Thursday, June 23, 2016

Before the Fall - Book Review

I finished reading Before the Fall by Noah Hawley late last night, huddled under the covers, long after Rand had fallen asleep. I promised him "just one more chapter" but I couldn't put it down until I finally finished the last page.

A chartered jet crashes into the ocean en route between Martha's Vineyard and New York City. The only survivors are an artist and the four year old son of a media mogul. His parents and sister are dead in the crash, as well as another wealthy couple who is being investigated by the SEC

After swimming to shore with the boy, Scott is initially hailed as a hero but investigators aren't so sure. What was this hapless, unknown artist doing on a private jet with these wealthy people? Was it just an accident or was this an attack? As the investigators continue to dig and search for the pieces of plane and the black box, the facts will emerge.

Going back and forth between the post-accident investigation and into the back stories of the passengers, Before the Fall by Noah Hawley keeps the reader immersed in theories and clues to the cause of the crash. I was completely intrigued. I love a good character focused story and it was especially exciting to have a thriller focus primarily on the people and their choices instead of just the action. Besides the main characters, Hawley focuses on human nature and the reactions people have to disasters and sensational new stories.

Before the Fall was completely engaging and though essentially a thriller, I thought it was very smart. Hawley keeps the action going but allows for some introspection and down times when the reader can really get to know the characters.

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley is an exciting choice this summer. Tuck it in your beach bag or backpack or like me, just hunker down under the air conditioning and enjoy the suspense.

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley was published by Grand Central Publishing in May 2016. It is also a SheReads selection this summer. Read more reviews at  

**I received a complimentary copy through SheReads. No compensation was received. All opinions are my own.**

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Under the Harrow - Book Review

Nora and her sister Rachel have been looking forward to their shared vacation, so Nora is completely shocked to arrive at her sister's home and discover that Rachel has been brutally murdered. Years ago, as a teenager Rachel was also the victim of a violent attack and Nora is convinced the two crimes are connected.

Increasingly obsessed with solving her sister's grisly murder, Nora stays in her sister's village and begins stalking the man who last saw Rachel alive. Nora uncovers additional secrets as she investigates Rachel and her life in the countryside. She's unsure of who she can trust and who would want her sister dead. Is Nora safe in the village? Does someone want to kill her too?

Under the Harrow by Flynn Berry is a psychological thriller told by a narrator who the reader isn't sure is honest and as time goes on becomes more depressed, more erratic and more risky. The writing is terribly engaging. Every word is necessary and hauntingly beautiful in this spare but thrilling novel. I found myself reading passages over to make sure I had gleaned every important bit of information. Nora was a fascinating character as she struggles to solve the crime and understand her sister's life. She experiences the varying emotional stages of grief.

I love short chapters. They keep the action moving. In Under the Harrow, I simply couldn't put this book down after "just one more chapter" at night. I read late into the night, absolutely captivated by Nora's search for the truth.

Under the Harrow is engrossing and frightening and keeps the reader perpetually off kilter. It is definitely a book to read this summer!

Under the Harrow by Flynn Berry is published by Penguin Books are released on June 14, 2016.

**I received a complimentary copy. All opinions are my own. No compensation was received.**

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Tumbling Turner Sisters - Book Review

Gert and Winnie are still trying to finish high school when their mother pulls them out of school to join their older and recently widowed sister Nell and their gigantic younger sister Kit on the Vaudeville Circuit. After an injury to his hand, their dad is unable to work at his regularly job stitching boots and their resourceful mother comes up with an act that will pay the bills and put her daughters in the limelight, a place she has longed to be.

The sisters discover on the road, that they rather enjoy the spotlight too and the people that they meet. Vaudeville in 1919 was an unusual band of characters with a wide variety of acts. People flocked to the theaters looking for cheap entertainment that was clean enough for families. Along the journey, Gert and Winnie will find love and danger and a world they didn't know in their hometown of Johnson City, New York.

The Tumbling Turner Sisters by Juliette Fay immediately appealed to me. I love the historical setting and the potential mishmash of unique characters along the circuit. Fay's research is in-depth and I especially loved the facts and the real characters thrown in among the fiction. I actually learned a few things that I found rather fascinating.

The characters were well developed and I appreciated that the sisters were unique enough for me to immediately distinguish between them. The story lines are timely for the historic period and by meeting a wide variety of characters and traveling, the reader is exposed to many of the period's issues.

The writing is tight and the pace is steady. Exciting things are constantly happening but it lacks the sort of passion and momentum that might have kept me reading all night. Overall, it was a satisfying  and entertaining novel. It definitely made me want to take a seat in a Vaudeville theater and enjoy the show.

The Tumbling Turner Sisters by Juliette Fay is published by Gallery Books and released on June 14, 2016.

**I received a complimentary copy of The Tumbling Turner Sisters. All opinions are my own. No compensation was received.**

Monday, June 13, 2016

Katherine of Aragon, The True Queen - Book Review

Katherine of Aragon is the daughter of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of Spain and is one of the most desired royal matches. King Henry VII is delighted to secure her hand for his son and future king, Arthur.  Katherine is just a girl of sixteen when she leaves her homeland to embark on this journey that will lead to a marriage and a strong alliance between England and Spain. Only tragedy will strike the young prince and soon Katherine will be a young widow stuck in an unfamiliar and occasionally hostile land. Who can she trust? Does anyone have her best interests in mind?

I am fascinated by all things Tudor and I'm a fan of Alison Weir. Over the years, I've read several of her books--both nonfiction and fiction. Once again, Weir does not disappoint with her newest novel Katherine of Aragon, The True Queen. Because I've read other books about Henry VIII and his wives, I was worried that it would be dull but reading the entirety of Katherine's story was eye opening and thoroughly entertaining. So often books focus on the story after the king becomes obsessed with Anne Boleyn and the Great Matter. I liked learning more about Katherine's early marriage to Arthur and then to Henry VIII. Then, the Great Matter from Katherine's painful perspective was very interesting.

The novel is very long but very thorough. There were times that I felt like maybe things could have been edited out but most of the time I was enjoying the novel so much that I didn't mind it being so long. Weir's research is fabulous. All this information and her skilled writing combines for a great read. After spending awhile reading it, I'm missing the book. I'm anxious to read the rest of Weir's planned series of novels focusing on each of Henry the VIII's wives.

Katherine of Aragon, The True Queen by Alison Weir is published by Ballantine Books and released on May 31, 2016.

**I received a complimentary copy of Katherine of Aragon. All opinions are my own. No compensation was received.**

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The Gilded Years - Book Review

Anita Hemmings was a gifted, intelligent girl completely worthy of attending Vassar, the premier and elite girls college. It had been her dream since childhood and she had worked hard in school to pass her exams and gain entrance at the school. Only in the 1890's Vassar didn't accept African American students. With her fair skin, Anita's heritage as an African American was not as obvious and so she listed only her English and French heritage on her application.

Passing as white and being voted "the most beautiful", Anita excels at Vassar. With an incredible singing voice and a gift at the ancient languages, her professors and the other students value her friendship and opinion. In her senior year, she is picked to room with Lottie Taylor, the richest and most popular girl at the school. Anita and Lottie quickly become best friends and Lottie introduces her new friend to the splendor and glamour of the richest of New York.

Torn between the world Anita knows when she is white and her family and friends at home in Boston where she is known in the African American community, she struggles to find peace and love and an understanding of who she is and who she wants to be. Her secret is perilous and her ultimate goal of graduating from Vassar is in jeopardy.

In The Gilded Years, Karin Tanabe spins a fictional account of the first African American woman to graduate from Vassar. Tanabe is a wonderful writer who tells this compelling story and details in a very personal way the struggle that African Americans faced in their quest to be recognized as equal.

Though at times lengthy and a bit wordy, I was enraptured with Anita's story. While some details have been fictionalized, Tanabe pays homage to this brave and inspiring woman.

The Gilded Years by Karin Tanabe is published by Washington Square Press and releases on June 7, 2016.

**I received a complimentary copy of The Gilded Years. All opinions are my own. No compensation was received.**