Monday, August 3, 2015

Mailbox Monday - New Books


A nice week in new books thanks to various publishers. I have no idea which to read first, have you read any of these yet?



  • The Night Sister; Jennifer McMahon (Doubleday) --The latest novel from New York Times best-selling author Jennifer McMahon is an atmospheric, gripping, and suspenseful tale that probes the bond between sisters and the peril of keeping secrets.
         Once the thriving attraction of rural Vermont, the Tower Motel now stands in disrepair, alive only in the memories of Amy, Piper, and Piper's kid sister, Margot. The three played there as girls until the day that their games uncovered something dark and twisted in the motel's past, something that ruined their friendship forever. 
         Now adult, Piper and Margot have tried to forget what they found that fateful summer, but their lives are upended when Piper receives a panicked midnight call from Margot, with news of a horrific crime for which Amy stands accused. Suddenly, Margot and Piper are forced to relive the time that they found the suitcase that once belonged to Silvie Slater, the aunt that Amy claimed had run away to Hollywood to live out her dream of becoming Hitchcock's next blonde bombshell leading lady. As Margot and Piper investigate, a cleverly woven plot unfolds—revealing the story of Sylvie and Rose, two other sisters who lived at the motel during its 1950s heyday. Each believed the other to be something truly monstrous, but only one carries the secret that would haunt the generations to come.
  • Bright Lines; Tanwi Nandini Islam (Penguin) -- Long-listed for the 2015 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize 

    A wonderful debut. . . . The beauty of this novel is that it perfectly merges fascinating narrative, honest characters, and the rich history and culture of Bangladesh with the juxtaposition of Bangladesh’s past and future and of that country with America, adding to the reading pleasure.” —Library Journal (starred review)

    A vibrant debut novel, set in Brooklyn and Bangladesh, follows three young women and one family struggling to make peace with secrets and their past


    For as long as she can remember, Ella has longed to feel at home. Orphaned as a child after her parents’ murder, and afflicted with hallucinations at dusk, she’s always felt more at ease in nature than with people. She traveled from Bangladesh to Brooklyn to live with the Saleems: her uncle Anwar, aunt Hashi, and their beautiful daughter, Charu, her complete opposite. One summer, when Ella returns home from college, she discovers Charu’s friend Maya—an Islamic cleric’s runaway daughter—asleep in her bedroom. 
     
    As the girls have a summer of clandestine adventure and sexual awakenings, Anwar—owner of a popular botanical apothecary—has his own secrets, threatening his thirty-year marriage. But when tragedy strikes, the Saleems find themselves blamed. To keep his family from unraveling, Anwar takes them on a fated trip to Bangladesh, to reckon with the past, their extended family, and each other.
  • The Last Pilot; Benjamin Johncock (Picador) --"Harrison sat very still. On the screen was the surface of the moon."

  • Jim Harrison is a test pilot in the United States Air Force, one of the exalted few. He spends his days cheating death in the skies above the Mojave Desert and his nights at his friend Pancho's bar, often with his wife, Grace. She and Harrison are secretly desperate for a child-and when, against all odds, Grace learns that she is pregnant, the two are overcome with joy.
    While America becomes swept up in the fervor of the Space Race, Harrison turns his attention home, passing up the chance to become an astronaut to welcome his daughter, Florence, into the world. Together, he and Grace confront the thrills and challenges of raising a child head-on. Fatherhood is different than flying planes-less controlled, more anxious-however the pleasures of watching Florence grow are incomparable. But when his family is faced with a sudden and inexplicable tragedy, Harrison's instincts as a father and a pilot are put to test. As a pilot, he feels compelled to lead them through it-and as a father, he fears that he has fallen short.
    The aftermath will haunt the Harrisons and strain their marriage as Jim struggles under the weight of his decisions. Beginning when the dust of the Second World War has only just begun to settle and rushing onward into the Sixties, Benjamin Johncock traces the path of this young couple as they are uprooted by events much larger than themselves. The turns the Harrisons take together are at once astonishing and recognizable; their journey, both frightening and full of hope. Set against the backdrop of one of the most emotionally charged periods in American history, The Last Pilot is a mesmerizing debut novel of loss and finding courage in the face of it from an extraordinary new talent.
  • Unprocessed; Megan Kimble (William Morrow) --In the tradition of Michael Pollan’s bestselling In Defense of Food comes this remarkable chronicle, from a founding editor of Edible Baja Arizona, of a young woman’s year-long journey of eating only whole, unprocessed foods—intertwined with a journalistic exploration of what “unprocessed” really means, why it matters, and how to afford it.
  • In January of 2012, Megan Kimble was a twenty-six-year-old living in a small apartment without even a garden plot to her name. But she cared about where food came from, how it was made, and what it did to her body: so she decided to go an entire year without eating processed foods. Unprocessed is the narrative of Megan’s extraordinary year, in which she milled wheat, extracted salt from the sea, milked a goat, slaughtered a sheep, and more—all while earning an income that fell well below the federal poverty line.
    What makes a food processed? As Megan would soon realize, the answer to that question went far beyond cutting out snacks and sodas, and became a fascinating journey through America’s food system, past and present. She learned how wheat became white; how fresh produce was globalized and animals industrialized. But she also discovered that in daily life, as she attempted to balance her project with a normal social life—which included dating—the question of what made a food processed was inextricably tied to gender and economy, politics and money, work and play.
    Backed by extensive research and wide-ranging interviews—and including tips on how to ditch processed food and transition to a real-food lifestyle—Unprocessed offers provocative insights not only on the process of food, but also the processes that shape our habits, communities, and day-to-day lives.
  • Thirteen Guests; J. Farjeon  (Poison Pen Press) --“No observer, ignorant of the situation, would have guessed that death lurked nearby, and that only a little distance from the glitter of silver and glass and the hum of voices, two victims lay silent on a studio floor.” On a fine autumn weekend, Lord Aveling hosts a hunting party at his country house, Bragley Court. Among the guests are an actress, a journalist, an artist, and a mystery novelist. The unlucky thirteenth is John Foss, injured at the local train station and brought to the house to recuperate – but John is nursing a secret of his own. Soon events take a sinister turn when a painting is mutilated, a dog stabbed, and a man strangled. Death strikes more than one of the house guests, and the police are called. Detective Inspector Kendall’s skills are tested to the utmost as he tries to uncover the hidden past of everyone at Bragley Court. This country-house mystery is a forgotten classic of 1930s crime fiction by one of the most undeservedly neglected of golden age detective novelists.
  • Orphan # 8; Kim van Alkemade (William Morrow) --A stunning debut novel in the vein of Sarah Waters’ historical fiction and inspired by true events, it tells the fascinating story of a woman who must choose between revenge and mercy when she encounters the doctor who subjected her to dangerous medical experiments in a New York City Jewish orphanage.
  • In 1919, Rachel Rabinowitz is a vivacious four-year-old living with her family in a crowded tenement on New York City’s Lower Eastside. When tragedy strikes, Rachel is separated from her brother Sam and sent to a Jewish orphanage where Dr. Mildred Solomon is conducting medical research. Subjected to X-ray treatments that leave her disfigured, Rachel suffers years of cruel harassment from the other orphans. But when she turns fifteen, she runs away to Colorado hoping to find the brother she lost and discovers a family she never knew she had.
    Though Rachel believes she’s shut out her painful childhood memories, years later she is confronted with her dark past when she becomes a nurse at Manhattan’s Old Hebrews Home and her patient is none other than the elderly, cancer-stricken Dr. Solomon. Rachel becomes obsessed with making Dr. Solomon acknowledge, and pay for, her wrongdoing. But each passing hour Rachel spends with the old doctor reveal to Rachel the complexities of her own nature. She realizes that a person’s fate—to be one who inflicts harm or one who heals—is not always set in stone.
    Lush in historical detail, rich in atmosphere and based on true events, Orphan #8 is a powerful, affecting novel of the unexpected choices we are compelled to make that can shape our destinies.
  • Newport; Jill Morrow (William Morrow) -- Following in the steps of Beatriz Williams and Amor Towles, this richly atmospheric, spellbinding novel transports readers to the dazzling, glamorous world of Newport during the Roaring Twenties and to a mansion filled with secrets as a debonair lawyer must separate truth from deception.
  • Spring 1921. The Great War is over, Prohibition is in full swing, the Depression still years away, and Newport, Rhode Island's glittering “summer cottages” are inhabited by the gloriously rich families who built them.
    Attorney Adrian De la Noye is no stranger to Newport, having sheltered there during his misspent youth. Though he’d prefer to forget the place, he returns to revise the will of a well-heeled client. Bennett Chapman's offspring have the usual concerns about their father's much-younger fiancée. But when they learn of the old widower’s firm belief that his first late wife, who “communicates” via séance, has chosen the beautiful Catherine Walsh for him, they’re shocked. And for Adrian, encountering Catherine in the last place he saw her decades ago proves to be a far greater surprise.
    Still, De la Noye is here to handle a will, and he fully intends to do so—just as soon as he unearths every last secret, otherworldly or not, about the Chapmans, Catherine Walsh . . . and his own very fraught history.
    A skillful alchemy of social satire, dark humor, and finely drawn characters, Newport vividly brings to life the glitzy era of the 1920s.
  • The World is a Wedding; Wendy Jones (Europa) --Set in 1926, two years after the end of The Thoughts and Happenings of Wilfred Price, Purveyor of Superior Funerals, Wendy Jones’ The World is a Wedding finds Wilfred Price married to Flora Myfanwy and trying to be the perfect husband. His efforts only intensify when he learns that Flora is expecting. But something doesn’t feel right to Flora: she doesn’t feel at home. Meanwhile, Grace (to whom Wilfred was very briefly married before he met Flora) has fled Narberth for London, trying to escape what has happened to her and the secret she carries because of it. But secrets are not so easily escaped—and Grace’s will affect Wilfred and Flora, too.
     
    A sophisticated comedy of manners, The World is a Wedding captures life in a small town in Wales and explores the complexities of marriage, motherhood, and masculinity and femininity with equal wit and insight.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Summerlong; Dean Bakopoulos

Summerlong; Dean Bakopolus
ECCO - 2015

"There was another life that I might have had, but I am having this one" ---Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go

Summerlong begins with Don Lowry, a 38 year old real estate agent who is struggling to keep his wife Claire, and two young children afloat in the midst of the 2008 recession. One day while out taking his daily walk he sees a women sprawled out in the meadow and he isn't sure whether she is in trouble so goes to her rescue----an his trouble begins. Her name is Amelia Benitez-Coors (AKA --ABC).

ABC is sexy, beautiful and emotionally fragile. She a graduate of Grinnel College in Iowa where the story takes place, and is caring for an aging, pot-smoking woman by the name of Ruth Manetti. ABC is also contemplating suicide, but as the story progresses it's clear Don can't stay away from her.

Claire, Don's wife, is also 38, has her own issues. She met Don in college and fell in love. She misses NYC and has never adjusted to life in Iowa.  A frustrated woman and former writer, she's lost her sense of self since moving to Iowa and having children. She's ripe for something or someone to put a spark back into her life.

Charlie Gulliver is an actor who has returned to Iowa to settle the affairs of his aging father. His father was a former professor and known womanizer at Grinnel. He also has eyes on both Claire and ABC.

Summerlong is a story about midlife, marriage, fidelity, aging and regrets. It's a story that will have some readers reassessing the strengths and weaknesses in their own relationships. I think it's a book that most readers will be able to relate to in some way.

The most interesting thing about this story was the way the author revealed the internal conflicts of each of the well-developed and memorable characters.  I found myself feeling sorry for a few of the characters --even Claire, a sometimes neglectful mother who just lost her sense of self after marriage and children.  Summerlong is well written, gives you plenty to think about and would make a great choice for book club discussions. Recommended.

4.5/5 stars
(eGalley)


July Books in Review - August Plans


July was a decent reading month for me. I read (13) books - (2) were non fiction, (2) audios, (2) children's books, (4) eBooks and most surprisingly (7) were library books. Since I stopped working I now hit the library twice a week instead of once every two weeks. While I think the library system we have is excellent, it doesn't help me to read more from my own shelves.

Here's what I read in July, and except for a a couple of the books, most were very very good.
  1. Creatures of A Day and Other Tales of Psychotherapy; Irvin Yalom - 4.5/5 (library) (July)
  2. Find the Good; Heather Lende - 5/5 (publisher) (July)
  3. Hyacinth Girls; Lauren Frankel - 3.5/5 (eGalley/arc) (July)
  4. My Grandmother Asked me to Tell You She's Sorry; Fredrik Backman - 3/5 (eGalley) (July)
  5. Descent; Tim Johnston - 4/5 (eGalley) (July)
  6. Tampa; Alissa Nutting - 4/5 (library) (July)
  7. Best Boy; Eli Gotlieb - 3.5/5 (eGalley) (July)
  8. If You Were a Panda Bear; Florence and Wendell Minor - 4/5 (library) (July)
  9. Daylight Starlight Wildlife; Wendell Minor - 5/5 (library) (July)
  10. Invisible Ellen; Shari Shattuck - 4/5 (sent by pub) )July)
  11. I Was Here Gayle Forman - 2.5/5 (audio) (library) (July)
  12. Finders Keepers; Stephen King - 4.5/5 (print) (library) (July)
  13. A Long Way Home; Louise Penny - 3.5/5 (audio) (library) (July) 
August Reading Plans

(Review) -
(To be Read)
Happy Reading!

Friday, July 31, 2015

Europa Editions - New Purchases

For a number of years I really cut down on book purchases. Of course, when you love books, one cannot go completely cold-turkey so I still buy from library book sales and purchase Europa Editions , an imprint that publishes great literary fiction (often translated works). The book spines look wonderful on the shelves they occupy in my reading loft.  So these last few weeks, I used some retirement gift cards to treat myself to even more Europa Editions.

Here's what I got. I've posted a little synopsis of each one as well. Can't wait to curl up with one of these.


  • Everybody's Right; Paulo Sorrentino ---Born on the streets and born singing, Tony Pagoda has had his day. But what a day it was! 
    He had fame, money, women, and talent. He spent his golden years entertaining a flourishing and garishly happy Italy. His success stretched over borders and across the seas. But somewhere things began to go awry, the public's tastes in music first and foremost. His band is now a shadow of its former self and his life is fraught with mundane but infuriating complications. It's time to make a clean break with the past. Following a brief tour in Brazil, Tony decides to decamp and make a life for himself in South America. Here, his hyper- developed and very peculiar vision of the world, irreversibly shaped by those years in which he hobnobbed with Sinatra and enjoyed the adoration of audiences the world over, is under assault. Now that he has abandoned music the world strikes him as a barren place that is completely at odds with his understanding of it. Tony's story is the story of a worldwizened but yet strangely naive man forced to reconcile with life or lose himself entirely. Told in a breathless, irreverent first person voice that is as original as any in contemporary literature, Everybody's Right is the debut novel from one of Italy's most compelling and singular creative minds. Paolo Sorrentino, known principally as the director of movies considered to be among the finest examples of cinematic art by any Italian filmmaker in recent decades, here proves himself to be an equally formidable novelist.
  • Mayumi and the Sea of Happiness; Jennifer Tseng--Books may be Mayumi Saito’s greatest love and her one source of true pleasure. Forty-one years old, disenchanted wife and dutiful mother, Mayumi’s work as a librarian on a small island off the coast of New England feeds her passion for reading and provides her with many occasions for wry observations on human nature, but it does little to remedy the mundanity of her days. That is, until the day she issues a library card to a shy seventeen-year-old boy and swiftly succumbs to a sexual obsession that subverts the way she sees the library, her family, the island she lives on, and ultimately herself.
     
    Wary of the consequences of following through on her fantasies, Mayumi hesitates at first. But she cannot keep the young man from her thoughts. After a summer of overlong glances and nervous chitchat in the library, she finally accepts that their connection is undeniable. In a sprawling house emptied of its summer vacationers, their affair is consummated and soon consolidated thanks to an explosive charge of erotic energy. Mayumi’s life is radically enriched by the few hours each week that she shares with the young man, and as their bond grows stronger thanks not only to their physical closeness but also to their long talks about the books they both love, those hours spent apart seem to Mayumi increasingly bleak and intolerable. As her obsession worsens, in a frantic attempt to become closer to the young man, Mayumi nervously befriends another librarian patron, the young man’s mother. The two women forge a tenuous friendship that will prove vital to both in the most unexpected ways when catastrophe strikes.
     
    Exquisitely written, Mayumi and the Sea of Happiness is part wry confession, part serious meditation. At its most anxious, it’s a book about time, at its most ecstatic, it’s a deeply human story about pleasure.
  • Timeskipper; Stefano Benni--Italy's foremost satirist recounts the adventures of Timeskipper, a young man endowed with a rare gift: the ability to see into the future. A tale in which innocence and imagination defy corruption and conformity, in which the eccentricities and innocence of yesteryear come face-to-face with the moral aridity of today's money-obsessed society, Timeskipper is one of Stefano Benni's most touching and enduring creations. Colored by Benni's trademark linguistic inventiveness and irresistible humor, this is a coming-of-age story with a difference.
  • The Red Collar; Jean-Christophe Rufin--In 1919, in a small town in the province of Berry, France, under the crushing heat of summer heat wave, a war hero is being held prisoner in an abandoned barracks. In front of the door to his prison, a mangy dog barks night and day. Miles from where he is being held, in the French countryside, a young extraordinarily intelligent woman works the land the land, waiting and hoping. A judge whose principles have been sorely shaken by the war is travelling to an unknown location to sort out certain affairs of which it is better not to speak.
    Three characters. In their midst, a dog who holds the key both to their destinies and to this intriguing plot.
     
    Full of poetry and life, The Red Collar is at once a delightly simple narrative about the human spirit and a profound work about loyalty and love.
  • The Hollow Heart; Viola DiGrado--In this courageous, inventive, and intelligent novel, Viola di Grado tells the story of a suicide and what follows. She has given voice to an astonishing vision of life after life, portraying the awful longing and sense of loss that plague the dead, together with the solitude provoked by the impossibility of communicating. The afterlife itself is seen as a dark, seething place where one is preyed upon by the cruel and unrelenting elements. Hollow Heart will frighten as it provokes, enlighten as it causes concern. If ever there were a novel that follows Kafka’s prescription for a book to be a frozen axe for the sea within us, it is Hollow Heart.
  • Blackbird; Tom Wright--In a small town in Ark-La-Tex, Detective Jim Bonham has been assigned to a new case. On the outskirts of the town, a woman has been found brutalized and nailed to a cross. Bonham recognizes her immediately: it is Dr. Deborah Gold, one of the town’s psychologists. The questions pile up quickly. How many perpetrators would it have taken to commit this atrocity? Why was a Roman coin found at the foot of the body? And why a murder as gruesome and cruel as crucifixion?
  • Take This Man; Alice Zeniter--Alice is about to marry Mad. Alice is white. Mad is black. Alice is French; Mad, though he has studied and lived in France for years, is not. They have been friends since childhood and never been romantically involved. But now Mad is being threatened with deportation and marrying Alice strikes both friends as the best solution to their problems. On the eve of her wedding, Alice reflects on their years of friendship-from their childhood together to the first time she ever heard racial slurs being directed at her friend to the victory of Jean- Marie Le Pen in the presidential primaries in 2002. This succession of personal anecdotes forms a grand history of racism and a moving portrait of contemporary youth. Recounting stories of rebellion and friendship, of the passage from indignant adolescent to consciously engaged adult, Take This Man is a delightful and original novel by a talented young author.
  • Billie; Anna Gavalda--A number 1 bestseller in France and translated into over twenty languages, Billie is one of the most beloved French novels to be published in recent years. A brilliant evocation of Paris and a moving tale of friendship, Anna Gavalda’s new novel tells the story of two young people, Billie and Franck, who, as the story opens, are trapped in a gorge in the Cevennes Mountains. With darkness encroaching, their situation is dire, and Billie begins to tell stories from their lives in order to survive. In alternating episodes, the novel moves between recollections of the two characters’ childhoods and their dreadful predicament.
     
    Franck’s life has been impacted by a childhood spent with a perennially unemployed father who toyed with Christian extremism and a mother aestheticized by antidepressants. A bright kid, Franck’s future was menaced at every turn by the bigotry around him. Billie’s abiding wish as an adult is to avoid ever having to come into contact with her family again. To escape from her abusive and alcohol-addled family, she was willing to do anything and everything. The wounds have not entirely healed.
     
    At the heart of Gavalda’s tender story lies a generosity of spirit that will take readers’ breath away, and an unshakable belief in the power of art to lift the most fragile among us to new vistas from which they can see futures full of hope, love, and dignity. Billie is a beautifully crafted novel for readers of all ages and from all walks of life that conveys a positive message about overcoming life’s trials and tribulations.
  • The Hollow Land; Jane Gardam--The barren, beautiful Cumbrian fells provide the bewitching setting for the adventures of Bell and Harry, two children who find enchanting wonder at every turn, as they explore THE HOLLOW LAND. Everyday challenges give a daring edge to this rural work and play. There are ancient mysteries to explore and uncover, like the case of the Egg Witch, and everyone is curious about the Household Name, a wildly famous Londoner moving in to the jewel of the territory, Light Trees Farm. With painterly ease, Jane Gardam’s stories fly with a marvelous spirit that will delight readers of all ages!