Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Tuesday Memes: This Is The Water

Every Tuesday Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where you can share the first paragraph, or a few, of a book you are reading or thinking about reading soon.

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along!

Today I am spotlighting This Is The Water by Yannick Murphy

At a swim meet in their quiet New England town, Annie watches as her daughters glide through the water. Her thoughts drift lazily from whether she fed her daughters enough carbs that morning to why her husband doesn’t kiss her anymore, to Paul, a swim-team parent, who’s taken notice of her and seems to embody everything she’s beginning to think her life is missing.

When a girl on the team is murdered at a nearby highway rest stop—the same spot where Paul made a gruesome discovery years ago—Annie and her fellow swim-parents find themselves adrift. With a serial killer too close for comfort, they must make choices about where their loyalties lie. And as a series of shocking events unfolds, Annie must discover what it means to follow her intuition—even if love, as well as lives, could be lost.

Opening Paragraph
  This is the water, lapping the edge of the pool, coming up in small waves as children race through it. This is the swim mom named Dinah wearing the team shirt with a whale logo on it, yelling at her daughter Jessie to swim faster. This is Jessie who cannot hear Dinah because Jessie is in the water. Jessie is singing a song to herself: She is singing, “This old man, he played on. He played knick knack on his thumb.”  Dinah is red in the face, standing in the stands. Dinah moves her hand in the air as if to help hurry her daughter along. Behind the starting blocks the water comes up over the edge of teh pool and splashes the parents who are timing on deck.

My Teaser

    “I have confessions of my own,” he says.
    “That sounds ominous,” you say, jokingly. The canned laughter gets louder.
page 79

So...what do you think? Is this one you would pick up? Leave a comment below!

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Saturday, July 26, 2014

Review: Necessary Lies

Necessary Lies
by Diane Chamberlain

Why did you choose this book? July book club selection
When did you read this book? June 2014
Who should read this book? readers who are okay with difficult subjects
Source: library
Here is a synopsis of Necessary Lies from Goodreads

Bestselling author Diane Chamberlain delivers a breakout book about a small southern town fifty years ago, and the darkest—and most hopeful—places in the human heart

After losing her parents, fifteen-year-old Ivy Hart is left to care for her grandmother, older sister and nephew as tenants on a small tobacco farm.  As she struggles with her grandmother’s aging, her sister’s mental illness and her own epilepsy, she realizes they might need more than she can give.

When Jane Forrester takes a position as Grace County’s newest social worker, she doesn’t realize just how much her help is needed.  She quickly becomes emotionally invested in her clients' lives, causing tension with her boss and her new husband.  But as Jane is drawn in by the Hart women, she begins to discover the secrets of the small farm—secrets much darker than she would have guessed.  Soon, she must decide whether to take drastic action to help them, or risk losing the battle against everything she believes is wrong.

Set in rural Grace County, North Carolina in a time of state-mandated sterilizations and racial tension, Necessary Lies tells the story of these two young women, seemingly worlds apart, but both haunted by tragedy.  Jane and Ivy are thrown together and must ask themselves: how can you know what you believe is right, when everyone is telling you it’s wrong?

My Review

This is a ‘book hangover’ book and should definitely be on your book club selection list. There are so many things to think about and discuss with this book. It is historical fiction, set about fifty years ago, and can be used as a starting point to learn so much about that era. I think I’d heard about the eugenics program in the US, or mandatory sterilization of the handicapped. But it seemed like something from Nazi Germany, so I’m not sure I ever grasped that this was real OR that it was so recent in our history! A more familiar issue from that era that this novel deals with is the racial divide and the dangers to whites and blacks that openly socialized, especially in the rural south. I think one subject that may surprise younger readers is the lack of freedom women had at that time. Though everyone has probably heard stories of well-educated women gave up their ideas of a career in favor of family once they were married, I think this book lets us actually experience the attitudes that husbands and other women had and the pressure there was to actually give up a career. It also clearly demonstrates how the man was in control; Jane’s doctor actually refused to prescribe birth control unless she had her husband’s permission! We’ve come a long way, baby!

In addition to the issues, though, this was a very good story and I really connected with the characters. I really appreciated that the author showed both the positives and the flaws of the characters. This made it much easier to understand and accept the way a character reacted. One example is Nonnie, the grandmother. She was a tough lady and could be violent when angry (by today’s standards; in earlier times taking a switch to a child was completely acceptable in most people’s view), but she had a soft, loving side she was reluctant to show.  

These characters and issues will stick with me for quite awhile. I’m sure this will be on my ‘best reads of 2014’ list at the end of the year!

You can visit Diane Chamberlain’s website where you can find more information about the author, read and excerpt of Necessary Lies, and find a reader’s guide with discussion questions for your book club.

My Rating:  ★★★★1/2   4-1/2 Stars
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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Review: All I Know and Love

All I Know and Love
by Judith Frank

Why did you choose this book? the synopsis intrigued me
When did you read this book? July 2014
Who should read this book? readers looking for some family drama and difficult situations
Source: TLC Book Tours
Here is a synopsis of All I Know and Love from TLC Book TOURS

With the storytelling power of Wally Lamb and the emotional fidelity of Lorrie Moore, this is the searing drama of an American family on the brink of dissolution, one that explores adoption, gay marriage, and true love lost and found

For years, Matthew Greene and Daniel Rosen have enjoyed a contented domestic life in Northampton, Massachusetts. Opposites in many ways, they have grown together and made their relationship work. But when they learn that Daniel’s twin brother and sister-in-law have been killed in a Jerusalem bombing, their lives are suddenly, utterly transformed.

The deceased couple have left behind two young children, and their shocked and grieving families must decide who will raise six-year-old Gal and baby Noam. When it becomes clear that Daniel’s brother and sister-in-law had wanted Matt and Daniel to be the children’s guardians, the two men find themselves confronted by challenges that strike at the heart of their relationship. What is Matt’s place in an extended family that does not completely accept him or the commitment he and Daniel have made? How do Daniel’s complex feelings about Israel and this act of terror affect his ability to recover from his brother’s death? And what kind of parents can these two men really be to children who have lost so much?

The impact that this instant new family has on Matt, Daniel, and their relationship is subtle and heartbreaking, yet not without glimmers of hope. They must learn to reinvent and redefine their bond in profound, sometimes painful ways. How does a family become strong enough to stay together and endure when its very basis has drastically changed? And are there limits to honesty or commitment—or love?

My Review

This book is hard for me to rate because I really struggled to read it. I went into the book expecting a story centered around a custody battle, with much hinging on the fact that the battle involved a gay couple. In truth, custody played a very minor role in the story, and was settled very early on.

Instead, the book was very much character-driven and I felt like I had a book that wasn’t quite sure what it wanted to be. Is it a book that is trying to show that gay parenting is a valid option, or that a gay relationship can be as loving, but complicated as a straight relationship? Is it a book that want to show us the flaws in Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians, or the emotional difficulties of Holocaust survivors? Is it a love story? Or a story of family and relationships? Maybe a story of coping with grief? All of these issues are touched upon in the book, some in more detail than others, but not always very effectively. Much of the time, I felt like I was just plowing through the book to get it done and never really finding the story!

Even though I don’t feel like a lot of these issues were covered in detail (and others in far too much detail) I do feel like a book club could have a great time with this book. The book touched on so many issues that clubs would have a diversity of feelings about, whether or not they all enjoyed the book. . Some of the best book club discussions I’ve had have been based on books that had mixed reviews!

Just to warn, some of the scenes in the book are graphic, both love scenes and scenes of violence, and this may make some readers uncomfortable. But if you don’t mind this, and you are looking for a story with character development and good discussion material, this may be the book for you! Be sure to follow the book tour to learn how others see the book.

About Judith Frank

Judith Frank is a professor of English at Amherst College. She received a B.A. from Hebrew University in Jerusalem and a Ph.D. in English literature and an M.F.A. in creative writing from Cornell. She was the recipient of a grant from the National Endowment of the Arts, has held residencies at Yaddo and MacDowell, and is the author of a previous novel, Crybaby Butch. She lives in Massachusetts with her partner and two children.

Connect with Judith on Facebook.

Below is a clip of the author introducing her book.

My Rating:  ★★1/2   2-1/2 Stars

This book review is included in a tour by TLC Book Tours. I received a copy of the book in return for an honest review, which you can read above.

Judith’s Tour Stops

Tuesday, July 15th: Kritters Ramblings
Wednesday, July 16th: Anita Loves Books
Thursday, July 17th: A Patchwork of Books
Friday, July 18th: Drey’s Library
Monday, July 21st: Doing Dewey
Tuesday, July 22nd: BoundbyWords
Wednesday, July 23rd: Time 2 Read
Thursday, July 24th: 5 Minutes For Books
Monday, July 28th: Wordsmithonia
Wednesday, July 30th: Tina’s Book Reviews
Thursday, July 31st: A Bookish Way of Life
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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Review: A Triple Knot

A Triple Knot
by Emma Campion

Why did you choose this book? the synopsis intrigued me
When did you read this book? July 2014
Who should read this book? readers who enjoy historical fiction set in early England
Source: TLC Book Tours
Here is a synopsis of A Triple Knot from TLC Book TOURS

Joan of Kent, the renowned beauty and niece of King Edward III, seems blessed with a life of royal privilege until her father is executed for treason and she becomes a ward of the king, living amongst those who deem her the daughter of a traitor. Joan begins to understand the brutal constraints and dangers inherent in being of royal blood. There is one at court who loves her, but his love proves the greatest threat of all.
As an impetuous teenager, she escapes into a clandestine marriage in a bid for freedom, then must hide it for nearly a decade, as her guardians marry her off to another man. After her first husband’s death, Joan—now a mother of four—enters into another scandalous relationship, this time with the heir to the British throne, Prince Edward, hero of Crécy and Poitiers, who has loved her all along. But his devotion comes at a terrible price. Haunted by nightmares of her father’s execution and the ruthlessness of her royal kin, Joan must reconcile her passion for the crown prince with her own conscience.

My Review

I enjoy historical fiction involving England and royalty but hadn’t read any for awhile, so as soon as I started this one, I felt like I was relaxing with an old friend. The last stories I’d read from this specific genre we centered around the War of Roses, which was new to me at the time. I’ve gone back about one hundred years further with this book, which is set in the mid-1300s.

The first thing I should tell you about this book is that it is a long one, running about 465 pages. This is not a problem unless you are in the mood for a light, quick read. For the most part, I enjoyed this book, though it did drag a bit at times. Telling the story in about 400 pages would have been better.

I also have to mention that I felt a little mislead by the blurb on the cover. When I read it, the implication was that much of this book is based on the period during which Joan ‘enters into a scandalous relationship’ with Prince Edward. That actually happens very near the end of the book, and we don’t learn much about this relationship at all. I really would have liked to seen more detail about this period, though that would have made the book even longer. The good news is, the author is in the early stages of a sequel to tell this part of Joan’s story!

That said, I enjoyed the book very much. I really didn’t know anything about Joan of Kent, so this was new territory for me. One reason I enjoy historical fiction is because it motivates me to learn more about the period covered. I couldn’t wait to hit Wikipedia when I finished to learn more about Joan of Kent and her Black Prince! I really appreciated the author’s note at the end where she clarified what was fact and what was left to her imagination. She also made a point of explaining how different words had different meanings in the 1300s than they do today (ie. clandestine), which added a lot to my understanding of the events. If you have the time to invest and you enjoy historical fiction, this is a very good read!

About Emma Campion

Emma Campion is the author of The King’s Mistress and, writing as Candace Robb, author of the internationally acclaimed Owen Archer crime series. She lives in Seattle. Visit her blog HERE.

Below is an interview of Candace Robb aka Emma Campion discussing writing.

My Rating:  ★★★1/2   3-1/2 Stars

This book review is included in a tour by TLC Book Tours. I received a copy of the book in return for an honest review, which you can read above.

Emma’s Tour Stops

Monday, June 30th:  Broken Teepee
Wednesday, July 2nd:  Daily Mayo
Monday, July 7th:  Fiction Addict
Tuesday, July 8th:  Kritter’s Ramblings
Wednesday, July 9th:  Peeking Between the Pages
Thursday, July 10th:  A Bookish Affair
Friday, July 11th:  Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Monday, July 14th:  Book Addict Katie
Tuesday, July 15th:  From L.A. to LA
Wednesday, July 16th:  No More Grumpy Bookseller
Thursday, July 17th:  Unabridged Chick
Friday, July 18th:  The Most Happy Reader
Monday, July 21st:  Bibliophilia, Please
Tuesday, July 22nd:  Time 2 Read
Wednesday, July 23rd:  Ageless Pages Reviews
Thursday, July 24th:  Historical Fiction Notebook
Monday, July 28th:  Literally Jen
TBD:  Passages to the Past - author interview
TBD:  Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews
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