Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Mercury (Book Review)

Title: Exposure
Author: Margot Livesey
Publication: Harper Collins, hardcover, 2016
Genre: Fiction
Plot: Donald believes he knows all there is to know about seeing. An optometrist in suburban Boston, he is sure that he and his wife, Viv, who runs the local stables, are both devoted to their two children and to each other. Then Mercury—a gorgeous young thoroughbred with a murky past—arrives at Windy Hill and everything changes.

Mercury’s owner, Hilary, is a newcomer to town who has enrolled her daughter in riding lessons. When she brings Mercury to board at Windy Hill, everyone is struck by his beauty and prowess, particularly Viv. As she rides him, Viv begins to dream of competing again, embracing the ambitions that she had harbored, and relinquished, as a young woman. Her daydreams soon morph into consuming desire, and her infatuation with the thoroughbred escalates to obsession.

Donald may have good vision but he is slow to notice how profoundly Viv has changed and how these changes threaten their quiet, secure world. By the time he does, it is too late to stop the catastrophic collision of Viv’s ambitions and his own myopia (from the publisher).

Purchase Links

Audience: Readers of Anita Shreve, Jodi Picoult, and Rosellen Brown.

My Impressions: I had read and enjoyed two books by Margot Livesey previously and so was eager to read her latest. Although I found the beginning slow, I soon identified with the quiet male protagonist whose grief for his recently deceased father felt very familiar to me as I struggle with the imminent loss of my own dear father. Although Donald is culpable in the disastrous events that affect his family, I was very sympathetic to him and infuriated by his self-centered wife, even though I recognize they were both suffering in different ways. What made the book for me was the way Livesey told the story from the perspective of both characters, first Donald and then Viv, told as flashbacks, as they move inexorably towards doom.

Livesey is a talented writer with a gift for creating memorable characters; here, the characters of Donald, Jack, and Donald’s long lost friend Robert, who appears briefly but significantly. She is Scottish-born, although lives in Cambridge now, and having visited Edinburgh last November, I especially enjoyed the references to Donald’s childhood in Scotland and subsequent trips back (even mentioning Deacon Brodie’s where I ate sticky toffee pudding!).
Menu from Deacon Brodie's

I couldn't decide between ice cream and custard sauce on my sticky toffee pudding so they generously gave me both!

She also memorably sets a scene in the Peacock Room of the Freer Gallery of Art at the Smithsonian. I was unfamiliar with this fascinating art and look forward to seeing it on my next trip to DC.

Having read many horse stories during my formative years (the author mentions Misty of Chincoteague but my favorites were (are) by K.M. Peyton), it was also interesting to see an adult obsessed by a horse.  If you can get past your conviction that you would never jeopardize your happy life so gratuitously, Viv's behavior is somewhat convincing.
Source: I was provided a pre-publication copy of this book by TLC Book Tours and the publisher for review purposes. Please visit other stops on the tour by clicking below:

Tour Stops

Tuesday, September 27th: Bibliophiliac
Wednesday, September 28th: The Reading Date
Thursday, September 29th: Real Life Reading
Friday, September 30th: Booksie’s Blog
Monday, October 3rd: Tina Says…
Wednesday, October 5th: Back Porchervations
Thursday, October 6th: Jathan & Heather
Monday, October 10th: I Brought a Book
Tuesday, October 11th: Bibliotica
Wednesday, October 12th: The Book Diva’s Reads
Thursday, October 13th: Art Books Coffee
Monday, October 17th: BookNAround
Monday, October 17th: The Ludic Reader
Tuesday, October 18th: Rebecca Radish
Thursday, October 20th: Sweet Southern Home
Friday, October 21st: Gspotsylvania: Ramblings from a Reading Writer Who Rescues Birds and Beasts

There was no sticky toffee pudding in this book but I enjoyed it despite that lack!

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Shuffle, Repeat (Book Review)

Title: Shuffle, Repeat
Author: Jen Klein
Publication: Random House, Hardcover, 2016
Genre: Young Adult
Plot: June is a high school senior in Michigan who prides herself on her pragmatism and can’t wait for her real life to begin after graduation. Her classmate Oliver is an outgoing football player with his own car. When June’s mother decides they are moving to the outskirts of Ann Arbor, she and Oliver’s mother arranges for Oliver to give June a ride to school every morning. Even detached June can’t help noticing Oliver’s good looks and unassuming charm, and the reader is swooning by page 8. However, as June is dating the (boring) Itch and Oliver the inevitable cheerleader, they ignore any frisson of attraction by debating about the meaning of high school and create a carpool playlist by awarding each other points for winning arguments. Slowly but surely, June and Oliver begin to care about earning the good opinion of the other, and their friendship becomes more important than either is willing to admit...

Audience: Fans of YA authors such as Sarah Dessen, Susane Colasanti, and Maureen Johnson.
My Impressions: There is something immediately appealing about this book. I enjoyed June’s snarkiness and her quirky friends, especially her best friend Shawn who is out and accepted by his peers, and understands June as a best friend should. I liked that the friendship between June’s mother and Oliver’s mother has survived despite their different financial and marital status (and in contrast to June’s and Oliver’s friendship which ended when they were in kindergarten). Oliver’s friend Theo is so awful he is amusing in his own right. He is like every teenage boy you want to run a mile from.

The story is told from June’s point of view but she is not a perfect heroine: she is judgmental and does a poor job figuring out where her loyalties should lie. Oliver’s character is what makes the story so charming; in particular, the way he listens to June, hearing what she says and does not say (even when she is so busy assuming he is a dumb jock that she marvels at his vocabulary). An ongoing issue is that he keeps sharing details of a senior prank with her: each time she is critical of his elaborate plans, and he reluctantly comes to appreciate that she is right and ultimately conceives of a plan that is funny but does not cause gratuitous damage or harm.

The book made me laugh but there were some poignant moments as well, particularly regarding June's relationship with her father.
Mistletoe
Question for the Author: I understand that June is initially reluctant to admit she likes Oliver but I didn’t understand why (once she knows he likes her too) she  pretends that tequila and starlight are responsible for her behavior (271-275). Is she unwilling to do a conventional high school romance because of her aversion to high school? Did she think Oliver was on the rebound?
Hydrangeas and lilies
Does she distrust romance in general because of her father’s absence in her life (yet, if so, why did she date Itch – and further, it is recognizing her father’s limitations that seems to set her on the right path at the end)? I just didn’t get the need for the angst at the end.  It seemed manufactured to keep them apart.

Source: I checked out this book from the library, and highly recommend it.

Flower image from https://www.etsy.com/shop/SongsFromTheGarden