Stars Over Sunset Boulevard Review

When an iconic hat worn by Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind ends up in Christine McAllister’s vintage clothing boutique by mistake, her efforts to return it to its owner take the reader on a journey to the past.

It’s 1938 and Violet Mayfield sets out to reinvent herself in Los Angeles after her dream of becoming a wife and mother falls apart, landing a job on the film-set of Gone With the Wind. There, she meets enigmatic Audrey Duvall, a once-rising film star who is now a fellow secretary. Audrey’s zest for life and their adventures together among Hollywood’s glitterati enthrall Violet…until each woman’s deepest desires collide.

What Audrey and Violet are willing to risk, for themselves and for each other, to ensure their own happy endings will shape their friendship, and their lives, far into the future.

(Above synopsis courtesy of the publisher.)

As a pop culture junkie, to get the inside track to Hollywood, especially during the 1930s, was fascinating.  Meissner writes as if you are actually on set with the cast and crew experiencing it just as they are.  I loved the references to the secretaries dutifully following everyone around to take notes and dictation, something completely different from our world today.  My favorite part was all the behind-the-scenes details that went in to make this classic movie.

This was so much more than just a Hollywood story.  At the base of this novel is a friendship between two women and the lengths they go to get what they want.  As unusual as this was back before World War II, it proves to be a battle women are still fighting today.  If you didn’t know the time period of this book before you opened it, you’d realize that Audrey and Violet’s ambitions would make sense even now.

For those who love historical fiction with ties to the present (books like Orphan Train and The Mapmaker’s Children), be sure to add this to your reading list.  Anybody who likes a story with female friendship at its core should pick this one up.

This would make a perfect choice for book clubs to discuss if these ladies made the right decisions and how their lives would be different if others were made.  The paperback copy even provides a reading guide along with an interview with Susan so you can learn more about her writing process.

Thank you to Berkeley/NAL and Susan’s publicist for a copy in exchange for an honest review.


Susan Meissner is a multi-published author, speaker and writing workshop leader with a background in community journalism. Her novels include A Fall of Marigolds, named by Booklist’s Top Ten women’s fiction titles for 2014, and The Shape of Mercy, named by Publishers Weekly as one of the 100 Best Novels of 2008. She is also a RITA finalist, and Christy Award winner.

A California native, she attended Point Loma Nazarene University. Susan is a pastor’s wife and a mother of four young adults. When she’s not working on a novel, she writes small group curriculum for her San Diego church. She is also a writing workshop volunteer for Words Alive, a San Diego non-profit dedicated to helping at-risk youth foster a love for reading and writing.

Connect with Susan via her website, Facebook, and Goodreads.

The Goodbye Year Review

When I was ready to graduate from high school, I couldn’t believe the amount of stress there was.  College visits, college applications, keeping grades up for potential colleges, getting fitted for graduation clothes.  That was on top of trying to relish the fact that it was my last year with my group of friends and we would all be going our separate ways the next year.  I barely had time to give a thought to everyone else’s stresses, let alone my parents’.

Thank goodness for Kaira Rouda.  She has crafted a novel that focuses on the last year of high school for not just the students but their parents as well.  And if you thought it was tough on the students, well, just you wait…

We have renowned plastic surgeon Jud, his wife Sarah, and their daughter Ashley.  Sarah dreams of traveling as soon as Ashley graduates but has a sinking feeling of something mysterious going on with Jud.

Melanie, mom to Seth and Dane, and her husband Keith.  Melanie is terrified Dane doesn’t have the desire or grades to get into college, which is a requirement in their household.

Will is just plain sick and tired of his wife Carol’s color-coded scheduling of his life.  All he wants is a little freedom which he finds in married Lauren.

And among the students, we have the typical high school issues of drugs, trying to fit in, and how  a picture perfect looking life on the outside is not always what it seems.

I loved how Rouda delved deep into the lives of the parents because it is an issue that rarely comes up when dealing with leaving the nest and finishing school.  Anyone who knows not to judge a book by its cover will appreciate the storylines in this novel.  A lot of it reminded me of a favorite from last year, The Admissions by Meg Mitchell Moore.  I guarantee you’ll get lost in the pages of this novel as soon as you pick it up, eager to see how it all plays out.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the #It’sRainingBooks campaign from BookSparks in exchange for an honest review.

Best Beach Reads of 2016

The weather is getting warmer.  The sun is showing up.  Now is the time to choose your summer vacation reads.  Here are my recommendations for 2016.

image The Status of All Things by Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke

This dynamic duo makes the writing flow seamlessly that you would never guess it was written by two women together.  This is the story of Kate who is dumped the night before her wedding by her fiancé.  When she discovers she can alter the course of her life via Facebook statuses, she has to decide whether changing history will make her happy.

image The Knockoff by Lucy Sykes & Jo Piazza

One reviewer described this novel as making “The Devil Wears Prada look like My Little Pony.”  I couldn’t agree more.  When Imogen Tate returns to work at her magazine after a leave, she finds her former assistant angling for her job.  If you’ve ever rooted for the underdog, or know the feeling of being the underdog, you will be a big fan of this book.

image The Royal We by Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan

If you have any interest in the Royal Family, this is a must read book.  It is such a fun and joyous read that had me completely sucked in to the love story of Nick and Bex and the scandal that ensued.  As soon as I finished, I was demanding a sequel.  A movie is in the works so be sure to read the book first.

image The Blue Bistro by Elin Hilderbrand 

No summer would be complete without an Elin Hilderbrand novel in your beach bag.  This is an oldie but goodie that had me longing to spend a summer on Nantucket to explore the beaches and restaurants.  I was enthralled in this love story that takes place in a busy restaurant.  And it will make you very hungry.

image What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan

When Rachel’s son goes missing after a walk in the park, her world is turned upside down.  Told in alternating viewpoints between her and the detective in charge of the case, you’ll be as eager to find out what happened as she is.  All psychological fiction fans will be flipping the pages and should add Macmillan as a writer to watch.

image Summer at Hideaway Key by Barbara Davis

This was my first novel by Barbara Davis but certainly won’t be my last.  When Lily’s father passes away and leaves her a cottage on the beach, she is determined to find out the story behind it.  If you enjoy historical fiction, Davis incorporates some back story in this novel as well.  A little romance thrown in makes this a perfect book for all readers.  See my full review here.

image Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum

There was so much to love about Buxbaum’s first venture into contemporary YA.  This is the story of Jessie whose father relocates her across the country to California and how she has to start fresh at a brand-new high school.  When a student anonymously emails her, a friendship develops.  The reader and Jessie try to figure out who the mysterious sender is in this sweet book.

image A Drop in the Ocean by Jenni Ogden 

Ever wish you could just drop everything and travel to an exotic location to get away from it all?  That is the premise of Ogden’s debut novel.  When she suddenly finds herself out of a job, Anna jumps at the chance to head to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef for a new beginning in a place that she soon learns will become home.  See my full review here.

If you get a chance to read any of these books, I’d love to hear your review too!  Have a great summer!

*This post contains affiliate links


Sister Dear Review

So many people had recommended Laura McNeill’s first release, Center of Gravity, to me last year.  Unfortunately, I never grabbed an opportunity to read it because at the time I had too many other books I my pile.  As soon as I was offered the chance to review her next book, Sister Dear, I jumped at the chance.

Sister Dear tells the story of Allie Marshall, just paroled from prison after 10 years for a crime she insists she didn’t commit, the killing of the town’s beloved football coach, Boyd Thomas.  Her sister, Emma, currently has custody of Allie’s teenage daughter, Caroline.  Her parents have just sold their vet practice to a new family in town.

Caroline seems to be the most affected by Allie’s return, as her mother was gone for a huge portion of her life and she’s worried about he social repercussions for her as news spreads.  To keep herself busy, she chooses to volunteer at the local nursing home after school.

Once this story gets going, readers will have a pretty good idea of who is ultimately responsible for the crime.  But what I love about this book is how Laura dropped little surprising nuggets of information throughout.  Little puzzle pieces were found every few chapters that started forming the ultimate picture of what really happened.  Just when you think you cannot be surprised anymore, you get a new twisty tidbit to keep you reading.

Now I cannot wait to go back and read Center of Gravity and whatever new novels Laura has coming our way.  She has an amazing ability to hook you early without a ton of extraneous information.  My thanks to TNZFiction, Litfuse, and Laura McNeill for the copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Laura McNeill is a writer, web geek, travel enthusiast, and coffee drinker. In her former life, she was a television news anchor for CBS News affiliates in New York and Alabama. Laura holds a master’s degree in journalism from The Ohio State University and is completing a graduate program in interactive technology at the University of Alabama. When she’s not writing and doing homework, she enjoys running, yoga, and spending time at the beach. She lives in Mobile, AL with her family.