At the top of the blog is the Navigation Bar that allows you to view blog categories.  The newest is LOOK WHAT'S TRENDING. It's got nothing to do with fashion trends but instead focuses on book trends....the newest titles and the yet to be released titles.

Check it periodically to see what's new in the book world!

FILLIAL BONDS (06/28/2012)

The following June release received favorable reviews. It's an eccentric and gently funny novel. Characters are bitter and angry and dysfunction runs  rampant.....Definetly not a beach read.

THE RED HOUSE by Mark Haddon is a "Virginia Wolfe-esque" type novel. The story focuses on eight characters, all blended family...all resentful, all kind of pathetic but still somewhat endearing.

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It's an uncomfortable mix, but THE RED HOUSE is a genuine exploration of serious family drama. The characters are not likeable, although you might recognize a relative or two... and the unique structure of the novel can be confusing.(A little too much stream of conciousness for some readers....)

I loved The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Haddon but you can't compare the two books. THE RED HOUSE is dour and the writing can be bizarre..on the other hand if you're looking for some good old family angst, this novel is for you. 

Mark Haddon is the author of the international best sellers, A Spot of Bother and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time. He is the recipient of the Whitebread Book of the Year Award,  and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for First Fiction. Haddon has also written and illustrated numerous award winning children's books and television screenplays.


IN ONE PERSON by John Irving has received mixed reviews. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I really wanted to like this book. I've read everything John Irving has written...but I couldn't finish it. This  book was a big disappointment as far as I'm concerned. Sorry John...

However, Alan Bressler, a blog reader and a man of many talents (Remember his review of Fifty Shades of Grey?!!) sent this comment.

Alan Bressler writes:
I have just completed In One Person, the John Irving novel and have found the book to tell a compelling story in the wonderful style that one would expect from this author. Known for his off beat characters, Irving does not disappoint here with the book replete with cross-dressing grandfather, domineering women, transsexual or transgendered (I'm still uncertain of the correct term) men and many more that you will encounter if you decide to pick up this book. It may not be a "Garp" or a "Cider House" but when has Irving ever repeated. At the end of the book, this paraphrased statement says it all about the book-"...don't put a label on it until you know it".

Okay Alan, maybe I'll give it another try even though I'm really into labels!


SOPHOMORE SLUMP (06/24/2012)


I recently received an email from Helen Olsen of the Online Education Database. She enclosed an article about The Sophomore Slump for authors. In other words, the second novel fails to live up to the first. 
The following well known authors did just the opposite. Their second novels far exceeded their first.

SALMAN RUSHDIE'S first novel GRIMUS was a complete flop. His second novel, MIDNIGHT'S CHILDREN, a work of historical fiction earned the Booker Prize.

F. SCOTT FITZGERALD became famous for his first novel, THIS SIDE of PARADISE but his second novel, THE BEAUTIFUL and the DAMNED, based on his life was the more successful.

AUDREY NIFFENEGGER wrote THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE in 2003 and six years later wrote HER FEARFUL SYMMETRY, a literary success.

To read the entire article go to:


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Another summer read, but this one is a social satire that takes place in New England and focuses on a summer wedding. The characters are shallow stereotypes and author Maggie Shipstead paints a witty picture of preppy drama at its best.  (Remember Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld?)

The blog reader who shared this information found the book to be entertaining, humorous and surprisingly well written for a frothy first novel.

The story is told by the "father of the bride," a lecherous old man and to say it's a fun read is an understatement...although it's not all fun and games. There's some serious issues....

SEATING ARRANGEMENTS is basically a well written book about a lot of cliche people. Take it to the beach and take with a grain of salt...or sand.

Maggie Shipstead is a writer of short fiction. She is a graduate of the Iowa's Writer's Workshop and the recipient of the Stegner Fellowship from Stanford University. SEATING ARRANGEMENTS is her first novel.

BEAUTIFUL RUINS (06/20/2012)

Here's another summer read that is likely to hold your interest ...a bit of a farce, but smartly written.

BEAUTIFUL RUINS by Jess Walter has been highly praised by several blog readers. It's quirky, fun and has a Hollywood bent to it. A reviewer labeled it "a novel shot in technicolor".....

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(A blurred photo depicting blurred lives)

Flawed characters, love, loss, and hope combine to make BEAUTIFUL RUINS a witty and  very brash novel. Inventive is an apt word to describe this surprising book.

The tale begins in the early sixties in Italy and spans fifty years. What unfolds is a plethura of unforgettable characters: the  well preserved producer, the starstruck Italian Innkeeper, a long-lost love, and even  a cameo by Richard Burton.

Chapters go back and forth in time and what unfolds is a story of tangled lives and broken dreams.

I probably won't give BEAUTIFUL RUINS a rating as it's not a book that appeals to me...but Jess Walter is an accomplished author and his novels are usually worth reading. (By someone else)


Author Jess Walter is the recipient of the Edgar Award for CITIZEN VINCE and a National Book Award Finalist for THE ZERO. He resides in Spokane, Washington.

READER OPINIONS ( 06/18/2012)

Here's some opinions regarding two books recently mentioned in Joyce's Choices..

MENAGE by Alix Kates Shulman was found to be a disappointing read by JK of Boston. Although MENAGE was the recipient of good reviews, JK really disliked the characters, found them cloying and thought the book was not that well written. It appears Menage is living up to its reputation as a "light summer read"...Sexy, simple and shallow...(Fun for some of us, maybe..)

CANADA by Richard Ford is extremely slow moving. I'm almost halfway through, and if it weren't for Ford's eloquent writing style and his stature as an author it would be relegated to my unfinished pile. I'm going to persevere, because the novel has received so much praise and I am an eternal optimist.

 Scroll down and click on Comments posted below THE QUEEN'S LOVER by Francine Deplessix Gray and HISTORY BUFFS STILL CELEBRATING. You'll find more reader opinions.

MARIE ANTOINETTE, You Never Disappoint! (06/15/2012)

A new book titled THE QUEEN'S LOVER by Francine du Plessix Gray focuses on one of history's all time greatest love stories. The secret romance between Marie Antoinette and Count Axel Von Ferson is an achingly heart wrenching tale re-created over the course of the French Revolution.

This novel is expertly researched and told with great imagery. It has everything- suspense, intrigue, love, sex, tragedy and an inside look at the French royal family.. but there are flaws..(in the family and the book..)

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The author does a great job of painting the political scene of the time period,  but there are too many facts and the characters are not that well developed...
But so what.. Marie Antoinette is a hot floozie! You'll learn some history and be entertained at the same time. A good summer read...

Francine Du Plessix Gray is a regular contributor to The New Yorker Magazine and the author of numerous books of fiction and nonfiction. She lives in Connecticut.


Some of us are still celebrating the anniversary of the War of 1812. (Some of us don't really care...)

But since so many history buffs emailed and were enthusiastic about the great review of SIX FRIGATES by GHS last week, he's posted another review of a book by Harvard Historian George C. Daughan called 1812:THE NAVY'S WAR.  

GHS writes:

1812: THE NAVY'S WAR is an extremely well researched account of the politics and causes leading up to the war as well as the people that fought it—specifically, the sailors. Many historians consider the war of 1812 our second war of independence.
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 The book describes what the world was like before 1812 and how America, as a new republic was seeking to find its place on the world stage (or in most cases, avoid stepping on the toes of the major powers). It’s important to remember (and the book illustrates this very well) that the war of 1812 was an annoyance for England because they were fighting a war of survival against Napoleon. However, The United States had seriously miscalculated and overplayed its hand by thinking it would be over quickly and that we could easily capture parts of Canada.

Naturally, my favorite parts were the clashes at sea—like the most famous of all—when the USS Constitution defeated the HMS Guerriere. It was a defeat that shocked the British (and the world) and earned the Constitution the name ‘Old Ironsides’ (for deflecting cannon ball off her sides). I was truly amazed by the author’s ability to describe all the ship to ship battles with precise and life-like detail.

There were parts of the book that I think could have been condensed such as the extensive coverage of the campaigns in Canada and great lakes. While it’s important to understand the war in a world context, I also thought there was too much emphasis on the European conflict and the battles involving the alliance to defeat Napoleon.

As an admirer of U.S. history, I learned about the important role of ‘privateers’ (privately owned ships that were commissioned by the congress to attack British sea commerce). Most of the privateers were from New England states and they profited handsomely by their actions (even though they opposed the war).

The war of 1812 is usually remembered as a footnote in history and for inspiring the Star Spangled Banner. However, when it was over, the war settled a very important debate in U.S. politics about the military. From that day on, there was no doubt that a Navy was needed to protect its vital shores and commerce.

GHS's Rating:  !!! Great Read

Author George C. Daughan


GONE GIRL (06/14/2012)

Looking for a summer read that has some depth, has a twisty plot and  is darkly funny?  GONE GIRL by Gillian Flynn is an irresistable thriller. It will  keep you on the edge of your beach chair until the tide rolls out.

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Amazon selected it as their Best Book of the Month and blog reader NB gave it high praise...qualifying it with "as summer reads go"....

NB loved the fact that it had a Hitchcock vibe  and called it a "story that shows that a happy surface can disquise underlying darkness."
And there's plenty of darkness...

It's a tale of manipulation at its best. Told from alternating points of view of a husband and wife, the author creates a world of distrust, terror and angst.

NB said,  "GONE GIRL is fast paced, a little creepy, but a book you won't forget."

 Author Gillian Flynn has written many best sellers and is a winner of several prestigious book awards. Her work has been published in twenty eight countries. Flynn lives in Chicago with her husband and son.

BOOK RATING:   !!! A Good Read

READER OPINIONS (06/12/2012)

Several blog readers contacted me expressing opinions regarding some of the books included on Joyce's Choices.

The New York Times didn't contact me, but had high praise for CANADA by Richard Ford. It was highlighted on the cover of the Sunday Book Review. I just started it and will keep you updated.

Blog reader, CR from York, Maine found THE LOWER RIVER by Paul Theroux to be a vivid and compelling tale. 

SG of Brattleboro, Vermont was not a fan of IN ONE PERSON by John Irving, although she thought it was well written.

Brian Joseph, a blog writer and history buff was interested in SIX FRIGATES by Ian W. Toll. His comment appears under When Was the War of 1812? Scroll down...

To access the above mentioned books, click on the title in the Book Index on the Sidebar.

UPDATE: I am half way through CANADA by Richard excellent book, beautifully written...can't wait to get back to it.


Are you a history buff...or just like to party? Here's a good excuse..the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812... It's a national celebration! (You didn't know that?)

In honor of this anniversary, GHS, a resident blog reviewer and expert when it comes to finance, baseball and history has a timely recommendation.. SIX FRIGATES by  Ian W. Toll

GHS says;
I stumbled upon SIX FRIGATES when searching for a title that would satisfy two interests—early American history and adventure on the high seas in the age of sail. What I found was a real gem!

I had never heard of the author (I think it’s his first book) and itunes (the site I search for e-books) had no reader reviews at all. So, I took a chance and never looked back.

SIX FRIGATES by Ian W. Toll tells the story of the founding of the US Navy. There were (you guessed it) six ships that were commissioned in 1794 (all but one was personally named by George Washington). To spread the economic benefits, each ship was constructed in six naval yards throughout the country (very similar to military appropriations of today).

All six ships (The United States, President, Congress, Constitution, Constellation and Chesapeake) were built using the most modern techniques and became the most lethal in their battle class—yet fast enough to outrun bigger ships of the line.

SIX FRIGATES covers the quasi war with France (1798-1800), the war with the Barbary States (1801-1805) and the war of 1812 as well as the people that made these ships a legendary part of American history.

Reviewers said "Wonderfully atmospheric...brilliantly researched..a grand tale"

Ian W. Toll is an independent naval historian. SIX FRIGATES won broad acclaim worldwide and the recipient of several prestigious awards.

You won't want to say "Frig it" to this book..Especially history lovers!
GHS's Rating:  !!! Great Read! Would read more by this author...


I love the title of this book, HEADING OUT TO WONDERFUL by Robert Goolrick.

"When you're young, you head out to wonderful....but before you get to wonderful, you pass through all right...and that may be as far as you'll ever go..."

Told through the eyes of an elderly man looking back on events that changed his life, this new book is full of suspense, obsession and love gone terribly wrong.

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The story is not a new one ..a handsome stranger shows up in a quiet town in Virgina. He has two suitcases: one contains his possessions, including a set of butcher knives: the other is full of money.

He meets the townsfolk and a beautiful woman..You fill in the blanks..
The tale is a powerful one, though ..It reads like a folk ballad and the author tells a suspenseful story.

Robert Goolrick is the author of the bestseller, A Reliable Wife. He also authored the memoir The End of the World as We Know It. Goolrick lives in Virginia.

The blog reader who recommended this book
would not give it a rating...He said it was a
matter of personal is everything.

Heading Out to Wonderful will be released June 12th.

WHAT HAPPENED TO JOHN?....(06/07/2012)

I wanted to really like IN ONE PERSON by John Irving. I couldn't wait for the release date.  Critics raved about it..interviews with the author were all positive.. What happened?
Simply put, it's a complete bore..

I have been reading John Irving all my life and Irving has given us some fabulous books but this is not one of them.

The subject matter is a timely one and  Irving always writes about people who are eccentric and different. So what's the problem? In this case you don't care about the characters, the story drags, and the repitition is endless..

Goodbye for now John may be brilliant and cute too..and maybe you needed a gay man to help you write this...or maybe a younger  voice...

Just my opinion...Write a comment if you disagree...or agree...

 BOOK RATING:    !!  Just OK

MENAGE (06/ 04/2012)

Finally, a lighthearted read..a tart irreverant comedy..all combined in MENAGE by Alix Kates Shulman. 

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A couple in a boring marriage offer to share their home with a celebrated but penniless writer, Zoltan Barbu. The trio is not a sexual threesome but they each lust for something, and the dynamic of the household is a "raging war of egos."

Of course, as happens with triangles, funny and sometimes sad events arise along with shifting alliances and unexpected complications.

Alix Kates Shulman is a feminist author and is most well known for her feminist classic Memoirs of an Ex-Prom Queen. She has written three other novels, two memoirs and the award winning book,  Drinking in the Rain. She lives in New York City.

Menage has received excellent reviews. If you're looking for a good summer read, this book is for you. If you're looking for a Menage, I can't help you....


!!!    A Good Read

To decipher my rating system, click on  BOOK RATING SYSTEM at the top of the page.