Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

On the coast of Italy in 1962, Pasquale Tursi is working to make his desolate inn more hospitable and glamorous to Americans when a boat arrives, carrying a dying American starlet who will change his life forever. Meanwhile, in current day Hollywood, some rather hapless film producers are working to find a new project to finance when an old man shows up, demanding answers as to what happened fifty years ago to start his life spiralling out the way it did. Various other characters are woven into the story in surprising ways, as all of the characters look to see what caused their ruins and try to emerge from them into better lives. Continue reading

 

This is Life by Dan Rhodes

In a panic for an 'artistic' enough art project, college student Aurélie Renard decides to throw a stone in the air near a crowd, and use the person it comes closest to as her subject. She never dreamed that the rock would hit a baby. In the face. Or that his frazzled mother would decide to leave the baby with her for a week. (Who wouldn't, really? She has a kind face.) While Aurélie powers through her poorly thought-out art project and the management of a baby, a very unusual, controversial, and naked artist is preparing to stage a performance piece, intended to be a triumphant return to the hometown, Paris, that rejected him. While the artists are trying to express the important things in life, life has its own ideas in store for them. Continue reading

 

The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright

Maybe if Seán hadn't turned around, in that one moment, he never would have caught Gina Moynihan's eye and changed the courses of their lives. The Forgotten Waltz is the story of an affair, two marriages, and a child affected by all the actions of the adults in her life. Through the eyes of Gina, we see the lust, doubt, longing, and questioning of a relationship born of other people's heartache. Continue reading

 

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

Four years after the death of her mother, Strayed is at rock-bottom. Her family has drifted apart, her marriage is collapsing, and drugs have become her easy escape. On little more than a whim, she purchases a travel guide to the Pacific Crest Trail and decides to hike through the wilderness, alone, for three months. Continue reading

 

At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson

Inspired by a trip to the attic of his 1851 home, formerly an English rectory, Bryson turns his attentions to the history of the home. Not limiting himself to just structure and the defining features of each room in a house, he also shares stories of people (such as Thomas Jefferson, who was continuously constructing and re-constructing his house with new ideas and at endless expense) and ideas (a gardener was responsible for designing a Crystal Palace when all ideas to house a Great Exhibition in 1851 seemed hopeless). Through all these details, we watch as a house becomes a home - and a standing testament to the endless creativity of humans. Continue reading

 

Gone Tomorrow by Lee Child

'Did she give you anything?'
It's the question that Jack Reacher, former army man, is hearing over and over about a woman on an NYC subway car he crossed paths with late, late one night. Maybe if he could find out what this woman was supposed to have given him he would know why every level of government, a politician, and a beautiful foreign woman and her mother are desperate to get their hands on it - and why they will tell him any lie they can think of to get him on their side. But Reacher doesn't have any information...just an iron-willed determination to find out what's going on, even though he can't seem to trust anyone... Continue reading

 

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson

Author Jeanette Winterson writes of growing up in England in the 1960s, adopted by a deeply troubled, religious mother and a father who finds it easier to turn a blind eye to all problems. Seeking solace in books (largely banned by her mother, except, most notably, the Bible, and oddly enough, the tales of King Arthur), Winterson realizes that she is a lesbian (a word her mother would find synonymous with sinner), and runs away from home at 16. Having realized that her precious books can be burned and taken away, Winterson decided that the way to keep her stories closest to her heart was to write them herself. After a devastating loss later in life, she decides to finally go back to her beginnings as an adopted baby, to explore the what-ifs she fought to write over with her real life. Continue reading

 

Seriously…I’m Kidding by Ellen DeGeneres

Ellen returns in her third book to share some tidbits from her life, some humorous observations on life, and a wild smorgasboard of various other items - short stories, a poem, a bucket list...pretty much everything shy of the kitchen sink (though that would be here too if she could find a way to make it funny). Continue reading

 

Snowdrops by A.D. Miller

Nicholas Platt is a British lawyer who sees the opportunity to make a lot of money in Russia in not-quite-clean deals, especially in the oil industry, so makes the move to cold, harsh Moscow. As far as Nick is concerned, it's a take-what-you-can world, and he's willing to 'put lipstick on a pig' if people are determined not to see what's really going on. His lusty excesses soon zero in on Masha, a woman over fifteen years younger than him. Masha is a strongly independent woman, so, wanting to be needed, he falls all over himself to help when she needs to broker a legal deal for her aunt's new apartment in Moscow's strictly-controlled housing market. Continue reading