These are just a few of the books I’ve read lately.
PATCHWORK OF ME by Gregory G. Allen. To be released April 15, 2012. A rather gripping story of a woman who is on a quest to find the answers of her sketchy past. Sara Butler is damaged, shuttled from one foster home to the next. She suffers from disturbing dreams that could be the key to her past. This book is the journey to finding herself. Great read.
A LIFE OF BRIGHT IDEAS by Sandra Kring. Second installment (I did not read the first book, THE BOOK OF BRIGHT IDEAS, but I will), follows Button and Winnalee nine years after the first book. By this time, they are 18, it’s 1970, and the two, though close friends, have grown in decidedly different directions. Sandra Kring does a fine job of transporting us to small town Wisconsin at the end of the hippie era. This book is the Steel Magnolias of the upper Midwest. A fabulously full ensemble cast of characters, each with unique foibles and problems. Read it.
THE GOODBYE QUILT by Susan Wiggs. A sweet piece about a mother and daughter road trip. Daughter is going all the way across country (from Wyoming) to go to college. Wiggs does a fine job of capturing the maternal angst of seeing your child grow up and fly out of the nest. As I have also made cross-country road trips to deliver my kids to college, Wiggs has the competing and conflicting emotions of both mother and child down pat. Yes, I cried. On the plane.
THE CASTAWAYS by Elin Hilderbrand. Greg and Tess are killed in a horrible boating accident, leaving their friends and family to wonder if the illusion of the perfect couple was true. While they mourn their loss, we see doubt come to the fore, the realization that there’s a lot of unknown ugly under the surface. A very riveting read.
STARTED EARLY, TOOK MY DOG by Kate Atkinson. Kate Atkinson is English, and it’s been a long time since I’ve read anything by a modern English author. The slang took a little getting used to, but the story is compelling enough to ignore that minor glitch. This mystery-crime novel (hard to pigeonhole into one genre, as the author is quick to admit) following Jackson Brodie (fourth in a series, but the book stands alone), private detective. His nosing around to find the birth mother of an Australian client leads to a parallel story line, one that doesn’t make much sense until the big reveal at the end. Then…ah-ha! Needless to say, I was hooked beginning to end.
ONE WEEK IN DECEMBER by Holly Chamberlain. Troubled woman who as a teenager gave her daughter up to her older brother to adopt, she decides she’s going to take the family Christmas vacation to reclaim what she thinks is rightfully hers. Full of emotion and family drama.
HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET by Jamie Ford. I read this on Kindle! On my EVO! Aside from the fact that I was blown over by my ability to find the Kindle app on my cell phone (a complete coincidence), this is a story that spans the decades from World War II to the present. In heavily segregated Seattle of 1942, a Chinese-American boy meets and befriends a Japanese-American girl, a definite no-no for his strict and prejudiced father. His first love, they are torn apart by war, but he’s never forgotten her. When he learns the Paradise Hotel is being opened for the first time since the war, he makes a beeline for the place where he had hidden his girlfriend’s family treasures. Thanks to his son’s resourceful girlfriend, he locates his long lost love.
HOW TO BE AN AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE by Margaret Dilloway. This surprisingly sweet book is told in tandem: on one hand, it’s the story of a Japanese war bride who relates her struggles as a military wife in her new country. It’s also about a modern Japanese-American woman (her daughter) who has challenges of her own, including being a single mom. The two seem to be at loggerheads during most of the book, until the daughter must take a trip to Japan for her mother’s death kimono. Since I am also half-Japanese, of a military family, this book resounded with me.
THE RAISING by Laura Kasischke. My new favorite author (from Michigan, no less!) describes a twisted tale of the occult, secrets, lies, and murder, all set on a small Michigan university campus (U of M? Where Ms. Kasischke teaches?). Just when you think the tale is headed in one direction, namely zombie-ghost-raising, it takes a sinister turn toward ordinary murder. I liked IN A PERFECT WORLD better, but this book is expertly written and completely riveting.
THE MAP OF TRUE PLACES by Brunonia Barry. Talk about a tale with more twists and turns than a hemlock tree, poor Zee is raised in an uber-dysfunctional family, and we don’t know why until the last few pages of the book (leading to an “ah-ha!” moment – very satisfying). In between is a fiance, another romance, a parent sliding into dementia, and Zee’s own therapy, enlightening because she happens to be a therapist. All I could say afterward was “wow!” and I mean it.
FAULT LINES by Anne Rivers Siddons. Here again, I bought the book because of its cover, a shot of the Golden Gate Bridge, but I was not disappointed. (I rarely am.) Merritt, our heroine, starts out in Atlanta and decides to bolt for the West Coast, following her daughter to Hollywood. There’s also husband trouble. Merritt meets a man in the hills south of San Francisco, there’s a devastating earthquake, lover dies, husband (and sons) save the day. It’s all good.
READY! by Lydia Ondrusek. The first short in the series THE KING OF THE MARSHMALLOWS. I’m not normally a consumer of middle grade reading material since my own children are in their twenties, but I have to give a vigorous thumb’s up for this short. (Spoiler alert: I personally know Lydia and she’s been a great friend/Little Fluffy Cat/writing coach, but that’s not why I’m reviewing her work, nor was I paid to do so.) The first in a series of short stories, Ready! explores the Mark’s world. An Asperger’s child, Mark is challenged by “regular” school, and slightly annoyed when his mom suggests a new “outside” activity, Taekwondo.
Having had my own child with Asperger-y type symptoms, I can strongly relate to Mark’s (and his mom’s) frustration with schoolwork. I can see this story being beneficial to any child who may have a learning disability, and even to those who don’t.
BLOCK! is the second in the acclaimed (by ME, of course) series by Lydia Ondrusek, aka Little Fluffy Cat. Unlike the first installment, this is the story of twins, Tim who has Asperger’s and his sister Erin, who acts as his buffer. Unfortunately, Erin has problems of her own, in the form of a Mean Girl who makes snide comments that fly over Tim’s head and who is also physically abusive to Erin. (This part I found disturbing.) Erin takes it (and takes it, and takes it) until she loses it, fighting back and ending up in in-school suspension. Poor Tim reacts but doesn’t realize the consequences of his actions, and ends up next to her. (That part I found sweet.)
CHOCOLATE AND VICODIN by Jennette Fulda. The story of one woman’s two year headache and the lengths she goes to find an answer to her pain. Honestly told and vividly, too – I myself got a headache after reading the first three chapters. As a person who suffers chronic pain (carpal tunnel) and who know people who endure killer, debilitating migraines, this journey to relief is no news. Sometimes there are no solutions and you just have to deal with it.
THIS GLITTERING WORLD by T. Greenwood. Told from a man’s point of view, this novel explores passion, love fading, and love strengthening. I was annoyed with the protag at first, but he redeemed himself in the end.
HAPPY HOUR AT CASA DRACULA by Marta Acosta. If you scroll down my reading list, you will see that I actually read the fourth in the series first. This is because Simon and Schuster sent me a copy gratis. Even though paranormal romance is not my first genre of choice, I read it. (Free is free. WHEE!) Ms. Acosta is quite entertaining, and although I’m not familiar with the vampire world, her writing entices the reader to fall into her world – a great thing. I read it cover to cover without pause.
THE MANDOLIN CASE by Tom Bibey. I happen to know Dr. B, since finding and following his blog on WordPress. He’s a Southern doctor with an easy style of writing, welcoming and familiar, just as I am sure he is in real life. He also plays a mean mandolin, and has rubbed elbows with some of bluegrass music’s stars. I’ll have to admit, I read his manuscript before it was published as well. 🙂 His characters are based on real-life patients and doctors, his fabulous wife, Marfar, and his golfing buddies.
IN A PERFECT WORLD by Laura Kasischke. Oh my God. A gripping page-turner. I couldn’t put the book down! Imagine a modern working woman thrust into a family with dreaded stepchildren who don’t want her. But that’s not the worst of it. There’s a pandemic, her airline pilot husband — also a philanderer — is stuck overseas (for months and months and months), people are dying, the world is collapsing, no money, no gas, no electricity. It’s a survival story with love and relationships intertwined. A MUST read!
UNDRESSING THE MOON by T. Greenwood. This author has the art of the relationship down pat. Loved this book, even though some of the topics (child molestation, abandoned by parents, plus the protag is dying) were uncomfortable bordering on gruesome.
A SOFT PLACE TO LAND by Susan Rebecca White. A complicated tale of two half-sisters who are split up when their parents die in a tragic plane crash over the Grand Canyon. One definitely has her problems. The relationship is strained until the events of 9-11 bring them back together. Partially set in San Francisco, so I liked it.
LOVE IN TRANSLATION by Wendy Tokunaga. White girl travels to Japan in an effort to search for her roots. She discovers the secrets in her past, and also falls in love with a Japanese man. Sweet, very sweet.
ONE SEASON OF SUNSHINE by Julia London. Adopted girl travels from Houston to a small town in Texas looking for her birth mother. She takes a job as a nanny of a dysfunctional household, falls in love with the dad and learns the truth (finally) about her past. I found this read particularly riveting. I’m still thinking about the book.
HAUNTED HONEYMOON by Marta Acosta. My first paranormal. 🙂 I wasn’t sure what to expect, but this is a damned good read. Kept me interested all the way through, even though I’m not one for blood or guts. Set in San Francisco and Napa Valley, so of course, the setting had me hooked from the beginning.
FAST TRACK by John Dedakis. Girl travels to her family home to learn of secrets, including some worth killing over. The only negative of this book was the format (it’s HUGE, looks like a magazine or workbook), but that’s no reflection of the author. I was cheering for the heroine from the first page.
THE OVERTON WINDOW by Glenn Beck. Madison Avenue man is swept into intrigue and alternate power bases. This was an entertaining read, and to be honest, I bought the book because it was touted to be way out there and I had to see for myself. Word to those who haven’t read it: It’s not that far out there. Enjoyable but not the far-right tome some would have you believe.
A WOMAN’S PLACE by Barbara Delinsky. A rather hair-raising account of the marriage of one woman breaking down into little pieces before her eyes. She holds it together through adversity and it all works out in the end, to include a romance with her business partner.
THE OPPOSITE OF ME by Sarah Pekkanen. Sibling rivalry rears its ugly head, but the two sisters (twins, no less) get it together before the end of the book.
NANCY’S THEORY OF STYLE by Grace Coopersmith. It’s set in San Francisco, so of course I had to read it! Nancy Fancy Pants is a high society girl with a rigid rule book on style. A supposedly gay man love interest and the complexities of a four-year-old cousin dropped on her doorstep changes things. Very enjoyable!
THE SCHOOL OF ESSENTIAL INGREDIENTS by Erica Bauermeister. Following the lives and loves of a mix of people enrolled in a cooking class at a local restaurant. Each character has their own story, and each story woven into the larger plot. Good book.
I REALLY SHOULD BE PRACTICING by Gary Grafman. Another one I’ve read numerous times, following the life and career of Mr. Grafman, concert pianist and instructor at the Curtis School of Music in Philadelphia. Did you know that famous concert pianists make mistakes? And on vinyl? God forbid, but Mr. Grafman shows us even the talented are human.
THE YEAR OF FOG by Michelle Richmond. Woman loses boyfriend’s daughter at Ocean Beach (in San Francisco) and spends the next year frantically searching for her. Her passion exceeds that of her boyfriend until it appears that she is the only one looking for the girl. A disarming ending.
SOMEDAY THIS PAIN WILL BE USEFUL TO YOU by Peter Cameron. Too edgy to be considered YA, this explores the life of an intelligent 18-year-old.
THE BEST DAY OF SOMEONE ELSE’S LIFE by Kerry Reichs. Following a serial bridesmaid who strangely shies away from commitment even though she’s a romantic. I kept hoping she would end up with the Canadian in the end, but no…
OUTLIERS by Malcolm Gladwell. A truly inspirational book about the need to practice, practice, practice in order become well-versed at anything. Makes complete sense to me.
ATLAS SHRUGGED by Ayn Rand. Difficult to dive into at first, and monstrously huge, it takes a few chapters before the language of mid-20th Century English makes sense. Once you get to that point, though, you’re hooked.
ON A NIGHT LIKE THIS by Ellen Sussman. Okay, I was hooked by the cover, which features the Golden Gate Bridge. It was a good read nevertheless, delving into life, death, rape and San Francisco.
CATCHING GENIUS by Kristy Kiernan. The relationship between two sisters, one a violinist, the other a hippie throwback, and their mother.
RHYMES WITH WITCHES by Lauren Myracle. YA novel that’s both fun and dark.
THE CONDITION by Jennifer Haigh. A complicated look into a family. Very moving.
MISSING MOM by Joyce Carol Oates. Another look into the lives of two sisters who are forced to face their relationship after their mother is murdered.
FAMILY TREE by Barbara Delinsky. Poignant, quick read, about what suspicion and lies can do to a family.
IMAGINARY ENEMY by Julie Gonzalez. YA. Following the life of ‘plain’ Jane and an imaginary enemy she blames her life’s misfortune on.
THE INEXTINGUISHABLE SYMPHONY by Martin Goldsmith. True story about Mr. Goldsmith’s family of talented musicians, who at first agreed to stay in Nazi Germany to play in a state orchestra, but who later fled. Very heartbreaking. I’ve read it several times.
BEACH MUSIC by Pat Conroy. Exquisitely told, I could imagine myself as a fly on the wall.