The Thief's Daughter

The Thief's Daughter
The Thief's Daughter by Victoria Cornwall

Invitation to a Bonfire

Invitation to a Bonfire
Invitation to a Bonfire by Adrienne Celt

Thursday, August 16, 2018

The Thief's Daughter by Victoria Cornwall - Feature and Review

                                                           ABOUT THE BOOK:

Hide from the thief-taker, for if he finds you, he will take you away …
Eighteenth-century Cornwall is crippled by debt and poverty, while the gibbet casts a shadow of fear over the land. Yet, when night falls, free traders swarm onto the beaches and smuggling prospers.
Terrified by a thief-taker’s warning as a child, Jenna has resolved to be good. When her brother, Silas, asks for her help to pay his creditors, Jenna feels unable to refuse and finds herself entering the dangerous world of the smuggling trade.
Jack Penhale hunts down the smuggling gangs in revenge for his father’s death. Drawn to Jenna at a hiring fayre, they discover their lives are entangled. But as Jenna struggles to decide where her allegiances lie, the worlds of justice and crime collide, leading to danger and heartache for all concerned …



The Thief's Daughter (Cornish Tales, #1)The Thief's Daughter by Victoria Cornwall
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Thief’s Daughter by Victoria Cornwall is a 2017 Choc Lit publication.

Tax laws make smuggling a big temptation, becoming a very lucrative business in eighteenth century Cornwall.

As a result, thief takers step in, striking fear and hatred into the smuggling rings. When Jenna was a child, her entire family was torn asunder thanks to a thief taker, but Jenna is spared after she was issued a dire warning.

Despite her best efforts to do the right thing, Jenna marries poorly and is only saved from years of abuse by the hangman’s noose. When she steps up to insure her husband will indeed die at the gallows, it looks as though she is committing an act of mercy. As she runs from the angry crowd, Jack Penhale aids in her escape.

But, this will not be their last meeting. Jenna ends up working for Jack as his housekeeper. But, as it turns out, Jack is a thief taker. Not only that, he is the man responsible for putting Jenna’s brother, Silas, in debtor’s prison. To help Silas pay off his debts, Jenna will have to do the very thing she swore she never would… become a smuggler. Soon she finds herself torn between the man she is falling in love with and her loyalty to Silas, her ne’er do well brother.

What a fantastic historical drama! I’m always a sucker for a book set in Cornwall, so this one already had a slight advantage going in. However, I am very impressed by the obvious research the author must have done, because the scenery, the dress, dialogue, etc. is very authentic. Anyone who has seen me rip into historical romance novels because of their lack of authenticity will know this means a lot to me. That’s really all I ask, just be true to the setting and the historical era. I don’t mind liberties being taken with the plot because it is fiction, after all. But, in this case, the author has created a compelling story that is not only authentic, but realistic as well.

I really liked Jack, who was kind and upright, but was also smart and worldly. He too suffered much in his life and his quest was very noble. Jenna was, despite her hardships, still a little gullible, willing to believe the best in the undeserving, while questioning those who wanted to protect her and keep her from undue heartache, while standing by their own convictions.

The story was very absorbing, very tense at times, as danger looms. The love story was a slow burn for a while, but reached great passion, was filled with angst and fraught with moral dilemmas on both sides. I thought the story had much depth and was often difficult to put aside. I enjoyed the conclusion and was happy to see Jenna finally obtain a measure of peace and happiness.

This is my first book by this author, but not my last. I am eager to continue with this series.



Victoria Cornwall grew up on a farm in Cornwall and can trace her Cornish roots as far back as the 18th century. It is this background and heritage which is the inspiration for her Cornish based novels.

Following a fulfilling twenty-five year career as a nurse, a change in profession finally allowed her the time to write. She initially self-published two novels, Old Sins Long Shadows and The Gossamer Trail under the name B.D.Hawkey. In 2016, award winning publisher, Choc Lit, acquired both novels as part of a four book deal. Old Sins Long Shadows is now published under a new title, The Captain's Daughter, and The Gossamer Trail has been released under the new title The Daughter of River Valley.

Victoria is married and has two grown up children. She likes to read and write historical fiction with a strong background story, but at its heart is the unmistakable emotion, even pain, of loving someone.

She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Invitation to a Bonfire by Adrienne Celt- Feature and Review


The seductive story of a dangerous love triangle, inspired by the infamous Nabokov marriage, with a spellbinding psychological thriller at its core.

In the 1920s, Zoya Andropova, a young refugee from the Soviet Union, finds herself in the alien landscape of an elite all-girls New Jersey boarding school. Having lost her family, her home, and her sense of purpose, Zoya struggles to belong, a task made more difficult by the malice her peers heap on scholarship students and her new country’s paranoia about Russian spies. When she meets the visiting writer and fellow Russian √©migr√© Leo Orlov—whose books Zoya has privately obsessed over for years—her luck seems to have taken a turn for the better. But she soon discovers that Leo is not the solution to her loneliness: he’s committed to his art and bound by the sinister orchestrations of his brilliant wife, Vera. 

As the reader unravels the mystery of Zoya, Lev, and Vera’s fate, Zoya is faced with mounting pressure to figure out who she is and what kind of life she wants to build. Grappling with class distinctions, national allegiance, and ethical fidelity—not to mention the powerful magnetism of sex—Invitation to a Bonfireinvestigates how one’s identity is formed, irrevocably, through a series of momentary decisions, including how to survive, who to love, and whether to pay the complicated price of happiness.



Invitation to a BonfireInvitation to a Bonfire by Adrienne Celt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Invitation to a Bonfire by Adrienne Celt is a 2018 Bloomsbury USA publication.

Honesty’s a girl who waits at the door
She speaks her piece without a roar.
Clarity shines a light in the dark
Her hand a torch, her mouth a spark.
To reveal is to do more (The whisper that we’re looking for; the listing step on drunken night-
Drunk on time and dearth and plight.)
A girl who snaps to a chime the hour
Knowing not her push or power.
To reveal is to bring clean
Though sometimes says more than we mean.
Perhaps it is our keenest sway
To sometimes mean more than we say.

This book took me by surprise!!

I knew this was an epistolary book and was supposedly based on the famous Nabokov marriage. This was enough to pique my interest.

But, I was blindsided by the sinister quality of the story-

In the 1920’s Zoya Andropova, a young refugee from the Soviet Union finds herself floundering at a prestigious all girls school in New Jersey.

But, when Leo Orlov, a fellow Russian, makes a visit, Zoya is enthralled by meeting her literary idol. The pair forges a bond, developing into a flirtation, then a full-fledged affair. But, Zoya is quite aware that Lev is married, to the beautiful Vera, a girl Zoya once had a brief encounter with. Not only that, it is quite clear Lev is more committed to his work, to finding a lost manuscript, than he is to the women in his life. This is a concession both Vera and Zoya are eventually willing to make. He has no trouble convincing Zoya, however, that they could have a life together, which prompts her to make some stunning decisions. But, it seems she may have underestimated her opponent. An epiphany dawns finally, and Zoya will ultimately decide her destiny and take charge of her identity.

This layered mystery which unfolds via letters and journals was strangely absorbing, capturing the climate of the times. The paranoia towards Zoya, the abuse she endures at school, her loneliness, which leads her to cling to Lev, to fall under his spell, all felt very realistic, and atmospheric.

But, when it becomes clear that Lev has so mesmerized Zoya that she will do his bidding, no matter how shocking, the story takes on a very different tone. Lev is a manipulator of women, but he’s not the only one capable of manipulation. The women in his life soon learn his art is the best part of him and will take drastic measures to make sure he doesn’t become his own worst enemy by making poor career decisions, which of course, would affect their quality of life. Therefore, an odd triangle forms, the outcome of which, left me stunned.

I was absolutely riveted to this saga, the characters and their motives. I was taken off guard by the conclusion, which, despite the circumstances, made my wicked heart grin. Very clever. Just the kind of dark twist I admire.

But, I would remiss if didn’t mention the writing, which is simply outstanding. Pick this book up for the amazing prose, if for no other reason. But, be prepared for a slow build up, and unpredictable, unlikable characters. Still, the outcome of the story will make the wait well worth it.



Adrienne Celt is a writer, cartoonist, and avid reader living in Tucson, AZ. Her debut novel THE DAUGHTERS won the 2015 PEN Southwest Book Award and was shortlisted for the 2016 Crawford Award. Her second novel, INVITATION TO A BONFIRE will be published in June 2018.

Winner of a 2016 O. Henry Prize, her short fiction and essays have appeared in Esquire, The Kenyon Review, Epoch, Zyzzyva, Ecotone, The Tin House Open Bar, Prairie Schooner, Electric Literature, The Lit Hub, and many other places. Also a cartoonist, her comics have been published by The Rumpus, The Toast, Bat City Review, Broad! Magazine, The Southeast Review, and other places, as well as appearing on her weekly webcomic: A collection of her comics, APOCALYPSE HOW? AN EXISTENTIAL BESTIARY was published in 2016.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Love and Ruin by Paula McLain Feature and Review


The bestselling author of The Paris Wife returns to the subject of Ernest Hemingway in a novel about his passionate, stormy marriage to Martha Gellhorn—a fiercely independent, ambitious young woman who would become one of the greatest war correspondents of the twentieth century

In 1937, twenty-eight-year-old Martha travels alone to Madrid to report on the atrocities of the Spanish Civil War and becomes drawn to the stories of ordinary people caught in devastating conflict. She also finds herself unexpectedly—and uncontrollably—falling in love with Hemingway, a man already on his way to becoming a legend. In the shadow of the impending Second World War, and set against the tumultuous backdrops of Madrid, Finland, China, Key West, and especially Cuba, where Martha and Ernest make their home, their relationship and professional careers ignite. But when Ernest publishes the biggest literary success of his career, For Whom the Bell Tolls, they are no longer equals, and Martha must make a choice: surrender to the confining demands of being a famous man's wife or risk losing Ernest by forging a path as her own woman and writer. It is a dilemma that will force her to break his heart, and her own.



Love and RuinLove and Ruin by Paula McLain
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Love and Ruin by Paula McClain is a 2018 Ballantine Books publication.

Vivid and pulsing with atmosphere- but a very challenging read.
Wow, Paula McClain can really draw a person into a specific time zone and leave them mesmerized by the political climate, the danger, the romance, and larger than life characters the book is centered around.

I loved ‘The Paris Wife’, the fictional account of Hemingway and his first wife. The suspense in TPW was on a more personal and emotional level. But, with Martha ‘Marty’ Gelhorn, the tension comes from a variety of circumstances, but emotion is pretty far down on the list.
Marty was an author and journalist in her own right. She was a well- known and respected war correspondent covering the Spanish Civil War. Falling in love with Ernest Hemingway, a married man, was not on her agenda, but nevertheless she embarks on a long and tumultuous affair with him and eventually he leaves his second wife, Pauline, marrying Martha almost immediately after the divorce was final.
This book chronicles Marty’s life during her “Hemingway’ years, from their first meeting, to all the adventures they experienced and survived together, to their marriage, and the eventual breakup.
The author did an amazing job of recreating the atmosphere of pre-world war two, the Spanish War, the many places in which Marty traveled to, and of course Hemingway’s Key West and the home Marty and Hemingway purchased and renovated in Cuba.

She also created interwoven textures between Hemingway and Martha's struggle with her status as his lover, not his wife, and her own ambitions. The book covers the time frame in which Hemingway wrote and published ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’, and the way the success of that novel forced a wedge between them.
However, the book, as comprehensive as it needed to be, was a real challenge for me at times. I loved the history and felt the relationship development was very well done and realistic. But, Hemingway could be so disagreeable and downright mean. I didn’t care for Marty either on a personal level, disliking the way she acquiesced to Hemingway at times, and her apathy towards breaking up his marriage. So, despite all the rich details and the lush, dangerous atmosphere the novel captured so vividly.I often felt irritable with the characters. While this may be a fictionalized accounting of events, you still can’t totally rewrite history or make the characters likeable, if they really aren’t. Still, Hemingway, warts and all, is such an intriguing person to characterize and Marty, who held her own against his rising popularity in the literary world, perhaps threatened his ego more than anyone else he was romantically associated with. Yet, she did struggle internally with her role as his lover and wife, a common conflict, as her career dueled against the typical role for women, and eventually forced Marty into a fateful decision. I admired Marty’s journalism career and her bravery, however, and believe she was a trailblazer, influencing war correspondence for many years.

The book is interesting, but on an emotional level it didn’t quite grab me in the same way ‘The Paris Wife’ did. Still, this a worthy fictional accounting of Martha and Ernest Hemingway, and is informative, and even thought provoking.



Paula McLain was born in Fresno, California in 1965. After being abandoned by both parents, she and her two sisters became wards of the California Court System, moving in and out of various foster homes for the next fourteen years. When she aged out of the system, she supported herself by working as a nurses aid in a convalescent hospital, a pizza delivery girl, an auto-plant worker, a cocktail waitress--before discovering she could (and very much wanted to) write. She received her MFA in poetry from the University of Michigan in 1996. Since then, she has received fellowships from the corporation of Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony, the Ucross Foundation, the Ohio Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts. Her first book of poetry, Less of Her, was published in 1999 from New Issues Press and won a publication grant from the Greenwall Fund of the Academy of American Poets. She's also the author of a second collection of poetry, Stumble, Gorgeous, a memoir, Like Family: Growing Up In Other People's Houses, and the novel, A Ticket to Ride. Her most recent book is The Paris Wife, a fictional account of Ernest Hemingway's first marriage and upstart years in 1920's Paris, as told from the point of view of his wife, Hadley. She lives with her family in Cleveland.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Robin by Dave Itzkoff- Feature and Review


From New York Timesculture reporter Dave Itzkoff, the definitive biography of Robin Williams – a compelling portrait of one of America’s most beloved and misunderstood entertainers.

From his rapid-fire stand-up comedy riffs to his breakout role in Mork & Mindy and his Academy Award-winning performance in Good Will Hunting, Robin Williams was a singularly innovative and beloved entertainer. He often came across as a man possessed, holding forth on culture and politics while mixing in personal revelations – all with mercurial, tongue-twisting intensity as he inhabited and shed one character after another with lightning speed.

But as Dave Itzkoff shows in this revelatory biography, Williams’s comic brilliance masked a deep well of conflicting emotions and self-doubt, which he drew upon in his comedy and in celebrated films like Dead Poets Society; Good Morning, Vietnam; The Fisher King; Aladdin; and Mrs. Doubtfire, where he showcased his limitless gift for improvisation to bring to life a wide range of characters. And in Good Will Hunting he gave an intense and controlled performance that revealed the true range of his talent.

Itzkoff also shows how Williams struggled mightily with addiction and depression – topics he discussed openly while performing and during interviews – and with a debilitating condition at the end of his life that affected him in ways his fans never knew. Drawing on more than a hundred original interviews with family, friends, and colleagues, as well as extensive archival research, Robin is a fresh and original look at a man whose work touched so many lives.



RobinRobin by Dave Itzkoff
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Robin by Dave Itzkoff is a 2018 Henry Holt and Co. Publication.

After Robin Williams passed away, my daughter turned to me and said, “I grew up with Robin Williams”. After a moment, I realized that in many ways, so had I. I was in my mid-teens when Robin burst onto the scene in that iconic episode of ‘Happy Days’ which led to ‘Mork & Mindy’. I loved that show and found Robin to be a fresh comedic talent who could pull off what appeared to be completely spontaneous dialogue and accompanied by high energy physical comedy. From that time forward I was a huge fan. I loved his stand -up routines and his movies.

For my daughter it was ‘Hook, then ‘Mrs. Doubtfire’, then as she got older, ‘Dead Poet’s Society’ and ‘Good Will Hunting', while I loved ‘Good Morning, Vietnam' and 'The Fisher King'.

While I seldom over react to a celebrity death, Robin’s hit me hard. I was so shocked I’m not sure I ever really processed it outside of the grim aftermath, as lurid details emerged, and social media passed its harsh judgments.

Even though four years have passed, and much has happened in that time, I still feel a jolt of pain when I think of him. I wouldn’t want to read just any old ‘rushed to publication’ book written about him and I’m sure there have been a few hastily thrown together ‘cash grabs” which quickly faded into obscurity. This book, however, is professionally done, well- organized, insightful, informative, often very entertaining, and course poignant look back at the life and career of the one and only Robin Williams.

I personally had no knowledge of Robin’s upbringing and was surprised by his childhood. I could relate in some ways as my father moved his family around nearly as frequently as Robin’s did. I understood how isolating it can be, no matter what your personality type, to start over in a new town, in a new school, surrounded by unfamiliar faces, and once again face the enormous task of making new friends and trying to fit in.

The beginning of Robin’s career was somewhat familiar to me, but I had forgotten a lot of the ups and downs in those early days. The drugs, alcohol, the sudden and intense success, followed by career fits and starts, with spurts of wide recognition followed by incredibly harsh critical bashing.

As a regular follower of Robin’s career, I began to recall much of the ground the author covered, but as far as Robin’s personal life went, I wasn’t all that knowledgeable. I knew he had problems with drugs, that Belushi’s death scared him straight, that Robin had been married and divorced, then remarried and had several children, but I was mostly in the dark when about the details behind his marriages and relationships with colleagues and friends.

The thing about this biography, that really stands out, is that it gives the reader a clearer picture of the man behind the frenetic comedy. Robin's fears, his goals, his hopes, and the demons that plagued him, how he made it all look spontaneous and easy. But, in reality, it was much harder to pull off than anyone ever knew. I was struck by how harsh the movie critics could be, bordering on downright nastiness.

Still, while Robin certainly made his share of sub-par films, overall his body of work is pretty solid, and I have to say, I thought that his improvisations often saved otherwise dull roles, that may have fallen flat if not for Robin’s putting his personal stamp on it. Of course, it backfired on him more than a few times, rather spectacularly. But, as harsh as the critics could be, the public often overrode their skepticism, making Robin's movie box office gold, time and time again.

I really enjoyed looking back on Robin’s career, reminiscing about some of his great roles, his hilarious jokes, and his energy. His personal life is fraught with as many ups and downs as his career, suffering with health problems and substance abuse issues. His battles with alcohol eventually broke up his long- time marriage to a woman who stabilized him in a way most others never could.

The concerns about Robin’s third marriage didn’t feel one hundred percent balanced and may have been the only place in the book where the author’s personal opinion was made evident. Nothing wrong with being independent or having a life which is not defined by your husband’s career. The subsequent estate disputes also painted her in a bad light, but I’m not sure the author approached these events in an entirely subjective manner.

The mystery surrounding Robin’s health in the last years of his life is just plain frustrating. His diagnosis, which may not have been the right one, only makes his suffering more poignant. What he was thinking is hard to discern. Some think he was very aware of what he was doing, while others think he was under the influence of the illness, which despite not knowing him personally, I agree with the latter. Looking at his life up that point, the trials he faced and the odds he overcame, I can’t help but think he was not himself at all at the time.

Reading about Robin’s struggles with his mind was utterly heartbreaking. By the end of the book as we relived Robin’s final days, once again, I was struck by the tremendous loss of talent. I swallowed down a huge and painful lump in my throat, as the impact his death had on the world of entertainment finally sank in. But, that is nothing compared to the loss his family and friends endured, the pain seeping through the pages as they coped not only with the loss, the manner of death, but with the court of public opinion.

The days after being no less stressful, but with the help and support of friends and family, the way to healing was launched. Following the brave example of his children, we can all look back on Robin’s life and career and remember him in the way he would want us to. Remember his compassion, the light he brought to those in need, the endless laughter, and hours of joy and entertainment he provided us with over the course of his life… and ours.

Personal note: The audio version of this book is very well done. If you have a chance to add it, it is worth it



n 1999, Dave Itzkoff worked as an editorial assistant for Details magazine. He worked for Maxim magazine from 1999 to 2002 and Spin magazine from 2002 to 2006. From June 2007 to July 2008, Itzkoff worked as a freelance editor for the Sunday Styles section in The New York Times Dave is currently a culture reporter for The New York Times and writes frequently about film, television and comedy. His latest work is a biography of Robin Williams.

Friday, August 10, 2018

FLASHBACK FRIDAY- Last Night In Montreal by Emily St. John Mandel- Feature and Review


Lilia Albert has been leaving people behind for her entire life. She spends her childhood and adolescence traveling constantly and changing identities. In adulthood, she finds it impossible to stop. Haunted by an inability to remember her early childhood, she moves restlessly from city to city, abandoning lovers along with way, possibly still followed by a private detective who has pursued her for years. Then her latest lover follows her from New York to Montreal, determined to learn her secrets and make sure she s safe. Last Night in Montreal is a story of love, amnesia, compulsive travel, the depths and the limits of family bonds, and the nature of obsession. In this extraordinary debut, Emily St. John Mandel casts a powerful spell that captures the reader in a gritty, youthful world charged with an atmosphere of mystery, promise and foreboding where small revelations continuously change our understanding of the truth and lead to desperate consequences. Mandel s characters will resonate with you long after the final page is turned. 



Last Night in MontrealLast Night in Montreal by Emily St. John Mandel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Last Night in Montreal by Emily St. John Mandel is a Vintage publication.

What an incredibly absorbing story!

Again, I have no memory of how this book crossed my path. I can’t remember who recommended it or where I first noticed it.

It’s not a new release, originally published back in 2009, and is apparently this author’s debut novel. But, it’s new to me, as is this author. But no matter how I discovered it, or how old it is, I still found this book to be a very atmospheric mystery, and I’m glad I ran across it.

Why has a private detective been following Lilia Albert for most of her life?

This story follows the events that sent Lilia and her father on the run, her unconventional childhood, and the detective who became obsessed with her case. As an adult, Lilia has incredible difficulty staying in one place for too long or sticking with a romantic relationship for any length of time.

In her soul she wishes she could settle, but she is always restless. The questions about her childhood, the events that led her father to steal her away in the midst of a cold wintry night, haunts her even though she is an adult now and her father has remarried has a new family.

But, Lilia isn’t the only one whose life was left in a strange kind of limbo. Also, deeply affected, like a snowball effect are Lilia’s half- brother, who knows more than he’s telling- the detective who has become so obsessed he deserts his own wife and child, and every single person Lilia has left behind. Lilia’s most recent boyfriend, is determined to find her, becoming nearly as obsessed as the detective who still searches for her, after all this time, even though she is an adult now.

The writing is stark and the atmosphere is heavy, fraught with a fitful frustration. Lilia’s frustration stemming from her inability to remember anything prior to her father’s sudden late-night arrival, the frustration felt by those who want to be close to Lilia, and frustration by those who are looking for her, but have been thwarted in their mission time and time again. But, one of the most profound elements of the story is the effect Lilia has had, by proxy on the detective's family, who have found themselves abandoned, even replaced by an obsession they can’t fully comprehend.

The story is sad, moody, and dark with a taut psychological tone that kept me invested in the story. One will gather early on, even if no details are initially forthcoming, most of the whys and wherefores of the events that led Lilia to this point in her life.

While I could understand her flightiness and her compulsive nature, I’m not sure I could really understand the way so many people became fixated on her. It’s like the Winston Churchill quote:

It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma, but perhaps there is a key.

The possibility that there is a key is what may be driving these people to continue a fruitless quest that comes at such an incredibly high cost to so many people.

The ending is so emotional and melancholy, and while I wasn't happy with some developments, at all, the conclusion hints at forgiveness, and also grants Lilia a wish that could, after all this time, give her enough ammunition to finally find overdue peace of mind and grant her the ability to finally stop her nomadic life and enjoy a bit of normalcy.

This book is gripping, the pacing is quite slow. For me this only added to the suspense, forcing me to acquire virtuous patience, which did indeed reap rewards. The writing is just amazing, very impressive, which now has me curious to see what other books this author has written. I’ll definitely read more of her work!



Emily St. John Mandel was born and raised on the west coast of British Columbia, Canada. She studied contemporary dance at the School of Toronto Dance Theatre and lived briefly in Montreal before relocating to New York. 

Her fourth novel, Station Eleven, is forthcoming in September 2014. All three of her previous novels—Last Night in Montreal, The Singer's Gun, and The Lola Quartet—were Indie Next Picks, and The Singer's Gun was the 2014 winner of the Prix Mystere de la Critique in France. Her short fiction and essays have been anthologized in numerous collections, including Best American Mystery Stories 2013. She is a staff writer for The Millions. She lives in New York City with her husband.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

The Melody by Jim Crace- Feature and Review


Aside from his trusty piano, Alfred Busi lives alone in his villa overlooking the waves. Famed in his town for his music and songs, he is mourning the recent death of his wife and quietly living out his days, occasionally performing the classics in small venues—never in the stadiums he could fill when in his prime. On the night before receiving his town’s highest honor, Busi is wrested from bed by noises in his courtyard and then stunned by an attacking intruder—his hands and neck are scratched, his face is bitten. Busi can’t say what it was that he encountered, exactly, but he feels his assailant was neither man nor animal.

The attack sets off a chain of events that will cast a shadow on Busi’s career, imperil his home, and alter the fabric of his town. Busi’s own account of what happened is embellished to fan the flames of old rumor—of an ancient race of people living in the surrounding forest—and to spark new controversy: something must finally be done about the town’s poor, the feral vagabonds at its edges, whose numbers have been growing. All the while Busi, weathering a media storm, must come to terms with his wife’s death and decide whether to sing one last time.

In trademark crystalline prose, Jim Crace portrays a man taking stock of his life and looking into an uncertain future, all while bearing witness to a community in the throes of great change—with echoes of today’s most pressing social questions.



The MelodyThe Melody by Jim Crace
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Melody by Jim Crace is a 2018 Picador publication.

I honestly do not remember how this book showed up on my radar. In equal honesty, I must admit I have never read anything by this author. I couldn’t help but notice, however, that he has quite a reputation, being shortlisted for the Booker award. However, just because an author wrote an award winning book is no guarantee I’m going to like their work, because, to be honest, the literary world seems to be on an entirely different plane and I often struggle to understand what they saw in a book that was so compelling.

But, the premise of The Melody sounded interesting, so I decided to give it a try. However, once I began to read the book, I realized I may have misunderstood the synopsis, and was slightly confused by what was going on. However, I was interested enough to keep reading.

The subject matter here is a little depressing. Our main character, Alfred Busi, is an accomplished musician and pianist. He is going through the twilight of his career, and finds himself struggling with widowhood, and the distressing signs and symptoms of aging. However, Alfred is still getting by on his own, until one evening a loud noise awakens him. When he steps out to investigate, he is attacked by a creature, bitten to be specific. He’s not even sure what bit him- believing it might have been a boy- so hungry and feral he attacked in self-preservation.

Unfortunately, Alfred has to deliver a speech and must go out in public with visible wounds, which catches the interest of a journalist, which sets off a series of events, that upends Alfred quiet life.

The story is relayed to us by an ‘unknown’ narrator, which is very effective, especially if it is done right. This is story of humanity- the reprehensible, those people who don’t want to even acknowledge the poor or homeless, wishing to sweep them under the rug, unseen, and then there are good people- supportive friends who gently and steadfastly wrap themselves around Alfred as he grapples with his life now, without his wife, and the inevitable changes he is helpless to prevent, while refusing to forget those who have been chased away from a selfish, heartless society.

This is not the type of book I normally gravitate towards, but I think the story is very unique and thought provoking. Now that I have been introduced to Jim Crace I just might keep my literary cap on and take a closer look at his other work.



James "Jim" Crace is an award-winning English writer. His novel Quarantine, won the Whitbread Novel award and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Harvest won the International Impac Dublin Literary Award, James Tait Black Memorial Prize and was also shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.

Crace grew up in Forty Hill, an area at the far northern point of Greater London, close to Enfield where Crace attended Enfield Grammar School. He studied for a degree at the Birmingham College of Commerce (now part of Birmingham City University), where he was enrolled as an external student of the University of London. After securing a BA (Hons) in English Literature in 1968, he travelled overseas with the UK organization Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO), working in Sudan. Two years later he returned to the UK, and worked with the BBC, writing educational programmes. From 1976 to 1987 he worked as a freelance journalist for The Daily Telegraph and other newspapers. 

In 1986 Crace published Continent. Continent won the Whitbread First Novel of the Year Award, the David Higham Prize for Fiction and the Guardian Fiction Prize. This work was followed by The Gift of Stones, Arcadia, Signals of Distress, Quarantine, Being Dead and Six. His most recent novel, The Pesthouse, was published in the UK in March 2007.

Despite living in Britain, Crace is more successful in the United States, as evidenced by the award of the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1999.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Other People's Houses- by Abbi Waxman- Feature and Review

                                                                    ABOUT THE BOOK:

At any given moment in other people's houses, you can find...repressed hopes and dreams...moments of unexpected joy...someone making love on the floor to a man who is most definitely not her husband...

*record scratch*

As the longtime local carpool mom, Frances Bloom is sometimes an unwilling witness to her neighbors' private lives. She knows her cousin is hiding her desire for another baby from her spouse, Bill Horton's wife is mysteriously missing, and now this...

After the shock of seeing Anne Porter in all her extramarital glory, Frances vows to stay in her own lane. But that's a notion easier said than done when Anne's husband throws her out a couple of days later. The repercussions of the affair reverberate through the four carpool families--and Frances finds herself navigating a moral minefield that could make or break a marriage.



Other People's HousesOther People's Houses by Abbi Waxman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Other People’s Houses by Abbi Waxman is a 2018 Berkley publication.

Blunt, but absolutely hysterical!

Frances is “that” mom- the one who helps everyone, runs the carpool, is overrun with motherly instincts, but who also earns herself the slightly sarcastic nick name of 'Saint Frances'.

But, when she inadvertently catches her neighbor, Anne Porter, in a compromising position, she is forced to contend with the fall out as she finds herself inexplicably involved. But, Anne’s affair also prompts her to take a closer look at the state of her own life and marriage, which might be in a bit of a rut.

Enter in an eclectic cast of characters, all facing a moment of crisis and you have a poignant, but rip roaring, laugh out loud funny “Married with kids” expose.

This book will make you wonder just what, exactly, your neighbors may be getting up to- and will convince you that you’d probably rather not know.

Anytime a couple you thought of as stable, suddenly breaks up, it can have an unnerving effect on you. This is the case here, to some extent, as well. Both Frances and her husband are shaken up by Anne’s affair, worried about their own relationship, as their lives evolve around their kids and the community more than one another- yet, up until now, they seem to be pretty content and comfortable in the marriage, even though the spark has died out.

However, as their neighbor’s marriage crumbles, literally right before their very eyes, they voice deeper concerns, admitting there are definitely some worrisome issues in the marriage. I felt a little uneasy, and worried about this couple, pulling for them, but not one hundred percent sure things will ever change for them.

But, Frances also has her hands full with her fourteen- year- old daughter, Ava, who is a walking, talking bundle of hormones, pushing Frances as far as she can, which is nearly a pitch perfect portrayal of the angsty, tumultuous, and stress ridden time for both mother and daughter. I loved this part of the story the most, I think.

But, there are others in the neighborhood, and part of France’s carpool, who are going through uncertain times.
Some characters are sympathetic, and others were harder to warm up to. But, all of them are a little recognizable in some way or another, making this neighborhood, community, and all its inhabitants feel like people you can relate to, or empathize with to varying degrees, understanding the various stages in life they are at, and the crisis points they are facing.

Somehow, Abbi Waxman manages to nail the realities of married life once you have kids, jobs, and a thousand responsibilities, and how easy it is to get bored, to take those closest to us for granted, to make enormous and regretful mistakes, and just how easy it is to fall into a complacent routine.

Her observations are so spot on it’s a little uncomfortable at times, but she still manages to find humor in life’s difficulties and stresses and absurdities. Just like in real life, there are ups, downs, pitfalls, mistakes, and regrets. Some will work hard to get back what they lost, others will work to keep from losing what they have, others will decide to accept their fate, but at the end of the day, there is still love, family, forgiveness, and friendships, and a sense of community that can be every bit as important and just as comforting.

This is in many ways, an adult wake-up call, a cautionary tale- but it’s also a delightfully funny, and all too realistic look at life, marriage and family that will resonate with anyone and everyone.



Abbi Waxman is a chocolate-loving, dog-loving woman, who lives in Los Angeles and lies down as much as possible. She worked in advertising for many years, which is how she learned to write fiction. She has three daughters, three dogs, three cats, and one very patient husband.