Monday, December 20, 2010

Hector and the Search for Happiness

Hector and the Search for Happiness  By Francois Lelord  Hector is a psychiatrist who cannot understand why some of his patients (actually most) have no apparent health, family or job problems but are not happy. Although he tries and tries he is not able to sufficiently help them. Hector, who had always thought of himself as "happy" begins to feel sad that he cannot help all his patients and decides to travel the world on a holiday in search for the secret to happiness. This fable/story is a laugh out loud tale that rings true on many different levels. With each chapter are life lessons that the reader may say they already know, but it is always best to be reminded of the simple truth. Lesson no. 24  Happiness is reading a good book.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Born to Run

Born to Run  By Christopher McDougall   This book is about running. The physiology, history, biology, love of it, hate of it, injuries from it. You name it, its about running. Chris McDougall is a writer and avid runner constantly battling common running injuries. As his inquiring mind searches for a quick fix to stop the pain he discovers the world of ultramarathoners. Extreme distance runners. He also discovers a tribe in Mexico that he calls the Running People. The Tarahumara are a timid isolated group that spends their lives running for the joy of it. They can run for days, through the wilderness for hundreds of miles with little food, little water and rarely an injury. Christopher meets many interesting characters along his journey, he ultimately changes the way he runs, eats and thinks about running. The reader does not have to be a runner to enjoy this book, just a student of life.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Gilded Chamber

The Gilded Chamber  By Rebecca Kohn    Esther is orphaned when her parents both die in Babylon. She is a young girl and betrothed to a much older cousin, Mordechi, who works as the treasury official for the King. He has more or less hidden his Jewish affiliation and lived away from his family for many years. His relationship with Esther is more father/daughter than future wife but he grows very fond of her. After the evil Queen Vashti is banished from the kingdom, new virgin concubines are rounded up to bring to the King's harem. Esther is one of them. Pretty and 14 yrs old she is imprisoned into a life of slavery and desperately wishes to be back with Mordechi. Then the King chooses Esther for his Queen. Lust, romance, intrigue, murder. There is no modern day drama that can match the story of Queen Esther. A lot more fun to read than going to Sunday school. Great book!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Still Alice

Still Alice  By Lisa Genova      Dr. Alice Howland is a psychology linguistics professor at Harvard. She is married to John, a scientist at Harvard and they have three healthy successful grown children. Alice becomes forgetful but is reassured by her physician that as a 50 yr old woman under a lot of stress and most probably going through menopause, this appears to be normal. The memory lapses become worse. At first Alice thinks she is going crazy, words sometimes do not connect, items misplaced. When she is jogging near her home of 25 years, she gets lost and that is the end of her life as she knows it. Alice suffers from early onset Alzheimer's Disease. This novel is told by Alice. It is mesmerizing, watching the train wreck of this incurable, horrible disease wretch away Alice's life. As painful as it is to watch, the reader cannot put this book down. If you do not know anything about this disease, you need to read this. If you know everything about this disease, you need to read this, so maybe you will understand a little better those who cannot.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Weekend

The Weekend    By Bernhard Schlink     Jorg, a convicted terrorist is pardoned and released from prison after being away for 24 years. His sister Christianne arranges a weekend in her country estate with old friends to welcome and ease Jorg back to society and everyday life. The small group varies with college and childhood friends, most revealing little or no sympathy and attending simply to assist Christianne. They feel Jorg has no remorse for his actions and despise his continuous revolutionary theories. There are a few small relationships of interest and a strong, nearly incestuous one between Jorg and Christianne. They are an interesting cast, the writing is impeccable but the reader only catches a small glimpse into their lives.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Day After Night

Day After Night By Anita Diamant   Following WWII thousands of Jews made their way to Palestine. They were most often weak, sick and near starvation. They were the lucky ones, the survivors. The British, who were slowly losing control put a quota in place which allowed only a small number of displaced Jews entrance into the state. Those who had no family and no papers, as most didn't, found themselves in internment camp, which sadly felt like another concentration camp. This is the story of an escape from Atlit, a camp near Haifa. It is told through the eyes of four brave women that have lost everything and everyone in their lives They use every ounce of their will to look forward, to hope, to live. Anita Diamant is a thoughtful easy to read author, although no other book may ever match The Red Tent, Day After Night is definitely worth the read.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors

The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors   By Michele Young-Stone             Becca Burke is struck by lightning three times in her life. First, her parents think she is making it up, later her blackened feet prove otherwise. Becca's parents are in a miserable painful marriage in Chapel Hill NC, she finds solace in painting and her best friend Carrie. Buckley grows up in a small town in Arkansas. He is raised by his mean grandmother named Winter and his loving but unhappy mother, Abigail. Lightning brings these two very likable characters together. Watching Becca and Buckley grow up, nourishing friendships, love for their mothers and intense curiosity of lightning, the reader learns some very basic lessons about the possibilities of finding happiness. This debut novel is surprisingly unique. The characters are genuine and the writing is easy and enjoyable, don't let the title throw you, it's worth the read.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Ape House

Ape House  By Sara Gruen   Isabel Duncan is a scientist at the Great Ape Language Lab. The bonobo's she works with have become her family. They are incredibly human like and communicate through ASL (sign language). She is engaged to the director of the program, Peter Benton and her assistant Celia is a pink haired, off the wall punky intern that speaks her mind and follows her instincts. The lab is bombed. The explosion severely hurts Isabel and the intruders steal the bobobo's to ultimately put them on a bizarre reality tv show. What begins as an intellectual look inside the world of the ape/man understanding quickly turns into a two bit who dunnit mystery. Page after page the reader waits for the depth, descriptiveness and magnificence of the characters that we met in Water for Elephants. Sadly, this moment never arrives. The reader barely cares about each quirky character. The story is all over the place and on the road to nowhere.  It is as if another author wrote this book and put Ms. Gruens name on it.  :(

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Man In The White Sharkskin Suit

The Man In The White Sharkskin Suit  By Lucette Lagnado
Loulou, as she is affectionately known, shares her life from birth in Cairo, the families sad departure and ultimate statelessness that affects them all for many years to come. Life in Egypt, "the Levant", is a magical world of old fashioned ways, family ties and deep Jewish values. As times, war and political leaders change, the jews have no choice but to leave their homeland. With no more than a few hundred dollars for their family of six, they begin their journey to Paris where they must choose between emigrating to Israel or America. Viet Nam is looming, President Kennedy has been shot and Leon, the patriarch of the family is miserable with their negligible status, lack of means and saddest of all, lack of any hope for a happy future. The author is descriptive and thorough in her life's account, her relationship with both her parents, brothers, sister and with her own identity. She generously retells the plight of her family, the story of many jewish families who have been forced to relocate and start over in a country that never feels like home. Its the story of any immigrant family, of any religion, of any race. A captivating and educational read.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Anthropology of an American Girl

Anthropology of an American Girl  By Hilary Thayer Hamann    Eveline Auerbach is a young girl growing up with her mom in East Hampton, New York. She is an artist, a poet, an intellectual girl, desperately trying to find meaning in life, love, friendship and the world around her. Eveline strives for honesty and searches for truth of those close to her. Like most girls during their highschool years Eveline wants to know who she really is and where she is going. She has a boyfriend Jack who is a cynic at 17. The entire world and all its workings frustrate him, his family never understood him and his parents have already discounted him to anonymity. He is a talented musician and the one thing he loves is Evie. Then Evie meets Rourke. He is older, a boxer and theater teacher at the local highschool. Evie falls passionately, obsessively, madly in love with Rourke. And so the story goes. The writing in this novel is extraordinary, it is beautiful and thoughtful. It is thoroughly descriptive, a little depressing and very very long. Anthropology is a recommended read but you must have plenty of time and a quiet space.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Confessions of a Counterfeit Farmgirl

Confessions of a Counterfeit Farmgirl  By Susan McCorkindale    Quirky, fun memoir of successful NYC/NJ girl following her husbands "dream" to leave the rat race, move to the country and breathe that clean fresh air. Susan quits her fruitful yet lifeless position at a high profile magazine to live in the "sticks." Filled with mischief and anything but the mundane, this family of four starts over in very different territory, 500 acres of it! Her writer turned farmer husband immerses himself in this new life, his farm chores and tractor, while Susan stomps around the farm in 4 inch heels with chickens pecking at her $35 pedicure. It is tres cute to read and laugh with the girl next door. If you would like to enjoy a light, funny bit of "the grass is not always greener," here's your book.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

This Is A Soul

This Is a Soul By Marilyn Berger  Rick Hodes, M.D. is an American doctor that has been living and working in Ethiopia for more than 20 years. He is an Orthodox Jew that works with and for the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. This organization sent Dr. Hodes to Ethiopia in the early 90's when Israel emigrated thousands of people to a new life, and he continued to work there in refugee camps and clinics, mainly in Addis Ababa (Cutting For Stone, yes, he is friendly with the author Abraham Verghese) Dr. Hodes believes if you save a life, you save the world. He has dedicated his life to giving the sickest, poorest people health and hope. This is a mesmerizing read, it cannot be ignored, it will open your eyes and your heart.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Charlie St. Cloud

Charlie St. Cloud  By Ben Sherwood     Sweet story about love, life, death and a little bit of magic.  Charlie and Sam are brothers. Sam idolizes and adores his big brother. Sadly, a tragic accident claims Sams life and Charlie feels responsible and cheated. He lives in an isolated world where he can grieve in his own way and hang on to the special relationship he had with Sam. In a small Massachusetts town Charlie's life consists of his job at the cemetery and the memory of Sam, until he meets Tess and falls in love for the first time. This book is an  pleasant read, characters are likable and easy to imagine. Didn't see the movie, story reads a little like a Nicholas Sparks novel, which I wouldn't normally read but also reminds me just a little of the magical stories by Cecelia Ahern (PS I Love You) which I adore.

Friday, August 20, 2010

All Over the Map

All Over the Map  By Laura Fraser    Over forty, funny, smart woman works as a travel writer. Laura lives in San Franscisco and travels the world to exotic exciting locations to write magazine articles. She is multilingual, loves meeting new people and enjoys tasting interesting cuisine. Post divorce and turning forty she can no longer bare the thought of being alone and never having children as she grows older. Travel is her job and her escape. If you enjoyed Eat Pray Love, this memoir is comparable, perhaps better written. The reader must be able to tolerate incessant whining and complaining and just enjoy the beautiful detailed trips and witty commentary.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Irresistible Henry House

The Irresistible Henry House  By Lisa Grunwald     It is 1946 and Martha Gaines runs a home economics program at a prestigious college. Commonly in the early 1900's to the late 1960's womens studies programs at university included a practice house, where female students would learn to properly run a house, perform wifely duties, and care for a baby. In this novel a different infant from a local orphanage is raised for 2 years in the practice house. This baby is loved and cared for by multiple mothers and the strict rules of Martha Gaines. When Henry is brought to the house Martha finds herself falling madly in love with him as a she has never before. She decides to continue to raise Henry past the 2 year mark for the reminder of his childhood. Henry is a charming, smart funny remarkable young man that is deeply affected by his multiple practice mothers. He has trouble finding his freedom and true love. He cannot define his needs or which path his life should take. Henry mistakes Martha's love for selfish need and cannot appreciate all she has given of herself. Very unique story, likable intriguing characters. A highly recommended read.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time  By Mark Haddon   One of the most unique stories I have ever read. The story is narrated by Christopher Boone, an autistic 15 year old living with his father outside of London. He is brilliant in maths and science but incapable of small abilities, like being touched or eating anything the color yellow. He has a pet rat named Toby and a very strict routine which he is comfortable following. One day he discovers his neighbors dog, Wellington, murdered in the garden. So begins his Sherlock Holmes routine (he loves "logical" mysteries) in deciphering the clues that may lead to find the culprit. Christopher is remarkably humorous and loving. His simple, straightforward, honest emotions and logical mind leads the reader to reexamine the world and the truth.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Life and Death on the Loxahatchee

Life and Death on the Loxahatchee  By James Snyder    Vince "Trapper" Nelson lived in the Jupiter area from the early 1930's until his death in 1968. He was a real life tarzan and dazzled friends and visitors with his charm, knowledge, movie star good looks and connection with nature. In 1932 there were approximately 250 people living in this area of Florida. The people were struggling during this post depression time but Trapper loved nature,  animals, and life on the Loxahatchee River. It was a quieter time and populated rather quickly in the later years. This book details exactly what life in the Jupiter/Tequesta area was and what it has come to be in the present day. There's a tremendous amount of history in this area. Easy, enjoyable read. If you like history and especially for our locals, its a must read for summer!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Invisible Wall

The Invisible Wall  By Harry Bernstein    The year is 1910, Harry is a young boy growing up in a small mill town in England. One side of the street is Jewish, the other Christian. They are all poor.They all struggle, war is approaching, they dream of America. There is an invisible wall. This beautifully written memoir details his family, with 6 children and a street full of characters. A lot has changed in the world and in other ways human nature has not evolved at all. Harry began writing this memoir at 93, published at 96. He is currently 100 and works on another. Enjoy this historical journey that is not to be missed.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Beach Read of the Summer! The Carrie Diaries

The Carrie Diaries   By Candace Bushnell   This young adult book backtracks to Carrie Bradshaw's life in highschool. Growing up in a small town a few hours outside NYC, Carrie trudges through her senior year and all the trials and tribulations that say "All American Small Town USA." Friends, boyfriends, betrayl and her desire to become a writer. Interestingly, since we know little of Carrie's life prior to NYC from watching the show, this book perfectly characterizes the Carrie we have grown to love over the years. Personally, as a SATC fan, Carrie is SJP and the reader, just like the television viewer feels as if they know her intimately. For those that enjoy the show, there is no question you must read this book, only takes about a day.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Dreaming in Hindi

Dreaming in Hindi  By Katherine Russell Rich     Memoir of a year journey to study Hindi in Udaipur, India. Katherine is a writer/editor in New York City. She is divorced, 45 years old and has battled cancer for the last 10 years. Something is missing. Her life feels narrow. She needs "something" and has an indescribable passion for wanting to learn Hindi.  Katherine loses her job at a magazine and even though most people around her criticize, she welcomes an opportunity to live in India and study Hindi for a year. People are perplexed by her decision or as she truthfully admits "just jealous!"

This experience has extreme highs and depressing lows. It is a journey to acquire a new language and a new perspective on life, on people. Katherine's journey is detailed in an honest open manner, she is direct and witty. Interspersed is an enormous amount of scientific study she has acquired through research and interviews and attached to her own experience. The actual neuroscience of second language versus native tongue, along with how our brains learn, store and use this information.

Certainly worth the read, simultaneously informative and heartfelt. If you are multilingual or wish to be, whatever language your dreams are in, open your eyes and ears, its a big world out there.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

My Name is Memory

My Name is Memory    By Ann Brashares    Not qute time traveling, Daniel's experiences are closer to what we think of as past life experiences. Daniel Grey believes most souls have many lives but very few remember them the way he does. He remembers it every detail. He loves a woman named Sophia through all of time, all of his lives he is searching for his one true love. He can stare deeply into someones eyes and recognize their true soul, recognize who they once may have been. Some lives he finds Sophia and some he does not. Sometimes they are the wrong ages in the wrong places. Finally he meets Lucy (Sophia) well over a thousand years later and it is finally their time to be together, or is it?

A unique love story, throw in a bit of history, culture and language, sit back and enjoy this beautiful story of love, trust, friendship and most of all, life.

Monday, June 28, 2010


Grounded  By Seth Stevenson   D.C. writer and his girlfriend Rebecca circumnavigate the globe without flying. At first it seems a testimony to old fashioned romantic travel. Interacting with actual people, eating and staying in offbeat places one would have never found. The author mentions the difficulty flying post 9/11 plus the movements by environmental groups. The stress discomfort and uncomfortable seating adds to Seth's resolve to cross all longitudinal lines and the equator without flying. It is harder than it seems due to timing and some far out places that don't have much ground transport. Grounded is an exciting adventure taken by a smart young couple (who surprisingly and pleasantly get along throughout the travel turmoil) and learn a lot about their lives and themselves along the way.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Elegance of the Hedgehog

The Elegance of the Hedgehog  By Muriel Barbery  Renee Michel is a 54 yr old concierge in a luxury building in Paris. She grew up in poverty with little education, little nurturing and rarely a loving relationship. She is a secret autodidact and finds comfort in learning, art, music, and philosophy. One of the tenants is a 12 yr old girl named Paloma Josse. She is brilliant beyond comprehension and also hides this intellect to keep herself distant from any attention. She can see intense detail in people and the world itself. She has decided she may have to kill herself because the world will continue to be cruel. These 2 ladies form an unlikely friendship. Elegance is translated from French. The characters are lovable and this simplistic story is packed with lifes most important lessons.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest   By Stieg Larsson    The last of the trilogy murder mystery. Starting with The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and then The Girl Who Played with Fire, all written by Swedish author Stieg Larsson, who unfortunately passed away before he could enjoy the success of this nail biting series taking place in modern day Sweden. Once again, Lisbeth Salander is the main character, she is a withdrawn, brilliant girl whose expertise as a hacker has both gotten her in trouble and solved many problems. Mikael Blomkvist is again her friend, journalist that cracks wide open a story of foreign affairs, cover ups, murder and intrigue. It is filled with suspense until the bitter end. The characters are many, names hard to pronounce (as it is translated), it is detail heavy and it is long. That being said, if you read the first two, it is a must read for summer!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

My Life in France

My Life in France  By Julia Child       Delicious, detailed, adventurous account of the lives of Julia and Paul Child. Through Julia's unique voice and words, and her nephews pen, the reader is immersed in the culinary world of Europe post WWII, their travels living abroad, interesting companions and beautiful marriage. Their support and love for each other is unending for their entire lives and Pauls black and white photographs scattered throughout the book lend a charming glimpse through history. A simpler time, a couple that found fame and fortune much later in life than one would expect, and a woman that changed the way people cook and eat the world over. Wonderfully written, easy to follow, makes the reader hunger for more.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Last War

The Last War  By Ana Menendez     The narrator of the story is a photo journalist that travels with her writer husband, Brando, around the world chasing the latest war story. Always living on the edge, near the greatest danger. Their own suffering is a sort of sacrifice as if they too were in a war. Brando has traveled to Iraq and the narrator, his wife, whom he calls Tunes, is waiting for her papers to arrive to join him.  She stays in their apartment in Istanbul waiting, and falls into a melancholy. She receives a mysterious letter detailing the facts of her husbands supposed love affair with another woman. She reignites a friendship with an old journalist friend that she suspects may have written the letter. This novel is loosely based on Ana Menendez's life experience. It is a poetic, sad and heartbreaking peek into a marriage.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Let the Great World Spin

Let the Great World Spin   By Colum McCann.  New York City, 1974. A group of mothers from all walks of life grieve together for the loss of their sons that died in Vietnam, Prostitutes roam the streets and a Irish monk named Corrigan tries to befriend and help them, there is a terrible car accident, Phillip Petit walks a tightrope at 110 stories between the newly built World Trade Centers. If the world is spinning, NYC is at the center of it all. An immense variety of people in a busy city that never sleeps. At first this book appears to be a collection of short stories and it is pleasantly surprising for the reader to find the connections between them all.  The characters are unique and likable. They are honest and intense. The tightrope walker is the only non fiction part of the book. It is very interesting to read that thread of truth weaving together the fictional characters. Colum McCann is a fantastic writer and this novel is definitely one that an avid reader should not miss.

Friday, May 14, 2010

What Happened to Anna K.?

What happened to Anna K.?  By Irina Reyn     The story revolves around a community of Russian and Bukharian Jews living in the different boroughs of New York. They generally live, work and marry within their community to retain as much of their cultural traditions as possible. Anna K. is described in detail as a beautiful, artistic soul that struggles to find an ideal place in the world. She craves love, romance of an old fashioned kind and to inspire a writer to fulfill greatness. Katia, another main character is Anna's beautiful, younger cousin, also searching for love, marriage, family etc. Anna is tormented by what she believes her destiny must be and Katia, who has always idolized Anna is devastated when Anna begins a sordid relationship with her ex love. The book is interesting from a cultural viewpoint, their lives are somewhat mysterious to the typical American. The reader wants to care about Anna but her selfishness, conceit and neediness keep us from ever truly rooting for her. Katia is much more likable and the men in the story are also quite interesting to follow. Definitely different and a worthwhile read.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Mountain of Crumbs

Mountain of Crumbs  By Elena Gorokhova.  Interesting memoir of a woman that grew up in the Soviet Union during the 1970's. The author describes what everyday life is like in a cold cold Leningrad. Elena had an affinity with the English language from a young age and was determined to learn English and teach others. It seems the more english she learns, the more westernized her mind becomes and she gradually cannot find happiness in the limiting, restrictive world in which she lives. The basic elements of communism that she was taught from a young age start to seem less vital and unfair. Elena cannot grasp the benefit of the struggle of the people. She begins the search for something more in her life. Informative, honest, sweet and witty writing. Really enjoyed the journey through Elena's life.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Cutting for Stone

Cutting For Stone  By Abraham Verghese    Riveting tale of identical twin boys named Shira and Marion, growing up in Ethiopia during the 1960's. Their adoptive parents are Hema and Ghosh, two charming Indian doctors working at a Mission hospital, practicing a kind of tropical medicine that we in the United States (for all our complaining) have never seen. Their past, history and present lead them through turmoil, love, politics, friendship and deep sadness, all the while remaining just "boys" trying to find their way. Both brilliant with an unquestioned future in medicine, is what always draws them together and ultimately pulls them apart. Great characters, interesting setting and historical backdrop in both politics and medicine. Its a long book but most definitely worth the read!

Friday, April 16, 2010


Open  By Andre Agassi     Open is exactly as the title depicts. Andre Agassi, famed, successful, beloved tennis star opens his heart and soul to the world. The reader does not need to be a tennis fan to enjoy this incredible account of life as a child prodigy, early professional tennis champion. I, for one, know nothing about tennis and adored this easy to follow autobiography of Andre's life, according to Andre. As a young child growing up in Las Vegas Andre Agassi finds himself under the thumb of his demanding, perfectionist, overachieving father. He is sent away to the infamous Bollitierri Academy in Florida and drops out of school by the 9th grade, a regret he is constantly at odds with throughout the book. He goes on to have a rollercoaster career filled with emotions the public rarely gets to hear about. His friends and family support and love him but it is not easy. It is never easy, and maybe that makes you stronger but it also wears you down way too fast. His honesty is humbling and one could only imagine how exhausting putting this autobiography together must have been. Kudos to Mr. Agassi, his loving family and fans that will always remember the good old days with him.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Septembers of Shiraz

The Septembers of Shiraz   By Dalia Sofer     The Amin family waited too long. The story takes place in Iran, early 1980's. After the air was filled with angst and most families able to, arranged to leave, the Amin family chose to stay, chose to hope, that the new regime would work itself out. That the new government would be okay. Violence became imminent. Laws changed overnight and Isaac Amin, his wife Farnaz and daughter Shirin are caught between two worlds. As a wealthy jewish jeweler, Isaac is frowned upon by the government. His westernized lifestyle is condemned and he is arrested on suspicion of being a spy for Israel. The two themes of focus in this story are family and things. When your life is at risk, your family's well being, can you walk away from everything you have, everything you worked for all your life, all the "things" you think make you who you are. But what good are any of these things if you are dead? The values have to be recalculated when everything is taken but you have your loved ones. Lessons to be learned from this captivating and thoughtful story. Excellent writing, a must read.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Castaways

The Castaways   By Elin Hilderbrand   On beautiful Nantuket island, a group of friends experience a trauma that affects their lives, relationships and future. Jeffrey, Delilah, Andrea, Chief, Phoebe, Addison, Tess and Gregg. And if you can't say that 10 times fast and then include their childrens names, you may not be able to follow the story. Seriously, the story follows the lives of these 4 couples who are best friends and neighbors on this seemingly private island. Gregg and Tess, too perfect to be real, drown in a sailboat accident, a fact that is given to the reader on the book flap. As the details unravel, so do the love affairs, lies, betrayal and guilt that each friend carries after this tradegy. The characters are interesting, but there are too many. The lists of names and details is dizzying and repetitive. The setting is quaint, the issue of which couple will care for the orphaned children is interesting and the small mystery that unravels as each friend deals with their personal connection to the couple and guilt of not having prevented this accident keeps the pages turning.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Where the God of Love Hangs Out

Where the God of Love Hangs Out  By Amy Bloom.  This novel is a collaboration of short stories. (This is not explicit on the book flap) Some story lines continue for a few chapters, others do not, and none relate to each other.  They are all simple people, dealing with loved ones, living and dying, loving and hating. In one short story, a girl is waiting for her despised father to die and it is bizarrely and darkly humorous. Another storyline is a family of an interracial marriage where the step mother is attracted to the stepson in an unacceptable manner. Each one draws you in deep to those characters, the detail is great and easily imagined. The people are strange and the reader may constantly say (out loud!) what in the world was this author thinking?! And as only avid readers can understand (in a book that is not exactly lovable) the writing is excellent.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

A Prayer for the Dying

A Prayer for the Dying  By Stewart O'Nan     This work of fiction is different. Most books are written in 1st person narrative  (I went ...) or 3rd person description (he/she went ...) but this book is written in 2nd person, from the readers viewpoint. It is at first glance hard to grasp but quickly flows as the story gets started. A Prayer for the Dying is the story of Jacob. He lives in the small town of Friendship, Wisconsin after the Civil War. His jobs include undertaker, deacon and sheriff. This sleepy town has little excitement and few changes on a daily basis. A diptheria epidemic begins to spread. Decisions need to be made quickly. People are frightened, getting sick and dying within days. Jacob becomes the organizer of events to help the sick, bury the dead and decide the fate of the town. Friendships (town name could not be more appropriate) responsibility lays heavy on this one gentle being. Jacob's belief in g-d, his prayers, his beloved wife, innocent baby and deep commitment to the welfare of this town torment every ounce of his being. This story is disturbing, wonderfully written and it will take a few days to get these vivid, detailed images out of my head.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Not Becoming My Mother

Not becoming My Mother  By Ruth Reichl.   Every daughter should read this. Given the opportunity to explore a box of old letters and diary like excerpts, Ruth Reichl pieces together a new, different mother.  Ruth Reichl is an accomplished memoirist, writer, editor, cook and businesswoman. Her previous writings delve into her life from early childhood through today and are wonderfully entertaining and heartfelt. This book, a small novelette, focus's on Ruth's mother. An important, influential person in her life but one that she did not fully understand until a box of letters and diary entries are found. These writings detail for Ruth more about her mother than she ever knew and help her piece together some of the mystery that was their family and her mother's character in general. Every daughter (really, sons too!) should relate to the feeling that unexpectedly is revealed, at some point in your life, that your mother is a "person." That you are a part of her life but that her life existed before you and will after you move out on your own into adulthood. That a mother's desires, dreams, regrets and fears are real. They are not less important or life changing than your own. They need to be respected, understood, for better or for worse. The author finds this out after her mother's death. The reader may wonder what would have happened had she learned these things sooner or perhaps, take the time to learn from the experience and call your mother.

Friday, March 5, 2010

A Long Way Gone, Memoirs of Boy Soldier

A Long Way Gone, Memoirs of a Boy Soldier   By Ishmael Beah     Ishmael Beah was born in Sierra Leone in 1980. In 1993 at the age of 12 Ishmaels village was destroyed by rebel forces. The rebels claimed they were providing freedom from the corrupt government. In actuality they were stealing the country from the people and not helping anyone but themselves. Not knowing if his family was alive or where to find them if they were, Ishmael sets off on a journey with a few friends through the forests of Africa to find a safe haven and perhaps news of his family. The rebels rape, loot, kill and destroy everything and everyone in their path. Ishamel and his fellow travelers barely survive this brutal journey scavenging for food, rest and safety. Walking for days through all types of weather day and night. Finally Ishmael  finds a seemingly safe village where he is recruited into the government army to fight the rebels. He is quickly turned into a boy soldier who becomes a fearless, drug addicted killer. Ishmaels maturity, strength, will to survive and deep emotions regarding right and wrong are extraordinary. He joins the fight avenging the deaths of those he loved but winds up in similar shoes as those of the rebels. This memoir is riveting, an easy read and quick lesson in the history of politics in this area of the world. This is not just an anonymous news clip that one views on t.v. This is a boy, innocent and happy whose childhood is stolen, his family taken away. This is not long ago and it continues today. We must force ourselves to pay attention, help in any way possible and to teach our children that the world can be made a much better place. We cannot look the other way.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Olive Kitteridge

Olive Kitteridge   By Elizabeth Strout.    Crosby, Maine is a small quiet town on the coast. Hilly lanes, crashing waves and sea breezes make this an idyllic setting where all the characters know each other in some way. Olive is a school teacher for more than thirty years. She is loved and feared, mostly feared. Each chapter is its own little short story that connects to Olive. Sometimes in a big way and sometimes a very small connection. Olive is married to Henry, described as a kindhearted, extremely lovable character. Olive is difficult to say the least. She has a generous heart but would probably be described as an angry depressive. She flip flops with real emotions of love and sentimentality for the past, to pure bitterness with just about anyone who crosses her path. Olive is hard to like yet the authors writing is so compelling it carries the reader through the pages easily. Not much happens in this small town except for the everyday occurrences of life. Sometimes they are huge, death, divorce, affairs. Some of the lives carry on just wishing they could have more, thinking simplicity is missing life altogether. All the connections have one raw element in common and it is none other than human loneliness. Olive Kitteridge is a quiet story, not a blockbuster. It is both sad and reflective and reminded me very much of my husbands grandmother Lily. Once a reader has put a face and image to a story, it is hard to resist.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The 19th Wife

The 19th Wife  By David Ebershoff      This novel is historical fiction at its best. Ann Eliza Webb Young is the 19th wife of the infamous Bringham Young. In 1874 she leaves him. She writes a memoir and travels America lecturing to enlighten people on how polygamy is destroying the Mormons, destroying women and children and should be against the law in the United States. In The 19th Wife the author intertwines this history (reaching to the very beginning of the Mormons in the early 1800's) and a modern day polygamist murder that has taken place in a small desert town. Jordan Scott is a young twentysomething man that was excommunicated from the Firsts religious group as a teenager. He thought he would never see his family again, but returns when his father is murdered and mother is in jail for the crime. Jordan is determined to find the truth in this drama that unfolds before his very eyes. Jordan is a very likeable character which makes the reading wonderful. Ann Eliza is described in such detail that her voice could be heard. The 19th Wife is a unique blend of ethics, intrigue, relationships, gender identity, love and religion. Are people free to live how they choose and who gets to decide. A book I could not put down and it is neither light nor quick. The only advice I should dispense is that this is fiction based on pieces of history. It is a little confusing at times, just keep reading and do your googling later. Enjoy the ride back in time.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The School of Essential Ingredients

The School of Essential Ingredients  By Erica Bauermeister    A perfect book to have read on Valentines Day. Filled with delicious food, wine, friendship and romance. In essence it is a story about enjoying the moment. Enjoying life every precious day, slowly, not rushing about and missing the finer points. Lillian, the owner of the restaurant, learns to cook at an early age. The author gently touches on her difficult childhood which led her to become a chef. She has a cooking class where a rather odd mix of characters joins her every Monday evening for lessons. Interestingly, there are no recipes, no notes to be taken. It is purely to be absorbed, enjoyed, felt and relished. This story is an uplifting, simple tale of different lives that have come together and if nothing else you should relax and enjoy every single page, slowly.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The House at Sugar Beach

The House at Sugar Beach  By Helene Cooper.   Helene grew up in Liberia, Africa. Her family are descendants of Free black Americans that came to Liberia in the 1820's to start a new American colony apart from the horrendous slave trade that was still a strong force. Her family and others like them were known as Congo and the native Liberians were called Country. The Congo became the elite. They were educated and continued to prosper for over 150 years. Helene went to a private American school and lived in a mansion on the beach, Sugar Beach. She has an adopted sister Eunice, brought into the family to keep her company and another younger sister, Marlene. Her life seems idyllic as a child rarely sees the politics surrounding their little world. In 1980 it begins to fall apart. She is 14 years old, just becoming a woman. The Country people rebel and take over the government, raping, executing and looting Monrovia. Helene's family is lucky enough to escape and travel to America. Sadly, Eunice is left behind. For no reason other than that is what people did. She went back to her village. 23 years later, Helene as a successful reporter returns to Liberia for the first time, to find her childhood and the memories she has tried so hard to leave behind. This memoir is written from the heart, it is truthful, painful, happy and sad. Ms. Cooper shares her life with the reader and gives us a moment to appreciate the land we are born to and family we have.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


Lit  By Mary Karr. Her third memoir, this book portrays the later years of Mary Karr's life. In detail she describes to her reader a childhood full of fear and isolation. Her adulthood leaned immediately toward the center of destruction. As her mother finally finds sobriety, she takes her place in a dangerous world of alcoholism (says the universe can only handle one drunk Karr at a time). Ms. Karr's memoir is real and honest and scary. She doesn't hold back at all to make a picture that is remotely pretty or happy. When she later is sober she searches for religion, god and some faith to hold onto. Ms. Karr's memoir is at times funny (believe it or not) her excellent writing is poetic and unique and her path is one that is taken everyday by many. It can be a depressing read as are most that deal with drugs,  alcohol and abuse. She and her sister (seemingly her one and only rock and bright light through her life, bless her) set out to find normalcy, forgiveness and still deeply love their mother and father. While this can be a hard read, mystifying for some, too close to home for others, some books need to be read.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Good Things I Wish You

Good Things I Wish You.  By A. Manette Ansay. 

From Johannes to Clara in 1856: " I wish I could write you as tenderly as I love you and tell you all the good things that I wish for you. You are so infinitely dear to me, dearer than I can say....."

Award winning novelist Manette Ansay's latest book is a story about Jeanette Hochman, a 40 year old, divorced woman raising a child in South Florida. She is just edging herself back into the world of dating via a dating service. Jeanette meets Hart, a German born entrepreneur who helps her with some translating and begins a mostly platonic friendship that she is not always confident will work. She has been researching for years the infamous love triangle between musician Clara Schumann, her husband, composer Robert Schumann and his protege Johannes Brahms. The story flips between present day Miami and 19th century Germany. There is deep love involved, child parent relationships and friendships that are struggling to survive. An intriguing subject and unqiue style of writing make this a terrific read! To grasp some of the detail better, a little google search is helpful, and set the scene by putting on a little piano music while reading!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The French Gardener

The French Gardener. By Santa Montefiore.  Miranda and David Claybourne are an upper class English couple with two young children that live in the countryside not far from London. The "rat race" in London was bringing them down and for the benefit of their children and peace of mind they settled on a magnificent estate in the country. While David continued to work in London, Miranda began to fall in love with the country, the estate, the gardens and the gardener. She hired Jean Paul to bring the decayed garden back to its original beauty that everyone in the village spoke about. Miranda, a girl who never got her hands dirty and had a nanny raising her children, completely dove into this new life and began to drift further away from her marriage. David was having an affair in London and miserably coming home on the weekends. Things were not good for the Claybournes relationship. But just when it seemed impossible to repair, Jean Paul teaches Miranda about true love, magic, beauty and guides her back to her family to rebuild their happiness. Jean Paul holds mysteries of the past. The past gardens, and his past and only love of his life, Ava. As Miranda figures out his mystery, she reveals the truth about herself and in the process helps Jean Paul discover an end to his torment as well. A romantic novel if ever I read one. Enjoyed every minute I spent in "la la" land!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

I Was Amelia Earhart

I Was Amelia Earhart  By Jane Mendelsohn. A novel about Amelia Earhart, aviatrix, heroine and one of a kind character. This story finds Amelia and her navigator Noonan at a time just prior to their second around the world attempt in 1937. It portrays her brittle relationship with her husband G.P.,  and her tumultuous love/hate relationship with Noonan. Most importantly it describes, in breathtaking prose, her love of flying, and her love of the sky itself. I Was Amelia Earhart is a completely fictionalized story about what could have, might have happened if she and Noonan landed on a deserted island. It was this windy journey that Amelia took and was never seen or heard from again. In itself a mystery there have been multiple theories about where she could have crashed or landed on that fateful day. There are many writings about her life and her travels by herself and others that have traced her piloting career. This story was a pleasure to read and I thoroughly enjoyed envisioning these characters surviving on a tiny island in the middle of the Pacific. If you are in the mood for a love story and have a vivd imagination, don't miss out on this little treasure.

Sunday, January 17, 2010


Push  By Sapphire. This story is a necessary evil. It is hard to read. The spelling is written as it sounds, composed predominantly of slang and bitterness. Push is sad, it is scary, it can be depressing. PUSH MUST BE READ. It is life. It is a portrait of hard life taking place throughout inner cities across the country. Push details poverty, abuse, childhood stolen but Push is real. Push exists and people cannot pretend that it does not. It is not about color. It is about what is right and what is wrong and these very basic rights to life are not hard to figure out. Push is the story of Precious Jones. She is raised in Harlem. Precious is abused, misguided and almost forgotten but Precious has a big heart. Precious meets a teacher with a tremendous amount of patience and love to share. Precious somehow finds a tiny tiny escape route from her horrendous life. And slowly she sees the world. Slowly she attains the only thing she can afford, HOPE.

Friday, January 15, 2010

East of the Sun

East of the Sun By Julia Gregson. In the late 1920's, many English girls searching for husbands (before they are considered spinsters at the ripe old age of 19!) travel to India where the English men outnumber the women and are considered a worthy catch! (these girls are called the Fishing Fleet!)  East of the Sun features Rose, beautiful, sweet and about to marry said English man, Tor, her life long friend accompanying her for the wedding, Viva, their chaperone, (not much older than them) searching for clues about her childhood and deceased family and the unlikely shipmate Guy Glover, an extremely troubled teenager that Viva is also chaperoning to see his parents in India. The ship drama is enticing and only the beginning of their journey through their growing friendships, romances and mishaps. Their life over the next year in India is detailed, sordid and colorful. I loved the characters and the way the story completely immerses the reader in that time period. I have always had an affinity for India and English novels so this was a great mix for me. It is a long read (almost 600) but I truly enjoyed every moment.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Half Broke Horses

Half Broke Horses, By Jeannette Walls. Ms. Walls has done it again. Her words have taken the reader to another time, another place. Inside the minds and hearts of her characters. The book had originally set out to be about her mother (the infamous Rosemary in The Glass Castle) but after extensive research and storytelling within the family she wrote the book about the life of her grandmother Lily Casey Smith. It is the early 1900's in the Southwest United States. Lily lives on a ranch, they raise horses and cattle. Life is hard work just to survive. People don't wonder if they are happy. Except Lily does. She is one of those women that even at a time in America where women had little say, she had a big voice and presence. She went to college, learned to fly, was a horsewoman and trainer. There was very little she couldn't do and she always gave her best. Lily is a funny, sarcastic, honest and intelligent woman and it was exciting to follow her through her years growing up, getting married and then raising her family. A little like (A Land Remembered, by Patrick Smith), a bit like Little House on the Prairie. All the things we take for granted and luxuries we think we could not do without were rare commodities. But love, faith and hope kept Lily and her family going. Enlightening also to understand where and how Rosemary grew up and what subsequently became The Glass Castle story. A worthwhile and easy read that I really enjoyed.