Wednesday, August 23, 2017

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.

The Resurrection of Joan Ashby by Cherise Wolas.

The book is being released by Flatiron Books on August 29, 2017.

Amazon says this about the book: I viewed the consumptive nature of love as a threat to serious women. But the wonderful man I just married believes as I do―work is paramount, absolutely no children―and now love seems to me quite marvelous.

These words are spoken to a rapturous audience by Joan Ashby, a brilliant and intense literary sensation acclaimed for her explosively dark and singular stories.

When Joan finds herself unexpectedly pregnant, she is stunned by Martin’s delight, his instant betrayal of their pact. She makes a fateful, selfless decision then, to embrace her unintentional family.

Challenged by raising two precocious sons, it is decades before she finally completes her masterpiece novel. Poised to reclaim the spotlight, to resume the intended life she gave up for love, a betrayal of Shakespearean proportion forces her to question every choice she has made.

Epic, propulsive, incredibly ambitious, and dazzlingly written, The Resurrection of Joan Ashby is a story about sacrifice and motherhood, the burdens of expectation and genius. Cherise Wolas’s gorgeous debut introduces an indelible heroine candid about her struggles and unapologetic in her ambition.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Review: What's My Pee Telling Me by Josh Richman and Anish Sheth

I snickered when What's Your Poo Telling You appeared in my husband's Christmas stocking several years ago but when I picked it up and read it, I found it funny and informative and perfect for bathroom reading. When I saw that Richman and Sheth had a second book in the series, I knew the bathroom bookshelf had found another perfect inhabitant. The format of book number two, named for number one, is similar to the first book in that it is made up of short bits, small tidbits, and interesting side notes. There's not nearly as much on pee as there was on poo so instead of being focused entirely on pee, there are sections on poo (new info) and farts as well. I may be too much of a twelve year old boy but I don't typically find pee as funny as poo (a phenomenon the authors acknowledge) and I truly laughed fewer times than during the first book. In fact, I don't think I laughed until I hit the fart section, which says a lot more about my maturity level than anything else, I suspect. Although if pressed I'd choose the first book over this one, What's My Pee Telling Me? still had some interesting facts (do you know the two smells that urine can have and why or why men have such poor aim in the bathroom?) and makes for informative reading when you are perched on the throne.

Monday, August 21, 2017

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is hosted by Kathryn at Reading Date. I've lost all track of everything given that I just got back from a summer long vacation with family and have bags of stuff strewn all over everywhere. I came home to a house falling down around my ears (kitchen torn apart to fix a toilet leak behind the drywall so kitchen contents all over the house, mold on bathroom ceilings and weeping woodwork from who knows what source, cracked bookshelves that had to be evacuated of their contents, and now a strong smell of burning rubber in some parts of the house which the fire department swears isn't actually caused by anything they can find via thermal imaging camera). And as if that wasn't enough, I had to move the two oldest back to college yesterday as well so I've got the detritus of their leaving all over everywhere as well. So this might be for one week or maybe two; it's even possible it's for the past three. I don't even know anymore!

Books I completed this past week are:

Whispering in French by Sophia Nash
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
The Sworn Virgin by Kristopher Dukes
Between Them by Richard Ford

Bookmarks are still living in the middle of:

A Well-Made Bed by Abby Frucht and Laurie Alberts
The Children's Crusade by Ann Packer
The Lake House by Kate Morton
Shelter by Jung Yun
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
Lily and the Octopus by Stephen Rowley
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
The Clay Girl by Heather Tucker
Kinship of Clover by Ellen Meeropol

Reviews posted this week:

Make Trouble by John Waters
Whispering in French by Sophia Nash
The Sworn Virgin by Kristopher Dukes

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

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso
To Love the Coming End by Leanne Dunic
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
Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki
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
The Long Run by Catriona Menzies-Pike
You and I and Someone Else by Anna Schachner
Meantime by Katharine Noel
The Portrait by Antoine Laurain
So Much Blue by Perceval Everett
Good Karma by Christina Kelly
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

Monday Mailbox

This past week's mailbox arrivals:

Cocoa Beach by Beatriz Williams came from William Morrow.

I've read the previous linked novels by Williams so I am looking forward to this finale to the story, this one set in Prohibition era Florida.

The Girl With Kaleidoscope Eyes by David Handler came from William Morrow and TLC Book Tours for a blog tour.

A mystery story with a one-hit-wonder author, now ghostwriter, and his basset hound as the sleuths, centered around a disappeared author and his long estranged daughters, this sounds intriguing for sure.

A Hundred Small Lessons by Ashley Hay came from Atria Books.

I just love well done intertwined stories so this one about an elderly woman who has moved out of her house and the young couple who have moved in looks completely and totally up my alley.

A Paris All Your Own edited by Eleanor Brown came from Putnam.

A collection of personal essays on Paris by some of the most popular writers writing today. Need I say more on why I want to read it?

Who Is Rich? by Matthew Klam came from Random House and LibraryThing Early Reviewers.

A novel about an unhappily married woman and a sort of famous cartoonist who are having an affair at a summer arts conference, this should be an interesting look into the business of academia and a fascinating examination of marriage and art. I'm also curious about the strange cover, but that might just be me!

The Art of Failing by Anthony McGowan came from Oneworld and LibraryThing Early Reviewers.

How can you not want to read a book that purports to be about a man, his marriage, and his daily failures? This is supposed to be a comedic novel and I'm always pleased for some levity in my reading.

If you want to see the marvelous goodies in other people's mailboxes, make sure to visit Mailbox Monday and have fun seeing how we are all doing our part to keep the USPS and delivery services viable.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Review: The Sworn Virgin by Kristopher Dukes

There have been many strong women throughout history but often their stories or circumstances have been lost with time. One tradition of strong women that I had never heard of before was the tradition of Albanian sworn virgins. When a woman declared herself a sworn virgin, she vowed to stay chaste and take on the persona of a man, giving her an unusual amount of control over her own life in the patriarchal society in which she lived. Kristopher Dukes' new novel, The Sworn Virgin, imagines the life of one young woman who takes this vow.

Eleanora is the beloved only child of her father. She frequently accompanies him on his travels to heal others but her true love is art and drawing. She has never learned to cook and keep house, leaving all of the traditionally feminine jobs to Meria, the stepmother who raised her. Her dream is to go to art school in Italy but that dream dies when her father is killed in an honor killing and she is left alone in the world with only her stepmother, living in a mountain village where she has never quite fit in. The two women struggle to survive, coming close to starvation.  In a bid to provide a better life for both of them, Meria ultimately sells Eleanora in marriage to a brutal, local man.  As her only escape from this unwanted marriage, Eleanora declares herself a sworn virgin. This gives her the ability to support herself and Meria, avenge her father's murder, and gives her the status of a man. But her life is not made easier by her new status and she resolves to run away, abandoning the stepmother she now detests to her fate, until she discovers a gravely injured man. Returning home with Cheremi, she works to heal him and eventually falls in love with him, dangerously jeopardizing her sworn virgin status.

The novel reads as if it was two different stories. First it is the tale of a spoiled but strong willed young woman who loved her father and appreciated stepmother, even if she took her freedoms for granted. Then there's the brief bridge of Eleanora's sworn virgin status. And finally, there's a romance that strips all of her hard earned strength from her character. The first section is quite slow and full of exposition. The bridge is short and not fully developed despite it being the most interesting part of Eleanora's story. The third section, focused on the romance, is the least interesting piece of the tale and yet it seems to draw out the longest. Eleanora's character seems changeable, but not in a particularly good way. She goes from spoiled but generally loving, to autocratic and hateful towards her stepmother without even pausing to try and understand the motivations of this woman who has loved and cared for her for almost her entire life, finally becoming subservient and trapped by her relationship with Cheremi. Only in the end is there any glimpse of the forged steel backbone that she wielded so dictatorially over Meria. And although this might sound like a criticism of a strong woman, suggesting that she be softer and more accommodating, it really isn't. She's an unsympathetic character in every incarnation. Her whiplash changes in personality dependent on whether she is wearing men's or women's clothing feels too conveniently symbolic.  Meria too is anything but consistent as a character going from loving to resentful and angry in no time flat.  The romance as a whole is not particularly believable and Cheremi's character is not fleshed out beyond his good looks and his obsession with finding his brother's killer giving the reader very little indication why Eleanora would rush into calling him her soul. Not exactly the story of a woman saved by a man, but not as far off as I had hoped when learning about the custom of sworn virgins, I wished for a grander story for Eleanora and a coming into her own as a woman choosing her own path. Although I did not, others seem to have found this in the book so readers curious about the custom of sworn virgins or life in the mountains in Albania in the early 1900s and other historical fiction fans might want to give this a try.

For more information about Kristopher Dukes and the book, 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 Trish from TLC Book Tours and Harper Collins for sending me a copy of this book to review.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

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.

Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin.

The book is being released by Algonquin Books on August 22, 2017.

Amazon says this about the book: From the author of the international bestseller The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry comes another novel that will have everyone talking.

Aviva Grossman, an ambitious congressional intern in Florida, makes the mistake of having an affair with her boss--and blogging about it. When the affair comes to light, the beloved congressman doesn’t take the fall. But Aviva does, and her life is over before it hardly begins: slut-shamed, she becomes a late-night talk show punch line, anathema to politics.

She sees no way out but to change her name and move to a remote town in Maine. This time, she tries to be smarter about her life and strives to raise her daughter, Ruby, to be strong and confident. But when, at the urging of others, Aviva decides to run for public office herself, that long-ago mistake trails her via the Internet and catches up--an inescapable scarlet A. In the digital age, the past is never, ever, truly past. And it’s only a matter of time until Ruby finds out who her mother was and is forced to reconcile that person with the one she knows.

Young Jane Young is a smart, funny, and moving novel about what it means to be a woman of any age, and captures not just the mood of our recent highly charged political season, but also the double standards alive and well in every aspect of life for women.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Review: Whispering in French by Sophia Nash

Family can be the source of great joy but also great frustration and we don’t always know what we want to do with the history and legacy they place on our shoulders. Sometimes we think we know and sometimes we feel as if we have no choice, even when that choice is a hard and painful one. Kate Hamilton, in Sophia Nash’s new novel, Whispering in French, is faced with just such a painful task when she goes back to France at her mother’s behest to try and convince her elderly grandfather to sell the ancient, crumbling family villa.

Kate is half French and half American and she hasn’t been to France in years. A psychologist, she is considered the practical one in the family despite the shambles her own life is in. She’s left a terrible marriage and her teenaged daughter is estranged from her but it seems her most pressing problem is getting her grandfather Jean to agree to sell Madeleine Marie, the birthright of the Du Roque family for generations, perched precariously on a seaside cliff above a Basque village.  To the locals, although Kate's mother Antoinette grew up there, Kate is not quite considered “one of them” but an American and an outsider. She's not just an outsider in the town though, she's an outsider in her own life, unable or unwilling to look inside her own heart to find the woman behind the professional mask. As she tries to figure out the financial situation and navigate her family, her own guilt, and the bureaucracy of the town, she consults with Magdali, the loyal and trusted housekeeper with whom Kate once played as a child, and counsels the nephew of a long-time neighbor. Major Soames is a former soldier suffering from PTSD and shutting his family out of his life. His conversations with Kate (he's not really a patient) eventually lead her to face her own demons and to risk taking her own mask off.

The novel is told in the first person so that the reader really sees Kate’s insecurities and avoidance techniques. She even addresses the reader early on and acknowledges that this is a story she’s telling, an odd choice since the narration never breaks this wall again. In addition to Kate's telling of the story, there are brief "Whispers From the Garden" chapters interspersed into the narrative and these are focused mainly on an anthropomorphic hedgehog and cat. These chapters feel completely out of place, cutesy, and rather twee, even if the cat is necessary to the plot much later in the book. There are many plot threads here and more are added as the novel progresses but this constant addition of new and unexpected story lines, including surprising revelations about Kate's family, means that several of them are not developed terribly deeply. The main thread, though, is that of Kate's opening up and embracing risk while coming to know her true self, allowing that self to shine. Given the slow pacing of the novel, it takes rather a long time for her to get there, but get there she does. The general story is an interesting one but the ending feels unrealistic and unresolved although interestingly it does circle back to the otherwise seemingly unrelated prologue and the first chapter. Despite these flaws, Kate's transformation and the setting of the novel are both satisfying. I didn't like this as much as I'd hoped (especially as I've enjoyed Nash's Regency set historical romances) but it was a fine way to spend a couple of hours of reading time.

For more information about Sophia Nash and the book, check out her website, like her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter. 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 sending me a copy of this book to review.

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