Category Archives: Mary P.

Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor (2017)

lastchristmasparisEvie Eliott is a wealthy young woman in England in August 1914. Her brother Will and his best friend, Tom, have just enlisted in the Great War. In the beginning, their letters home are filled with excitement and confidence, with promises that the war will be over by Christmas. The war rages on, however, with the death toll rising by hundreds each day and the fighting quickly changing from bayonets to chemical bombs. Evie feels like she’s not doing enough for the war effort, so in addition to the letters she writes, she begins delivering mail and starts writing a column in Tom’s father’s newspaper that addresses the women left behind as the men are away on the front, focusing on their personal and emotional experiences. She writes to the women of Britain to reassure and encourage them in their war efforts and to help reaffirm their emotions. As the years go by, the news becomes censored and Evie doesn’t know who to believe or who to trust and doesn’t know how to help out in a war she can’t fight. Written entirely in letters, The Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor is absorbing and touching, portraying the emotions of both soldiers and those on the home front. If you enjoy novels written in letters, check out our list of epistolary novels.

Rooster Bar by John Grisham (2017)

Four students at a substandard law school where fifty-percent of the graduates don’t pass the bar the first time, come to the realization that they are massively in debt with student loans in the six-figures and no job prospects on the horizon. They decide to take matters into their own hands and pass themselves off as lawyers without finishing school. Picking up clients outside of courtroom doors, the students think they are in the clear, but soon their scheme starts falling apart. It’s all fun and games trying to avoid the local police, the FBI, and a whole bunch of bad guys in John Grisham's newest legal thriller, The Rooster Bar.

The Great Halifax Explosion: A World War I Story of Treachery, Tragedy, and Extraordinary Heroism by John U. Bacon (2017)

In 1917, a ship full of explosives en route from New York to France exploded in Halifax Harbor, Nova Scotia. Killing 2,000 people and wounding 9,000 more, the explosion leveled 2.5 square miles of Canada. In The Great Halifax Explosion, author John U. Bacon combines engaging human interest stories with what happened leading up to and after the explosion (which was the largest in the world until the atomic bombs were dropped in 1945). He introduces readers to the families of Halifax and details their daily lives in this fascinating story. For fans of history books with a personal narrative. If you visit Halifax, you can see the Mont Blanc Anchor. Learn more from Canada’s Historic Places.

Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark T. Sullivan (2017)

In 1940s Italy, Pino is a typical teenager. With WWII progressing, his parents are worried that he will be drafted. To protect him, they send him to a monastery. Unbeknownst to him, the priest is helping at-risk people escape Italy into neutral Switzerland. Pino returns to Milan to see his family. They convince him to enlist in the German army as a driver to avoid a more dangerous duty in the Italian army. He uses his status working for a high-ranking general in the German army to spy for the Allies. Mark T. Sullivan’s Beneath a Scarlet Sky is based on a remarkable true story and is in production for a movie adaptation. Read other novels of WWII and novels of the resistance.  

Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin (2017)

This is the story of Aviva, a young woman who takes an internship with a congressman. They have an affair. When it becomes public knowledge, her life falls apart: she can’t get a job or go out in public. For the congressman, life proceeds as usual. Aviva reinvents herself in an attempt to take back her life. She legally changes her name to Jane and finds a new career as a wedding planner. Jane and her daughter have a happy life. Then her daughter questions who her father is, finds out about her mother’s previous life, and goes on a quest. Young Jane Young is both humorous and serious. This touching story is Gabrielle Zevin’s second book for adults, following The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry. Check out an NPR interview with the author.

News of the World by Paulette Jiles (2016)

Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd has the job of returning a 10-year-old girl, who has been stolen by the Kiowa Indians, to her aunt and uncle. Set in 1870 Reconstruction-era Texas, the Captain travels from town to town reading the news aloud. He buys a wagon, loads it with supplies, and, with the girl, starts on his route taking them closer to her family. Along the way, the pair encounters unfriendly Indians, robbers, and the harsh conditions of the West. News of the World is a wonderful story of a man who shares the world's news with people throughout Texas, which gives him the feeling that he is living an ethical life. He believes he is helping foster dialogue and peace in the world. Our Novel Idea book club will discuss Paulette Jiles’ novel on Wednesday, September 13 at 7pm. Just drop in. Pick up a copy of the novel at the checkout desk.

The Fire by Night by Teresa Messineo (2017)

This powerful debut novel is about two American military nurses during WWII.  Jo, who was raised in New York City, is in France trapped behind military lines in a makeshift medical tent refusing to leave her six critical patients as bombs fall around them and the enemy moves closer.   Kay, a small town girl who was raised in Pennsylvania, was at Pearl Harbor and then at Corregidor in the Philippines, where she was taken prisoner and tries to nurse her fellow inmates with no supplies, no food, and sometimes no hope. I thought their brave, heroic story was told in a compelling straightforward manner. Teresa Messineo’s The Fire by Night highlights a little told role of women in WWII. For more novels set during WWII, check out our book list.

The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis (2016)

dollhouseThe Barbizon Hotel was the home to women who moved to New York City to start modeling or secretarial careers, aspiring actresses and poets, or those just waiting to meet the man of their dreams. The Dollhouse opens in 1952 with Darby McLaughlin leaving the Midwest to begin Katherine Gibbs Secretarial School and moving into the Barbizon. She is immediately intimidated by other women especially the Eileen Ford girls (aspiring models). Darby is lonely and homesick, but is befriended by a maid working in the hotel. Esme introduces her to jazz clubs, nightlife, and romance. In the present day Barbizon, Rose Lewis a journalist now living in the condo Barbizon with her boyfriend. She hears a story about Darby and Esme and wants to explore it further. So she introduces herself to the older residents, hoping to interview them about the history of living in the Barbizon. Both storylines are easy to follow even as the stories get more and more interwoven. Fiona Davis’ characters are likable and well defined. What was especially interesting was a glimpse into the fashions, morals, and expectations of young women in the 1950s.

We Could Be Beautiful by Swan Huntley (2016)

bebeautifulThis psychological spellbinder introduces Catherine West, a wealthy woman who wants for nothing and trusts no one. She has fine art on her walls, runs her own business, buys anything she desires, has a masseuse on call, and many, many wealthy friends but trusts no one. Catherine is in her 40s desiring a husband and child, and when a very rugged handsome man approaches her at an art gallery, she keeps telling herself it is all too good to be true. Maybe it is? Check out We Could Be Beautiful and read this twisty, intoxicating, unsettling story by Swan Huntley today!

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett (2016)

commonwealthThis is being labelled a "domestic drama," but I think it is probably a common story in this day and time. It concerns 4 adults and 6 children, marriages coming apart, and families being joined. The story spans over 50 years and shares the children's disillusionment with their parents and the affection that grows between the children. The way Commonwealth is written is almost like a puzzle being put together. Ann Patchett’s latest novel is great storytelling.