Blog Tour: June by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore

June

June by Miranda Beverly-Whitemore. Crown. 400 pp.

Hello, and welcome to today’s stop on TLC’s tour for June by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore! Before we get to my review, check out the synopsis:

From the New York Times bestselling author of Bittersweet comes a novel of suspense and passion about a terrible mistake made sixty years ago that threatens to change a modern family forever. 

Twenty-five-year-old Cassie Danvers is holed up in her family’s crumbling mansion in rural St. Jude, Ohio, mourning the loss of the woman who raised her—her grandmother, June. But a knock on the door forces her out of isolation. Cassie has been named the sole heir to legendary matinee idol Jack Montgomery’s vast fortune. How did Jack Montgomery know her name? Could he have crossed paths with her grandmother all those years ago? What other shocking secrets could June’s once-stately mansion hold?

Soon Jack’s famous daughters come knocking, determined to wrestle Cassie away from the inheritance they feel is their due. Together, they all come to discover the true reasons for June’s silence about that long-ago summer, when Hollywood came to town, and June and Jack’s lives were forever altered by murder, blackmail, and betrayal. As this page-turner shifts deftly between the past and present, Cassie and her guests will be forced to reexamine their legacies, their definition of family, and what it truly means to love someone, steadfastly, across the ages.

MyReview

I requested this book because it sounded interesting. I don’t like to write negative reviews for tours, so I only agree to read books that catch my eye and that I expect to enjoy. While I expected to like this one, I was surprised by how much I liked it.

Let’s talk about the time periods. Half the book takes place in 1955, half in 2015. I enjoyed that Cassie (2015) didn’t have an Internet connection or a smartphone because it made the mystery last a little longer. I find it so refreshing when a book has the bare minimum in terms of technology; although I make frequent use of Google, I enjoy it more when characters have to search for clues the old-fashioned way. And the 1955 chapters? I adored them. Hollywood moving into a small town was an excellent tension-builder!

As far as the characters, they’re pretty flawed, but in the best possible way. Sometimes readers complain about not “liking” a character, but that’s never been an issue for me. The problem is when an author can’t make me care at all about what happens to said characters. And I needed to know what was going to happen to the people in June!

The pacing was also excellent. Each chapter revealed a bit more information while also posing new questions. I kept promising myself I’d only read one more chapter…then I’d check my phone and it’d be 1:30 AM! (I have two kids and really can’t afford to be up that late on a regular basis, but when a book is this intriguing I don’t have much of a choice.)

Finally, the writing. Some writers can tell enthralling stories, but their writing just isn’t my style. Others have a beautiful way with words, but their stories never seem to go anywhere. June was a pleasant surprise: I couldn’t seem to put the book down, and I enjoyed Beverly-Whittemore’s language immensely.

All in all: I’m so glad I had the chance to read this book. I enjoyed it so much that I added Bittersweet, another novel by the same author, to my ever-expanding TBR.

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MIRANDA BEVERLY-WHITTEMORE is the author of three other novels: New York Times bestseller Bittersweet; Set Me Free, which won the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize, given annually for the best book of fiction by an American woman; and The Effects of Light. A recipient of the Crazyhorse Prize in Fiction, she lives and writes in Brooklyn.

Website | Facebook | Twitter

OtherTourStops

Tuesday, May 24th: A Bookish Way of Life
Wednesday, May 25th: A Literary Vacation
Thursday, May 26th: View from the Birdhouse
Monday, May 30th: Buried Under Books
Tuesday, May 31st: FictionZeal
Tuesday, May 31st: Books a la Mode  – author guest post
Wednesday, June 1st: Musings of a Bookish Kitty
Thursday, June 2nd: Luxury Reading
Monday, June 6th: Kahakai Kitchen
Monday, June 6th: Must Read Faster
Tuesday, June 7th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Wednesday, June 8th: Fictionophile
Thursday, June 9th: Just Commonly
Friday, June 10th: A Bookaholic Swede
Monday, June 13th: Bewitched Bookworms
Tuesday, June 14th: Reading Reality
Wednesday, June 15th: Kritter’s Ramblings
Thursday, June 16th: Write Read Life
Friday, June 17th: Bibliotica

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Blog Tour: Without Light or Guide (Los Nefilim #2) by T. Frohock

Hello, and welcome! Today I’m kicking off the blog tour for T. Frohock’s Without Light or Guide, sequel to In Midnight’s Silence.

Without Light or Guide cover

Without Light or Guide by T. Frohock. Harper Voyager Impulse. 128 pp.

The fate of mankind has nothing to do with mankind…

Always holding themselves aloft from the affairs of mortals, Los Nefilim have thrived for eons. But with the Spanish Civil War looming, their fragile independence is shaken by the machinations of angels and daimons…and a half-breed caught in-between.

For although Diago Alvarez has pledged his loyalty to Los Nefilim, there are many who don’t trust his daimonic blood. And with the re-emergence of his father—a Nefil who sold his soul to a daimon—the fear is Diago will soon follow the same path.

Yet even as Diago tries to prove his allegiance, events conspire that only fuel the other Nefilim’s suspicions—including the fact that every mortal Diago has known in Barcelona is being brutally murdered.

The second novella in T. Frohock’s Los Nefilim series, Without Light or Guide continues Diago’s journey through a world he was born into, yet doesn’t quite understand.

MyReview

I have lots of reading rules that I abide by: if you like an ebook or library book enough, buy a hard copy for your collection; buy your favorite authors’ works on release day to support them and make sure their publishers sign them for more and more books; don’t dog-ear the pages; read the book before seeing the movie; and don’t read a series out of order. Of course, I break these rules sometimes, but reallllly rarely. I watched season one of Game of Thrones before reading the books, and I’m glad I did, because it got me interested enough to pick up them up (their page count alone could have easily seen them sitting on my TBR for years like the Wheel of Time series).

When I was asked to participate in this blog tour, I knew the featured book was a sequel. Sometimes I’ll ask a publicist to send the first book as well so I can read the series in order, but things have been busy lately, so jumping in at book two would have to do this time around. The author did something wonderful, though: she included an author’s note at the beginning that summarized the important characters and plot points of the first book, both as a refresher for returning readers and an entry point for new ones. I’d never seen this done before and was overwhelmed by it at first; I felt like I was cramming for a test and worried that I wouldn’t be able to remember everything while reading. But the note was informative without being overly long, and it made my experience with the sequel almost effortless. I was skeptical, but it was an enormous help, and it didn’t get in the way of the narrative at all.

Without Light or Guide is a great story; so much is packed into its brief page count that you’ll never believe that you read a little over a hundred pages and got an entire tale out of the experience. It’s a combination of fantasy and historical fiction (although the dialogue seems a bit modern), and the supernatural characters are human enough to make the reader forget at times who is an angel or daimon and who is not. This makes the characters’ lives in the real world believable.

The themes are both ancient and modern: love, trust, judgment, family, loyalty, and hunger for power. These themes are present in many works of fiction, but Frohock presents them in a story that is entirely new (at least, to me; I’ve never read anything like this before).

All in all: An entertaining, interesting story with direct, economic writing. If you already enjoy supernatural fiction and are looking for a quick read, check it out. And if you don’t typically read this genre, it’s a great way to get a taste for it without having to commit to a large page count!

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About the author: T. Frohock has turned her love of dark fantasy and horror into tales of deliciously creepy fiction. She currently lives in North Carolina where she has long been accused of telling stories, which is a southern colloquialism for lying. Check out more of her works and news at www.tfrohock.com.

OtherTourStops

Wednesday, December 2nd: Kahakai Kitchen

Thursday, December 3rd: 100 Pages a Day…Stephanie’s Book Reviews

Monday, December 7th: Bibliotica

Tuesday, December 8th: Dreams, Etc.

Wednesday, December 9th: A Book Geek

Thursday, December 10th: A Dream Within a Dream

Monday, December 14th: From the TBR Pile

Tuesday, December 15th: Raven Haired Girl

Wednesday, December 16th: Dwell in Possibility

Thursday, December 17th: Curling Up by the Fire

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Blog Tour: Mendocino Fire by Elizabeth Tallent

Mendocino Fire by Elizabeth Tallent. 272 pp. Harper.

Mendocino Fire by Elizabeth Tallent. 272 pp. Harper.

The son of an aging fisherman becomes ensnared in a violent incident that forces him to confront his broken relationship with his father. A woman travels halfway across the country to look for her ex-husband, only to find her attention drawn in a surprising direction. A millworker gives safe harbor to his son’s pregnant girlfriend, until an ambiguous gesture upsets their uneasy equilibrium. These and other stories—of yearning, loss, and tentative new connections—come together in Mendocino Fire, the first new collection in two decades from the widely admired Elizabeth Tallent.

Diverse in character and setting, rendered in an exhilarating, exacting prose, these stories confirm Tallent’s enduring gift for capturing relationships in moments of transformation: marriages breaking apart, people haunted by memories of old love and reaching haltingly toward new futures. The result is a book that reminds us how our lives are shaped by moments of fracture and fragmentation, by expectations met and thwarted, and by our never-ending quest to be genuinely seen.

Profound yet elemental, Mendocino Fire marks the welcome return of a sage and surprising voice in American fiction.

Hello, and welcome to the blog tour for Medocino Fire, an excellent collection of short stories by Elizabeth Tallent. I absolutely love short stories, but I often struggle with reading an entire collection at a time; since each story stands on its own, I tend to treat them like tiny novels, reading one and then moving on to another book. After finishing the book, I’ll pick up the collection of stories again and read another one or two, then move on to another novel. That’s how I read this collection, a bit here and there between half a dozen other books, and it worked well for me. It’s a solid collection, one that’s a pleasure to dip into from time to time.

MyReview

Each story feels longer than it is, fitting an entire tale, what feels like an entire life, into twenty or thirty pages. At times I almost forgot I was reading a short story collection; I felt like I’d spent so much time with these characters that I couldn’t have possibly read a mere ten pages! This is a testament to Tallent’s economic use of words and, more than that, her uncanny ability to choose just the right words. The right sentence can do a chapter’s worth of work; I’ve always admired writers than can get the point across in such a brief manner (I’m not very good at brief). I’m blown away when I feel ten pages’ worth of emotion after reading less than a paragraph.

The stories are varied in characters — from writers and professors to nomadic youths; from children to parents to deeply, darkly devoted grandparents —  but there’s an underlying sense of loneliness, as though all of the characters can only be understood so much by the people surrounding them. I’ve been hearing a lot about characters’ likability lately; many readers want to like the main characters, and authors seem to rail against this. I fall somewhere in between: I don’t need to like characters (in fact, I can downright loathe them), but I need to care about what happens to them. And in this collection, I really did. I felt immersed in each character’s life; Tallent made me feel like I knew these characters better than anyone else did, and that understanding made me want to find out where they ended up. (Yes, folks, it’s true: reading does built empathy.)

My favorite story by far was “Mystery Caller,” in which a woman habitually (and anonymously) dials her ex-husband’s phone number and eavesdrops on his new life. It asks a moving question: When does love end? (Or, maybe, Does love end?) I also liked “Narrator,” an exploration of a young woman’s affair with an established author and her outrage at their relationship’s lack of “literary resolution” (of course, that’s not the true source of outrage) when he writes about it later. Although many of the tales in this collection moved slowly, the pace felt thoughtful and deliberate. The only one that didn’t really do anything for me was the title story; it was the only one that felt too long and, at least for me, lacked resolution.

I love novels because they remind me of what fiction can do, the beautiful experience of spending so much time with another person, seeing so much of his life. Novels allow for more scenes, more plot twists, more dialogue, and I enjoy being with the same characters for hundreds of pages so that I can really see it all. But I love short stories because they remind me of what words can do, the piercing power they have when strung together correctly, even — or maybe especially —  in small doses. It takes a certain (and rare) sort of focus to write good short fiction, and I always delight when I see it. Tallent is one of the good ones, and I really enjoyed this collection.

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Elizabeth Tallent

Elizabeth Tallent is the author of the story collections HoneyIn Constant Flight, and Time with Children, and the novel Museum Pieces. Since 1994 she has taught in the Creative Writing program at Stanford University. She lives on the Mendocino coast of California.

OtherTourStops

Tuesday, October 20th: Books on the Table

Friday, October 23rd: Bibliotica

Monday, October 26th: A Bookish Way of Life

Tuesday, October 27th: Back Porchervations

Wednesday, October 28th: Olduvai Reads

Thursday, October 29th: she treads softly

Friday, October 30th: M. Denise Costello

Tuesday, November 3rd: Read. Write. Repeat.

Friday, November 6th: Raven Haired Girl

Monday, November 9th: Lavish Bookshelf

Tuesday, November 10th: Dreams, Etc.

Wednesday, November 11th: You Can Read Me Anything

Thursday, November 12th: The Well-Read Redhead

Friday, November 13th: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews

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Blog Tour & Giveaway: Shady Cross by James Hankins

Shady Cross by James Hankins. Thomas & Mercer. 308 pp.

Shady Cross by James Hankins. Thomas & Mercer. 308 pp.

In one hand, small-time crook Stokes holds a backpack stuffed with someone else’s money—three hundred and fifty thousand dollars of it.

In the other hand, Stokes has a cell phone, which he found with the money. On the line, a little girl he doesn’t know asks, “Daddy? Are you coming to get me? They say if you give them the money they’ll let you take me home.”

From bestselling author James Hankins comes a wrenching story of an unscrupulous man torn between his survival instincts and the plight of a true innocent. Faced with the choice, Stokes discovers his conscience might not be as corroded as he thought.


I’m always nervous when I agree to be part of a blog tour. I mean, what if I don’t like the book?! It’s difficult to post a negative review as part of a tour, and yet I still want to be honest, so there’s always a bit of anxiety when I start reading a book I’ll be featuring. I needn’t have worried in this case, though, because the only problem I had with Shady Cross is that I enjoyed it so much that I want to read more of James Hankins’s books! (And no, I’m not just saying that to be nice. That’s not what I do.)

Let me start by saying that I don’t read many suspense books. It’s not that I dislike them, but since suspense isn’t one of my top genres, I often feel overwhelmed by the number of options. Rather than figuring out where to start, I just stick to my usual fare. But when Lisa from TLC sent me the synopsis for this one, I was hooked. I was dying to read it and was thrilled to have the chance to do so. (I recently mentioned this book to my mom, which I do whenever I’m really enjoying a book. When I told her what it was about, she literally gasped. It’s that great of a concept.)

Shady Cross lived up to my expectations and then some. I had a difficult time putting it down…and that’s saying something, considering how little sleep I’ve been getting lately. There have been times when I view dilemmas in a suspense novel as cheap ploys to keep the reader invested in the story. Maybe I’ve been reading the wrong books, though, because in this case, all Stokes’s troubles made me want to do is get into the next chapter as quickly as possible.

The characters in this book were different for me, too: I didn’t actually like (m)any of them, but that didn’t stop me from flying through the pages to see how their situations turned out. Stokes is a brilliantly-executed protagonist. He’s done more bad than good in his life, but that doesn’t stop you from rooting for him as he makes an honest effort to save a little girl. Although he’s more sinner than savior, he goes much further than you could expect for a stranger’s daughter. Reading this book made me wonder how many people I know — myself included — would be willing to do the same.

All in all: A story of struggle and redemption that’s an absolute pleasure to read. A piece of genre fiction with wide-ranging appeal; I can’t imagine anyone that wouldn’t like this.

If this sounds like a book you might enjoy, then I’ve got great news: I have a copy to give away! I’m unable to post the Rafflecopter widget directly on my blog, so click below if you’d like to enter.

GiveawayClickHere

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Bestselling author James Hankins pursued writing at an early age. While attending NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, he received the Chris Columbus Screenwriting Award. After career detours into screenwriting, health administration, and the law, Hankins recommitted himself to writing fiction. Since then, he has written three popular thrillers, each of which spent time in the Kindle Top 100. Additionally, Brothers and Bones received a starred review from Kirkus Reviews and was named to their list of Best Books of 2013, while both Jack of Spades and Drawn were Amazon #1 bestsellers. He lives with his wife and twin sons just north of Boston.

OtherTourStops

Tuesday, February 24th: Vic’s Media Room 

Wednesday, February 25th:  Book Dilettante

Thursday, February 26th: Bell, Book & Candle

Friday, February 27th: 5 Minutes for Books

Wednesday, March 4th: Life is Story

Thursday, March 5th: Musings of a Bookish Kitty

Monday, March 9th: Daily Mayo

Tuesday, March 10th: A Chick Who Reads

Thursday, March 12th: Kissin Blue Karen

Monday, March 16th: FictionZeal

Wednesday, March 18th: Mary’s Cup of Tea

Thursday, March 19th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Thursday, March 19th: Building Bookshelves

Monday, March 23rd: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Wednesday, March 25th: Booksie’s Blog

Monday, March 30th: Brooke Blogs

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Interview & Book Review: Jim Morgan and the Door at the Edge of the World by James Matlack Raney

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Jim Morgan and the Door at the Edge of the World by James Matlack Raney. Dreamfarer Press. 396 pp.

An Ancient Temple… 

An Unimaginable Power… 
The Final Chapter of the Jim Morgan Saga! 

Jim Morgan and his friends, Lacey and the Brothers Ratt, have so far managed to keep their half of the Hunter’s Shell safe from the Cromiers, preventing them from finding the Treasure of the Ocean. But the danger is far from over. The Count and Bartholomew are closing in on the Spectre. And an old enemy from the past has returned, armed with dark plans of his own. A desperate battle is brewing – one Jim can’t outrun forever. 

From the underwater kingdom of the Merfolk, to a desolate stretch of ocean called the Wastewaters, Jim and his friends will seek the aid of new allies and risk their lives against villains more wicked than they have ever faced before. 

In his heart, Jim knows the journey will end only once he has taken possession of the Treasure of the Ocean, and only once he has faced the ultimate test, before a door at the edge of the world, with the fate of more than he ever imagined at stake…

It’s that time again: time for me to tell you all about how much I love the Jim Morgan series. (Missed my posts on books one and two? Check them out here and here, respectively.) Before I dive into my review of the third and final book, though, I’ve got a special treat: an interview with author James Matlack Raney!

Interview

When you were writing book one, did you know how things would end for Jim? Or did Jim’s fate reveal itself as you were writing? 

That’s a great question, because it actually changed as the books went along. Without giving away too many spoilers, when I first started, I had a vision for where I wanted Jim to go as a character and what I wanted him to learn. The whole story is really just about a boy who loses his father and has to discover who he is all on his own. The theme of weathering the storms of life was, to me, essential to that story. So the ultimate villain was actually going to be an earlier version of the Crimson Storm. He made it into the stories, but not in quite the same capacity. As I kept writing, I realized that Jim’s greatest threats would always come from within and that he and Bartholomew were actually mirror images of each other, struggling with many of the same choices and failures. So that really shaped how the third book unfolded.

The seafaring chapters are great. If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were raised on a pirate ship! Where does your sailing knowledge come from? 

I wish I could say that I was a sailing master, but the truth is, all I had going for me were some brief memories of sailing on my grandfather’s boat when I was very young. I’ve been on several boats between then and now, and I have a fascination with the ocean and sailing, but most of the sailing scenes were informed by books or the trusty internet.

Tell me about the decisions regarding which characters to keep through the entire series. Was it difficult to have certain characters die or part ways? 

It was difficult, because even though they’re fantasy, all of my characters represent a little piece of myself or my past, so there’s an emotional connection. I will say that there was one character who was not going to make it, and was killed in the official outline for book three. But my good friends and readers politely informed me that it was an awful decision, so I changed it back. But I did think it was important to bring many of the characters from book one back, because how Jim and his friends interact with them shows how much they’ve grown and allows them to come back full circle, especially with the King of Thieves.

If you could experience a literary adventure, which book would you choose to be transported to? 

Wow! Too tough to call! But I’ll go with a trip through the wardrobe into Narnia for now. That would be pretty amazing.

What project(s) are you working on now? 

I’ve started a new novel for young readers, and I hope to have a first draft finished by the end of February. It’s not set in the world of Jim Morgan at all. In fact, it may not be set in the world of people at all! But I also have some more grown-up fare working its way out there. I have a horror short story set to be published in Hello Horror in April, so that’s exciting.

And finally, my favorite question to ask my favorite writers: What are you currently reading? 

Right now I’m still reading The Kite Runner. It’s an amazing, emotionally powerful book. I tend to read very slowly while I’m writing, then after that first draft is finished I gobble up about eight or ten novels and books in short order before it’s on to revisions and the next project.

MyReview

The final installment of the Jim Morgan series lives up to the promise of the first two books. There’s just as much magic, just as much adventure and excitement, and just as much (if not more) heart.

Jim and his friends have grown older and a bit wiser as the series has gone on, but they haven’t changed so much as to be unrecognizable: Peter and Paul are at one another’s throats from time to time, Lacey is fiery and loyal, and Cornelius alternates between sharing helpful facts and boring everyone (nearly) to tears. My favorite new character was Captain Sharpe, a Jack-Sparrow-esque pirate who alternates between infuriatingly manipulative and admirably savvy.

None of Raney’s characters are perfect, and that makes them all the more endearing and believable. They have backstories that provide motivation for their actions, both right and wrong. This allows readers to really get to know the characters and sympathize with them. It also gives the story a level of depth that kids’ stories sometimes lack but that gives them staying power.

Since the beginning of book one, my heart broke for Jim, as it did for Harry Potter, because he had to grow up far too soon. However, he’s learned and grown quite a bit over the course of the series, and I am proud of how far he’s come. I was moved by his interactions with his various “father figures” and loved it when he started to become the sort of man he admired. I was also happy to gain a glimpse into the thoughts of the other characters, particularly Lacey and George.

This book has a lot more going for it than great characters, though. There’s tons of adventure on land, ship, and sea (even under the sea!). There’s magic — and magical creatures — galore. There are pirates and battles and danger. There’s even a touch of romance. (It was refreshing to see that Jim’s first crush was included once he was a little older; too many try books to force the love stuff to happen when the characters are still so young that it’s unbelievable.)

All in all: A wonderful conclusion to a series filled with memorable characters, tons of adventure, and great lessons in friendship. I can’t wait to read these with my boys when they get older!

Lots of gratitude to James Matlack Raney, both for the opportunity to read and review his books and for taking the time to answer my questions. (I can’t wait to hear what his next project will be!)

Blog Tour: Outside In by Doug Cooper

Welcome! I am today’s stop on the blog tour for Doug Cooper’s novel, Outside In. I’m actually the final stop on the tour, but please feel free to check out the previous stops, which I’ve oh-so-conveniently included at the end of this post.

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Outside In by Doug Cooper. Greenleaf Book Group Press. 253 pp.

 

From Memorial Day until the student workers and tourists leave in the fall, the island community of Put-In-Bay, Ohio, thrives on alcohol, drugs, sexual experimentation, and any other means of forgetting responsibilities. To Brad Shepherd–recently forced out of his job as a junior high math teacher after the overdose death of a student–it’s exactly the kind of place he’s looking for.

 

 

Let’s start at the beginning, shall we? The opening scene of this book is shocking in the best possible way. I know the description tells you that a student will overdose, but I either forgot or didn’t realize how soon it would happen. It’s a pivotal scene, and it happens right at the start, yanking you out of your comfort zone from the get-go. And don’t expect to be any more comfortable with the subject matter coming up!

As Brad moves away from his safe, responsible life as a math teacher and into that of a bouncer/drug abuser/heavy drinker/etc., things slowly spiral out of control. The depths to which Brad descends are chronicled well without being too heavily detailed. His time on the island is a sort of whirlwind of hedonism, and the narrative portrays this well. It’s occasionally difficult to tell how much time has passed, and that serves the story well: one day blurs into the next for the reader as well as for Brad.

The lifestyle on the island was vividly painted and highly believable for such a popular vacation destination. It made sense that most of the employees would party heavily, but I was surprised that everyone got in on it to such an extreme extent. Even Astrid, The Girl in the book, who’s portrayed as having goals and going places, does cocaine on a regular basis. Is there really not a single person that works on the island that goes home at night and just goes to bed? Some of the drug scenes got overly technical, too, which distracted me from what was going on. (For instance, the detailed, almost clinical detailing of how to boil shrooms.) These passages read like a textbook or wiki entry on how to prep drugs rather than sounding the way people actually talk.

My biggest issue with this book is that Brad’s journey just wasn’t believable to me. He’s a math teacher in his thirties, for goodness’ sake! I was a teacher, and I know many teachers, and I can’t think of a single one that would behave this childishly and irresponsibly. I understand that the grieving process can be different for different people, but I still found Brad’s behavior to be highly unlikely.

All in all: An exploration of two very different ways of life: an irresponsible escape that ultimately ends in growth.

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DOUG COOPER has traveled to more than twenty countries on five continents and has held jobs in service, teaching, and business. He now lives and writes in Las Vegas. Outside In is his first novel.

Connect with Doug on Facebook | Twitter |Pinterest  | Instagram @dougiecoop

 

OtherTourStops

Monday, April 14th:  Sara’s Organized Chaos

Wednesday, April 16th:  Bibliotica

Monday, April 21st:  A Chick Who Reads

Wednesday, April 23rd:  Bewitched Bookworms

Thursday, April 24th:  Knowing the Difference

Monday, April 28th:  Literary Lindsey

Tuesday, April 29th:  Patricia’s Wisdom

Thursday, May 1st:  Luxury Reading

Monday, May 5th:  Literally Jen

Monday, May 12th:  100 Pages a Day… Stephanie’s Book Reviews

Thursday, May 15th: Brooke Blogs

Thursday, May 15th:  Cupcake’s Book Cupboard

Tuesday, May 20th:  Tiffany’s Bookshelf

Wednesday, May 21st:  Endless Days of Literary Ecstasy

Thursday, May 22nd:  Daily Mayo

Monday, May 26th:  Books a la Mode

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Blog Tour: Lemonade Revealed by Will Chluho

Lemonade Revealed by Will Chluho. Twiitaga. 248 pp.

Lemonade Revealed by Will Chluho. Twiitaga. 256 pp.

FICTION: A boy on a voyage to find his true father regained consciousness on an unknown island to the curious stares of three old men: a warrior, a trader, and a priest. The lost boy would later discover through a mysterious man–a skinhead with an eye tattoo on his neck–that one among the trio could be the father he’d been looking for….

NONFICTION: This “little yellow book” is a good place to reclaim such good old-fashioned gems as “faith” and “hope” under the demythologized light of human reason. It is a phenomenological examination on the possibility and probability of a divine existent vis-à-vis a real world of human frailties and frictions. Lemonade Revealed is a timely discourse in a timeless (and engaging) story.


Welcome! I’m happy to be today’s stop on the blog tour for Lemonade Revealed.

Let’s start with the superficial stuff: this is an attractive book. It’s got a soft, leather-like cover in a beautiful golden yellow. All words and images are stamped into the cover, and I found that I couldn’t stop rubbing my fingers over the indentations while I was reading. My husband actually thought it was a Moleskine or a travel notebook, which says something, because those books focus on the look and feel of their covers more than many paperbacks do.

“Enough about the lovely cover,” you say? “Tell me about the story”? Okay, will do! Lemonade Revealed is a sort of spiritual fable. It can sometimes feel a bit “preachy.” I don’t mean that I felt pushed toward a particular dogma; the author did an admirable job of presenting his ideas as spiritual and emotional rather than religious. However, I sometimes felt like I was being led — a bit too overtly — through the characters’ inner revelations. I prefer to draw my own conclusions after observing the characters in action. In the end, though, the revelations fell in line with the plot well.

The narrative could be dry at times, but the tone lent itself well to the ancient, sort of mythic feel of the story. The change between first- and third-person narration threw me off a couple of times, because I wasn’t sure whose story I was following, but I figured it out eventually. I enjoyed watching the young male protagonist (whose name is revealed late in the book, so I won’t give it away) seek his identity and place in the world. His chapters were the ones written in the first person, so I felt like I got to know him and his journey a bit better than the others.

Another thing I’d like to note is that this is a verrry male-centric book. Every character, with the exception of two minor ones, is male. I didn’t notice this as I was reading the book, but when my husband asked me what I thought of it, I said, “I think it will appeal to guys more than to girls.” He asked why, and when I stopped to think about it, I realized that it was because women aren’t represented in these pages at all. Even the most girl-character-heavy book I’ve read lately — Libba Bray’s Beauty Queens, which rocked — includes about a dozen male characters, and none is flat by any means. That may have been the biggest downfall of Lemonade Revealed for me, not because I’m female, but because it felt unbalanced.

All in all: This book is a lot like life. At times it can be frustrating to figure out where things are going, but moments of epiphany are scattered throughout if you’re willing to stick with it.

OtherInfo

WillChluho

As an urban pragmatist, Will Chluho was a creative director who’d served on world-renowned brands such as BlackBerry, Mercedes-Benz, and Singapore Airlines. As a spiritual “romanticist” of sorts who sought solace, he’d lived four years as a Franciscan friar, a major in philosophy and theology. He’s 44, married, and advancing his philosophical studies with the University of London.

OtherTourStops

Monday, May 19th: Karen’s Korner Blog
Tuesday, May 20th: Honey I’m Reading
Thursday, May 22nd: The Most Happy Reader
Monday, May 26th: Tiffany’s Bookshelf
Wednesday, May 28th: Cruising Susan Reviews
Thursday, May 29th: The Road to Here
Monday, June 2nd: Ms. Nose in a Book
Tuesday, June 3rd: I’d Rather Be At The Beach
Wednesday, June 4th: Back Porchervations
Thursday, June 5th:  Breezes at Dawn
Tuesday, June 10th: Karen’s Korner
Wednesday, June 11th: Diamonds in the Sky With Lucy
Thursday, June 12th: Patricia’s Wisdom
Friday, June 13th: Forever Obsession
Wednesday, June 18th: guiltless reading
Thursday, June 19th: The Way Forward

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Blog Tour: The Pact by Mitchell S. Karnes

ThePact

The Pact by Mitchell S. Karnes. Black Rose Publishing. 229 pp.

Scott Addison never set out to be a hero.  But sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you can’t run away from your destiny.  On the heels of his father’s death, Scott and his mother move from Iowa City, Iowa to the small Southern Illinois town of Meadowbrook.

 Scott just wanted to blend in…to observe quietly…to be one of the kids.  Unfortunately for Scott, his instincts, heart, and integrity took over on his first day at his new middle school.  Scott stood up to and faced down three larger boys torturing a wiry little boy named Paul.  No one should ever have to stand alone.

 This simple act of kindness and chivalry put Scott in the midst of the conflict and on the receiving end of the bullies’ antics.  When the hazing goes too far, Scott decides it is time to take a stand…no matter the cost.  Of course that’s the price heroes must pay.


The Pact does a respectable job of pointing out the more under-the-radar aspects of bullying: why kids bully, what kinds of kids are more likely to get bullied, how standing up to bullies can turn them against you in ways you’d never anticipate, and how “victims” can inadvertently bully others. I was saddened by some of the things that happened to the boys in this book, but at the same time, I wasn’t surprised. I’ve worked with kids and know that this sort of thing goes on, but I wholeheartedly wish it didn’t.

The story includes lots of things that the target audience (I’m thinking middle school boys, primarily) should enjoy: magic and adventure (the boys play Warriors and Thieves — assumedly code for Dungeons and Dragons), sports (wrestling), danger (fights and playing chicken with a train), and even a bit about girls. These topics aren’t gratuitous, though; they provide insight into the characters’ personalities and motives. (Also, there’s a refreshing lack of technology within the pages of this book. The characters spend time on other hobbies, which is nice to see.)

It took a while for me to get into this book; the first half moves significantly slower than the second. However, as the tale progresses, interesting (and terrifying) things start to happen. I actually found myself gasping at the events once or twice, which is a good sign.

Would I recommend this book? To certain demographics, yes. I think this novel will be most enjoyed by boys (and perhaps also girls) the age of the protagonists (13-15). I also think that some parents and/or educators will enjoy reading a story that shows what their kids are going through. However, if you’re reading strictly for literary merit, this book may frustrate you. The language is repetitive at times and there are a good number of errors. At times, the words get in the way instead of easing the reader through the story. (This could be remedied with an in-depth round of proofreading and editing, and the book would be stronger for it.) There is a notable exception to this, though: one of the later Warriors and Thieves scenes is remarkably well done, transitioning smoothly from the game to reality and back again.

Here’s something else to note, something that I don’t at all consider a bad thing but that might raise some eyebrows. One of the characters, Scott, is a member of a Protestant church-going family. There’s a much greater focus on religion in this book than in many others out there, but it’s not done in a forceful way or in an attempt to convert young readers. In fact, I think it’s just the right amount. Some teens do attend church/synagogue/etc. with their families, and modern books for young readers seem to ignore that fact entirely — or run too far in the other direction and cram the religion down their throats. In The Pact, not all of the boys go to church, which is often the case in a group of friends. And the one boy that does is struggling to reconcile his own religious beliefs with those of his more-conservative youth pastor. I enjoyed reading about a character that was willing to listen to a sermon and digest it, looking to see how it fit into his own life. Although religious leaders are in positions of authority, they’re not always right, and this book examines that delicate situation in a very respectful light.

All in all: An honest look at adolescence and the struggles it entails. May appeal more to some than others, but can act as a springboard to some good conversations with kids going through this stuff.

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MitchellKarnes

Mitchell S Karnes was born in Kansas and spent his childhood in Illinois.  He lives in Franklin, TN with his wife, Natalie, and five of their seven children, where he serves as the Pastor of Walker Baptist Church.  He holds a Bachelor’s degree and three Master’s degrees.

Mitchell’s first novel, Crossing the Line, made the Southern Writer’s Guild’s “Must Read” list.  His short stories include:  “When Nothing Else Matters,” “A Family Portrait,” and “Grampa Charlie’s Ring.”  He hopes to entertain, challenge, move and teach through each and every story.  The Pact is just the beginning…the first book in a four-part series.

OtherTourStops

Tuesday, January 28th:  Tiffany’s Bookshelf
Thursday, January 30th:  Jorie Loves a Story
Monday, February 3rd:  Patricia’s Wisdom
Wednesday, February 5th:  You Can Read Me Anything
Monday, February 10th:  Suko’s Notebook
Monday, February 10th:  YA Reads
Wednesday, February 12th:  Maureen’s Musings
Monday, February 17th:  Seaside Book Nook
Tuesday, February 18th:  The Things You Can Read
Wednesday, February 19th:  Shelf Full of Books
Thursday, February 20th:  Savings in Seconds

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Blog Tour: The Beauty Experiment by Phoebe Baker Hyde

The Beauty Experiment

The Beauty Experiment by Phoebe Baker Hyde. Da Capo Lifelong. 218 pp.

Witness a true rarity for me: I read a work of nonfiction! No, really.

Phoebe Baker Hyde’s The Beauty Experiment grabbed my attention right away. Its tagline is “How I skipped lipstick, ditched fashion, faced the world without concealer, and learned to love the real me.” This intrigued me on many levels, but I think I came to this book a little differently than most women might. You see, I already don’t wear makeup. Weddings and special dinners out are the only times I find myself getting made up, and even then, I don’t wear foundation or blush or eyeliner or lipliner. My idea of “putting on my face” is using a pressed powder, eyeshadow, mascara, and fairly-neutral lip gloss. And I do it for myself. How do I know this? Every time I wear makeup, my husband says, “You look nice, but I actually prefer you without any makeup.” In the moment, it stings a little bit to hear him say that, because I feel pretty and here he is, telling me that he likes me better in a way that’s…well…not this. But overall it’s nice, because I don’t have any pressing glamour expectations from him, and it lets me know that anything new I decide to try is really because I want to, and not to impress him.

That being said, I put unnecessary pressure on myself sometimes. I look at a woman with a flawlessly made up face and think, That’s a skill I don’t have, one that maybe I should have learned at some point. I know it’s silly, but I sometimes feel like less of a woman because I don’t know how to apply eyeliner and am willing to go out in public without “improving upon” my face. And this makes no sense. I’ve made a conscious decision not to buy makeup (and I love how inexpensive and brief my morning prep is!), and yet I sometimes feel badly about this decision.

In The Beauty Experiment, the author refers frequently to her “inner voice,” the often-critical one that sounded in her mind, comparing her to other women and seeing how she measured up (or, more often, fell short). Members of this blog tour were asked to choose from a list of activities and reflections instead of writing a typical review. I chose the following prompt:

Draw a timeline chronicling the development of this inner voice, adding all the influences that have combined to form it over the years. Start as a tiny girl and go all the way to now. What “injuries” or setbacks has this inner voice suffered?

Here we go (ages are estimates, of course):

  • 3 years old, maybe 4: My grandmother sent me a new dress. It was blue and white, with polka dots, and I loved it. Our town fair was coming up, and I knew that this would be the dress I wore. When the day came, I put it on — and, to my dismay, it was too big…and the day was cooler than anticipated. I insisted on wearing the dress anyway, with a long-sleeved shirt underneath, and I spent the entire day adjusting my outfit because the dress kept slipping off my shoulders. This is the first time I remember anticipating a certain look and being disappointed. No inner voice at this age, really, just a feeling of sadness that my outfit wasn’t working the way I’d wanted it to.
  • 7 years old: I got my hands on a comb, shut myself in the bathroom, and combed my hair until it looked (I thought) exactly like Ariel’s swooshy bangs in The Little Mermaid. Thinking back on this, I can guarantee that I didn’t look like Ariel; I have naturally curly hair that would never agree to do anything as reasonable as cooperate. That day, however, I was pleased as punch with my work and headed off to show my new look to my brother and cousins. I got laughed at.
  • 11 years old: At a friend’s pool party, while changing into my bathing suit with the other girls, I noticed that some of them already had breasts, hips, and (gasp!) pubic hair. I was still gangly and hair-free and thought, Should I have developed more by now? When will puberty come for me?
  • 12 years old: I got braces. And, truth be told, I was happy about it. In my mind, braces were for teenagers, those older, more glamorous creatures. Of course, when I couldn’t eat for two days, the metal in my mouth seemed far less glamorous than I’d anticipated.
  • 14 years old: I hated my braces and couldn’t wait to get them off. Super self-conscious about my teeth (and whether or not there was food stuck in my brackets), I only smiled closed-lipped in pictures until my braces were finally removed.
  • 15 years old: Acne. Need I say more?
  • 16 years old: My butt got huge, seemingly overnight. Still no boobs (actually, at thirty, the only boob sighting I’ve had was when I was nursing my son…they promptly disappeared when I weaned). Thankfully, this was the late ’90s and Jennifer Lopez was all the rage. Even though I took up much more room on the couch than I had the year before, I didn’t feel terribly fat because of my new ass(et).
  • 20 years old: I remember college as a stream of years of feeling badly about myself — which is silly in retrospect because I was in the best shape of my life, had a full-tuition scholarship and a great part-time job, and was getting kick-ass grades.
  • 22 years old: As a ballroom dance teacher, I got to (well, had to) wear skirts and dresses to work. This eliminated the grief of wearing ill-fitting trousers (tight on the butt, gaping at the waist, and too long for my short little legs) and made me feel better about myself overall. It wasn’t just the clothing, though; it was the ability to do something I loved every day and to help other people feel more comfortable doing it, too.
  • 27 years old: My wedding day. I didn’t diet but still felt slim enough. I wore enough makeup to enhance my face without hiding it. My hair looked fabulous. My skin was still a little flawed, but overall, I love the way I looked on that day.
  • 29 years old: Pregnant. Heavier than I’d ever been, but my round stomach was beautiful to me (and my husband) because it held my growing son. Miraculously, after my first trimester my skin cleared up, and it’s still looking pretty decent. (I’d like to shrink my pores a bit, though.)
  • 30 years old: I’ve lost almost all of the pregnancy weight, but my stomach still feels stretched out. My yoga pants are my most forgiving articles of clothing, so I wear them more often than I should. I know I should exercise, but I choose to read instead. I feel badly about myself when I see a young mom that’s in shape. I feel guilty about my lack of dedication but don’t do anything about it.

So that’s my timeline. The recurring theme I see is that, whenever I compare myself to other people, my opinion of myself suffers. The times when I was willing to just look at myself — to think, Here I am. This is me. I’m doing what I want to be doing, and I’m happy with my life overall. — I seem to stress less about my appearance. When I’m surrounded by other people, I do that competitive weighing-myself-against-others thing, and I always lose. Here’s the thing: I weigh 120 pounds. I know women that would kill to effortlessly be 120 pounds, and I’m unhappy with it.

I think it all comes down to setting reasonable expectations for myself and then working to attain them. I don’t judge my career, income, or relationships based on other people’s, but I do judge my appearance based on other people’s. That needs to stop.

Thanks to TLC for the chance to be part of this tour, and thanks also to Phoebe Baker Hyde for making me think about some important things.

OtherInfo

Phoebe Baker Hyde

Phoebe Baker Hyde has written on self, place and culture for The New York TimesThe Los Angeles TimesSalon.com, and The Wall Street Journal. She holds degrees in Anthropology and English from the University of Pennsylvania and Master of Fine Arts in writing from University of California at Irvine. She currently lectures and teaches in Boston.

Find out more about Phoebe at her website, connect with her onFacebook, and follow her on Twitter.

OtherTourStops

Monday, January 20th: Overstuffed

Wednesday, January 22nd: One Frugal Girl

Thursday, January 23rd: Breezes at Dawn

Friday, January 24th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Sunday, January 26th: Diamond Cut Life

Monday, January 27th: Evolution You

Tuesday, January 28th: Jenny Ann Fraser

Wednesday, January 29th: guiltless reading

Monday, February 3rd: The School of Smock

Tuesday, February 4th: You Can Read Me Anything

Tuesday, February 4th: Imperfect People in love with a Perfect God

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Blog Tour: Our Love Could Light the World by Anne Leigh Parrish

Hello, and welcome!

I’m happy to be a part of TLC’s blog tour for Our Love Could Light the World, a collection of related stories by Anne Leigh Parrish. Here’s the synopsis:

LightTheWorld


You know the Dugans.  They’re that scrappy family down the street.  Their five children run free, they never clean up after their dog, and the husband hasn’t earned a cent in years.  You wouldn’t want them for neighbors, but from a distance, they’re quite entertaining.


This book is a slow burner. When I started it, I thought, Gosh, this is dry. I’m not connecting much. But I kept reading, and I’m glad I did. The Dugans are like every other family in America. And at first that seemed like a bad thing. Like, Yes, I see the problems this family has. The same ones as any other family. But, just like any other family, the closer you get, the more invested you become in their troubles. And as I spent more time with the various characters in this book, I cared more and more about what happened to them. I saw where they’d been and where they were going, and I was glad to be along for the ride.

There’s a lot happening in here, and chances are, there’s nothing you haven’t seen before: divorce, remarriage, alcoholism, affairs, kids getting into trouble, hopes being formed, dreams being shattered. The thing that makes this collection strong is how well the author knows her characters and how she manages to portray their everyday lives in a way that is at once both simplistic and poignant.

I’m glad I stuck with this one. If you need an overarching plot, this probably isn’t for you. But if you’re at all interested in human nature — or even just looking for a glimpse into another family’s day-to-day life — you ought to enjoy this. It’s sweeping and personal at the same time, showing how one decision can affect so many other events, and I hope it will make you think about your loved ones and how your actions affect them.

OtherInfo

ALP-In-Black-and-White-219x300

Anne Leigh Parrish’s debut novel, What is Found, What is Lost, is forthcoming in late 2014 from She Writes Press.  Her first story collection, All The Roads That Lead From Home, (Press 53, 2011) won a silver medal in the 2012 Independent Publisher Book Awards.  To learn more, visit her at www.anneleighparrish.com

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OtherTourStops

Monday, January 6th: Bibliophiliac
Tuesday, January 7th: Knowing the Difference
Wednesday, January 8th: girlichef
Thursday, January 9th: Lavish Bookshelf
Friday, January 10th: Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Monday, January 13th: Good Girl Gone Redneck
Tuesday, January 14th: 5 Minutes for Books
Wednesday, January 15th: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Thursday, January 16th: My Bookshelf
Friday, January 17th:  Too Fond
Thursday, January 23rd: Kahakai Kitchen
Monday, January 27th:  Booksie’s Blog
Wednesday, January 29th: Broken Teepee
Monday, February 3rd:  A Lovely Bookshelf on the Wall
Monday, February 10th:  The Lost Entwife