Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Waiting on Wednesday

This meme was 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. I'm choosing to continue the tradition even though she has stopped.

A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza.

The book is being released by SJP for Hogarth on June 12, 2018.

Amazon says this about the book: As an Indian wedding gathers a family back together, parents Rafiq and Layla must reckon with the choices their children have made.

There is Hadia: their headstrong, eldest daughter, whose marriage is a match of love and not tradition. Huda, the middle child, determined to follow in her sister’s footsteps. And lastly, their estranged son, Amar, who returns to the family fold for the first time in three years to take his place as brother of the bride.

What secrets and betrayals have caused this close-knit family to fracture? Can Amar find his way back to the people who know and love him best?

A Place for Us takes us back to the beginning of this family’s life: from the bonds that bring them together, to the differences that pull them apart. All the joy and struggle of family life is here, from Rafiq and Layla’s own arrival in America from India, to the years in which their children -- each in their own way -- tread between two cultures, seeking to find their place in the world, as well as a path home.

A Place for Us is a book for our times: an astonishingly tender-hearted novel of identity and belonging, and a resonant portrait of what it means to be an American family today. It announces Fatima Farheen Mirza as a major new literary talent.

Monday, May 21, 2018

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Some serious travel/driving time really put a damper on the reading and reviewing. This coming week might not be much (any?) better. This meme is hosted by Kathryn at Reading Date.

Books I completed this past week are:

Sound by Bella Bathurst
Celine by Peter Heller
Cocoa Beach by Beatriz Williams

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
The Wangs Vs. the World by Jade Chang
The Bottom of the Sky by Rodrigo Fresan
One House Over by Mary Monroe
The Taster by V.S. Alexander
Postcards from the Canyon by Lisa Gitlin
Burntown by Jennifer McMahon
Everything She Didn't Say by Jane Kirkpatrick
The Girl Who Never Read Noam Chomsky by Jana Casale
In Every Moment We Are Still Alive by Tom Malmquist
The Home for Unwanted Girls by Joanna Goodman

Reviews posted this week:

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt
Two Steps Forward by Graeme Simsion and Anne Buist
Cocoa Beach by Beatriz Williams

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

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
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
In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills by Jennifer Haupt
Beautiful Music by Michael Zadoorian
Still Life with Monkey by Katharine Weber
America for Beginners by Leah Franqui
Vanishing Twins by Lea Dieterich
Tenemental by Vikki Warner
Meet Me at the Museum by Anne Youngson
The Lido by Libby Page
The Invisible Valley by Su Wei
The Last Equation of Isaac Severy by Nova Jacobs
The Showrunner by Kim Mortishugu
I Found My Tribe by Ruth Fitzmaurice
Paris by the Book by Liam Callanan
Terra Nullius by Clare G. Coleman
Christmas in July by Alan Michael Parker
Nothing Forgotten by Jessica Levine
Housegirl by Michael Donkor
Wildwood by Elinor Florence
All Day at the Movies by Fiona Kidman
Weedeater by Robert Gipe
The Mannequin Makers by Craig Cliff
Chemistry by Weike Wang
The Summer Wives by Beatriz Williams
Come Back to the Swamp by Laura Morrison
The Animal Gazer by Edgardo Franzosini
Melmoth by Sarah Perry
Sound by Bella Bathurst
Celine by Peter Heller

Monday Mailbox

It's a nice thing to come home to book mail after being away, even for a week.  This past week's mailbox arrivals:

In Every Moment We Are Still Alive by Tom Malmquist came from me just because.

A gut wrenching novel about a man whose partner is diagnosed with an aggressive and terrible illness while pregnant with their child and how he must handle the terror and bureaucracy both of the hospital and the government after their daughter's premature birth.

The Home for Unwanted Girls by Joanna Goodman came from me just because.

A novel based on true and horrifying history where a young girl gives up her baby for adoption but the child is raised in a psychiatric hospital because they get more money than orphanages. It sounds heartbreaking and crazy (no pun intended).

Inlaws and Outlaws by Kate Fulford came from me just because.

A novel about a feud over a man: his mother doesn't like his girlfriend and will go to any lengths to make sure said girlfriend out of her son's life. Delicious sounding, no?

The Paris Wedding by Charlotte Nash came from William Morrow and TLC Book Tours for a blog tour.

A woman agrees to go to Paris, all expenses paid, to attend her ex-boyfriend's wedding.  Quite the set-up, right? I can't wait!

A View of the Empire at Sunset by Caryl Phillips came from FSG.

A novelization of Jean Rhys' life? Oh yes, please!!!

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.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Review: Cocoa Beach by Beatriz Williams

When I was small, I dreamed up whole worlds, frequently retreating to my bedroom to talk to myself and the characters I created, advancing their stories or changing them to suit my mood. It's been a long time since I did that and I certainly never did it with any kind of thoroughness or maturity. Author Beatriz Williams is still creating worlds and revisiting them but she isn't doing it in the privacy of her room; she's sharing these people and their world with all of us in her novels. Many of her books are interconnected although they aren't properly sequels to each other. Her characters do range in and out of books about each other so reading more than one will give you insider information that enriches the reading experience though. Her latest novel, Cocoa Beach, is definitely a companion novel to A Certain Age and has strong connections to Wicked City as well.

Virginia Fortescue Fitzwilliam leaves New York with her two year old daughter Evelyn after the very public trial and conviction of her father for her mother's long ago murder. As if the one tragedy wasn't enough for this young woman to endure, she must go down to Cocoa Beach, Florida in order to look into and wrap up her estranged late husband's estate. Her husband Simon has perished in a house fire leaving behind a thriving business, a shipping company, an orange plantation, and a hotel. When she gets to Florida though, things are not as straightforward as might be expected and Virginia finds herself uncertain who she can trust.

The novel flips back and forth between 1917 and 1922. In the former, Virginia tells the story of her meeting and romance with Simon in France in the midst of WWI. She's an intrepid American ambulance driver while he's a handsome Cornish surgeon with a complicated background. In the latter story line, Virginia is in Florida with Simon's twin brother Samuel and his sister Clara and perhaps getting too close to dangerous things that she clearly doesn't understand. Her feelings about her husband's character have undergone a complete turnaround from 1917 and 1922 and the reasons why are liberally teased throughout the length of the novel.  But she cannot completely let his memory go, not least because their daughter Eleanor is the love of her life. In fact, she feels betrayed by both her father and her husband, something that makes her question her own judgment. After some of the 1922 chapters are letters written from Simon to Virginia during their almost three year estrangement, giving the reader information about his perspective on their marriage and his character that Virginia, not having read the letters, doesn't have.

The lush surroundings of a Florida just starting to be developed cease to be a tropical escape, instead feeling increasingly oppressive and scary as the tension rises throughout the novel. In the end the book almost becomes a thriller, starting to gallop along at such a pace. There are bootleggers, a shadowy revenue agent, toxic family secrets, illegitimate children, murder, a villain pulling strings, romance, life threatening danger, the question of who wanted Simon dead, and manipulations galore in this soap opera of a historical novel. Virginia is suspicious and occasionally strong and decisive but her defining characteristic is the love she has for her beloved daughter. Protecting Eleanor and being there for her always so that her baby doesn't know the pain of growing up without a mother, as she did, is the driving force in her life and it will be the thing that prompts her to not just survive but to find the strength to overcome as she uncovers all the answers she seeks. The final revelation of truth comes rather late in the story and the ending is ultimately left wide open for another book set in this same fictional Prohibition world. In fact, the end of the novel is where it might be more than a little handy to have read Williams' other books mentioned above. Williams does a good job of keeping the reader guessing about Simon's character, giving a tiny bit of proof that he is not all he seems when Virginia is head over heels with him but then countering that doubt just enough to make the reader question Virginia's change of heart.  Was she right about him in 1917 or is she right about him in 1922?  I liked the other books in this (loose) series a bit better but this was still well researched, pulse pounding historical fiction.

For more information about Beatriz Williams and the book, check out her webpage, like her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter and 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. #beatrizbinge #cocoabeach
Thanks to Trish from TLC Book Tours and Harper Collins for prodding me to pull the book off my shelf to review.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Waiting on Wednesday

This meme was 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. I'm choosing to continue the tradition even though she has stopped.

A View of the Empire at Sunset by Caryl Phillips.

The book is being released by Farrar, Straus and Giroux on May 22, 2018.

Amazon says this about the book: Award-winning author Caryl Phillips presents a biographical novel of the life of Jean Rhys, the author of Wide Sargasso Sea, which she wrote as a prequel to Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre.

Caryl Phillips’s A View of the Empire at Sunset is the sweeping story of the life of the woman who became known to the world as Jean Rhys. Born Ella Gwendolyn Rees Williams in Dominica at the height of the British Empire, Rhys lived in the Caribbean for only sixteen years before going to England. A View of the Empire at Sunset is a look into her tempestuous and unsatisfactory life in Edwardian England, 1920s Paris, and then again in London. Her dream had always been to one day return home to Dominica. In 1936, a forty-five-year-old Rhys was finally able to make the journey back to the Caribbean. Six weeks later, she boarded a ship for England, filled with hostility for her home, never to return. Phillips’s gripping new novel is equally a story about the beginning of the end of a system that had sustained Britain for two centuries but that wreaked havoc on the lives of all who lived in the shadow of the empire: both men and women, colonizer and colonized.

A true literary feat, A View of the Empire at Sunset uncovers the mysteries of the past to illuminate the predicaments of the present, getting at the heart of alienation, exile, and family by offering a look into the life of one of the greatest storytellers of the twentieth century and retelling a profound story that is singularly its own.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Review: Two Steps Forward by Graeme Simsion and Anne Buist

Husband and wife writing team Graeme Simsion and Anne Buist's charming new novel Two Steps Forward was obviously meant for me right now. I had previously read and loved The Rosie Project so the writing was likely to appeal to me. I have been noticing an uptick in the amount of uplifting literature or "up lit" published recently and have been interested not only in the phenomenon but also in these faith-in-humanity restoring stories and what they give to us as readers. And finally I do have a fascination with books about hiking and pilgrimages and the Camino de Santiago in particular pulls at me. With all of that going for it, it's no surprise that I enjoyed this gentle novel.

People undertake pilgrimages for every reason under the sun. Zoe, an American, is a recent widow struggling to process the sudden change in her life, her unexpected lack of money, and her re-awakened interest in the art she gave up in order to have children (now grown) and be a wife. She's arrived in Cluny to visit an old college friend as she contemplates what to do with her life now. Martin, a Brit, is an engineer who fled to Cluny, France to teach for a year after his wife's affair with his boss left him both unemployed and divorced. Completely broke, Martin sees a pilgrim on the Camino de Santiago struggling with the trolley he's using to transport his belongings and decides first to see if he can design a better option, and once he does, to try and market it to earn some money. Neither Zoe nor Martin intended to hike the Camino de Santiago (also known as the Chemin or the Way), but it offers each of them a chance to change themselves, their perspectives, and their lives. Zoe will walk it in order to have time to think and to plan her next steps in life, to reflect on her marriage and who she became versus who she wants to be. Martin will walk it to road test his one-wheeled cart as proof to investors that it is everything he claims. But both of them will gain so much more from their walk than just what their original intentions promise.

Starting out within days of each other on their respective walks after having met briefly in Cluny, Zoe and Martin have set (negative) initial ideas about each other and even though they continue to run across each other as they look for places for food and to spend the night, they keep their distance. They each meet a wide variety of fellow travelers as they walk, all of whom have their own reasons for tackling the long and winding way.  It is through these fellow pilgrims that Zoe and Martin start to thaw towards each other, coming to value the others' presence on the trail even though long stretches of their time is still spent walking alone. Alternating first person chapters between Zoe and Martin, the reader sees not only their internal motivations for walking but also what they think of each other and of the others they meet along the way. The first person narration also allows the reader to see when and how they each start to confront the things in their life that have brought them to this place and this walk as they learn that no matter how far they go, they cannot out walk the things that burden them and instead must acknowledge them, face them, and either release them or embrace them in order to move forward. Sometimes this knowledge comes as their relationship deepens but at other times it must be learned in solo contemplation.

The novel takes some time to really get going, focused as it is on the walk itself. In the beginning the characters are quite consumed by the purely physical concerns of the journey, finding food and inexpensive shelter, caring for their feet and tired, dirty bodies. It is only later in their respective travels that they start to focus on the emotional aspects of this pilgrimage to find themselves. The pacing is slow and only ever speeds up to leisurely as the novel progresses so readers looking for a romp of any sort are forewarned. Instead of a rollicking adventure, this is a sweet story of starting over, embracing change--good and bad, the goodness of humanity, and second (or third) chances at love. It is a quick and easy read and it is clear to see that Simsion and Buist, who have themselves walked the route that Zoe and Martin take, not only have a knowledge of the Camino but also a strong affection for it and for the changes it made in their own lives. Sweet, sometimes funny, sometimes romantic, and definitely thoughtful, this is a delightful and engaging read.

For more information about Graeme Simsion and Anne Buist and the book, check out his webpage or her webpage, like him on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter of 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.

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 Penderwicks at Last by Jeanne Birdsall.

The book is being released by Knopf Books for Young Readers on May 15, 2018.

Amazon says this about the book: The finale you've all been waiting for: The Penderwicks at Last is the final, flawless installment in the modern classic series from National Book Award winner and New York Times bestselling author Jeanne Birdsall!

Nine years, five older siblings, a few beloved dogs, and an endless array of adventures--these are the things that have shaped Lydia's journey since readers first met her in The Penderwicks in Spring.

Now it's summertime, and eleven-year-old Lydia is dancing at the bus stop, waiting for big sister Batty to get home from college.

This is a very important dance and a very important wait because the two youngest sisters are about to arrive home to find out that the Penderwicks will all be returning to Arundel this summer, the place where it all began. And better still is the occasion: a good old-fashioned, homemade-by-Penderwicks wedding.

Bursting with heart and brimming with charm, this is a joyful, hilarious ode to the family we love best. And oh my MOPS--Meeting of Penderwick Siblings--does Jeanne Birdsall's The Penderwicks at Last crescendo to one perfect Penderwick finale.

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