Saturday, December 7, 2019

Educated by Tara Westover

If you haven't yet heard about this book, you're probably living under a rock. It's been all over the book world, Westover's been on morning programs, it's in every store that carries even one book, whether it's a bookstore of not, and it certainly has turned up in every book club ever. Now, if you know me at all, you know this means that this tornado of publicity and buzz would mean that I'd wait years to read it. But look again at the last place in the list you'd have found it since it was released. Yes, it turned up in my book club too and so I went out and picked up a copy. But unlike so many others, I didn't adore this book. It is hard and astonishing but I have reservations.

Tara Westover was born into a survivalist, atypical Mormon family, one of seven children. Her parents eschewed medical care and didn't even get birth certificates for their younger children. Westover's father worried about what all the government could track about them if they were registered in any way and about the way in which the outside world was connected to Satan. The children grew up doing dangerous work in the family junkyard and not only not attending school, but not being schooled at home either.  Their upbringing was an interesting mix of strict and feral.  But Westover, the youngest child, was curious and rebellious and curiosity and rebellion will find a way. She details some pretty horrific instances from her childhood: injury, abuse, gaslighting. And she presents the reader with her agonizing over getting out of her family situation and the sorrow she feels at being estranged from this darkly, dysfunctional family. That she made it out after teaching herself enough to take the ACT successfully, to go to college, and to earn a doctorate at one of the most celebrated universities in the world after her upbringing is certainly impressive. Her story is, simply put, remarkable.

And if that's all it needs to be, then it deserves all the praise it gets. But there's more to it than just the story (and even that has some things that I question) and that's where it lost me a little. I do not doubt that Westover was abused and manipulated and that her father probably has a mental illness and her mother goes along to get along but there are some things that stretch credulity, chief among them the medical issues. The number of serious life-threatening injuries in the family that turn out to be healed without long term repercussions and often just with herbal ointments boggle the mind. Several she mentions (severe burns, cuts down to the very bone, etc.) would qualify as truly miraculous if they occurred to such a degree and healed without advanced medical intervention. Perhaps this can be written off as them being misremembered from her childhood or exaggerated for effect but it calls into question more of her recollections. She is honest in that many of her siblings' recollections differ from hers and she footnotes these differences as acknowledgement.  And yes, different people remember things differently, but it does make the reader wonder why her account should be taken as the complete and true version. And while I do believe that she has at least captured the spirit of her upbringing, there's also the story of her becoming "educated." Where was it? Yes, she puts in bits and pieces of her road to college but despite this initial jump into academia after an entire youth without school being a huge part of what makes her story remarkable, she glosses over much of her journey and barely acknowledges the massive role others outside of her family played in helping her achieve her much more connected to the world, much more "normal" life.  She has escaped from an oppressive, scary, and abusive family situation physically but there's little evidence here that she has escaped emotionally. And maybe she hasn't. Maybe she never will. But this might have had a stronger ending had she waited longer to write it, to come to an emotional maturity, to a healing that isn't yet in evidence, at least not in these pages. Finally, and it feels a little mean to say this because this was/is her life, but I found the story tedious to read. The beginning portion, when she was living at home is far more polished writing than the end, as if she has been working her early life and material over for a long time, shaping and crafting it carefully while the ending material felt less certain, less reflected upon. It's not a bad book; it's even ultimately a good book. But it's not the best book ever and not even the best book I've read this year. Given the near universal praise the book has received, it is clear that I am in a minority though.

Wednesday, December 4, 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.

Creatures by Crissy Van Meter.

The book is being released by Algonquin Books on January 7, 2020.

The book's jacket copy says: On the eve of Evangeline’s wedding, on the shore of Winter Island, a dead whale is trapped in the harbor, the groom may be lost at sea, and Evie’s mostly absent mother has shown up out of the blue. From there, in this mesmerizing, provocative debut, the narrative flows back and forth through time as Evie reckons with her complicated upbringing in this lush, wild land off the coast of Southern California.

Evie grew up with her well-meaning but negligent father, surviving on the money he made dealing the island’s world-famous strain of weed, Winter Wonderland. Although her father raised her with a deep respect for the elements, the sea, and the creatures living within it, he also left her to parent herself. With wit, love, and bracing flashes of anger, Creatures probes the complexities of love and abandonment, guilt and forgiveness, betrayal and grief—and the ways in which our childhoods can threaten our ability to love if we are not brave enough to conquer the past.

Lyrical, darkly funny, and ultimately cathartic, Creatures exerts a pull as strong as the tides.

Monday, December 2, 2019

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It was a slow reading and reviewing week for sure. And with Thanksgiving coming up this week doesn't look to be any better. Ah well! I'll enjoy my family time and worry about book stuff another week. This meme is hosted by Kathryn at Reading Date.

Books I completed over the past week are:

A Beginner's Guide to Japan by Pico Iyer
The Ventriloquists by E.R. Ramzipoor
The Skeleton Stuffs a Stocking by Leigh Perry

Bookmarks are still living in the middle of:

The Resurrection of Joan Ashby by Cherise Wolas
A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon
Pretty Bitches edited by Lizzie Skurnick

Reviews posted this week:

In Other Words by Christopher J. Moore

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

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
What a Body Remembers by Karen Stefano
The Atlas of Reds and Blues by Devi S. Laskar
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
Crazy Cupid Love by Amanda Heger
A Moveable Feast edited by Don George
Tiny Hot Dogs by Mary Giuliani
Tomorrow's Bread by Anna Jean Mayhew
Love You Hard by Abby Maslin
Unfurled by Michelle Bailat-Jones
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson
The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart by Holly Ringland
Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner
Hungry Monkey by Matthew Amster-Burton
Retablos by Octavio Solis
The Tubman Command by Elizabeth Cobbs
The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner
All the Wild Hungers by Karen Babine
Vacationland by Sarah Stonich
The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
Smoke by Dan Vyleta
The Last Ocean by Nicci Gerrard
Something Like Breathing by Angela Readman
Nothing to Report by Carola Oman
Dog Songs by Mary Oliver
The Confessions of Young Nero by Margaret George
The Signal Flame by Andrew Krivak
A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza
Washington Black by Esi Edugyan
Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buxton
The Garden of Eden by Eve Adams
Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe by Melissa de le Cruz
The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde
A Well-Behaved Woman by Therese Anne Fowler
Breaking the Ocean by Annahid Dashtgard
A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler
A Stranger at My Table by Ivo de Figueiredo
Breaking Away by Anna Gavalda
Eat Joy edited by Natalie Eve Garrett
The Peacock Summer by Hannah Richell
Hotbox by Matt Lee and Ted Lee
Speaking of Summer by Kalisha Buckhannon
Time After Time by Lisa Grunwald
The Bottom of the Sky by Rodrigo Fresan
Open Mic Night in Moscow by Audrey Murray
A Beginner's Guide to Japan by Pico Iyer
The Ventriloquists by E.R. Ramzipoor
The Skeleton Stuffs a Stocking by Leigh Perry

Monday Mailbox

During Thanksgiving week, I received a wonderful looking bunch of books for which I am truly thankful. This past week's mailbox arrivals:

The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner came from St. Martin's Press.

I am a huge Jane Austen fan so this novel about the people of Chawton coming together no matter what their life looks like to create the Jane Austen Society is absolutely right up my alley.

The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow came from Henry Holt.

Another Jane Austen inspired novel, be still my heart! I can't wait to see where Hadlow imagines that Mary Bennet, the plain and bookish Bennet daughter in Pride and Prejudice, ends up once she's the heroine in her own life and novel.

The Address Book by Deirdre Mask came from St. Martin's Press.

I've had a lot of addresses over the years so I am curious about how they come to be named and numbered and what other information they reveal about the people who live at them.   Doesn't this one look really fascinating?

Four Weddings and a Festival by Annie Robertson came from me for myself.

A novel about four rom-com loving friends who all plan to get married in the same summer until one of them turns down her boyfriend's proposal, this looks fun and flirty.

The Keeper of Secrets by Julie Thomas came from me for myself.

A letter on the cover? I'm in! About a priceless violin over the generations, from Nazi Germany to Stalinist Russia to the present day, I am looking forward to this one.

Family Planning by Karan Mahajan came from me for myself.

I do like Indian set novels so this one about a Government Minister whose wife is expecting their 13th child and his son who has definite ideas about family planning should be perfect for me.

White Trash in a Trailer Park by Randal Patrick came from me for myself.

Although this is out of print, I couldn't resist this Southern novel featuring a pregnant 16 year old and the other inhabitants of a trailer park.

A Hundred Suns by Karin Tanabe came from St. Martin's Press.

A historical fiction set in Indochine (Vietnam), this novel of colonialism, glamour, and wealth promises to be a lush and sprawling read.

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

Wednesday, November 27, 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.

Bertie and the Tinman by Peter Lovesey.

The book is being released by Soho Crime on January 14, 2020.

The book's jacket copy says: Introducing Victorian England’s most illustrious amateur sleuth (if not necessarily its most adept): Bertie, Prince of Wales, who can’t help but poke his royal nose into a suspicious-sounding circumstance.

Bertie, Prince of Wales and future King Edward VII, is a charismatic but self-indulgent man who enjoys the finer things in life, including dining, flirting, and flitting from party to party with his entire thirty-person staff in tow. But the fun and games come to a tragic halt when Bertie hears the shocking news that his friend the legendary jockey Fred Archer, known as the Tinman, has taken his own life. Bertie has his doubts that it was in fact suicide, especially considering the Tinman's ominous final words: “Are they coming?” Bertie resolves to discover the truth, looking for new suspects and evidence on a quest that will take him through some of the most disreputable parts of London, much to the dismay of his mother, Queen Victoria.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Review: In Other Words by Christopher J. Moore

I love words. I love them singly. I love them together. I am fascinated by the way that language originated and the way it is still changing today. I love idioms and word origins. I am tickled when I learn about words that have no translation and wonder why one culture needs a word to describe a certain phenomenon and why another culture doesn't. In short I am your stereotypical word nerd. So Christopher J. Moore's In Other Words was completely and totally the type of book I was guaranteed to buy, inhale, and enjoy.

This is by no means a comprehensive list of words and phrases that we don't use or have a translation for in English; it is more a sampling of those that Moore found most interesting. He showcases many different and diverse cultures' languages, offering tidbits of history or etymology in explaining the phrases. His phrases range from Turkish to Maori, Navajo to Gaelic, Greek to Norwegian, Yiddish to Mandarin, British English to Bantu, and more. Interestingly, some of the words Moore includes (and he originally published a very similar book with much of the same content in 2004) have made their way into English and no longer need to be included in the words that have no translation. They no longer need one because, as English is wont to do, we have appropriated them wholesale and use them cheerfully, having adopted them and embraced their concepts (hygge comes to mind here). The book is organized into roughly geographical or historical chapters with a few oddballs thrown in. The illustrations are simple and in a paper collage kind of style, leaving the words and phrases themselves to be the stars of the show. Because of the nature of the book, it is probably better as a thing to dip in and out of rather than reading straight through. It is entertaining and generally informative but could easily have be longer. It would be interesting to see what lexical gems Moore left out that someone else might think worth including. Over all though, this is a brief word nerd's delight, an amuse bouche of books.

Monday, November 25, 2019

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It was a slow reading and reviewing week for sure. And with Thanksgiving coming up this week doesn't look to be any better. Ah well! I'll enjoy my family time and worry about book stuff another week. This meme is hosted by Kathryn at Reading Date.

Books I completed over the past week are:

The Bottom of the Sky by Rodrigo Fresan
Open Mic Night in Moscow by Audrey Murray

Bookmarks are still living in the middle of:

The Resurrection of Joan Ashby by Cherise Wolas
A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon
The Ventriloquists by E.R. Ramzipoor
Pretty Bitches edited by Lizzie Skurnick

Reviews posted this week:

nothing

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

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
What a Body Remembers by Karen Stefano
The Atlas of Reds and Blues by Devi S. Laskar
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
Crazy Cupid Love by Amanda Heger
A Moveable Feast edited by Don George
Tiny Hot Dogs by Mary Giuliani
Tomorrow's Bread by Anna Jean Mayhew
Love You Hard by Abby Maslin
Unfurled by Michelle Bailat-Jones
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson
The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart by Holly Ringland
Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner
Hungry Monkey by Matthew Amster-Burton
Retablos by Octavio Solis
The Tubman Command by Elizabeth Cobbs
The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner
All the Wild Hungers by Karen Babine
Vacationland by Sarah Stonich
The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
Smoke by Dan Vyleta
The Last Ocean by Nicci Gerrard
Something Like Breathing by Angela Readman
Nothing to Report by Carola Oman
Dog Songs by Mary Oliver
The Confessions of Young Nero by Margaret George
The Signal Flame by Andrew Krivak
A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza
Washington Black by Esi Edugyan
Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buxton
The Garden of Eden by Eve Adams
Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe by Melissa de le Cruz
The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde
A Well-Behaved Woman by Therese Anne Fowler
Breaking the Ocean by Annahid Dashtgard
In Other Words by Christopher J. Moore
A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler
A Stranger at My Table by Ivo de Figueiredo
Breaking Away by Anna Gavalda
Eat Joy edited by Natalie Eve Garrett
The Peacock Summer by Hannah Richell
Hotbox by Matt Lee and Ted Lee
Speaking of Summer by Kalisha Buckhannon
Time After Time by Lisa Grunwald
The Bottom of the Sky by Rodrigo Fresan
Open Mic Night in Moscow by Audrey Murray

Monday Mailbox

More England orders this week! This past week's mailbox arrivals:

Wilde Like Me by Louise Pentland came from me for myself.

A novel about a lonely single mom who decides to make a change in her life, this one looks fun and easy and I can't wait.

Lady in Waiting by Anne Glenconner came from me for myself.

I am fascinated by royalty so I am really looking forward to this memoir from a lady in waiting to Princess Margaret.

Dear County Agent Guy by Jerry Nelson came from me for myself.

I do enjoy collections of newspaper columns. This collection by a humorist who focuses on rural life should be perfect.

A Taste of Heaven by Penny Watson came from me for myself.

I am a sucker for lush covers and this one definitely fits that bill. Plus it's a foodie romance, has a strong theme of second chances, and the main character travels to Scotland. Yum! Right?!

Feast by Hannah Howard came from me for myself.

Another fantastic cover, this one, a memoir about a woman working in the culinary industry while simultaneously suffering from an eating disorder, looks really good.

Data, a Love Story by Amy Webb came from me for myself.

Although I met my husband in college before this was even a thing, I am fascinated by the online dating world so I am looking forward to this memoir about a woman who cracked the online dating code to make her matches more meaningful (and it worked!).

The Man in the Window by Jon Cohen came from me for myself.

This one is a "Book Lust Rediscovery" from Nancy Pearl's lists and it intrigues me for sure. It's a love story between a disfigured recluse and the "unlovely" nurse who cares for him after he falls out a window.

Secret Things and Highland Flings by Tracy Corbett came from me for myself.

A novel about a woman trying to keep her art gallery afloat after her ex runs off with his PA and the impoverished new Earl of Horsley coming together and having to face their secrets, this looks so so good.

300 Sandwiches by Stephanie Smith came from me for myself.

I must have been hungry when I ordered all of these! LOL! Another food book, this is the memoir of a woman learning to make delicious sandwiches on the way to getting engaged to her boyfriend and also weathering the public attacks over their process. Recipes included and my mouth is watering already.

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

Wednesday, November 20, 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 Two Lives of Lydia Bird by Josie Silvver.

The book is being released by Ballantine Books on March 3, 2020.

The book's jacket copy says: Lydia and Freddie. Freddie and Lydia. They'd been together for more than a decade, and Lydia thought their love was indestructible.

But she was wrong. On her twenty-eighth birthday, Freddie died in a car accident.

So now it's just Lydia, and all she wants to do is hide indoors and sob until her eyes fall out. But Lydia knows that Freddie would want her to try to live fully, happily, even without him. So, enlisting the help of his best friend, Jonah, and her sister, Elle, she takes her first tentative steps into the world, open to life--and perhaps even love--again.

But then something inexplicable happens that gives her another chance at her old life with Freddie. A life where none of the tragic events of the past few months have happened.

Lydia is pulled again and again across the doorway of her past, living two lives, impossibly, at once. But there's an emotional toll to returning to a world where Freddie, alive, still owns her heart. Because there's someone in her new life, her real life, who wants her to stay.

Written with Josie Silver's trademark warmth and wit, The Two Lives of Lydia Bird is a powerful and thrilling love story about the what-ifs that arise at life's crossroads, and what happens when one woman is given a miraculous chance to answer them.

Monday, November 18, 2019

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is hosted by Kathryn at Reading Date.

Books I completed over the past week are:

Breaking Away by Anna Gavalda
Eat Joy edited by Natalie Eve Garrett
The Peacock Summer by Hannah Richell
Hotbox by Matt Lee and Ted Lee
Speaking of Summer by Kalisha Buckhannon
Time After Time by Lisa Grunwald

Bookmarks are still living in the middle of:

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 Ventriloquists by E.R. Ramzipoor
Pretty Bitches edited by Lizzie Skurnick

Reviews posted this week:

Exposed by Jean-Philippe Blondel

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

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
What a Body Remembers by Karen Stefano
The Atlas of Reds and Blues by Devi S. Laskar
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
Crazy Cupid Love by Amanda Heger
A Moveable Feast edited by Don George
Tiny Hot Dogs by Mary Giuliani
Tomorrow's Bread by Anna Jean Mayhew
Love You Hard by Abby Maslin
Unfurled by Michelle Bailat-Jones
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson
The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart by Holly Ringland
Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner
Hungry Monkey by Matthew Amster-Burton
Retablos by Octavio Solis
The Tubman Command by Elizabeth Cobbs
The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner
All the Wild Hungers by Karen Babine
Vacationland by Sarah Stonich
The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
Smoke by Dan Vyleta
The Last Ocean by Nicci Gerrard
Something Like Breathing by Angela Readman
Nothing to Report by Carola Oman
Dog Songs by Mary Oliver
The Confessions of Young Nero by Margaret George
The Signal Flame by Andrew Krivak
A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza
Washington Black by Esi Edugyan
Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buxton
The Garden of Eden by Eve Adams
Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe by Melissa de le Cruz
The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde
A Well-Behaved Woman by Therese Anne Fowler
Breaking the Ocean by Annahid Dashtgard
In Other Words by Christopher J. Moore
A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler
A Stranger at My Table by Ivo de Figueiredo
Breaking Away by Anna Gavalda
Eat Joy edited by Natalie Eve Garrett
The Peacock Summer by Hannah Richell
Hotbox by Matt Lee and Ted Lee
Speaking of Summer by Kalisha Buckhannon
Time After Time by Lisa Grunwald

Friday, November 15, 2019

Review: Exposed by Jean-Philippe Blondel

Exposure. What does the word mean to you? Is it physical? Emotional? Is it purely public or can a person be exposed to themselves? Is exposure positive or negative? We speak of exposing a person's character or their lies. Flashers expose their bodies. But then there's the sense of exposure within photography. Different exposures lead to different final images. Can a person, a thing, an action be partially exposed and still be true? Jean-Philippe Blondel is playing with many different ideas of exposure and their impact in his novel Exposed.

Louis Claret is an English teacher in France. He's invited to a gallery showing when one of his former pupils, now a well known painter, has a retrospective and the novel opens with him reflecting on the fact that he's lost his passion for teaching and he's uncertain why he was included on the guest list for the event. When he meets his student, Alexandre Laudin, again they speak of nothing of any consequence and Claret's life continues on as it always has. But then Laudin gets in touch with him and the two kindle an odd sort of friendship, a kind of reliance on each other. And Laudin asks his former teacher to model for a planned triptych, not just to pose for a conventional portrait but to pose nude. This request exposes Louis not only in a physical sense but it exposes him emotionally too as he considers the request.

The novel is not sexual, exactly. The frisson is more in the lure of possibility and of seeing oneself (hopefully) admired through the eyes of another. It is in the potential for Laudin to uncover the essence of his old teacher, of Claret baring not just his flesh but his soul. The novel is narrated by Louis and it is deeply meditative and introspective. There are no big plot movements, only small events in the quiet reckoning Louis makes of his life in late middle age. He weaves the instances of his childhood, his now failed marriage, and his relationship with his adult daughters into the experience of being Laudin's subject and perhaps even his friend. There is an elegiac tone to the novel and Louis' life, as he exposes his past, has a sort of torpor to it. It is a subtle, ambiguous novel, one where the meaning, the art is continually exposed, layer by painstaking layer, even after the last page is finished. It is a short novel but one that leaves the reader wondering in the end just what all has, in fact, been exposed. The heart of Claret? Who's to say?

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

Wednesday, November 13, 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 Color of Rock by Sandra Cavallo Miller.

The book is being released by University of Nevada Press on November 13, 2019 (yes, today!).

The book's jacket copy says: A young physician, Dr. Abby Wilmore, attempts to escape her past by starting over at the Grand Canyon Clinic. Silently battling her own health issues, Abby struggles with adjusting to the demands of this unique rural location. She encounters everything from squirrel bites to suicides to an office plagued by strong personalities. While tending to unprepared tourists, underserved locals, and her own mental trials, Abby finds herself entangled in an unexpected romance and trapped amidst a danger even more treacherous than the foreboding desert landscape.

Sandra Cavallo Miller’s debut novel transports readers to the beautiful depths of Arizona and weaves an adventurous and heartwarming tale of the courage and strength it takes to overcome personal demons and to find love.

Monday, November 11, 2019

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is hosted by Kathryn at Reading Date.

Books I completed over the past week are:

In Other Words by Christopher J. Moore
Be With by Mike Barnes
A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler
A Stranger at My Table by Ivo de Figueiredo

Bookmarks are still living in the middle of:

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
Speaking of Summer by Kalisha Buckhannon
The Ventriloquists by E.R. Ramzipoor
The Peacock Summer by Hannah Richell
Eat Joy edited by Natalie Eve Garrett

Reviews posted this week:

Be With by Mike Barnes
The Unbreakables by Lisa Barr

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

Exposed 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
What a Body Remembers by Karen Stefano
The Atlas of Reds and Blues by Devi S. Laskar
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
Crazy Cupid Love by Amanda Heger
A Moveable Feast edited by Don George
Tiny Hot Dogs by Mary Giuliani
Tomorrow's Bread by Anna Jean Mayhew
Love You Hard by Abby Maslin
Unfurled by Michelle Bailat-Jones
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson
The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart by Holly Ringland
Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner
Hungry Monkey by Matthew Amster-Burton
Retablos by Octavio Solis
The Tubman Command by Elizabeth Cobbs
The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner
All the Wild Hungers by Karen Babine
Vacationland by Sarah Stonich
The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
Smoke by Dan Vyleta
The Last Ocean by Nicci Gerrard
Something Like Breathing by Angela Readman
Nothing to Report by Carola Oman
Dog Songs by Mary Oliver
The Confessions of Young Nero by Margaret George
The Signal Flame by Andrew Krivak
A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza
Washington Black by Esi Edugyan
Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buxton
The Garden of Eden by Eve Adams
Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe by Melissa de le Cruz
The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde
A Well-Behaved Woman by Therese Anne Fowler
Breaking the Ocean by Annahid Dashtgard
In Other Words by Christopher J. Moore
A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler
A Stranger at My Table by Ivo de Figueiredo

Monday Mailbox

Either I was greedy as sin this past week or all my past orders bottle-necked up to arrive in one week (and since many of them were from England and Ireland, I'm choosing to believe the latter). This past week's mailbox arrivals:

Greenwood by Michael Christie came from Hogarth.

A generational saga in reverse and the trees and forests that are the source of the family's rise and fall, this looks complex and amazing.

Invented Lives by Andrea Goldsmith came from LibraryThing Early Reviewers.

A Jewish children's book illustrator exiled from Soviet Russia lands in Australia where her presence changes one family forever. I am intrigued for sure.

Remembering the Bones by Frances Itani came from me for myself.

I loved Itani's first novel, Deafening, so I am looking forward to this one about a Candian woman invited to Buckingham Palace to celebrate her 80th birthday with the Queen (they were born the same day) who drives off the road on the way to the airport and remembers her life as she lies on the ground helpless and alone.

In Other Words by Christopher J. Moore came from me for myself.

A word and phrase miscellany? Don't mind if I do! (And yes, I have already read this one--review to come.)

Colours Others Than Blue by Anthony Glavin came from me for myself.

I'm so easy. Throw that extra "u" into the spelling and then tee up my favorite color in the title to boot and I'm a goner. But this one about a senior nurse and single mother in an elderly care home who starts keeping a diary after her father's death sounds really good beyond that delectable title.

The Hurlyburly's Husband by Jean Teule came from me for myself.

The title alone is enough of a reason to get this one, right?! It doesn't hurt that it is about a French noblewoman who becomes a lady in waiting at Versailles in order to clear up debts but then catches the eye of the not so monogamous king, much to the dismay of her truly loving husband.

Breaking Away by Anna Gavalda came from me for myself.

The front cover calls it "a loving haiku to the joys of having siblings" and I do love family novels. It does look charming and sweet and I may crack it open later today because I have no willpower (and damn the other seven books I have bookmarks in already).

Meet and Delete by Pauline Lawless came from me for myself.

This one looks like quite the giggle as Viv and several others around her plunge into the online dating pool.

The Art of Scandal by Susan Loughane came from me for myself.

When artist Katie's life in NYC craters, she flees back to small town Ireland where she finds artistic inspiration again by painting nudes of the local men. Sounds wonderfully juicy, doesn't it?!

The Birthday Girls by Pauline Lawless came from me for myself.

A book about four little girls whose friendship endures for decades until one birthday weekend has a chance to destroy it, this sounds really good.

5 Peppermint Grove by Michelle Jackson came from me for myself.

An Irish woman wanting to start over moves to Perth and might just uncover a secret of her mother's in the process, how delicious!

The Last to Know by Melissa Hill came from me for myself.

Eve has been with Liam for nine years and has had two children with him. Is it too much for her to want him to marry her? Meanwhile, in Australia, where Liam is often away on business, Brooke gets a mysterious delivery so that she's not the last to know. Can't wait for the scandal!

Three Men on a Plane by Mavis Cheek came from me for myself.

Pamela is an empty nester now and so the three important men from her life, including her ex-husband are all thinking of her romantically again. How much fun!!!

Eat Joy edited by Natalie Eve Garrett came from me for myself.

There's something about the title and the cheery, colorful cover that just calls me about this collection of essays about comfort food from award winning authors. Bonus: there are recipes.

Allmen and the Butterflies by Martin Suter came from me for myself.

A refined art thief who has gone through all of his family's money steals some magnificent Art Nouveau bowls to alleviate some of his mounting debts in this crime caper. It sounds fantastic.

Act One by Moss Hart came from me for myself.

A Broadway memoir from a bygone era, this looks simply mah-velous dahling.

The King of Lavender Square by Susan Ryan came from me for myself.

A group of neighbors pull together to care for a young boy whose mother is quite ill in this magical sounding novel.

Beside Herself by Elizabeth LeBan came from me for myself.

After her husband cheats, Hannah doesn't want to divorce but she needs to even the score so she suggests she have an affair too and her husband agrees. This novel about trying to save a marriage sounds fresh and unusual and I'm looking forward to it.

Room to Breathe by Liz Talley came from me for myself.

A mother whose life seems to be going beautifully is flirting with her adult daughter's ex-boyfriend, a daughter who's come home to work for her mother in order to help support her med school fiance and then also starts flirting online. What could possibly go wrong? Delicious sounding, no?!

Your Perfect Year by Charlotte Lucas came from me for myself.

When a cranky publishing exec goes to his usual fitness class and finds a day planner called Your Perfect Year in his spot, he decides to find the mysterious owner, all the while following the advice inside the planner. Should be a fun read, and maybe I'll find some good advice in it for myself.

The Other Side of Wonderful by Caroline Grace-Cassidy came from me for myself.

Look at this cover (the British one) and then the US one and tell me which one you'd prefer? The premise doesn't sound like a laugh but the blurb promises humor so I'm very curious to see what this one is actually like.

Into the Night Sky by Caroline Finnerty came from me for myself.

Give me a book set in a bookstore any day of the week and twice on Sunday! This one about a man grieving the death of his partner who befriends a young boy who comes into his bookshop looks to be touching and heartbreaking in equal measure.

The Songbird's Way by Jennifer Barrett came from me for myself.

A novel about a woman who wants to travel her own path but who also wants to please others, this looks lovely.

Death in Brittany by Jean-Luc Bannalec came from me for myself.

Somehow, despite my general cowardice, I am getting better at mysteries, especially if they are set somewhere appealing, like, say, Brittany. This first in a series about a cantankerous Parisian commissaire who has moved from Paris to the Breton coast and is now investigating his first murder in the area looks like it will hit my sweet spot.

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

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