Mallery’s Mischief Bay series, but women will recognize themselves in these characters, and enjoy reading about their trials, troubles and efforts to change and grow.

  

   Marjorie Preston reads as much as she writes, which is a lot. Reach her at mprestonwriting@gmail.com.