Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Sandcastle Girls; Chris Bohjalian

Author:  Chris Bohjalian
Publication Year: 2012
Publisher: Doubleday
Edition: eGalley
Setting: Boston, New York, Syria, Armenia
Source: NetGalley and Edelweiss
Date Completed: August/2012
Rating: 4/5
Recommend:  yes with reservations

Chris Bohjalian's latest novel, his 15th, is a departure from much of what he has written in the past. While the story is a good one, I found it very depressing as well.  The novel deals with the Turkish-Armenian conflict, or should I say, the genocide of 1.5 million Armenians by the Turks. Interestingly, the author is Armenian and bases this novel on the experiences of his grandparents some 100 years earlier.

In this story, Laura Petrosian sees a picture of her grandmother Elizabeth, now deceased, which links her to a museum exhibit in Boston. Curious, this leads Laura to do some genealogical research about her grandparents who she knows very little about.  She becomes somewhat obsession, when she learns that her grandmother and Armen met and fell in love, as a result of the Armenian genocide.  Elizabeth and her father Silas were part of a relief group, Friends of Armenia,  a group which brought food and supplies in 1915, from Boston to survivors of the massacre.

Although the story is an important one, I found it painful to read at times, and was left feeling just too sad and uncomfortable at times. The writing is excellent and story flows well from past to present. I have read all of Bohjalian's earlier books, he is a favorite author, but his latest book, although well written and researched, gets a "proceed with caution" rating from me -- it's graphic so if you plan to read it, be prepared to read about the horrors of war. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry; Rachel Joyce

Author:  Rachel Joyce
Publication Year: 2012
Publisher: Random House
Edition: ARC
Setting: English Village
Source: publisher
Date Completed: August/2012
Rating: 5/5
Recommend:  yes yes yes

Harold Fry is an unassuming man, now retired after more than 45 years at the same job. Even when he retired he chose to go quietly with no recognition or fanfare.  He's always seemed to go through the motions of life never pushing or challenging himself.  Married to Maureen for 45 years, their relationship reminded me of two ships passing in the night.  Everything that Harold does or doesn't do seems to annoy Maureen, to the point where they even have separate bedrooms.  Things apparently changed for them when something happened to their only child, David.

One day a letter arrives from a woman named Queenie Hennessy, who Harold had worked with years earlier. She was a woman he had lost contact with and in her letter she says that she is writing to say "goodbye".  Queenie is dying and spending her final weeks in a hospice facility some 600 miles away.  It is this letter that finally makes Harold take action and challenge himself.  Instead of writing back he decides while off to mail a letter to Queenie that he must "walk" to see her, sending a message and believing that if he does this, Queenie will live.

So begins Harold's "pilgrimage". Along the way, Harold reflects on his childhood (it explains so much about the man he became), his marriage - the kind of husband he has been and his role as a father.  Along the way Harold meets several interesting individuals who all seem to be unhappy in much the same way Harold is, each longing to be loved.

I was so moved by this story. I fell in love with Harold and was moved by his actions and revelations.  This story is so touching and literally left me with a lump in my throat at times.

A top 5 read of 2012 thus far...I adored it! Read it!

The Folded Earth; Anuradha Roy

Author:  Anuradha Roy
Publication Year: 2012
Publisher: Free Press
Edition: trade softcover
Setting: Himalayan mountains
Source: publisher
Date Completed: August/2012
Rating: 3.5/5
Recommend: yes

When Maya, a young Hindu woman, marries Michael, a Christian who her father disapproves of, her relationship with her family is severed. Michael was a professional photographer who claimed the mountains were in his blood, and his love for the mountains were as deep as the love he had for his wife.  However just six years into their marriage, Michael dies in a mountaineering accident, and Maya finds herself all alone.

She decides to move to Ranikhet a village high in the mountains, the place her husband so loved.  There she finds a job teaching at a Christian school and tries to get on with her life.  Bonding with her landlord and neighbors, she also forms a special relationship with Charu, a shy young peasant girl who had become a student at her school.  Despite this, all is not peaceful around her new village.  Both religious and political tensions upset the calm and peacefulness of the mountains, and pose a threat to the Christian school as well.

I loved the cover of this book -- so beautiful, and the setting, the Himalayas, was a locale I haven't been transported in a long long while, that seemed especially magical at times.  I was surprised that the book took me longer to finish than I expected. Although the writing is beautiful, the story itself never fully engaged me. In fact, except for the eccentric scholar, which provided for some brief humor, the characters weren't all that memorable for me. Despite this, I would still like the read the author's earlier book, The Atlas of Impossible Longing.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Innocent; David Baldacci

Author:  David Baldacci
Publication Year: 2012
Publisher: Hachette Audio
Edition:  audiobook/ Library
Reader: Ron McLarty and Orlagh Cassidy
Setting: Washington, DC area
Date Completed: Aug/2012
Rating: 4/5 
Recommend: yes

I'm not a big fan of novels about spies, secret operatives or hit men, but David Baldacci is one author who hasn't disappointed me so I decided to give his most recent book, The Innocent, a try in audio book format. The book was read by Ron McLarty and Orlagh Cassidy -- both did a great job.

In this story Will Robie, is a hit man for the US government.  His targets typically are terrorists who are planning to harm or threaten the safety and security of others. He is very good at what he does, but there is something about a particular assignment he's given that doesn't sit right with him. He refuses to do what is expected, making him the hunted by those he works for.

While Robie is on the run he meets a fourteen-year old girl named Julie Getty who is also running for her life Julie's parents have been murdered and she may now be a target herself.  Against his better judgment, Robie can't run away from her, but he has no idea what he is getting into.

This story is fast paced and takes the reader on a wild ride. Numerous twists and turns had me paying extra close attention to what was going on. I found myself having to listen to a bit more and a bit more, finishing the audiobook much sooner than I expected to. There are some heart-pumping moments, and several sub-plots as well.  It's one of the books where you can almost imagine yourself watching the action. The sound effects used in the audiobook intensified this effect, and readers who read this one will be anxious to see how the story lines all tie in.

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros

For today's First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intro, I'm featuring a book I plan to start towards the end of this week (loved this author's previous books).

Feel free to join in by posting the opening paragraph (sometimes maybe a few ) of a book you decided to read based on the opening paragraph (s). Grab the banner and play along.

Sept 25th - Penguin - Europa

(intro comes from an eGalley)

 CHILDHOOD: The Story of Don Achille

"My friendship with Lila began the day we decided to go up the dark stairs that led, step after step, flight after flight, to the door of Don Achille's apartment.

I remember the violet light of the courtyard, the smells of a warm spring evening.  The mothers were making dinner, it was time to go home, but we delayed, challenging each other, without ever saying a word, testing our courage.  For some time, in school and outside of it, that was what we had been doing.  Lila would thrust her whole arm into the black mouth of the manhole, and I, in turn, immediately did the same, my heart pounding, hoping that the cockroaches wouldn't run over my skin, that the rats wouldn't bite me.  Lila climbed up to Signora Spangnulo's ground-floor window, and, hanging from the iron bar that the clothesline was attached to, swung back and forth, then lowered herself down to the sidewalk, and I immediately did the same, although I was afraid of falling and hurting myself.  Lila stuck into her skin the rusted safety pin she had found on the street somewhere but kept in her pocket like the gift of a fairy godmother;  I watched the metal point as it dug a whitish tunnel into her palm, and then, when she pulled it out and handed it to me, I did the same."

What do you think? Keep reading or abandon?

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving; Jonathan Evison

Author:  Jonathan Evison
Publication Year: 2012
Publisher: Algonquin
Edition: eGalley
Setting: Wyoming and...
Date Completed: August/2012
Rating: 4.5/5
Recommend: yes

Thirty-nine year old Ben Benjamin was a husband, a father and a stay-at-home dad, before "the disaster" that took the lives of his two young children. Now estranged from his wife, he is unqualified for most jobs, and hasn't even interviewed for a job in eleven years around the time his daughter Piper was born. A broken man, Ben feels like he has very few options when it comes to jobs, so he decides to register for a twenty-eight-hour program called, "The Fundamentals of Caregiving."

His first job assignment is to care for a nineteen year old young man named Trevor who has Muscular Dystrophy, and their beginnings with one another are rocky to say the least. Trevor is mostly paralyzed and angry with the world about how his life has turned out.  His father left him and his mother shortly after he was diagnosed with MD. As a result, Ben quickly realizes that there are certain things that happen in caregiving that you just can't learn about in a short program like the one he attended.

Before long Ben and Trevor do find a rhythm that works for them.  The two even embark on a road trip with Trevor's wheelchair van to visit Trevor's sick father, the man who left him when he was very young. Wackiness ensues and the quirky people they meet along the way makes for some colorful and entertaining reading. The road trip is an uplifting experience which allows both Ben and Trevor to make peace with what has happened to them and begin to accept and heal. 

This novel is worth reading, in my opinion. Sometimes I find reading about emotionally damaged characters to be extremely difficult, but when humor is infused which was the case with this novel, the experience can be ultimately uplifting.   I was surprised to learn that the author was inspired to write this novel, at least in part, by a tragic situation involving his sister some thirty-nine years earlier when she was just sixteen years old.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Tell the Wolves I'm Home; Carla Rivka Brunt

Author:  Carla Rivka Brunt
Publication Year: 2012
Publisher: Dial Press
Edition: Edelweiss
Setting: New York
Source:NetGalley and Edelweiss
Date Completed: August/2012
Rating: 5/5
Recommend: yes-highly!

A lovable narrator, 14 year-old June Elbus is finding growing up difficult.  Her parents are accountants, often working long hours -- she thinks they are boring. Her older sister Greta has become mean to her lately, and she finds she likes to spend time alone, preferably in the woods listening for the howl of the wolves.  She also enjoys visiting the one special person who seems to understand her, Uncle Finn.

Uncle Finn is her mom's brother, he's a famous painter, and has been working on a painting of June and Greta when they visit him. Uncle Finn is also dying of AIDS.  Being that it is 1987, AIDS is that hush hush disease that nobody is comfortable talking about, and so for June when Uncle Finn dies, she has lots of unanswered questions.

One day a mysterious man posing as a delivery man delivers a teapot to June that belonged to Uncle Finn. A letter from the mystery man, Toby, happens to be the "special" friend of Uncle Finn follows. The letter asks June to meet Toby to talk, telling her that what her parents believe about him isn't true.  June is curious, she is also sad and grieving, but through Toby, her new secret, special friend, June begins to learn much more about her favorite uncle. Through their secret meeting June not only begins to heal, but also helps lonely, grieving Toby in the process.

A touching and sometimes emotional story, this amazing debut novel will tug at your heartstrings, but it will also make you happy that you had the chance to meet June, Uncle Finn and Toby.  It is through these amazing characters that we revisit the pains of growing up, what it feels like to lose a loved one, and how to heal a broken heart.

A top 10 book of mine for 2012, do yourself a favor and READ this book. Brunt is a debut author to watch for moving forward -- wonderful.

Use Your Brain to Change Your Age; Daniel G. Amen

Title: Use Your Brain to Change Your Age
Author:  Daniel G Amen
Publication Year: 2012
Publisher: Random House Audio
Edition:  audiobook/ Library
Reader: Marc Cashman
Setting: n/a
Date Completed: Aug/2012
Rating: 3.5/5 
Recommend: yes

According to what I read in this book if you want to look younger, feel more vibrant, avoid memory problems and decrease your risk for Alzheimers, you better work at keeping your brain healthy.  According to Dr. Amen, is a clinical neuroscientist who has performed over 70,000 brain scans on individuals from 90 countries over the last 20 years at his Amen Clinics, helping individuals to slow and even reverse the aging process. Sounds a little too good to be true doesn't it?

Through interesting case studies the author reports how our brain and decision making is affected when we neglect our diet and become sedentary. He goes on to say that images of patient's brains have shown that memory problems and depression are more of an issue as we age, especially for individuals who do not eat well, do not sleep enough and don't engage in regular physical activity.

He discusses his anti-aging plan as it relates to: eating better for a longer life. He tells of ways to boost energy and improve memory, talks of supplements that we all should take, how positive relationships help to slow the aging process, the pitfalls of drugs and alcohol and their effects on the brain, how to promote healing even if a brain has had a head injury or was damaged by a stroke, and how to out smart your genes (not so sure about this one) and halt aging in the process.

I found a lot of what the author says about diet and exercise to have been things that I've read previously in other articles from various health publications I read, but I did find many of the case studies pretty fascinating.  The narrator, Marc Cashman made the studies interesting so the audio book was enjoyable.

What I didn't care for was what I would describe as a lot of self promotion of the "Amen Clinics" along with the products he promotes there.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Saturday Snapshots - Abandoned Again!

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce at At Home With Books. Visit her blog to see more great photos by participants or add your own.

 "We suspected that our humans were getting ready to leave us again so we talked it over and decided if Buddy got into mom's bag while she was packing it, she might feel guilty. It didn't work, cuz then we saw dad take out that suitcase we hate."

 Lily, Freckles and Buddy

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Additions to My 2012 Reading List

 I admit that I have no right to add more books to my 2012 reading list, but most book lovers know how that goes sometimes.  How can you say NO to a book that seems irresistible? So these are a few books I'm planning on reading in 2012.

(Sept 25th - Gallery Books)

Olivia Donatelli’s dream of a “normal” life shattered when her son, Anthony, was diagnosed with autism at age three. Understanding the world from his perspective felt bewildering, nearly impossible. He didn’t speak. He hated to be touched. He almost never made eye contact. And just as Olivia was starting to realize that happiness and autism could coexist, Anthony died.

Now she’s alone in a cottage on Nantucket, separated from her husband, desperate to understand the meaning of her son’s short life, when a chance encounter with another woman facing her own loss brings Anthony alive again for Olivia in a most unexpected way.

Beth Ellis’s entire life changed with a simple note: “I’m sleeping with Jimmy.” Fourteen years of marriage. Three beautiful daughters. Yet even before her husband’s affair, she had never felt so alone. Heartbroken, she finds the pieces of the vivacious, creative person she used to be packed away in a box in her attic. For the first time in years, she uncaps her pen, takes a deep breath, and begins to write. The young but exuberant voice that emerges onto the page is a balm to the turmoil within her, a new beginning, and an astonishing bridge back to herself.

In a piercing story about motherhood, autism, and love, New York Times bestselling author Lisa Genova offers us two unforgettable women on the verge of change and the irrepressible young boy whose unique wisdom helps them both find the courage to move on.

(Harper - August 21st)

At the turn of the twentieth century, in a rural stretch of the Pacific Northwest, a reclusive orchardist, William Talmadge, tends to apples and apricots as if they were loved ones. A gentle man, he's found solace in the sweetness of the fruit he grows and the quiet, beating heart of the land he cultivates. One day, two teenage girls appear and steal his fruit from the market; they later return to the outskirts of his orchard to see the man who gave them no chase. Feral, scared, and very pregnant, the girls take up on Talmadge's land and indulge in his deep reservoir of compassion. Just as the girls begin to trust him, men arrive in the orchard with guns, and the shattering tragedy that follows will set Talmadge on an irrevocable course not only to save and protect but also to reconcile the ghosts of his own troubled past.

Transcribing America as it once was before railways and roads connected its corners, Amanda Coplin weaves a tapestry of solitary souls who come together in the wake of unspeakable cruelty and misfortune. She writes with breathtaking precision and empathy, and in The Orchardist she crafts an astonishing debut novel about a man who disrupts the lonely harmony of an ordered life when he opens his heart and lets the world in.
(Knopf - January 2012)

A debut of extraordinary distinction: through the life of her unforgettable heroine, Hattie Shepherd, the author tells the story of the children of the Great Migration, a story of bitterness and love and the promise of a new North, built on the backs of Hattie's children.

In 1923, seventeen-year-old Hattie Shepherd flees Georgia for Philadelphia, where, though her first two babies die because she can't afford medicine, she keeps nine children alive with old southern remedies and sheer love. Saddled with a husband who will bring her nothing but disappointment, she prepares her children for a world she knows will not be kind to them. Their trials are the trials on which the history of America was forged, a tribute to the resilience of the human spirit, and a force stronger than love or trouble, the determination to get by and get through. A searing portrait of an unforgettable family, an emotionally transfixing drama of human striving in the face of insurmountable adversity, and a ferocious vision of humanity at its most threadbare and elemental, The Twelve Tribes of Hattie introduces a writer of the very first order.

Hogarth - Sept 25th

In this stylish, haunting novel, journalist and novelist Lawrence Osborne explores the reverberations of a random accident on the lives of Moroccan Muslims and Western visitors who converge on a luxurious desert villa for a decadent weekend-long party. 

David and Jo Henniger, a doctor and children's book author, in search of an escape from their less than happy lives in London, accept the invitation of their old friends Richard and Dally to attend their annual bacchanal at their home deep in the Moroccan desert – a ksar they have acquired and renovated into a luxurious retreat.  On the way, the Hennigers stop for lunch, and the bad-tempered David can't resist consuming most of a bottle of wine.  Back on the road, darkness has descended, David is groggy, and the directions to the ksar are vague.  Suddenly, two young men spring from the roadside, apparently attempting to interest passing drivers in the fossils they have for sale.  Panicked, David swerves toward the two, leaving one dead on the road and the other running into the hills.

At the ksar, the festivities have begun: Richard and Dally’s international friends sit down to a lavish dinner prepared and served by a large staff of Moroccans.  As the night progresses and the debauchery escalates, the Moroccans increasingly view the revelers as the godless "infidels" they are.  When David and Jo show up late with the dead body of the young man in their car, word spreads among the locals that David has committed an unforgivable act.

Thus the stage is set for a weekend during which David and Jo must come to terms with David's misdeed, Jo's longings, and their own deteriorating relationship, and the flamboyant Richard and Dally must attempt to keep their revelers entertained despite growing tension from their staff and the Moroccan Berber father who comes to claim his son's body.

With spare, evocative prose, searing eroticism, and a gift for the unexpected, Osborne memorably portrays the privileged guests wrestling with their secrets amidst the remoteness and beauty of the desert landscape.  He also gradually reveals the jolting back-story of the young man who was killed and leaves David’s fate in the balance as the novel builds to a shattering conclusion.

(Allen and Unwin - March 2012)

The unforgettable story of three young friends making their way in the world - told with warmth, music, clarity and simplicity, it speaks directly to the heart.

Abandoned as a young child, Kalu, a cheeky street kid, has against all odds carved out a life for himself in rural India. In the quiet village of Hastinapore, Kalu makes friends: Bal, the solitary buffalo boy, and Malti, a gentle servant girl, who, with her mistress, Ganga Ba, has watched out for Kalu from the first day.

Perched high in the branches of a banyan tree, Kalu chooses a leaf, rolls it tightly and, doing what he's done for as long as he can remember, blows through it. His pure simple notes dance through the air attracting a travelling healer whose interest will change Kalu's life forever, setting him on a path he would never have dreamed possible, testing his self-belief and his friendships.

With all the energy and colour of India and its people, Dancing to the Flute is a magical, heart-warming story of this community's joys and sorrows, the nature of friendship and the astonishing transformative powers of music.

(#6 - John Corey Novel-my guilty pleasure)
Oct 16th - Grand Central Publishing

Anti-Terrorist Task Force agent John Corey and his wife, FBI agent Kate Mayfield have been posted overseas to Sana'a, Yemen—one of the most dangerous places in the Middle East. While there, they will be working with a small team to track down one of the masterminds behind the USS Cole bombing: a high-ranking Al Qaeda operative known as The Panther.

Ruthless and elusive, he's wanted for multiple terrorist acts and murders—and the US government is determined to bring him down, no matter the cost. As latecomers to a treacherous game, John and Kate don't know the rules, the players, or the score. What they do know is that there is more to their assignment than meets the eye—and that the hunters are about to become the hunted.

Do any of these sound good to you?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros

For today's First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, here's an into from a book I've been thinking about reading. 

Feel free to join in by posting the opening paragraph (sometimes maybe a few ) of a book you decided to read based on the opening paragraph (s). Grab the banner and play along.

Jonathan Evison - Algonquin - (August 28, 2012)

hooked on mnemonics
"I was broke when duty called me to minister to those less fortunate than myself, so maybe I'm no Florence Nightengale.  And maybe in light of all that happened with Piper and Jodi, I'm not qualified to care for anybody.  The fact is, at thirty-nine, with a gap in my employment history spanning the better part of the technological revolution, I'm not qualified to do much anymore."

Would you keep reading?  The second paragraph is very long, but for me it seemed like one I'd love to keep reading. Any plans for this one?

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Mailbox Monday - August 20th

 Mailbox Monday is hosted in August by 5 Minutes for Books.

Friday, August 17, 2012

ITalong - I CAVED!

I've caved to ITalong pressure ---hey, who can resist a horror-fest and a few nightmares as a result?  After years (25+) since reading Stephen King, IT will be my 5th SKing book in (12) months --I'm hooked once again. (This is one I never read for some reason so although I'm behind most of you, hope to download the eBook this weekend and get reading.

Here are some details about the ITalong, I copied from another post: 
  • Tweet IT -  #ITalong readalong of Stephen King’s novel, IT, about a bad town with an evil clown.
Won't you join in?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

January First; Michael Schofield

Author:  Michael Schofield
Publication Year: 2012
Publisher: Crown
Edition: eGalley
Setting: California
Date Completed: August/2012
Rating: 4/5
Recommend: yes

January First is a memoir written by a father, about his young daughter's early descent into madness.  January Schofield was an exceptionally bright little girl with an IQ of 146.  Fairly early on her parents suspected she was different, when she was unable to interact appropriately with other children and participate in normal play dates etc.  At least initially they attributed her preference for imaginary friends and her non stop energy level to being exceptionally bright.  The couple even felt that having a second child might help Janni, once she assumed the role as "big sister".  This plan backfired big time.

By the time Janni (she hated being called January) turned 5, her parents realized that there was something more going on, something very serious inside of Janni's head.  Her imaginary friends were not the typical made up friends that young children sometimes have.  These friends had numbers or days of the week for names, and they made her want to do harmful things, shout out inappropriately, talk of seeing rats and at times even attack her baby brother, Bodhi.

Her parents Michael and Susan Schoefield were often at odds as to what to do about Janni, and how to help her.   The book is Michael's account of  the family's daily struggles to keep both Janni and their new baby safe, their attempts at discipline, agreeing to medicate Janni with psychotropic drugs and even hospitalizing their little girl who is eventually diagnosed with early onset schizophrenia.

At least initially, I felt that poor parenting skills might be partially to blame, as I read about how the parents reacted to and dealt with certain situations that occurred, but once I continued to read,  I tried to put myself in their situation (of course I couldn't) and that was when I realized I probably would have tried "anything" to make my little girl better as well.

It's a tragic memoir which seemed brutally honest, written by a dad who was desperate to help his young daughter.  It is a sad story, so if you plan to read it, make sure you are not feeling blue when you read it.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

So Cold the River; Michael Koryta

Author:  Michael Koryta
Publication Year: 2010
Publisher: Hachette Audio
Edition:  audiobook/ Library
Reader: Robert Petkoff
Setting: Indiana
Date Completed: July/2012
Rating: 3.5/5 
Recommend: yes

Eric Shaw was once a Hollywood film maker, but as of late, he's been reduced to recording weddings and lately memorializing the deceased in the form of funeral videos.  After seeing him in action at at a wedding, a beautiful woman named Alyssa proposes that he agree to do a documentary about her billionaire father-in-law, as a gift to her husband . The man, Campbell Bradford is now 95 and dying. Eric feels up for the challenge, but little is know about the mysterious man, except that his hometown is, West Baden, Indiana, a town which lies low in the valley where a mineral spring still flows -- not an ordinary mineral spring by any means. Alyssa gives Eric a mysterious bottle of mineral water that had been in the family for years and years.
Pluto water is believed to be a miracle water which heals and makes people feel better, but what happens when Eric takes a drink is anything but a "miracle".
A little bit of mystery, a little bit supernatural, a little bit in the past and a little bit in the present, I liked listening to the audio version which was narrated by Robert Petkoff, who did a terrific job. What I especially enjoyed where sound effects added to the end of some discs which really added to the unsettling mood, in my opinion.  Although I liked the story well enough, I thought it was overly drawn out and that the story would have been just as effective if shortened a bit.  The ending had me wondering if a sequel might be planned.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph Tuesday Intros

For today's First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, here's and into from a book I've been thinking about reading. 

Feel free to join in by posting the opening paragraph (sometimes maybe a few ) of a book you decided to read based on the opening paragraph (s). Grab the banner and play along.

"The girl came at the same hour, summer or winter.  Every morning, I heard her approach.  Plastic slippers, the clink of steel on stone.  And the her footsteps, receding.   That morning she was earlier.  The whistling thrushes had barely cleared their throats, and the rifle range across the valley had not yet sounded its bugles.  And, unlike every other day, I did not hear her leave after she had set down my daily canister of milk."

Would you keep reading? I'm in love with the cover, but haven't actually started reading this one yet.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Saturday Snapshot - August 11, 2012

Saturday Snapshot

Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don't post random photos that you find online.

Couldn't resist snapping a few photos when we saw these on one of our trips:

 Now these have distinct style don't you think?

Look what was in the trunk of the blue car? LOL

Friday, August 10, 2012

Heading Out to Wonderful; Robert Goolrick

Author:  Robert Goolrick
Publication Year: 2012
Publisher: Algonquin
Edition: eGalley
Setting: Virginia
Date Completed: August/2012
Rating: 3.5/5
Recommend: yes

Heading Out to Wonderful takes place in the tiny town of Brownsburg, Virginia, population 500 in 1948.  It's a town where no very much happens, where people go about their business, most everyone knows one another and life is simple and relatively peaceful.  It's also a period of time in the South where even a talented seamstress, like Claudie Wiley, an intelligent black woman with plenty of money, knows the protocol of letting the white women get in front of her in line at the local market.

So when a handsome newcomer shows up in town with a couple of suitcases, one with set of butcher knives, imported from Germany, and the other suitcase full of money, he's bound to stand out a bit. The stranger is 39 year-old Charlie Beals.  One day Charlie is a hero in the townspeople's eyes when he saves a young boy from drowning. People welcome him, and given the fact that he worked as a butcher before, he even finds a job with the local butcher Will Haislett. It is here at the market where Charlie meets all of the local people, and becomes a hero-like figure to Will's young son, Sam. Charlie enjoys the boy's company as well, and lets the boy tag along, but a handsome man like Charlie needs some female companionship as well, and when he first sets eyes on a beautiful young girl named Sylvan, he's hooked.

Sylvan Glass is the very young bride of the richest and meanest man in town, Boaty Glass. Boaty purchases his young bride from Sylvan's father knowing his farm is failing and he needs money desperately. Sylvan, has bigger dreams of fancy clothes, is obsessed with Hollywood, movies and a glitzy kind of life.  For Charlie, Sylvan's a girl who deserves all this, and he has the money to buy land and other things for her. However, a pursuit like this seems destined to turn out bad.  The two begin an intense affair -- witnessed by a little boy (Sam) who doesn't understand what is going on.

The story is told by Sam, who is now an old man, recalling his childhood and the sadness surrounding it. It's a story of love, betrayal and the vulnerability of children. The story is dark and foreboding, and is told in a way that compels the reader to read a few pages more than they planned and then another few pages as well.  The ending had the WOW factor for me, but some reason I felt like the third person narrator wasn't right for this story.  Although the writing is very good, at least with the audio version, parts felt somewhat sappy at times.  Despite this it is a book worth reading if you don't mind a sad sad story.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Canada; Richard Ford

Title: Canada
Author:  Richard Ford
Publication Year: 2012
Publisher: Harper Audio
Edition:  audiobook/ and eGalley
Reader: Holter Graham
Setting: Montana and Canada (primarily)
Date Completed: August/2012
Rating: 4.5/5 

"First I'll tell about the robbery our parents committed. Then about the murders, which happened later" - so begins the novel, Canada.
The story is told from the perspective of Dell Parsons, the son of the bank robbers, who was just 15 years-old at the time. Although the 'bank robbery" happened some 50 years earlier, Dell takes us back to his childhood when he and his twin sister, Berner, lived in great Falls, Montana with their parents Beverly and Neeva Parsons, a mismatched couple who married in 1945 when Neeva became pregnant with the twins.
The novel is divided into three parts really. The first part introduces the reader to the parents backgrounds, as well as a look into the personality and behaviors of each twin. Then there are the events leading up to the robbery, and the aftermath of the 15 year old twins being left to fend for themselves when the parents were arrested and sent to prison.  Since Berner decides to go off on her own, the second part is more about what happened to Dell when he left Montana and headed over the border to Saskatchewan, Canada.  For the next 50 years, Dell would only see his twin sister on (3) occasions, so it isn't until the final section, the reader gets a glimpse into how Berner's life turned out in comparison to her brother Dell.
The author does a great job of painting a vivid picture of the locale, as well as a detailed picture into the makeup of the parents, and the children -- The father was tall and handsome,  a man who found a job as a school custodian after the war, but came up with ideas for money making schemes. The mother was a tiny woman with a "Bohemian look" and was born to a Jewish family. A college grad, substitute teacher, shy, sad, and a woman who felt alienated -- she thought her life would turn out differently, with no contact with her parents in years.  Even the twins had contrasting personalities, Berner was a plain looking girl who seemed both angry and skeptical about life.  Dell, on the other hand, as a teen seemed to have a "go with the flow" personality, however, at times, almost to the extent that it bordered on detachment, as a mechanism for his survival.

I thought the intro to the novel was so powerful, and had me anxiously listening to find out how the story would unfold. The story is both thoughtful and reflective. Canada, is a story about acceptance, and about making peace with the hand you were dealt in the game of life, instead of placing blame or judgment on others for how your life turned out. The audio book is read by Holter Graham, who did an amazing job. This is one of those rare audio books that is super easy to follow, and addictive as well; the first person narration worked very well. Definitely, one of my favorite audio books that I've listened to in 2012.
(Why a 4.5/5 star rating instead on a perfect 5?  There were parts that seemed to drag just a bit in the middle, but still such a worthwhile read.)

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Translation of the Bones; Francesca Kay

Author:  Francesca Kay
Publication Year: 2012
Publisher: Scribner
Edition: eBook - Kindle
Setting: London
Source: purchase
Date Completed: July/2012
Rating: 5/5
Recommend: yes

The Church of the Sacred Heart in London takes center stage in Translation of the Bones, a moving story about how different individuals deal with issues like faith, loss and grief.

Mary Margaret O'Reilly is a 33 year-old woman, childlike in thought and action. She lives at home with her morbidly obese, housebound mother, Fidelma.  One day, in preparation for Easter week services at the church where she volunteers, she is cleaning a statue of Christ, and while doing this she believes she sees blood coming from Christ's wounds, taking a tumble and bumping her head in the process.  Off to the hospital she goes, however, the incident causes hysteria among the faithful when word about what she claims to have witnessed spreads far and wide, and the faithful flock to this small church.

When one of the other volunteers hears that Mary Margaret took a tumble, bumped her head and was in the hospital, her response was.... 

"Mary Margaret was already two-sandwiches short of a picnic, Mrs. Armitage had said. Lord knows what she'll be like now."

Without giving too much away, I'll just say that this book is so much more than a story about someone claiming to have witnessed a miraculous vision.  It's a story about several individuals dealing with their own inner turmoil, and issues of faith. The author does a wonderful job delving into the psyche of each of the characters: Mary Margaret, her mother Fidelma, Mrs. Armitage, Stella Morrison and Father Diamond.  For me, Mary Margaret was such a sympathetic character, especially after learning about her mother's past, and the dysfunctional mother-daughter relationship the two had shared. In fact, all of the characters were memorable in their own way.

The story is very dark, but at the same time time thought provoking. For a debut novel, the author expertly creates an atmosphere of foreboding that makes the fewer than 250 pages seem to come alive off the pages. The ending was one worth waiting for ---wow.

(Initially when I finished this book in July, my rating was 4.5/5, but now that (3+) weeks have passed ,I've decided as I write this review,  it's definitely one of the better books I've read recently. It is just so different from anything else I've read in a long time, so I really feel it's worthy of a 5/5 stars rating.


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros

I'm semi-unplugged through Labor Day, but as host of First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, I will still be posting on Tuesdays the intros of a book I am reading or thinking about reading. 

Feel free to join in by posting the opening paragraph (sometimes maybe a few ) of a book you decided to read based on the opening paragraph (s). Grab the banner and play along.

Here's an intro from a book I'm hoping to read in August: 

Tell the Wolves I'm Home; Carol Rifka Brunt
(Dial Press - Random House)

"My sister, Greta, and I were having our portrait painted by our uncle Finn that afternoon because he knew he was dying.  This was after I understood that I wasn't going to grow up and move into his apartment and live there with him for the rest of my life. After I stopped believing that the AIDS thing was all some kind of big mistake. When he first asked, my mother said, no. She said there was something macabre about it. When she thought about the two of us sitting in Finn's apartment with its huge windows and scent of lavender and orange, when she thought of him looking at us, like it might be the last time he would see us, she couldn't bear it. And, she said, it was a long drive from northern Westchester into Manhattan.  She crossed her arms right over her chest, and looked into Finn's bird-blue eyes, and told him it was just hard to find the time these days."

"Tell me about it, he said."

"That's what broke her."

Would you keep reading?