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© 2013, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved.
If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.
Thursday, June 20, 2013
Thursday, June 13, 2013
And When She Was Good by Laura Lippman
William Morrow, 2012
Crime Fiction; 320 pgs
Heloise isn't your typical suburban mother. Her life has never been easy. Raised by an abusive father and a mother who chose her father over her time and time again, she ran away for love, hoping to escape, only to find herself in one bad situation after another. Her name was Helen then. When she became pregnant, she took it upon herself to pull herself out of a very bad situation. She renamed herself Heloise and started over.
Heloise is very careful about keeping her personal life separate from her business life. As a madam, she has to. When news of the death of another madam working and living in a neighboring county makes the news, Heloise takes note, but isn't overly worried. Then news about her son's father possibly getting out of prison, reaches her--a dangerous prospect, especially since he doesn't know about their son. As events unfold and Heloise discovers a connection between her and the dead madam, however, she finds she must re-evaluate her business--and her life. The safety of her son and of herself is in jeopardy.
Laura Lippman is an extremely talented writer. And When She Was Good is a riveting story of one woman's struggle to overcome adversity and a past that won't let go. I am not sure I ever really liked Heloise, at least not in the way I would come to like a friend. I came to respect her though, even if I didn't always agree with the choices she'd made. She isn't the warmest of persons. Heloise is calculating and careful in all she does. She does not allow herself to get close to anyone. My heart ached for the younger version of Heloise, and for the life she suffered. She was forced to make difficult choices, victimized by those who take advantage of girls who see no other way out of their situations. As the story progressed, it was easy to see how Helen evolved into Heloise.
And When She Was Good is less a plot driven thriller and more of a character driven one. The more we learn about Helen of the past, the more we learn about Heloise in the present. Both stories are told in alternating chapters, coming together seamlessly. This isn't a fast-paced book. The author takes her time introducing Heloise and letting the reader into her life. I didn't mind. I was drawn into Heloise's world through Laura Lippman's words.
Rating: (Very Good)
To learn more about Laura Lippman and her books, please visit the author's website. You can also learn more about the author by visiting her Facebook page.
I hope you will check out what others had to say about Never Tell on the TLC Book Tours route!
Many thanks to the TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to be a part of this book tour. I read an e-copy version of this book which I purchased for my own reading pleasure.
Wednesday, June 12, 2013
[Excerpt from the journal of Wendy Runyon]
It was a day like any other. I woke up, prepared for work, got in my car and began my commute to the office. Traffic was heavier than usual. I figured everyone was starting his or her vacation now that school was out, so I didn't make much of it.
Until I came across the body on the side of the road. Other drivers continued driving, unseeing. Or if they did see the body, they decided to ignore it. Some even seemed to speed up as they drove by it. Typical, I thought. How many times have we heard about a woman being attacked and none of the witnesses stepping in to help her. Maybe they figured someone else would. Maybe they really were oblivious. Or maybe they had seen too many movies or television shows where the con-artist lies in wait, pretending to be helpless only to spring and attack once the prey got close enough. All of this crossed my mind as I pulled over to the side of the road and then dialed emergency services. The line was busy.
I debated for a minute whether to get out of my car. What if it was a trap? I told myself I could not think like that. This person could be in serious trouble. It appeared to be a woman. I could tell she was still alive the closer I got. She was struggling to get up. Her clothes were torn, she was covered in scrapes and what appeared to be open wounds. I saw no blood though. Her skin appeared kind of grayish.
I did not have time to register what I was seeing before a movement in the field next to the road caught my eye. A soldier, apparently lying in wait, rose from his hiding place in the dry yellow grass, rifle pointed at the woman. She was now standing upright . . . something was seriously wrong with her.
I heard a loud pop and then the woman fell over. The soldier had shot her! I stood frozen in my spot, wanting to turn and run but unable to move my feet. The next thing I knew, the soldier grabbed a machete he had been carrying and chopped off the woman's head. "Just in case," he said, mostly to himself. He turned to me and nodded before returning to the field and disappearing.
I took that as my cue and ran back to my car. I did not go to work that day. I went straight home, woke up my husband and daughter. We had much to do and not a lot of time to do it in. It was here. World War Z come to life.
Today is the midpoint day for the World War Z Read-Along hosted by Natalie of Coffee and a Book Chick. And what a ride it's been so far! The format of the novel gives it a documentary feel--the author is interviewing various people, collecting their first person accounts of what they witnessed and experienced.
Readers learn about the attempted government cover up and rapid fire spread of the walking dead. As people fled to safety, the zombies multiplied, entering unaffected territories, coming in as unsuspecting refugees. Governments and military did what they could. Dogs sniffed out infected people, whose fate was certain death. Families were torn apart. Panic ensued. Governments really had no idea what they were doing. There was too much attention given to suppressing the news rather than solving the problem, initially, and early attempts to eradicate the zombies proved more deadly to humans. When finally a possible solution came, it was met with resistance by many. Morally and ethically it was wrong, but desperation and survival of the species left little choice.
Mixed in with the politics and technical aspects of the war against the walking dead are the human interest stories, which are what really make this book what it is. Given it's supposed to be the more human side of the affair, that makes sense. Readers are given a very vivid and clear picture of not only what life would be like if zombies attacked, but also how the world would react. It's not a pretty picture.
What I love about this book is the attention to detail and how well researched it is. It's an intelligent novel. One that I think would lend itself well to discussion about our culture and society today.
Time to get back to the book!
Tuesday, June 11, 2013
Someone in one of my reading groups asked members to describe their ideal reading setting in such a way as to make us all feel like we were right there with the person, enjoying the moment too. I placed myself at a mountain cabin on a summer morning, wrapped in my afghan with a book and a mug of hot chocolate, gently swinging on the porch swing. There is a chill in the air, and it is raining, a morning rain that will soon let up and make way for a beautiful sunny day. Just a little ways in the distance I can see the lake. If you listen closely, you can hear a small animal scurrying up in the trees. Birds twitter. Leaves rustle. My husband and daughter are still asleep and will not be up for another hour or so. Tell me about your ideal reading place.
My family celebrated my husband's birthday this past weekend. Anjin and I enjoyed a date day on his actual birthday, seeing the new Star Trek movie after eating breakfast out. We had cake later in the evening with Mouse who still prefers to eat with her fingers even with a fork in hand.
The local library branch was open on Saturday, much to my glee (it's always been closed on Saturdays before). After soccer and park time, we stopped in and Mouse and I settled onto a little person's couch to read. Mouse brought over several books for us to read together and we stayed like that for who knows how long. This may become our weekend routine, some quiet time after soccer or water play at the park. I love the idea!
At the moment I am reading and enjoying two books. I just started reading The Execution of Noa P. Singleton by Elizabeth L. Silver for an upcoming book tour. The book has been compared to Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, which I recently (and finally!) read. I'm not far enough in to say whether it is true or not, but just from the description of the book, I can see why some might think so. I am also making my way through World War Z by Max Brooks. It's my lunch time reading book, and so my progress with it is slower than it might be otherwise. I am really liking it though. Yes, even though it's about zombies.
What are you reading right now?
Every Tuesday Diane from Bibliophile By the Sea hosts
First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where
participants share the first paragraph (or a few) of a
book they are reading or thinking about reading soon.
I have only just begun reading Elizabeth L. Silver's The Execution of Noa P. Singleton, and I can already tell I am going to like this book.
In this world, you are either good or evil. If not, then a court or a teacher or a parent is bound to tag your identity before you've had a chance to figure it out on your own. The gray middle ground, that mucous thin terrain where most of life resides, is really only a temporary annex, like gestation or purgatory. It shadows over everyone in its vacuous and insipid cape, flying across the sky, making smoke letters out of fears. You always know it's up there, but you never quite know how to get rid of it. It waits for you, patiently, until the day it wraps you in its cyclone and you can no longer vacillate between black and white, artist or scientist, teacher or student. It is this point at which you must choose one way of life or the other. Victor or victim. And when you do, the fear drips away as seamlessly as a river drains into an ocean. For me, it happened on January 1, 2003.
Monday, June 10, 2013
A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea by Dina Nayeri
Fiction; 432 pgs
From the Publisher:
A magical novel about a young Iranian woman lifted from grief by her powerful imagination and love of Western culture.Growing up in a small rice-farming village in 1980s Iran, eleven-year-old Saba Hafezi and her twin sister, Mahtab, are captivated by America. They keep lists of English words and collect illegal Life magazines, television shows, and rock music. So when her mother and sister disappear, leaving Saba and her father alone in Iran, Saba is certain that they have moved to America without her. But her parents have taught her that “all fate is written in the blood,” and that twins will live the same life, even if separated by land and sea. As she grows up in the warmth and community of her local village, falls in and out of love, and struggles with the limited possibilities in post-revolutionary Iran, Saba envisions that there is another way for her story to unfold. Somewhere, it must be that her sister is living the Western version of this life. And where Saba’s world has all the grit and brutality of real life under the new Islamic regime, her sister’s experience gives her a freedom and control that Saba can only dream of.Filled with a colorful cast of characters and presented in a bewitching voice that mingles the rhythms of Eastern storytelling with modern Western prose, A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea is a tale about memory and the importance of controlling one’s own fate.
I almost immediately fell under Dina Nayeri's spell as I began reading A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea. Saba's story is such a sad story, but she never lost hope. The story begins in the early 1980's and carries the reader into the 1990's.
Saba is an interesting character. She is naive in many ways, oblivious even. She lives in her own little world. As a child, she created stories as a way to cope with the absence of her sister from her life, imagining her living a parallel life to hers in the United States. Saba and her sister, Mahtab, were born to Christian parents in a country where those practicing Christianity are persecuted. It hadn't always been that way. Once the family had lived openly. But then the revolution came and almost over night (as Saba tells it), their lives changed. Saba's mother was an activitist and shared many of her views with her daughters. When Saba's sister and mother disappeared from her life, she had only her memories of them and the stories she created about them.
Saba's stories about her sister in the U.S. are comical to some extent--frivilous, really. And yet, I can't help but think there is truth to Saba's distorted image of America, a picture she gets from reading bootlegged books and magazines and hears about in outlawed music.
After my initial infacutation with the book, my interest in it began to wane a bit. As much as the young Saba touched my heart, I found her denial and stories too similar after awhile. It wasn't until Saba was married off that I became engrossed in the story again. I found myself relating to and liking the grown up Saba much more than I did Saba as a child.
The story of what really happened to Mahtab does not come out immediately, although it does come out eventually. It isn't a surprise, really. Hints are given right from the start and so I don't think it's much of a spoiler to say that it is heartbreaking. Dina Nayeri does an amazing job of conveying the grief process Saba goes through of being left without a sister and mother--showing that the process of grief takes time. The loss of her mother and sister was something that affects Saba her entire life. My heart ached for her over and over.
While Saba is the main focus of the novel, her friends and family play an important role in the book as well. Saba is fortunate that her family has money and connections. Her two closest friends, Ponneh and Reza, are not of the same status as she is and their lives reflect that in many ways. Still, the three have a strong bond between them. They are each others strength as well as confidants.
The author describes life in Iran through her characters and their experiences, providing a glimpse at the culture(s) and lifestyles of the people. She paints a picture that is both vividly beautiful as well as one that is terribly dark.
When all was said and done, as I came away from the book with a feeling of contentment. Amidst the sadness, there was much hope. Saba's story, and that of her friends, is a meaningful story. It is a story of friendship and love. Of strength and strife. Of despair and of hope.
Rating: (Good +)
You can learn more about Dina Nayeri and her books on the author's website.
Source: Copy of book provided by publisher via NetGalley.
© 2013, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.