The Glass Kitchen by Linda Francis Lee

glassThis book had two things combined that I love-a magical element and food. In this case Portia has inherited “the knowing” from her grandmother.  It means she gets an overwhelming urge to cook or bake something, does so, and then the right person shows up needing exactly that food. Or, she might get an image of a particular food and that helps her to know something else. I love that idea and enjoyed all the parts of the book that had to do with that. However, the romance angle I just didn’t find very compelling and the male love interest, Gabriel, was decidedly unappealing to me!
Portia is from Texas and was a perfect politician’s wife, suppressing her knowing. But then her husband cheats on her and leaves her without a future there. Downtrodden and dejected Portia goes to NYC to live in the bottom apartment of a townhouse that once belonged to her great aunt. The two upper apartments have been bought by a man named Gabriel, who lives there with his two teen daughters since his wife died. It’s all instant attraction and frankly unbelievable conversations and statements. And the usual reluctance, perceived betrayal, win back, blah blah blah.  I really didn’t love this though I loved the premise and the magical bits.

Landline by Rainbow Rowell

landlineThe entire concept of this book was so appealing to me as it verged on time-travel. A woman  picks up the old phone in her mother’s house (in her old bedroom) and calls her husband, who is visiting his parents at their house, but when her husband answers it’s her husband 15 years ago who answers!  Georgie is a tv writer in LA. She’s got her wonderful husband Neal, who is a stay at home dad to their daughters. Her writing partner is Seth, and she’s been with him since college. Seth and Georgie are pretty successful but they are on the brink of getting the green light for their own show that they’ve been developing and dreaming of since college. The only problem is they need to get 4 scripts ready for a December 27 meeting and Georgie is supposed to go to Omaha with Neal and the kids for Christmas. Neal goes, she stays, and the cracks in their marriage loom large. Georgie ends up at her mother’s house where she calls Neal to say hello and that she still loves him, but that’s when she gets 15 years ago Neal, which was another turning point in their relationship.  She’s not sure if she’s going crazy or what, but she can’t stop talking to him and trying to pre-emptively make things better in their marriage.
For a book that could have been nothing but boring gloomy relationship talks, I found this actually quite fast paced and I really liked it a lot. The concept was enchanting, I was rooting for Georgie and Neal, the tv business is like catnip to me, and Georgie’s mother and sister are hilarious characters (her mother has a penchant for younger men, has a 40 year old husband, and tells her daughter she is sensual.)

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

liesFive 5 Star books in a row! I’ve been on a streak of being caught up in amazing, wonderful books. That said, disclaimer-I was reading another book when Big Little Lies came in at the library for me and I just put that book right down and picked up this because I couldn’t wait to read it. And I ended up reading it in just two days. I wish I could have made it last longer, but honestly I was so caught up in the story and just had to finish it up and find out how things turned out.
I’m a big fan of Moriarty and have really loved all of her books, so when I heard she had a new one coming out I put it on hold instantly. And then…deliberately read nothing about it. (When I put it on hold it was actually not even titled in the catalog, but I did ultimately know the title, of course.) I skipped the review in Entertainment Weekly, avoided the blurb on Goodreads, and when I got the book didn’t read anything on the back or front, just opened it up and started reading.  There are not that many books I’ll do that with (because obviously most of the time knowing something about the book is how you choose it), but I love it when I can. It’s extremely rewarding to fall into a story no expectations of characters or plot and truly let the story unfold before you.  So if you can do that with this book, I encourage you to do so and just know it’s a good book. (In fact, same thing with We Were Liars-somehow I’d missed out on really knowing anything about the book and also didn’t even really look at the cover, and so some very basic elements of the story were a surprise to me, which I found wonderful.)

Now, if you would like to know a bit more, I will tell a little more, but not too much.  As usual I found Moriarty’s native setting of Australia exotic in and of itself.  The story focuses on a group of kindergarten parents in a charming seaside town, which I pictured just like the village in the British show Doc Martin. Jane, Celeste, and Madeline are all friends, though all quite different. Somehow they become aligned against some truly bitchy women who accuse Jane’s little boy of being a bully.  The story is told in different points of view and covers the course of this school year.  Each woman has her share of a secret life and woes and you absolutely root for them.

Now, what makes the book so, well suspenseful, is that it is also told with snippets of interviews with all the parents in the course of an investigation into someone’s death. But whose death? I truly did not know and as the story is told six months before the event, 4 months before, one week before, etc. you are getting closer and closer to the characters and getting very anxious that someone is going to die (but how?! )

I really thought this was wonderful and shocking, and for a book that could have been very sad, had a lot of extremely funny moments. I guess I’d say that I felt the same way about her previous books, as well, particularly The Last Anniversary and The Husband’s Secret.  A stellar story.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

liarsI’ve had the best week in reading-three books in a row that I gave 5 stars to! And I can’t believe I waited so long to read this-I’ve had the prepub sitting around the house for a pretty long time but it wasn’t until three people told me I have to read it that I got going with it (I’d actually read the first chapter a while ago-why on earth did I put it down??)

I loved this. Lockhart is such a good writer (see: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks.) I didn’t know much about the book going in, which is what I like. So all I’ll say about the story is that it is told by Cady Sinclair, who comes from a wealthy (like, super wealthy) family and that every summer they all spend the summer together on their private island near Martha’s Vineyard. Yes, their own island where each daughter and family has their own house. The summers are idyllic for Cady and her cousins and Gad, a family friend who’s not quite a cousin so it’s ok for her to fall in love with him. But after their fifteenth summer something happens and by her 17th summer Cady is trying to remember and put the pieces together.

This was a great story, very emotional (I cried and cried), and wonderfully spun out.  I loved how she included fairy tales that Cady would tell based on traditional tales but with the twist of her own family’s history, and how those tales advance the story.
It was a very fast read, and once I got to the end I wanted to start over at the beginning so I could reread it. I didn’t, but I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the book since I finished it yesterday morning.

Friendship by Emily Gould

friendshipI thought this was beautifully written. In fact, I think Gould is such a good writer-creating striking sentences that sharp and moving-that the writing seemed almost better than the story itself.  That said, I did like the story of the changing friendship between Amy and Bev, two young women trying to make a go of it in NYC.  They’ve been through good times and bad together, but most of the story focuses on when they both end up going through their roughest patches at the same time. And truly broke, down on their luck hard times. The friendship becomes strained because they can’t give each other the help they need and because Amy basically freaks out over Bev’s unplanned pregnancy more than Bev herself does.  Amy veers into “unlikable main character” territory, but not completely.
I just read someone else’s review on Goodreads who only gave this 3 stars and said the story was somewhat forgettable. I actually gave it a full 5 stars (!) because I thought it was so well written and did dare to poke the unhappy sides of friendship.

p.s. I kept picturing Amy and Bev and Ilana and Abbi from Broad City.

The Hundred Year House by Rebecca Makkai

hundredThis was wonderful! I was excited to read it because I had liked The Borrower so much and as a friend pointed out she knew she’d like it from the wonderfully designed cover alone. I knew I’d like it when I opened it up and saw that the book was divided into four parts and that the story of all that went on in that house in the 100 years would be told in reverse chronological order. How fascinating!! Especially when you started reading and saw that the close to present day occupants talked and referred to quite a bit what they thought they knew of the house’s history, speculating on rumors and vague stories. In addition to being caught up in the modern story, I looked forward to going back in time to find out what really went on.

In the first part it is 1999 and Zee and her husband, Doug,  have moved in to the carriage house on her mother’s estate. Her mother, Grace, along with her second husband Bruce, live in the grand house.  The whole estate was once an artists’ colony when Grace was a very little girl, but reverted back to a private residence. Zee is a professor at the local college and frustrated by her husband’s lack of career trajectory. He’s supposed to be finishing a book, but he’s two years out of grad school and he’d better get a move on.  The book is about a little known poet, Edwin Proffit. Doug is thrilled when he finds out that Proffit actually once stayed at the artist colony and is desperate to find out anything about him. The fact is, he’s not really keen on his book anymore and is secretly writing series fiction (like The Babysitters’ Club) for the money.  When Bruce’s daughter Miriam and her husband Chase also move in to the carriage house it shakes things up.  This story plays out in a fascinating way (crazy secrets!) and, like reading a short novel, it concludes completely and satisfyingly at the end of its section. But then you turn the page and go back in time to the next section before Zee was born and Grace was young woman at the estate.

Layer upon layer is revealed and the format of the book was so perfect for the story.  Beautifully written and constructed, as well as being an engrossing story.  When I got to the end I considered continuing around to the front of the book again to make sure I understood the pieces of the puzzle and how they all fit together.  I can’t wait for my friend Melissa to finish reading this so we can talk about it!

Cure for the Common Breakup by Beth Kendrick

breakupA light romance, contemporary, not exactly the sort of thing I usually go for (it seemed more vulgar than light-hearted sexy fun) but I enjoyed it enough.  Summer is a flight attendant who doesn’t like to be tied down to any one person or place, but a plane crash and near proposal find her re-evaluating things. She heads to a charming seaside town known for being the place to go to after a breakup.  All the residents and establishments cater to weepy women and they all take to Summer right away. In no time at all she’s ingratiated herself to the community, taken on the bitchy lady, decided to get the hunky mayor for herself, and taken on the meanest, nastiest, richest old lady who controls the whole town.  It’s all a little too easy, unbelievable, and lucky, but it would suffice for a quick summer read. (I gave it 3 stars.) p.s. regarding the cover: the kids were so interested in that mile high ice cream cone but once I started looking at it (we were making up flavors for each of the mostly improbably colors) all I could think was that the food stylist actually used Play-Doh to make the “ice cream” scoops and I could only that whenever I looked at the cover. What flavor do you think that intense forest green would be?