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Monday, August 30, 2010

One Flight Up by Susan Fales- Hill

Four friends who met at the elite Manhattan Sibley School for Girls are at a crossroads of life and love in Susan Fales-Hill's novel One Flight Up.

India is a hard-charging divorce attorney with a high maintenance actress mother, an addiction to chocolate,  and a loving French chef boyfriend. When the man she left at the altar years ago for cheating on her comes back into her life, she is torn between her strong attraction to the "bad boy" and her understanding, caring boyfriend.

Abby has a artist husband and two children whom she adores, but soon she is forced to face the fact that her husband is a cheater when she sees him kissing a gorgeous younger woman. When her son's music teacher shows romantic interest in her, she is tempted to find happiness for herself.

Monique is a doctor, who has been married for many years to a man with a time-consuming financial career. Like many long-married couples with dual careers and children, the spark has gone out of their marriage, and when a sexy young EMT shows her some attention, she makes a mistake that could endanger everything for which she has worked.

Esme is described as a "Columbian Scarlett O'Hara", a woman who enjoys receiving all the male attention from the moment she walks into a room. Esme frequently cheats on her nice-guy husband, just as her father cheats on her mother.

The author does a wonderful job creating characters with lives that the reader would envy- wealthy, smart, beautiful- and yet she gives them problems that face most women. How do you balance work, family, and love?

She understands the realities of long-term monogamy, and how hard it is to work at staying happy in a marriage. I liked that while she showed the excitement of a new sexual relationship, she also showed the consequences. If you are thinking about straying, this novel will give you something to think about.

The setting of Manhattan is a great character too. I enjoyed recognizing the various landmarks Fales-Hill uses, and the reader will feel like a real Upper East Sider as she reads. I also loved the mental pictures the author creates of the gorgeous dresses the ladies wear to their many social events.

Lifetime TV would be wise to option this book as a movie- and hire Sophia Vergara of TV's "Modern Family" as Esme, she'd be perfect!

One Flight Up has interesting characters, sex, fabulous clothes and Manhattan- it's Sex and the City for married women.

Rating 3.5 stars of 5

Thanks to Atria Books for providing a copy of the book.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Elephant Keeper casts a spell

Fictional books about animals are in vogue, with Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants, Garth Stein's The Art of Racing in the Rain, and Yann Martel's Life of Pi, each experiencing an extended stay on the bestseller list.

Add Christopher Nicholson's The Elephant Keeper to that list. The book cast a spell upon me, and I read it in two sittings, unable to put it down. Set in the late 1700s, the novel tells the tale of young Tom Page, who is tasked by his employer to write a book about the elephant he has been caring for many years.

Tom's father was head groom to John Harrington, a wealthy sugar merchant. Tom loved horses and followed in his father's footsteps. One day, a ship from Africa unloaded on the docks and and two elephants were among the cargo. 

No one had ever seen such incredible creatures, and they were disoriented and ill from their long sea journey. Harrington was a shrewd businessman, and after asking Tom if he though the elephants would live, purchased them from the ship's captain.

Tom takes to the elephants immediately and is eager to work with them. At first they were angry and wary of Tom, making several successful attempts to pick the locks of their crates to escape, but eventually they began to trust him.

He names them Timothy and Jenny, although is careful to not share this information with anyone else less they think he is mad. I also think by not sharing their names with anyone else, he keeps them from becoming attached to anyone else; they belong only to Tom.

Tom's relationship with the elephants sadly precludes normal relationships with humans, particularly women. He sleeps in the barn near the elephants, spends all his time with them, and when a lovely young lady named Lizzie wants to become closer to Tom, he spurns her. His responsibility is to the beautiful creatures whom he believes need him.

As the story progresses, the reader is privy to dialogue between Tom and Jenny. Is Jenny really speaking to Tom, or is this an example of Tom sliding into some sort of madness?

Not all goes well with Tom and the elephants, and the twists and turns of this tragic tale are masterfully told by Nicholson. The thought-provoking end to this magical story will be turned over in the mind of the reader for a long time, and I suspect people will either love the ending or hate it. I loved it.

Rating 4 stars of 5.