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 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 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 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!
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,” 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.”
Marin, Rachel and Blythe pack up their suitcases and head to the charming Beach Rose Inn in Provincetown for an impromptu week at the beach that turns into a whole summer.
Marin has left her fiancé to be with the man she has been having an affair with for some time. Soon after she breaks off the engagement, she is fired from the law firm she works at because of the affair she has been having with the colleague (Julian). Julian reacts by suggesting they not see each other anymore. Marin feels completely unmoored and dislocated and reluctantly agrees to make the trip to Provincetown with Rachel to escape her problems.
Rachel is the half-sister Marin never knew about who shows up and convinces Marin to make the trip with her to visit their newly discovered grandmother. Rachel never had much family and is ecstatic to meet her new relatives.
Blythe, Marin’s mother, goes along on the trip to be moral support for her daughter and to try to get over the fact that her husband has been having an affair and has just asked her for a divorce. She is also trying to make amends with Marin, who is very hurt and angry that her mother kept this grandmother and other secrets from her all these years.
Amelia, owner of the Beach Rose Inn and newly discovered grandmother welcomes the women to her home with open arms and an open heart. She is battling her own issues with her estranged children and is thrilled by the discovery that she has other family.
As the women stay at the inn, the ocean is an offering of peace and happiness and the sunshine helps cure their woes. Secrets are revealed and drama ensues as all the women struggle to come to terms with their secrets, hardships and each other.
Perfect read for a beach day, trip or vacation!!! For those who enjoy women’s fiction.
Summer reading is my favorite time of year! Don’t these gorgeous covers just make you want to pack up and run off to the beach with a few books in your beach bag? Here are my selections for the beachiest books of the summer:
The Identicals by Elin Hilderbrand. Publish date: 6/13/17. I am most excited about this one, the latest beach read from one of my favorite authors. She never disappoints. After more than a decade apart, Harper and Tabitha (identical twin sisters who live very differently) switch islands–and lives–to save what’s left of their splintered family. The twins quickly discover that the secrets, lies, and gossip they thought they’d outrun can actually travel between islands. Will Harper and Tabitha be able to 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.
Beach House for Rent by Mary Alice Monroe. Publish date: 6/20/17. Mary Alice Monroe returns to her beloved Isle of Palms to tell the poignant, charming story of two women, one summer, and one very special beach house. Cara Rutledge and Heather Wyatt start out as strangers, but as everything around them falls apart they learn that the only thing they can really rely on is each other.
The Salt House by Lisa Duffy. Publish date: 6/13/17. Set during a Maine summer, this book traces the lives of a young family in the aftermath of tragedy. Each member of the Kelly family navigates the world on their own private island of grief. Told in alternating voices, The Salt House is a layered, emotional portrait of marriage, family, friendship, and the complex intersections of love, grief, and hope.
The Beach at Painter’s Cove by Shelly Noble. Publish Date: 6/13/17. A heartwarming story of four generations of women who reunite in their crumbling family mansion by the sea for a dramatic summer filled with love, family, secrets and sisterhood. When the Muse family gets together to restore the mansion and catalogue the massive art collection, a surprising thing happens. Despite storms and moonlight dancing, diva attacks and cat fights, trips to the beach and flights of fancy, these four generations of erratic, dramatic women may just find a way to save the Muses and reunite their family.
The Summer House by Hannah Mckinnon. Publish Date: 6/6/17. When Flossy Merrill summons her children to the beloved family beach house to celebrate their father’s eightieth birthday, both cherished memories and long-kept secrets come to light in this charming and lyrical novel. Flossy is determined to steer her family back on course even as she prepares to reveal the fate of the summer house that everyone has thus far taken for granted: she’s selling it. With each lost in their respective heartaches, Clementine, Samuel, and Paige will be forced to reconsider what really matters before they all say goodbye to a house that not only defined their summers, but, ultimately, the ways in which they define themselves.
The Sunshine Sisters by Jane Green. Publish Date: 6/6/17. Ronni Sunshine was a narcissistic, disinterested mother who alienated her three daughters, “the Sunshine sisters.” The sisters have all went their separate ways, but are called back home by Ronni, who has learned that she has a serious disease and needs her daughters to fulfill her final wishes. Although Nell, Meredith, and Lizzy have never been close, their mother’s illness draws them together to confront the old jealousies and secret fears. As they face the loss of their mother, they will discover if blood might be thicker than water after all…
Eden by Jeanne McWilliams Blasberg. Available Now. Becca Meister Fitzpatrick—wife, mother, grandmother, and pillar of the community—is the dutiful steward of her family’s iconic summer tradition. When she discovers her recently deceased husband squandered their nest egg, she struggles to accept that this is likely her last season in Long Harbor. Eden is the account of the days leading up to the Fourth of July weekend, as Becca prepares to disclose her secret and her son and brothers conspire to put the estate on the market, interwoven with the century-old history of Becca’s family—her parents’ beginnings and ascent into affluence, and her mother’s own secret struggles in the grand home her father named “Eden.”
The Forever Summer by Jamie Brenner. Available Now. Marin Bishop has always played by the rules, and it’s paid off, but one moment of weakness leaves Marin unemployed and alone, all in a single day. Then a woman claiming to be Marin’s half-sister shows up, and it’s all Marin can do not to break down completely. Seeking escape, Marin agrees to a road trip to meet the grandmother she never knew she had. As the summer unfolds at her grandmother’s quaint beachside B&B in coastal New England, it becomes clear that the truth of her half-sister is just the beginning of revelations that will change Marin’s life forever. THE FOREVER SUMMER is a delicious page-turner and a provocative exploration of what happens when our notions of love, truth, and family are put to the ultimate test.
In the very beginning of this book, a young boy (Jacob) is ran over by a car and killed and you are instantly invested in this emotional and chilling thriller. The narrator immediately “makes a clean break-unable to bear the thought of living as though nothing had changed.” She retreats to a secluded cottage on the coast of Wales, feeling that the safest thing to do is stay away.
As the book unfolds, the narrator gradually and reluctantly begins to build relationships with people in the town. She rescues a dog that she names Beau and even though she tries her hardest she is unable to prevent herself from loving him. (I do adore books where the dog rescue the human.) She also befriends a local women and falls for the vet in town. The narrator lives in a constant state of fear and panic and the more you read, the more obvious it is that there is a little more to her story and a lot of secrets in her past.
In alternating chapters, we also get the point of view from the two detectives assigned to the case of finding the person who ran over Jacob and fled from the scene of the crime. Ray is having his own problems at home with a rocky marriage and a troubled son. Kate is the new young and determined officer that has a lot of drive and reminds Ray why he wanted to become a cop in the first place. He battles with his attraction to Kate as they search for the boy’s killer.
At the end of part one there is a huge plot twist that will make you gasp and leave you questioning everything you have read. We then start learning more about the narrator’s past and what really happened. I can’t say more about the second part of the book without spoiling it, so I will just say, set some time aside because you will not want to put this one down!!! Loved it!
This book has been getting lots of good reviews so I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it! The Women in the Castle is the story of three women who come to live together in a rundown castle at the end of World War II. It reminded me very much of “The Nightingale” by Kristin Hannah.
The prologue starts out pre-war, where Marianne von Lingenfel promises to be “the commander/protector of the wives and children” at a secret meeting her husband, her lifetime friend, and other men are having to plan actions against Hitler. Later she is called “the widow of the resistance.”
In order to honor her promise to her husband, best friend and the other husbands (who were all caught and killed for their actions) she sets out in search of the wives and children left behind after the war.
First she locates Martin, son of her beloved, deceased friend Connie. Next she tracks down Benita (mother of Martin/wife of Connie). It is obvious they have both been deeply affected by the war. Benita is broken, frail and withdrawn. Martin is quiet and subdued. Their love for each other keeps them going.
Marianne then discovers another resister’s wife (Ania) and her children and brings them to live with her at the castle. Marianne, Benita and Ania develop a friendship and live together many years. Throughout all of their stories you learn about each of their struggles for survival, their damaged souls, and the horrible ordeals they have all survived.
The book exposes all the horrors of the Hitler era and the effects of war. Secrets are revealed that affect the friendships the women have forged. Each woman has to come to terms with horrors from their past to move forward with their lives. I can’t say much more without revealing too much about the book. It was a very good novel about war, friendship, love, the power of the past and the will to survive. Highly recommended!!!