Monday, July 2, 2018

A Certain Age

A Certain Age


As the freedom of the Jazz Age transforms New York City, the iridescent Mrs. Theresa Marshall of Fifth Avenue and Southampton, Long Island, has done the unthinkable: she’s fallen in love with her young paramour, Captain Octavian Rofrano, a handsome aviator and hero of the Great War. An intense and deeply honorable man, Octavian is devoted to the beautiful socialite of a certain age and wants to marry her. While times are changing and she does adore the Boy, divorce for a woman of Theresa’s wealth and social standing is out of the question, and there is no need; she has an understanding with Sylvo, her generous and well-respected philanderer husband.

But their relationship subtly shifts when her bachelor brother, Ox, decides to tie the knot with the sweet younger daughter of a newly wealthy inventor. Engaging a longstanding family tradition, Theresa enlists the Boy to act as her brother’s cavalier, presenting the family’s diamond rose ring to Ox’s intended, Miss Sophie Fortescue—and to check into the background of the little-known Fortescue family. When Octavian meets Sophie, he falls under the spell of the pretty ingénue, even as he uncovers a shocking family secret. As the love triangle of Theresa, Octavian, and Sophie progresses, it transforms into a saga of divided loyalties, dangerous revelations, and surprising twists that will lead to a shocking transgression . . . and eventually force Theresa to make a bittersweet choice.

Full of the glamour, wit and delicious twists that are the hallmarks of Beatriz Williams’ fiction and alternating between Sophie’s spirited voice and Theresa’s vibrant timbre, A Certain Age is a beguiling reinterpretation of Richard Strauss’s comic opera Der Rosenkavalier, set against the sweeping decadence of Gatsby’s New York.

My Review:

Another stellar book by Beatriz Williams. Again, for the same reasons I've so loved all of her other books - the dialog is brilliant, the characters are smart, the female protagonists are strong and well-rounded (there is always something you love and something you don't love so much about them), and of course the plot and the plot twists are nothing short of spectacular. Once again there are elements from her other books in this one. So, if you are a fan of her writing as I am, you'll be happy to hear some familiar names - Julie Schuyler. If my memory serves me right, she is also in A Hundred Summers along with Christina Dane who also makes a brief party appearance in A Certain Age. 
I just love the NY elite in this book and their connections to each of B. Williams' books. By the way, if you too are a fan, if you go to Beatriz Williams' author site, you will find the Schuyler Family tree and how each character is connected and where they can be found in each story.

This is, as the synopsis states, a story of the roaring twenties. There is enough drama to include murder, a cover up, an unsolved crime and an elicit affair to hook you right from the beginning to the very unexpected twist at the very end. 
Delightful and indulgent reading if you ask me. This is B. Williams' version of Richard Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier.  Beatriz Williams' just doesn't miss the mark!

Monday, June 18, 2018

Norwegian Wood



Norwegian WoodThis stunning and elegiac novel by the author of the internationally acclaimed Wind-Up Bird Chronicle has sold over 4 million copies in Japan and is now available to American audiences for the first time.  It is sure to be a literary event.

Toru, a quiet and preternaturally serious young college student in Tokyo, is devoted to Naoko, a beautiful and introspective young woman, but their mutual passion is marked by the tragic death of their best friend years before.  Toru begins to adapt to campus life and the loneliness and isolation he faces there, but Naoko finds the pressures and responsibilities of life unbearable.  As she retreats further into her own world, Toru finds himself reaching out to others and drawn to a fiercely independent and sexually liberated young woman.

A poignant story of one college student's romantic coming-of-age, Norwegian Wood takes us to that distant place of a young man's first, hopeless, and heroic love.

My Review:

I opted to listen to the audio book version as I wasn't sure what to expect and preferred to allow the narrator to add the right inflection and emotion into the words of Haruki Murakami. I did thoroughly enjoy the entire experience but feel compelled to advise future readers/listeners of this book that although the story is about mental illness (which has no cultural boundaries) there are a lot of aspects about this story that are deeply rooted in the cultural uniqueness of Eastern culture (specifically Japanese). 

The story of Toru, Naoko and Kizuki as three carefree best friends at the end of their teen years and what happens when it is time to transition to young adulthood and leave childhood days behind. After the unexpected suicide of Kizuki, Naoko and Toru's lives become emotional and confusing, questioning everything about who they are, who they love, their loyalties and their own "joie-de-vivre". Toru handles his transition to Tokyo for college much better than Naoko who seems lost in her thoughts and fears. We find that Naoko has experienced a silent mental illness for most of her life and Toru finds himself making it his responsibility to have her overcome her debilitating and incarcerating fears. 

We meet many characters that seem to teach different life lessons to Toru. Toru uses these encounters in order to find direction in life and to try to make sense of those things that are not immediately and obviously right or wrong to him. The book is a coming of age story with a bleak tone but with hints of optimism (specially towards the end and from the characters you least expect it from). At the beginning of the book, Toru is on a plane to Germany recounting these memorable days that began in 1968. There is a great deal of explicitly sexual content in the book, however it is not gratuitous in nature but I found it to really add to the complexity of the characters. The fact that the sex scenes were so explicit and the character's attitudes towards sex were so "free" was integral to the cultural uniqueness of the story and very significant to the "free love" mentality of the time (late 1960s). 

The writing is beautiful. I can only imagine how good it would be to be read in its native Japanese. But, as I don't speak Japanese, I have to trust that the translator did it great justice. Great story even though it dealt with the very sad topic of mental illness. At times the characters frustrated me and made me feel exasperated but beautifully made up for by the fantastic dialog and relationships. 

Toru could easily become one of my favorite characters in the many books I have read. He is the "every man's man" character - admirable, flawed, loving, learning, and spirited but hopeful.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

True Blend

True BlendGreat summer beach read.



Amy Trewist couldn't ask for more than her simple life in Addison, Connecticut. From her old farmhouse, to her best friend living in the bungalow next door, to the big red barn at the end of the road, to her small shop across from the town green, what else could she want?

Quite simply, she wants it back. Because while running errands early one morning, a sudden, unexpected encounter threatens all Amy holds dear. When she crosses paths with a stranger, her cherished life seems as fleeting as the sparkling droplets spraying from the town's stone wishing fountain.

But as destiny would have it, a dinner with the reluctant man who came into her life that day changes everything. A secluded beach cottage and love song dedications and dances beneath the starlight slowly lead her back to happiness. And when destiny runs its course, a stunning twist will have Amy finally find the silver lining within one dark summer cloud.

My Review:

Fantastic summer read. Totally surprised at how much I liked this book as I wanted a light read and this book certainly packed a punch. I can't write much about the plot as it is somewhat of a mystery/thriller and that would give away too much. But this is a story about lies, cover ups, a crime and the effect on its victims. Basically, what would you do if you find out that someone you love and trust has lied. That lie impacts your life profoundly. However, the lie is born of chivalrous and protective intentions. Does that justify the lie? Or are the actions that lead to lying what shapes the relationship above the sincere intentions? Fantastic storyline and characters. Not to mention, a really good ending.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend


The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend

Broken Wheel, Iowa, has never seen anyone like Sara, who traveled all the way from Sweden just to meet her pen pal, Amy. When she arrives, however, she finds that Amy's funeral has just ended. Luckily, the townspeople are happy to look after their bewildered tourist—even if they don't understand her peculiar need for books. Marooned in a farm town that's almost beyond repair, Sara starts a bookstore in honor of her friend's memory.

All she wants is to share the books she loves with the citizens of Broken Wheel and to convince them that reading is one of the great joys of life. But she makes some unconventional choices that could force a lot of secrets into the open and change things for everyone in town. Reminiscent of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, this is a warm, witty book about friendship, stories, and love.

My Review:

Fantastic, feel-good read for this year so far. I so enjoyed being part of the Broken Wheel community of Iowa. Who knew that in a little, forgotten town in the middle of nowhere is a group of such fabulously rich in depth characters. It goes to show that no matter how small the town, it is not in the numbers but in the community you build around the people in the town. 

Sarah comes from a completely different life in Sweden to this tiny town in Iowa simply to find that the people around you and the love you find with the people around you is what makes for a happy life and a life where you feel you belong. Ultimately, isn't that what we all search for - love and belonging. I read another book earlier this year about small town life in rural Montana and found it so droll and stereotypical to the tacky, "country bumpkin" life of the "Honey Boo Boo" and "Duck Dynasty" variety that I was a bit hesitant to read this one. I am so glad I did because this was a truly heart-warming and intelligent look at life in rural America. Also, the story is based on the love of books two women (Amy in Iowa and Sarah in Sweden) share and how that love of books bridges the similarities people who are otherwise culturally different. I love that about books. And, this book definitely does that. Also, there are so many insights within the book about other authors.

I had a running list of books I now want to read because of the recommendations and commentary about them within this book. When you are a book lover as I am, a book about the love and appreciation of books is like hitting the jackpot.

Just on a side note, another book for book lovers that capitalizes on that very love is The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin. That is another book I can't rave enough about.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

My Lady Jane 



My Lady Jane
The comical, fantastical, romantical, (not) entirely true story of Lady Jane Grey. In My Lady Jane, coauthors Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows have created a one-of-a-kind fantasy in the tradition of The Princess Bride, featuring a reluctant king, an even more reluctant queen, a noble steed, and only a passing resemblance to actual history—because sometimes history needs a little help.  
At sixteen, Lady Jane Grey is about to be married off to a stranger and caught up in a conspiracy to rob her cousin, King Edward, of his throne. But those trifling problems aren’t for Jane to worry about. Jane gets to be Queen of England.

My Review:

This book was such a breath of fresh air. What a way to take the tragic fate Jane Grey and turn it into such a wonderfully fantastic and not corny funny yet hilarious tale. 

I have to admit that I wasn't very knowledgeable about the story of Jane Grey. She becomes queen unexpectedly after a plot to dethrone King Edward. Her reign is short as after 7 or so days on the throne she is beheaded. However, this is not exactly what happens in My Lady Jane. In this version of the tale, there is an element of magic, shape-shifting and comic relief that alters the ending in a way that will make every reader so happy.  Great story-telling. Fantastic dialog and of course characters that just leap off the page right into your imagination. I happened to listen to this book on audio and I found myself walking around doing my day-to-day activities while unwilling to put down my headset. If you get a chance listen to the audio book as the narration is the best I have ever heard. 

Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Madwoman Upstairs 



The Madwoman Upstairs
Samantha Whipple is used to stirring up speculation wherever she goes. As the last remaining descendant of the Brontë family, she's rumored to have inherited a vital, mysterious portion of the Brontë's literary estate; diaries, paintings, letters, and early novel drafts; a hidden fortune that's never been shown outside of the family.

But Samantha has never seen this rumored estate, and as far as she knows, it doesn't exist. She has no interest in acknowledging what the rest of the world has come to find so irresistible; namely, the sudden and untimely death of her eccentric father, or the cryptic estate he has bequeathed to her.

But everything changes when Samantha enrolls at Oxford University and bits and pieces of her past start mysteriously arriving at her doorstep, beginning with an old novel annotated in her father's handwriting. As more and more bizarre clues arrive, Samantha soon realizes that her father has left her an elaborate scavenger hunt using the world's greatest literature. With the aid of a handsome and elusive Oxford professor, Samantha must plunge into a vast literary mystery and an untold family legacy, one that can only be solved by decoding the clues hidden within the Brontë's own writing.

A fast-paced adventure from start to finish, this vibrant and original novel is a moving exploration of what it means when the greatest truth is, in fact, fiction.

My Review:

This could be quite simply one of the most engrossing books I've read this entire year. Needless to say - I LOVED IT!!! Once again, in my attempt to immerse myself in everything Bronte, this book did not disappoint. Actually, I learned so much about the Bronte sisters and I feel like I've understood Jane Eyre quite differently than intended. Who knew that the maid held such an important role in the story of Jane Eyre while yet having such a small role. Also, Orville and Sam's discussion on the meaning of "mad" (as in the Madwoman) was truly enlightening and will have interpret Jane Eyre quite differently. This story was funny but complex. 

Sam is the living heir of the Bronte family. Her father, Tristan, died some 7 years prior and left Sam with an emptiness she longs to fill by immersing herself in the world of literature. She ends up at Oxford (like her dad some 30 years prior) and with the clues her dad was so famous for giving her leads her on a search for something so elusive. Instead, Sam comes to understand herself, her father and their complicated but very loving relationships as an adult rather than the young girl who lost the love of her life - her father. 

The character of Samantha Whipple is so snarky and somewhat outwardly unemotional that I looked forward to her quips and her obviously witty and honest remarks. I can't help but think that Ms. Lowell wrote a little of all of the Bronte male characters into the male characters of this book - all quite flawed but very proud and somewhat arrogant but dashing and attractive all the same. 

If you are a Bronte fan or would like to learn more about the famous works by the Brontes, you will thoroughly enjoy this book. 

Absolutely FANTASTIC.  

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Rare Objects

Rare ObjectsMaeve Fanning is a first generation Irish immigrant, born and raised among the poor, industrious Italian families of Boston’s North End by her widowed mother. Clever, capable, and as headstrong as her red hair suggests, she’s determined to better herself despite the overwhelming hardships of the Great Depression.

However, Maeve also has a dangerous fondness for strange men and bootleg gin—a rebellious appetite that soon finds her spiraling downward, leading a double life. When the strain proves too much, Maeve becomes an unwilling patient in a psychiatric hospital, where she strikes up a friendship with an enigmatic young woman, who, like Maeve, is unable or unwilling to control her un-lady-like desire for freedom.

Once out, Maeve faces starting over again. Armed with a bottle of bleach and a few white lies, she lands a job at an eccentric antiques shop catering to Boston’s wealthiest and most peculiar collectors. Run by an elusive English archeologist, the shop is a haven of the obscure and incredible, providing rare artifacts as well as unique access to the world of America’s social elite. While delivering a purchase to the wealthy Van der Laar family, Maeve is introduced to beautiful socialite Diana Van der Laar—only to discover she’s the young woman from the hospital.

Reunited with the charming but increasingly unstable Diana and pursued by her attractive brother James, Mae becomes more and more entwined with the Van der Laar family—a connection that pulls her into a world of moral ambiguity and deceit, and ultimately betrayal. Bewitched by their wealth and desperate to leave her past behind, Maeve is forced to unearth her true values and discover how far she’ll to go to reinvent herself.

My Review:

Kathleen Tessaro can tell a story like no one else. She not only tells you the story but you come to know the characters so personally. This story takes place in Boston during a time when your heritage (Irish, Jewish, Italian, etc.) was considered a detriment to those who ruled society - in the case of this book it is the Van Der Laars and their South African family with questionably corrupt dealings in the diamond industry of South Africa.

Maeve is a young Irish American girl who grows up with her mother in a mainly Italian neighborhood of Boston. After her return from a time in New York, Mae comes back to Boston wanting to put behind all of the things that shamed her from her time in NY. She dyes her hair blonde to ensure her Irish-American heritage does not ruin her chance for employment in a very tough job market. She lands a job in an antiques shop run by two unique antiquarians who take her under their wing to help her realize that she is more than her restrictive heritage and teach her to be proud of who she is and the value of being a "rare object" among so many valuable fakes. She befriends the Van Der Laars and is drawn into their very exclusive circle of society people and parties. However, although she lies about her own background, she finds that even in her simple ways, she just can't compete or catch up to the high-speed lives of the elite.

This book deals with deception, excess, greed and ultimately how the arrogance of someone who has it all leads to their own demise. Great book. Although it was a little slow in the middle, once you reach the end it is so worth it that I couldn't rate it any less than a 5.  

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Patricia Sands on tour: I Promise You This

**Giveaway open internationally**
10 participants will each win a copy of this book
(print or digital)


Patricia Sands on Tour May 17-26

I Promise You This

(women’s fiction)


 Release date: May 17, 2016
at Lake Union Publishing
ISBN: 978-1503935723
365 pages



Suddenly single after twenty-two years of marriage, the calm of Katherine Price’s midlife has turned upside down. Seeking to find her true self, she took a chance on starting over. A year later, she is certain of this: she’s in love with Philippe and adores his idyllic French homeland, where he wants her to live with him.  

But all that feels like a fantasy far removed from Toronto, where she’s helping her friend Molly, hospitalized after a life-threatening accident. Staying in her childhood home full of memories, Katherine wonders: Is she really ready to leave everything behind for an unknown life abroad? And if all her happiness lies with Philippe, will it last? Can she trust in love again? 

Searching her heart, Katherine finds the pull of the familiar is stronger than she thought. An unexpected meeting with her ex, the first time since his cruel departure, and a stunning declaration of love from an old flame spur her introspection.

With sunlit backdrops and plot twists as breathtaking as the beaches of Côte d’Azur, author Patricia Sands brings her trilogy about second chances to a provocative and satisfying close that proves that a new life just might be possible—if you’re willing to let your heart lead you home.

Author Bio:

A confessed travel-addict, best-selling author Patricia Sands lives in Toronto, Canada, when she isn’t somewhere else, and calls the south of France her second home.

I Promise You This, is Book 3 in her award-winning Love in Provence series.

Find Patricia on Facebook, on Twitter, on Instagram, at her Amazon Author Page, or her website.

Subscribe to her mailing list and get information about new releases.

My Review:

I loved this book. I just wish I had read the first two in the series. What is there not to love? Great characters, tragedy, love, surprises along the way, and making tough decisions in the face of tragedy.

I enjoy books that have that element of “what would I do if I were in that situation?” Also, real situations that can happen to anyone but when you see it play out with others, it makes you think. Not to mention that having moved from one country to start a new life in a new country is a decision that cannot be taken lightly. Having immigrated myself from Venezuela to the USA, I know what it means to change your entire life. It redefines what you refer to as “home”. I have been to France several times and love to visit, however it has to be very different to actually live there. In this story, we get a glimpse of what that would be like and what those of us who have had the pleasure of visiting love most about France – especially Provence.

I would consider this book a light, sweet, but engaging love story that definitely has me looking forward to reading the first two in the series.