Monday, December 4, 2017

The Windfall


Mr. and Mrs. Jha have lived a comfortable life in their tight knit East Delhi complex. All the neighbors know each others business - from whats hanging on their laundry line to who is currently dating who. When their son goes off to America to study business (a major coup) and Mr. Jha unexpectedly comes into a large sum of money, their neighbors/friends go off the deep end. Mr. Jha instantly moves the family to the wealthy suburbs and tries his hardest to keep up with the Delhi Jonses. In a very witty, quirky, Indian fashion their simple lives are turned upside down. Their son fails out of school (an enormous disgrace!), their equally ostentatious new neighbors want them to join the club, and their widowed neighbor finds true love. This light hearted, breezy, laugh out loud novel was an unexpected pleasure to read. Bet it would be a hilarious movie!

Between Me and You


It’s December 1999. Ben and Tatum begin a whirlwind romance right out of a movie. Literally. They are both in grad school in NYC; Ben as a writer and Tatum, an actress. She stars in his Indie short film that shoots him to Hollywood notoriety. They become inseparable and their careers soar with limitless possibility. But as the years go on, their marriage is struggling. Mistakes, secrets, pain and losses can no longer be ignored. All the dreams they once had are hampered by the reality that is Hollywood. The gossip, long hours and trajectory of fame is relentless and unforgiving. The memories that Ben carries of his Dad’s expectations smother every bit of his success. Regret and jealousy become too heavy to manage. The story is narrated through the eyes of Ben and Tatum and alternates between their meeting in 1999, the present and every year in between. Although the timeline can seem confusing at times and must be followed very closely, the clear honest voices of these characters easily pulls the reader into their hearts and lives. Don’t miss this enjoyable read, especially if you’d like a peek at the movie star world we all devour in the tabloids!

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Standard Deviation


Graham’s second wife Audra is everything he is not; young, bubbly, talkative, and friendly, an extremely quirky character. Her light hearted attempts to genuinely be kind to all people and continuously speak her mind (zero filter with a smile!) lands her in the most precarious situations. Graham, much more of a straight laced type of guy loves her to pieces but she pretty much exhausts him on a daily basis. Taking care of their young son with Aspergers is difficult but in Audra’s world the glass is most certainly full. When Graham connects with his disturbingly type A ex wife Elspeth, their renewed friendship becomes quickly awkward and complicated. This laugh out loud exploration of marriage, first and second - grass is not always greener - is an enjoyable fast paced read. Definitely have to be in the mood for these silly, slightly over the top scenarios but solid writing and characters and I would definitely read more from author Katherine Heiny.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Girl with Seven Names

It is hard to come down to earth after a read like this. The memoir by Hyeonseo Lee, one of her many names throughout her 12 year journey, from teenager in North Korea to defector and asylum seeker living in Seoul, South Korea. The only way to describe this memoir is unimaginable. The bravery she possessed in changing her life when she had no idea what to expect from the outside world, leaving her entire family and heading to a most uncertain future - is astounding. To continue to put one foot in front of the other and solve problem after problem in a foreign land at such a young age is a feat of intelligence and pure determination. Aside from the fact of how interesting (and shocking) her actual path was, this story brings to mind how thoroughly complacent we can become in the comforts of our lives. Hyeonseo had nothing. By nothing, I mean less than nothing. The only thing that kept her going was oftentimes the memory of her loving mother and brother whom she did not see for 12 long years. This fast paced, captivating memoir is a must read. There is so much to learn from Hyeonseo about hope, compassion and the fight for freedom. Also, check out her Ted Talk. A must watch.

https://www.ted.com/talks/hyeonseo_lee_my_escape_from_north_korea#t-711805

Friday, November 24, 2017

The Book of Separation


Tova Mirvis grew up in a small Orthodox Jewish community in Memphis, Tennessee. Her family is well rounded, intellectual, loving and kind. Her parents unconditionally supported their children and their choices as they grew up. Tova always dreamed of being a writer and attended Columbia University in NYC where she honed her talent and met her future husband. She remained true to her family traditions and always walked the careful line of what is allowed and what is not. Who is good and who is better. As Tova’s small family grows they make their way to the suburbs of Boston. In this perfect little house, with her three beautiful children Tova’s questions become too heavy, the answers no longer easily shrugged away. She is torn between the strict faith her husband adheres to, the explanations her children demand and daggers of disappointment found in the eyes of her community as she strays further and further from their world. This heartbreaking memoir is Tova’s emotional journey leaving her religious community and her marriage, both overwhelming attempts at discovering the life she was meant to live while leaving so much behind. Well written, softly spoken, this memoir was both eye opening and incredibly sad. But sometimes even hard unanswerable questions must be asked if we want to live a life of truth and honesty. I look forward to hearing this author speak next week at the Boynton Beach JCC Book Fair.

Beartown


Beartown is a small community hidden away in a deep dark forest where temperatures plummet and everyone lives for hockey. The Beartown Bears Junior Team have been working for ten years towards this very moment. To the surprise of the rest of the country they are in the National Semi-Finals. But to Coach David, these boys have given every ounce of blood, sweat and tears they possibly could to this game, to this team, to him. As the big game approaches, a tragedy occurs that leaves a young girl traumatized and the entire season hanging in the wind. A small town needs to dig deep in their hearts to learn the difference between good and evil, loyalty and denial, crime and punishment. I neither like nor dislike hockey. I did not thoroughly enjoy this authors previous book but I cannot say loudly enough how much I LOVED LOVED LOVED this book called Beartown. It is absolutely unputdownable and my mind exploded through the entire journey. Author Fredrik Backman’s prose is so gently descriptive you can feel the cold chilling your bones, hear the scrape of the ice and bang bang bang of the puck. These characters came alive and will remain in my imagination for a long time to come. Highly recommend this incredible read.

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).