Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Broken Girls - Review

Idgie Says:
This story goes back and forth in time, telling of events from the perspective of an adult woman and four 15 year olds.  All of the young girls agree that there is also a ghost around, each having heard or seen things on the grounds of their school. 

So the novel forms questions around two specific things - is there a ghost that haunts and possibly harms, and is there a murderer loose in the world?

The opening chapter, set in the 1950s, pulls you in with a ghost mystery and you quickly realize there is back story that needs to be told to explain the scene.  

Then the book switches to the present  day and you realize there's also a murder mystery in the present, revolving around the same location as a girl that went missing in the 1950s.

It's an interesting idea, to combine a mystery with a ghost story.  How do they relate to each other.... read the book and find out! 


No one tells a ghost story better than Simone St. James. In each of her five previous novels, including the award-winning story, The Haunting of Maddy Clare, she has proven herself time and again an expert at crafting eerie and atmospheric tones. James crafts novels so chilling and propulsive that readers find themselves at the edge of their seats, ripping through the pages to connect the dots.

Now Simone St. James brings these elements to her breakout suspense novel and hardcover debut, THE BROKEN GIRLS (Berkley Hardcover; March 20, 2018; $26.00), a contemporary story unlike anything she’s written before. THE BROKEN GIRLS follows the lives of five women—past and present—connected by Idlewild Hall, a boarding school in Vermont for “broken” girls: illegitimate daughters, girls with tarnished reputations, and girls with no future.

The story moves between 1950’s and present day Vermont. The past is told through alternating perspectives of four roomates at Idlewild Hall—Sonia, Katie, Roberta and CeCe—each broken in their own way, but connected by something stronger than blood—a family all their own. But even their bond can’t protect them from the whispered rumors that the school is haunted. And then one of them mysteriously disappears…

Decades later in present day, a shocking discovery during renovations of Idlewild Hall puts journalist Fiona Sheridan at the scene, the same place where her sister’s dead body was found in the nearby overgrown fields twenty years ago.  Although the case has been put to rest and the killer convicted, Fiona has never been able to shake the feeling that something more happened that terrible night her sister was murdered.

In a mesmerizing blend of past and present, each perspective converges for a thrilling conclusion that will have you racing to the end to find out how the murder of Fiona’s sister is connected to secrets meant to stay buried. Based on the author’s extensive research, THE BROKEN GIRLS is a heartbreaking and compelling novel that explores the injustices we face and how through love, grief, fear, and revenge, humans will forever be connected across time.

The Italian Party - Spotlight and Author Guest Post

THE ITALIAN PARTY by Christina Lynch (St. Martin's Press; on-sale March 20). 
THE ITALIAN PARTY is a sneaky book: half glamorous fun, half an examination of America's role in the world. When Scottie and Michael Messina arrive in Siena, Italy during the spring of 1956 they are blissful newlyweds. But their true reasons for being there—and the secrets they are keeping from each other—force them to see a more complex view of Italy, America and each other.
When Scottie’s Italian teacher, a teenager with secrets of his own, goes missing, her search for him leads her to discover other, darker truths about herself, her husband, and her country. Michael’s dedication to saving the world from communism crumbles as he begins to see that he is a pawn in a much different game. Driven apart by lies, Michael and Scottie must find their way through a maze of history, memory, hate, and love to a new kind of complicated truth.
Filled with sun-dappled pasta lunches, Prosecco, handsome locals, and horse racing, The Italian Party is a smart pleasure reminiscent of Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley. Complete with history, espionage, and intrigue, there’s something for all readers to love in this book.



Inspiration for The Italian Party: Secrets and Glamor in the 1950s

There were two key points of inspiration for The Italian Party. One was that my parents set off for South America in the 1950s, soon after they were married. I never got a chance to really ask them what that was like, and I’ve never been to South America, so the second, and more important, inspiration was my own experience moving to Italy in 1987, when I was 22.
I was working as a journalist for W, Women’s Wear Daily, and two other magazines that are now defunct, M and Scene. I didn’t speak Italian, and I thought there would be a period of training, but instead on my first day on the job I was sent to Florence to cover an underwear fair. It was a sort of trial by fire for someone with terminal shyness and social anxiety. I had to stalk the hallways of the Fortezza da Basso, listening for people speaking English, and ask them what they were buying to stock their retail stores back home: corsets, brassieres, boxers? I survived, barely, and the story ran on the front page of WWD, and it was all easier after that.
Because I spent seven years in Italy, four of them in Tuscany, it wasn’t hard to conjure the landscapes on the page, even though the book takes place in the summer of 1956, before I was born. The nice thing about Italy is that it doesn’t change too quickly. I did have to research the fifties, though—what people were wearing, talking about, the major news events. I chose 1956 because it was a year of upheaval in the Cold War. In January of that year Kruschev denounced Stalin, which was so secret it didn’t even get out to the west until June. That seemed to indicate that there would be a thaw in the tensions between the US and the Soviet Union. In Italy, the two superpowers were trying to influence Italian politics in ways that will sound eerily familiar to Americans in 2018: using large scale PR campaigns, running news stories true and false, influencing public opinion through prominent people, and a lot of good old-fashioned bribery. Communism was very popular in Italy, but in October the brutal Soviet putdown of the Hungarian uprising shifted Italians away from an alliance with the Soviets. I was interested in the summer between those two events, and exploring the anxieties underneath the beautiful Tuscan landscape.
So in the end I took all of those elements that intrigued and inspired me—American newlyweds in the 1950s, Italy, social anxiety, romance, language barriers and Cold War tensions and spycraft—and tossed them together like a nice bowl of pasta. The result was The Italian Party. Buon appetito!

Monday, March 19, 2018

The Sea Beast Takes a Lover

Idgie Says:

These stories are quite fantastical in nature.  The slim book is filled with wryly amusing tales of humanity that would never exist in real life but are taken as perfectly normal within these pages. A few of the stories were so far off in left field that I became lost, but the majority kept me interested the entire way through.  The Sea Beast Takes a Lover is one of my favorites, the phrases that are thrown out in the midst of a giant squid in heat trying to love a ship are great!  Throw in a cannibal and the whole story gets even twistier.

I enjoyed this book, but admit you have to be willing to leave all sense of reality at the door to embrace it.


February, 2018 
Penguin Random House

Michael Andreasen’s spectacular debut The Sea Beast Takes a Lover: Stories... The collection is the perfect marriage of a Wes Anderson film and Black Mirror. A strange mix? Yes, but one you won’t want to miss out on.
Bewitching and playful, with its feet only slightly tethered to the world we know, The Sea Beast Takes a Lover explores hope, love, and loss across a series of surreal landscapes and wild metamorphoses. Just because Jenny was born without a head doesn’t mean she isn’t still annoying to her older brother, and just because the Man of the Future’s carefully planned extramarital affair ends in alien abduction and network fame doesn’t mean he can’t still pine for his absent wife. Romping through the fantastic with big-hearted ease, these stories cut to the core of what it means to navigate family, faith, and longing, whether in the form of a lovesick kraken slowly dragging a ship of sailors into the sea, a small town euthanizing its grandfathers in a time-honored ritual, or a third-grade field trip learning that time travel is even more wondrous–and more perilous–than they might imagine.

Andreasen’s stories are simultaneously daring and deeply familiar, unfolding in wildly inventive worlds that convey our common yearning for connection and understanding. With a captivating new voice from an incredible author, The Sea Beast Takes a Lover uses the supernatural and extraordinary to expose us at our most human.

The Fighter - Review

Idgie Says:
When you read about this novel's publisher, they state that their goal is publishing books notable for unusual stories, unexpected voices, and a strong sense of place.  They hit all three marks when they grabbed The Fighter.

Despair, loss, pain and regret bleed from the pages of this novel.  There is no happy place, no sense of peace.  While some of the characters may be satisfied about where they are in life, that's as far as it goes - satisfaction, not pleasure.  

Jack is a man who has been lost in the world since he was 2 years old.  His calm moments have been few and far between.  He has never attempted to better himself or his situations, and now as regret bares down on him, it may be too late. 

Jack and Annette's tale is told in long, rambling, delightfully descriptive passages that are a pleasure to read. Michael has a true talent in immersing you in the story through the power of his lyrical writing.

Click HERE to read interviews from Michael.

Little, Brown and Company (March 20, 2018)

The acres and acres of fertile soil, the two-hundred-year-old antebellum house, all gone. And so is the woman who gave it to Jack, the foster mother only days away from dying, her mind eroded by dementia, the family legacy she entrusted to Jack now owned by banks and strangers. And Jack’s mind has begun to fail, too. The decades of bare-knuckle fighting are now taking their toll, as concussion after concussion forces him to carry around a stash of illegal painkillers and a notebook of names that separate friend from foe and remind him of dangerous haunts to avoid.

But in a single twisted nighthe is derailed. Hijacked by a sleazy gambler out to settle a score, Jack loses the money that will clear his debt with Big Momma Sweet, the queen of Delta vice, whose deep backwoods playground offers sin to all those willing to pay. This same chain of events introduces an unlikely savior in the form of a sultry, tattooed carnival worker. Guided by what she calls her “church of coincidence,” Annette pushes Jack toward redemption in her own free-spirited way, only to discover that the world of Big Momma Sweet is filled with savage danger.

Damaged by regret, crippled by twenty-five years of fists and elbows, heartbroken by his own betrayals, Jack is forced to step into the fighting pit one last time, the stakes nothing less than life or death. With raw power and poetry, Michael Farris Smith cements his place as one of the finest writers in the American literary landscape.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Death of an Unsung Hero - Review, Excerpt and Q & A

Idgie Says:
Tessa's website describes the Lady Montfort Series (this is the forth book in the series) a "well-mannered mystery".  This description is perfect.  I didn't want to classify it as a "cozy" necessarily and I think well-mannered relates to all the characters in the book....except for the killer of course.

Death of an Unsung Hero
A Lady Montfort Mystery