Beautiful Ruins

There’s nothing like a trip to the Italian coast when the temps plummet into winter. Beautiful Ruins is a lovely, lovely tale—taking the best parts of an intricate tale like The Casual Vacancy and blending it with sweeping, emotionally wrought stories of love, such as in The Light Between Oceans. Were I a single girl in 1962, I just may have fought Amedea for Pasquale’s heart. Oh, Pasquale … What you need to know before you dive in—the reader is jostled back and forth between 1962 in Italy and “Recently” in the States. Most of the characters figure prominently in … Continue reading Beautiful Ruins

Heading Out to Wonderful

Liked A Reliable Wife? So did I. But I liked this better. Author Robert Goolrick’s sophomore effort, Heading Out to Wonderful, is worth your time on a long, rainy weekend. Or a road trip. Or the doctor’s office. It doesn’t take very many pages before you are completely engrossed in the tale of Charlie Beale, and his journey to Brownsburg, where his life intersects with that of Will and Alma Haislett, their son Sam, and the residents of this tiny town in Virgina in the late 1940s. Here’s what you need to know—it’s historical fiction, it’s a love story, and … Continue reading Heading Out to Wonderful

The Casual Vacancy

So J.K. Rowling can write for adults, after all. “The Casual Vacancy,” the sordid tale of politics and personality in the small town of Pagford, is the author’s first true foray into adult literature—although, let’s be honest, she already had adults reading her work when she was the queen of all things Potter. The book is engrossing—unwieldy at first, but once you get in, it’s difficult to put it down. If you choose to take it on, here’s a quick primer on the characters: Barry and Mary Fairbrother: Barry dies at the outset, resulting in a “casual vacancy” on the … Continue reading The Casual Vacancy

The Midwife of Hope River

What a lovely book. That probably sounds contrite—and I certainly don’t mean it that way. But it is—”The Midwife of Hope River” is really, a lovely book. Engaging, romantic, quiet, introspective, sad … it’s not as gripping a novel as say, “Gone Girl.” But the story of Patience Murphy latches on to you emotionally, making it difficult to put the book down. Murphy is, as she almost always has been, on the run. An orphan on the run, an almost-widow on the run, and now a possible felon, having played a role in the death of her activist husband, Patience … Continue reading The Midwife of Hope River

The Age of Miracles

The hell? I’m not sure who or what told me to read “The Age of Miracles.” And let me be clear—I am not disappointed I did. But seriously …. what the hell? This debut novel from Karen Thompson Walker was as disturbing as it was entertaining. And by entertaining, I mean that it swallowed up my day whole. I didn’t want to put it down, mesmerized by the desperate plot line. Sixth-grader Julia narrates a year in her life, beginning with a cataclysmic event—the slowing of the Earth’s rotation. I drew an immediate connection from this book to Tom Perrotta’s … Continue reading The Age of Miracles

Gold

If I’d read this before the Olympics, maybe I would have followed the cycling more intensely. Chris Cleave’s latest, “Gold,” pits frenemy against frenemy as cyclists Kate and Zoe go head to head for the right to represent Great Britain in the Olympics. It’s Cleave’s third novel and his follow-up to the very popular “Little Bee”—a book that made me bawl. So first things first. Is it as good as “Little Bee?” Hmm.  That’s a tough one. It’s kind of like asking which Harry Potter novel is the best one. Everyone will have a preference. I suppose I liked “Little … Continue reading Gold

The Sandcastle Girls

You know the term “investment piece?” We hear it a lot in fashion and furniture. Sure, it’s not exactly trendy, and it costs more, but it lasts longer. You’ll use it forever. It’s well-worth the larger financial and/or emotional investment. That’s “The Sandcastle Girls.” This book isn’t going to blow up the summer reading charts in the same fashion as the “50 Shades” trilogy or Gillian Flynn’s “Gone Girl.” But it certainly isn’t any less worthy of accolades. It’s simply a really tough read. It is about a love affair, but it’s not traditionally romantic. Set in the early 1900s … Continue reading The Sandcastle Girls

One Breath Away

It’s another hit for Heather. “One Breath Away,” Heather Gudenkauf’s third novel (“Weight of Silence” and ‘These Things Hidden” are also excellent), is a great modern mystery, taking readers on a terrifying journey to find out just who would walk into a small-town Iowa school and take a classroom hostage. Gudenkauf’s storytelling style of alternating the narration between characters suits this story well, so that we can experience the hostage experience from all sides—the parents, the teachers, and the police. The only person missing from the circle of narrators is the gunman himself, and for good reason. If he talked, … Continue reading One Breath Away

Unholy Night

Full disclosure: I am not the most religious person in the world. Not even close. I’m not sure if that made “Unholy Night” more enjoyable or not. Even the most religiously-challenged have a vague idea of what went down on the night of Jesus’ birth. Three wise men appear thanks to a star in the sky and bestow the world’s first Christmas gifts on the wee Baby Jesus (insert Ricky Bobby prayer here). But, as author Seth Grahame-Smith notes, how much do we really know about these guys? For me, not knowing all the intricate details of King Herod, Judea … Continue reading Unholy Night

Gone Girl

Wicked fun. “Gone Girl” has been all the buzz this month, so I grabbed it for July 4th weekend, knowing I’d have a solid chunk of time to spend with it. This may well be the “it” book for the summer. Chicago-based author Gillian Flynn takes readers on a roller coaster journey through the courtship, marriage and subsequent disappearance of Amy Dunne. Husband Nick, a hapless-but-harmless out-of-work writer has moved Amy back from spectacular NYC to the Midwest and the M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I to be closer to his sister, his dying mother and Alzheimer’s father. Amy, whose parents made a small fortune … Continue reading Gone Girl