Thursday, September 18, 2014

Coming Soon to a Book Store Near You - The Remedy for Love; Bill Roorbach

This week's "Coming Soon to a Book Store Near You" pick is a book that recently caught my eye. 

The Remedy for Love; Bill Roorbach
Algonquin Books - October - 2014

They’re calling for the “Storm of the Century,” and in western Maine, that means something. So Eric closes his law office early and heads to the grocery store. But when an unkempt and seemingly unstable young woman in line comes up short on cash, a kind of old-school charity takes hold of his heart—twenty bucks and a ride home; that’s the least he can do.

Trouble is, Danielle doesn’t really have a home. She’s squatting in a cabin deep in the woods: no electricity, no plumbing, no heat. Eric, with troubles—and secrets—of his own, tries to walk away but finds he can’t. She’ll need food, water, and firewood, and that’s just to get her through the storm: there’s a whole long winter ahead.

Resigned to help, fending off her violent mistrust of him, he gets her set up, departs with relief, and climbs back to the road, but—winds howling, snow mounting—he finds his car missing, phone inside. In desperation, he returns to the cabin. Danielle’s terrified, then merely enraged. And as the storm intensifies, these two lost souls are forced to ride it out together.

Intensely moving, frequently funny, The Remedy for Love is a harrowing story about the truths we reveal when there is no time or space for artifice.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

We Are Called to Rise; Laura McBride

We Are Called to Rise; Laura McBride
Simon & Schuster - 2014

We Are Called to Rise is an compelling debut novel that while sad, leaves the reader with hope and promise -- for humanity and about people doing the right thing.

The story is told in alternating voices by individuals although unrelated, who will see their lives gradually converge.  Avis, one of the voices in this story, is a middle-aged woman who is trying to spice up her in the rut marriage, when her husband announces he is love with another woman. She also worries about her adult son who is a troubled man after serving time three tours of duty in Iraq. Luis is a key character, an Iraq vet who has been hardened and traumatized by spending time in front lines of war. Bashkim, another key character, is an eight year old boy who lives with his Albanian refugee family in Las Vegas. Lastly, Roberta is a lawyer and child/welfare advocate who, although she plays a smaller part in this story, has heartbreaking job dealing with abused children and the homeless.

When Bashkim, a third grader is given a writing assignment, he is given a penpal in the military. He is assigned Luis who is now at Walter Reed Army Hospital.  His letter is sent off and when he receives a response from penpal Luis, no one is prepared for the shocking response he gets.  It is this letter that sends the story in motion, and with each new chapter the tension builds and culminating in an explosive event.

Most of the characters in this story were ones that I cared about, Avis had a horrible childhood and then is dumped by her husband Jim for a younger woman. Bashkim, really drew at my heartstrings, in some ways he seemed more mature than his age, but in other ways he seemed very naive. His situation at home with his family was difficult. The vets and even lesser characters like teachers each played an important role in making this story as good as it was. Although we learn some terrible things as we we read, and I prefer to remain as oblivious as possible to the nitty gritty details of war, this story in many ways is bittersweet, and left me with an overall feeling of hope. A terrific debut novel.

4.5/5 stars
(review copy)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - The Removers; Andrew Meredith

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 couldn't resist this one when I saw the cover at the library. (This memoir is just 177 pages)

The Removers (a memoir)
Andrew Meredith
Scribner - 2014

"Dad parks the hearse at the curb under a pink-petaled dogwood, in the glory of the first balmy April Saturday afternoon.  We're on Cantor Avenue in front of a tan brick apartment building, treeless courtyard, three stories high, a block long but invisible, a place that marks the edge of our Philadelphia neighborhood and the next, a structure populated by pensioner bachelor mailmen and mothers and toddlers learning English together.  At the rec center baseball diamond across the street, screams of 'GO!" followed an aluminum plink.  At the corner, tulips in yellow, red, violet, planted to partition the sidewalk from a tiny row house lawn, salute a crew-cut man in a tank top, gold crucifix swinging as he soapy sponges his four-wheeled stereo.  The fried onions from the grill at the steak shop a block away whisper that the cold and dark have passed and we've been delivered somewhere better, and yet inside our little brick houses these last six months a secret part of us wondered: is this the year winter doesn't end? A girthy old woman in her sleeveless summer house dress, sunlight warming her arms for the first time this year, hoses the dirt under the rosebush.  She looks like a Helen.  She might be a Carol.  An ambulance lines up at the red light like all the other cars, in repose, maybe coming back from an oil change."

What do you think?
Feel free to join in and post the Intro from one of your reads by linking below.

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Virtues of Oxygen; Susan Schoenberger

The Virtues of Oxygen; Susan Schoenberger
Lake Union Press - July 2014

The Virtues of Oxygen is a book that I was initially drawn to because of the title and, I  also because I don’t think I’ve ever read a story about someone who had contracted polio as a child.  In this story Vivian Markham, now 63, contracted polio when she was just 6 years old. As a result she has spent nearly her entire life living in a iron lung so that she could simply breathe.  His older sister Darlene, age 10, also had polio but died  while still young.

Having lived on a farm when the Vivian was young, the parents provided the constant care required, but as they got older they moved from the farm town to a small town, where the church and residents rallied their support providing companionship and care.  One of the women who helps Vivian is Holly, a young woman who hasn’t had an easy life either.  She recently lost her husband, has two sons, and her mother has now suffered a stroke and needs constant care.  Holly’s job as a newspaper editor for the small town paper doesn’t cover her expenses and the excessive medical bills she has been left with. She is trying her best to make ends meet. My heart went out to Holly and her struggles. Holly’s is a story that will resonate with readers whose lives were turned upside down by job loss, loss of a spouse or home foreclosure.

Vivian, on the other hand, was a very strong character who lived life to the fullest despite her disability. Great with investments, computers, and business savvy in general, she was a woman who maintained friendships despite her situation.  I was inspired by the way Vivian had made the most of her life. Her story and how the community rallied to help seemed very realistic of small town life. I especially liked learning of Vivian’s early years when she was stricken with polio. She’s a woman to be admired.

The Virtues of Oxygen is a story of friendship, it’s never overly sad or sappy and the author does a great job of portraying the economic struggles of a town and its people. If you’re looking for something a bit different, this one is based on a true story, try The Virtues of Oxygen.

⅘ stars

(review copy)

Friday, September 12, 2014

Road Ends; Mary Lawson

Road Ends; Mary Lawson
Dial Press - 2014

Road Ends begins in the mid-1960s,  and tells the story of the dysfunctional Cartwright family, Edward, Emily,  and their eight children who live in the fictional town of Straun, somewhere around Ontario.  Straun a remote town where severe winters are commonplace.

Daughter Megan, the only girl and second oldest child of the family now 21, has decided that she needs to venture out on her own and start living her life and is planning on moving to London.  From a very early age she has acted as the head of household, taking on the  duties that her mother,. Her mother wraps herself up in fawning over each successive newborn and basically ignoring the rest of her family. With the arrival of yet another newborn son mother, most often can be found in her room with the baby.

With talk of Megan’s decision to leave the nest, the fractured family begins to come apart.  Edward, the father, is pretty much a non entity. He was raised by an abusive father and has kept his distance from his own children for fear of losing control. He doesn’t seem to even realize what is happening to those around him. Oldest son Tom has returned home after the death of a close friend, he is depressed and unable to cope with life on the outside. 

One character I really felt for was little Adam, just 4 years old and desperate for love, attention and affection, my heart went out to both him and Tom for what they were dealing with.  Even Megan, who had dreams of something more, a better life learns that  the path to happiness and fulfillment are not always easily attained, and that it is not always easy to cut ties with family either.

The Road Ends is a beautifully written  and compassionate but dark story.  The cold and desolate landscape adds to the bleakness of the story and depressing emotions some of the characters. It’s a story that portrays a family with all their warts and vulnerabilities exposed. This book is part of a stunning trilogy which I really enjoyed -  Crow Lake; The Other Side of the Bridge; and now Road Ends.  If you have not tried this author, I highly recommend that you do.

4.5/5 stars
(review copy)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Coming Soon to a Bookstore Near You - The Life We Bury; Allen Eskens

This week's "Coming Soon to a Book Store Near You" pick is a book that recently caught my eye. 

The Life We Bury; Allen Eskens
Seventh Street Books - October 2014

College student Joe Talbert has the modest goal of completing a writing assignment for an English class. His task is to interview a stranger and write a brief biography of the person. With deadlines looming, Joe heads to a nearby nursing home to find a willing subject. There he meets Carl Iverson, and soon nothing in Joe's life is ever the same.

Iverson is a dying Vietnam veteran--and a convicted murderer. With only a few months to live, he has been medically paroled to a nursing home, after spending thirty years in prison for the crimes of rape and murder.

As Joe writes about Carl's life, especially Carl's valor in Vietnam, he cannot reconcile the heroism of the soldier with the despicable acts of the convict. Joe, along with his skeptical female neighbor, throws himself into uncovering the truth, but he is hamstrung in his efforts by having to deal with his dangerously dysfunctional mother, the guilt of leaving his autistic brother vulnerable, and a haunting childhood memory.

Thread by thread, Joe unravels the tapestry of Carl’s conviction. But as he and Lila dig deeper into the circumstances of the crime, the stakes grow higher. Will Joe discover the truth before it’s too late to escape the fallout?
Would you try this one?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Road Ends; Mary Lawson

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. 

Mary Lawson is an author I've enjoyed in the past. I'm featuring both the first paragraph of the prologue as well as from chapter one from her new book Road Ends.

Road Ends; Mary Lawson
Dial Press - July 2014

Struan, August 1967

" The road was heavily overgrown and they had to stop the car half a dozen times in order to hack down the shrubs or drag fallen trees aside.  Once a sizeable beech blocked the way and they attacked it with a cross-cut saw. Simon had never seen a cross-cut saw before, far less used one, and he was predictably useless, but ridiculing him was part of the fun."

Struan, February 1966

"Two weeks before Megan left home she began a clear-out of her room.  She put her suitcase (the biggest she could find, purchased from Hudson's Bay) on the bed and a large cardboard box (free of charge from Marshall's Grocery) on the floor beside it and anything that wouldn't fit into the one had to go into the other.  She was ruthless about it, she intended to travel light.  Out went any items of clothing she hadn't worn for a year or more, any shoes ditto, any odd socks or underwear with holes in it that she had saved for days that didn't matter, in full knowledge of the fact that none of her days mattered, or at least not in a way that required respectable underwear.  Out went the debris left in the bottom of drawers: safety pins, bobby pins, fraying hair ribbons, a beaded bracelet with half the beads missing, the remains of a box made of birch bark and decorated with porcupine quills, ancient elastic bands looking so much like desiccated earthworms that she had to close her eyes when she picked them up and a quill pen fashioned from an eagle's feather, made for her by Tom when he was at the eagle's feather stage."
What do you think?

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

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Paying Guests; Sarah Waters

The Paying Guests; Sarah Waters
Riverhead Books - Sept 2014

Set just outside of London in 1922, The Paying Guests, is a literary thriller which kept me quickly turning its 500+ pages. 

Frances Wray is a 26 year old spinster who lives with her 50-something mother in what was once a comfortable life.  Now, Mr. Wray is deceased and has left the women in his life with substantial debt.  In addition, the economy after WWI has taken a downward turn and mother and daughter  have decided to take in boarders to help with expenses and repairs needed on their home.  The couple who joins their household are Lilian and Leonard Barber.

By day Leonard works, and Lilian is staying home adjusting to life as a new wife in a new place.  Frances and her mother have plenty of adjustments as to make as well, and each walks of fine line as to being friendly to the "paying guests" and giving them the privacy and space they deserve.  The lifestyle and manners of the Barbers are a bit of a shock to the system, especially for Mrs. Wray, and at times the two feel very awkward around the Barbers even in their own home. 

When Len goes off to work and Mrs. Wray out about town during the day, Lilian and Frances spend time getting to know one another and become confidants. Frances is a lesbian who had recently ended a relationship with a woman because of family obligations. She feels comfortable enough to tell Lilian about this relationship hoping she will not think any less of her.  Yet with each new day Frances finds herself attracted to the young woman and she does her best try to go about her daily activities in spite of these feelings.  

For the first 200 pages or so the author builds the tension as the reader is getting to know the "paying guests" and how the lives of the Wrays are impacted with their arrival and sharing a home together. The second section ratchets up the tension even more with the turn of each page as Lilian and Frances relationship develops into something more than friendship. The added tension and some shocking violence add to the overall psychological drama. The final section deals with an investigation and trial with an ending that left me satisfied.

Sarah Waters knows how create a suspenseful novel. The time period and characters came alive on the page.  I can't say that I liked any of the characters, but I did feel like I was right there watching the happenings firsthand.  This is a story has it all - forbidden love, scandal and crime.  I was hooked early on and invested until the end.  This is sure to make my list of favorites list for 2014 - Read It!

Highly recommended to readers who enjoy finely crafted historical crime fiction.

5/5 stars
(review copy )

Sunday Blatherings - Books and Pics

See cat's like comfort too

Well, this seems like the shortest weekend ever. Guess I was spoiled by a (4) day one.  Yesterday was one of my favorite annual book sales, part of a fall festival, but it sure didn't feel like fall. Hot and humid and almost 90 degrees. Fortunately, this week is suppose to offer high 70s and 50s at night (my kind of weather.

I showed amazing restraint at the book sale and only picked up theses (2) stacks of books. One small stack for me and a few like new books for the grandchildren. All were priced between 25 cents and $1.00.

Then, again, not my fault (2) more new books below arrived from the publisher this week.

  • The Book of Strange New Things; Michel Faber  (Crown-Hogarth) - I had blogged about this one recently and in my mailbox it arrived -- the end papers are gold on this ARC - it's very sharp looking.
  • How to Be a Good Wife; Emma Chapman (St. Martin's Press) - The hub was amused by the title and said maybe I'll learn a few things LOL
and, a couple pics of special little people

sister love
2 yrs 4 mths  & and 4.5 mths

cousins getting to know one another
2 mths & 4.5 mths

Hope everyone enjoys the day and has a great week.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Dear Daughter; Elizabeth Little

Dear Daughter; Elizabeth Little
Viking - 2014

Dear Daughter tells the story of Hollywood "It Girl",  Jane Jenkins who served 10 years in prison for murdering her mother, Marion Elsinger, a high society beauty and philanthropist who has had numerous husbands over the years.

Jane, as a teen was spoiled rotten and totally out of control, often appearing in the media for some drug or alcohol offense.  Now at 27 and newly released from prison on a technicality for evidence mishandling, she immediately goes into hiding. She is a woman on a mission,  determined to find her mother’s killer,  although the night of her mother’s murder she was heavily under the influence.

Jane changes her appearance, leaves town and recreates herself. Even her lawyer isn't sure where she is. With only a vague memory of a conversation she overheard her mother having with a man the night of the murder, she headed to two small mining towns in South Dakota, to get to work. However, once she begins asking questions she quickly learns that she’d better be careful or she could even be a target like he mother.

Our protagonist Jane (Janie) is what makes this novel a treat. She’s a spunky, in your face kind of person, she’s very vain and knows how to turn on the charm when it’s to her benefit, but she is very witty and funny as well and that’s what this novel so good. Imagine an in your face Beverly Hills girl in small town South Dakota looking for a killer. It makes me laugh just thinking about it. Although a lot of what happens in this novel seems very unrealistic, it’s fiction, and if you can allow yourself to suspend belief, you will be rewarded for your efforts.

Dear Daughter is a  multi-layered mystery with a protagonist you won’t forget. Although not all of the threads are completely tied up, the ending did not disappoint, and it left me wondering if a sequel might be in the works.  Elizabeth Little is a new author with talent who knows how to create interesting and quirky characters, I’ll be looking out for more books by her moving forward.

(book received from published)