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.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Eternal Life

Rachel is 2000 years old. Many many years ago, to save the life of their first son who was very ill, Rachel and her lover Elazar make a vow to sacrifice their own death in exchange for his life. The child survives and becomes a famous and wise sage. But it is much later that Rachel and Elazar fully understand what it means to never die. To live life over and over and over. In present day, while humans are looking for every which way to look, live and remain young, Rachel is searching for a way to die. She has had dozens of husbands, hundreds of children and grandchildren. She has watched life go by over and over and over. And as beautiful as it can be at times, the pain is exhausting. Through the ages Elazar comes in and out of her life remaining the only soul who knows their secret and understands her heart. Finally, in present day, when her favorite granddaughter is a geneticist, Rachel thinks she may have found a way out. Author Dara Horn gets five stars for originality and her beautiful writing. This book is touted as hilarious but I would not use that to label this bizarre, peculiar, unusual book. There are great characters. There is a lot of biblical history. It is easy to read and there is certainly a lot to think about. 

The Queen of Hearts

Zadie and Emma are best friends throughout medical school and residency. Now they are successfully ensconced in quaint Charlotte, North Carolina. Both happily married with wonderful husbands, children and vibrant careers. Small flashbacks in time describe the personalities and relationships of these two very different women compared to their present day persona. When Dr. X appears back in their lives, everything is turned upside down. He has relocated to join Emma’s practice. Zadie has never recovered from the brutal way Nick broke her heart years ago and she has never discussed it with her adoring husband. Nick’s sudden appearance seems both suspicious and spiteful and Zadie avoids him at all costs. There is an accident at the country club where the two friends save a life and later one with a small child of a very prominent family, where they do not. Although I liked the characters and realistic struggles through school and training, I am not sure what this is about. Its a little bit of a lot of things but something feels missing. There is a dark secret that comes to light in the end but it feels rushed and contrived to wrap up a neat package. I’m on the literary fence. 

Still Me

Louisa Clark is still our favorite girl next door. After climbing her way out of the sadness and loss of Will Traynor, Louisa decides to follow his sage advice and accepts a job in NYC. She is to be an assistant to a wealthy young woman on Fifth Avenue. The Gopnik’s seem to have it all if you are counting dollars but the fighting, sadness and remnants of a bitter divorce from the first Mrs. Gopnik have left a very large black hole in the middle of their fancy rug. Louisa’s spunk and brand new outlook help Agnes overcome or at least manage some of her social obstacles. But as Lou falls deeper into the Central Park world of limousines and charity balls she becomes the holder of secrets and lies that are more and more difficult to hide. Ambulance Sam haunts her dreams as their long distance love affair begins to wither, Josh (the American version of Will) is determined to capture her attention and her love for vintage clothes and originality still make her heart skip a beat. In Me Before You readers were left hyperventilating, After You let us know Louisa was trying hard but didn’t knock us down and finally Still Me is a beautiful, fun, uplifting finale for a girl come full circle trying to figure out the most important question a person can ask; This is your LIFE, what are you waiting for? Highly recommend this latest novel by author Jojo Moyes. Sure to bring some smiles round for her beloved fans.

Begin Again

Allie is a freshman searching for an apartment in a small college town. She hasn’t exactly “run away” from home but has started this journey against her parents wishes. She is determined to leave her troubled past and start over with a new name, new friends and positive outlook for the future she is creating. As door after door closes, panic sets in along with idea of having to sleep in her car. On the last look of the day, the guy that stands in front of Allie takes her breath away. He is beautiful, tattoos lining his muscular arms and a smile that could stop traffic. Kaden is rude, snappy and instantly tells her no way. Allie wheedles in for a quick tour, trying hard not to seem desperate, knowing that she most certainly is. And so begins the romance between Allie and Kaden. The discovery of real friendship and past secrets that could tear them apart. Does this sound corny enough for you? Bad boy, sweet girl fall in love against the odds, etc etc It may be picking up a book at the right moment or a memory that startles your senses but I read this seemingly teen romance, translated from German, in one straight sitting. The conversation flowed and the pages turned and before I knew it I was taken away if only for the day. Highly recommend and enjoyed this quick break from reality. Interestingly, this is a trilogy but it seems only this first one has been brought to the US.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

The Immortalists

Four curious siblings growing up in NYC’s Lower East Side in the early 1970’s go to see a fortune teller they heard about in the neighborhood. Apparently she can tell you the date you are going to die. Thinking it a little scary and equally silly, the troop trudges up many flights of steps to the woman’s apartment where she is more than a little creepy. They never tell a word about it to anyone. They never discuss the dates whispered in their little ears. Each trajectory takes them in another direction. Simon drops out of high school to follow Klara to the west coast where she dreams of life as a professional magician. Varya throws herself into her passion for scientific gene studies and Daniel goes to medical school, as expected. But their lives and dreams (and happiness) follow a most complicated path.  When tragedy begins to strike the siblings one by one, they cannot deny that their date prophecies have followed them around their entire lives. This beautifully written, kind of weird, definitely unique - novel of complicated sibling relationships really boils down to one premise. Is fate a real thing or do we create our own destiny? And if you knew when you were going to die, would you live your life differently? I guess that’s two.

Say My Name

Eve is walking down the street in NYC, wiping dust from her knees and her dress after rummaging through junk shops in the Bronx for her friends antique shop. She unexpectedly bumps into Robert, an old friend of her brother’s, walking with his handsome 28 year old son, Micajah - a talented musician. The pair invite her to lunch. While Robert and Eve reminisce, she is penetrated by the most beautiful green eyes she has every seen. This serene, beautiful boy is irrationally interested in learning more about her life and this rare instrument she discovered in the junk shop. Lunch sparks the beginning of an affair Eve could have never imagined in her wildest dreams. She is currently separated from the miserable loveless marriage she was hanging onto for 26 years and allows herself to experience passion for the first time in her life, both physically and mentally. With her husband away indefinitely, her grown son living his own life, Micajah teaches Eve how to enjoy this frenzied rollercoaster of emotions. Eve learns about love and trust but most importantly, through this intense discovery, Eve explores the depth of her own strengths and talents she was always too afraid to reach for. I read this delicious new novel by author Allegra Huston in one sitting. At first, what began as a lovely erotic adventure turned into self discovery of a “woman at a certain age” who (believes) is pressured by society to live a predictable life that although feels mostly safe brings her no joy at all. Highly recommend this fabulous, unexpected, beautifully written new novel.

Thursday, January 25, 2018


Tara Westover overcame obstacles that are hard to imagine. An abusive, brilliant, bi-polar father. A beautiful, submissive, brilliant mother. A large Morman family swarming with brothers and sisters that were not formally educated, fight to stay, fight to leave, and fight with each other on the side of a breathtaking mountain. Her father is a zealot, a freedom fighter, and a prepper, full of love, anger, patience, violence and enough jars of peaches to last ten years. As Tara grows up she is content working dangerously in their junkyard with the boys, reading her bible and helping mother with her holistic remedies. As she matures, her intelligence and curiosity cannot be suppressed any longer. She finds herself at a young age (no one knows for sure, because she has no birth certificate) at BYU formally learning for the first time in her life. How she manages with no experience or social skills, no money and no idea what to expect makes her the bravest, smartest and most independent woman imaginable. But even after success at Cambridge, Harvard and a PhD, it takes years and years to conform to mainstream living and Tara never shakes the longing for her father’s acceptance. Bizarre or not, she craves his approval and does not want to be estranged from her boisterous, often abusive clan. Tara Westover beautifully describes her very personal journey exploring family relationships and both parental and personal responsibilities to ones future. To analyze the nature and nature of yourself with honesty is not an easy task. Highly recommend this magnificent memoir, I could not put this one down.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

The Girls in the Picture

Mary Pickford, known as the queen of movies, and the actual first “movie star” and Frances Marion, the top and highest paid screen writer of her time. Together, best friends and business partners, these two women created and took this new town called Hollywood by storm. From vaudeville and silent movies, Charlie Chaplin and the first Western - incredible author Melanie Benjamin takes us through the lives of these beautiful, smart, talented and strong women. Amazing how nothing has changed! 100 years ago the casting couch was full of action and a handful of brilliant but brutal men ran the business and the studios. Mary and Frances become so famous and successful they were able to call the shots and direct their own movies and careers. A backstory of tough childhoods, difficult marriages, and two world wars this heartfelt story is brought to life. Loved learning about the beginning of movies that have shaped the entertainment world as we know it today and these wonderful women who paved the way. Another fabulous work of historical fiction that you do not want to miss! 

Friday, January 12, 2018

A Paris All Your Own

Edited by one of my favorite authors, Eleanor Brown, this collection of Paris themed essays is especially perfect for any francophile and Paris dreamer. Take a peek into the lives of eighteen bestselling authors that will whisk you away if only for a short while to the famed city of light. Filled with romance, break ups, high fashion, delicious delicacies and always topped off with a glass of champagne! Women who romanticize and long for the day they are swept away by the worlds most beautiful art, history and warm embraces on a city bench with a handsome French stranger - will thoroughly enjoy these stories by some of our favorite writers. It is so much fun to read and recognize the similarities with their very personal experiences and the novels they have published that were connected to Paris.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The Glass Forest

Angie Glass is living a quiet simple life in her small Wisconsin town. She comes from a large family and has lived there her entire life. Just twenty one years old, Angie has a baby and is newly married to Paul, a stranger she met last summer with Hollywood good looks who arrived with little more than a bag and a charming smile. When the phone rings one day in their small house in the woods, their lives are changed forever. Paul’s niece Ruby has called to inform them that her father, Paul’s brother is dead and her mother, Silja, has disappeared. Angie insists she and the baby accompany Paul to upstate New York to help Ruby and find out what has really happened to Henry. From the moment they arrive in the house that is literally made of glass, every step Paul makes leaves Angie questioning who her husband really is. Ruby seems standoffish and Angie can’t discern whether she is shy or hiding something. With each passing days the clues become more sinister. It is hard to tell in this complicated family if anyone is ever telling the truth. Flashing back through Silja’s young life, Henry’s controlling ways had left her desperate and afraid. This twisted, creepy, literary thriller is filled with a cast of characters so quietly deceptive even they start to believe their own lies. Highly recommend this well written, suspenseful novel. You will not be able to put it down (or walk in the forest alone.)

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Last Seen

Isla and Sarah have been best friends for more than 2 decades. They spend their summers at the idyllic Sandbank where their huts are quaint and cozy and right next door to each other. Their sons were inseparable until the day they were separated forever. At 10 years old Jacob and Marley were swept up by the current and only Jacob returned. Isla’s life is never okay again. The sadness penetrates so deeply that after 7 years she still has moments when she can hardly breathe. For Jacobs 17th birthday he goes to a party with his friends at another hut and does not return. Sarah and Nick search every inch of his belongings, speak to his friends and scour the island but Jacob cannot be found. The police are called, the residents of the Sandbank are distraught and questioned extensively. No-one knows anything and yet every seems to know something Sarah did not. Every day bits of evidence pile on and more clues steer Sarah in her desperate search for her son and the truth. Fabulous author Lucy Clarke has once again written an unputdownable novel filled with suspense and mystery. Incredible characters lead us through this tight maze of friendship and family. Highly recommend this fabulous read - you will LOVE (and check out her other 3 as well!)

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Seven Days of Us

When the Birch family is quarantined for 7 days in the English countryside for the holidays it is anything but a very merry. The eldest sister Olivia, a physician, is coming back from volunteer work in Africa. Because she may have been exposed to the virus, the family has decided to stay in the old crumbling, still beautiful family home far from the city. Father is a cantankerous food writer whose reviews reflect his general world complaints, Mother has just been told the lump she found is cancer and is keeping it a secret until after Christmas and the youngest daughter Phoebe has gotten engaged to her longtime boyfriend (who may like boys more than girls) and is way more concerned with the size of her ring than a deadly disease from her sister. When Olivia’s secret Irish boyfriend (volunteers were not supposed to touch for exactly this reason) collapses minutes after his plane lands she hides their relationship. This witty, fast paced, very British novel was a hoot. Each character is delectably ridiculous and smart in their own entertaining way. Really enjoyed and highly recommend this debut novel. Definitely look forward to more from author Francesca Hornak.

The Flight Attendant

Cassie has been flying the friendly skies since she finished college. It was a way to escape her small Kentucky life, the loss of her parents and guilt of her younger sister being placed in foster care. She is pretty and a flirt, an excellent flight attendant. She is also a functioning alcoholic and as the years have passed the forgotten nights and strange hotel beds aren’t as sexy as they once were. Cassie is on a coveted flight to Dubai, and a very handsome younger man is in her section. On arrival she has dinner with him and ends up back at his hotel. But when she wakes in the morning he is not moving, there is blood everywhere, Cassie remembers nothing. At that moment Cassie has quick decisions to make. Choices that will change the trajectory of her life forever. Who is this man? What will she tell her coworkers? Why was she spared? Much like a spy, like an actress, binge drinkers are great liars because there are always blank spaces and situations that don’t make sense. So begins her parade of stories, one lie leading to the next. She must appease her crew, get rid of the broken bottle, her stained purse and convince her sister she is nothing like their father. The story snowballs. Cassie is front page news. The FBI, the CIA, the Union, her lawyer - all want to know. The deeper the web weaves the less people Cassie can trust. Because in the end - who is really going to believe a drunk anyway? This heart thumping suspense all rolled up into one giant wave of words that keeps crashing on you over and over. Unexpected twists and turns at every corner with a main character you find yourself unexpectedly rooting for. Bestselling author Chris Bohjalian has done it again. You are going to LOVE this one!