May 27, 2016

First Lines Friday

First Lines Friday is a bookish meme hosted by Literary Marie of Precision Revision. I encourage all of my fellow book bloggers and bookhearts to play along.
  • Grab your current read(s) for Memorial weekend.
  • Share the first line(s).
  • Include the title and author.

"Robert's familiar rap on the door came as I was studying a miniature portrait of myself. The small painting, meant as a parting gift to my beloved, had just been delivered, and I was debating the artist's interpretation. I had to admit that Miss Peale's suggestion to paint my face in profile, and thus avoid the black patch covering my left eye, was a good idea."

~ Glory Over Everything: Beyond the Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom


May 26, 2016

Before the Fall

"Tragedy is drama you can't bear to relive." ~ 31% 

Before the Fall begins with a private plane sitting on the runway in Martha's Vineyard. Ten people board: The Bateman family (father David, mother Maggie and their two children, Rachel and JJ), wealthy couple Ben and Sarah Kipling, painter Scott Burroughs, the pilot and crew. Sixteen minutes later, the plane crashes into the sea.

There are two survivors: the painter and a six-year-old boy, the last remaining member of a wealthy television mogul's family. The story unfolds into the lives of the passengers and crew members before they boarded the plane. As clues unravel, I couldn't help but spin conspiracy theories. Is it pure coincidence that so many wealthy people died in one plane crash? Is it odd that one of the survivors spent his career painting pictures of disasters? Is the growing bond between the two survivors genuine or linked by circumstance? Who is really liable? It is all suspicious and told in a fashion that was hard to pause reading.

The media plays a big part in the novel. The 24/7 news was the character I loved to hate. Much like true life, the news and media outlets will sensationalize and exploit tragedies. There is no loyalty to the victims, families or survivors. It's all about entertainment and ratings. Whether author Noah Hawley purposely portrayed the media in this light, I do not know. But well damn done.

Before the Fall will be published on Tuesday, May 31. Get your copy of the tragedy of the summer!

Disclaimer: This book was received directly from the publisher for review purposes only. In no way does it influence my review. The opinions I have expressed are honestly my own and would be the same if I spent my hard-earned coins.

Title: Before the Fall
Author: Noah Hawley
Published: May 2016
Pages: 400
Edition: Galley
Rating: ♥♥♥♥♡

May 24, 2016

Sugarland Tour

Welcome to Literary Marie's Precision Revision! Thanks for visiting the last blog tour stop for Martha Conway's new jazz age mystery, Sugarland (available as of May 12, 2016). I love a good mystery so very excited about sharing my review and an excerpt. Get comfy and enjoy the content below.

In 1921, young jazz pianist Eve Riser witnesses the accidental killing of a bootlegger. To cover up the crime, she agrees to deliver money and a letter to a man named Rudy Hardy in Chicago. But when Eve gets to Chicago she discovers that her stepsister Chickie, a popular nightclub singer, is pregnant by a man she won’t name. That night Rudy Hardy is killed before Eve’s eyes in a brutal drive-by shooting, and Chickie disappears. 

Eve needs to find Chickie, but she can’t do it alone. Lena Hardy, Rudy’s sister, wants to learn the truth behind her brother’s murder, but she needs Eve’s connections. Together they navigate the back alleys and speakeasies of 1920s Chicago, encountering petty thugs, charismatic bandleaders, and a mysterious nightclub owner called the Walnut who seems to be the key to it all. As they fight racial barriers trying to discover the truth, Eve and Lena unravel a twisted tale of secret shipments and gangster rivalry.

My Review
If I had the opportunity to go back to an era, it would be the 1920s. The fashion, the jazz, the nightlife and the beginnings of women empowerment would be right up my alley. So the setting of Sugarland was perfect for me. Author Martha Conway wrote such descriptive backgrounds that it was like watching a movie. She captured the essence of the Roaring 20s, Prohibition and Jazz Age. Racism and relationships between races was also a theme in the novel and well portrayed. It was interesting to read how black and white musicians were treated during the Jazz Age as well as refreshing to watch a friendship build between two women from different backgrounds. The characters were well-developed with their own distinct personalities shown through both actions and dialogue. And the mystery wasn't so easy to solve!

Sugarland is a smooth read recommended for a breezy spring/summer evening on your patio with your favorite drink (or homemade hooch) and American jazz (Bessie Smith or Billie Holiday) playing in the background. You will get lost in the suspense fiction within the first couple chapters. In fact, you can start with the excerpt below then purchase Sugarland on Amazon. Trust me—you'll want to continue reading this story.

Title: Sugarland
Author: Martha Conway
Published: May 2016
Pages: 305
Edition: Galley
Rating: ♥♥♥♡

Sugarland: A Jazz Age Mystery
Chapter One Excerpt

Hoxie, Illinois, 1921

     At two in the morning the trains were stopped for the night, and the old wooden depot, manned only during the day now that the Great War had ended, was deserted.
     Eve could see her breath in the cold January air as Gavin Johnson helped her up the last step of the empty train car. Then he jumped up himself. He moved closer and she smelled whiskey and something musky he’d splashed on his face. He pressed her against the rail and began to kiss her with lips cold at first but getting warmer. That was all right.  
     She turned her head and kissed him back, a feeling of steam moving up through her body. The night was so still it was like a creature holding its breath. She pulled away for a moment. “How’d you get a key to the train car?” 
     Gavin just laughed. “Let me put out the light.” He opened his lantern’s tiny glass door to blow out the flame, and in the darkness Eve followed him into the empty car.
     Her blood was still warm from the corn whiskey she had drunk with the boys after the show, and she felt a little lightheaded. Here she was with a handsome man late at night, alone, her heart beating hard. Before her the rows of worn velvet seats were like people turning their backs. For some reason this excited her more.
     “Nice at night, dontcha think?” Gavin asked, taking her hand. With his other hand he touched the soft fold of her dress at the collar. Then he began to unbutton her coat. They were in the Entertainers’ car, the special train car they all traveled by and even slept in if there weren’t any colored hotels in town. Jimmy Blakeley and His Stoptime Syncopaters, they were called, with Gavin Johnson on tenor sax and Eve Riser on piano. Everyone in the band was young and excited, and Eve felt young and excited just being around them. But sometimes it got lonely going from place to place without resting.
     From the window Eve could see the empty depot house. Gavin touched the side of her face and she closed her eyes.
     Oh she should know better all right. But she was feeling so good, she had played so well that night, really found her way into the music. Also that afternoon she had started a new song—“Sea Change,” she would call it. The first four bars were a gift, just appearing in her mind as she walked back to the hotel from the drugstore, and they still looked good even after she’d written them down. 
     It was hardly warmer inside the train than out and she pressed against him too now, wanting to feel every inch. Gavin spread his overcoat on the floor and Eve let him guide her down onto the aisle, a hard space meant for feet. After a while his kisses became firmer and deeper like now they had really started, they were really going somewhere now.
     She felt his hands behind her neck, fumbling with the buttons of her new dress.
     “Gavin,” Eve said.
     “Shh, angel girl. I got us all covered.”
     She let him undo the buttons. She’d been on the circuit six months now. Six months of playing different pianos all in need of tuning, of fending for herself, of shooing off managers who said come on back to my office and I’ll show you something I know you’ll like. Some of the boys in the band called Eve beautiful but she didn’t know about that. What she cared most about was her music. The horn players liked to start off with notes so strong and high you thought there was nowhere else to go, challenging Eve to follow. She always did. She thought of them as brothers, the teasing variety. But then Gavin came in halfway through their tour, a fine-looking man with deep brown eyes and a complexion her grandmother would call Georgia brown. At first Eve thought he was just another alligator with his little straw boater and his silk tie and his fine boutonniere pin from one of his daddy’s social clubs, but it turned out he was there to play second sax. He called her angel girl and brought her coffee in the mornings. She was tired of being lonely. She liked his sloping smile.
     Gavin got her last button unbuttoned. His eyes dark liquid drops in dark hollows. He pulled her dress down to her shoulders and kissed her collarbone again.
     “Beautiful,” he said.
     “I should say,” said a deep voice behind them.

About the Author
Martha Conway is the author of Sugarland: A Jazz Age Mystery [Noontime Books], available via Amazon as of May 12, 2016. Conway’s first novel was nominated for an Edgar Award, and her second novel, Thieving Forest, won the 2014 North American Book Award for Best Historical Fiction. Her short fiction has been published in The Iowa Review, The Carolina Quarterly Review, The Quarterly, The Massachusetts Review, Folio, and other journals. She teaches creative writing for Stanford University’s Continuing Studies Program and UC Berkeley Extension, and is a recipient of a California Arts Council Fellowship for Creative Writing. Born in Cleveland, Ohio, she is one of seven sisters. She currently lives in San Francisco.

Author Links: Facebook  Twitter  Goodreads  Website

DisclaimerA special thanks to the publisher Noontime Books and SMITH Publicity for the ARC. This book was received directly from the publisher for review and tour purposes only. In no way does it influence my review. The opinions I have expressed are honestly my own and would be the same if I spent my hard-earned coins.


May 22, 2016

Series Sunday: Ask the Sistahs

(Sistah Speak Podcast: Ask the Sistahs) 

Special Series Sunday is a meme hosted by Literary Marie (Sistah LM). I encourage all of my fellow podcast hosts to play along.
  • Listen to an episode of a podcast series.
  • Share your review/recommendation below.
  • Include the podcast title and episode info.
My Series Sunday pick is Sistah Speak: Ask the Sistahs Episode 003. Listen to all four Sistahs answer your questions and give advice from a Sistah's point of view.

Join us in Chicago on July 9 for the Sistah Speak Family Reunion! Register here.

Podcast: Sistah Speak Podcast Network
Co-Hosts: Sistah A, Sistah J, Sistah K and Sistah LM
Date: 05.20.2016
Time: 1 Hour, 16 Minutes

May 20, 2016

First Lines Friday

First Lines Friday is a bookish meme hosted by Literary Marie of Precision Revision. I encourage all of my fellow book bloggers and bookhearts to play along.
  • Grab your current read(s).
  • Share the first line(s).
  • Include the title and author.

"A private plane sits on a runway in Martha's Vineyard, forward stairs deployed. It is a nine-seat OSPRY 45XR, built in 2001 in Wichita, Kansas. Whose plane it is is hard to say with real certainty."

~ Before the Fall by Noah Hawley


May 19, 2016

The Bell Jar

"What I've done is to throw together events from my own life, fictionalizing to add color--it's a pot boiler really, but I think it will show how isolated a person feels when he is suffering a breakdown...I've tried to picture my world and the people in it as seen through the distorting lens of a bell jar." ~ pg. 254

The above quote from the author herself is the best description of The Bell Jar. It is the semi-autobiographical novel of Sylvia Plath which details her dream to become a writer and struggle with depression as her personal life falls apart and society refuses to take women's aspirations seriously. To Plath and the main fictional character, Esther Greenwood, the world was a bad dream.

Even though The Bell Jar was written more than 50 years ago, it is still relevant today. The questions of how to sort out your life, how to deal with men and sex, how to be true to your successful self and live day-to-day are all still the same today. The anxieties of life have not changed. Now I see why Plath was viewed by critics as a contemporary and feminist. It is unfortunate that her suicide in 1963 brought instant fame; Plath was already a literary star.

As I sat down to type my review of The Bell Jar, I realized it is damn near impossible. How do I review such a classic? Both the novel and the author's reputation is already established regardless of what I have to say. All I can offer is my recommendation for those who are unfamiliar with Sylvia Plath. (Re)Read this classic! Research the author and impact of her brief career as a poet, novelist and short story writer. See for yourself why The Bell Jar is the feminine companion to Salinger's Catcher in the Rye. See why this novel remains in Chickadee's favorites of all time. It is a great choice to read during National Mental Illness Awareness Month.

Title: The Bell Jar
Author: Sylvia Plath
Published: January 1963
Pages: 255
Edition: eBook
Challenge: Bookish Kill Your TBR—Read the Classics
Rating: ♥♥♥♥


The Pocket Wife

"Manic depression, the doctors said—the great magical force that turned on her and tricked her into thinking she could fly. Episodic, they said." ~ pg. 25

Dana Catrell lives a life of chaos. Her husband makes her feel like loose change in his pocket. When Dana is in a mania phase, part of her bipolar disorder, she finds there are holes in her memory. So what really happened on the afternoon of her friend/neighbor Celia's death? Was it murder or all in her head? Dana uses the clarity the mania brings to fill in the terrifying gaps in her memory in this thrilling debut novel.

The Pocket Wife is a 3Ms story: marriage, murder and madness. This novel is a good blend of psychological suspense and behavior told from the point of a view of a woman with bipolar disorder.

Title: The Pocket Wife
Author: Susan Crawford
Published: March 2015
Pages: 303
Edition: eBook
Rating: ♥♥♥