Fiction · Gwen B · In the Library · Romance

Love Letters | by Debbie Macomber

Love Letters

Love Letters by Debbie Macomber
(Ballantine Books, 2014, 306 pages)


In this enchanting novel set at Cedar Cove’s cozy Rose Harbor Inn, #1 New York Times bestselling author Debbie Macomber celebrates the power of love—and a well-timed love letter—to inspire hope and mend a broken heart.

Summer is a busy season at the inn, so proprietor Jo Marie Rose and handyman Mark Taylor have spent a lot of time together keeping the property running. Despite some folks’ good-natured claims to the contrary, Jo Marie insists that Mark is only a friend. However, she seems to be thinking about this particular friend a great deal lately. Jo Marie knows surprisingly little about Mark’s life, due in no small part to his refusal to discuss it. She’s determined to learn more about his past, but first she must face her own—and welcome three visitors who, like her, are setting out on new paths.

Twenty-three-year-old Ellie Reynolds is taking a leap of faith. She’s come to Cedar Cove to meet Tom, a man she’s been corresponding with for months, and with whom she might even be falling in love. Ellie’s overprotective mother disapproves of her trip, but Ellie is determined to spread her wings.

Maggie and Roy Porter are next to arrive at the inn. They are taking their first vacation alone since their children were born. In the wake of past mistakes, they hope to rekindle the spark in their marriage—and to win back each other’s trust. But Maggie must make one last confession that could forever tear them apart.

For each of these characters, it will ultimately be a moment when someone wore their heart on their sleeve—and took pen to paper—that makes all the difference. Debbie Macomber’s moving novel reveals the courage it takes to be vulnerable, accepting, and open to love.

Debbie Macomber is a great writer. I have read many of her books and she continues to hold my interest with her repeat characters and as she adds new ones. I’m a big fan of hers and was waiting anxiously to read this book, the third installment of the Rose Harbor series. The last two books were very enjoyable. I enjoyed reading this one as well. One is immediately pulled into her continuing story. It was full of suspense and surprises. And from how it ended, I’m sure there’s going to be a fourth installment. It just ended with some loose information that needs to be revealed, indicating there was more to come. Love Letters features a myriad of human frailties, mistakes, and regrets. The story also highlights our capacity for forgiveness, unconditional love and understanding. Love Letters is an EXCELLENT read for all Debbie Macomber fans. I loved it!!!!!!!!!!!!

Audiobook · Fiction · Theresa F

Sisterland | by Curtis Sittenfeld


Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld
(Random House, 2013, 400 pages)

This book took me a while to get through (listening to the audio) and I’m not sure why. It is set in St. Louis and while it was sometimes fun to recognize all of the locations and landmarks, sometimes it was distracting and felt unnecessary. Overall the story was a little lackluster and the narrator, Kate, was so bland and uninteresting I was constantly thinking I would have enjoyed the book more if it was told from the point of view of her twin Violet. I think I may have enjoyed it more in print, the reader’s voice might have made the character of Kate more annoying than she was.

You can also read Sadie’s review of this title.

“From an early age, Kate and her identical twin sister, Violet, knew that they were unlike everyone else. Kate and Vi were born with peculiar “senses”—innate psychic abilities concerning future events and other people’s secrets. Though Vi embraced her visions, Kate did her best to hide them.

Now, years later, their different paths have led them both back to their hometown of St. Louis. Vi has pursued an eccentric career as a psychic medium, while Kate, a devoted wife and mother, has settled down in the suburbs to raise her two young children. But when a minor earthquake hits in the middle of the night, the normal life Kate has always wished for begins to shift. After Vi goes on television to share a premonition that another, more devastating earthquake will soon hit the St. Louis area, Kate is mortified. Equally troubling, however, is her fear that Vi may be right. As the date of the predicted earthquake quickly approaches, Kate is forced to reconcile her fraught relationship with her sister and to face truths about herself she’s long tried to deny.” –

Fiction · Humor · In the Library · Quick Read! · Relationships · SCC Book Club · Theresa F

This is Where I Leave You | by Jonathan Tropper

This Is Where I Leave You

This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper
(Orion, 2009, 352 pages)

This is Where I Leave You was this month’s book club selection (movie out this month) and that was my motivation for reading it but I did enjoy it and would recommend it. It was touching and funny and I often found myself relating to many of the characters in the context of their relationship to adult siblings and how family dynamics can evolve over time. At the same time, I felt that the behavior of the characters in some of the situations was a little over the top, but I guess that adds to the comedy. Overall, a good read.

You can also read Julia’s review of this title.

“The death of Judd Foxman’s father marks the first time that the entire Foxman clan has congregated in years. There is, however, one conspicuous absence: Judd’s wife, Jen, whose affair with his radio- shock-jock boss has recently become painfully public. Simultaneously mourning the demise of his father and his marriage, Judd joins his dysfunctional family as they reluctantly sit shiva-and spend seven days and nights under the same roof. The week quickly spins out of control as longstanding grudges resurface, secrets are revealed and old passions are reawakened. Then Jen delivers the clincher: she’s pregnant.” –

Essays · Julia P · Quick Read! · Short Stories

The Opposite of Loneliness | by Marina Keegan

The Opposite of Loneliness

The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories by Marina Keegan
(Scribner, 2014, 240 pages)

Marina Keegan had just graduated from Yale when she was killed in a car accident. She had already established herself as a writer on campus and had already been hired on at The New Yorker when her life was cut short. This collection of short stories and essays was compiled with the help of her parents and a few trusted teachers (including noted professor and prolific writer Harold Bloom) to best represent who Keegan was as a person and as a writer. I really enjoyed this slim collection and I think it might be most “accessible” to those between college-age and 35 simply because you’re inclined to reflect on the things she’s writing about and her voice is that of a 22 year old college graduate; but any reader would be able to appreciate the work itself.

I spent a fair amount of time reflecting on how much Keegan managed to accomplish in such a short period of time. You could tell she was an intelligent young woman and would most certainly have made a name for herself had she been given more time. I’m glad I picked this up.

Audiobook · Fantasy · Fiction · Julia P · Magic · Young Adult

Siege and Storm | by Leigh Bardugo

Siege and Storm

Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo
(Henry Holt and Co., 2013, 432 pages)

This is the second title in Bardugo’s “Grisha” series which began with the title, Shadow and Bone. In this book Alina and Mal are still trying to stay clear of the Darkling and have set sail, leaving their homeland behind. But the Darkling needs Alina by his side and will stop at nothing to get her back. Alina and Mal manage to elude him and form alliances with the notorious pirate, Sturmhond, who has ideas of his own for how they can work together to defeat the Darkling for good.

Unfortunately, given that Alina has been gone from Ravka for so long the narrative about her has changed so that she is now being viewed by many as a saint and savior, a title she’s far from ready to embrace. It looks like things are progressing towards all out war between the Darkling and the rest of the country. Can Alina be trusted to help lead forces against him?

This book kept me engaged but I’m not really invested in the story anymore. I’m glad that this audiobook kept the same narrator but I’m still on the fence on whether or not I’ll finish book 3. The series itself has been well-reviewed and has a lot of appeal for the young adult market.

Fiction · Julia P · Romance

Heroes Are My Weakness | by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Heroes Are My Weakness

Heroes Are My Weakness by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
(HarperCollins, 2014, 384 pages)

Both Angie and I are fans of Susan Elizabeth Phillips – her romances are always well fleshed out and have good, solid story lines to go with them. Her most recent title, Heroes Are My Weakness is a bit different for her in that the story has a darker feel to it; she was inspired by classic gothic tales like Jane Eyre and Rebecca.

Annie, a struggling actress whose primary source of income now comes from puppeteering, has traveled to a small island off the coast of Maine to go through her family cabin following her mother’s death. Apparently there’s an inheritance of some sort hidden inside, she just has to figure out what it could be. Winter is well underway and Maine is not exactly known for being forgiving during this time. As Annie tries to figure out what “treasure” her mother left for her, she finds herself crossing paths with Theo Harp, her teenage love who she also believes almost tried to kill her. She does what she can to stay out of his way, but when she starts getting ominous threats he forces his way back into her world. Now the question is whether or not Annie should trust him and she’s torn between what her head and heart are telling her.

This was an entertaining read, but I didn’t get into it as much as I thought I would. I like some of Phillips’s other titles better and I think I was looking for a little more “romance.” If you haven’t read Phillips before I definitely recommend her – though you’ll probably want to start with some of her older titles to get a better feel for her as an author.

In the Library · Non-Fiction · Science · Ying L

Stuff Matters | by Mark Miowdownik

Stuff Matters

Stuff Matters: Exploring the Marvelous Materials that Shape Our Man-Made World
by Mark Miowdownik
(Penguin, 2013, 252 pages)

As it becomes liquid, you will notice your tongue feels cooler, and then a combination of sweet and bitter flavors floods your mouth. These are followed by fruity and nutty sensations, and finally an earthy, muddy taste down the back of your throat. For one blissful moment your will in thrall to the most deliciously engineered material on earth (74).

You don’t often find these sensational words in a science book. Dr. Miodownik offers up this scandalous description of what happens after you pop a piece of dark chocolate in your mouth. Miodownik teaches material science at University College London. He did a marvelous job at making this book accessible and entertaining. The book starts with a photo of Miodownik reading a book and drinking tea out of a porcelain cup at a steel table surrounded by potted plants on top of a concrete rooftop. The book is divided into 11 chapters. Each chapter discusses one of the materials in the picture. What I especially like about this book is that Miodownik weaves personal anecdotes, stories of families and friends, throughout the book. Miodowink had worked for the US government in a nuclear weapons laboratory in New Mexico in the late 1990s. He shares experiences of being scrutinized as a British citizen with a low level of security clearance. I found the stories amusing and it reminded me of the Manhattan Project.

Each chapter can be read individually. My favorite chapters are paper, food, glass and concrete. Miodownik has clever chapter names as well. For example Chapter 1: Indomitable, Chapter 2: Trusted and Chapter 9: Refined are chapters on steel, paper and porcelain, respectively. Miodownik makes it enjoyable to learn about the history and key scientists behind the development of the materials. Analysis of each material’s structure, properties, and uses is also explained in layman’s terms. I highly recommend this book to anyone who’s interested in material science or history of science in general.

Fiction · Gothic · Mystery · Sadie J

Bittersweet | by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore


Bittersweet by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore
(Crown, 2014, 400 pages)

Mabel Dagmar has never really felt like she belonged some place. After a shaky childhood, she decided to move across the country and go to college on the east coast. For most of her first year, her roommate Ev Winslow ignored her and continued to smoke in their room despite Mabel’s asthma protests. But after a family tragedy strikes the Winslow family, Ev start to befriend Mabel and invite her to stay at her family’s estate for the summer. As happy as Mabel is to finally feel as if she belongs somewhere, she is immediately pulled into the Winslow mystery and discovers family secrets that have kept the Winslow name intact. The more Mabel discovers, the less safe she feels around the family she so badly wanted to be a part of.

This is another family drama that was a little dark and sickly. The Winslows do not give off a good vibe when they start to arrive that summer and things only get creepy the longer Mabel stays. I liked Mabel’s character but it was sad to see just how much she’ll put up with so she can feel like part of a family, even a crazy family like this one. There were multiple times I just wanted to tell her to get out of there and to forget the whole thing. This was a good read to have in-between some stranger titles and I enjoyed Mabel’s character, even if I didn’t agree with all her decisions.

Fiction · Quick Read! · Sadie J · Science Fiction

Annihilation | by Jeff VanderMeer


Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
(FSG Originals, 2014, 195 pages)

Eleven expeditions have been sent into Area X and none have been deemed a success. The twelfth expedition is about to begin and is made up of four females; the surveyor, the psychologist, the anthropologist, and the biologist. Their task is to explore Area X and to record all of their findings, sensible or not, into their given journals. They’re told to not use each other’s names and to try to keep personal feelings out of the mission. As soon as the groups enters Area X, they find unexplainable phenomena and quickly realize why the other missions failed so easily.

I had a hard time writing a summary to this read because I’m not exactly sure what happened. Things got weird really fast and if you weren’t paying attention then you could easily get lost. The biologist was the narrator and because of events that happened right at the beginning, she was a pretty unreliable narrator. I can’t be sure of really anything she said unless I read the remaining books in the series to compare the other narrator’s viewpoints. This was a quick read but I’m not sure if I’ll continue with the series.

Fiction · Sadie J

The Dinner | by Herman Koch

The Dinner

The Dinner by Herman Koch
(Hogarth, 2013, 304 pages)

Two brothers and their wives are set to have dinner in an upscale restaurant in Amsterdam. One brother is a prominent politician who is set to become the new prime minister. The other brother has had some setbacks in his life but is fairly certain he has a happy family. The group has gotten together to discuss their children, specifically their fifteen year old sons. As each new course goes by, the couples are slowly running out of ways to stall the inevitable conversation. Although it’s unclear how much each person knows about the topic up for discussion, the building tension between the parents is undeniable.

I definitely didn’t expect this book to be as dark as it was. All the characters in the book were unlikeable but it was how they shifted in my perspective that impressed me. At the beginning, I clearly liked one couple more than the other. But as the story went on, Koch slowly twisted the revelations on each character and the couple I didn’t like in the beginning became the lesser of two evils. It was an interesting read with a very dark ending that strangely left me ready to read more of his work.

You can also check out reviews of this title from Theresa and Julia.