Thursday, November 15, 2018

Review: The Company They Kept edited by Robert B. Silvers and Barbara Epstein

There was no way that I was going to be able to walk past this book without buying it. Pencils on the cover? (Yes, I'm that shallow.) The promise of writers writing about their friendship with other writers, artists, and other amazing minds culled from the pages of the New York Review of Books? (Yes, I can be a bit of an intellectual snob.) It seemed like it would be perfect for me. While it was indeed mostly what it claims on the cover, it was also boring, a cardinal sin in my book world.

This is a collection of short essays written by well known authors about their late friends and the influence those friends had on their writing. In at least one case, the subject and the author hadn't met or corresponded so weren't actually friends and in others, the pairs seem to be more acquaintances than friends. And this fact leads directly to one of the things I found so lacking. In these cases, there was no personal insight into the subject. There was nothing more here than what an introduction to their collected works or an encyclopedia would say about them. There was a discussion of their influence or their craft but not as much (and sometimes nothing at all) about the person behind the writing, music, science, etc. Certainly I'm not arguing that the essays, all of which are understandably eulogistic in tone, should lay bare the person about whom they were written but asking for a piece written by a friend would imply to me that there was a personal connection that could or should be mined a little bit, an insight the general public or a diligent scholar would not have. Those remembered by these essays were certainly lions in their fields but they were men and women first, not solely defined by their works, and that is what I was looking and hoping for here, the personal. The authors whose works I had read were no more illuminating to me than the authors whose works I had never read, nor did these pieces inspire me to search them out. There were a few pieces that defied this academic remove but they only served to highlight the missing warmth and humanity in the bulk of the pieces. The writing is, as you'd expect, quite impressive, but it's also on balance quite cold. May my own obituary (far in the future, please) be full of far more feeling than was evinced here!

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Review: Plumdog by Emma Chichester Clark

If you are a dog person, you probably wonder what goes on in their doggy minds, right? Sometimes you can tell what they have to be thinking from the sheer joy they exhibit or the baleful glances they give you when you do something mean like take them to the vet or the groomer. But what about general, daily sorts of things; how do they feel about those? Readers are in luck because Emma Chichester Clark has written and illustrated a charming book about a year in the life of her dog Plum, entirely from Plum's perspective, and it will confirm all the happy, funny things you've always thought your dog was thinking.

Plum is a Whoosell, a whippet, poodle, Jack Russell mix. She likes long walks, cavorting in any body of water, visiting her sister and other canine friends, going on adventures, and cuddling up with her human. She is completely delightful and funny and entertaining and friendly (except to rare not so nice dogs she come across in her ramblings). She shares snippets of her days as well as small insights into Emma's life.

Opening with Plum's New Year Resolutions, which are "To be braver. [picture Plum on her back in a submissive pose between two bigger dogs] To catch a cat. To catch a fox. Not to unstuff my new toys immediately. To sleep in their bed every night" and ending on December 31 with "We went to stay with our friends in the country for New Year's Eve. It was just as comfy as I remembered. The chairs and sofas are for dogs, unlike in our house. While everyone was watching TV I thought about the resolutions I'd made at the beginning of the year, and I realised I had almost 100% failed--except for one thing: the middle of their bed is MINE," the book isn't really a narrative per se, but a delightfully illustrated diary chronicling small, sweet snapshots of the previous year. It's a heart warming love letter to a dog, the joy in her heart and the joy she brings Clark. And reading it will bring the same kind of uncomplicated joy to anyone lucky enough to live with a dog.

Waiting on Wednesday

This meme was 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. I'm choosing to continue the tradition even though she has stopped.

Come With Me by Helen Schulman.

The book is being released by Harper on November 27, 2018.

The book's jacket copy says: From Helen Schulman, the acclaimed author of the New York Times bestseller This Beautiful Life, comes another "gripping, potent, and blisteringly well-written story of family, dilemma, and consequence" (Elizabeth Gilbert)—a mind-bending novel set in Silicon Valley that challenges our modern constructs of attachment and love, purpose and fate.

Recommended by Vogue, the BBC, Southern Living, Pure Wow, Hey Alma, Esquire, EW, Refinery 29, Bust, and Read It or Weep

"What do you want to know?"

Amy Reed works part-time as a PR person for a tech start-up, run by her college roommate’s nineteen-year-old son, in Palo Alto, California. Donny is a baby genius, a junior at Stanford in his spare time. His play for fortune is an algorithm that may allow people access to their "multiverses"—all the planes on which their alternative life choices can be played out simultaneously—to see how the decisions they’ve made have shaped their lives.

Donny wants Amy to be his guinea pig. And even as she questions Donny’s theories and motives, Amy finds herself unable to resist the lure of the road(s) not taken. Who would she be if she had made different choices, loved different people? Where would she be now?

Amy’s husband, Dan—an unemployed, perhaps unemployable, print journalist—accepts a dare of his own, accompanying a seductive, award-winning photographer named Maryam on a trip to Fukushima, the Japanese city devastated by tsunami and meltdown. Collaborating with Maryam, Dan feels a renewed sense of excitement and possibility he hasn’t felt with his wife in a long time. But when crisis hits at home, the extent of Dan’s betrayal is exposed and, as Amy contemplates alternative lives, the couple must confront whether the distances between them in the here and now are irreconcilable.

Taking place over three non-consecutive but vitally important days for Amy, Dan, and their three sons, Come with Me is searing, entertaining, and unexpected—a dark comedy that is ultimately both a deeply romantic love story and a vivid tapestry of modern life.

Monday, November 12, 2018

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is hosted by Kathryn at Reading Date.

Books I completed this past week are:

Family Trust by Kathy Wang
Plumdog by Emma Chichester Clark
The Legendary Lord by Valerie Bowman
The Company They Kept edited by Robert B. Silvers and Barbara Epstein
Someone You Love Is Gone by Gurjinder Basran

Bookmarks are still living in the middle of:

A Hard and Heavy Thing by Matthew J. Hefti
Paint Your Wife by Lloyd Jones
No One Can Pronounce My Name by Rakesh Satyal
Thousand-Miler by Melanie Radzicki McManus
Dear Fang, With Love by Rufi Thorpe
America's First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie
Metis Beach by Claudine Bourbonnais
Smoke by Dan Vyleta
Coco Chanel by Lisa Chaney
The New York Time Footsteps by various authors
The Resurrection of Joan Ashby by Cherise Wolas
The Bottom of the Sky by Rodrigo Fresan
One House Over by Mary Monroe
Burntown by Jennifer McMahon
Everything She Didn't Say by Jane Kirkpatrick
The Girl Who Never Read Noam Chomsky by Jana Casale
Surviving Paradise by Peter Rudiak-Gould
The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell
The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal

Reviews posted this week:

Family Trust by Kathy Wang
All the Colors We Will See by Patrice Gopo

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

Swimming with Elephants by Sarah Bamford Seidelmann
Visible Empire by Hannah Pittard
The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman
Love Hate and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed
A Song for the River by Philip Connors
In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills by Jennifer Haupt
Beautiful Music by Michael Zadoorian
Still Life with Monkey by Katharine Weber
America for Beginners by Leah Franqui
Tenemental by Vikki Warner
Meet Me at the Museum by Anne Youngson
The Lido by Libby Page
The Invisible Valley by Su Wei
The Last Equation of Isaac Severy by Nova Jacobs
The Showrunner by Kim Mortishugu
I Found My Tribe by Ruth Fitzmaurice
Paris by the Book by Liam Callanan
Terra Nullius by Clare G. Coleman
Christmas in July by Alan Michael Parker
Nothing Forgotten by Jessica Levine
Housegirl by Michael Donkor
Wildwood by Elinor Florence
All Day at the Movies by Fiona Kidman
Weedeater by Robert Gipe
The Mannequin Makers by Craig Cliff
Chemistry by Weike Wang
The Summer Wives by Beatriz Williams
Come Back to the Swamp by Laura Morrison
The Animal Gazer by Edgardo Franzosini
Melmoth by Sarah Perry
Sound by Bella Bathurst
Celine by Peter Heller
In Every Moment We Are Still Alive by Tom Malmquist
The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
You'll Always Have Tara by Leah Marie Brown
The Taster by V.S. Alexander
Dear Mrs. Bird by AJ Pearce
Calypso by David Sedaris
A House Among the Trees by Julia Glass
Postcards from the Canyon by Lisa Gitlin
The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson
Sycamore by Bryn Chancellor
The Home for Unwanted Girls by Joanna Goodman
As Wide As the Sky by Jessica Pack
Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese
Plum Rains by Andromeda Romano-Lax
Second Wind by Nathaniel Philbrick
Leave No Trace by Mindy Mejia
Paper Is White by Hilary Zaid
Hotel Silence by Audur Ava Olafsdottir
The Vain Conversation by Anthony Grooms
The Beauty of the End by Debbie Howells
The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey
The Last Suppers by Mandy Mikulencak
Ostrich by Matt Greene
The Mercy Seat by Elizabeth H. Winthrop
Maggie Boylan by Michael Henson
We All Love the Beautiful Girls by Joanne Proulx
Every Note Played by Lisa Genova
Shores Beyond Shores by Irene Butter
The Shakespeare Requirement by Julie Schumacher
Fiction Can Be Murder by Becky Clark
Tigerbelle by Wyomia Tyus
Wolf Season by Helen Benedict
Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang
The Second Mrs. Hockaday by Susan Rivers
London Road by Tessa Smith McGovern
Invitation to a Bonfire by Adrienne Celt
Love, Nina by Nina Stibbe
Love Literary Style by Karin Gillespie
The Secret of the Irish Castle by Santa Montefiore
The Cactus by Sarah Haywood
The Amazing Story of the Man Who Cycled from India to Europe for Love by Per J. Andersson
A Cast of Vultures by Judith Flanders
The Governess Game by Tess Dare
In-Between Days by Teva Harrison
The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
In the Heart of the Canyon by Elisabeth Hyde
Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Penelope Lemon by Inman Majors
I'd Rather Be Reading by Anne Bogel
Royally Screwed by Emma Chase
The Wangs Vs. the World by Jade Chang
Southern Lady Code by Helen Ellis
Country of Red Azaleas by Domnica Radulescu
The Book Lovers' Appreciation Society by assorted authors
Don't Point That Thing at Me by Kyril Bonfiglioli
Hope Has Two Daughters by Monia Mazigh
The Friend by Sigrid Nunez
The Widow Nash by Jamie Harrison
The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld
Miss Featherton's Christmas Prince by Ella Quinn
The Radium Girls by Kate Moore
Rainbirds by Clarissa Goenawan
Sassafrass, Cypress, and Indigo by Ntozake Shange
Mean by Myriam Gurba
Maeve in America by Maeve Higgins
After the Bloom by Leslie Shimotakahara
Plumdog by Emma Chichester Clark
The Legendary Lord by Valerie Bowman
The Company They Kept edited by Robert B. Silvers and Barbara Epstein
Someone You Love Is Gone by Gurjinder Basran

Monday Mailbox

This past week's mailbox arrivals:

Plumdog by Emma Chichester Clark came from me for myself.

I saw this on the Litsy app. How can you resist a book with that cover, especially when it's the diary of the doggo on the cover? It looks totally charming.

Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid came from Ballantine Books.

I have thoroughly enjoyed Reid's other books so I am fully on board for this one about a late 70s era band and its frontwoman and the truth behind why they broke up.

Christmas on the Island by Jenny Colgan came from TLC Book Tours and William Morrow for a blog tour.

I do like Colgan's books and I am looking forward to this Christmas-themed tale of a woman accidentally pregnant by her ex-boss who hasn't yet told him or her family and of a Syrian doctor/refugee spending the holiday with his sons even while his wife is still missing.

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 7, 2018

Review: All the Colors We Will See by Patrice Gopo

Who are you? Probably the most important question a person can ever answer, if the question is considered seriously, it is not necessarily easy to answer. Down here in the South, the question also contains the seeds of the question "Who are your people?" Again, for some people, this is not always easy to answer although the advent of commercially available DNA tests is making this a little clearer. And while the question (at least here) is meant to pinpoint who your family is, it can be expanded to be asking who you identify with, who is your community, where do you belong? These questions and more are the big questions that Patrice Gopo is looking at, thinking about, and working through in her collection of biographical essays called All the Colors We Will See: Reflections on Barriers, Brokenness, and Finding Our Way.

Gopo grew up in Alaska, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, her face the only brown face among a sea of white. When she went off to college at Carnegie Mellon University, she was again in a small minority, especially in her chosen field of chemical engineering. Only when she went to South Africa, where she met her Zimbabwean husband, was she not the minority, but even then she didn't feel a sense of belonging. Gopo's essays meander through her life and experiences, large and small, confronting the idea and reality of being "other," examining her cultural heritage and identity and that of her children, and exploring race and what that means in all the different places and stages of her life.

Her essays are thoughtful and introspective as they reflect her desire for belonging, acceptance, and home. The essays don't necessarily follow chronologically, some touch on all the stages of her life so far while others focus on one specific time or event or object in her life but they are all connected by the thematic threads running through them. She looks at herself not only through the lens of the personal but at who she and her family are in a larger, more universal context. Her experiences are uniquely hers but they are also broadly the experience of so many other women of color. She writes of herself as a woman of color, as a mother, as a wife, and as a daughter in this world. She writes from the perspective of a child in Alaska, of the descendant of Jamaicans and Indians, of an American in South Africa, of a mother of multicultural children in Charlotte, NC. She writes as a citizen of the world searching for belonging. Readers who identify with any piece of who she is will see at least part of themselves in her essays. Readers who don't will see a reality they probably have never considered but should. If you enjoy essays that resonate, that inspire thoughtfulness, that explore identity and culture, then you should settle in with this one.

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

Waiting on Wednesday

This meme was 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. I'm choosing to continue the tradition even though she has stopped.

Little Culinary Triumphs by Pascale Pujol.

The book is being released by Europa Editions on December 4, 2018.

The book's jacket copy says: Set in the storied Parisian quarter of Montmarte, this heartwarming, comic tale is a must for foodies, Francophiles, and lovers of a good story well told.

Made famous by artists, writers, and bon vivants of every ilk, Montmartre has been the stomping ground for bohemian celebrities through the ages and a neighborhood synonymous with transgression and innovation. Today, it is a bustling multiethnic neighborhood where cultures, cuisines, the past and the future of Europe cohabitate and collide. Here in this vibrant community, in Pujol’s charming English-language debut, a cast of endearing characters fall into increasingly comic situations as they seek to follow their often-outrageous dreams.

Sandrine works as a functionary in an employment office, but there is a lot more to her than one might suspect from her job description. With a volcanic personality and an imagination to match it, she is also a world-class cook who is waiting for the right occasion to realize her dream of opening a restaurant of her own.

With a master plan that one could only describe as Machiavellian, Sandrine ropes Antoine, an unemployed professor looking for a fresh start, into her venture. A carousel of extravagant characters follows: the giant Senegalese man, Toussaint N’Diaye; the magical chef, Vairam; the extravagantly flatulent Alsatian, Schmutz and his twelve-year-old daughter Juliette―IQ 172!; the alluring psychologist and Kama Sutra specialist, Annabelle Villemin-Dubreuil.

Plans for the restaurant proceed smoothly until Sandrine discovers a shady newspaper operation next-door that leads her to a sinister magnate manipulating the Parisian news outlets.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Review: Family Trust by Kathy Wang

Money.  And the expectation of future money. There's probably nothing else in this world more easily able to tear apart a family, at least a wealthy family. Children want their (unearned) inheritance. First wives and second wives are at odds. First (ex)wives want their children to come into the cash while second wives want compensation for the time they spent catering to the dying. It all sounds so privileged and crass. But that's what makes for such fascinating reading, right? The low, grubbiness of it all. Kathy Wang has certainly captured this, and so much more, in her new novel, Family Trust.

Stanley Huang is dying of pancreatic cancer. His ex-wife Linda, who spent more than three decades with Stanley and is the mother of his children, wants to make sure that Fred and Kate inherit Stanley's wealth, a wealth she spent a lot of time building up for Stanley through shrewd investments and the like. Mary, Stanley's second, much younger wife, has no knowledge of his financial situation other than that they have money. With Stanley actively dying, she now has to worry what she will do once he's gone. Kate and Fred want to have some idea how much they each stand to inherit so they know how much their lives will be eased, especially once those lives descend into turmoil. But Stanley's cagey, not wanting to disclose anything to anyone. He just wants everyone to be there for him, doing his bidding whenever he wants. With who knows how much money on the line, Stanley's family tries, at least half-heartedly and sometimes more than a little grudgingly, to give him what he wants in the few months he has left.

Before his diagnosis, Stanley was self-involved, possessed of a nasty temper, and desirous of being seen as a successful and smart man. First wife Linda is financially savvy, emotionally remote, and generally content in her life post-divorce, even if divorce is still a little scandalous in her group of friends. She has washed her hands of Stanley as best she can but their shared children and this terminal diagnosis mean she cannot completely walk away from him. Along with tending her garden, occasionally babysitting her grandchildren, and astutely managing her money, she is discovering the appeal of online dating for the first time. Fred is a Harvard Business School grad who bemoans his mediocrity, at least as measured by Silicon Valley culture. He is dating an attractive, blonde, Bulgarian woman who works in sales at Saks and he is generally content with her except when she pressures him about marriage and blithely spends money he can't really (or doesn't want to) afford to spend. Kate is a director at a highly successful tech company. Having gotten in on the ground floor of the business before it took off, ala Google and Apple, means that she can afford to support her husband after he quits his job to attempt his own start-up, even if his presence in his attic home office doesn't translate into a bigger role in raising their two young children. In fact, Kate doesn't have any idea what Denny does up in the attic all day anyway. She is afraid to want more for herself than the life she's settled for. Mary, Stanley's second wife, speaks very little English and her step-children don't seem to like her very much although it is clear that Stanley dotes on her. She has been devoted to his care and comfort for the nine years of their marriage but the months after his diagnosis are the most pressure filled and fraught of all as she faces her own family's interest in her future financial situation and her step-children's interests being diametrically opposed to hers.

Wang carefully draws each of these characters and all of the factors going on in their lives as the novel progresses, slowly revealing what each character's ultimate desire is. The chapters alternate between the five main characters, although Mary doesn't have a chapter from her point of view until quite late in the novel, leaving her motives murky and subject to interpretation by the others for a long time. Because the reader sees each character's circumstances, Stanley's diagnosis is almost an after thought and the greedy need to know Stanley's intentions and the size of their bequests comes across as grasping and selfish. Of course, Silicon Valley, as portrayed here doesn't come off much better, nor does the insular, wealthy Taiwanese-American community. The Huang family's strained dynamic is on full display, only complimented by professional pressure and presumed, or sometimes very real, racism, sexism, nepotism, and cronyism. The novel starts off quite slowly and somewhat less than engagingly but it does eventually pick up, with the reader interested in finding out just how much money Stanley has, what Kate's husband is doing and whether she'll finally have the push to go after what she really wants, the truth about Linda's new online beau, and how Fred is going to improve his business standing and where his relationship is headed. Yes, there really are that many plot threads, and a few more besides. None of the characters are particularly sympathetic but their status seeking, family loyalty, and reactions to cultural pressures are interesting to watch as an outsider. This is very definitely a novel of "rich people problems" but don't we all sometimes fantasize about having these sorts of problems? Spending a few hours between the covers of this one will deliver just that, and maybe an appreciation for your own problems instead.

For more information about Kathy Wang and the book, check out her webpage, like her author page on Facebook, or follow her on Twitter or Instagram. Check out the book's Goodreads page, follow the rest of the blog tour, or look at the reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.

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

Monday, November 5, 2018

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is hosted by Kathryn at Reading Date.

Books I completed this past week are:

Marilla of Green Gables by Sarah McCoy
Maeve in America by Maeve Higgins
After the Bloom by Leslie Shimotakahara

Bookmarks are still living in the middle of:

A Hard and Heavy Thing by Matthew J. Hefti
Paint Your Wife by Lloyd Jones
The Company They Kept edited by Robert B. Silvers and Barbara Epstein
No One Can Pronounce My Name by Rakesh Satyal
Thousand-Miler by Melanie Radzicki McManus
Dear Fang, With Love by Rufi Thorpe
America's First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie
Metis Beach by Claudine Bourbonnais
Smoke by Dan Vyleta
Coco Chanel by Lisa Chaney
The New York Time Footsteps by various authors
The Resurrection of Joan Ashby by Cherise Wolas
The Bottom of the Sky by Rodrigo Fresan
One House Over by Mary Monroe
Burntown by Jennifer McMahon
Everything She Didn't Say by Jane Kirkpatrick
The Girl Who Never Read Noam Chomsky by Jana Casale
Surviving Paradise by Peter Rudiak-Gould
The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell
Family Trust by Kathy Wang

Reviews posted this week:

Marilla of Green Gables by Sarah McCoy
Mothers of Sparta by Dawn Davies

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

Swimming with Elephants by Sarah Bamford Seidelmann
Visible Empire by Hannah Pittard
The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman
Love Hate and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed
A Song for the River by Philip Connors
In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills by Jennifer Haupt
Beautiful Music by Michael Zadoorian
Still Life with Monkey by Katharine Weber
America for Beginners by Leah Franqui
Tenemental by Vikki Warner
Meet Me at the Museum by Anne Youngson
The Lido by Libby Page
The Invisible Valley by Su Wei
The Last Equation of Isaac Severy by Nova Jacobs
The Showrunner by Kim Mortishugu
I Found My Tribe by Ruth Fitzmaurice
Paris by the Book by Liam Callanan
Terra Nullius by Clare G. Coleman
Christmas in July by Alan Michael Parker
Nothing Forgotten by Jessica Levine
Housegirl by Michael Donkor
Wildwood by Elinor Florence
All Day at the Movies by Fiona Kidman
Weedeater by Robert Gipe
The Mannequin Makers by Craig Cliff
Chemistry by Weike Wang
The Summer Wives by Beatriz Williams
Come Back to the Swamp by Laura Morrison
The Animal Gazer by Edgardo Franzosini
Melmoth by Sarah Perry
Sound by Bella Bathurst
Celine by Peter Heller
In Every Moment We Are Still Alive by Tom Malmquist
The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
You'll Always Have Tara by Leah Marie Brown
The Taster by V.S. Alexander
Dear Mrs. Bird by AJ Pearce
Calypso by David Sedaris
A House Among the Trees by Julia Glass
Postcards from the Canyon by Lisa Gitlin
The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson
Sycamore by Bryn Chancellor
The Home for Unwanted Girls by Joanna Goodman
As Wide As the Sky by Jessica Pack
Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese
Plum Rains by Andromeda Romano-Lax
Second Wind by Nathaniel Philbrick
Leave No Trace by Mindy Mejia
Paper Is White by Hilary Zaid
Hotel Silence by Audur Ava Olafsdottir
The Vain Conversation by Anthony Grooms
The Beauty of the End by Debbie Howells
The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey
The Last Suppers by Mandy Mikulencak
Ostrich by Matt Greene
The Mercy Seat by Elizabeth H. Winthrop
Maggie Boylan by Michael Henson
We All Love the Beautiful Girls by Joanne Proulx
Every Note Played by Lisa Genova
Shores Beyond Shores by Irene Butter
The Shakespeare Requirement by Julie Schumacher
Fiction Can Be Murder by Becky Clark
Tigerbelle by Wyomia Tyus
Wolf Season by Helen Benedict
Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang
The Second Mrs. Hockaday by Susan Rivers
London Road by Tessa Smith McGovern
Invitation to a Bonfire by Adrienne Celt
Love, Nina by Nina Stibbe
Love Literary Style by Karin Gillespie
The Secret of the Irish Castle by Santa Montefiore
The Cactus by Sarah Haywood
The Amazing Story of the Man Who Cycled from India to Europe for Love by Per J. Andersson
A Cast of Vultures by Judith Flanders
The Governess Game by Tess Dare
In-Between Days by Teva Harrison
The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
In the Heart of the Canyon by Elisabeth Hyde
Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Penelope Lemon by Inman Majors
I'd Rather Be Reading by Anne Bogel
Royally Screwed by Emma Chase
The Wangs Vs. the World by Jade Chang
Southern Lady Code by Helen Ellis
Country of Red Azaleas by Domnica Radulescu
All the Colors We Will See by Patrice Gopo
The Book Lovers' Appreciation Society by assorted authors
Don't Point That Thing at Me by Kyril Bonfiglioli
Hope Has Two Daughters by Monia Mazigh
The Friend by Sigrid Nunez
The Widow Nash by Jamie Harrison
The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld
Miss Featherton's Christmas Prince by Ella Quinn
The Radium Girls by Kate Moore
Rainbirds by Clarissa Goenawan
Sassafrass, Cypress, and Indigo by Ntozake Shange
Mean by Myriam Gurba
Maeve in America by Maeve Higgins
After the Bloom by Leslie Shimotakahara

Monday Mailbox

This past week's mailbox arrival:

How to Be Alone by Lane Moore came from Atria.

I am bad at pop culture (ie: I have no idea who Lane Moore is) but I do enjoy well written essays about life so I'm looking forward to this.

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.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Review: Mothers of Sparta by Dawn Davies

Some little girls dream about being mothers when they grow up. They love babysitting and being around little kids. They coo over babies. I was not one of those little girls. In fact, my mother admitted that when I called to tell her that we were having a baby, she was thrilled but a little surprised, not certain that I'd ever want children. And in truth, to this day I really struggle with other people's children. (My kids would probably say there are days I struggle with them too.) Motherhood was never a given for me. So when I find other people who have or had a rather ambivalent feeling about becoming a mother, I am eager to see if their experience mirrors mine in any way. Dawn Davies is a mother but she didn't always want to be one, nor has her motherhood journey been an easy one. Mothers of Sparta, her "memoir in pieces," chronicles her journey, her life, and her decisions, pre- and post-motherhood.

Instead of a straight memoir, this is a collection of essays, not told chronologically. Many of the essays talk about aspects of life as a mother, divorce, blended families, and pregnancy and childbirth and its sometimes deeply unpretty aftermath. She can be funny. She can tug at heartstrings. She is fierce. She is fumbling. Above all, though, she is unfailingly honest. It is in fact this span of emotions that make this such an uneven reading experience. Thematically the essays all hang together but the tone varies wildly, as does the reader's interest in each essay. The strongest, most visceral story in here, is that of mothering her son and the toll that his mental illness takes on everyone in the family. It is a hard read, seeing how little support there is in the real world for dealing with a severely troubled child, how scary the present is and how uncertain the future. Contrast this heart deep essay with the light and frivolous essay listing of men Davies would have slept with and why and you have a sense of the wild swings contained here. When Davies is at her most raw, the writing is well done. When she is a little more removed, some of her sentences are convoluted or overwritten, reaching for emotion that comes so effortlessly in other places. As a whole this doesn't always hang together comfortably and my attention wavered at the abrupt jumps in tone so this is perhaps a better book to delve into piece by piece rather than in its entirety.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Waiting on Wednesday

This meme was 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. I'm choosing to continue the tradition even though she has stopped.

The Chief of Rally Tree by Jennifer Boyden.

The book is being released by Skyhorse Publishing on November 6, 2018.

The book's jacket copy says: Dina’s gone. She left a note, she left her plants, and she left what her husband, Roal, thought was her entire world. Nothing remained but some frozen dinners and the mysterious last line of her final message: I do love you ever Dina.

Professor Roal Bowman, best known in the sleepy college town of Braddock as a fake Zen master who used to pretend to be Native American and never lived up to his potential, by no means saw it coming. How could he have guessed that his wife would run away to help the famous Winter Patent, a man who had literally lived with wolves, on a grand project to embrace the consciousness of trees? He thought Dina had been happy. But the more Roal digs, the more he realizes that he never truly knew or understood his wife, that he never really listened, and that now that Dina has disappeared, he must become something more―something real―if he hopes to get her back. And he’ll have to do it quickly: he’s not the only one who wants to find Dina and Winter.

The Chief of Rally Tree unfolds around Roal’s fumbling, poignant, darkly hilarious awakening to adventure and loss as he watches his life gain focus only once he understands how it might look on the evening news. Jennifer Boyden explores in poetic prose the essential questions about what identity is when it is open for collective definition, the effects of looking to media for structure and meaning, the pull toward eco-consciousness, and what our grand moment of action reveals about who we hope to become, even as we remain open to the surprise of how.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Review: Marilla of Green Gables by Sarah McCoy

Let me start off by saying that I love Anne Shirley. When I first read Anne of Green Gables as a child, I was certain that Anne and I were kindred spirits. I loved her flights of fancy, her spunkiness, her intelligence, and her loyalty. I loved her so much, in fact, that I shelved my Anne books very carefully in amongst my grown-up books rather than on the kid bookshelves that my children frequently plundered. I didn't want anyone to inadvertently harm the books. So I might have actually squealed out loud when I saw that Sarah McCoy was writing a prequel to Anne's story called Marilla of Green Gables and focused on the strict, crusty, but ultimately loving Marilla. And maybe McCoy's young Marilla wasn't exactly as I would have imagined her but she was still delightful to spend time with and to watch as she evolved into the woman we come to know and love in Lucy Maud Montgomery's enduring novels.

Marilla Cuthbert is thirteen years old. She helps her mother around the newly expanded farmhouse, especially since her mother is pregnant with a much anticipated third child. Matthew Cuthbert is twenty-one and a farmer down to his bones, working side by side with his father in the fields and barn. The siblings love each other and their parents very much, forming a tight knit family. When Clara Cuthbert's twin sister Izzy arrives to help her sister through the last few months of her pregnancy, Marilla is at first jealous of the bond between her mother and aunt but she quickly comes to love this unconventional spinster aunt, a talented seamstress who owns her own business off the island. Aunt Izzy's presence also allows her to relinquish some of the care of her mother and gives her the freedom to just be a young teenager, spending time with her best friend Rachel and courting with John Blythe. But the tranquility and contentedness of the farm will be shattered when Clara dies in childbirth and Marilla must cope with her grief, her confused feelings about John and the future, a growing awareness of the fraught Canadian political situation and the volatile American situation, and step into the role of the family caretaker almost in one fell swoop.

The novel expands Marilla's character beyond the practical, stern woman first introduced in Anne of Green Gables. In fact, in McCoy's version of her girlhood and adulthood pre-Anne, Marilla has a few of Anne's characteristics, even if they are toned down. She is smart and loyal and determined. She is also uncompromising in the things that really matter to her, even if standing by her principles will lose her something she doesn't even know she wants. And she has an imagination. In fact, she is the one who names Green Gables. Matthew is portrayed just as he is in the original books, constant, deeply loving, quiet, and painfully shy. McCoy has not just captured the characters though, she has drawn Avonlea and all the people in it lovingly and as completely recognizable. She includes small details that Anne readers will enjoy, like Marilla's amethyst brooch, the infamous currant wine, the cherry tree outside the bedroom window, and more. But she also moves the novel beyond just a tribute to the Anne books. She gives a complete political grounding, not only giving Marilla opinions on the topics of the day but also allows her to act on an issue about which she feels very deeply. The relationship between Marilla and John Blythe harkens back to a line in the Anne books but it is handled very deftly here, aside from one anachronistic kiss scene, and the ups and downs of the relationship between these two are satisfying, even if Anne readers know what the eventual outcome will be. There are some big jumps in time here. The novel starts with Marilla at 13 and ends with her at 40ish. These gaps in time are truly missing because the reader (at least this reader) would have liked to have seen more of Marilla's becoming who she is in Anne's life and also perhaps how she continues to navigate life in the small town of Avonlea as she ages, having chosen the exact opposite of her Aunt. Izzy fled the Island but Marilla, even in disappointment, is too rooted in the community to even consider leaving.

Although this is clearly a delight for Anne fans wanting a little more insight into Marilla and Matthew, it is also a well-researched and interesting look at life in a small town in the Maritimes during a time of great foment. It takes readers through a whole array of emotions in a short span of pages and might just kindle a desire to reread, or read for the first time, the Anne books. Marilla of Green Gables is very obviously McCoy's love letter to Lucy Maud Montgomery and a well done, satisfying prequel to the beloved series.

For more information about Sarah McCoy and the book, check out her webpage, like her author page on Facebook, or follow her on Twitter or Instagram. Check out the book's Goodreads page, follow the rest of the blog tour, or look at the reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.

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

Monday, October 29, 2018

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is hosted by Kathryn at Reading Date.

Books I completed this past week are:

The Radium Girls by Kate Moore
Rainbirds by Clarissa Goenawan
All Over the Map by Betsy Mason and Greg Miller
Sassafrass, Cypress, and Indigo by Ntozake Shange
Mean by Myriam Gurba

Bookmarks are still living in the middle of:

A Hard and Heavy Thing by Matthew J. Hefti
Paint Your Wife by Lloyd Jones
The Company They Kept edited by Robert B. Silvers and Barbara Epstein
No One Can Pronounce My Name by Rakesh Satyal
Thousand-Miler by Melanie Radzicki McManus
Dear Fang, With Love by Rufi Thorpe
America's First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie
After the Bloom by Leslie Shimotakahara
Metis Beach by Claudine Bourbonnais
Smoke by Dan Vyleta
Coco Chanel by Lisa Chaney
The New York Time Footsteps by various authors
The Resurrection of Joan Ashby by Cherise Wolas
The Bottom of the Sky by Rodrigo Fresan
One House Over by Mary Monroe
Burntown by Jennifer McMahon
Everything She Didn't Say by Jane Kirkpatrick
The Girl Who Never Read Noam Chomsky by Jana Casale
Surviving Paradise by Peter Rudiak-Gould
The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell
Marilla of Green Gables by Sarah McCoy

Reviews posted this week:

All Over the Map by Betsy Mason and Greg Miller
Stuck in Manistique by Dennis Cuesta
All Over the Map by Betsy Mason and Greg Miller

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

Mothers of Sparta by Dawn Davies
Swimming with Elephants by Sarah Bamford Seidelmann
Visible Empire by Hannah Pittard
The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman
Love Hate and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed
A Song for the River by Philip Connors
In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills by Jennifer Haupt
Beautiful Music by Michael Zadoorian
Still Life with Monkey by Katharine Weber
America for Beginners by Leah Franqui
Tenemental by Vikki Warner
Meet Me at the Museum by Anne Youngson
The Lido by Libby Page
The Invisible Valley by Su Wei
The Last Equation of Isaac Severy by Nova Jacobs
The Showrunner by Kim Mortishugu
I Found My Tribe by Ruth Fitzmaurice
Paris by the Book by Liam Callanan
Terra Nullius by Clare G. Coleman
Christmas in July by Alan Michael Parker
Nothing Forgotten by Jessica Levine
Housegirl by Michael Donkor
Wildwood by Elinor Florence
All Day at the Movies by Fiona Kidman
Weedeater by Robert Gipe
The Mannequin Makers by Craig Cliff
Chemistry by Weike Wang
The Summer Wives by Beatriz Williams
Come Back to the Swamp by Laura Morrison
The Animal Gazer by Edgardo Franzosini
Melmoth by Sarah Perry
Sound by Bella Bathurst
Celine by Peter Heller
In Every Moment We Are Still Alive by Tom Malmquist
The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
You'll Always Have Tara by Leah Marie Brown
The Taster by V.S. Alexander
Dear Mrs. Bird by AJ Pearce
Calypso by David Sedaris
A House Among the Trees by Julia Glass
Postcards from the Canyon by Lisa Gitlin
The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson
Sycamore by Bryn Chancellor
The Home for Unwanted Girls by Joanna Goodman
As Wide As the Sky by Jessica Pack
Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese
Plum Rains by Andromeda Romano-Lax
Second Wind by Nathaniel Philbrick
Leave No Trace by Mindy Mejia
Paper Is White by Hilary Zaid
Hotel Silence by Audur Ava Olafsdottir
The Vain Conversation by Anthony Grooms
The Beauty of the End by Debbie Howells
The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey
The Last Suppers by Mandy Mikulencak
Ostrich by Matt Greene
The Mercy Seat by Elizabeth H. Winthrop
Maggie Boylan by Michael Henson
We All Love the Beautiful Girls by Joanne Proulx
Every Note Played by Lisa Genova
Shores Beyond Shores by Irene Butter
The Shakespeare Requirement by Julie Schumacher
Fiction Can Be Murder by Becky Clark
Tigerbelle by Wyomia Tyus
Wolf Season by Helen Benedict
Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang
The Second Mrs. Hockaday by Susan Rivers
London Road by Tessa Smith McGovern
Invitation to a Bonfire by Adrienne Celt
Love, Nina by Nina Stibbe
Love Literary Style by Karin Gillespie
The Secret of the Irish Castle by Santa Montefiore
The Cactus by Sarah Haywood
The Amazing Story of the Man Who Cycled from India to Europe for Love by Per J. Andersson
A Cast of Vultures by Judith Flanders
The Governess Game by Tess Dare
In-Between Days by Teva Harrison
The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
In the Heart of the Canyon by Elisabeth Hyde
Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Penelope Lemon by Inman Majors
I'd Rather Be Reading by Anne Bogel
Royally Screwed by Emma Chase
The Wangs Vs. the World by Jade Chang
Southern Lady Code by Helen Ellis
Country of Red Azaleas by Domnica Radulescu
All the Colors We Will See by Patrice Gopo
The Book Lovers' Appreciation Society by assorted authors
Don't Point That Thing at Me by Kyril Bonfiglioli
Hope Has Two Daughters by Monia Mazigh
The Friend by Sigrid Nunez
The Widow Nash by Jamie Harrison
The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld
Miss Featherton's Christmas Prince by Ella Quinn
The Radium Girls by Kate Moore
Rainbirds by Clarissa Goenawan

Monday Mailbox

This past week's mailbox arrivals:

Finding Pax by Kaci Cronkhite came from Adlard Coles.

I do have a weakness for boats and I'm very much looking forward to this memoir of a woman restoring her wooden boat and uncovering the long and varied history of the boat's past and its previous owners.

Murder on Millionaire's Row by Erin Lindsey came from Minotaur Books.

This Gilded Age mystery with a housemaid searching for her missing employer looks like such a fun read.

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, October 24, 2018

Review: Stuck in Manistique by Dennis Cuesta

I love the UP. I have spent at least a part of every summer there since I was born. As a result of my love for it, I was very excited to see a book, especially one that is not a mystery, set there. In fact, I've been to every last place mentioned in Dennis Cuesta's funny and generally readable new novel, Stuck in Manistique.

Mark is a financial planner in Chicago but his Aunt Vivian has died and he needs to head to Michigan to handle her estate. He didn't know his aunt well. When he was young, she wrote him letters from her far flung postings with Medecins sans Frontieres but her letters tapered off when he was 13 and aside from later trying to alert her when his mother died, that was that for their relationship. She's left all of her estate to him despite this distance. Knowing of her long time good works around the world, Mark is more than a little shocked to discover that she had opened a small bed and breakfast in tiny Manistique, in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

Emily Davis is a newly graduated O.D. who is on her way to her parents' house before moving to Chicago for the next phase of her education. She's taking a weekend visit to Mackinac Island with her very married boyfriend and mentor first though. As she drives north towards her new life, she debates with herself the right thing to do with regards to this relationship, especially in light of the death of a child under her mentor's care for which she feels responsible. When she decides to speed past the exits for the ferry docks to the Island, she heads into the UP and eventually into the path of a deer, shattering her windshield and landing her on the doorstep at Mark's Aunt Vivian's bed and breakfast.

Although Mark has no intention of being an innkeeper, he takes pity on Emily and without telling her that Vivian has died, he allows her to stay at the Manistique Victorian. Opening his door to her eventually leads to a full house of kooky eccentrics including George, who might be in the beginning stages of dementia or Alzheimer's, and a couple intent on being the first to drive around Lake Michigan in an electric car. Add to these guests two related, perhaps identical, police officers (one local and one state), a Native handyman who has visions, and the local doctor and you've got a recipe for total chaos at the bed and breakfast.

The third person narrative focus alternates by chapter between Mark and Emily as they are the two characters around whom everything revolves but also the two who have major life changing decisions in front of them. The novel is quite fast moving and very dialogue heavy, almost as if Cuesta envisions this more as a screenplay than as a novel. In fact, at times, things moved so quickly that I had to re-read pages to make sure I hadn't missed anything. I hadn't but there were gaps where a little exposition might have helped. The tone of the story changes from a sweet tale about family and relationship to a screwball comedy of sorts and then back again once the secrets the characters spend a long time hiding from each other come out.  Take note that when I say relationship, I do not mean a romantic relationship; this is not a love story.  As excited as I was for the setting of the novel, I don't think it totally captures the spirit of the area and the uniqueness that is the UP and its inhabitants. Of course, most of the characters are not actually Yoopers so perhaps that explains why the feel is mostly missing. Despite this (and really, most people probably won't notice this), the book was a quick, light read for a couple of hours and other readers familiar with the area will enjoy seeing their remote corner of the world name checked in a book.

Thanks to the publisher for giving me access to this book to review.

Waiting on Wednesday

This meme was 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. I'm choosing to continue the tradition even though she has stopped.

Falling for London by Sean Mallen.

The book is being released by Dundurn on November 6, 2018.

The book's jacket copy says: When Sean Mallen finally landed his dream job, it fell on him like a ton of bricks.Not unlike the plaster in his crappy, overpriced London flat.

The veteran journalist was ecstatic when he unexpectedly got the chance he’d always craved: to be a London-based foreign correspondent. It meant living in a great city and covering great events, starting with the Royal Wedding of William and Kate. Except: his tearful wife and six-year-old daughter hated the idea of uprooting their lives and moving to another country.

Falling for London is the hilarious and touching story of how he convinced them to go, how they learned to live in and love that wondrous but challenging city, and how his dream came true in ways he could have never expected.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Review: All Over the Map by Betsy Mason and Greg Miller

When was the last time you set out on a journey to an unknown place, driving or walking, that you didn't have your GPS directing you? And prior to the advent of GPS, if you're anything like me and can get lost trying to find your way out of an open paper bag, you probably had a variety of atlases and city maps tucked into every seat pocket of your car. But it's not just the utility of maps that I love, there's something about their lines and additional features too. I remember learning to read different kinds of maps my freshman year of college in Geology 101. Not only did we learn to read them, but we also got to see speculative maps of what the world used to look like before the continents took their current position. We talked about how we knew that and what that meant geologically. It was the first time I really considered the reason behind the making of a map. Betsy Mason and Greg Miller have collected a simply gorgeous set of maps in All Over the Map: A Cartographic Odyssey and not only shared the reason behind the making of the maps, but their history, what they got correct and what they missed, and I have now spent hours poring over the beautiful pictures of maps, ancient and recent, artistic, scientific, and both, from all corners of the world that are found in this stunning collection.

Divided into sections of Waterways, Cities, Conflict and Crisis (aka War), Landscapes, Economics, Science, Human Experiences, Worlds, and Art and Imagination, Mason and Miller have chosen maps with interesting stories behind them, maps that are visually beautiful, maps that tell us things about past societies, maps that reflect us as we live now, and maps of places only found in our imagination. Some of the maps are very simple while others are more elaborate. Some, like the maps that the Ottoman Turks drew are pieces of hand drawn artwork, while others are much more technological computer modeled maps. Some of the maps show things that you would expect to find on maps, like the map of all the US waterways while others map things you might never have given a thought to, like the Urban Smellscape map. As you would expect of a book produced by National Geographic, this is a gorgeous coffee table book, heavy, top quality, and incredibly informative. The short pieces about each map elevate each entry from simply beautiful pictures, adding truly fascinating commentary. Did you know that the map of the Battle of Gettysburg was produced soon after the battle was over and only after the amateur cartographer, John Badger Bachelder, interviewed people who had been there. It's signed by US Army commanders attesting to its accuracy. Cool, right? And this is only one of the many stories contained here.

If you love maps, if you wish you'd been a cartographer, if you appreciate both the science and the artistry behind maps and map making, this is the book for you. If you ever spent time drawing your own childish maps of the imaginary lands in books or your head, this is the book for you. If you, even today in the era of GPS, secretly want to hold an atlas in your hands and trace a route with your finger, this is the book for you. Here Be Dragons. My soul will forever thrill to this phrase. Clearly this is the book for me.

For more information about Betsy Mason and Greg Miller and the book, follow either of them on Twitter Betsy or Greg. Check out the book's Goodreads page, follow the rest of the blog tour, or look at the reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.

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

Monday, October 22, 2018

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is hosted by Kathryn at Reading Date.

Books I completed this past week are:

One Day in December by Josie Silver
The Widow Nash by Jamie Harrison
Stuck in Manistique by Dennis Cuesta
The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld
Miss Featherton's Christmas Prince by Ella Quinn

Bookmarks are still living in the middle of:

A Hard and Heavy Thing by Matthew J. Hefti
Paint Your Wife by Lloyd Jones
The Company They Kept edited by Robert B. Silvers and Barbara Epstein
No One Can Pronounce My Name by Rakesh Satyal
Thousand-Miler by Melanie Radzicki McManus
Dear Fang, With Love by Rufi Thorpe
America's First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie
After the Bloom by Leslie Shimotakahara
Metis Beach by Claudine Bourbonnais
Smoke by Dan Vyleta
Coco Chanel by Lisa Chaney
The New York Time Footsteps by various authors
The Resurrection of Joan Ashby by Cherise Wolas
Mean by Myriam Gurba
The Bottom of the Sky by Rodrigo Fresan
One House Over by Mary Monroe
Burntown by Jennifer McMahon
Everything She Didn't Say by Jane Kirkpatrick
The Girl Who Never Read Noam Chomsky by Jana Casale
Surviving Paradise by Peter Rudiak-Gould
The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell
Rainbirds by Clarissa Goenawan
The Radium Girls by Kate Moore

Reviews posted this week:

The Amendment by Anne Leigh Parrish
One Day on December by Josie Silver

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

Mothers of Sparta by Dawn Davies
Swimming with Elephants by Sarah Bamford Seidelmann
Visible Empire by Hannah Pittard
The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman
Love Hate and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed
A Song for the River by Philip Connors
In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills by Jennifer Haupt
Beautiful Music by Michael Zadoorian
Still Life with Monkey by Katharine Weber
America for Beginners by Leah Franqui
Tenemental by Vikki Warner
Meet Me at the Museum by Anne Youngson
The Lido by Libby Page
The Invisible Valley by Su Wei
The Last Equation of Isaac Severy by Nova Jacobs
The Showrunner by Kim Mortishugu
I Found My Tribe by Ruth Fitzmaurice
Paris by the Book by Liam Callanan
Terra Nullius by Clare G. Coleman
Christmas in July by Alan Michael Parker
Nothing Forgotten by Jessica Levine
Housegirl by Michael Donkor
Wildwood by Elinor Florence
All Day at the Movies by Fiona Kidman
Weedeater by Robert Gipe
The Mannequin Makers by Craig Cliff
Chemistry by Weike Wang
The Summer Wives by Beatriz Williams
Come Back to the Swamp by Laura Morrison
The Animal Gazer by Edgardo Franzosini
Melmoth by Sarah Perry
Sound by Bella Bathurst
Celine by Peter Heller
In Every Moment We Are Still Alive by Tom Malmquist
The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
You'll Always Have Tara by Leah Marie Brown
The Taster by V.S. Alexander
Dear Mrs. Bird by AJ Pearce
Calypso by David Sedaris
A House Among the Trees by Julia Glass
Postcards from the Canyon by Lisa Gitlin
The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson
Sycamore by Bryn Chancellor
The Home for Unwanted Girls by Joanna Goodman
As Wide As the Sky by Jessica Pack
Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese
Plum Rains by Andromeda Romano-Lax
Second Wind by Nathaniel Philbrick
Leave No Trace by Mindy Mejia
Paper Is White by Hilary Zaid
Hotel Silence by Audur Ava Olafsdottir
The Vain Conversation by Anthony Grooms
The Beauty of the End by Debbie Howells
The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey
The Last Suppers by Mandy Mikulencak
Ostrich by Matt Greene
The Mercy Seat by Elizabeth H. Winthrop
Maggie Boylan by Michael Henson
We All Love the Beautiful Girls by Joanne Proulx
Every Note Played by Lisa Genova
Shores Beyond Shores by Irene Butter
The Shakespeare Requirement by Julie Schumacher
Fiction Can Be Murder by Becky Clark
Tigerbelle by Wyomia Tyus
Wolf Season by Helen Benedict
Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang
The Second Mrs. Hockaday by Susan Rivers
London Road by Tessa Smith McGovern
Invitation to a Bonfire by Adrienne Celt
Love, Nina by Nina Stibbe
Love Literary Style by Karin Gillespie
The Secret of the Irish Castle by Santa Montefiore
The Cactus by Sarah Haywood
The Amazing Story of the Man Who Cycled from India to Europe for Love by Per J. Andersson
A Cast of Vultures by Judith Flanders
The Governess Game by Tess Dare
In-Between Days by Teva Harrison
The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
In the Heart of the Canyon by Elisabeth Hyde
Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Penelope Lemon by Inman Majors
I'd Rather Be Reading by Anne Bogel
Royally Screwed by Emma Chase
The Wangs Vs. the World by Jade Chang
Southern Lady Code by Helen Ellis
Country of Red Azaleas by Domnica Radulescu
All the Colors We Will See by Patrice Gopo
The Book Lovers' Appreciation Society by assorted authors
Don't Point That Thing at Me by Kyril Bonfiglioli
Hope Has Two Daughters by Monia Mazigh
The Friend by Sigrid Nunez
The Widow Nash by Jamie Harrison
Stuck in Manistique by Dennis Cuesta
The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld
Miss Featherton's Christmas Prince by Ella Quinn

Monday Mailbox

This past week's mailbox arrivals:

Family Trust by Kathy Wang came from TLC Book Tours and William Morrow for a blog tour.

The dying patriarch of a first generation Chinese American family in Silicon Valley has a last bequest and this is the story of his family trying, or not trying, to fulfill that. Sounds positively delicious, doesn't it?

All Over the Map by Betsy Mason and Greg Miller came from TLC Book Tours and National Geographic for a blog tour.

I cannot even begin to explain to you how gorgeous this book is in person. If you are a map junkie or a frustrated cartographer like me, you must see this to believe it. I'm looking forward to delving into the information behind these really cool maps.

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.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Review: One Day in December by Josie Silver

Do you believe in love at first sight? Do you believe that "The One" is out there for you somewhere? Is there anything that would stop you from pursuing the person you are so clearly fated to be with?  Does friendship trump love?  If you've ever pondered the answers to these questions, Josie Silver's engaging new novel, One Day in December, is for you.

Laurie is headed home one day in December when she sees a man from her bus window. He sees her too. And somehow she just knows that he is "The One." But she doesn't get off the overcrowded bus, nor does he get on. And the bus pulls away.  Just like that, he's gone. For the next year, Laurie looks for and dreams about the "bus boy" but it isn't until her best friend and flatmate, Sarah, brings home her hot new boyfriend, Jack, that Laurie sees him again. Sarah is head over heels in love with Jack and so Laurie, supportive and loyal, aching more than a little on the inside, swallows down her feelings for Jack, not letting on to Sarah that Jack is bus boy. Jack also recognizes Laurie but he too turns away from this knowledge a little regretfully. For the next nine years, Laurie and Jack develop a deep friendship with each other but go on about their lives ignoring the memory of that bus stop glance, only once guiltily acknowledging their continued pull to each other out loud. Fate has indeed brought them together in the meanest of ways.

Told in alternating first person chapters, first Laurie and then Jack tell the tale of the nine years of wrong timing. Both characters are drawn as good, loyal, and kind people who have no desire to hurt those they love, no desire to be so selfish that they would sacrifice a friend/girlfriend because of the coup de feudre they felt at that bus stop. Both of them struggle with suppressing feelings for the other as their lives go on, tied to other people. Obviously this affects their relationships with their partners and because of the first person narration, the reader sees all of that struggle and guilt as well. Each passing year starts with a copy of Laurie's New Year's Resolutions, although the reader comes to discover that setting out a plan for the year rarely ends up as expected (or wished for).  But Laurie's hopes lay the groundwork for the coming chapters.  In addition to the likable characters of Laurie and Jack, Laurie's best friend/Jack's girlfriend, Sarah, is wonderfully drawn and well nuanced as a character. Laurie's Oscar is less fleshed out but the reader never does get to see him from an unbiased source, only through Laurie's changing perspective and Jack's irrational dislike. The amount of time covered in the novel is quite long but each year only has a few pivotal parts covered so over all, it is quite a fast paced, addictive read. This is a love triangle unlike any you've read before. The story is very visual, cinematic in scope, and it is easy to see the richly satisfying, if totally expected, final scene (among others) on the big screen. If you like romantic comedies, this is the best kind. It's a whole-hearted commitment to love and friendship. You'll be charmed and completely engaged. Once you open it, you'll be unable to put it down so don't start it at night unless sleep is unimportant to you.  Prepare to catch yourself smiling and to be moved by the love that shines through each of the characters in this wonderful, feel-good novel.

For more information about Josie Silver and the book, check out her webpage or follow her on Twitter or Instagram. Check out the book's Goodreads page, follow the rest of the blog tour, or look at the reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.

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

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Review: The Amendment by Anne Leigh Parrish

When I read Anne Leigh Parrish's first book, a collection of linked short stories called Our Love Could Light the World, I got to meet the messy and dysfunctional Dugan clan. In her new novel, The Amendment, mother Lavinia Dugan, now Lavinia Starkhurst and married to second husband Chip, has a whole different life. She's now in her 50s and her children are adults. She is more than comfortable financially. And she and her husband have an easy, generally considerate, if not passionate and love-filled, marriage. When Chip is struck by lightning on the golf course and dies, Lavinia's whole existence is thrown for a loop. She's confused by her grief and by the expectations others have for her in the wake of Chip's death. She feels like she needs to take a physical trip to process and make sense of everything so she sets off alone on a road trip, heading West without any particular plan, and along the way, ends up meeting strangers, down and out, struggling, and sometimes eccentric, whose lives she touches and who, in turn, touch her life.

Lavinia is a flawed and entirely human character. She can be judgmental and unkind, surprising given her own acknowledged background, but she can also be giving and forgiving, especially with her children, several of whom certainly struggle with navigating adulthood. While she seems content with who she is or thinks she is and initially uninterested in changing, she quickly realizes she doesn't really know who the real Lavinia is outside of the role she took on as Chip's wife.  She'll have to change to find herself at her core.  She is funny and sarcastic and grieving the loss of her husband in a way only she understands. But she is also doing the hard work of learning who she is, who she wants to be, and how she wants the rest of her life to proceed. In the process, this strong, resilient woman opens her heart a sliver at a time. Her insights into herself are realistic and her growth as a person is not overdone; change is incremental. The writing is very accessible and the pacing is consistent and appropriate. There is a nice balance of humor and pathos, with the humor dominating and keeping the mood of the novel, focused as it is on a new widow, from becoming overwhelmingly sad. Lavinia sometimes seems to treading water both before and during the trip, as people do, but there is never any doubt that this outspoken, determined woman will in fact find the road she needs to travel into the next phase of her life. If you like road trip novels, novels where women find their future, or novels of emotional resilience peppered with humor, this is the novel for you.

For more information about Anne Leigh Parrish and the book, check out her webpage, like her page on Facebook, or follow her on Twitter or Instagram. Check out the book's Goodreads page, follow the rest of the blog tour, or look at the reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book. You can also check out my review of Parrish's previous short story collection, Our Love Could Light the World, the linked story collection with Lavinia Dugan Starkhurt in it, or of another of her short story collections, By the Wayside, both of which I liked very much.

Thanks to Lisa from TLC Book Tours and Unsolicited Press for sending me a copy of the book for review.

Waiting on Wednesday

This meme was 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. I'm choosing to continue the tradition even though she has stopped.

The Rain Watcher by Tatiana de Rosnay.

The book is being released by St. Martin's Press on October 23, 2018.

The book's jacket copy says: Linden Malegarde has come home to Paris from the United States. It has been years since the whole family was all together. Now the Malegarde family is gathering for Paul, Linden’s father’s 70th birthday.

Each member of the Malegarde family is on edge, holding their breath, afraid one wrong move will shatter their delicate harmony. Paul, the quiet patriarch, an internationally-renowned arborist obsessed with his trees and little else, has always had an uneasy relationship with his son. Lauren, his American wife, is determined that the weekend celebration will be a success. Tilia, Linden’s blunt older sister, projects an air of false fulfillment. And Linden himself, the youngest, uncomfortable in his own skin, never quite at home no matter where he lives―an American in France and a Frenchman in the U.S.―still fears that, despite his hard-won success as a celebrated photographer, he will always be a disappointment to his parents.

Their hidden fears and secrets slowly unravel as the City of Light undergoes a stunning natural disaster, and the Seine bursts its banks and floods the city. All members of the family will have to fight to keep their unity against tragic circumstances. In this profound and intense novel of love and redemption, de Rosnay demonstrates all of her writer’s skills both as an incredible storyteller but also as a soul seeker.

Monday, October 15, 2018

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is hosted by Kathryn at Reading Date.

Books I completed this past week are:

The Lighthouse Keeper's Daughter by Hazel Gaynor
The Art of Failing by Anthony McGowan
The Friend by Sigrid Nunez
The Amendment by Anne Leigh Parrish

Bookmarks are still living in the middle of:

A Hard and Heavy Thing by Matthew J. Hefti
Paint Your Wife by Lloyd Jones
The Company They Kept edited by Robert B. Silvers and Barbara Epstein
No One Can Pronounce My Name by Rakesh Satyal
Thousand-Miler by Melanie Radzicki McManus
Dear Fang, With Love by Rufi Thorpe
America's First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie
After the Bloom by Leslie Shimotakahara
Metis Beach by Claudine Bourbonnais
Smoke by Dan Vyleta
Coco Chanel by Lisa Chaney
The New York Time Footsteps by various authors
The Resurrection of Joan Ashby by Cherise Wolas
Mean by Myriam Gurba
The Widow Nash by Jamie Harrison
The Bottom of the Sky by Rodrigo Fresan
One House Over by Mary Monroe
Burntown by Jennifer McMahon
Everything She Didn't Say by Jane Kirkpatrick
The Girl Who Never Read Noam Chomsky by Jana Casale
The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld
Surviving Paradise by Peter Rudiak-Gould
The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell
Rainbirds by Clarissa Goenawan
One Day in December by Josie Silver

Reviews posted this week:

The Lighthouse Keeper's Daughter by Hazel Gaynor
Paper Boats by Dee Lestari
The Art of Failing by Anthony McGowan
Vanishing Twins by Leah Dieterich

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

Mothers of Sparta by Dawn Davies
Swimming with Elephants by Sarah Bamford Seidelmann
Visible Empire by Hannah Pittard
The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman
Love Hate and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed
A Song for the River by Philip Connors
In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills by Jennifer Haupt
Beautiful Music by Michael Zadoorian
Still Life with Monkey by Katharine Weber
America for Beginners by Leah Franqui
Tenemental by Vikki Warner
Meet Me at the Museum by Anne Youngson
The Lido by Libby Page
The Invisible Valley by Su Wei
The Last Equation of Isaac Severy by Nova Jacobs
The Showrunner by Kim Mortishugu
I Found My Tribe by Ruth Fitzmaurice
Paris by the Book by Liam Callanan
Terra Nullius by Clare G. Coleman
Christmas in July by Alan Michael Parker
Nothing Forgotten by Jessica Levine
Housegirl by Michael Donkor
Wildwood by Elinor Florence
All Day at the Movies by Fiona Kidman
Weedeater by Robert Gipe
The Mannequin Makers by Craig Cliff
Chemistry by Weike Wang
The Summer Wives by Beatriz Williams
Come Back to the Swamp by Laura Morrison
The Animal Gazer by Edgardo Franzosini
Melmoth by Sarah Perry
Sound by Bella Bathurst
Celine by Peter Heller
In Every Moment We Are Still Alive by Tom Malmquist
The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
You'll Always Have Tara by Leah Marie Brown
The Taster by V.S. Alexander
Dear Mrs. Bird by AJ Pearce
Calypso by David Sedaris
A House Among the Trees by Julia Glass
Postcards from the Canyon by Lisa Gitlin
The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson
Sycamore by Bryn Chancellor
The Home for Unwanted Girls by Joanna Goodman
As Wide As the Sky by Jessica Pack
Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese
Plum Rains by Andromeda Romano-Lax
Second Wind by Nathaniel Philbrick
Leave No Trace by Mindy Mejia
Paper Is White by Hilary Zaid
Hotel Silence by Audur Ava Olafsdottir
The Vain Conversation by Anthony Grooms
The Beauty of the End by Debbie Howells
The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey
The Last Suppers by Mandy Mikulencak
Ostrich by Matt Greene
The Mercy Seat by Elizabeth H. Winthrop
Maggie Boylan by Michael Henson
We All Love the Beautiful Girls by Joanne Proulx
Every Note Played by Lisa Genova
Shores Beyond Shores by Irene Butter
The Shakespeare Requirement by Julie Schumacher
Fiction Can Be Murder by Becky Clark
Tigerbelle by Wyomia Tyus
Wolf Season by Helen Benedict
Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang
The Second Mrs. Hockaday by Susan Rivers
London Road by Tessa Smith McGovern
Invitation to a Bonfire by Adrienne Celt
Love, Nina by Nina Stibbe
Love Literary Style by Karin Gillespie
The Secret of the Irish Castle by Santa Montefiore
The Cactus by Sarah Haywood
The Amazing Story of the Man Who Cycled from India to Europe for Love by Per J. Andersson
A Cast of Vultures by Judith Flanders
The Governess Game by Tess Dare
In-Between Days by Teva Harrison
The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
In the Heart of the Canyon by Elisabeth Hyde
Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Penelope Lemon by Inman Majors
I'd Rather Be Reading by Anne Bogel
Royally Screwed by Emma Chase
The Wangs Vs. the World by Jade Chang
Southern Lady Code by Helen Ellis
Country of Red Azaleas by Domnica Radulescu
All the Colors We Will See by Patrice Gopo
The Book Lovers' Appreciation Society by assorted authors
Don't Point That Thing at Me by Kyril Bonfiglioli
Hope Has Two Daughters by Monia Mazigh
The Friend by Sigrid Nunez
The Amendment by Anne Leigh Parrish

Monday Mailbox

This past week's mailbox arrivals:

Marilla of Green Gables by Sarah McCoy came from TLC Book Tours and William Morrow for a blog tour.

I mean, who among Anne's kindred spirits wouldn't want to read this one? I just about squealed when I heard it was coming out.

The Book Ninja by Ali Berg and Michelle Kalus came from me for myself.

About woman who is fed up with online dating decides to leave copies of her favorite books, with her contact info in them, on trains in hopes of meeting the perfect man through a shared love of the same books, this sounds completely delightful!

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

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