• ARC's,  Book Reviews,  Recommendations

    The Mountains Sing: blog tour & review

    Publisher: Algonquin Books

    Pages: 352

    Date: 3/17/2020

    “An epic account of Việt Nam’s painful 20th century history, both vast in scope and intimate in its telling . . . Moving and riveting.” —VIET THANH NGUYEN, author of The Sympathizer, winner of the Pulitzer Prize

    Synopsis:

    With the epic sweep of Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko or Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing and the lyrical beauty of Vaddey Ratner’s In the Shadow of the Banyan, The Mountains Sing tells an enveloping, multigenerational tale of the Trần family, set against the backdrop of the Việt Nam War. Trần Diệu Lan, who was born in 1920, was forced to flee her family farm with her six children during the Land Reform as the Communist government rose in the North. Years later in Hà Nội, her young granddaughter, Hương, comes of age as her parents and uncles head off down the Hồ Chí Minh Trail to fight in a conflict that tore not just her beloved country, but her family apart.

    Vivid, gripping, and steeped in the language and traditions of Việt Nam, The Mountains Sing brings to life the human costs of this conflict from the point of view of the Vietnamese people themselves, while showing us the true power of kindness and hope.

    The Mountains Sing is celebrated Vietnamese poet Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai’s first novel in English.

    Review:

    ✂️✂️✂️✂️✂️/5

    What a captivating novel! Within the first several pages I was transported to another time and place. This intergenerational novel tells the story from within Vietnam – one that many are unfamiliar with if you learned your country’s historical perspective of that time period.

    The writing was lyrical and Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai did a phenomenal job of creating an atmosphere for the reader to experience not only the beauty of the country and people but also the horrors suffered.

    I loved learning about the culture, traditions, and proverbs that prevailed despite the turmoil and hardships faced. It was all so real and as I read, there were times I had to put the book down to process the author’s words. This book is an experience – far more than just words on a page.

    I felt a strong emotional connection with the characters and I have yet to stop thinking about this book. It’s one that I can recommend to anyone and I believe that this is one of those books that everyone should read. There are so many lessons to be learned, historical perspectives to be told, and experiences to be shared.

    This book has already made it into my top books of 2020 and I cannot wait to read what this author writes next! She is immensely talented.

    About the author:

    Born into the Viet Nam War in 1973, Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai grew up witnessing the war’s devastation and its aftermath. She worked as a street vendor and rice farmer before winning a scholarship to attend university in Australia. She is the author of eight books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction published in Vietnamese, and her writing has been translated and published in more than 10 countries, most recently in Norton’s Inheriting the War anthology. She has been honored with many awards, including the Poetry of the Year 2010 Award from the Hà Nội Writers Association, as well as international grants and fellowships. Quế Mai first learned English in 8th grade and The Mountains Sing is the first novel written in English by a Vietnamese national to be published by a major American publisher. Currently based in Indonesia, Quế Mai’s journalism regularly appears in major Vietnamese newspapers. For more information, visit www.nguyenphanquemai.com.

    Thank you to Algonquin Books for a gifted copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review and promotion.

     

     

  • Book Reviews,  Recommendations

    Before She Knew Him: blog tour & review

    About Before She Knew Him

    • Paperback: 320 pages
    • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (February 25, 2020)

    Catching a killer is dangerous—especially if he lives next door

    From the hugely talented author of The Kind Worth Killing comes an exquisitely chilling tale of a young suburban wife with a history of psychological instability whose fears about her new neighbor could lead them both to murder . . .

    Hen and her husband Lloyd have settled into a quiet life in a new house outside of Boston, Massachusetts. Hen (short for Henrietta) is an illustrator and works out of a studio nearby, and has found the right meds to control her bipolar disorder. Finally, she’s found some stability and peace.

    But when they meet the neighbors next door, that calm begins to erode as she spots a familiar object displayed on the husband’s office shelf. The sports trophy looks exactly like one that went missing from the home of a young man who was killed two years ago. Hen knows because she’s long had a fascination with this unsolved murder—an obsession she doesn’t talk about anymore, but can’t fully shake either.

    Could her neighbor, Matthew, be a killer? Or is this the beginning of another psychotic episode like the one she suffered back in college, when she became so consumed with proving a fellow student guilty that she ended up hurting a classmate?

    The more Hen observes Matthew, the more she suspects he’s planning something truly terrifying. Yet no one will believe her. Then one night, when she comes face to face with Matthew in a dark parking lot, she realizes that he knows she’s been watching him, that she’s really on to him. And that this is the beginning of a horrifying nightmare she may not live to escape. . .

    Review

    Can you reread a thriller and love it just as much the second time? When it comes to a book by Peter Swanson, absolutely.

    I originally read this book last year and if I remember correctly, I tore through it in a few sittings. That’s always a good sign!

    Unreliable narrators are my favorite when done well and Swanson is a master at leaving a tiny doubt in the mind of the reader about each character. Hen was my favorite character because she struck a balance of endearing and barely believable because of her obsession with the case and her past.

    This book had me guessing from the beginning the first time around and while I did guess the big twist, I wasn’t disappointed but instead impressed with myself because Swanson always writes a great twist… or two. Reading it a second time gave me the opportunity to pick up on some subtleties I missed the first time and I appreciated the writing even more.

    I originally went into this book a bit concerned about the portrayal of mental illness but it is handled well. If you are sensitive to this, it’s something to be aware of but I wouldn’t let it discourage you from reading this book.

    Peter Swanson is one of my absolute favorites when it comes to thrillers – and I’m picky. If you haven’t read this one, add it to your TBR list soon!

    Thanks to TLC Book Tours and William Morrow Books for this gifted copy in exchanged for my unbiased review.

    Purchase Links

    HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

    Photo by Jim Ferguson

    About Peter Swanson

    Peter Swanson is the author of five novels, including The Kind Worth Killing, winner of the New England Society Book Award, and finalist for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger; Her Every Fear, an NPR book of the year; and his most recent, Before She Knew Him. His books have been translated into 30 languages, and his stories, poetry, and features have appeared in Asimov’s Science FictionThe Atlantic MonthlyMeasureThe GuardianThe Strand Magazine, and Yankee Magazine. He lives outside of Boston, where he is at work on his next novel.

    Find out more about Peter on his website and follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

  • Book Reviews

    Last Day: Blog Tour

    Today is my stop on the Last Day blog tour! Thank you to TLC Book Tours for providing me a copy of this book to read and review. All opinions are unbiased and my own.

    SYNOPSIS: From celebrated New York Times bestselling author Luanne Rice comes a riveting story of a seaside community shaken by a violent crime and a tragic loss.

    Years ago, Beth Lathrop and her sister Kate suffered what they thought would be the worst tragedy of their lives the night both the famous painting Moonlight and their mother were taken. The detective assigned to the case, Conor Reid, swore to protect the sisters from then on.

    Beth moved on, throwing herself fully into the art world, running the family gallery, and raising a beautiful daughter with her husband Pete. Kate, instead, retreated into herself and took to the skies as a pilot, always on the run. When Beth is found strangled in her home, and Moonlight goes missing again, Detective Reid can’t help but feel a sense of déjà vu.

    Reid immediately suspects Beth’s husband, whose affair is a poorly kept secret. He has an airtight alibi—but he also has a motive, and the evidence seems to point to him. Kate and Reid, along with the sisters’ closest childhood friends, struggle to make sense of Beth’s death, but they only find more questions: Who else would have wanted Beth dead? What’s the significance of Moonlight?

    Twenty years ago, Reid vowed to protect Beth and Kate—and he’s failed. Now solving the case is turning into an obsession . . .

    My thoughts:

    The opening of this book was captivating. It began on Beth Lathrop’s last day. While the rest of the people in her life were starting a new day, she was already dead. Beth was also six months pregnant which added yet another layer of complexity to an already tragic situation when she was found by her sister, Kate.

    My mind instantly went to – it’s always the husband – but this family, they are not strangers to tragedy and it became obvious that more was amiss when the painting stolen during the first crime years before, had once again gone missing.

    This book was a page-turner as it moved between two tragic plot lines. I really liked that the author used the same detective; it made the story more cohesive for me. And while the easy out would have been the husband, Beth had her own secrets that she kept from her sister which kept me second guessing everything.

    I enjoyed the writing and character development. And even though the story was a devastating one, the author kept the plot moving without getting stuck in the tragedies of the characters’ lives – had this not been the case, I probably would have struggled more with violence and loss of life.

    I didn’t guess the ending, which I actually prefer with a plot like this one. This was my first book by Luanne Rice and will definitely not be my last. This was a compelling book which will make the reader reflect on family relationships, the bonds of siblings, and secrets kept.

    Purchase Links:

    Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

    About The Author:

    Luanne Rice is the New York Times bestselling author of 34 novels, which have been translated into 24 languages. The author of Last Day, Dream Country, Beach Girls, Pretend She’s Here and others, Rice often writes about love, family, nature, and the sea. She received the 2014 Connecticut Governor’s Arts Award for excellence and lifetime achievement in the Literary Arts category.

    Several of Rice’s novels have been adapted for television, including Crazy in Love for TNT, Blue Moon for CBS, Follow the Stars Home and Silver Bells for the Hallmark Hall of Fame, and Beach Girls for Lifetime. Rice’s four cats are her muses, and she speaks their language. She lives in Old Lyme, Connecticut.

     

     

     

  • Book Reviews

    Blog Tour: The East End

    Welcome to The East End blog tour!

    THE EAST END

    Author: Jason Allen

    ISBN: 9780778308393

    Publication Date: 5/7/19

    Publisher: Park Row Books

     

    Buy Links:

    Harlequin

    Amazon

    Barnes & Noble

    Books-A-Million

    Powell’s

     

    Book Summary:

    THE EAST END opens with Corey Halpern, a Hamptons local from a broken home who breaks into mansions at night for kicks. He likes the rush and admittedly, the escapism. One night just before Memorial Day weekend, he breaks into the wrong home at the wrong time: the Sheffield estate where he and his mother work. Under the cover of darkness, their boss Leo Sheffield — billionaire CEO, patriarch, and owner of the vast lakeside manor — arrives unexpectedly with his lover, Henry. After a shocking poolside accident leaves Henry dead, everything depends on Leo burying the truth. But unfortunately for him, Corey saw what happened and there are other eyes in the shadows.

    Hordes of family and guests are coming to the estate the next morning, including Leo’s surly wife, all expecting a lavish vacation weekend of poolside drinks, evening parties, and fireworks filling the sky. No one can know there’s a dead man in the woods, and there is no one Leo can turn to. With his very life on the line, everything will come down to a split-second decision. For all of the main players—Leo, Gina, and Corey alike—time is ticking down, and the world they’ve known is set to explode.

    Told through multiple points of view, THE EAST END highlights the socio-economic divide in the Hamptons, but also how the basic human need for connection and trust can transcend class differences. Secrecy, obsession, and desperation dictate each character’s path. In a race against time, each critical moment holds life in the balance as Corey, Gina, and Leo approach a common breaking point. THE EAST END is a propulsive read, rich with character and atmosphere, and marks the emergence of a talented new voice in fiction.

     

    Excerpt review:

    In the Hamptons, we’re invaded every summer. The mansions belong to the invaders, and aren’t actual homes—not as far as the locals are concerned. For one thing, they’re empty most of the year.

    I received an excerpt for this blog tour and after reading just a few pages, this book was immediately added to my summer to-be-read list.

    The premise is intriguing as it’s always been interesting to me what local residents think when their hometown is transformed from their home into a seasonal destination of the wealthy. And given the author’s background, I would imagine he has some great insight into what happens in the Hamptons – in season and in the off season.

    I’m looking forward to reading The East End this summer – if I can wait that long – by the pool!

     

    Author Bio: Jason Allen grew up in a working-class home in the Hamptons, where he worked a variety of blue-collar jobs for wealthy estate owners. He writes fiction, poetry, and memoir, and is the author of the poetry collection A MEDITATION ON FIRE. He has an MFA from Pacific University and a PhD in literature and creative writing from Binghamton University, and currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia, where he teaches writing. THE EAST END is his first novel.

     

    Social Links:

    Author Website

    Twitter: @EathanJason

    Facebook: @jasonallenauthor

    Goodreads

     

     

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