June Book Club: Those We Love the Most by Lee Woodruff

Those We Love Most by Lee Woodruff

Those We Love Most by Lee Woodruff

 

There’s just a few more days left in May, but I just had to announce our June book club selection. I’m excited to share that our From Left to Write members are reading Those We Love Most, Lee Woodruff’s first work of fiction. This novel explores how a family adjusts to life after an unexpected tragedy. As each person tries to adjust to their new life, secrets start creeping out of their closets.

Life is good for Maura Corrigan. Married to her college sweetheart, Pete, raising three young kids with her parents nearby in her peaceful Chicago suburb, her world is secure. Then one day, in a single turn of fate, that entire world comes crashing down and everything that she thought she knew changes.

Maura must learn to move forward with the weight of grief and the crushing guilt of an unforgivable secret. Pete senses a gap growing between him and his wife but finds it easier to escape to the bar with his friends than face the flaws in his marriage.

Meanwhile, Maura’s parents are dealing with the fault lines in their own marriage. Charismatic Roger, who at sixty-five, is still chasing the next business deal and Margaret, a pragmatic and proud homemaker, have been married for four decades, seemingly happily. But the truth is more complicated. Like Maura, Roger has secrets of his own and when his deceptions and weaknesses are exposed, Margaret’s love and loyalty face the ultimate test.

Those We Love Most chronicles how these unforgettable characters confront their choices, examine their mistakes, fight for their most valuable relationships, and ultimately find their way back to each other. It takes us deep into the heart of what makes families and marriages tick and explores a fundamental question: when the ties that bind us to those we love are strained or broken, how do we pick up the pieces?

You’ll want to pick up a copy of Those We Love Most so you can join our book club discussion on June 6th. Make sure you keep the tissues nearby when you read it. I read my copy on the airplane and had to hold back the tears lest my seatmate think I was insane. Or scared of flying.

Keep up with Lee Woodruff and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Book Review + Giveaway: Glow by Jessica Maria Tuccelli

Glow by Jessica Maria Tuccelli

Glow by Jessica Maria Tuccelli

It takes skill to write a novel that weaves together ghosts, the Civil Rights Movement, slavery, and a lost child. In her debut novel Glow, Jessica Maria Tuccelli whisks her readers from urban Washington, DC in the 1940s to the rural Georgia mountains. Eleven-year-old Ella McGee goes missing on a bus ride from DC to her mother’s Georgia hometown. Ella’s disappearance becomes the catalyst that stirs up memories of life in the mountains. Not only is there so much history and hurt in those mountains, but they are full of ghosts and haints who are searching for a home of their own.

When the pitch for Glow arrived in my inbox, it was described as “fans of The Help, this one’s for you.” I know there was a lot of controversy surrounding The Help (both book and film), but I thought its portrayal of racism in the south honest and realistic. More so in the book than the film. That one sentence made me curious enough to read Glow.

Besides their common themes of racism, I don’t really think the two books have much in common. I guess that’s how marketing works?

Glow follows are large cast of characters, each with their rich story of love, loss, and pain. Each character’s race determines the path and roles they are allowed to take in life. Ella’s mother Mia is part Cherokee and never quite fits in herr small town, but folks turned the other way because her father was large white man. Travel a little further back in time and meet Willie Mae was born into slavery and torn away from her mother at a young age. Her hair glows and she can see spirits. Her new mistress, Miss Emmaline is part Cherokee but no one speaks of it since she is married to a white slave owner. Then there’s Marse Riddle who is the overseer at Miss Emmaline’s home. He is also her brother. He’s fallen in love with his employer’s slave housekeeper Lossie. Everyone becomes connected in these quiet, yet significant ways. Even ghosts and spirits play a supporting role in some of the characters’ lives.

Each character that Tuccelli introduced enthralled me.  Each story was a gift to me. The United States’ history is very complicated when it comes to race and indigenous people. As a mother of biracial children, I felt drawn to these stories. This was how our country, my people, treated black people, Native Americans, and mixed race offspring. Sometimes it doesn’t seem so different from today.

As much as I enjoyed each character’s tale, I thought the novel as a whole was muddled. It was beautifully written; I couldn’t put down the novel. Yet as I closed the last chapter, I was not sure what message the author wanted me to take from the novel. What really happened? What was real and what was haunted? What life would Ella return to in those mountains?

Want to read  Glow by Jessica Maria Tuccelli for yourself? Thanks the publisher, I have a copy to giveaway to a reader. Just leave a comment letting me know why you want to read it. I’ll draw a winner via random.org on May 15th. (US addresses only, please)

I’m Breaking Up With The Registry by Shannon Stoker

The Registry by Shannon Stoker

I’m a little behind on my GoodReads yearly goal of 100 books. I still catching up from my reading rut. I’ve been reading 3 books concurrently. Not because I’m trying to catch up on my goal, but that’s how I roll. I’m a promiscuous reader. I have a different book in each room to ensure that I have reading material no matter where I am my apartment. Am I the only one that does that? I recently broke up with this book:

The Registry by Shannon Stoker

Over the weekend I grabbed my ARC copy of  The Registry by Shannon Stoker for my road trip.  Before I explain why I abandoned this book, here’s the publisher’s description:

Welcome to a safe and secure new world, where beauty is bought and sold, and freedom is the ultimate crime

The Registry saved the country from collapse, but stability has come at a price. In this patriotic new America, girls are raised to be brides, sold at auction to the highest bidder. Boys are raised to be soldiers, trained to fight and never question orders.

Nearly eighteen, beautiful Mia Morrissey excitedly awaits the beginning of her auction year. But a warning from her married older sister raises dangerous questions. Now, instead of going up on the block, Mia is going to escape to Mexico—and the promise of freedom.

All Mia wants is to control her own destiny—a brave and daring choice that will transform her into an enemy of the state, pursued by powerful government agents, ruthless bounty hunters, and a cunning man determined to own her . . . a man who will stop at nothing to get her back.

Novels about an alternate future like the one in The Registry fascinate me. It’s fun to think “what if?” Unfortunately, The Registry just didn’t work for me. Within the first 20 pages, all I could think was, Didn’t Margaret Atwood already write this book-The Handmaid’s Tale thirty years ago? Except Margaret Atwood’s novel is far richer and delves into deeper issues and observation about her dystopian society. I found Mia naive and whining. The situation of her escape felt unrealistic considering that Mia was uneducated and had never left her family farm (all due to society’s rules about women/girls).

The Handmaids Tale by Margaret Atwood

I made it close to halfway through novel and just couldn’t bear to continue. I wanted to read the entire book to give it a fair chance, but it did not improve for me. The two main female characters, Mia and her friend Whitney, were just too one dimensional for me.  Their reactions to the events they witness, including [SPOILER ALERT] a murder [SPOILER ALERT OVER] are stereotypical female reactions. Whitney has a nervous breakdown. Mia becomes stoic and even more determined to escape to Mexico. However she questioned her humanity because she was not upset about the murder. 

Really? If a man had a nervous breakdown after witnessing a murder, he’d get funny looks. If he’s stoic about it, then he’s in control of his feelings. A girl, because Mia is still a girl psychologically since she’s been sheltered, refuses to let a  murder change her focus-well, then she’s no longer human. I


I stopped reading at page 124. Not to knock the YA genre, but I think
The Registry would fit better in that genre instead of adult. Maybe it’s New Adult? I’m not really sure. The novel has rather short chapters with more focus on the actions as opposed to deep character growth/development. The new America’s history is only given to me in little drips and drops. Not enough for me to appreciate the hows and whys of Stoker’s dystopian world. Those details would make the story much richer.thought that was a little dramatic.

I know it’s not available to the general public until June (I received an advance reader copy), but if you’ve read  The Registry by Shannon Stoker, I’d love to hear your thoughts. 

In the meantime, I think I will dust off my copy of The Handmaid’s Tale for my fourth or fifth re-read.

April Book Club: Afterwards by Rosmand Lupton

Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton

Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton

The beginning of spring brings new book club selection here at From Left to Write.  For April, our book club members are traveling to England as we read and discuss Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton. This novel will grip its readers from the very beginning. It’s part suspense, part thriller, but at its core is a story about love and motherhood.

When her children’s school is set ablaze, Grace runs into the burning building to rescue her teenage daughter, Jenny. In the aftermath, badly injured, Grace learns the police have identified the arsonist, but they have blamed the wrong person. Only Detective Sarah McBride, the sister-in-law Grace has never liked, is searching for the real arsonist–a hunt that becomes urgent when it’s clear Jenny is still the perpetrator’s target.  Page-turning suspense combines with a beautiful portrayal of deep family bonds to make this a stunning and riveting read.

Once you start reading, it’ll be hard to put down the book. (I say that from personal experience.)

Grab your copy of Afterwards and join us on Thursday, April 11 for the book club discussion.

You can also find Rosamond Lupton at her websiteFacebook page, and on Twitter.

Have you read Aftewards? What are your thoughts on it?

Book Review: The Mapmaker’s War by Ronlyn Domingue

The MapMaker's War by Ronlyn Domingue

The MapMaker's War by Ronlyn Domingue

Every now and again, I read a book that reminds me why I love reading.   The Mapmaker’s War: A Legend by Ronlyn Domingue is one such novel. Domingue weaves a tale of love, ambition, loneliness and belonging that will resonate within all of us.

Aoife (pronounced ee-fah) is the mapmaker in this story. Born a girl in a far away land in a time long ago, her path in life was set: grow up, marry, and produce children. Instead, at a young age she falls in love with charts and maps. A childhood friend, who also happens to be the crown prince, learns of her desire. Pretty soon, she is apprenticed to the kingdom’s mapmaker.  Aoife enjoys the freedom and privilege not common to girls her age.

In her travels to map the kingdom’s land, she discovers another land. Word spreads of the Guardians’ gold paths and various riches, and soon Aoife’s kingdom is ready for war. She attempts to advocate for the Guardians’ peaceful, almost Utopian world, but to no avail. Aoifee is eventually exiled and adopted into the Guardians’ community. While her new community is understanding and embraces her, Aoife struggles with her past, her betrayal, and her inner demons.

Wow, did that sound like I gave away the entire story? Don’t worry, there are no spoilers. The book jacket reveals even more details.  The beauty in this story is Aoife’s evolution, transformation even. The novel is told in second person narrative, which threw me off at first, but I quickly adjusted.  As Aoife retells her life story, I think this perspective gives the reader an outsider’s view, uncolored by rash emotion (as our narrator calls it).

Aoife grew up in a land that had strict expectations and roles based on your gender and class. She did not grow up surrounded by love.  When she finally finds a family, albeit non-biologicial, she does not know how to accept their love. In a world where we’re all surrounded by negativity, Domingue’s novel is a gentle reminder that there is love in the world–we just have to accept it.

The novel’s pacing might be slower than many of us are used to in other books, but Domingue allows her readers time to digest each nuance of Aoife’s journey. I imagine if I re-read The Mapmaker’s War: A Legend, I will discover different and more nuances hidden within its pages.

I’m so in love with The Mapmaker’s War, I’ve already borrow a copy of her debut novel The Mercy of Thin Air from my library.

I just noticed on the book jacket that a sequel The Chronicle of Secret Riven will be released in 2014. It’s totally on my to be read list.

Have you a read a book that makes you appreciate reading?

I received a copy of the novel for review. All opinions are my own.

I also learned that the author lives in Louisiana, where I grew up!  Totally random, but it’s a fun connection. If you want a chance to win a copy of The Mapmaker’s War and 15 other books, 16 authors are hosting a huge giveaway!

Book Review: Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Life of Pi by Yann Martel-Cover

Life of Pi by Yann Martel-Cover

 

I’m probably one of the last people to read Yann Martel’s Life of Pi, but I’m glad I finally did. Life of Pi has been on my to-read list long before the movie came out, so don’t think I’m reading it just because of the movie. I haven’t seen Ang Lee’s vision of the book yet, but I’ll track it down when Life of Pi comes out on Blu-ray. I’ll be rooting for it at the Oscars on Sunday.

Pi, a teenager, is the lone survivor after the vessel carrying his family and various animals from their former zoo suddenly sinks in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Correction, he’s the lone human survivor on the lifeboat but his faithful companion is a 450 pound Bengal tiger.

Are you dying to know what happens? Of course you are.

The first 50 pages or so set up the story quite nicely. Pi’s father owns a zoo in a small Indian town of Pondicherry. Pi’s father teaches him to respect all the animals in the zoo and Pi grows up learning about their behaviors.  I found all the zoological tidbits a little dense and dry. In fact I almost gave up on the book because I felt that the story wasn’t moving fast enough. However, after Pi becomes stranded on the lifeboat, I realized that Yann Martel was only preparing me for what was to come later in the novel. It was sneaky, but beautifully done.

Also in first 50 pages documents Pi’s spiritual quest. He studies different faiths in his search for God. I didn’t expect the novel to be about faith and religion as I’m not a religious person. However, after finishing the novel, I realized that Life of Pi is not just about God, but about believing that anything is possible as long as you believe it.

That sounds so trite and overused. The story is much deeper than that. Life of Pi shows that we choose the story we wish the world to know. We will never know if Pi’s account is true. Or we may choose not to because it’s too “unbelievable.” The novel is a reminder that your outlook on life colors how you experience it.

Sorry to get so philosophical. I absolutely loved the novel and immediately reached on on Twitter to talk to someone about the book.  If you haven’t read it, I won’t divulge too much of the novel. I can understand why it’s received such critical acclaim and won awards.

One of my reading goals for 2013 was to read more critically acclaimed books. Reading Life of Pi  definitely fit the bill, and I’m glad I read it.

What critically acclaimed book should I read next? Any recommendations?