Category Archives: Books

Vikki Claflin Makes Me Laugh

Vikki Claflin Makes Me LaughHumor writer Vikki Claflin consistently makes me laugh and here are a couple of reasons why:

“I grew up with a slender mother and a little sister who wore a size zero if you hosed her down first and weighed her in her soaking wet clothes. My father used to refer to her as the “little one,” and I was always the “wholesome one.” Yeah, that was what a 15 year-old wants to hear. For years I viewed myself as a Swedish butter churner. Big bones and strong arms, yodeling my way through my domestic chores.”

and

“When Baby Boy was born, I didn’t get him circumcised. It seemed a tad barbaric. (‘Welcome to the world, son. Now we’re going to chop off part of your joy stick’) … After an emotional, post-partum promise to my 8-pound miracle that I would never let anybody hurt him, I wasn’t going to start with whacking his wienie.”

These nuggets come from past essays she has written and I still crack up when I read them.

Vikki Claflin is our generation’s Erma Bombeck.

Body image, parenting, menopause, marriage, makeup, pop culture, and those nasty chin hairs — Vikki’s observations about the foibles of modern life are consistently razor sharp and wickedly funny.

I first got to know Vikki’s writing through her blog, Laugh Lines: Humorous Thoughts and Advice on How to Live Young When You’re…well…Not, and found it to be a safe place where I could feel better about my double chin.

It amazes me that Vikki is as prolific as she is, but I guess middle age is rife with material.

Two years ago I giggled my way through Claflin’s Who Left the Cork Out of My Lunch? and was keeping my fingers crossed that there would be another collection of her essays someday.

And here it is!

Vikki’s fourth book, I Think My Guardian Angel Drinks … Irreverent Advice on Living Well After 60 Because Wine is Always Age-Appropriate — will be available soon and I have had the privilege of getting an advance read.

So let me give you a sneak peak.

From Happily Married, Sleeping Separately:

“He likes the dogs sleeping in the big bed. I wouldn’t mind if they could be trained to sleep vertically, instead of horizontally. The same goes for the grandkids. Two Chihuahuas can push an adult human onto the floor, and little people like to sleep sideways on your head until you give up and relocate. By the third time I get shoved out of the bed, I’m up and hauling two tiny humans, each holding a Chihuahua, down the hall to the guest room.

His favorite sleeping position is a wide X, with arms up overhead and legs spread wide. He looks like he’s making a 2000 pound snow angel. This leaves me trying to curl into the tiny, pie-shaped area under his right armpit and above his right knee, which is roughly enough space for an anorexic gerbil.”

“I like a warm room. He prefers to sleep in an igloo, where you can see your breath when you talk. Hubs will open the window and turn on a fan next to his side of the bed. In December. We’ve had snow in our bed on more than one winter morning. Oh hell no.”

Misery loves company in the name of Vikki Claflin.

Nothing quite prepares us women for the annoying changes that happen post-50. It’s enough to make you want to tear your (thinning) hair out. So we could cry … or we could laugh, because laughing about varicose veins and cellulite is the better alternative. Vikki’s writing has made her an international best-selling author and has secured her a place in the hearts of menopausal women everywhere.

All of Vikki’s books are available on Amazon. Needless to say, I would recommend each one of them.

My fantasy is that someday Vikki Claflin and I will meet for a glass of wine and whine. And lots of laughs.

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Ten Tips for Organizing a Successful Book Group

Do you belong to a book group? I do, and this is one of my observations: a fabulous book does not necessarily guarantee a fabulous discussion.

Ten Tips for Organizing a Successful Book Group

When everyone is in agreement, there isn’t much to talk about. But if there are diverse opinions, it makes for a much more satisfying conversation.

My book group has been around for 20 years or more. None of us can remember exactly when it began. It is primarily a women’s group, but once a year we invite our husbands/significant others to join us for the book and a potluck dinner.

Now having read hundreds of books, I can say that success is often hit or miss and there is never a guarantee that  well-recommended book will spark a great discussion. Sometimes we are surprised which way it goes.

Anyway, here are some tips that have worked well for my book group and may work for yours.

Ten Tips for Organizing a Successful Book Group

  1. An August get together is when we share suggestions. This is how we come up with selections for the coming year.
  2. If we need ideas, we can use online resources like Goodreads and Oprah’s Book Club.
  3. We make sure that at least one person in the group has already read the book.
  4. Historical fiction is a consistent winner, especially little known history.
  5. We try to choose a book with content that relates to social issues or contains controversial subject matter.
  6. We like to read authors representing the spectrum of nationality and ethnicity.
  7. Usually we opt for contemporary novels, but memoir, classics and the occasional non-fiction mix it up.
  8. We are conscious of the length of the book. We want everyone to be able to finish it in time.
  9. At each meeting one person is responsible for researching the book and the author, to add background and context to the discussion.
  10. It is OK to agree to disagree. No opinion is wrong.

Last month my book group read Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout. It is the story of ordinary, intertwined lives in the midwest small town of Amgash, Illinois. If you’ve read Strout’s My Name is Lucy Barton you will recognize many of the characters in this novel.

I loved, loved, loved this novel. But I expected to. I am a huge fan of Strout’s writing.  I thought her Pulitzer Prize-winning Olive Kitteridge was pure magic.

About half of the group agreed with me on Anything is Possible. The rest had mixed feelings.

“I couldn’t follow it,” said one. “Too many characters and too many connections to figure out.”

I disagreed.

“Don’t you like when you reach a part where it starts coming together, and you say OMG, so that’s what’s going on?” I asked. “The ‘aha’ moment!”

“No, because I don’t like to have to go back and reread,” she responded.

“It was relentlessly sad,” said another.

I couldn’t deny that. “But there is beauty in the sadness,” I said.

Viva la difference!

This is exactly what makes book group discussions so much fun.

 

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Book Buzz: Paris for One & Other Stories

Was I happy to get my hands on Paris for One & Other Stories, the latest collection from best-selling author JoJo Moyes?

Mais oui!

Book Buzz: Paris for One

I’m an unabashed fangirl of Jojo Moyes and have eagerly awaited her every novel. One of my very favorites was the breathtaking story about love and loss during World War I, The Girl You Left Behind, but the two novels featuring of protagonist Louisa Clark in Me Before You and After You captured my affection as well  — not just me, but the rest of the world, too.

Good news for us … in January, another novel about Louisa’s journey, Still Me, will be released.

I can’t wait.

Paris for One & Other Stories

Paris for One is a novella and a billet doux to Paris, about a young woman who finds romance hiding just around a corner. It is a story as sweet and pleasing as a chocolate croissant.

Who wouldn’t sigh with consternation at the unlikely happenstance of Nell, a shy 26 year-old British girl finding herself alone in a city she’s never been to, and stood up by her hapless boyfriend? Who wouldn’t swoon over the dreamlike weekend that unfolds?  Nell meets a guy on a motorbike who whisks her through the streets of the city and opens her eyes to adventure.

Nell takes a chance with this stranger on this strange but enchanting weekend in Paris, and her life is forever changed.

Fans of Moyes know that she has a deep love for the city of Paris since it features prominently in her writing. Me Before You ends with Louisa in Paris, honoring Will’s wish for her (the visual of her sitting alone at the cafe is still with me); After You flashes back to Lou’s time in Paris as she starts her new life; and The Girl You Left Behind is set against the backdrop of Paris during World War I. With Paris for One, Moyes again presents Paris in all its alluring glory, and gives us a strong, lovable female protagonist who finds her true self in the City of Love

Moyes serves up the rest of this delicious meal with a collection of eight short stories, each one about ordinary people navigating the terrain of thwarted love. I particularly enjoyed “Between the Tweets,” a story about love going awry in the age of Twitter (and quite relevant to stories in the news these days).

This novella and short stories format is a departure for Moyes, but it works well. Fans might clamor for more as the stories end too soon, but it is a testament to Moyes’ talent that she leaves us hungry and yearning.

Who knows? Perhaps one of these will turn into a novel someday.

Are you listening, Jojo Moyes?

 

One of my lucky readers will receive a copy of Paris for One & Other Stories. Please click on the Books is Wonderful Facebook page and leave a comment. A winner will be randomly selected. US addresses only, please.

 

I received a copy of Paris for One & Other Stories from Penguin Books for an honest review, which is the only kind of review I write.

 

 

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Happy National Authors Day

Happy National Authors DayWe love our authors, and today because it is National Authors Day they get an extra shout out. Are there authors who have changed your life through their beautiful words? There are for me, too many to count.

“A writer is a world trapped in a person.” — Author Unknown

Is it a coincidence that National Authors Day is the same day as the start of NaNoWriMo, the writing competition that spans the month of November? For all of those participating in that mad dash to 50,000 words, good luck! I did it three years ago and finished the first very rough draft of my novel.

But alas, an author — at least, a novelist — I am not. Not yet, anyway. Novels are approximately 80,000-100,00 words and undergo revision after revision after revision. I’ve been through two major revisions already and am not done yet.

“A word after a word after a word is power.” — Margaret Atwood

Authors should be recognized. As an aspiring one, I know how incredibly difficult it is, and producing a well-written tome is something to be very proud of.

Here is some interesting info from Scribd, the reading subscription service, offering access to the books, audiobooks, news and magazine articles, documents and more.

Scribd has analyzed its user data to come up with the most popular author in each state.

Here are a few of the key data findings:

  • Mark Manson (The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck) is the most popular author in America, claiming the top spot in 7 states. (I reviewed this book.)
  • Pop culture is King – Stephen King (ItThe Tommyknockers) is the most popular author in 4 states and Ernest Cline (Ready Player One) is the most popular in 3 states.
  • The Northeast wants to know What Happened, with New York, Maine, and Massachusetts each reading Hillary Clinton more than any other author.
  • Most Popular Genres – Personal Growth and Mysteries, Thrillers & Crime are indisputably the most popular genres across America right now.

Happy National Authors Day

“The two most engaging powers of an author are to make new things familiar, familiar things new.” — William Makepeace Thackeray

Thank you, authors, for delighting us, inspiring us, drawing us in to worlds we never knew existed. Keep writing, keep creating, keep sharing! And perhaps we should all heed this suggestion:

“When you read a piece of writing that you admire, send a note of thanks to the author.” — Sherman Alexie

 

 

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Book Buzz: Little Fires Everywhere

Book Buzz: Little Fires Everywhere

As I raced toward the explosive conclusion of Little Fires Everywhere, I simultaneously couldn’t wait to find out what happened but dreaded finishing this extraordinary read. You know that feeling, right?

I loved Celeste Ng’s debut novel, Everything I Never Told You, with every fiber of my being. It was a captivating story of race and prejudice and family dynamics, and it went on to win a ton of awards and made Ng a respected new voice in fiction.

Patiently, I waited for Ng’s sophomore novel to be released.

The wait was worth it, people.

Little Fires Everywhere is, well, brilliant.

Book Buzz: Little Fires Everywhere

 

Little Fires Everywhere

The story of two families in Shaker Heights, Ohio — Mr. and Mrs. Richardson and their four children, the “haves,” and Mia Warren and her daughter, Pearl, the “have nots,” whose lives intersect for a brief period of time and everything changes collossally for both families.

Elena Richardson is the matriarch — a Shaker Heights native whose expectations for her life followed a prescribed formula, just as the community itself had been one of the first planned communities in the U.S.

All she wanted was marriage, children, career, and a lovely home. And it pretty much worked out that way.

But then, Mia and her teenage daughter Pearl arrive on the scene. Looking for an affordable place to live, they rent a small house owned by the Richardsons. Mia is an independent thinker, an artist on the side; she needs to work several low-paying jobs to make ends meet. Pearl is a shy but friendly girl,  and is embraced by the Richardson family and spends most of her time hanging out with them.

In short order both mother and become more than tenants: each of the four Richardson children is drawn to these women, and Elena Richardson employs Mia as a part-time housekeeper.

Elena  is curious about Mia’s past, and feels prompted to nose around when Mia becomes intimately involved in a child custody case involving a friend Mia has met at one of her jobs.

The friend is a Chinese mother, Bebe, who abandoned her infant during a time of duress. The infant is given to the McCulloughs, friends of the Richardsons, who had struggled with infertility for years and were on an adoption waiting list. Now the baby is a year old, and the McCulloughs have assumed this child will be theirs forever.

But then Bebe reappears, and wants her daughter back.

The case divides the community, as well as the Richardson family. I won’t say more, because I don’t want to spoil it. Coincidentally, the novel I reviewed last week, Lucky Boy, had the same theme. In both books it is dealt with so compassionately and even-handedly. I admire both authors for being able to find compelling voices on both sides of an emotional issue.

Ng’s characters are so well drawn, each unique and credible, and truly, Shaker Heights itself must be counted as one of the protagonists. Shaker Heights, Ng’s hometown, was  planned with the best intentions and idealism, and although successful in some areas, it nonetheless is beset with the same race and class issues faced just about everywhere else.

I am sure that Little Fires Everywhere will have the same phenomenal success of Ng’s previous novel. Already, Amazon has named it a “Best Book of September 2017.”

And I sure hope Ng is working on her third.

 

One of my lucky readers will receive a copy of Little Fires Everywhere. To enter this giveaway, click on the Books is Wonderful Facebook page and leave a comment. US addresses only, please. The winner will be randomly selected.

 

I received a copy of Little Fires Everywhere from Penguin Press for an honest review, which is is the only kind of review I write.

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Book Buzz: Lucky Boy

A hauntingly beautiful story and so achingly relevant for these times, Lucky Boy held onto my heart and still has it in its grasp.
Book Buzz: Lucky Boy

Lucky Boy

Lucky Boy is the story of two strong women: Soli, a teenager fleeing her native Mexico for a better life in northern California, and Kavya, daughter of immigrant Indian parents now living with her husband Rashi in upscale Berkeley — whose lives crash together in a torrential storm of love and loss.

Author Shanthi Sekaran is so seriously good at telling this story that you fall in love with both of these women — vulnerable, passionate and loving — even though their motivations are in stark opposition to each other’s.

Lucky Boy brings to light the struggles of undocumented immigrants thrust into a society so different from their own, where the norms and routines are true culture shock. They live in constant fear of being caught and sent back to their homeland that they had fled for good reasons. The only way to survive is to stay under the radar. Not make eye contact. Be invisible.

Lucky Boy is also about the heartbreak of infertility. Having known friends who have gone through this, I felt the anguish of Kavya and Rishi who have a wonderful life but are denied the one thing they want more than anything.

Soli survives a harrowing journey from Mexico and locates her cousin’s apartment where she will stay. The cousin is shocked at Soli’s appearance. She is dirty and gaunt from the trip, but she is also unwittingly pregnant. Nonetheless, she finds work for Soli as a housekeeper for a wealthy Berkeley family where she is treated well, even given paid leave when it is time for the baby to be born.

However, circumstances intervene and suddenly the cousin is being deported and Soli is sent to a detention center. Her infant son is taken away from her.

At the same time, Kavya and Rishi are desperate to conceive a child but in spite of lengthy and expensive fertility treatments they have not been successful. They decide to become foster parents, and as fate would have it, Soli’s baby boy comes into their welcoming arms.

Soli tries to survive the horror of the detention center, deprived of decent food and living conditions and repeatedly raped by guards. Barred from talking to a lawyer, she does not know where her son is and if she will get him back.

While Soli languishes at the detention center, Kavya and Rishi embrace parenthood and begin to forget that it is only temporary. They are in denial that their baby has a birth mother who is fighting to get him back.

Such an engrossing story with multi-dimensional characters, Lucky Boy would be a perfect choice for a book group because there are so many issues to ponder over. Immigration, motherhood, privilege … this novel will open your eyes to injustices in our broken system.

There could not be a better time for us to become enlightened.

One of my lucky readers will receive a copy of Lucky Boy. Please leave a comment on the Books is Wonderful Facebook page and a winner will be randomly selected. US addresses only, please.

 

I received a copy of Lucky Boy from Putnam for an honest review,
which is the only kind of review I write.

 

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Book Buzz: I’m The One Who Got Away

Book Buzz: I'm The One Who Got Away

With scorching honesty infusing her gorgeous prose, Andrea Jarrell looks back at her unconventional childhood in this brave coming of age memoir, I’m the One Who Got Away.

Book Buzz: I'm The One Who Got Away

I’m the One Who Got Away. The title itself is bittersweet. Jarrell did get away, finding the normalcy in love, marriage and parenting as an adult that eluded her as a child.

But did she really get away?

Her past caught up with her in a blinding moment, when the brutal murder of an acquaintance in the small community where she, her husband, and two children had once lived evoked a visceral response. It wasn’t just the horror of the crime and the loss of an innocent life; she flashed back to her own experience as the child of a possessive single mother and the mercurial, frustrated actor father who was in and out of their lives.

The murder victim, a single mother named Susannah, was someone Jarrell knew through their children’s preschool, a mom whose son was the same age as hers.

Although they had been casual friends, Jarrell had always felt uncomfortable in Susannah’s presence. Susannah’s life was centered on her son; the two were inseparable. Just like Jarrell and her single mother had been. The two of them against the world. “Just we two,” her mother often reminded her.

The murder is the catalyst that forces Jarrell to revisit her own relationship with her parents.  Her bright and adventurous mother was married at 16 to a man whose insecurities and alcoholism were a constant threat. Jarrell’s mother loved her husband but loved her daughter more, and with the escalating abuse she knew there was no other solution than for mother and daughter to flee.

Jarrell’s mother, in her youth both valedictorian and homecoming queen, had aspired to be a photojournalist or graphic artist and was offered several scholarships. Instead, she married a man who turned out to be toxic. She never went to college. Throughout her life, Jarrell questioned her mother’s choices, especially when she let her father back in their lives. Would this be her future, too, putting her dreams on hold for a man who held her back?

Eventually, she comes to terms with her past. Her mother did what she could with the imperfect cards she’d been dealt. She didn’t complain about the trajectory of her life, but made the best of it with no apologies.

The loving, complicated relationship between mother and daughter is truly the backbone of I’m the One Who Got Away.

Jarrell’s life would turn out to be different, but not without its stumbles. That’s what life is.

Not simple, or perfect. But if we can choose the best of what we had, what worked really well, and pack away the worst of it in an old cedar chest in the attic to be examined when we need a reminder, we’re the artisans creating the future that we want for ourselves and our children, which is exactly what Jarrell has done.

As she says at the end of the book,

“… I’ve learned again that I can’t go over, under, or around, and I can’t turn back. No matter how high or rough the surf, going through every stage is where the living is.”

 

I received a copy of I’m the One Who Got Away from She Writes Press.
The text and views are all my own.

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Book Buzz: How to Find Love in a Bookshop

Book Buzz: How to Find Love in a Bookshop

So how could a bibliophile not pick up a novel entitled “How to Find Love in a Bookshop?”

Of course I did.

Book Buzz: How to Find Love in a Bookshop

How to Find Love in a Bookshop

Here is my observation about novels with bookshops. They have a sprinkle of whimsy and magic throughout. Any why not? Bookstores are … were … filled with wonder and enchantment. Generations following us may never know the delight of browsing in a bookshop, losing any sense of time and space while paging through new titles, and admiring the art of beautiful covers.

Veronica Henry’s How to Find Love in a Bookshop is set in the Cotswolds in England, a magical place in and of itself, where Emilia has returned following the death of her father Julius to salvage the bookshop he ran for years.

Called Nightingale Books, the quaint and dusty bookshop had been tended with care if not financial acumen. Julius was devoted to his beloved books and also to his customers who became his extended family. With his notion that “a town without a bookshop is a town without a heart,” he created a comfortable space that encouraged lingering and schmoozing.

When he passed away, Emilia — and the townspeople who adored him — were struck with the magnitude of his loss. Emilia vows to maintain the cherished bookshop in her father’s benevolent style, but struggles with the overwhelming debt he had unknowingly accrued. And as property developers circle her like hawks, having to shutter the doors for good becomes a grave possibility.

It is the cast of wonderful characters in the town that truly is the heart of this novel. We come to know and connect to the patrons of Nightingale Books who stop in to get recommendations for their next read … or ask for help in selecting a gift … or simply share their own stories.

There is the wealthy lady of the manor who hides a painful secret, and her daughter whose wedding plans are thwarted by a devastating car accident. There is the single dad desperate to do right by his son through introducing him to books. We get to know the painfully shy young chef who can’t bring herself to approach the man she secretly has a crush on, and the mum of a baby who offers free interior design advice to upgrade the shabby room of the shop.

This is a community of folks that values its local bookshop and its owner, and each other, through the ups and downs of daily life. These human connections that arise from a shared love of books are not to be found, sadly, when simply ordering a book online.

Are there shocking twists and turns? No. Is there murder, intrigue, and violent car chases? No. That’s not what this novel is. Picture yourself in a comfortable chair sipping tea (of course) on a lazy day with a cat on your lap.

That’s the feeling you’ll get when reading this novel.

 

One of my lucky readers will receive a copy of How to Find Love in a Bookshop. Please leave a comment below, and a winner will be randomly selected. US addresses only, please.

 

I received a copy of How to Find Love in a Bookshop from Viking for an honest review,
which is the only kind of review I write.

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Book Buzz: The Luster of Lost Things

Book Buzz: The Luster of Lost Things

It took no time to be swept up in the magic in The Luster of Lost Things, Sophie Chen Keller’s new novel set in a tiny bakery in New York City. Tantalized by Keller’s mouthwatering descriptions of flaky croissants fresh from the oven, sweet vanilla wafers with sea-salted caramel filling, and double butterscotch pops, I was practically swooning with desire for one of the sugary concoctions created by Lucy at her bakery,The Lavenders.

Book Buzz: The Luster of Lost Things

Lucy, a talented pastry chef, pours her energies into running The Lavenders while faced with the sadness of being a single mom. Her pilot husband disappeared when his plane crashed in the ocean while she is pregnant with their only child. Now she is devoted to making a life for herself and her son.

One cold wintry night, she invites a homeless woman into the warmth and comfort of her bakery, and in return the woman gives her a book of drawings that Lucy displays in the shop. This book, known as the Book, becomes pivotal to the story.

Twelve year-old Walter Lavender Jr. might remind you of the boy in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. He is bright and good-hearted with a communications disorder that renders his speech difficult. Taunted in the school yard, his refuge is the bakery where he pitches in before and after school, and every day places a lighted candle in the shop’s window, hoping it will bring his father home.

Plaintively, he wonders,

“Couldn’t Walter Lavender Sr. try a little bit harder to come back or send a sign? I am the one doing all the looking even though he is the one who is supposed to be here, to teach me the things I do not know.”

Walter Jr. has a super power of sorts: he can help people find lost things. He finds a missing cockatiel, a bassoon, and even a lost dog that ends up becoming his own, Milton.

But when the beloved Book goes missing and business in the bakery flounders, he sets out to find it and realign the stars. This takes him on an astounding search through New York City, in the dingy tunnels of the subway system, in Chinatown, across Central Park and so many other landmarks. In his quest, he learns about what it means to lose and find something precious, and also what it means to be him.

Oh, does Sophie Chen Keller have a way with words. Describing the end of a school day, she writes,

“… when the afternoon bell rings, the cherry red doors fling open and the kids pour out like spilled birdseed.”

Walter Jr. says,

“… I step behind the counter and search for the squeaking mice, nudging away a ring of passion fruit marshmallows engaged in a sumo match. I wait, looking into the display case as a jelly frog studded with chopped dates and hazelnuts hops across the second level.”

And when Lucy and Walter Jr. bake together:

“I tilt my bowl over the mixer and we alternate adding our wet and dry ingredients so the bubbles of air in the batter don’t pop and the cake emerges tender and fluffy from the oven. Lucy pours out the batter and it cascades across the first baking pan in a butter-silk curtain.

‘Masterful,’ she pronounces.”

 

Yes, it is.

One of my lucky readers will receive a copy of The Luster of Lost Things. Please leave a comment below, and a winner will be randomly selected. US addresses only, please.

 

I received a copy of The Luster of Lost Things from Putnam for an honest review,
which is the only kind of review I write.

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Book Buzz: The Address

Book Buzz: The Address

I had to hide from my family for a little while.

But now that I’ve finished reading The Address I can finally resume my regularly scheduled life. Thank you, family, for indulging me and leaving me alone with this wondrous new novel written by Fiona Davis.


Book Buzz: The Address

Take a captivating morsel of New York City history, stir in the epic splendor of the famed Manhattan residence the Dakota, add a heaping teaspoon of intrigue, top it off with a juicy murder mystery and you’ve got the most satisfying literary meal: The Address.

The Address

The name Dakota may be familiar to you. Not only is it famous for its contribution as one of New York’s most interesting architectural designs and esteemed landmarks, it has also been home to celebrities, artists and the glitterati of Manhattan society. It was home to Lauren Bacall, Leonard Bernstein, Gilda Radner, Roberta Flack and so many other familiar names from the entertainment industry, including John Lennon and Yoko Ono. Sadly, it was in front of the Dakota that Lennon was murdered in 1980.

Years ago I read a fascinating book by Stephen Birmingham, Life at the Dakota: New York’s Most Unusual Address, which apparently was also an inspiration to author Davis in creating her novel. Weaving in familiar names, dates and events from the past, she presents two storylines; one taking place in 1985 and the other in 1885.

Alternating mostly by chapter, The Address connects a scandalous event from the past to the descendants of one of the (fictional) architects of the Dakota in the present.

Because I adore historical fiction, especially of this time period, I was intrigued with the description of New York City at the time the Dakota was built, how the Upper West Side where the Dakota is located was pretty much a wasteland, and the first tenants were pioneers of sorts, taking a chance on living in this urban frontier.

In the 1800s segment of The Address, Sara Smyth, a competent young hotel employee from England, is hired as the first manageress of the Dakota and arrives to find utter chaos as the building is still under construction. She organizes a large staff and generally becomes responsible for a successful opening. Under her watchful eye, the operation runs smoothly and she is highly respected.

But her own life begins to unravel when she gets swept up in a romance that never should have happened. She is ultimately sent away and incarcerated for a manufactured reason. When she is released and attempts to return to the life she knew, things are not the same.

Meanwhile, fast forward to 1985 when designer Bailey Camden is hired by her cousin Melinda, heir to the Dakota fortune, to help with renovations to the building. While searching in the basement of the Dakota, Bailey unearths several fascinating artifacts connected to the scandal of 100 years ago and initiates some detective work on her own.

And that’s all I will tell you because I won’t reveal spoilers. Suffice it to say I was engrossed in this novel from the get go and the last 50 pages kept me glued to my reading perch.

My family will attest to that.

 

One of my lucky readers will receive a copy of The Address. Please leave a comment below and a winner will be randomly selected. US addresses only, please.

 

I received a copy of The Address from Dutton for an honest review,
which is the only kind of review I write.

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