The Secret of Clouds @AlysonRichman

From the #1 international bestselling author of The Lost Wife and The Velvet Hours comes an emotionally charged story about a mother’s love, a teacher’s promise, and a child’s heart…

the-secret-of-cloudsMaggie Topper has left the bustling life of a New York public relations world to become a teacher on Long Island, a job she adores and one at which she is quite good. She is approached to tutor a homebound child who is too ill to attend daily classes and, although Maggie is uncertain at first due to a past trauma of her own, she comes to enjoy and look forward to her time with Yuri, the young Ukrainian-American boy who is quite ill. Soon they are bonding over baseball and their mutual love of reading and writing. As  her weekly visits become routine, Maggie discovers more about Yuri’s parents’ tragic life that they left behind in Ukraine, including their survival of the horrific Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

This is so much more than just Maggie and Yuri’s story. Told in alternating timelines, there are flashbacks to Katya and Sasha’s time spent in Ukraine. We read as their love unfolds and grows and their struggle to reach a decision about leaving their families behind to come to the US. We also have Maggie’s interactions in her private life as she struggles with relationships: private, familial and with her other students in the classroom. It is a joy to watch as she grows as a woman, as a teacher and as a friend to those around her.

The Secret of Clouds touches on so many important topics and, if there was one critique, and really there are none but if there was to be a minor one, it would be that there almost were too many important topics covered. The Holocaust is a recurring topic and a very poignant section of the book is when one of Maggie’s co-workers recounts a memorable story of an art teacher who taught Jewish children in the concentration camps, most of whom were killed. The story is tragic and beautiful but brief. There is Chernobyl and the horrific after-effects of this disaster, how even today this tragedy still is playing out physically and mentally in those who were affected and their offspring and even in their offspring. And then there is Maggie and her parents, her familial relationships, her budding romance, her work as a teacher. It was quite a lot for a short book. All of that not withstanding, Richman does an incredible job weaving it all together seamlessly and the book flows brilliantly so that it is over before you realize and far sooner than you wish for it to be.

This is a rare book about friendship on so many varied levels. It is a look at cross cultural relationships and how important it is for each of us to interact with one another. Most importantly, it is about hope and love and learning to live a life with a full and open heart. It will make you smile, cry, and laugh but, most of all, it make you ponder long after you turned that very last page.

With a grateful heart to #Edelweiss, #AlysonRichman and @BerkleyPub

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Call Me Evie by JP Pomare

Call Me Evie is a very dark, very twisted psychological suspense novel. It is darker and twistier than most that I have read in the last year – and that says a lot.

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Kate, aka Evie, is a 17 year old girl whose is being raised by widowed father who is a retired rugby star. Her life is very structured, her father fairly strict – except when he isn’t strict at all. Slowly Kate’s life begins to spiral out of control as she begins dating Thom, her best friend seemingly turns against her and she turns to alcohol as a means of coping. After a sex tape appears, her life crashes all around her and ultimately there is a murder – or an accident – that send Kate on the run.

I found every single page of Call Me Evie disturbing. Every.Single.Page. There were times that I quite nearly put it down and didn’t finish it but I will admit that the book is compelling and I absolutely had to know who “Jim” was. The person I suspected was correct but there is absolutely no way for anyone to imagine how this book will end. I’m still trying to wrap my mind around it. I’ve been reading psychological suspense since I was 12 years old and this one has left me flabbergasted, not necessarily in a good way. You know how at the end of the movie Sixth Sense when you discover the “twist” you have this “aha” moment and it flashes back to all of the red clues and you said, “aaaahhhhh.” It made sense at that point. There was no “aaaahhhh” moment for me with Call Me Evie. There was one side, there was another side, there was an alternate side and I still don’t know what was what.

There appears to be a saturation point with authors right now who are trying to outwit, out shock, out “aha” the reader and these gimmicks simply are not working for me. I enjoy reading for what I will learn, for clever plots, for interesting characters, for realistic individuals – not for the shock value. When I look back on this story and its plot, not one page of it is plausible. Not one. This makes incredibly sad. I LOVE Putnam & Sons’ books. They are a publishing house that I almost always can count on for a really good read. Sadly, this fell far short of the mark. Also, one last note. I suspect that this should be noted as a Young Adult read. It is about a group of 17 year old kids and it was far better suited to younger readers.

I was furnished my copy of #CallMeEvie by #Edelweiss.

The Missing Years #LexieElliott

MY FATHER IS….

Missing…  Ailsa Calder’s father is missing and has been for several years. Rumor floating among the little village where he lived is that he ran off with jewels that he stole from his employer. Perhaps he ran away to start a new life or fell to his death into the sea or was murdered and hidden and the jewels stolen. Ailsa has come up with many theories throughout her lifetime but now she has to find out the truth. Her mother is dead and she has inherited one half of a manse. The other half is owned by her missing father. She cannot do anything with it until she either finds her father or proves he is dead.

52681134_642264552856741_4538588784605790208_nI really enjoyed reading Lexie Elliott’s first novel, The French Girl, last year but I will tell you now that The Missing Years eclipses her first and has landed its way onto my favorite’s list! The Missing Years crosses genres from suspense, mystery, a touch of romance to a fair amount of magical realism and she marries these together seamlessly. It has an essence of a ghost story while keeping the reader firmly planted in the here and now and much of what one suspects as supernatural turns out to be ominously too close to reality for comfort.

While both The French Girl and The Missing Years comprise a large ensemble cast of characters, with this one Elliott does a better job of fleshing out her characters so that they are more manageable to distinguish from one another and also easier to relate to, feel compassion for and, ultimately invest in their story. As someone with roots in Scotland, I found the history that was included particularly intriguing and learned more about my own past than I was expecting. Trust me, the history is subtle, never boring for a moment.

The Missing Years is an eclectic, atmospheric and suspenseful tale that I highly recommend. While some readers have questioned the addition of magical realism in this book, I found that it was absolutely marvelous and hope this is a continued direction for Elliott’s future work.

I am very grateful to Elisha @berkleypub and #elliott_lexie for my advanced copy #TheMissingYears.

Happy Valentine’s Day – Crazy Cupid Love! @Amanda_Heger

When a single arrow inspires romance, can you really trust happily ever after?

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Crazy Cupid Love is the first book in a new series, “Let’s Get Mythical,” and, seriously, who can resist all of that word play!? Not me! This is exactly the fun, whimsical story I was searching for to read this holiday! The storyline is utterly charming, where Eros’ descendants are now living among us mere mortals and blending in as matchmakers as we swipe left or right. Eliza Hermann, aka the world’s worst Cupid, has spent her entire life trying to run from the family business – that helping couples find their true love. Liza is an Erosian (a descendant of Eros, the Greek God of Love and Desire) and one of the most powerful Cupids there is. Because of this she has had mishaps all of her life merely by bumping into the wrong person. It’s been quite a problem for her – and her family. Now, however, with the business in trouble,( there’s a lot of cynicism in today’s world and Cupids aren’t exactly on everyone’s favorite list,) and with her father in the hospital recovering from a heart attack, Liza has to renew her Cupid’s license and give match-making a try once again. That is easier said than accomplished, especially when her enchantments begin to fail and cause an outbreak of hate and bickering rather than love.

Okay, I know what you’re thinking. This sounds a little fanciful, a tad bit whimsical but isn’t that what love and Valentine’s day is all about? Yes, it is. The story itself is actually very good. It is based on the Greek myth of Eros and the supporting characters, the Fates and Furies, Discords and more, all are authentically based in actual Greek mythological tales. There is a wonderful tie-in with modern artificial intelligence and how it will affect human relationships and love, an underlying romance between Liza and her childhood crush who has moved back and a pretty good mystery regarding the reverse enchantments as well.

I love mythology, from Ovid’s Metamorphosis to Neil Gaiman’s  Norse Mythology. I also adore fairy tale re-creations and Crazy Cupid Love beautifully marries the premise of these all into one delightful book. If you like mythology or fairy tales or even quirky romances, then you will love Crazy Cupid Love.  Regardless, from Macsbooks and The Wisteria House, have a lovely Valentine’s Day!

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The Moroccan Girl @CharlesCumming

I had a bit of “ooops” moment yesterday apparently. For whatever reason, this was supposed to have posted on its pub day and it did not. However, after visiting Amazon, they also are having a “glitch” with the book so it is just as well. I promise that my review did not cause the glitch despite the fact that my family is convinced that I can break all things electronically related. It’s a myth – really. It is.

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At its heart, The Moroccan Girl is more fiction/romance than spy thriller despite what you will be told otherwise. I used to read espionage books like they were going out of style. This borders on spy thriller but it is more “espionage wannabe” than the actual fact.

Kit Carradine – not to be confused at all with Keith Carradine the real-life actor – is a spy thriller writer with international fame. He is approached by MI6 to deliver a “package” to someone when he travels to Morocco for a writer’s conference. Carradine is ecstatic! He finally has an opportunity to actually do so spy work rather than just write about it. He soon realizes, though, that he has been manipulated (duh moment here) and that the request has far deeper implications than he realizes. The woman, Lara Bartok aka the Moroccan Girl, whom he is supposed to be on the look out for, is missing. She is part of a subversive, revolutionary group called “The Resurrection” who is targeting alt-right groups across the globe. As the search for Bartok continues, Carradine is unsure who and what to believe. I can’t really blame him. 

The Moroccan Girl was an extremely interesting, very fast paced thriller. It is, quite literally, ripped from today’s headlines. The part that actually involved Carradine was bit contrived – I’m not sure MI6 would involve an author in this manner – but the CIA has done stranger things than this recently so what do I know. Cumming has masterfully crafted a intriguing set of characters that are both relatable and secretive, just as good subversives should be. In all, it is a riveting spy/romance tale that will keep you thoroughly engrossed from beginning to end.

 

The Psychology of Time Travel #Kate Mascarenhas – #PublicationDay

The Past, Present and Future collide in Kate Mascarenhas’ brilliant debut book, The Psychology of Time Travel. 

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I love and adore the concept of time travel. Thinking about the books and movies that I grew up with, some of my favorites included The Time Machine, Star Trek, Back to the Future and, of course, the cult classic, Somewhere in Time. Today we have books like Outlander that take us back and forth in time and our concept of time and relativity has grown more fluid over the past few decades. So, naturally, when I saw this book, I just had to grab it up and read it. And I loved it!

The Psychology of Time Travel begins with the story of the pioneers of human time travel who, quite wonderfully, are four female scientists. In fact, the entire book is magnificently woman powered and it is one of the aspects of the book that I found so marvelous! As we transition into the second phase of the book, the present, we find that one of the pioneers is now an old woman who is with her granddaughter. They receive a mysterious post regarding a death that will happen in the future – which, of course, leads us to the future section of the book where the murder will take place. From there the book has a fluid timeline as the characters attempt to solve the crime – or stop it from happening – either in the present or future or, for some, in the past. Confused yet? Yes, there are times that the back and forth in time does get a bit mind boggling, but the story itself is one of mystery and crime and that is what makes the book so fascinating. It’s a detective story set in time – or space – or in the time warp continuum. Hmmm. It’s like Dr. Who meets Hidden Figures.

When you’re a time traveler, the people you love die, and you carry on seeing them, so their death stops making a difference to you. The only death that will ever change things is your own.

This is, by far, my favorite passage in the entire book and, I think, it is one of the reasons that I find time travel so intriguing. Since the beginning of time, mankind has been curious about what happens after death but what if this is what happens? We are simply transported to a different time, a different place. Perhaps time, and life, and our souls are merely traveling from place to another. It’s not too unreasonable to imagine – if you dare. 😉

I suspect there are those who will say that they don’t read books like this and that’s okay. This definitely was a book for me and I enjoyed it a LOT! I hope some of the skeptics out there will at least give it a look, I think you will like it if you do.

Thank you to the author, #Netgalley and #CrookedLaneBooks for my copy of #ThePsychologyofTimeTravel.

Bittersweet Brooklyn @thelmadams @hfvbt #BlogTour

I have been anticipating this day for so long. I absolutely love blog tours and also get so nervous  excited that I think I’m going to be sick. But that doesn’t detract from the fact that I LOVE this book and I LOVE being part of this amazing tour!
02_Bittersweet Brooklyn[608]In turn-of-the century New York, a mobster rises—and his favorite sister struggles between loyalty and life itself. How far will she go when he commits murder? Flipping the familiar script of The Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire, and The Godfather, Bittersweet Brooklyn explores the shattering impact of mob violence on the women expected to mop up the mess. Winding its way over decades, this haunting family saga plunges readers into a dangerous past—revealed through the perspective of a forgotten yet vibrant woman.

Of all of the historical eras in US history, the turn of the century, 1880 to the pre-Depression time period, is far and above my favorite. There was so much growth, expansion, building, beauty, architecture, immigration from all over the world. People, ideas, morals, food, clothing all were changing so quickly that it was nearly impossible to keep up with it all. But, as with any time in history, the glamour often over shadows the truth and the truth is that this particular era also was a time of great pain – growing pains, if you will – that led to heartbreak, hunger, poverty, racism, bigotry, mobs, gangsters and worse.

Bittersweet Brooklyn is a dark story but a beautifully, poignant one. Its noir narrative portrays the lifestyle of so many who came to the US full of dreams and hopes only to find that life was as hard in the US as it was in the country they left. Many, however, had no choice except to flee their home country due to pogroms and death camps and war. It’s not too terribly different today, if at all. There are struggles to survive, struggles to fit in, to find one’s place and where there is no “welcome committee,” those holes will be filled with other means generally unsavory ones like the mob or gangs. That is what has happened in Bittersweet Brooklyn. These immigrants, like so many of that time, have familial issues, mental health issues and the mob has come in to “take care of them,” but at a cost. Generally, the men make a mess, and by mess I mean wreak murder and mayhem, and the women are left to sweep up the pieces. It tears at the fabric of their family cloth and at the essence of the women in their lives. This is how life was. For many it is how life still is. Adams has done an incredible job of painting a very vivid picture of what life was like, real life, real families, during this time period. That isn’t to say that the book is all doom and darkness because it is not, any more than Charles Dickens’ books are all dark. But Bittersweet Brooklyn does portray a truthful story and that is rare and greatly needed in historical fiction and I, for one, am appreciative.

Adams has, in fact, previously been been compared to a modern day Charles Dickens.

“Thelma Adams is our new Dickens in her effervescently vivid tale of Jewish hardscrabble living, gangsters, torn-apart families, and a young woman desperate for love, family, and a stable future. Set in a 1920s and 30s Brooklyn so rich, raw, and bristling with life that you can taste the brine on the deli pickles and see the flasks of whiskey hidden in a garter, this is the kind of novel that’s lived, rather than read.” — Caroline Leavitt, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author.

 I happen to agree with Leavitt. Just as Dickens gave a sober look at Victorian England with its orphanages and wealth disparity, so too has Adams lifted back the curtain on turn-of-the-century America and exposed the dark underbelly so rarely seen or examined. Well done, Thelma Adams, well done!

You can find this incredible book at the following locations:

AMAZON/ BARNESANDNOBLE

Thelma Adams, Author portraits.  Photo credit: Emily AssiranAbout the Author
Thelma Adams is the author of the best selling historical novel The Last Woman Standing and Playdate, which Oprah magazine described as “a witty debut novel.” In addition to her fiction work, Adams is a prominent American film critic and an outspoken voice in the Hollywood community. She has been the in-house film critic for Us Weekly and The New York Post, and has written essays, celebrity profiles and reviews for Yahoo! Movies, The New York Times, O: The Oprah Magazine, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Parade, Marie Claire and The Huffington Post. Adams studied history at the University of California, Berkeley, where she was valedictorian, and received her MFA from Columbia University. She lives in upstate New York with her family.
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AND THE BLOG CONTINUES…

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Thank you so much to Amy at #HFVBTPartner, #ThelmaAdams and @LUauthors for my copy of this fascinating book!