eleanor OliphantrevCharming, heartwarming and heartbreaking. Eleanor is a classic “socially awkward” young woman, rigid and very much a self-proclaimed “loner.” Not initially the kind of character that one would call endearing. Set in her ways, she works during the week, calls her highly critical mother every Wednesday night and drinks vodka alone on the weekends.  When she and Raymond, the new IT employee at the office come to the rescue of an elderly man, Eleanor’s carefully ordered life suddenly starts to change.

Through the story, Eleanor’s tragic life is revealed. Ever patient and persistent, Raymond helps Eleanor transform herself as she gains insight and understanding of herself and what happened to her to better learn to interact with others. I found myself cheering her on as she musters the flexibility to adapt and to recognize that caring for others can bring you happiness.

Tragic and hilarious, Eleanor with her many quirks, blunt interactions and ability to overcome her sad past will remain a unique, memorable-and enduring-character for a long, long time!

PachinkoVast in scope, the book is a saga about four generations of a poverty-stricken Korean family that are essentially forced to live in Japan in exile.  Ethnic tensions exist between the Japanese and Koreans due to Japan's colonial rule over Korea and this tension of prejudice and racisim pervades the entire story. 

This is a  character-driven novel so well-drawn that it makes you actually care about what happens to them. The courage of the family members against so many hardships was extraordinary.  But while it is a tale of family relationships, it is also about a fascinating culture including the Japanese occupation of Korea, the existence of pachinko parlors, the underworld in Japan, the racism in Japan of Koreans and more.

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only woman in room smHistorical fiction about the actress Hedy Lamar whose well-known beauty was far more than skin deep!  Born in Austria to a Jewish family, Hedy escapes to the U.S. (and an abusive, controlling husband) as WW2 heats up. While she goes on to become a famous star in the 1940’s and 1950’s, she has an idea to help the war effort.  Based on all that she gleaned from her husband’s business in arms manufacturing, she along with a co-partner, invent a secret communications system that could have kept the enemy from interfering with a ship’s torpedoes.  While the U.S. Navy did not adopt their invention until the 1960’s, their invention eventually led to the creation of Bluetooth and ultimately WiFi and the cell phone! Years later she was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2014 for this invention. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction!

Great portrayal of this actress/inventor. Fast read and highly recommended reading of a little known part of history.

paragon hotelsm2The main character, Alice "Nobody," travels by train from her hometown of Harlem to Portland, Oregon in 1921 to escape from a shady character back home. As a white woman, she comes to live in the all-black Paragon Hotel .  Her world on both coasts is filled with the Mafia, prostitutes, crooked cops, the Ku Klux Klan and jazz musicians. “Nobody” eventually ingratiates herself with the locals and gets involved in a missing child case.

The author explores the issues of racism, discrimination, and the inequality of blacks that existed both in Oregon and in Harlem during the 20’s.

Richly developed characters, thought-provoking and original exciting plot with plenty of surprises!

love and ruin1Fictional historical account of the daring foreign correspondent Martha Gellhorn and her tumultuous marriage to Ernest Hemingway, his third wife. The book’s time period centers around the Spanish Civil War, the home and lives they built just outside 1930’s Havana, and their exploits in China and Europe during WWII. While Gellhorn’s independence, strong will and determination are what Hemingway was so attracted to-in the end it was also these same qualities after marriage that Hemingway saw as a betrayal and ultimately destroyed her heart.  An insightful look into a slice of Gelhorn’s life, a talented, courageous woman far ahead of her time and in her own way as accomplished as Hemingway.

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