Mercy Sais

The Widower's Tale by Julia Glass

The Widower's Tale by Julia Glass

The seventy-year-old widower and retired librarian, Percy Darling, in Julia Glass’ The Widower’s Tale, has been entrenched in his old house for 30 years after the tragic death of his wife. He’s definitely set in his eccentric ways. But in order to help his daughter Clover find a job, he has allowed the local preschool, Elves and Fairies, to renovate his barn to use as their new venue if they hire Clover. The changes begin with a small purchase: Percy has to give up his daily skinny dipping in the pond on his property and wear a garish pink pineapple print swimsuit for his daily swim.

The world opens up for Percy on his pilgrimage out of Matlock, a small town near Boston.  He falls in love with a younger woman with child and she becomes ill.  His perfect grandson, who is in premed at Harvard, inadvertently gets involved in eco-terrorism through his roommate Arturo. There's Ira, the gay preschool teacher whose partner helps Percy's daughter with her custody battle. And there's the illegal Guatemalan gardener.  Funny and sad, Percy’s dilemmas help him grow and form friendships and show his love for his family.
 

The Distant Hours, by Kate Morton

The Distant Hours, by Kate Morton

Australian author Kate Morton has made a study of Gothic fiction, and her book, The Distant Hours, is a "Gothic Delight." Her writing, a mixture of Gothic, romance and mystery genres, plus her addition of original fairy tales, has sold millions of novels all over the world.

"The ancient walls sing the distant hours..." at Milderhurst Castle in Kent, home of the literary Blythe family. Only the decaying castle--and the careful reader--know all the secrets hidden within its walls and moat. Kate Morton carefully paces her novel--you don't want to miss a page or you will miss out on the clues to piece together the secrets.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Alternating from biography to science, Rebecca Skloot in writing The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks avoids sentimentality and making judgments.

Skloot, a science journalist, tells the story of Henrietta and her DNA.  The subject was born Loretta Pleasant—nobody knows how her name became Henrietta—Lacks, in a family known to marry their first cousins in the now-razed town of slave cabins and tobacco farms named Clover near Roanoke, Virginia. She married her first cousin, David ‘Day’ Lacks, moved to Baltimore to work in a plant riddled with asbestos.  Her husband's  unfaithfulness gave her both neurosyphilis and gonorrhea. Her environment, poverty and lack of education made her the tragic heroine of a great scientific experiment. Henrietta Lack's deadly cervical cancer cells—taken without her consent—were the first to be grown and then thrive in a lab. HeLa cells, still growing today sixty years after her death, would weigh in total more than 50 metric tons.

Corduroy Mansions by Alexander McCall Smith

Corduroy Mansions by Alexander McCall Smith

Alexander McCall Smith’s Corduroy Mansions is about Family. The group of tenants in the genteel but slightly shabby house in the Pimlico neighborhood in London cares about each other and finds joy in the simple things in life.

This is an ensemble piece with a simple plot and many eccentric and likable characters.  There is William French, a widower and wine merchant, who cannot get his 24-year-old son to move out.  He “borrows’ Freddy de la Hay, a terrier with human behavior and thoughts, to get the dog-hating Eddie to move out. Instead, William’s ersatz girlfriend moves in. On the floor below live four young women: Dee works in a health food shop; Caroline is studying art history at Sotheby’s; Jenny is MP Oedipus Snark’s assistant; Jo, an Australian, is assistant manager at a local wine bar. Below them lives a quiet accountant in his mid-forties called Basil Wickramsinghe.   The characters touch each other’s lives and have moral dilemmas to solve.

Last Night at the Chateau Marmont by Lauren Weisberger

The Chateau Marmont is an opulent hotel in Hollywood where the rich and famous go to misbehave. In Last Night at the Chateau Marmont by Lauren Weisberger, Brooke is dressing for the Grammys with her newly famous husband, wearing her first Valentino gown, her own plain gold wedding band replaced by a diamond the size of a macaroon when she finds out her “Rock Star” husband was at the Chateau Marmont with another woman—there are pictures just published in the tabloids—and then her boss calls from the hospital where she works as a nutritionist and fires her for missing too much time for following her husband to his gigs. Her Cinderella moment turns into a nightmare.

Amy Butler’s Style Stitches

Amy Butler designs fabrics, home accessories, sewing patterns, and stationery goods. She was a contributing editor to Country Living Magazine. Her bag designs in Amy Butler’s Style Stitches include 12 full-size patterns in a bound pocket in the back of the book with 26 simple variations. The bags have fresh color schemes such as her sea foam blue, apricot and her fun pink.

I can’t decide which bag I love the most: the Teardrop Bag, the Cosmo Bag or the Perfectly Pleated Clutch. She rates her designs from easy to the experienced sewer so with basic sewing you can try the easier projects with her complete step-by-step directions and easy-to-follow diagrams.

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson

 Jane Austen fans rejoice—the comedy of manners is still alive. In her debut novel, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, Helen Simonson’s plot  is wry, witty, and charming, yet her gentle and sometimes hilarious satire catches human foibles perfectly.

Wildwater Walking Club by Claire Cook

Noreen Kelly worked at Balancing Act Shoes for 18 years as a senior manager, but she did not start walking in The Wildwater Walking Club until she takes a Voluntary Reduction in Force package—or maybe not so voluntary--as she finds out her so-called boyfriend, who has now fallen off the face of the earth, has engineered her buyout. She is unemployed—redundant—and hits rock bottom.

With the help of a quirky set of friends and family, Noreen starts taking steps to reclaim her life. In these days of double-digit unemployment, Claire Cook writes with humor and romance and the plot resonates with our time.

Noreen finds out she is not her resume. She reconnects with her mother, finds new friends in her neighbors Tess and Rosie, helps parent and child, improves her taste in men, gets involved in her community, and gets herself and her life back in shape.

And what about her career? She attends a career coaching group and does find a “Fresh Horizon.”

This book was a fun read, and I got off my couch and took a walk after finishing it!

What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20 by Tina Seelig

I am a loving (and interfering) mother of a 20-year-old son so I thought I would read What I Wish I Knew When I was 20: A Crash Course on Making Your Place in the World and pass it on to him. I admit to sending him emails about Erik Erikson’s Stages of Development and what he should be doing as a young adult: intimacy versus isolation (Son, pick the correct side of the equation!) so I thought this book would give him a head’s up.

The author, Tina Seelig, also a mother of a 20 year old son, teaches courses on entrepreneurship at Stanford University and is a voice for creative thinking and problem solving. I especially like her examples in this book of innovative ways to come up with solutions. She gives her students an item – paper clips or rubber bands, for example – and challenges them to create as much value as possible with the item. 

The Passage by Justin Cronin

I loved Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Dark Shadows on TV when I was a kid, Anne’s Rice’s rock’n’roll vampires, and I even discussed what team I would join in the ‘tween Twilight Saga. I also devour vampire novels with “punny” titles such as Undead and Unappreciated by Mary-Janice Davidson, but I put The Passage on request at the library because of an article I read in Time Magazine that stated that vampires are scary again, and I do love a character that bites.