What Karin is Reading
A good book makes you want to live in the story. A great book gives you no choice.
I have a thing for early aviation stories, especially adventurous women. West with the Night by Beryl Markham and the fictional story about her, Circling the Sun, Flygirls and numerous books about Amelia Earhart are all favorites. I thought I knew a fair amount about the WASP’s (Women Airforce Service Pilots), my grandmother graduated in an early class and served through the war. I have her wings!
But upon reading The Women with Silver Wings I found my knowledge was rudimentary. Landdeck has done her research and follows the lives of a handful of patriotic, brave pilots, their sacrifices and struggles and the multi-tier politics that plagued them. She covers their inception to their long fight to be recognized as military veterans. P.S. My grandmother is pictured on page 89 (I think).
The Sweeney Sisters is delightful. Three very different sisters support each other, love each other and are annoyed by each other’s flaws. The death of their famous father is the catalyst for change: examination of priorities, dealing with grief, and coming to terms with a surprise sister. Despite these heavy issues Sweeney Sisters is lighthearted, made me happy and is a great vacation read. Woven stories of the four sisters kept me equally involved in each of them and I found myself cheering for all. Emotions, new and old loves and family messiness amongst a heartfelt reunion. Good if you liked The Most Fun We Ever Had.
Intricate web of deceit, lies and reinvention. A Ponzi scheme unravels destroying numerous lives. Mandela does a great job casting connections of desperate characters and using alternate realities to make excuses for their actions. This felt like a modern-day Shakespearean tragedy. Lots to discuss and good if you liked Fates and Furries.
Miracle Creek is a contemporary Whodunit, an immigrant story and an excellent courtroom debut. It’s also a story of parents wanting a better life for their children. I found this emotionally gripping and I appreciated how Kim made me look at different sides to the characters stories before judging their actions. Every character has told a lie - small or large, everyone has opportunity and motive. A good different story - pick this up if you liked Little Fires Everywhere.
Romance is not my normal genre but I picked up In Five Years because there were so many accolades by authors I really enjoy and the quote on the title page is from one of my all time favorite books, Evidence of Things Unseen. Here 20 something Dannie is on her life’s path that she has been planning since she was young. She’s ambitious and making her way up as a corporate lawyer. She has the perfect boyfriend and she knows they’ll have the perfect marriage, but then the age-old interview question of “where will you be in five years” enters her mind and her perfect life begins to go amiss. Rebecca Serle’s writing is good and smart and I thoroughly enjoyed this clever story.
Taken from real events Ventriloquists is an ode to the power of the written word and an examination of what happens when Freedom of the Press is not free. This is a character driven unusual WWII story that will appeal to those who enjoy satire, good writing and a mix of great characters in a long meandering story. It’s full of double agents and crazy schemes. Shows how brave journalists can find a voice of Resistance. I listened to the well-done audio.
Three generations of Palestine American Women struggle to make their way in a male dominated world. Strict Arab women are expected to cook and clean, raise the children and mind their husbands and elders at all costs. Layer upon layer of silence and lies and this type of abuse are unimaginable in Western society and Etaf Rum opens our eyes to this world and “the shame of their gender”. I feel this is excellent for young adults; an accessible story that gives voice to the silenced.
Out of grief and darkness comes acceptance and light. Newly widowed Antonia's life becomes intertwined with young migrants, noisy neighbors and the messiness of her family. She balances on a fine line of taking care of herself, doing the right thing as her husband would see it and caring for society, a few at a time. There are themes of avoidance verses activism, political and moral issues and sisterhood in all its complexities. There are lovely scenes and times when Antonia’s struggles seem very real especially her inner voice. I appreciated the chalk-full compactness of this novel, Alvarez’s use of poetry and literary references and the bit of “make-you-smile” Latina exuberance that comes from deep-seeded cultural family love.
There is nothing like a good historical novel to escape the present and Code Name Helene is a great one. I had run across the “White Mouse” in other readings but was not familiar with details and her great leadership. I enjoy Ariel Lawhon’s writing especially her use of chronology to add suspense - she is one of the best I’ve come across at this writing technique. Nancy/Helene’s dry wit made me smile, her courage inspired me and her leadership awed me. I loved her life and love with Henri, her spunk and determination, her red lipstick and how I was totally lost in her story. Fabulous!
Ismeal's smile is contagious and his brilliant writing is addictive too. Millions loved his biography Long Way Gone and I think his new novel Little Family is great too. This follows 5 children that through unfortunate circumstances are surviving together is Zimbabwe. They are street-smart, resilient, smart and resourceful. Although tragic things have brought these kids together the book doesn't dwell on that but rather their love and caring for each other, their dealing with others' and their philosophy. The characters are so well portrayed, I immediately could picture them and was cheering for them all the way. Outstanding!
Sometimes I just need a book to touch my heart. I really enjoyed Josie Silver’s first book, One Day in December, so I was happy to see she had a new title. Silver has the English feel of JoJo Moyes- just the right amount of romance without being mushy and I appreciate her little bit of British wit. Her characters, although much younger than me, are easy to get involved in - they have loss and yearnings that are very human. I enjoyed this a lot.
Chris Bohjalian writes many genres and his thrillers are hair raising and well done. This is a story of a drug-resistant plague caused by rats. Cyclist Austin is found dead and his girlfriend, who’s a nurse, suspects foul play. She hires a detective and the two of them go on a mission to uncover lies and deceit that could have dire consequences. Alexis is a good imperfect character and I loved her sidekick detective. I was kept guessing til the end.
This is a poignant story of resilience and heart. It spans 90 years of turbulent times and war in Vietnam told through the voices of two generations. The grandmother is one of the strongest, resilient and most forgiving characters I’ve encountered in a long time. She’s fabulous! I learned a lot - one reason I love historical fiction. This is an excellent different perspective. Good if you liked Homegoing and In the Shadow of the Banyan Tree.
A modern southern Gothic. A cursed quarry is the scene of many sad incidents over decades and Willet and Bert (Roberta) are haunted for years and left searching for the truth about the disappearance of their sister. This is a literary page-turner. I loved the flawed characters and their journey is a compelling one. Good it you liked John Hart's The Last Child. Excellent!
An Irish tale of when life was simpler. Electricity comes to rural Ireland and life lessons and old and new loves are explored. Life is beautifully illuminated with Williams prose. I loved the quirky characters and after the first few pages the masterful writing and eccentricities of Irish speech had me smiling and absorbed in the parish. The explanation of the title, This is Happiness, on page 283 was cause for ponder and SO appreciated. This slow meandering story is told with warmth and humor. Loved it!
Modern! Fresh! Healthy! Unfussy! I love Alison Roman's attitude about entertaining, her recipes and her red nails. To date Coconut-Braised Chicken, Lemony White Beans, Crushed Peas with Burrata and Crushed Blackberry cake are favorites.
I loved following Simon as he navigates life in post-Civil War Texas. Life is uncertain under Reconstruction but he is passionate about his fiddle and Irish beauty, Doris and he finds his way with the help of some great characters and lots of optimism. I love Paulette Jiles atmospheric writing and her clever plotting kept me reading well into the night. Great writing and storytelling. Good if you liked Cold Mountain and Jiles book, News of the World.
Great historical fiction with lots of history. There is a touch of Shakespearean in Mantell's writing and I appreciated her astute writing and her enthralling portrait of Thomas Cromwell. 16th Century politics and Court intrigue and drama at its best.
Apeirogon is unlike any book I've ever read. The narrative form is unusual and McCann is a literary genius as to how he pulls this story together. It has fiction and nonfiction material and includes history, politics, ornithology, art, and more. I loved all of these aspects but the real heart of the book is friendship, loss, and how grief can be a weapon for peace. Shows how facets of a lifetime create a life. You need to check this out!
As entertaining and informative as his podcast. Mo examines people who didn't get their due. Each "mobituary" showcases the highlights, contributions and influences of known and unknown individuals. His trademark humor is throughout. Enjoyable little snippets. Great audio too.
Another Gem from Yoon. I love his writing, it's elegant and every word has purpose. This shows wartime tragedy through 3 children caught in dire circumstances and yet it is full of love and life. I found it heartbreaking but the compassion of all the characters is heartwarming. Unimaginable terror and shows the craziness of war. Amazing writing and story; a miniature masterpiece. Good if you liked City of Thieves, In the Shadow of the Banyan, or The Lotus Eaters.
I savored this novel - didn't want to put it down yet didn't want it to end. This is a story within a story about a writer whose novel crashes into him and in turn demands he notice who he really is. This shows how the past stays with us and can teach us to live. It's a self-portrait, a realist vs. surrealist novel, and a story of place and belonging. I loved the mix of history and fiction and this has just the right amount of symbolism - take note of dark waters and windows. You'll savor this too!
I was immediately drawn into the life of Clementine Churchill. Benedict writes with a frankness that is refreshing and she skillfully shows the many roles that Clementine empowered. She ran households that were a whirlwind of activity, she was a political and tactical advisor, a stateswoman and a speech writer. There is also good exploration of parenting guilt and moments of self-doubt and overwhelming stress. Great historical fiction and Clemmie was much more than a backdrop to Winston.
Yeah - a new English detective series. Award winning author, Cleeves gives us another character driven mystery. This is a compelling read with multiple plots and characters. Also, explores power of church and blind faith of its followers. Good if you like Louise Penny.
Topeka School looks at family struggles and social issues from three different points of view; Son, Mother and Father. Lots of psychological references and heavy with toxic masculinity and shows how the future can be affected by this socialization of identity. This is an intellectual novel and has a semi auto-biographic feel. Good if you like David Foster Wallace.
This is an outstanding sophisticated novel of a conflicted nun that twice is coerced into investigating a scandal in Iceland. This covers the abuse of power in many forms. Sister Johanna is a wonderful character; she wrestles with her faith and has lots of personal reckoning to grapple with. Pall, George Harrison and Jesus add lighthearted moments that add much depth to this back and forth interweaving mystery. Excellent!
American-raised Naila is smart and preparing for college; she plays by the harsh family rules but is secretly in love with the perfect boy. Unfortunately, her parents have other plans and a family visit back to Pakistan goes awry. This shows how honorable intensions can go horribly wrong. If you ever feel your parents are overbearing read this! A look into Pakistan and Muslin culture without religion. The authors note is important to read - an excellent explanation or arranged vs. forced. Very good!
Crummey is a poet and his artistry shines in this novel of siblings trying to survive in harsh Newfoundland. And while its eking out a life that propels the book forward the novel is much more complex. There's tension that runs through the book, but Crummey achieves this with so much sensitivity that I was caught by its beauty. The language is lovely but never excessive - it has an old-fashioned feel that is great. This explores what makes us human and reminded me of why I love great fiction.
Lee Miller is a woman with complicated ambitions, feelings and a haunted past. She is a woman growing into her passions and exploring her creativity in bohemian Paris. She's sexy and determined. She's a female artist in the 1930's navigating how to be taken seriously. I couldn't help but be drawn into her life, was captivated by Paris in the 30's and wanted to know more about these interesting artists. A feminist novel about love, art and proprietorship.
A big Chicago family filled with joys and sorrows, love and rivalries. Its easy to get drawn into Lambardo's engrossing debut. I grew to love and care about the Sorensons, but mostly the amazing writing impressed me. Underlying secrets are revealed masterfully through four decades of four sisters trying to find a love such as their parents. There's no politics, or social-racial issues but just a large messy endearing family. Good character driven family saga - a modern day Little Women.
Two-time Pulitzer winner gives us a captivating readable look at our country and our citizens during one day in 1986. Remarkable things happen everyday and Weingarten expertly shares fascinating stories, shows how peoples lives were changed and how events can have lasting impacts. Well-crafted slice of American life. So ENJOYABLE, and good for anyone.
This is a love letter to fairytales. The core of the story is simply a young man who wants to know his fate but all the interwoven stories are complex and some disbelief of reality is necessary to enjoy this tale. It is a fairytale with influences from Alice in Wonderland, Narnia, Where the Wild Things Are with myths and legends thrown in. There is symbolism galore and stories within stories. Enjoyable if you like fantasy that is filled with pleasing aesthetics without an abundance of plot.
This small-scale novel is big in feeling and humanity. It takes place over one day with only four imperfect yet likeable characters. This is a quiet-before-the-storm type story evoking introspection and emotion. I was absorbed into this story, could picture the dusty rural setting and the tough-as-nails characters. Every word is important in this small story and the translation is excellent. Good if you like Steinbeck or Consider This Senora.
A clear, concise account of the multinational convoy, PQ-17, and their harrowing experience in the Artic. Thirty-five merchant ships and numerous military support leave Iceland bound for the northern Russian port of Archangel with the Germans hot on their trail. Erroneous orders to avoid attack force four ships to hide in the icefield. History is accurately described but the real brilliance of this book is how Geroux balances history with human experience and military tactics. This is interesting easy-to-follow history for any novice WWII reader and so well done that even WWII buffs will appreciate.
I dare you to not be hooked by the end of chapter one. I dare you to not feel something! The writing is gripping yet intimate, I was inside the heads of Lydia, Luca and their companions and although it shows unconscionable violence it is filled with love and compassion. I was left feeling raw and vulnerable but found this a truly human story that should change the discourse of our times. This is one of the best books you will read this year and one of the most important.
I feel A Long Petal of the Sea is Allende at her finest. I love how historical fiction teaches us through normal everyday people. This is Victor and Roser's life. It tells of their loves, yearning, displacements, perseverance, differences and connections. The use of Neruda's poems is brilliant - I enjoyed learning of his heroics. The Solar family provides a good counterpoint view and there is plenty of interesting history that is little known. There is an intimacy to this story that makes it feel personal to Allende (even more than her relationship to politician Salavdor Allende). Great read!
Neighborhood drama that will make you smile and shake your head. Lots of clever satire! Excellent characterization and differing voices. Explores relationships, friendships, suburban development, belonging and modern-day communities. Has an Ann Taylor feel and good if You Liked Little Fires Everywhere.
The Berlin Underground comes to life in this expertly crafted and researched book. Based on real heroes that conspired against and protested the Nazis. (There are streets named after them in Germany and even a day to celebrate one in Wisconson.) Four women from differing backgrounds forge bonding friendships through this harrowing time. This is a story to sink into, it's thought provoking and inspiring. There is no blowing up of bridges or car chases through the Alps but rather the gathering and sharing of intelligence. I especially appreciated the background and lead-up time in the 30's. I found this riveting and interesting and was inspired by the courage of these remarkable women. P.S. Don't skip the authors note.
Naive 22-year old American-raised Afghan goes on a quest to do good and to research a rural Afghan village. With echoes of the Three Cups of Tea scandal Waldman expertly depicts gaping holes in what Parveen was led to believe by an American doctor's memoir of his time and heroic(?) efforts in Afghanistan. This memoir also spurred the American Army to bring progress to this village. This is an excellent exploration into the grey areas of American influence and sheds light on misunderstanding, misguided intentions and differing cultures. Superb!
Its easy to see why is Tieghan Gerard is wildly popular and why her cook books are best sellers. Colorado-raised Tieghan has tried and true family recipes with stunning photographs. I've found her recipes straight forward with common ingredients. With Super Simple everything is just that - super easy, yet she doesn't skimp on taste and creativity. So far, my family has enjoyed Lemon Butter Cod, Spiced Lamb Hummus, Carne Asada Tostadas and Chicken Tortilla Soup. I appreciate how Tieghan has instructions for various cooking methods (slow-cooker vs. stove-top vs. Instant Pot). You'll be excited to try many more just like me!
Reads like a spy novel yet true! Twenty-two year old, Amaryllis is recruited by the CIA after Daniel Pearls beheading and ends up infiltrating terrorist networks in the Middle East and Asia. Excellent descriptions of the isolation and intense pressure she and her colleagues were under. It's all the scary stuff we've been hearing in the news - Amaryllis was living it.
I loved The World That We Knew! This is an unusual WWII story with a superb mix of war atrocities and folklore/magical realism. There are numerous narratives that interweave and introduce new characters. I cared about them all. Hoffman uses background information in an unusual way which I felt really enhanced the story. There is strong symbolism, a good amount of history and a story within a story. Hoffman uses beautiful prose where we can glance into the human heart. Highly recommended.
This poetic look at different perspectives of a family is outstanding. The writing is sparse yet full. Shows how history and community can shape a person and ultimately a family. There are themes of identity, ambition, status and parenting and mostly shows how the choices individuals make can be consequential and have rippling effects. Great audio with numerous narrators.
Impossible to put down! This could possibly be my favorite Patchett book. There is such an honest beauty in its simplicity and prose; Patchett's observations about human nature are stunning. Danny is a wonderful, stubborn narrator and the cast of characters is so human, including the house. Loved it!
Young love in 1950 Tehran gets complicated with family interference and the 1953 coup by the Shah. This is an easy read that wonderfully details Iranian life and this tremulous time in Iranian history. Great immersible sweeping romance with foreign culture and history. Certain amount of grace in this story that I really appreciated.
Jojo Moyes continues to write delightful stories. Margery and Alice and all the librarians are strong, determined women in rural Kentucky. Shows how literature can lift humanity up and Moyes' interspersing of some (probably) of her favorite writings is fun.
The Yellow Bird Sings tore at my heartstrings. I found this beautiful and captivating. This is a war survival story that is FULL of heart and love. There are terrifying and sad spots and parts that are so beautifully poignant I was overwhelmed. This is so unlike any WWII novel - you need to read it. Good if You Liked All the Light We Cannot See.
Kingsolver is at her best in this social commentary with alternating narratives set in Vineland, a Utopian devised community. Real-life characters and situations are well interjected and the parallels between evolution disbelief and intolerance and the current political climate are brilliant. This is a thinking novel, literary and well written. The differing tones of the 1860's and present are especially well done. I appreciated the voice and reasoning of Tig (20-something) who has unfiltered political and social views and the most insight. Walls crumble both figuratively and metaphorically and Unsheltered shows it is survival of the fittest brought on by hope and perseverance. Much to contemplate and discuss.
We've heard of the recent atrocities committed in Syria, and while this outstanding novel isn't political, it shows the plight of refugees and the trials political strife can have on families. This is lyrical and maps times past and present in parallel stories as two young girls traverse the Middle East and across North Africa in their quest for home. I reread many passages for their beauty. This is an amazing debut from a talented new author. This requires a bit of focus at the beginning but I was captivated and you will be too. Good if you liked the Kite Runner and magical novels of exotic places.
Part fantasy, part fairy tale - plain good story! January, whose father is off on an adventure with a mission, lives a sheltered life until she discovers her power to write her own story. The authors use of doors and how they can be accessed by stories is great. This is full of imagination and adventure and shows the power of books and how love conquers all. Good if you liked The Night Circus.
Here's a good story of friendship - girls from different backgrounds and with someone as old as your grandfather. Also, good if you like feel good stories with a dog. Good for girls who love but have outgrown Ivy and Bean.
Empowering story about women, culture and class in India and how the country is rapidly modernizing. An inspiring reminder of the power of love and the strength of spirit in difficult circumstances. Although not necessary I feel this will be most enjoyed by those whove read The Space Between Us.
A fun, entertaining read. 1920's with art heists, con men, obsession, love and some real-life characters. As lush and colorful as the paintings described in this fast-paced story. Good unreliable narrator and characters. Entertaining!
Break out the processco and get ready for a fun read. Isolde is 60, sexy, feisty and has a nose for adventure. Murder, sun, Euro flair all in a lighthearted mystery set in Sicily. Think racy, quirky Miss Marble!
With the feeling of Dr. Zhavigo and Corelli's Mandolin this is a fabulous story of love, war and medicine. Winter soldier takes us to a make-shift hospital where we view horrific conditions and are shown the complexities of WWI. The shining part of the story is the strong character development - an excellent look at guilt and atonement. Wonderful writing that captures the tragedies of war but also the beauty of small mercies. A literary masterpiece but not for the faint-of-heart.
This is an emotional ride. There is a quiet desperation in the broken characters that makes them human and heartbreaking. Excellent writing especially how the back story is revealed and the differing points of view. Dubus offers neither judgement nor forgiveness but shows the consequences of violence. Asks the question - How do we live with our mistakes? Much to talk about.
Here's is a fictional tale around the shameful true story of child abduction and exploitation. Told in present day and 1939. Rill fights to keep her siblings together and safe, while Avery uncovers dark family secrets. I found this a bit predictable but compelling. Explores themes of family and appalling corruption. Good if you liked Lilac Girls.
A young mothers life is interrupted when her writer husband goes missing. She and her daughters try to continue with their life plan of living in Paris or is the husband planning for them? Do they really see him around corners, across the Pont Nuef? Has he left clues in their French bookstore? This is a story of coming to terms with abandonment and self-discovery with great parallels to classic French stories. A literary romance/mystery.
I found this so believable I wanted it to be true! Lawson does a fabulous job in this clever novel. The linear/non-linear chapters and structure of the narrative really works and adds tension and anticipation. I found the tone pitch perfect. This is a brilliant, complex tale of possibilities and hard to put down. Great historical mystery!
Tom wants a normal life, but his is anything but...he's 400 years old! Tom takes us back and forth across centuries; we met great historical characters and experience dramatic changes in the world. We feel his loneliness, loss and love. Fun, clever speculative fiction. Good if you liked Discovery of Witches, Time and Again or The Little Book.
I knew this was a good book as I was sad when I finished. This is the story of women and motherhood, the pain of unhappy parents and childhood, mothers who don't mother and women that do. I fell in love with the young girls in the story. Excellent writing and strong feeling of place. Good if you like stories about forging a home in other cultures and finding family.
A story of betrayal and friendship. Excellent introduction to American Interments camps during WWII. Outstanding writing that we have come to know from Monica Hesse.
Minza seamlessly weaves people and time into a beautiful tale of a family caught between cultures and the rocky road they navigate. It is very insightful into a Muslim Indian American family after 911. Explores honest and complex feeling, beliefs and values both personal and religious. I thought this was lovely, heartbreaking and heartwarming. Shows that as Americans we are more alike than we are different.
Satisfying little gem of a book with a fast-moving plot and vivid characters. At the core its a love story that shows the ironies of war. I found this full of suspense, action and even a bit of humor. Good if you liked Skeletons at the Feast and City of Thieves.
Wild, arid and teeming with corruption; two brothers face the harsh realities of life in the 1880s Australian outback. Great descriptive writing! A tale of revenge, guilt, survival and how to be human. I found this savagely beautiful and loved it. Will be one of the best of 2018.
Bold, timely and well written speculative fiction on the lives of women whose choices are restricted. Zumas explores the consequences of making abortion illegal through the eyes of five very different women. The writing is a bit experimental but I feel it works extremely well and by removing the women as subjects it shows their roles in society. It is an easy-to-read complex book of motherhood, identity and fertility issues.
Get ready for a romp. Classic outstanding English humor with lots of heart and quirky dysfunctional families. An easy festive read. Good if you like Jojo Moyes, or the movies Death at a Funeral or Love Actually. Very solid and enjoyable.
How would you live your life if you knew when it would end? Four siblings grapple with this haunting question in different ways. Thought provoking and conceptually well written where the moral and central themes tie together. Benjamin explores existential questions in everyday life. Fate vs. chance vs. free will. Some strong sexual content. Great for discussion!
A charming easy-read about the historic English gunner girls during WWII with lots of romance. Contemporary parallel story weaves together past and present with a good amount of mystery thrown in. Great characters who share love and hope. Good if you liked Lilac Girls.
Invented Lives is the story of exile: exile from country and exile from self. Galina is an orphaned Russian who arrives in Australia in the 1980's. She becomes involved with an underlyingly complicated family who are all hiding secrets. The characters are interesting, human and like the title are inventing their lives. I especially appreciated the themes of identity, loneliness, and love. This is a thoughtful novel about starting anew and reminds readers of the importance of connection and belonging.
Adventures in the untamed Old West. Outlaws, crooked politicians and an engaging multi-dimensional sharp-shooter makes for a great read. Excellent depiction of the harshness of life on the Western Frontier and the gritty lawless people who inhabit it. Has themes of coming-of-age, gender ambiguity, loyalty and loss and shows how love can cross lines of race and class. Expect a movie! Highly recommended.
This is a bit crime novel, a bit adventure story, a tale of redemption and a journey of hope and discovery all bottled up in FANTASTIC book. When a distraught mother of two takes to the road and collides with mobster Frank who knows too much about the JFK's assignation things really heat up.
Explorer Kate Harris writes part memoir, part history lesson, part science exploration. Great narrative writing filled with sentiment, a bit of humor and excellent pacing make this a reading journey to savor. Kate reminds us the World is wild and full of wonder. Highly recommended and good if you liked It's What I Do.
This slow-burning thriller has great sense of time and place. It feels like prose of the 1880's yet fast-paced. As in Gentleman in Moscow I fell in love with the main character, Brodie. The passionate pursuit of love at all costs. One to savor!
Marie Benedict again brings to light the unknown interesting life of a fascinating woman. Hedy Lamar is stunning and smart. A natural actress and a knock-out Hedy catches the eye of a devious, ambitious Fritz. As Austria gets drawn into Nazi reign things heat up; Hedy escapes and Hollywood snatches her up. Meanwhile she devises a communications devise that proves she is more than a pretty face. Well written and a great read.
Although this is a story based around the AIDS epidemic in the 1980's at heart it is a story of redemption, connection and whom you call family. Excellent characters and shows how tragic illness forever alters lives. I found this moving and thoughtful.
When I'm in the mood for a beach/vacation read I often turn to Beatriz Williams. There is always romance, intrigue, and scandals without being fluffy. Summer Wives may be my favorite to date. New England charming locale (think Fisher Island), a main character whose voice speaks straight to you, handsome boy, family secrets - just right for escape reading. Great audio narration too.
Amazing rendering of a journey to asylum after tragic loss. This is beautifully written with flashbacks and dreams; I found the connection between chapters wonderful and very effective. Nuri is navigating passage to England with his injured wife but slowly I realized his wounds are deep as well. Good if You Liked The Life of Pi. Very moving!
Romance on the French Rivera! Pure glamour, lost love and second chances. Easy to devour, fun to get lost in while dreaming of the glorious sights and smells of the sunny Cote d'Azur.
Whitehead is one of America's great storytellers. Here he recounts the long-hidden horrid history of a Florida reform school thru the eyes of Elwood and Turner. Elwood lives by the rules, idolizes MLK and is bound for college but ends up learning street rules from wise, cynic Turner. I loved the weaving narrative, and was captured by this incredible story (fabulous ending). Excellent audio too.
I wasn't quite sure what to think initially but I grew to love Inland. It's a very different type of Western story, full of ghosts, interesting complex characters, a Calvary of camels and fabulous writing. Two lives not quite interwoven struggle to survive drought, disappearing family members, a Marshall with a mission, and bully land-owners. I was especially surprised how much I liked Lurie. I loved Obreht's 1st novel, The Tigers Wife, and think she is a master of magical realism and brilliant at imagery. Inland is a bit like a Coen Brothers film - off-beat but well done.
I have found Lynne Olson to be a fabulous historian and thorough researcher, and her book of Fourcade is no different. Olson explores not only the French Resistance but explains the role of the Vichy government as well as British MI6 and the Allies invasion of France. There is plenty of great narrative which creates cinematic tension and easy reading. This is a great companion to many recently published books about the role of women during WWII and a must read for history buffs.
This is a very personal story for the author and she has poured her heart into it. Family secrets, love and loss with lots of twists. This has the feel of a mystery but with lots of psychological human tangles. Shows the realities of being an immigrant family in today's world and how others often see us differently than we see ourselves.
Estes effectively links the Civil War and current conflicts in her novel about women serving our country in the military. Well-crafted characters and excellent battle descriptions. Shows the scars of PTSD and how unearthing history can help resolve conflict and can ultimately saves you. Great book club choice.
An easy to read tale especially if you like good wine, luscious landscapes, a bit of romance, family secrets, pulled together with WWII history. Although a few relationships are underdeveloped this is tender-hearted, well-paced, and a page-turner.
Piccoult is again bold and daring in A Spark of Light. She attacks social issues head on; shows many viewpoints and moral complexities. Here we have differing voices representing a cross-section of America on the issue of abortion. This is full of drama and parallel stories and is another key book that will lead to important discussions. A page-turner too!
Zusak is a literary genius. Themes of loss, grief and love ring true throughout this sweeping monumental book. I felt the pacing and interlacing stories was integral to the feel, but it does take some concentration at the beginning. Shows the unbreakable bond between brothers, how they deal with the loss of extraordinary women, and how to bridge forgiveness. Heartbreaking beautiful!
When I want a good story to get lost in Adriana Trigiana fills the bill. Here big Italian personalities come to life and sing their way into your heart. Sweeping saga of big band era, post war boom and womens lib. Heartfelt, endearing love story!
<p>I loved Lulu, she's feisty, resourceful, determined and a great narrator. As in all of William's books she does a good job of weaving stories and points of views (you might even recognize a couple of characters from previous works) in a historical intriguing page-turner. There's a bit of a puzzle, espionage and bonds of love. I always consider William's books great summer/vacation reads, but they are not fluff. This has the feel of a classic movie. Fun!</p>
I feel in love with Odie and The Vagabonds and was swept up in their Odyssey canoeing rivers to new beginnings, new friends and their escape from bad conditions. This is full of great characters, spiritual revelations and wonderful, kind, big-hearted everyday heroes. Their journey teaches them who they are and whom to consider family. I was reminded of Steinbeck, Dickens and Twain – there’s a little of Oliver and Huck in Odie. And just like Odie, Krueger is a master storyteller, his writing shines and carries the reader along with the characters. This is downright a great read and destined to be an American classic.
Sepetys does it again - another great historical novel. Here she introduces readers to life in 1957 Spain under the repressive regime of General Franco. There are four characters who you'll care about, just the right amount of romance, and shows the importance of seeking truth and justice.
LOVED this! From the first gripping sentence this Southern debut is pitch-perfect. This is a story about women, the heartaches and oppression they endure; about how women find strength and save themselves and each other. Excellent characters and vivid depiction of pre-depression rural life. I found this impossible to put down and outstanding.
Excellent depiction of post WWII Japan and the little known tragic fate of children born of American servicemen and Japanese women. There is lots to pull at your heartstrings and is an interesting look at Japanese culture. In the vein of Before We were Yours. Hard-to-put-down!
Neighborhood drama that will make you smile and shake your head. Lots of clever satire! Excellent characterization and differing voices. Explores relationships, friendships, suburban development, belonging and modern-day communities. Has an Ann Taylor feel and good if You Liked Little Fires Everywhere.
Moyes's gift as a writer is creating quirky likeable characters in easy-to-read good literature. There is not as much humor as some of her novels but plenty of loveable characters. Themes of well-meant deception, money and status and complexities of marriage are wrapped up with just the right amount of sappiness to make this a very satisfying "chick-lit" read.
If you liked Hum... you'll love Marais's 2nd novel. (And if you haven't read either do so.) It's the 1990s, a unique time in South African history both hopeful and heartbreaking. If You Want to Make God Laugh has great distinct voices and differing points of view that immediately drew me into the lives of Ruth, Dee, and Zodwa. Marais writes humanely of her native country and its people. This examines race, public health, motherhood, family and other issues we seem to be continually dealing with. This is full of heart and excellent!
I was moved to tears at the end of Travel Light, Move Fast. Alexander Fuller's books about her family and growing up in Zimbabwe and Zambia are my all-time favorite memoirs. Her writing is enchantingly descriptive and beautiful. She brings levity into often bleak situations and she never minces words about slightly crazy family members. In this new story Fuller revisits her fathers life after his sudden death. Tim Fuller had a great zest for life and adventure and although I had a much different upbringing I was reminded of my fathers love of simplicity, toughness, and his stewardship of land. My heart was full for many reasons while reading this and I loved every moment.
X-rated Great Gatsby. Young, naive honeymooners meet the usually drunk, scandalous neighbors and are lead down the path of temptation and debauchery. Sex-filled and graphic, so not for all, but the writing is excellent and the voice compelling. I found myself blushing but wanting to see how Henry and Effie's lives would turn out.
I was very excited to get Love and Lemons Everyday as I use her first cookbook a lot. This is just as good with beautiful photos, simple and healthy ingredients and delicious recipes. Favorites so far are: Zucchini Verde Enchiladas, Broccoli Rice Black Bean Burritos, Quinoa Veggie Balls, Gem Salad, Lemon Mist Spring Soup, and Date Balls. Trying a new recipe every week. YUM!
Heartbreaking! A friendship stretched taunt and fractured by WWII. Ilse and Renata are young girls in Berlin when the Nazis come into power and their youth is cut short. This depicts differing points of view with deftness and shows how some Germans got caught up in Nazi propaganda. The multiple storylines work extremely well due to Epstein's superb writing. This is a wrenching top-notch stay-up-late great story.
I fell in love with this ambitious novel of four siblings - their intertwining lives and loves. They hold each other up, share or keep secrets and have strong bonds that carry and burden them throughout life. It is beautiful and intimate. Similar to The Immoralists but I think this will be accessible to more readers. Compelling and wonderful!
Big Italian family, big Italian characters, and big personalities. This is an American immigrant story, messy at times, full of secrets, slights and injustices. Epic family drama that tells of life battles won and lost and the extraordinary ability the family has to survive each other.
Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll. If you were a concert goer in the 70's or listen to the classic rock station you will love this. It reads or listens like a tell-all documentary. I loved the non-traditional narration, the raw intensity and the imperfect characters. The audio is outstanding and addictive!
I was hooked by the first page. This historical novel highlights a profound friendship, family, and shows how an immigrant American family was treated as the enemy during WWII and eventually sent to Germany. The strength lies in Elise and her life story. She brings a fresh perspective and voice - she never lets the atrocities she sees break her spirit. This adult novel is appropriate for young adults branching into adult fiction. I found this an engrossing easy-read and just the right amount of sappy.
The Guest Book is an epic, sweeping, multi-generation novel with the feel of Steinbeck or Fitzgerald. It's full of family secrets, love, loss and death. History, politics, and race are issues addressed in this work of moral dilemmas; it shows change in social issues and attitudes. The writing is both stunning and poetic and the boiling undercurrent of emotion created great tension. Loved it!
This is a story of English women who history wasn't allowed to remember. A real page-turner, stay-up-late book about a brave ring of undercover spies send to occupied France to derail and sabotage German plans. Based on true events; with a bit of romance and mystery this is great historical fiction.
My favorite McLain book. Marty is complicated and fascinating, a ground-breaker in journalism; she is considered one of the most important war correspondents of the 20th century. I loved her voice throughout. McLain shows the ups and downs of her marriage to Hemmingway and paints an independent, brave and ambitious woman who follows her dreams through a mans world. Read it even if you are tired of Hemmingway.
I thoroughly enjoyed this much anticipated companion to Moloka'i. The focus is on Ruth and her loving adoptive Japanese family. They face racial prejudice and internment after Pearl Harbor. Her reunion with her mother (Rachel from previous book) is touching. Don't worry if you don't remember details of MolokaI or never read it - this is a historical novel full of heart, hope, and family.
I both listened and read this and felt as though I was sitting in the best history class ever - taught by the sage and impressive Madeleine Albright. She is a keen observer and delivers an easy-to-understand look at leaders who have threatened democracy. Her concluding questions are thoughtful and serves as excellent starting points for discussion. Outstanding!
An engaging historical fiction/love story with a fun twist. Jillian Cantor did a superb job of capturing my heart and transporting me back and forth in time and location. Shows how the past impacts the future and how strong love can transcend time. Hard to put down and I loved it!
Heartbreaking, multigenerational novel of a Korean family who has relocated to Japan. This shines light on a lost slice of history and it celebrates ingenuity, perseverance, culture, and family. Shows what immigrates sacrifice to make a home in the world. If Dickens were writing now this would be the result.
Yeah, another great read from Lisa See. Here we follow the life of Young-sook, a Korean diver. Not only does this expertly cover her friendships, family-life and the fascinating profession of free-diving but is a great perspective of Korea's turbulent history. I loved the testing of friendships, the strengths of women and the richly developed characters. Great historical fiction!
Themes of guilt, regrets, and shame are center in this engrossing novel. It is a well-written story of survival in dangerous circumstances. The dynamics between characters is extremely well portrayed as well as the grey shades of morality. Serious and thoughtful!
I was immediately immersed in the early 1900's and the world of socialite Eliza, Royal Russian Sofya, and peasant Varinka. These are strong, determined woman living through extraordinary circumstances and their stories are cleverly intertwined. This is a standalone but you will recognize the daughter, Caroline, from Lilac Girls. This is engrossing historical fiction at its finest and I liked it more than Lilac Girls.
Complex, unreliable characters, clever plot, compelling writing and a humdinger of a twist although the signs were telling. This is a great debut psychological thriller. Pick it up and stay up all night!
Genuine and honest! Michelle shares her childhood, life in the White House and the time in-between with grace and class. Shows how important character is and the importance of surrounding yourself with good people. I found myself wanting every young adult and young parent to read this. How to be a conscientious American!
You'll laugh along as Noah shows you what life is like growing up in South Africa. This gives great exposure to another culture as well as some hilarious adventures and heartfelt relationships. Very good!
I loved this historic novel told through distinctively different characters. Storylines are wonderfully woven together, the plot excellent, the imagery cinematic and the history, especially the Russian pilots, fascinating. I found this better than her earlier work, The Alice Network, and hard to put down.
Kate is back and I was racing abound Paris with her hot on the trail of terrorists, assassins, computer attacks - or are they? Unputdownable! Pavone is a brilliant suspense storyteller and Kate a wonderful, complicated character. Make sure you've read Expats and pick this up immediately.
This cinematic debut is all ROMANCE. Easy-reading and likeable, sympathetic characters in a satisfying read. For those who believe in love at first sight and true love. Good if you like Bridget Jones Diary or the movie Love Actually.
Follows three generations of women in the family their lives, loves, regrets. Lots of themes: infidelity, addiction, illness and the repetition of mistakes. Will lead to great discussion. Very Ann Tylerish.
Great prose and spot on language drew me in immediately and as always Atkinson's writing delivered. I found this an original WWII story with a bit of English wit and a political warning thrown in - Nationalism is the first step on the road to Fascism. Fans of her previous works will not be disappointed.
Based on interviews with Lale Sokolov, Morris has written a compelling and unforgettable love story that shows the atrocities of the famed concentration camp as well as hope, humanity and generosity of spirit. Good for both men and woman, young and old. Recommended if you liked Lilac Girls or Beneath the Scarlet Sky.
Bryan Stevenson is a stone catcher and saint. Just Mercy tells of his law practice and work to assist people who have been unjustly tried, sentenced and jailed. He fights abusive power, poverty and despair. Very moving. Good reading for adults too.
The years leading up to the civil war are expertly depicted through the eyes of Livvie and her brothers who have just arrived from Ireland. They must confront slavery and deal with injustices and their own morals as they forge their paths in America. Different and hard to put down.
An easy-read girlfriend thriller. Two non-reliable narrators navigate complex and tragic situations and their volatile relationship. The setting is lush 1950's Tangier. This has a bit of a Shakespearean feel crossed with Gone Girl suspense. Expect a movie.
A poignant story set in the 30's and 40's including interesting American-front WWII history. A hard-to-put-down story with themes of betrayal, jealousy and loyalty. Good portrayal of estranged siblings each harboring a secret and their differing perspectives held throughout their lives. Good if you liked My Brilliant Friend.
I like to read short stories slowly (usually in between novels) to savor their complex beauty. These stories are some of the best I've ever read. Hits of humor, coming-of age, relationships, some a bit edgy. I found this creative, eclectic and brilliant - although not surprising coming from Hanks.
Here's a tender love story set around the Great Depression. Likable characters with grit and morals. Easy reading with historically details and substance. For fans of Once We were Yours.
With a very English feel and excellent war time Blitz descriptions Girl with No Name is a heartwarming story. The frightening journey of a Jewish child sent to London during WWII in hopes of survival. This is an excellent Young Adult choice or for those who are ready for an easy read to get lost in.
Crawdads is a unique compelling coming-of-age survival story with a good mystery setting. It is also a beautiful explorations of nature. Owens is a wildlife scientist and her lyrical writing of the North Carolina shore will awaken your senses. The analogies between nature and life are excellent. Owens has also created one of the strongest characters I've encountered, Kya. I longed to get back to reading and being drawn into Kya's world yet didn't want it to end. Outstanding in every way! Good if you liked Poisonwood Bible or Secret Wisdom of the Earth.
Delightful, heartwarming and FUN. I love the diversity of Hoffman she is a great storyteller. This is a great easy read to get lost in. Excellent characters infused with historical and personal events in an odd type of love story. Will appeal to the little bit of magic in all of us. Unputdownable!
A well-researched different type of meandering historically fiction. Explores the impact of WWII on women and loss. Scenes in the Naval Yard and ocean survival are compelling and strong; I found Anna a wonderful complex character and the added bit of mystery a bonus. I often like when the reader knows more than the main character. I appreciated the depictions of the sea and how Egan uses it as a character.
This book follows the parallel lives of seven Camp Ritchie boys, from their immigration to America early in WWII, their enlistment into the Army, training in military intelligence, returning to Europe during Normandy and subsequent invasions, interrogation of German POWs, the discovery of the concentration camps and finally the search for their Jewish relatives. Well written and researched.
Taken from real-life events and WWII heroines, Lilac Girls shows atrocities from the Holocaust not well known. Told through three differing women all with a unique voice. Accessible for many readers.
A look at what a future America might be like during and after a second civil war. Brilliant writing and thought provoking. Many themes - creating a terrorist, manipulation, loyalty - surround the reader in this hard-to-put-down dystopia tale. Omar El Akkad is a journalist turned novelist who understands the extremes of civil war, acts of despair and the atrocities people can project on others. I found myself sympathetic with characters I didn't think I would, unsettled but entranced. This is an intense look at war and damage it causes. Good if you liked The Road by McCarthy.
I love the lushness of a good African tale. While this is set around the horror of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda it is about how sorrow and pain are broken through by goodness and forgiveness. Many themes are brought in: motherhood, civil rights, abandonment, loss, grief, the effects of violence and vengeance. I loved the writing, the diversity of characters, the pace and how secrets were revealed throughout. Every single part of this book is excellent. Great literary read with lots of substance and much to discuss.
Easy fun read of endearing characters in 1920s New York. Real-life Colonel Jacob Ruppert wrapped up alluring fiction.
Wow! Amazing writing from a fresh new talent raised in extraordinary circumstances. Somehow Westover is bold enough to rise above her wild upbringing; while being torn with family loyalty and duty she discovers who she is, who she was and who she can be. This is a stunning inspiring story that is so well told I am in complete awe. Unforgettable! Great audio too!
Excellent suspense-mystery-thriller ...but more than that...a polished, yet gritty literary exploration of loss, friendship and the quest for truth. Strong character development and writing. Hart is a master storyteller.
Jodi Picoult's books take serious social issues and packs them with a punch. Great Small Things deals with race through three different narrators: a black nurse, a white supremacist, and a public defender working on the first big case of her career. This is told with brutal honesty and lots of heart there were times I was uncomfortable, parts that got under my skin. This is Picoult at her best and a great audio! This quote from the author sums it up - "I wrote it because I believed it was the right thing to do, and because the things that make us most uncomfortable are the things that teach us what we all need to know.
Mokhtar is likeable and his story interesting. I've always appreciated Egger's biographies and writing. I'll taste coffee with a new appreciation -- it is amazing that a cup doesn't cost $50.
An easy-to-read honest memoir of growing up in Kentucky and Ohio. Gives great insight to this regions families struggles and mind set. I loved J.D. he is smart, intuitive, and would be wonderful addition to a relevant conversation. The writing of this was timely and I appreciated his perception.
At times funny, at times sad this is the story of an elderly woman looking back on her life that is permanently scarred by WWII. She is a tough-as-nails, unsentimental narrator with a quick wit. I found this tragic, occasionally brilliant although somewhat scattered. Herras life is tragic but she lives by her own terms. Very Icelandic/Scandinavian in feel. Good if you like slightly different literary reads.
Interesting and relevant book. A look back at key women and components of WWII that changed the course of the war. Young women were recruited to work with the Army and Navy as code breakers. This story, and the identities of the code girls, was classified for years. Mundy blends stories of the women and their working conditions with war history, including the rivalry between the Navy and the Army; the author does an amazing job of making this an interesting read.
GREAT captivating story in the vein of Unbroken! Based on the life of Pino Lello during WWII. Pino is a normal teenager in Milan when the war tests his strength, faith and loyalty. Full of car chases, daring mountain escapes, evil Nazis and Fascists, love and secrets. Sullivan did plenty of research and although I found his writing a bit simple I couldn't put this down. Great audio too!