Wednesday, August 21, 2019

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.

Don't Put the Boats Away by Ames Sheldon.

The book is being released by She Writes Press on August 27, 2019.

The book's jacket copy says: In the aftermath of World War II, the members of the Sutton family are reeling from the death of their “golden boy,” Eddie. Over the next twenty-five years, they all struggle with loss, grief, and mourning. Daughter Harriet and son Nat attempt to fill the void Eddie left behind: Harriet becomes a chemist despite an inhospitable culture for career women in the 1940s and ’50s, hoping to move into the family business in New Jersey, while Nat aims to be a jazz musician. Both fight with their autocratic father, George, over their professional ambitions as they come of age. Their mother, Eleanor, who has PTSD as a result of driving an ambulance during the Great War, wrestles with guilt over never telling Eddie about the horrors of war before he enlisted. As the members of the family attempt to rebuild their lives, they pay high prices, including divorce and alcoholism―but in the end, they all make peace with their losses, each in his or her own way.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Review: The Chocolate Maker's Wife by Karen Brooks

Can you imagine a world without chocolate? Or a world where chocolate was brand new and extremely expensive, a luxury? A world where you couldn't just go to the pantry for a chocolate bar or some hot cocoa? Restoration London was such a place. Chocolate was just being introduced as major historical events swept through the capital and political intrigue and persecution were rife. Karen Brooks has set her latest novel, The Chocolate Maker's Wife, smack dab in the middle of all this foment, stirred in some family drama, secrets, and scandal, and poured out a complex and swirling historical fiction.

Rosamunde is the illegitimate daughter of a nobleman. She was raised in her late father's household until the death of her grandmother when Rosamunde was eight at which time she went to live with her mother, stepfather, and step-brothers in the family's tavern and inn.  Blossoming into a beautiful girl, she is abused by her stepfather and step-brothers and mostly ignored by her mother. She is rescued from this terrible existence when she is run down by Sir Everard Blithman, who is persuaded to marry the filthy, smelly young woman. Roasmunde doesn't fully understand why her new husband, after a closer look at her, agrees to pay her parents for her and beyond that to actually marry her. Even once she understands that she greatly resembles his much beloved, late daughter, she doesn't fully comprehend his intentions, nor will she for many years but she is determined to be an asset to the Blithman name, loyal and obedient. Sir Everard acquaints her with the sad history of his family and all of the losses he's suffered, laying several of those losses at the feet of Matthew Lovelace, his former son-in-law. When Everard marries Rosmaunde, he is in the midst of creating a chocolate house, akin to a coffee house, complete with a Spaniard who knows how to brew the most delectable chocolate drink and Everard intends to install Rosamunde in the chocolate house to pour chocolate, increase their profits, and to enact an exquisite piece of revenge. The chocolate house, his beautiful young wife, doppelganger of his daughter, his former son-in-law's appearance, and the secrets and lies underneath everything are just the starting point for this sweeping historical novel.

Brooks has clearly done an immense amount of research into the time period, the plague, the Great Fire of London, and the preparation of chocolate. The details she includes are fascinating and impressive. Real life historical figures stroll through the pages of the novel with Samuel Pepys even becoming one of the major characters. She has captured the sense of chocolate houses as gathering places for the dissemination of news and gossip, for aboveboard and under the table planning, and for being one of the beating hearts of an area. Her evocation of place is completely on target. As for characters, Rosamunde has a few too many modern sensibilities to be entirely believable. She is also painted as an absolute paragon of strong and capable womanhood, smart, beautiful, and caring. She cares about the personhood of slaves, she is religiously tolerant, she sees the terrible plight of the poor and hires them in order to help them, she ignores society's views of women and is determined to chart her own course. She has been sorely used in her life but she is forgiving and gentle and kind. In opposition to Rosamunde, who is frequently described for her beautiful smile and her contagious laugh or as a ray of sunshine, the baddies here are completely evil with not one redeeming or pitiable quality at all. Instead they are brutish and horrifying or they are nefarious and scheming. And in fact, there is a strand of good versus evil running through the book but there seem to be no shades of gray. This is a story of the power and danger of words and literacy, of created family, and of the sordidness of the world and the triumph of love (and chocolate). There is a very strong romantic element here and the story is very dramatic and action filled. It is a long novel, spanning only five years but a five years that changed London as quickly and irrevocably as any time period before or since.

For more information about Karen Brooks and the book, check our her author website, like her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter, look at 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 publisher William Morrow for inspiring me to pull the book off my shelf to read and review.

Monday, August 19, 2019

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is hosted by Kathryn at Reading Date.

Books I completed over the past few weeks are:

Decorations in a Ruined Cemetery by John Gregory Brown
Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice
Advanced Physical Chemistry by Susannah Nix
Death of a Rainmaker by Laurie Lowenstein
No Good Asking by Fran Kimmel
Laurentian Divide by Sarah Stonich
The Abolitionist's Daughter by Diane C. McPhail
A London Country Diary by Tim Bradford
The Lost Vintage by Ann Mah
The Accidentals by Minrose Gwin

Bookmarks are still living in the middle of:

Smoke by Dan Vyleta
Coco Chanel by Lisa Chaney
The Resurrection of Joan Ashby by Cherise Wolas
The Bottom of the Sky by Rodrigo Fresan
A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon
The Confessions of Young Nero by Margaret George
A Moveable Feast edited by Don George
Speaking of Summer by Kalisha Buckhannon
Breaking the Ocean by Annahid Dashtgard
Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane
Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buxton
The Ventriloquists by E.R. Ramzipoor
The Peacock Summer by Hannah Richell
A Stranger at My Table by Ivo de Figueiredo
The Tubman Command by Elizabeth Cobb
Something Like Breathing by Angela Readman
The Last Ocean by Nicci Gerrard
Love You Hard by Abby Maslin
Vacationland by Sarah Stonich
Crazy Cupid Love by Amanda Heger
The Chocolate Maker's Wife by Karen Brooks

Reviews posted this week:

America for Beginners by Leah Franqui
Plus One by Christopher Noxon
The Lost Vintage by Ann Mah
The Accidentals by Minrose Gwin

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

The Magnetic Girl by Jessica Handle
Oh, Tama! by Mieko Kanai
The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
Exposure by Jean-Philippe Blondel
Here I Am! by Pauline Holdstock
All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung
Miss Blaine's Prefect and the Golden Samovar by Olga Wojtas
Ways to Hide in Winter by Sarah St. Vincent
The Book of Delights by Ross Gay
Granny’s Got a Gun by Harper Lin
White Elephant by Julie Langsdorf
At Briarwood School for Girls by Michael Knight
The Optimistic Decade by Heather Abel
All Ships Follow Me by Mieke Eerkens
Like This Afternoon Forever by Jaime Manrique
Gravity Well by Melanie Joosten
Motherhood So White by Nefertiti Austin
America's First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie
Dear Baba by Maryam Rafiee
Saint Everywhere by Mary Lea Carroll
All Systems Red by Martha Wells
Tonic and Balm by Stephanie Allen
Black Light by Kimberly King Parsons
In the Shadow of Wolves by Alvydas Slepikas
The Queen of Hearts by Kimmery Martin
CinderGirl by Christina Meredith
The Death of Noah Glass by Gail Jones
The Chelsea Girls by Fiona Davis
Autopsy of a Boring Wife by Marie-Renee Lavoie
The Fragments by Toni Jordan
The Question Authority by Rachel Cline
The Plaza by Julie Satow
The Lonely Bodybuilder by Yukiko Motoya
To Keep the Sun Alive by Rabeah Ghaffari
Haben by Haben Girma
The Paris Orphan by Natasha Lester
Educated by Tara Westover
State of the Union by Nick Hornby
Turbulence by David Szalay
Southernmost by Silas House
What a Body Remembers by Karen Stefano
The Atlas of Reds and Blues by Devi S. Laskar
Questions I Am Asked About the Holocaust by Hedi Fried
Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok
Vintage 1954 by Antoine Laurain
Peculiar Questions and Practical Answers by the New York Public Library The Honey Bus by Meredith May
The Liar in the Library by Simon Brett
The Girls at 17 Swann Street by Yara Zgheib
Church of the Graveyard Saints by C. Joseph Greaves
Decorations in a Ruined Cemetery by John Gregory Brown
Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice
Advanced Physical Chemistry by Susannah Nix
Death of a Rainmaker by Laurie Lowenstein
No Good Asking by Fran Kimmel
Laurentian Divide by Sarah Stonich
The Abolitionist's Daughter by Diane C. McPhail
A London Country Diary by Tim Bradford

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Review: The Accidentals by Minrose Gwin

One decision has the power to send a life off course. A big enough decision can send several lives off course. When birds spin out of their usual habitats or migratory paths, they are called accidentals. But people too can be accidentals, out of place and alone, as are the characters in Minrose Gwin's newest novel, The Accidentals.

In 1957 rural Mississippi, about an hour from New Orleans, Olivia McAlister finds herself pregnant again. Already depressed and stifled by her very constrained and prescribed life as a wife and mother, she who had grown up in New Orleans and worked during WWII, Olivia cannot go through with another pregnancy and so she makes the fateful decision to have a backwoods abortion. This decision will reverberate in her family's life for decades, leaving her husband reeling, her daughters motherless and adrift, and will eventually touch the lives of those completely unrelated to her. This botched abortion sets off a chain of events that feels both inevitable and deeply sad.

Grace and June are Olivia's daughters and they are forever marked by their mother's decision, leading them to make their own fateful choices. The chapter narration switches back and forth, mostly between Grace and June but also including the first chapter from Olivia, chapters from their father Holly, and from Ed Mae, a black woman working in an orphanage for white babies, and Fred the Ambulance Driver, who responds to a call from that orphanage. The very disparate voices allow Gwin to both tell aspects of the story that Grace and June couldn't possibly know without forcing information where it doesn't belong and to show how each decision in one life ripples out and affects others seemingly unconnected. The novel takes on a plethora of social issues: abortion, teenage pregnancy, adoption, homosexuality, racism, opportunities for women, and so much more as it spins through some of the major events (the moon landing, the Cuban Missile Crisis, Vietnam, the Challenger disaster, and Obama's first presidential campaign to name a few) of the second half of the twentieth century and into the present. The novel has an air of deep, pervading sorrow weaving through it, a story of lives lived out of place and alone. It moves slowly through Grace and June's early lives but then picks up speed and races through their adulthood, skipping quickly through large swathes of time, sometimes leaving the reader a little confused as to just where the story stands in time. The pacing is uneven and the ending is both too tidy and out of keeping with the rest of the novel. Despite this, the writing is beautiful and it is clear that Gwin is talented, if perhaps a little lost at the end. Her McAlisters are a family broken by their mother's death, young women who continue to cycle through feelings of betrayal and a desire for forgiveness throughout the years, never quite regaining their closeness but always remaining tied to each other, no matter how loosely.

For more information about Minrose Gwin and the book, check our her author website, look at 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 publisher William Morrow for inspiring me to pull the book off my shelf to read and 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 Reckless Oath We Made by Bryn Greenwood.

The book is being released by G. P. Putnam's Sons on August 20, 2019.

The book's jacket copy says: A provocative love story between a tough Kansas woman on a crooked path to redemption and the unlikeliest of champions, from the New York Times bestselling author of All the Ugly and Wonderful Things.

Zee is nobody's fairy tale princess. Almost six-foot, with a redhead's temper and a shattered hip, she has a long list of worries: never-ending bills, her beautiful, gullible sister, her five-year-old nephew, her housebound mother, and her drug-dealing boss.

Zee may not be a princess, but Gentry is an actual knight, complete with sword, armor, and a code of honor. Two years ago the voices he hears called him to be Zee's champion. Both shy and autistic, he's barely spoken to her since, but he has kept watch, ready to come to her aid.

When an abduction tears Zee's family apart, she turns to the last person she ever imagined--Gentry--and sets in motion a chain of events that will not only change both of their lives, but bind them to one another forever.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

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 Last Post by Renee Carlino.

The book is being released by Rutgers University Press on August 9, 2019.

The book's jacket copy says: “See you on the other side.”

Laya Marston’s husband, Cameron, a daredevil enthusiast, always said this before heading off on his next adventure. He was the complete opposite of her, ready and willing to dive off a cliff-face, or parachute across a canyon—and Laya loved him for it. But she was different: pragmatic, regimented, devoted to her career and to supporting Cameron from the sidelines of his death-defying feats.

Opposites attract, right?

But when Cameron dies suddenly and tragically, all the stages of grief go out the window. Laya becomes lost in denial, living in the delusion that Cameron will come back to her. She begins posting on his Facebook page, reminiscing about their life together, and imagining new adventures for the two of them.

Micah Evans, a young and handsome architect at Laya’s father’s firm, is also stuck––paralyzed by the banal details of his career, his friendships, and his love life. He doesn’t know what he’s looking for, only that there is someone out there who can bring energy and spirit to the humdrum of his life.

When Micah discovers Laya’s tragic and bizarre Facebook posts, he’s determined to show Laya her life is still worth living. Leaving her anonymous gifts and notes, trying to recreate the sense of adventure she once shared with her late husband, Micah finds a new passion watching Laya come out of the darkness. And Laya finds a new joy in the experiences Micah has created for her.

But for Laya, letting another man in still feels like a betrayal to her late husband. Even though Micah may be everything she could wish for, she wonders if she deserves to find happiness again.

Written with RenĂ©e Carlino’s signature “tender and satisfying” (Taylor Jenkins Reid, author of Maybe in Another Life) prose, this warm and compassionate novel shows us how powerful the courage to love and live again truly is.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Review: The Lost Vintage by Ann Mah

Wines and France are pretty much synonymous. Many of the categories of wine that we Americans use generically are named for specific regions in France and experts would not be so sloppy as to refer to a wine not from that region by that name. In fact, there's a lot that experts know that the general wine drinking population doesn't know and there are rigorous and exacting tests to pass for those wanting the prestige of an official designation and the job opportunities that recognition opens up. The main character in Ann Mah's novel The Lost Vintage has a long history connected to wine and needs to take that final step and earn the impossibly difficult Master of Wine.

Kate is a sommelier in California and she's studying for her last chance at passing the Master of Wine test. Her biggest weakness, the blind spot on her previous two failed tests, is French white wines. Determined to finally pass this important test, Kate, whose mother is French, returns to the family vineyard in Burgundy to really focus. As she reconnects with her best friend Heather, now married to Kate's cousin Nico, she slides into life at the domaine easily, despite her lingering discomfort over how her own relationship with family friend Jean-Luc ended a decade ago. Kate helps with les vendages and also tackles the overwhelming clutter in the old farmhouse basement with Heather. As the women clear out decades of both junk and keepsakes, Kate uncovers an old suitcase filled with clothes and a family picture with an unknown young woman in it. Drawn to the woman in the photograph, Kate slowly uncovers more about who she is and just exactly why Kate's Uncle Philippe wants her digging into the past to stop.

The story is told in two narrative arcs, one of Kate in the modern day and one through the teenaged Helene's WWII diary. Although Kate is studying for the Master of Wine certification, this is only tangentially a novel about wine. It is far more about secrets, the shame of the past, the weight of history, truth, family, and what the future owes to the past. What Kate and Heather discover leaves them with very complicated feelings about the family legacy and upends their present. Do they maintain the stoic silence of previous generations or do they allow everything to come to light, the good and the terrible both? In a small way, Heather and Nico's desire to turn the farmhouse into a bed and breakfast over Uncle Philippe's vehement unwillingness mirrors the question of what to do with their newfound knowledge. Helene's diary isn't the only thing that Kate uncovers in the basement though.  Her startling discovery is accidental but there are others knowingly looking for this hidden room and its valuable contents, adding some outside tension to Kate's inner turmoil. This piece was far weaker than the much more compelling plot lines of Kate's reckoning with family ghosts and Helene's life during and immediately after the war.  In fact, this third plot line faded in and out of the story without really adding much to it. But the other two story lines were quite compelling. Kate is a character the reader will sympathize with. Her past (and present) relationship with Jean-Luc might be frustrating (and sometimes a bit thin) but her dogged interest in the hidden past of her family is completely relatable. Helene is fascinating and her diary is a good chance for Mah to describe the realities of the war, the Resistance, and collaborators in ways that Kate (and potentially the readers as well) wouldn't necessarily have learned. As the diary entries continue alongside Kate's suppositions from Heather's and her other research, the reader wonders when she'll find this primary source and how that will change her reckoning. A fast and engrossing read, this is a satisfying family drama, a small window into the life of a vintner, and an enjoyable historical fiction offering an inside view of Vichy France and the continued repercussions of the Nazi Occupation.

For more information about Ann Mah and the book, check our her author website, like her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter or Instagram, check out her boards on Pinterest, look at 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 publisher William Morrow for inspiring me to pull the book off my shelf to read and review.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Review: Plus One by Christopher Noxon

Despite the improvements we've made, we as a society still tend to think of the husband as the breadwinner in the family. He is the one who brings home the bacon. His career has priority if both spouses work. And if anyone is going to stay at home with the kids, it is the wife. Now, this is not, of course, universally true, and I personally know several marriages where this is not the dynamic, but it is still the prevailing view in society for sure. We somehow equate the woman making more money than her spouse as somehow emasculating to her partner so it's interesting to read a novel where the very premise is that of a wife who hits the big time while her husband chooses to quit his job and stay at home with their children, taking over the domestic home front, as is the case in Christopher Noxon's novel Plus One.

Figgy Sherman-Zicklin is a TV writer who has hit the big time. She's won an Emmy while her husband Alex has quit his job writing advertising copy for a non-profit in order to stay home and pick up the slack now that Figgy is working at all hours and barely has time to participate in family life. This makes Alex Figgy's "plus one," a stay at home dad whose wife is far more successful than he is. And it's not easy to be a plus one anywhere but it seems to be especially hard to be one in Hollywood. No one knows or cares who he is while the sudden spotlight of success shines brightly on Figgy. Both Alex and Figgy have to adjust to their new roles and Alex in particular really struggles with defining himself now. He watches the other plus one husbands around him for ideas but rejecting their roles leaves him rather adrift. The question becomes whether Figgy and Alex, their family and their marriage, will survive this change in circumstance.

Noxon knows of what he writes, married to a successful television writer himself. His Alex is funny and insecure, frustrating and entertaining. Figgy is capable and smart, driven and pragmatic. They make a good pair, until they don't; or maybe they still do and they just have to figure it all out. The way that they examine and renegotiate their relationship is realistic and universal, so similar to the way that all long time marriages expand, grow, and change. The gentle mocking of the Hollywood lifestyle is well done and there is a good bit of humor woven through the novel. Alex's struggles might not be easy to be overly sympathetic to but he is just as trapped by societal norms as any good little housewife so his rebellion, while frustrating, is completely understandable. Over the long haul, the Sherman-Zicklin marriage, whether in danger or just readjusting, is fun to peek in on and the end of the novel is a gem. You'll root for Alex to find his purpose and for Figgy to find a balance. This novel is a happily satisfying look at love, parenting, marriage, and power in Hollywood.

Thanks to LibraryThing Early Reviewers for sending me a copy of this book to review.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

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.

Obsessed by Elisabeth Bronfen.

The book is being released by Rutgers University Press on August 9, 2019.

The book's jacket copy says: Even the most brilliant minds have to eat. And for some scholars, food preparation is more than just a chore; it’s a passion. In this unique culinary memoir and cookbook, renowned cultural critic Elisabeth Bronfen tells of her lifelong love affair with cooking and demonstrates what she has learned about creating delicious home meals. She recounts her cherished food memories, from meals eaten at the family table in postwar Germany to dinner parties with friends. Yet, in a thoughtful reflection on the pleasures of cooking for one, she also reveals that some of her favorite meals have been consumed alone.

Though it contains more than 250 mouth-watering recipes, Obsessed is anything but a conventional cookbook. As she shares a lifetime of knowledge acquired in the kitchen, Bronfen hopes to empower both novice and experienced home chefs to improvise, giving them hints on how to tweak her recipes to their own tastes. And unlike cookbooks that assume readers have access to an unlimited pantry, this book is grounded in reality, offering practical advice about food storage and reusing leftovers. As Bronfen serves up her personal stories and her culinary wisdom, reading Obsessed is like sitting down to a home-cooked meal with a clever friend.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Review: America for Beginners by Leah Franqui

Travel broadens the mind and the heart. When you venture out from your own home, whether within your own country or further afield, you not only encounter people who are different from you, but you also see the similarities, the universalities with people who might once have seemed profoundly unlike you. These realizations can change people unimaginably, alter their beliefs and help them see themselves as citizens of a kinder, wider world. In Leah Franqui's novel America for Beginners, her main characters all open their hearts and minds in ways they could never have envisioned when their cross country tour started.

Pival is newly widowed and wealthy. She spent many years of her marriage obeying her husband, making his life comfortable, keeping up appearances, and never (overtly) questioning his edicts about their life. She has felt trapped for too long. Now that Ram is gone, she decides that she is going to leave India and go on a tour of the United States. She's going to find out if it is true that her beloved only son Rahi is dead. Ram had declared him dead when Rahi came out as gay to his parents, disowning the young man completely and requiring Pival to disown him as well, but she knew he wasn't dead, at least not then. Then came a long distance phone call to Ram that confirmed Rahi's death. But she's never been sure if the phone call was true or not and she's determined to find out. She plans to travel the US, seeing sights and slowly making her way to California to the address where Rahi and his partner lived, to find out the truth about his life, love, and his untimely death, and finally to die herself. She does not share her purpose and intentions with tour company owner Ronnie, new guide Satya, or Rebecca, the American unemployed actress hired as a companion to accompany Pival for propriety's sake.

Pival is a wonderful character, having endured an unhappy marriage, now having the chance to come into her own and take charge of her own life. She is burdened by regret and grief, not for her late husband but for her beloved son, her reason for living. While her journey, physically and emotionally, takes center stage here, there are other journeys of the heart and head paralleling Pival's and highlighting the differences and hurts that arise amongst families and friends. Jake, Rahi's partner, is not on the cross country odyssey with Pival but he is also on an emotional journey, grieving his partner and blaming and loathing the parents who could hurt Rahi (also known as Bhim) so badly simply for being himself. The narration focuses on four characters, Pival, Jake, Satya, and Rebecca, giving each of them an extensive backstory, setting them up for their own emotional journeys. The book brims with emotion, sadness and comedy both. The stops on the tour are just tiny pieces of the puzzle that is the US, just as each of the characters is one part of a larger whole of humanity but they, country and characters, are parts that it was wonderful to spend time exploring. The book itself is not so much about the road trip and the sights the characters see as it is about self-discovery and cracking open your own heart, seeing past prejudice and recognizing our commonality. This is a big-hearted, funny, and affecting book about love and grief and regret and hope. It was also a selection for the 2018 Great Group Reads list put out by the Women's National Book Association for National Reading Group Month so it would be perfect for reading and discussing in a book club.

For more information about Leah Franqui and the book, check our her author website, like her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter or Instagram, look at 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 publisher William Morrow for inspiring me to finally write a review.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

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.

Cornelius Sky by Timothy Brandoff.

The book is being released by Kaylie Jones Books on August 6, 2019.

The book's jacket copy says: Cornelius Sky is a doorman in a posh Fifth Avenue apartment building that houses New York City’s elite, including a former First Lady whose husband was assassinated while in office. It is 1974 and New York City is heading toward a financial crisis. At work, Connie prides himself on his ability to buff a marble floor better than anyone, a talent that so far has kept him from being fired for his drinking. He pushes the boundaries of his duties, partying and playing board games with the former First Lady’s lonely thirteen-year-old son in the service stairwell—the only place where the boy is not spied upon mercilessly by the tabloid press and his Secret Service detail.

Connie believes he is the only one who can offer the boy true solace and companionship. But at home, his wife and sons are furious at him and can’t take another minute of his antics. Connie is haunted by memories of his troubled childhood, and the worse things are at home, the more attached he gets to the fatherless boy.

When Connie’s wife changes the locks, he finds himself wandering the mean streets of the city in his doorman’s uniform, where he encounters unlikely angels who offer him a path toward redemption. Cornelius Sky is an elegant picaresque that beautifully captures a city on the edge of ruin, from its richest and most privileged heights, to its poorest and most depraved corners.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

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 Floating Feldmans by Elyssa Friedland.

The book is being released by Berkley on July 23, 2019.

The book's jacket copy says: Sink or swim

Too bad her kids didn’t get the memo.

Between the troublesome family secrets, old sibling rivalries, and her two teenage grandkids, Annette’s birthday vacation is looking more and more like the perfect storm. Adrift together on the open seas, the Feldmans will each face the truths they’ve been ignoring–and learn that the people they once thought most likely to sink them are actually the ones who help them stay afloat.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

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.

At Dusk by Hwang Sok-yong.

The book is being released by Scribe US on July 16, 2019.

The book's jacket copy says: Park Minwoo is, by every measure, a success story. Born into poverty in a miserable neighborhood of Seoul, he has ridden the wave of development in a rapidly modernizing society. Now the director of a large architectural firm, his hard work and ambition have brought him triumph and satisfaction. But when his company is investigated for corruption, he’s forced to reconsider his role in the transformation of his country.

At the same time, he receives an unexpected message from an old friend, Cha Soona, a woman that he had once loved, and then betrayed. As memories return unbidden, Minwoo recalls a world he thought had been left behind―a world he now understands that he has helped to destroy.

From one of Korea's most renowned and respected authors, At Dusk is a gentle yet urgent tale about the things, and the people, that we abandon in our never-ending quest to move forward.

Monday, July 1, 2019

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is hosted by Kathryn at Reading Date.

Books I completed this week are:

Vintage 1954 by Antoine Laurain
Peculiar Questions and Practical Answers by the New York Public Library The Honey Bus by Meredith May
The Liar in the Library by Simon Brett
The Girls at 17 Swann Street by Yara Zgheib
Church of the Graveyard Saints by C. Joseph Greaves

Bookmarks are still living in the middle of:

Smoke by Dan Vyleta
Coco Chanel by Lisa Chaney
The Resurrection of Joan Ashby by Cherise Wolas
The Bottom of the Sky by Rodrigo Fresan
A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon
The Confessions of Young Nero by Margaret George
A Moveable Feast edited by Don George
Speaking of Summer by Kalisha Buckhannon
Breaking the Ocean by Annahid Dashtgard
Decorations in a Ruined Cemetery by John Gregory Brown
Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane
Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buxton
The Ventriloquists by E.R. Ramzipoor
The Peacock Summer by Hannah Richell

Reviews posted this week:

nothing at all :-(

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

The Magnetic Girl by Jessica Handle
Oh, Tama! by Mieko Kanai
The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
Exposure by Jean-Philippe Blondel
Here I Am! by Pauline Holdstock
All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung
Miss Blaine's Prefect and the Golden Samovar by Olga Wojtas
Ways to Hide in Winter by Sarah St. Vincent
The Book of Delights by Ross Gay
Granny’s Got a Gun by Harper Lin
White Elephant by Julie Langsdorf
At Briarwood School for Girls by Michael Knight
The Optimistic Decade by Heather Abel
All Ships Follow Me by Mieke Eerkens
Like This Afternoon Forever by Jaime Manrique
Gravity Well by Melanie Joosten
Motherhood So White by Nefertiti Austin
America's First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie
Dear Baba by Maryam Rafiee
Saint Everywhere by Mary Lea Carroll
All Systems Red by Martha Wells
Tonic and Balm by Stephanie Allen
Black Light by Kimberly King Parsons
In the Shadow of Wolves by Alvydas Slepikas
The Queen of Hearts by Kimmery Martin
CinderGirl by Christina Meredith
The Death of Noah Glass by Gail Jones
The Chelsea Girls by Fiona Davis
Autopsy of a Boring Wife by Marie-Renee Lavoie
The Fragments by Toni Jordan
The Question Authority by Rachel Cline
The Plaza by Julie Satow
The Lonely Bodybuilder by Yukiko Motoya
Portugal by Cyril Pedrosa
To Keep the Sun Alive by Rabeah Ghaffari
Haben by Haben Girma
The Paris Orphan by Natasha Lester
Educated by Tara Westover
State of the Union by Nick Hornby
Turbulence by David Szalay
Southernmost by Silas House
What a Body Remembers by Karen Stefano
The Atlas of Reds and Blues by Devi S. Laskar
Questions I Am Asked About the Holocaust by Hedi Fried
Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok
Vintage 1954 by Antoine Laurain
Peculiar Questions and Practical Answers by the New York Public Library The Honey Bus by Meredith May
The Liar in the Library by Simon Brett
The Girls at 17 Swann Street by Yara Zgheib
Church of the Graveyard Saints by C. Joseph Greaves

Monday Mailbox

A great looking duo arrived this week. This past week's mailbox arrivals:

Rush by Lisa Patton came from St. Martin's Press.

I never joined a sorority but I have it on good authority (from other non-sorority girls and even one non-girl) that this story of a Southern sorority and the people inside it and out, wealthy and poor, who are affected by it is a wonderful read.

The Ravenmaster by Christopher Skaife came from Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.

Who wouldn't be fascinated by the life a a yeoman warder and the ravens in the Tower of London? I am completely intrigued and can't wait to read this one.

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

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

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 Ingredients of Us by Jennifer Gold.

The book is being released by Lake Union Publishing on July 1, 2019.

The book's jacket copy says: From debut author Jennifer Gold comes a delicious novel about the sweet and sour ingredients of life and love.

Elle, an accomplished baker, has a recipe for every event in her life. But when she discovers her husband’s infidelity, she doesn’t know what to make of it. Jam, maybe? Definitely jam.

Fed up with the stale crumbs of her marriage, Elle revisits past recipes and the events that inspired them. A recipe for scones reminds her of her father’s death, cinnamon rolls signify the problematic courtship with her husband, and a batch of chocolate cookies casts Elle in a less-than-flattering light. Looking back, Elle soon realizes that some ingredients were missing all along.

After confronting her husband, Elle indulges her sweet tooth in other ways, including a rebound that just leaves her more confused. As secrets from the past collide with the conflicts of the present, Elle struggles to manage her bakery business and maintain the relationships most important to her. In piecing her life back together, will Elle learn to take the bitter with the sweet?

Monday, June 24, 2019

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is hosted by Kathryn at Reading Date.

Books I completed this week are:

The Islanders by Meg Mitchell Moore
The Great Unexpected by Dan Mooney
The Atlas of Reds and Blues by Devi S. Laskar
Questions I Am Asked About the Holocaust by Hedi Fried
Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok

Bookmarks are still living in the middle of:

Smoke by Dan Vyleta
Coco Chanel by Lisa Chaney
The Resurrection of Joan Ashby by Cherise Wolas
The Bottom of the Sky by Rodrigo Fresan
A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon
The Confessions of Young Nero by Margaret George
A Moveable Feast edited by Don George
Speaking of Summer by Kalisha Buckhannon
Breaking the Ocean by Annahid Dashtgard
Decorations in a Ruined Cemetery by John Gregory Brown
The Girls at 17 Swann Street by Yara Zgheib
Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane
Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buxton
The Honey Bus by Meredith May
The Ventriloquists by E.R. Ramzipoor
Vintage 1954 by Antoine Laurain

Reviews posted this week:

The Islanders by Meg Mitchell Moore
The Great Unexpected by Dan Mooney

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

The Magnetic Girl by Jessica Handle
Oh, Tama! by Mieko Kanai
The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
Exposure by Jean-Philippe Blondel
Here I Am! by Pauline Holdstock
All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung
Miss Blaine's Prefect and the Golden Samovar by Olga Wojtas
Ways to Hide in Winter by Sarah St. Vincent
The Book of Delights by Ross Gay
Granny’s Got a Gun by Harper Lin
White Elephant by Julie Langsdorf
At Briarwood School for Girls by Michael Knight
The Optimistic Decade by Heather Abel
All Ships Follow Me by Mieke Eerkens
Like This Afternoon Forever by Jaime Manrique
Gravity Well by Melanie Joosten
Motherhood So White by Nefertiti Austin
America's First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie
Dear Baba by Maryam Rafiee
Saint Everywhere by Mary Lea Carroll
All Systems Red by Martha Wells
Tonic and Balm by Stephanie Allen
Black Light by Kimberly King Parsons
In the Shadow of Wolves by Alvydas Slepikas
The Queen of Hearts by Kimmery Martin
CinderGirl by Christina Meredith
The Death of Noah Glass by Gail Jones
The Chelsea Girls by Fiona Davis
Autopsy of a Boring Wife by Marie-Renee Lavoie
The Fragments by Toni Jordan
The Question Authority by Rachel Cline
The Plaza by Julie Satow
The Lonely Bodybuilder by Yukiko Motoya
Portugal by Cyril Pedrosa
To Keep the Sun Alive by Rabeah Ghaffari
Haben by Haben Girma
The Paris Orphan by Natasha Lester
Educated by Tara Westover
State of the Union by Nick Hornby
Turbulence by David Szalay
Southernmost by Silas House
What a Body Remembers by Karen Stefano
The Atlas of Reds and Blues by Devi S. Laskar
Questions I Am Asked About the Holocaust by Hedi Fried
Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok

Monday Mailbox

Look at this spectacular haul! Hoping to get some of these sooner rather than later. This past week's mailbox arrivals:

Peculiar Questions and Practical Answers by the New York Public Library came from St. Martin's Griffin.

I do enjoy books of trivia and this one should be fantastic.

The Nobodies by Liza Palmer came from Flatiron Books.

A tale of a woman who reinvents herself and in doing so might have found the thing that brings her back to the core of who she was. This sounds so good, right?

The Grammarians by Cathleen Schine came from Sarah Crichton Books.

Two language obsessed sisters who fight over the family heirloom dictionary? Oh my! I couldn't find a book more perfectly written for me.

This Is Happiness by Niall Williams came from Bloomsbury Publishing.

Williams writes beautifully so I'm really looking forward to reading this one about rain stopping in western Ireland, a small town, and a woman who arrives in the town to try to find her long lost love.

The Man That Got Away by Lynne Truss came from Bloomsbury Publishing.

I do love Truss' books so I am tickled to have the latest of the Constable Twitten mysteries.

The Girl Who Reads on the Metro by Christine Feret-Fleury came from Flatiron Books

I think I want to be the main character in this book! She meets a secondhand bookseller and his daughter and becomes a passeur for him, taking books out into the world to try and match them up with people. Sounds completely delightful, doesn't it?!

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

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

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 Plus One by Sarah Archer.

The book is being released by G. P. Putnam's Sons on July 2, 2019.

The book's jacket copy says: When she couldn't find Mr. Right, she built him.

Dating is hard. Being dateless at your perfect sister's wedding is harder.

Meet Kelly. Twenty-nine, go-getter, a brilliant robotics engineer, and perpetually single. So when her younger sister's wedding looms and her attempts to find a date become increasingly cringeworthy, Kelly does the only logical thing: she builds her own boyfriend.

Ethan is perfect: gorgeous, attentive, and smart--all topped off by a mechanical heart endlessly devoted to her. Not to mention he's good with her mother. When she's with him, Kelly discovers a more confident, spontaneous version of herself--the person she'd always dreamed she could be. But as the struggle to keep Ethan's identity secret threatens to detonate her career, Kelly knows she has to kiss her perfect man good-bye.

There's just one problem: she's falling for him.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Review: The Great Unexpected by Dan Mooney

When you see that Dan Mooney's novel, The Great Unexpected, is about two men in their late seventies living in a nursing home, you might think the great unexpected of the title is death but when you think about it, death is never really unexpected in a nursing home. In fact, they are called things like Heaven's Waiting Room, Old Folk's Home, Wrinkle Ranch, and Elder Shelter, all of which imply age and mortality. No, what the great unexpected refers to here is making a friend, a dear and close friend, and learning to really live at the end of life.

Joel is a cantankerous old coot who lives at Hilltop Manor, a nursing home/assisted living center. He moved in with his wife Lucey after they sold their home to help their daughter financially but Lucey's been gone now for three years. Joel's next roommate is a comatose man called Mr. Miller. Joel says he's the best roommate ever because he doesn't make much noise and lets Joel have control of the TV remote. When Miller also dies one night, Joel is thrown for a loop by how much he is bothered by this death. Then he is horrified anew when another resident is moved into his room. This new roommate, Frank Adams, a retired actor whose stage name was Frank de Selby, is everything that drives Joel batty. Frank is outgoing and charming and incredibly chatty. He is flamboyant and dapper, wearing a silk scarf every day. Joel is determined to dislike this interloper in his room but finds that as he gets to know the person underneath the de Selby mask, he rather likes Frank. The two men couldn't be more different and they love to wind each other up, but they become treasured friends. Frank confides in Joel about his terrible family and how alone he has been since they discovered that he's gay. Joel's reaction to Frank's homosexuality is not as open minded as it could be so to make up for his initial intolerance, he admits to Frank that he doesn't think his life is worth living anymore and that he wants to kill himself.  Sharing their secrets brings them closer together, cementing their friendship even as they bicker and hurt one another verbally.  And Frank helps Joel to learn to live even as together they consider different scenarios for Joel's suicide.  It's like they've known each other for decades instead of just a few weeks.

These two old geezers, repeated nursing home escapees, are delightful to read about. Frank is debonair and educated. He's generally a happy soul although he lets few people see the real person behind the charmer. Joel is a curmudgeon who feels trapped in the nursing home and as if everyone around him is against him. He resents being treated like a child, being stripped of control over his own life, and condescended to when he once owned his own garage, supported his family, and was a successful adult. His grumpy demeanor is completely understandable given his assessment of his life. Frank's personality is 180 degrees different and he tries to view everything cheerfully despite the ugliness and hatred he faced in his life. The mischievousness of the pair together is only enhanced by their differences and leads to moments of great humor. Mooney does a good job showing how we treat old people, how demeaning and unfair it is, and how much richer we'd be if we didn't fail our elderly population. The contrast between the two men is used to good effect, showing how our attitudes towards things matter. Life is so much more pleasant with a glass half full perspective. But he also doesn't minimize real reasons for depression and sadness. The ending of the novel is completely predictable but even that predictability doesn't take away from the tender and delightful tale of late in life friendship, understanding, and the importance of family connections all riven through with entertaining banter. Anyone who liked Grumpy Old Men, A Man Called Ove, or The Odd Couple will enjoy Joel and Frank's relationship and exploits and anyone with an aging relative (that would be all of us) should read this and consider how we treat the aging folks we love.

For more information about Dan Mooney and the book, check our his author website, like him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter, look at 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 publisher Park Row Books for sending me a copy of this book to review.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Review: No One Can Pronounce My Name by Rakesh Satyal

I am almost immediately attracted to books about the Indian American immigrant experience. I can't explain it; I just accept it. So when I first heard about Rakesh Satyal's novel No One Can Pronounce My Name, I knew I wanted to read it. And it very much is a novel about the Indian American immigrant experience but somehow it just didn't capture me; I set it down twice and only finished it on the third try with a concerted effort despite the fact that it should have been perfect for me.

Ranjana has spent years being the wife and mother she was expected to be but now that her only child, Prakash, is off to college, her life is sort of drifting. Her marriage has become background noise and she thinks her husband might be having an affair. To fill her free time she starts writing paranormal romances, attending a writer's group (even if she doesn't feel brave enough to participate to start with) and takes a job as a receptionist in a doctor's office. She is a reserved woman whose loneliness and need for direction is palpable. Harit is a middle aged man who works in a department store and lives with his mother. After work, he dresses up in his late sister's saris, pretending to be her for his nearly blind mother's benefit. She hasn't accepted his sister's death and he thinks to ease her by his deception. Like Ranjana, he too is crushingly lonely. It will take meeting each other and the outside influence of their respective co-workers for Ranjana and Harit to blossom into the people they want to be.

Satyal is a strong writer but the narrative here is slow and meandering. More and more secondary characters come into the story drawing it out even further. This highlights both Ranjana and Harit's distance from their community, both just hovering on the edges of the Indian American community in Cleveland, not fully integrated or accepted, but it also gives the story a lack of focus. This is very much a character study centered around issues of identity and belonging, friendship and the desire to be loved for who one is. There are some funny moments and some poignant moments as well but over all the story went off track a little too often, sprawling out in side plots that did nothing to drive the central story forward and the ending was an unrealistically happy and facile ending for the tone up to that point. The pacing was uneven as well, with the first half somberly dragging out as it established Ranjana and Harit's (and to a lesser extent Ranjana's son Prashant's) characters and the second half turning into a more comedic road trip kind of tale. The two halves were definitely an odd juxtaposition. Not a bad book, but not one that called to be picked back up once it was set down either.

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

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Review: The Islanders by Meg Mitchell Moore

"If once you have slept on an island / You'll never be quite the same" (Rachel Field, "If Once You Have Slept on an Island"). People head to islands for many reasons: a place to vacation, a chance to slow down and figure things out, a place to heal, a place to live. Islands are different places from the mainland somehow, even if people are just going about their lives, especially if the island is one dependent on summer tourism. Meg Mitchell Moore has captured some of the unique summer magic of an island and the people on it in her charming latest novel, The Islanders.

Anthony Puckett, the son of a famed thriller writer, is an author himself who had a much feted first novel. His second novel turned into a huge literary scandal. He started drinking and his wife kicked him out, withholding their young son from him. He's on Block Island house-sitting a friend's uncle's place while trying to come to terms with what he did to his life. Depressed and ashamed, he just wants to fade into the background and disappear. Joy is a year-round islander who owns and runs the island bakery. Joy Bombs is famous for its reinvented whoopie pies but this summer Joy is struggling both financially and personally. Her rent has increased and a French food truck that sells macarons is giving her stiff competition. Her 13 year old daughter is heading into the tough teen years, making Joy, a single parent, feel abandoned and as if she's failing as a mom.  That her ex-husband has gotten his life together with a second wife and cute younger daughter doesn't help her feelings of inadequacy.  Lu is a stay at home mom to two young boys. Her husband is a surgeon and she used to be a lawyer but she quit her career to stay home with their children. Their family has moved out to Block Island for the summer, compliments of her in-laws' (unasked for) generosity. Four years into this life of domesticity, Lu is unhappy and unfulfilled. She feels trapped. She's lost her sense of self but she's starting to secretly reclaim it, working on something that gives her great joy, something that has the potential to turn into a job that completes her, if only she can find the courage to tell her husband her needs and wants have changed. The summer proves one of great change for all three of them.

Each of the three main characters here are floundering, facing changes, and trying to see what the future holds for them. As their lives intertwine and their secrets and fears come out, they each find a way forward towards the life that will fulfill them. They learn more about themselves and learn to accept themselves, warts and all, as the summer unfolds. The novel rotates through each of the three main characters, opening their lives, decisions, and motivations up to the reader. If the characters start by seeming unconnected, they eventually come together in ways that are both expected and realistic. There are no big explosive secrets to reveal, just interesting personal dramas in characters living and making a life on the same island. Anthony, Joy, and Lu are not always sympathetic, making poor decisions, hiding things that shouldn't be hidden, but ultimately they are honest with themselves and about their needs. This is an engaging summer novel about people trying to get it right, trying to find themselves, trying to take the scary next step, personally and professionally. The ending comes a little quickly, like a sudden summer storm, and I for one, would have liked more time with these three flawed, human characters getting to that end but overall, the novel was a very satisfying way to spend a few hours.

For more information about Meg Mitchell Moors and the book, check our her author website, like her on Facebook, follow her on Instagram, look at 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 publisher Harper Collins for inspiring me to pull this off my shelf to review sooner rather than later.

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