Category Archives: Summer Reading

Review: George’s Grand Tour by Caroline Vermalle

I received an advanced review copy of this title from Gallic Books.

My Review:
George's Grand TourGeorge is an eighty-three year old gentleman living a quiet life in the French countryside.  He has been a widower for a few years now and his daughter keeps careful watch over his life.  George does not alter his daily routine of watching television, visiting with his neighbor Charles or napping so it is shocking when George decides that he is going to take a three thousand kilometer road trip.

When George’s overprotective daughter decides to take a two month trip and leave him alone, he makes plans with his neighbor Charles to embark on a trip of a lifetime.  These two elderly men prove that one is never too old, too tired or too feeble to have an adventure.  As George and Charles’ route follows the same stops as that of the Tour de France, the places they visit and the cast of characters which they meet on the way are interesting and delightful.

George’s granddaughter, Adele, decides that she has not seen her grandfather in over ten years and out of the blue wants to renew her relationship with him.  Adele begins texting George as he makes his way on his tour and the scenes in which George figures out how to use his phone and the language of texting are hilarious.  George learns that technology is not necessarily such a bad thing and the daily messages between himself and his granddaughter serve to rekindle their heartwarming relationship.

I must say that there were a few plot twists in this book that really surprised me.  George and Charles have very different reasons for embarking on their trip which are slowly revealed to us throughout the book.  Adele also has some of her own issues as a young woman who is trying to figure out her own place in the world.  There is also an interesting attraction between George and Charles’ single sister whom they stop and visit along the way.

No matter where George goes on his trip, he has a gentle way of winning people over and making friends.  He certainly won me over and I highly recommend giving GEORGE’S GRAND TOUR a try while you are sitting on the beach or anywhere else on vacation this summer.

About The Author:
C VermalleCaroline Vermalle was born in France in 1973 to a family whose French roots go back at least as far as the 16th century. Yet, she is a vegetarian who can’t cook, doesn’t drink, finds berets itchy and unpractical and would rather eat yesterday’s snails than jump a queue.

After graduating from film school in Paris, she became a television documentary producer for the BBC in London and travelled the world, at speed and off the beaten tracks, in search of good stories. In 2008, then on maternity leave, she penned her first novel « George’s Grand Tour », whose international success allowed her to quit her job and indulge in her three passions : books, interior design and travel – slowly this time.

After writing 7 novels in different genres and different languages, going on a world tour with her family and building a wooden house in a forest, Caroline now lives between a small seaside town in Vendée (France) and a small seaside town in the Eastern Cape (South Africa) with her son, a black cat and her husband, South African architect-turned-author Ryan von Ruben.




Filed under France, Literature in Translation, Summer Reading

Review: Thank You, Goodnight by Andy Abramowitz

I received an advanced review copy of this title from Touchstone through NetGalley.

My Review:
Thank You, GoodnightTeddy Tremble is a lawyer at a Philadelphia law firm and when we meet him we get the impression that he is vaguely dissatisfied with his life.  He is on his way to Ireland to take a deposition for his law firm and he doesn’t seem interested in anything that his going on around him.  He makes a few phone calls back home to his long-time girlfriend and he also seems indifferent towards her.

We find out that being a lawyer was not Teddy’s first career choice and he and his band “Tremble” had a rather successful stint in the nineties as a rock band.  When their second album was judged a complete flop by the critics the band broke up and all of its members went separate ways.  Through a series of hilarious circumstances, Teddy suddenly has the itch to make music again and revive the band.  But convincing the other members, who all have very different lives and careers now, won’t be an easy task.

Teddy sets out on a series of road trips to convince each former band mate to make another go at a new album.  The first band member we meet is Jumbo, a guitar player and the hot mess of the group, who lives in his ex-wife’s basement and has an odd “career” as a midwife.  Jumbo is on board right away with Teddy’s scheme but when Teddy reconnects with his loveable but irresponsible friend again Teddy begins to wonder if he has made a terrible mistake by reviving the band.

The other two members of the group, Warren the drummer, and Mackenzie the bass player, are much harder to convince to drop their lives and rejoin a band whose last hit was more than a decade ago.  Warren is a music teacher at a high school and he has a wife and young son; he has no desire to drop a successful career and spend long hours away from his family in order to fulfill what he thinks is Teddy’s midlife crisis.  And Mackenzie, with whom Teddy had a fling that ended Teddy’s marriage, is now a sex therapist and Teddy isn’t sure that she will even speak to him.  We are left in suspense for a good part of the book wondering if Teddy will triumphantly pull together his band mates for one last musical hurrah.

The strength of this book lies in Abramowitz’s ability to write witty and humorous dialogue and sustain it for the three-hundred plus pages of the book. Teddy is crabby and sarcastic and looks at the world through a negative, yet hilarious lens.  It is difficult for an author to sustain such comical quips throughout the writing of an entire book but this author does it with aplomb.

I also have to add that this book is a great read for anyone who appreciates music and wants a trip down a musical memory lane.  It is obvious that Abramowitz plays, writes and listens to a wide range of music; his references to Geddy Lee, the legendary bassist from Rush, and quotations from Rush’s hit “Limelight” sold me on his in depth knowledge of music.  It would be interesting for the author to make a playlist available on his website of all the great songs and artists that are mentioned in the book.

Last summer one of my favorite books was I am Having So Much Fun Here Without You which was also published by Touchstone.  It looks like they continue their streak of excellent summer reads with THANK YOU, GOODNIGHT.

About The Author:
AbramowitzAndy Abramowitz lives in Center City Philadelphia with is wife and two daughters. He practices law by day and various artistic endeavors by night. Thank You, Goodnight Night, his first novel, is the product of frequent bouts of insomnia.


Filed under Humor, Summer Reading

Review: A View of the Harbour by Elizabeth Taylor

I received an advanced review copy of this title from The New York Review of Books.  Please visit their website for a full list of their classics collection of which I am a big fan:

My Review:
A View of the HarbourThis novel is about a group of year-round inhabitants of a small harbor town in England.  The main focus of the book is on Beth and Robert and their mundane, tired marriage.  They have fallen into a routine that Robert feels is boring and lifeless and Beth is so absorbed writing novels that she hardly seems to notice.  Beth is also not observant enough to detect the growing attraction between Robert and Beth’s best friend, Tory, who lives next door to them.

Tory and Robert are prone to stolen moments of kisses, embraces and meaningful looks and we are kept in suspense throughout the book as to whether or not they will consummate their relationship.  The matter becomes even  more complicated when Robert’s teenage daughter, Prudence, discovers that Robert and Beth have feelings for one another.  The mounting tension of this love triangle and Prudence’s knowledge of it prove for a page-turning read in which, no matter the outcome, someone is going to be left miserable and heartbroken.

The cast of characters that Taylor provides in this novel are multifaceted.  Bertram is an older man who has retired from the navy and lives above the town pub.  He has a way of charming himself into everyone’s life and he is especially drawn towards Tory; he has visions of himself finally settling down by marrying her.  Taylor hints that Bertram’s life has been itinerant and wandering and when the local gossip is dying he vows, for once, to sit by her deathbed and give her comfort until the bitter end.

Lily Wilson is a young widow who lives alone in a creepy wax museum that she inherited from her husband.  She is terribly lonely and afraid at night and spends a lot of time in the pub looking for company.  Taylor mentions her more at the beginning of the novel and Lily gradually drops out of site.  We are never completely sure what happens to her but there are hints that she finds sordid ways to deal with her grief.

We are also treated to the story of the town gossip, Mrs. Bracey, who has been an invalid for years and relies on her daughters Iris and Maisie to wait on her hand and foot.  Maisie has feelings for Eddie, a town fisherman, but her mother keeps interfering in her daughter’s attempt at any time of marriage or happiness.  It seems that no one in this small town has any hope of finding peace or love or a “happily-ever-after.”

I highly recommend A VIEW OF THE HARBOUR for your summer reading list.  The seaside setting, an interesting cast of characters and Taylor’s lovely prose make this another great read from The New York Review of Books.

About The Author:
Elizabeth TaylorElizabeth Taylor (née Coles) was a popular English novelist and short story writer. Elizabeth Coles was born in Reading, Berkshire in 1912. She was educated at The Abbey School, Reading, and worked as a governess, as a tutor and as a librarian.

In 1936, she married John Micael, a businessman. She lived in Penn, Buckinghamshire, for almost all her married life. Her first novel, At Mrs. Lippincote’s, was published in 1945 and was followed by eleven more. Her short stories were published in various magazines and collected in four volumes. She also wrote a children’s book.

Taylor’s work is mainly concerned with the nuances of “everyday” life and situations, which she writes about with dexterity. Her shrewd but affectionate portrayals of middle class and upper middle class English life won her an audience of discriminating readers, as well as loyal friends in the world of letters. She was a friend of the novelist Ivy Compton-Burnett and of the novelist and critic Robert Liddell. Elizabeth Taylor died at age 63 of cancer.


Filed under Classics, Literature/Fiction, New York Review of Books, Summer Reading

Review: Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf

Knopf did not let me have access to this title when I requested it on Edelweiss. Sometimes bloggers do get rejected when they request review copies. But this book piqued my interest enough for me to buy it on my own anyway.  As always, this is my honest review.

My Review:
Our Souls At NightThis title is a brief yet beautiful read that took me by surprise.  Addie, a septuagenarian who has been widowed for years, walks over to her neighbor Louis and makes a proposition to him.  Since he also lives alone, Addie wants him to come over to her house at night and sleep with her and talk to her in the dark.  But there is nothing sexual or indecent about her suggestion.  She is lonely at night and instead of taking sleeping pills Addie would rather have a companion to talk to in the dark to help lull her to sleep.

Addie and Louis are awkward at first in a very sweet and gentle way.  They talk in the dark about their respective deceased spouses.  They slowly get to know intimate details about each other’s past lives.  Eventually they start holding hands as they communicate in the dark.

The small town in Colorado in which Addie and Louis live start to gossip about the pair because people see Louis walking over to Addie’s house every night.  The stance that they take, Addie in particular, against the nosy neighbors is that they don’t care what other people think anymore.  Addie and Louis are happier spending time with one another than they have ever been in their lives and they are no longer lonely.  However, will Addie and Louis also be able to dismiss the opinions of their grown children who also get wind of their “relationship” and don’t approve of it?

Addie’s grandson, Jamie, also comes to spend the summer with Addie and Louis.  Jamie’s parents are in the middle of a separation and poor Jamie has been cast off to live with his grandmother for the summer; when Jamie is dropped off at Addie’s home is upset and lonely.  Addie and Louis gradually establish a routine with the boy, shower him with love and attention, and adopt a shelter dog for him.  Addie, Louis, Jamie, and Bonney the dog have a wonderful summer and all four of them find comfort and solace in their little group.

OUR SOULS AT NIGHT packs a lot of though-provoking messages into one small book: it’s never to late in life to make connections and establish relationships, we can find happiness is simple things like conversations, and we really shouldn’t care what other people think of us if what we are doing makes us happy.  I highly recommend you put this book on your “To Read” pile for the summer.


About The Author:
Kent HerufKent Haruf was born in eastern Colorado. He received his Bachelors of Arts in literature from Nebraska Wesleyan University in 1965 and his Masters of Fine Arts from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa in 1973. For two years, he taught English in Turkey with the Peace Corps and his other jobs have included a chicken farm in Colorado, a construction site in Wyoming, a rehabilitation hospital in Colorado, a hospital in Arizona, a library in Iowa, an alternative high school in Wisconsin, and universities in Nebraska and Illinois.

Haruf is the author of Plainsong, which received the Mountains and Plains Booksellers Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, the Maria Thomas Award in Fiction, and The New Yorker Book Award. Plainsong was also a finalist for the 1999 National Book Award. His novel, The Tie That Binds, received a Whiting Foundation Award and a special citation from the Pen/Hemingway Foundation. In 2006, Haruf was awarded the Dos Passos Prize for Literature.

All of his novels are set in the fictional town of Holt, Colorado. Holt is loosely based on Yuma, Colorado, an early residence of Haruf in the 1980s.

Haruf lived with his wife, Cathy, in Salida, Colorado, with their three daughters. He died of cancer on November 30, 2014


Filed under Literary Fiction, Summer Reading

Review: Mean Streak by Sandra Brown

Mean Streak is  a riveting book and kept me on the edge of my seat until the very last page.  I resisted the mystery/suspense genre for a long time but I have read 3 great books this summer in this genre that I really enjoyed, and Mean Streak is among them.

Mean StreakThere is so much content to the plot of this book that I am eager to write about, but I also don’t want to give too much away.  At the core of the book is the story of Emory Chardonneau, a well-respected and hardworking physician who likes to run marathons.  One weekend while she is training in the remote hills of North Carolina, Emory suffers a blow to the head and wakes up in a remote cabin with a man hovering over her that she has never seen before.  Can she trust this man to help her or is he a threat?  This stranger will not give her any details about his life, not even his name.  Emory spends four days with this unnamed man and her experiences with him challenge her very neat, well-ordered and uncomplicated life.

Sandra Brown has the ability to provide us with entertaining characters who range from heroic and likeable, to downright bad and morally bankrupt.  The two police officers who are investigating Emory’s disappearance seem, on the surface, like simple cops who don’t know how to conduct an investigation.  However, they are much more savvy than their southern accents and laid back investigating techniques make them seem.

We also find in Mean Streak the typical characters a reader might expect in a suspense novel such as the tired FBI agent addicted to his job, the suspicious husband that is having an affair, and the unpredictable scary bad guys with no morals or scruples.  But the way in which Sandra Brown slowly unravels the plot and intertwines each character into that plot, makes the characters anything but ordinary or mundane.

If you want a great book that will keep you guessing until the very last page, then make Mean Streak one of your final “must-read” summer books.

*Thanks so much to Grand Central Publishing for providing me with a copy of this book through Netgalley.


Filed under Mystery/Thriller, Summer Reading