Sunday, April 23, 2017

Sunday Salon: On Being Busy

I have always found spring to be the busiest time. When my kids were smaller, it felt like the hamster on the wheel was in a full on sprint once spring arrived. Now that they are older and I don't have to add in as many of their activities and such, my spring doesn't seem to have gotten much (any?) more relaxed.  I still have more things to do than time to do them in.  Some things can't be ignored, like the youngest's last track practice (this past week) or moving the older two out of college (next week). Some things feel like they are necessary (weeding, pruning, planting flowers and herbs, the annual garage clean-up) before it gets too hot. Some things (all of the surprisingly time consuming administrative stuff for my Great Group Reads panel) are on a tight timeline that cannot be adjusted. Don't forget the one-time time-suckers, like sitting at the DMV to get the youngest his driver's permit or taking the car into the body shop to repair the oops I did one day. And I haven't even mentioned trying to stay connected to friends (which for me, as an extreme introvert, can be a chore but one I know I need to do for my own mental health). All of these other things war with my desire to just bask in the sun with a book. Today though, today is not sunny.

So on this soggy, wet Sunday, I will take advantage of the fact that pretty much everything besides sitting on the couch and reading is out of the question. The world is washed clean and green and I can luxuriate in a lazy, book-filled day. Some spring days are still as out of control as a squirrel on drugs and others, like today, are just bliss. I'll take more bliss, please.

Wednesday, April 19, 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.

Crossing the Street by Molly Campbell. The book is being released by Story Plant on May 9, 2017.

Amazon says this about the book: This wasn't the way Beck Throckmorton had planned it. She wasn't expecting to find herself in her thirties writing erotica and making flat whites for a living while she stewed over that fact that her ex had wound up with her sister. She never saw herself living in a small suburban Ohio town with an octogenarian neighbor best friend. And she definitely wouldn't have imagined the eight-year-old great-granddaughter of that friend turning her world upside down.

As summer comes around, Beck's life is unsettled in every way. And that's before the crazy stuff starts: the sister taunting her with her pregnancy, the infuriatingly perfect boyfriend, the multiple trips to the emergency room. The needy, wise-beyond-her-years little girl finding places in her heart that Beck didn't even know existed.

Beck has found herself at an emotional intersection she never anticipated. And now it's time to cross the street.

CROSSING THE STREET is a funny, touching novel that brims life's complexities. Filled with characters both distinctive and welcomingly familiar, it is a story that will entertain and enlighten.

Wednesday, April 12, 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.

Meet Me at Beachcomber Bay by Jill Mansell. The book is being released by Sourcebooks Landmark on May 2, 2017.

Amazon says this about the book: International bestseller Jill Mansell weaves a heartwarming tale of love, family and friendship in her latest novel

1. A brief encounter that could have become so much more...if only everything were different
2. Step-sisters, bitter rivals in every area except one―by unbreakable pact neither will ever steal a man from the other
3. A love triangle that starts out as a mess of secrets and mix-ups, and only gets worse from there

Friendship, family ties, crossed wires and self-discovery, second chances and first impressions

Welcome to Jill Mansell's blustery seaside world. Once you step inside, you'll never want to leave!

Monday, April 10, 2017

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is hosted by Kathryn at Reading Date.

Books I completed this past week are:

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

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 Last Time She Saw Him by Jane Haseldine
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
Water From My Heart by Charles Martin
Meet Me in the In-Between by Bella Pollen

Reviews posted this week:

Eggshells by Caitriona Lally

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

Exposure by Helen Dunmore
Eliza Waite by Ashley E. Sweeney
Nine Island by Jane Alison
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
The Vicar's Daughter by Josi S. Kilpack
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

Monday Mailbox

I rewarded myself with a bunch of new books this week. Must learn to control these impulses! This past week's mailbox arrivals:

Greenery Street by Denis Mackail came from me to me. :-)

I just learned that Mackail is Angela Thirkell's brother and I do so like her writing but this novel about newly weds trying to learn to economize would have appealed even without the family connection.

The Library at the Edge of the World by Felicity Hayes-McCoy came from me to me. :-)

A light novel about a mobile library van driver in rural Ireland, how could this not be delightful?

A Thatched Roof by Beverley Nichols came from me to me. :-)

Have I mentioned yet how much I love Beverley Nichols? ;-) This is the second in the Allways trilogy and I do adore his snarky his gardening trilogies.

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.

Wednesday, April 5, 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 Color of Our Sky by Amita Trasi. The book is being released by William Morrow Paperbacks on April 18, 2017.

Amazon says this about the book: In the spirit of Khaled Hosseini, Nadia Hashimi and Shilpi Somaya Gowda comes this powerful debut from a talented new voice—a sweeping, emotional journey of two childhood friends in Mumbai, India, whose lives converge only to change forever one fateful night.

India, 1986: Mukta, a ten-year-old village girl from the lower caste Yellama cult has come of age and must fulfill her destiny of becoming a temple prostitute, as her mother and grandmother did before her. In an attempt to escape her fate, Mukta is sent to be a house girl for an upper-middle class family in Mumbai. There she discovers a friend in the daughter of the family, high spirited eight-year-old Tara, who helps her recover from the wounds of her past. Tara introduces Mukta to an entirely different world—one of ice cream, reading, and a friendship that soon becomes a sisterhood.

But one night in 1993, Mukta is kidnapped from Tara’s family home and disappears. Shortly thereafter, Tara and her father move to America. A new life in Los Angeles awaits them but Tara never recovers from the loss of her best friend, or stops wondering if she was somehow responsible for Mukta's abduction.

Eleven years later, Tara, now an adult, returns to India determined to find Mukta. As her search takes her into the brutal underground world of human trafficking, Tara begins to uncover long-buried secrets in her own family that might explain what happened to Mukta—and why she came to live with Tara’s family in the first place.

Moving from a traditional Indian village to the bustling modern metropolis of Mumbai, to Los Angeles and back again, this is a heartbreaking and beautiful portrait of an unlikely friendship—a story of love, betrayal, and, ultimately, redemption.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Review: Eggshells by Caitriona Lally

Sometimes I look at my daily life and think I live a very mundane existence. And that's why I read, to have experiences I'd never have, to be people I'll never be, to live lives far different from mine. Most of the time this works and I can slip into the skin of the characters or into the place or defining situation or a novel. But sometimes, just sometimes, I cannot make the leap. I cannot find a way into a character. Perhaps my very mundanity betrays me. And that leads to a very frustrating reading experience. Unfortunately, Caitriona Lally's Eggshells was one of those experiences for me.

Vivian lives alone in the house she's inherited from her great aunt. She collects chairs, glares at the urn containing her great aunt's ashes, and frequently sniffs things to see if they've acquired her "meaty" scent yet (she's not big on hygiene). Her sister, also named Vivian, doesn't have much to do with her, clearly wanting to protect her children from their off-kilter aunt. Our main character Vivian actively avoids the neighbors but posts flyers on trees advertising for a friend named Penelope (the balance between consonants and vowels in the name is just right), cultivates a jungle of a front garden to encourage mice to move in, and walks all over Dublin looking for the portal she's convinced will send her back to fairy land, believing that she's a changeling. So you might say that she's a bit of an odd duck, an eccentric. Or you might wonder if she's so neuro-atypical that there is something more going on with her. She's an odd mix of amazingly insightful and strangely ignorant. There are textual hints that Vivian has been damaged in some way, especially by her father, but there's only a whisper of that, and only two or three brief times at that.

Vivian's character is sometimes fanciful and other times just weird. Her obsession with smelling herself and wanting her unwashed scent on everything is almost animalistic and the repetition of the same adjectives to describe this tick becomes tedious throughout the novel. Her interactions with others, almost none of whom play any sort of real major role in the novel, are telling and allow the reader to see how she is viewed in general. She's clearly considered batty, not quite right. She is definitely childlike, operating most days on a whim. Appropriate social interactions are certainly a struggle for her. And so she goes about her days walking different routes around the city, trying to get back to the fairy world she's been looking for her whole life. The structure of her days is made up on the fly and only makes sense to her. These daily perambulations are broken up by a couple of small events, her uncomfortable meetings with Penelope, a woman almost as odd as Vivian; an unsolicited and unwelcome visit to her sister's family; and their rather unsuccessful return visit to her (she, however, considers it a success because "only 50 percent of the guests left in tears").

Other readers have found Vivian charming and whimsical. I fear I am more like her annoyed older sister. She made me nuts. I wanted to get social services to intervene so that she had someone looking after her. And in the name of all that is holy, I wanted her to stop sniffing herself and take a bath. There was very little plot to the book to distract me from the fact that I wasn't enjoying spending time with this character either. Lally is obviously a talented writer given her beautiful turns of phrase and descriptive skill but she needed more than just a character who thought she was a changeling to hang a story on. As a starting concept, it was intriguing, but without a well-developed story around it, this feels like one long character exposition, not a fully fleshed out tale. I really wanted to be able to slip into Vivian's world. I just couldn't.

For more information about Caitriona Lally and the book, check out her publisher's website as she doesn't do much social media. You can poke through her retired Twitter account too if you wish. Check out the book's Goodreads page, follow the rest of the blog tour, or look at the amazon reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.

Thanks to Lisa from TLC Book Tours and Melville House for sending me a copy of this book to review.

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