Wednesday, October 30, 2019

An Unorthodox Match

Lola Howard was raised by a single, free spirited mother in San Jose, California. She craved the normalcy often witnessed in other homes; security, safety, and most importantly, spirituality. After finding and losing her first love during college, and after her hard earned career is shattered to pieces, Lola is at the end of her rope. Loneliness and depression has dug a hole she can no longer escape. Struggling to restart her life in NYC, fate and her latest roommate introduce her to the ultraorthodox community of Boro Park, Brooklyn. Changing her name to Leah and finding solace with many charitable families, Leah begins to truly feel God’s presence for the first time in her life. In her early thirties she believes it is not too late to marry and have a family of her own. When match after match deflates all her efforts Leah volunteers to help in the home of a devout scholar named Jacob who has been recently widowed. The unexpected connection she feels with his children fills an empty space in her heart. Based on her past, she is not qualified to be matched with such a man. Leah struggles to navigate this difficult world that welcomes outsiders with open arms, while never truly accepting their history. Leah and Jacob search very deep in their hearts to follow the word of God while conforming to the community’s ideals. Highly recommend this meaningful novel of love and hope. I often have mixed feelings about these stories but honestly, I couldn’t put this one down.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Everyone's A Critic

Laura Spellman is a talented, successful and bitter literary critic. Making and breaking careers of every author she reviews. Never married and friendless, Laura feeds on the prestige of her position and prizes she has accumulated. As publishing world pressures mount, Laura can no longer avoid the Swedes request to take a group of simpleton book lovers on a literary tour through Paris. One traveler named Tess is a bouncy blondes who writes the commercial chick-lit Laura loathes. Tess’s bag of books begin to stalk her, one showing up at every turn. Laura’s world is slowly collapsing as she entertains these nobodies, fights a sudden illness and begins to doubt her reality. This sardonic short story is a perfect mix of the darkest humor and creepy suspense for any true book lover. Jennifer Weiner, thank you, this is an awesome home run!

The Family Upstairs

Libby Jones has just turned 25 years old. She has been waiting her whole life for this moment. The letter has finally arrived that will reveal her true identity, her birth family. But this long awaited letter offers little more than inheritance instructions. It is shockingly more than she has ever imagined. A valuable mansion in the very posh neighborhood of Chelsea. When Libby was just an infant the police discovered her alone in this house. A seemingly cared for crying baby abandoned alongside three dead bodies. A note regarding the baby’s care and the seemingly peaceful bodies lying side by side suggests a suicide pact. The sparse food, little furnishings and handmade uniform clothing gives the impression of cult behavior. The police accept the scenario and close the case, reports written and quickly forgotten. The baby is adopted. The burning question is what happened to the other four children who lived in this house? Libby is convinced the answers are hidden within these walls and the mystery surrounding their disappearance. Lock the doors and leave on the light while you immerse yourself in this unputdownable chilling thriller.

Don't Even Breathe

Maggie Novak is spending Halloween with her sister and niece in their quiet Florida suburb, trick-or-treating and parading their costumes with all their neighbors. As lead homicide detective she is called away to investigate a murder scene near a swampy lake out by the highschool. Reported by two suspicious teenagers, a body burnt to a crisp, has been discovered.  At the crime scene Maggie is flooded by memories of a night she regrets that has haunted her for the last 20 years. Although the body is unidentifiable, a purse nearby reveals the license of a woman Maggie has never heard of, Dana Cullen. Maggie is completely flummoxed when other clues suggest it is Rita, her childhood friend, who along with her entire family perished in a house fire two decades ago. These impossible coincidences lead Maggie down a treacherous path where she reveals double identities, revenge and murder. As evidence begins to converge Maggie must choose whether to distance herself from the emotional trauma of her past or follow these clues that betray these long time buried secrets. A well written, fast paced novel, there is nothing better than a Halloween Night murder to get you in the spooky spirit of things!

Saturday, October 26, 2019

All This Could Be Yours

Victor Tuchman has suffered a massive heart attack and now this gargantuan  man lies on his deathbed. Each family member confronts years of misery caused by this man. A lifetime of abuse towards his son Gary and daughter Alex, physically and mentally, have made them only too glad that the end is near. His wife Barbra, a cold woman who has held her husband’s criminal secrets and suffered his atrocious behavior for the last 50 years does not shed a tear as she paces the hospital floor counting her steps. Throw in two granddaughters (neither in attendance) a grieving daughter-in-law (Gary’s wife) and the unbearable heat that leaves this Jewish northeastern clan displaced in the heart of New Orleans and there you have it … the most dysfunctional miserable family on the planet. Only a diehard reader may understand why I still say the writing was excellent as I suffered through this hopeless story but did not enjoy the ride.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Olive, Again

Bellyacher, crab, crank, sourpuss. Yup, Olive Kitteridge is back. Henry has passed away and Olive continues on in her small, quiet town of Crosby, Maine. A little older, wiser and still muttering about with her “Yuh’s”, “Hells Bells” and all the funny Oliveisms that made us love her the first time around. This novel feels like a loosely connected group of short stories (structured similarly to Anything Is Possible - the sequel to Lucy Barton.) Each scenario is beautifully written and touches Olive’s life in some way but doesn’t necessarily focus on her as the main character. She stumbles upon many former students, old neighbors, still shaky ties with her son Christopher who is experiencing his second difficult marriage and Olive’s own surprising relationship with Jack, the Harvard snob. If you watched the HBO series, actress Frances McDormand is firmly ensconced as Olive and Elizabeth Strout’s words are poetic. But, it is also very sad. An almost too honest insight into the worst case scenarios of old age and the relationships, both good and bad, that we endure throughout our lives. A fairly quick read, I recommend Olive, Again if you liked the first book - but you definitely have to be in the mood.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

The Giver of Stars

Alice Wright lives a suffocating existence in England. She is repeatedly disappointing her stuffy parents and dreams of a new life. When she meets the very charming Bennett Van Cleve it is her chance to start over in America. Alice and Bennett marry quickly and travel across the ocean where to her shocking dismay, they continue on to a small town in Kentucky. It is in Baileyville that Alice has the opportunity to join the packhorse librarians, a group Eleanor Roosevelt created to make jobs and spread literacy in these remote parts. As her marriage  all but disappears Alice realizes she traded one kind of loneliness for another. Going against her father-in-laws wishes she finds immense happiness with this brave group of women who deliver books throughout the difficult mountain terrain. The first half of this well written novel moves quickly focusing on criminal coal mine owners, women’s rights and racism. The second half, a murder trial when librarian Margery is thrown in jail, drags a little. It is an enjoyable historical fiction novel by Jojo Moyes that has MANY similarities to The Bookwoman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Richardson, which came out months ago. If you read Troublesome it is impossible to ignore these unmistakable coincidences. Putting that aside, I enjoyed them both.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Twice in a Blue Moon

Tate was raised in a remote small town in northern California. Her beloved hardworking Nana Judith takes her on a graduation trip to explore London before college begins. Having never been very far from home, their two-week adventure is precisely scheduled to be filled with non-stop shows, museums and lunch at Harrods. The ladies never expected to meet the charming Luther and his handsome grandson Sam on their very first day. Sam and Tate immediately connect and manage to escape the over protective clutches of Judith to experience their very first young love. Tate feels things she has never experienced before. She shares her most precious secret - she is the missing daughter of the worlds' most famous film star. When this information is leaked to the media her life is turned completely upside down and an entire destiny is changed forever. Fourteen years later on the set of her break out film co-starring her father, Sam and Tate meet again. Realizing their chemistry is as passionate as ever, these star crossed lovers must decide if it is possible to find trust and love again. Slightly different from their long list of bestsellers, Twice in a Blue Moon is another delicious romance from the never disappointing duo Christina Lauren. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

The Write Escape

Antonia Harper, a beautiful thirty-something editor based in Chicago loses her job and her fiancĂ© on the same day. Overwhelmed by her intrusive mother, meddling sister and a lot of wedding plans to undo, Antonia decides to finally focus on the novel she began but set aside long ago. Winding up on her honeymoon in Ireland alone, Antonia finds herself in a quaint village rental next door to Aiden Byrnes, a charming literature professor chasing his own demons. As their push pull friendship slowly turns into more, Aiden and Antonia both learn lessons that open their hearts to the most unlikely possibilities. Filled with laughter, hope and a hot guy with a great accent - this is an adorable romantic journey (of two book lovers!) to one of my favorite places. 

The Dutch House

Danny Conroy gracefully narrates this magnificent story centered around his childhood home in the beautiful suburbs of Philadelphia. After their mother disappeared, his older sister Maeve and the housekeepers essentially raised Danny while their father ran a successful real estate empire. Lonely but loved, the siblings adapted. After a few years their father married a much younger woman named Andrea. She moves into The Dutch House with her two young daughters and incrementally takes over their lives. Ultimately exiled by this evil selfish woman, Danny and Maeve find themselves torn from the only home and family they have ever known. This house becomes the obsessive center of their lives and every important decision is later made with a mix of regret and resentment based on this profound loss. A deep-seated attachment to the past and unfaltering commitment to each other breeds jealousy from Danny’s wife and solitude for Maeve’s future. Told over a period of fifty years, The Dutch House is more than just a house, it is a tale of love and hope. Every day we live our lives we are making memories, whether you realize it or not. Absolutely loved this latest novel by the talented storyteller Ann Patchett.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

The Grammarians

Laurel and Daphne Wolfe are identical twins who are as fierce and feisty as their flaming red hair predicted. Obsessed with words and grammar since childhood these inseparable twins spoke their own treasured language and continuously outwitted the adults in their lives. A fine line between constant amazement and “is there something wrong with them?” - their psychiatrist uncle and loving parents couldn’t quite figure them out. Daphne unsurprisingly creates an eminent column devoting herself to the usage and meaning of Standard English while Laurel becomes a kindergarten teacher and poet. Both living in NYC, the sisters begin to grow apart for the very first time in their lives. Marriage, children and opposing views of destiny slowly unravel this tight-knit relationship. A lifelong battle over ownership of their father’s precious Webster’s dictionary seals their fate. While the ending fell a tad short, logophile (my new favorite word!) and storyteller Cathleen Schine never fails to entertain.