List Price: $10.99
Our Price: $8.49
(Save: $2.50 23%)
The Summer We Came to Life is one of those novels where I advise: push through the first 50 pages or so, you’ll be rewarded for your efforts.
Cloyed takes us on a vicarious tour of her characters' lives. Okay,
initially, you won’t think it’s so hot’nsteamin’ – but trust me, it’ll
be worth it. We meet Samantha, Isabel and Kendra who are the life-long
friends of Mina, who has recently died from cancer. The friends did
everything together – celebrated all their achievements – all of life’s
joys. They traveled together, even taking their parents (!!) with them.
When Mina is diagnosed with cancer, the friends are pulled apart.
Samantha is on a vacation in Honduras, and having a crisis, when Isabel
and her parents and Kendra’s parents pop on down to join her. Kendra
doesn’t make the trip with them. Each of the friends has been given a
journal written by Mina, especially for each of them. As is always the
case with a group of friends, there is (nope, no exceptions) a pairing
within the group that is closer than the group dynamic. This seems to be
the case with Mina and Samantha. But what is apparent, is that Mina’s
efforts in keeping the journals has kept her alive in her friends’
hearts long after she’s gone.
I was just about to chuck the book when something monumental happens. It
was even way past my allotted 50-75 pages I usually give novels (so
many books, so little time – why waste it on a lousy book?). I was so
taken up with this that I cut Cloyed slack for a bit of gobblety-gook in
the middle of the story. I hope you like this part as much as I did.
Learn again what it’s like to love, to feel, to have friendships so
extraordinary you can’t imagine living without them, to share dreams, to
watch the dreams come alive and to have that second chance.
Atria Books, 03/01/2011
There is so much to like about this book, I don’t know where to start.
I’ll do my best. My friend and I saw Jodi Picoult at a local event for Sing You Home
when it was first released. I don’t care what people say, there’s
something about hearing an author read his work and talk about it, that
gives me shivers and tingles every time. Picoult has so much passion
about writing, storytelling and trying to get it all right, you can’t
help but want to see what she comes up with next. What made the book
event even more satisfying, was the music CD included with the novel.
Jodi Picoult wrote the lyrics and Ellen Wilber, who accompanied Picoult
at the event, wrote the music and performed songs from the CD (“Sammy’s
Song” is my favorite). A reading AND a concert in one - simply
Sing You Home introduces us to Zoe and Max Baxter who have
tried for nine years to have a child. At first, both want nothing more
than to have children. They have used in vitro on more than one occasion
and are financially ruined because of it. At one point it becomes clear
that the desire for a child has shifted from both of them to only one.
What follows is a story of betrayal, misunderstanding, love and hope.
Watch closely as the cast of characters is introduced, including Vanessa
Shaw, someone Zoe grows to love; Zoe’s mother, Dara (I think it’s safe
to say, we’d like a bit of Dara in all our mothers); Lucy, one of Zoe’s
clients; Pastor Clive; and Reid and Liddy, Max’s brother and
Zoe is a music therapist and consequently, music shapes her life. There
is a melody that runs through this novel and Zoe and her music are at
the heart of it. The characters are well-drawn and promote definite
feelings in us as we read.
I did tire of Picoult’s method of shifting narrator POV each chapter.
It’s time she tried something new, or old, for that matter. The
alternating typeface was getting on my nerves too. There are so many hot
issues introduced in Sing You Home, it amazes me how Picoult
links them into one story. Maybe a bit much to absorb and that seems to
be recurring in Picoult’s work in the last several years. However, her
attention to research, facts and their presentation cannot be beat.
I confess here that I did not read the end of the book, something I
routinely do (I HAVE to know it’s going to work out). I was about ready
to whip to page 466 when I groused to my friend that everything had
better end well. She said, “just wait until you get to the end.” Oh, no,
did that mean I was going to have to hurl this book across the room
(yes, yes, I know, it’s a petulant act, but sometimes a book has to be
hurled)? I did not tell her my plan to sneak a peek. For once in my
life, I did as I was told. I closed the book; I cried, then I called my
son to tell him again how much I love him.
was bittersweet for me. This is the last book written by Robert B.
Parker. I will never read a new story with Spenser, Hawk, Susan and
Pearl, the Wonder Dog. Robert B. Parker died last year. I cried when I
heard he died. I cried again when I read the eulogy written by his son.
Parker could take five words and string together English that would make
me weep, smile, laugh or even think, “He’s absolutely right.” Parker
could also create a character and dialog for the character that was so
completely believable the character could have been sitting right next
to me. You can tell, can’t you, that Robert B. Parker was one of my
favorite authors? I routinely re-read his books – Spenser is Parker’s
greatest creation, in my opinion – and I am always amazed at how
satisfying a reading experience it is for me.
On to Sixkill. Zebulon Sixkill is a Cree Native American who
has the misfortune of working for Jumbo as a bodyguard. Jumbo is a creep
of the highest degree. He’s a movie star who is quite sure everyone in
the world is just waiting for him to grace them with his presence. It’s
even worse than this, but I can’t be more direct without offending my
readers. When one of Jumbo’s female fans is found dead in his room,
Jumbo finally begins to realize that perhaps all is not going according
to plan. Sixkill decides it’s time for a career change.
Enter Quirk, a Boston police Captain who has a business relationship
with Spenser. Occasionally, Spenser has the ability and connections to
accomplish more than Quirk or his staff can accomplish in putting away
criminals. This is one of those times. Quirk has come to Spenser’s
office to hire him to find out who killed Jumbo’s fan. The film company
connected to Jumbo knows it’s in its best interest to find Jumbo
innocent so Jumbo’s latest film makes boatloads of money.
Spenser takes the job and in the meantime, takes Sixkill under his wing.
Sixkill kicks his drug and drinking problems with Spenser’s help and
discipline. They make a great team and end up finding out more than they
really wanted to know about Jumbo, the film company and how the fan was
Spenser isn't without flaws, but he is human and Parker has written
Spenser to be one of the best people we'll meet - imperfections and all.
The snappy dialog and crisp storytelling is all here and will keep you
carrying around the book until you're finished. I can’t help but think
that Parker was warming us up for Sixkill to take Hawk’s place or at the
very least, stand in for Hawk on occasion. What a pity we’ll never
know. I enjoyed Sixkill, and I confess I dragged out reading it
as long as I thought I could. Reading Parker is food for the soul. I
didn’t want to close the back cover on the last new words I’ll read by
Robert B. Parker – one of the truly great writers of my lifetime.
Penguin Books, 04/05/2011
Let’s talk about Luanne Rice. Her latest novel is called The Silver Boat.
We meet three sisters right after their mother has died. Dar, Rory and
Delia really want to keep the family home located on the East Coast.
They all have fond memories even if two of them have moved away and have
homes elsewhere. Those of us of a certain age understand the dilemma
(score points for Rice). Their father left them early on and had minimum
contact with his family. Their father was off in Ireland trying to
prove he and his family were entitled to land. During the awful cleaning
and sorting that always occurs when a parent passes, the sisters come
across letters from their father that leads them to believe there was
merit to their father’s claim. But, there are still the nagging taxes
and upkeep for the house. What to do?
Dar, the oldest sister is the one who has had it the roughest. She never
married, is a writer/graphic artist and is a recovering alcoholic.
Coincidently, she and one of her childhood friends are romantically
involved, and he too, is a recovering alcoholic. Dar was the closest to
her father of the sisters and cuts him the most slack for virtually
abandoning his family.
Rory is the middle sister and has issues of her own. She’s married to a
man who strays more often than a neighborhood tomcat. Alas, she loves
Delia the youngest sister has a son who doesn’t talk much to his family unless he needs cash for another fix. Dar tries to help.
Wait until you see how the sisters pull together and reach out to help
each other, just the way sisters do. And, as the case in families, how
well do we know the ones we love? Dar, Rory and Delia discover parts of
their parents’ lives they never guessed and they each find a way to
Rice has the talent to move a story along as she creates memorable
characters. Her descriptions of landscapes both in the U.S. and
in Ireland are breathtaking. She can also take the family dynamic of
three sisters and make us believe it. It’s remarkable storytelling (more
points for Rice).
My complaints with Rice’s work over the last five or so years is that
she’s lost the sharpness of writing and routinely strong story lines she
had early in her career. Some of her later novels seem formulaic. Lucky
for me I’ve read her from the beginning. If you’ve only just met Luanne
Rice and enjoy her work from the last few years, pick up Blue Moon, Home Fires and Follow the Stars Home.
These are early novels that are so crisp, so precise and so completely
well-done, you’ll wonder what took you so long to read them.
Linda Fairstein is a staple author in the mystery genre. She is wildly
prolific and routinely writes characters we'd like to know.
Fairstein's back with Silent Mercy, set in her beloved New York
City. The usual cast is back including Assistant District Attorney
Alexandra Cooper, Mike Chapman and Mercer Wallace to investigate a
series of murders all staged at various churches around the city. All
the victims are women and they all have a history that makes them a
Fairstein tells the story in first person from Alexandra Cooper's point
of view. Amazingly, though Cooper has lead an privileged life (she has a
beautiful apartment, wears expensive clothing and has a home on
Martha's Vineyard), she seems to be able to get into the heads of the
criminals. Chapman and Wallace are constants in Cooper's life as are her
immediate supervisor and the district attorney - always worrying about
his next chance in an election. These touches (Chapman's cool, but
caring; Wallace is rock-solid and a family man; the DA is greedy and
highly political) give realism to the story that Cooper's lifestyle does
not (Cooper has a French restaurateur significant other, can you
Fairstein also manages to toss in subplots that keep us guessing. Overall, Silent Mercy
is what you would expect from Linda Fairstein: a good read that takes
us away from our lives and into a world we only want to read about. She
has a decent pace and knows when it's time to wrap up the loose threads
without galloping to the end (WHAT - I've written 350 pages?? I have to
hurry up and finish!!). Pick up Silent Mercy and snuggle in.
This is a very light read without gore, mystery and such, but with some
strange moments in Barb Barrett’s life. She is a recently divorced woman
who has no real plan for survival. Her husband has run her life for
years and Barb and their two children are completely dragged along.
We meet Barb as she’s trying to make a fresh start. She has issues. She
hasn’t worked in years, but manages to find a job at the local (tiny,
east coast town) dairy answering customer service mail. It’s great
because she can do it at home – in comfortable clothes. Heck, she
doesn’t have to get dressed for days. She’s lost the custody of her
children and her ex-husband has taken up with the social worker assigned
to the case.
It gets worse. Barb is cleaning one day and finds a manuscript. The
house was rented at one time to Vladimir Nabokov (that naughty man who
wrote Lolita). Naturally, Barb assumes the manuscript was written by
Nabokov. In the short time between her divorce and moving into the
house, Barb’s has had almost no umph. Now she’s pumped with new life.
She immediately tries to shop the manuscript and meets an agent who
happens to live in her town (personally, I thought this was a huge
stretch, but I overlooked it for the sake of the story). Wait until you
see how she manages her life when the manuscript adventure isn’t going
as she’d like.
Gradually, Barb meets more people in the town – which is good for her –
and she has more contact with her children – excellent for her and she
begins to find out who she’s been and who can she and will become.
List Price: $11.99
Our Price: $8.69
(Save: $3.30 28%)
What do you do when your life is going so well, maybe TOO well and then,
without warning, you do something so incredibly stupid? Why, you go to
jail, of course.
I’m not making light of Allison Glenn’s plight. This is what happened to
her. The time she relaxed for just a moment; the moment when she
allowed herself to do what she wanted to do instead of what everyone
else wanted her to do; the second she failed to plan or think ahead;
that’s when her life fell completely apart and she landed in jail. We’ve
all had experiences like this; perhaps not to this extreme – hopefully
NOT to this extreme – but a point in our lives when we let our guard
The story opens as Allison is released from jail. We really don’t know
what she was in jail for, just that it was something hideous. (There are
those of us who sometimes read the last few pages of the book just to
be sure the story is going to turn out how we want/need it to turn out. I
warn you – don’t do it. Close the book and walk away for a bit. Do not
read the last few pages.) Let the book take you. Let Gudenkauf guide you
through the story where you’ll meet every person in Allison’s life who
in some way contributed to her downfall or who was there to help.
Allison’s sister, Brynn and their grandmother are major parts of their
lives and, certainly, their parents. But we’re surprised to meet a local
bookseller and her family who offer unexpected help and unexpected
discoveries that will keep those pages turning.
These Things Hidden is a No Chores Today book. Plan your weekend around it.
Simon Pulse, 11/23/2010
So, we meet Rigg and his father in a world that seems from long ago.
They are fur trappers and make a reasonable living. Rigg is 13 and seems
to enjoy his life with his father who teaches Rigg about the world,
history and how to manage Rigg's gift: Rigg has the ability to "see" the
paths of others. He can tell where people have walked, traveled...it's
remarkable and comes in handy.
When Rigg's father dies unexpectedly, Rigg goes to the town where his
father has told him to meet up with a local merchant, who they routinely
work with, to guide him and give Rigg items from his father. Rigg is
surprised at what he is told, but willingly accepts the information. In
the meantime, Rigg meets up with an old friend and they go off in search
of Rigg's sister. Rigg learns that all is not what it seems and his
life is not what he thinks it is and nothing is remotely like it was.
The Pathfinder is geared toward teens, but like the Harry Potter series and books like The Book Thief,
you don't have to be of that tender age to enjoy a great read. I do
think you need a score card handy: there are a lot of characters,
events, history and plot lines to remember, absorb and blindly believe.
Read carefully to not miss a moment.
(This is the start of a series.)
Here is the sequel to Waiting to Exhale. We catch up with the four friends first introduced in Waiting to Exhale:
Gloria, Savannah, Robin and Bernadine. If you enjoyed your first
meeting, you’ll enjoy this meeting – it might be best to read Getting to Happy instead of Waiting to Exhale.
It’s just my opinion, but I think McMillan does a good enough job of
describing the four friends and their unique relationships with each
other, you don’t need the first book unless you must see their younger
All are basically kicked in the teeth by the middle of the novel and it
is their journey to Happy that is most impressive. These are all women
in the middle of middle-age and their perseverance was phenomenal.
I confess that I did tire of the slapstick speak, random cursing that
seemed out of character and some wildly stereotypical behavior by all
the characters that was disconcerting. It seemed as though McMillan
tried to pile on all the horrible events of the last 15 years and make
them integral parts of the novel. I cringe and get irritated when
authors do that. It seems so cheap, so beneath their skills, when really
good authors don’t trust their writing enough to just, well, write.
McMillan did say she wanted the book to leave readers hopeful and that
By the way: my favorite of the women is Gloria.
Penguin Books, 09/29/2009
New to the U.S. market, Sophie Hannah, won’t be unknown long. The Wrong Mother is definitely a “No Chores Today” read. Pick up The Wrong Mother for
the weekend and just forget about the laundry – or toss in a load, curl
up with a coffee and Danish (okay, okay, a yogurt or high fiber of
choice) and dig in. The first 30 pages or so are a bit strange, but
don’t you dare put down this book. It all comes together soon enough.
Sally Thorning’s life is hectic. She has two small children, a full time
job and a husband, Nick, who has no clue what it takes for Sally to
keep their life together. He just knows it runs pretty smoothly and he
has to do almost nothing. It’s all good. When Sally has an opportunity
to zip off (sans kids and hubby) to a week-long conference for work,
well, heck, she can’t wait. The conference is cancelled. Sally decides
not to tell Nick. Nope, she doesn’t fill in Nick on the particulars.She
takes the trip. All is well when Sally arrives at the hotel. It’s
exactly what she needs. But, Sally isn’t prepared when she meets Mark
Bretherick at the hotel and they spend the week together. It’s a meeting
between strangers with no strings.
Nothing else happens between Sally and Mark after the week together. But
when Sally sees a news report saying that Geraldine and Lucy Bretherick
are dead and husband/father Mark’s picture isn’t the same Mark
Bretherick Sally spent a week with, her mind goes into a spin. Geraldine
and Lucy were the names of Mark’s wife and daughter. It can’t be a
coincidence. Who did she spend a week with?
Are you confused? Wait, soon (in about 150 pages) you’ll be so wrapped
up looking for clues with Sally, you won’t realize that load of
laundry’s done and it’s time for the dryer. Don’t even try to guess
what’s going to happen. I guarantee you’ll be wrong. Books like this are
why reading’s so good for us.
Hannah’s supporting cast of Sally’s friends and the police round out a
fabulous book that will make you wonder where the day went.
Henry Holt and Co., 03/03/2008
When a writer is this good, why does he need a pen name? Benjamin Black is John Banville (The Sea).
No matter – this writer can write literary pieces and mysteries alike. I
don’t care what he calls himself as long as he keeps writing.
We meet Quirke again. Perhaps you’ll remember him from Christine Falls.
Quirke is the Irish pathologist from the 1960s who can’t/won’t leave
any “not right” event alone. Quirke is called upon by an old school
chum, Billy Hunt, for a favor. Hunt’s wife, Deirdre has just died under
circumstances that suggest suicide, but Billy asks Quirke to forgo an
autopsy. He simply can’t bear to have his wife “carved up.” Quirke,
being Quirke, dives in to the case, to his detriment, to solve what
Through the novel, we encounter Quirke’s daughter, Phoebe, who has not
fully accepted Quirke as her father. She becomes entwined in the Hunt
case as Quirke digs deeper and deeper into Deirdre’s death. We cheer on
Quirke while we boo and hiss Leslie White, the rotten suave rat who
makes a mess of Deirdre’s life. Watch how Black unfolds the story. You
will enjoy his unique storytelling touches and his clever methods as
drops both subtle and meaty clues for us to devour.
(Read Christine Falls first and be sure to catch the next book with Quirke: Elegy for April.)
Little, Brown and Company, 06/09/2010
WOW! I heard about this book a few weeks ago and decided I just HAD to
read it before anything else. What a superb read!
Eric Shaw is down on his luck. He was an up-and-coming movie guy – he
could find the right shot no matter what; Eric just tended to shoot off
his mouth a bit. He is married to a great gal, Claire, who he alienated –
not good. He has a tiny ego issue too. He’s not in the movie business
when we meet him. He’s working in his own business putting together
slide shows and collages for funerals. Eric is really good at this and
his latest one, well, is the best one yet. Alyssa Bradford’s sister
dies. Something Eric did with the slideshow, prompts Alyssa to hire
Eric. The money is great, by the way.
Alyssa wants Eric to find out all he can about her father-in-law. He’s a
mysterious guy, but she just thinks it would be interesting to know
something more about him. Eric gets himself into some dicey situations
with the living and the dead AND some crazy old water. Each piece is
related to Alyssa’s father-in-law, the water and the towns of French
Lick and West Baden. Hang ON!
There is so much to love about this book, you owe it to yourself to wrap
your hands around it for a day or two. Koryta manages to capture your
imagination in the first several pages – So Cold the River was
impossible to put down. I recommend an autumn weekend outside, So Cold
the River, a beverage of choice and NO interruptions.
Aw heck, who wants to work when you’ve got a book like The Fall
to read? This is a “No Chores Today” book.
It’s rare for me to praise collaborative books, but here it is! Amazing!
If you love to be scared out of your wits and feel immense pleasure in
cheering for the good guys, you have to read this novel, second in a
trilogy (refer to my review of The Strain). Okay, you have to like reading about vampires too.
The Fall picks up where The Strain left off where Dr. Eph
Goodweather is joined by a mighty force of vampire killers who try to
rid the New York City metropolis of this vampire scourge. Toss in the
Ancients, a group of vampires from way back (old school) who don’t like
how this new strain of vampires is messing up the Ancients’ delicate
balance established between vampires and humans and you’ve got a story
that doesn’t quit. And, trust me, there are enough twists and turns, ups
and downs, thrills and chills, you’ll run out to the grocery for more
flashlights, matches and garlic – just to be safe. Don’t forget the
crosses. And some silver.
The human emotional aspect of the newly created vampires shown in The
Strain and The Fall gives a different tilt to what we know of
vampires. Watch for this in all the recently “turned” vampires. You’ll
be torn between who they were before tragedy struck and what they have
Authors del Toro and Hogan manage to create a tale of drama,
supernatural and rip-roaring suspense that will make you stay up way
past your bedtime, every light on in the house. The last night of
reading for me gave me a lousy 2-1/2 hours of sleep for the next day. No
matter what you think you know about vampires, you’ll still be learning
what they are capable of and need to know more.
No Good Deeds is a Tess Monaghan novel. Tess is one of
Lippman’s recurring characters. Tess is a private investigator, based in
Baltimore and she’s just making ends meet. She even takes a job giving a
workshop to journalists. It pays the bills. Her boyfriend, Crow Ransome
doesn’t help the money situation. He borrows Tess’s new-to-her car and
manages to confront Lloyd Jupiter, a young black man who happens to be
part of team of two young men who vandalizes Tess’s car. Crow brings
Lloyd to the home he shares with Tess. Crow eventually makes Tess
understand his reasoning, but by the end of the evening, so much has
happened, it’s almost a moot point.
Follow Tess and Crow as they find out how Lloyd is involved in a
high-profile U.S. Attorney’s murder and how they try to keep Lloyd safe.
It’s a gripping mystery that keeps you guessing until the end. There is
greed, corruption, murder, FBI guys, DEA guys, philanthropy and obvious
good guys and bad guys.
No Good Deeds makes you imagine when you do what you have to do when you’re sure you can’t.
HarperCollins e-books, 06/02/2009
Part one of a trilogy – if you love vampires and the suspense and horror
that goes with them, you’re going to shut yourself in a room (put
yourself in the corner so you can see all the windows) and read this
book from cover to cover. Personally, this book was so satisfying, I
can’t wait to snuggle up with number two (I’ll need something of a
silver nature as protection).
You know the Twilight series – where the vampires are hot’nsteamin’ and
refrain from killing humans, right? Ah – the vampires in The Strain are
NOTHING like the Twilight vampires. These vampires are dirty, smelly,
disgusting and there is no way you want to be in arm’s reach of these
It all starts when a flight from Europe lands in New York City and no
one gets off the plane. Dr. Eph Goodweather, a doc with the CDC, is
called in to find out why everyone is dead (or are they?). This isn’t
the only problem Eph has, though you’d think 300+ dead passengers (and
no apparent cause) would be enough to rock a doc’s world. No, his
family’s falling apart. His 11 year old son, Zack, wants to spend time
with Eph, but ex-wife, Kelly doesn’t think being with EPH is a good
idea. No Stability, Eph runs off to the next crisis no matter if it’s
his time to be with Zack.
This added to the very brief affair Eph had with a close co-worker,
well, geez, this guy’s got a load of worry. But, he hasn’t seen anything
yet. We are privileged to watch Eph and his team (with added help from
unexpected sources) try to beat back these vile vampires of all shapes
and sizes who are vampires by no choice of their own. Even the vampire
who’s running the show didn’t have a choice in his situation. Of course,
there is one human who wouldn’t mind having a crack at immortality and
will stop at nothing to get it.
This book was enhanced for me by the superlative voice of Ron Perlman
(he worked with del Toro on the Hellboy movies). Perlman deftly gave
deep bass tones and splendid European accents where they belonged. I
can’t wait for The Fall, second in this series.
The message from the flight deck is: Fasten your seatbelts, folks. It’s
definitely going to be a bumpy night.
HarperCollins e-books, 08/17/2010
Again, I’m late to the party. This time, it’s the Laura Lippman party. I
can’t wait to read another book written by Lippman. I’ve commented
before about book covers and how certain covers draw me in; I’d Know You
Anywhere grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. Definitely a “NO CHORES TODAY”
Eliza Benedict has a secret. She’s kept it from everyone except her
parents and husband for a very long time. It started when she was 15 and
known as “Elizabeth.” Elizabeth was abducted and held captive for six
weeks. Elizabeth traveled all over with the man, Walter Bowman, and it’s
always been a mystery why the abduction turned out as it did.
As Eliza, builds her adult life, she graduates from college, marries,
has children and leads a wonderfully ordinary life that suits her.
You’ll love her husband (even though he may seem over-the-top in the
“understanding” department). All is very well until she receives a
letter from Bowman, on death row for other abducted girls’ murders,
asking Eliza to re-live what happened that six weeks they were together.
You will be amazed at how Bowman and his supporter work the art of
manipulation to an art form. In the midst of this, Eliza must also cope
with the contact of one of the murdered girls’ parents. A riveting good
Random House Publishing Group, 08/11/2009
I say this every time I finish a Pat Conroy novel: This may be his best
yet and has become one of my favorite books. All Conroy’s novels have
this deep effect on me and keep me thinking about them long after closed
the book. I think that’s the sign of a superb writer, don’t you?
Leo King is our narrator and Conroy’s vehicle for illustrating to us
once again that there are differences between classes and people within
those classes and it’s how we choose to deal with these classes and
differences that shows what we’re made of.
Like all of Conroy’s male protagonists, Leo has much to deal with in his
young life when we first meet him. His brother killed himself at ten
years old and no one knows why. It doesn’t seem as though anyone has
tried to find out either. It’s accepted as a fact of life. It happens to
be Leo’s bad luck that his brother was the favorite – the golden child.
Leo worshiped his older brother, but could never reach the heights he
did in the family.
Leo’s parents are both teachers; his mother is the principal at his high
school. There’s more about Leo’s mother which will raise your eyebrows,
but I won’t spoil it for you and don’t read the book jacket!
The central part of the novel is Leo’s friendships made throughout
school. There are orphans, odd twins, and two ultra-rich, high society
kids. The bonds made in high school last a lifetime and are of the
extraordinary type where even with no contact for years, they still pick
up their friendships where they left off when last they spoke. The
friends prove they will do anything for each other – the test of true
Conroy makes us laugh even while we cry, feeds our hearts while we nod
knowingly, gives us resolution without a neat bow and leaves us wanting
more. Conroy is such an excellent writer, I always wish he were more
prolific, but then perhaps, it just wouldn’t be the same.
I always tell myself I’m not much for period pieces, but I barely get
the words out of my mouth and I find myself turning the pages of yet
another period piece. I usually surprise myself by having something
positive to say, too. Never say never.
The Postmistress – what a delight. If you enjoyed The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, The Postmistress
is for you. E.M. Forster wrote at the beginning of Howards End, “Only
connect…” and we find that drive to “connect” prevalent in The Postmistress.
The novel opens during close to present day with an unidentified
character reflecting on the possibility of not delivering a letter.
Blake then whisks us back to Europe, 1940 where the U.S. has not yet
entered what will become WWII. We meet Frankie Bard, a female reporter
working in London, who decides she really must see more of the war.
Back in the U.S., in Franklin, a small New England town, we meet Iris James, The Postmistress
who takes her job very seriously. Iris passes on each of the town’s
inhabitants’ secrets. One of her own secrets is her feelings for Harry
Vale. Both a little older, they seek out each other. Will and Emma
Fitch, much younger than Iris and Harry, also manage to find each other.
It will be the decisions made by Frankie, Iris, Harry, Will and Emma
that will shape the story and bring to our heart the need to connect
with someone else.
I can’t say which part of the story I liked more, but perhaps that’s not
important. What’s more important is Blake’s way of drawing us in to
these two very different, but connected stories: one in Europe and one
in theU.S. We see how people deal with war – when they're in the middle
of it or when it touches them where they live.
Frankie’s radio broadcasts will chill you with their timeless sadness
and the refugees we meet in her travels through Europe will make you hug
your loved ones just a bit harder, keep them just a bit closer.
HarperCollins e-books, 09/07/2010
Nina Revskaya is an older Russian ballerina living in the U.S. She’s had
a good life, but a rough one. She’s been lucky to have a great career
and to be loved. We meet Nina while she reflects on her life as she puts
her jewelry collection up for auction. She will donate the proceeds.
Nina’s quite sure she’s doing the right thing, but is she? What truths
are held in the amber?
Nina is haunted by her memories as the auction house representative,
Drew Brooks delves into the jewelry’s history. Nina recalls her stellar
career and marriage to Viktor Elsin, a poet and moments with her friend,
fellow ballerina, Vera. Her marriage was, at first glance, magical, but
when friendships become entangled, the magic is gone and the realities
of Russia under Stalin’s rule make life beyond difficult. Not only is
her marriage strained, but solid friendships are shaken.
In the present, Nina is contacted on several occasions by Grigori
Solodin who has a piece of jewelry that matches hers and he has
translated Viktor’s poems into English. What is Grigori’s other link to
Nina’s past and how is it Grigori has a piece of jewelry matching her
Kalotay does an excellent job of weaving past and present without using
any clunky plot devices. The two separate, but linked stories read
beautifully and neatly from page to page.
The Help is the story of one white woman’s attempt to show how black maids were treated by white employers. Set in the 60s, The Help takes
us on a wild ride throughJackson, MS at the height of racism in
The Help is told through the eyes of Aibilene, Minny and Skeeter
(Eugenia). Skeeter is the young white woman who wants to see a change.
She approaches Aibilene, her friend’s maid and asks the simple question,
“Do you ever wish you could…change things?” And, of course, Aibilene
does. Soon Aibilene’s friend, Minny is in the mix, a sassy (in a
delightful way), irreverent younger maid who just wants to provide for
her family. The three women meet in the evenings to put together
incidents from their lives into a book that Skeeter is trying to get
published. The obstacles and near discovery the three surmount are at
once scary and unbelieveable. The character sketches drawn will have you
shaking your head in disbelief and understanding. I know I've met some
of these characters.
My favorite parts of the book were when the maids described, well,
pretty much anything, from the white women’s silliness to the weather,
to Miss Celia’s pathetic attempt to cook. Stockett gives amazing voice
to Aibilene and Minny while never missing a detail or nuance.
I admit when this book came out and it seemed to be the rage, I was
reluctant to jump on the bandwagon with millions of readers. Once again,
I’m forced to admit I was wrong. But, when a book is this good, this
strong, this thought-provoking, this well-written, it’s a transgression
I’ll easily confess.
List Price: $9.99
Our Price: $7.99
(Save: $2.00 20%)
Bloomsbury USA, 10/19/2010
You like dogs and you loved The Story of Edgar Sawtelle? Forget about it. Solomon’s Oak is the book to read for dog lovers. Solomon’s Oak
takes dog loving to another planet. In my opinion, Jo-Ann Mapson’s
latest does a much better job of illustrating the impact pets (mostly
dogs) have on our lives.
Mapson is one of the rare authors who writes male and female characters
well and is not afraid to put strong characters in supporting roles. In Solomon’s Oak
we meet Glory Solomon, a widow, who is trying to handle her grief
(husband Dan hasn’t been dead a year when we first meet Glory) and make
ends meet. In the midst of her despair, an unlikely source of income
opens up the next segment of her life in more ways than she could ever
Glory and Dan never had children of their own, but they made a beautiful
life of rescuing children and pets. They have served as foster parents
to several children, mostly boys, who have gone on to make good, solid
lives for themselves. It’s given Glory and Dan much satisfaction through
the years. The pets they have rescued include border collies and a
wonderfully precocious Italian Greyhound.
The story opens with a wedding. Glory is providing the venue and the
food for this unlikely pirate-themed wedding. I know, I know, what the
heck?? But it works. Glory has this enormous, completely out of the
ordinary, oak tree and a chapel that serve as the backdrop for the
pirate and wench as they exchange vows. Glory enlists the aid of grown
foster kids as her wait staff and everything is moving along well until
the social worker Glory usually works with calls her with a special
case: a teenaged girl needs a place to stay, just for the night. Can
Glory help? In walks Juniper McGuire who desperately needs someone to
love, she just doesn’t know it yet.
We are also introduced to Joseph Vigil who comes into Glory and
Juniper’s lives in the nick of time and he turns life into even more of
Mapson shows us the infinite possibilities in life as long as we stay
open and ready to embrace them.
Also try Hank and Chloe.
Random House Publishing Group, 08/24/2010
Pack your bags! We’re going to Italy!
Everyone knows the story of Romeo and Juliet, but do we really? Juliet
makes us re-think all our notions of this timeless love story. Fortier
bases her novel on extensive research done by her mother, (which places
the story in Sienna, not Verona) and weaves the love story anew with
intimate details, quotes from Shakespeare and characters drawn between
centuries that will keep you fascinated. Use a scorecard (scorecards are
our friends) for the jumps between present day and the 1300s. It’s
worth the effort.
We meet Julie Jacobs just after her Aunt Rose dies. Aunt Rose has cared
for Julie and her sister Janice, since their mother died when they were
small. Though twins, Julie and Janice give new meaning to “mixing like
oil and water.” Julie is driven by her love of Shakespeare (from her
mother’s perseverance) and her relatively quiet life. Janice prefers
taking chances and is the louder, more rambunctious of the two. Aunt
Rose told them little about their parents except that their mother died
in a car crash. Aunt Rose was also never supportive about them traveling
anywhere, especially to Italy. Umberto, a house servant of sorts, joins
the family early in the sisters’ lives and helps sustain the home.
Aunt Rose dies unexpectedly when the sisters are adults and the contents
of her will and their mother’s personal items left behind, send the
house into a spin. Julie is given the key to a safe-deposit box in a
bank in Italy. Julie traipses to Italy where she discovers places her
parents lived, worked and visited during their short time together. The
contents of the safety-deposit box lead Julie on a hunt to find out what
really happened to her ancestor, Giuletta, the true “Juliet,” and her
love, Romeo. Janice is left back in the States, twisting in the wind,
until she takes matters into her own hands. Well, now you knew that was
going to happen, didn’t you?
Excellent mix of intrigue, family discord, good guys, bad guys, guys
you’re not sure of, romance – basically the whole shebang.
Ballantine Books, 06/08/2010
all been excited for this novel and with good reason. Justin Cronin
departs from the genre of his two earlier works and let’s just say, he
departs with a bang. The Passage is set in the future and follows a disastrous attempt by the government to improve what is already working just fine.
The first 100 pages of The Passage are the meat of the story
where we are introduced to the catalyst – the Army and the people who
will ultimately shape the course of the story. The premise – someone
takes another’s idea, ruins it, and makes part of the world go wildly
stupid. The cleanup is left to the rest of the human race with a few
standing out as leaders. Amy, an unlikely source of strength, leads
groups of humans as they combat the results of experiments gone horribly
The Passage is chock full of subplots, hops in the timeline
from the near future to far into the future, intrigue, massive
foreshadowing, and characters drawn so well there’s no doubt about their
appearance – their souls Cronin has left up to our imagination. You’ll
want a scorecard for plots and characters through the middle of the
book. There are numerous themes and, at times, it seems as though Cronin
struggles with where to take us next, but the ending screams sequel.
Justin Cronin wrote an epic novel, and follows in the footsteps of
extraordinary authors who wrote extraordinary novels. As you read his
book, you will have flashes of Stephen King (The Stand, The Dark Tower Series), Richard Matheson (I Am Legend), David Brin (The Postman), and Michael Crichton (Jurassic Park, Congo).
If you loved The Summer Guest and Mary and O’Neil, Cronin’s
earlier works, you owe it to yourself to pick up this doorstop of a
novel so you can see how Cronin as stretched himself. You won’t be
And, on a personal note: Even though I thought the book was a tad long, I
didn’t think twice about carrying this 700-plus page epic with me on
vacation, on a plane, in my carry-on bag. (What? – ALL my books for
trips travel in my carry-on bag. What would I do if my books were in a
CHECKED bag and the bag was….LOST? I can only read the cereal box for so
long.) My point is you will not want to let this book out of your
sight; you will want to hold this book, turn the pages and brush them
flat as you try to think one jump ahead of the storyline.
Random House Publishing Group, 04/28/2009
Helen Ames, recently widowed, successful author, is at a crossroads.
That, and she can’t seem to write a word. Helen is trying to decide if
she wants to apply for a department store job (don’t ask) or if she
should do something else with her life – she doesn’t know what. In
addition, she manages to drive her daughter, Tessa, (on her own and out
of the house) nuts because Helen has become so dependent on Tessa to do
chores around the house Helen’s husband used to do. Oh, and, Helen can’t
resist offering Tessa advice. What a nightmare.
When every part of Helen’s life becomes almost more than she can bear,
her accountant calls with startling news. Helen has to come to grips
with the knowledge that she didn’t know her husband as well as she
thought and that it’s okay to let Tessa fly on her own course, make her
own mistakes. Once Helen allows this for Tessa, she realizes she can do
it too. You’ll want to watch Helen grow into the woman she’s always
been, but didn’t know it.
Toward the end of the novel, there’s a lovely piece about owning and
holding books (not electronic devices), and independent bookstores. I
was already completely captivated with the novel, and then Berg throws
in these pages and I’m off and crying again because I do so enjoy the
act of reading. Truly magnificent.
If you’ve ever been a part of a couple, this book is for you. If you’re a
parent, (no matter your child’s age) this book is for you. This is Berg
at her exquisite best. Berg manages to hit us where we live and makes
us realize the strength to believe in ourselves has been there all
Little, Brown and Company, 04/01/2010
You’ll remember Elizabeth Kostova’s name if you read The Historian
. If you’ve read The Historian
and aren’t sure about The Swan Thieves
, given its size, put it out of your head and pick up this book. It is so different from The Historian
in so many ways and yet so similar…it’s magnificent.
Robert Oliver, a renowned painter, is admitted to a psychiatric hospital
after he attempts to slash a painting in the National Gallery of Art.
No one can figure out what is going through his head, least of all his
psychiatrist, Andrew Marlow. Marlow begins with the patient and when
that produces a dead end because Oliver refuses to talk, Marlow goes in
search of the truth and a way to heal his patient. We are introduced to
Oliver’s ex-wife, Kate and Mary, an ex-lover.
Join Marlow as he searches between centuries to find the answer and ends up learning more about himself and Oliver.
Kostova tells a remarkable tale full of art, beautiful landscapes,
blatant betrayal and rich, enthralling characters, you will be sad when
you close the book. I can’t help but believe Marlow’s love of books is
Kostova’s way of telling us about HER love of books. A wonderful,
satisfying read, like a delicious meal for the soul between two covers.
HarperCollins e-books, 03/09/2010
If you’re in a “bad patch” in life, So Much for That may not be
for you. The cast of characters is huge, (they all will make you
fluctuate wildly between loving them and hating them), the themes and
subplots are not, at first glance, uplifting. Keep reading.
Shep Knacker has had an excellent life. He sells his successful handyman
business to an employee for one million dollars. Shep is well on his
way to his “After Life.” The “After Life” is Shep’s euphemism for his
life away from every part of his current life that makes him unhappy.
Every detail is in place and he’s ready – packed even – in fact to make
the move to Africa. That is, until his wife comes home with startling
The storylines are indeed “ripped from the headlines” and are
compelling. There are a couple of instances where Shriver has her
characters on a several page soapbox (where the character beats the
issue to death), but those are not central to the story. The general
nature of what each character is dealing with in the novel is the true
meat. The diatribes are necessary to show the character, but they do
tend to get in the way.
No matter. Shriver weaves such an excellent story that touches on so
many parts of real life, you’ll be unable to put the book down. I won’t
promise you that you won’t be depressed – you most likely will be, but
there is so much to hold on to between the covers of this superb book,
you must read it. Shriver’s a master storyteller.
St. Martin's Press, 07/06/2010
I’ve been having good luck with books lately. Here’s another for my “No
Chores Today” or NCT category. The house is getting to be a disaster!
Dinner has been on time for weeks!
Still Missing is the story of Annie O’Sullivan’s abduction. You
know from the first page that she must be okay, right? You know this
because Annie is telling her story to her shrink. The entire story
unfolds as Annie re-lives the ordeal and all its aftermath. The first
thing I wanted to know is why did this happen to Annie? Then I wanted to
know how she could possibly survive to tell the tale. Then I thought
there has to be a whole part of this madness that the author is not
letting me in on and WHEN will she let me in? Goodness, if there ever
was a story where I wanted/needed to read the back of the book , it was Still Missing (of course I’ve done it before, don’t look so shocked!).
Stevens has done such a superb job of grabbing hold and pulling us in
that you almost feel as though you are with Annie as she attempts to
live through one of our worst nightmares. We learn that most of us are
stronger than we think we are and that help comes from unlikely places.
St. Martin's Griffin, 04/01/2010
The Tale of Halcyon Crane made me realize I need a category for
books like this. So here it is: No Chores Today (NCT). Don’t even think
about getting anything accomplished. This book has it all: ghosts,
legends, intriguing characters, great writing and a plot with mysterious
happenings that will keep you turning the pages so quickly you’ll have
it read in no time and wish for more.
So here’s a taste of what you’re in for. Hallie James is content with
her life in the Northwest. She’s recovering from a divorce that left her
in a certain amount of shock. She’s content with her job. The really,
really sad part of her life is her father has Alzheimer’s and while he
was once a large, vibrant part of her life, he is now reduced to mixed
days of clarity and lost memories.
When Hallie receives a letter in the mail from an attorney, William
Archer (you have to watch this guy!!), from Grand Manitou Island near
the Great Lakes, he informs her that Madlyn Crane has died and named
Hallie in her will. Enclosed in that letter is another letter from
Madlyn Crane herself to Hallie which opens up a whole other portion of
Hallie’s life that she would never have guessed or known about. What had
her father done when Hallie was young? Why does she remember nothing
about Grand Manitou Island? What should she do? Her curiosity tells her
how to proceed and this is where you REALLY need a seatbelt. So buckle
up and get ready to be scared, surprised, delighted, romanced, awed. And
Random House Publishing Group, 07/20/2010
Tracy Winn has given us ten linked short stories and a cast of characters that will keep you smiling and crying.
All the stories are set in or are related to Lowell, Massachusetts and
are surrounded by characters affected in some way with the textile mill.
Some characters work at the mill or the mill is owned by their family.
The most interesting aspect of linked short stories is discovering HOW
they are linked and this is no different in Mrs. Somebody Somebody. The
best part for me was every time I said, “Oh good!” when a character I
particularly liked came back in another story. It will be Winn’s
excellent grasp of storytelling that will keep you mesmerized. The
drawings at the beginning of each story were a big selling point for me
too. I love sketches, photos, handwritten notes – anything that seems
like a character's or author's ultra personal touch – in books. I’m a
sucker for that.
Pick it up now! It’s a delightfully short read at under 200 pages; perfect for an afternoon.
Tom Doherty Associates, 05/10/2010
City of Dreams is set in New York City from 1776 through 2009.
We follow Peter Fallon, an antiques expert and his fiancé, Evangeline
Carrington as they search for a box of valuable bonds from 1776. It’s a
mad, mad clandestine dash that has them (and us!) caught up with a bag
lady, a bookseller, Wall Street biggies, shady characters who could be
either with Peter and Evangeline or against them and very bad,
determined men who are clearly against Peter and Evangeline.
First we're in NYC, in 2009 and in the next chapter, Martin has us
comfortably back in 1776, 1893, 1987 or 2001. Try to read a chapter a
sitting; this keeps the story straight. His attention to architecture
and historical detail was magnificent. Then, the characters! You will be
completely involved with every character's life and feel as though you
are walking (or running!) with him, dodging bad guys, protecting loved
ones and all the while in search of something more. We also see how
politics has evolved (or not) throughout the years - excellent!
Martin does an excellent job of storytelling, alternating between past
and present characters and situations as we trace the bonds from their
first owner to their final destination. Throughout City of Dreams,
Martin tosses in wonderful bits of U.S. history without a heavy hand,
while he takes us on a “hold onto your hair” kind of read.
Do you like Dan Brown? You’ll feel right at home with City of Dreams.
Bonds, bonds, who’s got the bonds??
List Price: $10.93
Our Price: $9.61
(Save: $1.32 12%)
Simon & Schuster, 02/10/2009
I was given this book. I would never have picked it up on my own. The
book jacket didn’t grab me, and, as I’ve said before something on the
jacket must grab me. The synopsis or the cover art itself must urge me
to pick up the book. When a book is given to you, you must read it.
Little Bee is the story of two women, their first and last
meetings and how their lives change in between those meetings. The
synopsis begs you not to tell anyone about their story when you’re
finished. Sounds like marketing hype, but it’s the truth. Don’t tell
anyone much about the book. It’s much better to discover as you read.
It’s a forceful, well-written story that is a mystery, political and out
of the ordinary. Little Bee forces us to ask: how well do we really know the people in our lives and, ourselves? What would you do?
Note: Little Bee was also published as The Other Hand (similar cover).
Have you seen this book? Unbelievable! I’ve said before what happens to
me when a book grabs me like this – you guessed it – not one single
chore was done at home until I finished it.
Reading the synopsis, you may think that Girl in Translation is
a similar story to recent novels about coming to the U.S. with nothing
and having success. Well, yes, it is similar, but that’s all it is. You
will be riveted as you watch Kimberly Chang and her mother struggle to
succeed in a place where they thought they would have an advantage
because they knew someone.
Kimberly Chang and her mother emigrate from China, beholden to
Kimberly’s Aunt Paula. Kimberly is intelligent but doesn’t speak much
English. Girl in Translation is the story of her struggle to be more
than people thought she could be. She is lucky to have a wonderful,
steadfast mother. Kim also relies on her one true friend in the States,
Annette who remains true to her throughout every turn in Kimberly’s
A story of love, friendship, romance, perseverance, Girl in Translation was a terrific, satisfying read that will make me watch for Kwok’s next novel.
Pick up Girl in Translation if you enjoy Amy Tan and Lisa See.
Random House Publishing Group, 06/23/2009
I had absolutely NO interest in this novel. I’m old enough to remember
the gentleman who walked a tightrope between the Twin Towers, but the
rest of the synopsis still didn’t do it for me. It appeared on one of my
book discussion reading lists and I knew I had to read it. My
reluctance was silly and it doesn’t even pain me to say this – when I’m
wrong, I’m wrong.
The novel is divided into sections each told from a different
character’s perspective which seems to be the new norm. As I’ve said
before, I have no quarrel with this method as long as it’s done well.
Trust me, it’s done well. McCann weaves each character’s life with
another using the tightrope walk between the Twin Towers as the backdrop
and a link. Don’t read anything about the novel until you’ve finished
it. Block out at least enough time to read a section a sitting.
Let the Great World Spin is written so artfully and with so
many wrenching moments I’m not going to tell you anything more – it
would ruin the read for you. I will make one more comment: think of it
as a quilt put together by a master quilter. Magnificent!
Random House Publishing Group, 01/05/2010
Where do I start? One of the reasons I enjoy Anne Tyler is she seems to
write for me. She writes about subjects I understand, are reasonable to
me and always leaves me wondering what I would do in the situations she
writes about. That’s a sign of a great author.
Liam Pennywell in Noah’s Compass is a laid off, 60-year old
fifth grade teacher who manages to be forced or shoved into situations
he wouldn’t want to be in, except he has no choice. Every position he’s
held since college hasn’t been of his choosing, but for family
obligations, he does what needs to be done. He is forced to retire and
finds himself adrift, but coping. He’s a widower and most recently
divorced. He moves from a large apartment to a smaller one and the night
of the big move, his apartment is burglarized with him in it! He wakes
in the hospital with no memory of the incident and throughout the novel,
he only wants to remember/know what happened.
Along the way, we meet his daughters, his ex-wife Barbara and Eunice, a
love interest. Liam finally chooses to do what he wants to do instead of
what is expected of him and it’s refreshing to see how surprised and
pleased he is with himself.
One reviewer didn’t see much hope or contentment by the novel’s end, and
that’s fine for this reviewer. But I think this is a novel where the
reader is allowed to make decisions. There are several ways to interpret
Liam’s life (past and present) and your interpretation may depend
on your life.
If you haven’t read an Anne Tyler novel, I recommend you begin anywhere. You may be comfortable with The Accidental Tourist because you know the film. I began withBreathing Lessons. You won’t be disappointed.