Saturday, April 10, 2021

 Dear Great Book Guru, We were able to get together on our porch with family this weekend (everyone fully vaccinated) and – as you might have guessed - conversation quickly turned to books we had read recently.  Someone mentioned a new novel about tourism and its effects on communities.  It sounded interesting - are you familiar with it?  Loving My Family

Dear Loving My Family, Yes - BROTHER, SISTER, MOTHER, EXPLORER by Jamie Figueroa is an amazing first novel. Rafa and Rufina are brother and sister living in an unnamed Latin American country. Their mother Rosalinda has just died and these adult siblings are devastated at their loss - so much so that Rafa is planning suicide.  To prevent this, Rufina makes a bargain with him: if they don costumes and perform in the village square for the many visiting tourists, the money they earn will allow them to flee their country for a new life. We are with the pair for three days as they dance and sing for a disparate audience of men and women interested in taking selfies, ogling the couple, romanticizing about their “exotic” lives, seeing their obvious sadness and poverty as “part of the charm.”  A stolen wallet that yields only a few dollars, a shaming wife, convention goers who carelessly toss money at the siblings - all make us question what role we might play in this brittle, biting tale of cruel indifference to fellow humans. Highly recommended!

Friday, April 2, 2021


Dear Great Book Guru, I heard that a famous local mystery author has a new book coming out this week.  I love mysteries and especially those set in a familiar locale. Do you know anything about the book? Eagerly Awaiting

 Dear Eagerly Awaiting, Michael Sears’s newest book TOWER OF BABEL is being released April 6 and it is a wonderful read.  I loved Sears’s earlier mystery series featuring former Wall Street trader, forensic investigator Jason Stafford and his young autistic son, but I think this latest book is my favorite.  He introduces a new hero: Ted Malloy, a former partner in a prestigious Manhattan law firm.  Ted’s life has taken a sharp turn – disbarred, he works out of his small Queens apartment as a “Foreclosure Profiteer,” tracking down small real estate residuals, never much more than $50, 000 or so.  When his criminally inclined assistant, Richie Rubiano, comes up with a million-dollar

 deal, Malloy declines and three days later Richie is dead. Soon Malloy finds himself enmeshed in a dangerously complex world of New York City and Nassau County politicians, greedy developers, mobsters, and environmental activists. As in Sears’s earlier books, the characters and neighborhoods add much to the suspenseful unfolding of the plot.  Whether it be a Mets game at Citi Field with Malloy’s socialite ex-wife or a cheeseburger lunch at Gallagher’s Bar, or a chance encounter with a corrupt billionaire real estate developer, Sears presents it all in exquisite detail. Highly recommended!

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Dear Great Book Guru,  My mind is overwhelmed by my existence in the cyberworld of Twitter, Instagram, Face Book, Zoom, webinars, breakout rooms, etc.  It goes on and on… Sometimes I wonder which world is more real and where do I feel more at home: to be or not to be - internet or not? Any books of this on this topic?  In Search of Place

Dear In Search of Place, I just finished a new novel that faces this very issue: FAKE ACCOUNTS by Lauren Oyler.  Our narrator throughout is an unnamed young woman who in the opening pages has just scrolled through her boyfriend’s iPhone in search of - as she says - “a good story” only to discover he is an anonymous internet conspiracy theorist.  She is somewhat relieved and exhilarated to find this other side of him because she admits up until now she had found him rather boring. She soon finds herself enmeshed in a whole world of online fabrications and false existences.  She throws herself into this world, navigating dating apps, expat meetups, wait rooms, chat rooms - all the while creating and recreating her online self. Traveling between New York, D.C., and Berlin, she entertains and terrifies us with her cyber hijinks. Definitely a fascinating look into a world we are all about to experience…if we haven’t already!


Monday, March 15, 2021


Dear Great Book Guru, I have been reading lots of the novels you have suggested and have enjoyed them. Now I think I would like to read some non-fiction.  With St Patrick’s Day coming up, I am particularly interested in something with an Irish slant.  In Search of the Green

Dear In Search of the Green, I just read a fascinating story of a woman who figured prominently in modern Irish history, but is known by very few:  THE WOMAN WHO STOLE VERMEER by Anthony Amore.  Rose Dugdale was born into incredible wealth - daughter of a fabulously rich London magnate and an aristocratic mother whose family had been involved in the British slave trade.  Educated at exclusive finishing schools, Rose made her debut before Queen Elizabeth in 1958 with 1400 other young women only four of whom went on to college. Graduating from Oxford University with a doctorate in economics, she quickly became involved in political protests around the world, eventually turning her focus on Northern Ireland. In a burst of madcap moves, she led a terrorist helicopter attack on a British police station, and shortly after broke into her family home stealing silverware and jewelry to finance her political activities.  But it was her heist of nineteen Old Masters worth millions of dollars that brought her the most notoriety. One of these paintings was “Lady Writing a Letter with Her Maid,” by Vermeer, among the world’s most revered and beloved artists. Despite imprisonment, she continued to fight for Irish freedom with a dedication that is both disturbing and inspiring. An amazing story and highly recommended!


Monday, March 1, 2021

 Dear Great Book Guru, I just watched NOMADLAND this weekend and really enjoyed it.  I’m sure it will win all sorts of awards for its storyline and acting.  Do you have a book that deals with a similar theme - a woman facing life’s hardships here in America and showing great courage?  In Search of a Hero

Dear In Search of a Hero, I too loved the movie NOMADLAND and this weekend I read a book that reminded me very much of its heroine: ZORRIE  by Laird Hunt. When Zorrie’s parents die of diphtheria within weeks of one another, she goes to live with a bitter, unloving aunt. The young Zorrie is an enthusiastic student and hard worker but she is forced to leave school when she is fifteen.  With the aunt’s death, Zorrie is once again orphaned and leaves her beloved home in Indiana. In Chicago, she finds dear friends with whom she will remain close throughout her life. She also finds employment in a factory manufacturing radium faced clocks. Zorrie and her friends become known as the “ghost girls” because they glow from radium-induced radioactivity. Health problems will plague these young women for the rest of their lives. Working incredibly hard, she faces cruel obstacles all along the way.  Zorrie’s life story underscores the plight of so many in this land of great wealth and beauty.  Highly recommended!

Monday, February 22, 2021

Dear Great Book Guru, In the depths of winter, my thoughts turn to summer, sunny beach days and – yes - a good beach read.  I’m thinking of something quick, with colorful characters, a familiar setting, and fun to read. Any thoughts?   A Devoted Beach Book Reader

Dear Devoted Beach Book Reader, No need to wait for summer - a good beach read is a treasure any time of year and here’s one you might enjoy: COBBLE HILL by Cecily von Ziegesar.  Cobble Hill is a neighborhood in downtown Brooklyn and home to the four families highlighted in this novel. They include a former rock star and his wife who pretends to be gravely ill; a flirtatious school nurse and her struggling musician husband; a mysterious performance artist and her inventor husband; and a bestselling British author struggling with a bad case of writer’s block and his high-power executive wife who is about to lose her job.  We follow these four couples and their children through a tumultuous year marked by arson, infidelities, cyber mischief, and multiple romances - all set against a Brooklyn Brownstone backdrop. The lives of all these characters intersect in complicated and humorous ways. But in the end, we realize the most endearing and enduring character is the quirky, picturesque  neighborhood of Cobble Hill


Monday, February 15, 2021

Dear Great Book Guru, We have just had an interesting week of holidays: Lunar New Year, Valentine’s Day, Presidents’ Day, and Mardi Gras. Yes… all in one week!  Now that the festivities are winding down, I am looking for a novel - one with a good story line, generations of characters, and a lovely setting.  Any ideas?   Happy Holiday Enthusiast

Dear Happy Holiday Enthusiast, A long time ago I read a book that I enjoyed immensely and meets all your criteria: FAMILY ALBUM by Penelope Lively. The story opens in the present time as a young couple drive up to Allersmeade - a lovely somewhat shabby Edwardian family home outside London. They are greeted by Alison and Charles - parents of six grown children, each with an interesting story. Always present, always in the background is the family au pair/housekeeper, Ingrid. The story line swings back from present to past and back again many times.  We are there when Alison and Charles meet and decide to marry. We are present at the many elegant family parties Alison orchestrates, and we are there when the secrets that color the family ‘s history are finally revealed.  Throughout, we have Allersmeade - and Alison’s dream of a perfect home for the perfect family – obviously, the recipe for the perfect nightmare.  This is a fast weekend read, but a story you will find hard to forget. Highly recommended!