Tuesday, February 11, 2014

TLC BOOK TOURS and REVIEW: Becalmed by Normandie Fischer


When a Southern woman with a broken heart falls for a widower with a broken boat, it's anything but smooth sailing.

Tadie Longworth doesn't mind acting the maiden aunt in Beaufort, North Carolina. She has a gift shop full of her own jewelry designs and a sweet little sailboat to take her mind off the guy who got away. But now he’s back . . . with the fashion-plate wife he picked instead of Tadie . . . and he’s hitting on her again.

When widower Will Merritt limps into town with a broken sailboat and a perky seven-year-old daughter, he offers the perfect distraction — until that distraction turns into fascination when Tadie offers shelter during a hurricane. Over candlelit games of Slap-Jack and Monopoly, Jilly becomes the daughter she could have had and Will the man she always wanted. Only, he’s sworn never to let another woman in his life. Any day now, he’s going to finish those repairs, and that ship's going to sail — straight out of Tadie’s life.

Paperback, 385 pages
Published July 1st 2013 by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas (first published 2013)
ISBN  1938499611 (ISBN13: 9781938499616)

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My Thoughts
Out here on the water between Shackleford Banks and the islands fronting Taylor Creek, the wind can turn as skittish as those barrier-island ponies.

Growing up in a coastal town to a relatively privileged family, Tadie is a sailor who has a mostly full life. She has friends and and a business and a beautiful home inherited from her parents. But she is approaching middle-aged, and has never been married or known true love or the love of a child-- until Will and Jilly walk into her life. 

I don't usually read romance.I generally find myself a little frustrated with the simplicity of it, and feel it is sort of...fluff. But I've been reading some heavy stuff for awhile now, and I felt in the need for something "light". This one left me with mixed feelings.

Tadie was a likable enough character, and little Jilly was suitably adorable. But I kept feeling a sense of incongruity, and things with Jilly and Will and Tadie would feel unauthentic. Jilly's perspective as a child would feel off, minor things amid the characters would seem so blown out of proportion. Tadie's brother Bucky seemed pointless, other than to show that Tadie had suffered loss in her life. And likewise I felt no connection to Matt, Tadie's best friend's husband, and figured he was just another means to an end. And why was he being portrayed as an old man? He was in his 30s, but he sounded like an old man!

I enjoyed the first half of this story, but as time worn on, the story wore on me. But to be fair, that may be my fault for trying to read romance again. I get so frustrated with the characters over-reacting to minor things, and everyone being overly dramatic, and what often become rather ridiculous situations, but that's romance for you.

And a relationship in a romance novel goes from 0 to 60 in seconds. Both Tadie's relationship with Will and that with Jilly went from "Hi, nice to meet you!" to "I can't live without you" in what seemed to be days (or at least days of interaction together, even if those days were spaced out over a year).

My final word: I'm a realist. And as a realist, I often have trouble with romance novels. There are very few I've ever loved, and even those I haven't read in ten years. I'm thinking I need to try them again, to see whether I really do enjoy them, or whether I've changed and no longer enjoy romance novels at all. The characters are drama queens, relationships mushroom and combust at super-sonic speeds, and ridiculous storylines and events move things along. However, that being said, I did actually enjoy this book for what it was. It was a distraction, and didn't require me to think too hard, and restored my hope in love. The characters were likable. It even made me tear up quite a few times, so it affected me. I enjoyed the first 3/4. It was the final 50 pages that I really struggled with. If you like romance, I would definitely recommend it. If you are more into literary fiction and just dabble in romance on the rare occasion, then you may want to pass on by.

I would like to thank TLC Book Tours, and the very pleasant and kind-hearted author Normadie Fischer, for including me on this tour. Check out the website for the full tour schedule:

Wednesday, January 22nd: Spiced Latte ReadsSailing Out of Darkness
Thursday, January 23rd: The Most Happy ReaderSailing Out of Darkness
Friday, January 24th: The Book BarnSailing Out of Darkness
Monday, January 27th: Obsessed Italian BratSailing Out of Darkness
Wednesday, January 29th: Books and BindingsBecalmed
Monday, February 3rd: Time 2 ReadBecalmed
Tuesday, February 4th: Staircase WitSailing Out of Darkness
Wednesday, February 5th: Sammy the BookwormSailing Out of Darkness
Thursday, February 6th: Good Girl Gone Redneck - Sailing Out of Darkness
Monday, February 10th: Shelf Pleasure (guest post)
Tuesday, February 11th: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck WorldBecalmed
Wednesday, February 12th: The Most Happy ReaderBecalmed
Monday, February 17th: Patricia’s WisdomBecalmed
Wednesday, February 19th: Cruising Susan ReviewsSailing Out of Darkness
Thursday, February 20th: Obsessed Italian BratBecalmed
Monday, February 24th: Every Free Chance Book ReviewsSailing Out of Darkness
Date TBD: Mary’s Cup of TeaSailing Out of Darkness
Date TBD: Mary’s Cup of TeaBecalmed

My Rating:


I received a copy of this book to review through TLC Book Tours and the publisher, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

TLC BOOK TOURS and REVIEW: We by Michael Landweber


After an accident, forty-year-old Ben Arnold regains consciousness in the kitchen of the house he grew up in. Only he feels different, lighter somehow. Something is horribly wrong. Ben is swept into the arms of his mother, who he hasn’t seen in twenty years. She calls him by his childhood nickname, Binky. He sees a younger, unbroken version of his father. His estranged brother is there, reverted back to his awkward teenage self. Finally, adding horror to his confusion, he glimpses his older sister Sara as she runs out the door to meet her boyfriend.

Sara, whose absence he has felt every day since her death.

Ben is a mere hitchhiker, a parasite in the brain of seven-year-old Binky, and his younger self is not happy to have him there.

It is three days before his sister will be attacked. Ben knows he has to save Sara but first he must gain Binky’s trust. Even if he can get Binky to say the right words, to do the right thing, who will believe that a young boy can foretell the future?

Paperback, 194 pages
Published September 1st 2013 by Coffeetown Press (first published August 29th 2013)
ISBN  1603811664 (ISBN13: 9781603811668)

About the Author
from the Author's Goodreads page

I was born in Madison, WI. I have sort of learned and mostly forgotten four languages: Hebrew, Spanish, Japanese and Thai. I met my wife in Tokyo. I am allergic to cumin. The pinnacle of my journalism career was following President Clinton around while he jogged. My short stories have appeared in some really cool literary magazines online and in print (and you can see a full list of them at my website). I have Masters degrees in Southeast Asian Studies and Public Policy. I have a soft spot for movies about talking animals. I am very unlikely to survive the zombie apocalypse. WE is my first novel. I write TV and movie reviews for Pop Matters. I have worked for government bureaucracies, large and small. I mainly listen to alternative music, but my favorite song might be Son of a Preacher Man by Dusty Springfield. I live and write in Washington, DC. 

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My Thoughts
The panic came on quickly, just as it always does.
40-yr-old Ben suddenly regains consciousness to discover he is back in the body of his 7-yr-old self. Disoriented he further realizes that it is just days before his sister was raped and his family shattered, and with this adult forethought he is filled with dread and thinks that he can't survive his sister's attack and suicide a second time.

This, of course, leads to quite a bit of confusion with both Ben and his 7-yr-old self who goes by the name of Binky.
What is happening? I said. Immediately, I regretted my words. His small features contracted into a frown. This boy had been expecting me to answer that question, not ask it.
Me and Binky. Together.
I felt the two voices vacate the space, leaving me alone with Binky once again.
Unfortunately it has been a crazy month, and I have had little time for reading. So I am still working on this one. I'm intrigued by the concept (which is why I agreed to read it to begin with), and the author does a good job at moving the story along and relaying the confusion (and yet acceptance) of a young boy who starts to hear another voice in his head.

But the way that Ben accepts this situation fell a little flat with me. A young boy accepting something so bizarre? I can see that happening. He's at the age when he still thinks Spiderman is real! But a 40-year-old suddenly waking up in the body of a young child? I would be freaking out totally! Ben seems to sort of take it all in stride, which seems like an odd response to me.

But the author does a great job at creating a clear delineation between Ben and Binky, and the disorientation of residing in a body that is no longer your own, and which you can't control. Ben almost seems to view Binky as a separate individual, a young boy he wants to protect and guide. And, of course, Binky has no idea that Ben is a grown version of himself. He's like an imaginary friend living in Binky's head.

Will Ben be able to alter the future by changing the past, with the help of Binky?

My final word: It's a great concept, and the author does a fine job at cultivating the story. I think this time it is probably outside distractions causing a disconnect between me and the story. I am eager to see what happens, and whether Ben is successful in convincing Binky to help him save Sara (while trying to avoid telling Binky exactly what they are doing, as Binky may get too frightened or traumatized to do what needs to be done.) It's actually a fast read, but I am moving at a snail's pace right now on all of my books! A great plot, and well executed!

Buy Now:

Barnes and Noble
I would like to thank TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour. Check out the website for the full tour schedule:

Monday, Feb. 3rd: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Wed. Feb. 5th: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Thursday, Feb. 6th: Bewitched Bookworms
Monday, Feb. 10th: Laura’s Reviews
Tuesday, Feb. 11th: Broken Teepee
Wed. Feb. 12th: Happy. Pretty. Sweet.
Thursday, Feb. 13th: Mockingbird Hill Cottage
Monday, Feb. 17th: Melody & Words
Wed. Feb. 19th: The Book Wheel
Thursday, Feb. 20th: From the TBR Pile
Monday, Feb 24th: Suko’s Notebook
Wed. Feb. 26th: Simply Stacie

My Rating: B+ 


Update: I did finish this book, and it only got better. Big sister Sara was Binky's savior. Adult Ben responds to Binky as you would expect to respond if you were confronted with your younger self-- annoyed and protective all at the same time. I liked the second half of the book better than the first half. It was sweet and tender at times, and Sara was very likable. You feel for brother Charles, who walks through life unseen. Even the parents, who adult Ben observes he "...finally saw how much of a struggle it had always been for both of my parents to raise us. It did not come naturally to them." His parents did their best with the tools at their disposal. I wasn't a fan of the superego and Id scenes, but I always tuned out in psych class whenever we got to talking about the Id and superego! But I'm bumping up my rating after having completed this book. Fascinating concept well executed with a satisfying ending!


I received a copy of this book to review through TLC Book Tours and the publisher, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

TLC BOOK TOURS and REVIEW: The Gods of Heavenly Punishment by Jennifer Cody Epstein


In this evocative and thrilling epic novel, fifteen-year-old Yoshi Kobayashi, child of Japan's New Empire, daughter of an ardent expansionist and a mother with a haunting past, is on her way home on a March night when American bombers shower her city with napalm--an attack that leaves one hundred thousand dead within hours and half the city in ashen ruins. In the days that follow, Yoshi's old life will blur beyond recognition, leading her to a new world marked by destruction and shaped by those considered the enemy: Cam, a downed bomber pilot taken prisoner by the Imperial Japanese Army; Anton, a gifted architect who helped modernize Tokyo's prewar skyline but is now charged with destroying it; and Billy, an Occupation soldier who arrives in the blackened city with a dark secret of his own. Directly or indirectly, each will shape Yoshi's journey as she seeks safety, love, and redemption.

Paperback, 382 pages
Published January 13th 2014 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published March 11th 2012)
ISBN  0393347885 (ISBN13: 9780393347883)

About the Author
from the author's website

I am an unrepentant book addict and the author of The Gods of Heavenly Punishment, as well as the international bestseller The Painter from Shanghai. I have also written for The Wall Street Journal, The Asian Wall Street Journal, The Nation (Thailand), Self and Mademoiselle magazines, and the NBC and HBO networks, working in Kyoto, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Bangkok as well as Washington D.C. and New York. I’ve taught at Columbia University in New York and Doshisha University in Kyoto, and have an MFA from Columbia, a Masters of International Relations from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and a BA in Asian Studies/English from Amherst College. I currently live in Brooklyn, NY with my husband, filmmaker Michael Epstein, my two amazing daughters and an exceptionally needy Springer Spaniel.

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My Thoughts
The climb felt almost arduous, the engine juddering and restarting four times during the creaking ascent up.
This book follows a young Japanese girl Yoshi, and various characters that either directly or indirectly impact her life, which is shattered by the US napalm attack on Tokyo in 1945.
The next month, 334 B-29s took off to raid on the night of 9–10 March ("Operation Meetinghouse"), with 279 of them dropping around 1,700 tons of bombs. Fourteen B-29s were lost. Approximately 16 square miles (41 km2) of the city were destroyed and some 100,000 people are estimated to have died in the resulting firestorm, more immediate deaths than either of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The US Strategic Bombing Survey later estimated that nearly 88,000 people died in this one raid, 41,000 were injured, and over a million residents lost their homes. The Tokyo Fire Department estimated a higher toll: 97,000 killed and 125,000 wounded. The Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department established a figure of 124,711 casualties including both killed and wounded and 286,358 buildings and homes destroyed. Richard Rhodes, historian, put deaths at over 100,000, injuries at a million and homeless residents at a million.- from Wikipedia
The bombing was truly tragic and barbaric. However I do know that the Japanese government/army was out of control. They'd become greedy bullies, trying to get more and more land and resources, by any means necessary. I've read about what they did in Nanking, and it was hideous.
But do you fight barbarism with barbarism? The Japanese had no idea what they were dealing with when they attacked Pearl Harbor. They awakened a mighty and dangerous beast, and the US dealt them a death blow without conscience.
It reminded him of something repulsive he'd read somewhere; a comment made by the Army general who'd led the air raids in Europe: "If you kill enough of 'em," he'd said, "they stop fighting."
I still have about 20 pages left, but I have loved this book from page one. I love the ease with which the author writes, making it an easy yet captivating read. And perhaps part of the reason that I love this book is that so much of it takes place in Japan-- a place that I grew up hearing about, given that my family lived there for three years before I was born. I grew up speaking common Japanese phrases and eating with chopsticks, and surrounded by Japanese decorations and dolls and books. So this book was a very comfortable fit for me.

I loved so many of the characters. Yoshi was a treasure-- smart, beautiful and hopeful. Cam was a charmer. Billy Reynolds and Cam's brother Mike were all likable. There's also some difficult characters-- those who have good and bad sides to them. Hana, Kenji, Anton and his wife. This book is full of complicated characters that can't be easily characterized as "good" or "bad" or "likable"-- although some do seem to turn "bad" over time.

Yoshi's mother Hana doted on her when she was a girl, thinking she was absolutely perfect. But time and perhaps mental illness began to wear her down, and Yoshi found herself alone, even when her mother was there.
"So you see," she said, forcing a laugh (it felt like all her laughter was forced these days), "since we are all the Emperor's children we must have some sunshine inside us. But sometimes I feel like my-- like my sunshine is flickering out. And so I lie under the sun to light it up again." Where had that come from?

Yoshi frowned up at her, chewing her bottom lip. "Maybe I could light it for you," she said at last.

The words seemed to stop Hana's heart. "You do," she told her...
I was curious about the title of this book, but then that was answered later on in the story. 
Yoshi's last sight of her was like something she'd seen once in an old painting in a temple; something their teacher had called a "Hell Scroll." Entitled The Gods of Heavenly Punishment, it showed a huge, fiery demon consuming tiny people limb by limb, surrounded by more flames and staggering, fire-limned figures.
My final word: I'm really loving this book! I think I will recommend it to my book club, which tends to choose books with strong female characters. The author has won me over with her writing. Her description of Japan, the people and the culture is beautiful! Yoshi is a strong character, not giving in and losing herself to all that life has dealt her. A number of wonderful, positive male characters as well (sometimes books with strong female characters portray men as villains or dolts). This book brings the tragedy of the Tokyo bombing (as well as other areas of Japan) to light-- a revelation for those unfamiliar with this time period. I think this whole period in history has been downplayed in our schools, to make the US appear to be victims of the Pearl Harbor bombing without really recognizing the hideousness of our own deeds perpetrated on civilians following that event.
What kind of a people, she wondered, does what was done that day and then has no concept of the enormity of their act?
A powerful story beautifully told.

Buy Now:
Barnes and Noble

I would like to thank TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour. Check out the website for the full tour schedule:

Monday, January 13th:  No More Grumpy Bookseller
Monday, January 13th:  Now is Gone – giveaway
Tuesday, January 14th:  A Bookish Way of Life

Tuesday, January 14th:  Kritter’s Ramblings
Wednesday, January 15th:  Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Friday, January 17th:  The Best Books Ever
Sunday, January 19th:  Writer Unboxed - author guest post
Tuesday, January 21st:  Bookish Ardour
Wednesday, January 22nd:  Bookfoolery
Thursday, January 23rd:  She Treads Softly
Friday, January 24th:  A Reader of Fictions
Wednesday, January 29th:  Book-a-licous Mama
Thursday, January 30th:  Kahakai Kitchen
Tuesday, February 4th:  Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Wednesday, February 5th:  Bibliotica
Thursday, February 6th:  Lavish Bookshelf
Thursday, February 13th:  The Feminist Texican [Reads]
Friday, February 14th:  Books are the New Black

My Rating:


I received a copy of this book to review through TLC Book Tours and the publisher, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel.