Thursday, August 28, 2014

THE BARTER by Siohban Adcock





I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.



Monday, August 18, 2014

THE STORY HOUR by Thrity Umrigar





I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

Trapped in a loveless marriage and crushed by loneliness, Lakshmi decides to take her own life.  After she fails, she is forced to attend therapy sessions with Maggie.  Maggie is everything that Lakshmi is not.  As a strong African-American woman who is a successful therapist in a happy marriage, Maggie doesn't seem to have much in common with Lakshmi. Yet, something draws her to the young Indian woman. Lakshmi's domineering husband has limited her world to their home and grocery store/restaurant.  With no friends and no connection to family, Lakshmi's crushing loneliness leads her to her desperate act.  Maggie helps Lakshmi to realize her worth and how to become more independent. In spite of herself, Maggie is drawn to Lakshmi and begins to cross her carefully constructed professional lines.  The two women begin to confide in one another and share secrets without realizing that each one has very different expectations about the relationship.

Although it took a little while to get going, I really enjoyed this story.  I thought both women were really interesting and that the characters were well-developed. It was especially satisfying to see Lakshmi come into her own throughout the course of the book. However, it was equally upsetting to see the poor choices that Maggie made. While one woman began to thrive, the other began to all apart. Much of the book had to do with friendship and the importance of connections between people but I think the most important part of the book was the theme of forgiveness.  Although the actions of the characters could often be frustrating, I think the book was ultimately a lovely tale of forgiving and moving on.

BOTTOM LINE:  Recommended.  A really nice story featuring on the connection between two unlikely friends and the far-reaching consequences of that relationship.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

DOLLBABY by Laura Lane McNeal


I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.


When I first heard about this book, it was billed as a read-alike for THE HELP.  I loved THE HELP so that description immediately attracted me to the book.  However, I feel that comparing this book to THE HELP is doing it a disservice.  Yes, it takes place during the 1960s. Yes, civil rights issues are highlighted.  Yes, some of the main characters of the novel are African-American women in domestic service.  But, for me, that is where the comparisons end.

Liberty "Ibby" Bell is unceremoniously dropped off by her mother at the home of the grandmother she has never met when he father unexpectedly dies in the Summer of 1964.  Everything about Grandmother Fanny's New Orleans house is foreign to Ibby. Especially the idea of hired help.  Fanny employs a cook named Queenie and her daughter Dollbaby.  Dollbaby has gotten involved in the Civil Rights movement and sneaks out to participate in acts of civil disobedience.  Dollbaby and Queenie help Ibby to navigate her way through her new life. Ibby learns the hard truth about race in the South over her years with Fanny.  During that time, family secrets come to light that will change everything.

I describe this book to people as THE HELP meets Fannie Flagg. It has a lot more humor than the THE HELP and the focus is much more on the family dynamics than the the Civil Rights movement. As long-time readers of this blog know, I am a huge fan of family secret dramas.  This one does not disappoint in that department.  The characters are all interesting and compelling.  I like to think about how books could be adapted into movies and I visualized Jessica Lange as Fanny. It took a little while for the story to get going, but once it did I was pulled in and could not put the book down. The ending was especially satisfying.

BOTTOM LINE:  Highly Recommended. One of my favorite books this year.  A great family drama with a lot of love and humor.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

LUCKY US by Amy Bloom

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.


When Eva turns 12, her mother unceremoniously dumps her at her father's house. Eva has understood for years that she and her mother are her father's second family.  When her father's wife dies, Eva's mother takes the opportunity to start a new life.  Eva moves into her father's home and meets her older half-sister Iris for the first time. Iris has big dreams of becoming a star and escapes to Hollywood as soon as she can with her little sister in tow. The family's fortunes ebb and flow over the 1940s as the girls are eventually reunited with their deadbeat father and attempt to make a life for themselves as a family.  Each of them is a flawed individual so consumed by their own dreams that they can't seem to come together as a family. The book is mostly told from Eva's perspective and follows the family throughout the 1930s and 1940s.

Although I think Bloom has some interesting things to say about success,failure, redemption, and family, I had a hard time connecting with the characters. Although they were all plucky and worked hard to achieve their individual dreams, they were not particularly likeable.  While some describe the book as humorous, I did not find that to be true at all.  I thought it was pretty heart-breaking. It made me sad to see how selfish the individual family members were and how often Eva bore the brunt of that selfishness. The book was interesting and well-written but not particularly enjoyable.

BOTTOM LINE: Recommended for some readers. Bloom fans will find much to like here. Her characters and settings are definitely vivid and interesting.  The people just aren't particularly likeable.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

THE BOOK OF LIFE by Deborah Harkness

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0670025593/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0670025593&linkCode=as2&tag=lifebycand-20&linkId=WQTIFMCJNXHPAFRS




I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

**NOTE:  Although I try to be VERY careful about spoilers, I have to allude to previous books in the trilogy for this review. There may be general spoilers and allusions to events
in the first two books.**

It has been a long wait for the final book in the ALL SOULS TRILOGY but it is almost here!  Although I have never been a big fan of books about witches and/or vampires, something about this particular trilogy pulled me in from the very beginning. I always recommend these books to fans of Diana Gabaldon. The first book, DISCOVERY OF WITCHES, introduced us to scholar Diana Bishop who accidentally calls up a mysterious book at the Bodleian Library that turns out to be a book coveted by witches, daemons, and vampires alike. Diana has never manifested any powers even though she comes from a long line of witches.  Her quiet life as a scholar is compromised when she discovers Ashmole 782 and attracts the attention of other creatures including the mysterious vampire Matthew Clairmont.  The two become embroiled in the conflict surrounding the mysterious manuscript while engaging in their own forbidden romance.  In SHADOW OF NIGHT, we continued to follow Diana and Matthew's relationship as they journey to Elizabethan England to hide from the creatures seeking to exploit Ashmole 782 while giving Diana time and help in learning to cultivate and understand her powers.  Two years later, it is time to finish Diana and Matthew's story in BOOK OF LIFE.

The BOOK OF LIFE picks up where SHADOW OF NIGHT left off with the return of Diana and Matthew to the present.  Diana has greatly developed her powers during her time in the past but is keeping quiet about her new talents. Diana and Matthew try to settle into their life together after all the changes they experienced in the past including the fact that Diana is now officially a member of the de Clermont family thanks to Philippe.  Diana must figure out her new position, her new powers, and creature politics while keeping the secret about a very specific change in her that occurred in her that she brought from the past. All of the characters are back as the de Clermont family readies themselves to take on the creatures looking for the Book of Life as well as fighting the Congregation.  Diana and Matthew must hurry to find the missing pages of the Book of Life before their enemies do.  In the meantime, they face a new threat in the form of one of Matthew's vampire children who threatens to destroy everything.

I thought Harkness did a great job in tying up loose ends and finishing the trilogy. I felt perfectly satisfied when I finished the book although I was disappointed that one character didn't get a clear ending.  I would love to see Harkness choose some of the characters from these books (Nathaniel/Sophie/Margaret or Gallowglass, for example) and give them their own book or books. I hate to leave the characters behind. Harkness has created such a fascinating world.  I find it amusing that she omits a lot of the less attractive aspects of vampires such as only being able to come out at night, never being able to consume anything but blood, etc.  It certainly makes them more attractive! With her intricate descriptions of vampire politics and bloodlines, it is clear that she has thought a great deal about the intricacies of this world that she created.  It is really fascinating!

I have heard people describe Harkness' books as "bodice rippers" and I would have to disagree. Although the books contain a good deal of romance and sex, the sex scenes are modest and do not go into intimate detail.  In my experience, "bodice rippers" tend to be of "Romance" genre and include some pretty specific and graphic descriptions of sex that tend to involve heaving bosoms and the ripping of clothing. These books do not.  What you WILL find is romance, mystery, time travel, action/adventure, history and much more.  The books are wonderfully entertaining and make for terrific vacation reads.

BOTTOM LINE: Highly recommended!  If you are looking for a highly entertaining vacation read, these books are for you!  BOOK OF LIFE comes in at over 570 pages and I finished it in two days. I couldn't put it down!  Very fun books!

I hope they consider making movies or a television series out of these books. I already have a cast in mind:

My Picks for an All Souls Trilogy Cast

Buy the book here and enjoy!!!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

TOMORROW AND TOMORROW by Thomas Sweterlitsch




I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

I feels as if I have been reading a lot of dystopian/futuristic novels lately. I may have reached a saturation point.  One thing I love about these types of books is the fact that I can see so many of them easily translating to the big screen. When I read TOMORROW AND TOMORROW, I couldn't help but envision Joseph Gordon Levitt as John Blaxton.

In the near future, everyone has Adware hardwired into their brains. This hardware also contains special lenses that go inside your eyeballs to not only project images in front of you everywhere you go such as commercial ads but also to record what you are viewing. The city of Pittsburgh has been destroyed by a terrorist attack but an Archive of the pre-apocalypse city has been preserved by creating a virtual city through the collected visual recordings of its inhabitants. John Blaxton lost his wife and unborn child when Pittsburgh was destroyed. He spends most of his free time in the Archive reliving his time with his wife. It has become an addiction for him. Blaxton works as a claims investigator who works within the Archive to verify insurance claims made on those who perished in the blast.  While in the Archive, Blaxton finds an unreported murder. He becomes fixated on finding the truth about this woman and it brings him into a greater mystery where his very life may be in danger.

This book is so hard to describe!!!  The world that Sweterlitsch has created is a bit complicated and it took a little while to catch on to what he was describing.  As someone who is a bit ad-phobic, the idea of the Adware was horrifying to me.  This neural network is embedded in your brain and makes ads pop up in front of your eyes everywhere you go.  The software component reads your mind and knows exactly how to customize ads to your preferences. For example, if you are a man who loves curvy blondes, the Adware would superimpose a live action image of a curvy blonde modeling lingerie if you looked over at a Victoria's Secret store. And, of course, this Adware is subject to hacking and tracking. The mystery is compelling and I loved the characters.  The book had the feel of "Blade Runner" in terms of style.  I could absolutely see this book being made into a movie.

BOTTOM LINE:  Recommended. A really creative and interesting mystery. I thought Sweterlitsch had a very compelling vision of the future. And it was scary!

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Barefoot Books Discount!

It wasn't enough for me to work in libraries full-time. There just weren't enough books in my life. So, I started selling Barefoot Books on the side almost a year ago.  I kept buying them for my son and decided that I loved them enough to introduce them to others.  If you'd like to try some of those wonderful, multicultural children's books, I have a discount code for you!



I am always happy to give recommendations as well!


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Big BOOK OF LIFE Giveaway!!!

AND THE WINNER OF THE GIVEAWAY IS MHOGAN!!!  
Check your e-mail!

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0670025593/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0670025593&linkCode=as2&tag=lifebycand-20&linkId=HPJ2NGSVPAQFQ4VB

Deborah Harkness Fans!  The final book in the ALL SOULS TRILOGY comes out on July 15! 

THE BOOK OF LIFE is almost here! 

My friends at Viking/Penguin were kind enough to allow me to do a very special giveaway in honor of this highly anticipated release!  One winner will receive:

1) A finished copy of THE BOOK OF LIFE
2) A commonplace book
3) A holographic button

If you haven't caught up the trilogy yet, there is still time to read A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES and SHADOW OF NIGHT before July 17!  These books make great beach/vacation reads.  Fans of Diana Gabaldon will find much to like here.

**HOW TO WIN**

1. Leave a comment telling me your favorite character in the ALL SOULS TRILOGY. (Make sure I have a way of contacting you)

2. "Like" my Facebook page and come back and leave a comment telling me that you did. 

The winner will be randomly selected from entries received. 
The prize package will ship after the release date of the book.  
US entries only please.
Contest closes on Wednesday, July 2 at 5pm PST.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

SUMMER OF SEQUELS

There are so many highly-anticipated sequels coming out this Summer! I am racing through them as fast as I can in order to post some reviews.

First up, the last book in the LAST POLICEMAN TRILOGY:







Then we have the follow-up to ARCHETYPE:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0525954244/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0525954244&linkCode=as2&tag=lifebycand-20&linkId=RTR3KXYPNMX22ANJ




The sequel to ROBOPOCALYPSE has finally arrived.  Rumors continue that these books will soon be made into a movie.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0385537093/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0385537093&linkCode=as2&tag=lifebycand-20&linkId=KJJ43MWSQLOZNIRP




And probably the most highly anticipated book of the Summer:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0670025593/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0670025593&linkCode=as2&tag=lifebycand-20&linkId=HPJ2NGSVPAQFQ4VB




If only we could get the last book in Cronin's PASSAGE trilogy!!!  Hurry up already!


While you are waiting for these releases, I will have a little giveaway for you tomorrow.  It's one you are not going to want to miss!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

LOVERS AT THE CHAMELEON CLUB, PARIS 1932 by Francine Prose

(Link to book)

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

I have read a lot of books about World War II over the years and I am always surprised that writers continue to find new things to say about it. This book intrigued me because it is about Paris in the year leading up to World War II. Readers are introduced to cross-dressers, lesbians, photographers, writers, and all the other bohemian types that flocked to Paris in the 1920s and 1930s.  This particular novel centers around an avant-garde club called the Chameleon Club. The proprietor will make you immediately think of Marlene Dietrich in "Morocco" and the club itself will make you think of "Cabaret." People flock to the Chameleon Club for its risque' shows and colorful characters. It is the heart and soul of the novel that connects all of the characters.

The story of the characters moves and back and forth from before the war to many years later. It focuses on photographer Gabor Tsenyi, writer Lionel Maine, patroness Lily de Rossignol, race car driver and Nazi interrogator Lou Villars and several others. They are all connected by their association with the Chameleon Club. The reader sees how the characters grow and change through from the 1920s and beyond. Lou Villars becomes the centerpiece as she goes from a young athlete to a scandalous cross-dressing lesbian race car driver to a villainous Nazi interrogator. There isn't a single character that is particularly likeable or that even inspires a great deal of compassion. However, they are all memorable and intriguing. We see exactly what drives these individuals and how they grow and develop as people. Paris itself becomes an important character in the book as we see how it changes during this turbulent time.

While I found the book intriguing and I enjoyed reading about Paris just prior to WWII, I didn't particularly like any of the characters and I often found the change of perspective jarring. The book was inspired in part by this photograph by this photo of a lesbian couple at The Monocle by Brassai:


I was charmed by the inspiration for the novel but less so by the execution.  Even though we are given the opportunity to know all of the characters quite well, many of them aren't interesting enough as individuals to merit the attention given to them. For some reason, most the characters fell flat for me. Prose is clearly a gifted writer who researched her book well and offers readers a wonderful portrait of Paris at a particular time.  However, this is not a story that is going to stay with me.

BOTTOM LINE:  Recommended for certain readers. If you like historical fiction, this could be a nice addition to your WWII reading. It is a wonderful snapshot of Paris before the war. However, the characters aren't interesting enough to stay with you.

Read more about this book on Amazon.