Sunday, February 25, 2018

The One in A Million Boy

A young boy is assigned by his scoutmaster to help an elderly woman out around her house and attain his scouting badge. She is 104 years old and quite literally alone in the world. The boy, who is obsessed with Guinness Book of World Records, sets the woman on a path to become the oldest something. He is also interviewing her for a school project. This quirky, brilliant boy who has enormous difficulty connecting to others has instant chemistry with Ona. A beautiful and unlikely friendship blooms. When the boy suddenly dies his neglectful musician Dad shows up to fulfill the rest of the boys badge requirements. The mother, who has all but fallen apart from this tragedy pushes the estranged Dad to examine his own life and grief. While the writing is both beautiful and style completely unique, I had a lot of trouble connecting with any of these characters. I truly like the premise but often lost myself in repetition and unnecessary dialogue. I’m kind of on the fence with this one folks! Will be interesting to discuss with my book club tomorrow. Sometimes the discussion brings to light a new perspective that may shine on the missing elements.

The Great Alone

When Ernt Allbright returns from Vietnam his family is waiting with open arms. Wife Cora and daughter Leni struggle for years trying to uncover the man they know must be buried deep beneath these horrible layers that have become his persona. In 1974, Leni is 13 and she hasn’t a friend in the world. In answer to Ernt’s uncontrollable emotions and outbursts, they have moved over and over again. Land has been given to him with a small cabin in a remote corner of Alaska. This beautiful paradise and welcoming few neighbors seems idyllic at first. Ernt’s nightmares have subsided. He is sleeping for the first time in years. And Leni, at 13, desperately lonely has made a friend her age, Matthew. The town is quick to warn them, the sun may be shining in May but its time to prepare for the long, dark winter or they will not survive. While they exert daily physical and mental energy to make a home for themselves, the days very quickly get shorter, as does Ernt’s temper. He becomes a prepper for both the weather and government that he suspects will knock down their fence at any moment. Ernt’s violent nature resurfaces and nothing, not a caring neighbor or a prayer will stop him. This magnificent portrayal of love, pain, friendship, beauty and survival is filled with many of life’s hardest lessons. This descriptive beauty of Alaska mesmerized my senses and Ernt’s sad violence ripped my heart out. This is a bit of a lengthy saga but push through my friends! It is worth every moment spent devouring this family’s experience and Leni’s heroic journey to the end. Highly recommend and loved author, Kristin Hannah’s acknowledgements of her personal Alaska connection.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Surprise Me

Sylvie and Dan attend their annual physical side by side. As the doctor shares the good news; the exams were perfect and combined with their healthy family history they could expect a long happy life together - say, at least 68 more years. After a decade of wonderful marriage and beautiful twin girls, one would think this excellent news to hear. But Sylvie and Dan are equally floored. How in the world can they sustain a marriage for that long? Be with only the one person for decades? Simultaneously they strive to improve their seemingly normal marriage along the premise of “surprises”, hence the title. Laugh out loud wonderful author Sophie Kinsella does it again. Quirky neighbors, hair brained schemes (think I Love Lucy) and hidden family secrets set them on an unlikely  journey, one disaster and misunderstanding after another. Light, fun adorable take on the ludicrous idea that you think you know what your husband wants, HA! Highly recommend if you need a little break from reality or otherwise.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Eternal Life

Rachel is 2000 years old. Many many years ago, to save the life of their first son who was very ill, Rachel and her lover Elazar make a vow to sacrifice their own death in exchange for his life. The child survives and becomes a famous and wise sage. But it is much later that Rachel and Elazar fully understand what it means to never die. To live life over and over and over. In present day, while humans are looking for every which way to look, live and remain young, Rachel is searching for a way to die. She has had dozens of husbands, hundreds of children and grandchildren. She has watched life go by over and over and over. And as beautiful as it can be at times, the pain is exhausting. Through the ages Elazar comes in and out of her life remaining the only soul who knows their secret and understands her heart. Finally, in present day, when her favorite granddaughter is a geneticist, Rachel thinks she may have found a way out. Author Dara Horn gets five stars for originality and her beautiful writing. This book is touted as hilarious but I would not use that to label this bizarre, peculiar, unusual book. There are great characters. There is a lot of biblical history. It is easy to read and there is certainly a lot to think about. 

The Queen of Hearts

Zadie and Emma are best friends throughout medical school and residency. Now they are successfully ensconced in quaint Charlotte, North Carolina. Both happily married with wonderful husbands, children and vibrant careers. Small flashbacks in time describe the personalities and relationships of these two very different women compared to their present day persona. When Dr. X appears back in their lives, everything is turned upside down. He has relocated to join Emma’s practice. Zadie has never recovered from the brutal way Nick broke her heart years ago and she has never discussed it with her adoring husband. Nick’s sudden appearance seems both suspicious and spiteful and Zadie avoids him at all costs. There is an accident at the country club where the two friends save a life and later one with a small child of a very prominent family, where they do not. Although I liked the characters and realistic struggles through school and training, I am not sure what this is about. Its a little bit of a lot of things but something feels missing. There is a dark secret that comes to light in the end but it feels rushed and contrived to wrap up a neat package. I’m on the literary fence. 

Still Me

Louisa Clark is still our favorite girl next door. After climbing her way out of the sadness and loss of Will Traynor, Louisa decides to follow his sage advice and accepts a job in NYC. She is to be an assistant to a wealthy young woman on Fifth Avenue. The Gopnik’s seem to have it all if you are counting dollars but the fighting, sadness and remnants of a bitter divorce from the first Mrs. Gopnik have left a very large black hole in the middle of their fancy rug. Louisa’s spunk and brand new outlook help Agnes overcome or at least manage some of her social obstacles. But as Lou falls deeper into the Central Park world of limousines and charity balls she becomes the holder of secrets and lies that are more and more difficult to hide. Ambulance Sam haunts her dreams as their long distance love affair begins to wither, Josh (the American version of Will) is determined to capture her attention and her love for vintage clothes and originality still make her heart skip a beat. In Me Before You readers were left hyperventilating, After You let us know Louisa was trying hard but didn’t knock us down and finally Still Me is a beautiful, fun, uplifting finale for a girl come full circle trying to figure out the most important question a person can ask; This is your LIFE, what are you waiting for? Highly recommend this latest novel by author Jojo Moyes. Sure to bring some smiles round for her beloved fans.

Begin Again

Allie is a freshman searching for an apartment in a small college town. She hasn’t exactly “run away” from home but has started this journey against her parents wishes. She is determined to leave her troubled past and start over with a new name, new friends and positive outlook for the future she is creating. As door after door closes, panic sets in along with idea of having to sleep in her car. On the last look of the day, the guy that stands in front of Allie takes her breath away. He is beautiful, tattoos lining his muscular arms and a smile that could stop traffic. Kaden is rude, snappy and instantly tells her no way. Allie wheedles in for a quick tour, trying hard not to seem desperate, knowing that she most certainly is. And so begins the romance between Allie and Kaden. The discovery of real friendship and past secrets that could tear them apart. Does this sound corny enough for you? Bad boy, sweet girl fall in love against the odds, etc etc It may be picking up a book at the right moment or a memory that startles your senses but I read this seemingly teen romance, translated from German, in one straight sitting. The conversation flowed and the pages turned and before I knew it I was taken away if only for the day. Highly recommend and enjoyed this quick break from reality. Interestingly, this is a trilogy but it seems only this first one has been brought to the US.