Review: Up at Butternut Lake by Mary McNear

About the book, Up at Butternut Lake

Up at Butternut Lake

• Paperback: 384 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (April 8, 2014)

In the tradition of Kristin Hannah and Susan Wiggs, Mary McNear introduces readers to the town of Butternut Lake and to the unforgettable people who call it home.

It’s summer, and after ten years away, Allie Beckett has returned to her family’s cabin beside tranquil Butternut Lake, where as a teenager she spent so many carefree days. She’s promised her five-year-old son, Wyatt, they will be happy there. She’s promised herself this is the place to begin again after her husband’s death in Afghanistan. The cabin holds so many wonderful memories, but from the moment she crosses its threshold Allie is seized with doubts. Has she done the right thing uprooting her little boy from the only home he’s ever known?

Allie and her son are embraced by the townsfolk, and her reunions with old acquaintances—her friend Jax, now a young mother of three with one more on the way, and Caroline, the owner of the local coffee shop—are joyous ones. And then there are newcomers like Walker Ford, who mostly keeps to himself—until he takes a shine to Wyatt . . . and to Allie.

Everyone knows that moving forward is never easy, and as the long, lazy days of summer take hold, Allie must learn to unlock the hidden longings of her heart, and to accept that in order to face the future she must also confront—and understand—what has come before.

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About the author, Mary McNear

Mary McNear

Mary McNear lives in San Francisco with her husband, two teenage children, and a high-strung, minuscule white dog named Macaroon. She writes her novels in a local doughnut shop, where she sips Diet Pepsi, observes the hubbub of neighborhood life, and tries to resist the constant temptation of freshly made doughnuts. She bases her novels on a lifetime of summers spent in a small town on a lake in the northern Midwest.

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My Thoughts

It’s the little details that make or break a book for me. On the surface, Up at Butternut Lake may seem like just another contemporary romance. It’s got the cute small town setting, the strong women who are going through personal struggles (two of them, actually, Allie, and Jax) and the newcomer who still has ties from out of town. But that’s just the surface, and it would be a mistake to write this book off just because it includes a few common tropes.

Instead, look at the details: in the early pages Allie’s young son Wyatt spins on a diner stool. We don’t have a lot of classic diners left in the USA, but trust me, there isn’t a kid alive who could resist the urge to spin on one of those. (I know this from experience because my family owned just such a diner on the Jersey Shore, and we kids used to spin on the blue vinyl stools til we were nauseous.)

Then there’s Allie herself. She’s at the lake in part because it’s a personal haven for her, full of good memories, but also because, having lost her husband, she wants to be in a place where she can rebuild trust in herself, without the often-stifling offers of help. She isn’t a misanthrope; she just needs to find her footing.

These are the sorts of details, details of plot, setting, and character, that Mary McNear has given us in Up at Butternut Lake, and this is why it’s not ‘just a romance’ but a story about strong women, and the people whom they love.

Goes well with Sweet tea and strawberry-rhubarb pie.

TLC Book Tours

This review is part of a virtual book tour hosted by TLC Book Tours. For more information, or to read the entire list of tour stops, click here.

Review: The Here and Now, by Ann Brashares

The Here and Now (Hardcover)

By (author): Ann Brashares

An unforgettable epic romantic thriller about a girl from the future who might be able to save the world . . . if she lets go of the one thing she’s found to hold on to.

Follow the rules. Remember what happened. Never fall in love.
This is the story of seventeen-year-old Prenna James, who immigrated to New York when she was twelve. Except Prenna didn’t come from a different country. She came from a different time—a future where a mosquito-borne illness has mutated into a pandemic, killing millions and leaving the world in ruins. 
Prenna and the others who escaped to the present day must follow a strict set of rules: never reveal where they’re from, never interfere with history, and never, ever be intimate with anyone outside their community. Prenna does as she’s told, believing she can help prevent the plague that will one day ravage the earth.

But everything changes when Prenna falls for Ethan Jarves. 

From Ann Brashares, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, The Here and Now is thrilling, exhilarating, haunting, and heartbreaking--and a must-read novel of the year.

"This gripping story is set in a world unlike any other and inhabited by beautifully imagined characters that stay with you long after the last page. As always, Brashares expertly captures the wonder of love’s enduring power.” – Sara Shepard, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Pretty Little Liars
List Price: $18.99 USD
New From: $8.77 USD In Stock
Used from: $10.64 USD In Stock
Release date April 8, 2014.

My Thoughts

I was offered the opportunity to read The Here and Now by Ann Brashares, via NetGalley, and I was happy to take them up on the offer.

I didn’t read the books Brashares is best known for – The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and it’s sequels – until just a few years ago. (I maintain that some of the most provocative contemporary literature, especially if you want strong female characters, is written for the YA/NA market. She’s the perfect example of this.) Nevertheless, I love her work, because she always writes girls and young women who are three-dimensional.

The Here and Now is no exception to that. Protagonist Prenna is someone I think many girls and young women could identify with. Certainly she reminded me of me at that age – when I was always the new kid (though I never had to move from a different time).

Likewise, Ethan, the local boy with the talent for perception, reminds me of many of the smarter, geekier boys I went to school with. If I were seventeen, I’d want to date him. Or at least go on an adventure or two with him.

The story itself is sort of a contemporary spin on Romeo and Juliet with a science fiction setup. Most of the action takes place – as the name of the novel suggests – in the here and now, but it forces us to look at our culture pretty closely, while still being incredibly entertaining.

My one complaint about this novel is that it felt like part one of a trilogy…the story is resolved by the end, but the resolution is a bit unsatisfying, and more than a little open-ended.

Goes well with a hot dog and crinkle-cut french fries from a stand on a New Jersey boardwalk.

Review: Driving Lessons, by Zoe Fishman

About the book, Driving Lessons

Driving Lessons by Zoe Fishman

• Paperback: 336 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (April 8, 2014)

Sometimes life’s most fulfilling journeys begin without a map.

An executive at a New York cosmetics firm, Sarah has had her fill of the interminable hustle of the big city. When her husband, Josh, is offered a new job in suburban Virginia, it feels like the perfect chance to shift gears.

While Josh quickly adapts to their new life, Sarah discovers that having time on her hands is a mixed blessing. Without her everyday urban struggles, who is she? And how can she explain to Josh, who assumes they are on the same page, her ambivalence about starting a family?

It doesn’t help that the idea of getting behind the wheel—an absolute necessity of her new life—makes it hard for Sarah to breathe. It’s been almost twenty years since she’s driven, and just the thought of merging is enough to make her teeth chatter with anxiety. When she signs up for lessons, she begins to feel a bit more like her old self again, but she’s still unsure of where she wants to go.

Then a crisis involving her best friend lands Sarah back in New York—a trip to the past filled with unexpected truths about herself, her dear friend, and her seemingly perfect sister-in-law . . . and an astonishing surprise that will help her see the way ahead.

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About the author, Zoe Fishman

Zoe Fishman

Zoe Fishman is the author of Balancing Acts and Saving Ruth. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband and son.

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My Thoughts

In many ways, Sarah reminds me of me when I first left the San Francisco Bay area of California and moved to South Dakota, where I married my husband. My big move happened at the very dawn of our marriage, but after returning to California three years later, we moved to Texas during our tenth year of marriage, and I faced many of the same issues Sarah did: redefining my career, learning to live in a place where public transportation simply does not exist, and learning to fit into a culture that was vastly different from what I was accustomed to.

It’s for this reason that I identified with Sarah so much, even feeling a bit of envy when she realized she was pregnant (we have dogs, but no human children). She read like a real person to me, one I’d have loved to meet for coffee or sushi some afternoon.

All of the other characters were well-drawn as well. I particularly enjoyed Ray the driving instructor, and Sarah’s sweet husband, Josh. While the latter was not on very many pages, he reminded me very strongly of my own sweet, gentle, incredibly patient husband.

As to the novel itself, it is a shining example of what contemporary women’s fiction can be: laughter through tears, humor that comes from life, and characters who aren’t all either twenty-somethings in stilettos or older married women who hate their lives. In fact, reading this book felt like visiting a small town for a few days – you’re welcomed like family, but no one makes you feel bad when it’s time to leave.

I haven’t read any of Zoe Fishman’s other work, but if Driving Lessons is anything to judge by, I’m sure I’d love everything she writes.

Goes well withBBQ brisket, potato salad, and iced sweet tea.

TLC Book Tours

This post is part of a virtual book tour hosted by TLC Book Tours. For more information, or the complete list of tour stops, click here.

Mini-Review: Star Trek: The Fall, by multiple authors

About the Series: Star Trek: The Fall

  1. Revelation and Dust, by David R. George, III

    The Fall: Revelation and Dust


    After the destruction of the original space station by a rogue faction of the Typhon Pact, Miles O’Brien and Nog have led the Starfleet Corps of Engineers in designing and constructing a larger, more advanced starbase in the Bajoran system. Now, as familiar faces such as Benjamin Sisko, Kasidy Yates, Ezri Dax, Odo, and Quark arrive at the new station, Captain Ro Laren will host various heads of state at an impressive dedication ceremony. The dignitaries include not only the leaders of allies—such as Klingon Chancellor Martok, Ferengi Grand Nagus Rom, the Cardassian castellan, and the Bajoran first minister—but also those of rival powers, such as the Romulan praetor and the Gorn imperator. But as Ro’s crew prepares to open DS9 to the entire Bajor Sector and beyond, disaster looms. A faction has already set in action a shocking plan that, if successful, will shake the Alpha and Beta Quadrants to the core.

    And what of Kira Nerys, lost aboard a runabout when the Bajoran wormhole collapsed? In the two years that have passed during construction of the new Deep Space 9, there have been no indica­tions that the Celestial Temple, the Prophets, or Kira have sur­vived. But since Ben Sisko once learned that the wormhole aliens exist nonlinearly in time, what does that mean with respect to their fate, or that of the wormhole . . . or of Kira herself?

  2. The Crimson Shadow, by Una McCormack

    The Fall: The Crimson Shadow

    Cardassia Prime is home to a prideful people who, for centuries, forged alliances with those they believed would strengthen them and their place in the Alpha Quadrant, and expanded their empire at great cost to other worlds. For generations, dissenting voices were silenced by either fear or an early grave. When their wartime ally, the Dominion, suddenly turned on them, seeking to transform Cardassia into a tomb for every last member of their race, their old adversary—the United Federation of Planets— put an end to the carnage, and even now works to help rebuild Cardassia Prime.

    To celebrate this alliance, the Castellan of the Cardassian Union is to welcome the Federation president to Cardassia Prime. As a symbol of this deepening friendship, the U.S.S. Enterprise-E is tasked to carry the Cardassian ambassador to the Federation back home. For his part, Ambassador Elim Garak is working with Captain Jean-Luc Picard to oversee the diplomatic reception that will commemorate the last of Starfleet’s personnel finally leaving the homeworld. However, there are malevolent forces at work, who even now strive to “restore Cardassia to its proper place and glory,” and are willing to do anything to achieve their goal….

  3. A Ceremony of Losses, by David Mack

    The Fall: A Ceremony of Losses


    Despite heroic efforts by Thirishar ch’Thane, the Andorian species is headed for extinction. Its slow march toward oblivion has reached a tipping point, one from which there will be no hope of return.


    With countless lives at stake, the leaders of Andor, the Federation, and the Typhon Pact all scheme to twist the crisis to their political gain—at any price.


    Unwilling to be a mere bystander to tragedy, Doctor Julian Bashir risks everything to find a cure for the Andorians. But his courage will come at a terrible cost: his career, his freedom . . . and maybe his life.

  4. The Poisoned Chalice, by James Swallow

    The Fall: The Poisoned Chalice

    One simple act, and the troubles of the United Federation of Planets have grown darker overnight. The mystery behind the heinous terrorist attack that has rocked the Federation to its core grows ever deeper, and William Riker finds himself beset by rumors and half-truths as the U.S.S. Titan is ordered back to Earth on emergency orders from the admiralty. Soon, Riker finds himself drawn into a game of political intrigue, bearing witness to members of Starfleet being detained—including people he considered friends—pending an investigation at the highest levels. And while Riker tries to navigate the corridors of power, Titan’s tactical officer, Tuvok, is given a series of clandestine orders that lead him into a gray world of secrets, lies, and deniable operations. Who can be trusted when the law falls silent and justice becomes a quest for revenge? For the crew of the U.S.S. Titan, the search for answers will become a battle for every ideal the Federation stands for. . . .

  5. Peaceable Kingdoms, by Dayton Ward

    The Fall: Peaceable Kingdoms

    Following the resolution of the fertility crisis that nearly caused their extinction, the Andorian people now stand ready to rejoin the United Federation of Planets. The return of one of its founding member worlds is viewed by many as the first hopeful step beyond the uncertainty and tragedy that have overshadowed recent events in the Alpha Quadrant. But as the Federation looks to the future and the special election to name President Bacco’s permanent successor, time is running out to apprehend those responsible for the respected leader’s brutal assassination. Even as elements of the Typhon Pact are implicated for the murder, Admiral William Riker holds key knowledge of the true assassins— a revelation that could threaten the fragile Federation-Cardassian alliance.

    Questions and concerns also continue to swell around Bacco’s interim successor, Ishan Anjar, who uses the recent bloodshed to further a belligerent, hawkish political agenda against the Typhon Pact. With the election looming, Riker dispatches his closest friend, Captain Jean-Luc Picard, in a desperate attempt to uncover the truth. But as Picard and the Enterprise crew pursue the few remaining clues, Riker must act on growing suspicions that someone within Ishan’s inner circle has been in league with the assassins from the very beginning . . . .

My Thoughts

This is a mini-series that spans the Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine tie-in novel series. The bulk of the series takes place in the 2380s – years after Star Trek: Nemesis, years before Star Trek Online‘s resurrection of Data (or, for that matter, his alternate resurrection in the tie-in novels). It’s after the Dominion War, after and during the Typhon Pact series, and is comprised of five novels, each by a different author:

  1. Revelation and Dust, by David R. George, III
  2. The Crimson Shadow, by Una McCormack
  3. A Ceremony of Losses, by David Mack
  4. The Poisoned Chalice, by James Swallow
  5. Peaceable Kingdoms, by Dayton Ward

What I love about contemporary Star Trek novels is that they expand the scope of the Federation to include much more than just Starfleet. We get to see how the different worlds of the Federation exist as compared to Earth, get a glimpse at the politics behind it all, get to meet characters who aren’t zipping around the galaxy in nifty starships all the time.

But, we also get to see how the lives of our favorite, familiar faces have changed. We see Picard as a husband and father. We see Worf as the first officer of the Enterprise, and in this mini-series, we see Will Riker being promoted to Admiral, and get to spend some time with Captain Ezri Dax. We see Bashir (and Pulaski) flouting security orders for the greater good, and we see Garak as a politician.

I said it, years ago, when I read Keith DeCandido’s Articles of the Federation: I would totally watch a series that was a sort of “West Wing in the Future” mixed with the more typical Trek stories, even if the episodes were half & half (think Law & Order). These books are the next best thing.

Because they’re all one story, told in five volumes, it’s difficult to separate plot elements. The president of the Federation is assassinated just as the Federation is beginning to pull out of Cardassia. The Andorians are suffering a health crisis on a genetic level, and the new Bajoran president pro tempore has his own, somewhat mysterious, agenda.

This series is political intrigue at it’s finest dressed in Starfleet colors, and it’s thoroughly engaging and entertaining.

Buy the books from Amazon:

Revelation and Dust | The Crimson Shadow | A Ceremony of Losses | The Poisoned Chalice | Peaceable Kingdoms

Review: Star Trek: The Next Generation – Dark Mirror, by Diane Duane

One hundred years ago, four crewmembers of the U.S.S EnterpriseTM crossed the dimensional barrier and found a mirror image of their own universe, populated by nightmare duplicates of their shipmates. Barely able to escape with their lives, they returned, thankful that the accident which had brought them there could not be duplicated, or so they thought.
But now the scientists of that empire have found a doorway into our universe. Their plan is to destroy from within, to replace a Federation Starships with one of their own. Their victims are the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701-D, who now find themselves engaged in combat against the most savage enemies they have ever encountered, themselves.
Kindle Edition: Check Amazon for Pricing Digital Only

My Thoughts

Thanks to the Amazon class action suit about ebook price fixing, and a lovely $60 payout, I’m catching up on many, many Star Trek novels that I missed during the years when I wasn’t reading them for whatever reason.

One such acquisition was the Star Trek: The Next Generation novel Dark Mirror, by Diane Duane. It’s TNG’s chance to experience the “mirror universe” we got to see on-screen in both TOS and DS9, and, as I expected it to be, it was well written, with a few moments that really delighted me.

One was the introduction of the dolphin, Hwiii, a hyperstring researcher who ‘swims’ through the ship in a sort of water skin. Another was when Data, meeting Hwiii, tilts his head for a moment and then ‘speaks dolphin,’ because, of course he does.

I liked that Geordi and Deanna were the initial away team to the mirror Enterprise, and that they both got to use the knowledge they gleaned both from study and experience. Some of my favorite episodes were when Troi actually got to be a psychologist, and in this novel, she uses that training as much as she uses her innate empathetic abilities.

Similarly, Geordi’s incredible depth of knowledge is highlighted in this book, as he works, sometimes with colleagues, and sometimes alone, to figure out a way to save, not just the ship, but the universe itself.

I’m not sure when this was originally written but it felt like early TNG-fic. Data is very ‘sciency’ but doesn’t have as much depth as he does in later novels – even in later pre-emotion-chip ones. It’s obviously before the contemporary push for continuity within the novels, but it’s still an entertaining read.

Trek fiction is my crack. This was a delightful fix.

Goes well with Sashimi and tempura and Kirin beer.

Review: Black Chalk, by Christopher J. Yates

About the book Black Chalk

Black Chalk by Christopher J. Yates

Hardcover: 352 pages

Publisher: Random House UK; First Edition edition (April 1, 2014)

One game. Six students. Five survivors.

It was only ever meant to be a game.

A game of consequences, of silly forfeits, childish dares. A game to be played by six best friends in their first year at Oxford University. But then the game changed: the stakes grew higher and the dares more personal, more humiliating, finally evolving into a vicious struggle with unpredictable and tragic results.

Now, fourteen years later, the remaining players must meet again for the final round.

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About the author, Christopher J. Yates

Christopher J. Yates

Christopher J. Yates studied law at Wadham College, Oxford from 1990-93 and initially pursued a career in law before he began working in puzzles, representing the UK at the World Puzzle Championships. Since then he has worked as a freelance journalist, sub-editor and puzzles editor/compiler. In 2007 he moved to New York City with his wife, and currently lives in the East Village.

For more information on Christopher, please visit his website,

Click here to read the first two chapters of Black Chalk

My Thoughts

Wonderfully constructed, wonderfully plotted, and completely gripping – that’s my description of Black Chalk. We’re dropped into the narrative with a visit to the apartment of someone who has physical mnemonics for every part of his life, and left to wonder what caused this obsessive hermit behavior.

All too soon, we spiral into the rest of the story, one that spans 14 years, includes six people, and is completely entangled in a psychological game that began when they were freshmen (freshers) in college and continues to influence their adult lives.

With twists and turns that are the textual equivalent of the best roller coaster rides this book’s only flaw is that at some point, it had to end.

Goes well with A bento box and Japanese beer.

TLC Book Tours

This review is part of a blog tour sponsored by TLC Book Tours. For more information, and the complete list of tour stops for Black Chalk, click here.

Review: Vintage, by Susan Gloss

About the book, Vintage


• Hardcover: 320 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow (March 25, 2014)

At Hourglass Vintage in Madison, Wisconsin, every item in the boutique has a story to tell . . . and so do the women whose lives the store touches.

Yellow Samsonite suitcase with ivory, quilted lining, 1950s

A small-town girl with a flair for fashion, Violet Turner had always dreamed of owning a shop like Hourglass Vintage. But while she values the personal history behind each beautiful item she sells, Violet is running from her own past. Faced with the possibility of losing the store to an unscrupulous developer, she realizes that despite her usual self-reliance she cannot save it alone.

Taffeta tea-length wedding gown with scooped neckline and cap sleeves, 1952

Eighteen-year-old April Morgan is nearly five months along in an unplanned pregnancy when her hasty engagement is broken. When she returns the perfect vintage wedding dress to Violet’s shop, she discovers a world of new possibilities, and an unexpected sisterhood with women who won’t let her give up on her dreams.

Orange silk sari with gold paisley design, 1968

Betrayed by her husband, Amithi Singh begins selling off her vibrant Indian dresses, remnants of a life she’s determined to leave behind her. After decades of housekeeping and parenting a daughter who rejects her traditional ways, she fears her best days are behind her . . . until she discovers an outlet for her creativity and skills with a needle and thread.

An engaging story that beautifully captures the essence of friendship and style,Vintage is a charming tale of possibility, of finding renewal, love, and hope when we least expect it.

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About the author, Susan Gloss

Susan Gloss

Susan Gloss is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and the University of Wisconsin Law School. When she’s not writing fiction, Susan can be found working as an attorney, blogging at, or hunting for vintage treasures for her Etsy shop, Cleverly Curated. She lives with her family in Madison, Wisconsin.

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My Thoughts

I remember exploring all the different closets in my grandmother’s house – her bedroom, the guest room, the wardrobe in the middle bedroom – taking out dresses from different periods, trying them on, clacking around in too-big shoes, and too-long necklaces. Vintage isn’t about that, but it had the same soft-focus feel.

Violet, the owner of Hourglass Vintage, struck me as being a person I’d love to have a coffee with, while Karen, her lawyer/friend with a nursing baby struck me as the person I sometimes (but not often) wish I was. April, the young teenaged) woman who comes into Violet’s life first by buying, then returning a vintage wedding dress is a bright soul, and reminds me very much of the daughters of some of my friends.

This feeling was enhanced by the author’s decision to open each chapter with the profile of a vintage garment or accessory, each of which is related to the overall story. It makes you feel like you’re in Violet’s store, looking at the items she has for sale.

It is this easy familiarity that is part of the reason Vintage is such a great read. From the first page, I was enchanted, as well as slightly regretful that in the years we lived in South Dakota, we never managed to visit any part of Wisconsin – including Madison – except for an accidental detour into Eau Claire on the way to Minnapolis. (There were cornfields involved. It was a thing.) As I wrote to author Susan Gloss in a comment on her blog (see link above), her writing voice makes you feel like you’re chatting with an old friend.

And let’s not underestimate Gloss’s nuanced tone. This story could have gone to extremes, becoming either maudlin or saccharine-sweet, but it didn’t. It has elements of romance, yes, but it reads like the best contemporary fiction. The relationships, both the friendships between women of different generations, and the romantic relationships with men, feel completely organic and believable.

This is not a book to rush through, although it is a fast read. Instead, it’s a novel to be savored, preferably while wearing a vintage outfit and your grandmother’s ancient pearls.

Goes well with: Hot tea with lemon and cucumber sandwiches.

TLC Book Tours

This review is part of a virtual book tour sponsored by TLC Book Tours. For more information about Vintage, by Susan Gloss, visit the tour page by clicking here.

Review: Napoleon (Layers of Veronica #1), by Emilia Rutigliano

About the book Napoleon (Layers of Veronica #1)


They say that when a student is ready, a teacher appears.

What they don’t say is where to register, and how to matriculate in that teacher’s class.

That is a divine gift.

Veronica had it all: the looks; the brains; the personality; and the wardrobe. Not to mention a perfect husband, a fabulous career and two adorable children, until the perfect husband leaves her for another woman.

Thus begin the daily routines of a typical New York City immigrant with ambition whose teachers keep appearing, and for whom divine interventions keep affording new opportunities.

Though it starts like ordinary connections going through the tried and true, each relationship continues to delve into parts of her own universe that Veronica didn’t know existed. A universe that is suddenly open to her.

This is a different kind of heroine…

Welcome to the New American Dream, Dare to Dream…

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About the author, Emilia Rutigliano

Emilia Rutigliano

Emilia I. Rutigliano scored fiftieth percentile on her SATs… and on her LSATs… and on her BAR…Sigh…

But she nevertheless survived, and seems to be doing OK. She practices Law read lore) in Brooklyn, New York (read Nu Yawk). She was born in the former Soviet Union, and emigrated in 1979. She is happily married to the same crazy Italian she’s been with since college, who suffers from a severe addition to travel (still in acute form). Together they are doing a somewhat passable job with their three precious darlings (who are now teenagers, thus elaboration is not necessary).

Which is why Emilia writes about Veronica. Veronica, though… is interesting. And Emilia knows interesting.

So she weaved the tale about the interesting characters, places and events from her own life. It is remarkable how if you choose to view a subject objectively, it becomes downright artistically gorgeous. So Emilia views and shows Brooklyn Russians as gorgeous, and the Barese intricacies as gorgeous, and she even tolerates Paris, Singapore, Vietnam and Malaysia for the reader’s interests.

Thank you, dear reader, for tolerating these scenes….

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My Thoughts:

I confess, I calendared this review incorrectly, and wasn’t finished reading the book as of last night. Fortunately, I had to be on a plane at 7 this morning, and really, there’s no better place to read than a comfy first class plane flight. Especially when it comes with a cheese omelet and fruit.

Veronica, I think, would have approved the setting. I can tell you that I completely approved of her. What a fantastic character – smart, funny, feisty, great at her job, and a wonderful mother. What a lovely blend of grown-up romance and a dash of “chick-lit” (I know, I know, we don’t USE that term any more) this novel was.

The scenes in the world of courtrooms and conference rooms had all the wit and drama of any tv series – actually reminding me of vintage LA LAW episodes. The courtyard aunties were hilarious – I think we all know old women like that. And the romance…well, it didn’t disappoint either.

Napoleon was the first of a series, but I’m looking forward to reading the rest. Emilia Rutigliana has an effervescent writing voice, and I really enjoyed this read.

Goes well with champagne and a cheese omelet.

Pump Up Your Book

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Review: The Accident by Chris Pavone

About the book, The Accident

The Accident

Hardcover: 336 pages

Publisher: Crown (March 11, 2014)

From the author of the New York Times bestselling and Edgar Award-winning The Expats comes an elegant and riveting espionage thriller about spies, secrets, and the devastating power of the truth.

In New York, in the early dawn hours, literary agent Isabel Reed is reading frantically, turning the pages breathlessly. The manuscript—printed out, hand-delivered and totally anonymous—is full of shocking revelations that could bring down one of the most powerful men in the world, and initiate a tremendous scandal implicating multiple American presidents and CIA directors. This is what Isabel has been waiting for: a book that will help her move on from a painful past, a book that could reinvigorate her career . . . a book that will change the world.

In Copenhagen, CIA agent Hayden Gray has been steadfastly monitoring the dangers that abound in Europe. His latest task is to track a manuscript—the same manuscript that Isabel is reading. As he ensures that The Accident remains unpublished, he’s drawn into an elite circle where politics, media, and business collide. On the one hand, the powerful mogul who has unlimited resources to get what he wants. On the other, a group of book professionals—an eager assistant, a flailing editor, an ambitious rights director, and a desperate publisher—who all see their separate salvations in this project. And in between, the author himself, hiding behind shadowy anonymity in what he hopes is safe, quiet Zurich.

In this tangled web, no one knows who holds all the cards, and the stakes couldn’t be higher: an empire could crumble, careers could be launched or ruined, secrets could be unearthed, and innocent people could—and do—die.

Buy a copy, and immerse yourself in this story.

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About the author, Chris Pavone

Chris Pavone

CHRIS PAVONE is the author of the New York Times-bestselling The Expats, winner of the Edgar Award. He was a book editor for nearly two decades and lives in New York City with his family.

Connect with Chris

Website | Read an excerpt from The Accident

My Thoughts

“Los Angeles has the film business, and Paris has fashion; Berlin is for espionage.” I was hooked on The Accident from the very first page, but it’s that sentence that really sold the book for me. It’s an unspoken observation by one of the lead characters, CIA agent Hayden Gray, and it’s the perfect example of snappy language found throughout this book.

A book about a manuscript is more than a little meta, but author Chris Pavone pulls it off with aplomb. His bio says he used to work as an editor, so it makes sense that the characters in the publishing world rang true, but the parts of the book that dealt with espionage felt as true to life as anything LeCarre or Clancy ever produced, with a good deal more depth than others.

Dialogue never seemed stilted, technology never seemed misused, and the story was gripping from the first page to the last…and as I tweeted earlier today: READ THIS BOOK. You won’t regret it.

Goes well with a perfect cappuccino and a plate of half-moon shaped lemon cookies.

TLC Book Tours

This review is part of a blog tour. For more information, and the complete tour scheduled, click here.

Review: Clever Girl, by Tessa Hadley

About the book, Clever Girl

Clever Girl

• Hardcover: 272 pages
• Publisher: Harper (March 4, 2014)

Like Alice Munro and Colm Tóibín, Tessa Hadley possesses the remarkable ability to transform the mundane into the sublime—an eye for the beauty, innocence, and irony of ordinary lives that elevates domestic fiction to literary art. In Clever Girl, she offers the indelible story of one woman’s life, unfolded in a series of beautifully sculpted episodes that illuminate an era, moving from the 1960s to today.

Written with the celebrated precision, intensity, and complexity that have marked her previous works, Clever Girl is a powerful exploration of family relationships and class in modern life, witnessed through the experiences of an Englishwoman named Stella. Unfolding in a series of snapshots, Tessa Hadley’s involving and moving novel follows Stella from childhood, growing up with her single mother in a Bristol bedsit, into the murky waters of middle age.

It is a story vivid in its immediacy and rich in drama—violent deaths, failed affairs, broken dreams, missed chances. Yet it is Hadley’s observations of everyday life, her keen skill at capturing the ways men and women think and feel and relate to one another, that dazzles, pressing us to exclaim with each page, Yes, this is how it is.

Buy a copy, and start reading

Amazon | Barnes & Noble

About the author, Tessa Hadley

Tessa Hadley

Tessa Hadley is the author of four highly praised novels: Accidents in the Home, which was long-listed for the Guardian First Book Award; Everything Will Be All Right; The Master Bedroom; and The London Train, which was a New York Times Notable Book. She is also the author of two short-story collections, Sunstroke and Married Love, both of which were New York Times Notable Books as well. Her stories appear regularly in the New Yorker. She lives in London.

My Thoughts

I have to confess, I had a bit of struggle getting into Clever Girl, not because the writing was bad – it’s not – Tessa Hadley is a detailed and compelling author – but because of the formatting. You see, instead of quotation marks, dashes are used throughout to set off dialogue. (Note: my review is based on an ARC, and I’m not certain if that formatting remained in the final version.). It’s not a structure I’m unfamiliar with – a lot of English novels use it (and a few American ones, as well), though it’s not something you often see in contemporary literature – and at times I found myself confused about exactly who was speaking because there was a hard-return that hadn’t translated, or because I’d missed a dash.

Formatting aside, however, Clever Girl really captured my attention and imagination. I love that the lead character, Stella, was so well drawn, so specific, that even when she meets a neighbor as a child her observation is that the other girl doesn’t have high standards in selecting friends.

It’s this snarky observational style that ultimately won me over, possibly because it’s similar to my own style (I was much snarkier as a child than I am now, by the way, and I was also an only child of a single mother through my formative years.)

It’s difficult for me to review this other than to point out that this is Stella’s story, told by Stella, and while many people think writing an entire novel in first person is easy, I promise you it’s NOT. But Tessa Hadley makes it seem easy, and I finished the book feeling as though I’d made a new friend in Stella, and hoping my standards were up to hers.

Goes well with Curry and a really crisp hard cider.

TLC Book Tours

This post is part of a book tour hosted by TLC Book Tours. For the entire tour schedule, click here.