Famous Father Girl by Jamie Bernstein

Review eGalley provided by Harper and Edelweiss

Description:  The oldest daughter of revered composer/conductor Leonard Bernstein offers a rare look at her father on the centennial of his birth in a deeply intimate and broadly evocative memoir.

An intoxicating tale, Famous Father Girl is an intimate meditation on a complex and sometimes troubled man, the family he raised, and the music he composed that became the soundtrack to their entwined lives. Deeply moving and often hilarious, Bernstein’s beautifully written memoir is a great American story about one of the greatest Americans of the modern age. (from the publisher’s description)

My take: One of my first memories of listening to music was when my mother played her beloved West Side Story soundtrack. I was mesmerized by it years before I saw the film version. Many decades later it remains one of my favorite musicals. For that reason I couldn’t wait to read Famous Father Girl. I wanted to learn what it was like to grow up the daughter of Leonard Bernstein. I wasn’t disappointed by this memoir. In college I earned a music degree and, along the way, I learned why I loved Bernstein’s music – the rhythm, orchestration, the emotions it evoked. Jamie Bernstein tells the story of her larger than life father and his effect on his family. I enjoyed the photos scattered throughout and was unsurprised by mentions of notable names of the era. Readers who grew up during the mid 20th century will recognize most if not all. As in any life well lived there are triumphs and disappointments. The Bernstein family experienced all. I think there could be a surprise or two for readers but I also think fans of the maestro and the memoir genre will be happy with Jamie’s efforts.


 

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Good Karma by Christina Kelly

  • Title:  Good Karma
  • Author:  Christina Kelly
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Pages:  320
  • Pub. Date:  June 6, 2017 – Harper Paperbacks
  • Source:  Publisher; Edelweiss

Description:  After almost forty years in New Jersey, Catherine, Ralph, and their beloved Boston Terrier Karma are hitting the road, relocating to a gorgeous, serene island off the coast of Savannah, Georgia, where Catherine can work on her backhand and Ralph can hit the links. But upon their arrival in the Seven Oaks gated community, it becomes apparent that Catherine and Ralph’s visions of retirement couldn’t be more different. While Catherine is intrigued by their quirky neighbors, Ralph’s golf-and-poker routine seems to be interrupted only by his flirtations with their zealous real estate agent. 

As the pair drift further apart, Catherine cannot help but sense her marriage is at risk. Then, she meets recent widower Fred at the dog park. United by their dogs, they embark upon a friendship that could be something more—until she discovers that he’s not quite what he seems. As she sorts out fact from fiction and discovers what sorts of secrets might be hiding behind Seven Oaks’ pristine picket fences, she’ll have to make a decision affecting her future happiness and her chance at newfound love.  (publisher)

My take:  You work hard your whole life with the goal being retirement in a nice place where you can enjoy life, your spouse, and keep doing the things you love. That’s what Catherine assumed would happen when she and her husband made the move south to a lovely gated community near Savannah. What she didn’t expect was that he would want to enjoy activities without her. Every day. She’s feeling ignored, uncared for, and lonely.

Fred’s wife died a while ago. He’s wading through grief but trying to keep a foot in the day-to-day. His dog is the reason he goes out each day – mainly to the local dog park where he sees other community residents. He’s seventy-five and wondering if his best years are behind him. There are more characters who can relate to the same feelings as Catherine and Fred and they all intersect in unexpected ways at Seven Oaks.

Good Karma is a quirky, poignant, entertaining novel that I enjoyed and think will strike a chord with readers of a certain age or readers looking for something a little different.


 

Family Tree by Susan Wiggs

  • Family Tree by Susan Wigg (8:9:16 Wm Morrow)Title:  Family Tree
  • Author:  Susan Wiggs
  • Pages:  368
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  August 2016 – William Morrow
  • Source:  Publisher; Edelweiss

My take:  Annie Rush is a producer of a television cooking show starring her husband Martin. Annie learned to cook from her grandmother who taught her that just as every recipe has a key ingredient, one’s life is mapped by key events. When Annie discovers her husband in a compromising position she knows this is one of those key events. If that isn’t enough Annie is about to experience a monumental key event.

Susan Wiggs’ story is one of second chances and the willingness to keep going, even under the most dire circumstances. Annie, Fletcher (a man from her past), and even her own parents discover what it takes to go for a second chance in life. Sometimes that means starting from where you are and other times it is starting over from scratch.

If you’re a fan of Susan Wiggs I think you’ll like Family Tree as much as I did. I loved the Vermont setting and all the foodie details. (My review galley didn’t contain any recipes so I don’t know if finished copies will.) It’s a fast read that I thoroughly enjoyed.  Recommended to fans of the author and contemporary fiction.

Whisper Beach by Shelley Noble

  • whisp beach 6:16Title:  Whisper Beach
  • Author:  Shelley Noble
  • Genre:  Women’s  Fiction
  • Published:  June 2015 – William Morrow
  • Source:  Publisher

My take:  When Vanessa Moran comes home for the funeral of her cousin’s husband she plans to stay for the service and then continue on to the shore for a well-deserved vacation. But things don’t go as planned. 

Van left 15 years earlier and never looked back. She worked hard, studied hard, and found a career organizing and managing other people’s homes and lives in Manhattan. What she left behind was her old life: an alcoholic, unforgiving father; a ruined relationship with her boyfriend; and school friends who seemed to be going nowhere. Now she finds some things have changed and a few haven’t. As her plans change and she starts to get to know people again will she be open to changes in her own life? 

Shelley Noble’s characters might seem a little familiar to anyone who grew up in a small town. I enjoyed them all. My favorite character was Dorie, the owner of the Blue Crab restaurant. More than that, she was a mother figure to more than a few kids in town. Her house was the safe place to go no matter what the circumstances. She was a good sounding board and also the voice of reason. I also liked Van’s friend Suze. Everyone needs a BFF like Suze. 

Themes of forgiveness and second chances run through Whisper Beach. The novel wasn’t tied up neatly at the end which is why I hope Noble will return to Whisper Beach in the not too distant future. Recommended to fans of the author and Women’s Fiction.

Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan

  • Little Beach Street Bakery (3:31:15)Title:  Little Beach Street Bakery
  • Author:  Jenny Colgan
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  March 2015 – William Morrow
  • Source:  Publisher

My take:  When 30-something Polly’s life leads her to the day where the men from the bank take over her (and her boyfriend’s) house, and their business is dissolved, she is forced to start over – without the boyfriend. She finds herself living in a wreck of a flat over a vacant bakery in a tiny seaside village an hour from where her old life went wrong. There’s nowhere to go but up. Polly survives on her optimism and willingness to change. She’s a character you can’t help but cheer on as she takes her hobby of baking bread to the next level and eventually has more takers for her bread than she ever dreamed.

It’s not all easy street for Polly though. Gillian, the woman who used to be the only bakery owner on the tidal island is not pleased with her competition. She uses intimidation on Polly but to no avail. Can the two co-exist? And what about the intriguing fisherman, Tarnie. Polly is surprised by her attraction as he’s so different from her last boyfriend. Can she even look at him in that way? But there’s more – Huckle, the American beekeeper is a bit of a mystery that she would like to solve. Huckle’s friend Reuben and Kerensa, Polly’s best friend, add an over-the-top and highly entertaining aspect to the plot.

I don’t want to spoil by telling more but suffice to say that Little Beach Street Bakery could end up on my 2015 Favorite Books list. It’s the first of Jenny Colgan’s books I’ve read and I can’t wait to read another.

An Unwilling Accomplice by Charles Todd

  • An Unwilling AccompliceTitle:  An Unwilling Accomplice
  • Series:  Bess Crawford #6
  • Author:  Charles Todd
  • Published:  August 2014 – William Morrow
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  World War I Battlefield nurse Bess Crawford’s career is in jeopardy when a murder is committed on her watch, in this absorbing and atmospheric historical mystery from New York Times bestselling author Charles Todd.

Home on leave, Bess Crawford is asked to accompany a wounded soldier confined to a wheelchair to Buckingham Palace, where he’s to be decorated by the King. The next morning when Bess goes to collect Wilkins, he has vanished. Both the Army and the nursing service hold Bess negligent for losing the war hero, and there will be an inquiry. 

Then comes disturbing word from the Shropshire police, complicating the already difficult situation: Wilkins has been spotted, and he’s killed a man. If Bess is to save her own reputation, she must find Wilkins and uncover the truth. But the elusive soldier has disappeared again and even the Shropshire police have lost him. Suddenly, the moral implications of what has happened—that a patient in her charge has committed murder—become more important to Bess than her own future. She’s going to solve this mysterious puzzle, but righting an injustice and saving her honor may just cost Bess her life.  (publisher)

My take:  I found the newest addition to the Bess Crawford series different from the other books. It takes place almost entirely in England. She’s been put on leave while an inquiry occurs to determine her part in the disappearance of Wilkins, the war hero she’d been assigned to accompany to Buckingham Palace to receive a medal from the King.

It doesn’t take long until Bess’s family friend Sergeant-Major Simon Brandon is by her side intent on proving her innocence as well as finding Wilkins. The two travel the countryside trying to solve the mystery.

I enjoyed the setting and the interactions between Bess and Simon but I didn’t see their friendship progress much in this book. I’d been hoping :). I guess I’ll have to wait for the next book. That aside, I thought the mystery was engaging for a while but I grew a bit bored by the time the actual solution was revealed. So, I liked it but didn’t love it as much as I’d hoped to. I recommend An Unwilling Accomplice to fans of the series, historical mysteries, and Charles Todd.

The Danger in Tempting an Earl by Sophie Barnes

the danger in tempting an earl (July29)

  • Title:  The Danger in Tempting an Earl
  • Series:  At the Kingsborough Ball #3
  • Author:  Sophie Barnes
  • Genre:  Historical Romance
  • Published:  July 2014 – Avon
  • Source:  Publisher

My take:  Lucien Marvaine has returned to England to assume the title Earl of Roxbury. His father and older brother died while he was away and he’s next in line. He’s also being pressured to marry and produce an heir.

Katherine is a widow and beginning to go out in society again. She intends to never marry again. Rather, she will raise her baby daughter and is thinking seriously of becoming a lady’s companion to her sister-in-law. Well, that was her plan. She didn’t expect her life-long friend Lucien to reappear after his abrupt departure following her marriage.

Can these two fall back into their comfortable friendship or will it become more? As they try to convince the other to court various people will they figure out they belong together?

There’s also another glimpse of a shooting at the Kingsborough Ball that has been featured from different characters’ perspectives in each of the three books in the series. In fact, the mystery of who the shooter is and why the shot has been taken is cleared up in this book. That added drama to the story.

If you enjoy a historical romance trilogy you’ll want to give the books of At the Kingsborough Ball a try. They are light and quick reads. I would recommend reading them in order.