Review: Lone Wolf

Why I picked it: My book club picked this one.  It's just three of us these days, but somehow it works.  It was a delightful evening.

I noticed that ShelleyRae (Book'd Out) was reading this last week and asked her if she was interested in discussing the book with me, sending each other three questions to answer. 

Click here to visit her blog and read my answers to her questions.

Synopsis: Edward Warren, twenty-four, has been living in Thailand for five years, a prodigal son who left his family after an irreparable fight with his father, Luke. But he gets a frantic phone call: His dad lies comatose, gravely injured in the same accident that has also injured his younger sister Cara.

With her father’s chances for recovery dwindling, Cara wants to wait for a miracle. But Edward wants to terminate life support and donate his father’s organs. Is he motivated by altruism, or revenge? And to what lengths will his sister go to stop him from making an irrevocable decision?
 
Type: Fiction

Quick Take: My book club discussed this book Wednesday evening. A discussion that latest a hour!  Having a nurse, a friend with an ailing grandparent and my experiences... we had plenty to discuss about end of life care/decisions and organ donation. 

We all agreed the wolf part was a bit too much but otherwise enjoyed the novel. 

My favorite Picoult novel: My Sister's Keeper

ShelleyRae answers three questions from me:

How did your view of Cara change as the novel progressed? Did you find her character believable (her actions/decisions)? While Cara always had my sympathy for the horrible situation she was in, I didn't like her very much. At seventeen she lacked the maturity I would have expected from a girl given so much adult responsibility while living with her father - I think she behaved closer to what I would expect from a spoilt and childish 15 year old. Her tantrums seemed a little excessive to me as did the constant dramatic accusations. Her manipulation of the court proved she was unable to consider the consequences of her actions. I did feel for her though especially when Edward quite bluntly shatters her view of her father and her family near the end of the novel.

This novel covers some controversial subjects. Were you uncomfortable with anything explored or the decisions made in the novel? I believe strongly in organ donation so I was glad to see that discussed. It irritates me personally that a person can nominate themselves as an organ donor on their licence, register their intent and still be overridden by grieving relatives who are not in a place to truly consider the option. 'Pulling the plug' is a much more complicated issue, in theory I believe it is better to let a person go when hope for any sort of meaningful recovery is minimal but I have never been confronted with that decision and if it was my parent, or husband or child in that bed I doubt the answer would be so clear. Personally I have discussed both issues with my husband and have asked he give his permission for organ donation and to let me go if recovery is unlikely.

What were your thoughts about the family members in Lone Wolf and the idea of family members quitting? Some might say Luke quit his family, choosing the wolves. Did Edward quit before returning home after his father’s accident? The family was broken but might be on the verge of reconnecting (at the end of the novel). Families are such complicated things, we don't choose who we are related to and sometimes walking away is the only way we can hold on to ourselves. It's notoriously difficult to sever the ties that bind family and I think however tenuously the connection remained as it does here. I feel Luke made a choice to put his obsession with wolves above the needs of his own family, he quit being a husband and father to meet his own needs but he didn't desert them completely - though it may have been kinder to. In contrast I think Edward felt he had no real choice, he left for the right reasons even though the decision was based on faulty thinking. That he kept in touch with his mother and dropped everything to return home shows to me that he hadn't quit his family but absented himself from a difficult situation.

Thanks for discussing this book with me,  I look forward to another selection down the road.

Rating: 3 stars
Source: Personal Copy

Review: The Underside of Joy

Why I picked it:  I discovered this book on ShelleyRae's blog, Book'd Out early February, signed up for a giveaway... and won!

These two sentences from ShelleyRae's review had me hooked: Halverson touches upon some important issues in this novel including postnatal depression, infertility, child custody and the role of step mothers. In a broader sense the themes ask the reader to consider if honesty is always best, what are the limits of love and asks how we define a family.

Synopsis: Losing a husband is virtually unbearable. Losing your children to the birth mother who abandoned them, whilst you are still grieving, is one heartbreak too far. It must not be allowed to happen … Ella counts as her blessings her wonderful husband, two animated kids and an extended family who regard her as one of their own.

Yet when her soul mate Joe tragically drowns, her life is turned upside down without warning, and she finds that the luck, which she had thought would last forever, has run out. When Joe’s beautiful ex-wife, who deserted their children three years earlier, arrives at the funeral, Ella fears the worst. And she may well be right to. Ella discovers she must struggle with her own grief, while battling to remain with the children and the life which she loves. Questioning her own role as a mother, and trying to do what is right, all she is sure of is that she needs her family to make it through each day. Yet when pushed to the limits of love, Ella must decide whether she is, after all, the best mother for her children.

Type: Fiction

Quick Take: As mentioned at the top of this post, I was interested to explore the definition of family and the limits of love. I read this novel in two/three days, which is fast for me, and was invested in the story.  I wanted to know if Ella's life would return to it's peaceful, ideal existence but knew this wasn't possible. 

After answering the questions below, I think this would make for a great book club selection.  There's a lot to discuss.

I loved this book.  Read it!

When I find a reader's guide, I like to include three questions (exploring books, the themes, characters, etc... without spoilers). Often I appreciate a book more after answering them:

What were your first impressions of Paige? How did they change as the story progressed? Paige is the children's birth mother, who suffers from postnatal depression.  The reader is invested in Ella's story (the step mom) when Paige enters the novel so I didn't want to like Paige.   She came across as aggressive with her approach yet I understood her motive. It isn't until later in the book that the reader feels compassion for her decisions.

By the end of the novel, I came to appreciate Paige and even began to like her.

How is “drowning” used as a significant theme in the novel, both literally and figuratively? The author does a wonderful job letting the reader become attached to a community and a family.  When the tragedy of Joe's sudden death happens you feel for all the characters in the novel.  Ella is drowning figuratively knowing that Joe isn't coming back.  Dealing with the the aftermath and the parts of his story that she discovers after he dies is more than overwhelming at times.  The children are drowning to make Ella and Paige happy but can they decide between Ella and Paige and find balance?  This is heartbreaking to read.  Paige is drowning in guilt, for walking away from her family, for what she's missed, for the relationship Ella and Joe had.

In what ways are Ella and Paige different? In what ways are they the same? If you were Annie or Zach, who would you want to live with? This is a tough question.  Mother v Step Mother or Mother v Father... it's very hard for a child to feel this pull.  The guilt with making a decision and hurting the other parent.  I was rooting for the women to decide to live close enough that the children could see both parents BUT I if I was in Paige's situation I might not want to share them.   I can't explore this here without giving up bits of the story... you will have to trust me.

Rating: 4 stars
Source: Personal Copy (I won this one)

Books I can't wait to read!

It's been three months since my last 'books I can't wait to read' post. I happy to say I'm finally finding a rhythm with my new job... it took a while for me to regain work/life balance.  Having this allows more time to read (books and blogs), write, discover.

I'm not sure how this happens but I clearly read in cycles, this week's book discoveries are about secrets and memories.  I'm intrigued and can't wait to read/listen to each one.

Do you have any books you can't wait to read?
Henny on the Couch: Kara has worked hard to become the woman she is-wife, mother and successful shop owner. Having survived a turbulent childhood, Kara understands that life could have just as easily gone another way . . . and even if she isn't gliding through the trials of lost library books, entitled customers and routine date nights, at least she's not sipping a Dewar's all day like her mother did.

But then Kara unexpectedly encounters paintings by her now-famous college boyfriend just as she's beginning to suspect that her daughter Henny's difficulties may be the sign of something serious, and all of her past decisions are thrown into dramatic relief.

Putting Alice Back Together Again: There's only so much sex, valium and red wine you can take to paper over the cracks...

Alice is the friend you wish you had. The girl who makes a party more fun, pulls a funny face to make you feel better, drinks wine out of a mug and makes you laugh while you're crying over an ex. She's happy and there is nothing at all to worry about... except she's keeping a secret. A secret so big she can't tell anyone...but how do you keep a secret like that when everything is starting to fall apart? And once it's out there, how do you ever begin to put yourself back together again?

The House I Loved: Paris, France: 1860’s. Hundreds of houses are being razed, whole neighborhoods reduced to ashes. By order of Emperor Napoleon III, Baron Haussman has set into motion a series of large-scale renovations that will permanently alter the face of old Paris, moulding it into a “modern city.” The reforms will erase generations of history—but in the midst of the tumult, one woman will take a stand.

Rose is determined to fight against the destruction of her family home until the very end; as others flee, she stakes her claim in the basement of the old house on rue Childebert. Attempting to overcome the loneliness of her daily life, she begins to write letters to Armand, her beloved late husband. And as she delves into the ritual of remembering, Rose is forced to come to terms with a secret that has been buried deep in her heart for thirty years.

Review: The Replacement Wife

Why I picked it: The cover grabbed my attention and the plot sounded interesting.

Synopsis: Camille Hart, one of Manhattan’s most sought-after matchmakers, has survived more than her fair share of hardships. Her mother died when she was a young girl, leaving her and her sister with an absentee father. Now in her forties, she has already survived cancer once, though the battle revealed just how ill-equipped her husband Edward is to be a single parent. So when doctors tell Camille that her cancer is back—and this time it’s terminal—she decides to put her matchmaking expertise to the test for one final job. Seeking stability for her children and happiness for her husband, Camille sets out to find the perfect woman to replace her when she’s gone.

But what happens when a dying wish becomes a case of “be careful what you wish for”? For Edward and Camille, the stunning conclusion arrives with one last twist of fate that no one saw coming.

At once deeply felt and witty, The Replacement Wife is an unforgettable story of love and family, and a refreshing look at the unexpected paths that lead us to our own happy endings

Type: Fiction

Quick Take: Having read a few books by this author I knew to expect strong characters.  I was invested.

This is an interesting story. Camille is a wife/mother/cancer survivor/matchmaker, when her cancer returns she decides to find a wife for her husband.  Camille is looking for someone to take care of the family, love her husband, and children.

What happens next is unthinkable. Wanting his wife to be happy for the last few months of her life... Camille's husband begrudgingly let's his wife introduce him to women she has blessed as an acceptable replacement.

This story twists and turns, some parts are predictable but some caught me off guard.  It's hard discussing this novel without giving away the story but let me say it's gut wrenching at times.

If you enjoy Sparks novels you will enjoy this book. 

Rating: 4 stars
Source: NetGalley

Review: The Orchard: a memoir

Why I picked it: I enjoy memoirs. I read them knowing they are one persons memories made into a story that's readable.

Synopsis: THE ORCHARD is the story of a street-smart city girl who must adapt to a new life on an apple farm after she falls in love with Adrian Curtis, the golden boy of a prominent local family whose lives and orchards seem to be cursed. Married after only three months, young Theresa finds life with Adrian on the farm far more difficult and dangerous than she expected.

Rejected by her husband's family as an outsider, she slowly learns for herself about the isolated world of farming, pesticides, environmental destruction, and death, even as she falls more deeply in love with her husband, a man she at first hardly knew and the land that has been in his family for generations. She becomes a reluctant player in their attempt to keep the codling moth from destroying the orchard, but she and Adrian eventually come to know that their efforts will not only fail but will ultimately take an irreparable toll.

Type: Memoir

Quick Take: Did you know this was an Oprah book?   

I have read several reviews, some people have strong opinions on the farming practices noted in the memoir.  The apple orchard was a secondary storyline for me, I actually couldn't spend much time on the farming practices... I may never eat again.  Another reason to eat organic as much as possible!

This isn't just a story about a woman, strong in-laws who are disappointed most of the time, rejection, cancer, and a husband who's pulled in two directions... it's a story of hope.  The author's life journey to building a life for herself, she found a way to persevere even though her journey was tough at times.

Three questions from the Oprah reading guide

How might the lack of adult guidance in the author's childhood have laid the groundwork for her decision to get married so quickly? I believe that for most people, how we are raised and events that happen to us can create situations.  Longing for love and acceptance, and getting this from some one can feel like an escape path to a happier life.  The author makes a quick decision, she quickly learns there are consequences.  She surely wasn't welcomed into his family... her husband left her alone to the point were she was left wondering 'why' a lot.

The author is never quite sure why Adrian married her. Was it passive-aggressive behavior on his part? Did he want to annoy his mother? Was he attracted to someone who represented the freedom he could never have? Or was it something else? I believe all of these questions are true statements.  We never learn exactly why Adrian acted like he did throughout most of the story, I like to think he saw something he wasn't able to have (he had to carry on his family legacy even if he didn't want to).  This does keep the reader's interest through the book.

Do you have a favorite apple? I love Braeburn from New Zealand, they taste completely different than the ones grown in the US.

Rating: 4 stars
Source: Library (audio)

Review: I've Got Your number

Why I picked it: I haven't read anything written by this author, I was curious. 

Synopsis: Poppy has never felt luckier. She is about to marry her ideal man, Magnus, but in one afternoon her “happily ever after” begins to fall apart. Not only has she lost her engagement ring in a hotel fire drill but in the panic that follows, her phone is stolen. As she paces shakily around the lobby, she spots an abandoned phone in a trash can. Finders keepers! Now she can leave a number for the hotel to contact her when they find her ring. Perfect!

Type: fiction (chic-lit)

Quick Take:  I knew this was chic-lit when I picked it but it's really, really light in fare... until the last third of the novel. 

If you have read my blog for a while, you know that sometimes I struggle letting fiction happen. With this novel I never got over the fact that someone found a work phone, loaded with email/text features... without password protection... and was allowed to keep it/use it.  sorry....

If I ignore this blunder, I enjoyed the story enough.  It reminded me of Runaway Bride (the Julia Roberts movie).  This would make for a good selection if you are looking for a light, fun novel for vacation.

Rating: 3 stars
Source: Review Copy (NetGalley)

Reviews in a flash!

I have read a few books this year that I haven't had a chance to review, two books I wasn't able to finish and two classics that I really enjoyed. Have you read any of these books?  Did you enjoy them?

The Night Circus: I tried... really tried to finish this one.  After two weeks any making it less than half way through I have put it down.  Most loved it... did you?  If yes, should I finish it?

Attachments: IT guy reads emails between two co-workers and falls in love with one of them. After reading half of this book I lost interest and skimmed the rest to find out what happened.  It's getting 4 1/2 stars on BN.COM, so you might enjoy it. 

Lady Chatterley's Lover (Lawrence): Published in 1928 and banned in England and the United States as pornographic (tame by today’s standards). The power of love and obligation... I really enjoyed this book and am glad I read it.

Onegin (Pushkin): Onegin was published decades before Anna K, I wonder if Pushkin was an influence for Tolstoy.  I recommend the book, or at least watch the movie... It's a great story.

Review: The Darlings

Why I picked it: I accepted this book for review after reading the synopsis.

I'm just going to say it... since moving near NYC I enjoy reading about the wealthy and am amazed at the luxuries and wonder at the decisions some people make (a distorted view of reality). Based on these facts alone, this should have been a good story for me (I also live with a news junky and know more than I should about the 2008 market collapse).

Synopsis: A sophisticated page-turner about a wealthy New York family embroiled in a financial scandal with cataclysmic consequences.

Now that he's married to Merrill Darling, daughter of billionaire financier Carter Darling, attorney Paul Ross has grown accustomed to New York society and all of its luxuries: a Park Avenue apartment, weekends in the Hamptons, bespoke suits. When Paul loses his job, Carter offers him the chance to head the legal team at his hedge fund. Thrilled with his good fortune in the midst of the worst financial downturn since the Great Depression, Paul accepts the position.

But Paul's luck is about to shift: a tragic event catapults the Darling family into the media spotlight, a regulatory investigation, and a red-hot scandal with enormous implications for everyone involved. Suddenly, Paul must decide where his loyalties lie-will he save himself while betraying his wife and in-laws or protect the family business at all costs?

Type: Fiction

Quick Take: I'm left a little flat on how to review this book.  I didn't dislike it but I didn't love it.  If I'm honest, I was lost often while reading due to the sheer amount of characters I had to follow.  Each chapter was told from a different person, with a time stamp from the Weds before Thanksgiving, through turkey day and beyond.  Within the chapters 'she/he' was referenced from time to time, only I had no idea who that person was. 

I mostly enjoyed reading about Mr/Mrs Darling (Merrill's parents).  While his life was about to be exposed and fortune's tumbling.... the show must go on (Thanksgiving dinner).  It was interesting to read that a life ending tragedy happened yet the meal couldn't be interrupted.  The way this played out was the most interesting part of the novel for me.

Rating: 3 stars
Source: NetGalley

Review: The World We Found

Why I picked it: I have been waiting for Umrigar's new novel for months so it's not a surprise that I wanted to read it as soon as it was published.

When I discovered SKrishna was hosting a read-a-long for this novel, I signed up immediately. 

Synopsis: As students in 1970s Bombay, Armaiti, Laleh, Kavita, and Nishta were inseparable, but the quartet has since drifted apart.

When Armaiti, now living in America, learns that she is gravely ill, she hopes to see the friends she left behind thirty years ago.

For Laleh, reunion is bittersweet, but she promises to fulfill her friend’s wish. She convinces Kavita to put aside the past, and the two search for Nishta, who has long been hiding in a bitter, oppressive marriage. In the course of their journey to reconnect, the four women must confront the truths of their lives and acknowledge long-held regrets, secrets, and desires. And they will have to decide what matters most, a choice that just may help them reclaim the extraordinary world they once found.

Type: Fiction

Quick Take: Thrity Umrigar is one of my favorite authors so you won't be surprised to learn that I enjoyed this book.  It's a great book club selection, one my book club discussed earlier this month.

Armed with questions from the read-a-long, we discussed the novel for quite some time. We all enjoyed the book.  While I was expecting a slightly different ending, the others were happy with how it ended.  We spent most of our time discussing religion and the decisions we make. How life happens at such a gentle pace sometimes that a decade later one might wonder 'how did I get here'. 

Religion, money, friendship and culture a few of the themes in this novel. 

I enjoyed getting a glimpse into the challenges women still face and found myself most interested in Nishta's story.  How does someone fall into her life situation? 

Favorite book by this author: The Space Between Us

Rating: 4 stars
Country: India
Source: Review Copy

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