Cover Snapshot of Read Books

Sara's bookshelf: read

Crazy Little Thing
A Kiss at Midnight
The Disenchanted Widow
Hollywood Wives - The New Generation
There Goes the Bride
Table for Five
Do Not Disturb
The Husband's Secret
The Ugly Duchess
Help for the Haunted
The Power Trip
The Haunting of Maddy Clare
Summer At Willow Lake
Every Crooked Nanny
The Mystery Woman
The Woodcutter
How to Be an American Housewife

Sara's favorite books »

Thursday, July 31, 2014

BEST ON THE SHELF: Great Reads for Your Book Club

My Mom has asked me to help her Book Club find some great reads, so Mom this is for you!

#1 The Hundred- Foot Journey
Satisfying and Delightful

The Hundred – Foot Journey is my top pick for Book Clubs, this is one of the best books I have read this year.

Hassan grew up in his Grandfather’s restaurant in Mumbai and from a young age had a way with ingredients in the kitchen. Hassan was lucky as his family’s restaurant was a great success and that his Grandfather valued land more than money. When tragedy strikes, Hassan and his family leave Bombay and wander aimlessly until they land in France with plans to open an Indian restaurant.

Madame Mallory is a Michelin Star Chef who is most displeased when the boisterous Indian family moves in across from her establishment. Mallory is horrified and then angry when she learns the family plans on opening an Indian restaurant, a mere one hundred feet from hers. And yet when the Indian Restaurant opens, Mallory is compelled to try it, hoping to hate it with all her might. Instead she discovers that the teenage Hassan has talent in the kitchen--to her disbelief and horror! That moment changes two lives –giving one purpose and one opportunity…

And, if that is not enough, the movie The Hundred-Foot Journey (starring Helen Mirren) comes out August 8th! Read the book and then see the movie!

#2 The Storied Life of AJ Fikry
Complicated title, fantastic book

Book lovers will enjoy this quaint little story about a small-town bookstore and the people whose lives are impacted by the books they read. AJ Fikry is the central character, a cynical bookstore owner and widower, living a lonely life above his shop. AJ has strong book opinions, is a bit of a literary snob (be still my beating heart).  Late one winter night AJ finds an abandoned baby in his store and soon he finds that his life’s purpose is renewed.

Amelia works for a publisher, her job to sell books to such stores as the small-town Island Books. Over time and through many book discussions, she breaks through AJ’s shell and develops a friendship. Detective Lambaise is the wise and dependable character, a lonely man who befriends AJ and the baby, although he is “not much of a reader.” Eventually AJ influences the Detective and he starts reading books beyond those by James Patterson. Perhaps the story is less about AJ, and more about a little bookstore and the townspeople of Alice Island.

One of my favorite quotes from the book, “You know everything you need to know about a person from the answer to the question ‘What is your favorite book?’”

Do share, what is your favorite book?

Wednesday, May 7, 2014


My Beach Book Picks

The Mistress
I like to start a Vacation Book pile with a Patterson, James Patterson. I prefer the independent books (not the series). Patterson truly writes action packed page- turners building the excitement with one page chapters. This summer I chose The Mistress, I hope it is chock full of action adventure, perhaps to be read in one beach session?

Silence for the Dead
I've been waiting for this book to come out in paperback, and I’m thrilled that it did so before summer vacation. St. James tends to set strong female characters in mysterious and often ghostly World War 1 settings. I anticipate part romance, part mystery and a bit of suspense – sounds perfect!

How the Light Gets In
How the Light Gets In was nominated for the Edgar Awards this year, these are my favorite book awards (mystery) and I love that Louise Penny is getting recognition.  Louise Penny is a fantastic mystery author and I am a great fan of her lovely flawed wonderful characters. If you have not read Louise Penny, start with the first in the series – Still Life.

Yes, I am behind the times! I finally got Divergent in paperback and have been saving it to read at the beach.  My husband has already read this book and recommended it to me. I hear this is a fast read, and I love that it is the first in a series.

Lovers at the Chameleon Club*
*Book Club
I’m not a big fan of Historical Fiction; however this premise seems unique and fascinating. And,  this book  just got critical acclaim on Book Page (one of my favorite book websites).The subject is the Paris nightclub scene Post World War 1, with cross-dressing Lesbian Lou Villers as the lead character...

Sweet Expectations
This is my guilty pleasure, a Chick Lit book about a bakery, sounds like the perfect beach indulgence to me! 

Other books tossed in my beach bag: All the Summer Girls, Whiskey Beach, As The Pig Turns, Winter Lodge   Hmm…seems Chick Lit heavy, there is a strong chance I will buy a Mystery paperback at the beach!

Tell me, what books are going into your beach bag this year?

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Ghost Bride, a Fresh Spring Read

Unique, Fresh, Captivating

A young girl is asked to be the bride for a wealthy family – the catch is that she will also be a widow as her intended groom died several months ago.

In the late 1800's in Malacca, a Chinese influenced culture, the young Li Lan has learned that the wealthy Lim family has asked her father if she will be a Ghost Bride. The young son and heir to the Lim fortune has died and in old tradition the Lim family wants someone to marry their son as a way to placate his spirit. Li Lan knows that she does not want to be a Ghost Bride and yet she also realizes that the marriage would elevate her family status and fortune.

The Ghost Bride is a novel about tradition, family and ghosts. Li lan has to figure out what she wants for her future and if she can live with the choices that she makes.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley

 Rebecca Read-A-Likes

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier is a beloved classic Gothic novel, so imagine my delight when I discovered Alena, a new book release with similar premise. In my mind, I always see the Hitchcock movie Rebecca, an old black and white film starring Joan Fontaine and Lawrence Olivier--ah a classic! After reading several pages of Alena via a Kindle sample, I quickly recommended Alena for my Book Club.

Sadly, Alena was a disappointment for me. While comparisons may be made between Alena and Rebecca, Rebecca remains far superior. The Preface of Alena is lovely and eloquent but the middle and end became dull and plain. It seemed almost as if a different author wrote the introduction. Alena, the novel’s namesake is the mysteriously absent curator of an art museum, the circumstances behind her disappearance are unknown. The main protagonist is an un-named na├»ve young lady who befriends a rich old man and soon finds herself appointed the new curator. It will be hard for the new curator as Alena’s presence is everywhere and constant comparisons and insecurities abound…

My recommendation is to bypass Alena and instead read these two contemporary novels:

The Vanishing by Wendy Webb
Eccentric, Mysterious, Fantastic

The Vanishing is a modern gothic novel that has more of that Rebecca-type story, including the haunting and the creepy mansion. Julia is a modern-day widow, her husband recently committed suicide after a Bernie Madeoff scheme - leaving her broke and isolated. When a wealthy family gives Julia an offer to be a live-in companion at their remote mansion, she really has nothing to lose. As soon as Julia arrives at Havenwood she starts hearing voices and starts believing that perhaps the mansion and its residents are haunted. The Vanishing sets the right tone, built the mystery and was immensely readable.

The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro
Ambitious, Noteworthy, Unique

Claire is a struggling artist, barely able to afford living in her one room studio when she is presented a tremendous if perhaps illegal opportunity. If she paints a replica Degas, a famous gallery owner (Markel) will give her a one woman show. She does not know what plans Markel has with her replica or the original painting, but she knows that she has willingly made a deal with the devil. As her relationship with the handsome gallery owner evolves into romance, she fears what will happen to them if they get caught. And yet, her ambition and desire get the best of her, how much will she compromise to ensure that her work gets noticed?

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Review: The Golem and the Jinni

The Golem and the Jinni
The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Intellectual, Creative, Complex

Finally finally finished! The beginning of this novel is fascinating and wondrous. I loved the idea of the story, one written about a Golem (clay creature) and a Jinni (Arabic Supernatural Spirit) who meet by chance in New York (such a new and interesting premise). The Golem’s Master has died unexpectedly and she must figure out how to live as a human when she needs no food or sleep and has superhuman strength. The Jinni was trapped in a container for a thousand years, he is glad to be out in the world again although this world is one he does not recognize. Because he is drawn to fire, he is a natural metalsmith. Both creatures are restless, frustrated and struggling to pose as humans in a complex world. The Golem and Jinni recognize the non-human in each other and forge an unlikely friendship. Alas, the constraints of the human world may be more than either can survive.

I had thought of choosing this book for Book Club as I read the first few compelling pages in the bookstore, but wow, this is a hard book to finish. A fellow Book club member read this book too and said she was glad that I had not chosen it; it was too lengthy and too intellectual for the book group. Notably, I stopped reading (e-reader) at 50% and set this book aside for months as the middle of the book just could not keep my attention.

Well written, but oh so long!

View all my reviews

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

To Read – Add These to Your List!

 A Few Books I Enjoyed in 2013...

The year of 2013 was somewhat disappointing to me as a reader. I did not love or even like many of the books that I read - despite Kindle Samples and Goodreads Recommendations, I found very few books that I would rate as above average. The few I enjoyed are listed in brief below:

How to Be An American Housewife
My favorite book club pick of 2013 was How to Be An American Housewife by Margaret Dilloway. The story seems almost as if it is an authentic memoir as it recaps the life of a young Japanese woman in WWII who chose to marry an American GI in order to give herself a better life. Shoko has her secrets as she leaves her family and home to move to America with her new husband. Her one insight into the ways of American Culture are attained only in a little book called How to Be An American Housewife. The story is told through both mother (past and present) and also through her estranged Japanese American daughter.

Other books outside of book club that I enjoyed include:

Code Name Verity
This is also a WWII book which follows the lives of two young British female spies in Germany – this would be a great read for book club. Don’t let the YA genre mislead you, this is a captivating book.

From the Kitchen of Half Truth
I wish I had chosen this book for my book club pick; I enjoyed this special and quirky novel. Meg is OCD, the complete opposite of her eccentric mother who loves cooking and fairy tales. Meg loved her childhood until she realized that all of her mother’s stories were make-believe.

The Gravity of Birds
Another book I wish I had discovered prior to book club. Famous ArtistThomas Bayber suddenly reveals in old age that he has a few other paintings, paintings which may be priceless if they exist. Long ago Bayber summered in a cottage near the Kessler family. Bayber painted the young Kessler girls and dramatically impacted their young lives and the past and present drama unfolds from there.

Oh Really wish I had chosen this for book club…
Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures
Who isn’t fascinated by Old Hollywood Glamour? At a young age, Laura Lamont leaves the Midwest for a hopeful movie career in Hollywood. Of course it doesn’t all go as planned and yet her California life is interesting as she works in the Hollywood Golden Age.  I didn’t choose this book initially because reviewers were disappointed that this wasn’t a memoir. It does read as one, and in my imagination it could be any great Dame from the black and white AMC Golden Age, alas it is fiction.
 READ READ READ and Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

E-Reader Free Sample Addiction

This year I had trouble choosing a book for my book club and I turned to my Kindle to download some free book samples to help me make my choice. I found several book snippets that sounded as though they had promise only to let me down once I started reading. I went through countless samples, reading chapter after chapter in search of that next great book club find… to no avail. And after each sample disappointment, I would go back to the kindle store in search of another free sample. I soon realized that I am a Try-A-Sample Addict! Oh the savvy book marketers – they make sure those first chapters are engaging with spark but they haven’t followed through to ensure the fire continues through the middle to the conclusion.

Books that I explored for my book club included Earls at The Supremes All You can Eat (perhaps I love the authors story better than the book). I really wanted to like this Southern novel but the sample did not speak to me. I also sampled The Pilgrimage of Harold Frye which was a little serious for my taste. And so I continued to download MORE samples…

“Try a Sample” tried for my Book Club:
  • A Hundred Summers,
  • Whistling Past the Graveyard,
  • The Scent of Rain and Lightning,
  • Tell the Wolves I’m Home,
  • The Drowning House,
  • Fin & Lady,
  • Beautiful Day,
  • From the Kitchen of Half Truth,
  • The Golem and the Jinni,
  • The Engagements,
  • The Witch of Little Italy

Yep, confirmed, a Try-A-Sample Addict! I did actually purchase and read a few of the books that I tried. Although, sadly, I believe that all this try before you buy took my book club choosing mojo away. Which leaves me wondering, are the Try a Samples a hindrance or a value add to the book reading experience? What are your thoughts?