Thursday, May 28, 2015

Where The Om Am I? by Sara DiVello

Where The Om Am I? by Sara DiVello

Being a yoga lover and having written a novel that spoofs big business, this memoir seemed to be right up my alley. Sara, a recent college graduate with eyes wide open and big dreams, lands what she believes to be a great opportunity in a financial services company. She puts her nose to the grindstone hoping to make an impression, which is not easy with all that's going on around her.

Enthusiasm for a great job quickly wanes when Sara's co-workers begin to show their true selves.  Her boss Vicky can't separate her personal life from her work life.  A business trip with Vicky turns into a drunkfest with Sara playing nursemaid to Vicky's monster hangover.  A salesman, who Sara has nicknamed, The Meat, freely shares tales of his sexual conquests in the office. No one seems to notice that Sara is left to do the work the rest of them have simply neglected.  Let's just say, I can relate.

At the urging of her new husband, Nunally, Sara follows her dream of becoming a yoga instructor.  She juggles intensive classroom training while continuing to put up with the office antics.  It's a struggle since the other yoga students are as equally obnoxious as those she desperately wants to leave behind in the office. 

Where The Om Am I? is funny and I mean laugh out loud funny.  The people in the office are real characters.  In fact I think I know a few of them!  The yoga students are mean and spiteful and I was pulling for Sara to rise above them.  If you are looking for a light, funny summer read, I think you will enjoy, Where The Om Am I?

Monday, May 25, 2015

The Lost Wife by Alyson Richman

The Lost Wife by Alyson Richman

Chapter One sets the stage for the story that is to come.  An old man attending his grandson's wedding can't keep his eyes off the bride's grandmother.  She is so familiar yet he struggles to figure out why.  And then he realizes she is his wife.  A wife, he long ago had been told had died in a Nazi concentration camp.

Lenka is a young girl living in Prague in the 1930's.  She is also a Jew.  She is fortunate enough to attend art school and works diligently to perfect her craft as an artist.  She meets Josef, the brother of one of her classmates.  The two fall hopelessly in love. They marry in haste as the Germans invade  Czechoslovakia, limiting their freedoms.  Josef's family has secured visas to leave but Lenka refuses to go with them unless her own family can come too.  Time and money are scarce and additional visas are not forthcoming. A stubborn and determined Lenka says a tearful goodbye to the man she adores.

This is another wonderful story that I lost myself in, turning each page with anticipation of the next.  The author did a skillful job of taking me from the present to the past and back again all while keeping me fully engaged.  Josef's and Lenka's separate stories seamlessly entwined throughout the novel.  As a writer myself, I know that's not an easy thing to do.

The Lost Wife is a captivating story of love in the midst of great evil. And it is a story of hope and the will of the human spirit.  Never give up on hope and love will always prevail.  A must read.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

The other day a friend posted something on Facebook that caught my eye.  It was a picture of a girl on the beach reading a book.  The caption read, "The moment when you're reading a book and the whole world around you does not exist anymore."

As an avid reader, being lost in a novel is a rare and magical moment.  You know you have uncovered something wonderful.  When I began All The Light We Cannot See, the world around me ceased to exist when I read page one.  I was in heaven! I couldn't put this book down.

Marie-Laure is a blind girl living in Paris as Hitler is rising to power in Germany.  Her father is the lock master at the museum, the keeper of all its keys.  Papa builds Marie-Laure models of the city so she can learn to navigate the streets on her own.  She counts steps and storm drains under his loving guidance.

 Werner is an orphan in Germany with a talent for fixing radios.  He's sent to a special school to learn engineering since his skills are in demand by the Nazis.  His loyalty is a way to survive and he learns to hide his compassionate heart from view. 

All The Light We Cannot See is the story of two young lives coping with the horrors of war from different viewpoints.  One has the ability to see, the other can only feel. This book is filled with love and terror, mystery and myth, kindness and hatred, all told so vividly I bubbled over with every emotion. 

Ah! My disappointing streak is finally over.  No wonder this novel won the Pulitzer Prize.  I adored every single page.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Lighten the Load

Today is the official "Lighten The Load" day at my house. It was time to clean out all the things I no longer use, or wear or need and send them to the Goodwill where they can find a new home. 

I started in the closet.  It's packed with more clothes than I can wear, yet it's a struggle to put much on the pile.  I might need that chartreuse T shirt with a hole in the armpit that I haven't wore in five years and I can't part with it.  Yet that someday is never going to come and I know it. Neither is sewing up the hole.  I found three pairs of hiking boots and I'm really not much of a hiker.  The last time those boots did any serious hiking was twelve years ago when I hiked out of the Grand Canyon.  That hike changed my life forever, but almost killed me in the process.  So when I noticed a pair of boots still had the red clay of the Grand Canyon imbedded in the soul, they immediately went back on the shelf and the other two pair went into the pile.

It didn't take long to come to a standstill in the closet. I moved on to my office with shelves and shelves of my beloved books.  The task I faced here was even more daunting than purging a few old pairs of jeans.  My books.  I love my books.  I haven't read "Tales of Aladdin", "Rascal" or "The Little Prince" in probably forty years but I can't bear to part with them.  They were among my first books, carefully selected at the annual book fair held in the school gymnasium when I was eight years old.  I gently stroked the covers and put them back in their place.

Moving to the next shelf, I thumbed through my collection of books on reiki before coming to several autographed titles.  I have one entire shelf of novels by Thomas Wolfe.  He was my step mother's cousin. The old, worn, first edition books have found their way here.  Nothing on these shelves is leaving anytime soon. 

Desperate to add at least something to the contributions, I found a John Irving novel, that I enjoyed but no longer had any special attachment to or desire to read again.  I carefully folded the clothes and put them in a plastic garbage bag setting the lone book on top. 

I looked at the half full bag and put it in the back of my car for its trip to Goodwill.  I hadn't made really any extra space inside but I'd made an effort.  Thank goodness for my Kindle.  It's rare that I buy actual books any more, much preferring the digital kind.  They take up much less space.  Plus it allows me to cherish the old books I have and not crowd them with new purchases. 

The clothes in the closet, however are a totally different kind of story. "Lighten the Load Day" is going to have to become official at least once a month.  Once a year is just not going to cut it, but I can skip cleaning the office.  Nothing in there, is going anywhere.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

In my quest to read a really good book, I headed to the list of Pulitzer Prize winning fiction.  I had heard of Olive Kitteridge so I thought I would give it a try.  It's set in Maine about a Mainer so that's a huge plus for me.  Love Maine!

Olive is a math teacher, married to Henry.  They have one son, Christopher.  Olive is a large woman, she wears size 10 shoes.  And she's not a warm or friendly person, short on words and quick to judge others, but not mean or unkind. She's trying to figure out why others can't see the world the way she does, since hers is the right and only way.  We follow Olive through a large cast of characters in the town of Crosby, Maine, who seamlessly float in and out of her life.

After I've read a book and before I write a review, I usually search the Internet to see what others have said about the book.  News to me was that Olive Kitterridge is considered a collection of 13 short stories.  As I mentioned, many of the chapters told stories of other people in town, the clerk who worked in Henry's pharmacy, the alcoholic piano player at the local tavern, or Jim O'Casey, a fellow teacher who Olive considered having an affair with.  Olive threaded through each story so that I didn't see them as separate and distinct.  Although sometimes I felt the segways were disconnected, I always felt that the lives of the others, developed Olive's character more deeply.  People come in and out of our lives, sometimes staying for years, but most often for only a fleeting moment. The book gave me as a reader, the sensation of life as it happened all around her. 

Olive Kitteridge is beautifully written.  Olive is not a really likeable person, yet I couldn't help liking her.  Her feet were planted firmly on the ground, yet sometimes they weren't.  She was real and I followed her around town as if I were doing my daily errands.  And I loved the feeling I got from reading Olive Kitteridge.

City of Thieves by David Benioff

City of Thieves by David Benioff It's World War II in Leningrad, Russia.  17 year old Lev elected to stay behind in the city when h...