Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Girl with Seven Names

It is hard to come down to earth after a read like this. The memoir by Hyeonseo Lee, one of her many names throughout her 12 year journey, from teenager in North Korea to defector and asylum seeker living in Seoul, South Korea. The only way to describe this memoir is unimaginable. The bravery she possessed in changing her life when she had no idea what to expect from the outside world, leaving her entire family and heading to a most uncertain future - is astounding. To continue to put one foot in front of the other and solve problem after problem in a foreign land at such a young age is a feat of intelligence and pure determination. Aside from the fact of how interesting (and shocking) her actual path was, this story brings to mind how thoroughly complacent we can become in the comforts of our lives. Hyeonseo had nothing. By nothing, I mean less than nothing. The only thing that kept her going was oftentimes the memory of her loving mother and brother whom she did not see for 12 long years. This fast paced, captivating memoir is a must read. There is so much to learn from Hyeonseo about hope, compassion and the fight for freedom. Also, check out her Ted Talk. A must watch.

Friday, November 24, 2017

The Book of Separation

Tova Mirvis grew up in a small Orthodox Jewish community in Memphis, Tennessee. Her family is well rounded, intellectual, loving and kind. Her parents unconditionally supported their children and their choices as they grew up. Tova always dreamed of being a writer and attended Columbia University in NYC where she honed her talent and met her future husband. She remained true to her family traditions and always walked the careful line of what is allowed and what is not. Who is good and who is better. As Tova’s small family grows they make their way to the suburbs of Boston. In this perfect little house, with her three beautiful children Tova’s questions become too heavy, the answers no longer easily shrugged away. She is torn between the strict faith her husband adheres to, the explanations her children demand and daggers of disappointment found in the eyes of her community as she strays further and further from their world. This heartbreaking memoir is Tova’s emotional journey leaving her religious community and her marriage, both overwhelming attempts at discovering the life she was meant to live while leaving so much behind. Well written, softly spoken, this memoir was both eye opening and incredibly sad. But sometimes even hard unanswerable questions must be asked if we want to live a life of truth and honesty. I look forward to hearing this author speak next week at the Boynton Beach JCC Book Fair.


Beartown is a small community hidden away in a deep dark forest where temperatures plummet and everyone lives for hockey. The Beartown Bears Junior Team have been working for ten years towards this very moment. To the surprise of the rest of the country they are in the National Semi-Finals. But to Coach David, these boys have given every ounce of blood, sweat and tears they possibly could to this game, to this team, to him. As the big game approaches, a tragedy occurs that leaves a young girl traumatized and the entire season hanging in the wind. A small town needs to dig deep in their hearts to learn the difference between good and evil, loyalty and denial, crime and punishment. I neither like nor dislike hockey. I did not thoroughly enjoy this authors previous book but I cannot say loudly enough how much I LOVED LOVED LOVED this book called Beartown. It is absolutely unputdownable and my mind exploded through the entire journey. Author Fredrik Backman’s prose is so gently descriptive you can feel the cold chilling your bones, hear the scrape of the ice and bang bang bang of the puck. These characters came alive and will remain in my imagination for a long time to come. Highly recommend this incredible read.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Carnegie's Maid

When Clara Kelly steps off the ship she is so thrilled to be on solid ground, it is not difficult to follow the sound of her name being called. She easily falls into a carriage headed for Pittsburgh in the shoes of another Clara Kelly who did not survive the ocean crossing. Suddenly swept up into a world she never imagined, Clara finds herself as a ladies maid for Mrs. Carnegie, the stern but brilliant mother of Andrew, industrialist and business magnate. Clara, daughter of an Irish farmer that insisted his girls be highly educated, begins an unexpected friendship with Andrew. As her teacher and mentor the two fall into a pattern of trust and honesty that is rarely found between a man and a woman at the time, certainly outrageous for a servant and master of the house. While Clara sends money home to help her struggling family, she is burdened by her own secrets and dreams of a future where she can be free to work and thrive. Once again, incredible author Marie Benedict brings history to life with this intriguing, emotional, deeply touching story of America and the dreams it holds for us all. Highly recommend this incredible new novel. A must read!!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

The Wife Between Us

Nellie, a preschool teacher in New York City, is about to marry Richard Thompson. Successful, attractive, attentive - the perfect guy. After all she has been through in her life he seems too good to be true. Her Aunt Charlotte is hesitant, but polite. Her roommate Sam does not click with him and his only family is a sister whom he is unusually close with. This twisted triangle could not be more suspenseful as Richard, Prince Charming himself, has swept Nellie off her feet and offers her the life she has always dreamed of. Until the day her dream turns into a nightmare. Nellie doesn’t know what is real anymore. (Neither does the reader!) Who can she trust. Is she really crazy just like her mother. Apparently Richard is good at a lot of things, especially in the details. Reminiscent of The Girl On The Train, this suspenseful novel was an unputdownable roller coaster of creepy emotions and coincidences. Great character development and full of surprises. If you enjoy thrillers and who done it’s, highly recommend this chilling romance.

Monday, November 6, 2017

The Light of Paris

Madeleine is in a really unhappy marriage. Her handsome, successful husband had everything on paper that her mother always dreamed of and she finally succumbed to the pressure that marriage was the key to life’s happiness. Sadly, it wasn’t. Over time her controlling husband became more demanding and Madeleine found her own dreams had long faded. What was supposed to be a weekend to assist her mother with some packing became an extended stay and eventually an escape to her hometown where her spirit had been abandoned years ago. After discovering her grandmothers diary and reading about her bold adventures in Paris, Madeleine finds the strength to dig deeper, rediscover the art she once loved and open herself to new friends and the possibility of real love. Narrated back and forth between the present and the diary, I thoroughly enjoyed this deliciously easy story of finding ones true self. The author’s captivating writing and dreamy settings were a wonderful getaway. Highly recommend this fabulous read.

The Saturday Evening Girls Club

The year is 1908 and four young women are the best of friends sharing their lives in Boston. In the North End a mix of Jewish, Italian and Irish families live together in the tenement buildings, sharing hall bathrooms and gossip on the stoop. Mostly shopkeepers and factory workers their lives revolve around family and trying to put a hot meal on the table to enjoy Sunday dinner. These women belong to the SEG, known as the Saturday Evening Girls, where they meet to talk, dance and socialize. Beginning to attend these meetings when they are just 13 yrs old, they have been inseparable ever since. As the old country demands, their immigrant parents are set on arranged marriages and having babies as quickly as possible. These young friends have been tainted with the American Dream. They want to study, have businesses of their own and definitely choose their marriage for love. Completely enjoyable, breezy telling of a bygone era with these lovely ladies fighting for their rights while respecting their parents beliefs. Well written account of friendship, love and family. Highly recommend this delightful read.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Bronx Heart Jerusalem Soul

Tyra Miller has grown up in the Bronx enveloped in the love of her tight knit family. Her older sister who suffers from an extremely debilitating case of scoliosis has been the focus of her parents heartache and worry. It is the 1960’s and the Miller family leads a pretty stereotypical Jewish New York life for the times; grandparents live upstairs, grandmother cooks enormous amount of food, grandfather is a tailor, father runs a luncheonette, and they vacation once a year in the Catskills. Tyra matures and focuses on Judaic Studies and the Hebrew language. She is finally ready to break free of their suffocating apartment and go to Israel for one year of a masters study program. It is 1966 when many of her high school friends are shipped off to Viet Nam and Tyra journeys on a ship to Israel. Looking for love, acceptance and mostly freedom, Tyra is disappointed when none of it comes very easily. It is sometimes only in reflection that one can fully appreciate the experiences at hand. At times I felt like I was reading a diary narrated by Tyra, often chapters were solely letters rebounding between Israel and her friends and family at home and once in a while I wasn’t sure who was telling the story.  Had it been 20 years later, and Tel Aviv University instead of Jerusalem, it would be pretty close to the journal tucked away in my drawer from the year I spent abroad. The same conflicts, snarky cute soldiers, amazing food and too many cigarettes. I really liked this story albeit it was a little too long and slow. If you find any connection at all, you will smile all the way through.