TLC Book Tour: A Watershed Year

A Watershed Year

Susan Schoenberger

GuidepostsBooks

320 pages

Lucy is lonely.  She is in her late thirties and her only close friend is a fellow college professor named Harlan.  Harlan dies in the very first chapter if A Watershed Year.  He was only thirty three years old and Lucy had spent the last year caring for him as he wasted away from cancer.  Now that he is dead, she has no idea what to do with herself.  She needs to focus on her career in order to get tenure at the college where she works but everything changes when, just a few months after his death, an email from Harlan shows up in her in box.  It turns out that Harlan has set it up so that Lucy receives an email from him on the tenth of every month.  He feels that he has dies without telling Lucy everything he needs to tell her.

I accepted this book for one reason.  It reminded me of Cecilia Ahern’s book PS I Love You. And in a way, A Watershed Year was very similar.  Obviously there were enormous differences though.  Once Lucy begins receiving Harlan’s emails though, she realizes that she needs to take hold of her life and start living again.  She decides to adopt.  Problem is, she is a bit short on cash, so she ends up in an adoption agency that specializes in Russian adoptions.  All of a sudden, she is on track to adopt a little boy named Mat who is four years old.  I must admit, the way she goes through with the adoption was unrealistic, which ended up with its own consequences.  It made for a good story, so I was able to overlook it, but seriously, what was she thinking?! The decisions she made were in poor taste and could have cost her greatly.

The adoption ended up becoming a huge plot point, and I started to wonder if perhaps there was too much going on plot wise.  You have the death of Harlan and his emails but that all of a sudden takes a backseat to Lucy’s adoption of Mat.  The linear-ness of the novel was upturned and suddenly the original premise was somewhat forgotten.

The love triangle in the story was great and annoying at the same time.  Lucy obviously loved Harlan.  She wouldn’t admit it to him and instead she spent her days as his caregiver.  As his emails started to arrive, you began to wonder if Harlan felt the same way towards Lucy.  And the whole unrequited love thing was frustrating.  But then I would remind myself he was dying. So I can understand why that would be something that they would both brush under the rug.  But then we had Louis.  He also works at the same college as Harlan and Lucy and he obviously has a thing for Lucy.  Which is fine, because Harlan is dead and she can’t be with him.  So she should go for a good guy like Louis.  He wants to be with her, he wants to help with Mat . . . so what’s the problem?  Lucy treats him the same way she did Harlan, by not admitting her true feelings and instead employing subterfuges so she doesn’t have to confront the situation.

Another issue I want to touch on is Harlan’s illness. SPOILER ALERT: We find out at the end of the novel that Harlan had the ability to continue on with treatment to buy himself another year or two of life, but he chose to forgo additional treatment so that Lucy wouldn’t have to watch him deteriorate for that much longer.  I thought that brought up a great internal conflict.  Did he do the right thing?  Should he have continued to fight?  Is it worth it to gain an extra year or two when you know you’ll be extremely ill or in pain?  Would that extra time be worth it? I really struggled with those questions, but I definitely couldn’t fault Harlan for his choice.  I could completely understand why he chose to go the route he did. END SPOILER

The copy of A Watershed Year that I received from the publisher included a question and answer session with the author in the back that I found very illuminating. I thought it was very interesting that the first chapter of the book was originally a short story.  I remember finishing the first chapter and feeling like it was so conclusive and wondering where the novel would go from there.  I admit, I was little scared because there was such a note of finality.  It all made sense once I read the interview!

I thought A Watershed Year was phenomenal. Obviously it had a few minor issues, but overall the story was so engaging I was able to overlook any niggling doubts I had.

About Susan Schoenberger

Susan Schoenberger, of West Hartford, CT, is a writer, editor and copy editor with a long history of working for news organizations, including The Baltimore Sun, The Hartford Courant, and Patch.com. A Watershed Year, her debut novel, won the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition in 2006 under the title Intercession and was short-listed for the Peter Taylor Prize. Susan also received an artist fellowship from the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism to work toward the novel’s publication. Susan’s short stories have been published in Inkwell, The Rambler, and Bartleby Snopes. When she’s not working or driving one of her three children around, she is writing a second novel. For more information, please visit www.susanschoenberger.com.

Connect with Susan on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

Susan’s Tour Stops

Monday, October 31st: A Cozy Reader’s Corner

Wednesday, November 2nd: Books and Movies

Tuesday, November 8th: Sidewalk Shoes

Wednesday, November 9th: Books in the City

Wednesday, November 9th: Books Like Breathing

Thursday, November 10th: Kelly’s Lucky You!

Monday, November 14th: Sara’s Organized Chaos

Tuesday, November 15th: Chronicles of a Country  Girl

Wednesday, November 16th: Reviews by Lola

Thursday, November 17th: Bibliophiliac

Monday, November 21st: Laura’s Reviews

Tuesday, November 22nd: BookNAround

Monday, November 28th: Among Stories

Wednesday, November 30th: The Lost Entwife

Thursday, December 1st: Booksie’s Blog

Blog Tour: Practical Jean

Practical Jean

Trevor Cole

Harper Perennial

320 pages

Jean is a middle aged woman who has just lost her mother to cancer.  Her mother’s declining health took a toll on Jean, and she is unsure of how to go on with her life.  She had been living with her mother, so she attempts to get back into a routine once she moves back into the home she shares with her husband, Milt.  Then it clicks.  Jean realizes that she has a duty, and that duty is to ensure that her closest friends do not have to deal with the tragedy of aging and eventually dying.  So she decides to off them.

You may think that Jean has gone off her rocker, but she is extremely methodical in planning the deaths of her friends.  She is most interested in an old friend Cheryl, whom she hasn’t seen since high school, decades ago.  As the hunt for Cheryl is on its way, Jean has no choice but to focus on her other friends.

Practical Jean is one of the best satirical books I have ever read.  The humor was so dry it was like a fine dust.  I had a smirk on my face for the majority of the novel.  I have seen quite a few reviews that describe Jean as unlikeable.  Personally, I was more ambivalent towards her.  It’s not necessarily a character driven book, so in the end Jean’s character didn’t move me in one direction or the other.  Instead, I just enjoyed her reasoning process and the way she attempted to cover her crimes long enough to get through her list of friends.

The aspect I loved best about Practical Jean was that it was fresh.  I have not read anything like it in a long time!

About Trevor Cole

Trevor Cole has been hailed as “one of the best young novelists in the country” by Canada’s national newspaper, the Globe and Mail, for his books Norman Bray in the Performance of His Life, The Fearsome Particles, and Practical Jean. He lives near Toronto.

Visit Trevor at his website and follow him on Twitter.

Trevor’s Tour Stop

Tuesday, October 18th: Unabridged Chick

Wednesday, October 19th: Life in Review

Monday, October 24th: The Lost Entwife

Tuesday, October 25th: The Lit Witch

Wednesday, October 26th: girlichef

Thursday, October 27th: That’s What She Read

Monday, October 31st: Books Like Breathing

Tuesday, November 1st: Wordsmithonia

Wednesday, November 2nd: In the Next Room

Thursday, November 3rd: Cafe of Dreams

Friday, November 4th: StephTheBookworm

Monday, November 7th: Reviews by Lola

TLC Blog Tour: Everything We Ever Wanted

Everything We Ever Wanted

Sara Shepard

Harper Paperbacks

352 pages

It’s typical, especially in smaller towns, for there to be a family that is revered above all others, whose wealth and legacy makes them seem special.  The Bates-McAllisters are that family.  Sylvie Bates-McAllister is the granddaughter of Charles Bates, founder of the private school Swithin, and she had also inherited the family estate Roderick, where she now lives as a middle aged widow.  Sylvie and her deceased husband James have two adult sons, Charles and Scott.  Charles is a meek man who keeps everything bottled up.  He is recently married to Joanna and his new marriage is already showing cracks due to Charles’s unwillingness to open up.

Meanwhile, Scott has his own troubles.  He is very a combative, caustic man, a lot of that owing to his adoption.  While Charles is the biological son of James and Sylvie, Scott is not, and has always felt different because of it.  Now Scott is coming under fire because of the apparent suicide of a student at Swithin, where Scott is a wrestling coach.  The headmaster informs Sylvie that there is suspicion that there has been hazing on the wrestling team that may have instigated the suicide and that Scott may be involved in the hazing.  All of a sudden, the reputation that has taken generations to build seems to be shattering right before Sylvie’s eyes.

Everything We Ever Wanted is told by three different people: Sylvie, Joanna and Charles.  At first it was hard to see where the book was going and how the narration of all three characters fit together.  It then started to become clear that the hazing situation, while being a major plot point, was just a fraction of what the book was about.  Instead, it was a great expose on family as well as reputation and what is really important.  Scott quickly became a sympathetic character.  In fact, they all did, but his was the character that I felt the most towards.  He went from being a despicable person to being someone that was tormented by his own demons.  Scott had never been able to forge relationships with the people around him.  He had always felt like an outcast, and that’s the way he was treated.  It was sad; Sylvie had tried her hardest to be a good mother, but she let James dictate the way the bonds were formed in their household and her children suffered because of it.  Everyone became a victim of the circumstances and it wasn’t until James had been dead a few months and the scandal hit that everyone was eventually able to break out of the cycle they had been trapped in and finally reach out to one another.

I was hesitant about this book for the first thirty pages or so.  I couldn’t see myself caring about the characters and I was unsure of where the story would go. I am glad I put aside my doubts and kept on reading because this book actually exceeded my expectations.  It was such a great look into the dynamic of a troubled family and I found myself thinking about it long after I turned the last page.

About Sara Shepard

Sara Shepard graduated from New York University and has an MFA in creative writing from Brooklyn College. The author of the bestselling young adult books Pretty Little Liars and The Lying Game, as well as the adult novel The Visibles, She lives outside Philadelphia with her husband and dogs.

Visit her website at sarashepardbooks.com, and follow her on Twitter, @sarabooks.

Sara’s Tour Stops

Tuesday, October 11th: A Soul Unsung

Wednesday, October 12th: Life in Review

Thursday, October 13th: Books Like Breathing

Friday, October 14th: A Bookish Way of Life

Monday, October 17th: A Cozy Reader’s Corner

Tuesday, October 18th: Rundpinne

Wednesday, October 19th: Reviews By Lola

Thursday, October 20th: Jo-Jo Loves to Read!

Monday, October 24th: Book Addiction

Tuesday, October 25th: Good Girl Gone Redneck

Wednesday, October 26th: In the Next Room

Thursday, October 27th: Colloquium

 

 

I received a copy of this book via the publisher and TLC Book Tours in exchange for my participation on this tour.

TLC Book Tour: Waiting for Robert Capa

Waiting for Robert Capa

Susana Fortes

Harper Perennial

208 pages

Artists, Jews, nonconformists, exiles. Gerta Pohorylle meets AndrÉ Friedmann in Paris in 1935 and is drawn to his fierce dedication to justice, journalism, and the art of photography. Assuming new names, Gerda Taro and Robert Capa travel together to Spain, Europe’s most harrowing war zone, to document the rapidly intensifying turmoil of the Spanish Civil War. In the midst of the peril and chaos of brutal conflict, a romance for the ages is born, marked by passion and recklessness . . . until tragedy intervenes.

Product description from Amazon.

I don’t generally post a synopsis of a novel that is not my own, but I had such trouble with this book that I couldn’t really write a cohesive synopsis.  I went into this book expecting to enjoy it, and the storyline was not what I had problems with.  It was the writing style.  I hated it.  There was absolutely no streamlining–it was too fluid, as if the author was just rambling.  There was really no plot, but instead just a bunch of jumping to and fro.  I kept reminding myself “tragedy . . . there is a tragedy coming.  Just hang on, it’s sure to be good.” But even the promise of a good tragedy couldn’t keep me going.  I finally admitted defeat at page 71.  I would have given up defeat earlier but the fact that I had agreed to participate on the tour made me want to push through it.

I am definitely interested in reading other reviews on this one, to see whether I am alone in my reaction.

About Susana Fortes

Susana Fortes graduated in Geography and History at the Universidad de Santiago de Compostela, and in American History from the Universidad de Barcelona. She has recently spent time in the USA, combining teaching Spanish in Louisiana and participating in university conferences at the Universidad Interestatal de San Francisco. She currently teaches at a secondary school in Valencia. She has won many awards, including the 1994 Premio Nuevos Narradores, the Premio Primavera, the Premio de la Crítica, and, for Waiting for Robert Capa, the Premio Fernando Lara 2009. Her novels have been translated into almost twenty languages. She is a regular contributor to EL PAIS, as well as various cinema and literature magazines.

Susana’s Tour Stops

Tuesday, September 27th: nomadreader

Wednesday, September 28th: Life In Review

Thursday, September 29th: Books Like Breathing

Friday, September 30th: Reviews By Lola

Monday, October 3rd: Unabridged Chick

Tuesday, October 4th: Rundpinne

Wednesday, October 5th: Life is Short. Read Fast.

Thursday, October 6th: StephTheBookworm

Tuesday, October 11th: Lit and Life

Wednesday, October 12th: Alison’s Book Marks

Tuesday, October 18th: Lit Endeavors

Thursday, October 20th: In the Next Room

TLC Book Tour: In Search of the Rose Notes

In Search of the Rose Notes

Emily Arsenault

William Morrow Paperbacks

384 pages

Charlotte and Nora are best friends by the time the 90s role around.  They spend their afternoons at Charlotte’s house being watched by a high school girl named Rose.  They look up to Rose and enjoy their time with her because she treats them as peers instead of little kids. Together, the three girls wile away their time during the summer of 1990, filled with curiosity and mischief.  Their bond slowly begins to break down as summer turns to fall, culminating with Rose’s disappearance in November of that year.

Charlotte and Nora both grieve over the loss of their friend and mentor.  Immediately, they attempt any wacky scheme they can imagine in order to determine Rose’s whereabouts, even going so far as to steal Rose’s family cat in the hope that the senile animal will give them a clue.

Eventually Rose’s memory and disappearance begin to fade, and although both girls will always be shaped by her absence, they both move on with their lives.  The rift that had begun before Rose’s disappearance only widens, and eventually the girls lose contact with one another.

Fast forward to 2006.  Charlotte calls Nora out of the blue after Rose’s body is finally discovered.  Nora agree to travel back to her hometown and ends up staying with Charlotte for a week as the story behind Rose’s death unfolds.

I will say one thing for In Search of the Rose Notes; it was readable. I picked it up one night and ended up reading over 100 pages before finally being overcome by sleep.  The more I read though, the more the mystery seemed to take a back seat, as Nora’s issues take the forefront, including the disintegration of her friendship with Charlotte.  I would have appreciated a little more suspense.

I also had an issue with Nora’s husband Neil.  It seemed like their relationship would play a bigger role in the book.  Once Nora goes back to her old hometown, she is running into men that had an impact on her when she was younger.  I started to wonder if this was going to be part love story, part mystery, but everything dealing with Neil seemed to peter out, and Arsenault’s attempts to draw him into the story seemed disingenuous.

I thought In Search of the Rose Notes to be a valid attempt, but  there were a few key elements missing that made it fall a bit flat to me.

About Emily Arsenault

Emily Arsenault is the critically acclaimed author of The Broken Teaglass, a New York Times 2009 Notable Mystery. She lives in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts.

Visit Emily at her website.

Emily’s Tour Stops

Tuesday, July 26: Sarah Reads Too Much

Tuesday, July 26: Reflections of a Bookaholic

Wednesday, July 27: My Reading Room

Friday, July 29: Reviews from the Heart

Monday, August 1: Life In Review

Thursday, August 4: Reading Lark

Monday, August 8: The Whimsical Cottage

Tuesday, August 9: Chaotic Compendiums

Wednesday, August 10: A Bookworm’s World

Friday, August 12: Cozy Little House

Monday, August 15: Reviews By Lola

Friday, August 19: “That’s Swell!”

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

**I have a copy of this book to give away to one reader.  If you are interested, please include your e-mail address in the comments section.  I will choose a winner randomly next week.  This contest is only open to US mailing addresses.

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