All the Stars in Heaven

Adriana Trigiani loves to have large families at the center of her novels, and All the Stars in Heaven is no different. The main family centers around Loretta Young, a famous actress from the Golden Era of movies.

This was a fun read and I kept googling pictures of all the actors and actresses that make cameos in this novel. But the novel really centers around a brief love affair between Loretta Young and Clark Gable. I had to get past their age difference and that I read that there’s a possibility that Young at the end of her life admitted the affair may have been more coercion that love story. But Trigiani built up the love story between Young and Gable.

The two were never successful at becoming a couple and Gable never acknowledged his own daughter, so there’s a lot of heart break throughout the novel. Young’s Italian secretary (Trigiani had to stick an italian somewhere at the center of the story!) is a contrast to everything about Loretta and I’m glad her story remained throughout. She also had much heartbreak, but she was the moral compass of the novel.

I did end up enjoying this novel.

Read January 2016

crooked river

Valerie Geary’s crooked river is a different novel than I was expecting. Its told from two sisters perspective, one of which doesn’t talk but who sees ghosts attached to different people. After their mother died, the girls move in with their father who lives in a teepee in the middle of a field and sells honey to make some money. The townspeople are against him and the police had been common visitors to check on the well being of the girls in the past.

When a young woman turns up dead, downstream from their field, suspicion is immediately on their father. The story follows how the oldest girl comes to grips with her own suspicions and hunts to find the truth about the death. Along the way, she uncovers some truths about her father that help her understand their past.

This was a fun read to see how the mute sister interacted with people and with ghosts. I also really enjoyed learning about how they lived off the grid and made honey. What an interesting way to grow up.

Read January 2016

Hidden Child

Hidden Child is Camilla Lackberg’s novel that follows The Stranger. I wasn’t crazy about the last novel but really hoped that Erika Falck would return and dive into her mother’s history. In the Hidden Child, Erika procrastinates her current novel to spend time going through her mother’s chest and journals. Inside, she had also discovered a Nazi medal.

While Erika is working, Patrik is on paternity leave from the police force but is having a hard time letting go of work. Its an interesting look into how their relationship needed to change when Erika started working again and how the transition to a stay-at-home-parent can be incredibly hard.

I really enjoyed this story, everything about wartime Sweden and how resistance fighters worked, to how a loss so severe can traumatize someone for the rest of their lives, and how the Neo Nazi movement is gaining a foothold in Sweden.

Read December 2015

*Side note: I learned that when traveling, I can get a temporary library card at another library. So handy!

Modern Romance

Aziz Ansari’s book about dating in the 2010’s, Modern Romance, goes in depth about what its like to try to find love in the modern, technological era. It opened my eyes into things I wouldn’t have otherwise known, like there are apps out there if you just want to hook up with someone for the night! How crazy! I felt a little old reading it and it feels weird to write, but I met my husband the old-fashioned way…in college. How is that the old-fashioned way?!? Apparently people can’t meet each other in the real world anymore. Anyway, this was a very well researched and written book told in Ansari’s comic tone.

Highly recommend!

Read December 2015.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Ransom Rigg’s novel Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children tells the story of Jacob and what happens when he returns to the house that his grandfather lived during World War II. Jacob’s grandfather always told magical stories about his time spent on a small island off Wales, Cairnholm, where his parents sent him during the war.

Jacob always loved his grandfather, and loved his stories when he was little. As he grew, the stories became unbelievable, and Jacob wasn’t sure what to think about his grandfather’s childhood. When his grandfather is mysteriously killed, Jacob suffers through some post traumatic depression which he uses to convince his parents to allow him to travel to the island where his grandfather spent time.

Once Jacob and his father arrive at Cairnholm, Jacob discovers what happened to the home where his grandpa lived. The home was bombed on September 3, 1941 and all but his grandpa was killed. But he makes many more exciting, unbelievable discoveries once he ventures to the bombed out home and finds a secret world filled with his grandpa’s friends.

This is a whimsical, great read. I wasn’t sure what would happened and the middle and end of the story was very surprising.

Read November 2015.

The Boys in the Boat

In, The Boys in the Boat, Daniel James Brown tells the story of a group of college students from the University of Washington, raised during the depression, who went up against the elite, rich teams from the east coast schools and around the world, and took home the gold medal in Berlin in 1036.

Brown mostly focuses on Joe Rantz, a boy who was abandoned in western WA by his father and step-mother as a teenager, but worked hard and saved money to pay his way through school.

There are many emotional roller-coasters in this story, even knowing the end ahead of time. Brown educated me on all aspects of rowing as a sport and the equipment that they used at the time. So many things came together to have this rowing team defeat the great teams of the Eastern elite schools and the European teams who’s life and training were subsidized by their governments.

I’m not usually interested in non-fiction, but this story gripped me from the beginning. There are so many stories from how the boys earned money during one of the poorest eras in the country’s history, to interactions in Nazi Germany, that it kept my interest from beginning to end.

Great stories, very well told!

Read November 2015.

Nadia Knows Best

Jill Mansell’s Nadia Knows Best is a cute love story about Nadia Kinsella who is torn between two men. Laurie, the boy next door, has found fame and moving away from their small world. Jay, recently rescued Nadia in a snowstorm, but is charming and new.

This was an easy, simple read. Not much depth of character or story, but still an enjoyable read.

Read November 2015.