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Thursday, June 29, 2017

Review: We Shall Not All Sleep by Estep Nagy



Blurb from Goodreads:
The entangled pasts of two ruling class New England families come to light over three summer days on an island in Maine in this extraordinary debut novel.

1964. The Hillsingers and the Quicks have shared the small Maine island of Seven for generations. Though technically family—Jim Hillsinger and Billy Quick married Park Avenue sisters Lila and Hannah Blackwell—they do not mix. Now, on the anniversary of Hannah’s death, Lila feels grief pulling her toward Billy. Jim, a spy recently ousted from the CIA, decides to carry out the threat Lila explicitly forbid: to banish their youngest son, twelve-year-old Catta, to the neighboring island of Baffin for twenty-four hours in an attempt to make a man out of him.

Set during three summer days, Estep Nagy’s debut novel moves among the communities of Seven as longstanding tensions become tactical face-offs where anything is fair game for ammunition. Vividly capturing the rift between the cold warriors of Jim’s generation and the rebellious seekers of Catta’s, We Shall Not All Sleep is a richly told story of American class, family, and manipulation—a compelling portrait of a unique and privileged WASP stronghold on the brink of dissolution. 
My Review:
 
I am not exaggerating when I tell you that this was one of the oddest, most scatter-brained and difficult to discern books that I have ever read.  There were so many threads and POV that I surely missed something in this book - some significance - and generally that would mean a low rating for me but something about this also felt very good to me. The e-ARC had a lot of formatting issues such that I almost want to read a final copy to see if there are more chapter breaks.  As it read, POVs were changed without break and it made the book difficult to read, at points.  I also had a hard time following the chapters that were flashbacks and/or slipped into the past.  Although the book more of less came together at the end with these threads and between the past and present, I'm not sure it delivered on what it promised.  Yes, it was an incredibly unique setting and it certainly showed a tension and struggle between two families that own one island but I can't help but feel that I missed something huge about the moral of this story.  It may just be me but I know I will think about this book long after I've finished it and that may be the true mark of a remarkable read.
We Shall Not All Sleep comes out next week on July 4, 2017, and you can purchase HERE.  This book evades any genre and is definitely an interesting, if odd, read!  
This is how the world crushes you, he thought. There was no announcement. There was no freakish blow or lightning or floods or even bears. There was no mystery, not even any struggle or surprise. It was infinitely simple, you were forced into a series of small bad decisions that slowly and irrevocably cut off your options. And then, once you were confused and desperate and worn down by hunger and cold and whatever else--when at last you could no longer move or think--then the crows came down from their trees.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Review: A French Affair by Katie Fforde



Blurb from Goodreads:
Gina and Sally Makepiece have inherited a stall in the French House - an antiques centre nestled in the heart of the English countryside.

Gina is determined to drag the French House and its grumpy owner into the twenty-first century. Bearing all the attributes of a modern-day Mr Rochester, Matthew Ballinger is less than happy with the whirlwind that has arrived on his doorstep.

The last thing either of them want is to fall in love.

But will a trip to France change their minds?
My Review:
 
You guys already know about my Katie Fforde love (here, here and here) so I jumped at the chance to review her latest being offered up for the kindle this summer.  I really do love how they are finally making a lot of books from her backlist available on kindle for the first time even if this particular book wasn't my favorite of hers.  But, like pizza, even when Katie Fforde's books aren't my favorite, there is still a lot to love in them.  A French Affair was fun - lighthearted, romantic and interesting, I just wish there had been a bit more of France in it. It also meandered a bit in terms of sub-plots but it had that same comfort I have come to expect from Katie's books, something that we don't get in non-British romance. Of course, lots of tea/coffee/afternoon breaks were involved and I particularly loved Gina's sister, Sally. She offered a fun break in the romance.  I definitely recommend this one if you like Antiques Roadshow!
A French Affair comes out for the first time on kindle next week on July 7, 2017, and you can purchase HERE.
He was looking at her intently and Gina found she couldn't meet his gaze. She wasn't sure she could conceal how she felt about him. She'd suddenly realised that what she felt for him wasn't just a crush. It was much, much more than that. You didn't pine for someone you simple had a crush on; you didn't want to protect them, to save them from marauding gift-shop owners and grasping exes. She'd fallen in love with him.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Review: The Drowned Girls (Angie Pallorino #1) by Loreth Anne White



Blurb from Goodreads:
He surfaced two years ago. Then he disappeared ... 

But Detective Angie Pallorino never forgot the violent rapist who left a distinctive calling card—crosses etched into the flesh of his victim’s foreheads. 

When a comatose Jane Doe is found in a local cemetery, sexually assaulted, mutilated, and nearly drowned, Angie is struck by the eerie similarities to her earlier unsolved rapes. Could he be back?

Then the body of a drowned young woman floats up in the Gorge, also bearing the marks of the serial rapist, and the hunt for a predator becomes a hunt for a killer. Assigned to the joint investigative task force, Angie is more than ready to prove that she has what it takes to break into the all-male homicide division. But her private life collides with her professional ambitions when she’s introduced to her temporary partner, James Maddocks—a man she’d met the night before in an intense, anonymous encounter.

Together, Angie and Maddocks agree to put that night behind them. But as their search for the killer intensifies so does their mutual desire. And Angie’s forays into the mind of a monster shake lose some unsettling secrets about her own past . . . 

How can she fight for the truth when it turns out her whole life is a lie? 
My Review:
 
This was SO good!  I have been wanting this type of read for so long, and by that I mean a book that is suspenseful, has an element of romance, is an interesting crime procedural but hits that balance between detail and not being boring.  I am so happy this will be a series! Angie is the perfect MC of these books - smart, complex, fierce and far from perfect but so real. I just devoured this book - it had seriously creepy elements almost like Silence of the Lambs but it was also straightforward in just trying to catch a serial killer.  The setting is on the island of Victoria, BC and was perfect.  Loreth Anne White is a master at atmosphere! Sometimes it's hardest to review books that shine and this is one such instance but I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this book and you should definitely pick up this series.

The Drowned Girls comes soon on June 20, 2017, and you can purchase HERE.  This book was so good and I can't wait for book two, The Lullaby Girl, which is scheduled to be released later this year on November 14, 2017, and you can pre-order HERE.
We all lie.
We all guard secrets--sometimes terrible ones--a side to us so dark, so shameful, that we quickly avert our eyes from the shadow we might glimpse in the mirror.
Instead we lock our dark halves deep in the basement of our souls. And on the surface of our lives, we work industriously to shape the public story of our selves. We say, "Look, world, this is me." We craft posts on social media . . See this wonderful lunch I'm eating at the trendy restaurant with my besties, see my sexy shoes, my cute puppy, boyfriend, tight as sin a bikini. See my gloriously perfect life . . . see what a fucking fabulous time I'm having drunk and at this party with my boobs swelling out of my sparkly tank top. Just look at those hot guys draped all over me. Aren't you jealous . . .
And then you wait to see how many people LIKE this fabricated version of yourself, your mood hinging on the number of clicks. Comments. Who commented.
But darkness has a way of seeping through the cracks. It seeks the light . . .

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Review: The Chalk Artist by Allegra Goodman



Blurb from Goodreads:
Tension arises in the love affair of a young artist for whom nothing is permanent and his girlfriend, a teacher who believes that things are meant to last by the New York Times bestselling author and National Book Award finalist.

This is a compelling love story between two very different young people: Collin, a disarming chalk artist who thinks nothing of erasing his dazzling work, and Nina, an idealistic teacher who struggles every day to make a lasting impact on her students. Wanting Collin to realize his full talent, Nina warily introduces him to her powerful father, who owns the most cutting edge virtual reality game company in the world. Add to this a brilliant but unstable pupil of Nina’s who is gaming obsessed, and you have contemporary life caught in the crosshairs by one of our most charming and socially astute literary voices.  
My Review:
 
This was one of the most unique and intriguing books I've ever read.  I'm still not even sure what happened in it. The blurb is, mostly, correct but it doesn't tell you anywhere close to all of the facets in this book.  Nor does the blurb detail these very important if stringent magical realism chapters of the book that take place as if you were playing a highly realized video game.  It was an odd sensation and I didn't know where it was going at first; I may still not know where it is going. This book had a lot of parts and I didn't care about them equally and I'm not sure that all of them worked.  What did work for me was Collin and Nina - not just together but apart - These characters were the kind I could read about all day because they were so well developed and complex.  However, I didn't always love the chapters in the game - these were easy to skim even if highly (overly?) descriptive. The way the author tried to make various parts of the book come together fell a bit short to me but I still count this book as a success because it was weird and so different.  Definitely going to check out this author's past and future works.
The Chalk Artist comes out later this month on June 13, 2017, and you can purchase HERE.  This book intrigued me enough to want to read more from this author!  
A stranger had been telling his secrets, publishing his dreams before he was born.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Review: The Whole Way Home by Sarah Creech



Blurb from Goodreads:
A ferocious talent on the brink of making it big in Nashville must confront her small town past and an old love she’s never forgotten in this engaging novel—a soulful ballad filled with romance, heartbreak, secrets, and scandal from the author of Season of the Dragonflies.

Playing to packed houses while her hit song rushes up the charts, country singer and fiddler Jo Lover is poised to become a big Nashville star like her idols, Loretta, Reba, and Sheryl. To ensure her success, Jo has carefully crafted her image: a pretty, sassy, down-to-earth girl from small-town Virginia who pours her heart into her songs.

But the stage persona she’s built is threatened when her independent label merges with big-time Capitol Records, bringing Nashville heartthrob JD McCoy—her first love—back into her life. Long ago Jo played with JD’s band. Then something went wrong, they parted ways and took their own crooked roads to stardom. Now, Jo’s excited—and terrified—to see him again. 

When the label reunites them for a show, the old sparks fly, the duet they sing goes viral, and fans begin clamoring for more—igniting the media’s interest in the compelling singer. Why is a small-town girl like Jo so quiet about her past? When did she and JD first meet? What split them apart? All too soon, the painful secret she's been hiding is uncovered; a shocking revelation that threatens to destroy her reputation and her dreams. To salvage her life and her career, Jo must finally face the past—and her feelings for JD—to become the true Nashville diva she was meant to be.
My Review:
 
This one went off the rails! The beginning was actually okay for me - the premise intrigued me because I LOVE the movie The Thing Called Love and I love Nashville even though I don't really give a lick about country music.  This sounded like a pretty epic second chance romance from its description and it started off that way . . . and then, this whole other story line popped up and divided the attention of this book.  I liked both threads and thought each of them would have made its own book fairly well but putting them together just confused me and made this book way too long.  It got to a point where the characters were making these off the wall decisions and I just couldn't turn another page.  I think this one would have worked a lot better with some editing and attention to either one of the stories but not both and not together.

The Whole Way Home comes out next month on June 6, 2017, and you can purchase HERE. While this definitely didn't work for me, I hope you have better luck!
J.D. told the crowd, "I guess my fiddle player just showed up." 
She laughed, and it was like nothing he'd heard before. She laughed without hesitation, without boundaries. It made him lean closer to her. Her laugh was a magnet. She stepped right in front of him and spoke into the microphone. "Hi there. So sorry I'm late. Got snagged in a potato sack." 
The crowd laughed too and clapped. They were drawn to her, that much was clear. More people took a sat in the bleachers. Jo's hair smelled like a summer ripe cucumber cut straight from the vine. Copperheads and rattlesnakes smelled that way too--it's how you knew they were near. Jo was so beautiful that looking at her felt like poison. 
"Ready?" she said to J.D.
To the crowd he said, "Let's try this one more time." 
Jo began tapping her boot and watched him for the start. 
J.D. was certain her loved her the moment she made that fiddle cry.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Review: Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley



Blurb from Goodreads:
Sometimes love is written in the margins ...

Henry and Rachel were best friends once. Rachel had a huge crush on Henry, but that was before she moved away, before her brother Cal drowned.

Now, Henry works in his father's bookstore, Howling Books, with the famous "letter library", a section of the shop where customers are encouraged to circle words and leave love letters inside their favourite books.

When Rachel returns from by the sea, the place that took her brother, she starts working beside Henry. At the book shop, she must gain strength from the bond she shares with Henry ... and from the written word.

Bit by bit, Rachel realises that to build a future, she must look to the words people have left behind.

This is a love story for everyone who loves books. 
My Review:
 
This was one of my most highly anticipated reads for 2017 -- how could it not be when it was described as a love story for everyone who loves books?  I love books and the premise of this sung to me.  While it didn't live up to my high expectations, it was still enjoyable and had moments of brilliance. What I liked - the characters, the bookstore, some of the language. What I didn't like - the amount of time it took to get to the heart of the matter.  Something about the conflict avoidance in this book felt off to me - the missteps, the letters that weren't read, the facts that weren't disclosed.  There was a lot going on and I think this book would have benefited from a bit of restraint. I have very mixed emotions about this book because it had such potential but I wish it wouldn't have veered off in so many directions.

Words in Deep Blue comes out next month on June 6, 2017 and you can purchase HERE.  I definitely recommend this one for contemporary YA fans!
But I do believe we have choices--how we love and how much, what we read, where we travel. How we live after the person we love has died or left us. Whether or not we decide to take the risk and live again. 
But what is the point? I imagine you asking. For me it is this. On a night when I could hear the ocean coming in through the window of my room, a woman I would marry and have a child with told me she loved me. Our son just a hint on our skins. The stars were milk on the darkness. I did not think about losing her. I thought only that she loved me, and we were happy. 

Friday, May 19, 2017

Review: Perennials by Mandy Berman



Blurb from Goodreads:
The quintessential summer read: a sharp, poignant coming-of-age novel about the magic of camp and the enduring power of female friendship, for readers of Stephanie Danler, Anton DiSclafani, Jennifer Close, and Curtis Sittenfeld

At what point does childhood end and adulthood begin? Mandy Berman s evocative debut novel captures, through the lens of summer camp, a place that only appears to be untouched by the passing of time, both the thrills and pain of growing up. 

Rachel Rivkin and Fiona Larkin used to treasure their summers together as campers at Camp Marigold. Now, reunited as counselors after their first year of college, their relationship is more complicated. Rebellious Rachel, a street-smart city kid raised by a single mother, has been losing patience with her best friend s insecurities; Fiona, the middle child of a not-so-perfect suburban family, envies Rachel s popularity with their campers and fellow counselors. For the first time, the two friends start keeping secrets from each other. Through them, as well as from the perspectives of their fellow counselors, campers, and families, we witness the tensions of the turbulent summer build to a tragic event, which forces Rachel and Fiona to confront their pasts and the adults they re becoming. 

A seductive blast of nostalgia, a striking portrait of adolescent longing, and a tribute to both the complicated nature and the enduring power of female friendship, Perennials will speak to everyone who still remembers that bittersweet moment when innocence is lost forever. 
My Review:
 
This was blurbed by and compared to so many great authors that I was so excited to read this one, plus SUMMER CAMP!  Unfortunately, though, this spiraled off into so many directions with so many POV that the core of it was muddled beyond repair.  In my opinion, there are not nearly enough books set at summer camp but this particular summer camp took on a desperate and sad tone.  Not that such a tone would necessarily not work but, here, there were way too many divergent POV that the book seemed to focus on personal suffering more than anything else.  This book should also have several trigger warnings and so many tragic events that I was so sad after finishing it. I'm sure that most of the characters were well developed but I didn't spend enough time with them in the book to feel this way -- many POV can be good sometimes but it takes a lot of effort to make it work.  Sadly, it didn't work here and I think had the author focused on just two or even three POV, I would have enjoyed this much more.

Perennials comes out next month on June 6, 2017, and you can purchase HERE. Hopefully you have better luck with this one than I did!
Rachel always got the feeling when they pulled into camp that time hadn't moved since the previous summer. Everything was exactly the same: the wooden Camp Marigold sign with the fading painted orange flowers; the smells of the horse manure from the barn and the cut grass from the athletic fields. In the months leading up to camp opening, she would think maybe the grass wouldn't be as green. Maybe some building would be pained a different color. Maybe they'd fixed that one broken rail on the fence around the horse arena. 
But none of that ever happened. Time didn't touch Camp Marigold, and that was what was so perfect about it.
 
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