Tag Archives: Book review

The Lido – Libby Page (book review)

The Lido

  • The Lido by Libby Page
  • Source: Library
  • Publisher: Orion, 2018

The Brockwell Lido has been home and comfort to Rosemary since her childhood. Going for swims during WW2, meeting the love of her life George and making friends in the neighborhood has kept Rosemary going strong for nearly all 80+ years of her life. Paradise Living is an uppity high-rise building, paving over memories type of corporation that put in a bid to buy the Lido and turn it into a member’s-only gym for their tenants. Now Rosemary has partnered with newcomer journalist Kate to try and save the Lido.

This book is really a heartwarming and sweet story about friendship and perseverance. I wish I can be like Rosemary when I’m 87. She’s an amazing character, fragile and strong, smart and naive. Kate is also a great compliment to Rosemary. Kate is a bit more dull, but still a sweet, if not naive, character. All of the characters were kind of too good to be true. it would have been nice if someone from Paradise Living had made an appearance as a physical form of the conflict Rosemary and Kate are battling against. The story is pretty much one-sided with only Rosemary and Kate’s perspective on why and how the Lido should remain open. Then again, corporations like Paradise Living do quietly swoop in to purchase and delete the old standby’s of neighborhoods before anyone really notices that they’ve gone.

This is a great “beach read” though, because all of the scenes with Kate and Rosemary had me wanting to jump into a pool and start doing laps.

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The Secrets We Carried – Mary McNear

The Secrets We Carried (Butternut Lake, #6)

The Secrets We Carried by Mary McNear

  • Source: William Morrow Publishing – Advanced reader copy
  • Publication date: 9/25/2018

Quinn LaPointe returns to Butternut Lake ten years after the unexpected and tragic death of her then boyfriend and his two best friends. A dedication ceremony for the departed brings up untouched memories and guilt as Quinn tries to make sense of her emotions and make amends in her old hometown.

I loved McNear’s writing easy-going writing style. She makes the lake sound extremely beautiful and tranquil, despite the tragedy that happened on the frozen-over lake. Quinn was a likeable enough character, although I never really understood why she felt so guilty for what happened between her and Tanner or between her and her former best friend Gabriel. The small town did carry a lot of secrets, a lot of secrets that everyone presumes lead to the death of Tanner Lightman, each person finding their own version of guilt and responsibility for his death. Although its #6 in a series, it seems to be a stand-alone title.

 

Not Our Kind – Kitty Zeldis

Not Our Kind

Not Our Kind by Kitty Zeldis

  • Source: William Morrow Publishing – Advanced Reader copy
  • Publication date: 9/4/2018

One a rainy day, two years after WW2, Eleanor Moskowitz’s world is turned around after being rear-ended by the taxi cab of Patricia Bellamy. The two come from two completely different worlds. Eleanor, the Jewish daughter of a widowed hatmaker, and Patricia, a wealthy wife living in Park Avenue. The two are brought together due to Patricia’s daughter Margeaux and her special need of a tutor. Once taken into this world, Eleanor’s life quickly turns upside down, even changing her last name to Moss, to better fit in with Mrs. Bellamy’s crowd. A summer retreat at the Bellamy’s countryside reveals that things aren’t always as they appear.

I loved the setting of the book. The immediate post-WW2 era is one that is usually overlooked. It was an incredible look back at this time in history when emotions ran so many generations are still still recovering from the after-effects of the war. It seemed too simple that life just flowed from day to day for Eleanor and Patricia. Sometimes, the viewpoints, particularly of Tom, felt way ahead its time. In the book, it seemed like Patricia’s life was falling apart, while Eleanor remained calm and collected all the way through, always saying or having the viewpoint to make all the difference. I wish Eleanor had some more depth to her character. I’ve never been a fan of the can’t-do-any-wrong type of characters. Everyone has a fault. Although, Eleanor’s saintlike quality was counter-balanced by Wynn Bellamy’s devilish behavior towards any woman he came across. This book is an interesting character study, and it does have my interested piqued in learning more about the post World War 2 era of American social history.

The Perfect Mother – Aimee Molly

The Perfect Mother

The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy

  • Source: Library copy

A group of new mothers plan a fun night out, only to end the night with their worst nightmare come to life. On a 4th of July meant to be about freedom from motherhood, freedom to have fun, Winnie receives a call that her newborn daughter has been abducted.

This book is really more of a look at new motherhood than it is about the missing baby. Although the mystery and conspiracy around the missing baby does drive the story, the characters reveal so much more about the stereotypes and pressures put upon new parents in virtually every aspect of their lives from the personal at home to the not-so-personal in the workplace. I switched back and forth between the book and the audiobook. Both were highly enjoyable and gripping reads. The ending was fairly formulaic and the big reveal felt so cluttered with action and rushed. Otherwise, I liked this book a lot.

The Stylist – Rosie Nixon (Review)

The Stylist (Amber Green #1)

The Stylist by Rosie Nixon

ARC – via William Morrow

Pub Date: 9/4/2018

Despite working at a fashion boutique in London, high-end fashion is not exactly Amber Green’s passion. During a break filming a pilot show following around famed stylist to the stars Mona Armstrong, Amber finds herself mistaken for a stylist’s assistant. Within 24-hours, Amber is whisked away to Los Angeles to act as Mona’s assistant, finding the perfect looks for the red carpet runways during Awards season. Once in LA, Amber finds out that all that glitters is not gold, and the life of a stylist isn’t as well put-together and polished as she had imagined.

This books i catching a lot of comparisons to The Devil Wears Prada. What do they have in common? A girl with the job a million girls would kill for, working in fashion, bumping elbows with celebrities, working for a boss with impossible demands and unpredictable mood swings. Amber is the girl who doesn’t fit into the fashion world, yet somehow makes all the right decisions (even by accident).

Although there are a number of faults with the characters and major plot-holes throughout the book, I still found it to be a fairly enjoyable read. The romantic storylines were so baseless and hardly added anything to the plot. The book could have used more depth and exploration of specific characters. So many of the characters were caricatures and stereotypes we’ve seen before. I would have liked it more if Nixon explored Amber’s relationship with her roommate and that whole subplot of her room’s alcoholism, or even Mona’s deteriorating reputation within the celebrity circle.

If anything came from this book, its my renewed interest in watching the pre-show interviews during awards season next January!

 

Secrets of a Charmed Life – Susan Meissner

Secrets of a Charmed Life

Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner

  • Source: Library – Friend’s of the Library Bookstore
  • Genre: Fiction – Historical, WW2, England,

Growing up in the East End of London during the start of WW2, Emmy Downtree took more responsibilities than a typical 15-year-old. Acting as a mother to her half-sister Julia all the while dreaming of becoming a wedding dress designer. Emmy had just taken on a part-time job at the local wedding dress store when events were speeding up in the war. Children were being evacuated from their homes and being transported to the countryside to live with foster families as the war raged on in London. After receiving a letter from her former employer, Emmy returns to London with Julia in tow. Not knowing that their return would be the day of the infamous blitz. Divided and alone, Emmy must take her own future into her own hands. But who will she be? Emmy Downtree or Isabel Crofton?

* * * * * * * * * * *

I could not put down this book. It was written so beautifully. The rage, resentment and anger Emmy felt towards her mother influenced so many of her decisions. Her love-hate relationship with being Julia’s guardian. Loving and taking her of her much younger sister, all the while wanting to spread her own wings and fly away from the life their mother had provided for them in the East End. During her journey, Emmy learned so much about her own history through accidental meetings and occurrences. The characters felt so real. We never learned in school that children where separated from their families all throughout the war. Children sent to England from other countries, children sent from London the countryside, all hoping to find safer land and shelter from the war above their heads. This is a book about the war, but moreso about one family’s experiences, losses and discoveries as a result of the war.

Dinner Chez Moi

I loved Elizabeth Bard’s memoirs, Lunch in Paris and Picnic in Provence, so I was very excited to find out she had a new book being published this year.

Dinner Chez Moi: 50 French Secrets to Joyful Eating and EntertainingI finally managed to get my hands on the book, but it took me ages to get through it. Its a simple enough book, although the premise is a little muddled. Its too simple to be an eating manifesto of the French. Although there are recipes. Bard provides 50 “secrets” of a French kitchen. Each secret is numbered, accompanied by a recipe and some thoughts of how that secret has changed her life.

The illustrations are pretty, but I found the book to be lacking in so many ways. It was just so sparse. Maybe its meant to be a beginner’s guide, like Michael Pollan’s simplied Food Rules? I didn’t really learn anything new from the book, nothing I didn’t know before. I do want to try a couple of the recipes from her book once the weather cools down. The yogurt cake and the madeleine cookie recipe.

In a French Kitchen: Tales and Traditions of Everyday Home Cooking in FranceI think the downside for me, was that this book borrowed very heavily from Susan Herrmann Loomis In A French Kitchen. This book provides some wonderful insight, thought and history into a typical French kitchen. Whereas Dinner Chez Moi is an introductory course, In A French Kitchen is the full semester.

Both books provide virtually the same information, one is just much more detailed. Both would make wonderful gifts for your favorite Francophile.

Weekend Cooking: Book Review – Delicious by Ruth Reichl

Delicious!

 

Title: Delicious by Ruth Reichl
Source: Library copy
Format: audiobook
Publisher: Random House, 2014
ISBN: 9781400069620

Billie Breslin is a girl with a magical palate and a flair for cooking. This skill, however, goes unused as Billie moves from Santa Barbara to New York to work for the famed food magazine, Delicious. After a year at the magazine, the owner decides to fold the magazine and fire all of its employees except for one. Billie remains as the sole employee to ensure the Delicious Guarantee that all the printed recipes satisfy their customers. This requires a lot of phone calls and research. In the now abandoned mansion, Billie finally gains access to the library. A secret room that has been locked and sealed for decades. After researching a particular recipe, Billie stumbled upon a series of letters from the famed James Beard and a young girl named Lulu living in Indiana. Soon, Billie realizes that each letter holds a clue as to where the next letter would be filed in the library’s archives. Putting together the clues, Billie learns not only about Lulu’s life during World War II, but she gains some valuable insight into her own life as well.

The narration by Julia Whelan was purely mesmerizing. The story, despite some flaws, eye-rolling moments and predictability, was well-written and well executed. The characters had a respectable depth and differentiation. I’m so used to supporting characters blending into each other, that is was refreshing to read a book where each side character stood apart. I’m not quite sure if I can credit that to the author or to the narrator though. Whelan’s impression and different voices were superb.

The story did have some flaws. The whole ugly duckling into a beautiful swan scene with Billie was some over-the-top and unnecessary. A girl who never put any effort or thought into how she looked, ate bad take-out Chinese food each night and never exercised ends up a body of a model and a hidden flair for putting outfits together. I also didn’t understand why someone with a deep-rooted avoidance of cooking, to the point of it inducing panic attacks, would want to work at a food magazine where cooking takes places around the clock. The storyline with her sister was predictable from the first email as was the eventual love story.

All that aside, I really did enjoy the story. I LOVED the library scavenger hunt. It was so clever the librarian, Birdie, hid the letters and the clues that Billie had to look for to find the next letter. I loved reading about Lulu’s childhood with her insecurities and uncertainties, all during World War II. Reichl definitely did her research and presented a very unique and personal take on the war from a small-town outlook. Reichl is known as a food writer, and it’s clearly evident how skilled she is when she wrote about the kitchens, the cooking and the food. I was craving Italian food non-stop when listening to this book. It’s definitely a good choice for a foodie.

Weekend Cooking hosted by www.BethFishReads.comWeekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog’s home page.

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The post: Weekend Cooking – Book Review: Delicious by Ruth Reichl appeared first on The Novel World.

Book Review: Thirty Million Words by Dana Suskind, MD

Thirty Million Words: Building a Child's BrainTitle: Thirty Million Words: Building a Child’s Brain. Tune In, Talk More, Take Turns by Dana Suskind MD
Source: Library copy
Publisher: Dutton, 2015
ISBN: 9780525954873
Genre: Early Literacy

Find this book at your local library

Dr. Suskind’s involvement with early childhood education and literacy comes from a rather unique perspective. Dr. Suskind is a pediatric cochlear implant surgeon, giving children the gift of sound and hearing. It was during the post-op and follow-ups with her young patients that she began noticing peculiarities and shocking differences in language acquisition, intelligence and emotional development. Her observations led her down the vast rabbit-hole of research, study and data regarding early childhood brain development. The most notable study on this field is the Hart & Risley 30 Million Word Gap study conducted in the 1980’s. Through meticulous data collection, Hart and Risley stumbled upon a wide gap between children from low-income families and children from high-income families. Financial disparities aside, it was found that by the time a child is ready to enter Kindergarten, a child from a low-income family will have heard 30 million few words than a child from a high-income family. 30,000,000. That is a whopping gap when it comes to setting the educational foundations of our nation’s children. Studies have shown that by the time a child is 3 years old, 80% of their brain has developed. By the time a child is 6, 95% of their will have been developed. The very early years, the zero to 3, are monumentally important for a child’s future academic and personal success. But since preschool doesn’t normally start for children under they turn 3, and the Kindergarten starting age is around 5, there is large number of children that fall under the educational radar.

Enter Dr. Suskind. With a bevy of data, science and facts at her side, she develops the Thirty Million Words Initiative to help bridge the gap and provide every child a fair chance at success in their lives. It’s very compelling for new parents who are not aware of the power of talking to their children. Suskind breaks down her Initiative into three basic activities for adults:

3TsTune In by paying attention to what your child is communicating to you.
Talk More with your child using descriptive words to build his vocabulary.
Take Turns by encouraging your child to respond to your words and actions.  (courtesy of http://thirtymillionwords.org/)

I really did enjoy Suskind’s book, but all while reading it, I felt like something was lacking. She spent a great portion of the beginning talk about the research that she conducted, which was great. But then, when she got to the actual 3 T’s (or 3 C’s in Spanish) the chapters were short and didn’t really provide very many tips. The main points of the book can be summed up as: Talk to your kids. Read, Sing, Play. Engage with your children. I think her ideas and research would have been better suited as a long article rather than an entire book. I do love her bibliography and it has given me a huge list of articles and books to read as early childhood literacy has been my primary focus as a librarian during the last few years. Suskind’s program works as a workshop for parents. It is promoted as a curriculum that will help parents harness their strengths when interacting with their child. It teachers parents how to expand on ideas, how to talk to their children, how to observe what their child is doing and to build on those experiences. For the most part, this is a Chicago based initiative, and I’m curious as to their results of the program.

This is a topic that hits close to home as I see and work with a number of children across the socio-economic range. I try to instill a sense of confidence and pride in parents that come to the library. My library system has taken part of the 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten initiative and we have sign-ups in massive numbers at the library and at outreach events. Parents care about their children and they want them to succeed. It’s just that so few parents know that the first 3 years are really the most important when it comes to creating a scaffolding for the future. This is a good book for anyone wanting to get their feet wet in the data of early literacy. There are so many excellent resources out there. I really feel as if there is a new emerging focus on the Zero to 3 age-range right now, and I’m excited to be a part of it.

The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman by Denis Thériault

The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman

The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman by Denis Thériault
Source: Library Copy
Publisher: Hesperus Nova, 2014
ISBN: 9781843915362, 108 pages

Bilodo is, as the title suggests, a lonely postman living in Montreal. He’s an introverted, quiet man who delivers mail by day, returning to his lonely and empty apartment at night. Despite the monotony of his life, he’s found a way to break the cycle. He pockets personal letters and steams open the envelope in his kitchen at night, reading the contents. The letters do eventually find their way to their intended recipients, albeit a few days late. It is during one of these intercepted letters where Bilodo first comes across Ségolène’s letters to Gaston. Their letters, an exchange of haikus, excites Bilodo as he wedges himself into their world as an invisible interloper. During one of his delivery rounds, he witnesses a horrific accident, where Gaston is struck by a car on his way to deliver a letter to Ségolène. From here, Bilodo’s world takes an unexpected twist as he finds himself that much closer to Ségolène.

This short novella is quite peculiar, as the title states. The postman, Bilodo is a creeper who steals personal letters to steam open and read at night after his shift. The book is a tragic love story with elements of fantasy. It’s more psychological than anything although we don’t really get into Bilodo’s head. I wish the story was told from his point of view rather than a 3rd person narrator. I’m not sure if we’re supposed to feel sympathy for him or see his downfall as a warning. It’s a bit shallow on that end. It could have been a better novella with a bit more depth and introspection into Bilodo’s fragmented sense of sense and his deteriorating sense of life. Maybe this was lost in the translation? There were also a lot of little details that were left unanswered. How does he afford to keep two apartments with one postman’s salary? How does he suddenly learn to write haikus just by putting on a kimono? How does he go two years without anyone noticing their mail being tampered with? I have more questions. The fantasy elements were too subtle, I couldn’t suspend reality to accept its overlay throughout the novella.

The Postman: Il PostinoAt times, it felt like the book was more about poetry than about people. In those instances, I was reminded of another novella about a postman. Il Postino, The Postman. Set in Italy, this is the story of a humble and sweet postman who learns how to write love poetry from the famed Pablo Neruda to win the admiration of a beautiful girl in his village. This is one of my favorite movies and one of my favorite books. The love story, the poetry and the tragic ending are heart-breaking and so genuine. If you want a book about a postman and poetry with a love angle, I’d opt for the latter book. If you want a book about a creepy 27-year-old who spies on his neighborhood, go for the first book.