Tag Archives: Water for Elephants

A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty

Joshilyn Jackson’s new book, A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty: A Novel, was released on January 25, 2012.   Sara Gruen, author of Water for Elephants, says of Pretty that it’s, “Enthralling!   A heart-thumping mystery, an edge-of-your-seat drama, and a fiercely sweet comedy all at once.”   Jennifer McMahon, the author of Promise Not to Tell labels it, “A clever, hilarious, wild adventure of a mystery that immediately pulls you in.”

Pretty is already a 4.5 star (out of 5) rated book at Barnes & Noble, and a 5 star rated book at Amazon.You can read the first chapter of A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty here:

http://www.joshilynjackson.com/A-Grown-Up-Kind-of-Pretty-Excerpt.pdf

Jackson is the author of the earlier bestselling novels Backseat Saints, Gods in Alabama and The Girl Who Stopped Swimming.   You can read our review of The Girl Who Stopped Swimming here:

https://josephsreviews.wordpress.com/2009/10/23/arc-of-a-diver/

Joseph Arellano

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The Show Must Go On

Water for Elephants: A Novel by Sara Gruen (Algonquin; $14.95; 448 pages)

Following a tragic accident, where Jacob Jankowski finds that not only has he lost both of his parents, but everything he owns, he is forced to immediately recreate his life.   Jacob walks out of his Ivy League veterinary medical exams and while wandering aimlessly decides to hop a train, a decision that alters his future.   The train, it turns out, belongs to the Benzini Brothers, a second-rate traveling circus act.   At the ripe young age of twenty-one, Jacob becomes the circus vet, an undesirable position working for a relentless boss.

To make matters worse, Jacob falls in love with Marlena, a star performer and the wife of an abusive paranoid schizophrenic, who is in charge of training the animals that Jacob cares for.

Told from the perspective of a ninety-something Jacob, now living in a nursing home, Gruen spares no details as she depicts the story of life with the circus.   Through descriptions of the grimy, disgusting living conditions, the filthy abused animals that eat unspeakable food, and the corrupt coworkers, we wait with bated breath to read what dangerous, life-threatening situation Jacob will be privy to next.

Sara Gruen has done her research and truly brings each circus act alive as you, the audience, watch Jacob’s life in the circus unfold.   The ending is surreal but quite lovely.   I look forward to seeing the film, which will be released this month.

Highly recommended.

Kelly Monson

This book was purchased by the reviewer.

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Come Win a Copy of Come Sunday

Thanks to Picador, we have a giveaway copy of the novel Come Sunday by Isla Morley.   This trade paperback book will be released on August 3, 2010 but you have a chance to win it now.   Here is a synopsis of the story:

Abbe is a restless young mother living on the outskirts of Honolulu with her husband, Greg, the pastor at a small church.   Their lives are suddenly riven by tragedy when their three-year-old daughter, Cleo, is struck and killed by a car.   As Greg turns to God and community for comfort, Abbe turns inward and reflects upon her own troubled past.   Isla Morley brilliantly weaves the story of Abbe’s grief with a gripping tale of her tempestuous childhood in apartheid South Africa  – and how Abbe’s father, a villainous drunk, held her family hostage for decades with his rage, until they finally began to plot their escape from him.   Come Sunday is a spellbinding drama about a woman breaking free of her grief and of her past, and what it takes to revive hope when all seems lost.

Here are some of the critical comments about this work:

“A heart-wrenching tale of unthinkable loss and hard-won healing.   This is a novel to savor.”   Sara Gruen, author of Water for Elephants

“A phenomenal debut…”   San Diego Union-Tribune

“A compelling tale of survival, reinvention, and hope, in the end, Come Sunday is…  about personal redemption and resurrection…  Vivid and poignant.”   The Boston Globe

“An intense and ambitious first novel, and an exquisitely detailed exploration of the mother-daughter bond.”   Los Angeles Magazine

“Firmly establishing her in the pantheon of such insightful authors as Chris Bohjalian, Sue Miller, and Anita Shreve, Morley’s…  read-in-one-sitting tale of loss and renewal will haunt readers.”   Booklist

To enter our contest, just post a comment here or send an e-mail with your name and e-mail address to Josephsreviews@gmail.com .   This will count as a first entry.   For a second entry, just post another message here or send a second e-mail with the words, “This is my second entry.”   Easy, huh?

The winner’s name will be drawn by Munchy the cat, our contest administrator, and the winner will be contacted by e-mail.   This person will be asked to supply a residential (street) mailing address in the U. S. – not a P.O. box or business address – so that Picador can ship the book directly to him/her.  

You have until Tuesday, August 10, 2010 at Midnight PST to submit your entry/entries.   Good luck and good reading!

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We’re giving away an amazing book!

Double Take: A Memoir is an amazing new book from Kevin Michael Connolly; it’s 5-star rated at Amazon.   We will post our own review of this inspiring book in the near future, but in the interim you can win one of three copies that we have to give away!   Yes, we have 3 new, hardbound, copies of Double Take to give away courtesy of SallyAnne McCartin and Associates and HarperStudio.

Here is a synopsis of the book:

Kevin Michael Connolly is a 23-year-old who has seen the world in a way most of us never will.   Whether swarmed by Japanese tourists at Epcot Center as a child or holding court at the X Games on his mono-ski as a teenager, Kevin has been an object of curiousity since the day he was born without legs.   Growing up in rural Montana, he was raised like any other kid (except, that is, for his father’s MacGyver-like contraptions such as the “butt boot”).   As a college student, Kevin traveled to 17 countries on his skateboard and, in an attempt to capture the stares of others, he took more than 30,000 photographs of people staring at him.   In this dazzling memoir, Connolly casts the lens inward to explore how we view ourselves and what it is to truly see another person.   We also get to know his quirky and unflappable parents and his spunky girlfriend.   From the home of his family in Helena, Montana to the streets of Tokyo and Kuala Lumpur, Connolly’s remarkable journey will change the way you look at others, and the way you see yourself.

Sara Gruen, author of Water for Elephants said of Connolly’s book, “Kevin Connolly has used an unusual physical circumstance to create a gripping work of art.   This deeply affecting memoir will place him in the company of Jeanette Walls and Augusten Burroughs.”

And a reader, Cathy Yetter, said:  “I read the book straight through, only stopping to sleep and snack.   Kevin Connolly’s book ‘Double Take’ gave me the feeling of sitting by a campfire with intimate friends just back from distant parts unknown, listening to their adventure tales that you know are true but hard to believe none the less.”

Here are the simple rules for entering this book giveway contest.   To enter the contest once, just send an e-mail to josephsreviews@gmail.com .   For a second entry, you just need to indicate who has been your inspiration in life, and why.   That’s it.   Only persons who live in the United States are eligible and you should be able to supply a residential (street) address rather than a P.O. Box for delivery.   Prior contest winners at this site are again eligible.   This contest will close to entries at midnight Pacific Standard Time on Friday, January 8, 2010.  

Munchy the Norwegian Forest Cat – our contest administrator – will pick the names of the three winners out of a large plastic container on January 9th, and we hope and expect to announce the winners on this site on Sunday, January 10, 2010.  

Good luck and good reading!

 

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Coming Up Next…

 

We’re going to be giving away 3 copies of the amazing book Double Take: A Memoir by Kevin Michael Connolly.   “Kevin Connolly has used an unusual physical circumstance to create a gripping work of art.”   – Sara Gruen, author of Water for Elephants.

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Arc of a Diver

girl-who-stopped-swimming

The Girl Who Stopped Swimming: A Novel by Joshilyn Jackson (Grand Central Publishing, $13.99, 336 pages)

“Her good life was a thing made up…  almost by accident…  If she’d left pieces out, then she’d done it for her family.   She’d only been buttoning shut the ugly parts.   The things she’d buried were better left that way.”

If you like Jennifer Weiner (Best Friends Forever, In Her Shoes) you’re bound to love this popular fiction novel from Joshilyn Jackson (Girls in Alabama; Between, Georgia).   Like Weiner, Jackson has a great, charming, story teller’s voice that you underestimate before realizing how skillfully she moves things along.   In The Girl Who Stopped Swimming, Jackson moves swiftly between comedy and drama, happiness and sorrow, confusion and clarity.   And like Weiner, she populates this novel with great characters of the South – intelligent and naive, wacky and brilliant.

The story’s main character, Laurel Gray Hawthorne, lives in the beautiful and exclusive – and clean and quiet – suburb of Victorianna.   Then one night she wakes up to see her daughter’s best friend Molly, appearing to her as a ghost.   Molly’s dead body is subsequently found in Laurel’s backyard swimming pool.

The local police initially write off the suspicious death as an accident, but Laurel is determined to solve the crime with the aid of her very frank and abrasive sister, Thalia.   It’s not clear whether Laurel is trying to solve the criminal mystery to appease Molly’s ghost, to protect her daughter Shelby, or to resolve matters with the family ghosts she observed as a child.   But once Laurel opens the door on the events of the fateful night, everything in her life comes into play…

Does she really know who she is?   Does her husband love her?   Does she know her own daughter?   The neighbors?   Is her community safe?  

Further details will be left to prospective readers.   This is, without a doubt, a fascinating read.   “Left me breathless…  You must read this book!”   – Sara Gruen, author of Water for Elephants.   Agreed.   I will now be looking for a copy of Gods in Alabama.

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

the girl who“She’d tried to create an airtight home that ghosts could not enter, but they’d come in anyway, through the secret spaces, through the blanks she’d left in all the things she left unsaid…”

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