Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Review: Townie by Andre Dubus III

Publisher/ Format: Blackstone Audio  14 hrs, 34 min, 400 page equivalent
Narrator: Andre Dubus III
Year of publication
: 2011
Subject: growing up
Setting: environs of Boston, Austin TX
Genre: Memoir
Source: public library audio download
Rating: 5 of 5
Recommended? yes

I had never heard of or read anything by Andre Dubus III before, and that is a deficit I regret.  This is one of the most powerful books I have read this year, and certainly the most memorable memoir of the many I've added to my list over the past several months.

It is raw, depressing, violent, dark, gloomy, full of melancholy and despair.  I listened to this on audio, and several times at the beginning had to put it aside to listen to something lighter.  I just had never been exposed to something like this in real life and found it almost too difficult to believe.  At one point, I stopped and Googled the author to see if this really was a true story.....it is.  But no matter how many times I put it aside, I had to return, had to find out if this intelligent, neglected, man-child would make it to adulthood in one piece.

The author reads this himself, and takes us through his life from his early childhood up to the present where he is enjoying success as a writer.  He grew up in a series of run-down mill towns on the outskirts of Boston.  His parents were divorced after the 4th child arrived, and although his father (also a writer) paid child support, and his mother worked, there was often not enough food, no new clothes or toys, and an absence of a good male role model.  Constantly afraid of the older, more street smart toughs in his area, he found himself fighting to defend himself or his siblings, and to overcome his fear, he began weight-lifting (his father had left a weight bench in the basement) and later took up serious  body building at a local gym.  As he developed his muscles, and learned some boxing moves, his self-confidence grew and he suddenly was willing to challenge any and all comers--often with physically disastrous results.

Although the book at times seems like one long, violent, ugly fight, and readers like me who never had to live in neighborhoods like this  wonder how on earth he a) stayed alive and b) stayed out of jail, the story progresses as he makes his way to college to study philosophy and sociology, as he works in construction and as a bar-tender,  as he discovers the joy of writing, and as he gradually reconciles with his father, developing a mature relationship he never had as a young boy.

In the end, this is a story of redemption, of a young man's discovery of the opportunities available to him, of families growing to appreciate and help each other and in the end of broken personalities being mended and learning to live and love as whole persons.

I cannot recommend this one highly enough.  Yes, the violence is repugnant and the language is street raw, but Dubus' presentation of life as it really is for economically challenged families gives us a glimpse into obstacles and opportunities that many would not have otherwise.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day Monday

I'm old enough to remember when it was called "Decoration Day" - it was the day that everyone went to the cemetery to lay wreaths and flags and flowers to decorate the graves of those who were lost "in the war."

Now of course, we know it as Memorial Day: a day to stop and remember all those who have served their country, and especially those who made the ultimate sacrifice. I chose this picture of a harbor here in Maine instead of the cemetery scenes so common today because this is really what we're celebrating-- the service and sacrifices so many made so that we can enjoy this beautiful sky, the freedom to sail and picnic and work and love, and the gorgeous red white and blue stars and stripes.

Please take some time to thank a veteran today. And enjoy your holiday however you spend it.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

More Mini- Reviews

Since I've been letting my reading eye wonder a bit further afield and not doing just required reviews, I've been able to get to some books that just jumped off the shelf yelling "read me read me". One is part of a series I've been wanting to try, and the other is by an author who pleased me with some of her other works. It's wonderful to be able to read just for pure fun.

Title: Invitation to Provence

Author:  Elizabeth Adler
Publisher/Format: St. Martin's Paperbacks (2005), Mass Market Paperback, 352 pages
Characters: Franny Martin, Jake Bronson, Raffaella Martin
Subject: love, family, life in Provence
Setting: Provence France
Genre: fiction; chick lit, romance
Source: public library

Franny Martin is recovering from the discovery that her boyfriend is a two-timing cheat.  This knowledge was shared by his wife, with whom Franny becomes fast friends.  At the same time, Franny receives an invitation from her aunt Rafaella to come to Provence for a family reunion.  She decides to go and take Helen (the ex-wife) with her.  When follows is rather typical boy meets girl, girl falls, boy doesn't call back, girl discovers boy again in France, other girl meets other boy, etc. etc etc.  It sounds very banal and stereotypical, but the characters in this one have a bit more to deliver, and the romance plot includes a bit of a mystery, a bit of detective work, and some interesting international scenes.  All in all a pleasant read for a pre-summer afternoon.  I really didn't expect that I would get as wrapped up as I did, but I found myself rooting for Franny and Jake, and realized that suddenly the afternoon was over, the book had come to a pleasant conclusion, and I'd spent a relaxing Sunday.

Elizabeth Adler does a credible job with foreign settings (I also remember enjoying her Summer in Tuscany) so if you can't afford to travel this summer, and want to wander through a romantic setting, do try one of hers.
I have several of Susan Wittig Albert's books from this series either in my town library or on my personal shelves.  She's a favorite of our readers.  So when I saw that one was available as an audio, and I was looking for something to lighten up two VERY HEAVY books I was listening to, I nabbed this one.  I am certainly going to be reading some more in this series during my July/August cozy-thon.

Title: Nightshade
Author:Susan Wittig Albert
Publisher: Recorded Book: Lone Star Audio
Narrator: Julia Gibson and Tom Stechschulte
Format: audio  10 hours, 304 page equivalent
Year of publication: 2010
Subject: murder, private investigators
Setting: Texas
Series: China Bayles mysteries
Genre: crime fiction
Source: public library download
Rating: 3..8
Recommended? yes - for mystery buffs

This is actually #16 in the series, where the Protagonist, China Bayles has evidently retired from her law career and is running some sort of herbal tea/catering business.  She has also recently (?) married McQuade - a studly character I'm definitely going to want to become better acquainted with.  This was an enjoyable book, but definitely is one where I know I would have been much better off reading some of the earlier ones in the series.  So this whole China Bayles series has gone onto the cozy-thon list.  It's difficult to 'review' this one because, although I thoroughly enjoyed it, I'm not quite sure who all the players were, and I'm especially interested in some backfill to understand their motivations.

I'll definitely be reading more to catch up- and then probably will re-read this one.
So stand by for more of these later this summer.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Review: Between, Georgia by Joshilyn Jackson

Author: Joshilyn Jackson
Publisher/Format: Hachette Audio, 9 hrs, 11 min
Narrator: Joshilyn Jackson
Characters: an entire cast of Fretts and Crabtrees
Subject: family rivalries, small town life, Usher's Syndrome
Setting: fictional town of Between, Georgia
Genre: fiction
Source: public library audio download

Joshilyn Jackson is an author I'd never heard of until this past year.  Her southern fiction is quickly finding a place on the list of books I know I'll enjoy just because her name is on them.  This one is no exception.

Between, Georgia is the name of the town in which  Nonny Frett, is raised by her twin aunts- one of whom suffers from Usher's Syndrome: she was deaf, and gradually lost her sight. So Nonny was raised knowing ASL (American Sign Language).  Her mom's deafness however was only one part of the story. It's a hard story to review without giving away a plot full of rivalries that would make Shakespeare salute. 

Basically, two families, the Fretts and the Crabtrees are somehow related, but also somehow always finding ways to be mean to each other.  Born a Crabtree but adopted by the Fretts, Nonny finds herself caught between the two, and trying to help them reconcile.  There are grandmothers and aunts galore, and several cousins who can be called upon to come over the Alabama state line to deliver 'whoopins' when needed.  There are also kissing cousins who are ready to defend their women folk against the baddie cousins.  There are  betrayals, disasters, and a heart pounding conclusion keeping the pages turning.The plot is not too complicated and the whole book is an easy read.

I listened to parts of this in the audio version so I didn't want to have to stop "reading" while I was unable to sit and sight read.  The author does a credible job narrating her own story (one of the few who do).  This is a one good summer read and if you haven't read any of Jackson's works, this is a good place to start.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Review - Wings: A Novel of World War II Flygirls by Karl Friedrich

Author: Karl Friedrich
Publisher McBooks Press
Format: Hardcover, 304 pages
Year of publication 2011
Subject: World War II, WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots) program
Setting: Sweetwater Texas
Genre: Historical fiction
Source: Early Reviewers program - LibraryThing.com
Rating 4.1 of 5
Recommended? yes

As a former servicewoman myself, I was thrilled to get this one to review from the LibraryThing Early Reviewer (ER) program.  Although fictionalized, the author does an excellent job of telling the story of this courageous, often misunderstood, and too long forgotten group of women.  In the early phases of World War II, the US had far too few trained pilots, and too many airplanes that needed to be flown from point A to point B. Using a trained pilot (who could be in combat helping to win the war) to ferry these planes around just didn't seem to make sense to the majority of forward thinkers.  Under the leadership of Jackie Cochran, the army airforce was persuaded to make use of a large number of women who already held private pilot licenses and who could free up men to fight the enemy.  One of their early promoters was Eleanor Roosevelt:
"This is not a time when women should be patient.  We are in a war and we need to fight it with all our ability and ever weapon possible.  WOMEN PILOTS, in this particular case, are a weapon waiting to be used." Eleanor Roosevelt, 1942
Friedrich tells their story through the eyes of three or four fairly stereotypical women from various backgrounds, experiences, and regions of the country.  By adding in a villain looking for revenge and out to keep 'the little women' in the home cooking and cleaning where they belonged, he gives us a very true picture of the mood of the country while this program was formed, pursued, and ultimately disbanded.  As civilians, these women had no benefits, no recognition, no ability to qualify for any further VA care, and were paid exactly half what men were paid for the same job.  Hmmmm.....wasn't this still where the world was when I went to college in the 60's?

This one is a hard review for me to write because this attitude was still astonishingly prevalent when I joined the Navy in the mid 60's.  There were still many assignments and bases where women were not allowed.  Many civilians automatically assumed we were 'loose women' (or when they saw us in uniform they assumed we were airline stewardesses).  We certainly have come a long way, and these early pioneers were groundbreakers for us all. The heartbreak and hardships these women endured through the training segment of their program is very well done. I wish the book had been able to carry the story beyond Sweetwater, but perhaps that is for another book.

When I had finished reading this the other night, my husband came running in to tell me that there was a show on TV based on the WASPS...I believe it was a PBS special, but by that time of night I was too tired to do too much but note that whatever was being said on TV did match what I had just read, and NPR website does show a good story about them. The book does a credible job of telling an incredible story in a very entertaining way.  I think most readers will enjoy it, will learn something from it, and will want to learn more.  Here's another good place to start: The Official WASP home page

Many thanks to LibraryThing.com and to McBooks Press for making this review copy available.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Some Mini Reviews

For the past two or three weeks, I've actually been reading a lot. I just haven't had the mental energy with all my new "retirement" opportunities to sit down and write some reviews. As is usual my reading has been all over the place, although it's been heavily slanted toward various aspects of the World War II experience.

Two wonderful shorter studies have come my way however, and since they are both such gems, I felt I had to share them with you. Neither is new, neither is tipping the top of the "publishers are waiting for a review" pile. Both were discoveries made through my association with LibraryThing.com.  With the second book listed, I'm also going to introduce a slightly altered format for posting the reviews.

Title: Parnassus on Wheels
Author: Christopher Morley
Publisher/Format: Blackstone Audio, 3 hrs, 31 minutes
      also ebook (NOOK)
Narrator: Nadia May

Subject: Books, book lovers
Setting: New England
Genre: Fiction
Source: public library download, my own purchase (NOOK)

This is one of those serendipitous finds that came to me from all my reading buddies over on LT.  My primary reading group there (the 75 Book Challenge for 2011) has over 700 members with the most eclectic reading tastes, and I never fail to get pushed to read books I've never heard of, or never thought I'd like, and sometimes may never want to read again.  That said, if you've ever wanted to read something short, fun, memorable, and celebratory, grab this one.  I got it on my Nook for $.99 and then got an email from the library later that same day that my reserve for the downloadable audio was ready.  Both formats are terrific.

Parnassus is a horsedrawn RV/Traveling bookstore.  Its narrator is a 39 year old well-educated spinster, Helen McGill, who was once a schoolmarm/nanny but who is now wasting away on a farm tending the house and the pigs and the chickens for her starry -eyed brother who is a writer.  Along comes Roger Mifflin, writer wannabe, owner of Parnassus who says he wants to sell his road show to Helen's brother.  The adventure begins when Helen says what amounts to "phooey on that - I'm buying it myself", leaves a "bye-bye, see you later" note to her brother, and sets off with Mr. Mifflin to learn the bookselling ropes.

I so enjoyed this story, and I'm so glad I have a copy to read and re-read.  It takes less than 2 hours to read, and only 3 1/2 to listen to.  If you haven't discovered this classic, do go get your hands on it.
Title: Coventry
Author: Helen Humphreys
Publisher Format: W. W. Norton & Company 1st American Ed, Hardcover, 192 pages
Year of publication: 2009
Subject: bombing of Coventry and its aftermath
Setting: London and its surroundings in 1940
Genre: historical fiction
Source: gift from a friend
Rating: 5 out of 5
Recommended? Absolutely

Helen Humphreys is one of the best writers I've come across in recent years.  Her words are spare, her images are memorable, her characters are sharply drawn and well-fleshed out, and her stories leave us wanting more.  Last year I read her lovely little book The Frozen Thames, a book that I didn't think could be improved.  When a friend posted on LT about this one, I noted that I had actually been to Coventry and seen the damage inflicted by German bombers, how exquisite and uplifting the new cathedral was, and how I just had to go get this one for my library.  So my true book friend offered to send me her copy saying she wanted it to go to someone who would love it and appreciate it.  Thank you Linda----someday we will actually meet in person to share more book experiences.

Anyway, this one is the story of two women who meet in 1940, and then remeet years later almost without remembering the original meeting.  The years in between have brought both of them love, loss, and remorse. They find themselves ultimately searching for the same man for very different reasons.  The personal stories and tragedies are set against the landscape of utter destruction, ruin, terror, and devastation that marked the bombing of Coventry and then against the resurrection of hope and beauty that the citizens were able to create from the ruins.  The book is astonishing- sweet, simple, lean of words, but lush of image.  The city itself is the same.  If you have the chance, visit the city and the cathedral, but if that's not in your budget or timeline, be sure to read the book.

Here's a great virtual tour of the Cathedral

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Guest Review : Night Road by Kristin Hannah

Author: Kristin Hannah
Publisher/Format: St. Martin's Press (2011), ARC,  400 pages
Characters: Mia, Zach and Jude Farraday, Lexi Baill
Subject: teenage love, disaster, forgiveness
Genre: fiction
Source: Review copy from the publisher

Today, I'm introducing Tracy, one of my avid but very picky readers at the library where I work.  Tracy is a working mom, who often brings her son to the library to pick out books, and who also chooses books for her father to read.  In short, she's a reader and we love to give her something good to occupy her reading time.

I had just picked up my mail one day last month, including this ARC, when Tracy came in, and I was muttering that I didn't know when on earth I was going to have time to read this one. She said "I love Kristin Hannah!  Can I read it first since you don't have time?"  I jokingly said to her that she could but she'd have to write me a review.  She then proceeded to back away, saying, "I don't know how to write a review."  So I made her a deal-- I asked her just to read the book then jot down what she liked about it and what she didn't like.   After all....isn't that what you really want to know so you can decide if you want to read it.  She returned the book a few days ago and handed me an envelope saying  "I did it! I wrote a review, but it's probably not very good..."   I think she was wrong. I think it is (as we say in Maine) spot on. What follows is basically what she gave me, and I think she did a great job, because now I really want to bump this one up on my list of books to read.  Tracy's review:

I loved this book.  Kristin Hannah is one of my favorite authors and this is one of her best.  Each of the characters in the book is very different:

Lexi Baill is a smart teenaged girl who is underprivileged but who tries to do her best with what she is given
Mia Farraday is a shy teenager who has very little confidence and who wears her heart on her sleeve.
Zach Farraday, Mia's twin brother, is the very popular school jock.
Jude Farraday, mother to the twins, gives 150% to her children

When Lexi becomes friends with Mia, Jude is concerned that Mia might once more be betrayed by Lexi as has happened so often in the past with Mia's friendships.  When Lexi and Zach fall in love, they hide their relationship for fear of hurting Mia's feelings.

Jude, ever protective of her children, worries constantly about harm coming to them.  Her deepest fears come true when, one summer evening, the nightmare happens.  Everyone's world is turned upside down. The author gives us a tale of a mother's struggle to forgive, a heart-wrenching tale of betrayal, death, imprisonment, love, respect and courage.  This family could have lived next door to me - they are that believable.  The story tells us that no matter how little one person has and how much more another person has, you have to try to make your own life from what your have.  I would read this book again in a heartbeat.
Tutu will add here that I'm happy Tracy does not include a spoiler because I want to find out exactly for myself what really happened. And I want to thank her for taking the time to give us her thoughts.  As a librarian, it really thrills me to see people expanding their reading horizons and participating in the great world of readers who want to share what they're reading.  I'm happy to say that as Tracy and I have gotten to know each other better, I have a better feel for what she might like to read, and she is more trusting when I say "Here--try this, I think you might like it."

Review: In the Shadow of the Glacier by Vicki Delany

Author: Vicki Delany
Publisher/Format: Blackstone Audio, 9hr, 52 min;302 pages equivalent
Narrator Carrington MacDuffie
Subject: Small town crime, women on police forces
Setting: Trafalgar, British Columbia
Series: Constable Molly Smith novels
Genre: police procedural mystery
Source: public library

This is my first one in this series, but you can bet it won't be the last. A great little not quite cozy police procedural with a protagonist Moonlight (Molly) Smith who is just beginning her career on the Trafalgar police force in small town British Columbia. Her pairing with veteran detective (recently moved from the BIG CITY) John Winters is perfect and bodes well for future episodes in the series.

Molly's parents are Vietnam era draft dodgers. Her mother is still pychologically back in the 70's and neither parent is at all pleased when their daughter joins the police force. When Molly is pulled from being just a beat cop to help detective Winter investigate the murder of a big time investor in the town (a body that Molly discovered), things get even dicier. The deceased, Reginald Montgomery, has been quite vocal in his opposition to dedicating a "Peace Park" to commemorate those who left the US rather than fight, so assuming that people who opposed the opposer would want him removed leads the police to looking for a peacenik who had opportunity.

The well detailed motivations and characters in this one kept me with the book til the end. I had it as an audio and it was quite well done by - especially with just a nice touch of Canadian accent.

I'm getting ready to spend July and August reading almost nothing but cozies, so there will definitely be another Constable Molly Smith on the menu. In fact, I already have #5 (Among the Departed) on my NOOK, but I'm going to try to find 2,3, and 4 before I tackle that one.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Mailbox Monday - May 23rd

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week.  Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists!

Created by Marcia at The Printed Page, Mailbox Monday, now has its own blog. Hosting duties are being rotated every month, so the merry month of May will be at MariReads.  Stop on over and see what everyone else got this week.  I'm late posting this because one of these arrived today, and I wanted to include it in this week's listings.  Here are the WOWSER WOWSER books that graced my mailboxes this past week.  Three were review copies from the publishers.  I bought The Great House for my Nook for my personal library.

French Lessons by Ellen Sussman

A single day in Paris changes the lives of three Americans as they each set off to explore the city with a French tutor, learning about language, love, and loss as their lives intersect in surprising ways.

Josie, Riley, and Jeremy have come to the City of Light for different reasons: Josie, a young high school teacher, arrives in hopes of healing a broken heart. Riley, a spirited but lonely expat housewife, struggles to feel connected to her husband and her new country. And Jeremy, the reserved husband of a renowned actress, is accompanying his wife on a film shoot, yet he feels distant from her world.

As they meet with their tutors—Josie with Nico, a sensitive poet; Riley with Phillippe, a shameless flirt; and Jeremy with the consummately beautiful Chantal—each succumbs to unexpected passion and unpredictable adventures. Yet as they traverse Paris’s grand boulevards and intimate, winding streets, they uncover surprising secrets about one another—and come to understand long-buried truths about themselves.  
It Happened on the way to the way, by Rye Barcott

In 2000 Rye Barcott spent part of his summer living in the Kibera slum of Nairobi, Kenya. He was a college student heading into the Marines, and he sought to better understand ethnic violence-something he would likely facelater in uniform. He learned Swahili, asked questions, and listened to young people talk about how they survived in poverty he had never imagined. Anxious to help but unsure what to do, he stumbled into friendship with awidowed nurse, Tabitha Atieno Festo, and a hardscrabble community organizer, Salim Mohamed. Together, this unlikely trio built a non-governmental organization that would develop a new generation of leaders from within one of Africa's largest slums.
Their organization, Carolina for Kibera (CFK), is now a global pioneer of the movement called Participatory Development, and washonored by Time magazine as a "Hero of Global Health." CFK's greatest lesson may be that with the right kind of support, people in desperate places will take charge of their lives and create breathtaking change. Engaged in two seemingly contradictory forms of public service at the same time, Barcott continued his leadership in CFK while serving as a human intelligence officer in Iraq, Bosnia, and the Horn of Africa. Struggling with the intense stress of leading Marines in dangerous places, he took thetools he learned building a community in one of the most fractured parts of Kenya and became a more effective counterinsurgent and peacekeeper. It Happened on the Way to War is a true story of sacrifice and courage and the powerful melding of military and humanitarian service. It's a story of what America's role in the world could be.

  GREAT HOUSE by Nicole Krauss

A powerful, soaring novel about a stolen desk that contains the secrets, and becomes the obsession, of the lives it passes through. For twenty-five years, a reclusive American novelist has been writing at the desk she inherited from a young Chilean poet who disappeared at the hands of Pinochet’s secret police; one day a girl claiming to be the poet’s daughter arrives to take it away, sending the writer’s life reeling. Across the ocean, in the leafy suburbs of London, a man caring for his dying wife discovers, among her papers, a lock of hair that unravels a terrible secret. In Jerusalem, an antiques dealer slowly reassembles his father’s study, plundered by the Nazis in Budapest in 1944.

Connecting these stories is a desk of many drawers that exerts a power over those who possess it or have given it away. As the narrators of Great House make their confessions, the desk takes on more and more meaning, and comes finally to stand for all that has been taken from them, and all that binds them to what has disappeared.

Great House is a story haunted by questions: What do we pass on to our children and how do they absorb our dreams and losses? How do we respond to disappearance, destruction, and change?

Nicole Krauss has written a soaring, powerful novel about memory struggling to create a meaningful permanence in the face of inevitable loss.

This one is the one chosen by one of my book groups for our June read...It arrived via my Nook mailbox and I'm really enjoying it so far, although I will admit, it's pretty deep.

And today just as I was about to hit the post button, the mailman delivered

The Upright Piano Player by David Abbott

Here's the blurb:
Henry Cage seems to have it all: a successful career, money, a beautiful home, and a reputation for being a just and principled man. But public virtues can conceal private failings, and as Henry faces retirement, his well-ordered life begins to unravel. His ex-wife is ill, his relationship with his son is strained to the point of estrangement, and on the eve of the new millennium he is the victim of a random violent act which soon escalates into a prolonged harassment.

As his ex-wife's illness becomes grave, it is apparent that there is little time to redress the mistakes of the past. But the man stalking Henry remains at large. Who is doing this? And why? David Abbott brilliantly pulls this thread of tension ever tighter until the surprising and emotionally impactful conclusion. The Upright Piano Player is a wise and acutely observed novel about the myriad ways in which life tests us—no matter how carefully we have constructed our own little fortresses.
You can bet this one landed on the TBR pile very near the top.

Happy reading.  I hope your mailboxes were as much fun as mine this week.

Review and a Winner - 22 Britannia Road

Author: Amanda Hodgkinson
Publisher/Format: Pamela Dorman Books (2011), Hardcover, 336 pages
Subject: Hardships during and after WW II, polish immigrants to Britain
Setting: Ipswich England, Warsaw, various european settings
Genre: fiction
Source: Review copy from the publisher

This stunning novel focuses on a Polish couple, Silvana and Janusz and their son Aurek, who are separated for six years during World War II.  They are finally reunited after not hearing from each other during that entire time.  Their new home, at 22 Britannia Road in Ipswich England, offers them both a place of safety, but also is a place where each must come to terms with their own war time experiences, deciding what, when and how much to share with the other.  The young son's story is especially poignant as he has no memory of his father (who left when he was only about a year old), has been raised solely by his mother and regards all men as "the enemy."

Hodgkinson gives us a masterful story as she weaves chapters from the present with flashbacks to the past, giving us the same glimpses that the couple allows themselves and sometimes each other.  It is a story of loss, of fear, of courage, of incredible bravery, mother love, and serendipity.  Ancillary characters help flesh out the deep anxieties of all three of the major players.

Highlighting an aspect of war that is not often detailed---the plight of refugees having to adjust to a new country and new language at the same time they are readjusting to each other and their marriage--this is a story that is sure to please.  For anyone looking for another view of the fallout of war, this is a not to be missed book.  It certainly will be included in my top of the year list.

So now that I've wet your whistle, here is the winner of the giveaway (as selected by Random.org):

Susie Bookworm

I've sent her an email, and if I don't hear back from her by Friday May 27th, I'll have to pick another winner.

In the meantime, If you didn't win, you still have time to run on over to
Luxury Reading where Vera is also giving away copies ---her deadline is Friday the 27th.

Many thanks to  Sonya Cheuse, the publicity manager for Viking/Penguin for the review and giveaway copies.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Giveaway: Th3 Russian Affair by Michael Wallner

The folks at Nan A.Talese/Doubleday have given us two copies of this Cold War thriller to giveaway.  Although the Cold War may seem like ancient history to some of our readers, to many of us, it's still very recent, and this historical fiction looks like it will be a hit with either group.

The blurb:

An intriguing love and espionage story set in Moscow in the late 1970s, in the midst of the Cold War.

Twenty-nine-year-old Anna Viktorovna lives in Moscow with her young son and her father, a once popular and respected poet who has fallen into disgrace because of his dissident views. Her husband, a junior officer in the Red Army, is on active duty and living seven time zones away. Anna struggles gamely through her difficult existence, doing the best she can amidst the long lines, bureaucratic inferno, and corruption and incompetence of the police state. When she meets and makes an impression on a pow­erful Soviet official—Alexey Bulgyakov—her life begins to look a little brighter. Alexey is married and nearly twice her age, but he turns out to be a man of infinite patience and forbearance, and gradually a strange but solid bond grows between them. Though Anna still loves her mostly absent husband and harbors no illusions about the future, she and Alexey become lovers.

Soon Anna and Alexey’s burgeoning romance is irrevocably threatened when a KGB colonel forces Anna to spy on Alexey, who is suspected of disloyalty to the state. Though Anna loathes the notion of double-crossing the man she has come to love, when her family is threatened she must com­ply. But Anna isn’t the only character playing a double game.   With bravura storytelling, stunning authenticity, and com­plex yet sympathetic characterizations, The Russian Affair depicts a love that struggles to survive against all odds and despite its many-layered deceptions.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Mailbox Monday - May 16th

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week.  Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists!

Created by Marcia at The Printed Page, Mailbox Monday, now has its own blog. Hosting duties are being rotated every month, so the merry month of May will be at MariReads.  Stop on over and see what everyone else got this week.

This week's mailbox may be overflowing back home, but I'm just leaving today to return home from my God-daughter's beautiful wedding in Dallas Texas, so next week I'll give you an update. Here's what had arrived before I left.  And I'm sure MariReads has plenty of linkies on her page to satisfy your curiosity about what everyone else got.

 This one, an ARC from Random House, is going to be featured tomorrow as a giveaway, so stop back and enter for a chance to win one of two copies of this great Cold War thriller.  See you tomorrow!

An ARC from the Early Reviewers program on LibraryThing.com - one of my favorite New England crime writers, and the Faith Fairchild Mysteries are one of my favorite series.  This is #19, and after this, I'll have a good excuse to go back and read several of the other "Body in...." books I've so far missed.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Review: Death of a Chimney Sweep by M. C. Beaton

Author: M. C. Beaton
Publisher/Format: Grand Central Publishing (2011), Hardcover, 256 pages
Characters: Hamish MacBeth, Priscilla, Angela, the Currie sisters
Subject: crime in small town Scotland
Setting: Lochdubh, Scotland
Series: Hamish MacBeth mysteries
Genre: police procedural
Source:  ARC from publisher
Another adventure in this ongoing series set in Scotland, featuring the still unambitious, still bachelor, loner police constable Hamish MacBeth.  The story itself is a good one, although the chimney sweep whose death provides the title, is absolutely gone from the story within the first thirty pages...unlike many previous Hamish MacBeth stories, murders aplenty are in this one, and our poor nameless chimney sweep simply gives M.C. Beaton a title for the book.

This series is definitely in need of a shot in the arm.  Either Hamish needs to get a wee bit of gumption and progress to something more in his life than walking his dog, or he needs  a definite love interest  and relationship that is going someplace, or he needs to be murdered and put to rest.  The stories are getting stale, formulaic and the cast of characters is not developing at all. They are the same old cardboard, cameo tea-tippling crew we've seen before.  Nothing new.  Nothing.   I've been a big fan of this series, and found them fun and interesting.  Now I'm afraid, I have to describe this one as brain candy for a boring beach day.  Dare we hope perhaps that Beaton was just having a bad spell?  Read earlier ones if you like, but skip this one.

Many thanks to the publisher for the review copy and for the giveaway copies awarded earlier this year.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

New Job for Retirement

Last night while I was posting about my post retirement plans, the town selectmen were busy approving my appointment as the Director of the town library for a one year term. So.....................now I really am going to have to get more choosy about my reading.

Much of my reading time is going to be devoted to deciding how to spend those limited dollars on books to add to our collection. Fortunately for us, our town has a great group of readers, many of whom come only for the summer, who donate their gently read books and help us add to the variety we can offer.

We are also very blessed here because our library, which is run entirely by volunteers, is able to draw on the talents of some very dedicated people - we have several retired teachers/librarians/booksellers and devoted readers who are loyal workers, making it very easy to give the town a first-class library. We have programs for adults, story hours for little ones, computers, 24/7 wireless access, we have downloadable audio and e-books, inter-library loan, an online catalog, etc etc etc. We're quite proud of what kind of bang we're able to give the town for its buck. So while I'm going to be a bit busy but I'm not giving up reading, and I guess my old coffee mug is going to be kept full for at least another year.

Stop by the blog, stop by the library, and send your suggestions this way. For now, I'm off to the god-daughter's wedding in Dallas for the weekend. I just hope it's not too hot!

Review: Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks

Publisher/Format:Viking Adult (2011), Hardcover, 320 pages
Characters: Bethia Mayfield,  Caleb Cheeshahteaumuck
Subject: relations between Native American and English settlers; religous bigotry
Setting: Martha's Vineyard, and Cambridge Massachusetts 1650-1720
Genre: Historical fiction
Source: ARC from Viking Press

Geraldine Brooks write so well, and she chooses very interesting and often obscure topics from history to fictionalize.  When I finished this I had a feeling of satisfaction in that I was impressed with how she handled the topic of women in this time period: how they were often uneducated; given in marriage or indentured to others by their male relatives with often no say on their part; how often they died in childbirth.  But....

But ...the book was supposed to be about Caleb Cheeshahteaumuck, a young Indian brave who is brought to live with the family of Preacher Mayfield so he can be Christianized and educated. He eventually went on to become the first Native American to receive a degree from Harvard.  His friendship with Bethia Mayfield, the daughter of the family forms the framework of Brooks' tale.  Despite the title, the story is really about Bethia, about women's struggles, and about the less than honorable way whites treated Native Americans.  It is a story of two cultures clashing, of religion being used to justify murder, rape, slaughter, and torture.  The publisher's blurb touts this as a tribute to Native Americans who went to Harvard, and I guess we're supposed to feel grateful that Harvard established an "Indian College" back in the late 1600's.  The fact that this was a cash cow for Harvard (money being sent from England from the wealthy bible societies) makes it less celebratory in my mind.

The book was released to coincide with the Harvard commencement ceremony last week during with Tiffany Smalley, evidentally the first member of the Martha's Vineyard tribe since Caleb received her degree.  It only took 350 years!!!

The fictionalized account of Indians "crossing" leaves the reader pondering.  What was crossed?  Who crossed?  It's impossible for me to celebrate this crossing without a great deal of sadness that it cost so much in human dignity, life, and respect.  The story is well worth reading, if for no other reason than to encourage an on-going discussion of the lives described, and the nuances of religious wars.  It certainly highlights that we are still facing many of these same issues today, and with all the education we've acquired, we still don't seem to have come very far.

In spite of all this, I do think this is Brook's best work, and I think I've read them all. Many thanks to Viking Press for the opportunity to review this and for the giveaway copies awarded last month.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Changing Priorities and Retirement

This has been my favorite coffee mug-given to me by my co-workers in my last 'real job' before I retired seven years ago. Well today is my birthday, and my first Social Security check comes tomorrow, so you'd think it might be time to retire this old mug, but I've got some stuff brewing (not just coffee) that may keep this old cup in heavy use.  More on this in the coming weeks....

If you are a regular visitor here at Tutu's place, you know that I love to read, and I love to talk about what I'm reading. I started this blog for that reason--to chat about all the wonderful adventures I get to experience through the magic of books.

Lately however, I'm finding some of this spirit of adventure and wonder is being dulled by the need to do reviews. There's a big difference between just blabbing about a book you read and liked and having to review it more formally so others can decide if they want to read it or not.  It's sorta like the feeling you had in high school when the teacher passed out a list of books to read, and you got all excited because there were some interesting titles that were jumping off the page yelling "read me, read me!" Then the bomb dropped and teacher said "You will be required to write a 250 word review due by XXX date." ....and all the fun disappeared. Reading became just another chore.

This feeling of dread has been building again, as I look at the pile of books sitting here waiting to be read and reviewed. Don't misunderstand me, I'm responsible for that pile.  I asked for most of those books.  Publishers send out review copies of the books with an expectation that I will at least consider their book and review it if at all possible.

What is happening is that I'm getting some wonderful books to review. I have about 20 right now that I really want to read, and can't wait to get to. But those 20 are pushing about 2000 others I've accumulated over the years further and further back in the queue on my TBR list and I'm finding that very frustrating. There is no way I'm going to read more than about 150 a year.

The bottom line on all of this is that while I'm still going to be blogging--and I'm going to try to run at least one giveaway a month on the blog--for at least the next 6-8 months, I'm not going to be reaching out for as many new books as in the past. I want to let my reading meander a bit into older books that I never got to, books I've inherited, books on some lists of 'must read before you die' etc., etc.,   You'll be hearing plenty from me, but my blathering won't necessarily be what's on today's Best Seller list. Our personal library contains over 4000 books, and my town library has another 6000, so I could read until that old mug disintegrates without ever needing to get another new book. I know that's not happening---I'm way too curious and greedy to give up looking at what's new-- but now that I'm getting older, I appreciate age and wisdom more, so I'm going to be picking up some of those senior tomes in my collection to give them a chance to shine again.

I hope you all continue to visit.  I enjoy your comments and perspectives.  After all, that's what makes reading such a great hobby and valuable life experience.  There's something out there for everyone.  I hope you'll keep sharing your insights here with Tutu.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Review: The Paperbark Shoe by Goldie Goldbloom

Author:  Goldie Goldbloom
Publisher/Format: Picador (2011), Edition: First Edition, Paperback, 384 pages
Characters: Gin and Agrippas Toad; Italian POWs
Setting: Western Australia, World War II
Genre: fiction
Source:  ARC from publisher

Recently published in the US, this debut novel was winner of the 2008 AWP Award for the Novel in Australia (Association of Writers and Writing Programs). Not at all what I expected, this powerful novel tells the story of Gin, an albino woman born in Australia and feared as some sort of witch by all who knew her.  She found solace in the piano, and became a virtuoso player, but through a series of ugly circumstances, found herself incarcerated in an insane asylum.

Enter Toad, a small slightly mishappen man, who collects ladies corsets, but who after hearing her playing, marries her and takes her to his sheep farm in the wilds of Western Australia.  From here the story blossoms as Gin and Toad bond with two Italian POWs (one of whom is a shoemaker) who have been assigned to work on their farm.

This is a beautifully written, yet disturbing love story. At the same time it is a story of poverty, drought, beauty, ugliness, perversion, mother love, and unmet needs both physical and pscychological.  I was mesmerized, chilled, depressed, and gladdened by the story, by the writing, by the setting.  It is a chapter in World War II history that I wasn't too aware of, and I had never considered the discrimination toward albinos that occurred.  It certainly isn't a warm and fuzzy book, but it is one that packs a lot of emotion.

I have left out many details here, because this book needs to be experienced, and its nuances and plot twists discovered along the way.  There is not a huge involved plot--it is simply the story of four people plodding along, trying to stay alive and make it to the end of the war--but the setting and the characters and their interaction to each other and reactions to the setting really drive the story.  It is one that will haunt the reader for a long time.  A compelling and satisfying read.

Thanks again to Picador publishers for making this review copy available.

Mailbox Monday - May 9th

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week.  Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists!

Created by Marcia at The Printed Page, Mailbox Monday, now has its own blog. Hosting duties are being rotated every month, so the merry month of May will be at MariReads.  Stop on over and see what everyone else got this week.

Wow --I got a batch this week....enough to last me through the end of June!

 From Harlequin/HQN books - Net Galley
Blackberry Summer by RaeAnne Thayne

Claire Bradford needed a wake-up call.....
What she didn’t need was a tragic car accident. As a single mom and the owner of a successful bead shop, Claire leads a predictable life in Hope’s Crossing, Colorado. So what if she has no time for romance? At least, that’s what she tells herself, especially when her best friend’s sexy younger brother comes back to town as the new chief of police.
But when the accident forces Claire to slow down and lean on others—especially Riley McKnight—she realizes, for the first time, that things need to change. And not just in her own life. The accident—and the string of robberies committed by teenagers that led up to it—is a wake-up call to the people of Hope’s Crossing. The sense of community and togetherness had been lost during those tough years. But with a mysterious “Angel of Hope” working to inspire the town, Riley and Claire will find themselves opening up to love and other possibilities by the end of an extraordinary summer…

Another Publisher ARC from Net Galley:
Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman

Lying in front of Harrison Opuku is a body, the body of one of his classmates, a boy known for his crazy basketball skills, who seems to have been murdered for his dinner.

Armed with a pair of camouflage binoculars and detective techniques absorbed from television shows like CSI, Harri and his best friend, Dean, plot to bring the perpetrator to justice. They gather evidence—fingerprints lifted from windows with tape, a wallet stained with blood—and lay traps to flush out the murderer. But nothing can prepare them for what happens when a criminal feels you closing in on him.

Recently emigrated from Ghana with his sister and mother to London’s enormous housing projects, Harri is pure curiosity and ebullience—obsessed with gummy candy, a friend to the pigeon who visits his balcony, quite possibly the fastest runner in his school, and clearly also fast on the trail of a murderer.

Told in Harri's infectious voice and multicultural slang, Pigeon English follows in the tradition of our great novels of friendship and adventure, as Harri finds wonder, mystery, and danger in his new, ever-expanding world.

A New York Times Notable Book of the Year (2010) for fiction and poetry
Orange Prize long list (2010)
Finalist for Man Booker Prize (2010)
The Long Song by Andrea Levy
Now released in paperback by Picador.  Review copy from the publisher

A distinctive narrative voice and a beguiling plot distinguish Levy's fifth novel (after Orange Prize–winning Small Island). A British writer of Jamaican descent, Levy draws upon history to recall the island's slave rebellion of 1832. The unreliable narrator pretends to be telling the story of a woman called July, born as the result of a rape of a field slave, but it soon becomes obvious that the narrator is July herself. Taken as a house slave when she's eight years old, July is later seduced by the pretentiously moralistic English overseer after he marries the plantation's mistress; his clergyman father has assured him that a married man might do as he pleases. Related in July's lilting patois, the narrative encompasses scenes of shocking brutality and mass carnage, but also humor, sometimes verging on farce. Levy's satiric eye registers the venomous racism of the white characters and is equally candid in relating the degrees of social snobbery around skin color among the blacks themselves, July included. Slavery destroys the humanity of everyone is Levy's subtext, while the cliffhanger ending suggests (one hopes) a sequel.

 A review copy to promote the paperback edition from Random House.

Every Last One by Anna Quindlen

Mary Beth Latham has built her life around her family, around caring for her three teenage children and preserving the rituals of their daily life. When one of her sons becomes depressed, Mary Beth focuses on him, only to be blindsided by a shocking act of violence. What happens afterward is a testament to the power of a woman’s love and determination, and to the invisible lines of hope and healing that connect one human being to another. Ultimately, as rendered in Anna Quindlen’s mesmerizing prose, Every Last One is a novel about facing every last one of the things we fear the most, about finding ways to navigate a road we never intended to travel.

And finally....an unsolicited review copy from Viking Press...
The Last Letter from Your Lover by JoJo Moyes
A sophisticated, page-turning double love story spanning forty years-an unforgettable Brief Encounter for our times.

It is 1960. When Jennifer Stirling wakes up in the hospital, she can remember nothing-not the tragic car accident that put her there, not her husband, not even who she is. She feels like a stranger in her own life until she stumbles upon an impassioned letter, signed simply B", asking her to leave her husband.

Years later, in 2003, a journalist named Ellie discovers the same enigmatic letter in a forgotten file in her newspaper's archives. She becomes obsessed by the story and hopeful that it can resurrect her faltering career. Perhaps if these lovers had a happy ending she will find one to her own complicated love life, too. Ellie's search will rewrite history and help her see the truth about her own modern romance.

A spellbinding, intoxicating love story with a knockout ending, The Last Letter from Your Lover will appeal to the readers who have made One Day and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society bestsellers.

Phew!  No wonder I'm feeling I have to turn off the review copies for awhile.  These all look so good, but I'm not sure when I'll have time to read them.  Such a hardship I know!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's Day

Mothers Day comments

To all the mothers, grandmothers, aunties, great and great-great grannies, godmothers, step-mothers, and wonderful women in our lives who nurture us through every state of our lives...we love you, and wouldn't be the people we are without you.

I'm lucky to still have my Mom - she's an amazingly spry 86 year old who heaps piles of love on me and my three sisters, and her four grandchildren, and great granddaughter.  Happy Day Mom. 

Whether your Mom is still here, or has gone to her well-deserved eternal rest, let's all take a moment today to be thankful for the blessings they've given us.

Have a wonderful day!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

And we wonder why our kids can't read or spell?

I'm a self-admitted news junkie.  One of the biggest adjustments I had to make when we moved to Maine was NOT having a print daily newspaper at my front door every morning.   So I had to get used to getting my news from weekly/monthly print sources, from TV-both national, cable, and international sources - and from the internet.  I am constantly appalled however, at the increasing lack of editing, proofing, or other fact checking that allows so many egregious errors to be published, printed and otherwise disseminated.  Most of us learned to read from reading, we enhanced our vocabulary by hearing words used in context, and we absorbed the rules of grammar and spelling by simply listening to and reading correctly written and spoken language. So where on earth was the editor, producer, writer, etc etc etc who let this be the opening headline from CBS News on my Google news page last night?

A vane Osama bin Laden shown in new videos.

I mean, I know Osama bin Laden  was accused of many things, but I don't think I ever heard him described as predicting the direction of the wind!!!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Review: The Whistling Season

Author: Ivan Doig
Publisher/Format: Recorded Books, audio 11hrs,51 min, 345 pg equivalent
Characters: Rose Llewellyn, Morrie Morgan, Oliver, Paul, Damon,Toby Milliron
Subject: one room school houses and educational reform
Setting: Marias Coulee Montana
Genre: fiction
Source: public library

In this exceptional fictional memoir, Ivan Doig gives us Paul Milliron, grown and now Superintendent of Montana schools, as he  reviews his growing up in a small town, riding a horse 5 miles to school, living with his father and 3 brothers  after his mother's death.  His nostaligic journey into the past accompanies him as he makes the rounds of small rural communities having been sent to deliver the news that the one-room schools are to be closed and replaced with consolidated ones.  "No child will have to ride further than 1½ hours each way on the bus."

His memories take him back to an exciting teacher, the arrival of Halley's comet, his father's hiring of a housekeeper, school boy fights and pranks, and always enforce his conviction that the education he received was solid, above average, and had stood him--and his state--in good stead.

As he approaches the last school, at the end of his reminicense he says "Even when it stands vacant, the past is never empty."  Doig's writing is replete with pithy statements that say twenty pages worth of thoughts in 20 words.  His characters are deep, thoughtful, and very believable.  In addition, they're enjoyable.  I was encouraged by several of my LT reading friends to try this one. In turn I urge you to look for it.  It is a stunner, and should be required reading for all of us struggling with the issue of small vs big, local vs. consolidated.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Giveaway: 22 Britannia Road

22 Britannia Road is a harrowing and gripping tale about the lengths a mother will go through to protect her child.
A wrenching story of WWII and its affect on families, 22 Britannia Road is most touching in its depiction of one couple’s desperate desire to create a home in the aftermath of war when neither can quite remember what home is. Echoing books like of Suite Fran├žaise, 22 Britannia Road is sure to become a modern classic in its own right. Silvana has not seen her husband Janusz for six years, since the beginning of WWII when she boards a ship that will take her from Poland to England with their eight-year-old son Aurek. Asked for her occupation, “housekeeper or housewife?,”  Silvana first responds softly, “survivor,” and then settles for “housewife” reluctantly. Having spent much of the war hiding in the forest of Poland, Silvana and Aurek will face culture shock when they arrive in England.

Meanwhile, in small-town England, Janusz prepares for his wife and son’s arrival. He sets up a little house at 22 Britannia Road and starts a quaint English garden. An Englishman now, Janusz wants to forget the war, his memories of both his own bravery and his shameful cowardice. With the sweet albeit awkward reuniting, Silvana and Aurek enter their new life. But the six years apart have changed all of them. A lifetime without a father and a wild, almost feral existence in the woods of Poland has made Aurek suspicious of this man who expects him to sleep apart from his mother, and he begins to think of Janusz as “the enemy.” Janusz still has the letters from a love in France that he cannot forget. Silvana is skittish and struggles to play the role of proper English housewife, and the shattering secret she keeps—an act permissible in the midst of war but unthinkable during peacetime—stands between husband and wife. When the dashing father of Aurek’s only friend shows up and makes Silvana feel like a woman again for the first time since the war began, the charade of contented family on Britannia Road comes crashing down.

Amanda Hodgkinson was born in Burnham-on-Sea, Somerset, England and grew up in a small fishing village in East Anglia. She currently lives in an old stone farmhouse in the south-west of France with her husband, two daughters, some chickens and two cats. This is her first novel. It went on sale this week.Her publisher,

Pamela Dorman Books/Viking,  has kindly provided me a review copy - it's next in the queue- and I can tell you I am itching to get to this one.  It fits right in with several excellent  novels I'm reading set in World War II.  Amanda's website is fantastic and gives us a wonderful picture of who she is, how she came to write this story, and makes you just want to run to get a copy.Sonya Cheuse, the publicity manager for Viking/Penguin has generously made a copy available for a giveaway.  Believe me, this is one you're going to want to read.  So here are the rules for the giveaway:For each entry, please leave a separate comment.  BE SURE TO LEAVE YOUR EMAIL address in your comment.  NO EMAIL, No winner.

1.  Leave me a comment telling me something interesting you found on Amanda's website about the author.
2.  Leave another comment telling me something interesting you read on Amanda's news page on the web site.
3.  Be a follower of Tutu and tell me how you follow (GFC, RSS feed, etc.)
4.  Post this on your blog (sidebars OK) and leave me a link to the post.
5.  Come back sometime on May 19th or 20th and leave another comment for an extra entry.
6.  Deadline is May 21st - 11:59PM.  Drawing on Sunday May 22nd.
7.  US addressess only, no PO Boxes.

Good luck!!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Review: The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party

Author: Alexander McCall Smith
Publisher/Format: Recorded Books,2011, 8 1/2 hrs, 224 pg equivalent
Characters: Mme Precious Ramotswe, Mme Grace Makutsi, Phuti Rhadiphuti, Charlie the apprentice and Mr. J.L.B. Matakone
Subject: Ongoing detective adventures of Mme's Ramotswe; Grace and Phuti's wedding plans
Setting: Gabarone Botswana
Series: No.1 Ladies Detective Agency
Genre: cozy mystery
Source: public library

This series never fails.  At first I thought the story had no where else to go, but McCall Smith continues to delight us with new adventures and more mysteries to solve.  In addition, he sustains the character development so that by now we have become well acquainted with the primary players, and are finally beginning to get to know some of the lesser characters from previous episodes.  In this story, there is really only one piece of detective work going on, but Mme Ramotswe is also sleuthing to find her long dead (and she thought buried) little white van.  The sighting of this vehicle first by her, and then by Grace injects a note of mystery and an ultimate dilemma about what to do if it really still exists.

Charlie has some personal problems to deal with and Grace is going to make sure he deals with them in the correct manner. Throughout the entire book, the plans for the wedding proceed and the reader begins to wonder if in fact Grace Matkusi will ever become Mme Phuti Rhadiphuti.  I won't spoil the ending for you.

Fans of the series will love this one.  Those who have not read any others in the series would probably do well to read at least one or two of the previous -- there are 10 altogether-- to get the most fun from this one.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Mailbox Monday - May 2nd

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week.  Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists!

Created by Marcia at The Printed Page, Mailbox Monday, now has its own blog. Hosting duties are being rotated every month, so the merry month of May will be at MariReads.  Stop on over and see what everyone else got this week.

This week an interesting unsolicited ARC arrived:

Tabloid City
by Pete Hamill

In a stately West Village townhouse, a wealthy socialite and her secretary are murdered. In the 24 hours that follow, a flurry of activity circles around their shocking deaths: The head of one of the city's last tabloids stops the presses. A cop investigates the killing. A reporter chases the story. A disgraced hedge fund manager flees the country. An Iraq War vet seeks revenge. And an angry young extremist plots a major catastrophe.

The City is many things: a proving ground, a decadent playground, or a palimpsest of memories-- a historic metropolis eclipsed by modern times. As much a thriller as it is a gripping portrait of the city of today, TABLOID CITYis a new fiction classic from the writer who has captured it perfectly for decades.

And to preview for the YA patrons in our library I got

 Noah Barleywater Runs Away
by John Boyne

 Eight-year-old Noah's problems seem easier to deal with if he doesn't think about them. So he runs away, taking an untrodden path through the forest.

Before long, he comes across a shop. But this is no ordinary shop: it's a toyshop, full of the most amazing toys, and brimming with the most wonderful magic. And here Noah meets a very unusual toymaker. The toymaker has a story to tell, and it's a story of adventure and wonder and broken promises. He takes Noah on a journey. A journey that will change his life.

It's been described as whimsical, magical and laugh-out-loud funny....who can resist that?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Review: Small Memories

Small Memories

Author: Jose Saramago
Translator: Margaret Jull Costa
Publisher/Format: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (May 2011)  176 page
Setting: Azinhaga and Lisbon Portugal
Genre: Memoir
Source: electronic galley from publisher via Net Galley

This is Jose Saramago's last work.  Looking back on his childhood with fondness, this little book is essentially the rambling memories of an old man as he comes to terms with his parents, grandparents, neighbors, schoolmates, aunts and uncles, and a variety of animals, all of whom helped to shape him into the adult he became.  The anecdotes offer insights into the basis for some of his fiction works, and give us a glimpse of the political atmosphere shaping his later attitudes toward politics and government.

We see a family so poor his mother pawned their blankets every spring, only to buy them back in the autumn. We are allowed into the author's psyche to see how the death of his older brother at the age of 4 (Jose was only 18 months old) cast its influence.  We witness a father who is stern but who in the end is able to tell his son of his pride in him.  The story is not well organized, and scenes bounce back and forth between his life with his parents in the city (Lisbon) and with his aunt and uncle in the village of his birth.  There is no attempt to tie any of the stories together, nor does there need to be.  What Saramago gives us is himself: his memories, his attitudes, and his stories.  They may be small memories, but they color in the huge story of the influences of his life and his writings.