Genre: Literary

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Let’s Talk State of Wonder

July 22, 2016 Book Review, reviews 17

Let’s Talk State of WonderState of Wonder by Ann Patchett
Published by HarperCollins Publishers on June 7th 2011
Genres: Fiction, Literary
Pages: 353
Source: purchased
AmazonIndieBound
Goodreads
five-stars

 

For the month of June I joined a casual readalong led by Care of  Care’s Books and Pie, along with Debbie, and Katie, for Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder. I thought it quite fitting to do so as I visited Parnassus Books for the first time while at a conference in Nashville. {Side note – if you ever get a chance to visit Parnassus Books created and run by Ann Patchett, be sure to do so!}.

This is not going to be a typical review post, and in fact I’m going to do something I’ve never done before and include spoilers. So if you haven’t read State of Wonder and you plan to – DON’T READ THIS POST YET. And if you are a traditionalist and simply don’t want to know spoilers, DON’T READ THIS POST. And in case you haven’t gotten get the gist yet SPOILER ALERT!!! SPOILERS UP AHEAD!!!

I’m not sure why I have never read an Ann Patchett novel because once I read the synopsis of State of Wonder it sounded like the absolutely perfect read for me – a little bit of Clive Cussler trekking through the jungle, some James Rollins and big business conspiracy all wrapped up neatly in a literary package.

Our main character, Marina, works at a large pharmaceutical company as a researcher. She’s worked closely with Anders, her co-worker until he was sent to the jungles of Brazil to track down another doctor doing research for the same pharmaceutical company. When the book opens we learn that Anders has died from an unknown fever and the doctor he had been searching for, and found, buried him in the jungle. Well Anders’ wife is not good with either the idea her husband is dead nor that he was buried thousands of miles away. The CEO of the pharmaceutical company, Mr. Fox, is not good with it either. He still had not received the information Anders went to Brazil to get. So, we have Marina coerced by both Mr. Fox and the wife of Anders to go find out what happened, bring him home, and discover what the heck is going on at the research facility in the middle of the Brazilian jungle.

So many small threads of storylines ran through State of Wonder.

  • Marina and Mr. Fox. They’ve been dating for a number of years and she thinks he’s about to propose in the car as he takes her to the airport but instead he gives her a phone?!? Talk about symbolism! Mr. Fox is her boss, CEO of the company she works for, and though he is a widower, Mr. Fox refuses to acknowledge their relationship. What is up with that! Why does Marina put up with that? They even have to go out of town to dinner where no one will recognize the two together.
  • Marina, the wife and the co-worker. Marina has to tell the wife the horrible news of Anders death while the wife comes to rely on Marina to ‘find him and bring him home.’ The pressure on Marina from both the wife and Mr. Fox is unbelievable! The wife cannot leave because of their children and Mr. Fox is only thinking of his company.
  • Marina and Dr. Swenson. Is Marina going to become a Dr. Swenson just as the good doctor anticipates? Will Marina break and tell Mr. Fox it is a cure for malaria and not the miracle pregnancy drug he’s expecting? I was surprised Marina had the strength to walk away – or maybe it wasn’t strength but more she was completely broken by the end?
  • Marina and the Lakashi people, where the research facility is located deep in the Brazilian jungle. Staying in the jungle amongst the Lakashi allows Marina space and time to focus on becoming comfortable in her own skin and to be able to shed a certain Mr. Fox. Do you think there was any attraction to Milton, the driver and Marina’s often-time rescuer?
  • And most tragic of all, Easter and his relationship with everyone in the research facility, especially Anders, Marina, and the doctor. I’m still disturbed by the ending and it’s been over a month ago I read the book. On the one hand I can understand why Anders did what he did, BUT on the other hand my heart breaks, I’m shocked and horrified. What a philosophical nightmare ~ who is most at fault here? The doctor who kept Easter? Anders that gave him away? or Marina for taking him to look for Anders when she refused to take anyone else from the camp?

This book was a wonderful escape. While there were moments I had to suspend my disbelief {like the anaconda scene}. . . . although I do know of someone who picked up a copperhead just like the local Lakashi picked up the anaconda, so suspending disbelief over that scene was not quite as difficult! I was somewhat thrown off by how proficient Easter seemed to be at most everything.  An unlikely hero yet a hero nonetheless.

Now I’m off to read everything Ann Patchett has ever written. Highly recommended for men and women! For anyone who fell in love with Indiana Jones or enjoys the adventure novels of Clive Cussler, James Rollins and Lincoln Child – with lots of fantastic descriptive writing.

Have you read State of Wonder? What are your thoughts on that ending?

five-stars

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Book Review: The Dream Lover: A Novel of George Sand

June 1, 2015 Book Review 4

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book nor the content of my review.

Book Review: The Dream Lover: A Novel of George SandThe Dream Lover by Elizabeth Berg
Published by Random House on April 14th, 2015
Genres: Fiction, Literary
Pages: 368
Source: complimentary review copy
AmazonBarnes & Noble
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Having never read a George Sand novel but always interested in the persona, I was thrilled to have an opportunity to read and review The Dream Lover.   It was also my first Elizabeth Berg novel and an introduction to George Sand, the author and person.

If you’re not familiar with George Sand, she was born Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin.  As a young journalist in Paris she quickly learned how to dress as a man in order to get the cheaper theater tickets.  She is known for being a prolific writer and lover ~ writing novels and essays in abundance while collecting lovers in abundance along the way as well!

Although the narrative is in the first person, neither the ‘voice’ and personality of George Sand nor of Elizabeth Berg were apparent.  It did not read as a diary nor as a stranger in a coffee shop relaying her life experiences ~ felt more like a biography without the heart and soul of the person.

It became apparent very early on that George Sand/Aurore perpetually made the same mistakes in each subsequent relationship or affair.  She’d fall quickly ‘in love’ with the same type of person, have the same issues as the previous relationships and continue the cycle over and over and over again.  Because of the vicious never-ending cycle it almost would have been better to have read about one of George’s conquests with the added statement that this same occurrence happened every few years with x number of people.  Reading the problems she had in her relationships seemed like I was reading the same chapter over and over just different names.

I must admit though it was fascinating reading about the Paris of the day and learning of the different creatives George Sand was involved like Frederic Chopin, Gustave Flaubert and the infamous actress, Marie Dorval, Sand’s believed one true love.  I imagine in the day George Sand would have made front page headlines every few months with her actions.  Unfortunately, I just did not connect with her in The Dream Lover.

What famous literary character can you see making front page headlines constantly?

Thank you so much TLC Book Tours for inclusion in The Dream Lover tour.

To read additional reviews please visit TLC Book Tours.

 

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Book Review: A Fireproof Home for the Bride

March 25, 2015 Book Review 0

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book nor the content of my review.

Book Review: A Fireproof Home for the BrideA Fireproof Home for the Bride by Amy Scheibe
Published by St. Martin's Press on March 10th, 2015
Genres: Fiction, Literary
Pages: 384
Source: complimentary review copy
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A slow, yet methodical, building of the plot to an ultimate firestorm;

A coming-of-age novel with a strong female lead;

Issues of family secrets ~ how do you handle learning the people you love are not who you thought they were?

Racial tensions ~ the white man against anyone not white, male and Protestant.

Religious intolerance ~ strong intolerance by the Lutherans of the Catholics; I can’t even pretend to understand the conflict here, but I think that’s the point.

Why I Read A Fireproof Home for the Bride  the charm of the 1950’s with secrets & struggles & enough family strife to make it real + a heroine worthy of cheer = yes, please, give me more!

What I Would Have Liked Better Having read this one in a couple of days, it’s apparent that there wasn’t much I didn’t like!  The ultimate firestorm was a bit over-the-top taking away from the believability of the story but not so over-the-top that I didn’t want to finish.  At times it was hard to keep all of the characters straight between the Brann’s and the Nelson’s and which belonged to which family and then throw in her father’s extended family and it got to be a bit confusing.  I muddled thru, obviously!

Please Give Me More The characters were so fully drawn I felt I knew them.  I’ve always heard that Midwesterners were hard workers, especially the farmers.  The author did a fabulous job of making these Midwesterners real, not stereotypical – she showed  us rather than told.  I lived on my grandparents farm for a few years growing up and I know it’s hard work, long hours with very little pay.

Interesting to Note  I was not aware the Klu Klux Klan had such a prominence in Minnesota during the ’50s or that Mexican field workers from Texas would migrate to Minnesota to work the farms & in the sugar beet factories.  Fascinating the things one can learn from fiction!

If you liked The Swan House or The Boston Girl then you may enjoy A Fireproof Home for the Bride. Recommended.

What book have you read recently where you learned something new about history? 

 

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Book Review: Some Luck

March 5, 2015 Book Review, reviews 9

Book Review: Some LuckSome Luck by Jane Smiley
Published by Knopf Doubleday Publishing on Ocober 7th, 2014
Genres: Fiction, Literary
Pages: 395
Source: purchased
AmazonBarnes & Noble
Goodreads

 

For a couple of years while growing up we lived on my grandparents farm in Tennessee.  I learned early on what makes a successful farm: a ton of hard work, dedication and some luck!

Set in the Midwest town of Denby, Iowa, Walter Langdon marries the prettiest girl in town, Rosanna, and sets up home and farm just outside of town.  Soon the babies start coming; first Frank then Joe, Lillian, Henry and finally Claire.  Covering 1920 – 1953, each chapter represents one year and we get a brief peek inside the lives of the Langdon family.    Frank makes his own way, is headstrong and stubborn yet also brilliant.  Joe is considered the ‘whiner’ and yet his particular gift of stewing over an issue brings him and his family success; Lillian is the angel, naive and beautiful; Henry has no interest in farming and somehow escapes much of the farm life work ~ he reads, and reads and reads; Claire is her daddy’s heart – is it because Walter has the time later in life to focus on Claire or is it because Rosanna seemed to have a bit of postpartum blues or a combination?

I must admit that I have mixed feelings about Some Luck ~ Is it a sweeping family saga or a book without a plot?  I think it is one of those that you either hate it or you need a few days to think it over and find that months after the fact you’re still pondering the Langdon family.  That’s where Jane Smiley has created a brilliant novel ~ it gradually gets under your skin and you find yourself thinking about the Langdon’s long after the book is closed.

Some Luck mirrors life ~ there’s a few big things that happen but mostly we get by in the everyday-ness of life.

Why I picked up Some Luck

I picked this one up because I’ve got Early Warning on my queue to review, and I wanted to start from the beginning in Smiley’s trilogy about the Langdon family.

What I would have liked better

There are a LOT of characters by the end of Some Luck and though Smiley includes a family tree at the beginning, I found myself having to look back quite a bit.  Before I start Early Warning I am going to print out the family tree!  Not every chapter includes each of the children or their friends and then subsequent spouses.   Since I had to read this one over a couple of weeks rather than all in a couple of sittings, it took me longer to get reacquainted with who was who.

Please give me more

Henry!  It seemed to me that Frank ended up as the accidental protagonist, but it was Henry that I was drawn to.

Interesting to Note

The discussion questions in the back of the novel really got me thinking about how so much about each character and the time period is revealed through atypical means.  For example, Walter resists getting a tractor for the longest time (times were changing, farming was evolving) and Frank’s character flaws are shown through Joe’s behavior (Frank is not a very nice brother toward Joe).  If you read this one be sure to check out the discussion questions ~ reading through those alone will reveal the brilliance of this author.

If you like A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler or Dissident Gardens by Jonathan Lethem then you may enjoy Some Luck.

What book have you read recently that kept you thinking about the characters long after the last page was over?

 

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Elephants, Psychics and Overcoming Grief in Leaving Time

October 20, 2014 Book Review 4

Elephants, Psychics and Overcoming Grief in Leaving TimeLeaving Time by Jodi Picoult
Published by Ballantine Books on October 14th, 2014
Genres: Fiction, Literary
Pages: 416
Source: purchased
Goodreads

 

Children are the anchors of a mother’s life.  

~Sophocles, Phaedra, fragment 612

Having read almost all of Jodi Picoult’s previous novels I knew I was settling in for a treat of a read.  Thirteen year old Jenna Metcalf enlists the help of two very unlikely sources ~ Serenity, a psychic with a load of baggage and Victor/Virgil the alcoholic detective turned P.I. who investigated a death at the elephant sanctuary Jenna’s parents owned 10 years prior.

Jodi Picoult has been labeled a master storyteller by Stephen King ~ in my opinion, Leaving Time is truly Picoult’s best novel to date.  Told in alternating voices we are given clues throughout of what happened the night Alice Metcalf disappeared and long-time elephant caregiver, Nevvie, was discovered trampled by one of the elephants.

When the plot lines intersect, cross over and under and around as they did in Leaving Time, it is not uncommon to discover a slip up somewhere.  Not so in this gem.  Every tendril of the story was wrapped up – not in a nice neat package, but rather in a manner that felt real.  The characters from thirteen year old Jenna, her mother Alice, Serenity and Virgil – each one is an individual fully fleshed out in their own right.  But the true beauty of the novel is reading about the elephants.  The research that went into this novel is so thorough – the plight of both wild elephants and those in captivity, the different challenges faced by each group and the grief and the “allomothering” – wow! I wanted to jump inside the novel and be Alice for a time.

Then the research into psychics and elephants – the way Picoult integrates her new-found knowledge into the novel without making it seem dusty and dry is so seamless.

Leaving Time is for anyone who loves animals, especially elephants.  It is for mothers of daughters and daughters of mothers; for those dealing with a mental illness – either personally or with a loved one.  It is for the man who sees no redemption for his actions and for the ones who have talked to the other side.  It will leave you feeling many emotions including sated and satisfied.  Highly, highly recommended.

[Tweet “Elephants, grief and psychics in #leavingtime”]

Jodi Picoult has also given us the novella Larger Than Life for those wanting to wade a bit deeper into the background of Alice Metcalf and her research with elephant grief.  It is just as fabulous as Leaving Time and will take you on roller coaster ride of emotions.

We also have Where There’s Smoke that introduces us to Serenity Jones, the psychic in Leaving Time.  I read this one several months ago and could not wait to get me hands on Leaving Time which had not been released at that time – do yourself a favor and get all three!  Set aside a weekend of Jodi Picoult reading and start with Where There’s Smoke and Larger Than Life prior to Leaving Time.  So so good!

*currently Where There’s Smoke is free for Kindle, Kobo, and Nook and Larger Than Life is $1.99.

I’d love to know  what was the last book you read that had you hungering for more, more, more from the author or the storyline?  Share in the comments 🙂

 

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