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Thursday, July 5, 2018

Dead Girls: Essays on Surviving An American Obsession by Alice Bolin

(Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book!)
about book:

Dead Girls is everything I want in an essay collection: provocative lines of inquiry, macabre humor, blistering intelligence… I love this book.” —  Carmen Maria Machado, author of Her Body and Other Parties

“Bracing and blazingly smart, Alice Bolin’s Dead Girls could hardly be more needed or more timely.” — Megan Abbott, Edgar Award-winning author of You Will Know Me

Best of summer 2018 – included on best-of lists by Bitch Magazine, Harpers BazaarThe Millions, Esquire, Refinery29, Nylon, PopSugar, The Chicago Tribune, Book Riot, and CrimeReads

In this poignant collection, Alice Bolin examines iconic American works from the essays of Joan Didion and James Baldwin to Twin Peaks, Britney Spears, and Serial, illuminating the widespread obsession with women who are abused, killed, and disenfranchised, and whose bodies (dead and alive) are used as props to bolster men’s stories. Smart and accessible, thoughtful and heartfelt, Bolin investigates the implications of our cultural fixations, and her own role as a consumer and creator.

Bolin chronicles her life in Los Angeles, dissects the Noir, revisits her own coming of age, and analyzes stories of witches and werewolves, both appreciating and challenging the narratives we construct and absorb every day. Dead Girls begins by exploring the trope of dead women in fiction, and ends by interrogating the more complex dilemma of living women – both the persistent injustices they suffer and the oppression that white women help perpetrate.

Reminiscent of the piercing insight of Rebecca Solnit and the critical skill of Hilton Als, Bolin constructs a sharp, perceptive, and revelatory dialogue on the portrayal of women in media and their roles in our culture.

my thoughts:

As a huge fan of essays, I was super excited to read Dead Girls - a book of essays about the "dead girl" trope within American culture and media - specifically in literature.  Talk about a fascinating book!

This nonfiction tome is a bit of a memoir as Bolin writes about her life in LA and we get to see how she navigates loneliness, relies on Joan Didion's writing, and shares about her experiences with roommates and boyfriends.  Of course, we also get the essays that explore the idea of exploiting the "dead women" that society seems to be obsessed with.  You know, stories that begin with a dead woman and end with their murder being solved (or unsolved).  Its the idea that these "dead girls" are what the male characters depend on in order to grow/develop within the story - so crazy, but seemingly true to the arc of many a story.  And then there are the TV shows that use "dead women" to show how men are incapable of resisting their homicidal tendencies by exploring their methods and psychology - talk about crazy and interesting essays!  Bolin also looks at the concept of the "living girl" and the ways in which these women are exploited - such as through their fame, like with Britney Spears.  I just loved reading this book! I found myself easily caught up in everything that Bolin wanted to share with her readers and found myself jotting down notes to look at later.  Talk about a great mix of feminism and popular culture!

Dead Girls is terrific book of essays that I would happily recommend to anyone interested in nonfiction, specifically feminist nonfiction - you will LOVE this collection to bits!!

Here's the link to the TLC Book Tour schedule for: Dead Girls
Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book!

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

The Summer List: A Novel by Amy Mason Doan

(Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book!)
about book:

In the tradition of Judy Blume’s Summer Sisters, The Summer List is a tender yet tantalizing novel about two friends, the summer night they fell apart, and the scavenger hunt that reunites them decades later—until the clues expose a breathtaking secret that just might shatter them once and for all.

Laura and Casey were once inseparable: as they floated on their backs in the sunlit lake, as they dreamed about the future under starry skies, and as they teamed up for the wild scavenger hunts in their small California lakeside town. Until one summer night, when a shocking betrayal sent Laura running through the pines, down the dock, and into a new life, leaving Casey and a first love in her wake.

But the past is impossible to escape, and now, after seventeen years away, Laura is pulled home and into a reunion with Casey she can’t resist—one last scavenger hunt. With a twist: this time, the list of clues leads to the settings of their most cherished summer memories. From glistening Jade Cove to the vintage skating rink, each step they take becomes a bittersweet reminder of the friendship they once shared. But just as the game brings Laura and Casey back together, the clues unravel a stunning secret that threatens to tear them apart…

Mesmerizing and unforgettable, Amy Mason Doan’s The Summer List is about losing and recapturing the person who understands you best—and the unbreakable bonds of girlhood.

“This accomplished debut novel from Doan cleverly blends a coming-of-age tale, the story of a long-simmering mystery, and a thoughtful study of relationships between childhood friends…. With lovable characters and a scenic small town, Doan’s pleasant mix of mystery and high school nostalgia will please readers who grew up with the novels of Judy Blume.”-Publishers Weekly

“A trip down memory lane becomes a hunt for long-buried secrets in Amy Mason Doan’s gripping and poignant debut about the bond between two compelling outsiders. The Summer List is an evocative tale of family, first love, and the unique and lasting gift of a friendship formed in girlhood.”-Meg Donohue, USA Today bestselling autho

my thoughts:

The Summer List by Amy Mason Doan is a terrific book for a summer beach read. Its about friendship, mother-daughter relationships, and scavenger hunts - how perfect does that sound?! I absolutely LOVED it!

This is the story of two best friends, Laura and Casey.  Once a dynamic duo, these two besties become separated following a dramatic betrayal that shatters their friendship forevermore. Or at least it seems like forevermore.  Thanks to Casey's mom, Alex, she pushes the two gals together once more.  She sends them each a note (in each other's handwriting) proposing a scavenger hunt (an event that the ex-bffs loved to participate in) - its Alex's attempt to help the two ex-friends get back together and heal their fractured friendship.  And so the story begins, with flashes of the past and present, that help to provide us with insight into what tore these two besties apart and how they've coped ever since.

I really enjoyed reading all about Casey and Laura, summer time, scavenger hunts, and the DRAMA that unfolded between them. Talk about a great beach read!  The writing was fast-paced and engaging - I couldn't stop reading!  Plus, I just love books about friendships - always a treat to read about.  I would happily recommend this book for fans of books about friendship - you will LOVE this book!!

Here's the link to the TLC Book Tour schedule for: The Summer List
Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book!

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Left: A Love Story by Mary Hogan

(Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book!)

about book:

In this beautifully crafted novel from the author of the critically-acclaimed Two Sisters, comes the story of a woman who retreats into a fantasy world on New York City’s Upper West Side as she slowly loses her once whip-smart husband to dementia—perfect for fans of Still Alice.

When life falls apart, a little fantasy goes a long way…

It started as a dream vacation in Spain, with Fay and Paul Agarra enjoying all the delights of a European holiday. A respected New York City judge, Paul has always been the man Fay can rely on, no matter what. When he inexplicably disappears from a Barcelona street corner, Fay knows something is terribly wrong. Once reunited, Paul shrugs off the episode as a simple misunderstanding—but Fay suspects her almost perfect life has taken a dark and sudden turn.

Soon there are more signs that Paul is beginning to change. Bouts of forgetfulness lead to mistakes in the courtroom. Simple tasks cause unexplainable outbursts of anger. Fay’s worst suspicions are realized when she learns her husband—her rock, her love, her everything—is succumbing to the ravages of dementia.

As her husband transforms before her very eyes, Fay copes with her fears by retreating into a fantasy life filled with promise instead of pain. In Fay’s invented world, she imagines herself living a glamorous life free from heartache, with a handsome neighbor she barely knows rescuing her from a future she can’t accept.

Poignant and beautifully crafted, Left is an unforgettable tale about life’s aching uncertainties—and a woman who discovers that somewhere between hope and reality, an unexpected future will find its way forward.

my thoughts:

Talk about an emotional read! I absolutely LOVED reading Left by Mary Hogan - it was such a beautiful story.

This is the story of Fay and Paul Agarra.  A married couple on vacation in Spain - living the dream and enjoying every second of it.  Except, Paul leaves and when Fay finally tracks him down he acts as if he did nothing wrong. He acts as if she knew where he was going and all of this drama of trying to find him is her fault.  The only thing is, Fay has begun to notice slight changes in her husband's behavior and memory.  He's not the same man she married.  

Turns out that Paul has dementia and the disease is starting to take over. Tasked now with helping to care for her ill husband, Fay retreats into her imagination and creates a pretend life that is filled with romance and glamour.  She needs this outlet, because the reality of the situation is too difficult to deal with.  One day her husband won't even know her anymore and that idea just breaks her heart every day. And so she just moves forward with caring for her husband and herself in the best way she can manage.

I truly enjoyed getting lost in Fay's story and reading about the ways in which she manages to cope with her husband and his illness.  The strength and determination she showed was admirable. I found the story to be unputdownable and the writing to be terrific. Such a great work by Mary Hogan. I would definitely recommend this book to fans of Hogan and to anyone looking for their next great read. 

Here's the link to the TLC Book Tour schedule for: Left
Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book!

Friday, June 15, 2018

Caroline: Little House, Revisited by Sarah Miller

(Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book!)
about book:

In this novel authorized by the Little House Heritage Trust, Sarah Miller vividly recreates the beauty, hardship, and joys of the frontier in a dazzling work of historical fiction, a captivating story that illuminates one courageous, resilient, and loving pioneer woman as never before—Caroline Ingalls, “Ma” in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s beloved Little House books.

In the frigid days of February, 1870, Caroline Ingalls and her family leave the familiar comforts of the Big Woods of Wisconsin and the warm bosom of her family, for a new life in Kansas Indian Territory. Packing what they can carry in their wagon, Caroline, her husband Charles, and their little girls, Mary and Laura, head west to settle in a beautiful, unpredictable land full of promise and peril.

The pioneer life is a hard one, especially for a pregnant woman with no friends or kin to turn to for comfort or help. The burden of work must be shouldered alone, sickness tended without the aid of doctors, and babies birthed without the accustomed hands of mothers or sisters. But Caroline’s new world is also full of tender joys. In adapting to this strange new place and transforming a rough log house built by Charles’ hands into a home, Caroline must draw on untapped wells of strength she does not know she possesses.

For more than eighty years, generations of readers have been enchanted by the adventures of the American frontier’s most famous child, Laura Ingalls Wilder, in the Little House books. Now, that familiar story is retold in this captivating tale of family, fidelity, hardship, love, and survival that vividly reimagines our past.

my thoughts:

Little House on the Prairie is one of my favorite TV shows. I still watch it to this day. It comes on in the early evening and I absolutely enjoy watching the residents of Walnut Grove go about their daily lives, enduring hardships and cheering when hard work pays off.  I've gotten to know Caroline (or Ma as she's known to Laura, Mary, Carrie, and Grace) through the show and I've seen her as a strong and determined woman who has definitely taken care of her family through the good and bad times that always seem to pop up during life.  So, I was super excited to receive a copy of Sarah Miller's novel, Caroline: Little House, Revisited - a book that focused on Ma and her perspective on life on the frontier.  How could I resist, right?

Caroline shares her story of her family's move from Wisconsin to Kansas.  She's pregnant, has two little girls (Mary and Laura) to care for, and a husband (Charles) who is set on building their new home in unknown territory.  So many new and terrifying events to endure.  And to have to deal with them on their own - no help from family and friends.  Well, except for Mr. Edwards who does help Charles.  Suffice it to say, life is hard and scary.  So, Caroline digs deep and she makes their new little house their home.  She gets her family settled in.  And she loves them fiercely with all of her heart.

Talk about a fantastic story! I absolutely loved getting to know Caroline through Miller's perspective of this beloved character.  Her retelling of Laura Ingalls Wilder's story is rich, vivid, and utterly gripping. I found myself easily caught up in the adventures, the fears, and the love that this family experienced together out on the frontier.  It was such a fun and lively story, that I couldn't help but fall in love with it.

I would happily recommend Caroline to fans of the Little House series - you will LOVE this book!!
Here's the link to the TLC Book Tour schedule for: Caroline
Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book!

Monday, May 28, 2018

Matchingmaking for Beginners: A Novel by Maddie Dawson

(Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book!)
about book:

Marnie MacGraw wants an ordinary life—a husband, kids, and a minivan in the suburbs. Now that she’s marrying the man of her dreams, she’s sure this is the life she’ll get. Then Marnie meets Blix Holliday, her fiancĂ©’s irascible matchmaking great-aunt who’s dying, and everything changes—just as Blix told her it would.

When her marriage ends after two miserable weeks, Marnie is understandably shocked. She’s even more astonished to find that she’s inherited Blix’s Brooklyn brownstone along with all of Blix’s unfinished “projects”: the heartbroken, oddball friends and neighbors running from happiness. Marnie doesn’t believe she’s anything special, but Blix somehow knew she was the perfect person to follow in her matchmaker footsteps.

And Blix was also right about some things Marnie must learn the hard way: love is hard to recognize, and the ones who push love away often are the ones who need it most.

my thoughts:

I am a huge fan of Chick Lit novels, so I was super excited to dive into Matchmaking for Beginners by Maddie Dawson. I just knew that this book was going to be a fun treat to read - a story about matchmaking is guaranteed to have drama, romance, and a bit of magic, right?

Marnie is marrying Noah, the man of her dreams and they are set to establish an ordinary life chock full of ordinary dramas.  And then she meets Blix, Noah's aunt - a woman who sees a kindred soul in Marnie.  She knows that Marnie is meant for more than just ordinary and she knows that Marnie is meant for matchmaking. So, even though its a shock to Marnie when her marriage falls apart before its even truly begun, Blix has already set a plan in motion.  Marnie inherits Blix's home and along with her house she's also inherited a gaggle of tenants who are all suffering from romantic dramas.  Oh, and I did mention that Noah (her ex) is now her roommate. Yep, Blix has thought of everything.  And now, its up to Marnie to sort it all out.

Talk about a funny and delightful story to get lost in on a rainy day. I absolutely LOVED Matchmaking for Beginners - it was such a sweet and engaging story.  I found myself enjoying the time I spent with Marnie as she figured out how to fix everyone's love problems, while she struggled to deal with her own.  What a great story!

I would happily recommend this book to fans of Maddie Dawson and anyone looking for a summer romance to get lost in - you will LOVE this book!!

Here's the link to the TLC Book Tour schedule for: Matchmaking for Beginners
Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book!