TLC Book Tours: Mercury by Margot Livesey

I confess. I forgot about this book. Not that I read and forgot it. But that I received it from the publisher some months before and then left it lying around and it got lost in my stacks of books. So I panicked when I got the email about the blog tour – and my post was due in four days!!

Luckily, I found the book. It was in the pile of books by my table that I thought I had looked at, but it turns out I didn’t really and there it was, right at the bottom, where it really didn’t belong.

And also, it was such a great read that I blew through it effortlessly, after an initial slow start. I had struggled with my previous book tour (The Yard – you can read my review), so I was just relieved that this one was more readable.

evamoves

I requested to be on this book tour because I remember really liking one of Livesey’s previous books, Eva Moves the Furniture, a strange ghostly read about love and loneliness.

Mercury was a rather different read. It opens, slowly, with Donald, an optometrist recounting his move from Scotland to Boston when he was a child, his relationship with his wife Viv and her running of Windy Hill, a riding stable, where Mercury, a dapple-grey Thoroughbred, “the most beautiful animal Viv had ever seen” has just been boarded.

Donald’s words have a bit of an ominous tone:

“Looking back over the months following his departure, I can see that I lost track of certain things.”

And the truth is, I wasn’t really sure where Livesey was taking us, where she was bringing Donald and his family. But just as his part of the story is ending and Viv takes up the narration, things all click into place. And there it is, the something that happens (no I’m not going to tell you more than that), and the way it plays with their lives. Regret. Hesitation. Uncertainty.

The synopsis (you can read it here at Goodreads) describes the book as an “emotional thriller” but I feel like putting the word “thriller” tends to make one think of life and death situations, lots of screaming and chasing and mayhem. So if you’re coming into this book thinking “thriller! Yes!”, well sorry, that’s not really it.

But to me, this book was, in its own way, thrilling, it had a quiet intensity to it that hit home because it was a book about consequences, about how the  actions (or non-action) of ordinary people can lead to such unexpected results. There are a lot of nagging ‘what if I had done this’ thoughts throughout the story. And it made me wonder, what if this were me? What if a loved one had done something like this? What would I do? Could I still love that person? Would that even matter?

Mercury is an unforgettable story about relationships and second chances, about desire and ambition. It is thrilling and haunting in its own way, and hits home in its sharp look at moral dilemmas.

In a conversation with author Lily King for Literary Hub, Livesey says:

For me, the deeper meaning of a novel often emerges slowly. I try to make the characters and the situations vivid and gradually, as they come into focus, I begin to understand what it is I’m moving towards, what lies at the heart of the novel.

And that’s the beauty behind Mercury.

margot-livesey-ap-photo-by-tony-rinaldiMargot Livesey is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels The Flight of Gemma Hardy, The House on Fortune Street, Banishing Verona, Eva Moves the Furniture, The Missing World, Criminals, and Homework. Her work has appeared in the New Yorker, Vogue, and the Atlantic, and she is the recipient of grants from both the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation. The House on Fortune Street won the 2009 L. L. Winship/PEN New England Award. Born in Scotland, Livesey currently lives in the Boston area and is a professor of fiction at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

Find out more about Margot at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

 

tlc logo

I received this book for review from its publisher HarperCollins, as part of a TLC Book Tour

 

Don’t forget to check out the rest of the tour stops

Top Ten Tuesday: Books on my fall TBR list

toptentues

 Books On My Fall TBR List

Well I’m going to interpret this as books that are coming out in the rest of 2016 that I really want to read!

 

 

Him, Me, Muhammad Ali – Randa Jarrar (short stories)

Hag-Seed – Margaret Atwood (retelling of The Tempest)

The Loved Ones – Sonya Chung (fiction)

The Princess Diarist – Carrie Fisher (memoir)

The Private Life of Mrs Sharma – Ratika Kapur (fiction, set in Delhi)

Demon Book 1 – Jason Shiga (comics)

Crosstalk – Connie Willis (SF)

Invisible Planets: Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction in Translation – Edited and trans. by Ken Liu (SF)

IQ – Joe Ide (crime, set in LA)

Words Are My Matter: Writings About Life and Books, 2000–2015, with a Journal of a Writer’s Week – Ursula K Le Guin (nonfiction)

What books are you looking forward to this fall?

It’s Monday and I’m reading Rich and Pretty

 

badge

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week. This meme started with J Kaye’s Blog   and then was taken up by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at the Book Date

 

 

 

So this happened. This being Singapore Day, which happens once a year in a different country. It was the first time in California – the other two US-based Singapore Days were in NYC. You can read all about it here. It’s kinda crazy how much time and effort (not to mention the $$$$!) was put into this event for Singaporeans living overseas! 



The usual library and park play date on Wednesdays. 

I’m not much of a gardener but we put in a planter in spring and I tried planting some bush beans from seed. Other things the kids and I have grown from seeds – some gorgeous multicolored sunflowers, “Easter egg” radishes. A really tiny carrot (none of the other carrot seeds made it!). 

 

Currently…

 

Reading:

 

 

 

Watching:

Our Kind of Traitor, based on a John Le Carre book and starring Ewan McGregor, Damian Lewis, Stellan Skarsgård)

Sing! China – a singing competition much like The Voice except well, in Chinese. I think what I’ve really liked is how the contestants come from all over China, Inner Mongolia, Beijing, Hainan, Liaoning, Fujian, even other countries like Taiwan, Malaysia, Canada and Singapore.

 

Eating:

I made waffles this morning for breakfast. The 5yo being extremely sulky refused to eat any of it. Kids!!

Drinking:

Tea with milk and then a Nespresso

Cooking:

We made a steamed pomfret last week and the 5yo declared that he would like to eat it every day. So some kind of fish dish!

Korean sweet potato noodles probably with beef and lots of vegetables

Browsing:

Buried in Print talks about the FOLD or Festival of Literary Diversity’s reading challenge! Fun!

Added to the TBR:
The Silent Dead (Reiko Himekawa, Book 1) by Tetsuya Honda (via BookDragon)

One Hundred Shadows by Hwang Jungeun, Jung Yewon (translator) (via Outlandish Lit)

Last week:

I read:

Razzle Dazzle Unicorn. I adore this comic!!

I posted:

Weekend Cooking: What I ate at Singapore Day

 

Weekend Cooking: What I ate at Singapore Day

The day we had been waiting for finally arrived! It was the first ever Singapore Day to be held on the west coast!

Singapore Day has been held once a year in a different city since 2007. It’s been held in the US twice but always in New York City (it’s also been in Australia, China, London). So we’ve never had the chance to go to one. It’s organized by the Overseas Singaporean Unit of the Prime Minister’s Office. The Singapore consulate does organize a yearly event but nothing on this scale. And scale it was. They flew in not just entertainers, hosts, singers, musical acts but also hawkers who are known for their Singapore food. Oh boy what a treat!!! And even the Deputy Prime Minister and some other ministers joined in the fun.


It was held at Pier 70 in San Francisco, and it was such an odd place for an event celebrating Singapore, a country known for its strict rules,  well-manicured landscapes and clean streets. This place was an old warehouse with a big outdoor area where the hawkers were set up.

And wow the variety they provided! Laksa, nasi lemak, chicken rice, carrot cake, Hokkien mee, satay, roti prata, BBQ sambal stingray, desserts like pulot hitam and cheng tng and even Singapore-style coffee!

My kids loved the satay and the chicken rice. What we call “carrot cake” is actual a steamed white radish ‘cake’ then chopped up and fried with eggs and preserved radish. This is the ‘white’ version. The ‘black’ version has sweet black soy sauce added so it is sweet and salty.

The two desserts – pulot hitam or black glutinous rice cooked down and served with coconut milk on the left; cheng tng or a ‘cooling soup’ on the right with dried longan, gingko and barley inside.

Singapore-style coffee. There are lots of ways to order coffee in Singapore, here’s an infographic! Essentially if you order ‘Kopi’ you get condensed milk in it. ‘kopi o’ is black coffee and ‘kopi si’ is with evaporated milk instead of condensed. If you want tea, you order ‘teh’ with the same ending sounds as below.

kopi

 

The uncle making the roti prata looked like he was having fun. When it was almost my turn he said, “where’s the cameras? You ready?” Then started flipping his prata!

 

 

 

 

 

Of course there was entertainment and they were very fun, although naturally the jokes were very Singapore-centric. It was just a fun weekend hanging out with other Singaporeans in the Bay Area (and beyond – some even flew in from Canada, Seattle, Texas etc). And it made everyone think of home. Which is obviously the point that the Overseas Singaporean Unit is trying to put across. So mission accomplished!

weekendcooking

Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, beer, wine, photographs

It’s Monday and I’m reading non-fiction for a change

 

badge
It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week. This meme started with J Kaye’s Blog   and then was taken up by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at the Book Date

 

 

Last week the 3yo took his first proper swim class and he loved it. Everyday he asks if it’s his swim class day! Hope he actually learns something…

Otherwise it was the usual busy week. The boys go to school at different times so weekdays are always busy. Preschool drop-off, do some work and play with the 5yo, get him to eat an early lunch, drop him off at Kindergarten, then go pick up the 3yo. Get him to eat lunch, try to get him to nap (not always successful). At 3pm, Kindergarten is over. On Mondays, an afternoon swim class for the 3yo. On Fridays, a 9am swim class for the 5yo. I’m trying to see about adding a tennis class too. And what about music? Martial arts? I don’t want them to do TOO much but at the same time, I want them to be able to try different things and find something that they like! #firstworldproblems

 

 

It was Mid-Autumn Festival (the 15th day of the 8th lunar month) last week. And we had mooncakes, walked outside in the backyard with lanterns and gazed at the full moon.

Trying to read while waiting for swim class

 

At Books Inc in Mountain View

S

Sunday night sushi dinner.

Currently…

 

Reading:

maxbookclub

The Maximum Security Book Club – Mikita Brottman

skinfolk

Skin Folk – Nalo Hopkinson

 

 

Watching:

X-men: Apocalypse

I wasn’t fond of the whole ‘Ancient Big Bad” storyline…

 

 

Eating:

Leftover mooncakes! It was Mid-Autumn Festival last week.

Drinking:

Tea

Cooking:

I saw this video for Yaki Curry (Japanese curry baked with cheese!) and am very curious about this mix of curry and cheese….! Although of course Japanese curry isn’t really curry more like stew, in my opinion (but that’s because I like my curries really spicy and more you know, Pakistani/Indian kind of curry)

Browsing:

Lauren Groff: The books in my life (Lit Hub)

10 books featuring subversive women (Lit Hub)

The CBC Books fall reading list! I’ve only read one, The Conjoined, which I thought was a fantastic read!

Manga recs for fall (Bookriot)

Added to my TBR: The Nakano Thrift Shop by Hiromi Kawakami (Yasmine Rose Reads Books)

Book Uncle and Me by Uma Krishnaswami (BookDragon)

18 dinners to make when your pantry is nearly empty (Food 52)

 

Last week:

I read:

When Breath Becomes Air – Paul Kalanithi

(sob sob)

 

I posted:

RIP XI: Akata Witch 

TLC Book Tours – The Yard

 

RIP XI: Akata Witch 

Nnedi Okorafor’s books are always such a treat.

Akata Witch is the story of Sunny, born in America but who now lives in Nigeria with her brothers and parents.

“I’m Nigerian by blood, American by birth, and Nigerian again because I live here. I have West African features, like my mother, but while the rest of my family is dark brown, I’ve got light yellow hair, skin the color of “sour milk” (or so stupid people like to tell me), and hazel eyes that look like God ran out of the right color. I’m albino.”

Sunny confuses people. She doesn’t fit in. Not at school, where she is called “akata” which means “bush animal” and is used to refer to black Americans or foreign-born blacks. She doesn’t really fit in at home either – her dad doesn’t seem to know what to do with her.

Then she becomes friends with Orlu, a boy in her school, who introduces her to Chichi, a rather strange girl who lives in a  house full of books. And they reveal that they are Leopard People, powerful, magical. And that she too is one, except that she is a “free agent”. That is, despite her parents being ordinary folk, she is in a Leopard spirit line, and that she had magical abilities too, abilities that need to be unlocked and developed.

There is a whole world out there just for Leopard People. A place called Leopard Knocks with shops, restaurants and the Obi Library. For Leopard People, it’s all about learning.

She has to learn, to study juju, spells, magic. And this is on top of all the studying she already has to do for school. Add to that the sneaking around because she can’t tell anyone else about her newfound magical abilities, or the Leopard People.

Young and inexperienced as she is, she – and three other Leopard People friends- are tasked to catch a serial killer.

It’s such a fun read, as we explore this new world with Sunny, learn about her powers and this strange new double life she leads. Also there’s that element of darkness and danger lurking, not just with the serial killer, but all the tasks and skills training she goes through. Even a visit to a mentor’s house could be deadly!

And this magical world that Okorafor has created! One with an artist wasp that creates sculptures out of things it finds in nature like crumbs or mud – and will sting you if you don’t appreciate its work! The way Leopard People earn money, called chittim – when they learn something, the gold coins fall from the sky and land at their feet!

zahrah

Akata Witch reminded me a lot of Zahrah the Windseeker (another fab read), in its strong young female character and fascinating world, and in this article with SFWA, Okorafor explains:

But they’ll also find that all my novels are connected, they are telling one big story. Akata Witch is a prequel to The Shadow SpeakerZahrah the Windseeker is directly linked the Who Fears Death. There is technology in Who Fears Death that is more explained in The Shadow SpeakerThe Shadow Speaker shares characters with Zahrah the Windseeker. The Nigerian writing script Nsibidi plays a pivotal role in Who Fears DeathZahrah the Windseeker and Akata Witch. Aro (from Who Fears Death), The Desert Magician (from The Shadow Speaker), Papa Grip (Zahrah the Windseeker), Long Juju Man (from Long Juju Man), Junk Man (from Akata Witch) — he shows up in all of my novels in various forms.

Also, good news! Akata Witch has a sequel coming out soon!

ripelevenmain

I read this book for Readers Imbibing in Peril XI

(here’s the link to the review site)

diversity

Akilah’s Diversity on the Shelf 

Read-Diverse-Books-Year-Round-1

 Read Diverse Books Year-Round

TLC Book Tours – The Yard

yard

This is a book with such potential.

I was immediately drawn to it by its setting – Trinidad and Tobago. And a wealthy Indo-Muslim  family whose ancestors first settled there as indentured labourers.

It opens intriguingly. Father Khalid visits an old relative, discovers she is long deceased, but there is a strange young boy sitting in her house, covered with flies, scared, alone. He brings him to his home, to his family of a wife and young daughters, adopts him and gives him the name of Behrooz. But the families of Father Khalid’s siblings, who also live in the Yard, are wary and unaccepting of Behrooz.

Behrooz develops a friendship with Father Khalid’s second daughter Maya, rebellious and headstrong. This turns into something a bit more than a friendship and after a night together, Maya flees for the anonymity of London.

This dramatic story is an exploration of religion, tolerance, of keeping a family together.

When I say this book has potential, I meant that while it is set in a very different place, that is, of Trinidad and Tobago, and from the perspective of an East Indian Muslim family, the story takes place largely within this compound of The Yard. The family rarely ventures out, and as a result, the reader doesn’t either. And that is such a pity, as this is one of the few novels that are set in Trinidad and Tobago, but other than an introduction to the family’s history in the country, I felt like the story was too enclosed in the Yard.

I understand what the writer is trying to do with the book, that is, the Yard, the family, that isolation. But I think in this case, too much happens within the Yard. People arrive, people disappear. And with so many characters, a family tree would have helped sort them out better.

I feel like I am being very critical of this book. I am not a professional book reviewer. I accept these books for review on my blog but I never know if anyone reads these reviews. And I do want to be honest, especially with a story that has potential. It could have used a more experienced editor who could have guided this debut author with a more confident hand, pointed out some awkward turns of phrases, and tried to rein in some tropes and constructed a more solid character in Maya.

tlc logo

I received this book for review from its publisher and TLC Book Tours

Check out the rest of the tour stops here
aliyyah

Aliyyah Eniath was born in Trinidad and Tobago; her ancestors hailed from Uttar Pradesh, India. She’s a director at Safari Publications, a magazine publishing house, and founder/editor-in- chief of Belle Weddings (Caribbean) magazine.

Her debut novel The Yard (literary, romance) is published by Speaking Tiger Books in both paperback and ebook formats.

She explores the ideas of breaking free from imposed boundaries (familial or otherwise), understanding and feeling supported in who you are, overcoming self-doubt, and finally being true to yourself. Her writing looks at strict religious ideologies and their potential consequences and begs for a softer approach and innate understanding and compassion towards every human being.

She writes from the perspective of East Indians whose forefathers were brought to Trinidad from India through the British colonial indentureship scheme in 1845.

Find out more about Aliyyah at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.