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Review: The Original 1982 by Lori Carson

Original 1982My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

There were many things I did like about this book, but some aspects didn’t quite jell for me.

Summary via Goodreads:

It’s 1982, and Lisa is twenty-four years old, a waitress, an aspiring singer-songwriter, and girlfriend to a famous Latin musician. That year, she makes a decision, almost without thinking about it.

But what if what if her decision had been a different one?

In the new 1982, Lisa chooses differently. Her career takes another direction. She becomes a mother. She loves differently, yet some things remain the same.

Alternating between two very different possibilities, The Original 1982 is a novel about how the choices we make affect the people we become-and about how the people we are affect the choices we make.

The first thing that intrigued me was the premise of life done differently. The first book I encountered that suggested this approach was Penelope Lively’s Making it Up, which was well written and interesting, but didn’t deliver on that promise to me. The Original 1982 does that, presenting the choice that changes things, and marking out a new path (and comparing it to the old) that follows that decision.

I liked Lisa, the main character, in both versions of her life, and both paths were interesting, and completely different than any life I’ve seen.. She was surrounded by people that I wanted to get to know, and a few I didn’t, but I liked reading about anyway. I enjoyed the author’s writing. The book was written as a letter to a daughter that never was, and that choice resonated with me.

My biggest problem was that I wanted more, from both of the paths. Big issues were touched on, then the story moved on. Relationships were introduced, but not explored.

The second problem was that I didn’t entirely buy the new path, and I can’t tell if that was deliberate. Was I learning from this that Lisa is deceiving herself about what her life would have been like, or did the author fail to construct a life I could buy into? How much is the original life based on the author’s real life, and is the new life her personal wish, or does it belong only to the character of Lisa?

I enjoyed reading the book, and I’d love to have the chance to argue some of these questions with someone else that read it– I think it would be a very interesting book club choice.

I read this book as part of a TLC Book Tour, and was provided a copy of the book to read and review.  For other opinions on this book, visit the other tour stops:
TLC Book Tours

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2013 in books, reviews, tour

 

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Review: A Complicated Marriage: My Life With Clement Greenberg by Janice Van Horn

Complicated MarriageMy rating: 3.5 stars– 3 stars for the first half, 4 stars for the second half.

Summary via Goodreads:

In 1955, Jenny Van Horne was a 21-year-old, naïve Bennington College graduate on her own for the first time in New York City. She meets 46-year-old Clement Greenberg who, she is told, is “the most famous, the most important, art critic in the world!” Knowing nothing about art, she soon finds herself swept into Clem’s world and the heady company of Hans Hofmann, Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, David Smith, Helen Frankenthaler, among others. Seven months later, as a new bride, Jenny and Clem spend the summer in East Hampton near Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner, and she feels even more keenly like an interloper in the inner circle of the art scene. A woman disowned by her anti-Semitic family for marrying a Jew, she would develop a deep, loving bond with Clem that would remain strong through years of an open marriage and separate residences.

Jenny embodies the pivotal changes of each passing decade as she searches for worlds of her own. She moves from the tradition of wife and mother to rebellion and experimentation; diving into psychoanalysis; the theater world of OOB and the Actors’ Studio; and succeeding in business. Throughout, A Complicated Marriage is grounded in honesty and the self-deprecating humor, grace, and appealing voice of its author.

I picked this book for review because it reminded me of Patti Smith’s Just Kids. It wasn’t until I started reading it, and realized how strong the resemblance is, that I remembered I didn’t love Just Kids.

Particularly for the first half of the book, the resemblance was strong. There was an odd distance between the narrator and the events she described. There were a lot of mentions of friendships and parties with people I knew nothing about– and I know even less about the art world than the music world. The only familiar name in A Complicated Marriage is that of Jackson Pollock.

While I didn’t dislike the book at first, it also didn’t really click for me, I just didn’t get drawn in. That changed about halfway through– while it took more than a week to get through that first half, I read most of the second half in one day, and didn’t have to struggle to get around to the last piece.

Once the author came into herself, the book became interesting in and of itself. The time she spent in the theater world, the exploration of the complicated aspects of her marriage, the relationships she built at this time, all these mature. I think some of her distance in telling about them may have gone as well, but whatever the reason, I enjoyed it far more at this point.

I came out of the book with a little more understanding of the personal side of the American art world in the second half of the last century, some insight as to how an open marriage could work for some people, and a look at a girl who grew into a very interesting woman.

I read this book as part of a TLC Book Tour, and was provided a copy of the book for review.  Thank you for this opportunity.  You can find out more about Janice Van Horn at her website.  For other perspectives on A Complicated Marriage, check out the other stops on the tour:

Tuesday, May 14th: Turn the Page

Wednesday, May 15th: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews

 

 
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Posted by on May 31, 2013 in books, reviews, tour

 

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Review: The Cottage At Glass Beach by Heather Barbieri

Cottage at glass beachMy rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

This book had solid characters in a great setting, unfortunately the ending knocked down the rating for me.

Summary via Goodreads:

Married to the youngest attorney general in Massachusetts state history, Nora Cunningham is a picture-perfect political wife and a doting mother. But her carefully constructed life falls to pieces when she, along with the rest of the world, learns of the infidelity of her husband, Malcolm.

Humiliated and hounded by the press, Nora packs up her daughters–Annie, seven; and Ella, twelve–and takes refuge on Burke’s Island, a craggy spit of land off the coast of Maine. Settled by Irish immigrants, the island is a place where superstition and magic are carried on the ocean winds, and wishes and dreams wash ashore with the changing tides.

Nora spent her first five years on the island but has not been back to the remote community for decades–not since that long ago summer when her mother disappeared at sea. One night while sitting alone on Glass Beach below the cottage where she spent her childhood, Nora succumbs to grief, her tears flowing into the ocean. Days later she finds an enigmatic fisherman named Owen Kavanagh shipwrecked on the rocks nearby. Is he, as her aunt’s friend Polly suggests, a selkie–a mythical being of island legend–summoned by her heartbreak, or simply someone who, like Nora, is trying to find his way in the wake of his own personal struggles?

Just as she begins to regain her balance, her daughters embark on a reckless odyssey of their own–a journey that will force Nora to find the courage to chart her own course and finally face the truth about her marriage, her mother, and her long-buried past.:

The bones of this book are standard women’s fiction– a woman struggling to come to terms with her husband’s infidelity, and what that means for their marriage. This aspect of the story is handled well, particularly where it looks at the effect on the children, but there isn’t anything compelling or unusual about it.

Where the book comes into its own is when it is dealing with the island that Nora returns to, the island she used to call home. The people, the history, and how they all interrelate with the stories of the past added interest to the books, and distinguished it from many other good books exploring the same basic story. There is a touch of magical realism here, some question as to what is myth and what is real, and I thought that was nicely done through most of the book.

As I mentioned at the beginning, I wasn’t satisfied by the ending, but that may be a personal taste issue. The other thing that dragged this book down a bit in my estimation is that bits and pieces of it, particularly the mythological parts, reminded me of The Salt God’s Daughter by Ilie Ruby, which was a much richer book.

Still, this was an enjoyable light read, and I’m glad to have read it.

I read this book as part of a TLC Book Tour.  Thank you for the opportunity to participate.  For other opinions of this book, check out the other tour stops:
TLC Book Tours

 
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Posted by on May 9, 2013 in books, reviews, tour

 

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Review: Something About Sophie by Mary Kay McComas

Something About Sophie by Mary Kay McComasMy rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Mystery meets chick lit?

Summary via Goodreads:

Clearfield, Virginia, is a sleepy, idyllic hamlet where residents welcome its comfortable, familiar routines. But when a newcomer arrives in town, long-buried secrets threaten to surface and destroy their haven . . .

Answering a call that summons her to a stranger’s deathbed, a reluctant Sophie Shepard is too late to hear what he was so anxious to tell her. What was so important that a dying man would think of her in his final moments? With the help of Dr. Drew McCarren, Sophie begins to dig into her past, setting off a chain of events that chills the quiet town of Clearfield, Virginia, to its roots.

With part of her wanting nothing more than to put Clearfield behind her and run back home, Sophie knows she won’t rest until she discovers the truth. But growing closer to the residents also means uncovering their dark secrets–secrets about the woman who gave Sophie up for adoption, the mysterious part these strangers played, and the life she never knew she nearly had.

There’s something odd about this book, that gets a little odder the more I think about it.  It’s a mismatch between the tone and the events in the book.

The thing is, I like sweet, good-natured women’s fiction. I mentioned this in my recent review of Robyn Carr’s The Wanderer. This book out-nices Carr in many ways, particularly the sweet Kindergarten teacher of a main character. She’s never been curious about her birth parents, because she loves her adoptive parents so much. And now she’s in a small town where everyone knows one another, and she’s making friends fast.

Then there’s the mystery, which starts out much like a cozy mystery– the bad stuff, including a murder, happens off-screen, with vague threats impinging on our heroine’s activities. I like cozy mysteries, so this is good as well. The book is a little more about the character and less about the who-dunnit, and Sophie isn’t all that involved in trying to find the bad guy or guys.

But then the last section of the book happens, and it gets grittier, with more details on much more unpleasant occurrences (yes, even more unpleasant than murder). And that’s fine with me as well, but it seems out of place compared to the rest of the book.

Overall, I liked the characters, even if they all seemed a little cartoonish. I thought the plot was well constructed.  The romance was cute, even if I didn’t really see the steam. Overall, I enjoyed reading Something About Sophie.

I read this book as part of a TLC Book Tour.  Thank you to TLC for providing me with a copy of this book for review.  If you’d like other opinions on Something About Sophie, check out the other tour stops:
TLC Book Tours

 
5 Comments

Posted by on April 11, 2013 in books, reviews, tour, Uncategorized

 

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Review: The Wanderer by Robyn Carr

The WandererMy rating: 4 of 5 stars

The first book in Robyn Carr’s new Thunder Point series provided the enjoyable reading experience that I expect from this author.

Summary via Goodreads:

Nestled on the Oregon coast is a small town of rocky beaches and rugged charm. Locals love the land’s unspoiled beauty. Developers see it as a potential gold mine. When newcomer Hank Cooper learns he’s been left an old friend’s entire beachfront property, he finds himself with a community’s destiny in his hands.

Cooper has never been a man to settle in one place, and Thunder Point was supposed to be just another quick stop. But Cooper finds himself getting involved with the town. And with Sarah Dupre, a woman as complicated as she is beautiful.

With the whole town watching for his next move, Cooper has to choose between his old life and a place full of new possibilities. A place that just might be home.

I’m often not sure how to categorize Robyn Carr’s books, because they don’t quite fit into the romance genre for me. The focus is usually on someone’s life, and it is consistent that there is a romance subplot, but mostly, the story is about someone making a life for themselves.

The Wanderer falls squarely into that camp for me. The main character’s romance plot could be a friendship plot without a major change to the story.

I’m not saying the romance didn’t work– I liked it quite a bit. I enjoyed both characters and how they established a relationship with each other. There was chemistry and attraction and genuine like of each other before (although not MUCH before) love dominated the scene.

But even more than that, there were other relationships that were built– friendships, a mentoring relationship with a teen. Hank reexamined what he wanted from his own life, and made changes accordingly.

I really liked how Hank saw Landon being harassed by other teens, and took action– first stepping in very subtly to let the other boys know they were being watched, then building a relationship with him to help him develop the tools he needed on an ongoing basis, and being involved when the situation escalated.  That this relationship provided the launching point for Hank’s romance is a side bonus, but it was clear it was never Hank’s motivation with Landon.

Thunder Point is going to be like Virgin River in many ways. It’s a small town, with interesting, mostly good-hearted people. The overall feel is that of a nice place, and making for a very enjoyable read. I’m looking forward to reading further books and getting to know more of the people.

Thank you to Little Bird Publicity for sending me this book to review.

 
3 Comments

Posted by on March 28, 2013 in books, reviews

 

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Review: The Missing File by D.A. Mishani

Missing FileMy rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

For me, the strength of this book was its uniqueness. Partially the Israeli flavor, partially the writer himself, I haven’t read anything else that has the same feel, and that’s enough to get me back for the next book when it comes out.

Summary via Goodreads:

Detective Avraham Avraham must find a teenage boy who has vanished from his quiet suburban neighborhood.

Police detective Avraham Avraham knows that when a crime is committed in his sleepy suburb of Tel Aviv, there is little need for a complex investigation. There are no serial killers or kidnappings here. The perpetrator is usually the neighbor, the uncle, or the father. As he has learned, the simplest explanation is always the answer.

But his theory is challenged when a sixteen-year-old boy named Ofer Sharabi disappears without a trace while on his way to school one morning. There is no simple explanation, and Avraham’s ordered world is consumed by the unimaginable perplexity of the case.

The more he finds out about the boy and his circumstances, the further out of reach the truth seems to be. Avraham’s best lead is Ofer’s older neighbor and tutor, Ze’ev Avni. Avni has information that sheds new light on the case—and makes him a likely suspect. But will the neighbor’s strange story save the investigation?

The mystery itself– a missing boy– is interesting enough, with sufficient twists and turns to keep the story going. I also enjoyed the character of Avraham Avraham, the neurotic young police detective. He’s a big part of the uniqueness I mentioned. The book was a good introduction to him, with enough depth to show the potential for future growth and development.

Unfortunately, I also had some problems with the book. The first one, which was more of a problem in the first half of the book, was the other viewpoint character. Ze’ev Avni is a neurotic young schoolteacher, and his character had too similar of a feel to that of Avraham. This isn’t helped by some characters referring to Avraham as Avi, while Ze’ev is often called Avni. The problem isn’t that I got the characters confused, it’s that I like alternating viewpoints to offer more of a contrast.

The other problem was one with the flow of the progress of the mystery, particularly at the end. I can’t give details without getting into spoilers, and this may be a deliberate choice of the author, to reflect the frustration of working on such a case.

I did like that a minor character called out the biggest flaw in the solution at the very end. I’ll declare that enough to keep that flaw from being one of my negatives about the TLC Book Toursbook, which it otherwise would have been for me.

The author shows considerable promise, and this book made for an interesting reading experience.

I read this book as part of a TLC Book Tour.  Thank you to Trish for the opportunity to participate.  You can read other reader’s perspectives on this book at the other tour stops.

 
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Posted by on March 20, 2013 in books, reviews, tour

 

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Review: The Long Way Home by Mariah Stewart

Long Way HomeMy rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

A very enjoyable, quick read of a young woman trying to find her place in the world.

Summary via Goodreads:

As the only child of a wealthy investment manager, Ellie Chapman has never known anything besides a life of perfect privilege. But her years of good fortune come to an abrupt end when her father is exposed for swindling billions of dollars from innocent investors in a massive Ponzi scheme. And just like that, Ellie loses everything: money, job, home–even her fiance, who’s jailed as her father’s partner in crime. With no job prospects on the horizon, no cash, and her family name in tatters, Ellie has only one place to go.
Sleepy St. Dennis, Maryland, is hardly where Ellie intends to stay, however. Keeping her identity a secret, she plans to sell the house her late mother left her in the small town and use the proceeds to move on with her life. Unfortunately, her ticket to a new beginning is in dire need of a laundry list of pricey improvements, many of which she’ll have to do herself. And until the house on Bay View Road is fit to be sold, the sole place Ellie will be traveling is the hardware store. But as the many charms of St. Dennis–not to mention Cameron O’Connor, the handsome local contractor who has secrets of his own–begin to work their magic, what begins as a lesson in do-it-yourself renovations might just end up as Ellie’s very own rejuvenation.

This was an all-out feel good book.  I’ve read most (but not all) of this series, and that isn’t always true for the other books, at least within the range allowed by the romance genre.

I really liked getting to know Ellie, a young woman who had lived a life of privilege, and then had everything taken from her– not just material things, but she lost her father and fiance when they were jailed for crimes she never imagined them capable of. She’s devastated, but is ready to start rebuilding her life.  This is a character archetype that generally appeals to me– clearly damaged by life, but continuing even while dealing with the injuries.

And where better to rebuild than St. Dennis. Ellie doesn’t know that, she thinks she’s just passing through.  Ellie is suspicious of everyone, since most of her friends deserted her when life got rough, and she treats the people in the town accordingly.  But the people here know what it is like to face adversity, and they make allowances.

Cameron was a nice guy, perfect for her, and understands what she’s going through, or at least the part about living with a parent with a bad reputation.  He was a solid character, if possibly a little too good to be true, but I enjoyed watching the interactions between him and Ellie.

And yes, there were steamy bits, but they were just bits.  This isn’t the book to read for extended erotic interludes. You can consider this a plus or a minus, depending on your preferences.

Once I could relax and know it was an everything-will-be-OK kind of book, I liked the twists and turns the plot took, I liked the new characters that were introduced.  One of the fun things about a series like this is the cameos by the characters in previous books.  There is no need to have read them, but if you have, you get a quick visit to where the characters are now.  I like that.

This romance won’t be for everyone, some will find it too nice. Me? This is exactly the way I like it.

I read this book as part of a TLC Book Tour.  Thank you for the opportunity to read this book and participate. You can find more about Mariah Stewart on her website or on Facebook. For other views on the book, check out the other tour stops:
TLC Book Tours

 
2 Comments

Posted by on February 12, 2013 in books, reviews, tour

 

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