Wednesday, February 10, 2016

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.

3 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl by Mona Awad. The book is being released by Penguin Books on February 23, 2016.

Amazon says this about the book: Growing up in the suburban hell of Misery Saga (a.k.a. Mississauga), Lizzie has never liked the way she looks—even though her best friend Mel says she’s the pretty one. She starts dating guys online, but she’s afraid to send pictures, even when her skinny friend China does her makeup: she knows no one would want her if they could really see her. So she starts to lose. With punishing drive, she counts almonds consumed, miles logged, pounds dropped. She fights her way into coveted dresses. She grows up and gets thin, navigating double-edged validation from her mother, her friends, her husband, her reflection in the mirror. But no matter how much she loses, will she ever see herself as anything other than a fat girl?

In her brilliant, hilarious, and at times shocking debut, Mona Awad simultaneously skewers the body image-obsessed culture that tells women they have no value outside their physical appearance, and delivers a tender and moving depiction of a lovably difficult young woman whose life is hijacked by her struggle to conform. As caustically funny as it is heartbreaking, 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl introduces a vital new voice in fiction.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Review: The Ramblers by Aidan Donnelley Rowley

I used to race through walks, treating them as a purely exercise related thing. The older I get though, the more I ramble instead. Now when I walk outside, I am slower. I notice the budding trees. I appreciate the light, delicate birds that fly across my path. I stand and stare at the deer I come across so as not to startle them into running off. And while this all sounds idyllic, I also see the dog poop that no one has bothered to pick up. I notice the bits of trash and detritus that have blown out of garbage cans. I startle over snakes or small dead critters. I swat at mosquitoes. But these latter things do not take away from the beauty of the former. They are a part of the whole but they are not the whole. So when I ramble through nature and life, I can focus on the less pleasant experiences and allow them to drive me inside my house of my shell, or I can accept them as part of the makeup of a generally pretty wonderful experience. In Aidan Donnelley Rowley's beautiful novel, The Ramblers, her characters are learning to experience the whole of everything without letting the unpalatable or scary overwhelm the amazing, promising parts of their lives. Each has faced a loss that continues to mark them and to direct their reactions until they understand that the beauty of life is in the living of it, the opening up to experience, and the courage to risk your heart. As they ramble through this ode to New York City and their own lives, they discover that they may not be following the map they once planned for, but because of that they are finding that most wonderful thing of all: unexpected joy.

Clio is a respected ornithologist who also takes groups on bird watching walks through the Ramble in Central Park. After one of her walks, she met older, handsome hotelier Henry. The two seemed perfect for each other. Both are workaholics and neither are looking for marriage and family. Until Henry changes his mind and wants to build a shared life with Clio. But Clio hasn't been entirely truthful with Henry and her secret, the reason she doesn't want to commit, may scare Henry off. She can't decide if telling him or walking away from him would be worse. As she grapples with her fears, her roommate Smith is having to look head on at her own loss. Her younger sister is getting married and every aspect of the wedding reminds Smith of the ex-fiance she still loves. When she hears how he has moved on in his life, she is devastated. Couple that with the fact that she sees Clio on the cusp of a huge, potentially life changing decision and the fact that Smith is still living in the same building as her parents, still just a part of her extremely wealthy family rather than an individual standing on her own two feet (even her very successful organizing, life coach business was started with seed money from her father despite his disapproval), and she is feeling left behind and lonely. Tate, a fellow classmate of both Clio and Smith's at Yale, is back in New York and hurting. He developed and sold an app for a lot of money but that success didn't stop his wife from leaving him. So he's come back to the East Coast in order to pursue his love of photography, something that took a backseat to business for too long.

The novel is narrated from each of the three main characters' perspectives, showing their innermost fears and what holds each of them back. They are all complex and real feeling with distinctive voices. Clio, Smith, and Tate are all privileged but their problems are universal and they, as characters, are sympathetic despite their privilege. The novel is intimate feeling but with a satisfying depth to it. Rowley details mental illness and its toll delicately and respectfully. And she writes with an engaging, smooth adeptness that keeps the reader invested in each of these broken but healable people. This is a novel of loss and acceptance, fear and love, friendship and possibility, and it celebrates the power of finding joy in the small things around us, opening our hearts to trust, and the happy surprise of finding the unexpected. It was a delightful read.

For more information about Aidan Donnelley Rowley, take a look at her blog, like her on Facebook, or follow her on Twitter or Instagram. Check out the book's Good Reads 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.

Monday, February 8, 2016

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is hosted by Kathryn at Reading Date.

Books I completed this past week are:

The Things We Keep by Sally Hepworth
The Sisters of Versailles by Sally Christie

Bookmarks are still living in the middle of:

The Private Papers of Eastern Jewel by Maureen Lindley

Reviews posted this week:

Wishful Thinking by Kamy Wicoff

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

The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan
Beasts of No Nation by Uzodinma Iweala
My Fat Dad by Dawn Lerman
The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street by Susan Jane Gilman
The Opposite of Everyone by Joshilyn Jackson
The Ramblers by Aidan Donnelley Rowley
My Confection by Lisa Kotin
Put a Ring on It by Beth Kendrick
One Perfect Summer by Paige Toon
The Things We Keep by Sally Hepworth
The Sisters of Versailles by Sally Christie

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

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.

My Father the Pornographer by Chris Offutt. The book is being released by Atria Books on February 9, 2016.

Amazon says this about the book: After inheriting 400 novels of pornography written by his father in the 1970s and ‘80s, critically acclaimed author Chris Offutt sets out to make sense of a complicated father-son relationship in this carefully observed, beautifully written memoir.

“Clearing Dad’s office felt like prospecting within his brain. As I sorted, like an archaeologist, backward through time, I saw a remarkable mind at work, a life lived on its own terms.”

When Andrew Offutt died, his son, Chris, inherited a desk, a rifle, and 1800 pounds of porn. Andrew had been considered the “king of twentieth century smut,” a career that began as a strategy to pay for his son’s orthodontic needs and soon took on a life of its own, peaking during the ‘70s when the commercial popularity of the erotic novel was at its height.

With his dutiful wife serving as typist, Andrew wrote from their home in the Kentucky hills, locked away in an office no one dared intrude upon. In this fashion he wrote 400 novels, ranging from pirate porn and ghost porn, to historical porn and time travel porn, to secret agent porn and zombie porn. The more he wrote, the more intense his ambition became, and the more difficult it was for his children to penetrate his world.

Over one long summer in his hometown, helping his mother move out of the house, Chris began to examine his deceased father’s possessions and realized he finally had an opportunity to come to grips with the mercurial man he always feared but never understood. Offutt takes us on the journey with him, showing us how only in his father’s absence could he truly make sense of the man and his legacy. This riveting, evocatively told memoir of a deeply complex father-son relationship proves again why the New York Times Book Review said, “Offut’s obvious kin are Richard Ford, Tobias Wolff, and Ernest Hemingway.”

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Review: Wishful Thinking by Kamy Wicoff

If you're a parent, you've probably found yourself wishing for more time to accomplish something or maybe just for time to slow down. Our world is so crammed full of commitments and everything important seems to pass in such a blink of an eye that there never seem to be enough hours in the day to do everything you need or want to do. Now imagine that you are a single mother whose ex hasn't been particularly helpful in the past but now wants to reexamine your custody agreement, especially in light of everything you've been missing lately, and a stranger gives you the ability to be in more than one place at a time. It sounds like a godsend, doesn't it? At least at first it did to Jennifer Sharpe, the main character in Kamy Wicoff's novel, Wishful Thinking. And then it didn't.

Jennifer is a single mom in New York City. Norman, her ex, has been pretty non-existent in her boys' lives since the divorce so she's had to shoulder everything. She switched jobs to have more time with her boys, Julien and Jack, but recently her lower key, lower paying non-profit housing authority job has ramped up to not only mimic the private sector but even to exceed its pressures and workaholic expectations. At the same time, her long time babysitter wants to cut back on her hours so she herself can go back to school. Jennifer is frazzled and overwhelmed by all the competing claims on her time. When her wealthy new boss offers her a bonus if she and her new coworker, Alicia, get their project, originally called It Takes a Village and re-dubbed One Stop, a single community center designed to house all social services offices and centrally located in the neighborhood they serve, Jennifer has to devote even more time to work.  Since there's no way to make a day have more than 24 hours, her time with her boys suffers. Losing her phone, with its jam-packed calendar, is just the latest disaster in a life getting out of control. Miraculously, a neighbor finds and returns the phone, having installed a new app called Wishful Thinking on it. That it purports to be for women who need to be in more than one place at the same time makes Jennifer skeptical but when she has to work late and is faced with missing Julien's guitar recital, on a whim she decides to try this strange and intriguing app. Amazingly, it works.  But in order to use it again, Jennifer has to track down her neighbor, Dr. Diane Sexton, the inventor and a brilliant physicist, and convince her that she, Jennifer, is the perfect person to be used in a clinical trial of this time travel technology. She has to agree to limit her use of the app and after she tells her best friend, Vinita, a doctor, about it, she agrees to medical monitoring as well.

At first she is thrilled to be able to be superwoman at work and still spend quality time with her boys, no longer missing the events of their lives. But she soon discovers that work expands to fill the time she has available and instead of feeling fully present at the important moments in her life, she is still juggling everything: a crazy work schedule, the needs of her boys, and the sleep deprivation that is a symptom of her increased, clandestine overuse of the magic app. Jennifer has more time than ever before but it is every bit as filled as before she could travel through wormholes and gain extra time in her day. The question is not whether she can do it all with Wishful Thinking's help but whether she is happier and more fulfilled as a person as a result and what the ultimate fallout of relying on this technological miracle might be.

Wicoff has written a fanciful and entertaining look at the impossibility of having and doing it all and the costs for those who try. No one can do everything all by themselves, something that Jennifer easily recognizes for the people she's designed One Stop to benefit but she is unable to see the value and necessity of help and community in her own life, at least until she's pushed to breaking. This novel is both a mother's wish fulfillment--after all, who hasn't wished for more hours in the day--but also a cautionary tale about the connections we make, the value of vulnerability, asking for and accepting help, and the importance of finding your own personal balance and contentment. The novel hits at the myth of the Supermom, that impossible socially constructed role model, who unfortunately makes so many women feel inferior or incapable, but in an accessible, light, and engaging way. There is a light romance here as well as looks at the various different relationships that make up our lives and the people who form our community. You'll zip through this frantically paced, sometimes predictable novel without any of the panic that the pace induces in Jennifer, simply enjoying her interactions with the people around her at work and at home as she learns what it means to be present in the here and now of life. A fun and frothy read, it might just cause you to look at your own self-imposed expectations about what you can and should be accomplishing in your daily life.

Monday, February 1, 2016

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

I spent this week all over the place. First I was in Denver for ABA's Winter Institute. Then I was in Cincinnati with my daughter on college visits. Starngely enough, other than on plane rides and layovers, this didn't leave me much time to read (although obviously I had long plane rides and many layovers) or review anything. But on the non-book front, I sure accomplished a lot! This meme is hosted by Kathryn at Reading Date.

Books I completed this past week are:

The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street by Susan Jane Gilman
The Opposite of Everyone by Joshilyn Jackson
The Ramblers by Aidan Donnelley Rowley
My Confection by Lisa Kotin
Put a Ring on It by Beth Kendrick
One Perfect Summer by Paige Toon

Bookmarks are still living in the middle of:

The Sisters of Versailles by Sally Christie

Reviews posted this week:

nothing yet

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

Wishful Thinking by Kamy Wicoff
The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan
Beasts of No Nation by Uzodinma Iweala
My Fat Dad by Dawn Lerman
The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street by Susan Jane Gilman
The Opposite of Everyone by Joshilyn Jackson
The Ramblers by Aidan Donnelley Rowley
My Confection by Lisa Kotin
Put a Ring on It by Beth Kendrick
One Perfect Summer by Paige Toon

Monday Mailbox

Although I was in Denver for Winter Institute and had to send my numerous acquisitions home this past week, adding them to this list would make the page enormous and unwieldy so I'm going to refrain. I'll just stick with the books that were sent directly to me and call it good (and they do look good). This past week's mailbox arrivals:

The Bomb Girls by Daisy Styles came from Penguin.

About a quintet of young women who are all conscripted into wartime work in a munitions factory in Britain, this should be a different and engaging sort of look at a friendship novel and at WWII.

The Crooked Heart of Mercy by Billie Livingston came from Penguin.

Tragedy, scandal, a priest, and a marriage that needs saving, this should pique your interest as much as it does mine, right? (Plus, just look at that cover!)

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.

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