Blog Book Marks

May 2024 Book Marks

May is my planting time, and with a little effort and a lot of bug bites, the garden is in.  Now’s the fun part, watering, watching and waiting for the buds to flower and the tomatoes to grow.  Speaking of crops, there are some great reading selections for the month so enjoy…..


The Princess of Las Vegas by Chris Bohjalian

Chrissy Dowling is a Princess Di impersonator who lives in the almost-seedy Buckingham Palace Casino, in Las Vegas.  Her life is a bit of a mess, sleeping in, sitting around the pool in a diazepam haze and coming to life at night to perform.  She’s not only a dead ringer for Diana, but she has the same eating disorder.  This quiet routine is interrupted when her sister Betsy comes to town with her foster child and new boyfriend, ostensibly to work for a new crypto company.  Mysterious murders begin, and the seamy side of the Strip emerges with mobsters, the crypto underworld and the truth about the sister’s traumatic childhood in Vermont.   Bohjalian weaves a masterful tale with characters that meet in a crescendo ending, as it all crashes down.


The Stolen Child by Ann Hood

WW1 veteran Nick Burns hasn’t been able to escape a central trauma at the end of the war in Italy, when a painter he befriends hands him her baby and asks him to take it.  Unable to fulfill the wish, toward the end of his life he sets out on a quest to find out what happened to the child.  Nick’s journey collides with college drop-out Jenny, who has her own backstory, and has always wanted to go to Europe.  Together, exploring Italy, they come to a town where a lonely Italian craftsman has created The Museum of Tears.  Regret, betrayal, love and reckoning are themes that each of these characters must try to unravel so that each of them can forgive themselves.  The three characters are skillfully braided together in a story that left me wanting to board a plane for Italy!


Last House by Jessica Shattuck

It’s post-WW2 and veteran Nick Taylor is a corporate lawyer for an oil company, living in a New York suburb with his wife Bet (former codebreaker and now housewife) and their two children.  Oil is the future, and it will drive the economic future of the country’s Cold War era.  Nick’s career provides comforts for his family, including a Vermont weekend house, that offers respite from the tumult of 1968, with protestors, the Vietnam War, MLK’s assassination and more.  As Nick secretly works to advance the U.S. interest with the Shah of Iran and the oilfields of the Middle East, his children become radicalized, which will have both tragic and surprising endings for the family.  At its heart the books tackles questions around progress at all costs, the hubris of empire, and the consequences of the choices you make. If you read “The Women in the Castle,” this is the author’s engrossing follow-up. 


I Want You More by Swan Huntley

Zara Pines is still putting it together after her father’s death, figuring out her next step.  When her agent suggests a ghostwriting assignment with celebrity chef, Jane Bailey, she moves to her East Hampton estate for the summer to tackle the memoir.  As Jane falls for Zara romantically, she also begins to resemble her, taking on her habits, hair style, manner of dress and more, as the line between the two women merges.  But this love affair has a sinister side, and as Zara begins to melt into Jane, things are changing in ways she couldn’t have imagined.  Can she get out in time?  The books is a fun romp through the demise of a celebrity, as well as a  creepy portrait of what people will do to stay on top. 


The Lost Letters from Martha’s Vineyard by Michael Callahan

The story toggles between two time periods and two women, beginning with Hollywood ingenue Mercy Welles in 1959.  Mercy has just been nominated for an Oscar and is engaged to be married.  But, just as her career is taking off, the actress makes a visit to Nantucket and after that, no one hears from her again. In the present day, Kit O’Neill is questioning her job as a TV producer in New York.  Cleaning out her grandmother’s house, she finds a box that reveals her grandmother is none other than the long-ago actress, Mercy Welles, which sends her on a hunt to answer some questions.  During her quest to solve the mystery around her grandmother’s disappearance, Kit collides with one of the oldest families on Martha’s Vineyard.  As the book toggles back and forth in time, the reader is pulled deeper into love, mystery and possibly murder. 


A Northern Light in Provence by Elizabeth Birkelund

Ilse Erlund has a gift for languages, which has allowed her to make a living as a translator in her native Greenland.  Feeling isolated and restless, she convinces her publisher to send her to Provence to translate the poems of a well-known, elderly Provencal poet in a charming hilltop town. Ilse falls in love with the little medieval town, and the poet, reveling in the smells and colors, the scents and the air.  But when the poet’s son, Frey, arrives with a fiancé back in Paris, she cannot ignore the attention he lavishes on her.  She must make some very difficult decisions which can change the fate of the future and force her to choose between the safety and security of her Northern home, and the chance to live a life of her dreams.


Send Me -the Incredible True Story of a Mother at War by Marty Skovlund Jr and Joe Kent

There are numerous stories and memoirs about military men who hunt the world’s most dangerous terrorists.  But this book is about an extraordinary female, Shannon Kent, a real-life wife and mother in Special Ops before people talked about women in combat arms jobs.  One of the first and best to serve as a cryptologic technician, Kent specialized in signals intelligence and electronic warfare as a shadow warrior who hunted humans using intelligence, language skills and guile as weapons.  She spoke five languages and multiple dialects, which landed her on a special Iraq task force in some perilous situations.  She married a fellow solider, had a family, and this real life “Mr. and Mrs. Smith, balanced top secret assignments globally while trying to put family first.  This is a story about an exceptional person and family that transcends the battlefield, but it’s also a story about balancing job, duty, and love of country with  love of family.  This book helps us all understand what it means to be a family who bears the cost of deployment after deployment. 



Cheaper, Faster, Better – How We’ll Win the Climate War by Tom Steyer

OK, for those of you who get anxious thinking about climate change, here’s a book that won’t make you want to slit your wrists AND offers a blueprint for living.  Steyer is a pioneering investor, past presidential candidate and a climate activist, who’s putting his knowledge where his convictions are in fighting climate change through policy and investment.  This is a breezy book to read that covers a lot of ground, from solutions, personal storytelling and how we can harness the everyday desire of Americans to look for small and big ways to make a difference.  Steyer talks about it in collective terms that are similar to the spirit that motivated the U.S. to action during WW2.  If everyone becomes a “climate person,” and this isn’t about whether you believe in science, but about treating the planet right, we have some serious hope for the world.  As someone who washes out my zip lock bags, this is my kind of book. 


The Vacation Rental by Katie Sise

Georgia and her husband have decided to rent their country home out for August, so they head off to the Connecticut shore with their young daughter to have their own relaxing vacation.  As they turn their house keys over to a stranger, they’re excited for what’s to come.  And for Anna, the renter, their woodland country home is the perfect place to recover from a relationship turning sour.  She, too, can relax and reassess her life.  But as the weeks wear on, each of them can’t quite settle into the relaxation of home.  They can’t shake the feeling that something is about to happen in the psychological game of cat and mouse and obsession. 


*These are books I genuinely love and am thrilled to recommend to my friends. These are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I get a small commission if you click through and make a purchase. Alternately, if you prefer to check books out of your local library or buy from your local bookstore, I very much support that!


Lee Woodruff     Speaker-Author-Executive Media Trainer