Saturday, February 28, 2015

Where They Found Her

Molly Sanderson is reinventing herself as a reporter at the local paper. After the loss of her baby and the depression that followed, her beautiful little family has moved to the small town of Ridgedale for new jobs, friends and hopes of a second chance.  Until the phone call that changes everything. Molly’s boss Erik, has requested she follow a story a lot more serious than the life and arts section she had been enjoying. A body has been found down by the bridge. The body of an unidentified infant. And so the mystery begins, dragging Molly and this small town through a maze of terrifying memories, cover-ups, and emotions that go back for decades. Molly gathers the information carefully as the meticulous lawyer/student she had been. She is desperately trying to follow the rules while simultaneously hold it together as this story leads her to the brink of her own numbing memories that she has been trying to tamp down in order to move on. Her supportive husband worries this subject is too close to their own recent loss. Her boss mysteriously has left town and even the kindly chief of police lurks in the background. As this complicated mystery turns their lives upside down, who is innocent and who is guilty becomes indistinguishable. The relationships between friends, children and husbands become tangled as the fine lines blur between trust and truth. Could not put down this suspenseful second novel by Kimberly McCreight, the incredible author of Reconstructing Amelia. Highly recommend this page turner filled with likable characters and hair raising twists.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Lillian on Life

Lillian, a woman of a certain age, is reflecting on her life, her loves,
her family. Often she smiles, sometimes there is a bit of regret. Lillian, born in Missouri in the 1930's is smart and feisty. She mostly hides her fire because it would be most unbecoming for a woman to do otherwise. She is finally set free from her mother's watchful eyes and makes her way to Europe. Terrified of traveling alone, Lillian knows she must leave her small town and small life if she is ever going to really "live" and she accepts a transcriptionist position in Munich. And slowly, she spreads her wings. Lil finds her way into an exciting career and life in the bustling cities of London and Paris. Dining with Dukes and writers, Lillian takes on a whole new persona. She falls in love, more than once. On reflection she wonders if this was her true self or was she constantly faking it. But aren't we all? We all are an accumulation of our experiences, for better and for worse. Years later Lillian finds herself living in NYC and in love with her boss, who is married. This most unique narrative is unlike anything I have ever read. Its short simple chapters are incredibly elegant. I was able to imagine Lillian, I could hear her. I didn't want the story to end. It is amazing to me when a character in a novel feels so real, I will actually miss her. Highly recommend this read and look forward to more from this incredible author.

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Last Good Paradise

Ann and Richard, a wanna-be yuppie couple in Los Angeles find themselves on
the run like common criminals. None of this is as it was supposed to be. Their path to follow their dreams has turned into a nightmare. Ann has worked night and day at a high powered law firm for the last ten years, solely to support her husbands goals of opening his own restaurant. Richard is a passionate, kind, loving chef that pours his heart and soul into every dish. Ann daydreams out her big corner office window of the future when she can hostess in their quaint little restaurant that she knows will become the talk of the town. And they will live happily ever after. Unfortunately, Richards best friend and partner/chef Javi is a loose cannon that spends way beyond his means and charms and sweet talks everyone with his lies and coverups as he falls deeper into debt. When his ex wife freezes the restaurants' bank account, Ann and Richards' entire life savings goes with it. Ann cleverly finds an escape and she and Richard are on the next plane to the South Pacific until things simmer down. In their desperate search for quiet and isolation and time to figure out their future, they land on a remote atoll where a bizarre cast of characters resides. One crazy adventure after another, each chapter more repetitive and bizarre than the last. What began as an escape from the fast paced lives we all live - to finding oneself on a fantasy-like deserted island morphed into a ridiculous nonsensical circus. Forcing myself to finish, hoping somehow it would all come back together, I was deeply disappointed when it never did. The first half truly grabbed me and then it ran away so fast I could never catch up. Sadly, I don't think I will be recommending this one my reader friends.

Thursday, February 19, 2015


An English woman gets on a plane to Athens to teach a
writing class for one week. She has been to Greece before and has a few friends and acquaintances to keep her busy during her free hours. This middle aged woman has just divorced and worries about her children, how they are faring both from the aftermath of divorce and the family dynamics that are quickly changing. This novel is a series of short stories of the people she meets throughout this trip. The "neighbor" man from the plane, one of her quirky students, a beautiful old friend she meets for drinks and the neurotic teacher replacing her at the end of the week. As a writer she reflects on her experiences past and present and as a woman, she worries what the future will hold after so many years of meticulous, rather rigid living. She is an excellent observer of people and the world around her. I don't always find myself immersed when I read short stories but the exception here is twofold; Rachel Cusk is an incredible writer whose words flow effortlessly and the woman connects and brings a continuity to the stories in a most unique way. I highly recommend this easy, thoughtful novel. For my friends who currently do write or wish to write, I think you particularly would like this read!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Girl on the Train

I snap my fingers twice to break the spell. I have just been
hypnotized by The Girl on the Train. Rachel takes the 8:04 into London every day. Same day. Same train. And as it slows at a certain spot on the route, she observes life through the back gardens of a few homes. She imagines the lives of these strangers, gives them names, romance and dramas. Rachel lives vicariously through these characters because her life has fallen apart. Piece by piece she has lost everything and everyone she has loved - everything she has dreamed of. Suddenly one of the characters disappears and it is in all the newspapers. Rachel recognizes Jess/Megan and cannot fathom how this beautiful blonde girl with seemingly everything one could ever want, has mysteriously vanished. Then she starts to remember small bits of the scenario  that she has witnessed from the train and feels compelled to come forward to the police. But she is an unreliable witness. Desperate to help this couple Rachel goes above and beyond to find the truth and solve this twisted mystery. I could not put down this novel and when I was forced to feed my family I rushed right back to it. The most suspenseful drama since Gone Girl. Highly recommend.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Scent of Butterflies

Soraya is a woman on the run. She is running from her home,
her family, her best friend and herself. Soraya is a beautiful young woman, living in Iran. It is the late 1990’s and life in Iran has become more and more difficult and restrictive. She is a photographer and must hide her talent for fear of the Morality Police. She must hide her beauty and her passions. Soraya is content to wait out what her family feels will get better someday as they reminisce and treasure their old lives with the Shah when the city flourished with Western ways. She is passionately, erotically in love with her husband of 20 years. They have no children but are content with their love, their extended family and Soraya’s best friend Butterfly. When Soraya flees to the U.S., to California, her family thinks she is on a photography assignment but in reality Soraya is licking her wounds and planning her revenge on those who have betrayed her. This author paints an intricate picture of life in Iran and closely follows Soraya’s obsession with plants and birds and butterflies. A suspenseful story of love and lies. A woman’s desperate search for happiness in this twisted surprising tale of a family shattered by lies.

Leaving Before the Rains Come

I don’t know how I discovered Don’t Lets Go to the Dog’s Tonight
more than 12 years ago, but Alexandra Fuller’s first memoir of her life growing up in Africa has since been on my mind. I felt like I was there, to see, smell and feel Africa, even though I have never been. Finally, I was rewarded with a sequel called Leaving Before the Rains Come. Her later years of marriage and a big move to the United States. It is filled with pregnancies, children and building a house and life in Wyoming. The marriage crumbles and Alexandra cannot let go of her childhood home and the piece of her heart that has always remained on another continent.

Alexandra Fuller is a smart, passionate writer. She brings the reader deep into her soul to share her experiences to the fullest. The good and the bad, the ugly and the beautiful. Maybe some of her story, her reminiscing and longing for childhood is common for us all, hers being more exotic having grown up in a world full of chaos and nature and lots of near fatal emergencies involving elephants and storms and war. But at the heart of all matters, her story is that of a woman, in the middle of her life wondering where her younger self has gone off to and she will do anything to catch even a glimpse of her old self to prove that yes, she truly existed. She yearns to know what is to come next.

Leaving Before the Rains Come is beautifully written, it is funny and sad and true. I highly recommend this extraordinary memoir. If you missed her other memoir (Don’t Let’s Go to the Dog’s Tonight) I would read that one first. Both on the top of my list!

Monday, February 2, 2015

West of Sunset

In 1937, F. Scott Fitzgerald, sets out for Hollywood. He needs to
jumpstart his career, earn money to pay off exorbitant debt he has accumulated and support his ailing wife and their daughter who is away at a costly boarding school. There is no place better to accomplish all these tasks than at the studios. With a few old connections Scott manages to find work writing scripts for a very good price and although the scripts are often changed until his work is unrecognizable, it pays the bills. He is surrounded by a magnificent cast including Bogart, Dorothy Parker and Shirley Temple. The Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind are in the works. It is a magical time in Hollywood. Although Scott has set his sights on the future and sincerely wants to make amends, his demons have followed him across this vast country and his drinking, philandering and general bad decision making are no different in California than they were anywhere else he and Zelda had previously landed as they roamed the world. Sadly, Zelda is in a hospital/sanitarium. Scott believes the beautiful brilliant wife he has long adored is still in there somewhere and he lives in denial that things will ever be the same again. These are his last years, his magnificent talent is not appreciated in this town and his love affair with famed gossip columnist Sheilah Graham is the last he will have. Sheilah is by far the rock he never had and truly needed. But it is too late. His drinking and pill popping have destroyed his health and for all his good intentions, his need for fame and recognition are difficult to sustain. Scott's last years are depressing and although Stewart O' Nan is one of my all time favorite writers, I found the scandalous lives of the Fitzgerald's in "Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald," by Therese Anne Fowler, much more enjoyable.