Monday, June 12, 2017

Mailbox Monday (6/12/17 edition)

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Mailbox Monday is hosted here. I've received a few new books recently:

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Pachinko follows one Korean family through the generations, beginning in early 1900s Korea with Sunja, the prized daughter of a poor yet proud family, whose unplanned pregnancy threatens to shame them all. Deserted by her lover, Sunja is saved when a young tubercular minister offers to marry and bring her to Japan.

So begins a sweeping saga of an exceptional family in exile from its homeland and caught in the indifferent arc of history. Through desperate struggles and hard-won triumphs, its members are bound together by deep roots as they face enduring questions of faith, family, and identity.

The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit by Michael Finkel

Many people dream of escaping modern life, but most will never act on it. This is the remarkable true story of a man who lived alone in the woods of Maine for 27 years, making this dream a reality--not out of anger at the world, but simply because he preferred to live on his own.

In 1986, a shy and intelligent twenty-year-old named Christopher Knight left his home in Massachusetts, drove to Maine, and disappeared into the forest. He would not have a conversation with another human being until nearly three decades later, when he was arrested for stealing food. Living in a tent even through brutal winters, he had survived by his wits and courage, developing ingenious ways to store edibles and water, and to avoid freezing to death. He broke into nearby cottages for food, clothing, reading material, and other provisions, taking only what he needed but terrifying a community never able to solve the mysterious burglaries. Based on extensive interviews with Knight himself, this is a vividly detailed account of his secluded life--why did he leave? what did he learn?--as well as the challenges he has faced since returning to the world. It is a gripping story of survival that asks fundamental questions about solitude, community, and what makes a good life, and a deeply moving portrait of a man who was determined to live his own way, and succeeded.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

From Taylor Jenkins Reid comes an unforgettable and sweeping novel about one classic film actress’s relentless rise to the top—the risks she took, the loves she lost, and the long-held secrets the public could never imagine.

Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one in the journalism community is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?

Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband, David, has left her, and her career has stagnated. Regardless of why Evelyn has chosen her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.

Summoned to Evelyn’s Upper East Side apartment, Monique listens as Evelyn unfurls her story: from making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the late 80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way. As Evelyn’s life unfolds through the decades—revealing a ruthless ambition, an unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love—Monique begins to feel a very a real connection to the actress. But as Evelyn’s story catches up with the present, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.

Filled with emotional insight and written with Reid’s signature talent, this is a fascinating journey through the splendor of Old Hollywood into the harsh realities of the present day as two women struggle with what it means—and what it takes—to face the truth.

The Wolf Road by Beth Lewis

ELKA BARELY REMEMBERS a time before she knew Trapper. She was just seven years old, wandering lost and hungry in the wilderness, when the solitary hunter took her in. In the years since then, he's taught her how to survive in this desolate land where civilization has been destroyed and men are at the mercy of the elements and each other.
But the man Elka thought she knew has been harboring a terrible secret. He's a killer. A monster. And now that Elka knows the truth, she may be his next victim.
Armed with nothing but her knife and the hard lessons Trapper's drilled into her, Elka flees into the frozen north in search of her real parents. But judging by the trail of blood dogging her footsteps, she hasn't left Trapper behind--and he won't be letting his little girl go without a fight. If she's going to survive, Elka will have to turn and confront not just him, but the truth about the dark road she's been set on.
The Wolf Road is an intimate cat-and-mouse tale of revenge and redemption, played out against a vast, unforgiving landscape--told by an indomitable young heroine fighting to escape her past and rejoin humanity.

I'm grateful to the publisher for sending me this book. I only got half-way through it when I got it from Netgalley before it expired, so now I can finish it and do a real review!

From TLC Book Tours:

The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson

With empathy, grace, humor, and piercing insight, the author of gods in Alabama pens a powerful, emotionally resonant novel of the South that confronts the truth about privilege, family, and the distinctions between perception and reality---the stories we tell ourselves about our origins and who we really are.

Superheroes have always been Leia Birch Briggs' weakness. One tequila-soaked night at a comics convention, the usually level-headed graphic novelist is swept off her barstool by a handsome and anonymous Batman.

It turns out the caped crusader has left her with more than just a nice, fuzzy memory. She's having a baby boy--an unexpected but not unhappy development in the thirty-eight year-old's life. But before Leia can break the news of her impending single-motherhood (including the fact that her baby is biracial) to her conventional, Southern family, her step-sister Rachel's marriage implodes. Worse, she learns her beloved ninety-year-old grandmother, Birchie, is losing her mind, and she's been hiding her dementia with the help of Wattie, her best friend since girlhood.

Leia returns to Alabama to put her grandmother's affairs in order, clean out the big Victorian that has been in the Birch family for generations, and tell her family that she's pregnant. Yet just when Leia thinks she's got it all under control, she learns that illness is not the only thing Birchie's been hiding. Tucked in the attic is a dangerous secret with roots that reach all the way back to the Civil War. Its exposure threatens the family's freedom and future, and it will change everything about how Leia sees herself and her sister, her son and his missing father, and the world she thinks she knows.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

TLC BOOK TOURS and REVIEW: A House Without Windows by Nadia Hashimi


A vivid, unforgettable story of an unlikely sisterhood—an emotionally powerful and haunting story of friendship that illuminates the plight of women in a traditional culture, from the author of the bestselling The Pearl That Broke Its Shell and When the Moon Is Low.

For two decades, Zeba was a loving wife, a patient mother, and a peaceful villager. But her quiet life is shattered when her husband, Kamal, is found brutally murdered with a hatchet in the courtyard of their home. Nearly catatonic with shock, Zeba is unable to account for her whereabouts at the time of his death. Her children swear their mother could not have committed such a heinous act. Kamal’s family is sure she did, and demands justice. Barely escaping a vengeful mob, Zeba is arrested and jailed.

Awaiting trial, she meets a group of women whose own misfortunes have led them to these bleak cells: eighteen-year-old Nafisa, imprisoned to protect her from an “honor killing”; twenty-five-year-old Latifa, a teen runaway who stays because it is safe shelter; twenty-year-old Mezghan, pregnant and unmarried, waiting for a court order to force her lover’s hand. Is Zeba a cold-blooded killer, these young women wonder, or has she been imprisoned, like them, for breaking some social rule? For these women, the prison is both a haven and a punishment; removed from the harsh and unforgiving world outside, they form a lively and indelible sisterhood.

Into this closed world comes Yusuf, Zeba’s Afghan-born, American-raised lawyer whose commitment to human rights and desire to help his homeland have brought him back. With the fate this seemingly ordinary housewife in his hands, Yusuf discovers that, like the Afghanistan itself, his client may not be at all what he imagines.

A moving look at the lives of modern Afghan women, The House with No Windows is astonishing, frightening, and triumphant.

Hardcover, 415 pages
Published August 16th 2016 by William Morrow (first published August 15th 2016)
ISBN 0062449680 (ISBN13: 9780062449689)

About the Author

Nadia Hashimi was born and raised in New York and New Jersey. Both her parents were born in Afghanistan and left in the early 1970s, before the Soviet invasion. In 2002, Nadia made her first trip to Afghanistan with her parents. She is a pediatrician and lives with her family in the Washington, DC, suburbs.

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My Thoughts
I suppose this bloody mess might partly be my fault.
Zeba has been a good wife, mother, daughter and neighbor (although, because she is the daughter of a sorceress, there is a wariness between her and the rest of her extended family), but her marriage has continued to degrade over the years. Her once doting husband has become abusive, neglectful of the family, drinking away their food money. Then one day Zeba is found over his dead body with no memory of what happened, and the village calls for her blood.

The chief of police arrests Zeba and quickly takes her to the women's prison for her own safety, knowing the villagers may come for justice. Zeba is roomed with three other women: Latifa, Nafisa and Mezhgan. Women are housed in this prison for all sorts of crimes, but many are there for "love crimes"-- adultery, falling in love with the wrong man, being caught alone with a man unsupervised, etc. Most have been found to have brought dishonor to their families. While Zeba awaits her trial, she befriends these women and becomes like a sister to them. She learns their stories, their likes and dislikes, their pain and fear, and their passions.

Yusuf was once an Afghan boy, his family having immigrated to America when he was about twelve. Now he is an attorney who has returned to his homeland and has been hired as Zeba's council. As if her case weren't difficult enough, Yusuf finds his hands tied by her refusal to share with him anything she remembers about the day her husband died, nor about their life together leading up to his death.

I was introduced to the author with her book When the Moon is Low, and I loved this one just as much as I did that one. The author has an engaging yet easy-to-read writing style.

I would like to thank TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour. Check out the website for the full tour schedule:

Wednesday, May 17th: Real Life Reading
Wednesday, May 17th: A Bookish Affair
Thursday, May 18th: Helen’s Book Blog
Friday, May 19th: Tina Says…
Monday, May 22nd: Reading is My Super Power
Tuesday, May 23rd: Girl Who Reads
Wednesday, May 24th: From the TBR Pile
Wednesday, May 24th: BookNAround
Thursday, May 25th: The Book Diva’s Reads
Friday, May 26th: Read Her Like an Open Book
Monday, May 29th: Based on a True Story
Tuesday, May 30th: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Wednesday, May 31st: A Literary Vacation
Thursday, June 1st: G. Jacks Writes
Friday, June 2nd: Jenn’s Bookshelves
TBD: Book by Book

My final word: The author has a very "approachable" writing style which is very comfortable to read, like slipping into a pair of comfy PJs at the end of a hard day. She knows how to write well-fleshed characters of some depth that pull you into the story and keep you there. This story runs the gamut of happiness to melancholy, love to hate, fear of the present to dreams for the future.You care not only for Zeba and Yusuf and their futures, but for the lives of the other women who share Zeba's life in prison. A beautiful yet heart-wrenching tale that I recommend to anyone who loves to immerse themselves into another culture.

Buy Now:

Barnes and Noble

My Rating:


The Cerebral Girl is a forty-something blogger just digging her way out from under a mountain of books in the deep south of Florida.

I received a copy of this book to review through TLC Book Tours and the publisher, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

TLC BOOK TOURS and REVIEW: All That is Solid Melts Into Air by Carole Giangrande


In the morning fog of the North Atlantic, Valerie hears the frenetic ticking of clocks. She's come from Toronto to hike on the French island of St. Pierre and to ponder her marriage to Gerard Lefevre, a Montrealer and a broadcast journalist whose passion for justice was ignited in his youth by the death of his lover in an airline bombing. He's a restless traveller (who she suspects is unfaithful) and she's the opposite: quiet, with an inner life she nurtures as a horticulturalist. Valerie's thinking about Gerard on assignment in her native New York City, where their son Andre works. In New York City, an airplane has plunged into a skyscraper, and in the short time before anyone understands the significance of this event, Valerie's mind begins to spiral in and out of the present moment, circling around her intense memories of her father's death, her youthful relationship with troubled Matthew, and her pregnancy with his child, the crisis that led to her marriage to Gerard, and her fears for the safety of her son Andre and his partner James. Unable to reach her loved ones, Valerie finds memory intruding on a surreal and dreamlike present until at last she connects with Gerard and the final horror of that day.


"With shattering grace Giangrande divines catastrophic grief, the redemptive power of ephemeral joys, and the interconnectedness of all things as past and present conflate in terrorism's chaos. Memory becomes balm as life, all life, is porous. Exquisite, devastating, this book is a bomb."

—Carol Bruneau, author of These Good Hands

"An elegy for lost innocence, All That Is Solid Melts Into Air is at once extremely sad and exquisitely hopeful. Its hopefulness resides mainly in the stubborn resonance of the quotidian, and in the kind hearts and good wills of those who refuse to accept evil, no matter how often it crashes into their lives. Carole Giandgrande has achieved a great deal in this short, beautiful book; confronting the incomprehensible without despair and describing profound grief without sentimentality."

—Susan Glickman, author of The Tale-Teller and Safe as Houses

"All That Is Solid Melts Into Air is above all a compassionate book. Carole Giangrande takes that horrifying day—September 11, 2001—and filters it though the consciousness of a woman, Valerie, whose loved ones are in Manhattan as the crisis unfolds. She doesn’t know whether they are dead or alive, and Giangrande is masterful in her expression of Valerie’s surreal state of mind. The book captures with gut-wrenching acuity the anxiety, fear and distress of not only that particular day but of our current social climate as well. No one is safe anymore—was anyone, ever?—and our perceptions rule us: “The truth was that everything you looked at had to pass through the lens of what you imagined you saw. It was up to you to decide what was real.” Timely words from a timely book."

—Eva Tihanyi, author of The Largeness of Rescue

Paperback, 200 pages
Published April 10th 2017 by Inanna Publications
ISBN 1771333618 (ISBN13: 9781771333610)

About the Author
Born and raised in the New York City area, Carole Giangrande is a Toronto-based novelist and author of nine books, including the award-winning novella A Gardener on the Moon, the novels An Ordinary Star and A Forest Burning, the short story collection, Missing Persons and the novellas Here Comes The Dreamer and Midsummer. Her third novel, All That Is Solid Melts Into Air will be published in Spring 2017. She's worked as a broadcast journalist for CBC Radio (Canada's public broadcaster) and her fiction, poetry, articles and reviews have appeared in Canada’s major journals and newspapers (Her essay "Goshawk" was Lyric Essay Award Winner in the Eastern Iowa Review, 2016). She's read her fiction at Toronto's Harbourfront Centre, at the Banff Centre for the Arts (as an Artist-in-Residence), the University of Toronto, on radio and at numerous public venues. She has recently completed another novel. 

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My Thoughts
As she walked uphill on Rue Marechal Foch in the old town of Saint-Pierre, Valerie heard clocks.
Valerie and husband Gerard are adrift and unmoored and losing sight of one another when an airliner crashes into the Twin Towers on 9/11, leaving them shaken and grasping for anything to keep them from going under. The past blends with the present, one nearly indistinguishable from the other. 
Memory was too aggressive. It would root you out with a wild growl, sniffing and pawing at the ground. It would make you afraid.
This is one of those tough books to review, because I feel that just about anything I share will be too much. Other than flashbacks to the past, the bulk of the story only covers a couple of days. So I fear if I'm not careful, I'll ruin the story. But the story follows Valerie and her husband Gerard, her friend Matthew from the past, and Valerie and Gerard's son Andre. 
At eight forty-six a.m., Eastern Daylight Time, the watch stopped. 

I would like to thank TLC Book Tours and the publisher for including me on this tour. Check out the website for the full tour schedule:
Monday, May 15th: Readaholic Zone
Tuesday, May 16th: Tina Says…
Wednesday, May 17th: Literary Quicksand
Tuesday, May 23rd: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Friday, May 26th: Books and Bindings
Thursday, May 25th: Girl Who Reads
Monday, May 29th: From the TBR Pile
Wednesday, May 31st: A Bookish Way of Life
Wednesday, May 31st: 5 Minutes For Books

My final word: This is a very slow-moving story. Cleverly derived, it's gentle and guttural-- primal even, like a gut-punch. It's a bit disjointed, with little snippets of dialogue and blips in time, and somewhat ethereal and mystical. The first half was almost too slow for me, but I really liked the second half of the story, and the last third was my favorite. At times quite powerful, this is a great story about acceptance, balance, and settling debts. The cyclic nature of life, and how everything comes back around again. A touching story.

Buy Now:

Inanna Publications
Barnes and Noble

My Rating:

The Cerebral Girl is a forty-something blogger just digging her way out from under a mountain of books in the deep south of Florida.

I received a copy of this book to review through TLC Book Tours and the publisher, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel. 

Sunday, April 30, 2017

READATHON April 2017: Closing Meme

Here we are at the end of the road once again. I was along for only part of the ride-- life is just too distracting these days.

1. Which hour was most daunting for you? They all are. I'm my own worst enemy.
2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a reader engaged for next year? Nothing can hold my interest for long anymore. My attention-deficit just continues to worsen.
3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next season? Nope
4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon? I didn't notice any drastic differences.
5. How many books did you read? I didn't complete anything. I read a little of two different books.
6. What were the names of the books you read? I had four books to select from, but mostly just read Rebel Queen by Michelle Moran and a little of All That Is Solid Melts Into Air by Carol Giangrande.
7. Which book did you enjoy most? Rebel Queen
8. Which did you enjoy least? Well, of the two that would leave All That Is Solid Melts Into Air, but I really just started to read it. I have a long way to go yet!
9. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time? I'll usually participate, and will always be a reader (when I can commit).

 So that would be it. I'm going to continue trying to get some reading in today, and I'll see you all back here in the fall.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

READATHON April 2017: Opening Meme

Here we are again, gathering together around the world to commit to a single goal-- READ. I will do what I can to get some real reading done, but I have mightily failed the last year or two. But this is a clean slate! So let's get this party started!

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today? South Florida
2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to? Rebel Queen by Michelle Moran
3) Which snack are you most looking forward to? I didn't really stock up on snacks, as I'm trying to watch what I eat and not snack too much. However I do have some grapes in the fridge! And I have some tapioca pudding I may get to!
4) Tell us a little something about yourself! I'm a divorced woman working in the tech industry. I share my home with a passel of animals: Three dogs Tiki (13 year old Coton du Tulear), Zook (6 1/2 year old Chihuahua), and Roo (1 1/2 year old mix breed that DNA testing shows is mostly Chihuahua, Cattle Dog, and Chow), and five cats Momma (14 years), her son Simon (12 years), Shotsie (10 years), Izzy (2 years) and Gilly/Jellybean (1 year).
5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to? Nothing. I always just endeavor to do more book-related stuff: read, blog, write reviews about recently read books, etc.

And with that, my friends, let's get to it! Enjoy!