Thursday, March 26, 2015

{The 2015 Amazing Book Race Challenge Review} THE BONE CLOCKS by David Mitchell

ISBN #: 978-1400065677
Page Count: 640
Copyright: September 2, 2014
Publisher: Random House; First Edition

Lupe's Review:

Wow. I really don't know what else to say except this was amazing. Following Holly through life and seeing how all of her time streams connect was just crazy and beautiful. I think the climax was by far the best part and to think the person I for sure thought was a bad guy wasn't?!? Omg way to throw a curve ball! I am so glad that this was a book I purchased instead of having to take back to the library. What David Mitchell does with this story, even with all the characters, is he makes you feel for each and every one of them. They are all important to you, you are rooting for the success of the whole, not realizing it's exactly what you're supposed to be doing. Simply a masterpiece of literature. Solid ending too. I was in tears. Just. So good. I really don't have the words.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

{Review} UNBECOMING by Rebecca Scherm

ISBN# : 978-0525427506
Page Count: 320
Copyright: January 22, 2015
Publisher: Viking

Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

On the grubby outskirts of Paris, Grace restores bric-a-brac, mends teapots, re-sets gems. She calls herself Julie, says she’s from California, and slips back to a rented room at night. Regularly, furtively, she checks the hometown paper on the Internet. Home is Garland, Tennessee, and there, two young men have just been paroled. One, she married; the other, she’s in love with. Both were jailed for a crime that Grace herself planned in exacting detail. The heist went bad—but not before she was on a plane to Prague with a stolen canvas rolled in her bag. And so, in Paris, begins a cat-and-mouse waiting game as Grace’s web of deception and lies unravels—and she becomes another young woman entirely.

Unbecoming is an intricately plotted and psychologically nuanced heist novel that turns on suspense and slippery identity. With echoes of Alfred Hitchcock and Patricia Highsmith, Rebecca Scherm’s mesmerizing debut is sure to entrance fans of Gillian Flynn, Marisha Pessl, and Donna Tartt.

Mandy's Review:

One of the definitions I found on Merriam-Webster's website for unbecoming is "not according with the standards appropriate to one's position or condition of life." I would say this novel, specifically the character Grace, exemplifies this definition over and over again.

Early on in life Grace understood that she was different, that she wasn't quite right emotionally. She didn't know how to be loved or show love. She knew that there was something bad in her and she wasn't sure how to get rid of it. Grace's family wasn't rich so when one of rich boys showed an interest in Grace she immediately became unbecoming.

Grace became everything Riley wanted her to be. During her transition, she spent more and more time with his family, integrating herself into their home and hearts. Mrs. Graham even began to think of Grace as her daughter and even made one of the rooms in their house Grace's bedroom.

After high school, Grace went to college in New York where she began to change again. She adapted herself to how the snobby girls dressed, acted, talked, etc. One incident in New York affected Grace so badly that she went back home to Tennessee and to Riley ... the last place where Grace thought she knew who she was.

It's while Grace is back home that a plan enters her mind. This plan will change her life forever, but it won't change who Grace is. She will always be someone who is inherently a bad apple.

I have mixed emotions concerning this novel. It was well-written in character portrayal and story development. There were times, though, where the subtleties of the conversations sometimes left me confused. Once I finished the novel, I could replay some conversations in my mind and realize where the subtleties lay. They weren't so obvious during my reading, unfortunately. I think they may have been blatantly obvious to the author while she wrote this novel but I have yet to develop my telepathy skills and, therefore, was left clueless a few times.

Overall, the novel is interesting enough for me to tell you that you should give it a go. I would've liked to see a slightly different ending. Perhaps something involving karma finally biting Grace in the behind.

*A hardcopy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

{2015 TBR Pile Challenge Review} THE ULTIMATE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY by Douglas Adams

ISBN #: 978-0345453747
Page Count: 832
Copyright: April 30, 2002
Publisher: Del Rey

Lupe's Review:

Just like the book says, this is the ULTIMATE guide! However, I wouldn't recommend reading it all in one sitting! I loved Douglas Adams wit and satire and his humor was off the charts! It could get tiring reading the same jokes over and over but if you put it down for a bit and came back to it, it was like reading a fresh book. Which, since there are 5 of them, makes sense. By far my favorite book is Hitchhiker's but a close second has to be So Long And Thanks For All The Fish.

I think my only complaint was the utter lack of Marvin! And if Ford and Arthur are friends, why are they not with each other more often?!? But hey, spacetime travel is complicated, I totally get it. Anyone know which dimension has a good Guide??

Friday, March 20, 2015

{Review} THE NEVER-OPEN DESERT DINER by James Anderson

ISBN #: 978-0912887104
Page Count: 288
Copyright: February 15, 2015
Publisher: Caravel Mystery Books

(Taken from press release)

Ben Jones, the protagonist of James Anderson's haunting debut novel, The Never-Open Desert Diner (Caravel Books, February, 2015), is on the verge of losing his small trucking company. A single, thirty-eight-year-old truck driver, Ben's route takes him back and forth across one of the most desolate and beautiful regions of the Utah desert.

The orphan son of a Native American father and a Jewish social worker, Ben is drawn into a love affair with a mysterious woman, Claire, who plays a cello in the model home of an abandoned housing development in the desert. Her appearance, seemingly out of nowhere, reignites a decades-old tragedy at a roadside café referred to by the locals as The Never-Open Desert Diner. The owner of the diner, Walt Butterfield, is an embittered and solitary old man who refuses to yield to change after his wife's death.

Ben’s daily deliveries along the atmospheric and evocative desert highway bring him into contact with an eccentric cast of characters that includes: John, an itinerant preacher who drags a life-sized cross along the blazing roadside; the Lacey brothers, Fergus and Duncan, who live in boxcars mounted on cinderblocks; and Ginny, a pregnant and homeless punk teenager whose survival skills make her an unlikely heroine.

Ben’s job as a truck driver is more than a career; it is a life he loves. As he faces bankruptcy and the possible loss of everything that matters to him, he finds himself at the heart of a horrific crime that was committed forty years earlier and now threatens to destroy the lives of those left in its wake.

Ben discovers the desert is relentless in its grip, and what the desert wants, it takes. An unforgettable story of love and loss, Ben learns the enduring truth that some violent crimes renew themselves across generations.

The Never-Open Desert Diner is a unique blend of literary mystery and noir  fiction that evokes a strong sense of place. It is a story that holds the reader and refuses to let go and will linger long after the last page.

Charlene's Review:

Ben, a truck driver, and sole contact for many along his isolated route, is dedicated to delivering packages for his customers and not asking questions. When he accidentally discovers a cello-playing woman hiding in the desert, his life takes a dramatic turn. As he longs to pursue a relationship with the mysterious woman, deadly secrets unfold and he must fight to keep the past from recurring.
The Never-Open Desert Diner is a deftly written novel that transcends any expectations of a debut writer. This is a poignant look at humanity and its adaptation to adverse conditions, within its environment, as well as in life. Mr. Anderson has crafted a story that engages and saddens. The eccentric cast of characters play perfectly together to enrich an already riveting storyline. While some may have not been necessary for the plot to play out, they each added to the mystique of the desert route that set the backdrop of the story.

I was deeply affected by the violence, but even more so, by the human spirit that triumphed over it. This is as much a love story, both romantic and familial, as it is a mystery. I would love to see a story written from the point of view of Walt Butterfield. His character spoke to me in so many ways and left me wanting more. I highly recommend this book. It is haunting and beautifully crafted. I believe it will stay with me for a very long time.

5 out of 5 stars

*A physical copy of this novel was provided by the publicist in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

{Blog Tour: Review} FLUENCY by Jennifer Foehner Wells

ISBN #: 978-0990479819
Page Count: 376
Copyright: June 25, 2014
Publisher: Blue Bedlam Books

Book Summary:
(Taken from Goodreads)

NASA discovered the alien ship lurking in the asteroid belt in the 1960s. They kept the Target under intense surveillance for decades, letting the public believe they were exploring the solar system, while they worked feverishly to refine the technology needed to reach it.

The ship itself remained silent, drifting.

Dr. Jane Holloway is content documenting nearly-extinct languages and had never contemplated becoming an astronaut. But when NASA recruits her to join a team of military scientists for an expedition to the Target, it’s an adventure she can’t refuse.

The ship isn’t vacant, as they presumed.

A disembodied voice rumbles inside Jane’s head, "You are home."

Jane fights the growing doubts of her colleagues as she attempts to decipher what the alien wants from her. As the derelict ship devolves into chaos and the crew gets cut off from their escape route, Jane must decide if she can trust the alien’s help to survive.

Kathy's Review:

This book draws in the reader from the initial scene where the astronauts are ready to dock onto this mysterious, city-sized ship. Quickly we learn the background of Jane Halloway and Alan Bergen, who are the two main characters in the novel. The story jumps back in time to show how Jane came to be part of the mission, as well as more of the build-up of the relationship between her and Bergen (hint: at least one of them wants to be “more than friends.”)

Imagine if this was you. Ten months in a spaceship, all preparing for this moment. You’re in space, doing something no human being has ever done before. Not sure what you’re going to walk into. If the ship is inhabited, if it’s empty. Wells does a skillful job of building up this tension.

The novel unfolds into a space ride full of surprises, danger, thrills, weirdness and romance. The book summary kind of gives away that yes, this ship isn’t totally deserted. So I don’t feel too bad telling you that a third main character is the alien navigator on the ship, Ei’Brai. What’s cool about writing sci-fi is you aren’t limited in the respect of having human characters and the Earth as your backdrop. The goings-on on this ship are well thought-out and totally plausible. Having things like space slugs that secrete a poisonous slime could easily go over-the-top, but the author keeps it completely believable within the confines of the novel.

At times I got a little bit lost, but I think that’s part of the author’s intent. Ei’Brai manipulates the humans on board the ship in order to achieve his goal. At times they believe things are happening, but in fact, they are only hallucinations. The mind control or brainwashing, whatever you want to call it, adds another aspect of fear and suspense to the story.

Overall I give this novel high marks. I wouldn’t consider myself a sci-fi nut by any stretch, but I was able to enjoy the plot and was interested in the fates of the characters. Could easily see this as a movie.

*A physical copy of this novel was provided by the tour host for the purposes of this tour and in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, March 14, 2015


Listening Length: 2 hours and 50 minutes
Release Date: December 1, 2014
Publisher: Spoken Word Inc.

Book Summary:
(Taken from Goodreads)

In this outrageous collection of "letters" to the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama, we’re offered a startling inside look at what’s on the minds of Americans today. From celebrities as diverse as Warren Buffett, Bill Clinton, and Steven Spielberg, to anonymous everyday citizens like the minimum-wage waitress in Oklahoma and a dry cleaner named Al Kayda in Wisconsin, Obama hears it, and gets it, from everyone. And when you’re the president, absolutely no subject is off-limits.

An ex-student in Illinois is drowning in an ocean of debt; a harried housewife in Wyoming has dubious ideas about how to save hard-earned pennies; while a gun owner in Tennessee vigorously defends his right to bear arms. Even a Harvard classmate re-appears, with a not-so-subtle demand for money. Obama, who’s obviously a very busy man, sometimes answers with a brief innocuous letter of his own.

Echoing another classic of U.S. history, Alexis de Tocqueville’s ‘Democracy In America’, ‘Obama Confidential’ offers a vivid, consistently amusing snapshot of America in the second decade of the 21st century, with hilarious results.

Kathy's Review:

This is an audiobook, which is about 90% of the entertainment value because this guy does a bunch of different voices. His impersonations are pretty good, too. He does Obama, Clinton, Bush Jr. and Sr. and a host of “regular” folks. There’s a female voice that comes on occasionally but mostly it’s this guy doing a one-man show. For having to do so many different voices, they all seem pretty distinct. Except the guys from Texas, who all sound like George W.

I’ll admit something. When I agreed to review this audiobook, I thought I was signing up for a non-fiction book. I thought this was going to be actual letters to Obama. Within the first minute I realized I was in for some satire.

Satire can be mean-spirited, especially if you have a political bias one way or the other. This book is really not mean-spirited in any way. If I had to guess, I’d say this guy likes Obama. But even when satirizing the Bush family, he’s humorous but not over-the-top.

There are three discs, and by the end of disc one I was kind of already tiring of the gimmick. All told it probably took me a little over two hours to listen to the whole thing. However, it was amusing enough that it held my interest. My only complaint is that there was too much Ohio-bashing going on. As a resident of the Buckeye State, I took issue with my home being made the butt of so many jokes. (Although I did really like the “Ohioans for Ohio” bit.)

The one other thing that made it a bit hard to follow is that it jumped around in time. So, a letter from 2013 might be before a letter from 2009 and then it would go back to 2012. I wonder if the letters were put into chronological order if it might tell a better story.

Set aside your political bias and give these CDs a listen. It won’t take too much of your time, and we’re on the final months of Obama’s second term, so there’s no better time than to review the past 7+ years of events.

*An audio copy of this book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

{Review} THE SHIP OF BRIDES by Jojo Moyes

ISBN #: 978-0143126478
Page Count: 464
Copyright: October 28, 2014
Publisher: Penguin Books

Book Summary:
(Taken from back cover)

1946. World War II has ended, and all over the world young women are beginning to fulfill the promises made to the men they wed in wartime.

In Sydney, Australia, four women join 650 other war brides on an extraordinary voyage to England - aboard HMS Victoria, which carries not just arms and aircraft, but also a thousand naval officers. Rules are strictly enforced, but the men and the brides will find their lives intertwined despite the Navy's ironclad sanctions. And for Frances Mackenzie, the complicated young woman whose past comes back to haunt her, the journey will change her life in ways she never could have predicted - forever.

Mandy's Review:

Well, it was bound to happen. I've enjoyed the other Jojo Moyes' books so much that it was inevitable there'd be one that I'm not too fond of. Don't get me wrong, the writing is solid and the story's well-researched. I just didn't connect with the characters as much as I did in the other Moyes' novels.

Frances was probably the biggest surprise. I knew when the novel started that she had some skeletons in her closet, but I wasn't sure what. When I found out what they were, the way she acts now made sense. I did feel for her, but from a distance. Sort of like a news story you hear and you empathize with the people in it, but it doesn't hold you emotionally.

Avice was so hoity-toity (sp?) that I just wanted to slap her. I know you know the type. The girls that are so spoiled they call their mother and father "mummy" and "daddy," or "daddy-kins." The ones that would rather talk to their father because he's wrapped around her finger. The ones that stomp their silk-wrapped little foot and pout knowing daddy will throw some money at whatever situation they're in to fix things. Needless to say, Avice tested my patience.

Jean was the youngest of the bunch and the most promiscuous. Part of me felt for her. I think she did it for attention and to appear more worldly. Problem is, she wasn't worldly and her actions usually wound up getting her in more trouble.

Margaret was a combination of Avice and Frances with a bit of Jean thrown in. Of the four, I related with her the most. She enjoyed time around the men more than the women because, we all know it, less drama. I totally relate to that.

I'm not sure what it was that turned me off of this novel. Maybe it was all the stuff I have going on in my personal life. Maybe it was the military aspect of things. Maybe it was the fact that I had a hard time keeping up with who was who for the male characters. Whatever it was, I would still recommend it to you Jojo Moyes fans out there. I don't want one not-so-great experience to deter you from trying it out.

*A physical copy of this novel was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

{Review} DISTANT SUNS - THE JOURNEY HOME by Patricia Smith

ISBN #: 978-1492727842
Page Count: 186
Copyright: September 14, 2013
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

(Take from back cover)

The crew of the star ship Terra - the last hope to avoid extinction for the human race - are nearly two years from the dying planet Earth, when their four thousand year long journey, to reach the first possible habitable world, is unexpectedly halted.

Charlene's Review:

This is a sequel to Ms. Smith’s Distant Suns, a story of a deadly hydrogen cloud headed for Earth. As it gets closer, Jupiter intercepts the cloud and changes to it and the surrounding atmosphere mix to signal the eventual end of life on Earth. Select individuals are given a space on mankind's last hope for survival, the Star Ship Terra.

In The Journey Home, Ms Smith picks up two years later, and the civilians and crew of the starship are adapting well. The purpose of their journey is to ensure the survival of the human race and allow future generations to find a suitable home on another planet. They hold no hope for ever seeing their beloved planet Earth, or any remaining family and friends, again. When they are unexpectedly stopped along their journey, they must make a critical choice as to whether to continue on, or return to Earth and look for survivors.

Ms. Smith has a writing style that draws you in, quickly. There were a few surprises inside this sequel that I would never have expected, as she leaned heavily on astronomy and science in the first book. I was a little skeptical at first, as to how the new events would alter the original storyline, but it worked, and led to a whole new opportunity for the characters I loved so much from the first book.

I hate to let all the secrets out, so I will just say, if you have not heard of Patricia Smith, I do believe you will. She has a gift for intelligent, believable science fiction with a heart for engaging characters. I was especially delighted to see she left a possibility open for a third book with brand new dynamics, and I do hope she will allow me the pleasure of reviewing it. I will be looking forward to seeing what she comes up with next.

*A physical copy was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015


ASIN #: B00JUE782A
File Size: 604 KB
Page Count: 329
Copyright: April 21, 2014

Book Summary:
(Taken from Goodreads)

No one ever sees it coming. One 'ordinary' evening 34 year-old Alistair Tunbridge is injured in a freak accident that leaves him in a coma, snatched from a life of competence and comfortable success. He awakens to the horror of not being able to control his own body, and the cheerful company of fellow patient Damien, who seems to really understand. His wife Lauren, when he remembers her, is cool and detached and sides with 'them' - the doctor, nurses and therapists who insist they know how he must do things now. Everything. Beginning to resent Lauren's detachment, he repeatedly pushes her away - not realizing she is one of the people who can help him the most. Not until he's confronted with the knowledge that Damien and Lauren have shared confidences - and learned their life-changing secrets - that he reclaims responsibility and begins to make a difference in all their lives. This work of fiction is written by a Physiotherapist, based on hundreds of true stories of how ordinary people cope when their lives are touched by disaster.

Kathy's Review:

You know when you visit someone in the hospital? You don’t want to be there. No one does – hospitals are scary, they smell weird, and people in them are sick or dying. It’s not a pleasant place to be, with the possible exception of the maternity ward. And it’s boring. You sit, sometimes a nurse comes in and does stuff, maybe you get up and walk around with the patient, depending on his or her condition. You watch the clock tick. You made idle conversation. You go get bland food at the cafeteria.

The same goes for being a patient in a hospital. You’ve got nothing but time, and it passes very slowly. You go through your healing process, you see doctors, you rest, you eat, you get out of bed, you walk around, but that’s pretty much it.

NOW imagine reading a book that describes, in detail, all of the above activity.

I can’t imagine that to many of you, this sounds interesting. And I feel the same way. I had a hard time getting into this book because I was waiting for the “story” to kick in. It did, at times, when we were privy to the thoughts of Lauren, Ally, etc. I was mostly interested in Lauren’s pregnancy and her emotions given the state of her husband. But for the most part, I felt like I was nursing a lukewarm cup of horrible coffee and smelling sterile medical instruments and sick people smell.

Kudos to the author for putting the depth of detail into the book as she did; it’s obvious she knows her stuff and I didn’t for once question the medical accuracy of what was going on. It’s just not really engaging as a work of fiction.

What I do think she did nicely is create the rapport between the Gerry and Lauren, and Ally and Damien. Gerry, the doctor, plays a major role in the novel, which is interesting because at least from my perspective, you don’t think of doctors as having emotional connections to their patients. How could they? With the amount of heartbreak that would allow, it just doesn’t seem possible. And yet, because of Lauren’s background, Gerry breaks that wall down and is able to communicate with her peer-to-peer.

My dirty mind kept thinking, are these two going to fall for each other? And that’s some straight-up soap opera stuff. But, it would have been more interesting … ;)

At some point, though, I found myself bouncing between boredom and engagement with the story. The parts which described the medical stuff, I skimmed or skipped entirely until I saw dialogue. Then I read those parts with interest. It would be unfair for me to say I didn’t like this book at all, because in spite of the aspects which I found to be boring, I found myself liking the characters and wanting to know how it all ended up.

I’d suggest that although the author is very knowledgeable about physical therapy, that this part take a major backseat in any future writing she does.

*An ecopy of this book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, March 8, 2015


ISBN #: 978-0143107422
Page Count: 288
Copyright: February 24, 2015
Publisher: Penguin Classics

(Taken from back cover)

A rare discovery in the world of fairy tales - now for the first time in English.

With this volume, the holy trinity of fairy tales - the Brothers Grimm, Charles Perrault, and Hans Christian Andersen - becomes a quartet. In the 1850s, Franz Xaver von Schönwerth traversed the forests, lowlands, and mountains of northern Bavaria to record fairy tales, gaining the admiration of even the Brothers Grimm. Most of Schönwerth's work was lost - until a few years ago, when thirty boxes of manu-scripts were uncovered in a German municipal archive.

Now, for the first time, Schönwerth's lost fairy tales are available in English. Violent, dark, and full of action, and upending the relationship between damsels in distress and their dragon-slaying heroes, these more than seventy stories bring us closer than ever to the unadorned oral tradition in which fairy tales are rooted, revolutionizing our understanding of a hallowed genre.

Charlene's Review:

Accustomed to tidier versions of fairy tales, as told by Hollywood, The Turnip Princess collection is a tad heavier in its telling. The stories are collected from various sources within the Upper Palatinate region of Bavaria, which are detailed in the back of the book, and a commentary is included, as well, for each story. Translated from German, and broken down into 6 different parts, such as Tales of Magic and Romance, or Otherworldly Creatures, there are 70+ stories included.

I sadly admit, this was not a good fit for me. While I appreciate the storytelling culture lost in this instant gratification society that has no time for its elders stories, I found them dark and usually pointless. There are moral lessons within them, and its fair share of princes and princesses in disguise, as well as mythical creatures. The hardest part for me was the endings of most stories were abrupt, leaving me feeling as if the stories were not finished, or wondering if I just missed the point. I may be too "modern" to appreciate these stories, however, I did appreciate the ideas and people behind them, as referenced in the commentaries.

IF you are a fancier of the dark, twisted fairy tale world, I am confident you will enjoy the stories within The Turnip Princess. I will stick to the happily ever after versions with tidy endings.

*A physical copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Q&A with Jacob Rubin, author of THE POSER

Giovanni Bernini, The Poser’s protagonist, is known as the World’s Greatest Impressionist. He’s born with the uncanny ability to imitate anyone he meets instantaneously. Throughout the literary spectrum, plenty of stories have been written about performers or performing, but not impressionists specifically. How did you conjure up such an interesting character?
The Poser began, oddly enough, in the trash. Years ago I was working on a not very good short story about a man who wakes up in a woman’s apartment after a one-night stand. Remembering little of the night before, he begins to root around in her garbage for clues. One of the items he finds was, to my surprise, a black-and-white photo of a famed impressionist, a man who could famously imitate anyone he met. As I soon discovered, I was much more interested in this unexpected performer than I was in the guy who discovered him. I scrapped the story right then and wrote another one, very quickly, about this character Giovanni Bernini. After many years, it became The Poser.
You have experience as a performer—both as a juggler for hire and as the lead rapper of the hip-hop group Witness Protection Program, opening for groups like Jurassic Five and Blackalicious, to name a few. How has your background as a performer influenced the creation of Giovanni Bernini?
I can’t seem to get away from performance, in life or in writing. Personae, masks, fraudulence, disguise—all have fascinated me for as long as I can remember. I think a lot about that Picasso line: that art is a “lie that tells the truth.” It seems to me this paradox can obtain in life, too. Like, I once read an article in the Times about a survivor of 9/11, a woman who had been in the south tower when the planes hit. After the tragedy, she organized these legendary support groups. They were these deeply cathartic events, arranged with great thought and care. Survivors and relatives of victims depended on her entirely, so strong was her empathy. Only later did it come out that this woman hadn’t been in the towers at all—she made the whole thing up. I find such behavior deeply disturbing, of course, but fascinating, too. The lie, for this woman at least, clearly felt like an emotional truth.

I did stand-up comedy for a little while, and I think the status of the stand-up comedian reflects a similar paradox: instead of a lie that tells the truth, maybe a stand-up states a truth so serious it has to be packaged as a joke. The stage offers a kind of loophole, a free zone in which what would otherwise be punishably inappropriate can be aired with impunity, even to applause. It’s what performance offers in general, I think: this magical, cordoned-off space where people can lie, hurl abuse, decompensate, and the crowd hoorahs! In The Poser, I wanted to explore a character who finds that his previously outrageous behavior is celebrated simply because it’s put on the stage.
A man with a million personas, Giovanni seemingly can be anyone except himself and at one point in the story undergoes psychoanalysis. Coming from a family of psychiatrists yourself, you must have some insight into analysis and some rather interesting stories, to boot. Will you talk briefly about growing up among psychoanalysts and how that may have shaped Giovanni as a character and the story as a whole?
My grandfather, Theodore Isaac Rubin, was a very famous psychiatrist in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. He appeared regularly on the Phil Donoghue show and wrote many bestselling novels and self-help books, one of which was turned into an Oscar-nominated movie, David and Lisa. Largely because of his influence, my father, aunt, and uncle all went on to become shrinks. Suffice it to say, there is no dearth of introspection at our family get-togethers. (Somewhat notoriously, I informed a classmate of mine in the third grade that he was “projecting”; I am still living this down.) And yet I also wanted to show how beneficial therapy can be. I think portrayals of analysis in books and movies are often pretty lazy, framing it as this ridiculous or masturbatory exercise. I wanted to show that there is true empathy in it – a kind of warm detachment – that can really help people.
The Poser is told from Giovanni’s perspective, at a point in his life where he’s looking back at everything that’s befallen him. What compelled you to use first-person confession as the mode for telling the story?
The enjoinder to “show don’t tell” is important for every young writer to hear, and yet so many of my favorite books wholly disregard it. Notes from the Underground, for instance, or Walker Percy’s The Moviegoer, the novels of Robertson Davies and Stanley Elkin. Everyone knows novels can’t compete with movies or video games for sheer sensory onslaught, but books, for my money, capture better than any other media the interiority of experience, the “music of someone’s intelligence,” as Richard Ford once put it. My favorite books promise just this kind of intimate—and for that reason, often scandalous—experience. Like, Lolita or Denis Johnson’s Jesus’s Son. You open those books, and you’re encountering this presence, this personality talking about something it shouldn’t have done in a voice unlike any you’ve ever heard. My favorite books, probably for that reason, feel like a secret, and you feel slightly cheated when you find out someone else read it. You’re like, “Hands off. She told that to me and no one else.”

Thematically, I thought the first-person narrative was necessary for The Poser as it’s about a man struggling to find himself, which he does, in the end, by telling the story. I also liked the tension of having someone act a certain way, as a performer or fraud, while narrating his often discordant internal experience. He says one thing, but thinks another. This is something I think fiction can do particularly well.
Giovanni’s world is noir-ish, vaudevillian, even a bit surreal. The story is set in an imaginary country that somewhat resembles America of the 1950s and 60s. What was your thought process in setting the story in a parallel, fable-like world?  Did you do any research to flesh out its wonderful detail?
I knew I was taking a risk in setting the book in an imaginary place, a parallel America of the 50s and 60s, and yet it felt necessary for the kind of book I was hoping to write. The Poser, as I see it, is about Giovanni’s attempt to become a real person; it felt right that the landscape, too, might strain to be real, flickering between the evoked and the shadowy. I did do research about the corresponding time in America. Stuff about clothes, some slang, etc. I used as models for the noir prose style novels by favorites like Jim Thompson and Raymond Chandler.

I can’t seem to escape the surreal. In visual art, it’s always been my favorite: Giacometti’s sculptures, for instance, or the paintings of Paul Klee. I think I’ve always aspired to whatever the prose equivalent of such a way of seeing would be. For me, it is rare that when meeting a person I note what color nail polish she’s wearing or which kind of ankle boot (this can be very embarrassing, mind you, for someone meant to be observant). Encountering a person can be a pretty damn surreal experience, much more like meeting a Giacometti or a Klee. I think the same is true of places. Just walking around and seeing people yammering on their cellphones or driving around in these motorized chrome bubbles—we live in a sci-fi movie! My agent, Jin Auh, once relayed a line the author George Garrett had about Fellini’s movies. He called them “science fiction set in the past.” I loved that. I think that’s what I’m trying to write.
Bestselling author Sam Lipsyte praised you as “a great hope for comic fiction in the 21st century.” Did you set out to write a humorous book? Were there any books or authors—comedic or otherwise—who inspired you while writing The Poser?
Sam Lipsyte has made me laugh so many times, so I was on cloud nine when I found out he enjoyed the book. I certainly hope the novel’s funny. My old teacher Barry Hannah used to say that books should offer “deep entertainment”; the unkillable ham in me can’t seem to let go of the second word. All of my favorite contemporary writers make me laugh: Jennifer Egan, Jonathan Lethem, Sam Lipsyte, Barry. Even very dark, supposedly depressing, classics are secretly knee-slappers. I’m thinking of writers like Knut Hamsun, Thomas Bernhard, Samuel Beckett, and Herman Melville. I read Paul Auster’s introduction to Hunger, in which Auster talks about how dark and miserable the book is (all of which is true, of course), but I also thought, it’s hilarious! The truly tragic is the funniest stuff there is! The fact that we live on a spinning ball in an endless void, or that we possess a seemingly infinite consciousness but will all die. It’s just so absurd. I think laugher is the sound of someone accepting their powerlessness and through that acceptance briefly somehow transcending it. And it shouldn’t ever be explained. And I now ruined it forever.
Besides working as a novelist, a magician, and a rapper, you also write screenplays. In fact, Times Square, a script you co-wrote with Taylor Materne, was recently optioned by Focus Features. In your opinion, what’s the biggest difference between writing a novel and a script, and do you prefer writing one form over the other?
I’ve found the two to be very different. In film, structure is king, so you really have to work out the entire plot as much as you can before setting off to write. It helps a lot to work with someone else to figure out what needs to happen when.  Of course, you often end up changing nearly everything anyway, but it’s almost more like assembling a watch or engine, some device that has to meet company-mandated specs. Fiction writing, for me, is a much more unwieldy, inefficient, foolhardy, and reliably meaningful experience. That said, I’ve always enjoyed writing dialogue, and the script stuff is a fun opportunity to pen snappy exchanges. In movie writing, you get to put down things like, “NO WAY OUT. The green creature on his heels, he GRABS the duffel bag and – screw it – LEAPS OFF the roof over the sea wall to the CHURNING WATERS of the GULF of MEXICO.”
The Poser is your debut novel. Is there a second in the works? If so, could you talk a bit about it? If not, would you mind divulging what other creative projects you’re currently working on?
There is a lengthy word file in my laptop that I hesitate to call a second novel, but perhaps it will be one day! It is too early to talk about it, but I hope it will be funny.

Friday, March 6, 2015

{Blog Hop} First Line Friday #11

First lines of novels can capture your attention, give you a clue to the character's past or present, set the stage for the entire novel, or more. First lines are extremely important and have a great responsibility. With that in mind, we'd like to welcome you to First Line Friday.

Lupe's Read
I did two things on my seventy-fifth birthday. I visited my wife's grave. Then I joined the army.

Charlene's Read
The woman crossed to the window and moved the blind aside to peer apprehensively outside.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

{2015 Amazing Book Race Review} THE INVENTION OF WINGS by Sue Monk Kidd

ISBN #: 978-0670024780
Page Count: 384
Copyright: January 7, 2014
Publisher: Viking; First Edition

Book Summary:
(Taken from Amazon)

Hetty “Handful” Grimke, an urban slave in early nineteenth century Charleston, yearns for life beyond the suffocating walls that enclose her within the wealthy Grimke household. The Grimke’s daughter, Sarah, has known from an early age she is meant to do something large in the world, but she is hemmed in by the limits imposed on women.

Kidd’s sweeping novel is set in motion on Sarah’s eleventh birthday, when she is given ownership of ten year old Handful, who is to be her handmaid. We follow their remarkable journeys over the next thirty five years, as both strive for a life of their own, dramatically shaping each other’s destinies and forming a complex relationship marked by guilt, defiance, estrangement and the uneasy ways of love.

As the stories build to a riveting climax, Handful will endure loss and sorrow, finding courage and a sense of self in the process. Sarah will experience crushed hopes, betrayal, unrequited love, and ostracism before leaving Charleston to find her place alongside her fearless younger sister, Angelina, as one of the early pioneers in the abolition and women’s rights movements.

Inspired by the historical figure of Sarah Grimke, Kidd goes beyond the record to flesh out the rich interior lives of all of her characters, both real and invented, including Handful’s cunning mother, Charlotte, who courts danger in her search for something better.

This exquisitely written novel is a triumph of storytelling that looks with unswerving eyes at a devastating wound in American history, through women whose struggles for liberation, empowerment, and expression will leave no reader unmoved.

Mandy's Review:

I would like to think that if I had been born in the time where slaves were prominent, I would've been part of the underground railroad and/or abolitionist movement. Reading this novel, though, makes me realize how little women's opinions were valued during this time. Would I really have the will and domineering spirit to go against the norms of society?

On her eleventh birthday, the spark of equality for all people was ignited in Sarah's spirit when her mother presented her with Hetty as a gift. Sarah, bless her heart, had a very naive, limited view of the world. She thought she could just go to her father and have him set Hetty free for her. What Sarah began to realize on that day was that her family held more value in maintaining society's standards than going against the grain. At one point in her life, Sarah FINALLY begins making choices to fight against the prejudiced flow of society.

Hetty, as typical of many slaves, was born a slave to a slave mother. Unlike some slaves, she's actually able to stay with her mother on the same plantation. Hetty yearns to be free. She finds little ways over the years to proclaim her independence. Not once does Hetty allow herself to believe she's a slave. She inherently knows that it's important for her mind to be free. If her mind is free, then she's free. It's only a matter of time that her body follows suit ... whether in life or death.

I enjoyed this novel for the literary aspect. It's not a fanciful read. It's meant to be read seriously and with care. It's slightly heavy in its content, but would appeal to the majority of literary readers out there. I would definitely read this book again.

*A physical copy of this novel was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

{Review} FASCINATING RHYTHM by Anne Louise Bannon

ISBN #: 978-0990992318
Page Count: 346
Copyright: March 1, 2015
Publisher: Robin Goodfellow Enterprises

(Taken from Amazon)

When Frank Selby is murdered, his secretary Kathy Briscow is the prime suspect. After all, she was doing his work for him, including editing The Old Money Story, by socialite Freddie Little. Only Freddie thinks he knows who really killed Selby. So he and Kathy join forces, searching the speakeasies and streets of 1924 New York City to find a killer with an obsession.

Charlene's Review:

Kathy Briscow, secretary at Healcroft House Publishing, becomes the number one suspect in a murder when her boss, who she was secretly editing for is murdered. Her supposed motive? Promotion to senior editor and to finally take the credit she deserves. Author, Freddie Little, upon learning of Kathy’s work, demands she stay on his book, and fearing he knows the truth, teams up with Kathy, and together, they set search for the killer.

This is a delightful book, set in a fascinating era. As Ms. Bannon takes us through the mystery surrounding the editors death, we are privy to the edgy, glamorous underworld of the 1920's. Set in speakeasies and alleyways, and ever mindful of a woman's place, its like stepping back in time. Touching on socioeconomic differences, sexism, and Prohibition, there is a lot of meat to this story. Ms. Bannon balances all of this with a ballsy protagonist and a sweet, tough guy, fighting the truth, and maybe finding a little romance.

Fascinating Rhythm is reminiscent of Agatha Christie or Dorothy Sayers’ novels of the time period. A very nice story to cozy up to a fire with and imbibe. Legally, of course.

*A physical copy of this book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

{Blog Tour: Review} DUE FOR DISCARD by Sharon St. George

Series: Aimee Machado Mystery (Book 1)
ISBN #: 978-1603812238
Page Count: 340
Copyright: March 1, 2015
Publisher: Camel Press

Book Summary:
(Taken from back cover)

Aimee Machado is thrilled to be starting her first job as a forensic librarian at the medical center in the town of Timbergate, north of Sacramento, California. Her ebullient mood is somewhat dampened by her recent breakup with her former live-in boyfriend, Nick Alexander. And then there's a little matter of murder: on Aimee's first day on the job, a body is found in a nearby Dumpster and soon identified as her supervisor's wife, Bonnie Beardsley.

Aimee's heartbreaker of a brother and best friend, Harry, just happens to be one of the last people to see Bonnie alive, but he is hardly the only suspect. Bonnie was notorious for her wild partying and man-stealing ways, and she has left a trail of broken hearts and bitterness. Aimee is determined to get her brother off the suspect list.

Aimee's snooping quickly makes her a target. Isolated on her grandparents' llama farm where she fled post-breakup, she realizes exactly how vulnerable she is. Three men have pledged to protect her: her brother Harry, her ex, Nick, and the dashing hospital administrator with a reputation for womanizing, Jared Quinn. But they can't be on the alert every minute, not when Aimee is so bent on cracking the case with or without their help.

Book Buy Links:

$4.95 ebbok, $15.95 paperback

Mandy's Review:

I'm always in the search of a good mystery. I enjoy putting my detective skills to work and exercising my brain in trying to figure out clues. It's a good thing I received this book for free because the cover alone would not have drawn me in, had it been sitting on a bookstore's bookshelf. Although, the llama on the front would've probably made me go, "What the heck?" and I would've picked it up to read the summary to see if it told me what a llama was doing on the cover.

Aimee has recently received her Master's in Library Science with a focus on Forensics and this job at Timbergate Medical Center is her first real job. She's excited by the chance to be a part of something helpful to the local law enforcement: a forensic library where help in solving crimes could be found. She's naturally inquisitive, which shows in how she gets others to share gossip with her. Being inquisitive can cause problems, especially when there's a murder investigation going on ... which puts Aimee in the sights of the killer.

Harry, Aimee's brother, became a playboy when his last serious girlfriend broke his heart. He's even been connected to the recently deceased Bonnie Beardsley, which puts him on the suspect list with the police. Aimee and Harry are best friends as well as siblings so she knows when Harry's hiding something from her. She's just not sure what it is. Did he have something to do with Bonnie's death?

Then there's Mr. Beardsley, Aimee's boss and Bonnie's husband. On Aimee's first day on the job, he gets questioned by the police about the disappearance of his wife. When it's known she's dead and recently found in a nearby dumpster, he doesn't seem all that sad about it. In fact, he's practically skipping into the office and whistling. Not common behavior when someone's loved one has been murdered, but did he do it?

Overall the story was engaging and, surprisingly, a quick read. I do think it might have been dragged out just a little bit, but not enough to be overly noticeable ... and I also appreciated that the main person involved wasn't someone you'd readily suspect. I think the majority of you mystery lovers out there would enjoy giving this one a go, as I did.

*A physical copy of this novel was provided for the purposes of this blog tour as well as in exchange for an honest review.
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