Monday, July 24, 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 Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson
You and I and Someone Else by Anna Schachner
Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen
Nuclear Family by Susanna Fogel

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
Meantime by Katharine Noel

Reviews posted this week:

The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson
The Young Widower's Handbook by Tom McAllister

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
Breaking Up Is Hard to Do But You Could've Done Better by Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell
To Love the Coming End by Leanne Dunic
Make Trouble by John Waters
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
Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen
Nuclear Family by Susanna Fogel

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Review: The Young Widower's Handbook by Tom McAllister

When you say your wedding vows, you expect to spend the rest of your life with that person, til death do you part. But what happens if death comes sooner rather than later? What if you are still young when the one person you love the most in the world, the one person who believed in you over everything, dies suddenly, leaving you alone? How do you go on? How do you define yourself? Who are you now that you're not part of a couple? Tom McAllister's touching novel The Young Widower's Handbook asks these questions even if it can't quite answer them.

Hunter Cady is a little bit aimless and unmotivated. His wife Kait is the one person who believes in him and makes him want to be better. So when she dies unexpectedly while they are still in their twenties, he is set completely adrift. Her crazy, thuggish family blames him for her death following an ectopic pregnancy and they want to claim her ashes. Instead, Hunter takes off with them, embarking on a cross country tour, visiting the places that he and Kait had jokingly suggested they might move to one day. Sunk in his grief, he tells no one where he's gone or where he's headed, just sends photographs of himself holding Kait's ashes at stops along his way to family and friends via social media to reassure them he's still out there. As he travels the country without any clear plan, he runs into quirky people, has odd encounters, and gains some insight into their marriage and the love that he still has for her while trying to learn how to go on without her.

Hunter as a character is not always good and he doesn't always make the best decisions but he's grieving an unimaginable loss and is understandably gutted and numb after Kait's sudden death. In fact, Hunter is completely and totally human, flaws and all, and while this sometimes makes him unsympathetic, most of the time, the reader can understand his thoughtless actions and his lack of consideration for anyone else who cared for Kait. The road trip itself, with its random, unplanned stops and detours, is clearly a metaphor for the emotional journey he's on but it never verges on cliched. The pacing of the novel and the revelations of Hunter and Kait's life together and their now lost plans for the future are woven together well into a lovely and coherent whole. The writing here is beautifully done; the story itself is bittersweet without being sentimental and the ending will tear your heart out with its beauty and its rightness.

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

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Review: The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson

The South has long been a hotbed of racism. I don’t think this is news to anyone. It has a terrible history with issues of race, the raw wounds of which continue to bleed into its present. And there’s no shortage of novels, tv shows, and movies that focus on this still rampant racism. Joshilyn Jackson’s latest novel, The Almost Sisters, tackles this issue from the inside and is told with Jackson’s signature humor, eccentric characters, and unpredictable plots.

Leia Birch Briggs is a famous comic book artist. She is well known for her creation, Violence in Violet, and has signed on to write a prequel for this fan favorite, the origin story for Violence, a bloody, destructive, and vengeance minded character. At a Comic Con where the prequel is announced, Leia has a drunken one-night stand with a fan. She doesn’t remember his name, calling him Batman, for the costume he wore in the bar where they met and her major recollections of him are of his eyes and his smile and the fact that he’s black. When it turns out that she’s pregnant from this encounter, she makes peace with the fact that her child, who will be biracial, will not have a father, because how do you locate a stranger in a costume whose name you don’t know? Her bigger concern is telling her family that she’s pregnant and unwed. But just as she works up the nerve to do that, the lives of those she loves go to hell in a handbasket. Perfect step-sister Rachel kicks her husband out. Niece Lavender witnesses her parents’ ugly blow-up. And even more concerning, Leia’s ninety year old paternal grandmother Birchie, who she spent every summer with as she was growing up, causes a very uncharacteristic scene in church, a clear sign that something is not right with her. Swallowing the secret of her pregnancy, Leia hightails it to Birchville, Alabama, to the town that her family founded, to uncover what is going on with her beloved Birchie. What she eventually uncovers shows her a side of this small Southern town that she has never seen before and which makes her question the reality her unborn child will face, especially in the South.

As is usual in Jackson’s novels, there is a great deal of humor and kookiness on display here. Most of the characters are richly drawn and balanced in their characterizations. Birchie and her best friend and companion, Wattie, are wonderful. Rachel and Lavender are very real, flawed and good-hearted both. The biggest contradiction to the idea of fully fleshed out characters is Batman himself. He’s certainly unknown while Leia herself remembers nothing about him but as he is revealed to her, he stays a rather flat character to the reader, only as a real as a superficial Facebook profile is. The novel has a multitude of storylines, corresponding to the multiplicity of secrets the characters hold, and sometimes they tangle around each other. Other times they complement or mirror each other and add to the complexity of the issues weaving through the novel. Just as Leia is trying and struggling to discover the origin story for Violence, she is discovering the sometimes hidden, and not always pretty, origin stories of the town, its families, and her family in particular. The novel flows easily and the story is just the kind of zany that Jackson’s readers have come to expect but there are a few sections, mainly when Leia starts musing to herself, where it becomes heavy-handed, bordering on preachy about racism in the South. In fact, it’s strange that as smart as Leia is, she never noticed the dichotomy of the two different Souths before she got pregnant with Digby. Call it an oddly belated awakening. Over all though, this novel is a nutty and engaging romp of a story. Jackson’s fans and readers who like solving old mysteries, enjoy offbeat stories and quirky characters, and want a little more substance to their beach reads will enjoy this funny, disturbing, and eminently readable novel.

For more information about Joshilyn Jackson and the book, check out herwebsite, 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.

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.

Pieces of Happiness by Anne Ostby.

The book is being released by Doubleday on August 1, 2017.

Amazon says this about the book: A novel of five lifelong friends who, in their sixties, decide to live together on a cocoa farm in Fiji, where they not only start a chocolate business but strengthen their friendships and rediscover themselves.

"I've planted my feet on Fijian earth and I intend to stay here until the last sunset. Why don't you join me? Leave behind everything that didn't work out!"

When Sina, Maya, Ingrid, and Lisbeth each receive a letter in the mail posing the same question, the answer is obvious. Their old high school friend Kat—Kat the adventurer, Kat who spread her wings and took off as soon as they graduated—has extended the invitation of a lifetime: Come live with me on my cocoa farm in Fiji. Come spend the days eating chocolate and gabbing like teenagers once again, free from men, worries, and cold. Come grow old in paradise, together, as sisters. Who could say no?

Now in their sixties, the friends have all but resigned themselves to the cards they've been dealt. There's Sina, a single mom with financial woes; gentle Maya who feels the world slipping away from her; Ingrid, the perennial loner; Lisbeth, a woman with a seemingly picture-perfect life; and then Kat, who is recently widowed. As they adjust to their new lives together, the friends are watched over by Ateca, Kat's longtime housekeeper, who oftentimes knows the women better than they know themselves and recognizes them for what they are: like "a necklace made of shells: from the same beach but all of them different." Surrounded by an azure-blue ocean, cocoa trees, and a local culture that is fascinatingly, joyfully alien, the friends find a new purpose in starting a business making chocolate: bittersweet, succulent pieces of happiness.

A story of love, hope, and chocolate, PIECES OF HAPPINESS will reaffirm your faith in friendship, second chances, and the importance of indulging one's sweet tooth.

Monday, July 17, 2017

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is hosted by Kathryn at Reading Date.

Books I completed this past two weeks are:

My Glory Was I Had Such Friends by Amy Silverstein
The Long Run by Catriona Menzies-Pike
Kiss Carlo by Adriana Trigiani

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
You and I and Someone Else by Anna Schachner

Reviews posted this week:

Disaster Falls by Stephane Gerson
My Glory Was I Had Such Friends by Amy Silverstein
Seven Minutes in Heaven by Eloisa James
Kiss Carlo by Adriana Trigiani

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

The Young Widower's Handbook by Tom McAllister
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso
Breaking Up Is Hard to Do But You Could've Done Better by Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell
To Love the Coming End by Leanne Dunic
Make Trouble by John Waters
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 Long Run by Catriona Menzies-Pike

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Review: Kiss Carlo by Adriana Trigiani

Instead of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Adriana Trigiani's Kiss Carlo is a My Big Crazy Italian Family story. And I should know because I've got the remnants of one of those. In fact, some parts of this felt very similar to the (unofficial?--I was little so I don't know if they spontaneously happened or were planned) family reunions that seemed to occur every year at one of my distant relative's house. I recognized the love and loyalty in the book but also the long holding of grudges. It was a fun, somewhat nostalgic read but it also reminded me of the not perfect parts of my own crazy southwestern Philly family.

The story opens in South Philadelphia with the falling out of the two Palazzini brothers over a promised inheritance that went to the wrong brother, effectively splitting this formerly close family in half. Then it jumps to 1949 and the small mountain town of Roseto Valfortore in Italy, where the town's ambassador, Carlo Guardinfante, is getting ready to leave for the US and the town of Roseto, Pennsylvania's Jubilee in hopes of convincing the town's Italian Americans, whose parents and grandparents emigrated from Roseto Valfortore to help the Italians rebuild their flood destroyed road, something they can't afford to do on their own. Once the story gets going though, it centers around Nicky Castone, a nephew of one of the original Palazzini brothers. Nicky drives a cab for his Uncle Dom and has been engaged to Peachy for seven years. Orphaned at a young age, Nicky was raised by his Aunt Jo and Uncle Dom, easily and happily enfolded into their large and growing family. But as Nicky starts to look at his life, he's no longer certain he wants to follow the path set out for him by others. What would really bring him happiness is to act. He's been moonlighting at the Borelli theater for several years and when he gets his acting break under the direction of Carla Borelli, who is taking over the theater from her father, he knows he has found his purpose. But divulging his change of plans to everyone in his life, especially Peachy, sets off a chain of events no one could have predicted and will pull together the disparate beginnings of the novel.

The plot has some almost farce-like elements as it borrows from the mistaken identity plots in Shakespeare, the only plays that are put on at Borelli's. It is light-hearted and comedic in tone and there are many, many plot threads and secondary characters taking the stage in turn. The side stories give context but there are a few too many of them at times and there is an odd abruptness to the story as it comes closer to the end, especially given the long and detailed build ups earlier in the novel. Nicky is a character who is clearly still trying to find himself, even at thirty years old, but he has a good heart and readers will root for him. This is a family saga with heart, a warm and inviting read, and if there are too many plot threads that don't necessarily move the story along, it does give the novel a big cinematic sweep. For all of its 500 plus pages, this is a relatively fast read. Readers who like family sagas, enjoy allusions to Shakespeare's comedies or acting, and those who are drawn to the nuttiness of large, crazy families should tuck this into their beach bags for sure.

For more information about Adriana Trigiani and the book, check out herwebsite, like her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter, or check out her 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 sending me a copy of this book 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 Tin Man by Sarah Winman.

The book is being released by Tinder Press on July 27, 2017.

Amazon says this about the book: The unforgettable and achingly tender new novel from Sarah Winman, author of the international bestseller WHEN GOD WAS A RABBIT and the Sunday Times Top Ten bestseller A YEAR OF MARVELLOUS WAYS. 'Exquisite' Joanna CannonIt begins with a painting won in a raffle: fifteen sunflowers, hung on the wall by a woman who believes that men and boys are capable of beautiful things.And then there are two boys, Ellis and Michael,who are inseparable.And the boys become men,and then Annie walks into their lives,and it changes nothing and everything.Tin Man sees Sarah Winman follow the acclaimed success of When God Was A Rabbit and A Year Of Marvellous Ways with a love letter to human kindness and friendship, loss and living.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Review: Seven Minutes in Heaven by Eloisa James

If you want me to swoon, include witty banter in your book. It doesn't matter what kind of book it is, just include the banter. Of course, it certainly helps romances in particular when there's an intelligent, strong heroine but sometimes creating such a woman can be hard while still staying true to historical realities. But Eloisa James always manages to create worthwhile heroines in her Regency set historical romances like Seven Minutes in Heaven, the latest in the Desperate Duchesses series.

Eugenia Snowe is a widow. Although she is the daughter of a marquis, after the death of her beloved young husband Andrew 7 years prior, she turned to work to keep herself busy. Eugenia runs the exclusive and discreet Snowe's Registry Office for Select Governesses and her governesses are highly sought after in all the best homes. She herself is businesslike and circumspect and she has a real knack for business, pairing each family on her books with the perfect governess. Somehow she has not managed to land on the right governess for Edward Reeve's half sister and brother though. Ward is trying to keep guardianship of his young half siblings away from his tyrannical, unpleasant grandmother and having the proper governess working with the children would certainly go some way to taking one of her arguments away from her. When the latest Snowe-provided governess quits, Ward determines that Eugenia herself would be the perfect governess and "kidnaps" her (she goes most willingly so it's hardly a kidnapping). Ward, a rich inventor, is the illegitimate son of an earl and is cognizant of what society will expect of his half-siblings so although he is incredibly attracted to Eugenia, he guards against a real attachment, believing her to not be a member of the nobility. Meanwhile, Eugenia is falling in love with Lizzie and Otis, the children in question, and she is feeling a sexual attraction for the first time in 7 years even as she finds it hard to accept this sign that she is moving on from the grief and loneliness that has colored her world for so long.

Eugenia and Ward sizzle when they are together. They flirt and spar almost from the first moment they meet and their quick intelligence is great fun. The misunderstanding that keeps them apart, ie Ward's belief that Eugenia is not noble, is a bit far fetched given that everyone else and their grandmother knows her whole history but without the misunderstanding, there's no reason for them to ever be apart. While Ward was illegitimate, both of his parents were noble themselves so he would have had a similar understanding of who was noble as his contemporaries do and would surely have known of Eugenia's family. If he didn't hear of her husband's drowning at the time, he would have heard of it once he looked to Snowe's Registry for the children. The children, with their odd quirks and strange interests, Lizzie wearing mourning and dissecting rabbits and Otis with his quick mathematical mind and his pet rat Jarvis, are delightful and much more entertaining than children in novels generally are and it is easy to see how Eugenia warms to them and wants them to have love and stability in their lives. Although Ward, with his occasional bouts of condescension and priggishness, is not nearly as likable as Eugenia, they are still a well-matched couple and James once again delivers for her readers.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Review: My Glory Was I Had Such Friends by Amy Silverstein

Are you an organ donor? I am. In fact, I ticked that box on my license registration without thinking much about it. When I encouraged my children to do the same, I did think a little more about it (these are my kids, after all!), hoping against hope that I would never have to face a situation where this decision came into play. As you can see, all of my admittedly slight thinking about it focused on the tragic, not on the equally important miraculous, life giving aspects of organ donation. For the sick and dying person waiting for a healthy organ, finally getting a match is an amazing thing indeed. But that’s not the end of the story at all; it’s not even the beginning. The wait for a donor organ be emotionally and physically brutal but life afterwards isn’t easy and worry free either. Amy Silverstein’s memoir of her second heart transplant, twenty-five years after her first, is an honest and moving look at all of the factors, good, bad, and everything in between, that she faced, with the help of her husband and her dearest friends, as she waited again for a heart to become available. It is a celebration of life, its fragility and its strength, and of the people who make up that life and indeed make it worth holding onto.

At the age of fifty, Amy Silverstein’s twenty-five year old transplanted heart started to fail from the development of vasculopathy, a common and deadly problem with transplanted hearts. Silverstein had long since survived the 10 years that she was initially told she’d have with her new heart and in that time she’d not only married and raised her son but she’d also faced many medical emergencies related to her transplant and undergone a double mastectomy for breast cancer. Silverstein knew firsthand that a retransplant would not be easy or mean that she would be cured forever and so she agonized over whether or not to go ahead and get on the list for a new heart, what that would mean to her emotionally and physically, and how her decision would impact her husband and her close friends. Once she decided to hope for retransplant, she and husband Scott moved to California to be closer to Cedars-Sinai for when a heart became available. During the months that Silverstein would wait, her friends from all stages of her life rallied around her. Nine women came out to stay with her on a rotating basis, to try and help her cope with everything and to give Scott a tiny break from the intensity and sleep deprivation. As they did this, Silverstein also learned a lot about each of the women, about her friendship with them, about herself, and about love and selflessness in new and deeper ways.

The memoir is self-reflective and emotional and Silverstein doesn’t whitewash the parts where her fear and anger get the better of her. She gives the reader intimate access into what makes her tick and how she makes decisions but also shares where her blunt approach is unfair to those around her and how, as the days and months tick past, she considers her impact on others, confronting her husband’s admonition to think about how she wants people to remember her in both the short term and for all time. Her fierce gratitude to those who shared her journey to a new heart shines through the pages of this unusual celebration of friendship. While Silverstein’s story is certainly medically interesting, it is the strong and continued support of those friends who gave up so much of themselves and their time to be fully present there with her, to make sure she was never alone, that make this memoir so beautiful and inspiring. Truly for Amy Silverstein, as the quote from Yeats (and the source of the title) says, “Think where man’s glory most begins and ends, and say my glory was I had such friends."

For more information about Amy Silverstein and the book, check out herwebsite 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 Trish from TLC Book Tours and HarperCollins for sending me a copy of this book 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.

Refuge by Dina Nayeri.

The book is being released by Riverhead Books on July 11, 2017.

Amazon says this about the book: The moving lifetime relationship between a father and a daughter, seen through the prism of global immigration and the contemporary refugee experience.

An Iranian girl escapes to America as a child, but her father stays behind. Over twenty years, as she transforms from confused immigrant to overachieving Westerner to sophisticated European transplant, daughter and father know each other only from their visits: four crucial visits over two decades, each in a different international city. The longer they are apart, the more their lives diverge, but also the more each comes to need the other's wisdom and, ultimately, rescue. Meanwhile, refugees of all nationalities are flowing into Europe under troubling conditions. Wanting to help, but also looking for a lost sense of home, our grown-up transplant finds herself quickly entranced by a world that is at once everything she has missed and nothing that she has ever known. Will her immersion in the lives of these new refugees allow her the grace to save her father?

Refuge charts the deeply moving lifetime relationship between a father and a daughter, seen through the prism of global immigration. Beautifully written, full of insight, charm, and humor, the novel subtly exposes the parts of ourselves that get left behind in the wake of diaspora and ultimately asks: Must home always be a physical place, or can we find it in another person?

Monday, July 3, 2017

Review: Disaster Falls by Stephane Gerson

Is there anything more devastating than the death of a child? It is an inversion of the universe, a shattering of the heart, an unrepairable rip in the fabric of life. For Stephane Gerson and his family, it became a terrible reality when 8 year old Owen drowned on a family rafting vacation. And this memoir is one of the ways in which Gerson not only acknowledged their huge loss but a way that allowed him to finally look more closely at what happened that day, to understand and to accept.

When you plan a vacation with your two young children, you would never imagine that your family of four would be a family of three before it is over. The Gersons, father Stephane, mother Alison, oldest son Julian, and youngest son Owen couldn't have either. Their vacation was supposed to be safe for families with children, a rafting trip on the Green River in Utah. But they left New York as four and returned home as three, Owen having drowned at the spot known as Disaster Falls. Gerson chronicles his overwhelming grief at losing Owen as well as the different journeys that Alison and Julian also took through the days, weeks, months, and years after Owen's death. He speaks of the isolation of sorrow, the pain and anguish, his guilt over what happened that day, and the shocked huddle of a family violently rent apart in this emotionally devastating memoir.

The non-linear time line jumps from the rawness of immediately after the accident to what led up to it and back again as the family learns to negotiate life after Owen. The whole of how Owen died isn't fully presented until well into the book, Gerson coming close to it before shutting down the remembrance many times, only telling the whole of it when he feels he's capable and strong enough to look at it. The story is heart rending and the reader can feel the ache and the searching in the haunting writing even years after Owen's death. The book is clearly a way for Gerson to honor his son and his memory of his son, to mourn the loss not only of the boy that he was, but also the whole of the imagined life he never had a chance to live. There are repetitions here but they so closely echo the stunned and frozen rehashing of what happened, the what ifs, and the if onlys that they seem entirely fitting. Not easy to read, this is a thoughtful, introspective, quite beautiful look at a family and a father going on forever changed by their shared loss for those readers who don't mind being emotionally wrung out at the end of a book.

Thanks to LibraryThing Early Reviewers and the publisher for sending me a copy of this book for review.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is hosted by Kathryn at Reading Date.

Books I completed this past two weeks are:

The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry
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

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
All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai
Close Enough to Touch by Colleen Oakley
America's First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie
Hope Has Two Daughters by Monia Mazigh
My Glory Was I Had Such Friends by Amy Silverstein

Reviews posted this week:

Water From My Heart by Charles Martin
The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry
The Other Woman by Therese Bohman

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

The Florence Diary by Diana Athill
Seven Minutes in Heaven by Eloisa James
The Mortifications by Derek Palacio
The Young Widower's Handbook by Tom McAllister
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso
Breaking Up Is Hard to Do But You Could've Done Better by Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell
To Love the Coming End by Leanne Dunic
Make Trouble by John Waters
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

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Review: The Other Woman by Therese Bohman

Sometimes the title of the book gives you more than a good sense of what a book is going to be about. Therese Bohman's The Other Woman is one such title. There's no doubt that it's about an affair. What you still have to read it to uncover is the actual story though because all affairs are both alike and yet unique to the two people involved.

Our attractive, young, unnamed narrator is a working class girl taking a break from her education for lack of money. She works in the cafeteria of a hospital in the small Swedish city of Norrkoping and leads a monotonous, conventional life. But the narrator wants to write a novel and she wants to have a life worthy of being possible subject matter for that novel. The boring meaninglessness of her life, of her very existence, won't do. One day she sees an attractive, married, well dressed older doctor in the cafeteria, a man she has occasionally wondered about having an affair with and she accepts a ride home from him after missing her bus. As she is getting to know Carl and ultimately seducing him, she is also getting to know Alex, a girl her age who is exciting and friendly and who has a secret that will change everything for the narrator and have repercussions that resonate both in an out of her inevitable affair with Carl.

The novel is a slow psychological study with a selfish and often unsympathetic narrator. But for all that, she's still rather fascinating. Her pursuit of Carl and her subsequent fantasies inserting herself in his life feel predatory even though he is equally culpable in their affair. Her relationship with Carl and the jealousy she feels towards his wife and children is not the only destructive force here though. There are several depictions of power imbalances, the darkness of money and class differences, and the question of fidelity and its worth. The first person narration puts the reader directly in the narrator's head, seeing the manipulations as well as the naivete. The story is quite slow starting and very philosophical in tone. The narrator's pre-affair life is dull and no recounting of it will change that so it's a bit of a chore to get past it to the real meat of the story. Once you do though, you see that the narrator is creating a version of herself, the other woman, a writer, something more than her surface suggests. Even when her choices go from bad to worse, she is forging the identity of the woman she will become on the other side of this affair and the other side of her friendship with Alex. This is a translation from the Swedish and will appeal to readers who don't mind extended character studies, moral ambiguity, and a lot of introspection balanced with a healthy sense of self-worth.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of this books 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.

What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons.

The book is being released by Viking on July 11, 2017.

Amazon says this about the book: Raised in Pennsylvania, Thandi views the world of her mother’s childhood in Johannesburg as both impossibly distant and ever present. She is an outsider wherever she goes, caught between being black and white, American and not. She tries to connect these dislocated pieces of her life, and as her mother succumbs to cancer, Thandi searches for an anchor—someone, or something, to love.

In arresting and unsettling prose, we watch Thandi’s life unfold, from losing her mother and learning to live without the person who has most profoundly shaped her existence, to her own encounters with romance and unexpected motherhood. Through exquisite and emotional vignettes, Clemmons creates a stunning portrayal of what it means to choose to live, after loss. An elegiac distillation, at once intellectual and visceral, of a young woman’s understanding of absence and identity that spans continents and decades, What We Lose heralds the arrival of a virtuosic new voice in fiction.

Wednesday, June 21, 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 Necklace by Claire McMillan.

The book is being released by Touchstone on July 4, 2017.

Amazon says this about the book: Two generations of Quincy women—a bewitching Jazz Age beauty and a young lawyer—bound by a spectacular and mysterious Indian necklace.

Always the black sheep of the tight-knit Quincy clan, Nell is cautious when she’s summoned to the elegantly shabby family manor after her great-aunt Loulou’s death. A cold reception from the family grows chillier when they learn Loulou has left Nell a fantastically valuable heirloom: a stunningly ornate necklace from India that Nell finds stashed in the back of a dresser in a Crown Royal whiskey bag. As predatory relatives begin circling and art experts begin questioning the necklace’s provenance, Nell turns to the only person she thinks she can trust—the attractive and ambitious estate lawyer who definitely is not part of the old-money crowd.

More than just a piece of jewelry, the necklace links Nell to a long-buried family secret. It began when Ambrose Quincy brought the necklace home from India in the 1920s as a dramatic gift for May, the woman he intended to marry. Upon his return, he discovered the May had married his brother Ethan, the “good” Quincy, devoted to their father. As a gesture of friendship, Ambrose gave May the necklace anyway—reigniting their passion and beginning a tense love triangle.

Crisp as a gin martini, fresh as a twist of lime, The Necklace is the intelligent, intoxicating story of long-simmering family resentments and a young woman who inherits a secret much more valuable than a legendary necklace.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Review: The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

Sometimes a book washes over you and you find yourself stunned by everything about it. Such is Sarah Perry's The Essex Serpent, a novel about science and faith, desire and need, superstition and truth. Even trying to reduce it to these few paltry words makes it seem less than it is, encompassing so much more than can be easily articulated. It really is a magnificent and impressive Victorian tale.

Cora Seaborne is newly widowed and she's not shaping up to be a good widow any more than she was a good wife or a good mother. Cora was dutiful but nothing more to the wealthy and well-known man who broke her down and shaped her into the woman he expected her to be.  She can't possibly mourn his loss, except perhaps for their odd, young son Francis, a child with whom she has never been able to connect. Widowhood is, strangely enough, freedom for her: freedom from convention and constraints, freedom to pursue her interest in fossils and natural history, freedom to become the inquisitive and intelligent woman she is. With her newfound freedom, Cora leaves London for the wilds of Essex. Taking her son and her beloved companion Martha with her, Cora wants to uncover fossils, perhaps even a living fossil, in the salty estuaries of the country. Through the introduction of a mutual friend, Cora meets William Ransome, the vicar of Aldwinter, a small town sinking into the superstition and myth of the return of the Essex Serpent. Will is certain that the myth is just that, a myth, not a portent of evil or a sign of end times. But his parishioners ratchet up the fear with every further story, every unexplained disappearance or death of man or beast, and with nebulous almost sightings out on the Blackwater. Cora is not so quick to dismiss the possibility of the beast's existence, eager to uncover scientific evidence that might prove its existence. So is set the dichotomy between faith and science and although Cora and Will's beliefs are so at odds, they forge a deep and abiding intellectual relationship arguing their respective stances even as they respect the other.  In fact, in many ways, they are each one half of the other.

The story is not just one of faith versus science but one of relationship and connection. Even the novel's secondary characters, Luke Garrett, George Spencer, Martha, Will's beautiful, tubercular wife Stella, the Ambroses, the Ransome children, and Francis and their ties to Cora are vital to the unwinding of this philosophical, complex, seductive, and character driven story. There is an air of Gothic menace and light foreboding that permeates the pages leaving the reader uncertain how the tale of the serpent will ultimately pan out. Is it real or is it imagined? Perry has written an exquisite novel, full of beautiful, unsettling writing. Her portrayal of Cora as magnetic, unconventional, and rebelling against the usual role of women is thoughtfully done, as is her depiction of Will as both publicly close-minded and privately curious. The details of Stella's blue collection, the restraint with which Perry draws the peculiarities of Francis and his bits and bobs, and the unconscious way in which Cora collects the hearts of those around her is understated and effectively disturbing. Perry pulls in other advances of the time, that of health care and medicine and views of poverty and housing through the secondary characters in ways that don't overwhelm the primary theme but add historical verisimilitude and which weave seamlessly into the whole. The dense and atmospheric prose is leavened with unexpected humor lurking within serious paragraphs. Truly a brilliant, thoughtful novel, this is multi-layered and compelling and should be read slowly and savoured. But be warned that it is very much a modern rendering of a Victorian novel. It will creep up on you until you are compelled to finish it, but it might take a while before you realize that you are completely trapped by its hypnotic telling.

For more information about Sarah Perry and the book, check out her website 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.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Review: Water From My Heart by Charles Martin

Book clubs can make you go outside of your usual reading choices. This can be wonderful, allowing you to discover books that you would never have chosen on your own. There are several books I have found this way that I am the richer for having read. But just as you can find amazing books, you can also find duds. It's definitely a disappointment when the latter happens rather than the former, but it is a risk you take when you allow others to direct your reading for you. Charles Martin's Water From My Heart was, unfortunately, one of those disappointments although the group had quite a time teasing out all of our frustrations with the novel.

Charlie Finn is a drug runner. His childhood was terrible but he managed to overcome it and go to Harvard. Incredibly smart and successful, he ends up working for his wealthy girlfriend's father, a man with very little conscience. In his role in this hedge fund, he manages to buy a coffee plantation in Nicaragua, completely destroying the people who live and work there without a second thought. After realizing that Marshall, his boss/potential father-in-law, doesn't think he's good enough for daddy's little girl, he quits his job and bums around Miami until meeting his new best friend Colin, another fabulously rich person. He ends up working for Colin as a drug runner. Despite his unsavory job, he's a really good guy, a part of Colin's family, close with his children, and engaged to a lovely doctor. But then things go horribly wrong. Colin's son Zaul ends up on the run from bad guys. Maria, Colin's young daughter, is badly injured when Zaul's gambling buddies try to collect from him. And Shelly, Charlie's doctor fiance, dumps him because he's lied to her about his life. The only way that Charlie can begin to make good on everything he's done wrong is to go after Zaul and save him for Colin. As he tracks Zaul down to Central America, he meets Leena, her daughter Isabella, and the people of a small Nicaraguan town, who give him yet another chance to redeem himself and allow good to triumph.

The theme of redemption is very strong and Charlie is given every opportunity to right all his wrongs.  If his conscience so much as pricks him, he is given the opportunity to fix it.  All of the characters here are one-dimensional and the plot, outlandish just in summary, is given over with ridiculous  coincidences. Martin draws all of the poor people Charlie comes across as uniformly noble and good. Everyone, good and bad, reaps what he/she sows in this novel. It might be nice if life actually worked this way but it doesn't.  Nuance and realism are missing entirely in the telling of this tale.  Add the unrealistic outcomes of every character's story line to the sloppy, oftentimes hokey writing and this is a treacly mess.e

Because this was a book club book, I was taking notes on it but had to stop when I realized that noting each and every inconsistency (Charlie spends weeks in Nicaragua--and not with ex-pats either--and never learns any Spanish?  If he's able to conduct all the business which he's flown down for remotely, why on earth did he need to fly down at all? Leena can figure out what the US company did to ruin her father but didn't know a bank could call in a loan? Massive mudslides destroy just about everything in the area but the coffee and mangoes survive because they are too vital to the plot to wipe out? A 5 gallon bucket is large enough to carry a chunk of rock that has entombed two intertwined people? For that matter, the mud that entombed them has become rock in less than two decades? And so on.) was just making me angrier and angrier at the time it was taking to read this book. Perhaps there was a seed of something there since so many other people have loved this book (although not in my book club, I feel compelled to add) but the writing was poor, cliched, and heavy-handed and I just couldn't get beyond that.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is hosted by Kathryn at Reading Date.

Books I completed this past week are:

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
In the Woods of Memory by Shun Medoruma

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
All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai
Close Enough to Touch by Colleen Oakley
America's First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie
Hope Has Two Daughters by Monia Mazigh
The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

Reviews posted this week:

I Hid My Voice by Parinoosh Saniee
The Beach at Painter's Cove by Shelley Noble
The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

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

The Other Woman by Therese Bohman
The Florence Diary by Diana Athill
Seven Minutes in Heaven by Eloisa James
The Mortifications by Derek Palacio
The Young Widower's Handbook by Tom McAllister
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso
Breaking Up Is Hard to Do But You Could've Done Better by Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell
To Love the Coming End by Leanne Dunic
Make Trouble by John Waters
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
Water From My Heart by Charles Martin
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

Friday, June 16, 2017

Review: The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

Female spies. How many have you heard of? The only one I could have named before reading this book was Mata Hari. I'm not surprised that there are many more nor that they have been forgotten by history even though their contributions to war efforts have been remarkable. Kate Quinn's new novel, The Alice Network, brings a female run spy network back into view as it highlights the sacrifices that women made in wartime, the damage that war does, and the fierce loyalty so many women felt for family, friends, and country.

Charlotte St. Clair is in disgrace. A math major at Bennington, she has disappointed her wealthy family by coming home pregnant and unwed. To forestall gossip, Charlie and her mother sail to England on their way to Switzerland to take care of Charlie's "Little Problem." But Charlie wants to use this trip to find her French cousin Rose, who hasn't been heard from since 1944, three years ago now. Charlie has made some initial inquiries and so once in England, she slips away from her mother to follow the one lead she has, landing on Eve Gardiner's doorstep in London. Eve has no intention of helping the little Yank on her doorstep until Charlie utters a name that Eve hasn't heard since the end of World War I. Eve is a broken woman. Her hands are destroyed and she spends her nights completely pickled. She's brusque and angry and imperious. But if the man whose name Charlie invokes lived past WWI, Eve is willing to use Charlie's quest for her cousin for her own reasons. The two women, plus Eve's taciturn Scottish driver Finn, head to the Continent, in search of the past.

Alternating chapters tell the story of both Charlie and Eve and what drives them in their search. Charlie lost her soldier brother to suicide and blames herself for not being able to save him.  She is determined not to fail again and to find and save Rose. She is frozen emotionally and it is only in her determination on this journey that she allows herself to feel anything. Eve is carefully guarding her own wartime wounds. Unlike Charlie though, Eve's war was the First World War, when young and innocent, Eve became Marguerite Le Francois, a valuable member of the Alice Network, a female spy ring in France reporting from German occupied Lille. Eve, as Marguerite, one of the fleurs du mal, gets a job as a waitress in Le Lethe, a restaurant run by a French profiteer and patronized by high ranking Germans. In serving the Germans, Eve hears valuable information she can pass on to Lili, the leader of the Alice Network. As Charlie, Eve, and Finn motor through France searching out Eve's contacts in order to track down Rose and Rene, Le Lethe's owner and the man connected to both Eve and Rose, Eve's story slowly comes out.

Both Charlie and Eve are damaged and they don't really want to have to rely on the other, or anyone really. Each carries enough guilt to break them but they are both also fighters. While Charlie's story is interesting and heartbreaking, it is Eve's story, the story of an Alice Network operative and what lengths she needed to go to to uncover information that is most engrossing. Because of the alternating time lines, the story is quite action filled and the revelations that occur on the journey are fascinating. The reader is as curious about Eve's life in occupied Lille and how her hands came to be so destroyed as Charlie is. The reader is also invested in finding Rose and seeing how Charlie and Finn's growing friendship develops. The drive to know the truth makes the pages turn fast indeed. Quinn has drawn both WWI France and post WWII France carefully and the historical details of life in both times is well done. The tension in both story lines is delicately balanced and heightens in concert as the novel progresses. Tying together both World War I and World War II makes this story that much more fascinating, as does the note in the back of the novel detailing true roots of Eve's story. Historical fiction fans will thoroughly enjoy this novel of spying, betrayal, love, and hope. That it brings to light the little remembered fact of the Alice Network, the danger women faced as they worked for their country, and their important contributions is wonderful indeed.

To hear what some of my fellow bloggers talked with Kate about, check out this You Tube video.

For more information about Kate Quinn 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.

Wednesday, June 14, 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.

Hello Sunshine by Laura Dave.

The book is being released by Simon and Schuster on July 11, 2017.

Amazon says this about the book: Sunshine Mackenzie has it all…until her secrets come to light.

Sunshine Mackenzie is living the dream—she’s a culinary star with millions of fans, a line of #1 bestselling cookbooks, and a devoted husband happy to support her every endeavor.

And then she gets hacked.

When Sunshine’s secrets are revealed, her fall from grace is catastrophic. She loses the husband, her show, the fans, and her apartment. She’s forced to return to the childhood home—and the estranged sister—she’s tried hard to forget. But what Sunshine does amid the ashes of her own destruction may well save her life.

In a world where celebrity is a careful construct, Hello, Sunshine is a compelling, funny, and evocative novel about what it means to live an authentic life in an inauthentic age.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Review: The Beach at Painter's Cove by Shelley Noble

There are about a million and one different reasons to be attracted to a book. There's the appeal of the cover. The jacket copy can pique your interest. Sometimes a favorite writer blurbs the book. You hear other readers whose opinions you trust recommending it. The topic resonates with you. You've read and enjoyed the author's other works. And on and on. But a reason we don't often discuss is something as superficial as the name of the character(s) being yours. Shelley Noble's newest novel, The Beach at Painter's Cove, has a gorgeous cover. It sounds wonderful. I've read her novels before and enjoyed them. The topic and themes, a dysfunctional family in danger of losing their long time home, art, and love, completely appeals. But the biggest reason I wanted to pick up this book? The characters are Whitakers. I'm a Whitaker. My sister and I were always the Whitaker girls growing up. So even before I cracked open the book, these women felt like family, not that our family is anything like the family in the book, but still... Shelley Noble even spelled Whitaker right. Of course I was going to read this!

Issy Whitaker is a museum exhibit designer who is very sought after. She loves her job, both the creative part and the adrenaline rush of the actual installations. When she was small, her famous actress mother, Jillian, dumped Issy and her older sister Vivienne at Muses by the Sea, the family's seaside mansion and an artist's retreat, with her grandmother Leo, grandfather Wes, and great aunt Fae. Since Issy left home for college, she hasn't been back to The Muses, not even for her grandfather's funeral but when she gets a phone call from her niece, twelve year old Stephanie, telling her that Vivienne has done the same thing their mother did, leaving Steph and younger siblings Amanda and Griffin at The Muses, that Leo has been admitted to the hospital, and eccentric great aunt Fae is no where to be found, Issy knows she cannot just abandon the children much as she wants to. Taking a leave from her job, she heads back to the place that she loves with more questions than answers and walks into a mess about which she had no inkling. As Issy tries to make sense of the situation, she is horrified to discover that the money that her grandfather entrusted to Vivienne's husband to maintain the art work filled house and extensive grounds has gone missing (along with both Vivienne and her husband) and if Issy doesn't come up with a plan quickly, her beloved Leo and Fae will lose everything. And while she's saving the estate, she needs to try and save the rest of the family and herself too.

Any time there are four generations of one family under a roof, there's bound to be conflict but the Whitakers manage to put the fun in dysfunctional. Leo lives in the past, staying as much as possible in her grand love story with the deceased Wes. Jillian, finding it hard to age in Hollywood, has never had much of a relationship with her daughters, especially Issy. Issy has become so laser focused on her career that she doesn't often (ever?) spare a thought for family. And Steph is still just a child but she could be one of the lost so very easily if someone doesn't keep the spark alive in her. The plot here is one that steams along at a good clip although there are some repetitions that could have been eliminated: the retelling of Leo and Wes's love story, Issy's identical grappling with how to save the house at several different points in the novel, and so on. Leo, as the matriarch of the family, didn't quite come together as fully rounded out but the rest of the primary characters made up for that. The secondary characters of Issy's friends Chloe and Ben were a delightful addition to even out some of the tenseness of the family interactions.  Great aunt Fae was airy fairy, just as her name implies and although she is an incredibly loyal person, she didn't quite fit with the rest of the family.  This is a family who has to learn to untangle their relationships and resentments, to stop pushing each other away, to overcome their lack of understanding, to develop empathy for each other and everyone's limitations, and to work together. In the beginning, the reader needs to persevere past characters who are so wrapped up in themselves that they don't want to do the right thing and that can be hard but it is worth it to see the change in the Whitakers, to appreciate the passion they discover in purpose, and to see them learn about each other and themselves. This is a fun beachy, summer read even if you don't happen to be a Whitaker girl yourself.

For more information about Shelley Noble 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.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Review: I Hid My Voice by Parinoosh Saniee

As a mother, it's hard to imagine choosing a favorite child. It's even harder to imagine allowing one of your children to be denigrated by the whole family, mocked and ridiculed. But in Parinoosh Saniee's novel, I Hid My Voice, four year old Shahaab's lack of language, brings shame to his family and to himself and the family makes little effort to show him that he is more than his unheard voice.

Shahaab is mute. There's no physical reason for his lack of language and he understands everything said and done to him but because he himself is unable to communicate, he is considered dumb and is often treated as if he is invisible. He hears and sees things that he is really too young to witness but being an observant child, he takes it all in. His family is not a happy one and even in the extended family, strict gender roles are firmly adhered to, making it that much worse that Shahaab is an embarrassment to his father. Shahaab acts out in frustration, earning a reputation as a bad little boy, except in the eyes of his kindly grandmother and one doting cousin.  But acting out is just another way to get attention, albeit the same negative attention he receives for being mute.

The novel is one of small instances in the life of an unhappy family with an unusual child rather than a big and sweeping story. Shahaab narrates his own story, giving him a voice and the reader a glimpse into the mental effects of the unkindnesses done to him. This insight allows the reader to feel sympathy for this forgotten and almost unloved middle child. His family members are fairly one dimensional, and whether this is a function of a very young narrator who would not see nuances in those around him or of the translation of the novel itself, it's hard to say. In any case, the writing feels simplistic. The majority of the novel takes place in Shahaab's young childhood but it does eventually take him to the age of twenty to see the effects that this early treatment of him has had. This is an easy read and quick read with an interesting premise but over all it felt like it was lacking something.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of this book 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:

Love Potion Number 10 by Jennifer Conner
Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki

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
All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai
Close Enough to Touch by Colleen Oakley
America's First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie
The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

Reviews posted this week:

Love Potion Number 10 by Jennifer Conner
Nine Island by Jane Alison

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

I Hid My Voice by Parinoush Saniee
The Other Woman by Therese Bohman
The Florence Diary by Diana Athill
Seven Minutes in Heaven by Eloisa James
The Mortifications by Derek Palacio
The Young Widower's Handbook by Tom McAllister
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso
Breaking Up Is Hard to Do But You Could've Done Better by Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell
To Love the Coming End by Leanne Dunic
Make Trouble by John Waters
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
Water From My Heart by Charles Martin
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
The Beach at Painter's Cove by Shelley Noble

Monday Mailbox

This past week's mailbox arrivals:

Attempting Elizzabeth by Jessica Grey came from me to me.

I do adore Pride and Prejudice and will always be drawn to retellings or updated tales using it as inspiration so this one sounds completely and totally delightful.

A Murder in Time by Julie McElwain came from me to me.

This is another of the books I bought to see if I can find a way into mysteries. I chose this one because the idea of a female FBI agent going back in time to 19th century England and having to catch a killer piqued my interest.

Lift And Separate by Marilyn Simon Rothstein came from the author and TLC Book Tours for a blog tour.

How could a busty woman not be inclined to pick this up?! The story line looks as delightful as the cover and title too.

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.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Review: Nine Island by Jane Alison

When do you give up on romantic love? Jane Alison's novel Nine Island has a main character contemplating just this question as she watches life go by from her glass fronted high rise condo on the Venetian Islands on Miami Beach.

J. is translating, and sometimes changing, Ovid's tales into English. She's also a recently divorced, middle aged woman who lives with her aging, incontinent cat and has just returned to her condo after a wasted month trying to make a go of it with an old boyfriend, Sir Gold. As she works through Ovid's take on mythological stories of love and lust, she contemplates whether it's time for her to give up on romantic love. While pondering this and what it would mean for her life, she swims in the building's pool, watches her neighbors, takes care of her elderly mother, and tries to help a wounded duck. These things might feel disparate but they form the structure of her life and they come to clearly define her despite their initially perceived smallness. J. feels stranded and alone in her life but still harbors a wildness in her just like the duck she wants to rescue, a wildness that shows itself in her imaginings and her translations.

This literary novel is very much character driven and introspective. Told entirely in first person with J. narrating her own story, the story flows over the reader, with a dreamlike lushness to the writing but also a fevered restlessness underpinning the languid pace of the story.  Alison manages to pull off this seeming contradiction beautifully.  The novel is incredibly descriptive and the landscape, the shabby building, and the injured duck become metaphors for the loneliness of aging without connection or relationship. The novel is composed of brief chapters that tell of past and present and fluctuate in tone dependent on what part of the story they are recounting. Alison does an amazing job showing the yearning and vulnerability of an intelligent, solitary woman of a certain age. There is a taut sexuality to J.'s life, and emotional connection where it is least expected. This is a smart and accomplished novel, one that very much requires an agile and educated reader to appreciate it.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Review: Love Potion Number 10 by Jennifer Conner

The cover of this less than 100 page story says, "Be careful what you wish for" and all I have to say is that I should have taken that to heart. I don't know if the author intended this to be a short story, a novella, or a full novel, but in any form, it was terribly disappointing.

Everett has a crush on her boss, Felix. Since he doesn't seem to be noticing her at all, she decides to go to a fortune teller and pay for a love potion to make him fall in love with her. When she tells her friend in the office, their co-worker, Royce, overhears them. He has a crush on Everett and knows what a jerk Felix actually is but he's nothing but wallpaper to Everett. When Felix offers Royce one of his two tickets to the symphony (with an ulterior motive, of course), Royce suggests that he offer the other ticket to Everett knowing she loves music.  She is delighted to accept the invitation.  Expecting Felix to be at the symphony with her, it surprises her that her seat companion is Royce. And she is further surprised that they share a wonderful, sexy evening together. Now she's worried she gave the love potion to the wrong person and she has to figure out how she's going to fix everything.

The plot is very simplistic and barely more than an outline. The character development is scant and the sudden connection between Everett and Royce is unbelievable. She's never noticed him before other than to consider him "harmless" but finding him in the seat next to hers at the symphony, all of a sudden he's "sexy as hell" and she's not only extending their non-date but finding him so delectable she can't keep her hands off of him. There's absolutely no development of their relationship, the chemistry between them is non-existent, even their conversation is dull. The resolution of the little problem of the love potion cookies is completely and totally ridiculous and I actually snorted when I read it but I don't think it was meant to be farcical. If the statement on the cover wasn't warning enough, I should have realized that this book and I were not going to coexist well when I read the first line: "I need a love potion," Everett asked, as she tried not to breathe." And the writing doesn't improve. What could have been a cute premise unfortunately didn't deliver on any front.  On the plus side, it's a really quick read.

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