the people we hate at the wedding

book cover weedingThe People We Hate at the Wedding is the story of a dysfunctional family that have come together in London for a wedding. All the characters are having some problems of their own. Amid family drama, buried secrets, heartaches and a big fancy wedding, chaos ensues. I laughed out loud a lot.

Paul is the bride’s half-brother. He is beginning to confront the fact that his partner Mark is a real douche bag. Everyone else has seen this all along, but Paul just feels that he doesn’t any deserve better. He also realizes that he is very obsessive. “It’s what he does; it’s how he survives.” He mulls things over so much that “he often finds himself in a state of overwrought paralysis.”

His sister says of him, “He has become curiously unhinged since his father’s death. He’s blindly groping for something-an explanation, someone to blame, a metaphorical or literal lifesaver. Just-something.”

His mother says of him, “Paul was a fragile and sentimental boy who had grown into a slightly less fragile and sentimental man, someone who lived in romantic superlatives, that the truth could so readily destroy. Paul was the boy who was forever searching for ways to escape who he feared he might be, but who always managed to stumble back to himself again.”

Paul’s sister, Alice, is having a crisis of sorts herself. She is having an affair with a married man and has been battling something in her past for a long time. She has been popping pills and drinking excessively, because she would prefer to feel nothing at all. Getting high helps her to temporarily forget.

Alice has harsh feelings toward her half-sister, Eloise for many reasons. She feels rage about Eloise’s perfection and kindness. Her mother treats her like an employee and Eloise like a prize. Eloise was not there for Alice when she went through a traumatic experience. Paul and Alice both sort of resent Eloise because of the charmed life she has lived. Alice begins to unravel and realizes that things have gotten so bad that she is afraid of herself and what she might do.

Eloise feels that no matter how hard she tries to crack Paul and Alice, they just won’t let her in. Her whole life, she has constantly been trying to find equal footing with her half siblings. “Comforting her siblings has always confounded her. She wants to fix them, to save them, to pull Paul and Alice up and out of the messes they’ve made. She worries her own gilded life somehow prevents her from empathizing with them as deeply as she should.” No matter how hard she tries, they always take her the wrong way.

Donna is the mother of the siblings. Paul and she have not been speaking for a long time and she is desperately trying to work her way back in his life. “She thinks of her children. She wants to drill inside their heads, to split them open and excavate their thoughts. She wants to know what they are feeling. Are they enduring the same bowel-loosening cocktail of heartbreak, memory, grief, and above all regret?” Donna is also feeling “daunted by the years of obscure and shapeless loneliness that lies before her.” She smokes weed to make her feel better and it’s hilarious.

After all the drama, they all manage to be there for each other and work a few things out. Paul: “He thinks of the beautiful, gut-wrenching future awaiting them, and the claw marks they’ve left in everything they’ve given up. He thinks of all the times they’ve faced the world on two steady feet, and all the times he knows it will knock them over to the ground. Mostly, though, he thinks that for today, at least for today, they’ll be ok.”

Entertainment Weekly’s Summer Must-Read

A Publishers Weekly BEST SUMMER BOOKS, 2017

New York Post Best Books of Summer

Redbook‘s 10 Books You Have to Read This Summer

the identicals

0316375195_01__SX142_SY224_SCLZZZZZZZ_The Identicals by Elin Hilderbrand. 

Twin sisters, Harper and Tabitha, have been estranged for many years when their father dies and they are suddenly forced into each other lives again.

Tabitha lives on Nantucket with her troubled teenaged daughter Ainsley.  When their parents divorced, Tabitha went to live with their mother Eleanor, “who had the countenance of a queen, a regal being, an unassailable authority.”

Harper lives with her dog, Fish, on Martha’s Vineyard. Harper went to live with her father when her parents divorced.  She has been taking care of her father the whole time he has been sick and simultaneously having an affair and falling in love with her father’s doctor.  When her affair is discovered she escapes the island and the rumors by going to stay at her sisters house to care for her niece.

The sisters end up switching islands and lives.  Tabitha returns to her father’s home in Nantucket to remodel the house and get it ready to sale and ends up gets romantically involved with the carpenter working on the house.

“Will Harper and Tabitha be able to bury the hatchet and end their sibling rivalry once and for all? Before the last beach picnic of the season, there will be enough old resentments, new loves, and cases of mistaken identity to make this the most talked about summer that Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket have experienced in ages.”

This wasn’t my favorite Elin Hilderbrand book.  It wasn’t terrible, but some of her other books are way better. To me, it just felt a little too mushy and chick-litty. I would still recommend it for a light, summer read and I still believe that Elin Hilderbrand is the queen of summer reading.

behold the dreamers

51sFsreIe8L__SY346_Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue

When Oprah announces a new book, I am always that person running out to buy and read it immediately and I am never disappointed. Behold the Dreamers is a moving novel about the American dream. It explores what home means to us and it really gives you a glimpse into the typical life of an immigrant.

Jende Jonge is a Cameroonian immigrant who has come to New York to make a better life for himself, his wife and their children. He believes everything is better and anything is possible for Americans.

He finds a job as a chauffeur. He quickly develops a relationship with the Clark Edwards, the businessman he drives around. “Theirs was a solid bond as could be between a man and his chauffeur. Their bond had been firmly established-they were two men bound by the relationship they had forged after cruising on highways and sitting in rush hour traffic.”

Jende and his wife Neni wake up every day and do everything they can so their children can have a good life and be somebody one day. Neni has always dreamed of America. To her, America was synonymous with happiness. “America might be flawed, but it was still a beautiful country. She could still become far more than she would have become in Limbe.” It is the land of boundless opportunities and a place where her children could have a bright and better future.

Then the financial world that Clark Edwards’ is a part of suddenly crashes and the country is in a horrible recession. Things quickly go downhill for the Jonges. Jende is out of a job, possibly facing deportation, having severe pain caused by stress and worried sick about providing for his family. Neni says of her husband, “He hadn’t been the same man since the day the letter for the deportation hearing arrived. He was now a man permanently at the edge of his breaking point. It was as if the letter of his court appointment had turned him from a happy living man to an outraged dying man intent on showing the world his anger at his impending death. For the first time in a long love affair, she was afraid he would beat her. And if he did, she would know that it was not her Jende who was beating her, but a grotesque being created by the sufferings of an American immigrant life.”

Jende, “They say this country will get better but I don’t know if I can stay here until that happens. I don’t know if I can continue suffering just because I want to live in America. “It’s just not easy, this life here in this world.” “It’s a long hard journey from struggling immigrant to successful American.”

The book also gives you a look inside the Edwards’ family. Clark’s wife, Cindy is a troubled and unhappy woman. Neni soon finds out that despite her image of being a self-assured woman, Cindy has a need for a sense of belonging, an utterly desperate need she could never seem to quench.

Cindy came from a very poor family and had an abusive mother. “I came away from all that. I worked my way through college, got a job, my own apartment, learned how to carry myself well and fit effortlessly in this new world so I would never be looked down on again, or seen as a piece of shit. Because I know what I am and no one can ever take away the things I’ve achieved for myself. I fight hard to keep my family together.” Cindy really starts to unravel, even with all the money and the life they have, Cindy is still truly unhappy. Her whole life beginning to seem more and more meaningless, she needed to do something now if she ever hoped to taste happiness again.

Will the Jorges make it in America or will they be forced to return to their home country? Will their marriage survive the hardships they endure? How much is too much to sacrifice to achieve the American Dream? Will the Edwards’ marriage survive? Will Cindy Edwards find a way to finally make peace with herself? Can a man can find a way to make a home anywhere?

I wish everyone would read this book so they could better understand the immigrant situation in our country. Mbue says of immigrants: “They return home because they can’t remain in our country to make better lives for themselves. America is a country that has forgotten how to welcome all kinds of strangers to our home. There are many out there who do not have a warm, peaceful country to return to. There are many for whom the only chance at ever having a home again is in America.” And in her novel, “Behold the dreamers,” we meet and fall in love with two such immigrants, Jende and Neni.

 

what is left the daughter

51vuJXjTN+LWhat is Left the Daughter by Howard Norman

I couldn’t wait to read one of Howard Norman’s books. I have heard so many great things about them and he has won several literary awards. At first you might think the book is a little dull or different, but keep reading because there is a lot of drama in the middle that will really get your attention.

My book club had a lively discussion about this book. A lot of sadness and death, but what else would you expect during wartime.  I really cared for the characters. I can’t really say much about it without giving it away, so I will just share the following blurb with you.

From Publishers Weekly: Set on the Atlantic coast of Canada during WWII, Norman’s latest is an expertly crafted tale of love during wartime. Wyatt Hillyer loses both his parents on the same day when they jump from different bridges in Halifax, Nova Scotia, after they discover they are both having affairs with the woman next door. Wyatt’s aunt and uncle take him in, and Wyatt becomes his uncle’s apprentice in his sled and toboggan business and, despite the circumstances, soon falls in love with his adopted cousin, Tilda. Yet he must resign himself to loving from a distance when Tilda brings home Hans Moehring, a German university student. The two begin a courtstip and Tilda’s father becones increasingly uneasy about this potential enemy in their midst. His plot explores the anxiety and weariness of life on the home front during war.

 

the shark club

19723966_10155193407113392_1709718675_oThe Shark Club by Ann Kidd Taylor is a lovely beach read, “set against the intoxicating backdrop of palm trees, blood orange sunsets, and key lime pies.” The book is about Maeve, her twin brother, Robin and their childhood friend, Daniel.

Maeve is a traveling marine scientist, often called the shark whisperer, who returns to the small island off Florida’s coast where she grow up in her grandmother’s hotel. She was bitten by a shark at the age of twelve and has been obsessed with sharks ever since.  She has just began a romance with her colleague Nicholas, who also shares her passion for the ocean and its creatures, but that relationship is threatened when she arrives home and discovers her past love, Daniel is also staying at the hotel.

As children, Maeve, Daniel, and Robin were very close. All three of them had lost parents. “They shared fatherlessness like a glue that connected them.” According to Maeve, her and her brother “had an empty place, but we’d tried to fill it in such different ways.  For me, it was with sharks and oceans, with Daniel and the dream of a family.  For Robin, it was writing. After Robin’s writing was rejected over and over and he walked away from it, he turned to other ways of filling the void- parties and drinking and a sort of aimlessness.”  Robin’s grief never seemed to heal. Making trouble was his way of expressing his grief.  When Maeve returns to her home, she discovers Robin has finally written a book, but she is shocked and hurt to discover the book is about her and Daniel.

Daniel and Maeve proclaimed their love to each other when they were just 12 years old. This love progressed into adulthood and when their wedding was abruptly called off Maeve was devastated and heartbroken. “I experienced his loss like an actual death. I went underwater in more ways than one.” He was a wound I carried that wouldn’t heal.”  She later tells Daniel, ““There is always a sadness in me. I don’t want it to be there, but it is.  It sleeps inside of me, and when it wakes there’s nothing I can do about it.  It takes over, and when that happens nothing else exists. You did that. For the last seven years, I’ve hated you for it.”

So we have a love triangle. Will Maeve finally have a second chance at love with Nicholas or can she finally forgive Daniel and have everything she ever wanted. But the book isn’t just a romance, there is also a mystery intertwined.  There is an illegal shark finning operation going on and sharks are being killed for their fins.  Maeve is very upset by it and involved in trying to find the culprits. ”I’d given my life to sharks and people were killing them faster than they could reproduce.” “The sea, its creatures, its sharks-they were my religion. I could die for that.”

I adored this book. The perfect beach read. Written very well. It hooks you right away.

 Interesting side note: the author’s mother is Sue Monk Kidd, who wrote the Secret Life of Bees.

A few more quotes:

“We all have to live with our mistakes.”

“I’d make a fortress of myself and it caved like one of the sand castles that dotted the beach.”

“Whatever makes you feel alive, you ought to pay attention to it. If it makes you happy, it’s worth following.”

the sunshine sisters

19619245_10155170124883392_1089829516_oThe Sunshine Sisters by Jane Green. This book wasn’t really that beachy, but it would still be the perfect book for a summer afternoon. Ronni Sunshine is a former actress who recently got a bad diagnosis/death sentence of sorts and wants to end her own life before she has to endure all the pain the disease will bring. She calls her three estranged daughters home to reveal the news and her plan. She wants to apologize for not being the mother they deserved and have them all there with her when she dies. Her diagnosis made her made her realize the damage she has done to her daughters. The one last thing she can for them is try to bring them back together. She now realizes she wasn’t a good mother, too focused on her career and disinterested with her children. “By the time they were old enough for me to want to get to know them, none of them were interested.” Dying has brought everything back into focus.

Enters Ronni’s three daughters, the Sunshine Sisters:

Lizzy is the youngest sister and she is the most like her mother. She is a renowned chef, in a failed marriage, driven and gorgeous. She has always been the wild child and the one who got away with the most when it came to getting in trouble with her mother.

Meredith is the middle sister. She left home for London because her mother never made her feel good enough. She is engaged to a man she really doesn’t like. She is a very sweet person who lacks self-confidence and doesn’t think she can do any better than her fiancé.

Nell is the oldest daughter. As soon as she was old enough she fled her mother’s home to work on a farm and has been there ever since. Nell is a loner who doesn’t expect anything from anyone. She is strong, self-sufficient, but scared to let her guard down. She is alone because of her fears.

None of the sisters have ever been able to accept their mother with all her self-absorbed, dramatic flaws. They resent her for not being warm, interested, concerned and for not being maternal.” They have all endured a lot of hurt and have issues because of their mother. Will they be able to forgive their mother before she dies? Will they be able to build their relationships with each other?

The book goes back to look at all their lives leading up to where they are now. A really good women’s fiction, chick-lit, beach read.

Quote: “If we’re not showing other people our true selves, our weaknesses and flaws, how can we ever allow ourselves to be known?”

the curious charms…

19400836_10155128682113392_1592830941_oThe Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick

Arthur Pepper has been a lonely widower for a year when he finds a charm bracelet he never knew existed that belonged to his wife. Arthur has pretty much spent all the time since his wife died like a recluse, isolated from others and depressed.  “He carried his loss around with him like a bowling bowl in the pit of his stomach.” “The only feelings he experienced were sadness, disappointment and melancholy.”  “There didn’t seem much point in discovering things alone.”

Arthur’s curiosity gets the best of him and he begins his adventure of tracking down where this bracelet and charms came from and why his wife had them. The search stirs something in Arthur and he experiences “emotions he didn’t know existed.  He began to discover people that excited him.  It made him feel alive.” With each person he encounters along the way, Arthur begins to change and grow.  He discovers things about himself: He was braver than he thought.  He was good at offering advice to others. He was more open and accepting of others than he knew.  He was stronger and had more depth.  These people stirred a desire in him to carry on with life.

The characters he meets along the way are all curious and charming as well. There is Bernadette, the neighborhood woman who likes lost causes and takes it upon herself to try to help them, including Arthur.  Bernadette’s strange, silent son Nathan. The man who lives with tigers, a former drug addict who is now a peddler, a gay young man who lives and takes care of an old, demented writer, a friendly man from India and a rude woman painter.  Each of these characters have their own story. Arthur really struggles with all the people and things that his wife Miriam kept from him, but by the end of the book he was made peace with it, made a lot of friends and come out of his shell.  “The past year of living alone had made the color fade from his life.  He had needed something to fill the void.” And he finds it.  Lovely and charming book!

the sun is also a star

19238771_10155106834058392_110779834_o

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon.

So I liked Nicola Yoon’s other book so much, that I immediately picked up her other one and I liked it even better!!

This young adult novel takes place in one day. It centers around two characters, Natasha and Daniel, who run into each other and fall in love in the course of the day. Both characters are having family issues and we learn about those as the two find solace in one another.

Daniel is headed out for an entrance interview that may land him as a student at Yale. He is being pressured by his parents to go to Yale to become a doctor, but in his heart he really just wants to be a poet.   His father will do anything to guarantee that he and Charlie have a better life than he did.

Daniel has very romantic ideas about life and be believes everything happens for a reason. He really struggles with his identity and nationality/race.  His parents think he’s not Korean enough, everybody else things he isn’t American enough.

Natasha is headed out in desperation because her family is to be deported to Jamaica that night and she will do everything she can to prevent it.   Natasha’s father is an unemployed want to be actor who has pretty much given up on life. It is his fault the family is being deported. He got a DUI and basically told the cops he was living in America illegally.  Natasha used to adore her father and now she can barely stand the sight of him.

Natasha is very scientific. She doesn’t believe in love and she thinks, “Life is just a random series of good and bad things that happen until one day you die.”  She thinks life has no meaning and tries to avoid being hopeful because she feels that, “the trouble with getting your hopes too far up is: It’s a long way down.”

Daniel says of Natasha, “I wonder why a girl who is obviously passionate is so adamantly against passion.”

What I really loved about the book is the brief glances we got into the lives of those people Natasha and Daniel encounter through the day. We get a glimpse inside their heads.  It just goes to show that you never know what’s going on in a person’s life.

I won’t tell you how it ends, but you will find yourself hoping these two end up together. You will laugh and you may even tear up a little.   I loved it!!

A few quotes:

Natasha’s father: “You can get lost in your own mind, like you gone to another country.” All your thoughts in another language and you can’t read the signs even though they everywhere around you.”

“Maybe part of falling in love with someone else is also falling in love with yourself.”

“We have big, beautiful brains. We invent things that fly. Fly. We write poetry. You probably hate poetry, but it’s hard to argue with ‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate’ in terms of sheer beauty. We are capable of big lives. A big history. Why settle? Why choose the practical thing, the mundane thing? We are born to dream and make the things we dream about.”

Natasha: “I know there’s no such thing as meant-to-be, and yet here I am wondering if maybe I’ve been wrong.”

 

everything, everything

every

Everything, Everything,” by Nicola Yoon was a quirky little teenaged romance that I adored, but it was so much more than just a love story. Madeline has lived her entire life in her mother’s home because of a severe allergy to the outside world. Anything and everything can make her extremely ill and even cause death. Madeline seems to have taken her fate very well. She remains positive and travels places in the books she reads and in her vivid imagination.

Then she discovers Olly, a handsome young man that moves in to the house next door and makes Madeline suddenly aware of the life she is missing.   Soon these two begin communicating through instant messages and develop a deep attraction that stems into love.

Madeline: “I was happy before I met him. But I’m alive now, and those are not the same thing.” “How can I live the rest of my life in this bubble now that I know all that I’m missing?” “For the first time in a long time, I want more than I have.”

There is a plot twist near the middle of the book that I had figured out already. The book was funny, sad, and touching. I read this book in one day. I laughed. I even teared up a little.  The characters had a lot of insightful things to say about life and love. I think the ultimate question here is, “How much are you willing to risk for love?”

Quotes from the book:

“Everything’s a risk. Not doing anything is a risk. It’s up to you.”

“Maybe growing up means disappointing the people we love.”

“Love is worth everything. Everything.”

“Life is a gift. Don’t forget to live it.”

“You’re not living if you’re not regretting.”