Waiting on Wednesday – Spotlight on “The Mothers” by Brit Bennett

New WoW“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, which encourages fellow bloggers to spotlight upcoming releases that we’re excited about.

My “Waiting On” Wednesday selection for this week is The Mothers by Brit Bennett.  Why am I so excited for this novel?  Well, as if the blurb below isn’t enticing enough on its own, I was lucky enough to read an excerpt of The Mothers in Buzz Books 2016: Fall/Winter catalog.  As I was reading, I was just instantly struck by how beautiful, powerful, and honest Bennett’s writing is.  As soon as I finished the excerpt, I immediately wanted more.  I’m glad I don’t have too much longer to wait because I think The Mothers is going to end up being one of my favorite reads of 2016.

The Mothers by Brit Bennett

mothers th

Publication Date: October 11, 2016

From Amazon:

A dazzling debut novel from an exciting new voice, The Mothers is a surprising story about young love, a big secret in a small community – and the things that ultimately haunt us most.

Set within a contemporary black community in Southern California, Brit Bennett’s mesmerizing first novel is an emotionally perceptive story about community, love, and ambition. It begins with a secret.

“All good secrets have a taste before you tell them, and if we’d taken a moment to swish this one around our mouths, we might have noticed the sourness of an unripe secret, plucked too soon, stolen and passed around before its season.”

It is the last season of high school life for Nadia Turner, a rebellious, grief-stricken, seventeen-year-old beauty. Mourning her own mother’s recent suicide, she takes up with the local pastor’s son. Luke Sheppard is twenty-one, a former football star whose injury has reduced him to waiting tables at a diner. They are young; it’s not serious. But the pregnancy that results from this teen romance—and the subsequent cover-up—will have an impact that goes far beyond their youth. As Nadia hides her secret from everyone, including Aubrey, her God-fearing best friend, the years move quickly. Soon, Nadia, Luke, and Aubrey are full-fledged adults and still living in debt to the choices they made that one seaside summer, caught in a love triangle they must carefully maneuver, and dogged by the constant, nagging question: What if they had chosen differently? The possibilities of the road not taken are a relentless haunt.

In entrancing, lyrical prose, The Mothers asks whether a “what if” can be more powerful than an experience itself. If, as time passes, we must always live in servitude to the decisions of our younger selves, to the communities that have parented us, and to the decisions we make that shape our lives forever.

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Check out this advanced praise for The Mothers!

One of Buzzfeed’s “21 New Books You Need to Read this Fall”

One of The Millions‘ “Most Anticipated” for the second half of 2016

“Brit Bennett is a brilliant and much-needed new voice in literature.” -Angela Flournoy, author of National Book Award-finalist The Turner House

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I’d love to hear what upcoming book releases you’re waiting on this Wednesday? Leave me your link in the comments below and I’ll stop by and check out your WoW selection for this week. 🙂

Top Ten Tuesday: My Top Ten Favorite Books That Are Set at a School

top ten tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a fun weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is “Back To School Freebie — anything “back to school” related like 10 favorite books I read in school, books I think should be required reading, Required Reading For All Fantasy Fans, required reading for every college freshman, Books to Pair With Classics or Books To Complement A History Lesson, books that would be on my classroom shelf if I were a teacher.”

I’ve been out of school for more years than I care to think about and so I always get a little nostalgic for my own school days as soon as I start seeing all of those school supply displays and ‘Back to School’ sales popping up in the stores.   Because my school days — K-12 as well as college — were such wonderful times in my life, I’ve always enjoying reading books that are set in schools – whether it’s boarding school or on a college campus, or even, let’s say, a school of witchcraft and wizardry 😉

And so, on that note, I bring you…

My Top Ten Favorite Books That Are Set at a School

 

1. Harry Potter (the complete series) by J.K. Rowling

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Seriously, is there anyone out there who has read these books who isn’t waiting for an owl to deliver their acceptance letter to Hogwart’s?  Just truly one of the most wonderful series I’ve ever read.

Goodreads Synopsis: Harry Potter thinks he is an ordinary boy. He lives with his Uncle Vernon, Aunt Petunia and cousin Dudley, who are mean to him and make him sleep in a cupboard under the stairs. (Dudley, however, has two bedrooms, one to sleep in and one for all his toys and games.) Then Harry starts receiving mysterious letters and his life is changed forever. He is whisked away by a beetle-eyed giant of a man and enrolled at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The reason: Harry Potter is a wizard! The first book in the “Harry Potter” series makes the perfect introduction to the world of Hogwarts.  (Read more…)

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2. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

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A beautiful, gut-wrenching and important read that is set in a school and deals very powerfully with the subjects of mental illness and teen suicide.

Goodreads Synopsis: Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.  Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.

This is an intense, gripping novel perfect for fans of Jay Asher, Rainbow Rowell, John Green, Gayle Forman, and Jenny Downham from a talented new voice in YA, Jennifer Niven.  (Read more…)

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3. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

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I actually just finished reading this book over the weekend and it immediately made its way onto my list of favorites.  It’s a really cute read that will take you right back to your own high school days and you’re pretty much guaranteed to fall in love with Oreo-obsessed Simon Spier from the very first page.

Goodreads Synopsis: Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.  (Read more…)

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4. The Lords of Discipline by Pat Conroy

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This is probably a more intense read than the first three titles, but this is one of my all-time favorite books.  It’s set at a military school in the South and is just filled with drama and scandal. It’s a real page turner and one that I’ve re-read numerous times because it’s just that good.

Goodreads Synopsis:  In this powerful, mesmerizing, and highly acclaimed bestseller, Pat Conroy sweeps us into the turbulent world of four young men–friends, cadets, and blood brothers–and their days of hazing, heartbreak, pride, betrayal, and, ultimately, humanity.  We go deeply into the heart of the novel’s hero, Will McLean, a rebellious outsider with his own personal code of honor, who is battling into manhood the hard way. Immersed in a poignant love affair with a haunting beauty, Will must boldly confront the terrifying injustice of a corrupt institution as he struggles to expose a mysterious group known as “The Ten.”   (Read more…)

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5. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

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The confused and introverted teenager narrator, Charlie, is why this book if such a stand-out for me.  It feels like you’re really in his head as he is struggling to find his place in the world and I just found him so completely relatable.  A wonderful coming of age story.

Goodreads Synopsis: Charlie is a freshman.  And while he’s not the biggest geek in the school, he is by no means popular. Shy, introspective, intelligent beyond his years yet socially awkward, he is a wallflower, caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it.  Charlie is attempting to navigate his way through uncharted territory: the world of first dates and mix tapes, family dramas and new friends; the world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite. But he can’t stay on the sideline forever. Standing on the fringes of life offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a deeply affecting coming-of-age story that will spirit you back to those wild and poignant roller-coaster days known as growing up.  (Read more…)

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6. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

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An introverted writer goes off to college?  I can’t even express how much I loved and related to this book.  When I read it, it felt like Rainbow Rowell had written it with me in mind.

Goodreads Synopsis: A coming-of-age tale of fan fiction, family and first love.

Cath is a Simon Snow fan.  Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan… But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.  Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.  Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words… And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?  Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?  And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?  (Read more…)

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7. Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld

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The reviews on this one tend to be mixed, but I found it to be a compelling read about a young woman at boarding school. Definitely a flawed character that I wanted to strangle a few times as I was reading, but still an addicting read nonetheless.

Goodreads Synopsis:  Curtis Sittenfeld’s debut novel, Prep, is an insightful, achingly funny coming-of-age story as well as a brilliant dissection of class, race, and gender in a hothouse of adolescent angst and ambition.

Lee Fiora is an intelligent, observant fourteen-year-old when her father drops her off in front of her dorm at the prestigious Ault School in Massachusetts. She leaves her animated, affectionate family in South Bend, Indiana, at least in part because of the boarding school’s glossy brochure, in which boys in sweaters chat in front of old brick buildings, girls in kilts hold lacrosse sticks on pristinely mown athletic fields, and everyone sings hymns in chapel.

As Lee soon learns, Ault is a cloistered world of jaded, attractive teenagers who spend summers on Nantucket and speak in their own clever shorthand. Both intimidated and fascinated by her classmates, Lee becomes a shrewd observer of–and, ultimately, a participant in–their rituals and mores. As a scholarship student, she constantly feels like an outsider and is both drawn to and repelled by other loners. By the time she’s a senior, Lee has created a hard-won place for herself at Ault. But when her behavior takes a self-destructive and highly public turn, her carefully crafted identity within the community is shattered.

Ultimately, Lee’s experiences–complicated relationships with teachers; intense friendships with other girls; an all-consuming preoccupation with a classmate who is less than a boyfriend and more than a crush; conflicts with her parents, from whom Lee feels increasingly distant, coalesce into a singular portrait of the painful and thrilling adolescence universal to us all.  (Read more…)

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8. A Separate Peace by John Knowles

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A dark and powerful book about loss of innocence and wartime, I never understood why this book was a required reading assignment.  I distinctly remember not liking the book when I was in school because I didn’t appreciate its themes and just saw it as a dark and boring book where not much happened.  I’m happy to say that I see its beauty and power now as an adult reader.

Goodreads Synopsis: An American classic and great bestseller for over thirty years, A Separate Peace is timeless in its description of adolescence during a period when the entire country was losing its innocence to the second world war.

Set at a boys boarding school in New England during the early years of World War II, A Separate Peace is a harrowing and luminous parable of the dark side of adolescence. Gene is a lonely, introverted intellectual. Phineas is a handsome, taunting, daredevil athlete. What happens between the two friends one summer, like the war itself, banishes the innocence of these boys and their world.

A bestseller for more than thirty years, A Separate Peace is John Knowles crowning achievement and an undisputed American classic. (Read more…)

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9. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Sparks

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This book is set at a very conservative boarding school for girls in Scotland and school teacher Miss Jean Brodie takes it upon herself to give six of her students a bit of an ‘advanced’ education.

Goodreads Synopsis:  The classic bestselling book the subject of a play, a movie, and a song that tells the darkly fascinating story of a young, unorthodox teacher and her special, and ultimately dangerous, relationship with six of her students. (Read more…)

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10. Frindle by Andrew Clements

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Frindle is a children’s book that I read aloud with my son last year as part of a school-wide assigned reading project called One School, One Book.  Let me just say that this one is of the funniest school-based books I’ve ever read. Watching Nick Allen try to best his teacher in a battle of wits is hilarious fun, which is then followed up by a very heartwarming message at the end.  Such a fun book that my son still keeps it on his nightstand for the occasional re-read.

Goodreads Synopsis:  From bestselling and award-winning author Andrew Clements, a quirky, imaginative tale about creative thought and the power of words that will have readers inventing their own words.

Is Nick Allen a troublemaker? He really just likes to liven things up at school — and he’s always had plenty of great ideas. When Nick learns some interesting information about how words are created, suddenly he’s got the inspiration for his best plan ever…the frindle. Who says a pen has to be called a pen? Why not call it a frindle? Things begin innocently enough as Nick gets his friends to use the new word. Then other people in town start saying frindle. Soon the school is in an uproar, and Nick has become a local hero. His teacher wants Nick to put an end to all this nonsense, but the funny thing is frindle doesn’t belong to Nick anymore. The new word is spreading across the country, and there’s nothing Nick can do to stop it.  (Read more…)

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Question:  Have you read any of these titles?  Or do you have any other favorite school-based series that I haven’t mentioned here?    I’d love to hear from you 🙂

Book Review – The Light of Paris

Book Review – The Light of ParisThe Light of Paris by Eleanor Brown
four-stars
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons on July 12th 2016
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 308
Source: Library
Goodreads

Goodreads Synopsis:

The miraculous new novel from New York Times–bestselling author Eleanor Brown, whose debut, The Weird Sisters, was a sensation beloved by critics and readers alike.
 
Madeleine is trapped—by her family’s expectations, by her controlling husband, and by her own fears—in an unhappy marriage and a life she never wanted. From the outside, it looks like she has everything, but on the inside, she fears she has nothing that matters.  In Madeleine’s memories, her grandmother Margie is the kind of woman she should have been—elegant, reserved, perfect. But when Madeleine finds a diary detailing Margie’s bold, romantic trip to Jazz Age Paris, she meets the grandmother she never knew: a dreamer who defied her strict, staid family and spent an exhilarating summer writing in cafés, living on her own, and falling for a charismatic artist.  Despite her unhappiness, when Madeleine’s marriage is threatened, she panics, escaping to her hometown and staying with her critical, disapproving mother. In that unlikely place, shaken by the revelation of a long-hidden family secret and inspired by her grandmother’s bravery, Madeleine creates her own Parisian summer—reconnecting to her love of painting, cultivating a vibrant circle of creative friends, and finding a kindred spirit in a down-to-earth chef who reminds her to feed both her body and her heart.

Margie and Madeleine’s stories intertwine to explore the joys and risks of living life on our own terms, of defying the rules that hold us back from our dreams, and of becoming the people we are meant to be.

My Review: 

I was unfamiliar with Eleanor Brown prior to reading The Light of Paris and have to confess the main reasons I picked it up were 1) I had just visited Paris last summer and wanted to recreate the magic I experienced during my time there, and 2) that gorgeous purple cover kept catching my eye every time I saw it displayed at the bookstore and in the library.

I’m so glad that I picked up The Light of Paris though because it introduced me to a wonderful writer in Eleanor Brown and it most definitely made me fall in love with Paris all over again.

 

View of Paris from the bell tower at Notre Dame Cathedral - photo taken by me.

View of Paris from the bell tower at Notre Dame Cathedral – photo taken by me.

 

So what did I love about The Light of Paris?

Dual Narrative Point of View and Time Jumps:

I’ve always enjoyed novels where a historical tale is framed within a contemporary one and The Light of Paris fits that bill for me.  Eleanor Brown has beautifully woven together the stories of Madeleine in 1999 and her grandmother Margie in 1924.  Aside from their biological relationship, their stories, although being told 75 years apart, are tied together by another common thread as both women are dealing with the same basic struggle – how to live their own lives and pursue their passions when societal and family expectations dictate they should do otherwise.

Brown begins with Madeleine’s journey.  Madeleine is dealing with an overly controlling husband and, consequently, an unhappy marriage.  When she learns that her mother is selling her home, Madeleine uses this as an excuse to get away from her husband for a while.  It is while she is at her mother’s home that Madeleine discovers some old journals in storage and first learns about Margie and her trip to Paris.  The rest of the novel alternates between Madeleine in 1999 and Margie in 1924 as they each try to find their own way and live life on their own terms.  I have read books where the time jumps and switch in point of view can be confusing and doesn’t work well, but Brown does a lovely job and the story flows smoothly and naturally between Madeleine to Margie from start to finish.

Setting:

I also love the way Brown captures the sights, sounds, and spirit of Paris as she describes Margie’s time there.  If you’ve never been to Paris before, by the time you’re finished reading, you’ll have a first class case of wanderlust and will want to pack your suitcase and head there for a romantic adventure of your own.  And if you’ve been to Paris before, Brown will make you fall in love with the City of Lights all over again.  Brown also paints a truly vivid portrait of 1920’s Jazz Age Paris — so much so, in fact, that as I was reading, I half expected Ernest Hemingway to come strolling through the doors of one of the cafes that Margie frequented.

The Eiffel Tower in Paris. Photo taken by me.

The Eiffel Tower in Paris. Photo taken by me.

Main Characters You Can Root For:

Margie’s story was, by far, the more interesting of the two narratives for me.  Margie’s dilemma is that while her parents expect to her marry and settle down with a suitable husband as soon as she is finished with her education, what she really wants to do is follow her passion, which is writing, and become an author.  It was spectacular watching her go from being this little cotillion-attending, debutante girl doing everything that was expected of her to suddenly rejecting the suitor her parents have chosen for her, then further rebelling against them by refusing to return home from a trip to Paris and instead living there on her own for months.  She was really a woman ahead of her time in that sense and I cheered her on every step of the way.  Watching her blossom into her own person as she sat in cafes indulging in her writing habit and then finding love on her own terms was so inspirational.  I loved Margie’s story so much that if that had been the sole focus of the novel, this probably would have been a 5 star read for me.

Where Margie’s story was inspiring, however, Madeleine’s story was often frustrating for me.  Similar to Margie and her passion for writing, Madeleine has a passion for art and actually wanted to go to school to study to become an artist.  Instead of following her heart though, Madeleine instead lets her family convince her that being an artist isn’t a viable career and that she should study something more practical like Marketing, and then find herself a good husband.  I loved Madeleine and wanted her to be happy, but it blew my mind how much she let her mother, in particular, dictate how she lived her life.  As I watched her mope and lament this miserable marriage she’s supposedly trapped in, all I kept thinking was ‘Why did you marry Phillip in the first place? He’s a controlling ass. Why would you let anyone — your husband or your mother — convince you that you shouldn’t pursue your love of art? It’s 1999 and you are a modern woman so start acting like one!’  It made no sense to me that Madeleine needed to read about her grandmother’s rebellious and romantic time in Paris to come to the conclusion that perhaps it was time to kick Phillip to the curb and try something different.  I actually think if Margie had still been alive in 1999, she probably would have wanted to give Madeleine a kick in the pants and tell her life is too short not to do what makes you happy.

Likeable Secondary Characters:

I guess it’s a quirk with me but I have to have a likeable secondary cast of characters in order to thoroughly enjoy a story and Brown has given me exactly what I need with the characters of Sebastian and Henry.  Sebastian is an artist that Margie meets while in Paris, and Henry is a restaurant owner that Madeleine meets while visiting her mother.  Both Henry and Sebastian are charming, down to earth, and just delightful characters.  I liked the touch of romance that each of the characters brought to the story, and I especially liked the pivotal role each of them plays in helping Margie and Madeleine discover who they are meant to be.  In addition to showing her all that Paris has to offer on a social and artistic level, Sebastian is actually the one who convinces Margie she should stay in Paris when the trip with her cousin doesn’t go as planned. He takes her to a place where she can find suitable, affordable housing and that also helps with job placement for Americans.  Henry plays a similar role in Madeleine’s journey,  first and foremost, by being her friend and being supportive about things that are of interest to her, namely her artistic abilities, which is something her husband never bothered with.  Henry also serves as an inspiration to Madeleine because the whole reason he has this restaurant next door to Madeleine’s mother’s house is because he left his job as a chef at a restaurant to follow his dream – that of owning his own restaurant.  If he hadn’t followed his own heart, he and Madeleine never would have met. His journey, especially when considered alongside Margie’s brave and adventurous sojourn in Paris, really give Madeleine the push she needs to start re-evaluating the direction her life has taken and to forge a new and more fulfilling path for herself.

Anything I didn’t care for?

Aside from my frustration with Madeleine, I can’t think of anything else that I didn’t enjoy.  Margies’s cousin, Evelyn, was a nasty little girl, but that said, I like to have characters that I can actively dislike as well and she definitely falls into that category.

Who would I recommend this book to?

The Light of Paris was a delightful read on many levels so I’d recommend it, first of all, to anyone who enjoys historical fiction with a hint of romance. I’d also recommend it to anyone who wants a taste of the City of Lights and to anyone who likes a story about people finding themselves.

 

Rating:  A strong 4 stars

 

 

 

four-stars

About Eleanor Brown

Eleanor Brown is the New York Times and #1 international bestselling author of The Weird Sisters, hailed by People magazine as “a delightful debut” and “creative and original” by Library Journal.

Her second novel, The Light of Paris, will be published by Putnam Books in the summer of 2016.

Eleanor teaches writing workshops at The Writers’ Table in Highlands Ranch, CO, and at Lighthouse Writers Workshop in Denver, CO, as well as writing conferences and centers nationwide.

An avid CrossFit participant, Eleanor is the author of WOD Motivation and a contributor to CrossFit Journal.

Born and raised in the Washington, D.C. area, Eleanor lives in Colorado with her partner, writer J.C. Hutchins.

Waiting on Wednesday – Spotlight on We Are Still Tornadoes

New WoW“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, which encourages fellow bloggers to spotlight upcoming releases that we’re excited about.

My “Waiting On” Wednesday selection for this week is We Are Still Tornadoes by Michael Kun and Susan Mullen.  Okay, so I have to confess that what first piqued my interest in this book was learning that both of the authors graduated from the University of Virginia School of Law. Being a Virginia girl myself, I couldn’t help but be a bit curious.  Once I read the synopsis and the advanced praise though, I knew that beyond the initial Virginia connection, this book would be a must-read for me because it is a story of friendship and I’m a sucker for a good story about friends. Also, “set to an awesome 80’s soundtrack”?  Heck yeah!

We Are Still Tornadoes by Michael Kun and Susan Mullen

We Are Still Tornadoes th

Publication Date: November 1, 2016

From Amazon:

Growing up across the street from each other, Scott and Cath have been best friends for most of their lives. Now they’ve graduated high school and Cath is off to college while Scott stays at home trying to get his band off the ground. Neither of them realized that their first year after high school would be so hard.

Fortunately, Scott and Cath still have each other, and it’s through their letters to each other that they survive heartache, annoying roommates, family dramas and the pressure to figure out what to do with the rest of their lives. And through it all, they realize that the only person they’ve ever wanted to turn to is each other. But does that mean they should think about being more than friends? One thing is clear: change is an inescapable part of growing up, and we share an unbreakable bond with the friends who help us navigate it…

This funny, extraordinary and deeply moving book―set to an awesome 80’s soundtrack―captures all the beautiful confusion and emotional intensity we find on the verge of adulthood…and first love.

Check out this advanced praise for We Are Still Tornadoes!

“Sweet, funny, & heartfelt!” ― Susan Elizabeth Phillips, New York Times Bestselling Author

“Scott and Cath’s letters perfectly capture the richness of their relationship. Their unflinchingly honest voices as they navigate the transition to adulthood create the book’s emotional resonance. A love story to best friends everywhere. Smart, charming, and delightful.” ―Kirkus Reviews

“Cath has a rare combination of self-confidence, spunk, and sarcasm. I love, love, love her character! A realistic look at a teen friendship and growing pains. Go out and get this fun book!” ― Generation G Books

 

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I’d love to hear what upcoming book releases you’re waiting on this Wednesday? Leave me your link in the comments below and I’ll stop by and check out your WoW selection for this week. 🙂

Top 10 Books that have been on my TBR pile for way too long

top ten tuesday

 

Top Ten Tuesday is a fun weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is Ten Books That Have Been On Your Shelf (Or TBR) From Before You Started Blogging That You STILL Haven’t Read Yet.

Oh boy, this one is embarrassing.  Not that I have been blogging for all that long, but I will confess now that some of these books have been in my TBR pile for a LONG time.  I’m talking years!  I actually keep looking at a few of them thinking I should just ditch them and thin out the TBR, but they have such great reviews that I don’t want to miss out.  I don’t really even have a good excuse as to why I haven’t tackled them yet except that I keep getting distracted by newer purchases and these just keep getting shifted further and further down the pile.

Now, on to my list…

Ten Books That Have Been On My Shelf (Or TBR) From Before I Started Blogging That I STILL Haven’t Read Yet

 

1. Shiver (The Wolves of Mercy Hall #1) by Maggie Stiefvater

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Goodreads Synopsis:  For years, Grace has watched the wolves in the woods behind her house. One yellow-eyed wolf—her wolf—is a chilling presence she can’t seem to live without.  Meanwhile, Sam has lived two lives: In winter, the frozen woods, the protection of the pack, and the silent company of a fearless girl. In summer, a few precious months of being human… until the cold makes him shift back again.  Now, Grace meets a yellow-eyed boy whose familiarity takes her breath away. It’s her wolf. It has to be. But as winter nears, Sam must fight to stay human—or risk losing himself, and Grace, forever.  (Read more…)

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2. A Storm of Swords (A Song of Ice and Fire #3) by George R. R. Martin

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Goodreads Synopsis:  Of the five contenders for power, one is dead, another in disfavor, and still the wars rage as violently as ever, as alliances are made and broken. Joffrey, of House Lannister, sits on the Iron Throne, the uneasy ruler of the land of the Seven Kingdoms. His most bitter rival, Lord Stannis, stands defeated and disgraced, the victim of the jealous sorceress who holds him in her evil thrall. But young Robb, of House Stark, still rules the North from the fortress of Riverrun. Robb plots against his despised Lannister enemies, even as they hold his sister hostage at King’s Landing, the seat of the Iron Throne. Meanwhile, making her way across a blood-drenched continent is the exiled queen, Daenerys, mistress of the only three dragons still left in the world. . . .

But as opposing forces maneuver for the final titanic showdown, an army of barbaric wildlings arrives from the outermost line of civilization. In their vanguard is a horde of mythical Others–a supernatural army of the living dead whose animated corpses are unstoppable. As the future of the land hangs in the balance, no one will rest until the Seven Kingdoms have exploded in a veritable storm of swords.  (Read more…)

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3. IQ84 by Haruki Murakami

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Goodreads Synopsis:  The year is 1984 and the city is Tokyo.  A young woman named Aomame follows a taxi driver’s enigmatic suggestion and begins to notice puzzling discrepancies in the world around her. She has entered, she realizes, a parallel existence, which she calls 1Q84 —“Q is for ‘question mark.’ A world that bears a question.” Meanwhile, an aspiring writer named Tengo takes on a suspect ghostwriting project. He becomes so wrapped up with the work and its unusual author that, soon, his previously placid life begins to come unraveled.  As Aomame’s and Tengo’s narratives converge over the course of this single year, we learn of the profound and tangled connections that bind them ever closer: a beautiful, dyslexic teenage girl with a unique vision; a mysterious religious cult that instigated a shoot-out with the metropolitan police; a reclusive, wealthy dowager who runs a shelter for abused women; a hideously ugly private investigator; a mild-mannered yet ruthlessly efficient bodyguard; and a peculiarly insistent television-fee collector.

A love story, a mystery, a fantasy, a novel of self-discovery, a dystopia to rival George Orwell’s — 1Q84 is Haruki Murakami’s most ambitious undertaking yet: an instant best seller in his native Japan, and a tremendous feat of imagination from one of our most revered contemporary writers.  (Read more…)

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4. The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson

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Goodreads Synopsis:  An epic novel and a thrilling literary discovery, The Orphan Master’s Son follows a young man’s journey through the icy waters, dark tunnels, and eerie spy chambers of the world’s most mysterious dictatorship, North Korea.  Pak Jun Do is the haunted son of a lost mother—a singer “stolen” to Pyongyang—and an influential father who runs Long Tomorrows, a work camp for orphans. There the boy is given his first taste of power, picking which orphans eat first and which will be lent out for manual labor. Recognized for his loyalty and keen instincts, Jun Do comes to the attention of superiors in the state, rises in the ranks, and starts on a road from which there will be no return.  Considering himself “a humble citizen of the greatest nation in the world,” Jun Do becomes a professional kidnapper who must navigate the shifting rules, arbitrary violence, and baffling demands of his Korean overlords in order to stay alive. Driven to the absolute limit of what any human being could endure, he boldly takes on the treacherous role of rival to Kim Jong Il in an attempt to save the woman he loves, Sun Moon, a legendary actress “so pure, she didn’t know what starving people looked like.”

Part breathless thriller, part story of innocence lost, part story of romantic love, The Orphan Master’s Son is also a riveting portrait of a world heretofore hidden from view: a North Korea rife with hunger, corruption, and casual cruelty but also camaraderie, stolen moments of beauty, and love. A towering literary achievement, The Orphan Master’s Son ushers Adam Johnson into the small group of today’s greatest writers.   (Read more…)

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5. American Gods by Neil Gaiman

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Goodreads Synopsis:  Shadow is a man with a past. But now he wants nothing more than to live a quiet life with his wife and stay out of trouble. Until he learns that she’s been killed in a terrible accident.  Flying home for the funeral, as a violent storm rocks the plane, a strange man in the seat next to him introduces himself. The man calls himself Mr. Wednesday, and he knows more about Shadow than is possible.  He warns Shadow that a far bigger storm is coming. And from that moment on, nothing will ever be the same. (Read more…)

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6. The Giver by Lois Lowry

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Goodreads Synopsis:  The Giver, the 1994 Newbery Medal winner, has become one of the most influential novels of our time. The haunting story centers on twelve-year-old Jonas, who lives in a seemingly ideal, if colorless, world of conformity and contentment. Not until he is given his life assignment as the Receiver of Memory does he begin to understand the dark, complex secrets behind his fragile community.  (Read more…)

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7. Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

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Goodreads Synopsis:  “Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.” So begins this exquisite novel about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee, and her parents are determined that she will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue. But when Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together is destroyed, tumbling them into chaos. A profoundly moving story of family, drama, and longing, Everything I Never Told You is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait, uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another.  (Read more…)

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8. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers

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Goodreads Synopsis: A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius is the moving memoir of a college senior who, in the space of five weeks, loses both of his parents to cancer and inherits his eight-year-old brother. Here is an exhilarating debut that manages to be simultaneously hilarious and wildly inventive as well as a deeply heartfelt story of the love that holds a family together.  (Read more…)

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9. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

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Goodreads Synopsis:  Chicago, 1920: Hadley Richardson is a quiet twenty-eight-year-old who has all but given up on love and happiness—until she meets Ernest Hemingway and her life changes forever. Following a whirlwind courtship and wedding, the pair set sail for Paris, where they become the golden couple in a lively and volatile group—the fabled “Lost Generation”—that includes Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.  Though deeply in love, the Hemingways are ill-prepared for the hard-drinking and fast-living life of Jazz Age Paris, which hardly values traditional notions of family and monogamy. Surrounded by beautiful women and competing egos, Ernest struggles to find the voice that will earn him a place in history, pouring all the richness and intensity of his life with Hadley and their circle of friends into the novel that will become The Sun Also Rises. Hadley, meanwhile, strives to hold on to her sense of self as the demands of life with Ernest grow costly and her roles as wife, friend, and muse become more challenging. Despite their extraordinary bond, they eventually find themselves facing the ultimate crisis of their marriage—a deception that will lead to the unraveling of everything they’ve fought so hard for.

A heartbreaking portrayal of love and torn loyalty, The Paris Wife is all the more poignant because we know that, in the end, Hemingway wrote that he would rather have died than fallen in love with anyone but Hadley.   (Read more…)

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10. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

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Goodreads Synopsis: “I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day of January 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of l974. . . My birth certificate lists my name as Calliope Helen Stephanides. My most recent driver’s license…records my first name simply as Cal.”  So begins the breathtaking story of Calliope Stephanides and three generations of the Greek-American Stephanides family who travel from a tiny village overlooking Mount Olympus in Asia Minor to Prohibition-era Detroit, witnessing its glory days as the Motor City, and the race riots of l967, before they move out to the tree-lined streets of suburban Grosse Pointe, Michigan. To understand why Calliope is not like other girls, she has to uncover a guilty family secret and the astonishing genetic history that turns Callie into Cal, one of the most audacious and wondrous narrators in contemporary fiction. Lyrical and thrilling, Middlesex is an exhilarating reinvention of the American epic.  (Read more…)

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Question:  Have you read any of these aging titles in my TBR pile?  Are they worth hanging on to or should I purge the pile?  And what books have been in your TBR pile for way too long?    I’d love to hear from you 🙂

20 Bookish Quotes All Bookworms Will Relate To

20 bookish quotes

 

I don’t know about you, but I love to read quotes from famous people.  It’s amazing to me how truly quotable some people are – they just have a gift for summing up what I’m thinking or feeling, but in a way that is so much more eloquent than I could ever hope to express myself.  And being a bookworm, those quotes that I am the most passionate about are those that involve books and reading, and especially those from my favorite authors.  Some day I’m going to redo the walls of my library so that quotes like these literally fill any space that isn’t covered with books.

20 Books Quotes All Bookworms Will Relate to

1. A book is a dream that you hold in your hand. – Neil Gaiman

 

2. You know you’ve read a good book when you turn the last page and feel a little as if you have lost a friend.  – Paul Sweeney

 

3. Where is human nature so weak as in the bookstore? – Henry Ward Beecher

 

4. Great books help you understand, and they help you feel understood.  – John Green

 

5. The only important thing in a book is the meaning that it has for you.  – W. Somerset Maugham

 

Source: someecards.com

Source: someecards.com

 

6. If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, you must be the one to write it. – Toni Morrison

 

7. I cannot live without books. – Thomas Jefferson

 

8. There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate’s loot on Treasure Island.  – Walt Disney

 

9. Books open your mind, broaden your mind, and strengthen you as nothing else can.  –  William Feather

 

10. Be awesome! Be a book nut! –Dr. Seuss

 

Source: someecards.com

Source: someecards.com

11. You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me. –C.S. Lewis

 

12. There is no friend as loyal as a book. -Ernest Hemingway

 

13. Books are a uniquely portable magic. – Stephen King

 

14. You can find magic
wherever you look.
Sit back and relax,
all you need is a book.
― Dr. Seuss

 

15. Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him. ― Maya Angelou

 

Source: someecards.com

Source: someecards.com

 

16. A book is like a garden carried in the pocket.  – Chinese Proverb

 

17. Books can be dangerous. The best ones should be labeled  “This could change your life.”  – Helen Exley

 

18. We read in bed because reading is halfway between life and dreaming, our own consciousness in someone else’s mind.  – Anna Quindlen

 

19. If you don’t like to read, you haven’t found the right book.  – J.K. Rowling

 

20. If a book is well written, I always find it too short. – Jane Austen

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So are any of these quotes also favorites of yours or do you have other favorite bookish quotes that I haven’t listed here?  I’d love to hear from you!

Waiting on Wednesday: The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker

New WoW“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, which encourages fellow bloggers to spotlight upcoming releases that we’re excited about.

My “Waiting On” Wednesday selection for this week is The Animators: A Novel by Kayla Rae Whitaker.  What actually first drew me to this book was the quote below from Emma Donoghue.  I really love Emma Donoghue’s books and so when she says that she wishes she had written this book, it immediately went on to my book wishlist.  I also love books about art and the creative process so I think this one would be right up my alley.

The Animators:  A Novel by Kayla Rae Whitaker

animators th

Publication Date: November 29, 2016

From Amazon:

“An engrossing, exuberant ride through all the territories of love—familial, romantic, sexual, love of friends, and, perhaps above all, white-hot passion for the art you were born to make . . . I wish I’d written The Animators.”—Emma Donoghue, author of Room and The Wonder.

She was the first person to see me as I had always wanted to be seen. It was enough to indebt me to her forever.
 
At a private East Coast college, two young women meet in art class. Sharon Kisses, quietly ambitious but self-doubting, arrives from rural Kentucky. Mel Vaught, brash, unapologetic, wildly gifted, brings her own brand of hellfire from the backwaters of Florida. Both outsiders, Sharon and Mel become fervent friends, bonding over underground comics and dysfunctional families. Working, absorbing, drinking. Drawing: Mel, to understand her own tumultuous past, and Sharon, to lose herself altogether.

A decade later, Sharon and Mel are an award-winning animation duo, and with the release of their first full-length feature, a fearless look at Mel’s childhood, they stand at the cusp of success. But while on tour to promote the film, cracks in their relationship start to form: Sharon begins to feel like a tag-along and suspects that raucous Mel is the real artist. When unexpected tragedy strikes, long-buried resentments rise to the surface, threatening their partnership—and hastening a reckoning no one sees coming.

Check out all of this advanced praise for The Animators!

“[An] outstanding debut . . . Whitaker skillfully charts the creative process, its lulls and sudden rushes of perfect inspiration. And in the relationship between Mel and Sharon, she has created something wonderful and exceptional: a rich, deep, and emotionally true connection that will certainly steal the hearts of readers.”Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“A compulsively readable portrait of women as incandescent artists and intimate collaborators.”Elle

The Animators is a heartbreakingly beautiful, sharply funny, arrestingly unforgettable novel about love and genius, the powerful obsessiveness of artistic creation, and the equally powerful undertow of the past. Kayla Rae Whitaker writes like her head is on fire.”—Kate Christensen, PEN/Faulkner Award–winning author of The Great Man

“Every artist must come from somewhere; this is something you try to outrun, even as home fuels the creative engine. The Animators is a novel about a pair of cartoonists, but it’s also about the complexity of creative friendship, about balance and jealousy, growing into yourself and living with your talent and trying to actually, impossibly get along in this cracked and unjust world. The result is unapologetic and raucous and compulsively readable; it is potato-chip-friendly and deeply, generously wise.” —Charles Bock, author of Alice & Oliver

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I’d love to hear what upcoming book releases you’re waiting on this Wednesday? Leave me your link in the comments below and I’ll stop by and check out your WoW selection for this week. 🙂

Top 10 Books Set in New York City

take a walk

Top Ten Tuesday is a fun weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is Top Ten Books With X Setting (top ten books set near the beach, top ten book set in boarding school, top ten books set in England, etc).  I selected for my ‘X Setting’ my favorite city in the whole world, NEW YORK CITY! Oh, the sights, the sounds, the diversity, the endless possibilities for entertainment and culture!  I don’t even have the words to convey how much I adore New York City, but if I were ever to win the lottery, one of the first things I would do is get myself an apartment in the Big Apple.

To tie my love of NYC to books, let me just say that I have been known to buy books that I know absolutely NOTHING about aside from the fact that they are set in New York.  That said, below is my current list of Top 10 Favorite Books Set in NYC, subject to change as I have several potentially amazing books in my TBR that are also set in New York.

My Top Ten Favorite Books Set in New York City

 

1. Jazz by Toni Morrison

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Goodreads Synopsis:  In the winter of 1926, when everybody everywhere sees nothing but good things ahead, Joe Trace, middle-aged door-to-door salesman of Cleopatra beauty products, shoots his teenage lover to death. At the funeral, Joe’s wife, Violet, attacks the girl’s corpse. This passionate, profound story of love and obsession brings us back and forth in time, as a narrative is assembled from the emotions, hopes, fears, and deep realities of black urban life.

Jazz is the story of a triangle of passion, jealousy, murder, and redemption, of sex and spirituality, of slavery and liberation, of country and city, of being male and female, African American, and above all of being human. Like the music of its title, it is a dazzlingly lyric play on elemental themes, as soaring and daring as a Charlie Parker solo, as heartbreakingly powerful as the blues. It is Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Toni Morrison at her best.  (Read more…)

2. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

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Goodreads Synopsis:  Invisible Man is a milestone in American literature, a book that has continued to engage readers since its appearance in 1952.  A first novel by an unknown writer, it remained on the bestseller list for sixteen weeks, won the National Book Award for fiction, and established Ralph Ellison as one of the key writers of the century.  The nameless narrator of the novel describes growing up in a black community in the South, attending a Negro college from which he is expelled, moving to New York and becoming the chief spokesman of the Harlem branch of “the Brotherhood”, and retreating amid violence and confusion to the basement lair of the Invisible Man he imagines himself to be.  The book is a passionate and witty tour de force of style, strongly influenced by T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, Joyce, and Dostoevsky.  (Read more…)

 

3. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

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Goodreads Synopsis:  A profoundly moving novel, and an honest and true one. It cuts right to the heart of life … If you miss A Tree Grows in Brooklyn you will deny yourself a rich experience … It is a poignant and deeply understanding story of childhood and family relationships. The Nolans lived in the Williamsburg slums of Brooklyn from 1902 until 1919 … Their daughter Francie and their son Neely knew more than their fair share of the privations and sufferings that are the lot of a great city’s poor. Primarily this is Francie’s book. She is a superb feat of characterization, an imaginative, alert, resourceful child. And Francie’s growing up and beginnings of wisdom are the substance of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.  (Read more…)

 

4. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

02

Goodreads Synopsis:  The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s third book, stands as the supreme achievement of his career. This exemplary novel of the Jazz Age has been acclaimed by generations of readers. The story of the fabulously wealthy Jay Gatsby and his love for the beautiful Daisy Buchanan, of lavish parties on Long Island at a time when The New York Times noted “gin was the national drink and sex the national obsession,” it is an exquisitely crafted tale of America in the 1920s.  The Great Gatsby is one of the great classics of twentieth-century literature.   (Read more…)

 

5. The Chosen by Chaim Potok

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Goodreads Synopsis: It is the now-classic story of two fathers and two sons and the pressures on all of them to pursue the religion they share in the way that is best suited to each. And as the boys grow into young men, they discover in the other a lost spiritual brother, and a link to an unexplored world that neither had ever considered before. In effect, they exchange places, and find the peace that neither will ever retreat from again….  (Read more…)

 

6.  Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote

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Goodreads Synopsis:  It’s New York in the 1940s, where the martinis flow from cocktail hour till breakfast at Tiffany’s. And nice girls don’t, except, of course, Holly Golightly. Pursued by Mafia gangsters and playboy millionaires, Holly is a fragile eyeful of tawny hair and turned-up nose, a heart-breaker, a perplexer, a traveller, a tease. She is irrepressibly ‘top banana in the shock department’, and one of the shining flowers of American fiction.  (Read more…)

7. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

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Goodreads Synopsis:  It begins with a boy. Theo Decker, a thirteen-year-old New Yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. Bewildered by his strange new home on Park Avenue, disturbed by schoolmates who don’t know how to talk to him, and tormented above all by his unbearable longing for his mother, he clings to one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the underworld of art.  As an adult, Theo moves silkily between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty labyrinth of an antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love-and at the center of a narrowing, ever more dangerous circle.

The Goldfinch combines vivid characters, mesmerizing language, and suspense, while plumbing with a philosopher’s calm the deepest mysteries of love, identity, and art. It is an old-fashioned story of loss and obsession, survival and self-invention, and the ruthless machinations of fate.  (Read more…)

8. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

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Goodreads Synopsis:  Patrick Bateman is twenty-six and he works on Wall Street, he is handsome, sophisticated, charming and intelligent. He is also a psychopath. Taking us to head-on collision with America’s greatest dream—and its worst nightmare—American Psycho is bleak, bitter, black comedy about a world we all recognize but do not wish to confront.  (Read more…)

9. A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

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Goodreads Synopsis:  Bennie is an aging former punk rocker and record executive. Sasha is the passionate, troubled young woman he employs. Here Jennifer Egan brilliantly reveals their pasts, along with the inner lives of a host of other characters whose paths intersect with theirs. With music pulsing on every page, A Visit from the Goon Squad is a startling, exhilarating novel of self-destruction and redemption.  (Read more…)

10. The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

01

Goodreads Synopsis:  “…the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth. In the first place, that stuff bores me, and in the second place, my parents would have about two hemorrhages apiece if I told anything pretty personal about them.”

Since his debut in 1951 as The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield has been synonymous with “cynical adolescent.” Holden narrates the story of a couple of days in his sixteen-year-old life, just after he’s been expelled from prep school, in a slang that sounds edgy even today and keeps this novel on banned book lists. His constant wry observations about what he encounters, from teachers to phonies (the two of course are not mutually exclusive) capture the essence of the eternal teenage experience of alienation.  (Read more…)

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Do you have any favorite books that are set in New York City?

 If so, I’d love to hear from you, especially since I’m always looking for new NYC-based reads 🙂

ARC Review – Gae Polisner’s The Memory of Things

ARC Review – Gae Polisner’s The Memory of ThingsThe Memory of Things by Gae Polisner
four-half-stars
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on September 6th 2016
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Young Adult Fiction
Pages: 288
Source: Goodreads
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Goodreads in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Goodreads Synopsis:

The powerful story of two teenagers finding friendship, comfort, and first love in the days following 9/11 as their fractured city tries to put itself back together.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, sixteen-year-old Kyle Donohue watches the first twin tower come down from the window of Stuyvesant High School. Moments later, terrified and fleeing home to safety across the Brooklyn Bridge, he stumbles across a girl perched in the shadows. She is covered in ash and wearing a pair of costume wings. With his mother and sister in California and unable to reach his father, a New York City detective likely on his way to the disaster, Kyle makes the split-second decision to bring the girl home. What follows is their story, told in alternating points of view, as Kyle tries to unravel the mystery of the girl so he can return her to her family. But what if the girl has forgotten everything, even her own name? And what if the more Kyle gets to know her, the less he wants her to go home? The Memory of Things tells a stunning story of friendship and first love and of carrying on with our day-to-day living in the midst of world-changing tragedy and unforgettable pain—it tells a story of hope.

My Review: 

Gae Polisner’s The Memory of Things is an incredible book that revolves around the horrific events of September 11th. I have to admit I was a little nervous going into the book since this is such a sensitive topic, but was ultimately very pleased with Polisner’s respectful handling of it.  Although it was sometimes painful to read because it brings back so many terrifying memories that we all felt that day and for so long afterwards, The Memory of Things is also a moving and ultimately uplifting story that shows the strength of Americans, and especially that of New Yorkers, to rise up and keep going in the face of something that could have brought us to our knees as a country.

One aspect I loved most about The Memory of Things is the way Polisner presents the story using a dual narrative perspective. Her writing is beautiful, lyrical in fact, and I like that she puts us inside the minds of these two teenagers, Kyle and the girl he finds on the Brooklyn Bridge as he is evacuating out of lower Manhattan.  When Kyle discovers the girl crouched on the bridge, she doesn’t know who she is and appears to be suffering from either shock or amnesia.  The way Polisner distinguishes between Kyle’s point of view and the girl’s is unique as well.  Kyle’s perspective is presented in pretty straightforward prose, but as we switch to the girl’s perspective, we are suddenly presented with a more poetic style – fragmented memories, broken thoughts and powerful, sometimes disturbing, images all swirled together.  We alternate between the two perspectives throughout the novel and as then the girl starts to remember more and more details about who she is, Polisner adjusts her writing style to reflect that shift – the girl’s thoughts become more coherent and cohesive, the broken images and memories start to come together, and the language shifts to a more prose-like state, although still quite poetic.

Another quality I loved about this book is that even though it is technically a book about 9/11, the tragedy itself is not the primary focus.  The Memory of Things is really more of a coming of age story and it’s also a story about strength, hope, resiliency, friendship, and about finding out who you are when times are tough or uncertain.  Kyle is confronted by the real possibility that he may have lost his entire family and has to figure out what he’s going to do if that turns out to be the case. In particular, he has a handicapped uncle living with him who needs to be cared for and so he really has to step up and be the man of the house while he waits to find out if his family is okay.  In many ways, Kyle learns that he is much stronger than he ever would have given himself credit for prior to 9/11. Kyle’s uncle is partially paralyzed from a recent accident and can do very little for himself. Showing  maturity beyond his years, Kyle takes over the responsibility of getting his uncle out of bed and to the bathroom and assists him in there as needed, then helps to get him dressed and fed and otherwise cared for.

In addition to taking over the primary caregiver role at home, Kyle also befriends the young lady he brought into his home in the aftermath of the terrorist attack.  She can remember nothing about herself aside from bits and pieces of broken memories – ballet movements, swimming in the ocean, brief flashes of her parents, all of these interspersed with horrid images that she witnessed the morning of 9/11.  Kyle doesn’t want to just send her back out on the streets but also hates the idea of just dumping her at a hospital or at a police station in hopes that someone claims her.  So he makes the decision to allow her to stay with him. In some ways I think he does it as much for himself as he does for her. Trying to help her remember who she is gives him something to focus on and helps him stay fairly grounded, considering all that is going on just outside their door.  In the short time they are together, Kyle and the girl grow quite close – close enough that Kyle considers the possibility that he’s falling in love with her.  I think it’s more the need to make some kind of a human connection – something life affirming in the face of all of the lives that were lost that day, but whatever it was for them, the bond between them was quite touching and I think it served to help them get through those first few terrifying days after the tragedy as they waited and hoped to be reunited with their loved ones.

The Memory of Things is truly one of the most beautiful and moving stories I’ve read so far this year and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone. Since it’s a young adult novel, I would also especially recommend it to those who are not old enough to have witnessed the events of 9/11 themselves.

Rating:  4.5 stars

 

 

 

four-half-stars

About Gae Polisner

Gae in her own words:

I write both women’s and young adult fiction.  When I’m not writing, I’m swimming, hanging with my kids, or cooking and cleaning. Okay, fine, I’m probably not cleaning.

I have written since I was little, mostly poems and short stories through college. Then, I went to law school and, for over a decade, replaced all that creative writing with legal briefs. But after my sons were born, I decided to return to my first love.

In 1995, I set out to write a book, not knowing if I actually could. I have completed at least five full manuscripts since then.

I like to think my novels are accessible, lyrical (somewhat literary) fiction – and, my young adult stories, an homage to the character-driven fiction I loved so much as a child and teen (anything by E.L. Konigsburg, Paul Zindel, Madeleine L’Engle, or Judy Blume…). The Pull of Gravity has a special “secret” nod to the first novel I couldn’t put down – Don’t Take Teddy, by Babbis Friis-Baastad. To this day, I remember the feeling of frantically turning pages to find out if the brothers would be okay. If any of you ever read that book, please send me an email, and we can be instant BFF’s.

My first piece of women’s fiction, The Jetty, was a Top Semifinalist in the 2008 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. My second piece, Swim Back to Me, will be revised one day soon and hopefully see the light of day. In the meantime, my next YA novel is coming soon from Algonquin, and I have several more teen novels in the works. So, please check back here often for updates.

I live and write on Long Island with my two amazing boys, my handsome, smart husband who sings, and two very “enthusiastic” cockatiels, Taha and Bobo. When I’m not writing, I’m still a practicing family law attorney/mediator, and when I’m not doing that, I’m swimming in my pool or, better yet, the open water off of Long Island.

Book Review – A Court of Thorns and Roses

Book Review – A Court of Thorns and RosesA Court of Thorns and Roses (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #1) by Sarah J. Maas
Series: A Court of Thorns and Roses #1
Published by Bloomsbury USA Childrens on May 5th 2015
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 416
Source: Purchased
Goodreads

Goodreads Synopsis:

She stole a life. Now she must pay with her heart.

When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she knows about only from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow over the faerie lands is growing, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.

My Review:

Finally!  A book that lives up to the hype!

I had never read any of Sarah J. Maas’ books prior to picking up A Court of Thorns and Roses, but when I heard that it was a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, which is one of my all-time favorite stories, I knew I just had to read it. It turned out to be the right decision too because I devoured this 400+ page book in less than 2 days. I literally could NOT put it down once I got started.

Based on Sarah J. Maas’ popularity, I think I’m probably the last person on the planet to have read this book, but if you’re one of the few who hasn’t, let me share some of my favorite things from  A Court of Thorns and Roses:

The Secondary Characters:  I think I might end up being in the minority on this though because my favorite characters were not actually the main characters. Don’t get me wrong, I really liked Feyre and Tamlin. I found their romantic chemistry very believable and totally wanted things to work out for them.  The characters who really stole the show for me, however, were Lucien and Rhysand. I LOVED those guys! They were quirky, witty, unpredictable, and just so much fun to read about. As I was reading, I kept thinking how cool it would be if they had books of their own!  I’m probably also in the minority on this, but I was so intrigued by Rhysand and how he interacted with Feyre that I couldn’t help but wonder if he would make a better match for her than Tamlin.

It’s Part Romance/Part Epic Action Adventure:  I’m never super big on books that are overly romantic so I loved that even though there were clearly hints of romance and sexual tension here, there was also plenty of dangerous and exciting action mixed in to keep my adrenaline pumping. My favorite parts of the book were actually as we move closer to the end and the wicked Amarantha is holding Tamlin hostage. She challenges our heroine Feyre to complete 3 nearly impossible tasks in order to win back Tamlin. I was on the edge of my seat and just flying through those pages because of all of the nonstop action, danger, deception, creepy creatures, and so much more.

The Faerie Kingdom of Prythian:  The world Sarah J. Maas has created here is fabulous as well, probably one of my favorite fantasy worlds of all time. I loved the idea of the 7 courts of the kingdom being based on the 4 seasons, followed by day, night, and dawn. The lands Maas creates are lush and beautiful, the faerie creatures were all so incredibly unique.  Maas does such an amazing job of bringing Prythian to life that I truly felt like I had been transported to a whole new world.

Was there anything I didn’t care for?

My only real quibble was the punishment that kicks off the rest of the story. Feyre kills what turns out to be a faerie wolf, which apparently is in violation of a treaty between the human world and the faerie world. Her punishment is that she has to abandon her family forever and go live in the faerie world. It sounds sad at first, since she’ll never see her family again, but then for pages and pages, we just watch her basically be placed in the lap of luxury where she is well-dressed, well fed, and allowed to do whatever she wants, whenever she wants. Seriously, what kind of punishment is that?! We get an explanation for it later in the novel as Tamlin tells Feyre more about himself, but for the few pages there, I really had my doubts about whether I was going to buy into the retelling.  Maas sold me though, so yay!

Who would I recommend this book to? 

I would most definitely recommend it to anyone who loves either fantasy or Beauty and the Beast or both.  It’s one of my favorite retellings so far and it’s an amazing fantasy read. Because of the mature themes involved and the sexual tension, I would say it’s probably not appropriate for younger readers.

Okay, now I have to get my hands on the next book in the series.  A Court of Mist and Fury. Can’t wait to read it!

Rating:  4.5 stars!

Question:  Have you read A Court of Thorn and Roses?  Did you love it? Hate it? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

About Sarah J. Maas

Sarah J. Maas is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Throne of Glass series and A Court of Thorns and Roses series, as well as a USA Today and international bestselling author. Sarah wrote the first incarnation of the Throne of Glass series when she was just sixteen, and it has now sold in thirty-five languages. A New York native, Sarah currently lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and dog. Empire of Storms, the fifth Throne of Glass novel, will release on September 6th, 2016.

She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Hamilton College in 2008 with a degree in Creative Writing and a minor in Religious Studies.