Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Summer Rental by Mary Kay Andrews

Book Description:
Sometimes, when you need a change in your life, the tide just happens to pull you in the right direction….

Ellis, Julia, and Dorie. Best friends since Catholic grade school, they now find themselves, in their mid-thirties, at the crossroads of life and love. Ellis, recently fired from a job she gave everything to, is rudderless and now beginning to question the choices she's made over the past decade of her life. Julia—whose caustic wit covers up her wounds--has a man who loves her and is offering her the world, but she can't hide from how deeply insecure she feels about her looks, her brains, her life. And Dorie has just been shockingly betrayed by the man she loved and trusted the most in the world…though this is just the tip of the iceberg of her problems and secrets. A month in North Carolina's Outer Banks is just what they each of them needs.

Ty Bazemore is their landlord, though he's hanging on to the rambling old beach house by a thin thread. After an inauspicious first meeting with Ellis, the two find themselves disturbingly attracted to one another, even as Ty is about to lose everything he's ever cared about.

Maryn Shackleford is a stranger, and a woman on the run. Maryn needs just a few things in life: no questions, a good hiding place, and a new identity. Show More Ellis, Julia, and Dorie can provide what Maryn wants; can they also provide what she needs?

Five people questioning everything they ever thought they knew about life. Five people on a journey that will uncover their secrets and point them on the path to forgiveness. Five people who each need a sea change, and one month in a summer rental that might just give it to them.

This story of three best friends and a summer rental is a wonderful beach read. Nothing here is a surprise, but despite the formulaic plot, the writing elevates this otherwise predictable beach read. The sub-plot with the woman on the run felt like a bit of an add-on and was certainly wrapped up a little too easily. All in all though, a decent addition to the Andrews canon and certainly a great book to help wrap up your summer vacation.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Foxy's Tale: The Reluctant Vampire by Karen Fraunfelder Cantwell & L B Gschwandtner

Book Description:
A comic, chick lit tale wherein former beauty queen Foxy Anders, who's fallen on hard times, rents an apartment to mysterious, bumbling Myron Standlish who’s arrived in the city looking for a long lost trunk containing who knows what. When Foxy’s teenage daughter, Amanda hooks up with Nick, a cute guy at school, while getting cooking lessons from Foxy's new assistant Knot, they’re all in for some romance with a dash of suspense and a sprinkle of supernatural.

I wasn't sure what to expect with this book- after all, the whole vampire thing is getting to be a bit much. At its heart though, this is a story about families and relationships not about blood sucking creatuers of the night. Foxy is a former beauty queen recently dumped by her former NFL-star husband and struggling to parent her daughter when she is barely a real grownup herself. She's a shopaholic who worries constantly about her daughter Amanda's goth style and only has a decent business because of the work of Knot Knudsen, a guy who basically wandered in off the street to rent a room only to become her antique store's savior. Add in a third boarder, weird Myron who keeps blood in the fridge, and Amanda's wish that her Mom was more like June Cleaver, and you have an amusing cast of quirky characters that are surprisingly compelling.

The book is well-written and funny, and I enjoyed it more than I anticipated. The book resonates because it has heart, and the oddball characters all have a pathos that make their stories compelling. All in all an excellent summer read; I look forward to the next installment in this unusual series. 4 stars.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb by Melanie Benjamin

Book Description:
“Never would I allow my size to define me. Instead, I would define it.”

She was only two-foot eight-inches tall, but her legend reaches out to us more than a century later. As a child, Mercy Lavinia “Vinnie” Bump was encouraged to live a life hidden away from the public. Instead, she reached out to the immortal impresario P. T. Barnum, married the tiny superstar General Tom Thumb in the wedding of the century, and transformed into the world’s most unexpected celebrity.

Here, in Vinnie’s singular and spirited voice, is her amazing adventure—from a showboat “freak” revue where she endured jeering mobs to her fateful meeting with the two men who would change her life: P. T. Barnum and Charles Stratton, AKA Tom Thumb. Their wedding would captivate the nation, preempt coverage of the Civil War, and usher them into the White House and the company of presidents and queens. Show More But Vinnie’s fame would also endanger the person she prized most: her similarly-sized sister, Minnie, a gentle soul unable to escape the glare of Vinnie’s spotlight.

Before reading this book, I knew very little about Lavinia Warren other than the fact that she was married to General Tom Thumb. In this well-imagined look at her life, Melanie Benjamin recreates a unique time in American history populated by larger-than-life characters (no matter what their size). Once I started this engaging book, I simply couldn't put it down. Combining historical fact with well-researched creative license, Benjamin crafted a highly enjoyable work of historical fiction. This book is a must-read for anyone who enjoyed Alice I Have Been or who enjoys the early history of the circus.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Herb 'n' Lorna by Eric Kraft

Book Description:
Herb Piper lives with his clever and vivacious wife Lorna in the tranquil, seaside Long Island town of Babbington. Herb sells Studebakers, putters in his basement, fancies himself an inventor, and struggles against his habit of making bad investments. Bright afternoons and well-tended lawns fill the couple’s quiet, unassuming life, the very picture of Norman Rockwell’s America. But Herb and Lorna have concealed from each other a pair of curious secrets, deceptions at the heart of a marriage that register the delightful, universal mystique of human sexuality.

Presented as the biography of the grandparents of a well-known fictional character, this lovely novel is a strangely engaging read. Though the book starts off slow and is a little difficult to really sink into, once the story takes off, it is difficult to put down. Well-written, sweet, funny, and a little naughty, this novel was an unexpectedly enjoyable offering. Herb and Lorna are wonderful characters that I found myself totally invested in- the grandparents any of us would love to have. This story of an ordinary family, its place in history, and its quirky secrets offers hours of enjoyment that you will want to share with your friends and family. 4 stars (would have been 5 if I hadn't started and stopped a couple of times before I finally got hooked).