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.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Review: Vanishing Twins by Leah Dieterich

Do you ever read a book everyone else who read it is raving about and wonder if you read the same book they did? Once you compare the text of what they read and what you read and discover that the book does in fact contain the same words, do you wonder if it's a case of the Emperor's New Clothes or if you missed something somehow? (I will admit I do tend to think that it's the former much more often than the latter.) Leah Dieterich's memoir, Vanishing Twins, is a book I struggled with as I was reading it and found utterly perplexing when I discovered that so many others consider it amazing.

The memoir is the story of Dieterich's sense of being one half of a whole, missing some shadow piece of herself, and searching for wholeness in ballet, in philosophy, in an early marriage, in sexual fluidity, in every aspect of her life, really. She says that she feels as if she is a twin, suggesting that she is the product of a vanishing twin pregnancy, where the mother's body (or the twin herself) reabsorbs one of the fetuses early on in the pregnancy. Unless I missed it, there is no scientific basis for her feeling; it is just a feeling she accepts as truth.  And one that drives her life.  She marries early and while she loves her husband, she finds the nature of monogamy stultifying so they eventually ease into an open marriage in which Dieterich explores her sexual feelings for a woman while her husband Eric has his own affair. What this duel exploration and Dieterich's living in a different city from her husband means to their marriage, her sense of herself, who she wants to be, and her acceptance of herself is the thrust of this memoir.

The writing here is choppy and fragmented. It is bluntly honest and yet somehow still hard to connect or sympathize with. Dieterich struggles with balancing her individual art within a marriage, a merged life, but she looks outside of herself rather than within herself to find a scapegoat for this struggle, her need for and the simultaneous rejection of a pas de deux. It is clear she is afraid she is subsuming her real self in the heterosexual, monogamous marriage society expects of her and that this fear of losing herself as an individual is absolutely overwhelming to her.  While she captures that feeling on the page, it didn't make for compelling reading for me. In fact, combine this with the style of writing and I just wanted to be done with the book. A search of self, love, and acceptance can be dynamic and gripping but, for me, unfortunately this just wasn't.

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

Friday, October 12, 2018

Review: The Art of Failing by Anthony McGowan

Anthony McGowan is not right. If you too, are of the not right variety (as I am), you'll find him inappropriately hilarious and hilariously inappropriate. I'd throw in some quotes from the book to prove it but I'm afraid I'd want to use so many I'd be charged with copyright infringement. This is a very British, very droll book. The cover is truly egregious and I'm only sad that its lack of appeal (it's a banana so lack of a peel, get it? Yeah, groaner for sure.) kept me from picking this up sooner.

Written as mostly brief, almost daily observational diary entries over the span of a year (plus a few days), there's little to no narrative arc here but, trust me, you won't care. And when McGowan does in fact refer back to something in a previous entry, the reader feels as if she is an insider, someone included in McGowan's private meanderings, like an old friend would be. Each entry is fairly short and generally highlights a happening in McGowan's marriage, his professional life, or just everyday life that could, quite probably, happen only to him.  We all have that one friend who is one disaster and humiliation after another, right?  The bits he records are funny, well-written, and oftentimes cringe-inducing (but in a good way--if there can be a good way of cringing). He focuses on the personal, the embarrassing, and the hilarious failures, inviting the reader to laugh along with him at these nutty and outrageous occurrences. His intelligence is clear to the reader paying attention, his wit is in sharp focus, and it is patently obvious that he adores his wife and children, even if he claims to have no idea why Mrs. McG. puts up with his shenanigans and less than ideal person. He does make fun of others on occasion but most of the time he's busy taking the piss out of himself. I truly laughed aloud at quite a few passages and thoroughly enjoyed my tenure in the pages of McGowan's life. If he'd write more diary entries, I'd happily read them, lack of narrative arc be damned.

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

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