Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Who is to Blame? Blog Tour and Review

Who Is to Blame? by Jane Marlow
Publication Date: October 18, 2016
Publisher: Greenleaf Book Group
eBook & Paperback; 300 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Author/Publisher for an honest review



Jane Marlow’s debut novel is a beautifully written historical saga of two families—one born of noble heritage and the other bound as serfs to the noble’s household. Set during the mid-1800s in the vast grainfields of Russia, Who Is to Blame? follows the lives of two star-crossed serfs, Elizaveta and Feodor, torn apart by their own families and the Church while simultaneously trapped in the inhumane life of poverty to which they were born.

At the other end of the spectrum, Count Maximov and his family struggle to maintain harmony amidst a tapestry of deception and debauchery woven by the Count’s son. The plot twists further when the Tsar emancipates twenty million serfs from bondage as the rural gentry’s life of privilege and carelessness has taken its final bow, while much of Russia’s nobility faces possible financial ruin.

Aficionados of historical fiction will be captivated by the lyrical flow of Marlow’s intertwining stories of love, loss, courage, and pain against her backdrop of social upheaval. The novel’s riddles flow subtly throughout, spurring readers to ponder where the blame actually lies. In the end, we must tap into our own hearts to navigate the depths and quandaries of the author’s perplexing question.

When you try to describe Russia you can use well-known historical events. If you want to know about the lives of the Russian people, it becomes a little murkier until now. Jane Marlow has done a marvelous job in giving the reader a deep and beautiful insight into the day to day life of the Russian people from nobles to the peasants in the 19th century. As you immerse yourself in the book you can feel their struggles and experiences as though you were walking in their shoes. Brilliant!” -Mark Schauss, host of the Russian Rulers History Podcast



My Take:

Who is to Blame? by Jane Marlow is definitely a worthwhile read, but it isn't a light or easy one. I found the novel to be so very realistic in its depiction of the brutal and often hopeless lives of the serfs tied to Count Maximov's land.

Often in novels, the main character -for instance, the outspoken, idealistic young girl who has dreams of spending the rest of her life with the love of her life -- actually gets their happy ending. This is not the case in Who is to Blame? This novel is stark and almost too realistic in the depiction of the lives of the serfs. But it does a great job of presenting realism instead of a fantasy version of a historical period.

Even the lives of the privileged aristocrats such as the Maximov family have their own problems -- mostly due to arrogance and expecting that everything should go their way, but still there are legitimate problems. The family stresses are the main issues for Maximov - his wife never really recovers from the loss of one of her children and they grow distant; one of his sons lives a life of debauchery and deception and Count Maximov struggles to make his land profitable. The problems of a wealthy class stand in stark contrast to the day to day struggle for survival and simple human dignity of the serfs, which the Maximovs consider to be nothing more than property.

I was drawn into the story and was really interested in how things would play out, but I quickly realized that this was going to be a thought-provoking book - not just entertainment. Working out who is to blame and how to fix the problems are  much harder tasks than we are often led to believe. I really appreciated that Marlow didn't try to sugar-coat things. Sometimes we readers need to tackle difficult topics and ideas. Anyone interested in realistic historical fiction - especially dealing with Russian history - and isn't afraid to tackle tough subjects, will enjoy reading and pondering Who is to Blame?





About the Author

Thanks to my mom and my hometown’s bookmobile, I learned as a youngster to appreciate the written word. Since then, I’ve devoted many years to trying to use it properly. Like many aspiring writers, I wrote weekends, before work, on vacation. I hoped to turn my hobby into a 2nd career, which eventually happened (but first, I had to work at it for eighteen year, plus I had to reach retirement age!).

My commitment to my readers: Every bit of me will work to provide a reading experience that is engrossing, emotive, thought-provoking, & historically driven— a tale that offers meaningful insights for today’s world.

For more information please visit Jane Marlow’s website and blog. You can also connect with her on Facebook.









Monday, November 14, 2016

The Infinity of You & Me Blog Tour and Review

The Infinity of You & Me by J.Q. Coyle
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: November 8, 2016
Source: Publisher for an honest review

Description:

Almost fifteen, Alicia is smart and funny with a deep connection to the poet Sylvia Plath, but she’s ultimately failing at life. With a laundry list of diagnoses, she hallucinates different worlds—strange, decaying, otherworldly yet undeniably real worlds that are completely unlike her own with her single mom and one true friend. In one particularly vivid hallucination, Alicia is drawn to a boy her own age named Jax who’s trapped in a dying universe. Days later, her long-lost father shows up at her birthday party, telling her that the hallucinations aren’t hallucinations, but real worlds; she and Jax are bound by a strange past and intertwining present. This leads her on a journey to find out who she is, while trying to save the people and worlds she loves.

This novel explores the ideas of choice and destiny. Baggott says, “We created a concept that explains that feeling of being haunted by the path you didn’t take, a concept that explores some natural human emotions like regret, nostalgia, a grief for the life unlived.” This concept influences the world-building within the novel, making it complex yet thoughtful.

The dynamic duo behind J.Q. Coyle make THE INFINITY OF YOU & ME a wild ride through unruly hearts and vivid worlds guaranteed to captivate. Smart and magical, this novel will catch hold of any reader, young or old.

My Take:

Alicia has some issues -- she has lots of diagnoses, but that doesn't seem to help her much. Fortunately, she has one loyal friend, Hafeez, and he stands by her no matter what. Alicia is the brunt of much abuse by some of her other classmates and it seems odd why - until much later in the book. There are so many things that have been hidden from Alicia, but her fifteenth birthday is coming up and things will change quickly and drastically for her - and so many things will be revealed and then things get even more complicated for her.

 I found Alicia and the story to be engaging and once the reason for all of Alicia's supposed issues is explained, the story really takes off. I found the descriptions of the multiverse and how Alicia eventually learns to travel between the different versions of the world to be one of the most fascinating aspects of the novel. 

The different versions of people that Alicia knows and is related to are quite interesting as well. Actually I found the whole novel to be quite fun and intriguing. I expect that the relationship between Alicia and Jax will be quite important to the YA reading audience, but for me it was just part of the plot. Maybe I'm too old and too much of a nerd, but the travel between multiverses and the way the knowledge and abilities are used and exploited were just the most fascinating parts for me.

There is a lot to think about in the novel in regards to how our experiences shape the person we become and taking responsibility for our choices and actions.

I look forward to reading more about Alicia's adventures -- I can't believe that this one book is it for this writing duo and the worlds they have created. My daughter was practically bouncing off the walls waiting for me to finish reading the book so she could have her chance. I expect The Infinity of You & Me to be a big success.





About the Author

J.Q. COYLE is the joint pen name of Julianna Baggott and Quinn Dalton. Quinn is an acclaimed writer who has published two short story collections and two novels. Julianna is the author of over twenty novels, including Pure, a New York Times Notable (2012).







Monday, October 24, 2016

Moon Chosen Blog Tour and Review

Moon Chosen by P.C. Cast
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Publication date: October 18, 2016
Source: Publisher for an honest review

Description:

 Chosen to embrace her true identity. Chosen to follow her destiny. Chosen to change her world.

Mari is an Earth Walker, heir to the unique healing powers of her Clan, but she has been forced to turn from her duties, until she is chosen by a special animal ally, altering her destiny forever. When a deadly attack tears her world apart, Mari reveals the strength of her powers and the forbidden secret of her dual nature as she embarks on a mission to save herself and her people. It is not until Nik, the son of the leader from a rival, dominating Tribe, strays across her path that Mari experiences something she has never felt before…

Now evil is coming, and with it, a force more terrible and destructive than the world has ever seen, leaving Mari to cast the shadows from the earth. By breaking Clan Law and forming an alliance with Nik, she must make herself ready. Ready to save her people. Ready to save herself and Nik. Ready to embrace her true destiny…and battle the forces that threaten to destroy them all.



My Take:

The world of Moon Chosen is new and very different. At first, it was a bit confusing, but I think that had more to do with the formatting of the digital galley. However, it didn't take long for the characters and the world to catch my imagination and pull me into the story.

Mari and her mother, Leda, are unique and important women. Leda is the Moon Woman of her clan - she is a healer with a special relationship with the moon. Her daughter is unique because she is part Earth Walker, like her mother, and part Tribe - a different people who live in the trees and have special companions - canines who bond for life. She is unaware of just how special she is and what her uniqueness will mean.

There are so many aspects to the novel that intrigue me -- the way groups of people gravitated to different ways of living, their bonds with animals, and maybe most of all --- curiosity about what happened to make the people flee the city and take to the wilderness in the first place. 

Of course, there are still people living in the city - but they are failing as a group, filled with a deep anger and have a terrible illness that causes them to steal the skin of others. It is very disturbing and this group suddenly starts growing in power and initiative due to the recent upheaval in their power structure. This bodes ill for the other people within the vicinity of the city.

The story line is compelling and interesting -- and the relationships between the characters is humorous, sad, and very fun to read about as they grow to understand themselves and each other. I am sure that this will be a very popular new series by P.C. Cast. I look forward to reading more about this very unique and compelling world. I am also very interested in Mari, Nik, and Sora's futures. Moon Chosen is definitely a book that I would recommend to young adult readers and anyone who enjoys fast-paced fantasy with great world-building.





ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

P.C. CAST is the #1 New York Times and USA Today Best-Selling author of the House of Night Series and a member of the Oklahoma Writers Hall of Fame.  With more than 20 million copies in print in over 40 countries, her novels have been awarded the prestigious: Oklahoma Book Award, YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers, Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award, the Prism, Holt Medallion, Daphne du Maurier, Booksellers’ Best, and the Laurel Wreath. 

Ms. Cast was born in the Midwest, and grew up being shuttled back-and-forth between Illinois and Oklahoma, which is where she fell in love with Quarter Horses and mythology.  After high school she joined the United States Air Force and began public speaking and writing. After her tour in the USAF, she taught high school for 15 years before retiring to write full time.  Ms. Cast lives in Oregon surrounded by beloved cats, dogs, horses, and family.











Friday, October 14, 2016

Fractured blog tour and review

Fractured by Catherine McKenzie
Paperback: 362 pages
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (October 4, 2016)
Source: Publisher via TLC Book Tours


Welcome, neighbor!
Julie Prentice and her family move across the country to the idyllic Mount Adams district of Cincinnati, hoping to evade the stalker who’s been terrorizing them ever since the publication of her bestselling novel, The Murder Game. Since Julie doesn’t know anyone in her new town, when she meets her neighbor John Dunbar, their instant connection brings measured hope for a new beginning. But she never imagines that a simple, benign conversation with him could set her life spinning so far off course.

We know where you live…

After a series of misunderstandings, Julie and her family become the target of increasingly unsettling harassment. Has Julie’s stalker found her, or are her neighbors out to get her, too? As tension in the neighborhood rises, new friends turn into enemies, and the results are deadly.

“Catherine McKenzie has quickly become a master of the psychological thriller, and Fractured is no exception. A taut, finely wrought novel that had me holding my breath from the very first page, unsure of where the twists and turns would take me but looking forward to all of them.” —Allison Winn Scotch, New York Times bestselling author of Time of Your Life and In Twenty Years

“A contentious past leads a young couple to move thousands of miles from home to an exemplary family community when things go terribly wrong in Catherine McKenzie’s latest tour de force, Fractured. When tragedy strikes, everyone is a suspect, as McKenzie masterfully weaves together the stories of Julie and John: strangers who become friends, neighbors who become enemies. A tightly drawn narrative that begs the question: How much can we really know about those living closest to us? Truly riveting!” —Mary Kubica, New York Times bestselling author of The Good Girl and Pretty Baby

“Beautifully plotted. Breathlessly paced. Fractured is a difficult book to put down. But its insights into love, marriage, and obsession ensure that you’ll be thinking about it long after you do. This is Catherine McKenzie at her best.” —Matthew Norman, author of We’re All Damaged and Domestic Violets


Purchase Links


My Take:

Fractured is the first novel by Catherine McKenzie that I have read. The premise of the novel sounded promising and I looked forward to reading the book. However, when I saw the cover I became a bit worried. I know better than to judge a book by the cover, but I also admit that I do it sometimes. This time ended up being a very pleasant surprise. I started reading just to see what I was in for and couldn't put the book down. 

Julie Prentice and her family move across the country to get away from a stalker that has been harassing the family. They move to what seems to be an idyllic town in Ohio. It soon becomes apparent that even the ideal little town has its own problems. The first is the extremely annoying busybody - Cindy Sutton - who wants to control every little thing in the neighborhood. Julie and Cindy don't exactly hit it off and things go downhill from there.

It doesn't take long before strange things start to happen and Julie is afraid that her stalker has found her again - or could there be a new stalker? It is pretty clear that Julie is still very shaken by the stalker situation and is very much on edge. Some people around her doubt her version of events, though. 

The story is told from alternating narratives of Julie and a neighbor, John Dunbar, who lives across the street from Julie. The alternating narrative that starts at "Today" and jumps in time to tell the story from each point of view. The author does a great job of slowly creating tension and doubt in the reader about the reliability of both narrators and the events themselves.

I quickly found myself caught up in the story and the attempt to figure out what was going on and who was reliable and who wasn't. Julie has a hard time fitting into the culture of the neighborhood. After some incidents that are blown way out of proportion and the awful Cindy taking the initiative to cause problems for Julie, things quickly become tense and suspicious. Is Julie really being stalked? Is she paranoid? Is John really the normal guy he seems to be? What is their relationship? There are so many questions that need to be answered. The author is pretty sneaky at dropping bits of information, false information, and generally keeps the reader on edge.

I found Fractured to be a well-written, fast-paced page turner. Even though it isn't a murder mystery per se, it held my attention like it was. There are also some really intriguing questions about the inspiration for Julie's novel. Such a fun book! I would wholeheartedly recommend Fractured.



About Catherine McKenzie
Catherine McKenzie, a graduate of McGill University, practices law in Montreal, where she was born and raised. An avid skier and runner, Catherine’s novels SpinArrangedForgotten, and Hidden are all international bestsellers and have been translated into numerous languages. Hidden was an Amazon #1 bestseller and a Digital Book World bestseller. Her fifth novel, Smoke, was an Amazon bestseller, a Goodreads Best Book for October 2015, and an Amazon Top 100 Book of 2015.

Connect with Catherine


Catherine McKenzie’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS
Tuesday, October 4th: You Can Read Me Anything
Tuesday, October 4th: Chick Lit Central
Wednesday, October 5th: Open Book Society
Thursday, October 6th: Musings of a Bookish Kitty
Friday, October 7th: Palmer’s Page Turners
Monday, October 10th: Write Read Life
Wednesday, October 12th: Caryn, The Book Whisperer
Thursday, October 13th: Reading is my Superpower
Thursday, October 13th: Stranded in Chaos
Friday, October 14th: A Book Geek
Monday, October 17th: Luxury Reading
Tuesday, October 18th: Booked on a Feeling
Wednesday, October 19th: Kritter’s Ramblings
Wednesday, October 19th: From the TBR Pile
Thursday, October 20th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Friday, October 21st: Not in Jersey
Monday, October 24th: 5 Minutes for Books
Monday, October 24th: A Bookish Way of Life
Tuesday, October 25th: Bewitched Bookworms
Wednesday, October 26th: Wall to Wall Books
Thursday, October 27th: Thoughts on This ‘n That

Friday, October 28th: Book Chatter





Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Beauty Shop Cover Reveal

02_the-beauty-shop_coverHello and welcome! Today, I’m thrilled to finally reveal the cover of my upcoming novel, The Beauty Shop. As the novel is set during the dark days of World War Two, the title might appear to be rather unusual. The beauty shop was a nickname for a ward at a small hospital in East Grinstead, a market town in southern England, where a maverick New Zealand plastic surgeon cared for severely burned airmen.

Such was the humour of the men there that one airman said to a visitor one day, “Stick around here long enough, miss and they’ll whip a piece off you and stick it on one of us.”

This was no ordinary hospital ward. There was beer for one thing, and pretty girls for nurses, music all day long and dancing. The air that flowed here drifted through smiles, laughter, love, and loss. And when surgeon Archie McIndoe spoke to each man, his eyes shone with such radiance, and his words sang with such confidence and compassion, instilling each man with fresh hope.

Based on a true story, via three interlocking experiences of WWII, The Beauty Shop explores the nature of good looks, social acceptance and the true meaning of ‘skin deep’.


The Beauty Shop by Suzy Henderson

Publication Date: November 2016
eBook & Paperback; 350 Pages
Genre: Historical Romance

England, 1942. After three years of WWII, Britain is showing the scars. But in this darkest of days, three lives intertwine, changing their destinies and those of many more.

Dr Archibald McIndoe, a New Zealand plastic surgeon with unorthodox methods, is on a mission to treat and rehabilitate badly burned airmen – their bodies and souls. With the camaraderie and support of the Guinea Pig Club, his boys battle to overcome disfigurement, pain, and prejudice to learn to live again.

John ‘Mac’ Mackenzie of the US Air Force is aware of the odds. He has one chance in five of surviving the war. Flying bombing missions through hell and back, he’s fighting more than the Luftwaffe. Fear and doubt stalk him on the ground and in the air, and he’s torn between his duty and his conscience.

Shy, decent and sensible, Stella Charlton’s future seems certain until war breaks out. As a new recruit to the WAAF, she meets an American pilot on New Year’s Eve. After just one dance, she falls head over heels for the handsome airman. But when he survives a crash, she realises her own battle has only just begun.

Based on a true story, The Beauty Shop is a moving tale of love, compassion, and determination against a backdrop of wartime tragedy.

About the Author

03_suzy-hendersonSuzy Henderson lives with her husband and two sons in Cumbria, England, on the edge of the beautiful Lake District, a rich and inspiring landscape of mountains, fells, and lakes. She never set out to be a writer, although she has always been a voracious reader.

Some years ago after leaving an established career in healthcare, Suzy began to research family history, soon becoming fascinated with both World War periods. After completing a degree in English Literature and Creative Writing, she took a walk along a new path, writing from the heart. She writes historical fiction and has an obsession with military and aviation history.

Other interests include music, old movies, and photography – especially if WW2 aircraft are on the radar. She is a member of the Historical Novel Society. Her debut novel, The Beauty Shop, is to be released in November 2016.

For more information, please visit Suzy Henderson's website. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, and Goodreads. Suzy also blogs at https://suzyhenderson.wordpress.com and http://lowfellwritersplace.blogspot.co.uk.


Cover Reveal Hosts

100 Pages a Day
A Book Geek
Beth's Book Nook Blog
Book Lovers Paradise
Book Nerd
Passages to the Past
The Lit Bitch
The Maiden's Court
The True Book Addict


04_the-beauty-shop_blog-tour-banner_final

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Hatching - Review

The Hatching by Ezekiel Boone
Publication date: July 5, 2016
Publisher: Atria/Bestler Books
Source: Publisher via NetGalley for an honest review

Description:

An astonishingly inventive and terrifying debut novel about the emergence of an ancient species, dormant for over a thousand years, and now on the march.

Deep in the jungle of Peru, where so much remains unknown, a black, skittering mass devours an American tourist whole. Thousands of miles away, an FBI agent investigates a fatal plane crash in Minneapolis and makes a gruesome discovery. Unusual seismic patterns register in a Kanpur, India earthquake lab, confounding the scientists there. During the same week, the Chinese government “accidentally” drops a nuclear bomb in an isolated region of its own country. As these incidents begin to sweep the globe, a mysterious package from South America arrives at a Washington, D.C. laboratory. Something wants out.

The world is on the brink of an apocalyptic disaster. An ancient species, long dormant, is now very much awake.



My Take:

How to review The Hatching without giving too much away? That is a difficult question.  Obviously the book is about spiders - but not ordinary spiders - not by a long shot.  But the uncovering of information about them is part of the creepy fun of the novel. 

What  I enjoyed as much as the creepy spiders were the characters - and there are several of them to keep up with. They cover quite a large swath of types and personalities. Professor Melanie Guyer is an expert on spiders, so she will of course play a big part in the novel. Her ex-husband is the White House chief of staff to President Stephanie Pilgrim. These are all big players in the novel and in the world of the novel. And I like these characters - their personal troubles, their complicated relationships, their humor -- all part of what makes The Hatching so good.  There are several more characters and all are interesting in their own way. However, I have to admit that I think my favorite characters are the two survivalist couples out in Desperation, California,  who are preparing for the worst -- they just don't know exactly what it will be. There are Gordo and Amy and Shotgun and Fred. They each have their own survival bunkers and each couple is fun on their own, but when they decide to share the same large bunker, things become even more fun and interesting. I don't know what will happen to them in the end, but I really enjoyed reading about their adventure/nightmare so far. 

The Hatching was the creepy-crawliest book I have read in a long time and I was not prepared for the way it ended. When I started reading it, I didn't realize there would be more than one book. The ending is quite a cliffhanger and I am anxiously waiting for the next book. Highly recommended.




Friday, July 29, 2016

The Girl in the River - Review

THE GIRL IN THE RIVER
By Kate Rhodes
Witness Impulse
October 20, 2015
E-ISBN 9780062444042
Price: $2.99
Source: Publisher for an honest review


About the Book

Jude Shelley, daughter of a prominent cabinet minister, had her whole life ahead of her until she was attacked and left to drown in the Thames. Miraculously, she survived. A year later, her family is now asking psychologist Alice Quentin to re-examine the case.

But then a body is found: an elderly priest, attacked in Battersea, washed up at Westminster Pier. An ancient glass bead is tied to his wrist.

Alice is certain that Jude and her family are hiding something, but unless she can persuade them to share what they know, more victims will come.

Because the Thames has always been a site of sacrifice and death.

And Alice is about to learn that some people still believe in it…

Purchase Here:



My Take:

I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly I was drawn into The Girl in the River.  I think a different title might be better, but the story itself was fast-paced and kept my interest to the very end. This was my first Alice Quentin novel and I really liked the character and found her profession of Forensic Psychologist for the Met to be intriguing. There are so many interesting characters in the novel -- and more than a few could be the killer.

When the victim of a horrible assault starts remembering details of her attack months after the fact, Alice is called in to help find leads. The reader gets to follow Alice as she tries to figure out who attacked Jude and why. Unfortunately, more people are being murdered and the method of Jude's attack takes on new horrific meaning. The reader also gets to follow the killer  -- and this part gets pretty creepy. The guy is obviously very disturbed.

I thought the author did a great job introducing many possible suspects and kept me guessing all the way through. This was a fun, fast, and slightly disturbing read. There was also the history and archaeology of the Thames, since it plays such a prominent part in the story.  I would read the other Alice Quentin books as well since I enjoyed this one quite a lot. The Girl in the River will certainly appeal to any reader who enjoys a good mystery or fast-paced thriller.





About the Author
Kate Rhodes is the author of three previous Alice Quentin novels, Crossbones Yard, A Killing of Angels and The Winter Foundlings, as well as two collections of poetry, Reversal and The Alice Trap. She writes full-time now, and lives in Cambridge with her husband, a writer and film-maker. @K_RhodesWriter

Connect with Kate Rhodes




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

Description:

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.



Add to Goodreads badge

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.”


  Add to Goodreads badge


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

Description:


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.