My Favorite Books Read in 2013:
(In no particular order; covers link to review or rating)
Synopsis: New Bremen, Minnesota, 1961. The Twins were playing their debut season, ice-cold root beers were selling out at the soda counter of Halderson’s Drugstore, and Hot Stuff comic books were a mainstay on every barbershop magazine rack. It was a time of innocence and hope for a country with a new, young president. But for thirteen-year-old Frank Drum it was a grim summer in which death visited frequently and assumed many forms. Accident. Nature. Suicide. Murder.
Frank begins the season preoccupied with the concerns of any teenage boy, but when tragedy unexpectedly strikes his family— which includes his Methodist minister father; his passionate, artistic mother; Juilliard-bound older sister; and wise-beyond-his-years kid brother— he finds himself thrust into an adult world full of secrets, lies, adultery, and betrayal, suddenly called upon to demonstrate a maturity and gumption beyond his years.
Told from Frank’s perspective forty years after that fateful summer, Ordinary Grace is a brilliantly moving account of a boy standing at the door of his young manhood, trying to understand a world that seems to be falling apart around him. It is an unforgettable novel about discovering the terrible price of wisdom and the enduring grace of God. (publisher)
My brief take: I highly recommend the audiobook edition of this novel. The narration by Rich Orlow is superb.
Just read the synopsis above. If that doesn’t grab you, well, never mind. I think it will. And, in the end, you’ll probably be glad you read (or listened to) it. I don’t want to say much more than what I posted on Goodreads:
. . . A coming of age novel where ordinary grace meets the awful grace of God in a small town in Minnesota during one summer in the early 1960s.
It’s one of my 2013 Favorites.
Synopsis: Reluctant to leave her cherished New England hometown after her sister’s winter wedding, former journalist Vera Sterling makes a sudden decision. She takes what’s left of her severance pay and invests it in real estate … in one particular drafty colonial home and old timber barn set upon the pretty banks of Addison Cove. In that rough-hewn barn, she discovers a secret treasure left behind by the previous owner, the proprietor of the long-forgotten Christmas Barn gift shop.
While restoring her rundown, wood-sided home–its creaking floors, broken bannister, and neglected widow’s walk–that secret slowly unfolds like a bit of snowflake wonder, crystallizing hopes and dreams for many in this small Connecticut town. But mostly for Derek Cooper whose own tragic story has headlined Addison’s news. And whom Vera has come to love.
When the first snowstorm hits during Derek’s annual Deck the Boats Festival at the cove, residents become stranded. It is then up to Vera to not only bring the town together, but to mend one man’s heart she fears she may have lost. (book synopsis)
My take: Joanne DeMaio takes us back to Addison, a quaint Connecticut seaside town that you’ll want to visit (maybe even move to) after you read this charming tale. People in Addison are just like you and me. They experience life’s joys and sorrows and support each other along the way.
When Vera buys the fixer-upper Dutch Colonial she gets to know Derek who works at his family’s hardware store. He also fixes things – like stuck doors, broken steps, etc. Derek and Vera strike up a friendship that soon becomes more. There’s an easiness about them that lets them talk about anything – including the reason for Derek’s heartache. He appreciates how direct she is without being uncomfortable when talking about it. But one day when Derek misunderstands something he hears about Vera it drives a wedge between them. Vera doesn’t understand what’s wrong – until she does. She’ll have to prove to Derek she’s not going anywhere.
I like a novel that gets me invested in the characters’ lives and relationships and has an emotional impact. That was my experience with this book. Plus, it really put me in the Christmas spirit! I enjoyed Snowflakes and Coffee Cakes and look forward to my next visit to Addison. My thanks to Joanne DeMaio for this lovely Christmas story.
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Synopsis: For over a hundred years, the Angelini Shoe Company in Greenwich Village has relied on the leather produced by Vechiarelli & Son in Tuscany. This historic business partnership provides the twist of fate for Valentine Roncalli, the school teacher turned shoemaker, to fall in love with Gianluca Vechiarelli, a tanner with a complex past . . . and a secret.
A piece of surprising news is revealed at The Feast of the Seven Fishes when Valentine and Gianluca join her extended family on a fateful Christmas Eve. Now faced with life altering choices, Valentine remembers the wise words that inspired her in the early days of her beloved Angelini Shoe Company: “A person who can build a pair of shoes can do just about anything.” The proud, passionate Valentine is going to fight for everything she wants and savor all she deserves-the bitter and the sweetness of life itself.
Romantic and poignant, told with humor and warmth, and bursting with a cast of endearing characters, The Supreme Macaroni Company is a sumptuous feast of delights: a portrait of a woman and the man she loves, her passion for craftsmanship, and the sacrifices it takes to build and sustain a family business while keeping love and laughter at the center of everything. (publisher)
My take: The Supreme Macaroni Company is the final installment of the Valentine series. I’ve been a fan since I first met Valentine Roncalli in Very Valentine. She’s a modern, sometimes confident, usually headstrong woman who is intent on keeping her family’s shoe company in business.
Val knows what she wants and one of those wants is Gianluca – the love of her life. Where Val is modern, American and in her 30s, Gianluca is a traditional Italian and in his 50s. These two don’t always see eye to eye but they never lose sight of their love for one another. When they marry Valentine must learn to compromise – easier said than done. Gianluca wants to take care of her and sometimes makes decisions without consulting Val. This causes some rocky times in the early days of their marriage.
What Val learns is that a willingness to sacrifice and compromise from a place of love will be a blessing to them both. Adriana Trigiani’s story is emotional and at times had me in tears so have some tissues handy. I’m going to miss the Roncallis and all the rest – maybe in five or ten years we can convince the author to let us know what’s going on in their lives.
Audio: Cassandra Campbell’s narration is first rate. Her performance of Valentine and the other characters enhanced my enjoyment of the book.
Synopsis: Rose Parker’s husband has been lying. About everything.
When a conversation with her husband triggers questions, Rose Parker uncovers alarming answers that shatter her perfect life. But it is only when she shoves her belongings in her SUV and drives off that Rose realizes just how far from perfect her life actually was. She has nowhere to turn.
While debating between distressing sleeping arrangements-her mother’s house full of questions or a hotel room with too much solitude-Rose bumps into an acquaintance from her gardening class and allows bubbly, exuberant Becky to indulge her in a wild night full of whiskey, weeping, and whispered confidences. Suddenly, Rose has a new friend, a roof over her head, and two gorgeous men moving her out of her marital home.
As Rose struggles to settle into her new life, she remains determined to comprehend her past. And with time and distance and especially wine, comes knowledge. Frank wasn’t the only one lying to her. Rose was lying to herself. (author)
My take: It was easy to sympathize with Rose and her new situation. She found out her husband was not the man she thought – perhaps something she’d known all along. With some distance between them she realized she had become a different person since marrying him. With that awareness Rose started on a path to rediscover her true self.
I loved the new people in Rose’s life beginning with Becky, the acquaintance who takes her in, as well as Becky’s brother, other friends, and Rose’s mother. They all had a hand in helping Rose move forward. It wasn’t an easy path. She moved backward a couple of times but eventually learned to listen to and trust her instincts again.
Redesigning Rose is Lydia Laceby’s debut novel. I thoroughly enjoyed it. The story and characters charmed me and I couldn’t help thinking as I read that it would make a good movie. Recommended to fans of Chick Lit.
My take: With her last daughter’s wedding behind her, Sookie Pool is looking forward to relaxing with her husband on a much-needed vacation when she receives a registered letter that turns her life upside down. The letter pushes Sookie on a journey of discovery as she tries to solve the mystery that has suddenly taken over her life.
Filled with colorful characters, my favorite of the book was Sookie. Although I didn’t identify completely with her there are certain aspects of Sookie that every woman will understand. I think we’re all on the same journey – just at different places along the way.
Fannie Flagg is one of my favorite authors. I adore her charming and funny way of telling a story that never fails to pull me completely in. That was the case in this novel. She also taught me about the WASPs (Women Airforce Service Pilots) of WWII. I’d always heard about the war effort on the home front but the WASPs were new to me. What an amazing group of women!
The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion is one of my favorite books of 2013. If you’re looking for a book that will make you laugh out loud and possibly learn something new you’ll want to read this wonderful novel.
Note: You can learn more about the WASPs here.
Synopsis: Holiday gifts don’t always come in expected packages…especially in the town of Hope’s Crossing.
No one has ever felt sorry for Genevieve Beaumont. After all, she has everything money can buy. That is, until she discovers her fiancé has been two-timing her and she’s left with two choices: marry the philanderer to please her controlling father or be disinherited and find a means to support herself.
Genevieve’s salvation appears in the most unlikely of prospects: Dylan Caine, a sexy, wounded war vet whose life is as messy as hers. Dylan’s struggling to adjust after his time in Afghanistan, and the last thing he needs is a spoiled socialite learning about the real world for the first time. True, she may have unexpected depths and beauty to match. But he knows he could never be the man she needs…and she knows he could never be the man she thinks she wants. So why are they each hoping that a Christmas miracle willl prove them both wrong?
My take: I loved how this novel began – with a bar fight on the day after Thanksgiving. The fight was started by a young socialite when someone wouldn’t stop playing the same rendition of The Little Drummer Boy over and over. It’s also the scene where Genevieve and Dylan meet. Now that is an unusual start for a Christmas romance!
Gen and Dylan find themselves thrown together when the judge sentences them to 100 hours of community service to begin immediately at a local resort for wounded veterans. This was not the way either had intended to spend the time leading up to Christmas.
RaeAnne Thayne’s novel is a sweet and emotional story of hope for more than just these two people who’d stopped believing they were worthy of being loved. If you like Christmas romances set in a small town I think you’ll enjoy Christmas in Snowflake Canyon. I did and now want to catch up with the series.
Expected publication: October 29, 2013