The Fold by Peter Clines
The Fold is a fun read, a thriller that has been described as a combination of mystery, suspense, science fiction, and horror. Mike Erickson, a high school English teacher in Maine, gets a summer job offer from his friend Reggie that he finds difficult to refuse. Reggie needs him to travel to the desert in southern California where six scientists are working on a teleportation device called the Albuquerque Door. The team keeps stalling on giving the U.S. government any information about the project. The only problem seems to be one man who went through the door and no longer recognizes his wife. The team doesn’t trust Mike, who’s brilliant and can remember everything he sees or read. Clearly something is terribly wrong, or there wouldn’t be a story. I kept waiting for Mike to volunteer to go through the Door, and hoping he wouldn’t. Then Mike realizes they don’t really understand how or why the Door works. A little romance and some completely unexpected plot twists kept me turning the pages faster and faster.
Wide-Open World by John Marshall
John and Traca Marshall were growing apart. Jackson, 14, wouldn’t put her phone down long enough to talk with her dad, while shy Logan was 17 and headed for college soon. It was time to reconnect, and John dreamed of taking the family and traveling around the world for a year of service. This was not the memoir I was expecting to read. They didn’t have a lot of money, and almost gave up on their dream. Finally, they rented out their Maine house and set out for a half year of volunteering. I thought the trip would be organized well in advance. While the author gives practical tips for other families who’d like to volunteer abroad, including how not to rent out your house, the Marshalls didn’t always know where they were headed next. I expected humor, adventure, illness, and increased closeness of the family. No one got sick although John did get attacked by a monkey in Costa Rica, on more than one occasion. They certainly had adventures, traveling to New Zealand, Thailand, India, and Portugal, and the people and settings they visited sound quite appealing. The teens grew and changed during their travels, and are continuing to travel and volunteer. There are some humorous anecdotes, but the family as a whole didn’t reconnect they way they had hoped and not all of the volunteer experiences were positive. A very honest, reflective memoir of a family who followed their dream to make a difference and see the world.
Bill Klein and his wife Jennifer Arnold have won the hearts of many with their television show “The Little Couple”. Bill, an entrepreneur, and Jennifer, a neonatologist and medical educator, both have dwarfism. Their book shares the stories of their childhoods with loving families and their struggles of dealing with surgery almost every summer growing up. Their health challenges, including recent cancer treatment for Jennifer and spinal surgery for Bill, surpass the challenges of being a little person in a full-sized world. Their engaging story is full of honesty and humor. Entertaining anecdotes include Jennifer starting college in Florida during a hurricane, and Bill’s first car. We learn about their first date, wedding, how they were approached to share their story on television, and hopes of starting a family through surrogacy. Through their television show they hope to raise awareness of dwarfism and help prevent bullying. The reader also learns more about the adoptions of Will from Mongolia and Zoe from India, both toddlers with dwarfism, and the continuing support of their families. An inspiring book which is sure to be popular with their many fans.
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
This is a truly unique take on home organizing. While I haven’t tried the author’s detailed method, I see the appeal. Marie, an organizer based in Tokyo, has written an international bestseller which describes her method of organizing, or tidying up. To truly organize your home, she states that we need to look at and touch all of our possessions, determine if they make give us joy, and when we have disposed of many of our clothes, books, papers, kitchen supplies, photos and memorabilia, we will be able to find one specific place to keep each item that is left. If we don’t have too many things, and each item is displayed or stored in a specific place that’s easy to find, our homes will stay tidy and be much more welcoming. While the author doesn’t say how to find the time to sort through all of our belongings, she does give the order in which to do so and suggests that six months is a reasonable timeframe. Photos and memorabilia are saved until we get more comfortable with the process; otherwise we might be tempted to save too much. Marie is inspiring; I just paused to de-clutter and tidy a desk drawer. It looks great, and I found some more spiral paper clips I enjoy using. Some of her clients claim that using her method has changed their lives for the better. It could certainly save time spent choosing outfits, looking for kitchen utensils, and finding keys or chargers. A charming and thought-provoking book; read it and see what you think.
Amy Falls Down by Jincy Willett
Amy Gallup is a published writer, but has had writer’s block for twenty years. Living with her basset hound Alphonse in a small house in southern California, she teaches writing. Some unsettling events with her last group of aspiring writers led Amy to teaching exclusively online. After an accident knocks her unconscious, she gives an interview to a local reporter, but can’t remember what she said. The newspaper account of the interview is hilarious, and helps jump start her career. Carla and other members of the writing class want her back, longtime agent Maxine keeps calling, and Amy starts writing stories. Getting her fifteen minutes of fame, Amy is booked for interviews and talks around the country, and comes out of her hermit’s shell. I loved that she insisted on taking her dog with her on tour, and that she doesn’t buy into the hype of marketing and branding one’s writing. The people in her new writing group are memorable, as are some people she meets on her travels, as well as the handful of people in Amy’s past that she recalls for the reader, especially her former husband Max. A book about writers and writing doesn’t sound compelling, but I found it alternately touching and very funny.
The Residence by Kate Andersen Brower
This impressively researched book about the residence staff of the White House is quite a page-turner. The White House is a home, an office, a museum, and an event site. While the first families come and go, the residence staff may remain for decades, sometimes for generations. Brower interviewed three former first ladies, six grown children of former presidents, fifty former residence staff, and more. From chief usher down to doormen and maids, 96 full-time and 250 part-time workers staff the White House. The first family pays for their own meals, toiletries, and dry cleaning, but the staff try to anticipate their every need, often working long hours. The magic of moving day would be well worth seeing; one family moves out and another moves in on Inauguration Day, complete to having their clothes unpacked and their choice of White House furniture installed, in only six hours. Some transitions, as after President Kennedy’s assassination and President Nixon’s resignation, are very abrupt, but I liked that Caroline Kennedy’s small in-house kindergarten continued for months after the Kennedys moved out. The quirks and eccentricities of the families are described, especially President Johnson’s continued demands for a custom shower, and the Clintons’ great need for privacy. While there is some gossip, the first families are described with fondness, understanding, and often sympathy by the loyal former staff.
A Dangerous Place by Jacqueline Winspear
The award-winning Maisie Dobbs mystery series jumps ahead four years, summarizing Maisie’s recent past in only twenty pages. It’s been an eventful period, one that many readers would like to hear more about. After visiting India, Maisie is not quite ready to return home to England, and leaves her ship in Gibraltar. In 1937, the Spanish Civil War is just across the border. Maisie takes a room at Mrs. Bishop’s boarding house, and frequents a café nearby. Out for a walk, she stumbles across the body of Jewish photographer Sebastian Babayoff, and later finds one of his cameras. Since the police aren’t interested in investigating, Maisie, who thought she’d left detective work, takes up the case, mainly for the sake of his two sisters. She finds that she’s being followed, possibly by two men. Her family and friends plead with her to return home soon. Instead, Maisie visits Sebastian’s sister Miriam and asks for help in developing Sebastian’s last photographs. The photographs lead to a trip to war-torn Spain, which raises more questions, but also provides an idea for Maisie’s next project. I missed the presence of Maisie’s assistant, Billy Beale, but enjoyed being immersed in the atmosphere of 1930s Gibraltar. Maisie really shows her vulnerability in this book, which makes her seem more real. The first book in this excellent series is Maisie Dobbs.