The Red Notebook by Antione Laurain


The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain

Book Blurb:

Heroic bookseller Laurent Letellier comes across an abandoned handbag on a Parisian street. There’s nothing in the bag to indicate who it belongs to, although there’s all sorts of other things in it. Laurent feels a strong impulse to find the owner and tries to puzzle together who she might be from the contents of the bag. Especially a red notebook with her jottings, which really makes him want to meet her. Without even a name to go on, and only a few of her possessions to help him, how is he to find one woman in a city of millions?

My Review: 3.5 stars

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The Red Notebook is a thoughtful and charming story about one man’s quest to find a woman that he doesn’t know. A bit Sleepless in Seattle and a touch of While You Were Sleeping in that they both evoke a love story between strangers. This book has the added bonus of Parisian streets, many literary references, a bookseller and of course, the promise of romance.

In a slight book, there is much brought to the table in prose that is meaningful and succinct. I loved Laurent’s voice. I was curious though about many of the books he discussed, as I know very little about the French classics or authors. His stalking of an author to glean information about the woman in question was one of my favorite parts. I also got a chuckle that the woman’s job was as a gilder; only in Paris would that seem so commonplace.

Why this book isn’t considered a novella, I’m not quite sure. I’m certain that it fits all the criteria for a novella, but perhaps that an off-putting sales point. My book club is discussing this book and I’m curious to see how much conversation can be induced from this story. I see this as a great book to gift to someone or for yourself, curled up with a glass of Bordeaux while you’re transported to Paris.

Readers who enjoy simple characters with real emotions and a good dollop of romance and chivalry will highly enjoy this novel(la).

Quotes I liked:

For some unknown reason, we never gave in to the exquisite vertigo that you feel when you move those few centimetres towards the face of the other for the first kiss.”

-“For a man should never go through a woman’s handbag-even the most remote tribe would adhere to that ancestral rule.”

-“If there was one thing that defined adolescence it was hysterical laughter. You never laughed like that again. In adolescence the brutal realisation that the world and life were completely absurd made you laugh until you couldn’t catch your breath, whereas in later life it would only result in a weary sigh.”

Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran


Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran– 480 pages

ARC courtesy of Netgalley and GP Putnam

Book Blurb:

Solimar Castro Valdez is eighteen and dazed with optimism when she embarks on a perilous journey across the US/Mexican border. Weeks later she arrives on her cousin’s doorstep in Berkeley, CA, dazed by first love found then lost, and pregnant. This was not the plan. But amid the uncertainty of new motherhood and her American identity, Soli learns that when you have just one precious possession, you guard it with your life. For Soli, motherhood becomes her dwelling and the boy at her breast her hearth.
Kavya Reddy has always followed her heart, much to her parents’ chagrin. A mostly contented chef at a UC Berkeley sorority house, the unexpected desire to have a child descends like a cyclone in Kavya’s mid-thirties. When she can’t get pregnant, this desire will test her marriage, it will test her sanity, and it will set Kavya and her husband, Rishi, on a collision course with Soli, when she is detained and her infant son comes under Kavya’s care.

My Review: 4 stars

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Lucky Boy is the story of a small child whose Mexican immigrant mother, Solimar, and his Indian foster mother, Kavya, are caught in a legal battle for him. This book reads luminously while covering many intense topics and I found many beautiful quotes worth sharing.

I recently read The Same Sky, which touches on the very same issues of undocumented pregnant woman, infertility, the horrors of riding La Bestia train and many other potent social issues. With that book simmering in the back of my mind, it was hard not to compare the two stories and writing styles. This was often troublesome for me, so I made a conscious effort to separate the two.

Finding both women protagonists in this novel to be strong, capable and loving caretakers made this hard to read at times. They both deserved to be mothers. Young Ignacio, the toddler in question, would be okay in either woman’s care yet where would he thrive, where was he safest, and should that even matter if his mother is alive and well? With our current policy on immigration, this book couldn’t be timelier. This author allowed the reader to step in the shoes of both women and feel their pain as different as they were.

I enjoyed watching Kavya’s husband become a father as much as he was scared of the prospect and expectations that came with the title. He was a likeable character and was incredibly and unusually supportive of his wife’s many meltdowns.

There were many minor characters within the story that either worked for me or didn’t. For example, I would’ve liked more closure with the Cassidy family, who were so instrumental in Soli’s life. Preeti and Ven never captured my attention and I wasn’t sure of the author’s intent in adding them. Additionally, I wished I knew more about Miquel, the sous chef and friend of Kavya, who was likely an undocumented person as well.

The ending seemed just, as there was no right answer. This book could’ve had a “choose your own ending” and I think even the most inspired reader would’ve been hard pressed to pick a side. This will certainly light up a book club with a variety of topics to discuss. I look forward to reading more from this author.

Quotes I liked:

This thing, growing inside and filling her breasts with promise, this thing was the same as her. It matched her better than anything or anyone she’d known.”

– “She wanted a self of her self. She wanted a child.”

– “The thing about patience was that it couldn’t exist without impatience.”

– “Having a child was like turning inside out and exposing to the world the soft pulp of her heart.”

-“Motherhood was her dwelling, the boy at her breast her hearth.”

– “Failure is knowledge. Nothing more.”

– “She learned the lesson that all women learn, sooner or later: if there was something to be done, she’d have to do it herself.”

-“The difference between panic and despair was hope.”

– “She saw that impossibility was only ignorance shrouded by poverty.”

 

The Marriage Lie by Kimberly Belle

The Marriage Lie by Kimberly Belle– 352 pages

ARC from Mira

Book Blurb:

Iris and Will’s marriage is as close to perfect as it can be: a large house in a nice Atlanta neighborhood, rewarding careers and the excitement of trying for their first baby. But on the morning Will leaves for a business trip to Orlando, Iris’s happy world comes to an abrupt halt. Another plane headed for Seattle has crashed into a field, killing everyone on board, and according to the airline, Will was one of the passengers on this plane. Grief-stricken and confused, Iris is convinced it all must be a huge misunderstanding. But as time passes and there is still no sign of Will, she reluctantly accepts that he is gone. Still, Iris needs answers. Why did Will lie about where he was going? What is in Seattle? And what else has he lied about? As Iris sets off on a desperate quest to find out what her husband was keeping from her, the answers she receives will shock her to her very core.

My Review: 4 stars

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The Marriage Lie is my perfect type of mystery, an exciting page-turner that reads quickly. It’s a winner to bring on vacation as you’ll be engrossed from the start.

When the main protagonist, Iris, finds out her husband from their perfect marriage is not what or who he says he is, her life unfolds before her. Although I hate to read about plane crashes, this worked well in this storyline, as it was an excellent vehicle to create the plot.

Iris is a well-developed character in her conviction and belief system. Her relationship with her twin was palpable and I believe many readers would wish for a brother like that. The dialogue both internally and externally seemed natural and believable. I did feel a gap in the story that there were no interactions with her girlfriends. The author mentioned them, but I just couldn’t imagine Iris not having them over, cooking meals with her mom and being a part of this story. They were missed.

The men she trusts, Corban, Evan Sheffield and even Will, kept the reader guessing as to their true intent. Every few pages I was in and out of the dark as to who was good or bad, truthful or not. There were many twists that kept this book exciting with a knock out ending to boot. This is my first book by Belle, but certainly won’t be last!

Quotes I liked:

What’s in Seattle? Besides rain and Starbucks and too much plaid, I mean.”

 

A Bridge Across The Ocean by Susan Meissner

A Bridge Across The Ocean by Susan Meissner– 384 pages

ARC courtesy of the author

Book Blurb:

February, 1946. World War Two is over, but the recovery from the most intimate of its horrors has only just begun for Annaliese Lange, a German ballerina desperate to escape her past, and Simone Deveraux, the wronged daughter of a French Resistance spy. Now the two women are joining hundreds of other European war brides aboard the renowned RMS Queen Mary to cross the Atlantic and be reunited with their American husbands. Their new lives in the United States brightly beckon until their tightly-held secrets are laid bare in their shared stateroom. When the voyage ends at New York Harbor, only one of them will disembark. Present day. Facing a crossroads in her own life, Brette Caslake visits the famously haunted Queen Mary at the request of an old friend. What she finds will set her on a course to solve a seventy-year-old tragedy that will draw her into the heartaches and triumphs of the courageous war brides and will ultimately lead her to reconsider what she has to sacrifice to achieve her own deepest longings.

My Review: 4 stars

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A Bridge Across The Ocean offers multiple storylines about war, romance and ghosts and brings the past into present. Only at the hands of this deft storyteller could this all be brought together so seamlessly.

With two of the three storylines about women escaping their pasts in war torn Europe, there’s never a moment of boredom. One tale surrounds the French Resistance and the other centers on an abusive relationship of a Nazi officer and his wife. The anticipation builds as the reader is waiting to see if, how and when these two women will meet or connect.

Peppered through their stories is one in the present day. Brette’s tale isn’t as intriguing as the others but her role in the novel is crucial. I found her wishy-washy and hoped she could be more committed to her paranormal gifts. With that said, readers who can’t suspend reality or believe in such “gifts” should be forewarned.

Beyond the info I garnered from the plot line, I also learned so much about the Queen Mary and its many roles in history. I found myself trawling the internet in search of more information. After being used as a military wartime ship, the boat’s role changed as the US created the Act of Congress War Brides Act in 1945. This eased the immigration laws substantially. The Queen Mary made at least thirteen war bride voyages carrying thousands upon thousands of European brides and descendants to the US and Canada. It was then refitted as a luxury liner. Additionally, as the author surmises, many do believe this boat is in fact haunted and is a gathering place for those who have not “crossed over”.

I’ve loved many of Susan Meissner’s books, most especially Secrets Of A Charmed Life and A Fall Of Marigolds. They all transport the reader to another place and time and use real fictional events in history to bring the plot together. This one is sure to please her fans.

Quotes I liked:

Don’t despair. There is always a place somewhere in the world where the sun in shining.”