August 4, 2015

The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy E. Reichert

This book, in my mind, will be known as the Sweetness of Coconut Cake for how absolutely adorable it was.  I was thrilled by its comparison to You’ve Got Mail and just had to read it.  Elizabeth (Lou) Johnson owns Luella’s, a French cuisine restaurant in Milwaukee which she has poured her heart and soul into.  Al Waters, a transplant from the U.K. (swoon) is a tough food critic and writes for the local Milwaukee paper.  Coincidentally, these two likable characters meet cute at the Milwaukee Public Market, the same day Lou catches her fiancĂ©e with another woman, and Al is scheduled to dine and review Luella’s.   You get an idea of what will enfold but it's still so wonderful to follow along with these two as they blindly fall in love.  Plus, it's a nice bonus, for many people, to see Milwaukee in a fun and new light.

July 3, 2015

How to Start a Fire by Lisa Lutz

How to Start a Fire is such a well-crafted, thought-out, novel that it has quickly become my favorite this year.  Nonlinear and at times confusing (but in such a wonderful unfolding of beautiful storytelling) we meet three flawed women in college. Lutz interweaves their stories through flashes of time between the past and present spanning 20 years into middle-age.  We slowly gather details about one traumatic night in their 20s plus the aftereffects on each of them without yet knowing what that night entailed. 

Anna Fury eschews her wealthy background with misadventures and a strong love of drinking.  Orphan, Kate Smirnoff was raised by her grandfather and hasn't planned anything for her future beyond owning her grandfather’s greasy spoon diner come graduation.  George (Georgianna) Leoni, the beauty of the three, keeps falling for the wrong men preferring to morph herself into the ‘perfect wife’ depending on the husband.  This is such a calculated and well-timed story and would make a great book club selection as there is much to discuss regarding how lives are changed with certain events.  I am incredibly impressed with Lutz and she remains one of my favorite authors.  

May 5, 2015

At the Water's Edge by Sara Gruen

Written with the backdrop of WWII, three Philadelphia socialites set out for Scotland in search of the Loch Ness monster.  Color blind Ellis and flat-footed Hank are unable to serve their country during the war and are seemingly oblivious to that which is raging on around them.  While the men are off to track down the elusive Loch Ness monster each day, they leave behind Maddie, Ellis's wife, who befriends the people living and working in the quaint village of Drumnadrochit.  The nearness of the war and its effects open Maddie’s eyes to a harsh reality and makes her take a closer look at those she thought she loved.  

A lovely story set in a beautiful landscape and troubling time frame.  Sara Gruen is wonderful at creating a setting that becomes a character of its own.  Plus, the WWII history she brings to the story is just another reason why I love her writing.  She perfectly weaves history, setting and a love story to make a great novel.

January 18, 2015

When by Victoria Lauri

Maddie Fynn's life hasn't been too easy up till her Junior year of high school.  Since birth, she's been able to see a unique string of numbers on every person's forehead.  When her father dies at a young age, the numbers finally make sense.  They are each person's individual death date.  For almost a decade after, she has blamed herself for her father's work-related death, as her mother has been drinking herself into an early death of her own.

However, when Maddie gives a 'reading' to make extra cash things get much worse.  Maddie informs a wealthy woman, who has come to inquire about her ailing daughter, that it's her very heathy son who will die next week.  All kinds of attention is brought on Maddie for his mysterious death.  What follows is an intense, suspenseful ride as Maddie is suspected of murder, her best friend is thrown in jail, and her Ma's alcoholism hits an all-time low.  Can Maddie learn to ignore the numbers or will she use her gift to help those in need?