Friday, June 14, 2024

The Goddess of Warsaw

Lena Browning is a legendary actress. A Hollywood icon. Now in the last years of her life she wishes to come full circle. Her plan begins by sharing her life story with a young, popular actress who can easily play the role. As Lena flashes back to the early 1940’s she describes in detail her life as Bina Blonski, a beautiful blonde Jewish actress who has been thrown into the Warsaw ghetto by the Nazis. Her mother, father and sister - all killed. Her husband is a mild mannered journalist who is determined to record what is happening, while his brother Aleksandr and Bina want to fight back. They will save as many Jews as possible and are willing to kill when necessary. Bina’s Aryan looks and theatrical skills allow her to infiltrate the outside world. She arranges weapons and supplies for the small group of resistance fighters she has joined. When her husband is taken from the ghetto Bina acts on her hidden lustful feelings for Aleksandr. And then everything falls apart. Bina escapes and does whatever it takes to survive. Landing in Hollywood with a new identity Bina (Lena) spends her life in the spotlight using her money and fame to target Nazis who escaped unpunished after the war living lives they did not deserve. While the novel is fast-paced and an absolute page-turner, I found some of the romantic gestures to be a bit unrealistic and unnecessary. Nonetheless, the story is filled with many unexpected twists. If you're looking for a Holocaust story, I highly recommend it. Personally, I need a break from this genre for a while, but my mother-in-law thought it was riveting. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Thursday, June 6, 2024

Summer Romance

Two years ago Ali’s mom sadly passed away. They were extremely close and Ali still finds herself locked in the car asking for advice. More concerning is that her mother answers. Then her husband announces he wants a divorce. This professional organizer and mother of two falls into a deep funk that she cannot climb out of. Keeping herself busy in the small town she grew up in creates an illusion making the days go quicker - but to what end? As summer approaches Ali wants to fix up more than her pantry, she wants to organize her life and start over again. In walks Ethan, or rather in rolls Scooter. (picture actor Adam Demos from Netflix Sex/Life on a skateboard) The once scrawny teenage brother of her best friend throws Ali for a loop de loop. Scooter has grown up and this devastatingly handsome, kind and sexy man may be just the fling to spice up her summer. As she and her ex work their way through a painful mediation juggling the needs and emotions of their kids, Ali must learn to manage the feelings unexpectedly bursting in her heart. Ethan is supposed to leave at the end of the summer. He has a home, career and people depending on him. But a four hour commute seems impossible and Ali fears she may lose her opportunity for a happy future. As cute, witty, sexy and well written as Nora Goes off Script, Summer Romance is the PERFECT read for the beach this summer! You will love every single minute of it! ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Funny Story

Peter and Daphne had every detail of their wedding all planned. They moved back to Peter’s quaint Michigan hometown of Waning Bay, into the most adorable starter home. Peter’s lifelong friends and family were an instantly filled social calendar and Daphne loved her perfect job at the local library. Too good to be true? Well, its a not so funny story what happens next. All plans and their future implode when Peter reconnects with his gorgeous childhood friend Petra and dumps Daphne for the future wife he was meant to have. Completely devastated, Petra’s ex offers Daphne a room to rent. Miles is extremely handsome, in a disheveled tattooed bar tender sort of way, not her type at all. To Daphne’s surprise Miles turns out to be an excellent listener and kind soul. Their friendship blossoms and begins to fill the empty void Daphne has fallen into. When she accidentally lets it slip to Peter that she is dating Miles, simply to make him jealous, the young couple starts to enjoy the fake thing a little too much. Trying hard to enjoy their new friendship and avoid their mind blowing physical chemistry is harder than either of them ever imagined. As Daphne listens to her heart she begins to see a bright future of her own making. This latest romance by Emily Henry is too perfect. It is so rare to love every single character - I would not change a single thing. Five summer stars! Throw this one in your beach bag today!! ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Look For Me There

In 2008 when Tim Russert passed away, America mourned a beloved journalist whom for many represented the best American television political moderator we had ever seen. Luke Russert lost his dad; the man who he loved and admired more than anyone in the world. He also lost confidence in his future and what that represented. His mother, Maureen Orth, also a successful journalist, encouraged him to explore the world. Her early peace corp experiences and deep belief in god shaped her views and aspirations, she hoped it would be the same for her son. But as his journey around the globe challenged him, and according to his mother - went on for much longer than necessary - Luke became desperately lonely and fell into an abyss of grief. Without his father there to cheer him on through life, experiences felt pointless. Luke tried his best to see people through his father’s charitable eyes, Tim had always seen the glass half full. But Luke had a hard time finding his own inner voice. At first this memoir reads like a travel journal or diary of sorts, but as Luke learns more about both his parents lives he begins to grow in ways he never imagined. Facing fears, living with loss and finding faith. Three lessons we all must learn. ⭐⭐⭐

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Every Time I Go on Vacation, Someone Dies

Eleanor Dash is on an Italian book tour. She has written a series of bestsellers and her fans simply cannot get enough of these vacation mysteries - and the real life detective that costars throughout. Problem is, Connor Smith is real and Eleanor wishes he was fictional. This handsome con man she met a decade earlier when she was young, naive and thought she was in love. He embroiled Eleanor is an unexpected situation where they ultimately solved a bank heist, Connor received the reward money and dropped her like a hot potato. When Eleanor returned home she poured her broken heart out into her first novel, a mystery about a bank heist in Italy. Connor was quick to blackmail Eleanor for using his character and much to her chagrin has immersed himself in her life and career ever since. Each day as the book tour continues mysterious accidents and clues can no longer be ignored. Apparently someone is trying to kill Connor, or is it Eleanor? Afraid and feeling alone in the crowd this quick witted author tries to solve her own murder mystery. With many of the characters having serious motive this fast paced comedy/cozy becomes a series of mishaps and adventures leading the reader to solve the case! Clever, fun and filled with laugh out loud moments, this is the perfect light beach read for the summer! ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Love at First Book

Leaving or rather escaping the quiet of Martha’s Vineyard is something Emily Allen has finally found the courage to do. Although she equally adores her job at the library and her best friend Sam, her mother’s erratic and abusive behavior has ran its course. Emily gets a job as an assistant for her all time favorite author, Siobhan (pronounce Shi-vawn) Riordan who lives in a quaint village in Ireland. A dream come true, Emily packs her bags. She rents a lovely cottage and also works part time at The Last Chapter, a idyllic bookshop in the center of town. The shop owner and new boss happens to be the son of Siobhan. Kieran Murphy also happens to be the most handsome guy she has ever laid eyes on. As Emily learns the local speak and merits of a good whiskey Kieran begins to grow on her. The surly boss man has a soft spot for literature lovers and red heads giving Emily a grand start in the right direction. Their relationship is as impossible to keep secret in this small town as is Siobhan’s cancer which is back with a vengeance. Her dying wish is to finish the book series that has been on hiatus for a decade. As this latest chapter in Emily’s life is turned upside down there is only one solution. Filled with family, love and books, books and more books. This delightful story is simply unputdownable and I loved every minute of it! ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Sunday, May 12, 2024

Walking with Sam

As a younger man Andrew McCarthy who was going through some troubling times completed an extraordinary adventure - the 500 mile trek across Spain’s Camino de Santiago. This legendary pilgrimage, rich in medieval history, leads its travelers to the Cathedral in the Galicia region of northwest Spain. He dreamed of returning and from the moment Andrew’s first son Sam began to walk he hoped someday they could accomplish this journey together. At 19, Sam was finally ready. The duo set off on this remarkable pilgrimage which promised to be both daunting and fulfilling. Walking stick in hand, they head out into the long, quiet, arduous task of walking. Essentially off the grid with heavy packs on their backs they fall into a rhythm of walking, eating and sleeping in small villages with only the barest necessities. They meet an array of eclectic fellow pilgrims, some that accompany them to their final destination. When work and every day life is put aside and weeks of open road lie ahead conversations meander from one extreme to the other; the zombie apocalypse to music and painful memories of divorce. Trying to connect with your adult offspring can be a challenge as we face the speed with which we are losing them to the world. Accepting your children are independent of you, your choices and expectations while endlessly encouraging them to be brave and confident is probably the hardest job in the world. Andrew’s memoir of his walk with Sam is filled with love and patience, blisters and disagreements. Perfect book to celebrate Father’s Day, I simply adored every single chapter and have already told my grown son all about it. Thats a start. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Sunday, May 5, 2024

The Wedding People

When Phoebe enters the crowded lobby at the infamous Cornwall Inn of Newport RI, she is wearing a beautiful green dress and carries no luggage. Phoebe, a literature professor from St. Louis, booked an ocean view suite for this auspicious occasion. To be alone and mourn the husband she lost and life that is no longer attainable. As she carefully observes the lobby Phoebe realizes these guests are attending a wedding. In fact, she is the only non wedding guest in the hotel. Alone in the elevator, Phoebe and Lila, the beautiful bride, strike up an unlikely friendship, confiding things in each other they probably shouldn’t be saying out loud. Before she knows it Phoebe is spending the week with “the wedding people” who are mostly named Jim and more wrapped up in themselves than to bother asking why this stranger is at the wedding. While helping Lila have “the most amazing wedding week ever” Phoebe reflects on the dissolution of her own marriage and the devastating betrayal of the man she loved. As she remembers the painful IVF failures and the family she will never have she closely watches Lila and sees the pain beneath the glitz and glamour; a difficult eccentric mother, the devastating loss of her father and the fact she is marrying a perfect man whom she may not actually love. As the two women share their lives and experiences with each other they are able to honestly face their true selves in the mirror. A million dollar wedding week filled with outrageous characters, dark humor and the ultimate search for the meaning of life. This was a unique, well written, captivating story. What is really interesting to note is that at 50% I was not completely hooked, even considered putting this down! But it pulled me back in and got progressively better. This never happens! I am so glad I finished and wound up loving it. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Sunday, April 28, 2024

It. Goes. So. Fast.

From the moment we become parents there is another life completely dependent on our constant care and nurturing. Everything else becomes secondary. On the same note as the tables turn and we age our own parents may need assistance. Those days too are cherished and counted. The circle of life described in this memoir by well known NPR journalist Mary Louise Kelly is loving and thought provoking. Having spent years reporting on war, interviewing politicians and the people affected around the world, Mary decides to take time off to be more present for her older son’s last year of high school before he leaves the nest. Diving deep into the memories of early parenting while reflecting on the painful recent loss of her beloved father - while the actual world feels like it is falling apart - is hard and exhausting. With honesty, love and humor Mary Kelly shares some of her most private thoughts about motherhood, marriage and the relevance of a professional woman in midlife. Change is inevitable but it is not always easy. The invaluable lesson that time is our greatest asset is a constant reminder to live your best life. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Friday, April 26, 2024

The Wives

Leaving New York City is never easy. Simone had an editing job she loved, a great group of friends and - in the city that never sleeps - always something to do. Soon after she gets married, Andrew joins an elite Army unit and the young couple relocate to Columbus, Georgia. A very very tiny town with an army base and little else. Andrew and Simone grew up together in California. Their relationship is strong and their love runs deep. But as any young couple may struggle, they have a hard time figuring how they can both follow their dreams and remain supportive of each other. Feeling the stress of loneliness and financial instability, Simone’s real test arrives - Andrew is finally deployed. Paralyzed by this deep rooted fear is something Simone had never experienced before. It takes a village - or rather “The Wives” - as she names the other women she meets - to make this transition to army wife. An intelligent, voracious reader Simone had always been a pacifist. The pervasive questions she continuously asks Andrew, her peers and herself are the difficult ones. Simone wants to understand where Andrew’s unflinching and real desire to risk his life and fight for his country comes from. She slowly learns how the army works and the lingo they use to pacify worried wives while their husbands are deployed. As the more experienced wives help her through the difficult early days Simone learns the meaning of true friendship and camaraderie. She and Andrew find their way through the complicated maze of military life with a few bumps and bruises but this memoir shines as a testament to faith, hope and family. I was mesmerized by Simone’s story. She is an excellent writer and captured my imagination and my heart. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Paradise Problem

Marrying West Weston may or may not have been the greatest plan. But Anna Green needed student housing at UCLA and West found a great deal in subsidized family dorms. At the time it seemed like a win-win. Anna and West were excellent roommates, stayed out of each other’s way, their paths barely crossing. He was an introverted intellect finishing grad school and Anna, an eclectic party girl with pink hair who ultimately dropped pre-med for life as a starving artist. One small hitch to the hitch. Anna wasn’t much for details and she barely glanced at the documents West had her sign. Three years later, long after they went their separate ways, West appears at Anna’s door. Now a Stanford professor and more handsome than ever, West is trying to protect his inheritance from the Weston empire (i.e. crazy family) and he makes Anna an offer she once again cannot refuse. $100,000 to accompany him to a remote island celebration for his sisters high profile society wedding. Oh, and by the way, they are still legally married. Shocked but in desperate need of cash, Anna agrees. The young couple begin a two-week whirlwind adventure with the Weston clan to show the family just how married and in love they still are. A breathtaking setting and real/hot fake/marriage make this the absolute steamiest beach read of the summer. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Swap and Smell the Roses

Swapping homes with her best friend sounded like a good idea but when Willow, a city girl through and through, arrives in the Connecticut countryside she has a rude awakening. Or rather is locked out of the cottage and comes face to face with the rudest and hottest landlord she has ever met. Willow quickly realizes she has got to get on Reid’s good side or  the next two months are going to be a disaster. But things only get worse. The cottage floods and Willow must temporarily move in with the gorgeous grump. She gets a part time job at the local bakery which ignites friendship and a much better outlook on the summer. Willow has put her dream as a singer/musician aside and as painful as it may be the bakery is the perfect place to keep her mind occupied. When Willow and Reid realize that their chemistry is off the charts they are too busy hiding behind their fears to face the truth about each other and their dreams. Adorable, fast paced and a little steamy, this romcom had an idyllic setting and sweet romance. ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Things I Wish I Told My Mother

Laurie is in the middle of the biggest presentation of her career when she gets the call. Her mother, the famous OB/GYN “Dr. Liz”, is in the hospital - as a patient. Laurie races to her side to discover that her mother had an unexplained cardiac episode and is presently arguing with everyone and anyone, refusing further testing. To get her mind off the stressful situation Laurie suggests she slow down and promises they can plan a getaway together when she feels better. What began as a way to get her mother’s mind off her troubles leads to the planning and plotting of a questionable adventure. The mother daughter duo, who don’t always get along,  head off to Paris and then Norway, where Liz was raised and has a sister she’s mysteriously not seen in 50 years. Widowed from an adoring husband, Liz is a beautiful, successful headstrong woman who is loved by all her patients but has never made Laurie feel anything other than intimidated. As they peruse the finest hotels, restaurants and shops in Paris the women get along much better than expected. With time and patience Laurie begins to discover a different side from the perfectionist authority she always felt distant from. With each new day their journey becomes much more than a shopping extravaganza. Laurie delves into questions she never dreamed she’d have the opportunity to ask. As the mystery of her mother’s past unravels Laurie receives answers that change her life forever. This was a heartfelt read filled with fun banter and threaded with a much deeper meaning as Laurie realizes she has carried these old hurts and misconceptions through her whole life. Every day is a precious gift not to be wasted and everyone has their own story to share. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Monday, April 8, 2024

My Side of the River

Although she was born in Tuscon, Arizona, Elizabeth always struggled to feel truly at home in America. Her parents had visas which allowed them to work and stay temporarily in the US but when she and her brother Fernando were born it complicated matters significantly. Her parents dreamed of giving their children an education that they could not get in Mexico. Always scrambling financially they worked long hard hours under the radar doing all the jobs no-one else wanted to do, never accepting government benefits for fear of being deported. At a young age Elizabeth was already a curious and intelligent student. She took to heart her mother’s constant whispers - “to succeed in America, you have to be the best.”  At 15, a miscalculated move left her parents in Mexico, their visa renewal denied indefinitely. Her brother was 8 and remained in their care. Elizabeth, now a top student and mature for her age found a way to stay with a teacher’s family and finish highschool. This girl did not miss a beat. Overcoming severe poverty and sleeping on a strangers couch for years, Elizabeth persevered. She remained Valedictorian, was accepted to a multitude of top colleges and participated in many clubs and activities. It was not easy for this teenager to face the world alone, adding on to the guilt that her brother whom she adored, was growing up without her guidance. This memoir is a beautiful testament to the strength of family. It is also a reflection of our broken immigration policies that often separates loved ones, using these migrant workers and then throwing them away. Elizabeth is a success story but it is clear many are not as lucky. This memoir was fascinating and insightful, offering a glimpse into new perspectives. One of the greatest rewards of reading is nurturing empathy. Keep reading. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️