June 2006

I hope you all are enjoying this page on the website as much as I am enjoying writing it. I’ve always wanted to be a reviewer and, if I chose to review only books I like, it’s because I know each of us has individual tastes. What I might not like, is something you adore. And vice versa.

But actually, I read blurbs and reviews, and by the time I head for the bookstore, I’m pretty sure I’m going to enjoy what I buy.

As some of you may know, Susan Wiggs is an auto-buy for me, and her latest paperback TABLE FOR FIVE was really terrific. It has a fairly heavy subject – the death of the parents of three vulnerable children – but Wiggs handles it like a champ. With real sensitivity and wonderful insight, she explores the depth and layers of grief. She deals not just with the kids’ feelings of shock and guilt and abandonment, but with their uncle Sean Maguire’s fear of inadequacy as he takes on the responsibility of a family he never expected to have, and the longing for connection with her best friend’s children that haunts Lily Robinson. How Sean and Lily help the kids and each other through this perilous time, how they shift and nudge and butt-heads to form a new and special kind of family is a tale best read with a box of tissues nearby.

During my recent stay in California, I met and became friends with Lynna Banning, and I’m so glad I did. That’s partly because I’ve enjoyed our lunches together so much, but it’s also because she writes the kind of historical romances that are so hard to find these days – really good westerns. In THE RANGER AND THE READHEAD, prim, proper preacher’s daughter Charlotte Greenfield is heading west to teach at an Indian school in Oregon. When she is taken captive mid-way across the plains, she is rescued by Will Bondurant, a man on a mission of his own. Will agrees, since he’s headed that way anyhow, to escort Charlotte west – but on his own terms. What ensues as they travel together is a battle of the sexes which is funny, touching, and sexy all at once. I loved watching both these stubborn characters bend, fall in love, and find their happily ever after. Lynna has a new book LONER’S LADY coming out in the not too distant future, and I think after how I enjoyed the story of Charlotte and Will, that will go on my to-buy list, too.

My reading group recently read and discussed a novel by Lionel Shriver entitled WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN – and it made for a very fascinating and disturbing discussion. While this is not a book I would recommend for everyone, once I got past the very real horror of reading about the subject – the aftermath of a school shooting – I found the novel downright compelling. Told in letters between Eva, the protagonist, and her long-absent husband Franklin, Eva takes a hard look at herself, Franklin, their marriage, and Kevin, their son. The letters are her attempt to answer the unanswerable question of what went wrong, what led Kevin to kill nine of his high school classmates one spring afternoon. It is a deep, psychological dissection that examines the debate of nature vs. nurture in minute and excruciating detail, and probed deep when it comes to trying to understand the very worst of human nature. WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN doesn’t offer any pat answers. It wasn’t an easy book to either read or to talk about, but I’m not sorry I read it. I think it’s a story that will haunt me for a very long time.

Then, for something entirely different, I picked up Phillipa Gregory’s THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL, which I am enjoying very much.

That’s all for now. Happy reading, and if you’d like to contact me about books you are enjoying, too, feel free to do so. I’m always looking for some good new authors.

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