Monday, November 2, 2015

by Alexander Helas

Christian Matters is a neurotic architect living in Chicago, USA, but after a bizarre episode throws him off his morning routine, he abandons his promising career, girlfriend and home for a life-changing journey to San Francisco, where he meets a cavalier aristocrat named Lester Rothschild and his beautifully extravagant love, fortepianist Ella Athens.

Mysterious and insane, Lester takes Christian on his adventure to open Société, the most luxurious entertainment complex at the heart of the world's richest city. But with the chance meeting of an unlikely visitor and the sudden death of a lover, colliding events lead Christian to unravel the true ambitions behind the greatly anticipated opening of Société, and discovers the fate of something much greater is at stake. 

I'm definitely intrigued and will have a completed review shortly!!

Monday, June 22, 2015

The House at Sugar Beach, Helene Cooper

Helene Cooper is “Congo,” a descendant of two Liberian dynasties—traced back to the first ship of freemen that set sail from New York in 1820 to found Monrovia. Helene grew up at Sugar Beach, a twenty-two-room mansion by the sea. Her childhood was filled with servants, flashy cars, a villa in Spain, and a farmhouse up-country. It was also an African childhood, filled with knock foot games and hot pepper soup, heartmen and neegee. When Helene was eight, the Coopers took in a foster child—a common custom among the Liberian elite. Eunice, a Bassa girl, suddenly became known as “Mrs. Cooper’s daughter.” For years the Cooper daughters—Helene, her sister Marlene, and Eunice—blissfully enjoyed the trappings of wealth and advantage.

But Liberia was like an unwatched pot of water left boiling on the stove. And on April 12, 1980, a group of soldiers staged a coup d'État, assassinating President William Tolbert and executing his cabinet. The Coopers and the entire Congo class were now the hunted, being imprisoned, shot, tortured, and raped. After a brutal daylight attack by a ragtag crew of soldiers, Helene, Marlene, and their mother fled Sugar Beach, and then Liberia, for America. They left Eunice behind.

A world away, Helene tried to assimilate as an American teenager. At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill she found her passion in journalism, eventually becoming a reporter for the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. She reported from every part of the globe—except Africa—as Liberia descended into war-torn, third-world hell.

In 2003, a near-death experience in Iraq convinced Helene that Liberia—and Eunice—could wait no longer. At once a deeply personal memoir and an examination of a violent and stratified country, The House at Sugar Beach tells of tragedy, forgiveness, and transcendence with unflinching honesty and a survivor's gentle humor. And at its heart, it is a story of Helene Cooper’s long voyage home.

My thoughts:
This is a perfect example of a Memoir that reads like a novel.  Helene Cooper recounts her childhood growing up privileged in with a nice house, fancy cars, Nancy Drew books, vacation abroad and her very own "Bassa" sister Eunice.  I was drawn to the story as in many ways, Helene's childhood mirrors my own.  I grew up in a house about 2 miles from the beach, had household help, singing Blessed Assurance in church on Sundays and reading Nancy Drew books.

Prior to reading this Memoir, I had no idea Liberia was a colony formed by freed slaves way back when.  Helene weaved stories of her childhood while adding snippets of the social and political climate in Liberia at that time. I was saddened by the breakdown of the government though to be honest, that system with the powerful rich vs the weakened poor would never work for an extended period of time. 

You will need to read this book to learn about the tragedy and heartbreak this country faced as well as the beginnings of peace and hopefully prosperity in the region.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Goldfinch

It begins with a boy. Theo Decker, a thirteen-year-old New Yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. Bewildered by his strange new home on Park Avenue, disturbed by schoolmates who don't know how to talk to him, and tormented above all by his unbearable longing for his mother, he clings to one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the underworld of art.

As an adult, Theo moves silkily between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty labyrinth of an antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love-and at the center of a narrowing, ever more dangerous circle.

The Goldfinch is a novel of shocking narrative energy and power. It combines unforgettably vivid characters, mesmerizing language, and breathtaking suspense, while plumbing with a philosopher's calm the deepest mysteries of love, identity, and art. It is a beautiful, stay-up-all-night and tell-all-your-friends triumph, an old-fashioned story of loss and obsession, survival and self-invention, and the ruthless machinations of fate.

My thoughts:
Theo was a boy when he lost his mom, an event that would change him forever. Moved by grief and pain, tumbling from one home to the next, finding friendship in the hard, tough teenager Borys.....his life was constantly on edge.

As I read the novel, I found myself completely wrapped up in Theo's life and would wake each morning wondering how he would spend his day. I laughed and cried with him and hoped his mother's love would keep him alive and well.

I believe this could have been "that" great novel but alas, it was way too wordy (I gave it 3 stars). I am quite happy I read it and would urge you to do the same.

Friday, January 30, 2015

The Light Between The Oceans


About the book:
After four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season and shore leaves are granted every other year at best, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby.

Tom, whose records as a lighthouse keeper are meticulous and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel has taken the tiny baby to her breast. Against Tom’s judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them.

M. L. Stedman’s mesmerizing, beautifully written novel seduces us into accommodating Isabel’s decision to keep this “gift from God.” And we are swept into a story about extraordinarily compelling characters seeking to find their North Star in a world where there is no right answer, where justice for one person is another’s tragic loss.

My Review:

I started this book back in June and was only able to finish it in December. That said, it was a good read but gave it 3 stars because it was a bit "wordy". I felt the story could have been told in fewer pages.

I admired Tom's strength of character but couldn't help but being angry with him for giving in to Isabel. No matter what cards you are dealt, you cannot take someone's child. It just doesn't end well. The downside was that so many lives were turned upside down.

Despite the anguish and despair, the author was able to find a happy ending for Lucy-Grace and I for one was very happy about that.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox

About the book:
In the middle of tending to the everyday business at her vintage-clothing shop and sidestepping her married boyfriend’s attempts at commitment, Iris Lockhart receives a stunning phone call: Her great-aunt Esme, whom she never knew existed, is being released from Cauldstone Hospital—where she has been locked away for more than sixty-one years.

Iris’s grandmother Kitty always claimed to be an only child. But Esme’s papers prove she is Kitty’s sister, and Iris can see the shadow of her dead father in Esme’s face.

Esme has been labeled harmless—sane enough to coexist with the rest of the world. But she's still basically a stranger, a family member never mentioned by the family, and one who is sure to bring life-altering secrets with her when she leaves the ward. If Iris takes her in, what dangerous truths might she inherit?
My thoughts:
This is not a book I would pick up on my own, that said, I enjoyed it. The story started out slow as we learn more about each character. Iris, Esme and Kitty are at the center of the story and we get snipets of each of their lives and how they are woven together. I didn't like the flow from one character to the next and got confused in parts.

On a positive note, I was fascinated with the plot and went through varying emotions (curiosity, anger, sadness) as I read about Esme's life spent in the "crazy" hospital. Her sister Kitty who Esme adored but who did not live up to the protective bigh sister role.  I was most disappointed in her. Finally Iris (the younger relative) who basically just "sat on the fence" through the entire novel. I wanted her to be a bit more agressive in pursuing her future happiness in love. UGH.
Overall this is a book that could be considered a classic and deserves to be read, you just have to stick with it to the end!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

I am jumping for joy! Look what came in the mail compliments of

Kaitlyn McCrystal over at Touchstone Publicity:
New from JILL SMOLINSKI, author of The Next Thing on My List, OBJECTS OF MY AFFECTION (On-sale May 1, 2012; Touchstone; 978-1-4516-6075-3; Hardcover/$24.99), is a humorous, heartfelt novel that asks the question, “What’s worth keeping?”

Lucy Bloom’s life is in disarray. Freshly dumped by her boyfriend and suddenly rootless after selling her house to send her teenage son to rehab, she is reduced to sharing a bedroom with her best friend’s pre-schooler daughter. Although Lucy has lost it all, she’s determined to start over and build a solid foundation for her son’s recovery. Armed only with her decidedly NON-bestselling book, Things Are Not People, and a possibly bogus online degree in professional organizing, she snags a high-paying job clearing clutter from the home of renowned artist turned reclusive hoarder, Marva Meier Rios.

As Lucy rolls up her sleeves to tackle the “stuff” that fills every room of Marva’s huge Chicago home, she soon learns that the real challenge may be taking on Marva herself. However, when Lucy accidentally discovers that Marva is clinging to a big secret more tenaciously than to any mere household object, the two women form an unlikely bond. Each soon learns that there are those things in life we keep and those we need to let go—though it’s not always easy to know the difference.

Early praise includes:
“Reading Jill Smolinski feels like hanging out with a charming, savvy, fun-filled new friend.”
~Claire Cook, author of Must Love Dogs

Look out for my review soon, better yet.......GO GRAB A COPY!   Looks like a great beach read!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year 2012

All the best for the New Year!