Edie C · Fiction · In the Library

A Turn in the Road | by Debbie Macomber

A Turn in the Road by Debbie Macomber
(Mira, 2011, 333 pages)

What a cute read!  A Turn in the Road by Debbie Macomber is one of those books to just sit back and enjoy – there is no brain function required but it is still entertaining.  The main character, Bethanne, is 6+ years past her divorce.  Her adult children are split on whether or not Dad should be back in their lives.  As the reader, you feel like it’s probably going to happen, until Bethanne, daughter Anne, and mother-in-law Ruth, all head off across country to get Ruth to her class reunion in Florida.  At this point in the story, there is a turn in the road and the reader has to get to the very last few pages to find out how it all turns out.  Fun!

Biography · Celebrities · History · Jean R · Non-Fiction · Political Science · Quick Read!

My Father at 100 | by Ron Reagan

My Father at 100 by Ron Reagan
(Viking, 2011, 228 pages)

My Father at 100 is a memoir of Ronald Reagan written by his youngest son, Ron Reagan. This book briefly touches on Reagan the actor and Reagan the President. The true focus of the book is the first 21 years of Ronald Reagan’s life. Ron Reagan, the son and author, visits the boyhood haunts of his father. Ron Reagan tries to put himself in his father’s shoes as he visits Rock River where Ronald Reagan spent several summers as a lifeguard, and the town of Dixon, IL where the former president spent much of his youth.

The title of the book, My Father at 100, acknowledges the fact that if Ronald Reagan were still alive, he would be 100 in the year this book was copyrighted (2011). Ron Reagan makes the point that in many ways Ronald Reagan is still with us. There are roads and buildings named after him and several statues are scattered throughout the USA. Reagan’s films can still be viewed. Politicians still refer to Reaganomics.

My Father at 100, at only 228 pages, is a quick read. At first, the book is a little confusing because Ron Reagan jumps back and forth in time. It is interesting to see Ronald Reagan from his son’s perspective. This book is recommended for readers of biography.

Fiction · Food! · Julia P · Quick Read! · Romance

The Love Goddess’ Cooking School | by Melissa Senate

The Love Goddess’ Cooking School by Melissa Senate
(Gallery Books, 2010, 326 pages)

Holly Maguire feels like she’s been searching for love and her true place in the world forever.  Her grandmother, Camilla, was known as the “Love Goddess of Blue Crab Island” in Maine and she had told Holly that she would know her true love because he would love an Italian dish known as sa cordula – translation, sheep intestines with peas.  Holly’s starting to believe that her “true love” doesn’t exist because so far NO ONE has enjoyed that dish in the slightest.

After her most recent break-up, Holly heads back to Maine to stay with her grandmother and attempt to recuperate.  In addition to being known as a fortune teller, Camilla has also been running a successful Italian cooking school for years.  Shortly after Holly’s arrival, her grandmother passes away in her sleep.  Doubly devastated, Holly now finds herself responsible for her grandmother’s legacy which means she has to teach herself how to cook and attempt to run a cooking class of her own.

There are 4 students in Holly’s class, all coming in with baggage and all hoping that learning how to cook will somehow ease the personal struggles they’re dealing with.  They grow together and form a supportive, tight-knit group.  Things start getting messy when Holly finds herself falling for the father of one of her students. . .

This was a fun, light read.  Definitely perfect for summer reading – especially if you love food and romance 😉

Biography · History · In the Library · Jean R · Non-Fiction

Harry S. Truman | by Margaret Truman

Harry S. Truman by Margaret Truman
(Pocket Books, 1974, 660 pages)

Harry S. Truman is a biography of the 33rd President of the United States written from the unique perspective of his only child, Margaret Truman. Margaret Truman has written 24 murder mysteries and several non-fiction books, including other books on her father and her mother, Bess Truman. Ms. Truman used not only her father’s papers and Presidential Library to write this biography, but also injects her own memories. Harry S. Truman opens in 1948 with Harry Truman’s presidential campaign. The book then flashes back to Harry Truman’s earlier life and career in Independence, MO. The majority of Harry S. Truman covers the White House years.

In Harry S. Truman, Margaret Truman reveals some interesting facts about her father. For example, Harry Truman believed that the White House was haunted and often referred to the ghosts. Also, on election night in 1948, Harry Truman went to bed early while Margaret and her mother, Bess, stayed up until the wee hours of the morning waiting for the election results. Harry Truman believed in “early to bed, early to rise.” Ms. Truman also discusses President Truman’s decision to use the atomic bomb. President Truman felt that by dropping the bomb he was saving 250,000 American military lives.

Harry S. Truman is comprehensive look at the Truman White House years. The story flows smoothly and covers many aspects of life in the White House and the start of the Cold War. This book is recommended for readers of biography and U.S. history.

Edie C · Fiction · In the Library · Mystery · Page-Turner · Romance

Safe Haven | by Nicholas Sparks

Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks
(Grand Central Publishing, 2010, 340 pages)

I am the kind of person who will read a certain author as long as that author is willing to write books for me 🙂  Nicholas Sparks is one of my favorite authors, but THIS book totally shocked me with the last chapter.  Safe Haven tells the tale of a woman who has been brutally abused by her husband.  She finally manages to escape to a remote cottage in a small coastal town where she meets people who change her life and give her reason to love again.  Unfortunately, her husband manages to locate her.  The page turning suspense made me want to finish the book before I could turn in for the night.  A 1 a.m. type of book!

Yes, a very typical Nicholas Sparks story, but this time, he actually made be blurt out “NO WAY'” at the end and I was flipping back through the pages to check it out.  Most certainly, this book will keep the reader’s attention, but now that you know the ending is amazing, you are actually going to have to read the entire book to understand the ending, so don’t bother skipping – you will need it all 🙂

Bob G · Fiction · In the Library · Short Stories · Thriller

Behind A Mask and Plots & Counterplots | by A. M. Barnard

Behind A Mask: The Unknown Thrillers of Louisa May Alcott
by A.M. Barnard
(Morrow, 1975, 277 pages)

and Plots & Counterplots: More Unknown Thrillers by Louisa May Alcott by A. M. Barnard
(Morrow, 1976, 315 pages)

I must admit to having a lack of interest in Gothic literature. Tales of revengeful heroines living in desolate, bleak landscapes who indulge in drug abuse, jealousy and blackmail aren’t usually the type of reading I enjoy. But when the author is someone held up as one of the finest providers of wholesome family entertainment, I do take notice.

Such is the case with Behind a Mask and Plots and Counterplots, two short story collections by none other than Louisa May Alcott, author of Little Women, Little Men and many other classics of American literature. Unknown to most, the noted author was forced to support herself and her family by writing a number of lurid “potboilers” for popular publications under the pen name “A.M. Barnard.”

Alcott was the daughter of a famous Transcendentalist, Amos Bronson Alcott, and grew up in Concord, Massachusetts, where she often dined at the tables of Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Her father, although a popular writer and public speaker, was not successful financially and the young Louisa was forced to take steps to bring in more money for the family. Like Jo in Little Women, Louisa started out writing plays and short pieces for publications of the time. Her real success came, however, when she began penning sensationalist stories of incest, murder and revenge that were so popular at that time.

These tales feature some of the standard plot elements of this genre of literature. The heroines are willful, determined women who lie, steal and kill to right a past wrong, seek revenge on someone who crossed them and misrepresent themselves to achieve a better “position” in society. The short stories contain references to drug addiction, incest, kidnapping and blackmail, something the March sisters of Little Women would definitely be shocked at.

It is easy to see how Alcott used these early writings to develop her own writing style. Although the female characters in these stories are not always likeable, Alcott gives them a personality that is not soon forgotten. While the loveable character of Jo March was largely autobiographical, these women display a determination and vindictiveness completely unlike the author. Because she wrote under a false name, it would be many years before the real author of these thrillers was revealed. With the publication of these two collections, however, it is possible to look behind the mask and appreciate the full range of Alcott’s writing skills. Although your children will still no doubt enjoy her classics of family literature, you might want to wait until they get a little older to expose them to this side of the author.

Celebrities · Comedy · Kelly M · Memoir · Quick Read!

Bossypants | by Tina Fey

Bossypants by Tina Fey
(Reagan Arthur Books, 2011, 288 pages)

Tina Fey–star of 30 Rock and former Saturday Night Live actress and writer, and winner of the 2010 Mark Twain Prize for American Humor–hit a home run with her memoir, Bossypants. Her witty, sarcastic humor made me laugh aloud many times. Fey discusses her life growing up in a Greek neighborhood, working a summer job at a theatre for children, traveling with an improv group, and working on SNL and 30 Rock. Other chapters offer beauty and parenting tips. The text is supplemented with funny photographs of Fey, including her as an awkward child. Also included is a reprint of an SNL skit, featuring Fey as Sarah Palin (her most popular impersonation) and Hillary Clinton (played by Amy Poehler), showing the edits they made. If you like Tina Fey on TV, you will like this book.

Audiobook · Julia P · Memoir · Non-Fiction

This Is Not The Story You Think It Is. . . | by Laura Munson

This Is Not The Story You Think It Is. . . : A Season of Unlikely Happiness by Laura Munson
(Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam, 2010, 352 pages)

I was swayed to pick up Laura Munson’s book, This Is Not The Story You Think It Is, because a portion of it appeared in the “Modern Love” section of The New York Times.  Generally, I enjoy reading “Modern Love,” though at times I’m confused about what kind of message they’re trying to send.  Anyway, I picked up the audio version of this title and listened to it in my car.  The basic premise of the book is that Munson and her husband went through a bit of a rough patch.  A rough patch that started with him telling her he didn’t love her anymore and he wanted to move out.  Trust me, I’m not spoiling anything.  This book chronicles this period in her life as she tries to keep herself together while also working to keep her marriage and family intact.

There were definitely parts of this book I found myself relating to and I think I gleaned some helpful tips in how to interact with/support your partner.  That being said, I don’t think Laura could have painted herself as a more saintly individual if she tried.  She talked about focusing on forgiveness and not suffering and she gave her husband space to find himself.  All this, after being told, to her FACE, that her husband no longer loved her.  Maybe she’s a bigger person than I am, but [to me] the way she reacted to this declaration is not typical.  It’s clear she loves her husband, her family, and her life, but the book came off as preachy and unrealistic, even though she refers to the book as a sort of diary and wants you to believe that all the conversations and interactions she had with her friends and husband really happened.

Which brings me to another point – she talks ad nauseum about how she wants to get published and that IF this book she’s writing that you’re reading RIGHT NOW gets published she hopes other people can learn from her experiences.  There was just too much repetition – her editor definitely should have stepped in here.  I might have had a different perception of the memoir had I read it instead of listening to it, but I don’t think so.  I just didn’t think Munson made herself relatable or likable.

This book did get a number of good reviews, so if you’re interested in reading about how someone refused to accept the potential demise of her marriage and did everything in her power to keep that from happening, definitely check this out.  Just prepare yourself to be amazed at how someone can stay so positive in the midst of it all.

Fiction · Julia P · Quick Read! · Young Adult

Half Brother | by Kenneth Oppel

Half Brother by Kenneth Oppel
(Scholastic Press, 2010, 375 pages)

Half Brother starts out with the Tomlin family getting a new addition, a young chimpanzee named Zan.  Zan is quickly adopted into the family in the role of “youngest child.”  Ben Tomlin’s father, a behavioral scientist, has been waiting for years to get the chance to raise a chimpanzee as a human and to try and teach him language (sign language, that is).  Though it takes a little while to get used to having a chimpanzee in the house, 13-year-old Ben quickly bonds with Zan and begins viewing him as a younger brother rather than as an animal/experiment.

Zan’s presence in the Tomlin family can’t be denied – though it’s clear that, unlike Ben and his mother who have readily accepted Zan as a family member, Ben’s father still only sees Zan as a test subject.  Things start getting complicated when the experiment doesn’t get the necessary validation Ben’s father had hoped for.  The relationship between Zan and the Tomlin family is at a crossroads, and Ben is faced with a number of tough decisions that put him at odds with his dad.

This was a really interesting book and I enjoyed reading it.  I’d definitely recommend it for animal-lovers and those who appreciate good YA novels. 

Fiction · Gwen B · In the Library · Page-Turner · Thriller

I’ll Walk Alone | by Mary Higgins Clark

I’ll Walk Alone by Mary Higgins Clark
(Simon & Schuster, 2011, 337 pages)

In I’ll Walk Alone, Alexandra “Zan” Moreland is a beautiful and gifted interior designer on the threshold of a successful Manhattan career.  She is terrified to discover that somebody is not only using her credit cards and manipulating her financial accounts to bankrupt her and destroy her reputation, but may also be impersonating her in a scheme that may involve the much more brutal crimes of kidnapping and murder.  Zan is already haunted by the disappearance of her own son, Matthew, kidnapped in broad daylight two years ago in Central Park – a tragedy that has left her torn between hope and despair.

I’ll Walk Alone is one of Mary Higgins Clark’s most suspenseful books.  I couldn’t put it down.  It’s a page-turner for sure!  Funny and suspenseful all in one.

It contains realistically portrayed characters, especially Zan as a beleaguered heroine who feels unbearable pressure, but refuses to break as she still has fading hopes that Matthew will one day return to her.  Fans will feel for her while wondering who the villain is.

I love books by this author, and this one did not disappoint.  A very quick and easy read!  I highly recommend it.