Sunday, December 30, 2012

These is My Words

These is My Words By Nancy E. Turner     The Prine family is traveling west on a wagon train in the Arizona Territories in 1881. Life is hard. They work day and night to merely survive, they struggle to eat, sleep and stay safe and healthy. Sarah is a young girl that begins to keep a journal practicing the bit of reading and writing that her papa taught her and most girls/women have not learned. She is tough and smart and brave and the reader is enamored with Sarah immediately. As she grows up begins the saga of her life, her deep romantic love with Captain Elliot and the family she raises. This book is Little House on the Prairie for adults, it is a time that is both hard to imagine, yet not that long ago. The characters are wonderful and remain with the reader long after the book is over. Could not put this one down. Enjoy!!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Almost Single

Almost Single By Advaita Kala     Aisha is a 30 yr old woman living in New Delhi and working as a  guest relations manager in an upscale hotel. She and her two girlfriends are too "old" by India standards to still be single and they try in every way possible to overcome this circumstance. Call it Sex and The City in New Delhi, Aisha is definitely Carrie, loving her friends and freedom, getting herself into ridiculous situations and always landing on her pedicured feet. This is a light, fun read and I thoroughly enjoyed this break from reality.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie  By Ayana Mathis    Hattie Shepherd moves with her family from Georgia to Philadelphia during the 1920's. They immediately encounter a new world where they can hold their heads high and walk on the sidewalk past a white person without stepping into the street. But life is not so easy for Hattie, although beautiful and smart Hattie marries August who becomes the great love and the disappointment of her life. She has many children, struggles through their illnesses, poverty and August's constant philandering yet her will to survive is as strong as her intense sadness. This novel is almost like 12 short stories connected through Hattie. The characters are intense and the writing is extraordinary leaving the reader to imagine every detail. The only downside is the inexplicable sadness of Hattie, that is so strong it has a life of its own. The glimpse of mental illness is heartbreaking and appears hereditary throughout this powerful novel. There is no doubt that the characters will linger in your heart and imagination long after the last page. Highly recommend this authors first novel.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Sweet Life in Paris

The Sweet Life in Paris By David Lebovitz      Sweet memoir of this pastry chef/authors life changing move from San Francisco to Paris. This funny, witty, honest story details the ins and outs of what day to day life feels like in Paris for an American. David is both an outsider and insider when it comes to his foodability. He loves everything french and everything that is delicious. He learns you can definitely win them over with kindness, if not awesome brownies and ice cream! This glimpse into the authors daily life is very entertaining and a delicious read, recipes included!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Secret Daughter

Secret Daughter By Shilpi Somaya Gowda     A couple in a small village in India cannot afford to raise their baby girl, the father, as is customary, longs only for a son. Krishnan and Somer, two doctors in America try and try to have a child but to no avail, Somer continues to miscarry. These lives cross paths over and over again. This novel speaks of love, marriage, family, loyalty and hope. It is a simple, almost predictable story but the author creates these intense, loveable characters and touches on the most common threads of humanity that we all face, every day. While reading this story the tastes, sights and sounds of India come alive and days after finishing, these characters remain in my thoughts. This is a most enjoyable read and it is highly recommended!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Paris A Love Story

Paris A Love Story By Kati Marton   This memoir reflects the life of Kati Marton, journalist, novelist, mother, daughter and wife. She has lived an exciting life as she traveled the world, spoke multiple languages and was married to both Peter Jennings, renowned newsanchor and Richard Holbrooke, beloved American diplomat. All of this, combined with living in the romantic exciting city of Paris (at multiple times in her life) would have seemed a perfect read except; the author has used this memoir as her therapy after the devastating loss of her second husband Richard Holbrooke and it its thoroughly depressing. In addition, it is equally sad that Ms. Marton who is no doubt extremely successful and accomplished in every way, contemplates the majority of her choices through her relationships with these famous and complicated men in her life. Maybe this is more common than not but I was uninspired by this story.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Baker's Wife

The Baker's Wife  By Erin Healy      Audrey senses peoples emotions. She can feel their pain, their illness and their sadness. It is random and when Audrey deciphers whose feelings she is emulating, she aims to help them, to soothe them and share their pain. When she does, hers subsides as well. Audreys family life is in turmoil. Her husband has lost his job as pastor and they are struggling to start a new business, a bakery. Their teenage son has troubles of his own and then there is a mysterious accident and Audrey has to use her faith and intuition to save the people she loves. This unique story captured my imagination with many twists and turns. I really enjoyed this mystery filled with the power of the mind and the heart. Highly recommend this intriguing read.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Mrs. Queen Takes the Train

Mrs. Queen Takes the Train  By William Kuhn       The Queen of England is feeling a little blue. She decides to venture on her own (unheard of!) and visit a place she has found much happiness over the years. The Brittania was a yacht the royal family vacationed and traveled on until it was docked and made into a tourist attraction in recent years. This very British work of fiction both sympathizes with and somewhat makes of fun of the inner workings of the monarchy. The Queens adventure includes a most eclectic group of characters that normally revolve around her daily life and find themselves in a secret search for her whereabouts before the M15 secret service needs to get involved. This light, humorous novel humanizes the monarchy and the people who keep it in the peoples favor, an ongoing and difficult job. If you enjoy British writing (think The Uncommon Reader By Alan Bennett), and the monarchy, don't miss this most enjoyable read!

Friday, November 16, 2012


Astray By Emma Donoghue   After loving the novel "Room" last year (if you haven't read it, a must!) I decided to try a new collection of short stories by Ms. Donoghue. These short stories were various types of people in the midst of traveling, to find gold, a new home, the truth or peace at the end of life. These stories varied throughout history from the mid 1600's to 1960's. Short stories are tough for me personally because just when I am getting involved, it ends. I loved that following each story Ms. Donoghue briefly details the source of the story and at the very end of the book, surmises the entire account. An excellent collection and easy to read. If you enjoy historical fiction and short stories, this one is for you!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Gone Girl

Gone Girl  By Gillian Flynn  Amazing Amy is amazing; a clever beautiful, sophisticated girl, madly in love with Nick. They marry and are the ideal New York couple. Young, eager, happy and having the time of their life. Until they are not. Their lives change dramatically when they move back to Nicks small home town. Their lives unravel even more rapidly when one day, the day of Nick and Amy's 5th wedding anniversary, Amy is missing. And then their story really begins. This novel is told from 2 points of view. One chapter Amy, the next Nick. It is truly amazing how two people can see one story in two totally different ways. I rarely read mysteries of any sort. I could not put this one down. A must read.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao  By Junot Diaz    Oscar Wao is a teenager growing up in Paterson New Jersey with his outrageous, beautiful, intelligent sister, his completely off the wall but hard working intermittently very ill mother and again out of jail tio (uncle). Oscar is obese, science fiction obsessed, extremely girl crazy, brilliant writer and wordsmith. This family is originally from the Dominican Republic of which the past history, superstitions and cultures remain a stronghold within them all, whether they like it or not. The Brief Wondrous Life takes the reader on a journey backwards and forwards in Oscars life. Back to his ancestors tortured by Trujillo and his present search for acceptance, friendship, sex and love. Oscar is unquestionably a remarkable and likeable character. This author is no doubt full of talent, humor and a prose all his own. I enjoyed the DR history and spanglish very much but this story is at times hard to follow. It is not newly published but something I always wanted to read and although at times I was pushing myself to continue, there is no doubt I will read other works by this author and for me, that is the point.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Some Girls Some Hats and Hitler

Some Girls Some Hats and Hitler  By Trudi Kanter      A beautiful, poetic memoir of a young gorgeous woman living in Vienna in 1938. Trudi is a stylish, sharp hat designer with her own successful boutique. She is in love with Walter and her intelligent, kind parents live nearby. They live an exciting yet simple life in a lively city that is filled with art and culture and romance. Through the eyes of this young woman we read of the destruction of this life, of this city and all Trudi knows and loves as Vienna is taken over by the Germans. The people of Vienna lose their freedom and livelihoods very quickly. Fear is instilled seemingly overnight. But Trudi is not in denial and she quickly uses her wit, her charm and her instincts to guide her family out of their beloved city. This is a unique memoir of a time when Trudi is recalling not only the terror but the details of her young life, love and passions. Trudi is amazed people are still wearing hats at a time such as this.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Tea Rose

The Tea Rose  By Jennifer Donnelly     In the year 1888 Fiona Finnegan is 18 years old. She and her family live in Whitechapel, a town in the east end of London. Their lives are not easy, they struggle to make ends meet and sometimes don't have enough to eat, but their home is filled with love, support and dreams. Joe Bristow, Fiona's childhood sweetheart holds their tin that is filled with all their savings and all their hopes to someday have their very own shop. What sounds like a most simple story develops into a lengthy tale of love, trust, mystery, friendship and lots of tea. The reader holds on to the characters, both loveable and adventurous as it twists and turns through a decade of their lives. Although by the end the story is mostly predictable, the writing is easy and enjoyable and I highly recommend this novel. Note: It is lengthy, start when you have an ample amount of time!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Seating Arrangements

Seating Arrangements By Maggie Shipstead      A wedding weekend meticulously planned by the Van Meter family. No detail left unattended. But this is no ordinary wedding. Daphne and Greyson are to be married on the small vacation island of Waskeke. The one hitch of this perfect hitch is the rush before the baby is born. Daphne is pregnant. And in this world of perfect table settings and lots of cocktails her saving grace is that they are a perfect match and very much in love. The chaos that ensues around the happy couple are predictable and hilarious with the island celebration  bringing the two families together. Throw in some beautiful bridesmaids, a father of the bride who openly lusts one of them, a groom with three brothers and a whale found dead on the beach and there is quite a party weekend to be had by all. Highly recommend this light, funny, easy read about social ladders, weddings and family. This author is terrific at character building. You feel like you know them from somewhere, maybe you do?

Sunday, October 7, 2012

In the Shadow of the Banyan

In the Shadow of the Banyan  By Vaddey Ratner    Raami is a 7 year old girl in 1975, when the Khmer Rouge revolted and took over Cambodia. The uprisings, massacres, violence, and starvation were ongoing for four years. Raami's family was torn apart. They lost everything, everyone and every way of life as they knew it. They had been a peaceful, spiritual, loving family and its these memories that keep Raami alive, believing and even when all odds are against her survival, holding on to a bit of hope. This novel, based on the authors own life history is moving and honest in ways very few people can describe. I was both on the edge of my seat wondering what the outcome would be and in tears as Raami has to accept things most adults, let alone a small child could endure. This novel and the writing are stupendous. I have learned and loved these characters and their story will always be in my heart.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Paris in Love

Paris in Love  By Eloisa James     This memoir is the year Eloisa James, her husband Allesandro and 2 children stopped "merely existing" in a suburb of New Jersey, by taking a sabbatical and moving to Paris for one year of French living in one of the most exciting cities in the world. It is written almost as a diary, partially a blog as it occurred and I could not put it down. Paris in Love is a witty, loving, honest, funny, charming and delicious (oh, the foods they eat!!) adventure! Ms. James continues to write (when she is not eating at a scrumptious cafe), she explores the most unique museums large and small, and takes care of her family, all while learning the most important lesson of life, to LIVE it!! I give her an A+.

Friday, September 28, 2012

The People of Forever are Not Afraid

The People of Forever are Not Afraid By Shani Boianjiu    Three Israeli women growing up in a small dusty town in Israel become of age to do their service in the Israeli army. This novel follows them through their posts and affairs for the next few years and a few past army service. This story had interesting characters and excellent writing but it was very hard to follow. Extremely confusing. Time jumps forward and back so often it is hard to know when the episode is taking place and just as mysterious as to whom it is focusing on. The girls are brash and have absolutely no drive or goals. I was very much looking forward to a more realistic episode of time spent in the army from a women's point of view. I found this story so bizarre and highly unrealistic. I was disappointed but am hopeful this author will continue to write and learn to focus more because the words and wit are most surely within her.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Dreaming in English

Dreaming in English By Laura Fitzgerald 
Ike and Tami, young, newly married and very much in love. Their world is complicated, Tami, visiting from Iran, needs her residency status to stay in America. Ike's parents are against this rushed, seemingly fixed marriage of convenience and Tami's former matches are angry she hasn't chosen them. This beautiful story is about love, friendship, family and freedom. It focuses on the many difficult issues of cultures clashing and fitting family traditions into modern day lifestyles. Most importantly the challenge of understanding the gift of freedom by birth and helping others that are striving to attain it. This novel is a continuation of Veil of Roses, which introduced us to these beautiful characters. You do not have to read it to enjoy Dreaming in English but why wouldn't you???!!!! Both excellent, enjoy and happy reading!!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Beautiful Ruins

Beautiful Ruins By Jess Walter    Dee is an up and coming actress in 1962, small town girl with her first big break, a minor role in Cleopatra, starring Liz Taylor and Richard Burton being filmed in Italy. Michael Deane is the crazed producer that will do anything to get the job done, Pasquale is a good looking, young, Italian man from a small coastal town that befriends Dee and is sucked up into the drama that is Hollywood. These are just a few of the characters that flash throughout the pages of this novel of love, friendship and betrayal. Flashing between 1962 to the present the reader is not always certain who is being described or when its taking place. The writing is excellent and there is that special something that makes one continue onto the next chapter. Unfortunately, it also contains that rush to the finish to summarize all that has happened (in a long story) into one tidy ending and perhaps leaves the reader wondering if it even really matters since none of the characters are very likeable to begin with. Not a bad read but hard to recommend.

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Age of Miracles

The Age of Miracles By Karen Thompson Walker    To a sixth grade girl, the world and its inhabitants (especially boys) are already a mystery. When the earth begins to slow, the days get longer, the nights get colder. At first its by minutes, then days, then weeks. Light and dark take on new meaning. Eating, sleeping, our most basic functions. This story is told by Julia, an only child living with her parents in Southern California when the slowing begins. People do not function well off the clock but real time becomes impossible as the days stretch and scientists argue over cause, effect and the future of our planet. The government tries to keep order, how quickly chaos can begin. How quickly people, once neighbors, once friends can turn on each other. Survival is a tricky thing. The story is narrated by Julia, and she is still just a 12 year old waiting for Seth, her crush, to speak to her at the bus stop. This incredibly unique, well told story was an amazing read. It is almost unimaginable that this is Ms. Walkers first novel, WOW! Highly recommend.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Defending Jacob

Defending Jacob By William Landay   Andy Barber is the Assistant DA in a suburb of Boston.  He has just taken on the murder case of a teenager in his small town. Near his home, near his sons school. Shockingly, the evidence mounts against his own teenage son, Jacob. He and his wife Laurie turn their lives upside down to protect their son, defend Jacobs case and save their family. This is a suspenseful thriller that cannot be put down. It twists and turns with every chapter. The characters are surprisingly real and likeable. Highly recommend this read, excellent murder mystery (and I hardly EVER read mysteries!)

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry By Rachel Joyce   Harold Fry is a common man. A man that has lived his life hiding from love and happiness. One day he receives a letter from a co-worker some twenty years past. She was a friend, Queenie Henessey, that he never said a proper goodbye to and now she was dying of cancer. As Harold walks to the mailbox in his small English town, he hesitates before putting the letter in the mailbox. It is at that moment he decides to save his friend and bring her hope. He starts the long journey of walking across England to see Queenie and implores her to wait! Harold's pilgrimage shocks his wife and wins the heart of every person he shares his story with along the way. His story becomes bigger than himself and so begins Harold's personal journey into his memories and his future. Rachel Joyce is a beautiful writer. This novel is recommended if you desire a slow gaze into a simple truthful sad heart.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Left Neglected. By Lisa Genova  Sarah Nickerson is a mother of three small children and lives in a suburb of Boston. She and her husband Bob both have stressful power positions with big companies. They  juggle and multitask the day away, never a moment to spare (or enjoy) because there are just not enough hours in the day. This all seems commonplace, until Sarah is in a horrible car accident. She sustains traumatic head injury to the right part of her brain and a syndrome called Left Neglect. Sarahs life will never be exactly the same again but for every tough physical stride she makes, her life lessons trail right along with her. Sarah begins to realize that less can be more and time really is money but most importantly to celebrate how lucky she is instead of focusing on the struggle. Like the fabulous book, Still Alice, author Lisa Genova, once again brings these characters straight into our hearts where they will most likely remain long after the last page is read. Highly recommend this interesting, warm, heartfelt account of this startling syndrome.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Romance Reader

The Romance Reader By Pearl Abraham   This novel is told by Rachel Benjamin. It is the mid 1970's. She is one of seven children growing up just outside NYC in a chassidic family. She is the eldest, the most rebellious and most curious. She loves her family dearly and shares all her dreams with her sister Leah. But Rachel admits "This is why people shouldn't read." She and Leah read voraciously. They steal, borrow and secretly obtain a library card. They live in worlds outside of their own through these books. In their community this is not allowed. They are not to read English books and admire the lives of non Jews. But they do. And as Rachel approaches 17, the age where girls are matched and married off to start their own families, she questions everything she is intended to be and loses herself in the process. These feisty spirited girls are enjoyable characters and this novel is a pleasure to read. The girls remain in the readers mind long after the book ends. Highly recommend.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Hologram for the King

A Hologram for the King     By Dave Eggers      This novel is the story of Alan Clay. In his mid fifties, a has been as far as his career as sales/consultant is concerned and continuously depressed. He has one last chance, an opportunity to travel with a small IT team to Saudia Arabia and attempt to get the contract for the telecommunications in a new city being built by King Abdullah. It is a very simple quiet story of a man who is lost at mid life. There is a small desire and chance he can climb his way back to self satisfaction and pay back his many debts both financially and emotionally. There is another part of Alan that seems ready to give up completely. Life in Saudi Arabia and the characters he meets there are unique in every respect. The writing is excellent. It is easy to visualize each detail of Alans often bumbled adventures. I cannot say it was a life changing read but I thoroughly enjoyed this writer and would definitely recommend this novel.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Hypnotist's Love Story

The Hypnotist's Love Story By Liane Moriarty     Ellen is a hypnotherapist that runs a small successful practice out of the beachfront cottage she inherited from her beloved grandparents. She is in her mid thirties and has been through the gamut of unsatisfying romantic relationships. When Ellen meets Patrick her entire life changes. He is a widow with a beautiful, 8 yr old son named Jack and wants all the same things that Ellen is searching for. Except for one rather large detail, Patrick is being stalked by his ex-girlfriend for the last 3 years. And now she is onto them! Ellen is a likeable character, the authors Austrailian word choice is both smooth and witty. The hypnotist details are extremely interesting as is the look at the stalkers side of the story. For as crazy as she seems, it doesn't appear far fetched or even fair. This contemporary love story/mild thriller is a good, easy, enjoyable read that I highly recommend.

Monday, August 6, 2012

The After Wife

The After Wife  By Gigi Levangie Grazer     I am still laughing and smiling from this delightful book that I didn't think I would read and was sure I would not enjoy. HOW WRONG I WAS!! Hannah and John live in Santa Monica CA. They live a romantic, idyllic life with a beautiful 3 yr old daughter. They have unique careers and a cast of bizarre friends and neighbors. Sadly, after four blissful years, Hannah finds herself a widow, alone, grief stricken and unemployed as a single mother. Her Grief Team, as she calls them, try to help Hannah get back on her feet and on with her life. As another twist Hannah begins to communicate with the deceased. This author takes a look at a sad situation and although there is real compassion for her characters, the story is a satire of LA life, an exaggeration (I hope!?#) of the women who live in NOMO (North of Montana) their crazy lifestyles and values that start and finish with a good latte. Easy fun read, could not put down, perfect for the beach!


Gold By Chris Cleave   Tom has coached Zoe and Kate since they were 19, in world class indoor cycling. The girls are like daughters to him. They race and train in London. Now at 32 years old, the excitement is growing as the 2012 London Olympics approach. Zoe and Kate are like sisters and they are tough competitors as well. They are similar in their love and passion for cycling and complete opposites in matters of the heart. Jack, also an Olympic cyclist, is married to Kate and they have a child named Sophie. The friendship, love, loyalty and trust that these five characters share bring this Olympic story to life. If you liked Little Bee, you will also enjoy Gold as Chris Cleave again brings a quirky cast into your imagination with excellent writing, wit and passion.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Summer and the City

Summer and the City  By Candace Bushnell     Sequel to The Carrie Diaries and Prequel to Sex and The City, another adorable, light funny read starring our beloved Carrie Bradshaw living out her dream summer in NYC. The story illustrates how she meets Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte and grows her passion and desire to become a successful writer living in New York. It is hard to read without picturing Sarah Jessica as a teenager bumbling around NY in her vintage clothes and bouncy curls. This is a perfect beach read, light funny and enjoyable. I don't know if I just like pretending its 1984 or I truly just miss my all time favorite series but this one is a must for my fellow SATC fans!! (If you haven't read The Carrie Diaries, read that one first!) BTW, the CW channel is currently working on The Carrie Diaries series for tv. Hmmmm not sure about that one ....

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs  By Walter Isaacson    Biography of Steve Jobs and Apple Inc. Steve Jobs was adopted at a very young age to a kind, hardworking, honest couple who desperately wanted a child. They were wonderful parents and Steve had an idyllic childhood, but the idea of abandonment stuck with Jobs and became his life long thorn in his side, either by choice, by excuse or a biological connection that cannot be severed. His journey was a search for purity, artistry, control, enlightenment and invention but never really happiness. He desperately wanted to contribute to and change the world with computers. Jobs was known to be cruel and incredibly difficult to work with and for but he continued to get products made that ultimately did change the entire industry. He was more artist and inventor than scientist or engineer but highly regarded both fields. Jobs expected nothing less than perfection from everyone in his life, both at work and at home. This biography was well organized, easy to read and filled with interesting characters and in depth explanations of the entire field. For anyone interested in business, technology and our recent history of both, its a must read. There are many lessons to be learned.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Veil of Roses

Veil of Roses By Laura Fitzgerald    Tami has always dreamed of freedom. She is 27 and living in Tehran with her parents teaching at a religious girls school. As the restrictions feel tighter and tighter and marriage is imminent, Tami falls into a depression. Her parents last hope is a 3 month visa they have miraculously obtained for Tami to visit her married sister in the U.S. Tami has 3 months to find a suitable husband which would allow her to remain in America. This story brings to life the very issues displayed daily on the nightly news. The younger educated generation is desperately seeking freedom, equality and democracy in their homelands. The characters are likeable and this is an easy summer read that should not be missed. Something as simple as reading a book, is a freedom some humans do not have.

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Kitchen House

The Kitchen House By Kathleen Grissom   One of the best historical fiction novels I have read in a long time. Lavinia is a young Irish girl on a ship in the late 1700's on her way to America. Her parents do not survive the journey and she finds herself as an indentured servant to the very kind captain of the ship. Back at his plantation she is torn between her caregivers, the slaves whom she works besides, and her easy acceptance to the big house, because her skin is white. "Abinia" as they pronounce her name, is later taken to a relative of the captain in Williamsburg where she is educated and grows into a refined young woman but she dreams of going back to her family that raised her.  When she finally makes it back she cannot tolerate the slavery she now understands and fights to change these sad circumstances and be with her family. This story is filled with love, friendship, family, loyalty and history. A great summer read. Well written, easy and finally, a book I could not put down!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Definitely Not Mr. Darcy

Definitely Not Mr. Darcy  By Karen Doornebos  Modern twist on a Jane Austen romance. A modern day girl from Chicago named Chloe is chosen to be in a tv production she believes will be a documentary where the characters live for three weeks in 1812. The winner walks away with $100,000. Chloe is a huge Jane Austen fanatic but when arriving at the set in Englands glorious countryside she learns this is a love match reality show. Chloe puts her best foot forward for the money and the man in perfect 1812 style. Adorable, funny, romantic, easy read. Perfect for a sparkling summer day!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Unexpected Son

The Unexpected Son  By Shobhan Bantwal    Vinita is an extremely intelligent polite behaved girl attending college in her home town in India. For the very first time in her life she breaks the rules and changes her life and her families destiny forever. Thirty years later Vinita receives a letter at her quiet home in New Jersey and all of her secrets and misgivings come back to turn her life upside down. Vinita is a strong, independent woman and a most likeable character. The novel takes place in a colorful town where the sights and sounds and smells come to life as the authors beautiful descriptions take us on a faraway journey. Highly recommend this excellent read.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Fifty Shades Freed

Fifty Shades Freed By EL James   The delicious romantic erotic saga with Ana and Christian continues. So that this review is not a spoiler I will cut to the chase. I surprised myself by loving all three books. They were enjoyable and different. I loved the characters and do not think there can ever be a movie as exciting and detailed as these stories. I thought I would be upset when they were over and saved #3 for months! It was just as good as the others but even with all the criticisms I heard regarding this author I thought she brought closure to the story. Number Three was enough for that saga and storyline and I can only hope she puts out some more books in the future. I think a new genre for a certain demographic has been tapped and all the haters do not have to partake if they need to weigh the literary skills against pure enjoyment. If you haven't ventured there yet, start with #1 and give it a try. Great summer reads, all three.

Thursday, June 28, 2012


Wild By Cheryl Strayed   This memoir is the journey of a young women who is sad and lost and finds herself in her mid twenties on an adventure of a lifetime. After losing her mother to a horrible battle with cancer, Cheryl finds has a series of bad relationships, menial jobs and city after city she is still unhappy. She stumbles quite by chance upon a book detailing the hikes of the infamous PCT, Pacific Crest Trail. Having never been much of a hiker Cheryl finds herself drawn to this idea and challenge. She decides to set her goals and hike the majority of the trail. She prepares herself to journey this solo hike starting near Mexico through to Oregon. This honest account of this often dangerous and always difficult adventure is an interesting and intense read. She finds out more about herself and her life than she ever imagined. Cheryl reaches to the very deepest parts of herself and her determination to begin again. Highly recommend this read, hiker or not, its enjoyable, easy and a great summer get away.

Thursday, June 21, 2012


Unorthodox By Deborah Feldman    This fascinating, heartfelt memoir is written by a young woman who grew up in a Satmar community in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY.  It is an ultra ashkenazi hasidic community that is a small, private, Jewish group living by very strict religious laws. They speak Yiddish, separate men and women completely and educate by their own guidelines. Deborah is raised by her grandparents, who have her live by their unbending rules but love her and want the best life they feel they can give her. From a very young age this intelligent, independent girl can only wonder what life would be like outside of Williamsburg. She sneaks books from the public library. Reads and writes in English and dreams of a bigger, fuller life. Deborah is later married to a stranger set by a matchmaker at 17 yrs old. This is the beginning of a new life and the end of another. This memoir is an enjoyable, easy, must read. Are we the people we are told to be from birth or must we give in and lead the life we believe we were meant to live even if it hurts those who love us?

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Dovekeepers

The Dovekeepers By Alice Hoffman       In 70 C.E. when the Romans stormed Jerusalem, 900 Jewish people fled to a mountaintop called Masada. It was the palace for King Herod 100 years earlier. A city made of stone with provisions to house and feed an enormous amount of people. They lived there peacefully for 4 years until the enemy finally overtook them. This novel portrays the lives of four women who are brave, intelligent, faithful and most importantly, hopeful. Masada is one of the most exciting Jewish stories to survive. It still stands, and many many artifacts exist to collaborate the facts of its amazing history. I appreciate the beautiful strong women and historical value but the writing dragged slowly at times. Certain themes were repeated over and over again. Like The Red Tent, this is an intriguing period to imagine and learn about but admittedly, I was ready for this book to be over. With a story that good I usually don't want it to end.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Caleb's Crossing

Caleb's Crossing By Geraldine Brooks      Bethia is a 12 year old girl living on an island, known today as Martha's Vineyard.  It is the mid 1600's. (Think Scarlett Letter!) Her father is a minister and her grandfather the founder of this small enclave they call Great Harbour. Bethia is educated solely by listening to her brothers lessons because at this time females were thought not necessary to be educated as to anything but bible. Bethia is a quick learner in greek, latin, hebrew, reading and writing. She is also a lover of nature and one day while exploring the island she befriends a Native American Indian that she names Caleb. She begins to teach Caleb all that she has learned and he teaches her the native ways of the island. Their secret friendship remains for years until one day things change on the island and Caleb is brought to come and live with the settlers. He too is a brilliant learner and makes his way to Harvard College as the very first Native American to graduate (true!). This story is about friendship, loyalty, learning and love. Historical fiction is amazing, it is a great way to enjoy learning about a time period while immersed in a story that is both tragically real and fictionalized. At first the reader must get used to a rather difficult prose but it quickly becomes clear as to the direction of the story. These loveable characters leave the reader wanting more! Highly recommend this most unique story.

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Flight of Gemma Hardy

The Flight of Gemma Hardy By Margot Livesey   Gemma Hardy was born in Iceland to loving parents. When she was three years old, her parents died and Gemma's life as she knew it did too. She was taken to Scotland and raised by her warm and generous uncle, until his untimely death. At 10 years old Gemma is left in the world to live with her cruel aunt and unruly cousins who despise her and do whatever they can to make her feel unwelcome. Gemma is sent to a boarding school, where although extremely bright, she is put to work and treated as a maid. Gemma learns very young how to fend for herself and begins to plan her uncertain future.  She is a wonderful character and while the reader cheers for Gemma the whole way through it is hard to know what the next twist and turn will be. The reader can merely contemplate the question of life: What do we truly need to be happy? It may begin with food and shelter to survive but friendship and love is equally vital. Highly recommend this wonderful novel. A great summer read!!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother  By Amy Chua   Memoir following the family life of Amy Chua. Amy, her husband Jed and two daughters, Sophia and Lula live in New Haven CT. Amy and Jed both teach law at Yale. Their daughters are being raised by Amy's method of The Chinese Mother way. From the beginning, Amy instills the strong beliefs regarding education, discipline, respect and time management that she herself followed throughout her childhood. Success, self confidence and most importantly opportunity were at her doorstep because of these attributes. Hard work, being the best, determination and competition are what she believes is the Chinese Mother path to freedom, which is really about having a multitude of life choices because of your achievements. Her constant comparisons to the Western way of parenting (these terms are loosely used) are generally accurate. Sometimes her methods are successful and sometimes disastrous. This memoir is an interesting, witty and honest account of one parents extreme methods to give her children the very best she has to offer. It astounds me that she later received an enormous amount of criticisms and ridicule after her story was published. I found it both enlightening and entertaining and that has nothing to do with what I believe are the correct or best methods. If we stop looking at all sides of the coin our learning and evolution cease to exist. Highly recommend this memoir, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Friday, May 18, 2012

What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank

What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank  By Nathan Englander  Eight short stories. Jewish threads running through them. The title story was my favorite. Friends since childhood, two women (with their husbands) get reacquainted 20 years later. One couple is extremely religious and has been living in Israel. Their vivid childhood memories still hold them together, yet their present lives are nothing alike. After tiptoeing around the delicate wall built around them, these two old friends find they are not so different after all. These stories are short so if time is an issue its much easier to read but when the story is good enough to capture the reader, they end too abruptly. I found the other seven stories have superb writing but filled with dark humor, mysterious endings and somewhat depressing themes. I am quite certain some people (perhaps fans of Foer, Franzen and Chabon) would like this very much.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven

Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven  By Susan Gilman   Susie and Claire have just graduated from Brown University. Filled with young ambition, wonderment and an all knowing Ivy League education, they decide over some pancakes at IHOP to circumnavigate the globe. They begin their journey flying to Hong Kong and make their way to The People's Republic of China. It is 1986, tourism in China is extremely limited and monitored and Claire and Susie wonder every day if they have made the right decision or a big mistake. The backpacker mantra seems to be the dirtier, hungrier and more you "rough it" the truer the nature of the journey. Both girls experience severe stomach illness, homesickness and general malaise. Unfortunately Claires' symptoms seem to get worse instead of better. She begins to isolate herself, show signs of paranoia and completely shut herself off from Susie. Susie has to take control of this adventure and guide them both to safety. This memoir is well written, witty and interesting. I highly recommend this read to all of those who have traveled or ever dreamed of doing so.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Still Life With Husband

Still Life With Husband By Lauren Fox      Emily and Kevin have been a couple for 9 years, married for 5. Turning thirty, Kevin is ready to start a family and move to the suburbs. Emily is not. A story about love, friendship and betrayal. The writing is witty and funny and the story flowed easily. Emily meets a handsome man in a coffee shop and decides to not tell him she is married and continue into the unknown. Unfortunately after reading Fifty Shades, WE WANT MORE, (there isn't much more) and frankly I was not completely in love with Emily (a little annoying). Her husband sounds so incredibly boring its hard to feel sorry for him except that lying is bad bad bad and exhausting to boot. All in all, I do recommend this book and enjoyed this writer as long as she doesn't go completely chick lit.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Jane and The Canterbury Tale

Jane and The Canterbury Tale  By Stephanie Barron        Through the character of Jane Austen, Stephanie Barron brings us back to the year 1813, to the small village of Godmersham outside of London. Jane is visiting her brother Edward who is a businessman and magistrate of the village. They are attending a wedding at a neighbors castle when the brides supposedly long dead husband is found murdered on a path near Edwards estate. To complicate matters each suspect has a solid alibi. As Edward continues the investigation with Janes assistance, the brides maid is found lifeless in the fields. The mystery intensifies. The twists and turns in the familiar Austen voice is clear and immensely entertaining. This book is one of a series for Jane Austen lovers and those who enjoy a clever, witty mystery.

Monday, April 23, 2012

A Secret Kept

A Secret Kept    By Tatiana De Rosnay    Antoine and Melanie are siblings in their early forties. They have led a life of privilege in Paris and although they have been afforded all the luxuries a prestigious wealthy family possess, they have also lived with a cold hearted father and early loss of their beautiful loving mother. Antoine surprises Melanie for her 40th birthday with a weekend to an island they frequented as small children. An accident occurs and through Melanies recovery a family secret surfaces that will change their lives forever. Thoroughly enjoyed this authors insightful writing, daily Paris life, mid life crises and challenge of familial relationships. It is not Sarahs Key but a good, solid read with extremely likeable characters.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Once We Were Brothers

Once We Were Brothers  By Ronald Balson    Ben Soloman grew up in a small town in Poland in the 1930's. His generous loving parents often helped less fortunate families. Otto Piatek's parents could not afford to care for him and the Solomans raised him as part of the family for his formative years. When Poland was invaded by the Nazi's life changed for all the people and worst off for the Jewish families. Otto went to work for the Germans as he was not Jewish and he initially thought it would help the Solomans. Life took Ben and Otto in opposite directions and very different lives. Throughout WWII, through death and marriage and loss. So much loss. Many years later in Chicago Ben is an older man at the end of his life. He believes he recognizes Otto as a prominent businessman, but this cannot be. Once We Were Brothers is a compelling novel about family, friendship, and faith. It flashes back to the past with accuracy and surmounts to an unexpected suspenseful story that cannot be put down. The historical portions were fascinating, although fiction, they were well researched and the characters extremely loveable. Highly recommend this read.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

History of a Pleasure Seeker

History of a Pleasure Seeker  By Richard Mason    Piet Barol is a highly educated young man in the very early 1900's, living in Leiden. His French, singing instructor mother whom he was very close has passed away. His father is a joyless University employee and Piet is determined to find a new rich life in the world. His mother taught him all the finer pleasures of life as defined in food, music, art and language. Combined with his extraordinary good looks and easy disposition, Piet finds work as a tutor in one of the wealthiest homes in Amsterdam. He becomes mentor to a troubled 10 year old boy and lover to a rather cold and neglected wife of his employer. Reading this story accomplishes what an excellent writer sets out to do. For a few days I was in Amsterdam over a hundred years ago and was able to envision the dress, the homes, the food and the romance of that period. Highly recommend this timeless read about class, determination, love and of course, pleasure.

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Sweetness of Tears

The Sweetness of Tears   By Nafisa Haji     Jo March, named not by accident, unveils the secret that will change her life. Brought up with her twin as devout Christians with a famous evangelical uncle and missionary grandmother, Jo cannot leave this new information to chance. She endeavors on a journey of study, tracing her roots and resolving the mysteries of her life and her family. She embraces the people she meets even though they are different from herself and the world she knows. This well written beautiful story is about family dynamics and genetics. Nature and nuture. We are all connected and we are all on this earth together. Highly recommend this dynamic novel and look forward to reading more from this author.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Sense of an Ending

The Sense of an Ending  By Julian Barnes     English author Julian Barnes travels into the mind of Anthony Webster, a divorced, retired gentleman in his mid sixties living outside London. Tony, as his friends call him has led a most simple, quite ordinary life. He is contacted by means of a small sum of money left to him by the death of a mother of an ex girlfriend. This leads Tony to revisit his youth and adolescence, his college years and every basic decision he has made since that time. Tony questions his actions, his motives and ultimately his own memory of these events in search of the truth. He discovers the memory of events are yours alone. We all remember the same happenings very differently and that discovery can be life changing. This short descriptive novel is comparative to reading a memoir only it is a fictional character born in the authors mind, or is it? Concise, interesting read, not to get lost in the story as much as the thoughts it leaves you with afterwards.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Fifty Shades Darker

Fifty Shades Darker  By E.L. James     Christian and Anastasia continue on with their erotic, complicated and mysterious relationship. They are slowly falling in love and as things between them become more serious they stumble upon various bumps in the road with ex girlfriends, new jobs and cross over to a deeper understanding of their wants and needs. Again, could not read this fast enough, yet did not want it to end. Whatever magic E.L. James has with her words, it is priceless. Enjoy and hold on for book #3!