Unforgivable Love Book Review

I think the world is obsessed with retellings of classic stories: Ghostbusters with a female cast, more and more Spider-Man movies, etc. Unforgivable Love by Sophfronia Scott is no exception. It is a retelling of Dangerous Liaisons, a play that was turned into a movie.

Unforgivable Love
I received a free copy of Unforgivable Love in exchange for a free review. Click on the cover to get a copy!

The retelling takes place in 1947 Harlem, the summer Jackie Robinson starts his professional baseball career – a time setting which I found fascinating. We get to know Mae Malveaux, a wealthy heiress, who doesn’t seem to believe in love. She uses men for their affection and bodies and then throws them away when she’s done with them. You can imagine how angry (hurt?) she is when Frank leaves her to find a wife more to his tastes – a virginal Southern belle named Cecily.

Enter the revenge plot: Mae wants revenge on Frank for leaving her so she makes a deal with Valiant (Val) Jackson – a man with a shady reputation in Harlem, but a passion for Mae – if he makes virginal Cecily no longer a virgin, Mae will sleep with Val.

There’s more, but I don’t want to spoil anything.

Dryland Book Review

Dryland is a pun in several ways, and I love it. First, it refers literally to land, which for Nancy Stearns Bercaw, isn’t her natural place as a swimmer. She’s also in Abu Dhabi for most of the book – a desert. And it refers to be dry, as in sober. Nancy is with her family in Abu Dhabi and she finally realizes that she drinks way too much and that it’s actually a problem. Dryland is her journey to that realization, an examination of her past, and a look forward to what her life could be.

Dryland
I received a free digital copy of Dryland in exchange for an honest review. Pick up your own copy at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Books-A-Million.

This memoir was sobering (pun very much intended). I grew up with an alcoholic father and while I was young, it wasn’t that big of a deal, because I was little and didn’t know anything. As I got older and I watched him get sober (thank goodness), I prayed that that wouldn’t be my life someday. That I would be able to drink normally and know when to stop and be able to stop. Thankfully, I haven’t had a problem — yet. I’m not ruling out the possibility at only 24 years old.

Dryland helped me understand my dad better. On some level, I’ve always understood that alcoholics really can’t help it and they just don’t know how to stop once they’ve gotten started. But reading Nancy Stearns Bercaw’s memoir helped me finally get it. Whatever your problems are, alcohol will probably make you feel better, not care anymore, or at the very least, fall asleep and avoid it.

Dryland is honest, heart-wrenching, and an around the globe adventure. At times it feels like a close friend is opening up about the roughest part of her life and the adventures she’s had long the way.

I highly recommend Dryland for everyone to read, whether or not you have a personal relationship with alcoholism. It never hurts to gain a new understanding about other people. It might make the world a more understanding place.

About Dryland

• Paperback: 256 pages
• Publisher: Grand Harbor Press (April 18, 2017)

For swimming champion Nancy Stearns Bercaw, the pool was a natural habitat. But on land, she could never shake the feeling of being a fish out of water. Starting at age two, Nancy devoted her life to swimming, even qualifying for the 1988 Olympic Trials in the fifty-meter freestyle event. But when she hung up her cap and goggles after college, she was confronted with a different kind of challenge: learning who she was out of the lanes.

In this honest, intimate memoir, Nancy reflects on her years wandering the globe, where tragic events and a lost sense of self escalate her dependence on booze. Thirty-three years after her first sip of alcohol, the swimmer comes to a stunning realization while living with her husband and son in Abu Dhabi—she’s drowning in the desert. Nancy looks to the Bedouin people for the strength to conquer one final opponent: alcohol addiction.

Praise

“A brave, honest, adventurous memoir that keeps you turning pages as Bercaw travels around the world and rediscovers what it really means to win…at life.” —Leigh Newman, author of Still Points North

Purchase Links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-A-Million

About Nancy Stearns Bercaw

Writer and national champion swimmer Nancy Stearns Bercaw is a seventeen-time NCAA All-American athlete and was inducted into the University of South Florida’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2009. Her writing has appeared in publications around the world, including the New York Times, the Huffington Post, the Korea Herald, U.S. News & World Report, Abu Dhabi’s Tempo magazine, and ScaryMommy.com. In addition to Dryland: One Woman’s Swim to Sobriety, she is the author of Brain in a Jar: A Daughter’s Journey Through Her Father’s Memory and a contributor to Chicken Soup for the Soul: Living with Alzheimer’s and Other Dementias. She lives in Vermont with her husband and son.

Find out more about Nancy at her website, and connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.

Red Year Book Review

Historical fiction is always fun for me. I’m a big fan of series like Outlander because they deal so much with the past. Red Year by Jan Shapin is great for historical fiction lovers. What made this book even more fascinating for me was that I didn’t know much about China or the Soviet Union in the 1920s. Most of my education on that decade takes place in Europe and the United States.

Red Year
I was given a free copy of Red Year for an honest review by TLC Book Tours. Pick up your own copy at Amazon.

Red Year is a fictional story about a real life journalist, Rayna Prohme (who went to the University of Illinois! That’s in my home state!), who travels to China with her husband. While there, Rayna falls in love with a Russian agent, so you know that this book is just full of intrigue. Rayna needs a job and wants to be near Mr. B – her Russian agent, Mikhail Borodin – so she travels to Moscow and tries to get into the Lenin Academy, a Soviet spy school.

*INTRIGUE*

I love the idea for this story and the setting is unfamiliar but in the best ways. I’m all for women traveling the world and infiltrating spy schools. But I had a lot of trouble getting through the book. I didn’t “connect” with Rayna like I wanted, but maybe that’s okay! I don’t have to feel a personal connection to every character I read – it just means I’m not reading stories about characters exactly like me! I just felt that the history, the time period, and the politics were more vibrant characters than Rayna.

I’m still interested in Rayna, however. The 1920s and the Communist Party in China and Russia are subjects that Americans (or at least, I) know little about. I look forward to reading more books set in those places.

Overall, if you like historical fiction, you’re going to like Red Year for sure. It looks like Jan Shapin has written two other books in different time periods, so I’ll definitely be checking those out.

 

About Red Year

• Paperback: 286 pages
• Publisher: Cambridge Books (June 4, 2017)

Can a red-haired woman from Chicago single-handedly force Joseph Stalin to back down?

China, 1927. Thirty-three year old Rayna Prohme, accompanying her left-wing journalist husband, becomes the political confidant and lover of Mikhail Borodin, the Russian commander sent to prop up a failing Chinese revolution. In a bid to continue their love affair, Rayna hatches a plan to accompany Mme. Sun, the widow of the Chinese revolution’s founder, to Moscow.

But Moscow does not welcome the women. Borodin shuns them. Rayna’s stipend and housing arrangements are cancelled. “Go home,” she is told. But Rayna does not want to go home to an ordinary life, to her husband and Chicago. Instead, she applies to a Soviet espionage school that soon demands she spy on Mme. Sun. The Chinese widow is, by now, in grave danger as her exit visa is blocked. Rayna must make a choice — Borodin and Russia or Mme. Sun and China.

Praise

Set in Russian and China during the 1920s, this beautifully written novel tells the story of a true American dreamer—a woman who charged into danger in search of passion, justice and some money to pay her bills. A fascinating story. –Susan Breen, author, Maggie Dove mysteries

Purchase Link

Amazon

About Jan Shapin

Jan Shapin has been writing plays and screenplays for nearly thirty years, in the last decade concentrating on fiction. Shapin has studied playwriting at Catholic University in Washington, DC, screenwriting at the Film and Television Workshop and University of Southern California, and fiction writing at a variety of locations including Barnard College’s Writers on Writing seminar, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference.

Her plays have been produced in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states. She has received grants from the RI Council for the Humanities and has served as a juror for the Rhode Island State Council for the Arts screenplay fellowship awards. Two previous novels, A Desire Path and A Snug Life Somewhere, were published in 2012 and 2014.

She lives in North Kingstown, RI with her photographer husband. Learn more about Jan at her website, janshapin.com.

Dangerous Ends Book Review

This read was a little weird since it’s the third installment in a series and I haven’t read the first two books (I received a digital copy of Dangerous Ends in exchange for an honest review). But not reading the first two books didn’t hinder my reading experience at all. I felt like I knew and understood the characters without absolutely needing to read the previous books. This is a sequel that can stand on its own.

Dangerous Ends

I love me some crime novels and TV shows. Dangerous Ends by Alex Segura reminded me a little bit of Burn Notice because they’re both set in Miami – not a bad thing; I loved Burn Notice. Miami basically became another character in the book and I love when a writer can do that. I’ve never been to Miami, but I feel like I know it pretty well after reading this book, and it made me want to plan a visit (and then I remembered how much I hate humidity and closed the Southwest tab).

As well as being a crime novel, Dangerous Ends dabbles in historical fiction. Specifically, the 1950s in Cuba and the beginning of the Castro regime. At first, I didn’t understand the point of those interludes, but as I kept reading, I understood and appreciated their purpose. I tend to give away a lot of spoilers in my reviews, but I think in this case, I’m going to keep it a mystery.

If you love a good crime novel, Dangerous Ends is for you. You’re going to want to read it in one sitting, but I advise you to savor it a little.

 

About Dangerous Ends

• Hardcover: 320 pages
• Publisher: Polis Books (April 11, 2017)

Pete Fernandez has settled into an easy, if somewhat boring life as a P.I.. He takes pictures of cheating husbands. He tracks criminals who’ve skipped bail and he attends weekly AA meetings The days of chasing murderous killers are behind him. Or are they?

When his partner Kathy Bentley approaches him with a potential new client, Pete balks. Not because he doesn’t need the money, but because the case involves Gaspar Varela, a former Miami police officer serving a life sentence for the murder of his wife – one of the most infamous crimes in Miami history. The client? None other than Varela’s daughter, Maya, who’s doggedly supported her father’s claims of innocence.

As Pete and Kathy wade into a case that no one wants, they also find themselves in the crosshairs of Los Enfermos, a bloodthirsty gang of pro-Castro killers and drug dealers looking to wipe Pete off the Miami map. As if trying to exonerate Varela wasn’t enough, they find themselves entangled in something even older and more surprising–a bloody, political hit ordered by Fidel Castro himself, that left a still-healing scar on Pete–and his dead father’s–past.

Fast-paced, hardboiled and surprising, Dangerous Ends pushes Pete Fernandez into a battle with a deadlier, more complex threat, as he tries to shake off the demons haunting Miami’s own, sordid past.

Praise

“A real throwback to the kind of books I love. Segura captures the spirit of modern Miami with its complicated past and conflicted present. Pete Fernandez is the perfect hero to walk the mean streets of both worlds.”—Ace Atkins, New York Times bestselling author of Robert B. Parker’s Slow Burn and The Innocents

“Alex Segura honors the private detective tradition, but also expands it. With a rich setting and an engagingly complex main character, DANGEROUS ENDS is a tense, gripping exploration of what happens when a bloody past collides with a dangerous present.”—Lou Berney, Edgar Award-winning author of The Long and Faraway Gone

“A case with dark, unexpected twists.” —Publishers Weekly

“Alex Segura is one of the most exciting and vital voices in crime fiction today, and his Pete Fernandez series is keeping private eye fiction alive and kicking (serious ass) in the new millennium. His work does what the best crime fiction should do: take us down city streets we wouldn’t dare visit alone.” —Duane Swierczynski, Edgar Award-nominated author of Canary

“Like Elmore Leonard before him, Segura drags the darkness out into the hot sunlight. There’s a lot of heart in these broken souls.” —Brian Azzarello, author of 100 Bullets, Moonshine and Batman

Purchase Links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble

About Alex Segura

Alex Segura is a novelist and comic book writer. He is the author of the Miami crime novels featuring Pete Fernandez, Silent City and Down the Darkest Street, and Dangerous Ends, via Polis Books.

He has also written a number of comic books, including the best-selling and critically acclaimed Archie Meets Kiss storyline, the “Occupy Riverdale” story, Archie Meets Ramones and the upcoming The Archies one-shot.

He lives in New York with his wife and son. He is a Miami native.

Find out more about Alex at his website, and connect with him on Facebook.

My Glory Was I Had Such Friends Review

As soon as I read the back cover for My Glory Was I Had Such Friends, I knew that it was going to make me feel things. Especially since it’s a memoir, so everything was real in the book. Ugh, it just gets me right in the feelings.

My Glory Was I Had Such Friends cover
I received a free copy of My Glory Was I Had Such Friends in exchange for an honest review. You can order your own copy at HarperCollins.

Right off the bat, I knew this book was going to end happily. It had to, right? It’s a memoir about Amy Silverstein’s wait for a second heart transplant. Since the book was written, it means she gets the second heart at the end of the book. But, God, what a wait!

Amy and her husband relocate to California, because there’s a better chance of her getting the heart she needs. Shortly after this decision is made, she gets an email from one of her friends. It includes a spreadsheet that spans the time she’ll be spending in California. Every single day is filled in with a name.

Soulmates Book Review

It’s been a while since I’ve read a book in less than 24 hours. I was really excited to read this book because the author, Jessica Grose, is the editor-in-chief for a newsletter called Lenny that I read every week. Also, the description on the back of the book says “Nama-Slay: Yoga Couple Found Dead in New Mexico Cave” and I love the pun.

I enjoy yoga too, so I was really interested how such a peaceful thing was going to fit into a sinister mystery murder story.

Soulmates by Jessica Grose
I received a free copy of Soulmates in exchange for an honest review. Get your own copy from Harper Collins today!

I visited my parents for the weekend and brought Soulmates with me. It was a beautiful day and I spent a few hours sitting in the backyard with this book. Thank goodness I read it during the day in a safe space, because there are some seriously chilling parts to this book.

*SPOILER ALERT* I’m gonna reveal stuff (including the ending) about the book now. So you really can’t say I didn’t warn you.

Novel Destinations Book Review

If I wasn’t already traveling this week, Novel Destinations by Shannon McKenna Schmidt would give me some serious wanderlust. That being said, I might have to plan a literary-themed trip around this book anyway.

Novel Destinations by Shannon McKenna Schmidt
I was given a free copy of Novel Destinations in exchange for this honest review. You can get your own copy at National Geographic!

I was an English major so I feel like I’ve lived in all of the places Novel Destinations explores. From Dickens’ London to Joyce’s Dublin to Lee’s Alabama, I’ve traveled the world through the eyes of different characters. But Schmidt’s book delves even deeper into the worlds the authors immortalized. And since it comes from National Geographic, you know it’s going to be really good.

Part one of Novel Destinations is “Read ‘Em and See: Author Houses and Museums.” You can travel the world and use this as a guide book to all of your favorite literary locales. There are also chapters on literary festivals and tours and places you can stay among the similarly literary minded.

Part two is “Journeys Between the Pages.” You can explore in real life the iconic places you’ve explored only in the pages of your favorite novels. I, for one, loved delving into Jane Austen’s Bath and Franz Kafka’s Prague (side note: a Kafka discussion is the thing that started my relationship with my boyfriend of 4.5 years!).

Bottom line: if you love classic literature and travel, you’re going to want this book on your shelf.

What’s your favorite classic novel?

About Novel Destinations

• Hardcover: 392 pages
• Publisher: National Geographic; 2 edition (May 2, 2017)

Follow in the footsteps of much-loved authors, including Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Mark Twain, Jack Kerouac, Jane Austen, and many more. For vacationers who crave meaningful trips and unusual locales, cue National Geographic’s Novel Destinations—a guide for bibliophiles to more than 500 literary sites across the United States and Europe. Check into Hemingway’s favorite hotel in Sun Valley, or stroll about Bath’s Royal Crescent while entertaining fantasies of Lizzie Bennett and her Mr. Darcy. The fully revised second edition includes all of the previous sites—with updated locations—plus color images and an expanded section on all things Brontë. The book begins with thematic chapters covering author houses and museums, literary festivals and walking tours. Then, in-depth explorations of authors and places take readers roaming Franz Kafka’s Prague, James Joyce’s Dublin, Louisa May Alcott’s New England, and other locales. Peppered with great reading suggestions and little-known tales of literary gossip, Novel Destinations is a unique travel guide, an attractive gift book, and the ultimate bibliophile’s delight.

Purchase Links

National Geographic Store | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

About Shannon McKenna Schmidt

Shannon McKenna Schmidt is also the co-author with Joni Rendon of Writers Between the Covers: The Scandalous Romantic Lives of Legendary Literary Casanovas, Coquettes, and Cads. After traveling full-time in the U.S. and abroad for seven years, she is once again living in Hoboken, New Jersey. For literary travel news and tales from the road, visit www.NovelDestinations.com.

Bai Tide Book Review

Bai Tide was a welcome and pleasant surprise. I love TV shows like Quantico and Criminal Minds. I’m just a sucker for a good crime or spy story. I’m also a sucker for stories that feature people who aren’t white dudes.

The main character in Bai Tide is a man with Chinese ancestry and most of the other important characters are Asian too. It was honestly a breath of fresh air to read, especially since I recently tried to watch Iron Fist on Netflix and was disgusted by it (it was just yet another story about a white dude who learned kung-fu).

Bai Tide by Erika Mitchell

Back to Bai Tide, which I received from TLC Book Tours and the author for this review. Here’s the description of the book from the publisher:

An espionage thriller for people who like explosions and sarcasm.

CIA case officer Bai Hsu is stationed in San Diego, where his job is to safeguard the valuable emotional collateral of some of the world’s most powerful people (read: their kids). Just when he thinks he’s landed the easiest assignment of all time, an operative starts targeting the school and it’s up to Bai to figure out who the operative is after, and why. This fast-paced story will take you from the picturesque beaches of San Diego to a deadly blizzard in Pyongyang and make Bai question everything he thought he knew about working in the field, and about himself.”

Sounds good, right? I didn’t a chance to read that description before I read the book, so it took me completely by surprise when they went to North Korea. But I didn’t need the description to get me hooked. Erika Mitchell writes Bai with such a clear voice that I felt like I knew him instantly and I was drawn in by his personality and the intrigue of his job.

My favorite part of the book is that the people Bai teams up with on his missions are women. They’re both great fighters and spies and I just love it when women get to kick butt too.

I also loved how Mitchell handled writing the section of the book that takes place in North Korea. It’s so easy to make fun of North Korea or to make light of the situation over there, but I think she painted a real picture of it. There was nothing to suggest that she was making fun of the country; on the contrary, it seemed like she was trying to do the country justice.

Bai Tide is a quick read at under 300 pages and it’s perfect if you love crime TV and movies like I do.

I can’t wait for the sequel Take the Bai Road comes out July 3rd, 2017! Keep scrolling to read more praise for Bai Tide and find out where you can buy your own copy.

 

About Bai Tide

• Paperback: 244 pages
• Publisher: Champagne Books; First Edition edition (April 5, 2015)

Praise for Bai Tide

Bai Tide is a classic spy tale with blisteringly original characters set against the up-tempo backdrop of North Korean-American relations. Erika Mitchell turns the Asian theater of operations into her personal literary playground for fashioning a no-holds-barred thriller that reads like a post-modern combination of Frederick Forsyth and John Le Carre with just enough Len Deighton sprinkled in for good measure. A thinking man’s, or woman’s, page turner that revs in the red from artful beginning to crafty climax.” –Jon Land, USA Today bestselling author of Strong Darkness

“High octane action combined with the slow burn of great, unforgettable characters. The kind of book that demands to be read in a single long burst. Almost impossible to put down. This one will be on your mind long after you’ve finished it.” –Ted Kosmatka, 2010 Asimov’s Readers’ Choice Award-winning author of Prophet of Bones.

“Recommended for those who enjoy a fast-paced thriller, and especially for anyone who read and enjoyed Blood Money. Mitchell does a wonderful job of balancing the humanity of the story with exactly the right pacing to keep the reader’s interest.” —Dwell in Possibility

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Purchase Links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

erika-mitchell-author-photoAbout Erika Mitchell

Erika Mitchell is the author of Blood Money, a standalone novel about one accountant’s efforts to take down a terrorism financier, and Bai Tide, the first book in her Bai Hsu series. Erika uses her lifelong passion for espionage to infuse her stories with the fun and intrigue of the James Bond movies she grew up watching, and sets those stories in ripped-from-the-headlines locations around the globe. When she’s not writing, she’s raising two tiny spies-in-training with her husband in Seattle, WA.

Find out more about Erika at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter. You can also read her blog at parsingnonsense.com.

TLC Book Tours

Signs & Seasons Review

Hey girl, what’s your sign?

I’m a Libra. I’m not sure I believe all astrology things. To be honest, when I got my copy of Signs & Seasons from TLC Book Tours, I laughed at the title. I like the idea of the Zodiac and I definitely identify with Libra qualities and I think reading my horoscope is fun. But I don’t think I would’ve bought this book if I saw it in the store.

Signs & Seasons

However, this book did fall into my lap at the right time. I’ve been trying to cook more so it’s perfect timing to review a cookbook.

The book is organized by season and each recipe is labeled by sign. There’s also a chapter called “How Each Sign Eats, Cooks, and Entertains.” Since I’m a Libra, I was most interested in those sections and recipes.

Duplicity Book Review

It’s really hard to review a book that I don’t have a lot of feelings for. In my opinion, Duplicity by Jane Haseldine was just…okay. I was disappointed by it because it sounded like something I’d love. I love crime TV shows and I’m always down to read a good mystery.

Duplicity by Jane Haseldine

I should note that I was sent a free copy of Duplicity in exchange for an honest review. You can get your own copy from Kensington Publishing Corporation, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble.