First Book of the Year (2016)

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Happy New Year!

I’m joining Book Journey’s First Book of the Year event! We’re showing off our first book of the year, and Sheila at Book Journey makes a lovely collage showing all the participants with their books.

My first book of 2016 is Slade House by David Mitchell. He’s one of my favorite authors, and it seemed like a nice book to start the New Year with.

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I’m not doing any challenges this coming year, but I thought it might be fun to read through my TBR in alphabetical order (of the title). Since I started with S, my next book would be T, etc. I reserve the right to read more than one book for each letter, though! Shift by Hugh Howey is waving at me, so that may be next.

What are you reading?

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Book Review: All the Stars in the Heavens by Adriana Trigiani

All the Stars in the Heavens by Adriana TrigianiAll the Stars in the Heavens: What it is about

HarperCollins publishers says: “In this spectacular saga as radiant, thrilling, and beguiling as Hollywood itself, Adriana Trigiani takes us back to Tinsel Town’s golden age—an era as brutal as it was resplendent—and into the complex and glamorous world of a young actress hungry for fame and success. With meticulous, beautiful detail, Trigiani paints a rich, historical landscape of 1930s Los Angeles, where European and American artisans flocked to pursue the ultimate dream: to tell stories on the silver screen.

The movie business is booming in 1935 when twenty-one-year-old Loretta Young meets thirty-four-year-old Clark Gable on the set of The Call of the Wild. Though he’s already married, Gable falls for the stunning and vivacious young actress instantly.

Far from the glittering lights of Hollywood, Sister Alda Ducci has been forced to leave her convent and begin a new journey that leads her to Loretta. Becoming Miss Young’s secretary, the innocent and pious young Alda must navigate the wild terrain of Hollywood with fierce determination and a moral code that derives from her Italian roots. Over the course of decades, she and Loretta encounter scandal and adventure, choose love and passion, and forge an enduring bond of love and loyalty that will be put to the test when they eventually face the greatest obstacle of their lives.

Anchored by Trigiani’s masterful storytelling that takes you on a worldwide ride of adventure from Hollywood to the shores of southern Italy, this mesmerizing epic is, at its heart, a luminous tale of the most cherished ties that bind. Brimming with larger-than-life characters both real and fictional—including stars Spencer Tracy, Myrna Loy, David Niven, Hattie McDaniel and more—it is it is the unforgettable story of one of cinema’s greatest love affairs during the golden age of American movie making.”

All the Stars in the Heavens: What I thought

I don’t care much about famous people, Hollywood, and especially not famous people in a Hollywood in the past. But I do care about Adriana Trigiani’s books. I have read ten or so and loved most of them, although I should admit that I loved her earlier novels better than her later ones.

Even keeping in mind that I’m not one for Hollywood stories, this one didn’t interest me much for another reason: there was hardly a story to speak of and there wasn’t really one main character to love and be worried about. So, the several characters that this book was about became older and fell in and out of love, got married and divorced, had children or not. Nothing to write home about, if you ask me. So it involved some famous names? Before my time, and before that of most readers. Yes, I have heard of them but they are so far before my time that they interest me even less than contemporary celebrities.

The story was OK – I did finish the novel, so it wasn’t that bad. However, it wasn’t that great either. There was nothing to keep me wondering what would happen next; only at around the two-thirds mark, it became somewhat interesting, but that was a bit late!

I guess if you’re a Trigiani fan, like me, you’ll want to read it. Or if you’re really into old movies.


Rating: 3 (out of 5)

Number of pages: 464

First published: 2015

I got this book: from the publisher for an honest review

Genre: fiction

Extra: Other books by Trigiani I read: Big Stone Gap, Big Cherry Holler, Milk Glass Moon, Home to Big Stone Gap, The Surpreme Macaroni Company, The Shoemaker’s Wife, Lucia, Lucia, The Queen of the Big Time, Don’t Sing at the Table, Rococo

 

Book Review: A Mile Down by David Vann

A Mile Down by David VannA Mile Down: What it is about

Windmill Books says: “In this inspirational memoir, internationally bestselling author David Vann tells the true story of building his own sailing ship and of the disastrous voyage that ensues.

As a thirty-year-old tourist in Turkey, David Vann stumbles across the steel frame of a ninety-foot sailboat and decides to fulfill a long-buried dream: he will rebuild the boat. From friends, family, and credit cards, he borrows $150,000 to construct the ship and achieve his ambition.

However, when the Turkish builders take shameless advantage of him, eventually charging him over $500,000, Vann finds himself on the edge of financial ruin and decides to start a chartering business. Battling with construction nightmares, spiraling debts and freak storms, Vann begins to wonder if he is merely repeating his father’s failures at sea, and a career that led to tragedy.

At once a page-turning memoir of adventure on the open ocean and a tale of one man’s attempt to overcome fate and realise his dream, A Mile Down is an unforgettable story of struggle and redemption by a writer of rare power.”

A Mile Down: What I thought

This was indeed a bit of a page turner, as it promises in the blurb! I read it during the 24-hour readathon, at the worst hours (when tiredness has set in), and it was very readable. It was a little depressing, though, as many of the things the author tries don’t work out for him. He knows the Turkish boat builders are taking advantage of him, but there is very little he can do, and he can only hope that the finished boat will be as he specified.

Later too, he meets mainly people who take advantage of him in some way, or refuse to help him. Worst is a captain at sea who does the very minimum to aid him when Vann’s boat is all but sinking. But slowly but surely, Vann meets people who are happy to help him out and things turn for the better. Or do they? It’s a journey of frustration, but great to read about.

Given that I would never buy a new house (too much hassle choosing wallpaper, a kitchen and bathroom, flooring, etc.), let alone have a house built from scratch, I was almost ill with the idea of having a boat built from scratch: that’s like a house with an engine. Think of all that could go wrong!! (Well, it did in this book.)

An enjoyable read, even for people like me, who don’t sail or would ever want to build their own boat.


Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)

Number of pages: 242

First published: 2005

I got this book: from a book shop

Genre: non-fiction

Extra: Other books by Vann I read: Sukkwan IslandCaribou Island, Dirt, Goat Mountain, Acquarium

 

Book review: Smoke by Catherine McKenzie

Smoke by Catherine McKenzie

Smoke: What it is about

Lake Union Publishing says: “From the internationally bestselling author Catherine McKenzie comes an evocative tale of two women navigating the secrets and lies at the heart of a wildfire threatening their town.

After a decadelong career combating wildfires, Elizabeth has traded in her former life for a quieter one with her husband. Now she works as the local arson investigator in a beautiful, quaint town in the Rockies. But that tranquil life vanishes when she and her husband agree to divorce and a fire in nearby Cooper Basin begins to spread rapidly. For Elizabeth, containing a raging wildfire is easier than accepting that her marriage has failed.

For Elizabeth’s ex-friend Mindy, who feels disconnected from her husband and teenage children, the fire represents a chance to find a new purpose: helping a man who has lost his home to the blaze. But her faith is shattered by a shocking accusation.

As the encroaching inferno threatens the town’s residents, Elizabeth and Mindy must discover what will be lost in the fire, and what will be saved.”

Smoke: What I thought

I read this book a while ago, in the summer, so the story isn’t quite clear in my head. The reason I read it then, was that I expected another chick-lit, like most of McKenzie’s other novels. A nice, easy read is just what I like on my holidays! However, this book was more like general, or women’s fiction.

The story was a little slow in places. The main character, Elizabeth, was a strong woman, which I liked. She prefers to spend time on a wildfire that is lasting for days than with her husband, whom she had promised not to be involved with the fire. With the fire moving closer to their house each day, Elizabeth tries to balance her relationship and her work.

The story reminded me of the books by Jodi Picoult. That means it was a good story, but not quite what I had been expecting. Smoke was a ‘just fine but nothing special’ novel.


Rating: 3.5 (out of 5)

Number of pages: 368

First published: 2015

I got this book: from the publishers for an honest review

Genre: women’s fiction

Extra: Other books by McKenzie I read: Spin, Forgotten, Arranged, Hidden

 

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