Leaving Time is well worth your time

The first time I was introduced to Jodi Picoult was when I was in England March 2005.  There 18816603were posters everywhere for My Sister’s Keeper.  I picked the book up at Heathrow and spent 10 hours reading the entire book on the flight home.  Ever since then, I have devoured everything Jodi has written.

Jodi is one of the best storytellers of our generation.  She sucks the reader into the story, makes the reader care for the characters, and keeps you captive until the last word.  Oh, and she always throws in a shocking twist at the end.  Leaving Time is no different.

Leaving Time is about Jenna who is looking for her Mom Alice, who has been missing for 10 years.  Jenna hasn’t seen her Mom since she was three, when one of the caretakers at the elephant sanctuary is trampled and Jenna’s Mom was injured and taken to the hospital.  It’s also about Serenity, a psychic that Jenna approaches to help her find Alice.

I remember Serenity from another book but I can’t remember which one.  I love that Jodi pulled her into another story.  This is also about Virgil, one of the detectives who investigated what happened that night at the sanctuary and about how the case has bothered him for 10 years.22839919The story is told by different viewpoints throughout the book.  Alice talks about the backstory and reveals to the reader what was happening leading up to that tragic night.  Virgil, Serenity and Jenna mainly reveal what is happening in the investigation.  Jenna also has some memories about her first three years with her parents at the sanctuary.

I have two words for this book…Wait what??  I might need to repeat myself because I said it a few times while reading this book.  Just like any other Jodi Picoult book, there is a big shock at the end.  I kept thinking I knew what happened and then it would change.  Then I would think I had it solved and it would change again.  Then Jodi would break my heart.

This story is well worth the read.  I would love to see it as a movie.  Think about reading the prequel novella Larger Than Life.  It explains Alice’s life while in Africa.

Book description:

For more than a decade, Jenna Metcalf has never stopped thinking about her mother, Alice, who mysteriously disappeared in the wake of a tragic accident.  Refusing to believe that she would be abandoned as a young child, Jenna searches for her mother regularly online and pores over the pages of Alice’s old journals.  A scientist who studied grief among elephants, Alice wrote mostly of her research among the animals she loved, yet Jenna hopes the entries will provide a clue to her mother’s whereabouts.

Desperate to find the truth, Jenna enlists two unlikely allies in her quest.  The first is Serenity Jones, a psychic who rose to fame finding missing persons—only to later doubt her gifts.  The second is Virgil Stanhope, a jaded private detective who originally investigated Alice’s case along with the strange, possibly linked death of one of her colleagues.  As the three work together to uncover what happened to Alice, they realize that in asking hard questions, they’ll have to face even harder answers.

As Jenna’s memories dovetail with the events in her mother’s journals, the story races to a mesmerizing finish.

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat

The Tea Plantation is great historical fiction

In 1875 London, The Tea Plantation starts with Edmund Bainbridge looking for a bride.  He23151432 spots Alexandria Ellsworth across the room and decides she is what he has been looking for in a wife.  Alexandria says yes to escape the gossip of London and the fact that it will be hard for her to find a suitable husband after the broken engagement.

After the wedding, Alexandria and Edmund head to his tea plantation in Ceylon by India.  It takes months on a boat to get there.  It’s nothing like anything Alexandria is used to.  Ceylon is very tropical and rural.  Edmund has not consummated the marriage since the wedding, which has puzzled Alexandria.

Once in Ceylon, Alexandria realizes her marriage isn’t what she thought it would be and she found a new friend in Edmund’s half-brother Julian, someone who is the polar opposite of Edmund.  This book has some surprises and a dark story.  Back in 1875, when a woman married a man, she became his property and she didn’t have many rights.  She had to do what her husband said.  Alexandria soon realizes that she needs to do something drastic before she ends up dead.

This is Nicola Italia’s second historical fiction.  It’s well written, descriptive and pulls you into the story making you care for the characters.  A very enjoyable story.

Book description:

In Victorian era London, educated beauty Alexandria Ellsworth hastily accepts a marriage proposal after a broken engagement leaves her reputation in question.  She knows little of her intended husband Edmund Bainbridge but is assured that he will offer her a comfortable, secure life.

When Edmund spots the green-eyed beauty at a posh London tea room he decides she and no other will be his wife and he whisks her away to his tea plantation in Ceylon.  However once in Ceylon, Edmund loses interest in his new bride and becomes distant and cold neglecting her for long periods of time.

Meanwhile Alex falls in love with the beauty of Ceylon and its people.  One evening she stumbles into a stranger in the Ceylon forest and is shocked to discover that the handsome stranger who holds her in his arms is the overseer of the plantation, Julian Bainbridge; her husband’s half-brother.

She is drawn to the dark, attractive Julian as her husband continues to neglect her.  As Julian and Alexandria fight their feelings for each other Edmund begins to spiral out of control hiding a dark, ugly secret that threatens to destroy everyone.

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat

Escape to the South of France in A Wedding in Provence

I love France.  From the different photos, TV shows, movies and documentaries I’ve 19288187viewed, and from watching the country go by from my train window in 2012, it is a beautiful country.  I’ve been to Paris twice and I have totally fell in love with the city.  Do I speak French?  Nope, but I don’t care, there is something about Paris and the country that is just magical.

A Wedding in Provence: A Novel by Ellen Sussman is about Olivia and Brody’s second marriage to take place at Olivia’s best friend Emily’s inn located in the Mediterranean town of Cassis, France located in Provence.  Set over a weekend, Olivia and Brody’s family starts arriving to attend the wedding.  Olivia’s oldest daughter arrives with a total stranger she met on the flight over.  Then Olivia’s daughter Carly arrives.  Carly is the responsible one who decides to cut loose on this trip.

This story is about love, family, life, and relationships.  It’s beautifully written and pulls the reader into the lives of the characters.  The reader learns just enough about each character to understand a little bit about their personalities and what makes them tick.  I got lost in the story. This book is a great read on a cold winter day, sitting by the fire and you don’t want to do anything but escape to the south of France.

Book description from Goodreads:

What could be more idyllic than a wedding in Provence?  That’s what Olivia and Brody think when they invite their closest friends and family to spend their wedding weekend with them.  But when Olivia’s older daughter from her first marriage invites a man she met on the plane to join her, the delicate balance of the entire weekend is upset.  Soon Olivia’s best friend, the owner of the inn who is hosting the wedding, discovers that her husband has cheated on her.  Then Brody’s mother shows up without his father, who has gone into hiding.  How can one choose love in the midst of chaos?  Told from the point of view of Olivia and her two daughters, A Wedding in Provence is a moving novel about love, trust, secrets and family.

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat

Luck for Hire will take you on a crazy ride

This short book is good for a Sunday afternoon sitting by the fire when you want something to entertain you.  The book starts out with Dana late for a meeting and because she is the last one to arrive, her boss gives her a folder for a client he wants her to represent.  He doesn’t let her even sit down, he sends her out to meet with the client, Felix Benes.  Soon Benes disappears and men start following Dana.  In the meantime, Luck is a private investigator who can sneak into businesses and can find the exact information he needs.  Soon Luck and Dana’s paths cross and Luck starts helping Dana after she realizes men are following her.

Possibly final cover.

Possibly final cover.

The entire time you don’t really know who the people are that are trying to kill Dana and why they are after her.  We do know it’s something to do with the Big Pharma.  Everything though, is revealed at the end.  Aleister has a little bit of magic to him and can do things that other people can’t.  He can type keys into a computer and within seconds have a code or found the files that he needs.  He can crack computer codes within seconds when it can take computer programmers days to crack.

You don’t learn too much about the characters backgrounds and I wasn’t really sure why Detective Moore was so enamored with Dana, but it was a well written book and kept my attention the entire time.  The short chapters made the book flow fast.

Here is the book description: If science is a product of observation, then magic is the manipulation of what isn’t or can’t be observed. Private investigators are often generously described as “down on their luck.” They are the good guys, helping the helpless, regardless of the cost. Sherlock Holmes rarely accepted payment from clients of little means.

Aleister Luck, despite his magic, has not had celebrities and nobility knock on his door. A native of Las Vegas, he gambles at the casinos for pocket money when he isn’t finding clients in need. On a whim, he investigates the law firm of Devine, Chance & Merit and runs afoul of the greatest danger to his magic: his snoopy ex-girlfriend.

Felix Benes’ gene-based cancer diagnostic will recommend against many profitable but useless or harmful treatments. His funding has been cut and he fears he’s being hunted. While Dana Spelman, his attorney at DCM, evaluates the viability of his case, he disappears. Then, she attracts the attention of the sort of men that might make someone disappear. As Dana evades them, she runs into her gambling-addicted loser ex-boyfriend.

As they uncover the labyrinthine conspiracy behind Benes’ disappearance, Luck’s magic will struggle against Dana’s efforts to survive.

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat

The GI Brides of World War II

19522903When World War II happened, so many English men went to war leaving a lot of women and few men back home.  Halfway through the war, U.S. Army GI’s started arriving in England and the women were enchanted by these men with their accents, charms and gifts.

GI Brides: The wartime girls who crossed the Atlantic for love by Duncan Barrett and Nuala Calvi is about four women who were charmed by the GI’s and what happened when they move to America.  The book centers around Sylvia, Margaret, Gwendolyn (Lyn) and Rae as they each meet a U.S. GI, fall in love and move to America.

This nonfiction book flows like a fictional story.  The reader is taken on a journey over several years as the women find their way through life trying to do their part for the war, date different U.S. GI’s and fall in love quickly with the men who pursue them.  The women had this glamourous notion of America and that all of the GI’s were going to take them home to their mansions and their fancy lives.  Once they get to America, the women find out the GI’s aren’t what they thought they were.

It was different back then.  You didn’t just up and get a divorce because things weren’t as they first appeared.  Not like now.  Back then you stuck it out.  Rae had no idea her carefree, fun loving American GI was really an alcoholic who lived in such a dirt poor town in Pennsylvania.  Or that   And Sylvia had no clue her new husband, that she barely knew had a gambling problem.  But then there is Gwendolyn “Lyn” whose husband comes from a big Italian family who support each other through thick and thin.

Gwendolyn "Lyn" and Ben Patrino.

Gwendolyn “Lyn” and Ben Patrino.

Even though each chapter focused on a different woman it was easy to keep track of them as the chapters were titled by a different name.  I found all the women had very interesting lives and were very brave to take a chance to move across an ocean away from their families to start a new life with a man they barely knew.

Here is the description from the back of the book:  The “friendly invasion” of Britain by over a million American G.I.s bewitched a generation of young women deprived of male company during the Second World War. With their exotic accents, smart uniforms, and aura of Hollywood glamour, the G.I.s easily conquered their hearts, leaving British boys fighting abroad green with envy. But for girls like Sylvia, Margaret, Gwendolyn, and even the skeptical Rae, American soldiers offered something even more tantalizing than chocolate, chewing gum, and nylon stockings: an escape route from Blitz-ravaged Britain, an opportunity for a new life in affluent, modern America.

Through the stories of these four women, G.I. Brides illuminates the experiences of war brides who found themselves in a foreign culture thousands of miles away from family and friends, with men they hardly knew. Some struggled with the isolation of life in rural America, or found their soldier less than heroic in civilian life. But most persevered, determined to turn their wartime romance into a lifelong love affair, and prove to those back home that a Hollywood ending of their own was possible.

Until next time….enjoy the view from your passenger seat.

I believe in the Kansas City Royals

View from my seat.

View from my seat.

Recently I was part of history.  I was there live at Kauffman Stadium on September 30, 2014 when the Kansas City Royals won the wild card playoff game against the Oakland A’s.  The game where they were ahead 3-2, then fell behind 3-7 and came back scratching and clawing to win 8-7 in the 12th inning.

It’s been 29 years since the Kansas City Royals have been in the playoffs.  In fact, the last time the Royals were in the playoffs was in 1985 when they won the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals.  At that time I was a college junior in Des Moines.  I remember the stories about people driving back and forth on I-70 for the interstate World Series.  I remember catching some of the games on TV between studying.

"Game of Thrones" seats.

“Game of Thrones” seats. Salvy hit the game winning single down the left side.

I haven’t always been a Royals fan.  Growing up in Northern Iowa, I lived closer to Minneapolis.  So I was a huge Minnesota Twins fan.  We used to take the motorhome up on weekends and stay in the parking lot of the stadium.  I had so much fun running around the stadium during the games and afterwards when the stadium emptied out.  I almost got locked in once after the grounds crew were done.  It’s surprising they didn’t kick us out sooner.

Now I’m in Kansas City, home of the Royals and Chiefs and Sporting KC and T-Bones Baseball and Missouri Mavericks and Kansas Speedway and FC Kansas City and…  Yes, this city has SO much to offer when it comes to professional sports, add college sports and you have a very sports-oriented city.

Winning sports teams too.  Sporting KC won the MLS Championship Cup in December 2013, FC Kansas City are the 2014 NWSL Champions, and the Missouri Comets are the 2013 MASL Champions.  That’s just soccer.  Then you have the Chiefs finishing in second place in the AFC West Division in 2013.  The Missouri Mavericks have been in the playoffs every year since their first season in 2009. And the T-Bones were just named the American Association’s 2014 organization of the year.  Any way you slice it, Kansas City is a winning city.  Heck, the Huffington Post just declared Kansas City the “coolest” city in America.

The night before the Royals had their big wild card win, across the parking lot the Kansas City Chiefs smacked around the New England Patriots (41-14) and reclaimed the Guinness World Record for loudest stadium.  The energy of the Chiefs game was carried back across the parking lot to the Royals game the next night.  I have never been to a baseball game where the energy was so high and the crowd was so loud, and I’ve been to a lot of baseball games.

In 1985, most people who attended a baseball game either dressed up or wore whatever they wanted.  Now it’s all about wearing the team’s colors.  Kauffman Stadium was a sea of blue Tuesday.  I think there were maybe four people in Oakland yellow.  It was amazing to see all the blue and all the blue towels flying in the sky (giveaways when you walked in).

Collision in the outfield 12th inning. Photo courtesy of KC Star.

Collision in the outfield 12th inning.

Then there was the noise.  Football worthy noise.  It is something when an entire crowd of 40,000+ people are yelling “Billy, Billy, Billy” or “Nori, Nori, Nori” or another player’s name when at bat.  I can’t imagine what it was like for the players on the field to hear their names chanted and the noise volume hitting them like a wave of emotion.  The Oakland outfielders who collided in the 12th inning couldn’t hear each other.  Sam Flude said if they had been standing next to each other they still wouldn’t have heard each other.  That collision by the back wall allowed Eric Hosmer to end up on third base.

Of course when Ned Yost pulled pitcher James Shields, who lots of people felt wasn’t ready to be pulled including Shields from his facial expression, and replaced him with a rookie who allowed a 3 run homer to eliminate our lead, really quieted the crowd.  I let a few words fly and I’m grateful no little kids were sitting near me.  It was so discouraging to see 3-7 on the board for several innings.  But then the crowd wound back up, fired up the Royals, who never gave up and the volume increased again.

Courtesy of KC Star.

Courtesy of KC Star.

As the Royals slowly chipped away at the deficit with seven different players stealing bases, sacrifice bunts and just plain determination, the chants started up again.  One chant that became a staple at every Sporting KC game in 2013 as they were racing to the MLS Championship Cup title is “I believe that we will win.”  It became a city-wide cheer for weeks if not months as they drew closer to the cup.  So to hear it at the Royals game just made me smile.  I wondered if out-of-town fans even knew what that chant means to this city.  I wonder what the players were thinking when they heard 40,000+ people telling them we believe.

Tonight the Royals start their ALDS series against the Angels in Los Angeles and Kansas City is ready to cheer them on at several different watch parties around town.  Stores are selling out of Royals gear, fountains are flowing blue water, social media accounts are sporting Royals photos and using #TaketheCrown and local businesses are rolling back prices to 1985 on certain items or giving 29% discounts.  I’m just trying to get my voice back.

I don’t remember being in a city more excited about their sports teams.  Sporting KC sells out every home game, Kansas City is tops in the NFL for tailgating at a Chiefs game and no matter if the Royals are good or bad, the fans show up.  There are no words to convey what it’s like to be at Kauffman Stadium to watch the “Boys in Blue” succeed and finally make it to the playoffs.  Kansas City loves their sports and I can’t imagine not living in a sports town.

So GO ROYALS – I believe that we will win!

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat.

The Beautiful American is beautifully written

BeautifulAmericanSometimes I wonder if I was alive during World War II.  It’s a time that fascinates me and feels familiar.  It’s a time of horrific tragedy and a time of bravery.  It’s also a time when a lot of young Americans relocated to Paris to follow their artistic dreams.  They were called expats.

The Beautiful American by Jeanne Mackin is about Nora Tours, a young woman from Poughkeepsie, NY who has fallen in love with the high school quarterback who has a love of photography.  After high school the couple heads to New York so Jamie can try and get a showing in a gallery.  After failing, they head to London for the same purpose.  After failing there, they head to Paris where it should be easy because that’s where true art is happening.

After trying and being unsuccessful at securing a gallery showing in Paris, Nora and Jamie are almost broke and ready to head back to Poughkeepsie when Nora runs into Lee Miller, a childhood playmate who is now an international model and aspiring photographer.  Nora and Jamie get sucked into Lee’s life and meet very interesting people like Picasso.

The book starts out with Nora searching for her 16-year-old daughter Dahlia who has disappeared and thinks Dahlia is retracing her and Jamie’s path from London to Paris and could possibly be in London.  This is where she runs into Lee outside of Harrod’s after not seeing each other for almost 17 years.  Lee invites Nora to spend the weekend at her country farm where Picasso will also be a guest.  The book goes back and forth between Lee and Nora’s childhood and their weekend visit on the farm. Then it brings us to Paris and France where the majority of the book is centered.

This is a beautifully written book that takes the reader to a time when Europe is on the verge of World War II to just after the war.  I found Nora more of a backseat character as in the fact she isn’t a strong personality.  She kind of just goes along for the ride as Lee is an out there personality who doesn’t care about other people’s feelings, she just live life the way she wants to live.  Once Nora leaves Paris, her character gets a little stronger.  It’s nice to see her evolve a little bit.  There are some parallels between Lee and Dahlia.  I don’t like to give too much away so I will say, this book will pull you into Paris and into the lives of these people.

Here is the description from the back of the book: As recovery from World War II begins, expat American Nora Tours travels from her home in southern France to London in search of her missing sixteen-year-old daughter. There, she unexpectedly meets up with an old acquaintance, famous model-turned-photographer Lee Miller. Neither has emerged from the war unscathed. Nora is racked with the fear that her efforts to survive under the Vichy regime may have cost her daughter’s life. Lee suffers from what she witnessed as a war correspondent photographing the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps.

Nora and Lee knew each other in the heady days of late 1920s Paris, when Nora was giddy with love for her childhood sweetheart, Lee became the celebrated mistress of the artist Man Ray, and Lee’s magnetic beauty drew them all into the glamorous lives of famous artists and their wealthy patrons. But Lee fails to realize that her friendship with Nora is even older, that it goes back to their days as children in Poughkeepsie, New York, when a devastating trauma marked Lee forever. Will Nora’s reunion with Lee give them a chance to forgive past betrayals…and break years of silence to forge a meaningful connection as women who have shared the best and the worst that life can offer?

A novel of freedom and frailty, desire and daring, The Beautiful American portrays the extraordinary relationship between two passionate, unconventional women.

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat.