Showing posts with label wally lamb. Show all posts
Showing posts with label wally lamb. Show all posts

Thursday, December 1, 2016

I'll Take You There by Wally Lamb


Title: I'll Take You There
Author: Wally Lamb
Publisher: Harper
Publication Date: November 22, 2016
Source: copy received from TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

I’ll Take You There centers on Felix, a film scholar who runs a Monday night movie club in what was once a vaudeville theater. One evening, while setting up a film in the projectionist booth, he’s confronted by the ghost of Lois Weber, a trailblazing motion picture director from Hollywood’s silent film era. Lois invites Felix to revisit—and in some cases relive—scenes from his past as they are projected onto the cinema’s big screen.

In these magical movies, the medium of film becomes the lens for Felix to reflect on the women who profoundly impacted his life. There’s his daughter Aliza, a Gen Y writer for New York Magazine who is trying to align her post-modern feminist beliefs with her lofty career ambitions; his sister, Frances, with whom he once shared a complicated bond of kindness and cruelty; and Verna, a fiery would-be contender for the 1951 Miss Rheingold competition, a beauty contest sponsored by a Brooklyn-based beer manufacturer that became a marketing phenomenon for two decades. At first unnerved by these ethereal apparitions, Felix comes to look forward to his encounters with Lois, who is later joined by the spirits of other celluloid muses.

Against the backdrop of a kaleidoscopic convergence of politics and pop culture, family secrets, and Hollywood iconography, Felix gains an enlightened understanding of the pressures and trials of the women closest to him, and of the feminine ideals and feminist realities that all women, of every era, must face.


My Review:

It's no secret that I am a huge Wally Lamb fan, and have been for some time.  As mentioned in previous reviews of his work, he sets all of his fiction in and around the not-so-fictional town of Three Rivers, Connecticut.  I say "not-so-fictional" because if you're a southeastern CT native (like me!), you can see that Three Rivers mirrors Norwich, CT rather closely (and Three Rivers is the name of the community college in that town).  Anyway, I always get a kick out of seeing familiar landmarks in Lamb's writing, and that paired with his talent for crafting intense family dramas has made me a long-time Lamb fan.

So, here comes his new release!  And of course I'm all over it.  To be honest, didn't even really read the description that closely.  Wally Lamb is just one of those authors where I know when I see his name on a cover, I want to read it.

In the end, I found this novel to be quite different from his other fiction work.  A few points of difference were obvious early on: this novel is quite a bit shorter than his others, so the prose is a bit more succinct, the characters less fleshed out.  Also, ghosts.  There are ghosts in this book.  Totally was not expecting the supernatural element (my fault, like I said...I should have read the description!).  While it wasn't my favorite thing about the novel, I did appreciate how Lamb used the ghosts to teach readers about an often-forgotten segment of Hollywood's history (that of its early female directors).  Even beyond the ghosts, there is quite a bit of thought-provoking history woven into this novel, and that was one of its biggest strengths.

However, the biggest difference between this book and Lamb's others, for me, was its lack of subtlety.  This is not a novel that encourages you to think very hard, which was a big disappointment for me as a reader.  The overarching themes of the novel (women's rights, feminism, etc) are hammered so hard, I had a headache by page 10.  I'm not saying that these themes aren't relevant and important (hi, talking to you, President-Elect), but I wish they had been allowed to flower within the prose more naturally.  Instead, because the novel was so much shorter than Lamb's others, I quickly wondered if that meant he had to do away with the thoughtful, more drawn-out narrative that fans of his work are likely used to, and instead fell back on this more directive writing to make sure his points got across.

Overall, this was an enlightening read, and Lamb proves that he still has his flair for historic detail and convoluted family relationships.  However, I have to admit that it's likely my least favorite of his fiction works thus far.  For me, that still means 3 stars on Goodreads though!  This may work for someone who wants to try a Lamb novel but is not ready for one of his longer tomes.

As always, much thanks to Trish at TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour!
Want to find out more?


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Well-Read Redhead's Best Books of 2013!

It's that time of year, y'all!  All those Best Books lists are being released, and I am never one to be left out of the fun and games.  So without further ado...

The Well-Read Redhead's Best Books of 2013!

As happened last year, I had an immensely difficult time compiling this list.  It took me ages to narrow it down to just 10 books that I've read in the last year.  But I managed, and here they are (in no particular order, and with links to my original reviews):

1. How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn
I went into this novel with hesitation, because I hadn't done a heavy classic in a while.  I was more than pleasantly surprised.  An amazing coming-of-age tale that is going to stick with me for a long, long time.

2. Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson
I am admittedly biased because I love food memoirs, and I love the Food Network stars...so this was a match made in heaven for me from the start.  Either way, it deserves a spot on this list, if only because Samuelsson's journey is so unique and inspiring.

3. The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult
As an avid Picoult fan, I had high expectations for this one, and was not disappointed in the least.  I've read a lot of Holocaust-based historical fiction...this is one of the better ones I can remember coming across.

4. White Dog Fell From The Sky by Eleanor Morse
Beautiful, picturesque, gorgeous, awesome-sauce writing is the #1 reason why this made it on the list.  The captivating story is a bonus.

5. Sea Creatures by Susanna Daniel
If there was a book that should be on everyone's list for great character development, this is it.  Beautiful prose, and makes me feel like one of my 2014 resolutions should be to read more of Daniel's stuff.

6. Everybody Has Everything by Katrina Onstad
This book tugged at my mommy heartstrings.  HARD.

7. Cooked by Michael Pollan
I continue to be wow'ed by the depth of Pollan's food-based research, combined with his entertaining commentary along the way.  He makes me feel smarter...and hungrier.

8. We Are Water by Wally Lamb
Another epic family drama from Lamb.  He has yet to disappoint me.

9. Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
The unsettling tone of this novel is still creeping me out.  The ending was awesome.  I am not quite as in awe of this one as I was of Gone Girl, but ohsoclose.

10. Expecting Better by Emily Oster
This book should be required reading for every pregnant or soon-to-be-pregnant woman out there.  How I wish I had this to counterbalance all the crazy pregnancy books I read when I was knocked up with Small Fry!  At least Tater Tot is reaping the benefits now.

That's the list for this year, readers!  And now you've got 14 more days to buy them for your friends and family before Christmas.  You can thank me later.

What made YOUR best-read list for 2013?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Book Review: We Are Water by Wally Lamb


Title: We Are Water
Author: Wally Lamb
Publisher: Harper
Publication Date: October 22, 2013
Source: copy received for honest review through TLC Book Tours

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

In middle age, Anna Oh-wife, mother, outsider artist-has shaken her family to its core. After twenty-seven years of marriage and three children, Anna has fallen in love with Vivica, the wealthy, cultured, confident Manhattan art dealer who orchestrated her professional success.

Anna and Viveca plan to wed in the Oh family's hometown of Three Rivers in Connecticut, where gay marriage has recently been legalized. But the impending wedding provokes some very mixed reactions and opens a Pandora's Box of toxic secrets-dark and painful truths that have festered below the surface of the Ohs' lives.

We Are Water is an intricate and layered portrait of marriage, family, and the inexorable need for understanding and connection, told in the alternating voices of the Ohs-nonconformist Annie; her ex-husband, Orion, a psychologist; Ariane, the do-gooder daughter, and her twin, Andrew, the rebellious only son; and free-spirited Marissa, the youngest Oh. Set in New England and New York during the first years of the Obama presidency, it is also a portrait of modern America, exploring issues of class, changing social mores, the legacy of racial violence, and the nature of creativity and art.


My Review:

I am a sucker for novels with family drama, unexpected twists, and a good backstory.  Lucky for me, that sums up pretty much any fiction that Wally Lamb has written.  If you've read my review of Lamb's The Hour I First Believed, you know that I've adored many of his past novels.  And, I'm a tiny bit biased because he sets his books in the exact area of Connecticut where I grew up (more on that later).  However, in The Hour I First Believed, I noticed that he used the same structural format as he did in I Know This Much Is True, and I was worried that he was tending toward the formulaic.  In his new one, We Are Water, I can say without a doubt that that is no longer a worry of mine.

The novel begins from a somewhat confusing perspective--that of Mr. Agnello, a former bigwig in the art world, who is retelling the story of Josephus Jones, a deceased artist that he once took great interest in.  I wasn't sure how this would relate to the central plot of the novel, but knowing that Lamb often weaves in an interesting historical backstory, I took it all in.  Sure enough, this early chapter came back to the main story again and again, adding to the complexity of the underlying messages in the plot.

Once the rest of the novel gets underway, We Are Water is told from many perspectives.  The primary ones, at first, are those of Annie and Orion Oh--a recently divorced couple with three kids, and Annie is about to marry the woman that she left Orion for.  In the beginning, it seems that this is simply a story of a marriage gone wrong, and you're witnessing how the family is trying to pick up the pieces.  However, it quickly becomes much more than that.  As we get the POV of other characters (the three children, Annie's cousin, and even an unknown neighbor from years past), you quickly begin to realize that this story is much more than what it seems on the surface.  Family secrets come to light, and they're put in an interesting historical context next to the sidestory of Josephus Jones.

I can't say enough how much I loved the alternating POVs in this novel.  Each voice is wonderfully unique, and provides important new elements to the development of the plot.  Plus, this structure allows the reader to more fully jump into the laundry list of issues that are tackled in the novel: gay marriage, infidelity, incest, child abuse (yes, a lot of heavy stuff here).  By the end, my head was spinning with all that I'd taken in in under 600 pages!  But I didn't feel like any of these issues were given short shrift.  This is a novel that takes on a lot, and does it well.

A necessary note for the "local" readers: southeastern Connecticut references abound!  I am still convinced that the fictional Three Rivers is mostly meant to be Norwich (and it was hard not to think that Orion Oh worked for UConn), but Lamb also peppers the novel with references to other local towns/businesses: Groton, New London, Electric Boat, the casinos, and most importantly, Fitch High School (okay, it was a passing one-line reference, but as my alma mater, I got very excited).  I always love the local flavor that Lamb adds to his work, because he really does such a great job making that area come to life.

We Are Water gets a resounding YAY from me.  The characters alone are a driving force behind its awesomeness, but the issues they face (and the twists that follow) make it truly great.  If you want an issues-driven novel that has a flair for the unexpected, this one is for you.  And Lamb remains on my favorite authors list for sure!

As always, much thanks to Trish and TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour!
Check out the other blogs on this book tour HERE.  And connect with Wally Lamb on his Facebook page.


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Going dark!

Hello readers!  Just an FYI that I will be MIA for a few days...because my little (not-so-little anymore) brother is getting married this weekend!
Visiting little bro on the job this past June.  And to think I used to push him around and steal his Halloween candy.
We are off to Cape May, NJ to celebrate the big day with him and his beautiful bride (seriously, my brother is marrying a girl who could runway model, it's craziness).  I am super excited for them, as well as for Small Fry's big debut in the ring bearer role!  :)

I hope everyone has a great weekend of reading.  We have about 8 hours of driving to do each way, so I'm hoping to finish up the end of Doctor Sleep, and/or make some progress in Wally Lamb's We Are Water.  Both reads are fantastic so far!

What will YOU be reading while I'm away?

Monday, September 30, 2013

Happy Monday, readers!

Hope everyone had a lovely weekend!  What are you reading today?
My weekend was a bit hectic, but a good one.  As a final (free!) birthday gift, my dear husband took Small Fry for Saturday morning and I spent it at the library...alone...reading and lurking through the shelves.  (Since we just moved here, I am well within my rights to do a fair amount of lurking as I get to know my new library.)  It was awesome!  I rarely get more than 30 minutes of uninterrupted reading at a time these days, so having 3 whole hours was a real treat.

Otherwise, it's been lots more unpacking, sorting, and trips to Home Depot as we settle into the house.  But it's nice to be done with moving trucks and just be busy putting everything in its place now.

(On a related note, can someone please tell my husband that there is no such thing as having "too many books"?!?!?!?)  :-P

Sooooo, what am I reading today?

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Yes, this is one of my 30 before 35 books...there's nothing like a little challenge to get me motivated to read something that's been on my TBR for ages!  I have been dying to read this ever since I finished Flynn's Gone Girl, and (about halfway through) I am not feeling disappointed.  It's a completely different subject than Gone Girl, but still with the dark and unsettling notes that I remember from that novel.  I probably won't wait long to jump into Flynn's other novel, Dark Places.

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

I was very very excited to FINALLY see this download to my Kindle at midnight on the 24th!  I started King's latest over the weekend, and even though I'm not too far in yet, I am already super happy with how it picks up from The Shining.  I expected a bigger time lapse between the end of The Shining and the beginning of Doctor Sleep, but Danny is actually still just a boy as the story commences.
I am taking part in the #SleepAlong (a Doctor Sleep read-along), hosted by Charlene at Cheap Thrills and Tif at Tif Talks Books.  It starts TODAY and goes through October 21.  If you want in, check out either of their blogs ASAP!

What will I read next?
I am excited to have an ARC of Wally Lamb's We Are Water up for review at the end of October, and I will probably get it started pretty soon.  Other possibles are The Memory Palace by Mira Bartok and Me Before You by JoJo Moyes.

What's in your reading plans this week, friends?

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Top Ten Words/Topics That Make Me Think INSTA-READ!

I haven't participated in Top Ten Tuesday over at The Broke and The Bookish in quite a while, but I like this week's topic:

Top Ten Words/Topics That Instantly Make You Buy/Pick Up A Book
Any books that fall into these categories are pretty much insta-reads (or at least insta-going-on-the-TBR) for me.  As I made the list, I realized that a lot of it, for me, has to do with wanting to read about things that are relevant specifically to my life.  Does this make me a selfish reader?  If so, I am not ashamed.

1. "The _______'s Wife/Daughter"
Example: The Pilot's Wife by Anita Shreve  
I adore most books with this title structure.  Why?  Perhaps because I am a wife...and a daughter?  Plus, titles like these almost always equate to women's fiction, which I love.

2. Marital Strife
Example: Love The One You're With by Emily Giffin
Okay, this is NOT something I aspire to, but my interest is always piqued by a book with marital strife as a major plot mover.  I like to think it's because my marriage is so blissfully wonderful that I have to look elsewhere to read about such things.  :-)

3. Babies/Pregnancy
Example: A Bump In The Road by Maureen Lipinski
Again, this is completely selfish in nature, but as a mom I love to read about mom-related and baby-related books.  Most of them are written either from a very humorous perspective (I love to laugh at my own mom mistakes, why not others' as well?) or an introspective one (moms muddling through child-rearing and trying to figure it all out).  I enjoy either side.

4. Travel + Humor = Win
Example: Notes From A Small Island by Bill Bryson
I'm a lover of travel.  And travel can be hilarious sometimes.  Miscommunicating in countries where you don't know the language, not knowing local customs, missing connections--these all have the potential to be funny (in hindsight, at least).  A travel memoir that embraces this is a winner.

5. Food-Related Nonfiction
Example: In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan
I've already waxed poetic about food memoirs, but my love extends to all things food-related.  I am a horrible chef, but my stepfather was trained at the Culinary Institute of America, so I harbor a fascination for this area of reading.

6. "Psychological Thriller"
This term is pretty broad, but I think the spirit of Gone Girl captures it fairly well.  The more twisted and unexpected, the better.

7. Zombies
Example: World War Z by Max Brooks
This has absolutely no relation to anything in my life.  I just have a really sick fixation on the zombie apocalypse.  I have an escape and survival plan in place, it involves baseball bats and an Ergo carrier.

8. Female 20-Somethings In Their Post-College Years
I am slowly (gracefully?) exiting the 20-something age group, so perhaps this preference will soon change.  But I always find books in this category to be relatable to some area of my life...either in career building, wedding planning, friend-keeping, etc.

9. Collegiate Setting
What can I say?  I adored all 4 years of my college experience, and now I work at a college.  College settings are very, very familiar to me.

10. Set In/Near My Hometown
Example: I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb
I should basically just say "Wally Lamb novels" because no one else sets their books in southeastern Connecticut.  But if they did, I would totally read them!  No matter what the genre!  SECT in the house, boiiiiiiii.

What do you think, readers?  Do you share any of my preferences?  What are your insta-read topics?

Monday, October 1, 2012

September 2012 in Review

Here's my wrap-up for September...another great reading month!  The blog is definitely keeping me motivated these days.

I read and reviewed 7 books (click links for my reviews):
Sometimes It Snows in America by Marisa Labozzetta
The Confession by John Grisham
The Beach House by Jane Green
Where We Belong by Emily Giffin
A Drink Before The War by Dennis Lehane
Beneath The Glitter by Elle & Blair Fowler
One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey

I also posted a full review for 1 past read:
The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb

And 5 mini reviews of past reads:
Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King
Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk
My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult
The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

Plus, I met Dennis Lehane, and celebrated my anniversary, my birthday, Bloggiesta, and Banned Book Week.  Does it get any better?

I have a lot of good books I'm looking forward to in October--can't wait to share them all with you!  I'm especially trying to find some good spooky reads for Halloween.

What are your favorite Halloween reads?

And don't forget, my Banned Book giveaway is still going on...here!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Book Review: The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb

Title: The Hour I First Believed
Author: Wally Lamb
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: November 11, 2008
Source: Personal purchase

Plot summary from Goodreads:

When forty-seven-year-old high school teacher Caelum Quirk and his younger wife, Maureen, a school nurse, move to Littleton, Colorado, they both get jobs at Columbine High School. In April 1999, Caelum returns home to Three Rivers, Connecticut, to be with his aunt who has just had a stroke. But Maureen finds herself in the school library at Columbine, cowering in a cabinet and expecting to be killed, as two vengeful students go on a carefully premeditated, murderous rampage. Miraculously she survives, but at a cost: she is unable to recover from the trauma. Caelum and Maureen flee Colorado and return to an illusion of safety at the Quirk family farm in Three Rivers. But the effects of chaos are not so easily put right, and further tragedy ensues.


While Maureen fights to regain her sanity, Caelum discovers a cache of old diaries, letters, and newspaper clippings in an upstairs bedroom of his family's house. The colorful and intriguing story they recount spans five generations of Quirk family ancestors, from the Civil War era to Caelum's own troubled childhood. Piece by piece, Caelum reconstructs the lives of the women and men whose legacy he bears. Unimaginable secrets emerge; long-buried fear, anger, guilt, and grief rise to the surface.
As Caelum grapples with unexpected and confounding revelations from the past, he also struggles to fashion a future out of the ashes of tragedy. His personal quest for meaning and faith becomes a mythic journey that is at the same time quintessentially contemporary -- and American.
My Review:

Before I start any Wally Lamb novel, he's already got an "in" with me.  First, he bases many of his books in or around Three Rivers, Connecticut--a fictional town that is actually meant to mirror one very close to my hometown of Groton, Connecticut.  He throws in a lot of local references, which I eat right up.  And second, he used to teach at UConn (my alma mater), and a fellow member of the Husky community always gets some love from me.

But enough I-love-Connecticut jibber-jabber--on to the actual review!

This is not a book about Columbine, per se, though that is what originally drew me to it (I was a sophomore in high school when that happened, and thus it hit a bit close to home for me).  While that event is the trigger for everything else that happens in the novel, very little time is spent on that specific ordeal. This is more a novel about how one family had to deal with the effects of Columbine over a lifetime--how those events scarred them and changed their paths in countless ways.

If you've read Lamb's I Know This Much Is True, you'll find the format somewhat similar. Tragic crazy event right at the beginning, protagonist who thinks he's got his stuff together but is really battling a lot of demons, and a historical side-story that ties into the ending. You'll even recognize some of the characters (the Birdsey twins make several appearances). I have to say that while I enjoyed the ties to the previous novel, I was a little turned off by the repeating format.  I expected more from Lamb, given that he had 700+ pages to come up with something totally different. I didn't think he would fall in to the formulaic category, and it seemed like an odd choice, since the subject matter could be taken in so many varied directions.

However, unlike some other authors I've read who stick with a plot formula, I liked this one anyway because the content was just that good. Lamb is a master of delving into the emotional complexity of any situation. The Columbine event is dealt with perfectly; it fits into the plot without overwhelming it. I didn't love Caelum (the main character), but I'm sure that was not an accident on the author's part.  There were a few slower sections (700+ pages can't be action-packed all the time, I suppose), but I felt invested enough in the characters that those sections didn't discourage me.

Overall, if you're looking for a good character-driven drama, this is pretty epic in scope.  I'd recommend trying I Know This Much Is True first (if you want the overlapping-characters effect) but otherwise, this is a great novel on its own.
 
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