Monthly Archives: November 2016

Eleanor and Hick: The Love Affair That Shaped a First Lady by Susan Quinn

Eleanor and Hick by Susan Quinn

With so much delicious fiction hot off the presses, I am not sure what attracted me to Susan Quinn’s new biography of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and AP Reporter Lorena Hickock. It wasn’t their snazzy ensembles, it wasn’t the subtitle “The Love Affair That Shaped a First Lady;”  maybe it was my love of the era they lived in…  I began to see the title on lists of recommended new biographies, flashed back to long lazy summers when my mom spent her evenings entrenched in biographies of strong female change makers-Dorothy Day, for example-and thought I’d put Eleanor and Hick on hold for her.  As I flipped through the pages while unpacking a Baker and Taylor order, I decided to put it on hold for me first.  So glad I did!

“Love Affair” in the title lends itself to juicy People magazine level details about two thinking women in long sleeves and long skirts.  This biography really isn’t that.  Quinn relates the life stories of Hickock and Roosevelt from the lens of how they each helped strengthen and craft the other’s life.  Much of the research came from letters between the two; Hickcock was the keeper of the letters and it is assumed she discarded many of the ones she wrote.  Either way, we get a picture of a friendship during a time of economic depression and war, when women’s roles were changing but were only beginning to reflect the opportunities available today.

What I like:  this was very readable-I devoured it like a novel, I learned something, and I took an empowering albeit altruistic message away about finding and following one’s passion: write about what you care about, educate others, see the whole person and capitalize on their good.  Roosevelt says she never wanted to be First Lady, but she took full advantage of her role. She wasn’t perfect, and many will disagree with her choices and her politics, but she was, in my opinion, dedicated to the American people and she was a visionary.  I was interested in the relationship the Roosevelts had with the press, and of course the similarities and differences with today’s ability to instantaneously report news.  I appreciated learning more about Hickock and how she rose in the ranks in the newspaper world.

I like to find something in a biography that changes me, and I feel certain any reader will find just such an opportunity in Eleanor and Hick.  Reserve a copy at the library, or, if you are related to me and receive books for Christmas, wait until the new year.

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The Wrong Side of Goodbye by Michael Connelly

Michael Connelly’s 21st Harry Bosch novel is out.  Some of my favorite series authors publish around this time, and I anxiously await the Tuesday their book hits the shelves.  I was early on the Library’s list for The Wrong Side of Goodbye, and zoomed through it this past weekend.  You might think after 21 novels about one detective the story and the writing might get stale or old, but with Connelly, it doesn’t.

Harry Bosch has now retired from the LAPD and works as a private investigator part of the time, and as a “volunteer” for the understaffed San Fernando Police Department.  At the SFPD, Harry isn’t paid but does get a badge, computer access, and an office to review their cold cases and see what he can solve.  In this most recent novel, Harry is solving the case of a serial rapist who is still at large and privately working for an older billionaire who wants to see if he has an heir before he dies.

Here is what I like:  good writing and enough suspense, not too graphic, a familiar character I like to revisit, and a good story in the crime/police procedural genre.  Mickey Haller, Bosch’s half brother (otherwise known as the Lincoln Lawyer) also plays a small role.

If you’ve never tried Connelly, today is the first day of the rest of your life.  Give him a try. The books are good in order but it isn’t a must.

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The Guineveres by Sarah Domet

The Guineveres

It has been a good season for new books.  It seems like I have had an overabundance of really good reads–lucky me!  The Guineveres is another one of those really good reads, though I must say, it is nothing like the novel I expected to read.  I thought four friends would get together and reminisce about their past together, from a place of much more fortunate circumstances. They do reminisce:  this book is ultimately a letter to another Guinevere.

Sarah Domet’s debut novel is about 4 girls named Guinevere who all end up at the orphanage of a convent called the Sisters of the Supreme Adoration.  They are delivered by their parents for various reasons.  They become a subset, and then friends.  Initially drawn together because of the name they share, they stay together to watch out for each other, and because they don’t fit the other groups of girls.  It is wartime, and the Sisters also have a convalescent hospital, taking in older people and soldiers.  When the girls are punished and must make restitution through service, they are sent to help the nurses.  They each begin to care for a wounded soldier in a coma, believing that by caring for them, when the soldiers eventually wake up, they will marry the Guineveres and that will be their ticket out.

Interspersed are short stories about the lives of female saints that help explain The Guineveres.  These stories are key to making the book work, and to explaining the humanity of each of the characters.  Domet also periodically shares how each girl came to arrive at the convent, so that by the time each girl leaves, you know her story.

This novel crept up on me…perhaps a little slow to start but nonetheless not a book I could put down by the time I reached page 50.  (Note:  page 50 is my yea or nay point.  Life is short; read good books.  If it doesn’t have me by 50, it doesn’t have me.)  Once engaged, the characters remained with me over the days I read, and even after.  This is a pensive book, but one with some lines that sum up and express universal truths, and I think that is what most stays with me.  Domet succeeds at telling a compelling story but even more so at articulating themes of suffering, sacrifice, loss and redemption beautifully and meaningfully.  Highly recommended!

 

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The Perfect Girl by Gilly MacMillan

 

The Perfect Girl recently came out in paperback, and despite being a little outside my usual genre choice, ended up at the top of my weekend read pile.  Page turner doesn’t quite do it justice.  If you can read it at a Middle School Volleyball Tournament between your daughter’s games, sitting in bleachers, it must be addictively good.  Just sayin’.

Let me set the story.  Zoe is an accomplished pianist who at 14 was convicted of killing three classmates in a car accident.  She serves her time, her parents divorce, her mother marries a man who also is a parent to a piano prodigy.  The new family moves and tries to start over in a new town, new school…it turns out not even the new husband knows their secret.  At first…

This isn’t a book where I felt for the characters enough to root for them in the beginning.  But, there is always a story.  As the plot twists and turns and is shared through a variety of view points, I found myself trying to predict and hoping for certain outcomes.  The ending did not disappoint, and held a little surprise for this reader.  If you are looking to escape into a book for an evening or a weekend, and are in the mood for a little suspense, The Perfect Girl might just be your perfect read.

 

 

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