Monday, December 31, 2012

BEST OF 2012

Well, it's that time of the year when you reflect on the books you've read and pick out the 'best of" the bunch. Here is a list of books that I read this year that really stand out:

The Cove by Ron Rash

The New York Times bestselling author of Serena returns to Appalachia, this time at the height of World War I, with the story of a blazing but doomed love affair caught in the turmoil of a nation at war

Deep in the rugged Appalachians of North Carolina lies the cove, a dark, forbidding place where spirits and fetches wander, and even the light fears to travel. Or so the townsfolk of Mars Hill believe–just as they know that Laurel Shelton, the lonely young woman who lives within its shadows, is a witch. Alone except for her brother, Hank, newly returned from the trenches of France, she aches for her life to begin.

Then it happens–a stranger appears, carrying nothing but a beautiful silver flute and a note explaining that his name is Walter, he is mute, and is bound for New York. Laurel finds him in the woods, nearly stung to death by yellow jackets, and nurses him back to health. As the days pass, Walter slips easily into life in the cove and into Laurel's heart, bringing her the only real happiness she has ever known.

But Walter harbors a secret that could destroy everything–and danger is closer than they know. Though the war in Europe is near its end, patriotic fervor flourishes thanks to the likes of Chauncey Feith, an ambitious young army recruiter who stokes fear and outrage throughout the county. In a time of uncertainty, when fear and ignorance reign, Laurel and Walter will discover that love may not be enough to protect them.

This lyrical, heart-rending tale, as mesmerizing as its award-winning predecessor Serena, shows once again this masterful novelist at the height of his powers.


Read my review here


Edge of Dark Water by Joe R. Lansdale

Mark Twain meets classic Stephen King--a bold new direction for widely acclaimed Edgar Award winner Joe R. Lansdale.

May Lynn was once a pretty girl who dreamed of becoming a Hollywood star. Now she's dead, her body dredged up from the Sabine River.

Sue Ellen, May Lynn's strong-willed teenage friend, sets out to dig up May Lynn's body, burn it to ash, and take those ashes to Hollywood to spread around. If May Lynn can't become a star, then at least her ashes will end up in the land of her dreams.

Along with her friends Terry and Jinx and her alcoholic mother, Sue Ellen steals a raft and heads downriver to carry May Lynn's remains to Hollywood.

Only problem is, Sue Ellen has some stolen money that her enemies will do anything to get back. And what looks like a prime opportunity to escape from a worthless life will instead lead to disastrous consequences. In the end, Sue Ellen will learn a harsh lesson on just how hard growing up can really be.


Read my review here


The Passage by Justin Cronin

“It happened fast. Thirty-two minutes for one world to die, another to be born.” 

First, the unthinkable: a security breach at a secret U.S. government facility unleashes the monstrous product of a chilling military experiment. Then, the unspeakable: a night of chaos and carnage gives way to sunrise on a nation, and ultimately a world, forever altered. All that remains for the stunned survivors is the long fight ahead and a future ruled by fear—of darkness, of death, of a fate far worse.

As civilization swiftly crumbles into a primal landscape of predators and prey, two people flee in search of sanctuary. FBI agent Brad Wolgast is a good man haunted by what he’s done in the line of duty. Six-year-old orphan Amy Harper Bellafonte is a refugee from the doomed scientific project that has triggered apocalypse. He is determined to protect her from the horror set loose by her captors. But for Amy, escaping the bloody fallout is only the beginning of a much longer odyssey—spanning miles and decades—towards the time and place where she must finish what should never have begun.

With The Passage, award-winning author Justin Cronin has written both a relentlessly suspenseful adventure and an epic chronicle of human endurance in the face of unprecedented catastrophe and unimaginable danger. Its inventive storytelling, masterful prose, and depth of human insight mark it as a crucial and transcendent work of modern fiction.


Read my review here


The Dog Stars by Peter Heller

A riveting, powerful debut novel from an award-winning adventure writer: the story of a pilot surviving in a world filled with loss—and of what he is willing to risk to rediscover, against all odds, connection, love, and grace.
 
Hig survived the flu that killed everyone he knows. His wife is gone, his friends are dead, he lives in the hangar of a small abandoned airport with his dog, his only neighbor a gun-toting misanthrope. In his 1956 Cessna, Hig flies the perimeter of the airfield or sneaks off to the mountains to fish and pretend that things are the way they used to be. But when a random transmission somehow beams through his radio, the voice ignites a hope deep inside him that a better life—something like his old life—exists beyond the airport. Risking everything, he flies past his point of no return—not enough fuel to get him home—following the trail of the static-broken voice on the radio. But what he encounters and what he must face—in the people he meets, and in himself—is both better and worse than anything he could have hoped for.


Read my review here


John Saturnall's Feast by Lawrence Norfolk

1625. In the remote village of Buckland, a mob chants of witchcraft and John Sandall and his mother are running for their lives. Taking refuge among the trees of Buccla's Wood, John's mother opens her book and begins to tell her son of an ancient Feast kept in secret down the generations. But as the rich dishes rise from the pages, the ground beneath them freezes. That winter John's mother dies.

The Feast is John's legacy. Taken as an orphan to Buckland Manor, the ancestral seat of Sir William Fremantle, John is put to work in its vast subterranean kitchens, the domain of Richard Scovell. Under the Master Cook's guidance, John climbs from the squalor of the Scullery to the great house above. There Sir William's headstrong daughter Lucretia defies her father by refusing to eat.

John's task is to tempt the girl from her fast. But as a bond forms between them, greater conflicts loom. The Civil War will throw John and Lucretia together in a passionate struggle for survival against the New Order's fanatical soldiers. Ancient legacies will pull them apart. To keep all he holds most dear, John must realise his mother's vision. He must serve the Feast.

An astounding work of historical fiction, John Saturnall's Feast charts the course of one man's life from steaming kitchens to illicit bedchambers, through battlefields and ancient magical woods. Expertly weaving fact with myth, Lawrence Norfolk creates a rich, complex and mesmerising story of seventeenth-century life, love and war.


Read my review here

 
Wilderness by Lance Weller

Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain meets David Guterson’s East of the Mountains in this sweeping historical novel of a Civil War veteran’s last journey on the Pacific Coast.
 
Thirty years after the Civil War’s Battle of the Wilderness left him maimed, Abel Truman has found his way to the edge of the continent, the rugged, majestic coast of Washington State, where he lives alone in a driftwood shack with his beloved dog. Wilderness is the story of Abel, now an old and ailing man, and his heroic final journey over the snowbound Olympic Mountains. It’s a quest he has little hope of completing but still must undertake to settle matters of the heart that predate even the horrors of the war.

As Abel makes his way into the foothills, the violence he endures at the hands of two thugs who are after his dog is crosscut with his memories of the horrors of the war, the friends he lost, and the savagery he took part in and witnessed. And yet, darkness is cut by light, especially in the people who have touched his life—from Jane Dao-Ming Poole, the daughter of murdered Chinese immigrants, to Hypatia, an escaped slave who nursed him back to life, and finally to the unbearable memory of the wife and child he lost as a young man. Haunted by tragedy, loss, and unspeakable brutality, Abel has somehow managed to hold on to his humanity, finding way stations of kindness along his tortured and ultimately redemptive path.

In its contrasts of light and dark, wild and tame, brutal and tender, and its attempts to reconcile a horrific war with the great evil it ended, Wilderness tells not only the moving tale of an unforgettable character, but a story about who we are as human beings, a people, and a nation. Lance Weller’s immensely impressive debut immediately places him among our most talented writers.


Read my review here 


Loved, loved, loved Wilderness! I think it has to have been my favorite of the year. What were your favorites of 2012?

I'm not sure what all I will be reading in 2013, but I know it will include The Twelve (the sequel to The Passage), The Bottoms (another book by my newly discovered author Joe Lansdale), and I think this will the year that I finally get around to reading Delirium and A Discovery of Witches.

Good reading everyone, and Happy 2013!

REVIEW: Dry Camp by Alfred Cool

Synopsis

The year is 1977. Over 7 days in October, this true-story, first person narrative takes place on the central coast of BC. During a record month of storms, the action picks up when the 2 spirited BC boys blitz across hundreds of kms of dangerous back roads to get to the closest cold beer store.

Cool withdraws from SFU, broke and cynical, to replenish his funds by returning to logging, finding work on Northern Vancouver Island. After travelling all day Cool arrives at Beaver Cove, a ‘No Booze Allowed’ camp, as gales begin howling during torrential rainfall. Within hours, the rain and the melt-off of higher-elevation snowfall combine to cause floods and slides. Within 2 days they are isolated. Roads close, ferries over-book, planes are grounded and Health Department regulations close all bars, stores and restaurants. Cool has no money for travel or food anyway. Work stops and management leave the camp with little food and no heat, lights or clean drinking water.


Cool devises a plan which involves Drake, the other guy left in camp, and his car. Drake has his girlfriends’ broken-down 1964 Vauxhall Viva. That’s enough to get Cool scheming and them moving, giving them an outside chance for self-rescue if they put it all on the line. With only the vague notion of a ‘4x4 back road’ to Campbell River as their map they quit the camp, ‘heading for the barn’. For hours, they negotiate deserted mountain roads and near-deadly detours across raging creeks, down mud-slides and through bogs, running on only fumes and luck. Arriving, finally, at a town amazed at their survival, they discover they’ve popped up at a totally wrong destination. Most of their money goes to gas, oil and beer leaving them no choice but to continue into the night, nursing the car through a further four hours and 250 kms of storming weather. Eventually they arrive, exhausted, back in Vancouver where Drake is turned out by his girlfriend and Cool has to confront unpaid bills and night shift taxi driving. Inspired again, he makes plans to keep the adventure alive and go to the ‘Charlottes. 


Through the eyes of some of the characters who lived and worked here - before the province we live in today evolved - this fast-paced comedy-quest champions the lure of adventure and the devil-may-care attitude it takes, sometimes, to win against the odds.



About the Author
from Amazon

Alfred Cool was born and raised in BC. He attended Simon Fraser University where he took English and Computer courses. He is a member of the Canadian Authors Association. He worked and travelled extensively on the Coast of BC for most of his life. For 26 years, as an accomplished computer professional, he lived in various northern BC communities where he harbored the simple truth that writing would eventually take over his life.

Now that persistent dream, to his great satisfaction and pleasure, has become reality.

This novel is the third of 5 to be produced by the author and his travels around the coast of BC. 'The Five-Cent Murder' is expected to be published fall of 2012.



My Thoughts

The author recounts a period of a few days in the '70s when he escaped a logging camp during a fierce flooding rain.

I requested this book through Netgalley, since I lived a time in the logging country of the Northwest and loved the area. I believe that this story actually takes place in Ontario, rather than the northwest, but it reminded me of my time around the Olympic mountains of Washington.

Generally speaking I don't think that the author is a great writer, but that he is simply a good storyteller. He's the guy you want there when you're sitting around the fire pit on a cold winter's night, regaling one another with tales of your youth and foolishness. But at times, particularly early on, there were bits of strange descriptive text:
When we pulled up to the ferry dock, I saw the regal lady's snout was opened wide, lifted up like she was going through some kind of extreme dental procedure. A stream of cars, trucks and foot-passengers gorged themselves into her unnatural and gaping maw. (page 13)
The story follows the author to a "dry" logging camp (meaning it doesn't permit alcohol) during a record-setting rainstorm that goes on for days. The author and a fellow logger decide to sneak off and return later when the logging resumes. So over half of the story follows the author's travel to the camp and his short time at the camp, and the rest is the adventure of driving down off the mountain and returning to civilization in the downpour.

It was apparent that the author was Canadian, and at times I felt a little like an "outsider". Things like the use of the term "crow-hopped" in reference to how the car drove, which is a term with which I am totally unfamiliar. Since it was a clutch, I have to think maybe he's referring to the herky-jerky way a manual transmission car can drive when the clutch is let out too fast? Just one of those things you sometimes encounter with geographically-oriented stories that use regional terms and vocabulary.

My final word: This was a quick story that wound up being different than what I had expected. I thought it would be about a couple of guys surviving harrowing flooding conditions for days in the wilds, rather than a few hours in a car (even if there were a couple of harrowing moments in the car). So again I come back to my analogy of sitting around the burn barrel on a cold night. This is a good story to entertain family and friends, but it's a little light to fulfill the demands of a full-fledged book. Perhaps it would make one of those good little brief books you buy at the local tourist center in the area?


Buy Now:

Amazon


My Rating:





Disclosure:

I received a copy of this book to review through Netgalley, 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.

Friday, December 21, 2012

REVIEW: Dog by Matt Hlinak

Synopsis

Culann Riordan was a high school English teacher with poor impulse control and a taste for liquor. He fled to Alaska before the state could yank his teaching certificate and possibly toss him in jail. He hires on as a commercial fisherman aboard the Orthrus, a dingy vessel crewed by a colorful assortment of outcasts seeking their fortune beyond the reaches of civilization. As he struggles to learn how to survive the rigors of life at sea and the abuses of the crew, he fishes a mysterious orbout of the depths of the ocean and comes into conflict with the diabolical captain of the Orthrus.

If he is to live long enough to see the sunset, Culann must escape from the Captain, survive on an island in the Bering Sea populated only by a pack of feral dogs, find out how to control the orb’s destructive power, and come to grips with his sizable character flaws.


Paperback, 200 pages
Published October 2012 by Bizarro Press
ISBN 0615700217 (ISBN13: 9780615700212)


About the Author

Matt Hlinak is an administrator at Dominican University, just outside of Chicago. He teaches courses in English and legal studies. 'DoG' (Bizarro Press 2012) is his debut novel. His short stories have appeared in 'Sudden Flash Youth' (Persea Books 2011) and several literary magazines. He holds an MFA from Northwestern University and a JD from the University of Illinois. He lives with his wife, Liz, and daughter, Madeleine, in River Forest, Illinois.


My Thoughts
I don't know what day it is or how long I've been out here or how long it's been since I found it, so I'm just going to have to call this Day 1. 
Culann has gotten himself into a little bit of trouble, and as many have done before him, he absconds to the rugged life found in Alaska to avoid prosecution. His cousin Frank has fixed him up with a job on a fishing trawler, and a couch to sleep on. On his first trip out, he learns the captain has a habit of fishing the same area year after year, never branching out to seek out larger yields of fish. Then the crew hauls in a strange object, and everything just gets weirder from there.

Having spent his last few years as a school teacher, Culann is worked harder than ever before as a deckhand, and takes some abuse as a greenhorn who needs to prove himself.
The work was exotic, grueling and fraught with peril. It was like he was being punished and rewarded at the same time. If he could hack it, he would emerge stronger, wiser and cleansed of his sins.
I really enjoyed the first half of this relatively short story (I think the e-book that I received was only about 118 pages). However once Culann came back to port and everything started getting really weird, I started to find it less enjoyable. I mean, fantastical plotline aside, I found the way that people responded to be too unrealistic. People were too quick to just accept what Culann said at face value and resign themselves to their doom. ("Oh well. I'm going to mysteriously drop dead in the upcoming hours, because this criminal on the run says so. Guess I'll just resign myself to it and get drunk.")

And then in the end Culann begins to reflect on his crime and almost seems to justify his actions. In the beginning I liked him, but by the end I was pretty much over him and finding him a little repulsive.

One thing of note is that the font in my ARC made reading very difficult. I hope that this may be improved in the printed copy, or even the purchased e-book/Kindle edition, but the font was erratic, varying from small to large to bold. It was supposed to have been done to indicate the state the writer was in, as it is a diary of what's happened to him in the previous days and weeks.

Also, sometimes the "i" looked like an "l" (causing "Alistair" to look like "Allstar"), and "f" looked like "r". Very confusing.

My final word: While I wound up not being enamored by Culann or the story in general in the end (as I was in the beginning), it was still a "good" story, and exhibited some solid writing. I would recommend it if you are looking for a fast escape.


Buy Now:

Amazon (only $2.99 for the Kindle edition!)


My Rating:





Disclosure:

I received a copy of this book to review through Netgalley, 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 in the actual published version.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

REVIEW: Sleep Talkin' Man by Karen Slavick-Lennard

Synopsis

Karen Slavick met Adam Lennard in 1991 on a kibbutz in Israel, where he declared his love for her by passing out in her bed while he waited for her to return from a midnight swim. Understandably, she never forgot him. Over a decade later, they rekindled their romance and married— but then he fell asleep again, and all hell broke loose. Though he’ s a romantic and mild-mannered Englishman by day, Adam quickly morphs into the uproariously foul-mouthed, vegetarian-hating, wildlife-obsessed character beloved by millions as Sleep Talkin’ Man, and Karen has the audio tapes to prove it. 

These gems and more are interspersed with the fantastic conversations Karen and Adam have when he wakes, in which he attempts to interpret for Sleep Talkin’ Man, and stories that recount how love can bloom— even when your beloved is a nocturnal maniac. By turns crude and charming, Don’ t Let the Midget Out of the Wardrobe is a hilariously candid journey into one man’s dreamland.

(Note: I think this synopsis from Goodreads needs to be corrected, as it seems to mixup Sleep Talkin' Man with Don't Let the Midget Out of the Wardrobe, which was published June 5th 2012, but seems very similar to Sleep Talkin' Man.) 

ebook, 192 pages
Expected publication: January 8th 2013 by Collins (first published November 6th 2012)
ISBN 1443412163 (ISBN13: 9781443412162) 



About the Author
from Facebook (since I can't find a bio for her, I took this from her Facebook profile)

As a child, my favorite pastime was dissecting fresh fish and labeling their fishy little parts on paper towels. I spent my teenagehood making an art of late-night public fountain splashing, one of the few diversions available to minors in Jersey. Somehow, paradox seems to define me: I'm wildly silly and intensely serious, unabashedly impulsive and overly analytical. I've lived on four continents, although I often play the homebody. Despite my well-earned cynicism, I'm far more naive and idealistic than I have any right to be. 

I own my own power tools, and I wield them with panache. I am a firm believer in mutual worship. Dancing is one of my greatest passions. I read voraciously and the right music slays me. Ripe avocado rocks my world, as does This American Life. 

I feel on track when I manage to back up my convictions with actions: I have volunteered for the last three elections and I’m lucky to work for a company that’s trying to do good in the world. My obsession with all creatures furry or feathered dictates that my holidays every year are spent volunteering at animal sanctuaries around the world. I have spent days snuggling elephants, nursing monkeys, nuzzling sloths, bottle-feeding otters, and massaging lions. 

My desires are too numerous for this silly little square: I want to study elephants in Africa, and sing in a smoky blues bar, and live on a houseboat, and operate on human brains, and rhumba in the rain. 


 My Thoughts
"Hold me. I want you to feel greatness." 

"Oompa loompas don't sing in heaven. They tidy up the clouds."

"Scientists in the future will completely struggle to work out how you were ever classified as an intelligent life form."
By day Adam Lennard is a kind, compassionate, and mild-mannered Englishman. By night he is crude, brash, insulting and threatening-- but very funny and very, very clever!

Soon after moving in together, Adam's girlfriend Karen (who herself is an insomniac) was startled to find Adam blurting outrageous remarks during his sleep. She began documenting his nocturnal expressions, and sharing them with family and friends. Eventually she invested in recording equipment to catch his regular utterings, and created a blog through which to share.

Now she is sharing it all through her new book simply titled Sleep Talkin' Man.

I became a fan of Sleep Talkin' Man (STM) through their blog, and have followed off and on for over a year. So I was happy to jump at the chance to read and review this book!

First let me say that visually I didn't find the layout very appealing, but I'm afraid that I'm not sure what to suggest to improve it. I kept finding all of the different fonts and sizes annoying. However I understand that they were attempting to make it interesting, rather than just have a bunch of quotes running down in a list with nothing of interest to catch the eye. Again...I'm afraid that I don't know how to resolve the issue with the layout, nor know how to clarify just what about it annoyed me so much!

And I'm not sure whether it's because it's an ARC, or if it will be the same in the finished copy, but the fact that there are no chapter numbers or names is a little disorienting.

Portions of the book are about their lives and a sort of memoir, and not about his sleep talking. I guess they needed more to write about, or it would just be 20 pages of sleep talkin' quotes! Some of the background was enjoyable to read, but by the time I got near the end of the book and reached a story about Adam getting a kitten from the SPCA at the age of nine, I was feeling as if they (the author? the editor?) were just stretching things out to give the book more mass and depth, and I found it getting a little tiresome.

But the meat of the book are the quotes, and they are everything fans of STM have come to love and expect. Some mutterings are sweet and innocent, some are devious and evil, and yet others are crude and offensive. But nearly all are just plain funny!

My final word: If you enjoy humor (especially crass and even cruel humor) and want to experience the mystery that is nocturnal speech and the unconscious mind, grab this one. You'll laugh yourself to sleep at night!

My Rating:





Disclosure:

I received a copy of this book to review through Netgalley, 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 ebook that I received was an uncorrected proof, and quotes mentioned here could differ in the finished copy.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

TLC BOOK TOUR and REVIEW: Cascade by Maryanne O'Hara

Synopsis

During the 1930s, a conflicted new wife seeks to reconcile her heart's ambitions with binding promises she has made

1935: Desdemona Hart Spaulding was an up-and-coming Boston artist when she married in haste and settled in the small, once-fashionable theater town of Cascade to provide a home for her dying father. Now Cascade is on the short list to be flooded to provide water for Boston, and Dez's discontent is complicated by her growing attraction to a fellow artist. When tragic events unfold, Dez is forced to make difficult choices. Must she keep her promises? Is it morally possible to set herself free?

Fans of Richard Russo, Amor Towles, Sebastian Barry, and Paula McLain will devour this transporting novel about the eternal tug between our duties and our desires, set within the context of the Depression, NYC during Roosevelt's New Deal era, and the approaching World War.


Hardcover, 368 pages
Published August 16th 2012 by Viking Adult
ISBN 0670026026 (ISBN13: 9780670026029)



About the Author
from Goodreads

I was the longtime associate fiction editor at Ploughshares, Boston’s award-winning literary journal. My short fiction has been published in The North American Review, Five Points, Redbook, The Crescent Review, and these anthologies: MicroFiction, Brevity and Echo, The Art of Friction, Sudden Flash Youth, and Fictionality/Reality/ Possibility. I am grateful for grants I received from the St. Botolph Foundation and the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and to the editors who nominated my stories for Pushcart Prizes. My story collection was a finalist for 2010’s Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction. 


Check out the author's website (it's really cool!)
Check out the author's blog

Follow the author on Facebook
Follow the author on Twitter
Download the author's book club reading list 
Watch the video trailer for Cascade


My Thoughts
During his final days, William Hart was haunted by drowning dreams. Every night at the sound of his shouts, Dez came awake herself, always briefly startled to find a husband-- Asa-- sleeping beside her. She would dash across the hall, fearing another heart attack, but by then her father would be lying quietly, gazing at the plaster ceiling.
Dez grew up with something of a charmed life before the Depression. Her father was important in the community, the owner of the playhouse where the likes of Lionel Barrymore performed. They had a housekeeper to take care of the home, and enough money for Dez to travel and attend school in Boston. She never wanted for anything. She could spend her time indulging her whims and feeding her creative nature. Then the Depression struck, her father lost everything but the playhouse, and suddenly she is forced to make choices she fears she cannot live with. Now stuck in a lifeless marriage to a good man for whom she feels no passion, trying to find time for her art in between keeping the house and performing “wifely duties”, forever trying to stave off pregnancy, she feels doomed. Add to this the drama of the constant threat that hangs over the town that it could be chosen to be sacrificed to create a water reservoir for nearby Boston and surrounding areas (although Dez secretly hopes this may actually come to fruition, as she longs to move to New York and get away from this stagnating town that is suffocating her).Then traveling salesman and artist Jacob shows up on her doorstep, and Dez finds in him the soul mate of an artist's heart.

I loved seeing things through an artist’s eye. When Dez would get an idea for a piece, her description became a painting that I wanted hanging on my wall:

And as he studied the new painting, she, with the fresh perspective that even a few minutes could give, saw how the light would need to fall much more significantly on that foremost blade of grass. The viewer’s eye needed to be drawn to that blade, forced to reflect on how alike it was to all the others, while still uniquely itself. She needed to add something, a drop of dew perhaps, glistening and fat...

...and the look of the blade changed-- it became more dimensional, more emphatic, more what she was after. "That’s it! I want the viewer to first look and see ‘grass’, and then look closer and mull on the fact that this blade-- here-- is different. And to wonder why." (page 37)
And when wanting to do a piece about the drowning of a city:
Can I make that view up through water convey, to the viewer, how frantic the gasping-for-life instinct must be, how precious the air on the other side? (page 84)
I found this story to be mostly sad and morose. There were only a few bright moments of passion or love or humanity. Throughout much of it, I was left thinking of everything being drab and gray and damp. Probably because of all of the talk of water, the river, the dam, of drowning. It felt “wet” and humid and cloying and suffocating. There were brief moments of color and beauty and lightness when Jacob was around, but most of the time life was gray and miserable for Dez. In this respect, the author was very good at relaying what Dez was feeling. The town of Cascade and her loveless marriage were suffocating and cloying, while her stolen moments with Jacob were bright and light.

Dez spent most of the book discontent. She didn't appreciate how lucky she was to have the security her husband offered during the Depression. Asa was a good man- ethical and hardworking. But he was not a passionate man, he did not have an artist's eye or heart, and he left Dez feeling alone in life. Then she meets Jacob, who is of the same heart as her, and they become star-crossed lovers, trapped by convention and propriety and with a passion fueled by an appreciation for the beauty in life.

I was left feeling that Dez’s friend Abby was the catalyst for everything bad in the book. In the beginning I sort of liked Dez. She seemed honorable and conscientious. Then Abby showed up, and in a few short hours with her it was as if her self-centered and arrogant aura covered Dez’s life, her thoughtless poking and prodding at the structure and mediocrity of Dez’s life began to whittle down Dez’s resolve, and a pall fell over Dez’s world. Suddenly nothing was good enough, and she turned into this self-absorbed woman who only cared about her own needs and desires, at the risk of hurting everyone around her.

Dez, like many artists, actually had some great insights into the human condition...

Sometimes you needed to look up from your work, from yourself, blink your eyes-- there was sky up there, a vast expanse of air to breathe. (page 132)
...but mostly she seemed too lost in her own misery to care about anything else. Eventually she makes it to New York, where she believes happiness resides, but even there things are not perfect...
Cascade is too provincial, New York too raw and lascivious. Are you ever going to be happy? (page 284) 
I felt the same way-- that this woman would never be happy. She would always want what she didn’t have. The grass was always greener on the other side. And always pulling her forward is the future of the Playhouse and the secret held within Portia's casket, a miniature casket that Dez's father gave her before he died, telling her that it holds a treasure. Making Dez promise to not open the casket until the Playhouse reopened, Dez keeps the casket close by, a promise of the future. 

My final word: I enjoyed this story, for the most part. It was a little heavy and at times depressing. In the beginning, I loved the relationship between star-crossed lovers Dez and Jacob, always attempting to keep their passion at arms length. Later it becomes evident that Dez is consumed with herself and what she wants, and that everyone around her will suffer for it. But it was well-written, and it kept me guessing with little twists and turns, and stories within stories.

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for allowing me to be a part of this tour.

Check out the master schedule for the tour:

Monday, December 3rd: Booktalk & More
Tuesday, December 4th: Peppermint PhD
Wednesday, December 5th: Savvy Verse & Wit
Friday, December 7th: JulzReads
Monday, December 10th: …the bookworm…
Tuesday, December 11th: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Wednesday, December 12th: Shall Write
Thursday, December 13th: Teresa’s Reading Corner
Friday, December 14th: A Reader of Fictions
Monday, December 17th: Let Them Read Books
Tuesday, December 18th: Tiffany’s Bookshelf
Wednesday, December 19th: I’m Booking It
Thursday, December 20th: Dreaming in Books
Wednesday, December 26th: Broken Teepee
Thursday, December 27th: Books and Movies
Wednesday, January 2nd: Lisa’s Yarns 
Thursday, January 3rd: Dwell in Possibility
Friday, January 4th: A Bookish Way of Life
TBD: Book Journey

Buy Now:

Indiebound
Barnes and Noble
Amazon

My Rating:





Disclosure:

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.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Introducing... Dog by Matt Hlinak

Introducing books through the first chapter or so...

Diary of Culann Riordan, Day 1

I don't know what day it is or how long I've been out here or how long it's been since I found it, so I'm just going to have to call this Day 1. I'm not sure who I'm writing to, since I don't think I've got very long to live, nor do I expect anyone who finds this diary to have long to live either. Maybe it will be found by people from a future society whose science (magic?) is sufficiently advanced to allow them to survive on this island. Maybe I'll be able to teach the dogs to read...



Wednesday, December 5, 2012

REVIEW: Viewer Discretion Advised by Cindy Roesel

Synopsis

LIVE FROM MIAMI!

Viewer Discretion Advised features Charlene "Charley" Thomas - a smart, sassy, highly competitive thirtysomething television news executive producer. Charley's got maxed out credit cards and an office fridge stocked with vodka. Her boss, Jonathan Lefton, a.k.a "The Velvet Ax" is all about ratings, slash-and-burn newscasts - no matter who who gets hurt in the process. Charley is hell-bent on doing whatever it takes to impress Lefton. But will pleasing Lefton mean losing the man she loves? Filled with suspense, romance, and newsroom backbiting, Viewer Discretion Advised features a cast of ambitious adrenaline junkies.

Viewer Discretion Advised is "Sex and the City" meets "Broadcast News." It's this summer's hot new beach read!



About the Author
from her website
I was an intern at CNN in NYC when they first started in 1985 before I landed my first job in Tyler, Texas as a reporter. After Texas, I went to KLAS, Las Vegas where I was a news producer. I moved on to WGGB Springfield MA and then to WTNH New Haven, CT where I won my first Emmy. I joined WSVN, Miami in 1991 as a senior producer.  I reformatted the local evening news/entertainment show,”7:30” which consistently beat “ET” in the ratings. I returned to the front of the camera in 1995 at WPLG as their Style Reporter. In addition, I have worked for Fox News Channel as a Features Reporter and the All News Channel as Weekend Anchor.
Check out the author's website
Like the author on Facebook
Follow the author on Twitter


My Thoughts
"What the hell is going on?" Charley yelled as she walked into the newsroom. A crowd of people gathered around her main anchor.
Charley Thomas finds herself the news director of a competitive Miami news station. She has her hands full, what with her back-stabbing and narcissistic new anchors, and with a no-holds-barred station manager calling the shots. Add to that a long-term casual relationship that is growing into something more, and an over-zealous suitor, and you begin to wonder whether she can handle it all.

Sex in the City meets WKRP in Cincinatti, I wasn't sure what to expect of this book. What I found was a fun story. Outrageous moments mixed with drama and mystery, we get to follow along as Charley navigates that crazy world of local news, as well as her own personal love life (which can get rather heated at times). I was left wondering whether this is what it is really like in the news industry, so full of narcissism and insanity, but dotted with some very hard-working and conscientious people. Even station manager Jonathan Lefton becomes quite likable by the end of the story.

My final word: Looking for a fun read? Looking for something to give you a glimpse into the news industry? Pick up Viewer Discretion Advised. You'll find all you were looking for.


Buy Now:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble


My Rating:





Disclosure:

I received a copy of this book from the author, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are based on my own observations while reading this novel.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Introducing... Auraria by Tim Westover

Introducing books through the first paragraph or so...

Holtzclaw hadn’t heard of Auraria until his employer sent him to destroy it. The tiny town, nestled into the curve of an unimportant mountain river, had no reputation among capitalists or tourists, but even insignificant places can be expensive to acquire. Holtzclaw rechecked his traveling bag—all the money was still there. The thousands of dollars in federal notes were just ordinary paper, but the gold coins were the strangest he had ever seen. Instead of eagles and shields, the coins were stamped with images of bumblebees, terrapins, chestnut trees, and indistinct figures by a stream. The figures might have been bathing or even panning for gold; they were too small to tell. Shadburn had said the coins were minted in Auraria from local metal. The gold was returning to its source.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Introducing... Cascade by Maryanne O'Hara

Introducing books through the first paragraph or so...

During his final days, William Hart was haunted by drowning dreams. Every night, at the sound of his shouts, Dez came awake herself, always briefly startled to find a husband-- Asa-- sleeping beside her. She would dash across the hall, fearing another heart attack, but by then her father would be lying quietly, gazing at the plaster ceiling. Probably half the town was having drowning dreams, she'd say, reminding him that the reservoir was an old rumor and ticking off good reasons why it would never happen-- the state had looked to Cascade before. If it was too expensive to build so far from Boston six years ago, then surely, in these hard times, nothing would come of it.

-- Cascade by Maryanne O'Hara

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Thursday, November 15, 2012

REVIEW: The Names of Things by John Colman Wood

Synopsis

The anthropologist's wife, an artist, didn't want to follow her husband to the remote desert of northeast Africa to live with camel-herding nomads. But wanting to be with him, she endured the trip, only to fall desperately ill years later with a disease that leaves her husband with more questions than answers. When the anthropologist discovers a deception that shatters his grief and guilt, he begins to reevaluate his love for his wife as well as his friendship with one of the nomads he studied. He returns to Africa to make sense of what happened, traveling into the far reaches of the Chalbi Desert, where he must sift through the layers of his memories and reconcile them with what he now knows. Set in a windswept wilderness menaced by hyenas and lions, The Names of Things weaves together the stories of an anthropologist's journey into the desert, his firsthand accounts of the nomads' death rituals, and his struggle to find the names of things for which no words exist. Anthropologist John Colman Wood's debut novel is an exquisite, haunting exploration of the meaning of love and the rituals of grief.

Paperback, 276 pages
Published April 1st 2012 by Ashland Creek Press
ISBN  1618220055 (ISBN13: 9781618220059)

 


About the Author
from Goodreads

John Colman Wood teaches at the University of North Carolina at Asheville. His field research with Gabra nomads of northern Kenya and southern Ethiopia has been funded by the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the National Geographic Society, and the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology.

His fiction has appeared in Anthropology and Humanism, and he has twice won the Ethnographic Fiction Prize of the Society for Humanistic Anthropology, once for a story extracted from The Names of Things.

He is the author of When Men Are Women: Manhood among Gabra Nomads of East Africa (University of Wisconsin Press, 1999). Before becoming an anthropologist, Wood was a journalist.



My Thoughts
She hung the canvas on the wall of the studio. I'd seen her start paintings dozens of times, but for some reason-- perhaps because of how things turned out-- this one has stayed with me. The canvas was square, a little taller and wider than her reach. the surface was primed bluish white, thick enough to mask the texture. Despite its bulk the frame was empty, a window unto snow.
An anthropologist goes on a pilgrimage across northeast Africa after the death of his wife, coming to terms with her loss and wondering whether he really even knew her at all.

It's interesting that I can't tell you the anthropologist's name, as I don't believe it is ever mentioned in the book. He is simply referred to as "he" and "him", or by the native word "ferenji" used for Westerners. Likewise his wife is simply referred to as "she".

This story is at once very simple, getting to the heart of the matter, without excessive flourish or glamor, and yet it is complex, winding around on itself. There isn't a great amount of dialogue in the book, as the majority of the story is self-discovery and the discovery of truth. All of his interaction in the story is with the Africans he encounters and stays with during his journey, and they are a simple and quiet people, not given to excessive chatting.

There are some interesting transitions between chapters where bits of the Dasse culture are revealed. The author writes of "rituals that surround death and dying". For example:
There is a strict division of labor at a Dasse burial: Men dig the grave, lower the body, fill the grave, cover it; women, prepare the body and cook food for the men to eat afterward. Men say women are too emotional to prepare the grave. If they helped, one man said, they would do more crying than digging. Women are not even supposed to come near. You wonder, if women are so emotional, how they manage the intimacies of the body itself.
After his artist wife dies from an unnamed disease that sounds suspiciously like AIDS, the anthropologist begins to look through her journal and questions arise, causing him to embark on a trek back to the village of his friend Abudo, in hopes of finding answers.

My final word: This was an enjoyable read, and went fairly quickly. The author is very adept at bringing you into the story with lovely description that isn't overdone, and a writing style that can flow from verbose to rather clipped, the anthropologist varying from very logical reasoning that examines his own life with scientific precision to reflecting on beautifully sensitive and emotional moments with his wife in their life together. A lovely little story.

Buy Now:

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
But the Nook book now for only $2.99!


My Rating:






Disclosure:

I received a copy of this book to review through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers, 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.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

SHARING: Piano Bookcase

What an awesome bookcase! Thanks to Rapid Reads for sharing!


Introducing... The People of Forever are Not Afraid by Shani Doianjiu

Introducing books through the first paragraph or so...

History is Almost Over

There is dust in this caravan of a classroom, and Mira the teacher's hair is fake orange and scorched at the tips. We are seniors now, seventeen, and we have almost finished all of Israeli history. We finished the history of the world in tenth grade. In our textbook, the pages already speak to us of 1982, just a few years before we were born, just a year before this town was built, when there were only pine trees and garbage hills here by the Lebanese border. The words of Mira the teacher, who is also Avishag's mother, almost touch the secret ones of all our parents in their drunken evenings.

History is almost over.

Friday, November 2, 2012

SHARING: The state of bookstores in the NE


We all know of the devastation left in the wake of Sandy. Being book bloggers, we may be especially interested in the state of bookstores hit by Sandy. The LA Times gives us a little glimpse. Check it out!

Looking to help those affected by Sandy? How about donating to the Red Cross?

And NBC will host a telethon tonight from 8 PM to 9 PM EST to raise money for the American Red Cross. Read more about it on Arts Beat at the NY Times.


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Introducing...All Different Kinds of Free by Jessica McCann

Introducing books through the first paragraph or so...

Margaret

Mama always told me bad things happen on Wednesdays, 'cause it's the middle of the week and the Lord just ain't looking then. I never really understood what she meant by that, because I thought the Lord was always supposed to be looking. But her explanation still consoled me when the goats got into the saltbox and Mr. Ashmore took the switch to me for it, or when my stomach was growling at night because rabbits had gobbled up our small garden and all we had to eat that summer was Johnnycakes.

I'm grown now, and Mama's long since gone. But, oh, how I pray she was wrong about Wednesdays and that the Good Lord is looking down on York County, Pennsylvania every day.

Friday, October 26, 2012

SHARING: YA survey can win you YA books...

ReadingGroupGuides.com has a survey for YA lovers. They are interested in learning what drives readers to select YA books and who those readers are. Their survey takes about 25 minutes to complete, and those who do so will be entered to win one of 450 YA titles being given away. The survey will be available until November 30th. I won't be taking it, since my YA interests are very select, but if you are interested, you can check it out here.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Introducing...Viewer Discretion Advised by Cindy Roesel

Introducing books through the first paragraph or so... 

"What the hell is going on?" Charley yelled as she walked into the newsroom. A crowd of people gathered around her main anchor.

Lady Gaga singing. Is that a CD, or is the Fame Monster a guest on tonight's show? A guest I didn't approve. But OMG, how on earth did we possibly book her?

Saturday, October 20, 2012

REVIEW: Wilderness by Lance Weller

Synopsis

Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain meets David Guterson’s East of the Mountains in this sweeping historical novel of a Civil War veteran’s last journey on the Pacific Coast.

Thirty years after the Civil War’s Battle of the Wilderness left him maimed, Abel Truman has found his way to the edge of the continent, the rugged, majestic coast of Washington State, where he lives alone in a driftwood shack with his beloved dog. Wilderness is the story of Abel, now an old and ailing man, and his heroic final journey over the snowbound Olympic Mountains. It’s a quest he has little hope of completing but still must undertake to settle matters of the heart that predate even the horrors of the war.

As Abel makes his way into the foothills, the violence he endures at the hands of two thugs who are after his dog is crosscut with his memories of the horrors of the war, the friends he lost, and the savagery he took part in and witnessed. And yet, darkness is cut by light, especially in the people who have touched his life—from Jane Dao-Ming Poole, the daughter of murdered Chinese immigrants, to Hypatia, an escaped slave who nursed him back to life, and finally to the unbearable memory of the wife and child he lost as a young man. Haunted by tragedy, loss, and unspeakable brutality, Abel has somehow managed to hold on to his humanity, finding way stations of kindness along his tortured and ultimately redemptive path.

In its contrasts of light and dark, wild and tame, brutal and tender, and its attempts to reconcile a horrific war with the great evil it ended, Wilderness tells not only the moving tale of an unforgettable character, but a story about who we are as human beings, a people, and a nation. Lance Weller’s immensely impressive debut immediately places him among our most talented writers.


Hardcover, 304 pages
Published September 4th 2012 by Bloomsbury USA
ISBN 1608199371 (ISBN13: 9781608199372)



About the Author
from his blog

Lance Weller is the author of Wilderness upcoming from BloomsburyUSA, September 2012. His short fiction has appeared in Glimmer Train Stories, New Millennium Writings, Quiddity, The White Whale Review, The Broadkill Review and Terracotta Typewriter


My Thoughts
She comes awake with an urgency she does not at first understand, surrendering the overbright tidelands of dream to the bottomless dark of her waking day. A moment before, there'd been a dazzling fire upon a shadow-polished beach and, out upon the rim of the world, a paring of sun to redden the westward ocean.
Civil war veteran Abel Truman lives in a shack by the Pacific Ocean in Washington's Olympic Mountain range. Stern, anti-social, and living the life of a hermit, he knows life is winding down for him, and as it does so, he finds himself on an unexpected quest. He endures tremendous trials, as his memories and past hardships are slowly revealed to us.

I loved this book! And it's a bit surprising how much I loved it, considering it is strongly narrative, and I am more of a dialogue-driven reader. But I used to live in this area, and I have hiked the Olympic Mountains (well, that's a bit of an exaggeration. I have hiked for a few hours at a time in those mountains). I used to look out at these mountains every day, and they are my favorite place on earth.

Combine that with a character like Abel Truman, a gritty old war veteran, a widower, a loner, and you've got me hooked! But Abel isn't completely alone. He shares his little shack and quiet life with a dog that found him years before. This is the second story I've read in the last few months that is about a loner man and his bond with his dog. The last one, The Dog Stars by Peter Heller, became one of my favorite books of 2012, and this book surpasses that one.

Abel seems pretty miserable. He is just enduring life rather than living it. And as you get glimpses into his past, you begin to understand why. You come to realize he has a bit of a death wish, and does not fear death at all; that he would, in fact, find death to be a relief.

But then circumstances change, and he finds a mission to drive him, which then leads to another mission, and what will then become the defining moment in his life. Moments of the story can get quite emotional. Modest and restrained, this story is told in beautiful prose and descriptive text, and that is quite something said coming from someone who is not a fan of descriptive text!

This provocative story starts out being narrated by an elderly woman in a nursing home, looking back on her life and that of her "second father" Abel. But soon after the story becomes solely Abel's story.

There are some wonderful insights into human nature. I usually avoid quoting ARCs, but this one passage particularly moved me...
He agreed that most men remain accountable to themselves only, and that but poorly. He said that the proper chore of a man is to be chargeable for those and that dear to him and that this was something women understood and knew how to do without having to be told. It was a thing women looked for in their men, and this was why most women lived lives of bottomless sorrow.
This passage really struck home with me, as it addresses an issue I've been confronted with in my own life the last several years, and with which I just recently finally found closure.

I would give warning that there is a bit of offensive language and subject matter in this book. Abel was a civil war soldier, and he was a confederate soldier, fighting against abolition, and he speaks like a racist through much of the story. The "N word" is thrown around a fair bit, along with some other offensive terms. There is also death and rape and other violence, but that isn't the bulk of the story. And you wind up loving this man despite his shortcomings.

My final word: This was a story of real substance; a series of complex stories interwoven into poetic beauty and tragedy. Abel becomes a very human, flawed and reluctant hero, and you can't help but admire him. A truly beautiful story!

Buy Now:

Barnes and Noble
Amazon
Bloomsbury


My Rating:





Disclosure:

I received a copy of this book to review through Netgalley, 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 in the actual published version.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Introducing... The Names of Things by John Colman Wood

Introducing books through the first paragraph or so...

She hung the canvas on the wall of the studio. I'd seen her start paintings dozens of times, but for some reason-- perhaps because of how things turned out-- this one has stayed with me. The canvas was square, a little taller and wider than her reach. The surface was primed bluish white, thick enough to mask the texture. Despite its bulk the frame was empty, a window unto snow.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

READATHON: Final Post


Well, I did participate in Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-thon, but on a more limited level this year. I had prior commitments distracting me, but I did get in a few hours of reading (even at 3 AM!), and I did complete one book, Me, Who Dove Into the Heart of the World by Sabina Berman, I made progress on The Wilderness by Lance Weller, and I started The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. So not bad! I'm happy!

I hope everyone else who joined in had fun and got some good reading done, and we'll see you again next spring!

REVIEW: Me, Who Dove Into the Heart of the World by Sabina Berman

Synopsis

A transporting and brilliant novel narrated by an unforgettable woman: Karen Nieto, an autistic savant whose idiosyncrasies prove her greatest gifts

As intimate as it is profound, and as clear-eyed as it is warmhearted, Me, Who Dove into the Heart of the World marks an extraordinary debut by the award-winning Mexican playwright, journalist, and poet Sabina Berman.

Karen Nieto passed her earliest years as a feral child, left alone to wander the vast beach property near her family's failing tuna cannery. But when her aunt Isabelle comes to Mexico to take over the family business, she discovers a real girl amidst the squalor. So begins a miraculous journey for autistic savant Karen, who finds freedom not only in the love and patient instruction of her aunt but eventually at the bottom of the ocean swimming among the creatures of the sea. Despite how far she's come, Karen remains defined by the things she can't do—until her gifts with animals are finally put to good use at the family's fishery. Her plan is brilliant: Consolation Tuna will be the first humane tuna fishery on the planet. Greenpeace approves, fame and fortune follow, and Karen is swept on a global journey that explores how we live, what we eat, and how our lives can defy even our own wildest expectations.


Hardcover, 1st Edition, 256 pages
Published August 7th 2012 by Henry Holt and Co.
ISBN 0805093257 (ISBN13: 9780805093254)



About the Author
from the back cover

Sabina Berman is a four-time winner of the Mexican National Theatre Prize for her plays; she also writes film scripts, poetry, prose, and journalism and has published several novellas. Me, Who Dove Into the Heart of the World, which will be published in twenty-five territories, is her first novel. She lives in Mexico. 


My Thoughts
...the sea...
   ... and the white sand beach...

The sea flecked with sunlight all the way out to the horizon.

Then the white sand beach, where the waves roll in, dissolve into foam. And, up in the sky, a sun full of white fire.

I'm thirsty.
   I'm going to stop writing and go get a glass of water.
When Isabelle inherits a tuna canning factory in Mexico, she finds her previously unknown-to-her niece Karen Nieto living under the factory as a "wild child". Isabelle takes her in hand, teaches her to speak and educates her, and over time they come to love one another. And as she grows up, Karen makes it her mission to make tuna capturing and slaughter more humane.

Karen is quite obviously "different", and you discover through the book that she is apparently autistic, and while she has an extremely low intelligence in most areas, there are a few areas where she is a brilliant genius and highly talented.

I enjoyed when the autistic character would refer to turning off "Relating Mode" or going into "Non-Relating Mode". I can identify with this, as I tend to do a similar thing, though less consciously. There are times when outside stimuli gets to be too much, and the sounds and actions of other people just becomes grating and annoying, and trying to "relate" to people becomes exhausting. At these times, I need to shutdown away from them and recharge. So is the nature of an introvert! But this character takes this to a new level.
So 1 afternoon, sitting out on the balcony, staring at the sea, I vanish. Where there was Me, now there is 0. (page 214)
I did have an issue with the author's act of using numbers instead of spelling out the numerical word. Particularly the number "1", which resembles an "I" and kept throwing me off. I know it is being utilized to further the idea that Karen is an autistic with idiosyncrasies, as Karen is the one that is supposed to be writing the book, but it just proved to be rather confusing.

At times the character's way of interpreting the world would make me laugh. For example, her response to her business partner Gould when he expresses his affection for her.
Karen, sweetheart, I love you like the daughter I never had.

1 of those impossible sentences that only human fantasy could come out with. Gould loved Me as much as a nonexistent girl. (page 155)
And I got a kick out of the fact that the character likes to put on a wetsuit (complete with flippers), and hangs in a harness from the ceiling. It relaxes her. I love the imagery of someone walking in the door and finding their new roommate hanging from the ceiling in a wetsuit and flippers, turning around and walking right back out again, as happens to Karen after she goes away to college!

Yet despite the fun and clever scenes, the story could be quite preposterous at times. Sometimes this came off charming, but other times it came off just ridiculous. 

My final word: Overall I enjoyed this story. There were a few characters introduced whom I wanted to learn more about or whom I wished played a bigger part, only to find them suddenly disappear from the story. Yet there were some interesting and refreshing tidbits. If you're looking for something a little quirky and off-beat with novel ideas, consider picking up this book!


Buy Now:

Barnes and Noble
Amazon
Henry Holt and Company


My Rating:






Disclosure:

I received this book from Henry Holt and Company 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 ARC, and quotes noted here could appear different in the actual published copy.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Time for a Read-a-Thon!


Well, it almost got by me! I just happened to see a post on Facebook yesterday about Dewey's bi-annual read-a-thon, checked the website and found out that it was scheduled for this weekend. I had no idea!

So I will be trying to join in today, but won't be able to fully commit. I'd already made plans to do a few things. So I'll be trying to read in between commitments.

Now for my brief introduction:

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? I want to finish up a couple of books that I've been enjoying and begin reading the classic The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
3) Which snack are you most looking forward to? I'm actually staying pretty healthy today, but I may sneak a few dark chocolates!
4) Tell us a little something about yourself! My name is Heather and I've been blogging for... about 3 1/2 years I think it's been. I've got a lot of blogs, but my book blog is the only one I post on regularly. I am divorced with no kids, but I have four cats, a dog, a bird and a turtle! It's just me and the ZooCrew!
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? I've been doing read-a-thons for the last few years, and I find I get more relaxed as the years go by. No pressure. I used to try to stay awake the whole 24 hours. These days I just try to get in as much reading as I can, but not exhaust myself doing so. After all, the whole point is to enjoy yourself!

My main goal today is to complete Me, Who Dove Into the Heart of the World by Sabina Berman, and The Wilderness by Lance Weller. If I can make it through the two of them, then I will start on The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.

I hope everyone enjoys their day and their reading!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Introducing... Wilderness by Lance Weller

Introducing books through the first paragraph or so...

She comes awake with an urgency she does not at first understand, surrendering the overbright tidelands of dream to the bottomless dark of her waking day. A moment before, there'd been a dazzling fire upon a shadow-polished beach and, out upon the rim of the world, a paring of sun to redden the westward ocean. Burnt swell tips flashing beneath a violet sky streaked with shivery bands of pale light that laced the undersides of roiling rain clouds. Wet black sand and a jagged chain of yellowy foam to mark the snarl of tide across wave-cut stone. Sparks from a nearby campfire rose in a spray to fall and lie like bright little jewels upon the shore. They flared and died and flared again in the wild yellow eyes of the wolf that watched her from the forest rising dark and quiet from the low cliffs behind.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

REVIEW: The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian

Synopsis

Over the course of his career, New York Times bestselling novelist Chris Bohjalian has taken readers on a spectacular array of journeys. Midwives brought us to an isolated Vermont farmhouse on an icy winter’s night and a home birth gone tragically wrong. The Double Bind perfectly conjured the Roaring Twenties on Long Island—and a young social worker’s descent into madness. And Skeletons at the Feast chronicled the last six months of World War Two in Poland and Germany with nail-biting authenticity. As The Washington Post Book World has noted, Bohjalian writes “the sorts of books people stay awake all night to finish.”

In his fifteenth book, The Sandcastle Girls, he brings us on a very different kind of journey. This spellbinding tale travels between Aleppo, Syria, in 1915 and Bronxville, New York, in 2012—a sweeping historical love story steeped in the author’s Armenian heritage, making it his most personal novel to date.


When Elizabeth Endicott arrives in Syria, she has a diploma from Mount Holyoke College, a crash course in nursing, and only the most basic grasp of the Armenian language. The First World War is spreading across Europe, and she has volunteered on behalf of the Boston-based Friends of Armenia to deliver food and medical aid to refugees of the Armenian genocide. There, Elizabeth becomes friendly with Armen, a young Armenian engineer who has already lost his wife and infant daughter. When Armen leaves Aleppo to join the British Army in Egypt, he begins to write Elizabeth letters, and comes to realize that he has fallen in love with the wealthy, young American woman who is so different from the wife he lost.Flash forward to the present, where we meet Laura Petrosian, a novelist living in suburban New York. Although her grandparents’ ornate Pelham home was affectionately nicknamed the “Ottoman Annex,” Laura has never really given her Armenian heritage much thought. But when an old friend calls, claiming to have seen a newspaper photo of Laura’s grandmother promoting an exhibit at a Boston museum, Laura embarks on a journey back through her family’s history that reveals love, loss—and a wrenching secret that has been buried for generations.


Hardcover, 320 pages
Published July 17th 2012 by Doubleday
ISBN 0385534795 (ISBN13: 9780385534796)



About the Author
from his website

Chris Bohjalian has called The Sandcastle Girls the most important book he will ever write.  Published in July to great acclaim, this story of the Armenian Genocide debuted at #7 on the New York Times bestseller list, and appeared as well on the Publishers’ Weekly, USA Today, and national Independent Bookstore bestseller lists.

USA Today called it “stirring. . .a deeply moving story of survival and enduring love.”  Entertainment Weekly observed, “Bohjalian – the grandson of Armenian survivors – pours passion, pride, and sadness into his tale of ethnic destruction and endurance.”  And the Washington Post concluded that the novel was “intense. . .staggering. . .and utterly riveting.”  The Sandcastle Girls was also an Oprah.com Book of the Week.

He is the author of fifteen books, including the other New York Times bestsellers, The Night Strangers, Secrets of Eden, Skeletons at the Feast, The Double Bind, Before Your Know Kindness, and Midwives.

Chris's awards include the New England Society Book Award in 2012 (for The Night Strangers), the New England Book Award in 2002, and the Anahid Literary Award in 2000. His novel, Midwives, was a number one New York Times bestseller, a selection of Oprah's Book Club, a Publisher's Weekly "Best Book," and a New England Booksellers Association Discovery pick. His work had been translated into over 25 languages and three times become movies (Secrets of Eden, Midwives, and Past the Bleachers).

He has written for a wide variety of magazines, including Cosmopolitan, Reader's Digest, and the Boston Globe Sunday Magazine, and has been a columnist for Gannett's Burlington Free Press since 1992. Chris graduated from Amherst College, and lives in Vermont with his wife and daughter.
 

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My Thoughts
When my twin brother and I were small children, we would take turns sitting on our grandfather's lap. There he would grab the rope-like rolls of baby fat that would pool at our waists and bounce us on his knees, cooing, "Big belly, big belly, big belly."
A modern day woman learns of the love story and horror kept quiet in the history of her grandparents. We discover along with her of how her grandmother Elizabeth Endicott traveled to Aleppo, Syria with her own father to offer relief to Armenian refugees. What they find when they arrive is a genocide in progress as Turks and Syrians attempt to erase the Armenian race from the earth. While in Aleppo, Elizabeth meets Armenian engineer Armen and falls in love. The novel follows their stories as their modern day granddaughter unravels their past decades later.

I am ashamed to admit that I was unaware of the Armenian genocide, which resulted in the deaths of between 1 and 1.5 million Armenians between the years of 1915 and 1923. It's heartbreaking to think of what happened to these people, the suffering of those who died, and the haunting memories carried by those who survived.

I thought the format of this book was an interesting concept. Instead of simply telling the story of Elizabeth and Armen, to have it told through their granddaughter as she discovers what happened to them in their youth. Elizabeth and Armen were very believable. The granddaughter was sort of forgettable-- a bit of a quiet voice narrating and guiding the story, but Elizabeth and Armen were meant to be the stars of the story, and I found them to be real and solid and moving. They brought the horrors of the Armenian genocide to life.

Caught up in Elizabeth and Armen's story are the stories of many other characters, including an Armenian refugee by the name of Nevart and her young charge Hatoun. Two survivors of the genocide (at least they survived during the period that Elizabeth knew them), their own story is beautiful and stirring and heart wrenching. And then there is the underlying story of the images of the refugees, captured on film plates and being smuggled to safety to assure that they survive the slaughter, to reveal to the world the truth of what is going in Aleppo. And let us not forget the tragic story of Armen's wife Karine and infant daughter.

My final word: This story was a mixture of sweetness, tragedy and horror. Elizabeth and Armen were characters that I could really care about. This novel wraps a history lesson up in an intriguing story. A robust novel full of flavors, and I will undoubtedly be tasting of author Chris Bohjalian's other works. Definitely recommended!

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Disclosure:

I received this book from Random House 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.