Blog Tour: Fractured by Catherine McKenzie

Hello, and welcome to the blog tour for Fractured by Catherine McKenzie! Before I tell you about all the reasons I thoroughly enjoyed this book, check out the synopsis below:


Fractured by Catherine McKenzie. Lake Union Publishing. 362 pp. 

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.


As I’ve mentioned a few times, TLC is great for my reading habits because it’s a great opportunity for me to branch out. My husband reads far more suspense novels than I do. I enjoy them, but I often don’t know where to start when choosing one. And TLC’s authors rarely disappoint. I was very pleased to be introduced to Catherine McKenzie’s words this month. This book is a smooth blend of voice, mood, clues, intrigue, and (huzzah!) clean writing.

Maybe it’s because I don’t know the bad from the good, but I’ve grabbed a thriller here and there and been shocked by how weak the writing was. The sentences were sloppy, the dialogue was unbelievable, and I had a tough time slogging through. (These were bestsellers, too.) Over time, though, I’ve been fortunate enough to encounter authors like Catherine McKenzie, ones who’ve shown me that perhaps I just picked up the wrong authors when I was getting started in this genre. She writes like a dream. I mean, I don’t think there was a moment in this book where she didn’t have me exactly where she wanted me, and it was an absolute pleasure to be manipulated by her words.

I loved that Julie’s and John’s chapters sounded different, that the weather could do so much to affect the mood of a scene, and that the author just nailed the minutiae (and mundanity) of suburban life.

I appreciated not knowing who was involved in the accident until the last possible moment; I didn’t figure anything out ahead of time, and believe me, I tried. My brain felt itchy and alive, working overtime as it assimilated new clues. I also loved how the characters began to question reality. It made it even more difficult to guess where things were headed. The plot started to feel hazy, like jogging through fog or slipping vodka into my morning orange juice.

I go to the bookstore often just to browse. Sometimes I buy a book or two; sometimes I don’t. But it’s a great way to see what’s been published recently. Also, it’s like Penny Lane says in Almost Famous: I’m visiting my friends. I look at cover art, I read synopses, I feel how velvety the covers are, and I enjoy myself immensely. To me, one of the signs of a good book is that it makes me want to pick up another book by the same author the next time I’m browsing. I may buy it that day or I may not, but it’s piqued my interest. (I may turn it to face forward on the shelf, even if I don’t buy it, in the hopes that it catches someone else’s eye. I know you’re probably not supposed to do that but I do it sometimes anyway and I’m sure I’m not the only one.) Catherine McKenzie has joined the ever-growing list of authors who I’ll be visiting the next time I browse. She’s gifted, and I look forward to reading more books by her.



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

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram


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

Tuesday, October 11th: From the TBR Pile

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

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


Blog Tour: June by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore


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.


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.



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


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


Book Review: The Loose Ends List by Carrie Firestone


The Loose Ends List by Carrie Firestone. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. 352 pp. 

Seventeen-year-old Maddie O’Neill Levine lives a charmed life, and is primed to spend the perfect pre-college summer with her best friends and young-at-heart socialite grandmother (also Maddie’s closest confidante), tying up high school loose ends. Maddie’s plans change the instant Gram announces that she is terminally ill and has booked the family on a secret “death with dignity” cruise ship so that she can leave the world in her own unconventional way – and give the O’Neill clan an unforgettable summer of dreams-come-true in the process.

Soon, Maddie is on the trip of a lifetime with her over-the-top family. As they travel the globe, Maddie bonds with other passengers and falls for Enzo, who is processing his own grief. But despite the laughter, headiness of first love, and excitement of glamorous destinations, Maddie knows she is on the brink of losing Gram. She struggles to find the strength to say good-bye in a whirlwind summer shaped by love, loss, and the power of forgiveness.

Let’s start by talking about the NOVL newsletter, shall we? Not only are the folks at NOVL as ecstatic about books as I am — mayyybe even more so — they give away advance copies of books on a regular basis. There’s an entry form in the newsletter, and if you’re selected, you don’t get an email to notify you: a book shows up, out of the blue, at your door. This is the best. surprise. ever. I’m not one for unexpected company of the human variety, but if a book shows up at my door it will be welcomed with open arms.

It’s always a nice surprise to receive a free book, but it’s oh-so-much better when said book is good. And The Loose Ends List is better than good. It’s beautiful and fierce and heartbreaking.

The way that Maddie and her family joke, fight, and have the time of their lives together made me miss my cousins and how much time we spent together when we were kids. People move and life gets in the way, and all of a sudden the people you love so much become a thought bobbing in your brain: I wonder how she’s doing. I should really call her. And we (at least, I) never make the time. I admired Maddie’s grandmother for her desire to have the whole family together one last time, and I was envious of them all for having that opportunity.

Maddie’s relationship with her grandmother is touching: respectful yet irreverent, and so full of love. My mom is my best friend, and I can’t (don’t want to) imagine saying goodbye to her. I can’t imagine dragging a goodbye out for an entire summer, not knowing when it was gong to happen. I thought Maddie’s grief was portrayed well and realistically; she tries to distract herself from it for as long as possible, then it all comes slamming down.

Because all of the other patients on the ship are also terminal cases, I knew I was going to have to say goodbye to them all, but I still wasn’t ready when it started to happen. I was a mess for the last fifty pages or so of this book, and though I was sad, I was also moved to make every moment count with the people I love. The ship’s motto, “And still we dance,” captures this book in a neat four-word package that brings so many snapshots and “snow globe moments” to mind. The characters in this book aren’t perfect, but they are alive — practically leaping off the page — and they will worm their way into your heart.

All in all: A gorgeous book. Worth reading…then re-reading when you start to take life (and people) for granted.

Blog Tour: The Decent Proposal by Kemper Donovan

The Decent Proposal cover

The Decent Proposal by Kemper Donovan. Harper. 320 pp.

Hello, and welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for Kemper Donovan’s The Decent Proposal! Before I tell you what I thought, here’s a brief summary:

A humorous, heartfelt love story built on a tantalizing premise: would you agree to spend two hours a week with a stranger—just talking—to collect half a million dollars at the end of a year?

Struggling Hollywood producer Richard is twenty-nine, hungover, and broke. Ridiculously handsome with an easy charm, he spends his days procrastinating at the Coffee Bean and nights hanging out with his best friend, Michaela, aka “Mike.”

At thirty-three, Elizabeth is on track to make partner at her law firm. Known as “La Máquina”—the Machine—to her colleagues, she’s grown used to a quiet, orderly life with no romantic entanglements of any kind. (Her closest friend is an old man who discusses Virginia Woolf with her at the beach. Enough said.)

Richard and Elizabeth have never met before, but their paths collide when they receive a proposal from a mysterious, anonymous benefactor: they’ll split a million dollars if they agree to spend at least two hours together every week for a year. Both are shocked and suspicious, and agree the idea is absurd, but after Richard anxiously considers the state of his bank account and Elizabeth carefully conducts a cost-benefit analysis of the situation, they agree to give it a try.

As these two perfect strangers wade awkwardly into the waters of modern courtship, discovering a shared affection for In-N-Out burgers, classic books, cult-hit movies, and various Los Angeles locales, they realize that uncovering the secret identity of their benefactor will not only make clear what connects them but change them both forever.

This delightful tale is full of twists, revelations, and above all love in its multitude of forms.


I flew through this book. It was so entertaining, and so well-paced, that I just couldn’t seem to put it down. It’s one of those books that you know would make a great movie. It reads like a film, with enough information to let you picture each of the characters and know what’s going on, good dialogue, and no unnecessary/filler scenes. I can’t imagine what they’d need to change to make a movie, which is great because I hate when filmmakers take too many liberties with a story I enjoyed.

The Decent Proposal reminds me of this New York Times article about a list of questions inclusive and intimate enough to supposedly cause two strangers fall in love. (My husband and I have been together for almost ten years, and I still learned a couple of things about him as we went through the list.) I love the idea of two strangers creating a safe space in which they really get to hear and see one another, and this novel allows the reader to catch a beautiful glimpse of this process in action. The “structure” of discussing movies and books allows the reader to see Elizabeth and Richard’s similarities as well as their differences, and it’s also great fun to sneak a peek into someone else’s book club.

The characters in this book aren’t perfect, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching them struggle and develop. Orpheus’s story broke my heart (I think about him on certain highways, and my heart breaks all over again). I wasn’t a big fan of Mike (I think she and Richard are terrible influences on each other, which is probably the point), but she was wonderfully humanized during her time at Beverly’s house. And the surrounding cast is just enough to fill in the gaps without overwhelming the reader with secondary characters.

Also? There’s so much food mentioned in this book that my mouth was constantly watering. (In case you don’t know me very well, this is a selling point.) I wish someone would foot the bill for me to buy books and movies and order takeout! What a benefactor! Also, I love that Elizabeth eats. And Richard likes her — and finds her attractive — anyway. That’s not seen in too many stories. (Well, sometimes the girl eats and eats but has some crazy superhuman-mutant-metabolism and is still a size zero. That’s not what I’m talking about.)

All in all: An entertaining and enjoyable read. A smart book with a rom-com feel in the best possible way.




Kemper Donovan AP

Kemper Donovan has lived in Los Angeles for the past twelve years. A graduate of Stanford University and Harvard Law School, he worked at the literary management company Circle of Confusion for a decade, representing screenwriters and comic books. He is also a member of the New York Bar Association.

Follow Kemper on Twitter.


Wednesday, April 6th: Curling Up by the Fire
Thursday, April 7th: 5 Minutes For Books
Monday, April 11th: Book Hooked Blog
Tuesday, April 12th: From the TBR Pile
Wednesday, April 13th: she treads softly
Thursday, April 14th: A Bookish Way of Life
Monday, April 18th: Thoughts On This ‘n That
Tuesday, April 19th: Sara’s Organized Chaos
Wednesday, April 20th: Literary Feline
Thursday, April 21st: Bibliotica
Monday, April 25th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Tuesday, April 26th: Lesa’s Book Critiques
Wednesday, April 27th: All Roads Lead to the Kitchen
Thursday, April 28th: Ms. Nose in a Book
Friday, April 29th: fangirl confessions


Blog Tour: Private Citizens by Tony Tulathimutte

Private Citizens cover

Private Citizens by Tony Tulathimutte. William Morrow. 384 pp.

Hello, and welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for Private Citizens by Tony Tulathimutte! Before my review, here’s the plot summary:

Capturing the anxious, self-aware mood of young college grads in the aughts, Private Citizens embraces the contradictions of our new century—call it a loving satire, a gleefully rude comedy of manners, Middlemarch for millennials. The novel’s four whip-smart narrators—idealistic Cory, Internet-lurking Will, awkward Henrik, and vicious Linda—are torn between fixing the world and cannibalizing it. In boisterous prose that ricochets between humor and pain, Private Citizens follows the four estranged friends as they stagger through the Bay Area’s maze of tech startups, protestors, gentrifiers, karaoke bars, house parties, and cultish self-help seminars, washing up in each other’s lives once again.

A wise and searching depiction of a generation grappling with privilege and finding grace in failure, Private Citizens is as expansively intelligent as it is full of heart.


There’s not much I can say that the above description doesn’t, but I’ll do my best to find something. Let me start, though, by saying that the book is indeed cleverly satirical and that the four main characters are certainly “whip-smart.” The various groups encountered — from “I’m-too-cool-to-be-here” house party attendees to protestors whose focus is spread too thin — are portrayed in ways that made me nod in agreement (“Yes! That’s exactly what that sort of person is like!”) and laugh out loud. My personal favorite was Handshake, a commercial, self-help seminar whose leader argues via vague (or just plain off-the-wall) affirmations like the following:

What’s our most lethal modern sickness? Cancer? You can beat it, like my wife did. Heart disease? Diet, exercise, and baby aspirin. No, the answer is cynicism.

Please tell me that you, too, are rolling your eyes.

I know that character likability isn’t the be-all and end-all value of a book, but I still want to mention that I pretty much hated every one of these characters. No one’s perfect, and maybe I just got to know these four a little too well, you know? But, in spite of the fact that I would actively avoid being in a conversation with any of them (except maybe Henrik), I still found myself concerned about them from time to time (my heart broke for Will, and Linda’s journal entries made her much more accessible).

My main complaint with this book is the sheer amount of jargon/insider language it contains on topics as varied as technological toys, philosophy, and Internet porn. If you’re a very specific sort of person, you’ll pick up on every reference and acronym, but otherwise these scenes potentially distance the reader. Maybe that’s the point, that even insiders are on the outside sometimes, but I found it more frustrating than anything.

Overall? It took me a while to get into this one. It was difficult to look past how much I disliked the characters. Once I did, I found it interesting, but the average reader may not stick around long enough to get into the rhythm of the book. If you do, you’ll read a smart, cleanly-written satire of the modern age.

That’s all for today. Be sure to check out the other tour stops (listed below)!


Tony Tulathimutte AP

Tony Tulathimutte has written for VICEAGNIThe Threepenny ReviewSalonThe New Yorker online, and other publications. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and Stanford University, he has received an O. Henry Award and a MacDowell Colony Fellowship. He lives in New York.

Find out more about Tony at his website, and connect with him on InstagramTwitter, and Facebook.


Wednesday, February 10th: Gspotsylvania: Ramblings from a Reading Writer Who Rescues Birds and Beasts
Monday, February 15th: I’m Shelf-ish
Tuesday, February 16th: Raven Haired Girl
Thursday, February 18th: Dwell in Possibility
Monday, February 22nd: A Lovely Bookshelf on the Wall
Tuesday, February 23rd: From the TBR Pile
Thursday, February 25th: Patricia’s Wisdom
Thursday, February 25th: A Bookish Way of Life
Friday, February 26th: Worth Getting in Bed For


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


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.


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).


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.


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


Review: After Alice by Gregory Maguire

After Alice by Gregory Maguire. William Morrow. 256 pp.

After Alice by Gregory Maguire. William Morrow. 256 pp.

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 new 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 Euridyce 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.”

I’ve got a couple of Gregory Maguire books sitting on my shelf but haven’t read a single one yet; I keep saving them for a rainy day and getting distracted by other books. He wrote a moving, arm-hair-raising introduction to My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me, and I’ve been looking forward to reading his fiction. So you can imagine my reaction when I heard that his next book was an Alice in Wonderland spinoff and that he was signing at BEA; it was one of the must-attend events on my schedule. However…I got stuck in over an hour and a half of traffic on the way to BEA and didn’t arrive in time to get a ticket for his signing. Later in the day, I saw a small pile of books on the ground at the Penguin Random House booth and asked a rep if I could take a copy of each. And that’s how I nabbed this ARC (along with an advance copy of Geraldine Brooks’s upcoming novel, The Secret Chord).

I had no idea what to expect from After Alice because the back cover merely displays a couple of paragraphs of text from the book (I found the above summary on Goodreads later). I figured it would take place after Alice had visited (and returned from) Wonderland. But it’s actually a sort of parallel narrative, following Alice’s neighbor Ada as she falls into Wonderland — you guessed it — after Alice.

Since having kids (and thereby finding myself with far less reading time), I’ve become a wholehearted proponent of the DNF (Did Not Finish). When I was younger, I would finish a book 99% of the time; I couldn’t bear to not see a story through, even if I was hating it. Now, though, I give it fifty pages, and if I’m still miserable, I jump ship. “Life’s too short to read bad books,” I often tell my husband. And then I immediately feel guilty for calling a book a “bad book” just because I didn’t like it or because it wasn’t for me at that point in my life. Still, though, I have far less free time lately and won’t muddle through something if I’m feeling like my time is being wasted.

That’s a long-winded way of saying that I almost didn’t finish this book. It took some time to get things moving, and I couldn’t see how the multiple plot lines would connect or why I should care about them. As time went by, though, I began to enjoy Ada as a character and was delighted by how different her experiences in Wonderland were than Alice’s. If you know Carroll’s Wonderland, you’ll find just enough of it here to make things similar without becoming boring. The Duchess is here, and the Mad Tea Party, and the White Queen and the White Knight, among others…but they interact with Ada differently than they do with Alice, and this is a story all its own.

I was delighted by the adventure and loopy logic, but also by the historic aspects. Ada’s journey to Wonderland doesn’t occur in a vacuum; there are people back in Oxford searching for her, and their stories and societal roles allow this to border on being a historic novel as well. Maguire examines the ideas of restraint and propriety, and how the levels of each differ depending on one’s lot in life, from clergy and governesses to escaped slaves and physically disabled children. Throughout the course of the day, the characters find freedom in various unexpected places, some aboveground and some below. I loved witnessing the breathing room that they found when routines were shifted and the shackles of polite society loosened a bit.

The only thing about this book that caused it to fall a bit short for me is how randomly-placed some of the asides are. There’s a thought-provoking examination of the effects of a town’s architecture on the sort of literature its residents produce, which I loved reading, but it takes place at the beginning of a chapter following the housekeeper, Mrs. Brummidge. It’s almost as if these thoughts are hers, but they’re clearly not because her character is far more straightforward and industrious than pensive. It’s almost as if the narrator (or Maguire himself? I’m not sure) is sprinkling his own thoughts here and there. They’re bright thoughts, but the way they fit into the narrative was a little shaky for me.

All in all: There’s a lot going on here, lots of food for thought as well as entertainment, and I ended up loving this book much more than I expected. Can’t wait to add it to my Alice shelf (which is overflowing…).

Keeping It Brief #2

You’ve probably noticed that I don’t post on this blog very frequently over the summer. That’s largely due to the fact that my husband is a teacher and has most summers off, so I take advantage of the opportunity to spend lots of time out and about with him and our two boys. I think there’s also a bit of residual summer vacation attitude involved: I like the idea of summer as a break from routine and obligations. And, while the blog isn’t exactly an obligation, I like the freedom to fly through books all summer without taking notes or writing reviews. I read some excellent books this summer, though (and some not-so-excellent ones…), so I want to put a few thoughts together about the two-foot stack of books I read (that’s not counting ebooks). Here goes!

Reawakened by Colleen Houck. Delacorte Press. 400 pp.

Reawakened by Colleen Houck. Delacorte Press. 400 pp.

I got an advance copy of this book at BookCon; I’d been waiting in line at Penguin Random House’s booth and things were getting so hectic that I thought I wouldn’t be able to get my hands on one. Penguin was so busy (and the crowd so crazed) that the line wasn’t moving; people kept pushing ahead, so those of us waiting patiently in line weren’t getting anywhere. They eventually started to send a security guy back and forth from the book table to the back of the line with armloads of books. And that’s how I got this one.

The cover is stunning; I’m in love with the colors and design. I was not, however, in love with the book. I was interested in the ancient Egyptian elements, and the action and adventure scenes were pretty good. Not the best I’ve ever read, but readable. The romantic aspects were…disturbing. I wanted to find out what happened to the couple, primarily because I didn’t know how the author would write them out of their particular dilemma (you know, an immortal falling in love with a mortal and all that). I didn’t feel emotionally invested, though, since they’d only known one another for a few days and their initial bond was based on a spell. I mean, Amon forces Lily to help him; she’s bound to him until he accomplishes his duty. She tells him that she will never forgive him for doing this to her. And then…she falls in love with the guy?! No, thanks. [Side note: I loved Disney’s Beauty and the Beast as a kid, but the falling-in-love-with-your-jailer theme becomes more and more troublesome for me as the years go by. I’m still working through it.]

Also, the narration drove. me. crazy. I hate it when a character TELLS me who they are instead of just showing me, and Lily tells the reader, time and time again, in lengthy asides. I kept getting yanked out of the flow of the story, and it was terribly frustrating.

Not the worst book I’ve read this year, but not a particularly great one, either.

When We Were Animals by Joshua Gaylord. Mulholland Books. 336 pp.

When We Were Animals by Joshua Gaylord. Mulholland Books. 336 pp.

I requested a copy of this one from the Novl newsletter. I love their request form because it doesn’t tell you whether or not you’ll get a copy. They send the books out in the order that requests were received, so if you requested it in time, you’ll get one with no advance notice. I love checking the mail and finding a book that I wasn’t anticipating!

This one’s about a community where all the teenagers “breach” on every full moon. The rest of the town stays indoors and the youths run, naked and wild, abandoning all rules. It’s narrated by a girl named Lumen who insists that she has never breached, that she was the only one in her town who didn’t. As she delves deeper, though, looking back on her life, some disturbing memories surface.

The writing in this book is clean, evocative, and chilling. The story is wonderfully symbolic, frightening and moving all at once. I initially thought it sounded interesting, but I enjoyed it so much more than I expected to. I’d love to teach this one to a high school or college literature class.

Another Day by David Levithan. Knopf. 336 pp.

Another Day by David Levithan. Knopf. 336 pp.

This is a companion piece to Every Day, which tells the story of A, a bodiless individual who spends every day occupying a different person’s body. He doesn’t know how he came to be this way, and he’s mostly content with it…until he meets Rhiannon, the only person so far that’s made him want to stay in one place. Another Day tells things from Rhiannon’s point of view, showing the reader how difficult it is for her to wrap her head around A’s way of existence.

I loved Every Day because of how it explores gender and relationships; A isn’t male or female, and it’s beautiful to see Rhiannon’s preconceptions about the type of person she’d fall in love with being challenged. (I describe “A” as “he” in this review because it’s generally how Rhiannon thinks. “They” is probably more appropriate, though I struggle with that one for grammatical reasons. I so wish there was a singular gender-neutral pronoun in use!)

I didn’t love this book as much as Every Day because I didn’t enjoy the writing as much. Levithan’s usually-gorgeous, almost gauzy language wasn’t as present in this book, at least for me. I also didn’t like how much Justin was villainized when he doesn’t seem like a horrible guy, just maybe not-quite-right for Rhiannon. But I still adore the concept, and I also have a major thing for reading the same story from two different points of view. You should read this one if you loved Every Day and want to hear it from a different perspective, but don’t start here.

Aaaannnd that’s it for now. More soon!

Review: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon. Delacorte Press. 320 pp.

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon. Delacorte Press. 320 pp.

I’m still upset about the fact that Pushing Daisies was cancelled. I thought it was a fun show, whimsically clever, but mostly I was intrigued by the idea of a love story in which the two lovers could never come into physical contact — upon penalty of death. I’m sad that the show never had a chance to really build momentum and viewership (the writers’ strike took place early in its first season) because I had never seen anything like it before and was enthralled. It still drives me crazy not to know where the writers were going to go with things. When I read the description of Everything, Everything, I knew I had to get my hands on a copy. I mean, a book about a couple who can never touch? Maybe this would allow me to finally put my Pushing Daisies curiosity to rest! (It didn’t. But the book is a beautiful thing in its own right, so I’m not disappointed.)

This is a great book. For someone who’s grown up in a bubble of isolation, Madeline is a surprisingly positive, well-adjusted girl. She’s not perfect, which I appreciated, but she’s still a character that you can root for, and I enjoyed being along for a part of her journey. Because Madeline’s world is so small, the simplest things hold a world of significance. A glance, a smile, a change in posture: all of these things become enormous aspects of Maddy and Olly’s courtship. And the scenes with Madeline’s face and hands pressed up against the window, her entire body straining to be as close to Outside as possible, are heartbreaking.

I am in love with the idea of falling in love with someone based on their mind and ideas and sparkling, witty conversation. The sketches, medical reports, notes, IMs, etc. make this a quick read, but they’re clearly not there for filler; they move the story along in a simple yet effective manner.

It’s difficult to say much about the story without giving away the big things, but let me say this: I saw the ending coming about halfway through the book. And it didn’t take away from the story as much as you might expect. When a book has such a huge, life-or-death sort of thing hanging in the balance, twists and turns of plot mean a lot, and it’s terrible to have things spoiled, even if it’s by your own brain. But having more than an inkling of where things were headed didn’t ruin the book because the writing, and the characters’ reactions to what happens, were strong enough to carry things.

All in all: Worth reading. An adorable love story and a moving, heartbreaking story of family and loss.

Review: Six Impossible Things by Fiona Wood

Six Impossible Things by Fiona Wood. Poppy. 304 pp.

Six Impossible Things by Fiona Wood. Poppy. 304 pp.

Fourteen-year-old nerd-boy Dan Cereill is not quite coping with a reversal of family fortune, moving house, new school hell, a mother with a failing wedding cake business, a just-out gay dad, and an impossible crush on the girl next door.

His life is a mess, but for now he’s narrowed it down to just six impossible things…

I’m hesitant to tell you this, because it lowers my odds, but here goes: Novl has a newsletter (I’m not sure of the frequency…maybe monthly?) in which they often host giveaways. Generally, you have to fill out a request form, and if you’re one of the first however-many entrants (the number changes based on how many copies they’ve got), you’ll get a review copy in the mail. The exciting thing about it is that you aren’t notified ahead of time; you just check your mail one day, and — BAM! — there’s a book at your doorstep. It’s wonderful.

I’d actually forgotten about entering to receive Six Impossible Things, so I was doubly excited when it showed up a couple of weeks ago. I’m going to take a page out of Dan’s book and write this review in list form.

Things I Liked About This Book:

1. The cover. I love watercolor-y cover art.
2. The title. I love the hope behind the idea of believing six impossible things.
3. Dan’s shyness. Usually, shy kids in books are made out to be huge geeks (and those are some of my favorite characters…maybe ’cause that’s my demographic?), but sometimes shy kids are just quiet and socially faltering. And I appreciated that about Dan.
4. Dan’s friends. They’re dryly funny in the best ways.

Things I Loved About This Book:

1. The phrase “odd sock.” I’dnever heard it before, but it wiggled its way into my heart immediately.
2. Dan’s mother’s faltering wedding cake business and the way she kept talking customers out of getting married. It’s exactly what I imagine a woman in her situation would do, and it was funny and sad all at once.
3. How squirmy I felt about the way Dan initially got to know Estelle (I don’t want to spoil it for you). It kept me wondering how he would ever come back from that one.
4. The mondegreen “There’s this sky I like,” which now crosses my mind whenever I see a beautiful sunset. It’s the cutest mishearing I’ve ever encountered.

Things I Wasn’t So Crazy About:

1. The title, Six Impossible Things, is phrase from Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass, my favorite book, so I was disappointed that Carroll’s work didn’t get so much as a nod.

Wow…that’s the only thing I didn’t like. I didn’t realize that until making a list (like Dan — and Rory Gilmore — I’m a big fan of lists).

All in all: I flew through this one! An adorable story, told well. It’s for ages twelve and up, so the language can be a bit simple at times, but the dialogue is excellent and the story is sweet and wonderful.