The bestselling author of Sarah’s Key, Tatina de Rosnay, has written another winner.  A Secret Kept literally keeps the reader in suspense, wondering if the secret will ever be totally revealed.

Antoine takes his sister Melanie on a 40th birthday trip to  Noirmoutier Island, a lovely place where they had spent several enjoyable summers as children.   But something about the island also brings back troubling memories for Melanie.  On the return trip home, just as Melanie is about to reveal her fears to Antoine, she loses control of the car.  The book opens with Antoine waiting anxiously in a hospital waiting room, wondering if Melanie will even survive.

Antoine finds himself confronting not only his past, but his present family relationships as well.  Unhappy since his divorce just a year ago, he has difficulty communicating with his children and he has always felt distanced from his father.  He senses the secret revolves around his mother, and he wonders about her sudden death so many years ago.

I really enjoyed this book.  The tension is kept sufficiently tight, and the character development, realistic.  Plus, if you’re a francophile, you’ll appreciate some of the many French references! Incidentally, the author was recently named one of the top ten fiction writers in Europe.

I’m going back to “Gramma” School.  Yup, this month we were blessed with a new grandson, so I’m looking forward to spending some time with the little guy and his big sister.  Being a grandmother really is one of the best things in life!

However, I’ve discovered (surprise, surprise) that a few things have changed over the last 30 years, so it seems that one must approach this “parenting-that- is-grand” phase with a life-long learning approach.  One aspect that is usually different – though not always – is that grandparents have more time.  For me, this rings especially true with reading.  As a former teacher, I knew the “read-it-again” rule about re-reading books that kids like, because they learn from the repitition.  With my own children, I probably managed 3 or 4 read-it-agains in one sitting.  But as a grandparent, I’ve read and re-read certain books 8 or 9 times — or at least so many times that I was certain we had both memorized it and that I was going to go insane if I read it again.  (I copped out and suggested that maybe Grandpa could read it again after bathtime.)

Oh — you want to know what that book was?  Well, it’s Martha Doesn’t Say Sorry by Samatha Berger.  It’s a delightful little picture book with lots of pink coloring, though I could never figure out if Martha was a seal or a weasel or what kind of animal she was, other than a cute one.  And why did my precious, perfectly behaved granddaughter want to read that particular book so many times?  I’ll never know.  I didn’t ask.  Oh, yeah, that’s just one of the other little rules I’ve learned in Gramma School.

 

 

There’s something very comforting about Erica Bauermeister’s books — they’re sort of  “stop and smell the roses”  reminder.   For me, when she describes the smell of freshly baked bread, I swear I’m going to master making it from scratch, even though my past attempts at bread -baking have often yielded less-than satisfying results.  Indeed, at times I’ve been too embarrassed to throw it out for the birds!  (I mean, really, what if even they didn’t eat it?) But enough about me.

As in her first book, The School of Essential Ingredients, each chapter focuses on a different character.  In her new one, Joy for Beginners,  the characters are all women and all friends, even though they are different ages and at various stages in their lives.  These women don’t live Pollyanna lives — loved ones still die, couples still divorce, some parent-child relationships stay strained — but through it all, their friendships remain strong and continue to provide the support and encouragement each of them needs.

The book opens with a potluck dinner party, celebrating Kate’s recent victory over breast cancer.  Kate agrees to try something she’s always feared– white-water rafting– but in return, each of them must also promise to do something they find difficult, though Kate  gets to pick their challenges.  In some cases, the task seems surprisingly simple, such as baking bread or discarding books left by an ex-husband.  Still, Kate seems to have an innate sense as to what her friends need most.

I really enjoyed this book.  It’s a perfect gift for a good friend — or for someone who wants to make bread from scratch!

I don’t know about your family, but in ours, Father’s Day revolves around golf.  Actually, they’d probably go every Sunday afternoon if weather and time permitted, but at least on this day, a round of golf is practically guaranteed.

On our New Materials shelves, you can find Golfing With Dad by David Barrett.  Before writing this book Barrett worked as a features editor for Golf Magazine, so he’s very familiar with the professional golf scene.  Here, he’s selected fourteen tour pros, including Mickelson, Nicklaus and Palmer, and tells the stories of how their fathers and golf influenced their lives.  He also includes several women golfers, so it’s not just a father-son theme.  Rather, it seems as if encouragement is the key word, even though each scenario is different.

Another book featuring professionals and their fathers is Golf Dads by Curt Sampson.  It’s subtitled Fathers, Sons, and the Greatest Game, yet it does feature a chapter on Michelle Wie. Other well known subjects are Lee Trevino and Ben Hogan.

Finally, there’s His Father’s Son: Earl and Tiger Woods.  No matter how you feel about Tiger these days, Tiger has always credited his father as being a big factor behind his success on the golf course.  And no matter how you feel about golf, I think you — and you dad — will enjoy these titles.

 

Looking for a different way to honor Dad this coming Father’s Day?  How about checking out a movie featuring a fabulous father?  There’s a lot to choose from — it all depends upon your interests, or perhaps, more importantly, upon the ages of your kids.

For the younger crowd, The Incredibles is a fun choice, and all the people in that family are pretty amazing!

One of my favorites is Mrs. Doubtfire with Robin Williams.  This is a good choice for slightly older kids;  it’s hilarious, but also quite touching.

If your kids are older — maybe even adults — you may want to check out Father of the Bride. You can chose the popular newer version with Steve Martin, but it might be refreshing to go way back and view the original movie starring Spencer Tracy.  See how things have changed, or possibly, how much has stayed the same!

For those of you who’d rather have a real book connection, why not look into To Kill a Mockingbird. Atticus Finch has to be one of the most understanding fathers in the world.

And if you prefer TV shows, you might like watching some true oldies, like My Three Sons or Father Knows Best. Have a Happy Father’s Day!

What’s with all the numbers lately?  Recent releases by several popular authors all feature numbers in their titles, as evidenced here:  

          

Connelly’s newest is actually the fourth in this series, which began with The Lincoln Lawyer.  Movie-goes may have seen the recently released film (same title)  with Matthew McConaghey playing the lead role of lawyer Mickey Haller.  Haller’s reputation comes from managing his L.A. criminal defense practice out of his Lincoln Town Car. 

Baldacci’s newest book stars characters Sean King and Michelle Maxwell, both former Secret Service agents who are now security consultants for hire.  As in the other books in this series — the first being Split Second — there’s lots of dialogue and fast-paced action.  The investigators seem to be constantly on the move, seldom sleeping or eating, yet still able to ward off professionally hired assailants with maximum efficiency. 

Patterson’s 10th Anniversary is his tenth novel in the Women’s Murder Club series, which began with 1st to Die.  If you haven’t read any of them,  perhaps you caught some of the made-for-TV-movies featuring Angie Harmon in the lead role of Lindsay Boxer, a tough San Francisco detective who works alongside other professional women (an attorney, a coroner and a journalist) to solve high-profile murder cases.  The books are quick, easy reads with short chapters.  

All of the above make great choices for summer reading, so come check out some  — by the numbers!

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand is a delightful little love story.  Judging from the cover art,  I was expecting it to take place earlier in the century, but it is definitely set in the present day, in a charming English country village called Edgecomb St. Mary.

Major Pettigrew, though retired, is the personification of a very proper English gentleman, fond of all things British, including a cup of freshly brewed tea.  When his brother dies unexpectedly, he is surprised to find himself drawn into a friendship with Mrs. Ali, a local Pakistani shopkeeper.  As their friendship develops into something more, they discover that many of their friends and neighbors have trouble accepting their new relationship.  Throw is some scenes from some recalcitrant family members and you’ve got yourself a full-fledged drama.  Well, okay, it’s not a tragedy like Romeo and Juliet, but it is sweet, it is sensitive and it is a refreshingly real love story featuring more “mature” participants.  But then, love is not only for the young — and we can all choose to be young at heart.

 

Here are some new books that should tie-in well with Mother’s Day.  After reading the reviews, I know I’m looking forward to reading both of these titles.

In Daughters-in-Law, author Joanna Trollope explores how Rachel’s life has changed since her three sons have grown up and married.  Once accustomed to being the center of her family, she now finds her position as matriarch slipping away.  She also realizes that other women — the daughters-in-law — are now the main focus in her children’s lives and it’s a bit disconcerting.  Will she be able to find a way to still preserve the relationships she’s held dear for so long?

Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin received a starred review in Library Journal, which declared that it “should be one of this year’s most deserving bestsellers.”  Basically, the story concerns a family’s search for their mother, who has gone missing in a crowded Seoul subway station.  In probable fashion, the children argue over how best to find her, while her husband returns to their country home in hopes she’ll return there.  Meanwhile, each recalls their own memories of her and wonder if they have lived up to her expectations.  The book concludes with Mom’s own version of the story, and the reader learns what really happened that day.  Sound intriguing?  Check it out and have a Happy Mother’s Day!

I really wanted to read this book, but I kept putting it back on the shelf.  At nearly 1000 pages (985 to be exact) I knew I could read three books in the same time it would take me to finish just this one.  I shouldn’t have waited.  Turns out, it really was a pretty quick read — but that’s because I hardly ever put it down!

Fall of Giants isn’t Ken Follett’s first historical fiction book, nor will it be his last.  Readers will no doubt remember his Pillars of the Earth, which was an Oprah Book Club choice, plus its sequel, World Without End. And of course, this title is just the first in a planned Century trilogy.   But let’s get to the book.  It covers five families — Welsh, Russian, German, American and English.  Some are wealthy aristocrats, like the Fitzhuberts, and others, like Billy Williams and his sister Ethel, are on the opposite end of the socio-economic scale.  Rounding out this mix are the orphaned Peshkov brothers in Russia, an American lawyer working in the White House, and, oh yes, a German spy.  So you see, there’s a little something for everyone –political intrigue, scintillating sex and romance, and some action-packed battle scenes.  Plus the multiple story lines (arranged chronologically) keeps you turning those pages.

What’s most intriguing is how the lives of all these diverse characters somehow logically interconnect.  Though I’m certainly no expert on the World War I era (the book spans the years 1911 to 1924) I was familiar enough to recognize that Follett had meticulously researched this tome, and his inclusion of real historical figures, such as Winston Churchill, seems to enhance it’s believability.  Believe me, even if you think you don’t, you really do have time to read this book.

Wow! This is a great book for travel dreamers or doers.  Subtitled A Rough Guide to Travel Adventures by Greg Witt, Ultimate Adventures showcases all sorts of exotic locations — some places I’ve never even heard of, but now can’t wait to see.  And though there are many adventures which are geared more to the adrenaline junkie, there are still plenty of “soft” experiences for the more conservative traveler.  For instance, I know I’ll never ever attempt a 51-day ski trip to the South Pole or ice diving in Russia’s White Sea.  But maybe I could handle hiking New Zealand’s Milford Trek, as I’ve had friends who’ve successfully completed it.

One handy feature is a 5-star rating system covering 4 elements: physical, psychological, skill level and wow! factor.  This is designed to help the reader decide if this trip is a good match for their abilities.  For example, climbing Mt. Kilamanjaro is ranked high (4) for the physical endurance required, only a 2 for the skill level needed (it’s basic hiking, not technical rock climbing) but it scores a 5 for Wow factor.

It’s well-organized (by continents); the photos are breathtaking and the descriptions should inspire even the stodgiest couch potato.  As a librarian, I don’t need to buy many books, but I do plan to purchase this one!