A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

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Have you ever had a neighbor who always seemed so cranky that you avoided getting to know him/her?  It has probably happened to all of us at some time.  Well, Ove is that kind of neighbor: very rigid, grumpy and set in his ways.  It took an unexpected encounter between Ove and new neighbors to change his character, and in fact the entire neighborhood.  You will be pleasantly surprised at the difference this incident made for all those concerned.  It may even change the way you approach a similar situation in the future.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

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This was my end of summer book to read.  It didn’t take long at all to get through.  You would find it in the YA section of the library but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t seek it out as an adult reader.  It deals with a serious subject matter with great humor.  I felt that the three main characters — Greg, Earl, and Rachel — were appropriately portrayed as teenaged.  They were not as unrealistic as the characters in The Fault In Our Stars.  I also felt that the author dealt with the relationship the kids had with their parents in a very mature and realistic manner.  I also appreciated that the demise of Rachel was not a long, drawn out affair.  For anyone who might not want to read the book, there is a movie that was made.

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

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My summer pick for a classic I’ve never read was Wide Sargasso Sea.  I’m surprised I hadn’t read it, as it’s the story of the woman that marries Mr. Rochester, yes, that Rochester from Jane Eyre.  The book tells the story of Antoinette, born in Jamaica to ex-slave owners.  Eventually her father drinks himself to death and her mother exhibits signs of insanity.  Antoinette is cared for by the nuns at her convent school and occasionally by her Aunt Cora.  Mr. Rochester, while never directly named in the book, arrives on the island and marries Antoinette without really knowing much about her past.  This book was a richly detailed story full of secrets and superstitions as well as deep-seated resentments, especially of the ex-slaves toward the white aristocracy.  So glad I picked this to read this summer.

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

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Liane Moriarty is one of my favorite authors.  I love the way she writes, with a mixture of a good story and strong characters.  I was very much looking forward to reading this book when I heard of its release, and I was not disappointed.

Much of the story revolves around an afternoon neighborhood barbecue and the events that occurred there. The timeline switches between the day of the barbecue and several weeks afterward.  In the process, we see the points of view of Vid and Tiffany and their daughter Dakota, who are the owners of the home where the barbecue was held; Erica and Oliver, their neighbors; and Clementine and Sam (and their two young daughters), who are friends with Erica and Oliver.

What I enjoyed beyond the mystery of what happened that afternoon is the development of the characters.  Moriarty writes in such a way that you really get to know all of them, which leads to a better overall understanding of not only the events that happened that day, but the motivations of the characters.  It took me a few chapters to really get into the book, but once I did, I was hooked.  I look forward to reading Moriarty’s next novel.

Hamilton : The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter

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My love affair with all things Hamilton continues as I finally got this audiobook from the library.  If any of you out there love actors and performers and hearing about how they get their ideas, then you’ll love this audiobook.  An added plus is that Mariska Hargitay is the narrator.  The story of how Lin-Manuel Miranda brought the story of Alexander Hamilton to the Broadway stage is really riveting, and just reinforces the genius of Miranda.  Staying true to himself and all his musical influences while being so aware of how it would translate on the stage is just awesome.  A huge thumbs up for this.

The Girls by Emma Cline

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This debut novel for Emma Cline is very true to the 1960s, with young girls looking to find themselves and ending up finding security in cults. The main character,  Evie, is lost — her parents just got divorced, her dad is living with a younger woman, her mom is trying to find a new husband, and Evie and her best friend have a falling out.  What she ends up finding is this clan of girls in the park.  That leads her to their ranch, where she gets drawn into their wild lifestyle of drugs, sex, and eventually horrible crime.  The story starts in Evie’s present time and keeps flashing back to tell this story.  I enjoyed this weird book, which concentrated not on the horribleness of this time, but more on the relationship between the girls.

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

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This is a work of non-fiction that reads like a novel.

The “Nazi Olympics” of 1936 are remembered for the stunning victory of Jesse Owens.  But a group of young men from the state of Washington also made a splash.  After winning the national collegiate rowing championship — held in the Hudson at Poughkeepsie — a team of mostly rural rowers traveled to Berlin to take on the best in the world.

The book will introduce you to a host of characters you’ve probably never heard of.
Together, they would overcome incredible odds and make history.

 

William Shakespeare’s The Phantom of Menace: Star Wars Part the First (William Shakespeare’s Star Wars) by Ian Doescher

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Well this was certainly fun to read!  It’s the Star Wars story written in Shakespearean iambic pentameter.  Very cool.  I was able to fly right through this.  As a lover of Shakespeare, I found  this a very cool way to read the first story in the Star Wars saga. The illustrations are beautiful as well.  Just an all around fun book, and for sure I’ll keep going with this series.

White Teeth by Zadie Smith

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Zadie Smith is recognized as one of England’s premiere fiction writers.  Her first book, published in 2000, made an enormous splash and vaulted her to instant prominence.

White Teeth features a complex weave of fascinating characters, from multiple ethnic and racial backgrounds, reflecting modern-day England.  The story centers on two friends — Archie, a redheaded English person married to an Afro-Caribbean woman, and Samad, a Muslim immigrant from Bangladesh.  Their adventures are simultaneously funny and moving.  The storyline is entertaining, but the novel’s spice comes from the mosaic of peoples, cultures, and customs living in the same neighborhood, and the tensions and relationships that ensue.

I rarely laugh out-loud at a book, but I did with this one.  Give it a try.

 

The Girl in the Garden by Kamala Nair

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This is the first book by this author.  I read it over a weekend.  The story begins as a letter from Rahkee (a young Indian woman) to her fiance as she is leaving him to return to her ancestral home in India to deal with her past.  The bulk of the novel settles on Rakhee’s summer spent in India before her 11th birthday with her mother’s (Amma) mysterious family and away from her father, Aba. Most of the story is told through the voice of young Rakhee, an innocent girl exposed to a brand new life in India as she discovers a secret garden that holds dark secrets of her family’s past that will change her life forever during that summer.  It’s a quick read that was beautiful but also sad.

 

 

Displacement by Lucy Knisley

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Similar to Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant by Roz Chast – but better!  Lucy Knisley’s graphic novel memoir of her Caribbean cruise also addresses the difficulties of aging, but is less depressing.  Lucy is a young “poor, single, obsessive freelancer” who gets the opportunity to accompany her grandparents on a trip.  Her “grands” are in their 90s, so her help will be invaluable.  This is also an opportunity for her to spend more time getting to know them better.  She has a copy of her grandfather’s writings about WWII, which are interspersed with the modern-day story.  Nothing seems to go well on this trip.  This is one of the best of the new adult graphic novels with both humor and sadness.  The illustration is lovely.  A great read!

The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin

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Is reincarnation possible?  This wonderful new book explores what can possibly happen after we die and how far we would go to help our children and those we love.  This is a debut novel by  Sharon Guskin.

Janie Zimmerman became pregnant after a one-night stand.  Now her son Noah is four years old and highly intelligent.  He begins to experience bizarre behavior.  He becomes difficult, and is kicked out of school.  He is not crazy.  He does not like baths and is afraid of water.  He speaks of another mother whom he wants to go home to.  Dr. Jerome Anderson, a psychologist,  has been studying young children who seem to recall details from previous lives and is documenting this into a book.  Soon Noah, Janie, and Anderson  find themselves on a journey looking for answers — has Noah indeed been reincarnated?

Find Her by Lisa Gardner

Find HerI have never read Lisa Gardner before.  This book is the eighth in the  Detective D. D. Warren series, but you really didn’t need to have read the others.  This chilling murder mystery thriller stands on its own.  Florence Dane spent 472 days as the prisoner of a sexual predator, spending most of her time in a wooden coffin.  The story picks up after fice years of her being free.  Her kidnapping has left her scarred and obsessed with finding missing people and bringing their kidnappers to justice, which leads to her being abducted all over again.  Detective D. D. Warren’s job is now to find Flora as well as another missing girl.  A very highly emotional, haunting thriller.

 

 

A Common Struggle by Patrick J. Kennedy and Stephen Fried

A Common Struggle
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This book was so wonderful on so many levels.  I thought Patrick Kennedy was very brave to write it – and I absolutely understand why it was written after his father’s passing.  The way he grew up hearing from his dad and very extended famous family that we keep everything in the family and don’t air our dirty laundry helped to keep him from truly confronting and defeating his own demons.  The authors do a great job in giving information about how our healthcare system and government succeed and fail at treating people with mental illness and addiction.  Ultimately this is a book about successes and failures, but mostly about hope in dealing with these two very important issues.