Monday, December 28, 2015

Jane Austen Ruined My Life

Emma Grant, an English professor, always a romantic, followed
Jane Austen
the rules all her life. She married her knight in shining armor, the handsome and charming Edward, she loved teaching at the college and planned to start a family. That is until the kitchen table incident when she walked in on Edward and his teaching assistant in flagrante delicto. To make matters worse she becomes entangled in a professional scandal and is accused by said teaching assistant of plagiarism and hence, loses her job. Penniless and heartbroken Emma flees to London to stay with her cousin Anne-Elise. While wallowing in her losses Emma is invited to the home of Mrs. Parrot, a Jane Austen expert and eccentric in her own right. Adam, an old friend is coincidentally staying at Anne-Elise’s house as well and to her surprise this old flame still burns bright. Emma must face her future and learn the true meaning of happy ending. To say I could not put down this quick, easy, enjoyable read is an understatement. And to my delicious delight there is an entire series that awaits me.

Saving Sophie

Jack Sommers is a fairly ordinary accountant from Chicago.
Saving Sophie
Suddenly two men are dead, Jack is missing and so is eighty eight million dollars. As lead counsel helping to close a huge business deal at the Jenkins firm where he has worked for many years, all fingers are pointing at Jack and he is nowhere to be found. Jack’s wife passed away a few years ago and recently his daughter has been kidnapped by her grandparents and hidden away in the Palestinian territory of Hebron in Israel. Liam, a private detective and Catherine, his girlfriend, have been hired by Jenkins to defend the firm, locate Jack and find the money. This suspenseful page turner takes us on quite a journey from the Russian mob in Chicago to a hiding place Hawaii and finally Israel. Piece by piece the puzzle is put together by Liam with his Irish charm and the very good looking spy Kayla who has her own secret reasons to search out the terrorist group she believes is planning something bigger than 9/11. In the easy fashion that this author brought us the smash hit Once We Were Brothers, Ronald Balson grabs the reader at full speed and won’t stop until justice prevails. Highly recommend this in depth look at the dark side of both politics and greed while simultaneously testing the bonds of love and friendship.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Dive From Clausen's Pier

Twenty three year old Carrie Bell lives in a small town in the
heart of Wisconsin. She has her life long best friend, is engaged to her high school sweet heart, Mike and a small apartment of her own. Although everything feels like it is set for the future Carrie has a gnawing sense of discomfort and angst that won’t let go. She has graduated university and continues to work at her student job in the library. She stares at her engagement ring but doesn’t feel true joy. Carrie does not know exactly what is missing but something does not sit right and as she has watched her mother - who was abandoned with a baby (herself) live a small uneventful life - she refuses to believe that this is it, the grand finale. These worries get pushed aside the weekend at Clausen’s Pier. The holiday weekend that changes everything and everyone’s lives forever. After weeks in a coma, Mike is left paralyzed. Carrie feels guilt, regret, shame and sadness that dig deeper than anything she has ever known. Even though she is aware of what she has to do, she cannot bring herself to live a life based on lies. In search of the truth, Carrie flees. At first she struggles to find where and with who she belongs but later learns about honesty, friendship and the meaning of love. I don’t know what I was doing in 2003 when this was published but I am certainly glad I finally found this treasure of a novel. This is Me Before You long before Me Before You and I cannot wait to read author Ann Packer’s recently published novel, The Children’s Crusade, which happily sits in my TBR pile!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Bookstore

If you love books, humor and good writing The Bookstore
is a must read! Esme Garland, early twenties, gorgeous, smart and independent with a beautiful British accent, finds herself in NYC on an art history scholarship at Columbia. She has a great (unheard of) apartment and a boyfriend that is old money rich and finds her endearing, if not quirky. Very quickly this picture perfect setting falls apart. Esme becomes pregnant, she cannot afford to lose her scholarship nor can she abandon her program. As she struggles to figure out what she wants, Esme gets a part time job at a local bookshop called The Owl. Even though she is afraid of the future and Mitchell continues to yo yo in and out of their relationship, Esme is determined to have it all no matter what it takes. She continually digs deep to figure out what she truly wants and not worry what everyone else thinks (is this possible?) Supported by a small group of bizarre co-workers and few friends, Esme learns about love, commitment and being true to oneself. And of course, she is surrounded by a wonderland of books. Thoroughly enjoyed this wonderful easy read and cannot wait to see what this new author comes up with next!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Grownup

What a strange experience, my head is still spinning.
The main character is an unidentified chameleon-like woman
Gillian Flynn
who works in a spiritual shop reading futures in the front and giving hand jobs in the back. Having grown up on the streets begging with her mother, this autodidact is savvy and self sufficient in the roughest neighborhoods of NYC. Until she meets Susan Burke. A wealthy woman who saunters in and hires and lures our girl into her ghost ridden home with her seemingly possessed stepson. This short story/mini novel is a spellbinding read that is easily done in one sitting, as its only 64 pages. I don't want to say more for fear of ruining the total Gillian Flynn experience. You either like it or you don't, all I know is; it's 24 hours later and I am still thinking about this story wishing it did not end. Hmmmm ... I guess that's the point. Wonder what Ms. Flynn will be up to next?

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Muralist

Alizee Benoit is a young, beautiful, talented American painter
The Muralist
working for the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in NYC in the late 1930’s. This organization was set up by President Roosevelt to create jobs and work to build roads, bridges and this particular group of artists were hired to paint murals for public spaces. Amongst this group were Pollock, Krasner and Rothko who were young at the time but went on to become incredibly famous later in their careers.  Alizee, born in Boston to French parents that died in a horrible accident, is alone in America. Her family in France is facing the atrocities of Hitler and Alizee does everything in her power to search for visas and opportunities to help them escape. The story moves through these difficult times and flashes forward to 2015. Danielle Abrams, a young girl working at Christie’s is facing her own modern day dilemmas. Dani is the Great Niece of Alizee and when a rare piece of artwork is discovered, Dani begins her own investigation to find the truth. She longs to know how Alizee, with such talent and a full life, mysteriously disappeared in 1940, never to be heard from again. The war, the politics, the art and all the characters in this novel had me mesmerized and I could not turn these pages fast enough. Highly recommend this fantastic work of historical fiction that you are sure to love!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

This is Your Life Harriet Chance

Harriet Chance wanted it all. She was a top student with
dreams of law school and a father that treasured and supported her. Harriet was a working girl at a time when her mother expected no more than to just find a nice husband and do away with these silly dreams of success. And then she meets and marries Bernard. And he was handsome and kind and he was proud of her aspirations. Slowly her future plans seem to unravel. A husband, two children and a home to care for, Harriet's dreams are long gone but not forgotten. Never forgotten. It seems as every bit of affection and love is drained from her marriage over the years, Harriet chalks it up to life and never quite finds the right time to restart the engines. And time just passes too quickly. Flash forward, at 79 years old she finds herself on a ridiculous Alaskan cruise, fighting with her spoiled, unreliable grown daughter and talking to Bernard who has been deceased for two years. She knows she is not crazy when this apparition continues to appear but does not understand why his ghost is basically haunting her. Amid the buffets and quirky cast of characters Harriet reflects on her life, on her mistakes and opportunities missed. She cannot let go of her regrets and the truths she learns about friendship, loyalty and love. I highly recommend this fantastic novel that I could not put down. The easy funny shockingly real story of how we age and our dreams evolve and move on but our hearts never do. Harriet is an imaginable character and gives the reader a lot to ponder. As they say, the days seem long but the years are short. No regrets, live your life.

Early One Morning

Early one morning Chiara is called to the dark, mysterious bar
where in the very back the propaganda brochures need to be destroyed. After her discreet duties are fulfilled she is back on the street but something does not feel right. Just outside the Jewish ghetto, soldiers are lining the citizens up in the street. A woman catches her eye and a silent pact is made. As the soldiers load the families onto the truck Chiara races to rescue her "nephew" who is mistakenly pushed along. And it is from that moment a little boy named Daniele enters Chiara's life and silently dissolves her future. In the heart of Rome during WWII, the Germans have taken over the city and Chiara and Daniele escape to her grandmother's farm in the mountains. But it is not safe anywhere, anymore. Later in life Chiara realizes Daniele has never recovered from the loss of his family and turns to an adult life of crime to feed his addictions. Chiara spends years trying to help Daniele but in essence enables his destructive behavior until he finally disappears for good. A mysterious phone call awakens the sadness and loss Chiara still grieves from. The teenager in England is searching for Daniele too, as she believes he is her biological father. Together they try to find Daniele and learn much about themselves along the way. Unfortunately, this review - the very basic theme for the novel - sounds like a great story but I had a lot of trouble connecting with the aloof characters who are unrealistic and unlikable. I cannot put my finger on what exactly is missing but the story does not pull the reader in as I expected. I wanted to know what was going to happen but couldn't get there fast enough and then finally there, an uninspiring finale.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Days of Awe

Isabel Moore has it all; a wonderful loving husband, an
adorable little girl named Hannah, over the top best friend and a job she loves at the local elementary school. Until she doesn't. Her best friend Josie is in a tragic car accident and Isabel's life quickly unravels. Isabel's dark sense of humor and biting personality push those she loves far away as she struggles to regain control of her life and find a new balance on her own. This crazy, funny, sad story was completely unputdownable. Moving quickly through Isabel's year the reader debates whether to laugh or cry while silently cheering for Isabel to figure out what we are all trying to do, everyday. Well aware of what she "has" in her life, she cannot get past the lost and sadness. You may wonder how that could possibly be funny at all but author Lauren Fox finds a way to wrap you around her little finger and laugh at things you are just not supposed to. Loved and highly recommend this fabulous read!

The Double Life of Liliane

This novel/autobiography/autofiction, call it what you may, is Liliane's life
from the perspective of a little girl to that of a grown woman. She is the daughter of a German movie producer and artistic mother also of German descent. Liliane is born in France where they reside and blend in as best they can. Not a word of German is spoken. The war is looming and her father is sent away with French troops. Her mother takes Liliane and her nanny on a wild ride across Europe, on a ship to America and later Peru. She ultimately remarries and resides in NYC. Liliane spends her adolescence traveling the world, meeting extraordinary people through her parents, both cultured and talented. They are unique and odd creatures that love her very much and Liliane spends her years trying to figure out where and how she fits in. Speaking a multitude of languages, intelligent and searching for the kind of love a young girl dreams of. This small diary like story contains snippets of conversations and moments of their lives, some meaningful and others purely anecdotal. Lily Tuck is beautiful writer, the words flow seamlessly. Highly recommend this enjoyable read and small peek into a rather intriguing family.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Hours Count

Mildred Stein may seem a simple, typical housewife of the
The Hours Count
late 1940's but she finds herself in the middle of a maelstrom of espionage. Millie who picks up her weekly brisket from the kosher butcher every Friday. Millie who is thrilled to live in a small, one bedroom apartment - with heat! - in Knickerbocker Village. Millie who takes care of her two year old son David who has not said a word, ever. Her husband Ed is a Russian immigrant, he is an accountant. The neighbors are Ethel and Julius Rosenberg. The first and only American couple to be executed for espionage, ever. Post WWII, the fear of the Russians, of the atomic bomb, the Cold War - has set America searching for communists. Anyone un-American must be investigated. As naive Millie navigates motherhood and a marriage she knows in her heart is no good, she starts to put the pieces together. The FBI shows up, Ed disappears and returns and disappears and returns. She falls in love with Jake. As author Jillian Cantor expertly pulls us through the lives of these characters, you can hear their words. You can smell the brisket. Ms. Cantor's superb writing took me to another world, another time. If she thinks The Hours Count, so does every word she has written. Do not miss this unforgettable look at history presented within a fictional story. Fabulous read.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Twain's End

Sam Clemens, better known as Mark Twain was one of the
Twains End
most famous humorist's of our time. His novels were known worldwide, as was his wit, charm and eccentricity. Twain was married for many years to wealthy socialite Olivia Langdon Clemens, who was very ill throughout most of her years, father of three daughters and a lover to the rest of the world. He became incredibly close to Isabel Lyon, his secretary for 6 years. A former governess, she grew up wealthy until her family lost everything, and later became Twain's confidante, scribe and house manager. But their closeness was strained when everyone began to notice the relationship that grew between them and was only definable as a romance. Although many years difference between their ages, Isabel vowed to forever look after Twain's interests, his welfare and that of his children. When rumors began to swirl, his conniving daughter Clara spread vicious lies and set Isabel up for complete and utter failure. Author Lynn Cullen (bestselling writer of the fabulous book Mrs. Poe) once again brings to life a beloved literary icon. Thoroughly enjoyed this unputdownable look at American literary history. Highly recommend this fabulous new work of historical fiction.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Rent Collector

If you want a book you cannot put down, pick up
The Rent Collector today. This heartwarming story of Sang Ly and Ki Lim and their son Nisay. They live in a dump in Cambodia. They pick trash for a living. There is danger, illness, hunger and shame. The Rent Collector is a woman who is called the dragon lady. She is mean and wicked and often drunk. She collects the rent. Imagine not making enough to pay the rent on your three sided hut at the dump? One day Sang Ly sees something in this woman that forces her to break through this barrier, this facade she has put up, and find out who she really is. Their lives are changed forever. Without giving anything away, I will be brief. A beautiful friendship begins and the hearts and minds of many are changed forever. There are so many lessons to be learned if we take the time to open our eyes wide and find out what the ancestors really mean. This novel is based on a documentary filmed of this very dump which was produced by the author's son. Although it is fiction, you know in your heart that it is very real. So be grateful you don't live in a dump and go get this book today. It is a MUST read.

Fates and Furies

Lotto (Lancelot, what a great character name) and Mathilde
meet at the very end of college and shockingly marry within weeks. She is reclusive and modelesque. Lotto is also of great height and demeanor and known to everyone as the star of the play, star of the campus, a very popular guy. Even though the book is actually set in two parts, Fates and Furies. I see it in three. The first third is Lotto's past. Mildly entertaining and confusing. The middle portion describes their life together struggling in a small basement apartment in Greenwich Village where Lotto discovers his talent as a playwright. Again, very cool setting, interesting characters, complete confusion. The last third of the book is about Mathilde and finally the reader learns who she really is and where she comes from. I actually enjoyed this part the most. The excellent writing flowed easily and although I very much wanted to know what was going to happen I was often unsure if I truly wished to keep reading (never a good thing with a book.) I can't place exactly what the meaning of the story is. Crazy family, abandonment, false friends, secrets, love or finding true passion. Maybe a little of each. All I know is this novel failed to grab me.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Ally Hughes Has Sex Sometimes

I read this book in one sitting. Contrary to popular belief, I rarely do that. I smiled and laughed out loud the whole way through. Irresistible, adorable main character, Ally Hughes is a professor on tenure track at Brown. She is raising her ten year old daughter and navigating single parenthood when Jake suddenly enters her life. Okay, it seems like the typical hot hot student (stop it! He is 21) goes for the teacher (who is really not that much older than him) and she cannot resist. Well, at first she tries to resist. He comes over as the handyman and ... he is very handy. This may sound corny but Ally has zero social life and few friends. She has dedicated her life to her daughter and work in an almost monastic facade. She deserves this! And it leads to an adorable story that jumps ten years forward when she moves to Brooklyn, her daughter is grown and a wannabe actress, and it is finally time for Ally to make a love life for herself. This heartwarming look at romance, parenthood and culmination of living each day with all the choices we make brings us this amazing, enjoyable story from author Jules Moulin. Highly recommend this fun read!!

Those We Love Most

Maura Corrigan is walking her young children to school one
morning. It is a day like any other. James, the eldest, is riding alongside her on his bicycle while she pushes the stroller. She glances away for just a moment. And in that moment her life is changed forever. Maura is surrounded by the help of loving friends and family, but it is quite obvious her life will never be the same again. This intimate portrayal of Maura's relationship with her loving but tired husband, overbearing mother and duplicitous father leaves the reader quickly turning these deeply sad but honest pages. Their lives must go on (right?) but the many different paths that we take each day can change lives forever. As the family recovers (can you?) or at least learns to live with this new life, an endless battle of decisions confronts them. Trying hard here not to contain any spoilers, this novel is very very sad. It throws together some of the toughest issues and worst case scenarios that could possibly exist. Author Lee Woodruff smoothly takes the reader around each bend, there is not so much surprise as there is suddenly another burden to bear. Did I mention it was sad?

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

After You

We waited long enough to find out what happens to Louisa Clark
(Me Before You) and here it is! After You is Louisa's story. How she copes with Will gone, the guilt, the sadness and loneliness. She joins a Moving On Circle, buys her own flat in London, travels and tries to have the life she thinks Will would have wanted her to have. But its not happening. Louisa misses him terribly. Her job at the airport bar is a dead end flight to nowhere in a stupid uniform, her family is disappointed that she is constantly making bad choices and the icing on the scone is Lily shows up at her door and changes her world forever. Lily is a confused, precocious teenager but she is her connection to the past and Louisa cannot resist as always trying to help and change the lives of the people she loves. With few boundaries Louisa continues to find trouble and complications everywhere she goes. Jojo Moyes tells the story with the wit, charm, humor and ease that made us undeniably fall in love with Will and Louisa the first time around. This is a great sequel - as we all needed closure after Me Before You - and great story within itself of finding strength in family, friends and yourself and the power to turn it all around! There is nothing to discuss, its a MUST read. Well done Jojo Moyes, I truly had no idea what to expect and I loved every minute of After You! Cannot wait to see Me Before You (the movie) in 2016, which I think was cast perfectly!

Did You Ever Have A Family

Incredibly poignant story of a tragedy that changed lives and
an entire town forever. June Reid is out in the garden the morning destruction took place. She is saved by the mere technicality that she fell asleep in the wedding tent late the night before. Her feisty beloved daughter with her loving fiance, June's ex-husband and current lover are gone. All gone. So June decides to disappear as well. Off June goes in her car across the country, destination unknown, only her memories travel with her. And through these flashbacks June and a few others that are affected by this disaster, take a close look at where they have been and who they have been to themselves and those they love. This beautifully written story, a debut novel from Bill Clegg, is an incredibly thoughtful and thought provoking look into what we each want out of our lives, what makes us happy and what can happen when it is all taken away. It is sad - but it is sad from the beginning so its more about the journey rather than the characters that you don't know very well. Did You Ever Have A Family gives the reader a lot to contemplate and is an easy and poetic read about truth and our connection with each other as humans. Highly recommend my reader friends.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Girl Waits With Gun

WOW. This brand new historical fiction read was everything
I hoped (and heard!) it would be. The Kopp sisters and their fight for justice. Constance, the eldest is not your typical woman of 1914. She towers over most men, is not afraid to exert her intelligence and has more confidence than even she knows what to do with. One day she is out with her two sisters, Fleurette and Norma, in their horse drawn buggy when an automobile collides with them. No one is seriously injured but their buggy is destroyed and the irascible male driver denies accountability. And so begins a yearlong journey of detective work that brings fear and mystery into the previously humdrum lives of the Kopp sisters. From learning how to shoot a pistol, to following clues and deciphering handwriting samples - the sisters will not let this Mr. Kaufman control or harass them as he is so very famous for. Their brave standoff leads them to independence, justice and new destinies. Incredibly well written, I thoroughly enjoyed the journey these women manage. Based on the very real and true story of the Kopp sisters this novel captures the essence of the time and mindset of women who thought outside the rules that guided them, those set by their mother, their brother and every neighbor in town. Highly recommend this exciting, interesting and enjoyable read. I am so happy to have found author Amy Stewart and look forward to reading her other novels!

A Window Opens

Alice is describes as a "mostly" happy mother of three. Living
in the suburbs, a town she grew up in, just outside NYC. Alice has few complaints. Oh, the PTA moms can get a little competitive and sometimes her Pilates class is running late but her kids are delicious, she is a part time book reviewer, her helpful parents live nearby and her husband is her best friend (and a good one at that!) And then it all unravels. Her husband decides to leave his large firm to start his own practice, her beloved Dad is ill and she needs to find a full time job to help support the family. Gone are the days of waiting on line at the coffee shop and walking the kiddies home from school. It is time for Alice to jump back in the saddle of Manhattan and she is ready, or at least she pretends to be. Alice finds employment at Scroll, a tech start up that is aimed to change the world of reading. Everyone there is half her age and there is a whole new world and lingo to be learned. With wit, good humor and tenderness Alice finds her way through this maze of her life. Only a teensy bit far fetched and incredibly funny, I absolutely loved accompanying Alice on her journey that is at once familiar, foreign and totally possible. I highly recommend this fun, well written, enjoyable read and will definitely be looking for more from author Elisabeth Egan in the future.

Friday, September 18, 2015

The Blue

The third amazing novel from author Lucy Clarke was completely unputdownable.  Lana and Kitty abandon England hoping to leave their demons behind. Both motherless, with father issues and careers floundering; these childhood besties set out for an adventure. With the spin of a globe the girls find themselves backpacking through the Philippines. Completely by chance the girls meet a group who sail on a yacht called The Blue. An innocent visit to the boat turns into an invitation to crew with this small enticing group of characters. Indescribable paradise (and author Lucy is very good at that!) is found, along with romance, friendship and intrigue. Unfortunately some of the intrigue becomes disturbing. Some of the crew have not told the truth, and appear to be hiding behind this paradise. Very quickly the passage to Palau and nine days at sea unravel. Lana cannot escape her demons, the sea is rough and everyone is agitated. As Lana becomes more fearful, danger seems imminent and her lifelong friendship with Kitty leaves her wondering just what is it they are not telling her? I absolutely loved this suspenseful, fantastic read. I dreamed of being on The Blue and have already cast the movie in my mind! (Think Matthew McConaughey for Denny!) Highly recommend this read!

Between the Tides

Lainie Smith Morris is a mother, an artist and a wife, in that order.
She lives in NYC with her successful orthopedic surgeon husband Charles, who has a perfect profile and resume to match. Lainie adores her four young children but her creative mind, her heart and soul pull her towards water. Having grown up on the New Jersey shore Lainie always swam feverishly, her family ran a small marina and later, her art featured water and everything surrounding it. Having pushed aside her talent to raise a family Lainie manages by swimming at the Y and having a gorgeous view of the river. All of that changes when Charles accepts a prestigious position at a hospital in the suburbs of New Jersey. Outside of Manhattan Lainie flounders. Her routine is flummoxed and she cannot find her footing at home or with her painting. She reconnects with an old friend named Jess who appears to be the head honcho mom of this small town. But Jess’s motives are flawed and Lainie is the last to find out just how tainted their friendship truly is. Everything Lainie loves is at stake. Highly recommend this suspenseful, intriguing novel of friendship, marriage and the paths that take us to and from our passions. Excellent writing from this newfound author, I look forward to reading her again!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Who Do You Love

Rachel and Andy meet as youngsters in a Miami Emergency Room.
Their bond is immediate but Rachel, a six year old precocious girl was born with a serious heart defect. As her mom quietly cries her way through Rachel's childhood and Bat Mitzvah, she becomes a typical lip gloss wearing, boy crazy, clothes conscious teen who is desperately searching for "love." The only thing she focuses on more is covering up the scar from her surgeries and becoming popular. In high school, after much begging and cajoling Rachel convinces her parents to allow her to attend a volunteer program out of state for a week. Upon arrival a familiar face approaches. He is tall, dark and handsome - this is too good to be true. And very quickly Rachel reacquaints herself with Andy. He remembers her perfectly and they instantly reconnect. Andy's life has not been exactly that of a prince. His mother is protective and secretive, his father is dead and they are poor. Andy struggles socially and gets into fights. Finally to keep him out of trouble, Andy discovers running. He is extremely talented and track becomes his focus and his future. He and Rachel desperately try to hold on to what they believe is true love. Through decades of an on and off relationship and deep friendship they pass through the ups and downs, the good and very bad that life throws their way. Highly recommend this latest novel by Jennifer Weiner exploring the notion of soul mates, love, friendship, family and trust. As always she tells her story with insight and humor. There is no avoiding the reminiscence of childhood and effects of every relationship. Is it true that the people from your past know you best? Know and love you in a way no one else can?

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Run You Down

Rebekah Roberts works at the New York Tribune.  She moved to New York after graduation from the University of Florida with her close friend Iris and finds herself at her dream job just beginning to learn her way around. But Rebekah's past and long time anxiety is catching up with her. Aviva, her birth mother had left a deeply religious Jewish world many years ago. After Aviva ran off with Brian, Rebekah's dad, she had abandoned everything she knew and disappeared. More than twenty years later Rebekah finds herself on a story investigating murder in the very community her mother ran from. While she closely looks for clues, Rebekah shockingly finds a trail leading to her mother's past and a religious world she finds both hard to understand or defend. Discovering this very isolated community and battling her own personal conflicts with religion and motherlessness cause Rebekah to confront her deepest questions and fears. Through this exciting sequel to Invisible City (which I loved - but you can read the two novels independently) we once again meet Saul, the ex NYPD turned private eye that knew Rebekah's mother and helps her navigate this Chassidish world she has trouble understanding. While Rebekah works to solve this supposed murder which has been covered up - but by whom? - Rebekah learns about her own past and present self. This suspenseful page turner is a fabulous read. I highly recommend both of these well done, throughly enjoyable novels by author Julia Dahl. Cannot wait to see what she comes up with next!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Heart-Shaped Hack

Kate Watts is a young woman running a struggling food pantry
in Northeast Minnesota. She is beautiful, smart and has a full social life. After abandoning her career as an attorney and leaving her sweet but ho-hum boyfriend, Kate knows something is missing from her life. Like most young women Kate is looking for love and excitement, she is searching for adventure. After appearing on tv for a short promo to raise money for her food pantry, Kate receives a large donation from a rather self possessed, very good looking man named Ian. And Ian is relentless in his attempts to win Kate's heart. But Ian is a computer hacker and from this moment on Kate's life is certainly no longer quiet, and if it was adventure she was looking for it is now waiting at her doorstep and in her bed. Hackers have enemies and they are not always more than a click away. Author Tracey Garvis Graves once again pulls us into her delicious romance and page turning novel. Thrown into the exciting world of computers and hacking, which most of use daily but know little of the dangers that lurk beneath each key stroke. Don't miss this easy, most enjoyable read. You too are certain to fall in love with Kate and Ian. I will most certainly be waiting for the sequel!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Make Your Home Among Strangers

In all the books I have read (and I have read a lot) I rarely
find the main characters from Miami. There is a special something that brings you there instantly. Author Jennine Capot Crucet describes the sights, the sounds, and the air perfectly. I can hear and see the characters. Lizet is a young girl graduating from Hialeah Lakes High School. She is the very first student to be accepted to Rawlings College, a prestigious, small, expensive college in New York. She has never been away from home, never flown on a plane. Her very small world of family, friends and boyfriend Omar had until that point been all Lizet needed to be happy. But when she spills the beans and tells everyone she is going away to college (having secretly applied) they are angry, feel betrayed and her parents who had always been on the brink of a huge meltdown - separate. Lizet wants to recreate herself. She has worked hard in school her whole life but can she hack the big leagues? She is nervous and scared and immediately homesick. Prepared to run from being the reffy from Miami, she plays down her Cuban identity only to wind up fighting for it in the end. Lizet is deeply connected to where she is from from, as the girls constantly ask, as she is introduced as Lizet, the Cuban roommate of Jillian. This book is about family, friendship and identity. All the things that make you you. Like, you you. Highly recommend this fantastic read. Look forward to more from this newfound author! Enjoy!!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Re Jane

Jane grew up in Flushing, New York in a predominantly
Korean neighborhood. She came to America as a very small child to be raised by her Uncle and Aunt after her mother died. Her Korean language skills were never perfect, her mixed looks (half Korean, half American) frowned upon. Jane never felt like she fit in. After graduating college Jane is ready to take on the world, basically just get the heck out of working in her Uncle's grocery store and as far away from Queens as possible. When her post grad job slips away, Jane accepts a position as a nanny, unexpectedly, in Brooklyn. A chance to escape the small life she is living but not quite her dream come true. The Mazar-Farley's are a fascinating bunch of characters. Ed a Brooklynite turned academic, Beth, an academic turned extreme feminist and an adopted little girl named Devon that mirrors the fears Jane sees in herself. Jane finally grows up, experiences real friendships, and some not so real. She falls in love and finds out the truth about her mother, her father and herself that finally puts all the pieces of her life together. Re Jane is about immigrant families, traditions, loyalty and friendship. This novel is beautifully written, laugh out loud funny and incredibly touching. I highly recommend this unique look into another culture, and the heart of a truly fabulous main character. Must read!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

How to be a Grown Up

Well, its summer and I needed to laugh out loud!
This fantastic new novel by the infamous authors of The Nanny Diaries was the perfect remedy! Rory McGovern is a stay at home mom in NYC. She married the man of her dreams, literally. Blake Turner was her crush poster on the wall (child actor!) and her secret college - I am watching you but never in 4 years never find the right time to approach - crush!! Post college they meet in NYC and they have a real connection and she is not quite as shy and he is quite that gorgeous up close. They have an adorable, needy 4 year old little girl and a 10 year old boy that is just on the cusp of thinking girls are not completely yucky. Unfortunately, the couple struggles financially. Blake's acting career is in a slump and Rory has not freelanced her set design skill much in years. Blake's solution is to revert to his childhood withdrawal syndrome, one of which Rory knew nothing about. Through humor (and I mean crack up, laughing out loud with the whole family staring - who is that woman in the kitchen?!) and heartfelt not so fictionalized storyline, Rory finds the strength and wisdom to overcome her fears, reboot her career and lean on some pretty awesome friends that are right there with a helping hand, babysitting services and shot of tequila. And while you're busy thoroughly laughing it starts to sink in that this is not so far fetched, that not all married couples stay together no matter how sincere their intentions are or were. I loved Rory and even her off the wall twentysomething boss Taylor who makes her life miserable. Once again these two fabulous friends and authors have hit the jackpot. Can't wait to see who stars in the film! Thanks Emma McLaughlin & Nicola Kraus! #happysummer #unputdownable #laughoutloud #reading

Our Souls at Night

Addie Moore walks right up to her neighbor Louis's door and
asks for what she wants. They are both widows in their early 70's. They have been neighbors in this small town of Holt, CO for years but don't know each other particularly well. They are both incredibly, heartbreakingly lonely. With the bravery of a twentysomething, Addie tells Louis that she would like to spend time with him and they arrange a schedule on a trial basis. Simultaneously, Addie's young grandson is left in her care for a few weeks while her own son is figuring out his own complicated marriage. The bravery - in this unlikely beautiful relationship, for two people that feel as if their lives are finished, is beautiful. And thoughtful. And meaningful, in so many ways. Unfortunately, the couple has to deal with the ridiculous nature of a town filled with gossips and antiquated opinions and eventually the pressure is just too much. This is author Kent Haruf's final storytelling, as he passed away last year. It is a small, quiet, beautiful story of friendship, love and life. And the author is clearly trying to tell us something. Highly recommend this incredibly unique, thought provoking read. Thank you Mr. Haruf, and you will be missed.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Circling the Sun

After reading for almost 24 hours straight, I saved the
last chapter for this morning. Yes, friends, this is one of "those" books. From the author of The Paris Wife, Paula McLain, brings us the unbelievable life of Beryl Markham. In Kenya during the early 1900's, long before it was Kenya, Beryl grew up running free with her father on a picturesque horse farm. He was a renowned horse trainer, and treated Beryl like an equal. She helped him train the horses, she did not complain or back down from any task too difficult. She befriended the local tribe. It wasn't until she was 12 that he was told "that girl should be educated and needs to wear shoes!" As if it had never crossed his mind, he quickly hired Emma as housekeeper/governess/future wife - sort of. Beryl is no ordinary girl. She is tough and brave and completely has a mind of her own. Through her life she is torn equally by much success and failure, love and abandonment. Meeting Denys Finch Hatton (Out of Africa, so yes, you already have Robert Redford's gorgeous face in mind) at a young age to become lifelong friends, sometimes partners and always soulmates is both beautiful and tragic. Beryl makes mistakes while trying to sustain some type of livelihood, although she possesses incredible talent, it is unheard of at this time for a woman to attain too much independence or freedom. This book was UNPUTDOWNABLE. The characters were magnificent and I feel drunk on this time and this place. This author's historical detail and easy writing makes Circling the Sun an absolute must for anyone's summer reading list.

The Seven Good Years

A hilarious, dry witted memoir that reads like a collection
of very personal journal entries. Etgar Keret shares his Israeli life with us; events from his childhood, years in the army and finally becoming a husband and father. He reminisces the good times and the bad, the unlikely situations he finds himself in and responsibilities one can never turn away from. Etgar characterizes the people close to him with warmth, love and a very obscure sense of humor. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this small glance into his life as it is told with truth and incredible honesty. While Etgar lives in a land that is hard for most Americans to understand (even with a visit or two) it is refreshing to be reminded that when it comes to matters of the heart, we are so very similar. Highly recommend this easy, quick and enjoyable read.

Monday, August 3, 2015


Okay, okay. You either love Fifty Shades or you don't.
So, friends, this is only if you love Fifty Shades. Naysayers need not bother!! Same story line told from the view of Christian. (Even after the movie, I see him as Simon Baker and Dakota Johnson really was perfect) It has been a while so I don't know if his view is slightly different or I just don't remember the details but it felt different. It didn't seem like I was rereading the same exact story and that in itself EL James, is very interesting. Christian is Christian. He is obsessed with Anastasia. Some of the repetitiveness seems to have disappeared, but Ana still bites her lip. This book follows absolutely nothing else similar to what I normally read but I thoroughly enjoyed another dark journey with the billionaire into his mysterious world of emotions. Great fun for a lazy day at the pool or beach!

Eight Hundred Grapes

In the beautiful hills of Sonoma County, Georgia Ford
is about to get married. Ben is handsome, smart and his sexy English accent still drives her mad! At her final dress fitting Georgia glances out the window and sees Ben casually walking down the street. And he is not alone. From that moment on chaos ensues. Georgia finds out the truth of Ben's life, she runs to her parents and brothers to the safety of her childhood home only to find they have been withholding secrets and dealing with their own difficulties as well. Taking place in this idyllic part of the country where her family's passion has been their vineyards and watching the way the sun rose and fell, it does not seem so perfect to Georgia anymore. She has life changing decisions to make and ghosts to confront. Author Laura Dave perfectly captures Sonoma and a young woman's life on the brink of marriage. This novel is funny and moves quickly. It has delicious characters and I thoroughly enjoyed and recommend this perfect beach read. Perhaps with a glass of Pinot Grigio, I could not think of a better way to wile away a few summer hours!

Monday, July 20, 2015

The Half Brother

After graduating Harvard, Charlie Garrett makes his way to a
small private school in New England that is as quaint as a storybook. He is offered a teaching position in the English department and even though he still resembles a student himself, decides it's as good a place as any to start adult life. His love of literature and rapport with the students is a huge success and Charlie becomes a beloved part of the Abbott family. But Charlie's real family is complicated. His search for a father figure pushes him towards intense friendships and simultaneously his very first love, May. Years later when his mother, Anita, reveals an ugly truth Charlie's life is turned upside down and even though he is hidden away in this small private world, the arrival of his step brother Nick confuses things further. This novel about family, love, hope and truth - is beautifully written. The words so carefully chosen. I absolutely will be looking forward to reading more from this talented author, Holly LeCraw.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

China Rich Girlfriend

Crazy funny satire following Crazy Rich Asians, by Kevin Kwan,
China Rich Girlfriend follows the lives of a few elite Asian families who have gazillions of dollars to spend and then some more to spare. Journeying through their insanely rich lives from Singapore, to London and back to China, Kevin Kwan showers us in funny anecdotes, explanations and social culture of the rich and wanna be famous. They drive million dollar cars, fly in humungous private jets and have over the top homes and habits. Continuing to follow the romance of remotely normal Rachel and Nick and all their distant relatives and friends, this novel is an extremely funny beach read that is well done and highly entertaining.

Paris, He Said

Talented Jayne, a struggling artist, works in an office
and a shop to pay the (ridiculous!) bills of a NYC life. All the while she is painting less and less as she becomes tired, distracted and uninspired. Of course she still admires and feeds off of beautiful works and one evening when her best friend drags her to an opening of a guy she has a crush on, Jayne meets Laurent and there is no doubt that her life is about to change. Laurent, more than 20 years her senior, is a very handsome, sexy, intelligent gallery owner whose accent and charisma immediately sweep her off her feet. Never believing this relationship is going anywhere seriously, Jayne is deeply enjoying the company of this man who truly appreciates her beauty and aspirations. It is the first person in a long while to inspire Jayne to become the artist she always believed was meant to be. Months into the romance Jayne is invited by Laurent to move with him back to Paris. The invitation includes all expenses paid so Jayne can immerse in her painting and they could continue their relationship in the most romantic city in the world. Told through both the eyes of Jayne and her lover this novel had me on a journey quicker than you can say bon jour. The intriguing relationships between Jayne and her art, the unexpected friendship with his daughter, the partner at the gallery who is both alluring and deceitful and of course, Jayne and Laurent. Their age difference, their cultural upbringings, the idea that someone can get pleasure from giving and truly want nothing in return. Whether you are an art lover, a francophile or a romantic at heart, I highly recommend this novel and look forward to reading more from this excellent new writer I have discovered. #summerreading

Monday, July 6, 2015

Luckiest Girl Alive

Well, I certainly wasn't expecting that! And neither was TifAni FaNelli.
This is the story of a young girl growing up bullied and tormented by the popular group at school she desperately tries to join and her parents loveless, unemotional relationship. All she wants is to fit in. At college Nell, her best friend, teaches her the ropes and now Ani (pronounced Ah-nee) swears to herself she will never not fit in again, her place will never be questioned, she will do it all perfectly. The man (she is engaged to Luke), the ring, the job, and the looks. Behind her sometimes vicious facade, all Ani really wants is to feel safe, to be happy and accepted. All Ani really wants is to accept or somehow forget her tragic past. Through her years in upscale Main Line of Philadelphia to a prestigious college and then the life Ani creates in Manhattan, she climbs and climbs to the top. But the air is very thin at the top and it's oftentimes hard to breathe. From the moment I picked up this perfect suspenseful novel I COULD NOT put it down. Brought quickly into Ani's world and told through alternating past and present chapters the reader is mesmerized and silently rooting (or is that praying?) for Ani. Do not wait for the movie, which Reese Witherspoon has already optioned, The Luckiest Girl Alive IS the book of the summer.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Third Wife

Can the Wolfe family really be just one big happy family?
Well, that is what Adrian Wolfe tells himself over and over. He is best friends with both his ex wives, the magnificent Caroline and sweet Susie. Together they have 5 beautiful children. They vacation together and share meals together. But how does Maya, his third wife feel? How does she fit in to this pretty picture? Sweet, pretty affable Maya. She seemed happy, she appears content and enamored with Adrian and his extended heart strings. Until tragedy strikes and Maya is killed by a horrific bus accident. Not really believing if it was an accident drives Adrian and his family to dig deeper and find the truth. Suddenly there is a mysterious blonde woman "stalking" the clan. An ex girlfriend of his son Luke's reappears and is suspiciously like a bad rash you cannot get rid of, there is a phone left in Adrian's apartment, horrible emails are found embedded deep in his computer, and on it goes. Each chapter revealing just a little bit more mystery but not enough to put all the pieces together. I could not put down this quick, suspenseful read, my third by Lisa Jewell. I love her writing and the ease with which she pulls the reader into the story. Highly recommend this perfect beach read!

The Sunlit Night

Frances, a recent college graduate has been chosen to spend her
summer as far north as possible. She will assist an artist with the completion of his installation on a small island in the Norwegian Sea, 95 miles north of the Arctic Circle. Frances leaves her bizarre parents in a small NYC apartment to sort out their unfathomable "separation" and bewilderment over her sister's upcoming marriage. So part of her journey is to escape the unknown of her future as well as a family in turmoil. It is on this tiny island that Frances meets an eclectic cast of characters, and Yasha, who moves her heart in ways she did not know possible. Yasha has found Lofoten by way of his own personal heartbreak. His beloved Russian father has died, his outrageous mother has reappeared after ten long years and Yasha fears he will be lonely for the rest of his life. Yasha and Frances find friendship as they navigate their feelings, open their hearts to the prospect of each other and try to imagine a portrait of their futures. As the night never comes (literally), it is the perfect location to discover brightness during their darkest days. This quirky, funny, delightful book is beautifully written. The colors come alive as the scenery takes you on a unexpected journey. I look forward to more from this fabulous new author.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Diver's Clothes Lie Empty

A woman travels alone from Florida to Casablanca, Morocco. Immediately on the plane she is paranoid, sad and lonely.You read on. You know something is wrong. You really want to find out why this nameless character is fleeing from her life, her friends, her family, everything she knows. And it reads like this because this novel is written in second person, of which I have personally only comfortably enjoyed once before (A Prayer for the Dying by Stewart O'Nan). This woman is so deeply shaken by the turn of events her life has taken she just wants to run far away and disappear. She stumbles from one ridiculous, but totally possible, situation to another. It is comical in the darkest sense. She literally loses herself. Her backpack is stolen and she is completely stripped of her identity, which is frightening but in the most unique set of circumstances gives her the opportunity to overcome her misery and start over with a clean slate. The background for this novel is exotic and intoxicating and the writing is pure poetry. This is a surprisingly easy and quick read and any hesitation to read a novel in second person quickly disseminated. If you want to read something truly unique, I highly recommend The Diver's Clothes Lie Empty.

Monday, June 22, 2015

The Royal We

Reading The Royal We was like a eating a bag of candy
in the movies, no calories in the dark. Rebecca Porter is an American who has left Cornell to spend a year abroad studying at Oxford. (Okay, you had me at hello!) Unbeknownst to Bex, she is to take a room down the hall from Prince Nicholas (Nick), heir to the throne. The other rooms are filled with a quirky adorable bunch of characters that while most incredibly loyal to the protection and privacy of Nick, surely know how to make certain he has fun too! They immediately bring Bex into their little clan. And so begins a sweet friendship and delicious romance between two "kids" that just want to be themselves - not their siblings, and not what their parents necessarily want them to be. Their romance moves through years of turmoil, good and bad, secrets and outrageous events until decisions are made and tears are shed. Through it all Bex and Nick learn a lot about themselves and the world around them. They learn about family and loyalty and hope and love. Along the lines but not exactly - Prince William and Kate (I truly did not follow their personal story) - the reader is immersed in a farfetched world that is not so farfetched. This novel is light, easy, funny, well written and a complete joy to immerse yourself in on a hot summers day. Just delicious!  Well done girls! Cheerio!

Friday, June 19, 2015


Anna is a good wife, mostly. Hausfrau, German for housewife
is the perfect title for this intriguing, thoughtful, well written novel. The reviews were so diverse and incredibly harsh that I was on the fence as to whether to begin at all. I am glad I did. Hausfrau is the story of Anna and Bruno and their three young children. They have lived in Switzerland for the last 9 years after relocating from the states back to Bruno's homeland. He is a banker, described as beautiful but is cold and distant and very much keeps to himself. He loves his family, respects his mother Ursula and works hard at the bank. Anna is miserable. She is lonely but misses no one and nothing from her past life. She has escaped to a new life in Europe with expectations of happiness and fulfillment yet to be discovered. Finally, Anna succumbs to psychotherapy, Bruno wants her to get help, he knows she is sad almost all of the time. She looks into her past, she analyzes her future, she loves her children but yearns and craves to fill a void that is so empty it seems beyond repair. Anna has spent the last few years filling some of this void with affairs. Some meaningless, some not. Her lies have become twisted and harder to maintain. She has children to look after and a home to keep up. The tiniest bit of hope keeps Anna motivated to keep trying but it is hard and when tragedy faces the family, she crumbles. Other reviews mentioned the ludicrous idea that this was "Fifty Shades," I wonder if we actually read the same book. Other reviews could only say it was a depressing story but here is mine: I thought this was an excellent novel. The writing is beautiful and heartfelt and not typical. You can imagine Anna and her family and you can feel her pain. I do not believe this story is farfetched and although yes, it is sad, it is a real story of love and family. It is a glimpse at another culture and how they are similar and different from Americans. It is a woman who tries and tries but most likely had no chance at ever finding peace.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

The Mapmaker's Children

Historical fiction at it's best, The Mapmaker's Children has all
the ingredients that are sure to capture your heart. Sarah Brown, daughter of infamous abolitionist John Brown, is an intelligent, feisty young woman who accidentally overhears her father's conversation with his fellow Underground Railroad conspirators. From that moment on Sarah wants to help the cause; she wants her life to have purpose and meaning, and unlike most women of the time she passionately wants to be involved in this very dangerous task of fighting slavery. Sarah begins to paint maps to help the slaves find their way north using pictures instead of words. Her talent and bravery take her to Harper's Ferry where her father is imprisoned and put to death as America's north and south battle for freedom. It is in New Charlestown, Virginia that Sarah meets Freddy, the preachers son, the love of her life. Over 150 years later, we meet Eden. Eden and Jack are new to this quaint town. They purchase a restored home that holds secrets they could have never imagined. As Eden and Jack struggle through their own personal marriage issues they begin to love this town, their neighbors and slowly find their way back to their true hearts. Each chapter switches back and forth between two brave strong women who are both searching for meaning in their lives, battling demons from the past and forging better tomorrows. I absolutely devoured this easy to read, unputdownable saga. Thoroughly enjoyed the authors brief accounting of her journey and discovery of this story that was told with a lot of love and a lot of research! Highly recommend this fabulous summer read to take you away on a short journey through time. Enjoy!