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.