Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Review: A Matter of Mercy

A Matter of Mercy
by Lynne Hugo

Why did you choose this book? I like the cover and the idea of second chances
When did you read this book? September 2014
Who should read this book? readers who enjoy contemporary stories of forgiveness
Source: TLC Book Tours
Here is a synopsis of A Matter of Mercy from TLC Book Tours

Caroline Marcum thought she’d escaped the great mistake of her life by leaving Wellfleet harbor, but is forced to face it when she returns, reluctantly, to care for her dying mother. Ridley Neal put his past-and his prison term-behind him to return home to take over his father’s oyster and clam beds. Casual acquaintances long ago, when a nor’easter hits the coast, Rid and Caroline’s lives intersect once again. When Rid and two other sea farmers are sued by the wealthy owners of vacation homes who want to shut them down, and Caroline accidentally meets the person she most wronged, they each must learn to trust-and love. Inspired by a 1996 lawsuit, A Matter of Mercy is a riveting novel about treasuring the traditional way of life in the shallows of beautiful Cape Cod bay by discovering where forgiveness ends. And where it begins.

My Review

I really enjoyed this book, despite the fact that it got off to a slow start for me! The main reason the book started slow is because one of the main characters is an aquaculturist, or sea farmer, in the Cape Cod area, and there is quite a bit of detail about his work. I’m sure people from the northeast are familiar with the terms, but it was a learning curve for a midwesterner who does not eat seafood! I mean….what is a quahog??? It worked though, because I enjoy learning new things! I googled, and found a site that really helped me out by explaining that a quahog is a clam. Until then, I didn’t even know a quahog is a living organism, and not a structure! And by the way, it is pronounced COE-hog and not KWA-hog! Apparently I am truly a ‘washashore’...or would be, if I visited the Cape!

Anyway, once I got past the learning curve, I was able to become involved with the story. The main characters are Cici, or Carolyn, a former teacher who lost her job when she went to prison for killing a toddler in a drunk-driving accident, and Rid, the sea farmer who is also an ex-con. They both grew up in the area and were acquainted with each other in high school. Cici has returned to care for her mother who is close to death after battling ovarian cancer. Terry, the mother of the toddler that Cici killed, is a librarian in the area. Terry has not yet managed to move past the death of her son when Cici accidentally crosses paths with her, and ends up stalking her. The book really brought home what a lot of us have known; that forgiveness does more the the person doing the forgiving than the one being forgiven.

WIthout giving a lot of spoilers, I will say I wish the book would have looked a little farther into the future. I feel like it ended on a hopeful note, but at the same time, left things hanging. A lot of the issues between Rid and Carolyn, and even Carolyn and Terry, were not totally resolved, so we were left to assume that everything works out in the end. And that is what I am assuming, so this is a happily-ever-after for me….I just wish the book would have explicitly said so. Just the same, I really enjoyed the book!

And if you are also a ‘washashore’ who would like to know more about quahogs, check out this site: The Real Cape. Lynne also has information on sea farming, complete with photos!, as well as discussion questions, available on her website.

About Lynne Hugo

Lynne Hugo is a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship recipient who has also received grants from the Ohio Arts Council and the Kentucky Foundation for Women.  She has published five previous novels, one of which became a Lifetime Original Movie of the Month, two books of poetry, and a children’s book.  Her memoir, Where The Trail Grows Faint, won the Riverteeth Literary Nonfiction Book Prize.  Born and educated in New England, she and her husband currently live in Ohio with a yellow Lab feared by squirrels in a three state area.  

Visit Lynne at her website, on Facebook, or Twitter.

My Rating:  ★★★1/2   3-1/2 Stars

This book review is included in a tour by TLC Book Tours. I was provided a copy for review purposes and have written an honest review which appears above.

Lynne’s Tour Stops

Tuesday, September 2nd:  Bibliotica
Wednesday, September 3rd:  5 Minutes for Books
Thursday, September 4th:  Mockingbird Hill Cottage
Friday, September 5th: Vox Libris
Monday, September 8th:  Patricia’s Wisdom
Tuesday, September 9th:  Good Girl Gone Redneck
Friday, September 12th:  Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Monday, September 15th:  Fiction Zeal
Tuesday, September 16th:  Time 2 Read
Wednesday, September 17th:  Jorie Loves a Story
Wednesday, September 17th:  Stitch Read Cook – author guest post, “A Day in the Life”
Thursday, September 18th:  Chronicles…
Monday, September 22nd:  Walking with Nora
Tuesday, September 23rd:  Mom in Love with Fiction
Wednesday, September 24th:  From the TBR Pile
Thursday, September 25th:  Musings of a Bookish Kitty
Monday, September 29th:  Deckled Edge Books
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Sunday, September 14, 2014

On My Radar: September 2014

Time for another round of my ‘mini-meme’, On My Radar, in which I highlight books I’ve come across that seem especially interesting. These may be just released books or they may be older books I was not previously aware of, but either way, there is something about them that caught my eye. I haven’t decided if will actually read any of them yet, but I do want to follow the reviews to see what others think. That’s why they are ON MY RADAR!

If you do a similar post, be sure to link it up below. Maybe I’ll find something else that should be on my radar. And if you do a review of any of the books here, please leave a link in the comments so I can see what you thought of it! It may help me decide what to read next!

Here are some of the books that are currently ON MY RADAR...

An Italian Wife by Ann Hood

An Italian Wife is the extraordinary story of Josephine Rimaldi—her joys, sorrows, and passions, spanning more than seven decades. The novel begins in turn-of-the-century Italy, when fourteen-year-old Josephine, sheltered and naive, is forced into an arranged marriage to a man she doesn't know or love who is about to depart for America, where she later joins him. Bound by tradition, Josephine gives birth to seven children. The last, Valentina, is conceived in passion, born in secret, and given up for adoption.

Josephine spends the rest of her life searching for her lost child, keeping her secret even as her other children go off to war, get married, and make their own mistakes. Her son suffers in World War I. One daughter struggles to assimilate in the new world of the 1950s American suburbs, while another, stranded in England, grieves for a lover lost in World War II. Her granddaughters experiment with the sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll in the 1970s. Poignant, sensual, and deeply felt, An Italian Wife is a sweeping and evocative portrait of a family bound by love and heartbreak.

A haunting debut novel about a mixed-race family living in 1970s Ohio and the tragedy that will either be their undoing or their salvation.

Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet . . . So begins the story of this exquisite debut novel, about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee; their middle daughter, a girl who inherited her mother’s bright blue eyes and her father’s jet-black hair. Her parents are determined that Lydia will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue—in Marilyn’s case that her daughter become a doctor rather than a homemaker, in James’s case that Lydia be popular at school, a girl with a busy social life and the center of every party.

When Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together tumbles into chaos, forcing them to confront the long-kept secrets that have been slowly pulling them apart. James, consumed by guilt, sets out on a reckless path that may destroy his marriage. Marilyn, devastated and vengeful, is determined to find a responsible party, no matter what the cost. Lydia’s older brother, Nathan, is certain that the neighborhood bad boy Jack is somehow involved. But it’s the youngest of the family—Hannah—who observes far more than anyone realizes and who may be the only one who knows the truth about what happened.

A profoundly moving story of family, history, and the meaning of home, Everything I Never Told You is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait, exploring the divisions between cultures and the rifts within a family, and uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another.

This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper

The death of Judd Foxman's father marks the first time that the entire Foxman clan has congregated in years. There is, however, one conspicuous absence: Judd's wife, Jen, whose affair with his radio- shock-jock boss has recently become painfully public. Simultaneously mourning the demise of his father and his marriage, Judd joins his dysfunctional family as they reluctantly sit shiva-and spend seven days and nights under the same roof. The week quickly spins out of control as longstanding grudges resurface, secrets are revealed and old passions are reawakened. Then Jen delivers the clincher: she's pregnant.

In 1886, Gretta Pope wakes one morning to discover that her husband is gone. Ulysses Pope has left his family behind on the far edge of Minnesota’s western prairie with only the briefest of notes and no explanation for why he left or where he’s headed. It doesn’t take long for Gretta’s young sons, Eli and Danny, to set off after him, following the scant clues they can find, jumping trains to get where they need to go, and ending up in the rugged badlands of Montana.

Gretta has no choice but to search for her sons and her husband, leading her to the doorstep of a woman who seems intent on making Ulysses her own. Meanwhile, the boys find that the closer they come to Ulysses’ trail, the greater the perils that confront them, until each is faced with a choice about whom he will defend, and who he will become.

Enger’s breathtaking portrait of the vast plains landscape is matched by the rich expanse of his characters’ emotional terrain, as pivotal historical events--the bloody turmoil of expansionism, the near total demise of the bison herds, and the subjugation of the Plains Indians--blend seamlessly with the intimate story of a family’s sacrifice and devotion.

Back Channel: A Novel by Stephen L. Carter

October 1962. The Soviet Union has smuggled missiles into Cuba. Kennedy and Khrushchev are in the midst of a military face-off that could lead to nuclear conflagration. Warships and submarines are on the move. Planes are in the air. Troops are at the ready. Both leaders are surrounded by advisers clamoring for war. The only way for the two leaders to negotiate safely is to open a “back channel”—a surreptitious path of communication hidden from their own people. They need a clandestine emissary nobody would ever suspect. If the secret gets out, her life will be at risk . . . but they’re careful not to tell her that.

Stephen L. Carter’s gripping new novel, Back Channel, is a brilliant amalgam of fact and fiction—a suspenseful retelling of the Cuban Missile Crisis, in which the fate of the world rests unexpectedly on the shoulders of a young college student.

On the island of Curaçao, a visiting Soviet chess champion whispers state secrets to an American acquaintance.

In the Atlantic Ocean, a freighter struggles through a squall while trying to avoid surveillance.

And in Ithaca, New York, Margo Jensen, one of the few black women at Cornell, is asked to go to Eastern Europe to babysit a madman.

As the clock ticks toward World War III, Margo undertakes her harrowing journey. Pursued by the hawks on both sides, protected by nothing but her own ingenuity and courage, Margo is drawn ever more deeply into the crossfire—and into her own family’s hidden past.
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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Review: Five Days Left

Five Days Left
by Julie Lawson Timmer

Why did you choose this book? I was surprised with an ARC from Penguin First To Read!
When did you read this book? August 2014
Who should read this book?
Source: Penguin First To Read
Here is a synopsis of Five Days Left from Penguin First To Read

Destined to be a book club favorite, a heart-wrenching debut about two people who must decide how much they’re willing to sacrifice for love.

Mara Nichols is a successful lawyer, devoted wife, and adoptive mother who has received a life-shattering diagnosis. Scott Coffman, a middle school teacher, has been fostering an eight-year-old boy while the boy’s mother serves a jail sentence. Scott and Mara both have five days left until they must say good-bye to the ones they love the most.
Through their stories, Julie Lawson Timmer explores the individual limits of human endurance and the power of relationships, and shows that sometimes loving someone means holding on, and sometimes it means letting go.

My Review

Another ‘wow’! This one caught my interest from the beginning and held it the entire time! The story revolves around two characters; Mara, a woman suffering from Huntington’s Disease, a degenerative neurological disease which has no cure and results in death, and Scott, a teacher who has been raising a foster child for the past year. They both have FIVE DAYS LEFT!; Mara to live with her disease before her self-imposed deadline to take things into her own hands, and Scott to live with Curtis, the foster son, before he has to return him to his mother. Mara and Scott live in different regions of the country and have no connection to each other except through an anonymous internet adoption forum that they visit for support.

I think anyone who has ever watched someone progress through Huntington’s Disease, ALS, Alzheimers, or a similar degenerative disease will recognize the emotions expressed by Mara. I thought the portrayal of her fear of becoming an invalid and her desire to end her life on her own terms was very realistic. I also thought the conflicting emotions Scott showed in selfishly wanting to keep Curtis with him but ‘knowing’ that reuniting the family was the ‘best option’, were portrayed realistically.

You knew from the beginning there could be no fairy tale ending here. No matter what Mara decides, we know that eventually she will die. And no matter what family Curtis ends up with, someone will experience loss. But even though there was no ‘happily-ever-after’ ending, the ending was realistic, and for that reason it is satisfactory. This is an emotional story, but a very good story! This will make a great book club selection, with discussion topics ranging from suicide, adoption, foster care, and others. You can visit the Penguin web site to find discussion questions or read an excerpt of the book.

My Rating:  ★★★★1/2   4-1/2 Stars

I received an advanced review copy of this book through the Penguin First To Read program and have written an honest review.
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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Waiting On Wednesday: The Tudor Bride

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine in which we spotlight upcoming releases that we are eagerly anticipating!

The Tudor Bride
by Joanna Hickson
Expected Publication Date: October 7, 2014
Synopsis from Goodreads

The thrilling sequel to The Agincourt Bride, and the story of Catherine de Valois - the French princess who became an English queen.

King Henry V’s new French Queen, Catherine, dazzles the crowds in England, blithely unaware of court undercurrents building against her. Her loyal companion, Guillamette, suspects conspiracies against her queen. But her warnings are ignored, for Catherine believes herself invincible as she gives birth to an heir.

Tragedy strikes when King Henry is struck down by fever back in France and Catherine rushes to his deathbed. A weak and weeping dowager queen follows the slow funeral cortège through France and the King’s Harper, Owen Tudor, plays to comfort her.

Back in England, the regency council removes the new young king from her care, and a defeated Catherine retires to her dower estates, taking Owen with her as Steward. At the secluded manor of Hadham, a smouldering ember bursts into flame as Catherine and Owen Tudor become lovers.

But their love cannot remain a secret forever, and when a grab for power is made by the Duke of Gloucester, Catherine – and those dearest to her – will once again face mortal danger…

Why I am waiting....
I recently finished and enjoyed The Agincourt Bride and want to read the sequel!

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