Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Valley Blog Tour and Review

The Valley by Helen Bryan
Publication date: July 19, 2016
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Source: Publisher/Author for an honest review


Left suddenly penniless, the Honorable Sophia Grafton, a viscount’s orphaned daughter, sails to the New World to claim the only property left to her name: a tobacco plantation in the remote wilds of colonial Virginia. Enlisting the reluctant assistance of a handsome young French spy—at gunpoint— she gathers an unlikely group of escaped slaves and indentured servants, each seeking their own safe haven in the untamed New World.

What follows will test her courage and that of her companions as they struggle to survive a journey deep into a hostile wilderness and eventually forge a community of homesteads and deep bonds that will unite them for generations.

The first installment in an epic historical trilogy by Helen Bryan, the bestselling author of War Brides and The SisterhoodThe Valleyis a sweeping, unforgettable tale of hardship, tenacity, love, and heartache.

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Purchase Links

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

My Take:

The Valley by Helen Bryan sounded like a book I would be interested in - from the description. However, the description doesn't really give an accurate idea to the reader of what the book is actually about or how it is written. The first part of the book - at least the first one hundred pages or more - is about a young Sophia and how she met Henri when they were children and what a horrible brat she was, etc. This section isn't really needed for the novel - the information about their meeting  could have been given much more briefly and succinctly later in the book without the reader missing anything important. This is basically the problem I had with the book - it was far too long and wordy with  extraneous episodes. Don't get me wrong - I love long books with long, complicated sentences --- if written well and necessary. This was not the case with The Valley. 

I think the goal was to tell a long, sweeping story of the author's family origins in Virginia, and at times it seemed like that might be accomplished. But then there would be a jump to some other new character that just seemed to come out of nowhere and things would be weird and I would try to grasp the point of this character and event, but it was jarring and disrupted the overall story. 

I do feel torn over The Valley because there were sections that I actually enjoyed and wanted to read more about. I also felt like it would appeal to others who are into genealogy because it does tell the story of the original family members who came over to the colonies from Britain - exactly the information I have been researching for years for my own family. Unfortunately, the book just doesn't really manage to fulfill the promise of the description. I also have serious doubts about some of the historical accuracy throughout the novel.

I really wanted to like The Valley, and there were places that I could overlook the length and need of a good editor, and get into the story, but overall, it was a difficult read. I think it would appeal most to readers are interested in their own family history or the history of their hometown.

About Helen Bryan
Helen Bryan is a Virginia native who grew up in Tennessee. After graduating from Barnard College, she moved to England, where she studied law and was a barrister for ten years before devoting herself to writing full-time.

A member of the Inner Temple, Bryan is the author of four previous books: the World War II novel War Brides; the historical novel The Sisterhood; the biography Martha Washington: First Lady of Liberty, which won an Award of Merit from the Colonial Dames of America; and the legal handbook Planning Applications and AppealsThe Valley is the first in a planned trilogy based on her childhood stories of ancestors who settled in Virginia and Maryland before Tennessee became a state.

Bryan resides in London with her family.

Helen Bryan’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Tuesday, July 19th: Just Commonly
Tuesday, July 19th: West Metro Mommy Reads
Wednesday, July 20th: A Book Geek
Thursday, July 21st: Kritter’s Ramblings
Friday, July 22nd: View from the Birdhouse
Friday, July 22nd: Reading is My Superpower
Monday, July 25th: WV Stitcher
Monday, July 25th: FictionZeal
Thursday, July 28th: From the TBR Pile
Monday, August 1st: A Bookish Affair
Tuesday, August 2nd: Broken Teepee
Wednesday, August 3rd: Lavish Bookshelf
Thursday, August 4th: Just One More Chapter
Monday, August 8th: A. Holland Reads
Tuesday, August 9th: Laura’s Reviews
Wednesday, August 10th: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews
Monday, August 15th: BookNAround
Wednesday, August 17th: The Maiden’s Court

Monday, July 18, 2016

After Alice Blog Tour and Review

After Alice cover After Alice by Grebory Maguire
Publication date: July 5, 2016
Publisher: William Morrow  
Paperback: 304 pages 
Source: Publisher for an honest review

From the multi-million-copy bestselling author of Wicked comes a magical new twist on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, published to coincide with the 150th anniversary of Lewis’s Carroll’s beloved classic. 

When Alice toppled down the rabbit-hole 150 years ago, she found a Wonderland as rife with inconsistent rules and abrasive egos as the world she left behind. But what of that world? How did 1860s Oxford react to Alice’s disappearance?

 In this brilliant work of fiction, Gregory Maguire turns his dazzling imagination to the question of underworlds, undergrounds, underpinnings—and understandings old and new, offering an inventive spin on Carroll’s enduring tale. Ada, a friend of Alice’s mentioned briefly in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, is off to visit her friend, but arrives a moment too late—and tumbles down the rabbit-hole herself.

Ada brings to Wonderland her own imperfect apprehension of cause and effect as she embarks on an odyssey to find Alice and see her safely home from this surreal world below the world. If Eurydice can ever be returned to the arms of Orpheus, or Lazarus can be raised from the tomb, perhaps Alice can be returned to life. Either way, everything that happens next is “After Alice.”

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Purchase Links
HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

My Take:

After Alice by Gregory Maguire is as clever, playful, and thought provoking as I expected. Why would anyone want to read about Alice's friend Ada, though? Well, I didn't know either, but it turns out that Ada was actually a smart and charming young girl - once she figured that out herself. 

Ada is not Alice - she is not a beautiful, blond little girl who "goes off with the fairies" - Ada lacks grace and beauty and maybe even imagination. But Ada is quite smart and  practical. Ada's household is in an uproar because of her new baby brother - of whom she is not quite sure she approves. The baby is always crying, her mother has not recovered from the birth and her father is unwilling to engage with the family. Miss Armstrong, the not-really-capable nanny is unhappy and irritated by Ada and her place in the household and society as a whole.

Ada is sent to play with Alice who has managed to get lost - again. In After Alice, Alice seems like a flighty little thing who often goes missing. Ada, on the other hand, is plodding and clumsy and despite this, goes in search of her only friend, Alice. At first, it appears that Ada will follow Alice and simply retell the same story - but, instead, Ada's own perspective of her adventure gives the whole place and all the characters a different and, maybe needed, shift in the storytelling. 

Alongside Ada's adventures, the reader gets to learn about Alice's sister Lydia and Miss Armstrong as they search for the missing girls. There is much discussion of both girls and the social situations of the women in society, as well as political and ethical issues, including slavery. 

There is much going for After Alice - the words - oh the words! There is the playfulness and cleverness that one would expect, of course. And I actually appreciated the story line involving the 'real' world - with all the social commentary about issues of the time.  And Ada - Ada is quite an interesting girl.  

I wish I had had the time to read After Alice along with Alice in Wonderland, because I think it would have been an even better experience. I am seriously considering adding After Alice to my kids' reading list - right after Alice in Wonderland. I think that After Alice will appeal to lovers of Alice in Wonderland (naturally), as well as those readers who enjoy analyzing literature and like to read clever, playful, and fun novels. 

About Gregory Maguire

gregory maguireGregory Maguire is the New York Times bestselling author of Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister; Lost; Mirror Mirror; and the Wicked Years, a series that includesWicked, Son of a Witch, A Lion Among Men, and Out of Oz. Now a beloved classic, Wicked is the basis for a blockbuster Tony Award–winning Broadway musical. Maguire has lectured on art, literature, and culture both at home and abroad. He lives with his family near Boston, Massachusetts.

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

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Perfect Girl - Review

The Perfect Girl by Gilly Macmillan
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Publication date: March 3, 2016
Source: Publisher for an honest review


To everyone who knows her now, Zoe Maisey - child genius, musical sensation - is perfect. Yet several years ago, Zoe caused the death of three teenagers. She served her time. And now she's free.

Her story begins with her giving the performance of her life.

By midnight, her mother is dead.

The Perfect Girl is an intricate exploration into the mind of a teenager burdened by brilliance. It's a story about the wrongs in our past not letting go and how hard we must fight for second chances.

My Take:

I found The Perfect Girl to be a definite page-turner. I couldn't put the book down until I reached the final page. It is clear from the start that there are things going on that are unclear to both the reader and to Zoe. However, Zoe also has information about her own past that the reader and Zoe's family are unaware of as well. 

I feel that too much information prior to reading The Perfect Girl will actually make the novel less enjoyable, so I will try to refrain from revealing much. Zoe and her mother have gotten a second chance at a "normal" life - her mother has remarried and Zoe has a step-brother. Things look perfect from the outside. As is often the case, nothing is really perfect. 

I found Zoe to be an intriguing and troubling character. It is much later in the book that readers find out what actually happened that caused Zoe to serve time and to be the subject of much speculation, but the episode has had a profound influence on Zoe and her perspective on people. 

I found the story to be compelling and upsetting in many ways. Zoe has been in the system and now must deal with the reality of what that means. She has also learned that people are not always what they seem and she must do what is necessary to protect herself.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The Irish Inheritance Book Blast

02_The Irish Inheritance

The Irish Inheritance: A Jayne Sinclair Genealogical Mystery by M.J. Lee

Publication Date: June 15, 2016
eBook; 285 Pages
Series: The Jayne Sinclair Series, Book One Genre: Historical/Mystery

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 June 8, 1921. Ireland.

 A British Officer is shot dead on a remote hillside south of Dublin.

 November 22, 2015. United Kingdom.

 Former police detective, Jayne Sinclair, now working as a genealogical investigator, receives a phone call from an adopted American billionaire asking her to discover the identity of his real father. 

How are the two events linked?

 Jayne Sinclair has only three clues to help her: a photocopied birth certificate, a stolen book and an old photograph. And it soon becomes apparent somebody else is on the trail of the mystery. A killer who will stop at nothing to prevent Jayne discovering the secret hidden in the past.

 The Irish Inheritance takes us through the Easter Rising of 1916 and the Irish War of Independence, combining a search for the truth of the past with all the tension of a modern-day thriller.

 It is the first in a series of novels featuring Jayne Sinclair, genealogical detective.

Amazon US

03_MJ LeeAbout the Author

Martin has spent most of his adult life writing in one form or another. As a University researcher in history, he wrote pages of notes on reams of obscure topics. As a social worker with Vietnamese refugees, he wrote memoranda. And, as the creative director of an advertising agency, he has written print and press ads, tv commercials, short films and innumerable backs of cornflake packets and hotel websites.

 He has spent 25 years of his life working outside the North of England. In London, Hong Kong, Taipei, Singapore, Bangkok and Shanghai, winning awards from Cannes, One Show, D&AD, New York and London Festivals, and the United Nations.

When he’s not writing, he splits his time between the UK and Asia, taking pleasure in playing with his daughter, researching his family history, practicing downhill ironing, single-handedly solving the problem of the French wine lake and wishing he were George Clooney.

 You can find more information on M.J. Lee and his novels on Goodreads, Amazon, Facebook, and Twitter.

Book Blast Schedule

Monday, July 11
Just One More Chapter
The Book Junkie Reads
Tuesday, July 12
A Book Geek
Nerd in New York
The Never-Ending Book
Wednesday, July 13
The Silver Dagger Scriptorium
Thursday, July 14
Oh, for the Hook of a Book!
Friday, July 15
A Literary Vacation
To Read, Or Not to Read
Saturday, July 16
100 Pages a Day
Sunday, July 17
Passages to the Past
Beth's Book Nook Blog

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Monday, July 11, 2016

The Lord of Ireland Blog Tour and Review

02_The Lord of Ireland

The Lord of Ireland (The Fifth Knight, #3) by E.M. Powell

Publication Date: April 5, 2016 
Publisher:Thomas & Mercer
Kindle, Paperback, Audiobook; 370 Pages
Series: The Fifth Knight 
Genre: Historical Thriller
Source: Publisher via HFVBT for an honest review

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England, 1185. John is a prince without prospect of a crown. As the youngest son of Henry II, he has long borne the hated nickname ‘Lackland’. When warring tribes and an ambitious Anglo-Norman lord threaten Henry’s reign in Ireland, John believes his time has finally come. Henry is dispatching him there with a mighty force to impose order.

Yet it is a thwarted young man who arrives on the troubled isle. John has not been granted its kingship—he is merely the Lord of Ireland, destined never to escape his father’s shadow. Unknown to John, Henry has also sent his right-hand man, Sir Benedict Palmer, to root out the traitors he fears are working to steal the land from him.

But Palmer is horrified when John disregards Henry’s orders and embarks on a campaign of bloodshed that could destroy the kingdom. Now Palmer has to battle the increasingly powerful Lord of Ireland. Power, in John’s hands, is a murderous force—and he is only just beginning to wield it.

Praise for The Fifth Knight Series

"With her fast-paced mysteries set in the tumultuous reign of Henry II, E.M. Powell takes readers on enthralling, and unforgettable, journeys." -Nancy Bilyeau, author of The Crown

“Both Fifth Novels are terrific. Benedict and Theodosia are not merely attractive characters: they are intensely real people.” -Historical Novels Review

 “From the get-go you know you are in an adventure when you enter the world of E.M. Powell's 12th century. Peril pins you down like a knight's lance to the chest”-Edward Ruadh Butler, author of Swordland

My Take:

E.M. Powell has done it again - The Lord of Ireland is the third book in the Fifth Knight series and it is as fast-paced and compelling as the previous books. In this third book, Benedict has been sent to Ireland with Henry's son, John - often called "Lackland" since he isn't expected to ever sit on the throne. Howeveer, John is very ambitious and determined to make his reputation - unfortunately, he is an unscrupulous and often cruel young man. 

John is unaware that his father has sent Benedict, so Benedict must remain basically undercover while protecting John - mostly from the results of the young prince's own actions. Benedict's wife - and secret daughter of King Henry, Theodosia, is supposed to remain safe and secure, but she takes matters into her own hands when she receives what she perceives as a sign from God. 

Once Benedict and Theodosia are reunited in Ireland, things get really interesting. Theodosia must also be undercover since she is masquerading as a sister - a role she knows well. But it does make it difficult to communicate with Benedict. As usual, Theodosia is enterprising and uses her role to obtain useful information and help her husband in his extremely difficult job of protecting John and keeping Henry's plans on track. 

I enjoy how well Powell intertwines historical events and people into her novels. There are numerous historial people who wind there way through the narrative and at times I forget and the two main characters are fiction. Our couple, Benedict and Theodosia, are as delightful as ever - their relationship has a great dynamic and they make a great team.

As with the other Fifth Knight books, I found The Lord of Ireland to be a fast-paced, entertaining and informative read. I feel confident that it - and all the Fifth Knight novels - will appeal to many readers, especially those who like historical ficiton and action-packed thrillers. 

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Chapters

03_E.M. PowellAbout the Author

E.M. Powell’s medieval thrillers The Fifth Knight and The Blood of the Fifth Knight have been number-one Amazon bestsellers and on the Bild bestseller list in Germany.

Born into the family of Michael Collins (the legendary revolutionary and founder of the Irish Free State) and raised in the Republic of Ireland, she lives in north-west England with her husband, daughter and a Facebook-friendly dog.

She reviews fiction and non-fiction for the Historical Novel Society, blogs for English Historical Fiction Authors and is a contributing editor to International Thriller Writers’ The Big Thrill magazine.

Find more information at E.M. Powell's website and blog. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Blog Tour Schedule

Thursday, June 9
Review at Impressions In Ink
Friday, June 10
Excerpt & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Monday, June 20
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!
Tuesday, June 21
Interview at Layered Pages
Friday, June 24
Review at Dianne Ascroft's Blog
Monday, June 27
Interview at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!
Tuesday, June 28
Review at CelticLady's Reviews
Wednesday, June 29
Review at Book Nerd
Thursday, June 30
Guest Post at The Writing Desk
Tuesday, July 5
Excerpt at What Is That Book About
Thursday, July 7
Guest Post & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books
Monday, July 11
Review at A Book Geek
Saturday, July 16
Review at Bookramblings
Monday, July 18
Review at Just One More Chapter
Friday, July 22
Review at Broken Teepee

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Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The Memory Painter - Release Day Blitz

02_The Memory Painter PB CoverHello, my fellow HistFic lovers! Today, author Gwendolyn Womack's novel The Memory Painter: A Novel of Love and Reincarnation is out in paperback!

The Memory Painter: A Novel of Love and Reincarnation by Gwendolyn Womack

Publication Date: July 5, 2016
Picador USA
Paperback; 336 Pages
ISBN: 978-1250095770

Genre: Historical Fiction/Time Travel/Mystery/Romance

Finalist for the 2016 RWA Prism Awards for Best First Book & Best Time Travel/ Steampunk category.

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Two lovers who have travelled across time.

A team of scientists at the cutting edge of memory research.

A miracle drug that unlocks an ancient mystery.

At once a sweeping love story and a time-travelling adventure, Gwendolyn Womack's luminous debut novel, The Memory Painter, is perfect for readers of The Time Traveler's Wife, Life After Life and Winter's Tale.

Bryan Pierce is an internationally famous artist, whose paintings have dazzled the world. But there's a secret to Bryan's success: Every canvas is inspired by an unusually vivid dream. Bryan believes these dreams are really recollections―possibly even flashback from another life―and he has always hoped that his art will lead him to an answer. And when he meets Linz Jacobs, a neurogenticist who recognizes a recurring childhood nightmare in one Bryan's paintings, he is convinced she holds the key.

Their meeting triggers Bryan's most powerful dream yet―visions of a team of scientists who, on the verge of discovering a cure for Alzheimer's, died in a lab explosion decades ago. As his visions intensify, Bryan and Linz start to discern a pattern. But a deadly enemy watches their every move, and he will stop at nothing to ensure that the past stays buried.

The Memory Painter, like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Inception, is at once a taut thriller and a deeply original love story that transcends time and space, spanning six continents and 10,000 years of history.

“Gwendolyn Womack's tale dazzles.” ―US Weekly (Standout Spring Novels)
“…hang on for a wild and entertaining ride around the world and through the centuries back to ancient Egypt.” ~ Library Journal, starred review
“A sweeping, mesmerizing feat of absolute magic. . . . ~ M.J. Rose, New York Times Bestselling Author of The Witch of Painted Sorrows
“Layers of past and present form a rich pastry of a narrative, poignant and thoughtful, rich and suspenseful, filled with intrigue and dripping with meaning... ~ Charlie Lovett, New York Times Bestselling Author of The Bookman's Tale and First Impressions

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

About the Author

Originally from Houston, Texas, Gwendolyn Womack began writing theater plays in college at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. She went on to receive an MFA from California Institute of the Arts in Directing Theatre, Video & Cinema. Currently she resides in Los Angeles with her husband and son where she can be found at the keyboard working on her next novel. The Memory Painter is her first novel.

For more information visit Gwendolyn's website. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Tuesday, July 5 - Release Day Blitz Hosts

100 Pages a Day
A Book Geek
A Literary Vacation
Book Nerd
Diana's Book Reviews
Eclectic Ramblings of Author Heather Osborne
It's a Mad Mad World
Let Them Read Books
Life of a Female Bibliophile
Nerd in New York
New Horizon Reviews
Oh, for the Hook of a Book!
One Book Shy of a Full Shelf
Passages to the Past
Please Pass The Books
Room With Books
Susan Heim on Writing
Teatime and Books
The Book Junkie Reads
The Bookish Teapot
The Lit Bitch
The Never-Ending Book
The True Book Addict
To Read, or Not to Read

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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.

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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