Monday, July 28, 2014

Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands

This mesmerizing novel is narrated by smart and sassy teenage girl,
Emily Shepherd. She lives in a small town in Vermont with her parents and dog Maggie. Emily's parents both work at the nuclear energy plant nearby. As controversial as the plant may be, the residents live a simple life and Emily most certainly is your typical underachieving sulky teen. Until the day her life and all those around her is turned upside down by a nuclear meltdown. A disaster of immense proportions that is vehemently blamed on her parents, mostly her dad, who is head engineer and has a rocky reputation with alcohol. Emily has no choice but to disappear. She finds herself (shockingly) alone on the streets of a nearby city living the life of a runaway and calling herself Abby Bliss, a character from her favorite poet Emily Dickinson. Life on the street is harsher than Emily (Abby) could have ever imagined. As she struggles to overcome the grief of what her life has become and mourns all that is gone Emily (Abby) learns what she is really made of. The setting of this idyllic beautiful town being completely destroyed by a nuclear reactor and all the repercussions that will go on for these families for many years to come are both scary and realistic. This magnificent author brings us into the mind and hearts of these characters who are struggling to survive, to accept the future and yet remain hopeful. Like watching a train wreck, I could not put down this book and forced myself to face the tragedy with Emily that was unfolding before me. These characters will remain with me long after the final page.  Highly recommend for your next summer read!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Vacationers

Summertime, when people all around the world go on vacation.
Most will plan all year and build up this idyllic experience that should be in the movies. Days lolling on the sand, sun shining brightly, cookouts, ice cream cones and a juicy book in your hands, of course. Oh, and everyone must be very very happy to be together, even if you are not. Please pretend because we have painstakingly planned this trip for the whole family and happiness is required!

Jim and Franny Post, a successful Manhattan couple, along with their 18 yr old daughter Sylvia and son Bobby, a 28 yr old realtor (who lives in Miami, along with his personal trainer girlfriend Carmen, who they'd rather not mention but have no choice) along with Charles and Lawrence, a couple they have known forever who are in the midst of an adoption struggle, are off to an island of Mallorca. They rent a magnificent house just steps from the beach and pray for two weeks of the idyllic described above. Unfortunately, not much ever goes exactly as planned. Sylvia is in an angry teenage phase, mostly having to do with her virginity, Bobby is drowning in debt and waiting to spring this on his parents while Carmen snidely observes the complicated dynamics simultaneously doing pushups and drinking protein shakes. Charles is supporting Franny who is mad at Jim, Lawrence is jealous of their friendship and anxious about the adoption. All the while Sylvia is after the gorgeous spanish tutor and Franny is frantically trying to bring them happiness by filling their stomachs with her scrumptious meals.

European Vacation, minus Chevy Chase, this nutty family really does love each other, even if they don't always know it. The Vacationers is a light, funny look at the ideal family vacation even as the family is in the midst of catastrophe. Loved the characters and Emma Straub writes with an ease all her own. Highly recommend this most perfect summer read, for the beach or the hammock or family vacation, if you can handle it!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Everything I Never Told You

Lydia is found dead at the bottom of the nearby lake, she is only
16 years old. Her family is devastated as is the small town where nothing much ever happens. A little bit like The Lovely Bones, where the reader knows the scary bad part right from the start and then it flash backs to all the details leading up - this magnificent novel grabs the reader by the shoulders and says LISTEN TO ME! Please pay attention very carefully. This is the story of the Lee family. James, the American History college professor, of Chinese decent, brilliant, shy and forever trying to just fit in. Marilyn, beautiful blue eyed Radcliffe, physics major that falls in love with James and forever regrets her (typical of the time) rush into marriage, children and loss of her dream to be a doctor. And then, their three children, Nath, a highschool senior, Lydia, a sophomore and Hannah whom noone says much about at all. Each and every member of this family struggles with their identity, both how they see themselves and how the world views their Asian features. This is about how an immigrant family believes freedom and education are the key to success which is the key to happiness but generations later, their children just want to blend in, they don't want to stand out in this small mid western town. Each one of them battles with the low self esteem that has been passed on when the parents failures are to be redeemed through the offspring. Excellent writing in a simple yet poetic style, as each chapter is so well thought out it moves quickly and deeply into the very essence of what love and family really mean. Highly recommend this new novel and will be looking forward to reading more from this author in the future.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

All Fall Down

Allison Weiss, a 34 yr old, nice jewish girl living in the suburbs of
Philadelphia with her husband and son has everything a girl could possibly want. But then, why does she feel so bad, and so sad, and so stressed and so uneasy all of the time? She begins to mask the pain, real or imaginary, (following an injured back at the gym) with pain killers prescribed at her doctors visit. MRI and everything, for real. And then the pain killers became stronger and more often, and Allison felt empowered and had energy and this took the slight edge off her worries and her stress. She was able to get so much more accomplished. As her dad's Alzheimer's became more severe and her mother fell apart, her husbands job on the rocks, her blog a huge hit demanding more time than ever before and her daughter would not give her FIVE MINUTES TO GO TO THE BATHROOM PLEASE! It took more pills and stronger pills, and she was running out .... And so we are mesmerized by this realistic work of fiction that on the one hand it is easy to say blah blah blah, poor little rich girl problems and on the other, it is very very real. These drugs are highly addictive and destroy lives. All Fall Down is the story of love, family and trust  - that we will be there to catch you and pick up the pieces if you crash hard. Your friends and your family or friends that become like family are supposed to be there, like a marriage for better or for worse. But drugs distort boundaries and wear down strength and patience. I could not put down this wonderful new novel of a girl you cannot help but love. Jennifer Weiner once again brings these characters into our hearts, and we are rooting for them and cheering for them to win, succeed, or just survive. Fabulous summer read, when I picked it up I didn't even know the storyline - just that it was another of Weiner's books that would take me away with her and take me, she did. Highly recommend.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

One Plus One

Best selling author Jojo Moyes does it again. Wraps the
reader around her little finger while we take a journey with an amazing, lovable cast of characters you will grow to love so intensely they seem real. Jess's life in a small coastal England town is complicated but sadly not uncommon. She is a single mom to Tanzie, a gifted ten year old girl both brilliant and witty beyond her years and Nicky, an awkward troubled teen fighting through adolescence and abandonment. Jess works two jobs, she scrimps to get by day to day, week to week and miraculously keeps her spirits high, hope always another step forward. Even though Jess has had a rough go of it she remains optimistic and determined to make her children feel loved and safe. When Tanzie is unexpectedly invited to a maths Olympiad in Scotland, an adventure begins for this family of four (I am including humungous dog named Norman!) that changes their lives forever. As they sit abandoned on the side of the road, Mr. Nicholls, a geeky businessman and client of Jess's cleaning job, stops to offer assistance. As he is dealing with his own personal turmoil Ed believes perhaps he was meant to help out this troubled clan. And so begins the journey that leads them to friendship, love, and the truth, as painful as that might be. Could not put down this incredible story that will leave you thinking about these characters long after the story ends. Do not miss this amazing summer read! Enjoy!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Authentic Summer Beach List, It’s Not What You May Have Guessed

Tell me what you read and I’ll tell you who you are.
No, I’m not a fortune teller but like the saying goes about friends, books say a lot about who we are and what kind of mood we are in or perhaps how much thought we took when packing. I, for one spend more time picking books for my trip than clothes. It’s a beach, I’ll bring a bathing suit but what books am I going to read?! At least 3-4 for a week with some backups, just in case. Recently, on a Caribbean vacation at an upscale International resort I conducted a small survey and even though I couldn’t bring the gorgeous beach home, I will share the surprising results with you, my reader friends.

Most books being read are not on the current bestseller or summer lists. Out of 55 people surveyed only 4 were on Kindles, everyone else, still an old fashioned actual book! Two repeats in the whole bunch with Mary Higgins Clark in French and 3 books in German, one a top seller in Germany and not available in the US for another year. And most interesting, participants were extremely nervous when approached and I am not that scary in a bikini! Readers were more embarrassed than secretive. If what they were reading seemed frivolous or too “fun” they felt the need to explain, as if this is not the “real” book I’m reading, that’s in the room, this one here with the heartthrob on the cover is just to pass the time. Oh, the vampires? Someone left that at my house. A little easier for e-readers, they hide behind their Kindle rather than showing the world their true covers.
Reading is very personal. Even though I share with the world on a regular basis my current read (though I did somewhat hesitate with Fifty Shades), most people became very nervous, men and women alike. And, I must say to the joy of my heart, there were equal parts men reading, which I adore, as I keep prodding my husband that reading is sexy!
So here it is, my list of 55 books people were actually physically reading on a beach, during summer. For some, vacation may be the only time they read a book all year and others, like myself, just the start to a huge reading list summer! Perhaps I need to further my research. Yes, I must go back right away. There are so many questions unanswered.
The Hunger Games  by Suzanne Collins
Agatha Raisin by M.C. Beaton
The Science of Fear by Daniel Gardner
The Book of Secrets by Tom Harper
The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson
One Thing by Gary Keller
Now You See Her by James Patterson *Kindle
The One and Only by Emily Giffin
Paper Towns by John Green
The Fixed Trilogy by Laurelin Paige *Kindle
Capital Crimes by Stuart Woods *Kindle
Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy  by Helen Fielding (2)
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Wedding Night by Sophie Kinsella
Born of Night by Sherrilyn Kenyon
Proof of Heaven by Eben Alexander M.D. (2)
The Pilgrimage by Paul Coelho
Just Take My Heart by Mary Higgins Clark (French)
Voll Speed by Moritz Matthies (German)
1491 by Charles Mann
A Walk on the Beach by Joan Anderson
Delikatesa by David Foenkinos (Albanian)
The Kingmakers Daughter by Phillipa Gregory
Revelations by Elaine Pagels
Die Trying by Lee Child
He’s Back by Timur Vermes (German) *Kindle
The Twelve by Justin Cronin
The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
Inferno by Dan Brown
A Feast for Crows by George Martin
11/22/63: A Novel by Stephen King
The Wedding by Nicholas Sparks
Power by Joyce Meyer
The Dance by Oriah
Bad Monkey by Carl Hiaasen
Follow Me by David Platt
The Summer Girls by Mary Alice Monroe
Love You More by Lisa Gardner
Hawaiian Escape by Debbie Flint
How to Be Good by Nick Hornby
Shut Up, You’re Welcome by Annie Choi
Drinking and Dating by Brandi Glanville
The Strain by Guillermo DelToro & Chuck Hogan
Shadow Secret by Nora Roberts
The Impressionist by Hari Kunzru
The Birthing House by Christopher Ransom
Fly Away by Kristin Hannah
The Cutting Room by Louise Welsh
Das Falsche In Mir by Christa Bernuth (German)
Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult
My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff
Lucky Us by Amy Bloom
Summer House with Swimming Pool by Herman Koch

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Summer House with Swimming Pool

Dr. Marc Schlosser is a family practitioner in Holland.
He has a small practice servicing mostly the rich and famous, known for his lenient unquestioning ways and excellent listening skills (he gives you twenty but truthfully only listens for the first five minutes.) Marc begins an unlikely friendship with the Meier family. Ralph, a huge star and his subtly sexy wife Judith with two teenage sons invite the Schlossers to join them at their summer house, with a swimming pool. Marc's two teenage girls hit it off immediately with the boys and his wife Caroline tolerates the bizarre nature found in the entire cast. The visiting director Stanley and his model girlfriend, Emmanuelle, 40 years his junior add to the scene. And while they eat and drink themselves merry Marc becomes paranoid about his daughters, his wife and the seductive Judith. In a world where most problems are solved with a magic pill or another drink, Marc finds himself in an ethical dilemma. Although it continues with a dark sort of humor, the subject matter of possible rape and a most probable pedophile in his midst, Marc's heart and soul truly belong to his daughters whom he will do anything to protect from the crazy world revolving too quickly around them as they reach adolescence. This imaginative cast of characters is very much written in a style all his own, author Herman Koch definitely had me entranced in this story. Like some foreign films, this book inherently feels European in style and writing. An excellent novel that left me thinking about the plot, of which there are many threads to tie together.
"I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review."

Lucky Us

"My father's wife died. My mother said we should drive
down to his place and see what might be in it for us."   

This is the pull quote from the book, and now.. I get it! 
A bizarre statement that sums up the eclectic humor and quirky characters throughout this extraordinary new novel by New York Times, bestselling author, Amy Bloom.

Eva and Iris are two sisters traveling across America during the 1940s. Iris, older, is talented, beautiful and full of ideas to find her big break to fame and fortune. Eva is smart beyond her years, an autodidact and faithful as a puppy dog. Their bizarre father, his girlfriend Clara who stars in a jazz club, Francisco the Mexican makeup artist and the list goes on and on. They eventually settle in a carriage house of the Torrelli's on Long Island and continue to make their mischief and basically survive through hard times that are unusual and hysterical simultaneously. Iris continues to sing and dance while Eva reads tarot cards in the back of a salon. They "adopt" or kidnap a small boy from an orphanage and Iris even falls in love with the Torrelli's cook, Reenie.  I could go on and on, I loved each and every one of them. Lucky Us is about love, friendship and above all never losing hope. A summer MUST for the beach, you will smile and laugh your way through this amazing cast from an incredible writer with an endless imagination. Thank you to Goodreads for sending me an early copy for review. I believe it comes out at the end of July and I highly recommend you add to your list immediately!!

My Salinger Year

Joanna Rakoff, smart, beautiful, 23 years old, finished with
grad school and making her way in NYC. The year is 1993. Dreaming of life as a writer, she finds her foot in the door of publishing at a prestigious Agency in Manhattan that has been around way longer than she, still hanging onto a few world famous authors (one of them none other than J.D. Salinger) and its old world ways -having to do with incessant smoking (indoors!) and martinis at lunch that last all day. Joanna begins as an assistant (No, Dad! Not a secretary!) to an extraordinary woman referred to as the "Boss". She lives with her socialist, intelligent, perhaps handsome boyfriend in a ramshackle apartment in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. As Joanna finds out who she is and what she wants out of life, she builds an interesting cast of characters and experiences into her ordinary days, always hoping the writer in her will somehow make its way out. This light hearted, easy, delicious memoir is like reading your friends journal (with permission, of course!) Her year at the Agency, learning about life and love and hard work help Joanna grow into a woman and into a writer. Adored this read, which I could not put down as Joanna Rakoff shares her heart and humor with us. I cannot wait to go back and read her first novel, A Fortunate Age, and gladly await her future novels! Don't miss this delightful summer read, perfect for a day at the beach!


A love triangle of three anthropologists set in the late 1930's in
Papau, New Guinea. Nell and Fen, a newly married couple are searching for another tribe to study before returning to the States. Nell, a published author and receiver of grants is an American woman (based loosely on the experiences of Margaret Mead) who is at the forefront of anthropology, studying the relationships and dynamics of men and women deep in these far off jungles. Fen is an Australian, brilliant on his own but fearing the expansive shadow of Nells fame and notoriety in this fairly new field of study. Andrew Bankson is yet the third wheel, an Englishman daring to study this extravagant science of which his famous father deplored. Extremely competent at his studies but longing for company and companionship, Andrew quickly falls in love with Nell when the couple find him in the midst of depression, studying the Kiona tribe. He introduces them to the Tam a few hours upriver and it is agreed they will spend the following months within the almost mythical tribe. And so begins this most unique story of love, friendship, and the human mind. How we live and how we are a product of those we are born to and surrounded by will mold our ideas forevermore. Our values and our behavior are deeply physical and spiritual. Highly recommend this mesmerizing story by talented author Lily King. I was briefly taken away to another place and another time. These characters will linger in my mind always.