Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Land of Dreams by Kate Kerrigan

Hi, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Kate Kerrigan's Land of Dreams, the third part of her fabulous Ellis Island trilogy!

It's 1942 and the now twice-widowed Ellie Hogan has carved out a nice niche for herself in New York. She's raising two adopted sons and is an up-and-comer in the art scene as well. When her eldest boy, Leo, decides to take off for Hollywood in pursuit of fame and glory, Ellie has no choice but to follow. Initially, her plan is to retrieve her son and return to New York, but when it looks as though stardom might be a reality for Leo, Ellie's plans change. 

But Hollywood is a far cry from New York or even Ireland. 

I was so anxious to get to get back to Ellie's story with Land of Dreams. It's been on my must have list since I turned the final page on City of Hope last year. Seriously, I even considered ordering it from the UK so that I wouldn't have to wait!

That said, I was surprised that the first third of the book is basically backstory to get us up to 1942. It glossed over Ellie's years with Charles and Leo all in order to catch us up on what happened after the last book and get us to the point where the story actually begins. It was disappointing and dragged the momentum of the first part of the book quite significantly.

This start was doubly disappointing because I'd found City of Hope particularly easy to get into even if you hadn't already read Ellis Island and I felt that Land of Dreams didn't have that same approachability. I've so adored each part of Ellie's story that it's become one of my favorite things to recommend to readers. But where readers could start easily with either City or the actual first installment, Ellis, I don't think Land would serve well at all as a diving off point.

Now that that's out of the way, I will tell you that I still greatly enjoyed returning to Ellie. She's a character readers can't help but fall in love with! Her struggles in this book are centered around her kids and her identity. She worries about stifling Leo's dreams but Los Angeles proves to be less than inspiring for her own art and that's something that scares her.

I was glad Bridie traveled to LA in Land! Ellie's friends have always played a big role in her story and while she does make friends in California, Bridie is a favorite from the previous installments. She's feisty and funny and I would have missed her and the way she supports Ellie and her family.

Land of Dreams is a nice close to Ellie's tale but I do recommend reading at least City of Hope beforehand.

Rating: 3.5/5

To see more stops on the tour be sure to check out the official TLC tour page here.

For more on Kate and her work you can visit her website here. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Series I'd Like to Start

I've decided to jump on board with Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week the topic is: top ten new series I'd like to start.

The Moonlight Palace by Liz Rosenberg

Good morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Liz Rosenberg's The Moonlight Palace.

Agnes has lived all her life in the crumbling ruins of the Kampong Glam palace. The last descendant of the Sultan of Singapore, her history is inextricably tied to that of the island. Agnes and her few remaining relatives - her Uncle Chachi (who is actually her great uncle), British Grandfather, and his wife Nei-Nei Down - rely on the family stipend (which continues due to some accounting error) and British Grandfather's pension from the military, along with income from boarders, to keep themselves afloat. But it's not enough. Agnes is old enough now to help, and that is what she vows to do, all the while hoping that she can save their Moonlight Palace.

I was pleasantly surprised by The Moonlight Palace and Agnes in particular. From the start, her voice rings loud and true, drawing the reader into a story that is rich with both history and emotion. Much of the focus of the story is her coming of age, but I found it to be a rather well-rounded tale as a whole. Though it is a rather short read, Rosenberg did a great job weaving in the history, setting the scene quite nicely for both Singapore in the 1920s and of the raggedy palace. And though Agnes herself is a force, the rest of the characters that surround her are quite nicely developed as well.

Singapore's history is not something I know a terribly lot about but I find it to be utterly fascinating. And while I didn't necessarily plan to follow up one Singapore read with another (this read comes somewhat on the tail of the latest Ovidia Yu in my TBR) I did love going back to it as a setting.

To see more stops on the tour be sure to check out the official TLC tour page here.

Monday, October 20, 2014

California by Edan Lepucki

When Cal and Frida left Los Angeles behind, it was to start fresh - just the two of them. The world has changed and life in the city is all but impossible. Neither of them can afford to live in one of the communities that have cropped up around the country, but Cal has the skills to live off the land and support them both. Then Frida discovers that she may be pregnant. With a third life to consider, the couple decides it might be necessary to strike out and explore their surroundings. For a long time they've known that there are others nearby, but they've avoided all contact until now. 

I wasn't sure how much to share about the overall plot of Edan Lepucki's debut. The ultimate pull of the story is discovery. Discovery of Cal and Frida's story, discovery of the nearby settlement, discovery of the secrets that everyone is living by. To give too much away, then, would ultimately kill the suspense.

I'm also at odds with my own opinion about the story, which obviously makes it harder to review as a whole. On the one hand, the discovery I mentioned above kept me interested. On the other hand, I'm undecided about whether the ultimate revelations were really the pay off I wanted.

The story ebbed and flowed throughout, with high points and lulls. Of course the high points kept me intrigued and drew me through the story. The lulls, though, drove me a bit nuts. I really want to go into more detail but I just don't want to risk giving too much away. I guess I'll limit myself to saying that there are a lot of questions that come up in the book. Lepucki addresses some but not all of them and those that are addressed aren't always done so in a way that was expected nor did some of those questions seem to warrant as much secrecy or tension.

California was a good read and one that I did enjoy, for the most part. I feel I should point out that while it is set in a post-apocalyptic world, and there are a lot of the horrors one would expect with such a setting, it isn't a very action-packed tale as a whole. It's a very character-driven story and much of the tension I spoke of surrounds Cal and Frida and the various choices they're faced with.

Rating: 3/5

Sunday, October 19, 2014

New Releases 10/21/14

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

Desert God by Wilbur Smith

Seventh Grave and No Body by Darynda Jones

Sometimes the Wolf by Urban Waite

Fish Tales by Sheri S. Tepper

Wait for Signs by Craig Johnston

Bathing the Lion by Jonathan Carroll

Burned by Valerie Plame

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

Beautiful You by Chuck Palahniuk

Shopaholic to the Stars by Sophie Kinsella

The Ice Dragon by George R. R. Martin

Beware the Wild by Natalie C. Parker

New on DVD:
The Purge: Anarchy
Earth to Echo

Pre Pub Book Buzz: Get in Trouble by Kelly Link

Morning, all. I'm a day late to this party.

As you all know, I'm a sucker for dark fiction. I'm also a sucker for short fiction, which makes Kelly Link's upcoming collection, Get In Trouble, the book I'm most looking forward to this week!

Here's a bit about the book from Goodreads:

She has been hailed by Michael Chabon as "the most darkly playful voice in American fiction"; by Neil Gaiman as "a national treasure"; and by Karen Russell as "Franz Kafka with a better understanding of ladies' footwear and bad first dates." Now Kelly Link's eagerly awaited new collection--her first for adult readers in a decade--proves indelibly that this bewitchingly original writer is among the finest we have. 

Link has won an ardent following for her ability, with each new short story, to take readers deeply into an unforgettable, brilliantly constructed fictional universe. The eight exquisite examples in this collection show her in full command of her formidable powers. In "The Summer People," a young girl in rural North Carolina serves as uneasy caretaker to the mysterious, never-quite-glimpsed visitors who inhabit the cottage behind her house. In "I Can See Right Through You," a onetime teen idol takes a disturbing trip to the Florida swamp where his former on- and off-screen love interest is shooting a ghost-hunting reality show. In "The New Boyfriend," a suburban slumber party takes an unusual turn, and a teenage friendship is tested, when the spoiled birthday girl opens her big present: a life-size animated doll. 

Hurricanes, astronauts, evil twins, bootleggers, Ouija boards, iguanas, "The Wizard of Oz, " superheroes, the Pyramids . . . These are just some of the talismans of an imagination as capacious and as full of wonder as that of any writer today. But as fantastical as these stories can be, they are always grounded by sly humor and an innate generosity of feeling for the frailty--and the hidden strengths--of human beings. In "Get in Trouble, "this one-of-a-kind talent expands the boundaries of what short fiction can do.

If I succeed in getting just one reader turned onto shorts, I will be a truly happy girl. But hopefully more than one reader will find this one appealing!

Get in Trouble is due out from Random House in February.

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Bodies We Wear by Jeyn Roberts + a Giveaway

Imagine a drug that gives its users a glimpse of magnificence. Now imagine that drug can also become dangerously addicting for some of its users. And those who overdose and manage to survive fight its effects for the rest of their life. 

This is Heaven's Dream - Heam. A drug so potent that its very creators succumbed to its temptation. It's only been around for twelve years but it has changed the world in unimaginable ways. Faye's own father was an addict and when he couldn't pay his dealers, they came for Faye instead. She was just eleven when they force fed her Heam and though she survived, her best friend did not. Faye vowed she would get revenge on the men responsible. She's trained every day since the incident and now she's ready. But can she go through with it?

Holy crap this book was good! I've never read Jeyn Roberts before and now I feel like I've been missing out.

The Bodies We Wear is dark, dark, dark. It reminded me a bit (just a bit) of All These Things I've Done and Shovel Ready. Weird connections, I know, but let me explain. All These Things I've Done because of the setting: somewhat futuristic and yet very much like the world today, with very obvious effects of the restrictions/drug (All These Things/Bodies We Wear) and because the drug lord aspect in Roberts's book brought to mind the mob presence in Zevin's. As for Shovel Ready, it's the cult-like aspect of Heam use and the addiction to the limnosphere (particularly the way it's used by Spademan's foe). And again the futuristic setting heavily weighted in the world we know today.

It's probably a stretch for anyone not living in my brain but it seemed all three would live in the same stratosphere of the fiction world. Plus, they're all dark themes! Drugs, vengeance...

I loved Faye. I loved the way Roberts brought her physical and mental struggles into the story. Faye isn't invincible. Yes, she's driven by a desire for revenge - almost blinded by it - but she's not a machine. Even in the first pages, when she's clearly on a mission (what that mission may be is unclear to the reader at that point), she's sympathetic to the girl looking for her brother and she saves a life as well.

This book was like Pringles, once I started I just could not stop. I can't resist mentioning the song, either. Roberts has a playlist in the back of the book, but I didn't realize that until I'd finished. I wasn't terribly surprised to see that "It Can't Rain All the Time" by Jane Siberry was listed, though, as it had been running through my head every single time Faye commented on the rain. Um, any old Crow fans out there? (The walkabouts my head goes on while reading can be a little scary.)

Anyway, The Bodies We Wear was fabulous. Somewhat surprisingly so considering I had no idea what to expect going in. Roberts's previous released are now going in the must have list and I definitely recommend any fans of darker fiction check this one out as well.

Now, thanks to the publisher I get to offer up a copy to one of you lucky readers! To enter, just fill out the Rafflecopter below before Monday, November 3. Open US/Canada only and no PO boxes, please.

a Rafflecopter giveaway