Monday, February 15, 2016

Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson + a Giveaway

Good morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Julia Claiborne Johnson's debut, Be Frank With Me.

It's been over twenty-five years since M. M. Banning's groundbreaking debut, The Pitcher, was released and in all that time everyone has waited to see what she'd do next. Fortunately for her publisher, she's finally ready to write something new. Not totally voluntarily, unfortunately, considering she's got to churn something out in order to recoup the money she's recently lost after being swindled in a bad investment scheme. And so her editor sends his assistant to help. 

Alice is everything Mimi has asked for: No Ivy Leaguers or English majors - check. Drives, cooks, tidies - all things Alice is quite capable of. Computer whiz - she is a former genius. Good with kids - she's also a former teacher. And finally: quiet, discreet, and sane - good on all counts. 

But Alice isn't quite prepared for frosty Mimi and her eccentric son Frank. 

Much of Alice's day is spent minding Frank. Simply keeping up with him and keeping him out of Mimi's hair while she works is job enough! Frank is a classic film aficionado, a treasure trove of fun facts, and a snappy dresser to boot. But Frank also has a tendency to melt down whenever the rules are broken (touching his things without his permission, touching him without his permission, along with any number of other upsets) and has more trouble than most in social situations. In spite of all of that, Alice is drawn to the boy but when days, weeks, and even months start to go by without Mimi producing any pages for Alice's review, it starts to look like her efforts might all be in vain.

Be Frank With Me no doubt draws some inspiration from a certain famously closed-off author who we all know has just released her second book. Some - such as personality and career. It ends there, though. Mimi has lived a bit of a tragic life. She's lost most of her family and is alone but for Frank and Xander. (Xander himself is mostly legend for Alice in the beginning considering he doesn't make an appearance until she's been there for some time.) And while it takes some time for Alice to begin learning of Mimi's past, it's clear to her from the start that Mimi's isolation is more than just a way to keep herself apart from rabid fans.

Mimi's built a little bubble for herself and Frank, though, and even Alice can see quite obviously the affection the author has for her child. Frank is willful and brilliant but his issues, while never laid out specifically with any diagnosis, don't deter the young assistant one bit. Neither does Mimi's frankly awful attitude towards her. She's not totally non-objective in her narrative but she is to enough of an extent that she is both incredibly likable and easy to sympathize with. In other words, she's able to draw the reader in fabulously.

Not that I think any reader would have trouble getting drawn into a story about a young woman being forced to live with a crusty writer and her son while said writer pecks away at a new book (or not). Trust me, you'll wonder right alongside Alice exactly what Mimi is doing behind closed doors and whether the floor will turn out to be littered with "All work and no play make Jack a dull boy."

You can probably tell that I never did warm to Mimi. Alice, Frank, and Mr. Vargas, though, had me from the start. (Xander not so much, Mimi can keep him.)

Be Frank With Me is a book for book lovers, for readers who love unique characters, and for anyone who enjoys a good heartwarming tale. It's also a quite wonderful debut from an author I sincerely hope doesn't take a page from Mimi's book!

Rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher, I get to give away two copies of Be Frank to Me! To enter simply fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, February 29. Open US only and no PO boxes please.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

To see more stops on the tour be sure to check out the official TLC tour page here.
For more on Julia Claiborne Johnson and her work you can like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

Purchase Links: Amazon | IndieBound | Barnes & Noble


Heather J @ TLC Book Tours said...

"A book for book lovers" ... this is going on my TBR list just for that!

Thanks for being a part of the tour.

Amanda said...

I've been curious about this book. I think Frank's character sounds fabulous. I am sold on a book for book lovers. Yay!

DJ Sakata said...

this sounds interesting - love your review