Mar 15, 2016

Book Tour/Review: NORTH OF HERE by Laurel Saville

North of Here, a novel by Laurel Saville
Published March 1, 2016 by Lake Union Publishing
Objective rating: 4/5

Publisher description:
Many may dream of a simpler life away from the complications of the modern world. Laurel Saville reveals the dark side of such a life for four young people living in the Adirondack Mountains. This story of misguided decisions, a dangerous back-to-nature cult, and the universal search for meaning and love intertwines these troubled lives into a love story and a tale of tragedy, survival, and love.
At the heart of the drama are four unforgettable characters: 
Miranda: A young “heiress” 
Dix: A self-assured “mountain man” 
.Darius: A preppy trust fund refugee  
Sally: A brassy, street-smart social worker
These four will become inextricably entwined in troubles that far exceed simple crimes of the heart.
My comments:
It was unusual and refreshing to start a book with the setting in the Adirondack Mountains, far away
from bustling cities that many young people normally gravitate to. The story initially took me back to the 1960s and communes, young men and women "dropping out" of normal society to find their own way in a utopian environment with dreams of a better life close to nature and a more "natural" way of life.

But this was what it was, a utopia that couldn't last for long, until cracks began to appear, with tragedy to follow.

I wondered how many young people these days do seek out a more secluded environment. Maybe the YA and chick lit books I have been reading have just been showing me one side of the picture of contemporary life - the busy city life of ambition and upward mobility in careers. I would like to ask the author about this. It is an intriguing topic. How common is this reverting to the "natural life" these days among young people?

I would recommend the novel as a throw back to the 1960s for those who remember and something interesting for those who didn't live during those times. City versus country and woods? Which would you choose or prefer your children to choose in these competitive days?

Thanks to the author/publisher and TLC Book Tours for a review copy of this book. For other reviews of North of Here, visit the tour schedule.

About Laurel Saville

Laurel Saville is the award-winning author of the memoir Unraveling Anne, the novel Henry and Rachel, and the four-part short story “How Much Living Can You Buy,” as well as numerous essays, short stories, and articles. She has an MFA in Creative Writing and Literature from the Writing Seminars at Bennington College.

Author's website:

Mar 13, 2016

Sunday Salon: War Movie and War Novels

Welcome to the Sunday Salon where bloggers share their reading each week. Visit The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated Bookreviewer.
Also visit Mailbox Monday, and It's Monday, What Are You Reading? hosted by Book Date. 

We saw the Tina Fey movie, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, last night, about an American journalist who signs up to become a photo journalist in Afghanistan. The Urban Dictionary says Whiskey Tango Foxtrot stands for WTF in military language!
The movie gave me a good look at some of the risks, temptations, rivalries, and on-the-edge lives war journalists face on site. It's also a comedy so the facts came with some laughs. The original title of the book by Kim Barker was The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan. 

The movie also gave me some visual prep to tackle Cambodia Noir head on, a thriller about a photographer who has seen action during the war in Cambodia and who lives on in the war-shattered country trying to score new news on the political or social scene.

 I finished yesterday a library book that I read after recommendations by several bloggers: The Light Between Oceanspublished 2013 by Scribner. It 's about a lighthouse couple in Australia who find a baby girl ship wrecked or boat wrecked on their beach and who decide to keep her as their own. I will post a brief review next week.

Two new books came in last week for review/feature, thanks to Harper Collins:

It has been a while since I've read a biography, so this galley came as a pleasant surprise. The Last Goodnight: a World War II Story of Espionage, Adventure & Betrayal by Howard Blum, described as "biography of Betty Pack, the dazzling American debutante who became an Allied spy during WWII and was hailed by OSS chief General “Wild Bill" Donovan as “the greatest unsung heroine of the war.” 

A romantic comedy, advance readers edition,  also arrived for lighter reading:

The Decent Proposal by Kemper Donovan is described as a "debut romantic comedy, drama, and mystery rolled into one, about two very different strangers whose lives become intertwined when they receive an unusual proposition." 

The proposition is: meet for at least two hours every week for an entire year and then share a million dollars reward from an anonymous benefactor. I am thinking the ending is probably predictable, but the journey might be fun to read about.

Books in my Library Bag include:
The Strangler Vine by M. J. Carter, an historical thriller set in India
Thin Air by Ann Cleeves, a police procedural set in the Shetland islands.

What goodies do you have on the book shelves this week? 

Mar 10, 2016

Cambodia Noir by Nicholas Seeley

The Friday 56. Grab a book, turn to page 56 or 56% of your eReader. Find any sentence that grabs you. Post it, and add your URL post in Linky at Freda's Voice.
Also visit Book Beginning at Rose City Reader.

Cambodia Noir, thriller/adventure by Nicholas Seeley, to be released March 15, 2016 by Scribner. 
Source: book for review from publisher 

Phnom Penh, Cambodia. 
Once-great war photographer Will Keller spends his days floating from one score to the next.... But Will's spiral toward oblivion is interrupted by Kara Saito, a beautiful woman who begs Will to help find her sister, June, who disappeared during a stint as an intern at the local paper (publisher)

Book beginning: 
Airports kill me.
I need to stop thinking about Paris, which is close to impossible at the best of times. But in the farthest wing of Frankfurt terminal, a couple of hours before dawn, as I'm waiting for a plane to carry me away to a city whose name I cannot properly pronounce...well, it's a terrible place to be alone with one's thoughts. 

Page 56: 
This one isn't reading catalogs: she just puts her stuff in a bag and she goes.

My comments: A story of a former war journalist searching for a missing woman in Cambodia - these two people left their regular lives to forget and reinvent themselves somewhere else. Interesting character studies with a backdrop of corruption, politics, and danger in a developing country. I gave this noir thriller five stars. 

About the Author
Nick Seeley is an international journalist based over the past decade in the Middle East and Southeast Asia. His work has appeared in The Christian Science Monitor, Foreign Policy Magazine, Middle East Report, and Traveler’s Tales, among others. His fiction and criticism has been published in Strange Horizons. He is originally from Fairfax, Virginia. Cambodia Noir is his first novel.

Mar 9, 2016

Book Review: Lone Star by Paullina Simons

Lone Star by Paullina Simons, published 2015 by William Morrow. 
Goodreads describes the book  as "the unforgettable love story between a college-bound young woman and a traveling troubadour on his way to war—a moving, compelling novel of love lost and found set against the stunning backdrop of Eastern Europe."

My comments: A coming-of-age novel and a romance involving four high school graduates visiting cities in Latvia, Poland, and Italy. 

Chloe and her boyfriend Mason and Hannah and her boyfriend Blake make plans to visit Barcelona, and are thrilled when Chloe's Eastern European grandmother Moody offers to pay for  the trip, on one condition. They must visit Moody's and Chloe's relatives outside of Riga, Latvia, and travel to several former war sites in Poland, including Treblinka, before they head to Barcelona.

Plans change and the relationships between the four friends change when a traveling American Johnny join the group, offering to be their guide in Poland. Chloe and Johnny are attracted to each other, much to Blake's disgust. Blake's carefully laid out plans for the trip fall apart because of myriad train delays, incomplete traveling information, lack of proper transportation and communication, and more. 

Meeting Johnny is life-changing for Chloe, as Johnny charms all of them except Blake while guiding them to the places Chloe's grandmother wanted her to visit. When plans go wrong on the trip back from Treblinka, the group later splits up.

Reeommendation: The story line is original and kept me guessing about the outcomes. The characters are convincing and realistic, though Chloe is a bit dense at times about her friends and their motivations. 

The writing is engaging; each  of the four teens tells a part of the story, how he/she reacts to the trip and the unexpected events that happen. There is poetry and philosophy in the writing and plot as well as pathos and teenage angst.

A five-star read with very convincing, believable, and heart-breaking characters.
This is my first book by the author and I hope to read others. 

Thanks to the publisher for a review copy of this book. 

Mar 8, 2016

First Chapter: Book- and Food-Themed Cozies

Bibliophile By the Sea hosts First Chapter, First Paragraph every Tuesday. Share the first paragraph(s) of your current read or book interest, with information for readers.
Between a Book and a Hard Place, A Devereaux's Dime Store Mystery #5, by Denise Swanson. Published March 1, 2016 

First paragraph, first chapter:
The Shadow Bend, Missouri, city council meeting didn't typically draw much of a crowd. Generally, fewer than a dozen of the community's four thousand twenty-eight citizens showed up, but tonight the residents had turned out in droves. 

A mystery of lost family, hidden treasure, and long-buried secrets. (publisher)

Out of the Dying Pan, A Deep Fried Mystery #2 by Linda Reilly.Published March 1, 2016

First paragraph, first chapter:
Talia Marby watched with a lump in her throat as the sign that read LAMBERT'S FISH & CHIPS was lowered carefully to the ground. The technician stepped do9wn from his ladder, one large hand steadying the sign. "You want us to take this back to the shop, ma'am, or do you want to keep it?"

When a boutique owner is strangled with Talia’s scarf knotted around her neck, our favorite fish fryer finds herself in hot oil. (publisher)

Based on their first paragraphs, would you keep reading these book- and food-themed cozies? 

Mar 6, 2016

Sunday Salon: More Mystery Novels

Welcome to the Sunday Salon where bloggers share their reading each week. Visit The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated Bookreviewer.
Also visit Mailbox Monday, and It's Monday, What Are You Reading? hosted by Book Date. 

We hope to see the last of the snow today as it will be near 70!!! one day in the middle of next week. We are on a see-saw of temperatures, and that one day will stand out like a promise of not even spring, but summer! 

Lots to prepare for this summer, including visitors from afar that I can't wait to see.  Big smiles!

My mailbox was full with two mystery novels and a bunch of welcome cozies.

Blood Orange 
by Susan Wittig Albert, China Bayles Mystery #24 to be released April 2016 by Berkley.

In the newest China Bayles Mystery in the New York Times bestselling series, China comes to the aid of a nurse who ends up in the hospital...
Murder She Wrote: Design for Murder, the 45th in the series written by 
Such a popular series, it's the 45th book,  based on the television mystery series.

 Reading Up a Storm 
by Eva Gates, to be released April 5, 2016.

The bestselling author of Booked for Trouble returns with the third Lighthouse Library mystery set in the most literary lighthouse in North Carolina’s Outer Banks
A Clue in the Stew
by Connie Archer, to be released April 5, 2016 
Soup Lover Mystery #5, Soup shop owner Lucky Jamieson stirs up more trouble in the latest mystery from the national bestselling author of Ladle to the Grave...

What's your cozy read this week?

Just finished reading:
Lone Star by Paullina Simons.  I enjoyed this coming of age story and romance set in Eastern Europe and Italy. 

Goodreads describes the book  as "the unforgettable love story between a college-bound young woman and a traveling troubadour on his way to war—a moving, compelling novel of love lost and found set against the stunning backdrop of Eastern Europe."

Mar 4, 2016

Book Beginning: Trail of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz

The Friday 56. Grab a book, turn to page 56 or 56% of your eReader. Find any sentence that grabs you. Post it, and add your URL post in Linky at Freda's Voice.
Also visit Book Beginning at Rose City Reader.

Trail of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz, published 2012 by Simon and Schuster 
The fifth installment in the bestselling series featuring the private investigator Izzy Spellman and her quirky family of sleuths. (publisher)

Brought up this book from the basement to read after finishing Lutz's other books, The Passenger, and How To Start a Fire. 

Book beginning, first chapter:
I do my job. I watch. I snap pictures and record video. I document subjects' activities through a filter of twenty years of disassociation. I don't judge. I don't manipulate the evidence. I simply report my findings to the client. The client can use the information however they see fit. That's the line I feed them. But the truth is always a murkier business.
The opening paragraph of this book intrigued me. It's a mantra for a PI and for other gatherers of info like journalists, the media. How much objectivity can/do they have, in reality? Eager to get into this crime novel, to see how the PI's objectivity holds out. 

Page 56:
  "How long are you going to play this game?" he asked.

Sunday Salon: Japanese Authors and a Mystery

  Klara and the Sun   by Kazuo Ishiguro.  Klara and the Sun was easy to read for a literary novel of such magnitude and celebrity, I found...