The X-Files: Cold Cases

The X-Files: Cold Cases

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Audible.
The opinions and text are all mine.

An undercurrent of eerie, robot-like intonations emanates from a group of hooded, robed cultists. The creepy sound gets louder and more ominous. The tension in the air suddenly explodes with a gunshot blast. I gasp in horror. A doctor was shot leaving her office late at night and no one is there to help her.

Shocked, I turn up the volume in my car. I am listening to an episode of the original audio drama The X-Files: Cold Cases released this month by Audible.

The X-Files: Cold Cases

The X-Files was new to me.

True confession: I had never watched this show. I know, my bad. I had no idea who Mulder and Scully were and what they did and why they retired from their super secret jobs. That said, I don’t think I was at a disadvantage listening to these audio episodes for the first time. They were easy to follow and I became totally absorbed in the drama unfolding in the confines of my car as I traveled on the New Jersey Turnpike. Needless to say, traveling on the New Jersey Turnpike is not fun, but The X-Files made the trip go by fast.

The Audible audio drama, taking place after the last movie but before the new TV show, features narration by the actors who starred in the series: Golden Globe and Emmy award-winning Gillian Anderson, playing Scully, and Golden Globe award-winning David Duchovny, as Mulder, plus several other characters such as Walter Skinner, The Lone Gunmen and the Cigarette Smoking Man that fans will know.

The X-Files: Cold Cases

What pulls the dynamic duo Fox Mulder and Dana Scully back into the fray? There’s been a database breach at FBI headquarters, and an unknown enemy is accessing information about cold cases that had never been solved from the secret department once known as The X-Files. Curiously, friends and foes from the old days of the agency begin to materialize. With attacks on their department boding ill for the security of the US government, former FBI agents Mulder and Scully reappear to tackle a conspiracy designed to wreak havoc on the country.

It was easy to pick up on the chemistry of the two characters. Between Duchovny’s droll sense of humor and Anderson’s let’s-get-this-done practicality, they make a great team. Each of the four episodes in this audiobook could easily stand alone, but listening to the broadcast in its entirety gives more depth to their background, relationship, and the forces of evil that they are fighting together. The production quality and the sound effects are superb.

For both die-hard fans and newbies to this series, The X-Files: Cold Cases is an entertaining four hours of drama and intrigue.

Have you used Audible? If not, you should! Try it out with a 30-day trial by signing up here.

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Book Buzz: Who Moved My Teeth? Preparing for Self, Loved Ones & Caregiving

Book Buzz: Who Moved My Teeth? Preparing for Self, Loved Ones & Caregiving

For the last five months, I pretty much put my life on hold because, well, life happened.

Suddenly, my world revolved around caregiving.

With three members of my family  (including the dog) undergoing operations that involved a lengthy recovery, my daily routine changed dramatically as I became the caregiver. As such, I was nurse, physical therapist, medicine dispenser, pulse taker, meal preparer and deliverer, bandage changer, appointment driver, and most of all, resident worrier.

I am happy to say, however, that all three patients have recovered, and our lives have resumed their normal ebb and flow.

I learned an important lesson during this time, though. Caregiving can be a full-time occupation without a training manual. It is alternately terrifying and lonely.

Caregiving is not a once and done deal. Most of us will be caregivers several times in our lifetimes. For some, it will be many times over.

Like my friend Cathy Sikorski, a funny, sharp and compassionate woman who has been a caregiver for seven different family members and friends over the last 25 years. Cathy’s first book, Showering With Nana: Confessions of a Serial Caregiver, is a memoir that is both touching and hilarious about the time she cared for her 92 year-old grandmother with a 2 year-old daughter toddling around the house. Cathy has the writing chops to bring you to laughter and tears simultaneously. I loved Showering with Nana and reviewed it here.

Who Moved My Teeth? Preparing for Self, Loved Ones & Caregiving

Cathy is also an attorney who has focused her practice on elder care, so she understands caregiving from both a personal and a legal standpoint. Her latest book, Who Moved My Teeth? Preparing for Self, Loved Ones & Caregiving, provides practical information about caregiving for others as well as what you need to know about your own care — and your legal rights — as you age.

Book Buzz: Who Moved My Teeth? Preparing for Self, Loved Ones & Caregiving

No matter what age you are now, are you prepared for what lies ahead for both you and your loved ones? Do you have a Power of Attorney and a Living Will? Do you understand Social Security? Do you know the difference between Medicare, Medicaid and Medigap?

I am at the stage of my life where I need to know about these things, and figuring it all out can be nightmarish. Navigating the healthcare system is akin to being lost in a cornfield maze. I am an educated woman, but reading about this stuff makes my eyes glaze over in acronym misery. Cathy makes it more palatable with her plain speak tinged with humor style of writing.

Because she has gone through the hassles of making endless phone calls and getting nowhere, of filing claims that end up lost, of filling out pages of paperwork and dealing with incompetent administrators, she saves us a good chunk of the frustration by giving us a roadmap with clear directions.

Was this helpful? You bet. Caregiving is less onerous when you’re aware of the systems in place that can help during a difficult time, since the last thing you want to do is deal with it then.

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Book Buzz: Hum if You Don’t Know the Words

Book Buzz: Hum if You Don't Know the Words

Like other bookworms, I fall in love over and over again, and happily so.

What does it take for a book to capture my heart? It begins with the mechanics. Figuratively speaking, a book has to be firing on all cylinders to get my heart pumping. Eloquent writing, an emotionally riveting plot and complex, memorable characters, are essential for starters. A dash of humor helps, too.

If a book should achieve the above, but go even higher by leaving me with a deeper understanding of human nature, plus have me yearning for more, I am over the moon.

I was in a state of reading euphoria with Hum If You Don’t Know the Words, an exceptional coming of age story and debut novel from Bianca Marais.

Book Buzz: Hum if You Don't Know the Words

Hum if You Don’t Know the Words

Set in apartheid South Africa in 1976, the year of the Soweto Uprising, the story is narrated by two very different South Africans: a white child suddenly orphaned and a black woman desperate to find her missing daughter.

Robin is a plucky nine year-old white girl raised in privilege with all the comforts therein. Her parents employ Mabel, a black housekeeper to do the cleaning, cooking and caregiving. Robin loves Mabel but sees her as a servant, not an equal, because this is what she has been taught.

I cringed at the dismissive way Mabel was spoken to and treated by her employers, but this was the norm at the time. In pre-apartheid society all black people, even those who lived with you, were second class.

SPOILER ALERT …

Robin’s life changes dramatically when her parents are brutally murdered. She and Mabel are taken to the police station. After being detained for a short while, Mabel is released and flees, without a backward glance. Robin is rescued by her aunt, and life as she knew it has been erased.

Her aunt Edith never wanted children, and is an unwilling guardian. Self-involved and irresponsible, she can not manage to give Robin the stability a child deserves.

At the same time, Beauty, a black schoolteacher, has been notified that her anti-apartheid activist daughter is in danger. Leaving the rest of the family behind in their rural village, Beauty travels to Johannesburg to search for her beloved Nomsa. She needs to find employment in order to have the required credentials to stay there. When she learns that Edith needs a nanny, she applies for the position.

That is how two very different lives are connected by tragedy.

Through Beauty, Robin’s universe is expanded. She learns about systemic racism and starts to question the values she had been taught. As she develops relationships with other “forbidden” segments of society — the Jewish family in their apartment building, Edith’s gay friends, black neighbors — she sees that people are people, and our commonalities are greater than our differences, and the definition of family can expand beyond mother and father.

As Beauty continues to look for her daughter, she learns about her capacity for patience, bravery, and mothering.

Obliterating racism starts with us.

When Robin is asked by a black child why whites hate blacks, she responds:

“Maybe it’s just that everyone needs someone to hate, and it’s easier to treat people terribly if you tell yourself they’re nothing like you.”

Finding our similarities while accepting our differences.

That doesn’t sound insurmountable, does it?

 

One of my lucky readers will receive a copy of Hum If You Don’t Know the Words. Please leave a comment below and a winner will be randomly selected. USA addresses only, please.

 

I received a copy of Hum If You Don’t Know the Words from Putnam for an honest review,
which is the only kind of review I write.

 

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Book Buzz: All We Shall Know

Book Buzz: All We Shall Know

Book Buzz: All We Shall Know

Every writer knows that creating a powerhouse opening paragraph is key to engaging the reader so that he or she will be eager to see what comes next. In Donal Ryan’s gritty, brooding All We Shall Know, the first two sentences sealed the deal for me:

Martin Toppy is the son of a famous Traveller and the father of my unborn child. He is seventeen, I’m thirty-three.

All We Shall Know

The story is narrated by schoolteacher Melody Shee, a flawed yet sympathetic character whose marriage has been marred by abuse and deceit. While tutoring the vulnerable and illiterate young Martin Toppy, she seduces him. She confesses to her husband Pat that she met someone on the Internet and is pregnant, causing him to storm out amid a torrent of verbal abuse.

Melody yearns for Martin and secretly spies on his home, but shortly after their encounter he and his family leave abruptly for an unnamed destination. Scorned by Pat’s family and the townspeople who are disgusted by her infidelity, Melody is alone until she meets Martin’s cousin, 20 year-old Mary Crothery, an outcast like her. Melody is entranced by this waiflike child woman, and an unlikely friendship develops.

Each chapter in All We Shall Know is numbered by the week of Melody’s pregnancy. Unable to carry a pregnancy to term before, she is awed by the life growing inside her but haunted by transgressions in her past.  She is consumed with guilt about her best friend from high school, a girl she loved but ultimately betrayed in a horrifying way.

Incidentally, I had never heard the term “Traveller” and wondered what it was in Irish culture. In an interview, Ryan explained what a Traveller is:

Q. The father of Melody’s unborn child is Martin Toppy, a Traveller boy. For those who may be unfamiliar, can you describe Traveller culture and explain why you chose to write about this particular marginalized group?

Ryan: Irish Travellers number around 30,000 in this country, but they have a substantial diaspora. They’re a nomadic people with a distinct language, Shelta, an English-based derivative dialect of which is still in use called Cant. Up until recently, official Ireland has pursued a policy of integration: it was commonly believed that Travellers were ‘set on the road’ during the Great Famine, having been cast from their smallholdings and labourers’ cottages. Recent research shows their origins are pre-Celtic, that they may be ‘the original Irish’ and that they travelled the roads long long before the famine. Unfortunately, we’ve always been afflicted with strict stratification of ‘classes’ in Ireland—we hadn’t the wit or the vision or the strength or the will as a young nation to stamp on the idea, to break the hegemony of so-called ‘middle-class respectability’ propagated and perpetuated by the clergy and ‘the professions’. Travellers came to be seen as a type of underclass, a problem to be solved. Fortunately they’ve very recently been recognised officially as an ethnic minority. Travellers tend to marry young, to have large families, and to be deeply spiritual. Traveller society is riven with strife: their life expectancy is far blow the national median, their suicide rate is terrifyingly high, and their relationship with the settled community is often fractious. I based the character of Martin Toppy on a Traveller I worked with in a factory over twenty years ago and the character of Mary Crothery on a Traveller girl I once kind of knew, who told me she’d been cast out from her family: she still lived in their compound in a local halting site, but, she said, “there’s none of them talking to me.”

As Melody navigates pregnancy, abandonment and regret, she ultimately finds resolution and makes choices that surprised me at the end.

Ryan, an award winning author and nominee for a Man Booker Prize, has a mesmerizing, lyrical writing style, evoking so much emotion through his spare but lovely prose. A testament to Ryan’s talent is his ability to authentically capture Melody’s internal monologue even though he is obviously not a woman. Although not well known (yet) in the USA, Ryan is recognized abroad as a gifted new voice in fiction.

This is a slim volume, less than 200 pages, one that could be completed in one sitting. I willingly let myself be transported into Ryan’s world, and did exactly that.

 

One of my lucky readers will receive a copy of All We Shall Know. Please leave a comment below and a winner will be randomly selected. USA addresses only, please.

 

I received a copy of All We Shall Know from Penguin for an honest review,
which is the only kind of review I write.

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Book Buzz: The Confusion of Languages

Book Buzz: The Confusion of Languages

Oh my. This book.

Book Buzz: The Confusion of Languages

The Confusion of Languages, a novel written by the talented Siobhan Fallon, is so worthy of a book group discussion that I wish I could find one right this minute to talk about it.

The Confusion of Languages

The story is about two military families stationed in Amman, Jordan at a time of tenuous calm, during the rise of the Arab Spring. When Crick Brickshaw, his wife Margaret and their infant son arrive, the expat community is happy to welcome some new faces. Dan Hugo and his wife Cassie have been stationed in Amman for two years. They volunteer to take the Brickshaws under their wing to ease them into Jordanian society.

Cassie and Margaret become fast friends even though they are very different. Cassie is a by-the-rules kind of girl, while Margaret is a free spirit. Cassie warns Margaret that many things we take for granted in America are strictly forbidden in a Middle Eastern country. Covering up when she goes out in public, not interacting with other men, not going out on her own without at least telling someone — these are all imperatives.

For foreigners, life in Amman is unpredictable and as the political unrest grows potentially life threatening. The families are notified by the Embassy when there are protests in the streets, are steered away from hot spots, and sometimes told to stay home with the curtains drawn.

Margaret blithely ignores the admonitions and is determined to do her own thing. She is awed by the beauty and history of the country and wants to experience it first-hand, happily befriending every Jordanian she meets. Cassie is aghast at Margaret’s disregard of the rules, and this strains their friendship.

The men find out they are about to be deployed to Italy and Crick, aware of his wife’s vulnerability, asks Cassie to watch over Margaret.

The story takes place on just one day, when Margaret is involved in a fender bender and leaves the baby in Cassie’s care while she goes to the police station to pay the fine. As the hours tick by and Cassie is unable to reach her friend, she is fearful that something bad has happened. Walking around the apartment, she finds Margaret’s journal and reads the entries, shocked to learn of a side of her friend she never knew.

The confusion of languages means many things in this novel. The disconnect between cultures, between friends, between married couples. How should women behave in a foreign country? As guests in another country, are we obliged to follow the rules, or try to bend them?

Wow. I loved The Confusion of Languages. A page turner with an intense, nail biting plot, it also is nuanced and complex with its underlying themes. Further, it is a fascinating look into the world of military life and the stresses these families face.

 

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

 

I received a copy of The Confusion of Languages from G.P. Putnam’s Sons for an honest review, which is the only kind of review I write.

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Book Buzz: The Child

Book Buzz: The Child

Imagine this scene in modern-day working-class London. An old apartment building is being dismantled to make way for new construction in a gentrified area. The demolition crew is hacking away at the debris, when suddenly, amidst the dust and rubble, a shocking discovery is made: the skeletal remains of a newborn baby, apparently buried years ago.

Thus begins The Child, Fiona Barton’s suspenseful psychodrama, whose protagonist is a woman in mid-life, a dogged investigative journalist who frets that her traditional reporting skills are becoming passé in the sensationalist world of new media.

The Child

The community is stunned and the case quickly becomes front page news. Dubbed the “Building Site Baby,” the infant’s identity becomes an obsession. What lead to the child’s demise? Why would an infant be buried underneath all the rubble, and whose child was it?

Whodunit, and whydunit?

Four women’s differing perspectives tell the story of The Child. At first we don’t see the connection, but as the plot unfolds,  we learn that each one holds a key to solving the mystery.

Book Buzz: The Child

Kate is the persistent but empathetic newspaper reporter used to getting her hands dirty in pursuit of the truth. She comes from the old school of journalism, and is dismayed to see layoffs of the old guard at her newspaper in favor of inexperienced young writers whose specialty is click bait-y headlines. The pressure of 24/7 online news goes against her grain and she stubbornly resists. At the same time, she worries that journalists of her ilk are disappearing like dinosaurs and she may be the next one to be let go.

Intrigued by the mystery of the Building Site Baby and begs her editor for the plum assignment. With support of the police detectives, she pursues the identity of residents of the building from years ago who might be able to help.

Then, there is Emma, a young married woman who works from home as an editor. She suffers from depression and anxiety, haunted by secrets of her childhood under the care of her single mom, Jude.

Narcissistic Jude raised Emma in an environment of instability and fear. When Emma turned 16, Jude abruptly threw her out of the house. Now that Emma is an adult, Jude would like to have a better relationship with her, but there is little trust, and their periodic interactions never go very well.

Finally, Angela, the wife and mother of two grown children whose infant daughter Alice was abducted decades ago from the hospital the day she was born. Her child was never found. Could this dead infant be her daughter? She prays that this is the case and she will finally have closure.

The short chapters keep the action going at a rapid pace, and gradually we come to see exactly how these women are connected and find out the identity of the Building Site Baby.

A lively, page-turning whodunit, The Child satisfied me as a good beach book and I particularly related to the personage of Kate, whose angst about competing with the younger generation in the workplace rang very true.

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

 

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

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Book Buzz: The Lost Letter

Book Buzz: The Lost Letter

Every artifact has a story behind it, be it a stone jug from the Prehistoric Age or the mummified remains as the last vestiges of the lost city of Pompeii. The study of antiquities can be left to archeologists, but curiosity can inspire all of us to muse about the lives that were touched by the relic that has survived.

In Jillian Cantor’s achingly beautiful new novel The Lost Letter, it is a unique engraved stamp from World War II Austria that prompts a quest for answers.

Book Buzz: The Lost LetterThe Lost Letter

The action shifts from the late 1980s in Los Angeles to the late 1930s in Austria.

Katie is a freelance writer whose life has come undone. Her father is suffering from dementia and has moved into a nursing home. His care has required her full-time attention, and in the midst of this crisis her husband decides to leave her. She puts her emotions on hold while she devotes herself to her father’s care as he drifts in and out of senility.

Katie attempts to simplify his life by sorting through his belongings. An avid philatelist (stamp collector) his entire life, her father has left his cherished collection to her but she has no interest in keeping it. She locates a local stamp appraiser and makes an appointment to see him. Could there be something of value there? Or is the collection simply another thing for her to dispose of?

The appraiser contacts her in a few days. He has found an unusual stamp, one he has never seen before, on an unopened letter in the collection. Who was the recipient, and why was the letter never delivered? He wants to research this further and has Katie’s consent.

However, in a lucid moment, Katie’s father is apoplectic when she tells him she has given the collection away, but he can’t verbalize exactly why.

The story shifts to the earlier time, just as World War II is spreading across Europe. Austria has just been occupied by Germany, and the plight of Jewish families becomes extremely grim. Frederick Faber is a renowned stamp engraver with a family and a beautiful home, but as the Nazis move closer to his town destroying everything in its path, the family prepares to flee. Faber’s apprentice Kristoff, an artist struggling to learn the fine craft of stamp engraving, is not Jewish and therefore not in imminent danger. Deeply devoted to the family, he promises Faber to take care of the home and business.

Before he flees, Faber is instrumental in forging the resistance to the Nazis through his craft and responsible for evacuating many Jews to safety.

As the tension grows, the intertwining of both stories culminates in a stunning conclusion.

The Lost Letter is a story of resilience,  love, and triumph. Cantor is a historical fiction writer extraordinaire, her characters seem real and relatable, and the dual timeline works seamlessly as the two threads ultimately converge. The intertwining of both stories connects a time of persecution to a future in which survivors have prevailed.

The Lost Letter is receiving critical praise, including being named as Amazon’s Best Book of the Month.  It would go on my Best of the Year as well.

And now I am off to look through my husband’s stamp collection.

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

 

I received a copy of The Lost Letter from Riverhead Books for an honest review,
which is the only kind of review I write.

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Book Buzz: It Ends With Us

I am a person who needs a book handy at all times. Hence, you will find one not just next to my bed, but also in the bathroom, in the side pocket of my car, and on the kitchen counter.

Audible has enabled this quirk of mine by offering hundreds of audiobook titles that I can listen to anywhere. This is especially nice when I’m in the car or out for a daily walk. I can get so wrapped up in a good tale that those 10,000 steps seem much less arduous.

The buzz over author Colleen Hoover’s latest novel, It Ends With Us, had intrigued me, so I eagerly downloaded it from Audible.

Romance, yes, But so much more. A complex story that takes on a harrowing subject with frankness and emotional depth, It Ends With Us is a novel that left me breathless even before getting winded by step #5849.

Book Buzz: It Ends With Us

Listening to It Ends With Us on Audible, I found my emotions running the gamut, and because I was moved from highs to lows over and over again, I may have unleashed a few expletives on my neighborhood jaunts. Hopefully I was out of earshot of the neighbors.

The narration bounces from 15 year-old Lily reading entries from her diary to the present day Lily. The younger Lily writes mostly about her relationship with Atlas, a boy from her school, and the older Lily brings us up to date 10 years later.

It Ends With Us

Adult Lily meets hunky Ryle in the most romantic of ways: on the roof deck of a Boston apartment building late one night, each one seeking an escape, with the stars and lights of the city twinkling above.

Lily, distraught after failing to deliver an appropriate eulogy at her father’s funeral that day, needs a refuge where she can be alone with her thoughts. Ryle, a brash neurosurgeon, has come up for air as well. At first she is annoyed that her space has been invaded, but as they strike up a conversation she starts to feel a spark. It lasts just a moment, and they go their separate ways.

My reaction: Meh. He sounded dreamy at first, but way too aggressive for my taste. If a man was that coarse with me I would be outta there. You’re well rid of him, Lily.

Some time later they run into each other and although Ryle has steadfastly opposed getting into a romantic relationship, he falls in love with Lily. Initially wary herself, Lily is deliriously happy.

My reaction: Dismay. Lily, this guy may be cute, but his quirks make me shudder. Like taking your pulse during sex to see how high your heartbeat will get? Gross.

Without giving the plot away, let’s just say that eventually Lily finds out in the most shocking of ways that there is another side to Ryle that rocks her physically and emotionally.

My reaction: Horror. Lily, girl, get away from that creep!

Out to dinner one night, Lily and Ryle run into Atlas, Lily’s boyfriend from long ago. Although she is in love with Ryle, Lily realizes that she still cares for Atlas as someone who once was so important to he.

Atlas can read Ryle like a book, and out of concern for Lily he wants to intercede, wants to tell her how this guy is wrong for her, but holds back.

Thus begins Lily’s personal struggle to justify being with a man whose behavior is reminiscent of her own father, the father whom she was unable to properly eulogize at his funeral. Her own experiences have taught her one thing, but now in the moment herself, she is vacillating between her love for Ryle and her own self-respect and survival.

This is a portrait of what happens in too many homes behind closed doors. The shame of the victim often shields the perpetrator from scrutiny until it is too late. As observers, we can be judgmental or sanctimonious, but we can’t truly understand the anguish of this situation unless we walk in the victim’s shoes.

Reading It Ends With Us will put you there. After the final sentence, which gave me goosebumps the author revealed what prompted her to write this story.

My reaction: Wow. Read this book!

Have you tried Audible? Go to Audible’s free trial site and you will have a month to listen to as many titles as you like.

 

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Audible.
The opinions and text are all mine.

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Book Buzz: Siracusa

Book Buzz: Siracusa

 

Book Buzz: Siracusa When People Magazine, Amazon and Publisher’s Weekly all named Delia Ephron’s Siracusa one of their top books of the year, that was enough to intrigue me about this novel, although I didn’t really need prompting to read the latest from an author whose work I always enjoy.

Two years ago I recommended Ephron’s Sister Mother Husband Dog . This time, Ephron switches gears and takes us to the town of Siracusa, located on the sun-drenched coast of Sicily. Vacationing together there are two married couples whose complicated relationships are as twisted and treacherous as the rocky paths on the island.

Siracusa

Meet New Yorkers Michael, a well-known writer, and his wife Lizzie, a freelance journalist. Lizzie had a long-ago affair with Finn, a restauranteur, whose control freak wife Taylor and strange 10 year-old daughter Snow (suffering from “extreme shyness syndrome”) accompany him. Although Finn and his family live in Portland, Maine, he and Lizzie have kept in touch platonically over the years. Why not travel to Siracusa, Lizzie suggests, as an homage to her deceased father who had spoken glowingly of the crumbling charm of the ancient town.

Note: vacationing with an ex-lover and your current spouse is probably never a good idea.

At the beginning, all seems benign enough. Four sophisticated, cultured Americans and one child are on vacation together. The plot is as languid as the Ionian Sea on a quiet morning. Everyone is guardedly happy to be on vacation together. The first stop is Rome for a few days. Tempers are under control until they arrive at Siracusa and Taylor is appalled at the primitive accommodations. That seems to be the point at which dark clouds begin to amass. Seemingly innocent flirtations become something more sinister … jealousy and betrayal lead to emotional warfare … infatuations and danger take the plot in a different direction.

Told in retrospect in alternating voices of the four adults, the narrations reveal earlier missteps of each character, and their desire to make sense out of lives that haven’t gone quite the way they expected. Lizzie, Michael, Taylor and Finn reveal hidden secrets and resentments by recounting the same incidents but with completely different interpretations. Gradually, we come to learn that things are not as they seem. Their secrets and lies bubble to the surface and position them for emotional upheaval.

Aha, you will think as the clues start to accumulate and the plot thickens. Maybe you will figure out the delicously macabre ending, but I was certainly surprised.

Ephron is a master storyteller. Her skewering take on marriage and mores, with a healthy dose of black humor thrown in to sweeten the pot, makes Siracusa a book you will not be able to put down. Now out in paperback, Siracusa is just the right blend of psychological thriller and expose of human nature that makes it a hugely satisfying read. No wonder it has found its way onto so many Top Book of the Year sites.

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

 

I received a copy of Siracusa from Blue Rider Press for an honest review,
which is the only kind of review I write.

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Book Buzz: The Light We Lost

Book Buzz: The Light We Lost

Always in search of a great read, I love getting recommendations from other bookaholics.

“You must read The Light We Lost,” insisted several of my bookie friends. “You won’t be able to put it down.”

They were right. I was swept up in the romance and emotion of Jill Santopolo’s The Light We Lost from the get go, and if you love page turners, this is certainly one.

Book Buzz: The Light We Lost

The Light We Lost might inspire you to ponder your own life decisions. Were they made based on love, on instinct, or on practicality?

The Light We Lost

The novel, set in New York City, begins with the tragedy of 9/11. Columbia University students Lucy and Gabe are in their Shakespeare class when the word comes in about the twin towers attack. Although they are virtually strangers, they find comfort in an embrace. For just a few moments they cling to each other, gathering strength while reflecting on the fragility of life.  They are surprised by the electricity in that embrace, but separate and move on with their lives.

They don’t realize it yet, but they have found their soul mates that day. They also will someday learn that the darkness of that tragic event was a harbinger of the pain and regret to come in their own lives.

A year after graduation Lucy and Gabe run into each other in a bar and that spark is still there, and this time the stars are aligned for them. They fall deeply in love, passionate about each other, and certain that their destiny is to be together. But they are also passionate about their careers. Gabe aspires to be a photojournalist in dangerous areas of the world, to capture the political turmoil and struggles of war-torn countries.   Lucy is equally driven in her position as a television producer and won’t give it up. These circumstances force them to make an anguished decision to part ways.

And then, life goes on. The next 13 years bring marriage and children for Lucy, and worldwide professional recognition for Gabe. Lucy loves her husband, Darren, but jealousy, heartbreak, and unfulfilled dreams consume her each time she thinks about Gabe. As for Gabe, he also struggles with the despair of giving up the woman he truly loved. Ultimately, Gabe and Lucy are forced to confront their true feelings for each other.

This is a dramatic story of love found and lost and found again, and I can attest to tearing up at the end. I will say that the three characters sometimes acted in ways that were self-centered, and that was a bit of a distraction for me. However, I still recommend the book, and fans of JoJo Moyes in particular will enjoy it.

Narrated in the second person (Lucy addresses Gabe throughout), The Light We Lost will remind you of the powerful and lasting effects of first love.

 

I am partnering with Putnam to give away a copy of The Light We Lost. Please leave a comment and a winner will be randomly selected. USA addresses only, please.

 

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