Sep 10, 2015

Book Tour: Broken Homes and Gardens by Rebecca Kelley

Broken Homes and Gardens by Rebecca Kelley, paperback: 268 pages. Publisher: Blank Slate Press (April 28, 2015)

A girl, a guy, a broken-down house. Malcolm and Joanna are in-again, out-again: in love, out of each other’s arms, in an awkward co-living arrangement, out of the country. Their unconventional relationship is the only way, Joanna says, to protect herself from the specter of commitment, which inevitably leads to heartbreak. Set in the damp and drizzly neighborhoods of Portland, Oregon, Broken Homes and Gardens is an ode to friendship, lust, and the unrelenting pull of love. (publisher)

The novelty  of teaching in Prague has worn off for Joanna. She suddenly arrives back in Portland and calls her unsuspecting sister to put her up. Laura tries to persuade Joanna to go back to her former boyfriend Nate, but Joanna meets Malcolm and they begin an unusual living arrangement.

A modern romance, for the Millennial generation.

from Ch. 12:
"You and Malcolm. He's moving in with you?" Joanna nodded. "Yep. That's right."
"Are you sure this is a wise idea?""He said he'd help me fix the place up...." 

Rebecca Kelley grew up in Carson City, Nevada, and teaches writing at Oregon College of Art and Craft in Portland. She is the co-author of The Eco-nomical Baby Guide. Broken Homes and Gardens is her first novel.

For other reviews, visit the tour schedule sponsored by TLC Book Tours, which provided a copy of the book for review. 

Book Review: A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn

A Curious Beginning, first in the Virginia Speedwell Mystery series by Deanna Raybourn, published September 1, 2015 by NAL/Penguin
Genre; historical mystery series, set in Victorian England

London, 1887. As the city prepares to celebrate Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee, Veronica Speedwell, after burying her spinster aunt, is free to resume her world travels in pursuit of scientific inquiry,  hunting butterflies. Veronica wields her butterfly net and a sharpened hatpin with equal aplomb, and she intends to embark upon the journey of a lifetime.

But fate has other plans, as Veronica discovers when she thwarts her own abduction with the help of an enigmatic German baron with ties to her mysterious past. The baron offers her temporary sanctuary in the care of his friend Stoker—a reclusive natural historian as intriguing as he is bad-tempered. But before the baron can deliver on his vow to reveal the secrets he has concealed for decades, he is found murdered. Suddenly Veronica and Stoker are forced to go on the run from an elusive assailant, wary partners in search of the villainous truth. (publisher)

My comments: There is suspense when unknown persons try to kidnap Veronica, who knows nothing of her background except that she is an orphan raised by two elderly women, both now deceased. Veronica is helped by Stoker, a reluctant ally in her flight from the unknown persons who are so intent on detaining her.

An interesting introduction to a new mystery heroine who has an intriguing family background, unknown to her and the reader till the very end of the book. An enjoyable read featuring an independent and headstrong heroine - a mystery novel with  a hint of romance and Victorian history mixed in.

Thanks to the publisher for a review copy of this book.

Sep 8, 2015

First Chapter: Carrying Albert Home by Homer Hickam

First Chapter, First Paragraph is hosted weekly by Bibliophile by the Sea. Share the first paragraph of your current read. Also visit Teaser Tuesdays meme hosted by Jenn

Carrying Albert Home: The Somewhat True Story of a Man, His Wife, and Her Alligator, a novel by Homer Hickam, to be released October 13, 2015 by William Morrow

...the funny, sweet, and sometimes tragic tale of a young couple and a special alligator on a crazy 1000-mile adventure, the couple taking the alligator Albert from West Virginia to his original home in Orlando, Fla.  (publisher)

First chapter, first paragraph
When Elsie came outside into the backyard to see why her husband was shouting her name, she saw Albert lying on his back in the grass, his little legs splayed apart and his head thrust backward. She was sure something awful had happened to him but when her alligator raised his head and smiled at her, she knew he was all right. The relief she felt was palpable and nearly overwhelming. After all, she loved Albert more than just about anything in the whole world. She knelt and scratched his belly while he waved his paws in delight and grinned his most toothsome grin. (from an ARE; the final copy may differ)
 Carrying an alligator from W. Va. to Florida? This I gotta read!

Sep 7, 2015

Giveaway Winner: The Gilded Hour

Winner of the giveaway of The Gilded Hour by Sara Donati is:

Heather Sebastian.

Congratulations! An email has been sent.

Sep 4, 2015

Book Beginning: THE ART OF MEMOIR by Mary Karr

The Friday 56: *Grab a book, turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader. Find any sentence, (or few, just don't spoil it) that grabs you. Post it. Add your (url) post in Linky at Freda's Voice.
Also, visit Book Beginning at Rose City Reader.

The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr, published September 2015 by Harper
Genre: nonfiction

Book beginning, Ch. 1, The Past's Vigor
At unexpected points in life, everyone gets waylaid by the colossal force of recollection. One minute you're a grown-ass woman, then a whiff of cumin conjures your dad's curry, and a whole door to the past blows open, ushering an uncanny detail. There are traumatic memories that ride u unbidden and dwarf you where you stand. But there are also memories you dig for: you start with a clear fix on a tiny instant, and pick at every knot until a thin thread comes undone that you can follow back through the mind's labyrinth to other places. We''ve all interrogated ourselves -- It couldn't have been Christmas because we had shorts on in the snapshot. Such memories start by being figured out, but the useful ones eventually gain enough traction to haul you through the past. 
Page 56:
Trying to catalogue Nabakov's talents would take a library, and yet not to call out Speak, Memory in a book about memoir would be like Fourth of July sans fireworks. 
IThe Art of Memoir, Mary Karr synthesizes her expertise as professor and therapy patient, writer and spiritual seeker, recovered alcoholic and “black belt sinner,” providing a unique window into the mechanics and art of the form that is as irreverent, insightful, and entertaining as her own work in the genre. (publisher)

I loved this book, and even started writing, inspired by its concepts and straightforward advice.

Sep 3, 2015

Book Review/Tour: The Sisters of Versailles by Sally Christie

The Sisters of Versailles by Sally Christie, published September 1, 2015 by Atria Books
Genre: historical fiction

Book description: Carefully researched and detailed, The Sisters of Versailles is the first book in an historical fiction trilogy about King Louis XV, France’s most “well-beloved” monarch, and the women who shared his heart and his bed. The Sisters of Versailles centers on the (relatively, at least for the genre) overlooked period of early 18th century France. 

The reign of Louis XV (1715 – 1774) a time of increasing social turbulence and change that sets the stage neatly for the French Revolution that follows. The Sisters of Versailles is the extraordinary tale of the five Nesle sisters—Louise, Pauline, Diane, Hortense, and Marie-Anne—four of whom became mistresses to King Louis XV. Their scandalous story is stranger than fiction but true in every shocking, amusing, and heartbreaking detail.

Court intriguers are beginning to sense that young King Louis XV, after seven years of marriage, is tiring of his Polish wife. The race is on to find a mistress for the royal bed as various factions put their best foot—and women—forward. The King’s scheming ministers push Louise, the eldest of the aristocratic Nesle sisters, into the arms of the King. Over the following decade, the four sisters—sweet, naïve Louise; ambitious Pauline; complacent Diane, and cunning Marie Anne—will conspire, betray, suffer, and triumph in a desperate fight for both love and power.

Telling the story of a group of women never before written about in English, Sally Christie’s stunning debut is a complex exploration of power and sisterhood—of the admiration, competition, and even hatred that can coexist within a family when the stakes are high enough. (publisher)

My comments: Reading about the four sisters who were enticed, cajoled or manipulated into becoming their king's mistresses in 18th century France was not a glamorous or exciting read for me. I was distressed at the history of these women and disturbed by the machinations of the people at court who seemed to control both king and the people around him.

Kudos to Sally Christie for her intricate research and for bringing these women in history to light. They were not total victims, but seemed to participate vigorously in the whole elaborate process.  It does help us to understand  how social and political conditions led up to the French Revolution that was to come.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours and the publisher for a review ARC of this book. For other reviews of The Sisters of Versailles, visit the tour schedule

Sally Christie was born in England of British parents but grew up mostly in Canada. As a child she moved around with her family and then continued her wandering as she pursued a career in international development; she’s lived in 14 different countries and worked in many more. She’s now settled in Toronto and loving it.
Sally lives and breathes history; ever since she read Antonia Fraser’s masterful Mary, Queen of Scots when she was 10, she’s been an avid history junkie. She wishes more attention and technical innovation was devoted to time travel, because there is nothing she would rather do than travel back in time! Writing historical fiction is a poor substitute, but it’s the best one we have at the moment.
When not reading and writing history, she’s a tennis and Scrabble fanatic.

Sep 1, 2015

Book Feature and Giveaway: THE GILDED HOUR by Sara Donati

First Chapter, First Paragraph is hosted weekly by Bibliophile by the Sea. Share the first paragraph of your current read.

The Gilded Hour by Sara Donati, published September 1, 2015 by Berkley....
First paragraph, first chapter:
Early on a March morning on the cusp of spring, Anna Savard came in from the garden to find a young woman with a message that would test her patience, disrupt her day, and send her off on an unexpected journey: a harbinger of change wearing the nursing habit of the Sisters of Charity, standing in the middle of the kitchen.
Book description:

"... a remarkable epic about two female doctors in nineteenth-century New York and the transcendent power of courage and love.
The year is 1883 in New York City, a time of dizzying splendor, crushing poverty, and tremendous change. With the gravity-defying Brooklyn Bridge nearly complete and New York in the grips of anti-vice crusader Anthony Comstock, Anna Savard and her cousin Sophie—both graduates of the Woman’s Medical School—treat the city’s most vulnerable.

Anna's work has placed her in the path of four children who have lost everything. For Sophie, an obstetrician and the orphaned daughter of free people of color, helping a desperate young mother ...thrusts her and Anna into the orbit of Anthony Comstock, a dangerous man who considers himself the enemy of everything indecent and of anyone who dares to defy him.
With its vivid depictions of old New York and its appealing characters, The Gilded Hour is an emotionally gripping novel by the author of Into the Wilderness." (goodreads)

The publisher is offering a copy of the book to a U.S. resident in a giveaway on this blog.
To enter, please email Harvee Lau at by September 5, 2015, with the heading GILDED GIVEAWAY. 

A winner will be chosen at random and notified by email on Sept. 6 with a request to forward a mailing address. A new winner will be chosen on Sept. 8 if there is no reply. Good luck!

Sunday Salon: Japanese Authors and a Mystery

  Klara and the Sun   by Kazuo Ishiguro. Intellect having "heart" Klara and the Sun was easy to read for a literary novel of suc...