REVIEW: AN ITALIAN WIFE, BY ANN HOOD

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From turn-of-the-century Italy to America in the 1970s, we follow one woman’s story, with all of its layers and the changes wrought in the world around her, watching how she clings to the old traditions even as everyone else is desperately becoming American.

Josephine Rimaldi had been happily playing and dreaming, and the next day she was getting married. She was fifteen, but the marriage had been arranged many years before. Still, the reality was astounding.

And then, after the marriage, the couple spent a few days together, and then he went to America to set up their lives. It would be nine years before he would send for her, but she had happily picked up with her normal routine…until it was disrupted again.

In America, Josephine started having babies right away, and they came one after the other until she said “enough.” But then something happened…something unexpected, like a gift. She fell in love with the ice man.

What would come afterwards would change her life forever, reminding her of other losses, the most poignant being the loss of home and a self that no longer defined her.

Generations of children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren are chronicled, as An Italian Wife takes the reader into the times recognized by Americans as the era of sex, drugs, and rock and roll.

At the beginning is a chart that lists the Rimaldi children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, but the story moves between them quickly, and each time I had to check the chart to see who we were dealing with. The story was not linear, moving back and forth, and somewhat confusing. Like the times. A poignant story that engaged me, even as it often confused me. 3.5 stars.

FROM THE INTERIOR: BOOK BEGINNINGS/FRIDAY 56 – “THE HOME PLACE”

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Welcome to some bookish fun today as we share Book Beginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader; and as we showcase The Friday 56 with Freda’s Voice.

To join in, just grab a book and share the opening lines…along with any thoughts you wish to give us; then turn to page 56 and excerpt anything on the page.

Then give us the title of the book, so others can add it to their lists!

If you have been wanting to participate, but haven’t yet tried, now is the time!

What better way to spend a Friday?

 

Today I am spotlighting an ARC from Amazon Vine, from an author I have never read.  But the blurb sold me.  The Home Place, by Carrie La Seur, a debut novel…which would explain why I’ve never read the author!

 

 

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Beginning:  (Chapter One:  Sunday, 2 A.M., Mountain Standard Time

The cold on a January night in Billings, Montana, is personal and spiritual.  It knows your weaknesses.  It communicates with your fears.  If you have a god, this cold pulls a veil between you and your deity.

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56:  Helen slams down her fork, or tries to.  Her hand is curled awkwardly around the implement, so that her hand bangs the table instead and she must disengage her fingers deliberately, one at a time.

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Blurb:  Carrie La Seur makes her remarkable debut with The Home Place, a mesmerizing, emotionally evocative, and atmospheric literary novel in the vein of The House Girl and A Land More Kind Than Home, in which a successful lawyer is pulled back into her troubled family’s life in rural Montana in the wake of her sister’s death.

The only Terrebonne who made it out, Alma thought she was done with Montana, with its bleak winters and stifling ways. But an unexpected call from the local police takes the successful lawyer back to her provincial hometown and pulls her into the family trouble she thought she’d left far behind: Her lying, party-loving sister, Vicky, is dead. Alma is told that a very drunk Vicky had wandered away from a party and died of exposure after a night in the brutal cold. But when Alma returns home to bury Vicky and see to her orphaned niece, she discovers that the death may not have been an accident.

The Home Place is a story of secrets that will not lie still, human bonds that will not break, and crippling memories that will not be silenced. It is a story of rural towns and runaways, of tensions corporate and racial, of childhood trauma and adolescent betrayal, and of the guilt that even forgiveness cannot ease. Most of all, this is a story of the place we carry in us always: home.

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This one sounds like a book that will keep me hooked all the way through.  What are your thoughts?

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REVIEW: THE SILENT SISTER, BY DIANE CHAMBERLAIN

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Riley MacPherson’s family has suffered numerous losses, and the troubled history that seemingly hovers over them all is about to get a lot worse. Leaving behind her stable life in Durham, where she is a school counselor, she takes a leap into the past, returning home to New Bern after her father’s death, to settle up his estate. There she finds her angry brother Danny living in his reclusive trailer in the forest, and even though she tries to reach out to him, he keeps her at arm’s length.

The task of going through her father’s things will be hers alone, as Danny refuses to be part of it. An old friend of her mother’s, Jeannie Lyons, is an irritating addition to her life as she sorts through everything, and between Jeannie and her daughter Christine, who are readying the home for estate sales, etc., Riley feels overwhelmed and annoyed with their very presence.

But as Riley begins to search through her father’s effects, more questions appear, and she begins to wonder about the family’s hidden secrets and the lies that stood between her and the family she longed for. And suddenly, her connection to Jeannie changes, as more is revealed.

What is the truth behind older sister Lisa’s supposed suicide? What lies under the surface of Lisa’s privileged life as a music prodigy? How did their father manage to change the course of all of their lives by one series of actions? And who is Jade, living across the country in an alternate life?

Riley’s story is narrated in her first person voice, in the year 2013, while Jade’s narrative takes place in the 1990s, following one secret night that changed all of their lives.

How will their lives reconnect, and what threats still await them all? A wonderfully unputdownable story, The Silent Sister is a testament to the strength of family attachments in spite of the secrets that lie beneath the facades. Set in North Carolina, occasionally veering off into Virginia and then to San Diego and Seattle, I followed the characters on their journeys. I loved this story, and would recommend it for all Chamberlain fans, and for any who enjoy a good story of family secrets, lies, and deceptions. 5.0 stars.

FROM THE INTERIOR: EAGERLY AWAITING “LILA”

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Welcome to another Wednesday for sharing our eager anticipation of upcoming releases.  Check in over at Breaking the Spine, to see what everyone is excited about.

I am late to the party today, but I stumbled upon this book from a favorite author and had to join in:  Lila: A Novel, by Marilynne Robinson, is coming on October 7, 2014.

 

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Blurb:  Marilynne Robinson, one of the greatest novelists of our time, returns to the town of Gilead in an unforgettable story of a girlhood lived on the fringes of society in fear, awe, and wonder.
Lila, homeless and alone after years of roaming the countryside, steps inside a small-town Iowa church—the only available shelter from the rain—and ignites a romance and a debate that will reshape her life. She becomes the wife of a minister, John Ames, and begins a new existence while trying to make sense of the life that preceded her newfound security.
Neglected as a toddler, Lila was rescued by Doll, a canny young drifter, and brought up by her in a hardscrabble childhood. Together they crafted a life on the run, living hand to mouth with nothing but their sisterly bond and a ragged blade to protect them. Despite bouts of petty violence and moments of desperation, their shared life was laced with moments of joy and love. When Lila arrives in Gilead, she struggles to reconcile the life of her makeshift family and their days of hardship with the gentle Christian worldview of her husband which paradoxically judges those she loves.
Revisiting the beloved characters and setting of Robinson’s Pulitzer Prize–winning Gilead and Home, a National Book Award finalist, Lila is a moving expression of the mysteries of existence that is destined to become an American classic.

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I am so excited about this new book from Robinson.  What are you excited about today?

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FROM THE INTERIOR: MUSINGS & RAMBLINGS

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I have missed the last few Musing Mondays, but today I just felt in the mood to muse a little.  Check Should Be Reading to see what others are chatting about.

Here are some possible topics:

 

Describe one of your reading habits.
• Tell us what book(s) you recently bought for yourself or someone else, and why you chose that/those book(s).
• What book are you currently desperate to get your hands on? Tell us about it!
• Tell us what you’re reading right now — what you think of it, so far; why you chose it; what you are (or, aren’t) enjoying it.
• Do you have a bookish rant? Something about books or reading (or the industry) that gets your ire up? Share it with us!
• Instead of the above questions, maybe you just want to ramble on about something else pertaining to books — let’s hear it, then!

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So, today I’m going to ramble a bit, sharing odds and ends that strike my fancy. 

As I posted my review today of Save the Date, I realized that I have written reviews for all the Vine and Author Review Books on my stacks through July.  And there are only four on my August stacks.  Although I think another two or three books are in the mail, headed my way.

 

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It is sometimes a challenge to keep ahead of those review books, and still find time to read the books I bought, some as far back as 2011 (although there are only a few of those left!).

Another delightful piece of news (for me); on Thursday, I moaned and groaned about the new posting system at WP (My Bookish/Not So Bookish Thoughts).

And then, quite by accident, as I prepared to write a new post, I noticed a little place to click if I wanted the Classic Posting System.  Yay for classic!

So all is not lost.  Just as on Amazon, where there is a new system that I don’t like, with no place in it for inserting book links; however, again, magic click takes us to the Classic Mode.

Speaking of Amazon:  here are my recent stats showing that I just posted my 1100th Review!

 

 

Your reviewing stats
Reviews written: 1,100

Reviewer rank: 423
Helpful votes: 3,257 of 3,834

REVIEW: SAVE THE DATE, BY MARY KAY ANDREWS

18404093Talented Savannah florist Cara Kryzik has taken over the business of her former boss, and even though her new business is flourishing with wonderful referrals, a series of expenses have created challenges for her. Especially with her controlling father, the Colonel, who lent her money in the beginning, now demanding to be repaid.

Cara manages to keep juggling the various obstacles and to concentrate on a very promising new client that could put her business in the black. But will the competitive designer on the other side of town who seems to be sabotaging her at every turn keep her from achieving her goals? And what about the conflicts between the bride and her stepmother that could threaten the beautiful wedding they hope for? Could something deeper and more damaging ruin everything for the bride, for Cara, and her dreams? And how will Cara’s prize assistant seem to derail their teamwork as the big day approaches?

Save the Date has pages of interesting scenarios and conflicts, as well as characters that kept the story moving along. As we near the end, it is impossible to put this book down, as even though the storyline could be a bit predictable at times, the challenges were unique enough that I could not be sure how everything would sort itself out. And the characters, like Cara, her assistant Bert, and a potential love interest named Jack Finnerty, were fun and likeable. I was rooting for them, and holding my breath, hoping that the saboteurs would not win.

And throughout, I loved the descriptions of the flowers and the weddings, along with the delightful antics of two look-alike dogs that were, in many ways, matchmakers for Cara and Jack. With a breathtaking ending, this was a truly satisfying read. 4.5 stars.

REVIEW: THE WRONG GIRL, BY HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN

17332262It all started out with one young woman, Tucker Cameron, in search of her birth mother.

And with Jane Ryland’s help, the whole process takes on a life of its own. As a reporter, Jane is always in search of a big story. And the idea that the Brannigan, an adoption agency, might be matching birth parents with the wrong children is just too good not to explore. Tuck is her friend, a former reporter, so she also has a special interest in the case.

The Wrong Girl (Jane Ryland) is actually more than one storyline, with murders coming one right after the other. A woman mysteriously killed in an apartment not her own, with two small children nearby; another woman who works for the Brannigan killed a few days later; and then the mysterious death of Niall Branngian.

Jake Brogan is a police detective involved in the murder cases, and he and Jane have a little thing going, something they try to keep hidden because of their jobs.

What, if anything, connects the various murder victims? How will Jane and Jake resolve the various cases and find a way to be together?

Quick shifts in perspective take the reader behind the scenes involving the Department of Children and Families, as well as the adoption agency. Another side story involves a cleaning crew that shows up after crimes scenes, but what is their true agenda? And who is behind what they do?

In the end, I felt the story wrapped up a little too tidily, but I enjoyed the characters and how the story kept me engaged throughout. 4.0 stars.