Blog Tour: Last in a Long Line of Rebels by Lisa Lewis Tyre

LastInALongLineOfRebels

Last in a Long Line of Rebels by Lisa Lewis Tyre. Nancy Paulsen Books. 288 pp.

Hello, and welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for Last in a Long Line of Rebels!

I love middle grade: kids are on the cusp of adolescence, and there are so many stories that can be told about this time in their lives. Also, it makes me a little nostalgic, because this is the age when my memories of reading independently get stronger. I mean, I learned to read (really read) in preschool (fun fact: in my kindergarten admission interview, the administrator swore I couldn’t really read and had just memorized my favorite books; my mom grabbed a magazine from the office to prove her wrong). But I don’t remember my preschool or early elementary years as much as I remember things from third grade on. And I remember having my nose in a book all the time. The Boxcar Children, Alice in Wonderland, The Phantom Tollbooth, The Chronicles of Narnia…I don’t just remember the titles; I actually remember reading them. And reading a book I would have loved at that age warms my heart and makes me eager to pass it along to my sons one day. They’re one and three, and I want them to age as slowly as possible, but sharing books with them will make it bearable, I hope. (Today my son said, “Mommy, when I get bigger, I’m going to read Harry Potter, just like you” and I teared up a little.)

What I’m getting to (longwindedly, I admit) is that this is one of those books. Here’s the synopsis:

Debut novelist Lisa Lewis Tyre vibrantly brings a small town and its outspoken characters to life, as she explores race and other community issues from both the Civil War and the present day.

Lou might be only twelve, but she’s never been one to take things sitting down. So when her Civil War-era house is about to be condemned, she’s determined to save it—either by getting it deemed a historic landmark or by finding the stash of gold rumored to be hidden nearby during the war. As Lou digs into the past, her eyes are opened when she finds that her ancestors ran the gamut of slave owners, renegades, thieves and abolitionists. Meanwhile, some incidents in her town show her that many Civil War era prejudices still survive and that the past can keep repeating itself if we let it. Digging into her past shows Lou that it’s never too late to fight injustice, and she starts to see the real value of understanding and exploring her roots.

MyReview

There are so many things to love about this book that I’m not sure where to start. The format is smart: each chapter opens with an excerpt from the diary of one of Lou’s Civil-War-era ancestors. The material is vague enough to avoid giving away the plot too soon, but these entries do provide small clues and insight into the events that Lou is researching.

The cast is great as well: Lou is a member of a stable family on the cusp of change (her mother is due any day with a new baby), her grandmother is as vivacious (and flirtatious) as they come, and she has some truly excellent friends. I like that Lou’s friends are varied in their interests and personalities; although Lou isn’t a girly girl, her cousin Patty is, and this doesn’t affect their friendship in any way. Benzer (an Italian from the northeast) and Franklin (a wealthy, brainy type) round out their group, and the four of them embrace their differences instead of arguing about them. In fact, their various upbringings and skills lend themselves marvelously to their research endeavors as each kid brings his or her strengths to the table.

In other aspects of the book, diversity isn’t quite so celebrated: a local African-American athlete is overlooked for a prestigious scholarship even though he’s clearly the most qualified recipient, and Lou’s beloved grandmother often speaks condescendingly of “Yankees,” hurting Benzer’s feelings along the way. I appreciated that Lou’s world wasn’t all sunshine and perfection; her story shows that things work well when acceptance reigns, but it also shows that life isn’t always fair and that prejudice is (sadly) still a part of our world.

The themes of racial and geographical prejudice are joined by a smattering of Civil War history, mystery, and religion. There’s so much in here that I’d be thrilled for my kids to read about, and it’s paced so well that it doesn’t feel scattered or like too much material is included.

Also, the book takes place in 1999, so there’s limited technology. Franklin uses the Internet for research, but most of the kids’ snooping for facts takes place at the library, in the stacks. They spend their time outside, running around, not texting one another. Even though I value the benefits of technology, I don’t want my kids to read about characters primarily watching movies or messaging; I want them to read books about people doing things.

All in all: A smart, entertaining book with lots of heart. It shows the world as it is while remaining hopeful for further progress, and I look forward to the day I can pass it down to my son (he’s turning four soon, so I’ll add it to the ever-growing stack of middle grade books I can’t wait for him to read).

OtherInfo

LisaLewisTyre
About Lisa Lewis Tyre, the author: I grew up in a small town in Tennessee surrounded by my crazy family and neighbors. I learned early on that not every child had a pet skunk, a dad that ran a bar in the front yard, or a neighbor that was so large his house had to be torn down to get him out. What else could I do but write?

I’ve wanted to write for as long as I can remember. I think this is because I come from a long line of storytellers. I loved listening to my dad tell me about the escapades of his youth, like how he “accidentally” pushed his brother out of a two-story window, and “accidentally” shot his aunt’s chicken with a bow and arrow. Apparently he was accident-prone.
One of the stories they told me involved the name of our piece of the country. I lived in a tiny spot that the locals called Zollicoffer. When I asked why it had such a strange name, they said it was named after General Felix Zollicoffer who had camped nearby during the Civil War. One day I happened to ask my mom where exactly the camp had been. That’s when she pointed down the road and said, “Probably over there. That’s where some kids in the 50’s found GOLD.” And just like that, LAST IN A LONG LINE OF REBELS was born.

OtherTourStops

Tuesday, February 2nd: Randomly Reading
Wednesday, February 3rd: All Roads Lead to the Kitchen
Thursday, February 4th: Life is Story
Monday, February 8th: Just Commonly
Wednesday, February 10th: Shooting Stars Mag
Thursday, February 11th: Musings by Maureen
Wednesday, February 17th: WV Stitcher
Thursday, February 18th: Tina Says…
Friday, February 19th: Peeking Between the Pages
Monday, February 22nd: The Things You Can Read
Wednesday, February 24th: A Chick Who Reads
Thursday, February 25th: Just One More Chapter
Monday, February 29th: Laura’s Reviews
Wednesday, March 2nd: Absurd Book Nerd
Thursday, March 3rd: FictionZeal
Monday, March 7th: View from the Birdhouse

tlc-logo-resized

Advertisements

Have You Heard?! (Big HP News)

Okay, so if you’re a Harry Potter fan, you probably already know this. But just in case you’ve been off the Internet all day, I’ve gotcha covered. 😉

As you (must) know, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child will premiere in London later this year. If I were swimming in funds, I would be flying to Europe this summer to see it live. Sadly, that is not an option. So I was thrilled to hear that print and digital editions of the script will be published on July 31 (Harry’s thirty-sixth birthday…it’s so weird to think of Harry Potter as older than me).

Since next year is the twentieth anniversary of Book One’s publication, there are also going to be special UK re-releases, one for each of the four Hogwarts houses. I’ve never ordered a foreign edition of a book, but I think I’m going to have to make an exception for this one. I mean, really: a Ravenclaw edition of Philosopher’s Stone? And I’m expected to pass that up?!

Of course, there’s also publication of the second illustrated volume in the series this fall. Basically, what I’m trying to tell you is that I know where all of my money is going for the foreseeable future. I’m so excited that I started singing over breakfast, accompanied by my three-year-old’s eye rolls: “Look around, look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now!”

If you want to read more about all this news, here’s a link to Pottermore’s announcement.

Do you think there will be midnight release parties for the script of a play? If so, would that be the first time in history people have lined up in the middle of the night for a script? This is momentous on so many levels!

Blog Tour: The Ex by Alafair Burke

The Ex cover

The Ex by Alafair Burke. Harper. 304 pp.

Twenty years ago she ruined his life.

Now she has the chance to save it.

Olivia Randall is one of New York City’s best criminal defense lawyers. When she hears that her former fiancé, Jack Harris, has been arrested for a triple homicide—and that one of the victims was connected to his wife’s murder three years earlier—there is no doubt in her mind as to his innocence. The only question is, who would go to such great lengths to frame him—and why?

For Olivia, representing Jack is a way to make up for past regrets and absolve herself of guilt from a tragic decision, a secret she has held for twenty years. But as the evidence against him mounts, she is forced to confront her doubts. The man she knew could not have done this. But what if she never really knew him?

Hi, all! Welcome to my stop on TLC’s blog tour for The Ex. Quick note before discussing the novel: I recently became an Amazon affiliate, which means that I’ll get a small kickback from any book (or other product, but let’s face it, they’ll mostly be books) that you purchase using my provided link. It’s not going to change the honesty with which I review books, but I think I might have to disclose the fact that I’m part of the program. Not sure, since I haven’t read all the fine print yet, but better safe than sorry, right?

Aaaaanyway. My husband loves audiobooks and listens to primarily action, suspense, and crime novels. As much as I love reading (and discussing books with others), this is a genre I’ve moved away from over the years. It’s a matter of time more than anything: I’ve got significantly less free time now that I have two kids, and I tend to stick to my favorite genres instead of reading a little bit of everything. Being a tour host for TLC has been wonderful for me, because their lists contain a little bit of everything, and I try to pick a suspense novel a couple of times a year because it’s good for me to read outside of my preferred genres — and also because I enjoy the hell out of myself every time. They promote some great books!

The description of The Ex grabbed my attention because of the idea that someone could hide a murderous streak for so many years. I was intrigued by the manipulation that would be involved in Jack’s use of an ex-fiance to defend him because she “owes” him something as well as the cunning required to pull something like this off. Of course, as I read the book, I realized there was a possibility that Jack hadn’t committed the crime, and I thoroughly enjoyed treating every character as a potential suspect.

At first, I wasn’t a big fan of the writing. I tend to favor more emotional or literary writing styles. But as the plot progressed, I realized that Burke’s style is just right for her story: there are so many details, and so much information, that a straightforward manner of storytelling is needed. Too much description would be distracting and unnecessary.

I enjoyed the pacing and that introductions of new characters were spread out. When I meet too many new people at once, I tend to confuse them. Burke allows time to get to know (and suspect!) each character, which makes the mystery both easier to follow and more fun to try to solve.

It’s difficult to say much more without giving things away, but I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It’s got a great whodunnit feel and incorporates some pretty violent crimes and deep psychological troubles without becoming too shocking or gratuitous. A good book will make you want to read more works by the same author, and even though this isn’t my number-one genre of choice, I can say that if I was looking for another crime novel, I’d lean toward one by Alafair Burke because I enjoyed her storytelling so much.

All in all: This book was just what I was hoping for. It had lots of twists and turns and kept me guessing all the way to the end. Check it out if you typically enjoy this genre, or even if you don’t. It’s a solid entry point into a new category!

Click the image below to purchase this book from Amazon:

Thanks to the author and TLC for the chance to be involved in this tour!

OtherInfo

Alafair Burke AP

Alafair Burke is the New York Times bestselling author of ten previous novels, including the standalone thrillers Long Goneand If You Were Here, and the Ellie Hatcher series: All Day and a NightNever Tell212Angel’s Tip, and Dead Connection. She is also the coauthor of the Under Suspicion series with Mary Higgins Clark. A former prosecutor, she is now a professor of criminal law and lives in Manhattan.

Find out more about Alafair at her website, connect with her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.

OtherTourStopsTuesday, January 26th: Sara’s Organized Chaos

Wednesday, January 27th: A Bookish Way of Life

Thursday, January 28th: Curling Up by the Fire

Monday, February 1st: My Book Retreat

Tuesday, February 2nd: Luxury Reading

Thursday, February 4th: A Bookworm’s World

Friday, February 5th: Peeking Between the Pages

Tuesday, February 9th: Kritters Ramblings

Wednesday, February 10th: Dreams, Etc.

Thursday, February 11th: Jenn’s Bookshelves

Friday, February 12th: From the TBR Pile

Tuesday, February 16th: Lessa’s Book Critiques

Wednesday, February 17th: Book Hooked Blog

Thursday, February 18th: JulzReads

Friday, February 19th: FictionZeal

tlc-logo-resized

 

Book/Theatre Review: Noises Off by Michael Frayn

NoisesOff

Noises Off by Michael Frayn. Methuen. 154 pp. 

When my brother was in high school, he attended a school production of Noises Off with his friends. He came home singing its praises and insisted that I simply had to see this show. He went late in the run, and I couldn’t fit it into my schedule, so I missed it. Shortly thereafter, though, my college drama society put it on. And on a cold, stormy night, I journeyed out — alone — to see what all the fuss was about. Please note that mine was not a college renowned for its theatrical talent; in fact, I was in the spring musical freshman year. (I could dance, but not sing or even particularly act, so that gives you an idea of their selectiveness — or lack thereof.) But the play blew me away. It was brilliant, and hilarious, and I loved it.

I rented the film shortly after seeing the production live, and it was — of course — even funnier. If you haven’t seen it yet, please track it down and view it. Now. I’ll wait.

Okay. Assuming you’ve wiped the laughter-tears from your eyes, I’ll go on.

Yesterday, my husband and I spent the day in New York. Our goal was to win tickets to Hamilton, but the lottery was not kind to us (and, as mind-blowing as I find the score, I can’t bring myself to shell out $500+ for a ticket to any event). We had a wonderful fallback, however: half-price tickets to Roundabout Theatre Company’s production of Noises Off.

There’s not much I can say that this Wall Street Journal review doesn’t cover. The play really is the funniest one ever written — at least, as far as I’ve read. (Please tell me if you’ve read or seen one that might rival it, because I’ll be needing to get my hands on that immediately.) The cast is brilliant; I loved every last one of them. Andrea Martin was a perfect Dolly Otley — I didn’t even miss Carol Burnett! Tracee Chimo and Rob McClure are softly, voice-tremblingly brilliant. Sometimes it’s fun just to watch your theatremate enjoy himself, and my husband (who doesn’t laugh out loud much) shook with laughter as “Tim” quivered nervously onstage. Megan Hilty’s take on her character, hugely overacting and frowningly focusing to stay on script, was a variation that I embraced wholeheartedly (this is saying something, because I hate change). Daniel Davis was exactly right as bumbling Selsdon, and I adored Campbell Scott’s outbursts of anger. David Furr’s knack for physical comedy just about knocked me out of my seat, Jeremy Shamos was a perfect straight man, and Kate Jennings Grant was the glue that held them all together.

It’s a testament to this show that I wasn’t even disappointed about losing the Hamilton lottery. I, who have listened to nothing but the Hamilton soundtrack since a friend gifted it to me at Christmas, wasn’t even a little let down by the fact that we didn’t get to see it. Rather, I was immensely grateful to see this particular production of Noises Off before its run ended because the cast was so. damn. good. I laughed so hard that I cried. And I don’t mean, “Oh, a couple of tears filled my eyes.” I mean that tears streamed down my face until they dripped off my chin. I laughed harder than I have in ages.

Okay. Now that I’ve got all the compliments out of my system (at least for now), let’s talk about the book. I bought a used copy of the play a year ago and finally picked it up last night (wanted to revisit Nothing On already). I’m about halfway through, and the formatting itself is a thing of beauty. It’s difficult to portray a play within a play on paper, especially when the same person is playing two characters almost simultaneously. And in Act Two, when the action is viewed from backstage, two columns are necessary to portray all the hijinks at once. It’s dizzying and can make your mind reel a bit, but in the best possible way. Seeing all the action in print gives me an even greater appreciation for the impeccable timing that the actors in this show must have.

All in all: Experience this play in whatever format you can (although I’d see it before reading the book; it will help you to visualize some of the trickier scenes). And if you can get yourself into New York by March 6, do yourself a favor and see this show. (Thank me later.)

Confessions of a Busy Mom…er, I Mean “Blogger”

This just in: parenting two kids is exhausting, physically but also mentally. Sorry for the massive amount of days between posts lately. I’m disappointed in myself, but at the end of the day I’m often so tired that putting my thoughts into words sounds like too much work.

I don’t make resolutions, so I’m not swearing a turnaround because it’s early January. In fact, I’m not swearing a turnaround at all. I’m just hoping to find a middle ground between zero posts a month and two posts a week. I hope that you’ll bear with me as I figure things out.

I’ve been reading like crazy, both alone and with my kids, so I’ve got a long list of titles to be reviewed. I probably won’t remember all the details at this point, but I’d like to talk about a few of them because they were really good. So that’s coming up, along with a few blog tours and traditional reviews. Maybe I’ll even get around to talking about my favorite (and least favorite) local bookshops.

Okay. Update complete. More to come!

Review: Not If I See You First by Eric Lindstrom

NotIfISeeYouFirst

Not If I See You First by Eric Lindstrom. Poppy. 320 pp.

Parker Grant doesn’t need 20/20 vision to see right through you. That’s why she created the Rules: Don’t treat her any differently just because she’s blind, and never take advantage. There will be no second chances. Just ask Scott Kilpatrick, the boy who broke her heart.

When Scott suddenly reappears in her life after being gone for years, Parker knows there’s only one way to react-shun him so hard it hurts. She has enough on her mind already, like trying out for the track team (that’s right, her eyes don’t work but her legs still do), doling out tough-love advice to her painfully naive classmates, and giving herself gold stars for every day she hasn’t cried since her dad’s death three months ago. But avoiding her past quickly proves impossible, and the more Parker learns about what really happened–both with Scott, and her dad–the more she starts to question if things are always as they seem. Maybe, just maybe, some Rules are meant to be broken.

I was super excited to get a copy of Not If I See You First from Novl. I’d never read a work with a blind protagonist — actually, now that I think about it, the only thing I can even think of with a blind character is The Diviners. I enjoy reading about people from all walks of life for selfish reasons (I feel like getting glimpses into as many lives as possible helps me develop empathy and understanding for people who are different than I am) but also for selfless reasons: it makes me so happy to think that there’s one less person going unrepresented in literature. As much as I love reading about situations outside of my realm of experience, it makes me feel less lonely to read about characters like me. I think it’s important to have both, and I’m happy to see a book like this on shelves.

I didn’t just like this book because some of the content was new to me, though. It’s a remarkable book overall. It’s well written, the characters are flawed yet likable, and it’s bursting at the seams with heart.

I was curious about how the author would narrate action, especially since Parker spends her life in one hundred per cent darkness. But I learned two things simultaneously: 1) how challenging and world-rocking it would be for me to adjust to life without vision the way Parker did and 2) how aware Parker was of her surroundings and how self-sufficient she’d grown to be. The narrative focuses on sounds; Parker often narrates by saying that she hears someone sitting on her left, or walking out the door, or something like that. I didn’t feel like the storytelling suffered because a sense was removed; instead, I was forced to focus on things I might normally take for granted, like breathing, pauses in conversation, and tone of voice. It’s a very internal novel — it’s told in first person, and the reader hears a lot of Parker’s fears and insecurities — but it’s also highly interpersonal as Parker spends a lot of her time trying to figure out her place, both socially and romantically.

When I read the blurb, I wondered what Scott could have done that would make Parker willing to write him off forever. I don’t want to tell you, because it’s better if it comes as a surprise, but it’s a doozy. And then to have him show up at her school, and to have to navigate a life in which she’s forced to be around him every day…it’s a lot to deal with, especially after just losing her father. I loved reading about Scott and Parker’s relationship as kids, and I loved the situations in which they were thrown together as teens. All in all, I just loved the two of them. Their story is beautiful.

But this book isn’t just about their story; it’s primarily about Parker’s story, and I love that. Too often, a book is so focused on boy-girl issues that there aren’t enough pages left for the girl to have a life of her own. Eric Lindstrom balances the two beautifully. And he leaves enough room for female friendship! Parker’s relationship with Sarah is portrayed brilliantly: devotion and insecurity on both sides, and so much love it’s heartwarming to read.

All in all: Writing this review made me want to re-read the book, and that’s always a good sign. Worth reading.

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!

OtherInfo

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

tlc-logo-resized