Monday, June 11, 2018

Happiness for Beginners


Helen Carpenter is about to embark on a journey that she is hoping will change her life. She is 32, divorced and all around pretty miserable. Helen is not just single, she is alone. After an unexpected debacle with her younger brother Duncan, Helen learns that his best friend Jake is also signed up for the survival course she is attending. Her adventure of a lifetime now tainted with Jake needing a ride to Wyoming, not off to a great start. On the long car ride Helen meets a different Jake. While her dreams of a happy marriage were shattering, Jake grew up - a lot. When they meet up with the group, Helen realizes this frat party atmosphere with college students 10 years younger is definitely not what she expected. Despite her reservations, she submits all her strength, mind and body - to the extreme 3 week challenge and tries to leave her petty anger on the bus. In order to make real change, Helen knows no-one can do this for her. For the first time, she becomes her own leader. Through the painful ups and downs of this arduous journey she finds her strength and the truth. After being mesmerized by How to Walk Away by Katherine Center, I immediately began to search out her other novels. After starting, I recognized how hauntingly familiar this trip sounded. My son accomplished a NOLS challenge a few years ago and I was mesmerized by his stories. Add in the delicious romance thrown in by this author, it turns out she did one years ago as well! Maybe I should start living my life instead of just reading about it? Highly recommend this absolutely perfect summer read. #onesitting  #unputdownable

Thursday, June 7, 2018

The Garden of Small Beginnings


Four years after her husbands death Lili is still putting the pieces of her life back together. After recovering from her breakdown, she manages to keep a steady rhythm while caring for her two beautiful young daughters, venting to her best friend kind of nutty sister Rachel and enjoying her comfortable job as an illustrator. When Lili is asked to design a gardening manual she signs them all up for a course at the botanical gardens to learn the very basics. The class is a group of misfits all there for different reasons. As they bond and get their hands rather dirty Lili’s world is turned upside down by a budding romance  she no longer thought was possible. Wracked with guilt Lili must choose whether she will grow towards the light like the garden or wither in the past. A story with a rather sad premise actually plants some very lovely seeds of life that remind you to always stop what you are doing and smell the roses. Life is meant to be lived and loved every single day. Highly recommend this enjoyable read perfect for summer with some gardening tips thrown in for good measure!

The She Was Gone


Ellie disappeared 10 years ago. Her mother Laurel has not given up hope as she never had any real closure. One day Ellie was a beautiful 15 year old girl who left the house for the library and was never seen again. Laurel’s other two children could not wait to escape the pain in their home and her marriage quickly crumbled with the nightmare of losing a child. Years later she unexpectedly begins a relationship with Floyd and he seems just too good to be true. Floyd is charming and smart and their instant chemistry blossoms in and out of the bedroom. His daughter Poppy is a precocious 9 year old who bares a striking resemblance to Ellie. Laurel is both mesmerized and haunted by their similarities and as the story unfolds the truth of Ellie and buried secrets of the past come full circle. This easy to read twisted psycho thriller is a perfect creepy story for a rainy day. Always a fan of Lisa Jewel, I highly recommend her latest book to add to your summer list!

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Love and Other Words


Macy bumps into Elliot after more than a decade of silence - she is stunned by a rush of emotions and love she thought was abandoned long ago. After losing her mom at a young age, Macy and her dad clung to each other salvaging the small family they cherished. A weekend home in the wine country was their humble retreat; reading books, hiking, sitting by the fire. For Macy, the added delight was the Petropoulos family next door. A big bustling group complete with four gorgeous boys and a terrific mom and dad. Elliot, the youngest, quickly becoming Macy’s very best friend. For years the pair were inseparable but as nature took its course the friendship blossomed to first love and first everything’s. 12 years later Macy is a pediatric resident in the city, her father is gone and her lonely existence is filled with work and tepid relationships. When Elliot unexpectedly appears in a coffee shop Macy’s life is turned upside down. Their connection is immediate and irresistible, her heart racing to take control. Told in alternating chapters of their childhood and the present day, Elliot learns the truth and Macy must decide if love can truly conquer all. Absolutely devoured this sweet, fast paced delightful novel. The beauty and power of young love and choices we make every day after. Fabulous read to get lost in on a summer day at the beach!

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Love and Ruin


As a determined, smart, and independent young woman, Martha Gellhorn ventured out on her own to follow her dreams and become a writer. Starting with the Spanish Civil War in 1937, she is drawn to the stories of average people and devastatingly young soldiers. She is starstruck upon meeting and befriending none other than Ernest Hemingway and knows at that moment her life will never be the same. After years of travel, writing and the rollercoaster of emotions that goes along with being the third wife of Hemingway Martha feels she is slowly melting away into the background that is his life. When she can no longer define her work or their marriage she turns to her love of journalism and goes to Europe at the worst possible moment to become the only woman at Normandy on D-Day and one of the first to report from Dachau after the camp was liberated. The unprecedented work of Martha Gellhorn, combined with her great passion for the great writer is told beautifully by author Paula McLain. Just as I felt with her telling of Hemingway’s first wife (The Paris Wife) this controversial genius had met his match with Martha and I devoured every single page of their stormy romance. Highly recommend this fantastic work of historical fiction - a must read this summer!

Friday, May 25, 2018

Limelight


The Brinkley family has moved from Dallas to the Big Apple! Michael quickly begins at the law firm while Allison dodges boxes in their small apartment and gets three kids ready for school. She doesn’t know who is more nervous, her or them. After years of imagining the lights of Broadway, New York and its overwhelming chaos of noise and people has Allison running on an adrenaline frenzy trying to fit in. When she unexpectedly starts working as a personal assistant for a talented but spoiled pop star (think Justin Bieber) as he prepares for his first musical, her life zooms out of control in directions she had never dreamed. Filled with great humor, this story portrays a frenetic world starring this hilarious and lovable family. Allison’s grit and determination to succeed and actually like their life in New York (even if it kills her) is a wonderful story with a trove of buried treasures. Just as I felt reading her first novel Small Admissions (which I LOVED) I am betting the bizarre escapades are more realistic than most people can even believe! I laughed and loved this latest novel by author Amy Poeppel. From start to finish, each catastrophe just barely averted only to quickly lead to another. Definitely recommend this enjoyable, fast paced summer read about life in the big city. Grab your beach chair and enjoy!

Monday, May 21, 2018

How to Walk Away


Margaret has meticulously planned her future. One successful step forward always leading to the next big accomplishment. With handsome fiance in hand, dream job waiting and townhouse purchased, she could not have been more devastated the day it was all taken away. A tragic accident leaves Margaret reexamining everything she has ever believed and each and every person she loves. Filled with unexpected humor and an abundance of hope, her long lost sister Kit rescues her from self pity and pushes Margaret to dig (really) deep and forge ahead. I read this fast paced, funny, thoughtful, emotional novel in one long sitting. It is completely unputdownable, thought provoking and heartwarming. Like the train wreck of Me Before You, the reader cannot look away and will be mesmerized by every single page of this beautiful story. Trust me reader friends, this is one you cannot miss.

Friday, May 18, 2018

The Husband Hour


Lauren Adelman grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, summers at the shore, idolizing her older beautiful sister Stephanie and trying hard to fit in at her local highschool. After unexpectedly capturing the heart of the most popular star of the winning hockey team, her life couldn’t seem more perfect. Rory and Lauren fell in love and after some rocky years separated by college, they finally marry. Their storybook romance takes a horrible turn when Rory leaves the NHL and the life they have built to join the armed forces. When tragedy strikes Lauren is widowed. Most young women are just beginning their lives and hers, abruptly ended, is filled with sadness and weighed by guilt. Lauren hides away and lives a barely there existence. One summer a handsome film maker approaches Lauren and after years of turning down all media inquiries about Rory, she is inclined to speak for the first time. Matt helps Lauren reexamine her past and turn her grief into forgiveness. After all she has lost, her relationships with her parents, sister and nephew teach Lauren about what she still has. This is a beautiful story about young love and a family turned upside down by secrets, jealousy and loss. Definitely recommend this enjoyable summer read. 

We'll Always Have Paris


Rosie and Peter meet in art college. She has led a rather hum drum middle of the road existence and dreads the idea of becoming her mother. Their young love affair is intense, Rosie’s first everything. They dream of a life in Paris, as artists, together, forever. But Peter’s well off family drags him away for the summer and he does not return. Rosie moves on with her life, marries, raises a family - her dreams of art, Peter and Paris disintegrating as if they never existed. 47 years later as fate would have it, Rosie and Peter are unexpectedly reunited. Their immediate attraction is still there but Rosie is struggling to find that young girl she abandoned, that free spirit she once consumed. This beautiful story is filled with questions about love, trust and connection to the people closest to you. Its interesting to ponder whether ones youthful feelings of love are fleeting or remain in your heart always. Its amazing how you see people through the eyes of the time in your life that you were closest with them. Whether its childhood or college years, they seem to know the younger you, maybe the one you have slowly forgotten. The other fabulous story line describes Rosie’s complete commitment to her daughters, often forgetting her own self, seemingly unfair that they cannot see her for the whole person she is, only as their mother. Highly recommend this sweet, thoughtful enjoyable novel by author Sue Watson. A perfect read for summer.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Pachinko


Sunja is the only child of a poor Korean family. They run a boardinghouse in a small coastal village and just barely get by during hard times in the early 1900’s.  After an unexpected pregnancy Sunja marries a kind traveling minister who is on his way to Japan. She follows him and begins a new life with his brothers family, befriending her sister in law and together raising her beautiful boys. In this foreign land these Korean exiles, of which there are many, have minimal rights and no citizenship. Decades later after WWII they are still searching for their identity as North Korea becomes unattainable and the South more and more unfamiliar. Sunja’s children’s children are still struggling with language barriers, cultural differences and intermarriage acceptance in a land they have a hard time calling home. Author Min Jin Lee’s writing is beautiful and a pleasure to read. The history lesson coincides with a lot I learned on a recent trip to Hong Kong. My book club unanimously agreed it led to great discussion. One bit of criticism - it is long and you feel it. I think it could have been at least 100 pages less and would have had equal impact.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

The Female Persuasion


Greer is pissed off from the moment she arrives at her second rate college instead of Yale. Her inattentive parents neglected their portion of paperwork and her dreams flew out the window. Now her high school sweetheart Cory is hours away at Princeton living the life, as she sulks around campus considering her future. Greer attends a lecture by the famous Faith Frank, an icon in the women’s movement. This speaker is beautiful, smart and doing all she can to make a difference. Greer is mesmerized as she yearns for the day she can shed her insecurity, become a writer and accomplish something meaningful. For more than 100 pages Greer’s feelings of inadequacy, fear and resentment tumble forward. Described in depth are her high school years, subsequent long distance romance with Cory, their small home-town and his bizarre family. Post college years continue in a similar fashion. Chapter after chapter of disappointment and loneliness. I have read and loved author Meg Wolitzer’s work and was so excited to read this latest best seller. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t for me. My preconceived notion of this novel focusing on women’s issues was not at all as I expected. Great writing but a choppy story that dragged and left me nowhere. Sad face.

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.