Archive | April, 2017

Sophomores in the Midnight Room

28 Apr

Remember We Are Called to Rise? Me too. So great. Well, Laura McBride has a second novel releasing the first week of May. It’s called ‘Round Midnight and boy was I excited to get my hands on it early.

round midnight

In the end, I found it so-so. Much like We Are Called to Rise, there are four or five story lines that all converge around an incident. If you were using movie examples, think Crash. One woman, married to a man who runs a Vegas nightclub with big star entertainment. One, a Mexican woman sold by her uncle to a wealthy man in Chicago – a man who frequents the Midnight Room at the first woman’s nightclub. One a native Las Vegan (is that what you call them? Las Vegite?) teaches music in a suburb and wonders about secrets her family is keeping. One, a maid who cleans not only the night club but also homes of the wealthy locals. All of their stories converge, as they do We Are Called to Rise, with a single catastrophic act/event. However. Whereas the previous book had me sobbing and feeling all the feels, this one fell a little flat. 3.5 stars.

Sneaking Pages Here and There

26 Apr

All of the sudden I’ve read three books, and fourth due out later this summer. I don’t know exactly how it happened but I’m pretty pleased with myself. Like I said I would, I went back and finished One Good Mama Bone by Bren McClain. Guess what? Loved it.one-good-mama-bone

I’m not sure this one will be for EVERYONE, but it really hit me. It’s published by a small press that turns out to be PAT CONROY’s. They say that this is one of the last he picked to publish. Neither here nor there, really. This started slow for me. Slow enough that I could put it down and read something else. Thankfully I went back to it, because just after I’d stopped it started getting really good. Here is the story: Sarah Creamer, in the opening scene, delivers her best friend’s baby on her kitchen table. It’s the 1950’s and rural South Carolina, so maybe not so shocking that the baby came in the kitchen. The shocking part is that the baby’s father is Sarah Creamer’s husband. Her best friend refuses to accept the newborn, thrusting him in Sarah’s arms and dragging herself across the garden to her home. Skip forward 7 years, Sarah and her boy, Emerson Bridge, are barely squeaking by. Poor, hungry, seriously in debt, Sarah reads an article about a young boy who won a ton of money by raising a steer, entering and winning a 4H competition. She sells her every last thing and buys a steer for her boy. And that’s where it gets good. I loved this small/gossipy/country/cow novel – so much quiet drama. 5 stars.

hateugive

The Hate U Give is one of the buzziest YA novels around right now. Everyone is reading and raving. For good reason. I sped through this one so fast because I HAD TO KNOW what happened. Starr Carter feels like she’s living in two separate worlds, the poor neighborhood she lives in where gunfire is a constant background noise and the fancy suburban private school she drives 45 minutes away to attend. She does a pretty good job of keeping her worlds separate – until the fateful night when her friend Khalil offers her a ride home. Pulled over by the police for seemingly no reason, Khalil ends up shot and killed, breathing his last breath in her arms. He was unarmed. Starr has to decide if she wants to speak out about this injustice or remain an unnamed witness. 4.5 stars.

saints-for-all-occasions-by-courtney-j-sullivan.jpg

I have been REALLY looking forward to this new J. Courtney Sullivan that comes out May 9th. When a copy showed up on my doorstep (sort of) from my favorite sales rep, I jumped in. And wow. SO good. Two sisters, Nora and Theresa, board a ship sailing from Ireland to New York in the 1950s. Nora (sensible, shy, duty-bound) and Theresa (careless, outgoing, captivating) end up in Boston with Nora’s fiancee Charlie who had come before to get settled. I feel like squiggling my fingers and saying “things happen!” but of course they do because it’s a novel and a story and that’s the very definition. Things happen. Fast forward to 2009, Nora is the aging mother of a large Catholic family. Theresa is a nun. The two haven’t spoken in years, in fact Nora’s grown children have no idea that Nora even HAS a sister. So good. Characters that feel real and relatable and imperfect but not in a bad way. A story line that will keep you reading. This will be a big summer book, I’m sure. 5 stars.

12 Bullets and 5 Stars

15 Apr

The-Twelve-Lives-of-Samuel-Hawley-by-Hannah-Tinti-1

I just stayed up later than I should have to finish Hannah Tinti’s second novel, The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley. I loved it. It even felt light compared to some of the other stuff I’ve been reading – and who would have though that a life of crime, 12 bullet wounds, countless murders and a handful of beatings would feel light! Doesn’t speak too highly of my reading list lately, I guess. Anyway. This was great.

Samuel Hawley, handsome and deadly. Started his crooked career by robbing a bank and traveled up and down the coast stealing cars and catching jobs as a gun for hire. The novel jumps back and forth in time; present day is Samuel with his 13-year-old daughter Loo as they decide to settle – for the first time- in the hometown of his dead wife. Loo starts a new school, Hawley gets an honest job. Alternating with these chapters are stories about how Hawley received each of his 12 gunshot wounds. Maybe my only criticism is that 12 is a lot. There are only so many ways you can get shot and these chapters felt a little repetitive at times. BUT still good, and each injury adds another piece to the puzzle. One part coming of age story as Loo struggles to find a place in her new hometown, falls in love, digs into her mother’s death. One part criminal escapades and narrow escapes and lots of bandaging of wounds. Parts of it felt like Inman’s journey in Cold Mountain, parts of it like Jim Lynch’s High Tide, other parts like True Grit. Not for people who will be put off by a little gunslinging. 5 stars.

 

False Starts

10 Apr

I am about 50 pages into each of these books. American War is a tough one. Pretty unsettling because a lot of things seem like they could certainly be coming true – basically it’s the story of the second Civil War. Much like the first, sort of a North v. South with the Southerners refusing to give up Fossil Fuels as the oceans slowly take over the shores and global warming causes serious governmental reform. One young girl seems to be at the center of the story – a Southerner whose mother is trying to get her family North. Very dark.  Himself: not sure when this is coming out (the other two are currently available) and not sure if I’ll go back to it – magical realism set in Ireland with a main character who can see ghosts (in a literary way, seems like it’s going to be a serious story not a ghost story). I will DEFINITELY be finishing One Good Mama Bone – but not right away. It’s the story of a woman who finds herself raising her best friend’s baby (also her husband’s son) even though she thinks she hasn’t got one good mama bone in her body. Chapters seem to alternate between her and a mama cow (sounds crazy, but it’s pretty great). These three have taken a little time, but there are two I finished before I started in on these, just neither I was motivated enough to write about right away:

The Gustav Sonata has been on my list because it’s a favorite of one of my book-besties. Just when it seems like you’ve read every possible story to come out of WWII…you find something else that is great and new. Like this one. The story of two young boys who become friends right after the war, one Jewish, one not, living in Switzerland and seemingly outside of the horrors of the war. Instead of focusing directly on the war, this novel follows the two boys throughout their friendship and deals more with the repercussions the war has on their relationship. 4 stars. Do Not Become Alarmed totally fooled me. This one comes out towards the end of May, I believe, and when I picked it up I was expecting a family story with a little bit of suspense but instead it’s a total thriller with a deceptively book-club-ish cover. Two families (the women are cousins) take a cruise over Christmas. A chain of events find the women plus their 4 young children stranded by a river with a tour guide hired by the cruise ship to take them zip lining. It’s a warm day, the children are playing in the river with two older kids, the moms all fall asleep (well, two of the three) and the children drift down the river sort of unnoticed. When the kids realize they can’t see their moms, they climb ashore and, talk about bad luck, stumble upon some drug cartel people burying a body. The children are taken, the novel transpires. It was a captivating read – but in the end it felt like most thrillers feel to me, not terribly satisfying. Like binge-watching a show on Netflix. 3 stars.

anythingis possible

After reading Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout I feel two things. Firstly, that I’m embarrassed to have never read her before. Secondly, that I need, need, need to read My Name is Lucy Barton. Lucy is a peripheral character in this one, everyone is from her same small town. I have heard a lot about her and even seen a little bit of her but I’m dying to hear her whole story after spending so much time with her neighbors. Each chapter is a different person who is in some way tied to Lucy – apparently all people who make brief appearances in My Name is Lucy Barton – the janitor at her school, the girls (now grown) who were mean to her, her cousin, her brother, her niece. They are seriously so good. Really messed up (but you know I like that) and completely captivating. Not a lot of people to really like in this novel, but it’s good nonetheless. 4.5 stars with the potential to be rounded up.