Friday, January 2, 2015

The Highest Tide by Jim Lynch

The Highest TideThe Highest Tide by Jim Lynch
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is my favorite kind of story: Intriguing character I wish I could meet (13-year-old Miles O'Malley), a healthy dose of information about something I know little about (in this case, the tidal pools near Olympia, Washington) and a well-told story about a fantastic summer full of crazy happenings and discoveries, both in the tidal pools and in Miles's personal life.

Miles's friends include a Supreme Court Judge, his sexy, bipolar daughter Angie, a former fortune teller in rapidly declining health, and an air guitar maestro Miles hires to help him harvest clams and other sea life for his business. Miles supplies some local restaurants and other businesses with various sea creatures.

If my high school biology class had been this interesting, who knows? I might have pursued a completely different course of study. Or, at least, I'd have an office overlooking the water.

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Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Dog Year by Ann Wertz Garvin

The Dog YearThe Dog Year by Ann Wertz Garvin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Step inside The Dog Year and meet Dr. Lucy Peterman, a plastic surgeon struggling to navigate her life after losing her husband and unborn child. She copes by stealing hospital supplies and stockpiling them in her bedroom. Until she gets caught, and discovers she can't continue through life without help from friends.

Peopled with realistic human characters, The Dog Year contains many life lessons and a generous dose of humor, tempered with just the right amount of sadness.

Ann Garvin just might become your new favorite author. I'm lucky enough to possess a copy of The Dog Year signed by Ann herself--if you have a chance to hear her speak, do it!

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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

The Storied Life of A.J. FikryThe Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a charming little sandwich book. AJ Fikry is a widower who lives above his bookstore and is slowly drinking himself to death when he meets a pretty young bookseller from one of his favorite publishers, suffers another loss, and then discovers a toddler left in his store with a note asking him to care for her. He ends up raising Maya in the bookstore, and strikes up a close friendship with a local police chief.

AJ is a lovable character after you get past his initial gruffness. He loves reading as much as a bookstore owner should, and each chapter begins with a brief note from him about a book he read. It's a story I'll remember for a long time.

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Friday, December 19, 2014

One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

One Plus OneOne Plus One by Jojo Moyes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another great tome by Jojo Moyes!

What do you get when you throw a math genius, her gothic brother, their desperately optimistic mother, and their slobbering behemoth dog into a plush luxury car owned and driven by an arrogant executive recently charged with insider trading? One heck of a story! The math genius, Tanzie (short for Costanza, which, up until now, I thought was a piece of office furniture), is desperate to win the Maths Olympiad in Scotland so she can afford to attend the school of her choice. Jess,  her mother, has no car, no money and no prospects, but somehow remains fueled by hope. Tanzie's brother Nicky is Jess's estranged husband's son, but she raises him as her own. The owner of the luxury car, Ed, is one of Jess's clients--she cleans his house.

It's a study of humanity: our capacity for forgiveness, our belief in ourselves and our ability to make do with what we have.

I'll let you discover the rest of it as you go along. It's a great ride.

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Financial Lives of the Poets

The Financial Lives of the PoetsThe Financial Lives of the Poets by Jess Walter
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Jump in with both feet and read this witty, darkly comic tale of financial, moral and marital ruin. Matt Prior is a former newspaper reporter with a mortgage in forbearance (six days until eviction), two boys at a private school,  and a wife contemplating an affair, when he encounters a couple of potheads at the 7-11 store and gets sucked into their world. Oh, and his father is senile and has to live with them. The story is interspersed with poetry, which Matt aspired to write when he quit his reporting job and started a financial poetry business, inspired as he is by stock averages and the promise of high returns. My favorite line: This meeting is as predictable as coffin shopping.

Things go from bad to worse before the end of the book, but I won't wreck the ending for you here.

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Saturday, November 22, 2014

Beautiful Ruins

Beautiful RuinsBeautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Beautiful Ruins was a suggested reading selection for the University of Wisconsin writers' workshop: Weekend With Your Novel, in Madison, WI November 14-16. If you write fiction, and you're within 12 hours of Madison, this workshop is worth your time.

This is the story of Dee Moray, an up-and-coming American actress, and Pasquale Tursi, owner of the struggling Hotel Adequate View in a crumbling town along Italy’s Cinque Terre coastline. It’s a story of paths not taken, of regret, of secrets, hidden agendas and delusions, and of the impact a few moments can have on an entire lifetime. The author, in an interview, describes Beautiful Ruins as “a multigenerational, multi-genre, multi-point-of-view book about 1960s Italy, present-day Hollywood, World War II, and the Donner Party”.

My favorite line in the book is one uttered by the least likable character, Hollywood Producer Michael Deane: “All we have is the story we tell. Everything we do, every decision we make, our strength, weakness, motivation, history, and character—what we believe—none of it is real; it’s all part of the story we tell.”

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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty

A Grown-Up Kind of PrettyA Grown-Up Kind of Pretty by Joshilyn Jackson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A pot-boiler! I listened to this on my recent drive to Madison, Wisconsin to attend a writers' workshop and it kept me occupied the entire way (eight hours).

This story is told from multiple viewpoints: Big/Ginny, the 45-year-old grandmother; Little/Liza, the 30-year-old mother; and Mosey, the 15-year-old daughter and granddaughter. Liza has had a stroke, caused by extensive drug use in her extreme wild-child youth, and they all live together and take care of each other. Early in the book, a metal box is unearthed in the back yard. The box contains the bones of a newborn baby, along with a blanket and toy that Ginny recognizes. Liza can only make limited, garbled noises, so Ginny and Mosey separately try to find out what happened and if Liza was involved.

Each character is well-developed, and the story is intriguing, disturbing and realistic. It's a feel-good mystery/mother-daughter tale/coming of age story.  Enjoy!

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