Living in the Metropol Hotel in Russia Can be Fine…A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles…New Video Interview!

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NEW…

Author Amor Towles recently visited The Metropol Hotel and takes us on a tour!

My Review:

If you missed this one in hardcover, now is the time to grab a copy in paperback!  True to all the hype, Amor Towles has written a masterpiece.  I loved the premise of a Russian aristocrat being under house arrest for life in a fancy hotel due to a controversial poem he supposedly had written when he was younger.  A Gentleman In Moscow is the story of Count Alexander Rostov, and his life in the Metropol Hotel, from the 1920s on. Friendship, connection, loyalty and the ultimate pursuit of how to live, are beautifully explored with Towles’s skillful storytelling; while the elegant aristocrat creates a life for himself inside the hotel, 30 crucial years of Russian history were happening in the outside world.

I was late to the party in taking on this rather large book, but when I recently learned it took place in a hotel I was intrigued.  Initially Thurston Hall at George Washington University (a former hotel turned dorm) came to mind, and then I thought of Zach and Cody (of Disney Channel fame 2005-2008) and their suite life in the Tipton Hotel in Boston.  In A Gentleman In Moscow, Alexander Rostov was not allowed to leave the premises of the fancy hotel across from the Kremlin, but lucky for him there was a restaurant and bar, seamstress and lots of rooms to discover and explore.  The elements of glamour softened the blow of being incarcerated and unable to go outside, yet in my mind I questioned whether Rostov’s sentence was really a punishment or was it protection from the harsh realities of Russia outside the Metropol doors during that time. The pace of the book was on the slower side, not the kind of story you read in a day but rather the kind you savor and reread as you go, as one might do when there is nothing else to tend to and no place to go.  It meandered around the Metropol with wonderful stories, descriptions and character exploration. I felt as if I were actually wandering around the different rooms and stairwells and experiencing life in the elegant Russian hotel myself.  I enjoyed how the Rostov found a way to continually learn, grow and enjoy his life, develop many relationships, and dress, eat and live well, all under a strict, watchful eye and government punishment.  A Gentleman in Moscow was a beautiful combination of a fictional, highly imaginative story paired with important Russian history… and a unexpected surprise at the end!   I highly recommend!

CBS This Morning’s correspondent, Elizabeth Palmer visits the Metropol Hotel with Amor Towles and you can plan a stay there too!

Visit the Metropol Hotel website.

A Gentleman in Moscow available in paperback here.

In April 2018 it was announced there would be a tv production of A Gentleman In Moscow.  No news since then, but here is the article.

If you are interested in living in a hotel like Count Alexander Rostov did, you may want to read this!  I’m not pushing it but there are definitely some benefits… here is more to read!

Goodreads Summary

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About the Author:

Born and raised in the Boston area, Amor Towles graduated from Yale College and received an MA in English from Stanford University. Having worked as an investment professional in Manhattan for over twenty years, he now devotes himself fulltime to writing. His first novel, Rules of Civility, published in 2011, was a New York Times bestseller in both hardcover and paperback and was ranked by the Wall Street Journal as one of the best books of 2011. The book was optioned by Lionsgate to be made into a feature film and its French translation received the 2012 Prix Fitzgerald. His second novel, A Gentleman in Moscow, published in 2016, was also a New York Times bestseller and was ranked as one of the best books of 2016 by the Chicago Tribune, the Miami Herald, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the St. Louis Dispatch, and NPR. Both novels have been translated into over fifteen languages.

Mr. Towles, who lives in Manhattan with his wife and two children, is an ardent fan of early 20th century painting, 1950’s jazz, 1970’s cop shows, rock & roll on vinyl, obsolete accessories, manifestoes, breakfast pastries, pasta, liquor, snow-days, Tuscany, Provence, Disneyland, Hollywood, the cast of Casablanca, 007, Captain Kirk, Bob Dylan (early, mid, and late phases), the wee hours, card games, cafés, and the cookies made by both of his grandmothers.

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Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage

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My Review:

If you are in need of a blood chilling thriller to make your heart pound, Baby Teeth is for you!  Author Zoje Stage mastered dark and suspenseful when she created Hanna, a seven year old, only child of Suzette and Alex.  Suzette had a difficult childhood, poor mothering and a continual battle with Crones Disease, and when she meets Alex in a professional environment, he saved her from loneliness and despair by respecting her design work and falling in love.  Alex, an architect, is a cheery Swedish man who desperately loves his wife, Suzette, and showers his very bright but mute daughter Hanna with love and attention.  Both parents want to be the best they can be; they spend lots of time with Hanna, they have patience for their daughter, but she doesn’t speak a word and seems to only love her Daddy.

After being kicked out of several preschools for bad behavior that Alex cannot recognize or accept, Suzette is homeschooling her daughter but seeing red flags in her behavior towards her.  She witnesses outrageous outbursts but due to her lack of confidence in her parenting and wife skills, she keeps some of what she experiences with her daughter to herself so as not to upset her disbelieving husband.

Hanna has an alter ego that seems to want to kill Mommy so she can have Daddy all to herself and she is working on a plan.  When mother and daughter are alone she terrorizes and scares her but when Daddy gets home she is her cuddly sweet self.

Life becomes dangerous for Suzette when warnings escalate from Hanna’s artwork that depicts a dead Mommy to Hanna speaking obscene and threatening messages to her mother when nobody else is around to sophisticated scheming that leads to illness and physical violence!  Suzette and Alex’s parenting skills are in question along with safety in their home when they finally reach out for help ad share what is going on with outsiders as the danger and threats escalate…but will it be too late?

This is a creepy story…but good creepy!  If you want to feel positive about your own family, OR you don’t want to have children, this book will support you in a big way!  Baby Teeth is a quick summer read that will keep you engaged and freaked out.

Summary on Goodreads

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About the author:

An author of dark and suspenseful novels, Zoje lives in Pittsburgh, PA. Her debut novel BABY TEETH (St. Martin’s Press) was released 17 July 2018. It will be released in the UK as BAD APPLE (Transworld) on 9 Aug.

 

A Boy Made of Blocks

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A Boy Made of Blocks by Keith Stuart

As per Goodreads:
In the tradition of Nick Hornby and David Nicholls comes a warm and tender novel in which a father and his autistic son connect over the game of Minecraft.

Alex loves his family, and yet he struggles to connect with his eight-year-old autistic son, Sam. The strain has pushed his marriage to the breaking point. So Alex moves in with his merrily irresponsible best friend on the world’s most uncomfortable blow-up bed.

As Alex navigates single life, long-buried family secrets, and part-time fatherhood, his son begins playing Minecraft. Sam’s imagination blossoms and the game opens up a whole new world for father and son to share. Together, they discover that sometimes life must fall apart before you can build a better one.

Inspired by the author’s own relationship with his autistic son, A Boy Made of Blocks is a tear-jerking, funny, and, most, of all true-to-life novel about the power of difference and one very special little boy.

My comments:

I loved this book so much.  The straight forward writing makes for easy reading as Alex tells us his heartfelt story.  Alex’s eight year old son, Sam, diagnosed with autism, has some difficult behaviors that create stress in the house so Alex spends most of his time at the office, hence his marriage is on the rocks.  After moving out of his home and leaving his wife and son alone, he moves in with an old friend and the reality that he needs to make big changes sinks in. His marriage, his connection with his son,his unfulfilling job, and dealing with the loss of his brother all need some attention.  Alex has to face what haunts him from the past to tackle the challenges ahead.  While helping guide Sam he tells him “Life is an adventure, not a walk. That’s why it is difficult. ”

Author Keith Stuart takes us on the realistic journey of loss, the ups and downs of relationships, parenting, and the continual task of understanding and connecting with our children which may entail trying multiple tactics and revising expectations along the way.  He says “life puts up so many barriers to people who are different. Any tool that helps us to appreciate those people- whoever they are, however they differ from us- is a precious thing. ”  Stuart has a child on the autism scale and although this book is not about his own son it feels authentic.  He also writes about video games for a living and his son’s experiences with Minecraft were an inspiration for this story.

 

I have enjoyed several other novels that depict characters with autism or have tendencies that indicate they are on the spectrum.  I highly recommend these three below.

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Best Boy by Eli Gottlieb
As per Goodreads:
Sent to a therapeutic community for autism at the age of eleven, Todd Aaron, now in his fifties, is the Old Fox of Payton LivingCenter. A joyous man who rereads the encyclopedia compulsively, he is unnerved by the sudden arrivals of a menacing new staffer and a disruptive, brain-injured roommate. His equilibrium is further worsened by Martine, a one-eyed new resident who has romantic intentions and convinces him to go off his meds to feel normal again. Undone by these pressures, Todd attempts an escape to return home to his younger brother and to a childhood that now inhabits only his dreams. Written astonishingly in the first-person voice of an autistic, adult man, Best Boy with its unforgettable portraits of Todd s beloved mother, whose sweet voice still sings from the grave, and a staffer named Raykene, who says that Todd reflects the beauty of His creation is a piercing, achingly funny, finally shattering novel no reader can ever forget.”

My comments:

Eli Gottlieb did a nice job writing in the voice of an autistic man. Seeing the world through the eyes of Todd Aaron was enlightening; it provided insight into what possible thoughts could lead to subsequent behaviors in a man diagnosed with a mental disability. Although we may never know exactly what goes on in someone else’s head or body due to a medical condition or as a result of medications, Best Boy shows us what could be true.

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The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
As per Goodreads:
An international sensation, this hilarious, feel-good novel is narrated by an oddly charming and socially challenged genetics professor on an unusual quest: to find out if he is capable of true love.

Don Tillman, professor of genetics, has never been on a second date. He is a man who can count all his friends on the fingers of one hand, whose lifelong difficulty with social rituals has convinced him that he is simply not wired for romance. So when an acquaintance informs him that he would make a “wonderful” husband, his first reaction is shock. Yet he must concede to the statistical probability that there is someone for everyone, and he embarks upon The Wife Project. In the orderly, evidence-based manner with which he approaches all things, Don sets out to find the perfect partner. She will be punctual and logical—most definitely not a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker, or a late-arriver.

Yet Rosie Jarman is all these things. She is also beguiling, fiery, intelligent—and on a quest of her own. She is looking for her biological father, a search that a certain DNA expert might be able to help her with. Don’s Wife Project takes a back burner to the Father Project and an unlikely relationship blooms, forcing the scientifically minded geneticist to confront the spontaneous whirlwind that is Rosie—and the realization that love is not always what looks good on paper.

The Rosie Project is a moving and hilarious novel for anyone who has ever tenaciously gone after life or love in the face of overwhelming challenges.

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Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson

As per Goodreads:

Reclusive literary legend M. M. “Mimi” Banning has been holed up in her Bel Air mansion for years, but now she’s writing her first book in decades and to ensure timely completion her publisher sends an assistant to monitor her progress. Mimi reluctantly complies—with a few stipulations: No Ivy Leaguers or English majors. Must drive, cook, tidy. Computer whiz. Good with kids. Quiet, discreet, sane.

When Alice Whitley arrives at the Banning mansion, she’s put to work right away—as a full-time companion to Frank, the writer’s eccentric nine-year-old, a boy with the wit of Noël Coward, the wardrobe of a 1930s movie star, and very little in common with his fellow fourth graders.

As she gets to know Frank, Alice becomes consumed with finding out who his father is, how his gorgeous “piano teacher and itinerant male role model” Xander fits into the Banning family equation—and whether Mimi will ever finish that book.

Full of heart and countless only-in-Hollywood moments, Be Frank With Me is a captivating and heartwarming story of an unusual mother and son, and the intrepid young woman who finds herself irresistibly pulled into their unforgettable world.