Set against the backdrop of Southern California and the Hollywood spin, Reel Life: Two sisters on the verge escape to the movies spotlights two sisters unable to really communicate or connect with each other or other family members.

To illustrate what does bind them all, movie themes brought the story to the reader, from The Wizard of Oz to The Red Shoes.

Betty and Jamie’s individual points of view, their troubles and relationship woes, weave the story between the past and the present until, at the end, we come to enjoy a reconciliation between them as a life event forces them together.

Parts of the story were more captivating than others for me; I enjoyed the dialogue between the sisters, with the bursts of irony that seemed to be their signature style. But much of the story fell flat for me because I truly could not connect to either of them. I wanted to love this story…but it seemed repetitive in parts and bogged down with minutiae in other sections.

I kept reading, though, because I wanted to know what happened, and because the hint of some big reveal aroused my curiosity. In the end, the “big reveal” slid right by with hardly any notice. Perhaps I just didn’t “get” the characters; and I see that other reviewers loved this book. Therefore, potential readers should keep in mind that not everyone enjoys the same kind of story. For me: three stars.


Welcome to another special Waiting on Wednesday event, hosted by Jill, at Breaking the Spine.  Every Wednesday, we enjoy sharing our enthusiasm for upcoming book releases.

My feature today is a novel that I’m very excited about.  Keepsake, by Kristina Riggle, is a timely and provocative novel that asks:  What happens when the things we own become more important than the people we love?

To be released June 26, 2012

Amazon blurb: 

Trish isn’t perfect. She’s divorced and raising two kids—so of course her house isn’t pristine. But she’s got all the important things right and she’s convinced herself that she has it all under control. That is, until the day her youngest son gets hurt and Child Protective Services comes calling. It’s at that moment when Trish is forced to consider the one thing she’s always hoped wasn’t true: that she’s living out her mother’s life as a compulsive hoarder.

The last person Trish ever wanted to turn to for help is her sister, Mary—meticulous, perfect Mary, whose house is always spotless . . . and who moved away from their mother to live somewhere else, just like Trish’s oldest child has. But now, working together to get Trish’s disaster of a home into livable shape, two very different sisters are about to uncover more than just piles of junk, as years of secrets, resentments, obsessions, and pain are finally brought into the light.


I can’t wait to read this story!  The issues speak to that part of us that clings to sentimental objects.  It also addresses an unmet need seemingly satisfied by the treasures we keep.

What are you waiting for?  I hope you’ll stop by and share….


Entering the dream world of our protagonist, Trace/Ianthe, is like slipping between reality and fantasy.

An abused child whose poor grip on reality is balanced, at times, by her superior intelligence, Trace Pennington reinvents herself as Ianthe Covington, and enters college. There she manages some kind of normalcy, but lives in an abandoned farmhouse with her dog Weeds, barely existing except in the academic life she seemingly relishes.

When she meets and falls in love with a professor, Jacob Matthias, she drops out (in her senior year) and is seemingly absorbed into his life. But his dark secrets collide with her own and send her spiraling downward until, in flashes of memory or fantasy, we’re not sure which, she recalls the tragic finale to her childhood life and family.

Disturbing, intellectually challenging and gripping, Iodine: A Novel portrays the interior world of a psychotic woman, even as it gradually reveals the brutal, bizarre childhood that defined her.

This story sometimes had me spinning on the edge of reality, confused at times by Trace/Ianthe’s voice; in the end, I concluded that her perspective is her reality. The slippage of time, events, and the blurring between the past, the present, and some fantasy world…all combine to depict this young woman’s psyche and what defined her. Yet throughout, the reader can never know what is real, what is imagined, and what is simply the product of a disturbed mind.

Kimmel writes with brilliant prose and imagery, but I found this story confusing. However, I recommend it to those who revel in family dysfunction, and mental illness, and award it four stars.


As I read this wonderfully colorful story, I couldn’t help thinking of the saying: “A picture is worth a thousand words.” We learn Ella’s story, as well as those of her family, friends, and the people she paints…as she paints them. In each sitting, Ella, the portrait artist, elicits the stories of her subjects. And as she gradually portrays them, we learn bits and pieces of her story as she interacts with them and reflects on her life.

At thirty-five, Ella Graham has a big hole in her heart…and in her life. Her father, about whom she has some happy memories, disappeared just before she turned five. Drawing him over and over as a child was her way of somehow capturing him.

Her mother’s secrecy and complete dismissal of his presence or importance in her life back then create an agony that cannot be fully healed.

So in painting the lives of others and seeing their loves, hearing about their losses, Ella feels a connection that, while it doesn’t replace what she’s lost, gives her something on which to focus.

Then one day, something unexpected happens, and Ella’s life changes course. Gradually she uncovers the secrets of her past…and at the same time, discovers something right in front of her that had eluded her. Unexpected love.

Visually vibrant settings, along with fully-drawn characters, brought The Very Picture of You: A Novel completely alive for me. I enjoyed this memorable story that in some ways fully realizes the idea that we all see something different when we look at the world, and that our individual perceptions can sometimes distort events. Secrets, betrayals, and even love can be fully seen when we acknowledge them. Four stars.