Not only is the title "The Summer That Melted Everything" the perfect title for this week if you're sitting under the heat dome as I am but it is a grNot only is the title "The Summer That Melted Everything" the perfect title for this week if you're sitting under the heat dome as I am but it is a great story! Fielding Bliss is young in the summer of 1984. An oppressive heat has settled over his mid-western town and his father has invited the devil to him. The devil comes in the form of Sal, a 13 year old boy who will change everything. And that is only one story line in this intricate and engaging debut novel (super impressive for a debut novel)! This book is literary fiction with a touch of magical realism and some horror elements thrown in for good measure and it is like nothing I have read before!
There is a lot going on in this book. You have Sal the Devil. You have Fielding facing events that will lead to his downfall decades later as an adult. The heat itself plays a huge role in the book and then there is the story line of Fielding's older brother, Grand, who is trying to figure out his own life in the face of discovering who he is. There is more having to do with Fielding and Grand's father who feels major regret over a case that he once pursued where he ended up being dead wrong and is now fixated on his guilt over the situation. I only go into what these story lines are so that you can see how varied they are and so you can understand my amazement at how deftly McDaniel is able to put these story lines together and keep them flowing. Each story line is robust enough to stand on its own but tied together, it becomes something really special! In less talented hands, this could have just been a mess of too much going on but the way that McDaniel weaves everything together creates a story that is truly unique and so powerful.
Not only is the storytelling good, the writing is good as well! The book is told from the perspective of Fielding through different ages and periods in his life. I liked how the author showed the progression of Fielding from a very typically hopeful child to a broken grown man. Some of the turns of phrase used in the book were both thought provoking and beautiful.
This book definitely has me anxious for what the future holds for Tiffany McDaniel! She is definitely already on my "to watch" list!...more
"Don't Tell Me You're Afraid" is the novelization of the life of Samia Yusuf Omar, a Somali runner who competed in the 2008 Olympics and had her eyes"Don't Tell Me You're Afraid" is the novelization of the life of Samia Yusuf Omar, a Somali runner who competed in the 2008 Olympics and had her eyes set on attending the 2012 Olympics as a better, more competitive runner. Unfortunately, the story takes a turn for the worst when Samia is trying to escape her war-torn country as a refugee. This is an incredibly powerful book that had me cheering and crying! A perfect pick for the lead up to this year's Olympics, this book sheds light on the strength of the human spirit as well as the horrible humanitarian situation in Somalia.
Before reading this book, I had never heard of Samia before but after reading the book, I had a very difficult time seeing how her plight is not more well known. The book covers from her very young life as a girl training to run with her childhood best friend by her side in a place that is constantly under attack. I loved the way that the author wrote the book from Samia's point of view, which really allowed me to get into the story.
As a keen follower of world events, I thought that I had a pretty good grasp on what was happening in Somalia but this book shed a lot of light for me. It showed me just how wide spread and invasive the violence and terror of Al Shabaab was and still is in Somalia. It was very difficult to read these parts of the book!
This book was a difficult read due to the subject matter. The author uses Samia as a vehicle to give a human face to the plight faced by so many in Somalia. This was such a good story that ran me through so many different emotions. I know this is one that I will be recommending a lot! ...more
In "Paris Nights," actor and dancer (who knew?) Cliff Simon recounts his year as a dancer at the famed Moulin Rouge in Paris. He also throws in some oIn "Paris Nights," actor and dancer (who knew?) Cliff Simon recounts his year as a dancer at the famed Moulin Rouge in Paris. He also throws in some other stories from his life throughout the book so the book is not all about the Moulin Rouge but more of a memoir of some key events throughout Simon's life. This is a quick read that will give readers a taste of what it is like to perform at the Moulin Rouge, a place which has captured the imagination of so many over the years!
I have never been to Paris but if and when I get a chance to go, I would love to go see the Moulin Rouge. It has such a rich and fascinating history. You get a bit of a taste of the shows that are put on there in this book, which I really liked. The book definitely whet my appetite even more for getting a chance to visit. The book is mostly focused on what it is like to put on a show rather than the history of the theater or anything like that. I loved the detail that the author included about the performances!
The writing of the book is good. The storytelling is a little choppy as the parts of Simon's life that he chooses to focus on don't seem to be in any order. First, he finds out that he has a chance to work at the Moulin Rouge and next, he's talking about his childhood in South Africa. Because the stories were interested, I still enjoyed the book but I don't think that I got as into it as I could have with all the jumping around as that was a little jarring. Overall, this was an interesting read that could have been served by a little more focus....more
"Jonathan Unleashed" is a quirky romantic comedy about Jonathan whose life is shook up when his brother leaves his two dogs with him to take care of."Jonathan Unleashed" is a quirky romantic comedy about Jonathan whose life is shook up when his brother leaves his two dogs with him to take care of. Jonathan isn't really a dog person but he falls for the dogs and the dogs open his eyes to the life he is missing out and may even help to find him a new love as his current girlfriend is simply comfortable but doesn't give him any passion!
Jonathan himself is a very quirky character. Throughout the book, he can never seem to say what he means, which I found a little frustrating. Eventually the dogs give him a little more confidence to step out of his comfort zone and find what will really make him happy. The dogs were definitely one of my very favorite parts of the book. I think the book speaks to the changes that animals can make in our lives so I think my fellow animal lovers will enjoy this one.
The writing style of this book is very unique. The author has a fairly clipped style, which worked really well for Jonathan's character. This style also kept the book moving at a good pace. The style also made me interested in seeing what the author's other books are like. Overall, this was a fun read with a unique style.
3.5 stars. "A Front Page Affair" is the kickoff to a new mystery series set against the background of World War I. The world is changing and Kitty Wee3.5 stars. "A Front Page Affair" is the kickoff to a new mystery series set against the background of World War I. The world is changing and Kitty Weeks, our heroine, realizes that there is room for her to change as well. She wants to do more than her fluffy reporting job and when a man is murdered, she may get her chance. This is an exciting start to a new series that I will be watching.
I can't help to make references to the Maisie Dobbs books, which I love. Like in those books, we have a really great heroine that I loved getting to know through this book. Capability "Kitty" Weeks is a woman before her time. I loved seeing how she figured out the clues to solve the mystery at the center of the book. I really liked how sharp she was. I wanted to know a little bit more about her in the book but am hopeful that more light will be shed in future books in the series.
I am always a little apprehensive about reading mysteries because I don't like spoiling endings for myself by figuring things out before the protagonist does but this book had enough twists to keep me on my toes.
I really appreciated all of the historical detail that the author packed into the book. The author creates a really good sense of time that I thoroughly enjoyed! I will definitely be looking forward to the other books in this series!...more
Jane Green is definitely one of my go-to authors when I am looking for a romantic book to get completely lost in. "Falling" was definitely a good pickJane Green is definitely one of my go-to authors when I am looking for a romantic book to get completely lost in. "Falling" was definitely a good pick in that regard. In this book, we meet Emma, a woman who is looking for a new start after a super difficult and chaotic job as a banker in NYC. She goes to Westport to find some calmness and to find a life that she is more suited for. She finds so much more in her next door neighbor and landlord, Dominic.
Filled with romance and twists and turns, this book pulled me in by the heart and didn't let go. I was totally engaged with the characters. One of the things that I like best about Jane Green's characters is how realistic they feel. You are pulling for Emma because she seems so nice and so deserving of having a good life. She steps right in to the role of trying to help Dominic with his son, Jesse. I loved Dominic as well. He seems to know exactly what he wants and is not afraid to go out and get it. He was such a great love interest in this book. This book is not just a straight romance; it has some really good turns that kept me on my toes throughout the book and I love a good surprise.
Another thing that I love about Green's books is how she is able to capture dialogue. This also really helps the characters feel like they could be someone that you know. I really liked the banter back and forth between Emma and Dominic. Overall, this book will be a good one for current Green fans but I think it will also win her more!...more
After facing a devastating setback as a composer, Charlotte takes a job as a nanny for two young children in a very warm family in New York City. ThisAfter facing a devastating setback as a composer, Charlotte takes a job as a nanny for two young children in a very warm family in New York City. This job is supposed to be a short-time pass-through kind of job for Charlotte to clear her head and plan her next move to achieve her career goals. Two years later, Charlotte is still a nanny but it has become because she loves it and feels so much for the family. Tragedy strikes the family and Charlotte will be thrown into a situation that she doesn't fully understand. "All the Time in the World" is a coming of age story set in the heart of New York City where anything can happen when you least expect it.
I fell hard for the characters in this book. Charlotte is incredibly charming as a main character. She is driven but also gives herself enough free-rein to follow wherever the wind may take her. You get to see her change a lot throughout the book and I loved how the author was able to capture how she grows and changes throughout the book. The secondary characters are great as well and felt really well rounded. The author did a great job of capturing really realistic dialogue, which made the characters feel even more real.
I also really liked the gamut of emotions that the author was able to evoke for me. There are some really sad moments and some very happy emotions. You are pulling for the characters through it all because the author makes you feel for them. I really enjoyed that aspect of the book! Overall, this was a great read!...more
"Girl in the Afternoon" is the story of Aimee and Henri, two artists who are interlinked by their families. Both of them dream of being artists in the"Girl in the Afternoon" is the story of Aimee and Henri, two artists who are interlinked by their families. Both of them dream of being artists in the Belle Epoque time period set in Paris. Their family secrets threaten to unravel their relationship and everything they think they know is turned on its head. Add an appearance by Edouard Manet as Aimee's tutor who has designs on her and you have a twisting historical fiction filled with romance and secrets.
I am such a sucker for any book that has both historic and artistic elements. I love reading about artists and the things that they create and how they are inspired. You get a strong dose of that is this book. Aimee and Henri are both artists. They are inspired in very different ways but their art seems to bring them closer together. I loved reading the rich detail that the author included on the art. I also really liked the addition of Edouard Manet. I love his paintings but did not know much about his life. This book really whet my appetite to find out more about him. His appearance in the book set off a lot of the twists in the book that kept me reading rapidly.
Between the time period and the setting, I was whisked away by this book. I love reading about Paris and the detail that the author added really made me feel the time and the place. It also made the characters stand out more for me as you could picture exactly what their lives were like back then. Overall, this is a good story that will hook my fellow histfic fans!...more
"The Runaway Wife" is the story of Jim, a man who is down on his luck. He travels to the Swiss Alps with his friend to simply relax and find some peac"The Runaway Wife" is the story of Jim, a man who is down on his luck. He travels to the Swiss Alps with his friend to simply relax and find some peace of mind. It's not to be when he gets roped in to finding the mother of three women that he meets. But maybe Calliope doesn't want to be found? This book is a good one for when you want to let go of reality for a little bit and get lost.
I don't need my fiction to be reality based but if you do, this book may not be for you. The premise is a little stretched but it works well for this one. The characters were so fascinating. I especially liked Calliope. Her life is relatively charmed in the manner in which she is able to live in but that is not enough when she feels so constrained by other parts of her life. The detail is often sparse in this book and I wish that I could have gotten to know a little bit more about what made the characters tick.
This book has a very light and airy feel, like the Swiss Alps that the book is set in. The setting was fantastic and my favorite part of the book. The author does a good job of moving her characters through this gorgeous setting while showing the readers around the place. There is also some nice bits of writing throughout the book that I really liked! Overall, I would have loved more detail but enjoyed the premise of the book!...more
Before reading "The Real Story of Peter Pan," I really did not know much at all about J.M. Barrie besides what I saw in the movie, "Finding Neverland.Before reading "The Real Story of Peter Pan," I really did not know much at all about J.M. Barrie besides what I saw in the movie, "Finding Neverland." I was very interested to see what his inspiration was in this book. What I found was an eye-opening account of who Barrie was and what his often extremely close relationship was like with the family that influenced his fantastical stories.
I didn't realize how sad the origins of the Peter Pan stories were! The book shed light on how dark some of Barrie's inspirations were and how dark some of what he wanted the book to represent (death, etc.) was. I had basically taken the Peter Pan tales as a love letter to childlike innocence and make believe but in many cases, that is not what Barrie meant to do at all. It was fascinating to see my understanding turned on its head!
It is clear that the author did extensive research in order to put together this very detailed book but sometimes the research got in the way of putting the facts into an interesting story. Some parts of the story felt very much like a laundry list of facts and while they did shed light on Barrie and the family, they did not seem to be very interwoven with each other. The research is meticulous but sometimes does not flow. Overall, this book gave me a new view of J.M. Barrie through many details. ...more
"If You Left" is the story of Althea, a woman who suffers from bipolar disorder. She is married to Oliver, a man who up until recently has seemed to t"If You Left" is the story of Althea, a woman who suffers from bipolar disorder. She is married to Oliver, a man who up until recently has seemed to tolerate Althea's illness well. Sure, he cheats on her constantly and approaches women in front of her but he seems to not be bothered by her illness and the way she acts. A lot of the book centers on Althea falling apart when she thinks her marriage may finally be over and she takes a lover of her own.
Althea is a fascinating character. I really liked how realistic the author made her diagnosis feel. The author uses a lot of detail about what happens to Althea when she is in her manic phase, what she calls "the Visions" and when she is in her depressed phase, which she calls "the Tombs." The author gives an unflinching look at what it is like for someone who has mental illness like Althea to navigate relationships like all of us must to keep our personal lives afloat.
The writing of the book is sometimes a bit difficult to get through. The book flashes back and forth between who holds the point of view. None of the dialogue is in quotations and either precedes or follows Althea's inner thoughts making for some confusing reading in many cases! Overall, the main character is fascinating but the writing holds this story back a bit....more
"A Certain Age" is a historical fiction book that takes place in the Roaring 20s in New York City. Based off of an opera about old money versus new mo"A Certain Age" is a historical fiction book that takes place in the Roaring 20s in New York City. Based off of an opera about old money versus new money and throwing in a murder mystery (make sure you read the Author's Note; Williams' inspiration is fascinating for this one), you have all the makings of a great summer read (or really any time read) that will thrill you with its fast pace and glittering setting.
Oh, how I love reading about the 1920s. It's such a fascinating time period. In this book, we meet Theresa, a well kept woman having an affair with a much younger man, Captain Rofrano. She loves the affair but has no intentions of upending her life as a kept woman. Then there is her lover, a man who is a romantic at heart. In a chance meeting with Sophie, Theresa's brother's fiance, Captain Rofrano falls in love with her and is torn between the two women. I'm usually not into love triangles in books. It seems so hard to find unique ones but this one is definitely unique and kept me engaged in the book! Between the love triangle and the murder at the center of the book, there are a ton of twists and turns in the book!
Williams definitely knows how to create a good sense of place and time! Again, I just plain love reading historical fiction set in the 1920s but I really love how she was able to add so much detail to make the book come to life. Not only is the historical detail great but she writes really great dialogue that sounds very much like what the 1920s would sound like with all the turns of phrase and slang. It made the characters seem very vivid to me! Overall, I thought this book was great and really enjoyed it!...more
"The Last Woman Standing" is the story of Josie, a young Jewish woman who cannot see herself continuing to work in her parents' business and letting t"The Last Woman Standing" is the story of Josie, a young Jewish woman who cannot see herself continuing to work in her parents' business and letting them decide what path she will take. She wants to make her own decisions. She's a bit adventurous and decides the place for her is out west. It's the 1880s and the western part of the United States is very much still the Wild West. Josie knows that this is the place for her and she leaves to make a life and find a husband. Little does she know who will be vying for her affection.
Josie is a great character. I admired her pluck and her seeming inability to be worried about the unknown. The book is told from her point of view, which I really liked. It allowed me to step in her shoes and to see what she saw as she went to a new world, much unlike the one that she grew up in. I don't believe I have read any historical fiction about Wyatt Earp and I really liked getting to see him through Josie's eyes in this book. It's no wonder her heart was drawn to him!
I loved the setting! The Wild West is so exciting but rarely do I read historical fiction books about it. It makes for a great time period. I loved the way that the author is able to evoke the sights and sounds of the time through Josie's descriptions! This book made me want to read more about the setting in this particular time period. I don't think I would have the heart to make it in the Wild West but I definitely do like reading about it!...more
The best kinds of funny books are those that make you laugh out loud no matter where you are. There are books that are funny but don't necessarily makThe best kinds of funny books are those that make you laugh out loud no matter where you are. There are books that are funny but don't necessarily make to laugh with abandon. There are other books, like "You'll Grow Out of It" that will make you make a scene in public. If you want to laugh, this book is for you.
The book almost feels like a collection of short stories with Klein musing about different periods of her life and making observations about life in general in a very entertaining way. One of the chapters that I loved the most was about woman as either being poodles or wolves (I'm so a wolf). She has an uncanny way of making you think about things from a different perspective while having a lot of laughs along the way!
This book is hilarious and I definitely found myself laughing out loud but I appreciated that Klein was also able to stretch herself into talking about difficult subjects as well. Her writing is incredibly versatile. She talks about relationships and infertility in serious ways that were really helpful for me and could definitely be helpful for others. Overall, this is a great book that will make you laugh and may even make you cry!...more
"The Woman in the Photo" is set in two time periods. Elizabeth, living in the late 1800s, is lucky enough to be among the wealthy set of those who com"The Woman in the Photo" is set in two time periods. Elizabeth, living in the late 1800s, is lucky enough to be among the wealthy set of those who come to vacation in Johnstown, PA. She rubs elbows with the likes of the Carnegies and the Fricks among other titans of energy. When a tragic flood decimates the town, Elizabeth will have to find new courage. In the present day, Lee is a young woman who was adopted as a baby in a closed adoption. One small clue (the photo alluded to in the title) will lead her on a journey to understand where she came from.
I was definitely more drawn to the historic story as I often am in books told in two times. Families like the Carnegies and Fricks fascinate me. I ate up the History Channel series, The Men Who Built America, and would love to see more of them in historical fiction, my genre of choice. I loved the rich world that the author created around these people who could afford leisure. I also appreciated how the author was able to show their lifestyles in contrast with the people who actually lived in Johnstown. Elizabeth's story is so interesting and really kept me engaged!
Having the book told in two times worked but I really wanted to know more about Johnstown. While Lee's story is interesting, it was not nearly as interesting as Elizabeth's. I did like seeing how the author brought the two stories together.
The writing of the book was okay. I liked how much detail the author included in the historical part of the book to include the inclusion of historical photographs from the time period (a very nice touch indeed)! The narrative often veered into telling too much rather than showing. The book definitely could have been streamlined a bit!