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Midlothian Lifestyle (Virginia) July 2019 issue

Title: Summer Reading: Grab Up These Hot, Newly Released Novels from Virginia Authors 
Sidebar: This summer, dive into a smart legal thriller and a high-stakes story of school admissions
Written by: Rhiannon Johnson 
Photography: provided by publishers

The Gifted School by Bruce Holsinger (releasing July 2, 2019)
Charlottesville resident and University of Virginia professor, Bruce Holsinger, delivers an addictively voyeuristic look at the lengths ambitious parents will go for their children when a new gifted school opens in their community. Four young couples who have happily raised their families together for over a decade while striving to balance careers, parenthood, and marriage find that trying to secure a coveted spot for their children in the new school becomes one pressure too many. Cracks begin to form, relationships become strained, and past problems resurface between friends, spouses, and siblings. As parents pit their children against each other in their aggressive pursuit of prestige, the previously close-knit community begins to unravel, with simmering resentments finally boiling over and long-held secrets destroying families and freindships. Told from multiple (child and adult) perspectives and peppered with vlog entries, texts, and standardized testing questions, this addictive and darkly entertaining novel captures a fictional community’s obsession with achievement. However, in the age of debates around public, private, and charter schools, and in light of the recent college bribery scandals, The Gifted School also stands as a timely social commentary on privilege, meritocracy, race, class, elitism, and ethical standards in modern America.

The Substitution Order by Martin Clark (releasing July 9, 2019)

Author Martin Clark draws on his nearly thirty years of experience as a (now retired) Virginia circuit court judge to create a meticulously plotted novel full of legal traps and tricks that will have you rooting for its underdog main character while wondering how he will outsmart everyone conspiring against him. After being disbarred and separating from his wife, Kevin Moore trades in his suits and legal pads for an apron and a hairnet—to work at SUBstitution sandwich shop. His days are mind-numbingly full of preparing complicated phone orders for nearby factory staff and dealing with problematic locals. Determined to set his life right by quietly passing his days working at SUBstitution, Kevin initially refuses a mysterious man’s proposition to profit off a multimillion-dollar scam built around Kevin’s own disbarment. Days later Kevin realizes the proposition wasn’t actually an option but a threat. Armed with his legal savvy, a twenty-year-old computer-whiz coworker, and a rambunctious rescue puppy, Kevin fights to clear his name, retaliate against an onslaught of blackmail, and stay out of prison while attempting to expose a crew of high-powered con artists. Cleverly written and packed with frustrating legal loopholes and court system roadblocks, The Substitution Order is a whip-smart page turner that will keep readers on the edge of their seats.

Review: Supper Club by Lara Williams

Supper Club by Lara Williams (releases July 9, 2019 from G.P. Putnam's Sons)
**I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review** 

Supper Club by Lara Williams is definitely not a mainstream "everyone will love it" book. I am putting it in the "difficult to love but I appreciate it" category, right alongside The Goldfinch and The Golden Child. Supper Club initially interested me in that the main storyline is about a secret society of women who gather to eat, but the book as a whole focuses on art; artistic expression; and women's relationships with food, friends, and lovers. 

Overall, I had a few problems with the timelines and the cooking instructions (while matching the theme) felt out of place. Trigger warnings for rape, eating disorders, and drug and alcohol abuse.

Review: Tiny Hot Dogs by Mary Giuliani

I love a food memoir but Mary Giuliani's "Tiny Hot Dogs" missed the mark for me. I had never heard of the author but I thought a book written by the "Caterer to the Stars" would have some hilarious stories and slip ups. Unfortunately, the slim volume is almost entirely about her personal life and I found her constantly self-deprecating humor(?) annoying. On the upside, there are delicious appetizer recipes accompanying each chapter that are worth checking out.⠀

Review: We Went to the Woods by Caite Dolan-Leach

We Went to the Woods by Caite Dolan-Leach  (releasing July 2, 2019 from Random House)

Certain that society is on the verge of economic and environmental collapse, five disillusioned twenty-somethings make a bold decision: They gather in upstate New York to transform an abandoned farm, once the site of a turn-of-the-century socialist commune, into an idyllic self-sustaining compound called the Homestead.

My Review:
Five people with different personalities are going to live off the land/get off the grid...and only one has any farming experience.🤷‍♀️Obvious pitfalls arise such as food lasting through the winter and complicated friendships/sexual relationships, but those aren't even the main story. There are arguments with neighbors over chemical dumping and partnerships with another nearby intentional community over acts of civil disobedience and picketing. Knowing that other intentional communities have failed, the main character Mack takes it upon herself to figure out why they failed so that this one will succeed. But while she focuses on her research, everyone else is focusing on something else.

Reviews: The Daughters of Temperance Hobbs and Mrs Everything

I received copies of these releases from the publishers/Netgalley

I went into one of these books expecting to love it and I kept skipping over the other one because I thought I wouldn’t—then the results were opposite!

I was so excited to read The Daughters of Temperance Hobbs (The Physick Book #2) by Katherine Howe (releasing June 25, 2019 from Henry Holt & Company) because I loved her 2009 release The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, but TDoTH fell flat for me. While the first book in the series was full of witches, old books, and a long abandoned house, this installment was messy and missed the mark on what fans were looking for in the follow-up.

When I accepted the ARC offering of Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner (releasing June 11, 2019 from Atria Books) I was second-guessing myself because I’ve read a couple of Weiner’s previous releases and they were hit or miss for me. In her “Dear Readers” letter at the beginning of the book Weiner states that in addition to being the longest book she has ever written it is also the most ambitious work she has ever attempted. I love that she “went big” and succeeded. Spanning decades in the lives of two sisters, Mrs. Everything is a masterpiece of her-storical fiction.

Review of The Darwin Affair by Tim Mason

The Darwin Affair by Tim Mason (releasing June 11, 2019 from Algonquin Books)
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


London, June 1860: When an assassination attempt is made on Queen Victoria, and a petty thief is gruesomely murdered moments later—and only a block away—Chief Detective Inspector Charles Field quickly surmises that these crimes are connected to an even more sinister plot. Was Victoria really the assassin’s target? Are those closest to the Crown hiding something? And who is the shadowy figure witnesses describe as having lifeless, coal-black eyes? Soon, Field’s investigation exposes a shocking conspiracy in which the publication of Charles Darwin’s controversial On the Origin of Species sets off a string of murders, arson, kidnapping, and the pursuit of a madman named the Chorister.

My Review:
I hate the predicability and mediocrity of most contemporary thrillers/mysteries and have become so frustrated that after reading The Au Pair and Anonymous Girl at the beginning of the year I totally gave up on them. I dipped my toe back in with this mystery hoping the Victorian time period would provide a pleasant reprieve and thank goodness it did! This smart story included all the scientific minds of the time, secret religious organizations, a loveably unlucky inspector, and a cast of manipulated misfits all wrapped up in a conspiracy and multiple murders. I definitely recommend this one and my advice is to pay close attention as you read because there are a lot of characters.