Friday, January 29, 2016

4 Stars - Reds in the Beds by Martin Turnbull

Publisher: Self-Published
Historical Fiction
Buy: AMZ

About the Book

Hollywood history is more than just colorful. It's dripping with red.

As World War II ends, a new boogieman emerges: the Red Menace. When a scandal accuses Tinseltown of being riddled with Communists, MGM writing department head Marcus Adler needs to keep his reputation beyond reproach. Unfortunately in Hollywood, nobody's past is spotless.

While the House un-American Activities Committee prepares to grill the brightest stars in town, gossip columnist Kathryn Massey is doing everything she can to shed the FBI informer mantle she carried during the war. Desperate to avoid tangling with a notorious mobster, Massey may have to take on J. Edgar Hoover himself to secure her freedom.

The war killed Gwendolyn Brick's dream of opening her own store, but valuable secrets can creep into the strangest of places. From behind the perfume counter at Bullocks Wilshire, Brick makes a shocking discovery that could revive her dream and change multiple lives for good.

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As the title implies, the Allah series slips seamlessly from WWII into the Hollywood Red Scare era. It seems the trio of friends - Marcus, Kathryn, Gwen - still can't get out of trouble but their stories make for engaging reading. This series has remained strong and I enjoyed it.

Friday, January 22, 2016

5 Stars - Troublemaker by Leah Remini

Publisher: Random House
Autobiography
Buy: AMZ

About the Book

Leah Remini has never been the type to hold her tongue. That willingness to speak her mind, stand her ground, and rattle the occasional cage has enabled this tough-talking girl from Brooklyn to forge an enduring and successful career in Hollywood. But being a troublemaker has come at a cost.

That was never more evident than in 2013, when Remini loudly and publicly broke with the Church of Scientology. Now, in this frank, funny, poignant memoir, the former King of Queens star opens up about that experience for the first time, revealing the in-depth details of her painful split with the church and its controversial practices.

Indoctrinated into the church as a child while living with her mother and sister in New York, Remini eventually moved to Los Angeles, where her dreams of becoming an actress and advancing Scientology's causes grew increasingly intertwined. As an adult, she found the success she'd worked so hard for, and with it a prominent place in the hierarchy of celebrity Scientologists alongside people such as Tom Cruise, Scientology's most high-profile adherent. Remini spent time directly with Cruise and was included among the guests at his 2006 wedding to Katie Holmes.

But when she began to raise questions about some of the church's actions, she found herself a target. In the end, she was declared by the church to be a threat to their organization and therefore a "Suppressive Person," and as a result, all of her fellow parishioners—including members of her own family—were told to disconnect from her. Forever.

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I read Going Clear and saw the documentary. Both are chilling in terms of their frankness and you learn so much about Scientology from people who gave most of their lives to it. You get peripheral information on the big names involved, though, which is why I wanted to read Leah's book. She came into the "church" via her mother, who went in via her second husband. What you get in Troublemaker is not an involved Hollywood memoir that delves deep into Leah's career - she talks about it, but her acting is the backdrop. This is an account of Scientology told from a celebrity POV, somebody this organization would normally revere for their status (and money), and it left me with my mouth open in a WTF right to the end.

I watched Leah on "The King of Queens" and I remember hearing she was a Scientologist and asking myself, "Wha? How'd she get roped into that?" Reading her book helped me to understand how Scientology appealed to her in her youth, and how it drained her of money for decades and did her few favors. It took four simple words out her mouth ("Where is Shelly Miscavige?") to destroy her standing and consequently crush her faith. Leah prides herself on being a troublemaker, a big mouth, and a badass, and it's interesting that one moment where she showed concern for a friend got her into big trouble.

I enjoyed this book - it's blunt and engaging and emotional. You're going to read things here that will piss you off. I leave it with the hope that Leah will find closure by finding out the truth about Shelly.

Friday, January 1, 2016

4 Stars - A Girl's Guide to Moving On by Debbie Macomber

Publisher: Ballantine Books
Fiction / Family Saga
Buy: AMZ

About the Book

In this powerful and uplifting novel from #1 New York Timesbestselling author Debbie Macomber, a mother and her daughter-in-law bravely leave their troubled marriages and face the challenge of starting over. Leaning on each other, Nichole and Leanne discover that their inner strength and capacity for love are greater than they ever imagined.

When Nichole discovers that her husband, Jake, has been unfaithful, the illusion of her perfect life is indelibly shattered. While juggling her young son, a new job, and volunteer work, Nichole meets Rocco, who is the opposite of Jake in nearly every way. Though blunt-spoken and rough around the edges, Rocco proves to be a dedicated father and thoughtful friend. But just as their relationship begins to blossom, Jake wagers everything on winning Nichole back—including their son Owen’s happiness. Somehow, Nichole must find the courage to defy her fears and follow her heart, with far-reaching consequences for them all.

Leanne has quietly ignored her husband’s cheating for decades, but is jolted into action by the echo of Nichole’s all-too-familiar crisis. While volunteering as a teacher of English as a second language, Leanne meets Nikolai, a charming, talented baker from Ukraine. Resolved to avoid the heartache and complications of romantic entanglements, Leanne nonetheless finds it difficult to resist Nikolai’s effusive overtures—until an unexpected tragedy tests the very fabric of her commitments.

An inspiring novel of friendship, reinvention, and hope, A Girl’s Guide to Moving On affirms the ability of every woman to forge a new path, believe in love, and fearlessly find happiness.
~

This is my first Debbie Macomber book. I'm surprised it's taken me this long to pick up a title, but the premise of this one grabbed me. The story reminded me a bit of Kristan Higgins' "If You Only Knew," but the two aren't exactly the same. Here, the two women starting over are an older woman and her daughter-in-law, both divorcing their respective cheating spouses.

It's nice to read a story with romantic elements featuring an older heroine like Leanne. Her story, with Nichole's, is told in tandem and flows nicely in the first person POV. It's a sweet story you can finish over a weekend.

ARC received from publisher via NetGalley.