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Monday, September 19, 2016

Commonwealth: A Novel by Ann Patchett

(Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book!)
about book:

The acclaimed, bestselling author—winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize—tells the enthralling story of how an unexpected romantic encounter irrevocably changes two families’ lives.

One Sunday afternoon in Southern California, Bert Cousins shows up at Franny Keating’s christening party uninvited. Before evening falls, he has kissed Franny’s mother, Beverly—thus setting in motion the dissolution of their marriages and the joining of two families.

Spanning five decades, Commonwealth explores how this chance encounter reverberates through the lives of the four parents and six children involved. Spending summers together in Virginia, the Keating and Cousins children forge a lasting bond that is based on a shared disillusionment with their parents and the strange and genuine affection that grows up between them.

When, in her twenties, Franny begins an affair with the legendary author Leon Posen and tells him about her family, the story of her siblings is no longer hers to control. Their childhood becomes the basis for his wildly successful book, ultimately forcing them to come to terms with their losses, their guilt, and the deeply loyal connection they feel for one another.

Told with equal measures of humor and heartbreak, Commonwealth is a meditation on inspiration, interpretation, and the ownership of stories. It is a brilliant and tender tale of the far-reaching ties of love and responsibility that bind us together.

my thoughts:

As a HUGE fan of Ann Patchett's works, I was super excited to read her latest book, Commonwealth.  I just knew that I was in for brilliant writing and superb storytelling.  Patchett never disappoints and this book was no exception. Spanning over fifty years, this character-driven novel tells the story of two families and how one kiss changed their lives forever more. Yep, one kiss. How crazy is that?

Its a hot day in Southern California and the Keatings have invited everyone over to celebrate their baby girl, Franny's christening.  Bert Cousins shows up, even though he's not really a friend of the Keatings.  In fact, he's lied to his family and says that he's working, because he doesn't really want to deal with them. Instead, he's in a room kissing Mrs. Keating.  Yep, we have the kiss that will change everything.  Divorces ensue, kids get shuffled between homes, step siblings and parents are made, and the kids lives are affected forever more.  Fast forward and you find Franny dating a much older man who happens to be an author.  She shares stories about her childhood with him.  Suddenly, he's writing, writing, and writing.  His book becomes a bestseller and he's more popular than ever.  Turns out Franny's childhood made for great storytelling.  Her family's not happy with Franny for airing their dirty laundry is such a public way.  They aren't happy that this book is forcing them to confront the past and how its affected them so much. 

Patchett has written a powerful story that explores the good, the bad, and the ugly that make up a family.  The characters are flawed, realistic, and relatable.  The writing is masterful.  Its filled with such depth and thoughtfulness, you can't help but be in awe of Patchett's talent.  Simply put, Commonwealth is a triumph.  I would most definitely recommend Commonwealth (and every other book by Patchett) to fans of Patchett and fans of great literature.  You will absolutely LOVE this book! 

Here's the link to the TLC Book Tours schedule for: Commonwealth
Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The New Agatha Christie Hercule Poirot Mystery: Closed Casket by Sophie Hannah

(Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book!)
about book:

“What I intend to say to you will come as a shock…”

With these words, Lady Athelinda Playford — one of the world’s most beloved children’s authors — springs a surprise on the lawyer entrusted with her will. As guests arrive for a party at her Irish mansion, Lady Playford has decided to cut off her two children without a penny . . . and leave her vast fortune to someone else: an invalid who has only weeks to live.

Among Lady Playford’s visitors are two strangers: the famous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, and Inspector Edward Catchpool of Scotland Yard. Neither knows why he has been invited — until Poirot begins to wonder if Lady Playford expects a murder. But why does she seem so determined to provoke a killer? And why — when the crime is committed despite Poirot’s best efforts to stop it — does the identity of the victim make no sense at all?

my thoughts:

Sophie Hannah is back again, writing another Agatha Christie Hercule Poirot Mystery - Closed Casket.  As a fan of her last effort, The Monogram Murders, I was excited to get my hands on a copy of her new book.  I just knew that I would be in for quite a treat.  So, I settled in with a cuppa, some cookies, and Closed Casket.  I ignored everyone and everything around me.  I simply, read and read until I turned the very last page.  And let me just say - I absolutely loved Closed Casket!!  I think its even better than Hannah's first attempt at writing Christie's famed Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot. 

In this latest mystery, we find ourselves at a house party out in the country.  Lady Playford has invited Poirot and Inspector Catchpool (from The Monogram Murders; Poirot's friend who relied a little too much on him and wound up catching flack for it after The Monogram Murders were solved), along with her attorneys and family up to her house for the weekend.  Both Poirot and Catchpool are surprised at the invitation, as they have no idea why they were invited.  They have their suspicions, but nothing is confirmed until the dinner party where everyone is left shocked, unhappy, and angry.  It seems that Athie (Lady Playford) has changed her will and left her monies to her assistant, who is deathly ill.  She believes that such an announcement may provoke someone to commit murder, which is why she has invited Catchpool and Poirot.  Suffice it to say, she's right, but not when it comes to the victim.  And that is all I will share about the book.  Its just too good and must be read in order to be fully experienced.  There are plenty of red herrings to throw you off, some twists and turns that will leave you perplexed, and Poirot's explanation of it all that will exhibit his intellect in full effect.  Its truly the best!  Hannah's done a smashing job of combining her voice with Christie's spirit in this new book - you will not want to miss out!  The writing is engaging, fun, and suspenseful.  The characters are such characters - they are outrageous, awful, and hilarious at the same time.  And the story is unputdownable.  I absolutely enjoyed Closed Casket and trying to figure out whodunit.  Oh, and you will find out what 'closed casket' has to do with the story - so, read on!

I would happily recommend this book to fans of Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot Mystery series and fans of Sophie Hannah - you will LOVE Closed Casket!!

Here's the link to the TLC Book Tours schedule for: Closed Casket
Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Another Addition to my R.I.P. XI TBR List...

(Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book!)
Thank you, NetGalley!! I just got approved for this creeptastic looking novel and can't wait to dive into it for R.I.P. XI!!  Pretty spooky looking, eh? I think it will be perfect for R.I.P. XI.  Its about a family that moves into this apartment building that is next to a graveyard.  Strange and scary things start to happen and soon people are moving out of the building.  Soon, the family are the only tenants left.  Or are they?  Apparently, someone or something is lurking in the basement and the family is about to find out what's really been happening in the building.  Eek!! How creepy does that sound?!  I can't wait.  This story was originally published in 1986 and has been recently translated into English - how cool, eh? And now I get to read it for R.I.P. XI.  I'm thinking it will be the perfect story to kick off Halloween season next month. What do you think? Doesn't it sound spooky?

And now, I'm off to continue reading A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles.  Happy reading!!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Currently Reading...

(Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book!)
and loving it! I've only read a few pages and already I'm smitten with Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov.  He's just been sentenced to live at the Hotel Metropol in Moscow over a poem. How crazy is that?!  I couldn't help but think of the old adage,  "The pen is mightier than the sword." Especially, as the Bolsheviks seem to take it to heart when questioning the Count over his "incendiary" poem.  Then again, the real reason they want to prosecute the Count is due to the fact that he is an aristocrat.  Yep, they believe that his social and economic class has corrupted him and now he must pay the consequences - to live out his days at the Metropol.  If he steps one foot outside the hotel he will be shot.  And so, he walks back to the hotel, accompanied by two armed soldiers.  Upon entering his room he finds the Captain and two bellhops awaiting him.  Turns out that he can no longer reside in such spacious quarters and must now relocate to a tiny cell/room in the attic.  Any belongings he can't fit into his new abode will be made property of the People.  The Counts packs up what he can and settles into his new room and his new life.  And now, I can't wait to find out what he will get up to at the Metropol now that he is forced to live there. 

I'm off to continue reading Amor Towles latest book,  A Gentleman in Moscow - it just went on sale September 6th.  If you enjoyed his first book, Rules of Civility, you are going to LOVE A Gentleman in Moscow.  I've barely begun the book and already can tell this will be one of my favorite reads of the year. 

Happy reading!!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly

(Thank you to the publisher, HarperCollins, and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book for review!!)
about book:

The phenomenal true story of the black female mathematicians at NASA whose calculations helped fuel some of America’s greatest achievements in space. Soon to be a major motion picture starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kirsten Dunst, and Kevin Costner.

Before John Glenn orbited the earth, or Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of dedicated female mathematicians known as “human computers” used pencils, slide rules and adding machines to calculate the numbers that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space.

Among these problem-solvers were a group of exceptionally talented African American women, some of the brightest minds of their generation. Originally relegated to teaching math in the South’s segregated public schools, they were called into service during the labor shortages of World War II, when America’s aeronautics industry was in dire need of anyone who had the right stuff. Suddenly, these overlooked math whizzes had a shot at jobs worthy of their skills, and they answered Uncle Sam’s call, moving to Hampton, Virginia and the fascinating, high-energy world of the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory.

Even as Virginia’s Jim Crow laws required them to be segregated from their white counterparts, the women of Langley’s all-black “West Computing” group helped America achieve one of the things it desired most: a decisive victory over the Soviet Union in the Cold War, and complete domination of the heavens.

Starting in World War II and moving through to the Cold War, the Civil Rights Movement and the Space Race, Hidden Figures follows the interwoven accounts of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Christine Darden, four African American women who participated in some of NASA’s greatest successes. It chronicles their careers over nearly three decades they faced challenges, forged alliances and used their intellect to change their own lives, and their country’s future.

my thoughts:

Wow! Talk about a MUST-READ!!  Hidden Figures is a history lesson for us all about the 'hidden figures' involved in Langley's research and work about Space aka reaching the heavens.  These 'hidden figures' are not just the super complex mathematical figures needed to create and improve airplanes and rockets, but they are also the human 'computers' who worked tirelessly and wholeheartedly on getting America into Space.  They are the Black women who worked at NACA/NASA and whose contributions helped in so many HUGE ways in aiding our country to succeed and dominate within the aeronautical world.  They are inspiring, intelligent, and unforgettable - the role models we want for children.  Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly's book tells the stories of four of these great women: Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Christine Darden. And let me just say, their stories are awe-inspiring!

Shettery's book, Hidden Figures, is a well written tome that is chock full of detailed and important historical information.  Its obvious the extensive and exhaustive research that Shetterly executed in order to gather so much fascinating information about these four extraordinary women.  This book is just so informative and interesting - I didn't want to put it down!  I will admit that while reading it, I couldn't help but imagine Taraji P. Henson as Katherine Johnson.  Why?  She's playing the mathematician in the film version of the book!  Yes, there's going to a be a movie and it looks great - I can't wait to see it!  I loved learning about these amazing women - they were so damn smart and capable.  They were hardworking in every which way - their families, their work, their communities and their country.  I was fascinated by their stories and the roles they played in American history - its just so awesome!  Not only do these women have to deal with being female in a predominately male academic arena, but they also have to endure the racist actions and speech of their fellow countrymen.  Its infuriating, horrifying, and simply awful.  And yet, these women persevered.  They refused to be limited in any way by anyone. They were confident and secure in their knowledge and knew that what they contributed at Langley was imperative to America's success in sending someone into outer Space.  These women knew that what they were creating was history, and so they worked harder and faster than anyone else to make sure their input was included, valued, and noted. It wasn't easy, by any means, but they wanted to achieve their goals and so they did.  These four women are the epitome of what brains and hard work can get you - success in family, career, and life.  I found them  to be awe-inspiring. 

Hidden Figures is an important book and I'm so glad to have read it.  I would happily recommend it to anyone and everyone interested in nonfiction books about American history, especially about NASA and women in Math and Science.  Hidden Figures is a must-read book!  Anyone would reads it will LOVE it.  Definitely check it out!!

Here's the link to the TLC Book Tour schedule for: Hidden Figures
Thank you to the publisher, HarperCollins, and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book for review!!