Wednesday, December 12, 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.

Caroline's Bikini by Kirsty Gunn.

The book is being released by Faber and Faber on January 22, 2019.

The book's jacket copy says: "Alright" I said, "I’ll try..." This is how Emily Stuart opens her intricate tale of a classic love affair that becomes Caroline’s Bikini: a swirling cocktail of infatuation, obsession, and imagination. The moment that Emily’s friend Evan Gordonstone - a successful middle-aged financier - meets Caroline Beresford – a glamorous former horsewoman, and now housewife, hostess, and landlady - there is a "PING!" At least, that's how Evan describes it to Emily when he persuades her to record his story: the story of falling into unrequited love, which is as old as Western literature itself. Thus begins a hypnotic series of conversations set against the beguiling backdrop of West London’s bars, fueled in intensity by endless gin and tonics and Q&As. From the depths of mid-winter to July’s hot swelter, Emily's narration of Evan’s passion for Caroline will take him to the brink of his own destruction.

Written in a voice so playful, so charismatic, and so thoughtfully aware of the responsibilities of fiction it can only be by Kirsty Gunn, Caroline’s Bikini is a swooning portrait of courtly love - in a modern world not celebrated for its restraint and abstraction. Ready. Steady. Go!

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Review: Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstances by Ruth Emmie Lang

We are often told that our world needs to slow down, get outside, and enjoy nature more. Many of us seem to have lost our connection with the natural world and it shows in the increase in so many of our ills: obesity, depression, and stress, to name a few.  Although the outdoors cannot cure these things, experts tell us that it would certainly mitigate them at the very least. And for anyone who has spent time outside communing with nature and wildlife, there is definitely something a little bit magical about the untamed world. There is more than a little of this magic in Ruth Emmie Lang's slightly magical, charming debut novel, Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance.

Weylyn Grey has always been special. Born in June, it snowed as soon as he breathed for the first time. He is orphaned young in a freak storm that he feels responsible for causing and ends up being raised by wolves. He can communicate with animals, he can make plants grow riotously out of control, and he can stop (and start) storms. He is sweetly innocent and as he moves through the world, he touches all he comes into contact with. He never stays with anyone very long, his closest long term companion being Merlin, a talking pig. His adventures are fantastical and wonderful and though his time in each place is brief, he leaves an indelible mark behind himself.

Told in the first person by the people whose lives Weylyn moves through, this is a whimsical story with a clear fairy tale quality. Weylyn as a character is both revealed by the narrators and remains just out of reach, quietly elusive. He is a gentle soul with a strong but ungovernable connection to the natural world, as if he was not human born but truly a child of the forest. He is uncomfortable with most people but when he loves, he loves with his whole heart. The writing is slow and measured and the novel feels like quiet mysticism. There is a yearning for home and understanding as Weylyn moves around meeting others who sometimes embrace him and sometimes misunderstand his power. There are adventures within each encounter he has but the plot is less important that the ultimate journey. The second half of the novel slows down a bit and the ending is purposely ambiguous. At its core, this is a fairy tale of a story about difference, love, and acceptance and it will leave the reader feeling contented and at peace, just like a ramble through the woods might.

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

Monday, December 10, 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 Invisible Life of Euridice Gusmao by Martha Batalha
Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney
Dear Fang, With Love by Rufi Thorpe
Everything She Didn't Say by Jane Kirkpatrick
Evergreen Tidings From the Baumgartners by Gretchen Anthony
One House Over by Mary Monroe

Bookmarks are still living in the middle of:

A Hard and Heavy Thing by Matthew J. Hefti
Paint Your Wife by Lloyd Jones
America's First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie
Metis Beach by Claudine Bourbonnais
Smoke by Dan Vyleta
Coco Chanel by Lisa Chaney
The New York Time Footsteps by various authors
The Resurrection of Joan Ashby by Cherise Wolas
The Bottom of the Sky by Rodrigo Fresan
Burntown by Jennifer McMahon
The Girl Who Never Read Noam Chomsky by Jana Casale
Surviving Paradise by Peter Rudiak-Gould
A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon
A Merry Little Christmas by Martha Schroeder

Reviews posted this week:

Christmas on the Island by Jenny Colgan
Someone You Love Is Gone by Gurjinder Basran

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

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
A Cast of Vultures by Judith Flanders
The Governess Game by Tess Dare
In-Between Days by Teva Harrison
The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
In the Heart of the Canyon by Elisabeth Hyde
Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Penelope Lemon by Inman Majors
I'd Rather Be Reading by Anne Bogel
Royally Screwed by Emma Chase
The Wangs Vs. the World by Jade Chang
Southern Lady Code by Helen Ellis
Country of Red Azaleas by Domnica Radulescu
The Book Lovers' Appreciation Society by assorted authors
Don't Point That Thing at Me by Kyril Bonfiglioli
Hope Has Two Daughters by Monia Mazigh
The Friend by Sigrid Nunez
The Widow Nash by Jamie Harrison
The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld
Miss Featherton's Christmas Prince by Ella Quinn
The Radium Girls by Kate Moore
Rainbirds by Clarissa Goenawan
Sassafrass, Cypress, and Indigo by Ntozake Shange
Mean by Myriam Gurba
Maeve in America by Maeve Higgins
After the Bloom by Leslie Shimotakahara
The Legendary Lord by Valerie Bowman
The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal
Thousand-Miler by Melanie Radzicki McManus
In Cuba I Was a German Shepherd by Ana Menendez
The Spinster and the Rake by Anne Stuart
No One Can Pronounce My Name by Rakesh Satyal
The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell
How to Be a Good Creature by Sy Montgomery
Merry and Bright by Jill Shalvis
The Invisible Life of Euridice Gusmao by Martha Batalha
Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney
Dear Fang, With Love by Rufi Thorpe
Everything She Didn't Say by Jane Kirkpatrick
Evergreen Tidings From the Baumgartners by Gretchen Anthony
One House Over by Mary Monroe

Monday Mailbox

Apparently I had a book on back order that just arrived. Who knew? What a delightful surprise though!  And a few other wonderful surprises arrived too.  This past week's mailbox arrivals:

Squirrel Pie by Elisabeth Luard came from me for myself.
A food memoir about food around the world? Serve that right up for me! Now I just need someone to cook the recipes. :-)

Tiny Americans by Devin Murphy came from LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I enjoy books that follow one family for decades so I am really looking forward to this one about an alcoholic father and the three children he left behind with whom he now must try to reconnect.

Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo came from a friend for a book exchange.
This one has all the accolades. About a Nigerian couple facing infertility and polygamy, it sounds like it deserves them all too.

The Storyteller's Secret by Sejal Badani came from a friend for a book exchange.
After a woman loses her pregnancy and her marriage unravels, she heads to India to learn her family's history. I can't wait!

Mutts and Mistletoe by Natalie Cox came from a friend for a book exchange.
A seasonal book centered on dogs? How much more perfect can you get?

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

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Review: The Invisible Life of Euridice Gusmao by Martha Batalha

For many years, the work of women, the unpaid work that they did or do, has been invisible. There is, of course, the old joke that a husband comes home from work one day and sees that the house is a mess, the kids are running rampant, and there's no dinner waiting for him because his wife has taken to heart that he thinks she does "nothing" all day long and so has decided to live up to his belief and therefore has actually done nothing that day. It's a scenario that makes a point very clearly. He never saw the work she did until the day she chose not to do it. Her work, important as it was, was invisible until it was left undone. Martha Batalha's novel The Invisible Life of Euridice Gusmao comes from this same place of women's work and lives being invisible unless they buck what society expects of them.

Euridice marries her husband Antenor because that is what is expected of her. She will become a housewife and mother in 1940s Rio. And she plays her role but she doesn't embrace it or truly enjoy it. Instead she spends a long time looking for her purpose in life within the societal constraints placed on her. Before her marriage she was an exceptional recorder player. The hope of a musical life had to go by the wayside as she married and became a mother. Then she learned to cook exotic and impressive dishes. But that wasn't her calling either, and unusual foods didn't please her children or her husband. Then she taught herself to sew and became quite an accomplished seamstress, dressing first herself and then neighborhood women. But her husband objected to her working from home. Finally she becomes an author, tickety tapping away on her typewriter, either destined for greatness or for obscurity as she retells the story of her life. She is a determined and intelligent woman who finds her prescribed role boring. Her beautiful sister Guida took a different, less conventional path through life but she cannot tell her story completely any more than Euridice could live her story completely as she wanted even after she came back to the path society required of her.

This is very much a domestic novel filled with quirky, often frustrated characters. Euridice is strong, flexible, and yearning as a a character. She absorbs the disappointments of her life, which are all of the spiritual variety rather than the physical disappointments and trials her sister weathers, as best she can while still being a woman of her time. She is different in her striving for more, in her quest to be seen, and sometimes that opens her up to gossip and innuendo from others but she perseveres in creating in herself the accomplished and fulfilled woman she needs to be.  No matter where she is in her journey to herself, she remains a sympathetic character.  The novel definitely has the feel of contemporary South American literature, a certain sensibility that comes through tying it to a long tradition of Latinx writing. Quite character driven, this novel is an interesting and insightful look at the life and dreams of one eccentric mid-twentieth century Brazilian woman as she becomes visible to her family, her neighbors, and most importantly, to herself.

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

Friday, December 7, 2018

Review: Someone You Love Is Gone by Gurjinder Basran

Everyone grieves differently and it's hard to know when to step in and offer help to someone and when to let them process things in their own way. Losing someone is never simple, never uncomplicated, and when that loss is tied up with so many questions and unexplained issues, it must be that much more difficult. Gurjinder Basran has captured the complex and endless seeming grief of one such situation in her novel Someone You Love Is Gone.

The novel opens with Simran getting dressed for her mother's funeral. Amrita's death was not unexpected and Simran is an adult but that doesn't mean that she isn't devastated by the loss of her mother. She finds herself floundering as she grieves the complicated woman who was her mother at the same time she faces the growing estrangement in her marriage and the lengthening distance from her only daughter. The three biggest relationships in her life all become intertwined in this time of sadness and confusion and her difficult relationships with her sister and brother add another layer of stress as they work together to plan the funeral and decide what to do with Amrita's ashes.

The novel has three different alternating narrative threads, each building on the others to create a more complete picture of this Canadian-Sikh family's past and present. The present is, of course, the aftermath of Amrita's death and the subsequent squabbling between Simran and younger sister Jyoti as well as the measured disintegration of Simran's marriage as she focuses solely on her grief, uncovering secrets from her mother's past, and her conversations with the ghost of her mother. Mother Amrita's youth and devastating disappointment plays out slowly, unfolding just when explanations are needed for the third plot thread, that of Simran's childhood and the seemingly inexplicable sending away of her younger brother Diwa, an unusual child who knows more about the family's past than he could possibly do.

This is at its core, a story about loss. Obviously it is the story of a daughter's loss of her mother, but it is also a story of the loss of hopes and dreams, the loss of a child and sibling. And as the characters journey through their individual griefs, they move towards an acceptance and the flicker of a hope for the future. Simran is brimming over emotionally, alternately frozen and angry, resigned and desperate as she seeks to make sense of her own life and the choices her mother made, choices that forever impacted Jyoti, Diwa, and Simran herself. There is both a turning away from memory and a recognition and welcoming of it as pieces fall into place. The writing is quiet and steady and Simran's grief, her feeling of being set adrift, packs an emotional punch. The details of the expectations and limitations for girls in the India of Amrita's girlhood and then the reality of life in Canada as immigrants are very well drawn. Although there are some big events that happen in the novel, it is more of a character study and a look at one path through the deep sorrow when someone you love is gone. Elegaic in tone, this is a well written tale of one woman's long path towards acceptance and forgiving.

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

Wednesday, December 5, 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.

Talent by Juliet Lapidos.

The book is being released by Little, Brown on January 22, 2019.

The book's jacket copy says: Anna Brisker is a twenty-nine-year-old graduate student in English at Collegiate University who can't seem to finish her dissertation. Her project: an intellectual history of inspiration. And yet, for the first time, Anna has found herself utterly uninspired. Rather than work on her thesis, she spends her days eating Pop-Tarts and walking the gritty streets of New Harbor, Connecticut.

As Anna's adviser is quick to remind her, time is running out. She needs the perfect case study to anchor her thesis-and she needs it now. Amid this mounting pressure, Anna strikes up a tenuous friendship with the niece of the famous author Frederick Langley. Freddy wrote three successful books as a young man, then published exactly nothing for the rest of his wayward, hermetic life. Critics believe Freddy suffered from an acute case of writer's block, but his niece tells Anna that there's more to the story: When he died, he was at work on something new.

With exclusive access to the notebooks of an author who was inspired, uninspired, and potentially reinspired, Anna knows she's found the perfect case study. But as fascination with Freddy blooms into obsession, Anna is drawn irrevocably into the criminal machinations of his sole living heir.

A modern twist on the Parable of the Talents, Lapidos's debut is a many-layered labyrinth of possible truths that reveal at each turn the danger of interpreting another person's intentions-literary or otherwise.

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