WHAT A BUMMER .... (03/31/2013)

What disappointing reviews The Burgess Boys by Pulitzer Prize winning author, Elizabeth Strout received. After a few chapters and then reading Janet Maslin's New York Times review, I felt justified in abandoning it.

I loved Olive Kittredge (2009), and assume it must be a daunting prospect for an author to keep creating at a Pulitzer Prize winning level. Unfortunately Strout, as much as I like her prose, has disappointed many of her followers...especially me.

If any of you have read The Burgess Boys, let me know your thoughts. Leave a comment below.

Here's the link to the New York Times review:



WHEN IS LESS MORE? (03/29/2013)

If you have an affinity for short stories, I Want to Show You More by Jamie Quatro is a collection rich with provocative themes and memorable characters. 

A friend on Goodreads submitted the following review....


I Want to Show You More by Jamie Quatro

Reviewed by Barbara A.

No one need doubt that these interconnected stories are captivating. They absolutely are. Quatro has Georgia on her mind, and Tennessee, and infidelity and faith and death.

These activating themes lace back and forth, in and out, and often in tandem to make for a really strong piece of work. Several stories are otherworldly, several are grounded in the mundane, but all are really unforgettable. Not happy-making, but certainly unforgettable.

I admire writers who possess the clarity and precision to write in the short story format, and Quatro seems to have very successfully joined that society. Good for her, good for us who seek these, and good for Rachel Perry Welty, who has designed a spectacular cover for what I hope is just the first volume of work by this author.





Monica G. of Naples, Florida often reviews books on this blog. She was born in Africa and grew up in London. Her background plays an important role in reviewing When a Crocodile Eats the Sun/A Memoir of Africa by Peter Godwin. Because  of her personal life experiences, you'll find her perceptions particularly discerning.

To Order Click on the Amazon Search Box


Reviewed by Monica G.

"It is sometimes said that the worst thing to happen to Africa was the arrival of the White man, the second worst was his departure."

Once in a while one reads a book that resonates with you. Perhaps it was because I was born in Africa, perhaps because I could relate to losing a home and being far away from family. Whatever the reason, if you would like to read a beautifully written book that has a human element, this book is for you.

When the Crocodile Eats the Sun is a memoir, a human tragedy. I found myself enjoying Peter Godwin's writing style and learning about the politics of a part of Africa, Zimbabwe, that I knew little about. He shows both the brutality of Africa and at the same time the beauty, in his descriptions of the scenery, the people, the traditions.

Peter Godwin was born in Zimbabwe, and is an award winning journalist and filmmaker who also writes for National Geographic. Perhaps it is this combination that makes the book so memorable and one that I will never forget. 

He is sent to Africa on assignments and we see Africa through his eyes. It gives an insight into the political situation in Zimbabwe at the turn of the century in great detail. He depicts an Africa that is both brutal and beautiful.

"I feel like weeping at the way Africa does this to you...one minute you're scared shitless, the next you are choked with affection"

To me this book is also partly a love story, a love of Africa and family. The tender love between his parents is moving.

Peter is living in New York. His family lives in Zimbabwe. He is called back when his father dies and then the story begins. There is a constant tug back to Africa and family, and he is obviously torn. His devotion to his parents is touching and his portrayal of a family that does not want to accept what is going on around them.

You see both the destruction of a country and the destruction of a family. Even though there is savagery and chaos, his family refuses to leave. Once affluent citizens, they are reduced to poverty. They are targets, as are other white farmers, to a nation driven to insanity by a dictator, Robert Mugabe.

It is the human element of the book that I particularly enjoyed. His parents flee to Africa to escape and become prisoners, yet they could not bear to leave it.

"However mad and sad the place has become".... I realize just how African my parents have become...."that this is their home."
In Africa, you feel perishable, temporary, transient... maybe that is why you live more vividly in Africa. People love harder there...the drama of life is amplified by its constant proximity to death.

Even when his father dies, his mother refuses to leave and quotes Rudyard Kipling: "Here is my heart, my soul, my mind - the only life I know, I cannot leave it all behind, command me not to go".

You will find this book both poignant and touching. I highly recommend it.MG




I'm an F. Scott Fitzgerald fan and when I read that author Charles Dubow captured the allure and sophistication of F. Scott Fitzgerald in his novel, Indiscretion I was immediately attracted.

This debut novel is a sexy, lusty, stylish redo on very familiar themes..adult relationships stressed by infidelity and betrayal. Who doesn't like to read a sensual relationship drama with intriguing characters and a narrator vaguely reminincient of a Fitzgerald novel? (If you don't, this is not for you...)

Dubow tells the story of a man who has everything and discards it for the the excitement of an affair. Yes, it is cliche, but it's told in a way that seduces the reader (me, especially). The characters are well drawn and although diminished by their callowness, the reader is captivated by the lifestyle and their bad judgement.

The narrative structure is  slightly similar to Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. This, of course was deliberate and sets Indiscretion apart from other novels. Otherwise there's no real Fitzgerald parallel.

I was totally immersed in this book..its glamour, sexiness and very good writing accentuated the unexpected twists and turns.

Indiscretion by Charles Dubow is not for the academic or the reader wanting a serious message..although certain messages do abound.

There are many things to criticize...you may not want to read about a middle aged man having an affair with, of course, a beautiful young woman, you may think it's all predictable, or trite.

Dubow drew me in from the outset and I was quickly consumed by the story. It's occasionally fun to read about the shallow and self involved ..so lighten up and enjoy Indiscretion. 



Z  A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald
by Therese Anne Fowler


WHO IS RENATA ADLER? (03/22/2013)

I don't remember the infamous author Renata Adler but from what I've read she had a reputation that evoked fear in the literary and entertainment world. As a critic for the New York Times in the eighties, she was merciless and vindictive in her critiques and was eventually fired.  

Still very vibrant at seventy four (and why not?!), two novels by Adler have just been re-issued by the New York Review of Books.  Both books were published in 1983 and are considered comtemporary classics by those in the know.

Speedboat and Pitch Dark by Renata Adler are worth considering if you're ready for something out of the norm.

Disclaimer: Not for everyone..pessimistic views, cynical,  some stream of conciousness

SPEEDBOAT by Renata Adler

Written in the late 70's Speedboat was considered an unconventional novel, and was awarded the Hemingway Prize for Best First Novel of the Year. It will be interesting to see how today's readers react.

Speedboat has been labeled a series of vignettes, no real plot, but "clean and concise delving into a broad range of things." The narrator is a neurotic, funny, bright New York woman and leads the reader on an original journey highlighted with cynicism and wit.

PITCH DARK by Renata Adler

Written in the same style as Speedboat, this is a love story, filled with angst, complications and turmoil. The writing is captivating, according to reviewers and Pitch Dark is considered "a bold work of art filled with pathos, humor and wisdom"

For More Information:

Click on the Amazon Search Box in the Side Bar to order books and anything else on Amazon. A percentage of your purchase goes to charity. 

BREAKING NEWS! (03/20/2013)

Many of us have read The Art Forger by B. A. Shapiro. Now there's breaking news about this notorious unsolved art heist. 

Here's my review of The Art Forger posted last January..followed by a recent exciting revelation just revealed to the news media by the FBI....read on... 

I've had my eye on "The Art Forger" by B.A. Shapiro since October, but was awaiting more detailed reviews and feedback from friends. (Literary reviews had been mixed.)

This morning Marlene P., a reliable source and committed reader raved about this book...and so I'm ready to share her views. Her first comment was "it's great to read a really good book, well written, well plotted, and as a bonus, is art related."

For those who live near Boston and remember this infamous unsolved art heist, "The Art Forger" will hit home. It's presented as a fictionalized thriller, based on the 500 million dollar heist from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston.

Marlene P. described "The Art Forger" by B.A. Shapiro as a view of the art world, blended with history and intrigue. It helps if you have an interest in art, but if you like a fast paced authentic thriller "The Art Forger" is for you. (And you may discover your hidden artistic side.)


Law enforcement officials said today (03/18/2013) they have identified the people who stole 500 million dollars worth of masterworks from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston in 1990.




I'm always pleased when blog readers follow up on a book that appears on my blog. Your comments and feedback are very meaningful and assure me that people are actually reading what I write! (Not just my relatives....) So keep the comments, emails , and "whatever" coming..... 

Here are some brief blurbs from blog readers.

Faye L. from Florida called to tell me how much she enjoyed The Kashmir Shawl by Rosie Thomas. A sprawling tale that takes place in India, this historical novel held her interest and was a "fulfilling and exciting read."

Jayne P. of Brooklyn, NY found The Roundhouse by Louise Erdrich a "ponderous, slow moving story...very disappointing.."

Bob D. of NYC enjoyed The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier. He said "the main character stood out and the story was told with great passion and integrity." He would like to read more books by Tracy Chevalier.


Enter the book title in the Search Box at the top of the blog and visit the following links.




My friend Marjory A. is currently traveling in New Zealand and Australia. She says she hasn't seen any Kangaroos yet, but has read two good books. I told her to give up this kangaroo quest, and just go to the Sydney Zoo!!

The Roundhouse by Louise Erdrich and On Saudi Arabia by Karen Elliot House, are both great reads, according to Marjory A.

I'm not a fan of Louise Erdrich but she's a Pulitzer Prize finalist and has a huge following. Most of her books feature Native American settings and characters. The Roundhouse has gotten mixed reviews. 

It's a vibrant tale of a boy's coming of age in the wake of a brutal attack on his mother. It focuses on a Native American community and reviewers have compared it to the novel,To Kill a Mockingbird.

For More Information Click on the Links Below

On Saudi Arabia: Its People, Past, Religion, Fault Lines-and Future
by Karen Elliot House

An unusual book to travel with, but Marjory has diverse interests and I can understand why this book would appeal to her...and to many other blog readers as well.

Reviewers agree this is a good primer for those interested in gaining an understanding of Saudi Arabia and its population. Chapters are devoted to the roles of women, religion, the government, poverty... and the author paints a detailed picture of the challenges faced by Saudi society...a very readable portrayal.

Karen Elliot House is a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter, diplomatic correspondent, foreign editor and publisher of the Wall Street Journal until she retired in 2006. She has spent the last thirty years writing about Saudi Arabia...I would say she knows her stuff!



SIGNS OF THE TIMES (03/12/2013)


Two reviews in the Sunday New York Times Book Review Section on 03/10 peaked my interest. It's been awhile since that's happened. 

The Good House by Ann Leary sounds entertaining and inciteful. It tells the story of a successful woman struggling with addiction "in a town where no secret stays secret for long."

The author, Ann Leary is married to comedian, Denis Leary and her humor seems to be as biting as his. The Times was generous in their praise of The Good House describing the packed plot as brimming with intrigue and small town angst. The Good House sounds like a good read.


The Blue Book by  Scottish author, A. L. Kennedy also stood out as an excellent new novel. There are many complicated characters whose lives all intersect and connect, but according to the Times the suspense would be ruined if too many details were divulged.
However, the reviewer felt she would be remiss in failing to mention the very erotic sexual passages, a detail that merits divulging. 

Overall, it sounds like a complex read but one worth attempting.


AND... My favorite book this month, The Dinner by Herman Koch received plaudits in the Times for the second time. You can find my blog comments by entering the title in the Search Box at the top of the Sidebar. The link to the New York Times review is below.

DISCLAIMER: The Dinner is not for readers who like an uplifting book with engaging characters and warm and fuzzy storyline. It's definitely the antithesis. 




HE'S BAAAAACK (03/10/2013)

Harlan Coben is a fan favorite, as they say in certain circles, and an author that whips out bestsellers on a regular basis. I used to rely on his books for the escape factor, but his last one left me unfullfilled and disappointed...almost like an old friendship gone astray. Coben was my "default" author, always steadfast, so I'm hopeful his new book, titled Six Years will cajole me back into his world of trepidation and suspense. I'm looking forward to it. 


This starred review was published in the Library Journal

Jake Fisher finds the love of his life, Natalie, and imagines their future together as husband and wife. Instead, she dumps him and a few days later then invites him to her wedding to a man she just met. Jake watches Natalie take her vows, and she tells him to leave her alone forever.

For six years, he keeps that promise. But when he sees Natalie’s husband’s obituary, Jake decides to attend the funeral and comfort Natalie. He is stunned to discover that the man’s widow is not Natalie and that the church where he watched her marry has no record of the ceremony.

Verdict: Coben is one of the best thriller writers in the business, and he delivers another amazing novel that will resonate with readers long after the final page is turned. The narrative is immersive, and the well-drawn characters and twisting plotting are stellar. With such a cool hook and a surprising and satisfying payoff, don’t wait six years to read what might be Coben’s best since Tell No One. —LIBRARY JOURNAL (starred review)

For More Information:



AN UP AND COMER (03/08/2013)

Elizabeth Strout, the Pulitzer Prize winning author of Olive Kitteridge is returning with a "stunning and powerful" novel.... so they say. It won't be out until March 26th, but you have plenty of book suggestions, if you're following this blog!

Below is a review of The Burgess Boys from Goodreads, the free social networking site for book lovers. I've already pre-ordered this book.

To Order Click on the Amazon Search Box in the Sidebar

"With a rare combination of brilliant storytelling, exquisite prose,and remarkable insight into character, Elizabeth Strout has brought to life two deeply human protagonists whose struggles and triumphs will resonate with you long after you turn the final page.

Tender, tough-minded, loving, and deeply illuminating about the ties that bind us to family and home, The Burgess Boys is perhaps her most astonishing work of literary art."  (Goodreads) 

For More Information:

Did You Read Olive Kitteridge by Strout?

Leave a comment below, pertaining to anything! Let's talk..... 


Just returned from a great week in the Caribbean. Lots of sun, relaxation, fabulous food..like the Lobster Bisque pictured above, and of course books..some good, some not so good...

Here's what I read:

The Dinner by Herman Koch*

Two brothers and their wives meet for dinner in Amsterdam and as the meal progresses, a dark secret concerning their sons is revealed. This is a dark, sinister story and without revealing too much, it left me reeling...very thought provoking, fast paced and I recommend it.

Autobiography of Us by Aria Beth Sloss

Two women are friends and sometimes enemies but always a bond exists. This was a predictable read and an interesting portrayal of the sixties and seventies. It tries to be a novel about the plight of women but gets caught up in a lot of unrelated details. Many simplistic annoying characters.... Not a memorable novel but made a long flight tolerable.

The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty*

Did not finish...Started off well in an interesting setting and time period but became so predictable it was all downhill for me.... 

Heading Out to Wonderful by Robert Goolrick*

By the author of The Reliable Wife, this is a gripping novel that takes place just after World War 1.  It has a little of everything including love, betrayal, redemption and believable characters.
Well written and an engaging story.



Recently my friend, Lee Sinai, author, athlete extradonaire, and avid reader suggested I read Dying to Live in Palm Beach written by author and former bookstore owner Jane Grossman. 

With that recommendation and a signed copy in hand, I finished the book in two days. Before you read my review (and I tried to be objective), I asked Jane Grossman to write a few paragraphs about her inspiration for this book.

Here are Jane's comments:

"One of my all-time favorite writers is Mary Wesley, an Englishwoman who wrote wonderful novels, often with surprise endings. Her first work of fiction was published when she was 70 years old. For all the years I thought of writing fiction and was just too busy, I would think of Mary Wesley and know I had years to go. As the years flew by, I built a career in the retail book business and even published nonfiction. Yet there was always Mary Wesley doggedly lingering in the back of my mind.  And so one day, I sat down and started to write...I beat Mary Wesley, but only by one month!

I knew I had good material after spending so much time with my mother in Palm Beach during her waning years...I originally thought of my mother and her friends as stereotypical widows...but as I came to know them, I realized that life was gayer in Palm Beach because they made it so. They ameliorated their lonliness and fear by amusing themselves and each other...each in her own way. "The girls" as they called themselves are composites of my mother's friends; their jokes and conversations I heard when I was with them: the murders, however are imaginary...I hope!

So while Mary Wesley is my role model, the "girls" of  Palm Beach are my muses."



Books about Palm Beach or any resort area for that matter, often
resonate, beach read... but in this case Dying to Live in Palm Beach by Jane Grossman, although somewhat of a beach read is set apart from the others.  It's a genuine "who dun it" and lots of fun and angst at the same time.

Okay, I could have done without the jokes..although they brought back memories of Morey Amsterdam, Shecky Green and that whole Miami comedy scene..and I did laugh out loud a few times, in spite of myself. The cast of characters ("the girls") is well thought out and many of them are reminicent of people I know, or should I say, knew. 

Dying to Live in Palm Beach  tells the story of a close knit group of women living the Palm Beach life style..but worrying about their mortality..and I can relate to that.

Life takes a turn when credit cards are exchanged, funerals amass, and a murderer hovers nearby. Everyone is in danger and the reader is kept in the dark as to who the killer really is. Flossy, the most endearing of the ladies sets out to solve the crime... along with her home health aide..and the mystery intensifies.

Jane Grossman can write, no doubt  about  that, and she knows her characters well. The reader will enjoy the suspense, although for me it was short lived. I guessed the murderer early into the story but not everyone will.

I also felt sadness, people knowing death is lurking nearby, the fear and desperation to live each day to the fullest, and the pressure to maintain a certain lifestyle.

Thankyou Jane for the quotes from a variety of luminaries at the outset of some chapters. An example would be a timely quote from Mark Twain: "I didn't attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it."

Include this book on your next trip or read it when you need a break from your surroundings (especially if you live in Palm Beach!). 

Some readers will be able to relate to the Palm Beach scene but for readers who have no conception, someday plan to visit fabulous Worth Ave...but hold onto your credit card!

Dying to Live in Palm Beach by Jane Grossman is available in two formats on Amazon. Click on the Amazon Search Box in the Sidebar to order.

PLease don't hesitate to leave a comment below. As my mentor, Joan Rivers always says, "Let's Talk!"

BOOKIES BANTER (03/04/2013)


The West Hartford Bookies recently read and discussed The Yellow Birds: A Novel by Kevin Powers. Author, Kevin Powers is an Iraq war veteran and this insightful book is about war and its effects on people who are part of it.

A finalist for The National Book Award, The Yellow Birds is a heartfelt story of two soldiers trying to stay alive.

"Our bookies thought it was a beautifully written book and we had a great discussion." Beverly G, group member.



"From "The Iliad" to Agincourt to Al Tarfur, bloodshed and sorrow persist as we keep slaughtering each other. Poets have always surpassed historians in conveying the horror and futility of war. To this sorry tradition, Kevin Powers has added his own beautifully told, haunting tale.

Our hearts go out to the soldiers whose lives are lost or wasted in grim combat. The mothers of these young men make a very brief appearance in the story, but their presences are deeply felt.

The structure of the book, alternating between "before" and "after"emphasizes the gradual descent from hopefulness to depression."

 Reviewed by J.B. West Hartford Book Club

For More Information:


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AND...Leave a comment below..it's easy!