Tuesday, August 30, 2016

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros; Small Great Things; Jodi Picoult

Every Tuesday I host First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros where I share the first paragraph sometimes two, of a book that I'm reading or plan to read soon. 

Small Great Things; Jodi Picoult
Ballantine Books - 2016

stage one
Early Labor


"THE MIRACLE HAPPENED ON WEST SEVENTY-FOURTH STREET, IN THE HOME where Mama worked.  It was a big brownstone encircled by a wrought-iron fence, and overlooking either side of the ornate door were gargoyles, their granite faces carved from my nightmares.  They terrified me, so I didn't mind the fact that we always entered through the less impressive side door, whose keys Mama kept on a ribbon in her purse."

What do you think -- keep reading or pass? 
(Feel free to join in this week by posting your intro below?

Monday, August 29, 2016

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things; Bryn Greenwood

Thomas Dunne Books - 2016

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things is an amazing debut novel that is sure to make my top reads of 2016 list.  Beware - it's not a book that everyone one will love and, readers who steer clear of stories involving the abuse of a child should avoid this one.

The story begins in 1975 in the wide open space of Kansas where Wavonna "Wavy" Quinn, age 5, lives with younger brother Donal and her irresponsible parents.  Mother Val is mentally ill and often high on meth or pills.  Her father Liam and his thug buddies cook and deal meth nearby while, Wavy assumes responsibility for her younger brother.

"Scary mama" has drilled frightening thoughts into Wavy's head about never talking to anyone, the mouth being dirty and never touching anyone. Wavy must walk on egg shells as she tries to navigate life,  never knowing which mama personality will wake up each morning. Although she briefly gets to live with her grandmother, the stay is brief as her grandmother is unable to care for the children longterm.  It is here that Wavy does learn all about constellations and becomes fascinated with the night sky.

Wavy's life does get better when an acquaintance of her fathers crashes his motorcycle and Wavy comes to his rescue.  Jesse Joe "Kellen" is a mechanic and occasional drug runner for Liam.  Kellen has also had an abusive childhood and although he's in his early 20's he is kind and caring and he and Wavy form an unusual bond with Kellen becoming a protector of sorts.

This is an amazing debut novel and although a work of fiction, the author states that parts are autobiographical.  This is a book that made me squirm and feel uncomfortable at times. I read it slowly as sometimes I felt almost afraid to turn the page. The writing is raw and gripping and the story progresses at just the right pace. Many readers will be shocked and, not since, A Little Life, Hanya Yanagihara, has a book moved me as much.

The verdict: wonderful yet disturbing.

5/5 stars
(review copy)

Friday, August 26, 2016

The Hopefuls; Jennifer Close

The Hopefuls; Jennifer Close
Knopf / Random House Audio
(Narrator - Jorjeana Marie is fantastic)

The Hopefuls is a delightful story that examines marriage, friendship, ambition, loyalty and jealously. The story is told from the POV of Beth Kelly, a young wife who once was an editor for Vanity Fair in New York City.   

Beth gives up her dreams to follow her husband Matt to Washington, DC so her can pursue his own political aspirations.  Settling in is difficult for Beth but, she and Matt become fast friends with another young couple from Texas. Jimmy and Ashleigh Dillion. Jimmy's a charismatic, Whitehouse staffer and his wife "Ash" is a sweet Southern Belle.  As the friendship blossoms the foursome seems inseparable.  Just as Beth begins to feel a little more comfortable in DC, with a job for a social website, Matt begins to feels his job at a standstill while Jimmy's seems to be on the way up.

Set after the O'Bama's take office in 2008, as a reader I felt I was getting the inside scoop into the political circles and protocol of how people in Washington behave. I loved the descriptions of everything around DC and the way the author skillfully made a dialogue driven novel so much fun.  The author's own husband worked on President O'Bama's presidential campaign which is probably another reason the happenings seemed so realistic.  The audiobook, narrated by Jorjeana Marie was fantastic. The characters were enjoyable, I especially loved the Southern Belle, Ash.

If you love audiobooks and a story that will make you smile. Be sure to try this one.

4.5/5 stars
(audio download from Publisher)

Homegoing; Yaa Gyasi

Homegoing; Yaa Gyasi
Knopf - 2016

Effia and Esi are half-sisters born in different villages in 18th century Ghana. Their lives couldn't be more different. Effia is married off to an Englishman and she lives a comfortable life in Cape Coast Castle.  Little does Effia know but, her half-sister Esi is imprisoned, along with other young girls in the dungeon of the castle where she lives.  The conditions in the dungeon are horrendous as is the fate of these young girls.  It is the height of the slave trade and, they are to be sold off as slaves and shipped to American where their lives will not be much better.

The story is told in separate threads that follow the descendants of these half-sisters.  It's a story that covers some 300 years of history and two continents.  Each chapter tells the experiences of a new family member and a particular point in time.  There is a lineage chart to refer to which keeps the story easy to follow despite the 300 year period.

The writing is wonderful, the characters beautifully developed, each with a unique and distinct voice. The novel is well researched and yes, there is violence, heartbreak and loss throughout the generations. The novel almost felt like a series of interlinked short stories which were beautifully tied together and led to an extremely satisfying ending.  Yaa Gyasi is definitely a debut novelist to watch for. This is a must read for literary fiction lovers.

4.5/5 stars