Friday, September 15, 2017

Five Fall Releases To Add To Your TBR!

This is the time of year when everyone is thinking about fall reads. Here are some fall releases I am adding to my list.

First up is Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, publication date Sep 12.
Why do I want to read this? Three reasons. First, it is getting a lot of buzz, showing up EVERYWHERE, and the more I see it, the more I am convinced I should read it. Second, I read Everything I Never Told You by the same author with my book club. I enjoyed it and gave it 4 stars on Goodreads. And if that isn’t enough, the third reason is the synopsis — it sounds very good. Decide for yourself.

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned - from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.
Enter Mia Warren - an enigmatic artist and single mother - who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town--and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia's past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs.

The next book I am adding to my list is The Ninth Hour by Alice McDermott, publiction date September 19.
I’ll be honest — I was first drawn to this book when I saw the cover with the falling snow! But that alone wouldn’t be enough for me to add it to my list. In this case it is the synopsis that hooked me. I can’t wait to read it!

A magnificent new novel from one of America’s finest writers—a powerfully affecting story spanning the twentieth century of a widow and her daughter and the nuns who serve their Irish-American community in Brooklyn.

On a dim winter afternoon, a young Irish immigrant opens the gas taps in his Brooklyn tenement. He is determined to prove—to the subway bosses who have recently fired him, to his badgering, pregnant wife—“that the hours of his life belong to himself alone.” In the aftermath of the fire that follows, Sister St. Savior, an aging nun, appears, unbidden, to direct the way forward for his widow and his unborn child.

We begin deep inside Catholic Brooklyn, in the early part of the twentieth century. Decorum, superstition, and shame collude to erase the man’s brief existence. Yet his suicide, although never spoken of, reverberates through many lives and over the decades—testing the limits and the demands of love and sacrifice, of forgiveness and forgetfulness, even through multiple generations.

The characters we meet, from Sally, the unborn baby at the beginning of the novel, who becomes the center of the story, to the nuns whose personalities we come to know and love, to the neighborhood families with whose lives they are entwined, are all rendered with extraordinary sympathy and McDermott’s trademark lucidity and intelligence.

Alice McDermott’s The Ninth Hour is a crowning achievement by one of the premiere writers at work in America today.

The third book on my list is The Stolen Marriage by Diane Chamberlain, publication date October 3.
This is another one I am interested in reading because I have previous experience with the author. I read Necessary Lies with my book club and I rated the book 4½ stars. I also interact with the author on Facebook, so have been following the development of this book for awhile. The synopsis makes this one sound like another winner. I am lucky enough to have a review copy thanks to the publisher and Netgalley, so I will be reading and reviewing this one soon!

In 1944, twenty-three-year-old Tess DeMello abruptly ends her engagement to the love of her life when she marries a mysterious stranger and moves to Hickory, North Carolina, a small town struggling with racial tension and the hardships imposed by World War II. Tess’s new husband, Henry Kraft, is a secretive man who often stays out all night, hides money from his new wife, and shows no interest in making love. Tess quickly realizes she’s trapped in a strange and loveless marriage with no way out.

The people of Hickory love and respect Henry and see Tess as an outsider, treating her with suspicion and disdain, especially after one of the town’s prominent citizens dies in a terrible accident and Tess is blamed. Tess suspects people are talking about her, plotting behind her back, and following her as she walks around town. What does everyone know about Henry that she does not? Feeling alone and adrift, Tess turns to the one person who seems to understand her, a local medium who gives her hope but seems to know more than he’s letting on.

When a sudden polio epidemic strikes the town, the townspeople band together to build a polio hospital. Tess, who has a nursing degree, bucks Henry’s wishes and begins to work at the hospital, finding meaning in nursing the young victims. Yet at home, Henry’s actions grow more alarming by the day. As Tess works to save the lives of her patients, can she untangle her husband’s mysterious behavior and save her own life?

Another book I am adding to my list is Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb, publication date October 3
I also have past experience with this author, Hazel Gaynor, when I read her debut novel, The Girl Who Came Home, which I gave 4½ stars. I was lucky enough to get an autographed copy of that one when my daughter met the author at the Titanic museum in Ireland! Here is the synopsis of Last Christmas in Paris.

New York Times bestselling author Hazel Gaynor has joined with Heather Webb to create this unforgettably romantic novel of the Great War.

August 1914. England is at war. As Evie Elliott watches her brother, Will, and his best friend, Thomas Harding, depart for the front, she believes—as everyone does—that it will be over by Christmas, when the trio plan to celebrate the holiday among the romantic cafes of Paris.

But as history tells us, it all happened so differently…

Evie and Thomas experience a very different war. Frustrated by life as a privileged young lady, Evie longs to play a greater part in the conflict—but how?—and as Thomas struggles with the unimaginable realities of war he also faces personal battles back home where War Office regulations on press reporting cause trouble at his father’s newspaper business. Through their letters, Evie and Thomas share their greatest hopes and fears—and grow ever fonder from afar. Can love flourish amid the horror of the First World War, or will fate intervene?

Christmas 1968. With failing health, Thomas returns to Paris—a cherished packet of letters in hand—determined to lay to rest the ghosts of his past. But one final letter is waiting for him…

The last fall release I am adding to my list is Code Girls by Liz Mundy, publication date October 10. This is a nonfiction book about American women helping with the war effort during WWII. I read and enjoyed The Girls of Atomic City, which I rated 5 stars, and this one has the same feel. Here is the synopsis.

In the tradition of Hidden Figures and The Girls of Atomic City, Code Girls is the astonishing, untold story of the young American women who cracked key Axis codes, helping to secure Allied victory and revolutionizing the field of cryptanalysis.

Recruited by the U.S. Army and Navy from small towns and elite colleges, more than ten thousand women served as codebreakers during World War II. While their brothers and boyfriends took up arms, these women moved to Washington and learned the meticulous work of code-breaking. Their efforts shortened the war, saved countless lives, and gave them access to careers previously denied to them. A strict vow of secrecy nearly erased their efforts from history; now, through dazzling research and interviews with surviving code girls, bestselling author Liza Mundy brings to life this riveting and vital story of American courage, service, and scientific accomplishment.

And there you have my picks for Fall 2017. Do you plan to read any of these? What have I missed that you will be adding to your list?

#LittleFiresEverywhere #CodeGirls #LastChristmasInParis #TheStolenMarriage #TheNinthHour
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Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Review: A Mother Like Mine with GiveAway!

A Mother Like Mine
Hartley-By-The-Sea #3
by Kate Hewitt

Why I chose this book? The cover and the setting
When I read this book? September 2017
Who should read this book? Readers of women’s fiction and beach stories
Source: TLC Book Tours
My Rating:   ✰✰✰✰     4 Stars

Here is a synopsis of A Mother Like Mine from TLC Book Tours

Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Berkley (August 8, 2017)

Welcome to England’s beautiful Lake District, where a reluctant reunion forges a new bond between a daughter and her wayward mother….
Abby Rhodes is just starting to get her life on track. After her fiancĂ©’s unexpected death, she returned with her young son to the small village where she grew up and threw herself into helping her ailing grandmother run the town’s beach cafĂ©. Then one evening, her mother, Laura, shows up in Hartley-by-the-Sea and announces her plan to stay. After twenty years away, she now wants to focus on the future—and has no intention, it seems, of revisiting the painful past.

Laura Rhodes has made a lot of mistakes, and many of them concern her daughter. But as Abby gets little glimpses into her mother’s life, she begins to realize there are depths to Laura she never knew. Slowly, Abby and Laura start making tentative steps toward each other, only to have life become even more complicated when an unexpected tragedy arises. Together, the two women will discover truths both sad and surprising that draw them closer to a new understanding of what it means to truly forgive someone you love.

“With lush coastal imagery and well-drawn characters, Hewitt immerses the reader in the deeply personal struggles and triumphs of Rachel and Claire. At turns introspective and exhilarating, this novel proves that it’s never too late to start over.”—Booklist

My Review

I enjoyed this one very much, although I have to admit that it was a little slow to hook me. This story is high on character development and lower on action. Abby and Laura, mother and daughter, have a lot in common, but they don’t know it until they get to know one another. And that isn’t easy, because Laura abandoned Abby when she was a toddler, and Abby doesn’t trust her not to abandon her again, so she tries to maintain a distance from Laura.
Both women became pregnant without that ring on their finger and so had a difficult time of it as single mothers. They both also grew up in the small community of Hartley by the Sea, where gossipping was a way of life. Both tried to escape the small community and the gossip, only to return to face the wagging tongues because they were out of options.

There isn’t much about this book I didn’t like. The setting by the sea was calm and beautiful, and I liked the characters, particularly Abby and Laura. Laura refused to reveal the father’s name when Abby was born, but that came out towards the end of the story, and I found out my ‘inkling’ was right. And the story had a happy ending!

This could make an interesting book club selection. I breezed through the book, but I think that there is a lot that book clubs could discuss; mother-daughter relationships, the stigma of single parenthood, forgiveness, and others. There is a set of discussion questions in the back of the book.

If you look close, you will notice that this is the third book in a series, but I did not read the previous books and I can tell you it definitely works as a stand alone! I read the synopses of the previous books and it appears that the setting is what determines the series. The main characters in those books made appearances in this one, but they weren’t a major part of the story and I don’t think the previous books would have added to this one. However, I do plan to go back and read them. And if you want to read them, you are in luck. I have a copy of each of the previous two books to give away to one lucky winner! Just click on the link below and fill out the form! The contest closes at midnight CDT on September 13 and the winner will be chosen on September 14.

(Having trouble with form? Click here to enter!)

Purchase Links

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

About Kate Hewitt

Kate Hewitt is the USA Today bestselling author of more than fifty books, including the Hartley-by-the-Sea novels Rainy Day Sisters and Now and Then Friends, and more recently, the Willoughby Close series. A former New Yorker, she now lives in Wales with her husband five children. She also writes as Katharine Swartz.

Connect with Kate

Website | | Blog | Facebook| Twitter | Instagram

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

Kate’s Tour Stops
Tuesday, August 8th: Books & Bindings
Thursday, August 10th: Chick Lit Central – spotlight
Friday, August 11th: Girl Who Reads
Monday, August 14th: Mama Vicky Says
Thursday, August 17th: Bibliotica
Wednesday, August 23rd: Book Mama Blog
Friday, August 25th: Jathan & Heather
Monday, August 28th: Kritter’s Ramblings
Wednesday, August 30th: A Chick Who Reads
Friday, September 1st: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers
Monday, September 4th: Patricia’s Wisdom
Tuesday, September 5th: Time 2 Read
Wednesday, September 6th: Just Commonly
Thursday, September 7th: Thoughts on This ‘n That
Friday, September 8th: Suzy Approved Book Reviews
Tuesday, September 12th: Kahakai Kitchen
Wednesday, September 13th: Just One More Chapter
Thursday, September 14th: Books a la Mode – author guest post
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Friday, September 1, 2017

Review: The Only Woman In The Room

The Only Woman In The Room
by Eilleen Pollack

Why did you choose this book? A book about women and sciende
When did you read this book? March 2017
Who should read this book? People who enjoy memoirs
Source: Library Thing Early Reviewers
Here is a synopsis of The Only Woman In The Room from Goodreads

A bracingly honest exploration of why there are still so few women in the hard sciences, mathematics, engineering, and computer science

In 2005, when Lawrence Summers, then president of Harvard, asked why so few women achieve tenured positions in the hard sciences, Eileen Pollack set out to find the answer. In the 1970s, Pollack had excelled as one of Yale’s first two women to earn a bachelor of science degree in physics. But, isolated, lacking in confidence, and starved for encouragement, she abandoned her lifelong dream of becoming a theoretical physicist. Years later, she thought back on her experiences and wondered what had changed in the intervening decades, and what challenges remained. Based on six years of interviewing dozens of teachers and students and reviewing studies on gender bias, The Only Woman in the Room is an illuminating exploration of the cultural, social, psychological, and institutional barriers confronting women in the STEM disciplines. Pollack brings to light the struggles that women in the sciences are often hesitant to admit and provides hope that changing attitudes and behaviors can bring more women into fields in which they remain, to this day, seriously underrepresented.

Eileen Pollack is the author of the novels Breaking and Entering (a New York Times Editor’s Choice selection) and Paradise, New York, as well as two collections of short fiction, an award-winning book of nonfiction, and two creative-nonfiction textbooks. Her work has appeared in Best American Essays and Best American Short Stories. She is a professor on the faculty of the Helen Zell MFA Program in Creative Writing at the University of Michigan. She divides her time between Manhattan and Ann Arbor, Michigan.

My Review

It’s taken me a long time to get to the point where I can write a review of this book and not a lengthy rebuttal, because this is a book that caused me to shake my head frequently. I went through school just a few years before this author, and I have to say, my experiences as a science major were nothing like hers! I could go on, but…

I think the main thing to know about this book is that despite the synopsis, this is not really a study or analysis of the role of women in science and how that may have changed. This is really a memoir about the author’s experience as a science major and her explanations for her failed expectations. Ellen grew up thinking she wanted to be a scientist, but for all the wrong reasons. Though she never seems to realize this herself, her passion is not science, but is writing. Her motivation for studying science at an ‘elite’ university seems to be that it makes her feel like she is better than the ‘common’ people. Obviously she feels that writers are second class citizens compared to scientists. Her arrogance and elitism really annoyed me, particularly when she mentioned a ‘public Midwest university’ with a tone of disdain.

Another thing that was extremely annoying to me was that she assigned her difficulty with math to the prevalence of sports-related examples in math books. She seems to imply that interest in sports is gender-based, which I assume we all know is not true — at all!

If you enjoy memoirs, you may enjoy this one, but it is important to realize that this is a story of one woman’s experiences in her quest to become a scientist, and the way she has dealt with the might-have-been and if-only. The experiences should not be generalized or assumed to reflect the experiences of all, or even most, women. If you are looking for that book you need to keep looking!

My Rating:  ★★★    3 Stars

I received a review copy of this book through the Library Thing Early Reviewers program.
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Sunday, August 20, 2017

Review: The Sworn Virgin

The Sworn Virgin
by Kristopher Dukes

Why did you choose this book? The concept of a sworn virgin being given the rights of a man
When did you read this book? August 2017
Who should read this book? Readers of historical fiction
Source: Library Thing Early Reviewers
My Rating:  ☆☆☆½    3½ Stars

Here is a synopsis of The Sworn Virgin from Goodreads

Dukes's gripping historical novel tells the tale of a desperate Albanian woman who will do whatever it takes to keep her independence and seize control of her future...even if it means swearing to remain a virgin for her entire life.

When eighteen-year-old Eleanora’s father is shot dead on the cobblestone streets of 1910 Albania, Eleanora must abandon her dream of studying art in Italy as she struggles to survive in a remote mountain village with her stepmother Meria.

Nearing starvation, Meria secretly sells Eleanora into marriage with the cruel heir of a powerful clan. Intent on keeping her freedom, Eleanora takes an oath to remain a virgin for the rest of her life—a tradition that gives her the right to live as a man: she is now head of her household and can work for a living as well as carry a gun. Eleanora can also participate in the vengeful blood feuds that consume the mountain tribes, but she may not be killed—unless she forsakes her vow, which she has no intention of ever doing.

But when an injured stranger stumbles into her life, Eleanora nurses him back to health, saving his life—yet risking her own as she falls in love with him...
My Review

This one is a hard one for me to rate, because I liked it a lot….right up until it ended! The ending alone is enough for me to recommend it to book clubs….just so I have someone to discuss it with!

Other than the ending, I really enjoyed the story. It was interesting to read about the tradition of the ‘sworn virgin’ being given the rights of a man. This reminded me a lot of the bacha posh of Afghanistan, which I read about in The Underground Girls of Kabul and The Pearl That Broke Its Shell. The descriptions of the mountain country and the markets in Albania pulled me right into the story. To be honest, had I not been told at the beginning that the story was set in 1910, I would have easily have believed that this took place a few hundred years ago!

Eleanora is a complicated young woman — spoiled and self-centered — who gets herself into a lot of trouble by thinking about she wants and going after it impulsively, without ever considering the consequences of her actions or how they may affect others. Without giving any spoilers, I can tell you that almost everything Eleanora does is done impulsively and without a lot of thought; she is thrust into circumstances and just reacts. She never seems fully invested in her status as a sworn virgin, which is probably good, because it doesn’t last very long. You can probably tell that I didn’t like the character of Eleanora very much.

Other than the ending, my major quibble with the book is the synopsis. The synopsis led me to believe that Eleanora’s father was killed and she became a sworn virgin almost immediately at the beginning of the book, and that she spent some time in this role before she stumbled upon the injured stranger. The truth is that I was almost halfway through the book before Eleanora made her vow and then very little time passed before she broke it. I was a little disappointed not to have learned more about the life of a woman as a sworn virgin. And as I mentioned, I was very disappointed in Eleanora at the end of the book. However, I did enjoy the book and think it will make a good selection for book clubs!

You can visit the publisher’s website to read an excerpt or listen to a sample.
You can see an interview with the author here.
You can read an article about sworn virgins living in current day Albania here.

I won a copy of this book through the Library Thing Early Reviewers program.
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