Friday, September 15, 2017

Young Jane Young


Aviva Grossman is a student at the University of Miami. She is interested in politics and gets an internship with a Congressman who was once a neighbor of her parents in Boca Raton. He is charming, good looking, smart and she is smitten. Sound familiar? There is an accident. There is a scandal. The Congressman goes on to re-election after re-election (he is very good at his job) and Aviva’s world will never be the same again. She is forced to reinvent herself. Their lives are narrated through the perspective of Aviva, her mother Rachel, the Congressman’s wife Embeth and later looking back - her vivacious daughter Ruby. Author Gabrielle Zevin had me laughing out loud from page 1 and my full attention to the very end. She was so spot on describing the insecurities of a young college student, her relationship with her overzealous mother and crushed dreams of a carefully planned future. Filled with humor, grace, honesty and incredible storytelling, Young Jane Young is an absolute must read!! I loved every minute of it.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Reading With Patrick


After graduating from Harvard, Michelle Kuo accepted one of the most grueling positions available with the Teach for America program. Filled with tremendous hope, she set out for the small town of Helena, Arkansas. Reality immediately set in when she enters a completely broken, neglected and forgotten part of our country. A public school system filled with students that were left behind a long time ago. Generations ago. Michelle believed that if you could scratch the surface there was a bright light just waiting to be turned on. Utilizing her love of reading, unimaginable patience and pure kindness, Michelle found ways to encourage students - who have never ever been asked what they thought - to speak up and voice their thoughts and dreams and opinions. Years later after attending Harvard Law School Michelle is notified that a student named Patrick, whom she had been very close to, had been jailed for murder in a place that basically would throw away the key. Even though she longed to begin her law career and new life in California, she could not abandon Patrick or her belief that education and caring can make a real difference. Michelle goes back to Helena to see how she could help him. This incredible work of non-fiction should be required reading for parents, teachers and students. Our beautiful country still has a long road and a lot of hard work ahead. The most basic human rights should not ever be violated and every child needs a caring adult for guidance. I was mesmerized by Michelle’s beautiful words and this is undoubtedly a life changing MUST READ. Because reading really does change lives.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

The Diplomat's Daughter


Emi Kato has lived all over the world. As the only daughter of a Japanese diplomat, the Kato family has been stationed in Berlin, London, Vienna and America. Emi is a beautiful, talented, multi-lingual young woman whose life turns upside down during WWII. The Kato family thought they were safely tucked away in Washington DC, but when Pearl Harbor is bombed, the Japanese are quickly the enemy and are sent to internment camps, stripped of all their freedoms and slowly returned to Japan. At the tender age of 21, Emi has fallen in love twice and these friendship/romances have pulled her heart in every direction possible. In Vienna, Leo Hartmann’s family has been destroyed and removed from everything they have ever known and Christian Lange, a wealthy American boy of German descent whose family is also detained, is no longer welcome on American soil. Emi does not know who to trust anymore. The Japan she returns to does not resemble her young childhood, Christians family could not be part of the same Nazi Germany she despises and the Americans have completely withdrawn any diplomatic welcome they once extended. As Emi becomes an independent woman, apart from her parents she searches to find home and her two loves - all the while struggling to stay alive. I really liked each character in this somewhat long, repetitive saga. Its a solid good but did not knock my socks off as author Karin Tanabe’s The Gilded Years had done last year. 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Fitness Junkie


Southern belle Janey Sweet and Beau Matthews have been best friends since childhood and business partners for most of their adult life. They have created the hottest wedding dress design company in NYC called B. After a lifetime of Janey kowtowing to Beau’s whims, the straw has finally broken the camel’s back. Beau has insisted that since Janey has gained weight she should take a few months off, get back in shape and “like” herself again. Janey is devastated. Work is her life and Beau is the air she breathes. Through the world of over the top NYC lifestyles and the price tag that goes with them, authors Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza had me laughing out loud for this entire book! Janey and her best friend CJ set out to lose the weight with abusive trainers and restrictive bizarre eating plans. But maybe a kick in the butt was exactly what Janey needed to see the light again. She makes some outrageous new friends, accepts her recent divorce and has the best sex she has had since college. A hilarious spoof on insta selfie’s and obsessive botox, you may scarily see too much truth in this alternate reality. We all have a little bit of this in our lives but whatever makes you happy! Just make sure it really makes you happy, because thats what matters. Highly recommend this hilarious well written read to take to the beach for the last days of summer. Get ready for some fun!

Monday, August 7, 2017

The Address


Sara Smythe has been handed the opportunity of a lifetime. The year is 1884 and Sara is head housekeeper at a luxury hotel in London. When she assists a child of a guest named Theodore Camden, he is so grateful that he offers this industrious woman a ticket to America and an opportunity to run his up and coming apartment building in NYC, The Dakota. The chemistry between Sara and Theo is immediate and it takes only a few moments for Sara to grab hold of this chance to change her life. A hundred years later Bailey Camden is just out of rehab and desperately trying to get her interior design position back. Her wealthy cousin, Melinda Camden, offers her refuge and a job decorating her newly inherited apartment in none other than The Dakota. Alternating between the span of years, The Address narrates the lives of these two women with their uncanny similarities and vast disparities, especially for an unmarried woman in the late 1800’s. What a difference a century can make! Filled with historical detail, romance, an insane asylum and a murder, The Address was truly unputdownable. Definitely add this fabulous read to your summer picks.

Friday, August 4, 2017

When the English Fall


After a solar storm practically shuts down every city on the planet, there is pure and utter chaos. Jacob and his family live in an Amish community near Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Their lifestyle leaves them virtually the only people unaffected. Already self sufficient farmers and skilled workmen who use little or no electricity, these families continue on their peaceful, quiet daily routine. When news of the world outside their settlement starts to trickle in and violence and desperation inch closer, their ethics, practices and conscience must lead the way. Narrated by Jacob, a farmer living with his wife Hannah and their two children - they must choose how they can serve G-d and question what it will take to survive. This very simple story quietly examines technology, morality and the goodness that can be ripped from mankind when desperation occurs. What begins as “what would you do to save your family?” quickly transforms into “what  kind of life are we living every single day?” After my own summer melt down where I was reading books that although wonderful, were becoming indecipherable - When the English Fall completely woke up each of my senses. Similar to A Prayer for the Dying by Stewart O’Nan, this beautifully written novel by David Williams will leave you both fascinated and a little nervous. I don’t think it was meant to scare you as much as to force you to contemplate the choices we make every day. Highly recommend this fabulous new book! Absolute 5 STARS!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Do Not Become Alarmed


Liv and Nora, cousins from Los Angeles, take their families on a dream cruise for the Christmas holidays. Liv, a successful movie producer, her engineer husband Benjamin, their outspoken 11 year old daughter Penny and son Sebastian are over the top excited. Nora and handsome movie star Raymond (yes, Liv introduced them) bring their introverted son Marcus and 6 year old daughter Junie. The plan is that the parents will get a much needed break from work and household duties and the kids will have entertainment galore. The ship is everything they hoped and they easily fall into a daily routine that suits all their needs. Feeling like its time to finally get off at one of the stops in Central America - Liv organizes an exciting zip line adventure. Little did she know their lives would never be the same again. After an unfortunate succession of bad decisions with unknown consequences the families are separated. The children have disappeared. The families camp out at a hotel while they work with professionals to follow the few clues they have and get their children back safely. The once loving cousins are at each others throats, the wives resent the husbands for having gone to the golf course that day and it is very hard to decipher (in Spanish) who they should trust. WOW! This adrenaline rollercoaster of emotion by Maile Meloy is UNPUTDOWNABLE. Fast paced and filled with suspense and flashes of reality, my heart was racing as I turned each page. It is to a certain extent a mystery but it is also about marriage, parenthood and survival of the fittest in every culture. Highly recommend this #SummerRead. It will keep you on the edge of your beach chair!! Don’t fall in and ruin your kindle! 

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Best Intentions


Marti Trailor, her husband Elliot and their three children have a beautiful home in the suburbs near Richmond, VA. They live in place where the social scene demands you act, dress and behave a certain way. Marti, like her father, a well known congressman, understands the public eye but definitely beats to her own drum without apology. After surviving the weariness of stay at home mom status for years, Marti is offered a social work job at the same hospital as Elliot, who is a leading OB/GYN in the department. Marti will care for pregnant women who need assistance, some of them not being older than children themselves. Elliot does not seem thrilled about this new position but since his residency ended he has seemed distant and secretive. Marti has been on this rollercoaster with Elliot for years, always hoping the next step would bring the family closer. But Elliot is never home and as she tiptoes around their life as stranger she fears what the future may bring. From the beginning the reader is aware a great tragedy has occurred. Marti is on trial for a crime. The story is told as it flashes back to the envied life everyone thought she was living. As the truth begins to unfold through her best friend who is a stealth reporter, Marti leans more and more on her sweet handsome boss Win and reevaluates everything she once naively believed about her husband and the life they built. Best Intentions brings the reader deep into the hearts of this model family to uncover the truth of marriage, motherhood and friendship. Filled with twists and turns and fabulous characters, I highly recommend this well written suspenseful novel. 

Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Goddesses


Nancy, Chuck and their teenage twin boys move to Hawaii filled with the hope of starting over. With her marriage on the rocks and the boys growing up, Nancy does not know what kind of life she wants anymore. Chuck’s job transfers smoothly to the Costco in Kona and the boys seamlessly become star players on their high school water polo team. But what about Nancy? With middle age settling in and her body expanding out Nancy decides to try a yoga class. The class and teacher Ana become Nancy’s new mantra. Eat healthy, focus on the moment and thoughtful words of wisdom that become life changing. Her friendship with Nancy is on a fast track. She immediately begins spending all of her time with Ana who is in remission from breast cancer and sees the world through the bright eyes of karmic resolution. She constantly cajoles Nancy into helping her do what she feels are good deeds to keep the bad vibes at bay. Their sister friendship is instantly overwhelmed with need and emotion which Chuck tolerates as he still carries memories of his own guilty affair from San Diego. As Nancy digs deeper into her own psyche, things with Ana become more bizarre and demanding. Nancy becomes leery of the destructive path this has taken and her boys begin to get into trouble as they sense the unrest in their parents marriage. I wouldn’t call this a thriller but definitely a psychological twisted drama. As I loved author Swan Huntley’s first novel We Could Be Beautiful, I am amazed at how completely different but equally well written this new novel is. Love the characters, love the Hawaii setting, highly recommend The Goddesses. Definitely a thumbs up #SummerRead!

The Confusion of Languages


Cassie Hugo is an American soldier’s wife. She has survived in Jordan, where Dan is stationed by learning the rules and customs and following them as carefully as possible. Lonely and struggling to get pregnant, Cassie’s marriage is beginning to falter. The couple silently blame each other for everything that is missing from their lives and elusive family. When Margaret Brickshaw arrives she appears to be all that Cassie dreams of. Thin and beautiful, married to a handsome, strapping soldier and carrying a beautiful baby boy named Mather. Cassie is given the job of hosting or introducing Margaret into life in Amman. What initially feels like babysitting morphs into Cassie’s desperate desire to have friendship, companionship and most importantly purpose. But the grass is not always greener. Life in Amman is difficult and the image of Margaret’s happy home is not remotely close to what Cassie has conjured up in her mind. It is not until she mistakenly finds Margaret’s journal that Cassie slowly learns about marriage, loneliness, friendship and the scary truth about herself. Highly recommend this extremely unique, well written glimpse into expat lives living abroad in a war torn region of the world and the solitary walls of loneliness we build to protect ourselves which simultaneously keep everyone away. Written with such in depth clarity that I felt like I was the one surreptitiously reading the journal! Great summer read from a fabulous new author. 

Monday, July 10, 2017

The Heirs


When Rupert Falkes dies after being ill for quite some time, his widow Eleanor handles it perfectly. Living the well to do life she was raised for, Eleanor has maintained her friends, social life and close relationships with her five very different sons. When a mysterious woman places claims on the estate for the supposed two sons Rupert secretly fathered, their prestigious Manhattan world is turned upside down. The brothers all handle their father’s death, their inheritance and this new accusation very differently -according to their varied lifestyles and personalities. Their closeness with each other, protection of their beloved mother and their father’s memory clash as the boys’ strive to move on with their lives and keep damages to a minimum. This witty, humorous portrayal of self preservation could not have had better characters. All the money and success in the world cannot stop the bizarre family dynamics found between siblings the world over. Its simply amazing how we create our own unique memories even when they were shared. Absolutely loved and highly recommend this well written, smart, new novel that is the perfect easy beach read to take you away. Look forward to reading more from this wonderful author Susan Rieger.