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Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Summer Reads

Reprinted from auburnpub.com:

Memorial Day has passed us by and now it is time to prepare for our Summer Reading Season. Whether you’re headed to the lake, the beach, or just your own front porch, you’re going to need some good books to enjoy. 

Abby Jimenez’s romance Just For the Summer is the perfect way to kick off summer reading. Emma is tired of dating guys, breaking up with them and then finding that they find their true love after the breakup. 

When she discovers through social media that a young man named Justin has the same bad luck, they decide to date each other. Their theory is that when they break up, they will each then go on to meet their soulmate. So they decide to date ‘just for the summer’ to test their theory. What could go wrong? This is a fantastic read and so well-written.

Catherine Newman’s novel Sandwich is set on Cape Cod during an annual summer vacation. Rocky looks forward each year to having her husband and adult children all together, along with a visit from her parents. 

This year Rocky is dealing with menopause, along with family secrets that come to light. Sandwich is funny and charming, and anyone who has vacationed with family will relate to Rocky’s situation. The characters are wonderful.

Holly Gramazio’s novel The Husbands has a unique concept. When Lauren arrives home one night after too much partying she is greeted by her husband, but she isn’t married. Her husband goes up to the attic and when he comes back down, he is a different man- literally. 

Lauren discovers that every time her husband goes up into the attic, a different husband comes down. She cycles through several men, and when she decides she doesn’t like something about them, she sends them up to the attic to get a new husband. It’s hilarious and thought-provoking at the same time.

Speaking of husbands, author Beatriz Williams’ Husbands & Lovers has two main characters in three time lines. In 2018, single mom Mallory Dunne’s 10 year-old son Sam gets acute mushroom poisoning at summer camp and has to go on dialysis. 

Three years later, her sister convinces Mallory to finally tell her summer fling from 2008 that he is Sam’s father. The only problem is that she is going to tell him on the weekend he is to be married to another woman.

In 1952, Hungarian war refugee Hannah is in Egypt with her British diplomat husband. She begins an affair with a hotel manager who has something to hide. We slowly get Hannah’s backstory, and how Beatriz Williams connects the stories of these two women is just brilliant. 

Historical mystery fans will want to read the final chapters of two of the best series in recent years. Jacqueline Winspear closes out her captivating WWII Maisie Dobbs series with The Comfort of Ghosts. 

We meet up with all of the characters in private investigator/psychologist Maisie’s life that we have come to love as she attempts to help some young orphaned squatters and a seriously injured serviceman. Maisie discovers that they have some connection to her deceased husband. This is one of the most satisfying endings to a series that I have ever read.

Susan Elia MacNeal says goodbye to her protagonist Maggie Hope in The Last Hope. We have seen Maggie go from a secretary to Prime Minister Winston Churchill to a spy for the top secret WWII SOE agency where she risked her life many times over. Maggie is one of the most intriguing characters in historical mysteries and MacNeal gives her a proper sendoff. 

If Nonfiction is more to your taste, Erik Larson is back with The Demon of Unrest about the battle at Fort Sumpter that began the Civil War. History buffs have already made it a best seller. 

For more current history, George Stephanopoulos and Lisa Dickey team up for The Situation Room which puts the reader right into the famed Situation Room in the White House where they recount the tales of twelve presidents who have dealt with crisis and disasters at critical junctures in our history. 

If you love looking at birds in your backyard, author Amy Tan’s The Backyard Bird Chronicles is for you. Tan’s beautifully illustrates the bird she saw in her backyard and has a story about each of them in this lovely book that would make a great gift. 

Happy Summer Reading!

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Three Great Spring Reads

Reprinted from auburnpub.com:

Spring is traditionally a busy time of year with many publishers releasing some of their most promising books of the year and this year is no exception. This month’s Book Report has a few of them in different genres.

Colm Tobin’s latest novel, Long Island picks up the story he began in his novel Brooklyn twenty years ago. We met young Irish immigrant Eilis Lacey who moved to Brooklyn, fell in  love, and married Tony Fiorello in Brooklyn

Twenty years later, Eilis, Tony and their two teenage children live amongst Tony’s large family in a Lindenhurst, Long Island cul-de-sac. Eilis still feels like an outsider in the large Italian-American family years later.

When a man comes to the door and says that his wife is pregnant with Tony’s child, and that when the baby is born he will be dropping the baby on Eilis’ doorstep, she tells Tony that she will not raise another woman’s baby.

As Tony and his mother make arrangements for her to take care of the baby, Eilis returns home to Ireland for a planned visit to see her own mother whom she hasn’t seen in twenty years.

Eilis’ last visit home was fraught with complications. She never told anyone she was married to Tony, and wasn’t sure then whether she would stay in Ireland or return to Brooklyn and Tony.

She began a relationship with Jim, whose family owned a pub in her hometown. After leaving Jim heartbroken, she never spoke to him again. Jim is now in a relationship with Nancy, a widow who was Eilis’ best friend. 

Eilis’ return again causes complications for Jim. He loves Nancy and wants to build a life with her, but seeing Eilis again brings up old feelings he thought were buried.

I found the character of Jim the most intriguing in Long Island. He is a good man who is torn between doing right by Nancy, a woman he truly loves, and wanting to be with Eilis, even if it means leaving all he knows behind.

Colm Toibin writes complicated, realistic characters, and I felt completely immersed in the small Irish town where most of the story takes place. We waited twenty years for the continuation of Eilis’ story and it was certainly worth the wait. I highly recommend Long Island.

I have two books that resonate with mothers and daughters. Andromeda Romano-Lax’s novel The Deepest Lake tells the story of Rose, a mother whose twenty-something daughter Jules drowned in a lake in Central America. 

Jules was working at a writers’ workshop run by Eve Marshall, a popular memoir writer whom Jules greatly admired. Rose is troubled by the fact that Jules was afraid of water, and wonders why Jules was last seen in a small boat out in bad weather. 

Rose decides to go incognito to the writers’ workshop to find out what happened to her daughter. While there, Rose meets the other women at the workshop, and begins to probe them and others about what exactly goes on at this retreat, without blowing her cover.

Rose can see why so many women are seduced by Eve’s glamour and personality, but she comes to feel that Eve’s methods to get these women to open up and write their own stories are disturbing. She feels that Eve is hiding something that may have to do with Jules’ mysterious death.

There is a twist at the end that I did not see coming that upends the story and creates tension in the novel. At the heart of the story is the strength that a mother finds in herself to discover what happened to her daughter. If you like well-written literary thrillers with intriguing characters, put The Deepest Lake on your list.

After the death of Mary Lou Quinlan’s mother, she discovered that her mother had stashed small boxes all over her home filled with little slips of paper containing petitions to God. 

The God Box shares many of the prayers her mother Mary wrote asking God to help her children, friends, and even people she barely knew. From serious health matters to job advancement to help with relationships, Mary’s faith, compassion, and empathy for others shines in this slim read, and it’s a beautiful tribute to her life.

The God Box is a lovely inspirational gift for any mom or daughter, it will encourage you to reflect on your own mother’s life.

Long Island by Colm Toibin-A

Published by Scribner

Hardcover, $28, 320 pages

The Deepest Lake by Andromeda Romano-Lax- A-

Published by Soho Crime

Hardcover, $26.95, 384 pages

The God Box by Mary Lou Quinlan- A-

Published by Greenleaf Book Group Press

Hardcover, $16.95, 122 pages