Miss Emily by Nuala O’Connor

Source: Penguin
Paperback, 256 pgs.
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Miss Emily by Nuala O’Connor is told from two points of view, including that of poet Emily Dickinson, and the reader is given a glimpse into the secluded life of the poet through her own eyes as well as those of the new maid and Irish immigrant, Ada Concannon.  Concannon has had wanderlust for some time, and her daydreams have pushed her out of favor with the family her siblings and mother work for, pushing her into a new life in America.  Although she will miss her sisters and family very much, she’s eager to see the world beyond her home.

“‘You cultivate possessiveness,’ Vinnie once told me.  ‘You smother Sue, and every other acquaintance, with friendship.'” (pg. 27 ARC)

“Oh, chimerical, perplexing, beautiful words! I love to use the pretty ones like blades and the ugly ones to console.  I use dark ones to illuminate and bright ones to mourn.  And when I feel as if a tomahawk has scalped me, I know it is poetry then and I leave it be.”  (pg. 40 ARC)

The Dickinson’s are well respected in Amherst, though Emily’s recent withdrawal from society has become part of the town’s gossip.  As a maid in the Dickinson household, she is privy to the inner workings of the family but is also expected to maintain its secrets.  O’Connor has created a believable Emily in terms of action and manner, and her portrayal of immigrants, particularly the Irish, rings true.  O’Connor adopts Dickinson’s style of economical word use to tell her story and it works really well.  These foil characters work well together, as a mutual respect blossoms and friendship emerges between these women.

“But how can I explain that each time I get to the threshold, my need for seclusion stops me? The quarantine of my room–its peace and the words I conjure there–call me back from the doorway.  Ada could not truly appreciate that the pull on me of words, and the retreat needed to write them, is stronger than the pull of people.”  (pg. 52-3 ARC)

“From now on I shall be candle-white.  Dove-, bread-, swan-, shroud-, ice-, extraordinary-white.  I shall be blanched, bleached and bloodless to look at; my very whiteness will be my mark.  But inside, of course, I will roar and soar and flash with color.” (pg. 121 ARC)

Readers will be thoroughly taken in by this novel about Dickinson and the Irish immigrant’s life, and O’Connor provides a real motivating factor for Emily’s seclusion from the outside world.  As Ada’s life is threatened, Emily is forced to act and in so doing, she must leave the home in which she finds solace.  Miss Emily by Nuala O’Connor is stunning and one that should not be missed.  A definite best book of the year.

About the Author:

Born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1970, Nuala O’Connor is a fiction writer and poet. Writing as Nuala Ní Chonchúir she has published two novels, four collections of short fiction, a chapbook of flash fiction and three full poetry collections – one in an anthology. Nuala’s third novel, Miss Emily will be published in 2015.

Nuala holds a BA in Irish from Trinity College Dublin and a Masters in Translation Studies (Irish/English) from Dublin City University. She has worked as an arts administrator in theatre and in a writers’ centre; as a translator, as a bookseller and also in a university library.

Nuala teaches occasional creative writing courses. For the last four years she has been fiction mentor to third year students on the BA in Writing at NUI Galway. She lives in County Galway with her husband and three children.

The Visitant by Megan Chance

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Source: TLC Book Tours
Paperback, 339 pgs.
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The Visitant by Megan Chance is a ghost story with Gothic romance elements, reminiscent of the Brontes but not as dark.  Elena Spira arrives in Venice in the late 1900s (given the use of Bromide as a cure) with high expectations of caring for Samuel Farber in a plush palazzo, but Ca’ Basilio is rundown and falling apart, with few rooms furnished, a staff that’s very abrasive, and a family with dark secrets.   Samuel’s ailments are a secret as well, as the Basilio family believes him to be merely the victim of a robbery and beating, but there are those in the house who are aware of his true sickness.  Nero Basilio is Samuel’s best friend and when he returns from his trip to Rome, Elena captures his attention.  As he fervently pursues her, Samuel warns her against his darker nature given her virginal innocence, but it’s clear he has designs on her as well.

“When I was finished, the trunk was still half-empty.  So sad, really, that a life could be compressed to so few things.  Three or four books, a photographic portrait of my parents and me.   Should someone wish to write my biography, a paragraph would be enough.” (pg. 88 ARC)

Elena wants more from her life that the future that awaits her if she fails in her mission to return Samuel to health.  Her one mistake led her to this place of desolation, and her success can not only affect her own life, but that of her parents.  Her failure would be devastating for them all.  But even as she finds the palazzo in disrepair and the family without a fortune to repair it, she’s less curious about the house than one would expect in a ghost story, particularly one with Gothic elements.  However, given her heavy guilt, her focus remains where it should be for the most part, though she is not unaware of the oppressive spirit of the house and its former inhabitant.

Chance weaves a captivating story from beginning to end, though Elena could have been a little more perceptive about Nero than she was given her past mistakes, which are referenced a few times.  In the fall season and Halloween around the corner, The Visitant by Megan Chance is a good fit.  It provides enough ghostly elements and enough mystery to keep readers going, and the romantic elements are not over the top.  Another solid novel from this author.

Other reviews:


About the Author:

Megan Chance is a critically acclaimed, award-winning author of historical fiction, including Inamorata, Bone River, and City of Ash. Her novels have been chosen for the Borders Original Voices and Book Sense programs. A former television news photographer and graduate of Western Washington University, Chance lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two daughters.  Visit her Website, Facebook, and Twitter pages.










Dark Sparkler by Amber Tamblyn

Source: Harper
Paperback, 128 pgs.
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Dark Sparkler by Amber Tamblyn, an actress herself, has embarked upon an ambitious collection that looks at the narcissistic and self-mutilating world of Hollywood through the eyes of actresses’ whose lives ended prematurely by their own hands or through the actions of others.  From the famous Marilyn Monroe to the less well-known Barbara La Marr, Tamblyn calls into question the need for perfection among female actresses and how hard it is to find work once these actresses reach a certain age.  There’s also one poem about Lindsay Lohan, which readers may have various reactions to, including shock, dismay, and possibly laughter. (if you want to read what happened when she read the poem, beware it is a bit of a spoiler about the poem)

From "Thelma Todd" (pg. 3-5)

At the bar I run into Nancy,
drinking away her forties,
her eyes are flush broken compasses.
Lost between age fifteen and fifty.

Fermented blood.
Deep-sea drinker.

I do not look into her ocean.
The fish there float to the bottom.
I fear I'll go down there too,
identifying with the abyss.
Washed up.
Banging on the back door of a black hole.

These poems are at best depressing and at worst horrifying. These sparkling actresses are snuffed out by the pressures of Hollywood, but they also have their own demons chasing them. Tamblyn’s sense of the tragic is acute when exposed in lines like these: “But first she said, I’m sorry, Charles, it’s over between us,/tied together the sheets of their love letters,/climbed out the window of his soul.//” (from “Dominique Dunne,” pg. 25) and “I’m going to floss my teeth with the public hair/of the Hollywood night air,/memorize my lines before I snort them.//” (from “Bridgette Andersen,” pg. 30-1) These women’s lives and those of living actress continue to become objectified, and it’s hard to imagine living with that on a day-to-day basis. In many ways, the collection almost suggests to those female actresses who have lived in Hollywood longer, continue to work, and do not fall into a spiral of depression that they are the exceptions.

There is a sense of fight in these poems, as if Tamblyn is calling attention to these tragic stories not only to encourage female actresses to shun these arbitrary pressures, but also to call attention to the public’s role in these tragedies. Celebrity lives have become fodder for the American public, and these poems want to demonstrate the darkness that can follow such attention. Dark Sparkler by Amber Tamblyn is an ambitious collection of poems that will have readers thinking about their own roles in celebrity gossip and objectification.

About the Poet:

Amber Rose Tamblyn is an American actress, author and film director. She first came to national attention in her role on the soap opera General Hospital as Emily Quartermaine. She also starred in the prime-time series Joan of Arcadia, portraying the title character. Her feature film work includes roles in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, The Grudge 2, The Ring, and 127 Hours; she had an extended arc as Martha M. Masters on the main cast of the medical drama House, M.D. She also had a starring role on the CBS sitcom Two and a Half Men during its eleventh season as Jenny, the illegitimate daughter of Charlie Harper.





Lives of Crime and Other Stories by L. Shapley Bassen

Source: L. Shapley Bassen
Paperback, 194 pgs.
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Lives of Crime and Other Stories by L. Shapley Bassen is an odd little short story collection in which the characters are hit with an unimaginable situation and they must cope with the ripples that disturbance creates.  Like many short story collections, some stories will resonate more easily than others.  The title story, Lives of Crime, has a surprise ending, while others are a little more predictable and some are cryptic.  Bassen provides a wide range of characters in a variety of dark situations, including one in which a student’s idea could be published under a credentialed professor’s name, rather than his own.

One of the best stories in the collection, Triptych, involves the restoration of artwork and the lonely life one restorer. Once she finds happiness with someone in her building and things seem to be going well, fate intervenes and turns her world upside down.  As echoes of the art world play out in reality, Bassen creates a series of devastating events that could leave some depressed in the corner.  However, like other stories in the mix, the reader is held at arms length from the characters by the narrative style.

Lives of Crime and Other Stories by L. Shapley Bassen is a collection of vignettes in the lives of those who are unaware that their fate is about to be taken out of their hands.  Each story is intriguing, but many felt unfinished or like they had abruptly finished before the reader was satisfied.  However, the unique situations and characters do provide readers with a lot to ponder, particularly about how they would react in similar situations.

About the Author:

L. Shapley Bassen‘s half dozen plays include Atlantic Pacific Press’s 2009 prizewinner, a comedy, The End of Shakespeare & Co , directed by Pulitzer judge George W. Hayden (Audio excerpt published online). Two more prize winners, from the Fitton Center in Ohio, the one-acts Next of Kin and The Reckoning Ball (the day Brooklyn’s Ebbett’s Field was torn down), were produced in 1998 and 1997. Next of Kin has also been published twice recently in Prick of the Spindle and Ozone Park Journal and was produced in 1999 at NYC’s The American Theatre of Actors. Ms. Shapley-Bassen was a 2011 Finalist for the Flannery O’Connor Short Fiction Award, and currently (2013) she is Fiction Editor at The Prick of the Spindle. In 2009, she was on the team of the first 35 readers for successful start-up Electric Literature. She was co-author of a WWII memoir by the Scottish bride of Baron Kawasaki and won a Mary Roberts Rinehart Fellowship. Her stories, book reviews, and poems appear in many lit magazines and zines, including The Rumpus, Horse Less Press, The Brooklyner, Press 1, Melusine, New Pages, and Galatea Resurrects. She is a reluctant ex-pat New Yorker living in Rhode Island, now at work on a new play, Dramatic Anatomy.

The Race for Paris by Meg Waite Clayton

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Source: TLC Book Tours
Hardcover, 336 pgs.
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The Race for Paris by Meg Waite Clayton is riveting from the start and a careful blend of fact and fiction about WWII and the female reporters and photographers who were often relegated to the field hospitals and sidelines while their male counterparts were allowed closer to the front and on reconnaissance missions.  Clayton’s characters tough cookies, and they have to be as they face the possibility of death once they’ve ignored their orders to remain at the field hospital.  Liv Harper, an Associated Press photographer know for her blurred faces, and Jane, a reporter for the Nashville Banner, find themselves accompanied by Fletcher, Liv’s husband’s friend.  Fletcher is a British military photographer who often goes it alone in the field to gather intelligence with his photos for the Allied forces, but he’s had a flame burning for Liv ever since he met her.  This unlikely trio is determine to make it to Paris before the other reporters to photograph and tell the tale of its liberation.

“That was the way it was, covering war.  The little bits of detail you could get on paper or on film were just that, little bits that didn’t tell the whole story.  And you couldn’t possibly capture the whole of it no matter how far back you stepped.” (pg. 217 ARC)

Liv has secrets too, and only Jane is aware of some of them.  While Fletcher and Liv are striving toward the front as if chased by ghosts, Jane is tagging along, not so much for the good of her career as someone who cushions the blows that they receive along the way.  She becomes the sounding board for each of them, while she keeps her own council.  Jane is a strong woman, though timid, while Liv is a wild wire set to explode.  Fletcher has taken it upon himself to protect them both, though his desire for Liv often steers him into danger.  While Clayton’s triangle here could be construed merely as a romantic tug-of-war, it is isn’t.  There are more nuanced dynamics at play here, as WWII has touched Fletcher and Liv in very different ways and Jane is observing it as it plays out.

The Race for Paris by Meg Waite Clayton looks through the lens of journalists during one of the most sweeping, horrifying, and tense wars in our world history to provide an encapsulated view of the fighting, the discrimination against female journalists, and the battles dedicated people had to endure to achieve their goals.

About the Author:

Meg Waite Clayton is the New York Times bestselling author of four previous novels: The Four Ms. Bradwells; The Wednesday Sisters; The Language of Light, a finalist for the Bellwether Prize; and The Wednesday Daughters. She’s written for the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the San Jose Mercury News, Forbes, Writer’s Digest, Runner’s World, and public radio. A graduate of the University of Michigan Law School, she lives in Palo Alto, California.

Find out more about Meg at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.





Bleedovers by William Todd Rose

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Source: TLC Book Tours
ebook, 176 pgs.
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Bleedovers by William Todd Rose is the second dystopian novella starring Chuck Grainger — you’ll want to read Crossfades first — a man who works for a secret organization that helps lost souls cross The Divide. Grainger has become “famous” within the agency, although his fame is not something he’s comfortable with, especially when his supervisor reminds him of all the protocol he broke during the last Crossfade mission. Beyond his noteriety, he has experienced many sleepless nights related the ordeal, which he thought ended on the battlefield on the Crossfades. Evidence begins to pile up that the battle may not have been won.

Rose has created a world in which even readers who shy away from science fiction and more fantasy-related fiction can get swept up in by providing just enough technical detail to keep the story grounded and believable. Grainger has been a man on a mission and content in his work as a Whisk, but his nightmares have given him pause. He’s unsure if he wants to continue, but he finds that he has little choice when Bleedovers become more common than before. Marilee Williams enters our story, bringing with her special gifts that The Institute has enhanced to help with Non-Corporeal Manifestations (NCMs). Grainger, who acts like a lone cowboy in his work, is suddenly forced to work more closely with his partner, Control, and Marilee. The dynamics between Control and Grainger have evolved since the previous novella, and while Control could usually sense when he went off script, in this novella she is less like the voice of reason and more like a partner.

“The energy comes from Crossfades. As they jump from Crossfade to Crossfade, NCMs collect tiny bits of residual energy. They store it up, like a battery bein’ charged.”

Bleedovers by William Todd Rose is a strong second novella in a series, and readers will want more of this strange world. There is so much more to be explored. Is the last battle the end, or are there more to come? Will Grainger be able to fully free himself from the past and his notoriety? Rose has a gift for creating believable science fiction worlds that are wrought with real, and even imagined, dangers around every corner.

About the Author:

William Todd Rose writes dark, speculative fiction from his home in West Virginia. His short stories have been featured in numerous anthologies and magazines, and his work includes the novels Cry Havoc, The Dead & Dying, and The Seven Habits of Highly Infective People, and the novella Apocalyptic Organ Grinder. For more information on the author, including links to bonus content, please visit him online.

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The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach by Pam Jenoff & Giveaway

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Source: Pam Jenoff
Paperback, 384 pgs
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The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach by Pam Jenoff is a sweeping tale set during World War II, as a sixteen year old Adelia Monteforte comes to America to live with her aunt and uncle in Philadelphia without her Jewish parents, who stayed behind in Trieste, Italy.  She feels like an outsider with the relatives she’s never met before, and she realizes that her limited English and mostly secular upbringing is not what they expected.  While she speaks English, she still feels as though she’s an outsider, until she becomes like a sister to the Connally brothers.  Despite their perceived differences in religion and upbringing, Adelia becomes Addie, molding herself in the cracks of the local family she meets at Chelsea Beach.

“Robbie turned to his mother.  ‘Can we keep her?’
‘Robbie, she isn’t a puppy. But I do hope you’ll join us often,’ she added.
‘Because we really need more kids, ‘ Liam said wryly.” (pg. 38)

Jenoff’s World War II novels are always captivating, full of missed chances and second chances, moments of horror and tragedy, but also moments of hope and happiness. These snippets of time are those that her characters treasure, and they provide that kernel of hope that readers hold onto until they reach the end. Addie is a young displaced woman looking for a home, and she thinks that she’s found it with the Connallys until tragedy strikes close to home and she’s left in the breeze. She has to decide what to do for herself for the first time since coming to America, and while she chooses to go to Washington, D.C., with a half buried hope of finding her childhood crush, she also wants to do something more.

The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach by Pam Jenoff is an addicting read with its twists and turns and the realities of rationing and the closeness of war.  Jenoff is a master at characterization and romance in a way that is both fanciful, but realistic.  Her characters often have to struggle with more than the things that keep them apart, and for that, readers will be grateful.  Her books are not to be missed, and this summer read should be at the top of your lists.

About the Author:

Pam Jenoff is the Quill-nominated internationally bestselling author of The Kommadant’s Girl. She holds a bachelor’s degree in international affairs from George Washington University and a master’s degree in history from Cambridge, and she received her Juris Doctor from the University of Pennsylvania. Jenoff’s novels are based on her experiences working at the Pentagon and also as a diplomat for the State Department handling Holocaust issues in Poland. She lives with her husband and three children near Philadelphia where, in addition to writing, she teaches law school.

U.S. residents, leave a comment below about your favorite beach activity by Aug. 26, 2015, at 11:59 PM EST.  Win a bag and book!









French Coast by Anita Hughes

Source: the author
Paperback, 304 pgs.
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French Coast by Anita Hughes is gorgeous and not just because its set at Cote D’Azur and the Cannes Film Festival.  Serena has come to France for the biggest opportunity of her journalistic career, even though her fiance Chase is set to announce their engagement and his bid for mayor of San Francisco.  Serena is going to interview Yvette Renault, the former editor of French Vogue.  Along the way, the life she expected is swept away from her and she has to contend with secrets she never saw coming.  While she remains as focused on her work as she can, she finds herself befriending Zoe, who is on a trip of her own to uncover family secrets and save her parents.

“‘At least you know where your father is,’ Serena said, adding cream and sugar.  ‘I haven’t heard from my parents in days. I keep expecting my father to call and say it was all a mistake.’

‘We’re the ones who are supposed to be falling in love with the wrong men and making our parents frantic,’ Zoe said as she tore apart an almond croissant.

‘Maybe we’re part of the wrong generation.’ Serena sipped her coffee.  ‘We should have been young in the sixties.'” (pg. 155)

Serena and Zoe are like ships passing in the night, but it’s clear they have an instant friendship that will last, and despite drifting since coming to France, Serena has a purpose and dives into her work.  Nick is a knight in shining armor of sorts, returning Serena’s lost wallet and phone, and eventually, they spend afternoons and evenings together talking about not only their work but their dreams.  Don’t be fooled, however, because this is not a straight-forward romance novel.  While there is romance for many of these characters, there is heartbreak and choices to be made about their careers and their futures.

French Coast by Anita Hughes is a delightful read for the summer months and beyond.  Serena is a strong woman who is sure about her career, but little else at least until fate plays its hand.  Hughes is a talent and her books are always delightful reads to pop in the beach bag or to read out on the deck or at the pool.  This one has the right amount of mystery thrown in as well, making it even more engaging.

About the Author: (photo by Sheri Geoffreys)

Anita Hughes was born in Sydney, Australia and had a charmed childhood that included petting koala bears, riding the waves on Bondi Beach, and putting an occasional shrimp on the barbie. Her writing career began at the age of eight, when she won a national writing contest in THE AUSTRALIAN newspaper, and was named “One of Australia’s Next Best Writers.” (She still has the newspaper clipping.)

She received a B.A. in English Literature with a minor in Creative Writing from Bard College, and attended UC Berkeley’s Masters in Creative Writing program.

Other Reviews:

Rome in Love by Anita Hughes

Source: the author
Paperback, 320 pgs.
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Rome in Love by Anita Hughes is an enjoyable jaunt in Italy with a young actress, Amelia Tate, remaking Roman Holiday, a movie that made Audrey Hepburn famous.  She is thrilled to be making a movie, and while her fiance supports her, he also seems eager to be married and take her away from the spotlight so she can be at his side as he makes deals.  Italy is often considered a home for romance and love, but in Hughes’ hands, it also becomes a place of contemplation and pivotal life decisions.  Amelia’s beginnings in Italy on the set of Roman Holiday mirror those of Audrey Hepburn, including the love of acting, the break up with a fiance, and the entrance of a new love interest.  However, unlike Hepburn, Tate has decided to allow herself to be seen as a maid at the hotel, rather than the actress she is.  In her ability to blend in, she makes friends with a real princess, Sophie, and finds a friend in Philip, an expat journalist who is trying to make a career for himself away from his stockbroker father.

Like many of us who wish that our lives were different and can sometimes take on new personas online, Amelia is quick to masquerade as a maid because it gives her the freedom from the paparazzi and the other trappings of Hollywood, but it also doesn’t come with the financial or other stresses of being a real maid.  Sophie is similar in that she’s enjoying Rome’s arts and music and shopping before she returns home to marry her childhood friend, Leopold, in an arranged marriage.  In many ways, Rome becomes the home of imposters, with each of these characters trying out different lives and enjoying their time without the pressure of those lives.

Hughes easily builds the scene in Italy through food, art, music, and more, but in many ways, here characters here are lacking something.  Readers may find that they are more attached to Audrey Hepburn than they are Amelia, who spends a great deal of time waiting for things to happen, rather than acting.  Sophie’s story is intriguing, and readers may almost want to hear more of that story.  However, Amelia’s romance with Philip is one fraught with misunderstandings, which are by turns amusing and frustrating.  Rome in Love by Anita Hughes is entertaining and a great summer read that will take readers on a trip to Europe, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

About the Author:  (photo by Sheri Geoffreys)

Anita Hughes was born in Sydney, Australia and had a charmed childhood that included petting koala bears, riding the waves on Bondi Beach, and putting an occasional shrimp on the barbie. Her writing career began at the age of eight, when she won a national writing contest in THE AUSTRALIAN newspaper, and was named “One of Australia’s Next Best Writers.” (She still has the newspaper clipping.)

She received a B.A. in English Literature with a minor in Creative Writing from Bard College, and attended UC Berkeley’s Masters in Creative Writing program.

Other Reviews:

Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans

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Source: TLC Book Tours
Hardcover, 288 pgs.
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Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans is an odd narrative in that it is disjointed at times and features a number of eccentric characters, including 10-year-old Noel, Vee, and Donald.  Noel is a young orphan evacuee who is sent to live with Vee, Donald, and Vee’s mother during WWII.  Noel’s a quiet boy who loves detective novels and is incredibly heart-broken by the time he reaches their home.  Vee, on the other hand, is struggling to make ends meet only to have a son who does little more than expect her to wait on him and barely goes to his job.  Evans captures the essence of these struggling residents during rationing and bombardments by the Nazis.  Readers will be fully engaged by the historical setting, but the pairing of this intelligent boy and this woman who is looking for the next get rich quick scheme, is unlikely and tough to take at face value until more than halfway through the novel.

“His teeth were regular and well-spaced, like battlements.  Noel liked to imagine tiny soldiers popping up between them, firing arrows across the room or pouring molten lead down Uncle Geoffrey’s chin.” (pg. 10 ARC)

“The day after that, all the children disappeared, as if London had shrugged and the small people had fallen off the edge.” (pg. 15 ARC)

Vee is impulsive and Noel is level-headed, and like Vee, Donald, makes impulsive decisions that often land him into trouble.  Evans has a way with imagery and she captures the tumultuous times deftly, but often the disjointed narrative can pull readers out of the story, especially when she moves from one perspective to another with little to no transition.  However, as the relationship develops between Vee and Noel, moving from a business relationship to a more familial relationship, readers will become invested in their struggles.  The story of Donald, her son, however, fades in importance, and by the end almost feels as though it was an add-on, not really integral to the story.

Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans provides a realistic look at life in London and elsewhere in England at the time of WWII when rationing was in full swing and bombings were a real concerns, especially for residents of London.  Vee and Noel are able to find a home among the wreckage, and while not everyone’s stories are wrapped up neatly, Evans develops a realistic picture of wartime England.

About the Author:

Lissa Evans, a former radio and television producer, is the author of three previous novels, including Their Finest Hour and a Half, which was longlisted for the Orange Prize. Crooked Heart was also longlisted for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction (formerly known as the Orange Prize); it is her first novel to be published in the US. Evans lives in London with her family.  Find out more about Evans at her website, and follow her on Twitter.




Mireille by Molly Cochran

tlc tour hostSource: TLC Book Tours
Paperback, 619 pgs
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Mireille by Molly Cochran is a sweeping novel that takes place near the end of WWII through the 1960s, and the title character is forced from her home at the same time she is forced to realize that her life must become an illusion in order for her to survive.  Mireille is an unusual beauty who finds herself caught in the web of her own lies later in life, and while she’s desperate to escape, she’s also careful to protect her family from harm, even if that means paying a heavy price.  Following the end of WWII, she makes the trek on foot to Paris and finds herself in even worse health and shape than when she ran from her home.  She learns quickly that kindness is hard to come by and that the only way she can provide for herself and survive is the become the best prostitute in all of Paris.

Cochran has dove deep into the world of Paris escorts, and the depravity Mireille finds there is something that she can only deal with by severing her actions from her true 17-year-old self.  She soon meets Oliver Jordan, a famous movie producer from Hollywood, but he’s darker than she ever could imagine.  He will remind readers of the Marquis de Sade driven by his baser instincts and clearly someone who knows nothing about love or emotional attachment.  He only understands manipulation, physical release, and ownership.

Mireille by Molly Cochran is a page turner that is neatly wrapped up by the end of the novel, and as long as readers can ignore the historical issues — such as actresses unable to earn a great deal because they were owned by their respective studios at the time in the novel and Mireille’s apparent wealth — the book will take them on a dark journey that will leave their stomachs turning.  However, as a book about perseverance, Mireille does have a will that will rival many — as she strives onward even in the most dire circumstances.  A solid read full of sex, profane events, and more.

***My apologies to Molly Cochran and TLC Book Tours for failing to review this in June.***

About the Author:

Molly Cochran is the author of more than twenty novels and nonfiction books, including the New York Times bestseller GrandmasterThe Forever KingThe Broken Sword, and The Temple Dogs, all cowritten with Warren Murphy. She is also the author of The Third Magic, and she cowrote the nonfiction bestseller Dressing Thin with Dale Goday. Cochran has received numerous awards, including the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Award, the Romance Writers of America’s “Best Thriller” award, and an “Outstanding” classification by the New York Public Library. Recently she published a series of young adult novels, LegacyPoison, and Seduction, and two novellas, Wishes and RevelsLegacy won a 2013 Westchester Fiction Award.





The Great War: Stories Inspired by Items from the First World War illustrated by Jim Kay


Source: LibraryThing Early Reviewers
Hardcover, 304 pgs
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The Great War: Stories Inspired by Items from the First World War illustrated by Jim Kay is an engaging way for young readers (age 10+) to learn about World War I through the touchstones and artifacts left behind by soldiers, their families, and the war itself.  From a writing case to a toy soldier, these stories draw inspiration from these objects, building a world in the past that could be as real today as it was then.  There are stories from Michael Morpurgo and Tracy Chevalier, and like many short story collections some stories shine brighter than others, with “Captain Rosalie” being bitter sweet and “Our Jacko” inspiring.  These stories will evoke deep emotions in readers, as they learn not only about the realities of war and loss, but also the connections we have to objects that come from our ancestors.

“I keep the compass shined up and the safety catch on so the little needle doesn’t swing and break.  When I hold it and let it go and hunt out north, it bobs around like anything, like something on water, and it’s hard to tell where you are or what it’s saying.  That’s because I can’t keep my hands still enough.  But my dad could.  He kept his hands steady all the way, and he found home.” (“Another Kind of Missing,” pg 27)

“For in order for a story to work, it has to have a purpose, a structure, a journey, and a resolution.  And in reality, war has none of these things.  War is simply a near-random sequence of horrors, and so to make a story out of war is to lie.”  (“Don’t Call It Glory,” pg 65)

“But for music, I might have just stayed there,
keeping time with the
swoosh, swoosh, swoosh
of my push broom
for always.

Maybe making something of yourself is about
just keeping time
but doing something of substance,
something risky,
something you couldn’t fathom having the
to do until
do it. (“A Harlem Hellfighter and His Horn,” pg. 153)

Beyond the short stories told in this collection, there is one, long narrative poem, “A Harlem Hellfighter and His Horn,” which mirrored the rhythm and blues played by the main character.  But it also highlights the desire to seize the moment when it comes, rather than wait until its gone to desire it.

“So I won’t waste it:
War can break a man.
Slam him down on his back in the
dark.” (“A Harlem Hellfighter and His Horn,” pg. 166)

Each of these pieces brings forth some of the hidden feelings of those left behind by soldiers and those who are less than eager to fight, but they also illustrate the complexity of war and its allure.  Kay’s illustrations are in black and white and give the collection just the right amount of gruesome horror, but these are accompanied by facts about the war from women entering the workforce and the types of jobs they assumed to the conditions of the trenches.

The Great War: Stories Inspired by Items from the First World War illustrated by Jim Kay would be a great addition to any classroom willing and able to go beyond the traditional teachings of just WWII and other wars.  WWI was an important part of history that should not be forgotten, as it illustrates not only the brutality of ambitious people, but also the realities of bravery and cowardice, particularly through the eyes of children who are left behind.