To Russia, With Love




Hi there. It’s me.

Let’s talk books.

If I love a book, I shout it from the rooftop (figuratively speaking): I mention it to everyone I know, blog it’s wonderfulness, email the author, rate it on Goodreads,  tweet my rating, and (try to) get all of my friends to read it.

I’ve read a few books this year, and until now, have not had the desire to shout about any . So, I thought I’d give a quick synopsis of what I’ve read the past month, what I’m reading now, and how I feel about them.

Just in case you were wondering.

I read Labor Day by Joyce Maynard for my Wine Not Read book club. It’s about a lonely boy and his lonely mother who take an injured escaped convict home from a store and spend five days with him at their house. With the movie out, all the press, the author being interviewed by Matt Lauer, I figured it would be great. It wasn’t. It never grabbed me emotionally and I was disappointed. Perhaps if the story was told from the woman’s point of view instead of from a thirteen-year-old boy, I might have enjoyed it more. Perhaps not. This one is not worth shouting.

I also read The Girl You Left Behind, by JoJo Moyes, a dual timeframe story set in WWI and modern day. I loved the beginning of this book: the story about Sophie and Edouard during WWI, and the decision Sophie’s forced to make while waiting for her beloved Edouard to return safely from war. It was really well done and hooked me immediately. However, I didn’t connect with the modern day story of Liv and Paul and that changed my feeling for the book from “love” to “like.”

I admire this author, who blew my mind last year with Me Before You. Moyes’ The Last Letter From Your Lover was also truly enjoyable.  The Girl You Left Behind does not hold a candle to either of those. It was good. Not great. But good. No shouting. No rooftops. Okay, maybe a fourth third floor balcony.

I am in the middle of The GoldFinch, by Donna Tartt, a 771 page story about a young boy in NYC who survives an accident that kills his mother. The writing is beautiful, but the details are exhausting and I need to take  breaks, which is something I don’t ordinarily do. I never cheat on one book with another. Each story gets my full attention until completion. I just can’t do it with this one. I will finish it. Eventually. But I need a few moments to breathe.

This leads me to the other book I’m currently reading, and the reason for this message.  I’m talking about Six Days in Leningrad, written by none other than my most favorite author, Paullina Simons. In this memoir of her first visit back to Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) in 25 years, Simons describes beautifully how she feels returning to her childhood home, in order to do research for her book The Bronze Horseman. Yep, that’s right. This is the story of how she got the information and inspiration to write THE story.


Reading Simon’s poignant account of her visit with her father, I realize just how much of herself and her own Russian life she put into her beloved trilogy. This one is a keeper.

I’m heading for the roof.


Top Ten Tuesday

The folks at The Broke and The Bookish have a weekly Tuesday Top 10 list and this week, I decided to participate. Today’s topic is Books I would recommend to…

Here is my list of top ten books I read this year that I would recommend to a girlfriend:

simons_bronze-horseman tatiana-and-alexander the-summer-garden Me-Before-You-book-cover-Jan-12-p122-1 slammed hopeless rulesofcivility wolvesimhome this_is_where_i_leave_l love-anthony-193x300














       1.  The Bronze Horseman, by Paullina Simons (1st book in the trilogy).  Meet Tatiana and Alexander, two young, beautiful people who fall in love amid impossible circumstances in WWII Russia. 

      2. Tatiana & Alexander (2nd book).  Forget sleep.

      3. The Summer Garden (Final installment). Closure! This is the most beautiful love story I’ve read all year…in a few years, in fact, with the exception of…

      4. Me Before You by JoJo Moyes. I voted for this book as best fiction of the year on Goodreads. If you haven’t read it yet, give yourself an early holiday gift: nestle on the couch for the weekend, and lose yourself in her story. You’re welcome.

      5. Slammed by Colleen Hoover. This is a new adult love story, but I couldn’t put it down.

      6. Hopeless by Colleen Hoover. Yep, she did it again.

      7. Rules of Civility by Amor Towles. Taking place during 1930’s New York, an expertly told love triangle. This was written so beautifully, I found myself re-reading passages just to enjoy them again.

      8. Tell The Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt. This is about a fourteen-year-old’s relationship with her late uncle’s partner. I loved this.

     9. This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper. Very funny story about love, marriage, divorce and family.

     10. Love Anthony by Lisa Genova. About an accidental friendship where a lonely woman helps a grieving mother understand her autistic son. I’d recommend anything by Ms. Genova. If you haven’t read Still Alice or Left Neglected by now, walk away from your laptop and go get them.

What books would you recommend?

Why YA? Why Not?

I’m a middle-aged woman who loves to read, as evident by my participation in two book clubs, Lit Ladies and Wine Not Read. My literary tastes run the gamut from historical fiction to biographies to mysteries and almost everything in between.  However, lately I’ve been finding myself gravitating toward Young Adult (or New Adult) literature. And I’m not sure why. I guess it started back when I jumped on the Hunger Games bandwagon and got quickly sucked into the trilogy. A young girl kicking ass in a futuristic, bleak world run by overindulged, wealthy bad people who watch children fight to the death for sport? Who doesn’t want to read about that?

hopelessEarlier this year, I read Hopeless, by Colleen Hoover, on the recommendation of a friend. It’s about seventeen year old Sky, who has basically been kept in a bubble by her devoted mother who home-schooled her until her senior year and kept her from any technological gadgets (sort of like living in the seventies). Sky meets hunky Dean Holder who is quickly taken with her and eventually she is forced to realize who she really is and that she has been living a lie. I couldn’t put it down. It grabbed me by the heart and took me for a ride. It was awesome.

Perksofbeingwallflower1Then I read The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky,  a coming-of-age story told through letters, written by socially awkward freshman, Charlie, who is experiencing, among other things, teenage angst, molestation, death, fitting in, acceptance..yada, yada, yada. Loved it.

In June, I hosted Wine Not Read and chose The Fault In Our Stars, by John Green, mainly to accommodate the many teachers among us who needed a quick read because they had to deal with the end of the year festivities. Not to sidetrack, but in my next life, if this writing thing doesn’t pan out, I’m coming back as a gym teacher. Sweats all day? Summers off? Pensions? These people are brilliant.

The_Fault_in_Our_StarsI digress. I read The Fault In Our Stars and thought, this is YA? At seventeen, I never once had a conversation that would have compared to the ones shared between Hazel and Augustus, two well-read teens in cancer remission who fall in love. In fact, I was never in their league. A typical conversation between my friends and I at that age (and I wish I were joking) would have revolved around Taco Bell, who was driving and what we were going to eat, which would explain my single status at that time. I promise things got better, but I’d be lying if I told you I still didn’t make a run for the border every now and then.

Anyway, the story was sad and beautiful. The whole group read it and agreed.

slammedI was on vacation in July with the family, waiting for the library to send me my next book club pick, Reconstructing Amelia, when I decide to spend some more time with my friend, Colleen Hoover. I read Slammed, the story about eighteen year old Lake, who suddenly lost her father and is forced to move across the country so her mom can work. She makes it as far as her new driveway, still in the U-haul, when she meets Will from across the street. They connect immediately. He takes her on their first date to a poetry slam and Lake is hooked. So am I. Of course, Will and Lake find out quickly they can’t be together and I can’t turn the pages fast enough – they HAVE to find a way! I read the story in two days, thanks to Florida rain and a husband who teaches Texas hold em to two impressionable teens. I even tweeted Colleen and told her how much I enjoyed the story.

What is it about the YA books that has me so enthralled? What does it say about me?

At the pool, a girl who couldn’t be older than sixteen planted herself on a lounge chair clutching The_Book_Thief_by_Markus_Zusak_book_coverThe Book Thief, by Markus Zusak. It took everything I had not to exclaim from the deep end how much I enjoyed that book. Death is narrating, I wanted to yell to her, how cool is that? I refrained only to save my fourteen-year-old son complete embarrassment.

Instead, I tread water trying to convince myself I’m not regressing..You loved Unbroken, I silently pointed out, The Great Gatsby, Catcher In The Rye…State of Wonder for Pete’s sake. Thoughts of abandoned Anna Karenina collecting dust on my bookshelf crept into my psyche. Pull yourself together!

Floating on my back, the sun on my face, I decided not worry about the types of stories I enjoy. The fact is, I enjoy them. Isn’t that enough? Don’t we all have enough stress in our lives? If I want to read a YA book, then by God, I will. Kids are smarter than we were anyway. I still have so much to learn.