Wednesday, March 14, 2018

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.

Chasing the Sun by Katy Colins.

The book is being released by HQ on April 24, 2018.

Amazon says this about the book: Georgia Green is on the conveyor belt to happiness.

Live-in boyfriend, perfect career and great friends, it seems like Georgia is only a Tiffany box away from her happily ever after. But when she arrives in Australia for her best friend’s wedding and is faced with the bridezilla from hell, she starts to realise that she might not want the cookie-cutter ending she thought.

What was meant to be a trip full of sunny days at the beach and wedding planning over cocktails, has turned into another problem for her to fix – just like the ones she’d left behind. With hardly any time for her boyfriend, let alone herself, it feels like there is just too much to juggle. It might be time for Georgia to step off the conveyor belt to find the balance in life and see if she really can have it all…

Monday, March 12, 2018

Review: I'll Be Your Blue Sky by Marisa de los Santos

There are many ways to describe the person you love. Love of your life. Soul mate. True love. The peanut butter to your jelly. Your home and your heart. Or you could call them, like Marisa de los Santos does in her newest novel, your blue sky. This third novel in a trilogy, albeit one that stands alone just fine, is an examination of love and family, sanctuary and doing right.

Opening in 1950 on Edith and Joseph Herron's wedding day, Edith remembers walking into the warmth and comfort of the beautiful home that her new husband has bought for the two of them in a small Delaware beach town. Joseph is Edith's soul mate, her comfort, and her anchor. He is her blue sky and their home is appropriately called Blue Sky House. In the present day, Clare Hobbes is preparing for her wedding to fiance Zach when she confides her unease about their future to her mother and dear family friend.  But it isn't until the actual day of her wedding when she meets and talks to Edith, now an elderly woman, that she finds the courage to call off the wedding. Several weeks later, she discovers that Edith has passed away and left Clare a lovely home in Delaware. Why Edith left a perfect stranger her home and the mystery that Clare, helped by her best friend and old boyfriend Dev, starts to uncover thanks to a both a ledger of guests of the former guesthouse and to a cryptic shadow ledger for the same time period drive the narrative.

The narrative moves back and forth between Clare's and Edith's stories. The reader discovers things before Clare does so there's some repetition in the telling as Clare and Dev slowly uncover Edith's life. De los Santos does hold back a few details from the 1950s story line so that not everything is revealed twice. Edith is definitely an intriguing character, presented as warm and understanding, and even before she meets Clare in the twilight of her life, she is drawn with a strong moral compass. Clare is very forgiving and compassionate but almost to the point of being infuriating. She not only allows Zach to isolate and suffocate her because she knows how hard he is trying to rise above his family, but she continues to try and placate him even as she occasionally fears his ability to keep his tightly controlled emotions and anger in a healthy place. Dev is magical and the reader wonders how Clare has ever forgotten this. The mystery is not terribly difficult to unravel but Edith's life is fascinating enough that this doesn't matter much. Despite the darkness of abuse captured in this story, ultimately it is one of courage and warmth, uplift and love, always and forever real love. Women's fiction fans, especially those who like a thread of historical fiction running through their stories, will appreciate this warmhearted and satisfying novel.

For more information about Marisa de los Santos and the book, check out her Facebook page 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 prodding me to pull the book off my shelf to review.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is hosted by Kathryn at Reading Date.

Books I completed this past week are:

Daditude by Chris Erskine
I'll Be Your Blue Sky by Marisa de los Santos
In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills by Jennifer Haupt

Bookmarks are still living in the middle of:

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
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
The Resurrection of Joan Ashby by Cherise Wolas
Mean by Myriam Gurba
The Widow Nash by Jamie Harrison
Beautiful Music by Michael Zadoorian

Reviews posted this week:

The Most Dangerous Duke in London by Madeline Hunter
The Hunting Accident by David L. Carlson and Landis Blair
Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton

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

Who Is Rich? by Matthew Klam
Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
Unslut by Emily Lindin
This Far Isn't Far Enough by Lynn Sloan
The Hounds of Spring by Lucy Andrews Cummin
Paper Boats by Dee Lestari
The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt
Mothers of Sparta by Dawn Davies
A Handful of Happiness by Massimo Vacchetta and Antonella Tomaselli
Swimming with Elephants by Sarah Bamford Seidelmann
As the Crow Flies by Melanie Gillman
Dates from Hell and Other Places by Elyse Russo
Visible Empire by Hannah Pittard
The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman
Love Hate and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed
A Song for the River by Philip Connors
Daditude by Chris Erskine
I'll Be Your Blue Sky by Marisa de los Santos
In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills by Jennifer Haupt

Monday Mailbox

This past week's mailbox arrivals:

The Flicker of Old Dreams by Susan Henderson came from Harper Perennial.

There's something enticing about small town stories so this one about a dying town, a woman who stayed there to take over the family mortuary business, and the younger brother blamed for his star athlete brother's death years ago who has now returned to town to care for his mother should be completely engrossing.

How to Walk Away by Katherine Center came from St. Martin's Press.

I do like stories where someone's life changes in an instant and they are pushed to find the strength to become a new person so this one should suit me perfectly.

Half Gods by Akil Kumarasamy came from FSG.

Sri Lanka fascinates me. Linked short stories make me happy. This has a ton of promise!

The Subway Girls by Susie Orman Schnall came from St. Martin's Griffin.

Since I once flirted with a career in advertising, this story about a 1949 Miss Subways contestant and a modern day advertising executive whose stories come together really hits direct center in my interests.

The Removes by Tatjana Soli came from Sarah Crichton Books/FSG.

Soli's last novel was amazing so I can't wait to crack this one about the early days of the west, Custer's wife, and a young white woman who lives as a member of the Cheyenne tribe open.

Suicide Club by Rachel Heng came from Henry Holt.

I don't think I'd want to live forever but the concept is interesting enough that I am completely curious about this novel about a woman who could live forever or could choose to live her life but then also die.

The Summer I Met Jack by Michelle Gable came from Sarah Crichton Books/FSG.

A novel about a woman who had a summer romance with JFK when she worked for his family and the effect that one summer had on her life even as she moved on, this promises to be fascinating indeed.

The Patchwork Bride by Sandra Dallas came from Minotaur.

I've liked other Sandra Dallas book so I am looking forward to this one about a woman who goes west to find love and marriage.

Nothing Good Can Come of This by Kristi Coulter came from MCDxFSG Originals.

Essays from an author who gave up drinking and noticed that her perspective on all sorts of things changed as a result, this looks really cool.

The Lost for Words Bookshop by Stephanie Butland came from Thomas Dunne Books.

About an introverted character working in a bookshop who has unexpected people and deliveries come into her life, how could I not want to read this one?!

Meet Me at the Museum by Anne Youngson came from Flatiron Books.

An epistolary novel about a Danish museum curator and a British farm wife who write to each other about the famous Tollund Man and come to know and care for each other through their letters, be still my heart!

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.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Review: Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton

Apocalyptic novels are not usually my thing. But one of my favorite booksellers recommended this to me with the caveat that it was more of a slow, quiet character driven novel than anything. And I'm so glad I gave this novel a chance because it was an unusual and strangely hypnotic look at the transitory nature of life and the importance and strength of connection.

78 year old Augustine is the lone researcher left at an Arctic station. He refused to evacuate with everyone else a year prior, intent on staying to continue his work and to solidify his scientific legacy. He hasn't heard from anyone since refusing transport. It seems as if the whole Earth has gone silent. In fact, he hasn't talked to anyone except a slightly feral young girl named Iris who was apparently left behind during the evacuation by mistake. Now it is only the two of them together in the harsh and unforgiving landscape, left to fend for themselves without any contact with the wider world or any knowledge of what might have happened out there. Iris tethers Augustine to humanity and it is for her sake and her future that he continues to scan for anyone out there with whom to make contact, even as he reflects on his past, knowing that his own future is short.

Sully is an astronaut traveling back to Earth with her colleagues after a mission to Jupiter that lasted two years. She and her colleagues are disturbed and apprehensive when their communications from Earth go silent but they can still hear all of the extraneous space chatter from satellites all over the universe, suggesting the problem is with Earth and not with their ship. The six astronauts have no choice but to continue on towards an unsettling unknown. As they travel onward, Sully has the chance to examine her relationship with her late mother, her ex-husband, and the young daughter she willingly left behind to go on this two year space journey. And as everyone on the ship retreats to deal with their fears over what might have happened on Earth to cause this communications blackout, Sully looks into the very heart of who she and each of her fellow travelers is.

The two narrative threads, one in the heavens above and one firmly planted on Earth, seem unrelated as they go back and forth, existing in parallel, only coming together late in the story. As the story progresses, the reader, like the characters, doesn't have any knowledge of what has happened on Earth, making this a novel of the present and the past with an unknowable future. It is very much a slow smolder of a novel. The vastness of silence reverberates through each scene and situation but even so there remains a strong connection to the idea of something greater than us, to space, to the natural world, to love. There is a powerfully quiet, melancholic feel to the writing as both Sully and Augustine examine their pasts within the quiet desperation of their individual presents. The reader will expect the reveal but the ending remains perfect, veering away from the accustomed to something much more fitting and in keeping with the overall tone of the novel. Dreamlike and introspective, this was not a quick read but its reflections on the importance of relationship, our bonds with others, the uncertainty of the future, and the examination of regret and isolation made it an absorbing read.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Review: The Hunting Accident by David L. Carlson and Landis Blair

When I am asked what I like to read, I generally tell people that it's easier to share what I don't like to read since my actual reading is so randomly eclectic. That said, one of the few areas of the bookstore/library that I steer clear of on a regular basis is the true crime section. Another area is that of graphic novels and memoirs. And a third is poetry. The Hunting Accident is the both of the first two with sections of the third. So what gives, right?  Why on earth did I ever pick this up and read it?  Sometimes people I trust can get me to edge out of my comfort zone just a little bit and this is one of those rare times.  Although I still won't be searching out those sections of the bookstore, it was interesting indeed to read something so unlike my usual choices.

Charlie Rizzo is just a young boy when his mother and grandmother take him from Chicago to California. After his mother's death, Charlie, still young, goes back to Chicago and his father. He has to adjust to a whole new life, not the least of which is his father's blindness, ostensibly a result of a youthful hunting accident, and the way that this disability makes Charlie his father's caretaker in ways that he comes to resent as he grows. As Charlie gets older, he falls in with a bad group of kids and starts heading down a path that has no good end and very probably only ends in jail time or worse. It is to this defiant but still pliable son on the cusp of adulthood that Matt Rizzo finally tells the real story of his blindness, what shaped him into the man he became, and continued to impact and change his life, including his marriage, long after the events were past.

Growing up in Chicago's Little Italy, Matt Rizzo was blinded not in a hunting accident but during a job for the Mob. Newly blind and increasingly depressed, he ends up in Stateville Prison in special housing with a notorious and terrifying cellmate: Nathan Leopold of Leopold and Loeb fame.  (Note that the murder these two committed was grisly and horrifying so you may or may not want to look it up.) Oddly enough, his association with this infamous sociopath leads him to learn braille and to discover the power of reading and writing. And ultimately he bequeaths his story and his lifetime of writing to his son Charlie in the hopes that this information will help turn Charlie around and that Charlie will keep his story alive.

This is an enormous book, break your wrist enormous and I'm not entirely convinced it needs to be so long. The illustrations are black and white and covered in tiny cross-hatchings that contribute to a feeling of darkness, bleakness, and despair. But this is more than just the black tale of Matt Rizzo's crime and punishment, it is also at its heart the story of parenting, of a father and son trying to come together, of a father wanting a different life for his son, a better life. The stories contained in it expand outward, each framed by another and another, all tied thematically, explicitly and not explicitly, to Dante's Inferno, chronicling both Dante and Matt Rizzo's journeys through Hell. There are pieces of Matt's own writing included in the text and while it is understandable why they were included, they are rather baffling bits of writing. On the whole, Charlie's story is less interesting than his father's so the book is slow going until Matt finds it necessary to tell Charlie his own life story, at which point it picks up. Over all, I appreciate the idea of redemption through literature and of the surprising turn Matt Rizzo's life takes living with Nathan Leopold but the fact that poetry, graphic non-fiction, and true crime are not my bailiwick combined with the unrelenting darkness of the tale and its drawings made me unable to fully appreciate this as so many others have. Looking at other reviews, I am firmly in the minority though so if anything about this book has piqued your interest, by all means do grab a copy and form your own opinions.

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 Balcony by Jane Delury.

The book is being released by Little, Brown and Company on March 27, 2018.

Amazon says this about the book: A century-spanning portrait of the inhabitants of a French village, revealing the deception, despair, love, and longing beneath the calm surface of ordinary lives.

What if our homes could tell the stories of others who lived there before us? Set in a small village near Paris, The Balcony follows the inhabitants of a single estate-including a manor and a servants' cottage-over the course of several generations, from the Belle Époque to the present day, introducing us to a fascinating cast of characters. A young American au pair develops a crush on her brilliant employer. An ex-courtesan shocks the servants, a Jewish couple in hiding from the Gestapo attract the curiosity of the neighbors, and a housewife begins an affair while renovating her downstairs. Rich and poor, young and old, powerful and persecuted, all of these people are seeking something: meaning, love, a new beginning, or merely survival.

Throughout, cross-generational connections and troubled legacies haunt the same spaces, so that the rose garden, the forest pond, and the balcony off the manor's third floor bedroom become silent witnesses to a century of human drama.

In her debut, Jane Delury writes with masterful economy and profound wisdom about growing up, growing old, marriage, infidelity, motherhood - in other words, about life - weaving a gorgeous tapestry of relationships, life-altering choices, and fleeting moments across the frame of the twentieth century. A sumptuous narrative of place that burrows deep into individual lives to reveal hidden regrets, resentments, and desire

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