Category Archives: TLC book tour

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell (review and giveaway)

Word Lily review

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell (Dutton, April 14, 2011), 336 pages

Lincoln, thought by some to be a perpetual student, finally quit school (after several degrees) and moved back home. Now, he’s working at the newspaper, overseeing internet security and fixing printers when they need it. It’s not a great job; Lincoln’s working second shift, in a windowless office all alone. He can’t meet people, because he works when they’re awake. And he really doesn’t like snooping through private emails, but that’s what he’s paid to do.

Much of the book consists of email exchanges between two women, friends. Lincoln can’t bring himself to send them a warning, and he kind of feels like he’s become friends with them — even while feeling like a creep for reading their email.

In some ways, this is a coming of age novel. Although Lincoln’s not a teenager, when the book opens he doesn’t have a clear picture of who he is, and he’s lacking direction and motivation.

The Y2K scare and preparation aspect of the book (it’s set in 1999) is fun. I love the Omaha, Nebraska setting. I also loved being back in a newspaper office, talking about inky fingers, second shift, and copy-editing.

Overall, I found this book charming, and not entirely shallow. The book touches on themes of self-concept, esteem, ethics, fertility, and marriage.

Rating: 4 stars

About the author
Rainbow Rowell (Facebook @rainbowrowell), is a columnist for the Omaha World-Herald. She lives in Omaha with her family. She has a journalism degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Other reviews
Teresa’s Reading Corner
Books, Movies, and Chinese Food
Truth, Beauty, Freedom, and Books
Have you reviewed this book? Leave me a link and I’ll add it here.

Thanks to the publisher, one of you can win a copy of Attachments! (U.S. or Canada only.) To enter, leave a comment on this post. (One entry per person.) I’ll accept entries through Monday, May 2, 2011.

ETA: This giveaway is now closed. See who won.

I received this book from the publisher. I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.


31 Bond Street by Ellen Horan

31 Bond Street by Ellen Horan (Harper, March 30, 2010), 352 pages

31 Bond Street opens in 1857 New York City. Wealthy dentist Harvey Burdell is found brutally murdered, in his own home. Emma Cunningham, the widowed mother of two teenage daughters, is accused of the murder, but not before she’s trapped inside her home for weeks by officials with not-so-secret political ambitions. Henry Clinton puts his reputation and practice on the line to defend her.

Everything seemed aligned for me to absolutely love this book. A murder mystery, set in a historical framework, with racial, gender and socioeconomic issues in the fore. It touches on the impact of both the press and the law on peoples’ lives. What could be better?

The novel is a fictional account of an (apparently famous) actual murder trial, which is fun. I enjoyed the illustrations and snippets from newspapers that opened some chapters. Interestingly, my favorite characters were minor players.

I was a bit annoyed at how the narrative went back and forth in time. I had trouble keeping track of the chronology at times, although usually a nonlinear narrative isn’t a problem for me. It was incredibly slow getting around to the information that did, eventually, make me care deeply about this book. Still these are minor issues.

I found the setting absolutely engrossing, vividly drawn and fascinating. I love when that happens!

Bottom line: 31 Bond Street didn’t quite wow me, but I’ll definitely be looking forward to more from Horan. This was a fun, enjoyable read, a great story.

Read an excerpt.

There’s been talk of a movie based on the book — I think it would make a terrific film — and anyone who has read the book can enter the “Cast the Movie” Contest; the prize is handmade truffles from Bond Street Chocolates as well as a signed first edition of the book. The contest is open internationally; it closes August 31, 2010.

About the author
Ellen Horan previously worked as a freelance photo editor for magazines and books in New York City. She has a background in painting and visual art. 31 Bond Street is her first novel.

Check out the rest of the TLC Book Tour stops for 31 Bond Street by Ellen Horan.

Other reviews
Devourer of Books
Bookin’ with Bingo
Killin’ Time Reading
The Book Book

Have you reviewed this book? Leave me a link and I’ll add it here.

I received this book from the publisher, as part of the TLC book tour.

Everything Is Broken by Emma Larkin

Everything Is Broken: A Tale of Catastrophe in Burma by Emma Larkin (Penguin Press, April 29, 2010), 288 pages

In May 2008 the massive Cyclone Nargis hit Burma, wreaking untold havoc on a heavily populated delta region. When the international community responded with aid, the ruling military regime denied access.

Going into this book, knowing it’s about a devastating hurricane and its aftermath, I knew it wasn’t going to be fun. I feared it might be incredibly depressing. I also knew I *needed* to read it. Larkin wouldn’t have had to stretch to make the book so, but instead, thankfully, she went another way. Or perhaps, since the darkness in the book wasn’t a surprise, it didn’t hurt me so much to read about it. Regardless, Everything Is Broken is incredibly intriguing, and not in that car-crash-rubbernecker way.

I remember the May 2008 cyclone and when it hit Burma. In my mind I’ve long compared and contrasted this disaster with the December 2004 tsunami that devastated so many Asian countries.

In a nutshell: Everything Is Broken is not a fun book (Hey, consider the topic!), but it’s definitely a good one. Besides great coverage of the hurricane’s aftermath, it has lots of good background information and is very readable. The history was fascinating, to say the least.

Tangent: While reading this book, I was frequently reminded of Kimya Dawson’s song 12 26, about the December 2004 tsunami. Totally different events, and very different responses. But some of the sentiments expressed in the song (Note: At some point I saw the song labeled as explicit, basically because of its depictions of the tsunami. While I don’t think the song necessarily deserves the label, some of the images in the linked video are pretty graphic.)

About the author
Emma Larkin is the pseudonym for an American who was born and raised in Asia and studied the Burmese language at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. She lives in Thailand and has been visiting Burma for nearly 15 years. She’s the author of Finding George Orwell in Burma, which I’d heard of somewhere in the blogosphere.

Check out the rest of the TLC Book Tour stops for Everything Is Broken: A Tale of Catastrophe in Burma by Emma Larkin.

Other reviews
Have you reviewed this book? Leave me a link and I’ll add it here.

I received this book from the publisher, as part of the TLC book tour. I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.

The Sweet By and By by Todd Johnson

The Sweet By and By by Todd Johnson (William Morrow, 2009; Harper Paperbacks edition released March 30, 2010), 320 pages

Bernice and Margaret are in a nursing home, in eastern North Carolina. They both feel alone, until each discovers the other, right across the hall. Margaret usually makes a pest of herself to the staff; only LPN Lorraine can really communicate with her. Rhonda starts doing hair at the home on her day off from the salon so she can attain her dream of opening her own shop. Oh, and then there’s April, Lorraine’s daughter. She’s going to med school, to be a doctor.

The Sweet By and By wasn’t what I expected. I thought it was going to be about a group of friends who’d known each other for a long time and were now experiencing aging (and the nursing home) together. Instead, they meet at the nursing home, when (some of them, at least) are already old. And rather than being a Southern novel or a book about the South, this book struck me as simply a book set in the South. Sure, the characters speak in a bit of a drawl, and they eat fried food. But that was most of the South’s presence, it seemed. Yes, civil rights stuff (some of the characters are black, some are white) was mentioned a time or two. But it was mostly just in passing. I don’t know where I got these notions, though, so I guess that’s beside the point.

This is a book about aging and dying, about the aches and pains that come along with that — although it’s not graphic at all — and growing old gracefully. It’s also a picture of friendship across the years.

It’s certainly not plot-driven. I frequently enjoy character-driven novels, but this one didn’t do it for me.

I don’t always have to connect with a book’s protagonist to enjoy it. But with four (or five, depending on who you ask) main characters (chapters alternate between them), I felt like it was a problem that I couldn’t really relate to any of them. Sure, bits and pieces of different stories resonated, but there was at least one major aspect of each character that made me pull away.

Still, it is a sweet, touching story.

About the author
Todd Johnson received a Tony Award nomination as producer of The Color Purple on Broadway after a career as a teacher and studio singer. This is his debut novel. Johnson’s blog:

He will be on Blog Talk Radio with Book Club Girl on April 26, 2010 at 4 p.m. Eastern.

Check out the rest of the TLC Book Tour stops for The Sweet By and By by Todd Johnson.

Other reviews (seems most people enjoyed it quite a bit more than I did):
Dreadlock Girl
Book Addiction
Booking Mama

Have you reviewed this book? Leave me a link and I’ll add it here.

I received this book from the publisher, as part of the TLC book tour.

Balancing Acts by Zoe Fishman

Balancing Acts by Zoe Fishman (Harper, March 16, 2010), 384 pages

Charlie left a high-paying position on Wall Street to open her Brooklyn yoga studio. She attends her 10-year college reunion hoping to drum up business, but while she’s there she reconnects with three former classmates, who, like her, haven’t ended up quite where they planned.

• Sabine edits romance novels but hasn’t gotten around to writing her own book yet.
• Naomi hasn’t picked up her camera in years and is now a single mom doing web design.
• Bess has always dreamed of doing real journalism but instead writes cutlines (photo captions) for a gossip rag.

Balancing Acts struck me as kind of a cross between Sex in the City and Jennie Nash’s The Only True Genius in the Family.

I really enjoyed this book. I particularly loved how Fishman used yoga to not only facilitate the story and its progression — the four former classmates agree to meet for a six-session closed beginner’s class — but also to really inform and illustrate the whole of each character’s life.

Overall, the characters are believable and likable. I loved the focus on creativity and the arts in each of their lives.

This is a small thing, but: I’m really surprised by how technologically illiterate the main characters are. I’m the same age they are (although I don’t live in New York City and I’m not in the same life stage), and I’m much more in tune with technology than basically any of these women are.

Familiarity with yoga isn’t a factor in liking this book; although I’m somewhat interested in yoga, I’ve never done any yoga (unless you count Wii Fit).

If this is women’s fiction (Oh, all these labels!), it’s the first book I’ve heard called that I’ve actually enjoyed. This was a quick read, and I’m very glad I read it.

About the author
Zoe Fishman lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband. Balancing Acts is her first novel.

Check out the rest of the TLC Book Tour stops for Balancing Acts by Zoe Fishman.

Other reviews
S. Krishna’s Books
One Person’s Journey through a World of Books
Pop Culture Junkie
Write Meg
Books, Movies and Chinese Food

Have you reviewed this book? Leave me a link and I’ll add it here.

I received this book from the publisher, as part of the TLC book tour.

The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli

The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli (St. Martin’s Press, March 30, 2010), 400 pages

Helen Adams is pulled between escaping Vietnam as Saigon falls and staying, to photograph the government transition and hopefully cement her place in photojournalism history. Add to that the fact that Saigon feels like home to her — she’s lived there more than a decade.

Photojournalist! Woman! Vietnam! All of these things screamed at me to read this book. It started a little slow, and I started questioning my choice. That was a relatively short-lived concern, though.

I was worried about what the book cover calls “a drama of devotion and betrayal as she is torn between the love of two men.” I’m not typically appreciative of love triangle stories. This, too, was something I needn’t have worried about, happily. It was handled well, and I didn’t find it distasteful.

I loved the strong sense of place — I really felt like I could see the lush landscape, feel the humidity, the crowded streets.

I found The Lotus Eaters insightful, if mainly in a small area (journalism, drive, ambition). The way Helen is addicted to war, that appetite — all of the news business can be that way.

A few quotes that resonated (these are taken from an advance copy; page numbers and the text itself may have been changed for the final copy):

“The curse of curses was that he was good at war, loved the demands of the job. What was frightening was he had developed an appetite for it. Like a starving man staring at a table of food, refusing to eat on moral grounds; appetite would win, and his shrewd boss counted on that.”

—page 54, The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli

“The first picture, or the fifth, or the twenty-fifth still had an authority, but finally the repetition made the horror palpable. In the last few years, no matter how hard he tried, his pictures weren’t as powerful as before he had known this. Like an addict who had to keep upping the dose to maintain the same high, he found himself risking more and working harder for less return. He would never again be moved the way he was over that first picture of a dead WWII soldier. Was his own work perpetrating the same on those it came into contact with?”

—page 251, The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli

“Sometimes Charlotte entered a room she thought empty only to find Helen there, staring off into space, her face broken apart, her daughter the Picasso woman. Helen sat on the couch, legs curled up, tears rolling down her face, and all the mother could do was take her child in her arms, rock back and forth for hours, pretend her daughter was still a child and could be soothed, merely frightened of the dark.”

—page 276, The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli

“How could she understand? Even through all her hardship, she still saw the world through privilege. How could she know how it felt to be on the outside? Especially in one’s own country?”

—page 309, The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli

One other (very minor!) complaint: At the beginning I had a hard time figuring out when and where I was in the story, as we moved around, mostly in time. I think blame for this falls squarely on the fact that I had only short bits of time to devote to the book early on.

Overall: Although it started a bit slow, I really loved this book. A great read.

About the author
Tatjana Soli (@TatjanaSoli) was nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She lives with her husband in Orange County, California, and teaches through the Gotham Writers’ Workshop. This is her debut novel.

Check out the rest of the TLC Book Tour stops for The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli.

Other reviews
Caribou’s Mom
Musings of a Bookish Kitty
Book Club Classics

Have you reviewed this book? Leave me a link and I’ll add it here.

I received this book from the publisher, as part of the TLC book tour.

Interview with Laura Lippman, author of Life Sentences

I was excited (if a little daunted) to interview Laura Lippman, author of Life Sentences [link to my review] as well as 15 other books, including the Tess Monaghan mystery series.

Laura Lippman

Word Lily: After reading on your website about how private of a person you are, to the extent that you removed your bio from your website, I’m a little intimidated to interview you. Perhaps I can interview Cassandra [your main character in Life Sentences], instead? No, just kidding. I’ll forge ahead.

Word Lily: What character in Life Sentences do you feel the most comfortable with? Why?

Laura Lippman: Most comfortable? I think that would have to be Tisha. She’s a straight shooter and she’s the only character who doesn’t rely on a self-created myth to get through the day.

Word Lily: Of all the books you’ve written, which is your favorite? Why?

Laura Lippman: My favorite is always the book I’m currently working on, because it’s the only one that still has the theoretical potential to be perfect. I love all my books, but the completed ones are inevitably imperfect. The book-in-progress is the only one that can offer the illusion that, this time, I might really get it right.

Word Lily: I know that feeling. How did you transition from writing journalistically to writing fiction? I read that you wrote your first seven books while working full-time at The Sun. (Having worked in the newspaper world, may I express my awe over that feat.)

Laura Lippman: I think it’s important to be candid: Those first seven books meant having NO life and that is not something I recommend. At any rate, I was always a novelist at heart. I went into journalism because it was a job that would allow me to write every day. And I learned a lot from journalism. First and foremost, I learned how to explain immensely complicated stuff. Once you’ve had to describe the inner workings of the city water system, or how public works projects are financed through bonds, a murder mystery starts to look really simple. Journalism teaches lucidity. That’s a good place for any writer to start.

Word Lily: What does the future of journalism look like?

Laura Lippman: I honestly don’t know. Instead, I’ll offer up the Pollyanna-ish prayer that those who profess to love democracy will be reminded that the fourth estate is vital and that good journalism is worth paying for. The truth is, we all — and by “we all,” I mean those who read even one section of the newspaper — got a free ride for a long, long time. The cover price — whether it was 35 cents, 50 cents, a dollar — didn’t begin to pay for what we were getting. Advertising subsidized our newspaper habit. Journalism is of value, but even before the internet, we were getting it for a pittance. Time to pay up or shut up.

Word Lily: Some more general questions now. Why do you write?

Laura Lippman: I think it’s compulsive. Do you know the musical, Once Upon a Mattress? There’s a character who’s been under a magical spell and can’t speak. At the play’s end, the spell is lifted and, upon learning that he can speak, he says: “And I have a lot to say.” I’ve never been the silent type, yet I feel that way, as if I have all these words bottled up inside. I have so much to say.

Word Lily: How did you start writing?

Laura Lippman: The temptation is to say, One word at a time. Or to ask how I should define start? I’ve always written. I wrote before I knew how to write. I started trying to tell stories when I was five. I tried to write my first novel at age 12. Then again and again and again. Finally, at age 33, I started a novel that I managed to finish. Starting was easy for me. Finishing was really hard.

Word Lily: What question have you always expected (or been dying to hear) but never actually been asked? And what’s your answer to that question?

Laura Lippman: What a wonderfully dangerous question. I think every writer has a secret allusion that no one gets and one waits and waits and waits for the reader who will pick up on it. Recently, I heard from a reader who had turned her husband onto my books. He’s a really big fan of the Oz series, to which I allude many, many, many times. And it pleased me that a) he got it and b) that he thought I got something wrong, checked it, and found out I was right. Let me be clear — I make mistakes, I am far from perfect. So it was delightful to find out that another Oz aficionado had questioned my credentials and discovered I was right.

Laura Lippman: But I feel I’ve sidestepped your question. I think the thing I long to be asked is how my husband feels about being married to me. To which I would say: He knows he’s the luckiest man in Baltimore.

Word Lily: Ha! What are you working on now?

Laura Lippman: I have finished-finished a book called I’d Know You Anywhere, which will be available in August. It’s about a very happy woman, whose contented life is disrupted when she receives a letter from a convicted serial killer. Turns out that she’s his only living victim and he wants to speak to her before he’s executed for one of his crimes.

Word Lily: Thank you so much for your time! Anything else you want to say? Am I missing something?

Laura Lippman: You haven’t missed a trick. The only thing I want to say about Life Sentences is that I know Cassandra is a gigantic pain in the ass. But — I hope! — that makes her journey that much more interesting. If Cassandra had always been a good/nice person, she wouldn’t be in the fix she’s in. I guess I like to think that it’s never too late to learn how to be a good person.

About the author
Laura Lippman grew up in Baltimore and returned there in 1989 to work as a journalist. She has won numerous awards for her work. Her 17th book, I’d Know You Anywhere, is set to be released in August.

Life Sentences by Laura Lippman

Life Sentences by Laura Lippman (William Morrow, 2009; the paperback was released in March 2010), 352 pages

Cassandra Fallows found writing success with her first book, a memoir. Her second memoir didn’t do to poorly either. Her third book, though — a novel — didn’t fare too well. Now the pressure’s on. And when the name of one of her childhood acquaintances comes up on the national news, she knows she’s found her next book. That acquaintance, Callie, spent seven years in jail on contempt charges after her infant son disappeared (presumed dead) and she took the Fifth. But she didn’t know Callie all that well. And the rest of her friends — she left them and Baltimore behind when she went to college — aren’t too eager to chat, either.

This is one of those books that definitely has a mystery at the heart of the story but doesn’t really act or read like a thriller. I guess that makes it more literary, more literary fiction?

I loved that it was about a writer. She’s published, but she’s still struggling. And Baltimore is one of those settings I’m really intrigued by, for some reason. The story line and the ethical dilemmas I liked. The main characters are well drawn. At the heart of the story, this is a book about memory. It’s much more questions- and character-driven than plot-driven.

The way sex was talked about in the beginning of the book was a bit shocking, a bit off-putting.

Laura Lippman’s name had been on my radar for quite awhile, which is why I jumped at the chance to read this one. I’m also signing up for the Laura Lippman reading challenge; I’ll go conservative and sign up at the two-book Dabbler level.

About the author
Laura Lippman grew up in Baltimore and returned there in 1989 to work as a journalist. She has won numerous awards for her work. Her 17th book, I’d Know You Anywhere, is set to be released in August.

I plan to have an interview with Lippman posted here soon. EDITED TO ADD: My interview with author Laura Lippman

Check out the rest of the TLC Book Tour stops for Life Sentences by Laura Lippman.

Other reviews
Presenting Lenore
Caribous Mom
Raging Bibliomania

Have you reviewed this book? Leave me a link and I’ll add it here.

I received this book from the publisher, as part of the TLC book tour. I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.