Monday, November 25, 2013

review: morning glory by sarah jio

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Set in the Lake Union houseboat community, Sarah Jio's Morning Glory tells the story of two women who each lived on the same houseboat decades apart. After a tragic accident took the lives of Ada’s husband and young daughter, she leaves New York and rents the houseboat from which Penny mysteriously disappeared. While grieving, Ada gets to know her neighbors who seem to know more about Penny than they let on with some of them referencing "a pact." Although Ada's left her journalism job, she becomes wrapped up in solving the mystery of Penny whose trunk she finds in the houseboat. With the help of an attractive war photojournalist turned food photographer, Ada discovers the secrets of Boat Street in Jio’s gripping novel.

Although Jio is native to the Puget Sound region, hands-on research went into the writing of Morning Glory. Jio makes Boat Street come alive through the incorporation of her own experiences staying on a rented houseboat as she wrote Morning Glory. In an interview with Book Bliss during BookExpo America, Jio said the time on the houseboat "informed the writing of the book" and it shows in her vivid descriptions. She writes beautifully of a loft bedroom with a porthole (through which access to the home can be gained--an important detail for the plot) which mimics that of the houseboat she used as an office. And Gracie, the young daughter of Ada’s love interest, is made to wear a life jacket while on the houseboat just as Jio posted on her blog that she made her three sons do. As always, Jio expertly blends mystery and romance with a bit of history to create a compelling story.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Plume.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

review: lighthouse bay by kimberley freeman

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After the death of her married lover, Libby quits her job and leaves Paris for the Australian hometown she hasn’t seen in 20 years. A tragedy had caused her to leave and created bad blood between Libby and her sister; so much so that Libby didn’t even return for their father’s funeral. Despite Libby’s hopes of reconciliation, a decision she faces could forever sever the relationship.

Although Libby is the stronger protagonist, her story is a little boring as the crux of the novel takes place in 1901 where the sole survivor of a shipwreck has come ashore in Australia with a valuable bejeweled mace. The mystery of what happened to the mace ties the two stories together. With the mace being so central to the plot, it initially seemed the story would be less than stellar as Isabella wants nothing to do with the mace because she knows the family of her deceased husband will stop at nothing to find it. Once Isabella reclaims the mace, Lighthouse Bay really picks up to become a fascinating tale.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Touchstone.

Friday, November 22, 2013

giveaway: debut novels from candlewick

I've got a very awesome giveaway thanks to Candlewick, the publisher of many fabulous young adult and middle grade titles! One resident of the US or Canada will win galley copies of the following debut novels: Caminar by Skila Brown; The Chance You Won't Return by Annie Cardi; Breakfast Served Anytime by Sarah Combs; There Will Be Bears by Ryan Gebhart; and The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton.  Be sure to check out the Candlewick Pinterest page for more on these five titles.

The rules: Enter by leaving a comment to this post with your email (if I can't contact you, you can't win). You can gain additional entries by leaving separate comments letting me know that you're a follower (one extra each for the blog and Twitter) or have posted a link to the giveaway on your site. The deadline to enter is 11:59pm Pacific on December 7. Winner will be selected at random.  Open to residents of the US or Canada.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

review: sweet nothings by janis thomas

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Ruby admits she wasn’t head over heels for her husband, but she thought they had a nice life with their two teenagers. After almost two decades together though, Walter wants something more with his coworker, Cheryl. Right after telling Ruby of his decision (and posting it on Facebook for all their friends to know), Walter quits his job and sets off on a yacht with Cheryl. Once he’s out of the country, Ruby learns that not only is her bakery having financial trouble, Walter wasn’t paying their home mortgage. Ruby’s doubly devastated, but her friends rally so that soon she’s taking charge.

From the main characters to the minor ones, everyone in Sweet Nothings was painted realistically. At one point there was a positive development in Ruby’s life that seemed a little unlikely, but then it was explained that she was a substitute and it all went pretty disastrously which created some believability. The incorporation of Ruby’s stressipes (recipes she comes up with while under stress) and her characterizations of people as food were nice touches to the fairly humorous novel.
Review copy provided by the publicist, FSB Associates.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

review: where monsters dwell by jørgen brekke

Where Monsters Dwell began strongly with two murders in two countries occurring within a month of each other. The murders are obviously tied together, but with one being in Richmond, VA and the other in Trondheim, Norway, it took a good long while for the investigators to realize it. While that added to the suspense, Where Monsters Dwell was also unfortunately very convoluted with the two different narratives combined with a lot of backstory that added little to the plot. Although the prized, yet supposedly cursed sixteenth century book that seemed to be at the center of the murders was intriguing, the revelations at the end of the novel proved disappointing.
Review copy from Amazon Vine.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

review: a charlie brown christmas: the making of a tradition by lee mendelson

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A Charlie Brown Christmas: The Making of a Tradition is a splendid look at the holiday special that still airs nearly 50 years later. The book details how the special came to be when Lee Mendelson, who had a production company, called Charles Schulz to discuss making a documentary about the life of the Peanuts creator. That collaboration combined with some publicity about Peanuts led to the McCann Erickson Agency and Coca-Cola wanting to make a Christmas special; however, they wanted it in a matter of days. The speed at which they put together A Charlie Brown Christmas makes for an amazing story. In addition to that story, the book includes interviews with key people involved in the special and gives many behind the scenes details such as the difficulty in animating flat characters. The book concludes with a gorgeous illustrated script originally created after the initial airing of the special which was before the days of VCRs.
Review copy provided by the publisher, It Books.

Friday, November 1, 2013

review: the runaway wife by rowan coleman

After a particularly bad night, Rose flees her husband taking only their daughter and a small bundle. Although she can access the money she’s secreted away, Rose has no place to go. Years ago she’d met a man who was looking for the father who abandoned Rose when she was a child; that man inexplicably gave her hope for the future. In seeking him out, Rose and her daughter end up in a small town where they find an unexpected community—a community that includes Rose’s father.

The Runaway Wife (previously published as Dearest Rose) was an incredibly touching story with lively characters. Rose’s life has been a mess since her father left and she’s made plenty of mistakes on her own, but she’s determined to do better for her daughter. Even though Rose’s identity is far too much about who she is with men throughout much of the novel, she begins to find her true self which was refreshing. Rose’s daughter was particularly amazing; it was wonderful how Maddie (Rose’s daughter) brought out the best of John (Rose’s father) so they could become a family.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Gallery Books.