Review & Tour: The Home Place

The Home PlaceThe Home Place 
By Carrie La Seur
(William Morrow & Company, Hardcover, 9780062323446, July 2014, 304pp.)

The Short of It:

Home is a place but it’s also something that resides within us.

The Rest of It:

Alma Terrebonne left Montana behind her when she accepted a position as a lawyer and made the city her home. But when her sister is found dead, she’s forced to return to the home place that she left behind.

Everyone knows how it is when you return home. If you left for a reason, then going back is not easy and that is very much the case here. The bleak winters, the isolation and the poor condition of the home place itself leave a lot to be desired, but at the same time, it’s home and there’s always a place for it within your heart. As I read this book, the conflict within Alma is obvious. There is a definite love/hate thing going on with being home, but at the same time, she is the “responsible” one and with her sister dead and her niece without a mother, she feels obligated to step in.

This tug of the heart, would have been enough to explore on its own but La Seur throws in some nasty dealings with mining folk making plays for the land, the ugliness of her sister’s death and some confusion over who she should be with romantically, the guy she left behind in Montana or her new love interest back in the city.

All in all, I think La Seur tried to give us too much at once. The result? Thin characters with very little substance. However, it read well for me. The flow of the writing was quite good which made it an easy and quick read. I’ve not read many books set in Montana and La Seur’s sense of place is strong in this one.  This is one of those books where I find myself scratching my head a little because it was enjoyable to read, and yet, I felt it could have been so much more.

If you enjoy novels that explore home and what it means and you don’t mind some nasty dealings messing up your perfect picture of biscuits and gravy and fried pork chops, then I say give it a try.

Carrie La Seur

For more information on the author, click here.

TLC Book Tours

Source: Review copy provided by the publisher via TLC Book Tours.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review & Tour: All Day and a Night

All Day and a Night

All Day and a Night
By Alafair Burke
(Harper, Hardcover, 9780062208385, June 2014, 368pp.)

The Short of It:

Steady pacing, a slightly predictable plot but overall an entertaining read.

The Rest of It:

All Day and a Night is part of the Ellie Hatcher detective series. I wasn’t aware of this when I agreed to review the book but it can absolutely be read as a stand-alone, which I was very happy to find out.

This time, Ellie Hatcher and her partner J.J. Rogan, are asked by her District Attorney boyfriend, Max Donovan, to take a look at a long closed murder case. The recent murder of a local psychiatrist and the details surrounding the case lead him and his office to believe that the killer that they have in prison, is the wrong guy and that the real killer is still on the loose. Hatcher and Rogan’s task is to take a fresh look at the case to see if anything was missed in the initial investigation.

There are several problems with this. One of which has to do with the fact that they are being asked to work outside of their jurisdiction and any cop knows that taking a speculative look at another cop’s work, is not going to be taken lightly. Plus, most of the crimes took place in the small town of Utica, where everyone knows everybody else.  Getting the info they need could be a challenge. To complicate things further, the attorney hired to prove her client was wrongly accused is Linda Moreland. Known for her aggressive tactics, she takes on attorney Carrie Blank to assist with the case, but Carrie is much too close to the case. Her half-sister Donna Blank was one of the victims and although she wants to find the real killer, she questions herself repeatedly, wondering if she is doing the right thing.

Some have said that All Day a Night was very predictable. It was a little predictable towards the end and maybe a tad far-fetched, but for the most part, it was a classic detective story. Burke gives the reader the clues a little at a time and what I especially liked, is that it wasn’t overrun with red herrings. I never felt as if the author was “yanking my chain” if you know what I mean. I also noticed how smooth the dialogue was. Sometimes, in crime fiction especially, I find the dialogue to be a little stiff. Not the case here.

I’ve not read the other books in the series but my overall experience was a positive one. Did you know that Burke’s written ten books between two different series? Have you read any?

Alafair Burke

Ms. Burke’s website, Facebook page, Twitter account and tour stops.

TLC Book Tours

Source: Review copy provided by the publisher via TLC Book Tours.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review, Tour & Giveaway: Cutting Teeth

Cutting Teeth

Cutting Teeth
By Julia Fierro
(St. Martin’s Press, Hardcover, 9781250042026, May 2014, 336pp.)

The Short of It:

Parenting. It’s no picnic.

The Rest of It:

Parents are the bones on which children cut their teeth  — Peter Ustinov

A playgroup, which consists of five families and a nanny, head to a beach house for a little vacation. Although Nicole’s intention is to provide respite to those within the playgroup, her invitation serves another purpose. It gives her a reason to escape the city. The internet rumors about the end of the world and how it happens to fall on that particular weekend have left Nicole more than a little paranoid. No longer taking her anxiety medication, she resorts to smoking pot. A mother of a three-year-old resorting to pot and spending the weekend with a house full of kids during what she fears is the last weekend of her life? Yep, makes for some good storytelling.

Characters

The dynamics of the playgroup is, in my opinion, what makes the story so compelling. This is a diverse group of people and it’s hard to go into the book without giving you a sense of who they are. So here’s some info on the rest of the group:

There’s Susanna and Allie and their twins Levi and Dash. Susanna is in the late stages of their 3rd pregnancy and so Allie goes along on the trip, mostly to appease Susanna but knowing that a playgroup weekend is not really her thing.

Rip and Grace and their four-year-old Hank, have a different story. Hank is a result of an anonymous sperm donor and although Rip desperately wants another child, mostly to extend his role as a stay-at-home dad which he treasures more than anyone knows. Grace isn’t drinking the Kool-Aid.

Leigh comes with her two children, Chase and Charlotte but her husband Brad does not join them. Chase is “on the spectrum” and is a handful for Leigh. As his mother, she does the best she can do for him but feels that her best if often not good enough. Brad has no patience for the kid, which hurts Leigh deeply although she doesn’t admit this to her husband.

Tiffany and Michael are engaged to be married and their daughter, Harper Rose is three, going on thirty. Tiffany is clearly the outcast of the group. Young and beautiful, she gets along best with Leigh but the rest of the playgroup barely tolerates her. Except for Rip, who seems to have eyes for her. She is attractive in an obvious way and not afraid to show it.

Then there is Tenzin, the Tibetan nanny. She is the wise, doer of all things, fixer of all boo-boos for both the children and the adults. Even though she has a family of her own and cannot be with them, she does her best to surround these children and parents with love and positivity. Something that they don’t see too often.

The Story

There is no sugar-coating going on here. The story is told in alternating chapters, so you get a real feel for what these people are made of. Their hidden agendas, their secret attractions and their frustrations over their own relationships with both their significant others and their children. NONE of these people want to be there. They accepted the invitation to be polite, but also hoped to get a little relaxation in at the same time. Impossible to do with so many people and children in the house. Even with a nanny putting out fires at every turn, tempers flare. How can they not?

Sensitivities over parenting style, breastfeeding, the whole work-out-of-the-home/stay-at-home debate and even diet come into play. No one is spared the scrutiny of the other parents and it’s impossible to turn away from it. Dysfunction is compelling and dysfunction that you can somehow relate to? Even more compelling.

I was not a model mom when my kids were young. I did all the right things but I was anxious all the time. Why did they cry ALL the time?? I had one kid that did not want to breastfeed no matter what I did (if you know me, you can probably guess which one) and then the other wanted to breastfeed forever. I had ZERO patience for the tantrums and could not do the whole playgroup thing. The women seemed vacuous and too perfect on the outside. I was the one with the spit-up in her hair. The one that always looked like she could use a nap. Probably because in those days,  I functioned on less than three hours of sleep a night.

Yep, I get it. So to me, this book was like a breath of fresh, dysfunctional, pot-laden air. This is how it really is. But then, that made me sad. There are two characters that piqued my interest the most. Tiffany, the outcast, and Rip, the stay-at-home-dad. To me, they both seemed to be the best parents of the group, if you can give anyone a medal for their parenting, but living your life through your children? That is something I see a lot of and it’s a sad state of affairs. Rip uses his stay-at-home status as a way to hide from the real world and Tiffany’s only hope of having friends is being a part of a playgroup. Sad.

The inclusion of the Tibetan nanny was interesting. I have to admit, that I groaned a little when she first entered the picture. I am half Tibetan and I worried about her character being too stereotypical but I worried for nothing. Tenzin provides the much-needed balance. Without her, there’d be no voice of reason and these people would kill each other. I do wonder how the author came to include a Tibetan character in her novel. Maybe she knows someone from Tibet?

I suspect that this book will be getting a lot of buzz in the coming months. I’d be surprised if it didn’t. It’s complex and at the same time, very difficult to put down. I read it in a couple of sittings but it’s one of those books that I will be thinking about for a very long time. The picture Fierro paints of Nicole smoking a joint after putting her son down. I bet lots of parents do that, they just don’t admit it or maybe their joint is a glass of wine. Whatever the vice, I can relate.

Make sure you pick-up a copy because people will be talking about this one.


GIVEAWAY INFORMATION

This giveaway is for one copy of Cutting Teeth and is open to the US and Canada. A winner will be chosen randomly by me. The book will come directly from the publisher. Only one entry per person. Giveaway closes on May 31, 2014 (pacific). I will contact the winner for his/her mailing address.

CLICK HERE TO ENTER THE GIVEAWAY! (now closed)

Julia Fierro

To visit her website, click here.

To visit her Facebook page, click here.

Follow @JuliaFierro on Twitter!

Follow Julia Fierro on Pinterest!

To visit her other tour stops, click here.

TLC Book Tours

Source: Review and giveaway copy provided by the publisher via TLC Book Tours.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review & Tour: Casebook

Casebook
Casebook
By Mona Simpson
(Knopf, Hardcover, 9780385351416, April 15, 2014, 336pp.)

The Short of It:

A little bit of mystery and a lovable protagonist add a special something to an otherwise familiar story.

The Rest of It:

After his parents split, Miles Adler spends his days eavesdropping on his mathematician mother, Irene. Although his father visits frequently and Irene is still good friends with him, Miles fears that she’s lonely and a little depressed. When she meets Eli Lee, Miles sees a different side to his mom, a happy side. Her laughter and the easy breezy way she has about her when Eli is around, makes the days that much easier. But when Miles begins to suspect that Eli is too good to be true, he employs the help of his best friend Hector, to find out the truth.

The setting of this novel is both Santa Monica and Pasadena, Ca. Two places very local to me and for that reason alone, I decided to accept this novel for review. It’s fun to read a book and discover that yes, that is exactly how those neighborhoods are and that was absolutely the case here. I love when I can relate to a character through setting.

The setting wasn’t the only thing that caught my eye. I loved the characters, too. Miles, when we first meet him, is an awkward teen. He’s not a ladies man but is okay with it. He hangs out with his best friend Hector, and they spend their days cooking up business deals to make a few bucks. Selling snacks at lunch or providing re-location services for problem pets, Miles and Hector seem to do alright. When Miles begins to suspect that Eli is not being truthful with his mother, Miles and Hector tap her phone and look into Eli’s personal life to get a feel for the kind of guy he is. This is difficult for a couple of reasons, one…that Miles has grown to like Eli, and two…that his mom is so happy around him. Does he really want to know the truth?

I loved this book and was so sorry to see the story end.

Miles is such a sweet kid. Hector, too. I loved their friendship. It really reminded me of my teen years. How all you wanted to do all summer long was hang with your best friend. I spent many summers at my friend’s house, on her floor, gazing at the ceiling or out the window. It was okay to just BE and that’s how it is with Miles and Hector. The added mystery of Eli and who he really is just adds to the story.

As a mystery, it’s pretty tame. But as a coming-of-age story about friendship and family, it hit the ball out of the park. It just hit me in all the right places. It was sweet, funny and reminded me that there is goodness in the world. I highly recommend it.

 

Mona Simpson

Ms. Simpson’s Facebook page.

Ms. Simpson’s TLC tour stops.

TLC Book Tours

Source: Review copy provided by the publisher via TLC Book Tours.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review, Tour & Giveaway (3 copies!): Bait

Bait
Bait
By J. Kent Messum
(Plume, Paperback, 9780142180259, August 27, 2013, 288pp.)

The Short of It:

Think Survivor, on heroin. Utterly gripping but this is a dark, gritty little tale.

The Rest of It:

Six strangers wake-up on an island somewhere in the Florida Keys and what they have in common, is that they are all heroin addicts just coming off their last hit. As they struggle to piece together the puzzle of why they are there, the lure of treasure, in the form of a heroin,  is what keeps them hopeful. To get it, they must risk everything and that includes shark infested waters and each other.

It’s a simple premise. Messum takes these six characters and places them in an impossible situation and let me tell you,  it makes for some good reading. The pacing is tight and the writing is impressive. It’s a page turner but it’s a gritty, dark little book. Heroin addiction is not pretty and the desperation of these six people is made clear to the reader by what they are willing to do to score their next hit. As the pieces come together, the reader learns a little bit about each person’s background, but ultimately the problem with the premise itself is that it’s hard to feel anything for these characters. As one of the characters mentions in the book, these guys are throw-aways and I would have to agree.

Aside from that, the ride itself was quick and action driven, but it felt abbreviated to me. This was read in one sitting, and I am not sure it’s meant to be read that way. There are some things to ponder and the frantic pace did not really allow for that. For me, it played out like an episode of Lost. Lots of questions, lots to investigate but once the credits roll, you’re left hanging until the next episode. Only in this case, there isn’t a next episode to look forward to.

This begs the question, what makes a novel a novel? Bait was impressive but entirely too short. It had a beginning, a middle and an end and it explored some deep, dark secrets but in the end, it didn’t quite feel like a novel to me. It felt more like a novella and I’m not sure, but I’d guess that Messum changed his mind half-way through on who would survive. Wasn’t a bad choice but wasn’t surprising either.

Readers looking for a quick, fast-paced read will appreciate Bait for what it is but I prefer to spend a little more time with the characters. That said, I think Messum is a writer to watch. His ability to put you in the moment is impressive and the fact that I wanted more from him can only be good, right?

The publisher has made it possible for me to giveaway THREE copies of this book. Look for details at the bottom of this review.

J. Kent Messum

To visit his Facebook page, click here.

Follow @_JamieK_ to follow him on Twitter!

To visit his other tour stops, click here.

TLC Book Tours

Source: Review and giveaway copies provided by the publisher via TLC Book Tours.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.


GIVEAWAY INFORMATION

This giveaway is for one copy of Bait and is open to the US and Canada. THREE winners will be chosen randomly by me. The book will come directly from the publisher. Only one entry per person. Giveaway closes on September 6, 2013 (pacific). I will contact the winners for his/her mailing address.

CLICK HERE TO ENTER THE GIVEAWAY!

 

Review, Tour & Giveaway: He’s Gone

He's Gone

He’s Gone
By Deb Caletti
(Bantam, Paperback, 9780345534354, May 2013, 352pp.)

The Short of It:

Hands down, the most riveting book I’ve read this year.

The Rest of It:

I don’t know about you, but I love a good book about marriage. Especially if it’s about an imperfect marriage and let me tell you, this marriage is not perfect!

Dani Keller wakes one morning and realizes that her husband Ian is not in bed. It’s Sunday, and Dani’s slight hangover clouds her memory of the night before. As she goes about her normal, everyday activities it doesn’t really occur to her that something is wrong. Not until later in the day when her husband has not returned any of her calls. What she remembers of the party the night before is the small argument they had, but she can’t actually recall him coming through the door. Did he come home with her? Why can’t she remember? As it becomes more and more apparent that Ian is in fact, gone, the police begin to investigate the case, Dani’s family comes for support and Dani herself continues to rake her memory for clues to his whereabouts. What makes the story juicy, is their past and it ALL comes out as Dani wades through the delicate threads of matrimony.

This is a second marriage for both Dani and Ian and it’s clear that there is some emotional baggage that has not been completely unpacked and the reader learns this as Dani’s self-doubt begins to overwhelm her. We learn how their relationship came to be, about the children that Ian left behind, about Dani’s abusive ex-husband and although none of it is fairy tale material, it is fact what makes up a marriage today. Dani’s reflections on marriage in general are not surprising, but the aspect that Caletti focuses on is when a marriage loses its shine; that moment where the honeymoon ends and the marriage begins.

I knew what happened to Ian very early on, and although most will turn those last few pages, smack their head and shout, “I knew it!”, if you’re being honest, you’ll also admit that you really didn’t, because Caletti artfully guides you into more dangerous waters where ANYTHING could have happened and all of it would have been plausible. She’s sneaky that way.

Some have criticized the book saying that there is a lot of telling and not enough showing,  but I felt it worked here. If a person goes missing, and you aren’t telling all of the story, at least not all at once, you are going to begin the dreaded internal dialogue with yourself over whether or not you did the right thing. This piecey introspection is what kept me reading. I freakin’  loved it!

The Seattle setting and the supporting characters that Caletti introduces add the necessary back story to make the situation plausible. From the very first page I was riveted and could not put it down. I blew through the first one hundred pages in one sitting and when I closed the book for good, I felt satisfied. You can’t ask for more than that.

Toss it in your bag this summer. You won’t be sorry. It’s that delicious mix of good pacing, flawed characters and doubt. Love it.

Thanks to the publisher and TLC Book Tours, I have a copy to giveaway! Details below.

Deb Caletti

To visit her website, click here.

To visit her Facebook page, click here.

Follow @debcaletti to follow her on Twitter!

To visit her other tour stops, click here.

TLC Book Tours

Source: Review and giveaway copy provided by the publisher via TLC Book Tours.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.


GIVEAWAY INFORMATION

This giveaway is for one copy of He’s Gone and is open to the US and Canada. A winner will be chosen randomly by me. The book will come directly from the publisher. Only one entry per person. Giveaway closes on June 16, 2013 (pacific). I will contact the winner for his/her mailing address.

CLICK HERE TO ENTER THE GIVEAWAY!

 

Review, Giveaway & Tour: In the Garden of Stone

In the Garden of Stone

In the Garden of Stone
By Susan Tekulve
(Hub City Press, Paperback, 9781891885211, April 2013, 250pp.)

The Short of It:

Full of sorrowful, memorable characters with writing that immediately pulls you in.

The Rest of It:

The story begins in War, West Virginia and spans from 1924 to the 70’s. After a rail accident buries her home in coal, sixteen-year-old Emma is rescued by a railroad man by the name of Caleb. Shortly thereafter, the two marry and begin their life together. Caleb is a good man but prone to dreaming and when he dreams up a garden to rival that of any found in Sicily, Emma has her doubts but she goes along with it. When tragedy strikes and Emma is left to fend for herself, what we are given is only a brief glimpse of what is to come. Told in alternating chapters and ending with Emma’s granddaughter, Hannah, this is a family saga that began strong but left me wanting more.

Emma’s story was the most appealing to me. I wanted to know more about her and Caleb but when it jumped to her son Dean as an adult, I began to lose interest. Dean was not likable and his marriage to Sadie and her eventual decline in health, made me not like him even more. And when the story ended with Hannah, his daughter, I found myself even less interested. From the strong beginning, I had high hopes for this one. In the end, I enjoyed the book but not as much as I had hoped.

Had this story stuck with Emma and Caleb I think I would have liked it more. The dreamy, fantastical part of Caleb was particularly interesting against Emma’s more sensible nature. What these characters all share is a sense of longing. The type that can never be fulfilled. They seem to struggle with happiness. Both what it is and how to achieve it. Flawed as they are, the story doesn’t dwell long enough on any one aspect of their unhappiness so it steers clear of the depression you’d expect to find in a book like this. If I were to take the story out of the equation, I’d say that the writing was lovely. Lovely, without being over-the-top. The imagery and the voice of the characters came through enough for me to want to finish the book and I would absolutely read another book by Tekulve.

If you are intrigued by anything I’ve said here and want to read it for yourself, enter to win your own copy. Details below.

Susan Tekulve

To visit the publisher’s website, click here.

To visit her other tour stops, click here.

TLC Book Tours

Source: Review and giveaway copy provided by the publisher via TLC Book Tours.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.


GIVEAWAY INFORMATION

This giveaway is for one copy of In the Garden of Stone and is open to the US and Canada. A winner will be chosen randomly by me. The book will come directly from the publisher. Only one entry per person.  Giveaway closes on June 14, 2013 (pacific). I will contact the winner for his/her mailing address.

CLICK HERE TO ENTER THE GIVEAWAY!

 

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