Friday, June 26, 2015

The Wright Brothers

The Wright Brothers by Davis McCullough

They wanted to fly. This is a stirring account of how two determined brothers from Dayton, Ohio succeeded in their quest to do what so many regarded as unrealistic and foolish. In spite of their awe-inspiring accomplishments, the Wright brothers remained humble and unassuming, an inspiration to the common man that perseverance and dedication to a cause prevails over adversity.

"For all they had seen and done, the unprecedented glory bestowed on them, it had by all signs neither changed them nor turned their heads in the least. There was no boasting, no preening, no getting too big for their britches, as said, and it was this, almost as much as their phenomenal achievements, that was so greatly admired. As one writer on the scene put it, "They are the imperturbable 'men from home' as always".

And until the end, that home was Dayton, Ohio.

This Pulitzer-Prize author's research is incredibly extensive starting with the "boys" humble beginnings to their historic experimental flights at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. They were relentless in the pursuit of a dream, knowing that each attempt to soar like the birds they envied,  put their lives in danger. The moving personal diaries and documented Wright Papers give the reader a true look into the minds and lives of these pioneers.

However, the truly inspiring part of this book is the author's insight into the personal lives of these two humble men. They didn't have indoor plumbing growing up, they didn't travel in the "right" social circles, they didn't worry about being recognized to enhance swollen egos. What they did have was a devoted mother who died too young, and a preacher father who surrounded his sons with books that encouraged his children reach for heights others would never even considered. The reader learns how much sister Katherine influenced them in their journey to success, while remaining in the shadows. An Oberlin (Ohio) graduate, she too excelled in her dreams of excellence and offered encouragement every step of the way.

On March 12, 1906, Wilbur and Orville Wright wrote, "The best dividends on the labor invested have invariably come from seeking more knowledge rather than more power".

This book is a testament to those words.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

The Summer's End

The Summer's End by Mary Alice Monroe

Summer is here. Sunny days are sure to follow this wave of endless rain, so relax and enjoy some delicious beach reads. Written by the queens of this genre, they're guaranteed to take you'll savor these new releases rain or shine.

Mary Alice Monroe concludes her trilogy about the story of three half-sisters reconnecting with one another under the guidance of their beloved and very wise grandmother, "Mamaw".

This final chapter centers on Harper, the youngest granddaughter from New York. Independent, feisty, and beautiful, she longs to escape from the endless criticism of her intimidating mother. The family estate on Sullivan's Island known as Sea Breeze, offers her the opportunity to discover her true identity and talents. When Mawaw announces she is selling the property, Harper and her siblings must face the harsh reality that they may no longer have a place to call home. Together, with the help of a handsome Marine, sisters bond to define what it means to be a family.

Monroe fans will not be disappointed as she brings this story to a close. I suggest starting with The Summer Girls (beach read, June, 2013 on my blog), followed by the second book The Summer Wind in order to meet the array of personalities involved.  The Lowcountry of  South Carolina with  its white sand and swaying palmetto trees is a perfect setting for this rich and fulfilling trilogy about characters you'll come to know as friends. Hard to say goodbye to them.      


The Rumor

The Rumor by Elin Hilderbrand

Gossip is the norm on the tiny island of Nantucket. When it spirals out of control, there's nothing left to do but pick up the pieces.

Grace and "Fast Eddie" Panick's home and gardens are a showcase. Everyone admires and envies exquisite perfection. Grace, along with her incredibly handsome landscape architect, Benton Coe, have created an outdoor masterpiece. But people say Benton is doing a whole lot more than pruning rosebushes.....

Eddie is trying to save his crumbling real estate business. Unbeknownst to Grace, he's resorted to some very unsavory tactics....

Allegra and Hope are their identical twin daughters. That's where the similarities end.  Allegra is popular,wild and reckless. Hope is quiet, and refined. When Allegra's behavior borders on the dangerous, Hope has no choice but to watch her sister self-destruct.

Madeline Llewellyn is Grace's best friend. She is a successful writer, feeling the pressure to crank out another hit. When her writer's block seems to have no end, she panics, knowing that financially the family is in trouble. So she pressures Eddie to return the $50,000 she and her husband invested with him for a big profit that never materialized. When Eddie is seen visiting Madeline,.....people say these two obviously must be having a clandestine relationship. In the meantime, Madeline hears about a torrid adulterous affair between her best friend and a hunky landscaper, the perfect plot for her next bestseller. She can't betray a friend. Or can she?

Rumors, rumors, rumors. It's amazing how quickly they can spread, creating havoc on this little stretch of an island four miles wide by thirteen miles long. Hildebrand is at her best with this one, creating vulnerable characters who gossip about one another with ease, never stopping to think about the ramifications.

A beach read worthy of the accolades.

Beach Town

Beach Town by Mary Kay Andrews

Check this one out for lazy days by the pool...

Greer Hennessy is cautiously optimistic that the tranquil little town of Cypress Key, Florida, is exactly what hot shot movie director Bryce Levy has in mind for his next big-budget film. She's counting on it. Her career as a movie location scout hinges on finding the  perfect spot for his supposedly blockbuster hit. Nothing can get in her way. But then she wasn't counting on meeting Eben Thibadeaux.....

Eb Thibadeaux is the mayor of Cypress Key, the once thriving home of a now defunct paper plant. He's also the city engineer, the co-owner of a motel, proprietor of a grocery store and operator of a boat repair shop. In other words, he does it all. As a native of this small town, Eb is intent on preserving the richness and heritage of his community. That includes the old rambling casino that Bryce and Greer want to demolish in an instant with a single blast. It seems Eb and Greer are constantly at odds with one another, which makes it even harder to ignore the mutual attraction.

When you take this basic premise and add in a litany of  interesting characters, another Mary Kay Andrews novel comes to life. Greer has to deal with movie star egos, a scheming former socialite, adoring fans, and a volatile teenager. When her estranged father reaches out to her to  give him a second chance, she has some tough decisions to make about life and love.

A playful romantic story  to stow in your bag for vacation days.


Saturday, June 6, 2015

Our Souls at Night

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf

Seventy-year-old Addie Moore invites Louis Waters to her home. For companionship. Nothing more....

Louis is surprised and puzzled by Addie's proposition, yet willing to give it a try.  This widow and widower have known each other for years in the small town of Holt, Colorado and find that loneliness is just one of the things they have in common. The idea is out of the ordinary, but appealing. Spending days and nights with a lovely woman whom he's always admired from afar, might be just what he needs. An unconventional love story begins with friendship and ends with a longing for what might have been.

As their relationship progresses, old wounds surface. Addie and Louis begin to talk openly about their past, their shattered dreams, their indiscretions, and failures as parents. Petty gossip about their relationship fills the air. They don't care. What they do care about is Addie's grandson, Jamie, who comes to stay for the summer after his mother and father separate. Together, they begin a journey to find happiness and contentment in the little things in life. A shy, introverted child blossoms, spending time with two people who are willing to give him the gift of time and share all the wisdom they've learned  from getting old.

If you are a fan of Kent Haruf, you'll recognize the fictional town of Holt. It's the setting for his previous novels. If you're reading this accomplished author for the first time, welcome to his world. Haruf died in November of 2014, leaving readers with one last opportunity to enjoy his unique writing and moving portrait of a couple finding the courage to live life to the fullest, even in their twilight years.