Sheri Melnick

Jenny Harris and her fiance, Dean, began planning their wedding a year in advance. But two months later Jenny discovers she is pregnant and is due a month before the wedding date. Jenny's sophisticated, savvy mother takes the pre-wedding baby news in stride, but Jenny's fiance doesn't handle the news quite as well, becoming more and more withdrawn as the due date draws near. Dean leaves one night to get cigarettes and doesn't return, leaving Jenny alone to give birth to their baby.

Jenny rides the highs and lows of post-pregnancy hormones, breast-feeding difficulties and sleep deprivation all common experiences for new mothers. Yet, Jenny undergoes change that is tangible and real as she soon discovers that her focus has completely shifted from herself to her baby Maxie, whose care consumes her every thought and waking moment.

Houston author Katherine Center's writing flows effortlessly, drawing the reader into Jenny's story as she falls more in love with her baby every day. Jenny's transformation from pregnant woman to mother is enlightening and emotionally touching. As she learns to weather life's physical and emotional demands without the support of Dean, Jenny's ability to move forward in life is creatively contrasted against Dean's regression and his inattentiveness towards his new family.

The author adds depth to this novel with the burgeoning relationship between Jenny and her neighbor, Gardner, a former physician who now makes his living remodeling and reselling homes. A comfortable friendship develops between the two, as he helps revamp her garage in exchange for home-cooked meals. With the possibility of romance blooming between them, Jenny realizes that the physical attraction she shared with Dean lacks the substance of her relationship with Gardner. Beautifully penned and truly memorable, The Bright Side of Disaster is a heartwarming and deeply emotional debut.

Jenny Harris and her fiance, Dean, began planning their wedding a year in advance. But two months later Jenny discovers she is pregnant and is due a month before the wedding date. Jenny's sophisticated, savvy mother takes the pre-wedding baby news in stride, but Jenny's fiance doesn't handle the news quite as well, becoming more […]

Florida author Kristy Kiernan's stunning debut explores the lives of two sisters who were very close as children but drifted apart as they moved into adulthood. Estella and Connie Sykes grew up in a beachside home on an island off the Gulf Coast of Florida. When Estella was a preteen, her father discovered that she had extraordinary ability in mathematics, and she was labeled a genius. At the age of 12, Estella enrolled in college, and the close bond that she and Connie shared gradually eroded. Estella became known as the smart sister, and Connie relied on her beauty to garner attention.

Years later, both women are in their 40s, living disparate lives. Estella is an Atlanta math teacher, and Connie lives in Florida with her husband, Luke, and two sons, Gib and Carson. When their mother asks them to help close up the island home, asserting that she wishes to sell it, the two estranged sisters are reunited for the first time in years. As Estella and Connie travel together to their childhood home, they struggle with the uncomfortable silences between them. But once in Florida, both sisters see the beauty of the island, even as they recall the difficult moments of their youth. In a remarkably poetic chain of events, Estella and Connie share with one another secrets about their present-day lives even as they reveal hidden truths about their pasts, and the guilt and misunderstandings that have divided them. Connie and Estella's poignant journey back toward the friendship of their youth will resonate with readers. Catching Genius is simply mesmerizing, not only because it expertly captures the unbreakable bond between sisters. The novel also explores the many facets of very real characters, breathing life into the seamlessly plotted storyline. This author's first novel is a must-read for women's fiction fans of all ages.

Sheri Melnick writes from Enola, Pennsylvania.

Florida author Kristy Kiernan's stunning debut explores the lives of two sisters who were very close as children but drifted apart as they moved into adulthood. Estella and Connie Sykes grew up in a beachside home on an island off the Gulf Coast of Florida. When Estella was a preteen, her father discovered that she […]

Lauren Willig's third installment in her Pink Carnation Series (after The Secret History of the Pink Carnation and The Masque of the Black Tulip) is another entertaining blend of chick lit and historical fiction. The Deception of the Emerald Ring explores the world of espionage and intrigue in 1803 England, when Napoleon supported a group of Irish rebels in their efforts against the British government, and continues the present-day tale of American doctoral candidate Eloise Kelly, who is researching 19th-century British spies. Eloise discovers that the spy known as the Purple Gentian may have been connected to Letty Alsworthy and Geoffrey Pinchingdale-Snipe, and begins researching their lives.

Geoff marries Letty after an elopement gone awry makes it impossible for him to wed her lovely older sister. Initially, Geoff believes he has married the wrong sister, but he soon finds that Letty has hidden depths. When the War Office requests Geoff's help in Ireland, he leaves his new bride and travels to Dublin to uncover the identities of insurgents supported by Napoleon. But Letty follows him and ends up involved in the dangerous search.

The growing attraction between Geoff and Letty interspersed with Eloise's own romantic adventures is very real and believable as the tension comes to a boiling point. Though the tone of the novel is decidedly modern, Willig, a Harvard Law School graduate, weaves in plenty of history (the Irish rebellion actually happened, though the floral spies are her own invention). Light and frothy fun, The Deception of the Emerald Ring is a delightful third third act.

Lauren Willig's third installment in her Pink Carnation Series (after The Secret History of the Pink Carnation and The Masque of the Black Tulip) is another entertaining blend of chick lit and historical fiction. The Deception of the Emerald Ring explores the world of espionage and intrigue in 1803 England, when Napoleon supported a group […]

Prolific author James Patterson (writing here with Peter de Jonge) delivers yet again as he takes readers to the Hamptons, one of America's priciest seaside resorts. Attorney Tom Dunleavy has a small law practice in East Hampton and spends most of his time with his faithful dog Wingo. Though his star basketball career was cut short by injury, Tom still enjoys playing the game with some of the locals at the estate of an often absent movie star. One of his sparring partners is young Dante Halleyville, a surefire future NBA draft pick. But a game of basketball turns into a nightmare when one of Dante's pals threatens another player with a gun. Later that night, three young white men are brutally killed, and Dante is charged with their murder. Tom agrees to defend Dante, and he enlists the help of former girlfriend Kate Costello, a superior Manhattan attorney. Kate and Tom find themselves instantly unpopular in their community and soon are threatened by those who believe in Dante's guilt. As the evidence stacks up against Dante, Kate and Tom pull out all the stops to defend this promising athlete who vows that he had nothing to do with the murders. But will their defense succeed, and is their client truly innocent? Patterson's fast-paced, succinctly written novel is chock-full of suspense and intrigue. Tom and Kate are fabulous protagonists, former lovers and fellow attorneys who seem to be able to rise above the pitfalls of their chosen profession. The mystery behind the murders is coupled with a renewal of their romance as their professional efforts bring them closer to one another both emotionally and physically. Yet it is the riveting conclusion, with its earth-shattering revelation, that will resonate most with readers, leaving them spellbound. Sheri Melnick writes from Pennsylvania.

Prolific author James Patterson (writing here with Peter de Jonge) delivers yet again as he takes readers to the Hamptons, one of America's priciest seaside resorts. Attorney Tom Dunleavy has a small law practice in East Hampton and spends most of his time with his faithful dog Wingo. Though his star basketball career was cut […]

The setting of Brian Strause's emotionally charged debut novel is Columbus, Ohio, where 18-year-old Monroe Anderson lives with his family. Monroe's life is irrevocably altered when he discovers his 11-year-old sister, Annika, unconscious in the family pool. Though he saves his sister's life by administering CPR, she remains comatose. His father, a high-powered defense attorney, copes with the tragedy by becoming even more obsessed with his work. Monroe's older brother Ben, a talented golfer, drowns himself in alcohol and suffers disastrous consequences. But it is Monroe's grief-stricken, lonely mother who changes the most and becomes totally absorbed in her Catholic faith, engaging the prayerful assistance of the local parish priest and multiple members of the community. As Annika displays signs of stigmata, Monroe is concerned that her frequent visitors see her not as a person, but as a mere means to healing their various ailments.

As the events of the story unfold, readers are treated to Monroe's first-person narrative, revealing his family's darkest moments. From the second Monroe saves his sister's life, he remains conflicted, feeling the contrast between the media hailing him as a hero and his parents viewing him as a failure for not coming more quickly to his sister's aid. Unable to rationalize the local priest's encouragement of the public to treat his sister as an idol, Monroe clashes with his mother and her boundless faith. Heartwarming and deeply moving, Maybe a Miracle sparkles as it highlights the cavernous depths of one family's trauma. The devastating power of this tragedy is brilliantly portrayed with both the gritty realism and sarcasm that only an 18-year-old boy can convey. But this novel truly stands out because of its singular premise: can one family ever completely recover from a brush with tragedy? As Strause juxtaposes the Andersons' crisis with those of other families, he reveals answers to this question. Readers will quickly warm to this charismatic writer's deft exploration of human emotion. Sheri Melnick writes from Enola, Pennsylvania.

The setting of Brian Strause's emotionally charged debut novel is Columbus, Ohio, where 18-year-old Monroe Anderson lives with his family. Monroe's life is irrevocably altered when he discovers his 11-year-old sister, Annika, unconscious in the family pool. Though he saves his sister's life by administering CPR, she remains comatose. His father, a high-powered defense attorney, […]

In her engaging second novel, Lauren Weisberger (The Devil Wears Prada) follows the trials and tribulations of another young woman who secures a dream job, only to find that it's not what she was expecting. New Yorker Bette Robinson's relatively staid life working in banking changes drastically when she gets a new job at a PR firm. Soon, she is frequenting Manhattan's hottest clubs and making the acquaintances of pop culture's finest. When one night of revelry results in a chance meeting with British hottie Philip Weston, Bette becomes the most popular employee at her firm. Gossip columnists and paparazzi follow every move Bette and Philip make, and Bette's boss is thrilled at the resulting publicity. But Bette isn't so sure that her relationship with Philip is any more substantial than their nights of photo ops. Bette's chance meeting with bouncer and up-and-coming chef Sammy Stevens results in a budding romance, though Bette isn't quite sure that Sammy measures up to her ideal man, the hero of her favorite romance novel. Despite Bette's relationship woes, the most captivating aspect of her character is her warring conscience, which wonders whether catering to the rich and famous is a particularly worthy life goal. On top of that, Bette must cope with the fractured relationship with best friend Penelope and frequent arguments with her parents, aging hippies who believe that Bette should be employed in a more productive venue. Much as she did in The Devil Wears Prada, Weisberger provides a bird's-eye view of a world few inhabit while poking fun at the ridiculous behavior of some of the celebrities and their associates. Readers will likely be both intrigued and appalled by this humorous look into the lives of the rich and famous.

In her engaging second novel, Lauren Weisberger (The Devil Wears Prada) follows the trials and tribulations of another young woman who secures a dream job, only to find that it's not what she was expecting. New Yorker Bette Robinson's relatively staid life working in banking changes drastically when she gets a new job at a […]

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