After a freak accident, Ben Benjamin’s young children are dead and his wife has left him. Full of guilt and remorse and with no job and no future, Ben registers for a twenty-eight-hour night class called The Fundamentals of Caregiving. With humor and sensitivity,Jonathan Evison writes how Benjamin comes to care for Trev, a 19 year old with a severe muscular disorder. Trev is stubborn, scared and strong willed. Benjamin’s class checklist does not prepare him for the reality of his job. The two end up on an adventure across country in search of the boy’s estranged father. Along the way Benjamin and Trev encounter tough situations and meet up with some colorful characters. All of the characters are searching for meaning as they run from their pasts. I found myself laughing and crying as I followed this misfit group. And while the end is predictable, it is nonetheless satisfying and well worth the journey.
David Westin worked as the president of ABC news from 1997-2010. In Exit Interview, Westin takes the reader behind the scenes of a chaotic newsroom and presents a candid account of how the media presents the news. Westin divides the book into chapters of noteworthy news events that occurred during his tenure. The news events include Princess Diana’s death, the Monica Lewinsky scandal, the tied 2000 presidential election, the 9/11 attacks, conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and more. He uses the particular news event to highlight points he chooses to make about the news industry and journalism. Westin shares his role as president of ABC news as he decides what news to report, when to report it, how to present it and how to get the facts right. Westin’s underlying question remains – Is it possible for journalists to be both good at their jobs and people of good moral character? The journalistic questions asked and answered are thought provoking and eye opening. This book is a good read for someone casually interested in television news as well as someone pursuing a career, or currently working in the world of journalism. A fascinating read!
This is a wonderful story with fascinating characters and a multi layered plot. Ian McEwan writes beautifully and intelligently. Sweet Tooth is a novel about writers written in a delightful, clever way. The main character is Serena Frome, a young compulsive reader of novels who is recruited for the English intelligence agency MI5 in 1972. The Cold War is still being fought and communism is questioned and feared . Serena's task is to infiltrate the literary circle of a promising young writer named Tom Healy. She loves his stories and she loves him. Yet, she must conceal her undercover life. With many twists and turns and interesting espionage plots, the words of Ian McEwan draw the reader in and provide a most enjoyable read.
I find it hard to describe the quirkiness behind the characters and story of this wonderful novel. It is clever, funny, compelling and a real page turner. As the Wall Street Journal wrote “Entirely winning…a refreshingly weird story about the exuberant weirdness of familial love.” Sunny and Maxon are a young married couple each with their own twisted histories. Nonetheless, Sunny is determined to be a “normal” wife and mom while Maxon is content to be the intelligent, socially unbalanced scientist who is selected to be an astronaut on a NASA mission to the moon programing robots to a new colony. They have an autistic son whom their views on are very different. The characters are strange and likeable. Their relationship is full of a deeper understanding of each other than either realizes. I wanted the best for these two misfits who made me want to read ever faster to understand their unwavering connection to each other.
The Innocents is told through the eyes of 28 year old Adam Newman. Adam lives in a Jewish neighborhood in suburban London. He is engaged to Rachel, who he has known since they took a teen tour together to Israel. He works at her father’s law firm and both families are close. Adam finds himself questioning his small world and its implications for his future when he meets Ellie, Rachel’s beautiful,independent,troubled cousin who returns to London after a scandalous episode in New York City. Adam and Ellie connect in a way that forces them each to look into their pasts and confront what haunts them there. The Innocents is written with wit, warmth and charm. The characters are complex and connected. One reviewer compares the author’s style to Jane Austen. As a Jane Austen fan, I would strongly recommend this book.
I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry as the story of Seating Arrangements unfolded. The story takes place over a three day period on a small New England island where two families and friends gather for a wedding. The cast of characters are pleasantly quirky and the relationships that ensue are surprisingly hysterical and occasionally pathetic. This is a story is about family, fidelity, and social class. The writing is fresh, witty, and succinct. I loved it!
This story takes place at a 20 year reunion of Harvard students. The main characters are four female roommates from the class of ’89. One woman is a recently pink slipped securities broker eager to conceive a baby, another is an artist and former lesbian married to a male, one is a former actress turned stay at home mom, and the last is an adopted war orphan now a foreign correspondent. The relationship of these women now, and in the past, and the personalities of each creates the background for a more complicated look at some life altering revelations. Along with these women we are introduced to a host of other equally interesting characters each offering some perspective to the four friends. This is a great summer read – fun, compelling, interesting and easy to get drawn into. Take it on vacation with you or sit on the deck and get quickly absorbed.
This book is a beautifully written story. The Heart of Hearing Heartbeats is a love story between a young blind man and a very brave young woman. The two have a special bond which is later broken. The story is told through the eyes of Julia, the man’s adult daughter. After her father disappears, Julia returns to his homeland of Burma to learn the truth about her father’s past. Julia makes incredible discoveries that further shape the depth of her father’s love to this special woman he once knew. The story is somewhat of a mystery and keeps the reader wondering until the end. This is a book that evokes compassion, curiosity and awe. I loved it and did not want it to end.
For the historical fiction lover, this is a must read. Set in the turn of century Boston, House of Velvet and Glass offers an intriguing plot combining history, mystery, paranormal occurrences, romance and drugs. What more could a reader want! After losing her mother and sister in the sinking of the Titanic, Sybil is trapped in a state of sadness and loneliness. To move forward, she seeks out a spiritual medium. This takes her on a most fascinating journey. The book is full of great characters and surprising twists. Another great summer beach read.
The “Line” is literally a line in front of a kiosk in which Russian citizens wait for what they believe is to buy tickets for a one time performance by a famous exiled composer returning to the city. The concert date is unknown, and so is the date that the tickets will go on sale. But, the characters still wait – creating a system in which numbers are given out and shifts are devised to cover the time in line. As the seasons change and the kiosk remains shut, the group of strangers evolves into a community bound together in their desire to experience something wonderful. The characters are well developed and the plot is fascinating. I really enjoyed this unique story.
I thoroughly enjoyed House of Tyneford. This is a wonderful story of love, family, suspense and survival which takes place in Europe in the late 1930’s. The characters and the story get better and better with each turn of the page. The rich descriptions of the grand Tyneford House and the surrounding English landscape let the reader escape to a faraway time. The serenity of Tyneford depicted against the chaos of the rest of Europe as WWII advances, is compelling and conflicting. House of Tyneford is a great read that is perfect to cozy up with in front of a warm fire. I didn’t want it to end.
A historical fiction novel that takes place in worn torn Italy in 1943. Seventeen year old Giovanni Bellini lives in a village in Tuscany with her parents on their picturesque vineyard. Giovanna’s life is turned upside down as German forces invade the peaceful village. The beauty of the Italian countryside is contrasted against the tension and mixed loyalties that the people of this village experience. The Golden Hour is a fascinating read with rich characters and memorable landscapes.
When a young father, Bruce Feiler, is diagnosed with a cancer that could kill him, his first thought is how he can leave his mark on his twin three year old daughters after he is gone. In this true story, Feiler carefully chooses six friends to be his council of dads. Each friend is chosen to provide a life lesson to his daughters. One is chosen to answer questions about travel, another about how to dream, another about how to question. The men are chosen from all walks of Feiler’s life. The reader can’t help but reflect on his own life and question who he would choose to do these deeds. How the men respond to Felier’s request, and what they see as their role for his daughters provides a rare look at male bonding and emotions. If you liked The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch or Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom, you will like this book.
Laura Bell gives the reader a memoir full of rich words and a fascinating journey. I really enjoyed this book. As a young adult Laura moves from a traditional upbringing in the northeast to small town Wyoming where she gets a job as a sheep herder. Bell welcomes the desolate landscape and the demanding nature of the job. She meets memorable friends and becomes involved in a relationship that makes her the stepmother of 2 teenage girls. The relationships, the solitude, the landscape and the challenging physical work force Bell to come to terms with her past, her parents and her decision to escape all that was safe and predictable. The writing is beautiful and descriptive. The book reads with a rhythm that is comforting and engaging. A really great read.
How quickly can one person’s life go from “normal” to tragic. Every Last One of Them begins with an engaging story of a family of five – parents and three teenage children – beset with typical family issues – summer camp, proms, soccer games and neighbors. Quindlen grabs the reader with interesting and believable characters. Mary Beth Latham is a happily married woman entirely devoted to her three teenage children. When her talented daughter Ruby casually announces she's breaking up with her boyfriend Kirenan, a former neighbor who's become like family, Mary Beth is slightly alarmed, but soon distracted by her son Max, who's feeling overshadowed by his extroverted, athletic twin brother Alex. As tragedy unfolds within the family, the tone of the book goes from fast paced upbeat to slow methodical healing. Mary Beth is forced to cope with loss and guilt and is able to find meaning in her new life. I found the book easy to read but hard to forget.
Debbie's Past Picks
Another great read from Carlos Ruiz Zafon, author of the bestseller, Shadow of the Wind. The Angel’s Game grabs and holds the reader from the first pages. Set in Barcelona,Spain, Zafon takes the reader into a dark, gothic universe, creating an adventure of intrigue, romance and tragedy.
This is the story of a young writer, David Martin, obsessed with books, paralyzed with a passion for a woman he cannot have, and determined to penetrate the mystery surrounding the “tower” he calls home. Zafon creates doubt in the reader as to what is part of his story line and what is part of the story being written by the main characer, David Martin. I was fascintaed by this book and could not wait to get home each night to read it!
This is a book you will get so engrossed in - you will not want to put it down, or to be interupted while you are reading. It will grip you and capture your attention from the start and leave you thinking and remembering after it is done.
Labor Day takes place over a five day period in a small New Hampshire town. Thirteen year old Henry, meets a mysterious bleeding man, Frank, and convinces his divorced mom, Adele, to help the man. The characters are simple and predictable on one level, yet Maynard writes with compassion and style so as to bring a richness and depth to her characters and the story that unfolds around them. A simple story of love, betrayal, and coming of age becomes a memorable and joyful read in Joyce Maynard’s, Labor Day.
This is a stand alone title from the famed author of The Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency. In La’s Orchestra McCall Smith writes a sweet story of a young woman during WWII who flees London to escape war and a ruined marriage. She moves to a small town where she learns to accept the ways of strangers and finds herself starting an orchestra full of misfits. The characters are delightfully presented and the simple story leaves the reader with a smile. If you liked Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, you should read this book.
Debbie's Past Picks
If you liked Tuesday’s With Morrie you will love this book as much as I did. In this true story, Mitch Albom is asked by his childhood rabbi to deliver his eulogy. A strange request considering Albom is no longer connected with Judaism and the rabbi is not on his death bed. A relationship between the author and the rabbi ensues in which Albom journeys into the life and heart of the rabbi and is forced to question his own faith. While questioning his believes, ALbom is approached by a recovered drug addict turned pastor asking for assistance for the inner city parish he presides over. Albom is forced to question the motives and integrity of this reformed preacher. Both the rabbi and the preacher demonstrate incredible fortitude and faith. This is a heartwarming, compassionate read that teaches a little about how to live a full life. I read this book quickly, closed it with tears in my eyes, and have not stopped thinking about it since.
Open is a fascinating story and an interesting portrayal of an athlete’s “coming of age”. Andre Agassi tells the story of how he became an incredible tennis player , how he hated the game, and how he found meaning and purpose in his life through the game of tennis. Agassi is not always a likeable person, and he’s the first to admit it. Much of what he writes about himself is not flattering. He bares his soul and the reader cannot help but rooting for him. As a tennis player, I especially liked the way Agassi writes about his matches – dissecting the points and his opponents. I enjoyed reading Agassi’s honest opinion of the other tennis greats he competed against and how much he depended on the trainers and staff who surrounded him during 21 years of tennis. Agassi learns to use his natural talents and personal frustrations for charitable work that allows him to give back and find purpose for his tennis feats. This is a compelling read! I thoroughly enjoyed it.
This is a chilling and compelling fictional read. A father, Dr.Pete, appears to act out of love and concern for his young adult son, but his actions are really a desire to control and manipulate. Dr. Pete has a near perfect life, but his contorted relationship with his son brings it all down. This is a story of what happens when all that could be good goes terribly wrong. You will get hooked and will not want to put it down.
Walls writes this magnificent, true-life novel based on her no-nonsense, resourceful, hardworking, and spectacularly compelling grandmother.
I was fortunate to hear the author speak about this book. He described it as “an adult story about a boy and his dog”. It is a truly wonderful relationship. The characters are fully developed and the writing is superb. A great read that lasts long after the last page is finished.
The author captures the scenic beauty and lonely isolation of rural Idaho during the 1960s. Barnes’ style of writing is soothing and mesmerizing. This book is beautifully written with complex, flawed characters and an unpredictable and fascinating plot.
This book has enough social and political issues that it could have been more than just one book. Yet, Wally Lamb chooses to include the Shootings at Columbine, Hurricane Katrina, War in Iraq, Prison reform, sexual abuse, infidelity, addiction, plus more into this one terrific work of fiction. He captures the reader with great characters who have complicated lives, yet resonate with normalcy. His creative and inspiring words let the reader see how the past defines who his characters are today and where we see them going in the future. Remarkably, Wally Lambs brings this all together in a great read!!
In Loving Frank, Mamah Cheney struggles to justify her clandestine love affair with Frank Lloyd Wright. In 1903, Mamah and her husband, Edwin, commissioned the renowned architect to design a new home for them. During the construction of the house, a powerful attraction develops between Mamah and Frank, and in time the lovers, each married with children, embarked on a course that would shock Chicago society and forever change their lives. This is a good book group book because it prompts discussion on many issues – Could you in the 1900’s make the decisions Mamaw, the leading character does, with regard to love, responsibility, and family? Do you condemn or condone her behavior? Women’s issues regarding family, love, friendships, travel intellect and independence are raised. It is also fascinating to learn about Frank Lloyd Wrights’s architecture style which was controversial and very forward thinking for the time period. This is a fast moving story, written beautifully and intelligently - a book which raises many questions and thoughts for the reader.
In this historical fiction novel, the reader sees a chapter of history many are not aware of or choose to forget. In July 1942, the great Volodrome d’Hiver roundup occurred in the heart of Paris whereby Jewish families were removed from their homes and sent to “camps” from which most never returned. The author, Tatiana DeRosny , effectively alternates between present Paris, France where an American journalist is researching a news story about the French roundup and 1942 through the eyes of a 10 year old girl, Sarah, who is taken with her family from her apartment in Paris to the camps. Both stories are captivating – I could not put this book down. In her research, the American journalist discovers that her life is intertwined with Sarah’s. The theme throughout is secrets which keep the reader turning pages to find the answers and to understand the characters actions.
I loved this book. The story is poignant and heartbreaking. The characters are strong and complex. The lines which were clearly defined for Southern white woman and the black woman who worked as their help in the 1960’s are challenged in a great read. I did not want it to end!!
This book is based on the extraordinary final lecture by Carnegie Mellon University professor Randy Pausch, given after he discovered he had pancreatic cancer. One expects to be sad and depressed reading this book, but this is not the case. Pausch writes his last lecture to his young children to share with them the good things in his life. I found his words inspirational and his message to enjoy each day and experience as positive and uplifting.
This book is truly a gift!! It spoke to me on many levels – as a mother about to become an empty nester, as someone who made the choice to move to a small town leaving behind all that was familiar , and as how the beauty of nature can satisfy the soul. Not since reading a text book, have I highlighted so many passages. I want to reread and cherish so much of this book. Kenison’s words flow from her heart and filled mine. Her writing is rhythmic and cathartic. I was so moved by this book, I cannot wait to give it as a gift – there are so many that I know will also be able to relate to what it means to devote oneself to children only to have them spread their wings and depart. Kenison provides the reader with the gift of how to accept and embrace this inevitable time in a mother’s life.