This is the story of the Annapolis wedding of Bee Evans and Matt Fee (yes she will become Bee Fee) and the five guests who despite receiving a plus on...moreThis is the story of the Annapolis wedding of Bee Evans and Matt Fee (yes she will become Bee Fee) and the five guests who despite receiving a plus one invite come solo to the wedding. Hannah, a college classmate of Beth’s is a bridesmaid. She dreads the wedding as she will need to confront ex boyfriend Tom who dumped her. She is hoping that Rob a college friend and old boyfriend will attend the wedding with her, but Rob the flakiest of the five solo wedding guests stays in Texas to support his dog Liz a rescue mutt with epilepsy. Rob stays current with the wedding events through texts sent by Hannah. Hannah’s roommate at the wedding is Vickie another college friend. Vicki, a romance novel addict, works at an unexciting but well paying job; she is constantly depressed and travels with a social affective disorder sun lamp in a guitar case. These three college friends are supplemented by two additional solo guests. The bride’s uncle Joe, a divorced father is attending even though the bride’s mother would prefer he not be in attendance. Joe is attracted to Vicki and has big plans for their relationship, plans that are not shared by Vickie. The final character in this farce is Phil. Phil is only attending the wedding as a favor to his mom who is ill and unable to attend. Phil is perhaps the saddest of these characters, unable to grow up he continues to linger in a prolonged adolescence that includes sports and failed commitments and not much else. The adventures of these five characters through the wedding weekend are enjoyable to follow. The story is told from alternating perspectives. Some of the scenes are quite funny. Hannah, on the advice of a controlling maid of honor, takes some pills to settle her nerves. Followed by a couple of drinks Hannah’s confrontation with her ex is painfully funny. All five of the solo guests experience character growth through this wedding weekend. The back and forth between Hannah and Rob is very well done. Rob, still in love with Hannah, but unable to act decisively on it, shows the most growth of all of the characters. All of these solo guests are changed by their attendance at this wedding. I loved the ending; it provided hope but was not an unrealistic take on life. This is a debut novel for Meredith Goldstein, the popular LoveLetters advice columnist from the Boston Globe and it is a good one. You’ll love the characters and if you’ve ever gone single to a wedding you'll relate to the events in this story. The Singles, I think will be a popular beach read this summer. The book has been optioned for film so read it now before the movie is cast and you can compare your casting choices with the actual ones. (less)
Kevin Purcell has recounted his years as a young boy growing up in a racially changing neighborhood in southwest Philadelphia, in the late ‘60s and ea...moreKevin Purcell has recounted his years as a young boy growing up in a racially changing neighborhood in southwest Philadelphia, in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. The author is the second of five boys living in a row house on a small street in the city. From the time he was very young, play in the neighborhood centered on sports at the local playground (Myers) where the community gathered to watch sports. Pickup games included local high school and college kids, black and white known city-wide for their skill. As the neighborhood changes from white families to large numbers of black families tensions skyrocket. Fighting among young boys and teens from both races becomes commonplace. For the author 10 to 13 years old at the time, fear becomes a daily emotion. Over a fairly short period of time – 2-4 years – events in the neighborhood accelerate from fighting to murder. Both a black teen and a white teen are killed. The author actually traveled with the white boy on the night he was killed. The author does an excellent job relating these events. His narrative conveys the emotions and fears of the young who experienced this situation. I am sure his story will be well received by folks who grew up in that time in that area. He briefly tries to explain why this situation became so explosive. This neighborhood changed from white to black in an incredibly short time. Driven by realtors who frightened anxious white home owners about diminishing property values many blocks in this area saw every house change hands in 2-3 years. Add to the mix large numbers of adolescent and teenage boys white and black vying for use of a limited number of city play spaces. Finally think about the lack of community leaders who might have stepped in to help diffuse tensions. Chief among them in my opinion was the Catholic Church. Most of the largely Irish Catholic families in this neighborhood attended Most Blessed Sacrament (MBS) School. The church held huge influence within this community but with few exceptions provided no leadership or guidance during this crisis. In fact the church wasn’t good about teaching Catholics how to get along with anybody not just non-Catholics (publics!) but even other Catholics – they had separate parishes for Polish, Italian and Lithuanian Catholics. I enjoyed this book particularly all of the descriptions of the neighborhood. I also grew up four blocks from where the author lived, but we moved from this neighborhood in 1965, a few years before these events. What a heartbreak the author has described here, especially if we can’t take some life lessons from the experience. (less)
Scorpions – the title references a description of the Supreme Court Justices as “nine scorpions in a bottle” – is the story of four widely different j...moreScorpions – the title references a description of the Supreme Court Justices as “nine scorpions in a bottle” – is the story of four widely different justices all appointed by Franklin D. Roosevelt. These four, Hugo Black, Felix Frankfurter, Robert Jackson and William O. Douglas could not have been more dissimiliar. Frankfurter, a Jew was perhaps the most liberal voice in the country when Roosevelt appointed him to the court. Black was a southern country lawyer former KKK member with an altogether unique interpretation of the constitution, Jackson, a plain spoken lawyer seeking a pragmatic resolution to court cases and Douglas, a westerner who defined wide limits for individual freedom. I enjoyed the detail and back story the author presented on all of these men. The intellectual growth that allowed these men to listen, learn and change their minds from where they started was so appealing in this story. Black from a KKK member to perhaps the strongest civil rights supporter on the court. Frankfurter from the most liberal to arguably the most conservative member of the court. I was fascinated at how men of such widely divergent backgrounds could come together to decide some of the most important issues of the twentieth century. The background of the Japanese interment in WWII, Truman’s seizure of the steel mills, civil rights and lastly the Brown v. the Board of Education decisions are all covered with the deliberations and interactions that led to the court decisions. Personalities are on full display. I admit much of the legal theories were lost on me and did for me (the clearly non legal reader) drag out the story a bit but I still enjoyed this book as a history of the Supreme Court and the justices who served there. In today’s acrimonious political environment one really longs for the time when disagreements were discussed, debated and had compromises developed that moved the country forward. A good narrative history of the Supreme Court in the mid twentieth century. (less)
Major Pettigrew is a very entertaining read. It is an English village comedy of manners in the style of Jane Austen. It is set in present day Britain...moreMajor Pettigrew is a very entertaining read. It is an English village comedy of manners in the style of Jane Austen. It is set in present day Britain but peopled with throwback characters. Major Pettigrew is a widowed Army officer who as the book opens has just heard of his brother’s death. Mrs. Ali is a first generation Brit of Pakistani descent who runs the local convenience store. They share a love of literature, tea and decorum in all things. The major is curmudgeonly and a bit arrogant but at heart a good soul. He has an uncaring, materialistic son; Mrs. Ali now widowed is subject to the oversight of an overbearing Pakistani family. The village in Sussex is full of charming characters - scheming greedy relatives, the requisite befuddled vicar, the intolerant ladies of the club, and the local lord of the manor. The story revolves around the developing love between the major and Mrs. Ali and the reactions of villagers and relatives to this couple. While this story would be described as a "gentle" read it is really well done and deals with the serious subjects of intergenerational conflicts, cultural clashes, the deadly effect of village gossip, class prejudice (among both the Brits and the Pakistanis) and racism. The writing is witty and often very funny. The characterizations are so well done you become invested in them, rooting for the Major and Mrs. Ali to triumph. You are reminded that love is ageless as this couple faces the obstacles before them.
I am not terribly tolerant of romance type novels as many seem very contrived to me but I did like this one I think because it seemed so genuine in both the people and the situations they experienced. This whimsical story is a perfect beach read, the antithesis of a page turner, certain to make you see the often underappreciated value of civility and kindness in all things. This is a debut novel for Helen Simonson. The marvelous book cover is adapted from a March 1924 Life magazine(less)
**spoiler alert** This is a book that is very hard to categorize. Part sci fi, part mystery, part literary satire, part alternative history, part fant...more**spoiler alert** This is a book that is very hard to categorize. Part sci fi, part mystery, part literary satire, part alternative history, part fantasy but all fun! Suspend belief and travel to 1985 Britain where the English continue the Crimean War with Russia, Wales is a socialist republic and the citizenry are mad for literature. Characters that can suspend time and travel back and forth are common. Some science is far advanced (cloned dodos as house pets) while other aspects are not well evolved (blimps are the primary means of air travel). Witty wordplay and colorful characters abound.
The heroine of the novel is Thursday Next (character names are a hoot). She is a literary sleuth who works for a government police agency that specializes in literary crimes from the most common such as plagiarism right up to the theft of original literary works. Her adversary is Archeron Hades a villain who has stolen the original work of Dickens' Martin Chuzzlewit. When he kills a minor character in the novel, a deed that erases this character from the work forever, the plot is on! Before you know it, not only are minor characters in danger but Jane Eyre herself is threatened! I will not even make an attempt to summarize this plot as it will sound ridiculous in an abridged form but each page holds its own delights. This novel will charm English majors with the satire aimed at English lit. Characters argue over the true authorship of Shakespeare’s plays, join societies dedicated to John Milton and in my favorite chapter, audience participation in the presentation of Richard III that harkens back to The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I think even if you do not have a detailed knowledge of English literature you’ll enjoy this book, but it is certainly enhanced if you know the story line of Jane Eyre. Thursday Next is a fully developed character with a quirky family, appealing work colleagues and a love interest. A veteran of the Crimean War (Tennyson’s Charge of the Light Brigade is a sub plot) Next is human and sympathetic enough to carry this series – I understand there are a total of 5 books.
While Fforde’s novel clearly gives a nod to Dickens, Christie, James, Orwell, Rowling and Monty Python his work is unique and very creative, perhaps this first novel is just a tad too complex but I really enjoyed it. All but the most literal of readers should like this engaging story. Whether the story and characters will hold up over all five books is for me, still to find out! (less)