Wednesday, July 9, 2014

What Strange Creatures

What Strange Creatures by Emily Arsenault
Publication date: July 22, 2014 by William Morrow
Source: Publisher for an honest review
Description from Goodreads:

Scandal, love, family, and murder combine in this gripping literary mystery by critically acclaimed author Emily Arsenault, in which a young academic’s life is turned upside down when her brother is arrested for murder and she must prove his innocence.

The Battle siblings are used to disappointment. Seven years, one marriage and divorce, three cats, and a dog later, Theresa still hasn’t finished her dissertation. Instead of a degree, she’s got a houseful of adoring pets and a dead-end copywriting job for a local candle company.

Jeff, her so-called genius older brother, doesn’t have it together, either. Creative, and loyal, he’s also aimless in work and love. But his new girlfriend, Kim, a pretty waitress in her twenties, appears smitten.

When Theresa agrees to dog-sit Kim’s puggle for a weekend, she has no idea that it is the beginning of a terrifying nightmare that will shatter her quiet world. Soon, Kim’s body will be found in the woods, and Jeff will become the prime suspect.

Though the evidence is overwhelming, Theresa knows that her brother is not a cold-blooded murderer. But to clear him she must find out more about Kim. Investigating the dead woman’s past, Theresa uncovers a treacherous secret involving politics, murder, and scandal—and becomes entangled in a potentially dangerous romance. But the deeper she falls into this troubling case, the more it becomes clear that, in trying to save her brother’s life, she may be sacrificing her own.

My Take:

There is so much that I loved about What Strange Creatures -- the title, the cover is just lovely and I loved that Theresa is so invested in Margery Kempe, but maybe most of all, I loved the quirkiness of Theresa and her brother, Jeff.

I really enjoyed Miss Me When I'm Gone by Arsenault and I looked forward to another fast-paced, fun, and unexpected ending to another mystery. I was not disappointed.  I think What Strange Creatures was even more enjoyable. 

Theresa seems to be a life-long student of the writing of Margery Kempe, a woman of the middle ages who wrote (actually dictated) the story of her life, visions and pilgrimages in what some consider to be the first autobiography. Theresa didn't intend to spend most of her adult life working on her dissertation, but that is just how things have worked out so far. She has a job as a copywriter for a local candle company, but she still tells herself that she is going to finish her dissertation. Eventually.

Can I just say, I love this set up. I was hooked from the start. Maybe I'm just a geek, but how can anyone NOT love the set up to this book? 

Theresa is determined to help her brother Jeff stay out of prison for a murder she is sure he didn't commit. Her investigation leads her to some unusual people and situations. I admired her dedication to her brother. Their relationship is close and so much fun to read about. 

This was one of those books that I read in pretty much one sitting. I can quite happily recommend this one to everyone. Although, you will have to get your own copy, because I am not sharing -- I may need to read it again.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Endangered Blog Tour and Review

Endangered by Jean Love Cush
Publication date: July 1, 2014 by Amistad
Source: publisher via TLC Book Tours for an honest review
To save her son from a legal system bent on sending African American men to jail, a young mother agrees to an unprecedented, controversial defense offered up from a team of crack lawyers, in this debut novel that speaks to race, class, and justice in America.
Janae Williams, a never-missed-a-day-of-work single mother, has devoted her whole life to properly raising her son. From the time Malik could walk, Janae taught him that the best way to stay alive and out of trouble with the law was to cooperate. Terrified for his safety, she warned him to “raise your hands high, keep your mouth shut, and do whatever they say” if stopped by the police. But when a wave of murders hits Philadelphia and fifteen-year-old Malik is arrested, Janae’s terror is compounded by guilt and doubt: Would Malik be in jail if he had run?

Blocked at every turn from seeing her son, Janae is also unable to afford adequate legal representation. In steps the well-meaning Roger Whitford, a lawyer who wants to use Malik’s case to upend the entire criminal justice system. Janae simply wants her son free, but Roger, with the help of an ambitious private attorney, is determined to expose the system’s hostility toward black boys.

Offering a startling and unprecedented defense, the lawyers spark a national firestorm of debate over race, prison, and politics. As Janae battles to save her son, she begins to discover that she is also fighting for her own survival and that of the future of her community.

My Take:
This book, Endangered, peaked my interest because of it's timely and important topic.  I opened the book -- just to get a peek, since I was reading two other books at the time. I hadn't meant to be drawn in -- I just wanted to take a look at how it started. Well, the best laid plans and all that. . . I was hooked after the first page. The other books had to wait.

This is a compelling novel about a difficult and important problem. The novel tells the story of Malik, a young black boy who is arrested and charged with a murder that he didn't commit. His mother, Janae, is a young, single mom who has worked long and hard to provide for Malik and herself - and is just barely managing to do so. So, of course, she is unable to afford a lawyer and must use a public defender. This doesn't bode well for Malik. His story is so common, no one even seems to notice. . . until Roger Whitford steps in and makes an unexpected offer which could change Malik's and Janae's lives.

Endangered brings the very real problems of our legal system to light and examines many of the symptoms and causes of our social problems, particularly as they pertain to young black males. 

I really enjoyed this book even though the subject matter is upsetting and unfair. I found myself completely immersed in the story. I found Janae to be a very sympathetic and dynamic character. Even though the love interest in the book may seem to distract from the main premise, I was happy to see Janae expand her horizons and start looking at her own well-being and happiness as well as her son's. I can happily recommend this book to anyone. In fact, I gave it to my daughter to read next. 

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Jean Love CushAbout Jean Love Cush

A native of Philadelphia, Jean Love Cush worked for the Philadelphia district attorney’s office directly out of law school before spending three years as a family law attorney helping low-income women escape domestic-abuse situations. After moving to Fort Wayne, Indiana, she hosted a weekly radio show called A View from Summit, where she covered such topics as public safety, urban violence, and inner-city education. Cush now lives in Illinois with her husband and two children.

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

Jean’s Tour Stops

Tuesday, July 1st: Turn the Page
Wednesday, July 2nd: Chaotic Compendiums
Thursday, July 3rd: A Book Geek
Monday, July 7th: Joyfully Retired
Tuesday, July 8th: Literally Jen
Wednesday, July 9th: FictionZeal
Thursday, July 10th: Books on the Table
Monday, July 14th: Between the Covers
Tuesday, July 15th: A Tale of This Newlywed
Wednesday, July 16th: The Most Happy Reader
Thursday, July 17th: Veronica M.D.
Monday, July 21st: Priscilla and Her Books
Tuesday, July 22nd: Giraffe Days
Wednesday, July 23rd: The many thoughts of a reader
Thursday, July 24th: Queen of All She Reads

TBD: Back Porchervations

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Baudelaire's Revenge Blog tour and review

Baudelaire's Revenge by Bob Van Laerhoven
Publication date: April 15, 2014 by Pegasus Books
Source: Publisher via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for an honest review

It is 1870, and Paris is in turmoil.
As the social and political turbulence of the Franco-Prussian War roils the city, workers starve to death while aristocrats seek refuge in orgies and seances. The Parisians are trapped like rats in their beautiful city but a series of gruesome murders captures their fascination and distracts them from the realities of war. The killer leaves lines from the recently deceased Charles Baudelaire’s controversial anthology Les Fleurs du Mal on each corpse, written in the poet’s exact handwriting. Commissioner Lefevre, a lover of poetry and a veteran of the Algerian war, is on the case, and his investigation is a thrilling, intoxicating journey into the sinister side of human nature, bringing to mind the brooding and tense atmosphere of Patrick Susskind’s Perfume. Did Baudelaire rise from the grave? Did he truly die in the first place? The plot dramatically appears to extend as far as the court of the Emperor Napoleon III.
A vivid, intelligent, and intense historical crime novel that offers up some shocking revelations about sexual mores in 19th century France, this superb mystery illuminates the shadow life of one of the greatest names in poetry.

My Take:
How to describe Baudelaire's Revenge by Bob Van Laerhoven? Let's start by saying that this isn't your average, garden-variety mystery novel. This is something quite different. Van Laerhoven has created a deeply dark, foreboding, squalid, deceptive and completely unfriendly vision of Paris in 1870.This is not a place you would want to walk around in during the day, much less at night - which is when much of the story takes place. But the thing is, the descriptions are such that it is almost impossible to stop reading. This dark story did draw me in -- with dread and foreboding, but I continued on.

I found none of the characters to be all that empathetic and certainly not trustworthy - and yet, I was compelled to continue reading. Unreliable narrators abound in this tale. It became quite an interesting experience - wondering if I would ever find out the truth. And then, whose truth would it be? 

While it seems a little unfair to drag Baudelaire into the mire that is this Paris, since he did such a wonderful job of that all on his own, I have to admit that his poetry is a perfect fit for the atmosphere of this book. 

Baudelaire's Revenge presents a dark and grim vision of the world and of humanity. I can't say that everyone would enjoy it, but if you like very dark, gothic mysteries, this may be what you are looking for. Be warned, there is explicit content. I found the book to be dark and disturbing, but ultimately, the mysteries kept me glued to the book to the end.

About the Author

Bob Van Laerhoven became a full-time author in 1991 and has written more than thirty books in Holland and Belgium. The context of his stories isn’t invented behind his desk, rather it is rooted in personal experience. As a freelance travel writer, for example, he explored conflicts and trouble-spots across the globe from the early 1990s to 2005. Echoes of his experiences on the road also trickle through in his novels. Somalia, Liberia, Sudan, Gaza, Iran, Iraq, Myanmar… to name but a few.
During the Bosnian war, Van Laerhoven spent part of 1992 in the besieged city of Sarajevo. Three years later he was working for MSF – Doctors without frontiers – in the Bosnian city of Tuzla during the NATO bombings. At that moment the refugees arrived from the Muslim enclave of Srebrenica. Van Laerhoven was the first writer from the Low Countries to be given the chance to speak to the refugees. His conversations resulted in a travel book: Srebrenica. Getuigen van massamoord – Srebrenica. Testimony to a Mass Murder. The book denounces the rape and torture of the Muslim population of this Bosnian-Serbian enclave and is based on first-hand testimonies. He also concludes that mass murders took place, an idea that was questioned at the time but later proven accurate.
All these experiences contribute to Bob Van Laerhoven’s rich and commendable oeuvre, an oeuvre that typifies him as the versatile author of novels, travel stories, books for young adults, theatre pieces, biographies, poetry, non-fiction, letters, columns, articles… He is also a prize-winning author:  in 2007 he won the Hercule Poirot Prize for best thriller of the year with his novel De Wraak van Baudelaire – Baudelaire’s Revenge.

For more information please visit Bob Van Laerhoven’s website. You can also connect with him on Facebookand Twitter.

Virtual Book Tour Schedule

Monday, June 9
Review at Book Nerd

Tuesday, June 10
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews

Thursday, June 12
Review & Giveaway at Words & Peace

Monday, June 16
Review at Oh, For the Hook of a Book

Tuesday, June 17
Interview at Oh, For the Hook of a Book

Wednesday, June 18
Guest Post & Giveaway at Historical Fiction Connection

Thursday, June 19
Review at A Bookish Girl

Review at Turning the Pages

Friday, June 20
Interview & Giveaway at A Bookish Girl

Monday, June 23
Review at Flashlight Commentary

Interview at Layered Pages

Tuesday, June 24
Interview at Flashlight Commentary

Wednesday, June 25
Review & Giveaway at 100 Pages a Day

Thursday, June 26
Review at A Book Geek

Review at The Lit Bitch

Friday, June 27
Review at A Bibliotaph’s Reviews

Monday, June 30
Review at Reading the Past

Tuesday, July 1
Review & Giveaway at A Bookish Affair

Wednesday, July 2
Review at Layers of Thought

Spotlight & Giveaway at Books and Movies

Thursday, July 3
Review at Impressions in Ink

Review, Interview, and Giveaway at Mina’s Bookshelf
Feature & Giveaway at bookworm2bookworm’s Blog

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Rich Kids of Instagram

Rich Kids of Instagram by The Creator of Rich Kids of Instagram with Maya Sloan
Publication date: July 8, 2014 by Gallery Books
Source: NetGalley
Description from Goodreads:
Based on the wildly popular blog "Rich Kids of Instagram," a dishy and hilarious novel about the intersecting lives of the world's most extravagant, unapologetically uber-rich teenagers.

The "Rich Kids of Instagram" are not your typical well-to-do brats. These "kids" drive Ferraris, fly to their weekend getaways in private jets, and post self-indulgent photos of themselves online as frequently—and as wantonly—as they blow wads of cash. Not to mention that they're more involved in sex, drugs, and power plays than most people twice their age.

Drawing from the ten most frequent contributors to the popular blog of the same name—which receives an average of 850,000 unique visitors a month and has been featured on 20/20, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Forbes, The Atlantic, Buzzfeed, Gawker, and others—Rich Kids of Instagram revolves around a core group of spoiled young people, from a Southern Belle poultry-empire heiress to a media mogul's driven daughter and an old-money rifle heir with a Mayflower legacy; to a nouveau riche outsider who is thrust into the members-only universe of the .1%, with scandalous results.

In a world that is smaller, more connected, and more competitive than ever, where nothing is off limits, some kids are just trying to make a buck—or ten thousand. Prepare to be wowed by this saucy, compulsively readable book about the hilarious display of extravagant wealth and the teenagers who have fallen into it.

My Take:
This was a completely self-indulgent read - one chosen to offset some much darker and heavier reading I had been doing before. 

So, given the reason for the choice of books, I have to say that is served it's purpose quite well. Rich Kids of Instagram is light, fast, and fun. I won't claim that it has a difficult plot to follow or that it is terribly deep or thoughtful. But it is fun and entertaining if you enjoy light fare and the guilty pleasure of reading about the escapades of the young, rich and spoiled.

There are several points of view and their stories do intertwine and the characters interact. Some of the characters are more appealing than others, but there are some that I did enjoy reading about. 

I liked their spunk, their confidence and their firm belief that things would eventually work out. Because with their kind of money, how could things not work out, right?

Purchase Rich Kids of Instagram

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Murder by Misrule Book Blast

HF Virtual Book Tours proudly presents Anna Castle's Blog Tour & Book Blast for Murder by Misrule, the first book in her Francis Bacon Mystery Series. Please join her as she tours the blogosphere from June 2 - July 4.

02_Murder by Misrule Cover
Publication Date: June 8, 2014 Formats: Ebook, Paperback

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A Kirkus Indie Books of the Month Selection for July.

Francis Bacon is charged with investigating the murder of a fellow barrister at Gray's Inn. He recruits his unwanted protégé Thomas Clarady to do the tiresome legwork. The son of a privateer, Clarady will do anything to climb the Elizabethan social ladder. Bacon's powerful uncle Lord Burghley suspects Catholic conspirators of the crime, but other motives quickly emerge. Rival barristers contend for the murdered man's legal honors and wealthy clients. Highly-placed courtiers are implicated as the investigation reaches from Whitehall to the London streets. Bacon does the thinking; Clarady does the fencing. Everyone has something up his pinked and padded sleeve. Even the brilliant Francis Bacon is at a loss — and in danger — until he sees through the disguises of the season of Misrule.

The Francis Bacon Mystery Series

This series of historical mysteries features the philosopher-statesman Francis Bacon as a sleuth and spymaster. Since Francis prefers the comfort of his own chambers, like his spiritual descendent Nero Wolfe, he sends his pupil, the handsome young Thomas Clarady, out to gather information. Tom loves the work, not least because he meets so many interesting people, like Lord Burghley, Sir Walter Raleigh, and Christopher Marlowe. Murder by Misrule is the first book in the series.

Praise for Murder by Misrule

"Though the plot keeps the pages turning, the characters, major and minor, and the well-wrought historical details will make readers want to linger in the 16th century. A laugh-out-loud mystery that will delight fans of the genre." - Kirkus Starred Review

"Murder by Misrule is a delightful debut with characters that leap off the page, especially the brilliant if unwilling detective Francis Bacon and his street smart man Tom Clarady. Elizabeth Tudor rules, but Anna Castle triumphs." - Karen Harper, author of Mistress Shakespeare

"Well-researched... Murder by Misrule is also enormously entertaining; a mystery shot through with a series of misadventures, misunderstandings, and mendacity worthy of a Shakespearean comedy." - M. Louisa Locke, author of Bloody Lessons

“Historical mystery readers take note: Murder by Misrule is a wonderful example of Elizabethan times brought to life.” — D. Donovan, eBook Reviewer, Midwest Book Review

Buy the Book

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About the Author

03_Anna CastleAnna Castle has been a waitress, software engineer, documentary linguist, college professor, and digital archivist. Historical fiction combines her lifelong love of stories and learning. She physically resides in Austin, Texas, and mentally counts herself a queen of infinite space.

For more information please visit Anna Castle's website and blog. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Virtual Book Tour Schedule

Monday, June 2
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Book Blast at Mari Reads

Tuesday, June 3
Interview at Flashlight Commentary
Guest Post at Historical Fiction Connection

Wednesday, June 4
Book Blast at The Musings of ALMYBNENR

Thursday, June 5
Book Blast at Our Wolves Den

Friday, June 6
Review at Book Nerd
Book Blast at The Mad Reviewer
Book Blast at A Dream Within a Dream

Saturday, June 7
Book Blast at Kelsey's Book Corner

Sunday, June 8
Review at Carole's Ramblings

Monday, June 9
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews

Tuesday, June 10
Book Blast at West Metro Mommy

Wednesday, June 11
Review at Oh, For the Hook of a Book
Book Blast at Literary Chanteuse

Thursday, June 12
Review at Curling Up By the Fire

Friday, June 13
Book Blast at Cheryl's Book Nook

Monday, June 16
Book Blast at Closed the Cover
Book Blast at To Read or Not to Read

Tuesday, June 17
Review & Giveaway at 100 Pages a Day
Book Blast at A Book Geek

Wednesday, June 18
Book Blast at CelticLady's Reviews

Thursday, June 19
Review at Bibliotica
Book Blast at Historical Fiction Obsession

Friday, June 20
Review at A Bibliotaph's Reviews
Interview at All Things Girl

Saturday, June 21
Book Blast at Griperang's Bookmarks

Monday, June 23
Review, Guest Post, and Giveaway at A Bookish Affair
Interview at Jorie Loves a Story
Book Blast at So Many Books, So Little Time

Tuesday, June 24
Review at Jorie Loves a Story

Wednesday, June 25
Book Blast at Susan Heim on Writing

Thursday, June 26
Review at A Bookish Girl
Review at Layered Pages
Review at Kinx's Book Nook

Friday, June 27
Book Blast at Caroline Wilson Writes

Monday, June 30
Book Blast at Historical Tapestry

Tuesday, July 1
Interview at Starting Fresh

Wednesday, July 2
Review at Kincavel Korner

Thursday, July 3
Review & Giveaway at The True Book Addict
Guest Post & Giveaway at Bibliophilia, Please

Friday, July 4
Review at Svetlana's Reads and Views

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Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Last Original Wife

The Last Original Wife by Dorothea Benton Frank
Publication date: June 11, 2013 by William Morrow
Source: Publisher for an honest review
Description from Goodreads:
Leslie Anne Greene Carter is the last original wife among her husband's group of cronies. They've all traded in their first wives-the middle-aged women they long ago promised to love and cherish 'til death did them part-for riper peaches: younger . . . blonder . . . more enhanced models.

Leslie is proud of her status and the longevity of her marriage. Sure the spark isn't quite as bright and sometimes takes a little longer to flame. And it wouldn't be too much to ask if her husband paid just an itty bit more attention to her desires. But there's something to be said for a comfortable and deeply familiar relationship. Or at least she thinks until the day, out golfing with her husband and his friends, she slips into a manhole. And nobody realizes that she's gone.

That one misstep opens Leslie's eyes to the sham her perfect life has become. No longer will she be invisible. No longer will she accept being taken for granted. With the healing powers of South Carolina's lush white beaches, candy-colored sunsets, and fiesty and funny residents, Leslie is going to transform herself and reclaim the strong, vibrant, sexy woman she was meant to be.

The Last Original Wife is classic Dorothea Benton Frank: an intoxicating tale of friendship and love that is as refreshing as a soothing breeze across a golden lowcountry marsh and as invigorating as a dip in cool, salty waters on a sizzling South Carolina summer day.

My Take:

Maybe I read The Last Original Wife at just the right time, but I found it to be just the perfect summer read. I have been reading some grim stuff lately and this was exactly what I needed to read.

Leslie is such a fun character - she is smart, sophisticated, and not ashamed of her age. She is the much put-upon wife and mother who goes about her life doing for others -- until a completely crazy event knocks her out of her normal view of her life. I mean falling into a manhole is upsetting - but for it to happen while in a foreign country, while doing normal touristy things and to have your husband not even notice -- and then get upset because he almost missed his tee time ----  that is just not okay. That would spur anyone to re-examine their life.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book -- it is light, fun, the descriptions of southern life are beautiful, and for once, the female character does exactly what she wants and doesn't let her family dictate her actions. I can't wait to read more books by Dorothea Benton Frank. 

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Qualities of Wood blog tour and review

The Qualities of Wood by Mary Vensel White
Publication date: June 17, 2014 by Authonomy/Harper Collins
Source: publisher via TLC Book Tours for an honest review
When Betty Gardiner dies, leaving behind an unkempt country home, her grandson and his young wife take a break from city life to prepare the house for sale. Nowell Gardiner leaves first to begin work on his second mystery novel. By the time his wife Vivian joins him, a real mystery has begun: a local girl has been found dead in the woods behind the house. Even after the death is ruled an accident, Vivian can’t forget the girl, can’t ignore the strange behavior of her neighbors, or her husband. As Vivian attempts to put the house in order, all around her things begin to fall apart.

My Take:
The way The Qualities of Wood begins, it really feels like it is setting up a suspenseful, thrilling page-turner of a mystery; however, the book is actually more literary and more of a character study than a mystery or thriller.  And that is not a bad thing. 

I admit I was expecting a thriller, but I wasn't disappointed by the book, really. I enjoyed how Vivian experiences the grandmother's house and finds out the news of the suspicious death in the woods behind the house. This sets up what seems like a murder mystery, but isn't really. The story shows how small towns can seem secretive and a little peculiar to outsiders. Everyone knows everything about everyone else, but to a newcomer, it can all seem much more sinister than it actually is. White handles this aspect of the story nicely as well as the charms of country/small town life. 

While the story touches on aspects of living in a small community, the main focus of the novel turns out to be on relationships. White examines the relationships between Vivian, Nowell, and his troublesome brother Lonnie and his new wife. Despite descriptions by Vivian of how nice and sweet tempered Nowell is, the reader doesn't see much of evidence of this. Vivian makes a lot of excuses for his temper and secretiveness saying that it must be the writer in him. It felt to me more like she was trying to convince herself. 

Even though the novel doesn't turn out to be a big murder mystery/thriller, I did enjoy the way White demonstrates just how little we can ever actually know another person. She does this by having Vivian make assumptions about various characters and situations and then she learns just how wrong those assumptions can be. 

This was a nice read and I actually enjoyed the journey that Vivian takes to learn a few things about herself, her marriage and about that often asked question of just how well can one person really know another person. 

About Mary Vensel White

Mary Vensel White was born in LA and graduated from the University of Denver. She lived in Chicago for 5 years where she received her MA at DePaul University. Her short fiction has appeared in The Wisconsin Review and Foothilles Literary Journal. This is her first novel.
Find out more about Mary at her website, connect with her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.

Bookstore Events

Live in Southern California? Mary is visiting a bookstore near you!
Tuesday, June 17th at 7pm
Barnes & Noble in Irvine, CA
13712 Jamboree Road
Irvine, CA 92602
Saturday, June 21st at 4pm
Vromans Bookstore in Pasadena, CA
695 E. Colorado Blvd
Pasadena, CA 91101

Mary’s Tour Stops

Wednesday, May 21st: The Ludic Reader
Thursday, May 22nd: Every Free Chance Book Reviews
Friday, May 23rd: BooksAreTheNewBlack
Monday, May 26th: Reader Her Like an Open Book
Tuesday, May 27th: Chaotic Compendiums
Wednesday, May 28th: Sincerely Stacie
Thursday, May 29th: Literary Lindsey
Monday, June 2nd: Books on the Table
Tuesday, June 3rd: Patricia’s Wisdom
Tuesday, June 10th: Mel’s Shelves
Wednesday, June 11th: A Book Geek

Thursday, June 12th: Karen’s Korner

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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Citadels of Fire blog tour and review

Citadels of Fire by L.K. Hill
Publication date: May 27, 2014 by Jolly Fish Press
Source: publisher for an honest review
In a world where danger hides in plain sight and no one aspires to more than what they were born to, Inga must find the courage to break the oppressive chains she’s been bound with since birth. Even as a maid in the infamous Kremlin, life in 16th-century Russia is bleak and treacherous. That is, until Taras arrives. Convinced that his mother’s death when he was a boy was no mere accident, he returned from England to discover what really happened. While there, he gains favor from the Tsar later known as Ivan the Terrible, the most brutal and notorious ruler ever to sit upon the throne of Russia. Ivan allows him to take a servant, and to save Inga from a brutal boyar intent on raping her, Taras requests Inga to stay in his chambers. Up against the social confines of the time, the shadowy conspiracies that cloak their history, and the sexual politics of the Russian Imperial court, Inga and Taras must discover their past, plan for their future, and survive the brutality that permeates life within the four walls that tower over them all, or they may end up like so many citizens of ancient Russia: nothing but flesh and bone mortar for the stones of the Kremlin wall.

My Take:

I love Russian history and novels that take place in Russia, so naturally, the description of Citadels of Fire appealed to me. The novel manages to give a fascinating look at the politics, customs and superstitions, class distinctions and historical events all while holding the reader's interest in a story mostly about Inga, Yehvah, and Taras.

Yehvah is  the woman who saves Inga and gives her a stable parent figure and a position in the Kremlin as a maid.  Taras spent time in Russia as a child before his mother's death and returns as an adult to find out the truth about her death. He ends up in the Tsar's army and is a central figure to the story. 

It is Inga, however, who held my interest the most. She is an underdog in a world of powerful people who will stop at nothing to get what they want. Her situation is precarious since the boyars view any servant as basically property to be treated however they wish. This becomes an even bigger issue as Inga grows into a smart and beautiful young woman. 

I found the novel to be interesting and quite a page-turner. I was particularly impressed with how the author was able to weave the politics of the time into the story. Because the novel includes Ivan's childhood and the traumas and upheaval he experienced, it is a little easier to empathize with his extreme moods and it at least helps to explain a bit some of his actions. 

The author includes wonderful descriptions of the landscape and weather and wildlife - all of which could be very dangerous to humans. I thought the tone of how tough and precarious life in Russia could be was right and I enjoyed the book very much. I was a bit upset at the ending when I realized that I would have to wait to find out the rest of Inga and Tara's story.

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You can find L.K. Hill online here:


Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Word Exchange

The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon
Publication date: April 8, 2014 by Doubleday
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Description from Goodreads:

A fiendishly clever dystopian novel for the digital age, The Word Exchange is a fresh, stylized and decidedly original debut about the dangers of technology and the power of the printed word.     In the not so distant future, the forecasted "death of print" has become a reality. Bookstores, libraries, newspapers and magazines are a thing of the past, as we spend our time glued to handheld devices called Memes that not only keep us in constant communication, but have become so intuitive as to hail us cabs before we leave our offices, order take out at the first growl of a hungry stomach, and even create and sell language itself in a marketplace called The Word Exchange.
     Anana Johnson works with her father Doug at the North American Dictionary of the English Language (NADEL), where Doug is hard at work on the final edition that will ever be printed. Doug is a staunchly anti-Meme, anti-tech intellectual who fondly remembers the days when people used email (everything now is text or video-conference) to communicate--or even actually spoke to one antoher for that matter. One evening, Doug disappears from the NADEL offices leaving a single writen clue: ALICE. It's a code word he and Anana devised to signal if one of them ever fell into harm's way. And thus begins Anana's journey down the proverbial rabbit hole. . .
     Joined by Bart, her bookish NADEL colleague (who is secretly in love with her), Anana's search for Doug will take her into dark basement incinerator rooms, underground passages of the Mercantile Library, secret meetings of the anonymous "Diachronic Society," the boardrooms of the evil online retailing site Synchronic, and ultimately to the hallowed halls of the Oxford English Dictionary--the spiritual home of the written word. As Ana pieces togehter what is going on, and Bart gets sicker and sicker with the strange "Word flu" that has spread worldwide causing people to speak in gibberish, Alena Graedon crafts a fresh, cautionary tale that is at once a technological thriller, and a throughtful meditation on the price of technology and the unforeseen, though very real, dangers of the digital age.

My Take:

The premise of The Word Exchange intrigued very much, so I had to give it a go. As a reluctant, but eventual ebook reader, I still love physical books and am continually drawn to them. The ideas about the dangers of digital books, magazines, etc. are always exciting and enticing for me. 

I was drawn into the story from the first page of the book. I love words and the author's love of words is obvious from the beginning. I loved the table of contents - the three sections to the book are: Thesis, Antithesis, Synthesis; each chapter within those sections are labeled as a letter to the alphabet and the chapter begins like a dictionary entry. What self-respecting book geek wouldn't love that?

I love the quirky characters, Anana (also Alice), Bart (for Bartleby, of course), Doug, Phineas -- the one character I didn't like was Max, the ex-boyfriend and all-around jerk. 

I thought the book was a great romp from the start. I loved the way the 'word flu' crept into the characters' conversations and writing. It was fun to see a "word" and know it wasn't really a word, but the speaker was sure that it was. There are many references to Alice in Wonder and Through the Looking-glass - which I loved, of course.

While the book is great fun from start to finish, there are also cautionary notes throughout. I found that many of them fed into my own concerns while still remaining hopeful about our future and respectful and loving towards the written word in whatever format. 

This is a book that I would recommend to anyone who enjoys word, books, reading, dictionaries in particular and a good story. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Fallout blog tour and review

Fallout by Sadie Jones
Publication date: April 29, 2014 by Harper
Source: publisher via TLC Book Tours for an honest review
Luke Kanowski is a young playwright— intense, magnetic, and eager for life. He escapes a disastrous upbringing in the northeast and, arriving in London, meets Paul Driscoll, an aspiring producer, and the beautiful, fiery Leigh Radley, the woman Paul loves.
The three set up a radical theater company, living and working together; a romantic connection forged in candlelit rehearsal rooms during power cuts and smoky late-night parties in Chelsea’s run-down flats. The gritty rebellion of pub theater is fighting for its place against a West End dominated by racy revue shows and the giants of twentieth-century drama.
Nina Jacobs is a fragile actress, bullied by her mother and in thrall to a controlling producer. When Luke meets Nina, he recognizes a soul in danger—but how much must he risk to save her?
Everything he has fought for—loyalty, friendship, art—is drawn into the heat of their collision. As Luke ricochets between honesty and deceit, the promise of the future and his own painful past, the fallout threatens to be immense.

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My Take:
Fallout really intrigued me. This is the first book by Sadie Jones that I have read, so I had no idea what to expect. I found her depiction of 1970's London and the Theater scene to be very well written and I felt that I was able to get a very good mental picture of the people, the buildings, the life. 

The characters are interesting because they seem true, gritty, flawed, and many of them are wounded. Luke Kanowski, the young, brilliant writer, is the best developed and is sympathetic despite his emotional ineptitude. He is able to write real people into his plays, but he is barely able to deal with actual people. 

His friends, Paul and Leigh, are the other two people in their little relationship triangle. The friendship shared by the three is complicated and difficult. The other main character is Nina, a fragile and emotionally wounded actress that Luke immediately feels a connection with and also a strong desire to rescue her. 

While this could easily be described as a romance, it is not a sappy, fluffy romance at all. It is starker and very complicated. As is often the case in life, people make bad decisions for all the wrong reasons and don't seem to realize that they are hurting themselves and others. I found the progression of the story to be worthy of my attention and I really wanted to see how these characters evolved and learned from their actions. I found myself hoping that Luke, in particular, would learn from his mistakes and from the mistakes by others. It was definitely a worthwhile read and I would recommend it.

Sadie JonesAbout Sadie Jones

Sadie Jones is the author of The Outcast, a winner of the Costa First Novel Award in Great Britain and a finalist for the Orange Prize for Fiction and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction; the novel Small Wars; and the bestselling novel The Uninvited Guests. She lives in London.

Sadie’s Tour Stops

Tuesday, April 29th: Booksie’s Blog
Wednesday, April 30th: missris
Thursday, May 1st: Jo-Jo Loves to Read!
Monday, May 5th: Books on the Table
Tuesday, May 6th: Olduvai Reads
Wednesday, May 7th: Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Thursday, May 8th: Read Lately
Monday, May 12th: five borough book review
Tuesday, May 13th: Chaotic Compendium
Wednesday, May 14th: Bibliotica
Thursday, May 15th: The Road to Here
Monday, May 19th: A Book Geek
Friday, May 23rd: Books à la Mode
Monday, May 26th: Bibliophiliac
Thursday, May 29th: Giraffe Days

Friday, May 30th: Books and Movies