The Captain’s Daughter by Meg Mitchell Moore

  • Title:  The Captain’s Daughter
  • Author:  Meg Mitchell Moore
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Pages:  320
  • Pub. Date:  July 18, 2017 – Doubleday
  • Source:  Publisher; NetGalley

Description:  Growing up in Little Harbor, Maine, the daughter of a widowed lobsterman, Eliza Barnes could haul a trap and row a skiff with the best of them. But she always knew she’d leave that life behind. Now that she’s married, with two kids and a cushy front-row seat to suburban country club gossip in an affluent Massachusetts town, she feels adrift.

When her father injures himself in a boating accident, Eliza pushes the pause button on her own life to come to his aid. But when she arrives in Maine, she discovers her father’s situation is more dire than he let on. Eliza’s homecoming is further complicated by the reemergence of her first love–and memories of their shared secret. Then Eliza meets Mary Brown, a seventeen-year-old local who is at her own crossroad, and Eliza can’t help but wonder what her life would have been like if she’d stayed.

Filled with humor, insight, summer cocktails, and gorgeous sunsets, THE CAPTAIN’S DAUGHTER is a compassionate novel about the life-changing choices we make and the consequences we face in their aftermath. (publisher)

My take:  The loss of her mother when Eliza was young was instrumental in shaping her life. Raised by her lobsterman father in a small coastal Maine village, Eliza couldn’t wait to leave for college. Now she lives in an affluent Massachusetts community with her husband and two daughters where her life revolves around her children and their activities and her friends. Life changes when Eliza receives a phone call with the news that her dad was injured while working on his boat. She heads up to Maine to take care of him. That’s where she comes in contact with people from her past who make her wonder what might have been if her life had gone in a different direction. This was a rather quiet novel that kept me turning the pages. I had to know what would happen with a few of the characters. There’s a young woman, a girl really, who reminds Eliza of herself when she lived in Little Harbor. I thought Eliza’s husband was interesting in his changing professional life. I enjoyed Eliza’s daughters and even came to appreciate her mother-in-law. Perspective will help a reader and a character do that. I’d recommend this book to fans of Meg Mitchell Moore, a coastal setting, and contemporary fiction about families.


 

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The Admissions by Meg Mitchell Moore

  • The AdmissionsTitle:  The Admissions
  • Author:  Meg Mitchell Moore
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Pages:  320
  • Published:  September 2015 – Doubleday
  • Source:  BookSparks

Description:  The Hawthorne family has it all. Great jobs, a beautiful house in one of the most affluent areas of northern California, and three charming kids with perfectly straight teeth. And then comes their eldest daughter’s senior year of high school . . .
     Firstborn Angela Hawthorne is a straight-A student and star athlete, with extracurricular activities coming out of her ears and a college application that’s not going to write itself. She’s set her sights on Harvard, her father’s alma mater, and like a dog with a chew toy, Angela won’t let up until she’s basking in crimson-colored glory. Except her class rank as valedictorian is under attack, she’s suddenly losing her edge at cross-country, and she can’t help but daydream about the cute baseball player in English class. Of course Angela knows the time put into her schoolgirl crush would be better spent coming up with a subject for her term paper—which, along with her college essay and community service hours has a rapidly approaching deadline. 
     Angela’s mother, Nora, is similarly stretched to the limit, juggling parent-teacher meetings, carpool, and a real-estate career where she caters to the mega rich and super-picky buyers and sellers of the Bay Area. The youngest daughter, Maya, still can’t read at the age of eight; the middle-child, Cecily, is no longer the happy-go-lucky kid she once was; and the dad, Gabe, seems oblivious to the mounting pressures at home because a devastating secret of his own might be exposed. A few ill-advised moves put the Hawthorne family on a heedless collision course that’s equal parts achingly real and delightfully screwball.
     Sharp and topical, The Admissions shows that if you pull at a loose thread, even the sturdiest of lives start to unravel at the seams of high achievement.  (publisher)

My take:  This is a story about a family with hopes and dreams…and secrets. It’s about what happens when their secrets become known to others and how each person deals with it.

It’s also about how we view others – our perceptions and the actual reality of what we think we know. Does that family next door really have life by the tail? How can they be so lucky when I’m not? It’s about the expectations we feel or place upon others and the intense anxiety that almost always follows. Anyone who went to college, played a sport in school or participated in a competitive group or had kids who did the same will recognize some of the emotions felt by one or all of the characters in this novel.

There’s foreshadowing from page one but as the author revealed events I was second-guessing myself in what I thought was going to happen. Meg Mitchell Moore’s novel is a warm, entertaining and addictive read that left me missing this family after turning the last page. Recommended.

I read The Admissions as part of the BookSparks Fall Reading Challenge 2015

blog-post-admission


A Touch of Stardust: A Novel by Kate Alcott

  • a touch of stardust (Feb17)Title:  A Touch of Stardust: A Novel
  • Author:  Kate Alcott
  • Genre:  Historical Fiction
  • Published:  February 2015 – Doubleday
  • Source:  Publisher

My take:  Julie Crawford, recent graduate of Smith College, didn’t want to go home, get married and live the life her parents intended for her. She wanted to follow her dream to Hollywood to become a screenplay writer. Her parents agreed to one year and then she had to come home. Julie landed an office job at Selznick International Pictures (SIP) which was starting production of Gone With The Wind. That job lasted one day – she was fired by Selznick himself. Not to worry, though. She landed a job as assistant to Carole Lombard, formerly of Fort Wayne, Indiana (Julie’s hometown), queen of screwball comedies, and soon-to-be wife of Clark Gable. Eventually Carole helped Julie make connections in the screenwriting world.

Julie met Andy Weinstein, an assistant producer, on her one day at SIP and was instantly attracted to him. Their relationship grew as filming of GWTW progressed and provided a parallel storyline that I enjoyed. Andy was under pressure to keep things going smoothly on the set while at the same time he felt pressure from the looming Nazi threat in Europe. He felt he should be doing something to help his relatives in Berlin instead of making movies in Hollywood.

I really enjoyed A Touch of Stardust. Reading it was like watching a movie from the ’40s.  I was immersed in many aspects of making GWTW. From casting to the actual filming to the premier in Atlanta – I felt like I had a front row seat to it all. I liked the Julie/Andy storyline but I thought the real star of the book was Carole Lombard. Alcott made her leap off the page every time she appeared. Her relationship with Clark Gable was so endearing and her unapologetic ways and colorful language made her larger than life.

If you’re a fan of Hollywood, Gone With The Wind, or stories about following a dream I think you’ll enjoy  A Touch of Stardust. I sure did!

The Light in the Ruins by Chris Bohjalian

the light in the ruins

  • Title:  The Light in the Ruins
  • Author:  Chris Bohjalian
  • Genre:  Historical Fiction
  • Published:  July 2013 – Doubleday
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  1943: Tucked away in the idyllic hills south of Florence, the Rosatis, an Italian family of noble lineage, believe that the walls of their ancient villa will keep them safe from the war raging across Europe. Eighteen-year-old Cristina spends her days swimming in the pool, playing with her young niece and nephew, and wandering aimlessly amid the estate’s gardens and olive groves. But when two soldiers, a German and an Italian, arrive at the villa asking to see an ancient Etruscan burial site, the Rosatis’ bucolic tranquility is shattered. A young German lieutenant begins to court Cristina, the Nazis descend upon the estate demanding hospitality, and what was once their sanctuary becomes their prison.

1955: Serafina Bettini, an investigator with the Florence police department, has her own demons. A beautiful woman, Serafina carefully hides her scars along with her haunting memories of the war. But when she is assigned to a gruesome new case—a serial killer targeting the Rosatis, murdering the remnants of the family one-by-one in cold blood—Serafina finds herself digging into a past that involves both the victims and her own tragic history. (publisher)

My take:  I usually include the publisher’s synopsis because I’m hard-pressed to come up with a better one on my own so be sure to read the one above. 

The author intertwined two stories (separated by 11 years) to form a compelling whodunnit. His richly detailed description of the Tuscan villa commandeered by Germans in 1944 in contrast with 1955 and the stark reality of a serial killer intent on the grisly murders of the family who owned the villa held my interest throughout. That says something because I don’t usually enjoy suspense, mysteries or crime novels. However, I do enjoy Chris Bohjalian’s novels and this one was no exception.

What resonated most for me were the choices many of the characters made and the impact or fallout of those choices. The Light in the Ruins is a story of love and loss and the ultimate resilience of the human spirit.

Heads in Beds by Jacob Tomsky

Title:  Heads in Beds – A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality

Author:  Jacob Tomsky

Genre:  Memoir

Published:  November 2012 – Doubleday

Synopsis (partial):  In the tradition of Kitchen Confidential and Waiter Rant, a rollicking, eye-opening, fantastically indiscreet memoir of a life spent (and misspent) in the hotel industry.

Jacob Tomsky has worked in hotels for more than a decade, doing everything from valet parking to manning the front desk. He’s checked you in, checked you out, separated your white panties from the white bed sheets, parked your car, tasted your room service, cleaned your toilet, denied you a late check out, given you a wake-up call, eaten M&Ms out of your mini-bar, laughed at your jokes, and taken your money. And in Heads in Beds, he pulls back the curtain on the hospitality business, revealing the crazy yet compelling reality of an industry we think we know. It is an incredibly funny, authentic, and irreverent chronicle of the highs and lows of hotel life and boy, is there a market for it: in 2010, the American lodging industry generated $127.7 billion in revenue.  Prepare to be amused, shocked, and amazed as he spills the unwritten code of the bellhops, the antics that go on the valet parking garage, and the housekeeping department’s dirty little secrets.

My take:  Heads in Beds is an interesting peek into the world of Hospitality. In the beginning I found Jacob Tomsky’s memoir entertaining and edgy but by the time I turned the last page I was ready to be done.

I grew tired of the almost whiny tone and the F-bomb laced stories about how and why the upscale hotel’s guests might receive upgrades or be treated poorly. I understand that he and his co-workers feel underpaid but it just seemed wrong that guests who are already paying high rates must pony up extra cash to ensure good service. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem tipping (and always do) after receiving good service. And the valet parking stories? More like horror stories!

That said, I think people who work in the Hospitality industry will enjoy this memoir. They will probably relate to the tales of working in the various areas of hotels from valet and bellman to housekeeping and laundry to the front desk. Tomsky also shares hints on how to improve your stay at a hotel. My hint: if you ever stay at his hotel, take lots of $20s!

Disclosure: I received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not compensated for my review.

The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian

Title: The Sandcastle Girls

Author: Chris Bohjalian

Genre: Historical Fiction

Published: July 2012 – Doubleday

Hardcover – 320 pages

Synopsis: (from the book flap) When Elizabeth Endicott arrives in Syria, she has a diploma from Mount Holyoke College, a crash course in nursing, and only the most basic grasp of the Armenian language. The First World War is spreading across Europe, and she has volunteered on behalf of the Boston-based Friends of Armenia to deliver food and medical aid to refugees of the Armenian genocide. There, Elizabeth becomes friendly with Armen, a young Armenian engineer who has already lost his wife and infant daughter. When Armen leaves Aleppo to join the British Army in Egypt, he begins to write Elizabeth letters, and comes to realize that he has fallen in love with the wealthy, young American woman who is so different from the wife he lost.

Flash forward to the present, where we meet Laura Petrosian, a novelist living in suburban New York. Although her grandparents’ ornate Pelham home was affectionately nicknamed the “Ottoman Annex,” Laura has never really given her Armenian heritage much thought. But when an old friend calls, claiming to have seen a newspaper photo of Laura’s grandmother promoting an exhibit at a Boston museum, Laura embarks on a journey back through her family’s history that reveals love, loss—and a wrenching secret that has been buried for generations.

My take: I want to thank John Pitts from Doubleday for sending me a copy of this important novel. Important because I wonder how many people actually know about the Armenian Genocide that occurred in the early 20th century. I don’t recall learning about it in a high school world history class. This book is why I like to read Historical Fiction. Yes, I love a good story but I also like to learn.

The Sandcastle Girls was a difficult book to read because of the atrocities inflicted on the Armenian people. Despite how difficult it was to read, I cared about Bohjalian’s characters as they lived day to day, event to event, moment to moment. Aleppo came alive with the descriptions of sights, smells and sounds giving me a definite sense of the town. The scenes of atrocities both in war and the genocide are vivid. I point that out because it might be too much for some readers. That said, I don’t know how the book could not include those scenes.

In any case, the short answer to that first question – How do a million and a half people die with nobody knowing? – is really very simple. You kill them in the middle of nowhere.

The Sandcastle Girls page 273

The story is told by Laura, a writer and the granddaughter of the two main characters. She writes the story of her grandparents which becomes part of Bohjalian’s novel. The past and present are woven together and come to an emotional conclusion.

I recommend this book to fans of Historical Fiction and Chris Bohjalian.

Note: You can read more about The Sandcastle Girls at Chris Bohjalian’s website.

Disclosure: I received a book for review from the publisher. I was not compensated for my review.

Goodbye for Now by Laurie Frankel

Title:  Goodbye for Now

Author:  Laurie Frankel

Genre:  Fiction

Published:  August 2012 – Doubleday

Hardcover: 304 pages

Synopsis:  (from back of the arc) Sam Elling works for an internet dating company, but he still can’t get a date. So he creates an algorithm that will match you with your soul mate. Sam meets the love of his life, a coworker named Meredith, but he also gets fired when the company starts losing all their customers to Mr. and Ms. Right.

When Meredith’s grandmother, Livvie, dies suddenly, Sam uses his ample free time to create a computer program that will allow Meredith to have one last conversation with her grandmother. Mining from all her correspondence—email, Facebook, Skype, texts—Sam constructs a computer simulation of Livvie who can respond to email or video chat just as if she were still alive. It’s not supernatural, it’s computer science.

Meredith loves it, and the couple begins to wonder if this is something that could help more people through their grief. And thus, the company RePose is born. The business takes off, but for every person who just wants to say good-bye, there is someone who can’t let go.

In the meantime, Sam and Meredith’s affection for one another deepens into the kind of love that once tasted, you can’t live without.

My take:  In the beginning I had an issue with this novel – you shouldn’t mess with grief. We need to grieve when a loved one dies, right? But should we rely solely on our memories or could we benefit from technology – really, it’s almost a constant in our daily lives anyway. Laurie Frankel’s characters remind us that people grieve differently. To some it’s a very personal and singular process but others might be open to controlling the process through unorthodox means. After turning the last page I decided I’m somewhere in the middle. Maybe I would and maybe not.

I’m so glad I read Goodbye for Now. It compelled me to consider things I haven’t been faced with thus far in my life – primarily the death of a close loved one – with the exception being my father-in-law who died several years ago from Alzheimer’s. That’s a grief process all unto itself.

There are a few issues that could be hot topics for book groups. I enjoyed the almost allegorical modern love story of Meredith and Sam as well as the theme that we must look after each other (loved ones, acquaintances, strangers) in this life.

Source:  Doubleday

Disclosure:  See sidebar. I was not compensated for my review.