Betty is the fearless leader of our Lunchtime Book Group which meets on the first Tuesday of each month at noon. She is phenomenally talented in finding the perfect book for each customer. So if you are looking for a great book, look for Betty - she won't steer you wrong!
Step into the world of Georgia O'Keeffe and you will be mesmerized. Here is young Georgia, whose talent is clear but undeveloped, as she comes under the force field of the famous Alfred Stieglitz. Together they are a swirl of passion, art, and the business of art in the 20-30s in New York. As time goes on, Georgia asserts her independence, including how she wants to be interpreted. Dawn Tripp has captured exactly how these artists see the world and has given us a well-paced story of color, character, and beautiful American vistas. I enjoyed this immensely.
Does a marriage implode slowly or does it happen in an instant? In Margot Livesey's Mercury, a family copes with the dangerous obsession a wife develops for a horse stabled where she works. The story is told by both the husband and the wife utilizing alternating viewpoints, and it beautifully integrates a Scotsman's reticence and an American woman's gusto and ambition. Rich supporting characters enhance this morality tale.
Tonight (sadly) I finished A Gentleman in Moscow. As with Rules of Civility, Towles has written a very satisfying book. The combination of several beautiful love stories -- the Count's for his homeland, the father's for his daughter, and the willowy actress -- all serve to soften the tale of the brutal transitions of early to mid 20th century Russia. Like an exquisite, and often hilarious, jigsaw puzzle, the pieces of this book fit together perfectly. We come away with a sweeping history lesson and characters we cannot let go of. What a treat!
Another wild ride from thrill master Silva, where ISIS is the enemy and the danger feels very real. Gabriel Allon embeds an Israeli doctor in the caliphate in an attempt to learn ISIS plans and thwart an attack. We go with the stunning Doctor as she penetrates the enemy and seems almost to become them. Of course chaos ensues with a complicated set of twists. Silva has written many Gabriel Allon books and they all terrify, then satisfy. This is a perfect "don't look up from the page" book.
Gail Caldwell tells her story of getting a new lease on life through her hip replacement. But since she's an award-winning journalist -- and off the charts writer -- her story is charming, caustic and real. Infused with descriptions of her struggles, her wonderful canine companion and her indefatigable determination, this is a victorious memoir.
I first met Roxane Gay through her collection of essays titled Bad Feminist. I love her writing which is direct when its called for yet lyrical in its way. Whether writing about Scrabble tournaments, or examining feminism as a personal mantle, Gay is a writer to cherish. Clear, entertaining and thought provoking, Bad Feminist may introduce you to one of your new favorite writers.
Since his earlier book, The Master, Tóibín has been my favorite Irish novelist. Nora Webster, his new novel, secures his place. The story of a too early widowed mother of four is both elegant and reserved. Nora is forced to return to work, cope with her young sons and reestablish herself all under the watchful, small-town eyes of her neighbors. Nora's spirit emerges in unusual ways, keeping her tale both surprising and rewarding.
Nora, the woman upstairs, is a third grade teacher we all know and love. She's wonderful with children -- lively and inventive and vulnerable to an obsession that drives the book. Messud's brainy, compulsive novel brings us inside Nora's life as she falls in love with a family - with them she becomes even more artistic and charismatic; but how can a single woman possess a whole family without setting off sirens of alarm?
Texas can be just like anyplace when it comes to family, community, unspeakable acts and redemption. This book, one of my favorites of the year, is a warm and wrenching tale of a family whose connection defies attack. The brothers are so perfectly drawn, you'll think they are your own children. Johnston writes like a dream.
If you want a master class in writing, read anything by Russell Banks. In his new collection of stories linked by their humanity, each of his characters tries to come to terms with a new situation in life. Funny, but touching, down to earth with moments of great hope and possibility, these stories set in Florida and upstate New York change your vision and stay with you a long time.
If, for some reason, you have missed Donna Tartt's earlier works, now is the time to jump on board. The Goldfinch is a sweeping tale that begins with a blast at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and courses through the days of young Theodore Decker as he copes with a parentless world. The characters he meets along the way will be indelible in your mind. This amazing book is an accomplishment both in the writing AND the reading.
Who isn't intrigued by identical twins? Curtis Sittenfeld delves into the lives of twin sisters with a twist or two. Set in St. Louis, MO, Sisterland is an entertaining tale of lives affected by family, scholarship, ESP, and magnetic attractions. The central focus is a predicted earthquake that does its damage well before its arrival. Charming and well-paced.
Brutality and healing live side by side in rural North Carolina. Wiley Cash's debut novel explores religion,passions and brotherhood in a way that compels the reader to see it all. Does the church heal? Are sons like their fathers? Are children innocent? This is an amazing story. Wiley Cash's characters will make you cry, and this novel will echo in your heart for a long time.
Elizabeth Graver's new novel, long overdue, is a wonderfully unfolding artichoke of a book. It is a story of a family during WWII (and beyond) told through three different sets of eyes. Affluent and advantaged, the Porter family's issues tend to be emotional -- terrain in which Graver has proven herself quite skillful. This is a book well worth reading; the only abiding question is with which character will you find yourself most sympathetic?
If you love New York City, and if you swoon at a classic romance, and IF you are taken by gorgeous prose and lyrical images that linger, then you must read Mark Helperin's new novel. Starting after the war, in 1946, this is a pas de duex between a WWII paratrooper and a young singer he encounters. You will savor every phrase.
We just discussed Last Man in Tower at our store bookclub, and I fell in love with it again. In India, an individual refuses to be swept up in a revitalization project and suffers the consequences. Both poignant and picturesque, the novel has comic moments and beautifully drawn characters.
I was in by sentence one and didn't let go until the last word. This suspenseful ode to sisters is a terror perfectly done. At times chilling and at times tender, Sister is a book you will not forget. A perfect read for January.
Manhattan, 1938, is the setting for this wonderfully satisfying tale of the rich -- and the not so rich! Amidst the glitter of New York are some unforgettable characters and a story that dazzles and lingers. We couldn't put it down.
Here is the inside story from the actor, master entertainer, and storyteller John Lithgow. Written as a tribute to his actor father, Arthur Lithgow, John details his many downs and ups before he got his break onstage at Harvard University. In and out of Hollywood and the London stage, John relives his many associations with Hollywood. Whatever your interest in acting, Drama should be on your list. A beautiful and fascinating autobiography.
In Haslett's typical gorgeous style, he portrays a face-off between solid Yankee values and the whirlwind effects of money-making that is Wall Street.
A book I have often heard about, The Tender Bar was every bit as good as had been reported. J.R. Moehringer's memoir about growing up fatherless in Manhasset, Long Island is more than a coming of age story. It is a wonderful amalgam of unusual characters, dysfunctional family life, striving and setbacks, and a love affair with writing. Guided by his single mother, JR ricochets between her ambitions for him and the influence of Dickens the bar that dominates the story. The writing is gorgeous and the plight of a boy trying to define himself is a compelling one.
A frothy little tale of a mother and two daughters forced to fend for themselves when the man of the family (her husband, their stepfather) leaves them for another woman. Of course the daughters are 50 and 52, still they gather around their mother and retreat with her from Manhattan to Westport, CT. There they get caught up in a social swirl that comes and goes (and sometimes explodes). With a cast of characters where one is more eccentric than the next. There are charmers, predators, and plenty of amusements. Schine is a talented comic writer and this is her most popular book to date. Like eating candy.
Tracing the interwoven lives of four Smith College friends during and after college, Commencement is a (less edgy), more appealing updated version of The Group. It is especially delicious to read about the college rituals and Sullivan gets the atmospheric details just right. Commencement has a great narrative thrust and wonderful characters. You will find it a great way to spend a few days caught up in the lives of others.
Of the five days I was gone, I spent three completely under the spell of Her Fearful Symmetry. It is the most wonderful ghost story I have ever read. I loved the characters, each more quirky than the next. I was mesmerized by all the twinness. The English setting added to the charm, and the story line was just fantastic enough to keep me levitated without dropping me. To those adventurous readers willing to trust me, I beg you to give this new entry by the author of The Time Traveler's Wife a try. You will be rewarded with a kooky but contemporary tale of what happens when you mess with the fates. And you'll learn some interesting historic facts about cemeteries while you're at it. And, its not creepy at all. Reading Her Fearful Symmetry is time well spent.
A salty story of pre-integrated (1962) Jackson, Mississippi, The Help is a novel that has been flying off our shelves. The tale is a domestic one of "colored" maids nurturing and raising white children whose own mothers are too wrapped up in their society lives to do so. Thanks to one white woman who refuses to fit it, the real story is told. Affecting, maddening, and almost redemptive, The Help is too good to miss.
A literate complicated dilemma is posed in The Post-Birthday World. What if things had gone the other way? Go with Irene McGovern as she explores her options. A very rewarding book!
Just after WWII a writer is contacted by a fan on the island of Guernsey. As events unfold and she goes to Guernsey, she learns of the misery, bravery and ingenuity of the locals when Guernsey was abandoned by the British to be captured by the Germans. Written with warmth and humor as a series of letters, this novel is just a gem!
Written by a member of an elite writing family, this coming of age novel set in a prep school in the '60's has a tone that resonates today. Issues of privelege and class, alliances vs. friendship make this a provocative book for group discussion. Beautifully written.
What would it feel like to have reached the height of academis - Harvard professor of cognition - and suddenly at age 50, start to lose your faculties. This touching, personal account of early onset Alzheimers is unique because it is told from the perspective of the victim. I saw the world a little differently after I finished it.