01. April 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Noelle

The Moonflower Vine by Jetta Carleton, 318 pages, read by Noelle, on 03/19/2015

A timeless American classic rediscovered–an unforgettable saga of a heartland family

On a farm in western Missouri during the first half of the twentieth century, Matthew and Callie Soames create a life for themselves and raise four headstrong daughters. Jessica will break their hearts. Leonie will fall in love with the wrong man. Mary Jo will escape to New York. And wild child Mathy’s fate will be the family’s greatest tragedy. Over the decades they will love, deceive, comfort, forgive–and, ultimately, they will come to cherish all the more fiercely the bonds of love that hold the family together.

01. April 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Contemporary Fiction, Drama, Fiction, Literary Fiction, Multicultural Fiction, Noelle

The Story Hour by Thrity Umrigar, 317 pages, read by Noelle, on 03/12/2015

This novel explores the interpersonal dynamics and consequences brought about by an unlikely friendship between two women from vastly different walks of life and cultural backgrounds. Lakshmi is a recent immigrant from rural India who finds herself isolated and depressed in a country she struggles to understand while also struggling in an unhappy arranged marriage to an emotionally abusive man. A series of circumstances leads Lakshmi into the care of Maggie, an accomplished African American psychologist who is well established and known for her professionalism. As their therapy sessions progress, Maggie becomes increasingly compassionate towards Lakshmi’s struggles. Maggie is drawn (along with the reader) into the vibrant stories Lakshmi tells about life in her village in India. The women also come to realize they share deep bond as both suffered the loss of their mother at a young age. Soon the boundary lines between patient and doctor become blurred. As their friendship develops, Maggie empowers Lakshmi to realize her potential, despite worry over the ethicality of their relationship as patient and doctor. Just as their relationship seems at its most positive and productive, the plot twists unexpectedly. When unseemly truths from both women are revealed, the consequences are detrimental and challenge the women’s perceptions and acceptance of one another.
As a reader, I especially enjoyed the depth of character development and the author’s ability to weave life truths and human complexity into the story from both Maggie and Lakshmi’s perspective. I found Lakshmi’s narration rich and engaging, although the author’s choice to write in broken English might be a hurdle for some readers. I can see how the author meant the ending of the novel to complete a circle in Lakshimi’s narrative. However, to me the resolution felt abrupt and untethered, leaving the reader and characters with uncertain absolution. In any case, I thought the book was well written and I particularly relished the author’s exploration of storytelling and emotional intricacies in human relationships.

27. February 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Literary Fiction, Mystery, Noelle, Thriller/Suspense

What strange creatures : a novel by Emily Arsenault, 366 pages, read by Noelle, on 02/26/2015

Scandal, love, family, and murder combine in this gripping mystery by critically acclaimed author Emily Arsenault, in which a young woman’s life is turned upside down when her brother is arrested for murder and she must prove his innocence.

The Battle siblings are used to disappointment. Seven years after starting her PhD program–one marriage, one divorce, three cats and a dog later–Theresa Battle still hasn’t finished her dissertation. Instead of a degree, she’s got a houseful of adoring pets and a dead-end copywriting job for a local candle company.

Jeff, her so-called genius older brother, doesn’t have it together, either. Creative and loyal, he’s also aimless, in both work and love. But his new girlfriend, Kim, a pretty waitress in her twenties, appears smitten. When Theresa agrees to dog-sit Kim’s puggle for a weekend, she has no idea it will be the beginning of a terrifying nightmare that will shatter her quiet academic world.

Soon Kim’s body is found in the woods, and Jeff becomes the prime suspect.

Though the evidence is overwhelming, Theresa knows that her brother is not a murderer. As she investigates Kim’s past, she uncovers a treacherous secret involving politics, murder, and scandal–and becomes entangled in a potentially dangerous romance. But the deeper she falls into this troubling case, the more it becomes clear that, in trying to save her brother’s life, she may be sacrificing her own

25. February 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Brian, Fantasy, Fiction, Horror, Literary Fiction, Mystery, Paranormal, Short Stories

Trigger Warning: short fictions and disturbances by Neil Gaiman, 310 pages, read by Brian, on 02/24/2015

Neil Gaiman is possibly to best writer of today’s literature.  Everything he writes is magic.  Neil writes another beauty in Trigger Warning a group of short stories to amaze and wonder about.  It is worth reading.

 

03. February 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Noelle

We Are All Welcome Here by Elizabeth Berg, 187 pages, read by Noelle, on 01/30/2015

Set in Tupelo Mississippi during the Freedom Summer of 1964, We Are All Welcome Here by acclaimed author Elizabeth Berg chronicles the effects of one mother’s indomitable spirit from the blossoming perspective of her thirteen year old daughter, Diana.
After contracting polio at the age of 22 while pregnant, Diana’s mother, Paige Dunn, becomes the only woman to survive successful childbirth in an iron lung. Abandoned by her husband, paralyzed from the neck down, and dependent on breathing apparatuses and caretakers, Paige exhibits incredible courage and willpower to raise Diana as a single mother.
Although others in their small Mississippi town find their family’s situation pitiable, life is nothing less than full in the Dunn household. Diana is raised in part by Paige’s steadfast caretaker, Peacie, whose caring intentions but sharp remarks are often misunderstood by Diana. The bond between Peacie and the Dunn women drives the storyline into deeper themes of equality and humanity. As events unfold throughout the Freedom Summer of 1964, Diana’s understanding of life is taken beyond the selfish whims of her childhood as she develops a deeper respect for the ideals shared by Peacie and her mother.
Readers can find inspiration in the remarkable strength, love and determination demonstrated by characters throughout the book. In a forward by the author, the reader learns how this book was inspired by the real lives of mother and daughter Pat Raming and Marianne Raming Burke.
As a reader, I was particularly taken with the human detail of Berg’s writing. Her descriptions of physical sensations and everyday emotional occurrences were often so spot-on; they left little echoes in my own body. I also enjoyed the strong and undeniably adolescent voice given to Diana, the narrator. Although there were some plot elements at the end which tied together a little too neatly for my liking, I very much enjoyed this book and look forward to reading more of Berg’s work.
Fans of The Help and The Secret Life of Bees will enjoy this unique and enlightening coming of age novel.

31. December 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Award Winner, Contemporary Fiction, Drama, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Noelle, Teen Books

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly, 471 pages, read by Noelle, on 12/30/2014

An angry, grieving seventeen-year-old musician facing expulsion from her prestigious Brooklyn private school travels to Paris to complete a school assignment and uncovers a diary written during the French revolution by a young actress attempting to help a tortured, imprisoned little boy–Louis Charles, the lost king of France.

25. November 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Drama, Fiction, Literary Fiction, Noelle, Paranormal

Rooms by Lauren Oliver, 320 pages, read by Noelle, on 11/06/2014

Wealthy Richard Walker has just died, leaving behind his country house full of rooms packed with the detritus of a lifetime. His estranged family, bitter ex-wife Caroline, troubled teenage son Trenton, and unforgiving daughter Minna, have arrived for their inheritance. But the Walkers are not alone. Prim Alice and the cynical Sandra, long dead former residents bound to the house, linger within its claustrophobic walls.

28. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Drama, Fiction, Literary Fiction, Noelle

The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty, 396 pages, read by Noelle, on 10/28/2014

So, once I realized that the secret would not be revealed in the first few chapters, I was entirely too impatient to wait.  I’m not proud, but I looked up “the secret” online.   I was worried it would be one of those books where the secret was NEVER revealed and I just couldn’t take it any more.  Of course, soon after I looked it up, it was revealed in the book.  So, if you decide to read this, you might want to be a tad more patient than I was.  The secret IS revealed a little less than halfway through.

Imagine that your husband wrote you a letter, to be opened after his death. Imagine, too, that the letter contains his deepest, darkest secret—something with the potential to destroy not just the life you built together, but the lives of others as well. Imagine, then, that you stumble across that letter while your husband is still very much alive. . . .
Cecilia Fitzpatrick has achieved it all—she’s an incredibly successful businesswoman, a pillar of her small community, and a devoted wife and mother. Her life is as orderly and spotless as her home. But that letter is about to change everything, and not just for her: Rachel and Tess barely know Cecilia—or each other—but they too are about to feel the earth-shattering repercussions of her husband’s secret.

Acclaimed author Liane Moriarty has written a gripping, thought-provoking novel about how well it is really possible to know our spouses—and, ultimately, ourselves.

 

07. October 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Becky, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Literary Fiction, Thriller/Suspense · Tags:

Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh, 306 pages, read by Becky, on 10/04/2014

 The Dane family’s roots tangle deep in the Ozark Mountain town of Henbane, but that doesn’t keep sixteen-year-old Lucy Dane from being treated like an outsider. Folks still whisper about her mother, a bewitching young stranger who inspired local myths when she vanished years ago. When one of Lucy’s few friends, slow-minded Cheri, is found murdered, Lucy feels haunted by the two lost girls–the mother she never knew and the friend she couldn’t protect. Everything changes when Lucy stumbles across Cheri’s necklace in an abandoned trailer and finds herself drawn into a search for answers. What Lucy discovers makes it impossible to ignore the suspicion cast on her own kin. More alarming, she suspects Cheri’s death could be linked to her mother’s disappearance, and the connection between the two puts Lucy at risk of losing everything. In a place where the bonds of blood weigh heavy, Lucy must decide where her allegiances lie.

 

30. September 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Literary Fiction, Noelle, Paranormal

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger, 406 pages, read by Noelle, on 09/26/2014

When Elspeth Noblin dies of cancer, she leaves her London apartment to her twin nieces, Julia and Valentina. These two American girls never met their English aunt, only knew that their mother, too, was a twin, and Elspeth her sister. Julia and Valentina are semi-normal American teenagers-with seemingly little interest in college, finding jobs, or anything outside their cozy home in the suburbs of Chicago, and with an abnormally intense attachment to one another. They are twenty. .

The girls move to Elspeth’s flat, which borders Highgate Cemetery in London. They come to know the building’s other residents. There is Martin, a brilliant and charming crossword puzzle setter suffering from crippling Obsessive Compulsive Disorder; Marjike, Martin’s devoted but trapped wife; and Robert, Elspeth’s elusive lover, a scholar of the cemetery. As the girls become embroiled in the fraying lives of their aunt’s neighbors, they also discover that much is still alive in Highgate, including-perhaps-their aunt, who can’t seem to leave her old apartment and life behind..

Niffenegger weaves a captivating story in Her Fearful Symmetry about love and identity, about secrets and sisterhood, and about the tenacity of life-even after death..

12. September 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Contemporary Fiction, Drama, Fiction, Literary Fiction, Mystery, Noelle · Tags:

Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh, 306 pages, read by Noelle, on 09/09/2014

“The Dane family’s roots tangle deep in the Ozark Mountain town of Henbane, but that doesn’t keep sixteen-year-old Lucy Dane from being treated like an outsider. Folks still whisper about her mother, a bewitching young stranger who inspired local myths when she vanished years ago. When one of Lucy’s few friends, slow-minded Cheri, is found murdered, Lucy feels haunted by the two lost girls–the mother she never knew and the friend she couldn’t protect. Everything changes when Lucy stumbles across Cheri’s necklace in an abandoned trailer and finds herself drawn into a search for answers. What Lucy discovers makes it impossible to ignore the suspicion cast on her own kin. More alarming, she suspects Cheri’s death could be linked to her mother’s disappearance, and the connection between the two puts Lucy at risk of losing everything. In a place where the bonds of blood weigh heavy, Lucy must decide where her allegiances lie”

28. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Contemporary Fiction, Drama, Fiction, Literary Fiction, Multicultural Fiction, Noelle

All I Love and Know by Judith Frank, 422 pages, read by Noelle, on 08/28/2014

Absolutely fantastic.  I give this book a starred review- Noelle

With the storytelling power of Wally Lamb and the emotional fidelity of Lorrie Moore, this is the searing drama of an American family on the brink of dissolution, one that explores adoption, gay marriage, and true love lost and found.

For years, Matthew Greene and Daniel Rosen have enjoyed a contented domestic life in Northampton, Massachusetts. Opposites in many ways, they have grown together and made their relationship work. But when they learn that Daniel’s twin brother and sister-in-law have been killed in a Jerusalem bombing, their lives are suddenly, utterly transformed.

The deceased couple have left behind two young children, and their shocked and grieving families must decide who will raise six-year-old Gal and baby Noam. When it becomes clear that Daniel’s brother and sister-in-law had wanted Matt and Daniel to be the children’s guardians, the two men find themselves confronted by challenges that strike at the heart of their relationship. What is Matt’s place in an extended family that does not completely accept him or the commitment he and Daniel have made? How do Daniel’s complex feelings about Israel and this act of terror affect his ability to recover from his brother’s death? And what kind of parents can these two men really be to children who have lost so much?

The impact that this instant new family has on Matt, Daniel, and their relationship is subtle and heartbreaking, yet not without glimmers of hope. They must learn to reinvent and redefine their bond in profound, sometimes painful ways. How does a family become strong enough to stay together and endure when its very basis has drastically changed? And are there limits to honesty or commitment–or love?

28. August 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Noelle

The Museum of Extraordinary Things: A Novel by Alice Hoffman, 368 pages, read by Noelle, on 08/14/2014

Mesmerizing and illuminating, Alice Hoffman’s The Museum of Extraordinary Things is the story of an electric and impassioned love between two vastly different souls in New York during the volatile first decades of the twentieth century.

Coralie Sardie is the daughter of the sinister impresario behind The Museum of Extraordinary Things, a Coney Island boardwalk freak show that thrills the masses. An exceptional swimmer, Coralie appears as the Mermaid in her father’s “museum,” alongside performers like the Wolfman, the Butterfly Girl, and a one-hundred-year-old turtle. One night Coralie stumbles upon a striking young man taking pictures of moonlit trees in the woods off the Hudson River.

The dashing photographer is Eddie Cohen, a Russian immigrant who has run away from his father’s Lower East Side Orthodox community and his job as a tailor’s apprentice. When Eddie photographs the devastation on the streets of New York following the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, he becomes embroiled in the suspicious mystery behind a young woman’s disappearance and ignites the heart of Coralie.

With its colorful crowds of bootleggers, heiresses, thugs, and idealists, New York itself becomes a riveting character as Hoffman weaves her trademark magic, romance, and masterful storytelling to unite Coralie and Eddie in a sizzling, tender, and moving story of young love in tumultuous times. The Museum of Extraordinary Things is Alice Hoffman at her most spellbinding.

30. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Noelle

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles, 335 pages, read by Noelle, on 07/29/2014

A sophisticated and entertaining debut novel about an irresistible young woman with an uncommon sense of purpose.

Set in New York City in 1938, Rules of Civility tells the story of a watershed year in the life of an uncompromising twenty-five-year- old named Katey Kontent. Armed with little more than a formidable intellect, a bracing wit, and her own brand of cool nerve, Katey embarks on a journey from a Wall Street secretarial pool through the upper echelons of New York society in search of a brighter future.

The story opens on New Year’s Eve in a Greenwich Village jazz bar, where Katey and her boardinghouse roommate Eve happen to meet Tinker Grey, a handsome banker with royal blue eyes and a ready smile. This chance encounter and its startling consequences cast Katey off her current course, but end up providing her unexpected access to the rarified offices of Conde Nast and a glittering new social circle. Befriended in turn by a shy, principled multimillionaire, an Upper East Side ne’er-do-well, and a single-minded widow who is ahead of her times, Katey has the chance to experience first hand the poise secured by wealth and station, but also the aspirations, envy, disloyalty, and desires that reside just below the surface. Even as she waits for circumstances to bring Tinker back into her orbit, she will learn how individual choices become the means by which life crystallizes loss.

Elegant and captivating, Rules of Civility turns a Jamesian eye on how spur of the moment decisions define life for decades to come. A love letter to a great American city at the end of the Depression, readers will quickly fall under its spell of crisp writing, sparkling atmosphere and breathtaking revelations, as Towles evokes the ghosts of Fitzgerald, Capote, and McCarthy.

 

07. July 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Literary Fiction, Mystery, Teen Books

The Midnight Dress by Karen Foxlee, 288 pages, read by Courtney, on 06/13/2014

The Midnight Dress is a gorgeously rendered tale of murder, friendship and sewing. When Rose arrives in Leonora with her father, she is not expecting to stay very long. She and her father have been driving around Australia in their RV for years, never staying in one place for very long. She grudgingly enrolls herself in the local high school and does her best to avoid everyone. She unwittingly winds up friends with Pearl Kelly, the lovely and gregarious girl who smells of “frangipani and coconut oil”. Rose is unaccustomed to having friends and her gruff demeanor is designed to keep it that way. Pearl has a way of getting under one’s skin though and, as the Harvest Festival draws nearer, Rose finds herself heading to the seamstress Pearl recommended to have a dress made. The seamstress is an elderly woman named Edie who lives in a giant, dilapidated house at the base of the mountain. She was once a dressmaker of some renown, but has since become regarded as a witch. Rose, in spite of herself, continues to come back, week after week to help Edie hand-stitch the beautiful midnight-blue dress that Rose will wear for the Harvest Festival parade. Through it all, however, the reader knows that one of these two girls will not survive the night of the Festival. Who, how and why remain a mystery.
Each chapter begins with a flashback showing a tiny portion of the fateful night, but the information is meted out so deliberately that the reader is driven to push on in order to find out how the pieces fit together. The rest of the story is told in a more linear fashion, but is no less mysterious. Pearl and Rose make such a wonderful pair. Pearl is sweetness, dreams and light. Rose is twilight, introspection and nature. Edie’s backstory expands the world inhabited by the girls. The landscape of their coastal Australian town is as much a character as any of the humans. While there’s nothing explicitly magical about this tale, there’s something about the writing that feels as though this might be magical realism. The narrative may move slowly, but this is not a novel to rush through. Readers who stick with it will be richly rewarded by the dazzling writing, vivid landscape, and memorable characters.

28. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Noelle

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, 546 pages, read by Noelle, on 05/27/2014

I swear I’m not trying to read all of the books from Oprah’s club, it just so happens to be working out that way recently.  I loved this book, and I particularly loved the character Adah’s narration.

In 1959, Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist, takes his four young daughters, his wife, and his mission to the Belgian Congo — a place, he is sure, where he can save needy souls. But the seeds they plant bloom in tragic ways within this complex culture. Set against one of the most dramatic political events of the twentieth century — the Congo’s fight for independence from Belgium and its devastating consequences — here is New York Times-bestselling author Barbara Kingslover’s beautiful, heartbreaking, and unforgettable epic that chronicles the disintegration of family and a nation.

 

28. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Noelle · Tags: , ,

Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd, 373 pages, read by Noelle, on 05/16/2014

Kidd’s sweeping novel is set in motion on Sarah’s eleventh birthday, when she is given ownership of ten year old Handful, who is to be her handmaid. We follow their remarkable journeys over the next thirty five years, as both strive for a life of their own, dramatically shaping each other’s destinies and forming a complex relationship marked by guilt, defiance, estrangement and the uneasy ways of love.

As the stories build to a riveting climax, Handful will endure loss and sorrow, finding courage and a sense of self in the process. Sarah will experience crushed hopes, betrayal, unrequited love, and ostracism before leaving Charleston to find her place alongside her fearless younger sister, Angelina, as one of the early pioneers in the abolition and women’s rights movements.

Inspired by the historical figure of Sarah Grimke, Kidd goes beyond the record to flesh out the rich interior lives of all of her characters, both real and invented, including Handful’s cunning mother, Charlotte, who courts danger in her search for something better.

This exquisitely written novel is a triumph of storytelling that looks with unswerving eyes at a devastating wound in American history, through women whose struggles for liberation, empowerment, and expression will leave no reader unmoved.

 

06. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Literary Fiction, Madeline

Ten White Geese by Gerbrand Bakker, 240 pages, read by Madeline, on 04/27/2014

A woman rents a remote farm in rural Wales. She says her name is Emilie. An Emily Dickinson scholar, she has fled Amsterdam, having just confessed to an affair. On the farm she finds ten geese. One by one they disappear. Who is this woman? Will her husband manage to find her? The young man who stays the night: why won’t he leave? And the vanishing geese?
Set against a stark and pristine landscape, and with a seductive blend of solace and menace, this novel of stealth intrigue summons from a woman’s silent longing fugitive moments of profound beauty and compassion.

06. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Lisa, Literary Fiction

The Ten White Geese by Gerbrand Bakker, 240 pages, read by Lisa, on 04/01/2014

A woman rents a remote farm in rural Wales. She says her name is Emilie. An Emily Dickinson scholar, she has fled Amsterdam, having just confessed to an affair. On the farm she finds ten geese. One by one they disappear. Who is this woman? Will her husband manage to find her? The young man who stays the night: why won’t he leave? And the vanishing geese?
Set against a stark and pristine landscape, and with a seductive blend of solace and menace, this novel of stealth intrigue summons from a woman’s silent longing fugitive moments of profound beauty and compassion.

01. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Literary Fiction, Noelle · Tags: ,

The Grand Complication by Allen Kurzweil, 359 pages, read by Noelle, on 04/07/2014

With a boss threatening to exile him to driving a bookmobile in Amish Country and a headstrong wife whose erotic pop-up books fail to revive the couples lost intimacy, Alexander retreats to a world of private annotation. Enter Henry James Jesson III, a collector with an improbably literary name, who shares a number of Alexanders unconventional interests. Soon, Jesson hires Alexander for some after-hours research. As his search advances, the librarian realizes there are many more secrets in Jessons life than the ones found in his dazzling Manhattan salon.