Book Review: What I Remember Most

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What I Remember Most
A review by Catherine H. Armstrong

There is nothing I love more than the anticipation of reading a new book by a favorite author. I mark my calendar far in advance and begin counting down the days about two weeks before launch date. The only thing that comes close to equaling that excitement is when I’m surprised with the the opportunity to review a copy in advance in the form of an Advanced Reader’s Copy from the author or publisher. Recently, I had the opportunity to get my hands on an ARC of Cathy Lamb’s newest novel, What I Remember Most.

As an avid reader and fan of Lamb’s work, I walked into this book expecting a good read. I’ve read everything she’s released, and so there’s a reason why I always anxiously await her next book. With that said, though, I had no idea the huge treat that was in store for me. Simply stated, this book was absolutely beautiful and probably the best book Lamb has released yet. It was without any doubts one of the best books I’ve read so far this year.

As with many of Lamb’s books, What I Remember Most is filled with a strong female leading character surrounded by a close-knit group of quirky friends. But what sets this book apart and above all others is the grit and determination of the main character, Grenadine Scotch Wild. She’s a young woman who has been knocked down by life and by the system her entire life, and yet she refuses to give up. She refuses to be beaten and she refuses to accept defeat. She keeps her chin up and her head high as she plows forward through life in search of the peace and fairness she deserves. She’s tender-hearted, yet tough as nails and unafraid to stand her ground against those who would take advantage of her. And through all of this, she’s intensely likable and the kind of person we all wish was among our inner circle of friends. She’s the kind of character that a reader falls in love with, and the one who lingers in your memory long after the last pages have been turned.

When an author starts with a character as appealing as Grenadine, she has a responsibility to that character not to drop the ball on the storyline. Luckily Cathy Lamb was up to the task and brings the reader an unforgettable story of a young orphan as she navigates through the foster care system and then, later, the real world. It’s a story of love, loss, survival, determination, perseverance, friendship and new starts.

This is a book that I will be recommending to every one of my friends, and one that you won’t want to wait any longer than necessary to read.  This book is not yet available at Rochester Public Library, but a request has been sent to purchase it for their shelves.

NPR comes through again

A Field Guide to Little Known and Seldom Seen Birds of North America. Ben and Cathryn Sill (a parody)

NPR comes through again.
This was recommended to me awhile ago, and I snapped it up on a NetGalley, now learning there is volume two (Another Field…..) which you won’t want to miss either. This is actually the 25th anniversary edition of an earlier publication but still perfect. It is a charming little book, that is presented in guide format any birder would be familiar with. It looks just like the real thing with superb illustrations. The species however are another story! I am sure birders have been searching for these birds all their lives!!
It is silly, witty, clever, light hearted and vastly entertaining. I love the calls (semi-adled chaff chaff), advice (if you live within this tern’s range, it is advised to purchase reinforced feeders) and nonsense (the seed eating tern is the only tern that has been able to qualify for “authentic vegan” certificate).
I would be hard pressed to say which bird I liked best! (Middle and least yellowlegs?! Long range target duck?!) As a student I provided driving skills while the avid birders concentrated on their life list, and discovered then their amazing senses of humor. I need to buy dozens of copies of this book. Christmas is coming and this is a perfect, delightful gift.
If you have a sense of humor, if you need a gift for a birder or naturalist in your life, if you need a hostess gift or stocking stuffer, buy multiple copies of this book. If you like puns, buy this book. Send book editions to friends who need a little uplift now and then.

Quotes
We are not too proud to admit that mistakes made in the first edition were the editor’s fault.
Let it be known that we have been hard at work to stay ahead of the birding frontier.
…when their data did not agree with our opinions we deleted them.

4.5 stars
ARC from NetGalley

Summer Reads

Review by Helen McIver
This is a fun reading season known for books that are impossible to put down. Not necessarily literary masterpieces, but often more than pulp fiction. But really it is whatever suits your mood, day, location. A book for the beach is different from the book for the hammock; the book for the rainy day doesn’t always fit the summer afternoon. What’s in the NYTimes best seller list isn’t what calls you from the library shelves. And sometimes only a classic will do. And heaven knows what you will find at the library book sales or the yard sales at this time of year!
After a few crazy, gripping, exhausting, compelling books, I was delighted to have a gentle paced, absorbing read by Canadian author Susanna Kearsley, Season of Storms. This would have been perfect for a Sunday afternoon in a hammock, if I’d had one. I love this author, and applauded her recent awards for The Firebird. I am hard pressed to chose a favourite, and recommend all: perhaps it is best to read them in order if you can find them! Mariana (1994), Spendour Falls (1995), Shadowy Horses (1997), Named of the Dragon (1998), Season of storms (2001), Winter Sea (2008), Rose Garden (2011), Firebird (2013). (A Desperate Fortune is expected 2015). I truly enjoy her Scottish characters in her most recent books, and her well researched historical details. Her historical novels often have paranormal elements, with a gentle love story. She has also written classic style thrillers as Emma Cole (Every Secret Thing, 2006). Season of Storms is soon to be (re?) released August /September 2014. This book, Season of Storms, takes place primarily in the villa Il Piacere, near Lake Garda, Italy, and is modeled after the grand home Il Vittoriale of the poet Gabriele D’Annunzio. I loved the brief but historical details of London and Venice which set the stage for the drama that was to unfold. I enjoyed the foray into the theatre world, for the accurate portrayal of stars, old and new, the staging descriptions, the hard work involved in finding the character and the intriguing personalities, politics, and egos of the cast. There is a nice balance of family, again old and new, each contributing clues to the slowly revealing story (the mystery is always backseat in this plot). In addition, the historical elements of the mystery surrounding the first play 70 years prior add to the overall story.
This is not a fast paced mystery / thriller.
This is not necessarily a page turner, thrilling read.
This is not similar to her most recent paranormal historical books.
But it is a lovely, well written, atmospheric novel that will provide you with a strong sense of place, both of romantic Italy and the theatre world. This novel reminded me of Mary Stewart, My Brother Michael and Madam will you Talk. This is a wonderful thing as I sincerely miss her writing (and if it’s any indication by the number of individuals and book clubs to which I have recommended Kearsley, many people miss Stewart and have leapt at a new author!). If you like this gothic suspense style, read on! I hope the popularity of this author makes people more aware of other, earlier novelists: Anya Seton, Daphine du Maurier, Barbara Erskine, Barbara Michaels, Rosemary Sutcliffe and Elizabeth Harris.
It’s a new book if you haven’t read it!
NetGalley ARC 4 stars (five because it perfectly suited my mood/day)