Review: The Doll by Taylor Stevens

The DollLooking for a book to fill the void in your action junkie heart left by the end of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series? If you are, then Taylor Stevens’ The Doll might be for you. With Vanessa Michael Monroe you get a smart, hard, kick-ass woman who rides a motorcycle who has a lot of mystery and danger in her life. In this book she takes on a very specialized international sex trade ring, not specifically by choice, but because they targeted her. There is a lot of backstory referenced and alluded to. I hadn’t realized that there were 2 other books before this one, but it didn’t take away from my understanding or motivations of characters that had already been built up and understood by series readers – and it didn’t spend too much time over explaining to catch me up.

With the holidays and holiday travel on the horizon – this is a good, fun book to read while giving your mind a vacay, like on a plane or lounging with an umbrella drink on the beach. So if holiday travel finds you on the beach (or maybe just wishing you were), you might want to add this to your list of fun reads.

* I received this book from the publisher

Review: Under Magnolia by Frances Mayes

Under MagnolaBack in 1997, Frances Mayes took readers to Tuscany in her bestselling book Under the Tuscan Sun, her writing really captured being in Italy and building a life for herself in a foreign country. With her latest book Under Magnolia, Mayes brings readers to where she was trying to escape from – the past of her Southern childhood. In this book Mayes confronts her past, taking readers inside her tumultuous childhood in a 1940s South, so think eccentric family members, tradition, big houses, hot summers and lots of food.

Mayes’ parents had a volatile relationship fueled by passion, hostility and alcohol. Her father became ill at a relatively young age, but lingered on through many of Mayes’ high school days. Once he died, her mother became more aimless, under the thumb of her father-in-law who cut her off from much of the money and spending she was used to. Mayes spent her childhood feeling different from her girly sisters, but soon seemed to blend her intelligence with a southern girlish flair. It is this young girl who tries to escape her family bonds off at college.

I wasn’t really certain what to expect and I have to say I greatly enjoyed this book. It had been so long since I read Under the Tuscan Sun, I really didn’t remember all that much about Mayes, but it didn’t matter. You don’t need to know who Mayes is to enjoy her story, which is told in vignettes. Aside from Mayes lovely writing, her stories were charming, sad, funny – a whole mix. There were some times that I got a little lost in the timeline, but once I fell back into the storytelling, I really didn’t care. I was just happy to have such a wonderful storyteller take me on her journey.

** I received this book (an uncorrected proof) from the publisher for review. **

 

Review: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

GoldfinchDo you ever get a book and start reading it without fully knowing what you’re getting in to? I find myself doing this a little more these days since many of the books I read are on my Kindle, which means I don’t have a back cover to consult before I get the book, and then while I am reading it. So, this was definitely the situation I found myself in while reading Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer Prize winning book The Goldfinch.

Living in the NY-metro area I had heard about a painting at The Frick that was sending people there in droves because of reading the book, The Goldfinch. And having seen The Goldfinch around as a bestseller, both of these things together confirmed my need to read it. Now I’m not sure if I ever read the synopsis of the book, maybe I did, but I certainly wasn’t paying close attention because in my mind I was thinking that I would be reading something more like The Girl With a Pearl Earring or The Lady and the Unicorn than Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.

But enough about my bad synopsis reading comprehension and on to my thoughts about the book.

The book takes the reader through the extremely tumultuous life of Theo Decker, who was just another middle class, mischief-making, single parent teenager until tragic, terrorist events at the Met forever change the course of Theo’s life. Without a mother, his Dad MIA and his grandfather claiming to be unable to care for him, Theo lives with a classmate for his schoolyear, trying to regain some sense of bearings, but then his father returns (bimbo girlfriend in tow) to sweep him off to Las Vegas where 1/2 of his life path is set when he is introduced to drugs, alcohol and Boris, who becomes his high school BFF.

Once tragedy strikes Theo again leaving him an orphan he runs back to the only place he thinks of as home, NYC, and lives with an antique furniture restorer who he connected with before leaving NYC. Hobie trying to create stability in Theo’s life, and does provide him the guidance his father never could, and without meaning to, sets him up the the other half of Theo’s life, becoming a successful antiques dealer (who is still a drug addict).

All of this is story alone, but there is still the intrigue stemming from the horrible day at the Met. All which comes to a head, thanks to a reappearance by Boris when the boys are grown. There are so many pieces, layers and characters in this story. At times it felt never-ending, and when I was near the ending I nearly stopped reading the 700+ page book because I didn’t like where I was being taken by Tartt, but I have to say, she pulled it all together nicely in the end.

Tartt’s writing was so beautiful at times (but you don’t need me to say that, the book cover flair that says Pulitzer Prize probably tipped you off to that). She also created such vibrant characters (but with 700+ pages she has room to do that). But what I was surprised about was also the real sense of tension the book had, I wasn’t really expecting that either. At the end of the day I am so happy I didn’t throw away my time investment and trusted that the author was taking me on an incredible journey.

It’s Almost Summer, and that Means Beach Reads!!

There are many reasons that this is one of my favorite times of year – and no, not just because it’s nearly my birthday, not because the weather gets lovely (but these are totally awesome reasons too), I love that it’s time for the beach read.  Of course I love going to the beach or pool for a little break and being able to read, but there is something about the beach read.

I tend to designate my “beach read” time (as opposed to my, oh I have a few hours that I can sit at the pool and maybe read) as either a holiday weekend or when I am away. I may read what I am working on, but I prefer to give my reading a vacation too with something that I might not normally read, or take a break from something more intense for something lighter and fast.

On Sunday I posted a review for Fly Away by Kristin Hannah, which I thought my be my first beach read recommendation of the season, when I had an early spring hot weather getaway. I was not at the beach, and this book turned out to not be at all light (not that I didn’t enjoy it, you can see from the review, but it turns out it wasn’t what I personally look for in a beach read). This holiday weekend (thank you all for taking a holiday to celebrate my birthday with me), I am not sure what I am going to read. I have many books going right now, and really if I found time to dedicate to sit out and get into a book it should be to finish The Goldfinch (it is taking me forever), but I will hopefully find myself starting Elin Hilderbrand’s Beautiful Day. It takes place in Nantucket, there is a wedding and family drama – seems exactly what a beach read should be.

What are you going to be reading this holiday weekend? And what “beach reads” would you recommend to me and my readers for this summer?

Review: Fly Away by Kristin Hannah

Fly AwayMemorial Day is right around the corner, and with it the time for summer beach reads. This spring I made a little escape from the East coast frozen zone for a little warm weather getaway, which was a chance to read what could be my first beach read (even if I wasn’t going to the beach). Out of the many books I loaded on my Kindle, I read Kristin Hannah’s Fly Away which I will tell you about soon, but I can say, it’s probably not what I would recommend for a fun in the sun beach read. Really, I felt like I could cry at any moment throughout the entire book from the first chapter.

Fly Away is the sequel to Kristin Hannah’s Firefly Lane, the story of two best friends Kate and Tully. If you haven’t read it, this is one you need to read before you read the next chapter in the Kate and Tully story. You really need to be invested in the lives of these two friends.

– Not real spoilers ahead for Fly Away, but there are for Firefly Lane, so if you want to read from a totally blank slate you might not want to keep reading –

Firefly Lane ends with Kate losing her battle against cancer. Fly Away is the story of what is next for Kate’s family and Tully and a reminder that Kate held everyone together, and they all spiral out of control without Kate’s influence. Tully loses her career as a famous TV journalist (think Oprah) and becomes a sad sidenote in celebrity gossip magazines. Kate’s husband Johnny, a TV producer is failing as a dad, he just can’t seem to do the right thing. Kate and Johnny’s daughter Marah has gone from being a troublesome teenager to falling into something deeper. Only Kate’s twin boys seem to be doing OK. They all need to come together and move on, to all reach the potential that Kate saw in them.

The book was a real emotional roller coaster, not a fun amusement park ride. It wasn’t light, but I did appreciate being back together with these characters, and it does make you think about and appreciate those really special relationships that come in to your life.

BookCon 2014

This year is the first year I am going to go to BookCon and I’m really looking forward to it, even if I’m not totally sure what to expect. This morning I was looking around on the site seeing the list of exhibitors, panels, autograph sessions. I see I will really have to spend some time strategizing to make the most of my day there.

Any tips and suggestions from the old pros out there?

Review: One More Thing by B.J. Novak

One More ThingYou might know B.J. Novak from the big and small screen – but now it’s time you know his writing. Novak’s new book One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories, is a series of short stories with a wide range of topics, from what happened with the hare after the famous race of the tortoise and the hare to the story of the guy who created the calendar. It’s fun, funny and a fast read, and you can here Novak’s snarky voice coming through in many places (an added bonus).

I am not typically a fan of short stories, I like to invest in a character and story, but kudos to Novak for creating some stories with a real character and storyline arc. Sure, there were some pieces that didn’t strike a high note with me, but overall I enjoyed the book. Plus I did appreciate having short chapters when I was reading before bed, or while on the elliptical. Maybe there will be more short stories in my future – hopefully some ones from Novak.

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