Thursday, April 30, 2015

Coming Soon to a Bookstore Near You - Our Souls at Night; Kent Haruf

Here's a book I am looking forward to reading, by an author I've enjoyed in the past. The book releases the end of May, and every review I've read has been 5 stars!

Our Souls at Night; Kent Haruf
Knopf - May 2015


A spare yet eloquent, bittersweet yet inspiring story of a man and a woman who, in advanced age, come together to wrestle with the events of their lives and their hopes for the imminent future. 

In the familiar setting of Holt, Colorado, home to all of Kent Haruf’s inimitable fiction, Addie Moore pays an unexpected visit to a neighbor, Louis Waters. Her husband died years ago, as did his wife, and in such a small town they naturally have known of each other for decades; in fact, Addie was quite fond of Louis’s wife. His daughter lives hours away in Colorado Springs, her son even farther away in Grand Junction, and Addie and Louis have long been living alone in houses now empty of family, the nights so terribly lonely, especially with no one to talk with.

Their brave adventures—their pleasures and their difficulties—are hugely involving and truly resonant, making Our Souls at Night the perfect final installment to this beloved writer’s enduring contribution to American literature.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Eileen; Ottessa Moshfegh

Eileen; Ottessa Moshfegh
Penguin - 2015

Just who is Eileen? In a town only referred to as X-ville in Massachusetts lived 24 year old Eileen Dunlop. Some might see her simply as a lonely young woman with low self esteem who cares for her alcoholic ex-cop father.  To me, Eileen was much more complex and unbelievably disturbed. I thought she could have easily been a sibling of the Anthony Perkins character in the movie Psycho.

It's the 1960's and poor Eileen has a horrible life. She hated her mother who died a few years earlier, and now cares for her alcoholic, verbally abusive, father. She has no friends, works as a secretary at a correction's facility for troubled,under aged boys. When day is done, she pretty much stops off for booze for her father, returning home to their filthy, disgusting house, and then retreating to a room in the attic.

One day Rebecca, an attractive, educated young woman from work becomes friendly with Eileen, and invites her over one evening. Rebecca's interest in Eileen is self-serving, and leads to an unexpected turn of events for Eileen. 

In some ways, after all the buildup, the ending seemed somewhat unsatisfying. Don't get me wrong, Eileen is a fascinating character study. I was glued to her every depraved thought and word. She's a woman who was obsessed and excited by things that would repulse most normal people. [This author can write and dig deep into the psyche]

I read this book while travelling to and from NYC recently, and honestly, could not put it down. It's one of those stories where just when you think things can't get any worst, they do. The story is told from Eileen's perspective now as an old woman, looking back to the month around Christmas when she was 24. Despite my disappointment in the ending, I still highly recommend this to readers who love twisted protagonists.

4.5/5 stars
(review copy-amazon vine)

 2 quotes from Eileen ---"A grown woman is like a coyote--she can get by on very little.  Men are more like housecats. Leave them alone for too long and they'll die of sadness.  Over the years I've grown to love men for this weakness.  I've tried to respect them as people, full of feelings, fluctuating and beautiful from day to day. I've listened, soothed and wiped the tears away.  But as a young woman in X-ville, I had no idea that other people--men or women--felt things as deeply as I did.  I had no compassion for anyone unless his suffering allowed me to indulge in my own. My development is very stunted in this regard."

"I pulled on a pair of old woolen tights and went and found a spare bottle of gin I'd hidden in the closet and handed it to my father. He took it and flipped the light on with his free hand.  When his newspaper slipped from his knees, I caught sight of the dark patch of pubic hair in his lap.  That terrified me.  I saw, too, his gun sitting on the edge of the sink.  I'd wondered about that gun from time to time.  In my darkest moments, I'd imagined easing it out from under my father's sleeping body and pulling the trigger.  I'd aim straight through the back of my skull so that I'd slump down over him, my blood and brains oozing all over his cold, flaccid chest.  But honestly, even in those darkest moments, the idea of anyone examining my naked corpse was enough to keep me alive.  I was that ashamed of my body.  It also concerned me that my demise would have no great impact, that I could blow my head off and people would say, That's all right. Let's get something to eat."

I Regret Everything: A Love Story; Seth Greenland

Seth Greenland - Europa - 2015

I Regret Everything: A Love Story by Seth Greenland, isn't a sappy story as some readers might expect. It's a beautifully written piece of literary fiction about two individuals who care deeply for one another, but the odds are stacked against them.

Jeremy Best is a 33 year old NYC estates and trusts attorney, a boring job, but one he does well and, for which his efforts will be rewarded as he is on the partner track for the law firm he works for.  He's a pretty lonely guy and his secret passion is writing poetry under the name, Jinx Bell.

Spaulding Simonson 19, is the daughter of one of the managing partners of Jeremy's law firm, Thatcher, Sturgess and Simonson She has spent time in a psych hospital, and her feuding divorced parents just don't seem to have any time for her. She longs to be q writer herself, and she knows Jeremy's Jinx Bell secret.  Initially, she tells Jeremy that at 33, he is already half-dead, but it's soon obvious that there is a mutual attraction, especially after Jeremy learns something that makes him reassess his life.

Without saying too much more about what happens, other than that the odds are against them, this is one of those wonderful surprise reads where the flawed characters just come alive on the pages. There is a lot to love about this story, so if you are the least bit intrigued, do yourself a favor and read this one.

4.5/5 stars

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Mill River Recluse; Darcie Chan

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.

2013- Ballantine Books

"We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark.  The real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light. --Plato--


As she gazed out the bay window in her bedroom, Mary McAllister knew this night would be her last.

Outside, the February darkness was suffused with light from the town of Mill River.  Thick snowflakes streamed past the bedroom window.  Only the Mill River itself, for which the small Vermont town was named, escaped the snow covering. Its unfrozen center flowed, black and snake-like, along the edge of the sleeping town."

With her left hand, Mary stroked a large Siamese cat curled next to her on the adjustable bed.  With her right, she tucked a few strands of fine white hair behind her ear.  Mary's eyes, one clear and blue, the other gray and cloudy, were fixed on the storm outside."

What do you think? Keep Reading?
(feel free to join in and post your link below)

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Coming Soon to a Bookstore Near You - A Cure for Suicide; Jesse Ball

This book looked different from anything I've read recently. It will hit bookstores in July
Would you try it?

A Cure for Suicide; Jesse Ball
Pantheon - July 2015

(DESCRIPTION) - From the author of Silence Once Begun—one of our most audacious and original writers—a beguiling new novel about a man starting over at the most basic level, and the strange woman who insinuates herself into his life and memory. 
A man and a woman have moved into a small house in a small village. The woman is an "examiner," the man, her "claimant." The examiner is both doctor and guide, charged with teaching the claimant a series of simple functions: this is a chair, this is a fork, this is how you meet people. She makes notes in her journal about his progress: he is showing improvement, yet his dreams are troubling. One day, the examiner brings him to a party, and here he meets Hilda, a charismatic but volatile woman whose surprising assertions throw everything the claimant has learned into question. What is this village? Why is he here? And who is Hilda? A fascinating novel of love, illness, despair, and betrayal, A Cure for Suicideis the most captivating novel yet from one of our most exciting young writers.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Accidents of Marriage; Randy Susan Meyers

Accidents of Marriage; Randy Susan Meyers

My past experience reading of what Randy Susan Meyers has written has been very positive, so I was anxious to try her most recent offering, Accidents of Marriage.  This story is one that explores the effects emotional abuse and anger issues has on a family. 

In this story the Illica family lives in Boston. Ben is a powerful public defender and, Maddy, a social worker. Maddy also bears the full responsibility of seeing that things run smoothly at home.  The couple has (3) children Emma  14, Gracie 9, and Caleb 7. Maddy has an awful lot on her mind and is sometimes understanably frazzled and disorganized.

Ben has an explosive personality, and his fits of anger that are mostly directed at his wife. He's hypercritical and unforgiving when things don't run smoothly in the house. The children have seen more than their share of their parents marital disharmony. One day after a particularly heated incident, Ben and Maddy are in the car with Ben driving when he becomes involved in a road rage incident. After swerving his car and losing control, Maddy is thrown from the car and suffers a traumatic head injury. She spends time in a coma, and then there is a long rehab process, and her family is deeply affected.

There are some interesting family dynamics to disect here, but more then anything, this novel shows just how abuse can affect the family unit. I found myself yelling at several of the characters as I read, as the author examines whether this marriage is beyond repair.  For the most part, the POV changes between Ben, Maddy and the oldest daughter, Emma.

I started listening to the audio version, read by Susan Bennett, but before long I had to change to the eBook, the explosive outbursts by Ben were difficult to listen to for any length of time.  He sounded so angry and hateful, and Maddy seemed nervous and as if constantly walking around on eggshells. This is definitely a tough subject to read about, and although the author did a good job with the material, I was glad when I finally got to the last page. I can't recommend this book, but I do highly recommend,  The Murderer's Daughters and The Comfort The Comfort of Lies by this author.

3.5/5 stars

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - The Tell; Hester Kaplan

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. This one is totally different from anything I've read in a long time, but I purchased it in 2013 mostly because it takes place in Rhode Island.

The Tell; Hester Kaplan
Harper - 2013

"For weeks he'd waited for the wild lilacs arching over the carriage house to bloom,  Then, back from teaching and a plodding swim at the Y that afternoon, Owen had spotted the first fat plume with its buds rising like a thousand fists.  The driveway's pea gravel had protested underfoot as he broke off a sprig.  He'd put the lilacs, delicate, strong-perfumed, in a pitcher on the sill over the sink for his wife, Mira, and saw now, as he looked up from his hands circling under running water water, how their hue matched the lowering sky, the drooping sun.  In the tinted early evening, Providence was washed with improbable color, lulled by a pony urban calm, the arterial whoosh of the highway and the digestive rumbling of the train moving out of the station down the hill toward Boston.  Behind him at the table Mira read in the paper about the city's boasts and failings, its crimes and peculiararities.  His wife's head would be at that absorbed angle as though every story was interesting and in some way personal, but he understood that this sense of knowing her completely was wrong."

What do you think? Keep reading?

Feel free to join in by linking your post below.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Sunday Blatherings and New Books

We had a beautiful weekend. Perfect spring weather and sunshine. We were suppose to have a joint birthday party on Saturday for the birthday sisters born 5 days apart, but a stomach bug got the best of both girls this week, so the party was cancelled.  It's hard to believe these sisters are (1) and (3) already, and cousin E is 9+ months. I can't wait to retire this summer and spend more time with them.


My reading this week was next to nothing as I had a few interuptions to my private reading time at lunch. I do have a few reviews to catch up on as well. How was your week in books?

I know I have no business buying books these days, with 500+ unread on my shelves not to mention all those Kindle downloads (that I stopped counting), but I did pick up each of these books for under $5.00 each  including shipping on Amazon. All were on my wishlist for a while, and just happened to have price reductions to next to nothing this month.  Have you read any of these?

Have a great week All

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Coming Soon to a Book Store Near You - The Book of Speculation; Erika Swyler

I love when I come across a debut author's book that I'm anxious to try. Here's one that sounds a bit different and fun to me.

St. Martin's Press - June 2015


I came across this book at auction as part of a larger lot I purchased on speculation. The damage renders it useless to me, but a name inside it led me to believe it might be of interest to you or your family....
Simon Watson, a young librarian, lives alone in a house that is slowly crumbling toward the Long Island Sound. His parents are long dead. His mother, a circus mermaid who made her living by holding her breath, drowned in the very water his house overlooks. His younger sister, Enola, ran off to join the circus six years ago.
One June day, an old book arrives on Simon's doorstep. Fragile and water damaged, the book is a log from the owner of a traveling carnival in the 1700s, who reports strange and magical things-including the drowning death of a circus mermaid. Since then, generations of "mermaids" in Simon's family have drowned-always on July 24, which is only weeks away.
As his friend Alice looks on with alarm, Simon becomes increasingly worried about his sister. Could there be a curse on Simon's family? What does it have to do with the book, and can he stop it in time to save Enola?
The Book of Speculation is Erika Swyler's gorgeous and moving debut, a wondrous novel about the power of books, family, and magic.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

First Chapter First Paragraph ~ Tuesday Intros - The Listener; Rachel Basch

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.

The Listener; Rachel Basch
Pegasus - 2015


 "She was a freshman, allergic to sulfa drugs and codeine.  She didn't wear corrective lenses and she didn't smoke.  She wasn't taking any medication.  She's checked yes for vitamin supplements and no for birth control.  At the bottom of the form on the line that read Other, she'd printed OTHER in big block letters.

Malcolm slid the new patient information into his notebook and looked over at the lanky girl anchored at the far end of the couch, her head bowed. Leah's a beautiful name. He considered sharing that he had a daughter named Leah, who was fond of reminding him that he got paid as much for what he didn't say as what he did, maybe more."

What do you think? Keep reading?

Feel free to join in by linking your post below.

Monday, April 13, 2015

I Don't Have a Happy Place: Cheerful Stories of Despondency and Gloom Kim Korson

Kim Korson - Gallery Books - 2015

I Don't Have a Happy Place is a collection of autobiographical stories of what life was like growing up in a non religious, Jewish family in the 1970's in Montreal.

After reading the first story about Kim as a child, vacationing with her rich friend's family and the friend's babysitter Pauline drowned, I wasn't sure what to expect with the rest of the collection.  It was a bit unsettling, one minute I'm chuckling as I read and then wham the babysitter is being pulled out of the water and dead.

The other stories which I read over a period of a few weeks were more easily imagined, stories about summer escapades, being a "latchkey kid", difficulties making friends as a child, career, pregnancy, and even a story about her Nana.

Although as an adult Kim, was diagnosed with a low grade form of chronic depression, I'm guessing Kim got her downer personality, at least in part, from her feminist, mother whocomes across as opinionated and who Kim described as "crabby".  I'm not sure who left a more lasting impression on me, Kim or her mother.

I loved the catchy title and, I admit it was fun to read in small doses. A little dry wit and snark goes a long way with me. I think much of what she writes about will be most appreciated by readers in their late 40's or older who will be able to relate to the nostalgia of days gone by.

4/5 stars

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Sunday Blatherings and New Books

I think it's safe to put away the winter coats....finally, it's suppose to be 65 degrees and sunny today and in the slow 60s most of the week.  Can you tell I'm smiling. Believe it ot not, we still have a small mound of snow on the shady side of our driveway, hopefully it will disappear this week.

Went to see The Longest Ride yesterday and I liked it a lot. It was quite sad in parts and we shed a few tears, but we were happy we saw it. It's based on the Nicholas Spark's novel, which I did not read, because I'm not really into romance novels anymore, so I am surprised how much I loved the movie.  The acting was great, especially Alan Alda.

I've read a lot of sad books lately -- loved them, but they've been such downers. I hope to read something upbeat or a humorous memoir next.  I just finished Accidents of Marriage on audio (review next week) and  still have People in the Trees on audio going. How was your week in books?

Here's my latest additions in terms of new books:

Have a great week everyone!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

West of Sunset; Stewart O'Nan

West of Sunset; Stewart O'Nan
Viking - 2015

Stewart O'Nan, is a long time favorite author of mine. I'm especially fond those Boston-based fiction novels has written, but his newest novel, West of Sunset, is a definite departure from his standard fare.  I actually finished the book a while ago, but had never written a review, so this may seem more like some rambling thoughts based on notes I took as I read.

Basically, this novel is a ficitionalized account of the last three years of F. Scott Fitzgerald's life. It's the late 1930's and it's not the best of times for F. Scott. Zelda is in a mental institution, his own health is declining, as is his bank account.  To stay afloat he gets advances on his past writing success, and hopes he'll feel inspired to write once again. He decides to move from North Carolina to Hollywood to try his hand at screenwriting for $1,000/week, an offer from Metro-Goldwyn Mayer. He needs the income to pay for Zelda's room & board as well as daughter Scottie's private boarding school.

There were references to many for the famous people from Hollywood in days gone by, some who served as little more than drinking buddies it seemed:  Bogart, Dietrich, Cooper and even Shirley Temple. The opening scene really got to me with a description of F. Scott visiting 37 year old Zelda in the institution, where she has a broken tooth and is described as "crone-like and hawkish looking."  In fact, that scene seemed perfect in that she wasn't the only one in the novel who had seen better days in terms of physical health, appearance, and the best days of their life having passed.  O'Nan made me feel sorry Fitzgerald, a brilliant but yet conflicted man, with a tragic story that was his life.This is definitely not a story that will appeal to all readers. I didn't delve into it with high hopes, and even though the pace was someone slow, I was pleased to find that I actually liked it more than I expected to.

4/5 stars
(copy sent by publisher)

Friday, April 10, 2015

Someone is Watching; Joy Fielding

Someone is Watching; Joy Fielding
Ballantine - 2015

In this thriller Bailey Carpenter is a special investigator for a big Miami law firm.  On the surface Bailey appears to really have her act together. She's smart, great at her job and enjoys the type of work she does. She also stands to inherit a fortune from her father's estate. He died unexpectedly of a heart attack. 

Despite all she has going for her, Bailey's personal life is a disaster. She's involved with her boss who is married and one night when she is out on a late night surveillance of a deadbeat dad, she is attacked and raped.  She never saw her assailant who was masked, the only things etched on her brain are the black Nike sneakers and that he was wearing gloves. Then there was his voice,, when the rape was all over he whispered the words...."tell me you love me."

Unable to eat, sleep or work Bailey is a prisoner in her apartment. The stress and paralyzing anxiety has taken her to a new low in her life.  She still hasn't gotten over the death of her father 4-months earlier, and now to make things even more stressful is the fact that her half-siblings are suing for a portion of her father's estate, which he left solely to Bailey and her loser brother, Heath.

There is a lot of suspense, tension and nail-biting moments in this story, as Bailey sees most everyman she encounters as the man who might have raped her. She makes matters worst when she starts observing a man in another high rise across the way with binoculars. At times what she sees in that other apartment frightens her and, then one day she notices him looking back into her apartment.

The author does a good job holding the readers interest, and ratcheting up tension but, never making the story seem too violent. There's a lot going on in this story as well as several ancillary characters. and a few unexpected twists as well. A nice change of pace from the types of books I've read lately. If you enjoy thrillers - try this one.

4/5 stars

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Coming Soon to a Bookstore Near You - Language Arts; Stephanie Kallos

I was a big fan of this author's debut novel, Broken for You (2003). Excited to learn of a new release coming in June.

Language Arts; Stephanie Kallos
Houghton, Mifflin Harcourt - 2015


The new novel from the best-selling author of Broken for You spins the stories of a dedicated teacher, his enigmatic son, and a wartime survivor into an affecting tale of love, loss, and handwriting.

Charles Marlow teaches his high school English students that language will expand their worlds. But linguistic precision cannot help him connect with his autistic son, or with his ex-wife, who abandoned their shared life years before, or even with his college-bound daughter who has just flown the nest. He’s at the end of a road he’s traveled on autopilot for years when a series of events forces him to think back on the lifetime of decisions and indecisions that have brought him to this point. With the help of an ambitious art student, an Italian-speaking nun, and the memory of a boy in a white suit who inscribed his childhood with both solace and sorrow, Charles may finally be able to rewrite the script of his life.

Sometimes the most powerful words are the ones you’re still searching for.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Inside the O'Briens; Lisa Genova

Inside the O'Briens; Lisa Genova

Gallery Books - 2015

Inside the O'Briens is a powerful story about Huntington's Disease, an incurable neurodegenerative disease for which there is no cure.  It's a disease that is inherited, and whereby the offspring of someone with Huntington's has a 50% chance of getting the disease as well.

Joe O'Brien is a 44 year old Boston cop. A proud Irish Catholic, husband of Rosie and father to their (4) - 20-something children: JJ, a firefighter, married to Colleen, Patrick, a bartender, and daughters Meghan, a ballerina with the Boston Ballet and Katie who teaches yoga.  Life has been good for the O'Brien's thus far.

When Joe begins acting a bit strange, almost like someone who has had too much to drink, with unexplained fits of anger, disorganized thoughts and unexpected falls, his family and closest friends are naturally a bit concerned. He reluctantly agrees to see a neurologist, his visit and related testing confirms, Huntington's Disease.

The story is written from the third person POV by Joe and daughter Katie. The pace of the story starts off slow, giving the reader insight into the O'Brien family dynamics, and Joe's family history.  The slow roll out of the story meshed well with the way Huntington's disease systems actually manifests in real life,  gradual and then progressing until the victim loses all control and eventually dies over a period of 10-20 years.

Joe's character is extremely well developed. He's a tough guy cop who is trying to remain strong for those he loves the most. He is naturally embarassed about the public shame he feels for his uncontrolled outbursts and gestures. He is also worried about having to stop work too soon, so as not to impact the financial security of Rosie.

Katie's character and POV comes across as sympathetic. Through her readers can easily gauge just how paralizing the future prospect of having HD can be for the off spring. How the fear of the unknown effects present relationships and future life plans.  Just reading about it will make most readers question what they might do if they face the possibility of a future with Huntington's Disease. Whether it is better to be tested or to proceed with life not knowing [only 10 % of potential HD carriers choose to have testing].

Lisa Genova's medical expertise shines through and through in this novel, painting a vivid and realistic picture of the physical and emotional toll Huntington's has on the victim and family. I have worked in (3) different healthcare facilities that specialized in caring for Huntington's patients from all over the US. It's a horrible situation all around.

Inside the O'Briens is not a happy story, but the O'Briens were a wonderful, close-knit family that I grew to care about and love.  In the vein of Still Alice, if you loved that book and the mood was not too sad for you, this one will not disappoint.

4.5/5 stars

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intro - I Regret Everything: A Love Story; Seth Greenland

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.

Europa Edition - 2015


Trusts and Estates

"It would be easy to say my troubles began when a mysterious woman walked into the office but that would ignore the time freshman year in college when Aunt Bren called to let me know my mother had removed all of her clothes in the furniture department at Macy's and had been taken to Bellevue. Besides, a sentence like my troubles began when a mysterious woman walked into the office veers into private-eye territory and my work did not in any real way resemble that of a private eye.  As an attorney with a trusts and estates practice, courage and love of danger did not thrum in my breast, only caution and prudence.  Clients relied on me to structure their assets in such a way that by the time they were no longer living, every opportunity had been taken to protect their heirs, charities, and legacies.  Generation-skipping trusts, real estate trusts, blind trusts, wills, codicils, prenupttial agreements, and tax planning were my territory.  I counseled captains of industry, advised widows and offspring.  Life with an unstable parent taught me there were times a person's affairs were a baffling wilderness.  It was my job to tame the anarchic trees, mutating vines, and proliferating stinkweed into a fragrant, orderly garden through which the beneficiaries could one day stroll."

What do you think? Would you keep reading?
(I'm not thrilled with the intro, but the reviews have been very positive)

Feel free to join in by linking your post sharing the first paragraph of the book you are reading or planning to read soon. Link Below.

Monday, April 6, 2015

The Children's Crusade; Ann Packer

Scribner - 2015

The Children's Crusade is a character driven novel that follows the Blair family for a period of about 50 years.

Bill Blair was a young man without a wife or kids, who had a dream for the future.  He buys a remote piece of land in what would later be known as the Silicon Valley area of California.

Fast forward and Bill, a pediatrician, along with his wife Penny would have four children. Three of the Blair children would become successful.  Robert, an internist, Rebecca a psychiatrist for terminally ill children and their families, Ryan, a teacher, and their 4th, youngest and unplanned child, James, would become what some might call the wild child or the bad seed. Troubled from childhood, he would later drop out of college, become estranged from his family. In his late 30's he works at Costco. Can James totally be responsible for the way his life turned out, or should his neglectful mother shoulder some of that blame?

Penny, was never totally happy with her role as wife and mother. Finding out about her 4th pregnancy, with James, nearly sent her over the edge. More artsy than domestic, bit by bit Penny removes herself from the family unit as wife and mother in pursuit of her own interests, despite her children trying their hardest to please her and draw her back in. Their attempts seemed to have the reverse effect.

The story of the Blair family dynamics is told in alternating chapters from the past and then the present, nearly 4 years after Bill's death, when James resurfaces after not even attending his father's funeral. James has a personal agenda item to present to the others upon his return.

I wasn't sure what to expect with this novel. Many readers will find at least several of the characters unlikeable, but each holds a mighty branch on the Blair family tree. In some ways, I felt like I could sympathise with even the unlikeable characters. Although the story seemed to move very slow at times, I do think that the author did a great job creating some very different personalities within the family unit. Each person's story and their issues felt compelling and realistic. In the end it's all about making peace with the past, even though the anger an unhappiness never fully disappears.

Readers who enjoy stories about dysfunctional families, family sagas, and stories told from multiple POVs should try this one. 

4/5 stars

Zoo Borns Motherly Love; Andrew Bleiman and Chris Eastland

Zoo Borns; Motherly Love; Andrew Bleiman and Chris Eastland
Simon & Schuster - 2015

I was given an opportunity to take a sneak peek at this book by the publisher as an eGalley, and while this book is adorable and informative, it was a just a big tease in many ways, since it was not a finished and complete copy, Despite that the pictures that were included in the review copy were beautiful.

The beautifully illustrated picture book features exotic animals (moms and their babies) from around the world.  Each of the featured: giant pandas, sea otters, lion cubs etc. include information as to whether the species is considered endangered, the special challenges each species faces,  as well as other information about the animal. The pictures are bright and glossy and demonstrate the love and closeness of mother and baby. This is definitely the type of book that children and teachers will love and a keeper for library collections.

Another plus is the fact that 10% of the sales goes to The Association of Zoos and Aquariums Conservation Endowment Fund.

Thanks to Simon & Schuster for letting me take an early peek.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Where Women are Kings; Christie Watson

Where Women are Kings; Christie Watson
Other Press - 2015

Where Women Are Kings, is a powerful story but a tough one to read as well. It deals with an emotionally and physically abused child.

Seven year old Elijah believes two things: that his mother loved him very much, even though he was taken from her, and that he is a wizard - a wizard that is sometimes made to do bad things.

Elijah is the son of Deborah and Akpan, Nigerian immigrants living outside of London. His mother tells him that he was born of love, when the couple moved to the UK from Nigeria. However, when Akpan dies unexpectedly when Elijah is just an infant, Deborah is unable to cope with the loss of her husband. She quickly spirals out of control into madness. Convinced by a wacko Bishop that her son needs an exorcism, poor Elijah is sadly the victim here.

In and out of foster homes Elijah is adopted by a kind, patient, mixed race couple. Obi is an immigration lawyer and Nikki works with rescue dogs. Although Elijah seems to adjust well at times, his inner "wizard" demon is never far away.

The author has done a very good job creating a powerful, believable story. The characters are well developed and through alternating chapters the reader gets to understand the roots of Elijah's troubled past and difficult present. At just 250 pages, the book is a quick read, yet one that has stayed with me as well.

4.5/5 stars

(review copy)

Coming Soon to a Book Store Near You - I Don't Have a Happy Place; Kim Korson

I'm looking forward to this book which releases later this month.

Gallery Books - April - 2015
When a trip to the therapist ends with the question “Can’t Kim be happy?” Kim Korson responds the way any normal person would—she makes fun of it. Because really, does everyone have to be happy?

Aside from her father wearing makeup and her mother not feeling well (a lot), Kim Korson’s 1970s suburban upbringing was typical. Sometimes she wished her brother were an arsonist just so she’d have a valid excuse to be unhappy. And when life moves along pretty decently--she breaks into show business, gets engaged in the secluded jungles of Mexico, and moves her family from Brooklyn to dreamy rural Vermont—the real despondency sets in. It’s a skill to find something wrong in just about every situation, but Kim has an exquisite talent for negativity. It is only after half a lifetime of finding kernels of unhappiness where others find joy that she begins to wonder if she is even capable of experiencing happiness.

In I Don’t Have a Happy Place, Kim Korson untangles what it means to be a true malcontent. Rife with evocative and nostalgic observations, unapologetic realism, and razor-sharp wit, I Don’t Have a Happy Place is told in humorous, autobiographical stories. This fresh-yet-dark voice is sure to make you laugh, nod your head in recognition, and ultimately understand what it truly means to be unhappy. Always.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Adventures of Beekle, the Unimaginary Friend; Dan Santat

Dan Santat (Little Brown Young Readers) - 2014
Caldecott Medal Winner

Beekle is the cutest imaginary creature ever, but he's very lonely where he lives on his island with other creatures like himself.  He is waiting patiently to be "imagined" by a child. One day he ventures to the real world. Everywhere he goes he sees little kids having fun playing, but why doesn't any of them choose him for a friend he wonders?  He wants his life to have meaning.

One day he climbs high up in a tree where other kids have climbed hoping to be noticed and chosen as a friend.  It's here that he meets shy little Alice who is all by herself and longing for a friend of her own. Beekle and Alice are the perfect match for happy days ahead, as neither has every had a friend before.

This is a beautiful story and message with plenty to discuss with your little one as you read. The illustrations are vivid and imaginative as well. I can see why this one was an award winner.

5/5 stars
(library book)