All That's True by Jackie Lee Miles, 320 pages. Available in paperback from Sourcebooks.
Thirteen-year-old Andi St. James' privileged life in Atlanta is interrupted one fall, to say the least. With an equal mix of joy and sorrow, All That's True follows Andi's poignant-and sometimes laugh-out-loud-journey to young adulthood, where she struggles with the elusive nature of truth and the devastating consequences of deception.
Andi's brother has died, her dad is having an affair, her mother is an alcoholic, and her best friend is moving away. Since you are hit with this from the start, please don't think I'm spoiling. But it is quite a load to heap on a young character without the story seeming a wee bit contrived. Once you get past the deluge it is nice to watch Andi grow and mature through all the obstacles. It turns out that despite the rocky start, she is a sweet girl This would almost be a great teen read, but I must admit to being disappointed by the over the top (TMI) treatment of the affair (the girls spy and reference it often). Apart from that one bothersome (to me) element, this is an engaging coming of age story that would make for a good spring/summer read.
thank to Sourcebooks for the review copy
To the Moon and Back by Jill Mansell, 416 pages. Hardcover available internationally from Headline Review. Paperback available for preorder, due in the US September 1, 2011.
When Ellie Kendall tragically loses her husband she feels her life is over. But eventually she’s ready for a new start – at work, that is. She doesn’t need a new man when she has a certain secret visitor to keep her company...
Zack McLaren seems to have it all, but the girl he can’t stop thinking about won’t give him a second glance. If only she’d pay him the same attention she lavishes on his dog.
Moving to North London, Ellie meets neighbour Roo who has a secret of her own. Can the girls sort out their lives? Guilt is a powerful emotion, but a lot can happen in a year in Primrose Hill...
Ellie is a young widow trying to move forward after the death of her husband. She was an easy character to root for as she stumbles and bumbles through her grief with the help of friends and family.
I appreciated that this was not overly smutty or obnoxious. The timing was perfect - I had just finished reading something dark and I flew through it. Even though there are no real surprises here - just waiting for everyone to come to their senses - it held my interest to the end. A perfect choice for a good weather read. Sorry you'll have to wait until fall, folks. Jill Mansell has plenty of other titles available for your summer reading list.
Late for Tea at the Deer Palace: The Lost Dreams of My Iraqi Family by Tamara Chalabi, 448 pages. Available in hardcover from Harper.
A lyrical, haunting, multi-generational memoir of one family’s tempestuous century in Iraq from 1900 to the present.
The Chalabis are one of the oldest and most prominent families in Iraq. For centuries they have occupied positions of honour and responsibility, loyally serving first the Ottoman Empire and, later, the national government.
In ‘Late for Tea at the Deer Palace’, Tamara Chalabi explores the dramatic story of her extraordinary family’s history in this beautiful, passionate and troubled land. From the grand opulence of her great-grandfather’s house and the birth of the modern state, through to the elegant Iraq of her grandmother Bibi, who lived the life of a queen in Baghdad, and finally to her own story, that of the ex-pat daughter of a family in exile, Chalabi takes us on an unforgettable and eye-opening journey.
This is the story of a lost homeland, whose turbulent transformations over the twentieth century left gaping wounds at the hearts not only of the family it exiled, but also of the elegant, sophisticated world it once represented. When Tamara visited her once-beautiful ancestral land for the first time in 2003, she found a country she didn’t recognize – and a nation on the brink of a terrifying and uncertain new beginning.
Lyrical and unique, this exquisite multi-generational memoir brings together east and west, the poetic and the political as it brings to life a land of beauty and grace that has been all but lost behind recent headlines.
Doesn't this sound good? This is where I review, for the first time and hopefully the last, a book I did not finish. Normally I enjoy a Middle Eastern memoir or historical fiction. And I was particularly curious about Iraq, which I am embarrassed to say I know practically nothing about despite the war that rages on. I loved the idea that I would get a history lesson from someone with a rich and deep connection to the place. But I just couldn't get past page 60 something. I tried. I may try again. It was fairly dense and a little dry and I was unprepared for it to seem so informational. Maybe it comes from Chalabi's training journalist and I have been spoiled by the fluffy nature of reporting. (But I do read the Atlantic, so I'm not completely ruined). Whatever the reason, I had to put it aside and concentrate on catching up on the classics challenge. I still think it provides a valuable perspective, particularly for us Westerners, of Iraq's prolific history.
thank you to Harper for the review copy