Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday

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

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney. The book is being released by St. Martin's Press on January 17, 2017.

Amazon says this about the book: “In my reckless and undiscouraged youth,” Lillian Boxfish writes, “I worked in a walnut-paneled office thirteen floors above West Thirty-Fifth Street…”

She took 1930s New York by storm, working her way up writing copy for R.H. Macy’s to become the highest paid advertising woman in the country. It was a job that, she says, “in some ways saved my life, and in other ways ruined it.”

Now it’s the last night of 1984 and Lillian, 85 years old but just as sharp and savvy as ever, is on her way to a party. It’s chilly enough out for her mink coat and Manhattan is grittier now―her son keeps warning her about a subway vigilante on the prowl―but the quick-tongued poetess has never been one to scare easily. On a walk that takes her over 10 miles around the city, she meets bartenders, bodega clerks, security guards, criminals, children, parents, and parents-to-be, while reviewing a life of excitement and adversity, passion and heartbreak, illuminating all the ways New York has changed―and has not.

A love letter to city life in all its guts and grandeur, Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney paints a portrait of a remarkable woman across the canvas of a changing America: from the Jazz Age to the onset of the AIDS epidemic; the Great Depression to the birth of hip-hop.

Lillian figures she might as well take her time. For now, after all, the night is still young.

Monday, December 26, 2016

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is hosted by Kathryn at Reading Date.

Books I completed this past week are:

Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey
Death Comes to Kurland Hall by Catherine Lloyd

Bookmarks are still living in the middle of:

You Have Never Been Here by Mary Rickert
West With the Night by Beryl Markham
A Well-Made Bed by Abby Frucht and Laurie Alberts
The Other Woman by Therese Bohman
The Children's Crusade by Ann Packer
The Lake House by Kate Morton
Exposure by Helen Dunmore
The Veins of the Ocean by Patricia Engel
Eliza Waite by Ashley E. Sweeney
Shelter by Jung Yun
The Center of the World by Jacqueline Sheehan
The Edge of Lost by Kristina McMorris
A Manual For Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin
The Last Time She Saw Him by Jane Haseldine
The Beauty of the End by Debbie Howells
I Hid My Voice by Parinoush Saniee
Country of Red Azaleas by Domnica Radulescu
A Hard and Heavy Thing by Matthew J. Hefti
Roughneck Grace by Michael Perry
Paint Your Wife by Lloyd Jones

Reviews posted this week:

Marlene by C.W. Gortner
Grape, Olive, Pig by Matt Goulding

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

One Perfect Summer by Paige Toon
The Things We Keep by Sally Hepworth
The Sisters of Versailles by Sally Christie The Private Papers of Eastern Jewel by Maureen Lindley
Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson
American Housewife by Helen Ellis
The Two-Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman
The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty
Margaret the First by Danielle Dutton
Closer All the Time by Jim Nichols
The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett
Over the Plain Houses by Julia Franks
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
Forsaken by Ross Howell Jr.
The Cosmopolitans by Sarah Schulman
The Spice Box Letters by Eve Makis
Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman
A Very Special Year by Thomas Montasser
Specimen by Irina Kovalyova
One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid
The Telling by Zoe Zolbrod
The Transmigration of Bodies by Yuri Herrera
The Boy Who Speaks in Numbers by Mike Masilamani
Everyone Brave Is Forgiven by Chris Cleave
Every Exquisite Thing by Matthew Quick
What Comes Next and How to Like It by Abigail Thomas
After the Dam by Amy Hassinger
Our Spoons Came From Woolworths by Barbara Comyns
Umami by Laia Jufresa
The Education of a Poker Player by James McManus
Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse
Mrs. Engels by Gavin McCrea
The Iceberg by Marion Coutts
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Remarkable by Dinah Cox
Miss Jane by Brad Watson
The Inland Sea by Donald Ritchie
The Unseen World by Liz Moore
The Silver Spoon by Kansuke Naka
Blackass by A. Igoni Barrett
The Gilded Life of Matilda Duplaine by Alex Brunkhorst
The Honeymoon by Dinitia Smith
The Last Weynfeldt by Martin Suter
The Grand Hotel by Vicki Baum
Bottomland by Michelle Hoover
This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance by Jonathan Evison
The Lake by Perrine Leblanc
Orhan's Inheritance by Aline Ohanesian
A Girl From Yamhill by Beverly Cleary
If You Left by Ashley Norton
The Heart You Carry Home by Jennifer Miller
And Again by Jessica Chiarella
Man by Kim Thuy
The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George
The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood
The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende
The Wonder Garden by Lauren Acampora
A Good American by Alex George
Bertrand Court by Michelle Brafman
When Women Were Birds by Terry Tempest Williams
The Winter War by Philip Teir
This Side of Providence by Sally M. Harper
Lost and Found by Brooke Davis
Charmed Particles by Chrissy Kolaya
300 Days of Sun by Deborah Lawrenson
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
The American Way of Eating by Tracie McMillan
The Tsar of Love of Techno by Anthony Marra
The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick
The Book of Harlan by Bernice L. McFadden
Hey Harry, Hey Matilda by Rachel Hulin
The Measure of Darkness by Liam Durcan
Finding Fraser by KC Dyer
A Mother's Reckoning by Sue Klebold
The Drone Eats With Me by Atef Abu Saif
Heat and Light by Jennifer Haigh
Moo by Sharon Creech
Dear Reader by Paul Fournel
Hotel Angeline by 36 authors
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen 83 1/4 Years Old by Anonymous
Xenophobe's Guide to the English by Antony Miall and David Milsted
No. 4 Imperial Lane by Jonathan Weisman
Lord Roworth's Reward by Carola Dunn
Violation by Sallie Tisdale
Fall of Poppies by a collection of authors
A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner
Sitting in Bars With Cake by Audrey Schulman
Plus One by Christopher Noxon
Aunt Dimity and the Summer King by Nancy Atherton
The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules by Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg
Kevin Kramer Starts on Monday by Debbie Graber
Unfamiliar Fishes by Sarah Vowell
An Improper Arrangement by Kasey Michaels
Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll
Riverine by Angela Palm
Gold Fever by Steve Boggan
I Will Find You by Joanna Connors
A Shoe Addict's Christmas by Beth Harbison
You Have Never Been Here by Mary Rickert
Hollywood Is a Lot Like High School With Money by Zoey Dean
Disaster Falls by Stephane Gerson
The Last Girlfriend on Earth by Simon Rich
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
Birds, Beasts, and Relatives by Gerald Durrell
Soft in the Head by Marie-Sabine Roger
The Last Chance Christmas Ball by Putney, Beverley, Bourne, Rice, Cornick, Elliott, Gracie, and King
A Different Kind of Daughter by Maria Toorpakai
Naked at Lunch by Mark Haskell Smith
Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
Dept. Of Speculation by Jenny Offill
This Too Shall Pass by Milena Busquets
When in French by Lauren Collins
Santa, Baby by Jennifer Crusie, Lori Foster, and Carly Phillips
Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey
Death Comes to Kurland Hall by Catherine Lloyd

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from all of us to all of you

Love it (my mom) or dread it (the rest of you), it’s landed in your mailbox anyway: yet another Knox year in review, this time for 2016.

January: Starting off the year with a new position, K. took over the WNBA Great Group Reads Panel after being a reader on it since 2009. The new position came with an avalanche of books to read and a trip to Denver to attend the American Bookseller’s Association Winter Institute, where she had to talk to strangers, the only drawback of the job so far. With barely enough time to get home, unpack, and do laundry, K. left for Ohio, this time with R., to do some college visits.

February: This month we went up to High Point for a Family Weekend visit to W. He let T. (and Gatsby) spend the night with him in the dorm. We still haven’t been brave enough to ask him what all they did. We probably don’t want to know. The following weekend was Presidential Scholars Weekend at High Point for R. and since she was busy with activities, I’m sure W. was thrilled to be seeing mom for the second time in two weeks. Finally this month, K. and R. drove up to Pittsburgh for a final college visit.

March: T. performed as the Sheriff of Nottingham in The Somewhat True Tales of Robin Hood at the middle school North Carolina Theater Conference competition. Who knew that baddies from the sixteenth century rolled their eyes and pulled attitude just like teenagers today? It should go without saying that he’s fantastic at this but the judges agreed as he was awarded only one of five male Excellence in Acting Awards for his part.

April: This month, just like most of the months of the year, we almost never saw D. thanks to his insane travel schedule. At this point, he might have enough airline and hotel miles for us to move out of the house and just roam the country free forever. With two college tuition bills heading our way, we seriously considered it!

May: W. finished up his first year at college and promptly head up to Michigan to wait tables at the Les Cheneaux Culinary School. He is now especially thrilled when people ask him for balsamic vinaigrette or all about wine reductions. If you see him, be sure to test his culinary knowledge by asking about these two things in particular. While up north, he and K. got to experience boating in the snow. This is an even worse idea than it sounds like it is. Also this month, the 8th grade went to Atlanta. As neither of us was crazy enough to volunteer to chaperone, all we know about the trip is that T. came home with a t-shirt and other varieties of plastic tourist junk that kids can only buy when their parents aren’t with them.

June: This was a busy month for us as T. graduated from eighth grade one day and R. graduated from high school the next. T. earned an Achievement in Mathematics Award at his graduation, and no, he wasn’t the only kid in the class (we checked). Next we headed to “forced socialization with strangers” aka college orientation for R. D. could only pop over and embarrass her briefly because his tennis team was playing at States that same weekend. They won and headed off to Sectionals later in the summer.

July: R.’s final dance Nationals was in Nashville this month. We were lucky enough to stay with wonderful friends who not only took in dancer and mom, but also T. (who hung out at their house 24/7) and Gatsby, who discovered that horses are magnitudes of scale bigger than she is and therefore terrifying. After the last dance, we piled into the car and headed up to Michigan to rejoin W.

August: Staying up north a little longer than usual, T. had the chance to sail in the kid’s regatta. He took third, mostly because he was smart enough to sail with someone who was a better sailor than he was. We’ll have to teach him some sea shanties for next year so he can continue to crew. K. came down with shingles this month. The doctor kindly suggested that she was too young to get them (about the only thing she’s too young to get anymore) and she was lucky enough to have a really light case. Eventually we had to go home to move R. and W. into college. Despite going to the same school, we had to make two separate trips up there on two different days. This might have saved us money in not having to ship forgotten things if the gas cost didn’t cancel that savings out completely.

September: D. had a business trip take him to London this month and K. chose to tag along. He regretted letting her come when he saw the number of books she bought over there, and even more so when he tried lifting her luggage on the way home. This month was Family Weekend at college. So kind of W. and R. to make our lives easy and go to the same school. By the end of the weekend, D. had made friends with all of the roommate/suitemate/friend dads and I’m not sure we’ll be invited back for the spring weekend. And finally, R. turned 18 until this month, making us the parents of two adults and only one child. Proving that this idea never gets old, W. and R. insist on getting T. the children’s menu at all restaurants because he’s still a kid. (Can we get a collective “Poor T!” here?)

October: Because we enjoy paying outrageous car insurance, we thought T. should get in the act with his siblings and start to think about driving. K. took him out for his first experience behind the wheel in the elementary school parking lot. By the end of it, his leg was quivering and she was thinking about packing a flask the next time they go out. Really looking forward to him starting driver’s ed in December. No. Really. It was great.

November: R., her roommate, and several friends bought themselves a hedgehog a few months before this. Everything was all fine and dandy until Needles was discovered in their dorm room. This earned him a quick ticket to Charlotte since it was $25 a day to keep an illegal pet. He and K. are still adjusting to each other. And by that I mean he bites her, hisses, and puts up his spikes whenever he hears her voice while she calls him names and curses as she cleans out his cage. Pretty sure they’re going to be besties any time now. T. finished up what is probably his final soccer season and not wanting to create a vacuum in that space, tried out for the indoor track team. The coach decided he looks like a pole vaulter. We’re pretty sure that means he’s crazy, fearless, and completely willing to launch his body into the air using a swizzle stick. All we can say is yep, that fits. As 2016 comes to a close, we hope that all of you are surrounded by family, peace, love, and happiness now and throughout the coming year.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Review: Marlene by C.W. Gortner

Marlene Dietrich is immediately identifiable. One of the screen sirens from the Golden Age of Hollywood, her sultry movie roles and photographs made her a huge star. But that public persona was just a part of who she was. C.W. Gortner's Marlene, a fictionalization of Dietrich's life from 1914 until 1946, fleshes out the woman and the actress, telling her fascinating story from growing up in Germany with the deprivations after WWI to international stardom and then to ultimately turning her back on her homeland under Nazi rule.

Raised by a very strict, widowed mother who was forever conscious of their lineage and its due, Dietrich had a difficult relationship with her mother and her compliant, medically fragile older sister, Liesel. Interested in more than the children, kitchen, church triumvirate that most German girls of her class aspired to, she didn't fit in with her fellow students either. Introduced to the movies by a French teacher, she found her passion. Initially showing some talent at violin, she was sent to a conservatory. Although her professor tutored her privately, her grades only showed improvement because he was enthralled by the teenager. Having her first affair with him, she learned early the absolute power her sexuality held. It was this raw sexuality that eventually led to her success in the decadent cabarets and then German movies where she outshone her costars and which led to Hollywood coming to call. Combining a need to escape her mother's sense of morality with her own determined drive for fame and money, Dietrich, more than many women of her time, crafted her own life.

Openly bisexual, Dietrich indulged in affairs with numerous people. There were those who could further her career and those to whom she was magnetically drawn. She married once and had a daughter. Husband Rudi and daughter Heidede were paradoxically incredibly important in her life and also brushed aside more often than not. Her most enduring relationship was with the public Dietrich she herself created. Her life was unconventional; from her friendships within the gay and trans community in Germany before WWII to her financial support of her husband to her legion of affairs, Dietrich trod her own road. Gortner does a good job showing the scandals and defiance that marked her life. He shows her sheer determination and the ways in which she was always a survivor, pushing forward after any setback. But most importantly he shows how she fell in love with people and things that shaped her life indelibly.

The narration of the novel is in the first person, which allows Gortner to give Dietrich motivations for all of her actions, some the reader will sympathize with and some of which they will disapprove. The drawing of Germany and the feeling of a desperate sort of decadence between the wars is quite well done. There are quite a few steamy sex scenes in the novel and while Dietrich was undeniably voracious sexually, for pleasure and for gain, these scenes didn't really add much to the narrative itself. The middle portion of the novel, detailing many of her movies, her directors, and her leading men, lags some although it does also show the ultimate control that the studios had over their contracted actors and the way that that control chafed Dietrich. As Hitler gains power in Germany and Dietrich's feelings about the Nazis become clearer and more focused, the novel picks up speed. In fact, her USO tours and her refusal to return to Germany are the strongest pieces of the novel, beautifully showcasing her strength and character. The ending of the novel, not the end of Dietrich's long life by any stretch of the imagination, is a bit abrupt but does creatively tie her back to Garbo, whom she's spent so long first trying to emulate and then trying to distance herself from in becoming her own distinct star. Those who have an interest in Old Hollywood will thrill to all the cameos of actors and actresses, including an author or two, who play larger or smaller parts in Dietrich's life. Once started, this is a hard novel to put down because in it, Dietrich is once again the star of her own life.

For more information about C.W. Gortner and the book, check out his author website, like him on Facebook, or follow him on Twitter. Also, check out the book's Good Reads page, follow the rest of the blog tour, or look at the amazon reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.

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

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is hosted by Kathryn at Reading Date.

Books I completed this past week are:

When in French by Lauren Collins
Marlene by C.W. Gortner
Santa, Baby by Jennifer Crusie, Lori Foster, and Carly Phillips

Bookmarks are still living in the middle of:

You Have Never Been Here by Mary Rickert
West With the Night by Beryl Markham
A Well-Made Bed by Abby Frucht and Laurie Alberts
The Other Woman by Therese Bohman
The Children's Crusade by Ann Packer
The Lake House by Kate Morton
Exposure by Helen Dunmore
The Veins of the Ocean by Patricia Engel
Eliza Waite by Ashley E. Sweeney
Shelter by Jung Yun
The Center of the World by Jacqueline Sheehan
The Edge of Lost by Kristina McMorris
A Manual For Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin
The Last Time She Saw Him by Jane Haseldine
The Beauty of the End by Debbie Howells
I Hid My Voice by Parinoush Saniee
Country of Red Azaleas by Domnica Radulescu
A Hard and Heavy Thing by Matthew J. Hefti
Roughneck Grace by Michael Perry
Grape, Olive, Pig by Matt Goulding
Paint Your Wife by Lloyd Jones
Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey

Reviews posted this week:

The Golden Son by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

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

One Perfect Summer by Paige Toon
The Things We Keep by Sally Hepworth
The Sisters of Versailles by Sally Christie The Private Papers of Eastern Jewel by Maureen Lindley
Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson
American Housewife by Helen Ellis
The Two-Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman
The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty
Margaret the First by Danielle Dutton
Closer All the Time by Jim Nichols
The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett
Over the Plain Houses by Julia Franks
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
Forsaken by Ross Howell Jr.
The Cosmopolitans by Sarah Schulman
The Spice Box Letters by Eve Makis
Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman
A Very Special Year by Thomas Montasser
Specimen by Irina Kovalyova
One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid
The Telling by Zoe Zolbrod
The Transmigration of Bodies by Yuri Herrera
The Boy Who Speaks in Numbers by Mike Masilamani
Everyone Brave Is Forgiven by Chris Cleave
Every Exquisite Thing by Matthew Quick
What Comes Next and How to Like It by Abigail Thomas
After the Dam by Amy Hassinger
Our Spoons Came From Woolworths by Barbara Comyns
Umami by Laia Jufresa
The Education of a Poker Player by James McManus
Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse
Mrs. Engels by Gavin McCrea
The Iceberg by Marion Coutts
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Remarkable by Dinah Cox
Miss Jane by Brad Watson
The Inland Sea by Donald Ritchie
The Unseen World by Liz Moore
The Silver Spoon by Kansuke Naka
Blackass by A. Igoni Barrett
The Gilded Life of Matilda Duplaine by Alex Brunkhorst
The Honeymoon by Dinitia Smith
The Last Weynfeldt by Martin Suter
The Grand Hotel by Vicki Baum
Bottomland by Michelle Hoover
This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance by Jonathan Evison
The Lake by Perrine Leblanc
Orhan's Inheritance by Aline Ohanesian
A Girl From Yamhill by Beverly Cleary
If You Left by Ashley Norton
The Heart You Carry Home by Jennifer Miller
And Again by Jessica Chiarella
Man by Kim Thuy
The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George
The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood
The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende
The Wonder Garden by Lauren Acampora
A Good American by Alex George
Bertrand Court by Michelle Brafman
When Women Were Birds by Terry Tempest Williams
The Winter War by Philip Teir
This Side of Providence by Sally M. Harper
Lost and Found by Brooke Davis
Charmed Particles by Chrissy Kolaya
300 Days of Sun by Deborah Lawrenson
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
The American Way of Eating by Tracie McMillan
The Tsar of Love of Techno by Anthony Marra
The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick
The Book of Harlan by Bernice L. McFadden
Hey Harry, Hey Matilda by Rachel Hulin
The Measure of Darkness by Liam Durcan
Finding Fraser by KC Dyer
A Mother's Reckoning by Sue Klebold
The Drone Eats With Me by Atef Abu Saif
Heat and Light by Jennifer Haigh
Moo by Sharon Creech
Dear Reader by Paul Fournel
Hotel Angeline by 36 authors
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen 83 1/4 Years Old by Anonymous
Xenophobe's Guide to the English by Antony Miall and David Milsted
No. 4 Imperial Lane by Jonathan Weisman
Lord Roworth's Reward by Carola Dunn
Violation by Sallie Tisdale
Fall of Poppies by a collection of authors
A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner
Sitting in Bars With Cake by Audrey Schulman
Plus One by Christopher Noxon
Aunt Dimity and the Summer King by Nancy Atherton
The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules by Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg
Kevin Kramer Starts on Monday by Debbie Graber
Unfamiliar Fishes by Sarah Vowell
An Improper Arrangement by Kasey Michaels
Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll
Riverine by Angela Palm
Gold Fever by Steve Boggan
I Will Find You by Joanna Connors
A Shoe Addict's Christmas by Beth Harbison
You Have Never Been Here by Mary Rickert
Hollywood Is a Lot Like High School With Money by Zoey Dean
Disaster Falls by Stephane Gerson
The Last Girlfriend on Earth by Simon Rich
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
Birds, Beasts, and Relatives by Gerald Durrell
Soft in the Head by Marie-Sabine Roger
The Last Chance Christmas Ball by Putney, Beverley, Bourne, Rice, Cornick, Elliott, Gracie, and King
A Different Kind of Daughter by Maria Toorpakai
Naked at Lunch by Mark Haskell Smith
Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
Dept. Of Speculation by Jenny Offill
This Too Shall Pass by Milena Busquets
When in French by Lauren Collins
Marlene by C.W. Gortner
Santa, Baby by Jennifer Crusie, Lori Foster, and Carly Phillips

Monday Mailbox

Mostly I acquired books for myself this week because I should get Christmas gifts too, right? This past week's mailbox arrivals:

A Summer at Sea by Katie Fforde came from me to me because I was ordering everyone else books and I needed some too.

I have really enjoyed Fforde's charming fiction before so combine that with a water word in the title and there was no chance I could pass up this tale of a midwife who decides to spend the summer cooking on a boat and ends up having a summer romance with a local doctor.

The Great and the Good by Michel Deon came from Meryl Zegarek PR.

How could I not want to read a novel about a young man who meets the love of his life on the Queen Mary while en route to college? This sounds so enticing to me.  (Note there's another water connection!)

At Hawthorn Time by Melissa Harrison came from me to me because I was ordering everyone else books and I needed some too.

I had set this one aside for later in my cart for a very long time and I figured it was finally time to acquire it. A rural community, four people really struggling, and a terrible car accident mean that this one sounds appealingly tense and suspenseful.

The Winter Tree by Charles Todd came from me to me because I was ordering everyone else books and I needed some too.

I've been looking for my Christmas spirit and am hoping I might find it in the pages of this holiday tale set during the early days of WWI about an aristocratic young English woman who meets a soldier as she tries to make her way back to England and then trains as a nurse in order to get back to the war and the man she can't forget.

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.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Sunday Salon: December Isn't Working For Me But Here's a Gift List

Am I the only one or does the month of December turn out to be completely overwhelming no matter how prepared you think you are? I think a part of it for me is the advent of dismal, sunless weather that saps any shred of motivation I can even begin to muster up. I haven't even managed to read much at all (and have reviewed even less). My to do list is still long and unchanging. Just looking at it at this point makes me want to crawl back into my bed and wake up in January (only one of the things on it is for January and needs to be done asap or all hell will break loose come January). There are no Christmas decorations up at my house. I have not written my Christmas letter; nor have I ordered the Christmas cards. I haven't finished with Christmas shopping and not one shred of wrapping has occurred. It's been a hard year in a lot of ways and I just don't feel very jolly. At this point, I figure whatever gets done, gets done and whatever doesn't, well, it just doesn't. I will admit to buying a whole raft of Christmas themed romances the other day when I was out getting books for one of my children. They are easy enough to sink into that I'll hopefully find my reading mojo and get in the Christmas spirit at the same time, not that I'm holding my breath for either thing frankly.

So what do you do for presents for people who are hard enough to buy for when you're in the spirit and darn near impossible when you're not? I thought I'd share some of my more inspired ideas for anyone else who is struggling. (Mom--stop reading until after Christmas please!) Starting with the non-bookish gifts:

1. Subscription boxes
These are quite the thing these days. I'm getting both of my boys subscriptions to comic boxes. I don't really have advice on which ones to get since I'm flying blind based on rather vague internet reviews, but I'm hoping this will turn out to be an easy, renewable gift for birthdays and next Christmas. It's possible I'll get my daughter a makeup box since she's enjoyed the ones my sister has sent in the past but I'm still thinking on that.

2. Massages or other pampering spa type thing
I am definitely getting a gift card for a massage or two for my college aged daughter. She doesn't generally strike me as particularly stressed out but she is a fan of small bits of hedonistic bliss.

3. 23 and Me test kit
I did this last year and my kids thought it was fascinating. Since I'm only half of their genetic info, doing their own tests will have unique and different results. Fair warning though, it's not cheap.

4. Frozen homemade meals
This one is for my dad. He's extra tough to buy for since he gets himself everything he wants and really only wants us to spend time with him. Time cannot be wrapped under the Christmas tree and I like everyone to have things to unwrap. So this year I hit on making him a selection of meals I make that he likes and freezing them in one and two person (in case he shares with mom) portions. Time intensive but with the potential to be the best tangible present I've found for him in years.

5. Funny and inappropriate DVDs
We have the humor level of 12 year old boys around here so some highly inappropriate and hilarious DVDs should keep mom laughing for a long time. My recommendation for this is Mrs. Brown's Boys (but make sure you get the US compatible set).

Not for this year but other non-bookish things I've gifted in the past: paint for a bedroom, membership to a club or the zoo or the like, tickets to a football game or a local show, lottery tickets, or other commitments of time (like shopping with my daughter--I hate shopping but my daughter doesn't so giving her the gift of no whining by me is a big one).

Now for the bookish gift:

I luck out in that my children and husband almost always put specific books on their wish lists. That means that there will be a glut of Star Wars novelizations, thrillers, and graphic novels under the tree here. My daughter is going to get a subscription (you didn't think that subscription boxes were just for non-books, right?) to the Parnassus Next signed first edition YA club. Many bookstores have versions of this so if your giftee has a particular interest, you can probably find one to suit them (just google First Editions Club and you'll have a plethora to choose from, and it may even be from your local independent bookstore).

If you need help on individual titles for your friends or family, I highly recommend you visit your local independent bookstore and ask them. They are professionals and will definitely have an appropriate answer for you. As a fall back, I suppose you can always ask me but I make no promises about answering in time for Christmas given my own behind the eight ball, overwhelmed, un-holiday spirited situation.


My reading travels this week took me to Switzerland as a woman learned French and looked at language and acquisition. I shadowed film siren Marlene Dietrich as she grew from a child into a glamorous film star and then became a woman more in charge of her own destiny. And I dipped into three short Christmas romances about the "it" toy of the year, a steamy office romance, and a fortuitous case of mistaken identity. Where did your reading travels take you this past week?

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday

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

The Lady of the Lakes by Josi Kilpack. The book is being released by Shadow Mountain on January 3, 2017.

Amazon says this about the book: It's 1796 and nineteen-year-old Walter Scott is in love. For the past few years, he has been engaged in a long-distance courtship, writing love letters to his childhood sweetheart, Mina.

Though both Walter and Mina are young and from different stations in society, they share the same love of literature, a passionate temperament, and a restless heart. They know their love is meant to be. Walter feels sure Mina is the muse he needs to bring every dream of his life to fruition. But the distance between the two lovers proves too great, and when Mina meets the handsome and charming William Forbes, she is swept away, and the two quickly announce their engagement.

Brokenhearted, Walter takes refuge in the lake country of England where he resigns himself to life of misery and heartache. But then he meets Charlotte, a French girl, who, at twenty-six, has resigned herself to the fact that she will never find love. Despite their age difference, the two become cautious friends, but Charlotte's quiet disposition and keen mind intrigue Walter. She is so different from Mina, yet perhaps, for Walter, it may be that his perfect match is a woman who calms him and helps him keep his feet on the ground. Though wary of risking his heart a second time, he finds himself falling deeply in love with her.

In the end, he is able to forgive Mina, forget his heartbreak, and forge ahead in a new relationship, realizing that there is a vast difference between a man's ''first love'' and his ''true love.''

Monday, December 12, 2016

Review: The Golden Son by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

Our lives are chock full of hopes and expectations. We face the expectations of our parents for us, those of our culture, and even our own expectations for ourselves. It can be hard work to live up to any or all of these sometimes contradictory expectations. Some people are crushed under the weight, some stop trying to achieve them at all, others struggle unhappily even as they reach those goals, while still others temper or alter expectations in order to create a happy and balanced life. This latter achievement can be quite difficult but it is the one that makes the most sense in the long run. In Shilpi Somaya Gowda's newest novel, The Golden Son, characters are trying very hard to stay true to what they know is expected of them, both from their family's perspectives and from a cultural perspective, but must, in the end, learn to adjust as situations and lives change.

As the oldest son, Anil Patel should, by rights, inherit the family farm and his father's position as the local arbiter of disputes. But his father sees a different path for him, pushing him to attend college and become a doctor. And Anil has no trouble living up to this expectation. When he applies for a residency at a prestigious hospital in America and is offered a place, he knows that he is leaving the life of a rural farmer behind forever but he can't escape his role as heir to his father's reasoned and fair practice of arbitration. His struggles with adjusting to a very foreign life in Dallas, the pace and stress of his residency, and his own feelings of alienation from India and from America both, all combine to make for a tough adjustment for Anil.  When his father dies and Anil has to take on the position of judge and jury that he feels so unsuited to perform, he stumbles under the weight of these inescapable expectations.

Leena, Anil's old friend from home, the girl he grew up with and who he eventually had to give up spending time with because their friendship was considered unseemly, tries to fulfill her parents' and her culture's expectations for her. She agrees to an arranged marriage and goes into this relationship wanting very much to be a good wife, good sister-in-law, and good daughter-in-law. She does her best despite her new family's appalling treatment of her, wanting to not shame her parents or become a pariah in the community.

Both Anil and Leena are shamed by their failures to live up to the standards they and outside forces have placed on them and it is only through deep soul searching, in Anil's case, and an almost tragedy in Leena's, for both of them to look at their lives and see the expectations placed on them for what they are.

This is a novel of responsibility and identity. It is a tale of not belonging and of forging your own path toward happiness.  It is, above all, a story of the weight of expectations and the problems that those expectations can create.  Gowda writes in a simple and straightforward way even when she is presenting issues as complex as racism, spousal abuse, interracial dating, and medical mistakes. The details about Anil's residency and the fog he exists in during this time are well drawn and extensive. The brutal reality of Leena's life is hard to read but certainly an illuminating window into some Indian women's terrible existences, from which they have little to no hope of rescue. The ending is satisfying, if a bit speedy, and Gowda avoids the easy solution for her characters, choosing to stay true to their created personalities. Those who have an interest in India and the ties that continue to bind Indian immigrants to their country of origin will find this an appealing and easy read.

For more information about Shilpi Somaya Gowda and the book, check out her author website, like her on Facebook, or follow her on Twitter. Also, check out the book's Good Reads page, follow the rest of the blog tour, or look at the amazon reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.

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

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

I think I should just write off December. I am so overwhelmed with everything else going on in my life right now that I haven't been reading or reviewing almost anything. It makes me sad but it is currently the reality. Every time I think I have made progress on my to do list by finishing one thing, I add five more things that *must* be accomplished. :-( This meme is hosted by Kathryn at Reading Date.

Books I completed this past week are:

The Golden Son by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

Bookmarks are still living in the middle of:

You Have Never Been Here by Mary Rickert
West With the Night by Beryl Markham
A Well-Made Bed by Abby Frucht and Laurie Alberts
The Other Woman by Therese Bohman
The Children's Crusade by Ann Packer
The Lake House by Kate Morton
Exposure by Helen Dunmore
The Veins of the Ocean by Patricia Engel
Eliza Waite by Ashley E. Sweeney
Shelter by Jung Yun
The Center of the World by Jacqueline Sheehan
The Edge of Lost by Kristina McMorris
A Manual For Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin
The Last Time She Saw Him by Jane Haseldine
The Beauty of the End by Debbie Howells
I Hid My Voice by Parinoush Saniee
Country of Red Azaleas by Domnica Radulescu
A Hard and Heavy Thing by Matthew J. Hefti
Roughneck Grace by Michael Perry
Grape, Olive, Pig by Matt Goulding
Paint Your Wife by Lloyd Jones
When in French by Lauren Collins
Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey

Reviews posted this week:

Grape, Olive, Pig by Matt Goulding

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

One Perfect Summer by Paige Toon
The Things We Keep by Sally Hepworth
The Sisters of Versailles by Sally Christie The Private Papers of Eastern Jewel by Maureen Lindley
Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson
American Housewife by Helen Ellis
The Two-Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman
The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty
Margaret the First by Danielle Dutton
Closer All the Time by Jim Nichols
The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett
Over the Plain Houses by Julia Franks
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
Forsaken by Ross Howell Jr.
The Cosmopolitans by Sarah Schulman
The Spice Box Letters by Eve Makis
Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman
A Very Special Year by Thomas Montasser
Specimen by Irina Kovalyova
One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid
The Telling by Zoe Zolbrod
The Transmigration of Bodies by Yuri Herrera
The Boy Who Speaks in Numbers by Mike Masilamani
Everyone Brave Is Forgiven by Chris Cleave
Every Exquisite Thing by Matthew Quick
What Comes Next and How to Like It by Abigail Thomas
After the Dam by Amy Hassinger
Our Spoons Came From Woolworths by Barbara Comyns
Umami by Laia Jufresa
The Education of a Poker Player by James McManus
Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse
Mrs. Engels by Gavin McCrea
The Iceberg by Marion Coutts
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Remarkable by Dinah Cox
Miss Jane by Brad Watson
The Inland Sea by Donald Ritchie
The Unseen World by Liz Moore
The Silver Spoon by Kansuke Naka
Blackass by A. Igoni Barrett
The Gilded Life of Matilda Duplaine by Alex Brunkhorst
The Honeymoon by Dinitia Smith
The Last Weynfeldt by Martin Suter
The Grand Hotel by Vicki Baum
Bottomland by Michelle Hoover
This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance by Jonathan Evison
The Lake by Perrine Leblanc
Orhan's Inheritance by Aline Ohanesian
A Girl From Yamhill by Beverly Cleary
If You Left by Ashley Norton
The Heart You Carry Home by Jennifer Miller
And Again by Jessica Chiarella
Man by Kim Thuy
The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George
The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood
The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende
The Wonder Garden by Lauren Acampora
A Good American by Alex George
Bertrand Court by Michelle Brafman
When Women Were Birds by Terry Tempest Williams
The Winter War by Philip Teir
This Side of Providence by Sally M. Harper
Lost and Found by Brooke Davis
Charmed Particles by Chrissy Kolaya
300 Days of Sun by Deborah Lawrenson
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
The American Way of Eating by Tracie McMillan
The Tsar of Love of Techno by Anthony Marra
The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick
The Book of Harlan by Bernice L. McFadden
Hey Harry, Hey Matilda by Rachel Hulin
The Measure of Darkness by Liam Durcan
Finding Fraser by KC Dyer
A Mother's Reckoning by Sue Klebold
The Drone Eats With Me by Atef Abu Saif
Heat and Light by Jennifer Haigh
Moo by Sharon Creech
Dear Reader by Paul Fournel
Hotel Angeline by 36 authors
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen 83 1/4 Years Old by Anonymous
Xenophobe's Guide to the English by Antony Miall and David Milsted
No. 4 Imperial Lane by Jonathan Weisman
Lord Roworth's Reward by Carola Dunn
Violation by Sallie Tisdale
Fall of Poppies by a collection of authors
A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner
Sitting in Bars With Cake by Audrey Schulman
Plus One by Christopher Noxon
Aunt Dimity and the Summer King by Nancy Atherton
The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules by Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg
Kevin Kramer Starts on Monday by Debbie Graber
Unfamiliar Fishes by Sarah Vowell
An Improper Arrangement by Kasey Michaels
Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll
Riverine by Angela Palm
Gold Fever by Steve Boggan
I Will Find You by Joanna Connors
A Shoe Addict's Christmas by Beth Harbison
You Have Never Been Here by Mary Rickert
Hollywood Is a Lot Like High School With Money by Zoey Dean
Disaster Falls by Stephane Gerson
The Last Girlfriend on Earth by Simon Rich
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
Birds, Beasts, and Relatives by Gerald Durrell
Soft in the Head by Marie-Sabine Roger
The Last Chance Christmas Ball by Putney, Beverley, Bourne, Rice, Cornick, Elliott, Gracie, and King
A Different Kind of Daughter by Maria Toorpakai
Naked at Lunch by Mark Haskell Smith
Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
Dept. Of Speculation by Jenny Offill
This Too Shall Pass by Milena Busquets
The Golden Son by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

Monday Mailbox

This past week's mailbox arrival:

The Mortifications by Derek Palacio came from Tim Duggan Books.

The story of one family torn apart by the Mariel Boat Lift, this tale of a Cuban mother and her children as they leave behind their husband and father to create a life in the US, in Hartford, Connecticut, this intrigues me completely.

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.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Review: Grape, Olive, Pig by Matt Goulding

This is a hard book to categorize. It's not a cookbook. It's not a travelogue. It's not a memoir. It's not history. Instead it's a little bit of each of these. The intention of the book is to be a deep dive into the food culture of Spain and it is that, seen through the eyes of an American who lives in Spain with his Catalunyan wife.

Organized by geographical area, the book takes on the signature dishes of Spain and the people who make those dishes possible, either through cooking or through the sourcing of the raw ingredients. Goulding tells the history of the area and why each dish has developed the way it has, detailing his own gustatory experience and history in each region of the country. He's accompanied both by the big names in Spanish cuisine and by unknowns who have contributed much to the growth of the food experience in the country. Slotted between the regional chapters are travel tips, diagrams of meat or fish cuts, restaurant recommendations, small blurbs about people, and more. There are no recipes in the book but there are many photographs. In fact the placement of the pictures make this less a traditional reading experience than something more akin to scrolling through a web site. The text itself is full of similes and Goulding writes of the food and meals with the reverence of a lover. His writing is very visual, which makes this a very slow and deliberate read. There is definitely a focus on the people and places that make the food in Spain what it is and there's much to learn about the food culture of this often culinarily overlooked country. The format of the book was a bit frustrating as the interstitial bits interrupted the flow of the narrative and were ultimately unnecessary and the writing could be dense or occasionally overwrought. Oddly enough, after finishing the book, I did not find myself wanting to go immediately to Spain to sample these foods. Although it was clear that Goulding finds Spanish food to be some of the best in the world, I remain less convinced and I'm uncertain as to why. Given other people's reactions to the book, perhaps the failing is all mine.

For more information about Matt Goulding and the book, follow him on Twitter. Also, check out the book's Good Reads page, follow the rest of the blog tour, or look at the amazon reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.

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

Monday, December 5, 2016

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is hosted by Kathryn at Reading Date.

Books I completed this past week are:

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
Dept. Of Speculation by Jenny Offill
This Too Shall Pass by Milena Busquets

Bookmarks are still living in the middle of:

You Have Never Been Here by Mary Rickert
West With the Night by Beryl Markham
A Well-Made Bed by Abby Frucht and Laurie Alberts
The Other Woman by Therese Bohman
The Children's Crusade by Ann Packer
The Lake House by Kate Morton
Exposure by Helen Dunmore
The Veins of the Ocean by Patricia Engel
Eliza Waite by Ashley E. Sweeney
Shelter by Jung Yun
The Center of the World by Jacqueline Sheehan
The Edge of Lost by Kristina McMorris
A Manual For Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin
The Last Time She Saw Him by Jane Haseldine
The Beauty of the End by Debbie Howells
I Hid My Voice by Parinoush Saniee
Country of Red Azaleas by Domnica Radulescu
A Hard and Heavy Thing by Matthew J. Hefti
Roughneck Grace by Michael Perry
Grape, Olive, Pig by Matt Goulding
Paint Your Wife by Lloyd Jones

Reviews posted this week:

Searching for John Hughes by Jason Diamond

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

One Perfect Summer by Paige Toon
The Things We Keep by Sally Hepworth
The Sisters of Versailles by Sally Christie The Private Papers of Eastern Jewel by Maureen Lindley
Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson
American Housewife by Helen Ellis
The Two-Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman
The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty
Margaret the First by Danielle Dutton
Closer All the Time by Jim Nichols
The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett
Over the Plain Houses by Julia Franks
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
Forsaken by Ross Howell Jr.
The Cosmopolitans by Sarah Schulman
The Spice Box Letters by Eve Makis
Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman
A Very Special Year by Thomas Montasser
Specimen by Irina Kovalyova
One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid
The Telling by Zoe Zolbrod
The Transmigration of Bodies by Yuri Herrera
The Boy Who Speaks in Numbers by Mike Masilamani
Everyone Brave Is Forgiven by Chris Cleave
Every Exquisite Thing by Matthew Quick
What Comes Next and How to Like It by Abigail Thomas
After the Dam by Amy Hassinger
Our Spoons Came From Woolworths by Barbara Comyns
Umami by Laia Jufresa
The Education of a Poker Player by James McManus
Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse
Mrs. Engels by Gavin McCrea
The Iceberg by Marion Coutts
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Remarkable by Dinah Cox
Miss Jane by Brad Watson
The Inland Sea by Donald Ritchie
The Unseen World by Liz Moore
The Silver Spoon by Kansuke Naka
Blackass by A. Igoni Barrett
The Gilded Life of Matilda Duplaine by Alex Brunkhorst
The Honeymoon by Dinitia Smith
The Last Weynfeldt by Martin Suter
The Grand Hotel by Vicki Baum
Bottomland by Michelle Hoover
This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance by Jonathan Evison
The Lake by Perrine Leblanc
Orhan's Inheritance by Aline Ohanesian
A Girl From Yamhill by Beverly Cleary
If You Left by Ashley Norton
The Heart You Carry Home by Jennifer Miller
And Again by Jessica Chiarella
Man by Kim Thuy
The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George
The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood
The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende
The Wonder Garden by Lauren Acampora
A Good American by Alex George
Bertrand Court by Michelle Brafman
When Women Were Birds by Terry Tempest Williams
The Winter War by Philip Teir
This Side of Providence by Sally M. Harper
Lost and Found by Brooke Davis
Charmed Particles by Chrissy Kolaya
300 Days of Sun by Deborah Lawrenson
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
The American Way of Eating by Tracie McMillan
The Tsar of Love of Techno by Anthony Marra
The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick
The Book of Harlan by Bernice L. McFadden
Hey Harry, Hey Matilda by Rachel Hulin
The Measure of Darkness by Liam Durcan
Finding Fraser by KC Dyer
A Mother's Reckoning by Sue Klebold
The Drone Eats With Me by Atef Abu Saif
Heat and Light by Jennifer Haigh
Moo by Sharon Creech
Dear Reader by Paul Fournel
Hotel Angeline by 36 authors
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen 83 1/4 Years Old by Anonymous
Xenophobe's Guide to the English by Antony Miall and David Milsted
No. 4 Imperial Lane by Jonathan Weisman
Lord Roworth's Reward by Carola Dunn
Violation by Sallie Tisdale
Fall of Poppies by a collection of authors
A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner
Sitting in Bars With Cake by Audrey Schulman
Plus One by Christopher Noxon
Aunt Dimity and the Summer King by Nancy Atherton
The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules by Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg
Kevin Kramer Starts on Monday by Debbie Graber
Unfamiliar Fishes by Sarah Vowell
An Improper Arrangement by Kasey Michaels
Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll
Riverine by Angela Palm
Gold Fever by Steve Boggan
I Will Find You by Joanna Connors
A Shoe Addict's Christmas by Beth Harbison
You Have Never Been Here by Mary Rickert
Hollywood Is a Lot Like High School With Money by Zoey Dean
Disaster Falls by Stephane Gerson
The Last Girlfriend on Earth by Simon Rich
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
Birds, Beasts, and Relatives by Gerald Durrell
Soft in the Head by Marie-Sabine Roger
The Last Chance Christmas Ball by Putney, Beverley, Bourne, Rice, Cornick, Elliott, Gracie, and King
A Different Kind of Daughter by Maria Toorpakai
Naked at Lunch by Mark Haskell Smith
Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
Dept. Of Speculation by Jenny Offill
This Too Shall Pass by Milena Busquets

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Sunday Salon: How I'm Getting On

Two weeks ago I asked you all to choose my next read based solely on first lines. I have to admit I haven't been particularly good about following your advice as I had seven different books chosen (a couple were mentioned multiple times) and I've only managed to read one of those. But I thought I'd share what the books are in case any of you want to read them faster than I currently am! Here are the ones you chose for me:

1. I miss the pigs. (Michael Perry's Roughneck Grace)

3. They send girls like me to the crazy house--or simply stone us to death. (Maria Toorpakai's A Different Kind of Daughter) **This is the one I managed to read after you all chose it.

9. Fog encircled the island, a strangling grip, as search efforts mounted. (Kristina McMorris' The Edge of Lost)

12. Eliza spies the slim piece of card stock turned facedown in the mire, a perfectly formed rectangle lying on top of the slurry of mud and dung. (Ashley Sweeney's Eliza Waite)

13. When he found out his wife was unfaithful, Hector Castillo told his son to get in the car because they were going fishing. (Patricia Engel's The Veins of the Ocean)

14. It isn't what you know or don't know: it's what you allow yourself to know. (Helen Dunmore's Exposure)

19. How is it possible to bring order out of memory? (Beryl Markham's West with the Night)

I am still trying to get to these for you but in the meantime, I also sneaked in three just because I couldn't wait (or because they happened to be close at hand and I didn't want to get off the couch) books plus a book club choice. Now I'm back to reading a review book but I'll get back to this list soon. Cross my heart! Now if you could all poke at me to actually write some reviews!!!

This past week my reading travels took me around the world looking at the nudist/naturist culture. Then I read about a marriage from the inside perspective of the two people involved in it. Next I took a different look at marriage (from only one perspective this time). Then I went to Spain as a woman grieved her mother. Now I'm immersed in the food culture in Spain. Where did your reading travels take you this week?

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Review: Searching for John Hughes by Jason Diamond

I grew up on John Hughes films, liking and relating to some more than others. I vividly remember watching Sixteen Candles on TV (I'd already seen it at the theater so I knew what all the bleeped out language was) and my dad walking into the room, pausing to watch a scene, and then commenting that if I used that kind of language (apparently he didn't have to see it in the theater to know what Molly Ringwald's character said) they'd forget my birthday too. Obviously Hughes was not the voice of my parents' generation. But in many ways, he was of mine. As much as I can still connect many of his movies to specific moments in my life, I would never have thought to write either a memoir about him or a memoir about the impact his movies had on my life as Jason Diamond did. That the book was originally conceived as the first but then became very much the second made it just that much more interesting to this fellow movie watcher.

Diamond grew up in the Chicago suburbs that Hughes immortalized in his movies at the very time that Hughes was capturing them. Diamond identified with these movies and the man who made them, using them and music as an escape from his own very unhappy childhood and adolescence. John Hughes excelled at capturing teen angst. It seems it was this feeling above all others that resonated with Diamond, although given his estrangement from his abusive and neglectful parents and his eventual homelessness while still in high school, he wasn't actually facing the sort of angst that Hughes' characters face, instead he was facing true and deep problems. But the movies' generally positive (hard to call them happy in some cases) endings, gave Diamond hope in what was otherwise a rather hopeless situation. Diamond struggled to define himself outside of his parents' negative and brutal definition of him so he uses certain of Hughes' characters to try and make sense of who he is throughout the pages of this memoir.

After escaping his unhappy history in Chicago, Diamond moves to New York where he finds a succession of low paying, easily replaceable jobs. He is still adrift and ashamed of his life when discussions with friends and a reading by a medium encourages him to tackle a comprehensive, unauthorized biography of John Hughes. Chasing after his dream of writing a book, researching the pop culture icon, trying unsuccessfully to interview those who worked with Hughes, and making a deep dive into the movies consumed years of Diamond's life. Even immersed in this project, Diamond still struggled but the project allowed him the chance to recount and accept his past on the way to a better and happier life.

This memoir is not so much about John Hughes. It is very much about Jason Diamond. It is personal and hard and what he lived through is dark and depressing. Insecurity and self doubt wind through his terrible teen years and on into his twenties. The small hope of Hughes' movie endings seems to be beyond his reach so very often but somehow, even so, those movies pull him through. The memoir is very introspective and some of Diamond's drifting is hard to read. It's tough to stay with an author who is so unhappy and filled with shame and anger but his recounting of his early life certainly explains why he is trapped in this place. I'm not sure how relatable the book would be to someone not of his generation but for those of us who grew up in the John Hughes era as Diamond did, this will strike a chord for sure.

For more information about Jason Diamond and the book, check out his author website or follow him on Instagram or Twitter. Also, check out the book's Good Reads page, follow the rest of the blog tour, or look at the amazon reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.

Thanks to Trish from TLC Book Tours and the HarperCollins 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.

The Antiques by Kris D'Agostino. The book is being released by Scribner on January 10, 2017.

Amazon says this about the book: An irresistible, incisive, fast-paced comedic drama about a family who reunites after the death of its patriarch, just as a hurricane tears through town. For fans of Jonathan Tropper, Emma Straub, and Karen Joy Fowler.

On the night of a massive, record-breaking hurricane, George Westfall, an upstate New York antique store owner and father of three, lays dying. As his wife Ana seals up the storefront, their adult son Armie hides from the outside world as he always does, immersed in woodwork and thoughts of the past. In New York City, Armie’s older brother Josef, a sex-addicted techie, is fighting to repair his broken relationship with his daughters. And out in Los Angeles their sister Charlie’s career as a Hollywood publicist is crumbling.

For the Westfalls, Murphy’s Law is in full effect. Their patriarch dies as the storm hits town, flooding the store and ruining Josef’s business negotiations. Charlie is desperately trying to set a movie starlet straight, while handling her son’s expulsion from preschool and her wayward husband. And Armie, who’s still in love with his high school crush Audrey, can’t even muster the courage to leave his childhood home. Only when the children reunite to sell their father’s beloved heirloom painting do they discover their real fortune lies elsewhere.

A rollicking tableau of family life in all its messy complexity, like the best of Meg Wolitzer and Tom Perrotta, The Antiques is hilarious, heartbreaking, nimble, and observant. Complete with deeply flawed, affectionately rendered characters and an irresistible plot, Kris D’Agostino’s unforgettable novel is about the unexpected epiphanies that emerge in chaos, and the loved ones who help show us who we really are.

Monday, November 28, 2016

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is hosted by Kathryn at Reading Date.

Books I completed this past week are:

Under the Influence by Joyce Maynard
A Different Kind of Daughter by Maria Toorpakai
Searching for John Hughes by Jason Diamond
Naked at Lunch by Mark Haskell Smith

Bookmarks are still living in the middle of:

You Have Never Been Here by Mary Rickert
West With the Night by Beryl Markham
A Well-Made Bed by Abby Frucht and Laurie Alberts
The Other Woman by Therese Bohman
The Children's Crusade by Ann Packer
The Lake House by Kate Morton
Exposure by Helen Dunmore
The Veins of the Ocean by Patricia Engel
Eliza Waite by Ashley E. Sweeney
Shelter by Jung Yun
The Center of the World by Jacqueline Sheehan
The Edge of Lost by Kristina McMorris
A Manual For Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin
The Last Time She Saw Him by Jane Haseldine
The Beauty of the End by Debbie Howells
I Hid My Voice by Parinoush Saniee
Country of Red Azaleas by Domnica Radulescu
A Hard and Heavy Thing by Matthew J. Hefti
Roughneck Grace by Michael Perry
Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

Reviews posted this week:

Under the Influence by Joyce Maynard

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

One Perfect Summer by Paige Toon
The Things We Keep by Sally Hepworth
The Sisters of Versailles by Sally Christie The Private Papers of Eastern Jewel by Maureen Lindley
Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson
American Housewife by Helen Ellis
The Two-Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman
The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty
Margaret the First by Danielle Dutton
Closer All the Time by Jim Nichols
The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett
Over the Plain Houses by Julia Franks
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
Forsaken by Ross Howell Jr.
The Cosmopolitans by Sarah Schulman
The Spice Box Letters by Eve Makis
Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman
A Very Special Year by Thomas Montasser
Specimen by Irina Kovalyova
One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid
The Telling by Zoe Zolbrod
The Transmigration of Bodies by Yuri Herrera
The Boy Who Speaks in Numbers by Mike Masilamani
Everyone Brave Is Forgiven by Chris Cleave
Every Exquisite Thing by Matthew Quick
What Comes Next and How to Like It by Abigail Thomas
After the Dam by Amy Hassinger
Our Spoons Came From Woolworths by Barbara Comyns
Umami by Laia Jufresa
The Education of a Poker Player by James McManus
Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse
Mrs. Engels by Gavin McCrea
The Iceberg by Marion Coutts
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Remarkable by Dinah Cox
Miss Jane by Brad Watson
The Inland Sea by Donald Ritchie
The Unseen World by Liz Moore
The Silver Spoon by Kansuke Naka
Blackass by A. Igoni Barrett
The Gilded Life of Matilda Duplaine by Alex Brunkhorst
The Honeymoon by Dinitia Smith
The Last Weynfeldt by Martin Suter
The Grand Hotel by Vicki Baum
Bottomland by Michelle Hoover
This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance by Jonathan Evison
The Lake by Perrine Leblanc
Orhan's Inheritance by Aline Ohanesian
A Girl From Yamhill by Beverly Cleary
If You Left by Ashley Norton
The Heart You Carry Home by Jennifer Miller
And Again by Jessica Chiarella
Man by Kim Thuy
The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George
The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood
The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende
The Wonder Garden by Lauren Acampora
A Good American by Alex George
Bertrand Court by Michelle Brafman
When Women Were Birds by Terry Tempest Williams
The Winter War by Philip Teir
This Side of Providence by Sally M. Harper
Lost and Found by Brooke Davis
Charmed Particles by Chrissy Kolaya
300 Days of Sun by Deborah Lawrenson
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
The American Way of Eating by Tracie McMillan
The Tsar of Love of Techno by Anthony Marra
The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick
The Book of Harlan by Bernice L. McFadden
Hey Harry, Hey Matilda by Rachel Hulin
The Measure of Darkness by Liam Durcan
Finding Fraser by KC Dyer
A Mother's Reckoning by Sue Klebold
The Drone Eats With Me by Atef Abu Saif
Heat and Light by Jennifer Haigh
Moo by Sharon Creech
Dear Reader by Paul Fournel
Hotel Angeline by 36 authors
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen 83 1/4 Years Old by Anonymous
Xenophobe's Guide to the English by Antony Miall and David Milsted
No. 4 Imperial Lane by Jonathan Weisman
Lord Roworth's Reward by Carola Dunn
Violation by Sallie Tisdale
Fall of Poppies by a collection of authors
A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner
Sitting in Bars With Cake by Audrey Schulman
Plus One by Christopher Noxon
Aunt Dimity and the Summer King by Nancy Atherton
The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules by Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg
Kevin Kramer Starts on Monday by Debbie Graber
Unfamiliar Fishes by Sarah Vowell
An Improper Arrangement by Kasey Michaels
Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll
Riverine by Angela Palm
Gold Fever by Steve Boggan
I Will Find You by Joanna Connors
A Shoe Addict's Christmas by Beth Harbison
You Have Never Been Here by Mary Rickert
Hollywood Is a Lot Like High School With Money by Zoey Dean
Disaster Falls by Stephane Gerson
The Last Girlfriend on Earth by Simon Rich
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
Birds, Beasts, and Relatives by Gerald Durrell
Soft in the Head by Marie-Sabine Roger
The Last Chance Christmas Ball by Putney, Beverley, Bourne, Rice, Cornick, Elliott, Gracie, and King
A Different Kind of Daughter by Maria Toorpakai
Searching for John Hughes by Jason Diamond
Naked at Lunch by Mark Haskell Smith

Monday Mailbox

This past week's mailbox arrival:

Under the Influence by Joyce Maynard came from William Morrow.

I've already reviewed this one here.

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, November 23, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday

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

Small Admissions by Amy Poeppel. The book is being released by Atria/Emily Bestler Books on December 27, 2016.

Amazon says this about the book: For fans of The Nanny Diaries and Sophie Kinsella comes a whip-smart and deliciously funny debut novel about Kate, a young woman unexpectedly thrust into the cutthroat world of New York City private school admissions as she attempts to understand city life, human nature, and falling in love.

Despite her innate ambition and Summa Cum Laude smarts, Kate Pearson has turned into a major slacker. After being unceremoniously dumped by her handsome, French “almost fiancĂ©,” she abandons her grad school plans and instead spends her days lolling on the couch, watching reruns of Sex and the City, and leaving her apartment only when a dog-walking gig demands it. Her friends don’t know what to do other than pass tissues and hope for a comeback, while her practical sister, Angela, pushes every remedy she can think of, from trapeze class to therapy to job interviews.

Miraculously, and for reasons no one (least of all Kate) understands, she manages to land a job in the admissions department at the prestigious Hudson Day School. In her new position, Kate learns there’s no time for self-pity or nonsense during the height of the admissions season, or what her colleagues refer to as “the dark time.” As the process revs up, Kate meets smart kids who are unlikable, likeable kids who aren’t very smart, and Park Avenue parents who refuse to take no for an answer.

Meanwhile, Kate’s sister and her closest friends find themselves keeping secrets, hiding boyfriends, dropping bombshells, and fighting each other on how to keep Kate on her feet. On top of it all, her cranky, oddly charming, and irritatingly handsome downstairs neighbor is more than he seems. Through every dishy, page-turning twist, it seems that one person’s happiness leads to another’s misfortune, and suddenly everyone, including Kate, is looking for a way to turn rejection on its head, using any means necessary—including the truly unexpected.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Review: Under the Influence by Joyce Maynard

Have you ever met someone who was completely seductive? I don't mean that in a sexual way either. There are some people in this world who draw you in, sometimes positively but just as often negatively. They have a charisma that convinces you that you've discovered a gem in them, a new immediate best friend, someone you want to spend as much time as possible with, someone who makes you feel special and valued. I have met a few people like this in my life and there's nothing like the feeling of being taken into their inner ring. But sometimes occupying that space comes with a cost you couldn't predict in the first flush of enraptured friendship. Joyce Maynard's most recent novel, Under the Influence, details not only the spellbinding relationship but also what happens when a character opens her eyes to the actual people by whom she is so enchanted.

Helen's drinking destroyed the life she'd built for herself. It lost her custody of her son, the only bright spot she has in an otherwise lonely life. Devastated by losing Ollie, Helen works on improving herself in hopes that she'll eventually get her boy back. She attends AA faithfully and has stayed sober for years. She works as a school portrait photographer and moonlights as a server for a catering company. She goes on occasional dates from Match.com but there's no one special in her life. She's got one friend who she counts on every now and then but she's mainly alone, her father having never been in her life and her mother being an indifferent and unmaternal alcoholic herself. When Helen meets a lovely woman named Ava Havilland at an art benefit where Helen is a server and Ava is buying art, Helen is completely enchanted. Telling Ava that she herself is a photographer, even if she hasn't shot anything but school pictures in forever, the two strike up the beginnings of an almost obsessive (on Helen's part) friendship. Helen becomes a frequent visitor to the Havilland home and feels as if she is almost a member of the family, adopted by this captivating woman and her magnetic and charismatic husband, Swift. She starts to do them small favors as friends do for each other and they in turn enfold her into their fabulously, wealthy wonderland life.

Helen shares the heartbreaks of her life with Ava even though she gets little similar information in return. She is dazzled by the Havillands and the near perfection of their life. Just about the time Helen meets a quiet, loyal, and unassuming man named Elliott, she is given some expanded access to Ollie by her ex-husband and she folds her son easily into her life with Ava and Swift. Eight year old Ollie is as enchanted by them as she is, maybe even more so. Elliott, on the other hand, is not so taken with them. In fact, as an accountant he is really only curious about the new nonprofit called BARK they are creating to spay and neuter pets all over the country. The Havillands don't take to Elliott either, dubbing him a bean counter and damning him with faint praise. Helen is torn, especially when her best chance of regaining custody of Ollie might be with support from Swift and Ava.

Told from the perspective of years after the fact and narrated by a more self-aware Helen, it is immediately obvious that something has caused a rift between Helen and the Havillands but it takes most of the novel to find out just what that is. There are occasional interjections by present day Helen into her narration of the unfolding past that offer a hint at her feelings now and what she feels she should have recognized back then. These interjections serve to keep the reader alert to the undercurrents swirling through the narration and elevate the narrative tension quite effectively. Maynard has drawn Helen very convincingly as a woman who craves validation from others and is vulnerable in this need. Helen's own story-telling abilities don't protect her from falling under the influence of others and in fact make her inability to see people as they truly are sad. Helen is truly under the influence, first of alcohol and then, more importantly, of the power and allure of the Havillands. Used to having her life dictated to her by others, she fails to see the real place she occupies in the Havilland solar system and it will take a truly shocking incident to open her eyes. This said, she herself is not an entirely likable character, making terrible choices and allowing herself to be blinded the way she is. Swift and Ava are glittering, brittle characters whose kindnesses are undercut by something a little sinister, a little condescending, a little disturbing. And so the story is brilliantly set. The novel is both an indictment of the moneyed who wield their bank books as weapons and a look at the power of finally directing your own life and having the courage to rescue yourself. It is well written and suspenseful and the reader will fall under its spell just as truly as Helen fell under Swift and Ava's.

For more information about Joyce Maynard and the book, check out her author website or like her on Facebook. Also, check out the book's Good Reads page, follow the rest of the blog tour, or look at the amazon reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.

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

Monday, November 21, 2016

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is hosted by Kathryn at Reading Date.

Books I completed this past week are:

The Last Girlfriend on Earth by Simon Rich
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
Birds, Beasts, and Relatives by Gerald Durrell
Soft in the Head by Marie-Sabine Roger
The Last Chance Christmas Ball by Putney, Beverley, Bourne, Rice, Cornick, Elliott, Gracie, and King

Bookmarks are still living in the middle of:

You Have Never Been Here by Mary Rickert
West With the Night by Beryl Markham
A Well-Made Bed by Abby Frucht and Laurie Alberts
The Other Woman by Therese Bohman
The Children's Crusade by Ann Packer
The Lake House by Kate Morton
Exposure by Helen Dunmore
The Veins of the Ocean by Patricia Engel
Eliza Waite by Ashley E. Sweeney
Shelter by Jung Yun
The Center of the World by Jacqueline Sheehan
The Edge of Lost by Kristina McMorris
A Manual For Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin
The Last Time She Saw Him by Jane Haseldine
The Beauty of the End by Debbie Howells
I Hid My Voice by Parinoush Saniee
Country of Red Azaleas by Domnica Radulescu
A Different Kind of Daughter by Maria Toorpakai
A Hard and Heavy Thing by Matthew J. Hefti
Roughneck Grace by Michael Perry
Under the Influence by Joyce Maynard

Reviews posted this week:

Course Correction by Ginny Gilder

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

One Perfect Summer by Paige Toon
The Things We Keep by Sally Hepworth
The Sisters of Versailles by Sally Christie The Private Papers of Eastern Jewel by Maureen Lindley
Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson
American Housewife by Helen Ellis
The Two-Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman
The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty
Margaret the First by Danielle Dutton
Closer All the Time by Jim Nichols
The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett
Over the Plain Houses by Julia Franks
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
Forsaken by Ross Howell Jr.
The Cosmopolitans by Sarah Schulman
The Spice Box Letters by Eve Makis
Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman
A Very Special Year by Thomas Montasser
Specimen by Irina Kovalyova
One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid
The Telling by Zoe Zolbrod
The Transmigration of Bodies by Yuri Herrera
The Boy Who Speaks in Numbers by Mike Masilamani
Everyone Brave Is Forgiven by Chris Cleave
Every Exquisite Thing by Matthew Quick
What Comes Next and How to Like It by Abigail Thomas
After the Dam by Amy Hassinger
Our Spoons Came From Woolworths by Barbara Comyns
Umami by Laia Jufresa
The Education of a Poker Player by James McManus
Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse
Mrs. Engels by Gavin McCrea
The Iceberg by Marion Coutts
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Remarkable by Dinah Cox
Miss Jane by Brad Watson
The Inland Sea by Donald Ritchie
The Unseen World by Liz Moore
The Silver Spoon by Kansuke Naka
Blackass by A. Igoni Barrett
The Gilded Life of Matilda Duplaine by Alex Brunkhorst
The Honeymoon by Dinitia Smith
The Last Weynfeldt by Martin Suter
The Grand Hotel by Vicki Baum
Bottomland by Michelle Hoover
This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance by Jonathan Evison
The Lake by Perrine Leblanc
Orhan's Inheritance by Aline Ohanesian
A Girl From Yamhill by Beverly Cleary
If You Left by Ashley Norton
The Heart You Carry Home by Jennifer Miller
And Again by Jessica Chiarella
Man by Kim Thuy
The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George
The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood
The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende
The Wonder Garden by Lauren Acampora
A Good American by Alex George
Bertrand Court by Michelle Brafman
When Women Were Birds by Terry Tempest Williams
The Winter War by Philip Teir
This Side of Providence by Sally M. Harper
Lost and Found by Brooke Davis
Charmed Particles by Chrissy Kolaya
300 Days of Sun by Deborah Lawrenson
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
The American Way of Eating by Tracie McMillan
The Tsar of Love of Techno by Anthony Marra
The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick
The Book of Harlan by Bernice L. McFadden
Hey Harry, Hey Matilda by Rachel Hulin
The Measure of Darkness by Liam Durcan
Finding Fraser by KC Dyer
A Mother's Reckoning by Sue Klebold
The Drone Eats With Me by Atef Abu Saif
Heat and Light by Jennifer Haigh
Moo by Sharon Creech
Dear Reader by Paul Fournel
Hotel Angeline by 36 authors
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen 83 1/4 Years Old by Anonymous
Xenophobe's Guide to the English by Antony Miall and David Milsted
No. 4 Imperial Lane by Jonathan Weisman
Lord Roworth's Reward by Carola Dunn
Violation by Sallie Tisdale
Fall of Poppies by a collection of authors
A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner
Sitting in Bars With Cake by Audrey Schulman
Plus One by Christopher Noxon
Aunt Dimity and the Summer King by Nancy Atherton
The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules by Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg
Kevin Kramer Starts on Monday by Debbie Graber
Unfamiliar Fishes by Sarah Vowell
An Improper Arrangement by Kasey Michaels
Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll
Riverine by Angela Palm
Gold Fever by Steve Boggan
I Will Find You by Joanna Connors
A Shoe Addict's Christmas by Beth Harbison
You Have Never Been Here by Mary Rickert
Hollywood Is a Lot Like High School With Money by Zoey Dean
Disaster Falls by Stephane Gerson
The Last Girlfriend on Earth by Simon Rich
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
Birds, Beasts, and Relatives by Gerald Durrell
Soft in the Head by Marie-Sabine Roger
The Last Chance Christmas Ball by Putney, Beverley, Bourne, Rice, Cornick, Elliott, Gracie, and King

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