Showing posts with label tlc book tour. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tlc book tour. Show all posts

Thursday, December 1, 2016

I'll Take You There by Wally Lamb


Title: I'll Take You There
Author: Wally Lamb
Publisher: Harper
Publication Date: November 22, 2016
Source: copy received from TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

I’ll Take You There centers on Felix, a film scholar who runs a Monday night movie club in what was once a vaudeville theater. One evening, while setting up a film in the projectionist booth, he’s confronted by the ghost of Lois Weber, a trailblazing motion picture director from Hollywood’s silent film era. Lois invites Felix to revisit—and in some cases relive—scenes from his past as they are projected onto the cinema’s big screen.

In these magical movies, the medium of film becomes the lens for Felix to reflect on the women who profoundly impacted his life. There’s his daughter Aliza, a Gen Y writer for New York Magazine who is trying to align her post-modern feminist beliefs with her lofty career ambitions; his sister, Frances, with whom he once shared a complicated bond of kindness and cruelty; and Verna, a fiery would-be contender for the 1951 Miss Rheingold competition, a beauty contest sponsored by a Brooklyn-based beer manufacturer that became a marketing phenomenon for two decades. At first unnerved by these ethereal apparitions, Felix comes to look forward to his encounters with Lois, who is later joined by the spirits of other celluloid muses.

Against the backdrop of a kaleidoscopic convergence of politics and pop culture, family secrets, and Hollywood iconography, Felix gains an enlightened understanding of the pressures and trials of the women closest to him, and of the feminine ideals and feminist realities that all women, of every era, must face.


My Review:

It's no secret that I am a huge Wally Lamb fan, and have been for some time.  As mentioned in previous reviews of his work, he sets all of his fiction in and around the not-so-fictional town of Three Rivers, Connecticut.  I say "not-so-fictional" because if you're a southeastern CT native (like me!), you can see that Three Rivers mirrors Norwich, CT rather closely (and Three Rivers is the name of the community college in that town).  Anyway, I always get a kick out of seeing familiar landmarks in Lamb's writing, and that paired with his talent for crafting intense family dramas has made me a long-time Lamb fan.

So, here comes his new release!  And of course I'm all over it.  To be honest, didn't even really read the description that closely.  Wally Lamb is just one of those authors where I know when I see his name on a cover, I want to read it.

In the end, I found this novel to be quite different from his other fiction work.  A few points of difference were obvious early on: this novel is quite a bit shorter than his others, so the prose is a bit more succinct, the characters less fleshed out.  Also, ghosts.  There are ghosts in this book.  Totally was not expecting the supernatural element (my fault, like I said...I should have read the description!).  While it wasn't my favorite thing about the novel, I did appreciate how Lamb used the ghosts to teach readers about an often-forgotten segment of Hollywood's history (that of its early female directors).  Even beyond the ghosts, there is quite a bit of thought-provoking history woven into this novel, and that was one of its biggest strengths.

However, the biggest difference between this book and Lamb's others, for me, was its lack of subtlety.  This is not a novel that encourages you to think very hard, which was a big disappointment for me as a reader.  The overarching themes of the novel (women's rights, feminism, etc) are hammered so hard, I had a headache by page 10.  I'm not saying that these themes aren't relevant and important (hi, talking to you, President-Elect), but I wish they had been allowed to flower within the prose more naturally.  Instead, because the novel was so much shorter than Lamb's others, I quickly wondered if that meant he had to do away with the thoughtful, more drawn-out narrative that fans of his work are likely used to, and instead fell back on this more directive writing to make sure his points got across.

Overall, this was an enlightening read, and Lamb proves that he still has his flair for historic detail and convoluted family relationships.  However, I have to admit that it's likely my least favorite of his fiction works thus far.  For me, that still means 3 stars on Goodreads though!  This may work for someone who wants to try a Lamb novel but is not ready for one of his longer tomes.

As always, much thanks to Trish at TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour!
Want to find out more?


Friday, October 7, 2016

The Brady Bunch Gone Bad in Commonwealth by Ann Patchett


Title: Commonwealth
Author: Ann Patchett
Publisher: Harper
Publication Date: September 13, 2016
Source: copy received from TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

One Sunday afternoon in Southern California, Bert Cousins shows up at Franny Keating’s christening party uninvited. Before evening falls, he has kissed Franny’s mother, Beverly—thus setting in motion the dissolution of their marriages and the joining of two families.

Spanning five decades, Commonwealth explores how this chance encounter reverberates through the lives of the four parents and six children involved. Spending summers together in Virginia, the Keating and Cousins children forge a lasting bond that is based on a shared disillusionment with their parents and the strange and genuine affection that grows up between them.

When, in her twenties, Franny begins an affair with the legendary author Leon Posen and tells him about her family, the story of her siblings is no longer hers to control. Their childhood becomes the basis for his wildly successful book, ultimately forcing them to come to terms with their losses, their guilt, and the deeply loyal connection they feel for one another.


My Review:

Add it to the "best of 2016" list!  Commonwealth left me enthralled from page 1.  If you've enjoyed Ann Patchett's books in the past (Bel Canto left an impression on me, making her newest novel sound all the more attractive), or if you just love a good family saga, this is your next read.

The family structure here is a bit more complex than "Brady Bunch gone bad," but I couldn't help thinking of America's favorite blended family as I read about the Keating/Cousins kids, who are pretty much the antithesis of the beloved Bradys.  The fateful christening party mentioned in the book's description is the dynamite that blows this family in so many different directions.  Patchett shows you this initial explosion, and then gives you a glimpse of how this affected each member of the family over the subsequent decades.  The story is rich with regrets and guilt that will leave you wondering--what would have happened if Bert and Beverly never met on that first day?  Would it have been for the better, or the worse?

If I had to pick one thing that makes this novel stand out, it's the fluidity as Patchett transitions between characters.  There are SO many family members in the Keating/Cousins clan that it does, admittedly, get confusing at times.  However, this made it all the more impressive that the narrative was able to move from one person to the next without requiring a designated chapter for each character (or even a page break, in many cases).  The story lasts just long enough with each family member that your interest never falters, and you end up with a captivating drama that spans generations.

I can't express enough goodness about this book!  Five stars, must read, go go go.

As always, much thanks to Trish at TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson


Title: Be Frank With Me
Author: Julia Claiborne Johnson
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Publication Date: September 6, 2016
Source: copy received via a giveaway at Book Hooked Blog--I was then asked for an honest review through HarperCollins and TLC Book Tours

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

Reclusive literary legend M. M. “Mimi” Banning has been holed up in her Bel Air mansion for years, but now she’s writing her first book in decades and to ensure timely completion her publisher sends an assistant to monitor her progress.

When Alice Whitley arrives she’s put to work as a companion to Frank, the writer’s eccentric son, who has the wit of Noël Coward, the wardrobe of a 1930s movie star, and very little in common with his fellow fourth-graders. The longer she spends with the Bannings, the more Alice becomes obsessed with two questions: Who is Frank’s father? And will Mimi ever finish that book?

Full of countless only-in-Hollywood moments, Be Frank With Me is a heartwarming story of a mother and son, and the intrepid young woman who is pulled into their unforgettable world.


My Review:

I went into this book without knowing very much (thanks to my penchant for not often reading full book descriptions), but it made the blog rounds rather favorably when the hardcover came out.  I kept it on my radar, then won a copy from Julie at Book Hooked, and was prompted to move it up my to-read list when TLC ran it on tour.  I am so glad that I kicked myself into reading it sooner rather than later.  This is such a fun gem of a book, and certainly a standout debut for Johnson.

The eponymous protagonist of the novel, Frank, is absolutely the best element of this story.  While he is never given any sort of official diagnosis, I made the conjecture that Frank is somewhere on the autism spectrum.  Alice, the narrator, has quite a job ahead of her when she is thrown into Frank's rigidly-ruled world.  However, despite his penchant for monotone diatribes and precise ways of doing things, Frank comes with his own brand of humor that is made even better by his relationship with Alice.  Watching the two of them grow together in the book is both entertaining and heartwarming.

Johnson has managed to bring the perfect mix to this novel: it's emotional, yet fun.  Wise, yet lighthearted.  I haven't read anything quite like it.  If you're looking for a swift-moving story with unique characters that has a little bit of everything, Be Frank With Me is a sure bet.

As always, much thanks to Trish at TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour!

Monday, September 12, 2016

It's time to Do Your Om Thing with Rebecca Pacheco


Title: Do Your Om Thing
Author: Rebecca Pacheco
Publisher: Harper Wave
Publication Date: March 3, 2015
Source: copy received for honest review through TLC Book Tours

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

In Do Your Om Thing, master yoga teacher and creator of the popular blog OmGal.com Rebecca Pacheco shows us that the true practice of yoga is about much more than achieving the perfect headstand or withstanding an hour-long class in a room heated to 100 degrees. "Yoga is not about performance," she tells us, "it's about practice, on your mat and in your life. If you want to get better at anything what should you do? Practice. Confidence, compassion, awareness, joy—if you want more of these—and who doesn't?—yoga offers the skills to practice them."

In her warm, personal, and often hilarious prose, Rebecca translates yogic philosophy for its twenty-first-century devotees, making ancient principles and philosophy feel accessible, relatable, and genuinely rooted in the world in which we live today. And by illuminating how the guiding principles of yoga apply to our modern lives, Rebecca shows us that the true power of a yoga practice is not physical transformation, but mental and spiritual liberation.


My Review:

Yogis, take note!  I loved this book, and I bet many other amateur yogis out there will too.  I read it at the perfect point in my yoga journey.  I've been practicing the physical aspect of yoga (asana) for almost a year now, and while that started as a way for me to cross-train with running and gain flexibility, I've now gotten to the point where I am interested in yoga in and of itself.  You hear bits and pieces about the background and philosophy of yoga in classes, but I have not yet had an instructor who really goes in-depth with any of it.  Plus, I'll be honest--some of it just sounded way too crunchy-granola for me, so I wasn't sure where to begin.

If you find you're in a similar spot with yoga, Do Your Om Thing is for you.  Pacheco leads you through all the ins and outs of yoga philosophy, with a down-to-earth voice that is totally NOT too crunchy-granola. :) The book is easy to follow, and she writes with such wisdom and clarity that I found myself wanting to head right to the mat and put my new knowledge to work.  I never thought I'd say this, but after reading the book, I'm even dying to try meditation (one part of yoga that I've always felt is beyond the abilities of my million-thoughts-at-once brain).  Honestly, there were parts of this book that felt meditative while reading them--I found Pacheco's writing to be thoughtful and calming, a perfect fit for this subject matter.

Do Your Om Thing is not strictly a yoga manual--Pacheco will make you think deeply about how you approach your self, your work, and your relationships within the framework of yoga tradition.  If you're a beginner yogi, I can't say enough good things about it!  If you're ready to learn more about yoga than how to get into Crow Pose, pick up this book ASAP.

As always, much thanks to Trish at TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour!
Want to find out more?  Check out the other blogs on this book tour HERE.  And connect with Rebecca Pacheco on her websiteFacebook, and Twitter.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell (Giveaway!)


Title: The Girls in the Garden
Author: Lisa Jewell
Publisher: Atria
Publication Date: June 7, 2016  (originally published in 2015 as The Girls)
Source: copy received for honest review through TLC Book Tours

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

Imagine that you live on a picturesque communal garden square, an oasis in urban London where your children run free, in and out of other people’s houses. You’ve known your neighbors for years and you trust them. Implicitly. You think your children are safe. But are they really? 

On a midsummer night, as a festive neighborhood party is taking place, preteen Pip discovers her thirteen-year-old sister Grace lying unconscious and bloody in a hidden corner of a lush rose garden. What really happened to her? And who is responsible?

Dark secrets, a devastating mystery, and the games both children and adults play all swirl together in this gripping novel, packed with utterly believable characters and page-turning suspense.


My Review:

If you want a thriller that you can gobble up quickly, I can't recommend The Girls in the Garden enough.  This is a fairly short read, but it moves along quickly and throws so many red herrings at you along the way that you definitely won't feel like you're being shortchanged!

Normally I find that mystery novels with too many suspicious characters begin to feel implausible after a while (could ALL of these people be THIS shady?  Really?!).  However, Jewell finds a way to cast doubt upon nearly every person in the book, while still keeping your interest (and your faith in the story).  You may decide early on that you know who the culprit is, but even if you're correct, you won't be disappointed because you'll have taken so many interesting segues along the way.

I also think that Jewell has really nailed the angst and confusion of 13-year-old-girl life here.  Several of the main characters are in that age range, and much of the story hinges upon the quest for maturity and self-understanding that comes along with that stage of development.  Having been a 13 year old girl once (albeit many moons ago...), many of the struggles the characters faced rang true for me, which made for an even more engaging reading experience.

The Girls in the Garden isn't going to overwhelm you with extraneous detail and long-winded diatribes.  Compared to many other thrillers, it's rather concise and to the point.  But the writing is solid, the characters are fleshed out just enough to keep your attention, and the mystery at the heart of the novel will certainly make you want to devour it as fast as possible.

As always, much thanks to Lisa at TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour!
Want to find out more?  Check out the other blogs on this book tour HERE.  And connect with Lisa Jewell on her website, Facebook, and Twitter.


GIVEAWAY TIME!  TLC Book Tours is running a giveaway for 5 copies of this book, open for entry until October 3, 2016.  Enter using the Rafflecopter below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, July 18, 2016

It's Time to Pump You Up...with Lift by Daniel Kunitz


Title: Lift: Fitness Culture, from Naked Greek and Acrobats to Jazzercise and Ninja Warriors
Author: Daniel Kunitz
Publisher: Harper Wave
Publication Date: July 5, 2016
Source: copy received for honest review through TLC Book Tours

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

A fascinating cultural history of fitness, from Greek antiquity to the era of the “big-box gym” and beyond, exploring the ways in which human exercise has changed over time—and what we can learn from our ancestors.

We humans have been conditioning our bodies for more than 2,500 years, yet it’s only recently that treadmills and weight machines have become the gold standard of fitness. For all this new technology, are we really healthier, stronger, and more flexible than our ancestors?

Where Born to Run began with an aching foot, Lift begins with a broken gym system—one founded on high-tech machinery and isolation techniques that aren’t necessarily as productive as we think. Looking to the past for context, Daniel Kunitz crafts an insightful cultural history of the human drive for exercise, concluding that we need to get back to basics to be truly healthy.

Lift takes us on an enlightening tour through time, beginning with the ancient Greeks, who made a cult of the human body—the word gymnasium derives from the Greek word for “naked”—and following Roman legions, medieval knights, Persian pahlevans, and eighteenth-century German gymnasts. Kunitz discovers the seeds of the modern gym in nineteenth-century Paris, where weight lifting machines were first employed, and takes us all the way up to the game-changer: the feminist movement of the 1960s, which popularized aerobics and calisthenics classes. This ignited the first true global fitness revolution, and Kunitz explores how it brought us to where we are today.

Once a fast-food inhaler and substance abuser, Kunitz reveals his own decade-long journey to becoming ultra-fit using ancient principals of strengthening and conditioning. With Lift, he argues that, as a culture, we are finally returning to this natural ideal—and that it’s to our great benefit to do so.


My Review:

When I heard about this new release, I was intrigued, especially given my recent interest in going back to school to become a personal trainer.  Learning a bit more about the history of exercise and workout trends seemed like a pretty good place to start as I dive into this new career!

Kunitz does a good job of not only tracing the general history of exercise, but also discussing the societal factors that helped (or hindered) its growth through the centuries.  A significant theme throughout the book is the role that feminism has played in exercise, something that I found quite interesting in an arena that has historically often been male-dominated.  However, Kunitz shows that many fitness trends have been driven by either female preferences, or the roles that society has placed upon them.  While some of the historical detail got a bit dense at times, overall it was interesting to trace this growth over time.

The dryness of the historical detail was broken up by the personal anecdotes of Kunitz himself.  Previously inclined to drink and smoke rather than lift and eat smoothies, his transition into the world of exercise was entertaining to read about, and also provides a bit of motivation for those who are looking to get on the fitness bandwagon.  That said, I was also a bit turned off by his obvious favoritism towards CrossFit (and its close relatives--acroyoga, Parkour, etc) as the be-all and end-all of workout regimes.  While I realize that much of his historical musing leads to the point that this sort of functional, well-rounded fitness program is the "ideal", I have trouble getting behind the idea that one fitness program is inherently "better" than another.  I am not at all denying that CrossFit is an excellent workout (and I've actually been very interested in trying it myself for a while now).  However, to say that a CrossFitter is "more fit" or in better health than a marathoner, cyclist, or dedicated Jazzerciser feels wrong to me, if only because people have different definitions of what "fitness goals" entail and the paths they would prefer to take to get there.

This ended up as a 3-star Goodreads review for me: enlightening on the historical side, fun to read for the personal stories from the author, but occasionally tedious in detail and has a bit of a bias that turned me off.

As always, much thanks to Trish and TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour!
Want to find out more?  Check out the other blogs on this book tour HERE.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

A Runner's Read! Run the World by Becky Wade


Title: Run the World: My 3,500 Mile Journey Through Running Cultures Around the Globe
Author: Becky Wade
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: July 5, 2016
Source: copy received for honest review through TLC Book Tours

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

Fresh off a successful collegiate running career—with multiple NCAA All-American honors and two Olympic Trials qualifying marks to her name—Becky Wade was no stranger to international competition. But after years spent safely sticking to the training methods she knew, Becky was curious about how her counterparts in other countries approached the sport to which she’d dedicated over half of her life. So in 2012, as a recipient of the Watson Fellowship, she packed four pairs of running shoes, cleared her schedule for the year, and took off on a journey to infiltrate diverse running communities around the world. What she encountered far exceeded her expectations and changed her outlook into the sport she loved.

Over the next 12 months—visiting 9 countries with unique and storied running histories, logging over 3,500 miles running over trails, tracks, sidewalks, and dirt roads—Becky explored the varied approaches of runners across the globe. Whether riding shotgun around the streets of London with Olympic champion sprinter Usain Bolt, climbing for an hour at daybreak to the top of Ethiopia’s Mount Entoto just to start her daily run, or getting lost jogging through the bustling streets of Tokyo, Becky’s unexpected adventures, keen insights, and landscape descriptions take the reader into the heartbeat of distance running around the world.

Upon her return to the United States, she incorporated elements of the training styles she’d sampled into her own program, and her competitive career skyrocketed. When she made her marathon debut in 2013, winning the race in a blazing 2:30, she became the third-fastest woman marathoner under the age of 25 in U.S. history, qualifying for the 2016 Olympic Trials and landing a professional sponsorship from Asics. 

From the feel-based approach to running that she learned from the Kenyans, to the grueling uphill workouts she adopted from the Swiss, to the injury-recovery methods she learned from the Japanese, Becky shares the secrets to success from runners and coaches around the world. The story of one athlete’s fascinating journey, Run the World is also a call to change the way we approach the world’s most natural and inclusive sport.


My Review:

If Becky Wade is not the luckiest runner-traveler out there, I don't know who is!  With the help of the Watson Fellowship, she got to travel around the world for a YEAR and run.  And run.  And run some more.  And learn about how other cultures approach running.  If that doesn't sound like an insanely cool trip-of-a-lifetime, we have very different bucket lists. :)

Run the World is Wade's memoir of her year of running travels.  If you're a runner, this book will open your mind to all manner of different running techniques and traditions.  As Wade mentions often, American runners tend to focus on gadgetry, speedwork speedwork speedwork, and structured training plans.  However, she found that success as a runner doesn't always translate to keeping track of your pace on your Garmin with every run.  And every great runner does not always "carb-load" with pasta the night before a big race.  The things we take for granted as "must-haves" or "must-dos" as runners are not always available or desirable in other running cultures.  Wade's book highlights those differences and the ways she was able to combine some of them with her old running routines to make her training even more effective.

There are so many facets of this book for readers to enjoy.  Yes, there is the exploration of running culture, but the book is also peppered with international recipes for yummy runner foods that Wade discovered throughout her trip; descriptions of beautiful running locales the world round; and the wide variety of people she was able to form connections with in the running community.  My initial awe at the details of Wade's journey quickly combined with admiration for her ability to comfortably jump right in to cultures that were entirely new to her.  Wade rarely stayed in hotels or hostels, instead managing to find lodging with local runners or coaches during her stay in each country.  Not only did this steep her in the daily life of the host country even more, but it required her to have a certain amount of bravery as she experienced a trial-by-fire introduction to each new culture.  I'm not sure I could have done that with such a low level of anxiety!

Run the World is an excellent read, especially for the runners and the world travelers among you.  Bonus: just before I opened my computer to write this post last night, I pulled my new issue of Runner's World out of the mailbox and found a feature about Becky Wade (and Run the World) inside!  So check her out there as well.  She is also racing in the US Olympic Track and Field Trials THIS WEEK in Portland, Oregon, vying for a spot to compete in the 3000m steeplechase.

Go, Becky, go!  This is one runner/reader who will certainly be rooting for you from afar after following your running journey in this book.

As always, much thanks to Trish and TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour.
Want to find out more?  Check out the other blogs on this book tour HERE. And connect with Becky Wade via Twitter and Instagram.


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Giveaway/Beach Read Alert! Mystic Summer by Hannah McKinnon


Title: Mystic Summer
Author: Hannah McKinnon
Publisher: Atria
Publication Date: June 7, 2016
Source: copy received for honest review through TLC Book Tours

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

Since finishing graduate school, Maggie Griffin has worked hard to build an enviable life in Boston. She’s an elementary school teacher in a tony Boston suburb, a devoted sister, and a loving aunt. With her childhood best friend’s wedding quickly approaching and her own relationship blossoming, this is the summer she has been waiting for.

But when Maggie’s career is suddenly in jeopardy, her life begins to unravel. Stricken, Maggie returns home to seaside Mystic, Connecticut, where she expects to find comfort in family and familiarity. Instead, she runs into Cameron Wilder, a young man from her past who has also returned home, and whose life has taken a turn that puts Maggie’s city struggles in harsh perspective. When tragedy strikes for Cameron, Maggie is faced with big decisions as she weighs what matters most and strives to stay true to the person she’s become.

Set against the gorgeous backdrop of a New England summer when past and present collide, Mystic Summer is a gorgeous novel about looking back, moving forward, and the beauty that blooms when fate intervenes.


My Review:

I haven't read a lot of beachy romances lately, but when I saw the title of Mystic Summer and realized it was set in Mystic, Connecticut, there was NO way I could turn it down!  Nothing like a hometown (well, almost hometown...I grew up in next-door Groton, but spent a fair amount of my youth hanging around Mystic) read to kick off the summer.

Even though my main attraction here was the setting, I ended up loving the story itself.  Maggie is a great protagonist--she's a smart woman, but makes a fair amount of mistakes as she navigates this uncertain time in her life.  I appreciate that she isn't a perfect character who never fumbles or questions her decisions.  She also finds herself in a rather messy love triangle, the results of which I found satisfying without being corny or predictable.  There may not be anything groundbreaking or heart-stopping to this novel, but it's got BEACH READ written all over it.  Fun characters, summer flings, high school nostalgia, and even a wedding thrown in--what else could you ask for?  I was able to read this in a few small sittings, and it was a great choice at a time in my reading life when I really needed a smartly-written, yet lighthearted novel.

As a local, I'll say that McKinnon's ability to bring out the atmosphere of the town was admirable.  I loved all the shout-outs to nearby shops and landmarks (Bank Square Books, Harp and Hound, the drawbridge, woohoo!).  However, I am morally obligated to point out a few inaccuracies, though I'll keep the list short in order to not sound TOO picky: based on where Maggie lives, she and her friends should be alumni of Fitch High (GO FALCONS!!) not Stonington High, the Naval Base is in Groton (not New London), and there is NO local resident who eats at Mystic Pizza nearly as often as Maggie and her friends do (tourist trap! haha).  Okay, I'm done.  Told you I was being picky.  ;)

Anyway, since today is the second official day of summer, I'm recommending this one for your poolside read list for sure!

As always, much thanks to Lisa and TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour.
Want to find out more?  Check out the other blogs on this book tour HERE. And connect with Hannah McKinnon via Twitter and Facebook.
GIVEAWAY TIME!!
The publisher has made 1 copy of Mystic Summer available to be won by one of my lucky readers.  Just fill out the Rafflecopter below!  US/Canada entrants only please, giveaway ends 6/28/16.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, June 13, 2016

He Will Be My Ruin by K.A. Tucker


Title: He Will Be My Ruin
Author: K.A. Tucker
Publisher: Atria
Publication Date: February 2, 2016
Source: copy received for honest review through TLC Book Tours

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

Twenty-eight-year-old Maggie Sparkes arrives in New York City to pack up what’s left of her best friend’s belongings after a suicide that has left everyone stunned. The police have deemed the evidence conclusive: Celine got into bed, downed a bottle of Xanax and a handle of Maker’s Mark, and never woke up. But when Maggie discovers secrets in the childhood lock box hidden in Celine’s apartment, she begins asking questions. Questions about the man Celine fell in love with. The man she never told anyone about, not even Maggie. The man who Celine herself claimed would be her ruin.

On the hunt for answers that will force the police to reopen the case, Maggie uncovers more than she bargained for about Celine’s private life—and inadvertently puts herself on the radar of a killer who will stop at nothing to keep his crimes undiscovered.


My Review:

I haven't jumped into the mystery genre in a while, but I was happy to give this one a shot after reading that description.  I'm new to K.A. Tucker's work, but recognized her name, and this was a great first novel of hers to jump into.  He Will Be My Ruin combines a sassy protagonist, several shady suspects, and of course, a few good red herrings along the way.  I was pleasantly surprised by the end result.

At first, I thought for sure that I had this mystery all figured out from the get-go.  I had it narrowed down to two possible suspects, and couldn't see how Tucker would manage to have it NOT be so predictably one of them.  However, even though I kept going back to my two main targets, by the end of the book I had suspected EVERYBODY (except maybe Maggie) at least once.  Tucker builds just enough oddity into each character that it's easy to concoct a motive for nearly any of them.  Plus, she creates unexpected side plots that flesh out the mystery more and more as the novel goes on.  I won't give away the ending, but I'll say that it was a spectacular finish that left me happy to have gone on the journey to get there.

This review is about as straightforward as it gets: if you love a good whodunit, with lots of quirky characters and a little bit of romantic spice thrown in, then He Will Be My Ruin is a good bet.

As always, much thanks to Lisa and TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour!
Want to find out more?  Check out the other blogs on this book tour HERE. And connect with K.A. Tucker via her website, Twitter, and Facebook.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

EARTHQUAKE! All Stories Are Love Stories by Elizabeth Percer


Title: All Stories Are Love Stories
Author: Elizabeth Percer
Publisher: Harper
Publication Date: March 22, 2016
Source: copy received for honest review through TLC Book Tours

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

On Valentine’s Day, two major earthquakes strike San Francisco within the same hour, devastating the city and its primary entry points, sparking fires throughout, and leaving its residents without power, gas, or water.

Among the disparate survivors whose fates will become intertwined are Max, a man who began the day with birthday celebrations tinged with regret; Vashti, a young woman who has already buried three of the people she loved most . . . but cannot forget Max, the one man who got away; and Gene, a Stanford geologist who knows far too much about the terrifying earthquakes that have damaged this beautiful city and irrevocably changed the course of their lives.

As day turns to night and fires burn across the city, Max and Vashti—trapped beneath the rubble of the collapsed Nob Hill Masonic Auditorium—must confront each other and face the truth about their past, while Gene embarks on a frantic search through the realization of his worst nightmares to find his way back to his ailing lover and their home.


My Review:

As many of you know by now, I am a sucker for any book that gets compared to another book that I already enjoyed.  Which I KNOW is unfair, because if every novel that was "the next Gone Girl" was REALLY the next Gone Girl, there would be about eleventy billion Gone Girls.  But I am nothing if not consistent.  All Stories Are Love Stories has drawn some comparison to Station Eleven, so really I did not need to know more--sign me up, I wanna read it.

I quickly realized that (as with most book jacket comparisons) the similarities between All Stories Are Love Stories and Station Eleven end pretty quickly.  They both have a bit of a post-apocalyptic feel to them: Station Eleven's is literal, as the civilized world ends after a deadly virus, but in All Stories Are Love Stories, the feeling is figurative, as the characters struggle through death and disaster after an earthquake ("the big one") hits San Francisco.  Beyond that comparison, I think it's safe to say that Elizabeth Percer's new novel has a life of its own.

This novel is interesting because it feels like two separate stories (and I'm not referring to the 2 different primary plot lines: Max & Vashti vs. Gene).  There's the disaster story of the earthquake, which is formidable and striking in its own right.  But then, against this fiery backdrop, you also have the more intricate human stories within it: the love stories, if you will.  Max and Vashti's relationship is definitely the most captivating, as they reunite after a sad separation that unravels slowly for the reader.  (Admittedly, sometimes too slowly--I liked their connection, but often wondered why the details of their history together had to be pulled out so painstakingly.)  But there's also Gene, fighting his way back to his husband Franklin; Ellen, a TV reporter who is trying to decide exactly how much she loves her job; and a group of mismatched survivors trapped in a downtown theater, trying to navigate each other as they also navigate a way out.

None of these "love" stories would be as impactful without the larger earthquake story behind them.  This disastrous scenario creates a sort of do-or-die situation that forces each character to show their true self, and address the nitty-gritty details of their relationships.

Sounds pretty unique, right?  It most certainly is.  However, I have to admit that this probably won't be a novel that sticks with me for very long.  I like the unusual blend of characters that it brings together, and the earthquake situation is written with a degree of detail that shows a fair amount of research on Percer's part.  That said, the mental narratives of some of the characters were a bit too drawn out for me at times.  I don't mind an introspective novel, but when there's constant musing without much forward motion, I start to drift, and that was the case here.

My final verdict was a 3-star Goodreads review: a solid, distinctive novel with a lot of intriguing detail, but a bit too run-on at times to make it stand out in for me.  However, if more reflective, lingering prose is your thing, this may still be up your alley.

As always, much thanks to Trish and TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour!
Want to find out more?  Check out the other blogs on this book tour HERE. And connect with Elizabeth Percer via her website and Facebook.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Girl in the Red Coat (Giveaway!)


Title: The Girl in the Red Coat
Author: Kate Hamer
Publisher: Melville House
Publication Date: February 16, 2016
Source: copy received for honest review through TLC Book Tours

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

Newly single mom Beth has one constant, gnawing worry: that her dreamy eight-year-old daughter, Carmel, who has a tendency to wander off, will one day go missing.

And then one day, it happens: On a Saturday morning thick with fog, Beth takes Carmel to a local outdoor festival, they get separated in the crowd, and Carmel is gone.

Shattered, Beth sets herself on the grim and lonely mission to find her daughter, keeping on relentlessly even as the authorities tell her that Carmel may be gone for good.

Carmel, meanwhile, is on a strange and harrowing journey of her own—to a totally unexpected place that requires her to live by her wits, while trying desperately to keep in her head, at all times, a vision of her mother …

Alternating between Beth’s story and Carmel’s, and written in gripping prose that won’t let go, The Girl in the Red Coat—like Emma Donoghue’s Room and M. L. Stedman’s The Light Between Oceans—is an utterly immersive story that’s impossible to put down . . . and impossible to forget.


My Review:

That word "immersive" from the last line of the plot summary is COMPLETELY on point.  I was immersed, steeped, saturated in this story.  The Girl in the Red Coat will have you working your page-flipping fingers at Olympic pace.

I went into the novel a bit unsure, because as much as I loved the book's description, the first couple of chapters didn't hook me right away.  I think this is because Carmel and Beth are such unusual protagonists that it took me a while to get a good grip on their personalities.  I didn't understand their peculiarities (especially Carmel's) until I went further into the book.  However, by the time of Carmel's disappearance, my initial hesitations had vanished, allowing me to sink into the story.

The novel alternates between Carmel and Beth's POVs, and Hamer writes them in a way that creates a strong connection between the two, even when they are physically separated.  The mother-daughter bond and its many complexities would be a great discussion point for any book clubs that pick this one up.  That said, I did find Carmel's POV to be more gripping for the reader than Beth's--Carmel's situation stays fluid and unpredictable for most of the book, while Beth's chapters started to become a bit repetitive after a while, without as much forward motion.  This wasn't a deal-breaker for me in terms of enjoying the story, but it was worth noting that I often flew through Beth's chapters to get more of Carmel.

It's worth noting that the conclusion is very open-ended--so if that's not your cup of tea, you've been warned.  However, I LOVED all of the unanswered questions at the end, because they left me with so much to ponder about the various relationships in the novel.

Overall, The Girl in the Red Coat was a super fun read.  It's an excellent thriller, with many of the riveting plot elements that you've loved in other books of the genre, but also with so many unique twists and turns that it won't be a novel easily forgotten.

As always, much thanks to Lisa and TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour!
Want to find out more?  Check out the other blogs on this book tour HERE.

GIVEAWAY TIME!!  TLC Book Tours is giving away one copy of The Girl in the Red Coat to one of my lucky readers.  US/Canada entrants only.  Giveaway ends 3/23/16.  Enter with the Rafflecopter below!
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Thursday, November 12, 2015

Mendocino Fire by Elizabeth Tallent


Title: Mendocino Fire
Author: Elizabeth Tallent
Publisher: Harper
Publication Date: October 20, 2015
Source: copy received for honest review through TLC Book Tours

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

The son of an aging fisherman becomes ensnared in a violent incident that forces him to confront his broken relationship with his father. A woman travels halfway across the country to look for her ex-husband, only to find her attention drawn in a surprising direction. A millworker gives safe harbor to his son's pregnant girlfriend, until an ambiguous gesture upsets their uneasy equilibrium. These and other stories—of yearning, loss, and tentative new connections—come together in Mendocino Fire, the first new collection in two decades from the widely admired Elizabeth Tallent.

Diverse in character and setting, rendered in an exhilarating, exacting prose, these stories confirm Tallent's enduring gift for capturing relationships in moments of transformation: marriages breaking apart, people haunted by memories of old love and reaching haltingly toward new futures. The result is a book that reminds us how our lives are shaped by moments of fracture and fragmentation, by expectations met and thwarted, and by our never-ending quest to be genuinely seen.


My Review:

I am so impressed by this collection of short fiction.  While some short story collections show a great deal of variety in tone, in Mendocino Fire, Tallent has put together a cohesive group of tales with such similarity in atmosphere that the transition from one to the next is incredibly smooth.  However, just because the overall feel of each story is similar, does not mean that they all don't have unique subjects and merits.  While many themes recur throughout the book (marital strife, loss, familial discontent), each story has a perspective that's all its own.

I enjoyed the subtleties in Tallent's writing style.  I found myself re-reading passages at times in order to make sure they could fully sink in.  While the primary 'moral' of each story is made quite clear by the time you reach the end, there are always several smaller, less obvious lessons for your brain to chew on as well.  I never object to a book that makes me think!  Each story explores a different aspect of romantic and family relationships--often aspects that are uncomfortable, or difficult to admit to.  Even so, Tallent approaches each one with an impressive level of thoughtfulness and depth.

If I had to pick a favorite (because don't we always have to pick a favorite in a short story collection)?  I'd have to go with "Mystery Caller".  A woman (divorced, but now remarried with kids) occasionally calls her ex-husband, but never says anything when he answers.  The result is surprising, sad, but a little bit comforting as well.

Fans of short stories need to put this one on the radar.  It's certainly not an uplifting read (that atmosphere I talked about before?  Pretty heavy.), but if you don't mind that, this is an excellent collection to devour.

As always, much thanks to Trish and TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour!
Want to find out more?  Check out the other blogs on this book tour HERE.
Elizabeth Tallent

Monday, September 7, 2015

Again and Again by Ellen Bravo


Title: Again and Again
Author: Ellen Bravo
Publisher: She Writes Press
Publication Date: August 11, 2015
Source: copy received for honest review through TLC Book Tours

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

If sexual shenanigans disqualified candidates for Congress, the U.S. would have no government. But what if the candidate was a pro-choice Republican supported by feminist groups—and a college rapist whose secret could be exposed by a leading women’s rights advocate? 

Again and Again tells the story of Deborah Borenstein—as an established women’s rights leader in 2010 Washington, DC, and as a college student, thirty years earlier, whose roommate is raped by a fellow student. The perpetrator is now a Senate candidate who has the backing of major feminist groups . . . which puts Deborah in a difficult position. Torn between her past and present, as the race goes on, Deborah finds herself tested as a wife, a mother, a feminist, and a friend
.

My Review:

After reading several books lately, both fiction and nonfiction, that address the crime of sexual assault, I was intrigued by the release of Ellen Bravo's first novel, Again and Again.  Bravo has other nonfiction works in her repertoire, but this is her first foray into fiction, and with her background in feminism, work/family balance, and other women's issues, I figured this would make for a unique take on the topic.

As expected, Bravo really nailed the handling of date rape as a societal problem.  While her description of the actual rape is harrowing to say the least, I was left especially frustrated while I read about the disciplinary case that the victim brought forth afterwards.  Bravo expertly expresses the despair, grief, and fear of rape victims in the aftermath of an attack, and the many roadblocks they often encounter from the judicial system.  A lot of important points are made about the right and wrong ways to help a victim.  Overall, I think there are few fiction novels that handle this issue in such a realistic and detailed way.

That said, where I feel the novel was lacking is in the relationships between the characters.  While a lot of care was taken in the handling of the rape issue, less meticulous crafting is seen in the development of the bonds between the central characters.  For example, many of them jump wildly between emotions of love/happiness and anger/sadness within a single scene.  This happens a lot between Deborah and her daughter Becca, as well as Deborah and her husband Aaron.  A conversation that begins with hugs and kisses and laughter devolves quickly into screams and slammed doors, often without a provocation that is jarring enough to warrant it.  While the issues these people are grappling with are indeed sensitive, I just didn't always find their reactions to be wholly believable, or to have the level of subtlety that I'd expect in a real-life interaction.

Where this became a real sticking point for me was in Deborah's martial issues with Aaron.  I won't give any spoilers here, but I was left very frustrated by Deborah's inability to accept any blame for their problems.  All of their issues were placed squarely on Aaron's shoulders, and as a result, it seems as if Deborah does not grow at all as a character throughout the book.  She is in the right, always.  Without getting into the details, I thought Aaron's character was certainly wrong on many points, but Deborah was not always completely blameless--and those flaws are never addressed.  This feels like a significant oversight in character development.

I'd say my overall reaction is rather middle-of-the-road.  While I love how Bravo has addressed the personal. societal, and political implications of sexual assault in this novel, I am less impressed by how the characters interacted and changed.  I still think this is an important read if you're interested in the subject matter--you may just need to adjust your expectations of the protagonists.

As always, much thanks to Lisa and TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour!
Want to find out more?  Check out the other blogs on this book tour HERE.  And connect with Ellen Bravo on Twitter and her website.


 
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