Tuesday, September 23, 2014

ON MY RADAR (9/23/14): Books that have hit my radar

Here are some books that have recently hit my radar and set off my alarm bells...

Biblical by Christopher Galt

A strange phenomenon is sweeping the globe. People are having visions, seeing angels, experiencing events that defy reality. Bizarre accounts pour in from distant places: a French teenager claims to have witnessed Joan of Arc being burned at the stake; a man in New York dies of malnutrition in a luxurious Central Park apartment; a fundamentalist Christian sect kidnaps and murders a geneticist. Then there is the graffiti WE ARE BECOMING that has popped up in every major city around the world, in every language. And everywhere people are starting to talk about John Astor, the mysterious author of the book that seems to be at the center of it all. After a rash of suicides around the world by individuals experiencing the time traveling hallucinations, psychiatrist John Macbeth and a team of FBI agents and scientists assemble to find out what s going on before it s too late. Is this a spiritual phenomenon or something more sinister?


Edge of Eternity by Ken Follett

EDGE OF ETERNITY is the sweeping, passionate conclusion to Ken Follett’s extraordinary historical epic, The Century Trilogy.

Throughout these books, Follett has followed the fortunes of five intertwined families – American, German, Russian, English, and Welsh – as they make their way through the twentieth century. Now they come to one of the most tumultuous eras of all: the enormous social, political, and economic turmoil of the 1960s through the 1980s, from civil rights, assassinations, mass political movements and Vietnam to the Berlin Wall, the Cuban Missile Crisis, presidential impeachment, revolution – and rock and roll.

East German teacher Rebecca Hoffman discovers she’s been spied on by the Stasi for years and commits an impulsive act that will affect her family for the rest of their lives.…George Jakes, the child of a mixed-race couple, bypasses a corporate law career to join Robert F. Kennedy’s Justice Department, and finds himself in the middle not only of the seminal events of the civil rights battle, but a much more personal battle of his own.…Cameron Dewar, the grandson of a senator, jumps at the chance to do some official and unofficial espionage for a cause he believes in, only to discover that the world is a much more dangerous place than he’d imagined.…Dimka Dvorkin, a young aide to Nikita Khrushchev, becomes a prime agent both for good and for ill as the United States and the Soviet Union race to the brink of nuclear war, while his twin sister, Tania, carves out a role that will take her from Moscow to Cuba to Prague to Warsaw – and into history.

As always with Follett, the historical background is brilliantly researched and rendered, the action fast-moving, the characters rich in nuance and emotion. With the hand of a master, he brings us into a world we thought we knew but now will never seem the same again.


Monday, September 22, 2014

TLC BOOK TOURS and REVIEW: The Story of Land and Sea by Katy Simpson Smith

Synopsis

Set in a small coastal town in North Carolina during the waning years of the American Revolution, this incandescent debut novel follows three generations of family—fathers and daughters, mother and son, master and slave, characters who yearn for redemption amidst a heady brew of war, kidnapping, slavery, and love.

Drawn to the ocean, ten-year-old Tabitha wanders the marshes of her small coastal village and listens to her father’s stories about his pirate voyages and the mother she never knew. Since the loss of his wife Helen, John has remained land-bound for their daughter, but when Tab contracts yellow fever, he turns to the sea once more. Desperate to save his daughter, he takes her aboard a sloop bound for Bermuda, hoping the salt air will heal her.

Years before, Helen herself was raised by a widowed father. Asa, the devout owner of a small plantation, gives his daughter a young slave named Moll for her tenth birthday. Left largely on their own, Helen and Moll develop a close but uneasy companionship. Helen gradually takes over the running of the plantation as the girls grow up, but when she meets John, the pirate turned Continental soldier, she flouts convention and her father’s wishes by falling in love. Moll, meanwhile, is forced into marriage with a stranger. Her only solace is her son, Davy, whom she will protect with a passion that defies the bounds of slavery.

In this elegant, evocative, and haunting debut, Katy Simpson Smith captures the singular love between parent and child, the devastation of love lost, and the lonely paths we travel in the name of renewal.


Hardcover, 256 pages
Published August 26th 2014 by Harper
ISBN 0062335944 (ISBN13: 9780062335944)



About the Author


Katy Simpson Smith was born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi. She attended Mount Holyoke College and received a PhD in history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars. She has been working as an adjunct professor at Tulane University as an adjunct professor at Tulane University and is the author of We Have Raised All of Us: Motherhood in the South, 1750-1835. She lives in New Orleans.






Check out the author's website
Check out this video about the book!


My Thoughts
On days in August when sea storms bite into the North Carolina coast, he drags a tick mattress into the hall and tells his daughter stories, true and false, about her mother.
This story begins with vibrant 10-year-old Tabitha who lives on the North Carolina coast with her father John. Her mother died in childbirth, so she never knew her, but she and her father have a good life together. Tabitha is a daughter of the sea, having been raised  with the stories her father has told of his days as a pirate. She dreams of traveling the seas herself, but her father keeps her safely ensconced on shore.

After Tabitha comes down with yellow fever, her grandfather Asa draws close to the only thing left of his own daughter and his family, having lost his own wife in childbirth as well.

This story leads to reminiscing and goes back into the past to show how we came to the present. We learn about John's deceased wife Helen, her life and how he won her heart.
He laughed at the pit of a plum.

"You kissed me with the fruit still in your mouth," she said. He had not remembered.

These were her treasures, the bits of life she collected to remind herself of life, the tokens of experience. Her story of land and sea.
We learn of the friendship that had developed between Helen and her slave Moll, who was "given" to her as a gift on her tenth birthday. We see the tragedy of Moll's life, and how every hope and dream she has exists in her eldest child Davy.

We witness a fresh start for John, and in the end of his life, Asa finds himself filled with regret for the things he has not done, and for his lack of kindness and consideration in his relationships.
Regret only exists once the opportunity for change is gone.

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

Monday, August 25th: Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Tuesday, August 26th: BookNAround
Wednesday, August 28th: Sara’s Organized Chaos
Wednesday, August 28th: Broken Teepee
Tuesday, September 2nd: Jorie Loves a Story
Wednesday, September 3rd: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Thursday, September 4th: Book Hooked Blog
Monday, September 8th: The Book Binder’s Daughter
Wednesday, September 10th: Passages to the Past
Thursday, September 11th Kritters Ramblings
Friday, September 12th: Consuming Culture
Saturday, September 13th: 100 Pages a Day … Stephanie’s Book Reviews
Wednesday, September 15th: 5 Minutes for Books
Tuesday, September 16th: BoundbyWords
Wednesday, September 17th: Spiced Latte Reads
Thursday, September 18th: West Metro Mommy
Monday, September 22nd: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Friday, September 26th: Silver’s Reviews

My final word: This is a well written story with well developed characters. It's a melancholy tale full of ghosts and haunting memories. Overall I liked it. The book is divided into three parts, and I found that the first part wound up being my least favorite. My fondness for the story grew as the story built, with Davy becoming probably my favorite character. In the end, I was left with the sea as the past and the land as the future-- and the future is full of hope and possibilities.

Buy Now:

Barnes and Noble
Amazon
Indiebound


My Rating:






 
Disclosure:

I received a copy of this book to review through the publisher and TLC Book Tours, 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. The book that I received was an uncorrected proof, and quotes could differ from the final release.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Introducing... The Story of Land and Sea by Katy Simpson Smith

Introducing books through the first chapter or so...

On days in August when sea storms bite into the North Carolina coast, he drags a tick mattress into the hall and tells his daughter stories, true and false, about her mother. The wooden shutters clatter, and Tabitha folds blankets around them to build a softness for the storm. He always tells of their courting days, of her mother's shyness. She looked like a straight tall pine from a distance; only when he got close could he see her trembling.

-- The Story of Land and Sea by Katy Simpson Smith

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

ON MY RADAR (9/17/14 edition): Books that have hit my radar

Here are some books that have recently hit my radar and set off my alarm bells...

Perfidia by James Ellroy

The Japanese have bombed Pearl Harbor. The United States teeters on the edge of war. The roundup of allegedly treasonous Japanese Americans is about to begin. And in L.A., a Japanese family is found dead. Murder or ritual suicide? The investigation will draw four people into a totally Ellroy-ian tangle: a brilliant Japanese American forensic chemist; an unsatisfiably adventurous young woman; one police officer based in fact (William H. "Whiskey Bill" Parker, later to become the groundbreaking chief of the LAPD), the other the product of Ellroy's inimitable imagination (Dudley Smith, arch villain of The Big Nowhere, L.A. Confidential, White Jazz). As their lives intertwine, we are given a story of war and of consuming romance, a searing exposé of the Japanese internment, and an astonishingly detailed homicide investigation. In Perfidia, Ellroy delves more deeply than ever before into his characters' intellectual and emotional lives. But it has the full-strength, unbridled story-telling audacity that has marked all the acclaimed work of the "Demon Dog of American Crime Fiction."


An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

The first history of the United States told from the perspective of indigenous peoples

Today in the United States, there are more than five hundred federally recognized Indigenous nations comprising nearly three million people, descendants of the fifteen million Native people who once inhabited this land. The centuries-long genocidal program of the US settler-colonial regimen has largely been omitted from history. Now, for the first time, acclaimed historian and activist Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz offers a history of the United States told from the perspective of Indigenous peoples and reveals how Native Americans, for centuries, actively resisted expansion of the US empire.

In An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States, Dunbar-Ortiz adroitly challenges the founding myth of the United States and shows how policy against the Indigenous peoples was colonialist and designed to seize the territories of the original inhabitants, displacing or eliminating them. And as Dunbar-Ortiz reveals, this policy was praised in popular culture, through writers like James Fenimore Cooper and Walt Whitman, and in the highest offices of government and the military. Shockingly, as the genocidal policy reached its zenith under President Andrew Jackson, its ruthlessness was best articulated by US Army general Thomas S. Jesup, who, in 1836, wrote of the Seminoles: “The country can be rid of them only by exterminating them.”

Spanning more than four hundred years, this classic bottom-up peoples’ history radically reframes US history and explodes the silences that have haunted our national narrative.


My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George

Terribly unhappy in his family's crowded New York City apartment, Sam Gribley runs away to the solitude and danger of the mountains, where he finds a side of himself he never knew.








 Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer

 Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; all the members of the second expedition committed suicide; the third expedition died in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another; the members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within months of their return, all had died of aggressive cancer.

This is the twelfth expedition.

Their group is made up of four women: an anthropologist; a surveyor; a psychologist, the de facto leader; and our narrator, a biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain and collect specimens; to record all their observations, scientific and otherwise, of their surroundings and of one another; and, above all, to avoid being contaminated by Area X itself.

They arrive expecting the unexpected, and Area X delivers—they discover a massive topographic anomaly and life forms that surpass understanding—but it’s the surprises that came across the border with them, and the secrets the expedition members are keeping from one another, that change everything.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014