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Cross-Generational Romance in Fiction: Review: The Great Fire: A Novel by Shirley Hazzard

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My Interest

I learned of this book from Modern Mrs. Darcy’s recent post Where I Get My Best Book Recs + 8 Recent Reads I Loved.

When I started this blog, I intended to focus more on my own hope-to-be-books which are, at present, still manuscripts. My focus is old man–younger woman romantic stories. Not formula “romance,” just romantic. No trophy wives. No creepers. Just honest, decent older man–younger woman love stories.  I’ve posted several reviews over the years of this blog of what I term “Cross-Generational Romance” both in fiction/film or in real life. You can use the Word Cloud to find them, or in the search box type Cross-Generational. Last week I posted a Real Life Cross-Generational Romance–the wedding of Lady Kitty Spencer and Michael Lewis. You can read that post here.

Anyway, when I read Anne Bogel’s post linked above, I thought “HOW have a missed this novel??” I went immediately to my library’s website and was thrilled to bits to find an available e-audio copy–exactly what I needed to thoroughly enjoy this book.

The Story

“My need of your words: for such closeness there should be a word beyond love.”

Aldred Leith, son of a famous writer, is stationed in occupied Japan with the British Army. The Commander’s terminally ill son and daughter, both late teens, quickly become his dearest friends in Japan. Benedict, suffering from a rare illness, and Helen, his caretaker sister, have led a life largely disconnected from their parents and are now back on the periphery of their parent’s official life. Aldred and Helen find soulmates in each other.

My Thoughts

This is a hard book to review. I listened to it, and did not have time while doing so to pull over and write down some of the many quotes I loved which is a shame. Those one at the top of this post I found on Goodreads. The delicacy of the relationship, of Aldred’s ethics, morals, and his awareness of Helen being so young are well-handled. I just plain loved this book. I will probably buy it and even let myself re-read it some day! (I’m 59–I’ve pretty much quit re-reading except for a couple of “old friends”).

I have done this book no justice and I so loved it!

My Verdict

4.0

The Great Fire by Shirley Hazzard

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Review: The Cookbook Club by Beth Harbison

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My Interest

I love to cook. I thought the idea of a group getting together to share dishes from one cookbook sounded really fun! I’d enjoy that in real life. I also needed an audio for my commute. I then discovered this was why I’d found and enjoyed another of Harbison’s books, When in Doubt, Add Butter.

The Story

Margo’s husband walks out on her, leaving her shocked. She find a meet-up for a cookbook club in her area and goes. There she meets Aja (“Asia) and Trista. The club provides the friendships she’s been needing.

Along the way we come to know Margo’s college buddy, big-name star Max who is finding privacy, redoing the farm house Margo got in the divorce. We meet Brice and his step-brother Lewis, too, through Trista’s post-law career as a bar owner and restaurateur. Finally there is the fraught Lucinda and Michael duo–mother and son, with whom Aja is involved.

My Thoughts

While I enjoyed this story, I felt the actual cookbook club was forgotten and worked back in here and there. It may be that the marketing people fell on that for the title and that the author had not intended it to be such a big thing in the story–she may have meant to use the club’s choices for each meeting as an anchor for the chapter and marketing went over-the-top with the idea. Or maybe the first chapter sold the book and then seat-of-the-pants storytelling hijacked the idea.

I liked the characters and their stories were well told but definitely had a “seat of the pants” feel to the storytelling. The chapters alternated among the three women’s stories and the friendships grow, the backstories emerge, their lives are revealed, but then it was just over–and awkwardly with a few story lines such as that of Margo’s ex-husband. [Minor spoiler] For example, I did not see why she needed to call the police when he was in no way threatening. That was odd. Max is involved with Margo’s YouTube, and the author seemed to be setting up conflict, but that just disappeared until the epilogue in which the stories were neatly tied up.

This story was good–but had the potential to be so much better. Opportunities for conflict and subsequent character development were ignored. And, while the food was good, especially in the recipe-testing scenes in Trista’s bar, and there is added content with recipes, I thought it odd that more wasn’t done with this–maybe all of the ladies coming together to start a restaurant or cooking school with locally-sourced organic produce or something like that. I thought that was the obvious destination but perhaps that was too obvious. Instead we ended with “that’s all” basically. Too bad. That could have led to a nice sequel.

As a nice, light story, it was fine. The characters were believable and likeable. The story checked a lot of good boxes for most potential readers–cooking healthy, book club, angst about having real friends,good food, trendy activities like yoga and YouTube, restoring houses, and more. I really hoped with the great description of Margo’s “curated” kitchen in the first chapter that there’d be more of this, too, but no. The cookbooks chosen seemed pretty simple–The Joy of Cooking, Magnolia Table, Linda McCartney’s vegan cookbook and a few others of that caliber seemed less than inspired for such a group. There was zero diversity, which could have been too contrived for the story, but seems an obvious thing to miss in a foodie book. Other cultures are what makes food so interesting.

Never the less, I look forward to more from this author and will likely read more from her backlist.

My Verdict

3.0

The Cook Book Club by Beth Harbison

 

Also by Beth Harbison

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My Review of When in Doubt Just Add Butter

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Review: Bring Your Baggage and Don’t Pack Light: Essays by Helen Ellis

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My Interest

Helen Ellis, rose to fame on Twitter as What I Do All Day. In addition to being a Twitter-phenom, she is also a pro poker player and housewife turned writer-author of Southern Lady Code, and American  Housewife as well as an early novel. I fell in love when I encountered her essay in which she thinks her husband wants a divorce, but he just really wants the crap off the dining room table. I could relate. By the way, her husband sounds just this side of perfect–so much so that he’s a literary crush of mine now.  I won’t ever Google him–it would spoil our relationship. I want him to have a cleft chin, Michael Middleton’s smile and his snazzy blue blazer, and a pair of really great Italian loafers. Swoon. It’s ok, Helen. He’s all yours. I swear.

The Story

This time around Helen has published more essays. I was pleased to see that her professional poker career was among the topics covered in this book. The first line hooked me:

“From the start of our grown-ass ladies trip to Panama City Beach, aka ‘The Redneck Riviera,’ Paige and I could see that Vicky was having a hard time.”

Never mind poor Vicky’s suddenly-empty nest, and I am truly sorry about her bad mammogram, but when it’s hot as hell here in Southern Ohio, folks head to a spot of even greater heat and denser humidity–Panama City Beach. My own [adult] kid has gone there on vacation and I have the t-shirt to prove it. So, Helen got my attention.

As she moves through the various essays, there were, as always, moments I could shake my head and say “Amen, sister.” Especially in “Are You There,  Menopause? It’s Me, Helen,” which provided my favorite quote [the punctuation may be a little iffy here because I listened to the audio book]

You need “all the tampon sizes: mini golf pencil, dill pickle spear, rolled up newspaper, Nerf baseball bat.”

My Thoughts

I love Helen’s humor, but this time she strayed into the crude a bit more than I’d like. It sells–I understand. I’m not dissing her or abandoning her. I just could have done with less of that, although the question she asks her husband after the guests leave is one I’ve discussed with my long, long, ago ex-husband, and various other guys with whom I have had a romantic relationship. Nonetheless, less is more.

I loved her take on the Greyhound bus to Atlantic City and her tales of the poker table. I’ve been curious about her poker career. Watching poker or watching bridge on t.v. is less exciting to me even than watching a foreign stock exchange ticker so I’ve never seen her if she’s been on any poker shows on t.v.

In spite of being disappointed in a couple of these essays, I am already looking forward to Helen’s next book–whether it is essays, short stories, a novel, a history of delis in Manhattan or Garage Sales in Alabama for Dummies.

My Verdict

3.0

Bring Your Baggage and Don’t Pack Light: Essays by Helen Ellis

Southern Lady Code and American  Housewife

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Review: Pumpkin by Julie Murphy

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My Interest

Julie Murphy is one of the voices of this current generation. She is amazing! I loved Dumplin‘ and I loved Puddin’ the other two books in this trilogy. I also loved Ramona Blue. Julie Murphy gets high school. She understands the kids on the sidelines. (My reviews of her previous books are linked).

The Story

Like Dumplin’ and Puddin’ this book takes place in Clover City, Texas. Waylon and his twin sister Clementine (their parents, he says, “won the queer lottery”) are both gay. They go to high school with WIllowdean, Beau, Millie, Calie and the others from the previous books. Waylon is a self-proclaimed fat, gay guy who hides in the polo shirts and cargo shorts his Mom buys him. He’s spent his life trying to stay out of way of the jocks and cliques in his high school–his best friend, other than his twin sister, is the school’s nurse with her amazing collection of wigs. He adores his grandmother and loves to watch a drag queen show Fiercest of Them All. Now, a few weeks before high school graduation Waylon’s world is about to change in some amazingly good ways, but how can he ever suspect that when his sister shares a video he made of his own “just for fun” audition for Fiercest? And then there’s the Prom Court to deal with. Hold on, folks, this is a fun ride, bumpy, back roads ride–a Texas-sized back road, of course, taken at full speed in a pick-up truck named Beulah.

My Thoughts

What I love about Julie Murphy’s books is that they are not only about the gay or queer kids–they about all of those for whom high school is not fabulous–though also not necessarily unendurable. The kids in her books are smart, capable, and may even have a great plan for their life. They may take a stand. They are believable. That’s the big thing. These are not characters written by people who have no contact with kids of today.

I absolutely adored Waylon. I totally understood wanting to be invisible in high school. I loved, too, that he was becoming a man–gaining confidence, leaving boyhood behind at his own pace. He was mature in the right ways–he had not, as he put it, “gone all the way” and it didn’t bug him. He appreciates the great parents he has, he adores his grandmother, and genuinely likes being with his family. As he puts together who he wants to be–really be–even at Clover City High School, he shows the confidence a loving family gives a child. He finds his self-respect and embraces it. We don’t all do that. He finds role models for who and what he wants to be and is respectful toward them.

All of this might sound overly precious, but I assure you Julie Murphy does not do “precious” unless it’s snarky or someone’s nickname. This book was totally today, fun, and respectful to all–even to a church. That was a great surprise. Kids need to know that “all X” cannot be said about any group. I applaud her for that, especially. I sat in my driveway listening to “more” each night when I got home. I couldn’t bear to turn Waylon and Clem and and their story off.

Today I have a massive book hangover. That, to me, is the hallmark of an excellent book. Special shout out to audio performer Chris Burris who totally rocked Waylon’s story.

My favorite quote

“Nothing says high school lesbians in love like wearing each others’ combat boots.”

My Verdict

4

Pumpkin by Julie Murphy

Julie Murphy’s new book, If the Shoe Fits (not a Dumplin’ book) comes out on August 3rd and is available now for pre-order.

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Review: Survivors: Children’s Lives After The Holocaust by Rebecca Clifford

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My Interest

First, thank you to blogger Fictionophile whose post brought this book to my attention.

In college I took a few political science classes from a man who was the son of survivors of Lodz Ghetto and Auschwitz. He grew up mostly in New York City, but remembered being used to take illegally tailored clothing to customers for his father before they made it to American. The struggle of being the only child and born to survivors was real. His father had lost another family to the Nazis. He introduced me to the book Children of the Holocaust: Conversations with the Sons and Daughters of Survivors. The book I am reviewing here, Survivors: Children’s Lives After the Holocaust is almost a companion piece to that first book.

The Story

“Children are resilient” we are told over and over. The children in this book survived the Nazi death camps, Dr. Mengele, and more. Some survived the “other” war–of being raised in hiding or raised hiding in plain sight, passed off as Christians in various countries. Their story is a different type of tragedy.

Those in hiding did not “survive” in the same way as those in the camps. Many became attached to the families that hid them, especially those who were infants or small children when their parents sent them away. Their war and their experience was not always bad, but the guilt that could come with know that was their burden. Some were rejected by their protectors at war’s end, and some rejected the birth family relatives who tried to claim them when they were finally free to do so. Those children who survived the camps knew how bad life could get and were often thought by society to be “damaged”–a stigma that could follow them through life.

The efforts to provide a stabilizing “home life” for both groups and the psychological studies done of them while in group care are the main focus of the book. There is a discussion of the ethics of this study as well discussion of the study itself.

In addition, there are stories of individual child survivors–this, to me, was the most interesting part of the book. Understandably, many started new lives in the U.S., U.K, Canada, and Israel–a fact that led occasionally to problems of a different kind.

My Thoughts

This book was so needed. It was way past time for these stories to be told. It deserves the acclaim and award nominations (not sure if it has won any yet). Soon it will be too late to learn from these one-time “child” survivors. The authors have done the world an important service in writing this book.

I recommend this book and further recommend that it be read with Children of the Holocaust (linked at the top of this review) for a full picture of children’s experiences both in the holocaust and born to survivors of it.

My Verdict

4.0

Survivors: Children’s Lives After the Holocaust by Rebecca Clifford

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Review: Narrowboat Summer by Anne Youngson aka Three Women and a Boat

My Interest

I LOVED Anne Youngson’s late-in-life debut novel, Meet Me At the Museum. Not only did it give me hope as a late-in-life writer hoping to be published before I die, but it gave me hope as a woman of a certain age. When I found the audio of Narrowboat Summer I thought I would love it and I was right! [U.K . readers, this is Three Women and a Boat in your world].

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Map of British Canals

The Story

Eve has been fired from her long-time engineering job in a major corporation. Sally has just had enough of her long-time boring marriage and uninterested grown children. Anastasia and dog Noah make their life on a canal boat, but old age and illness have just intruded. So, although improbable, the three women join forces in an unlikely alliance. Anastasia hands over Noah and her boat, the Number One, to novice canal boaters Eve and Sally. Eve hands over her apartment to Anastasia as she gets treatment for cancer. The three women’s lives, and a few other people’s lives, will never be the same again.

My Thoughts

This was the book I was searching for when I read Miss Benson’s Beetle! A couple of women, improbably friends, thrown together on an adventure that turns out to be just what they needed. The audio book was perfectly read by Helen Lloyd and I did not want it to end. I loved every minute of this one. It was a perfect addition to my intentional “seasonal” reading, too. My only teeny-tiny quibble was that Billy’s storytelling was a bit long for me. That’s very, very minor though. And, for some reason, when one character was in the scene I kept picturing Ivanka!

My Verdict

4 Stars

Just Wonderful

Narrowboat Summer/Three Women and a Boat by Anne Youngson

Scroll down to see videos of life on a narrowboat, and a conversation with the author about this wonderful book.

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Photo credit

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Spanish & Portuguese Lit Month Review: Sidewalks by Valeria Luiselli, translated by Christina MacSweeney

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Thank you to Winston’s Dad’s Blog for hosting Spanish & Portuguese Lit Month.

My Interest

Here is my initial post for this challenge. I had to invest some time researching “do-able” books for this challenge. By that I mean, I had to find books short enough and compelling enough to work around other commitments this month as well as work with my on-again, off-again attention span for print reading [by which I mean any non-audio books]. One of my personal reading goals for 2021 is to read more essays since I’ve finally begun to enjoy them, so when I found this slim (130 pages) volume of essays on sidewalks and cites, I was pleased to find an e-copy available through my regional library. Another draw was that the introduction was written by the author or the nonfiction book I selected for this challenge (but which may take much longer to read).

The Story

According to Amazon, this volume was a 2014 Book Riot Must-Read Book from an Indie Press. Well then. Author Valeria Lusielli, born in Mexico, grew up in South Africa and won a MacArthur “Genius” award in 2019–that really caught my attention. She is best known for her novel, The Lost Children Archive which won a slew of awards the year it as published (and which it appears was written in English).

The ten essays, which begin with the exotically titled “Joseph Brodsky’s Room and a Half” cover various aspects of the authors travel and life in various cities. The prose is very poetic and the essays themselves often quote poetry, frustratingly for me and other neanderthal American readers, poetry in other languages with no English translation offered. I said “neanderthal” because why should it be translated when it is perfectly understandable to the author who has been reasonable and allowed her own words to all be translated.

Most interesting to me was the second section, “Hondo,” of the second essay “Flying Home,” which discussed the Map Library in Mexico City housed in the National Meteorological Service Building. I spent months cataloging maps of Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland while I was in Malawi years ago, so map libraries and other map collections fascinate me.

Also interesting, again for personal reasons, was the discussion of melancholy–which “Aristotle thought …was a divine gift, only given to men of true genius.” I sincerely hope that, were he alive today, Aristotle would accord women sufferers this brilliance as well. Certainly it can foster intense creativity.

Some of the quotes that caught my eye in other essays include:

“Apologists for walking have elevated ambulation to the height of an activity with literary overtones.” (“Manifesto A Velo”).

On curing homesickness: “…nothing produced better results than sending them back home,” while not poetic in the least is certainly what always helped my own profound cases of homesickness at any age. (“Alternative Routes”).

“Cities, like our bodies, like languages, are destruction under construction….” (“Stuttering Cities”).

“…there’s a quadrangle of tiny absences….” (“Relingos: The Cartography of Empty Spaces).

“Spaces survive the passage of of time in the same way a person survives his death: in the close alliance between the memory and the imagination that others forge around it. They exist as long as we keep thinking of them, imagining in them; as long as we remember them; remember ourselves there, and , above all, as long as we remember what we imagined in them” (“Relingos: The Cartography of Empty Spaces).

My Thoughts

I can’t say I was taken with all of these essays. Some expressed the “vapid navel gazing” type sentiments that have traditionally put me off reading essays, but enough were vivid and alive and made me see exactly what the author wanted me to see that I kept on with them. Maybe next year I’ll read Faces In The Crowd--her novel translated by the same person.

My Verdict

3.0

Sidewalks by Valeria Luiselli, translated by Christina MacSweeney

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Review: Miss Benson’s Beetle by Rachel Joyce

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First, a belated thank you to Net Galley for giving me a review copy that I lost on my Kindle–sorry.

My Interest

I enjoyed The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and loved The Music Shop, both by Rachel Joyce, so anything she publishes is of interest to me. (Note, I did not like, and did not finish, Joyce’s The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy). I thought the idea of going to search for a “bug” was the perfect antidote to what ails a woman of a certain age (my age–but the book features a younger woman–younger by about a decade).

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The Story

Fed up with teaching bratty girls the home economics they don’t want to learn, Margery Benson snaps. Fed up, too, with her life in bankrupt, still rationed, post-war-1950-Britain, Margery lets her rage overcome her and steals a pair of brand new lacrosse boots belonging to a co-worker. She has been passed over in every way in life. It is time to do something. It is time to flee to French New Caledonia and look for that elusive Golden Beetle her father’s book told her existed. To go off on such an expedition, Margery needs an assistant. So she places an ad for such a person and gets two odd replies–one from a man, one from a woman.

The man is unsuitable. The poor soul has been broken in a Prisoner of War camp in Burma. But the woman–Mrs. Enid Pretty, while not what Margery had hoped for, will have to “do.” So the adventure begins.

My Thoughts

It is hard to review this book without spoilers. I fell in love with both Margery and Enid–especially the fact that Enid calls her boss “Marge” much to Margery’s initial annoyance. Their life stories are so different, yet the same–unwanted, passed over, not recognized for the brains, ability, and spirit both have. Enid’s utterly practical approach to problems made me adore her. I loved how Margery “grew” from the experience, too.

But…yes, but…. NO, not nit-picky things. The story was not, ultimately, a “feel good” one. It was and it wasn’t. It was the wasn’t that ruined it for me. I don’t want spoilers and, my opinion need not be everyone’s, but … but, I hated the ending. Hated it. There, I’ve said it. I love Rachel Joyce’s stories, but this ending was just not for me.

My Verdict

3.0

Miss Benson’s Beetle by Rachel Joyce

My Reviews of Rachel Joyce’s Books

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry (from my old blog)

One brief “conversation” along the way aside, this is a delightful read. Definitely part of what I’ve come to call the “Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand Genre,” but it’s almost as good as Major P, so that’s good! Harold receives a letter from a long-lost co-worker. On his way to mail the reply he has an epiphany of sorts and sets out to see her–on foot. Did I mention it’s about 500 miles away? Great story and I don’t want to give away any more of it! Just read it. And, if you haven’t read Major P. (which I preferred in audio–and I listened to “Harold,” too) you should do so soon! The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Frye by Rachel Joyce

The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce (click the linked title to go to my review)

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Review: Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

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My Interest

Daisy Jones and the Six was one of my favorite books of 2019–I simply loved it. It was creative in format and well written. I knew I wanted to read more by this author, but before I could get around to her other books, this one was announced. I waited. Her writing inspires me, too. She’s built to bigger and more complex books–I can tell that by reading about her backlist (which I still intend to read).

 

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Map showing Malibu, California

The Story

“Maybe our parents’ lives are imprinted within us, maybe the only fate there is the temptation of reliving their mistakes. Maybe, try as we might, we will never be able to outrun the blood that runs through our veins. Or. Or maybe we are free the moment we are born. Maybe everything we’ve ever done is by our own hands.”

This is the story of both a huge Malibu party in 1983 and the family whose home was the setting for it. Back in 1956 June Costas met wanna-be-singer Mick Riva and gave him her heart and a family. But being the family of the sensation that Mick Riva became would be a difficult life for the four Riva kids and their mother.

“When there’s only you, you do not get to choose which jobs you want, you do not get to decide you are incapable of anything. There is no room for distance or weakness. You must do it all. All of the ugliness, the sadness, the things most people can’t stand to even think about, all must live inside you. You must be capable of anything.”

My Thoughts

I’ve been very down on dual-timeline stories recently, but when you get one as well-told as this one, those negative thoughts vanish. I liked the way both stories unrolled, a few hours at a time in 1983 paired with a part of the hostess’s family’s backstory. In fact, the family’s backstory was the best part to me–probably due to hurt vanity. It’s hard to realize that my junior year in college is now called “historical fiction.”

I could relate far more to June than to the Riva siblings, possibly more because I have no idea what it is like to surf and I do have a good idea what it is like to work a crappy job and marry the wrong guy–I’ve done both of those. I’ve also known a couple of real-life Nina’s–that is the Nina of the backstory, before the big house, and I admire them. Nina was a heroine to inspire young people–but not for that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but for before it. And, after it was over. That is one heck of a woman to admire.

One small not-quite-spoiler, the police scene made me roll my eyes. That was “seen through the lens of the 2020s” (it was a woke inclusion–sexism, a “me too” moment). One teeny-tiny story line was so predictable I giggled out loud when I was proven correct. I got tired of the little “micro-scenes” (my term) of party goers doing their thing. Some of those could easily have been cut and no one would have missed them. My other complaint was I cannot recall anyone using the word F— with the abandon with which it is thrown about today. In 1983 t.v. still beeped out “bad” words. “…as shit…” made its way back in time from today to ’83 too. There is sex, but it was in line with the story, so it was not what I normally call an “ick moment”.

While this book is not as good as Daisy Jones and the Six, it is is a good summer book to enjoy and hand off to another person to let them enjoy it too. It lives up to MOST of its hype which is nice. I listened to the audio version.

My Verdict

3.5

For those who like the nit-picky historical mistakes I catch sometimes, there were a few, but none were of any significance what-so-ever to the story. They can be found on my Goodreads review page under “Reading Notes”.

Malibu Rising: A Novel by Taylor Jenkins Reid

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Hotel Books

The New One on a Fabulous Hotel

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Thank you to blogger Literary Potpourri, whose review introduced me to this book. Please be nice and click and read her review, won’t you? I will review it when I eventually read it.

The captivating story of the famed Savoy Hotel’s founders, told through three generations—and one hundred years—of glamour and high society.

The Secret Life of the Savoy by Olivia Williams

 

This Summer’s Hotel-Themed Beach/Pool Read

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Carla at Carla Loves to Read recently reviewed this summer beach read. Her review is here, won’t you click and read it?

Fun fact: This is the second book in a row that mentioned coconut shrimp! The first book? You’ll find out on Monday.

The recent one that I DNF-ed

One of my reading goals for 2021 was to follow along with more of Reece Witherspoon’s book club picks. The Sanatorium ticked a lot of boxes that should have added up to a good, exciting read. It was set in an old sanatorium converted into a hotel.  It is in Switzerland and, fun fact,  it was the second book within a 12-month period that featured a funicular*** What are the odds? Yet…yet…yawn…I kept waiting for the chills and excitement. I’d just think something was finally going to happen when it was a dull again.

***The other book mentioning a funicular was Louise Penny’s All the Devils Are Here (I don’t review series books due to spoilers).

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The Sanatorium: A Novel by Sarah Pearse

 

The One for Well-Brought Up Ladies: The Barbizon in fact and fiction

I’ve had both of these from the library and hadn’t read either. Both arrived with a slew of other requested titles and I didn’t get to either in time, so they are still on my TBR. Grace Kelly and Nancy Reagan are among the famous women who lived at the Barbizon at some point in their younger days. The hotel was for ladies–not just “women” back when there was a real difference.

The Barbizon: The Hotel that Set Women Free by Paulina Bren (Nonfiction)

The Dollhouse: A Novel by Fiona Davis

The One With Miss Marple

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A classic who-done-it with Miss Marple heading up the sleuthing! At Bertram’s Hotel by Agatha Christie.

The One With the Communists, The Hotel Metropol in Moscow, also in fact and fiction

Two books give accounts of life in Moscow’s famed Metropol hotel. Fun fact: The Metropol provided all the “service” to the delegates at the Yalta Conference. The nonfiction Girl From the Metropol Hotel was a book I heard about on Modern Mrs. Darcy’s blog. A Gentleman in Moscow defeated me as an audio book, but I do want to read it in print still or try again with the audio–it was during COVID lock down that I tried to listen so that is not a fair trial for any book.

The One With the Fun Movie Version

  It’s rare that I read the book AFTER watching the movie. I LOVE the Best Exotic Marigold Motel movie–Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy and my favorite–Judi Dench. When I re-watched it recently, I saw it was based on a book. I recalled the tie-in book, but assumed (wrongly) that it was the script made into a book. The book is just as fun as the movie only more believable. (Hands up if you thought Graham’s story unbelievable in the movie?) I’m a back-story lover–I like to KNOW the characters, and not just on the surface. I’m no longer sure which I like more–the book or the movie, but I can tell you that I’m anxiously awaiting the Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel movie sequel.The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel by Deoborah Moggach [From my old blog].

The One With the Nice Teenagers

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Rhe boutique Art Deco NYC Hopewell Hotel [great name!] with interestingly named suites and fabulous caretaker-owner-manager family with four kids–all named for stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood and one named Scarlet for that fictional star. This is book one in what should be a wonderfully fun YA series–I haven’t read the others (yet). Suite Scarlet by Maureen Johnson.

The Plaza in Fact and Fiction

The Plaza: The Secret Life of America’s Most Famous Hotel, by Julie Satow is the hotel’s biography. I have not read it. Eloise by Kay Thompson is a classic for all ages–I was raised on it and my mother still gives copies to children to enjoy. It is a treasure.

The One That Became a 70’s Over-the-top Blockbuster!

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No list of hotel books would be complete without Alvin Haley’s mega-block-buster, disaster-movie-of-the-week book Hotel!

My Favorite Fictional Hotel and its Real-Life Counterpart

Louisa Trotter, fictional matriarch of the Bentinck Hotel, was based on a real life person and running a real life London hotel–Rosa Lewis of the Cavendish Hotel (nice play on the double-barrell name of now extinct Dukes of Portland, Cavendish-Bentinck).  I loved it. I still have the tie-in books and have watched the series many times. The books are out-of-print, but the tie-ins can be found used. Apparently my copy (that I hope I still have) of The Duchess of Jermyn Street us worth a bundle according to Amazon’s wacky pricing algorithm, but used sellers price it much, much more modestly.

The One We All Still Laugh Over