Literary Quote of the Month

"A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies," said Jojen. "The man who never reads lives only one." - George R.R. Martin, A Dance With Dragons

Sunday, January 3, 2016

The Sunday Salon and New Year, New Books!


Welcome to The Sunday Salon! It's that day of the week we sit back, relax and talk books. So grab a chair, make yourself comfortable and let's chat!

It's the beginning of a new year and that means new books, new choices and new challenges! Last Sunday I wrapped up my year in books, joined a few reading challenges and made a choice for what my first book of the year would be (The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende). I am ready for fresh! So, what are going to be some of the exciting new books for 2016?! Here are three that I found on my radar… (and a bonus book to look at too!)

Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave… a spellbinding novel about three unforgettable individuals thrown together by war, love, and their search for belonging in the ever-changing landscape of WWII London. It’s 1939 and Mary, a young socialite, is determined to shock her blueblood political family by volunteering for the war effort. She is assigned as a teacher to children who were evacuated from London and have been rejected by the countryside because they are infirm, mentally disabled, or—like Mary’s favorite student, Zachary—have colored skin. Tom, an education administrator, is distraught when his best friend, Alastair, enlists. Alastair, an art restorer, has always seemed far removed from the violent life to which he has now condemned himself. But Tom finds distraction in Mary, first as her employer and then as their relationship quickly develops in the emotionally charged times. When Mary meets Alastair, the three are drawn into a tragic love triangle and—while war escalates and bombs begin falling around them—further into a new world unlike any they’ve ever known.

I absolutely loved Chris Cleave's book, Little Bea! But the other 2 books he had written following that amazing story just didn't sound like my kind of reads - Olympic hopefuls battling it out and a Mother dealing with the death of her family due to terrorism. But this book sounds like wonderful storytelling! And I do enjoy books set in the time of WWII. Simon & Schuster is the publisher, and the book is due on the shelves May 3, 2016!

My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout… From Kirkus Review:  The eponymous narrator looks back to the mid-1980s, when she goes into the hospital for an appendix removal and succumbs to a mysterious fever that keeps her there for nine weeks. The possible threat to her life brings Lucy’s mother, from whom she has been estranged for years, to her bedside—but not the father whose World War II–related trauma is largely responsible for clever Lucy’s fleeing her impoverished family for college and life as a writer. She marries a man from a comfortable background who can’t ever quite quiet her demons; his efforts to bridge the gap created by their wildly different upbringings occupy some of the novel’s saddest pages. As in Olive Kittredge (2008), Strout peels back layers of denial and self-protective brusqueness to reveal the love that Lucy’s mother feels but cannot express. In fewer than 200 intense, dense pages, she considers class prejudice, the shame that poverty brings, the AIDS epidemic, and the healing powers—and the limits—of art. Most of all, this is a story of mothers and daughters: Lucy’s ambivalent feelings for the mother who failed to protect her are matched by her own guilt for leaving the father of her two girls, who have never entirely forgiven her. Later sections, in which Lucy’s dying mother tells her “I need you to leave” and the father who brutalized her says, “What a good girl you’ve always been,” are almost unbearably moving, with their pained recognition that the mistakes we make are both irreparable and subject to repentance. The book does feel a bit abbreviated, but that’s only because the characters and ideas are so compelling we want to hear more from the author who has limned them so sensitively. 

Elizabeth Strout is known from her Pulitzer Prize winning collection of short stories, Olive Kitteridge, and it's because of that, that my ears perked up when I heard about this new book. The book is only 208 pages, so it's more of a novella than novel, but it is definitely on my TBR list for 2016. Published by Random House, it's coming out Jan. 12, 2016.

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman… From Kirkus Review: Elsa is almost 8, and her granny is her best—and only—friend. Elsa’s precociousness and her granny’s disregard for societal rules mark them as trouble to most people they encounter and make Elsa a pariah at school. But every night she can journey with her granny to the Land-of-Almost-Awake, made of six kingdoms, each with its own strength, purpose, and interlocking mythologies that Elsa knows by heart. In the Land-of-Almost-Awake, Elsa doesn’t have to worry about how she fits in at school, in the apartment building full of misfits where she lives, or in her family, where both her parents are divorced and remarried and her mother is pregnant. When granny passes away with very little notice, Elsa is bereft. And angry. So angry that it’s almost no consolation that Elsa’s granny has left her a treasure hunt. But the hunt reveals that each misfit in her apartment building has a connection to her granny, and they all have a story reflected in the Land-of-Almost-Awake. Neither world is short on adventure, tragedy, or danger.

I saw this book sitting on an end shelf in my local bookstore and it just called my name to take a look. For some reason the cover caught my attention (and they say don't judge a book by its cover) and then the clever title. When I started reading it, I really enjoyed it, so up to the checkout it went with me. This sounds like a fun read that will sure to be a crowd pleaser. I have not seen it "talked" about anywhere, but sometimes you can find a sleeper and I think this may be one. On my TBR pile. Oh, and you may know Fredrik Backman from another book he wrote in 2014 called A Man Called Ove. This book was published June 16th, 2015 by Atria and is available right now at your local bookstore!

And one more for the younger crowd… Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley and geared towards 9 - 12 year olds. From Kirkus Review: One strange afternoon, 10-year-old Micah Tuttle finds out that magic is real. Micah always thought Grandpa Ephraim’s wild stories of the centuries-old Circus Mirandus were spun solely for his amusement. But when his dying grandfather writes a letter to the “Lightbender,” hoping to call in the miracle the magician had promised him as a boy, Micah learns the stories were true, and the appearance of Ms. Chintzy, the circus’ cantankerous parrot messenger, clinches the deal. Happily, Micah finds a loyal if somewhat challenging friend to help him track down the elusive light-bending magician: the magic-leery, science-minded Jenny Mendoza. Their budding rapport is nuanced and complex, a refreshing illustration of how absolute like-mindedness is not a prerequisite for friendship. On one level, the book is a fantastical circus romp, with fortunetelling vultures and “a wallaby that could burp the Greek alphabet.” On another, it’s both serious and thick with longing: Micah’s ache for the companionship of his once-vital guardian-grandfather; Grandpa Ephraim’s boyhood yearning for his absent father, as fleshed out in flashbacks; the circus founders’ desire to keep enchantment alive in a world where “faith is such a fragile thing.”

This book just seemed delightful. I read a bit of it and thought the writing was very good and that it would be a great chapter book and a fun adventure.

Week in Review… After updating and posting my 2016 Reading Challenges  on January 1st, (and there is still time for YOU to sign up for any of them! Particularly the Book Bingo one!) I told you about my 2016 First Book of the Year, which is The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende. I am at the halfway mark on this book and am enjoying it very much, but it is NOT what I expected. I kind of expected a story like Jamie Fords Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, where we meet "the lovers" more or less at the start of the internmint camps and wait for them to find each other again. This story is taking me through the history of a family and through the history of what families had to endure during  WWII without really giving away who our lovers actually are (but you are assuming you know). The story starts in modern day and flips back 30 years or so to give us the background of our protagonist, Alma, who is now in a strange nursing type home. I am so engrossed in the story, and I have no idea where it is going, but I keep reading because it's a great story. It is like a slow drink of hot tea on a cold winter's night. I should finish it this week and will be writing my full review.

And on Saturday, Jan 2nd I reviewed Circling the Sun by Paula McLain. What a wonderful book! Historical fiction, great strong female protagonist, a wonderful romance and coming-of-age story and great writing! The writing reminded me of Laura Hillenbrand, so if you liked Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand, I would definitely pick up a copy of Circling the Sun! All in all one of my favorite reads in 2015!

So, I'm going back to The Japanese Lover and will emerge again after I turn that last page. What have you planned for the new year of reading?! And what great books are you reading right now! Share them in the comments so we can find our next read!

Happy reading… Suzanne


Harvee said...

The Japanese Lover is on my list for this year! Glad it's a good read.

Suzanne Yester said...

Definitely a good read, Harvee! And I am glad it's not what I expected. Isabel Allende is a good storyteller and we find out about all the characters and how they fit into the story before we really learn about anything else going on.

thecuecard said...

So glad you let me know about the upcoming Chris Cleave book. I've read all 3 of his prior novels. Little Bee and Incendiary are very powerful. Gold was not as good, but still okay. I must read his new one!!

Suzanne Yester said...

Hi Susan!
Little Bee was such an amazing story. I really should just give Chris Cleaves's other books a try because I really thought he was a wonderful writer. I definitely will be picking up his newest one too!

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