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Widows of Malabar Hill

Some Book Recommendations for July

There’s something about summer that makes us want to find lots of time to read.  While we still have to manage regular life, let’s picture ourselves sitting on the porch, or relaxing in a backyard hammock with the sounds of nature in our ears, and a tall cool glass of iced tea at our side as we lose ourselves  in a fabulous book. Sounds perfect doesn’t it? Here’s what we’ve been reading lately. 

How to Walk Away by Katherine Center

From Amazon:

From the author of Happiness for Beginners comes the instant New York Times bestseller (May 2018), an unforgettable love story about finding joy even in the darkest of circumstances.

Margaret Jacobsen is just about to step into the bright future she’s worked for so hard and so long: a new dream job, a fiancé she adores, and the promise of a picture-perfect life just around the corner. Then, suddenly, on what should have been one of the happiest days of her life, everything she worked for is taken away in a brief, tumultuous moment.

In the hospital and forced to face the possibility that nothing will ever be the same again, Maggie must confront the unthinkable. First there is her fiancé, Chip, who wallows in self-pity while simultaneously expecting to be forgiven. Then, there’s her sister Kit, who shows up after pulling a three-year vanishing act. Finally, there’s Ian, her physical therapist, the one the nurses said was too tough for her. Ian, who won’t let her give in to her pity, and who sees her like no one has seen her before. Sometimes the last thing you want is the one thing you need. Sometimes we all need someone to catch us when we fall. And sometimes love can find us in the least likely place we would ever expect.

How to Walk Away is Katherine Center at her very best―a masterpiece of a novel that is both hopeful and hilarious; truthful and wise; tender and brave.

Our Thoughts:  Put this book at the top of your list to read.  It is sweet, a little funny and a little sad in all of the best ways.  June was glad that she finished this one on her back porch instead of public transportation so she could enjoy her cry without the fellow commuters thinking she was crazy.  Margaret goes from the best day of her life to the worst day of her life in an instant.  She has to learn to accept a life that is not how she envisioned but is still perfect in its way.  A feel good book that makes you appreciate how your messy imperfect life is exactly the life you need.

Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman

From Amazon:

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A shocking discovery on a honeymoon in paradise changes the lives of a picture-perfect couple in this taut psychological thriller debut—for readers of Ruth Ware, Paula Hawkins, and Shari Lapena.

“A psychological thriller that captivated me from page one. What unfolds makes for a wild, page-turning ride! It’s the perfect beach read!”—Reese Witherspoon (Reese’s Book Club x Hello Sunshine book pick)

If you could make one simple choice that would change your life forever, would you?
 
Erin is a documentary filmmaker on the brink of a professional breakthrough, Mark a handsome investment banker with big plans. Passionately in love, they embark on a dream honeymoon to the tropical island of Bora Bora, where they enjoy the sun, the sand, and each other. Then, while scuba diving in the crystal blue sea, they find something in the water. . . .
 
Could the life of your dreams be the stuff of nightmares?
 
Suddenly the newlyweds must make a dangerous choice: to speak out or to protect their secret. After all, if no one else knows, who would be hurt? Their decision will trigger a devastating chain of events. . . .
 
Have you ever wondered how long it takes to dig a grave?
 
Wonder no longer. Catherine Steadman’s enthralling voice shines throughout this spellbinding debut novel. With piercing insight and fascinating twists, Something in the Water challenges the reader to confront the hopes we desperately cling to, the ideals we’re tempted to abandon, and the perfect lies we tell ourselves.

Our Thoughts:  This was a pick for the Reese Witherspoon book club so you may be seeing it everywhere and as a result your library hold list may be long.  This is a well done thriller.  You do have to suspend disbelief a bit to believe that the characters do what they end up doing.  However, none of know to what extent we would go if we thought we found treasure that could change our life.  A good summer beach read.

The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey

From Amazon:

1920s India: Perveen Mistry, Bombay’s first female lawyer, is investigating a suspicious will on behalf of three Muslim widows living in full purdah when the case takes a turn toward the murderous. The author of the Agatha and Macavity Award-winning Rei Shimura novels brings us an atmospheric new historical mystery with a captivating heroine.
 
Inspired in part by the woman who made history as India’s first female attorney, The Widows of Malabar Hill is a richly wrought story of multicultural 1920s Bombay as well as the debut of a sharp and promising new sleuth.

Perveen Mistry, the daughter of a respected Zoroastrian family, has just joined her father’s law firm, becoming one of the first female lawyers in India. Armed with a legal education from Oxford, Perveen also has a tragic personal history that makes women’s legal rights especially important to her.

Mistry Law has been appointed to execute the will of Mr. Omar Farid, a wealthy Muslim mill owner who has left three widows behind. But as Perveen examines the paperwork, she notices something strange: all three of the wives have signed over their full inheritance to a charity. What will they live on? Perveen is suspicious, especially since one of the widows has signed her form with an X—meaning she probably couldn’t even read the document. The Farid widows live in full purdah—in strict seclusion, never leaving the women’s quarters or speaking to any men. Are they being taken advantage of by an unscrupulous guardian? Perveen tries to investigate, and realizes her instincts were correct when tensions escalate to murder. Now it is her responsibility to figure out what really happened on Malabar Hill, and to ensure that no innocent women or children are  in further danger.

Our Thoughts:  This is a charming mystery with an absolute delightful heroine based on true person.  Set in the 1920s, Perveen is the first woman lawyer in India.  The setting of India is intoxicating and the time period lends a certain formality to the characters and the story.  However, it is also an interesting story of the role of women and the fight for equality.  In the course of settling an estate, Perveen takes an interest in protecting the decedent’s wives who live a cloistered life.  In this case, Perveeen’s gender is a positive because she has access to the wives that men do not.  Unfortunately, a murder occurs in the wives’ home and Perveen’s quest to protect the wives becomes more urgent as she tries to solve the case.  Perveen is utterly charming and brave and I hope that this is the first in a series of books about this heroine.   

The Address

The Address: A Novel by [Davis, Fiona]
 

After a failed apprenticeship, working her way up to head housekeeper of a posh London hotel is more than Sara Smythe ever thought she’d make of herself. But when a chance encounter with Theodore Camden, one of the architects of the grand New York apartment house The Dakota, leads to a job offer, her world is suddenly awash in possibility—no mean feat for a servant in 1884. The opportunity to move to America, where a person can rise above one’s station. The opportunity to be the female manager of The Dakota, which promises to be the greatest apartment house in the world. And the opportunity to see more of Theo, who understands Sara like no one else…and is living in The Dakota with his wife and three young children.

In 1985, Bailey Camden is desperate for new opportunities. Fresh out of rehab, the former party girl and interior designer is homeless, jobless, and penniless. Two generations ago, Bailey’s grandfather was the ward of famed architect Theodore Camden. But the absence of a genetic connection means Bailey won’t see a dime of the Camden family’s substantial estate. Instead, her “cousin” Melinda—Camden’s biological great-granddaughter—will inherit almost everything. So when Melinda offers to let Bailey oversee the renovation of her lavish Dakota apartment, Bailey jumps at the chance, despite her dislike of Melinda’s vision. The renovation will take away all the character and history of the apartment Theodore Camden himself lived in…and died in, after suffering multiple stab wounds by a madwoman named Sara Smythe, a former Dakota employee who had previously spent seven months in an insane asylum on Blackwell’s Island.

One hundred years apart, Sara and Bailey are both tempted by and struggle against the golden excess of their respective ages—for Sara, the opulence of a world ruled by the Astors and Vanderbilts; for Bailey, the free-flowing drinks and cocaine in the nightclubs of New York City—and take refuge and solace in the Upper West Side’s gilded fortress. But a building with a history as rich—and often tragic—as The Dakota’s can’t hold its secrets forever, and what Bailey discovers in its basement could turn everything she thought she knew about Theodore Camden—and the woman who killed him—on its head.

With rich historical detail, nuanced characters, and gorgeous prose, Fiona Davis once again delivers a compulsively readable novel that peels back the layers of not only a famed institution, but the lives—and lies—of the beating hearts within.

Our thoughts: May loved reading about historical New York City and the Dakota (apartments). She knew very little about the Dakota other than it being the site of John Lennon’s untimely death. She enjoyed this story about 2 strong women, one hundred years apart and the mysteries revealed inside the walls of this majestic landmark building. The characters are memorable and the story holds your interest to the very last page. 

The Price of Inheritance

The Price of Inheritance: A Novel by [Tanabe, Karin]

From Amazon:

After eight years in the American Furniture department at Christie’s, twenty-nine-year-old Carolyn Everett is a rising star. But one wrong decision and a scandal leaves her unemployed and broken. Desperate to piece her life back together, Carolyn leaves New York City to work in a tiny antique store in Newport, Rhode Island.

One day at a small county auction, she discovers a piece of Middle Eastern pottery, which she purchases for twenty dollars on a hunch. Curiosity sends her on a mission to find its original owner, and she eventually winds up in the town’s United States Navy Base—and in a relationship with notorious womanizer Marine Sergeant Tyler Ford, who claims the relic came to him as a gift from his translator during the early days of the Iraq War. From two different worlds, Tyler and Carolyn become obsessed with the mysterious relic—and each other—until the origin of the art comes under intense scrutiny and reveals a darker side of Tyler’s past. Carolyn still feels like there’s more to the story, but can she risk attaching herself to another scandal—and does she truly know the man she’s fallen in love with?

The Price of Inheritance is a rare find of a novel. Engaging, suspenseful, and full of intrigue, it delves into the elite world of big bucks deals and dangerous black market promises, where one woman must decide whether she’s willing to gamble her greatest asset—her heart.

Our thoughts: As someone who appreciates antiques, May enjoyed the subject matter, historical factor, and of course you can never go wrong with a little mystery and romance. This was a perfect read to take on vacation, or if you’re just looking for something light to read out on your back porch.

Happy Summer Reading! –May and June

One benefit of Summer was that each day we had more light to read by. Jeannette Walls, The Glass Castle

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I was Anastasia

New Spring Releases

For the last several months, many of us have been hunkered down in our homes reading our latest novel under a warm blanket, cozy by the fire. However, even though the temperatures aren’t always showing it, spring is officially here. We love spring! It’s time to clean out our homes, open windows, lighten the layers, enjoy longer days and stop to notice the beautiful colors on spring blooms. There are so many books coming out this spring and we are excited to get started. Here is just a sampling of what we’re looking forward to reading out on our back porch.   Some of these have already been released this spring and others will be coming soon.  

Beach House Reunion– Mary Alice Monroe (May 22, 2018)

Beach House Reunion (The Beach House Book 5) by [Monroe, Mary Alice]  
From Amazon:
Whisking you back to the shores of her bestselling Beach House series, Mary Alice Monroe weaves together a tale of the struggles and triumphs of the historic Rutledge family of Charleston, South Carolina. Beautifully wrought and rich with keen insight, this is an illuminating tale of new beginnings, resilience, and one family’s enduring love.

Cara Rutledge returns to her Southern home on the idyllic Isle of Palms. Everything is comfortingly the same, yet each detail is rife with painful memories. Only through reconnecting with family, friends, and the rhythms of the lowcountry can Cara release the hold of the past and open herself to the possibility of a new love, career, and hope for the future.

Meanwhile, her niece Linnea, a recent college graduate who doesn’t know where her life will take her, leaves her historic home in Charleston, with all its entitlement and expectations, and heads to her aunt’s beach house. On the island, she is part of the freer, natural ocean lifestyle she loves, rejoining the turtle team, learning to surf, and falling in love. Remembering the lessons of her beloved grandmother, Lovie, the original “turtle lady,” Linnea rediscovers a meaningful purpose to her life and finds the courage she needs to break from tradition.

In this heartwarming novel, three generations of the Rutledge family gather together to find the strength, love, and commitment to break destructive family patterns and to forge new bonds that will endure long beyond one summer reunion.

 

The Perfect Mother– Aimee Molly (May 1, 2018)

The Perfect Mother: A Novel by [Molloy, Aimee] 

From Amazon:

THE MOST ANTICIPATED BOOK OF THE SUMMER—SOON TO BE A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE STARRING SCANDAL’S KERRY WASHINGTON

An addictive psychological thriller about a group of women whose lives become unexpectedly connected when one of their newborns goes missing.

A night out. A few hours of fun. That’s all it was meant to be.

They call themselves the May Mothers—a group of new moms whose babies were born in the same month. Twice a week, they get together in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park for some much-needed adult time.

When the women go out for drinks at the hip neighborhood bar, they want a fun break from their daily routine. But on this hot Fourth of July night, something goes terrifyingly wrong: one of the babies is taken from his crib. Winnie, a single mom, was reluctant to leave six-week-old Midas with a babysitter, but her fellow May Mothers insisted everything would be fine. Now he is missing. What follows is a heart-pounding race to find Midas, during which secrets are exposed, marriages are tested, and friendships are destroyed. 

Thirteen days. An unexpected twist. The Perfect Mother is a “true page turner.” —B.A. Paris, author of Behind Closed Doors  

 

The Optimist’s Guide to Letting Go– Amy E. Reichert (May 15, 2018)

The Optimist's Guide to Letting Go by [Reichert, Amy E.]
From Amazon:
Three generations. Seven days. One big secret. The author of The Coincidence of Coconut Cake unfolds a mother-daughter story told by three women whose time to reckon with a life-altering secret is running out.

Gina Zoberski wants to make it through one day without her fastidious mother, Lorraine, cataloguing all her faults, and her sullen teenage daughter, May, snubbing her. Too bad there’s no chance of that. Her relentlessly sunny disposition annoys them both, no matter how hard she tries. Instead, Gina finds order and comfort in obsessive list-making and her work at Grilled G’s, the gourmet grilled cheese food truck built by her late husband.

But when Lorraine suffers a sudden stroke, Gina stumbles upon a family secret Lorraine’s kept hidden for forty years. In the face of her mother’s failing health and her daughter’s rebellion, this optimist might find that piecing together the truth is the push she needs to let go…

 
 
 
In an enthralling new feat of historical suspense, Ariel Lawhon unravels the extraordinary twists and turns in Anna Anderson’s 50-year battle to be recognized as Anastasia Romanov. Is she the Russian Grand Duchess, a beloved daughter and revered icon, or is she an imposter, the thief of another woman’s legacy?
 
             Countless others have rendered their verdict. Now it is your turn.
 
Russia, July 17, 1918: Under direct orders from Vladimir Lenin, Bolshevik secret police force Anastasia Romanov, along with the entire imperial family, into a damp basement in Siberia where they face a merciless firing squad. None survive. At least that is what the executioners have always claimed. 

Germany, February 17, 1920
: A young woman bearing an uncanny resemblance to Anastasia Romanov is pulled shivering and senseless from a canal in Berlin. Refusing to explain her presence in the freezing water, she is taken to the hospital where an examination reveals that her body is riddled with countless, horrific scars. When she finally does speak, this frightened, mysterious woman claims to be the Russian Grand Duchess Anastasia. 
     
Her detractors, convinced that the young woman is only after the immense Romanov fortune, insist on calling her by a different name: Anna Anderson. 
     As rumors begin to circulate through European society that the youngest Romanov daughter has survived the massacre, old enemies and new threats are awakened. With a brilliantly crafted dual narrative structure, Lawhon wades into the most psychologically complex and emotionally compelling territory yet: the nature of identity itself.
     The question of who Anna Anderson is and what actually happened to Anastasia Romanov creates a saga that spans fifty years and touches three continents. This thrilling story is every bit as moving and momentous as it is harrowing and twisted.
 
 
The last person Alice Shipley expected to see since arriving in Tangier with her new husband was Lucy Mason. After the accident at Bennington, the two friends—once inseparable roommates—haven’t spoken in over a year. But there Lucy was, trying to make things right and return to their old rhythms. Perhaps Alice should be happy. She has not adjusted to life in Morocco, too afraid to venture out into the bustling medinas and oppressive heat. Lucy—always fearless and independent—helps Alice emerge from her flat and explore the country. 

But soon a familiar feeling starts to overtake Alice—she feels controlled and stifled by Lucy at every turn. Then Alice’s husband, John, goes missing, and Alice starts to question everything around her: her relationship with her enigmatic friend, her decision to ever come to Tangier, and her very own state of mind.

Tangerine is a sharp dagger of a book—a debut so tightly wound, so replete with exotic imagery and charm, so full of precise details and extraordinary craftsmanship, it will leave you absolutely breathless.

Optioned for film by George Clooney’s Smokehouse Pictures, with Scarlett Johansson to star

America’s next favorite Australian author!

“With jaw-dropping discoveries and realistic consequences, this novel is not to be missed. Perfect for lovers of Big Little Lies.” ―Library Journal, starred review

Small, perfect towns often hold the deepest secrets.

From the outside, Essie’s life looks idyllic: a loving husband, a beautiful house in a good neighborhood, and a nearby mother who dotes on her grandchildren. But few of Essie’s friends know her secret shame: that in a moment of maternal despair, she once walked away from her newborn, asleep in her carriage in a park. Disaster was avoided and Essie got better, but she still fears what lurks inside her, even as her daughter gets older and she has a second baby.

When a new woman named Isabelle moves in next door to Essie, she is an immediate object of curiosity in the neighborhood. Why single, when everyone else is married with children? Why renting, when everyone else owns? What mysterious job does she have? And why is she so fascinated with Essie? As the two women grow closer and Essie’s friends voice their disapproval, it starts to become clear that Isabelle’s choice of neighborhood was no accident. And that her presence threatens to bring shocking secrets to light. 

The Family Next Door is Sally Hepworth at her very best: at once a deeply moving portrait of family drama and a compelling suburban mystery that will keep you hooked until the very last page

My Dear Hamilton: A Novel of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie

From Amazon:

From the New York Times bestselling authors of America’s First Daughter comes the epic story of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton—a revolutionary woman who, like her new nation, struggled to define herself in the wake of war, betrayal, and tragedy. In this haunting, moving, and beautifully written novel, Dray and Kamoie used thousands of letters and original sources to tell Eliza’s story as it’s never been told before—not just as the wronged wife at the center of a political sex scandal—but also as a founding mother who shaped an American legacy in her own right.

A general’s daughter…

Coming of age on the perilous frontier of revolutionary New York, Elizabeth Schuyler champions the fight for independence. And when she meets Alexander Hamilton, Washington’s penniless but passionate aide-de-camp, she’s captivated by the young officer’s charisma and brilliance. They fall in love, despite Hamilton’s bastard birth and the uncertainties of war.

A founding father’s wife…

But the union they create—in their marriage and the new nation—is far from perfect. From glittering inaugural balls to bloody street riots, the Hamiltons are at the center of it all—including the political treachery of America’s first sex scandal, which forces Eliza to struggle through heartbreak and betrayal to find forgiveness.

The last surviving light of the Revolution…

When a duel destroys Eliza’s hard-won peace, the grieving widow fights her husband’s enemies to preserve Alexander’s legacy. But long-buried secrets threaten everything Eliza believes about her marriage and her own legacy. Questioning her tireless devotion to the man and country that have broken her heart, she’s left with one last battle—to understand the flawed man she married and imperfect union he could never have created without her…

We hope you’re as excited as we are to dive into these new releases. What’s on your reading list?
 
Have a wonderful weekend!
~May and June
 
There is no friend as loyal as a book- Ernest Hemingway
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

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Soulful Simplicity

What We’ve Been Reading in March

Happy Spring! It’s time to lighten up our clothes, our homes, and send those long dark nights of winter behind us. We love this time of year as the days grow warmer and we can walk our pups in the evening and still have daylight. However, no matter the season, you can still find us curled up with a good book. Here’s what we’ve been reading in March. 

Lilac Girls- Martha Hall Kelly

From Amazon:  NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • For readers of The Nightingale and Sarah’s Key,inspired by the life of a real World War II heroine, this remarkable debut novel reveals the power of unsung women to change history in their quest for love, freedom, and second chances.

New York socialite Caroline Ferriday has her hands full with her post at the French consulate and a new love on the horizon. But Caroline’s world is forever changed when Hitler’s army invades Poland in September 1939—and then sets its sights on France.

An ocean away from Caroline, Kasia Kuzmerick, a Polish teenager, senses her carefree youth disappearing as she is drawn deeper into her role as courier for the underground resistance movement. In a tense atmosphere of watchful eyes and suspecting neighbors, one false move can have dire consequences.

For the ambitious young German doctor, Herta Oberheuser, an ad for a government medical position seems her ticket out of a desolate life. Once hired, though, she finds herself trapped in a male-dominated realm of Nazi secrets and power.

The lives of these three women are set on a collision course when the unthinkable happens and Kasia is sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious Nazi concentration camp for women. Their stories cross continents—from New York to Paris, Germany, and Poland—as Caroline and Kasia strive to bring justice to those whom history has forgotten.

Our thoughts:  This debut novel was inspired by a real life WWII heroine, Caroline Ferriday. The story is about three women whose lives intersect during WWII. Much of the story takes place at the Ravensbruck Concentration Camp, where medical “experiments” are performed on many of the young women in the camp. These women were later known as “rabbits”.  I am an avid reader of historical fiction, especially WWII, and am still amazed when I learn something new about life in the concentration camps.  I found this story and its characters engaging from start to finish, and even did a little of my own research on the life of Caroline Ferriday, a truly remarkable woman. Loved this book.  

The Woman in the Window: A Novel – A.J. Finn

From Amazon:  For readers of Gillian Flynn and Tana French comes one of the decade’s most anticipated debuts, to be published in thirty-six languages around the world and already in development as a major film from Fox: a twisty, powerful Hitchcockian thriller about an agoraphobic woman who believes she witnessed a crime in a neighboring house.

It isn’t paranoia if it’s really happening . . .

Anna Fox lives alone—a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times . . . and spying on her neighbors.

Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, a mother, their teenage son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble—and its shocking secrets are laid bare.

What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Who is in control? In this diabolically gripping thriller, no one—and nothing—is what it seems.

Twisty and powerful, ingenious and moving, The Woman in the Window is a smart, sophisticated novel of psychological suspense that recalls the best of Hitchcock.

Our thoughts:  If you’ve read here for any time, you know that thrillers are not our favorite genre. June is usually so mad at the ending that she wants to throw the book through the window.  However, this one had a ton of buzz (June was number 98 on the reserve list at the library) so may as well give it a shot.  For a thriller this one was actually pretty good.  There are some twists that you can kind of see coming which keeps you from being mad at the book and the author.  The ending was satisfying but did not make everything all better.  It is a bit reminiscent of The Girl on the Train where you are not sure you can trust the main character narrator.  However, the fact that she is a recluse is fascinating.  Also, if you are a fan of old movies, the movie references and their similarities to the plot points is probably intriguing.  If you are not a fan of old movies, like me, then those references tend to get a little annoying because they are just gibberish.  If you are looking for a fast read and like thrillers this may be a good one to pick up.  

Soulful Simplicity- Courtney Carver

From Amazon:   Courtney Carver shows us the power of simplicity to improve our health, build more meaningful relationships, and relieve stress in our professional and personal lives.

We are often on a quest for more—we give in to pressure every day to work more, own more, and do more. For Carver, this constant striving had to come to a stop when she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Stress was like gasoline on the fire of symptoms, and it became clear that she needed to root out the physical and psychological clutter that were the source of her debt and discontent. 
     In this book, she shows us how to pursue practical minimalism so we can create more with less—more space, more time, and even more love. Carver invites us to look at the big picture, discover what’s most important to us, and reclaim lightness and ease by getting rid of all the excess things.

Our thoughts:  This book had me with the cover. I’m a sucker for a beautiful book cover. Written by Courtney Carver, whose blog Be More with Less was launched in 2010, this for me was a bit of a self help book. Not only does the author help us with the physical act of decluttering and getting more organized, but she also aids us in discovering what’s truly important in life- Love, Happiness, Joy, and Peace. I keep this one on my nightstand and will be giving it as gifts to my friends. 

As Bright as Heaven – Susan Meissner

From Amazon:  From the acclaimed author of Secrets of a Charmed Life and A Bridge Across the Ocean comes a new novel set in Philadelphia during the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918, which tells the story of a family reborn through loss and love.

In 1918, Philadelphia was a city teeming with promise. Even as its young men went off to fight in the Great War, there were opportunities for a fresh start on its cobblestone streets. Into this bustling town, came Pauline Bright and her husband, filled with hope that they could now give their three daughters–Evelyn, Maggie, and Willa–a chance at a better life.

But just months after they arrive, the Spanish Flu reaches the shores of America. As the pandemic claims more than twelve thousand victims in their adopted city, they find their lives left with a world that looks nothing like the one they knew. But even as they lose loved ones, they take in a baby orphaned by the disease who becomes their single source of hope. Amidst the tragedy and challenges, they learn what they cannot live without–and what they are willing to do about it.

As Bright as Heaven is the compelling story of a mother and her daughters who find themselves in a harsh world not of their making, which will either crush their resolve to survive or purify it.

Our thoughts:  As a fan of historical fiction, this book is in an era not often written about which is World War I and more specifically the Spanish flu pandemic.  The story is told from the viewpoints of several women in the book.  While the story was set 100 years ago, I could identify with many of the struggles the characters had in the book, loss of a child, adopting a child, struggling to find your tribe in a new city, figuring out who you are, sickness and death.  The family moves into a funeral home to start their new life.  The flu pandemic was scary then and it makes you feel a little scared that it could happen again.  June read this at the end of January which was the height of the flu outbreak this year and this book did make her more than a little bit concerned that she had not gotten around to a flu vaccine this year.  The details about the funeral home, embalming and they accept death as a part of life are interesting to read.  This book makes you feel all of the feelings.  Also, if you’ve not read anything else by this author you should check her out.  The Fall of Marigolds is one of my favorites.

Have a good weekend.  –May and June

There is no friend as loyal as a book.- Ernest Hemingway

 

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IMG_1565

For The Book Lover On Your Gift List

Happy December!! The most wonderful time of the year has arrived, and along with it comes the question of what to get that special someone on your Christmas list. Since May and June both share a passion for everything books, we thought we would give you a few fun gift ideas for the book lover in your life.

For us, there is nothing like an old edition of a favorite book. Many Christmas’ ago, May’s mom gave her a vintage edition of a beloved book from childhood, Little Women. It is old and beautiful and is the perfect accessory on a coffee table or mantle. 

How about something from a favorite independent book store? In addition to great books, many independent book shops sell t-shirts, coffee mugs, gift cards, and of course tote bags at reasonable prices. Book lovers can always use a new tote bag.  They need some way to carry their book haul, especially when all of their holds come in at the library at the exact same time (June knows from experience).

If you’re looking for a great stocking stuffer, you can’t go wrong with a beautiful book mark. We found some unique and beautiful book marks online. Check out this store for a wide selection.

We love Etsy for great book gifts. A favorite shop is Carrot Top Paper Shop,   which creates illustrations and quotes of literary heroines including Anne of Green Gables and Elizabeth Bennett as well as their authors Jane Austen, L.M. Montgomery, and Louisa May Alcott.

A subscription to a book club could be fun.  Now, before you have flashbacks to the Columbia House record/cassette/cd of the month club, these are more flexible.  We have not signed up for any of them, however Book of the Month Club is getting good press.  Each month, a rotating cast of judges select five titles.  The recipient has the opportunity to select the title of their choice, or they can choose to skip a month.

A reading journal and other tools to help read are also a great gift.  Some readers like to track their titles either for a reading challenge or just for their own spotty memories, plus some readers like to mark passages or take notes.  The Modern Mrs. Darcy sells really great reading journal kits that include a really nice journal, book darts and other fun goodies.  June will tell you those book darts are magical for having the ability to go back and reference ideas, or to re-read a really beautiful sentence. 

If the book lover on your list reads physical books, but also multi-tasks while doing so (we are looking at June who blow dries her hair and reads at the same time), a book weight is a great gift.  The book weight holds the book open and allows your reader to get one more chapter in hands free, for the most part.  June’s husband got her this one last Christmas and it has changed her life.  No more trying to figure out if the toothpaste tube is heavy enough to hold the book open.

A lot of readers belong to book clubs and most book clubs involve wine.  So, why not give your reader their very own book club of wine.  June is currently working on writing a book (more on that later) and her writing mentor, Ann Garvin’s book, I Like You Just Fine When You’re Not Around, is featured in a new seasonal gift box called Books & Bottles, which pairs two bottles of Francis Ford Coppola’s wine with a featured book.  Check it out.  It looks like a fun gift combining most readers two loves.

Of course you can always buy the gift of a new book.  Readers love new titles and authors to check out.  Consider not only the newest best seller, but also look to the backlist titles that  may have been missed. As we readers know, there are simply too many titles to read in a lifetime.  Get a gift receipt just in case they have already had the pleasure of reading your picked title, and don’t be offended, it just means that you have great reading taste.

Have a great weekend and happy Christmas shopping! – May and June

Books may well be the only true magic. Alice Hoffman

 

 

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Dying to be Me

September Book Picks

We took a little break over the summer from blogging, but are happy to be back just in time for the start of Fall.  And there’s no better way to begin than with one of our favorite topics, books!! There are some great new titles coming out this Fall, but to get you started, the following are some books we have enjoyed over the last few months.

Beartown: A Novel by Frederick Backman

 

From Amazon:

People say Beartown is finished. A tiny community nestled deep in the forest, it is slowly losing ground to the ever encroaching trees. But down by the lake stands an old ice rink, built generations ago by the working men who founded this town. And in that ice rink is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today. Their junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals, and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys.

Being responsible for the hopes of an entire town is a heavy burden, and the semi-final match is the catalyst for a violent act that will leave a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil. Accusations are made and, like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected.

Beartown explores the hopes that bring a small community together, the secrets that tear it apart, and the courage it takes for an individual to go against the grain. In this story of a small forest town, Fredrik Backman has found the entire world.

Our Thoughts:  This book wrecks you in the best and worst possible ways.  While the story centers around a hockey team it is not really a story about hockey.  It is a story about what privilege can get you.  It is a story about small towns.  It is a story about loyalty, family, friendship and belonging.  It is a story about discovering who you are and what you are willing to stand up for and fight for.  This is a hard story because some rather awful things happen but it is a book that impacts you in all the right ways.

The Lying Game: A Novel by Ruth Ware

From Amazon:

From the instant New York Times bestselling author of blockbuster thrillers In a Dark, Dark Wood and The Woman in Cabin 10 comes Ruth Ware’s chilling new novel, The Lying Game.

On a cool June morning, a woman is walking her dog in the idyllic coastal village of Salten along a tidal estuary known as the Reach. Before she can stop him, the dog charges into the water to retrieve what first appears to be a wayward stick, but to her horror, turns out to be something much more sinister…

The next morning, three women in and around London—Fatima, Thea, and Isabel—receive the text they had always hoped would NEVER come, from the fourth in their formerly inseparable clique, Kate, that says only, “I need you.”

The four girls were best friends at Salten, a second rate boarding school set near the cliffs of the English Channel. Each different in their own way, the four became inseparable and were notorious for playing the Lying Game, telling lies at every turn to both fellow boarders and faculty, with varying states of serious and flippant nature that were disturbing enough to ensure that everyone steered clear of them. The myriad and complicated rules of the game are strict: no lying to each other—ever. Bail on the lie when it becomes clear it is about to be found out. But their little game had consequences, and the girls were all expelled in their final year of school under mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of the school’s eccentric art teacher, Ambrose (who also happens to be Kate’s father).

Atmospheric, twisty, and with just the right amount of chill that will keep you wrong-footed—which has now become Ruth Ware’s signature style—The Lying Game is sure to be her next big bestseller. Another unputdownable thriller from the Agatha Christie of our time.

Our Thoughts:  This is a story couched in mystery.  What happened to the girls so many years ago and who is trying to discover the truth now?  Most of the women in the story have tried to put behind them what they did many years ago.  The bonds of that act have kept them connected and now with the discovery of a body their carefully constructed lives are threatened to be pulled apart.  A good mystery although I did struggle with some of the characters being a little dumb.  The setting lends itself to making even the event more mysterious and the setting ultimately saves many of them from the past.

Lucia, Lucia: A Novel by Adriana Trigiani

From Amazon:

It is 1950 in glittering, vibrant New York City. Lucia Sartori is the beautiful twenty-five-year-old daughter of a prosperous Italian grocer in Greenwich Village. The postwar boom is ripe with opportunities for talented girls with ambition, and Lucia becomes an apprentice to an up-and-coming designer at chic B. Altman’s department store on Fifth Avenue. Engaged to her childhood sweetheart, the steadfast Dante DeMartino, Lucia is torn when she meets a handsome stranger who promises a life of uptown luxury that career girls like her only read about in the society pages. Forced to choose between duty to her family and her own dreams, Lucia finds herself in the midst of a sizzling scandal in which secrets are revealed, her beloved career is jeopardized, and the Sartoris’ honor is tested.

Our Thoughts: Although this is not a new release, Lucia Lucia is the sweet story about the ties that bind an Italian-American family in the early 1950’s. Lucia, is the daughter of a proud Italian father and although she wants to please her family by marrying a childhood friend, she is also struggling to find her own independence. The author had a wonderful way of pulling you into Lucia’s family dynamic and although the book wasn’t very complex, it was enjoyable. The perfect read for a Sunday afternoon.

Dying To Be Me: My Journey from Cancer, to Near Death, to True Healing by Anita Moorjani

From Amazon:

In this truly inspirational memoir, Anita Moorjani relates how, after fighting cancer for almost four years, her body began shutting down—overwhelmed by the malignant cells spreading throughout her system. As her organs failed, she entered into an extraordinary near-death experience where she realized her inherent worth . . . and the actual cause of her disease. Upon regaining consciousness, Anita found that her condition had improved so rapidly that she was released from the hospital within weeks—without a trace of cancer in her body! Within these pages, Anita recounts stories of her childhood in Hong Kong, her challenge to establish her career and find true love, as well as how she eventually ended up in that hospital bed where she defied all medical knowledge. As part of a traditional Hindu family residing in a largely Chinese and British society, Anita had been pushed and pulled by cultural and religious customs since she was a little girl. After years of struggling to forge her own path while trying to meet everyone else’s expectations, she had the realization, as a result of her epiphany on the other side, that she had the power to heal herself . . . and that there are miracles in the Universe that she’d never even imagined. In Dying to Be Me, Anita freely shares all she has learned about illness, healing, fear, “being love,” and the true magnificence of each and every human being! This is a book that definitely makes the case that we are spiritual beings having a human experience . . . and that we are all One!

Our Thoughts: Although we don’t do many memoirs, this one was mentioned on several podcasts and as a follower of Wayne Dyer, it was worth checking out. It was an inspiring story of Anita Moorjani’s struggle with fitting in not only with society, but also her family’s cultural expectations, followed by a cancer diagnosis and near death experience which she shares in detail. It is a lovely book about life and living it on our terms, rather than the expectations of others. 

We’d love to hear what you all have been reading lately. Enjoy this first weekend of Fall!!

~May and June

“If the crowns of all the kingdoms of Europe were laid down at my feet in exchange for my books and my love of reading, I would spurn them all.” – François Fénelon

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Here’s what we’ve been reading in July

Our days have been a little out of control lately around May Meets June.  Summer does that.  Your schedule gets thrown out the window to enjoy the fleeting season.  If you are looking for a little grounding this weekend, though, sitting with a good book may be a good option.  Here are a few books we’ve read lately.  

Victoria by Daisy Goodwin

Drawing on Queen Victoria’s diaries, which she first started reading when she was a student at Cambridge University, Daisy Goodwin―creator and writer of the new PBS Masterpiece drama Victoriaand author of the bestselling novels The American Heiress and The Fortune Hunter―brings the young nineteenth-century monarch, who would go on to reign for 63 years, richly to life in this magnificent novel.

Early one morning, less than a month after her eighteenth birthday, Alexandrina Victoria is roused from bed with the news that her uncle William IV has died and she is now Queen of England. The men who run the country have doubts about whether this sheltered young woman, who stands less than five feet tall, can rule the greatest nation in the world.

Despite her age, however, the young queen is no puppet. She has very definite ideas about the kind of queen she wants to be, and the first thing is to choose her name.

“I do not like the name Alexandrina,” she proclaims. “From now on I wish to be known only by my second name, Victoria.”

Next, people say she must choose a husband. Everyone keeps telling her she’s destined to marry her first cousin, Prince Albert, but Victoria found him dull and priggish when they met three years ago. She is quite happy being queen with the help of her prime minister, Lord Melbourne, who may be old enough to be her father but is the first person to take her seriously.

On June 19th, 1837, she was a teenager. On June 20th, 1837, she was a queen. Daisy Goodwin’s impeccably researched and vividly imagined new book brings readers Queen Victoria as they have never seen her before.

Our thoughts: If you’ve been watching the PBS mini-series on Victoria, this book pretty much follows the first several episodes. This historical novel tells the story or Queen Victoria’s first two years as an unexpected successor to the throne. It was definitely a coming of age story as a reigning queen and add to that, the often times funny romance with her future husband, Albert. An enjoyable read.

 

The Cafe by the Sea by Jenny Colgan

Years ago, Flora fled the quiet Scottish island where she grew up — and she hasn’t looked back. What would she have done on Mure? It’s a place where everyone has known her all her life, where no one will let her forget the past. In bright, bustling London, she can be anonymous, ambitious… and hopelessly in love with her boss.

But when fate brings Flora back to the island, she’s suddenly swept once more into life with her brothers (all strapping, loud and seemingly incapable of basic housework) and her father. Yet even amid the chaos of their reunion, Flora discovers a passion for cooking — and finds herself restoring dusty little pink-fronted shop on the harbour: a café by the sea.

But with the seasons changing, Flora must come to terms with past mistakes… and work out exactly where her future lies…

Our thoughts: May and June are both fans of Jenny Colgan’s novels. She writes the perfect story if you’re looking for a little escape to someplace beautiful, want a little romance, and of course, delicious food. We love that their are always recipes in her books. This takes place in a little coastal town in Scotland where the main character, Flora, must return to her home town for work and has to confront past conflicts with her family. Oh, and she is hopelessly in love with her boss, Joel.

 

Close Enough to Touch by Colleen Oakley

 

Can you miss something you never had?

Jubilee Jenkins is no ordinary librarian. With a rare allergy to human touch, any skin-to-skin contact could literally kill her. But after retreating into solitude for nearly ten years, Jubilee’s decided to brave the world again, despite the risks. Armed with a pair of gloves, long sleeves, and her trusty bicycle, she finally ventures out the front door—and into her future.

Eric Keegan has troubles of his own. With his daughter from a failed marriage no longer speaking to him, and his brilliant, if psychologically troubled, adopted son attempting telekinesis, Eric’s struggling to figure out how his life got so off course, and how to be the dad—and man—he wants so desperately to be. So when an encounter over the check-out desk at the local library entangles his life with that of a beautiful—albeit eccentric—woman, he finds himself wanting nothing more than to be near her.

Our thoughts:  This book made you root for the heroine.  She has had such a hard life because of her allergy and her mother.  It made me wonder what it would be like to be afraid to be touched by any other person or risk your life.  It would be isolating and we take small touches from our loved ones for granted.  The ending is very satisfying and makes you smile through some tears.  And, of course, we always love a book set in part in a library.

Have a good weekend.  Enjoy the season for all that it is and maybe enjoy some lazy days. –May and June

There is a temperate zone in the mind, between luxurious indolence and exacting work; and it is to this region, just between laziness and labor, that summer reading belongs.  -Henry Ward Beecher

 

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Beach Reads

This week we celebrated the first official day of summer.  So, we can’t think of a better time to check out some summer beach reads.  Beach reads are a little tricky.  On the one hand you want to read something that is light and fun that doesn’t contain long involved prose and themes, but on the other hand you don’t want something that makes you feel like your brain is slowly melting due to stupidity.  There are a few tried and true authors that almost always write a novel that fulfills this requirement.  We have also included a few other beach reads that sound intriguing.

 

Mary Kay Andrews

Mary Kay Andrews usually sets her books in Savannah, Georgia or Tybee Island, Georgia.  What better way to spend a summer day than reading a story set in the deep South?  There is almost always a small mystery, a love story, and some flea market picking.  Some favorites include Savannah Blues, Save the Date and Summer Rental.

Elin Hilderbrand

Elin Hildebrand sets all of her novels in Nantucket.  Nantucket always ends up being a character in the story.  Some favorites include The Castaways, Silver Girl and most recently, The Identical’s.

 

Mary Alice Monroe

Mary Alice Monroe tends to write about the parallels between nature and life.  She is a resident of South Carolina and interestingly, May is going to an author event where she is the guest speaker this weekend. Some of her books include The Summer Girls, The Summer’s End, and her just released Beach House for Rent.

Paula Mclain

Paula Mclain is best known for her book, The Paris Wife. She has written A Ticket to Ride about a long hot summer in Illinois, and most recently Circling the Sun.

Karen White

May just finished and thoroughly enjoyed Karen’s latest novel, The Night the Lights Went Out. Other titles include The Girl on Legare Street,  and Spinning the Moon.  Most of her novels are based in the low country of the Southeast.

Jenny Colgan

Jenny Colgan is known for writing romantic comedy fiction. Some of our favorites are Meet me at the Cupcake Cafe, The Bookshop on the Corner, and The Loveliest Little Chocolate Shop in Paris. Her newest release is The Cafe by the Sea.

There are oh so many wonderful summer reads out there, it’s so hard to choose!! If you’re looking for something a little light to read this summer, we’re positive you’ll find something you like from our list.

 

What are some of your favorite beach reads?

Have a great weekend. ~May and June

 

A good book on the beach is pure bliss.

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Author Series- Lisa Wingate

This summer, I have been enjoying a wonderful author series here in South Carolina. It’s put on by Blue Bicycle Books, a locally owned book store in the heart of downtown Charleston. This month, it is showcasing new releases from southern authors. For me, it is a wonderful opportunity to share a meal with like minded friends at a popular Charleston location, and even make a few new ones.

Recently, author Lisa Wingate joined us for lunch and presented her new historical novel Before We Were Yours. This story is based on one of America’s most notorious real-life scandals. Georgia Tann, who was director of a Memphis based adoption organization, kidnapped and sold poor children to wealthy families all over the country, including celebrities Joan Crawford and Lana Turner.

Historical fiction is my favorite genre and although I have heard of Lisa Wingate, I have not read any of her novels. This one is on my list. Ms Wingate was very engaging, read a few excerpts from the book to us, and was happy to answer questions. I always love to hear how an author gets an idea for a book, and how it builds. This book is getting wonderful reviews including one I just read by The Huffington Post.

Two families, generations apart, are forever changed by a heartbreaking injustice in this poignant novel, inspired by a true story, for readers of Orphan Train and The Nightingale.

Memphis, 1939. Twelve-year-old Rill Foss and her four younger siblings live a magical life aboard their family’s Mississippi River shantyboat. But when their father must rush their mother to the hospital one stormy night, Rill is left in charge–until strangers arrive in force. Wrenched from all that is familiar and thrown into a Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage, the Foss children are assured that they will soon be returned to their parents–but they quickly realize the dark truth. At the mercy of the facility’s cruel director, Rill fights to keep her sisters and brother together in a world of danger and uncertainty.

Aiken, South Carolina, present day. Born into wealth and privilege, Avery Stafford seems to have it all: a successful career as a federal prosecutor, a handsome fiancé, and a lavish wedding on the horizon. But when Avery returns home to help her father weather a health crisis, a chance encounter leaves her with uncomfortable questions and compels her to take a journey through her family’s long-hidden history, on a path that will ultimately lead either to devastation or to redemption.

Based on one of America’s most notorious real-life scandals–in which Georgia Tann, director of a Memphis-based adoption organization, kidnapped and sold poor children to wealthy families all over the country–Lisa Wingate’s riveting, wrenching, and ultimately uplifting tale reminds us how, even though the paths we take can lead to many places, the heart never forgets where we belong.

I would love feedback if you’ve read this one.

Have a great week!

~May

History tells us what people do; historical fiction helps us imagine how they felt. -Guy Vanderhaghe

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Free Libraries

Anyone who knows me, knows I love libraries.  While I love the smell of libraries and the hushed atmosphere, I mainly love all of the books.  And I love that I can check them all out for free.

As a child, I spent a lot of time at the library.  It was so hard to pick which books would go home with me until my return.  I wanted to take them all home, but sadly my mom only let me check out 10 books at a time.  Should I take home some old favorites or some new yet to be discovered stories?  As an adult I still love my library.  As much as I read, my wallet and my home bookshelves are thankful that libraries exist.

I recently found out that public free libraries are an American institution, with the first ones starting on the east coast in the 1830s.  Between the 1880s and 1929, almost 1,700 free public libraries were built in the United States thanks to the industrialist, Andrew Carnegie.  He agreed to build and furnish a library if the city would agree to  maintain and staff it.  It really is amazing when you consider that people had the foresight to understand that information and reading was so important that it should be available for free to everyone.

I am super fortunate that my town wholeheartedly supports our library.   Because I grew up in this community, I have seen the library grow from a much smaller building with a physical card catalog and an iguana named Peepers, to a much larger facility that offers not only books but computer classes, conference room space, programming and activities.  When I review our property tax bill, I always feel like we more than get our money’s worth by using our library.

Recently, there has been a phenomenon called the Little Free Library that has been springing up since 2009.  Rather than a large public library, individuals or community groups build their own little library where they invite others to add or take a book.  The Little Free Library was started in Wisconsin to promote literacy and love of reading.  If you go to their website  you can see if there is a Little Free Library in your town or someplace you visit.

Our neighborhood completed a gofundme campaign last year and built a Little Free Library.  The Little Free Library was recently installed in our neighborhood “island” which is a little public landscaped area with a bench.  Because we walk the dog by there frequently, I love to peek in the Little Free Library to see its stock.  We must have a lot of readers in the neighborhood because it is almost always fully stocked.  We have kids books, YA books and adult fiction.  The stock changes so someone must be taking the books home to read.  A few weekends ago we saw a family on a bike ride, that had stopped to take a break and read a book on the bench next to it.  It’s fun to see how people are enjoying the library.  I think I may have to walk down there soon and make a point of picking a book to take home to read.

While reading is a solitary activity, it’s also a community activity.  That is why we have book clubs and activities surrounding books.  There is something powerful about sharing the written word with others and sharing the experience of story.  I take great joy in reading about books, following bookstagrams on Instagram, belonging to online reading communities and also in life book clubs.  And one of my favorite things to do is to share and recommend books I have read.

Summer is the perfect reading season.  Check out your local library or a Little Free Library and have some fun for free. –June

A library is not a luxury but one of the necessities of life.

–Henry Ward Beecher

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The Cafe by the Sea

Summer Reading- New Releases

Hi everyone and Happy June!! We love this time of year!!! As we head into longer days and warm summer nights, we can’t think of anything better than a page turning thriller sitting out on the back porch with a glass of iced tea,  a sweet love story as we relax in a beach chair with our toes in the ocean, or a great work of historical fiction curled up on our favorite easy chair. Plus, we must not forget that it’s June’s birthday month. We both take our books everywhere with us because you never know when you might have a few moments to escape the ho hum of life, even if it’s for just a short time.

This post contains Amazon affiliate links, meaning that if you click and purchase we may receive a small commission.

Let’s hear it for summer reading season!! Today we would like to share some great new releases by authors we love, as well as some new discoveries.  We have not read most of these since many are not released, but we have them on our list!

The Stars Are Fire- Anita Shreve (April 18)

From Amazon:

From the New York Times best-selling author of The Weight of Water and The Pilot’s Wife (an Oprah’s Book Club selection): an exquisitely suspenseful new novel about an extraordinary young woman tested by a catastrophic event and its devastating aftermath–based on the true story of the largest fire in Maine’s history

In October 1947, after a summer long drought, fires break out all along the Maine coast from Bar Harbor to Kittery and are soon racing out of control from town to village. Five months pregnant, Grace Holland is left alone to protect her two toddlers when her husband, Gene, joins the volunteer firefighters. Along with her best friend, Rosie, and Rosie’s two young children, Grace watches helplessly as their houses burn to the ground, the flames finally forcing them all into the ocean as a last resort. The women spend the night frantically protecting their children, and in the morning find their lives forever changed: homeless, penniless, awaiting news of their husbands’ fate, and left to face an uncertain future in a town that no longer exists. In the midst of this devastating loss, Grace discovers glorious new freedoms–joys and triumphs she could never have expected her narrow life with Gene could contain–and her spirit soars. And then the unthinkable happens–and Grace’s bravery is tested as never before.

Into The Water – Paula Hawkins (May 2)

From Amazon:

An addictive new novel of psychological suspense from the author of #1 New York Times bestseller and global phenomenon The Girl on the Train.

“Hawkins is at the forefront of a group of female authors – think Gillian Flynn and Megan Abbott – who have reinvigorated the literary suspense novel by tapping a rich vein of psychological menace and social unease… there’s a certain solace to a dark escape, in the promise of submerged truths coming to light.” –Vogue

A single mother turns up dead at the bottom of the river that runs through town. Earlier in the summer, a vulnerable teenage girl met the same fate. They are not the first women lost to these dark waters, but their deaths disturb the river and its history, dredging up secrets long submerged.

Left behind is a lonely fifteen-year-old girl. Parentless and friendless, she now finds herself in the care of her mother’s sister, a fearful stranger who has been dragged back to the place she deliberately ran from—a place to which she vowed she’d never return.

With the same propulsive writing and acute understanding of human instincts that captivated millions of readers around the world in her explosive debut thriller, The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins delivers an urgent, twisting, deeply satisfying read that hinges on the deceptiveness of emotion and memory, as well as the devastating ways that the past can reach a long arm into the present.

Beware a calm surface—you never know what lies beneath.

Before We Were Yours- Lisa Wingate (June 6)

From Amazon:

Two families, generations apart, are forever changed by a heartbreaking injustice in this poignant novel, inspired by a true story, for readers of Orphan Train and The Nightingale.

Memphis, 1939. Twelve-year-old Rill Foss and her four younger siblings live a magical life aboard their family’s Mississippi River shantyboat. But when their father must rush their mother to the hospital one stormy night, Rill is left in charge–until strangers arrive in force. Wrenched from all that is familiar and thrown into a Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage, the Foss children are assured that they will soon be returned to their parents–but they quickly realize the dark truth. At the mercy of the facility’s cruel director, Rill fights to keep her sisters and brother together in a world of danger and uncertainty.

Aiken, South Carolina, present day. Born into wealth and privilege, Avery Stafford seems to have it all: a successful career as a federal prosecutor, a handsome fiancé, and a lavish wedding on the horizon. But when Avery returns home to help her father weather a health crisis, a chance encounter leaves her with uncomfortable questions and compels her to take a journey through her family’s long-hidden history, on a path that will ultimately lead either to devastation or to redemption.

Based on one of America’s most notorious real-life scandals–in which Georgia Tann, director of a Memphis-based adoption organization, kidnapped and sold poor children to wealthy families all over the country–Lisa Wingate’s riveting, wrenching, and ultimately uplifting tale reminds us how, even though the paths we take can lead to many places, the heart never forgets where we belong.

The Alice Network- Kate Quinn (June 6)

From Amazon:

In an enthralling new historical novel from national bestselling author Kate Quinn, two women—a female spy recruited to the real-life Alice Network in France during World War I and an unconventional American socialite searching for her cousin in 1947—are brought together in a mesmerizing story of courage and redemption.

1947. In the chaotic aftermath of World War II, American college girl Charlie St. Clair is pregnant, unmarried, and on the verge of being thrown out of her very proper family. She’s also nursing a desperate hope that her beloved cousin Rose, who disappeared in Nazi-occupied France during the war, might still be alive. So when Charlie’s parents banish her to Europe to have her “little problem” taken care of, Charlie breaks free and heads to London, determined to find out what happened to the cousin she loves like a sister.

1915. A year into the Great War, Eve Gardiner burns to join the fight against the Germans and unexpectedly gets her chance when she’s recruited to work as a spy. Sent into enemy-occupied France, she’s trained by the mesmerizing Lili, the “Queen of Spies”, who manages a vast network of secret agents right under the enemy’s nose.

Thirty years later, haunted by the betrayal that ultimately tore apart the Alice Network, Eve spends her days drunk and secluded in her crumbling London house. Until a young American barges in uttering a name Eve hasn’t heard in decades, and launches them both on a mission to find the truth…no matter where it leads.

The Identicals- Elin Hildebrand (June 13)

From Amazon:

Identical twin sisters who couldn’t look more alike…or live more differently.

Harper Frost is laid-back, easygoing. She doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her. She likes a beer and a shot and wouldn’t be caught dead wearing anything fashionable. She’s inherited her father’s rundown house on Martha’s Vineyard, but she can’t hold down a job, and her latest romantic disaster has the entire island talking.

Two beautiful islands only eleven miles apart.

Tabitha Frost is dignified, refined. She prefers a fine wine and has inherited the impeccable taste of her mother, the iconic fashion designer Eleanor Roxie-Frost. She’s also inherited her mother’s questionable parenting skills–Tabitha’s teenage daughter, Ainsley, is in full rebellion mode–and a flailing fashion boutique on Nantucket in desperate need of a cash infusion.

One unforgettable summer that will change their lives forever.

After more than a decade apart, Harper and Tabitha switch islands–and lives–to save what’s left of their splintered family. But the twins quickly discover that the secrets, lies, and gossip they thought they’d outrun can travel between islands just as easily as they can. Will Harper and Tabitha be able to bury the hatchet and end their sibling rivalry once and for all? Before the last beach picnic of the season, there will be enough old resentments, new loves, and cases of mistaken identity to make this the most talked-about summer that Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket have experienced in ages.

The Lying Game- Ruth Ware (June 15)

From Amazon:

From the instant New York Times bestselling author of blockbuster thrillers In a Dark, Dark Wood and The Woman in Cabin 10 comes Ruth Ware’s chilling new novel.

On a cool June morning, a woman is walking her dog in the idyllic coastal village of Salten along a tidal estuary known as the Reach. Before she can stop him, the dog charges into the water to retrieve what first appears to be a wayward stick, but to her horror, turns out to be something much more sinister…

The next morning, three women in and around London—Fatima, Thea, and Isabel—receive the text they had always hoped would NEVER come, from the fourth in their formerly inseparable clique, Kate, that says only, “I need you.”

The four girls were best friends at Salten, a second rate boarding school set near the cliffs of the English Channel. Each different in their own way, the four became inseparable and were notorious for playing the Lying Game, telling lies at every turn to both fellow boarders and faculty, with varying states of serious and flippant nature that were disturbing enough to ensure that everyone steered clear of them. The myriad and complicated rules of the game are strict: no lying to each other—ever. Bail on the lie when it becomes clear it is about to be found out. But their little game had consequences, and the girls were all expelled in their final year of school under mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of the school’s eccentric art teacher, Ambrose (who also happens to be Kate’s father).

Atmospheric, twisty, and with just the right amount of chill that will keep you wrong-footed—which has now become Ruth Ware’s signature style—The Lying Game is sure to be her next big bestseller. Another unputdownable thriller from the Agatha Christie of our time.

Every Last Lie- Mary Kubica (June 27)

From Amazon:

New York Times bestselling author of THE GOOD GIRL Mary Kubica is back with another exhilarating thriller as a widow’s pursuit of the truth leads her to the darkest corners of the psyche. 

Clara Solberg’s world shatters when her husband and their four-year-old daughter are in a car crash, killing Nick while Maisie is remarkably unharmed. The crash is ruled an accident…until the coming days, when Maisie starts having night terrors that make Clara question what really happened on that fateful afternoon.

Tormented by grief and her obsession that Nick’s death was far more than just an accident, Clara is plunged into a desperate hunt for the truth. Who would have wanted Nick dead? And, more important, why? Clara will stop at nothing to find out—and the truth is only the beginning of this twisted tale of secrets and deceit.

Told in the alternating perspectives of Clara’s investigation and Nick’s last months leading up to the crash, master of suspense Mary Kubica weaves her most chilling thriller to date—one that explores the dark recesses of a mind plagued by grief and shows that some secrets might be better left buried.

The Cafe By the Sea -Jenny Colgan (June 27)

From Amazon:

The beloved author of The Bookshop on the Corner returns with a sparkling, sunny, soulful new novel perfect for fans of Elin Hilderbrand.

Years ago, Flora fled the quiet Scottish island where she grew up — and she hasn’t looked back. What would she have done on Mure? It’s a place where everyone has known her all her life, where no one will let her forget the past. In bright, bustling London, she can be anonymous, ambitious… and hopelessly in love with her boss.

But when fate brings Flora back to the island, she’s suddenly swept once more into life with her brothers (all strapping, loud and seemingly incapable of basic housework) and her father. Yet even amid the chaos of their reunion, Flora discovers a passion for cooking — and finds herself restoring dusty little pink-fronted shop on the harbour: a café by the sea.

But with the seasons changing, Flora must come to terms with past mistakes… and work out exactly where her future lies…

Funny and heartfelt, The Café by the Sea is a delightful summertime novel that puts a modern twist on the classic Seven Brides for Seven Brothers story.

We are so excited to get lost in all these books. If you’re like us and get your books from the library, better get on the waiting list for some of these now since there can be long waits. Both of us got on the waitlist for Into the Water at number 90-something. But for us, waiting is part of the fun. We love the anticipation as we wait for the email letting us know our books are ready to be picked up.  And if you can’t wait, all of the books are linked to Amazon which usually delivers it on the release day.  It’s going to be a good summer for reading!

 

“One benefit of summer was that each day we had more light to read by.” Jeannette Walls.

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Loving Julia Child- My Life in France

I’m sure all of you know by now that May and June love books- really, really love books. As a child, I always enjoyed riding my bike to the library or bookmobile when it came to our park, ready to devour the next installment of Nancy Drew under the shade of our backyard cottonwood tree. I’m still that way. To me, there is nothing like getting lost in a great work of fiction. Although I’ve read my share of non-fiction, usually the self-help variety, I really haven’t gone down the aisle of memoirs for no other reason than they really never interested me, until recently.  Often, while my pup Sawyer and I walk in the morning, I listen to various podcasts. A few weeks ago, Julia Child and her memoir, My Life in France (2006) was mentioned as a must read for anyone who enjoyed her cooking shows. I really didn’t think too much about it until I saw the book mentioned again online that very same week. So, I took it as a sign to reserve it at the library, and give it a try.

Many of you, who are of a certain age, may remember Julia Child’s cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking or her cooking show, The French Chef. My mom, grandmother, and I loved to tune in and watch the French cooking masterpieces she would effortlessly create. She was a cooking genius as well as smart, funny, and oh so entertaining- all rolled into one. Often, we felt we were watching a comedy instead of a PBS show on the art of cooking. In fact, I’m sure all you Saturday Night Live fans remember Dan Akroyd’s hysterical skit as Julia Child.

My grandmother, who was a gifted cook herself, would sit in front of the television with her white leather bound notebook (which I now have) and pen in hand ready to write down Julia’s latest creation, then of course put her own delicious twist on it. That notebook is filled with recipes in my grandmother’s handwriting as well as stains from various sauces. I treasure that notebook.

By the way, I loved the book. I felt like I was sitting at Julia’s kitchen table in Paris, sharing a home cooked meal with her as she told her story. The book also awakened a few memories of my own childhood, playing sous chef to my grandmother as she cooked in her own amazing kitchen. Plus, the book is all about food and France- need I say more?

As much as we love living in the comforts of what we know and enjoy, sometimes it’s fun to step out of that box to try something new. For so many reasons, I’m grateful I read this book.

Next time you visit the library, choose a book off your reading list. You may find a new genre to enjoy.

~May

“Maybe the cat has fallen into the stew, or the lettuce has frozen, or the cake has collapsed. Eh bien, tant pis. Usually one’s cooking is better than one thinks it is. And if the food is truly vile, then the cook must simply grit her teeth and bear it with a smile, and learn from her mistakes.”

Julia Child, My Life in France

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The Art of Arranging Flowers

What We Are Reading In May

It’s hard to believe we are actually coming to the end of May. We are on the eve of Memorial Day weekend, and although many of you will be celebrating your day off watching a parade or getting together with friends for a great BBQ, we can’t think of a better way to spend some of our time off sitting out in the yard, or by the beach getting lost in a great book.

Here is what we’ve been reading this month.

Love Walked In- Marisa De Los Santos

From Amazon:

When Martin Grace enters the hip Philadelphia coffee shop Cornelia Brown manages, her life changes forever. But little does she know that her newfound love is only the harbinger of greater changes to come. Meanwhile, across town, Clare Hobbs—eleven years old and abandoned by her erratic mother—goes looking for her lost father. She crosses paths with Cornelia while meeting with him at the café, and the two women form an improbable friendship that carries them through the unpredictable currents of love and life.

Love Walked In, the first novel by award-winning poet Marisa de los Santos, is bursting with keen insight and beautifully rendered prose. Invoking classic movies to illuminate the mystery and wonder of love in all its permutations, Love Walked In is an uplifting debut that marks the entrance of an enchanting literary voice.

Our thoughts: This story centers around a young woman and an eleven year old girl who because of circumstance, end up together where a friendship develops as they both try to navigate their own personal journeys, as well as the journey they are on together. I’ve read a few of Marisa De Los Santos’ other novels, but somehow missed this one, her first. It is a sweet story about love.

The Women in the Castle: A Novel by Jessica Shattuck

From Amazon:

Three women, haunted by the past and the secrets they hold

Set at the end of World War II, in a crumbling Bavarian castle that once played host to all of German high society, a powerful and propulsive story of three widows whose lives and fates become intertwined—an affecting, shocking, and ultimately redemptive novel from the author of the New York Times Notable Book The Hazards of Good Breeding.

Amid the ashes of Nazi Germany’s defeat, Marianne von Lingenfels returns to the once-grand castle of her husband’s ancestors, an imposing stone fortress now fallen into ruin following years of war. The widow of a resister murdered in the failed July 20, 1944, plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, Marianne plans to uphold the promise she made to her husband’s brave conspirators: to find and protect their wives, her fellow resistance widows.

First Marianne rescues six-year-old Martin, the son of her dearest childhood friend, from a Nazi reeducation home. Together, they make their way across the smoldering wreckage of their homeland to Berlin, where Martin’s mother, the beautiful and naive Benita, has fallen into the hands of occupying Red Army soldiers. Then she locates Ania, another resister’s wife, and her two boys, now refugees languishing in one of the many camps that house the millions displaced by the war.

As Marianne assembles this makeshift family from the ruins of her husband’s resistance movement, she is certain their shared pain and circumstances will hold them together. But she quickly discovers that the black-and-white, highly principled world of her privileged past has become infinitely more complicated, filled with secrets and dark passions that threaten to tear them apart. Eventually, all three women must come to terms with the choices that have defined their lives before, during, and after the war—each with their own unique share of challenges.

Written with the devastating emotional power of The Nightingale, Sarah’s Key, and The Light Between Oceans, Jessica Shattuck’s evocative and utterly enthralling novel offers a fresh perspective on one of the most tumultuous periods in history. Combining piercing social insight and vivid historical atmosphere, The Women in the Castle is a dramatic yet nuanced portrait of war and its repercussions that explores what it means to survive, love, and, ultimately, to forgive in the wake of unimaginable hardship.

Our thoughts:  There is a lot of World War II fiction out there but this one is a little different.  More than focusing on the war, it explores the time after the war.  How do people go on with their lives?  How do people put the things they did during the war behind them?  And how do they coexist and form relationships with their neighbors who had different viewpoints and objectives during the war?  This story is about three women.  One who was a knowing participant in the German resistance, one who was married to a member of the German resistance who knew nothing but suffered for her husband’s treason at the time and one who created a new identity for herself because of her active participation in the Nazi acts during the war.  This is a complicated story of survival, moving forward, forgiveness and forming family when the world has been torn about.  I was taken in by this book and could not wait to pick it up again.  A tough topic at times but it will keep your attention.

The Art of Arranging Flowers by Lynne Branard

From Amazon:

A moving and eloquent novel about love, grief, renewal—and the powerful language of flowers.

Ruby Jewell knows flowers. In her twenty years as a florist she has stood behind the counter at the Flower Shoppe with her faithful dog, Clementine, resting at her feet. A customer can walk in, and with just a glance or a few words, Ruby can throw together the perfect arrangement for any occasion.

Whether intended to rekindle a romance, mark a celebration, offer sympathy, or heal a broken heart, her expressive floral designs mark the moments and milestones in the lives of her neighbors. It’s as though she knows just what they want to say, just what they need.

Yet Ruby’s own heart’s desires have gone ignored since the death of her beloved sister. It will take an invitation from a man who’s flown to the moon, the arrival of a unique little boy, and concern from a charming veterinarian to reawaken her wounded spirit. Any life can be derailed, but the healing power of community can put it right again.

Our thoughts:  I was completely charmed by this novel.  This book seems light from outward appearances but handles topics of grief and letting yourself open to live.  A bit predictable but full of fun and quirky characters.  Ruby has conversations with her dog that made me laugh out loud.  Being the soft-hearted person I am, I was very worried that Ruby was going to suffer the horrible loss of her dog.  For others in that same boat (and this is spoiler) something does happen to the dog Clementine but she is ok.  A story about opening yourself to love of all kinds even when your heart has been irretrievably broken.  The best kind of ending that mixes tears and laughter at the same time.

We hope you have a fun and safe holiday weekend and stay tuned for our summer reading book list coming soon.  We are going to make your TBR pile as big as ours!!!

~May and June

A book is a dream that you hold in your hands. 

This post may contain affiliate links, meaning that if you click on a link and make a purchase we may make a small commission.

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Sugar Men

April Books

It’s Friday and time for our April book picks. The weather is warming up which means fun summer beach reads are just around the corner. We both are dreaming about warm evenings reading on the back porch……but for now, we think you’ll enjoy these recent reads.

The Sugar Men by Ray Kingfisher

From Amazon:

Sixty-four years ago, Susannah Morgan managed to flee the horrors of the Holocaust. But the memories of that childhood ordeal have proven impossible to sweep away.

For most of her new life spent settled in sleepy North Carolina, the flashbacks have been a lonely obsession—one she has hidden from her family, and about which her heart is torn. Because for all the pain and the cruelty of those terrible years, she harbours sweet memories too, of unexpected friends who risked their own lives in order to save hers. As Susannah’s time on earth draws to a close, her innermost thoughts of those long-gone days become questions—ones that demand answers.

Against the wishes of her children, Susannah returns to Germany and the scene of unspeakable crimes. There she will come face to face with the Holocaust’s terrible, wretched legacy, and will finally make peace with the ghosts of her past.

Our thoughs:  We’ve both read a lot of books about WWII and the Holocaust. This particular novel focuses on the life of Susannah Morgan, going back and forth between present time in North Carolina and Nazi occupied Germany. This was our first novel read by this particular author and we felt the transition between time periods was smooth and the book was written with much sensitivity considering the subject matter. A tissue or two may be needed.

Savannah Blues: A Novel by Mary Kay Andrews

 

From Amazon:

Meet Weezie (aka Eloise) Foley, a feisty antiques “picker,” banished by her spiteful ex-husband from the house she herself restored in Savannah’s historic district, who must come to terms with a life that has suddenly changed…and  not, it, seems for the better. In Mary Kay Andrews’s delectable New York Times bestseller, Savannah Blues, readers will feel the sultry Georgia breezes and taste sea salt in the air, as they lose themselves in a wonderful, witty tale brimming with sass and peopled by a richly endearing cast of delightfully eccentric characters. Revenge is sweeter than sweet in Mary Kay’s capable hands, and readers of Fannie Flagg, Adriana Trigiani, Emily Giffin, Rebecca Wells, and Jill Conner Browne will definitely want to spend some quality time in Savannah.

Our thoughts:  This was a fun, fun, fun novel by Mary Kay Andrews. It was easy to fall in love with her quirky characters and if you love Savannah and antiques, you are going to enjoy this mystery. Her descriptive writing makes you feel that you are actually part of the sultry Georgia climate and by the end, you too will want to spend a little time in Savannah. If you enjoy this one, don’t worry, Mary Kay Andrews has many more novels worth reading.

Exit West: A Novel by Moshin Hamid

From Amazon:

As featured in the Skimm, on Late Night with Seth Meyers, Fresh Air, PBS Newshour, the cover of the New York Times Book Review, and more, an astonishingly visionary love story that imagines the forces that drive ordinary people from their homes into the uncertain embrace of new lands.

In a country teetering on the brink of civil war, two young people meet—sensual, fiercely independent Nadia and gentle, restrained Saeed. They embark on a furtive love affair, and are soon cloistered in a premature intimacy by the unrest roiling their city. When it explodes, turning familiar streets into a patchwork of checkpoints and bomb blasts, they begin to hear whispers about doors—doors that can whisk people far away, if perilously and for a price. As the violence escalates, Nadia and Saeed decide that they no longer have a choice. Leaving their homeland and their old lives behind, they find a door and step through. . . .

Exit West follows these remarkable characters as they emerge into an alien and uncertain future, struggling to hold on to each other, to their past, to the very sense of who they are. Profoundly intimate and powerfully inventive, it tells an unforgettable story of love, loyalty, and courage that is both completely of our time and for all time.

Our thoughts:  This is first and foremost a love story about the two main characters.  And sometimes how being with the familiar is more important than true love.  This is also a very timely story about migrants given current events.  This is not a story about the journey of migration which is a story that has been told many times, but is a story of how you acclimate once you have migrated.  The author uses a trip through a special kind of door to move the characters from one place to another.  The story does not focus on this but it is adds an element of magic to the book.  This book has been much buzzed about as of late and is worth the read.

Happy reading and have a great weekend. Don’t forget to share your great reads!

~May and June

A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen. The man who never reads lives only one.”
George R.R. Martin, A Dance with Dragons
 

 

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Forever is the Worst Long Time

March Books

It’s time for some book picks for March.  These are books we have recently read.  We are also busy reading book news and listening to podcasts and getting excited about books being released this summer.

Forever is the Worst Long Time by Camille Pagan

From Amazon:

From acclaimed author Camille Pagán comes a wry, heartfelt exploration of love and loss.

When struggling novelist James Hernandez meets poet Louisa “Lou” Bell, he’s sure he’s just found the love of his life. There’s just one problem: she’s engaged to his oldest friend, Rob. So James toasts their union and swallows his desire.

As the years pass, James’s dreams always seem just out of reach—he can’t finish that novel, can’t mend his relationship with his father, can’t fully commit to a romantic relationship. He just can’t move on. But after betrayal fractures Lou’s once-solid marriage, she turns to James for comfort.

When Lou and James act on their long-standing mutual attraction, the consequences are more heartbreaking—and miraculous—than either of them could have ever anticipated. Then life throws James one more curveball, and he, Rob, and Lou are forced to come to terms with the unexpected ways in which love and loss are intertwined.

Our Thoughts:  First, we love the title of this book, it is thoughtful and true.  This is a story of several loves that should not come to be. It is about complicated but beautiful relationships.  It is a story of how messy life can be and things are not always simple.  In order not to give away the ending, we cannot tell you about certain characters or ultimately how the story ends.  But be prepared for a beautiful ending that will put tears in your eyes.

A Piece of the World: A Novel by Christina Baker Kline

From Amazon:

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the smash bestseller Orphan Train, a stunning and atmospheric novel of friendship, passion, and art, inspired by Andrew Wyeth’s mysterious and iconic painting Christina’s World.

“Later he told me that he’d been afraid to show me the painting. He thought I wouldn’t like the way he portrayed me: dragging myself across the field, fingers clutching dirt, my legs twisted behind. The arid moonscape of wheatgrass and timothy. That dilapidated house in the distance, looming up like a secret that won’t stay hidden.”

To Christina Olson, the entire world was her family’s remote farm in the small coastal town of Cushing, Maine. Born in the home her family had lived in for generations, and increasingly incapacitated by illness, Christina seemed destined for a small life. Instead, for more than twenty years, she was host and inspiration for the artist Andrew Wyeth, and became the subject of one of the best known American paintings of the twentieth century.

As she did in her beloved smash bestseller Orphan Train, Christina Baker Kline interweaves fact and fiction in a powerful novel that illuminates a little-known part of America’s history. Bringing into focus the flesh-and-blood woman behind the portrait, she vividly imagines the life of a woman with a complicated relationship to her family and her past, and a special bond with one of our greatest modern artists.

Told in evocative and lucid prose, A Piece of the World is a story about the burdens and blessings of family history, and how artist and muse can come together to forge a new and timeless legacy.

Our Thoughts:  This book is by the author of the Orphan Train, which if you have not read, we highly recommend.  This is a book of historical fiction centered around one Andrew Wyeth painting.  I did not know anything about the artist Andrew Wyeth before reading this book, although it was a name I was familiar with.  This book centers around the subject of one of his most famous works called Christina’s World.  The author researched both the subject of the work as well as Andrew Wyeth, and he also invented certain aspects of the book.  I love books about art and the art world so I really enjoyed this read.  The painting Christina’s World is on display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and I will have to make sure to see it if I ever visit.

This Is How It Always Is: A Novel by Laurie Frankel

 

From Amazon:

This is how a family keeps a secret…and how that secret ends up keeping them.

This is how a family lives happily ever after…until happily ever after becomes complicated.

This is how children change…and then change the world.

This is Claude. He’s five years old, the youngest of five brothers, and loves peanut butter sandwiches. He also loves wearing a dress, and dreams of being a princess.

When he grows up, Claude says, he wants to be a girl.

Rosie and Penn want Claude to be whoever Claude wants to be. They’re just not sure they’re ready to share that with the world. Soon the entire family is keeping Claude’s secret. Until one day it explodes.

Laurie Frankel’s This Is How It Always Is is a novel about revelations, transformations, fairy tales, and family. And it’s about the ways this is how it always is: Change is always hard and miraculous and hard again, parenting is always a leap into the unknown with crossed fingers and full hearts, children grow but not always according to plan. And families with secrets don’t get to keep them forever.

Our Thoughts:  This book is so good and I cannot stop thinking about it.  It also made me want to be the parent to five children, but that is not central to my thoughts here.  It involves an ordinary family in a somewhat extraordinary situation.  It’s about how two very good parents approach making decisions for their children to keep them safe, but also allow them to be themselves.  I loved the ending and I am still thinking about it.  In the world where we live it seems that there are only two choices when confronted with big decisions.  But what if there is not?  What if there is something in between?

Do you have any good book recommendations?  We are always looking for some books to read.  Have a good weekend! -May and June

No two persons ever read the same book.

–Edmund Wilson

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Gentleman in Moscow

February Book Picks

Happy Friday! We hope you all have had a great week (for some of you it was a short one). How about settling in for a new read this weekend?  These books are fairly new, but we feel well worth the wait if you plan to check them out at your local library.

The Fifth Petal by Brunonia Barry

From Amazon: When a teenage boy dies suspiciously on Halloween night, Salem’s chief of police, John Rafferty, now married to gifted lace reader Towner Whitney, wonders if there is a connection between his death and Salem’s most notorious cold case, a triple homicide dubbed “The Goddess Murders,” in which three young women, all descended from accused Salem witches, were slashed on Halloween night in 1989. He finds unexpected help in Callie Cahill, the daughter of one of the victims newly returned to town. Neither believes that the main suspect, Rose Whelan, respected local historian, is guilty of murder or witchcraft.

But exonerating Rose might mean crossing paths with a dangerous force. Were the women victims of an all-too-human vengeance, or was the devil raised in Salem that night? And if they cannot discover what truly happened, will evil rise again?

Our Thoughts: This is a mystery about the murder of three women on Halloween night, in 1989. The story is primarily told from the perspective of Callie who was a five year old witness to the murders, which included her mother. This is Brunonia Barry’s third book set in Salem. We both read one of her previous novels, The Lace Reader, and although there are a few recurring characters in this story, you don’t necessarily have to read it to understand this novel. We enjoyed the Salem setting as well as the history of the Salem Witch Trials. Although the book is 432 pages, it was a quick read.

The One in a Million Boy by Monica Wood

From Amazon:  The story of your life never starts at the beginning. Don’t they teach you anything at school?

So says 104-year-old Ona to the 11-year-old boy who’s been sent to help her out every Saturday morning. As he refills the bird feeders and tidies the garden shed, Ona tells him about her long life, from first love to second chances. Soon she’s confessing secrets she has kept hidden for decades.

One Saturday, the boy doesn’t show up. Ona starts to think he’s not so special after all, but then his father arrives on her doorstep, determined to finish his son’s good deed. The boy’s mother is not so far behind. Ona is set to discover that the world can surprise us at any age, and that sometimes sharing a loss is the only way to find ourselves again.

Our Thoughts:  This book is lovely, poignant and heartwarming.  Ona is a character that you learn to love her heart and her spunk.  And even at her age she is willing to try new things and change her life.  You learn about her life spanning 104 years.  The boy’s father has suffered an unimaginable loss and because he was not always the best father, he is determined to make amends for past mistakes.  I loved this book.  I first heard about it from the blog site Modern Mrs. Darcy (if you love books I recommend her site and also her podcast What Should I Read Next).

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

From Amazon:  He can’t leave his hotel. You won’t want to.

From the New York Times bestselling author of Rules of Civility—a transporting novel about a man who is ordered to spend the rest of his life inside a luxury hotel 

In 1922, Count Alexander Rostov is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, and is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life, and must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel’s doors. Unexpectedly, his reduced circumstances provide him entry into a much larger world of emotional discovery.

Brimming with humor, a glittering cast of characters, and one beautifully rendered scene after another, this singular novel casts a spell as it relates the count’s endeavor to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be a man of purpose.

Our Thoughts:  I was skeptical about this book before starting.  I mean, how much story can there be for a man held prisoner in a hotel?  Actually, a lot happens within the confines of this hotel over the course of several decades.  Due to people that come into his life in the hotel, the Count is challenged and grows.  I would call this a quiet book because it is very character driven without a ton of action.  However, the characters and the setting were so interesting that  I could not put this down.  It also helps that the book is well written.

Have a great weekend!

~May and June

A room without books is like a body without a soul.

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Woman in Cabin 10

January Book Picks

We always think it is a good season for reading, however, it seems like the colder months call for meatier more complex novels compared with the light beach reads we enjoy on lazy summer evenings.  So, here are some January book picks for you.  Two are from of our favorite authors, Ann Patchett and Alice Hoffman, and also a thriller set in the cold North Sea.  We hope you find something that you can get lost in reading on these cold January nights.

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

From Amazon:

The acclaimed, bestselling author—winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize—tells the enthralling story of how an unexpected romantic encounter irrevocably changes two families’ lives.

One Sunday afternoon in Southern California, Bert Cousins shows up at Franny Keating’s christening party uninvited. Before evening falls, he has kissed Franny’s mother, Beverly—thus setting in motion the dissolution of their marriages and the joining of two families.

Spanning five decades, Commonwealth explores how this chance encounter reverberates through the lives of the four parents and six children involved. Spending summers together in Virginia, the Keating and Cousins children forge a lasting bond that is based on a shared disillusionment with their parents and the strange and genuine affection that grows up between them.

When, in her twenties, Franny begins an affair with the legendary author Leon Posen and tells him about her family, the story of her siblings is no longer hers to control. Their childhood becomes the basis for his wildly successful book, ultimately forcing them to come to terms with their losses, their guilt, and the deeply loyal connection they feel for one another.

Told with equal measures of humor and heartbreak, Commonwealth is a meditation on inspiration, interpretation, and the ownership of stories. It is a brilliant and tender tale of the far-reaching ties of love and responsibility that bind us together.

May’s Review: I always enjoy Ann Patchett’s novels, and just recently finished Commonwealth. This is a story about the complexities of a blended family, told primarily from the point of you from one of the daughters, Franny.  The story begins with an affair, and continues to build as we follow the lives of all affected. As always, Ann Patchett does not disappoint.

June’s Review:  As I have said before I am a huge fan of Ann Patchett and I went to see her speak as part of her book tour for Commonwealth.  Commonwealth was just selected this week as a finalist for the National Book Award and deservedly so.  This is book that opens with one of those single moments that changes the course of your life and the moments that follow.  The story is primarily told from Franny and you feel a bit of pity for her but cheer for her to find her way.  This is not a book to rush through but one to savor the pace of the story being built, the characters being developed and the words and language on the page.

Faithful: A Novel by Alice Hoffman

From Amazon:

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Marriage of Opposites and The Dovekeepers comes a soul-searching story about a young woman struggling to redefine herself and the power of love, family, and fate.

Growing up on Long Island, Shelby Richmond is an ordinary girl until one night an extraordinary tragedy changes her fate. Her best friend’s future is destroyed in an accident, while Shelby walks away with the burden of guilt.

What happens when a life is turned inside out? When love is something so distant it may as well be a star in the sky? Faithful is the story of a survivor, filled with emotion—from dark suffering to true happiness—a moving portrait of a young woman finding her way in the modern world. A fan of Chinese food, dogs, bookstores, and men she should stay away from, Shelby has to fight her way back to her own future. In New York City she finds a circle of lost and found souls—including an angel who’s been watching over her ever since that fateful icy night.

Here is a character you will fall in love with, so believable and real and endearing, that she captures both the ache of loneliness and the joy of finding yourself at last. For anyone who’s ever been a hurt teenager, for every mother of a daughter who has lost her way, Faithful is a roadmap.

Alice Hoffman’s “trademark alchemy” (USA TODAY) and her ability to write about the “delicate balance between the everyday world and the extraordinary” (WBUR) make this an unforgettable story. With beautifully crafted prose, Alice Hoffman spins hope from heartbreak in this profoundly moving novel.

May’s Review: Always a fan of Alice Hoffman, I found this to be a very moving novel about a young woman dealing with the guilt after surviving an accident, where her best friend is forever in a coma.  It is definitely a coming of age story for this young woman as we get pulled into her ups and downs as she seeks to find herself.

June’s Review:  When I read the synopsis for this book and having read all of Alice Hoffman’s previous books, I assumed that the story would be about the girl who lies in a coma and performs “miracles.”  However, ultimately it is about Shelby the one that survived the accident, at least from outward appearances, intact.  Alice Hoffman writes Shelby in a way that you feel her pain and her guilt from walking away from the accident.  You want her to feel that she is worthy of love.  And as you walk her path with her you revel in the small human and spiritual miracles that keep her going and ultimately coming out on the other side.

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

 

From Amazon:

From New York Times bestselling author of the “twisty-mystery” (Vulture) novel In a Dark, Dark Wood, comes The Woman in Cabin 10, an equally suspenseful and haunting novel from Ruth Ware—this time, set at sea.

In this tightly wound, enthralling story reminiscent of Agatha Christie’s works, Lo Blacklock, a journalist who writes for a travel magazine, has just been given the assignment of a lifetime: a week on a luxury cruise with only a handful of cabins. The sky is clear, the waters calm, and the veneered, select guests jovial as the exclusive cruise ship, the Aurora, begins her voyage in the picturesque North Sea. At first, Lo’s stay is nothing but pleasant: the cabins are plush, the dinner parties are sparkling, and the guests are elegant. But as the week wears on, frigid winds whip the deck, gray skies fall, and Lo witnesses what she can only describe as a dark and terrifying nightmare: a woman being thrown overboard. The problem? All passengers remain accounted for—and so, the ship sails on as if nothing has happened, despite Lo’s desperate attempts to convey that something (or someone) has gone terribly, terribly wrong…

With surprising twists, spine-tingling turns, and a setting that proves as uncomfortably claustrophobic as it is eerily beautiful, Ruth Ware offers up another taut and intense read in The Woman in Cabin 10—one that will leave even the most sure-footed reader restlessly uneasy long after the last page is turned.

May’s Review: There was a lot of hype about this book, and honestly I was a little leery because often with suspense novels, I’m sadly disappointed at the end. I thought this was a solid read and it held my interest from start to finish. It was suspenseful without being scary and if you are into mysteries, you will enjoy this book.

June’s Review:  These suspense thrillers are not usually my favorite because I end up being disappointed by the end and want to throw the book through the window.  That being said this book held together pretty well at the end and it was not dangerous for anyone to be around me as I reached its conclusion.  I did figure out the twist before the conclusion but sometimes that is ok because it means the author is leading you down the right path rather that throwing you a curveball at the last minute.  This book got to me a bit because the idea of being confined on a small boat with no land in sight makes me feel a little clammy. If you are looking for a suspense to keep you reading, this one is recommended.

Have a good weekend.  Happy reading! –May and June

A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one. –George RR Martin

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Classic Christmas Books

Christmas is just a day away,  and if you’re looking for a fun last minute gift, how about a classic Christmas story?  There are so many wonderful books that bring back such feelings of nostalgia for Christmases gone by, and among our favorites are How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss, Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg and Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas is a perennial favorite for both the book and the television special.  As with all Dr. Seuss books, the rhymes make it a fun read aloud book.  The Grinch is so evil and conniving in the beginning.  Making his little dog wear that big antler and haul the sled, stealing all of the Who’s presents and food.  But whose eyes don’t get a little misty when the Grinch’s small heart grows three sizes the day he discovers the true meaning of Christmas? This was a favorite of ours as children, and May enjoyed reading this one to her boys during the holidays.

Polar Express  This is a sweet and magical story about a little boy who takes a journey to the North Pole on a train called The Polar Express. He, along with other children all in their pajamas, visit Santa and his elves as Santa prepares to deliver presents on Christmas Eve.  The book has wonderful illustrations and will appeal to readers both young and old. “Though I’ve grown old, the bell still rings for me, as it does for all who truly believe.”

Little Women is a book that all little girls should read and this is a beautiful edition.  The book tells the story of the March sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy, whose father is away serving as a chaplain in the Civil War.  The sisters have many sacrifices to make because of the war but find ways to entertain themselves through performing plays written by Jo, celebrating Christmas, doing charitable works and getting to know their neighbor Laurie.  The book is a true tearjerker.

This book holds a special place in our hearts.  In fact, June was named after the character Beth. May still keeps her original book she received as a young girl on her shelf.

We hope you have a joyous and Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  We will see you in 2017! ~May and June

Seeing is believing, but sometimes the most real things in the world are the things we can’t see. The Polar Express

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An Evening with Ann Patchett

Last Thursday, I had the pleasure of attending an event with Ann Patchett hosted by Women and Children First bookstore in Chicago.  The event was held in a lovely intimate old church in Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood.  And my mom was kind to accompany me so long as I drove.

I have been a huge Ann Patchett fan for years.  Her latest novel, Commonwealth, was recently released and she was on tour promoting the book.  I have to confess that I have not yet read the book (expect it to be one of our upcoming monthly book picks) but now I have my very own signed copy to enjoy.  I am not sure which Ann Patchett novel I read when I first discovered her.  It may have been Bel Canto because when it was first released there was a huge amount of buzz about it.  I then went back and read her previously written novels, The Magician’s Assistant and The Patron Saint of Liars as well as a non-fiction memoir Truth and Beauty: A Friendship and have eagerly awaited each subsequent release.

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The event was packed which means there must be a lot of Ann Patchett fans in Chicago.  Before the event, I enjoyed eavesdropping on my fellow attendee’s conversations.  This is the thing with these events.  The people attending love and are passionate about books, just like me.  I can talk books for hours if you would let me.  For us bibliophiles, attending an author event is akin to some attending their favorite concert.

Ann Patchett was interviewed by the host of The Nerdette podcast.  They talked a little about Commonwealth.  It is loosely based on Ann’s own family.  Ann said her mother describes the book as “None of it happened and all of its true.”  That tagline has me a bit intrigued.  They did not discuss the book in detail which was a happy development for those of us who had not yet read it.

The bookstore Parnassus Books in Nashville is an independent bookstore owned by Ann Patchett.  So she spent a fair amount of time selling us on other’s books and talking about the book business.  I took notes on some recommended reads.  She said that she only gives a book 1 to 2 pages to decide if it grabs her enough to keep reading.  As a bookseller she does not have the time to read those things that are not worth it for her.  However, she also acknowledged that for some books the timing is not right for you to read them right then and that at a different time it might be the perfect book for you.

There was a lot of discussion about independent bookstores because there has been a concern that they are a dying animal.  Even as a bookseller, Ann acknowledged there is a space for Amazon and libraries because people are then reading.  However, one point she did make is that you cannot use all the wonderful resources of an independent bookstore and then not buy books there.  I would be so happy if an independent bookstore opened near me but alas there is none within probably 20 or 30 miles.

One of the funniest moments is when she was discussing the making of the book Bel Canto into an opera that was performed by the Lyric Opera in Chicago.  She had nothing to do with the writing or production of the opera and saw it for the first time on its opening night.  She recalled as the opera was coming to its conclusion and she knew where it was leading she whispered to her husband, “I ought not to have killed them all.”  As she said it is very different to kill all the characters in a book when you are sitting at home and quite another when you have to watch them all die on stage.  If you are looking to see the opera, it is supposed to be on PBS this winter and there are some clips on the PBS website as well.

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The writing process always intrigues me because writers all have different approaches to writing.  In Ann’s case, she maps out her novels in her head first.  Not specific dialogue or details but big characters and the scenes and story arc.  She then writes one chapter and has it almost perfect before she moves onto the next.  Therefore, she does not have to do a little of rewrites and multiple drafts of her novels.   This approach speaks to me because I spend a lot of time writing blog posts and all of my unwritten books in my head.  It is only when I have the big ideas figured out that I can then start to write things down.

All in all, Ann Patchett was charming and down-to-earth and at times funny.  I was so happy to be there and left feeling renewed in my love of reading and writing.  And if anyone wants to “talk books” with me, either in person or virtually, let me know.  –June

“Reading fiction not only develops our imagination and creativity, it gives us the skills to be alone. It gives us the ability to feel empathy for people we’ve never met, living lives we couldn’t possibly experience for ourselves, because the book puts us inside the character’s skin.
Ann Patchett

 

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October Books

October Book Picks To Read

It’s time again for some book picks.  For some reason, the two of us have gotten a little out of sync on our reading this past month.  There have been a lot of new releases in the last month that are on our “to read” lists, but library hold times vary which means that May and June have not been able to read many of the same books.  So of the three books we listed below, two are old favorites while the third is a newer release.

Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman

 

 

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From Amazon:

From the New York Times best-selling author of The Dovekeepers…

For more than two hundred years, the Owens women had been blamed for everything that went wrong in their Massachusetts town. And Gillian and Sally endured that fate as well; as children, the sisters were outsiders. Their elderly aunts almost seemed to encourage the whispers of witchery, but all Gillian and Sally wanted was to escape. One would do so by marrying, the other by running away. But the bonds they shared brought them back-almost as if by magic..

May’s Review: June and I have been so excited for the latest Alice Hoffman release, Faithful: A Novel. I am happy to say that I don’t have to reserve this one at the library, because I won it on Goodreads giveaway! I have always loved Alice Hoffman’s novels, but Practical Magic is a little more special since it was the first novel I read by this author. This book was turned into a movie, but the book is so much better. As always, Alice Hoffman lays a blanket of magic over her works of fiction and her descriptive writing has a way of making you feel like you’re in the room with the story’s characters. I also enjoyed the humor in this novel. I definitely recommend Practical Magic, a tale about the Owen’s sisters who are part of a lineage of witches. A great read for the season!

June’s Review:  I was reviewing our past book picks and realized how many Alice Hoffman books we have selected.  Obviously, we are huge fans and are anxiously awaiting her newest release on November 1, Faithful: A Novel.   Despite my fangirl status of Alice Hoffman, I realized I had never read Practical Magic which was published in 1995.  I blame the movie.  This book was adapted into a movie starring Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman and was not all that great.  Let me tell you, this is one of those typical situations where the book is so much better than the movie.  Alice Hoffman has a way with words that let you smell the plants in the garden that she is describing and feel the evil emanating from Gillian’s former boyfriend.  The intuitive world is believable and rich.  It is a true love story of family and sisters.  If you have not read it or have only seen the movie, I highly recommend this as a time to get transported into a world that will fill your senses and make you fall in love with the characters.

 

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

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From Amazon:

From the #1 internationally bestselling author of The House at Riverton, a novel that takes the reader on an unforgettable journey through generations and across continents as two women try to uncover their family’s secret past

A tiny girl is abandoned on a ship headed for Australia in 1913. She arrives completely alone with nothing but a small suitcase containing a few clothes and a single book—a beautiful volume of fairy tales. She is taken in by the dockmaster and his wife and raised as their own. On her twenty-first birthday, they tell her the truth, and with her sense of self shattered and very little to go on, “Nell” sets out to trace her real identity. Her quest leads her to Blackhurst Manor on the Cornish coast and the secrets of the doomed Mountrachet family. But it is not until her granddaughter, Cassandra, takes up the search after Nell’s death that all the pieces of the puzzle are assembled. A spellbinding tale of mystery and self-discovery, The Forgotten Garden will take hold of your imagination and never let go.

May’s Review: This was the novel that made me fall hopelessly in love with Kate Morton. As a lover of historical fiction, this book had the feel of fairy tale, wrapped in a mystery. It is a bit complex with several stories tied into one and it is a bit long at 560 pages, but it reads quickly. I took my time with it because I wanted to savor every chapter and was a little sad when it was over. This is my favorite Kate Morton novel.

June’s Review:  This is easily one of my all time favorite books.  And I think I mentioned it when we picked another of Kate Morton’s books a few months ago.  I love historical fiction that is tied up in a bit of a mystery.  And if it has kind of a gothic feel to it, that is even better.  Not only that but if you loved The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett when you were young, this book will remind you a bit of the experience of reading that book for the first time.  Do not be intimidated by the length of this book.  You quickly get lost in the story and despite its 560 pages it will end too soon for you.

Before We Visit the Goddess by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

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From Amazon:

A beautiful, powerful new novel from the bestselling, award-winning author of Sister of My Heart and The Mistress of Spices about three generations of mothers and daughters who must discover their greatest source of strength in one another—a masterful, brilliant tale of a family both united and torn apart by ambition and love.

The daughter of a poor baker in rural Bengal, India, Sabitri yearns to get an education, but her family’s situation means college is an impossible dream. Then an influential woman from Kolkata takes Sabitri under her wing, but her generosity soon proves dangerous after the girl makes a single, unforgiveable misstep. Years later, Sabitri’s own daughter, Bela, haunted by her mother’s choices, flees abroad with her political refugee lover—but the America she finds is vastly different from the country she’d imagined. As the marriage crumbles and Bela is forced to forge her own path, she unwittingly imprints her own child, Tara, with indelible lessons about freedom, heartbreak, and loyalty that will take a lifetime to unravel.

In her latest novel, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni explores the complex relationships between mothers and daughters, and the different kinds of love that bind us across generations. Before We Visit the Goddess captures the gorgeous complexity of these multi-generational and transcontinental bonds, sweeping across the twentieth century from the countryside of Bengal, India, to the streets of Houston, Texas—an extraordinary journey told through a sparkling symphony of voices.

May’s Review: June turned me on to this one, a first for me by Chitra Banerjee Divaruni. This story takes place in India, as well as the United States and I enjoyed learning a bit more about the Indian culture and customs. It’s a book about the complex relationships between mothers and daughters and how they are bound together through generations, even though they are a great distance from each other. This was a difficult book to put down and I look forward to reading more of her novels.

June’s Review:  This was a new to me author and after reading this novel I am excited to check out some of her previous works.  This book is partially set in India and partially set in the United States.  I find the Indian culture to be very rich and fascinating so that was what first turned me on to this novel.  The story is full of a rich and complex relationship between the matriarch, her daughter and then her daughter.  The story shows that no matter how much we want to turn our back on the place we come from, we ultimately return to who we really are.  I really enjoyed this book and am looking forward to reading others by the same author.

Have a good weekend.  We hope you find some time to kick back and read.  –May and June

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September Books

Let’s face it in our world every season is a good season to read, but Fall seems to be prime reading time.  There are so many fiction works released in the early Fall, we can barely keep up.  And the books tend to be bigger and more complex than summer releases.  Because those are just now being released, we have a few books today that will bridge the gap between the summer light reading and the more consuming Fall reading.  And one of our picks is an older selection by Ann Patchett that will hold us over until we can get our hands on her new release, Commonwealth.  Our three books are The Light of Paris by Eleanor Brown, Truly, Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty and Bel Canto by Ann Patchett.

The Light of Paris by Eleanor Brown

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From Amazon:

The Light of Paris is the miraculous new novel from New York Times–bestselling author Eleanor Brown, whose debut, The Weird Sisters, was a sensation beloved by critics and readers alike.
 
Madeleine is trapped—by her family’s expectations, by her controlling husband, and by her own fears—in an unhappy marriage and a life she never wanted. From the outside, it looks like she has everything, but on the inside, she fears she has nothing that matters.

In Madeleine’s memories, her grandmother Margie is the kind of woman she should have been—elegant, reserved, perfect. But when Madeleine finds a diary detailing Margie’s bold, romantic trip to Jazz Age Paris, she meets the grandmother she never knew: a dreamer who defied her strict, staid family and spent an exhilarating summer writing in cafés, living on her own, and falling for a charismatic artist.

Despite her unhappiness, when Madeleine’s marriage is threatened, she panics, escaping to her hometown and staying with her critical, disapproving mother. In that unlikely place, shaken by the revelation of a long-hidden family secret and inspired by her grandmother’s bravery, Madeleine creates her own Parisian summer—reconnecting to her love of painting, cultivating a vibrant circle of creative friends, and finding a kindred spirit in a down-to-earth chef who reminds her to feed both her body and her heart.

Margie and Madeleine’s stories intertwine to explore the joys and risks of living life on our own terms, of defying the rules that hold us back from our dreams, and of becoming the people we are meant to be.

May’s Review:I first heard about this book from June, who is familiar with Eleanor Brown’s previous novel. This was my first read by Eleanor Brown, and I really enjoyed the book. I loved that the characters in the book were dreamers, thinking about all the possibilities of what their future could be, even though at times they felt quite stuck.  I really enjoyed the writing in this book, and look forward to the next one.

June’s Review:  I was eagerly anticipating this book and it did not disappoint.  Eleanor Brown’s previous novel, The Weird Sisters, was a favorite of mine with eccentric characters and the sisters all named after Shakespeare’s heroines.  I really enjoyed this book.  The characters in the book are caught between what is expected of them and what they had always dreamed to be, which I think is a theme many can relate to at certain times in their life.  The setting of Jazz Age Paris is romantic until the real world comes crashing in on Margie.  But who doesn’t dream of having lived a romantic summer in a foreign city?  I always love a well written book that uses past stories as a comparison to a character’s modern time life.  I highly recommend that you pick up this read.

 

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

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From Amazon:

Six responsible adults. Three cute kids. One small dog. It’s just a normal weekend. What could possibly go wrong?

In Truly Madly Guilty, Liane Moriarty turns her unique, razor-sharp eye towards three seemingly happy families.

Sam and Clementine have a wonderful, albeit, busy life: they have two little girls, Sam has just started a new dream job, and Clementine, a cellist, is busy preparing for the audition of a lifetime. If there’s anything they can count on, it’s each other.

Clementine and Erika are each other’s oldest friends. A single look between them can convey an entire conversation. But theirs is a complicated relationship, so when Erika mentions a last minute invitation to a barbecue with her neighbors, Tiffany and Vid, Clementine and Sam don’t hesitate. Having Tiffany and Vid’s larger than life personalities there will be a welcome respite.

Two months later, it won’t stop raining, and Clementine and Sam can’t stop asking themselves the question: What if we hadn’t gone?

In Truly Madly Guilty, Liane Moriarty takes on the foundations of our lives: marriage, sex, parenthood, and friendship. She shows how guilt can expose the fault lines in the most seemingly strong relationships, how what we don’t say can be more powerful than what we do, and how sometimes it is the most innocent of moments that can do the greatest harm.

May’s Review:I have always been a fan of Liane Moriarty, and always look forward to her new releases. I was number 46 on the library waiting list when this book came out, eagerly anticipating my email letting me know that it was finally my turn to read the book. I dug into it expecting it to be her like her previous novels, and really struggled to finish it. It was a long book too (432 pages), which made it even more challenging. This story centers around three couples and their children, who are attending a neighborhood barbecue where something unforeseen happens that forever changes all their lives. I thought I had solved the secret, but was told by June that I was wrong. Anyway, the secret of what happens could have been wrapped up very quickly, but unfortunately goes on and on and on. This definitely was not one of my favorite books by this author. I would check out some of her earlier works which are very good.

June’s Review:  I have enjoyed many of Liane Moriarty’s books in the past.  She usually has a way to write about a somewhat serious topic and add some quirky and humorous moments that give some levity and entertainment to the story.  Unfortunately, in this book any attempts at that fall flat.  This is a long book (432 pages) and the story centers around an event that happens at a barbecue attended by three couples and one of the couple’s two young children.  The book spends at least two-thirds of those pages building up to the event that occurred at the barbecue.  As the reader you think you know what that big secretive event is going to be.  I was almost finished with the book when May was about a third of the way through it.  She texted me about what she thought the secret was going to be and I told her that sadly she was wrong.  However, I had thought the same thing and that the secret was going to be a 1970s-era spouse swapping key game.  After the secret is revealed and while what happened was scary it seems that many of the characters are way to overwrought but what occurred considering the outcome.  This was not my favorite book by this author and I found it hard to get through which was disappointing because there was a lot of buzz around her having a new release.  If you have not read What Alice Forgot or The Husband’s Secret by this author I would pick those up and pass on this one.

 

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

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From Amazon:

Somewhere in South America, at the home of the country’s vice president, a lavish birthday party is being held in honor of Mr. Hosokawa, a powerful Japanese businessman. Roxanne Coss, opera’s most revered soprano, has mesmerized the international guests with her singing. It is a perfect evening-until a band of gun-wielding terrorists breaks in through the air-conditioning vents and takes the entire party hostage. But what begins as a panicked, life-threatening scenario slowly evolves into something quite different, as terrorists and hostages forge unexpected bonds and people from different countries and continents become compatriots. Without the demands of the world to shape their days, life on the inside becomes more beautiful than anything they had known before. At once riveting and impassioned, the narrative becomes a moving exploration of how people communicate when music is the only common language. Friendship, compassion, and the chance for great love lead the characters to forget the real danger that has been set in motion and cannot be stopped. Ann Patchett has written a novel that is as lyrical and profound as it is unforgettable. Bel Canto engenders in the reader the very passion for art and the language of music that its characters discover. As a reader, you find yourself fervently wanting this captivity to continue forever, even though you know that real life waits on the other side of the garden wall. A virtuoso performance by one of our best and most important writers, Bel Canto is a novel to be cherished.

May’s Review:I was given this book by a friend years ago, and it was my introduction to Ann Patchett. I have been a fan of hers ever since. I have read the same novels that June has listed below, loving all of them. Bel Canto was one of my favorites about a birthday party gone wrong, and how it forever changes the lives of those in attendance. Like all her novels, Bel Canto is beautifully written and still sits on my book shelf. I am eagerly awaiting to read her newest release, Commonwealth.  Unfortunately, I am going to be out of town when she is in Chicago for a book signing, but if you are in the area, I highly recommend you attend!

June’s Review:  I am a huge Ann Patchett fan and I think this was the first book I ever read by her.  After reading this one, I immediately went back and read her previously read novels The Patron Saint of Liars, The Magician’s Assistant and her beautiful and at times heartbreaking memoir, Truth and Beauty: A Friendship and fell even more in love.  I think so far Bel Canto is by far my favorite of her novels although I would recommend any of those I mention and her later novels.  Plus she owns a bookstore in Nashville called Parnassus Books which maybe I can work at someday? (jk)  Ann Patchett has a new novel that just released called Commonwealth that I made sure I was one of the first on the reserve list at the library.  However, I just got tickets to hear her speak on October 20 in Chicago so now I am conflicted do I read the library copy before going or wait until I have very my very own signed copy from the talk and reading?  But back to Bel Canto, it is a beautiful story about a very scary, and in this world, an all too real situation.  The characters are interesting and the story is compelling.  Ann Patchett is an author where not only do you get lost in the story but also her use of language and syntax of writing.  I have not read this book in awhile but after writing about it here, I think I may add it to “my read pile” to be revisited.

Have a good weekend!  We hope you find some time for some good reading. –May and June

 

 

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