Tuesday, June 12, 2018

"Every Last One"

my take: As I was readying my Kindle for a two week vacation (PACKING LIGHT BECAUSE BOOKS ARE BETTER), I spied this novel in an e-book email offering. Long ago reads from Ms. Quindlen were great ... could this cheap-o unknown be any good? For $1.99 could I go wrong?

Yes. No.

The characters and situation seem so plausible that when the unthinkable happened, it deeply affected me. I'd 100% bought into the life of the Latham family as told by Mary Beth, mother of three teenagers. The everyday minutia of managing a household, children with various issues, and a landscaping business made me think it could be my own life she was describing. So. Ordinary. I thought the story was about the kids' problems. Until the real story started.

Wow.

Startling. Wrenching. A ripped-from-the-headlines kind of story that left its mark on me. Unsettling because tragedy is visited upon people not like ourselves, right?

my source: Anna Quindlen a Book Bub bargain? Yes, please.

my verdict: Four out of five stars


Friday, March 2, 2018

"What Happened"

my take: With humor and lots of articulate sentences, Hillary Clinton describes her experience of running in and losing the 2016 election. And does she have words! And is she meticulous! It's a big book.

The chapter on the fake news, trolling and bots is especially interesting. She tells of her relationship with Putin and how she was preparing to deal with the fallout of the meddling and future encounters. As a former Secretary of State she has a command of not only the facts, the players, and the magnitude of the problem, she has skills for leading the country through the mess. If only.

She takes responsibility for what mistakes she made and lays out a convincing argument for the part Russia, James Comey, the circus mentality of the media, and other factors played in the election outcome (including Bernie supporters) ... and THOSE DAMN EMAILS (chapter title).

As a society, we're much more comfortable with men talking of their prowess and conquests. If you are not used to a woman confidently sharing her strengths and accomplishments, this book will feel foreign, odd. Likely there are groups of people who crucified her for bragging.

The chapter on election night was poignant and hard to read because it brought back that night so clearly for me. I shall never forget where I was, with whom I shared the evening, even what I wore. Her final chapters called "Love and Kindness" and "Onward Together" are fantastic.

I give her credit for the optimism and kindness she shows throughout the book. A private person by nature, she opens a few windows to see into her world for the last few years. I, for one, wish things had happened differently, wish her well, and am eager to see how her Onward Together movement grows.

my source: Target shopping impulse buy

my verdict: I laughed, I cried, I came away a better person. 4.5 stars ... some parts were a little long (overly meticulous?!)


Thursday, January 25, 2018

"Young Jane Young"

my take: As with the best Fun Female Fiction, Young Jane Young serves up an easy to read tale with discussion worthy ideas: aging, mother daughter relationships, marriage, friendship, social acceptance.

A young female intern falls in love with her married, much older, state congressman boss and the repercussions of that affair for herself and the women in her life round out the basic plot.

The story is told from various generations of women - young, old, mothers, 'enemies' - and the reader has the distinct advantage of seeing the event from several sides, even as the reader discovers more 'truths' as each woman's voice is heard.

How does one make a life again when their name, face, and action have been national headlines? (Monika Lewinsky, for example) Is there empathy, grace, derision, or slut-shaming from society?

The role of female relationships in the lives of the characters and how they make their way through life with or without the help of the others was interesting to note and ponder. Very timely in the midst of the #MeToo movement, which seeks to give space for women speak their truth and to create an environment where women support each other.

my source: Daughter Anne. I love it when she makes a recommendation AND hands me the book.

my verdict: Great fast read - I also recommend Gabrielle Zevin's The Storied Life of A.J. Firky
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Saturday, January 13, 2018

"The Husband's Secret"


my take: I like how Ms. Moriarty's characters seem a bit superficial at first, the novel a bit house-wifey ... and then she blows up their world (see cover pic of a pulverized flower) and their humanity breaks into their perfect facade, each character reckoning with their own folly.

What to do when you find a letter in the attic that's addressed to you ... only to be opened on the event of your husband's death? Cecelia finds such an envelope while her husband's on a business trip. Her story line and two others (Rachel and Tess) converge in the local school.

What's okay to keep secret and what do we need to tell are two questions that would be worth discussing after reading.

my source: My sister Jennifer handed this me this one.

my verdict: Good read, especially for vacation. I like the books of hers I've read - fairly easy to get into, though not particularly memorable enough to stand alone in my brain: they're jumbled. But it's a pleasant confusion.

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Tuesday, January 9, 2018

"A Little Life"

my take: This is one of my top picks of 2017. And yet, I hesitate to recommend it.

It's brutal.

A kind of Brothers K ... four young men meet in college and form a diverse, close-knit group. At first it's hard to figure out who is who. With 800+ pages, you have time to get to know each one.

One of the four has had an extraordinarily harsh life. As his story is slowly (thankfully) revealed, layers of evil are unearthed.

Essentially a love story. How love can wound, maim, and nearly kill. And how love can redeem. How messy our earthly love is, even with the best intentions. Not to mention the worst intentions.

The writing is what kept me going. Wow. Beautiful writing of a brutal tale.

my source: top reading lists

my verdict: excellent but difficult read
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Sunday, January 7, 2018

"Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine"

my take: Socially awkward with a very precisely scheduled life, a young woman who knows she the butt of office jokes, Eleanor's solitary existence at first glance is fine. She seems to enjoy her routine and has her basic needs met. She avoids her co-workers, makes astute observations to herself about the lives around her, and gets by with Vodka.

Her life changes when an elderly man collapses on the street near her. With his fall begins the climb up Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs pyramid for our heroine.

The narrative becomes heart-breaking as Eleanor (and the reader) discovers the depth of her loneliness and explores her past trauma. Happily, it's also funny, witty, and heart-warming. Near the end I sensed a small tribute to Sense and Sensibility (<3).

my source: First recommended to me by tennis friend/author Christine. Thanks!

my verdict: Very fine read - highly recommend.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

"Beartown"

my take: This book has it all: Man vs man; Man vs nature; Man vs himself; Sport; Team; Parenting; Neighboring; Secrets; Immigrant integration.

In a small Swedish town that reveres hockey and needs junior hockey to save its economy, boys are being boys and men and women are looking the other way. Until they are forced not to.

This is beautifully written, deeply engrossing, and a bit unsettling. It begins "Late one evening toward the end of March, a teenager picked up a double-barreled shotgun, walked into the forest, put the gun to someone else's forehead, and pulled the trigger. This is the story of how we got there."  Foreshadowing throughout the re-telling creates tension and the edginess of discovering who shoots and who gets shot.

my source: Hubby received for Father's Day. Really, a treat for both parents.

my verdict: One of my best reads for 2017. Great book club book.