Tuesday, September 30, 2014

First Chapter First Paragraph ~ Tuesday Intros - Leaving Time; Jodi Picoult

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. I started this one yesterday and I must say,  this might be Jodi's best book yet.

Leaving Time; Jodi Picoult
Ballantine Books - October 2014



"Some people used to believe that there was an elephant graveyard---a place that sick and old elephants would travel to die.  They'd slip away from their herds and would lumber across the dusty landscape, like the titans we read about in seventh grade in Greek Mythology.  Legend said the spot was in Saudi Arabia; that it was the source of a supernatural force; that it contained a book of spells to bring about world peace."

What do you think?

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

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Sunday Blatherings and Books

I'm sick of feeling sick. Almost 3 weeks ago I got an earache, sore throat and cough that kept me home from work for a few days. 10 days of antibiotics done and still feeling crappy, I went back to the doctor and there was very little improvement except for the cough.  New antibiotic for 10 more days now and I can't hear out of one ear........ugh....It's rare that I am sick so when I am sick I'm quite whiny. I blame it on all the sick students that work in our office.

Speaking of work, the work week went quickly. Every year we do something that benefits the community in some ways. Everyone gets to choose from a list which includes manual labor, gardening work, reading to little children at schools, animal shelter work, and much much more.  This year I went to Ronald McDonald House, and assembled gift bags for children staying there while there were going through medical treatments. We also read to children and organized their library. The place is beautiful and the day was very rewarding.


I have been listening to lot's of audio books (volume turned high to compensate for blocked ear LOL) and reviewed several recently.  My current audiobooks are The Farm, Tom Smith (strange but interesting) and That Night; Chevy Stevens. I still need to review Landline; R. Rowell and The Arsonist; Sue Miller from earlier this month.

New Books (arrived by mail this past week)

Have a good week everyone!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Make - Ahead Cook ~ America's Test Kitchen

Cook's Illustrated - 2014

America's Test Kitchen has long been one of my favorite cookbooks (I own several). The set up of the book itself -- description - detailed about how many people the recipe will serve, safe storing, prep work, cook and serve instructions are all well organized and crystal clear. Most of the recipes do involve some prep time, but the recipes (there are 150) and all are recipes that will appeal to most people -- even choices for vegetarians.

There are tips to cut down on prep time, recommended cooking and storage containers. The sections are divided into -- "8 Smart Strategies" :
1. Prep Ahead
2. Reheat and Eat
3. Bake and Serve
4. From Fridge to Table
5. Shop Smart
6. The Sunday Cook
7. Come Home to Dinner
8. Stock the Freezer

Some of the recipes that I plan to try are: All American Meatloaf (brown sugar glaze), Miso Salmon, Salmon Burgers, One Pan Roast Chicken with Root Veggies, Stuffed Acorn Squash, Chicken Pot Pie with Crumble Topping, Chicken Enchiladas, 24-Hour Chopped Salad, Skillet Pizza with Broccoli an Red Onion, Chicken Pot Pie, Spinach Manicotti and several excellent looking slow cooker recipes as well.

Not all of the recipes in this book are new as I'm pretty sure I've seen a few in other ATK cookbooks, but that didn't bother me a bit. The illustrations that accompany the recipes are great and honestly, each recipe is all encompassing from prep to cooking, to storage and photo all on 2 pages per recipe. I love this book and think it would be especially helpful to anyone with a family to plan and cook for.

5/5 stars
(personal copy)

2 A.M. at the Cat's Pajamas; Marie-Helene Bertino

2 A.M at the Cat's Pajamas; Marie-Helene Bertino
Random House Audio - Crown - 2014

2 A.M. at the Cat's Pajamas tells the story of three lost souls who search for love and meaning over the course of a 24-hour period on a snowy Philadelphia night.

Nine year-old Madeleine Altimai is mourning the loss of her mother. Her father is emotionally absent while he deals with his own grief. School is no solace or safe and happy place thanks to the meanness of some of her classmates, but Madeleine is resilient. She has a wise mouth so she can give what she gets, even though she finds herself expelled from school after an incident. This Christmas Madeleine's luck is about to change.

Madeleine is by far my favorite character in this story. Clinging to the few things left for her by her mother - a love of singing and jazz music and,  a recipe box full of practical things Madeleine needs to know in life. In the box her mother left she tells her daughter how to write a thank you card for a gift you hate, how to fix a flat tire, and gives her the encouragement to do the things you are afraid to do. This spunky girl with a terrific voice is determined to find the Cat's Pajamas and to sing onstage.

Another character in this story is Madeleine's teacher Sarina Greene. Sarina is newly divorced and is invited to a dinner party she has no interest in attending. She forces herself to go in the hopes of seeing an old high school crush named Ben.

As for The Cat's Pajamas, in its prime it was the place everyone wanted to go, but now it may be forced to shut down notice unless Lorca, the club owner comes up with $30,000 to pay off a fine.

I had a little trouble with this novel, although I loved the whole Madeleine storyline, and thought that the author did a good job weaving three story lines together with the jazz club center stage, there was a surreal element which put me off a bit. The author's writing was good and the theme, second chances, appealed to me. Although I enjoyed most about this book, I'm not sure it will appeal to everyone, but it certainly was still a pretty solid read. The audio book was read by Angela Goethals who did a very good job.

4/5 stars
(audio book sent by publisher)

The Wife, the Maid and the Mistress; Ariel Lawhon

Doubleday - 2014

I don't read a lot of historical fiction, but in this case I'm glad I did.  The Wife, the Maid and the Mistress offers a fictional twist on the unsolved disappearance of NY Supreme Court Judge, Joseph Crater. The judge disappeared in 1930, and was legally declared dead in 1939 even though his body was never found.

Every year for nearly 40 years following Crater's disappearance, his wife Stella made annual visits to the mob owned, Abbey Club in NY's Greenwich Village to toast her husband. For Joe Crater, the Abbey Club was like a second home. Now dying of cancer Stella decides on a tell all she knows in meeting with detective Jude Simon who had been assigned to her husband's case.

The mistress, Sally Lou Ritz "Ritzi", a show girl, claims to have been out to dinner and more with Joe the night two men entered their hotel room, beat him up and dragged him off while she hid fearing discovery. Maria, the maid , also happens to be the wife of Jude the detective. She tells of having witnessed Ritzi in Joe and Stella's bed naked, and Stella herself doesn't exactly seem to have clean hands either.

The story was a fun romp into the world of 1930's New York. Showgirls, men with women on the side, the mob, prohibition, politics and more, all to the realistic happenings. The three woman in Judge Crater's life are all women who drive this story. Each woman is interesting and adds pieces to the puzzle with entertaining dialogue, and even though the real mystery remains unsolved, exploring the possibilities of what might have happened through the eyes of debut author, Ariel Lawhon was very enjoyable. A minor quibble with the book was the shifting time periods, which at times required close attention be paid. For me sometimes that is a little more difficult when listening to an audiobook while driving as was the case with this one.  The audio book reader Ann Marie Lee was fantastic though. Try this one, it is quite good.
4/5 stars
(library audio book)

Friday, September 26, 2014

A Good Marriage; Stephen King

 A Good Marriage; Stephen King
Simon & Schuster 

Scheduled to hit the big screen on October 3rd in the US, A Good Marriage is the 46th story written by Stephen King to be made into a movie. This story was originally published in 2010 as a short story in the Full Dark, No Stars collection. As I listened to the short audiobook (just 3 cds), I thought it sounded somewhat familiar, but it was still very enjoyable a second time (4) years later.

In this story Darcy and Bob Anderson are empty-nesters, a couple who have enjoyed a reasonably happy marriage for almost 30 years. Bob is an accountant and coin collector and is away from home from time time.

One day while Bob's away on business, Darcy is searching for batteries and stumbles upon something in their garage, neatly tucked away, that shake her to her core.  She suspects that her husband has been hiding some dark secrets.  First she tries to brush it off, but later she does her homework and is pretty positive that her worst fears are reality.  She isn’t sure what she will do and she certainly doesn’t want to act like anything is amiss when Bob returns. Bob is a pretty smart guy and can read his wife pretty well and he knows immediately that she has uncovered his secret. Honestly, how could Darcy possibly keep a straight face after just learning that her husband is a monster and has led a double life?

This is a King story that starts out strong and the tension continues to builds. Darcy's a great character and her voice and reactions fit the story well. A Good Marriage is about the dark side of humans and explores the capacity of one to do evil things.  The audio book narrator, Jessica Hecht, did a great job with this story, and even though the ending fizzled a bit for me, I still recommend this one to readers who enjoy a good nail-biter without the blood and lots of gore.

4/5 stars (audio sent by publisher)

Thursday, September 25, 2014

One Kick; Chelsea Cain

One Kick; Chelsea Cain
Simon & Schuster - 2014

First in a new series by Chelsea Cain, One Kick, gets off to a decent start, but then loses steam. The story opens with a young girl named Beth who is playing scrabble one evening, with a man who acted like her father.  The curtains are closed tight, there's a knock at the door, the man hesitant to answer, and in a flash the truth about the young girl is revealed.

Beth is really Kit Lannigan who was abducted when she was just six years old and held captive for over five years. She has been through a lot as one can imagine.  The author is sensitive to not shock the reader’s although it is pretty clear that Kit was exposed to it all -- abuse, child porn etc, the details are left out. Through occasional flashback you sense the bad stuff she was exposed to.

Now at twenty-one, Kit (Kick  she prefers to be called) Lannigan is one tough cookie. She’s a trained marksman, knows how to make bombs, is a martial arts master, a Houdini of escape and can kill. She tries to be tough, but the wounded child is still there and surfaces from time to time.
Now, at twenty-one, she finds herself unexpectedly sought after to help find a missing child. John Bishop is the unsavory, yet persistent character who draws Kick in while trying to track down a missing child  (Bishop has his own agenda). Kick’s brother James is a computer genius who is helping her narrow the clues to aid in the search for missing kids.

The flow of the story seemed off at times, and I think that it might have felt that way because Kick was still an emotional mess.  I don't think the Bishop character helped to heal her wounded self either.  Although I liked parts of this story, and had high hopes for this new series, as I've been a Chelsea Cain fan for a while, the ending of this story just seemed too unrealistic to me and I was left unsatisfied. At this point, I'm not sure whether I'll follow this new series, but was glad I tried One Kick at least. The audio book was read by Heather Lind who did a decent job.

3/5 stars (audio book sent by publisher)

Christmas Themed Books - 2014 ~ Coming Soon to a Bookstore Near You

Do you plan to read some Christmas fiction this year?
I always like to read a few Christmas books to get me in the holiday spirit. I hesitated to do this post so early, but since all of the stores already have some holiday displays up, I figured -- hey, why not. All bold are some of the ones I am considering.  All of these release between Sept and November.  The ones in bold are the ones I'm considering right now.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Removers; Andrew Meredith

The Removers: A Memoir; Andrew Meredith
Scribner - 2014

The Removers is somewhat of an unusual memoir.  In part a coming of age story, but also a story about making peace with ones past. For those author peace is found by working with the dead and their surviving family members. 

Andrew Meredith was just 14-years old when he learned that his family was in trouble. His father, a professor at LaSalle University in Philadelphia was fired from his job for sexual harassment, although Andrew and his sister only learned the reason some time later. Andrew's parents stayed together for 11 years for financial reasons, despite a tension filled atmosphere, separate sleeping quarters and virtually no communication between his parents unless absolutely necessary. 

Meanwhile, Andrew struggles finding his place and himself as a teen into adulthood. His relationships suffer and has low self esteem and poor body image, he claimed that by age 22 he had handled more dead women than living........
"a teenage Jerry Mathers, somehow gangly and pudgy at the same time, like a skeleton smuggling a kielbasa under his sweater."
As part of his father's termination, Andrew and his sister would be able to attend LaSalle free, and although Andrew goes to LaSalle, he flunks out after a year and a half. Out of school, out of money,  and wasting his hours drinking too much and not doing much else, he take a job with his father as a "remover" --  picking up dead bodies from hospitals and private residences and delivering them to the funeral homes. They were paid $35 each for a removal.
Between Andrews reflections on his dysfunctional home life -- how his father made his previously cheerful mother emotionally vacant over the 11 years they remained together. He shares various experiences from his calls as a "remover". Some of the "remover" stories are gross, some touching, and others quite funny. He even picks up the body of a woman he recognized as his grade school librarian, a 500 lb woman that took (5) removers to transport her body. He tries a stint living in CA working in a ritzy Beverly Hills hotel, but returns home to Philadelphia.  He later takes on work at a crematorium as well. 

This story was an eye-opener for me in many respects when it comes to the whole process of cremation. Honestly, the stories he shared about those experiences were more troubling for me than the ones about just removing the bodies of the dead.  I was happy that Andrew eventually got his act together and found peace. He manages to return to school and get even a graduate degree. It's with maturity and spending more time with his father, that after hating his father for 8 years, he soon comes to terms with what has happened and realizes that while his father may not have been perfect, he always was deeply concerned about children and never stopped loving them.
Having found comfort in working with the dead, he was able to see how much that he was comforting the living survivors as well, once he owned his own funeral services business. There was an end quote that I thought were very good I thought I'd share.....

"The one thing I learned in my late approach to growing up is the peace in realizing there is nothing special in the traumas that form us.  Some children have parents die, some see siblings die, some commit murder, some see their parents split This is to say nothing of what war does.  We cherish the particulars of our past,  these events that cause our pain, but the liberation comes when we start to  how every living person has gone through something that has changed him or her, and that becoming an adult is based on a response.  If there were ever a measure to be put on the value of life, that's what it would weigh: response.  How one responds to trouble. How quickly. With how much goodness. How much strength."
Readers who enjoy memoirs --- especially one that is certainly not a run-of-the-mill story, might enjoy The Removers, a book I was happy that I tried.

4/5 stars
(library book)

The Way Inn; Will WIles

The Way Inn; Will Wiles
Harper - 2014

The Way Inn, is a strange book,  yet in some ways very entertaining.  Neil Double’s job is a “conference surrogate,” someone hired companies to attend trade shows and conferences in their place.  It’s all done on the cheap – cheap travel, cheap accommodations, but hey he makes a living. 

For a fee, Neil does what many professionals hate doing. Schmoozing, attending presentations and meeting and living out of a suitcase.  He has plenty of work, and he’s a rare bird who enjoys staying in hotels. Up to this point "The Way Inn” is a chain of budget-friendly hotels that makes his travel experience enjoyable.  Every room from pictures on the way, placement of furniture, position of toiletries is exactly the same.  As a travel bonus he often meets desirable women who seem to enjoy a one-night stand here and there. Life is good and Neil finds comfort in predictable.

Yet for Neil, his latest assignment – a conference for conference organizers is about to change him in unexpected ways.  When he meets Dee, a mysterious and elusive red-headed woman at the bar, she tells Neil that she is photographing every single picture hanging on the walls of the hotel, and in the blink of then eye she is gone. Once Neil’s cover as “surrogate” is blown, he’s banned from further conferences and his access cards voided. Neil’s hotel experience this time will be more like a mouse trying to escape an elaborate maze.

I am not sure what to make of this book, and while I loved the author’s first book, The Care of Wooden Floors, this book left me perplexed.  The book is divided into three parts: The Conference; The Hotel and The Inner Hotel. There are only three characters to speak of in this novel -  Neil,  Dee, the red-head,  and the hotel manager. None of the characters left an impression.  While there is some humor to be had and even elements of tension and fear at times,  I never felt invested in the story.  To me for the most part if felt like a confusing romp down the rabbit hole. I often felt like I was watching an episode of the Twilight Zone (although those segments I generally get).

2.5/5 stars (review copy)

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

First Chapter First Paragraph ~ Tuesday Intros - My Education; Susan Choi

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. 

 My Education; Susan Choi
Viking - 2013

"Since arriving the previous week I'd kept hearing about a notorious person, and now as I entered the packed lecture hall my gaze caught on a highly conspicuous man.  That's him I declared inwardly, which of course was absurd.  It was a vast university, of thousands of souls.  There was no reason these two kinds of prominence --scandalous noteworthiness, and exceptional, even sinister, attractiveness--must belong to the same human being.  Yet they had.  The man was Nicholas Brodeur, though I knew it for sure only later."

What do you think?

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


Monday, September 22, 2014

Mailbox Monday - New Books

Welcome to Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia of To Be Continued, a place where readers share the books that came in their mailbox during the last week.

Two weeks worth of new books this week which I am excited about

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Coming Soon to a Book Store Near You - The Remedy for Love; Bill Roorbach

This week's "Coming Soon to a Book Store Near You" pick is a book that recently caught my eye. 

The Remedy for Love; Bill Roorbach
Algonquin Books - October - 2014

They’re calling for the “Storm of the Century,” and in western Maine, that means something. So Eric closes his law office early and heads to the grocery store. But when an unkempt and seemingly unstable young woman in line comes up short on cash, a kind of old-school charity takes hold of his heart—twenty bucks and a ride home; that’s the least he can do.

Trouble is, Danielle doesn’t really have a home. She’s squatting in a cabin deep in the woods: no electricity, no plumbing, no heat. Eric, with troubles—and secrets—of his own, tries to walk away but finds he can’t. She’ll need food, water, and firewood, and that’s just to get her through the storm: there’s a whole long winter ahead.

Resigned to help, fending off her violent mistrust of him, he gets her set up, departs with relief, and climbs back to the road, but—winds howling, snow mounting—he finds his car missing, phone inside. In desperation, he returns to the cabin. Danielle’s terrified, then merely enraged. And as the storm intensifies, these two lost souls are forced to ride it out together.

Intensely moving, frequently funny, The Remedy for Love is a harrowing story about the truths we reveal when there is no time or space for artifice.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

We Are Called to Rise; Laura McBride

We Are Called to Rise; Laura McBride
Simon & Schuster - 2014

We Are Called to Rise is an compelling debut novel that while sad, leaves the reader with hope and promise -- for humanity and about people doing the right thing.

The story is told in alternating voices by individuals although unrelated, who will see their lives gradually converge.  Avis, one of the voices in this story, is a middle-aged woman who is trying to spice up her in the rut marriage, when her husband announces he is love with another woman. She also worries about her adult son who is a troubled man after serving time three tours of duty in Iraq. Luis is a key character, an Iraq vet who has been hardened and traumatized by spending time in front lines of war. Bashkim, another key character, is an eight year old boy who lives with his Albanian refugee family in Las Vegas. Lastly, Roberta is a lawyer and child/welfare advocate who, although she plays a smaller part in this story, has heartbreaking job dealing with abused children and the homeless.

When Bashkim, a third grader is given a writing assignment, he is given a penpal in the military. He is assigned Luis who is now at Walter Reed Army Hospital.  His letter is sent off and when he receives a response from penpal Luis, no one is prepared for the shocking response he gets.  It is this letter that sends the story in motion, and with each new chapter the tension builds and culminating in an explosive event.

Most of the characters in this story were ones that I cared about, Avis had a horrible childhood and then is dumped by her husband Jim for a younger woman. Bashkim, really drew at my heartstrings, in some ways he seemed more mature than his age, but in other ways he seemed very naive. His situation at home with his family was difficult. The vets and even lesser characters like teachers each played an important role in making this story as good as it was. Although we learn some terrible things as we we read, and I prefer to remain as oblivious as possible to the nitty gritty details of war, this story in many ways is bittersweet, and left me with an overall feeling of hope. A terrific debut novel.

4.5/5 stars
(review copy)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - The Removers; Andrew Meredith

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.  I couldn't resist this one when I saw the cover at the library. (This memoir is just 177 pages)

The Removers (a memoir)
Andrew Meredith
Scribner - 2014

"Dad parks the hearse at the curb under a pink-petaled dogwood, in the glory of the first balmy April Saturday afternoon.  We're on Cantor Avenue in front of a tan brick apartment building, treeless courtyard, three stories high, a block long but invisible, a place that marks the edge of our Philadelphia neighborhood and the next, a structure populated by pensioner bachelor mailmen and mothers and toddlers learning English together.  At the rec center baseball diamond across the street, screams of 'GO!" followed an aluminum plink.  At the corner, tulips in yellow, red, violet, planted to partition the sidewalk from a tiny row house lawn, salute a crew-cut man in a tank top, gold crucifix swinging as he soapy sponges his four-wheeled stereo.  The fried onions from the grill at the steak shop a block away whisper that the cold and dark have passed and we've been delivered somewhere better, and yet inside our little brick houses these last six months a secret part of us wondered: is this the year winter doesn't end? A girthy old woman in her sleeveless summer house dress, sunlight warming her arms for the first time this year, hoses the dirt under the rosebush.  She looks like a Helen.  She might be a Carol.  An ambulance lines up at the red light like all the other cars, in repose, maybe coming back from an oil change."

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

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Virtues of Oxygen; Susan Schoenberger

The Virtues of Oxygen; Susan Schoenberger
Lake Union Press - July 2014

The Virtues of Oxygen is a book that I was initially drawn to because of the title and, I  also because I don’t think I’ve ever read a story about someone who had contracted polio as a child.  In this story Vivian Markham, now 63, contracted polio when she was just 6 years old. As a result she has spent nearly her entire life living in a iron lung so that she could simply breathe.  His older sister Darlene, age 10, also had polio but died  while still young.

Having lived on a farm when the Vivian was young, the parents provided the constant care required, but as they got older they moved from the farm town to a small town, where the church and residents rallied their support providing companionship and care.  One of the women who helps Vivian is Holly, a young woman who hasn’t had an easy life either.  She recently lost her husband, has two sons, and her mother has now suffered a stroke and needs constant care.  Holly’s job as a newspaper editor for the small town paper doesn’t cover her expenses and the excessive medical bills she has been left with. She is trying her best to make ends meet. My heart went out to Holly and her struggles. Holly’s is a story that will resonate with readers whose lives were turned upside down by job loss, loss of a spouse or home foreclosure.

Vivian, on the other hand, was a very strong character who lived life to the fullest despite her disability. Great with investments, computers, and business savvy in general, she was a woman who maintained friendships despite her situation.  I was inspired by the way Vivian had made the most of her life. Her story and how the community rallied to help seemed very realistic of small town life. I especially liked learning of Vivian’s early years when she was stricken with polio. She’s a woman to be admired.

The Virtues of Oxygen is a story of friendship, it’s never overly sad or sappy and the author does a great job of portraying the economic struggles of a town and its people. If you’re looking for something a bit different, this one is based on a true story, try The Virtues of Oxygen.

⅘ stars

(review copy)

Friday, September 12, 2014

Road Ends; Mary Lawson

Road Ends; Mary Lawson
Dial Press - 2014

Road Ends begins in the mid-1960s,  and tells the story of the dysfunctional Cartwright family, Edward, Emily,  and their eight children who live in the fictional town of Straun, somewhere around Ontario.  Straun a remote town where severe winters are commonplace.

Daughter Megan, the only girl and second oldest child of the family now 21, has decided that she needs to venture out on her own and start living her life and is planning on moving to London.  From a very early age she has acted as the head of household, taking on the  duties that her mother,. Her mother wraps herself up in fawning over each successive newborn and basically ignoring the rest of her family. With the arrival of yet another newborn son mother, most often can be found in her room with the baby.

With talk of Megan’s decision to leave the nest, the fractured family begins to come apart.  Edward, the father, is pretty much a non entity. He was raised by an abusive father and has kept his distance from his own children for fear of losing control. He doesn’t seem to even realize what is happening to those around him. Oldest son Tom has returned home after the death of a close friend, he is depressed and unable to cope with life on the outside. 

One character I really felt for was little Adam, just 4 years old and desperate for love, attention and affection, my heart went out to both him and Tom for what they were dealing with.  Even Megan, who had dreams of something more, a better life learns that  the path to happiness and fulfillment are not always easily attained, and that it is not always easy to cut ties with family either.

The Road Ends is a beautifully written  and compassionate but dark story.  The cold and desolate landscape adds to the bleakness of the story and depressing emotions some of the characters. It’s a story that portrays a family with all their warts and vulnerabilities exposed. This book is part of a stunning trilogy which I really enjoyed -  Crow Lake; The Other Side of the Bridge; and now Road Ends.  If you have not tried this author, I highly recommend that you do.

4.5/5 stars
(review copy)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Coming Soon to a Bookstore Near You - The Life We Bury; Allen Eskens

This week's "Coming Soon to a Book Store Near You" pick is a book that recently caught my eye. 

The Life We Bury; Allen Eskens
Seventh Street Books - October 2014

College student Joe Talbert has the modest goal of completing a writing assignment for an English class. His task is to interview a stranger and write a brief biography of the person. With deadlines looming, Joe heads to a nearby nursing home to find a willing subject. There he meets Carl Iverson, and soon nothing in Joe's life is ever the same.

Iverson is a dying Vietnam veteran--and a convicted murderer. With only a few months to live, he has been medically paroled to a nursing home, after spending thirty years in prison for the crimes of rape and murder.

As Joe writes about Carl's life, especially Carl's valor in Vietnam, he cannot reconcile the heroism of the soldier with the despicable acts of the convict. Joe, along with his skeptical female neighbor, throws himself into uncovering the truth, but he is hamstrung in his efforts by having to deal with his dangerously dysfunctional mother, the guilt of leaving his autistic brother vulnerable, and a haunting childhood memory.

Thread by thread, Joe unravels the tapestry of Carl’s conviction. But as he and Lila dig deeper into the circumstances of the crime, the stakes grow higher. Will Joe discover the truth before it’s too late to escape the fallout?
Would you try this one?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Road Ends; Mary Lawson

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. 

Mary Lawson is an author I've enjoyed in the past. I'm featuring both the first paragraph of the prologue as well as from chapter one from her new book Road Ends.

Road Ends; Mary Lawson
Dial Press - July 2014

Struan, August 1967

" The road was heavily overgrown and they had to stop the car half a dozen times in order to hack down the shrubs or drag fallen trees aside.  Once a sizeable beech blocked the way and they attacked it with a cross-cut saw. Simon had never seen a cross-cut saw before, far less used one, and he was predictably useless, but ridiculing him was part of the fun."

Struan, February 1966

"Two weeks before Megan left home she began a clear-out of her room.  She put her suitcase (the biggest she could find, purchased from Hudson's Bay) on the bed and a large cardboard box (free of charge from Marshall's Grocery) on the floor beside it and anything that wouldn't fit into the one had to go into the other.  She was ruthless about it, she intended to travel light.  Out went any items of clothing she hadn't worn for a year or more, any shoes ditto, any odd socks or underwear with holes in it that she had saved for days that didn't matter, in full knowledge of the fact that none of her days mattered, or at least not in a way that required respectable underwear.  Out went the debris left in the bottom of drawers: safety pins, bobby pins, fraying hair ribbons, a beaded bracelet with half the beads missing, the remains of a box made of birch bark and decorated with porcupine quills, ancient elastic bands looking so much like desiccated earthworms that she had to close her eyes when she picked them up and a quill pen fashioned from an eagle's feather, made for her by Tom when he was at the eagle's feather stage."
What do you think?

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

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Paying Guests; Sarah Waters

The Paying Guests; Sarah Waters
Riverhead Books - Sept 2014

Set just outside of London in 1922, The Paying Guests, is a literary thriller which kept me quickly turning its 500+ pages. 

Frances Wray is a 26 year old spinster who lives with her 50-something mother in what was once a comfortable life.  Now, Mr. Wray is deceased and has left the women in his life with substantial debt.  In addition, the economy after WWI has taken a downward turn and mother and daughter  have decided to take in boarders to help with expenses and repairs needed on their home.  The couple who joins their household are Lilian and Leonard Barber.

By day Leonard works, and Lilian is staying home adjusting to life as a new wife in a new place.  Frances and her mother have plenty of adjustments as to make as well, and each walks of fine line as to being friendly to the "paying guests" and giving them the privacy and space they deserve.  The lifestyle and manners of the Barbers are a bit of a shock to the system, especially for Mrs. Wray, and at times the two feel very awkward around the Barbers even in their own home. 

When Len goes off to work and Mrs. Wray out about town during the day, Lilian and Frances spend time getting to know one another and become confidants. Frances is a lesbian who had recently ended a relationship with a woman because of family obligations. She feels comfortable enough to tell Lilian about this relationship hoping she will not think any less of her.  Yet with each new day Frances finds herself attracted to the young woman and she does her best try to go about her daily activities in spite of these feelings.  

For the first 200 pages or so the author builds the tension as the reader is getting to know the "paying guests" and how the lives of the Wrays are impacted with their arrival and sharing a home together. The second section ratchets up the tension even more with the turn of each page as Lilian and Frances relationship develops into something more than friendship. The added tension and some shocking violence add to the overall psychological drama. The final section deals with an investigation and trial with an ending that left me satisfied.

Sarah Waters knows how create a suspenseful novel. The time period and characters came alive on the page.  I can't say that I liked any of the characters, but I did feel like I was right there watching the happenings firsthand.  This is a story has it all - forbidden love, scandal and crime.  I was hooked early on and invested until the end.  This is sure to make my list of favorites list for 2014 - Read It!

Highly recommended to readers who enjoy finely crafted historical crime fiction.

5/5 stars
(review copy )