Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday

This meme is 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.

Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin.

The book is being released by Algonquin Books on August 22, 2017.

Amazon says this about the book: From the author of the international bestseller The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry comes another novel that will have everyone talking.

Aviva Grossman, an ambitious congressional intern in Florida, makes the mistake of having an affair with her boss--and blogging about it. When the affair comes to light, the beloved congressman doesn’t take the fall. But Aviva does, and her life is over before it hardly begins: slut-shamed, she becomes a late-night talk show punch line, anathema to politics.

She sees no way out but to change her name and move to a remote town in Maine. This time, she tries to be smarter about her life and strives to raise her daughter, Ruby, to be strong and confident. But when, at the urging of others, Aviva decides to run for public office herself, that long-ago mistake trails her via the Internet and catches up--an inescapable scarlet A. In the digital age, the past is never, ever, truly past. And it’s only a matter of time until Ruby finds out who her mother was and is forced to reconcile that person with the one she knows.

Young Jane Young is a smart, funny, and moving novel about what it means to be a woman of any age, and captures not just the mood of our recent highly charged political season, but also the double standards alive and well in every aspect of life for women.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Review: Whispering in French by Sophia Nash

Family can be the source of great joy but also great frustration and we don’t always know what we want to do with the history and legacy they place on our shoulders. Sometimes we think we know and sometimes we feel as if we have no choice, even when that choice is a hard and painful one. Kate Hamilton, in Sophia Nash’s new novel, Whispering in French, is faced with just such a painful task when she goes back to France at her mother’s behest to try and convince her elderly grandfather to sell the ancient, crumbling family villa.

Kate is half French and half American and she hasn’t been to France in years. A psychologist, she is considered the practical one in the family despite the shambles her own life is in. She’s left a terrible marriage and her teenaged daughter is estranged from her but it seems her most pressing problem is getting her grandfather Jean to agree to sell Madeleine Marie, the birthright of the Du Roque family for generations, perched precariously on a seaside cliff above a Basque village.  To the locals, although Kate's mother Antoinette grew up there, Kate is not quite considered “one of them” but an American and an outsider. She's not just an outsider in the town though, she's an outsider in her own life, unable or unwilling to look inside her own heart to find the woman behind the professional mask. As she tries to figure out the financial situation and navigate her family, her own guilt, and the bureaucracy of the town, she consults with Magdali, the loyal and trusted housekeeper with whom Kate once played as a child, and counsels the nephew of a long-time neighbor. Major Soames is a former soldier suffering from PTSD and shutting his family out of his life. His conversations with Kate (he's not really a patient) eventually lead her to face her own demons and to risk taking her own mask off.

The novel is told in the first person so that the reader really sees Kate’s insecurities and avoidance techniques. She even addresses the reader early on and acknowledges that this is a story she’s telling, an odd choice since the narration never breaks this wall again. In addition to Kate's telling of the story, there are brief "Whispers From the Garden" chapters interspersed into the narrative and these are focused mainly on an anthropomorphic hedgehog and cat. These chapters feel completely out of place, cutesy, and rather twee, even if the cat is necessary to the plot much later in the book. There are many plot threads here and more are added as the novel progresses but this constant addition of new and unexpected story lines, including surprising revelations about Kate's family, means that several of them are not developed terribly deeply. The main thread, though, is that of Kate's opening up and embracing risk while coming to know her true self, allowing that self to shine. Given the slow pacing of the novel, it takes rather a long time for her to get there, but get there she does. The general story is an interesting one but the ending feels unrealistic and unresolved although interestingly it does circle back to the otherwise seemingly unrelated prologue and the first chapter. Despite these flaws, Kate's transformation and the setting of the novel are both satisfying. I didn't like this as much as I'd hoped (especially as I've enjoyed Nash's Regency set historical romances) but it was a fine way to spend a couple of hours of reading time.

For more information about Sophia Nash and the book, check out her website, like her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter. Check out the book's Goodreads page, follow the rest of the blog tour, or look at the amazon reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.

Thanks to Trish from TLC Book Tours and Harper Collins for sending me a copy of this book to review.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday

This meme is 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.

How to Behave in a Crowd by Camille Bordas.

The book is being released by Tim Duggan Books on August 15, 2017.

Amazon says this about the book: An absorbing, darkly comedic novel that brilliantly evokes the confusions of adolescence and marks the arrival of an extraordinary young talent.

Isidore Mazal is eleven years old, the youngest of six siblings living in a small French town. He doesn't quite fit in. Berenice, Aurore, and Leonard are on track to have doctorates by age twenty-four. Jeremie performs with a symphony, and Simone, older than Isidore by eighteen months, expects a great career as a novelist--she's already put Isidore to work on her biography. The only time they leave their rooms is to gather on the old, stained couch and dissect prime-time television dramas in light of Aristotle's Poetics.

Isidore has never skipped a grade or written a dissertation. But he notices things the others don't, and asks questions they fear to ask. So when tragedy strikes the Mazal family, Isidore is the only one to recognize how everyone is struggling with their grief, and perhaps the only one who can help them—if he doesn't run away from home first.

Isidore’s unstinting empathy, combined with his simmering anger, makes for a complex character study, in which the elegiac and comedic build toward a heartbreaking conclusion. With How to Behave in a Crowd, Camille Bordas immerses readers in the interior life of a boy puzzled by adulthood and beginning to realize that the adults around him are just as lost.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Review: Make Trouble by John Waters

The printed and illustrated version of Water's 2015 graduation address at RISD, this slight work is full of motivational snippets, advice to the newly graduated, and a call to, as the title implores, "make trouble." Most people know of Waters' work either in movies or writing and so they won't be surprised by much of his advice, unless they are surprised at how safe much but not all of it is, nor by his take on the state of the world in 2015, but there are still surprising bits as befits his reputation as a rebel. As a gift book aimed at graduates (it came out in time to give it to all your favorite students moving into the real world), it's a quick and easy read as well as a good reminder to all of us that while we have to live in the world as it is, we should never stop striving to make it a world as we want it to be.

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

Monday, August 7, 2017

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is hosted by Kathryn at Reading Date.

Books I completed this past week are:

The Dress in the Window by Sofia Grant
So Much Blue by Perceval Everett
Good Karma by Christina Kelly
Lift And Separate by Marilyn Simon Rothstein
The Velveteen Daughter by Laurel Davis Huber

Bookmarks are still living in the middle of:

A Well-Made Bed by Abby Frucht and Laurie Alberts
The Children's Crusade by Ann Packer
The Lake House by Kate Morton
Shelter by Jung Yun
The Center of the World by Jacqueline Sheehan
A Manual For Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin
The Beauty of the End by Debbie Howells
Country of Red Azaleas by Domnica Radulescu
A Hard and Heavy Thing by Matthew J. Hefti
Paint Your Wife by Lloyd Jones
The Company They Kept edited by Robert B. Silvers and Barbara Epstein
No One Can Pronounce My Name by Rakesh Satyal
Lily and the Octopus by Stephen Rowley
Thousand-Miler by Melanie Radzicki McManus
Dear Fang, With Love by Rufi Thorpe
Close Enough to Touch by Colleen Oakley
America's First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie
Hope Has Two Daughters by Monia Mazigh
After the Bloom by Leslie Shimotakahara
Metis Beach by Claudine Bourbonnais
The Clay Girl by Heather Tucker
The Velveteen Daughter by Laurel David Huber

Reviews posted this week:

The Dress in the Window by Sofia Grant
Lift And Separate by Marilyn Simon Rothstein

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

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso
Breaking Up Is Hard to Do But You Could've Done Better by Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell
To Love the Coming End by Leanne Dunic
Make Trouble by John Waters
The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman by Denis Theriault
A Loving, Faithful Animal by Josephine Rowe
City Mouse by Stacey Lender
Cutting Back by Leslie Buck
Siracusa by Delia Ephron
The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress by Ariel Lawhon
A Narrow Bridge by J.J. Gersher
The Never-Open Desert Diner by James Anderson
The Heart of Henry Quantum by Pepper Harding
The Hearts of Men by Nickolas Butler
Dance of the Jakaranda by Peter Kimani
How to Survive a Summer by Nick White
Bramton Wick by Elizabeth Fair
The Finishing School by Joanna Goodman
Meet Me in the In-Between by Bella Pollen
All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg
The Island of Books by Dominique Fortier
Lights On, Rats Out by Cree LeFavour
Salt Houses by Hala Alyan
Him, Me, Muhammad Ali by Randa Jarrar
What Are the Blind Men Dreaming? by Noemi Jaffee
Girl in Snow by Danya Kukafka
The Lying Game by Ruth Ware
The Talker by Mary Sojourner
When the Sky Fell Apart by Caroline Lea
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
'Round Midnight by Laura McBride
The German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa
The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See
The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen A. Flynn
Last Things by Marissa Moss
All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai
Civilianized by Michael Anthony
The Redemption of Galen Pike by Carys Davies
Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki
In the Woods of Memory by Shun Medoruma
Before the Wind by Jim Lynch
Dinner with Edward by Isabel Vincent
Inhabited by Charlie Quimby
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
One Good Mama Bone by Bren McClain
The Excellent Lombards by Jane Hamilton
The Long Run by Catriona Menzies-Pike
You and I and Someone Else by Anna Schachner
Meantime by Katharine Noel
The Portrait by Antoine Laurain
So Much Blue by Perceval Everett
Good Karma by Christina Kelly
The Velveteen Daughter by Laurel Davis Huber

Friday, August 4, 2017

Review: Lift And Separate by Marilyn Simon Rothstein

We've all heard the statistics that 50% of marriages end in divorce and even though that number has never actually been true, its widespread acceptance in pop culture makes us unsurprised when we hear that someone we know is getting a divorce. In actual fact, the statistic is quite complicated and is quite low for people who have been married for a long time (roughly 35 years or more). Perhaps it is this that makes us more surprised when a long time marriage fails ccoupled with the idea that the couple has presumably been through so much and weathered it together. So it makes sense that only something huge like infidelity will drive them apart. This is the case in Marilyn Simon Rothstein's surprisingly humorous and empowering novel of a woman whose husband leaves her after 33 years of marriage.

Marcy and Harvey Hammer have been married for a long time. They have three grown children. Marcy has always tried to be a good, conscientious wife, helping her beloved Harvey with Bountiful Bosom, the family lingerie company, volunteering, and working part time at a local arts charity. She has put everyone else in her life first, only carving things out for herself last. But this is how she likes it; at least this is how she thinks she likes it until Harvey calls home one day and announces that he's leaving her. Eventually he admits that he's been having an affair with a 22 year old Argentinian bra fitting model and suddenly Marcy is living a cliche. As her marriage is falling to pieces, she also has to deal with her own oldest daughter's affair with a married man and her aging mother's devastating fall and sudden illness. She can hardly decide how she's going to handle Harvey and his infidelity when it's all she can do to handle the other curveballs that life is throwing her. While she works through her feelings about her husband and faces the other crises in her life, she meets Candy, a new friend juggling many of the same disasters that Marcy is but whose much appreciated connection to Marcy might be threatened.

The reader can't help but feel sorry for Marcy. She's invested everything in being a wife and mother and all of a sudden she is no longer the first and isn't needed daily as the second. Her search for who she is besides these two things drives much of the novel.  It is incredibly realistic in Marcy's waffling back and forth on whether or not she can take Harvey back, whether she can forgive him, and most importantly, if she wants to do either of those things and that is sometimes frustrating but always forgivable.  Often conflicted about her needs and wants in her new reality, Marcy is a funny and sarcastic character.  She manages to maintain a charity of spirit towards her husband, even when she is most hurting, that is lovely but not too self-effacing to be believed. The secondary characters around her are entertaining, quirky, and realistic and add a satisfying depth to the story. The plot clips along at a good pace and the writing is smooth. There is a lot of humor here but there's also a thoughtfulness and a poignancy about the end of a long marriage that takes the novel beyond the superficial. It is a fast and appealing read as the reader roots for Marcy, wonders just what decision she'll ultimately make about Harvey, and no matter what her choice, watches her become the fully rounded and fulfilled woman she should be. Recommended fun.

For more information about Marilyn Simon Rothstein and the book, like her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter. Check out the book's Goodreads page, follow the rest of the blog tour, or look at the amazon reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.

Thanks to Lisa from TLC Book Tours and the author for sending me a copy of this book to review.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday

This meme is 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.

How to Change a Life by Stacey Ballis.

The book is being released by Berkley on August 15, 2017.

Amazon says this about the book: A dare between friends leads to startling revelations and simmering tensions in the latest novel from the author of Wedding Girl.

Eloise is happy with her life as a successful private chef. She has her clients, her corgi, and a recipe for the world’s most perfect chocolate cream pie. What more could she need? But when her long-lost trio of high school friends reunites, Eloise realizes how lonely she really is.

Eloise, Lynne, and Teresa revamp their senior-class assignment and dare one another to create a list of things to accomplish by the time they each turn forty in a few months. Control freak Lynne has to get a dog, Teresa has to spice up her marriage, and Eloise has to start dating again.

Enter Shawn, a hunky ex-athlete and the first man Eloise could see herself falling for. Suddenly forty doesn’t seem so lonely—until a chance encounter threatens the budding romance and reveals the true colors of her friends. Will the bucket listers make it to forty still speaking to one another? Or do some friendships come with an expiration date?

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Review: The Dress in the Window by Sofia Grant

History books record the fact that World War II allowed women to enter the workplace, replacing all of the young men who went off to fight in Europe and the Pacific but far less frequently do they address how women survived the hard aftermath of war, especially those women whose husbands, fiances, or sons didn't come home or only came home in flag-draped coffins. With so many men home from the war, women's professional options were limited and what was available was appallingly low paid, even for those women who desperately needed jobs to support themselves and their families.  So many of these all female households struggled to stay one step ahead of their bills. Sofia Grant's novel, The Dress in the Window, is the story of one such family, determined to survive and eventually to thrive.

Sisters Jeanne and Peggy live with Peggy's mother-in-law and Peggy's young daughter in a poor mill town just outside of Philadelphia. Their life is not one that any of them once imagined. Jeanne's fiance and Peggy's husband both died in the war and with their own parents dead, they had no choice but to move in with the widowed Thelma. The three women scrimp to make ends meet as they collectively raise little Tommie, born after her father's death in Europe. The sisters work together, Peggy drawing dress designs and Jeanne sewing the dresses, to sell to better off women in their small community, helping to supplement their meager income. Both of them have a talent for fashion but although they are working together and love each other dearly, they still harbor long standing resentments about each other, resentments that sometimes cause them to lie and keep secrets, both large and small. Thelma also has secrets and as she chooses to divulge them (or not), her relationships with each of the sisters changes. All three women, working together or for themselves, are survivors, having endured so much loss, and each of them wants a chance to chase her own dreams in the world of fashion and the world of fabric but how they each go about reaching for their dreams might tear them apart forever.

The third person narration's focus rotates mainly amongst Thelma, Peggy, and Jeanne but young Tommie has a small bit towards the end as well. This allows the reader to see not only the choices each character makes but to understand those choices and the impact they have on each of the other characters. By moving between characters, the reader can see the conflicts coming long before the characters do and can find sympathy for all positions. Jeanne and Peggy are very realistic as sisters, bound together by a deep love for each other but also prone to jealousy and rivalry. They are quite different from one another and their way of going about achieving their professional dreams highlights that. Calling attention to not only the changing roles of women in the late 40s and early 50s, the novel also chronicles the much appreciated changes in fashion from wartime austerity to abundance and show, a reimagining that showcases not just fashion but an attitude shift of an entire nation. Grant taps into the new spirit pervading the country after the war, branding practical America as innovative and new through the struggles and rise of the sisters. The pacing of the novel is pretty consistent. As each secret is revealed, something else happens to take its place and to keep the reader turning pages.  This is a domestic and family drama as much as it is a picture of society's changing place for women.  The ending is a bit abrupt and the epilogue allows for a glossing over of some of the unresolved plot threads but in general this is a quick and pleasing read. Historical fiction lovers and those with an interest in fashion and the industry as a whole will enjoy the well researched details and the sisters who found a way into this male dominated world.

For more information about Sofia Grant and the book, check out her website, like her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter, or follow her on Instagram. Check out the book's Goodreads page, follow the rest of the blog tour, or look at the amazon reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.

Thanks to Lisa from TLC Book Tours and Harper Collins for sending me a copy of this book to review.

Popular Posts