Category Archives: TLC Book Tour

Blog Tour: Natchez Burning

Natchez BurningNatchez Burning
by Greg Iles
Published by William Morrow
800 pages
Genre: mystery; suspense; thriller; literature 
4.5 / 5


Do not – I repeat, DO NOT – begin this book unless you have some time to read it. For one thing, it clocks in at a whopping 800 pages. And for another, far more important, reason, it is nearly impossible to put down.

The first of a planned trilogy, Natchez Burning introduces us to Penn Cage, a mid-forties mayor of Natchez, Mississippi, whose father, revered local doctor Tom Cage, has been arrested for murdering Viola, a former nurse of his.

The story unfolds through the eyes of quite a few characters, including Tom Cage, Caitlin (Penn’s newspaper publisher fiancee), and a slew of bad guys. Only Penn speaks to us in first person, which makes him the character we get to know the best. Then again, even at 800 pages, it’s difficult to know all the characters in this book terribly well.

There are two story lines here: the present tale, centered around Tom Cage’s murder arrest, and the ’60s saga, in which a KKK splinter group ruled Natchez with cruelty, prejudice, and no small amount of viciousness. Led by Brody Royal, this killer crew targeted anyone who threatened the white status quo, regardless of skin color or socioeconomic status.

The stories converge when Tom is arrested, and as Penn slowly discovers the links between his father and Brody Royal’s organization, he also begins to grasp the extent of Natchez’s violent history.

Throughout the sprawling story lines, characters, plots and subplots, there is one thread that binds it all together: a man’s coming to terms with the knowledge that his father is not the stuff of super hero comic books, but rather a flawed, complex man. It is this simple, age-old truism that makes this book so compelling and riveting. We hold our breaths as Penn uncovers one secret after another, hoping – along with him – that his father is the man we think he is. When we are told at one point that Tom is exhausted from carrying the burden of other’s expectations, we empathize with him, even as we hope those expectations are deserved.

As much as I enjoyed this book, though, I do have some issues with it, namely its ending. Iles leaves several questions unanswered, which almost feels cheap and underhanded considering we just spent nearly 800 pages engaging with his characters. I cannot tell you how frustrating the ending is.

Some of the characters are straight out of Central Casting for bigoted bad guys, and their one-dimensionality stands in stark contrast to how well developed other characters are.

Still, though, this is one heck of a fantastic read. I can’t wait for the next one.

Links:Greg Iles

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Filed under literature, mystery, suspense, thriller, TLC Book Tour

Blog Tour: On the Rocks

On the RocksOn the Rocks
by Erin Duffy
Published by William Morrow
322 pages
Genre: women’s fiction; chick lit 
4 / 5
Imagine this: you are shopping for your wedding gown, and as you stand in a Vera Wang confection (your dream dress!), sipping on complimentary Champagne, your best friend and Maid of Honor happens to check Facebook.

And discovers that your fiancé considers himself to be no longer in a relationship.

Such is the nightmare that Abby faces in the opening pages of this book.

She reacts the way most of us would: she digs into pints of Ben & Jerry’s and soothes her aching heart with ice cream and self-pity. When six months passes and she has progressed onto no new stage of grief, best friend Grace drags her by the scruff of the neck and hauls her out to a rental cottage to spend the summer near a Rhode Island beach.

Abby’s summer of self-discovery is as rocky as they come. She doesn’t want to go, even if she realizes that Grace has a point. Abby likes feeling sorry for herself; she enjoys the sadness that comes from her broken heart. Ben, the ex-fiancé, texts her occasionally, and Abby jumps at those texts like a dog to a bone. How self-flagellating can you get?

Grace knows, though, that Abby needs to remove herself from memories of Ben and to create new ones. In doing so, Abby will prepare her heart for a new romance, perhaps even with someone she meets in Rhode Island. Not that Grace is much of an expert in the ways of love, mind you. Grace’s boyfriend has a wife of his own, rendering Grace one of those women who thinks her lover will forsake his marriage and commit to her.

And so Abby heads to Rhode Island, where she first meets one of Grace’s co-workers, and then begins meeting others. She goes on dates, she makes new friends, she winds up enjoying herself, which surprises her most of all.

She also – more importantly – learns to be her own person, something that Grace observes. Can Grace apply these lessons to her own life?

This is a wonderful story of friendship, first and foremost. Yes, Grace has little romantic interludes, but it turns out that Whitney Houston had it right: the greatest love of all is learning to love yourself.

You will enjoy meeting all of the quirky characters in this book, but most of all, you will enjoy tagging along on Abby and Grace’s voyages of self-realization. We want them to be happy, internally more than anything. Erin Duffy knows this, and she crafts characters who seem like us, like our friends, like people we know and are. By rooting for them, we root for ourselves.


Links Erin Duffy


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Filed under blog tour, chick lit, TLC Book Tour, women's lit

Blog Tour: Under a Silent Moon

Under a Silent MoonUnder a Silent Moon
by Elizabeth Haynes
Published by Harper
373 pages
Genre: mystery 
Thanks to the publisher for the preview
4.5 / 5


Gird your loins, faithful readers (literally – gird them), because this mystery will throw you in a martini shaker and jumble you up.

In a good way.

Detective Chief Inspector Louisa Smith is charged with investigating the murder of Polly, a young, vivacious woman working at a local horse farm.

Oh, sure, she was sleeping with most of the town. In fact, you sort of get the impression that Louisa is the only one who didn’t have sex with the deceased. Polly, you see, is non-discriminatory when it comes to the sexy times. Male? Female? Doesn’t matter. All you’ve got to be is open to having some fun.

As Louisa’s investigation delves into the crime, she discovers that Polly might have had a few people who weren’t too thrilled with her. Jealous spouses, hurt exes, and even a crime lord – any of them had a reason to do Polly in.

Assisting Louisa are two men, each as intrigued with Louisa as they are the murder: Andy, an investigator Louisa has worked with and with whom she had a fling – and would have continued having said fling, except for Andy being married and all, and Jason, a Canadian assigned to help analyze data and information. Lou is drawn to Jason, and even still a bit drawn to Andy.

Her investigation begins to uncover that there is a whole lot of spanky panky going on in the tiny little village of Morden, and Polly might have been involved. But is sex a reason to kill someone?

This is a delicious mystery, taking you from interrogation rooms to bedrooms. There is sex, there is murder, and there is even some human trafficking.

If it sounds like too much is going on, that is not the case at all. Haynes’ pacing is brisk and uncomplicated; the novel unfolds over the course of six days, and Haynes keeps us on task by using military time to check in with what’s happening and when. There are a lot of characters, but each has his or her own persona. You won’t get people confused.

Louisa’s love life is not the focal point, but it does play a role in the story. Louisa was hurt by Andy, and she’s a bit worried that she could be hurt by Jason. Is he all he appears to be, or will he disappoint her too? Jason is the least developed character here, and I suspect that’s largely on purpose. We are meant to wonder along with Louisa about him. We don’t want her to wind up in another Andy situation. Ah, Andy. He’s … interesting. He’s an unrepentant cheater, and he manages to justify his infidelity with all the aplomb of a seven-year-old sneaking a cookie when Mommy isn’t looking.

As for whodunit, let’s just say that hints are dropped, so while you may not be stunned at the “who,” the “why” might surprise you.

I enjoyed this book and could not put it down.

LINKS:Elizabeth Haynes



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Filed under blog tour, mystery, TLC Book Tour

Blog Tour: The Time Traveler’s Boyfriend

ttbThe Time Traveler’s Boyfriend
by Annabelle Costa
Published by Dev Love Press
250 pages
Genre: chick lit; romance 
Thanks to the publisher for the preview
4 / 5


Claudia and Adam have been dating for a year, and given that she’s in her mid thirties, the deafening sound of a clock ticking has become the soundtrack of her life. It doesn’t help that Claudia’s parents routinely ask her when she’s getting married.

The only person, in fact, who is not all that keen on discussing the matter is Adam.

It turns out that Adam had a true love who broke his heart in the years before he and Claudia met. So let’s just say that Adam is a wee tad reluctant to commit.

He likes inventing things, and when one of his projects turns out to be a time machine, he convinces Claudia to go back and prevent The Accident.

You see, Adam is disabled, having been hit by a car. He wants Claudia to return to the time he got hit and stop it from happening. He also hopes that her doing so will prevent him from having his heart broken.

There is a sweetness to this book that is almost difficult to quantify. Claudia wants to get married, yet she finds herself wondering if Adam really is future husband material. He gave her diamond earrings instead of a diamond ring, and he keeps saying he isn’t ready. Claudia isn’t so sure she wants to wait around for him to be ready, either. When he asks her to travel back in time, though, she finds herself agreeing. She’d do anything for him; well, she would time travel for him. But will she wait for him to be ready?

Adam is completely lovable. Yes, we understand that he was burned – and burned badly, it appears – by his ex flame. As much as we empathize with the heartbreak, we understand even more his desire to be rid of the wheelchair and disability. If it can be fixed, then why not try?

All the while, you will find yourself hoping that these two stay together. You can almost forget that Adam is wheelchair bound, and you can see why Claudia loves him so much. Why is he drawn to her? Well, that’s not so easy to understand. She loves him, and she doesn’t seem put off by his disability. She loves him for him, and I suppose that’s a powerful aphrodisiac.

And speaking of aphrodisiacs, yes, there is some headboard rockin’. It’s fairly mild, but Costa wants you to know that a disability does not equate to not being able to be a lover.

This is a quick, sweet read that will have you chuckle out loud and perhaps even shed a tear. It’s fun and heartwarming, and you will enjoy it.

Want to know more?

You can read the first chapter – FOR FREE! – right hereanniefixed

About the Author

Annabelle Costa is a teacher who writes in her free time.  She enjoys the wounded hero genre, involving male love interests with physical disabilities, who don’t follow the typical Hollywood perception of sexy.


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Filed under blog tour, chick lit, romance, TLC Book Tour

Blog Tour: Two Sisters

two sistersTwo Sisters
by Mary Hogan
Published by William Morrow
384 pages
Genre: fiction; women’s fiction 
Thanks to the publisher for the preview
3.5 / 5

I don’t have a sister. (Well, I really don’t know – I could have one. I could have several. As an adoptee, I know anything is possible.) I’ve always wanted a sister, although when I tell this to friends who have sisters, they shake their heads vehemently and say, “No, you do NOT.”

Grass, meet Always Greener.

When I read books like Two Sisters, I admit that I question the wisdom of wishing I had a sister. Muriel certainly seems like she would have been better off if she hadn’t had one.

Separated by eight years and considerable emotional distance, Pia and Muriel are about as emotionally connected as Israel and Syria. Less, even. Pia, all icy blonde, thin perfection came first, and it’s almost as if her mother Lidia didn’t have room in her heart to love another daughter. After Pia, Logan arrived, the only son, a sort of “gift” to his father Owen.

And now, Pi, thirty-one, married, living in a gorgeous Connecticut home, and the mother of a ten-year-old daughter, has asked Muriel to meet her for lunch in the city. Muriel can’t say no, as much as she wishes she could; we know that this is a ubiquitous problem for her, this inability to say no to anyone in her family. Pia shows up with a new scarf for Muriel; it is nothing Muriel would have picked out for herself, nor is it something Muriel wants to wear. But Pia ties it around her sister’s neck, coos over its loveliness, and the two head off for lunch.

Muriel is utterly confused. This is not the Pia she knows. Nor is the woman who gets drunk at lunch and then vomits in a toilet or the woman who asks Muriel her opinion about a dress Pia wants to buy for herself. THAT is not Pia.

But then Muriel asks: why are you here? And Pia answers.

We have seen this storyline before, the sort of deathbed rapprochement between two embattled siblings. Mary Hogan takes us for a different spin, though. Pia, ever selfish till the end, attempts to absolve herself of her sins by including Muriel in picking out her final frock. She may tell Muriel that the end is nigh, but afterwards? Does she let Muriel in? Does she behave in the way a woman who truly wants forgiveness behaves?

Then there are Lidia and Owen, two positively awful parents. Owen’s is the sin of omission; he removes himself from his daughters’ lives and makes no apologies for doing so. He isn’t so much stoic as unaware, completely by choice. He and Logan bond over soldering copper piping, but his daughters? They’re Lidia’s to worry over.

Lidia is, quite simply put, a loathsome woman. She openly prefers Pia, so openly that she continually drums that Pia is perfect and Muriel is an unwanted blight on the family. Are we meant to forgive Pia her own bitchiness because she was treated like a gilded princess? Should we forgive Lidia because she was not able to be with the true love of her life and had to settle for Owen?

I couldn’t. I don’t know if Mary Hogan wanted me to, but I could not forgive either woman, especially not Lidia. As Pia herself says to Muriel, I cannot imagine a mother saying some of the things Lidia did to her child. I don’t care how much her life did not turn out as she wanted. There is no justification.

Muriel recasts her life (she is a casting assistant, in fact) continually, envisioning what relationship she and Pia might have had if this were different or that were better. She comes back to reality, though, realizing that life is what it is, and all she can hope to do is adjust successfully.

God plays a role here as well. Lidia and Pia engage in a cafeteria-style Christianity, in which they pick and choose which dishes fit their needs best. Toward the end of the novel, Muriel calls them out for this, if only in her head. God is consistent and constant; if you’re in, you must be all in, not just in for what suits you. Muriel attempts to understand her mother and sister’s religion, but she discovers that their God is not a god she wants to worship.

Of course, more than anything, this is the story of two sisters. There is much we are not told about Pia; she begins and ends more of a mystery than someone we understand. She has a cruel core, and her cruelty is always directed at Muriel. Lidia, at least, occasionally fires her laser-like evil toward Owen, although she reserves most of her animus for Muriel. I could not imagine being Muriel. How she managed to survive her childhood and emerge a woman who has charted her own course, even if it appears lonely and somewhat unfulfilling, it’s hers. Lesser women would have crumbled.

Which brings me to what bothers me about this book: it is uneven. Lidia’s extreme dislike for Muriel is confounding. Yes, we know why she prefers Pia, but why the bald hatred for Muriel? And why the emotional mess at the end of the book? Where did that come from? Nor, for that matter, do we understand how Pia morphed into a woman who would get married and have a child of her own. When Pia tells Muriel that looking at her daughter, she can see proof of God’s love, it does not humanize her. Rather, if confuses us because we had no idea Pia had such a wellspring of positive emotion within her. No foundation has been laid for it, other than perhaps a need for a happy(ish) ending. It also seems completely out of character for Lidia to behave at she does, and that sort of dishonesty dos not ring true to readers. In the first part of the novel, we spend a little time in Owen’s head, and then we leave. Why? Why not let us revisit him later in the book? Are those few chapters intended to tell us what we need to know about him? If so, they are insufficient. Owen says that he will not be a divorced man, and I want to know why.

However. For all of those frustrations, I enjoyed this book. When Muriel asks someone why no one loved her, my heart broke, and I admit that I cried, largely because I was so emotionally invested in her. I couldn’t help but be, perhaps because I could relate to her on several levels. No, I do not have a sister, but I know what it’s like to be the Muriel of the family.

Mary Hogan writes descriptively and emotionally, and she pulls you into her story. I just wish there had been more consistency with some of her characters.

For more information about Mary, check out her website, Facebook page, and Twitter.

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