Monday, June 18, 2018

The Lost Family


Peter Rashkin escaped the horrors of WWII but not the devastating memories of losing his beautiful young wife and twin baby girls. After moving to NYC and being taken in by cousins Sol and Ruth, Peter became a successful chef and works night and day avoiding any meaningful relationships. One day Peter unexpectedly meets June Bouquet. She is twenty years his junior, a cover model and devastatingly beautiful. Their future is a rollercoaster of emotions and they eventually marry and have a daughter Elspeth. Always polite, handsome Peter is continually withdrawn and June becomes lonely and restless, looking for life outside their marriage and their home. This latest novel by author Jenna Blum is well written and an interesting peek into a marriage that is being destroyed by the past, a ghost of a family and a tragedy that cannot compete with everyday life. I like this storyline and the characters were well defined but midway it started to drag and by the time it took a most bizarre twist (near the end) my interest had already begun to wane. Solid good but didn’t love.

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.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

An American Marriage


Celestial and Roy are briefly introduced in college but a few years after graduation an unlikely encounter brings them together and they quickly fall in love. Although from different backgrounds they are both intelligent, passionate people who live and love deeply. Roy encourages Celestial, an artist, to follow her dreams while he climbs the corporate ladder quickly. They leave their Atlanta home for a short visit to Roy’s parents in a very small town in the deep South. They stay at a motel for the night. The police barge into their room and Roy is falsely accused of a crime. He is railroaded and sentenced to 12 years in prison. While the newlyweds marriage slowly disintegrates, dreams and futures are placed on hold. Can career, children, family and love wait 12 long years? Author Tayari Jones brings us a story of marriage, family and racism that is undeniably beautiful and tragic at the same time. The reader can easily imagine each and every character, rooting for them all, knowing in the end there will be a price to pay. Tayari Jones wastes no words and no time. I love this book from first page to last and think it should be required reading. Do not miss this one reader friends!

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Every Note Played


Karina escaped her mundane village in Poland with her god given talent as a pianist. At a young age she understood this was her ticket to another life. As an independent beautiful young woman this was not an easy journey. Alone and afraid she made it to the U.S. and a well known music school where she was quickly labeled the best. Romance with fellow pianist Richard quickly led to marriage and a quiet competition to follow their musical destiny. Young and in love Karina follows Richard to a post in Boston, motherhood and the end of her days sitting at the piano. Years later with her daughter away at college and a much anticipated divorce, Karina finds herself very alone. Richard, an extremely famous pianist has been recently diagnosed with ALS. It hits hard and fast. He has a daughter he hasn’t spoken to, girlfriends that have come and gone and an ex-wife that hates him. He, who thought he was triumphant, finds himself alone and unable to manage and very very angry. This novel is about dreams that come crashing down when marriage, career, health and all the choices one makes along the way do not align with the stars or ones future plans. Author Lisa Genova has (once again) taught me a great deal, left me hyperventilating and reminds us to be grateful for every breath, every day. 

Monday, April 2, 2018

Nothing Forgotten


Many a young romantic’s dream, to travel the world after college, secure a job, share an adorable flat with a scandalous Brit in Rome and fall madly in love … with a handsome, sexy, engaged, older man. Assured that a woman on the side is often the Italian way, At 22, Anna cannot help herself and falls deeply in love with her boss at the language school. She quickly let’s go of her inhibitions and her heart. When Sergio orchestrates Anna’s weekends so he can spend more time with her, she unapologetically befriends the unsuspecting fiance. After a complicated year, a wedding and a heart shattered in a million pieces, she leaves Rome. Twenty-five years later Sergio contacts her. Anna must decide if she can share her deepest darkest secrets that may change her life forever. I read this story of romance and family, loyalty and deception in one single sitting. I didn’t always love the characters or their choices or the rush-to-the-finish ending but found the thread of time and setting in Rome mesmerizing. When there is a fork in the road your history is being created and future determined. Also, the notion that when we are with loved ones from our past we can once again see through the eyes of that younger self. Enjoyable, well written, delicious Italian love story.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Somebody's Daughter


Gazing off the balcony at the perfectly clear blue sky above crashing waves, the Ross family seems picture perfect. Parents Bobby and Emma are stable, smart and still in madly love. Their beautiful twins Zoe and Lily are typical teens worried about friends and selfies. The Ross’s run and live in a successful, swanky hotel on Miami Beach. Life just couldn’t get any sweeter. At the girls 15th birthday party a nasty text message is sent, video attached. Emma accidentally overhears friends gossiping in the restroom and knows in that instant, their lives will never be the same again. Author Rochelle B. Weinstein takes us on a painful journey through one families struggle to admit the agonizing truth about their daughter and find their way to forgiveness. Narrated from Emma’s perspective Somebody’s Daughter takes on one of life’s most challenging issues of parenting; our children out in the world making mistakes - while the parents learn they can’t always protect them. My heart was immersed in these characters as they dealt with issues that hit way too close to home. This is the digitally raised generation and the simple life lessons we were once taught seem to have been deleted with the push of a button. Cyberbullying and Cyber Sexual Harassment have become epidemic and is never too many degrees from our lives, as our phones are never far from our fingers. Highly recommend this extraordinary, relevant, well written story of love, fear, family and trust. Almost too much to consider with all the “what if’s” spinning through my mind. A perfect book club selection with endless discussion possibilities. A must read.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

You Think It, I'll Say It


You write it, I’ll read it. Short stories are hard (for me) to read and even harder to review. If they are good, I get so caught up with the characters I am deeply disappointed when the story quickly ends. But that is also the lure, because I want more, so I keep going. Ten short stories by fabulous author Curtis Sittenfeld. She captures the essence of what is going on in the world that affects our daily choices, big and small. Love, friendship, gender, funny, sad, thoughtful. I absolutely loved her last two novels, love her exquisite writing that feels so true and relevant. Highly recommend this quick fix while I patiently wait for more.

The Light We Lost


There should be a warning label on this book that readers will not rise from their chair/couch/bed until they have finished the very last page of this mesmerizing, captivating, intimate novel about love. Lucy and Gabe met senior year at Columbia. There is an unexplainable attraction and chemistry that drags them through 13 years of imaginable love, pain and desire. They are friends, they are lovers. They are available. They are not available. They follow their own paths determined to fulfill their youthful expectations of changing/saving the world. Gabe becomes a photojournalist traveling to dangerous war zones. Lucy produces wonderful educational shows for children. She is a wife and adoring mother. Gabe is never far from her thoughts. No-one really understands the magnetism that draws them together over and over through the years, across all distances. Author Jill Santopolo’s writing is magnificent. She is quietly whispering their love story in your ear. The reader strains closer and closer to hear every word. It is hypnotic. All of the choices we make over a lifetime is part of the journey. Each one another step in only one direction, our future.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

It Happens All the Time


Amber and Tyler have been friends since childhood. They have trusted each other through difficult and dark times. Amber suffered a traumatic anorexic near death experience in high school and Tyler never left her side. Amber went away to college and struggled to rebuild her life. Happy, finally, she is engaged to a great guy and returns home after graduation for the summer. Tyler is a paramedic. He loves his job and is good at it. Tyler has been pining for Amber all these years and hopes this summer is his chance to win back her heart. An unexpected drunken incident at a party changes their world forever. Told in alternating voices, their lives are turned upside down. It makes sense to hear and feel both sides to the story from the beginning. What you see through your own eyes and memory may be completely different from the person right next you. I can appreciate this now looking back on the novel, I’d say it was well done, but I did not enjoy the read. Mostly because I really did not like the main character, Amber. Definitely look forward to reading more from author Amy Hatvany.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

White Hot Hack


Kate and Ian are finally married, starting over, a new life with new names. Ian is still hacking away but started a new business with hopes that his dark enemies believe he is dead. Only Kate’s immediate family knows her location. They are young and in love and although Ian’s work has always kept him on the edge, his love and protection of Kate takes precedence. Kate starts to help with his new security company. She finds she is pretty good at this undercover detective work and naturally loves all the time she gets to spend with Ian. Unfortunately, the bad guys are still stalking them and there will never be a moments peace until they are caught. This exciting sequel to author Tracey Garvis Graves, 2015 hit Heart Shaped Hack was an excellent follow up and quick fun read. A mix of love, mystery and computer hacking - a good amount of suspense and romance. Highly recommend this read and all of this author’s books. I call them my fillers. Dependably enjoyable every time (I even read On the Island twice - and I NEVER do that!) Check them out! http://traceygarvisgraves.com/

The Summer I Met Jack


Alicia is working at the movie theater candy counter in Hyannisport, MA. It is 1950 and this young, beautiful Polish woman has already lived a lifetime. Torn from her family, placed in a convent to hide from the Nazi’s, Alicia survived and made her way to America. She changes her name, her hair color and sets her sights on success. Hyannisport is synonymous with Kennedy and while working at the local movie theater meets non other than the very eligible, handsome senator Jack. Known as a ladies man he is instantly taken with this beauty and her European know how. Alicia is impassioned about art, literature, languages - her bright outlook and easygoing nature capture Jack’s attention and even that of his family, who naturally control every move he makes. They are briefly engaged, there may or may not have been a child. There is love, years of threats and a lifetime of regrets. Based on the captivating life of Alicia Corning Clark, who was married multiple times, ultimately widowed and left a very wealthy woman. She left some mystery behind, trailing the many theories regarding every Kennedy. I loved the history and secrets to which we will most likely never know the answers but I have to admit I felt like the writing was rushed. As much as I enjoyed the “story” the conversations and accents felt unnatural and forced. For me, this novel just didn’t flow.

Woman Last Seen in Her Thirties


When Maggie’s husband Adam walks out the door after 30 years of marriage it is a shock but may be a blessing in disguise. Adam is handsome, successful and an excellent father - but the passion has been missing for quite some time. Maggie regrets letting things go a little, especially in the intimacy department - that has all but disappeared after three decades as a homemaker and two of them laser focused solely on her children. Having never contemplated anything except a safe, dependable retirement, Maggie finds herself terrified of being alone for the first time. A natural worrier of all mishaps, Maggie had never contemplated life on her own, let alone getting back into the dating game. She long ago abandoned her career and her children have grown and flown. Maggie vaguely remembers her independent girl self from years ago, now she is determined to go and find her. Loved this easy read. I seem to be on a mid life (let’s leave out “crisis”) theme of books. Gee, wonder why. I liked author Camille Pagan's writing. Look forward to reading more of her work.

Before We Were Yours


Memphis, 1939, a couple arrives at the hospital to deliver twins. They are told the twins did not survive. They do not quickly return home. Their five children waiting on the shanty boat are picked up and taken to an orphanage where they are told their parents will retrieve them. They are mistreated and names are quickly changed. Along with thousands of other children, they never see their parents again. Present day, Avery Stafford, a young lawyer in South Carolina is being groomed for her father’s position in politics. Her grandmother has just been admitted to a nursing home for dementia. Avery, who had always been especially close with Grandma Judy begins an investigation into her mysterious past and uncovers a connection between her and the Tennessee Children’s Home Society Orphanage. Based on one of the largest, most hideous and devious scandals, this novel describes the kidnapping, bribery, abuse and mistreatment of children and their families ever to occur in the United States. Author Lisa Wingate magically weaves together these dual timelines, the characters come alive and the reader is crushed by this heartbreaking reality. 

Alternate Side

On a charming dead end street in Manhattan the residents walk their dogs, struggle to park and gossip. Nora’s love affair may be waning with her husband Charlie after more than two decades, but not with her beloved New York City. She runs the Museum of Jewelry for a wealthy socialite who is a bit off her rocker and has raised beautiful twins who are about to finish college and head out to make their way in the world. When the drama on the block hits an all time high so does Charlie’s mid life crisis. Dreaming of golf, and suburbs in the South, Nora and Charlie seem to be heading on two completely opposite trajectories. This pretty simple novel is a quick, pleasant read. Author Anna Quindlen develops the funniest characters and is an awesome storyteller and writer. Gotta love the New York wit and genuine panic that sets in near fifty, real enough to give you pause and absurd enough to be throughly entertaining. 

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

Educated


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.)