Monthly Archives: August 2016

The Book Whisperer’s Latest….


The Book Whisperer’s Musings

I should start a notebook into which I record where I find the books I choose to read. Occasionally, I see a book on the new book shelf at the library or read about a new book by a favorite author. I am waiting on a long list of books I have requested from the library. Sometimes by the time the book arrives, especially if I am #136 on 6 copies when I reserve the book, I have long forgotten why I was interested in the book. Reading the description will jog my memory—sometimes!

Recent good reads have included Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler, The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick, Before I Met You by Lisa Jewell, The Opposite of Everyone by Joshlyn Jackson, Relativity by Antonia Hayes, The Architect’s Apprentice by Elif Shafak, Before I Go by Colleen Oakley, One Step Too Far by Tina Seskins, The Bastard of Istanbul by Elif Shafak, Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld, The Third Wife by Lisa Jewell, A Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev, The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly by Son-mi Hwang, Journey to Munich by Jacqueline Winspear, I Let You Go by Clare Macintosh, and The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes. Some of these books have made it into my blog.

I am eclectic reader; the list reflects my varied interests and tastes. It includes thrillers, mysteries, and two modern retellings of classics: The Taming of the Shrew retold in Vinegar Girl and Pride and Prejudice retold in Eligible. A Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev is strictly a one-off. I saw a blurb about the book on the Tulsa City-County Library site and chose to read it for fun. It is predictable and quick to read.

Today’s review is of The Letter Writer by Dan Fesperman who has written nine previous novels before writing The Letter Writer. I do not remember where I read about The Letter Writer, but I requested it from the library and it became available last week. I opened the book to find it starts in February, 1942. Woodrow Cain arrives in NYC from North Carolina, newly a detective on the NYC police force. As with so many characters, especially police detectives, Cain has his flaws and much baggage which he cannot fully leave behind in NC. I began the book hesitantly, not sure whether I wanted to finish it, but I soon saw that I needed to find out why Cain has left NC and how he will fare in NYC.

Cain immediately catches a case, a floater found in the Hudson River, the ninth of the week and one of about seven hundred a year. Cain with his Southern accent quickly becomes the butt of jokes and jibes from his fellow officers, many of the jabs pointedly meant to be hurtful and mean. Cain will have to prove himself in order to find acceptance—if he can overcome the barriers.

Danziger, a rough-looking character, asks to speak with Cain at the police station. Danziger looks like a homeless man, but he is well-educated, speaking five languages. He has information on the body from the Hudson and other information linked to additional murders. Cain and Danziger form an uneasy relationship since each man has many secrets. To avoid spoiling the plot, I will simply say read the book!

The title of the book derives from Danziger’s profession: he writes and reads letters for those who cannot read and write for themselves.

Fesperman creates a rich picture of 1940s NYC and throws in a good measure of distrust of anyone foreign or with a foreign name, especially German or Japanese. He also captures the corruption in the police department. He and Danziger face threats and death while continuing to dig for the truth.



The Book Whisperer’s Latest….


The Book Whisperer Strikes Again

Today’s review is of two quite dissimilar books: Rich and Pretty by Rumaan Alam and Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler.

Time gives Alam’s Rich and Pretty a glowing review. Unfortunately, the article begins with this quote from Alam: “I felt so unable to write the kind of book that I think people who I seem to be on paper would be expected to write.” Surely, more readers than I read and reread that statement. I understand what it means, but it certainly is awkwardly stated, especially for a WRITER!

Let me say at the beginning that I did not like Rich and Pretty; although I finished the book, I would certainly not read it again. Sarah and Lauren are the main characters, two thirty somethings now who have been friends since they were eleven and met in a fancy school for girls. Sarah’s parents are quite well known and wealthy. Lauren attends the school on scholarship. Both girls attend pricey colleges and now live in NYC. Their self-absorption makes them completely unlikeable characters.

Read the story if you are interested in discovering what happens to Sarah and Lauren!

Alam worked in fashion, so he has worked with many women. He says his college friends were also women. Alam said in his interview in Time, “I wanted to write a work that showed my respect for the women who are my closest friends.” If this book shows Alam’s respect for women, then he certainly knows a great many self-absorbed, narcissistic women, not ones I wish to know.

Anne Tyler’s Vinegar Girl provides a modern retelling of The Taming of the Shrew. As a disclaimer, I should say that I am an Anne Tyler fan. Still, I start each book with an open mind and decide on the merits of the story whether I like it and would recommend it.

Katherine Battista, twenty-nine, lives at home, caring for her father and younger sister while working at a job she claims to hate, an assistant at a daycare center. Her father is the stereotypical scientist, absorbed in his work. He exhibits traits Tyler’s readers have come to expect from some of her characters: obsession with order, following the rules of the house concerning food, cleaning, and grocery shopping.

Kate is blunt, outspoken and careless about others’ feelings. Even with the children at the day care center, she says what she thinks which often means she has to be called into the office for a reminder to curb her tongue. The story turns on Kate’s father’s desire to keep his research assistant, Pyotr, in the country. Professor Battista decides Kate can marry Pyotr in order to keep him in the country. At first, Kate thinks her father is selling her out, but eventually, he tells her the marriage will be one of convenience only in order to keep Pyotr in the country. After a time, the two can divorce, and all will be well.

At first, Kate wants none of the marriage and nothing to do with Pyotr. Since you already know the story retells The Taming of the Shrew, you won’t be surprised by the outcome of the story. Tyler does take readers on an amusing journey as Kate and Pyotr begin to recognize good qualities in one another. The family dynamic is important too as Kate has been  holding the family together, keeping her sister Bunny in line while making sure her father has meals and clean clothes.

Read Vinegar Girl for the pleasure of learning about the characters and how Tyler resets the story in modern day.

The Book Whisperer’s Latest…


Need a charming book to read?

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper is Phaedra Patrick’s first novel. Patrick trained as a stained-glass artist, but her interest in writing grew after she entered several short story competitions. With the publication of The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper, Patrick has become a full-time writer.

Arthur and Miriam have been married for forty years when Miriam becomes ill suddenly and dies. For the past year, following Miriam’s death, Arthur has gone about his daily routine without much feeling or interest in anything. Dan, Arthur’s son, lives in Australia with his wife and two children; Dan runs three successful auto body shops in Sydney. He rarely contacts his father. Lucy, Arthur’s daughter, is dealing with her own grief and loss, not only her mother’s death, but a miscarriage and subsequent divorce.

On the anniversary of Miriam’s death, Arthur decides to go through Miriam’s clothes and donate them to a charity that rescues cats. Arthur chooses that charity because he has found a pamphlet about it Miriam stashed under the telephone. His own feelings about cats are mixed since he frequently has to shoo neighborhood cats out of his garden to keep them from using it as their personal bathroom.

Tucked in the toe of a pair of Miriam’s boots, Arthur discovers a pretty red box with a lock on it. Being a retired locksmith, he quickly opens the lock and peers into the box. He finds a charm bracelet decorated with eight distinctive charms: an elephant, a tiger, a heart, a painter’s palette, a book, a locket, and a thimble. Arthur has no memory of this bracelet and thinks that it looks like nothing Miriam would have every chosen or worn. He is certainly intrigued by the bracelet and the fact that Miriam has hidden it away in the boot inside the boot box. Generally, charm bracelets have meaning behind each charm, so Arthur begins to wonder what the charms mean, why Miriam has hidden the bracelet, and what else does he not know about his wife of forty years.

Upon close examination, Arthur finds a phone number engraved on the elephant. Quite impulsively, he calls the number which turns out to be an international number to India. Arthur’s odyssey begins from that phone call.

One can draw obvious parallels to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce in that Arthur, like Harold, begins a journey without much forethought or preparation. Arthur meets a variety of characters along the way as he unfolds the mystery of Miriam’s life before their marriage. Not all that he finds suits him; some of it disturbs him. However, he meets people on his journey who jolt him out of his doldrums. The charm bracelet takes Arthur into a new world where he finds unlikely friendships and also finds renewed relationships with Dan and Lucy, his children.

During Arthur’s journey, he meets people who ask him for advice, a new experience for him. In that regard, the story reminded me of Tepper Isn’t Going Out by Calvin Trillin. Trillin tells the story of Tepper who lives in NYC where he chooses to read his newspaper in his car, parked in a particularly good parking spot. As we know, parking spots are at a premium in NYC. People continually ask Tepper if he is going out in hopes they can have his parking spot. Soon, however, people get into the car with Tepper and tell him about their problems, so he becomes a de facto therapist.

Phaedra Patrick was showing her son her own charm bracelet when she thought of creating Miriam’s story for Arthur to discover.

BookPage describes The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper as a book that “pierces the heart. You root for [Arthur] every step of the way.” Perhaps Kirkus Reviews sums up the story most effectively: “As cozy and fortifying as a hot cup of tea on a cold afternoon.”


The Book Whisperer’s Latest Review


I am trying a new tactic in reviewing Relativity by Antonia Hayes. Let’s see if it works!

I’m Ethan Forsythe, a twelve year old boy fascinated with space, physics, and astronomy. I live with my mother in Sydney, Australia. Our lives have been without incident until recently. My best friend Will has been acting strange and will hardly speak to me anymore, especially since the class bully has been calling me “freak” and “homo” and “weird.” Will even joined in with the bullies.

Will has crossed a line now because he says my dad left because of me. I hit Will and just kept pummeling him with my fists. I even saw one of his teeth fly out of his mouth and onto the playground. Then I blacked out. I don’t know what happened until I woke up in the nurse’s office. My mother rushed into the room asking if I were hurt.

I have always wanted to know my father or know something about him, but my mom refuses to tell me anything. I have found my birth certificate, so I know his name. I also found a rumpled, creased picture of him in the back of a drawer. I keep it in my room, but hidden so Mum cannot find it.

A few weeks after the fight with Will and the bullies, my mum, Will’s parents, the principal, and I have a meeting to wort out the punishment. The principal wants to mete out equal punishment because none of us will tell exactly what happened. Will’s mum is really nasty and says hateful things about my mum, dad, and me. She says my dad is a criminal and that’s why he left. She says “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” I start to panic and cannot breathe, so I jump up and run out of the room. I just run as hard and as fast as I can, my heart is beating fast and I am having trouble breathing. I can hear my mum calling my name, but only faintly, so I just keep running until I fall in some grass and pass out.

When I wake up, I am in the hospital, but I cannot figure that out immediately. A girl is standing over my bed and says, “Well, you are finally awake.” That’s my introduction to Alison, who will become my friend. She’s in the hospital because she has epilepsy and has been having terrible seizures.

You may be wondering how this story leads to my finding my dad, but a series of actions come together to allow me to meet him. Before that, however, I discover that I was in the children’s hospital as a three-month old with a “non-accidental head injury.” When the doctor says “non-accidental,” I say then that means it was on purpose. What do you mean? Slowly. I discover that Mark, my dad, was accused of shaken baby syndrome when I was three months old, and he did go to jail for the crime. Did he really hurt me? Why? Did he mean to do it? Why? These are the questions that keep going around and around in my head. Read my story to find out all the details. Ethan Forysthe


Relativity is a heartbreaking story of love and loss and redemption. Just as in real life, the story does not work out perfectly because the characters have human flaws. Still, it is a story worth reading because we learn about the characters and perhaps ourselves as we understand the complexities of the story.



My Latest Musings: On the Art of Letter Writing



In retirement, I am setting about to revive the art of personal letter writing—actual letters on stationery or notecards and sent through the US Postal Service. I am not eschewing email; I like the expediency of it, but we should not lsoe the art of letter writing.

What makes receiving a personal letter valuable? First, it shows the recipient that you took the time and effort needed to locate the writing materials and the person’s adder in order to send the letter. Then the writer must gather thoughts and put them into some kind of logical order to make them clear to the recipient, another reminder that the writer cares about the recipient.

Writing to those we love who are far away or just across town gives the recipient something concrete to hold and reread.  The letters do not have to be long; any brief message will be welcome. A letter or note in the mail is special, regardless of how short.

Writing letters preserves friendships and family relationships. Sending a letter to a friend or family member reminds the recipient of the writer’s caring and concern.

I chose this topic of reviving letter writing because of my recent retirement. I have been going through desk drawers and boxes of items I have kept over the years. To my delight and surprise, I have found letters from my mother; they are not full of earth-shaking news, but they are reminders of ordinary days that she wrote me about and sometimes included newspaper clippings about local people or events. One of those clippings was about celebrating her 80th birthday which I could not attend. I was there for her 90th! I also found thank you notes from students, many from years ago. I found a letter from Fanny Flagg, a response to me after I wrote her asking some questions about Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café when the Northeast Campus READ group read the book. I also discovered a letter my nine year old son had written his grandparents. His grandmother had saved the letter and I had then saved it again when I found it among her things following her death. One day, I will give the letter to him, and he will be surprised. I am saving it for now. In the mix of old letters and cards, I found one from my brother, a rare such epistle since he now much prefers phone calls—or these days, texts.

I mailed three letters today to friends and relatives. If someone is having a difficult day, receiving a letter in the mail can be uplifting. For someone already having a good day, receiving a letter in the mail only adds to that good feeling of the day. I am challenging myself to writing and sending three letters per week. Making the challenge is not creating a chore; it is developing my creativity and power to follow through on a promise to myself. I think the letter will create a win-win for writer and recipient. And I just might get a letter in return. I would challenge my readers of this blog, but I fear that would include only me, and I have already challenged myself!

The Book Whisperer’s Latest Finds


Looking for a tear-jerker to read? Colleen Oakley has written the book for you then: Before I Go. Daisy is twenty-seven, a graduate student, married to Jack, also in graduate school. Their lives stretch out before them just waiting for them to fulfill their plans for a happy future together. Daisy has survived breast cancer and has been cancer-free for four years. At her regular checkup, the doctor discovers the cancer is back, back with fury, invading her vital organs. With treatment, Daisy and Jack can expect to spend six months to a year together instead of the lifetime they have planned.

Daisy is an organizer, a planner, and a worker. She takes care of the details of their lives while Jack leaves messes trailing behind him in his absentminded way. Daisy realizes Jack will need someone to watch over him and care for him in her absence, so she sets out to find him a wife. The plan backfires a little when she thinks she has succeeded. No, Jack does not cheat on her while she is ill. The story unfolds with a few surprises throughout as readers take the journey with Daisy, Jack, and their family and friends.

For something completely different from Oakley’s Before I Go, try The Bastard of Istanbul by Eilf Shafak. Shafak is fond of the dual story method and then of bringing the two stories together. The story is set in Turkey and Arizona. It provides some of the history of violence between Turkish people and Armenians. When The Bastard of Istanbul was published, Shafak was charged in Turkey with “insulting Turkishness,” but the charges were later dropped. The story features Asya Kazanci, growing up with her unmarried mother and three generations of colorful women—-Asya’s grandmother, great-grandmother, and aunts. In fact, she calls her mother “auntie” just as she does her mother’s sisters. Part of the story centers on Asya’s desire to know her father, but that knowledge comes late in the story. To bring in the Arizona story, Mustafa, Asya’s uncle, the only male in the family, has moved to Arizona to go to college. He marries an American, Rose, who is divorced from and has a daughter, Armanoush, with an Armenian-American. Rose sees Mustapha and thinks he would be the perfect thorn in her Armenian in-laws’ sides. Mustapha and Rose marry, making Mustapha Armanoush’s step-father.

Armanoush becomes more and more interested in learning about her Armenian heritage. She decides to contact Mustapha’s family in Turkey and ask if she visit there. The Kazanci family asks Asya to show Armanoush around and entertain her. The two clash at the beginning, but then develop a friendship since they both feel somewhat outcast. The story involves secrets long held and almost forgotten. Donna Seaman writes for the American Library Association that “Shafak weaves an intricate and vibrant saga of repression and freedom, cultural clashes and convergences, pragmatism and mysticism, and crimes and retribution, subtly revealing just how inextricably entwined we all are, whatever our heritage or beliefs.”

I had read The Forty Rules of Love by Shafak earlier this year and liked it very much, so I looked forward to The Bastard of Istanbul.  I prefer The Forty Rules of Love over The Bastard of Istanbul. Briefly, The Forty Rules of Love also employs the dual story. This time, however, it features Ella Rubinstein, a homemaker in Northampton, MA. Ella has a husband and three children; she keeps a lovely home and cooks delicious, nutritious, and beautiful meals for her family. Cooking, cleaning, and caring for her family define Ella until she discovers her husband is having an affair.

The alternate story is about the thirteenth century Shams of Tabriz, a wandering dervish, who meets Rumi. Shams of Tabriz becomes Rumi’s spiritual mentor and helps Rumi become the poet we know today.  Read the story to see how East meets West in this absorbing story. In reading, you will learn a great deal about Rumi and about thirteenth century Turkey.

Happy Reading!


The Book Whisperer’s Latest Find


One Step Too Far by Tina Seskis makes readers start asking questions from the beginning of the book. Why would Emily, educated as a lawyer and working in a large firm, married to Ben, and mother to a young son, walk away from her life in Manchester, leaving everything behind? What makes Emily clean out her bank account, take her passport, and gather a few clothes and leave in the early morning while Ben sleeps? Why does she take a train to London where she changes her name and finds sketchy living quarters with a group of ragtag strangers in a shared house?

Emily becomes Cat, a shortened version of her first name, Catherine. She has kept Brown, her birth name on the passport, for no reason she can imagine until now. She decides that Cat Brown can be anonymous in London since Brown is a common name.

After finding a room in the shared house and finding a guardian angel in the form of Angela, one of the housemates, Cat starts a new life, albeit with many tears and much fear. Angela has also shortened her own name to Angel, so Cat quickly regards Angel as just that: a guardian angel.

Readers continue to wonder why Emily has left her comfortable home for the dirty, disheveled rooming house and a job as a receptionist. Seskis gives few clues, only that Cat is distraught and given to emotional crying jags, especially at first. The reason for Emily/Cat’s disappearance will shock and dismay the readers, but they will then have the answers to all their questions.

Read the book to discover Cat’s secrets and to learn what happens in the end.

one step

New Titles from the Book Whisperer


The Latest Word from the Book Whisperer

Week one of retirement has found me reading more already, but still somewhat conflicted about how to spend the rest of my time. I did cull out clothes, shoes, and junk from one closet. I cannot tell that what I took out has made much difference in the clutter and accumulation still in the house, but it is a start.


On the more important matter at hand: books. Currently, I am reading Curtis Sittenfeld’s Eligible. Sittenfeld has taken Pride and Prejudice and turned it into a modern story complete with a star from reality TV, the entire Bennett family, and a millionaire software entrepreneur.  A reviewer in Booklist calls Eligible “a delightful romp for not only Austen devotees but also lovers of romantic comedies and sly satire, as well…. Bestselling Sittenfeld plus Jane Austen? What more could mainstream fiction readers ask for?” I began the book with a little hesitancy, but am now well entrenched in the story. I highly recommend this retelling of Pride and Prejudice.
After reading on the Tulsa Library site about The Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev, I requested the book from the library. The story is predictable, but I should have known that considering the title and knowing a little about Bollywood movies. This one begins with a marriage of two children some twenty years ago. After the wedding ceremony, during which the four year old bride cried incessantly, the couple does not see or correspond with one another again. Such marriages had been made illegal, but Mili, the bride, and her grandmother do not know that. For years, Mili has waited for her groom to claim her. The book is worth reading for the culture embedded in it, but the story is only so-so. Readers can predict the outcome almost immediately. As an adult, the so-called groom has married and he and his wife are expecting a baby when the groom receives a letter from Mili’s lawyer—via the grandmother’s pursuit of the marriage. Mili is unaware of the grandmother’s and lawyer’s machinations. In fact, Mili goes to the US to pursue a graduate degree, thinking upon her return to India, her groom will claim her. Instead. Samir Rathod, her groom’s brother, goes to Michigan to persuade Mili to sign divorce papers for his older brother, the groom. Readers can guess the rest.


I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh is a thriller that will capture readers and lead them on a chase for the truth after a five year old boy dies in a hit and run accident. No spoilers in this review! The story is gripping and reveals through the twists and turns a story of torture, abuse, and redemption. Read this one!


Jacqueline Winspear captured my interest when I read the first Maisie Dobbs novel simply titled Maisie Dobbs, published in 2003. Since then, Winspear has written eleven more novels featuring Maisie Dobbs, a smart, driven, and successful female PI. Maureen Corrigan’s “10 Years Later, Mystery Heroine ‘Maisie Dobbs’ Gains New Life” is available on NPR: Corrigan compares Maisie to Larsson’s Lisbeth Salander as “a female investigator every bit as battle-hardened as Lisbeth Salander.” The most recent mystery featuring Maisie is Journey to Munich which takes place shortly before WWII, but Hitler is thoroughly in charge and people are being jailed and worse already. The British Secret Service seeks Maisie’s help in rescuing a British entrepreneur, supposedly being held at Dachau. Maisie must learn to shoot a gun and pretend to be the man’s daughter because the German government will not release him unless a family member comes to get him. The man’s daughter is seriously ill and cannot travel. Too, the job calls for someone of Maisie’s intelligence and fortitude. The story is gripping and full of intrigue. Of course, not only does Maisie rescue the important businessman, but she also rescues another British subject along the way. If you have not read the first Maisie Dobbs story, start there and work your way forward. While the books stand on their own, as with any series, readers come to know the recurring characters as the books continue. Some of the information from previous books helps with understanding character traits and the reasons characters act as they do.

Get busy reading!

four books