Lilac Girls and Vinegar Girl

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Diametrically Opposed Books About “Girls,” by Ellen Ward

LILAC GIRLS bylilac girl kelly York Times Bestseller List has already declared Martha Hall Kelly’s debut novel a book to be reckoned with.  But let me add that, in the opinion of this bookseller, LILAC GIRLS is one of the finest books I’ve read all year. 

Expertly told from the point of view of three women who experienced the holocaust in different ways, you cannot help but be drawn into their stories.  The American, Carolyn Ferriday, and the German doctor, Herta Oberhauser, are historical characters; their backgrounds have been meticulously        researched by Kelly.  The third story is fictitious, but all too real among the atrocities of war; in this case, Kasia, captured as a young girl, is the victim of medical experimentation at a concentration camp, Ravensbruck, an actual all-women’s camp known for hideous surgeries on its prisoners.

It’s a dark time in history, but much seems relevant to today’s highly charged political climate:  xenophobia, propaganda, and a glaring naiveté to what is happening right in front of us.  Still, Lilac Girls is oddly hopeful.  In the end there is forgiveness, rebuilding and enduring love.  We all know the story of the Holocaust and how it ends, but reading this award-worthy novel will give you sparks of enlightenment, contributing to an awareness that may keep us from repeating the past.


VINEGAR GIRL by Anne Tyler

Ivinegarn this thin volume, Anne Tyler does what she does best—develop quirky, loveable characters with lives trapped in the mundane.  Whether it’s a mother walking down the beach and never coming back, or a businessman who writes travelogues for a living, Tyler’s characters are stuck in motion, defensive about their quicksand lives until they see freedom on the horizon.

Kate Battista is the Vinegar Girl, and Pyotr, her father’s lab assistant, is freedom, no matter how unattractively it’s packaged.  Tyler’s novels are not so much surprising as they are pleasantly familiar, like catching up with a good friend you haven’t talked to in years. VINEGAR GIRL is a quick read with a satisfying story but nothing that will keep you up at night pondering its philosophical implications.  What makes this Anne Tyler novel unique is that it is a modern retelling of William Shakespeare’s THE TAMING OF THE SHREW.  Those who enjoyed READERS OF BROKEN WHEEL RECOMMEND will jump rightinto the plotline of VINEGAR GIRL. Signed first editions are available at FoxTale Book Shoppe.

I’m just sayin….

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Maya's Notebook

I just finished Isabel Allende’s new novel, “Maya’s Notebook.”  Excuse me here while I SWOON.  I have read some of Allende’s work and know her to be a great writer, but this, THIS IS AMAZING.  First of all, the idea of writing the story in her notebook is right up my alley, I love anything and everything about notebooks, pens, paper, writing and pouring out souls onto paper. 

This notebook, Maya’s notebook, is the story of an extraordinary young woman, a survivor, a can you believe it kind of character that I liked from the first page.  Maya’s grandfather, her Popo, her hero, her constant, is key in this story.  I’m the kind of reader who does not read fly leaves or back covers because I hate to know what the story is going to be, I only want to experience it myself and that is why I’m not going to do that here by telling you more.  What I am going to tell you is if you miss this story with this caliber of writing, then you miss.  Sadly.  Allende is a genius at setting up the scene where you find yourself so intensely IN the story that even the phone ringing was so foreign in the scene that I screamed from my chair when Jaq called from FoxTale.  Whew! 

I happen to know a great little indie who has a copy waiting for your weekend read.  RUN and snatch up this little gem while you can.


~ Karen




Yes, Jojo Moyes, You Made Me Cry

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Me Before You, Jojo Moyes

There were two reasons I wasn’t interested in reading this book.

1. Stupid Title–I’m sorry, but ME BEFORE YOU just screams sappy, stupid love story, and SOMEBODY could have/should have come up with something much better.  In fact just about anything would have been more interesting  and attention-grabbing than Me Before You.

2. Stupid Premise–“Before Louisa met Will, her plans didn’t reach beyond their tiny English town. Will, when he wasn’t closing multimillion-dollar deals, blew off steam scaling mountains, leaping from planes, and enjoying exquisite women — until an accident left him paralyzed and seriously depressed.” Gag.  Trite, made-for-tv movie material.  You have to figure there’s some romance involved, and I SO didn’t want to go there.  Seriously, could the publisher have done a worse job of promoting this book, of turning off potential readers before they even gave it a chance?  (You do realize that authors don’t write the book flap material and oftentimes don’t pick their titles, thus my irritation at the publisher.)  However, Karen read it and recommended it, so in I went.  And was surprised and had to eat my negative preconceived notions and admit that this is one truly amazing book.

The whole handicapped aspect was handled well, for one thing.  It wasn’t over-dramatized, but there was accurate detail sufficient to have you empathize with Will and his point-of-view.  And Louisa was a much more complex character than I first suspected.   I won’t give any spoilers, but there are some meaty issues in MBY that gave me serious food for thought, issues I thought I had already made my mind up on, but now . . . Let’s just say I was right there beside Louisa, flipflopping all over the place and practically yelling at the characters in the book, such was my involvement in their no-easy-solution problems.

Yes, Jojo Moyes, you made me cry.  Are you happy now???  But not because MBY was depressing or sappy or predictable.  I cried because you transported me to the shabby closet-sized life of a quirky British non-dreamer and made me BE that girl who was forced to abandon fear, despite her best efforts to hang tenaciously onto it.  THAT is what I would write on your book jacket, Jojo.  And:  Challenge yourself and your set-in-stone ideals, put your own fear on the chopping block, ignore the blase title, and READ Me Before You, A Novel.

Sunny Saturday

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Image of Elizabeth GraverWhat a gorgeous spring day in beautiful downtown Kennesaw.  Yes, Kennesaw because I am stuck at home with a yukky cold!  No matter, I have retreated to the porch chaise lounge in the sun, to read, of course.  Today’s offering is a novel by an author I’ve never read, Elizabeth Graver.  The novel “End of the Point” is her 4th novel and I wonder why I’ve missed her thus far.  I rather pride myself on being up to date on most authors but Elizabeth’s work has eluded me until now.  I like to know about an author once I start a book, so I’ve been on her website and looked at her other work.  Gorgeous covers and titles!  And whoever said that you don’t judge a book by its cover??!!!  Who are they kidding??  I DO.  🙂  just sos you know.

This is a character driven, sweeping family novel but I can’t say much more because I’ve thus only dipped my toes in to the “End of the Point.”  I will say the writing is exquisite, I find myself wanting to read passages out loud just to hear the beauty of the language but my raspy voice doesn’t do much for it right now.  So, off with my pot of tea and book.  If you’ve read anything by this author, holler back and let me know!



Rainy Monday

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Blissful rainy Monday off day means I can spend the day reading!  The only problem is deciding what to read from the plethora surrounding me…  Will it be “The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow” by Rita Leganski or “Bright’s Passage” recommended by River Jordan or a classic “West into the Night” by Beryl Markham?  Tune in later to see what I chose!