TLC Book Tours Presents: The Moon Sisters Review

 TLC Book Tours Presents: The Moon Sisters ReviewThe Moon Sisters by Therese Walsh

Release date: 2014 / 336 pages

Synopsis (from Amazon): After their mother’s probable suicide, sisters Olivia and Jazz take steps to move on with their lives. Jazz, logical and forward-thinking, decides to get a new job, but spirited, strong-willed Olivia…is determined to travel to the remote setting of their mother’s unfinished novel to lay her spirit properly to rest…

Review: Part mystery, part heroine’s journey, with an aftertaste of magical realism, The Moon Sisters is mostly a lyrical, lush testament to the complicated alchemy of sisterhood.  After Jazz and Olivia lose their mother to what appears to be a suicide (at the very beginning of the novel), they must come to terms with their relationship to their mother and especially with one another.  This reckoning involves a physical journey — with charming vagabonds, train hopping guides, and dark and tangled woods — in search of their mother’s elusive “ghost lights” on a bog.

The novel is narrated by alternating the sisters’ voices — Jazz (grounded and severe) and Olivia (dreamy and hopeful) — with their mother’s unsent letters to her long estranged father.  In addition, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s stages of grief divide the novel into five parts, leading the reader to a hope-filled conclusion.

While the plot is interesting and the quirky characters (Olivia suffers from synesthesia and can see sounds, taste words, and smell sights while her love interest is covered in wildly swirling tattoos) are somehow believable, the true strength of this novel is the imagistic writing of 2010 RITA finalist for best first novel Theresa Walsh.  Here are just a few examples of Walsh’s poetic descriptions:

“His voice yielded like bread straight from the oven or the ground after a hard rain.”

“I turned and walked away from her, refusing to be shaped like dough according to another person’s appetite.”

“…like the way thunder filled the air with a mustard-gold fog.”

“…They didn’t know that there were others  who could smell sights (Papa was fresh-mown grass, the sun was Mama) or taste words (not every word, and not the way regular people taste, either; freckle, like the dots all over Mama’s face, tasted like togetherness)… that others could see sounds (Babka’s voice looked like a tumble of soft flour).”

At times, Jazz’s irritation with her sister is tedious — especially so soon after suddenly losing her mother.  But overall The Moon Sisters is enjoyable and original and would appeal to many readers fascinated by the mystery of sisters and the complexity of grief.

Here are other perspectives on this novel:

Monday, March 3rd:  Lit and Life

Tuesday, March 4th:  Beth Fish Reads – “Today’s Read” guest post

Tuesday, March 4th:  Book Club Classics!

Wednesday, March 5th:  Book-a-licious Mama

Thursday, March 6th:  girlichef

Friday, March 7th:  Books in the Burbs

Monday, March 10th:  Bookchickdi

Tuesday, March 11th:  Traveling with T

Wednesday, March 12th:  Patricia’s Wisdom

Thursday, March 13th:  Book Snob

Friday, March 14th:  The Book Barn

Tuesday, March 18th:  Fiction Addict

Tuesday, March 18th:  5 Minutes for Moms

Wednesday, March 19th:  Time 2 Read

Thursday, March 20th:  Bibliotica

Monday, March 24th:  Mockingbird Hill Cottage

Wednesday, March 26th:  A Novel Review

Thursday, March 27th:  A Bookish Affair

Tuesday, April 1st:  Suko’s Notebook

Wednesday, April 2nd:  A Reader of Fictions

Tuesday, April 8th:  Books a la Mode

Posted in Future Classics...? | 4 Comments

TLC Book Tours Presents: Ripper Review

 

Ripper TLC Book Tours Presents: Ripper Review

Ripper by Isabelle Allende

Release date: 2014 / 496 pages

Synopsis (from Amazon): The Jackson women, Indiana and Amanda, have always had each other. Though their bond is strong, mother and daughter are as different as night and day. Indiana, a beautiful holistic healer, is a free-spirited bohemian… While her mom looks for the good in people, Amanda is fascinated by the dark side of human nature—as is her father, the SF PD’s deputy chief of homicide. Brilliant and introverted, the MIT-bound high school senior Amanda is a natural-born sleuth addicted to crime novels and to Ripper, the online mystery game she plays with her beloved grandfather and friends around the world. When a string of strange murders occurs across the city, Amanda plunges into her own investigation, probing hints and deductions that elude the police department…

Review: When TLC contacted me about reviewing Allende’s latest novel, I was torn due to the title.  I am not drawn to the genre of crime thrillers or detective novels and really do not like reading about violence.  On the other hand, I adore Isabel Allende — and I admire her for stepping outside her usual milieu  (see my review of Maya’s Notebook). Eventually, I was just too curious to see how she would handle a serial killer.  So, I reluctantly agreed and lost three days, nose-to-book, enthralled by another other-worldly experience despite the lack of magical realism.

The focus of Ripper is a powerful woman (of course!) named Indiana and her precocious daughter Amanda.  Indiana is a masseuse and healer, while teenage Amanda follows in her police detective father’s footsteps and is enthralled with the online crime game Ripper.  Amanda and her cohorts (including her wonderful grandfather) follow a series of murders that occur in the San Francisco area, convinced they are the handiwork of one person.  Indiana has no interest in her daughter’s fascination and is instead trying to balance the affections of a number of men, all of whom are borderline obsessed with her.  Not surprisingly, the two plot lines eventually merge, but Allende does manage to keep the reader guessing until the end.

The plot is compelling and Ripper is certainly a page-turner.  I was initially dismayed to see its length of 475 pages, but this was no problem due to Allende’s masterful crafting of the storyline.  However, the great strength of this novel are the characters — beyond Indiana and Amanda, the suitors are fascinating and somehow so authentic and credible even though one is a wealthy socialite and one is a former Navy Seal.  Even Indiana’s patients and Amanda’s teammates spring off the page fully-realized and fascinating in their own right (and are not overshadowed by the powerful protagonists).

Allende’s writing is as sensuous and lyrical as her readers expect.  Here is just one passage from the beginning of the novel:

She cataloged people by scent: her grandfather, Blake, smelled of gentleness — a mixture of wool sweaters and chamolmile; Bob, her father, of strength — metal, tobacco, and aftershave; Bradley, her boyfriend, of sensuality, sweat, and chlorine; and Ryan smelled of reliability and confidence, a doggy aroma that was the most wonderful fragrance in the world.  As for her mother Indiana, steeped in the essential oils of her treatment room, she smelled of magic.

This is one of those rare novels that can be recommended to nearly every reader.  Allende has truly outdone herself this time. As an aside, be sure to read the letter to Booksellers at the start where she explains her motivation, her process, her attempt (and failure) to co-write a novel with her husband, and then signs the letter Yours in crime and punishment, Isabelle Allende Certified Assassin.

I’m not fully convinced that Allende can thrive in any genre and will not hesitate to read her next novel, even if a bodice-ripping romance!

Be sure to check out the other stops on the tour:

Here’s the tour schedule:
Tuesday, January 28th: Jen’s Book Thoughts
Wednesday, January 29th: Book Club Classics!
Thursday, January 30th: Peppermint PhD
Monday, February 3rd: The Scarlet Letter
Tuesday, February 4th: Bibliotica
Wednesday, February 5th: Literally Jen
Thursday, February 6th: Little Lovely Books
Monday, February 10th: bookchickdi
Tuesday, February 11th: BoundbyWords
Wednesday, February 12th: The Book Wheel
Thursday, February 13th: M. Denise C.
Monday, February 17th: she treads softly
Tuesday, February 18th: In Bed with Books
Wednesday, February 19th: Bibliophilia, Please
Thursday, February 20th: Literary Feline
Monday, February 24th: Between the Covers
Tuesday, February 25th: Savvy Verse & Wit
Wednesday, February 26th: Under a Gray Sky
Posted in Future Classics...? | 4 Comments

TLC Book Tours Presents: Short Leash Review

 TLC Book Tours Presents: Short Leash Review

Short Leash: A Memoir of Dog Walking and Deliverance by Janice Gary

Release date: 2013 / 246 pages

Synopsis (from Amazon): Gary always walked with a big dog by her side and had ever since being attacked on the streets of Berkley as a young woman. For years, she relied on her beloved Husky to help her navigate the world on her own. Then he succumbed to canine cancer, leaving Janice alone and vulnerable once again. Enter Barney: a goofy, gangly stray Gary discovers wandering loose in a Piggly Wiggly parking lot. With biscuit-sized paws and a big, blocky head, the pup promises to grow into her biggest protector yet. And he does – but after an attack by a vicious dog, Barney becomes overly protective and barely manageable. Walking him anywhere becomes almost impossible; but walking without him is unthinkable…

 

Review:  Words that came to mind after finishing Short Leash were “raw,” “intimate,” and “generous.”  Gary is generous with her process as a writer and with her journey toward recovery from a series of tragedies that left her broken, fearful, and depressed.  Although the structure – loosely chronological interspersed with flashbacks – echoes the format and feeling of a diary or journal, the reader never feels voyeuristic largely due to Gary’s ability to connect with nature on her long walks with her beloved Barney. 

In addition, Gary’s imagery is luminous throughout Short Leash and the reader feels like a companion on her long walks, rooting for both the writer and Barney as they navigate challenges – Gary’s psychological, Barney’s physical.  Anyone who has had the gift and pain of watching a canine best friend live a long life will not be able to escape remembering those last years and months while reading Leash.  At times the pain is too close, the details too concrete, but as my husband often reminds me – you know you’re in trouble as soon as you see a dog on the cover of a book.  However, witnessing Gary’s recovery from past trauma is a balm for the pain of re-living the loss of an animal companion. 

 TLC Book Tours Presents: Short Leash Review

Be sure to check out the other stops on the tour:

Monday, December 16th:  Book Club Classics!

Monday, December 16th:  Shelf Pleasure – author guest post

Tuesday, December 17th:  The Book Wheel

Wednesday, December 18th:  BookNAround

Thursday, December 19th:  Bound By Words

Friday, December 20th:  Dog Spelled Forward

Monday, December 23rd:  Patricia’s Wisdom

Thursday, December 26th:  Svetlana’s Reads and Views

Monday, December 30th:  Bookchickdi

Thursday, January 2nd:  Peppermint Ph.D.

Monday, January 6th:  Peeking Between the Pages

Tuesday, January 7th:  Teena in Toronto

Wednesday, January 8th:  Bibliotica

Thursday, January 9th:  Book-alicious Mama

Friday, January 10th:  Kritter’s Ramblings

Monday, January 13th:  Book Dilettante

Tuesday, January 14th:  My Bookshelf

Wednesday, January 15th:  Mom in Love with Fiction

Thursday, January 16th:  Suko’s Notebook

 

Posted in Reviews | 2 Comments

TLC Book Tours Presents: The Sweetest Thing

Cathy Woodman The Sweetest Thing 195x300 TLC Book Tours Presents: The Sweetest Thing

The Sweetest Thing by Cathy Woodman

Release date: 2013 / 352 pages

Synopsis (from Amazon): Jennie Copeland thought she knew the recipe for a happy life: marriage to her university sweetheart, a nice house in the suburbs and three beautiful children. But when her husband leaves her, she is forced to find a different recipe. And she thinks she’s found just what she needs: a ramshackle house on the outskirts of the beautiful Talyton St George, a new cake-baking business, a dog, a horse, chickens…But life in the country is not quite as idyllic as she’d hoped, and Jennie can’t help wondering whether neighbouring farmer Guy Barnes was right when he told her she wouldn’t last the year. Or perhaps the problem is that she’s missing one vital ingredient to make her new life a success. Could Guy be the person to provide it?

Review: I initially agreed to read The Sweetest Thing, despite its genre of romance, because I inadvertently thought the protagonist was a veterinarian!  The author was a vet and one of her previous titles was “Trust Me, I’m a Vet,”  so my assumption was well-founded — but untrue.  Jennie, the protagonist of The Sweetest Thing, is actually quite clueless about animals and doesn’t seem to particularly like them at times.  But the novel was still populated with cows, a Jack Russell, a naughty pony, and chickens, and Jennie eventually warms to her accidental menagerie. 

The author’s experience with animals is clearly evident, however, and as a long-time horse owner myself, I appreciated the dedication to detail regarding horsekeeping.  So, animal lovers will find quite a bit to enjoy in this novel; but it is truly a romance – the presence of a difficult ex-husband and three children forced to adjust to life in the country after a childhood in London provides variety and narrative variety (momentum), but the primary storyline is clearly “boy meets girl, girl loses boy, girl meets new boy, etc…”  Although romance tends to be too predictable for my enjoyment, I know this genre is wildly popular and The Sweetest Thing would not disappoint anyone looking for a lovely, “happily-ever-after” fairy tale set in the English countryside.

Be sure to check out the other stops on the tour:

Monday, December 2nd:  No More Grumpy BooksellerCountry Loving

Tuesday, December 3rd:  Svetlana’s Reads and Views – Country Loving

Wednesday, December 4th:  A Chick Who ReadsThe Sweetest Thing

Thursday, December 5th:  Book Club Classics! The Sweetest Thing

Thursday, December 5th:  Joyfully Retired Country Loving

Friday, December 6th:  Diary of a Stay at Home Mom – The Sweetest Thing

Monday, December 9th:  Svetlana’s Reads and Views – The Sweetest Thing

Tuesday, December 10th:  A Bookish Way of Life – Country Loving

Wednesday, December 11th:  Peeking Between the Pages – The Sweetest Thing

Wednesday, December 11th – A Bookish Affair Country Loving and The Sweetest Thing

Thursday, December 12th:  Reviews from the Heart Country Loving

Friday, December 13th:  Not in Jersey – Country Loving

Monday, December 16th:  No More Grumpy Bookseller – The Sweetest Thing

Tuesday, December 17th:  BookNAroundCountry Loving and The Sweetest Thing

Wednesday, December 18th:  Good Girl Gone Redneck - Country Loving and The Sweetest Thing

Wednesday, December 18th:  Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers – The Sweetest Thing

Thursday, December 19th:  Knowing the Difference The Sweetest Thing

Friday, December 20th:  Peeking Between the Pages – Country Loving

Monday, December 23rd – A Chick Who Reads Country Loving

Thursday, December 26th:  Reading Reality – The Sweetest Thing

Friday, December 27th:  Reviews from the Heart – The Sweetest Thing

Posted in Reviews | 3 Comments

TLC Book Tours Presents: Friday’s Harbor Review

Fridays Harbor 199x300 TLC Book Tours Presents: Fridays Harbor ReviewFriday’s Harbor by Diane Hammond

Release date: 2013 / 352 pages

Synopsis (from Amazon):  Hannah the elephant is thriving in her new home, peacemaker Truman Levy is the new director of the Max L. Biedelman Zoo, and life in Bladenham, Washington, has finally settled down . . . or has it? From his eccentric aunt Ivy, Truman learns of the plight of a desperately sick, captive killer whale named Friday.  Reluctantly Truman agrees to give the orca a new home—and a new lease on life—at the zoo. But not everybody believes in his captivity. Soon the Max L. Biedelman Zoo is embroiled in a whale-size controversy and Friday’s fate is up for grabs…

Review: To think I almost passed on this lovely novel — what a loss that would have been!  I enjoyed Hannah’s Dream in 2008, but was a little disappointed in Seeing Stars, so I was a bit ambivalent about trying Hammond’s latest when TLC Tours contacted me.  But Friday’s Harbor is wonderful — and I choose that over-used adjective intentionally.  Hammond reminds us to truly wonder that animals — wild and domestic — are ever willing to trust humans and that the depth of the human-animal bond should always evoke wonder.

At times, fiction about animals (or even nonfiction) can anthropomorphize animals into who/what we want them to be — humans with fur or fins — rather than respect them in their own right as sentient beings.  Fortunately, Hammond has first-hand experience as the “voice” of killer whales — she was the full-time press secretary for Kieko (the star of Free Willy) and witnessed his rehabilitation — as well as the controversy that surrounds captive wild animals — on a daily basis.  She infuses Friday’s story with this wisdom and the result is a lovely novel with authenticity and heart.

My only gentle criticism would be that the characters are either incredibly good or quite villainous (and very few of these).  But, on the other hand, I truly enjoyed a story with deeply altruistic, kind-hearted people with a cetacean hero at the center who thrived in his new home and loved his rescuer-captors.  The ending may be a bit convenient — but, again, a feel-good unambiguous happy conclusion was refreshing and thoroughly enjoyable.

I’ve already recommended it to a few people, and will be keeping my own copy for my guest room…
but be sure to check out the other stops on the tour:

Wednesday, October 16th: Tiffany’s Bookshelf

Thursday, October 17th: Book Club Classics!

Monday, October 21st: Library of Clean Reads

Wednesday, October 23rd: Book-a-licious Mama

Tuesday, October 29th: Ageless Pages Reviews

Wednesday, October 30th: Peppermint PhD

Tuesday, November 5th: As I turn the pages

Friday, November 8th: Not in Jersey

Thursday, November 7th: The Book Wheel

Thursday, November 14th: Ace and Hoser Blook

 

Posted in Future Classics...?, Reviews | 5 Comments