Book Review: All This Talk of Love

all talkThank you to Net Galley for advancing a copy of All This Talk of Love. Unfortunately it arrived as an (unreadable) PDF and was a book I even scheduled in my Reading Schedule to read. It was the last book in the schedule! Alas, rather than fight through teeny tiny type of a PDF I waited for it to come to the library. I’m very glad I waited and read it, as it was certainly worth it.

All This Talk of Love is a lovely piece of fiction about families. It beautifully depicts each member as their individual selves and as part of their larger close-knit family. The Grasso family is headed by Antonio and Maddalena Grasso. They had left Italy as a very young married couple and immigrated to America over 50 years prior. They have three children, Prima (the Italian Princess), Tony, (their now deceased son) and Frankie (the son conceived years later and out of grief).

None of the children, or their children (Prima’s), have been back to the Old Country. As a surprise Prima has purchased tickets for the entire Grasso family to bring them back to Santa Cecilia one summer. It is this encompassing act that we read each of their individual stories and their place in the Grasso clan. This, and the shadow of grief that hovers over all from their son, brother and uncle that killed himself when he was just 15 years old.

Maddalena; the beautiful and stunning, still, vibrant matriarch of the Grasso clan. She has absolutely no intention of returning to Santa Cecilia ever. What is there is only the country of when she was young and beautiful. The place where her mother was still alive, her sister was not suffering from Alzheimer’s and where she loved another man. Going back would only destroy those memories. That is what they are, that is what they will remain. Maddalena however, is beginning to show disturbing signs of this horrible and hereditary disease that will soon steal her mind.

She’s never been back to Santa Cecilia, not even for a visit, not once in the fifty years since Antonio married her and brought her to America, and she’s not about to start now. Unlike him, she still has her people in that village. She remembers them how they were when she left them in 1946. Now most of them are bones in the ground behind the church…She has only one brother left, Claudio and one sister, Carolina, but she hasn’t spoken to them in twenty years. She won’t see them old and sick, not after working so hard, every day, to keep them young and beautiful and full of life in her mind. She won’t let that happen. ….Santa Cecilia was the one place on earth where she was young. What belongs to her and her alone is that village during those nineteen years, her memories of it, of who she might have been…Go back now, to see it all changed, and that, too, will be taken away.

Antonio: the patriarch of the Grasso’s. He brought Maddalena over and started a family restaurant with the name from back in the Old Country so that she would always have that place where they met and he fell in love. He aches, longs, yearns, dreams of returning to the Old Country. He wants to go back and live what he feels are his final moments of this long and love-filled life he’s lead. Antonio believes that if he were to go back there, the deep, deep regret and loss and grief over losing his son, Tony, will disappear there. For Tony never set foot in Italy and should Antonio go back he would finally be able to let go of his grief, and the secret he’s kept about Tony’s death and his reasons for taking his own life, from everyone.

Take me to Santa Cecilia, where I belong. I can count on one hand the years we have left together.

He is the only person alive who knew the secret of Tony’s heart. He keeps it closer than any he’s ever known. It’s like a heavy stone in his pocket, one he takes out day after day, turns over, rubs with his thumb, as if it’s beautiful and precious, when – he almost has to remind himself – it was the one bit of ugliness in Tony, and it proved powerful enough to kill him.

Prima: she is the Italian Princess, the spoiled rich girl that married the Irish man. She is approaching middle-age in despair and is not looking forward to living in an empty-nest when her four sons move on. She tries very hard to be the “cool mom” and boasts her job is to raise four sons and care for their large home and family. She wishes with everything to bring all of the Grasso clan together for this trip to Santa Cecilia so that they are all together, delaying the inevitable for just a little longer. She is the control-freak that needs to arrange for everything in order to hide her desperate loneliness.

Frankie: is the wandering intellectual of the family. He knows he lives in the shadow of Tony yet holds his mother in the highest esteem, adoration and love. Never one night goes without their 11:01 p.m. phone conversation following the viewing of their favourite soap opera. Frankie is pursuing his PhD and seems to flounder a bit here and there, in love, in his dissertation, in his place in the family. After finally ditching the dead-end love affair with his married advisor and finding a new advisor as well, Frankie meets another girl and returns home to find the focus he so needs to get himself on track.

And then, just as they have finally convinced Maddalena to make the trip to Italy, all done in hopes it helps to reverse the quickly advancing destruction of her mind, tradegy strikes the Grasso family again. This greatly delays their trip by a number of years, but the trip is finally made in the end. Unfortunately, it does not hold the magic or promise that was so hoped for before. Maddelena is all but lost in her mind now and no longer recognizes her family. It is these incredibly touching moments that the book ends.

All This Talk of Love is a wonderful, wonderful story about family and is filled with love, loss, longing, regret, grief and secrets. I’m really glad I kept it on my planned reading list/schedule. I’m glad I did not forget about reading it or returning it to the library before actually reading. It’s really a beautiful story, filled with many poignant and touching moments, all of which are meant to touch upon what it is to be a part of a family in all its glory, madness, sadness and frustration, despair and love, its great, unyielding love.

Audiobook Review: 11/22/63

I can’t believe how much I enjoyed this book! I always thought that Stephen King was all about horror! Carrie, Christine, Cujo. No, not for me. But the story sounded interesting, I needed an audiobook and it was available at the WPL. 30 disks long and I was completely engrossed the entire time. My new opinion of Mr. King– what a wonderful story-teller!


What if you could go back in time and change history? Would you things change for the better? Or would you make things worse? That is the conundrum that high school teacher Jake Epping finds himself in when his pal Al, from the dinner, shows him a “rabbit hole” into 1959. The plan is to stop the Kennedy assassination. Time travel– you say??? I know! It sounds cheesy but I can assure you– it was certainly not!

After much persuasion and desperation on Al’s part, Jake agrees to go back in time, prove Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone (they are only 95% sure) and save JFK. But the assassination is still over 4 years away so Jake has some time on his hands. He assumes an alternate identity (George Amberson) and busies himself with saving some lives, teaching some high school and falling in love! The details of the life and times of the 1960s was just brilliant! King goes into so much detail– the morals, the racism, the smells, the sounds, the innocence, the naivety, the flavours, the smoking, the music and the dancing– it was just like being there. The love story between “George” and Sadie (an awkward librarian he meets while teaching) just took me to another place and time! They “courted”, they danced the Lindy Hop, they broke up for a little while, they ate pound cake! I found them absolutely charming and routed for their love to conquer all!


Craig Wasson did an absolutely FANTASTIC job narrating this book. From Al’s craggy cancer voice to Marina Oswald’s broken English to JFK’s Bostonian drawl! So freaking amazing! The audiobook was 30 CDs LONG (I had to renew 3 times from the library to finish it) but it was definitely one of those narrations that made you take the long way home. I find myself missing Jake, Sadie, Deek, Harry and super cool Mz. Mimi when I get into my car now that it is over. It’s funny– the whole time I listened to was on pins and needles about whether or not Jake would actually save Kennedy and I could not wait to see what King had in store for a world where Kennedy survived– but that was such a small part of this giant book that it seemed almost irrelevant! The rest of the story was interesting enough to stand on its own and I could have listened forever! 4 stars from me and a promise to try more King in the future (but wow! are his books ever long!)


Book Review: The End of Your Life Book Club

Grab a box of Kleenex and a pad of paper (or be VERY close to your Goodreads App)! As fellow Hoarder Penny says, “this book will make your ‘To Be Read’ pile EXPLODE!!” Thank you so much to Random House for sending us a copy to review! It will definitely be one that gets passed to all Hoarders! Liz! It’s coming to you next so get ready!

We chose this book for our “Wink 3” Book Club because it was going to be the featured book in October’s Chatelaine Magazine, it was starting to become a big buzz and, hey, it had Book Club in the title so why not?! It sure did not disappoint! As sad as the subject of losing a loved one to cancer is, this book somehow managed to be a truly up lifting story that you absolutely could NOT put down! This was author Will Schwalbe’s love letter to his dynamo of a mother, Mary Ann. Their Book Club of 2 took place in the waiting room of the cancer treatment centre. Mother and son were forever reading and their common interest in books became their way of communicating. “What are you reading?” was all they needed to ask and the conversations would be endless.

“We’re all in the end-of-our life book club, whether we acknowledge it or not; each book we read may well be the last, each conversation the final one.”

One of the things I loved the most about this book (apart from the reading list) was that I could totally relate to these people despite the differences in our situations– proof that the “language” of reading is universal. We all feel the same when reading a good book– you just want to tell everyone you meet “HEY! You HAVE to read this book– it was soooo gooooood!”. Readers know what a thrill it is to meet another reader that is as passionate about books as you are. Like Will, I am also lucky enough to share my love of reading with my mom and I think that is another reason why this book resonated so much with me (that and Will’s difference in opinion with his mother as far as religion is concerned– my mother is religious (yikes! A CATHOLIC) and I am nowhere near that belief. He treats his mother’s beliefs with respect and understanding without sounding preachy and cheesy. I loved that!)

I also felt that even though the Schwalbes were a wealthy family and were very fortunate to live a privileged kind of lifestyle, it never seemed that they took it for granted. Will felt exceedingly lucky that he was able to quit his un-fulfilling job and Mary Ann never thought twice about giving her time (and I’m sure plenty of money) to refugees, volunteering overseas in Third World countries and building libraries in Afghanistan. Even being sick with cancer was something that Mary Ann was forever grateful that she could actually “afford” to do– many in the United States will go bankrupt when they get sick (Mary Ann’s dying wish was that Obama would FINALLY institute universal healthcare in the United States– something, I am thankful for every day as a Canadian– thank you Tommy Douglas!). Reading about these people made you want to become a better person rather than making you envious of all that they had. Will Schwalbe seems like such a genuinely great person! I would love to hang out with him!

And then there was the reading list! There were sooooooo many great books that I had read and was able to revisit and even more that I needed to add to the dreaded TBR pile (too many books– always a problem for a Literary Hoarder!). Some that were added were: The Lizard Cage, Felicia’s Journey, The Uncommon Reader, The Year of Magical Thinking, In Other Rooms, Other Wonders, The Bolter, Suite Francais, A Long Way Gone, The Bite of the Mango and Continental Drift. When, oh WHEN, will I ever fit them in???

4 stars for this brilliant, feel good story that had me sobbing from page one! You HAVE to read this book! It was sooooo gooooood!

Mary Ann Schwable. Google her– she was quite the lady!

Note: Out of (morbid) curiosity I would have been interested in what Will and Mary Ann thought of the 50 Shades phenomenon had it been out during their time in the Book Club. Wow! Now, that would have been an awkward, but interesting, conversation for a mom and her gay son to have!! 😉

Review: Tell The Wolves I’m Home

This was one of my picks for our NetGalley Knockdown Challange and I have to say I sure lucked out in picking it! Thanks so much to NetGalley and Random House for allowing us access to read this beautifully written debut novel by Carol Rifka Brunt!

It is 1987 at the height of the AIDS crisis and 14-year-old June’s favourite uncle, Finn, has been diagnosed. This means he will die– no doubt about it. Finn is June’s mother’s brother. They used to be close but now they have a strained relationship– he has done many things that she doesn’t really agree with– but they are cordial to each other. June absolutely ADORES Finn and would like to spend as much time with him as she possibly can before he passes away. Finn comes up with a project so that they can do just that. He is an artist and will paint a portrait of June and her sister Greta– it will be his last gift to his family as well as his last professional gig.

June is just a MAGNIFICENT character– she is so real. You want to hug her to pieces and tell her “life won’t always be this hard– being a teenager only sucks for a little while!!”. She lives in her own little world somewhere between child and young adult. She spends most her time alone hanging out in the woods– she’s the quirky girl wearing the medieval boots and Gunne Sax dress dreaming of becoming a full-time Falconer at a Renaissance Festival some day. She used to share this world with Greta but now that she is 16 she finds June babyish and constantly makes her feel stupid– especially about her feelings towards her uncle. June tries not to let it bother her but it does. Uncle Finn is the only one who has ever understood her completely, and he is dying.

(It is hard to remember that at one time that AIDS was considered to be the new leprosy– this book just TRANSPORTS you back to that time. June and Greta are actually afraid to admit that their uncle died of AIDS at school because they are worried they will get the “Ryan White” treatment!  It is amazing how far we have come in treatments and understanding of this disease! So great that being HIV positive no longer means an automatic death sentence.)

That’s what I want for you,” he said. “I want you to know only the very best people.”

That’s when I broke down and cried, because I already knew the very best people. Finn was the very best person I knew.

Uncle Finn dies soon after the portrait is complete and June is just DEVASTATED. She feels that she will never love again and that no one will ever understand her grief. But she soon finds out there IS someone else. Two weeks after Finn’s death she receives a package. It contains the Russian teapot with the bears on it that Finn always used when they came to visit– it is something that she has always admired. The note that comes with it is from Finn’s special friend, Toby. It also contains an invitation. June has never heard of this special friend so she covertly asks her mother for some information. The reaction is very strong and very negative. She seems to blame Toby for every wrong thing that has ever happened in Finn’s life– the choices he made, the company he kept, the disease he got. All June could think was “if he was so special, why have I never met him?” and her decision is made. She would say yes to the invitation and let this Toby guy know who Uncle Finn REALLY was! Only, he seems to know a lot more about Finn that she does. An awkward love/hate relationship begins between June and Toby as they come to terms with the death of their all time favourite person. And June begins to grow up (but just a little bit!).

This is another one of those stories where you just don’t want to say too much because June’s journey needs to be experienced first hand! You’ll laugh, you’ll cry! Awesome, AWESOME story telling, fantastic characters! Can this REALLY be a first novel?? Great Job!! 4 stars for me!! Can’t wait to hear more from this author!

(This song was in my head the whole time I read for no other reason than it had wolf in the title– great song tho– thought I would share.)