Keeping up with my fall goal to read at least one book a month, I read four books in September and October. Here's how I reviewed them on Goodreads.
The Perfume Collector takes you back in time, set post WWII, and is about two women whose lives are intertwined. One's journey to make amends with her past and the other's journey to discover her future. The story begins in London in 1955 where Grace Monroe, recently married and thrown into the London elite social scene, receives a letter informing her she has received an inheritance. Thinking it is a mistake, but wanting to get away from the life she has not come accustomed to, Grace goes on a journey to Paris to learn about her benefactor, Eva d’Orsey. With the help of her attorney, Edward Thissot, she discovers a long abandoned perfume shop, learns about the complex world of concocting perfumes, and a love story that explains her ties with Eva.
The story flashbacks to the 1920’s where you meet Eva who is working as a chambermaid in an upscale hotel catering to the rich. Her involvement with this elite group of people allows her to overcome her poor upbringing and later becomes a legend in the perfume industry. You are taken back to that time and the scents of the perfumes are described so well you can almost smell them. You learn about the fascinating world of fragrances and the unusual ways scents are inspired. While the story is a bit predictable, it draws you in as you see both characters coming into their own. This book was a page turner and one of the best that I’ve read this year.
Gretchen feels like life is going way to fast and she is not focusing on the things that matter. While she is not unhappy, she feels like she can be happier. The Happiness Project is an account of her year of focusing on enjoying life to its fullest. She did not want to switch careers, move to another country or make any drastic changes, so instead she creates monthly resolutions to improve her life as it is.
Gretchen’s resolutions were basic things that we take for granted: find more fun, be present in the moment, take time for yourself, show proofs of love, and no nagging. She breaks down each resolution in a way that is easy to follow, and you see how they work out and where her shortcomings are. The information in this book is not anything new or noteworthy. I saw so much of myself in the author and was able to take her insight and transfer it to my own life. Who doesn't need a little more happiness in their lives?
When I think of aliens, I think little green men exiting a spaceship. Not so in Mrs. O’Leary’s Boarding House Aliens Only. Here aliens come in all forms including a cockroach, a kitten, a butterfly, and slime. A collection of five short stories set in Chicago in 1860, Mrs. O’Leary deals with alien guests with human problems. Each tenant had a different reason for being on earth and had an interesting story that ties back to the landlord. The characters were likable and described in a way that made you forget they were not human. It did not go unnoticed that one of the aliens was a cow living in Mrs. O’Leary’s barn and makes you wonder if there was something outside of our universe whose intent was to start The Great Chicago Fire.
The majority of Where’d You Go, Bernadette, is told through several characters speaking through emails and other random correspondences like doctor’s bills, faxes and notes from school to each other. Bernadette was 30 years old when she won an architecture genius award. Her noteworthy project that won her award is destroyed and soon she begins to fray. She moves out of Los Angeles to Seattle with her husband Elgie, a Microsoft guru, and their daughter Bee. They move into a rundown house that they intended to restore, that was once a former school for girls. The efforts to restore the house are long abandoned, and the house continues to decay with blackberry bushes coming up through the floorboards and water leaking through the ceilings when it rains.
Bernadette suffers from agoraphobia and refuses to take part in the community. Because of this, the charter school parental committee resents her. Her condition is so bad she hires a virtual assistant from India. Bee, who has overcame a congenial heart condition, is now a successful 8th grade student at an upper crust charter school. Bee cashes in on a promise her parents make, that she can have anything she wants for receiving straight A’s. She requests a family trip to Antarctica. Bernadette’s thought of being confined on a ship where she has to interact with people sends her into a frenzy, and her behavior becomes more obnoxious in the community. She hates everything and everyone except her beloved daughter, Bee. After a series of mishaps, Bernadette reaches the breaking point and disappears. The narrative then switches to Bee’s perspective as she takes the lead in the search for her mother.
While the plot is wacky, it’s also touching and uplifting. The characters are likable and the relationships that develop make the story unique.
What are you reading? I'd love to hear your book suggestions!