The Chalk Artist first reads like a love story as Poor Boy and Rich Girl meet and fall in love, but Allegra Goodman has a bigger message. It is the real world versus the virtual world in this story. What are the roles of teachers and artists in the modern world? In the old stories and fairy tales, magic can grant wishes and create happy narratives, but it can turn menacing. In this modern story, technology takes on the role of magic. It is the real world versus the virtual world as the characters in the novel battle the technology that can destroy them. To find happiness, the characters must find balance in their lives and make connections to each other.
Rachel Kadish’s talent as a writer in The Weight of Ink engages you in the lives of all her characters. Her gift for making all her characters in both the 20th and 17th centuries come alive will pull you into their stories.
Kathy Schmitz does not believe in idle hands, as shown by her stitchery projects in Stitches from the Garden. She has clear instructions for 14 projects, including pillows, a bag, sachets, a pincushion, a journal cover, and a wrist bracelet. There are also instructions for the stitches used in each creation.
With romantic colors, she creates the colors, textures and shapes of nature. Birds perch, bees buzz, cherries hang from a tree, and lavender’s lacy shape all adorn her embroidery. Her table runner pattern has a garden full of flowers and insects stitched around the edge. Her artist’s eye captures the joys of a country garden with fabric and thread.
I love big books. I cannot lie. I love tomes big enough to use like doorstops which contain a truly satisfying, finished story. You can sink into a comfy chair or couch and know you will have hours of reading enjoyment. The Nix is one of those tales.
Nathan Hill has Dickensian characters, stylistic antics, and a sprawling plot that manages to tie up every loose end. This novel is a genealogical dig into Professor Samuel Andreson-Anderson’s past, a coming-of-age story, a story of unrequited love, and a satire of America. With the humor and a journey through American pop culture, Nathan Hill sends Samuel and the reader on a quest.
2017 falls during the 100th anniversary of World War I, and The Summer Before the War is the perfect novel to remind us of the world-changing conflict’s impact. In the novel, England is in the midst of fighting the Great War. For the small town of Rye in Sussex, all of the moral complexities of that war are realized. Helen Simonson is a master of gentle and sometimes fierce satire in this comedy of manners, as she was in her first novel, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand.
The first three parts of The Summer Before the War have a lighter tone as the characters are gently satirized for their foibles. There is nostalgia for the Edwardian innocence still left in the town of Rye, but cruel prejudice and gossip also reside in the town. All the characters seem like good people, but Helen Simonson cleverly reveals their flaws. Beatrice Nash enters the scene as the first female Latin “master” for the local grammar school. Beatrice has recently lost her father, whom she idolized, but she will not bow to the dictates and restrictions of how her family and society want her to lead her life, so she must earn her way.
In this fractured fairy tale, a mother with four boys uses all the old wives’ tales to try to conceive a girl. Nine months later, Claude, the fifth son is born, but Claude wants to grow up to be a princess. How Claude or any child achieves a happily-ever-after is what every parent worries about and what this book is about: love, marriage, family, acceptance, and raising children.
Lin-Manuel Miranda worked for six years to do the book, music, and lyrics for his hip-hop musical Hamilton. The musical explores the life and legacy of Alexander Hamilton, an immigrant from the Caribbean, who came to America and helped found our country’s financial system and, of course, was killed in a duel with Aaron Burr. The musical has won the Pulitzer Prize, a Grammy, and 10 Tony awards. I love all 23,000 words of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical Hamilton. The songs become earworms as they just make you replay them.
If you don’t have enough Hamilton $10 bills to get a pricey ticket to the Broadway production or time to wait in line for the cheaper Broadway lottery tickets for the play, check out the music CDs at the library from the original Broadway cast, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s backstage pass in Hamilton: The Revolution; and the book it is based on, Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton.
In Fates and Furies, first you meet the couple, Lotto and Mathilde, on their beach honeymoon. They seem a golden couple, but then the story unfolds from Lotto’s perspective in “Fates” and then Mathilde’s side in part two, “Furies.” Both characters are seriously flawed. This portrait of a marriage is like a Greek or Shakespearean tragedy. Lauren Groff even includes a Greek chorus by commenting about the characters within brackets.
The novel is full of strong and powerful women who take the threads of their lives and others’ into their own hands. How much does fate affect our destinies? How much do the female spirits of vengeance and justice, the angry ones, the Furies, change our paths?
Before reading The Book That Matters Most and seeing the list its book club picked, think about the book that matters most to you. I asked several friends and the members of my book group. The books they came up with were also Ann Hood’s choices.
At the beginning of the novel, Ava is lonely and angry. Her do-gooder husband has left her for a yarn bomber, for goodness sakes! She makes huge yarn objects to make political and social statements. Her children, Will and Maggie, are living abroad. Her daughter is a lost soul and trying to find herself in Paris.
Both the parents and children are having a summer of love and discovery in Modern Lovers. It is a recipe for drama and comedy when parents are going through midlife crises while adolescents are pushing boundaries with teenaged angst. With Brooklyn as the setting, Emma Straub captures time’s passing for her characters as they move from adolescence to adulthood and question what it really means to grow up.