Sunday, August 31, 2014

Sunday Blatherings and New Books and Monthly Wrap Up

A lovely 4-day weekend here, and it's been relaxing so far.  The weather is great, shopping for fall clothes, visiting the kids and grand kids, eating out lots and reading -- life is good. Do you have any special plans for the last official holiday of the summer?

I've been reading and listening to a lot of books lately, but I seem to have lost my interest in spending time writing reviews.  I have about (5) reviews to write and may just resort to some mini reviews.

Needs reviewing  - The Marrying of Chani Kaufman; Eve Harris; To Rise Again at a Decent Hour; Joshua Ferris; The Arsonist; Sue Miller; A Sudden Light; Garth Stein and The Secret Place Tana French.

New Books - 

Crooked River; Valerie Geary (Wm Morrow)
The Way Inn; Wills Wiles (Harper/Amazon Vine)
2AM at the Cat's Pajamas; Bertino (Random House audio)
Harbor Island; Carla Neggers (Harlequin/Mira)
After the Funeral; Agatha Christie (Wm Morrow)
At Bertram's Hotel; Agatha Christie (paperback swap)
The Secret Adversary; Agatha Christie(paperback swap)
Murder is Easy; Agatha Christie (paperback swap)

 August Reading in Review - (13) books read August
                                                 (95) books YTD 

Favorite Book - The Conditions of Love; Dale M Kushner

  1. Mr. Mercedes; Stephen King - 4/5 (audio) August
  2. The Girls From Corona del Mar; Rufi Thorpe - 4/5 (audio & eGalley) August 
  3. The Marrying of Chani Kaufman; Eve Harris - 4/5 (eGalley) August
  4. The Conditions of Love; Dale M Kushner - 5/5 (eGalley) August 
  5. The Story Hour; Thrity Umrigar - 4/5 (eGalley) August 
  6. Colorless Tsukuro Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage; Haruki Murakami  - 5/5 (audio/eGalley)
  7. All Fall Down; Jennifer Weiner - 4/5 (audiobook) August 
  8. California; Edan Lepucki - 3/5 (audiobook) August
  9. We Are Not Ourselves; Matthew Thomas - 4.5/5 (eBook) August
  10. To Rise Again at a Decent Hour; Joshua Ferris - 3.5/5 (audio) - August)
  11. A Sudden Light; Garth Stein - 4/5 (arc) August
  12. The Arsonist; Sue Miller - 2.5/5 (audio)
  13. A Secret Place; Tana French - 4.5/5 (August)

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Coming Soon to a Book Store Near You -- The Secret Place; Tana French

Here's my "Coming Soon to a Book Store Near You" pick for this week.  What do you think -- would you try it?

The Secret Place; Tana French
Viking - Sept 2, 2014

The sensational new novel from “one of the most talented crime writers alive” (The Washington Post)

The photo on the card shows a boy who was found murdered, a year ago, on the grounds of a girls’ boarding school in the leafy suburbs of Dublin. The caption says I KNOW WHO KILLED HIM.

Detective Stephen Moran has been waiting for his chance to get a foot in the door of Dublin’s Murder Squad—and one morning, sixteen-year-old Holly Mackey brings him this photo. “The Secret Place,” a board where the girls at St. Kilda’s School can pin up their secrets anonymously, is normally a mishmash of gossip and covert cruelty, but today someone has used it to reignite the stalled investigation into the murder of handsome, popular Chris Harper. Stephen joins forces with the abrasive Detective Antoinette Conway to find out who and why.

But everything they discover leads them back to Holly’s close-knit group of friends and their fierce enemies, a rival clique—and to the tangled web of relationships that bound all the girls to Chris Harper. Every step in their direction turns up the pressure. Antoinette Conway is already suspicious of Stephen’s links to the Mackey family. St. Kilda’s will go a long way to keep murder outside their walls. Holly’s father, Detective Frank Mackey, is circling, ready to pounce if any of the new evidence points toward his daughter. And the private underworld of teenage girls can be more mysterious and more dangerous than either of the detectives imagined.

The Secret Place is a powerful, haunting exploration of friendship and loyalty, and a gripping addition to the Dublin Murder Squad series.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

We Are Not Ourselves; Matthew Thomas

We Are Not Ourselves; Matthew Thomas
Simon & Schuster

In Matthew Thomas’ debut novel, We Are Not Ourselves, the central character, Eileen Tumulty, born in 1941, is first introduced as the nine year old daughter of Irish immigrants growing up in Queens, NY. Her father “Big Mike” is a hard-drinking, well liked, larger than life figure in their community. Her mother always felt inferior and was hospitalized for a breakdown after suffering a miscarriage. She is never the same when she returns home. She drinks too much, smokes to much and poor little Eileen is more like the grownup as a result. She learns early on that it’s important to have goals in life, and strive to achieve them.

She chooses the nursing profession and a very bright man, Ed Leary for herself. They marry, buy a multi-family home in Jackson Heights, and have a son that they name Connell. Although Ed is a good man and a college professor, he remains content teaching at a local community college instead of pursuing a more prestigious job at another college or university. He doesn’t have the drive that Eileen was hoping for. She is disappointed in her husband, but yet she is also committed to him and their life together. She focuses her energy one searching for another house,  bigger , in Bronxville, a much better area. Ed does not share her enthusiasm about moving and does not want to move, but Eileen gets her way, The next home is a bigger, albeit run-down house in her dream neighborhood. It isn’t long before Eileen’s brief house high, takes a back seat to a life changing event, that begins explains her husband’s secretiveness and his odd behavior of late.

I really enjoyed this 600+ novel. Described as a sprawling saga, it’s the story of a marriage and family. Eileen, Ed and Connell, a family affected by heartbreak . It's about how their life is torn apart and how they move on. It’s a story about life, about longing for more than we have, but accepting the hand you were dealt. It's a beautiful story. Although there were many instances where I did not care for Eileen, the central character, I did respect her and feel for her situation especially in the last half of the novel. Son Connell’s story and his struggle to please his parents, was also good, although a little less compelling.

The writing is really good, and although a long novel, I never lost interest. I alternated between the print version and the audio version (which was fantastic - read by Mare Winningham). This was a terrific novel, worth the time spent, and a story I will not forget. Read it.

4.5/5 stars
(audiobook and review copy)

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - A Sudden Light; Garth Stein

Every Tuesday I host First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where I share the first paragraph or (a few) of a book I am reading or thinking about reading soon. 

A Sudden Light; Garth Stein
Simon & Schuster

Prologue - The Curse

"Growing up in rural Connecticut, I had been told the name Riddell meant something to people in the Northwest.  My paternal great-great- grandfather was someone of significance, my mother explained to me. Elijah Riddell had accumulated  tremendous fortune in the timber industry, a fortune that was later lost by those who succeeded him/  My forefathers had literally changed the face of America-- with axes and two-man saws and diesel donkeys to buck the fallen, with mills to pulp the corpses and scatter the ashes, they carved out a place in history for us all. And that place, I was told, was cursed."
What do you think?

Feel free to join in and post the Intro from one of your reads by linking your post below.

Monday, August 25, 2014

California; Edan Lepucki

California; Edan Lepucki
Little Brown & Co / Hachette Audio
July - 2014

In California, by Edan Lepucki, civilization as we have known it is gone after what we can only assume was some sort of apocalypse. Frida and Cal are a young married couple fleeing Los Angeles to live off the the land in a lush forest to the north of LA. With the shelter of a shack nearby, foraging for food, the couple seems happy, perhaps too happy, given the circumstances. To add to the unsettling situation, Frida suspects that she is pregnant.

Given the situation the two search for a more communal lifestyle, but they have no idea what they are in for.  They find a strange town,  surrounded by “spikes” meant to keep the undesirables away. The group with its self-appointed leader promises protection, but at what cost?  Many of the things that the couple has long taken for granted are forbidden here, in what they initially thought might be a safe haven for them.

I must admit this was a trying book for me. First dystopian novels are not a favorite for me in general, but because there was so much hype about this book, I was anxious to try it.  I liked the beginning very much and I thought that the set up felt very atmospheric. However, once the couple joins up with the questionable group and becomes at odds with one another, I found I had a hard time caring about the couple.  The story is told in alternating POVs with lots of flashbacks along the way. The writing is good and the author shows promise, but the story itself just was not a good fit for me. I encourage other readers, especially lovers of dystopian fiction to give this California a try.

The audio book was read by Emma Galvan who did a decent job portraying the bleakness of the situation and showing just how naive this young couple was.

3/5 stars

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Coming Soon to a Book Store Near You - The Book of Strange New Things; Michel Faber

Here's my "Coming Soon to a Book Store Near You" pick for this week.  What do you think -- would you try it?

Crown-Hogarth - October 2014


A monumental, genre-defying novel over ten years in the making, Michel Faber’s The Book of Strange New Things is a masterwork from a writer in full command of his many talents.

It begins with Peter, a devoted man of faith, as he is called to the mission of a lifetime, one that takes him galaxies away from his wife, Bea. Peter becomes immersed in the mysteries of an astonishing new environment, overseen by an enigmatic corporation known only as USIC.   His work introduces him to a seemingly friendly native population struggling with a dangerous illness and hungry for Peter’s teachings—his Bible is their “book of strange new things.” But Peter is rattled when Bea’s letters from home become increasingly desperate: typhoons and earthquakes are devastating whole countries, and governments are crumbling.  Bea’s faith, once the guiding light of their lives, begins to falter.

Suddenly, a separation measured by an otherworldly distance, and defined both by one newly discovered world and another in a state of collapse, is threatened by an ever-widening gulf that is much less quantifiable.  While Peter is reconciling the needs of his congregation with the desires of his strange employer, Bea is struggling for survival.  Their trials lay bare a profound meditation on faith, love tested beyond endurance, and our responsibility to those closest to us.

Marked by the same bravura storytelling and precise language that made The Crimson Petal and the White such an international success, The Book of Strange New Things is extraordinary, mesmerizing, and replete with emotional complexity and genuine pathos.
I was first introduced to this author's work some 10 years ago when I read, Crimson Petal and the White (2003) which I loved.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Story Hour; Thrity Umrigar

The Story Hour; Thrity Umrigar
Harper - August 2014

Maggie Bose is a 56 year old psychologist who is married to a professor from India.  She is a black woman who has become successful despite growing up poor and being sexually abused as a child.  One day she gets a new client, a 30-something, Indian woman named Lakshmi who has just attempted suicide. Every week following her release from the hospital, the two of them meet for a one hour therapy session at Maggie’s home office. 

Lakshmi’s suicide attempt stems from several factors. She is in a loveless marriage to an verbally abusive man, cut off from her family (she moved to the US from India 6 years earlier), she is friendless and even though she works long hours at her husband’s restaurant, she has no money of her own. She is dependent on her husband for every little thing. In India, Lakshmi was a woman with pride yet in the mid western town she now lives her life is lonely and her self-respect gone.

As Maggie and Lakshmi meet for their weekly therapy sessions, Maggie is confident that all her client needs is a friend and some confidence to begin to feel some self-worth. Maggie tries to maintain professional boundaries yet she tells Lakshmi that her husband Sudhir is an Indian man so that she begins to feel comfortable with their sessions. Before long, Lakshmi is bringing Sudhir his favorite Indian dishes and she is starting to feel that Maggie is more friend than therapist. At her weekly sessions she shares more about her life in India and even sheds light as to why her husband feels the way he does about her. 

Although Maggie is shocked by what she learns about Lakshmi's marriage, she has some secrets about her own marriage that she has attempted to keep secret, until one day Lakshmi discovers the truth. Despite all the help Maggie has been to build Lakshmi’s confidence and to make her more independent -- she’s taught her to drive, found her jobs catering for small parties and is cleaning houses, when Lakshmi discover the secret Maggie's been hiding she is angry and shocked and without thinking seeks revenge against the woman who has helped her.

The Story Hour brings together two very different women each carrying their share of guilt and secrets. Told primarily in the alternating voices of each woman,  I must admit that initially, I found reading the broken English narrative of Lakshmi to very a bit off putting, but once I eventually got used to it., and understand that, it did make her character more authentic.  As with her earlier novels, the author has created a compelling story and characters that you will remember after the final page is turned. 

⅘ stars
(review copy sent by publisher)

First Chapter First Paragraph ~ Tuesday Intros - We Are Not Ourselves; Matthew Thomas

Every Tuesday I host First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where I share the first paragraph or (a few) of a book I am reading or thinking about reading soon. Just started this one  -- 600++ pages, but very good so far.

We Are Not Ourselves; Matthew Thomas
Simon & Schuster - August - 2014

"His father was watching the line in the water. The boy caught a frog and stuck a hook in its stomach to see what it would look like going through.  Slick guts clung to the hook, and a queasy guilt grabbed him.  He tried to sound innocent when he asked if you could fish with frogs.  His father glanced over, flared his nostrils, and shook the teeming coffee can at him.  Worms spilled out and wriggled away.  He told him he'd done an evil thing and that his youth was no excuse for his cruelty.  He made him remove the hook and hold the twitching creature until it died.  Then he passed him the bait knife and had him dig a little grave.  He spoke with a terrifying lack of familiarity, as if they were simply two people on earth now and an invisible tether between them had been severed."
What do you think?

Feel free to join in and post the Intro from one of your reads by linking your post below. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

All Fall Down; Jennifer Weiner

All Fall Down; Jennifer Weiner
Simon & Schuster Audio - 2014

In All Fall Down, Allison Weiss is a 39 year old who on the outside appears to have it all.  A gorgeous husband, a cute, rambunctious five year old daughter name Eloise, and a successful career as blogger for a very popular woman's website.  One day while she's waiting in the pediatrician’s office with Eloise, she takes a quiz in a magazine about addiction and begins to wonder if she may have a bit of a problem.  
For Allison, what began with a legitimate prescription for Percocet, for back pain after a gym injury, gradually develops into a full blown pill addiction. An extra pain pill here and there to take the edge off at the end of day, soon she finds herself consuming a dozen or more pain pills a day. She justifies her need for them by the stress of her daily life. Motherhood, a troubled marriage, job stress, a high maintenance five year old, and a father who has developed Alzheimer's related dementia. Is popping a pill now and then so different from the women who end their day with a few glasses of wine to relax?

For Allison, the increased need for more pills to feel relief leads to doctor shopping for multiple prescriptions. She even resorts to illegal online pill purchases.  One day her erratic behavior and an incident at her daughter's school, forces her to come face to face with her addiction and enter a rehab program.
Allison's stint at rehab and the stories of the other women in rehab (both younger and older) seemed very realistic -- different backgrounds, their substance of choice, how they got hooked, therapy sessions and more,  I found their stories compelling.  The novel seemed like a realistic account of what addiction and rehab must be like.  I was surprised to read that the author's father, a psychiatrist, died from an overdose seven years ago, and although she hadn't seen her father in several years, she never realized he had a problem.
The subject of addiction seemed very well researched. I found Allison to be a sympathetic character, a woman who felt she must be everything to everyone. I think this would be an excellent choice for book clubs as there is a lot to discuss. The audiobook was good, read by Tracee Chimo, but the whining by five year old Eloise was a bit much at times.  Although I wasn't sure this would be a story I would enjoy, I was happy that I tried it.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Sunday Blatherings ~ one cute cat and several new books

Mid August and honestly, this week felt like fall - low 70's by day and 50's by night.  I am not complaining, but feel bad for anyone who paid a lot of money for beach front rental this week in New England.  I've been taking some long weekends - 1/2 days on Fridays and Mondays off and it's been great.

(4) years ago I posted this picture (left) of Rae the 3-legged kitten my daughter had adopted.  She's adjusted well, even now with a toddler and infant added to the family (although she like to sleep behind the sofa or as high up as possible some days).
Visiting yesterday I noticed Rae in a picture purrfect position. So here she is as 4+ years old (right).

Grandkids or Grandcats we love them all.
I donated several books this week to the free library boxes in my daughter's town, but I acquired several more in their know how easy that his right?  Here's my new arrivals and I can't wait to dig in.

enjoy your week everyone!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage; Haruki Murakami

Knopf - Random House Audio
August - 2014

When I first heard about  Murakami's new novel, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, I admit that was a little put off by the title, but after finishing the book in just two days, I must say that afterward I felt the title was perfect. 

The story begins with the title character, Tsukuru Tazaki, in his 30's, depressed and contemplating suicide.

"From July of his sophomore year in college until the following January, all Tsukuru Tazaki could think about was dying.  He turned twenty during this time, but this special watershed--becoming an adult--meant nothing.  Taking his own life seemed the most natural solution, and even now he couldn't say why he hadn't taken this final step.  Crossing that threshold between life and death would have been easier than swallowing down a slick, raw egg.

Perhaps he didn't commit suicide then because he couldn't conceive of a method that fit the pure and intense feelings he had toward death.  But method was beside the point.  If there had been a door within reach that lead straight to death, he wouldn't have hesitated to push it open,without a second thought, as if it were just a part of ordinary life. For better or for worse, though, there was no such door nearby."

In his teens, Tsukuru Tazaki  formed a friendship with 4 other teens. 2 males and 2 females.  Of the group, he was the only one who did not have a "color" in his name.  While his friends were very good students, Tsukuru's grades were average. He wasn't a sport's fan, and really there wasn't anything special about him, his family, however, was the most affluent of the group. 
Since Tsukuru always had an interest in trains, when it came time for college, he went to Tokyo to study engineering, hoping to have a career designing train stations and railroads.

In the summer of his sophomore year when he returned home during his college break, he called his friends. One call, two calls, three calls and no response. Finally one of his former friends announces, "I'm sorry but don't call us."  Without explanation, he had been banished from the merry group of five. Somewhat insecure anyways, this event sends Tsukuru into a downward spiral making him feel even more insignificant than before.  He loses weight and his body begins to take on the look of someone much older.

Then one night after a strange dream changes everything. Tsukuru awoke from the dream feeling as if his dark days had disappeared, but he still had a "colorless" empty feeling that remained. He did the same things each day, but yet he felt different. Remaining in Tokyo a woman he is seeing, Kimoto Sara, suggests that to help him get on with his life, he needs to get some resolution to the traumatic event that still haunts him. She feels he has too much baggage that he needs to unload, and suggests he seek out his former friends and get to the bottom of why they ended their friendship with him.  Since Sara works at a travel agency, she helps him track down his friends, 16 years after the fact. He learns some startling things as he connects with them individually, except for one (who has died).

I really enjoyed this novel. It didn't feel as surreal as some of the author's other books, but it was fully engaging, and enjoyable.  A few erotic dreams, a conversation with a stranger that vanishes, all add to the mystique of the story.  The third person POV worked well, and, even though Tsukuru's former friends were less developed that I had hoped, I was glad that he was able to eventually connect with them, even though none of them were individuals I care for. Instead, for me, his reconnecting with these individuals was a reminder of how our early interactions and the cruelty of others can deeply scar us for life. I liked the way they author wrapped up this story with Tsukuru reflecting on his life, I was satisfied with the ending, but readers who like all the loose ends neatly tied might be a tad disappointed.

The narrative flowed extremely well with both the eBook and the audiobook thanks to great translation by Philip Gabriel. The audiobook reader, Bruce Locke was amazing as well.

Read it!  5/5 stars
(eGalley and audiobook)

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Coming Soon to a Book Store Near You; The Way Inn; Will Wiles

Here's my "Coming Soon to a Book Store Near You" pick for this week.  What do you think -- would you try it? I loved the debut novel by this author - Care of Wooden Floors - have you read it? 

The Way Inn; Will Wiles
September 16th - Harper Perennial


Up in the Air meets Inception in this smart, innovative, genre-synthesizing novel from the acclaimed author of Care of Wooden Floors—hailed as “Fawlty Towers crossed with Freud,” by the Daily Telegraph—that takes the polished surfaces of modern life, the branded coffee, and the free wifi, and twists them into a surrealistic nightmare of infinite proportions.

Neil Double is a “conference surrogate,” hired by his clients to attend industry conferences so that they don’t have to. It’s a life of budget travel, cheap suits, and out-of-town exhibition centers—a kind of paradise for Neil, who has reconstructed his incognito professional life into a toxic and selfish personal philosophy. But his latest job, at a conference of conference organizers, will radically transform him and everything he believes as it unexpectedly draws him into a bizarre and speculative mystery.

In a brand new Way Inn—a global chain of identikit mid-budget motels—in an airport hinterland, he meets a woman he has seen before in strange and unsettling circumstances. She hints at an astonishing truth about this mundane world filled with fake smiles and piped muzak. But before Neil can learn more, she vanishes. Intrigued, he tries to find her—a search that will lead him down the rabbit hole, into an eerily familiar place where he will discover a dark and disturbing secret about the Way Inn. Caught on a metaphysical Mobius strip, Neil discovers that there may be no way out.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Conditions of Love; Dale M. Kushner

The Conditions of Love; Dale M Kushner
Grand Central - 2014

The Conditions of Love, is a wonderful coming of age story which takes place in the 1950-60’s. The story begins in the little town of Wild Pea, Illinois, where young, Eunice lives with her self-centered, unpredictable, star-struck mother. Mern is a woman with her head in clouds, and obvious to the reader early on -- she’s just not “mother material”. Eunice must never call her mother “mom”, just Mern is acceptable. For Eunice life is lonely. She has few friends and although she has met her father, he took off before she ever got a chance to know him. Eunice learns at an early age that love and the people you love, can slip away without warning.

With little stability in Eunice’s life, Mern adds even more uncertainty to the mix by moving them to a new town in Wisconsin. Soon after they settle there a flood devastates their lives separating mother and daughter. While Mern heads off to California without really looking for her daughter,  Eunice is found and is taken in by a kind but somewhat odd woman named Rose.
Rose is a woman who lives off the grid in a rundown cabin that lacks even basic electricity. Rose cares about Eunice and she nurtures her love of nature, and shares with her the wisdom of her years. For Eunice, however, her search for love and stability does not end when Rose comes to her rescue, there are a few more hurdles she must face, yet her resilience in difficult times keeps her strong.
Most every significant event in this novel came alive on the page as I read.  It stirred a lot of emotion in me. It was easy for me to root for Eunice given all she had been through. I could relate to her love of animals and the unconditional love she felt being surrounded by them, whether it be a fox, a sheep, a turtle or a  more domestic animal like a  parakeet or dog. She wasn’t sure which humans she could trust or who would abandon her if she got too close.

The Conditions of Love is a terrific literary novel that left a big impression.The novel was so well written that the story never felt depressing despite the numerous disappointments Eunice faced along the way to adulthood. The characters had depth and were intriguing, and I liked the fact that there were two male characters who genuinely cared about Eunice -- Mr. Tabachnik, a neighbor, and Sam, one of her mother’s short-termed boyfriends.  There is no fast-paced action with this story, yet it was a story that held my interest throughout, Eunice is the star through and through. I enjoyed watching her mature from a young child to a young woman over a period of about 9 years. Readers who enjoy coming of age stories with substance will enjoy the debut novel.

5/5 stars


First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage; Haruki Murakami

Every Tuesday I host First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where I share the first paragraph or (a few) of a book I am reading or thinking about reading soon. [I'm Participating in a Read Along hosted by Dolce Bellezza].

Knopf - August 12, 2014

Chapter 1

"From July of his sophomore year in college until the following January, all Tsukuru Tazaki could think about was dying.  He turned twenty during this time, but this special watershed--becoming an adult--meant nothing.  Taking his own life seemed the most natural solution, and even now he couldn't say why he hadn't taken this final step.  Crossing that threshold between life and death would have been easier than swallowing down a slick, raw egg.

Perhaps he didn't commit suicide then because he couldn't conceive of a method that fit the pure and intense feelings he had toward death.  But method was beside the point.  If there had been a door within reach that lead straight to death, he wouldn't have hesitated to push it open,without a second thought, as if it were just a part of ordinary life. For better or for worse, though, there was no such door nearby."
What do you think? Would you read more? I just started this one and I think it's going to be a good one.

Feel free to join in and post the Intro from one of your reads by linking your post below. 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

New Books and Babies

How was your week for books everyone?  It seemed like I got more reading time in this week than I usually do -- mostly because I got to listen to a couple of audio books at work (not completely), but was at least 14 hours worth between 2 books -- California; E. Lepucki and All Fall Down; Jennifer Weiner.  I'm reserving my comments until I'm done.  I also finished, The Conditions of Love; Dale Kushner (which I loved but need to review) and The Marrying of Chani Kaufman; Eve Harris (very good - need to review).

In progress is The Story Hour; Thrity Umrigar and Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage; Murakami.

These are the new books that arrived by mail last week.

Happy Reading!
I thought I'd share a couple pictures of our littlest bookworms
(6) weeks and (3) months
Have a Great Week!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Girls From Corona del Mar; Rufi Thorpe

Knopf - July - 2014

The Girls From Corona del Mar is a novel about friendship that spans a period of about 20 years. At the heart of the story is Mia and Lorrie Ann who meet in elementary school. Their early friendship was all fun and laughter, their teen years (mostly) typical of teen girls: sun tans, boys, shopping, and blonder hair. The girls had a lot in common despite being very different in personality and family background.

Mia's mom drinks too much and Mia resents the fact that she is left to care for her younger brothers. Where Mia is inconsiderate of others, Lorrie Ann is sweet and gentle. Lorrie Ann is also beautiful, and she seems to have the "perfect" family as well.  She's the girl in high school many of us were jealous of. She's the one you'd expect to have nothing but good luck and success follow her at every turn, but quite the opposite happens.

Mia is the one that make's something of her life. She goes off to Yale and later finds a loving partner as well. She travels to far and wide, but she never forgets the friend she made early in life.  Lorrie's life becomes a series of tragic events, one after another, and while some people are made stronger by adversity, Lorrie fell apart. Her life quickly begins to spiral out of control.  When the two meet as adults, Lorrie shows up unexpectedly,  Mia wonders if she really knew or understood her long time friend at all.

It’s a beautifully written story, with fully fleshed characters. The writing is detailed and vivid and the images created are difficult to forget. Lot's of bad things happen to some of us in life, and this is that kind of story. It's a dark and gritty and it touches on some controversial subjects like abortion, disability and drug addiction. Although this book will not appeal to everyone, those who try it will remember it long after the final page is turned.

Rebecca Lowman narrated the audio version and did a good job. 

4/5 stars 
(audio and eGalley)

Coming Soon to a Book Store Near You; The Children Act; Ian McEwan

Here's my "Coming Soon to a Book Store Near You" pick for this week.  What do you think about this novel -- would you try it? 

The Children Act; Ian McEwan
Nan Talese - Sept 2014

Fiona Maye is a leading High Court judge who presides over cases in the family court. She is renowned for her fierce intelligence, exactitude, and sensitivity. But her professional success belies private sorrow and domestic strife. There is the lingering regret of her childlessness, and now her marriage of thirty years is in crisis.

At the same time, she is called on to try an urgent case: Adam, a beautiful seventeen-year-old boy, is refusing for religious reasons the medical treatment that could save his life, and his devout parents echo his wishes. Time is running out. Should the secular court overrule sincerely expressed faith? In the course of reaching a decision, Fiona visits Adam in the hospital—and encounter that stirs long-buried feelings in her and powerful new emotions in the boy. Her judgment has momentous consequences for them both.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Mr. Mercedes; Stephen King

 Mr. Mercedes; Stephen King
Simon & Schuster Audio - June - 2014

In Mr. Mercedes, Stephen King hooks his readers early on.  Picture the scene - hoards of people in line, waiting for the doors to open for a job fair in an economically depressed mid-west town -- I'm picturing somewhere in Ohio. People are making small talk to pass the time when a crazed psycho sees a chance to get his kicks.  The nutcase behind the wheel of a stolen "Mercedes" plows the vehicle into the crowd. Several dead, many injured, some maimed. The driver disappears, but he's not going away that easily.

The "Mercedes" driver is 30-something, Barry Hartsfield, a computer savvy loser who works fixing computers and also drives an ice cream truck. He's never had a girlfriend, lives with his doting, alcoholic mother and, she has more than few screws loose herself.

Hartsfield, still roaming free becomes brazen and begins corresponding with the now retired detective from the case, Bill Hodges. He sends Hodges a letter and continues to taunt him back into action in a game of cat and mouse.

There were several things I liked about this SK novel -- no real horror or gore, a great hook at the beginning to keep you reading/listening, and the fact that we are told who the "Mercedes" driver was early on. I loved how disturbed and creepy King made Brady and his mother feel and there was a good amount of tension at times as well. King also did a decent job fleshing out the ancillary characters --including the "Mercedes" owner. I wasn't thrilled with the very brief romantic relationship written into the story. It seemed kind of unnecessary to me. 

Overall, I'd say this story did live up to the hype that was created. The audio version, read by Will Patton, was very well done.  Readers who enjoy a good cat and mouse story should try Mr. Mercedes -- the first of a trilogy.

4/5 stars 
(audio book)

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - The Girls From Corona del Mar; Rufi Thorpe

Every Tuesday I host First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where I share the first paragraph or (a few) of a book I am reading or thinking about reading soon. Care to join us? Here goes..... (my friend and I use to do the exact same thing with the lemon juice when we were teens...many, many, many years ago)
Rufi Thorpe - 2014 - Knopf/Random House


The Best Tea in the World

"You're going to have to break one of my toes, I explained. Lorrie Ann and I were sunning ourselves, in the tiny, fenced-in patio of my mother's house on thin towels laid directly over the hot, cracked pavement.  We had squeezed a plastic lemon from the supermarket into our hair and were praying to be blonder, always blonder, our eyes closed against the sun. There was jasmine on the wind."

What do you think? Would you read more? I just started this one and I'm enjoying it so far.

Feel free to join in and post the Intro from one of your reads and link below. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Elizabeth is Missing; Emma Healey

Elizabeth is Missing; Emma Healey
Harper - June 2014

Maud Horsham is an elderly woman with dementia who is desperate to find her friend Elizabeth, who she believes is missing and in danger. She tries to make her daughter Helen, granddaughter, Katy, her doctor and even the police realize the urgency in finding Elizabeth. Maud seems certain about her friend's disappearance, despite reassurances by others to the contrary -- this from a woman who sometimes doesn't recognize her own family.  No matter how much she tries to let go of her obsession about her friend's well-being, she cannot let it pass.

As the reader, I found Maud to be a compelling and likeable character. I found myself anxiously turning the pages trying to find out what's the real deal with Elizabeth? The story takes the reader on a journey back to Maud's traumatic childhood, WWII era, when her sister Sukey went missing and was never found. Maud's memory of those younger days, particularly during the time when her sister Sukey went missing seemed crystal clear.

I found Maud to be my favorite kind of narrator -- sympathetic and yet unreliable. As the storyline moved from present to past and back again, some events seemed confused and unclear, just like Maud's mind. I enjoyed reading about the spirited, feisty Maud in her youth, as much as the confused, anxious woman in her declining years. What could have been a sad story, given the dementia factor,  actually had me smiling from time to time, but yet the author never pokes fun at the seriousness of dementia either. 

Elizabeth is Missing is a terrific debut novel that kept me guessing as I read. There were even a few twists that were quite unexpected.  Readers who enjoy psychological mysteries will enjoy this one. Emma Healey is a talented new voice to watch for moving forward.

4.5/5 stars
(eGalley and audio download)

Davina Porter narrates the audio version and did a terrific job.