Threshold, by G.M. Ford #review @TLCBookTours

About the book, Threshold Threshold

  • Paperback: 254 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas & Mercer (April 21, 2015)

Acclaimed for his best-selling books featuring P.I. Leo Waterman, Ford introduces readers to a new, yet equally unorthodox hero in THRESHOLD: embattled Detective Sergeant Mickey Dolan. Still smarting from the very public breakup of his marriage and facing conduct complaints for use of excessive force, Dolan is at the end of his rope – and possibly at the end of his career – when he catches a case that just might turn things around: the disappearance of the wife and daughters of a powerful city councilman. Assisted by a remarkable young woman who may know the terrible truth about the missing family, Dolan soon finds he must choose between helping his career and protecting innocent lives. A suspenseful police thriller about a not-so-good cop given the opportunity to do the right – and most difficult – thing, THRESHOLD is a new chapter for G.M. Ford that is sure to satisfy fans of his Waterman and Frank Corso stories and new readers alike.

Buy, read, and discuss Threshold

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-A-Million | Goodreads


About the author, G. M. Ford

G.M. Ford broke onto the mystery scene with Who in Hell is Wanda Fuca?, a gin-soaked tome featuring Seattle private investigator Leo Waterman. The six-book Leo Waterman series was nominated for several awards, including the Shamus, the Anthony, and the Lefty. In 2001, Ford launched a new series featuring disgraced reporter Frank Corso and his goth assistant, Meg Dougherty. In 2011, after a twelve-year hiatus, he decided to write a new Leo Waterman novel, Thicker Than Water, which Thomas & Mercer promptly bought. His eighth Leo Waterman book, Chump Change, followed in 2014. Ford lives and works in Seattle, and is married to the beautiful and talented mystery author Skye Kathleen Moody.


My Thoughts

I love a good mystery (I’ve said that before) and Threshold is a great mystery, so I was hooked all the way through. I especially liked the way author G.M. Ford combines a retro pot-boiler sensibility with an absolutely contemporary story. Mickey Dolan, to me, seemed like he’d have been equally comfortable in a Sam Spade novel and an episode of CSI.

I also liked that the plot was fast-paced, but so well written that even when it was running at breakneck speed, I, as a reader, never felt out of the loop. I didn’t quite manage to solve the crime before Dolan had, but that’s only because I was paying more attention to character and language than details. (Sometimes I’m like that.)

I could analyze the characters, and tell you that author Ford knows his tropes well, and uses them with great success, or gush over the way every character felt gritty and real and interesting – even the bit characters who barely have dialogue.

Instead, I’ll keep things succint: if you like crime novels and are looking for a gripping new series from a writer with a ton of expertise, Threshold is the book for you. In fact, I suspect it will be a gateway book (pun absolutely intended) to more of Ford’s work, which, hopefully, will include a second (and more) adventure with Detective Sergeant Dolan, et al.

Goes well with A fully-loaded hotdog, and a beer.


G. M. Ford’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: TLC Book Tours

Monday, April 13th: Mockingbird Hill Cottage

Tuesday, April 14th: From the TBR Pile

Wednesday, April 15th: 5 Minutes for Books 

Monday, April 20th: Life is Story

Wednesday, April 22nd: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Thursday, April 23rd: MariReads

Friday, April 24th:Bibliotica – That’s ME!

Monday, April 27th: Mystery Playground

Tuesday, April 28th: Words by Webb

Wednesday, April 29th: Built By Story

Thursday, April 30th: Bell, Book & Candle

Monday, May 4th: A Chick Who Reads

Tuesday, May 5th: Mom in Love with Fiction

Monday, May 11th: FictionZeal

Tuesday, May 12th: Kritter’s Ramblings

Thursday, May 14th: A Bookworm’s World

Smash Cut, by Brad Gooch #review @TLCBookTours

About the book, Smash Cut Smash Cut

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (April 14, 2015)

Brad Gooch, the author of the acclaimed City Poet, returns with a searing memoir of life in 1980s New York City.

Brad Gooch arrived in New York in the 1970s, eager for artistic and personal freedom. Smash Cut is his bold and intimate memoir of this exhilarating time and place, complete with its cast of wild bohemians, celebrities, and budding artists, such as Robert Mapplethorpe, William Burroughs, and Madonna. At its center is his love affair with film director Howard Brookner, recreated from fragments of memory and a crosshatch of conflicting emotions, from innocent romance to bleak despair.

Gooch and Brookner’s intense relationship is challenged by sex and drugs, and by a culture of extreme experimentation. As both men try to reconcile love and fidelity with the irresistible desire to sample the legendary abandon of the era, they live together and apart. Gooch works briefly as a model in Milan, then returns to the city and discovers his vocation as a writer.

Brookner falls ill with a mysterious virus that soon has a terrifying name: AIDS. And the story, and life in the city, is suddenly overshadowed by this new plague that will ravage a generation and transform the creative world. Gooch charts the progress of Brookner through his illness, and writes unforgettably about endings: of a great talent, a passionate love affair, and an incandescent era.

Beautifully written, full of rich detail and poignant reflection, recalling a city and particular period and group of friends with affection and clarity, Smash Cut is an extraordinary memoir and an exquisite unflinching account of an epoch.

Buy, read, and discuss Smash Cut
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Goodreads


About the author, Brad Gooch Brad Gooch

Brad Gooch is the author of the acclaimed biographies City Poet and Flannery: A Life of Flannery O’Connor, as well as other nonfiction and three novels. The recipient of National Endowment for the Humanities and Guggenheim fellowships, he earned his Ph.D. at Columbia University and is professor of English at William Paterson University in New Jersey. He lives in New York City.

Find out more about Brad at his website.


My Thoughts

Smash Cut is subtitled, “A Memoir of Howard & Art & the ’70s & the ’80s,” and really that subtitle is both a perfect description, and a string of words that says very little, because while Brad Gooch’s book does cover all of those things, in a delightfully rambling fashion full of celebrity namedropping and lovely (and sometimes poignant) tangential anecdotes, it focuses on the author’s longterm relationship with Howard Brookner.

One could even go so far as to call it a love story.

It is, however, a love story that feels like a conversation (or several conversations), that explains place and time, lets us glimpse at the culture – general, gay, and celebrity culture – of the decades in question, and drops us into the dawn of the AIDS epidemic in a way only And the Band Played On and The Normal Heart have done before.

Gooch’s writing is engaging and honest. His comic timing is perfect, his sense of pathos equally so – as they should be, because he’s relating his own story, through a slightly misty lens.

Even though I’m a couple of decades younger than Mr. Gooch, I was familiar with a lot of people he mentioned, so it was interesting seeing them through his eyes, especially as most of them were relatively young at the time. Mentions of the artist Robert Mapplethorpe, in particular, really struck me, because I consider my 21st-birthday visit to his (posthumous) art show one of the final ‘coming of age’ moments of my own life.

If I came away from this memoir with any one grain of truth, or piece of insight, it’s the reminder that love is universal, and should be embraced, and enjoyed for as long as possible.

You don’t have to be gay or a man to enjoy Smash Cut. (I’m neither.)
You do have to be willing to treat it as though a friend of a friend is telling you their story… a story you may have heard a couple of bits of, but never from the source. A story of fame and art and two really interesting decades of the twentieth century.

It’s a love story.
Let’s leave it at that.

Goes well with an ’80’s style champagne brunch on the deck.


Brad’s Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, April 7th: missris

Wednesday, April 8th: Freda’s Voice

Thursday, April 9th: Sophisticated Dorkiness

Monday, April 13th: Inner Workings of the Female Mind

Thursday, April 16th: In the Garden of Eva

Tuesday, April 21st: Bell, Book and Candle

Thursday, April 23rd: Bibliotica – That’s ME!

Monday, April 27th: Reviews by Amos Lassen

Tuesday, April 28th: Conceptual Reception

Wednesday, April 29th: Queerly Seen

Thursday, April 30th: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

Friday, May 1st: Thoughts on This ‘n That

Thursday, May 21st: Raven Haired Girl

Date TBD: Wordsmithonia

Read Bottom Up, by Neel Shah & Skye Chatham #review @TLCBookTours

About the book, Read Bottom Up Read Bottom Up

  • Print Length: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Dey Street Books (April 7, 2015)
  • A charming novel about falling in love (or like) in the digital age—the never-before-seen full story.

    Madeline and Elliot meet at a New York City restaurant opening. Flirtation—online—ensues. A romance, potentially eternal, possibly doomed, begins.

    And, like most things in life today, their early exchanges are available to be scrutinized and interpreted by well-intentioned friends who are a mere click away.

    Madeline and Elliot’s relationship unfolds through a series of thrilling, confounding, and funny exchanges with each other, and, of course, with their best friends and dubious confidants (Emily and David). The result is a brand-new kind of modern romantic comedy, in format, in content, and even in creation—the authors exchanged e-mails in real time, blind to each other’s side conversations. You will nod in appreciation and roll your eyes in recognition; you’ll learn a thing or two about how the other half approaches a new relationship . . . and you will cheer for an unexpected ending that just might restore your faith in falling in love, twenty-first-century style.

    Buy, read, and discuss Read Bottom Up

    Amazon | Barnes & NobleIndieBound | Goodreads


    About the authors, Neel Shah and Skye Chatham

    Neel ShahNeel Shah is a screenwriter in Los Angeles. He used to be a reporter at the New York Post and his work has appeared in Glamour, GQ, and New York magazine.

    Skye ChathamSkye Chatham is a writer living in New York. Her work has appeared in various publications, including GQ and Maxim.


    My Thoughts

    I always enjoy the way different authors, or teams of authors, handle epistolary stories. Bram Stoker’s Dracula, after all, is mostly a series of journal entries and letters, and it’s probably what got me hooked on the structure, though possibly Bridget Jones’s Diary is a better contemporary example of the same.

    Read Bottom Up actually owes a lot to Helen Fielding’s novel, I feel, because it has a similar contemporary sensibility, and a similar feeling of freshness and fun. It makes sense, in an age where we are all glued to our smartphones and iOS devices for a good chunk of our waking life, that our reading materials would reflect this, and – let’s be honest – how often do any of us make actual phone calls from our phones and phablets, rather than just sending a text, an email, a tweet, or a private message on some other social media site?

    Read Bottom Up, then, is a natural extension of reality into fiction, and while the creation of the novel seems a bit contrived (apparently the authors wrote it in real time, from separate locations, each taking two characters, and didn’t see the whole product until they came together at the end of their project), it also absolutely works.

    It also means it’s a blissfully quick read, which isn’t to say that the novel is bad – it’s actually pretty engaging – but just as the perfect romantic comedy movie is about ninety minutes long, this novel is a ninety minute – two hour read. Any more than that would be too much. Any less, and the story wouldn’t have room to become what it eventually does: a depiction of a very real, very believable modern romance.

    All of the characters – Madeline, Elliot, Emily, and David, were interesting and at least somewhat likeable. The ultimate ending was not a particular surprise. At times, I wanted to throttle each of the four ‘voices’ we hear in the book. Is it great literature? Probably not. But it’s a great afternoon read, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it does become a film someday.

    I mean, I’d watch it.

    Goes well with iced tea and a cashew chicken salad from that trendy bistro you know you want to try out.


    Tour Stops for Read Bottom Up TLC Book Tours

    Tuesday, April 7th: From the TBR Pile

    Wednesday, April 8th: A Chick Who Reads

    Thursday, April 9th: Sara’s Organized Chaos

    Friday, April 10th: A Bookish Way of Life

    Tuesday, April 14th: BookNAround

    Wednesday, April 15th: bookchickdi

    Thursday, April 16th: Peeking Between the Pages

    Friday, April 17th: 5 Minutes For Books

    Monday, April 20th: Booksie’s Blog

    Wednesday, April 22nd: Bibliotica – That’s ME!

    Thursday, April 23rd: Thoughts On This ‘n That

    Monday, April 27th: Mom in Love With Fiction

    Tuesday, April 28th: Walking With Nora

    Wednesday, April 29th: The Book Binder’s Daughter

    Thursday, April 30th: Kritters Ramblings

    Monday, May 4th: Svetlana’s Reads and Views

    Wednesday, May 6th: 100 Pages a Day … Stephanie’s Book Reviews

    Friday, May 8th: The Discerning Reader

The Hurricane Sisters, by Dorothea Benton Frank (@dorotheafrank) #review @TLCBookTours

About the book, The Hurricane Sisters The Hurricane Sisters

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (April 7, 2015)

Hurricane season begins early and rumbles all summer long, well into September. Often people’s lives reflect the weather and The Hurricane Sisters is just such a story.

Once again Dorothea Benton Frank takes us deep into the heart of her magical South Carolina Lowcountry on a tumultuous journey filled with longings, disappointments, and, finally, a road toward happiness that is hard earned. There we meet three generations of women buried in secrets. The determined matriarch, Maisie Pringle, at eighty, is a force to be reckoned with because she will have the final word on everything, especially when she’s dead wrong. Her daughter, Liz, is caught up in the classic maelstrom of being middle-age and in an emotionally demanding career that will eventually open all their eyes to a terrible truth. And Liz’s beautiful twenty-something daughter, Ashley, whose dreamy ambitions of her unlikely future keeps them all at odds.

Luckily for Ashley, her wonderful older brother, Ivy, is her fierce champion but he can only do so much from San Francisco where he resides with his partner. And Mary Beth, her dearest friend, tries to have her back but even she can’t talk headstrong Ashley out of a relationship with an ambitious politician who seems slightly too old for her.

Actually, Ashley and Mary Beth have yet to launch themselves into solvency. Their prospects seem bleak. So while they wait for the world to discover them and deliver them from a ramen-based existence, they placate themselves with a hare-brained scheme to make money but one that threatens to land them in huge trouble with the authorities.

So where is Clayton, Liz’s husband? He seems more distracted than usual. Ashley desperately needs her father’s love and attention but what kind of a parent can he be to Ashley with one foot in Manhattan and the other one planted in indiscretion? And Liz, who’s an expert in the field of troubled domestic life, refuses to acknowledge Ashley’s precarious situation. Who’s in charge of this family? The wake-up call is about to arrive.

The Lowcountry has endured its share of war and bloodshed like the rest of the South, but this storm season we watch Maisie, Liz, Ashley, and Mary Beth deal with challenges that demand they face the truth about themselves. After a terrible confrontation they are forced to rise to forgiveness, but can they establish a new order for the future of them all?

Frank, with her hallmark scintillating wit and crisp insight, captures how a complex family of disparate characters and their close friends can overcome anything through the power of love and reconciliation. This is the often hilarious, sometimes sobering, but always entertaining story of how these unforgettable women became The Hurricane Sisters.

Buy, read, and discuss The Hurricane Sisters

Amazon | Barnes & NobleIndieBound  | Goodreads


About the author, Dorothea Benton Frank Dorothea Benton Frank

New York Times bestselling author Dorothea Benton Frank was born and raised on Sullivans Island, South Carolina. She is the author of many New York Times bestselling novels, including Lowcountry Summer and Return to Sullivans Island. She resides in the New York area with her husband.

Connect with Dorothea

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts

There are certain authors I gravitate to whenever I want a compelling drama with strong women, complex relationships, and fabulous coastal settings. Dorothea Benton Frank is one of them, and I know that when her name is on a book cover, it’s highly unlikely that I’ll be disappointed in the story, even if I don’t always connect with the characters. (I suspect this is because of my bleeding-heart liberal, Yankee upbringing.)

When I was offered the opportunity to review The Hurricane Sisters in tandem with it’s release in paperback (it was originally published last summer), I leaped at the chance, and the book caught me in it’s pages and gave me a long, stormy afternoon’s entertainment. (There’s something eerie about reading a novel set against an impending hurricane, while tornado warnings are going on around you.)

What I love about all of Frank’s work is true of this novel: Interesting female characters, male characters who aren’t just cookie-cutter creations in pastel shirts – and a truly intergenerational story that is intertwined with Charleston and Sullivan’s Island. I felt for poor Ashley, being so betwixt and between, identified more than I care to admit with Liz, and wanted to adopt Maisie as my own grandmother (I would totally have offered her a third martini. I like mine dirty. I’m sure she wouldn’t care.) I enjoyed the juxtaposition of Clayton, slightly bewildered father, and Ivy, the gay brother who is the most functional and stable of the family.

I also liked that this book wasn’t just a coming-of-age novel for Ashley, or a coming-out novel for Ivy, and it wasn’t just a bonding story, or a family drama – it was all of these things and more, woven together the way real family issues intersect with each other, running parallel at times, and perpendicular at others.

The thread of domestic violence that runs through the tapestry of this story only made it more relevant for me. Not that I dislike Frank’s less message-laden work, but I could tell that something in her research really affected the author, and, indeed, she mentions this in the afterword.

As with any author’s work, every reader will respond to different stories in their own way. In the past, I haven’t always felt like I was ready for some of Frank’s work, enjoying it, but missing the point. Reading The Hurricane Sisters as someone fast approaching her 45th birthday, I feel like I’m finally part of her target demographic, but no matter your age, I still say, it’s highly unlikely that YOU will be disappointed by any book with Dorothea Benton Frank’s name listed as the author, and especially not this one.

Goes well with gin martini’s, dirty, followed by a steak and shrimp and a simple salad.


Dorothea’s Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, April 7th: The Discerning Reader

Wednesday, April 8th: The man thoughts of a reader

Thursday, April 9th: Svetlana’s Reads and Views

Friday, April 10th: Books and Bindings

Monday, April 13th: Lavish Bookshelf

Tuesday, April 14th: Peeking Between the Pages

Wednesday, April 15th: Bookshelf Fantasies

Monday, April 20th: Books in the Burbs

Tuesday, April 21st: Bibliotica – That’s ME!

Wednesday, April 22nd: Jorie Loves a Story

Thursday, April 23rd: A Novel Review

TBD: A Chick Who Reads

Ivory Ghosts, by Caitlin O’Connell #review #giveaway @TLCBookTours

About the book, Ivory Ghosts: A Catherine Sohon Elephant Mystery Ivory Ghosts

  • Pages: 240
  • Publisher: Alibi (April 7, 2015)

In a blockbuster debut thriller brimming with majestic wildlife, village politics, and international intrigue, a chilling quadruple homicide raises the stakes in the battle to save Africa’s elephants.

Still grieving over the tragic death of her fiancé, American wildlife biologist Catherine Sohon leaves South Africa and drives to a remote outpost in northeast Namibia, where she plans to face off against the shadowy forces of corruption and relentless human greed in the fight against elephant poaching. Undercover as a census pilot tracking the local elephant population, she’ll really be collecting evidence on the ruthless ivory traffickers.

But before she even reaches her destination, Catherine stumbles onto a scene of horrifying carnage: three people shot dead in their car, and a fourth nearby—with his brain removed. The slaughter appears to be the handiwork of a Zambian smuggler known as “the witchdoctor,” a figure reviled by activists and poachers alike. Forced to play nice with local officials, Catherine finds herself drawn to the prickly but charismatic Jon Baggs, head of the Ministry of Conservation, whose blustery exterior belies his deep investment in the poaching wars.

Torn between her developing feelings and her unofficial investigation, she takes to the air, only to be grounded by a vicious turf war between competing factions of a black-market operation that reaches far beyond the borders of Africa. With the mortality rate—both human and animal—skyrocketing, Catherine races to intercept a valuable shipment. Now she’s flying blind, and a cunning killer is on the move.

Buy, read, and discuss Ivory Ghosts

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-A-Million | Goodreads


About the author, Caitlin O’Connell

A world-renowned expert on elephants, Caitlin O’Connell holds a Ph.D. in ecology and is a faculty member at the Stanford University School of Medicine as well as director of life sciences for HNu Photonics. She is the author five nonfiction books about elephants, including the internationally acclaimed The Elephant’s Secret Sense, An Elephant’s Life, A Baby Elephant in the Wild, and Elephant Don, and co-author of the award-winning The Elephant Scientist. She is the co-founder and CEO of Utopia Scientific, a nonprofit organization dedicated to research and science education, and the co-founder of Triple Helix Productions, a global media forum with a mandate to develop more accurate and entertaining science content for the media.

When not in the field with elephants, O’Connell divides her time between San Diego, California, and Maui, Hawaii, with her husband, Tim Rodwell, and their dog, Frodo.


My Thoughts

It’s apparently the Year of the Elephant on my reading list, because this novel was the second of three elephant themed books I’ve got on my slate between now and the end of June. (The first was The Tusk that Did the Damage which I reviewed here.)

This novel is also a mystery, and you all know I love mysteries. Author Caitlin O’Connell took the sage advice to “write what you know” to heart, and used her own field expertise on elephants to create the setting and background for Ivory Ghosts, and in doing so she follows in the footsteps of people like Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, and Kathy Reichs, who all spun their science careers into entertaining, educational, and interesting novels and short stories.

O’Connell’s descriptions are so vivid, her sense of place so strong, that when Catherine spent her first night in the ranger station’s less-than-comfortable cabin, I was sweaty and itchy in sympathy. Likewise, the characters she draws feel incredibly real, and completely believable.

The author’s use of elephant poaching and the ivory industry as both background and plot point made Ivory Ghosts as topical as it was terrifying. Early in the novel, Catherine stumbles upon a murder scene, and things only get more thrilling from there – but Catherine is also shown to be a flawed, feeling, human being, one we care about, root for, and ultimately hope (at least I do) we will get to travel with again.

This may be the author’s debut novel, but it reads like something from a seasoned professional, and I really hope O’Connell’s first foray into fiction is as successful as her non-fiction literary career seems to be.

Goes well with Ethiopian food (yes, even though it’s a completely different region), especially that tart yogurt, injera bread, and stewed lentils and sweet potatoes, and Tusker’s beer.


Giveaway

This tour includes a Rafflecopter giveaway for a $25 eGift card to the eBook Retailer of the winner’s choice + an eBook copy of IVORY GHOSTS. Here is the coding for the Rafflecopter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Caitlin O’Connell’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: TLC Book Tours

Monday, April 6th: 100 Pages a Day

Wednesday, April 8th: Buried Under Books

Thursday, April 9th: Kritter’s Ramblings

Monday, April 13th: Book Nerd

Monday, April 13th: Kahakai Kitchen

Wednesday, April 15th: Bell, Book & Candle

Thursday, April 16th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Friday, April 17th: Reading Reality

Monday, April 20th: Bibliotica – That’s ME!

Wednesday, April 22nd: It’s a Mad Mad World

Friday, April 24th: Back Porchervations

Monday, April 27th: A Book Geek

Tuesday, April 28th: Read Love Blog

Wednesday, April 29th: Life Between Reads

Thursday, April 30th: Mom in Love with Fiction

Monday, May 4th: The Novel Life

Imaginary Things, by Andrea Lochen #review (@astorandblue)

About the book Imaginary Things Imaginary Things

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Astor + Blue Editions (April 27, 2015)

From Andrea Lochen, award-winning author of The Repeat Year, comes an enchanting tale about family, love, and the courage it takes to face your demons and start over again.

Burned-out and completely broke, twenty-two-year-old single mother Anna Jennings moves to her grandparents’ rural Wisconsin home for the summer—her four-year-old, David, in tow. Returning to Salsburg reminds Anna of simpler times—fireflies, picnics, Neapolitan ice cream—long before she met her unstable ex and everything changed. But the sudden appearance of shadowy dinosaurs awakens Anna from this small-town spell, and forces her to believe she has either lost her mind or can somehow see her son’s active imagination. Frightened, Anna struggles to learn the rules of this bizarre phenomenon, but what she uncovers along the way is completely unexpected: revelations about what her son’s imaginary friends truly represent and hidden secrets about her own childhood.

Buy, read, and discuss Imaginary Things

Amazon | Astor + Blue | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Goodreads


About the author, Andrea Lochen Andrea Lochen

Andrea Lochen is the author of two novels, IMAGINARY THINGS and THE REPEAT YEAR. She earned her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Michigan. She teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Waukesha and lives in Madison with her husband and daughter.

Connect with Andrea

Website | Facebook | Goodreads


My Thoughts

When the publicist from Astor + Blue contacted me about reviewing this novel, I was intrigued by the description, and immediately squeezed it into my schedule. I’m really glad I did, because this book is the perfect blend of straight up contemporary fiction and magical realism.

In Anna, author Andrea Lochen has given us a young woman who could be any young woman: a single mother who’s lost her most recent job and has had to slink back home to the grandparents who have always been the most stable influence in her life, in the tiny town where she was sent every time her own mother grew too bored/busy/distracted to be a parent herself.

As a daughter/granddaughter, Anna is still very much unfinished. She’s still at the point where she defines herself through her relationships with others, rather than having a truly mature self-identity. As a mother, Anna is fierce, protective, and loving, but also a bit permissive, partly as a reaction to her own upbringing.

While the Imaginary Things of the book’s title and description spring from Anna’s son David’s imagination, they are really there to serve as a sort of Greek chorus for Anna herself. It is through them that she learns to be stronger, more responsible, more open to love, and a better parent.

This novel isn’t about the destination, as much as it’s about the journey, and Anna’s companions on this journey include her son David, from whose imagination amazing things come, her grandparents Duffy and Winston, and her childhood friend (and so much more) Jamie, as well as the darker presence of David’s father, who is mentally unstable. Each of them is a fully-faceted character in his or her own right, and they interact so organically that at times if feels as though Lochen has drawn her characters from life.

The story is interesting and compelling, one of personal growth, maturation, the loss of innocence, and the acceptance of adulthood, but it’s never preachy, and never lectures.

If you pick up this novel expecting a traditional romantic comedy or romantic drama, you will be disappointed. If, on the other hand, you want a meaty contemporary read (almost literary really) with just enough magic to keep life interesting, you will not be disappointed. Imaginary Things is unimaginably awesome.

Goes well with Grilled cheese, tomato soup, and homemade lemonade.

Orient, by Christopher Bollen #review @TLCBookTours

About the book, Orient Orient

  • Print Length: 624 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (May 5, 2015)

As summer draws to a close, a small Long Island town is plagued by a series of mysterious deaths— and one young man, a loner taken in by a local, tries to piece together the crimes before his own time runs out.

Orient is an isolated hamlet on the North Fork of Long Island—a quiet, historic village that swells each summer with vacationers, Manhattan escapees, and wealthy young artists from the city with designs on local real estate. On the last day of summer, a teenage drifter named Mills Chevern arrives in town. Soon after, the village is rocked by a series of unsettling events: the local caretaker is found floating lifeless in the ocean; an elderly neighbor dies under mysterious circumstances; and a monstrous animal corpse is discovered on the beach not far from a research lab often suspected of harboring biological experiments. Before long, other more horrific events plunge the community into a spiral of paranoia.

As the village struggles to make sense of the wave of violence, anxious eyes settle on the mysterious Mills, a troubled orphan with no family, a hazy history, and unknown intentions. But he finds one friend in Beth, an Orient native in retreat from Manhattan, who is determined to unravel the mystery before the small town devours itself.

Suffused with tension, rich with character and a haunting sense of lives suspended against an uncertain future, Orient is both a galvanic thriller and a provocative portrait of the dark side of the American dream: an idyllic community where no one is safe. It marks the emergence of a novelist of enormous talent.

Buy, read, and discuss Orient

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Goodreads


About the author, Christopher Bollen Christopher Bollen

Christopher Bollen is an editor at large for Interview magazine. He is the author of the novel Lightning People, and his work has appeared in GQ, the New York Times, the Believer, and Artforum, among other publications. He lives in New York.

Find out more about Christopher at his website.


My Thoughts

I had a hard time sinking into this book, at first, in part because I’d just read two cozy, beachy novels back to back, and was still in that mindset. Once I reminded myself that this was a thriller that just happened to be set in a shore town, I went back and re-read the opening pages, and found myself much more into the novel. Who says there aren’t different reading moods?

I was expecting Mills, the young man (referred to as a ‘teen drifter’ in the blurbs, but at nineteen he’s really more a young adult) to be the POV person for the whole novel, so when author Bollen kept introducing us to more and more new characters, and letting us see inside their heads, it was a little confusing. Eventually, though, I found myself really enjoying his writing style, which blends all the best of contemporary mystery/thrillers with a truly literary penchant for description and psychodrama.

I also found that his style made me much more likely to alter my perceptions of characters as I got to know them. The central character, Beth, was one I really disliked upon first ‘meeting’ but by the end of the book, I really wanted her to solve the mystery and succeed at something. I love it when writers can do that, and Bollen has a knack for making plots twist on a dime in a way that is really quite delicious.

If you read the cover blurb for this novel and assume that because it’s set in a summer beach town it will be light on mystery and heavy on soap-y drama, you will be disappointed. If, on the other hand, you are ready to sink into a deep, dark literary thriller, you will find yourself riveted through all 600 pages of this novel.

This is the author’s debut novel, and I really hope Bollen’s agents and editors appreciate his distinct voice, because we need to hear more from this writer, and I fear that commercial success will cause him to change the way he writes, which would be a pity.

Goes well with Atlantic blue fish, fresh caught, and grilled on the beach, Jersey tomatoes marinated in salt and lemon, and a crisp summer ale. Sam Adams will do in a pinch.


Christopher’s Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, April 7th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Friday, April 10th: As I turn the pages

Monday, April 13th: BoundbyWords

Tuesday, April 14th: Bibliotica – That’s ME!

Wednesday, April 15th: A Bookworm’s World

Monday, April 20th: The Discerning Reader

Tuesday, April 21st: Books and Things

Wednesday, April 22nd: From the TBR Pile

Thursday, April 23rd: A Dream Within a Dream

Monday, April 27th: Open Book Society

Tuesday, April 28th: Kissin Blue Karen

Friday, May 1st: Wordsmithonia

Monday, May 4th: Ace and Hoser Blook

Wednesday, May 6th: My Bookish Ways

Thursday, May 7th: Living in the Kitchen with Puppies

 

Life in General, by Becca Rowan (@ravenousreader) #Review

About the book, Life in General Life in General

  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (November 20, 2014)
  • Paperback: 358 pages

Approaching her 50th birthday in 2006, author Becca Rowan decided to explore her passage into mid-life through writing. She created a blog called Becca’s Byline, and soon connected with other women who were exploring questions about life, family, home, work, and pursuing their dreams.

LIFE IN GENERAL is a collection of essays reflecting on experiences familiar to women in midlife: the empty nest, becoming a grandparent, long term marriage, caring for aging parents, downsizing a home, changes in the workplace, finding a passion for living. Readers will connect with these thoughtful, humorous, and inspiring pieces, and find new hope and ideas to make their own particular lives more fulfilling.

Buy, read, and discuss Life in General

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Direct from the Author | Goodreads


About the author, Becca Rowan Becca Rowan

Becca Rowan is a writer and creator of the blog Becca’s Byline. She is a senior editor at All Things Girl magazine where she writes about books, popular culture, and home life. She is also a musician, and performs as a pianist and as a member of Classical Bells, a professional handbell ensemble. Born and raised in southeastern Michigan, she currently lives in Northville (a suburb of Detroit) with her husband of 38 years, and their two pampered Shih Tzus, Magic and Molly Mei.

Connect with Becca

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts

It’s not often that I get to review a book by someone I consider a friend, but Becca and I have been ‘blog buddies’ for years, and worked together at All Things Girl. Despite this, or maybe because of it, my review is an honest one, and, for the record, I paid for my copy of her book.

In a world where anyone can publish with relative ease, many people look down at self-published work. If you’re one of those people who recoils in horror when you see “CreateSpace” listed as a publisher, and therefore skip this book because of that, then I’m sad for you, because Becca’s collection of essays are candid, witty, beautiful glimpses into the life of a typical American woman, and as much as they are universal, they also prove that there really is no such thing as ‘typical.’

As a long-time reader of Becca’s blog, some of the material in Life in General, more correctly titled Life in General: an American woman reflects on midlife in the 21st century, was familiar to me, but her writing style – that of an old friend you’re meeting for coffee, or a favorite (and very young) aunt offering life-lessons – is so warm and engaging that even the familiar felt new, and the pieces I hadn’t read offered me wonderful insights into her personality and character.

But you don’t have to know Becca, or be familiar with her previous work, to enjoy this book. If you’re already over fifty, you’ll likely find yourself nodding in agreement at some of the things she relates – how her lifestyle has changed now that she and her husband are empty-nesters, for example. If, like me, you’re still a few years shy of fifty, there’s still a lot to appreciate. While her essays are exactly what she calls them: personal reflections, they are also full of ideas, advice, and little tidbits of daily life that make you go, “Hey, I should try that,” or, “wow, that sounds so cozy.”

More than just being an enjoyable read, however, I found that the process of carefully reading Becca’s work made my own fingers itch to be flying over a keyboard again, after weeks (at the time I read it, around Christmas of last year) of not feeling very ‘writey.’

And that’s what good writing does, I think. It educates. It inspires. It says, “hey, this is me and this is my story, but why don’t you tell me your story, too?”

Becca Rowan’s Life in General is really good writing.

Goes well with a pot of tea, a plate of buttery scones, a rainy day, and a dog or two to cuddle.

The Bookseller, by Cynthia Swanson #review (@TLCBookTours)

About the book, The Bookseller The Bookseller

  • Print Length: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (March 3, 2015)
  • A mesmerizingly powerful debut novel about the ways in which past choices can irrevocably define the present—and the bittersweet confrontation of what might have been

    1962: It may be the Swinging Sixties in New York, but in Denver it’s different: being a single gal over thirty in this city is almost bohemian. Still, thirty-eight-year-old Kitty Miller has come to terms with her unconventional single life. She was involved, once—with a doctor named Kevin—but when things didn’t work out the way she had hoped, she decided to chart her own path. Now she dedicates herself to the bookstore she runs with her best friend, Frieda, returning home each evening to her cozy apartment. Without a husband expecting dinner, she can enjoy last-minute drinks after work with her friends; without children who need to get ready for school, she can stay up all night reading with her beloved cat, Aslan, by her side.

    Then the dreams begin.

    1963: Katharyn Andersson is married to Lars, the love of her life. They live in a picture-perfect home in a suburban area of Denver, close to their circle of friends. It’s the ideal place in which to raise their children. Katharyn’s world is exactly what Kitty once believed she wanted . . . but it exists only when she sleeps.

    At first, Kitty enjoys her nighttime forays into this alternate world. Even though there is no Frieda, no bookstore, no other familiar face, Kitty becomes increasingly reluctant to open her eyes and abandon Katharyn’s alluring life.

    But with each visit to her dreamworld, it grows more real. As the lines between the two worlds begin to blur, Kitty faces an uncertain future. What price must she pay to stay? What is the cost of letting go?

    Buy, read, and discuss The Bookseller

    Amazon | Barnes & NobleIndieBound | Goodreads


    About the author, Cynthia Swanson Cynthia Swanson

    Cynthia Swanson is a writer and a designer of the midcentury modern style. She has published short fiction in 13th Moon, Kalliope, Sojourner, and other periodicals; her story in 13th Moon was a Pushcart Prize nominee. She lives in Denver, Colorado, with her husband and three children. The Bookseller is her first novel.

    Connect with Cynthia

    Website | Facebook


    My Thoughts

    Because I read quickly, it’s actually pretty typical for me to pick up a book and read it straight through in a matter of a few hours. Last weekend, in fact, I read four novels that way, because it was rainy and I wasn’t feeling well, and …well, you get the idea.

    When I picked up The Bookseller (well, opened the file on my Kindle) at 3 AM on Thursday night/Friday morning, I thought, oh, I’ll just read a chapter while I sit here in the bathroom (oh, come on, you all do it, too). So entranced was I, however, by Kitty/Katharyn’s story that I found myself unable (once I’d returned to bed) to actually sleep. Instead I inhaled Cynthia Swanson’s writing, while my husband snored blissfully next to me. I was bleary by dawn, but I was bleary with a completed story settled into my consciousness.

    Swanson has created a set of characters that are plausible in both realities depicted. In the reality where our protagonist is called Kitty, her life seems a bit lonely, but charming, and and she has a good friend in Frieda and supportive loving parents. In the reality where she is Katharyn, she has the perfect husband and three adorable children, though one of them isn’t quite like the others.

    It’s obvious from the start that one reality has to go in order for the other to stay, but until the very end, I was not entirely certain which it would be, and I love that Swanson kept me guessing that long.

    As someone who spent a chunk of her childhood in suburbs (Arvada, Golden) and relative exurbs (Georgetown) of Denver, CO, I appreciated the authors level of detail. As I told a friend, “There are scenes when she shops at May D&F! I remember my mom driving there to bring home the first ‘Patty & Jimmy’ and ‘Hello Kitty’ puffy stickers, when those things were brand new to America.”

    I also appreciated that each reality was not without flaws.

    Swanson has a knack for writing complex, interesting, human characters, and for writing a book that is both technically a period piece, but at the same time, completely contemporary. I really hope she has another book in process, because hers is a voice I’d like to hear more from.

    Goes well with Hot coffee and a Navajo-style burrito (mostly because that’s what I remember eating as a kid in Colorado).


    Cynthia’s Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

    Tuesday, April 7th: Bibliotica – That’s ME!

    Wednesday, April 8th: The Discerning Reader

    Wednesday, April 8th: Read Lately

    Thursday, April 9th: A Chick Who Reads

    Friday, April 10th: 5 Minutes For Books

    Monday, April 13th: West Metro Mommy

    Tuesday, April 14th: Reading Reality

    Wednesday, April 15th: Sara’s Organized Chaos

    Thursday, April 16th: Kritters Ramblings

    Monday, April 20th: BoundbyWords

    Tuesday, April 21st: Readers’ Oasis

    Wednesday, April 22nd: Vox Libris

    Thursday, April 23rd: Read. Write. Repeat.

    Friday, April 24th: Always With a Book

    Monday, April 27th: Patricia’s Wisdom

    Tuesday, April 28th: A Bookish Way of Life

    Thursday, April 30th: Bookshelf Fantasies

    Friday, May 1st: Bibliophiliac

    Wednesday, May 6th: Ms. Nose in a Book

     

To The Stars, by George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) #review #autobiography @NetGalley

About the book, To the Stars: the Autobiography of George Takei To the Stars, by George Takei

  • Print Length: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Gallery Books (March 10, 2015)

Best known as Mr. Sulu, helmsman of the Starship Enterprise™ and captain of the Starship Excelsior, George Takei is beloved by millions as part of the command team that has taken audiences to new vistas of adventure in Star Trek®—the unprecedented television and feature film phenomenon.

From the program’s birth in the changing world of the 1960s and death at the hands of the network to its rebirth in the hearts and minds of loyal fans, the Star Trek story has blazed its own path into our recent cultural history, leading to a series of blockbuster feature films and three new versions of Star Trek for television.

The Star Trek story is one of boundless hope and crushing disappointment, wrenching rivalries and incredible achievements. It is also the story of how, after nearly thirty years, the cast of characters from a unique but poorly rated television show have come to be known to millions of Americans and people around the world as family.

For George Takei, the Star Trek adventure is intertwined with his personal odyssey through adversity in which four-year-old George and his family were forced by the United States government into internment camps during World War II.

Star Trek means much more to George Takei than an extraordinary career that has spanned thirty years. For an American whose ideals faced such a severe test, Star Trek represents a shining embodiment of the American Dream—the promise of an optimistic future in which people from all over the world contribute to a common destiny.

Buy, read, and discuss To the Stars: the Autobiography of George Takei

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, George Takei George Takei

Best known for playing Sulu on the original Star Trek TV series and six movies that followed, George Takei is unlikely social media royalty. Unofficially dubbed the King of Facebook, he counts 5.5 million fans in his online empire – including Trekkies, Howard Stern listeners, and the LGBTQ community – who devour his quirky mix of kitten jokes, Star Trek references, heartfelt messages, and sci-fi/fantasy memes.

An outspoken advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights, Takei has used his unmistakable baritone in several satiric PSAs, including one in response to Tennessee’s infamous “Don’t Say Gay” bill that encourages viewers to say, “It’s OK to be Takei.”

His current projects include the musical Allegiance, drawn from his experience of growing up in Japanese American internment camps during World War II, and the recently published Oh Myyy! There Goes the Internet and Lions and Tigers and Bears: The Internet Strikes Back.

Connect with George

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts

I saw this listed on NetGalley, and requested the digital ARC, not realizing this was just a re-release of the same autobiograpy Takei published in 1994, which I have in hardcover already. Still, it’s a good read – Mr. Takei’s life is incredibly rich and interesting and he tells his own story so well that anyone familiar with the cadence of his voice, whether from vintage reruns of Star Trek or from his more recent projects will hear the words in their head, and feel as though they are sitting at the knee of a family elder.

And really, especially since the loss of Leonard Nimoy, that’s what George Takei has become. If Nimoy was the honorary grandfather of all us fans, then Takei is our honorary uncle, the one who has no filter, who looks for the humor in everything, and who, in spite of everything he’s experienced, or seen others experience, still sees hope and possibility and the best in all of us.

That sense of hope and possibility is woven into every line of this autobiography. We see young George bond with a stray dog in the internment camp where he and his family were forced to stay, share his first experience with Mexican food (something that impressed me – having grown up in Colorado and California, I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t reasonably familiar with Mexican food) and culture, feel the nervousness and later the thrill at his first taste of acting, and go through the realization that he’s gay, but even when he’s sharing the darkest parts of his life, there’s still that glimmer of positivity, that ray of hope.

If you, as I did, grew up on reruns of the original Star Trek, came of age during the movie era, and were gifted with TNG only after you were mostly-grown up, you will likely enjoy this autobiography in the same fashion you would any family story, even if that family is only one of spirit, and not blood.

If you are younger, and know Mr. Takei through his activity on Facebook and Twitter (where, I confess, he is a great favorite of mine, even though I’m rarely brave enough to interact with him), you will enjoy this book because it shares where he came from, and adds context to many of the things he talks about.

Either way, To The Stars is an interesting, engaging read, from a man who will probably never run out of stories to tell or silly memes to share.

Goes well with A homemade burrito and a glass of chilled horchata.