Saturday, September 30, 2017

The Other Alcott

No matter where May Alcott goes, she is always the younger sister of famous authoress Louisa May Alcott, who wrote Little Women. She is also Amy March, one of the main characters. She is the sister that must stay home and care for her family as her parents age. Even though May is filled with love for those around her, she is drowning in regret of the dreams she has for her own story. May is an artist. She draws and paints and wants to study art and become successful and independent like Louisa. During the later years of the 1800’s in Concord Massachusetts most women are married young and raise families. With her lovely looks and flowing curls, May is turning down her suitors in search of her real love, art. Her grit and determination take her to Italy, London and Paris. Her travels lead to opportunities she never imagined. This what-if historical take on the Alcott sisters is a beautiful story about families, especially sisterhood. The Alcott sisters want a life not easily acquired during this time. Many things we take for granted today were unheard of for women. Through extensive research author Elise Hooper creates a realistic tale of the endeavors taken on by May Alcott, the sister rarely mentioned, making her way in the world. I thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend this fabulous new read. Note: There is an extensive amount of detail regarding the art world May enters. These sections may feel lengthy for readers that have little interest in art. It does not detract from the beautiful story of these amazing sisters.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Rules of Magic

The Owens family have been cursed and feared since the early 1600’s when Maria Owens was tried for witchery. This family has to live by certain rules, no crows, no cats, no intent to harm and most importantly - to never fall truly in love. Susanna runs away from their small town in Massachusetts to live her life in NYC, get lost in the crowds. She marries, not for love but for companionship. They have three beautiful children and for as hard as they try, they cannot ignore or run from the powers they were born with and blood that runs through their veins. Franny, the eldest beauty leads and protects her siblings Jet and Vincent, never straying from her responsibilities. The three are inseparable until the day their loves and lives tear them apart from the only life they have ever known. The Rules of Magic is the prequel to the huge bestseller and fabulous movie (Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman 1998!) Practical Magic. This is the story of Frances and Jet’s childhood and how they came to be the loved and fearsome spinster aunts to Gillian and Sally. Filled with spells, potions and promises, author Alice Hoffman could not have done a better job bringing us back into this magical world. 

Sunday, September 24, 2017

The Burning Girl

Julia and Cassie were best friends since they were very very young. Spending every moment of their idyllic childhood summers together, wandering, exploring and dreaming of the future. With high school approaching fast, changes in the girls begin to tear them apart. Once inseparable, Julia now focuses on her academic accomplishments and Cassie’s apathetic tendencies drive her to a dangerous friendship and flirtations with the wrong boys. Julia comes from a loving home with two supportive parents, while Cassie’s single mother begins to date a somewhat religious man that sets out to change her ways and destroy her relationship with her mother. Having loved The Woman Upstairs, I was a bit disappointed with this latest novel by incredible author Claire Messud. So much of the girls relationship felt contrived. Julia’s obsession with Cassie’s well being and belief that she knew everything the girl was feeling was over the top. There were some good characters but many unanswered questions and paths that led nowhere. I felt like I put a lot in and then walked away with nothing. 

Saturday, September 23, 2017

The Takedown

Kyla Cheng is a senior at a fancy private school in Brooklyn. She is valedictorian, beautiful, talented and very very popular. When a sex vid is posted on YurTube of her and  her handsome teacher getting passionate in the classroom, Kyla’s life as she knows it, is over. Years of being on top can leave a lot of not so happy frenemies. Her mission is to catch the culprit of the download who sent this video on a trending frenzy and go back to the norm, with Kyla in control and at the top of her college app game. Her adorable “not boyfriend” Macky and trio of besties help her through this futuristic look at a completely technological world where not just convenience but all of our emotions are controlled with a swipe or a text. A fast paced and furious look at high school peer pressure and our world as it evolves quicker than our little gadgets can carry us. I don’t read many YA books but this one is a winner. Great characters, unique repartee and glimpse into the tech world that will give you much food for thought. Great debut novel, look forward to reading more from Corrie Wang.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

I Could Write A Book

After setting the stage for their upscale equestrian community in Kentucky, Emma is choosing to leave her small women’s college and return home to care for her father after his stroke. Her sister is married with small children, her aunt has already sacrificed her young adulthood caring for Emma’s family when their mother unexpectedly died and it is up to Emma to fill the missing piece in their family home and community. She is beautiful, smart and beloved by all. This sweet mini saga turns into a love story “Jane Austen” style when George, the handsome catch of the town family friend watches Emma, who he has known all his life, grow into the woman he always dreamed she’d be. Obviously, a twist on an old tale, I found this new novel easy and adorable, especially if you love anything remotely Jane Austen. Its hard to imagine the characters with southern charm and accent instead of English one’s but it’s a quick read and if you can go with the flow - you’ll enjoy the ride.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Young Jane Young

Aviva Grossman is a student at the University of Miami. She is interested in politics and gets an internship with a Congressman who was once a neighbor of her parents in Boca Raton. He is charming, good looking, smart and she is smitten. Sound familiar? There is an accident. There is a scandal. The Congressman goes on to re-election after re-election (he is very good at his job) and Aviva’s world will never be the same again. She is forced to reinvent herself. Their lives are narrated through the perspective of Aviva, her mother Rachel, the Congressman’s wife Embeth and later looking back - her vivacious daughter Ruby. Author Gabrielle Zevin had me laughing out loud from page 1 and my full attention to the very end. She was so spot on describing the insecurities of a young college student, her relationship with her overzealous mother and crushed dreams of a carefully planned future. Filled with humor, grace, honesty and incredible storytelling, Young Jane Young is an absolute must read!! I loved every minute of it.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Reading With Patrick

After graduating from Harvard, Michelle Kuo accepted one of the most grueling positions available with the Teach for America program. Filled with tremendous hope, she set out for the small town of Helena, Arkansas. Reality immediately set in when she enters a completely broken, neglected and forgotten part of our country. A public school system filled with students that were left behind a long time ago. Generations ago. Michelle believed that if you could scratch the surface there was a bright light just waiting to be turned on. Utilizing her love of reading, unimaginable patience and pure kindness, Michelle found ways to encourage students - who have never ever been asked what they thought - to speak up and voice their thoughts and dreams and opinions. Years later after attending Harvard Law School Michelle is notified that a student named Patrick, whom she had been very close to, had been jailed for murder in a place that basically would throw away the key. Even though she longed to begin her law career and new life in California, she could not abandon Patrick or her belief that education and caring can make a real difference. Michelle goes back to Helena to see how she could help him. This incredible work of non-fiction should be required reading for parents, teachers and students. Our beautiful country still has a long road and a lot of hard work ahead. The most basic human rights should not ever be violated and every child needs a caring adult for guidance. I was mesmerized by Michelle’s beautiful words and this is undoubtedly a life changing MUST READ. Because reading really does change lives.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

The Diplomat's Daughter

Emi Kato has lived all over the world. As the only daughter of a Japanese diplomat, the Kato family has been stationed in Berlin, London, Vienna and America. Emi is a beautiful, talented, multi-lingual young woman whose life turns upside down during WWII. The Kato family thought they were safely tucked away in Washington DC, but when Pearl Harbor is bombed, the Japanese are quickly the enemy and are sent to internment camps, stripped of all their freedoms and slowly returned to Japan. At the tender age of 21, Emi has fallen in love twice and these friendship/romances have pulled her heart in every direction possible. In Vienna, Leo Hartmann’s family has been destroyed and removed from everything they have ever known and Christian Lange, a wealthy American boy of German descent whose family is also detained, is no longer welcome on American soil. Emi does not know who to trust anymore. The Japan she returns to does not resemble her young childhood, Christians family could not be part of the same Nazi Germany she despises and the Americans have completely withdrawn any diplomatic welcome they once extended. As Emi becomes an independent woman, apart from her parents she searches to find home and her two loves - all the while struggling to stay alive. I really liked each character in this somewhat long, repetitive saga. Its a solid good but did not knock my socks off as author Karin Tanabe’s The Gilded Years had done last year.