Wednesday, April 18, 2018

No Time to Blink


Catherine Clarke is the right girl from the right family. Raised in a wealthy town in Connecticut, she is expected to marry the male version of herself. But Catherine defies all the rules when she falls head over heels in love with Gabriel. Gabe is a charming, handsome, Lebanese businessman that Catherine cannot resist. When they quickly marry and Catherine gets pregnant, their love story pushes all boundaries. With little choice in the matter, Catherine is slowly controlled and coerced to move to Gabe’s homeland. He is her husband and she naively dreams of a happy marriage as long as they are lovingly together. Once abroad Gabe dramatically reverts to his more conservative upbringing in a culture where the wife has no say even on the smallest decisions. As Catherine tolerates their dwindling relationship Gabe becomes more threatening and Catherine devises a plan to return to the U.S. The protection of the law is not on her side and even her phone calls are being tracked. Alone and afraid, Catherine does whatever it takes to keep her daughter safe. Told by alternating characters, Catherine’s story and Ann Marie’s future self learn about love, family and secrets the hard way. Well developed characters and fast paced suspense make No Time to Blink by author Dina Silver a must read. Could not put down this glimpse into another land where even the simplest gift in life has a price we cannot afford to pay.

My Oxford Year


Ella from Ohio is living the dream. Her dream, specifically, since she was 13 years old. To go to Oxford. She is a young political dynamo and recently named Rhodes Scholar doing her graduate studies at a college she has only visited in her imagination. Knowing she has a limited amount of time, Ella is determined to soak up every moment of her year in England. Castles, tea and the ghosts of every famous author she has spent a lifetime loving. Lost in Oxford’s immense history she soon becomes equally captivated by a pair of baby blue’s belonging to her professor, Jamie Davenport. He is the type of brilliant, romantic and beautiful man with a throng of women at his feet, the ideal mate for her fairytale fantasy. As we follow Ella on her humorous, thoughtful, journey she learns about the beauty of freedom and value of choice. Most importantly, when her tough exterior begins to crack, Ella learns more than English literature, she discovers the truth about her very own heart. This entertaining, well written love story/adventure abroad enveloped me in a fine mist of dreams and more dreams. Because it is never ever too late to follow them.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

An American Marriage


Celestial and Roy are briefly introduced in college but a few years after graduation an unlikely encounter brings them together and they quickly fall in love. Although from different backgrounds they are both intelligent, passionate people who live and love deeply. Roy encourages Celestial, an artist, to follow her dreams while he climbs the corporate ladder quickly. They leave their Atlanta home for a short visit to Roy’s parents in a very small town in the deep South. They stay at a motel for the night. The police barge into their room and Roy is falsely accused of a crime. He is railroaded and sentenced to 12 years in prison. While the newlyweds marriage slowly disintegrates, dreams and futures are placed on hold. Can career, children, family and love wait 12 long years? Author Tayari Jones brings us a story of marriage, family and racism that is undeniably beautiful and tragic at the same time. The reader can easily imagine each and every character, rooting for them all, knowing in the end there will be a price to pay. Tayari Jones wastes no words and no time. I love this book from first page to last and think it should be required reading. Do not miss this one reader friends!

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Every Note Played


Karina escaped her mundane village in Poland with her god given talent as a pianist. At a young age she understood this was her ticket to another life. As an independent beautiful young woman this was not an easy journey. Alone and afraid she made it to the U.S. and a well known music school where she was quickly labeled the best. Romance with fellow pianist Richard quickly led to marriage and a quiet competition to follow their musical destiny. Young and in love Karina follows Richard to a post in Boston, motherhood and the end of her days sitting at the piano. Years later with her daughter away at college and a much anticipated divorce, Karina finds herself very alone. Richard, an extremely famous pianist has been recently diagnosed with ALS. It hits hard and fast. He has a daughter he hasn’t spoken to, girlfriends that have come and gone and an ex-wife that hates him. He, who thought he was triumphant, finds himself alone and unable to manage and very very angry. This novel is about dreams that come crashing down when marriage, career, health and all the choices one makes along the way do not align with the stars or ones future plans. Author Lisa Genova has (once again) taught me a great deal, left me hyperventilating and reminds us to be grateful for every breath, every day. 

Monday, April 2, 2018

Nothing Forgotten


Many a young romantic’s dream, to travel the world after college, secure a job, share an adorable flat with a scandalous Brit in Rome and fall madly in love … with a handsome, sexy, engaged, older man. Assured that a woman on the side is often the Italian way, At 22, Anna cannot help herself and falls deeply in love with her boss at the language school. She quickly let’s go of her inhibitions and her heart. When Sergio orchestrates Anna’s weekends so he can spend more time with her, she unapologetically befriends the unsuspecting fiance. After a complicated year, a wedding and a heart shattered in a million pieces, she leaves Rome. Twenty-five years later Sergio contacts her. Anna must decide if she can share her deepest darkest secrets that may change her life forever. I read this story of romance and family, loyalty and deception in one single sitting. I didn’t always love the characters or their choices or the rush-to-the-finish ending but found the thread of time and setting in Rome mesmerizing. When there is a fork in the road your history is being created and future determined. Also, the notion that when we are with loved ones from our past we can once again see through the eyes of that younger self. Enjoyable, well written, delicious Italian love story.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Somebody's Daughter


Gazing off the balcony at the perfectly clear blue sky above crashing waves, the Ross family seems picture perfect. Parents Bobby and Emma are stable, smart and still in madly love. Their beautiful twins Zoe and Lily are typical teens worried about friends and selfies. The Ross’s run and live in a successful, swanky hotel on Miami Beach. Life just couldn’t get any sweeter. At the girls 15th birthday party a nasty text message is sent, video attached. Emma accidentally overhears friends gossiping in the restroom and knows in that instant, their lives will never be the same again. Author Rochelle B. Weinstein takes us on a painful journey through one families struggle to admit the agonizing truth about their daughter and find their way to forgiveness. Narrated from Emma’s perspective Somebody’s Daughter takes on one of life’s most challenging issues of parenting; our children out in the world making mistakes - while the parents learn they can’t always protect them. My heart was immersed in these characters as they dealt with issues that hit way too close to home. This is the digitally raised generation and the simple life lessons we were once taught seem to have been deleted with the push of a button. Cyberbullying and Cyber Sexual Harassment have become epidemic and is never too many degrees from our lives, as our phones are never far from our fingers. Highly recommend this extraordinary, relevant, well written story of love, fear, family and trust. Almost too much to consider with all the “what if’s” spinning through my mind. A perfect book club selection with endless discussion possibilities. A must read.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

You Think It, I'll Say It


You write it, I’ll read it. Short stories are hard (for me) to read and even harder to review. If they are good, I get so caught up with the characters I am deeply disappointed when the story quickly ends. But that is also the lure, because I want more, so I keep going. Ten short stories by fabulous author Curtis Sittenfeld. She captures the essence of what is going on in the world that affects our daily choices, big and small. Love, friendship, gender, funny, sad, thoughtful. I absolutely loved her last two novels, love her exquisite writing that feels so true and relevant. Highly recommend this quick fix while I patiently wait for more.

The Light We Lost


There should be a warning label on this book that readers will not rise from their chair/couch/bed until they have finished the very last page of this mesmerizing, captivating, intimate novel about love. Lucy and Gabe met senior year at Columbia. There is an unexplainable attraction and chemistry that drags them through 13 years of imaginable love, pain and desire. They are friends, they are lovers. They are available. They are not available. They follow their own paths determined to fulfill their youthful expectations of changing/saving the world. Gabe becomes a photojournalist traveling to dangerous war zones. Lucy produces wonderful educational shows for children. She is a wife and adoring mother. Gabe is never far from her thoughts. No-one really understands the magnetism that draws them together over and over through the years, across all distances. Author Jill Santopolo’s writing is magnificent. She is quietly whispering their love story in your ear. The reader strains closer and closer to hear every word. It is hypnotic. All of the choices we make over a lifetime is part of the journey. Each one another step in only one direction, our future.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

It Happens All the Time


Amber and Tyler have been friends since childhood. They have trusted each other through difficult and dark times. Amber suffered a traumatic anorexic near death experience in high school and Tyler never left her side. Amber went away to college and struggled to rebuild her life. Happy, finally, she is engaged to a great guy and returns home after graduation for the summer. Tyler is a paramedic. He loves his job and is good at it. Tyler has been pining for Amber all these years and hopes this summer is his chance to win back her heart. An unexpected drunken incident at a party changes their world forever. Told in alternating voices, their lives are turned upside down. It makes sense to hear and feel both sides to the story from the beginning. What you see through your own eyes and memory may be completely different from the person right next you. I can appreciate this now looking back on the novel, I’d say it was well done, but I did not enjoy the read. Mostly because I really did not like the main character, Amber. Definitely look forward to reading more from author Amy Hatvany.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

White Hot Hack


Kate and Ian are finally married, starting over, a new life with new names. Ian is still hacking away but started a new business with hopes that his dark enemies believe he is dead. Only Kate’s immediate family knows her location. They are young and in love and although Ian’s work has always kept him on the edge, his love and protection of Kate takes precedence. Kate starts to help with his new security company. She finds she is pretty good at this undercover detective work and naturally loves all the time she gets to spend with Ian. Unfortunately, the bad guys are still stalking them and there will never be a moments peace until they are caught. This exciting sequel to author Tracey Garvis Graves, 2015 hit Heart Shaped Hack was an excellent follow up and quick fun read. A mix of love, mystery and computer hacking - a good amount of suspense and romance. Highly recommend this read and all of this author’s books. I call them my fillers. Dependably enjoyable every time (I even read On the Island twice - and I NEVER do that!) Check them out! http://traceygarvisgraves.com/

The Summer I Met Jack


Alicia is working at the movie theater candy counter in Hyannisport, MA. It is 1950 and this young, beautiful Polish woman has already lived a lifetime. Torn from her family, placed in a convent to hide from the Nazi’s, Alicia survived and made her way to America. She changes her name, her hair color and sets her sights on success. Hyannisport is synonymous with Kennedy and while working at the local movie theater meets non other than the very eligible, handsome senator Jack. Known as a ladies man he is instantly taken with this beauty and her European know how. Alicia is impassioned about art, literature, languages - her bright outlook and easygoing nature capture Jack’s attention and even that of his family, who naturally control every move he makes. They are briefly engaged, there may or may not have been a child. There is love, years of threats and a lifetime of regrets. Based on the captivating life of Alicia Corning Clark, who was married multiple times, ultimately widowed and left a very wealthy woman. She left some mystery behind, trailing the many theories regarding every Kennedy. I loved the history and secrets to which we will most likely never know the answers but I have to admit I felt like the writing was rushed. As much as I enjoyed the “story” the conversations and accents felt unnatural and forced. For me, this novel just didn’t flow.

Woman Last Seen in Her Thirties


When Maggie’s husband Adam walks out the door after 30 years of marriage it is a shock but may be a blessing in disguise. Adam is handsome, successful and an excellent father - but the passion has been missing for quite some time. Maggie regrets letting things go a little, especially in the intimacy department - that has all but disappeared after three decades as a homemaker and two of them laser focused solely on her children. Having never contemplated anything except a safe, dependable retirement, Maggie finds herself terrified of being alone for the first time. A natural worrier of all mishaps, Maggie had never contemplated life on her own, let alone getting back into the dating game. She long ago abandoned her career and her children have grown and flown. Maggie vaguely remembers her independent girl self from years ago, now she is determined to go and find her. Loved this easy read. I seem to be on a mid life (let’s leave out “crisis”) theme of books. Gee, wonder why. I liked author Camille Pagan's writing. Look forward to reading more of her work.

Before We Were Yours


Memphis, 1939, a couple arrives at the hospital to deliver twins. They are told the twins did not survive. They do not quickly return home. Their five children waiting on the shanty boat are picked up and taken to an orphanage where they are told their parents will retrieve them. They are mistreated and names are quickly changed. Along with thousands of other children, they never see their parents again. Present day, Avery Stafford, a young lawyer in South Carolina is being groomed for her father’s position in politics. Her grandmother has just been admitted to a nursing home for dementia. Avery, who had always been especially close with Grandma Judy begins an investigation into her mysterious past and uncovers a connection between her and the Tennessee Children’s Home Society Orphanage. Based on one of the largest, most hideous and devious scandals, this novel describes the kidnapping, bribery, abuse and mistreatment of children and their families ever to occur in the United States. Author Lisa Wingate magically weaves together these dual timelines, the characters come alive and the reader is crushed by this heartbreaking reality. 

Alternate Side

On a charming dead end street in Manhattan the residents walk their dogs, struggle to park and gossip. Nora’s love affair may be waning with her husband Charlie after more than two decades, but not with her beloved New York City. She runs the Museum of Jewelry for a wealthy socialite who is a bit off her rocker and has raised beautiful twins who are about to finish college and head out to make their way in the world. When the drama on the block hits an all time high so does Charlie’s mid life crisis. Dreaming of golf, and suburbs in the South, Nora and Charlie seem to be heading on two completely opposite trajectories. This pretty simple novel is a quick, pleasant read. Author Anna Quindlen develops the funniest characters and is an awesome storyteller and writer. Gotta love the New York wit and genuine panic that sets in near fifty, real enough to give you pause and absurd enough to be throughly entertaining. 

Sunday, February 25, 2018

The One in A Million Boy


A young boy is assigned by his scoutmaster to help an elderly woman out around her house and attain his scouting badge. She is 104 years old and quite literally alone in the world. The boy, who is obsessed with Guinness Book of World Records, sets the woman on a path to become the oldest something. He is also interviewing her for a school project. This quirky, brilliant boy who has enormous difficulty connecting to others has instant chemistry with Ona. A beautiful and unlikely friendship blooms. When the boy suddenly dies his neglectful musician Dad shows up to fulfill the rest of the boys badge requirements. The mother, who has all but fallen apart from this tragedy pushes the estranged Dad to examine his own life and grief. While the writing is both beautiful and style completely unique, I had a lot of trouble connecting with any of these characters. I truly like the premise but often lost myself in repetition and unnecessary dialogue. I’m kind of on the fence with this one folks! Will be interesting to discuss with my book club tomorrow. Sometimes the discussion brings to light a new perspective that may shine on the missing elements.

The Great Alone


When Ernt Allbright returns from Vietnam his family is waiting with open arms. Wife Cora and daughter Leni struggle for years trying to uncover the man they know must be buried deep beneath these horrible layers that have become his persona. In 1974, Leni is 13 and she hasn’t a friend in the world. In answer to Ernt’s uncontrollable emotions and outbursts, they have moved over and over again. Land has been given to him with a small cabin in a remote corner of Alaska. This beautiful paradise and welcoming few neighbors seems idyllic at first. Ernt’s nightmares have subsided. He is sleeping for the first time in years. And Leni, at 13, desperately lonely has made a friend her age, Matthew. The town is quick to warn them, the sun may be shining in May but its time to prepare for the long, dark winter or they will not survive. While they exert daily physical and mental energy to make a home for themselves, the days very quickly get shorter, as does Ernt’s temper. He becomes a prepper for both the weather and government that he suspects will knock down their fence at any moment. Ernt’s violent nature resurfaces and nothing, not a caring neighbor or a prayer will stop him. This magnificent portrayal of love, pain, friendship, beauty and survival is filled with many of life’s hardest lessons. This descriptive beauty of Alaska mesmerized my senses and Ernt’s sad violence ripped my heart out. This is a bit of a lengthy saga but push through my friends! It is worth every moment spent devouring this family’s experience and Leni’s heroic journey to the end. Highly recommend and loved author, Kristin Hannah’s acknowledgements of her personal Alaska connection.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Surprise Me


Sylvie and Dan attend their annual physical side by side. As the doctor shares the good news; the exams were perfect and combined with their healthy family history they could expect a long happy life together - say, at least 68 more years. After a decade of wonderful marriage and beautiful twin girls, one would think this excellent news to hear. But Sylvie and Dan are equally floored. How in the world can they sustain a marriage for that long? Be with only the one person for decades? Simultaneously they strive to improve their seemingly normal marriage along the premise of “surprises”, hence the title. Laugh out loud wonderful author Sophie Kinsella does it again. Quirky neighbors, hair brained schemes (think I Love Lucy) and hidden family secrets set them on an unlikely  journey, one disaster and misunderstanding after another. Light, fun adorable take on the ludicrous idea that you think you know what your husband wants, HA! Highly recommend if you need a little break from reality or otherwise.