The Light We Lost asks the question: is a first love your one true love

33637339When I first started reading The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo, I wasn’t sure if I was going to like it. I didn’t understand why Lucy Carter was telling Gabe Samson about their relationship from when they first met. It felt weird to me. I thought maybe it was a look back at what their life was like.  But I soon got used to the narration and was pulled into Lucy’s life.

Lucy first met Gabe on September 11, 2001 while they are in college.  On a rooftop under a grey cloud of ash, she kissed him for the first time and lost her heart forever. They move in together and start planning their life.  But Gabe is unfulfilled living in New York and being in a relationship. As he pursues his photography, he realizes he needs to go abroad and capture the struggles and political turmoil.  He wants to head to the Middle East and asks Lucy to go with him. But Lucy loves her job and knows following Gabe around the world will only make her resent his pursuit of his passions while she suppresses hers. So Gabe leaves and they move on living separate lives.

Lucy eventually meets Darren and even though she keeps comparing him to Gabe, she loves him differently but just as much as Gabe. They marry and soon have their daughter Violet. Even though Lucy has a wonderfully supportive husband and a good marriage, she seems to be connected to Gabe. She looks for his photos, she emails with him and she takes his phone calls. When he is in town, she drops everything to see him.

There were times I wanted to smack Lucy for what she was doing to her marriage. There were times I wanted to smack Darren for his jealousy even though Lucy was with him and I wanted to smack Gabe for always pulling Lucy back into his life making it hard for her to leave him in the past where he belonged.  The character I loved the most was Violet.  What an adorable little girl.

This book made me smile but it also made me cry and it broke my heart in so many different ways. As the book progressed and things were revealed, I never would have expected the revelation at the end. It really made me change my view of Lucy’s narrative. This book snuck up on me. I almost abandoned after about 50 pages and I’m so glad I stuck it out. This was such a good book. If you pick this book up, give it a chance because it won’t disappoint.

Book Description:
Lucy is faced with a life-altering choice. But before she can make her decision, she must start her story—their story—at the very beginning.

Lucy and Gabe meet as seniors at Columbia University on a day that changes both of their lives forever. Together, they decide they want their lives to mean something, to matter. When they meet again a year later, it seems fated—perhaps they’ll find life’s meaning in each other. But then Gabe becomes a photojournalist assigned to the Middle East and Lucy pursues a career in New York. What follows is a thirteen-year journey of dreams, desires, jealousies, betrayals, and, ultimately, of love. Was it fate that brought them together? Is it choice that has kept them away? Their journey takes Lucy and Gabe continents apart, but never out of each other’s hearts.

This devastatingly romantic debut novel about the enduring power of first love, with a shocking, unforgettable ending, is Love Story for a new generation.

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat

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Murder at The Dollhouse

30039173The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis is such a fascinating story!  This is a story about Rose Lewin who in 2016 moved into the Barbizon Hotel in New York City with her newly divorced boyfriend and Darby McLaughlin who in 1952, moved from Ohio into the hotel to attend classes at the Katherine Gibbs secretarial school.

Barbizon Hotel had a long history as a safe and secure place for young women who came to New York City to study, look for a job or look for a husband.  Over the years it eventually was turned into condos.

Rose, a former network reporter takes a job that is a step down so she can be with her boyfriend.  As she is leaving the building, she meets an unfriendly elderly resident in the elevator.  She finds out that a few of the long-term tenants of the former hotel are living on the fourth floor.  She learns that the unfriendly woman was involved in an accidental death that took place back in the 50’s.

As Rose starts to investigate the accident from the 1950’s, we learn about Darby’s life at the Barbizon Hotel where she wasn’t treated nicely by the women on her floor and how she becomes friends with the hotel’s maid named Esme.  Esme introduces Darby to the darker side of New York City.

The story switches back and forth between Darby’s story from the 1950’s and Rose in 2016.  It shows how their lives progress and eventually intertwine.  I remember reading about rooming houses in New York where women lives with a housemother.  The Barbizon hosted famous women like Sylvia Plath, Liza Minelli, Candace Bergen and Joan Crawford.

I loved this book and found it so fascinating.  It was hard to put it down.  Fiona does a great job pulling the reader into the lives of the women at Barbizon Hotel.

I was able to read this book through the First to Read Program from Penguin Random House.

Book Description:
Fiona Davis’s stunning debut novel pulls readers into the lush world of New York City’s glamorous Barbizon Hotel for Women, where a generation of aspiring models, secretaries, and editors lived side-by-side while attempting to claw their way to fairy-tale success in the 1950’s, and where a present-day journalist becomes consumed with uncovering a dark secret buried deep within the Barbizon’s glitzy past.

 When she arrives at the famed Barbizon Hotel in 1952, secretarial school enrollment in hand, Darby McLaughlin is everything her modeling agency hall mates aren’t: plain, self-conscious, homesick, and utterly convinced she doesn’t belong—a notion the models do nothing to disabuse. Yet when Darby befriends Esme, a Barbizon maid, she’s introduced to an entirely new side of New York City: seedy downtown jazz clubs where the music is as addictive as the heroin that’s used there, the startling sounds of bebop, and even the possibility of romance.

Over half a century later, the Barbizon’s gone condo and most of its long-ago guests are forgotten. But rumors of Darby’s involvement in a deadly skirmish with a hotel maid back in 1952 haunt the halls of the building as surely as the melancholy music that floats from the elderly woman’s rent-controlled apartment. It’s a combination too intoxicating for journalist Rose Lewin, Darby’s upstairs neighbor, to resist—not to mention the perfect distraction from her own imploding personal life. Yet as Rose’s obsession deepens, the ethics of her investigation become increasingly murky, and neither woman will remain unchanged when the shocking truth is finally revealed.

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The Woman in the Photograph highlights the talented Lee Miller

23492824The Woman in the Photograph by Dana Gynther is the second book I have recently read that includes Lee Miller as one of the characters who I never knew about until this year.  Miller was a model and American photographer from Poughkeepsie, NY.  After spending years in New York as a successful fashion model, Miller moved to Paris so she could apprentice for the famous surrealist artist and photographer Man Ray.

Miller quickly becomes his lover and became Ray’s muse, model and co-collaborator.  Gynther does a great job of portraying Miller as an ambitious woman who doesn’t need a man to help her succeed.  As her business grows with sittings and assignments for Vogue, she was able to open her own studio.

Ray is portrayed as a jealous and possessive individual who I think was threatened by Miller’s success.  He went as far as taking credit for some of Miller’s best work.  Miller finally can’t take Ray’s jealousy and moves back to New York where she opens her own studio.

Gynther does a wonderful job of pulling the reader into the lives of Miller and Ray.  She makes you care for Miller and whether she will succeed in a man’s world in the 1930s and she even made me a little worried for Miller because Ray was sometimes beyond obsessive.  There were times I worried Ray was going to hurt himself or hurt Miller.

This is a beautifully written story about courage, freedom, determination and obsession.  It’s a great look into the world of artists in Paris.  This is one I had a hard time putting down and one that peaked my interest enough to Google search both Miller and Ray to learn more about them and see their works of art

Book description:

Set in the romantic glow of 1920s Paris, a captivating novel of New York socialite and model Lee Miller, whose glamorous looks and joie de vivrecaught the eye of Man Ray, one of the twentieth century’s defining photographers.

1929, Montparnasse. Model and woman about town Lee Miller moves to Paris determined to make herself known amidst the giddy circle of celebrated artists, authors, and photographers currently holding court in the city. She seeks out the charming, charismatic artist Man Ray to become his assistant but soon becomes much more than that: his model, his lover, his muse.

Coming into her own more fully every day, Lee models, begins working on her own projects, and even stars in a film, provoking the jealousy of the older and possessive Man Ray. Drinking and carousing is the order of the day, but while hobnobbing with the likes of Picasso and Charlie Chaplin, she also falls in love with the art of photography and finds that her own vision can no longer come second to her mentor’s.

The Woman in the Photograph is the richly drawn, tempestuous novel about a talented and fearless young woman caught up in one of the most fascinating times of the twentieth century.

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This Side of the Street is a wonderful coming of age story

This Side of the StreetCover artwork has a huge influence on whether I will read a book or not. The second influence is the description and if it’s well written, I can overlook the cover.  And of course the third influence is recommendations.  So when I received This Side of the Street by Ofer Aronskind in the mail, I wasn’t too keen on reading it due to the cover photo, so the book sat on my bedside table for several months before I picked it up.

This book taught me that you really can’t judge a book by its cover.  This is a beautifully written coming of age story that starts the summer of ’73.  Sam Tolpin and his Mom move to school districts she feels are the best for education.  When they can no longer live in the district, she finds another one.  Education is important to Mrs. Tolpin and she feels Sam is going to do great things.

When Sam is 12-years-old, they move into the second story apartment of a house in Queens where a group of boys help them move in.  A group who’s leader, Eddie Drucker, lives downstairs from Sam.  Sam is a loner and Eddie’s group is a bunch of little delinquents who don’t think twice about committing petty crime.

Sam is bullied by Eddie’s friends because he is skinny and a longer.  Then one day when he accidentally head butts the school bully on the school bus taking him down, Sam’s accepted into the group.  Eddie’s Mom is never around so Eddie and his little brother fend for themselves. His brother soon moves to New Jersey to live with relatives and Eddie is left on his own.  He soon starts living with Sam and his Mom to the point that he is considered a brother from another mother.  Eddie and Sam become best friends and Sam quickly becomes involved with the group’s crimes.

Everyone in the neighborhood and at the school loves Eddie.  Eddie loves Sam’s Mom and gives her the utmost respect.  In fact, the entire group has total respect for “Mrs. T” as they call her and will go to bat for her whether it’s raising money when she loses her job so she and Sam don’t have to move, to standing up to a rude customer at her second job as a waitress in a diner.

This book made me smile, made me want to smack Eddie and the boys on the back of the head and made me cry.  This book is about coming of age, friendship, loyalty and being a better person.    Aronskind does a great job of pulling the reader into the story and cheer for this group of misfits.  He makes you care for them and hope they straighten out and don’t end up in jail.  It also can take you back to your childhood.  Back to a time when life is about innocence and getting away with a lot.  I’m so glad I was able to read this book.  It is one that will stay with me for a long time.

Book Description:

Sam Tolpin is a quiet loner whose mother has moved him into a new town one too many times. Eddie Drucker, Sam’s new downstairs neighbor, is the undisputed neighborhood leader with the charismatic personality and the criminal mind. The two boys could not be more different but as they come-of-age on the tough streets of their Queens neighborhood, their differences pale against the close friendship they have forged. And as the two friends navigate the obstacle-filled path from childhood to young adults, the bonds of their brotherhood will be tested time and again. “This Side of the Street” is a universal coming-of-age tale that will engage the imagination of any reader who was once a kid and capture the heart of anyone that ever grew up with a best friend.

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