Saturday, May 31, 2014

May in Review - A Glance at June

May with 31 days seemed awfully short to me.  I read (11) books but still feel like a bit of a slacker as I still need to review (3) of them. Of the )11), (6) were audio books, (3) arcs, (1) eGalley, (1) print. (57) books YTD.
  1. The Land of Steady Habits; Ted Thompson - (audio) 5/5 - May 
  2. North of Boston; Elisabeth Elo (audio) 3.5/5 - May
  3. Frog Music; Emma Donoghue (audio and eBook) - 4/5 - May
  4. You Should Have Known; Korelitz (arc/audio) - 3.5/5 - May
  5. Mr. Lynch's Holiday; Catherine O'Flynn - (arc) 5/5 - May
  6. Bark: Stories; Lorrie Moore (eGalley) - 3/5 - May 
  7. Ruin Falls; Jenny Milchman (audio) - 3/5 - May
  8. The Painter; Peter Heller - 3.5/5 stars (arc) - May
  9. Mambo in Chinatown; Jean Kwok - 4/5 (arc) - May 
  10. Seven Lives and One Great Love: Memoirs of a Cat; Divani - 4/5 (personal copy) May
  11. The Accident; Chris Parvone - 3.5/5 (audio) - May
Favorite May Read -  
The Land of Steady Habits; Ted Thompson - (audio) 5/5 - May 

Reading Plans for June - 
Hope You Had a Good Month for Books

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Coming Soon to a Book Store Near You - The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing; Mira Jacob

Here's my "Coming Soon to a Book Store Near You" pick for today. I thought this debut novel sounded terrific. What do you think?  
Mira Jacob
Random House - July - 2014


Aren't the covers awesome?


For fans of J. Courtney Sullivan, Meg Wolitzer, Mona Simpson, and Jhumpa Lahiri comes a winning, irreverent debut novel about a family wrestling with its future and its past.
With depth, heart, and agility, debut novelist Mira Jacob takes us on a deftly plotted journey that ranges from 1970s India to suburban 1980s New Mexico to Seattle during the boom. The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing is an epic, irreverent testimony to the bonds of love, the pull of hope, and the power of making peace with life’s uncertainties.

Celebrated brain surgeon Thomas Eapen has been sitting on his porch, talking to dead relatives. At least that is the story his wife, Kamala, prone to exaggeration, tells their daughter, Amina, a photographer living in Seattle.

Reluctantly Amina returns home and finds a situation that is far more complicated than her mother let on, with roots in a trip the family, including Amina’s rebellious brother Akhil, took to India twenty years earlier. Confronted by Thomas’s unwillingness to explain himself, strange looks from the hospital staff, and a series of puzzling items buried in her mother’s garden, Amina soon realizes that the only way she can help her father is by coming to terms with her family’s painful past. In doing so, she must reckon with the ghosts that haunt all of the Eapens.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Seven Lives and One Great Love, Memoirs of a Cat; Lena Divani

Lena Divani – Europa 2014
The narrator of this charming tale is a cat who is now in his seventh life.  He's a keen observer of his surroundings and of the comings and goings his humans. In his seventh life, which he enters as a kitten, his owner is, the Damsel, a writer.  Once called Sugar and now called Sugar Zach, our delightful narrator gives his readers plenty to think about as they read, as he shares his musings on life and humans. Although Damsel often seems disinterested in Sugar Zach, leaving him with neighbors for weeks on end, locking him out of the bedroom and more, he's determined to use his charm to his benefit, for as long as he's around, and maybe someday Damsel will even write a book about him.
No matter how much one loves animals, it is sometimes hard to read an entire book that is narrated by one.  I did not have a problem with this one. The story is well written (flawlessly translated from the Greek), and it's narrated with warmth, wit and wisdom. This book captured my heart, and I found myself smiling at the keen observations of this clever cat and his oftentimes oblivious owner. 
Telling the story from a cat’s point of view worked well, and the narration felt sweet and even poignant at times. There were so many observations that I wanted to remember that I found myself penciling passages throughout the book as I read. The wisdom shared by this sometimes pompous feline is quite entertaining -- a mix of wit, snark and even bits of empathy.  Fun to read with some adorable illustrations as well. This book would be a good choice for anyone who loves cats and wonders what they think of their humans. Trust me readers Zach is one very smart, cool cat.

4/5 stars
(personal copy)

Mambo in Chinatown; Jean Kwok

 Mambo in Chinatown; Jean Kwok
Riverhead - June 2014

Having enjoyed Jean Kwok's debut novel, Girl in Translation in 2010, I was anxious to try her follow-up which also features yet another young Chinese-American protagonist, trying to find her place in the world.

Charlie Wong was born in the US. Her father is a noodle maker at a restaurant in New York's Chinatown.  Her mother, once a ballerina with a Beijing Dance Company, passed away when Charlie and her sister Lisa were quite young. Sister Lisa is ten year's younger than Charlie, but at 11 she seems to know what she wants and she is a straight A student. Charlie on the other hand, is struggling to find her place in the world. She's rather clumsy, not smart like her sister, and she's been let-go from several jobs.  Most recently she's been working as a dishwasher at the restaurant where her father works. She sees an ad for a receptionist position at Avery Dance Studio, and applies, A woman named Adrienne sees something in Charlie and gives her a chance. One thing leads to another and soon Charlie begins to shine. Meanwhile, Charlie tries to keep it all quiet from her father who is reserved and set in the ways of his culture.

Charlie's life becomes somewhat of an ugly-step sister to Cinderella tale. She's a character that you will root for all the way, even though good things seemed to happen far too easily for her,  unlike most of what we experience in everyday life.  The story is mostly centered on Charlie, even though her young sister does come more into focus when she becomes very sick in the story.  The cultural clash and Mr. Wong's distrust of modern medicine are highlighted here. 

Overall, I enjoyed this story a lot, especially being drawn into learning more about the Chinese culture and medicine practices.  It's also always nice to see the underdog triumph.

4/5 stars
(review copy)

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

First Chapter First Paragraph ~ Tuesday Intros - Summer House With Swimming Pool; Herman Koch

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. Care to join us?

June - 2014 - Hogarth

"I am a doctor. My office hours are eight-thirty in the morning to one in the afternoon.  I take my time. Twenty minutes for each patient. Those twenty minutes are my unique selling point.  Where else these days, people say, can you find a family doctor who give you twenty minutes? --and they pass it along.  He doesn't take on too many patients, they say.  He makes time for each individual case. I  have a waiting list.  When a patient dies or moves away, all I have to do is pick up the phone and I have five new ones to take their place."

What do you think? Would you keep reading? Feel free to join us by linking your First Chapter post below ----

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Coming Soon to a Book Store near You - The Girls from Corona del Mar; Rufi Thorpe

Here's my "Coming Soon to a Book Store Near You" pick for today. I thought this debut novel sounded like a good one. Do you like the sound of it? 

Knopf - July -2014

“Why did Lorrie Ann look graceful in beat-up Keds and shorts a bit too small for her? Why was it charming when she snorted from laughing too hard? Yes, we were jealous of her, and yet we did not hate her. She was never so much as teased by us, we roaming and bratty girls of Corona del Mar, thieves of corn nuts and orange soda, abusers of lip gloss and foul language.”

An astonishing debut about friendships made in youth, The Girls from Corona del Mar is a fiercely beautiful novel about how these bonds, challenged by loss, illness, parenthood, and distance, either break or endure.

Mia and Lorrie Ann are lifelong friends: hard-hearted Mia and untouchably beautiful, kind Lorrie Ann. While Mia struggles with a mother who drinks, a pregnancy at fifteen, and younger brothers she loves but can’t quite be good to, Lorrie Ann is luminous, surrounded by her close-knit family, immune to the mistakes that mar her best friend’s life. Then a sudden loss catapults Lorrie Ann into tragedy: things fall apart, and then fall further—and there is nothing Mia can do to help. And as good, brave, fair Lorrie Ann stops being so good, Mia begins to question just who this woman is, and what that question means about them both.

A staggeringly honest, deeply felt novel of family, motherhood, loyalty, and the myth of the perfect friendship, The Girls from Corona del Mar asks just how well we know those we love, what we owe our children, and who we are without our friends.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Ruin Falls; Jenny Milchman

Ruin Falls; Jenny Milchman
Random House - 2014

In Ruin Falls, Liz Daniels is not thrilled about the prospect of visiting her husband Paul’s parents, Matthew and Mary Daniels, who Paul has had a strained relationship with for some time.  She agrees to go along with their two children, Reid, 8 and Ally 6, but has an unsettling feeling about doing so.
On the way to Paul’s parents the family stops at a hotel for the night and in the morning when Liz checks in on the kids, she finds them missing. Horrible as this may seem, her husband, a well-respected professor of agriculture, soon disappears as well.  Could Paul have planned to take the children all along or is there something more sinister at play?  
Without her children and the police not yet in panic mode, Liz returns to her home in upstate New York, and begins to look for clues as to whether Paul had been planning this for some time. She is desperate to find answers, but runs into several dead ends. An old friend who is now the police chief agrees to help Liz. It isn’t long before she realizes that some of the people she felt she could trust perhaps aren’t been looking out for her best interests after all.
I loved the beginning of this mystery, but then the middle slowed for me. There were several threads going in this story, which I felt made the story confusing at times, but in the end most of my suspicions turned out to be correct. Liz, at times, seemed clueless, but then her fighting spirit eventually kicked in. In her defense, I had to ask myself how I might have acted in a similar situation.
Overall, this mystery was just okay for me, as there were some plot elements which just did not ring true for me. I must say Cassandra Campbell as the audio book narrator made the listening experience itself a treat.

Rating - 3/5 stars
(book was provided by the publisher)

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

First Chapter First Paragraph ~Tuesday Intros; Mambo in Chinatown; Jean Kwok

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. Care to join us?
 Mambo in Chinatown; Jean Kwok
Riverhead Books - June 2014

"My name is Charlie Wong and I'm the daughter of a dancer and a noodle-maker.  My mother was a star ballerina at the famed Beijing Dance Academy before she ran off to marry my father, the handsomest noodle-maker in Beijing--or at least that's what she always called him before he died.  Hand in hand, they escaped to America to start their family.  Unfortunately, my mother's genes seemed to miss me altogether.  I took after Pa, minus the good-looking part.  And minus the manual dexterity as well: he never managed to pass his considerable noodle-making skills on to me, much as he tried.  So at twenty-two year's old I was instead working as a dishwasher at a restaurant in New York's Chinatown.  Pa was their noodle-master.  Customers lined up at the back door to purchase packages of his uncooked noodles to take home."
What do you think? Would you keep reading? Feel free to join us by linking your First Chapter post below ----

Friday, May 16, 2014

Mr. Lynch's Holiday; Catherine O'Flynn

Mr. Lynch's Holiday; Catherine O'Flynn
Henry Holt - 2013

Dermot Lynch is a retired bus driver from Birmingham, England whose wife Katherine has recently passed away. He has cleared out all of her belongings and decides to visit his only child, an estranged son, Eamonn, and his girlfriend, Laura in Spain. The two emigrated there with high expectations for an ideal life, with Eamonn hoping to write a book.

Eamonn and Laura purchased a home in a planned development in Lomaverde, by the sea, but life there is not as they imagined. The development is only half completed and the project has now been abandoned by developers. It's almost like a small ghost town, except for the few families who are stuck there and can't sell. To make matters worst, Eamonn can't stand his pretentious neighbors. The feral cat colonies have taken up residence around the empty community swimming pool, and the area has been burglarized on a regular basis as well.

When Dermot first arrives at his son's place he is rather shocked by how dirty and sparsely furnished the place is. Eamonn tells his father that Laura is away on a business trip, but later admits that she has left him and returned to England. Eamonn, who is in his 30s is a mess. He's depressed, sleeps until noon, not working or writing that book, and basically his wasting his life away.  Deep down he wants to leave Spain behind and return to England, the only place he knew but is afraid to do so.  Meanwhile, Dermot, tries to engage his son, by having him join him on "holiday" getting more familiar with the area and meeting people, determined to help his son get on with his life.

The story is told alternating viewpoints by father and son which works really well.  It's a story where nothing earth shattering happens, but it's the quiet and sometimes subtle conversations that make this story work so well as the reader learns what each man is thinking and feeling. Dermot was an awesome character, an observant and reflective man, who understands what his son needs. Often comical, other times tender it's one of those quieter novels that managed to linger with me after turning the final page.

Dermot, provided lot's of good food for thought throughout the novel, but the statement that made the most impact for me was this one -- it just rang true ---

“I think sometimes you lose people and you barely know it at the time,” Dermot says. “It starts as a small crack. That’s all it is. It takes years, a lifetime, before you notice what went out through the crack. How much you lost.” 
Read it - 5/5 stars
(review copy) 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

You Should Have Known; Jean Hanff Korelitz

You Should Have Known; Jean Hanff Korelitz
Grand Central Publishing - 2014

Grace Reinhart Sachs is a therapist who prides herself in her ability to read people. She's written a book which is about to be published entitled, “You Should Have Known: Why Women Fail to Hear What the Men in Their Lives are Telling Them.” It's a book that suggests individuals have the power to avoid relationship problems later on, by noticing subtle and sometimes obvious early warning signs. She is quick to point out that men don't suddenly become liars and cheats or gamblers and substance abusers, the signs are there early on if you look for them. Further pointing out, if you pick the wrong person, fixing your marriage is pretty much hopeless.

Grace believes she knows what she preaches and writes, and in her mind she is living the perfect life. She’s has a beautiful home, a successful career as a couple's therapist, a gifted 12 year-old son, Henry, who attends the sames private school in Manhattan that she attended, and her husband, Jonathan, is a respected pediatric oncologist.

Grace's job allows her to spend time volunteering at her son's elite school and serving on various committees. Through her the reader is drawn into the world of the snobby, elite. Grace comes across at times as being much like the other snobs she introduces us to, but she is in for a big surprise and about to be knocked off her high horse.

When the mother of a scholarship student at her son's school is murdered, homicide detectives show up at Grace's door.  They begin questions about her husband Jonathan, and when she tries to contact him, she is unsuccessful. She has no idea where he is, and little by the trail of deception he's created is revealed.

The novel came off as more of a psychological thriller and character study than anything else.  It was good with some plot twists and suspense, but it could have been much better if it was shortened. There was just too much focus on the lives, lifestyles of other people -- some nameless. The reader feels the tension building early on even though Grace remain oblivious. I thought it was interesting how the reader only hears about Jonathan and how busy and important he is. He seems to get a pass from any father/husband responsibilities and for not answering his phone or texts, because he is supposedly helping others who need him more.

As for Grace and the way things played out, I had little sympathy for her, and I couldn't understand how she didn't suspect something was off.  As for her new book, it'll still be published, but she'll have to make a minor change before that happens.

The audio version was read by Christina Delaine who did a good job.

Rating - 3.5/5 stars
(audiobook and review copy)

Coming Soon to a Book Store near You -- A Man Called Ove; Fredrik Backman

Here's my "Coming Soon to a Book Store Near You" pick for today. I thought this debut novel sounded like a good one. Do you like the sound of it? 

A Man Called Ove; Fredrik Backman
Atria - July 2014

In this bestselling and delightfully quirky debut novel from Sweden, a grumpy yet loveable man finds his solitary world turned on its head when a boisterous young family moves in next door.

Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon—the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him “the bitter neighbor from hell.” But must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?

 Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations.

A feel-good story in the spirit of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, Fredrik Backman’s novel about the angry old man next door is a thoughtful and charming exploration of the profound impact one life has on countless others.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Bark: Stories; Lorrie Moore

Bark: Stories; Lorrie Moore
Blackstone Audio/Knopf - 2014

Frog Music; Emma Donoghue

Frog Music; Emma Donoghue
Little Brown Co - 2014

An 1876 unsolved San Francisco murder is the basis for Emma Donoghue's latest novel, Frog Music which is set in the same time period.

Jenny Bonnet is a 27-year-old French-born woman who makes money catching frogs and selling them to local SF restaurants. She dresses like a man and is a regular in the courts as a result of her dress code defiance. It is in the opening pages of the novel that Jenny is shot through the window of a boarding house, while Blanche Beunon, a burlesque dancer and prostitute, in the same room bends down to tie her shoes, making the reader wonder --- who was the real target?
Blanche, a lucrative woman, who has earned enough money to purchase a 6-story boarding house in SF's Chinatown, is convinced that she knows the men responsible for the shooting (Arthur her pimp of sorts and Ernest his associate). Furthermore, she believes that they meant to kill her, not Jenny. As she tries to convince investigators of the their guilt, Blanche fears not only for her own life but also for that of her infant son who has been taken away by Arthur and Ernest. 

The novel is full of colorful characters that come alive on the pages.  The story really demonstrates how badly women were treated during that time period, and the smallpox outbreak which hit the area in the midst of a heat wave only added to the tension that enveloped this novel. Jenny, a woman Blanche hadn't known very long, certainly made an impression on me. She was instrumental in getting Blanche to change he thinking about herself and the trajectory of her life.

I liked this book, but found the narrative a little confusing at times on audio. The story jumps around to timeframes both before and after the murder. I did better after switching to the print format.  As I read I found myself much more interested in Blanche's character and how things would work out for her and her child, rather than trying to get to the bottom of the murder mystery. Blanche was an interesting character who I hoped would find her way.

4/5 stars

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

North of Boston; Elisabeth Elo

 North of Boston, Elisabeth Elo
Blackstone Audio - 2014
Read By - Marguerite Gavin - very good

In this debut mystery/thriller, a reader would hardly expect perfume industry and the fishing industry to surface in the same novel, but it does and it works fairly well.

Pirio Kasparov is an interesting protagonist who has been through a lot in her first 30 years of life.  Her Russian father created a perfume empire of sorts, her beautiful mother, a model, dies when Pirio was just 10, and her father ships her off to one of the best boarding schools money can buy. Her strict and highly cynical Russian father follows the urging of his new wife that this was the best thing for his young daughter. As an adult and now CEO of her father's perfume empire, Pirio can expect to inherit a fortune someday, however, she comes across as very down to earth.
Early on we learn that Pirio was helping lobster man, Ned Rizzo on his fishing boat when his boat was rammed in the fog by a freighter near Boston Harbor. A freighter that appeared out of nowhere. Pirio manages to survive the frigid water for hours, at temperatures where most people would have died of hypothermia, but Ned is presumed drowned. He leaves a 10 year old son Noah, (Pirio's godson) and his alcoholic wife Thomasina is a troubled woman who Pirio had met at boarding school -- she was also sent away so that her wealthy parents would not have to deal with her.

At first Pirio thinks the boat incident was an accident, but then she's not so sure believing something bigger and more sinister may have been at play. The more that is uncovered, the more it appears she is right. Who is involved and why was Ned's boat targeted is at the heart of the mystery.

I liked this debut mystery, but had a few issues with it as well. The writing is very good, great character development, and a variety of interesting issues are covered -- international crime, environmental issues, even touchier subjects like alcoholism, and parental neglect. Overall, I found the story too slow paced for me.  It really took a while to get going and even when it did, I thought it slowed again at times. The audio version was read by Marguerite Gavin who did a very good job overall. Not perfect, but I do think that the author has positioned herself well for with this debut for a continued series. I would be interested to see what becomes of Pirio.

3.5/5 stars

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros -- Seven Lives and One great Love; Lena Divani

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. Care to join us? Today's pick is one that won me over with the first (2) paragraphs ---

Lena Divani - Europa - 2014


" Though I run the risk of seeming disrespectful and ungrateful, I might as well confess it: I started planning my escape from the family home the moment I laid eyes on my progenitor.  That lady (for want of a better word) was an alley cat, ugly as can be, thin and sickly, with one good eye and molting fur the color of nondescript rubbish.  Darwin's shame.  A bottomless pit of aggression and fear. Cat lovers would woo her to try and feed her and she would launch into an attack.  A bellicose ingrate and rude to boot.  What business did I have with that?  The only smart choices she ever made were: a) to have sex with my father; and, b) to hunker down in a nook of the enormous garden of the corpulent, cat-loving Mrs. Sweetie, to give birth to us.

My father, whom unfortunately I never met but fortunately had sex appeal in spades, must have been of noble extraction, a pore-blooded Turk from Ankara, with a pedigree.  I am nevertheless prepared to bet he was all white, with a gleam in his eye, and a handsome devil.  What attracted him to that lowlife tramp, my mother, only the Lord knows.  In all likelihood, he was a bourgeois de salon who slipped out of his mansion one day, to see if he would make the grade out in the streets, had a run-in with the hood and realized how unforgiving street law can be.  There he was, my hapless progenitor, wallowing in self-pity, when mother turned up and restored his self-esteem.  Naturally, he was taken in by her street wise savvy, what mamma's boy wouldn't be?  Because, the truth be told, though mom may have been an eyesore, her street smarts were beyond reproach.  She happened to be in heat and deigned to allow him admission to the club of her many lovers, so she could add a blue blood to the random pool of genes she copped.  The outcome was me myself, as white as vanilla ice cream, a noble bastard, the four-legged exception in a mob of crooked, malformed and hideous siblings who stared at me mistrustfully. And smart to boot. Indeed, a genius."
What do you think? Would you keep reading? Feel free to join us by linking your First Chapter post below ----

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Happy Mother's Day

To all the special women who have made a difference in the life of a child. 

Happy Mother's Day!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

So Many New Books --

I was planning on a serious attempt to limit the new "physical" books which entered the house in 2014 (no such restrictions on eBooks though). Unfortunately (and fortunately) --  they keep coming, and they all sound wonderful too. Have you read any of these?


Thursday, May 8, 2014

Coming Soon to a Book Store Near You; What Strange Creatures; Emily Arsenault

Here's my "Coming Soon to a Book Store Near You" pick for today. I thought this sounded like a good one. Do you like the sound of it?  

What Strange Creatures; Emily Arsenault
William Morrow - July 2014

Scandal, love, family, and murder combine in this gripping literary mystery by critically acclaimed author Emily Arsenault, in which a young academic’s life is turned upside down when her brother is arrested for murder and she must prove his innocence.

The Battle siblings are used to disappointment. Seven years, one marriage and divorce, three cats, and a dog later, Theresa still hasn’t finished her dissertation. Instead of a degree, she’s got a houseful of adoring pets and a dead-end copywriting job for a local candle company.

Jeff, her so-called genius older brother, doesn’t have it together, either. Creative, and loyal, he’s also aimless in work and love. But his new girlfriend, Kim, a pretty waitress in her twenties, appears smitten.
When Theresa agrees to dog-sit Kim’s puggle for a weekend, she has no idea that it is the beginning of a terrifying nightmare that will shatter her quiet world. Soon, Kim’s body will be found in the woods, and Jeff will become the prime suspect.

Though the evidence is overwhelming, Theresa knows that her brother is not a cold-blooded murderer. But to clear him she must find out more about Kim. Investigating the dead woman’s past, Theresa uncovers a treacherous secret involving politics, murder, and scandal—and becomes entangled in a potentially dangerous romance. But the deeper she falls into this troubling case, the more it becomes clear that, in trying to save her brother’s life, she may be sacrificing her own.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Land of Steady Habits; Ted Thompson

Little, Brown, and Co

The Land of Steady Habits was an unexpected surprise. The focus of the story is on Anders Hill, a 60 year old man who lived life according to the rules.  Married to Helene, with 2 grown sons -- one son, Preston, 33, is still finding himself.  Anders has spent his career traveling from his home in an affluent CT town to his job in finance in New York City. Now at 60, after years and years of witnessing the corporate greed of Wall Street, he's calling it quits and opts for early retirement.

He's not only giving up his job, but he's giving up his beautiful home and his wife as well. He is divorcing his wife, who he hasn't had sex with for 5 months (and according to him -- it's not the fault of his penis). Yes, Anders is having a late-life crisis. He puts off his departure plans for a year when his wife underwent a double mastectomy. When he finally does leave, he's amazed at how quickly Helene gets over his departure. He wonders whether he's made a huge mistake. While Anders heads to a small town in Maine to begin his new life, Helene has his college roommate Donny, a man she dated in college, move into the marital home. 

The Land of Steady Habits, is about the dissolution of a marriage. It's about trying to find oneself after years of doing the things you felt you had to do. not what you wanted to do. It's an introspective story, one that made me root for Anders as he tries to make a new life for himself at 60. He wasn't always a sympathetic character, but there was something about him that I loved. He was the type of guy who just couldn't get out of his own way. 

There is a lot to like about this debut novel. I loved the way this new author writes -- descriptive, touching and even humorous. There are some real funny and not so funny things that take place a holiday party.  I especially loved that the protagonist was older, something that I don't find often enough in fiction. Readers who enjoy stories about family dysfunction, or individuals who have sometimes asked themselves, "is this all there is", should try this debut novel -- a pleasant surprise. I can't wait to read more novels by this promising new author.

The audio book was terrific and was read by the author.

5/5 stars
(audio book)

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros -- You Should Have Know; Jean Hanff Korelitz

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. Care to join us? Today's pick---

 You Should Have Known; Jean Hanff Korelitz
Grand Central Publishing

Chapter One -- You Just Know

"Usually people cried when they came here for the first time, and this girl looked as if she'd be no exception.  She walked in with a briefcase and a swagger, and shook Grace's hand like the cool professional she certainly was, or at least wished to be.  Then she sat on the couch and crossed one long twill-encased leg over the other.  And then, sort of abruptly, she seemed to register where she was, with a wallop.

"Oh wow," said the girl, whose name -- Grace had double-checked a few minutes earlier--was Rebecca Wynne.  "I haven't been in a therapist's office since college."
What do you think? Would you keep reading? Feel free to join us by linking your First Chapter post below ----

Monday, May 5, 2014

Giveaway Winner ---- is --------

I'm a day late selecting the winner, but out of (13) entries the winner 

Thanks to all who entered.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Quick Giveaway - Shotgun Lovesongs - Nickolas Butler

Shotgun Lovesongs; Nickolas Butler 
Thomas Dunne Books/Macmillian - 2014

I have an extra ARC of Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler (this copy is unread).  If you'd like a chance to win it, just leave a comment with your email and I'll draw a winner on Sunday evening. Good Luck!  (international entries are eligible for giveaway)

Description - 
Welcome to Little Wing.

It’s a place like hundreds of others, nothing special, really. But for four friends—all born and raised in this small Wisconsin town—it is home. And now they are men, coming into their own or struggling to do so.

One of them never left, still working the family farm that has been tilled for generations. But others felt the need to move on, with varying degrees of success. One trades commodities, another took to the rodeo circuit, and one of them even hit it big as a rock star. And then there’s Beth, a woman who has meant something special in each of their lives.

Now all four are brought together for a wedding. Little Wing seems even smaller than before. While lifelong bonds are still strong, there are stresses—among the friends, between husbands and wives. There will be heartbreak, but there will also be hope, healing, even heroism as these memorable people learn the true meaning of adult friendship and love.

Seldom has the American heartland been so richly and accurately portrayed. Though the town may have changed, the one thing that hasn’t is the beauty of the Wisconsin farmland, the lure of which, in Nickolas Butler’s hands, emerges as a vibrant character in the story. Shotgun Lovesongs is that rare work of fiction that evokes a specific time and place yet movingly describes the universal human condition. It is, in short, a truly remarkable book—a novel that once read will never be forgotten.

If interested, you can read my review here.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Coming Soon to a Book Store Near You - The Hollow Ground; Natalie Harnett

Here's my "Coming Soon to a Book Store Near You" pick for today. I thought this sounded like a good one. Do you like the sound of it? 

The Hollow Ground; Natalie Harnett
Thomas Dunne Books - May 13, 2014 

"We walk on fire or air, so Daddy liked to say. Basement floors too hot to touch. Steaming green lawns in the dead of winter. Sinkholes, quick and sudden, plunging open at your feet." 
The underground mine fires ravaging Pennsylvania coal country have forced eleven-year-old Brigid Howley and her family to seek refuge with her estranged grandparents, the formidable Gram and the black lung‒stricken Gramp. Tragedy is no stranger to the Howleys, a proud Irish-American clan who takes strange pleasure in the “curse” laid upon them generations earlier by a priest who ran afoul of the Molly Maguires. The weight of this legacy rests heavily on a new generation, when Brigid, already struggling to keep her family together, makes a grisly discovery in a long-abandoned bootleg mine shaft. In the aftermath, decades-old secrets threaten to prove just as dangerous to the Howleys as the burning, hollow ground beneath their feet.

Inspired by real-life events in Centralia and Carbondale, where devastating coal mine fires irrevocably changed the lives of residents, The Hollow Ground is an extraordinary debut with an atmospheric, voice-driven narrative and an indelible sense of place. Lovers of literary fiction will find in Harnett’s young, determined protagonist a character as heartbreakingly captivating as Scout Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird.