Monday, November 22, 2010

Book Reviews

The latest good books from my bookbasket:

1. Broken for You, by Stephanie Kallos. Luminous, sentimental without being maudlin, and a beautiful story about losing and finding, breaking and mending. Margaret Hughes has just been diagnosed with brain cancer and decides to open her Seattle mansion to boarders. Her first, Wanda Schultz, is nursing a broken heart. The two women come to know each other with help from breaking the pilfered antique ceramic treasures that fill Margaret's house. Wonderful characters and deeper meaning if you want it but doesn't beat you over the head.

2. A Reliable Wife, by Robert Goolrick. Gothic and dark and redemptive. Suspenseful and chilling and surprisingly warm. Ralph Truitt, magnate and the most important man in the small town of Truitt, Wisconsin, has sent away for a wife. Catherine Land, an enigmatic and calculating drifter, has answered his ad. Each with their own reasons, each with their own attempts to manipulate the other into the life they think they want, the two tell each other their stories. Set during a cold, bleak winter, this is a powerful story. I enjoyed Goolrick's unique writing style.

3. The Distant Hours, by Kate Morton. My current favorite author's newest tome. Morton's books are layered and thick and secretive and satisfying. This story weaves together publisher Edie Burchill, her mother's history as a WWII evacuee from London, a crumbling castle in Kent, the three daughters of a famed author, the famed author's most popular work, and all of the secrets, heartbreaks, and tragedies carried by each of them. A slow start and multiple story strands keep this from being a quick read, but the end result is stunning.

4. A Vintage Affair, by Isabel Wolff. This book tries really hard to be Important, but it's just a well-written story, and that's just fine. Phoebe Swift leaves her Sotheby's job to open a vintage clothing shop. In the course of collecting beautiful clothing for the store, she meets the ill Mrs. Bell and learns the story behind the fashion and the woman. Side plots are filled with loving and yummy details about beautiful couture, a splash of romantic "should she or shouldn't she" choice between men, and many likable characters. This book will not challenge your worldview but certainly redeems itself from being just another fluffy chick lit selection.

5. Annie's Ghosts, by Steve Luxenberg. In the 1990's, Luxenberg, a journalist, discovers the existence of a mentally ill and physically disabled aunt whom he never knew and who died in 1972. Learning this shocking news just before his mother dies, he and his siblings wrestle with whether or not to investigate. It took several years before he decided to look into the story. This memoir covers family secrets, a sobering look into mental health institutions and treatments, and continually asks (often poignantly) why? Fascinating read.

What have you been reading lately?

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