The Address by Fiona Davis


The Address by Fiona Davis
(Dutton – August 1, 2017)

Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a review copy of this title – all opinions are my own.

Set in one of the most famous buildings in New York City in two different time periods one hundred years apart, THE ADDRESS is a rich and riveting historical fiction novel. The opening pages sucked me in and immediately made me excited about the story of a hotel housekeeper in England being enticed to move to New York for a chance to work in a fabulous new building. The writing style is incredibly readable and the pages just flew by as Sara makes the move from England to New York and the real drama begins.

The setting of the Dakota is just fascinating, making me want to research the history of the building in much more detail beyond this fictional account. I loved the alternating chapters between the 1880s and 1980s and couldn’t stop reading as I tried to figure out how Bailey and Sara were connected. I appreciated the author’s note with information on just how historically accurate the story was as well. The only thing I wish would have been different is perhaps a less wrapped-up-in-a-bow culmination of the mystery – it seemed a bit rushed and I would have loved it to be more drawn out.

This is a very fast-paced and historical look at the Gilded Age in New York City – I predict this as a favorite book club pick for years to come.

Now that I have read THE ADDRESS, I need to go back and pick up Davis’ other book THE DOLLHOUSE – I have read rave reviews about it for the past year and THE ADDRESS has convinced me to finally read it!

 

Mrs. Saint and the Defectives by Julie Lawson Timmer

Mrs. Saint and the Defectives by Julie Lawson Timmer
(Lake Union Publishing – August 1, 2017)

Thank you so much to the book’s publicist for providing me with a copy of this book for review purposes – all opinions are my own.

MRS. SAINT is a quirky and 100% heartwarming story that I just fell in love with as a fellow hermit and possible Defective myself. It is a delightful story of community and neighbors and gratitude and accepting others for who they are. I can’t share much of what I love about the story without spoilers, so just know that although it took me a bit of time to get into the story in the first few chapters, once I met Mrs. Saint and started understanding who she was I was absolutely enthralled.

I highly recommend this one to anyone (like me) who likes to hide from the world and is hesitant of neighborly overtures ~ this book just might change your mind!

Pieces of Happiness by Anne Ostby


Pieces of Happiness by Anne Ostby
(Doubleday – August 1, 2017)

Thank you to Doubleday for providing me with a finished copy of this book for review – all opinions are my own.

PIECES OF HAPPINESS is a gorgeous novel of a fresh start for a group of Norwegian women in their late 60s as they come together again on a cocoa farm in Fiji. The descriptions and settings are incredibly lush and I was captivated by the Fijian culture depicted in the book. The stories of Sina, Lisbeth, Ingrid, Maya, and Kat are achingly realistic and wistful as the women figure out how enter the later stage of their lives together in an island paradise. There is grief and rebirth interwoven with the start of their new business venture creating chocolate for export back to Norway. The Fijian characters, including Ateca (Kat’s housekeeper and a main narrator of the book), and their culture in this story add an excellent layer of authenticity and richness.

In addition, I was most astounded by what I learned in the author’s note – this book was written originally in Norwegian and translated to English by one of the author’s daughters for the American release – I had NO idea that the book was not originally written in English while I was reading because it was done so expertly. Also, I was delighted to find that Ostby (who has traveled and lived in many parts of the world) worked closely with a woman in Fiji to ensure the authenticity of the portrayal of Fiji and its peoples.

Pick this one up if you are looking for a gorgeously written story set in a unique and exotic location + a cast of complex and heartfelt characters in a stage of life often ignored in contemporary fiction. Highly recommend.

Shadow of the Lions by Christopher Swann

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Shadow of the Lions by Christopher Swann
(Algonquin – August 1, 2017)

Thank you to Algonquin for the advance copy of this title for review – all opinions are my own.

SHADOW OF THE LIONS is a breath of fresh air in the suspense genre – it is supremely intelligent and definitely lives up to its description as a literary thriller. The prestigious boarding school setting provides a dramatic backdrop for Mathias’ story, both as he describes his time there as a student and while he is navigating that same world as a struggling novelist returning as an English teacher. Swann’s Ph.D. in creative writing shines through clearly in this story as he incorporates first classical literature references, and then in the next page, corporate and military espionage. While not a complete page turner during the first half, I whipped through the second half of the book in one sitting, dying to know just WHAT HAPPENED TO FRITZ. No spoilers, but absolutely loved the ending and how everything turned out.

Swann’s essay in THE ALGONQUIN READER gave me a deeper look into his motivation for writing this book and his personal experiences with the world of boarding schools. He learned from reading classic mysteries that he needed “to create a compelling character, and then imagine that character in a situation that demands answers.” He certainly did just that in this book, as well as throw us into the world he imagines where a character must deal with the lifelong aftermath of a disappearance. I really love these essays that accompany the advance copies I receive from Algonquin (I know they are also available on NetGalley) – they give excellent insight into the world and people behind the stories.

I highly recommend this book to fans of sharp, literary suspense stories that educate and enlighten as you are trying to unravel the mystery at hand.

Blog Tour: Till the Dust Settles by Pat Young

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I'm so excited to be a part of the blog tour for this new title from Bloodhound Books! I absolutely love helping shine a light on smaller publishers!

Till the Dust Settles by Pat Young
(Bloodhound Books ~ July 27, 2017)

This title is available on the Amazon Kindle store for 99 cents and is a part of the Kindle Unlimited subscription as well. Thanks to the publisher for providing me with a review copy of this book – all opinions are my own. 

Book Description

til the dust settles FINALThe lives of two women who never meet are about to collide.

Lucie married young. Her husband has become abusive, controlling and violent.  Having lost everything as a result of the marriage, Lucie decides it is time to walk away.

As she leaves the house on the morning of September 11th, heading to a job interview at the World Trade Centre and the promise of a new life, the unthinkable happens.

On a street in New York, choking on the dust, Lucie stumbles upon an opportunity for a new life.

She thought the grass would be greener. But starting again is never that simple…

Sometimes, what lies ahead is even more deadly.

Review

Young has presented readers with a unique premise with TILL THE DUST SETTLES – that of the terror attacks on the World Trade Center of September 11, 2011 and a tale of stolen identity, domestic abuse and conspiracy. I kept being surprised at the twists that the story took, and with the exception of a few questionable turns, I was sucked into this book! Lucie is a Scottish runner who came to the US on scholarship and had her life take a very different turn due to decisions she made, leading her to a very very dark time in her life and marriage. 9/11 turns her entire existence upside down and both offers her a chance to escape and thrusts her into new dangers.

Recommended for suspense fans who are looking for a completely original storyline!

Author Bio

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Pat Young grew up in the south west of Scotland where she still lives, sometimes. She often goes to the other extreme, the south west of France, in search of sunlight.

Pat never expected to be a writer. Then she found a discarded book with a wad of cash tucked in the flyleaf. ‘What if something awful happened to the person who lost this book?’ she thought, and she was off.

Pat knew nothing of writing, but she knew a thing or two about books, having studied English, French and German at Glasgow University. A passion for languages led to a career she loved and then a successful part-time business that allowed her some free-time, at last.

Pat had plans, none of which included sitting at her desk from daybreak till dusk. But some days she has to. Because there’s a story to be told. And when it’s done, she can go out to play. On zip-wires and abseil ropes, or just the tennis court.

Pat writes psychological thrillers. Till the Dust Settles is her debut, from Bloodhound Books.

 

 

 

Swing Sideways by Nanci Turner Steveson

Swing Sideways by Nanci Turner Steveson
(Harper Collins ~ May 3, 2016)

My 11 YO daughter handed me this book after finishing it and said, “Mom, this is my absolute favorite book ever. You need to read it, but then I need it back so I can read it again right away.” She fell in love with the city-girl-in-the-country storyline and was so excited that she, a born and bred country girl, could check off every single item on Annie’s list of country things she wanted to accomplish in her summer of freedom.

Naturally, when a child gives a book that kind of endorsement, this librarian mom immediately starts reading! And I LOVED it! I loved the sweet innocence of this story, but also the harder topics of cancer, eating disorders, and anxiety that were a large part of the story but not preached about.

I will be purchasing this title for both of my school libraries and can’t wait to read Steveson’s other book GEORGIA RULES next!

Refugee by Alan Gratz

Refugee by Alan Gratz
(Scholastic – July 25, 2017)

Thank you to Scholastic and Edelweiss for the digital galley of this title – all opinions are my own.

REFUGEE is hands-down the most important upper middle grade book of the year. It is the MUST READ read aloud title for every single middle school teacher this coming 2017-2018 school year, and I don’t say that lightly given that I read so so so many books! If WISHTREE is my required read aloud for grades 1-4, then REFUGEE is assigned for grades 5-8.

Gratz weaves three refugee stories expertly in this tale, leaving readers racing to figure out how they are connected in the end. Josef is escaping Nazi Germany in the 1930s, Isabel is leaving Castro’s Cuba in 1994, and Mahmoud is fleeing Syria’s civil war in 2015. All three stories involve persecution, danger, and the horrors of the refugee’s plight, but they also give faint glimmers of hope about the kindness of certain strangers. All three children end up on boats during their journeys, telling stories that even most adults in the US are unaware of regarding these refugee crises. Our students and children need to know of the events in this book, and Gratz does an excellent job of providing the historical basis for the stories in his author’s note. He also gives suggestions on how to help.

I can’t speak strongly enough about how important REFUGEE is, but am proving it by ordering 12 copies of this book for my school libraries and am planning a staff book club for my middle/high school this coming fall centered on this book. Teachers and librarians, get this book immediately so you can read it before you share it with your students. If you are an adult reader with no classroom to read it aloud to, gift it to a school, library or child you know! If you want an adult title to pair it with, I highly recommend EXIT WEST by Mohsin Hamid.

REFUGEE is officially on my BEST of 2017 shelf.

 

Adult Review: The Goddesses by Swan Huntley

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Thanks to Doubleday Books for providing me with a finished copy of this book for review purposes – all opinions are my own.

The Goddesses by Swan Huntley
(Doubleday Books – July 25, 2017)

I couldn’t put this book down – I classify it as one of those “train wreck” stories that you are upset with while you read, but just can’t stop reading anyway. Disturbing and full of characters I did NOT love, THE GODDESSES hits readers with an addictive relationship in a beautiful setting. The cover is deceptively calm for a story that holds so many twisted people and events – be aware. And honestly, that’s why I liked it so much. It sucked me in with the serene image and the promised Hawaiian setting, and then glued me to the pages with Ana’s despicable character and her attempted ruin of Nancy’s life. Or was it an attempt to ruin her? Still trying to figure that out!

This isn’t a frothy beach read, it’s a glimpse into the desperation many of us fall into when we are forced into a situation where loneliness looms and nothing is familiar. Nancy’s attraction to Ana reminds me of how desperate I was for ANYONE to hang out with when I was a stay-at-home mom of an infant and all of my friends worked……I ended up at some girl’s house for a pitch about a pyramid scheme thingy because we met at Target and had babies the same age for goodness sakes! Nancy isn’t the best mom and she isn’t the best wife and she isn’t the best anything…….but neither are the rest of us.

Recommended for readers who love a slow burn and don’t mind reading on the dark side.

Beautiful Bodies by Kimberly Rae Miller

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Beautiful Bodies by Kimberly Rae Miller
(Little A ~ July 25, 2017)

Thanks to the publisher for providing me with a finished copy of this book for review – all opinions are my own.

Heartbreaking and intensely relatable with scientific research interwoven between stories of Miller’s personal journey, BEAUTIFUL BODIES is required reading. No one in modern society can deny how diet-obsessed US culture has become, and Miller has a perfect view of this world via her writing career and her own fixation on weight and body image.

As a 30-something mother of 3, I have personally struggled with much of what Miller describes and have read extensively and worked with professionals on diet culture, Intuitive Eating and body acceptance, leading me to officially throw away my scale in May of 2016. Knowing that exact date indicates how personal Miller’s story is to me and how much I appreciate her frankness in how she shares her story……and how much it means to me that she never claims to be “fixed”. Her refusal to tie this book and issue up with a bow is indicative of the true nature of the problem and the lifelong nature of weight obsession. The science and historical anecdotes shared throughout the book were fascinating and gave me a much better understanding of how many current diet and exercise trends came to be in the modern world.

I applaud Miller for writing this book and for pushing this issue to readers – BEAUTIFUL BODIES needs to be read not just by women, but by every woman, man who knows a woman, and especially parents. Understanding how complex and rooted in history our fixation on body size is can at least bring the topic up for discussion – a worthy goal for all if we hope to break this cycle.

Adult Review: Cicada Summer by Maureen Leurck

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Cicada Summer by Maureen Leurck
(Kensington Books – July 25, 2017)

One of my favorite reads of summer 2017, CICADA SUMMER brings my home state of Wisconsin to life in this vibrant and beautiful story. Alex is an incredibly strong female character and her fixer-upper passion is an absolute joy to read about as you cheer her along on her quest to bring a historic home back to its former glory in Lake Geneva, WI.

CICADA SUMMER has home renovation details to drool over, as well as family, romance and second chances…..this is a must-read!

Thanks to the author and publisher for providing me with a finished copy of this book for review purposes – all opinions are my own.