The Sunday Salon: 7/31/2011

Once again, I wasn’t sure whether I would even post a Sunday Salon today, but I obviously decided to go ahead and write something up. I am really irritated at this point because I have been trying to catch up on my Google Reader this morning but every time I attempt to post on a self hosted blog, my comment doesn’t show.  I have no idea what the problem is, and I finally gave up on my reader in frustration.  Is anyone else having a similar problem.  Do you have any idea what my problem could be? I restarted my computer to no avail.  Unfortunately, I am severely technologically impaired, as is my husband, so I have no clue how to fix it.

To add insult to injury, I have had a pretty bad headache since I woke up. A coffee and Tylenol have really done nothing to help, so I think I need a steaming hot bath with my current book, Rules of Civility, by Amor Towles.  I am really enjoying it–I read almost 100 pages on Friday night when I first picked it up, but unfortunately I didn’t get a good chance to read yesterday.

Lastly, I have been trying to get onboard with Twitter again.  I’ll admit that I have never been able to get the hang of Twitter.  Everything goes so fast, I never feel like I can keep up.  I am hoping I will be able to give it a good faith effort though, and maybe this time around it won’t be so awkward.  Does anyone else feel the same way I do.  I guess I just don’t “get” Twitter, but at the same time I appreciate what a great tool it is as far as connecting with other bloggers.

I hope everyone has a great Sunday.  Hopefully it involves a good book!

Book Review: Before I Go to Sleep

Before I Go to Sleep

SJ Watson

Harper

368 pages

Christine Lucas seems to be your normal, everyday middle aged woman, albeit with one major issue. Once she goes to sleep at night, she can’t remember anything.  She generally wakes up every morning thinking she is a young woman, only to discover she is in fact married and a good twenty years older than she expected. She has absolutely no memory of her husband Ben and their life together, so he has to painstakingly recreate their lives for her every morning.

The reader becomes aware pretty quickly that all is not right with the situation.  Christine is secretly seeing a doctor behind Ben’s back, because he doesn’t want her to have treatment.  Every day the doctor has to call Christine and tell her that she has a journal and where she has hidden it.  Christine slowly begins to build up her memories by diligently writing down the events of every day and what she has learned about her past life.  She slowly becomes aware that she can’t trust Ben, that he has been keeping secrets from her.

I admit that Before I Go to Sleep was a little painful at first.  The fact that Christine woke up every morning not knowing who she was or where she was grated on me a little bit.  Once I realized the story wouldn’t be repetitive, it got a little easier for me to swallow.

Overall I thought that Before I Go to Sleep was a wonderful psychological thriller. I had high expectations going into it, and I am glad to say those expectations were met. This is a great poolside read.  It will keep you engrossed throughout.

Other Reviews:

Leeswammes’ Book Blog

That’s What She Read

Linus’s Blanket

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley.

Book Review: Christine Falls

Christine Falls

Benjamin Black

Picador

369 pages

Garret Quirke is a pathologist in Dublin, Ireland in the 1950s when he stumbles across a case that has been hushed up by an obstetrician named Malachy Griffin.  The case involves the death of a young woman named Christine Falls who apparently died in childbirth.  Quirke immediately becomes suspicious of Mal’s involvement due to the cover up, and he sets off attempting to discover the circumstances surrounding Christine’s death.

Mal and Quirke happen to be old friends who have since had a falling out.  They married sisters; Quirke’s wife died in childbirth years ago, along with his infant daughter, and Quirke is still carrying a torch for his sister-in-law, Sarah, who is the sister he wanted to marry  all along.

The tension between Mal and Quirke is thick, and Mal is adamant that Quirke stay out of Christine’s case.  Quirke is convinced that there is something untoward going on and he is unable to quit his inquiry, even when it becomes clear that there is danger involved.

Christine Falls is a split narrative, with part of the story being that of baby Christine, the infant that survived.  She is unknowingly sent to Boston and adopted out to a local family by a Catholic parish.  The adoptive family is not without their own hardships, which adds a complex layer to the story.

Benjamin Black is the pseudonym for Booker award winning novelist John Banville, whose work I have ashamedly not yet read (although I have had a copy of The Sea on my bookshelf for quite awhile, if that counts). It is for that reason alone that I bought this book for my Kindle.  For those of you that frequent my blog, it has become glaringly obvious that I have been on a mystery kick for the past few months, so this fit the bill.  Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I would have anticipated.

I am not entirely sure what it was about Christine Falls that didn’t resonate with me.  I thought Quirke’s character was excellent, and I was also thought baby Christine’s adoptive parents were compelling characters and I looked forward to their portions of the book.  Despite that, I just couldn’t get into the story and I just wanted it to be over.  The mystery aspect was kind of weak, and I never had an AHA moment where everything came together.

I will certainly give Banville another chance, but I am unsure whether his mysteries are for me.

Other Reviews:

Caribous Mom

Shelf Love

Care’s Online Book Club

I purchased this book for my Kindle.

Book Review: The Reservoir

The Reservoir

John Milliken Thompson

Other Press

368 pages

It is 1885 in Richmond, Virginia when Lillie Madison shows up dead in the local reservoir.  Add to that the fact that the victim is very pregnant. And unmarried.  Put that all together and you have one hell of a story.

The Reservoir is told from the viewpoint of Lillie’s cousin, Tommie Cluverius.  He is a young attorney in Richmond and it becomes apparent from the start that he knows something of the circumstances surrounding Lillie’s death.  He has been in love with Lillie for years, but how that ties into Lillie’s death isn’t immediately obvious.

It was difficult throughout the book to determine whether Tommie was being truthful about Lillie’s death and what role he played in it, and there is definitely not complete resolution even in the end.  It all made sense when I discovered that the murder of Lillie Madison was a true story, and that Lillie’s cousin Tommie Cluverius was tried for the murder.

I wanted Tommie to man up from the very beginning.  He was unwilling to take responsibility for his role in Lillie’s death.  And yet, I felt a lot of sympathy towards him.  It was strange, because I began to question whether or not he deserved to be punished if he did murder Lillie.  The way he acted towards her at times was deplorable, but at the same time, it seemed that he just got caught up in society’s expectations, and in the end he let down both Lillie and himself.

It is really difficult for an author to spin such a story in a way that it elicits sympathy towards someone who probably didn’t deserve it, so I thought Thompson did an excellent job.  I read an interview with the author and, if I am not mistaken, this is his first work of fiction.  In that respect, he really hit it out of the park.  The decision to turn this story into a novel was a great one, and I would read more from this author without hesitation.

Other Reviews:

The Book Lady’s Blog

Devourer of Books

Linus’s Blanket

Jenn’s Bookshelves

I received a digital copy of this book via Netgalley.

 

Book Review and Tour: The Kid

The Kid

Sapphire

Penguin Press HC

384 pages

Abdul is now nine years old and an orphan.  When we left off in Push, Precious had just given birth, and now she has passed away of AIDs.  Abdul doesn’t even know who his father is, and once Precious is dead, he becomes a ward of the system.  His first foster home is tragically disastrous, with Abdul being beaten to near death.  He then is admitted into an all boys Catholic home. Surprisingly, Abdul considered it home, despite the rampant sexual abuse.

I don’t want to just go through the plot point by point, so I think I am going to stop while I am ahead, but I do want to mention another big aspect of the plot, and that is Abdul’s desire to be a professional dancer.  It all begins with an African dance class, which awakens something in Abdul that has remained dormant throughout his awful life.  Dance is Abdul’s way to express himself, and his self awareness seems to grow more prevalent as the book wears on.

I wrote a recent Sunday Salon book about how much I loved The Kid as I was reading it. I found the book very engrossing, much more than Push, and although the beginning dragged for me a bit, I quickly became invested in Abdul’s story.  I think as the book wore on, the dancing angle got a little too heavy and polarizing.  I was bored by the end of the book, although it didn’t ruin my overall impression.

I think that one issue that will pigeonhole this book is the abundance of overly graphic scenes.  The sexual abuse plays a big role in Abdul’s growth as a person, and he begins to mimic the behavior he has been accustomed to from an early age.  I think that the sex scenes could be very off-putting to a lot of readers, although they play an important role in understanding Abdul’s story.

There is so much to touch on in The Kid that I have only hit on the tip of the iceberg.  It is certainly a very worthy book, and while I have no idea if it will be adapted for the big screen, I think it would make a wonderful movie, just like it’s predecessor.

About Sapphire

Sapphire is the author of two collections of poetry and the best-selling novel Push. The film adaption of her novel, Precious (2009) received the Academy Award for Best Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress, in addition to the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Awards in the U.S. Dramatic Competition at Sundance. In 2009 she was a recipient of a United States Artist Fellowship. She lives in New York City.

Sapphire’s Tour Stops

Tuesday, July 5th: “That’s Swell!”

Monday, July 11th: Sarah Reads Too Much

Tuesday, July 12th: Books From Bleh to Basically Amazing

Thursday, July 14th: Dreaming in Books

Monday, July 18th: Wordsmithonia

Tuesday, July 19th: All About {n}

Wednesday, July 20th: Melody & Words

Thursday, July 21st: Reviews By Lola

Tuesday, July 26th: Tea Time with Marce

Wednesday, July 27th: Take Me Away

Thursday, July 28th: Regular Rumination

Tuesday, August 2nd: BermudaOnion’s Weblog

Date TBD: Reads for Pleasure

Book Review: In the Shadow of Gotham

In the Shadow of Gotham

Stefanie Pintoff

Minotaur Books

400 pages

It is the dawn of the 20th century, and Detective Simon Ziele is attempting to recover from the death of his fiance in a steamer accident.  Her death has caused him to leave the city police force and join the force in the much smaller town of Dobson, New York.   So far, the quiet pace has been comforting, but that all changes with the murder of Sarah Wingate, a young collegiate who was visiting her aunt in the country.

Sarah is not your typical lady; she is a mathematician studying at Columbia University and the competition between the coeds is fierce.  Sarah is attempting to solve a difficult mathematical formula.  While you wouldn’t assume that a math problem would invoke such jealousy, Sarah’s peers are after her to discover her solution.  It is unclear to Ziele whether this envy could have motivated a murder.

Add to that the fact that Ziele is contacted by a man named Alistair Sinclair, a criminologist at Columbia.  He believes he knows who the culprit is, but the problem is the suspect disappeared to weeks previously.  Ziele is forced to decide whether he should heed to Sinclair’s hunch or whether he should go off on a different tangent.

The fact that I bought this book is pretty shocking.  I tend to only buy books I have heard of before, or at LEAST heard of the author before, but I stumbled upon In the Shadow of Gotham at a used book sale, and for the price, I could see no reason to not take a chance on it.  Not to mention I was on a huge mystery kick last month.  I am glad I took a chance, because this book turned out to be really gripping.  Was the whodunit aspect a mystery?  Not really.  I had the pool of suspects narrowed down fairly quickly, and my hunch turned out to be right, so I was a little shocked by the fact that Sinclair and Ziele didn’t pick up on it sooner.  I suppose Pintoff had to make the book a little longer!

One issue I did have with the book was the storyline of the dead fiance.  It was mentioned on the back of the book, so I assumed that it would play into the book a lot, but it really didn’t.  I kept hoping for more information on Ziele; how he felt about the situation, how he was coping, and what exactly happened to his fiance, but it was only touched on briefly a few times.

Despite my few qualms about the book, the issues were minor, and overall I certainly thought it was a great plot that was finely written.  I plan to read more Pintoff in the future.

Other Reviews:

S Krishna’s Books

I purchased this book from a book sale.

Book Review: Wishing for Snow

Wishing for Snow

Minrose Gwin

Harper Perennial

240 pages

Minrose Gwin had quite the childhood.  Her father and mother divorced when she was very young, so she had no recollection of her father, and her mother remarried a man simply known as “The Salesman”.  Meanwhile, her mother, Erin Taylor Clayton Pitner, was what you might call a bit eccentric, which eventually developed into full fledged mental illness.  There was no point where it became obvious the Erin went from just a tad erratic to downright certifiable, although Gwin’s literary style may have made it disorienting, but more on that later.

The relationship between Gwin and her mother was very tragic.  There was a lot of contention between them later on, especially after Minrose had Erin committed later on, but even as a child, Erin did not appear to be a compassionate loving mother.  The bond between the two was weak, and maybe it had to do with the fact that Minrose’s father abandoned the two of them early on, annihilating Erin’s intentions to have a happy, cohesive family.  The man she chose to marry during Minrose’s childhood, “The Salesman”, did nothing to unify the family, and instead drove them further apart.  He was a complete jackass, and one scene towards the end of the book had me feeling sick to my stomach.  All I will say is that it involved a pony being dragged by a car.

The time period of the book added another layer to the narrative, with Erin being born in the 20s and Minrose being born in the 40s.  The climate in the South at that time was very traditional, and one example of the contention caused by the stigma at the time was when Minrose became pregnant with her daughter.  She married her daughter’s father early in the pregnancy, but when her daughter was born and it was obvious that she was not premature, and thus conceived prior to the marriage, Erin was shamed and irritated.

As for the writing style, which I hinted at earlier, it was very free flowing.  I liked the fact that Minrose chose to include portions of her mother’s childhood diary and her poems, although I thought she went overboard with the poetry.  Had she pared it down a little, I think I would have enjoyed it more.  However, the excessive poetry was somewhat cloying.  Poetry fans will like that aspect of the book though.  There was also no timeline as far as the narrative went.  Minrose jumped back and forth from one issue to another, from one decade to another and back again.  I thought it worked well for her, although there were a few instances where it became confusing.

Wishing for Snow, was, above all, a very thoughtful memoir.  One that I imagine took a lot of blood, sweat and tears.  Very worthy, although at times hard to read.

About Minrose Gwin

Minrose Gwin is the author of The Queen of Palmyra. She has written three scholarly books, coedited The Literature of the American South, and teaches contemporary fiction at the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill.

Minrose’s Tour Stops

Thursday, July 7th: My Reading Room

Wednesday, July 13th: Reviews By Lola

Thursday, July 14th: Ted Lehmann’s Bluegrass, Books, and Brainstorms

Monday, July 18th: Knowing the Difference

Tuesday, July 19th: Lit Endeavors

Wednesday, July 20th: Cozy Little House

Tuesday, July 26th: Good Girl Gone Redneck

Wednesday, July 27th: Lisa’s Yarns

Thursday, July 28th: Natty Michelle

Thursday, August 4th: she reads and reads

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review.

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