Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler

 

vinegar girlThis book kept me completely content through a long plane ride, the sign of a good read.

Our protagonist, Kate, is stuck in her spinster existence. She lives at home with her quirky, scientist father, a self-centered much younger sister. She has a dead-end job teaching preschool. Her life is ripe for romance. However, the road is never easy, and it proves to be rough in this story as well. Her father is convinced a green card marriage is the perfect solution for his daughter. It will keep his lab assistant in the country, and keep his daughter close to home. This plan is insulting to Kate, to say the least, but a bit of an exciting prospect for the lab partner. A sweet story of love and softening of hearts ensues, it is funny, quietly beautiful, and satisfying to the end. A lovely re-telling of a Shakespeare classic. It is compact and endearing.

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Vinegar Girl: A Novel (Hogarth Shakespeare)

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

I was humbled to learn I was completely unaware of the history of the Orphan Trains in the US. In 1850, there were 30,000 homeless children in New York City. In an effort to help these children, they were put on trains and taken to live on farms in the midwest. From 1853 to the early 1900’s thousands of children were relocated, this movement is credited with starting the Foster Care System. You can read more about the history here:

Childrens Aid Society

orphan-train

Photo credit to the Childrens Aid Society Website

orphan train book coverOrphan Train, the historical fiction novel set in this time period is outstanding. We meet three characters, Neeve, an orphan in 1929, Molly, aging out of the modern day foster system, and Vivian, a 90 year old woman who Molly is placed to serve community service.  Their stories fit together perfectly, their struggles are different, but also a mirror image of one another. Each womans life is rich with emotion, perseverance, and redemption. A perfect historical fiction novel. The Audiobook was fantastic, I think it added to the book because of the characterization through different voices.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: Orphan Train

To Purchase the Audiobook, click here: Orphan Train: A Novel

I Love You More by Jennifer Murphy

I love you moreA man with a closet full of secrets can only keep them hidden so long.  Sooner or later your wife finds out a secret, discovers things don’t add up, and your house of cards comes falling down piece by piece. Unless you don’t let it fall.  In this fast paced, story we first meet Diane, beautiful and put together, mother of a daughter named Picasso. She is married to Oliver, desperately in love, yet desperately unhappy. You cannot quite figure out what is going in her marriage, and either can Diane. The story is told from the perspective of Diane, Picasso, and a small town detective.  If you liked Gone Girl you will love the twists and turns and psychological layers. However, I thought this book far surpassed Gone Girl in writing, character development, and depth. The writing is fresh, beautiful, and creative. The pacing and plot are impeccable.  The story is told by different characters, the reader gains the perspective of the story from many different angles. This is the best murder mystery I have read in a long time, I could not walk away from it until it was over. It is haunting, masterful, and a stunning success.

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If You Liked ‘The Help’, Here is Your Next Read

Calling Me Home by Julie Kibler

calling me homeDory has washed and set Ms. Isabelle’s hair every week for years. They know each other as most people know their regular stylist, sharing just the surface bits and pieces of their lives. This distance is eradicated, and their cordial friendship is taken to a new level when Isabelle asks Dory to drive her to a funeral across the country. Dory accepts with a bit of hesitation, and so begins a journey of friendship which travels across lines of race, generation, and social standing. The miles and hours pass by, as Isabelle tells Dory of her first love. Dory’s present struggles and Isabelle’s past agony unfold as they drive and share their stories.  Isabelle dredges up the past, bit by bit, and Dory compassionately wades through the memories with her.  Dory is fighting battles of her own, with teenage children and new relationships.  Isabelle pushes Dory to live a courageous life in the present, as she reconciles her past. The story is touching, well told, and a good read.  If you like strong women’s fiction, you will enjoy this book.

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Calling Me Home: A Novel

The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy by Rachel Joyce

queenie hennessy_

Rachel Joyce wrote a companion book to her best-selling book, ‘The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.’ Her hit book in which the main character Harold Fry walks across England to see his old friend Queenie Hennessey before she dies.  In her newest novel, ‘The Love Song of Queenie Hennessey’ we meet Queenie and hear her story.  Joyce is a beautiful writer and creates very strong characterization, but I would have preferred to not know Queenie’s story. It was a very sad tale, and I was left feeling devastated at the end of this new installment.  I loved the story of Harold Fry because it was quirky and heartfelt.  There were sad times, yet covered over with healing, and sprinkled with dusting of hope that the rainbow was just up around the bend. This book was much darker and tragic.  If you liked Harold Fry I would recommend stopping with his journey.

However, you really should read the first installment.  Here is the review and link for her first book.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce 

The Unlikely Pilgramage of harold fryFrom start to finish I enjoyed the tale of Harold Fry and his Unlikely Pilgrimage.  Harold and his wife exist, but do not live; they function, but do not thrive.  It is as if a large gray cloud cover their lives with gray and shadows and they have accepted their drab life.  Unexpectedly Harold receives a letter from an old friend.   Queenie, is terminally ill in a town across the country.   He gets the letter, and begins to walk to see his old friend.  Without a  plan, and a lousy pair of shoes upon his feet, he just walks.   The strange pilgrimage shocks and frustrates his wife, but Harold begins to collect a small following to cheer him on.  Pretty soon the whole country of England begins to rally for Harold to make it to see his old friend Queenie.  Harold sets out searching to find closure with an old friend, but the journey leads him to a vastly different destination.  This is a sweet story, honest, and well written.

To Order this book on Amazon, click here:    The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry: A Novel

The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan

TheOppositeOfLoneliness Ok, so I am a jerk.  I saw this book on the NYT Bestseller list, requested it from the library, and picked it up one Saturday.  I glanced at it, threw it in the passenger seat of my car, and wondered what this young woman could have to say.  I expected something fluffy or self-indulged.  Then I opened the book and read about the author.  I saw two dates, 1989-2012. I stopped and stood in my hallway, absorbing and reading.  I read about Marian Keegan, a talented, accomplished, intelligent young writer who died 5 days after her college graduation in a car accident.   I felt like a terrible person, forgetting the first rule of reading; don’t judge a book by its cover.  Then I sat and read and read.  Marina had incredible things to say, profound, witty, endearing, humane, hopeful, lovely things to say.

This compilation was published after her death.  It is a compilation of short stories and non-fiction pieces.  They are full of longing to change the world, and joy in the journey of life.  She was a writer that could capture human experience succinctly and make you think, “I have felt that, I have done that, I know exactly what you mean.”   A college girl writing about college boyfriends, those are stories one can pound out from their own recesses of experience.  However, Keegan wrote a story about a middle aged woman adopting a baby.  It was sweet, funny, poignant, and very well done.  I was impressed with her ability to capture life stages far beyond her own.

The essay I connected to the most she wrote about her high school car.  Her coming-of-age experiences in it, and the storage unit her care transformed into. A co-worker once laughed at my random collection of things in my car, a can of diet coke, one shoe, and detachable straps from a bridesmaids dress.  My car was my extra home on wheels for many years; it saw me through a lot of happy and sad.  Keegan encapsulated this feeling, I related so well to her depictions.  I believe this is what great writing does, reassures you there is someone else who has felt and experienced the exact same things.  Marina Keegan is a voice gone way too soon.

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The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories

5 Love Stories Better Than 50 Shades

Today a sweeping best seller turned into a movie will be released.  It has become a phenonmenon that sadly twists an abusive relationship into love. There are better books and more talented authors.

Let’s get back to good books, to well written stories, to authors who have honed their craft, and gifted storytellers.  Please give rise to these authors and their works of fiction that are well written, tender, moving stories.  As long as consumers keep devouring books like 50 shades, they will keep getting published.  Jane Austin would swoon over these stories, give them a go.

Attachments by Rainbow Rowellattachments

If you have not yet discovered the delightful Rainbow Rowell, you are in for a treat.  This is a  novel told primarily through company emails.  Rowell is a master at quick, smart dialogue.  The lives of a night computer security worker, and daytime employees connect through secret email reading without meeting face to face.  Lincoln, the main character is hired at night to ensure the employees are following standard procedures. He reads through emails and checks on employees computer activity.  Situations get  awkward when Lincoln starts to fall for a woman through her email prose.   The voices in the novel are witty, crass, and unbelievably awesome.  You will adore the banter between the characters and the odd love story that unfolds.  I wish there were more books like hers.  Wonderful, wonderful read.

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Attachments: A Novel

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

The storied life of A.J. Fikry

Gabrielle Zevin writes a story of true and sacrificial love.  She shows us that blood is not always thicker than water, and love can shake you free from a painful stupor gone on too long.  The main character A.J. is suffocating under grief and hardship.  He runs a bookstore on an island (yes, it is as charming as it seems) and is struggling in modern day book selling in the midst of e-readers and online shopping.  He drowns his sorrows in wine in the evening, and his world turns upside down when his prize possession, a rare Edgar Allen Poe original, is stolen from his home.  As quickly as the book is taken from him, a mysterious baby is left in his care with a note explaining her parents are not up for raising a child.  The rest I will leave to you to read for yourself.  The characters are all quirky and lovable, flawed,and oh so  human. I truly believe there should be a special genre of  books only written about people that adore books.  The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry would shine in such a genre.  Many more events unravel in this story, I felt like I had moved onto the Island and gotten to know all the characters.  When the book was over, I was sure I would miss all of them.  It is not all happy, but it is sweet, and real, and worth your time.

To purchase the book from Amazon, click here:

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry: A Novel

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

The Rosie Project

A character driven novel is one in which the character would say and do the same things regardless of the time or circumstances the author places them in.  The Rosie Project is the most charming and heartwarming novel of this kind that I have stumbled across in recent months.    Don Tillman is successful in his job and many endeavors, however love and relationships is not one of them.  Don has autism and does not grasp human relationships or social interactions in the slightest.  He concludes that it is time to find a romantic relationship; but decides leaving to chance meeting someone compatible randomly is unlikely and inefficient.  He comes up with a compatibility measurement test to approach the quest from a logical and scientific angle.  Of course, we all know there is no science to love, so Don’s world gets turned upside down and back again.   The author captures the mind of an autistic person with precision, compassion, and humor.   This love story is quirky and wonderful; I am praying they do not turn it into a movie.

To purchase this book on Amazon, click here:

The Rosie Project: A Novel

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman 

A Maa man called oven called Ove is quietly brilliant and utterly charming.    Ove is a man of unchanged routine, from his home, to his Saub, to his job, he holds onto the familiar with clenched fists.  He is an angry, prickly old man, and has settled into a life of despising most people.  Ove is pushed out of his job of thirty years and he is left without purpose.  To add insult to injury, new neighbors arrive across the street, he is grumpier than ever.  He irritably helps the Iranian neighbors through a medical emergency and a tentavtive friendship is born.  This story unfolds like a tapestry, telling the reader the story of Ove’s life as it has merged with the residents in their neighborhood of row homes.  This book captures the joy and pain of true sacrificial love, friendship with roots as strong as family, and forgiving the past.  The best thing about this book is how it makes you feel as you read, compassion for sweet old Ove, and hope that good can reign over bad.  Rich storytelling and subtle humor make it a moving novel.  I loved every up and down, from the beginning to the end.

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A Man Called Ove: A Novel

Longbourne by Jo Baker

LongbourneLongbourne is reminiscent of Jane Austin’s story telling.  You will like it If you are looking for a book will elements similar to Pride and Prejudice.  However, it is not a retelling of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy.  Let Longbourne speak for itself and tell its own story.  It is classic in its theme, tension, and hierarchy between servants and higher class.  It is romantic in its story of love hoped for, but unspoken and uncertain.   As a reader you need to attentively tune into the tension and longings of the characters.  The things that go unsaid are almost as important as what is said.  Longbourne takes you into old England, carriages, foggy mornings,  stone houses, and quiet romance.  I enjoyed this book, it is not a page turner, but a story that unfolds with quiet reserve.

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Longbourn