Wednesday, August 28, 2013

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.

A Beautiful Truth by Colin McAdam. The book is being released by Soho Press on September 17, 2013.

Amazon says this about the book: Told simultaneously from the perspective of humans and chimpanzees, set in a Vermont home and a Florida primate research facility, A Beautiful Truth—at times brutal, other times deeply moving—is about the simple truths that transcend species, the meaning of family, the lure of belonging, and the capacity for survival.

A powerful and haunting meditation on human nature told from the dual perspectives of a Vermont family that has adopted a chimp as a surrogate son, and a group of chimpanzees in a Florida research institute.

Looee, a chimp raised by a well-meaning and compassionate human couple who cannot conceive a baby of their own, is forever set apart. He’s not human, but with his peculiar upbringing he is no longer like other chimps. One tragic night Looee’s two natures collide and their unique family is forever changed.

At the Girdish Institute in Florida, a group of chimpanzees has been studied for decades. The work at Girdish has proven that chimps have memories and solve problems, that they can learn language and need friends, and that they build complex cultures. They are political, altruistic, get angry, and forgive. When Looee is moved to the Institute, he is forced to try to find a place in their world.

A Beautiful Truth is an epic and heartfelt story about parenthood, friendship, loneliness, fear and conflict, about the things we hold sacred as humans and how much we have in common with our animal relatives. A novel of great heart and wisdom from a literary master, it exposes the yearnings, cruelty, and resilience of all great apes.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Review: Early Decision by Lacy Crawford

I have two children in high school. That means that college is coming like a freight train. This is a terrifying prospect. Do they want to go to college? Where do they want to go? Do they have the grades and scores to get into their first choice? Their second choice? Any choice? And what about all the variables that are completely unknowable? What if the admissions office doesn't want or need more of what my children are offering in the year in which they will apply? Thick letter or thin?  Jubilation or broken heart?  I still vividly remember the agony and anticipation of my own college search. I don't know if I can survive going through it with my kids. And quite honestly, Lacy Crawford's novel, Early Decision, makes me just a touch more panicky. Crawford was an independent college admissions counselor so she knows whereof she speaks in this novel about several different college seniors and their quest to get into the college on which they and their parents have their hearts set.

Following five students on their college application journey, the novel is told from the perspective of Anne, a private admissions counselor who has seen it all and has the added cache of having attended an Ivy League school herself. She's in her late twenties and still not certain of what she wants to do with her own life but she knows how to shepherd students through the application and essay writing process to get them into the big name schools. She mainly works for overly involved, wealthy parents who often see the college their children go to as another status symbol. This college season Anne is working with Sadie, who doesn't have the grades for Duke but whose father is a trustee and whose mother is a nationally known life coach so she's a slam dunk for getting in; Hunter, whose mother has been driving and directing his life since he was small, never allowing him to just be a kid; Alexis, who can write her own ticket because she is the whole package but whose parents still want to micromanage things; William, a meticulous and buttoned up boy who secretly has far different dreams for his future than his parents do; and Cristina, a first generation immigrant who has the brains it takes to make it out of poverty if she can just catch a break and a scholarship with a college admissions office.

As Anne works with each of the students, helping them find their spark and passion, finessing their essays, deciding which college to shoot for, and oftentimes placating their parents even as she runs interference for the kids, she is facing upheavals in her own life. Her actor boyfriend has moved from Chicago to LA without her. She's not certain how many more seasons of college admissions she can take, privy to the unhappiness and problems of these accessory kids and their fierce parents. And she feels as if she has sold her soul to the devil, playing fast and loose with Cristina's future in an effort to raise her up despite knowing that this disadvantaged child deserves the chance as much if not more so than the other four whose parents are paying her well to make their dreams come true.

Told through Anne's observations, emails with her students, and their evolving personal essays, the novel is very immediate and visceral. The desperation of the parents comes through loud and clear, as does their inability to let their children find their own future, the one right for them. And just as in real life, the students themselves run the gamut from involved and caring to passive riders on their parents' trains. Each of the kids, smack in a stressful and seminal time in life, changes and grows in some way. If nothing else, they discover the things that bring them joy and how to match that up with what they envision for college. Some of the students find the strength of character to push to make the process theirs and to start living their own lives while others, despite the tantalizing glimpse of what could be, remain trapped in a vision not of their own making. Anne herself also faces her own decisions about her future during this year, trying to remember and tap into her own passion even as she teases out the students'. The novel's subtitle Based on a True Frenzy is completely accurate. And the major feeling I'm left with towards the college application process is a nerve-wracking despair, which tells me that Crawford has done a fantastic job of capturing all the conflicting feelings about wanting to launch my babies into the world and wanting to keep them little. She's really drawn realistic teenagers and I have to hope that she hasn't caught me as a parent in her portrayal of the parents in the book! Anyone facing the competitive world of college admissions soon should be lining up to read this book and those who aren't facing it yet should read it too, if only to decide whether their hearts can handle the stress of launching a child into the world.

For more information about Lacy Crawford and the book, check out her website or follow her on Twitter. Follow the rest of the blog tour or look at the amazon reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.

And watch the book trailer, with commentary by Crawford herself, here:


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

Monday, August 26, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Books I completed this past week are:

The President's Hat by Antoine Laurain
Funny in Farsi by Firoozeh Dumas
Billy Budd and Other Tales by Herman Melville
Early Decision by Lacy Crawford
Let Him Go by Larry Watson

Bookmarks are still living in the middle of:

Better Than Fiction edited by Don George
Freud's Mistress by Karen Mack and Jennifer Kaufman

Reviews posted this week:

The Silver Star by Jeannette Walls
Mary Coin by Marisa Silver

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

Dancing to the Flute by Manisha Jolie Amin
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Happy Rock by Matthews Simmons
The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg
The Purchase by Linda Spalding
Love Potion Number Ten by Betsy Woodman
Is This Tomorrow by Caroline Leavitt
Royal Bridesmaids by Stephanie Laurens, Gaelen Foley, and Loretta Chase
Letters From Skye by Jessica Brockmole
Thursday Next in First Among Sequels by Jasper Fforde
The House Girl by Tara Conklin
Topsy by Michael Daly
Autobiography of Us by Aria Beth Sloss
The Group by Mary McCarthy
The Innocents by Francesca Segal
Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
Among the Janeites by Deborah Yaffe
The President's Hat by Antoine Laurain
Funny in Farsi by Firoozeh Dumas
Billy Budd and Other Tales by Herman Melville
Early Decision by Lacy Crawford
Let Him Go by Larry Watson

Monday Mailbox

This past week's mailbox arrivals:

Freud's Mistress by Karen Mack and Jennifer Kaufman came from Amy Einhorn Booksand TLC Book Tours for a blog tour.

Fiction about real people? Juicy! About Freud and his affair with his sister-in-law? Scandalous! And eminently intriguing.

Swimming in the Moon by Pamela Schoenewaldt came from William Morrowand TLC Book Tours for a blog tour.

I have always been fascinated by what drove people to emigrate to the US so this tale a of a young girl and her talented mother who leave Italy and end up on the vaudeville circuit and the struggles and demons they face is right up my alley.

If you'd like to see the marvelous goodies in other people's mailboxes, make sure to visit The Reading Fever as she is hosting this month's Mailbox Monday and have fun seeing how we are all doing our part to keep the USPS and delivery services viable.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Review: Mary Coin by Marisa Silver

You've probably seen the iconic Dorothea Lange "Migrant Mother" photograph that graces the cover of Mary Coin. This stark portrait is one of the most recognizable images of the Great Depression. And yet because it has come to convey so much, very few people stop to think about the woman and children captured here in their poverty and hardship. And yet they were very real people who lived lives well beyond the photograph. Marisa Silver has created a fictional story about the woman in the picture, the woman behind the camera, and a modern day historian whose connection to this photograph and the woman in it will slowly be revealed over the course of the novel and in so doing has created a striking and original read.

Told in a triple stranded narrative, the novel spans almost 90 years from before the taking of the photograph to the repercussions long afterwards. Opening in the present day with Walter Dodge returning to his childhood home as his silent and failing father is taken out of that home for the last time, the novel moves into the history professor's life, his unhappiness, his fraught relationship with his children, and the gaps in his family history that he will be exploring as he clears out his father's home and the accumulation of decades. And then the novel moves even further back than Walter's past into the stories, lives, and challenges of Mary Coin, the subject of the photograph, and Vera Dare, the photographer. Both of the women's lives are fully examined and their histories presented separately.

Mary Coin's childhood on a scratch existence farm, from her marriage to the always sickly but kind Toby Coin and their ever growing family, to what drove them off of their own land and into the migrant life that would prove so harrowing are all meticulously covered. Each of the events of her life which molded her into the woman in the photograph, beaten down and yet unyielding, is captured in straight, unforgiving prose. Photographer Vera Dare's life is also laid bare with the same honest and unflinching eye, her lack of self-esteem, her inability to leave her philandering husband, her ambivalence towards motherhood, and her drive to document what she saw, to grow professionally if not personally. These two women's paths would cross for only a few brief minutes and yet together they would come to define an era. How the puzzle piece of modern day Walter fits into all of this lies within the photograph itself, exposed for all the world to see if they would just look.

This is beautifully written and thought-provoking. Silver's imagined story of the iconic photograph and the women connected to it is fascinating in its potential. That she not only created a story for the photo itself but also fully convincing histories for both Mary Coin and Vera Dare and allowed the truth of George Dodge's story to come out through Walker without it ever actually being confirmed, just as so much in life, makes this masterful. Motherhood and survival, what is right, and the lives available to women and to mothers, with or without men, plus the idea of the artifacts, photographs and documents and the ephemera of everyday, that tell us the truth of history all wind through the plot. History is made up of the personal but growing outward, growing larger; its concentric circles touching more and more people and offering understanding on both the national level of the Depression and on the very private level of family secrets and truths.  The storylines of the two women are more compelling than that of Walter so the novel is a little bit unbalanced but overall, Silver's novel is ultimately a well-crafted, quiet, and considered examination of Depression-era life and of the people who struggled through it.

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

Friday, August 23, 2013

Review: The Silver Star by Jeannette Walls

I may be one of the only people on the planet who hasn't read Jeannette Walls' The Glass Castle. At least one of the only book loving people on the planet who hasn't read it. But even without reading it, because of all the conversations about it, I know the general gist of it and so when I saw that she had written a novel with similar themes and topics in it, I was curious to see what it would be like and whether it would inspire me to pull her first book off my shelf faster.

Twelve year old Bean and her older sister Liz have been parenting themselves for a long time. Their mother Charlotte is looking for her big break and if that means neglecting her girls, well, she's always left them enough money to be okay until she gets back. But this time, she been gone so long that the neighbors suspect something's up and call the authorities about the abandoned girls. To avoid the police car sitting outside their home, Liz convinces Bean to hop a bus across country to live with family they barely remember.  So the girls travel to small Byler, Virginia to their childless, eccentric, and reclusive Uncle Tinsley. Used to fending for themselves, they continue to do so even under Tinsley's roof, with Liz even finding a job at the mill foreman, Jerry Maddox's house. And although the girls would seem to have some sense of self-preservation, they are still young and innocent and unable to recognize the evil in front of them.

Bean, the narrator is a precocious and feisty character who really thrives after the move across country but Liz still carries the weight of the world on her young shoulders. While Liz is trying to build a better life for herself and her sister, Bean is uncovering the truth about her father and finding an extended family eager to embrace and support her. But when a terrible thing happens to Liz in this tiny mill town, the girls' principles and belief in right triumphing over wrong is tested and this test might just shatter the now fragile Liz. This is a heartbreaking coming of age story which makes the reader consider how some people overcome terrible things like neglect and abuse and still manage to open their hearts to life and why others crumble under these same horrors.

A very quick read, it was also fairly predictable. The characters were stock in that none of them besides Bean is much fleshed out and they are common enough to be incredibly similar to the standard dysfunctional family characters in many other novels. There were some provocative suggestions made that were then dropped or ignored (Charlotte's allegation of abuse by her father and Liz's disintegrating mental state) when they could have been threads for a richer story tapestry. But the coping mechanisms that each character used to make it through the day rang true from Bean and Liz to Uncle Tinsley shut up in his decaying manor house avoiding the world. While the story was a little flat overall, it was still a diverting read and it wasn't hard to feel sympathy for the girls and the hard life they lived and to hope that they would find the love and caring they needed to blossom.

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

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

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.

Songs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford. The book is being released by Ballantine Books on September 10, 2013.

Amazon says this about the book: From Jamie Ford, the New York Times bestselling author of the beloved Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, comes a much-anticipated second novel. Set against the backdrop of Depression-era Seattle, Songs of Willow Frost is a powerful tale of two souls—a boy with dreams for his future and a woman escaping her haunted past—both seeking love, hope, and forgiveness.

Twelve-year-old William Eng, a Chinese American boy, has lived at Seattle’s Sacred Heart Orphanage ever since his mother’s listless body was carried away from their small apartment five years ago. On his birthday—or rather, the day the nuns designate as his birthday—William and the other orphans are taken to the historical Moore Theatre, where William glimpses an actress on the silver screen who goes by the name of Willow Frost. Struck by her features, William is convinced that the movie star is his mother, Liu Song.

Determined to find Willow and prove that his mother is still alive, William escapes from Sacred Heart with his friend Charlotte. The pair navigate the streets of Seattle, where they must not only survive but confront the mysteries of William’s past and his connection to the exotic film star. The story of Willow Frost, however, is far more complicated than the Hollywood fantasy William sees onscreen.

Shifting between the Great Depression and the 1920s, Songs of Willow Frost takes readers on an emotional journey of discovery. Jamie Ford’s sweeping novel will resonate with anyone who has ever longed for the comforts of family and a place to call home.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year (Back to School version)

It's that time of year again. The time of year when other parents lament missing their little darlings being around 24/7 and when I glance at my watch and say, "Oh s#*$! Is school over already today?" Yes, I would do cartwheels to celebrate the start of school but I'd probably throw my back out and then I wouldn't be comfortable lounging around on the couch eating bonbons and we can't have that. ::snort:: Seriously, I don't understand the bittersweet sadness so many people feel this time of year (nor the apathy that my kids feel). I used to love going back to school. I loved new school supplies. I loved the reading lists. I loved the time with friends. I loved everything about school. OK, maybe not gym class. And definitely not gym uniforms. And math was not high on my list either. But in the grand scheme of things, I was always excited to go back to school. So it follows that I'm excited for my kids to go back to school too.

They've spent the summer beings mostly being slugs. We saw W. (a rising junior) in actual daylight yesterday for the first time in what feels like months and were just relieved to note that he has not, despite rumors to the contrary, been turned into a vampire. R. (a rising sophomore) emerged from her room in back to school clothing that is three inches too short (both tops and bottoms) and told me with an evil grin that she wants to go to the mall, her happy place and my seventh circle of hell. I think she chose her clothing intentionally since I haven't taken her to the mall once all summer long. And T. (a rising sixth grader) seems to have moved permanently onto the couch in his jammies and a snuggie. So you can see how starting school again could interrupt their long cherished summer traditions of being anti-social to family and hiding out in their rooms. But I refuse to let their ennui dampen my enthusiasm!

From www.caglecartoons.com
So I went onto the school website and looked at each teacher's supply lists. (We don't actually get official supply lists until the first day of classes so that everyone in the district, all 132,000 families, can descend on every office supply store in a 100 miles radius on the same night. Because who doesn't want to fight your neighbor over the last pack of college ruled paper in a tri-state area? Good times.) Many teachers don't have a list up (or it's last year's list so it can't be 100% trusted) but I lucked out and R.'s English teacher has a whole prospectus up on her website. Now I don't know if it this year's or not but I read it through anyway. Goals: blah, blah, blah. Grading: blah, blah, blah. Class rules: blah, blah, blah. Etc. And then I came to the course texts and required novels. Be still my beating heart! I called R. down to show her and to gush about the books. She was unimpressed and even dismissed some of the books, either because she's already read them or because I said they were good and she thinks my taste in books is egregious. I swear she's not my kid. ::sigh:: So here's the list:

o Night by Elie Wiesel
o The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
o Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing up Iranian in America by Firoozeh Dumas
o Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
o A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah
o Snowflower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
o Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
o Othello by William Shakespeare (provided by school)
o One choice novel – list will be provided 4th Quarter

The only thing disappointing to me about this list is that I've read all but one of the books (pending her choice of novel at the end). The good news though, is that I own the one I haven't read and I immediately plucked it off the shelf and started reading it. And it's funny. Which means my kid will hate it. Because she hates all the books I recommend for her. Because she's a teenager. In any case, I should probably also dig out my notes from when I used to teach Othello myself. Or maybe not. Because she's going to hate that one too. And me if I try to help her.

So I'll just wallow in the happiness of evicting my children from their rooms and my couches. And eagerly await the reading lists for W. and T. (nothing listed on the internet yet) because nothing beats the joy of reading lists and the smell of new office supplies. Back to school time rocks! For me anyway and parents who think otherwise are drips. ;-)

Monday, August 19, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Books I completed this past week are:

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
Among the Janeites by Deborah Yaffe
Bookmarks are still living in the middle of:

Better Than Fiction edited by Don George
Billy Budd and Other Tales by Herman Melville

Reviews posted this week:

Sinners and the Sea by Rebecca Kanner
Equilibrium by Lorrie Thomson

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

The Silver Star by Jeannette Walls
Mary Coin by Marisa Silver
Dancing to the Flute by Manisha Jolie Amin
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Happy Rock by Matthews Simmons
The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg
The Purchase by Linda Spalding
Love Potion Number Ten by Betsy Woodman
Is This Tomorrow by Caroline Leavitt
Royal Bridesmaids by Stephanie Laurens, Gaelen Foley, and Loretta Chase
Letters From Skye by Jessica Brockmole
Thursday Next in First Among Sequels by Jasper Fforde
The House Girl by Tara Conklin
Topsy by Michael Daly
Autobiography of Us by Aria Beth Sloss
The Group by Mary McCarthy
The Innocents by Francesca Segal
Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
Among the Janeites by Deborah Yaffe

Monday Mailbox

This past week's mailbox arrivals:

One Doctor by Brendan Reilly came from Atria.

Health care is on everyone's minds and lips these days so this memoir of a doctor dealing with his own daily patients, his elderly parents' illnesses, and the medical case from long ago that still haunts him promises to be a challenging and insightful look at modern medicine and the state of hospitals in this country.

House of Miracles by Ulrica Hume came from the author.

Interconnected stories about love at the end of the twentieth-century, this looks like the best kind of short story collection.

With All My Love by Patricia Scanlan came from Atria.

A novel about mother daughter relationships that reverberates through three generations in Ireland, this grabs me because I do so love family conflict novels.

Margot by Jillian Cantor came from Riverhead Books.

What if Anne Frank's older sister had lived, emigrated to the US, and lived an unassuming life far from the past? This novel imagines just that and what happens when her true identity is discovered. Enticing, no?!

Among the Janeites by Deborah Yaffe came from Shelf Awareness.

An examination of Jane Austen's fans? Oh my! Be still my beating heart.

Paperboy by Tony Macaulay came from Harper.

A coming of age memoir centered on a paperboy delivering the news in Belfast during the midst of the Troubles, this should be a wonderful read.

Fin and Lady by Cathleen Schine was a contest win from FSG.

Sibling novels always appeal to me so this one where an eleven year old boy and his seventeen year old half sister are orphaned and must adjust to each other and learn to be a family sounds great.

If you'd like to see the marvelous goodies in other people's mailboxes, make sure to visit The Reading Fever as she is hosting this month's Mailbox Monday and have fun seeing how we are all doing our part to keep the USPS and delivery services viable.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Review: Visiting Tom by Michael Perry

There are many people in our lives whom we can learn from if we just sit down and listen to them. Listen to them not as they offer us advice and insight into being a better person but just listen to them as they tell their stories. Michael Perry's Visiting Tom is a lovely ode to his eighty two year old neighbor, Tom, and to their visits, their shared chats, and their deep and reliable friendship.

Weaving together notes from a photography session at Tom's farm highlighting the old and special features of the farm and its implements with years of visits to have Tom do some work for him or just to check in and be neighborly as well as Perry's own evolving life as a hybrid of author/farmer in rural Wisconsin, this memoir is beautiful, conversational, and eminently entertaining.

Tom is a bit of an eccentric character with decided opinions and a unique view on the world. He's lived in his house for his entire life, watching it change from a large remote farm to a piece of property with a highway slashed through it right outside the kitchen window. He and wife Arlene have been married for almost 60 years and they've raised two daughters. Tom is handy and creative both, fixing tools the county over for others, designing and implementing his own working machines, and enjoying tinkering with anything mechanical. And of course, he is carrying on a longtime love affair with vintage weaponry, gleefully firing his reproduction cannons over his driveway toward a target perched on a hill. He shares his memories of times past and the priceless stories of people and place that live on only in the minds of the old-timers.

As Perry relates Tom's stories, memories, and goofy jokes, he also opens up his own home life to his readers, discussing the joys of parenting daughters and the comfort of his own marriage. He details his own mostly gentlemanly go rounds with government and the highway commissioner about the undesirable "improvement" to the road leading to his turn. And he relates his longing for hearth and home while he is on the road traveling with the job that pays the bills (writing and promoting books like this). He shares the sentimental joys of everyday life with his girls and his own stories of growing up. And like his previous non-fiction works, Perry has written another familiar feeling, homely, reverent book. He absorbs Tom's wisdom, gleaned from his actions as much as his words, and presents this kind neighbor not as his mentor but with the unpretentious dignity befitting such. This is a meditative tale, sweet and nostalgic. It is a book to be wallowed in and, as my dad says, read slowly and with great expression. Perry might get to visit Tom regularly but with this book, we are also invited into the farmhouse kitchen to take our place at the table and listen too.  Sometimes there's no greater joy than just that.

For more information about Michael Perry and the book, check out his website, Facebook page, or follow him on Twitter. Follow the rest of the blog tour or look at the amazon reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.

And listen to Perry narrate the book trailer here:


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

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Review: Equilibrium by Lorrie Thomson

For all the understanding we have now of our bodies and how they work, in many ways, our brains are still mostly a mystery. We're learning and studying and making advancements every day but the 3 pounds of grey matter shut away in our skulls still harbors secrets that we haven't unlocked. When a brain is functioning as we expect, it is an amazing and complex organ. But when it doesn't function as we'd like, such as in the case of mental illness, it takes on a baffling and sometimes heartbreaking complexity. And while we do the best we can with mental illness, because so much of it is still beyond us, it can devastate a person's life and the lives of their loved ones too. This is very definitely the case in Lorrie Thomson's debut novel, Equilibrium, where a family is having to learn to live in the aftermath of bipolar husband and father Jack's suicide a year prior to the events of the book.

Laura Klein and her children Darcy and Troy have barely been holding it together since Jack's death. Each has grieved in their own way, but all of them have been unable to face the whole reality of his suicide. Laura was the famous author's editor having shelved her own desire to write many years ago to not only raise their children but to care for and protect Jack himself so that he could write his successful books. Now that he's gone and her own writing is but a distant memory, all she has is their children and she guards them fiercely, transferring her constant vigilance over her husband to her teenagers, even as they push her away. She worries about them inheriting Jack's bipolar disorder, of not being able to protect them from even more hurts and tragedies life throws in everyone's path. Daughter Darcy, a daddy's girl, misses her father desperately but she can't or doesn't want to talk to her mother about her feelings. Instead, she plunges into a relationship with Nick, falling hard for this randy teenaged boy who is at least as troubled as she is. Meanwhile younger brother Troy's feelings about his father's suicide threaten to swamp him and he might be exhibiting the first symptoms of the illness that drove his father to end his own life.

With all of these concerns, Laura doesn't have room in her life for anything else. Except that one of her friends, eager to help Laura move on and to find a supplement to the meager income of residual royalties, is pushing her to rent out Jack's old studio office space as an apartment. And the minute Laura reluctantly acquiesces, the perfect renter appears. Aidan Walsh is a ER doctor new to town and looking for a place to live. That he's incredibly sexy is just an unforeseen bonus, one that Laura has no intention of acknowledging or acting on. But Aidan has made no similar promise to himself, inching his way into the Klein family's life by degrees, offering a solid, caring counterpoint to the constant anticipation of disaster that Jack had always inspired. But Laura might not be ready to relinquish her watchful anticipation and Darcy has less than zero interest in a replacement father.

Thomson has written a touching novel about the trying to find balance even with the threat of mental illness hanging over your head. She's captured the fear and the worry of parenting teenagers and how hard it is to let go, especially when you aren't happy with the choices they're making. Laura as a character is stressed and under pressure, so used to the way life was for so long that she doesn't know how to break out of her protective routine. Her panic at finding herself in a relationship unlike anything she's ever experienced definitely rings true. Her anxiety over her children is understandable but seems to come and go a bit inexplicably. Aidan's character is so patient and understanding and constant that he is just too good to be true. Darcy's defiance, hurt, and anger over what she sees as her father's abandonment is palpable throughout the sections focused on her feelings making her increasingly serious involvement with Nick more troubling by the page. Troy is less than well fleshed out, except in Laura's concern for him.

The Kleins struggle and fight and try to honor their past with Jack even as they search for ways to move forward and to be happy despite his loss. A novel about the ravages of mental illness, of relationships, how we choose to live our lives relative to other people and their importance to us, love, and the second chances life sends our way, this tries to balance two very different storylines, parenting and romance, in just the way that so many people try to balance them both in their lives. And if it's not entirely successful with the integration into one seamless tale, with one aspect continually outweighing the other, it is still a moving read.

For more information about Lorrie Thomson and the book, check out her website, Facebook page, or follow her on Twitter. 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 this book to 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.

Three Things You Need to Know About Rockets by Jessica Fox. The book is being released by Atria Books on August 27, 2013.

Amazon says this about the book: Jessica Fox was living in Hollywood, an ambitious 26-year-old film-maker with a high-stress job at NASA. Working late one night, craving another life, she was seized by a moment of inspiration and tapped second hand bookshop Scotland into Google. She clicked the first link she saw.

A month later, she arrived 2,000 miles across the Atlantic in Wigtown, on the west coast of Scotland, and knocked on the door of the bookshop she would be living in for the next month . . .

The rollercoaster journey that ensuedtaking in Scottish Hanukkah, yoga on Galloways west coast, and a waxing that she will never forgetwould both break and mend her heart. It would also teach her that sometimes we must have the courage to travel the path less taken. Only then can we truly become the writers of our own stories.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Review: Sinners and the Sea by Rebecca Kanner

I first read a couple of books of the Bible when I was in seventh grade. We read the story of Ruth in my English class and discussed it from the perspective of literature and story telling. Although we didn't really discuss the religious significance of the story, I don't suppose such a class would ever be allowed to happen in public school these days. But this school reading was my first introduction to the idea that the Bible contains some pretty incredible stories. I had heard stories in Sunday School, of course, but I don't know that I really connected them to the Bible and certainly not to any idea, unformed as it may have been, of literature before that class. Since then, I have read many other Biblical stories and the modern fictional accounts they've inspired. Rebecca Kanner's Sinners and the Sea is the latest of these in my reading life, looking at the antediluvian world and women's situations in it through the eyes of Noah's wife, a woman unnamed and only briefly referenced in the Bible.

The girl who becomes Noah's wife was born with a large red birthmark above her eye, called the mark of the demon by her neighbors. Her father chose to keep her unnamed so that these superstitious and fearful people could not easily talk of his daughter. But keeping her nameless and mostly out of sight doesn't keep her from being the target of grumblings, gossip, and accusations. So her father does what he thinks will best protect her, giving her in marriage to the eccentric sounding, presumed by many to be crazy, but powerful Noah, an old man with a strong calling to the God of Adam. It is with this desiccated old man, sitting on the back of a spindly donkey, that the young woman leaves her home and all she has known of the world, to live with her new husband in Sorum, a town of grievous sinners, outcasts, whores, and thieves, where Noah works tirelessly to show them the error of their ways.

As Noah does the bidding of his God, his wife tries to make a life for herself in this terrible and scary place. She is surrounded only by those whom God would forsake as she toils for her husband and eventually for their three sons. Only a prostitute named Javan, a woman who cannot be redeemed and the mother of the simpleton Herai, is kind to her and sees her as a person in her own right. But this kindness to Noah's wife is not enough to save her as Noah and his sons prepare for the foretold flood. Although it is clear that the townspeople are wicked, sinful, and beyond even Noah's proselytizing, Noah and his sons are not perfect servants of the Lord either; they are flawed and human, often nasty and judgmental themselves.

Once the flood comes, Noah, his wife, their sons, and their sons' wives are not the only people tossed on the waters of the God's fury. For many days, they continue to encounter others who cling to small vessels and even Nephilim, giants who are eventually swallowed by the raging, rising waters much as the townsfolk were.  But eventually they are alone on the sea and the waters calm.  There is strife and dissention on the Ark and Noah's wife tries to keep the peace and to mitigate the anger between her sons. At every turn in the novel, in each circumstance where she has worked to please Noah, she asks her husband to bestow a name on her, to give voice to her existence, but Noah is always too consumed by his relationship with God to attend earthly details. And so Noah's wife sails into the new world, the matriarch of all still yearning for her own identity.

Kanner's depiction of the world before the flood is vivid and realistic sounding in all of its immoral, violent, and sinful excesses. The character of Noah's wife is sympathetic and helps to contrast the difference between those unredeemed and those whom God favors. Through this unnamed woman, Kanner highlights the issues of identity and goodness, self-determination and sacrifice. But Noah's wife is just about the only appealing character in the novel. Her sons are troubled, proud, and filled with hatred and anger. They are no better than the doomed townspeople near whom they've grown up. And Noah himself is rather distasteful, treating his wife as so much furniture, simply the vessel by which he can procreate, constantly railing against the sins, and even the very beings, of those around him without stopping to consider, as his nameless wife does, the circumstances that led them to this place. Truly, there is almost no character, as drawn here, worthy of being saved, and not because they are imperfect. The novel is dark and dramatic and yet this sturm und drang becomes repetitive and tiresome.  In the end, this was a very quick read with an intriguing premise but it was ultimately a bit disappointing for me.

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

Monday, August 12, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Books I completed this past week are:

The Group by Mary McCarthy
The Innocents by Francesca Segal
Visiting Tom by Michael Perry

Bookmarks are still living in the middle of:

Better Than Fiction edited by Don George
Billy Budd and Other Tales by Herman Melville

Reviews posted this week:

David by Ray Robertson
The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell

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

Sinners and the Sea by Rebecca Kanner
The Silver Star by Jeannette Walls
Mary Coin by Marisa Silver
Dancing to the Flute by Manisha Jolie Amin
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Happy Rock by Matthews Simmons
The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg
The Purchase by Linda Spalding
Love Potion Number Ten by Betsy Woodman
Is This Tomorrow by Caroline Leavitt
Royal Bridesmaids by Stephanie Laurens, Gaelen Foley, and Loretta Chase
Letters From Skye by Jessica Brockmole
Thursday Next in First Among Sequels by Jasper Fforde
The House Girl by Tara Conklin
Topsy by Michael Daly
Autobiography of Us by Aria Beth Sloss
Equilibrium by Lorrie Thomson
The Group by Mary McCarthy
The Innocents by Francesca Segal
Visiting Tom by Michael Perry

Monday Mailbox

This past week's mailbox arrivals:

Visiting Tom by Michael Perry came from TLC Book Tours and Harper Perennial for a blog tour.

I have enjoyed Perry's previous books since I first discovered his Population: 485 many years ago and I am looking forward to this account of visits and conversations between Perry and octogenarian neighbor Tom.

An Incurable Insanity by Simi K. Rao came from TLC Book Tours and Tate Publishing for a blog tour.

This tale of an Indian man who finally bows to the convention of an arranged marriage but intends to leave his wife untouched while his beautiful wife has her own plans to make her marriage real appeals to me for several different reasons.

If you'd like to see the marvelous goodies in other people's mailboxes, make sure to visit The Reading Fever as she is hosting this month's Mailbox Monday and have fun seeing how we are all doing our part to keep the USPS and delivery services viable.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Sunday Salon: Another check in on summer reading

As summer winds down, it's time for one last, late check in on how I'm doing with the list I created for myself just before Memorial Day. I'm not likely to finish everything still outstanding before Labor Day but I guess we'll see. What I've managed to read thus far is accomplishment enough though. Of course, as I noted the last time I checked in, I would also like to have these all reviewed by Halloween or so and that looks like a rather impossible goal from this vantage point but miracles do happen. In any case, here's what I've read so far:

Books I've read from the original list:

A Half Forgotten Song by Katherine Webb
A Far Piece to Canaan by Sam Halpern
Big Brother by Lionel Shriver
Out Love Could Light the World by Anne Leigh Parrish
The Execution of Noa P. Singleton by Elizabeth Silver
The Book of Someday by Dianne Dixon
David by Ray Robertson
Call Me Zelda by Erika Robuck
The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell
Someone by Alice McDermott
Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall
Sinners and the Sea by Rebecca Kanner
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Surprising Lord Jack by Sally MacKenzie
The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg
The Illusion of Separateness by Simon Van Booy
The Exiles by Allison Lynn
This Is Paradise by Kristiana Kahakuawila
Race Across the Sky by Derek Sherman
The Purchase by Linda Spalding
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Mary Coin by Marisa Silver
The Silver Star by Jeannette Walls
The House Girl by Tara Conklin
Dancing to the Flute by Manisha Jolie Amin
The Innocents by Francesca Segal
Happy Rock by Matthew Simmons
Then He Ate My Boy Entrancers by Louise Rennison
Topsy by Michael Daly
Thursday Next by Jasper Fforde


Books I've read not from the original list:

Love All by Callie Wright
Together Tea by Marjan Kamali
Stargazey Point by Shelley Noble
The Virgin Cure by Ami McKay
Love Potion Number 10 by Betsy Woodman
This Is Tomorrow by Caroline Leavitt
Royal Bridesmaids by Stephanie Laurens, Gaelen Foley, and Loretta Chase
Letters From Skye b Jessica Brockmole
Sea Creatures by Susanna Daniel
Autobiography of Us by Aria Beth Sloss
Equilibrium by Lorrie Thomson
The Group by Mary McCarthy


Original list books I'm still in the middle of reading:

Billy Budd and Other Tales by Herman Melville


Original list books I still haven't read:

A Summer Affair by Elin Hilderbrand
Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About by Mil Millington
The Reluctant Matchmaker by Shobhan Bantwal

Obviously I've gone rather far afield from the list given the proliferation of titles under the "not on the original list" category but I've done pretty well overall with the original list as well. Only four books I haven't yet read (plus the Melville which could take me forever to plow through, short as it is). Not too shabby, I'd say. The reviewing, on the other hand, well, the less said, the better. ;-) How's your summer reading going as we head into the final stretch of summer?

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Review: The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell

The excesses of the 1920s are very popular right now in books and movies. From a new movie version of The Great Gatsby to several books featuring Zelda Fitzgerald to Suzanne Rindell's amazing debut novel, The Other Typist, the 1920s certainly have captured our imaginations lately. I am just as susceptible to the glamour and allure of the times as anyone else and I was absolutely captivated by this tale of Rose Baker, a straightlaced, rather colorless young woman raised by nuns and making her own way in a New York City police precinct working as a typist.

Rose is one of a new breed of women working in an arena previously dominated by men. As a stenographer, she types up confessions and other potentially gruesome bits of information for the police department. She prides herself on being incapable of being shocked and of being scrupulously honest in her work. She comes across as old-fashioned, repressed, and morally decisive and definitive, unable to entertain the existence of shades of grey.  But then the beautiful, secretive, and dangerously seductive Odalie arrives in the precinct. Rose, initially disgruntled by the other typist, is eventually attracted to the glitter, glamour, and aura of unconcerned wealth that Odalie wears like a perfume. When Odalie chooses Rose as her closest friend in the typing pool, Rose feels superior and never questions anything about her new friend's unusual circumstances. She is too drawn to the sparkle and apparent riches after living a lifetime of "must needs" and doing without, pinching pennies and being careful. She is utterly seduced, agreeing to move into a fashionable hotel apartment with Odalie, to take cabs to work every day, and to visit speakeasies to party the nights away. But everything is not as it seems on the surface as Rose comes to slowly understand.

The novel is told as if it is Rose's official confession of something as yet not revealed, complete with small throwaway comments full of foreboding and foreshadowing. Right from the start, Rose's narration hints that there's a chance things are not quite straightforward, not quite as they seem. But if Rose's dawning comprehension about her toxic relationship with Odalie is glacially slow, the reader never has doubts. Odalie's character right from the start comes across as an enchantress drawing all those around her into her web. As described by Rose in hindsight, she is the very embodiment of "'Will you walk into my parlour?' said the Spider to the Fly." But Rose, thrilled to be included and enticed by the lavish lifestyle they lead, unbends from her staid and repressed character and embraces a looser persona, willing to bend or abandon her heretofore trumpeted scruples. Although Rose is intended to be a na├»ve character, she is also clearly unreliable in her narration, obsessed as she is with Odalie's story or stories, her slick presentation, and her sumptuous lifestyle. As the story threads become more and more tangled in this tale of temptation and lies, the reader is as drawn into the escalating mess as Rose is.

Rindell has done a marvelous job evoking 1920s New York City and the shifting morals of the time, presenting historical facts that enhance the story and which bare her characters to the reader. The precinct and the detectives in it are real as is the atmosphere surrounding Prohibition, the crack-downs as well as the benign turning of blind eyes. The whole of it is addictive and makes for completely compelling reading. Throughout the novel there is a question of what is real and what is imagined and the unexpected and unexplained open ending only reinforces the mystery of it all. What, after all, is the truth? When you close the book, you still might not know, but you will know that you've read a masterful, thrilling novel you will ponder for a long time to come.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of this 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.


Lookaway, Lookaway by Wilton Barnhardt. The book is being released by St. Martin's Press on August 20, 2013.

Amazon says this about the book: Jerene Jarvis Johnston and her husband Duke are exemplars of Charlotte, North Carolina’s high society, where old Southern money—and older Southern secrets—meet the new wealth of bankers, boom-era speculators, and carpetbagging social climbers. Steely and implacable, Jerene presides over her family’s legacy of paintings at the Mint Museum; Duke, the one-time college golden boy and descendant of a Confederate general, whose promising political career was mysteriously short-circuited, has settled into a comfortable semi-senescence as a Civil War re-enactor. Jerene’s brother Gaston is an infamously dissolute bestselling historical novelist who has never managed to begin his long-dreamed-of literary masterpiece, while their sister Dillard is a prisoner of unfortunate life decisions that have made her a near-recluse.

As the four Johnston children wander perpetually toward scandal and mishap. Annie, the smart but matrimonially reckless real estate maven; Bo, a minister at war with his congregation; Joshua, prone to a series of gay misadventures, and Jerilyn, damaged but dutiful to her expected role as debutante and eventual society bride. Jerene must prove tireless in preserving the family's legacy, Duke’s fragile honor, and what's left of the dwindling family fortune. She will stop at nothing to keep what she has—but is it too much to ask for one ounce of cooperation from her heedless family?

In Lookaway, Lookaway, Wilton Barnhardt has written a headlong, hilarious narrative of a family coming apart, a society changing beyond recognition, and an unforgettable woman striving to pull it all together.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Love Your Colon or Advice From the Rear End

Prevailing medical wisdom says that everyone should get a colonoscopy after the age of 50. But sometimes there are reasons to get a screening before that magic number. If you happen to have a family history of polyps or colon cancer, doctors will line up to plumb your backside as early as age 40. May you be so lucky. Unfortunately for me, I filled out that family history section of the medical screen at the doctor's office truthfully and earned myself an early introduction to the endoscope. I swear I'm going to have to stop being honest on those forms! As an aside, a friend of ours, who doesn't know her family history because she was adopted, just writes "Stray" across the forms and she's done. (Her husband is a vet.) I love that! I, on the other hand, know all of the hereditary ills that have beset my family practically back to the Mayflower. OK, not really. Given my actual family, we probably skulked over here far more recently, crammed hacking and coughing in steerage on some leaky tub and then lied at Ellis Island so we could be admitted or some equally illustrious immigration story. But back to the bad genes thing. Since my parents were foolhardy enough to reproduce despite medical evidence that would have argued strenuously gently against it, I get to have all the fun tests at the doctor's office.

As tests go, the colonoscopy is one of the least pleasant to consider so I was definitely less than pleased when I was referred for one. I put the gastro office off initially when they tried to schedule me during my vacation but there was no escaping it forever. I dutifully picked up the prep meds at the pharmacy before I left for the summer, promptly stashing them and the myriad instruction sheets from the doctor in a cupboard, thinking "out of sight, out of mind." Of course, we all know it doesn't work like that, especially when you are an habitual oversharer like me, so I started telling people that I had to have this done. This garnered a lot of sympathy and some advice from friends who have already been there and done that, sometimes several times. And it was good advice. (Which I will share. Just hold your horses a bit.)

Because of when the test was scheduled, we had to come home from vacation a little early. We also had to come home for dance tryouts and soccer preseason, but the kids are full on blaming my butt for cutting our time at the cottage short, not that I blame them. If I was them, I'd blame my butt too. After all, since they have my genetic history but enhanced with anything their father brings to the table, they'll get to face this particular medical joy early one day too. (And before you suggest that perhaps I shouldn't have reproduced either, I have to plead ignorance of the full extent of bad DNA until after the beasts were already around and it was too late to take my own advice.) So we came home earlier than any of us would have wanted so that I had a few days before the procedure to ease us back into regular life. Turns out it's a good thing we did too.

My lovely husband had cleaned out the refrigerator while we were gone so it was extra empty when we got back from almost a month away. So I did what any lazy normal wife and mother would do in such a situation, I ordered dinner in. And because we were just back from a place far from any thought of ethnic food, I ordered Indian.  (Yum!)  The leftovers would double nicely as breakfast the next morning for me before I got to the store for milk. So after a tasty breakfast of leftover dal makhni and a small grocery trip to tide us over, I dragged out all of the forms and whatnot for the dreaded colonoscopy. Imagine my horror to read that unlike every other person on the planet I'd talked to about this, my doctor had food restrictions starting at four days out. That day was, of course, four days out and I'd already blown it because of my lentil-filled breakfast. Things forbidden to me from that moment on: tomatoes, corn, fruit with seeds, nuts, potato chips, rice, foods high in iron, and foods high in fiber (hello dal, I'm looking at you). Yes, in the middle of summer when the anemic produce of winter is just a bad memory, I was not supposed to eat anything good. There's some good planning for you. And then I remembered the advice of one of my professional colonoscopy enduring friends: eat a lot of white bread, potatoes, and pasta (and not whole wheat pasta either) to make the cleaning out part easier down the road. Basically I was down to a bland, white food diet for three days. Oh joy, oh rapture.

Being restricted on foods you can eat is bad enough in the privacy of your own home but when you have to admit to crazy restrictions (and the reason behind them--yes, pun intended) in public, it's even worse. I had mashed potatoes for dinner the night we met a whole group of neighbors out for the local music and movies on the lawn event. I had a hot pretzel appetizer for lunch the day I went out with two friends to celebrate their birthdays. I had exactly nothing besides water the night we were out for a friend's surprise birthday party, not even cake. Sad, no? I might not have been enjoying the overload of boring, mostly tasteless food but my boys were in heaven with the overwhelming amount of white bread (hallelujah!) French toast, mashed potatoes, and olive-oil tossed spaghetti they were getting to eat. Unfortunately for them though, all good things must come to an end and I reached the clear liquids only day. Frankly I didn't give a rat's @ss what they ate that day as long as they didn't eat in front of me. White cranberry juice for breakfast, lemon jello for lunch, and pineapple jello (really gross, incidentally) for dinner did not make me a happy camper.

But if I thought the flavor deprivation and then avoidance of all solid food was the low point, I was very much mistaken. And this is what people mean when they tell you, with a twisted evil grin on their faces, that "the prep is the worst part." Yes, the hunger from not being able to eat (everyone, not just my Gestapo doctor, has the clear liquid diet the day before) is annoying but the bottle of Suprep is NASTY and there's no getting around it. Even diluted with water, it is beyond disgusting tasting. Who knew my sick chugging skills would come in handy here. When I was a small thing, I learned to put yucky to me food I didn't want to chew in my mouth and then swallow it down whole accompanied by my entire glass of milk or water. This same skill came in handy in college and impressed my now husband (probably why he married me really). And now it helped me get the gross meds down in one long gulp. Following said prep meds with another 32 oz. of water within an hour was not too hard but my stomach did end up so distended it looked as if someone had poked me with a pin, I might have gone off like a sprinkler. So then the fun started. I had taken one of my smart, experienced friends' advice and silly though it seemed, I lubed my bottom up with Aquaphor before drinking anything. (If you don't know Aquaphor, you should. It is absolutely the best for diaper rash, runner's rash, chapped lips, and also apparently keeping your butt safe during colonoscopy prep.)

I don't know if there's an estimated average time before the prep stuff starts working but let me tell you, from the minute you finish that bottle and the necessary water, you know it's only a matter of time before you move into the bathroom permanently. If you're smart, you've not only prepared your bottom, you've checked to see the toilet paper situation in any bathroom within range and added another roll and you've told you family that one bathroom in particular (whichever one is closest to your body after drinking the prep) is yours and yours only for the next 12 hours or so. Plus, no matter how much toilet paper you think you'll end up using, you should double the estimate and stock "your" bathroom accordingly. Finally, after you finish drinking the prep, do not fart. Really. Let me repeat that. DO NOT FART. Under any circumstances.  Just trust me on this one. Once the deluge from your butt starts, hopefully not until after loud rumbling warnings from your soon to be beleaguered intestines, you can carry on with normal activities as long as they occur not more than a foot and a half from the toilet and you are wearing elastic waisted pants (or have given up and permanently unbuttoned the non elastic waisted). When you feel the first urge to go, you will then have approximately 3 nanoseconds to plant yourself safely on the commode, hence the elastic advice.

If you have been smart and followed the awesome advice to goop up your nether regions, you will have as pleasant an experience as you can when you are cleaning yourself off. But be warned that once the glop is gone, it will feel like your butt has started moonlighting as a flame thrower and you're pretty certain that the pure acid shooting out of your anus is melting not only your internal pipes but the actual sewer pipes as well. So like with sunscreen, my best advice is to reapply, reapply, reapply. This constant stream of molten lava exiting your body and searing the skin off your hiney is exactly what people mean when they say that the prep is "unpleasant," and that description is the world's most understated euphemism ever. But if you get really lucky like me, you'll eventually feel like you've cleaned out anything that ever thought of sticking around in your colon all the way back to newborn meconium and you'll head to bed to try and get a little sleep. And this is fine but you're not done. Oh no. Not even close.

When you get up to take round two of the vile meds, hit the bathroom first and try to clear out anything that might otherwise leak out when your innards clench in protest as you chug down the next set of nasty. At this point my experience veers wildly from everyone else I talked to (except my mom) so maybe you won't be so blessed (either that or no one wants to admit to this added awfulness). I needed to get another 32 ounces of water down on top of the meds within the hour again but I could only choke down 16 before I felt wretchedly horrible. I laid down to try and ignore the rising nausea. Then I sat up to try and make it better. Then I stood up and paced, actually praying to keep the meds down. No dice. 45 minutes into the second set of prep meds found me sitting on the toilet, jammies around my ankles, heaving 16 ounces of meds and 16 ounces of water into the trash can on my lap. If that's not a party, I don't know what is! I did eventually stop vomiting and after sipping the remaining 16 ounces of water, crawled back to bed for an unhappy couple of hours. When the alarm went off to get up, I had to dash to the bathroom, first to throw up again, then to torture my poor acid burned bum again, and finally to enjoy a few last dry heaves.

And then we were off to the doctor. I had to keep my eyes closed most of the way there and I wanted to complain bitterly about all the bumping around the car was doing but was too busy trying not to get sick to say anything. Incidentally, very similar to how I felt during the drive to the hospital when I was in labor with my oldest so long ago. Not that I'm comparing my oldest to a colonoscopy or anything, but he is a teenager, so... Anyway, as every tells you, the procedure itself is a piece of cake. The last thing I remember before waking up in recovery (after complaining that the anesthesia being pushed into my IV was burning down my arm) is the nurse anesthetist asking me if I was starting to feel sleepy. And I got lucky and everything was normal so I don't have to revisit this fun house adventure for another 5 years.

Now, ghastly as this might read, here's my PSA for the day: do it anyway. If you are of an age or have a family history, endure it and get it done. It's really no worse than raising a teenager, in the long run. ;-) And it can save your life and prevent you from developing a terrible cancer, which teenagers can't do.  As Nike always says, Just Do It.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Review: David by Ray Robertson

Sometimes you read a novel that you've been resisting and it turns out to be so much more rewarding than you ever imagined. There can be any number of reasons you don't want to read it: too many people are talking about it or too few are, the cover doesn't appeal to you (and you think that this must be a reflection of the contents), you feel like you've read all you can read on the topic or it doesn't interest you, you're not in the right mood or you're just plain feeling contrary. But when you finally open the pages of the book, you find beauty and erudition and you can't even remember what slowed you down in the first place. This was definitely true for me of Ray Robertson's novel, David.

David King was born a slave but freed early in his life by the Reverend William King, a man committed to creating the Elgin Settlement in Canada, a thriving community of freed black families in Ontario started in the mid 1800s. David doesn't remember life as a slave; his memory starts in Canada as a free child living with his mother. He is an incredibly intelligent man and his aptitude was obvious early on in his schooling as he was groomed to dedicate his life to God and the Reverend's philosophies of life. But David examined his life and rejected the path his mother and the Reverend had prepared for him, rebelling against his expected life and choosing instead to live in the nearby town of Chatham with a white, German, former prostitute, run an after hours bar, and rob graves.

The novel opens with David learning of the death of the Reverend King. The loss of this man who played such an enormous role in his own early life causes David to reflect on the past and how he ended up where he is now, his own man, making his own choices. David is multi-faceted and intelligent and he presents such a curious and unusual character, moral and principled as defined by his own code, unwilling to live by the Reverend King's dictates where they conflict with his own. And if you think that David's choice of occupation means he is somehow of a lower sort, this is definitely untrue. He is thoughtful and erudite and determined to be in control of his own destiny. Reverend King might have freed David from physical slavery but his good intentions still did not allow David the true freedom to choose his own path, thereby making a breech inevitable.

Robertson has created a masterfully and meticulously written novel that not only brings up issues of race and the shame of our history, but also what we do and don't owe to others for their roles in our lives. The narrative goes back and forth in time as David meanders through his memories but this non-chronological jumping is easy to follow and to assemble into a coherent story. The history contained in this slight book is amazing but it never overwhelms the story itself or the reader. This is a challenging, vivid, and rewarding novel, a small gem for sure.

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

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

I'm home from vacation now (and wishing I was still there) so my reading is likely to suffer as we sink back into usual life. On the other hand, I do have consistent internet now so no excuse not to work at catching up on the reviews. This meme is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Books I completed this past week are:

Autobiography of Us by Aria Beth Sloss
Equilibrium by Lorrie Thomson

Bookmarks are still living in the middle of:

Better Than Fiction edited by Don George
Billy Budd and Other Tales by Herman Melville
The Group by Mary McCarthy

Reviews posted this week:

Race Across the Sky by Derek Sherman
Sea Creatures by Susanna Daniel

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

The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell
Sinners and the Sea by Rebecca Kanner
The Silver Star by Jeannette Walls
Mary Coin by Marisa Silver
Dancing to the Flute by Manisha Jolie Amin
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Happy Rock by Matthews Simmons
The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg
The Purchase by Linda Spalding
Love Potion Number Ten by Betsy Woodman
Is This Tomorrow by Caroline Leavitt
Royal Bridesmaids by Stephanie Laurens, Gaelen Foley, and Loretta Chase
Letters From Skye by Jessica Brockmole
Thursday Next in First Among Sequels by Jasper Fforde
The House Girl by Tara Conklin
Topsy by Michael Daly
Autobiography of Us by Aria Beth Sloss
Equilibrium by Lorrie Thomson

Monday Mailbox

It's incredibly hard for me to leave our cottage every year but when there's a nice pile of books waiting for me at home, it makes re-entry into regular life the tiniest bit less unpleasant. This past who knows how many weeks' mailbox arrivals:

Hungry by Darlene Barnes came from TLC Book Tours and Hyperion for a blog tour.

Given the sort of meals that my former frat boy husband knows how to cook (mainly opening Chef Boyardi cans), I am completely intrigued by this memoir of a chef who cooks for a fraternity house, what she learned from the boys, and what they learned from her.

Carniepunk by assorted authors came from Gallery Books.

So far out of my comfort zone, this collection of stories, gothic, punk, vampire, etc. might have to be saved for a Halloween read.

Silver by Andrew Motion came from Broadway.

A sequel to one of my favorites of childhood, Treasure Island? Oh, yes please!!!

Here Comes Mrs. Kugelman by Minka Pradelski came from Metropolitan Books.

A batty old Jewish woman telling the stories of her Polish town before the war, this story of stories and the power of storytelling is incredibly appealing.

The Gallery of Vanished Husbands by Natasha Solomons came from Plume.

A woman whose husband has disappeared starts sitting for portraits that make her famous but until she discovers the truth about her husband, she will remain tied to him. Sounds like my kind of mystery!

Comet's Tale by Steven Wolf came from Algonquin Paperbacks.

This is being released in paperback. I've already reviewed it here when it was out in hard cover.

The Daring Ladies of Lowell by Kate Alcott came from Doubleday.

Historical novels based on real life events can be spectacular and this one set in Lowell, Mass and dealing with mill conditions and friendship could be explosive.

My Husband Next Door by Catherine Alliott came from Penguin.

I do love Catherine Alliott and this one about a woman and her ex who live next door to each other and what happens when he is ready to move on promises to be every bit as yummy as her previous books.

Forever, Interrupted by Taylor Jenkins Reid came from Washington Square Press.

A woman who met and married her husband in five months loses him to an accident and then has to face the mother-in-law who didn't even know she existed. I can't imagine what that would be like and I can't wait to see how it turns out.

Revealing Us by Lisa Renee Jones came from Gallery Books.

The final book in the erotic trilogy, this one is supposed to reveal "his" secrets. I do like the idea of turning the tables.

I Am Venus by Barbara Mujica came from TLC Book Tours and Overlook for a blog tour.

I find books about famous works of art or their artists to be completely fascinating so this one about Diego Velasquez narrated by the model who posed for The Toilet of Venus is right up my alley

If you'd like to see the marvelous goodies in other people's mailboxes, make sure to visit The Reading Fever as she is hosting this month's 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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