Wednesday, June 22, 2016

All the Missing Girls - Review

All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: June 28, 2016
Source: Publisher via NetGalley for an honest review


Like the spellbinding psychological suspense in The Girl on the Train and Luckiest Girl Alive, Megan Miranda’s novel is a nail-biting, breathtaking story about the disappearances of two young women—a decade apart—told in reverse.

It’s been ten years since Nicolette Farrell left her rural hometown after her best friend, Corinne, disappeared from Cooley Ridge without a trace. Back again to tie up loose ends and care for her ailing father, Nic is soon plunged into a shocking drama that reawakens Corinne’s case and breaks open old wounds long since stitched.

The decade-old investigation focused on Nic, her brother Daniel, boyfriend Tyler, and Corinne’s boyfriend Jackson. Since then, only Nic has left Cooley Ridge. Daniel and his wife, Laura, are expecting a baby; Jackson works at the town bar; and Tyler is dating Annaleise Carter, Nic’s younger neighbor and the group’s alibi the night Corinne disappeared. Then, within days of Nic’s return, Annaleise goes missing.

Told backwards—Day 15 to Day 1—from the time Annaleise goes missing, Nic works to unravel the truth about her younger neighbor’s disappearance, revealing shocking truths about her friends, her family, and what really happened to Corinne that night ten years ago.

Like nothing you’ve ever read before, All the Missing Girls delivers in all the right ways. With twists and turns that lead down dark alleys and dead ends, you may think you’re walking a familiar path, but then Megan Miranda turns it all upside down and inside out and leaves us wondering just how far we would be willing to go to protect those we love.

My Take:

All the Missing Girls sounded like a fun read - similar enough to some other suspense books I've read recently that I was intrigued. When I got my NetGalley copy of the book, there was a note from the editor about how the book is told backwards - which really got me interested. Could the author really pull this off? How would I like the story told backwards? It just sounded too intriguing not to just give the first page or so a peek...Well, I read the whole book straight through and loved every minute of it!

I am not sure how to review the book without giving stuff away. The novel starts with Nic getting a phone call and then a letter - the call from her brother, the letter from her father. She has to return home. There is obviously a lot of stuff left unsaid in the set up, but Nic goes home and things are tense. So much history - - history that the reader has only vague clues about at this point. Then the book skips to two weeks later and begins to tell the story backwards. I appreciated that after each chapter there is a blank page with just The Day Before on it --- this helps to remind the reader that things are being revealed in reverse. Honestly, I didn't know if this whole idea would work -- but it totally did! I loved that the book kind of reads like a traditional suspense novel, but the actions actually happened the opposite of the usual way. I can't really explain it without revealing important things --- but the author manages to tell the story and then basically flip it on its head. I am looking forward to reading it again in the next day or so. 

Needless to say, All the Missing Girls is at the top of my list of recommended books for this summer. I can't stop thinking about it or talking about it. It is definitely a fast-paced, page-turner of a book. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Sun in Your Eyes Blog Tour and Review

The Sun in Your Eyes cover
The Sun in Your Eyes by Deborah Shapiro
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication date:  June 28, 2016 
Source: Publisher via TLC Book Tours for an honest review


A witty and winning new voice comes alive in this infectious road-trip adventure with a rock-and-roll twist. Shapiro’s debut blends the emotional nuance of Elena Ferrante with the potent nostalgia of High Fidelity, in a story of two women—one rich and alluring, the other just another planet in her dazzling orbit—and their fervid and troubled friendship.

From the distance of a few yards, there might be nothing distinctive about Lee Parrish, nothing you could put your finger on, and yet, if she were to walk into a room, you would notice her. And if you were with her, I’d always thought, you could walk into any room.

 For quiet, cautious, and restless college freshman Vivian Feld, real life begins the day she moves in with the enigmatic Lee Parrish—daughter of died-too-young troubadour Jesse Parrish and model-turned-fashion designer Linda West—and her audiophile roommate Andy Elliott.

When a one-night stand fractures Lee and Andy’s intimate rapport, Lee turns to Viv, inviting her into her glamorous fly-by-night world: an intoxicating mix of Hollywood directors, ambitious artists, and first-class everything. It is the beginning of a friendship that will inexorably shape both women as they embark on the rocky road to adulthood.

More than a decade later, Viv is married to Andy and hasn’t heard from Lee in three years. Suddenly Lee reappears, begging for a favor: she wants Viv to help her find the lost album Jesse was recording before his death. Holding on to a life-altering secret and ambivalent about her path, Viv allows herself to be pulled into Lee’s world once again. But the chance to rekindle the magic and mystery of their youth might come with a painful lesson: while the sun dazzles us with its warmth and brilliance, it may also blind us from seeing what we really need.

What begins as a familiar story of two girls falling under each other’s spell evolves into an evocative, and at times irrepressibly funny, study of female friendship in all its glorious intensity and heartbreaking complexity.

My Take:

The Sun in Your Eyes sounds like it would be a friends' road trip kind of book, but it really isn't - there is a road trip, but that didn't seem to be the main focus to me. The real focus of the novel seems to be an examination of the friendship between Viv and Lee. Lee is the dazzling daughter of a fashion designer and a died-too-young rock star. Lee seems to be somewhat manipulative and has some issues with her parents. Viv is the quieter, steadier of the two, but still feels drawn into Lee's orbit.  Their relationship is rather complicated and each has their own reasons for going on this road trip.

Even though the novel is about this troubled friendship, it almost seemed to me that it was equally about the women finally allowing themselves to grow up and past their former selves. Viv seems to be on the verge of moving beyond her college self and finally embracing full adulthood - but not without feelings of uncertainty. Lee is still in search of herself and where she comes from -- her father has been mostly a memory and his music and old photos.

The Sun in Your Eyes was an interesting book - not really a page-turner, but intriguing and troubling. Despite the description of the book hinting at humor, I didn't really find much humor -- I did however find it to be thought provoking in a melancholy kind of way. I found it interesting how every character in the book has issues and most are not very likable for various reasons - much like actual people in real life.

It is kind of funny though - right after I finished reading the book I didn't think I liked it all that much -- but the more I think about it, the more I like it. One of the reasons I didn't like it much is that none of the characters are the stand out main character -- Viv is a little boring, awkward in some situations, a bit timid and unassuming (maybe reminds me too much of myself), and Lee is a bit too manipulative and assumes that she will always be the center of attention. Their friendship is difficult to figure out - is one of them using the other? And which one is it? Both? Their friendship is messy and troubling - maybe too much like some real friendships. Also, I have to mention that I thought some of the decisions made on the trip were awful - talk about resistance to maturity and responsibility!

If the reader is looking for a funny, happy-go-lucky road trip novel, The Sun in Your Eyes is not that book. However, if the reader is looking for a thought provoking look at friendship, growing into full adulthood, relationships, bad choices, and moving on - The Sun in Your Eyes just might fit the bill.

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About Deborah Shapiro

Deborah Shapiro photo credit Lewis McVeyDeborah Shapiro was born and raised outside of Boston, Massachusetts. A graduate of Brown University, she spent several years in New York working at magazines, including New York and ELLE, and her work has been published in Open City, Washington Square Review, and the Los Angeles Review of Books, among other places. She lives with her husband and son in Chicago. The Sun in Your Eyes is her first novel.

 Follow Deborah on Twitter.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Lost Kin Blog Tour and Review

Lost Kin (Kaspar Brothers #3) by Steve Anderson
Publisher: Yucca Publishing
Publication date: March 29, 2016
Source: Author/Publisher via TLC Book Tours for an honest review


Occupied Munich, 1946: Irina, a Cossack refugee, confesses to murdering a GI, but American captain Harry Kaspar doesn’t buy it. When Harry scours the devastated city for the truth, he finds his long-lost German brother, Max, who returned to Hitler’s Germany before the war.

Max has a questionable past, and he needs Harry for the cause that could redeem him: rescuing Irina’s stranded clan of Cossacks who have been disowned by the Allies and are now being hunted by Soviet death squads—the cold-blooded upshot of a callous postwar policy.

As a harsh winter brews, the Soviets close in, and the Cold War looms, Harry and Max desperately plan for a risky, last-ditch rescue on a remote stretch of the German-Czech border. A mysterious visitor from Max’s darkest days shadows them. Everyone is a suspect, including Harry’s lover, Sabine, and Munich detective Hartmut Dietz—both of whom have pledged to help. But before the Kaspar brothers can save the innocent victims of peace, grave secrets and the deep contempt sown during the war threaten to damn them all.

Lost Kin (Yucca Publishing; April 2016; 978-1-63158-081-9) is a stand-alone continuation of Steve Anderson’s novel Liberated, featuring the same compelling protagonist, American captain Harry Kaspar. Author Steve Anderson has two bestselling e-books, Double-Edged Sword and Sitting Ducks. With Anderson’s background as a Fulbright fellow in Munich, Lost Kin is a historically accurate, page-turning novel set just after World War II that will appeal to war history readers as well as war fiction readers.

My Take:

Lost Kin is the third Kaspar Brothers novel. I haven't read any of the other books, though. For the most part this fact wasn't a problem while reading the book, but there were times when I felt like things didn't quite make sense  or the actions didn't follow logically. I am still not sure if it was the fact that I hadn't read the previous two books or not.

The novel starts rather abruptly with Harry following a plainclothes Munich cop into a bombed-out neighborhood - despite his own doubts about whether he should or not. I found it a bit disorienting - perhaps much like Harry found it to be. The cop mentions Harry's brother and this is the main reason he follows the man. Once he arrives at the mysterious location, he sees a dead GI and a woman named Irina. From this point, there is much hinting and alluding to people and events and there is suspicion on all sides.

Eventually it shakes out that Harry's brother Max is involved in trying to help a clan of Cossacks get to safety in the aftermath of  World War II. While at times I felt that some of the plot points were a bit nonsensical and the dialog was sometimes awkward and forced, I did find the information about the aftermath of WWII to be very interesting, if upsetting. 

In fact, the historical aspects of the novel were the most compelling thing about Lost Kin, for me. It is interesting that there is so much fiction dealing with the lead up to and the war itself, but not much is available about the aftermath. Perhaps it is difficult to reconcile some of the things that happened with the simpler, easier version that says the war ended and then everything was fine. 

The novel deals with the estranged brothers, Harry and Max, and the history of their relationship and their eventual reconciliation. There are so many complicating factors in their lives - their German origin, Max's betrayal, Harry's deep dark secret from the war, the various people they have encountered over the years - all make for complications and even more betrayal. No one in the book is precisely who they claim to be and no one is completely honest --- they all have other motivations that only become clear later. 

While there are plenty of things going on with the brothers, the larger picture of displaced persons after the war, the various military and government agencies at odds with each other and the blind eyes turned to further atrocities all make for some interesting reading. If you enjoy books about war, the aftermath of war and, of course, books about WWII, you might enjoy the Kaspar Brother novels - including Lost Kin.

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About Steve Anderson
Steve Anderson was a Fulbright fellow in Munich, Germany. His research on the early US occupation in 1945 inspired him to write several novels centered on World War II and its aftermath. Anderson has a master’s in history and has worked in advertising, public relations, and journalism. He lives with his wife, René, in Portland, Oregon.

Connect with Steve

Steve Anderson’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Tuesday, May 31st: Savvy Verse and Wit
Thursday, June 2nd: Mom in Love with Fiction
Monday, June 6th: Dwell in Possibility
Tuesday, June 7th: Building Bookshelves
Wednesday, June 8th: Hoser’s Blook
Monday, June 13th: Write Read Life
Thursday, June 16th: 5 Minutes for Books
Friday, June 17th: A Book Geek
Monday, June 20th: Helen’s Book Blog

Monday, June 13, 2016

The Summer Guest Blog Tour and Review

The Summer Guest cover
The Summer Guest by Alison Anderson
Publisher: Harper
Publication date: May 24, 2016
Hardcover: 400 pages  
Source: Publisher via TLC Book Tours for an honest review


What if Anton Chekhov, undisputed master of the short story, secretly wrote a novel—a manuscript hidden long ago that might have survived?

This tantalizing possibility drives The Summer Guest, a spellbinding story that draws together, across two centuries, the lives of three women through a moving, mysterious diary.

 During the long, hot summer of 1888, an extraordinary friendship blossoms between Anton Chekhov and a young doctor named Zinaida Lintvaryova. Recently blinded by illness, Zinaida has retreated to her family’s estate in the lush countryside of eastern Ukraine, where she is keeping a diary to record her memories of her earlier life. But when the Chekhov family arrives to spend the summer at a dacha on the estate, and she meets the middle son, Anton Pavlovich, her quiet existence is transformed by the connection they share. What begins as a journal kept simply to pass the time becomes an intimate, introspective narrative of Zinaida’s singular relationship with this writer of growing fame.

More than a century later, in 2014, the publication of Zinaida’s diary represents Katya Kendall’s last chance to save her struggling London publishing house. Zinaida’s description of a gifted young man still coming to terms with his talent offers profound insight into a literary legend, but it also raises a tantalizing question: Did Chekhov, known only as a short-story writer and dramatist, write a novel that has since disappeared? The answer could change history, and finding the manuscript proves an irresistible challenge for Ana Harding, the translator Katya hires. Increasingly drawn into Zinaida and Chekhov’s world, Ana is consumed by her desire to find the “lost” book. As she delves deeper into the moving account of two lives changed by a meeting on a warm May night, she discovers that the manuscript is not the only mystery contained within the diary’s pages.

Inspired by the real-life friendship between Chekhov and the Lintvaryov family, The Summer Guest is a masterful and utterly compelling novel that breathes life into a vanished world while exploring the transformative power of art and the complexities of love and friendship.

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My Take:

The Summer Guest is a beautifully written novel that lingers in the mind even after finishing the book. From the wonderful descriptions of the Russian countryside during the summer months; the examination of friendship; coming to terms with illness and death; to the search for answers by the translator, Ana and final mystery revelation, I was completely drawn in to the story and the lives of the characters.

The novel is told from three perspectives. There is the journal written by Zinaida Lintvaryova; the perspective of the translator of the journal, Ana; and the perspective of Katya, the publisher of the book.

Zinaida Lintvaryova was a young female doctor in Russia and a friend and confidant of Chekhov over two summers. She had recently gone blind from a terminal brain condition, and determines to keep a journal and hopes her young niece will read it one day. Through her journal entries, the reader learns about her relationship with Chekhov and his plans to write a novel. The novel that no one has ever found.

Ana lives alone in a small town in France. She takes the translation job that appeared in her inbox because she had worked for Katya's publishing company before and she needed the money. As she translates the journal, she gets more intrigued by the people and the idea of an unknown Chekhov novel. I really liked Ana's parts of the novel - I loved the descriptions of her quiet life and how she follows her own initiative to do some investigating of her own. 

Katya is more mysterious. She is a Russian woman who lives in England with her husband and runs a struggling publishing company. Her sections of the novel are a bit more difficult to glean information from. There are pretty clearly some other things going on here, but it isn't clear until much later what the issues are. They need to publish the diary since they need the money to keep the company afloat - but there isn't enough money to pay the translator fee - but they need the translation in order to publish.

I have to admit that I hadn't read Chekhov - until reading The Summer Guest.  A terrible thing to have to confess, but it was true. While reading the novel, I found some of his stories and plays and began reading. I love that I felt like I had read him already just from reading The Summer Guest.  I think that the novel will bring more readers to Chekhov's work.

I found The Summer Guest to be a book to be read slowly and savored, not one to speed through. The writing is just beautiful and while the story is sad and poignant, it is also hopeful, respectful, and thought provoking. I loved the whole premise of the book and was impressed at how well it all worked. There is a bit of a twist and I loved that too. The Summer Guest made it to the top of my list of books to recommend to friends.

About Alison Anderson

Alison Anderson APALISON ANDERSON, a native Californian, works as a literary translator in the Swiss Alps. Her many translations include the Europa edition of Muriel Barbery’s The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Ingrid Betancourt’s memoir, and the work of JMG De Clezio. She has also written two previous novels and is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Literary Translation Fellowship, as well as fellowships at the prestigious MacDowell Colony and the Hawthornden Retreat for Writers.

 Find out more about Alison at her website.

Tour Stops

Tuesday, May 24th: BookNAround
Wednesday, May 25th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Thursday, May 26th: A Bookish Way of Life
Wednesday, June 1st: Just One More Chapter
Thursday, June 2nd: Hopelessly Devoted Bibliophile
Monday, June 6th: Reading Reality
Tuesday, June 7th: A Literary Vacation
Wednesday, June 8th:
Wednesday, June 8th: Emerald City Book Review
Thursday, June 9th: Olduvai Reads
Monday, June 13th: A Book Geek
Monday, June 13th: Reading to Distraction
Wednesday, June 15th: Queen of All She Reads
Thursday, June 16th: Worth Getting in Bed For
Friday, June 17th: I’m Shelf-ish
Monday, June 20th: Books on the Table

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Girls on Fire Blog Tour and Review

Girls on Fire cover

Girls On Fire by Robin Wasserman
Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: Harper
Publication date: May 17, 2016
Source: Publisher via TLC Book Tours for an honest review


Three girls went into the woods; two came out.

It sounds like a joke, or a riddle. But it was only, would ever after be, the rest of our life.

Shortly after Halloween, 1991, the local high-school basketball star is found in the woods near Battle Creek, Pennsylvania, with a bullet in his head and a gun in his hand—a discovery that sends tremors through this conservative community, already unnerved by growing rumors of satanic worship in the region.

In the wake of this incident, bright but lonely Hannah Dexter is befriended by Lacey Champlain, a dark-eyed, Cobain-worshipping bad influence. Lacey forges a fast, intimate bond with the impressionable Dex, making her over in her own image—and unleashing a fierce defiance with unexpected and harrowing consequences. By turns a shocking story of love and violence and an addictive portrait of the intoxication of female friendship, Girls on Fire is an incendiary and unforgettable snapshot of girlhood: girls lost and found, girls weak and strong, girls who burn bright and brighter—and girls who flicker away.

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My Take:

When I first read the premise of Girls on Fire, I was intrigued and wanted to read the book. I haven't read any of Wasserman's  YA novels, so I really had no idea what her writing style was like or the type of novels she writes and had no specific expectations from the novel.

I liked Hannah/Dex's voice - she is probably the character/voice that many readers will relate to the most. She is the quiet, unhappy loner that no one really notices. As with many teens, she is unhappy about herself and her social life but has what could be considered a normal, boring family who have good intentions. Whether her parents are actually good parents can be debated, but there wasn't abuse. The way Hannah/Dex changes due to Lacey's influence is troubling and brings up so many questions about her relationship with Lacey.

Lacey is the rebel - the troubled girl - the one who causes parents - or most parents - to pause and question their children about their activities. Lacey has a dysfunctional home life - to put it lightly. In fact, her stepfather is a monster and at times seems almost a caricature of the horrible stepfather. I realize that the character needs a catalyst for her troubled behavior, but some of the circumstances seemed a bit over the top. At any rate, Lacey is definitely the more troubled of the two. 

I think the aspect of the novel that I found the most interesting was the twisted relationship between Lacey and Nikki and between Nikki and Hannah/Dex and how Lacey's relationship with Hannah/Dex is caused by and affected by Nikki. Nikki is the stereotypical beautiful cheerleader whose sole purpose is to be popular, beautiful and to torture everyone else. There is a fairly in depth study of the way teenage girls play twisted games and test their power with other girls. The whole thing is messed up. 

I was interested in what had caused the death that starts the novel, but I had a pretty good idea fairly early into the novel -- except that when it was finally revealed, it was just kind of weird and almost silly. Still deadly, but I was kind of disappointed in the actual event. I did, however, appreciate parts of how the book ended. It was dark and haunting and fitting for the people involved. 

Girls on Fire is a dark, fraught tale of how intense and highly emotional relationships can twist and distort the lives of these teens and the repercussions of some really awful decisions. There were aspects to the novel that didn't work for me, but overall, it was basically the story of a parents worst nightmare and I was compelled to continue reading to the very dark end of the novel. I found the psychological aspects of the relationships very interesting, if deeply troubling.  If you like dark, angry, emotional stories about the angst-filled teen years, then Girls on Fire may be just what you want to read.

About Robin Wasserman

Robin Wasserman APRobin Wasserman is a graduate of Harvard University and the author of several successful novels for young adults. A recent recipient of a MacDowell fellowship, she lives in Brooklyn, New York. Girls on Fire is her first novel for adults.

 Find out more about Robin at her website and connect with her on Twitter.

Tour Stops
Wednesday, May 18th: Jenn’s Bookshelves
Thursday, May 19th: Book Hooked Blog
Friday, May 20th: A Bookish Way of Life
Monday, May 23rd: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Tuesday, May 24th: 5 Minutes For Books
Wednesday, May 25th: Thoughts On This ‘n That
Thursday, May 26th: Booksie’s Blog
Monday, May 30th: Ms. Nose in a Book
Tuesday, May 31st: The Book Diva’s Reads
Tuesday, May 31st: A Soccer Mom’s Book Blog
Thursday, June 2nd: Ageless Pages Reviews
Monday, June 6th: Lilac Reviews
Monday, June 6th: Booksellers Without Borders
Monday, June 6th: From the TBR Pile
Tuesday, June 7th: StephTheBookworm
Wednesday, June 8th: A Book Geek

Thursday, June 9th: SJ2B House Of Books

Friday, May 27, 2016

The Secrets of Flight Blog Tour and Review

The Secrets of Flight by Maggie Leffler
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication date: May 3, 2016
Paperback: 368 pages
Source: Publisher via TLC Book Tours for an honest review


This captivating, breakout novel—told in alternating viewpoints—brings readers from the skies of World War II to the present day, where a woman is prepared to tell her secrets at last.

Estranged from her family since just after World War II, Mary Browning has spent her entire adult life hiding from her past. Now eighty-seven years old and a widow, she is still haunted by secrets and fading memories of the family she left behind. Her one outlet is the writing group she’s presided over for a decade, though she’s never written a word herself. When a new member walks in—a fifteen-year-old girl who reminds her so much of her beloved sister Sarah—Mary is certain fate delivered Elyse Strickler to her for a reason.

Mary hires the serious-eyed teenager to type her story about a daring female pilot who, during World War II, left home for the sky and gambled everything for her dreams—including her own identity.

As they begin to unravel the web of Mary’s past, Mary and Elyse form an unlikely friendship. Together they discover it’s never too late for second chances and that sometimes forgiveness is all it takes for life to take flight in the most unexpected ways.

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My Take:

I really had no idea what I was going to get when I agreed to read and review The Secrets of Flight. I had no idea what a treat I had ahead of me. From the first page where the reader is introduced to Mary - on her eighty-seventh birthday, at her writer's group meeting - to the very last page, I was completely immersed in the lives of Mary Browning and Elyse Strickler. 

I found myself intrigued and curious about exactly why Mary was so secretive about her past, and I really liked her as a character. I liked the group dynamic of the writers - there are some people that Mary seems to avoid and doesn't seem to like very much, but in the end, there is a strong bond of friendship.

Elyse is the young writer who joins the group of much older people. Somehow she manages to fit into this eclectic group and actually brings them together and makes the group stronger. I enjoyed the developing friendship between Mary and Elyse and the way they each seem to bring out the best in the other.

I enjoyed reading about the women pilots and their determination to learn to fly despite all the resistance they encountered. Until reading this book, I was unaware of such a program as the Women Airforce Service Pilots and the novel provides a fascinating look at what it might have been like for these women.

I enjoyed The Secrets of Flight so much that I read it in a single day. I won't give the twist away, but I did see it coming (or, more accurately, I hoped my guess was correct), but this didn't detract from my enjoyment at all. There is so much about The Secrets of Flight that I loved - the gradual revelations of Mary's past, the reasons for her secretiveness and guilt; the relationship between Mary and Elyse; Elyse growing into young adulthood while Mary deals with advancing age and loneliness; as well as just the characters themselves.  I definitely recommend The Secrets of Flight to pretty much all readers and I think that it would make a great selection for book clubs.

About Maggie Leffler

Maggie Leffler is an American novelist and a family medicine physician. A native of Columbia, Maryland, she graduated from the University of Delaware and volunteered with AmeriCorps before attending St. George’s University School of Medicine. She practices medicine in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where she lives with her husband and sons. The Secrets of Flight is her third novel.

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

Tour Stops

Tuesday, May 3rd: BookNAround
Wednesday, May 4th: Jenn’s Bookshelves
Thursday, May 5th: bookchickdi
Friday, May 6th: Doing Dewey
Tuesday, May 10th: Back Porchervations
Wednesday, May 11th: A Bookish Affair
Thursday, May 12th: Savvy Verse & Wit
Monday, May 16th: Helen’s Book Blog
Tuesday, May 17th: Dreams, Etc.
Thursday, May 19th: Staircase Wit
Monday, May 23rd: Kritters Ramblings
Tuesday, May 24th: Luxury Reading
Wednesday, May 25th: Reading is My Super Power
Thursday, May 26th: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews
Thursday, May 26th: Ageless Pages Reviews
Friday, May 27th: A Book Geek
Monday, May 30th: Book by Book
Monday, May 30th: Life By Kristen
Thursday, June 2nd: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Changing Season - Review

The Changing Season by Steven Manchester
Publication date: February 23, 2016
Publisher: The Story Plant
Source: Publisher/author via NetGalley for an honest review

This was supposed to be a simple summer for Billy; one more lazy expanse of time before college began. He'd fill the hours playing with Jimmy – his canine best buddy – going camping and doing all the things he promised Jimmy they'd do before Billy left.

But that was before the accident that shook the entire town.

It was before the summer job that turned into something so much more than a way to get a paycheck.

And it was before Vicki.

This summer was destined to be many things to Billy, things he didn't truly understand until now. But it was definitely not going to be simple.

My Take:

The Changing Season was one of those books that was featured in one of NetGalley's emails and it had several favorable blurbs and it sounded like a nice, sweet story, so I requested an  e-galley.  Life got busy and it took me awhile to get around to reading it - although I did attempt it a couple of times but just didn't get into it and had other more pressing deadlines, so I put it down. 

Since the author contacted me (several times) about a review, I made time to read the book. I know that The Changing Season is supposed to be a heartwarming coming-of-age story that takes place during the summer between high school graduation going off to college. And I guess, technically, it is exactly that. The main character Billy is a self-centered teen with a good heart and a good brain - just your typical teenager. His best friend Jimmy - his dog - has been his loyal friend for years. Billy gets a job at an animal shelter and learns a lot about people, animals and himself. He has a great mentor and makes a decision about his future. 

Something bad happens because of one of Billy's friends and then this friend spends the summer avoiding responsibility for it. Billy gets a girlfriend then loses her. But he grows up over the summer and heads off to college a young man. 

I guess this book just isn't my cup of tea. It just seemed to me to be a kind of fairy tale written by adults to tell to other adults about our kids. Much of the dialogue just didn't ring authentic or likely to me. If the story had taken place in the fifties or sixties, maybe, but I just couldn't buy it. If you enjoy After School Special or Hallmark movie-type stories, then you may really like The Changing Season. Unfortunately, it just didn't work for me.

Monday, May 16, 2016

The Dark Lady's Mask Blog Tour and Review

02_The Dark Lady's Mask
The Dark Lady's Mask: A Novel of Shakespeare's Muse by Mary Sharratt
Publication Date: April 19, 2016
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Hardcover, eBook, Audio Book; 416 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Publisher via HFVBT for an honest review

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Shakespeare in Love meets Shakespeare's Sister in this novel of England's first professional woman poet and her collaboration and love affair with William Shakespeare.

London, 1593. Aemilia Bassano Lanier is beautiful and accomplished, but her societal conformity ends there. She frequently cross-dresses to escape her loveless marriage and to gain freedoms only men enjoy, but a chance encounter with a ragged, little-known poet named Shakespeare changes everything.

Aemilia grabs at the chance to pursue her long-held dream of writing and the two outsiders strike up a literary bargain. They leave plague-ridden London for Italy, where they begin secretly writing comedies together and where Will falls in love with the beautiful country - and with Aemilia, his Dark Lady. Their Italian idyll, though, cannot last and their collaborative affair comes to a devastating end. Will gains fame and fortune for their plays back in London and years later publishes the sonnets mocking his former muse. Not one to stand by in humiliation, Aemilia takes up her own pen in her defense and in defense of all women.

The Dark Lady's Mask gives voice to a real Renaissance woman in every sense of the word.

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My Take:

Because I enjoy historical fiction and love Shakespeare, I was happy to read and review The Dark Lady's Mask. This isn't the first book I have read that envisions Aemilia Bassano as Shakespeare's 'dark lady', but I think this Aemilia may be my favorite. She is highly intelligent, very educated and an equal to any man's wit and courage and an equal in talent to her Will.

The novel is very well written and I was quite happily surprised at how quickly I was drawn in to not only the novel, but also into caring about Aemilia and her future. There is so much to pay attention to -- from the historical detail to the clever way the author describes the plays written in collaboration between Aemilia and Will Shakespeare. 

I loved that Aemilia uses her own experience at dressing as a man to enjoy freedom on horseback and from the constraints of womanhood to inform her plays. There were so many adventures that she could never have had dressed as a woman.

I appreciated that the author gives so much attention to the situation of women of the period and that she looks at a few different strong women in addition to Aemilia.  I very much enjoyed reading about  the friendship between Aemilia and Margaret Clifford. 

There is so much to like about The Dark Lady's Mask - it is fun and exciting -  with love and betrayal; strength and persistence; friendship and personal growth. The historical detail is wonderful. The Dark Lady's Mask will appeal to any reader who enjoys historical fiction, especially historical fiction dealing with Shakespeare, obviously, and fiction about the Elizabethan period. I think that it will also appeal to readers who like strong, intelligent women and those who have a sense of humor about literature.  I will certainly be suggesting it to my friends.

Advance Praise

"An exquisite portrait of a Renaissance woman pursuing her artistic destiny in England and Italy, who may - or may not - be Shakespeare's Dark Lady."- MARGARET GEORGE, internationally bestselling author of Elizabeth I

"Perfectly chosen details and masterful characterization bring to life this swiftly moving, elegant story. As atmospheric and compelling as it is wise, The Dark Lady's Mask is a gem not to be missed."- LYNN CULLEN, bestselling author of Mrs. Poe and Twain's End

"Mary Sharratt's enchanting new novel, The Dark Lady's Mask, is a richly imagined, intensely romantic and meticulously researched homage to lauded poet, Aemilia Bassano Lanyer, an accomplished woman of letters who many believe to be Shakespeare's Eternal Muse. Sharratt unfolds a captivating tale, a compelling 'what if'  scenario, of a secret union that fed the creative fires of England's greatest poet and playwright." - KATHLEEN KENT, bestselling author of The Heretic's Daughter

"Mary Sharratt is a magician. This novel transports the reader to Elizabethan England with a tale of the bard and his love that is nothing short of amazing. Absorbing, emotional, historically fascinating. A work of marvelous ingenuity!" - M.J. ROSE, New York Times bestselling author of The Witch of Painted Sorrows

"I enjoyed this exciting fantasy of Shakespeare's 'dark lady.' There was adventure, betrayal, resilience, and above all, the fun notion that Shakespeare might have had far more than a muse to help him create his wonderful plays." -KARLEEN KOEN, bestselling author of Dark Angels and Before Versailles

"Through the story of Aemilia Bassano, a talented musician and poet, Mary Sharratt deftly tackles issues of religious and gender inequality in a time of brutal conformity. The Dark Lady's Mask beautifully depicts the exhilaration and pitfalls of subterfuge, a gifted woman's precarious reliance on the desires of powerful men, and the toll paid by unrecognized artistic collaborators. Resonant and moving." -MITCHELL JAMES KAPLAN, author of By Fire, By Water

"In The Dark Lady's Mask, Mary Sharratt seduces us with a most tantalizing scenario --that the bold, cross-dressing poet and feminist writer Aemilia Bassano is Shakespeare's mysterious muse, the Dark Lady. Romantic, heart-breaking, and rich in vivid historical detail and teeming Elizabethan life, the novel forms an elegant tapestry of the complexities, joys, and sorrows of being both a female and an artist." -KAREN ESSEX, author of Leonardo's Swans and Dracula in Love

"Mary Sharratt has created an enchanting Elizabethan heroine, a musician, the orphaned daughter of a Jewish Italian refugee who must hide her heritage for her safety. Taken up by powerful men for her beauty, Amelia has wit and daring and poetry inside her that will make her a match for young Will Shakespeare himself and yet she must hide behind many masks to survive in a world where women have as much talent as men but little power." - STEPHANIE COWELL, author of Claude & Camille: A Novel of Monet

"Prepare to be swept away by Mary Sharratt's latest foray into historical fiction. Inspired by the true story of poet, Aemilia Bassano, THE DARK LADY'S MASK explores her relationship with William Shakespeare. Richly detailed and well researched, this lush tale brings Aemilia out of the shadows of history and let's her emerge as one of the founding mothers of literature. Drama, intrigue, and romance will have readers racing through this brilliant celebration of the muse." - PAMELA KLINGER-HORN, Sales & Outreach Coordinator, Excelsior Bay Books

03_Mary SharrattAbout the Author

MARY SHARRATT is an American writer who has lived in the Pendle region of Lancashire, England, for the past seven years. The author of the critically acclaimed novels Summit Avenue, The Real Minerva, and The Vanishing Point, Sharratt is also the co-editor of the subversive fiction anthology Bitch Lit, a celebration of female antiheroes, strong women who break all the rules.

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Blog Tour Schedule

Tuesday, April 19
Review & Giveaway at Unshelfish
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

Wednesday, April 20
Review at A Bookish Affair
Interview at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!
Excerpt & Giveaway at A Literary Vacation

Thursday, April 21
Review at A Book Drunkard
Guest Post at A Bookish Affair
Interview at Books and Benches

Friday, April 22
Review & Giveaway at History Undressed

Monday, April 25
Review at Seize the Words: Books in Review

Tuesday, April 26
Review at With Her Nose Stuck In A Book
Guest Post & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books

Wednesday, April 27
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews

Thursday, April 28
Review at Just One More Chapter

Friday, April 29
Review at A Chick Who Reads

Saturday, April 30
Review at Queen of All She Reads

Monday, May 2
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Review at Cynthia Robertson, writer

Tuesday, May 3
Interview at Flashlight Commentary

Wednesday, May 4
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time

Thursday, May 5
Excerpt & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More

Friday, May 6
Review at Book Nerd

Monday, May 9
Review at A Dream within a Dream

Tuesday, May 10
Character Interview at Boom Baby Reviews

Wednesday, May 11
Review at Puddletown Reviews

Thursday, May 12
Review & Giveaway at View from the Birdhouse

Friday, May 13
Review at First Impressions Reviews
Excerpt at Layered Pages

Monday, May 16
Review at A Book Geek

Tuesday, May 17
Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Wednesday, May 18
Review at History From a Woman's Perspective

Thursday, May 19
Review & Giveaway at One Book Shy of a Full Shelf

Friday, May 20
Review at Broken Teepee

04_The Dark Lady's Mask_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Father's Day Blog Tour and Review

Father's Day coverFather's Day by Simon Van Booy
Publication date: April 26, 2016
Publisher: Harper
Hardcover: 304 pages
Source: Publisher via TLC Book Tours for an honest review

 “A strong voice full of poetic, timeless grace.”—San Francisco Examiner 

When devastating news shatters the life of six-year-old Harvey, she finds herself in the care of a veteran social worker, Wanda, and alone in the world save for one relative she has never met—a disabled felon, haunted by a violent act he can’t escape. 

Moving between past and present, Father’s Day weaves together the story of Harvey’s childhood on Long Island and her life as a young woman in Paris.

 Written in raw, spare prose that personifies the characters, this remarkable novel is the journey of two people searching for a future in the ruin of their past.

Father’s Day is a meditation on the quiet, sublime power of compassion and the beauty of simple, everyday things—a breakthrough work from one of our most gifted chroniclers of the human heart.

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My Take:

I haven't read any other books by Simon Van Booy, but after reading Father's Day, I will be seeking out his other works. I find this book to be difficult to describe without giving too much away or simply gushing over how much I liked it.

I was captivated from the first page by the deceptively simple and sparing prose. The writing style fits the characters so well and I found it to be just beautiful. Aside from the writing itself, the characters and their relationships appealed to me very much. The characters seemed authentic, interesting and their hard-earned relationships are heartwarming.

Harvey is a young girl when her parents die and she ends up in the care of Wanda, a veteran social worker who has a feeling about what is best for Harvey. I loved Wanda's kindness and stubbornness. I also loved that she followed her instincts and many years of experience with people to make sure Jason and Harvey had a shot. Jason is the most difficult character in the book - he is rough around the edges, and I've seen the word "prickly" used to describe him, and really, it is a great word for Jason. He has had a hard life - a felon who has done his time and is trying to get along in the world. Suddenly this little girl comes into his life and it isn't the easiest transition for him.

Getting to read about Jason's personal growth and his adapting to being a father was just a wonderful experience. He has a long, hard, but fulfilling road ahead of him and he works so hard to provide a home for Harvey.

I think Father's Day is one of the best books I have read this year. It has really stuck with me. Perhaps because I am a parent, I found it particularly poignant and I appreciated the reminder that "perfect parents" don't exist. Kids don't need perfection, they need someone who will love them, take care of them, and accept them for who they are. I hate to go into too much detail because I want readers to open the book without any preconceived ideas or expectations. I enthusiastically recommend Father's Day to pretty much all readers and it certainly is on the list of books I am recommending to friends and family.

Simon Van Booy AP photo credit Ken BrowarAbout Simon Van Booy

Simon Van Booy is the author of two novels and two collections of short stories, including The Secret Lives of People in Love and Love Begins in Winter, which won the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award. He is the editor of three philosophy books and has written for The New York Times, The Guardian, NPR, and the BBC. His work has been translated into fourteen languages. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and daughter.

Find out more about Simon at his website and follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

Simon’s Tour Stops

Tuesday, April 26th: BookNAround
Wednesday, April 27th: A Bookish Way of Life
Wednesday, April 27th: A Soccer Mom’s Book Blog
Thursday, April 28th: Bibliophiliac
Friday, April 29th: Sarah Reads Too Much
Tuesday, May 3rd: FictionZeal
Thursday, May 5th: she treads softly
Monday, May 9th: Jen’s Book Thoughts
Tuesday, May 10th: Sara’s Organized Chaos
Wednesday, May 11th: Bibliotica
Thursday, May 12th: A Book Geek
Monday, May 16th: Novel Escapes
Tuesday, May 17th: The many thoughts of a reader
Wednesday, May 18th: From the TBR Pile
Thursday, May 19th: Ms. Nose in a Book
Friday, May 20th: Time 2 Read