Wednesday, July 28, 2021

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 Light of Luna Park by Addison Armstrong.

The book is being released by G. P. Putnam's Sons on August 10, 2021.

The book's jacket copy says: A nurse's choice. A daughter's search for answers.

New York City, 1926. Nurse Althea Anderson's heart is near breaking when she witnesses another premature baby die at Bellevue Hospital. So when she reads an article detailing the amazing survival rates of babies treated in incubators in an exhibit at Luna Park, Coney Island, it feels like the miracle she has been searching for. But the doctors at Bellevue dismiss Althea and this unconventional medicine, forcing her to make a choice between a baby's life and the doctors' wishes that will change everything.

Twenty-five years later, Stella Wright is falling apart. Her mother has just passed, she quit a job she loves, and her marriage is struggling. Then she discovers a letter that brings into question everything she knew about her mother, and everything she knows about herself.

The Light of Luna Park is a tale of courage and an ode to the sacrificial love of mothers.

Friday, July 23, 2021

Review: Second First Impressions by Sally Thorne

There's a perception that young people are out at the bars living their best lives, partying, and just the slightest bit self centered. This is, of course, not true of all twenty-somethings (and maybe not even for the majority of them). Some are quiet, introverted types who have settled into a staid and quiet life, like the heroine in Sally Thorne's Second First Impressions. But it also never hurts to inject just a little bit of spice and excitement into an otherwise predictable life.

Ruthie works at a retirement community and she truly cares for the inhabitants of the place. She lives on the grounds and enjoys her job. She is hard working and conscientious. And when she tries to be a Good Samaritan at a local gas station, she is mistaken for an elderly woman, like the residents at Providence Retirement Villas. Filling in for her boss, who is on an extended vacation, Ruthie spends her days checking the locks, keeping things running, attending to the needs of quirky folks like the elderly, irascible, Parloni sisters, watching a Christian based tv show called Heaven Sent, and dodging her temp Melanie's desire to add some spunk to Ruthie's non-existent love life.

Teddy Prescott is the son of the retirement village's new owner and is the man Ruthie rescued at the gas station. He is also the one who mistook her for one of her aged residents. Teddy has an appealing little boy lost vibe to him but he's also covered with tattoos and has luscious long hair that Ruthie wants to run her fingers through. He wants to open his own tattoo studio rather than go to work for the family company. He is definitely not a long term romantic prospect for Ruthie. She suggests Teddy as the newest assistant to the Parloni sisters and to her surprise, he actually enjoys it, lasting far longer than any of their previous "boys."

This is a quick, light, and fluffy romance that ends up feeling more platonic than romantic. Teddy's hair must be impressive indeed because it is mentioned enough it should almost be its own character. There's supposed to be a clear dichotomy between the buttoned up, straight laced Ruthie, daughter of a reverend, and the long-haired, tattoo artist, love 'em and leave 'em Teddy that makes them a surprising pairing but somehow their relationship comes across as more friendship than sexy and unexpected. And Teddy was definitely more infantilized than he was a bad boy, despite his appearance. The secondary characters are quirky and generally fun, if sometimes over the top. The pacing of the book was steady until the end of the book when all of the plot lines and reveals wrapped up incredibly quickly. Family issues that had governed lives for decades were immediately solved and absolution handed out like lollipops. Over all an easy and enjoyable enough read for a couple of hours but not quite as satisfying as I wanted.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

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.

Heartbreak for Hire by Sonia Hartl.

The book is being released by Gallery Books on July 27, 2021.

The book's jacket copy says: Brinkley Saunders has a secret.

To everyone in the academic world she left behind, she lost it all when she dropped out of grad school. Once a rising star following in her mother’s footsteps, she’s now an administrative assistant at an insurance agency—or so they think.

In reality, Brinkley works at Heartbreak for Hire, a secret service that specializes in revenge for jilted lovers, frenemies, and long-suffering coworkers with a little cash to spare and a man who needs to be taken down a notch. It might not be as prestigious as academia, but it helps Brinkley save for her dream of opening an art gallery and lets her exorcise a few demons, all while helping to empower women.

But when her boss announces she’s hiring male heartbreakers for the first time, Brinkley’s no longer so sure she’s doing the right thing—especially when her new coworker turns out to be a target she was paid to take down. Though Mark spends his days struggling up the academic ladder, he seems to be the opposite of a backstabbing adjunct: a nerd at heart in criminally sexy sweater vests who’s attentive both in and out of the bedroom. But as Brinkley finds it increasingly more difficult to focus on anything but Mark, she soon realizes that like herself, people aren’t always who they appear to be.

With Sonia Hartl’s “bitingly funny” (Publishers Weekly) prose, Heartbreak for Hire is a clever romcom you and your girlfriends won’t be able to stop talking about.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Review: We Think the World of You by J.R. Ackerley

It has always been good to be a dog in my family. We often love them more than people. Like us, J.R. Ackerley famously loved his own dog furiously so it is not surprising that he would write a novel that uses a dog as a major plot driver in his queer classic, We Think the World of You.

Frank is a middle aged, middle class civil servant. He is in love with Johnny, a good looking working class man who has just been sent to prison for stealing. When he first visits Johnny in prison, Johnny asks Frank to look after his German Shepherd, Evie, but Frank refuses, leaving the beautiful dog to be neglected and ignored by Johnny's parents. As Frank engages in a passive aggressive bid for permission to visit Johnny, vying with Johnny's parents and wife, he falls for the dog, spending much of his emotional energy on trying to rescue her from Johnny's family.

None of the characters here are likable. Frank condescends to Johnny's family, never realizing that they (and Johnny himself) do not in fact, think the world of him, but are using him for financial gain. Every last character is less likable than Evie, who is definitely pitiable and misused by everyone around her. There is definite social commentary here on the lives of working class Britons but the characters are all seen through Frank's eyes so they are in fact little better than stereotypes; even Johnny, who he professes to love, comes across as a bit of a careless dimwit. The female characters are terrible and it's hard to say whether that's Frank's misogyny or indeed Ackerley's. Others have found humor in the telling but I missed that entirely. I'd have felt sorry for Frank, who Johnny basically used as a bottomless wallet, if he hadn't also been such a snob. The writing is very well done but the book as a whole was dull, populated as it was by hateful, opportunistic characters.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

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.

A Woman of Intelligence by Karen Tanabe.

The book is being released by St. Martin's Press on July 20, 2021.

The book's jacket copy says: A Fifth Avenue address, parties at the Plaza, two healthy sons, and the ideal husband: what looks like a perfect life for Katharina Edgeworth is anything but. It’s 1954, and the post-war American dream has become a nightmare.

A born and bred New Yorker, Katharina is the daughter of immigrants, Ivy-League-educated, and speaks four languages. As a single girl in 1940s Manhattan, she is a translator at the newly formed United Nations, devoting her days to her work and the promise of world peace—and her nights to cocktails and the promise of a good time.

Now the wife of a beloved pediatric surgeon and heir to a shipping fortune, Katharina is trapped in a gilded cage, desperate to escape the constraints of domesticity. So when she is approached by the FBI and asked to join their ranks as an informant, Katharina seizes the opportunity. A man from her past has become a high-level Soviet spy, but no one has been able to infiltrate his circle. Enter Katharina, the perfect woman for the job.

Navigating the demands of the FBI and the secrets of the KGB, she becomes a courier, carrying stolen government documents from D.C. to Manhattan. But as those closest to her lose their covers, and their lives, Katharina’s secret soon threatens to ruin her.

With the fast-paced twists of a classic spy thriller, and a nuanced depiction of female experience, A Woman of Intelligence shimmers with intrigue and desire.

Monday, July 12, 2021

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

I'm still chugging along slowly with the reading and reviewing but they are getting done, so that's a plus. This meme is hosted by Kathryn at Reading Date.

Books I completed over the past week are:

Why Birds Sing by Nina Berkhout
Strange Tricks by Syd Moore
When Stars Rain Down by Angela Jackson-Brown
The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep by H.G. Parry
The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot by Marianne Cronin
Love in Color by Bolu Babalola
Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell

Bookmarks are still living in the middle of:

The Boat Runner by Devin Murphy
Trouble the Saints by Alaya Dawn Johnson
The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd
Interior Chinatown by Cahrles Yu
The Glittering Hour by Iona Grey
House of Trelawney by Hannah Rothschild
In Love with George Eliot by Kathy O'Shaughnessy
We Learnt About Hitler at the Mickey Mouse Club by Enid Elliott Linder
The Restaurant Inspector by Alex Pickett
Modern Jungles by Pao Lor
Pleasantview by Celeste Mohammed
Miseducated by Brandon P. Fleming
The Colour of God by Ayesha S. Chaudhry
Strange Tricks by Syd Moore
A Trick of the Light by Ali Carter
The Stone Sister by Carolyn Patterson

Reviews posted this week:

Tamba, Child Soldier by Marion Achard and illustrated by Yann D├ęgruel
One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London
Minus Me by Mameve Medwed
Lady in Waiting by Anne Glenconner

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

We Think the World of You by J.R. Ackerley
What You Wish For by Katherine Center
The Fated Sky by Mary Robinette Kowal
The Initiates by Etienne Davodeau
You Deserve Each Other by Sarah Hogle
The Arctic Fury by Greer MacAllister
Writers and Lovers by Lily King
Better Luck Next Time by Julia Claiborne Johnson
Austenistan edited by Laaleen Sukhera
Winter in Sokcho by Elisa Shua Dusapin
Love Is Blind by Lynsay Sands
Saving Miss Oliver's by Stephen Davenport
Refining Felicity by M.C. Beaton
Queenie by Candace Carty-Williams
Our Darkest Night by Jennifer Robson
Sea Swept by Nora Roberts
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
More Confessions of a Trauma Junkie by Sherry Lynn Jones
Inlaws and Outlaws by Kate Fulford
The Belinda Chronicles by Linda Seidel
Jane in Love by Rachel Givney
Mary Jane by Jessica Anya Blau
The Wind Blows and the Flowers Dance by Terre Reed
Lovely War by Julie Berry
A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole
Dear County Agent Guy by Jerru Nelson
This Time Next Year We'll Be Laughing by Jacqueline Winspear
The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict
All Adults Here by Emma Straub
Nice Girls Finish First by Alesia Holliday
Cosmogony by Lucy Ives
Heartwood by Barbara Becker
My Own Miraculous by Joshilyn Jackson
Duchess If You Dare by Anabelle Bryant
The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo
After Francesco by Brian Malloy
When the Apricots Bloom by Gina Wilkinson
Assembly by Natasha Brown
The Walls Came Tumbling Down by Henriette Roosenburg
Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward
Silence by William Carpenter
The Ghost Dancers by Adrian C. Louis
The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris
Brother Sister Mother Explorer by Jamie Figueroa
A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes
Everywhere You Don't Belong by Gabriel Bump
One Night Two Souls Went Walking by Ellen Cooney
The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams
Other People's Children by R. J. Hoffmann
Willie Nelson bt T.J. Kirsch
Inheritors by Asako Serizawa
Why Birds Sing by Nina Berkhout
When Stars Rain Down by Angela Jackson-Brown
The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep by H.G. Parry
The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot by Marianne Cronin
Love in Color by Bolu Babalola
Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Review: Lady in Waiting by Anne Glenconner

I was 10 when Prince Charles and Lady Diana married. My mother and sister and I all got up at some insane hour of the morning to watch the historic wedding with friends. Obviously I've been interested in the royals for a long time now. So when I saw Anne Glenconner, a lady in waiting to Princess Margaret, on Graham Norton's show and giggled at her stories, I knew I'd want to read her memoir. I even ordered it for my mom for Christmas from England ahead of its publication in the US. While an interesting look into the world of spoiled, rich people behaving badly, and the tragedy filled life Lady Glenconner has lived, it was less engaging to read the memoir than it was to hear her anecdotes on tv. (Not my usual experience, by the by.)

Lady Glenconner's service to Princess Margaret is certainly the hook, and interesting enough, but she has lived an extremely privileged life herself. She was raised traditionally, within the aristocracy, to make an advantageous marriage and to keep a stiff upper lip no matter what. She's breaking with the latter somewhat in writing this memoir and exposing her terrible marriage, her husband's incredibly bad behaviour, including tantrums and gross eccentricities that might have been manifestations of mental illness, and the almost unbelievable experiences of her long life. Oftentimes this feels like a list of happenings in her life without the smoothness and connection of a well-wrought memoir. She does come across as scrupulously honest and even understated in her acceptance of the insanity of a life like hers which makes the reader wonder not only what her family thinks of her exposing their secrets but what her entire set thinks given their presentation here in such an unvarnished accounting. The tone of the book is rather blandly matter of fact throughout, even when recounting things that should be brimming with emotion, flattening the effect on the reader. She has led a pretty amazing life, filled with drama and tragedy, lived in close contact with the ever intriguing Princess Margaret for 30 plus years, and met some of the most famous names of the last century, but in the end this memoir was ultimately rather dull and disappointing despite the outlandishness of the things that she experienced. Probably only a must read for the most ardent of royal fanatics.

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

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 Rehearsals by Annette Christie.

The book is being released by Little, Brown and Company on July 13, 2021.

The book's jacket copy says: Megan Givens and Tom Prescott are heading into what is supposed to be their magical wedding weekend on beautiful San Juan Island. But with two difficult families, ten years of history, and all too many secrets, things quickly go wrong. After a disastrous rehearsal dinner they vow to call the whole thing off—only to wake up the next morning stuck together in a time loop. Are they really destined to relive the worst day of their lives, over and over? And what happens if their wedding day does arrive?

A funny, romantic, and big-hearted debut novel, The Rehearsals imagines what we might do if given a second chance at life and at love—and what it means to finally get both right.

Friday, July 2, 2021

Review: Minus Me by Mameve Medwed

Passamaquoddy, Maine. Famous, at least to me, because of Pete's Dragon, the movie from the late seventies. It's also the setting for Mameve Medwed's sweet, easy novel about love, death, and what's most important in life.

Annie is married to Sam, her high school sweetheart, and together they own Annie's Samwich Shop, a locally famous eatery. Sam, despite his goofy incompetence at tasks most adults can accomplish with their eyes shut, has been there for Annie always, supporting her after her beloved father died and grieving with her through miscarriages and the still birth of their daughter. But when Annie receives a diagnosis of possible terminal lung cancer, she cannot bring herself to insist her husband have a serious discussion with her about her health, deciding to tell him only after her future appointment with a specialist. Instead of telling him about the grim diagnosis, she starts writing him an instruction manual called Life Minus Me: A User's Guide so she can know he'll be able to navigate everyday life without her. She hides the manual in her underwear drawer where her flamboyant, overbearing actress mother, Ursula, in town to receive an award, finds it. Their relationship is more antagonistic than anything else, with Annie frustrated by what she sees as her mother's constant narcissism, but when Ursula pulls strings to get Annie into a hot shot oncologist in NYC, Annie agrees to go to the city with Ursula without telling Sam what is going on. The trip, which extends longer than planned and results in more answers than expected, gives Annie and her mother time to work toward understanding and reconciliation with each other as well as a change in perspective for Annie.

The story of a woman given a terrible diagnosis and deciding to help her husband out once she is gone is not new. It's not even fiction if you've seen the news in the past few years. But for as long as Annie and Sam have been together, her inability to ask him to comfort her in this scary time is troubling and his continued incompetence (or is it enabled haplessness?) is not cute. They, and their marriage, come off as far more immature than their ages would assume. There is some conflict here, between Annie and her mother and Annie and Sam, based in large part on misunderstandings but everything is a little too easy, too tidy, and all ends are tied up neatly in the Hallmark-y epilogue. The writing is well done but somehow Annie and Sam don't inspire the laughter and tears that they should. Or maybe it's me being too cynical for the heartwarming, happily ever after. ::shrug:: I suggest you read it yourself and see if you agree with me.

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

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