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Review: Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

[ 0 ] August 28, 2015

everything i never told you book coverReviewed by Neriza Alba

This is such a captivating and pleasurable read. Everything I Never Told You is about a family in a small Ohio town in the 70s. It all starts with the disappearance and death of Lydia, one of the daughters, giving the impression of a typical whodunit story line. But there is more to it than meets the eye. Lydia was a product of an interracial marriage and had always felt that she was different, even more so in their small town. Her parents came from backgrounds that were polar opposites.  Her mother fell in love with her father because he was different; her father came to love her mother because she blended in perfectly. Both parents wanted their kids, especially Lydia, to fit in. They wanted her to achieve what they did not, molding her into what they thought she had to be to in order to become what they aspired for themselves.

For a story that explores a lot of issues, – race, identity, aspirations, love, grief and a sense of belonging – it manages to communicate each one clearly while at the same time keeping a tightly knit plot. Even the switching timelines contributes to the increasing tautness of the story.

Ng writes in a profoundly light manner and gives you the feeling that you are floating in the air and just watching everything happen below. She has also managed to create characters that are authentically relatable, albeit fully flawed. Each one of them will stay with you long after you’ve finished the book.

It is quite remarkable that this is Ng’s debut work. The writing, the flow of the story and the complex characterizations are exceptional. She handled all like a seasoned novelist.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Neriza Alba works a regular 9-to-5 job in Stockholm where she resides with her husband. In addition to reading, she enjoys travelling and curling up with a glass of good wine.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Penguin Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Lady Maybe by Julie Klassen

[ 0 ] August 27, 2015

lady maybe book coverReviewed by Christen Krumm

New story. New publisher. Same Julie Klassen.

Julie Klassen’s newest offering to the world of regency, Lady Maybe, throws you into the danger and romance from the first page. A husband trying to pull his wife away from an affair. A lady’s maid trying to run from scandal. A violently deadly carriage accident. And three people’s lives are changed forever. Our main character awakens from the accident in a place she’s never seen and with people she’s never met. She only remembers fragments of her life before the accident and the lie she has found herself in.

With the start of an affair, I was honestly wondering where Klassen was taking us. Was this going to be a typical  “clean” Klassen novel? No worries. Klassen twists and turns everything to keep you guessing, and, in the end, Lady Maybe has turned out to be maybe my favorite Klassen novel to date.

This is one of the first books I can remember where I truly didn’t know who the main character was going to end up with, and to tell you the truth, I wasn’t ever sure which hero I was routing for.  A nod to Sweet Home Alabama, where both heroes are great guys and you really don’t know who you want her to end up with (although I’m pretty sure I knew which guy Reese Witherspoon was going to pick, and loved her choice in the end).

I also felt like Lady Maybe had touches from While You Were Sleeping–with a regency twist. Everyone waking up from a horrible accident and an innocent lie that turns way more complicated as it goes on.

While the main twist is revealed (and I figured it out fairly quickly anyways) almost up front, there are enough questions to keep you reading–late into the night, might I add. The biggest twist coming towards the end will make your jaw drop, and I did a little giggling happy dance when it was finally revealed who our loveable main character was whisked off her feet by. This is a book I did not want to put down! I even found myself picking it up in between stoplights on my commute!

Two thumbs way up and standing applause for Julie Klassen’s Lady Maybe.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Christen is a ravenous reader, wanna be author, Litfuse Nester, and slightly addicted to coffee. Lives in Arkansas with her husband and three mini people. Connect with her at her blog: http://ChristenKrumm.com or Twitter @ChristenKrumm.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Berkley. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Blog Tour: A Pattern of Lies by Charles Todd

[ 5 ] August 25, 2015

a pattern of lies book coverPlease join the mother and son writing team, Charles Todd, as they tour the blogosphere with their new book, A Pattern of Lies!

Reviewed by Caleb Shadis

A Pattern of Lies is the seventh book in the Bess Crawford Mystery series and it does not disappoint. I continue to enjoy reading these mysteries and I learn a bit about the Great War each time.

Bess has just escorted some patients back to England and while waiting for a train to take her to London, meets an old patient who is recovering again from a new injury. Since it looks like the train may be late to never, he offers her a room for the night in the family home and a chance to take his mother’s mind off recent unpleasantness. Bess met his mother when he was wounded and she came to help nurse him back to health.

The family ran a gunpowder plant for over 100 years, without incident. Two years prior, an accident caused the destruction of the mill and the loss of a 100 men. This was a terrible blow to the community on all fronts. Now whispers are going around blaming Mr. Ashton for starting the explosion and causing the subsequent fire, out of spite to the Army. These rumors are causing the family to be ostracized and making their property a prime target for vandals.

Things are continuing to escalate and someone tries to start a fire in house in the middle of the night. Shortly after, Mr. Ashton is arrested for the murder of the 100 men in the explosion. To Bess, it’s pretty obvious that this is nothing more than a witch hunt started by a vicious rumor. But who would do such a thing two years after the incident? Bess does what she can but her duties keep calling her back to the front to nurse more injured back to health.

Things get more serious when a witness is shot at and shortly after that another nurse is assaulted in her room–the same room originally assigned to Sister Crawford. It looks suspiciously like someone doesn’t want the truth to come out back in Kent.

Sister Crawford is an excellent sleuth and fun to read about. I started reading the series with book three and have enjoyed every single one since. They are mostly cozy mysteries but have slightly more danger than the average cozy–often simply because they have WWI as the backdrop.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Caleb is a software engineer and amateur woodworker living in southern Minnesota. He has more hobbies than he has time or money for, and enjoys his quiet time reading.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by William Morrow. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

[ 2 ] August 25, 2015

heart goes last book coverReviewed by Sarah Lelonek

When I was in high school, I was subject to the dreaded AP reading list. Unlike most high school students, I was able to choose what books I read from the list. That is how I ended up reading The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. I instantly fell in love with her writing style, and I have been attempting to keep up with her work ever since. When I was given the opportunity to read Atwood’s latest novel The Heart Goes Last, I was ecstatic. I had read the previous three novels centered on Positron, and I found the fourth installment to be as unsettling as the first three.

The Heart Goes Last is set in a near future where America is crippled by the fall of capitalism. People who were once comfortable in the middle class find themselves living in cars. I know many of you may think this is where we currently are as a country, but I assure you, Atwood’s America is scarier and deadlier than our America. What is probably the most unnerving quality to Atwood’s description of her America is that I could see our country heading down the same path very soon.

The story follows Stan and Charmaine, a married couple who lost everything in the financial collapse. At their wit’s end, the couple decides to enter a gated community – a gated community that offers middle class bliss at the exchange of living in a prison every other month. Once in the community, they both find that secrets and lies are common no matter where you live, except in most circumstance, you can leave. In Positron, there is no leaving, except in a body bag.

Atwood has a way with words that I will always admire. She takes the bleak realities of living in a dystopian society and adds sarcasm and wit, making me laugh at the most odd situations. Atwood takes what’s bad in our society and turns it into a sort of cruel joke. She also knows how to hone in on a good plot device, this one being the blue teddy bears Charmaine knits. While I don’t usually find myself reading too much regular fiction, I will always make an exception for Atwood, and I am glad that I did this time because The Heart Goes Last was definitely a riveting read.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Sarah Emily Lelonek has a BA in English Literature from Kent State University. She is currently enrolled at Tiffin University in their Master’s of Education program. She enjoys traveling and gaming while on breaks from working on her novel.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Nan A. Talese. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Finding Paris by Joy Preble

[ 2 ] August 24, 2015

finding paris book coverReviewed by Lauren Cannavino

Joy Preble’s novel, Finding Paris, is a soul-searching, exploratory and intriguing story of two sisters, Paris and Leo Hollings. Paris and Leo are polar opposites. Paris is artistic, ethereal, beautiful and a bit impulsive, where Leo, (short for Leonora), is serious, bookish and dedicated to breaking free from her current life by going to college. The girls live in Las Vegas with their absentee, blackjack dealer mother and their gambling addict stepfather Tommy. Paris and Leo both seem to be fixated on escaping certain aspects of their home and themselves and as the story grows, these ideas of escape and the reasons for the emotions, will become very real for everyone.

Suffering from a breakup, Paris decides in the middle of the night that she needs pie to mend her broken heart and forces Leo to go to the Heartbreak Hotel Diner where Paris also works as a hostess. Settled into a booth under the watchful eye of the night shift server Maureen, the sisters talk about the breakup, school and the cute boy who also happens to be in the diner at 2 am. When Leo gets up the courage to go speak to the good looking stranger, a door opens for the next section of the story. Max is smart, engaging and curious and Leo enjoys talking to him, so much so that she doesn’t find it strange when Paris says she’s stepping out for a bit. When Max and Leo emerge into the parking lot, they notice that Paris and her car are nowhere to be found. Paris has vanished and her phone is going straight to voicemail. Leo is in a panic and soon discovers a note inside the diner from her sister that explains that she had to do this and that Leo needs to find her. Max graciously takes Leo home and the pair are met with indifference from Leo’s mother and stepfather on the missing Paris. The task of searching for Paris seems to rest solely on Leo and Max.

The search for Paris leads to more notes and more discoveries with every turn. The relationships and conversations in Finding Paris are expressive, real and potent. The reader will feel as if they are standing in a tense living room with Tommy and Leo or riding in a car with Leo and Max. The twisted, emotional scavenger hunt that Paris sends Leo on is a journey to save not only Paris, but also Leo from something that she needs to face, yet also escape. For Paris, fleeing was the only logical choice that she had in order to make Leo see what she needed to do to set herself free. Joy Preble’s novel is different, exciting, heart wrenching, but also heartwarming. The story moves quickly into its own special place and the characters are strong, even when they are vulnerable. Finding Paris is an emotional, touching read that acts as a reminder that everyone has demons or is fighting for something or someone in their lives.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Lauren Cannavino is a graduate student, freelance writer, wine lover, and avid reader. Random musings can be found over at www.goldiesays.com.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Balzer + Bray. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Mailbox Monday

[ 7 ] August 24, 2015

Welcome to Mailbox MondayMailbox Monday is hosted by Marcia at the Mailbox Monday blog.

Here are the books that made their way into my physical and digital mailboxes last week:

Paper Review Copies

wedding at the orange blossom inn book coverguttenberg's apprentice book covercome hell or highball book covermendicino fire book coverher lucky cowboy book coverpokergeist book coverthe last september book coverthe admissions book coverwhat a girl wants book coverthe human age book coverrare bird book coverart of crash landing book cover

Digital Review Copies

white collar girl book coverunder different stars book cover

Additions to My Personal Paper Library

life of robert peace book cover

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