The First Husband: A Novel by Laura Dave

Title:  The First Husband: A Novel

Author:  Laura Dave

Genre:  Fiction

About:  Annie, a travel writer in her early 30s, returns home from a recent trip to find that her long-time boyfriend (the one she thought would eventually be her husband) has decided he needs a break from her. She’s not completely shocked by the bad news because she had just watched Roman Holiday and something bad always happens after she watches that movie. But she manages to move on each time. This time she moves into a completely unexpected relationship which takes her on a journey to figure out what or who she wants.

My thoughts:  At  244 pages The First Husband is a fast, funny, and heartfelt novel about the roads taken and sometimes not taken to find grown up love – the kind that lasts.

Laura Dave’s characters are charming and quirky and most seem to be on the same quest as Annie. There’s a lot of emotion packed into this story as it twists and turns its way to a satisfying conclusion.

The First Husband is one of those books that had me thinking about it long after I finished reading it – always a good sign.

Recommend?  Yes! Read it on the beach or your favorite backyard chair or in your house. Just read it!

Source:  Viking

Spotlight on HOTEL NO TELL by Daphne Uviller and a Q&A with the Author

Hotel No Tell features the return of Super in the City‘s beloved Zephyr Zuckerman. On the verge of 31, Zephyr is now a junior investigator with New York City’s Special Investigations Commission (SIC). She’s undercover as a concierge at the Greenwich Village Hotel, trying – and failing – to track down a missing hundred grand. Her detective boyfriend has moved out because of their disagreement about reproducing (he wants kids, Zephyr doesn’t), and she’s left with her Holland Lop bunny named after a famous atheist, an old friend who’s married and miserable in suburban motherhood, and one new friend who’s a wedding planner in dire need of an exorcist.

It soon becomes clear that the trouble at the hotel goes much, much deeper than a little old-fashioned laundering. Before Zephyr can master the reservation system, she is yanking at the threads of a multi-million dollar egg donation scandal and re-examining her own motives for opting out of parenthood.

About the author
A former Books/​Poetry editor at Time Out New York, Daphne’s reviews, profiles, and articles have been published in The Washington Post, The New York Times, Newsday, The Forward, New York Magazine, Oxygen, Allure, and Self, for which she used to write an ethics column.

Super in the City, her debut novel, is available in paperback and Kindle editions, and still getting rave reviews! Click on the right side of the screen for more information.

Daphne also co-edited, with Deborah Siegel, the acclaimed anthology Only Child: Writers on the Singular Joys and Solitary Sorrows of Growing Up Solo. Available in paperback and Kindle editions.

A third-generation West Villager, Daphne lives in the Hudson Valley with her husband and two children.

Q&A with Daphne Uviller, author of Hotel No Tell

Q: You used to work for a New York City law enforcement agency. How much of Zephyr’s adventures in Hotel No Tell come from your actual experience?
A: I worked for a watchdog group that investigates crime and corruption in the public school system. None of the cases that the fictional SIC handles is identical to any real one I worked on. But, certainly, I drew on the hubris of our perps and the astounding ability of people to deny to themselves that they’re committing a crime. For instance, I make mention of a school principal taking kickbacks, which was the theme of more than a few of our cases. I also borrowed from the enormous and enormously entertaining personalities of my former colleagues. One thing that is completely true: most of the investigators were named Tommy.
Q: Zephyr’s investigative skills could use a little honing. Is this the right career for her?
A: She’s definitely not the smooth, gun-slinging, clear-thinking cop of so much popular fiction. She fails to catch last names, she can’t describe what people look like, she’s a little rash in a lot of her actions. But she’s nosy, genuinely curious, and innately caring. She gets people to talk to her. I wanted to capture the reality of people having unusual talents, not uniform ones, of showing how people can have skills that can’t be described on a resume. She’s learning on the job and I love that about her. She’s who a lot of us would be if we were thrown into her position.
Q: Zephyr is adamant about her decision not to have children, so much so that, at the beginning of the book, she and Gregory have broken up over it. You have two kids; are you worried what they’ll read into this?
A: First of all, I hope they’ll remember that I’m not Zephyr. Fiction is many things for a writer, including an outlet for exploring paths not taken. I felt very strongly that Zephyr not go the mommy route. I’m living it; I don’t want to read about it, let alone write about it. (That said, I shoveled some of my darkest feelings onto Lucy, and doubled it by saddling her with twins.) So I started there – my lack of interest in making her a mother – and then went further. Why not have her struggle to make peace with her child-free status be her personal challenge, as the quest for professional identity was in Super? Let’s examine the societal assumption that we’re all supposed to have kids, when the truth is that parenthood is tough, so tough that at some point, all parents wonder why they took it on. Without children there would be, as Zephyr says, more time, more money, less stress, more sleep, more growth of the mind. But by the end of the book I was more convinced than ever that I had made the right decision for myself and that Zephyr had made the right one for herself.

Q: Which is quite an accomplishment, given that Zephyr is often plagued by a lack of resolution to her problems.
A: One of Zephyr’s stumbling blocks is her belief that you need to tie up loose ends in order to move on to the next stage of life. By the end of Hotel, Zephyr is accepting the discomfiting fact that you can’t wait for certain unknowns to resolve – both in the criminal case she has mostly solved, and in her personal struggle with potential parenthood – in order to move forward. Wait forever and you’ll never grow up.

Q: But wouldn’t you say the book itself has an almost comical number of closures in the final chapter?
A: It’s true – in the plot itself, I love not only to tie up loose ends but to provide delicious and, I hope, funny and satisfying and surprising connections – perhaps as an antidote to those pesky loose ends. E.M. Forster’s directive [“only connect”] can be applied to storytelling as much as to real life.

Q: Right after Super in the City was published, you, like Lucy, were unwillingly transplanted to the suburbs. How has it been living away from the city while writing so intimately about it?
A: When we first moved away, I complained so much that a friend of mine who’s a lit professor rolled her eyes and promised to list me on her syllabus for Writers in Exile, right next to Salman Rushdie. Friends had lofty hopes for my situation, suggesting that it could be some deep new angle from which to view my city. It hasn’t been. What it has been is a great way to keep living there in my head, even as I live somewhere else. In fact, continuing to write about the city may contribute to my current identity problem: I still haven’t managed to say “I live in the Hudson Valley.” I say, “We’re living in the Hudson Valley, but we still own my childhood apartment in the Village.” It’s juvenile, I know.

Q:How did you come up with the idea of an egg donor scam?
A: Close friends were going through the process of selecting a donor and asked my opinion of the three finalists. It’s not like I didn’t know about egg donation, but watching people I loved go through the process — and getting to have a small voice in selecting the seeds of my future niece or nephew — really set my mind racing. I remembered seeing ads in my college newspaper recruiting egg donors, and I’ve always wondered why society treats it as a much bigger deal to give eggs than sperm.

Q:Other than the invasive process (and because of that, the money), why is it a bigger deal?
A: I don’t think it is. I think it’s all a huge deal. In fact, I wonder whether the boys I knew when I was nineteen who were donating to get some beer money now have any regrets. It has repercussions: imagine learning that your husband donated when he was younger, that your children have biological half-siblings you don’t know about.

Q: Zephyr’s newest friend, Macy St. John, is a lovable but cursed wedding planner whose company is called No Divas. Fess up: were you a bridal diva?
A: I can safely say I was not. I err in the other direction, which has caused my husband to declare me so low maintenance that I’m high maintenance. I came up with the idea for a business for no-frills clients after our caterer tried to schedule a two-hour meeting about our wedding cake. I declined and told him to make it white and make it taste good. A similarly non-diva friend who was planning her wedding at the same time came up with the name of the imaginary company that, years later, would find its way into this book.

Q: But you didn’t wear $13 sandals from Payless on your wedding day, the way Macy’s client does.
A: Yes, in fact. I did.

Q: Why another book about Zephyr?
A: I considered doing an entirely unrelated book, but suspected that any protagonist I created would be Zephyr again, with a different name. I was preoccupied with my recent exodus from the city and new status as mother of two. I inflicted both these states onto Zephyr’s good friend Lucy, which then freed me up to write about Zephyr and the life I was fantasizing about – still in the city and childless. It was clear to me that, if these were my preoccupations, it would be natural to keep writing about Zephyr. That said, it’s definitely a stand-alone book, too — you don’t have to have read Super to enjoy Hotel.

Q: Will this be a trilogy?
A: I doubt I’m done with Zephyr, but I plan to take a break from her and first write something completely different. I’m toying with historical fiction, something I swore I wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot cursor.

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Faith: A Novel by Jennifer Haigh

Title:  Faith: A Novel

Author:  Jennifer Haigh

Genre:  Fiction

About:  (from Goodreads) When Sheila McGann sets out to redeem her disgraced brother, a once-beloved Catholic priest in suburban Boston, her quest will force her to confront cataclysmic truths about her fractured Irish-American family, her beliefs, and, ultimately, herself.

My thoughts:  I had misgivings about reading a novel about the topic Ms. Haigh tackled in Faith but it’s much more than a novel about abuse. It’s about a family and how each member handles a shocking allegation against one of their own.

Told by the sister of the accused, the story is one of discoveries about her mother, father, and brothers. Haigh explores themes of family loyalty, faith in various forms, and forgiveness.

Jennifer Haigh’s writing is what carried me through the book in a few hours. I was completely absorbed in the story and very glad that I read the book.

Recommend?  Yes. It would be a great bookclub pick – so many discussion possibilities.

Source:  Harper Books

My Favorites in 2011 (so far) and a Giveaway

 Tuesday is Armchair BEA’s big Giveaway Day! We’ll be doing giveaways all week here, but if you’re hosting a giveaway for Armchair BEA-goers on your own site, this is the day to post about it there and link it up here! And if you’re not hosting a giveaway, today’s suggested posting topic is “Best of 2011”: share some of your favorite books so far this year, and/or the the books being promoted at BEA that you hope will end up among your favorites for the year!

Here are my favorite books of 2011 (so far):

  

 

I’m going to give a book from my favorites list to one lucky winner.

Go to this link for the Giveaway Form. Ends tonight, May 24 at 10pm (eastern).

GIVEAWAY CLOSED

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PS I know I should be able to embed the form in the post but for the life of me I tried to follow the directions with disappointing results *sigh*

Armchair BEA – Nice to meet you!

Welcome! My name is Mary and I’ve blogged about the books I read at Bookfan since 2008. I read mostly fiction but also enjoy an occasional memoir, cookbook, etc.

I would have loved to attend BEA in NYC but all three kids are moving in the next ten days (one cross-country) and my husband and I are lending a hand where needed. Also, one of the kids on the move will be getting married in a few months so our travel budget is going toward that happy event. It’s all good!

I read every day and it’s not unusual for me to be in the middle of two or three books at a time (different genres). You can find me on Twitter   so feel free to share your twitter name. I mention that because I’ve discovered some wonderful books via tweets from book bloggers. I use Twitter to stay in touch with authors, bloggers, publishers, PR folks, etc. and also to tweet links to my reviews.

I look forward to meeting other Armchair BEA bloggers this week. Thanks for visiting!