Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday

This meme used to be hosted by Breaking the Spine and is meant to highlight some great pre-publication books we all can't wait to get our grubby little mitts on.

The Road to Bittersweet by Donna Everhart.

The book is being released by Kensington on December 26, 2017.

Amazon says this about the book: Set in the Carolinas in the 1940s, The Road to Bittersweet is a beautifully written, evocative account of a young woman reckoning not just with the unforgiving landscape, but with the rocky emotional terrain that leads from innocence to wisdom.

For fourteen-year-old Wallis Ann Stamper and her family, life in the Appalachian Mountains is simple and satisfying, though not for the tenderhearted. While her older sister, Laci—a mute, musically gifted savant—is constantly watched over and protected, Wallis Ann is as practical and sturdy as her name. When the Tuckasegee River bursts its banks, forcing them to flee in the middle of the night, those qualities save her life. But though her family is eventually reunited, the tragedy opens Wallis Ann’s eyes to a world beyond the creek that’s borne their name for generations.

Carrying what’s left of their possessions, the Stampers begin another perilous journey from their ruined home to the hill country of South Carolina. Wallis Ann’s blossoming friendship with Clayton, a high diving performer for a traveling show, sparks a new opportunity, and the family joins as a singing group. But Clayton’s attention to Laci drives a wedge between the two sisters. As jealousy and betrayal threaten to accomplish what hardship never could—divide the family for good—Wallis Ann makes a decision that will transform them all in unforeseeable ways . . .

Monday, December 11, 2017

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is hosted by Kathryn at Reading Date.

Books I completed this past week are:

Wicked Weeds by Pedro Cabiya
The Center of the World by Jacqueline Sheehan
The Children's Crusade by Ann Packer

Bookmarks are still living in the middle of:

The Lake House by Kate Morton
A Manual For Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin
The Beauty of the End by Debbie Howells
Country of Red Azaleas by Domnica Radulescu
A Hard and Heavy Thing by Matthew J. Hefti
Paint Your Wife by Lloyd Jones
The Company They Kept edited by Robert B. Silvers and Barbara Epstein
No One Can Pronounce My Name by Rakesh Satyal
Thousand-Miler by Melanie Radzicki McManus
Dear Fang, With Love by Rufi Thorpe
Close Enough to Touch by Colleen Oakley
America's First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie
Hope Has Two Daughters by Monia Mazigh
After the Bloom by Leslie Shimotakahara
Metis Beach by Claudine Bourbonnais
Smoke by Dan Vyleta
Coco Chanel by Lisa Chaney
The Amazing Story of the Man Who Cycled from India to Europe for Love by Per J. Andersson
The New York Time Footsteps by various authors

Reviews posted this week:

The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan

Books still needing to have reviews written (as opposed to the ones that are simply awaiting posting):

The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman by Denis Theriault
A Loving, Faithful Animal by Josephine Rowe
City Mouse by Stacey Lender
Cutting Back by Leslie Buck
Siracusa by Delia Ephron
The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress by Ariel Lawhon
A Narrow Bridge by J.J. Gersher
The Never-Open Desert Diner by James Anderson
The Heart of Henry Quantum by Pepper Harding
The Hearts of Men by Nickolas Butler
Dance of the Jakaranda by Peter Kimani
How to Survive a Summer by Nick White
Bramton Wick by Elizabeth Fair
The Finishing School by Joanna Goodman
Meet Me in the In-Between by Bella Pollen
All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg
The Island of Books by Dominique Fortier
Lights On, Rats Out by Cree LeFavour
Salt Houses by Hala Alyan
Him, Me, Muhammad Ali by Randa Jarrar
What Are the Blind Men Dreaming? by Noemi Jaffee
Girl in Snow by Danya Kukafka
The Lying Game by Ruth Ware
The Talker by Mary Sojourner
When the Sky Fell Apart by Caroline Lea
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
'Round Midnight by Laura McBride
The German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa
The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See
The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen A. Flynn
Last Things by Marissa Moss
All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai
Civilianized by Michael Anthony
The Redemption of Galen Pike by Carys Davies
In the Woods of Memory by Shun Medoruma
Before the Wind by Jim Lynch
Dinner with Edward by Isabel Vincent
Inhabited by Charlie Quimby
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
One Good Mama Bone by Bren McClain
The Excellent Lombards by Jane Hamilton
You and I and Someone Else by Anna Schachner
Meantime by Katharine Noel
The Portrait by Antoine Laurain
So Much Blue by Perceval Everett
The Velveteen Daughter by Laurel Davis Huber
Mothers and Other Strangers by Gina Sorell
This Must Be the Place by Maggie O'Farrell
How to Find Love in a Bookshop by Veronica Henry
Between Them by Richard Ford
Kinship of Clover by Ellen Meeropol
The Life She Was Given by Ellen Marie Wiseman
The Clay Girl by Heather Tucker
Morningstar by Ann Hood
Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran
Song of Two Worlds by Alan Lightman
The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne
Old Herbaceous by Reginald Arkell
The Original Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig
A Season of Ruin by Anna Bradley
Incontinent on the Continent by Jane Christmas
We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter
Broccoli and Other Tales of Food and Love by Lara Vapnyar
Sourdough by Robin Sloane
A Paris All Your Own edited by Eleanor Brown
The Rook by Daniel O'Malley
Living the Dream by Lauren Berry
Lawyer for the Dog by Lee Robinson
Lily and the Octopus by Stephen Rowley
Beginner's Guide to a Head-On Collision by Sebastian Matthews
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
A Well-Made Bed by Abby Frucht and Laurie Alberts
The Book Jumper by Mechthild Glaser
From Here to Eternity by Caitlin Doughty
Less by Andrew Sean Greer
Shelter by Jung Yun
Books for Living by Will Schwalbe
The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro
Piglettes by Clementine Beauvais
Wicked Weeds by Pedro Cabiya
The Center of the World by Jacqueline Sheehan
The Children's Crusade by Ann Packer

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Review: The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan

When I lose something and cannot find it no matter how long I look, when I finally give up on it and consign it to memory only, it has always comforted me a little to think that the Borrowers, from Mary Norton's classic children's tale, have found it and are using it lovingly. But what if there was a person out there who collected and catalogued lost items with the aim of one day reuniting them with their owners and that person had my own lost object in his or her safe keeping?  It would be comforting to think that my things were still out there, found and cared for, their stories preserved, until the time came for me to find them again.  In a sense, that's the lovely premise of Ruth Hogan's novel, The Keeper of Lost Things.  From a hair bobble to a single glove, a puzzle piece to a small, painted wooden house, these things and more are found and carefully kept, awaiting the day they can be returned to their rightful owners.

Anthony Peardew is an older man, once a celebrated author, who has lived alone for forty years in a magical sort of house, having lost Therese, the love of his life shortly before their wedding. After Therese's death he realized he'd lost the small communion medallion she gave him to always keep them connected and although he didn't find the small and meaningful charm, it inspired him to collect and safeguard other people's lost treasures. In his twilight years, he hires Laura, damaged and adrift after her divorce, to be his housekeeper and personal assistant, warning her to never go into his locked study. Never tempted to defy this order, she works contentedly for him for a handful of years. After his death, she is surprised to discover that he's left the house and all of his possessions to her. His major request accompanying this bequest is that she now go into the study, behold the immense, carefully catalogued collection of lost items he's found over the years and attempt to return them to their owners because if even one item's return will ease a broken heart, it will all have been worth it. As Laura slowly ventures out of her self-imposed isolation and befriends first Sunshine, a young woman in the neighborhood with Down's Syndrome and a special sensitivity to the things and vibrations around us that others never feel, and then Freddy, Anthony's gardener, she has to figure out how best to find the lovingly kept items' original owners, how to placate the ghost of Therese, who still haunts the house, and how to open her own heart to all the possibilities of living life to the fullest. In a parallel narrative, a young woman named Eunice applies for a job at a small publisher and promptly falls for her handsome boss, Bomber, becoming his best friend and confidante but never anything more. She devotes her life to loving Bomber knowing that he loves her back only Platonically.

The vast majority of the story is focused on Anthony, the past that led him to be the keeper of lost things, and then on Laura, who is herself very clearly one of Anthony's lost things. Each of the inanimate items highlighted in the book is given its own short story, but whether it is one written by Anthony or one contained in the item itself is left to the reader to decide.  In order to cut some of the sweetness of the premise of the novel as a whole, these object stories veer from heartwarming to serious to desperately sad. There is a fair bit of humor woven into the novel to leaven it too. My favorite being after Laura hears neighborhood gossips in a local pub speculating on why Anthony left her the house. As she walks past their table leaving the pub, she informs them it was because of "Fellatio on Fridays." The fact that one of these nasty Nellys doesn't even know what this means makes it that much more entertaining. There are only very light touches (and a few hidden clues) almost connecting the story of Anthony with the story of Eunice and Bomber for the majority of the story and although they come together well in the end, a little more explicitness might not have been amiss so that the reader wasn't confused as to why these very different tales were together from the start. Both are thematically similar though, focused as they are on caring for and supporting those around you, accepting them for who they are and the struggles they face, and loving people, dogs, and the important bits and bobs of their life to the very end. Although there is a wistful sort of quality to the novel, it would be a perfect novel for those who are looking for a book to counter the dysfunction and unhappiness of so much of current literature. In the end, it is that elusive book that leaves a warm glow in its wake without resorting to sappiness or cliche. Very much a novel of love and loss, compassion and redemption, this is a gentle, charming, and thoroughly worthwhile read.

For more information about Ruth Hogan and the book, check out her website, like her on Facebook or Twitter, or follow her on Instagram. Check out the book's Goodreads page, follow the rest of the blog tour, or look at the amazon reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.
Thanks to Trish from TLC Book Tours and Harper Collins for inspiring me to pull this off my shelf sooner rather than later.

Monday, December 4, 2017

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is hosted by Kathryn at Reading Date.

Books I completed this past week are:

The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan
The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro
Piglettes by Clementine Beauvais

Bookmarks are still living in the middle of:

The Children's Crusade by Ann Packer
The Lake House by Kate Morton
The Center of the World by Jacqueline Sheehan
A Manual For Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin
The Beauty of the End by Debbie Howells
Country of Red Azaleas by Domnica Radulescu
A Hard and Heavy Thing by Matthew J. Hefti
Paint Your Wife by Lloyd Jones
The Company They Kept edited by Robert B. Silvers and Barbara Epstein
No One Can Pronounce My Name by Rakesh Satyal
Thousand-Miler by Melanie Radzicki McManus
Dear Fang, With Love by Rufi Thorpe
Close Enough to Touch by Colleen Oakley
America's First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie
Hope Has Two Daughters by Monia Mazigh
After the Bloom by Leslie Shimotakahara
Metis Beach by Claudine Bourbonnais
Smoke by Dan Vyleta
Coco Chanel by Lisa Chaney
The Amazing Story of the Man Who Cycled from India to Europe for Love by Per J. Andersson
The New York Time Footsteps by various authors
Wicked Weeds by Pedro Cabiya

Reviews posted this week:

Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki
The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
A Hundred Small Lessons by Ashley Hay

Books still needing to have reviews written (as opposed to the ones that are simply awaiting posting):

The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman by Denis Theriault
A Loving, Faithful Animal by Josephine Rowe
City Mouse by Stacey Lender
Cutting Back by Leslie Buck
Siracusa by Delia Ephron
The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress by Ariel Lawhon
A Narrow Bridge by J.J. Gersher
The Never-Open Desert Diner by James Anderson
The Heart of Henry Quantum by Pepper Harding
The Hearts of Men by Nickolas Butler
Dance of the Jakaranda by Peter Kimani
How to Survive a Summer by Nick White
Bramton Wick by Elizabeth Fair
The Finishing School by Joanna Goodman
Meet Me in the In-Between by Bella Pollen
All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg
The Island of Books by Dominique Fortier
Lights On, Rats Out by Cree LeFavour
Salt Houses by Hala Alyan
Him, Me, Muhammad Ali by Randa Jarrar
What Are the Blind Men Dreaming? by Noemi Jaffee
Girl in Snow by Danya Kukafka
The Lying Game by Ruth Ware
The Talker by Mary Sojourner
When the Sky Fell Apart by Caroline Lea
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
'Round Midnight by Laura McBride
The German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa
The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See
The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen A. Flynn
Last Things by Marissa Moss
All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai
Civilianized by Michael Anthony
The Redemption of Galen Pike by Carys Davies
In the Woods of Memory by Shun Medoruma
Before the Wind by Jim Lynch
Dinner with Edward by Isabel Vincent
Inhabited by Charlie Quimby
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
One Good Mama Bone by Bren McClain
The Excellent Lombards by Jane Hamilton
You and I and Someone Else by Anna Schachner
Meantime by Katharine Noel
The Portrait by Antoine Laurain
So Much Blue by Perceval Everett
The Velveteen Daughter by Laurel Davis Huber
Mothers and Other Strangers by Gina Sorell
This Must Be the Place by Maggie O'Farrell
How to Find Love in a Bookshop by Veronica Henry
Between Them by Richard Ford
Kinship of Clover by Ellen Meeropol
The Life She Was Given by Ellen Marie Wiseman
The Clay Girl by Heather Tucker
Morningstar by Ann Hood
Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran
Song of Two Worlds by Alan Lightman
The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne
Old Herbaceous by Reginald Arkell
The Original Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig
A Season of Ruin by Anna Bradley
Incontinent on the Continent by Jane Christmas
We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter
Broccoli and Other Tales of Food and Love by Lara Vapnyar
Sourdough by Robin Sloane
A Paris All Your Own edited by Eleanor Brown
The Rook by Daniel O'Malley
Living the Dream by Lauren Berry
Lawyer for the Dog by Lee Robinson
Lily and the Octopus by Stephen Rowley
Beginner's Guide to a Head-On Collision by Sebastian Matthews
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
A Well-Made Bed by Abby Frucht and Laurie Alberts
The Book Jumper by Mechthild Glaser
From Here to Eternity by Caitlin Doughty
Less by Andrew Sean Greer
Shelter by Jung Yun
Books for Living by Will Schwalbe
The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan
The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro
Piglettes by Clementine Beauvais

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Review: A Hundred Small Lessons by Ashley Hay

Life transitions are hard. Good ones and sad ones, they are all stressful and loaded with emotion. Having a child is a big life change. So is moving homes. Both disrupt life and force change. Characters in Ashley Hay's new novel, A Hundred Small Lessons, are facing major life changes and taking stock of their lives in this lovely, quiet, character driven, domestic novel.

When elderly Elsie Gormley falls and breaks a hip, her children, in their seventies themselves, decide that after rehab she can't return to the house she's lived alone in for thirty-seven years, instead placing her in a local retirement home. Cut adrift from the house that carried the memories of most of her life, her marriage, her motherhood, and her widowhood, she starts to drift between past and present in her mind, losing her place in the present and reality slowly, so slowly. Lucy Kiss, her husband Ben, and their one year old son Tom have moved to Brisbane, the city of Ben's childhood, buying Elsie's home. Although they have lived all over the world, Lucy really struggles with the move to Brisbane, the distance from her family, and motherhood suddenly being her only job. As Lucy tries to settle in and make Elsie's house her own, she conjures up the old woman, whom she has never met, as a sort of touchstone or imagined friend. In fact, Lucy is certain that Elsie has come back to the house to watch her several times, a fixation Ben finds ridiculous and frustrating.

The story moves from Lucy's present to Elsie's remembering of the life she spent in the house with husband Clem and twins Don and Elaine. The switches in narrative focus are often triggered by Lucy finding something of Elsie's or of thinking that Elsie has looked in on the house. There is a slow and mesmerizing feel to the narrative as it focuses on snapshots of ordinary life and the small moments of that life. Both Lucy and Elsie face struggles with motherhood: Lucy with the isolation and vulnerability of raising a child and Elsie with the relationship she never could seem to get right with her daughter Elaine. The intersections and parallels, as well as the divergences, of Elsie and Lucy's lives weave throughout the novel, forming the backbone of the minimal plot. The writing here is lyrical and moody and the setting is beautifully evoked in all of its wet and close glory. A meditation on aging, motherhood, house as home, and the passing of time, this is a deep and nostalgic read.

For more information about Ashley Hay and the book, check out her website or like her on Facebook. Check out the book's Goodreads page, follow the rest of the blog tour, or look at the amazon reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.
Thanks to Lisa from TLC Book Tours for sending me a copy of this book to review.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Review: The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

Thrillers are not my usual reading choice. In fact, I don't think I've ever read one that I haven't been pushed to in one way or another. The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware, billed as the next Girl on the Train, would definitely not ever have been on my radar if my book club hadn't chosen it as our monthly book. And because I try to let book club push me out of my usual reading (sometimes), I gamely picked this up.  Sadly, it confirmed that thrillers are not the genre for me.

Laura (Lo) Blacklock is a travel writer who can't quite commit all the way to her relationship with her boyfriend, Judah. Already struggling emotionally, Lo wakes up one night convinced that she isn't alone in her apartment. She's right. Traumatized by this terrifying home invasion, she jumps at the chance to get away by taking her boss's place on the maiden voyage of the Aurora, an exclusive luxury cruise ship traveling through the Norwegian fjords. The cruise ship only has ten guest cabins and is meant as an experience for the super rich after this first press junket. Still anxious and on edge as a result of the break-in, Lo is drinking too much and taking anxiety medication. When she hears a scream in the middle of the night and witnesses a person thrown overboard from the balcony beside hers, she is certain she's witnessed a murder. Except no guests or crew members are missing from the ship. Lo can't let it go, certain she saw what she saw, and she presses for an investigation even though, trapped on the ship as they are, the murderer must be among them.

Lo's increasingly paranoid first person account is interrupted every now and again by her boyfriend's worried emails, first to her and then to more and more people. The emails from Judah felt oddly out of place in the plot time line so instead of ramping up the tension, they were easily dismissed by the reader. In theory, given the plot, this novel should have been an amazing, tense, and thrilling tale, right? Well, there are some real problems with it. Although the reason Lo takes anxiety medication is well handled (the previous break-in), the fact that our heroine is constantly drunk to the point of being sick and is completely incautious about throwing around her murder theory, bumbling through an investigation, such as it is, make the story less intense. Sure, she's panicked and on edge after her own pre-cruise experience, but would a woman who is that traumatized seriously push back that hard on a murder no one else can corroborate? Add this unlikely scenario to the fact that Lo as a character is whiny and irritating and has zero aptitude as an investigator and you have a very unlikable, questionable main character. Lo may not be able to figure out the murderer until her back is against the wall, but the reader knows almost from their introduction on the page who it will be.

There were small irritants as well like Lo seeing the ship for the first time at the docks and noting how surprisingly small it was but then each and every time she entered a room on the boat, she remarked on how spacious it was, also commenting on the idea that she could get lost below decks. So was the boat large or small? It can't be both at once. And the coincidences. Puh-lease!  (spoiler ahead--highlight the following blank if you want to see the text.)  The guest who was supposed to be in cabin 10 stayed home because he too had a break-in occur at his house. Really? Worse yet, this is just coincidence and has nothing to do with the plot. One break in to establish a mental state works. A second one just to keep a character from appearing in the story, well honestly, that feels sloppy on the author's part. There's no other credible reason someone might skip a cruise? ::sigh:: On the plus side, there was a rising sense of claustrophobia that would be likely when you're trapped on a boat with a murderer and there's no phone or wifi to contact the outside world (although again, most boats nowadays use satellites to navigate so she really couldn't get a signal on her phone, ever?). And if the murderer was never in question, the actual details of the crime were in fact surprising, unlikely and out of the blue, but surprising nevertheless. Because of the first person narration, there were long repetitious stretches where we are told Lo's suspicions and then she repeats them again to the crew member assigned to help her question the crew in an unneeded by the reader second telling. The ending of the novel was frustrating (Lo's dimwittedness was on display again) and stretched belief (another spoiler ahead) (she plunged into the water forty feet--yes, forty feet *under* water--and had zero repercussions as she struggled to surface? That's five atmospheres down. Not a depth I'd want to hit without a decompression stop on the way up). Quite honestly the worst thing about this book for book club was that there was nothing in the book to discuss as a group so we were reduced to nitpicking at things like this.  And others had other details that bothered them.  Even before the meeting though, it hadn't been the most enjoyable read for me. But I am not a thriller reader. Perhaps those who enjoy the genre will have more success with this than I did if they can overlook the crazy plot holes, coincidences, and inaccuracies.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of the book for review.

Waiting on Wednesday

This meme is hosted by Breaking the Spine and is meant to highlight some great pre-publication books we all can't wait to get our grubby little mitts on.

No Time to Spare by Ursula K. LeGuin.

The book is being released by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on December 5, 2017.

Amazon says this about the book: Ursula K. Le Guin on the absurdity of denying your age: “If I’m ninety and believe I’m forty-five, I’m headed for a very bad time trying to get out of the bathtub.”

On cultural perceptions of fantasy: “The direction of escape is toward freedom. So what is ‘escapism’ an accusation of?”

On breakfast: “Eating an egg from the shell takes not only practice, but resolution, even courage, possibly willingness to commit crime.”

Ursula K. Le Guin has taken readers to imaginary worlds for decades. Now she’s in the last great frontier of life, old age, and exploring new literary territory: the blog, a forum where her voice—sharp, witty, as compassionate as it is critical—shines. No Time to Spare collects the best of Ursula’s online writing, presenting perfectly crystallized dispatches on what matters to her now, her concerns with this world, and her unceasing wonder at it: “How rich we are in knowledge, and in all that lies around us yet to learn. Billionaires, all of us.”

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