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Lucia, Lucia by Adriana Trigiani (2003)

This is a story about a woman recalling what her life was like in the 1950s. The story she tells is all about her family, romance, and what it was like to have a career, which most women at that time did not have.

Lucia, Lucia made me laugh and cry. It touched upon both the humorous and the challenges of life. I love all of Adriana Trigiani’s books, including the Big Stone Gap series.

Spotlight: Seasons of Grace series by Beverly Lewis (2009-2010)

I enjoy listening to relaxing stories when I lay down at night and Beverly Lewis’ novels as audiobooks are just right for that purpose. These books might be called an Amish soap opera, but one where every character cares about others in the family and community. Of course there are some very troubling secrets from the past that cause a mother to first wander about the fields at night and then leave home without telling her husband or children. The oldest daughter, Grace sees her leave with the community taxi driver. Suspicion and gossip pervade the community and Grace with her new friend Heather search for Grace’s mother in out of state communities where cousins reside. Heather is an interesting character too as she, an outsider to the Amish community, has been diagnosed with cancer and elects to ignore her doctor’s advice and seek traditional cures.

Start with The Secret before moving on to The Missing and The Telling. And for more novels about the Amish, check out our bibliography titled The Plain People.
 
 

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion (2013)

I loved Graeme Simsion’s debut novel The Rosie Project. The characters are loveable, the writing witty, and the plot quirky. When genetics professor Don Tillman decides that it’s time to get married, he devises a complex questionnaire dubbed “The Wife Project” to find the right woman. Instead, he meets Rosie Jarman, who fits none of his requirements.

While there is a romance at the center of this story, it’s more about characters growing and changing, and about human interaction. Don’s behavior presents a classic case of Asperger’s, but he is oblivious to any social challenges. You’ll fall in love with Don and Rosie, and frantically turn the pages to follow along on their journey.

The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes (2013)

An enthralling novel that travels from WWI France to present day London, The Girl You Left Behind will captivate you. In 1916, Sophie is living in a French town controlled by German soldiers; her most prized position is a portrait painted by her husband. In 2006, widow Liv must fight to keep her beloved honeymoon gift after the painting becomes the center of a restitution battle.

The latest from Jojo Moyes (after Me Before You) is a quick read that I couldn’t put down. If you enjoyed Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay or The Art Forger by Barbara Shapiro, I think you’ll love this book

Rust and Bone = De rouille et d'os (2012) R

This is a moving French film about the power of love and loss. Rust and Bone stars Marion Cotillard as Stephanie, a killer whale trainer and Matthias Schoenaerts as Alain, a single father struggling to keep it together. Stephanie and Alain meet one night and later form an unlikely bond after Stephanie suffers from a life altering accident. A beautiful and emotional film that is a must watch.

http://youtu.be/vyAJDL3mTxI

Dave (1993) PG-13

When the president of the United States has a stroke while engaging in extramarital activities, his aides avoid a scandal by finding a good-natured look-alike named Dave (Kevin Kline) to take his place. Not beholden to any special interests, Dave starts doing things that are good for the country rather than doing what is politically savvy. His approval rating goes way up, and the country loves him.

Things start to go sour, though, when the president’s aides realize he will not do their evil bidding, and the first lady (Sigourney Weaver) starts to realize that Dave is not the man she married. Dave is one of those feel good movies that makes you smile for a long time after it’s over.

http://youtu.be/PTTe-rxTyh0

The Shoemaker’s Wife by Adriana Trigiani (2012)

As the development of the characters evolved, I was drawn into the story of Enza and Ciro.  Although The Shoemaker’s Wife was relatively easy to read, the novel was packed with a variety of situations and events. The story flowed and kept me involved as a reader.

We (along with nine other libraries) created a lot of discussions and programming around Adriana Trigiani’s novel capturing the immigrant experience of the early 1900s as part of The Big Read 2013. Visit thebigread.org for more information.

Tell us: What was your favorite Big Read event or favorite part of the novel?

The Five-Year Engagement (2012) R

The romantic comedy The Five-Year Engagement, starring Emily Blunt as Violet and Jason Segel as Tom, has some gross out moments, but it’s also a touching love story. Tom gives up a promising career as a chef to follow Violet across the country so that she can begin her career in academia. Tom has a hard time adjusting to his new life -- he stops shaving and takes to wearing an old bunny suit around the house while Violet becomes a rising star in her field. Do Tom and Violet ever get married? Check out The Five-Year Engagement to find out.

http://youtu.be/iNhAslpICxE

Cyrano de Bergerac (1950)

Cyrano de Bergerac is one of those great movies that combines adventure with excellent dialogue. Cyrano is a soldier in the French army in 1640 and is both feared and respected for his skill as a swordsman. Despite his military prowess and clever tongue, he is unable to win over his true love because of his misgivings about his extraordinarily long nose. Instead, he helps a young, handsome cadet woo the love of his life in his place.

The movie is at times funny, exciting, suspenseful, and ultimately tragic. It features the brilliant acting of Jose Ferrer, with his deep booming voice, who won the Academy Award for best actor for his role. The movie Roxanne (1987) with Steve Martin is a modern day remake of this classic.

Watch the original trailer (courtesy of TCM).

A Vintage Affair by Isobel Wolff (2010)

I’m so glad I finally read A Vintage Affair – Mary P. recommended it to me years ago! The delightful story follows thirty-something Londoner Phoebe Swift. After a personal tragedy, Phoebe leaves her safe job at Sotheby’s auction house to open a vintage clothing shop (the descriptions of the clothing are amazing!). An unexpected friendship with the elderly Mrs. Bell introduces a story of wartime France. For

It reminded me a bit of Sarah’s Key by Tatiana De Rosnay. And it brought to mind a slightly serious chick lit tale. However you want to classify it, this charming tale was a pleasing way to spend a few hours. Check out our list of other British Chick Lit titles. And for more books with an element of fashion, read this Library Journal article.
 

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson (2010)

A unique love story set in a picturesque English village, Simonson has a talent for bringing it all together. The characters, the setting, societal values, religion, aging, parenting interweave into a engaging story.

Major Pettigrew might at first appear to be a stiff old English gent stuck in his ways. He is so much more and he gets to prove it with his love, courage, and wisdom. Mrs. Ali gives him a second lease on life. His relationship with his grown son develops through the course of events set in motion with the death of his brother. To say this is a late in life love story is selling it short. It is a great piece of fiction that happens to contain a beautiful romance between two mature adults.

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand is a phenomenal first effort for the author. I look forward to reading more of Ms. Simonson's unique voice.

Murphy's Romance (1985) PG-13

James Garner and Sally Field star in Murphy's Romance, a satisfying, intelligent romantic comedy about two very likeable people and their increasing affection for each other. Emma, a 30ish divorced mother of a teen, comes to a small town in hopes of starting a horse boarding business and meets Murphy, an older, widowed pharmacist. Their relationship slowly and believably grows. The stars have great chemistry. Stay tuned for the dance scene; I laughed out loud.

Consider watching this charmer for Valentine’s Day. Want more romantic comedies? Check out the movie lists under Romance & Love Stories.

Tumbleweeds by Leila Meacham (2012)

I recommend the audio form of Tumbleweeds by Leila Meacham to hear the Texas drawl and the expression of feeling in the readers voices. The story runs from preteen to late 30s of three orphans, two guys and the girl they both love, as they find their plans upset by some very bad acts and choices made in adolescence. The guys become star high school football players with offers of scholarships to a major university, while the girl, Cathy, abandons her dreams of medical school to stay in the home town and have the child she believes to be from her choice of the two guys, Tray.

Tray walks away and the other guy John, inexplicably to the community, abandons his football scholarship and enters Loyola in New Orleans in hope of becoming a Catholic priest. Twenty some years later Cathy is the owner of a successful restaurant, her son Will a graduate engineer with a good job and John a priest working closely with an older couple running an orphanage in the home county.

Tray, after a successful career in the NFL, finds he is dying and returns home to confess his wrongful teenage acts to the couple who have suffered greatly from those acts. Cathy and John are disturbed and unsure how to respond to Tray’s homecoming.

Reviews for this book have varied from 1 star (banal soap opera) to 5 stars (classic literature) depending on how the reader (listener) reacts particularly to the unexpected ending. These varied reactions may well show merit in this work

 
 

Mad River Road by Joy Fielding (2006)

An evil man just released from prison and obsessed with getting revenge on his ex-wife. A misguided young woman who thinks she has finally met the man of her dreams. A woman and her young son living in fear in Ohio. Blend these all together and you’ll have a suspenseful thriller that is guaranteed to keep you up late into the night. A well-written story. I was sorry to see it come to an end.

Check out Mad River Road by Joy Fielding today.

Jasmine Nights by Julia Gregson (2012)

Settle in and get swept away in this lush globetrotting tale set in 1942. As British fighter pilot Dominic Benson is recovering in a hospital, he is mesmerized by talented singer Saba Tarcan. The daughter of a Turkish engineer and a Welsh mother, Saba defied her family to audition for the Entertainments National Service Association (ENSA). Her duties for ENSA are supplemented by a few side jobs for the British secret service

Their paths continue to cross as they travel to Cairo, Alexandria, and Istanbul to serve their country. With an engaging cast of characters and richly described settings, this is one historical novel you don’t want to miss. Read Jasmine Nights by Julia Gregson for a different perspective of World War II.

For one performer’s experiences of serving with ENSA, read this article from the BBC: here.