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THE GOODBYE YEAR: A Novel ~Kaira Rouda

Monday, September 19th, 2016

Four families from a wealthy community in California are the focus of this story.  Each family has a senior in high school and they are starting that last year.  There are some funny scenes for sure in this book, but primarily it is about the frantic moments of thinking about the future and worrying about empty nest.

The voices are both from the children and the adults and some of the fears and concerns are just amazing to behold.  All of their lives are filled with extra meetings and college representatives and for some the cost of future training is so expensive – crisis.  One mother drives her son to be just like his older brother, as she worries about what she will do after her last child leaves home.  She begins drinking.  Dad becomes a voice of reason and opens the door for son number two to find his own passion.

The perfect mom realizes that she has made her daughter her best friend and made up for her husband’s huge travel schedule with this connection.  The daughter is feeling some pressure about being the “perfect” girl at school and working around her pre-acceptance to Harvard.   A strange boyfriend is part of the scene and of course Homecoming King to this Queen.

We have a family on a tight budget and they do not know how their child will afford college, and mom has the whole family on an incredibly rigid calendar schedule, which would knock anyone to the floor in protest and yet for half the book this family muddles forward.

The step mom well is just a selfish mess and yet daughter finds away to keep her caring for her father after she leaves for college!  Actually, all the support characters are fairly fun to read in this story and even the drug problems are an interesting encounter.

TLC Book Tours sent along this fun read and I enjoyed it very much.  THE GOODBYE YEAR has over 70 4-star reviews on Amazon.

“Kaira Rouda is a USA TODAY bestselling, multiple award-winning author of contemporary fiction that sparkles with humor and heart including HERE, HOME, HOPE and IN THE MIRROR. Her latest novel, THE GOODBYE YEAR, will be released in May of 2016. Her modern romance novels are set on beaches, including the Laguna Beach series, the Indigo Island series and coming soon, the Malibu series.

She lives in Southern California with her family and is at work on her next novel. After living in Columbus, Ohio, for most of her life, she now enjoys the beach whenever possible.” (TLC Book Tours)

Kaira Rouda Twitter
Kaira Rouda Facebook

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DIG TWO GRAVES: Suspenseful Mystery ~Kim Powers

Monday, December 7th, 2015

DIG TWO GRAVES came at me like a ton of bricks and I wasn’t ready.  I knew from the title that it was going to be about a murder but I did not figure out it was about lots of murders, a kidnapping or two, and a series of trials/tasks which needed to be completed to save a child’s life. The mystery begins right after the birthday party opening and father – daughter disagreement, we were dropped into the kidnapping scenario and the book was relentless with puzzles and actions, which needed to be solved and completed.

I had to put the book down several times as I could fall into the feeling the emotions of having a daughter kidnapped and of not being able to figure out the puzzle or meaning of the poem.  I was not familiar with the trials of Hercules although the main character was a teacher of ancient history and Greek Mythology at a college and that connection made it very interesting and piqued my curiosity a number of times.

Ethan Holt had done the Decathlon in the Olympics and won the gold.  He father had pushed and pushed him to compete and win.  After the win and being on the Wheaties Box, Ethan was allowed to disappear into his own life and he got his degrees in Ancient History and began teaching, he married and shared life with a child.  His life was full of loss as his parents died in a house fire and years later his wife was killed in a car accident, leaving Ethan to single parent his daughter “Skip”.

At thirteen, Skip was confident but going through a number of disagreements with her father that included her upset with a girl friend recently arrived in their lives.  Wendy is the new vet at the zoo.  Ethan and Skip go running early one morning to resolve a recent disagreement and when Ethan arrives home after work, he discovers that Skip has been kidnapped.  The kidnapper arranges a series of trials for Ethan to complete to keep his daughter from death and each involves more and more danger and brings into plain view another aspect of his life.

What is it that we learn from Ancient History and Mythology that teaches us in the present context of our life?   What has been abandoned or forgotten along the way and yet is relevant and important?  What is the truth of our past and how does it apply to our future?  Are we strong and will we survive?  Lots of questions posed within this story and the feelings are on high alert.   We all know someone who will find this read fascinating and the book hard to set aside.  The writing is steady and not complicated and it truly touched my emotions on several levels.  An intelligent read – interesting.

TLC Book Tours sent me the e-copy of this book for review and it was quite the read.

About the author: (From the cover)

“Kim Powers is the author of the novel Capote in Kansas: A Ghost Story as well as the critically acclaimed memoir The History of Swimming, a Barnes and Noble ‘Discover’ Book and Lambda Literary Award finalist.  He is currently the senior writer for ABC’s 20/20, and has won an Emmy, Peabody, and Edward R. Murrow Award for Overall Excellence ruing his time at ABC News and Good Morning America.  A native Texan, he received an MFA from Yale School of Drama, and also wrote the screenplay for the indie-favorite film Finding North.  He lives in New York City and Asbury Park, NJ, and may be reached at kimpowersbooks.com.”

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FLINGS: Stories ~Justin Taylor

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

“And it’s true that the only thing the kids remember about most of this stuff is buying it: the jolt of commercial desire followed by the soft shock of success as the parental wallet opened – and then the getting bored.”  (page 94 ‘Mike’s Song’ of an uncorrected proof copy of the book)


We’ve got a dozen stories by a good writer in FLINGS and I very much enjoy short stories these days and I would call it a good read and an interesting experience.   FLINGS was just right for the business of my life in the autumn harvest and before the winter big read season.

The reader experiences an excerpt of the whole life story of a great many characters in FLINGS.  Although one character from a story as a secondary pivot character, finds his own chapter later on, this is not a group of connected stories like OLIVE KITTERIDGE  or WHAT THE ZHANG BOYS KNOW. What the characters have as a common thread is that they have left some place or state of being and are now trying to identify their next move and forward motion.  The characters all seemed like New Yorkers though much of the action took place in other locations such as Hong Kong, Portland,Oregon, Ohio, Canada and Tennessee.   I don’t know if I can say this but as the characters wander about in search of their new states of being, the writing has a driven aspect that keeps the reader moving page after page.

Lots of themes about academia, music and writing with an overall literary quality; fascinating to read about what young men think about women and college girls these days.  The movies too reveal a lot of just random sex, and never much about the meaning of life or the depth of communication or relationship possibilities.  Maybe they will just wander into the right place or the right person for them while trying on 6 or 7 at a time.   Life as performance art and auditions.   I lost interest in several stories because of this lack and actually several books recently because of this current writing trend.

Several of the characters are well developed because of the fine writing; there was a searching quality to many of the stories which left me sometimes searching myself, wanting more so I would create what I thought would happen next.  Limbo?  Younger writers like this wanting feeling, I do not want it in all twelve stories.  I had to dig to find humor even though several reviewers found it very fun.  We all search for connection and our spot in life just maybe we do not find it until as the Baptist’s in my town say: “He’s been called home.”

Justin Taylor is the author of the story collection Everything Here is the Best Thing Ever and the novel The Gospel of Anarchy.  He lives, writes and teaches in New York City.

Harper Collins site for Taylor
Taylor’s Website
TLC book tours

It was a pleasure to read FLINGS and I am thankful for the opportunity.

“Every choice makes us and remakes us.  What’s incredible, Danielle thought, is not that we might have been somebody else, or nobody, but rather that despite everything we are somehow still ourselves.” (Page 207 of uncorrected copy.)

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SWEET TOOTH: A Memoir ~Tim Anderson

Monday, June 30th, 2014

“I was on my bed reading, toggling between Stephen King’s IT and a diabetes pamphlet Mom had picked up at the pharmacy and forced upon me when she got home.  Both were horrifying, so whenever one of them became too much for me, I would put it down and pick up the other.  IT, of course, featured a murderous clown who loved to eat children, and the diabetes pamphlet covered in explicit detail all the possible complications that could arise later in life for a young diabetic who didn’t take care of himself: glaucoma, cataracts, foot infections and disorders, hypertension, heart disease, impotence (what’s that?), nerve damage, and amputation.  And obviously, depression.”

SWEET TOOTH is about a double whammy being delivered to a 14 year old boy living in North Carolina; diabetes and hormones.  We are talking about the late 1980s and the 1990s and the reign of Jesse Helm’s negative conservatism.  It was a scary time to be young and possibly sexually different.  Though the author always had girl friends who were best friends, while visiting his Grandmother in New York he is attracted to a gay men’s magazine which he steals from the newsstand.

Anderson is an active member of Young Life at his high school and enjoys singing enthusiastically at each session.  He has not questioned the religion of his parents, but lots of confusing thinking is beginning to foment in his mind and his friends are offering up different ideas at their weed, pill, and drinking parties.  His hormones are going crazy and he is fantasizing about the college student who led the Young Life group and persuades him to raise money to go to summer camp in New York.  The bus load of kids is in Washington DC on their way to camp and our author goes into a diabetic coma and he can no longer ignore the symptoms.    No camp, no fantasizes resolved and Anderson’s parents must drive to the rescue.

What my words so far do not tell you is that the author is a very funny writer.   I thought I would just speed read through some of the raves, swearing, attempts at finding a partner, Little Debbie episodes and scary blood sugar drops; I could not because I did not wish to miss out on a good laugh.  Seriously, the guy has a great sense of humor and some scary diabetes episodes that will teach any parent a thing or two.   Type I Diabetes needs to be managed and you have to pay for all the supplies, which is very hard on a college student (except for the year in England) budget one is not likely to manage the disease very well.

SWEET TOOTH had a very nice format.  Each of the dozen chapters were proceeded by an episode called  HE’S LOST CONTROL #2 or #5, you get the idea, and they each have a title also such as ‘Glorious Pastries’ (#5)  These are moments when he has had a seizure or sugar meltdown that are death defying.  The next chapter then shares the next part of his life and what he is learning about school and society, hiding and being seen.  He is analyzing his questioning behaviors and his sarcasm and self-deprecating events are strange and funny as he sorts out life.  He is really lucky that he had such good friends who stuck with him through this process.

tlc logo TLC Online book tours sent me a copy of this book for review and it proved to be a good read and one that could be very helpful to folks with Diabetes I and gay children in discovery.  Thank you to TLC for this opportunity – SWEET TOOTH is a funny read.

The language, sexual references, and music are definitely of a teenage boy’s thinking through high school and college and this might offend some readers.  “Perfect for fans of David Sedaris and Sarah Vowell” or those people who want to understand.

From the book cover:

“Tim Anderson is the author of Tune in Tokyo: The Gaijin Diaries, which Publisher’s Weekly called ‘Laugh-out-loud funny,’ Shelf Awareness called ‘so much fun,’ and Michiko Kakutani of the New York Times completely ignored.  He lives in Brooklyn with his husband, Jimmy; his cat, Stella; and his yoga balance ball, Sheila.  Tim also writes young adult historical fiction under the name T. Neill Anderson and blogs at seetimblog.blogspot.com.  His favorite Little Debbie snack cake is The Fudge Round.”

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