Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Lucky Us by Amy Bloom

Lucky Us by Amy Bloom
Published July 2014
Source: Netgalley courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Publisher's Summary:
Disappointed by their families, Iris, the hopeful star and Eva the sidekick, journey through 1940s America in search of fame and fortune. Iris’s ambitions take the pair across the America of Reinvention in a stolen station wagon, from small-town Ohio to an unexpected and sensuous Hollywood, and to the jazz clubs and golden mansions of Long Island.

With their friends in high and low places, Iris and Eva stumble and shine though a landscape of big dreams, scandals, betrayals, and war. Filled with gorgeous writing, memorable characters, and surprising events, Lucky Us is a thrilling and resonant novel about success and failure, good luck and bad, the creation of a family, and the pleasures and inevitable perils of family life, conventional and otherwise. From Brooklyn’s beauty parlors to London’s West End, a group of unforgettable people love, lie, cheat and survive in this story of our fragile, absurd, heroic species.

My Thoughts:
Before blogging, I read Amy Bloom's Away and really, really did not like it (my Goodreads review). So why did I request a galley of Bloom's latest, Lucky Us? I'm not sure. What I am sure about it how much I enjoyed it. From the opening line, "My father’s wife died. My mother said we should drive down to his place and see what might be in it for us" to the end I was pulled in to Eva and Iris's stories, particularly Eva's. Because it didn't just end with the fact that her father was married to another woman, it got much worse when Eva's mother walked away from her, leaving her with a man who wouldn't acknowledge her to the world and a sister who didn't know she existed.

From that point, Bloom sets her characters off on a journey from Hollywood, to Brooklyn and Long Island, to London and Germany pulling together a thoroughly modern family (gay, straight, black, white, rich, poor) in a time before such things were acceptable. Readers will have no idea where Bloom is headed with her cast until the end of the novel when it all comes together perfectly. The writing is beautiful without being flowery and Bloom plays with readers' emotions without being manipulative. I was enchanted.





Sunday, July 27, 2014

Life: It Goes On - July 27

Goodness, remember the other day when I posted about how I had a lot of time to read during the High Summer Readathon? I was afraid you would. Have you ever had one of those weeks where things just keep coming up that change your plans?

We had a friend in need this week so hospital visits and dinner for the family were on the agenda. She is doing much better but this mama might just feel the need to take care of that mama a little more before this week is out. My kids may be gone but my need to mother people isn't!

We got to have dinner Saturday night with two of The Big Guy's siblings and their spouses and today celebrated Mini-him's birthday with family and friends. Twenty-six years! Sometimes it seems like those years have just flown by but I can hardly remember a time any more when I wasn't a mom.


This Week I'm:

Listening To: I'll be listening to The Swan Thieves for a couple more weeks yet. I'm hoping something is going to happen in it soon - I'm over half way through it and nothing is happening. Maybe because I've long ago figured out the big twist and it's just a matter of getting to it.

Watching: The Orange Is The New Black marathon continued into Monday for Miss H and I. Otherwise, we haven't watched much of anything except Longmire. Do you watch that one?

Reading: This is how little reading I got done during the readathon - I'm still reading Lucky Us. I'll finish it tonight, finally. I'm abandoning the plan to finish A Moveable Feast next, though. Four books came in the mail Friday and I've been lured away by shiny new toys. Although which of them will call to me next is still unknown.

Making: Asian chicken salad, Scotcheroo Rice Krispie treats, chocolate cupcakes, smashed potatoes, cinnamon toast pancakes, flatbread pizzas. Yum - we've had a good week in the kitchen.

Planning: Vacation, vacation, vacation - can you tell I'm excited? We haven't had a family vacation in a couple of years and this may be the last one we ever get just the five of us.

Grateful for: I feel that I say this almost every other week but, serious, we are so blessed to have such wonderful families.

Enjoying: The wonderful weather we've been having - we've gotten to spend a lot of dinners on the patio. Sometimes it's been all we could do to come back in the house.

Feeling: Silly. Those Rice Krispie treats? So busy talking and thinking about all of the other things to be done and I accidentally doubled the cereal in the recipe. Didn't realize I'd done it until hours after we ate them and all wondered why they were so dry and crumbly. I hate failures in the kitchen; I know I'll be making another batch this week just to assure myself I can do it!

Looking forward to: Seeing my brother and his family this week! Did I mention how much I love my family?





Thursday, July 24, 2014

One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

One Plus One by Jojo Moyes
Published July 2014 by Pamela Dorman Books
Source: Netgalley

Publisher's Summary:
Suppose your life sucks. A lot. Your husband has done a vanishing act, your teenage stepson is being bullied, and your math whiz daughter has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that you can’t afford to pay for. That’s Jess’s life in a nutshell—until an unexpected knight in shining armor offers to rescue them. Only Jess’s knight turns out to be Geeky Ed, the obnoxious tech millionaire whose vacation home she happens to clean. But Ed has big problems of his own, and driving the dysfunctional family to the Math Olympiad feels like his first unselfish act in ages . . . maybe ever.


My Thoughts:
"Good things happen to good people" - it's Jess' mantra, although it's difficult to know why. Other than her children, it seems as if almost nothing good as every happened to Jess. Pregnant at seventeen, married to a man who not only didn't support his family but sunk all of their money into pie-in-the-sky schemes and then who had a breakdown and left home, saddled with raising a boy who is not her own and who is profoundly unhappy, and forced to work two jobs and still barely able to make ends meet. It seems that positive attitude is the only way that Jess can keep going, trying to make a life for her family. When her first attempt to get her family to Scotland for that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity fails, Jess' positive attitude takes a big hit, a hit that forces her to accept an offer of help from Ed. A man she really, really doesn't like. Also a man she has just "borrowed" some money from, unbeknownst to him. This sets up a story line that could be nothing more than your standard rom-com - the battling couple you just know will end up falling in love. But for Jess "there's no room in my life for the whole one-plus-one thing."

"The only things Jess really cared about were those two children and letting them know they were okay. Because even if the whole world was throwing rocks at you, if you had your mother at your back, you'd be okay. Some deep-rooted part of you would know you were loved. That you deserved to be loved."

Moyes' is much too talented a writer to let things become mired in predictability. Moyes' characters are quirky, nuanced, and real. Her story lines balance cold hard slaps of reality with light-hearted moments. In One Plus One, Moyes takes aim at the widening gap between the rich and the poor, never stooping to making all wealthy people appear elitist and snooty nor the poor sad and pathetic.

Fans of Moyes will be happy to recognize the things they love about her writing but Moyes' books never follow a predictable pattern so readers will always find something new to love. While this one will not replace the special place in my heart that Me Before You holds, I loved this book.
"I might not fit in the way that you first with your family, neatly, a little row of round pegs in perfectly round holes. In our family all our pegs and holes belonged somewhere else first, and they're all sort of jammed in and a bit lopsided."
Moyes' books are not round pegs that fit into round holes - it's what makes them so special.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

High Summer Readathon

Michelle (The True Book Addict) is once again hosting the High Summer Read-a-Thon which runs this summer from July 21 through July 27. Yeah, yeah, I know I'm late but it's already been that kind of week. Although, in my defense, I've been occupied by things that are book related. Monday evening Miss H and I spent the evening watching "Orange Is The New Black" on Netflix. I even finally broke down and ordered the book (and, hey, Barnes & Noble, why has my order STILL not shipped?). Then last night I had book club. So...

Monday I started Amy Bloom's Lucky Us, which, 50 pages in, I'm really enjoying. The plan is to finish that by tomorrow. Friday I'll get back to Elin Hildenbrand's The Castaways which I started a while back but had to put down. I had too many books going on at that time with big casts to add another one. I'm hoping to have time to finish that one, too. Although I might be distracted by Hemingway's A Moveable Feast which I'm, frankly, surprised to find myself really enjoying. Hemingway and I have had something of a love-hate relationship, light on the love.

What are you reading this week?

Life: It Goes On - July 20 - Hmmm...why didn't this post?

It's been a good week here - work has been less hectic, I've been productive at home, we celebrated my mom's cousin's 95th birthday and I got to meet two second cousins for the first time. I have mixed feelings about Facebook but it has allowed us to get to know each other a bit in the past couple of years and it was more like getting together with an old friend than meeting someone for the first time.

This Week I'm:

Listening To: Oh so many things! The Swan Thieves for my book (a fourth of the way through this one and I have no idea where Kostova is going with her story...in a good way), "Freakonomics" and "NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour" podcasts, and the soundtrack of "Into The Woods." Trish of Love, Laughter, and A Touch of Insanity has a post the other day about her favorite musicals and I realized that there are so many musicals I've never listened to so I'm going to start rectifying that. And what better place to start than the Stephen Sondheim's musical about fairy tales?!

Me, my sister, and my South Carolina cousins

Watching: Finally finished season one of Orange Is The New Black today. Miss H and I are both watching it but not always together so we try not to watch ahead. Most of our free evenings, though, have been spent on the patio so not much television watching otherwise.

Reading: I finished Jojo Moyes' One Plus One this week (loved it!) and will finish Gillian Flynn's Sharp Objects tomorrow. Next up is Amy Bloom's Lucky Us.

Making: Use of in-season produce - watermelon, corn on the cob, peaches, zucchini and tomatoes. Lots of salads and grilling at our house!

Planning: A bridal shower with my sister for our nephew's fiancee. She is such a sweetie and we are so excited to welcome her into our family. We're making good use of Pinterest to come up with some new recipes for the lunch - would you believe salad on a skewer?

Grateful for: The great weather we've had this past week. We've had a lot of dinners on the patio and been able to have windows open.

Enjoying: Tomatoes straight off the vine; I spend nine months of the year waiting for them!

Feeling: Blessed.

Looking forward to: Book club this week, although it will be bittersweet. It will be the last meeting for another of the ladies that's been with the group longer than I have who has become a dear friend.