Monday, May 30, 2016

Terrible Virtue

Margaret Sanger had a rough childhood; born in 1879, as one of eleven children. Her miserable mother and drunk father had little to share amongst their many children. The older girls escaped as quickly as possible and Margaret tended to many of the younger ones. With a sharp eye and quick wit Margaret found herself wanting more than the average woman and she refused to believe this was not possible. As she grew both in age and maturity, Margaret married and became a mother to her own three children. She had a lifelong love of learning and thirst for freedom and equality that often could not be quenched. While rebels and socialists fought for rights and the vote, Margaret’s part time nursing position brought her to the tenements along New York’s lower east side. While her political friends held dinners where they discussed world views and downed champagne, Margaret climbed the stairwells of decrepit buildings where dreams were crushed and women were dying. These women asked – no, they begged - Margaret for a way to stop having more babies. There were no alternatives for these women and no restraints for these men they were married to. Margaret spent her entire adult life fighting to establish birth control and planned parenthood. She was an outspoken character that was said to embellish the facts but much of what she fought for changed the lives of innumerable women. We are still fighting for these rights. These legal rights that are made by men. Do I have to tell you this is a must read? Author Ellen Feldman narrates this easy to follow story, the life of a woman that to this day continues to reach out to us. Read it and decide for yourself, but please read it.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Glory Over Everything

If you ever wondered in the back of your mind, what happened to Belle, Jamie, Sukey and Miss Lavinia and wished The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom would continue, you are in luck! After finding out who his true mother is Jamie Pyke is forced to run north for freedom. Having led a pampered existence on the plantation, he is ill prepared for the journey and decisions to be made daily for survival. He is only 13 years old. Jamie is a sweet, intelligent boy who is not accustomed to the harsh realities of life or those of the big city. He makes his way to Philadelphia and it is his good fortune to meet Henry, a free slave that saves his life and pushes him towards his future. Jamie is adopted by a wealthy silversmith and his wife. The Burtons are the loving family he always dreamed of but Jamie soon learns it is impossible to bury the truth forever. As it comes to light that his biological mother was a slave, Jamie’s reality becomes uncertain. His comfortable lifestyle and those he has loved for the last twenty years need to accept him for his true self and Jamie must confront the man he hopes he is. Could not put down this page turning, amazing novel. If you loved The Kitchen House, you will not be able to read this fast enough. If you have not - I believe it can stand alone as a magnificent portrayal of characters you will be thinking about long after you finish the book.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Where I Lost Her

Tess Waters is not crazy. She saw her. She is real. And she is going to find her.  One night Tess is driving back to the lake from a store. It’s close to midnight, pitch dark and they had been drinking at dinner. She sees a small lost girl in the road. Her hand is bleeding and she runs into the forest. After an intense police and volunteer search, the authorities in this remote Vermont town decide Tess must be a crazy attention seeking New Yorker and put an end to this chaos that has disrupted the entire town. But for Tess it is only the beginning.  And while she is putting the clues together to find this missing child, she is figuring out the puzzle of her own life. Her fading relationship with Jake, the beauty of her indelible lifelong friendship with Effie and burning desire to become a mother. I highly recommend this suspenseful novel filled the emotions of a saga and the page turning chapters of a thriller. I was immersed in the easy lyrical writing of author T. Greenwood and felt myself  alongside Tess walking through these very woods. #summerread #beachread #summerbooklist

Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Marriage of Opposites

Rachel spends her life dreaming of Paris. She has been raised on the island of St. Thomas. It is the early 1800’s and her adoring father and very strict and cold mother leave her little room to believe she will ever be anything other than a wife and mother, forever on this island, in this small Jewish community. She is best friends with beautiful Jestine, who is the daughter of their wise and faithful maid Adele. Rachel is married off young to a much older widow with three children of his own. But it is her second marriage that brings scandal and true love into Rachel’s life along with 8 more children. Life in this community is not easy and following the traditions and rules often puts Rachel at odds with her neighbors. As interesting and intense as is the spirit of Rachel, this novel morphs into what I feel is the main story and that is the life of her youngest son Jacob who changes his name later in life and is none other than the master of Impressionism, artist Camille Pissarro. I loved reading about the history of these Caribbean islands, where slavery, rum, molasses, and pirates kept these displaced European communities racing towards the future. Highly recommend this insightful, heartfelt novel filled with incredible history, family, spirit, art and love. 

City of Secrets

Jossi (not his real name, they call him Brand) is driving a taxi (car was stolen, papers faked) in Jerusalem. He is trying to decide who he is and what he stands for. Sometimes he is just trying to help. After tragically losing his parents, his sister, his wife and his friends in the war Jossi made his way to Palestine. It is 1945 and many different factions are fighting the British, fighting the Arabs and at times each other. Jossi battles his inner demons. What is bravery. What is worthwhile. How can he live while everyone else died? How can he possibly be happy ever again? He befriends Eva, who they call The Widow. She leads a secret life keeping company with important men. Together they are part of cell that is trying to help the cause. Jossi, at first included for having a car, becomes useful to the group and then more so. I would not label this story a thriller as some reviews have. We know what happens during these years to these brave souls that lost everything and managed to find the strength to keep fighting for independence and freedom. What is really fantastic about this novel is author Stewart O’Nan. He digs incredibly deep into a simple mans heart. Jossi is easily imagined and his thoughts are palpable. It is a story of just one small man doing his part while figuring out the meaning of it all. The sensitive, poetic writing is easy to read and the characters will not be forgotten. Highly recommend this novel about humankind’s despair between good and evil.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Under the Influence

Timing can be everything. One evening Helen, a completely devoted, doting mother rushes Ollie to the ER. But she had been drinking some wine. And after getting pulled over for a minor offense, her world and Ollie’s is turned upside down. The court, with an unforgiving judge takes Ollie away and gives full custody to her cold, manipulating ex-husband. After completing a successful program Helen has neither the strength nor the money to fight her ex-husband and begins to wallow deeper into her sorrow, missing Ollie terribly. One day she meets a couple who are beautiful, wealthy, philanthropic and kind. They take her under their wing and give her the confidence and means to begin changing her life. But their attentions are overwhelming and their needs manipulate her own. Helen becomes confused as to where the kindness ends and demands begin. It is as if she gave up one influence (alcohol) to another; Ava and Swift Havilland. This suspenseful novel kept me turning the pages quickly. As Joyce Maynard illustrates so easily the true human condition of needing and wanting love. I highly recommend this incredible summer read which completely took me away into the lives of these interesting, quirky characters. The writing is smooth as silk taking your feelings and imagination on a small rollercoaster ride.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016


Modern day Pride and Prejudice. If Jane Austen was a writer today “Eligible” would have been her smash success. Five Bennet sisters living in Cincinnati, Ohio. Sort of had family money but it quietly wasted away. All the sisters are beautiful, smart and single. As the eldest, sweetest Jane nears forty, their mother is having a melt down partly because Jane is still single, and partly because their father has unexpected health issues and she is the chair at an important luncheon this fall. Everyone moves back into the childhood home for the summer and chaos naturally ensues. With much humor and in delicious, perfect, bite sized chapters, this novel was completely unputdownable. Curtis Sittenfeld’s modern day take on a much loved classic could not have been more enjoyable. Laugh out loud funny, I was enthralled from the first chapter. This book is a PERFECT way to start the summer.