Sunday, September 28, 2014

Just Jennifer

The Way Life Should Be by Christina Baker Kline (William Morrow, September 2014)


Who among us has not at one time or another looked around and wondered where we were, how we got here and where we are going?  Angela, a single woman living in New York City, working as an event planner finds herself in just that situation (jobless now) after a circus spectacular goes up in flames.  A keen interest in cooking Italian food learned from her grandmother, a picture of a cozy beach cottage in Maine and the possibility of a love interest met through an online dating site give Angela the courage to head north and start again.  Things in Maine are not how she hoped---even expected---them to be, but instead of turning around and running home, Angela decides to give Maine---and herself---a chance and finds a place to live, begins working in a coffeehouse and makes new friends, starting first and foremost with herself.  Kline’s stories are deceptively simple, but she has an uncanny knack of finding what characters find most frightening and guides them through to the life where things really are the way they should be.

Just Jennifer


Sea Creatures by Susanna Daniel (Harper Perennial, September 2014)


The Pen/Bingham prize winner for her novel Stiltsville revisits this unusual neighborhood off the coast of Southern Florida as she chronicles what it means to be a wife, a mother and a woman, each one individually and all three together and how you decide what you must give up so you don’t entirely lose yourself and when do you stop being one or the other if ever.  Georgia Quillian has relocated herself, her husband Graham and their three-year-old son Frankie to her hometown of Coral Gables.  Graham’s battle with parasomnia has alienated the family’s neighbors in Illinois and most likely caused him not to be awarded tenure.  Most mystifying, at least to Georgia is that something about Graham and his condition has caused Frankie to stop speaking.  Purchasing an old houseboat and docking it in Georgia’s father’s canal, Georgia and Graham hope to give their family some stability and semblance of normalcy, hard to do while floating on water, but they remain tentatively a family, connected only by a mooring line.  Graham has a new job studying extreme weather which keeps him away from his family even more and Georgia begins working for reclusive artist Charlie Hicks who lives in Stiltsville and has his own regrets as a husband, father and man.  As Georgia and Frankie spend less time with Graham and more time with Charlie, Georgia is able to get better perspective on her marriage, family and life.  As Hurricane Andrew approaches, the events in Georgia’s life converge in the calm after the storm, nothing is every the same again.  Daniel’s characters are wonderfully rich, though not all are likable, and many of them undergo a change, and some no matter how hard we root for their redemption us in the end.  Daniel uses the sea to full advantage as place, time and character as it provides safety and enjoyment but can as easily be dangerous and deadly if not given proper respect and care.  A very satisfying novel that often shifts as though looking at these lives through the lens of a kaleidoscope. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Just Jennifer

Some Luck by Jane Smiley (Knopf, October 7, 2014)


In the first book of a trilogy, Jane Smiley takes the Langdon family from their Iowa farm in 1920 through the mid-1950s, following the lives of Walter and Rosanna's children and extended family.  Each chapter in the book is a year in the life of the Langdons and takes on the rhythm of the seasons, echoed in the farming and later the school years of the children.  While Walter worries about the choice he has made to be a farmer, worries about drought and the stock market crash, Rosanna runs the household, raising their children, worrying that the children will grow up to be good people who can care for themselves and others.  Each of their children is different, strong-willed, fearless Frankie, animal-lover Joe, dreamy Lillian, book smart Henry and finally Claire, who is just Claire and never any trouble at all.  Together the family faces the stock market crash, the death of a child, the death of older family members, neighbors losing their farms, World War II, the Cold War and the romances and lives of the children as they venture out into the world and start their own families and their own futures.  Pulitzer prize winner Smiley writes with grace and assurance, giving each character, even as a toddler, a distinctive voice and leaving the reader with a picture of the whole rather than individual characters, and anxious for the second installment to the trilogy.  

Just Jennifer

Reunion by Hannah Pittard (Grand Central, October 7, 2014)


Kate is aboard a plane on a runway waiting to take off when she gets the news her father has died.  Kate and her two siblings, Nell and Elliot are from their father’s first marriage; after the death of his wife, he became a serial husband with four more marriages, much adultery and added several more children to the family.  Kate keeps in touch with Nell and Elliot, though keeps a certain part of her closed off to them: the part about which she had an affair, the part about which her husband has changed his mind about having children, and the part about which she spent all the money she earned as a screenwriter early in her career, and career that has more than just stalled.  As the original siblings converge in Atlanta for their father’s funeral, they must confront each other, their step-mothers and myriad of step-siblings, including their father’s current family, and themselves.  It is during this time that Kate realizes she is more like her father than she would admit to anyone, and it is the time spent with his youngest child Mindy that makes her more self-aware, more ready to come clean with her family, and herself.  Lovely sentences  and unique voices will draw the reader in, though Kate’s story doesn't feel quite finished, nor is the reader left with enough to feel one way or the other about her future.

Just Jennifer

Truth Be Told by Hank Phillippi Ryan (Forge, October 7, 2014)


In her third outing, journalist Jane Ryan is trying to get her career back on track, hoping that the next story will be the BIG ONE; doing a story on a family being evicted from their home after foreclosure, Jane is on hand when a body is discovered in the house.  At the same time, Jane is following a lead on mortgages and banks and is a little more than surprised when both stories get tangled together.  As Jane follows her lead, she learns of a modern day Robin Hood and a scheme that can mean big money for someone---or life and death.  At the same time, Detective Jake Brogan, with whom Jane is fighting an incredible mutual attraction, is handed the solution to a decades old cold case…only problem is, he doesn't believe the confession.  In Ryan’s skilled hands (she is an Emmy winning journalist and a multi-winning mystery author) these three plots get twisted and turned every which way and end up each connecting to the other in unusual and unforeseen, but believable ways.   Jane and Jake continue their collaboration on the job and clandestinely off the job, trying to figure out how a police detective can have a relationship with a member of the fifth estate while both keep their credibility with their colleagues, all of which leads to a cliff hanging moment.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Just Jennifer

Insurrections of the Mind: 100 Years of Politics and Culture in America edited by Franklin Foer (Harper Perennial, September 2014)


What do Virginia Woolf, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Vladimir Nabokov and James Wood have in common? During the last hundred years, each one wrote an essay for The New Republic, a magazine credited with helping shape the idea of liberalism in the United States during the twentieth-century.  Organized by decade, beginning just as the Great War begins, ideas, some of which now seem commonplace (birth control or gay marriage) as the continue to spur great debates, are introduced.  Richard Rovere’s 1957 essay frames its message around Arthur Miller’s refusing to name names to the House Committee on Un-American Activities, Margaret Talbot’s musing on the empire Martha Stewart built from the domestic arts, a lifestyle, stereotype women fought to get away from in the past, while Irving Howe’s 1991 piece debates the importance and necessity of “the canon” being taught as part of humanity and social science curricula and posits that it may be [past] time to revisit and even expand this body of work.  More than a socio-political history, these essays bring up issues, many of which are still relevant today.  A short biography of each author prefaces their essay. 

Just Jennifer

Blue Ribbon Baking from a Redneck Kitchen by Francine Bryson (Clarkson Potter, September 2014)


At the age of four, South Carolina born Francine Bryson pulled up a stool to her Granny’s & Nana’s counters learned how to make pie crusts and never looked back.  Several decades and countless blue ribbons later, Francine may not have won first place in CBS’s The American Baking Competition, but she won the hearts of American bakers and got to do the thing for which she was most hoping---a cookbook contract.  Francine may have earned her initial fame as a pie baker---who else could combine chocolate and peanut butter with bacon, but includes recipes for cookies, cakes, tea breads and biscuits, both classic and a little more inventive then Granny or Nana would have imagined.  The only recipe Francine, by her own admission, never mastered, was traditional Southern biscuits; imagine Francine’s terror when during tryouts for The American Baking Competition she turned over the recipe card she was to make and found it was for Southern style biscuits, which everyone assumed she’d be a ringer to create.  Knowing these biscuits were going to make or break the deal, Francine turned out fluffier biscuits than in her wildest dreams and realized the secret to the perfect biscuit is “…not to mess with them too much.” Francine’s sass and grit and blue ribbon tips make piecrusts see less daunting (who other than Francine would have thought to use crushed Pepperidge Farm Milano cookies as a crust) make bakers and non-bakers alike eager to try these recipes.  No low-fat, lo-cal or gluten free here, just prettily edge pages echoing gingham, calico and homespun.  The only thing that might have made this book even prettier would have been more color photos of the scrumptious recipes.  FTC Disclaimer: I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Just Jennifer

Not My Father’s Son: A Memoir by Alan Cumming (Dey Street Books, October 7, 2014)


In this unflinchingly honest memoir, the Scottish award-winning actor frames his time on a BBC show Who Do You Think You Are?, a show that goes the genealogy of famous actors, especially those with unknowns in their past; Cumming knows very little about his maternal grandfather who died in Malaysia at the age of 35 and is hoping this process will help him learn more of his mother’s family.  He frames this quest with his own upbringing by an emotionally & physically abusive father who, although he has not seen for almost two decades, continues the emotional abuse from a far, even from his grave once he dies.  Cumming spares no details as he chronicles the abuse, from brutal beatings to the time he thought he would surely die after mis-sorting saplings on the estate where his father was the forester, a job he was given to do with very little instructions.  Cumming and his older brother Tom tried to protect each other, at least mentally, by shutting out their father as best they could.  As Cumming becomes an adult and embarks on his brilliant career, he keeps the relationship with his father in a box until a time when he is misquoted by several newspapers, rousing his father, rather like poking a hornets’ nest.  Cumming is ultimately able to confront his feelings toward his father, helping him heal; learning the truth about his grandfather and the subsequent trip he makes with his family to Malaysia helps offer closure for everyone.  Brutally honest and tenderly funny, this candid memoir will endear Cumming to fans even more than he already is.  

A BIG Thank You...

... to the Friends of the Library, who sponsored the prizes and refreshments for the Adult Summer Reading Club.  Thank you, also, to 16 Handles of Flemington, who donated extra gift cards.

Friday, September 5, 2014

2014 Club Stats

Our 189 members read exactly 1,700 books this summer!

Click on image to enlarge.

Congratulations to...

... our Grand Prize winners, who won the beautiful summer gift baskets that were on display at the main libraries:

  • TLW won the South County / Member Libraries basket.
  • Kerstin won the Headquarters basket
  • Cyndie W won the North County basket


And a special thanks to the Friends of the Library for putting together such lovely gift baskets, and for sponsoring the Adult Summer Reading Club!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Top Secret Twenty One

Author: Janet Evanovich
Stars: 3
Review by: Ginger

I've read all 21 Stephanie Plum novels. 21 has a better plot, Stephanie is a better bounty hunter, Lulu and Grandma are smarter, Joe and Ranger are hotter than other recent Plum novels.

The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared

Author: Jonas Jonasson
Stars: 5
Review by: KM

Laugh-out-loud funny, and as one reviewer said, "quirky and utterly unique." It  weaves a veil of history with humor into a most entertaining story. 

The Night Bookmobile

Author: Audrey Niffenegger
Stars: 1
Review by: BookDancer

This book had so many great elements - an eerie bookmobile traveling at night, an obsessed reader, a mysterious curator and overall nightmarish quality.  I thought it was going to be the Polar Express of reading and libraries. I didn't expect to be sucker-punched by a very strange and random plot twist which made no sense and which completely spoiled the story for me.  This book could have been a 5! My biggest disappointment of the summer!
 
 

Marie Antoinette

Author: Antonia Fraser
Stars: 4
Review by: JL

Very in depth biography covering the life of Marie Antoinette.  Book goes into great detail about her character and effect that the expectations of her family had on her.  Only fault is that the book mentions some of the politics, but doesn't really go into the politics that led to the royal family's downfall. 

Blood Sisters: The Women Behind the Wars of the Roses

Author: Sarah Gristwood
Stars: 4
Review by: JL

Covers a very turbulent time in English history, the reigns of Henry VI to Henry VII focusing on how the events affected the women involved.
 

 

The Collector

Author: Nora Roberts
Stars: 4
Review by: MidnightReader

Good story line, interesting characters.
 
 

Hummingbird Lake

Author: Emily March
Stars: 3
Review by: MidnightReader

Relaxing. Second in a series.
 
 

Our Lady of Immaculate Deception

Author: Nancy Martin
Stars: 3
Review by: MidnightReader

Fun and easy book to read.
 

A Long Time Gone

Author: Karen White
Stars: 5
Review by: MidnightReader

I love all of Karen White's books. I love her character development, story lines, and location.
 

The Martian

Author: Andy Weir
Stars: 5
Review by: Miss Lucy

WOW! This is a nail-biting survival tale about an astronaut who is left for dead when his crew mates leave Mars without him. Once I got a bit of a ways into the book, I absolutely could not put it down, and it's the rare book I say that about. At first, I was getting tripped up trying to understand all the science, but once I let go and trusted that the main character knew what he was talking about, I let him do all the thinking, and I just sat back and enjoyed the ride. This book will keep you on the edge of your seat!
 
Best book I read this summer!!!
 
 
 
 

NYC Basic Tips and Etiquette

Author: Nathan W. Pyle
Stars: 4
Review by: Miss Lucy

Having spent my entire life within driving distance of New York City, I've learned how to get by when I'm there. But New York is like no other city I've been to, and for people visiting for the first few times, it can be VERY intimidating and scary! For example, would a first-time New York City visitor know to "Beware the empty train car. It's empty for a reason" (#30)  Or that the most beautiful person they'll ever see "...will be across the platform on an express train whose doors have just closed" (#108)?
 
Most of the tips offered in this little graphic novel format etiquette book are ones I know, but I still learned a few things I could be doing better. For example, Tip #117: "When fixing your coffee, move to the side as quickly as possible."  Oops - I'm guilty of being a coffee fixins table hog!
 

Life After Life

Author: Kate Atkinson
Stars: 2
Review by: Barb

I found this book hard to follow and confusing. It didn't help that it had to be returned to the library when I was about 85% done and I had to wait several weeks to get it again.
 

The Hundred-Foot Journey

Author: Richard C. Morais
Stars: 4
Review by: mystery lover

A book about cooking and appreciating food no matter what kind of restaurant it is.  The Michelin star is important, but appreciating the simple, yet good food is more important.
 
 

The Secret History of the Mongol Queens: How the Daughters of Genghis Khan Rescued His Empire

Author: Jack Weatherford
Stars: 4
Review by: Smudge

The Secret History refers to the Mongolian book that details the laws, administrative organization, and the words of Genghis Khan.  This book is a historical account of the various Mongolian queens who ruled his empire for the next 150 years.
 
 

A Fall of Marigolds

Author: Susan Meissner
Stars: 3.5
Review by: Barb

This is a story of love and loss told through two similar stories a century apart in time. Both involve the burning of a tall building and those who had to jump to their deaths to escape. This could have been a really good book, but I began to dislike the protagonists behavior after a while, and so, the second half became more cumbersome to read.
 
 

Best Lowly Worm Book Ever

Author: Richard Scarry
Stars: 4.5
Review by: Barb

I recently read an article about the release of a newly discovered, never published book by Richard Scarry and pre-ordered it from Amazon because it brought many good memories from when my son was young. We actually sat and read it together when he was home for the holiday weekend. Best Ever book as always. Thank you, Mr. Scarry.
 
 

Missing You

Author: Harlan Coben
Stars: 4
Review by: Bob E

Fast paced mystery with many clever pop culture references.
 
 

Tail Spin

Author: Catherine Coulter
Stars: 3
Review by: Bobbi

FBI Mystery.   Entertaining.   Not the best writing.
 
 

Don't Tempt Me

Author: Sylvia Day
Stars: 4
Review by: Saraswati

This book was filled with intrigue and suspense along with romance. The book has some modern thoughts even though it is set in the late 1700s. The story is about a family torn apart by revenge.  The ending is a little abrupt after all the twists and turns, but overall a nice read.
 
 
 

The Dive from Clausen's Pier

Author: Ann Packer
Stars: 5
Review by: Julie

Opening scene sets up the rest of the novel for the protagonist to come to terms with loss, separation, love, self-interests....a good read!
 
 

Flowers on Main

Author: Sherryl Woods
Stars: 3.5
Review by: Miss Lucy

Reading (or listening to) Sherryl Woods's books is like eating a box of chocolates (but kinder to the hips).
 
 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

1914

Author: Jean Echenoz
Stars: 4
Review by: Smudge

Without dialogue, this slim novel condenses the Great War into a story of five civilians, conscripted into the military.  Told without passion, the story resembles a poem in its brevity and insight.
 

Just Jennifer

Bend Your Brain: 151 Puzzles, Tips and Tricks to Blow [and Grow] Your Mind (Three Rivers Press, August 2014)

Put together by the team at Marbles® the Brain Store, this book is an amalgamation of five types of puzzles, each designed to unlock a different area of your brain: visual perception, word skills, critical thinking, coordination and memory.  Each section of puzzles is further divided into five categories: mind warming, mind stretching, mind growing, mind busting and finally mind blowing.  Each section begins with a short introduction that includes where in the brain the particular skill is based (word skills, for example are based in the partial lobe), what the skill is (helps with an understanding of language, structure and how to express yourself) what it does (improves vocabulary and stimulates your creativity) and how it works (it’s an association skill that uses multiple types of input from all your lobes).  The puzzles that follow include finding a series of interlocking four-letter words, word finds taken a step further by turning the words into phrases, word scrambles in which all the words once unscrambled relate to an unnamed theme, a trivia word find that will test your knowledge of certain things (seven-letter elements, for example), another chain game, a compass crossword in which the answers not only go south (down) and east (across) but southwest or north, and finally linked word puzzles which require words to be entered using only the letters provided in between like symbols.  If word games aren’t your thing, try coordination, the brain-body connection.  Some puzzles require some recall of knowledge gleaned from everyday life, the media or back to our school years, while others require some thought or clever thinking.  Whichever your strength (or weakness) there is something here for everyone.  This is a book that can be picked up and worked on at random and then set aside, picked up years later.

FTC Disclaimer: I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.

The Alchemyst

Author: Michael Scott
Stars: 2
Review by: Saraswati

I read this with my child for the Summer Reading requirements.  I was not impressed, but I can see the appeal to those "slightly" younger than me.   The best part was the added assignment regarding learning about alchemy.  This book just read like a a story hanging on to a lucrative theme (Harry Potter vs. Twilight vs. etc.)  The Alchemy in this case is magic not an attempt at science (but abused by sales...sorry) story.  It was a basic good vs. bad story with lots of fighting.  I was sad it was a required reading assignment, but then I do not teach Freshmen HS English. 

Making It Last: A Camelot Novella

Author: Ruthie Knox
Stars: 3
Review by: Saraswati

This was a depressing book to get through, but there was hope at the end.  I kept rechecking the publication date and it was recent so some things haven't changed and it made me sad. It reminded me of when the big revelation came out when women lost who they were behind the man and family & they were depressed.  No one understood it then, since it appeared women had it all...but themselves.  This book is more recent, but shows women still face the same problem.  These concepts are in the broad general terms of mostly first world women.  There is also the view of complacency in a relationship and taking thing for granted as time goes on.  Do we just go through the motions to get through the day? (A little heavy for summer reading!)  This couple does make a plan to get out of the never ending spiral down.  It will take sacrifice and many changes, but the book ended with hope.
 
 

Ride With Me

Author: Ruthie Knox
Stars: 4
Review by: Saraswati

This was a nice end of summer read.  The book is about to people who bike across the country via the TransAmerica Trail.  They didn't intend to be partners during this trip, but they did.  Each had a reason to escape being who they were and do this great adventure.  On a side note, being on the ground, not always in a car, does put things in perspective.  For a romance novel, it does pose the question of what do we really think is important?  Then there is the relationship stuff, but still a nice summer read!
 

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

Author: Leslye Walton
Stars: 5
Review by: libraryaimee

This is a recently published Young Adult book.  It was magical, sweet, and heartbreaking.  I was so sad to reach the end because I loved it so much! If you like Alice Hoffman you will also like this book.
 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

For One More Day

Author: Mitch Albom
Stars: 5
Review by: BusyMom

I have decided I love anything by Mitch Albom.  This story dealt with a man, down on his luck who attempts to end it all, only to spend one last day with his mother (who died years ago).
 

 

Gone Girl

Author: Gillian Flynn
Stars: 2
Review by: BookDancer

This was my second time reading this fast-paced page turner for a book club and admit that I couldn't put it down because of ingenious plotting more complicated than a Chinese puzzle.  But the main characters were absolutely horrible and utterly unbelievable, even as the psychopaths they were portrayed to be. Was so glad when it was over!
 
 

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Author: Jamie Ford
Stars: 4
Review by: BookDancer

While it is primarily a very touching and poignant love story, it also brought to life on a very personal level a sad chapter in American history - the internment of Japanese Americans during the Second World War.
 

Brave New World

Author: Aldous Huxley
Stars: 4
Review by: BookWorm2

A fascinating classic. 

Just Jennifer

You by Caroline Kepnes (Atria Books/Emily Bestler, September 2014)


When M.F.A. student Guinevere Beck walks into the East Village bookstore where Joe Golberg works, he is instantly obsessed with her, that they are soul mates, even if she doesn’t realize it yet.  Joe stalks Guinevere, intervening when she is in trouble like an ill-intentioned guardian angel.  A drunken incident on a subway platform late one night finally reveals Joe to Guinevere and he is able to convince himself, if not Guinevere, that they are in a relationship that nothing or no one can stand in the way of.  Joe doesn’t realize that Beck (as she calls herself) is a bit like a psychotic Holly Golightly and has created a fa├žade of who she thinks she should be if not who she wants to be and spends more time on real life performance art drama than on her writing.  Beck senses Joe is a little off, but is too wrapped up in herself to realize just how much until it is too late.  Told in alternating voices, Joe refers to Beck as “You” in his narrative, a sound that has the pulsing throb of a Cole Porter song, but the lunacy and obsession of a dangerous stalker.  Creepy without being gruesome, tension comes from Joe and Beck’s thoughts and obsessions rather than violence and the idea that this is very plausible.  A well-constructed novel that does not resort to the tropes so often found in first novels.

Just Jennifer

Bones Never Lie by Kathy Reichs (Bantam Dell, September 2014)


In Kathy Reichs’s seventeenth Temperance Brennan novel of psychological suspense, the forensic anthropologist has been asked to join forces with Vermont detective Umparo Rodas when he arrives in North Carolina with DNA evidence that suggests that the murder of an 11-year-old Charlotte girl is linked to an older Vermont case and both point to Canadian serial killer Anique Pomerleau who escaped capture in 2004 when Temperance and star detective Andrew Ryan first hunted her.  Ten years have gone by, Temperance and Ryan’s romance was cast aside when Ryan’s daughter died and Ryan has all but disappeared off the face of the earth.  In order to catch the killer, who authorities believe has kidnapped another young girl, Temperance must first track down Ryan and convince him to return to Charlotte to catch Pomerleau.  With the help of an unlikely source, her mother Daisy from an assisted living facility, and the rude and annoying detective Skinny Slidell, Temperance interprets the evidence past and present and is surprised to see where it leads the team.  Unfinished business between Temperance and Ryan add extra suspense and leads to one surprising cliff-hanger that is definitely a game changer.   

Just Jennifer

Rooms by Lauren Oliver (Ecco Press, September 2014)


YA novelist Lauren Oliver turns her talents to adult novels in this creepy tale an estranged family, the house their father left behind and the ghosts that inhabit it.  Richard Walker has died and left his country house full of detritus and mementos of a life not so well lived, along with two former residents, Alice and Sandra, who have been long dead.  Caroline, Walker’s ex-wife, is embittered and more than a little bit of a lush, feels that someone owes her something in life; his daughter Minna has some anger issues and isn’t anxious to let any of it go any time soon.  Only his young son Trenton is sensitive to the life, or afterlife, still within the walls, but this already troubled young man can barely help himself never mind two trapped spirits.  Engagingly told, each chapter focuses on a room in the house, each room revealing the secrets it has to give up, the rest filled in by Alice and Sandy.  A third ghost arrives and begins to communicate with Trenton causing a convergence of events that will ultimately and curiously heal the house and the people within.  This creepy tale will keep you turning pages late in the nights as you listen to the creaks and groans of your house and wonder who lives within your rooms.  A LibraryReads (http://libraryreads.org/) pick for September.  

Just Jennifer

Early Decision by Lucy Crawford (William Morrow, August 2014)

Anne, a Princeton and University of Chicago graduate, has found a niche for herself as an admissions coach for rich, privileged children whose parents can afford to offer them an edge over their peers.  Anne’s specialty is guiding the students through their personal essay---no, as she tells Gideon Blanchard, she does not write the essay, but will help Sadie frame what she wants to say and help her showcase her own voice to its best advantage.  As Anne begins working with her students who include a young man whose father isn’t ready to deal with the boy’s sexuality, a boy who might be happier in the wilds of Montana than in a classroom and a young woman who is very eager to attend Duke and has all the right stuff, but not the money nor the clout to even get her foot in the door.  As Anne works with these students and helps them to find not only their voice for their essay but maybe even a place in the world where they might be comfortable for a while, she realizes she has some unsettled things in her life, a nasty upstairs neighbor who hates Anne’s dog for seemingly no reason and Martin, her Hollywood boyfriend who is more wrapped up in his West Coast life than he is with Anne.  As Anne navigates another admission season and another round of parents, she works through her own issues (some of which she wasn’t even aware) and along with her students, sets herself on a new and exciting path.


Just Jennifer

Three Story House by Courtney Miller Santo (William Morrow, August 2014)


Three cousins, Lizzie, Elyse and Isobel, known the Triplins since they were children, converge on the house owned by Lizzie’s grandmother, now her mother, in Memphis overlooking the Mississippi, which has been condemned and is scheduled for demolition.  As battered and worn as the house is, so are the Triplins, but something about the house takes a hold of them and as they fight to be allowed to keep the house and begin to renovate and remodel it, a change begins in each of them, reshaping their lives, revealing a long held secret from which one of them may never fully recover.  Lizzie’s career as a professional soccer player is all but over due to injuries and the memories she is uncovering in her grandmother’s house are unsettling and leading her on a journey from which she can never return.  Elyse is obsessed with the boy from high school, the one that got away, the one that is about to marry her sister; will her obsession ruin her sister’s wedding or sabotage her own future?  Isobel is hoping for stardom and fame, but how far is she willing to go and what will she give up to achieve it? The story is told effectively told from each of the young women’s points of view, the house looming in the background, a metaphor for all that was and all that could be for this group of twenty-somethings who recognize the most important things in life: family, friends and being true to yourself.