Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Review: Plumdog by Emma Chichester Clark

If you are a dog person, you probably wonder what goes on in their doggy minds, right? Sometimes you can tell what they have to be thinking from the sheer joy they exhibit or the baleful glances they give you when you do something mean like take them to the vet or the groomer. But what about general, daily sorts of things; how do they feel about those? Readers are in luck because Emma Chichester Clark has written and illustrated a charming book about a year in the life of her dog Plum, entirely from Plum's perspective, and it will confirm all the happy, funny things you've always thought your dog was thinking.

Plum is a Whoosell, a whippet, poodle, Jack Russell mix. She likes long walks, cavorting in any body of water, visiting her sister and other canine friends, going on adventures, and cuddling up with her human. She is completely delightful and funny and entertaining and friendly (except to rare not so nice dogs she come across in her ramblings). She shares snippets of her days as well as small insights into Emma's life.

Opening with Plum's New Year Resolutions, which are "To be braver. [picture Plum on her back in a submissive pose between two bigger dogs] To catch a cat. To catch a fox. Not to unstuff my new toys immediately. To sleep in their bed every night" and ending on December 31 with "We went to stay with our friends in the country for New Year's Eve. It was just as comfy as I remembered. The chairs and sofas are for dogs, unlike in our house. While everyone was watching TV I thought about the resolutions I'd made at the beginning of the year, and I realised I had almost 100% failed--except for one thing: the middle of their bed is MINE," the book isn't really a narrative per se, but a delightfully illustrated diary chronicling small, sweet snapshots of the previous year. It's a heart warming love letter to a dog, the joy in her heart and the joy she brings Clark. And reading it will bring the same kind of uncomplicated joy to anyone lucky enough to live with a dog.

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.

Come With Me by Helen Schulman.

The book is being released by Harper on November 27, 2018.

The book's jacket copy says: From Helen Schulman, the acclaimed author of the New York Times bestseller This Beautiful Life, comes another "gripping, potent, and blisteringly well-written story of family, dilemma, and consequence" (Elizabeth Gilbert)—a mind-bending novel set in Silicon Valley that challenges our modern constructs of attachment and love, purpose and fate.

Recommended by Vogue, the BBC, Southern Living, Pure Wow, Hey Alma, Esquire, EW, Refinery 29, Bust, and Read It or Weep

"What do you want to know?"

Amy Reed works part-time as a PR person for a tech start-up, run by her college roommate’s nineteen-year-old son, in Palo Alto, California. Donny is a baby genius, a junior at Stanford in his spare time. His play for fortune is an algorithm that may allow people access to their "multiverses"—all the planes on which their alternative life choices can be played out simultaneously—to see how the decisions they’ve made have shaped their lives.

Donny wants Amy to be his guinea pig. And even as she questions Donny’s theories and motives, Amy finds herself unable to resist the lure of the road(s) not taken. Who would she be if she had made different choices, loved different people? Where would she be now?

Amy’s husband, Dan—an unemployed, perhaps unemployable, print journalist—accepts a dare of his own, accompanying a seductive, award-winning photographer named Maryam on a trip to Fukushima, the Japanese city devastated by tsunami and meltdown. Collaborating with Maryam, Dan feels a renewed sense of excitement and possibility he hasn’t felt with his wife in a long time. But when crisis hits at home, the extent of Dan’s betrayal is exposed and, as Amy contemplates alternative lives, the couple must confront whether the distances between them in the here and now are irreconcilable.

Taking place over three non-consecutive but vitally important days for Amy, Dan, and their three sons, Come with Me is searing, entertaining, and unexpected—a dark comedy that is ultimately both a deeply romantic love story and a vivid tapestry of modern life.

Monday, November 12, 2018

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is hosted by Kathryn at Reading Date.

Books I completed this past week are:

Family Trust by Kathy Wang
Plumdog by Emma Chichester Clark
The Legendary Lord by Valerie Bowman
The Company They Kept edited by Robert B. Silvers and Barbara Epstein
Someone You Love Is Gone by Gurjinder Basran

Bookmarks are still living in the middle of:

A Hard and Heavy Thing by Matthew J. Hefti
Paint Your Wife by Lloyd Jones
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
Metis Beach by Claudine Bourbonnais
Smoke by Dan Vyleta
Coco Chanel by Lisa Chaney
The New York Time Footsteps by various authors
The Resurrection of Joan Ashby by Cherise Wolas
The Bottom of the Sky by Rodrigo Fresan
One House Over by Mary Monroe
Burntown by Jennifer McMahon
Everything She Didn't Say by Jane Kirkpatrick
The Girl Who Never Read Noam Chomsky by Jana Casale
Surviving Paradise by Peter Rudiak-Gould
The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell
The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal

Reviews posted this week:

Family Trust by Kathy Wang
All the Colors We Will See by Patrice Gopo

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

Swimming with Elephants by Sarah Bamford Seidelmann
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
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
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
In Every Moment We Are Still Alive by Tom Malmquist
The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
You'll Always Have Tara by Leah Marie Brown
The Taster by V.S. Alexander
Dear Mrs. Bird by AJ Pearce
Calypso by David Sedaris
A House Among the Trees by Julia Glass
Postcards from the Canyon by Lisa Gitlin
The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson
Sycamore by Bryn Chancellor
The Home for Unwanted Girls by Joanna Goodman
As Wide As the Sky by Jessica Pack
Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese
Plum Rains by Andromeda Romano-Lax
Second Wind by Nathaniel Philbrick
Leave No Trace by Mindy Mejia
Paper Is White by Hilary Zaid
Hotel Silence by Audur Ava Olafsdottir
The Vain Conversation by Anthony Grooms
The Beauty of the End by Debbie Howells
The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey
The Last Suppers by Mandy Mikulencak
Ostrich by Matt Greene
The Mercy Seat by Elizabeth H. Winthrop
Maggie Boylan by Michael Henson
We All Love the Beautiful Girls by Joanne Proulx
Every Note Played by Lisa Genova
Shores Beyond Shores by Irene Butter
The Shakespeare Requirement by Julie Schumacher
Fiction Can Be Murder by Becky Clark
Tigerbelle by Wyomia Tyus
Wolf Season by Helen Benedict
Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang
The Second Mrs. Hockaday by Susan Rivers
London Road by Tessa Smith McGovern
Invitation to a Bonfire by Adrienne Celt
Love, Nina by Nina Stibbe
Love Literary Style by Karin Gillespie
The Secret of the Irish Castle by Santa Montefiore
The Cactus by Sarah Haywood
The Amazing Story of the Man Who Cycled from India to Europe for Love by Per J. Andersson
A Cast of Vultures by Judith Flanders
The Governess Game by Tess Dare
In-Between Days by Teva Harrison
The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
In the Heart of the Canyon by Elisabeth Hyde
Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Penelope Lemon by Inman Majors
I'd Rather Be Reading by Anne Bogel
Royally Screwed by Emma Chase
The Wangs Vs. the World by Jade Chang
Southern Lady Code by Helen Ellis
Country of Red Azaleas by Domnica Radulescu
The Book Lovers' Appreciation Society by assorted authors
Don't Point That Thing at Me by Kyril Bonfiglioli
Hope Has Two Daughters by Monia Mazigh
The Friend by Sigrid Nunez
The Widow Nash by Jamie Harrison
The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld
Miss Featherton's Christmas Prince by Ella Quinn
The Radium Girls by Kate Moore
Rainbirds by Clarissa Goenawan
Sassafrass, Cypress, and Indigo by Ntozake Shange
Mean by Myriam Gurba
Maeve in America by Maeve Higgins
After the Bloom by Leslie Shimotakahara
Plumdog by Emma Chichester Clark
The Legendary Lord by Valerie Bowman
The Company They Kept edited by Robert B. Silvers and Barbara Epstein
Someone You Love Is Gone by Gurjinder Basran

Monday Mailbox

This past week's mailbox arrivals:

Plumdog by Emma Chichester Clark came from me for myself.

I saw this on the Litsy app. How can you resist a book with that cover, especially when it's the diary of the doggo on the cover? It looks totally charming.

Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid came from Ballantine Books.

I have thoroughly enjoyed Reid's other books so I am fully on board for this one about a late 70s era band and its frontwoman and the truth behind why they broke up.

Christmas on the Island by Jenny Colgan came from TLC Book Tours and William Morrow for a blog tour.

I do like Colgan's books and I am looking forward to this Christmas-themed tale of a woman accidentally pregnant by her ex-boss who hasn't yet told him or her family and of a Syrian doctor/refugee spending the holiday with his sons even while his wife is still missing.

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, November 7, 2018

Review: All the Colors We Will See by Patrice Gopo

Who are you? Probably the most important question a person can ever answer, if the question is considered seriously, it is not necessarily easy to answer. Down here in the South, the question also contains the seeds of the question "Who are your people?" Again, for some people, this is not always easy to answer although the advent of commercially available DNA tests is making this a little clearer. And while the question (at least here) is meant to pinpoint who your family is, it can be expanded to be asking who you identify with, who is your community, where do you belong? These questions and more are the big questions that Patrice Gopo is looking at, thinking about, and working through in her collection of biographical essays called All the Colors We Will See: Reflections on Barriers, Brokenness, and Finding Our Way.

Gopo grew up in Alaska, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, her face the only brown face among a sea of white. When she went off to college at Carnegie Mellon University, she was again in a small minority, especially in her chosen field of chemical engineering. Only when she went to South Africa, where she met her Zimbabwean husband, was she not the minority, but even then she didn't feel a sense of belonging. Gopo's essays meander through her life and experiences, large and small, confronting the idea and reality of being "other," examining her cultural heritage and identity and that of her children, and exploring race and what that means in all the different places and stages of her life.

Her essays are thoughtful and introspective as they reflect her desire for belonging, acceptance, and home. The essays don't necessarily follow chronologically, some touch on all the stages of her life so far while others focus on one specific time or event or object in her life but they are all connected by the thematic threads running through them. She looks at herself not only through the lens of the personal but at who she and her family are in a larger, more universal context. Her experiences are uniquely hers but they are also broadly the experience of so many other women of color. She writes of herself as a woman of color, as a mother, as a wife, and as a daughter in this world. She writes from the perspective of a child in Alaska, of the descendant of Jamaicans and Indians, of an American in South Africa, of a mother of multicultural children in Charlotte, NC. She writes as a citizen of the world searching for belonging. Readers who identify with any piece of who she is will see at least part of themselves in her essays. Readers who don't will see a reality they probably have never considered but should. If you enjoy essays that resonate, that inspire thoughtfulness, that explore identity and culture, then you should settle in with this one.

Thanks to the author for sending me a copy of her book to review.

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.

Little Culinary Triumphs by Pascale Pujol.

The book is being released by Europa Editions on December 4, 2018.

The book's jacket copy says: Set in the storied Parisian quarter of Montmarte, this heartwarming, comic tale is a must for foodies, Francophiles, and lovers of a good story well told.

Made famous by artists, writers, and bon vivants of every ilk, Montmartre has been the stomping ground for bohemian celebrities through the ages and a neighborhood synonymous with transgression and innovation. Today, it is a bustling multiethnic neighborhood where cultures, cuisines, the past and the future of Europe cohabitate and collide. Here in this vibrant community, in Pujol’s charming English-language debut, a cast of endearing characters fall into increasingly comic situations as they seek to follow their often-outrageous dreams.

Sandrine works as a functionary in an employment office, but there is a lot more to her than one might suspect from her job description. With a volcanic personality and an imagination to match it, she is also a world-class cook who is waiting for the right occasion to realize her dream of opening a restaurant of her own.

With a master plan that one could only describe as Machiavellian, Sandrine ropes Antoine, an unemployed professor looking for a fresh start, into her venture. A carousel of extravagant characters follows: the giant Senegalese man, Toussaint N’Diaye; the magical chef, Vairam; the extravagantly flatulent Alsatian, Schmutz and his twelve-year-old daughter Juliette―IQ 172!; the alluring psychologist and Kama Sutra specialist, Annabelle Villemin-Dubreuil.

Plans for the restaurant proceed smoothly until Sandrine discovers a shady newspaper operation next-door that leads her to a sinister magnate manipulating the Parisian news outlets.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Review: Family Trust by Kathy Wang

Money.  And the expectation of future money. There's probably nothing else in this world more easily able to tear apart a family, at least a wealthy family. Children want their (unearned) inheritance. First wives and second wives are at odds. First (ex)wives want their children to come into the cash while second wives want compensation for the time they spent catering to the dying. It all sounds so privileged and crass. But that's what makes for such fascinating reading, right? The low, grubbiness of it all. Kathy Wang has certainly captured this, and so much more, in her new novel, Family Trust.

Stanley Huang is dying of pancreatic cancer. His ex-wife Linda, who spent more than three decades with Stanley and is the mother of his children, wants to make sure that Fred and Kate inherit Stanley's wealth, a wealth she spent a lot of time building up for Stanley through shrewd investments and the like. Mary, Stanley's second, much younger wife, has no knowledge of his financial situation other than that they have money. With Stanley actively dying, she now has to worry what she will do once he's gone. Kate and Fred want to have some idea how much they each stand to inherit so they know how much their lives will be eased, especially once those lives descend into turmoil. But Stanley's cagey, not wanting to disclose anything to anyone. He just wants everyone to be there for him, doing his bidding whenever he wants. With who knows how much money on the line, Stanley's family tries, at least half-heartedly and sometimes more than a little grudgingly, to give him what he wants in the few months he has left.

Before his diagnosis, Stanley was self-involved, possessed of a nasty temper, and desirous of being seen as a successful and smart man. First wife Linda is financially savvy, emotionally remote, and generally content in her life post-divorce, even if divorce is still a little scandalous in her group of friends. She has washed her hands of Stanley as best she can but their shared children and this terminal diagnosis mean she cannot completely walk away from him. Along with tending her garden, occasionally babysitting her grandchildren, and astutely managing her money, she is discovering the appeal of online dating for the first time. Fred is a Harvard Business School grad who bemoans his mediocrity, at least as measured by Silicon Valley culture. He is dating an attractive, blonde, Bulgarian woman who works in sales at Saks and he is generally content with her except when she pressures him about marriage and blithely spends money he can't really (or doesn't want to) afford to spend. Kate is a director at a highly successful tech company. Having gotten in on the ground floor of the business before it took off, ala Google and Apple, means that she can afford to support her husband after he quits his job to attempt his own start-up, even if his presence in his attic home office doesn't translate into a bigger role in raising their two young children. In fact, Kate doesn't have any idea what Denny does up in the attic all day anyway. She is afraid to want more for herself than the life she's settled for. Mary, Stanley's second wife, speaks very little English and her step-children don't seem to like her very much although it is clear that Stanley dotes on her. She has been devoted to his care and comfort for the nine years of their marriage but the months after his diagnosis are the most pressure filled and fraught of all as she faces her own family's interest in her future financial situation and her step-children's interests being diametrically opposed to hers.

Wang carefully draws each of these characters and all of the factors going on in their lives as the novel progresses, slowly revealing what each character's ultimate desire is. The chapters alternate between the five main characters, although Mary doesn't have a chapter from her point of view until quite late in the novel, leaving her motives murky and subject to interpretation by the others for a long time. Because the reader sees each character's circumstances, Stanley's diagnosis is almost an after thought and the greedy need to know Stanley's intentions and the size of their bequests comes across as grasping and selfish. Of course, Silicon Valley, as portrayed here doesn't come off much better, nor does the insular, wealthy Taiwanese-American community. The Huang family's strained dynamic is on full display, only complimented by professional pressure and presumed, or sometimes very real, racism, sexism, nepotism, and cronyism. The novel starts off quite slowly and somewhat less than engagingly but it does eventually pick up, with the reader interested in finding out just how much money Stanley has, what Kate's husband is doing and whether she'll finally have the push to go after what she really wants, the truth about Linda's new online beau, and how Fred is going to improve his business standing and where his relationship is headed. Yes, there really are that many plot threads, and a few more besides. None of the characters are particularly sympathetic but their status seeking, family loyalty, and reactions to cultural pressures are interesting to watch as an outsider. This is very definitely a novel of "rich people problems" but don't we all sometimes fantasize about having these sorts of problems? Spending a few hours between the covers of this one will deliver just that, and maybe an appreciation for your own problems instead.

For more information about Kathy Wang and the book, check out her webpage, like her author page on Facebook, or follow her on Twitter or Instagram. Check out the book's Goodreads page, follow the rest of the blog tour, or look at the reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.

Thanks to Trish from TLC Book Tours and William Morrow for sending me a copy of the book for review.

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