Saturday, September 22, 2018

The Sapphire Widow by Dina Jefferies (FIC Fef)

It is 1935 in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and Louisa Reeve leads a privileged life.  Married to Elliott, a successful businessman, and the only child of an even more successful gem dealer, her only regret is her inability to bear children.  Longing to become a mother, she still mourns the loss of a stillborn daughter 2 years ago as well as several miscarriages.

When Elliott is killed suddenly, Louisa finds her life changed forever.  Her internal strength is tested as she attempts to forge a path through life without the man she adored.  And when she finds that Elliott not only had a long-term mistress but a child with her, Louisa wonders if anything in her life with him was real.

Louisa herself is very likable.  I liked her strength and her willingness to try new things.  If things were tied up a little bit too nicely, I didn't mind because that was the way I wanted it to!

Part of the reason I enjoyed this book was because it is set in a country I know very little about.  If I thought about Ceylon at all, I would have thought of tea and spices, horribly hot weather and high humidity.  The author, who grew up in that part of the world, shares her love of the area and by the end of the book I found myself thinking that maybe this was a place I should visit...


Wednesday, September 5, 2018

The Masterpiece by Fiona Davis (FIC Dav)

In New York City in 1928, Clara Darden begins her career as an instructor at the Grand Central School of Art, located in Grand Central Terminal.  Because she has chosen commercial illustrating (i.e. advertising) as her medium, her talent is looked down on.  But Clara is determined to succeed.

In New York City in 1974, Virginia Clay is recovering from a recent divorce and breast cancer and trying to figure out what is going on with her 19-year-old daughter, Ruby.  Desperate to support herself and Ruby, she takes a job in the Information booth in Grand Central Terminal.  But Grand Central Terminal is a much different place than it was during Clara's time - a place for homeless, drug deals, and general filth and decay.  The City of New York is locked in a battle with Penn Central, the owner of the building, to have it declared and landmark and thereby prevent its destruction.

While exploring the building (in circumstances I'll let you find out about!), Virginia discovers the abandoned art school and a painting that takes her breath away.  While trying to discover the artist behind the painting, she learns more about the art school, the terminal, and herself.  And also more about the artist who created it.

I vaguely remember the battle to declare Grand Central Terminal a landmark so I knew the outcome of that story wasn't in doubt!  But I didn't know about the art school and the rest of my knowledge was pretty much limited to the movie based on the book The Invention of Hugo Cabret.  I loved the inside look at the terminal as well as the chance to root for two women to find themselves and come into their own.  A fun book.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Ike and Kay by James MacManus FIC Mac

        This is an historical novel based on the "not so secret" relationship between General Dwight Eisenhower and Kay Summersby.  Ike met her when he arrived in London in 1942.  Kay was one of many London women who acted as chauffeurs for important  military personnel.  London was war-torn.  Drivers who were extremely familiar with the city were the only ones capable of navigating London because all the street signs had been taken down 3 years before in case the Germans invaded.
      Of course I knew about this 'scandal' but only in a general (no pun intended!) way.  It was interesting and a fast read.  It is hard to say anything negative about any of these historical figures.  Considering the conditions of that time it was easy and understandable how they were attracted to one another.  So I felt so sad knowing how it was all going to end!  Yet if it had ended differently - well that would have left poor Mamie.  She had done nothing but be a supportive wife and didn't deserve to be cast aside.  I am guessing that in the end there were three people who spent the rest of their lives being impacted by this romance.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

All These Beautiful Strangers by Elizabeth Klehfoth FIC Kle

    I really enjoyed this book.  It is the story of Charlie Calloway.  When she was only seven years old her mother, Grace Fairchild, simply vanished.  No one knew what had happened to her.  Her father, Allistair, raises her in a house of privilege but she is haunted and teased about the disappearance of her mom.
      When the time comes Charlie goes off to a prestigious school in New England, the same one that her father had attended,  There is a secret group that has existed for decades at the school.  The members are known as the "A's".  Charlie is thrilled when she gets tapped to join.  Previously the only thing she knew about the group was that they had been responsible for some rather bold "pranks".  It's made all the better for Charlie because some of her close friends are also joining.  And then she finds out that to actually join she has to play The Game which is high stakes. And little does she know that her family's secrets will finally be revealed to her.
     This is a debut novel and I am looking forward to the next one!

Friday, August 17, 2018

American by Day by Derek B. Miller (FIC Mil)

I really liked the author's first book (Norwegian by Night) but I loved this book.  Now on to the plot summary:

This book picks up a month after the ending of the afore-mentioned first book but reading that one first isn't necessary to following the plot of this one.  Norwegian police chief Sigrid Odegard is still recovering from the events of the first book when her father, Morten, asks her to go to America to see if she can find her brother, Marcus.  Her brother has been semi-estranged from her father and Sigrid and has been living in the U.S. for the past 20 years.  Recently, however, Marcus has begun corresponding with Morten but his last letter was unsettling and he hasn't been heard from since.

Reluctantly, Sigrid agrees.  As soon as she arrives in Watertown, NY, she begins looking for Marcus - only to find that he has disappeared.  As if that weren't bad enough, he is the main suspect in the death of a well-known African American professor with whom he was in love.

Sigrid's search leads her to the local sheriff, Irving Watson, and a crash course in all things American.  Race relations, gun control, police investigative tactics, politics circa 2008, to name only a few.  While Sigrid and Irv, sometimes working together and sometimes working separately, rush to find Marcus, they discuss and wonder at what unites them and what divides them.

The author is an American currently living in Oslo, Norway with his Norwegian wife and their two children.  As such, he has a unique perspective on life in both countries.  If he sometimes comes down a little hard on his native country, it is easy to understand when compared with Norway.

This book is a wonderful combination of laugh out loud humor and thoughtful analysis.  I can't wait for his next book and I hope that Sigrid and Irv figure prominently in it.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Between You & Me by Susan Wiggs FIC Wig

        An enjoyable read where the worlds of the Amish and the "English" collide.  Caleb's world is small - his farm, his family and his faith.   His immediate family consists of his niece and nephew whom he has been raising since the death of his brother.  When his nephew has a serious farm accident he is thrown into the English world of medicine where he meets Dr. Reese Powell. She is (spoiler alert) young and beautiful.  Her life plan is to join in a medical practice with her parents.  But for now she is working in a hospital.
     You probably have an idea where this storyline is going!  Although the attraction between Reese and Caleb is strong they have all these problems that at times seem insurmountable.  You will have to read to the end to find out!

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Dear Mrs. Bird by AJ Pearce (FIC Pea)

London.  1940. The Blitz is in full swing.  Emmy and her Best Friend Bunty are trying to keep their spirits up while doing their bit for the war effort.  Emmy desperately wants to be a Lady War Correspondent and jumps at the chance to be a Junior associate for a prestigious London magazine.

Only it turns out that Emmy should have read the Fine Print.  Rather than working for the prestigious magazine (where she would have surely been able to refine her skills and move along the path to becoming a Lady War Correspondent), Emmy finds herself at the very much lower down the ranks cousin - a women's magazine that has seen better days as far as circulation goes.  She is assigned to help Henrietta Bird who answers letters from women for the Problem Page.

Mrs. Bird has strict standards about what kind of letters can be answered and printed.  Emmy finds to her dismay that most of the letters they receive fall in the Unacceptable category.  Mrs. Bird refuses to answer any letter that contains any Unpleasantness. But as Emmy reads the desperate pleas from women who have Gone Too Far or can't bear to have their children evacuated, she begins to write back to them secretly.  Needless to say, there are Consequences.

Emmy is delightful and irrepressible.  She is determined to make the best of things (while sometimes making them worse).  I loved reading about her adventures, laughed out loud often, and sometimes cried with her.  A fun read.  I can't wait for the author's next book.