Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Lucky Us

Amy Bloom

“My father’s wife died. My mother said we should drive down to his place and see what might be in it for us.”

So begins this remarkable novel by Amy Bloom, whose critically acclaimed Away was called “a literary triumph” by The New York Times. Brilliantly written, deeply moving, fantastically funny, Lucky Us introduces us to Eva and Iris. Disappointed by their families, Iris, the hopeful star, and Eva, the sidekick, journey across 1940s America in search of fame and fortune. Iris’s ambitions take them from small-town Ohio to an unexpected and sensuous Hollywood, across the America of Reinvention in a stolen station wagon, to the jazz clubs and golden mansions of Long Island.

With their friends in high and low places, Iris and Eva stumble and shine through a landscape of big dreams, scandals, betrayals, and war. Filled with gorgeous writing, memorable characters, and surprising events, Lucky Us is a thrilling and resonant novel about success and failure, good luck and bad, the creation of a family, and the pleasures and inevitable perils of family life. From Brooklyn’s beauty parlors to London’s West End, a group of unforgettable people love, lie, cheat, and survive in this story of our fragile, absurd, heroic species.(from Netgalley)


My Thoughts

This is the story of several individuals who come together to form an unconventional family. There are two half sisters and their Dad, a kidnaped orphan, a night-club singer, and a cook. At the center of the story are Eva and Iris, the half sisters.

The oddest thing happened with this book. Throughout most of the time I was reading, I kept thinking - this is the strangest story. I’m not sure I really like this. But when I got to the last page and closed the book I thought - wow, what a story!

I think I had a hard time with how this family came together. But really, this is more a story of how we define family. It’s not necessarily about blood relationships, but about the people in our lives that hold meaning in our hearts. This delightful mix of quirky characters in Lucky Us came together out of desperation, but stayed together out of love.

Thanks to Random House, via Netgalley, for allowing me to read this in exchange for an unbiased review.

Dear Committee Members

Julie Schumacher

Finally a novel that puts the "pissed" back into "epistolary."

Jason Fitger is a beleaguered professor of creative writing and literature at Payne University, a small and not very distinguished liberal arts college in the midwest. His department is facing draconian cuts and squalid quarters, while one floor above them the Economics Department is getting lavishly remodeled offices. His once-promising writing career is in the doldrums, as is his romantic life, in part as the result of his unwise use of his private affairs for his novels. His star (he thinks) student can't catch a break with his brilliant (he thinks) work Accountant in a Bordello, based on Melville's Bartleby. In short, his life is a tale of woe, and the vehicle this droll and inventive novel uses to tell that tale is a series of hilarious letters of recommendation that Fitger is endlessly called upon by his students and colleagues to produce, each one of which is a small masterpiece of high dudgeon, low spirits, and passive-aggressive strategies. (from Netgalley)

My Thoughts

This story is told through a series of letters written by Professor Jason Fitger.

I laughed so hard reading this that my stomach hurt and I had tears rolling down my face. Professor Fitger’s writes eloquently worded letters that are delightfully witty, frequently snarky and filled with cynicism. While set in the world of academia, anyone who has had to send politically correct emails or letters should get a kick out of Professor Fitger’s ability to say just exactly what he is thinking. I want to meet Jason Fitger!

This is a short book - under 200 hundred pages. I see myself reading this again when I need a good laugh.

Thanks to Doubleday, via Netgalley for allowing me to read this in exchange for an unbiased review.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Book of Life

Deborah Harkness

The highly anticipated finale to the #1 New York Times bestselling trilogy that began with A Discovery of Witches

After traveling through time in Shadow of Night, the second book in Deborah Harkness’s enchanting series, historian and witch Diana Bishop and vampire scientist Matthew Clairmont return to the present to face new crises and old enemies. At Matthew’s ancestral home at Sept-Tours, they reunite with the cast of characters from A Discovery of Witches—with one significant exception. But the real threat to their future has yet to be revealed, and when it is, the search for Ashmole 782 and its missing pages takes on even more urgency. In the trilogy’s final volume, Harkness deepens her themes of power and passion, family and caring, past deeds and their present consequences. In ancestral homes and university laboratories, using ancient knowledge and modern science, from the hills of the Auvergne to the palaces of Venice and beyond, the couple at last learn what the witches discovered so many centuries ago.

With more than one million copies sold in the United States and appearing in thirty-eight foreign editions, A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night have landed on all of the major bestseller lists and garnered rave reviews from countless publications. Eagerly awaited by Harkness’s legion of fans, The Book of Life brings this superbly written series to a deeply satisfying close. (from Netgalley)

My Thoughts

It was with a bit of trepidation that i started this, the third and final installment in the All Souls Trilogy. I so enjoyed the first two books and could only hope that the author would end the story of Diana and Matthew in a way that was meaningful.

The Book of Life met all my expectations and more! Diana and Matthew’s love story is put to the test as they battle to break the covenant that could deny their being together and put their children in harms way. There was some great suspense and lots of action.

I have to honestly say that now that all three books are out, I can see myself rereading this trilogy. I enjoyed it that much. I rarely say that about one book, much less a trilogy. So for me, this says a lot.

I am eternally grateful to Penguin Group/Viking, via Netgalley, for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an unbiased review.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Lemon Grove
Helen Walsh

Jenn and Greg have been married for fourteen years, and, as the book opens, they are enjoying the last week of their annual summer holiday in Deia, a village in Majorca off the coast of southern Spain. Their days are languorous, the time passing by in a haze of rioja-soaked lunches, hours at the beach, and lazy afternoon sex in their beautiful villa. It is the perfect summer idyll . . . until Greg's teenage daughter (Jenn's stepdaughter), Emma, arrives with her new boyfriend, Nathan, in tow.

What follows, over the course of seven days, is a brilliantly paced fever dream of attraction between Jenn and the reckless yet mesmerizing Nathan. It is an intense pas de deux of push and pull, risk and consequence . . . and moral rectitude, as it gets harder and harder for Jenn to stifle her compulsion.

This is a very smart novel about many things: the loss of youth, female sexuality, the lure of May/December temptation, the vicissitudes of marriage and the politics of other people's children. It is simultaneously sexy and substantive, and Helen Walsh's masterful, even-handed tone can't help but force the reader to wonder: "What would I have done?" (from Netgalley)

My Thoughts

Jenn and Greg are on their annual trip to Deia. This time they have allowed their 15-year-old daughter Emma to bring her equally young boyfriend Nathan. Jenn has an immediate attraction to 17-year-old Nathan. The Lemon Grove is the story of what takes place as these four characters spend the week together.

The author has an incredible way with words. Her writing is descriptive and the story was a quick read. Unfortunately, I found I just never cared about what was going on with any of the characters. Jenn’s behavior made no sense to me. One minute she is lusting (and more) after Nathan. The next minute she is angry at his obvious wondering eye with other girls in village and what this means for Emma. There was a slight build up of tension towards the end and then for me, it all fell flat.

I believe there is a reader for ever book. It just so happens that I was not the person who found this to be an enjoyable read.

Many thanks to Doubleday Books, via Netgalley, for allowing me to read this in exchange for an unbiased review.

Friday, July 4, 2014


Leila Meacham

One hundred fifty years of Roses' Tolivers, Warwicks, and DuMonts! We begin in the antebellum South on Plantation Alley in South Carolina, where Silas Toliver, deprived of his inheritance, joins up with his best friend Jeremy Warwick to plan a wagon train expedition to the "black waxy" promise of a new territory called Texas. Slavery, westward expansion, abolition, the Civil War, love, marriage, friendship, tragedy and triumph-all the ingredients (and much more) that made so many love Roses so much-are here in abundance(from Netgalley)

My Thoughts

If you want to lose yourself in a good family saga, this is the book to do it with! The story covers three generations and numerous historical occurrences that happens during the ocer years of three families that move west to settle in Texas. From a character perspective, Somerest has it covered - characters to love, hate, cheer for and want to smack.

I was initially a bit intimidated by the 600+ size of Somerest, but the story was well paced and held my interest.

Many thanks to Grand Central Publishing for allowing me to read this in exchange for an unbiased review.