Wednesday, May 31, 2023

The German Wife by Kelly Rimmer

The German Wife
by Kelly Rimmer
13 hours, 49 minutes
Read by Nancy Peterson and Ann Marie Gideon
Published June 2022 by Graydon House Publishing

Publisher's Summary: 
Berlin, 1930—When a wave of change sweeps a radical political party to power, Sofie von Meyer Rhodes’s academic husband benefits from the ambitions of its newly elected chancellor. Although Sofie and Jürgen do not share the social views growing popular in Hitler’s Germany, Jürgen’s position with its burgeoning rocket program changes their diminishing fortunes for the better. But as Sofie watches helplessly, her beloved Berlin begins to transform, forcing her to consider what they must sacrifice morally for their young family’s security, and what the price for their neutrality will be. 

Twenty years later, Jürgen is one of the many German scientists offered pardons for their part in the war, and taken to America to work for its fledgling space program. For Sofie, this is the chance to exorcise the ghosts that have followed her across the ocean, and make a fresh start in her adopted country. But her neighbors aren’t as welcoming or as understanding as she had hoped. When scandalous rumors about the Rhodes family’s affiliation with Hitler’s regime spreads, idle gossip turns to bitter rage, and the act of violence that results will tear apart Sofie’s community and her family before the truth is finally revealed.

My Thoughts: 
Another book recommended by a coworker - the same coworker who recommended Every Summer After. She recommended this one for very different reasons. She wanted me to read it because she wanted to talk about it with someone because it was a book that really had her thinking. I'm pretty picky about what books set around World War II that I'll read. It's really got to be a book with an entirely new take on that war and that's a tough thing to do after all these years and all the thousands of books written about it. 

Written recently enough that Rimmer can pull readers in by touching on current events, she's able to make readers see how easy it was for everyday Germans overlook what was happening to their country prior to the rise to the top of the Nazi party. Once you can understand that, you begin to understand the fear of having waited too long to stand up to them. And once you understand that, then you begin to understand how a person could make decisions that others would later judge, perhaps without understanding the helplessness of the people making those choices. But then again, where do you draw the line, when have those choices become unforgivable? Here it becomes the classic train line conundrum - would you choose to save one person you love at the risk of many more people you don't know? 

Not unexpectedly, this book is full of deep themes - grief, loss of dreams, death, religious persecution, the cost of war, mental illness, marriage, family, and love. Rimmer uses alternating points of view as she moves back and forth in time, bringing Lizzie and Sofie together where their histories collide.

In the end, the question we're left with is what makes a person good or bad? And then she makes us realize how easy it can be for someone to steer our thinking. In the Author's Note, Rimmer, after spending the book leading readers to consider this differently than they might have before they came to "know" the characters, leaves the reader with this - she still believes that the characters had choices to make and that they should be held accountable for those choices, regardless of the reason they made them. 

If you choose to read this one (or if you have already), I'd love to hear your thoughts! If you haven't read it yet, I can't recommend the audiobook highly enough. Peterson and Gideon do a terrific job, both pulling off their character's accents marvelously, creating an even deeper impression that we are really getting to know these women. 

Sunday, May 28, 2023

Life: It Goes On - May 29

Happy Sunday! It's sunny, it's not windy, and it's 75 degrees out right now. So I'm going to make this quick because it's pretty much perfect out right now and I'm going to take a book and a cup of coffee out on the patio and enjoy the day. We'll see how long I can relax before I see something that needs to be done! I have one spray paint project left to do and then I can put away the paints for the summer. But we're only just starting a new project out there that The Big Guy decided needed to be done...sooner, rather than later, apparently. I can't say much - you all know how I am once I get the idea for a project in my head! It will look great when it's done, and make parts of our yard usable in ways they haven't been in years, since before our trees got so big, so I'm all in on doing it and will help as much as I can. 

Last Week I: 

Listened To: I started Fredrik Backman's The Winners and am going to be listening to it a lot this week if I'm going to get it finished before my loan expires. This is one of those sequels that I wish didn't spend so much time explaining things from the prior books. If you want to know why people are doing things or the relationships, read the preceding books! 

Watched: College baseball, some Mrs, Maisel, some Ted Lasso

Read: Bouncing back and forth between Ken Jennings' 100 Places To See After You Die and Chris Bohjalian's Midwives

Made: A mess of my hands. I think I'm the only person I know who can get paint all over herself while she's spray painting! 

Enjoyed: We went to a graduation party in my parents' old neighborhood yesterday and it was so nice to be back with that family, who are also our family. 

This Week I’m:  

Planning: On finishing up some ongoing projects outside and inside. 

Thinking About: Alaska. What do we still need to pick up? When is too early to start packing?

Feeling: Happy to have a three-day weekend. 

Looking forward to: A quiet week. I think. 

Question of the week: If you're lucky enough to have a three-day weekend, what are you doing with the extra day? 

Friday, May 26, 2023

Every Summer After by Carley Fortune

Every Summer After
by Carley Fortune
Published November 2022 by Penguin Publishing Group
Read by AJ Bridel
9 hours, 38 minutes

Publisher's Summary: 
They say you can never go home again, and for Persephone Fraser, ever since she made the biggest mistake of her life a decade ago, that has felt too true. Instead of glittering summers on the lakeshore of her childhood, she spends them in a stylish apartment in the city, going out with friends, and keeping everyone a safe distance from her heart.

Until she receives the call that sends her racing back to Barry's Bay and into the orbit of Sam Florek-the man she never thought she'd have to live without.

For six summers, through hazy afternoons on the water and warm summer nights working in his family's restaurant and curling up together with books-medical textbooks for him and work-in-progress horror short stories for her-Percy and Sam had been inseparable. Eventually that friendship turned into something breathtakingly more, before it fell spectacularly apart.

When Percy returns to the lake for Sam's mother's funeral, their connection is as undeniable as it had always been. But until Percy can confront the decisions she made and the years she's spent punishing herself for them, they'll never know whether their love might be bigger than the biggest mistakes of their past.

Told over the course of six years and one weekend, Every Summer After is a big, sweeping nostalgic story of love and the people and choices that mark us forever.

My Thoughts: 
Would I be happy to work from home every day? Sure; I'd love to work in my pj's, avoid rush hour traffic, and eat hot lunches. But if I did that, then I wouldn't get to talk to book people every day. In my department of seven, three of us are avid readers who talk a lot about books and we've gotten to know each other's tastes well enough to have a pretty good idea what the others might enjoy. So when one of them recommended this book, I didn't hesitate to check it out. She didn't sell it as high fiction; she sold it as chick lit and some depth, but also light enough to break up the heavier reads. 

Which is exactly what this book is. You have to be willing to buy into the idea that a couple of childhood friends will develop such a deep love for each other than twelve years after they last saw each other, both are still incapable of falling in love with anyone else. To be honest, I did have to remind myself periodically to let go of the idea that the premise was highly unlikely and just go with the flow. Is Sam too often a little too perfect? Yes, also that. But Fortune has him mishandle things just often enough that he still feels human. Did it seem strange that Sam's mom and Percy's parents, who never seemed to spend that much time together in the summer, suddenly decide to spend holidays together. Yes; it probably would have helped to talk about them sitting on the deck having cocktails, watching the kids swim. But Fortune needed a way to have Sam and Percy spend more time together beyond just the summers so, again, you just have to go with it. And did I figure out what the big revel at the end was ahead of time. Yeah, I did (and you know how rare that is!). But I was still, to be fair, disappointed in Percy when it was revealed. 

But I loved the way Fortune described Barry's Bay and life there. I could vividly picture the lake, the houses, the lifestyle, the kind of bond two kids could develop over a summer spent living together in a world apart from real life. And I'd always prefer a relationship to develop from friendship, rather than the kind where two people bicker throughout the book (or show, or movie) and then suddenly succumb to deep passion. 

So, no, it's not high literature. But it's always fun to read a book set in the summer, with plenty of references to books, that you can just race through. AJ Brindel does a great job of handling all of the various voices and really adds to the book. Oh! One more thing! Midway through my listening, the coworker who recommended the book was talking to my other reading coworker about how this book has some depth and I said, "yeah, and plenty of sex!" Which she, not all that long after having read the book, didn't even recall! She read it for the romance and that's what she got! Which is exactly what you want in a book like this - to get exactly what you want from it. 

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Published June 2017 by Atria Books
Read by Alma Cuervo, Julia Whelan, and Robin Miles
12 hours, 10 minutes

Publisher's Summary: 
Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now? 

Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband has left her, and her professional life is going nowhere. Regardless of why Evelyn has selected her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career. 

Summoned to Evelyn's luxurious apartment, Monique listens in fascination as the actress tells her story. From making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the `80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way, Evelyn unspools a tale of ruthless ambition, unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love. Monique begins to feel a very real connection to the legendary star, but as Evelyn's story near its conclusion, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique's own in tragic and irreversible ways.

My Thoughts: 
This is one of those books that's been on my TBR list for a very long time. Recently my niece highly recommended it so I put in a request to the library for the audiobook. My niece was staying here recently and laughed at me when she discovered that I had a copy of the book in print. Which I'm pretty sure I've had on my shelves since before I read Reid's Daisy Jones and The Six

It seems to me that this book was probably the launching point for the way Reid wrote Daisy Jones, an interviewer getting the story about the rise to (and fall from) fame of a beautiful woman. Of course, you read a title like this one and think of Elizabeth Taylor and think, gee, this lady was terrible at picking men. But, as it turns out, Evelyn Hugo chose those men very carefully; they were all men, except one, who could give her what she needed...a way into the movies, a way to become the star she longed to be, a way to keep her name off the scandal pages. She was a woman who'd grown up terribly poor and abused and she was determined to rise to the top, to become wealthy enough never to have to worry about money again. And she did. But she never told anyone why she had married all of those men until she calls a magazine and specifically requests that Monique come to her apartment for an interview. When Monique arrives, though, Evelyn has something different in mind and Monique finds herself looking at a chance to make her mark as a writer, although it might also be the end of her current career. 

Over the next couple of weeks, Evelyn spills the beans, revealing to Monique who the true love of her life was and revealing the real reason she requested Monique specifically. 

It sounds like nothing much more than a fictionalized celebrity tell-all. But there's a depth here that's unexpected. Reid tackles some tough subjects, including some that are even more timely today than they were when the book was first published. I enjoy Reid's writing style, how she is able to make me like unlikeable characters. There are some plot twists here that I didn't see coming (although you may catch on earlier - you know how I am!) and the readers are terrific. I highly recommend this one as an audiobook. Thanks to my niece for pushing me to finally get around to this one!