Saturday, May 21, 2016

Review: Father's Day

Father’s Day
by Simon Van Booy

Why I chose this book? The synopsis interested me and I like the cover
When I read this book? May 2016
Who should read this book? readers who enjoy stories that explore the meaning of family
Source: TLC Book Tours
Here is a synopsis of Father’s Day from Goodreads

The moving story of an orphaned girl named Harvey and the troubled uncle who raises her—an unforgettable tale of loss and redemption from the author of The Illusion of Separateness

At the age of six, a little girl named Harvey learns that her parents have died in a car accident. As she struggles to understand, a kindly social worker named Wanda introduces her to her only living relative: her uncle Jason, a disabled felon with a violent past and a criminal record. Despite his limitations—and his resistance—Wanda follows a hunch and cajoles Jason into becoming her legal guardian, convinced that each may be the other’s last chance.

Moving between past and present, Father’s Day weaves together the story of Harvey’s childhood and her life as a young woman in Paris, as she awaits her uncle’s arrival for a Father’s Day visit. To mark the occasion, Harvey has planned a series of gifts for Jason—all leading to a revelation she believes will only deepen their bond.

With extraordinary empathy and emotional impact, the award-winning writer Simon Van Booy has crafted a simple yet luminous novel of loss and transcendence, second chances and forgiveness: a breakthrough work from one of our most gifted chroniclers of the human heart.

My Review

I really enjoyed this story. The book was a quick, easy read and I knew from the beginning that there was a ‘big reveal’ coming. This made me want to both rush through to find out the ending, and still want to go slowly because I wasn’t ready for it to end!

I liked the characters in the story; Wanda — the social worker who pulled some strings to get the placement she thought best served the child, Jason — the uncle turned father who had a rough start but became the father his niece needed, and Harvey — the young girl who tragically lost her parents and grew into a compassionate, successful adult!

In this story Harvey, the adopted daughter of her Uncle Jason, is living in Paris and hosting Jason for the week of Father’s Day. She has put together a gift box of memories which will culminate in the big reveal. Each day Jason removes and unwraps an object symbolic of the events of Harvey’s childhood. They spend quite a bit of time in their memories, and we get to see both Harvey’s perspective and Jason’s perspective. It’s interesting to see how they don’t always have the same perspective, and how Harvey’s perspective has evolved through the years.

While I really enjoyed this book, the only thing that did marr it for me a bit was the ending. I wasn’t surprised by the ending as I had expected it in a way but didn’t see how it could happen. But I was left a little confused about who knew what and when did they know it. And who knows what now? I would have liked to have seen another chapter or two clarifying this, as well as discussing the repercussions of the big reveal to both Harvey and Jason.

This will make a great book club selection with discussion topics of the meaning of family as well as Harvey’s discovery. I was not able to find a reader’s guide but you book club will have no trouble finding things to discuss.

About Simon Van Booy

Simon Van Booy is the author of two novels and two collections of short stories, including The Secret Lives of People in Love and Love Begins in Winter, which won the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. He is the editor of three philosophy books and has written for The New York Times, The Guardian, NPR, and the BBC. His work has been translated into fourteen languages. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and daughter.

Find out more about Simon at his website and follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

My Rating:   ✰✰✰½     3½ Stars

This book review is included in a tour by TLC Book Tours. I was provided a copy for review purposes.

Simon’s Tour Stops
Tuesday, April 26th: BookNAround
Wednesday, April 27th: A Bookish Way of Life
Wednesday, April 27th: A Soccer Mom’s Book Blog
Thursday, April 28th: Bibliophiliac
Friday, April 29th: Sarah Reads Too Much
Tuesday, May 3rd: FictionZeal
Thursday, May 5th: she treads softly
Monday, May 9th: Jen’s Book Thoughts
Tuesday, May 10th: Sara’s Organized Chaos
Wednesday, May 11th: Bibliotica
Thursday, May 12th: A Book Geek
Monday, May 16th: Novel Escapes
Tuesday, May 17th: The many thoughts of a reader
Wednesday, May 18th: From the TBR Pile
Thursday, May 19th: Ms. Nose in a Book
TBD: Time 2 Read
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Thursday, May 12, 2016

Review: Alice In Bed

Alice In Bed
by Judith Hopper

Why I chose this book? The synopsis and title interested me
When I read this book? May 2016
Who should read this book? readers who late 19th century historical fiction
Source: TLC Book Tours
Here is a synopsis of Alice In Bed from Goodreads

Arm yourself against my dawn, which may at any moment cast you and Harry into obscurity, Alice James writes her brother William in 1891.

In Judith Hooper’s magnificent novel, zingers such as this fly back and forth between the endlessly articulate and letter-writing Jameses, all of whom are geniuses at gossiping.

And the James family did, in fact, know everyone intellectually important on both sides of the Atlantic, but by the time we meet her in 1889, Alice has been sidelined and is lying in bed in Leamington, England, after taking London by storm.

We don’t know what’s wrong with Alice. No one does, though her brothers have inventive theories, and the best of medical science offers no help. So, with Alice in bed, we travel to London and Paris, where the James children spent part of their unusual childhood. We sit with her around the James family’s dinner table, as she – the youngest and the only girl – listens to the intellectual elite of Boston, missing nothing.

The book is accompanied by Hooper’s Afterword,“What was Wrong with Alice?,” an analysis of the varied psychological ills of the James family and Alice’s own medical history.

My Review

The central character in this novel is Alice James, sister of author Henry James and psychologist William James. Alice is not physically a strong person, and things become progressively worse through the years until ultimately Alice ends up as an invalid in England, where she begins a diary. Through the diary we get to experience many of the events of Alice’s past and learn about Alice’s thoughts and philosophies; in other words we really get to know Alice. While physically weak, she has a strong mind. I can’t say I always liked Alice and I often disliked some of her choices, but as I came to know her I did learn to appreciate her.

One thing I really liked was reading about all the connections the James family had to other prominent members of society in this period, many of whom appeared in others books I’ve read recently. One example is brother William James, considered the ‘father of American Psychology’ and a Harvard professor who was the first president of the Amercan Society of Psychical Research. His successor played a prominent role in the investigations covered in The Witch of Lime Street.

Obviously with the main character being bedridden, there is not a lot of action in this book and at times it moves very slowly. If you are looking for an action story you will need to look elsewhere. But if you like introspection this is the book for you. I think this will make a fantastic selection for the right book clubs — those that are willing to read a slow-paced book and enjoy discussing the characters and what makes them tick. Sadly, I don’t think my book club would do well with this one, which is too bad, because I would love to discuss this one! There is so much to talk about including the possible sources of Alice’s condition and the role of women in society in the late 19th century. I’d love to talk about Alice’s father! Have you read this one? What would you like to discuss?

About Judith Hooper

Judith Hooper was an editor at Omni magazine and is the author of Of Moths and Men and co-author of The Three-Pound Universe and Would the Buddha Wear a Walkman?: A Catalogue of Revolutionary Tools for Higher Consciousness. She lives in Amherst, Massachusetts.

My Rating:   ✰✰✰½     3½ Stars

This book review is included in a tour by TLC Book Tours. I was provided a copy for review purposes.

Judith’s Tour Stops
Monday, April 18th: BookNAround
Tuesday, April 19th: Dwell in Possibility
Wednesday, April 20th: Puddletown Reviews
Thursday, April 21st: A Bookish Way of Life
Tuesday, April 26th: A Book A Week
Wednesday, April 27th: Patricia’s Wisdom
Thursday, April 28th: Building Bookshelves
Friday, April 29th: Julz Reads
Monday, May 2nd: Thoughts on This ‘n That
Monday, May 9th: A Bookish Affair
Wednesday, May 11th: Time 2 Read
Thursday, May 12th: SJ2B House of Books
Friday, May 13th: A Literary Vacation
Friday, May 13th: Worth Getting in Bed For
Monday, May 16th: Kahakai Kitchen
Wednesday, May 18th: Books on the Table
Thursday, May 19th: View from the Birdhouse
Friday, May 20th: Just One More Chapter
TBD: 5 Minutes for Books

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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Review: Rare Objects

Rare Objects
by Kathleen Tessaro

Why I chose this book? The synopsis and the era interested me
When I read this book? May 2016
Who should read this book? readers who have enjoyed Kathleen Tessaro in the past
Source: TLC Book Tours
Here is a synopsis of Rare Objects from Goodreads

Boston, 1933. Maeve Fanning is a first generation Irish immigrant, born and raised among the poor, industrious Italian families of Boston’s North End by her widowed mother. Clever, capable, and as head strong as her trademark red hair suggests, she’s determined to better herself despite the overwhelming hardships of the Great Depression.

However, Maeve also has a dangerous fondness for strange men and bootleg gin—a rebellious hunger for experience that soon finds her spiraling downward, leading a double life. When the strain proves too much, Maeve becomes an unwilling patient in a remote psychiatric hospital, where she strikes up a friendship with an enigmatic young woman, who, like Maeve, is unable or unwilling to control her un-lady-like desire for freedom.

Once out, Maeve faces starting over again, but armed with a bottle of bleach and a few white lies, she finally lands a job at an eccentric antiques shop catering to Boston’s wealthiest and most peculiar collectors. Run by a retired anthropology professor and an elusive English archeologist, The Pandora is a haven of the obscure and incredible, providing rare artifacts as well as unique access into the world of America's social elite. While delivering a purchase to the wealthy Van der Laar family, Maeve is introduced to beautiful socialite Diana Van der Laar—only to discover she’s the same young woman from the hospital.

Reunited with the charming but increasingly unstable Diana and pursued by her attractive brother James, Maeve becomes more and more entwined with the Van der Laar family—a connection that pulls her deep into a world of social and political ambition, deceit, and ultimately betrayal. Bewitched by their wealth and desperate to leave her past behind, Maeve is forced to unearth her true values and discover just how far she’s willing to go to reinvent herself.

A rich, universal story of ambition, transformation, desire, and betrayal, Rare Objects is acclaimed writer Kathleen Tessaro’s finest work to date.

My Review

I picked this one up because the synopsis interested me for several reasons. First, it is set in the early thirties, and second, because it appeared to be an immigrant story. I also love the cover! Sadly, I didn’t love the book. I didn’t find the characters likeable, which is not really an issue most of the time. But more than not liking the characters, I just couldn’t make a connection with them. While I loved the cover, and enjoyed the descriptions of the lifestyles, I really did not care what happened to the characters. The story started off well enough, with Maeve getting a job in an antique shop. I really enjoyed the descriptions of the ‘finds’ and the stories that were built around them. But then the story began to drag. I am pretty sure that if I hadn’t committed to this review, I would have set the book aside. While it did pick up again at the end, and I ALMOST was happy for the resolution for Diana, it wasn’t enough for me to feel happy that I read the book.

While I did not enjoy the book, if you read through other reviews on the tour, you will find I am clearly in the minority! So please do read through the other reviews (the stops on the tour are listed below), especially if you have read and enjoyed Kathleen Tessaro in the past, before you decide whether or not this is a book you would enjoy!

About Kathleen Tessaro

Kathleen Tessaro is the author of Elegance, Innocence, The Flirt, and The Debutante. She lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with her husband and son.

Find out more about Kathleen at her website and connect with her on Facebook.

My Rating:   ✰✰✰     3 Stars

This book review is included in a tour by TLC Book Tours. I was provided a copy for review purposes.

Kathleen’s Tour Stops
Tuesday, April 12th: BookNAround
Wednesday, April 13th: Books and Bindings
Thursday, April 14th: Kritters Ramblings
Friday, April 15th: View from the Birdhouse
Tuesday, April 19th: From the TBR Pile
Wednesday, April 20th: The Feminist Texican [Reads]
Friday, April 22nd: Peeking Between the Pages
Monday, April 25th: Always With a Book
Tuesday, April 26th: West Metro Mommy
Wednesday, April 27th: Curling Up by the Fire
Thursday, April 28th:
Monday, May 2nd: Puddletown Reviews
Tuesday, May 3rd: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Wednesday, May 4th: The many thoughts of a reader
Thursday, May 5th: Time 2 Read
Friday, May 6th: A Literary Vacation

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