Wednesday, August 15, 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 Pasha of Cuisine by Saygin Ersin.

The book is being released by Arcade Publishing on September 4, 2018.

Amazon says this about the book: For readers of Ken Follett's Kingsbridge series and Richard C. Morais's The Hundred-Foot Journey, a sweeping tale of love and the magic of food set during the Ottoman Empire.

A Pasha of Cuisine is a rare talent in Ottoman lore. Only two, maybe three are born with such a gift every few centuries. A natural master of gastronomy, he is the sovereign genius who reigns over aromas and flavors and can use them to influence the hearts and minds, even the health, of those who taste his creations. In this fabulous novel, one such chef devises a plot bring down the Ottoman Empire—should he need to—in order to rescue the love of his life from the sultan’s harem.

Himself a survivor of the bloodiest massacre ever recorded within the Imperial Palace after the passing of the last sultan, he is spirited away through the palace kitchens, where his potential was recognized. Across the empire, he is apprenticed one by one to the best chefs in all culinary disciplines and trained in related arts, such as the magic of spices, medicine, and the influence of the stars. It is during his journeys that he finds happiness with the beautiful, fiery dancing girl Kamer, and the two make plans to marry. Before they can elope, Kamer is sold into the Imperial Harem, and the young chef must find his way back into the Imperial Kitchens and transform his gift into an unbeatable weapon.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Review: Let Me Be Like Water by S.K. Perry

I am most myself near the water. It makes me feel whole. So I am not surprised by Holly, the main character in S. K. Perry's lovely novel Let Me Be Like Water, moving to Brighton by the sea after a terrible and unexpected loss. Water is soothing, comforting. It holds you without pressure. It lets you slip beneath it for quiet solitude but it also buoys you up when you need it.

Holly's boyfriend of 5 years has died and she misses him desperately. She moves to Brighton to escape the memories she holds of him and the two of them together in London, thinking that she doesn't need or want to be around people. One day while she is sitting on a bench at the seaside, Frank, a retired magician in his seventies, tells her that she's dropped her keys. Frank is a gentle and encouraging man who has his own past loss, that of his long time partner, Ian. As Holly and Frank become friends, he introduces her to his book club and his other friends, all of whom have their own pain and who have also benefited from Frank's generous magic. Holly opens up to these new people in her life by the smallest degrees, saddened that they will never know the wonderful soul who was Sam. She alternately craves company and then retreats alone into the gaping hole she carries in her heart.  And these supportive and empathetic people allow her to grieve with the space she needs but still being there when she needs them.

The novel is told in short chapters, some telling of Holly's hollowed out grief and deep sadness, sharing pieces of her relationship with Sam, the wonderful bits as well as the small annoyances that make up a real and honest relationship, and some telling of her attempts to build a life without a vital piece of her heart. Holly's grief is absolutely palpable. She is broken but trying to hold onto hope. She is confused by the times she feels happiness even though she wants to stop being so flattened by loss. She craves connection even though she wants to curl up alone. She will always love Sam but she must keep living. Perry has done a masterful job capturing the capricious unpredictability of grief. Readers will feel great sympathy for Holly, crying with her, understanding, like her, that her bright, forever love ended prematurely. And everyone will want a Frank in their lives, with his gentle understanding, his quiet magic tricks, and his embracing personality. The dreamy first person narration lets the reader know when Holly is completely underwater and when she is keeping her head above the waves. This book is heartbreaking and haunting, a staggeringly beautiful look at loss and grief and moving forward that first year, no matter how slowly that is or how many missteps there might be along the way.

For more information about S.K. Perry and the book, check out her webpage and follow her on Twitter. 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 Melville House for sending me a copy of the book for review.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Review: A Handful of Happiness by Massimo Vacchetta and Antonella Tomaselli

My daughter and several of her friends decided they wanted a pet their freshman year of college. The fact that fish were the only pets allowed in the dorms impacted their search for a critter not at all. They wanted something that no one else in the dorm had. Since there was already a bunny, a guinea pig, a kitten, several hamsters, and so on, they settled on a hedgehog. I don’t know if the other illegally kept animals were discovered, but their little hoglet was and so Needles moved into my house. Now I can’t say that he is a wonderful pet (he’s a nocturnal, bitey, prickly, poop machine) but he’s cute and I have developed a soft spot for him. Having him around has made me more likely to notice hedgehog things and I was really curious about Vacchetta and Tomaselli’s book, A Handful of Happiness, about how Vacchetta, an Italian vet, came to let an injured wild hedgehog into his heart and eventually to run a refuge for the spiky creatures.

Vacchetta is lonely, recently divorced, and depressed when someone brings a tiny orphaned hedgehog to him. Feeling a kinship with the poor little thing, he vows to save the hedgie he names Ninna. Through his caring for Ninna, he examines his life and his insecurities. This little rescue hedgehog manages to touch a closed off piece of Vacchetta and to help him open himself up again. Saving Ninna also gives him a reputation for helping these prickly little animals and he quickly acquires a whole host of hedgies needing care or rehabilitation before being set free into the wild again.

The idea of the book is a sweet one. It’s presented simplistically and at no time does the reader forget that this is a translation. There is an awkwardness to the writing, an unnatural clunkiness of sorts. It is clear that Vacchetta loves Ninna and is devoted to his idea of helping ill and injured hedgehogs and he says some charming things about love here but there is also a lot of philosophical self-reflection as he shares the lessons he learns about himself. It is in these self-reflections that the clunkiness of the text is most evident. The cover will draw animal lovers in and it is a quick and easy read, but somehow, even with a hedgehog in my own life, this missed the mark for me.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Review: This Far Isn't Far Enough by Lynn Sloan

Short story collections are notoriously hard to sum up succinctly. Unless they are interconnected stories, they might be linked by theme or even just by the fact of their author. And often some stories are far stronger than others. Luckily, in Lynn Sloan’s emotionally resonant collection, This Far Isn’t Far Enough, the stories are linked thematically and all of them are strong and complete pieces.

Each of these unique stories has complicated characters who embody endurance and resilience. They are stories of comebacks, of turning points, of surprises,  many layered, masterful, and full of depth and feeling. The writing is crisp and precise. And the reader is given the gift of unexpected, but entirely earned, endings. There’s a cook who operates an illegal restaurant out of his house after his business partner was caught dealing drugs. There’s a woman whose ex shows up when their son gets arrested and just as she’s dealing with a bear at her remote home. There’s an aging actor faced with his partner, once a well known actress herself, sinking into the grip of Alzheimer’s and the demands her care puts on him and his career. There’s a photography professor asked to recommend for tenure a man she knows to be a sexual predator. There’s a woman who agrees to meet a former lover long after he left her.  In each of these and the other stories, there is a sense of loss, of grief, of betrayal, but also a push back against the clearly defined and expected way forward. Sloan’s characters are haunted by the past and their decisions and placed in the seminal situations of their stories, they make interesting and real choices about moving forward.  For those looking for an introduction to the short story form, these stories are polished gems.  The opposite of uplifting, they are powerful and affecting and will certainly appeal to a literarily-minded audience.

Thanks to Caitlin Hamilton Summie for sending me a copy of 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.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owen.

The book is being released by G. P. Putnam's Sons on August 14, 2018.

Amazon says this about the book: How long can you protect your heart?

For years, rumors of the "Marsh Girl" have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life--until the unthinkable happens.

Perfect for fans of Barbara Kingsolver and Karen Russell, Where the Crawdads Sing is at once an exquisite ode to the natural world, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and a surprising tale of possible murder. Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.

Monday, August 6, 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 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

Bookmarks are still living in the middle of:

A Manual For Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin
Country of Red Azaleas by Domnica Radulescu
A Hard and Heavy Thing by Matthew J. Hefti
Paint Your Wife by Lloyd Jones
The Company They Kept edited by Robert B. Silvers and Barbara Epstein
No One Can Pronounce My Name by Rakesh Satyal
Thousand-Miler by Melanie Radzicki McManus
Dear Fang, With Love by Rufi Thorpe
America's First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie
Hope Has Two Daughters by Monia Mazigh
After the Bloom by Leslie Shimotakahara
Metis Beach by Claudine Bourbonnais
Smoke by Dan Vyleta
Coco Chanel by Lisa Chaney
The Amazing Story of the Man Who Cycled from India to Europe for Love by Per J. Andersson
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 Wangs Vs. the World by Jade Chang
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

Reviews posted this week:

Merely a Marriage by Jo Beverley

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

This Far Isn't Far Enough by Lynn Sloan
Paper Boats by Dee Lestari
Mothers of Sparta by Dawn Davies
A Handful of Happiness by Massimo Vacchetta and Antonella Tomaselli
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
Vanishing Twins by Lea Dieterich
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

Friday, August 3, 2018

Review: Merely a Marriage by Jo Beverley

As one of two daughters, I am glad that we no longer have to worry about having sons to secure a family legacy. Even Britain has changed the rules of succession so that the little princess is in line for the throne ahead of her younger brother. But this change in attitude is very recent and the change in the rules of succession is even more recent. Until recently, marrying and having sons was a very big deal, both socially and politically. In Jo Beverley’s Merely a Marriage, worry about succession, spurred on by the real-life death of Princess Charlotte in childbirth, drives the plot of this Regency set historical romance.

When Princess Charlotte dies, all of England is plunged into mourning. Her death causes many people to suddenly face their own mortality and that of those they love. In Lady Ariana Boxstall’s case, it causes her to worry about the state of her own family. Her brother is as yet unmarried and shows no signs of marrying and setting up his nursery any time soon. She badgers him about shirking his duty to the family name and he retaliates by challenging her to marry first if she thinks it is so very easy. When she concedes that this may be the only way to convince Norris to do as she wishes, she sets out for London with her mother to stay with an old family friend and to find a suitable husband. It is here that she crosses paths with the handsome, single Earl of Kynaston, the man on whom she developed a crush during her come out eight years prior and who inadvertently crushed her heart. As she works her way through her list of acceptable suitors, she cannot escape Kynaston, nor he her. He has no intention of marrying because of something in his past. She must marry to force Norris to the altar. Even though they are working at cross purposes, the attraction sparks hot.

Ariana has body image issues, being far taller than is fashionable but she has mostly overcome her humiliation from eight years ago, except where Kynaston is concerned. She is also a curious and knowledgeable young woman whose honesty and cleverness will cause her to come perilously close to scandal and ruin. Kynaston has something in his past that haunts him but since it is generally common knowledge, he feels no reason to explain it to Ariana. It’s not a misunderstanding per se, rather a miscommunication. The two of them are a good pair, both smart and thinking characters who work together to uncover the person maligning Ariana purely out of maliciousness. They are as much intellectual equals as two people driven by lust or love. As usual, Beverley doesn’t disappoint, weaving an interesting plot with likeable characters, and a satisfyingly happy ending.

Thursday, August 2, 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.

Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon.

The book is being released by Scribner on August 7, 2018.

Amazon says this about the book: The bestselling author of the “remarkable…masterfully constructed, pitch-perfect” (Booklist, starred review) debut The Trouble with Goats and Sheep delivers a suspenseful and emotionally satisfying novel about a lifelong friendship, a devastating secret, and the small acts of kindness that bring people together.

There are three things you should know about Elsie. The first thing is that she’s my best friend. The second is that she always knows what to say to make me feel better. And the third thing…might take a bit more explaining.

Eighty-four-year-old Florence has fallen in her flat at Cherry Tree Home for the Elderly. As she waits to be rescued, she thinks about her friend Elsie and wonders if a terrible secret from their past is about to come to light. If the charming new resident is who he claims to be, why does he look exactly like a man who died sixty years ago?

From the acclaimed, bestselling author of The Trouble with Goats and Sheep, Three Things About Elsie is a story about forever friends on the twisting path of life. As we uncover their buried secrets, we learn how the fine threads of humanity connect us all.

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