Balthazar and Hebe Jones were very happily married and parents of a small son, Milo,when Balthazar accepted a new job in a very unique place. The family moved to the Tower of London so Balthazar could serve the Queen as a Beefeater.. The adjustments were many, such as adjusting to living in rooms with no square corners only rounded walls with ancient markings left by the centuries of prisoners who were held there while imprisoned. Balthazar is nominated to become the Keeper of the Royal Menagerie. Gift animals given to the Queen by heads of state had been kept in the Tower from the thirteenth to the nineteenth centuries when they were transferred to the London Zoo. Now they are being returned to the Tower to attract more visitors. Hebe and Bazlthazar are upset over the new responsibilities, but their most difficult problem is learning to deal with their grief over the loss of their son. The curious setting and unique, zany and funny story is actually a very charming love story with much historical interest. Like most historical fiction there is some truth to the story of the Royal Menagerie explained in this link.
Open the back cover of Calling Invisible Women and you will hoot with laughter. The photo of the author, Jeanne Ray, is as imaginative as this story.
Clover Hobart is a middle aged mother of two young adults and the wife of a pediatrician with an insanely busy practice. One day she discovers that she is invisible. As any middle age woman knows, this is not uncommon, however, Clover was actually gone. She could not see her own hands, face or anything else. This crazy situation was being experienced by other women that Clover finds through a newspaper ad she stumbles over while searching the notices. The 10 a.m. meeting at the Downtown Sheraton of equally invisible women brings comfort to Clover and a determination to discover the source of their invisibility. Could a combination of prescription drugs that all of these women have taken actually lead to this result? How are they going to battle a major pharmaceutical company? When will her family actually take notice of her condition?
Jeanne Ray wrote her first book as a retirement project after working forty years as a registered nurse. This New York Times bestselling author has a wonderful sense of humor. I can’t wait to see what else she has written.
Jonathan Tropper’s keen insight into family relationships has allowed him to create novels about families that are both touching and funny, such as How to Talk to a Widower and This is Where I Leave You. In his latest work, One Last thing Before I Go, Daniel Silver is a divorced, ex-rock band drummer living in a depressing high-rise filled with divorced, middle-aged men like himself. He contemplates the failures in his life, from his marriage and parenting to his career, and when he is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness that can be corrected with surgery, he decides that the people in his life would be better off without him. As he faces his death, he learns truths about himself and the ones he loves, and examines his past failures. Tropper’s work is filled with insight, humor and heartbreaking honesty. Family dynamics and characters are believable and well-developed, from the ex-wife that Silver still loves, to the other down-and-out divorced men that reside in his apartment building. This is a story that make you laugh and will touch your heart as well. Jonathan Tropper is one of my favorite authors and this new novel is a welcome addition to his works.
Dan Zevin is a stay-at-home dad in Brooklyn. There is nothing earth shattering in his story of taking care of his kids, walking the dog, trying to make a living, and wondering if his life is headed in the right direction. That may be the true gift of his writing, the ability to take the everyday struggles that all parents face and show the humor. Dan Gets a Minivan won’t provide you with any helpful advice, but it will make you laugh out loud – at Zevin, but also a bit at yourself. A must read for anyone who has children.
by Sally John
Hearing about earthquakes is disturbing, but when Teal sees the highway fall right before her eyes, it is a life changing experience. Of course the first thing one would do is reach for the cell phone and call your loved ones. Lines are jammed and towers are down, so Teal isn’t able to make a connection with her husband, River, or daughter, Maiya. When she finally has reception, she receives the news that River is in the hospital. Of course they survive all the trauma, but it brings about questions that Teal would rather leave unanswered. Maiya wants to know who her biological father is. Teal has never told anyone, not even the father. It’s a door she was hoping to keep shut forever. Teal’s own family, sister, brother, mom, stepdad, and her own father who left and never came back, has been estranged. But now that trouble has come to them, she must return to her home town and face issues she’s hidden away for far too long. Sally John delivers a touching story about life’s unexpected detours and the courage it takes to erase the lies that can echo in our hearts.
Cheryl Strayed has written a frank memoir of her life journey as she hiked the Pacific Crest Trail in Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. Cheryl chose to hike the 1,100 mile trail after the devastating death of her mother from cancer and her divorce. This remarkable tale of her hike is composed of harrowing and painful experiences such as rattlesnake near misses and hiking in boots that are too small with a back pack, The Monster, considerably larger than anyone else carried. This book is also composed of beautiful discoveries about life and how she wants to live it and helpful, good people she meets along the way.
Oprah chose Cheryl’s book as her first book club selection for her new 2.0 book club in June. She said her thought was after reading Wild, ‘Where is the Oprah Winfrey show when you need to announce and tell everybody about this book?”
Oprah’s 2.0 website
Nantucket Island is a perfect place to grow up, and Penny,a talented vocalist and her twin Hobby, a superb athlete, have been raised on the island by their single mother Zoe. Their friendships are life-long and the adults of the tight-knit community know each other and the island teens well. On a high school graduation night, a terrible accident involving Penny and Hobby, and two of their friends takes place, leaving one in a coma, one dead, and two others emotionally scarred. In the aftermath of the accident, adults and children must cope with grief, secrets and questions. The characters are well-developed and the story alternates being told from the point of view of several different characters, with characters slowly revealing their secrets as well as eventually, the cause of the accident. Summerland is a poignant, touching novel that deals with the strength that community and family can impart in times of crisis–an uplifting story of courage and healing.
Lucy Jorik, daughter of the President of the United States and a daughter who wants to always please her adoptive parents, decides at the last minute that marrying the perfect man–Ted Beaudine–isn’t for her. She runs from the church and hops on the back of a motorcycle driven by Patrick “Panda” Shade–making her Great Escape from her well-planned life. In her search to discover the person she would like to be, Lucy follows Panda to his home on an island in Lake Michigan, much to his dismay. There, they both search for trust and love, surrounded by secondary characters that all have emotional obstacles that they are trying to overcome. Like Call Me Irresistible, Phillips fills this story with witty dialog, touching characters and lots of love–a wonderful romance!.
In the third book of the Corduroy Mansions series, Freddie de la Hay, the devoted canine who attached himself to William French is missing. While visiting William’s old school friend and his wife, Freddie follows the irresistible scent of rabbit and digs himself into trouble which involves a possible new home and life for Freddie. Meanwhile his master is in his own hot water when the wife of his best friend announces her secret long-held love of William. Free-loading Eddie has found someone to take care of him he thinks, but Barbara with all of her inherited money may have doubts. Other quirky characters charm us with their foibles and we continue to anticipate further antics in this London setting.
by Liane Moriarty
Ellen, the hypnotist, is in love with a widower that is being stalked by his last love. Saskia, the stalker, cannot let Patrick and his son Jack go. She spent three years of her life raising Patrick’s son from a toddler. How could he just say it’s over. Saskia won’t let Patrick get by with pushing her out of his life. Ellen, is intrigued with Saskia’s behavior, but when she shows up at the foot of her bed in the middle of the night, that is just a little bit too bizarre. Patrick’s love for his first wife, Colleen, seems to still be fresh. Ellen isn’t sure she can compete with his sentiment for her. Will Ellen be able to live with a stalker pursuing their every move and the fact that Patrick hasn’t left his first love behind? The Hypnotist’s Love Story, set in Australia, is an intriguing read, with several interesting characters in the sidelines.
Luanne Rice excels at creating stories about love and family relationships and Little Night is no exception. Clare and her sister Anne are very close as sisters, bonding together in the face of abusive and distant parents. Anne meets and marries an artist from Denmark, not realizing until after the marriage that he is controlling and domineering. Her husband forbids her to see Clare and they lose contact for several years. Clare finally takes matters in her own hands and shows up at Anne’s home, where she meets her niece and nephew and sees that Anne has been physically abused by her husband. She convinces Anne to leave with her but before they can escape, Frederik returns home. Clare tries to protect Anne when she is attacked by Frederik but is charged with assault, jailed, and sentenced to a prison term. In that split second, Clare’s life is changed forever. After her release, she makes a life for herself in New York City, writing a nature blog and leading birding tours in Central park and around the city, but she keeps friends and family at a distance. Her niece Grit contacts her and they begin to build a relationship, beginning a new life for Clare and opening her heart to love and relationships. This is a touching novel about the pervasive effects of violence and abuse in families, and is both a thoughtful and hopeful story.
Nora Roberts has another winning romance with the second title in her Inn Boonsboro trilogy. (The first in the series is The Next Always.) The Last Boyfriend continues the previous story, with the Montgomery clan renovating the old Inn. The entire community has a stake in the outcome of the success of the Inn. Owen Montgomery is the organizer of the family–running the construction company and keeping the renovation on schedule and under budget. Avery is the owner of the local pizza shop and has been friends with the Montgomery family since childhood. Her first boyfriend was Owen, and they have remained friends ever since. Owen patronizes the restaurant often during the inn construction and finds himself more and more drawn to Avery. Avery is cautious and hesitant to build a romantic relationship with Owen, for fear or ruining their friendship. Past losses make Avery afraid to commit her whole heart, and when a person from her past reappears, she wonders if she can ever fully devote herself to Owen. Filled with likeable and engaging characters, humor and love and with a friendly ghost added to the plot, The Last Boyfriend is a delightful addition to this series–Book three in the series (The Perfect Hope) will tell the story of Hope and Ryder and is due to be published in November 2012.
Alexander McCall-Smith keeps adding to the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series and I keep enjoying the adventures of Precious Ramotswe. This time the difficult situations are a little too close to home for the Precious and her assistant, Grace Makutsi. The best auto repair assistant of Mma Ramotswe’s husband is arrested for auto theft, then Grace and her husband hire a contractor to begin building their home but the builder comes into question when one of his worker’s leaves doubt in their minds. The renowned Clovis Anderson, author of The Principles of Private Detection, comes for a visit and helps them with the terrible trouble of the dismissal of Mma Potokwane, matron of the orphan farm. Satisfactory solutions result and we continue to applaud the wisdom of Precious Ramotswe and her allies.
Ever By My Side: A Memoir in Eight
Acts Pets by Dr. Nick Trout is much more than a veteranarians account of his daily life. It is a story of relationships, of hope, and of hurting. The senior Mr. Trout had Nick pictured in a “James Herriot” type practice, so when Nick decides to go to America and practice, his father is disappointed. Another disappointment came when Dr. Trout married a woman with cats and they didn’t add any dogs to their family home. Dr. Trout tells how the pets in his life help him understand, enjoy, and get through hard decisions. When his daughter became very ill, it took a pet to help him through her illness. Of course his memoirs include animal antics that are hilarious and heart warming as well as sad. You’ll enjoy this book if you like animals, but even if you aren’t an animal lover it’s a great story for everyone.
I love the way Anne Tyler looks at life and the humor in her books. She can write about serious topics with such tenderness and compassion. The Beginner’s Goodbye looks at the topic of grief through the eyes of Aaron, a middle-aged man, whose wife dies unexpectedly when a tree falls on their home. Aaron tries to return to a normal life and adjust to being single but he finds such difficulties with relationships. Interactions with friends are now so different. He is uncomfortable with his closest friends and neighbors as they extend their sympathy and help. He moves in with his sister who lives in their parent’s home and totally ignores repairs on his home. Finally when the ceiling falls in and he can’t get in the front door he calls a contractor, Gil Bryan. This man, with his own problems, shows compassion for the grief that Aaron is going through and begins a relationship with both Aaron and his sister, Nandina.
The first sentence of the book begins, “The strangest thing about my wife’s return from the dead was how other people reacted.” Throughout the story his former wife Dorothy appears and speaks to Aaron as he finds his way through life without her. As Aaron remembers the quirky, problematic relationship he and Dorothy shared, Dorothy reappears to help him work out the regret. This isn’t a depressing book at all, although I found very poignant instances Aaron finally ends this chapter of his life and is able to say the final goodbye reminding all of us to tackle the unfinished business of love.