Weekend Cooking: Chinese Cooking for Diamond Thieves by Dave Lowry

wkendcooking

I’ve decided to make the Weekend Cooking meme, hosted by Beth Fish Reads  a regular monthly post at Book’d Out. Cooking is something I enjoy and I have been making more of an effort again lately, so I am looking forward to sharing some of my culinary adventures.

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Title: Chinese Cooking For Diamond Thieves

Author: Dave Lowry

Published:  Mariner Books: Haughton Mifflin Harcourt July 2014

Status: Read from July 09 to 10, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

I’m not sure exactly why I decided to take a chance on this novel but I am so glad I did. Funny, clever and fresh, Chinese Cooking for Diamond Thieves by Dave Lowry is a fabulously entertaining blend of mystery, action, a touch of awkward romance, and Chinese cooking.

Having been kicked out of college just before graduation, Tucker is heading home to Missouri in his aging Toyota when he crosses paths with the attractive and enigmatic Corrine Chang, making her way from Canada to Buffalo, NY, at a deserted rest stop. In the absence of any real goal, Tucker offers Corrine a ride, surprising her with his ability to speak Mandarin, and being surprised in turn when he intercepts a threatening phone call. Corrine, it seems, is on the run from a Chinese gang convinced she has $15 million dollars worth of diamonds missing from her employer’s store. Despite her protestations of innocence, the gang follows them all the way to St Louis, as intent on capturing Corinne, as Tucker, with a little help from the FBI, is at stopping them.

Chinese Cooking for Diamond Thieves is fast paced with plenty of action and intrigue, and just enough exaggeration to entertain. Snappy dialogue, liberally laced with sarcasm, is delivered with expert timing.

Lowry’s protagonist is an unusual guy. The son of white upper middle class parents (his father a retired agent of some description), Tucker practices xing-i, speaks Mandarin (and a little Cantonese) and cooks Chinese food, real Chinese food, with the skill of a native. He is simultaneously a tough guy capable of crippling an enemy with an economy of movement, and achingly vulnerable and self deprecating. The contradiction works perfectly to create a charming, quirky hero, who is supported by an equally appealing cast.

For foodies, there are plenty of tips for cooking authentic Chinese food, and a glimpse into the inner workings of a Chinese restaurant kitchen.

Chinese Cooking for Diamond Thieves is probably best described as a crime caper given the elements of humour, adventure and the offbeat characters. I thought it was witty, clever and interesting and recommend it without hesitation.

Chinese Cooking for Diamond Thieves is available to purchase from

Haughton Mifflin Harcourt I AmazonUS I BookDepository I Indiebound

via Booko

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The few Chinese dishes I cook are unapologetically westernised versions and fairly simple ones at that. Today I thought I’d share one of my favourites, with apologies to Tucker, and Dave Lowry.

Oven Baked Chicken Spring Rolls

 

Ingredients

1 kg barbecued or roast chicken, finely shredded
1 large can of corn kernels
4 green onions, thinly sliced
2 tsp finely grated ginger
2 tsp sesame oil
5 tbs soy sauce
1 pkt frozen spring roll wrappers
1/4 cup (60ml) peanut oil

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 200°C.

In a bowl combine shredded chicken, corn kernels, onions, ginger, sesame oil and soy sauce

Lay out a spring roll wrapper with a point facing towards you. Place 2 tablespoonfuls of chicken mixture on pastry then fold pastry over filling once. Fold in side corners. Brush far corner with water then roll up tightly. Repeat with remaining filling and pastry.

Place spring rolls on an oven tray. Brush with peanut oil then bake for 20-25 minutes or until crisp and golden.

Serve with fried rice and/or a dipping sauce of your choice

spring rolls

Review: The Bookshop That Floated Away by Sarah Henshaw

 

Title: The Bookshop That Floated Away

Author: Sarah Henshaw

Published: Constable: Allen & Unwin July 2014

Status: Read from July 01 to 02, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

In 2009, Sarah Henshaw had a brilliant idea – to transform a narrow boat, named Joseph, into a bookshop, called The Book Barge, but by 2011, battered by the recession, the growth in digital book sales and Henshaw’s self-confessed terrible book-selling skills the store, moored in the Midlands, was on the verge of closing. Desperate to keep the business afloat, Sarah came up with the idea to traverse the canals of England for six months to raise awareness of the plight of independent booksellers and, of course, sell books.

The Bookshop That Floated Away is the story of Henshaw’s adventures through the waterways of Britain, negotiating its hundreds of locks, mooring where able, and selling the odd book, supplementing the costs of her journey, largely financed by her parents and an extraordinarily generous ex boyfriend, by bartering stock for essentials like meals, alcohol, haircuts and bathroom privileges along the way. Passionate about books and literature but lacking business savvy, and at times common sense, the journey was not an easy one, hampered by break-downs, break-ins and break-outs.

I expected to love this book, but unfortunately I finished it feeling rather disappointed. I’m not sure if it was the author or her writing style, that I had trouble connecting with, but I think it was probably a mixture of both. I found Henshaw’s attitude irritating at times, and there is a weird section written from the perspective of Joseph, the boat. Still, I love the whole idea of The Book Barge and I did find Sarah’s adventures interesting, so I wouldn’t discourage anyone from reading it.

The Book Barge is now moored permanently in the Barton Marina, open weekends and holidays (at Henshaw’s whim). Check The Book Barge Facebook page for details about opening hours and special events.

 

The Bookshop That Floated Away is available to purchase from

Allen & Unwin Iboomerang-books_long I Booktopia I Bookworld I via Booko

Amazon AU  I Amazon US I Amazon UK

and all good bookstores.

 

 

Review: Reservoir Dad by Clint Greagen

 

Title: Reservoir Dad

Author: Clint Greagen

Published: Bantam: Random House July 2014

Status: Read from July 07 to 09, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

In 2008, Clint Greagen resigned from his job as a youth worker to care for his first born child. Nine years later Clint is a stay at home dad of four young boys, Archie, Lewis, Tyson and Maki, and the author of Reservoir Dad, about his adventures in full-time parenting, first chronicled on his popular blog of the same name.

Written with humour, honesty and love, Reservoir Dad shares the exhausting challenges and unadulterated joys of raising four sons, from the seemingly endless sleepless nights, and a bathroom floor covered in wee, to the smell of a newborn head and wrestling matches in the lounge room. What I admire most is Greagen’s obvious dedication to his sons, and his relationship with his wife, the ever-patient Reservoir Mum (aka Tania), with whom he still shares a weekly date night, on a mattress in front of the TV.

As a stay at home mother, also to four children (three of whom were born in three years), I could certainly relate to Greagen’s experiences of parenting. I found myself giggling in recognition of the moments of crazy and wincing in well remembered sympathy at toddler tantrums and the lego induced injuries, which happens less often now that my youngest son is 8.

Divided into six parts with short chapters variously named with titles like ‘Hang Like A Man’; ‘Syncing Hormonally’; ‘The Grand Old Duke of…Puke?’ and ‘A Jim Carrey-Inspired Sex Education’ Reservoir Dad is a quick, easy read.

Funny, moving and insightful, Reservoir Dad would be the perfect gift for new parents, both as a warning of what is to come, and an assurance they are not alone.

Available to purchase from

Random House Au Iboomerang-books_long I Booktopia I Bookworld I via Booko

Amazon AU  I Amazon US

and all good bookstores.

Want more? Visit This Charming Mum for her review

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Review: Mating For Life by Melissa Stapley

 

Title: Mating For Life

Author: Melissa Stapley

Published: Washington Square Press July 2014

Status: Read from June 29 to July 01, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Mating For Life is an ambitious exploration of love, relationships and the search for happiness by debut author Marissa Stapley.

The narrative unfolds from multiple perspectives, primarily those of Helen and her three adult daughter’s, Liane, Ilsa and Fiona, who are all variously struggling with romantic entanglements. Helen, a former wild child who essentially raised her daughters, fathered by three different men, on her own, is in her mid sixties and after years of eschewing tradition is wary of her lover’s urging for commitment. Liane has been with Adam for three years, but while holed up in her family’s lake cabin trying to finish her PHd thesis and imagining her future, she realises that he is not who she wants or needs after all. Fiona has invested everything she is into her marriage and children and when cracks begin to appear in the facade of her perfect family, is left angry and floundering. Ilsa, an artist and mother of two is growing increasingly dissatisfied with her passionless marriage to her much old husband and becomes embroiled in an illicit affair.

As the story unfolds, each woman is forced to negotiate the complications of mother-daughter and sibling dynamics, confront the choices they have made and reevaluate their priorities. What becomes obvious is that to successfully mate for life, they must first learn what it is they honestly want and need as individuals.

Each chapter is prefaced by a snippet from the mating rituals of a Canadian animal or bird which relates directly to the content. I thought the writing style was lovely overall, the descriptions of both place and emotion evocative, though at times a little over detailed. I found I was distracted by the additional perspectives added to the narrative from several minor characters and while I think the author chose to do so in order to explore another facet of her theme, I didn’t think it necessary.

While I could relate to some aspects of the themes of Mating For Life, neither the story, nor the characters really resonated with me in the way it has seemed to with other reviewers. For me, Mating for Life was a pleasant read but not a memorable one.

Mating For Life is available to purchase from

Simon & Schuster US I AmazonUS I BookDepository I Indiebound

 

Review & Giveaway: Colours of Gold by Kaye Dobbie

 

Title: Colours of Gold

Author: Kaye Dobbie

Published: Harlequin MIRA April 2014

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from July 06 to 08, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the author}

My Thoughts:

Colours of Gold by Kaye Dobbie, also known as Sara Bennett and Lilly Sommers, is a captivating tale combining mystery, romance, history and a touch of ‘other’.

With the narrative alternating between the past and the present, Colours of Gold tells the story of a small girl found near death in a sealed barrel in the Murray River in 1867 and her connection to a present day art restorer’s discovery of a Trompe L’oeil in an old Melbourne hotel scheduled for demolition.

From the opening chapters of the historical timeline I was intrigued by the mysteries introduced by the author, namely the identity of the young girl rescued from the river, her extraordinary ability to see colours (aura) that warn her of a persons mood, misfortune or illness, and her fear of a tall man in a long dark coat that haunts her, day and night. Moving from the banks of the Murray, through the dusty streets of gold rush towns and finally to Melbourne, Dobbie deftly evokes the character and landscape of the historical period as Alice, and friend Rosey, struggle to escape their dark pasts, in hopes of creating a brighter future.

In the contemporary timeline, Annie Reuben is excited by the challenge presented by the conservation of the Trompe L’oeil found in the basement of the old Goldminer Hotel and intrigued by the people and the scenes it depicts, especially the figures of two young girls in the foreground. Despite the threat of interference by History Victoria, and a looming financial crisis, Annie is determined to solve the mystery of the painting, and find out what the sudden appearance of a man in a long dark coat means for her, and her daughter.

Well written, I thought the alternating chapters were particularly well structured, each advancing the story and merging neatly at the conclusion. Suspense is built carefully during the course of the novel, with the pace quickening as Alice and Annie get closer to solving the mysteries that concern them.

An entertaining and interesting novel, with appealing characters, I was surprised at how quickly I became invested in the story of Colours of Gold and how reluctant I was to put it down. This was a great read for me.

For your chance to WIN one of two copies of Colours of Gold CLICK HERE {open worldwide}

 

Colours of Gold is available to purchase from

Harlequin AuBooktopia I Bookworld I via Booko I Amazon AU

Amazon US

and all good bookstores.

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AWW Feature & Giveaway: Also Known As Kaye Dobbie

 

I am happy to introduce you to Kaye Dobbie today. Kaye  is a multi published Australian author who has written romance for Avon, as Sara Bennett, and Australian historical books as Lilly Sommers.

Her current novel, Colours of Gold, is published by Harlequin MIRA (Australia), and is two tales in one. Firstly, a story set in 1866 about Alice a mysterious young girl found half-drowned in the Murray River, and secondly, a story set in the present day about Annie Reuben, a painting restorer, who uncovers the secrets of Alice’s life.

” The child has no name, she’s a little girl…lost and forgotten.

1867: Named by the wife of the paddle steamer captain who finds her half drowned in the Murray River, Alice must survive in a world that reviles her. Because Alice has a gift…or a curse. She can see an aura of colours around the people she meets — and those colours tell her of impending doom. With her friend Rosey, Alice runs away to the gold fields and then joins a troupe of entertainers where people pay to hear her predictions. But she can never escape her past…along with the frightening man in the dark coat who follows her wherever she goes…

Present: Annie Reuben is an art restorer in her father’s business, but times are tough. After being given a long-lost painting found in the basement of a condemned hotel, Annie becomes intrigued by the two girls who stare out at her from the ruined canvas.

Who were Alice and Rosey? And why does Annie find their lives so important? As Annie becomes caught up with finding answers from the past, she finds herself being stalked by the same frightening man in the dark coat who follows her wherever she goes…

A beautiful novel of a young girl’s life and adventures in the Australian goldfields — and how a painting revealed her story to the next generation of her family.

*****

My review of Colours of Gold can be read HERE , but first please READ ON and learn how you could WIN 1 of 2 copies of this wonderful novel.

AKA Kaye Dobbie

I seem to have been writing forever—yes, it has been a very long apprenticeship. From childhood diaries to a Last Will and Testament I drew up at the age of six, leaving my extensive doll collection divided fairly among my three brothers (I was the only girl). They still think it was hilarious.

When I was about fifteen I wrote a grand novel full of murder and mayhem and angst. The culprit turned out to be an elderly man in a wheelchair. Boy, I was clever. I bet no one guessed.

A publisher impressed by my dramatic flair suggested I try Mills and Boon, but it took me a while to come to grips with the happy ending. Once I did though, I embraced it whole-heartedly. At this time I was an at-home Mum, and those five romance books I wrote fitted into my chaotic lifestyle, as well as being the perfect learning experience for an aspiring writer. There isn’t a formula, in case you’re wondering. The happy ending is obligatory, but other than that you just need to focus on the main couple, and you can write them into whatever settings, situations or conflicts that appeal to you.

Later I wrote five books for various Australian publishers under the name Lilly Sommers. The publishers kept changing because 1) my editor moved to another publishing house and I followed her (reminder not to do that ever again) and 2) the industry was in flux and publishing houses were downsizing. The novels were mostly historical, but one of them had some ghostly elements and there was a novella about time travel in convict era Tasmania. I learned a lot during these years and I always felt privileged to be an Australian writing about Australia. It was one of the reasons I longed to publish another Australian-set novel.

For the last ten or so years I’ve been Sara Bennett, writing romance for Avon in the USA. Firstly Medieval books, with hunky knights and feisty ladies, and then moving on to the Victorian era, in particular a series about the daughters of an infamous courtesan. It has been a lot of fun but it came to a natural end. However I am planning to self-publish under my Sara Bennett name, when I have a moment. Romance is very life affirming and I love the happy endings.

Right now I’m writing under my own name, Kaye Dobbie. Colours of Gold is my first book with Harlequin MIRA (Australia). If I’ve been completing an apprenticeship, then I feel as if this book is the culmination of all those years of learning to be a writer. I haven’t finished, of course I haven’t. The growing and learning goes on.

And, finally, you ask, does Colours of Gold have a happy ending? Well, yes, it does, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few tears along the way.

Colours of Gold is available to purchase from

Harlequin AuBooktopia I Bookworld I via Booko I Amazon AU

Amazon US

and all good bookstores.

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GIVEAWAY

Courtesy of Kaye Dobbie

I have 2 editions of

Colours of Gold

to giveaway

1 x print edition for Australian residents only

1 x electronic edition for international (outside of Australia) residents  only

Please leave a comment on this post and then

ENTER HERE

Entries close July 20th, 2014

Drawn via random.org

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

The Its Monday! What Are You Reading meme is hosted at Book Journey.

Life…

I apologise for my absence from the blog last week. Unfortunately the flu triggered a flare up of a chronic medical condition, which creates its own complications, and I spent the latter half of the week marooned on my lounge taking a heavy dose of antibiotics and painkillers hoping the situation would resolve itself sooner rather than later and without the need for hospitalisation. I actually do feel a lot better today, at least the severe joint pain has abated and I feel a little more clear headed.

I’m surprised how much reading I got done to be honest,  but I really wasn’t up to writing reviews, so I am going to have to catch up as and when I can.

What I Read Last Week

 Mating For Life by Marissa Stapley

The Bookshop That Floated Away by Sarah Henshaw

Swimming in the Dark by Paddy Richardson

Expecting by Ann Lewis Hamilton

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

Letters To My Daughter’s Killer by Cath Staincliffe

 

New Posts

(click the titles to read my reviews)

Review: 21st Century Dodos by Steve Stack ★★1/2

Review: All Fall Down by Jennifer Weiner ★★★★

Exclusive Excerpt: Expecting by Ann Lewis Hamilton

Review: Expecting by Ann Lewis Hamilton ★★★

Stuff of Sunday: 6 Degrees of Separation

 

 What I Am Reading Today

A beautiful novel of a young girl’s life and adventures in the Australian goldfields — and how a painting revealed her story to the next generation of her family. Annie Reuben is an art restorer in her father’s business, but times are tough. After being given a long-lost painting found in the basement of a condemned hotel, Annie becomes intrigued by the two girls who stare out at her from the ruined canvas. All she has are two names: Alice and Rosey…and a landscape from a century before. 1867: Named by the wife of the paddle steamer captain who finds her half drowned in the Murray River, Alice has a gift — she can see an aura of colours around the people she meets, but sometimes the colours tell her of impending doom. Learning to survive in a world which misunderstands her, Alice eventually runs away to the goldfields with her friend Rosey and joins a troupe of entertainers. While her fame and fortunes increase as people pay to hear her predictions, Alice can never escape her past…along with the frightening man in the dark coat who follows her wherever she goes. Who were Alice and Rosey? And why does Annie find their lives so important? As Annie becomes caught up with seeking answers from the past, she finds herself seeing the same man in the dark coat who follows her wherever she goes. What is his connection to the painting?

What I Plan To Read This Week

(click the covers to view at Goodreads)

Best Australian Blog 2013 judge Kerry Sackville echoed the feelings of the many fans of award-winning blogger Reservoir Dad aka Clint Greagen, a stay-at-home dad who tells it like it is and makes us laugh out loud – and sometimes cry, but in a good way. A sharply funny, fresh and irreverent chronicler of real life in today’s parenting trenches, whether he’s making us choke with laughter, ‘scrisper’ (a scream, tempered by a whisper, vital to surviving being in charge of four little boys on a plane, train, automobile or supermarket) or cringe with horror or snicker in recognition, you can see why his star is rising. Women love him, and men, fellow stay-at-home dads and otherwise, admire him for keeping it real and doing his best to man up, even (and perhaps especially) when he fails, spectacularly. He is not only funny and wise but out and proud about loving his kids and wife – his relationship with the ever-patient Reservoir Mum. In Reservoir Dad, he finally shares the whole enchilada. The result is a laugh out loud and often heartbreakingly moving modern day love story that reminds us of what really matters amongst all the chaos and craziness.

Driving home after being kicked out of college, Tucker meets and picks up the mysterious Corinne Chang at a rest stop. Infatuated, and with nothing better to do, he ends up with her in St. Louis, where he gets a job as a chef in a Chinese restaurant. Even though he’s a gwai lo—a foreign devil—his cooking skills impress the Chinese patrons of the restaurant, and his wooing skills impress Corinne when she joins him there as a waitress. But when Chinese gangsters show up demanding diamonds they believe Tucker’s kind-of, sort-of, don’t-call-her-a-girlfriend stole, he and his friends—which luckily include a couple of FBI agents—have to figure out just who is gunning for Corinne and how to stop them. Good thing Tucker is a Mandarin-speaking martial arts master who isn’t afraid to throw the first punch.With its one-of-a-kind hero, Chinese Cooking for Diamond Thieves is perfect for anyone who loves cooking, Chinese culture, bad jokes, and young love. Diamonds are forever . . . unless Chinese mobsters decide they want them back.

The luck of the Irish was chronic bad luck, as their sad history attests. That’s how it looked for 250 Irish convicts when their ship, the Hive, sank ignominiously off the NSW coast in 1835. Miraculously all survived, guided to safety by local Aboriginal people. They landed at a time when the so-called slave colony was at its height, ruled by the lash and the chain gang. Yet as Babette Smith tracked the lives of the people aboard the Hive, she discovered a very different story. Most were assigned to work on farms or in businesses, building a better life than they possibly could have experienced in Ireland. Surprisingly, in the workforce they found power, which gave rise to the characteristic Australian culture later described by DH Lawrence: ‘Nobody felt better than anybody else, or higher.’ The Luck of the Irish is a fascinating portrait of colonial life in the mid-19th century, which reveals how the Irish helped lay the foundations of the Australia we know today.

When patriarch Gerald Hawkins passes away in his Tasmanian home, after ten years of serious illness, his family experience a wave of grief and, admittedly, a surge of relief. Gerald’s dominating personality has loomed large over his wife, Connie, their children, Andrew and Kerry, and his sister Flora, for decades. Connie, whose own dreams were dispensed with upon marriage, is now determined to renew her long friendship with Gerald’s estranged sister, Flora. She travels to France where she finds Flora struggling to make peace with the past and searching for a place to call home. Meanwhile Andrew’s marriage is crumbling, and Kerry is trapped in stasis by unfinished business with her father. As the family adjusts to life after Gerald, they could not be more splintered. But there are surprises in store and secrets to unravel. And once the loss has been absorbed, is it possible that they could all find a way to start afresh with forgiveness, understanding and possibility?

 While you are here…

 

Thanks for stopping by!

Stuff On Sundays: 6 Degrees of Separation

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Annabel Smith and Emma Chapman were inspired to create this meme by a short story titled ‘Chains’ in which Hungarian writer and poet Frigyes Karinthy first coined the phrase ‘six degrees of separation’. Based on the idea in Karinthy’s story, Emma and Annabel will choose a book each month, and link it to five other books in a chain, inviting their readers and other bloggers to join them by creating their own ‘chain’ leading from the selected book.

Books can be linked in obvious ways – for example, books by the same authors, from the same era or genre, or books with similar themes or settings. Or, you may choose to link them in more personal or esoteric ways: books you read on the same holiday, books given to you by a particular friend, books that remind you of a particular time in your life, or books you read for an online challenge.

The great thing about this meme is that each participant can make their own rules. A book doesn’t need to be connected to all the other books on the list, only to the ones next to them in the chain.

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This month, Annabel and Emma have chosen 2014 Pulitzer Prize winner The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

It begins with a boy. Theo Decker, a thirteen-year-old New Yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. Bewildered by his strange new home on Park Avenue, disturbed by schoolmates who don’t know how to talk to him, and tormented above all by his unbearable longing for his mother, he clings to one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the underworld of art. As an adult, Theo moves silkily between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty labyrinth of an antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love-and at the center of a narrowing, ever more dangerous circle. The Goldfinch is a novel of shocking narrative energy and power. It combines unforgettably vivid characters, mesmerizing language, and breathtaking suspense, while plumbing with a philosopher’s calm the deepest mysteries of love, identity, and art. It is a beautiful, stay-up-all-night and tell-all-your-friends triumph, an old-fashioned story of loss and obsession, survival and self-invention, and the ruthless machinations of fate”

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The obvious link here is to another Pulitzer Prize Winner – A Visit from the Good Squad by Jennifer Egan.

Bennie is an aging former punk rocker and record executive. Sasha is the passionate, troubled young woman he employs. Here Jennifer Egan brilliantly reveals their pasts, along with the inner lives of a host of other characters whose paths intersect with theirs. With music pulsing on every page, A Visit from the Goon Squad is a startling, exhilarating novel of self-destruction and redemption.

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Punk music is the link to Viv Albertine’s memoir, Clothes, Clothes, Clothes, Music, Music, Music, Boys, Boys, Boys.

Viv Albertine is one of a handful of original punks who changed music, and the discourse around it, forever. In Clothes … Music … Boys a story hitherto dominated by male voices is recast through the eyes of one of the most glamorous, uncompromising and iconic figures of the time. After forming The Flowers of Romance with Sid Vicious in 1976, Viv joined The Slits and made musical history as one of the first generation of punk bands. Here is the story of what it was like to be a girl at the height of punk: the sex, the drugs, the guys, the tours, the hard lessons learnt and those not considered. From Madonna to Lady Gaga, fashion to feminism, Viv Albertine has influenced a range of exceptional artists. Here, before and beyond the break-up of The Slits in 1982, is the full story of a life lived unscripted, with foolishness, bravery and great emotional honesty. A memoir full of raw and uncompromising anecdote and opinion, Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys is an unflinching account of a life lived on the frontiers of experience, by a true pioneer.”

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Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson is also a memoir

“When Jenny Lawson was little, all she ever wanted was to fit in. That dream was cut short by her fantastically unbalanced father (a professional taxidermist who created dead-animal hand puppets) and a childhood of wearing winter shoes made out of used bread sacks. It did, however, open up an opportunity for Lawson to find the humor in the strange shame spiral that is her life, and we are all the better for it. Lawson’s long-suffering husband and sweet daughter are the perfect comedic foils to her absurdities, and help her to uncover the surprising discovery that the most terribly human moments-the ones we want to pretend never happened-are the very same moments that make us the people we are today. Let’s Pretend This Never Happened is a poignantly disturbing, yet darkly hysterical tome for every intellectual misfit who thought they were the only ones to think the things that Lawson dares to say out loud. Like laughing at a funeral, this book is both irreverent and impossible to hold back once you get started.”

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Alice Hoffman’s protagonist, Coralie Sardie,  in The Museum of Extraordinary Things also grew up surrounded by, amongst other things, taxidermied animals displayed in her father’s ‘freak’ museum.

Coney Island, 1911: Coralie Sardie is the daughter of a self-proclaimed scientist and professor who acts as the impresario of The Museum of Extraordinary Things, a boardwalk freak show offering amazement and entertainment to the masses. An extraordinary swimmer, Coralie appears as the Mermaid alongside performers like the Wolfman, the Butterfly Girl,and a 100 year old turtle, in her father’s “museum”. She swims regularly in New York’s Hudson River, and one night stumbles upon a striking young man alone in the woods photographing moon-lit trees. From that moment, Coralie knows her life will never be the same. The dashing photographer Coralie spies is Eddie Cohen, a Russian immigrant who has run away from his father’s Lower East Side Orthodox community. As Eddie photographs the devastation on the streets of New York following the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, he becomes embroiled in the mystery behind a young woman’s disappearance and the dispute between factory owners and labourers. In the tumultuous times that characterized life in New York between the world wars, Coralie and Eddie’s lives come crashing together in Alice Hoffman’s mesmerizing, imaginative, and romantic new novel.”

***

Another novel which features a collector of something unusual is The Collector of Dying Breaths by M.J. Rose

A lush and imaginative novel that crisscrosses time as a perfumer and a mythologist search for the fine line between potion and poison, poison and passion…and past and present. Florence, Italy—1533: An orphan named René le Florentin is plucked from poverty to become Catherine de Medici’s perfumer. Traveling with the young duchessina from Italy to France, René brings with him a cache of secret documents from the monastery where he was trained: recipes for exotic fragrances and potent medicines—and a formula for an alchemic process said to have the potential to reanimate the dead. In France, René becomes not only the greatest perfumer in the country but the most dangerous, creating deadly poisons for his Queen to use against her rivals. But while mixing herbs and essences under the light of flickering candles, Rene doesn’t begin to imagine the tragic and personal consequences for which his lethal potions will be responsible. Paris, France—The Present: A renowned mythologist, Jac L’Etoile, is trying to recover from personal heartache by throwing herself into her work, learns of the 16th century perfumer who may have been working on an elixir that would unlock the secret to immortality. She becomes obsessed with René le Florentin’s work—particularly when she discovers the dying breathes he had collected during his lifetime. Jac’s efforts put her in the path of her estranged lover, Griffin North, a linguist who has already begun translating René le Florentin’s mysterious formula. Together they confront an eccentric heiress in possession of a world-class art collection. A woman who has her own dark purpose for the elixir… a purpose for which she believes the ends will justify her deadly means. This mesmerizing gothic tale of passion and obsession crisscrosses time, zigzagging from the violent days of Catherine de Medici’s court to twenty-first century France. Fiery and lush, set against deep, wild forests and dimly lit chateaus, The Collector of Dying Breaths illuminates the true path to immortality: the legacies we leave behind.”

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Six books linked   and the common theme – they are all on my shelf, as yet unread.

Visit Emma‘s or Annabel’s blogs if you would like to join in with this meme or to browse the intriguing connections from bloggers who are participating.

6degrees

Review: Expecting by Ann Lewis Hamilton

 

 

Title: Expecting

Author: Ann Lewis Hamilton

Published: Sourcebooks July 2014

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from July 02 to 03, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

After two early term miscarriages, happily married couple Laurie and Alan seek fertility advice and agree to try Intrauterine Insemination (IUI). They are delighted, if somewhat wary, when they discover Laurie is expecting but as the pregnancy progresses past the point of their earlier losses, they allow themselves to dream of their future as a family. Until a phone call from the fertility clinic changes everything.

Told from the third person perspectives of Laurie, the expectant mother, Alan, her husband, and college student Jack, also known as Donor #296, Expecting, by Ann Hamilton, explores an unique situation where Laurie learns that the father of her baby is not her husband but instead Donor #296, thanks to the actions of a disgruntled clinic employee.

I felt for each of the protagonists in this story. As Alan struggles to accept the shocking news, Laurie has already formed a connection with the child growing within her, and feels compelled to find out more about Donor #296, leading her to contact Jack, whom she discovers is a college student of Asian Indian heritage.

For the most part I believed in the motivations and thoughts of the characters caught in such a complicated situation and I liked the way in which the author considered the issues from multiple perspectives.

I understood Laurie’s refusal to consider a termination and her curiosity about the donor. I too would want to meet him, though I would probably be far more reluctant to embrace him in the way Laurie does. In several ways I think it is admirable, especially as it means ‘Buddy’ will be able to have a relationship with his/her biological parent and family, but Laurie doesn’t really consider the impact on her husband, even though she professes too.

I was surprised at how much I sympathised with Alan’s feelings of jealousy, anxiety and anger and his concerns about his ability to love a child, especially one that won’t look like him, that is not his. His reaction, to distract himself with the fantasy of a relationship with his ex girlfriend, may have been inappropriate, but is somewhat understandable.

Jack is a fairly typical college student confronted by a decidedly atypical situation. Laid back and easy going he is just as indecisive about deciding what role he will play in the baby’s life as he is in choosing a major, or a girlfriend.

Hamilton’s tone is deceptively lighthearted, finding humour amongst the angst of the situation. The story is well paced with the shifts between perspectives, and short chapters, making it a quick and easy read.

I enjoyed Expecting, I found it to be both an entertaining and surprisingly thought provoking novel with an interesting perspective on an unusual issue. Ann Lewis Hamilton is a debut author with promise.

Expecting is available to purchase from

Sourcebooks I AmazonUS I BookDepository I Indiebound

Exclusive Excerpt: Expecting by Ann Lewis Hamilton

Expecting

by Ann Lewis Hamilton

” A mom, a dad, a baby…and another dad.

Laurie and Alan are expecting, again. After two miscarriages, Laurie was afraid they’d never be able to have a child. Now she’s cautiously optimistic — the fertility treatment worked, and things seem to be different this time around. But she doesn’t yet know how different.

Jack can’t seem to catch a break — his parents are on his case about graduating from college, he’s somehow dating two girls at once, and he has to find a way to pay back the money he borrowed from his fraternity’s party fund. The only jobs he is qualified for barely pay enough to keep him in beer money, but an ad for the local sperm bank gives Jack an idea.

Laurie and Alan’s joy is shattered when their doctor reveals that Laurie was accidentally impregnated by sperm from a donor rather than her husband. Who is Donor 296. And how will their family change now that Donor 296 is inarguably part of it?”

Excerpt

Expect nothing. Live frugally
On surprise.
—Alice Walker

***

The worst place your water could break.
The Hollywood Bowl. During an especially quiet part of a classical concert, not Darth Vader’s theme from the “Star Wars Suite.” You’re in a center box seat, close enough to see the sweat on the cello player’s forehead, and the space is crowded tight with four people, so an inconspicuous exit will be impossible. Your husband notices the concrete floor of the box is suddenly slick and wet and whispers, “Did you spill your wine?” And you’d like to believe him—it could be wine, but you know it’s amniotic fluid. Vintage, nine months.
There are several problems with this scenario, one of them being you’re not drinking wine these days. Pregnancy requires Martinelli’s Sparkling Cider, nothing alcoholic.
And two, it’s been weeks since your husband moved out of the house and into an apartment. So what would you be doing together at the Hollywood Bowl?
Another bad place for your water to break—a plane. Flying to the most remote spot on earth, over the ocean, four hours from any airport.
Or alone on a desert island. No doctors, no midwives. You always meant to watch the YouTube video that explains how “Anyone Can Deliver Their Own Baby.” Too late now.
At Grace’s house, sitting on her new Roche Bobois white leather sofa. “It cost more than a car,” she tells you. “The leather feels like butter.”
***
So the parking lot at the Trader Joe’s in Sherman Oaks isn’t the worst place; it’s not even top ten bad. Laurie is loading her bags in the trunk and thinking about how she caught the clerks winking at each other when they saw the crazy pregnant lady buying seven bags of dark-chocolate-covered pretzels. “The pretzels aren’t for me,” she told them. “I’m having a party. For my book club.”
Inside the car, she opens a pretzel bag—just to make sure they’re fresh—and feels something moist in her panties. Not a great rush of fluid, but the sensation is a shock all the same. The baby isn’t due for another week. At home, she goes to the bathroom, and when she looks in the toilet, the water is pink. She calls Dr. Liu and he tells her to head to the hospital.
Laurie’s mother is at home in Reno and still on crutches because of her broken knee—calling will only make her worry.
Grace is in Napa, annoyed at Laurie because she hasn’t been asked to be the birth coach. Grace is a wonderful person, Laurie’s best friend, but her alarmist personality (“Do you know the real probability of an asteroid striking the earth?”) is not the support Laurie needs in a delivery room.
Alan isn’t answering his phone. She could leave a message. Or not.
Laurie walks down the hall to the guest room. The door is closed so she knocks. She can hear the creak of the bed and Jack appears. His hair is messed up and he rubs at his eyes.
“I was studying,” he says. He fights a yawn. “I wasn’t asleep.” He yawns again.
Laurie considers. Maybe she should call Alan back and leave a message.
Instead she nods at Jack. “I think it’s time.”
***
On The Flintstones, pregnant Wilma tells Fred, “I’m ready,” and Fred gets so excited he hops in the car and drives off with Barney instead. Wilma remains calm, not worrying about how they haven’t invented Pitocin or epidurals yet. She’s a cavewoman; she probably has to butcher her own T-Rex if Fred wants steak for dinner. And she knows, even though he’s Fred, he’ll remember eventually and come back for her.
At the hospital, Fred paces and waits with Barney. He’s not allowed in the delivery room with Wilma.
Who’s going to be in the delivery room with Laurie? She closes her eyes.
Yabba dabba doo.
***
“Bring the notes for your final and I’ll quiz you between contractions,” Laurie tells Jack.
He frowns, his eyes wary. He’s changed his clothes, and he’s wearing a baseball cap—backward—to hide his bed hair.
“That’s a joke,” Laurie says.
Jack smiles, oh right, as if he knew that’s what she meant all along, and Laurie considers saying the word dilation just to watch his face go pale. But that would be cruel and things are crazy enough already, and this isn’t the way it’s supposed to be and goddamn it, Alan is her husband; he should be here instead of Jack, her houseguest, although that’s probably not the best way to explain her relationship to Jack, which is only insanely complicated and where the hell is Alan anyway? Jack takes a step closer and says, very gently, “Do you have everything?” Jack is sometimes surprisingly wise and perceptive for a twenty-one-year-old.
Everything except my husband. “I hope so,” Laurie says. She packed her birthing bag weeks ago and has only repacked it three times. She tries Alan’s cell again and leaves a message. “I’m on my way to the hospital.”
***
On the drive over the hill to Cedars-Sinai, she times the contractions. Every twenty minutes. Good, little chance of Jack having to pull over to the side of Coldwater Canyon so he can deliver the baby himself. The air conditioning in Jack’s car is broken, so the vent above her knees blows out arctic air and Jack reaches in the backseat for a blanket. “Sorry,” he says and she’s not sure if he’s sorry about the broken air conditioner or the fact the blanket is a tiger-stripe Snuggie, but it’s warm enough and keeps her knees from aching.
“Is there any music you want to hear?” Jack asks her.
“I have a labor mix on my iPod.”
Laurie plugs her iPod into Jack’s adaptor. Hits shuffle. Frank Sinatra begins to sing “I’ve Got the World on a String.”
Jack makes a face. “This is your labor mix?”
“What would you pick?”
Jack shrugs. “I don’t know. Something not as old-fashioned.”
“Old-fashioned? It’s Frank Sinatra. It’s classic. Some songs, some voices, never go out of style.”
“I guess. If you say so.” Jack doesn’t sound convinced.
Alan likes Frank Sinatra. Is that why she picked this song? She will try not to think about Alan. Sing to me, Frank. About rainbows, about how life is a wonderful thing.
Jack’s hands clutch at the steering wheel. Is he dreading what’s about to happen? None of us signed up for this, Jack. She leans against the headrest. It makes a snapping sound and pops back a few inches.
“Sorry. I keep meaning to fix that,” Jack says.
***
The admissions nurse is young, not much older than Jack. Her nameplate says “Constance” and Laurie thinks that’s a good sign, a name you’d like to see when you arrive at the hospital in labor. Nothing as upsetting as “Cruella” or “Maleficent.” Why is Laurie thinking about cartoon characters? Is it some symptom of early labor? They didn’t mention that in Lamaze.
Constance is smiling at Jack. “Your first?”
Jack’s mouth opens, but he doesn’t say anything.
Constance nods at Laurie. “First time fathers, you can always tell.”
“I think it’s my first,” Jack says finally. “But there could be more. Lots more.”
Laurie pats Jack on the arm. “TMI.”
Constance flips through Laurie’s file. “Super, you’ve already done your preregistration. You’d be surprised how many people put it off.” Another smile at Jack. “Do you know what you’re having?”
“I hope it’s a baby,” Jack says.
Constance laughs as if Jack’s on stage at the Comedy Store. Laurie clears her throat. Shouldn’t Constance be sending her off to a room?
Laurie hears a burst of music from Jack’s pocket, “Cry of the Black Birds,” from Jack’s current favorite metal band, Amon Amarth. “Cry of the Black Birds” is ringtone code for Jack’s parents. Jack pulls out his phone and moves away from the desk.
“Don’t worry. He’ll be fine,” Constance says to Laurie.
“I know, thank you.” Laurie hopes Jack is fine, but why are his parents calling? The timing is terrible; he’s worried enough about his final and now she’s in labor—she shouldn’t have made him come with her. When he’s off the phone, she’ll send him back to the house, insist his final is the most important thing in his life right now. She’ll be okay on her own. Alan will get her message and show up.
Unless he doesn’t. The contractions are coming closer together now, and she realizes she’d like to lie down.
Jack walks over to Laurie; he turns his cap forward. Then back again.
“Everything okay?” Laurie says.
“Not really. My parents are here. Here here. In L.A. On their way to the hospital.”
Laurie tries to take that in. “You told them?”
“My sister did. Blabbermouth.”
Laurie exhales. “Okay. So they know. But don’t worry about your parents. Or me. Think about your final. You need to study.”
“I can’t study now. I have to deal with this.” He points at Laurie’s stomach.
“This.” A tsunami-sized wave of guilt washes over Laurie. Her head feels fuzzy; the lights of the admissions desk are too bright. Like spotlights.
“I’m sorry,” Jack says. “I don’t mean to sound like an asshole.”
Constance leans over the desk, waving a form at Jack. “Mr. Gaines? I need your signature on this.”
Jack looks at Laurie, at Constance. “I’m not Mr. Gaines.”
The lights around Laurie multiply. She has to squint and her fuzzy head grows fuzzier.
“Will you call Alan?” she asks Jack. “Maybe he’ll pick up this time.” Why are the lights so hot? And why does Jack have two faces? With four eyes, two noses? Is this another sign? Will the baby be born like that? Everything is supposed to happen for a reason, that’s what people say. What people? Who would come up with a stupid saying like that?
“Laurie? You look kind of…” Two-headed Jack is moving toward her. And the admissions nurse, Cruella or Constance—Laurie can’t remember her name, but she has two heads as well—no, three heads, a hydra-headed nurse. That can’t be good. And she’s moving quickly from behind the desk and motioning at someone.
“Tell Alan we’ll name the baby Bamm-Bamm,” Laurie says to Jack before she passes out in his arms.

***

Copyright © 2014 by Ann Lewis Hamilton. Published by Sourcebooks Landmark, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc. Reprinted with permission.

***

Expecting is available to purchase from

Sourcebooks I AmazonUS I BookDepository I Indiebound

 

 

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