Pieces by Maria Kostaki. CA: She Writes Press, 209 p. ***

Pieces of Sasha's life are portrayed vivadly from early childhood in Cold War-era Moscow to Athens, Greece. Having no control over where she lives in her youth to out of control adult behavior seeking love and acceptance. Taken from the Grandparents who love her to live with her narcisstic mother, who tells Sasha, "I feel sorry for you...you'll never find someone who has the ability to love in the way that you do. You love unconditionally, desperately." The death of her step-father, Michael, the only father she has known, has triggered her memories of life with him and her mother. Sash lashes out at him in her grief for the biological father she never knew and the step father who raised her. "You were supposed to be my prototype male. I still have nightmares about your fingers, the tattoo on your wrist, your palm slamming on my mother's face, the gold ring on your middle finger. But I loved you anyway." 

It is a gritty, alcohol laden story of survival and hope. Kostaki has painted a harsh picture of life in Moscow and the resilience of family during tough times.  Love prevails....

If not for the Summer Reading Challenge, I probably would not have picked up this book to read. A little confusing for me at times, it was  a worthwhile read. Kostaki has a talent for bringing the reader into the story with a few well chosen words. 

Maria Kostaki is a native of Moscow, Russia, but has spent most of her adult life on a plane from Athens, Greece to New York City and back. She holds a master’s in journalism from New York University, where she was a recipient of a grant from the Knight Foundation. She has worked as an editor and staff writer for Odyssey magazine in Athens and New York, and her nonfiction has appeared in publications including Elle Décor and Insider Magazine. Her fiction has appeared in Flashquake and Mediterranean Poetry.



Worthy: A Novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde. Seattle: Lake Union Publishing, 2015. 321 pages, paperback. *****

Virginia works in a diner in a small town longing for love and a family of her own. Aaron's wife died of cancer and he is raising Buddy by himself.  Aaron finally works up the courage to ask Virginia on a date. Life intervenes with disastrous results. 
Fast forward nineteen years and Virginia is co-owner of the diner and engaged to be married.  Her fiancé may not be the perfect guy, he doesn't get along with her dog T-Rex, but at fifty-six years old, she thinks she has run out of options. Her best friend Fern is content to live alone, but Virginia can't stop thinking about what might have been with Aaron and Buddy.

Catherine Ryan Hyde has woven a heart-warming story of love, relationships, compassion and what really makes a family. Life doesn't always turn out the way we expect and Hyde is masterful in her moving story of a young boy who experiences loss and always feeling different from others. Definitely a 5 star read! 

Hyde is the bestselling author of twenty-seven published and forthcoming book. Her bestselling 1999 novel Pay It Forward was adapted into a major motion picture. 


Eight Hundred Grapes: a novel by Laura Dave. NewYork: Simon & Schuster, 2015. 260 p. *****

Thirty-year-old Georgia Ford's life takes an unexpected turn when at the last fitting for her wedding dress she sees her fiancé walking down the street with a gorgeous woman and a little girl. When opening the door to catch his attention, Georgia hears the little girl call Ben, Georgia's fiancé, "Daddy." With the clothes on her back (which happens to be her wedding dress), Georgia returns to the family winery and the venue for her soon to be held wedding. Seeking solace and advice, Georgia discovers discord in her parent's perfect marriage; her two brothers are at odds with each other and the family vineyard is about to be sold.

A poignant tale told humorously and with such grace, it was hard to put down. Dave has a strong storytelling voice and each character is likable and identifiable. Even though there is no Reading Guide, I recommend it for a Book Club choice. There are a few subplots which would make good discussion points.

This is may favorite of the books I have read so far for The Summer Reading Challenge 2015. I was drawn in from the very beginning and couldn't wait to see what happens next. Loved the ending, so fitting and perfect.

Laura Dave is the author of The First Husband,  The Divorce Party, and London Is the Best City in America. Her work has been published in fifteen countries, and three of her novels, including Eight Hundred Grapes, have been optioned as major motion pictures.


Received two copies of Worthy by Catherine Ryan Hyde. Which one to read? The published copy or the Advanced Reader's Copy (the Uncorrected Proof)? Decisions, decisions...It is hard not to judge a book by the cover, isn't it?