Monday, November 20, 2017

Carnegie's Maid


When Clara Kelly steps off the ship she is so thrilled to be on solid ground, it is not difficult to follow the sound of her name being called. She easily falls into a carriage headed for Pittsburgh in the shoes of another Clara Kelly who did not survive the ocean crossing. Suddenly swept up into a world she never imagined, Clara finds herself as a ladies maid for Mrs. Carnegie, the stern but brilliant mother of Andrew, industrialist and business magnate. Clara, daughter of an Irish farmer that insisted his girls be highly educated, begins an unexpected friendship with Andrew. As her teacher and mentor the two fall into a pattern of trust and honesty that is rarely found between a man and a woman at the time, certainly outrageous for a servant and master of the house. While Clara sends money home to help her struggling family, she is burdened by her own secrets and dreams of a future where she can be free to work and thrive. Once again, incredible author Marie Benedict brings history to life with this intriguing, emotional, deeply touching story of America and the dreams it holds for us all. Highly recommend this incredible new novel. A must read!!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

The Wife Between Us


Nellie, a preschool teacher in New York City, is about to marry Richard Thompson. Successful, attractive, attentive - the perfect guy. After all she has been through in her life he seems too good to be true. Her Aunt Charlotte is hesitant, but polite. Her roommate Sam does not click with him and his only family is a sister whom he is unusually close with. This twisted triangle could not be more suspenseful as Richard, Prince Charming himself, has swept Nellie off her feet and offers her the life she has always dreamed of. Until the day her dream turns into a nightmare. Nellie doesn’t know what is real anymore. (Neither does the reader!) Who can she trust. Is she really crazy just like her mother. Apparently Richard is good at a lot of things, especially in the details. Reminiscent of The Girl On The Train, this suspenseful novel was an unputdownable roller coaster of creepy emotions and coincidences. Great character development and full of surprises. If you enjoy thrillers and who done it’s, highly recommend this chilling romance.

Monday, November 6, 2017

The Light of Paris


Madeleine is in a really unhappy marriage. Her handsome, successful husband had everything on paper that her mother always dreamed of and she finally succumbed to the pressure that marriage was the key to life’s happiness. Sadly, it wasn’t. Over time her controlling husband became more demanding and Madeleine found her own dreams had long faded. What was supposed to be a weekend to assist her mother with some packing became an extended stay and eventually an escape to her hometown where her spirit had been abandoned years ago. After discovering her grandmothers diary and reading about her bold adventures in Paris, Madeleine finds the strength to dig deeper, rediscover the art she once loved and open herself to new friends and the possibility of real love. Narrated back and forth between the present and the diary, I thoroughly enjoyed this deliciously easy story of finding ones true self. The author’s captivating writing and dreamy settings were a wonderful getaway. Highly recommend this fabulous read.

The Saturday Evening Girls Club


The year is 1908 and four young women are the best of friends sharing their lives in Boston. In the North End a mix of Jewish, Italian and Irish families live together in the tenement buildings, sharing hall bathrooms and gossip on the stoop. Mostly shopkeepers and factory workers their lives revolve around family and trying to put a hot meal on the table to enjoy Sunday dinner. These women belong to the SEG, known as the Saturday Evening Girls, where they meet to talk, dance and socialize. Beginning to attend these meetings when they are just 13 yrs old, they have been inseparable ever since. As the old country demands, their immigrant parents are set on arranged marriages and having babies as quickly as possible. These young friends have been tainted with the American Dream. They want to study, have businesses of their own and definitely choose their marriage for love. Completely enjoyable, breezy telling of a bygone era with these lovely ladies fighting for their rights while respecting their parents beliefs. Well written account of friendship, love and family. Highly recommend this delightful read.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Bronx Heart Jerusalem Soul


Tyra Miller has grown up in the Bronx enveloped in the love of her tight knit family. Her older sister who suffers from an extremely debilitating case of scoliosis has been the focus of her parents heartache and worry. It is the 1960’s and the Miller family leads a pretty stereotypical Jewish New York life for the times; grandparents live upstairs, grandmother cooks enormous amount of food, grandfather is a tailor, father runs a luncheonette, and they vacation once a year in the Catskills. Tyra matures and focuses on Judaic Studies and the Hebrew language. She is finally ready to break free of their suffocating apartment and go to Israel for one year of a masters study program. It is 1966 when many of her high school friends are shipped off to Viet Nam and Tyra journeys on a ship to Israel. Looking for love, acceptance and mostly freedom, Tyra is disappointed when none of it comes very easily. It is sometimes only in reflection that one can fully appreciate the experiences at hand. At times I felt like I was reading a diary narrated by Tyra, often chapters were solely letters rebounding between Israel and her friends and family at home and once in a while I wasn’t sure who was telling the story.  Had it been 20 years later, and Tel Aviv University instead of Jerusalem, it would be pretty close to the journal tucked away in my drawer from the year I spent abroad. The same conflicts, snarky cute soldiers, amazing food and too many cigarettes. I really liked this story albeit it was a little too long and slow. If you find any connection at all, you will smile all the way through.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Mrs. Fletcher


Modern day Mrs. Robinson, Eve Fletcher, is a brand new empty nester, long ago divorced and recently labeled a MILF - which she had to google. At 46 yrs old, Eve is quite attractive and not “unhappy” but her job at the senior center, which she is very good at, is quite mundane. She decides to shake things up a bit by taking a class at the community college where she finds a transgender professor searching for love and befriends a class full of misfits, including a much younger admirer. At the same time, her son Brendan is struggling through his freshman year at college. Having been the popular jock in high school, aspiring frat boy is not getting the thrills he once did partying and not exactly passing. Still thinking school should be a breeze and any girl at his feet Brendan is suddenly finding it hard to find his place at the top of the ladder. As mother and son dive into their new lives, both searching for love and acceptance, this laugh out loud novel carries a lot of truth along with the pain. Highly recommend this take on American culture through the ages.

What Was Mine


Lucy Wakefield has big plans. She escapes her small town in upstate New York and arrives in the big city ready for the world. In the early 1980’s women had to claw their way into management. Lucy and her young husband put off having children with the notion that they have all the time in the world. After years of success at work they are finally ready for a family but unfortunately biology does not agree. Though they painstakingly try for years the couple ultimately separate after infertility stress has torn the marriage apart. One ordinary day Lucy finds herself staring at a young baby in a cart at Ikea. And then she is in the parking lot. And then she is in her home, afraid of how to return the baby and knowing deep down inside - she does not want to. Narrated in very (minute!) chapters from various characters, Lucy’s story of her life with Mia, motherhood and ultimately being found out is a fast paced novel I could not put down. Initially finding no way to connect with a kidnapper, the reader must admit Lucy wholeheartedly loves Mia and raises her into a beautiful young woman. The end left me hanging a little but perhaps that was the point. Although a painful situation to even consider, this book reads swiftly and easily kept the pages turning. What Was Mine will certainly be a hot topic to discuss at my next book club meeting. 

Thursday, October 26, 2017

The Trust


Private Detective Liam Taggart receives a devastating phone call from his cousin Janie in Ireland. Sadly, his Uncle Fergus, who practically raised him has passed away. Although Liam has not been back to Northern Ireland in 16 years and he and his family parted badly, he decides to attend and pay his respects for Fergus and the possibility of making amends with the family he dearly misses. After the will is read, Liam is shocked to learn he is the trustee of a complicated beneficiary chain and that Fergus has been mysteriously murdered. Reflecting on his childhood, and later CIA days, Liam will have to work hard to regain the trust of the family while trying to keep them safe and unraveling these buried secrets. With a wife and baby son at home he finds it difficult to stay in this contentious position that turns deadly. Loved this fourth book of author Ronald Balson. Following the twists and turns and violent past of Ireland’s Troubles, Liam is the star detective we have always rooted for finally on his home turf with the cute accent to boot. Highly recommend this suspenseful read and cannot wait to meet this fabulous author at the Boynton Beach JCC luncheon in December. 

Dear Fahrenheit 451 - Love and Heartbreak in the Stacks,

You took the words right out of my head. (I was going to write them - not say them) Books have always been my friends. They take me on trips around the world and through the ages. They introduce me, humor me, seduce me and enchant me every single day. This new book of letters and lists by very funny, smart and talented librarian Annie Spence, takes a look at how books throughout her life have influenced her for better and for worse. Never a waste of time, even a bad book has taught you something. Mainly to pass it on as quickly as possible. Life Readers (noun) face anxieties that never cross the mind of a typical non-reader. Once you start a book, do you have to finish? (Most likely!)  When you borrow a book, do you always return it? (Of course!) Do you admit to reading fun trashy books for pure pleasure? (Absolutely! #50shadesforever) Do you have book boyfriends? (Let’s leave that one to the imagination) If you absolutely love books, and love books about books and people who also love books - then you should read this book. Laugh out loud funny along with the do’s and don’ts of reading and library etiquette, I thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend. Thanks for the trip down memory lane Annie Spence, and yes, okay already, I will read the Virgin Suicides (I did love Middlesex).

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Caroline: Little House Revisited


Absolutely nothing reminds me more of my childhood than Little House on the Prairie. Having read every book, very very young and then spending ten years watching the television series this story holds a special place in my heart. Caroline is a new novel, written by Sarah Miller and authorized by the Little House Estate. Although fiction, it follows closely to the time line of the family Ingalls and political state of America as pioneers moved west and Indians were displaced. Caroline narrates the one year journey her young family took to the Kansas prairie before heading back to Pepin, Wisconsin and later Walnut Grove. In an adult style reminiscent of the original, author Sarah Miller takes us through the hardships of traveling, building a home, feeding and caring for her family and heartwarmingly, her loving relationship with Charles. Yes, friends she really dug Charles! She details what its like to be a woman, a mother, sister and friend during a time in history when luxuries were few and physical labor took most of their daylight hours. Loved every single moment of this beautiful story and was sad to turn the last page. Highly recommend to all my reader friends! 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Voyager


Since rocks, time and war cannot keep them apart, Claire finds her way back to Jamie twenty years later. With their daughter grown and Frank gone, Claire is free to live the life she was meant to live. Slightly more prepared this time around, equipped with knowledge and a few tools of the trade, she manages to find Jamie in Edinburgh and the love and adventures roar to life once again as if no time has passed at all. With the same brilliant suspenseful ambitions, the two set out to make change, make good and subsequently get themselves caught up with smugglers, pirates and some characters from the past. Set out to save Young Ian, the pair winds up on a ship to the Caribbean to experience new scenery along with death defying storms, cannons and epidemics. Having watched seasons 1 & 2 on STARZ, this was my first encounter with the 870 page monster book (3) I had been hearing so much about. Huge, detailed and taking me twice as long as any book I have read, I LOVED every single minute of this swashbuckling tale. Thanks to author Diana Gabaldon, I am ready to watch season 3 and continue my love affair with Jamie and Claire. 

Thursday, October 5, 2017

The Captain's Daughter


Eliza Barnes, daughter of a lobsterman from a small town in Maine, worked hard her whole life to break away from the fishing boats. With dreams of the Ivy League and medical school, Eliza leaves her high school sweetheart and widowed father to begin her journey. Plans slightly veered when Eliza gets married and finds herself living the country club life with a handsome husband and two beautiful daughters in Boston. This seemingly idyllic spell is broken when Eliza is called to help her father after an accident and finds him in a much more serious situation than she ever imagined. Staying in Maine for a bit to help her dad, she reconnects with her high school love and all the memories that they shared. At the same time she befriends a local teen who is searching for life’s answers that are not easily found. I loved the small town vibe and beautiful settings but was overall disappointed. Without giving spoilers, characters did not connect with each other or with me. Much of the dialogue was contrived and predictable. Luckily it was an easy read but sorry girls, it’s not on my recommend list.

Hum If You Don't Know the Words


Robin is a nine year old girl, living in Johannesburg, South Africa. It is 1976 and Robin sees the world through a typical child’s eyes, a white child growing up during the apartheid. She pretty much cares about her bike, spying on the neighborhood boys and her imaginary friend named Cat. When tragedy strikes and her parents are violently murdered Robin goes to live with her Aunt Edith, a feisty single woman who is a stewardess. Since Edith travels much of the time she hires Beauty to watch over and care for her niece. Beauty is a black schoolteacher that has left her peaceful village in search of her missing daughter Nomsa. It is believed that Nomsa, an intelligent, outspoken teenager has joined a military movement to fight for freedom. As Nelson Mandela sits in jail, the violence builds in South Africa and everyone’s life, both black and white is destined to change forever. Robin and Beauty create an unexpected friendship beyond that of a typical caretaker. Robin’s childlike innocence does not always match her actions as she learns about love, trust and family where color has no place. As Beauty searches for her own daughter she helps Robin heal and is probably the first person to always tell her the truth. This book is a beautifully written story during a time in history that was not very beautiful. It is sad that we still struggle today to see that beyond our differences we are bound together as one and should respect each other and this planet we call home. 

Saturday, September 30, 2017

The Other Alcott


No matter where May Alcott goes, she is always the younger sister of famous authoress Louisa May Alcott, who wrote Little Women. She is also Amy March, one of the main characters. She is the sister that must stay home and care for her family as her parents age. Even though May is filled with love for those around her, she is drowning in regret of the dreams she has for her own story. May is an artist. She draws and paints and wants to study art and become successful and independent like Louisa. During the later years of the 1800’s in Concord Massachusetts most women are married young and raise families. With her lovely looks and flowing curls, May is turning down her suitors in search of her real love, art. Her grit and determination take her to Italy, London and Paris. Her travels lead to opportunities she never imagined. This what-if historical take on the Alcott sisters is a beautiful story about families, especially sisterhood. The Alcott sisters want a life not easily acquired during this time. Many things we take for granted today were unheard of for women. Through extensive research author Elise Hooper creates a realistic tale of the endeavors taken on by May Alcott, the sister rarely mentioned, making her way in the world. I thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend this fabulous new read. Note: There is an extensive amount of detail regarding the art world May enters. These sections may feel lengthy for readers that have little interest in art. It does not detract from the beautiful story of these amazing sisters.