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Waiting on Wednesday – 29 June 2016

New WoW

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

Its been a while since i’ve participated in a Waiting on Wednesday – this year has been so busy that i’ve done a really bad job about tracking new releases…or I come across a book that sounds interesting and mean to do a post on it…before promptly forgetting…but since I had some downtime tonight, I figured I would take a quick look at a couple of the websites I use for tracking books to see if anything caught my eye.

don't tell me you're afraid
Don’t Tell Me You’re Afraid – Giuseppe Catozzella and Anne Milano Appel
Release Date: August 2, 2016

Tagline: Based on a remarkable true story, an unforgettable Somali girl risks her life on the migrant journey to Europe to run in the Olympic Games

Why Waiting on Wednesday?
It’s funny – normally, I’m a total cover reader (meaning the vast majority of the books that I pick, I pick because of the cover) and yet there is nothing really eye catching about the cover of Don’t Tell Me You’re Afraid, in fact, its a very tame cover. But as I reading through the August list for Bookreporter, it was the tag line that caught my eye. After reading When the Moon is Low (Nadia Hashimi) a few months ago, I became interested in more immigrant/immigration fiction, especially books that are based around people escaping their war-torn country (like Afghanistan in When the Moon is Low). I’ll be intrigued to see how the fictional version of the true story comes to be and know that I will be asking my library to get me a copy when its released.

 
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Posted by on June 30, 2016 in Wishlist Wednesday

 

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Review – The Girl from the Savoy – Hazel Gaynor

the girl from the savoyThe Girl from the Savoy
Author: Hazel Gaynor
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Review Copy Provided by Publisher

Description:
Sometimes life gives you cotton stockings. Sometimes it gives you a Chanel gown …

Dolly Lane is a dreamer; a downtrodden maid who longs to dance on the London stage, but her life has been fractured by the Great War. Memories of the soldier she loved, of secret shame and profound loss, by turns pull her back and spur her on to make a better life.

When she finds employment as a chambermaid at London’s grandest hotel, The Savoy, Dolly takes a step closer to the glittering lives of the Bright Young Things who thrive on champagne, jazz and rebellion. Right now, she must exist on the fringes of power, wealth and glamor—she must remain invisible and unimportant.

But her fortunes take an unexpected turn when she responds to a struggling songwriter’s advertisement for a ‘muse’ and finds herself thrust into London’s exhilarating theatre scene and into the lives of celebrated actress, Loretta May, and her brother, Perry. Loretta and Perry may have the life Dolly aspires to, but they too are searching for something.

Now, at the precipice of the life she has and the one she longs for, the girl from The Savoy must make difficult choices: between two men; between two classes, between everything she knows and everything she dreams of. A brighter future is tantalizingly close—but can a girl like Dolly ever truly leave her past behind?

Review:
sometimes i have to wonder if my desires in book settings is like published somewhere…so funny(ish) story, maybe a month or so ago, I was talking some book-ish friends on facebook and mentioned that I would love to see more books that were set in the post-WW1 era, but pre-WW2 (so the 1920’s and 30’s). And then not long after, I got an email asking me if I would be interested in reviewing Hazel Gaynor’s newest book, The Girl from the Savoy. I’d first read Gaynor when I picked up her “The Girl Who Came Home” when it was on sale one day (which told the story of a Titanic survivor, interspersed with a modern day story). And who doesn’t love this cover, like I have serious cover envy right now!

The first thing that sucked me into Gaynor’s story-telling, was how I felt like I was in London during the 1920’s. I felt like I was walking into the Savoy for the first time, seeing its opulence and having Dolly (or one of her friends) being my maid. Reading the vivid descriptions of the clothes and their trips to see Loretta May perform on stage. Dolly was just a character that you could fall in love with because she was so relateable – a girl who just wants to live her dreams, but one that also has a past that she is trying to reconcile with. It took me a few chapters to realize that while the majority of the book was set in the 1920’s, that there were a few portions that were set 1919 and more immediately post WW1 (yeah, I know, sometimes, I’m a bit slow on the uptake).

There was such a cast of characters included in The Girl from Savoy – Dolly and her fellow maids, several customers of the Savoy (there was one who really gave me the heebie-jeebies) so you could see the types of people who stayed at the Savoy, to Loretta and her brother, Percy and then there was Dolly’s long-lost love, who while he came back physically from the war, was never the same. His portion of the story was probably the most gut-wrenching off all the parts in the story (I know that it was supposed to be, but maybe its because I am in the military, that it hit home even closer)…

The Girl from the Savoy makes 2 books in a row by Gaynor that I have really enjoyed and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next. I’d recommend both the Girl from the Savoy (and the Girl Who Came home) to people who like historical fiction that has been extremely well-researched and just draws you in. A solid 4 stars for The Girl from Savoy and one step closer to Gaynor being added to my auto-buy list.

 
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Posted by on June 17, 2016 in Book Review, Review

 

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Review – Inside the O’Briens – Lisa Genova

inside the o'briensInside the O’Briens
Author: Lisa Genova
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Review Copy Provided by Publisher via Edelweiss

Description:
Joe O’Brien is a forty-four-year-old police officer from the Irish Catholic neighborhood of Charlestown, Massachusetts. A devoted husband, proud father of four children in their twenties, and respected officer, Joe begins experiencing bouts of disorganized thinking, uncharacteristic temper outbursts, and strange, involuntary movements. He initially attributes these episodes to the stress of his job, but as these symptoms worsen, he agrees to see a neurologist and is handed a diagnosis that will change his and his family’s lives forever: Huntington’s Disease.

Huntington’s is a lethal neurodegenerative disease with no treatment and no cure. Each of Joe’s four children has a 50 percent chance of inheriting their father’s disease, and a simple blood test can reveal their genetic fate. While watching her potential future in her father’s escalating symptoms, twenty-one-year-old daughter Katie struggles with the questions this test imposes on her young adult life. Does she want to know? What if she’s gene positive? Can she live with the constant anxiety of not knowing?

As Joe’s symptoms worsen and he’s eventually stripped of his badge and more, Joe struggles to maintain hope and a sense of purpose, while Katie and her siblings must find the courage to either live a life “at risk” or learn their fate.

Review:
I’ll admit that I felt like I was one of the last people in america to read Genova’s book, Still Alice – in fact, the movie had been released and Julianne Moore had already been awarded the Oscar before I even picked up the book but it just so happened that not long after I finished reading it, when I was looking at Edelweiss one day (a place that is like crack for book bloggers), I saw that review copies of her newest book, Inside the O’Brien’s were available and I totally clicked to request it (and then promptly lost the book on the virtual straggering TBD).

Anyways, I digress…my knowledge about Huntington’s Chorea is extremely limited to basically what I learnt from watching House, when one of the doctor’s who worked for him (aka Thirteen) had a mother with Huntington’s and she had to make the decision on whether she wanted to go through the genetic tests to find out if she would get it. Because as I learnt both there and while reading Inside the O’Brien’s, if you have the gene, you will get the disease, its not a case of, you have the gene, you might get it, but rather, there is a 100% likelihood that you will develop Huntington’s and that currently there is no treatment and no cure for the disease, so a death sentence. Knowing that was the ultimate outcome in Joe’s story, I was curious to see how Genova would handle it, walking a fine line between telling a story, sucking people in and not wanting to be too dramatic (for lack of a better word). so I appreciated how she approached it – essentially alternating the story from Joe’s POV and that of his youngest daughter, Katie – who is struggling to make the decision about having the testing. I split the age between Joe and Katie, so this is a book that really struck home for me, that these are decisions that many people my age, may have to face in upcoming years, especially as genetic testing becomes more and more common and ethical questions are raised?

I know that as I was reading Inside the O’Brien’s, I posted a question on my facebook page – essentially theoretically asking – if you had to make a decision about taking a genetic test like the one for HC would you and the responses that came back were interesting. If the test comes back showing you have the genetic mutation, how do you life a life you know is going to end? How do you deal with it knowing that you may have passed the gene onto your children, if you have them? (or even grandchildren)

Its hard to call a read like Inside the O’Brien’s enjoyable for the simple reason of the topics that it discusses focuses on – i found it to be thought-provoking, and made me question for thoughts and feelings about genetic testing (although I honestly, still don’t have an answer on if I would do it or not)…it was very well written, not overly complicated/difficult but solid writing. I gave it 4 stars, but it is definately a book that has stuck with me since I read it a couple of months ago.

 
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Posted by on April 26, 2016 in Book Review, Review

 

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Wishlist Wednesday – 03 February 2016

Wishlist WednesdayWishlist Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Pen to Paper where we post about one book that has been hanging out on our wish list (either for a long time, or not so long)

Sometimes I randomly come across books that look interesting but aren’t available yet and then promptly forget about what intrigued me about said book to begin with… This weeks Wishlist Wednesday book is no exception. According to GR, I added this book in early January, so its likely that I came across it mentioned in a thread reads to look forward to.

association of small bombsThe Association of Small Bombs
Author: Karan Mahajan
Release Date: March 22nd 2016
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, World Fiction (India), Diverse Reading

Description:
When brothers Tushar and Nakul Khurana, two Delhi schoolboys, pick up their family’s television set at a repair shop with their friend Mansoor Ahmed one day in 1996, disaster strikes without warning. A bomb—one of the many “small” bombs that go off seemingly unheralded across the world—detonates in the Delhi marketplace, instantly claiming the lives of the Khurana boys, to the devastation of their parents. Mansoor survives, bearing the physical and psychological effects of the bomb. After a brief stint at university in America, Mansoor returns to Delhi, where his life becomes entangled with the mysterious and charismatic Ayub, a fearless young activist whose own allegiances and beliefs are more malleable than Mansoor could imagine. Woven among the story of the Khuranas and the Ahmeds is the gripping tale of Shockie, a Kashmiri bomb maker who has forsaken his own life for the independence of his homeland.

Why am I excited to read it?
Talking about events such as terrorist events, especially in fiction, is a topic that IMHO takes a brave writer to tackle. Many of us remember where we were on 9/11, but there have been numerous other attacks around the world since then, many in countries that most of us possibly couldn’t locate on a map. This book intrigued me for that reason – an insight into the effects and after-effects of a series of small bombs (and while I haven’t read it, potential terrorist attacks). I’m intrigued to see how the author manages to weave the story of a bomb maker into that of his victims. An additional enticement to read The Association of Small Bombs is my desire to diversify my reading in 2016 by reading authors from different geographical regions of the world.

 
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Posted by on February 3, 2016 in Wishlist Wednesday

 

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Review – The Edge of Lost – Kristina McMorris

the edge of lostThe Edge of Lost
Author: Kristina McMorris
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ½

Review Copy provided by Author

Description:
On a cold night in October 1937, searchlights cut through the darkness around Alcatraz. A prison guard’s only daughter—one of the youngest civilians who lives on the island—has gone missing. Tending the warden’s greenhouse, convicted bank robber Tommy Capello waits anxiously. Only he knows the truth about the little girl’s whereabouts, and that both of their lives depend on the search’s outcome.

Almost two decades earlier and thousands of miles away, a young boy named Shanley Keagan ekes out a living as an aspiring vaudevillian in Dublin pubs. Talented and shrewd, Shan dreams of shedding his dingy existence and finding his real father in America. The chance finally comes to cross the Atlantic, but when tragedy strikes, Shan must summon all his ingenuity to forge a new life in a volatile and foreign world.

Skillfully weaving these two stories, Kristina McMorris delivers a compelling novel that moves from Ireland to New York to San Francisco Bay. As her finely crafted characters discover the true nature of loyalty, sacrifice, and betrayal, they are forced to confront the lies we tell—and believe—in order to survive.

Review:
There are some authors when a new book comes out that you drop everything and read, Kristina McMorris is one of those authors and added to that, its been a LONG two years since her last book was released. So when the Edge of Lost popped as a author donated book in one of my Goodreads groups, there was almost virtual bloodshed over who got to read it first (unfortunately, I lost out and had to wait not so impatiently). So when it finally showed up in the mail, I gazed in adoration at it and then couldn’t convince myself to pick it up and actually read it (yeah, you read that right). I probably have it in my hot little hands for close to 2 weeks before I read it – I think it was trepidation of knowing once I finish it, then there would be a long wait for her next book and I just couldn’t do it…but anyways, earlier this week, I found myself in a situation where I had time to just sit and read (while waiting for my cell phone to charge) and damn, if I didn’t devour it (i mean, I read nearly the whole entire thing in about 2 hours).

As with her previous books, Kristina draws you into the time period for the book, this time the 1920’s and 1930’s which is a bit of a departure from her previous World War 2 focused books. In the beginning, we met Shanley Keagan, a young child in Ireland. As I was reading these chapters, I felt like I was reading (in part) a fictionalized version of Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt) – the similar descriptions of life in Ireland just resonated through me. I’ll admit this isn’t an area of history that I’m familiar with, but after finishing the Edge of Lost, I want to read some more about it.

As the story progresses, we get to experience the trials of being an immigrant through the eyes of an Irish family in New York, the daily struggle to survive and to make something of themselves in the Land of Opportunity. But for me, the best part of The Edge of Lost was when Kristina transitioned to telling the story of Tommy Capello, a prisoner on the rock (also known as Alcatraz). Alcatraz is a place that even now, 80 years after the setting of this book that still brings shivers to peoples spines. Many of us probably grew up hearing stories about Alcatraz and the prisoners that were houses there and how it was believed to be inescapable (but is it really?). Its one of those places that is on my bucket list to visit (I was bummed when I was just in San Francisco and didn’t get a chance to go out there).

The Edge of Lost kept me on the edge of my car seat (as I sat there reading) and I was kind of unhappy when I had to go back to work and couldn’t finish reading it (that’s the sign of a good book right?). 4.5 stars for the Edge of Lost and now begins the waiting game for her next book.

 
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Posted by on October 30, 2015 in Book Review

 

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Audiobook Review – The Lifeboat – Charlotte Rogan (@charlotte_rogan @RebeccaGibel)

The Lifeboat
Author: Charlotte Rogan

Narrator: Rebecca Gibel
Run Time: 7hrs and 47 minutes
Publisher: Hachette Audio

Book Description:
Grace Winter, 22, is both a newlywed and a widow. She is also on trial for her life.

In the summer of 1914, the elegant ocean liner carrying her and her husband Henry across the Atlantic suffers a mysterious explosion. Setting aside his own safety, Henry secures Grace a place in a lifeboat, which the survivors quickly realize is over capacity. For any to live, some must die.

As the castaways battle the elements, and each other, Grace recollects the unorthodox way she and Henry met, and the new life of privilege she thought she’d found. Will she pay any price to keep it?

Review:
So I have to say upfront, that I originally started reading this book in print and kept getting distracted. I know that it wasn’t a very long book, but for some reason at that time, it just wasn’t clicking. But after seeing the good review that my friend Naomi gave it, I decided to give it another try and put my name on the reservation list for the audiobook (and FWIW, having to wait for it to come in when you are 45th on the list sucks! I think it took about 4 months for it to come in…).

Being a psychologist in training (if I ever finish this damn PhD), I loved the way that the author managed to intersperse different ideas into the novel. Yes, it was a story of survival – but there were so many other elements – the idea of hope and giving up – can you survive when you think there is nothing more out there? How various people emerge different roles in situations of high stress. The notion of group think in a scenario like this? Stockholm syndrome and how it can affect people’s behavior, both during and after events. And so many more – but don’t worry, I won’t be too much of a dork – but it did hit my enjoyment button in all the right places. I enjoyed how she used flashbacks to tell most of the story – it is often a hard writing style to pull off, but it was well-done. My only gripe I had was the ending was fairly obvious – I was able to figure out what was going to happen about half-way through – but that didn’t ruin my enjoyment of the book.

Rebecca Gibel is a brand-new audiobook narrator to me, and I can tell you for sure that it won’t be the last time I listen to something done by her. There was something melodic about her voice, that I was just sucked in. It was a relatively short audiobook and because I enjoyed the narration so much – I sat in my car at work one morning and listened to like another 15 minutes of the book (much to my co-workers disgust because she was waiting for me to get coffee – don’t worry, she gave up and went by herself😉 ) I did like how she was able to draw on a variety of accents that encompassed the different countries of origin of the passengers. As the majority of the book was told from Grace’s perspective, I wasn’t really able to tell how well she did male voices, so that is going to be something that I am looking out for in the future listens. But overall, totally worth it. I would give both the narration and the book itself 3.5 stars, but rounding up to 4.

 
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Posted by on November 27, 2012 in Audiobook Review

 

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Audiobook Review – Circle of Quilters – Jennifer Chiaverini (@jchiaverini)

Circle of Quilters
Author: Jennifer Chiaverini
Series: #9 in the Elm Creek Quilts series

Narrator: Christina Moore
Run Time: 10hrs and 12 minutes
Publisher: Recorded Books

Book Description:
Elm Creek Quilts, the thriving artists’ retreat at Elm Creek Manor, is a place that stakes its sterling reputation on the palpable creative energy and collective goodwill of its teachers and students. But when two of its founding members decide to leave the fold, the Elm Creek Quilters face untold changes not only in their personal lives but also in their business. As the news spreads, a single question emerges: Who can possibly take their place?

An Elm Creek Quilter must not only possess mastery of quilting technique but teaching experience, a sense of humor, and that intangible quality that allows an individual to blend harmoniously into a group. With high hopes, Elm Creek Quilts posts an open call for applicants.

Review
I’ll be the first to admit that learning to quilt is on my bucket list. I can already cross-stitch, crochet (to an extent – meaning that I am really good at making scarves) and other stuff like that, and while I have tried quilting in the past, I haven’t had the time to dedicate to it (as much as I would have loved). But i remember when I first came across the Elm Creek Quilts series – one of my good friends from college took up quilting (and is still doing it to this day) and for Christmas that first year (or maybe it was her birthday), I bought her the first two books in the series. And while I was at it, I bought myself the first book – and there is has languished in the TBR pile since. Then at the library one day, I saw the audiobook for one of the later books in the series (maybe book 5 or 6) and I grabbed it, thinking what the heck…I was soon hooked.

This entry into the series was slightly different from the rest, as it was told in a series of short-stories/flashbacks. The general theme was that the four people who featured predominantly through-out were being considered as staff as the quilting school. Through these flashbacks you see how they started quilting, what was their inspiration, and methods to their creativity in their own designs. However, the other characters that I have come to enjoy in the other books (Sylvia and the other quilters) also made an appearance.

For me, I think the narration by Christina Moore makes a good book all the better. I enjoy all the voices that she uses for the characters and having listened to 3 or 4 books now, she has been able to keep them consistent over the different installments. My only comment would be, that aside from this one, there are very few males who appear in the series, so i don’t necessarily have a good judge of her range with masculine voices – but what I did hear in this one, I am impressed and hope to hear more. I’m looking forward to finishing this series up next year (hopefully) and looking for more in the future. Overall 3.5 stars.

 
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Posted by on November 19, 2012 in Audiobook Review

 

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