1. Fireworks Over Toccoa by Jeffrey Stepakoff *
This book has been making rounds all over the blogosphere, so I will not be getting into details as far as the description goes. Lily got married way too young to a man she loved (or so she thought) days before he had to go to Europe to fight in WWII. She spent next three years getting ready for his return until only days before the reunion Lily meets Jake Russo, an Italian immigrant who travels around the country making fireworks displays. He is now in Toccoa, Georgia preparing yet another display when Lily meets him and they both fall in love.
I am in the minority on this book, I'm afraid. I wasn't all that crazy about it. The premise of the novel is actually quite captivating. The idea of such an unexpected love affair in 40's Georgia when the whole country is pretty much touched by the war was what made me pick up the book in the first place. However, I think that the characters were flat and the relationship between Lily and Jake kind of cliche. It almost seemed to me like the author just wanted to get the story on paper ASAP without really delving into any deeper issues. Jake especially could have been such an interesting character with his war experiences and how he dealt with it all afterwards, but I feel that Mr. Stepakoff for some reason didn't want to elaborate on the characters at all and focused on just the quick love affair instead. All in all, the book was too short and simplified for my tastes.
2. The Gift of an Ordinary Day by Katrina Kenison **
Katrina Kenison is a mother of two almost grown-up sons who are on the verge of leaving the family house for good. She is facing the proverbial 'empty nest' and that's what spur her to write about what really matters in life. She writes a memoir in which she takes us through her kids' childhood and teenage years, through selling one house and going off in search of another. There are struggles, triumphs, disappointments and surprises along the way and somehow most of the days Katrina gets reminded that she has exactly what she's supposed to have and is exactly where she's supposed to be.
I really enjoyed reading this contemplative memoir. Ms. Kenison's meditative prose put me in a state of calm and appreciation of my own life. She gives off this vibe that she could be your friend because maybe of the normality of her life, her experiences that are ordinary but also relate to other mothers and wives out there. The best part of it is, despite Katrina's life being just like everyone else's, she makes it extraordinary through her beautiful prose and all of a sudden I found myself enjoying a rainy day (I hate rain normally) or a birdsong in the morning (something I never pay attention to). There is something special in Ms. Kenison's writing that can turn the most mundane into an experience worth reading about.
* I received this book from Shelf Awareness
**I picked up this memoir during my visit to BEA'09 from the publisher.