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Really Good Read: The Good Dream by Donna VanLiere

Written on July 24, 2013 at 12:15 pm , by

This novel, released in early July, is set in a close-knit Tennessee farming community. (Courtesy of Amazon.com)

Book critics, whether professional or casual, sure can be harsh. Everyone is looking for something different in their leisure time reading, right? So when a book earns ★★★★★, you know it’s a keeper. Donna VanLiere’s The Good Dream received that favorable rating from Amazon reviewers—and us!

The novel begins in the 1950s with Ivorie, a small-town Tennessee woman who is on a quest for emotional connections after her mom recently died (don’t worry—we’re not spoiling any big secrets!). Despite only being in her early 30s, Ivorie is known as the lonely town “spinster.” She slowly begins to connect with George, a neighboring farmer who she had previously only looked at as a friend. That is, until a mysterious town visitor and Ivorie’s compassionate nature threatens to put a halt to their romance. Will she go the way of her heart or her head?

The book’s spunky, courageous protagonist makes this beach-friendly read hard to put down. Plus, the retro setting, in an era prior to the invention of the Internet and cell phones, will transport you back to a time when warm summer evenings were spent on the porch with a cold glass of lemonade and a good book. Put your cell phone on silent and follow suit.

More page-turners to peruse:

Really Good Read: The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult

Written on March 28, 2013 at 12:30 pm , by

Give yourself plenty of time to get lost in this book, otherwise you’ll be up way past your bedtime! (Photo courtesy of Emily Bestler Books)

At the beginning of the year, many staffers made the resolution to read more in 2013. While statistics show that most resolutions fall by the wayside by the end of January, we’re determined to stick with this one! Reading during a commute to work (bonus of public transportation!) and unplugging from technology for a few hours before bed has allowed me to not only unwind after a busy day, but sleep better and prep for tomorrow.

The only downside? When you get a really good read in your hands, it’s so hard to put down! That’s what happened when Jodi Picoult’s latest title, The Storyteller, landed on my desk. Here at FITNESS, we like to get lost in the story of a strong female protagonist, and Picoult gives us just that with Sage Singer, a baker who’s trying to escape a reality of loneliness and the emotional scarring her mother’s death has left behind.

At her grief group, Sage meets Josef Weber, an elderly gentleman who seems to be the nicest guy in town. Before long she’s confiding in him, telling her own stories and developing a friendship. Unfortunately, Josef’s befriended her for a reason – he asks her for a huge favor; one that will make him feel better about being a Nazi who worked at one of the worst concentration camps known to man. Yup, he was at Auschwitz.

Not only do we watch as Sage develops her own confidence, but the story bounces back to that of her grandmother’s – a survivor of Auschwitz. In her soul lies true strength, love and determination to get out alive, even while her family and loved ones are falling victim to the Holocaust left and right.

And of course, we can’t have a page-turner without a love interest, right? Don’t worry, Picoult delivers when Leo Stein enters the picture. I won’t reveal how or why he’s there, but he definitely provides relief in an otherwise intense novel, and satisfies those of us craving some romance.

If you’re a fan of books surrounding World War II and the Holocaust, this is definitely one for you. Picoult manages to be searingly honest in her portrayal of each character, yet delicately explores what people will do in order to protect family and not repeat the mistakes of our nation’s history.

Now you tell us: What books are at the top of your 2013 must-read list?