Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Review: The Invisibles by Cecilia Galante

There is a home for boys not far from my mom and dad's house. It is a large brick building set well back from the road.  brick pillarA stately arch flanks the driveway and live oaks draped with Spanish moss give the whole place a bit of a gothic feel to it as you drive past it. I never lived in the house that my parents live in now so I only know the small amounts I've gleaned about the house itself and nothing really at all about the inhabitants. How old they are, where they go to school, the circumstances that led to them living in this home, all of these things are a mystery. In fact, I can't begin to imagine the lives these boys lead and what is in their hearts. But Cecilia Galante, in her first book for adults, The Invisibles, has imagined something similar: the lives of four girls who met in a girls' home as teenagers, their lives then, the pasts that shaped them, and their lives as adults.

Nora is a librarian who collects first lines from books. Her dog is named Alice Walker and is the most important thing in her life. She's a loner who rarely lets people into her life. But on her birthday, she gets a phone call from the past. As a teenager, Nora had lived in Turning Winds, the local home for girls, and was a part of a group of four girls who dubbed themselves The Invisibles. When Ozzie calls her that morning, they haven't been in touch for fifteen years, not after something terrible happened and they all went their separate ways. Now Grace, another of their group, has tried to commit suicide and is asking for them all. They were once each other's family and she needs them. With misgivings galore, Nora, who has generally barricaded herself off from everyone since the demise of the Invisibles, agrees to go with Ozzie and Monica to spend a weekend with Grace to see if there's anything they can do to help.

Each of the four women has a trauma in her background, one terrible enough to have landed her in the girls' home and in each case, their pasts are still influencing their presents. Bigger even than that though, is the shame over circumstances they could not control that still causes each woman to keep quiet about her own personal unhappiness, tragedy, fear, etc. As the women start to reconnect, not only do their barriers start to come down and their secrets start to emerge, but their shared past slowly comes to light. The emotional scars of the past are connected with the unresolved issues of the present as the mystery of everything that happened that seminal night is slowly revealed.

Nora is the main focus of the story but Ozzie, Grace, and Monica's stories are all told in their turn as well. Their pasts are both similar and wildly different. All of them were failed somehow by their mothers and they have struggled with their personal worth as a result. That each of the characters has something so terrible in her past is understandable given where they initially met each other but sometimes the novel feels as if one more problem might sink it. The tone of the conversations between these long estranged friends who once meant the world to each other quickly reverts back to the intimate confessions they once shared, highlighting their past connection as each others' teeenaged lifeline. But the problems of the women are definitely adult problems no matter how rooted they are in childhood and adolescence. The inclusion of the rituals of the club sharing their wishes and dreams is a nice touch and makes what they've endured more personal and human. The early pacing is a bit slow but it is hurtling along by the end as the reader wants to hear the truth of everything from that last night. A novel of friendship and the family we create, this will make you question how much of our pasts, good and bad, define us.

For more information about Cecilia Galante and the book, check out her website, like her Facebook page, or follow her on Twitter. Takes a look at 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 the publisher for sending me a copy of the book for 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.

Who Do You Love by Jennifer Weiner. The book is being released by Atria on August 11, 2015.

Amazon says this about the book: An unforgettable story about true love, real life, and second chances…

Rachel Blum and Andy Landis are just eight years old when they meet one night in an ER waiting room. Born with a congenital heart defect, Rachel is a veteran of hospitals, and she’s intrigued by the boy who shows up alone with a broken arm. He tells her his name. She tells him a story. After Andy’s taken back to a doctor and Rachel’s sent back to her bed, they think they’ll never see each other again.

Rachel grows up in an affluent Florida suburb, the popular and protected daughter of two doting parents. Andy grows up poor in Philadelphia with a single mom and a rare talent for running.

Yet, over the next three decades, Andy and Rachel will meet again and again—linked by chance, history, and the memory of the first time they met, a night that changed the course of both of their lives.

A sweeping, warmhearted, and intimate tale, Who Do You Love is an extraordinary novel about the passage of time, the way people change and change each other, and how the measure of a life is who you love.

Monday, August 3, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

I've been in paradise lately. But paradise has a very intermittent and dicey internet connection so I've gotten much more reading than reviewing accomplished in the past month. This meme has been hosted by Sheila at Book Journey and I hope will be again one day.

Books I completed this past week are:

This Must Be the Place by Kate Racculia
Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans
Henna House by Nomi Eve
The Reinvention of Albert Paugh by Jean Davies Okimoto

Bookmarks are still living in the middle of:

Love Maps by Eliza Factor Welcome to Braggsville by T. Geronimo Johnson
When the Moon Is Low by Nadia Hashimi

Reviews posted this week:

Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans

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

The Surfacing by Cormac James
The Secret Wisdom of the Earth by Christopher Scotton
Sweet Salt Air by Barbara Delinsky
Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League by Jonathan Odell
Without You, There Is No Us by Suki Kim
Making Nice by Matt Sumell
All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews
Spinster by Kate Bolick
Migratory Animals by Mary Helen Specht
Balm by Dolen Perkins-Valdez
Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner
Girl in Glass by Deanna Fei
Orphan Number Eight by Kim van Alkemade
Make Your Home Among Strangers by Jennine Capo Crucet
The Seven Stages of Anger and Other Stories by Wendy J. Fox
Lost Canyon by Nina Revoyr
The Door by Magda Szabo
Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper
Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg
Landfall by Ellen Urbani
This Must Be the Place by Kate Racculia
Henna House by Nomi Eve
The Reinvention of Albert Paugh by Jean Davies Okimoto

Monday Mailbox

Once again I was out of town (it's been a slingshot sort of summer for me) and I came home to a delicious looking stack of books. Welcome home to me! This past week's mailbox arrivals:

Fishbowl by Bradley Somer came from St. Martin's Press.

A goldfish decides to jump out of his bowl and as he plummets 27 stories toward the street, he gets a view into all the apartments he passes. Sounds quirky and fun, no?!

When the Moon Is Low by Nadia Hashimi came from William Morrow and TLC Book Tours for a blog tour.

I aalways enjoy family stories and this one about Afghan refugees looks heartbreaking.

The Race For Paris by Meg Waite Clayton came from Harper and TLC Book Tours for a blog tour..

The fictionalized tale of female journalists and a photographer who wanted to to be the first to enter Paris with the liberating Allies during WWII, this story of impressive women overcoming the societal road blocks thrown up at them should be fantastic.

White Dresses by Mary Pflum Peterson came from William Morrow and TLC Book Tours for a blog tour.

Hoarding is a terrible but fascinating obsession so this memoir really intrigues me.

Mrs. Sinclair's Suitcase by Louise Walters came from Putnam.

A book about a young woman who collects the ephemera found in books is just about as appealing as it gets for me.

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, July 29, 2015

Review: Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans

World War II books seem to be everywhere these days. It is a war that has captured the popular imagination in a way no other war in the twentieth century seems to have done. Like all wars before and after it, it didn't just affect those on the battlefield or in government, it had a profound effect on the general population. And for those in the path of the fighting and the bombs, it was forever life-altering. In Lissa Evans' brilliant novel, Crooked Heart, an orphaned evacuee from London and a debt-ridden suburban scam artist come together and are forever changed.

Ten year old Noel Bostock lives with his godmother Mattie in Hampstead Heath. An intelligent and unusual bookish child, he's been raised unconventionally by his elderly suffragette guardian. When Mattie starts exhibiting signs of senile dementia, Noel fills in the blanks for her, learns to cook, and keeps her secret. But when she wanders away one winter night, he is sent to live with Mattie's cousin and his wife, a couple who are kind enough but really have no room in their lives for a grieving young boy. It is a relief to them when Noel must be evacuated from London like the rest of the city's children. Sent to St. Alban's, not far from London, the serious child with jug handle ears and a limp from a bout of polio as a baby lands with the not always entirely honest Mrs. Vera Sedge, her lazy son Donald, and her dependent, mute mother Flora.

Vee only chooses to take Noel in on a spur of the moment whim--she'll receive money monthly for his upkeep--but immediately regrets her decision as she realizes she'll have to also provide and care for him. She worries that he'll also interfere with her money making schemes, no matter that they generally fail miserably anyway. Instead Vee and Noel become a team. With his brains and her action, their scam of collecting money for invented wartime charities is going a treat. Meanwhile the otherwise unremarkable Donald is up to his own dangerous tricks. And Vee's mother Flora stays busy writing hilarious, chatty missives to government officials about the illegal goings on inspired by the war and morale killers as she sees them.

Evans has written a wonderfully entertaining novel. Her characters are complete and engaging, even when they are up to no good. The growing connection between Noel and Vee is touching to watch, especially as this waif with nowhere else to go is the first person to treat Vee with any dignity and respect at all. Noel is an odd duck but he's heartwarming for all his eccentricities and the reader cannot help but feel sympathy for him both in the loss of his godmother and in his naive outrage over the small scale immoralities allowed by war (his and Vee's not included). There is a deliciously sly wit that threads through the narrative and shines through in unexpected places. This is a lovely novel of friendship, caring, and moral implications only partially hidden underneath a delightfully humorous story of bumbling ineptness, petty scams, and war. Thoroughly recommended.

For more information about Lissa Evans and the book, check out her website or follow her on Twitter. Takes a look at 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 the publisher for sending me a copy of the book for 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.

Villa America by Liza Klaussmann. The book is being released by Little, Brown and Company on August 4, 2015.

Amazon says this about the book: A dazzling novel set in the French Riviera based on the real-life inspirations for F. Scott Fitzgerald's Tender is The Night.

When Sara Wiborg and Gerald Murphy met and married, they set forth to create a beautiful world together-one that they couldn't find within the confines of society life in New York City. They packed up their children and moved to the South of France, where they immediately fell in with a group of expats, including Hemingway, Picasso, and Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald.

On the coast of Antibes they built Villa America, a fragrant paradise where they invented summer on the Riviera for a group of bohemian artists and writers who became deeply entwined in each other's affairs. There, in their oasis by the sea, the Murphys regaled their guests and their children with flamboyant beach parties, fiery debates over the newest ideas, and dinners beneath the stars.

It was, for a while, a charmed life, but these were people who kept secrets, and who beneath the sparkling veneer were heartbreakingly human. When a tragic accident brings Owen, a young American aviator who fought in the Great War, to the south of France, he finds himself drawn into this flamboyant circle, and the Murphys find their world irrevocably, unexpectedly transformed.

A handsome, private man, Owen intrigues and unsettles the Murphys, testing the strength of their union and encouraging a hidden side of Gerald to emerge. Suddenly a life in which everything has been considered and exquisitely planned becomes volatile, its safeties breached, the stakes incalculably high. Nothing will remain as it once was.

Liza Klaussman expertly evokes the 1920s cultural scene of the so-called "Lost Generation." Ravishing and affecting, and written with infinite tenderness, VILLA AMERICA is at once the poignant story of a marriage and of a golden age that could not last.

Monday, July 27, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme has been hosted by Sheila at Book Journey and I hope will be again one day.

Books I completed this past week are:

Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg
The Road Home by Kathleen Shoop
Landfall by Ellen Urbani

Bookmarks are still living in the middle of:

Love Maps by Eliza Factor Welcome to Braggsville by T. Geronimo Johnson
Henna House by Nomi Eve

Reviews posted this week:

The Road Home by Kathleen Shoop

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

The Surfacing by Cormac James
The Secret Wisdom of the Earth by Christopher Scotton
Sweet Salt Air by Barbara Delinsky
Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League by Jonathan Odell
Without You, There Is No Us by Suki Kim
Making Nice by Matt Sumell
All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews
Spinster by Kate Bolick
Migratory Animals by Mary Helen Specht
Balm by Dolen Perkins-Valdez
Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner
Girl in Glass by Deanna Fei
Orphan Number Eight by Kim van Alkemade
Make Your Home Among Strangers by Jennine Capo Crucet
The Seven Stages of Anger and Other Stories by Wendy J. Fox
Lost Canyon by Nina Revoyr
The Door by Magda Szabo
Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper
Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg
Landfall by Ellen Urbani

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