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.

The Tusk that Did the Damage, by Tania James #review @tlcbooktours #giveaway

About The Tusk that Did the Damage The Tusk that Did the Damage

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf (March 10, 2015)

From the critically acclaimed author of Atlas of Unknowns and Aerogrammes, a tour de force set in South India that plumbs the moral complexities of the ivory trade through the eyes of a poacher, a documentary filmmaker, and, in a feat of audacious imagination, an infamous elephant known as the Gravedigger.

Buy, read, and discuss The Tusk that Did the Damage

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

About the author, Tania James Tania James

TANIA JAMES is the author of the novel Atlas of Unknowns and the short-story collection Aerogrammes. Her fiction has appeared in Boston Review, Granta, Guernica, One Story, A Public Space, and The Kenyon Review. She lives in Washington, DC.

My Thoughts:

There is a meme going around Facebook – a picture of an elephant kept in solitary confinement in a zoo, and the poor creature is so lonely that she’s holding her own tail. That image was burned into my brain, and kept resurfacing while I read this book, The Tusk that Did the Damage, and it really was the perfect image.

It feels wrong to say that I enjoyed this book, because so much of it is about the awful things we do to elephants in exchange for money, but it was so well written, and well crafted, that I can’t not say it. Tania James gave us the expected POVs of the filmmakers (Emma is my favorite human in the book, though Manu is a close second) and the poachers, but then, in a bold move, she also let us see things from The Gravedigger’s point of view and I can’t imagine anyone doing a better job at getting inside an elephant’s head.

Poaching specifically, and trophy hunting in general, are activities that have never made sense to me. I mean, I understand responsible hunting when you use the entire animal – for food, for clothing, etc – but killing majestic creatures for the bragging rights or the cash is something that I, as someone who works in pet rescue, find unconscionable, so you’d better believe I was in tears for a lot of this novel.

And yet, I would still recommend it, because it’s an important story, and a well-told one. Fiction serves to entertain, yes, but it can also be a teaching tool. James teaches us about elephants, about ivory, about what we as humans are capable of – the good and the bad – and every lesson is an important one.

Read this book. It may not change your life, but it will definitely change your perspective on elephants.

Goes well with vegetable curry and African beer.

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Tania James’ TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: TLC Book Tours

Monday, March 9th: Books a la Mode – author guest post

Tuesday, March 10th: The Feminist Texican Reads

Wednesday, March 11th: Life is Story

Thursday, March 12th: Books on the Table

Monday, March 16th: BookNAround

Wednesday, March 18th: 100 Pages a Day

Thursday, March 19th: Conceptual Reception

Monday, March 23rd: She Treads Softly

Tuesday, March 24th: Bell, Book & Candle

Wednesday, March 25th: Julz Reads

Thursday, March 26th: Under My Apple Tree

Monday, March 30th: Read Her Like An Open Book

Tuesday, March 31st: My Bookshelf

Wednesday, April 1st: Bibliotica – That’s ME!!!

Monday, April 6th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Tuesday, April 7th: Read. Run. Breathe.

Wednesday, April 8th: Book Snob

Thursday, April 9th: Suko’s Notebook