Return to Valetto by Dominic Smith
Sarah Laurence
by Sarah Laurence
1y ago
Return to Valetto by Dominic Smith is a virtual vacation to one of my favorite places in the world. Years ago my parents rented an Umbrian villa to celebrate their 40th anniversary with their children and grandchildren, and reading this sumptuous novel recalls the savory meals, the ancient villages, and the gorgeous northern Italian countryside, albeit with a murky past.  Hugh Fisher is mourning the double loss of his wife and then his Italian mother when he returns to Valetto to claim his inheritance. The only hitch is Elisa Tomassi, an award winning chef from Milan, is squatting in the ..read more
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Changes in the Weather by Leela Marie Hidier
Sarah Laurence
by Sarah Laurence
1y ago
Changes in the Weather is a young adult novella about climate change told in four distinct voices. In "Wind" a hurricane forces Isla's family into a nomadic motel existence. Prolonged drought in "Earth" sucks the life blood from the farm of Ava's grandmother. While in "Water" too much rainfall threatens Xenia's riverside town.  The aftermath of "Fire" leaves Natasha to nurture her younger siblings while their mother undergoes surgery. In each story a teenage girl finds herself in a new role as climate disaster upends her life. Although the book is a work of fiction, it rings all too true ..read more
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Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan
Sarah Laurence
by Sarah Laurence
1y ago
Small Things Like These is a perfectly crafted novela with a social justice message that every writer should read. In only 118 pages, Irish author Claire Keegan develops her characters, immerses the reader in a multi-sensory setting, and builds a moral dilemma with the depth of a much longer classic.  The story takes place over Christmas of 1985, but the cozy Irish village setting is timeless and the characters Dickensian. Coal merchant Bill Furlong strives to be a good husband and father, having lost his mother at a young age without learning the identity of his father. Although a child ..read more
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Dead Burying the Dead Under a Quaking Aspen by David Canmer
Sarah Laurence
by Sarah Laurence
2y ago
I'm delighted to review a debut poetry collection released in April by David Cranmer, who was an early member of our Book Review Club. David is perhaps better known as the editor/publisher of Beat to a Pulp webzine, but he is also an accomplished poet with a most original voice.  Dead Burying the Dead Under a Quaking Aspen is both eclectic and true to the complex backstory of the poet. David is an Army veteran and a risk management advisor who has worked in Haiti. His opening poem "The Inconsiderate" is a disturbing account of murder in Port-au-Prince. The focus shifts from the corpse to ..read more
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Neruda on the Park by Cleyvis Natera
Sarah Laurence
by Sarah Laurence
2y ago
After reviewing novels for 15 years and plotting my own, it's not often that a book surprises me, but Cleyvis Natera's Neruda on the Park is an astounding debut. The set-up reminded me of You've Got Mail: a naive young woman falls for the charming developer who threatens to destroy her world. However, as the beautiful cover art reveals, Neruda on the Park is more of a mother-daughter story than a romance, unless their Dominican neighborhood in NYC is the main love interest.  Natera's novel has such a wonderful sense of place of both Manhattan (where I grew up) and the Dominican Repu ..read more
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What I Carry by Jennifer Longo
Sarah Laurence
by Sarah Laurence
2y ago
It's a rare pleasure to find a book that tackles gritty issues and still manages to be an enjoyable read. Jennifer Longo excels at creating complex protagonists who are their own worst antagonists. Longo's last book, Up to this Point, was one of my favorite young adult novels of 2016, but What I Carry is even better. Her latest young adult novel taught me so much about the failings of the foster care system without ever being didactic.  Muir was born addicted to the drugs her mother was using and then shuffled through a series of foster homes. At nearly eighteen, Muir is finall ..read more
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The World That We Knew by Alice Hoffman
Sarah Laurence
by Sarah Laurence
2y ago
To celebrate Hanukkah, my family lights the menorah for eight nights; my husband makes the most delicious latkes (potato pancakes); we spin dreidels for chocolate gelt (money), and I have always given our children books. When shopping for books by diverse authors this holiday season, remember to include Jewish writers. Their stories aren't just for Hanukkah. We can all learn so much about the world by reading about other cultures and key moments in history.  One of my favorite Jewish writers is Alice Hoffman, the  author of more than thirty books, many of them national bestsellers ..read more
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Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr
Sarah Laurence
by Sarah Laurence
3y ago
If you loved All the Light We Cannot See as much as I did, you'll be delighted to hear that Anthony Doerr will be releasing a new and equally epic novel, Cloud Cuckoo Land, on September 28th. His latest book is structurally more complex as it is narrated in multiple voices from antiquity, the recent past, and the future. It’s an ode to ancient texts, to libraries, and most of all, to readers. The historical storyline follows two teenagers on opposite sides of a walled city during the 1453 siege of Constantinople. Anna is an orphan who should be embroidering birds and flowers for Christian p ..read more
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The Bilingual Book Club: El lápiz del carpintero/The Carpenter's Pencil
Sarah Laurence
by Sarah Laurence
3y ago
Salomé and a furry friend, photo by Elena To research a novel about Jewish refugees in the Dominican Republic during World War II, I've been learning Spanish. Unable to travel, I connected with a conversational partner in Spain through the language exchange website Mixxer. Salomé lives in Galicia in the northwestern corner of Spain. Like my rural state of Maine, Galicia's geographic isolation protected the large elderly population from the higher Covid infection rates of more urban areas. Our pandemic stats have been remarkably similar, even though I was fully vaccinated by May 1st ..read more
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Small Island by Andrea Levy
Sarah Laurence
by Sarah Laurence
3y ago
Although Small Island is now one of my favorite historical novels, I was so disappointed by how one character treated other people that I quit reading for several years. Abandoned by her white father and Black mother, Hortense was raised in Jamaica by relatives who nourish and educate her but skimp on love. Seeking a better life, Hortense steals her best friend's boyfriend, a dashing Royal Air Force veteran, to immigrate to London. Her husband, Gilbert Joseph is hardworking and ambitious too, but his patient kindness and good humor stands in sharp contrast to her judgemental pride. Their stru ..read more
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