January 2020–Part Two

Thank you for joining me here.    (Reminder: the page numbers I list here reflect the number of Kindle pages, not paper pages.  Thank you!)  I hope you enjoy this series.

Book #1:

Daisy Jones and the SixDaisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid (Length: 369 pages).  I’m VERY late to the party on this one, but I’m really glad I finally picked it up.  This is such a FUN book to read as it’s about the formation and evolution of a band in the 1960s and 1970s, including all of the details about the rock and roll lifestyle and drug use (but it’s not gratuitous which I appreciate).  The format is a bit unique . . .it’s in interview form, but I found I actually enjoyed how it kept the various characters’ storylines separate.  The plot is a bit predictable but there is a little bit of a twist at the end (which I always like).  I’d say this is much more about the characters and less about the plot.  Having said that, this novel is totally movie-ready, complete with all of the song lyrics at the end.  Not deep enough to permit discussion as a book club book, in my opinion, but a poolside, weekend read for sure.   

From the publisher:

Everyone knows DAISY JONES & THE SIX, but nobody knows the reason behind their split at the absolute height of their popularity . . . until now.

Daisy is a girl coming of age in L.A. in the late sixties, sneaking into clubs on the Sunset Strip, sleeping with rock stars, and dreaming of singing at the Whisky a Go Go. The sex and drugs are thrilling, but it’s the rock ’n’ roll she loves most. By the time she’s twenty, her voice is getting noticed, and she has the kind of heedless beauty that makes people do crazy things.

Also getting noticed is The Six, a band led by the brooding Billy Dunne. On the eve of their first tour, his girlfriend Camila finds out she’s pregnant, and with the pressure of impending fatherhood and fame, Billy goes a little wild on the road.

Daisy and Billy cross paths when a producer realizes that the key to supercharged success is to put the two together. What happens next will become the stuff of legend.

The making of that legend is chronicled in this riveting and unforgettable novel, written as an oral history of one of the biggest bands of the seventies. Taylor Jenkins Reid is a talented writer who takes her work to a new level with Daisy Jones & The Six, brilliantly capturing a place and time in an utterly distinctive voice.

Book #2: 

What happens in paradiseWhat Happens in Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand (Length: 337 pages).  Ugh.  I gave in and I hate myself for falling for this author’s little game.  😉  Part 2 of the trilogy (I reviewed Part 1 earlier this month), and the main plot point in the central “mystery” is STILL not resolved.  I’m a total sucker.  I still dislike the main characters as they are still self-absorbed and shallow, if not even MORE so.  The best part of this book is the scenery and setting of St John, but I’d rather read a travel guide than this book.  Let it be known that I will NOT read the final book of the trilogy when it’s released.  

From the publisher:

A year ago, Irene Steele had the shock of her life: her loving husband, father to their grown sons and successful businessman, was killed in a helicopter crash. But that wasn’t Irene’s only shattering news: he’d also been leading a double life on the island of St. John, where another woman loved him, too.

Now Irene and her sons are back on St. John, determined to learn the truth about the mysterious life — and death — of a man they thought they knew. Along the way, they’re about to learn some surprising truths about their own lives, and their futures.

Lush with the tropical details, romance, and drama that made Winter in Paradise a national bestseller, What Happens in Paradise is another immensely satisfying page-turner from one of America’s most beloved and engaging storytellers.

Book #3: 

The Dutch HouseThe Dutch House by Ann Patchett (Length: 352 pages).  I’m not sure why but I haven’t yet read anything by Ann Patchett.  (Bel Canto has been on my TBR list forever, and I have it lined up to read later this year).  I adore a sweeping family saga, and this one fits the bill.  The writing is excellent, and the setting is an old, beautiful house in Pennsylvania, built by a Dutch family.  The focus is on a modern-day family who lived in the house, specifically the brother and sister of the new owners.  The author explores the relationship of the siblings, specifically how the pair navigate their mother leaving them (and their father) as young children.  The mother has a “saint” personality and feels called to care for other people.  This book is VERY long and very detailed, but it’s worth the journey if you enjoy character-based novels as I do.  This one is too long for a typical book club read (members may revolt!) but this is a fantastic vacation read.  I’d love to read it en route to Europe.  

From the publisher:

From the New York Times bestselling author of Commonwealth and State of Wonder, comes Ann Patchett’s most powerful novel to date: a richly moving story that explores the indelible bond between two siblings, the house of their childhood, and a past that will not let them go. The Dutch House is the story of a paradise lost, a tour de force that digs deeply into questions of inheritance, love and forgiveness, of how we want to see ourselves and of who we really are.

At the end of the Second World War, Cyril Conroy combines luck and a single canny investment to begin an enormous real estate empire, propelling his family from poverty to enormous wealth. His first order of business is to buy the Dutch House, a lavish estate in the suburbs outside of Philadelphia. Meant as a surprise for his wife, the house sets in motion the undoing of everyone he loves.

The story is told by Cyril’s son Danny, as he and his older sister, the brilliantly acerbic and self-assured Maeve, are exiled from the house where they grew up by their stepmother. The two wealthy siblings are thrown back into the poverty their parents had escaped from and find that all they have to count on is one another. It is this unshakeable bond between them that both saves their lives and thwarts their futures.

Set over the course of five decades, The Dutch House is a dark fairy tale about two smart people who cannot overcome their past. Despite every outward sign of success, Danny and Maeve are only truly comfortable when they’re together. Throughout their lives they return to the well-worn story of what they’ve lost with humor and rage. But when at last they’re forced to confront the people who left them behind, the relationship between an indulged brother and his ever-protective sister is finally tested.

Book #4: 

Matchmaking for BeginnersMatchmaking for Beginners by Maddie Dawson (Length: 378 pages).  I freaking ADORE this book!!  This is a “chick lit” book that’s incredibly well-written, with fantastic characters who are deeply-drawn.  The plot is compulsively readable, making this a very fast read.  I enjoyed the magic and spells/witchcraft angle and how the author explores the idea that energy connects all of us.  The main character Blix (who is totally Kathy Bates in our minds as we read, per my mother) has a mantra which I love:  “Whatever happens, love that.”  This is probably the best romance novel I’ve ever read.  Please read this and let me know if you agree.  

From the publisher:

“A delightful, light-as-air romance that successfully straddles the line between sweet and smart without ever being silly…The novel is simply captivating from beginning to end.” —Associated Press

Marnie MacGraw wants an ordinary life—a husband, kids, and a minivan in the suburbs. Now that she’s marrying the man of her dreams, she’s sure this is the life she’ll get. Then Marnie meets Blix Holliday, her fiancé’s irascible matchmaking great-aunt who’s dying, and everything changes—just as Blix told her it would.

When her marriage ends after two miserable weeks, Marnie is understandably shocked. She’s even more astonished to find that she’s inherited Blix’s Brooklyn brownstone along with all of Blix’s unfinished “projects”: the heartbroken, oddball friends and neighbors running from happiness. Marnie doesn’t believe she’s anything special, but Blix somehow knew she was the perfect person to follow in her matchmaker footsteps.

And Blix was also right about some things Marnie must learn the hard way: love is hard to recognize, and the ones who push love away often are the ones who need it most.

Book #5: 

Little FortressLittle Fortress by Laisha Rosnau (Length: 322 written pages).  This is an interesting Canadian novel (making it difficult to locate locally) based on a true story of an Italian “duchess”, her personal secretary/companion and her daughter who lived in total seclusion in a home in British Columbia for 25 years.  Think Canadian Grey Gardens.  The novel focuses mostly on Miss Juul, the personal secretary, and her life, which jumps around a lot in her service from Denmark, Italy, Egypt then Canada.  The writing is excellent, and the backstory is fascinating, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to read this.  I’m much more interested in reading the diaries of the daughter which were just opened (as she forbade anyone from opening them until 25 years after her death).  

From the publisher:

In this captivating and intricate novel Laisha Rosnau introduces us to three women, each of whom is storied enough to have their own novel and who, together, make for an unforgettable tale. Based on the true story of the Caetanis, Italian nobility driven out of their home by the rise in fascism who chose exile in Vernon, BC, Rosnau brings to life Ofelia Caetani, her daughter Sveva Caetani and their personal secretary, Miss Juul. Miss Juul is the voice of the novel, a diminutive Danish woman who enters into employment with the Caetani family in Italy before the birth of Sveva, stays with them through twenty-five years of seclusion at their home in Vernon, and past the death of Ofelia. Little Fortress is a story of a shifting world, with the death of its age-old nobility, and of the intricacies of the lives of women caught up in these grand changes. It is a story of friendship, class, betrayal and love.

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