Monday, June 29, 2015

Review: It's You by Jane Porter



When you have suffered the unimaginable, how do you find the strength to go on? In Jane Porter's newest novel, It's You, main character Dr. Alison McAdams has been facing this question, unable to answer it for over a year. She is emotionally frozen by the completely unexpected suicide of her fiance Andrew one year prior.  She's just barely hanging on, continuing to work in Andrew's father's dental practice, and going through the motions of life. When her father, who lives in a retirement community in Napa, calls to tell her that he fell and broke his wrist, she must take a leave from work and go check on him, despite her reluctance and their heretofore distant relationship. She was much closer to her mother but when her mother dies within months of Andrew, Ali is hit with a double whammy and left with only the father with whom she has never quite connected to fill the double hole in her heart. But the father she finds is not the father she remembers from before her mother's death. This version of her dad is extremely social and connected to others in his retirement community, especially his prickly, elderly bridge partner, Edie.

As Alison watches her father in his new life, she is forced to face her own new life.  She forges her own connections with his friends, listening to them talk about their history, both personal and general. As she listens, she starts to open herself to caring for others again, learning the inevitability of loss and grief but also the power and endurance of love. She is most inspired by the nonagenarian Edie, who has herself lived through unimaginable loss. Narrated in turn by both Ali and Edie, the novel flips from the present to WWII and back again. Once Ali and Edie make their tenuous connection to each other, Edie doles out the story of her past and her beloved husband Franz in small dibs and dabs, testing the water to see if Ali can be open-minded hearing about her love story with a Nazi officer. As the story unspools and Ali comes to understand the unexpected depths of it, she learns by example how to find the strength to start over and to really examine what she wants out of her life.

The characters are richly developed and Ali for sure shows a large amount of personal growth. Porter has done a good job organically weaving in the unusual angle of the German Resistance and the 20 July Plot into a story line centered on love, healing, and looking forward. There is just a tiny hint of potential romance here, making it firmly women's fiction with historical overtones rather than a romance. For longtime Porter readers, there is a brief mention and cameo of a previous character from one of her older novels as well. The story overall is a sad, often depressing, one centered on loss and grief and being left behind but, in the end, it also offers hope for the future, for repairing relationships, and for the peace that comes with forgiveness or understanding. The reasons for Andrew's suicide are never fully explored but the resulting effect on Ali's life is unmistakable, regardless of his reasons. Ali and Edie's relationship often feels tentative, making it seem a bit strange that this very private woman opens up and shares her unhappy past with this young woman she isn't always certain she likes (and who she certainly doesn't want for her great-nephew). But the emotional impact of Edie's tale, her lost love and the way she chose to live her life beyond it, is the only thing that helps Ali re-evaluate her own stasis. The novel is a very quick read, one that is a generally satisfying addition to your summer reading.

For more information on Jane Porter and the book, visit her webpage, like her on Facebook, or follow her on Instagram or Twitter. Check out the book's GoodReads page. For others' opinions on the book, check it out on Amazon.

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

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

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

Books I completed this past week are:

It's You by Jane Porter
Maybe In Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Spinster by Kate Bolick
Newport by Jill Morrow

Bookmarks are still living in the middle of:

The Door by Magda Szabo
Love Maps by Eliza Factor Migratory Animals by Mary Helen Specht

Reviews posted this week:

A Small Indiscretion by Jan Ellison
Summer Secrets by Jane Green

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

The Surfacing by Cormac James
The Secret Wisdom of the Earth by Christopher Scotton
The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood
George's Grand Tour by Caroline Vermalle
Washing the Dead by Michelle Brafman
Sweet Salt Air by Barbara Delinsky
Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League by Jonathan Odell
Without You, There Is No Us by Suki Kim
Making Nice by Matt Sumell
All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews
It's You by Jane Porter
Maybe In Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Spinster by Kate Bolick
Newport by Jill Morrow

Monday Mailbox

This past week's mailbox arrivals:

It's You by Jane Porter came from Berkley and BookSparks PR for a blog tour.

About a woman gutted by tragedy who goes home to take care of her father and finds in his community, friendship, caring, and hope, this sounds just lovely.

Girl In Glass by Deanna Fei came from Bloomsbury.

The story of how a baby born at 5 1/2 months gestation survived and became the face of a firestorm over employee benefits as the "distressed baby" who caused the need for cuts, this sounds both terrible and triumphant.

The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy E. Reichert came from Gallery Books.

For some reason, cakes are all the rage on covers lately. And I find myself unable to walk past any of them (this might be why they are all the rage--not just me but all the other salivating readers out there too) but this one about a chef and a restaurant critic looks completely delectable above and beyond the cover.

Welcome to Braggsville by T. Geronimo Johnson came from William Morrow.

When a southern boy goes to Berkley for college, makes friends, and lets slip the fact that his hometown does a Civil War re-enactment, he sets in motion some serious havoc in this novel that promises big ideas and contentious issues.

Weightless by Sarah Bannan came from St. Martin's Griffin.

A novel about bullying, this makes me nervous but it's important to keep reading about it and talking about it so I try not to shy away from it.

Crooked Hearts by Lissa Evans came from Harper and TLC Book Tours for a blog tour.

An orphaned evacuee from the bombs raining down on London is placed with an unscrupulous widow and the two of them come together to profit off of the war in this intriguing novel described as a black comedy.

Landfall by Ellen Urbani came from Forest Avenue Press.

The combination of two mothers, their daughters, and a fatal car accident with Hurricane Katrina and the devastation it wreaks sounds really unusual and makes me incredibly curious to see how this comes together.

If you want to see the marvelous goodies in other people's mailboxes, make sure to visit Mailbox Monday and have fun seeing how we are all doing our part to keep the USPS and delivery services viable.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

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.

Among the Ten Thousand Things by Julia Pierpont. The book is being released by Random House on July 7, 2015.

Amazon says this about the book: Jack Shanley is a well-known New York artist, charming and vain, who doesn’t mean to plunge his family into crisis. His wife, Deb, gladly left behind a difficult career as a dancer to raise the two children she adores. In the ensuing years, she has mostly avoided coming face-to-face with the weaknesses of the man she married. But then an anonymously sent package arrives in the mail: a cardboard box containing sheaves of printed emails chronicling Jack’s secret life. The package is addressed to Deb, but it’s delivered into the wrong hands: her children’s.

With this vertiginous opening begins a debut that is by turns funny, wise, and indescribably moving. As the Shanleys spin apart into separate orbits, leaving New York in an attempt to regain their bearings, fifteen-year-old Simon feels the allure of adult freedoms for the first time, while eleven-year-old Kay wanders precariously into a grown-up world she can’t possibly understand. Writing with extraordinary precision, humor, and beauty, Julia Pierpont has crafted a timeless, hugely enjoyable novel about the bonds of family life—their brittleness, and their resilience.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Review: Summer Secrets by Jane Green



Alcoholism is an illness. It occurs across race, class, and gender. It is influenced by both nature and nurture, or more properly genetics and environment. The World Health Organization estimates that just over 4% of the world's population older than 15 are alcoholics. As large a number as that works out to be, alcoholics don't only just affect themselves but they affect all the loved ones around them so the number of people touched by this difficult and pervasive disease is exponentially higher than just 4%. And it is incredibly difficult for an alcoholic to get and stay sober as they have to confront all the things that drove them to cope with alcohol in the first place and to do it without the long term crutch they are working to beat. Such a weighty and difficult topic is not one that readers often come across in books touted as summer beach reads, in part perhaps because the topic itself is sobering but also because it is hard to do the damage it causes justice. But the impact alcoholism has on families and relationships actually makes it perfect for examination in family dynamics stories like Jane Green's newest novel, Summer Secrets.

Cat is a freelance writer living in London. She's a divorced, single mother who works everyday to maintain her hard-won sobriety. As she walks the 12 step program, she knows that she must make amends to those she's hurt through her drinking starting with the ex-husband she still loves, her daughter, and her mother. But there's another part of her family to whom she must atone as well and dredging up the memory of the unforgivable thing she did to them makes this set of apologies particularly difficult.

After Cat's emotionally cold and unloving father dies, her mother, witnessing yet another aftermath of Cat's hard partying and drinking lifestyle, tells Cat that the man she thought was her father was not. Her father was an artist on Nantucket with whom her mother had a brief fling one summer and that one of the reasons she didn't leave her husband for him was because of his excessive drinking, the same troubling drinking that she now sees in her daughter. All Cat can focus on, though, is that she has a father and two younger half sisters, Ellie and Julia, she never knew about and she is eager to meet them. Despite her fledgling attempt to get sober for Jason, the wonderful man she's met in London, when she goes to Nantucket to meet her other family, she slides back into social drinking first and ultimately into excess, blacking out and committing an unforgivable act that estranges her from the family she's just found.

The novel jumps between several different times in Cat's life and also includes her mother's summer on Nantucket as well. Current day Cat must face the demons of her past in order to overcome them, remembering the devastation she left in her wake not only in Nantucket that summer but also in her marriage and her daughter's young life. She must examine the reasons she has had in the past for giving up drinking and why this time is different for her, why she can't go back to burying herself deep in a bottle of vodka, why alcohol can never again be her coping mechanism. Most of all, if she intends to live a sober life, she must apologize for and own her past actions. And so she, her daughter, and her gay best friend Sam, make the pilgrimage to Nantucket so that Cat can say she's sorry.

Green has done a good job capturing the pain of the alcoholic and of those around the alcoholic. She makes Cat go through the hard challenges accompanying sobriety, makes her suffer the relapses and the wish to change for all the wrong reasons, and has her hit rock bottom. The cast of secondary characters illustrate very clearly many of the different sorts of reactions people have to their alcoholic loved one, from Cat's mother's worry for her, to husband Jason's resigned sadness over her inability to change which drives him to divorce, from half-sister Ellie's anger and fury, to friend Sam's partial understanding while still believing that it isn't quite as bad as all that. But ultimately the focus is on Cat and her own honest reactions to her past drinking, the pain she's caused others, and the way forward. This is very definitely a family drama but one complicated by alcohol and the havoc it wreaks in so many lives. It is also a story of forgiveness, both from others but also forgiving and accepting yourself regardless of the past, as Cat must learn to do. The ending was a bit tidy and convenient compared to what came before it but, in general, it was a fast and engrossing read. It's a little weighty for a summer beach read, but don't let that dissuade you from tucking it into your beach bag.

For more information on Jane Green and the book, visit her webpage, like her on Facebook, or follow her on Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest. Check out the book's GoodReads page. For others' opinions on the book, check it out on Amazon.

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

Monday, June 22, 2015

Review: A Small Indiscretion by Jan Ellison

How long does the past haunt us? How long does it have the power to hurt us? How long must we pay for mistakes we made so long ago? And who determines when the debt is paid? Jan Ellison's tautly paced debut novel, A Small Indiscretion, asks these questions and more.

In Annie Black's current life, she is a married mother of three in the Bay Area who owns a light fixture store, crafting unique fixtures from recycled materials and found objects. In her complicated and youthful past, she lived and worked in London. When a solarized photograph from that time arrives in her mailbox without a return address, she is thrust back into the memories of that time, never guessing how it will ultimately impact her present. But when her nineteen year old son is left in a coma after a terrible car accident, Annie starts writing a confessional letter to her son, teasing out the ways in which her past and present have twined together in him and the unthinkable situation their family now faces.

Told in the second person narration of an intimate letter to son Robbie, Annie recounts the story of her older, married boss cum lover Malcolm, his wife Louise, and Patrick, the photographer artist with whom both she and Louise have a relationship. The telling jumps back and forth in time from this distant past, when Annie had a rather reckless disregard for consequences and other people, and the present in which her long-time marriage to husband Jonathan is fraying at the seams thanks, in no small part, to the unrevealed past she has unthinkingly kept from him. As Annie tells her story, trying to figure out how this past can still be extracting payment in her present, her recounting is sometimes emotionally distant, as if she has any deep feelings on a very tight rein, unwilling to allow them full expression and giving the narration a sort of repressed feel. Annie as a character is sometimes frustratingly passive and her narration can be disjointed, as would any mother's given the harrowing pressure and uncertainty under which she is living.  She is the center of every piece of the story leaving the secondary characters to be just that, secondary. The rising sense of impending disaster and complete discovery is masterfully done, even if the denouement is ultimately predictable for careful readers. For those who don't guess the truth because they are barreling through the pages, there is a slow reveal as Annie's lies of omission come to light. The writing is smooth and the story is a gripping one tinged throughout with the mildly disturbing feeling of things hidden and menacing. Ellison has created a tense tale of obsession, forgiveness, secrets, and consequences that will haunt the reader long after the last paged is turned just as Annie's past haunts her.

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

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

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

Books I completed this past week are:

Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League by Jonathan Odell
Summer Secrets by Jane Green
Without You, There Is No Us by Suki Kim
Making Nice by Matt Sumell
All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews

Bookmarks are still living in the middle of:

The Door by Magda Szabo

Reviews posted this week:

Whisper Beach by Shelley Noble

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

The Surfacing by Cormac James
The Secret Wisdom of the Earth by Christopher Scotton
A Small Indiscretion by Jan Ellison
The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood
George's Grand Tour by Caroline Vermalle
Washing the Dead by Michelle Brafman
Sweet Salt Air by Barbara Delinsky
Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League by Jonathan Odell
Summer Secrets by Jane Green
Without You, There Is No Us by Suki Kim
Making Nice by Matt Sumell
All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews

Monday Mailbox

This past week's mailbox arrivals:

Spinster by Kate Bolick came from Crown.

Although I chose to marry, I am fascinated by the choice that a growing number of women make the choice to stay single.

Without You, There Is No Us by Suki Kim came from Crown.

A female journalist born and raised in South Korea who now lives in America writes of the students she taught English to in North Korea, their loyalty to the regime, and her own experiences in the country in this completely captivating sounding memoir.

Balm by Dolen Perkins-Valdez came from Amistad.

The aftermath of the Civil War and its effects on the citizens who fled to the north is always ripe for story telling.

X Marks the Scot by Victoria Roberts came from me to myself.

I needed a book title starting with the letter X if I plan to read through the alphabet this year (which still remains to be seen) and a sexy romance with a Scot in it should fit the bill nicely.

Good Girl Gone Plaid by Shelli Stevens came from me to myself.

I was puddling about in the romances and couldn't resist the combination of the cover and the hokey play on words in the title. It just looks like a ton of fun, doesn't it?!

Ten Years In the Tub by Nick Hornby came from me to myself.

I know some of these essays have already appeared in Hornby's previous collections but since I loved them the first time and this has more contained within it than those do, I can't wait to read more of his Believer columns about books and reading.

If you want to see the marvelous goodies in other people's mailboxes, make sure to visit Mailbox Monday and have fun seeing how we are all doing our part to keep the USPS and delivery services viable.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Review: Whisper Beach by Shelley Noble

We are created by many things: our upbringing, our experiences, the people who influence and shape our lives for better or worse, expectations, and more. Each of these things plays some part in who we become and how we view the world. But sometimes we have no desire to revisit the things that forged our character, preferring to sweep the past under the rug and push forward to the future, even if we really do need to face our pasts head on. The main character in Shelley Noble's newest novel wants no part of the memories or reality of her past but she's going to be forced to confront both.

Vanessa Moran was raised in Whisper Beach. He father was an alcoholic and she's always blamed him for causing her mother's death and for his inability to love her. In order to survive, Van created a family of her own: Dorie, the owner of the Blue Crab Restaurant who not only gave the teenaged Van a job but also loved and advised her as a surrogate mother; her cousin Gigi, who was her best friend and was the person their whole group protected in all her sweet helplessness; Suze, the rich girl who was a constant disappointment to her mother but was loyal to her friends at the Crab; Dana, the good time girl who always had a bit of an edge to her; and Joe, Van's boyfriend and love of her life who folded her into his large and welcoming family. But when Van saw Joe in the backseat of his truck with Dana atop him, she made the mistake that would propel her away from Whisper Beach and the people she thought she knew. She got drunk, slept with a college boy whose name she never even knew, and ended up pregnant. When her father called her a whore and threw her out, with a little help from Gigi and Suze, she left town and built herself a life in Manhattan, cutting all ties with Whisper Beach. Now a very successful professional organizer proud of rising above her roots, she is reluctantly being drawn back to her hometown for the funeral of Gigi's husband.  She has no intention of staying and dredging up all the things she'd rather keep buried. She'll go to the funeral and then head further down the shore to take her vacation in a place that doesn't remind her of what she once lost.

But things rarely go as planned and Van discovers that she cannot leave her old friends high and dry again. Dorie is on the brink of losing the Blue Crab. Suze is frantically waiting for the second piece of a grant application that will allow her to take time off to write a book to further her academic career. Gigi is a fragile mess. And Dana, who Van wants to see almost as little as she wants to see Joe, turns up at Dorie's door badly beaten up by her cop boyfriend (and not for the first time). Van might have abandoned them once, but this time she'll try to help everyone fix their lives before she goes. As she wades into the challenges facing her old friends, she is still determined to ignore her own unresolved issues from the past, especially the issue named Joe because that one just hurts too much. Whisper Beach is a small place once the tourists go home though. Van finds she can't run forever, she's tentative but still strangely comfortable with Joe, and there's more than one side to every story, even those she thought she knew the truth of.

The large ensemble cast leads to a plethora of story lines which are sometimes short-changed but in the grand scheme of things each of the plot threads needs to be there to further the story and reveal something about the friends and about Joe. The many characters are clearly unique and recognizably different from each other, not only in their professions and descriptions but also in their personalities. Van, as the main character who has risen above her unhappy upbringing is mostly sympathetic but occasionally she's incredibly frustrating too. The plot is generally predictable but in general the book is an easy, quick, and satisfying read that leaves just enough open at the end to allow for a sequel or just for the reader's imagination to create a perfect, feel-good ending for herself. Whisper Beach is a warm sunny day of a read about mistakes, friendship, repairing the hurts of the past, and moving on into a clearer future and readers will enjoy turning the pages as they dig their toes into the sand this summer.

For more information about Shelley Noble and the book, check out her website, like her Facebook page or follow her on Twitter. Takes a look at the book's Goodreads page, follow the rest of the blog tour, or look at the amazon reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.

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

Waiting on Wednesday

This meme is hosted by Breaking the Spine and is meant to highlight some great pre-publication books we all can't wait to get our grubby little mitts on.

The Oregon Trail by Rinker Buck. The book is being released by Simon and Schuster on June 30, 2015.

Amazon says this about the book: In the bestselling tradition of Bill Bryson and Tony Horwitz, Rinker Buck’s The Oregon Trail is a major work of participatory history: an epic account of traveling the 2,000-mile length of the Oregon Trail the old-fashioned way, in a covered wagon with a team of mules—which hasn’t been done in a century—that also tells the rich history of the trail, the people who made the migration, and its significance to the country.

Spanning 2,000 miles and traversing six states from Missouri to the Pacific Ocean, the Oregon Trail is the route that made America. In the fifteen years before the Civil War, when 400,000 pioneers used it to emigrate West—historians still regard this as the largest land migration of all time—the trail united the coasts, doubled the size of the country, and laid the groundwork for the railroads. The trail years also solidified the American character: our plucky determination in the face of adversity, our impetuous cycle of financial bubbles and busts, the fractious clash of ethnic populations competing for the same jobs and space. Today, amazingly, the trail is all but forgotten.

Rinker Buck is no stranger to grand adventures. The New Yorker described his first travel narrative, Flight of Passage, as “a funny, cocky gem of a book,” and with The Oregon Trail he seeks to bring the most important road in American history back to life. At once a majestic American journey, a significant work of history, and a personal saga reminiscent of bestsellers by Bill Bryson and Cheryl Strayed, the book tells the story of Buck’s 2,000-mile expedition across the plains with tremendous humor and heart. He was accompanied by three cantankerous mules, his boisterous brother, Nick, and an “incurably filthy” Jack Russell terrier named Olive Oyl. Along the way, Buck dodges thunderstorms in Nebraska, chases his runaway mules across miles of Wyoming plains, scouts more than five hundred miles of nearly vanished trail on foot, crosses the Rockies, makes desperate fifty-mile forced marches for water, and repairs so many broken wheels and axels that he nearly reinvents the art of wagon travel itself. Apart from charting his own geographical and emotional adventure, Buck introduces readers to the evangelists, shysters, natives, trailblazers, and everyday dreamers who were among the first of the pioneers to make the journey west. With a rare narrative power, a refreshing candor about his own weakness and mistakes, and an extremely attractive obsession for history and travel, The Oregon Trail draws readers into the journey of a lifetime.

Monday, June 15, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It's been a busy social week rather than a reading and reviewing week. My oldest baby graduated this past week and we had a party for him on Sunday. Plus we had other grad parties for his friends and our friends' kids. It's good to have a celebratory week every now and again. :-) This meme is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Books I completed this past week are:

The Wolf Border by Sarah Hall
Whisper Beach by Shelley Noble

Bookmarks are still living in the middle of:

The Door by Magda Szabo
Making Nice by Matt Sumell
Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League by Jonathan Odell

Reviews posted this week:

The Appetites of Girls by Pamela Moses
Worthy by Catherine Ryan Hyde
The Wolf Border by Sarah Hall

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

The Surfacing by Cormac James
The Secret Wisdom of the Earth by Christopher Scotton
A Small Indiscretion by Jan Ellison
The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood
George's Grand Tour by Caroline Vermalle
Washing the Dead by Michelle Brafman
Sweet Salt Air by Barbara Delinsky
Whisper Beach by Shelley Noble

Monday Mailbox

Another trip, this one to New Orleans for the national meeting of the Women's National Book Association, and another return home to some fantastic looking books. This past week's mailbox arrivals:

The Reinvention of Albert Paugh by Jean Davies Okimoto came from Endicott and Hugh Books and TLC Book Tours for a blog tour.

How can you not be interested in reading a book that has the line "Dr. Albert Paugh is flunking retirement," on the back cover?!

Make Your Home Among Strangers by Jennine Capo Crucet came from St. Martin's Press.

Centered on a young Cuban-American woman torn between college and her home life woven together with the case of a young Cuban boy similar to Elian Gonzalez and how his fate rivets the entire nation and in particular Lizet's community and family, this looks pretty amazing.

Newport by Jill Morrow came from William Morrow and TLC Book Tours for a blog tour.

The Roaring Twenties and all the glamour and intrigue and fa├žade that this implies? Oh, yes please!

Lost Canyon by Nina Revoyr came from Akashic Books.

About four city people heading off into the mountains on a backpacking trip to a mysterious place, this promises to be thrilling and maybe even a little chilling.

Summer Secrets by Jane Green came from St. Martin's Press and BookSparks PR for a blog tour.

I have long enjoyed Jane Green's books and this one about a woman who has to face her past at the risk of losing everything she loves in the present looks wonderful.

Where Women Are Kings by Christie Watson came from my friend Becca.

I have heard interesting things about this story of a young Nigerian boy who comes to his new parents with a disruptive history.

The Flying Circus by Susan Crandall came from Gallery Books.

About three barnstormers who have created a makeshift family, this really appeals to me.

Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner came from New American Library.

I enjoyed Meissner's last novel so this one about a scholar in Oxford, the elderly woman she interviews about the war, and the tale of two young sisters who are evacuated from London to the Cotswolds and whose lives take very different turns should really hit the spot.

A Peach of a Pair by Kim Boykin came from the author as a Facebook win.

I do so love Southern fiction. Combine that with a story about two sets of sisters, one loyal and one bowed by the weight of betrayal, and this can only be a rollicking good summer read.

Embracing the Seasons by Gunilla Norris came from Blue Bridge and Meryl Zegarek Public Relations, Inc..

Maybe if I read this book, my own pitiful gardens can be as yummy looking as the garden on this cover!

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

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Review: The Wolf Border by Sarah Hall

There are very few positive portrayals of wolves in literature and folk tale; they are mostly scary or bloodthirsty: the Big Bad Wolf in Little Red Riding Hood, the Wolf in The Three Little Pigs, the Wolf in Peter and the Wolf, the wolf in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and the list goes on. Combine these portrayals that stay in the forefront of the modern imagination with the fact that wolves are apex predators and will attack and kill valuable livestock and it is easy to see why the gray wolf was driven to the brink of extinction through fear and miseducation and why there's still an ongoing challenge today to protect and preserve these amazing creatures. Sarah Hall's haunting latest novel uses wolves and their controversial reintroduction into a contained wilderness to examine an entirely different pack, the human pack.

Rachel Caine is a zoologist who specializes in wolves, an expert in her field. She's been tracking a wolf pack in Idaho for many years, monitoring its well-being and trying to educate the public about the need for wolves. When a wealthy earl in Britain decides that he wants to reintroduce wolves into the semi-wild of his vast estates and then has the political clout to overcome all of the difficult logistics of doing so, he meets with Rachel and offers her the job of being the one to make this happen. Rachel grew up in Cumbria, not too far from the earl's estate, so her trip to speak with him comes with loaded memories and a visit to see her dying mother, from whom she has been semi-estranged for years. Despite, or perhaps because of, her connection to the area, Rachel has no intention of taking the position until an unplanned pregnancy sends her running from the complications of Idaho.

Her role in the re-wilding and reintegration of wolves in Britain is far different than her role in Idaho and as the project moves slowly towards success, the personal plot thread dealing with Rachel's own life, her pregnancy, her growing relationship with the vet in the area, her tentative interest in repairing the troubled relationship she has with her younger brother, and the Earl's complicated family situation come to the fore. The human situation weaves enticingly throughout the tale of the breeding pair of wolves offering parallels between these two disparate species. Rachel, like her wolves, must obey the imperatives of nature and find a way to live in the world we've created, a world of the unpredictable, of power and back room dealings, and of the wild.

Hall has written a beautiful and powerful literary meditation on nature ascendant, parenting, and familial bonds. The story is haunting and the tone is often contemplative, even when she describes the political dealings and maneuverings necessary to the preservation of the wolf. Her evocation of weather to reflect the narrative atmosphere is superbly done. Drawing Rachel as initially solitary but eventually coming to be a part of a self-created pack is in many ways a subtle reflection of Merle and Ra's fledgling pack. The stylistic choice of foregoing quotation marks around dialogue is particularly difficult here in that there is also a plethora of internal musing which is hard to differentiate from the spoken without the proper punctuation.  This deliberate exclusion seems to be a hallmark of current literary fiction for some unfortunate and frustrating reason. Despite this, overall this is a breathtaking and visceral novel about the concept of wildness and being outside the settled area (the wolf border), both in nature and within ourselves and is a magnificent and compelling read.

For more information about Sarah Hall and the book, check out her website or like her Facebook page. Takes a look at the book's Goodreads page, follow the rest of the blog tour, or look at the amazon reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.

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

Waiting on Wednesday

This meme is hosted by Breaking the Spine and is meant to highlight some great pre-publication books we all can't wait to get our grubby little mitts on.

A Week at the Lake by Wendy Wax. The book is being released by Berkley on June 23, 2015.

Amazon says this about the book: Twenty years ago, Emma Michaels, Mackenzie Hayes, and Serena Stockton bonded over their New York City dreams. Then, each summer, they solidified their friendship by spending one week at the lake together, solving their problems over bottles of wine and gallons of ice cream. They kept the tradition for years, until jealousy, lies, and life’s disappointments made them drift apart.

It’s been five years since Emma has seen her friends, an absence designed to keep them from discovering a long-ago betrayal. Now she’s in desperate need of their support. The time has come to reveal her secrets—and hopefully rekindle their connection.

But when a terrible accident keeps Emma from saying her piece, Serena and Mackenzie begin to learn about the past on their own. Now, to heal their friendship and their broken lives, the three women will have to return to the lake that once united them, and discover which relationships are worth holding on to . . .

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