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, RenĂ©, 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

A Man of Honor Blog Tour and Review

  A Man of Honor, or Horatio's Confessions by J.A. Nelson Publication Date: December 9, 2019 Quill Point Press Paperback, eBook & ...