3.5 stars The Last Letter from Your Lover is a romance complicated by family obligations and missed opportunities. In London in the 1960s, Jennifer is...more3.5 stars The Last Letter from Your Lover is a romance complicated by family obligations and missed opportunities. In London in the 1960s, Jennifer is recovering from a serious auto accident and has severe memory loss. She does not remember her wealthy husband who treats her like a possession. She finds some hidden passionate letters, signed only with a B, and tries to piece together her secret life. Who was B?
Forty years later, a journalist Ellie comes upon several of B's romantic letters stored in the newspaper archives. Involved in a relationship with a married man herself, she sees a spark in the letters that is not present in her own life. Ellie investigates what happened to Jennifer and her lover, and also has to make some difficult personal decisions.
In addition to passion, the story also showed the problems that an affair can bring--a devastated spouse and hurt children. Historically, the book also illustrated the difference in communication from the wonderful 1963 love letters to the quick 2003 text messages. I've read two other books by Jojo Moyes, and found she was an engaging storyteller again. She has the ability to express emotions so well that I genuinely care what happens to the characters.(less)
John Boyne has written a fable about the Holocaust written in simple language appropriate for a young adult book. The story is seen through the eyes o...moreJohn Boyne has written a fable about the Holocaust written in simple language appropriate for a young adult book. The story is seen through the eyes of a sheltered nine-year-old boy, Bruno. His family has moved from Berlin to Poland where his father has been appointed the Commandant at "Out-With" by the "Fury." Bruno looks out his bedroom window and sees men and boys in striped pajamas beyond a barbed wire fence which the reader assumes is Auschwitz. When he goes out exploring, Bruno meets Shmuel, a boy on the other side of the fence who happens to share a birthday with him.
Bruno is characterized as very naive and innocent, more sheltered than a nine-year-old would be today in the time of television. He tries to make sense of what he is seeing. But his parents will not discuss the situation with him, he's being privately tutored in Poland so has no classmates to confide in, and there is no mention of a radio for information. Shmuel is less naive since his family was forced out of their home and brought by a crowded train to the camp full of brutal soldiers. So we see two innocent boys--too young to have learned about hating others--sitting on opposite sides of a barbed wire fence becoming friends. The ending is quite disturbing.
I did find it difficult to believe that Bruno would be able to pay almost daily visits to Shmuel considering that there would be guards patrolling the fences. Bruno had also never heard about Jews, although he had just moved from Berlin where they would have had yellow stars sewn on their clothes and he lived in a military home.
What is the target audience for this book? I could see kids reading the book in their early teens if the Holocaust and genocide were discussed in a classroom or with their parents so they learned about the actual history. (The book was labeled a fable, and never mentioned the words Holocaust or Auschwitz since the author also wanted the readers to think about other camps and other genocides.) Although the book was emotionally moving, it was too simple and sanitized for adult reading if one considers the actual horrors of the concentration camps. (less)
The gorgeous cover drew me to Blackbird House, and this book of twelve interwoven short stories did not disappoint me. The stories are set on a small...moreThe gorgeous cover drew me to Blackbird House, and this book of twelve interwoven short stories did not disappoint me. The stories are set on a small farm in a fishing village on Cape Cod from the 18th Century to the present time. Residents of the Blackbird House have experienced many challenges in life, and deep love that makes it all worthwhile.
Like many of Alice Hoffman's works, this book has elements of magical realism. There have been sightings of the ghost of a young boy lost at sea, and his pet blackbird whose feathers turned white after the violent storm. All of the emotions that make us human were on display in these impressive stories--love, loss, fear, hope, and contentment. (less)
This is a Victorian mystery with Oscar Wilde acting as an investigator in the manner of Sherlock Holmes, the creation of Wilde's friend Arthur Conan D...moreThis is a Victorian mystery with Oscar Wilde acting as an investigator in the manner of Sherlock Holmes, the creation of Wilde's friend Arthur Conan Doyle. Wilde is very observant, as well as being a charming, witty conversationalist and writer. The story is narrated by Wilde's real friend, author Robert Sherard who is a character similar to Dr Watson. Wilde is searching for the murderer of a young male prostitute, found dead in a room full of incense and flickering candles. Oscar Wilde wrote the story "The Picture of Dorian Gray" based on the demise of the young Billy Wood.
The story incorporates Victorian historical characters and events into a murder mystery. There were many wonderful quotes from Oscar Wilde, giving the reader a sense of his entertaining personality. The book transported the reader to Victorian England, but the period details sometimes slowed the flow of the mystery. Oscar Wilde tied it all up with a "Sherlock Holmes" type of an explanation at the end, which included a little twist.(less)
The Care and Management of Lies shows the comfort of love and friendship during the dark days of World War I. Best friends Thea Brissendon and Kezia M...moreThe Care and Management of Lies shows the comfort of love and friendship during the dark days of World War I. Best friends Thea Brissendon and Kezia Marchant were scholarship students, and later taught together, at a private school. Kezia, the daughter of a vicar, married Thea's brother Tom to become a farmer's wife. Thea went in a different direction, becoming very passionate about the women's suffrage movement and other causes.
Tom enlisted when World War I started, leaving Kezia to manage the farm in Kent with just a few men who were physically unable to become soldiers. It was a big challenge for a town girl, but soon Kezia was out in the fields plowing, planting crops to feed the troops. Thea became an ambulance driver, transporting injured soldiers from the French battlefields.
There are vivid descriptions of trench warfare and the terrible carnage where Tom is stationed in France. Kezia, an inventive cook, makes a special effort to send baked goods to Tom and Thea, which they share with friends. Tom also reads them parts of Kezia's letters where she writes about the delicious "imaginary dinners" she is preparing for him. There is so much warmth and love baked into her cakes and her "pretend dinners," a piece of home sent to the battlefront. Tom responds with loving, upbeat letters, although he is living in constant danger in the muddy trenches with death all around him. The title, The Care and Management of Lies, refers partly to the way Kezia and Tom put a happy, positive spin to their letters so they would not worry their loved ones. The families of deceased soldiers always received letters from the commanding officers that their family member had fought courageously and had died instantly without any pain, which is a comfort to the family but often a lie.
The book starts off very slowly, introducing the reader to the characters, setting the scene, and including lots of historical details. It picks up pace as it gets into World War I with the spotlight on Kezia and Tom. Many chapters begin with a quote from "The Women's Book" about household management, published in 1911, which was the inspiration for the author to write this novel. The military chapters start with quotes from the "Field Service Pocket Book" of 1914. Kezia was such an endearing character that I was hoping that Jacqueline Winspear might consider writing a sequel.(less)
Mary Russell, the investigator and young wife of Sherlock Holmes, awakens with a concussion and amnesia. She reacts instinctively to avoid capture by...moreMary Russell, the investigator and young wife of Sherlock Holmes, awakens with a concussion and amnesia. She reacts instinctively to avoid capture by a group of soldiers, and wonders how she acquired the knowledge needed to escape. She soon realizes she is in Morocco and her memory comes back in bits and pieces. After Holmes is reunited with her, they become involved in some international intrigue during the 1920s Moroccan independence movement.
Before starting the book, it was helpful to have read a short Wikipedia article about the Rif War to learn the names of the major historical figures in Morocco. Although this is a stand-alone novel, it would have been better to have read the two prior Mary Russell mysteries first to get acquainted with some of the other characters. I started with this book because it was a book group read.
The book presented a good opportunity to learn about the tensions in 1924 Morocco between the colonial powers of Spain and France, and the Moroccan tribesmen of the Rif mountainous region. The characters were colorful and the setting was exotic. Although it had an interesting start, the plot got much too convoluted by the end.(less)
Delicious! is a light, fun, fictional book that should appeal to foodies. The framing story involves Billie Breslin, a young woman with a discerning p...moreDelicious! is a light, fun, fictional book that should appeal to foodies. The framing story involves Billie Breslin, a young woman with a discerning palate, who starts a job as the assistant to the editor of Delicious! magazine in Manhattan. A beautiful historic mansion holds the offices of the food magazine (which is similar to Gourmet magazine where Ruth Reichl served as the editor.) In addition to writing food articles, Billie is responsible for manning a recipe hotline. The magazine guarantees that their readers will be happy with the recipes, or they will refund the price of the ingredients. Billie also works part-time at a family-run Italian deli that sells artisan cheeses and meats. She is mentored by a diverse group of people who introduce her to new food adventures. Sibling issues, a fashion makeover, and a love interest add to the story.
After the food magazine closes its doors, Billie stays on longer working the recipe hotline. With another former employee, Billie explores the wonderful culinary library in the old mansion. They find old letters written by Lulu, a 12-year-old girl, to James Beard during World War II. Lulu seeks advice about foraging for food, and recipes to use during wartime food rationing. She also shares her fears about her pilot father who has been shot down in Europe, and her mother who is working long hours at an aircraft factory. Lulu's problems seemed very real, and her letters were my favorite part of the book. Billie travels to Ohio to see if she can locate Lulu and see how her life progressed.
The book is a combination of interesting information about food, lovely wartime letters, and a "fluffy" contemporary mystery/romance. It was a quick, enjoyable book that would be a good vacation read.(less)