Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Five Days Left; Julie Lawson Timmer

Five Days Left; Julie Lawson Timmer
Putnam - 2014

Five Days Left - How would you spend the if you knew someone that you loved was going away for good or that you had five days left to live?  Mara Nichols and Scott Coffman are the individuals for who "five days left" is reality.  The two don't know one another other than interactions in an on-line chat room for individuals with non-traditional families.

Mara is a lawyer, a wife and a mother of a child who was adopted from India and is now in kindergarten.  Adopted herself and unfamiliar with her genetic background, she receives some shocking news, a diagnosis of Huntington's disease, a disease that is always fatal, but not before the neurological impact destroys the body by way of physical, cognitive and psychological changes; There is no cure for this disease. Now as she approaches 42, Mara is seeing some of the effects of this disease.  She is planning to end her life before her body and mind are completely compromised.

Scott is a middle school teacher and foster parent to an eight-year old boy named Curtis (Little Man), a child he has fallen in love with. The child's mother is in jail, but is about to be released, and the child is to be returned to her. Scott and his wife have had the boy for one year and are pleased with his progress. Scott should be thrilled that he and his wife are expecting a baby of their own, but instead he is filled with sadness over his impending loss.

The story is told in alternating voices over the "five days left".  It is a heart wrenching story for very different reasons. It touches on many different areas -  love, sacrifice, letting go, the right to end one's life etc.  I thought Mara's character felt very real given her situation. Scott's situation was compelling as well.  This is a very good debut novel, but definitely not a book for everyone. It is an emotional read, but I do think it would make a good choice for book club discussions.

4.5/5 stars
(review copy)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - What Nora Knew; Linda Yellin

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. This one sounds light and fun.

What Nora Knew; Linda Yellin
Gallery Books - 2014

Ten minutes after saying "I do" at The Garden City Hotel in Long Island, I was already having my doubts.  But how do you say "I don't" to a man who's considered quite the catch.  Everyone was constantly telling me--even strangers--that Evan Naboshek, of the firm Naboshek, Halla, and Weiss, was a fabulous hell of a prize.

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

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Sunday Blatherings - and New Books

Sunday has slipped by and it's almost bedtime but thought I'd do a quick post.  Did you have a good weekend?

I was not a huge fan of the novel, Gone Girl, but everyone had been raving about the movie, and heck Ben Affleck is easy on my eyes, so yesterday I convinced my husband to go see the movie. WOW WOW WOW - 2 hours and 40 minutes and it just flew by. We both LOVED the movie, so much we will be sure to see this one again multiple times when it's mass released. Have you seen the movie? What did you think?

I didn't get much reading done this weekend or review writing either for that matter. No excuses, it just wasn't in the cards.  I did get some new books in the mail over the last few weeks that look rather good.

Have a Good Week All and Happy Reading


Friday, October 17, 2014

Leaving Time; Jodi Picoult

Leaving Time; Jodi Picoult
Ballantine Books and Random House Audio
October - 2014

Jodi Picoult's latest book, Leaving Time, touched me on so many levels. It explores not only the mother/child bond of humans and of elephants, making the reader see how very similar human mothers and elephants mothers are when it comes to emotional bonds and grieving.

The story begins with 13-year-old Jenna Metcalf, a young girl longing to know what happened to her mother. Alice Metcalf was a scientist who had been studying grief among the elephant population. Ten years earlier there was a terrible accident at an elephant sanctuary when Jenna was just three-years old. Mother and daughter have not seen each other since. Jenna's dad, also an elephant researcher, has been in a psychiatric hospital since the accident, and Jenna has been raised by her grandmother, who does not want to talk about what happened.

Jenna is desperate to find out whether her mother is living or dead as her body was never found. She solicits the help of a once well-respected psychic, Serenity Jones, who after some shady dealings claims that she lost the ability she once possessed. Serenity isn't any too anxious to work with someone Jenna's age. There is also a former detective, PI, turned alcoholic, by the name of Virgil Stanhope, who was the detective assigned to Alice's case initially. Virgil feels guilty about the way the investigation of the incident at the sanctuary was handled, and agrees to help.

Meanwhile, Jenna wonders that if in fact her mother is still alive somewhere why did she leave her and why hasn't she even attempted to contact her?

Leaving Time is a wonderful story about the mother/child bond and about the way we grieve. The story takes the reader to an animal sanctuary in New Hampshire to an elephant preserve in Africa. The story is told in split narrative format, much like the author's previous novels. This format works extremely well exploring with each character their POV on the mystery of Alice's disappearance.  I loved the characters in this novel (faults and all), and enjoyed learning so much about the emotional lives of elephants. I think the author did a wonderful job researching and detailing her findings.  Some of what she writes made me smile and some made me tear up. The entire novel was a page-turner for me, but the ending packed a punch and totally took me by surprise.  
The audio version is read by multiple narrators: Rebecca Lowman, Abigail Revasch, Kathe Mazur, Mark Deakins who made for a great listening experience. Highly recommended

5/5 stars
(eGalley and audio book)
Ballantine Books / Random House Audio

Thursday, October 16, 2014

A Dog's Journey; W. Bruce Cameron

A Dog's Journey; W. Bruce Cameron
Macmillian Audio - 2012

 A Dog's Journey is the sequel to W. Bruce Cameron’s,  A Dog’s Purpose which I listened to and enjoyed several years ago. In this story, which picks up where the other left off after Ethan, Buddy’s former owner, had passed away. Buddy thought his life was over as well, but he learns that he still has a purpose, and he lives again as companion and protector to Clarity who just happens to be his former master’s granddaughter, who he knew as a baby in his previous life. 

Buddy, now known as Molly, is with Clarity through some difficult times. Clarity’s mother is not your ideal mother. She is very critical of all that her daughter does and the poor girl has no self-confidence or self-esteem. She has a friend who cares deeply about her, yet she latches on to a bad seed who spells trouble, with school suspensions and run-ins with the police.  Meanwhile, Clarity’s witchy mother ignores the poor dog, leaves it in the basement and doesn’t even bother to feed it for days, while her daughter is away. Molly, on the other hand, while extremely hungry can only think about where “his girl” Clarity is and worries about who is watching out for her. The story follows Clarity through some difficult times with her faithful dog's everlasting love there to support her.

I like stories with dogs as narrators, and this one was particularly funny, honest and insightful. Without going into all of the little details of the story, I’ll just say that even though there are sad parts, and a few slow parts as well, A Dog’s Journey, is ultimately a “feel good” story that demonstrates how kind and loyal dogs are to those they love, and just what unconditional love is all about. I think us humans could surely learn a thing of two about humanity if we saw other people in the way our beloved pets see us.

The audio book was read by George K. Wilson who did a fine job.

4/5 stars
(library audio book)

Coming Soon to a Book Store Near You - Driftwood; Elizabeth Dutton

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

Driftwood; Elizabeth Dutton
Skyhorse Publishing- November - 2014

How far would you go for your family? A smart and funny debut about road trips, music, love, and California for fans of The Perks of Being A Wallflower, Run River and Killing Yourself to Live.

Los Angeles, California: Clem Jasper is a trust fund kid with a world famous rock musician for a father. When he dies suddenly (playing ping pong) she discovers he’s left her a strange legacy—a series of letters that take her on a mysterious road trip around California. Ignoring her aunt’s suggestion that she pitch the trip as a reality show, she embarks on her own—to discover just what it was that her father meant her to find. What secret could be so powerful that he had to die before telling her?

With a voice reminiscent of Rainbow Rowell, Dutton’s Driftwood is a surprising, poignant, and funny debut. Dutton perfectly captures the mythology of California with this bright and unusual take on the freedom of the open road, the power of music, and what it means, even in the midst of grief, to be a family. Fans of The Perks of Being A Wallflower, Run River and Killing Yourself to Live will find much to savor here.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - How to Be a Good Wife; Emma Chapman

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.

How To Be a Good Wife; Emma Chapman
St. Martin's Press - 2013

"Today, somehow, I am a smoker.

I did not know this about myself. As far as I can remember, I have never smoked before.

It feels unnatural, ill-fitting, for a woman of my age: a wife, a mother with a grown-up son, to sit in the middle of the day with a cigarette between her fingers.  Hector hates smoking.  He always coughs sharply when we walk behind someone smoking on the street, and I imagine his vocal cords rubbing together, moist and pink like chicken flesh."
What do you think?

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

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Sunday Blatherings - books and pics

Good Morning Readers

Sitting here with a warm comforter, hot cup of coffee and 63 degree indoor temps this chilly morning. I think I need to flip the gas fireplace switch and get the chill out.  Columbus Day weekend has always been a favorite weekend of mine.  I am off from work on Monday, plus I'm taking Tuesday off, so a 4-day weekend makes me happy.

Yesterday dh and I took a ride to the Berkshires for some leaf peeping and a stop at the outlet malls. My (3) favorite stores: Ann Taylor, Talbots and Eddie Bauer had everything in the store on sale for either 60%, 50% or 40% off (imagine how much $$ they make when there isn't a sale).  I got some great bargain and who doesn't love new clothes.

My oldest granddaughter (2.5 years-old) was a flower girl in a wedding in the Berkshires yesterday. I haven't seen all of the pictures yet, but here are a few taken with the iPhone.

flower girl
sisters - October 11th 2014
precious E - 3months

Today we will be visiting my son, DIL and precious E above and will get in even more leaf peeping as they live in a beautiful wooded area with nothing but trees. Tomorrow is a trip to the apple orchards and hopefully I'll be making apple crisp tomorrow night, and then Tuesday another day trip and out for lunch somewhere or if it rains, maybe we'll go and see Gone Girl. 

Reading Notes
About a week ago I finished Jodi Picoult's new book, Leaving Time, which releases this Tuesday, and I just loved it.  It's a very emotional story about a 13 year-old girl who is trying to find out what happened to her mother, a scientist who disappeared while studying the plight of elephants and their emotional attachment to their young. The reviews are overwhelmingly positive this far. This may be my favorite book of the year. No review yet, it's one I've made lots of notes on as I read. 

I'm also listening Edge of Eternity (Book 3); Ken Follett which I am loving and also listening to A Dog's Purpose, W. Bruce Cameron (narrated by a dog) which is good as well. I'm also reading a non fiction book called Purr Therapy; Kathy McCoy, which is making me very angry as I read. (I'll share my reasons when I review this one).
New Books

Have a great weekend everyone!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Memories of a Marriage; Louis Begley

Memories of a Marriage; Louis Begley
Nan Talese - 2013

Memories of a Marriage is narrated by Philip, a novelist who has recently lost the love of his life to cancer. Now in his golden years, somewhere around the age of 70, fond memories of Bella and also his young daughter who died help him through the rough times. Philip and Bella did everything together, they traveled extensively and even shared office space (Bella was also a writer).
One day while Philip was attending the ballet, he runs into Lucy De Bourgh, a Rhode Island heiress that Philip knew from his post grad school days in Paris, and a woman who he and many others had a one-night stand with. Lucy was a trust fund baby and a woman with quite the reputation back then. She married Thomas Snow, whose family was beneath her social status and breeding. Snow’s father was a Newport, RI garage repair owner and his wife a bookkeeper. Despite this, Thomas made it big - he graduated from Harvard and had a successful career as an international investment banker and economist. Lucy and Thomas divorced, and although Thomas remarried, he has since passed on.
Lucy and Philip begin talking after the ballet and Lucy begins speaking negatively about her former husband and their marriage, referring to him as a "monster". Philip is shocked and curious about how he could have had such a different impression of what their life together was like. As the two begin seeing one another, Philip becomes more and more obsessed about finding out more about the couple he thought he knew. Each time they meet the bitter Lucy adds a new piece to the puzzle.  Philip begins to speak with old friends and family who knew the couple to find out more. He even learns that Thomas’s second wife, Jane, had a totally different opinion of Thomas and of their life together.
This was a very different story from anything I’ve read recently.  Lucy is an unlikable character to the extreme. The pace is slow, the dialogue is long, yet somehow it seemed to work.  The slow pace worked, older people reflecting on their memories of life and love. Just under 200 pages, there is no real action in the story, but it leaves you with much to think about. [Only the couple in the marriage knows what it’s really like.] It makes you think about the choices we’ve made and how we react when we realize our marriage is less than ideal. Do we leave the relationship, stay together, grow bitter or do we accept the fact that no one is perfect and remain together making the best of it.
4/5 stars

Friday, October 10, 2014

Landline; Rainbow Rowell

Landline; Rainbow Rowell
St. Martin's Press - MacMillian Audio
I finished this audio book a while ago and while the story is still pretty fresh in my mind, I wanted to share my thoughts.
Landline, takes place over a few days around Christmas. 30-something, Georgie McCool, the main character, tells her husband Neal that she can’t join the family who plan to visit Neal’s mother in Omaha because she has just ten days to work on her new television sitcom project with her writing partner Seth in LA. Her husband, Neal, isn’t any too happy, they argue and he then decides to go anyway with their two daughters. The minute they leave for the airport, Georgie begins wondering whether their marriage is over.

Georgie is so upset she isn’t getting much work done so she goes to her mother’s house in a town close by and camps out in her old bedroom, which is now a trophy room for her show dogs. Anxious to talk to Neil, she finds her cellphone dead, but an old rotary “landline” phone still in her closet from her teen days saves the day.  She plugs the phone into the jack and calls Neil’s mother’s house. Neil’s deceased dad answers the phone and they talk. Georgie is sure that she is going crazy, but after talking to Neil she begins to realize that the magical “landline” phone is a link to the past –fifteen years past. Their conversations provide insight into where their marriage took some bad turns.

Is this marriage doomed? Or will the magical phone save the relationship?

I was a huge fan of Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor and Park and was anxious to try this one as well.  I found the writing both funny and touching, especially when she captures her characters when they are clearly not thinking straight. This story is all about communication and how important it is to make a marriage work.  For me, the whole “landline” magical phone was a bit much at times, but in the end it made the story fall into place with good results.  The audiobook was read by Rebecca Lowman, who did an outstanding job –even with Neal’s voice. This book will not appeal to all Rowell fans I suspect, but it’s still worth a try.

3.5/5 stars
(audiobook library)