Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Review: The Moonlight Palace

The Moonlight Palace
by Liz Rosenberg

Why did you choose this book? I haven’t read much about Singapore and it sounded like a good way to learn something
When did you read this book? October 2014
Who should read this book? readers of coming of age stories or memoirs
Source: TLC Book Tours
Here is a synopsis of The Moonlight Palace from TLC Book Tours

Agnes Hussein, descendant of the last sultan of Singapore and the last surviving member of her immediate family, has grown up among her eccentric relatives in the crumbling Kampong Glam palace, a once-opulent relic given to her family in exchange for handing over Singapore to the British.
Now Agnes is seventeen and her family has fallen into genteel poverty, surviving on her grandfather’s pension and the meager income they receive from a varied cast of boarders. As outside forces conspire to steal the palace out from under them, Agnes struggles to save her family and finds bravery, love, and loyalty in the most unexpected places. The Moonlight Palace is a coming-of-age tale rich with historical detail and unforgettable characters set against the backdrop of dazzling 1920s Singapore.

My Review

I will start my review by saying this book read a bit like a memoir, and if you read my blog often, you know I am not big on memoirs. Keep that in mind as you read this review! However, it is actually historical fiction, set in the 1920s in Singapore. A quick google let me know that the Kampong Glam palace was real, as was the Sultan.

The first thing I noticed about this book was that as I read it, I often felt like I was reading a memoir in that I often felt like I was reading a series of random events experienced by the main character, Agnes, that had only a tenuous relationship to other events. I also noticed that I often lost track of the time period, and forgot this wasn’t a contemporary story. Only the occasional mention of bobbed hair and 1920s style clothing reminded me that this story was in the past. Admittedly, if I knew more about Singapore and its history, this might not have been the case.

The book was a quick, easy read, but the story won’t stick with me. Six months from now I might recognize the title and that I read the book, but won’t be able to tell you anything about it. I felt very little connection to the characters, other that British Grandfather, who I did enjoy. I also felt like the story ended a little quickly, with things developing a bit too rapidly, and yet, not knowing what happened ultimately.

While this book fell flat for me, many other reviewers loved it. Be sure to check out others on the tour. If you enjoy coming-of-age stories or memoirs, there is a good chance you will like this book!

About Liz Rosenberg

Liz Rosenberg is the author of more than thirty award-winning books, including novels and nonfiction for adults, poetry collections, and books for young readers. She has been the recipient of numerous prizes, including the Paterson Prize, the Bank Street Award, the Center for the Book Award, and a Fulbright fellowship in Northern Ireland in 2014. She is a professor of English and creative writing at Binghamton University, in upstate New York, where she has received the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. She has guest-taught all over the United States and abroad, and has written a book column for the Boston Globe for the past twenty-five years. Her previous novels, Home Repair and The Laws of Gravity, have been bestsellers in the United States, Europe, and Canada. She and her husband, David, were raised on Long Island, and went to the same summer camp at ages seven and eight, respectively.

My Rating:  ★★1/2  2-1/2 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..
Liz’s Tour Stops
Monday, October 6th: Reading Reality
Monday, October 6th: Great Imaginations
Tuesday, October 7th: A Bookish Affair
Wednesday, October 8th:  Savvy Verse and Wit
Thursday, October 9th:  A Bookish Way of Life
Friday, October 10th: Patricia’s Wisdom
Monday, October 13th: Bibliotica
Tuesday, October 14th: Book Dilettante
Wednesday, October 15th: Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Thursday, October 16th: Brooke Blogs
Tuesday, October 21st: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Wednesday, October 22nd: BookNAround
Thursday, October 23rd: Broken Teepee
Friday, October 24th: Wensend
Monday, October 27th: The Whimsical Cottage
Monday, October 27th: Good Girl Gone Redneck
Tuesday, October 28th: Missris
Wednesday, October 29th: Time 2 Read
Thursday, October 30th: Kahakai Kitchen
Date TBD: Lavish Bookshelf
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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Tuesday Memes: Accidents of Marriage

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 Accidents of Marriage by Randy Susan Meyers

Accidents of Marriage explores a topic rarely shown in fiction: the destruction left in the wake of spouse’s verbal fury. Ben never meant to hurt Maddy. He never imagined his recklessness would lead to tragedy.

Maddy is a social worker trying to balance her career and three children. Years ago, she fell in love with Ben, a public defender, drawn to his fiery passion, but now he’s lashing out at her during his periodic verbal furies. She vacillates between tiptoeing around him and asserting herself for the sake of their kids – which works to keep a fragile peace – until the rainy day when they’re together in the car and Ben’s volatile temper gets the best of him, leaving Maddy in the hospital fighting for her life.

Randy Susan Meyers takes us inside the hearts and minds of her characters, alternating among the perspectives of Maddy, Ben, and their fourteen-year-old daughter. Accidents of Marriage is a provocative and stunning novel that will resonate deeply with women from all walks of life, ultimately revealing the challenges of family, faith, and forgiveness.

ACCIDENTS OF MARRIAGE explores a topic rarely shown in fiction: the damaging effects of a spouse’s emotional abuse.

Opening Paragraph

Maddy ran her tongue over her teeth, imagining the bitter taste of a crumbling tablet of Xanax. After a gut-wrenching day at the hospital, nothing tempted her more than a chemical vacation. Nothing appealed to her less than cooking supper. Churning stomach acid — courtesy of work — coupled with anxiety that Ben might come home as frenzied as he’d left — made a formidable appetite killer.
She could bottle it and make a fortune.
Each morning she spun the wheel on the Ben chart, hoping that arrow would hit happy husband, or at least the neutral guy. Today his arrow landed on total bastard, holding her personally responsible for Caleb’s tantrum, which — oh horror! — had cost Ben twenty minutes of work.

My Teaser

    “Right.” What an all-purpose word right had become in their family, their polite way of saying, I am acknowledging you have spoken, but am choosing not to engage in any meaninful way. Lately, they used it all too often.
page 4

(These quotes are from uncorrected advance proofs. Please refer to the final printed book for corrected quotes!)

So...what do you think? Is this one you would pick up? Leave a comment below!
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Sunday, October 26, 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 I 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...

The Same Sky by Amanda Eyre Ward

In this heartrending and poignant novel, award-winning author Amanda Eyre Ward tells the story of Alice Conroe, a forty year old Texas barbecue owner who has the perfect life, except she and her husband long for a child. Unable to conceive, she’s trying desperately to adopt but her destiny is quickly altered by a young woman she’s never met.

Fearless thirteen-year-old Carla Trujilio is being raised by her grandmother in Honduras along with her four year old twin brothers. Her mother is sending money home from Texas where she’s trying to make a better life for her family, but she only has enough to bring one son to her. When Carla’s grandmother dies, Carla decides to take her fate into her own hands and embarks on a dangerous journey across the border with Junior, the twin left behind.

Two powerful journeys intersecting at a pivotal moment in time: Alice and Carla’s lives will be forever and profoundly changed. Heartbreaking, emotional, and arresting, this novel is about finding the courage to trail blaze your own path in life with faith, hope and love, no matter the struggle or the tragedy.

Fever by Mary Beth Keane

On the eve of the twentieth century, Mary Mallon emigrated from Ireland at age fifteen to make her way in New York City. Brave, headstrong, and dreaming of being a cook, she fought to climb up from the lowest rung of the domestic-service ladder. Canny and enterprising, she worked her way to the kitchen, and discovered in herself the true talent of a chef. Sought after by New York aristocracy, and with an independence rare for a woman of the time, she seemed to have achieved the life she’d aimed for when she arrived in Castle Garden. Then one determined “medical engineer” noticed that she left a trail of disease wherever she cooked, and identified her as an “asymptomatic carrier” of Typhoid Fever. With this seemingly preposterous theory, he made Mallon a hunted woman.

The Department of Health sent Mallon to North Brother Island, where she was kept in isolation from 1907 to 1910, then released under the condition that she never work as a cook again. Yet for Mary—proud of her former status and passionate about cooking—the alternatives were abhorrent. She defied the edict.

Bringing early-twentieth-century New York alive—the neighborhoods, the bars, the park carved out of upper Manhattan, the boat traffic, the mansions and sweatshops and emerging skyscrapers—Fever is an ambitious retelling of a forgotten life. In the imagination of Mary Beth Keane, Mary Mallon becomes a fiercely compelling, dramatic, vexing, sympathetic, uncompromising, and unforgettable heroine.

The Brewer’s Tale by Karen Brooks

It had been Mother's secret and mine, one passed down through the de Winter women for generations. I would ensure it was kept that way, until I was ready to pass it on.

When Anneke Sheldrake is forced to find a way to support her family after her father is lost at sea, she turns to the business by which her mother’s family once prospered: brewing ale.

Armed with her Dutch mother’s recipes and a belief that anything would be better than the life her vindictive cousin has offered her, she makes a deal with her father’s aristocratic employer: Anneke has six months to succeed or not only will she lose the house but her family as well.

Through her enterprise and determination, she inadvertently earns herself a deadly enemy. Threatened and held in contempt by those she once called friends, Anneke nonetheless thrives. But on the tail of success, tragedy follows and those closest to her pay the greatest price for her daring.  

Ashamed, grieving, and bearing a terrible secret, Anneke flees to London, determined to forge her own destiny. Will she be able to escape her past, and those whose only desire is to see her fail?

A compelling insight into the brewer’s craft, the strength of women, and the myriad forms love can take.

An unforgettable tale of love, treachery and ale in medieval England.

Lost Legacy by Annette Dachofy

On a sultry summer afternoon, Paramedic Zoe Chambers responds to a call and finds a farmer’s body hanging from the rafters of his hay barn. What first appears to be a suicide quickly becomes something sinister when Zoe links the victim to a pair of deaths forty-five years earlier. Her attempts to wheedle information from her mother and stepfather hit a brick wall of deception, one that brings into question everything Zoe knows about her late father, who died in a car crash when she was eight. Or did he?

Police Chief Pete Adams fears Zoe’s inquiries are setting her up for deeper heartbreak and putting her in danger. As Zoe and Pete inch closer to the truth, they discover that a missing gun links the crimes which span more than four decades. But the killer isn’t done. Two more Vance Township residents fall victim to the same gun, and when tragedy strikes too close to home, Zoe realizes her family is in the crosshairs.

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

I didn't ask for any of this. I didn't ask to be some kind of hero.

But when your whole life gets swept up by a tornado—taking you with it—you have no choice but to go along, you know?

Sure, I've read the books. I've seen the movies. I know the song about the rainbow and the happy little blue birds. But I never expected Oz to look like this. To be a place where Good Witches can't be trusted, Wicked Witches may just be the good guys, and winged monkeys can be executed for acts of rebellion. There's still the yellow brick road, though—but even that's crumbling.

What happened? Dorothy.

They say she found a way to come back to Oz. They say she seized power and the power went to her head. And now no one is safe.

My name is Amy Gumm—and I'm the other girl from Kansas.

I've been recruited by the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked, and I've been given a mission:

The Tin Woodman's heart,

The Scarecrow's brain,

The Lion's courage,

And then—


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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Six Degrees of Separation: 1984

It’s time for another Six Degrees of Separation! Six Degrees of Separation is a monthly meme, hosted by Annabel Smith and Emma Chapman, which normally runs on the first Saturday of the month. But October has been a really busy month for me, so my blogging is way behind! Better late than never, though, right?

The main idea of this meme is to form a chain of books by linking something they have in common, kind of like forming a word ladder with common letters, and everyone begins their chains with the same book. Other than that, there are no set rules. You get to make your own!

This month, we are starting with 1984 by George Orwell. I haven’t read this one, but I have been planning to…..for a long, LONG time! I did start it once not too long ago, but I had a lot of review books to read, and the book was on reserve, so I didn’t get a chance to finish. I did read enough though to see how ‘Big Brother’ used technology to spy on every aspect of a citizen’s life.

I read Matched by Ally Condie shortly after it came out. One thing that immediately stood out for me was how the government monitored its citizens with video and other technology. There were no secrets from the government. Even though I hadn’t yet read 1984, I recognized the connection!

Reached is the final book in the Matched series, obviously written by the same author, Ally Condie. I loved Matched enough to read the entire series and enjoyed the first two books. Unfortunately, Reached fell flat for me and left me feeling cheated after investing so much time into reading the series.

From Reached I am moving to Allegiant, the final book in the Divergent series. As with the Matched series, I really enjoyed the first two books of the Divergent series, but Allegiant was a major disappointment to me. And not just because of the ending, which I really didn’t mind, but the whole premise annoyed me!

One thing I really liked about the Divergent  series is the setting, post-apocalyptic Chicago. If you are familiar with Chicago, it was easy to recognize the landmarks described in the book. Another book set in Chicago, and dark in its own way, is The Devil In The White City by Eric Larson. But unlike the Divergent  series , this one is set in the past, about 120 years ago during the Columbian Exhibition, or the Chicago Worlds Fair. This is a non-fiction book that reads like fiction, and I really enjoyed learning the history of the Fair construction and architectural developments.

Another non-fiction book I enjoyed, set just a few years later, is The Lost Tribe of Coney Island by Claire Prentice. While a Worlds Fair is not the central event of the book, there is a Worlds Fair connection. Members of the Igorrote tribe of the Philippines appeared as human exhibits at the St. Louis Worlds Fair, and at various amusement parks, including the Coney Island parks.

One event mentioned in The Lost Tribe of Coney Island is the electrocution of Topsy the elephant. Topsy was an elephant with a bad reputation who had killed both handlers and spectators (probably not without cause!) When her owners were no longer willing to keep her and could not find anyone else to take her, they opted to euthanize her by electrocution! This event is also mentioned in Jodi Picoult’s latest novel, Leaving Time.

So there it chain. From 1984 by George Orwell to Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult; Big Brother to ‘big beast’!

Your turn! Want to play along? Just post your chain on your blog and then post a link on either Annabel’s or Emma’s monthly post. Or if you aren’t a blogger, just post your chain in the comments section.  And if you post your link here, I’ll be sure to take a look!
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