Wednesday, April 23, 2014

“Waiting On” Wednesday: Birdmen

“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. This week's pre-publication “can't-wait-to-read” selection is:

Birdmen: The Wright Brothers, Glenn Curtiss, and the Battle to Control the Skies by Lawrence Goldstone

Synopsis from Goodreads:
From acclaimed historian Lawrence Goldstone comes a thrilling narrative of courage, determination, and competition: the story of the intense rivalry that fueled the rise of American aviation.

The feud between this nation’s great air pioneers, the Wright brothers and Glenn Curtiss, was a collision of unyielding and profoundly American personalities. On one side, a pair of tenacious siblings who together had solved the centuries-old riddle of powered, heavier-than-air flight. On the other, an audacious motorcycle racer whose innovative aircraft became synonymous in the public mind with death-defying stunts. For more than a decade, they battled each other in court, at air shows, and in the newspapers. The outcome of this contest of wills would shape the course of aviation history—and take a fearsome toll on the men involved.

Birdmen sets the engrossing story of the Wrights’ war with Curtiss against the thrilling backdrop of the early years of manned flight, and is rich with period detail and larger-than-life personalities: Thomas Scott Baldwin, or “Cap’t Tom” as he styled himself, who invented the parachute and almost convinced the world that balloons were the future of aviation; John Moisant, the dapper daredevil who took to the skies after three failed attempts to overthrow the government of El Salvador, then quickly emerged as a celebrity flyer; and Harriet Quimby, the statuesque silent-film beauty who became the first woman to fly across the English Channel. And then there is Lincoln Beachey, perhaps the greatest aviator who ever lived, who dazzled crowds with an array of trademark twists and dives—and best embodied the romance with death that fueled so many of aviation’s earliest heroes.

A dramatic story of unimaginable bravery in the air and brutal competition on the ground, Birdmen is at once a thrill ride through flight’s wild early years and a surprising look at the personal clash that fueled America’s race to the skies.

Publishing May 6, 2014 by Ballantine Books.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Teaser Tuesdays: The Light Between Oceans

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by Should Be Reading.

Grab your current read. Open to a random page. Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!) Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman p. 102

"It worried him that he could find himself listening out for her to wake in the morning, or going by reflex to pick her up when she started to cry. 'You're falling in love with her, aren't you?' said Isabel, who had been watching from the doorway."

That's a dangerous thing to do when you've found a baby. (Seriously, I know that sounds crazy but that's what's happened.)

Book review: The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

I first saw this book in Australia, but I didn't buy it as, even though it was in paperback, Australian paperbacks cost as much as American hardcovers! I then started hearing a ton about the book and how amazing it was, so I lobbied for it for book club and luckily someone else had already read it and thought it was be a great discussion so it was picked.

After returning from WWI, Tom becomes a lighthouse keeper off the Western coast of Australia on an island. His wife Isabel has three tragic late-term miscarriages (the last one more of a stillbirth) and is bereft. One day, Tom finds a small boat that has washed up on shore with a dead man and a little baby. Isabel convinces Tom to keep the baby, Lucy, and that decision has repercussions for not only those three but many people in the nearby town, Partageuse, where Isabel is from.

It's hard to talk about the book without giving away too many spoilers although a few of the twists are easy to guess given the circumstances set up. A few members of our book club were horrified at Isabel's disloyalty to Tom. I found it interesting that I thought I could understand, even though I am one of the few members of book club with no children. I have felt that kind of betrayal and rage and I have wished very serious ill on people (not frequently and not recently, in fact mostly back in high school, but Isabel's only in her early 20s and so is still in that hormone-fueled overly-emotional phase of life, not to mention the postpartum hormones). The decisions made by the characters were, I felt, true to life but that meant some people made decisions that they later regretted or which were not ideal.

One thing I loved was how Australian the book felt, although I don't think the author was writing for an export market (although she now lives in London so perhaps nostalgia helped fuel the descriptiveness). And I loved that for once, Sydney didn't make a single appearance in the book. It's very cool to see another side of Australia that was very civilized and modern (for that time) and yet filled with quokkas and scorpions and deadly snakes. I thought both the place and the era were perfectly recreated and I really felt like I could wake up in Point Partageuse or on Janus Island, and feel at home.

The book was lyrical, tragic, filled with twists and turns (in the second half), and heart-wrenching emotions. I enjoyed it thoroughly. If you'd like to escape to another time and place and lose yourself in a beautiful and volatile story, this is the perfect book.

I was given this book as a gift. It was bought at an independent bookstore.

Monday, April 21, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is now hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Books completed last week:
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Wash by Margaret Wrinkle

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
And Ladies of the Club by Helen Hooven Santmyer
Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation by Michael Pollan (audio)

Up next:
Long Man by Amy Greene
Getting the Love You Want : A Guide for Couples by Harville Hendrix
Byrd by Kim Church

Friday, April 18, 2014

Book Beginnings: The Light Between Oceans

Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme hosted by Gilion at Rose City Reader. Anyone can participate; just share the opening sentence of your current read, making sure that you include the title and author so others know what you're reading.

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

"On the day of the miracle, Isabel was kneeling at the cliff's edge, tending the small, newly made driftwood cross."

The cross was marking the remains of her third child who did not make it to birth. The miracle was exactly what Isabel would have wished for, if wishes came true.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

“Waiting On” Wednesday: The One & Only

“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. This week's pre-publication “can't-wait-to-read” selection is:

The One & Only by Emily Giffin

In her eagerly awaited new novel, beloved New York Times bestselling author Emily Giffin returns with an extraordinary story of love and loyalty—and an unconventional heroine struggling to reconcile both.

Thirty-three-year-old Shea Rigsby has spent her entire life in Walker, Texas—a small college town that lives and dies by football, a passion she unabashedly shares. Raised alongside her best friend, Lucy, the daughter of Walker’s legendary head coach, Clive Carr, Shea was too devoted to her hometown team to leave. Instead she stayed in Walker for college, even taking a job in the university athletic department after graduation, where she has remained for more than a decade.

But when an unexpected tragedy strikes the tight-knit Walker community, Shea’s comfortable world is upended, and she begins to wonder if the life she’s chosen is really enough for her. As she finally gives up her safety net to set out on an unexpected path, Shea discovers unsettling truths about the people and things she has always trusted most—and is forced to confront her deepest desires, fears, and secrets.

Thoughtful, funny, and brilliantly observed, The One & Only is a luminous novel about finding your passion, following your heart, and, most of all, believing in something bigger than yourself . . . the one and only thing that truly makes life worth living.

Publishing May 20, 2014 by Ballantine Books.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Book Review: The Eighty-Dollar Champion: Snowman, The Horse That Inspired a Nation by Elizabeth Letts

I know it's an American cliche, but I do love books about underdogs that triumph. I adored Seabiscuit and even though I'm not a big animal person, I do sometimes like animal books. I read all the great horse books as a child (Black Beauty, Misty of Chincoteague, Black Stallion) and liked to ride at summer camp. There's something relaxing and homey about a horse book, as it brings most women back to a time in our childhoods when life seemed simple and made sense.

Like the girls at the Knox School out on Long Island where Henry de Leyer worked as the stable master back in the 1950s. They too probably looked back on those years learning to ride and jump with fondness, particularly the girls who had ridden Snowman, a gentle lumbering former plow horse who wouldn't hurt a fly and who all the beginners started out on. Henry had saved him from the knacker's truck for only $80 and just hoped he'd be a good riding horse for students. He was surprised as anyone when Snowman turned out to be a gifted natural jumper. And the poor immigrant couldn't not let Snowman perform, even when he struggled to pay the entrance fees to contests or needed to ask someone else to ride Snowy when he couldn't escape from school duties. Within a couple of years, Snowman was competing against the best of the best at Madison Square Garden in New York City in front of an audience of tens of thousands including the richest of the rich.

Snowman's abilities were renowned and spectacular, but what truly won everyone over was his personality. His rags-to-riches story made for great copy and was perfectly suited to an American audience, but it was his steadiness, calmness, and his constant giving it his all for Henry, that made him beloved.

This book was a lovely break from stories inevitably involving some tragedy or at least  bad guys to overcome. Snowman only had to overcome people who didn't believe in him and the easiest way to do that was just to do what he did. To jump. It doesn't matter how many people say you can't do something if you then go prove them wrong. Words mean nothing up against actions. This story was uplifting, sweet, and made me wish for more.