Tuesday, August 4, 2015

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - What I Remember Most; Cathy Lamb

Every Tuesday I host First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros where I share the first paragraph sometimes two from a book I am reading or thinking about reading soon.  Here's my pick for this week.

Kensington - 2014


"I hear his voice, then hers.  I can't find them in the darkness.  I can't see them through the trees.  I don't understand what's going on, but their horror, their panic, reaches me, throttles me.

They scream the same thing.

Run, Grenadine, run!

It's them.

What do you think -- keep reading or pass?  (I'm at the 30% mark and so far this book is fantastic.)

(Feel free to join in this week by posting your intro  link below)

Monday, August 3, 2015

Wind / Pinball; Haruki Murakami

Wind / Pinball; Haruki Murakami
August 2015 - Random House Audio
Kirby Heyborne (narrator) Ted Goossen (translator)

Newly translated into English, "Wind/Pinball" are the first two books of the author, part of "Rat" trilogy that is completed with, A Wild Sheep Chase.

Both Wind and Pinball are very short and probably best described as novellas.  In "Wind", an unnamed narrator is home from college for the summer and spends his time patronizing J's Bar, listening to music and drinking beer with his wealthy friend, "The Rat". He talks and fantasizes about the women he has been with including a 9-fingered woman he has been seeing,

In "Pinball", the  narrator is now out of college and living and working in Tokyo as a translator. He's bent on tracking down a spaceship pinball machine he played while in college. He's involved with identical twins who are staying appeared in his bed one morning. The twins at times are only distinguishable by the numbers on their shirts - 208 and 209 (assuming they haven't switched shirts to have a little fun of their own). The Rat is still hanging out at J's but seems depressed and has had no luck with women.

For Murakami fans who have an appreciation for the writer's work, these (2) entry novellas seems to reveal how the author is trying to develop his style.  "Wind", almost seems incomplete with rambling dialogue which reader's new to this author may be put off by, especially since there is no real plot or resolution to this short story.

In " Pinball"  there was more of a surreal feeling developing. I couldn't help but wonder if this unnamed narrator in both stories was in some small way a bit autobiographical of the author at that particular point in his life.

There were recurring themes like loneliness, death and obsession. We also see emotionally devoid young men and physically imperfect women much more like the author's later offerings. I especially enjoyed the quirkiness of the characters and the conversations between the narrator and "the rat". Overall, I was satisfied by this combined offering, as I think it gives readers a nice glimpse into the creative talent this author possesses. I thought the introduction which describes how the author was inspired to write was fantastic.

The audio version, read by Kirby Keyborne, was very well done.

4/5 stars
(audio and eGalley)

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