Thursday, March 27, 2014

Introducing...The Lost Sisterhood by Anne Fortier

Normally introducing books through the first chapter or so, this week I'm including the entire Prologue as an introduction to this book...

The young men completed their training row in record time.

It was one of those rare bright mornings in Oxford, when the mists lifted off the river right before the bow, as if nature had waited for this moment, this crew, to finally unveil herself.

Haz felt invincible when he and his mates walked back to college together, crossing the Christ Church Meadow in the rising sun. But his elation was cut short by the college porter, who summoned him to the lodge with a brusque wave as soon as the young men entered the quad. "This came for you, sir." The porter pointed an ink-stained thumb at the object sitting on the mail counter. "Not ten minutes ago. I was just about to call the dean--"

"What is it?" asked Haz, stretching to see. "And where--?" But his voice broke off as soon as he discovered the contents of the canvas hamper, for nestled on a cushion and covered with a blanket lay a sleeping baby.

Haz was unable to come up with any appropriate English words to express the sudden chaos in his brain. He had seen infants before, certainly, but had never expected to find one so small in the dank lodge, surrounded by mail bags and forgotten umbrellas.

"Indeed, sir." The porter drew up his woolly eyebrows in awkward sympathy. "But perhaps this letter"-- he handed the young man an envelope that was attached to the hamper by a string--"will provide an explanation."

-- The Lost Sisterhood by Anne Fortier

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Introducing...The Book of Jonah by Joshua Max Feldman

Introducing books through the first chapter or so...

Prologue. The Smidge

Jonah knew the 59th Street subway station well enough that he did not have to look up from his iPhone as he made his way among its corridors and commuters to the track. He felt lucky as he came down the stairs to the platform to see a train just pulling in-- he boarded without breaking his stride, took a seat by the door of the nearly empty car, went on typing. A crowd of people flooded in at the next station, but Jonah felt he'd had a long enough day that he need not give up his seat. But then an older woman-- frumpy, blue-haired, with a grandmotherly sweet face and a tiny bell of a nose-- ended up standing directly before him, and Jonah decided to do the right thing and he stood.

-- The Book of Jonah by Joshua Max Feldman

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

TLC BOOK TOURS and REVIEW: The Deepest Secret by Carla Buckley


A riveting, poignant family drama perfect for readers of Defending Jacob and The Memory Keeper's Daughter, which explores the power of the secrets people keep-the darker, hidden facets of our lives, and what happens when they come to light.

Diagnosed with XP, a rare medical condition which makes him lethally sensitive to light, Tyler is a thirteen-year-old who desperately wants just one thing: to be normal. His mother Eve also wants just one thing: to protect her son. As Tyler begins roaming their cul-de-sac at night, cloaked in the safety of the darkness, he peers into the lives of the other families on the street-looking in on the things they most want hidden. Then, the young daughter of a neighbor suddenly vanishes, and Tyler may be the only one who can make sense of her disappearance…but what will happen when everyone's secrets are exposed to the light?

Hardcover, 448 pages
Published February 4th 2014 by Bantam (first published January 1st 2014)
ISBN 0345535243 (ISBN13: 9780345535245)

About the Author

Carla Buckley was born in Washington, D.C. She has worked as an assistant press secretary for a U.S. senator, an analyst with the Smithsonian Institution, and a technical writer for a defense contractor. She lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, with her husband, an environmental scientist, and their three children. She is the author of The Deepest Secret, Invisible, and The Things That Keep Us Here, which was nominated for a Thriller Award as a Best First novel and the Ohioana Book Award for fiction. She is currently at work on her next novel. 

Check out the author's blog
Follow the author on Facebook
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Fan the author on Goodreads

My Thoughts
Birthdays are supposed to be happy occasions, so Eve plans a party.
Tyler is just turning fourteen, and he has been living those 14 years with a rare genetic condition called xeroderma pigmentosum, or "XP" for short. Wikipedia says that XP individuals lack "the ability to repair damage caused by ultraviolet light". 
In extreme cases, all exposure to sunlight must be forbidden, no matter how small; as such, individuals are often colloquially referred to as Children of the Night. (Wikipedia)
Tyler is one of these extreme cases. And given another startling statistic on Wikipedia...
XP is roughly six times more common in Japanese people than in other groups.
...this may explain the inclusion of a young Japanese girl by the name of Yoshi as Tyler's good friend via webcam.

The majority of individuals suffering from XP don't live past the age of 20. It is a heartbreaking condition.

So enter Tyler, who is suffering from this condition, but doesn't seem to really see the big picture. His family does what they can to protect him, so I don't think he was really clear on his long term prognosis, which was death before age 21. His mother has created a safe haven for him in their home, where the entire second floor has been renovated as a fortress for Tyler, safe from sunlight and all UV rays. Their family lives by a strict routine, designed to keep Tyler safe. He's permitted out of his fortress minutes after sunset, and must return to it minutes before sunrise. Even at night he must be cautious, as even the flash of headlights could burn his skin or sear his corneas. He is truly a child of the night.

His mother Eve has made him her total focus since his diagnosis as a toddler. She spends all of her time obsessing over his schedule, whether his health has been jeopardized by something like an unexpected flash of lightning, assuring that Tyler is safely absconded before sunrise, and all of her free time is spent looking for possible medical advancements and clinging to any hope for a cure. She is so focused on Tyler that she doesn't realize she has neglected everyone else in her life. Her husband David is essentially estranged, working in another state during the week and flying home weekends, and finding himself tempted by another woman who is close at hand and emotionally accessible. Eve's daughter Melissa is drifting aimlessly, at a difficult stage in her life without anyone to ground her.

David doesn't understand how Eve does it. How she can live constantly in this threat of losing her son, while he chooses to try and hide from it? doesn’t matter what they do. They could move to Alaska where the sun barely shines, and live in a cave in the middle of a forest, but eventually the disease would win. It always does. Every time Eve tells David about another XP child whose condition has worsened, a buzzing starts in his ears, blocking her out. He doesn’t know how she can do this, stand in front of the inferno and let it scorch her skin. (p 137)

Tyler spends his evenings wandering the cul-de-sac they live on. The neighbors all know about Tyler's condition, and they've all agreed to use special lighting that doesn't emit UV rays, in order to not jeopardize Tyler's safety. So, clothed in his protective hoodie and armed with his camera, he slinks around the neighborhood, spying through people's windows and taking covert photos of them. If anyone else were doing these things, it would come off as really creepy. But with Tyler, it's all he has in his isolated life. Everyone else is indoors at night, and night time is his only chance to live and explore and enjoy life. And in peeking through people's windows, he gets to know his neighbors better than most, learning their secrets.

Add to this the fact that a young neighbor girl goes missing and is later found dead from an apparent hit and run, and you have one vibrant young girl dead, and this young boy who lives under the constant pall of impending death. Contrasting and yet the same in a way.

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

Monday, March 3rd:  Jen’s Book Thoughts
Tuesday, March 4th:  Kritter’s Ramblings
Tuesday, March 4th:  Great Imaginations
Wednesday, March 5th:  girlichef
Thursday, March 6th:  No More Grumpy Bookseller
Friday, March 7th:  Not in Jersey
Monday, March 10th:  She Treads Softly
Monday, March 10th:  Why Girls Are Weird
Tuesday, March 11th:  Knowing the Difference
Wednesday, March 12th:  The Best Books Ever
Thursday, March 13th:  Tiffany’s Bookshelf
Friday, March 14th:  A Bookish Way of Life
Monday, March 17th:  Daily Mayo
Monday, March 17th:  Julz Reads
Tuesday, March 18th:  Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Wednesday, March 19th:  Book Dilettante
Thursday, March 20th:  A Bookworm’s World
Friday, March 21st:  Simply Stacie
Monday, March 24th:  Jenn’s Bookshelves
Tuesday, March 25th:  Book Hooked Blog
Thursday, March 27th:  Ageless Pages Reviews

My final word: This was a curious story. The inclusion of a rare chromosomal condition like XP, which results in a boy that lives in the dark of night, voyeuristically exploring his neighbor's lives, gives the story an offbeat feel. It reminded me a little of the movie Powder, and came off feeling part Powder, and part Gone Girl. There is a feeling that this family is living in a separate world. The book focuses around their neighborhood cul-de-sac, and the families that live there. You get glimpses into the lives of these people, through the eyes of Tyler during his nightly outings. The cul-de-sac lends a sense of isolation and a feeling that they are alone in this. About three-quarters in I was dreading the end of the story, and yet compelled to keep going. I couldn't see any way to have a satisfactory ending to the story. It was going to leave me miserable and unhappy any way it played out, from what I could figure. But I was driven to see whether the author could find a way to leave me happy when it was all over.

In the end, the story didn't leave me miserable at all, but I was left with the nagging feeling that it was a little bit of a cop out. But it was believable, and didn't destroy all hope and leave me heavy and depressed and wondering why I just allowed myself to become emotionally invested in these characters for that. Although the final 10 pages or so fell slightly flat for me, the author did indeed find a way to end the story satisfactorily, and I loved this book overall. This one is bound to be a favorite of 2014 for me!

Buy Now:

Barnes and Noble

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. The book I received was an uncorrected proof, and any quotes could differ from the final release.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Introducing... The Deepest Secret by Carla Buckley

Introducing books through the first chapter or so...

Birthdays are supposed to be happy occasions, so Eve plans a party. There are the usual anxieties. Who would come? Would Tyler like his presents? Then there are the special worries, the ones other people didn't have to think about. She won't focus on those.

-- The Deepest Secret by Carla Buckley

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

REVIEW: Decoding Your Dog by American College of Veterinary Behaviorists


More than ninety percent of dog owners consider their pets to be members of their family. But often, despite our best intentions, we are letting our dogs down by not giving them the guidance and direction they need. Unwanted behavior is the number-one reason dogs are relinquished to shelters and rescue groups.

The key to training dogs effectively is first to understand why our dogs do what they do. And no one can address this more authoritatively than the diplomates of the American College of Veterinary Behavior, whose work, the culmination of years of rigorous training, takes them deep into the minds of dogs in an effort to decode how they think, how they communicate, and how they learn.

In Decoding Your Dog, these experts analyze problem behaviors, decipher the latest studies, and correct common misconceptions and outmoded theories. The book includes:

• Effective, veterinary-approved positive training methods
• Expert advice on socialization, housetraining, diet, and exercise
• Remedies for behavior problems such as OCD and aggression

With Decoding Your Dog the experts’ experts deliver a must-have dog behavior guide that ultimately challenge the way we think about our dogs.

Hardcover, 384 pages
Published January 7th 2014 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
ISBN  0547738919 (ISBN13: 9780547738918)

My Thoughts

This book was written by veterinary behaviorists, who understand both a dog's psychology and it's anatomy and natural behavior. These are the guys that dog trainers learn from. They are called "diplomates".

This book is filled with good tips on dealing with specific issues, like how to introduce children to dogs, and how to teach them the proper way to interact with dogs. And how to deal with fear and aggression in dogs, and even otherwise mundane but highly difficult things like how to get your dog to allow you to brush its teeth. It includes example stories of purportedly real-life scenarios between owners and their dogs to help explain what went wrong between owner and dog, and what the owner could have done differently.

The book talks about the trouble with people misreading a dog’s body language. For example, people often mistake “guilt” in dogs, thinking that when they do something and look “guilty”, it shows they know they did something wrong. However they actually are simply submitting and relaying “I surrender”, because they know that the circumstances that seem to make you angry exist, but not that they are to blame for those circumstances. Such as a dog that has an accident in the house. It knows you get angry when that mess is on the floor, but it doesn’t associate the fact that it caused that mess that is making you angry.

Scientific studies of dog behavior have demonstrated that domestic dogs do not try to form hierarchies with humans. Most aggression directed toward humans occurs because the dog is anxious or afraid and is attempting to ward off something or someone that she sees as threatening to her safety.
...the dangerous consequence of the dominance myth is that owners try to physically dominate their dog in an attempt to change the dog’s behavior. This “solution” is likely to cause the exact opposite of the result they want. A recent study by veterinary behaviorist Dr. Meghan Herron found that confrontational techniques are, in fact, more likely to escalate aggression, resulting in more dog bites to owners.
It boils down to this: Whatever the dog wants, don’t give it away for free. Don’t open the door just because the dog paws at it, don’t throw the ball just because he barks at you. For those countless other privileges, ask the dog to say “please” first by doing something like sitting quietly. The benefits of this approach are many. For one thing, good manners become part of everyday routines rather than something the dog is asked to do only in social training situations. Your dog also learns a degree of impulse, but rather stopping to consider alternative options, can be rewarding.
A highly intelligent dog can be very draining for the average family, because it is not always easy to stay one step ahead of her.
Unfortunately I only got about halfway through this book before it expired (I got it through Netgalley), but what I did read was chock full of great information. This would be a great addition to the library of any dog lover!

Buy Now:

Barnes and Noble

My Rating:


I received a copy of this ebook to review through Netgalley 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. 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Introducing...Daughters Who Walk This Path by Yejide Kilanko

Introducing books through the first chapter or so...

My first memory was of Eniayo. I was five years old. When Mummy explained to me that the big bump in her stomach meant I was getting a baby sister or brother to play with, I jumped up and down with happiness. "Please can you make sure it's a girl?"

-- Daughters Who Walk This Path by Yejide Kilanko

Monday, March 3, 2014

Mailbox Monday (03-03-14 edition)

 Image licensed from
Copyright stands

Mailbox Monday is hosted by a different blog each month. See the official list here. I've received a few new books recently:

The Swan Gondola by Timothy Schaffert
Received through the publisher

A lush and thrilling romantic fable about two lovers set against the scandalous burlesques, midnight séances, and aerial ballets of the 1898 Omaha World’s Fair.

On the eve of the 1898 Omaha World’s Fair, Ferret Skerritt, ventriloquist by trade, con man by birth, isn’t quite sure how it will change him or his city. Omaha still has the marks of a filthy Wild West town, even as it attempts to achieve the grandeur and respectability of nearby Chicago. But when he crosses paths with the beautiful and enigmatic Cecily, his whole purpose shifts and the fair becomes the backdrop to their love affair.

One of a traveling troupe of actors that has descended on the city, Cecily works in the Midway’s Chamber of Horrors, where she loses her head hourly on a guillotine playing Marie Antoinette. And after closing, she rushes off, clinging protectively to a mysterious carpetbag, never giving Ferret a second glance. But a moonlit ride on the swan gondola, a boat on the lagoon of the New White City, changes everything, and the fair’s magic begins to take its effect.

From the critically acclaimed author of The Coffins of Little Hope, The Swan Gondola is a transporting read, reminiscent of Water for Elephants or The Night Circus.

The Moon Sisters by Therese Walsh
Received through the publisher

A beautiful coming-of-age novel about two sisters on a journey to forgive their troubled mother, with a sheen of almost-magical realism that overlays a story about the love of a family, and especially between sisters.

Therese Walsh's poignant and mesmerizing novel is a moving tale of family, love, and the power of stories. After their mother's probable suicide, sisters Olivia and Jazz are figuring out how to move on with their lives. Jazz, logical and forward-thinking, decides to get a new job, but spirited, strong-willed Olivia, who can see sounds, taste words, and smell sights, is determined to travel to the remote setting of their mother's unfinished novel to say her final goodbyes and lay their mother's spirit to rest.

Though they see things very differently, Jazz is forced by her sense of duty to help Olivia reach her goal. Bitter and frustrated by the attention heaped on her sunny sister whose world is so unique, Jazz is even more upset when they run into trouble along the way and Olivia latches to a worldly train-hopper. Though Hobbs warns Olivia that he's a thief who shouldn't be trusted, he agrees to help with their journey. As they near their destination, the tension builds between the two sisters, each hiding something from the other, and they will finally be forced to face everything between them and decide what is really important.

Above by Isla Morley
Received through Netgalley 

I am a secret no one is able to tell.

Blythe Hallowell is sixteen when she is abducted by a survivalist and locked away in an aban­doned missile silo in Eudora, Kansas. At first, she focuses frantically on finding a way out, until the harrowing truth of her new existence settles in—the crushing loneliness, the terrifying madness of a captor who believes he is saving her from the end of the world, and the persistent temptation to give up. But nothing prepares Blythe for the burden of raising a child in confinement. Deter­mined to give the boy everything she has lost, she pushes aside the truth about a world he may never see for a myth that just might give mean­ing to their lives below ground. Years later, their lives are ambushed by an event at once promis­ing and devastating. As Blythe’s dream of going home hangs in the balance, she faces the ultimate choice—between survival and freedom.

The Untold by Courtney Collins
Received through Netgalley

With shades of Water for Elephants and True Grit, a stunning debut novel set in the Australian outback about a female horse thief, her bid for freedom, and the two men trying to capture her.

It is 1921. In a mountain-locked valley, Jessie is on the run.

Born wild and brave, by twenty-six she has already lived life as a circus rider, horse and cattle rustler, and convict. But on this fateful night she is just a woman wanting to survive though there is barely any life left in her.

Two men crash through the bushland, desperate to claim the reward on her head: one her lover, the other the law.

But as it has always been for Jessie, it is death, not a man, who is her closest pursuer and companion. And while all odds are stacked against her, there is one who will never give up on her—her own child, who awaits her.