The day started out happily--a snow day, with the whole family enjoying breakfast together and making plans for the day.
Seventeen year old Mia is one...moreThe day started out happily--a snow day, with the whole family enjoying breakfast together and making plans for the day.
Seventeen year old Mia is one of those kids who actually enjoys her parents and her little brother. Unlike some girls her age, she does not dismiss them as "not cool."
Afterwards, she would not remember what happened, only that she seemed to be detached from the scene unfolding: a car accident, ambulances, and seeing her own broken body rushed to the hospital.
Later, in ICU, Mia seems to remain detached from her body, as if looking down on it, while medical professionals work on her.
She describes the scene in her first person narrative, and as we wait to see what will happen, she flashes back in time, and we see her life, with friends, her cello music, and her boyfriend Adam, a musician. And in the present, as she listens to the visitors at her bedside, she realizes that perhaps she can decide whether to go or to stay.
"If I Stay" was a riveting story that is a reminder of how quickly everything in life can change, and how, when we are living it, we need to savor it. 4.5 stars.(less)
New Orleans in 1964 was still steeped in traditions, but all of that was about to change.
And for Liberty (Ibby) Bell, a twelve-year-old girl from Olym...moreNew Orleans in 1964 was still steeped in traditions, but all of that was about to change.
And for Liberty (Ibby) Bell, a twelve-year-old girl from Olympia, Washington, it was the time when her mother dropped her off, literally, on her grandmother's doorstep.
A short time before, Ibby's father Graham had died after a freak accident, and now her mother Vidrine had just told her she was here to visit her grandmother Fannie.
But all Ibby can remember about her grandmother, whom she had never met, was how much her mother hated her. So why was she leaving her there?
We follow Ibby's sojourn in this unfamiliar Southern world, at the same time that the country is changing to accommodate the new Civil Rights Act. Sit-ins, protests, and racial tensions would be commonplace for the next few years, along with the Vietnam War. But in Fannie Bell's household, tradition still reigns, and her home is run by her black household helpers, Queenie and Doll (also called Dollbaby), who are like a part of the family. Their delightful and warm personalities and the way they enfold Ibby as if she were one of their own made me feel right at home with them, too.
"Dollbaby: A Novel" is a story that wraps itself around the reader, revealing the historic moments in the life of a family that unfold much as the country's historic moments have done. It spans almost a decade, from 1964 to 1972, but we also are gifted with moments from the past, revealing much about Fannie and the life she led before she became a mother and grandmother. Secrets, betrayals, violence, and the unconditional love that Ibby learns to accept as her due, are part of her heritage, even as her life follows a path dictated by her grandmother. Learning her grandmother's secrets was also a gradual process, and this story made me laugh, cry, and remember how much history each family contains. Unforgettable story. 4.0 stars.(less)
When Jenna Hart, still grieving after the death of her husband David Lassiter, decides to chuck her career in advertising and leave San Francisco, she...moreWhen Jenna Hart, still grieving after the death of her husband David Lassiter, decides to chuck her career in advertising and leave San Francisco, she is homeward bound. Back to Crystal Cove, where her Aunt Vera owns The Cookbook Nook. Jenna settles into a cottage next to Aunt Vera's beach house.
The two of them have renovated the bookstore/café space and prepared for a big Opening Day, with a celebrity chef, Desiree Divine, also an old school chum of Jenna's, on board to help launch the shop.
But something disastrous happens the night before. Desiree is found murdered and Jenna has discovered the body, covered in sand like a sculptured mermaid. Almost immediately, a vengeful woman named Pepper Pritchard, who happens to be the mother of the Police Chief, Cinnamon Pritchard, points her finger at Jenna and accuses her.
Every time Jenna turns around, Pepper is adding more accusations.
How can Jenna prove her innocence? She sets out to find clues and investigate other potential suspects. But Cinnamon seems to be ignoring her assistance and continuing to zero in on Jenna.
At this point, however, I started to dislike many of the characters. Not only is Pepper a horrific woman, wildly accusing Jenna, but her seemingly bright daughter, the Police Chief, seems to give credence to her unsubstantiated allegations. What kind of official would do such a thing?
Then Jenna herself becomes almost frenetic in her quest to find the murderer, accusing first one person then another, manic in her pursuit of answers. She didn't seem to stop and think or logically try to reason things out...so in a way, her behavior may have caused Cinnamon to dismiss her information.
In the end, the mystery is solved almost accidentally, without Cinnamon or Jenna, and the suspect was not really on their radar. I was just happy to have "Final Sentence (A Cookbook Nook Mystery)" come to an end...and hoped that Jenna would finally chill out. These aspects of the story made it less interesting to me. In the end, however, there were some recipes that looked tempting. 3.5 stars.(less)
From the outside, Allison Weiss's world looks perfect. She and her husband Dave live in an upscale suburb near Philadelphia with their six-year-old da...moreFrom the outside, Allison Weiss's world looks perfect. She and her husband Dave live in an upscale suburb near Philadelphia with their six-year-old daughter Ellie, and both have interesting work. His, at The Examiner, and hers as a popular blogger whose posts about family, relationships, and sexual issues bring numerous hits...and money. Nowadays, Allison's job brings in more money than Dave's.
But Allison finds it more and more difficult to manage her life, and Ellie's behavior is increasingly frustrating most of the time. She has difficulty keeping all those balls in the air, and Dave does little to help. Most of the time he seems to escape the home for one marathon or another.
The pills Allison takes, the ones left over from her C-section and from a herniated disc, are just to help smooth out the edges. But when life keeps throwing those troubling curves, Allison finds herself constantly on a quest for pills and spending a lot of time in search of more pills.
What will happen to turn Allison's "perfect" world on end? What will she stand to lose if she does not accept that she needs help?
"All Fall Down: A Novel" is an engaging story of one woman's spiral downward into dangerous addiction and the slow climb back up out of the chasm, one day at a time.
The story is told in Allison's first person narrative, so the reader gets an insider's view of how her world looks to her through the cloud of denial and the dawning light of a new day as she experiences the gradual acceptance of her condition.
Dave was a remote, detached character, but perhaps only because we see him through Allison's point of view. Ellie was also the kind of child many parents might want to scream at, but again...Allison's view of her world and her problematic child were definitely tainted by her own perspective.
I could not put this book down. It felt realistic and troubling, a cautionary tale of what can happen when women bury their feelings and struggle to "do it all." 5.0 stars.(less)
They were two people wanting a quiet life. So when Emil and Eveline moved to Evergreen, Minnesota, to start their married life together, they were pre...moreThey were two people wanting a quiet life. So when Emil and Eveline moved to Evergreen, Minnesota, to start their married life together, they were prepared for the challenges of living in the forest. But what would separate them and keep them apart for too long would come unexpectedly and would change everything. Their story began in 1938.
After the birth of their son Hux came the news of Emil's father's illness. Emil's departure to Germany would come at a time when wars were heating up, and leaving Germany would become an impossibility. Time passed, and while her husband was away, Eveline somehow managed, with the help of neighbors.
Until one day when a visitor came and took from Eveline something that would leave her powerless to change the consequences.
After an untenable decision changes lives, the story leaps ahead to 1954...and then again to 1961, with Hux an adult seeking his lost sister Naamah. In the end, the year is 1972, and while many separations have come and gone, there is a bond that links them all.
What happened to them all is revealed through the pages in a tale that sweeps across time and generations.
The emotional impact of Eveline's decision would have an effect on all of their lives, but the reader only sees the after-effects in others. Without a look into her mind and heart, or seeing how Emil reacted to what she'd done left me struggling to make sense of the missing pieces of Emil and Eveline's story. Leaping ahead across time left this reader with a disjointed feeling. A sad feeling of missed opportunities for healing. But then, finally, as "Evergreen: A novel" drew to a close, there was one recurring theme: mothers and children, separated, could be reunited, as if the past no longer defined them. 4.0 stars. (less)
In a high-powered Philadelphia law firm, Mary DiNunzio is working hard to earn a position as a partner. She has a lot to prove, to herself and to her...moreIn a high-powered Philadelphia law firm, Mary DiNunzio is working hard to earn a position as a partner. She has a lot to prove, to herself and to her family.
But something is distracting her these days, threatening to derail her focus.
First there were the oddly threatening notes, hang-ups on the phone, and then the feeling that someone is always following her. But who? And why?
Mary hasn't felt like herself since the hit and run death of her husband Mike Lassiter a few months before. So is she imagining the menace that seems to be hovering over her?
But her best friend and co-associate at the firm, Judy Carrier, does not think so. Between the two of them, they start to piece together the clues. And then a second hit and run death leads Mary and Judy to believe that there might be a connection between the "accidents."
Everything ratchets up a few notches as various possible suspects come to mind. Could it be someone at the firm? A jealous associate? Or possibly a rejected suitor?
"Everywhere That Mary Went (Rosato & Associates Book 1)" was a page-turning thriller that had me guessing until the very end. I trusted none of the possible suspects, but I was blindsided by the identity of the perpetrator. And in between the mysterious events, there was a lot of fun dialogue and charming episodes with Mary's Italian family. I have read and enjoyed other books in this series, but it was delightful to read this one that introduces the main characters. Four stars. (less)
Talented Savannah florist Cara Kryzik has taken over the business of her former boss, and even though her new business is flourishing with wonderful r...moreTalented Savannah florist Cara Kryzik has taken over the business of her former boss, and even though her new business is flourishing with wonderful referrals, a series of expenses have created challenges for her. Especially with her controlling father, the Colonel, who lent her money in the beginning, now demanding to be repaid.
Cara manages to keep juggling the various obstacles and to concentrate on a very promising new client that could put her business in the black. But will the competitive designer on the other side of town who seems to be sabotaging her at every turn keep her from achieving her goals? And what about the conflicts between the bride and her stepmother that could threaten the beautiful wedding they hope for? Could something deeper and more damaging ruin everything for the bride, for Cara, and her dreams? And how will Cara’s prize assistant seem to derail their teamwork as the big day approaches?
Save the Date has pages of interesting scenarios and conflicts, as well as characters that kept the story moving along. As we near the end, it is impossible to put this book down, as even though the storyline could be a bit predictable at times, the challenges were unique enough that I could not be sure how everything would sort itself out. And the characters, like Cara, her assistant Bert, and a potential love interest named Jack Finnerty, were fun and likeable. I was rooting for them, and holding my breath, hoping that the saboteurs would not win.
And throughout, I loved the descriptions of the flowers and the weddings, along with the delightful antics of two look-alike dogs that were, in many ways, matchmakers for Cara and Jack. With a breathtaking ending, this was a truly satisfying read. 4.5 stars.(less)
When sixteen-year-old Jam Gallahue arrives at The Wooden Barn, a therapeutic boarding school in Vermont, she has to put the devastation of her life in...moreWhen sixteen-year-old Jam Gallahue arrives at The Wooden Barn, a therapeutic boarding school in Vermont, she has to put the devastation of her life in New Jersey behind her. Or try to do so. She must forget all about the boy she loved for forty-one days. The British exchange student named Reeve Maxfield.
Almost immediately, she is drawn into a group of students in a very unique English class, taught by Mrs. Quenell.
None of the students know why each one has been chosen, but the class sets them apart in many ways. First of all, they study only one writer throughout the semester. And a big part of what they do involves special journals in which they are urged to write. During this semester, these students will be studying Sylvia Plath.
What happens to each of them when they write in those journals? Where do they go, and how does the special place they call Belzhar (created from the title The Bell Jar) help them heal?
Even as they draw closer to the traumas in their lives through their time in Belzhar, they are also bonding with one another. Now they are forced to decide what to do when the journals fill up. How will they "let go" of Belzhar and move on? And what surprises await Jam when she finally confronts what happened between her and Reeve? With each trip to Belzhar, more about the traumas of each character is revealed.
Narrated in Jam's first person voice, we are slowly offered glimpses into her emotional life, and finally, surprisingly, we are shown what really happened between Jam and Reeve, a twist I didn't see coming.
"Belzhar" was a unique journey into the emotional traumas of each character, like a magical voyage that could finally help them each deal with their losses. A beautiful story that left me remembering what it felt like to be emotionally raw with all that teenage angst, and how a new perspective can change everything. 5.0 stars.(less)
Alex Morris, a theatrical director, has been happily pursuing her dream life in London with her fiancé Luke, a lawyer, when he is murdered. Trying to...moreAlex Morris, a theatrical director, has been happily pursuing her dream life in London with her fiancé Luke, a lawyer, when he is murdered. Trying to save a woman from a violent man.
Starting over means wrenching herself away from her former life, so she heads to Edinburgh and a job working with troubled teens in a "last chance" therapeutic environment.
Teaching them the Greek classics satisfies a need in Alex to stay connected to the theatrical world she'd loved, and she enjoys how the students begin to explore the themes, almost as if they find them relevant in their daily lives.
What she didn't count on was how one especially troubled teen would immerse herself so fully in these themes and take obsessive actions that would change their lives forever.
The story felt like a game, of sorts, as the writer's style keeps us guessing throughout, building to a dramatic and surprising end. Alex narrates the story in first-person perspective, but she also alternates between the present and past tense. It took me a bit to realize that when the narration is in the present tense, we are in the aftermath of what has happened. Most of the story alternates between what happened before and what is happening now. And as we see the past unfold in bits and pieces, we realize, finally, what is about to occur. And I am cringing at the level of obsession going on with one of the young characters.
Part of the story is told through the obsessed character's diary entries, and we learn a lot about what is going on with her through this slow reveal.
A wonderfully dramatic and enticing read that kept me glued to the pages throughout, I couldn't wait to see what would happen next. The teenage characters were complex, annoying, and also engaging. You want to give up on them, but then you realize you must keep trying. "The Furies: A Novel" "is a psychologically complex, dark and twisting novel about loss, obsession and the deep tragedies that can connect us to each other even as they blind us to our fate." 5.0 stars.(less)
Our story begins on November 22, 1963, when we meet Charlie and Nell Benjamin, poised for an ordinary day, living the writer's life in Manhattan. But...moreOur story begins on November 22, 1963, when we meet Charlie and Nell Benjamin, poised for an ordinary day, living the writer's life in Manhattan. But nothing about this day would be ordinary. Grief, both the country's grief and her own, would overwhelm Nell for the foreseeable future.
We are then swept back in time, to college years, and to how Charlie and Nell first met. We are exposed to what happened to them during the McCarthy years, and how that era felt to writers and intellectuals with liberal leanings, and we can experience the dark and malevolent shadow of evil that lingered for years.
They were a couple for whom writing was a way of life and even though their choices tested the conventional roles of their time, the two of them, even after the birth of their daughter Abby, seemed to be coping. Their idealism kept them going, even when life was difficult.
But in the pivotal moments after Charlie's mysterious death, bits and pieces of who he really was began to come to Nell from various sources, including a televised piece that suggested some unethical funding for the literary magazine they both loved. How did the secrets and lies change who they were and what they contributed? Did the secrets change who they had been, or is there another way to see it?
When Nell writes a piece about what she has learned, readers react in interesting ways. Some applaud her, while others suggest that Charlie was just doing right by his country. "Others railed against him for undermining the American system and warned that the road to tyranny was paved with means justified by ends."
In the end, Nell comes to her own conclusions that allow for the imperfections in others, the ambiguity of ideals, and holding onto what remains. A person could focus on the transgressions and misdemeanors or zero in on the "glue that held you, no matter what." "The Unwitting: A Novel" was a thoughtful journey through a time in our country and in the life of one family. Memorable. 4.5 stars.(less)
Katrina Lynden's staid and stable life in Mountain View, CA, has left her feeling miserable. As an accountant at an advertising firm, she is doing wha...moreKatrina Lynden's staid and stable life in Mountain View, CA, has left her feeling miserable. As an accountant at an advertising firm, she is doing what was expected of her by her parents. Utilizing the skills she learned in college.
But something is missing from her life, and the structure that guides her each day is starting to feel like a noose.
So when Kat's best friend Deb suggests that they quit their jobs and go to New York for a couple of months, for an adventure, she agrees. Even though her parents are horrified and advise against it.
Everything is all set, from giving notice to subletting an apartment in the East Village.
So when Deb cancels at the last minute because her company offered an astonishing promotion if she doesn't leave, Katrina is forced to make a new plan.
Can she go it alone in New York? How will the shy, retiring persona she has inhabited for so many years take on such a challenge? And will she learn how to transform her life, even as she delights in her new experiences?
"Katwalk" is a fun venture outside the comfort zone, and I loved how the author took the reader along for the ride. Through Katrina's eyes (dubbed Kat by her New York friends and neighbors), we see her new world as she experiences it, from the coffee house in the neighborhood to the yoga studio nearby. Rediscovering a long buried desire to paint, Kat is truly expressing a new incarnation as she evolves from the frightened young woman she once was.
Just as I suspected how things might unfold, it was still fun to watch it happen. A delightful character, Kat could be someone we all know and love. 4.0 stars.(less)