Thursday, June 30, 2016

June Reading Wrap Up ~ Mid Year Progress and Top Picks


June was a beautiful month, weather-wise and a great reading month as well. We're now half' way through 2016, so I thought I'd pick a few of my favorites read in 2016.  Do you have a few favorites?

JUNE READS

  1. The Fireman; Joe Hill 4/5 (eGalley & audio) (June)
  2. A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles; Mary Beth Williams (NF) - 4.5/5 (library) (June)
  3. Nobody's Fool; Richard Russo - 4.5/5 (my shelves) (June)
  4. The Weekenders; Mary Kay Andrews - 3.5/5 (audio) (June)
  5. The Woman in Cabin 10; Ruth Ware - 4/5 (arc) (June)
  6. The Stranger; Harlan Coben - 1.5/5 (audio) (June)
  7. If You Left; Ashley Prentice Norton - 3.5/5 (arc) (June)
  8. Founding Mothers; Cokie Roberts (NF) (DNF-bookgroup) (June)
  9. What Was Mine; Helen Klein Ross - 4/5 (library) (June)
  10. Wreck and Order; Hannah Tennant-Moore - 3/5 (audio) (June)
  11. The Girls; Emma Cline - 4.5/5 (audio) (June)
  12. The Nest; Cynthia D'Aprix-Sweeney - 4/5 (eGalley) (June)
  13. Fates and Furies; Lauren Groff - 4.5/5 (library) (June)

YTD STATS

Books Read - 72
(10) NF
(62) Fiction
(5) translated works
(19) debut
(29) Library Books
(37) print
(15) audio books
(13) ARCS
(19) eGalleys
(7) my shelf

FAVORITE BOOKS READ in 2016







June has slipped by and so has another Blogging Milestone
(I never expected to still be posting today)

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Girls; Emma Cline


The Girls; Emma Cline
Random House Audio - 2016
Cady McClain - Narrator

The Girls is a well written work of fiction that is loosely based on the Charles Manson cult of the late 1960s.

The protagonist, Evie Boyd looks back on the summer of 1969 when she fourteen years old and lived in California with her newly divorced mother.  Although the family was relatively well off, her grandmother was a famous actress, Evie's mother was busy finding herself and in search of a new man in her life to feel complete. Evie was bored and restless riding bikes with her friend Connie and not looking forward to going away to boarding school in the fall.  Evie was looking for more excitement to the boredom she was experiencing.

One day sees a group of footloose and fancy free young girls with long flowing hair and oversized dresses in the park.  She later sees a couple of the girls, including the sexy and alluring Suzanne, dumpster diving for dinner.  She finds herself enthralled and attracted to Suzanne and after pretending to shoplift for them, she begins hanging out with them.  She is introduced to Russell, who the girls worship. A wanna be rock star who lives on a run down ranch along with the girls and some of their sickly children. Russell is a powerful force over the girls and he uses and abuses the women.

The Girls was and eye opening look at how at how easy it sometimes is to lure young, impressionable youth who are looking for excitement and acceptance. The way Evie describes the way she found herself part of a cult that eventually committed murder was chilling. The story begins in the present with Evie looking back decades to the horrific murders Russell and his followers committed. I thought the writing was very good and in no way did this seem like a debut novel.  Cline captures the restlessness, raging hormones and longing for acceptance of these young women perfectly, making this a deeply affecting coming of age story.  The audio version was very well done. Highly recommended.

4.5/5 stars
(audio file sent by publisher for review)

Wreck and Order; Hannah Tennant-Moore

Wreck and Order; Hannah Tennant-Moore
(Hogarth) Brilliance Audio - 2016
Nicol Zanzarella (narrator)

In this coming of age story, Elise is a young woman who is trying to find herself. In lieu of pursuing a college degree she decides to travel abroad with the $40,000 her father has given her. When that money is gone she uses trust fund money and gets an occasional menial job here and there.

Elise is a train wreck: impulsive, self destructive. She goes from one relationship to another while she tries to find herself and her life purpose.  She comes across as rather lost and pathetic and, as someone trying to avoid responsibility and commitment.

I love coming of age stories and had high hopes for this one but, in the end I had a lot of issues with the story. The audio book narrator, Nicol Zanzarella, was pretty good and, although this really wasn't my cup of tea, like a sinking ship, I had a hard time bailing on this one. The author does a terrific job getting into the psyche of Elise. I liked reading about her travels to Sri Lanka which helped me learn a bit about the culture.

If you are looking for a book with a character you can connect with, this probably isn't the book for you. However, it is very different story and the writing is good and even funny at times.

3/5 stars
(library audio)

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - The Life of Elves; Muriel Barbery


Every Tuesday I host First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros where I share the first paragraph sometimes two, of a book that I'm reading or plan to read soon.  


(I loved this author's book, The Elegance of the Hedgehog but, I'm probably not going to get too far with this book based on the intro and the fact there are (2) pages of characters listed on the pages following the Table of Contents.) Has anyone read this book yet?


The Life of Elves; Muriel Barbery
Europa Editions - 2015

BIRTHS

THE LITTLE GIRL FROM SPAIN

" The little girl spent most of her hours of leisure in the branches. When her family did not know where to find her, they would go to the trees, the tall beech to start with, the one that stood to the north above the lean-to, for that was where she liked to daydream while observing the activity on the farm; then it was the old linden in the priest's garden below the wall of cool stone; and finally--most often in winter--among the oaks in the combe to the west of the adjacent field, a refluence of terrain planted with three of the most majestic specimens in all the region.  The little girl would nestle in the trees, all the hours she could steal from the village life made of book-learning, meals, and mass, and not infrequently she would invite a few friends to come along, and they would marvel at the airy esplanades she had arranged there, and together they would spend glorious days in laughter and chat."

What do you think -- keep reading or pass? 
(Feel free to join in this week by posting your intro below?





Friday, June 24, 2016

What Was Mine; Helen Klein Ross

What Was Mine; Helen Klein Ross
Gallery Books - 2016

Lucy Wakefield was a good person with a good job. She was also a woman who desperately wanted to be a mother.  When she and her husband were not able to have a child of their own, he divorced her, remarried and had a family with his new wife.  So immediately, I felt bad for Lucy and her situation.

One day while Lucy is shopping in IKEA Lucy sees a young infant slumped over in a shopping cart and no adult is in site.  She gently props the baby up straight and notices the baby smile at her. She decides to push the cart up to the customer service desk but as she approaches the desk, pushes the cart outside the store to her car and off they go.  For the next 21 years she raises the girl she names, Mia, as her own.

The story is told from the POV of Lucy, Mia and Marilyn, the birth mother as well as a few minor characters.  Both Lucy and Marilyn came across as sympathetic characters. One lonely and desperate for a child, the other distracted by an important work call on her cell phone.

The first half of the book was very compelling and had me anxiously turning the pages.  As the story progressed I thought things happened a bit too conveniently but, I still enjoyed the story very much.  There aren't a lot of surprises in this novel but, I loved how the author rationalized Lucy's decision to take the infant and raise her as her own.  This is one of those stories that will leave readers torn. Definitely, a good choice for book club conversation.

4/5 stars
(library)

Thursday, June 23, 2016

A Book Our Book Group Hated

Harper - 2004

Our book group has been reading quite a bit of non fiction about women the last few months: The Bell Jar, Z: Zelda, and now this month, Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation.  Although The Bell Jar and Z were well received, only one person in our group enjoyed Founding Mothers.  In fact many didn't even finish the whole book.

(Description)

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Cokie Roberts comes New York Timesbestseller Founding Mothers, an intimate and illuminating look at the fervently patriotic and passionate women whose tireless pursuits on behalf of their families–and their country–proved just as crucial to the forging of a new nation as the rebellion that established it.
While much has been written about the men who signed the Declaration of Independence, battled the British, and framed the Constitution, the wives, mothers, sisters and daughters they left behind have been little noticed by history. #1 New York Times bestselling author Cokie Roberts brings us women who fought the Revolution as valiantly as the men, often defending their very doorsteps. Drawing upon personal correspondence, private journals, and even favored recipes, Roberts reveals the often surprising stories of these fascinating women, bringing to life the everyday trials and extraordinary triumphs of individuals like Abigail Adams, Mercy Otis Warren, Deborah Read Franklin, Eliza Pinckney, Catherine Littlefield Green, Esther DeBerdt Reed and Martha Washington–proving that without our exemplary women, the new country might have never survived.

Here's some of the reasons we didn't like the book:

  • Although the research and historical points raised were excellent, the author had an annoying habit of frequently adding commentary of her own. Her male-bashing got to be a bit much.
  • The book felt disjointed, there was no smooth flow. The story jumped from one woman to another and back and forth in time.
  • It was difficult to follow the time period and relationships based on how the material was presented. There were too many names and time periods covered.
Have you read this book? Did you enjoy it?

DNF

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

If You Left; Ashley Prentice Norton

If You Left; Ashley Prentice Norton
Mariner Books - 2016

If You Left is the story of a marriage, a marriage that begins with promise until mental illness surfaces.  Oliver and Althea Willows seem to have a good marriage, at least to some outsiders. They live in Manhattan and have a summer home at the beach but, Althea has suffered from mental illness, bipolar disorder, for most of their marriage.  Throughout each suicide attempt, and hospitalization, her husband has been her rock.  Despite her illness, Oliver wants to have a child but, Althea's daily cocktail of mood meds would likely affect a fetus.  Although Althea isn't sure she could handle motherhood, she wants to please her husband so they decide to adopt a child.

Clem (Clementine) enters their lives and as Althea suspected, mothering does not come naturally to her and she finds the role extremely difficult. Oliver thinks she needs to bond with their daughter so suggests that the two of them spend the summer at their beach house.  Things don't go exactly as planned as Clem has already learned to amuse herself.   Mother and daughter's relationship remains strained, causing more difficulties in an already shaky marriage.

Without saying too much more, I'll just say that at times both of these adults made me mad. I felt sorry for the daughter they adopted.  The author did a great job revealing what living with manic depression might be like and the toll it takes on a relationship.  I must say I wasn't a fan of the writing style, First, there weren't any chapters and the story sometimes felt like one long conversation, yet quotation marks weren't used. In addition, the POV changed quiet a bit.

Overall, I think this story had a lot of potential but, left me a bit disappointed.

3.5/5 starts
(review copy)