All Noelle has ever wanted is a home to call her own, and a family to fill it with, so she’s devastated when she discovers that she can’t have children and her marriage ends in divorce. With her self esteem at a low point, she agrees to take care of her ex-husband’s grouchy mother. Things seem to get worse when she finds out that her brother’s girlfriend is pregnant, and her boss puts pressure on her at work. Noelle meets a musician named Jasper, but that seems to be going nowhere fast. He seems flighty and he still has issues to resolve with a possessive old girlfriend. The only good thing in her life seems to be her dog.Free to a Good Home by Eve Marie Mont is a cute, fun book. It spans a year in the life of veterinary technician Noelle, with a chapter for each month.Noelle is an agreeable, earnest character, but she’s also very frustrating at times. She wanted to please everyone and allowed them to take advantage of her. Sometimes I just wanted to shake her and tell her to stand up for herself. She was also pretty quick to jump to conclusions and I found that frustrating too. Having said that, I really liked the way she grew and learned to love and trust as the book progressed.Noelle’s ex-mother-in-law is a great character, too. She’s grouchy and crusty, but has to learn to accept help from someone she was cruel to in the past. Her growth was fun to watch as well.The story in Free to a Good Home is sweet, but somewhat predictable. It’s not one that will stick with me for a long time, but I did enjoy it while I read it. I think it’s a great light summer read.
Delphine Short, or Finny, as she likes to be called, is “a tough, rascally kid, with a plucky assurance, hair as red as a ripe tomato, a spray of freckles across her nose and cheeks like she’s been splashed with mud.” Finny’s mother is a shallow woman who is worried about appearances and her father is a lawyer who is obsessed with “great men.” Finny’s older brother Sylvan is an agreeable young man who seems to fit in with their parents better than Finny does. One evening when things get to be a little too much for her, Finny “runs away,” and meets Earl, a curious young man who doesn’t live too far from her.Meeting Earl turns out to be a momentous occasion in Finny’s life. When Finny’s mother finds out that she’s kissed Earl, Finny is sent away to a boarding school. Earl, as well as the friends she makes at boarding school, help Finny navigate through life.It’s hard to write much about Finny by Justin Kramon without giving away too much of the story, and it’s a story that’s best revealed a little at a time. Some points of the book felt a little rambling to me, but at the end, I realized it was all part of the journey. The characters are great, even when you don’t like them, and the story line is entertaining and amusing. It almost felt like a modern twist on old fashioned story-telling to me. I was satisfied as I closed Finny for the last time, and my affection for the book has grown the more I’ve thought about it. Justin Kramon is definitely an author to watch for.
My sister reviewed this one for me.Alexa “Lexie” Baill is fourteen years old when this story begins. Her whole life up to this point has been far less than ideal. Her memories of her deceased drug addict mother are mostly of neglect. In the past five years she has lived in seven different foster homes and attended six different schools. The only constant in her life has been her case worker Ms. Watters. One day Ms. Watters tells Lexie she has some good news. She has found a relative of Lexie’s. Her sixty-six year old great aunt, Eva Lange, lives in a Port George trailer park. Aunt Eva doesn’t have much, but she takes Lexie in and gives her love.Jude and Miles Farraday live a very privileged life on exclusive Pine Island. Long married, Jude had had three miscarriages before she finally conceived again. After a difficult pregnancy she delivered twins, Mia and Zach. She becomes a sort of uber-mom determined that her children will know the love that was denied her as a child. Her children are fourteen years old, growing up, ready to enter high school. Jude is such a controlling mother that she even goes so far as to walk her daughter to class on the first day of high school!On that first day of high school Lexie meets first Zach and then Mia. Lexie feels an instant attraction to Zach, but pushes her feelings for him aside when she becomes best friends with Mia. Eventually Lexie and Zach do become a couple and Lexie and Mia remain best friends. That is until a terrible tragedy tears everything and everyone apart.This is the second Kristin Hannah novel I’ve read and what I find really striking about her writing is the raw emotion. From the ominous prologue onward you’re swept up in an emotional roller coaster of a ride. The writing is beautiful. This haunting story of love and loss will stay with you long after you’ve finished reading it, and you’ll be wondering how you would react, God forbid, in a similar situation. night road is another great read from Kristin Hannah.
Enza is the oldest child in a large Italian family and willingly shoulders a lot of responsibility. After his father’s death, Ciro’s mother leaves him and his brother at a convent when she could no longer cope. When one of Enza’s younger siblings passes away, Ciro comes to dig the grave and the two meet. That meeting stays in both their hearts.Enza and her father immigrate to America to earn money to build a house for their family. Ciro is forced out of the convent when he witnesses an assignation between a priest and a parishioner. Since they both end up around New York, they have a few chance encounters. It seems they were destined to be together but something is keeping them apart.Adriana Trigiani is one of my favorite authors so I was really excited to see that she has a new book out and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. THE SHOEMAKER'S WIFE is unlike any book she’s written before. It takes readers from the Italian Alps in 1905 to New York and the Metropolitan Opera ten years later and finally to Minnesota. The book is full of rich descriptions so it’s easy to picture the world Enza and Ciro inhabit.The characters on the pages come to life in Trigiani’s capable hands. Enza is a strong, determined young woman who puts her family first and works hard for them. She’s loyal and makes friends for life. She’s a force to be reckoned with when she makes up her mind. Ciro is hard working too, but he plays hard as well. Handsome and charming, he’s a ladies man, but he dreams of a bright future and is willing to make sacrifices.I love a good immigrant story and was thrilled when I discovered this is a fictionalized version of Trigiani’s own grandparents’ lives. I appreciated Enza’s and Ciro’s perseverance and loved that they both came to consider themselves American. Their story made me have a greater appreciation of my own grandparents bravery and hard work when they immigrated to this country.With its beautiful writing, lush descriptions, historical details, wonderful characters, and love story, THE SHOEMAKER'S WIFE has something to please every reader. It made me smile and cry – it’s a book you don’t want to miss.
Let’s Pretend This Never Happened is a memoir of sorts by Jenny Lawson, also known as The Blogess. Told in a non-linear fashion, it features stories from her childhood and stories from her marriage. It also includes conversations Lawson’s had with her husband, sister, and others, as well as diary type entries and notes she’s written to her husband. Written in Lawson’s breezy, irreverent, and somewhat bawdy style, the book is a quick read.Lawson had quite a childhood. Shy and occasionally anxious, she grew up in Texas with her taxidermist father, cafeteria worker mother, and younger sister. Money was tight but for the most part, they were happy. Her father’s taxidermy business was right next to their house and he was always dragging dead animals home, so there was never a dull moment for the girls.I was drawn to this book from the start and found it laugh out loud funny but, for me, it started to lose steam about half way through the book. Lawson’s trademark, if you will, is that outrageous things happen to her and it seemed she ran out of things to write about, so she had to create drama, and things started to feel a little forced to me.I really wanted to love Let’s Pretend This Never Happened – a memoir written by a blogger seemed like a perfect combination to me – but I ended up just liking it. Lawson’s conversational writing is entertaining and humorous and also quite crude. I think I must be too old for it, because I’m definitely in the minority here, but, after a while, it grew old. I also didn’t appreciate the way Lawson and her husband spoke to each other – I found it mean-spirited rather than funny.I think I might have enjoyed the book more if I’d read it in short bursts, much like you would a blog. Even though I didn’t love Let’s Pretend This Never Happened I think fans of Lawson’s blog will.
Like a lot of kids, Jess and his mute brother, Christopher (“Stump”), are curious about the world of adults. They’re not above spying to satisfy their curiosity either. One day, Stump witnesses something that will change their lives, and their community, forever.A Land More Kind Than Home, by Wiley Cash, is a superb novel that just oozes atmosphere. Set in the mountains of western North Carolina, the book tells the story of a region and its people and Cash gets both perfect. I’ve lived near that part of the country for a while and I appreciated the quality of the dialogue and the sense of place in this wonderful novel.The story is told from the points of view of Jess, Sheriff Clem Barefield, and Adelaide Lyle, a pillar of the church and the community. Through their different perspectives, readers are able to piece the story together as they learn of the past and secrets kept. It’s a story fraught with tension that had me on the edge of my seat. It’s hard to believe this is Cash’s debut novel, because his writing ranks right up there with the best Southern authors. This book is sure to be one of my favorites of the year.I listened to the audio version and thought it was just wonderful. It’s narrated by Nick Sullivan, Lorna Raver, and Mark Bramhall and they all do a marvelous job. They get the accents and the rhythm of the area just right. The audio version lasts about nine hours and the time just flew as I listened to it.A Land More Kind Than Home is a book you don’t want to miss. I have a feeling it’s the start of something big for Cash.
A young woman’s body is discovered washed up on the beach north of Jeddah. It’s pretty clear that she was murdered, but is she just another in a string of housemaids who’ve been killed or does her death mean something else? Shortly after that gruesome discovery, American Miriam Walker is flying to Saudi Arabia to re-join her husband, Eric. She’s only back a short time when Eric goes missing. She files a report, but it largely goes ignored until it’s determined that his disappearance could be related to the young woman’s death. But are they related, and if so, how?I found City of Veils by Zoë Ferraris to be a fascinating book! Not only is it a well crafted mystery but it’s also an enthralling peek into life in Saudi Arabia. Since the author lived in a conservative Muslim community in Saudi Arabia for a year, I assume the portrayal of life there is fairly accurate. I knew a little bit about what it’s like for a women to live in Saudi Arabia, but parts of this book were real eye-openers for me and I think Carl got tired of hearing about them. It gave me a lot to think about and a lot to be thankful for.The mystery was written so well, it kept me turning the pages as fast as I could. I had to know what had happened to the murdered woman and to Miriam’s husband, Eric. I was totally captivated by Miriam – she and her plight felt very real to me. I cannot imagine trying to deal with something like that in a country with a totally different language and culture – it would be bad enough in your own country!I only have one complaint about City of Veils, and it’s a small one. I felt like the last twenty five or thirty pages drug on a little – it got a little too bogged down in details for me. The ending could have been wrapped up a little more quickly and been just as satisfying for me. Don’t let that minor complaint keep you from reading this book, though – overall, I loved it!
When Jill Murray’s husband left her to raise their daughter, Anastasia, all by herself seven years ago, she wasn’t sure she’d be able to make it on her own. Since her parents were no longer living, she turned to her in-laws, but they were no help. Left with no other options, Jill picked herself up, dusted herself off, and moved forward. Things haven’t always been easy, but in the last seven years, she has managed to make a life for herself and Anastasia.Since her focus has been on her daughter, Jill hasn’t had much time for a personal life, but has finally met a man with some potential. At around the same time, her husband decides that he wants to come back into Jill’s and Anastasia’s lives. Of course, Anastasia’s thrilled at the prospect, but Jill’s not so sure. Jill has to find a way to strike some balance in her life.Seven Year Switch by Claire Cook is a delightful book! Even though I have very little in common with Jill, I could totally relate to her, and I think a lot of other women will be able to as well. She was fiercely protective of her daughter and didn’t want her to be hurt again. Jill often sacrificed her own wants and needs in order to do what she thought was best for her daughter, yet she struggled with self doubt.Jill has two girlfriends – her boss and mentor, Joni, and her next door neighbor, Cynthia – who play large roles in her life and are very supportive of her. I loved reading about their friendships, because they were so true to life. Even though Cynthia could drive Jill crazy, some small part of Jill still wanted to be like her. I loved that Joni and Cynthia were there for Jill when she needed them and the two of them were instrumental in her finding her own strength and discovering how she wanted to live her life.Don’t let that cute cover fool you into thinking this is a fluffy book – Seven Year Switch is an uplifting story of love, determination and finding your inner strength, and I do recommend it!
Charlotte Smith inherited a collection of beautiful vintage clothing from her godmother, Doris Darnell. Her godmother collected not only the clothing but the stories of the people who wore them. At first, Charlotte was overwhelmed and didn’t know what to do with all of the clothing (over 3,000 pieces), but once she read the stories, she knew she had to share the collection somehow. She couldn’t bear the thought of it being broken up, so she didn’t want to donate it to museums. Luckily for us, she has created a beautiful book.Dreaming of Dior by Charlotte Smith is an absolutely gorgeous book – from the flocked dust jacket to the beautiful endpapers to the heavy weight paper to the stunning illustrations. Because of the high quality paper used, this book has some heft to it. After a short introduction, approximately 140 items of the collection are shown off in the pages of the book. The left hand page tells a story about someone who wore the dress and the right hand page features a frame-worthy illustration by Grant Cowan. These garments date from the 1800s to the modern day. The stories tell about the person who wore them and when I read them, I felt like I was living vicariously through them. I particularly enjoyed the stories that featured the author or her family.I’ve never been much of a “girly-girl,” but I adored this fabulous book! First of all, the illustrations are just amazing – bright and vibrant on vivid backgrounds – and they were so much fun to study. It’s hard for me to describe just how beautiful they are. The stories are wonderful too – they made me dream of times past. I’m sure I’ll continue to flip through this book for years! This is a must have for every fashion lover out there.