Who here has read books by the late Maeve Binchy? I love everything she’d ever written – lovely, warm Irish stories like Circle of Friends, Light a Penny Candle, Scarlet Feather. Binchy died in 2012, alas, but there’s an Irish writer who’s just as wonderful, if not better.
Meet Roisin (“Ro-SHEEN”) Meaney, based in Limerick. She’s written 20 novels, all of them worth your time, in my humble opinion. Her newest is called Life Before Us, and it’s exactly what you should be reading!
In Life Before Us, we meet George Murphy, a 34-year-old schoolteacher with a kind heart and an 11-year-old daughter named Suzi (adorable and precocious) from his now-ended marriage to Claire. George is a gentle and caring person who devotes extra time to his sixth-grade students. His widowed mother has recently moved out of the family home (where George returned after his divorce) and is now living with John.
Alice O’Mahoney is a receptionist in a dentist’s office in Dublin, and is involved with a man named Chris, who is far too secretive to be trusted. Except Alice ignores the red flags and is preparing a getaway with him, until Chris’s wife (!!!) calls her at work to let her know that Alice has been a fool. Well, yes, but what about Chris? Anyway, how humiliating! Alice decides to return to her hometown of Naas, Ireland, only to find that her old friends have moved on with their lives. She moves in temporarily with her aunt Kate, who runs an Italian restaurant, and helps out at the restaurant, delivers local eggs for Kate (who has hens, of course), and manages to snag a gig writing a “kindness column” for the local newspaper.
Throughout the book, Alice’s path will cross with George’s path numerous times, but they never meet in person (well, they do, but only you, the reader, knows it). If it’s destiny that these two meet, it takes some time. And that’s what is so gorgeous about this novel – and about Meaney’s writing in particular – she weaves these moments, phrases, glances, all together so that by the time you’re almost finished with the book (and trust me, you don’t want it to end), there is a stunning tapestry of a tale.
I adored this book – five big beautiful stars. If you enjoyed reading this review, I encourage you to buy or download her book – and you’ll be hooked, too.
I had to wait until I returned from vacation, but here is my list of the 16 books I managed to read since mid-June.
This story about a journey through the South involves Boop and her granddaughter, Eve. The middle part of this family is Eve’s mother, Justine, who is Boop’s daughter. Filled with Southern charm, author Mary Helen Sheriff writes with true emotion and tells a funny but poignant tale about relationships, misunderstandings, and, ultimately, redemption. The best kind of story!
This wonderful novel by the fabulous Jennifer Weiner is about girlfriends, past and present, all wrapped up in the complexities of living in these trying times. It’s witty and moving. Weiner has the Midas touch when it comes to beach reads!
I am grateful to Lisa at Ink Fish Books for gifting me with a copy of this book. I spent many mornings at Colt State Park reading, and losing myself in the rich, gorgeous writing of author Maggie O’Farrell. If you don’t know, Hamnet is a novel inspired by the real-life son of William Shakespeare, who died in 1596. It’s absolutely brilliant and, in my opinion, a must-read for anyone who loves literature.
I was on a Jennifer Weiner roll this summer, as Good in Bed was the second of three Weiner novels I devoured. This was her debut novel, and it tells the story of an overweight Jewish female journalist, her love and work life, and her emotional abuse issues with her father. Apparently much of the novel reflects Weiner’s own life, and I know she has struggled with weight issues for much of her life. It became a NYT bestseller, and I can see why. Five big stars.
I can’t imagine a summer full of reading without at least one of Roisin Meaney’s books on my table. In this one, three couples are set to spend a weekend at a house by the sea. Lily and Charlie, who had been married for over twenty-five years, but are now nearly divorced, show up, each with their own partner – Lily brings Joe, her new fiancé. Charlie brings his way-too-young girlfriend Chloe. And Lily and Charlie’s grown children, daughter Poll and son Thomas. With her trademark charm and genius for telling a story, Roisin Meaney weaves a seamless tale about family, love, loss, and forgiveness. If you’re a fan of Maeve Binchy books, you’ll love everything Roisin Meaney writes.
I only recently become a Daniel Silva fan. This one did not disappoint! Fast-paced, well written, Silva takes the reader on a whirlwind journey through Venice, Vatican City, even my beloved Switzerland! Silva’s intrepid character Gabriel Allon always is central to his stories, and this one brings up an important question about the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
Marisa de los Santos! Definitely one of my favorite authors. She writes with beautiful prose and explores the emotions that we sometimes hide deep within our hearts. There are characters here that are in her earlier novels, but not to worry, you don’t have to read her books in any order. This one shifts between the present day and the 1950s, and the author handles the changes effortlessly.
I love this cover, too. Yes, I went on a little Marisa de los Santos binge, reading three of her books in a row. Well worth your time. The way she uses words is genius, and she really does paint a picture with words. In I’d Give Anything, de los Santos brings the reader the most genuine of flawed human beings, and I hated to see this one end.
Then I read this one. So, I think this was Book 2 of her series, Blue Sky was Book 3, and I’d Give Anything was Book 4. I still have to read Book1! But it really doesn’t matter. The characters in this book were so real, so well-drawn – Piper and Cornelia and Dev – Dev! – and Teo. You’ll love them, too.
This was a really good book. The main character, Daisy, receives emails that are meant for someone else (email address off by a letter – that can happen!). Daisy is somewhat unsatisfied with her life and is intrigued by this other woman, based on the emails, thinking her life is more glamorous and exciting. When Daisy finally lets the other woman know about the mix-up, they meet and become friends. But perhaps the mix-up wasn’t entirely accidental.
Here’s an anthology for every James Taylor fan – and yes, that includes me! In fact, I was asked to contribute to this compendium, and my little story about one of JT’s songs in included. Taylor’s fans have recounted their lifelong long of his music and lyrics, and every one of the stories is impactful. Compiled by Rebecca Gold, a mega-fan, this one is a true pleasure to read.
Sometimes I ask myself why I’d ever want to revisit the awful trump years – I mean, they were horrible. This book focuses on the final year of his failed presidency, during the Coronavirus pandemic that engulfed the country. From his refusal to take the pandemic seriously to his denial of the election loss and his lies about election fraud, Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker offer stunning detail about the final year of this dysfunctional presidency.
Elin Hilderbrand’s novels are made for summer reading, and I’ve checked a few of them out of the library, to catch up. Vicki, Brenda, and Melanie head to Nantucket (of course!) to escape their own travails and forget about aspects of their troubled lives. A young man named Josh enters their worlds and everything is turned upside down. A great read!
Okay, maybe it’s not correct to include this one, but I did read it! I had to, I was the editor! Actually, for the third year, I chaired the committee that solicited and accepted submissions of prose and poetry from members of the Association of Rhode Island Authors for its annual anthology. In this volume, with its theme of GREEN, the writers interpreted that theme in their own way and have provided a varied take on the theme, with compelling poems and short stories.
Oh, this book! My husband read it last year and kept telling me I needed to read it. Meanwhile, I had all these other books to read first, but finally, we had vacation and I made sure to bring The Great Alone with me. And I devoured it. Set in remote Alaska in the mid-1970s. it tells the story of teenager Leni and her dysfunctional parents, stuck in the wilds of Alaska when it was still remote and mostly off the grid. Leni’s father, a Vietnam veteran plagued by PTSD and violent outbursts, dreads the onset of winter and darkness. And her mother has every reason to be concerned, as those violent outbursts are generally directed at her. You should read this one.
This one finished off the summer for me. Seemed like a good end-of-summer read, and The Beach Club was Hilderbrand’s debut novel. Here we have Mack Petersen, who manages a hotel on Nantucket – he’s been there for 12 years, since he was 18 and left the family farm in Iowa after the tragic death of his parents. Mack’s girlfriend Maribel wants to get married, after being with Mack for six years, and she’s growing impatient. Meanwhile, a mistimed encounter with one of the hotel guests leads the hotel’s bellman, Vance (who’s hated Mack for the past 12 years), to threaten him with violence. Mack’s feeling the pressure! There are plenty of other characters in this story, and what I love about Hilderbrand is that even the most minor character can be memorable. A great summer read.
Okay, that’s it! Summer’s just about over, time to get back to work. What did you read this summer? What’s in your To-Be-Read pile?
As usual, I’ve been spending a good part of this year writing, not reading. That’s what happens when you hold yourself to releasing a new novel every December! But reading is important, too. I’ve managed to get through a few books since the beginning of the year. Here’s what I’ve read so far:
Hurt by the people closest to her, Julia decided long ago love isn’t worth the pain. When she meets Will, she fights her attraction to him, unwilling to risk her heart, but is unable to resist their passionate connection – until a ghost from Will’s past surfaces and forces them apart. Two hearts shattered, Julia and Will’s paths diverge – until fate steps in one sunny September morning, offering them a second chance at true love. But is love enough? Can they break free of their painful past and allow their love to take flight?
This was a fine first effort by a local (Rhode Island) author. Looking forward to reading more from her.
Robin— twenty-five, lonely, aimless— is drifting through summer in Providence. It’s the worst recession in generations, but she’s got bigger problems. For starters, her father is losing his mind to dementia. (He also might be falling love, which is nice, but begs the question: is it adultery if you can’t remember you’re married?)
There’s more, a lot more, and I thoroughly enjoyed this story. Multiple typos distracted me, and I do wish the author had hired a professional copy editor, but the story is very, very good.
Berlin, 1939. Before everything changed, Hannah Rosenthal lived a charmed life. But now the streets of Berlin are draped in ominous flags; her family’s fine possessions are hauled away; and they are no longer welcome in the places they once considered home. A glimmer of hope appears in the shape of the St. Louis, a transatlantic ocean liner promising Jews safe passage to Cuba. At first, the liner feels like a luxury, but as they travel, the circumstances of war change, and the ship that was to be their salvation seems likely to become their doom.
This book was released in October 2016, and I’d heard a lot about it. It’s well worth your time, especially if you’re a fan of WWII fiction. I was drawn in to the dual story lines, and the fact that this is based on true events was all I needed. Wonderful!
Wife. Mother. Breadwinner. Penelope Ruiz-Kar is doing it all—and barely keeping it together. Meanwhile, her best friend, Jenny Sweet, appears to be sailing through life. As close as the two women are, Jenny’s passionate marriage, pristine house, and ultra-polite child stand in stark contrast to Penelope’s underemployed husband, Sanjay, their unruly brood, and the daily grind she calls a career.
The title alone grabbed me (right??), and the story inside held me captive. Loved it, all of it. I don’t want to give anything away, but this book grabs you early and keeps you reading.
Behind the brightly colored doors of Miller’s Avenue live people with very complicated lives…
Do they ever! From possibly my new favorite author (it’s pronounced “Ro-SHEEN”) comes one of her earlier books. I just couldn’t get enough of these characters and can’t wait to read more from Roisin.
Finally! My husband gave me this book for Christmas and I just finished it this past weekend. It’s easy to set aside and easy to pick back up. Kudos to this remarkable, brilliant woman for her honesty and inspiration.
And what I’m in the middle of now:
My good friend Lisa Valentino of Ink Fish Books recommended this book, and I just started it yesterday. Read the first hundred pages without taking a break. Yes, it’s that good. And how about that gorgeous cover?!
So, how about you? Summer’s here – what’s on your must-read list?