16 April 2018

No Less Days


WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS A PARAGRAPH THAT SOME MAY CONSIDER A SPOILER.

AMANDA G. STEVENS

Goodreads synopsis: How many lifetimes can God expect one man to live? Over a century old, David Galloway isolates himself from the mortal humans who die or desert him by making a quiet life as a used bookstore owner in Northern Michigan. But then he spots a news article about a man who, like him, should be dead.

Daredevil celebrity Zachary Wilson walked away unscathed from what should have been a deadly fall. David tracks the man down, needing answers. Soon David discovers a close-knit group of individuals as old as he is who offer the sort of kinship and community he hasn’t experienced for decades—but at what cost?

David finds himself keeping secrets other than his own. . .protecting more than himself alone. He’ll have to decide what’s worth the most to him—security or community. When crimes come to light that are older than any mortal, he fears the pressure is more than he can stand. What does God require of him, and is David strong enough to see it through?

Stats for my copy: .pdf ARC, Shiloh Run Press, expected publication date May 1, 2018.

How acquired: Via BookishFirst.

First line: His books were burning. 

My thoughtsI entered to win this book from BookishFirst because the title and cover caught my eye first, and then the synopsis and first page piqued my interest. So I was excited to learn I'd won a copy. The pace is a bit slow in the beginning, with a very interesting premise. David Galloway is over a hundred years old, and has no idea why he cannot die. He's built himself a solitary life, revolving around his bookstore, and has closed himself off to friendships and relationships with others. Then he meets three men and a woman who already know who he is, and who are also immortal, and know how they – and David – gained their immortality. From that point the pace picked up quickly, and I sat up late a couple of nights because I was more interested in the book than my bed.

Before meeting the others, David thought that his immortality was a burden beyond his understanding that God had placed on him. While I liked the direction the story took, and I'm not a religious person, I thought it would've been very intriguing if David's belief was correct, and God had purposely chosen him to carry that burden. But I was happy to start getting to know the group who welcomed him into their fold and became his people. Everyone should have people that they can think of as their people.

There was a nice little side plot about a clerk in David's store who is in an abusive relationship, and a hopeful romance growing between David and his assistant, Tiana.

When I was a few pages from the end I began to fear that it was going to suddenly wrap up all neat and tidy in too short a span of time. But no, the book just ended, the way each day of the week ends. Some issues resolved, others not, and tomorrow is another day. I sure hope this is the start of a series, because I was not quite ready to leave David and his new friends behind.

08 April 2018

The Poison Tree


Back cover copy: In the sweltering summer of 1997, strait-laced, straight-A student Karen met Biba – a bohemian and impossibly glamorous aspiring actress. She was quickly drawn into Biba's world, a for a while life was one long summer of love. But every summer must end. By the end of theirs, two people were dead – and now Karen's past has come back to haunt her...

Stats for my copy: Trade paperback, Hodder & Stoughton, 2011.

How acquired: Via BookCrossing.

First line: I let the telephone fall from my hand.

My thoughtsAnd another fantastic new to me author! Claire Seeber, Peter Swanson, and now Erin Kelly. I've already hunted down and collected most of Seeber's and Swanson's back list (plus preordered Swanson's newest), and now my Discover card will get another workout as I hunt down everything Ms. Kelly has written. For a long time my go to has been romance, but these three authors are sending me on a new and wonderful path!

Told in first person POV by Karen, the narrative bounces back and forth between the present and the past. In the past, Karen meets Biba and is mesmerized by her, and by her Bohemian drug-fueled life's-a-party lifestyle. Not so much by Rex, though in the present we know that she and Rex are a couple and have a daughter. We also know that Rex was just released from prison for murder, but we don't know who died or when.

I love Ms. Kelly's writing, it's as mesmerizing as Biba is to Karen. As Karen tells us her story, she drops tantalizing little hints or alludes to something that happens later, and I was constantly on the edge of my seat waiting for the big reveal, and grasping at each secret that finally came to light. Guessing who would die, and then second guessing myself. With good reason, as I was completely wrong.


A five star read for me, and I'm upset that none of the platforms I subscribe to - Netflix, Amazon Video, Hulu, Acorn TV – have the movie version available! I need to see it! 

01 April 2018

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body


Synopsis from Goodreads: From the bestselling author of Bad Feminist: a searingly honest memoir of food, weight, self-image, and learning how to feed your hunger while taking care of yourself.

I ate and ate and ate in the hopes that if I made myself big, my body would be safe. I buried the girl I was because she ran into all kinds of trouble. I tried to erase every memory of her, but she is still there, somewhere. . . . I was trapped in my body, one that I barely recognized or understood, but at least I was safe.

In her phenomenally popular essays and long-running Tumblr blog, Roxane Gay has written with intimacy and sensitivity about food and body, using her own emotional and psychological struggles as a means of exploring our shared anxieties over pleasure, consumption, appearance, and health. As a woman who describes her own body as “wildly undisciplined,” Roxane understands the tension between desire and denial, between self-comfort and self-care. In Hunger, she explores her own past—including the devastating act of violence that acted as a turning point in her young life—and brings readers along on her journey to understand and ultimately save herself.

With the bracing candor, vulnerability, and power that have made her one of the most admired writers of her generation, Roxane explores what it means to learn to take care of yourself: how to feed your hungers for delicious and satisfying food, a smaller and safer body, and a body that can love and be loved—in a time when the bigger you are, the smaller your world becomes.

Stats for my copy: Trade paperback, HarperCollins, 2017.

How acquired: Via BookCrossing.

First line: Every body has a story and a history.

My thoughts: In the beginning I found the writing a little repetitive and...youngish? I don't want to say juvenile, so maybe just short of being juvenile...the first few chapters. And then after her account of the rape, it hit me that those first few chapters were almost hesitant, as if the author wanted to tell us about it but it was a hard thing to talk about and so she needed to work up to it. And after that it didn't feel so repetitive or short-of-being-juvenile. It was just very real. I can't even imagine the courage it took to write this book.

I am about thirty pounds overweight. And I will admit that sometimes when I see a very large or obese person, I think to myself, how did they let themselves get to that point? But underneath that, what I'm thinking is I hope I don't ever get to that point, and I'm constantly reminding myself that I need to exercise more and eat better, and then I don't. I just hope when I've looked at a very large or obese person, my look hasn't actually made them feel like I was judging them.


A powerful and moving book, and a good example of how cruel people can be to others who don't fit their definition of perfect. 

19 March 2018

The Kind Worth Killing


Synopsis from Goodreads: On a flight from London to Boston, Ted Severson meets the stunning Lily Kintner. Over martinis, the strangers play a game in which they reveal intimate details about themselves. But what begins as playful banter between Ted and Lily takes a turn when Ted claims, half-seriously, that he would like to kill his wife. Then Lily surprises him by saying that she’d like to help.

Back in Boston, Ted and Lily forge an unusual bond and talk about the ways Ted can get out of his marriage. But Lily has her own dark history she’s not sharing with Ted. As Ted begins to fall in love with Lily, he grows anxious about any holes in their scheme that could give them away. And suddenly the two are pulled into a very lethal game of cat and mouse, one in which both are not likely to survive when all is said and done.

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, William Morrow, 2016.

How acquired: Borrowed from my mom.

First line: “Hello, there,” she said.

My thoughtsWhile at my mom's house, talking about a book we'd both recently read and loved (LULLABY, by Claire Seeber), I commented that it made me want to read more of that genre. My mom promptly disappeared into her room and reemerged with this book in hand. I started it the next day and whizzed through it.

The chapters start out alternating between Ted, who just discovered his wife is cheating on him with their contractor, and Lily, who he meets in an airport bar. The find themselves on the same flight, and Ted spills the whole story to Lily, admitting that he'd like to kill his wife. And Lily, rather than being shocked, says she will help him do so.

As they take turns narrating, both in first person POV, we learn more about how Ted and Miranda met, and Lily's unconventional family, along with some secrets from Lily's past (although she does not share that information with Ted). They plot and plan how to murder Miranda and Brad, the contractor, and when the time is almost nigh, holy plot twist! Something right out of left field, and the twists and turns just keep coming.


This is a fast paced and engrossing book. I feel like I can't say too much about what happens without getting spoilery, but I was glued to the pages. The character's narrative voices aren't very distinctive, but that's literally the only complaint I can come up with. A brilliant and unexpected read, and I've already pre-ordered the author's next book and bought one of his previous books. 

14 March 2018

The Texan's Forbidden Fiancée (Lone Star Legends, Book 1; Harlequin Desire #2308)

SARA ORWIG

Synopsis from Goodreads: After a century-long family feud, Madison Milan doesn't trust any Calhoun—especially Jake, the man who ditched her on the night of their elopement. But when he shows up claiming an heirloom map leads to gold on her ranch, she's swamped by steamy memories. She may not trust Jake, but she just might want him…

Jake will do anything to get what he wants—Madison's ranch. Consider it payback to the Milans. And Madison? She's collateral damage in their family feud. The confident cowboy has nothing to worry about…except falling for the forbidden beauty all over again…

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, Harlequin Enterprises Limited, 2014.

How acquired: Bought.

First line: In the small town of Verity, Texas, when the door to the Texas United Western Bank opened, Jake Calhoun's breath whooshed out as if a fist slammed into his gut.

My thoughtsI don't think I've read this author before, but I see her name all the time and know she's written tons of books. I have several more of her books in the TBR pile. So I think I had higher expectations than I should've. A feud and digging for treasure seems like a refreshing topic for a category romance, but the book was mostly melodrama and repeated accusations of "you walked out on our wedding day" and "you wanted your father's money more than you wanted me", and then kiss kiss and lots of makeup sex.

11 March 2018

Michael Tolliver Lives (Tales of the City, Book 7)


Synopsis from Goodreads: Michael Tolliver, the sweet-spirited Southerner in Armistead Maupin's classic Tales of the City series, is arguably one of the most widely loved characters in contemporary fiction. Now, almost twenty years after ending his ground-breaking saga of San Francisco life, Maupin revisits his all-too-human hero, letting the fifty-five-year-old gardener tell his story in his own voice.

Having survived the plague that took so many of his friends and lovers, Michael has learned to embrace the random pleasures of life, the tender alliances that sustain him in the hardest of times. Michael Tolliver Lives follows its protagonist as he finds love with a younger man, attends to his dying fundamentalist mother in Florida, and finally reaffirms his allegiance to a wise octogenarian who was once his landlady.

Stats for my copy: Hardback, HarperCollins, 2017.

How acquired: Bought.

First line: Not long ago, down on Castro Street, a stranger in a Giants parka gave me a loaded glance as we passed each other in front of Cliff's Hardware.

My thoughtsI loved the first five Tales of the City books, but the sixth book was a disappointment for me. I did not like the person Mary Ann had become after being a local celebrity went to her head. By the end of the book I quite actively disliked her. But this seventh book, set twenty years later, is about Michael, and was just as enthralling as the first five books.

Unlike previous books, this one is just Michael's story, and the narrative is even in first person, his point of view. Other characters are still around of course – best friend Brian and his (and Mary Ann's) now grown daughter, Shawna, and an elderly Anna Madrigal. Thack is long gone, but Michael is still living in the same house, and is now married to the sweet and much younger Ben.

Michael tells us his story with wit and deprecation. We follow him to Florida, where he visits his ailing mother and ultra-religious brother and sister-in-law. Michael refers to them as the biologicals, and his other, more accepting and loving family, the characters mentioned above, as the logicals, a term I love.

My favorite quote in the book:
As she fiddled with the piping on the slipcover I could see that her hands were the only place where her age was evident. I've noticed this about myself as well. We can fool ourselves about our changing faces, but our hands creep up on us. One day we look down at them and realize they belong to our grandparents.”

I had this exact revelation a couple of years ago, when I looked down one day and saw my grandmother's hand. Which overjoyed me, as I adored her and miss her.

Mary Ann is now living in Connecticut with her second husband, but she does make a brief appearance towards the end of the book, where she and Michael have an awkward and stilted reunion (and under trying circumstances), and then she breaks down and cries and insinuates that there was more to her moving away than the advancement of her career. She's not redeemed in my eyes, and I'm hesitant to pick up the next book, MARY ANN IN AUTUMN. But I do look forward to the last book, THE DAYS OF ANNA MADRIGAL, and I cannot skip a book in a series, so I'm just going to have to trust Mr. Maupin to bring Mary Ann full circle and make me like her again.


I zipped through this book in a day and a half, giving up some sleep to do so, something I don't have the energy for very often. But it was that good.

09 March 2018

Lullaby


Synopsis from Goodreads: For Jess, the much-needed family outing with her wealthy husband and newborn Louis is a chance to get her troubled marriage back on track. But when Mickey takes Louis for a stroll, they don't come back. And the next time Jess sees her husband, he's in a hospital, his memory shattered…and he's the prime suspect in their son's disappearance. 

Amid a media frenzy and skeptical police, Jess is learning fast that disturbing secrets surround everyone she thinks she knows—her charming, unreliable brother; her envious sister; Louis's vivacious young nanny; and the elegant ex-wife Mickey won't discuss. The only thing Jess can trust is her desperate, determined instinct. For the clock is ticking down, and someone will do whatever it takes to make her precious baby boy their own…

Stats for my copy: Mass Market paperback, Worldwide Library Suspense, 2012.

How acquired: Borrowed from my mom.

First line: Later, I couldn't think whose idea it had been to visit the Tate that day.

My thoughtsI was sucked into this book from the first few pages. I probably never would've picked this book up based on the title or the cover, so I am so glad my mom recommended it and loaned me her copy! Not far in I kept thinking why had I not heard of this book before, or seen any buzz about it? Then I realized it was first published some ten years ago.

Jess and her husband, Mickey, and their eight month old son are having a rare day out together, when they get separated in a crowd, and then the husband and son just vanish. Mickey eventually turns up in a hospital, beaten and bruised, and with no memory of what happened.

The narrative is told by Jess in first person point of view, and her fear and terror at losing her son are palpable. As the search and police investigation drags on she becomes more and more desperate and unraveled. As you would when you're child is missing.

I loved Silver, the lead detective. I loved how he always called her “kiddo”, until she snapped at him to stop, and then the word still kept trying to slip out of his mouth. Jess was often frustrated with the investigation, feeling that the coppers aren't doing enough quick enough, which might be a natural reaction to the situation, but she also already had a dislike for and distrust of police to begin with. As we learn more about her background and her childhood the reason for that is slowly revealed.


A tense and gripping book, while also being a good character study. I think this is going onto my list of all time favorites, and I will definitely be looking for more of this author.