Wednesday, July 30, 2014

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.

Small Blessings by Martha Woodroof. The book is being released by St. Martin's Press on August 12, 2014.

Amazon says this about the book: Tom Putnam, an English professor at a Virginia women’s college, has resigned himself to a quiet and half-fulfilled life. For more than ten years, his wife Marjory has been a shut-in, a fragile and frigid woman whose neuroses have left her fully dependent on Tom and his formidable mother-in-law, Agnes Tattle. Tom considers his unhappy condition self-inflicted, since Marjory’s condition was exacerbated by her discovery of Tom’s brief and misguided affair with a visiting poetess. But when Tom and Marjory meet Rose Callahan, the campus bookstore’s charming new hire, and Marjory invites Rose to dinner, her first social interaction in a decade, Tom wonders if it’s a sign that change is on the horizon. And when Tom returns home that evening to a letter from the poetess telling him that he’d fathered her son, Henry, and that Henry, now ten, will arrive by train in a few days, it’s clear change is coming whether Tom’s ready or not.

For readers of Helen Simonson and Anna Quindlen, Small Blessings is funny, heart-warming and poignant, with a charmingly imperfect cast of cinema-ready characters. Readers will fall in love with the novel’s wonderfully optimistic heart that reminds us that sometimes, when it feels like life is veering irrevocably off track, the track changes in ways we never could have imagined.

Monday, July 28, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Still on vacation. Still being lazy, starting books right, left, and center, without finishing them or reviewing them. But this happy scatterbrained bliss is about to end and I'll be back to my regular programming shortly. This meme is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Books I completed this past week are:

The From-Aways by C.J. Hauser
All Fall Down by Jennifer Weiner
Juliet's Nurse by Lois Leveen
We Are Called to Rise by Laura McBride

Bookmarks are still living in the middle of:

The Geometry of Love by Jessica Levine
Gemini by Carol Cassella
Ruby by Cynthia Bond
bellman and Black by Diane Setterfield

Reviews posted this week:

The Sea Garden by Deborah Lawrenson

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

Mimi Malloy, At Last by Julia MacDonnell
The Innocent Sleep by Karen Perry
Strings Attached by Joanne Lipman and Melanie Kupchynsky
Palmerino by Melissa Pritchard
If Not For This by Pete Fromm
The Lady From Tel Aviv by Raba'i al-Madhoun
Angels Make Their Hope Here by Breena Clarke
Ishmael's Oranges by Claire Hajaj
Neverhome by Laird Hunt
Burial Rights by Hannah Kent
Euphoria by Lily King
The Blessings by Elise Juska
The Traitor's Wife by Allison Pataki
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
Painted Horses by Malcolm Brooks
The From-Aways by C.J. Hauser
All Fall Down by Jennifer Weiner
Juliet's Nurse by Lois Leveen

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

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.

Palmetto Moon by Kim Boykin. The book is being released by Berkley Trade on August 5, 2014.

Amazon says this about the book: June, 1947. Charleston is poised to celebrate the biggest wedding in high-society history, the joining of two of the oldest families in the city. Except the bride is nowhere to be found…

Unlike the rest of the debs she grew up with, Vada Hadley doesn’t see marrying Justin McLeod as a blessing—she sees it as a life sentence. So when she finds herself one day away from a wedding she doesn’t want, she’s left with no choice but to run away from the future her parents have so carefully planned for her.

In Round O, South Carolina, Vada finds independence in the unexpected friendships she forms at the boarding house where she stays, and a quiet yet fulfilling courtship with the local diner owner, Frank Darling. For the first time in her life, she finally feels like she’s where she’s meant to be. But when her dear friend Darby hunts her down, needing help, Vada will have to confront the life she gave up—and decide where her heart truly belongs.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Review: The Sea Garden by Deborah Lawrenson

Deborah Lawrenson's novel, The Sea Garden, is composed of three short stories which are seemingly unconnected but which ultimately come together in unexpected ways. The first story, called The Sea Garden, centers on Ellie Brooks, a young woman arriving on the French Mediterranean island of Porquerolles to work on a garden commission. As Ellie sketches out her ideas, she is bothered by misgivings about the elderly woman who found and convinced her son to hire Ellie and she feels as if her only ally in the increasingly menacing situation is an elusive war historian. The second story, called The Lavender Field, tells the story of a young blind French girl who works at a perfume factory and discovers that the family who has taken her in works in a Resistance cell. Marthe must decide whether she has the courage to join in with this dangerous work as well, especially after a tragedy threatens to derail long held planning. And the third story, A Shadow Life, is also set during WWII. In it, a junior British intelligence officer named Iris falls in love with a French agent. When the war ends, Iris is determined to discover what happened to her lover, despite accepted evidence that he was possibly a double agent.

Each of the stories is completely self-contained but toward the end of the third story, the other two stories are tied in to the mystery of whatever happened to Iris's lover. The first story, set in the present day, has a gothic feel to it with a rising tension and hints of the paranormal. There are some plot aspects that aren't resolved entirely satisfactorily until the third story and there are one or two things that are raised, like the suicide of the young man on the ferry in the opening of the story, that are used for atmosphere but need a bit more to be fully realized in the story. The second and third stories are significantly different in tone than the first story, completely lacking the threatening tone that pervades the first. These latter two stories tell of different aspects of the war and are representative of the many stories that make up the whole of the war. They are fascinating in a historical sense and interesting for the personal touch they bring to the Resistance and to British intelligence. Lawrenson has done a phenomenal job in connecting all three individual stories in the end and in revealing the mystery and secrets behind the whole.

The descriptive passages here are very visual and evocative and Lawrenson's managed to conjure up the scents to which Marthe, as a blind woman, would have been so very sensitive. Each of the stories are atmospheric and well researched, from gardening to the war and the main characters are all strong women, appealing and intelligent. The structure was an interesting one that required a little work on the reader's part to remember well each story and make the connections that tied the whole together. Historical fiction readers, specifically those with an interest in WWII, and those who enjoy mysterious fiction will enjoy this novel immensely.

For more information about Deborah Lawrenson and the book, check out her website, Facebook page, and her blog. 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 the publisher for sending me a copy of the book for review.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

I am on vacation, which means I have vry limited internet access. This means lots of reading and very little reviewing gets accomplished so I'll have to play catch-up when I get home. It also means that this is more than one week's worth of stuff. This meme is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Books I completed this past week are:

The Traitor's Wife by Allison Pataki
Last Night at the Blue Angel by Rebecca Rotert
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
Painted Horses by Malcolm Brooks
The Sea Garden by Deborah Lawrenson

Bookmarks are still living in the middle of:

The Geometry of Love by Jessica Levine
Gemini by Carol Cassella
The From-Aways by C.J. Hauser

Reviews posted this week:

Losing Touch by Sandra Hunter
Last Night at the Blue Angel by Rebecca Rotert
The Union Street Bakery by Mary Ellen Taylor

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

Mimi Malloy, At Last by Julia MacDonnell
The Innocent Sleep by Karen Perry
Strings Attached by Joanne Lipman and Melanie Kupchynsky
Palmerino by Melissa Pritchard
If Not For This by Pete Fromm
The Lady From Tel Aviv by Raba'i al-Madhoun
Angels Make Their Hope Here by Breena Clarke
Ishmael's Oranges by Claire Hajaj
Neverhome by Laird Hunt
Burial Rights by Hannah Kent
Euphoria by Lily King
The Blessings by Elise Juska
The Traitor's Wife by Allison Pataki
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
Painted Horses by Malcolm Brooks
The Sea Garden by Deborah Lawrenson

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Review: The Union Street Bakery by Mary Ellen Taylor

Daisy McCrae never imagined her life as it is right now. She's lost her job as a financial manager, broken up with her fiancé, and moved home to live in the tiny attic room above her family's bakery. She's trying to help untangle the bakery's finances and take some of the stress off of her family while she figures out where her life should go next. In this interim, Daisy would also like to find out something more about her mother, the woman who abandoned her at the bakery as a three year old.

This early abandonment has marked Daisy hard. She feels like she isn't a real McCrae even though the family formally adopted her and folded her into their hearts. She has a fairly tense relationship with her sisters and that makes her current situation in the bakery that much tougher. When a long time elderly customer who seems to know quite a bit about Daisy dies, she bequeaths an 1850s diary to Daisy without any word of explanation. Daisy has no idea why she's been given this historical document written by a slave girl named Susie when it's one of her sisters who is interested in history. The diary is, in fact, a treasure trove of history, personal and public, and it holds the answers to a lot of Daisy's questions, as she discovers as she delves deeper into its contents. It also brings the presence of a slightly malevolent feeling ghost into the bakery and into Daisy's attic in particular.

The insecurity that Daisy feels as a result of her abandonment and subsequent adoption is very well handled. The fact that she is loved and accepted in her family helps some but doesn't completely mitigate the result of the deep trauma on her. That she stays somewhat aloof and doesn't share important things in her life like her engagement and the subsequent breaking off of that engagement with her family is understandable given her feeling of outsider status. But the love and acceptance that the McCrae family offers her is unrelenting despite her holding back. The mystery of Daisy's origins is revealed slowly and tied into general history quite well. As Daisy learns about Susie and her connection not only to herself but to the McCrae family, she also learns more completely what it takes to be a fully fledged member of a loving family such as the McCraes.

The story was an interesting one with multiple threads running through it, the current day story, the historical angle, and the paranormal as well. Daisy's character is a sympathetic one, desperately wanting to fit in, mourning the loss of the man she loves, and trying to save the bakery despite the dire financial situation. The rest of the McCrae family isn't quite as fleshed out as Daisy is, perhaps a reflection of her own feeling of distance from them.  The paranormal element here is more of a distraction than a necessary piece of the plot.  This is the first in a planned series and there may be more plot and character development in future books and the paranormal may tie in more necessarily as well. A fast read, this tackles some deeper issues in an easy and engaging way.

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

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

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.

Panic in a Suitcase by Yelena Akhtiorskaya. The book is being released by Riverhead Hardcover on July 31, 2014.

Amazon says this about the book: A dazzling debut novel about a Russian immigrant family living in Brooklyn and their struggle to learn the new rules of the American Dream.

In this account of two decades in the life of an immigrant household, the fall of communism and the rise of globalization are artfully reflected in the experience of a single family. Ironies, subtle and glaring, are revealed: the Nasmertovs left Odessa for Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, with a huge sense of finality, only to find that the divide between the old world and the new is not nearly as clear-cut as they thought. The dissolution of the Soviet Union makes returning just a matter of a plane ticket, and the Russian-owned shops in their adopted neighborhood stock even the most obscure comforts of home. Pursuing the American Dream once meant giving up everything, but does the dream still work if the past is always within reach?

If the Nasmertov parents can afford only to look forward, learning the rules of aspiration, the family’s youngest, Frida, can only look back.

In striking, arresting prose loaded with fresh and inventive turns of phrase, Yelena Akhtiorskaya has written the first great novel of Brighton Beach: a searing portrait of hope and ambition, and a profound exploration of the power and limits of language itself, its ability to make connections across cultures and generations.

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