Friday, March 31, 2017

2017 Backlist Reader Challenge: March Roundup

It's time for another roundup of mini-reviews for the 2017 Backlist Reader Challenge!

The Brutal Telling (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #5) by Louise Penny (2009)

Inspector Gamache is back in Three Pines, investigating the discovery of a body in the bistro owned by Three Pines resident Olivier Brule.

I really enjoyed this installment of the series.  I loved being back in Three Pines, surrounded by the usual cast of characters, plus a few new ones (although Ruth is starting to get on my nerves a little - she's just too odd!).  It always surprises me how involved the townsfolk are in the investigation and how Gamache just tells them every little detail - whatever happened to "no comment, it's an ongoing investigation"?  Also, is it bad that one of the things I like best about these books are the descriptions of food?  I get so hungry while reading!

Anyway, Gamache and his team investigate the murder of a hermit, who no one seems to know.  The hermit's treasure trove of priceless artifacts in his cabin was a nice touch, and so interesting to read about some of the pieces.  My love for Gamache grows with each novel, from his dry humor to his trust in his team, especially when he allows new members to prove themselves.  Olivier is the chief suspect the entire novel, and he really doesn't help himself by constantly lying - doesn't he know better by now, knowing Gamache?  The conclusion to the novel seemed too obvious, so I'm not totally convinced this is the end of this mystery! 4 stars

 An Echo in the Bone (Outlander #7) by Diana Gabaldon (2009)

The seventh installment in the Outlander series, this book features the continuing adventures of Jamie and Claire in America during the Revolution.

Gabaldon has added a huge amount of characters since the first book, and this book also features major storylines from John Grey and his stepson, William, and Brianna, Roger, and their kids.  I could have done without so much John Grey/William, especially William.  I think there are companion novels that delve more into their stories, but as I've never read them, I felt like I was missing something.

I enjoyed the Brianna/Roger storyline more than I thought I would; now that they've gone back to the 20th century, it's interesting watching them adjust to their new lives but still remain connected to Claire and Jamie, particularly through letters that somehow miraculously survived.

Unfortunately, with so many characters and storylines, things just get a bit muddled and confusing, trying to keep track of everything.  Gabaldon's novels are obviously well-researched, but sometimes I feel she spends too much time on Claire's medical procedures at the expense of major plot points, particularly a major event involving Jamie that happens near the end of this book.  This could have been expanded upon and the fall-out really explored; while it will most likely be referenced in the next book, it seemed to be dealt with too quickly and too easily.  3 stars

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

"Waiting on" Wednesday: No One Is Coming To Save Us

"Waiting on" Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine and spotlights upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating!

No One Is Coming To Save Us
Stephanie Powell Watts
Expected publication date: April 4, 2017
The Great Gatsby brilliantly recast in the contemporary South: a powerful first novel about an extended African-American family and their colliding visions of the American Dream.

JJ Ferguson has returned home to Pinewood, North Carolina to build his dream home and to woo his high school sweetheart, Ava. But he finds that the people he once knew and loved have changed, just as he has. Ava is now married, and wants a baby more than anything. The decline of the town’s once-thriving furniture industry has made Ava’s husband Henry grow distant and frustrated. Ava’s mother Sylvia has put her own life on hold as she caters to and meddles with those around her, trying to fill the void left by her absent son. And Don, Sylvia’s undeserving but charming husband, just won’t stop hanging around.

JJ’s newfound wealth forces everyone to consider what more they want and deserve from life than what they already have—and how they might go about getting it. Can they shape their lives to align with their wishes rather than their realities? Or are they resigned to the rhythms of the particular lives they lead? No One Is Coming to Save Us is a revelatory debut from an insightful voice that combines a universally resonant story with an intimate glimpse into the hearts of one family. - from Goodreads

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Authors I'd Love to Meet

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  This week's topic is authors I'd love to meet!
  1. Kate Morton: Easily one of my favorite authors.  Her writing is just so magical and her Instagram is full of pretty pictures and hints about her next book!
  2. J.K. Rowling: I just want to bask in her genius!
  3. George R.R. Martin: I need to know when that next book is coming out!
  4. Emily Giffin: She is one of the few authors I will pre-order books from.  She seems so down-to-earth - her Facebook feed always has pictures of her adorable kids and dog!
  5. Diana Gabaldon: I love her Outlander series, but I have a few questions for her.
  6. Lauren Weisberger: For writing some of my favorite smart chick lit!
  7. Louise Penny: To find out how she comes up with all those great mysteries for Inspector Gamache.
  8. Beatriz Williams: Because her books are just so much fun!
  9. Erik Larson:  To find out what his next book is going to be about!
  10. Marissa Meyer: Just to tell her how much I loved The Lunar Chronicles!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Review: The Shadow Land

The Shadow Land
Elizabeth Kostova
Expected publication date: April 11, 2017
A young American woman, Alexandra Boyd, has traveled to Sofia, Bulgaria, hoping that life abroad will salve the wounds left by the loss of her beloved brother. Soon after arriving in this elegant East European city, however, she helps an elderly couple into a taxi and realizes too late that she has accidentally kept one of their bags. Inside she finds an ornately carved wooden box engraved with a name: Stoyan Lazarov. Raising the hinged lid, she discovers that she is holding an urn filled with human ashes.

As Alexandra sets out to locate the family and return this precious item, she will first have to uncover the secrets of a talented musician who was shattered by oppression and she will find out all too quickly that this knowledge is fraught with its own danger. - from Goodreads
I received a copy of this book for free through Goodreads Giveaways.

Elizabeth Kostova wrote one of my favorite books, The Historian,  so I was very excited to get an early copy of her newest book!

Alexandra Boyd has just arrived in Bulgaria, soon to start a teaching position, when a chance encounter on the street mistakenly leaves her in the possession of someone else's bag, which she discovers to be the ashes of Stoyan Lazarov. She feels compelled to personally return them to the family, but this decision plunges her into a situation she never imagined, joined by her taxi driver Bobby, who turns out to be more than he appears.

The story felt a bit repetitive; Alexandra and Bobby search for the family and while they gain some information at each spot, it almost felt like they were taking one step forward and two steps back.  There's a lot of searching and not much finding.  Someone seems to be following them and making vague threats, but I didn't really feel the tension and danger; it could have been built up more.

I felt it took a bit too long to get to the point of the story.  It is unclear why Stoyan Lazarov and his ashes are so important to the bigger picture; he was a great violinist with a wife and son, but there didn't appear to be any notoriety or importance surrounding him.  The political situation in Bulgaria in the 20th century plays a large role in the story, particularly how oppressive the country became and how political prisoners were treated after WWII, and it wasn't until the very end of the story that I finally understood how Stoyan fit in, although the whole thing was still kind of confusing. 

The story ties up very quickly and neatly, which I did appreciate in this case.  I love Kostova's writing, but I felt the story became a bit overwhelming and convoluted.  I'm not much one for politics, but I think readers who understand and appreciate political intrigue better would like this book very much.

3 stars

Friday, March 24, 2017

Through The Years: How My Genre Preferences Have Changed

When I look back on my reading habits over the last 5, 10, and even 15 years, I can easily see that I'm not the same reader I used to be, and the biggest change has been in the genres I read.

When I was in high school, I somehow came across a list of 100 or so classic novels, and I became obsessed with reading my way through it.  I don't have the list anymore, but I know I read a fair number of them.  I even still own most of those books, although I haven't read them in years.  Of course, there are some classics that I still haven't read, but I'm glad that at least at one point in my life, I was exposed to these important works beyond what was required in my classes and enjoyed them.  Even to this day, Jane Eyre is still one of my favorite books.

During my college years, my time for fun reading was drastically reduced.  Between my courses and extracurriculars, there wasn't a lot of free time.  However, I do recall spending some Friday nights in the student center, reading Anna Karenina on one of the couches, so I guess my love of the classics was still going strong at that point.  I also remember reading The Pillars of the Earth, a novel about the construction of a cathedral in the Middle Ages, for a course on medieval Europe.  It was a nice change from our somewhat dry textbooks to read historical fiction.  I still own the copy I bought for my class and reread it from time to time.

After college, I moved out on my own for the first time and realized there are a lot of hours to fill when you live by yourself.  I still loved history, reading and learning about it, so sometimes I read nonfiction.  I discovered author Erik Larson, who writes amazingly readable but thoroughly researched nonfiction.  I also read a lot of historical fiction; Philippa Gregory became one of my favorite authors.  In addition, my love of smart chick lit began, Emily Giffin and Lauren Weisberger in particular.

Now that I'm in my early 30s, I find myself branching out in terms of what genres I read.  I still read a lot of historical fiction and chick lit, but I've also added contemporary fiction and YA to the mix.  Mystery/thriller is yet another genre that I am constantly reading.  Basically, these days, I'm open to trying most things at least once; if it looks interesting, I'll give it a shot. 

What are your favorite genres to read?  Have your tastes changed over the years?

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Review: The Otto Digmore Difference

The Otto Digmore Difference
Brent Hartinger
Published February 21, 2017
“Road trip!”

Otto Digmore is a 26-year-old gay guy with dreams of being a successful actor, and he’s finally getting some attention as a result of his supporting role on a struggling sitcom. But he’s also a burn survivor with scars on half his face, and all indications are that he’s just too different to ever find real Hollywood success.

Now he’s up for an amazing new role that could change everything. Problem is, he and his best friend Russel Middlebrook have to drive all the way across the country in order to get to the audition on time.

It’s hard to say which is worse: the fact that so many things go wrong, or that Russel, an aspiring screenwriter, keeps comparing their experiences to some kind of road trip movie.

There’s also the fact that Otto and Russel were once boyfriends, and Otto is starting to realize that he still might have romantic feelings for his best friend.

Just how far will Otto go to get the role, and maybe the guy, of his dreams?- from Goodreads
I received a copy of this book for free from the author in exchange for an honest review.   I also want to thank Lauren from Shooting Stars Mag and Let's Get Beyond Tolerance for bringing this book to my attention.

Otto Digmore is an actor, and when he finds out that an audition for the role of a lifetime is happening across the country, he and his friend Russel take a road trip.  Otto is one of the most self-aware and honest main characters I've ever come across.  He's not afraid to admit that being an actor means he lives a double life, and that in his real life, he is actually very lonely.  Otto also knows how fickle Hollywood can be, for better or worse, and understands how his sexuality and the burn scars that cover him can affect his career.

Otto goes on a road trip with his friend Russel, who was also his first love many years ago.  It's an interesting look at how people can remain friends after a break-up, and how often one person still has feelings for the other, but can't be open about it.  I loved how Russel was there for Otto as a friend, always trying to see the best in every situation, but the supporting characters (other people they meet along the way) really gave the book some depth and heart.  Their stories, however small, really helped break the bubble of Otto and Russel and made the story more well-rounded.

I enjoyed the insider Hollywood secrets, like about how actors make extra money.  The pop culture references were fun, but they could also serve to date the book very quickly.  In a year or two, the book might not feel so fresh.

The writing is readable and accessible, but maybe a bit too conversational in some places.  There were some long monologues, which is kind of a pet peeve of mine, since I don't think people really talk like that in real life.  Also, Hartinger is a bit heavy-handed with the lessons Otto learns during the course of the novel.  I think they could have been handled a bit more subtly, instead of spelling everything out for the reader.

3 stars

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

"Waiting on" Wednesday: Castle of Water

"Waiting on" Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine and spotlights upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating!

Castle of Water
Dane Huckelbridge
Expected publication date: April 4, 2017
Two very different people, one very small island.

For Sophie Ducel, her honeymoon in French Polynesia was intended as a celebration of life. The proud owner of a thriving Parisian architecture firm, co-founded with her brilliant new husband, Sophie had much to look forward to—including a visit to the island home of her favorite singer, Jacques Brel.

For Barry Bleecker, the same trip was meant to mark a new beginning. Turning away from his dreary existence in Manhattan finance, Barry had set his sights on fine art, seeking creative inspiration on the other side of the world—just like his idol, Paul Gauguin.

But when their small plane is downed in the middle of the South Pacific, the sole survivors of the wreck are left with one common goal: to survive. Stranded hundreds of miles from civilization, on an island the size of a large city block, the two castaways must reconcile their differences and learn to draw on one another's strengths if they are to have any hope of making it home. - from Goodreads

Monday, March 20, 2017

Quotables #2: The Anna Kendrick Edition

I was finally able to get a copy of Anna Kendrick's Scrappy Little Nobody from my library and instead of writing a full review, I thought it would be a perfect time to choose some awesome quotes from her book and do another round of Quotables!

Why it speaks to me: It's good to have confidence, but it's also important to be realistic.  I think if we have a little bit of self-doubt about something, it makes us work harder to achieve it.  Too much confidence leads to complacency.  And it's rare in this life that things will magically work out or just be handed to us; very often we have to work for the things we want, and I think that makes us deserve it more, because we were willing to put in the time to get it.

Why it speaks to me: I love this quote because it speaks to a spirit of volunteerism.  We go to our jobs everyday mainly because we get paid and we need the money.  But it's often the things we do outside of work that we're most passionate about - whether it's reading, blogging, or doing charity work.  We do these things because we love them, not because we're getting paid for it.

Why it speaks to me: What does "nice" even mean?  Agreeable, obedient, never saying a bad word against anyone or anything?  It's kind of blah, what someone says when they don't know you very well.  Like Anna, I'd rather be known for other qualities, something more definable and precise, like honesty.

Why it speaks to me: Sure, sometimes it's nice to dream about going back to my (relatively) carefree college days.  But I've grown so much since then, and I don't think I would trade back those years.  There are benefits to the wisdom, strength, and stability that come with being 30+!

Which of these is your favorite?  Do you identify with any of them?

Friday, March 17, 2017

Review: The Possessions

The Possessions
Sara Flannery Murphy
Published February 7, 2017
In an unnamed city, Eurydice works for the Elysian Society, a private service that allows grieving clients to reconnect with lost loved ones. She and her fellow workers, known as “bodies“, wear the discarded belongings of the dead and swallow pills called lotuses to summon their spirits—numbing their own minds and losing themselves in the process. Edie has been a body at the Elysian Society for five years, an unusual record. Her success is the result of careful detachment: she seeks refuge in the lotuses’ anesthetic effects and distances herself from making personal connections with her clients.

But when Edie channels Sylvia, the dead wife of recent widower Patrick Braddock, she becomes obsessed with the glamorous couple. Despite the murky circumstances surrounding Sylvia’s drowning, Edie breaks her own rules and pursues Patrick, moving deeper into his life and summoning Sylvia outside the Elysian Society’s walls.

After years of hiding beneath the lotuses’ dulling effect, Edie discovers that the lines between her own desires and those of Sylvia have begun to blur, and takes increasing risks to keep Patrick within her grasp. Suddenly, she finds her quiet life unraveling as she grapples not only with Sylvia’s growing influence and the questions surrounding her death, but with her own long-buried secrets. - from Goodreads
This was a total impulse grab off the library shelf.  I liked the cover, and the blurb sounded interesting, so home with me it went!

Edie works for the Elysian Society as a "body" - essentially, she is a medium, but goes one step further.  By taking a pill called a lotus, she actually allows the spirit of a deceased person to take over her body, leaving her with no control over her body and mind and no memory of the experience afterward.  Normally, she is able to keep distance between herself and her clients, but Patrick Braddock is different. 

Edie is, at times, both a completely boring and seriously complex main character.  I realized that she seemed boring because that's the way she wanted to come across to people.  She doesn't draw attention to herself and her life revolves around her work, where she is able to lose herself.  We find out, through drips carefully parceled out so randomly you might not even notice them if you weren't paying close attention, that Edie has a difficult past that she is trying to hide from.  It's these crumbs that made her more interesting, as I wanted to know where she came from and what happened to her.

Patrick Braddock comes to the Elysian Society looking to speak to his deceased wife, Sylvia.  Edie becomes infatuated with him, seeing him outside of work and eventually starting a relationship with him, which is strictly against the rules.  To me, this relationship was completely one-sided - Patrick obviously has unresolved feelings about his wife and was only using Edie.  When your boyfriend wants you to take a pill to become someone else when you're together, he's probably not that into you.  The fascinating part about this relationship, though, was where the lines got blurred between Edie and Sylvia - it was a question as to who was really in control.

The story featured a couple of mysteries, mainly the circumstances surrounding Sylvia's drowning, the death of a "Jane Doe" that the Elysian Society "bodies" become obsessed with, and Edie's past.  The author dealt with these in varying degrees of success (for instance, I think other readers will agree that the reveal about Edie is both underwhelming and infuriating).

I really enjoyed the writing; the words were so smooth and lulled me into this false sense of calm.  The story moved a bit slow at times, but I would recommend this to anyone looking for something a little outside the box.

4 stars

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

"Waiting on" Wednesday: Almost Missed You

"Waiting on" Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine and spotlights upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating!

Almost Missed You
Jessica Strawser
Expected publication date: March 28, 2017
Violet and Finn were “meant to be,” said everyone, always. They ended up together by the hands of fate aligning things just so. Three years into their marriage, they have a wonderful little boy, and as the three of them embark on their first vacation as a family, Violet can’t help thinking that she can’t believe her luck. Life is good.

So no one is more surprised than she when Finn leaves her at the beach—just packs up the hotel room and disappears. And takes their son with him. Violet is suddenly in her own worst nightmare, and faced with the knowledge that the man she’s shared her life with, she never really knew at all.

Caitlin and Finn have been best friends since way back when, but when Finn shows up on Caitlin’s doorstep with the son he’s wanted for kidnapping, demands that she hide them from the authorities, and threatens to reveal a secret that could destroy her own family if she doesn’t, Caitlin faces an impossible choice. - from Goodreads

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: My Spring TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  This week's topic is books on my spring TBR.  I have a couple books I definitely have to get to for review purposes...


... and then there are some books from earlier in the year that I'm hoping to catch up on, as well as some March releases I'm looking forward to!




Are any of these books on your TBR?

Monday, March 13, 2017

2017 Book-to-Movie Releases I'm Intrigued By

There are lots of books becoming movies in 2017, but here's a short list of a few that really caught my eye!


Release date: March 3, 2017

Release date: November 22, 2017


Release date: September 8, 2017

Release date: April 14, 2017


Release date: May 19, 2017

Release date: March 31, 2017

Which 2017 book-to-movie releases are you looking forward to?

Friday, March 10, 2017

Review: The Sleepwalker

The Sleepwalker
Chris Bohjalian
Published January 10, 2017
When Annalee Ahlberg goes missing, her children fear the worst. Annalee is a sleepwalker whose affliction manifests in ways both bizarre and devastating. Once, she merely destroyed the hydrangeas in front of her Vermont home. More terrifying was the night her older daughter, Lianna, pulled her back from the precipice of the Gale River bridge.

The morning of Annalee's disappearance, a search party combs the nearby woods. Annalee's husband, Warren, flies home from a business trip. Lianna is questioned by a young, hazel-eyed detective. And her little sister, Paige, takes to swimming the Gale to look for clues. When the police discover a small swatch of fabric, a nightshirt, ripped and hanging from a tree branch, it seems certain Annalee is dead, but Gavin Rikert, the hazel-eyed detective, continues to call, continues to stop by the Ahlbergs' Victorian home.

As Lianna peels back the layers of mystery surrounding Annalee's disappearance, she finds herself drawn to Gavin, but she must ask herself: Why does the detective know so much about her mother? Why did Annalee leave her bed only when her father was away? And if she really died while sleepwalking, where was the body? - from Goodreads
Hmm, I definitely had mixed feelings about this one.  On one hand, I was intrigued by the sleepwalking aspect and the missing person case, but on the other hand, I was really put off by the main character.

Annalee, wife and mother of two, disappears during the night while her husband is on a business trip, but the case is different from most, since Annalee is a sleepwalker.  There wasn't as much focus on Annalee's disappearance as I would have expected; rather, it was more about her daughter Lianna and how she copes with her mother being gone.

Lianna was not the most interesting of main characters.  She's a bit of a slacker; she smokes a lot of weed; and although I can understand her taking a semester off college to take care of her sister after their mother disappears, sometimes it seems like she was just looking for an excuse to not go back.  However, her relationship with detective Gavin Rikert was the strangest part of this book.  It was totally unethical and inappropriate, in so many ways.

Gavin is assigned to Annalee's case, but it turns out the two knew each other for years.  Both sleepwalkers, they met at the sleep center and then formed their own little support group.  While they didn't have an affair, they did seem very emotionally involved with each other.  Gavin knew a lot about Lianna before they met, which was weird because her mother had never mentioned him before.  He begins to pursue Lianna, despite being older and actively investigating her mother's case.  Lianna is smitten almost instantly and overlooks Gavin's lies and other odd things, saying at one point that she was "incapable" of staying away from him - oh, come on, yes, you can!  Have a little self-respect and willpower!  There was nothing romantic about this relationship to me at all.

I thought the book was readable and the tid-bits about sleepwalking were interesting.  But - the strange relationship between Lianna and Gavin, the over-emphasis on sex, and the glossing over of legal and moral issues at the end of the story didn't sit well with me.

2 stars

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

"Waiting on" Wednesday: Duplicity

"Waiting on" Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine and spotlights upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating!

Jane Haseldine
Expected publication date: March 28, 2017
Julia Gooden knows how to juggle different lives. A successful crime reporter, she covers the grittiest stories in the city while raising her two young boys in the suburbs. But beneath that accomplished facade is another Julia, still consumed by a tragedy that unfolded thirty years ago when her nine-year-old brother disappeared without a trace.
Julia's marriage, too, is a balancing act, as she tries to rekindle her relationship with her husband, Assistant District Attorney David Tanner, while maintaining professional boundaries. David is about to bring Nick Rossi to trial for crimes that include drug trafficking, illegal gambling, and bribery. But the story becomes much more urgent when a courthouse bomb claims several victims--including the prosecution's key witness--and leaves David critically injured. 
Though Julia is certain that Rossi orchestrated the attack, the case against him is collapsing, and his power and connections run high and wide. With the help of Detective Raymond Navarro of the Detroit PD, she starts following a trail of blackmail, payback, and political ambition, little imagining where it will lead. Julia has risked her career before, but this time innocent lives--including her children's--hang in the balance, and justice may come too late to save what truly matters...- from Goodreads

Monday, March 6, 2017

Keep or Chuck? Purging My TBR

Recently I was in need of some new books to read, so I began perusing my TBR to see if any of the titles were readily available at my library.  There were a couple, so I picked them up without a second thought.  But when I got home, I realized I wasn't as excited to read those books as I had been when I first added them to my TBR, especially after looking at some Goodreads reviews. 

But they were on my TBR!  That means I wanted to read them, right? 

I think we as serious readers, in an effort to remind ourselves of ALL the books out there, put so many books on our TBRs, even if there's no chance we could ever read that many!  If it looks even remotely interesting, it goes on the list, which just gets bigger and bigger. 

But how often do you go back through your TBR and cull those books that no longer appeal to you?  Maybe it's a genre you're not reading a lot of these days, or the book is really getting poor reviews, or you finally read the blurb after basing your initial add on a pretty cover.  Maybe they've been there so long you've forgotten about them!  Do you actually delete those books from your TBR?

I'm going through a bit of a bookish crisis with my TBR right now.  There were plenty of books I added because they sounded great at the time, but now they're not so appealing (like those books I just got from the library).  Logically, I should delete them and make room for new books.  But - just because I don't want to read them right now doesn't necessarily mean I won't want to read them in the future, right?  Maybe I shouldn't delete them, so I don't forget about them?  I just don't know!  And, my TBR is actually quite small compared to others, so having those extra titles on there for awhile longer isn't hurting anything.

So even though the title of this post is about purging my TBR, in actuality there is very little purging going on.  Perhaps in the future I can be a little more decisive!

Do you ever purge your TBR, or does it just keep getting bigger?  How do you decide what titles to ditch?

Friday, March 3, 2017

Review: The Wicked City

The Wicked City
Beatriz Williams
Published January 17, 2017
New York Times bestselling author Beatriz Williams recreates the New York City of A Certain Age in this deliciously spicy adventure that mixes past and present and centers on a Jazz Age love triangle involving a rugged Prohibition agent, a saucy redheaded flapper, and a debonair Princetonian from a wealthy family. - For the full blurb, visit Goodreads here
I was a little surprised to hear that Beatriz Williams was releasing another book less than a year after A Certain Age, but excited nonetheless to dive into another of her novels.

The blurb for this book is super-long and convoluted, but basically the story boils down to a dual timeline of Gin, a '20s flapper caught up in a Prohibition scandal, and Ella, who moves into Gin's old building in 1998.

Williams is pretty formulaic in her stories - there's usually a strong, sassy woman and a tall, dark, and handsome man.  Here, though, she gives Gin a full and complex backstory.  We get to know Gin really well and how her upbringing influenced the woman she became. 

As always, Williams creates an atmospheric feel of the time period she's writing about.  She is just so good at bringing the 1920s to life, from the language to the descriptions of the clothing to the drinking and smoking.  It draws me in as a reader and makes me feel like I'm really there.  In this novel, she focuses on Prohibition and the politics and danger involved in catching bootleggers.  Gin's stepfather is a prolific bootlegger and she is persuaded by a Prohibition agent to help catch him.

The love triangle is not as important as the blurb would make it seem.  Although she is seeing Billy, he's barely in the book.  I think his character served more as a link to Williams' previous novel, A Certain Age, as some of the same characters pop up again.  This is one thing that I both love and kind of dislike at the same time about Williams' novels - she reuses the same characters again and again.  I like seeing them pop up like Easter eggs in movies and it's fun to see how they're all related.  However, a lot of her books are marketed as stand-alones, so if a new reader picked up one of her middle novels, they might not get everything out of it that they could.  The books make sense by themselves, but there's definitely backstories and references that would be missed.

I did have some issues with the novel, but there's a possible explanation for those.  The present-day story that focused on Ella was kind of unnecessary, as there was very little to tie it to Gin's story.  And Gin's story had a LOT of unanswered questions.  But, I think this book is the start of a new trilogy, so hopefully these questions will be answered in future books.

3.5 stars

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

"Waiting on" Wednesday: The Finishing School

"Waiting on" Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine and spotlights upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating!

The Finishing School
Joanna Goodman
Expected publication date: April 11, 2017
How far would you go to uncover the truth?

One spring night in 1998 the beautiful Cressida Strauss plunges from a fourth-floor balcony at the Lycée Internationale Suisse with catastrophic consequences. Loath to draw negative publicity to the school, a bastion of European wealth and glamour, officials quickly dismiss the incident as an accident, but questions remain: Was it a suicide attempt? Or was Cressida pushed? It was no secret that she had a selfish streak and had earned as many enemies as allies in her tenure at the school. For her best friend, scholarship student Kersti Kuusk, the lingering questions surrounding Cressida's fall continue to nag long after she leaves the Lycée.

Kersti marries and becomes a bestselling writer, but never stops wondering about Cressida's obsession with the Helvetian Society—a secret club banned years before their arrival at the school—and a pair of its members who were expelled. When Kersti is invited as a guest to the Lycée's 100th Anniversary, she begins probing the cover-up, unearthing a frightening underbelly of lies and abuse at the prestigious establishment. And in one portentous moment, Kersti makes a decision that will connect her to Cressida forever and raise the stakes dangerously high in her own desire to solve the mystery and redeem her past. - from Goodreads