Monday, September 25, 2017

Review: The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

Our local museum, the Mint Museum, has started a really cool book club program. They choose books that pair nicely with their current exhibits and offer tours that show off some of the things that are either in the books or reflect the period of the book well. One of my book clubs wanted to try out this program so we read and discussed The Invention of Wings, Sue Monk Kidd's novel about a white woman who became a well known abolitionist and feminist and the black slave woman she grew up with, before we walked around the museum to see examples of household goods from the pre-Civil War South and elaborate African masks and other artifacts some slaves might have known before their enslavement. It added a really cool dimension to an already fascinating book.

Based on the real life abolitionist and feminist Sarah Grimke, the novel runs from Sarah's childhood, when at 11 years old she was gifted with her own slave, Hetty (called Handful), to her adulthood when she spoke out publicly against this terrible institution and about the injustices done to all women. Chapters alternating between Sarah's story and Handful's story over their thirty five years together, tell the tale of their lives, the happy and the sad, the terrible and the great, and their relationship to each other. Sarah is the daughter of a conservative wealthy judge, southern aristocracy, but even from a very young age, she confronts entrenched traditions and the inhumanity of slavery. She is incredibly smart and yearns for an education but as a girl, she is not entitled to one, the very idea of her dreams to become a lawyer are laughed off. When she is given Handful as her own personal maid, she finds in the younger child an even more oppressed human being than she is. Her first big act of rebellion, and one that was definitely illegal, was teaching Handful how to read, a skill that would change the course of Handful's life. As both Sarah and Handful grow up, each of them struggles against their respective bonds searching for the freedom and equality they deserve and desire. If they cannot find it within the bounds of the laws of the day, they will find another way.

Sarah and Handful are both amazing and strong women who have much to overcome in their lives because of the time and place in which they lived. Both characters tell their own stories in first person and the chapters alternating between the two of them allows comparisons as well as highlights differences in their circumstances. Each woman lives a constrained life, faces hard or unimaginable sacrifices, and puts right and responsibility above her own welfare and comfort. The story of these two women is both domestic and an insight into the winds of change as abolitionism grew stronger and stronger in our nation's history. The earlier years of the novel felt faster as they built up to the end because the build to the final rebellion was slow and measured, increasing the narrative tension and bringing the reader to the edge of wondering how the book could possibly finish strong and appropriately in so few remaining pages. And yet Kidd has managed to accomplish just that. This is an engaging and insightful look at slavery, feminism, friendship, honor, and perseverance through the fictionalized eyes of a forgotten but important figure in the abolitionist movement and the slave woman who spent so many years with the Grimke family aching for the promised freedom of her own.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is hosted by Kathryn at Reading Date.

Books I completed this past week are:

The Way to London by Alix Rickloff
We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter
Broccoli and Other Tales of Food and Love by Lara Vapnyar

Bookmarks are still living in the middle of:

A Well-Made Bed by Abby Frucht and Laurie Alberts
The Children's Crusade by Ann Packer
The Lake House by Kate Morton
Shelter by Jung Yun
The Center of the World by Jacqueline Sheehan
A Manual For Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin
The Beauty of the End by Debbie Howells
Country of Red Azaleas by Domnica Radulescu
A Hard and Heavy Thing by Matthew J. Hefti
Paint Your Wife by Lloyd Jones
The Company They Kept edited by Robert B. Silvers and Barbara Epstein
No One Can Pronounce My Name by Rakesh Satyal
Lily and the Octopus by Stephen Rowley
Thousand-Miler by Melanie Radzicki McManus
Dear Fang, With Love by Rufi Thorpe
Close Enough to Touch by Colleen Oakley
America's First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie
Hope Has Two Daughters by Monia Mazigh
After the Bloom by Leslie Shimotakahara
Metis Beach by Claudine Bourbonnais
Smoke by Dan Vyleta
Caroline by Sarah Miller

Reviews posted this week:

The Way to London by Alix Rickloff

Books still needing to have reviews written (as opposed to the ones that are simply awaiting posting):

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso
To Love the Coming End by Leanne Dunic
The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman by Denis Theriault
A Loving, Faithful Animal by Josephine Rowe
City Mouse by Stacey Lender
Cutting Back by Leslie Buck
Siracusa by Delia Ephron
The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress by Ariel Lawhon
A Narrow Bridge by J.J. Gersher
The Never-Open Desert Diner by James Anderson
The Heart of Henry Quantum by Pepper Harding
The Hearts of Men by Nickolas Butler
Dance of the Jakaranda by Peter Kimani
How to Survive a Summer by Nick White
Bramton Wick by Elizabeth Fair
The Finishing School by Joanna Goodman
Meet Me in the In-Between by Bella Pollen
All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg
The Island of Books by Dominique Fortier
Lights On, Rats Out by Cree LeFavour
Salt Houses by Hala Alyan
Him, Me, Muhammad Ali by Randa Jarrar
What Are the Blind Men Dreaming? by Noemi Jaffee
Girl in Snow by Danya Kukafka
The Lying Game by Ruth Ware
The Talker by Mary Sojourner
When the Sky Fell Apart by Caroline Lea
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
'Round Midnight by Laura McBride
The German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa
The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See
The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen A. Flynn
Last Things by Marissa Moss
All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai
Civilianized by Michael Anthony
The Redemption of Galen Pike by Carys Davies
Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki
In the Woods of Memory by Shun Medoruma
Before the Wind by Jim Lynch
Dinner with Edward by Isabel Vincent
Inhabited by Charlie Quimby
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
One Good Mama Bone by Bren McClain
The Excellent Lombards by Jane Hamilton
You and I and Someone Else by Anna Schachner
Meantime by Katharine Noel
The Portrait by Antoine Laurain
So Much Blue by Perceval Everett
The Velveteen Daughter by Laurel Davis Huber
Mothers and Other Strangers by Gina Sorell
This Must Be the Place by Maggie O'Farrell
How to Find Love in a Bookshop by Veronica Henry
Between Them by Richard Ford
Kinship of Clover by Ellen Meeropol
The Life She Was Given by Ellen Marie Wiseman
The Clay Girl by Heather Tucker
Morningstar by Ann Hood
Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran
Song of Two Worlds by Alan Lightman
The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne
Old Herbaceous by Reginald Arkell
The Other Alcott by Elise Hooper
The Original Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig
A Season of Ruin by Anna Bradley
Incontinent on the Continent by Jane Christmas
We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter
Broccoli and Other Tales of Food and Love by Lara Vapnyar

Monday Mailbox

This past week's mailbox arrival:

Someone You Love Is Gone by Gurjinder Basran came from Harper Perennial and LibraryThing Early Reviewers.

This is billed as good for readers of Jhumpa Lahiri and Anne Tyler. Check and check! Looks amazing, right?

If you want to see the marvelous goodies in other people's mailboxes, make sure to visit Mailbox Monday and have fun seeing how we are all doing our part to keep the USPS and delivery services viable.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday

This meme is hosted by Breaking the Spine and is meant to highlight some great pre-publication books we all can't wait to get our grubby little mitts on.

Perfectly Undone by Jamie Raintree.

The book is being released by Graydon House on October 3, 2017.

Amazon says this about the book: A stirring debut rife with intoxicating family secrets and dazzling insights into our most basic desires, Perfectly Undone offers an intimate, uncensored exploration of forgiveness and fidelity, in all its forms, as a young doctor struggles with her sister's death—and the role she played in it—while her own picture-perfect relationship and promising career unravel around her.

Yes is such a little word…

Dr. Dylan Michels has worked hard for a perfect life, so when her longtime boyfriend, Cooper, gets down on one knee, it should be the most perfect moment of all. Then why does she say no?

For too many years, Dylan's been living for her sister, who never got the chance to grow up. But her attempt to be the perfect daughter, perfect partner and perfect doctor hasn't been enough to silence the haunting guilt Dylan feels over her sister's death—and the role no one knows she played in it.

Now Dylan must face her past if she and Cooper stand a chance at a future together. But when Cooper makes a startling confession of his own, can Dylan find the courage to define her own happiness before her life becomes perfectly undone?

Set among the breezy days of a sultry Portland summer, Perfectly Undone is a deeply moving novel of family secrets, forgiveness and finding yourself in the most surprising of places.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Review: The Way to London by Alix Rickloff

Our family and our experiences shape us into the people we are. If we are loved, we are likely to become loving ourselves. And this is, of course, the life we all deserve and that we wish for others. But many people aren't brought up in love, instead they are brought up in pitiable or hurtful circumstances. This too shapes the people they become. Suffer neglect or disdain and we might assume that is our due and fade into the background or we might act out to force attention onto ourselves. Certainly we'd have trouble developing into a person who both gives and receives love. But it doesn't have to be this way. Some rare and strong people can break out of the emotional void in which they have been raised and learn to care for others. Alix Rickloff's newest novel, The Way to London, is a story of one such rare character as she bumps haltingly towards a kinder, more loving and open existence.

Lucy Stanhope is a pampered, spoiled brat. She's shallow and completely disaffected by anything that doesn't touch her personally. Yes, she's rather odious and delights in causing scandals but she's this way in large part because of the lack of love in her upbringing. She lives with her glamorous, titled mother, who refuses to be called mother by her daughter, and her sleazy but wealthy stepfather in Singapore. When she is caught carrying on an affair with the heir to a rich local family, she is banished from Singapore, sent back to England to live with an aunt she doesn't even know. On the way there, the ship she is on is torpedoed and eventually it turns out that Lucy is among the last to leave Singapore in advance of the Japanese invasion during WWII. When she reaches England, she is unhappy and continues with her scandalous attention seeking, larking about as if there wasn't a deadly war on. Uncharacteristically she befriends a young evacuee boy, Bill Smedley, and agrees to take him back to London from Cornwall to search for his mam.  Along the way, they face disappointment and diversions, misunderstandings and close calls, and Lucy is forced to trust and rely on steady, nice, good guy Michael McKeegan, a soldier invalided out of the army whom she first met in Singapore and whom she can't quite believe is for real. As Lucy tries to find her own sense of belonging and home, she struggles with the promise she made to Bill, especially when fulfilling that promise might conflict with her own possibly selfish wants and desires.

Lucy's character to start is defensive, brittle, brash, and determined. She is completely closed off to others emotionally, taking what she wants without getting her heart involved, never risking real hurt. Her behaviour may be shocking and undesirable but it shields an aching heart and when she opens up just a little to the sneaky, endearing rapscallion that is Bill, her whole being starts to change. Her experiences as the two of them, sometimes joined by Michael, journey toward London help to crystallize her character, giving her an insight into her own heart that she never before wanted to examine. Bill is a delightful, cheeky child and his presence as Lucy's side kick lightens the book up considerably. Their interactions are often humorous and sweet. Michael is almost too good to be true as a character and he selflessly plays Lucy's knight in shining armor more than once. The plot clips along at a good pace and the reader is often uncertain whether old Lucy (selfish and out for herself) or evolving Lucy (learning to honor commitments and not playing fast and loose with others) is going to choose what she does next. The historical details are well researched and presented and the scrapes that Lucy and Bill get into on the way to London and once there are completely believable and quite entertaining. The love story gets a little bit of a short shrift but Lucy is learning to love in more ways than just a traditional love story so it works. With so many WWII novels recently, this one stands out as different: a maturing and personal discovery set during wartime heightened and highlighted by the circumstances but still very internal for all that. Historical fiction fans who can get past an initially not altogether pleasant main character will enjoy this novel quite a bit.

For more information about Alix Rickloff and the book, check out her website, like her on Facebook, or follow her on Twitter or Pinterest. Check out the book's Goodreads page, follow the rest of the blog tour, or look at the amazon reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.

Thanks to Trish from TLC Book Tours and Harper Collins for sending me a copy of this book to review.

Monday, September 18, 2017

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Two weeks at once because I just wasn't on top of things what with my parents evacuating to my house to escape Irma and then finding yet *another* thing falling apart about my house. ::sigh:: This meme is hosted by Kathryn at Reading Date.

Books I completed this past week are:

Song of Two Worlds by Alan Lightman
The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne
Old Herbaceous by Reginald Arkell
The Other Alcott by Elise Hooper
The Original Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig
A Season of Ruin by Anna Bradley
Incontinent on the Continent by Jane Christmas

Bookmarks are still living in the middle of:

A Well-Made Bed by Abby Frucht and Laurie Alberts
The Children's Crusade by Ann Packer
The Lake House by Kate Morton
Shelter by Jung Yun
The Center of the World by Jacqueline Sheehan
A Manual For Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin
The Beauty of the End by Debbie Howells
Country of Red Azaleas by Domnica Radulescu
A Hard and Heavy Thing by Matthew J. Hefti
Paint Your Wife by Lloyd Jones
The Company They Kept edited by Robert B. Silvers and Barbara Epstein
No One Can Pronounce My Name by Rakesh Satyal
Lily and the Octopus by Stephen Rowley
Thousand-Miler by Melanie Radzicki McManus
Dear Fang, With Love by Rufi Thorpe
Close Enough to Touch by Colleen Oakley
America's First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie
Hope Has Two Daughters by Monia Mazigh
After the Bloom by Leslie Shimotakahara
Metis Beach by Claudine Bourbonnais
We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter
Smoke by Dan Vyleta

Reviews posted this week:

The Long Run by Catriona Menzies-Pike

Books still needing to have reviews written (as opposed to the ones that are simply awaiting posting):

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso
To Love the Coming End by Leanne Dunic
The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman by Denis Theriault
A Loving, Faithful Animal by Josephine Rowe
City Mouse by Stacey Lender
Cutting Back by Leslie Buck
Siracusa by Delia Ephron
The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress by Ariel Lawhon
A Narrow Bridge by J.J. Gersher
The Never-Open Desert Diner by James Anderson
The Heart of Henry Quantum by Pepper Harding
The Hearts of Men by Nickolas Butler
Dance of the Jakaranda by Peter Kimani
How to Survive a Summer by Nick White
Bramton Wick by Elizabeth Fair
The Finishing School by Joanna Goodman
Meet Me in the In-Between by Bella Pollen
All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg
The Island of Books by Dominique Fortier
Lights On, Rats Out by Cree LeFavour
Salt Houses by Hala Alyan
Him, Me, Muhammad Ali by Randa Jarrar
What Are the Blind Men Dreaming? by Noemi Jaffee
Girl in Snow by Danya Kukafka
The Lying Game by Ruth Ware
The Talker by Mary Sojourner
When the Sky Fell Apart by Caroline Lea
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
'Round Midnight by Laura McBride
The German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa
The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See
The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen A. Flynn
Last Things by Marissa Moss
All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai
Civilianized by Michael Anthony
The Redemption of Galen Pike by Carys Davies
Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki
In the Woods of Memory by Shun Medoruma
Before the Wind by Jim Lynch
Dinner with Edward by Isabel Vincent
Inhabited by Charlie Quimby
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
One Good Mama Bone by Bren McClain
The Excellent Lombards by Jane Hamilton
You and I and Someone Else by Anna Schachner
Meantime by Katharine Noel
The Portrait by Antoine Laurain
So Much Blue by Perceval Everett
The Velveteen Daughter by Laurel Davis Huber
Mothers and Other Strangers by Gina Sorell
This Must Be the Place by Maggie O'Farrell
How to Find Love in a Bookshop by Veronica Henry
Between Them by Richard Ford
Kinship of Clover by Ellen Meeropol
The Life She Was Given by Ellen Marie Wiseman
The Clay Girl by Heather Tucker
Morningstar by Ann Hood
Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran
Song of Two Worlds by Alan Lightman
The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne
Old Herbaceous by Reginald Arkell
The Other Alcott by Elise Hooper
The Original Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig
A Season of Ruin by Anna Bradley
Incontinent on the Continent by Jane Christmas

Monday Mailbox

This past two week's mailbox arrivals:

Caroline by Sarah Miller came from William Morrow and TLC Book Tours for a blog tour.

Little House on the Prairie from Ma Ingalls' perspective? Oh yes, I'll happily read that!

The Other Alcott by Elise Hooper came from William Morrow and TLC Book Tours for a blog tour.

Amy March in Little Women was kind of a selfish brat so I'm curious to see what May Alcott, the inspiration for the character her sister created, was like, at least in this fictionalized version of her life.

Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb came from William Morrow and TLC Book Tours for a blog tour.

A romantic epistolary novel that moves between WWI and 1968 in Paris, this looks amazing!

Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan came from William Morrow and TLC Book Tours for a blog tour.

I'm extremely excited to go back to Mount Polbearne and back to Polly and Huckle, especially during the Christmas season.

The Way to London by Alix Rickloff came from William Morrow and TLC Book Tours for a blog tour.

Another WWII novel but this one takes a bit of a different take as it focuses on a young woman who was the last person safely out of Singapore and sent to England, a young evacuee searching for his mother, and an invalided soldier from Singapore. This looks wonderful.

If you want to see the marvelous goodies in other people's mailboxes, make sure to visit Mailbox Monday and have fun seeing how we are all doing our part to keep the USPS and delivery services viable.

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