Monday, July 16, 2018

Us Against You by Fredrik Backman

This is a book about a small town hockey team but please don't let that stop you from reading it.  I have stopped and read aloud poignant lines from this novel so many times that my husband keeps asking me if I'm sure that it's a book about hockey.  But it is.  But it also isn't.

My soul ached for every character in this novel.  If you happen to pick this book up before you read Beartown, fear not because Fredrik goes even more in-depth into these flawed members of a town with only one thing in common.  Hockey.  But its just a game - it doesn't mean anything.  I didn't know that Beartown needed a sequel until a publishing agent reached out to me to offer an advanced copy and now I can't imagine the whole story without this postscript

Just a few of the quotes littering my Kindle:
"What does it take to be a good parent? Not much. Just Everything.  Absolutely everything."
"The best friends of our childhoods are the loves of our lives, and they break our hearts in worse ways."
"It's impossible to measure love, but that doesn't stop us coming up with new ways to try."
"Everyone wants to get paid the only difference between us is the preferred currency."
"Cynicism is simply a chemical reaction to too much disappointment."

Fredrik Backman's other novels (A Man Called Ove, Britt-Marie was Here and the heart-wrenching And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer) among them are some of my favorite all-time reads.  Now I am happily counting Us Against You in that list.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage

I finally finished Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage laying by the pool while watching my kids take turns throwing each other into the water.  It is exactly the setting you want to be in while you are reading this novel.  It's a great summer/beach read but you will want to keep your kids close and hug them a lot while you are getting through this one.

The Good Parts: Zoje Stage sets a very vivid picture of the place where they are living.  I love that the mother, Suzette, has a prominent facing battle with Chron's Disease.  I feel like that detail played into some of the desperation that she feels towards needing time to rest and gave an interesting plot device.  The plot as a whole reads as a modern telling of an Oedipal story to great effect.  I loved how her actions were completely different around her father than her mother which was credible after seeing how my own kids act differently between each parent.

The Bad Parts: Hannah was too young for some of the thoughts that she was having.  Even with her advanced intellect and powers of observation, I had a very hard time grasping that a 1st grader would be able to formulate some of these elaborate plots, much less be able to execute them.  The second challenge that I have with the novel is that after multiple neurology and speech pathology exams, there was no mention of a psychiatric evaluation until things reached critical mass.  I know that it is definitely difficult to source psych services for children but I can't believe that after 7 nonverbal years not one medical professional suggested mental help for her.  I understand the mother's reluctance toward doctors, etc due to her chronic illness but she did not seem to have a problem with the medical testing.

All in all - if you can keep a reasonable disbelief suspension, you will likely enjoy this novel.  For me it was a solid 3 stars - not great but I'm not mad that I spent the time to read it.

Many thanks to St Martins Press and Netgalley for the advanced copy of Baby Teeth.  Available 07/17/2018 at retailers.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall

I finally finished this lovely novel.  I originally received a copy of this book via Netgalley back in 2013 (OOPS!) But it showed up on my recommended reading list and I went back to the title.  I am so glad that I did!

Susan Crandall does a lovely job of creating the world of Starla - who believes in a story about her mother so much that, when she gets in trouble at home, her blind faith sends her to look for her and finds experiences that she never imagined could exist in the world.

The real star of the novel, for me, is Eula, a penniless black woman who teaches Starla more about love and devotion than any of her natural family ever could.

If you are looking for a summer read with more substance than your standard Beach novel, I highly recommend Whistling Past The Graveyard by Susan Crandall.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Baby Teeth Giveaway!

EXCITING news from the Paper Posse!  The amazing publishing team at St Martin's Press has sent me THREE copies of Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage to giveaway to my book-loving friends!  

This book kept popping up on my watchlist for best summer reads of 2018 and promises a dark and twisty ride (I'm a sucker for dark and twisty).  So I requested a galley copy (Which I started reading last night – watch this space for a full review) and the publisher offered to send me some hard copies to share. 

Here is your chance to read it before it hits the stands on July 17th.  Leave a comment below with your email address and the title of the book you are most looking forward to this summer and I will choose a random winner on May 31st! 

May the odds be ever in your favor.

Synopsis: (via Goodreads)

Sweetness can be deceptive. 

Meet Hanna.

She’s the sweet-but-silent angel in the adoring eyes of her Daddy. He’s the only person who understands her, and all Hanna wants is to live happily ever after with him. But Mommy stands in her way, and she’ll try any trick she can think of to get rid of her. Ideally for good.

Meet Suzette.

She loves her daughter, really, but after years of expulsions and strained home schooling, her precarious health and sanity are weakening day by day. As Hanna’s tricks become increasingly sophisticated, and Suzette's husband remains blind to the failing family dynamics, Suzette starts to fear that there’s something seriously wrong, and that maybe home isn’t the best place for their baby girl after all.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Laura and Emma by Kate Greathead

I have been in a reading slump - not in terms of quantity but in terms of quality.  I have been gravitating more toward more literary fiction so I was excited to have been granted a digital copy of Laura and Emma by Kate Greathead from Netgalley and Simon & Schuster Publishing in exchange for an honest review.

The story started off interesting with Laura, a person of means who makes a choice to live modestly with her unplanned daughter.  As a single mom, I appreciated the choices that she had to make to find ways to make ends meet, however, the fact that she did come from wealth and had access to round the clock help and a guaranteed if needed dulled that camaraderie between myself and the main character somewhat.  As a result, it took me a long time to finish this book.

I can't fault the writing which was stylized and descriptive and made me feel the time period with the emergence of the AIDS epidemic and the changing view of the ability of single women to support themselves and their own freedom.  I wish the focus has been more on the relationship between Laura and Emma.  There seemed to be some disconnect in their relationship and I was expecting more given the title.

I recommend this book for your next book club pick as I'm sure that different women would have a great time discussing their perspectives on the story and the time.  This was a solid 3.5 star read for me.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Freshwater by Awaeke Emezi

"She was a question wrapped up in a breath.  How do you survive when they place a god inside your body."

Freshwater is a novel unlike anything I have ever read which is something that rarely happens in my reading life.  It took me a long time to really sink into this story due to the fact that there is a lot of dense perspective to get through but I am incredibly glad that I stuck with it because the complexities blended beautifully into a unique perspective of a woman (Ada) with dissociative identity disorder which is narrated by the different personalities themselves.

The slightly disjointed feel to the story would traditionally be a pain point in my reading process but, in this case, it perfectly reflected the fracture of Ada's soul into these unique personalities and it worked seamlessly into the narrative.

This book will take you deep into many trigger worthy issues like sexual assault and suicide so please keep these things in mind before you crack the spine on this novel.  That said, when you let yourself into The Ada's world, you will be afraid that you will not get back out.

Thank you goes out to Grove Press, Akwaeke Emezi and Netgalley for and advance copy of Freshwater in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

The Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian

This novel started off really interesting.  A woman wakes up next to a dead body and has no idea how it died and only a vague idea of how the vodka-fueled hookup could have ended so poorly.  I was hooked for the first few chapters as we followed Cassie's drunken memories and reactions to this unexpected chain of events.  I found myself wondering what I would have done in that situation and how it was going to play out.

Then the middle of the book happened.  We know who killed the dude so there is no mystery of "did she or didn't she", a good 30% of the dialogue centered around Cassie's alcoholism. People admonishing her for drinking too much, her admonishing herself about drinking too much. Even total strangers telling her she drinks too much.

The final third redeemed itself somewhat by providing a slight twist that I didn't really predict but seemed to fit.  Skip the epilogue was unnecessary and kind of made me angry.

So - on my rating scale it ended up a solid three.  I didn't hate it but I didn't love it, but I think there is an audience for it so definitely give it a try.

I'd like to thank Chris Bohjalian, NetGalley, and Doubleday publishing for providing me a Kindle copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.