Friday, January 31, 2014

The Chaperone

The Chaperone
Laura Moriarty

Set in the early days of silent movies, the story follows a married woman, Cora Carlisle, who impulsively decides to hire herself out as a chaperone for a quite bold young woman who wants to study dance in New York.  Cora's charge, Louise Brooks, is destined to become a silent film star in just a few years.  While she is a handful and already worldly beyond her years, Cora does her best to keep her in line and out of trouble while at the same time pursuing her own reasons for going to New York City.

I found this to be a well told story uncovering Cora's past as she looked for answers to her heritage in New York.  While trying to control her charge and keep her reputation intact she finds time to uncover the secrets of her own past, although not finding the satisfaction she was hoping for in the answers.

When Cora returns to Kansas, where the two began their journey, the author more or less speeds through the rest of the story.  We learn more about her handsome successful husband and the life they lead and their twin sons' lives as adults.  There are more twists and turns, but I felt like I was reading a somewhat detailed epilogue requiring as many pages as the chaperone story. 

I was interested to discover that Louise Brooks was a real person/silent film star. I don't know how much, if any of her story is accurate but since she did live and perform in silent movies I am labeling this book as historical fiction.  The relationship between Cora and Louise wasn't as big of a part or as significant to the book as I expected it to be based on the title. 

I give The Chaperone 4 of 5 shots as a good story about a woman of those times.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Lost Lake

Lost Lake
by Sarah Addison Allen

Let me start by saying that Sarah Addison Allen is one of my favorite authors.  I discovered her while working at Barnes & Noble in Utah and since reading her first book have always looked forward to everything she's published.

What draws me back to S.A.A. time and again?  Her magic.  Everything she writes has a hint of magic in it.  Not slap you in the face magic, but a subtle magic that I always look forward to.

What will you find at Lost Lake?  An alligator, Cypress knees, a mute French cook, a floozy, a nightly lakeside barbecue, an odd assortment of guests, a lost soul redeemed, a new love sparked, a past love reignited, vengeance, an unexpected opportunity, a new life and second chance.  Or just maybe your own sanity.

Never a major resort, Lost Lake has been run for many years by a couple who's own love story was magical.  But only Eby Prim, one half of that couple, still lives and the resort has been overshadowed by water parks and theme parks. The resort is tired and a bit neglected and the time has come to sell.  The few faithful guests who return to Lost Lake each year decide to make this last summer their best.

Kate Pheris finds herself agreeing to move into her mother-in-law's home a year after her husband has died.  While packing for the move she discovers a letter from her great aunt Eby that was never delivered to her years before. Impulsively she makes the long drive to Lost Lake with her daughter and she decides to stay a while, remembering fondly the summer weeks she spent there when 12 years old.

Sarah Addison Allen reveals the truths and secrets of each guest and employee staying at the resort, intertwining their pasts with their present.  The residents of the small nearby town have their own stories that tie them to Lost Lake and the land it occupies.  And with a little magic Sarah brings all the stories together in a completely engaging way.  Some secrets revealed are heartbreaking and turn out to have been not so secret at all.  But this small town community watches after it's own in the best way it can and makes Kate's impulsive trip her fate, the act that ultimately decides her future.

I give Lost Lake five of five shots.  I continue to adore Sarah and her characters.