All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Marie-Laure lives with her lock smith father, in Paris. When Marie-Laure goes blind her father builds a model of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and find her way around the town. When the Nazis occupy Paris they flee to Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a large house by the sea. At the same time, Werner, an orphan in Germany is growing up and falls in with the Hitler Youth. His assignment takes him to Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge. Finalist for the 2014 National Book Award for Fiction
Fog Island Mountains by Michelle Bailat-Jones
I listened to this book on my Kindle while driving to Portland, and I highly recommend that delivery. The writing is poem-like and listening lets you take the time needed to visualize the beautiful landscape that is the Fog Island and the mountains that figure so heavily in the book. The story is a brief moment of time— the island is in the path of a typhoon, the main character has been diagnosed with terminal cancer, and his wife has seemingly disappeared — just as he needs her the most.
In This Hospitable Land by Lynmar Brock Jr.
What is home? This is a question that I have been struggling with and this book explores that question, so it spoke to me on many different levels. The true story of the Sauverin family and their escape from Belgium during the Nazi occupation. They find many homes — and how they transform their life and the village residents during these many years is an inspiration.
The Painter by Peter Heller
I just LOVE stories about artists and artist Jim Stegner is a doozy. He’s famous and divorced and he shot a man. Now living in rural Colorado, he tries to keep his nose clean but when he comes across a man beating a small horse, things get crazy. This is a raw, savage novel about a man who wants to have a meaningful life, but shit, life keeps getting in the way.
50 Children by Steven Pressman
In early 1939, an ordinary American couple, the Krauses, decided that something had to be done to save Jewish children. During the entire Holocaust, fewer than 1,200 unaccompanied children were allowed into the United States. 1.5 million children perished. The fifty children saved by the Krauses turned out to be the single largest group of unaccompanied children brought to America. True and powerful.
The Lobster Kings by Alexi Zentner
The Kings family has lived on Loosewood Island for three hundred years, and in exchange for a bountiful life, they’ve had to endure the curse: the loss of every firstborn son. Part mythology and supposedly inspired by King Lear, The Lobster Kings is the story of their struggle to maintain the island’s way of life and break the cycle of death.
The Bees by Laline Paull
This is an ancient culture where only the queen may breed and deformity means death.
The story follows Flora 717, a lowly sanitation worker, who mysteriously is allowed to feed the newborns in the royal nursery and then becomes a forager, flying alone and free to collect pollen. Much too long, but an interesting story.
The Brothers K by David James Duncan
Every so often you must re-read a book that you read (and loved) years ago. This is one such book for me. Duncan also wrote The River Why so you get an idea of his powerfully hypnotic style. The story spans decades in the lives of the Chance family. Funny, sad, and so beautifully crafted. Baseball glory, baseball dreams shattered; four brothers who choose their own way during the tumultuous sixties and all are swept up in the tragedy that binds them. An all-time favorite.
Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult
Jenna’s mom Alice disappeared a decade ago from the elephant sanctuary where she worked as a researcher; and Jenna is bent on finding out what happened. She contacts a psychic and a private detective to help in her hunt and after reading her mother’s research journals begins to piece together the likely story. Great book!!
The Big Tiny by Dee Williams
I’ve always been intrigued by tiny houses — you know, the ones built on wheels that are SO adorable, and people actually live in them. The Big Tiny is a study in the benefits of scaling back, way back. What prompted Williams abode turn-around, was her near-death experience. She decided to concentrate on things that matter - and the expensive and up-keep of a big house was stopping her from many of those things. She built an eighty-four-square-foot house—on her own, from the ground up. You may not be a candidate for a tiny house but the writing is great and hey, you may even look around at all your random ‘stuff’ that’s never used. That’s a start.
The Moonlight Palace by Liz RosenbergAgnes Hussein, the last surviving member of the last sultan of Singapore, has grown up in the old Kampong Glam palace, a once-beautiful residence given to her family in exchange for handing over Singapore to the British.This is a coming-of-age story with dazzling historical detail and a great cast of characters, set against the backdrop of 1920s Singapore. Loved this book.
A Watershed Year by Susan Schoenberger
Lucy’s best friend thirty-three year old Harlan dies from cancer and she is devastated. Like any 30-some woman would do — she decides to adopt a baby from Russia. And as she goes forward with her plan e-mails start arriving from Harlan that he arranged to be sent after he died. Lucy travels to Russia where she has the usual struggles and finally takes four year old Mat to America. Not really a watershed book for me but a nice easy feel-good book, and no, I don’t understand how I selected so many Schoenburger books the past few months.
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
The same author wrote The Husband’s Secret, which i really enjoyed, and this book was right on par. Start with a strong group of women with secrets, add some humor and stir with a crazy spoon. Set in and around Pirriwee Public's school, the book revolves around Madeline, Celeste, and Jane and the famous annual Trivia Night where this year, one parent ends up dead. Touches on just about everything — parenting, ex-wives, ex-husbands, second wives, bullying, domestic abuse, violence, politics, and dysfunctional families. Makes you feel normal compared to these looney tunes. Recommended!!
The Glassblower by Petra Durst-Benning
Set in the village of Lauscha, Germany, a story of how things have been done for centuries and how change sneeks in when you least expect it. In Lauscha the men blow the glass, and the women decorate and pack it. But Joost Steinmann’s three daughters are left with difficult decisions when he dies suddenly leaving them alone. An interesting book with a few nice twists and turns.
Last Night at the Blue Angel by Rebecca RotertThis is a great book and I highly recommend it. Set in 1965, it's Naomi’s last night at the Blue Angel, the once iconic jazz club in the hub of Chicago. Awesome characters including: Ten-year-old Sophia who idolizes her mom —even though it’s obvious Naomi would rather sing than be a Mom. Jim is a photographer wanna-be boyfriend and a father figure to Sophia. Jim was inspired by noted photographer Richard Nickel—a talented photographer on a mission to capture the essence of the many iconic landmarks of Chicago before they met their fateful destruction in the1960’s. This is an exquisite account of the 1960’s jazz scene in downtown Chicago, and wonderful historical details.
A Widows Walk Off-Grid by Anne Dodds
A true, mostly inspiring story of Anne Dodds journey to self-reliance and healing when her husband passed away after a long, trying illness. She was forced to sell almost everything to settle his estate, and now homeless, with little money, she decided to pursue a dream of living a quiet, self-sufficient life alone, off-grid. She found an old house on fifty acres and started her new life. As proud as I was of her accomplishments, I was shaking my head at the end and felling like she hadn’t really learned anything…
The Antiquarian by Gustavo Faveron Patriau
Daniel is in a psychiatric ward for murdering his fiancée. He reveals the story bit by bit using fragments of fables, novels, and historical allusions, to his friend Gustavo. Dark clues from their college days exploring dust-filled libraries and exotic brothels to Daniel’s intimate attachment to his sickly younger sister and his dealings as a book collector. Like walking into a dark labyrinthine, it’s a twisting haunting tale.
Take Me With You by Catherine Ryan Hyde
August is a teacher on summer break, on his way to Yellowstone to spread his son’s ashes. But his RV breaks down and he needs repairs, stranded in a small desert town. As Wes, the mechanic works on the vehicle, August realizes the engine repairs will eat up most of his cash. Then Wes asks him to take his two boys on the trip in exchange for the cost of repairs — otherwise they’ll go into the foster system since Wes must serve 90 days in jail. I know, I know, what are the chances -- but it's a feel-good pretty believable story.
Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson
Pete’s own family is spinning out of control, but he concentrates on helping other disturbed families in the middle nowhere Montana. His eye is on Benjamin Pearl, a feral eleven-year-old boy living in the wilderness with his very disturbed father, Jeremiah. It doesn’t help that Pearl's weird activities have caught the attention of the FBI, putting Pete in the middle of a massive manhunt. A sad, but iconic American novel.
Funerals For Horses by Catherine Ryan Hyde
By the author of Pay It Forward, Funerals for Horses is a heartbreaking story. Ella’s brother Simon has disappeared. His possessions found abandoned near a freight line track in Central California. Ella takes off on foot across California and Arizona, thinking she can find Simon. She is befriended by three Native Americans and an aged paint horse named Yozzie.
Lucky Us by Amy Bloom
Brought together by death and weird relations, Iris, the star and Eva the sidekick, set off on their own through 1940s America. Iris’s ambitions take them across America in a stolen station wagon, from Ohio to Hollywood, and to the jazz clubs of Long Island. A novel about success and failure, good luck and bad, and the creation of a family from bits and pieces. The characters are lovable and sad, you cheer for them and then you want to slug them in the face.
The Virtues of Oxygen by Susan Schoenberger
Inspired by the true story of Martha Mason, a young woman who spent the majority of her life confined within an iron lung that would breathe for her when polio robbed her of that ability to do so for herself. Schoenberger invents Vivian Markham, a sixty three year old woman who has spent her entire life since the age of six living in an iron lung. Even though advancements were made in the medical field, they would pass her by, because after so many years her body had atrophied and she would not be able to breathe on her own. Looking at the world horizontally and making the best of her life and the lives of those in the small town who vowed to care for her, is inspiring -- and one can only hope that a magical town like that would actually exist.
Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian
Since the nuclear meltdown that killed both her parents, Emily Shepard finds herself living in an igloo made of ice and trash bags filled with frozen leaves. Unfortunately her father was not only a drunk, but in charge of the plant, and the meltdown may have been his fault. And oh, how people would like to get their hands on Emily.
Flight of the Sparrow by Amy Belding Brown
This historical novel based on the life of Mary Rowlandson is an authentic drama of Indian captivity. In 1676 Mary was captured from her Puritan community and
sold into the service of a powerful tribal leader. She witnesses the expected brutality, but also unexpected kindness. Based on the true narrative of Mary Rowlandson.
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
Island Books owner A.J. Fikry is a grumpy guy who has a good reason to be — recently widowed and his prize rare book missing! Little did he know that a strange package and unlikely friendship would save him. Romance, humor and a touch suspense - this little book is a nice read and delightful story.
The Beautiful American by Jeanne MackinThis novel covers Paris in the 1920s to London after the Blitz, and follows two women that discover they share a secret from their past. American Nora Tours travels from her home in southern France to London in search of her missing sixteen-year-old daughter, where she unexpectedly meets up with an old acquaintance, famous model-turned-photographer Lee Miller. Lee became the celebrated mistress of the artist Man Ray. Lee Miller is a real person, but Nora is created to narrate her life from an outsider position. Great book.