Monday, March 27, 2017

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is hosted by Kathryn at Reading Date.

Books I completed this past two weeks are:

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
Every Wild Heart by Meg Donohue
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

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
Eggshells by Caitriona Lally

Reviews posted this week:

The Enemies of Versailles by Sally Christie
My Italian Bulldozer by Alexander McCall Smith
Every Wild Heart by Meg Donohue

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
Roughneck Grace by Michael Perry
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

Monday Mailbox

This past week's mailbox arrivals:

Down the Garden Path by Beverley Nichols came from me to me. :-)

I adore Beverley Nichols' gardening books so I finally gave in and got this, his semi-autobiographical first account of gardening and the people who come and visit him as he's creating his garden. I can't wait to jump into more of his signature snark and wit.

Down the Kitchen Sink by Beverley Nichols came from me to me. :-)

I couldn't resist this cooking oriented follow-up to the above.

A Village in a Valley by Beverley Nichols came from me to me. :-)

The third in Nichols' Allways trilogy, this is another I didn't have and couldn't resist. (Seriously, if you haven't yet discovered Nichols, you should.)

Beyond the Wild River by Sarah Maine came from Atria Paperbacks.

The first thing that drew me to this one was the river on the cover (I'm so easy) but I am really excited to read this story of a Scottish heiress who comes across a childhood friend in Canada, a meeting that will reveal the truth of a five year old shooting back in Scotland.

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.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Review: Every Wild Heart by Meg Donohue

Sometimes life takes you down paths you expect and other times it takes you on detours. No matter which way you go though, you have to remain true to yourself and the things that feed your soul. Both a mother and a daughter are reminded of this lesson as they forge ahead together in Meg Donohue's newest novel, Every Wild Heart.

Gail Gideon (G.G.) is a San Francisco talk show host who hit it big when her husband left her and she ranted about it on air. Now she's a huge radio personality hosting a call-in show where she advises listeners on how to find their best, happiest life. She's an exuberant and self-assured person. Her fourteen year old daughter Nic is very much her mother's opposite in personality. She is insecure and awkward with a bit of a stutter when she's under stress. She only blossoms when she's at the stables with her beloved horse, Tru. G.G. accepts and adores Nic as she is and the two of them have a good relationship, even if Nic wants a little more freedom than her mother is entirely at ease with giving her. Aside from a potential stalker (it goes with the territory) whose threats start as slightly troubling and seem to be escalating, life is mostly comfortable for G.G. and Nic. But then Nic falls off her horse and suffers a traumatic brain injury. When she wakes from a coma, she is physically fine but her personality is different. The timidity that ruled her life before has disappeared and she's a bolder, more confident person. As Nic is suddenly less fearful, she becomes determined to save a troubled, dangerous horse everyone else has given up on. Meanwhile G.G. is having to re-evaluate her life and to focus on her own passion, opening herself up to love again and rediscovering the importance of the music she let slip out of her life.

The novel alternates between G.G. narrating in first person and sections focused on Nic being narrated in third person. The reader is given access to G.G.'s most inner thoughts and sees first hand the worries she faces about keeping her daughter safe, the concern about Nic's changed personality, the remnant of feelings she still has for her ex and the growing feelings she might have for someone new, her loyalty to those close to her, and the dawning realization that her own life has veered off the path that makes her the happiest. The third person narration of Nic's sections keeps her a little more closed off from the reader, which works to give a little distance. This distance puts the reader in the role of observer, just as G.G. is in her teenaged daughter's life. It is nice to read a novel about the mother daughter relationship that doesn't have a major conflict between mother and daughter. G.G. and Nic clash but only over the sorts of things that any loving parent and child would clash over, like Nic chafing because her mother has declared her unable to ride until the doctors clear her after her injury and wanting to be treated with more trust since she's getting older. It is in details like this that the novel absolutely rings true to life. The novel is a lovely tale of a growing and changing mother daughter relationship, two potential budding love stories, a slight, secondary mystery, and the power of following your heart, overcoming fear, and creating the life you want. This is a quick and easy read, perfect for anyone who's a little burned out on dysfunction and unhappiness.

For more information about Meg Donohue and the book, check out her author website, like her on Facebook, or follow her on Twitter. Also, 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 Trish from TLC Book Tours and Harper Collins for sending me a copy of this book to review.

Wednesday, March 22, 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 Forbidden Garden by Ellen Herrick. The book is being released by William Morrow Paperbacks on April 4, 2017.

Amazon says this about the book: Perfect for fans of Kate Morton and Sarah Jio, comes a lush imaginative novel that takes readers into the heart of a mysterious English country garden, waiting to spring to life.

Every garden is a story, waiting to be told…

At the nursery she runs with her sisters on the New England coast, Sorrel Sparrow has honed her rare gift for nurturing plants and flowers. Now that reputation, and a stroke of good timing, lands Sorrel an unexpected opportunity: reviving a long-dormant Shakespearean garden on an English country estate.

Arriving at Kirkwood Hall, ancestral home of Sir Graham Kirkwood and his wife Stella, Sorrel is shocked by the desolate state of the walled garden. Generations have tried—and failed—to bring it back to glory. Sorrel senses heartbreak and betrayal here, perhaps even enchantment. Intrigued by the house’s history—especially the haunting tapestries that grace its walls—and increasingly drawn to Stella’s enigmatic brother, Sorrel sets to work. And though she knows her true home is across the sea with her sisters, instinct tells her that the English garden’s destiny is entwined with her own, if she can only unravel its secrets…

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Review: My Italian Bulldozer by Alexander McCall Smith

Alexander McCall Smith has made a name for himself writing entertaining, gentle fiction. His most well known is probably his No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series but he has several other delightful series as well. On occasion he writes stand-alone novels as well. Whether he's writing mystery or general fiction, series or stand-alone, McCall Smith has a certain feel, an amiable, calm, philosophical sensibility to his books. His latest, a stand-alone novel titled My Italian Bulldozer, is a lovely and thoughtful look at love and the sometimes incongruousness of life in the Tuscan countryside.

When Paul Stewart's girlfriend of four years runs off with her personal trainer, he is gutted, retreating from everything and everyone. Only when he almost misses the deadline for his latest food and wine book does he snap out of it. Because Paul is a famous writer and his long-suffering editor, Gloria, isn't going to let him be derailed by a relationship she didn't think much of. Deciding to immerse himself in the food and wine of the place he's writing about, Paul heads to a small hill town in Tuscany to complete his book. Getting there won't prove easy though as a complicated misunderstanding sees the kindly and sad Paul arrested for car theft after landing in Italy. Once he is released from jail, the only way to get himself to his destination is by rented bulldozer, which will prove a slow but interesting way to travel. Once he reaches the town of Montalcino, the accommodation and peaceful acceptance that characterized his trip remains as he parks his odd means of transportation in the car park on the edge of town.

The start of this book makes the reader suspend disbelief. A rental bulldozer? Really? But somehow McCall Smith makes this work and even uses this bumbling, almost ridiculous beginning to set the stage and thoroughly draw his main character's persona. Paul is a thoughtful and considerate, curious and lovely character who makes friends with everyone around him. The people he encounters are quirky and appealing and the countryside comes alive in this comfortable and charming read. The ending is rather predictable but it is the one that the reader wishes for Paul so although it isn't a surprise, it feels appropriate. Those who enjoy the affable charm of McCall Smith's previous books will find this short, quick read similarly pleasing in tone and narrative pacing. It's a light and happy read and might even make you wish you had your own rental bulldozer.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Monday Mailbox

This past week's mailbox arrival:

Strangers Tend to Tell Me Things by Amy Dickinson came from me to me. :-)

I find Dickinson funny on Wait Wait Don't Tell Me...! so I'm curious about this memoir subtitled A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Coming Home.

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.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Review: The Enemies of Versailles by Sally Christie

Although Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were the King and Queen beheaded during the French Revolution, much of the discontent of the populace that led to their execution was set during Louis-Auguste's grandfather, Louis XV's reign. Nowhere is this more apparent than in XV's final years, the years in which, ironically enough, he takes a common woman, in fact a low born, illegitimate Paris prostitute not only into his bed but into Versailles itself. Sally Christie's final installment in the Mistresses of Versailles trilogy (after The Sisters of Versailles and The Rivals of Versailles) details not only the rumblings of Louis XV's court as the unpopular monarch ages but also the life of his last, doomed mistress, Jeanne, Madame du Barry and that of his daughter, Madame Adelaide.

Jeanne Becu is an angelic looking child who grows into a beautiful woman. Daughter of a cook, she "models", although perhaps entices is a better term, in a fashionable dress shop when she falls in love with the Comte du Barry, one of the store's wealthy patrons. He makes the fresh looking beauty his mistress, awakening her sexuality and trying to curb what he sees as her frivolity and low class antics. Once she is presentable enough, Barry becomes her pimp, securing her high class lovers. This development shatters young Jeanne's dreams of a monogamous life with her adored Barry and although reluctant, she has no choice but to do his bidding. His ambitions will eventually bring her to the attention of the King, who is still mourning the loss of his beloved Madame de Pompadour. As much as Louis is enchanted with this new lovely temptress, his family and the court at Versailles has no interest in this common Paris courtesan, resolving to effectively ignore the King's latest plaything.

Told in chapters alternating between Madame du Barry's rise to grace the highest bed in the land and chapters centered on Madame Adelaide, one of Louis's daughters who is vehemently against du Barry and what she sees as an attack on her and her sisters' very royalty, the story pits the two women against each other. Adelaide's loathing and her entitlement as a daughter of France makes it clear just what forces Jeanne is up against and how she will be ostracized, even with the King on her side. Jeanne is a much less political creature than the mistresses who preceded her and she is less able to play the games required at court, presenting herself simply as herself, a stunningly beautiful, sweetly kind woman who wants very much to be accepted and liked. Madame Adelaide, by contrast, is not only much higher in the hierarchy but very aware of her own consequence, certain of what she is owed, commanding and rigid and determined to make life for this palace interloper unpleasant. Beneath her haughty and unpleasant manner though, is the heart of a girl who doesn't understand why her father no longer holds her in the esteem he once did and who desperately seeks to regain the love she has lost. The power games within the sheltered walls of the court start to take on a brittle tone as the clamor for a more populace focused government becomes louder and louder, occasionally even leaking into the otherwise sheltered palace.

Christie has deftly juxtaposed the rigid piety of Adelaide with the sensual profligacy that brings du Barry to court in the last years of Louis XV's life. But she also shows the insularity of the court, not only in regards to protecting their own consequence but also as regards the feelings of the majority outside the walls of their unreal world. People starve for want of bread while the princesses royale spend millions of livres on vacations and other frivolities and du Barry accepts fantastically expensive jewels and the lavish lifestyle she certainly knows from her own upbringing to be excessive. Both women are sheltered from the reality of the outside world because of their residence in Versailles and although Madame Adelaide sees and resents some of the seeds of the coming revolution, she cannot conceive of a general public who would truly destroy everything she's ever known. Jeanne, for all her sexual knowledge, is rather naive and so she too fails to discern the mood outside the gates, focused as she is first on Adelaide's dislike of her and then on the young dauphine, Marie Antoinette's. This final book doesn't finish with the death of Louis XV and Jeanne's banishment from court but instead follows both Jeanne and Adelaide as the Revolution swirls around them, changing the trajectory of their lives forever. This allows the reader to see how Louis XV's reign, his choices and his attitude, led so clearly to the brutal bloodbath that was the Revolution in full flower. This is a fitting conclusion to the trilogy for sure, a fascinating and engrossing read. Those who have read and enjoyed the first two will definitely want to read this. Those who haven't yet read the first two can jump into the history and the story here without missing a beat.

For more information about Sally Christie and the book, check out her author website or her Goodreads page. Also, 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 the author for sending me a copy of this book to review.

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