Thursday, February 28, 2013

My take on: Tide Ever Rising

It isn't often that I advocate for a book to be longer, but in this case I do. I think Tide Ever Rising by Mandi Tucker Slack should have been longer. I don't read ghost stories, but the premise behind this one seemed intriguing. History teacher Kadence "Kadie" Reynolds loves to explore ghost towns, her younger sister, Maysha, sure doesn't share her hobby. The remnants of a burned out house yield some mysterious items. When Kadie stumbles upon an old can containing jewelry and an old journal, she knows she's onto something. She has to find the family in the journal. She won't rest.

All the elements are there for a good story, but I just thought everything moved too quickly. A little too quick to be believable sometimes.

The journal belonged to Charlotte Clark, and was filled with heart-warming tales of her family, including her twin sister Adelaide. Somehow Charlotte's spirit is still around. Possibly Charlotte's spirit is somehow guiding Kadie, who discovers that Adelaide is still alive, and is determined to find her. Kadie rather impulsively leaves her home in Utah, and sets out for Washington -- with a reluctant Maysha in tow. The sisterly bond between Kadie and Maysha feels very genuine. They are very close. They play off each other. They banter back and forth with each other. Both of them are always right, and the other is wrong. Maysha believes they are on a wild goose chase, and Kadie believes this is her mission. Her fiance, Robert, doesn't understand Kadie's determination, either. The way the book is written you know there is trouble in paradise with Kadie and Robert. But I would have rather had a couple of anecdotes that demonstrated what was wrong with their relationship. The few scenes Robert's in occur over the phone. Eventually, Kadie breaks off the relationship after making gaga eyes at another man. It just wasn't enough for me, which became clearer as the book went on.

When Kadie finds Adelaide's home, her family, including her grandson, Logan, and granddaughter, Beth, are reluctant to believe her intentions are genuine. Who wouldn't be skeptical? A random stranger shows up on your doorstep and wants to see your frail grandmother. What would you do? It isn't long before Logan and Beth realize everything Kadie is saying is genuine. Adelaide wants to meet Kadie, but reading the journal brings back a flood of memories. Memories of a fire that killed her entire family. But Charlotte's body was never recovered? Was she even there the night of the fire? What happened to Charlotte? Logan believes a prominent political family was behind the fire, and just like Kadie wants to know the truth. But discovering the truth has dangerous consequences.

It was around page 100, that the book kind of lost me. I don't want to give too much away, but Kadie and Logan are forced together and have to rely on each other for survival. The fate of Logan's daughter, Zaza, hinges on their survival. I could have bought into that if the book wasn't moving so quickly. How could two people who've only known each other a few days have such a deep bond? They had only made a few inquires into the fire, and already their lives are in danger. It seemed like such a big leap. For me, this stopped being a ghost/paranormal story midway through and morphed into a thriller. Then every so often you have a ghost element thrown in. I was just expecting this book to go in a different direction. It was a pretty good book, I just wish there was a little more depth to some of the relationships between the characters. Now, just because this wasn't my favorite it doesn't mean the rest of you won't like it. So, give it a try!!

Rating: Give it a try

Note: I received an e-book at the request of the author (Mandi Tucker Slack) as part of a blog tour

Monday, February 25, 2013

My take on: Parlor Games

The real May Dugas will go down in history as a notorious con artist. But I think the fictional May Dugas in Parlor Games by Maryka Biaggio will go down as a very misunderstood woman. She didn't steal from men, they liked giving her nice things. She didn't run from the law, she was just securing a higher status for herself in society. The Pinkerton detective chasing her has it all wrong!!

The first chapter asks you to be the judge. The first chapter and beyond puts you inside the head of May Dugas. The first chapter opens in 1917 with her civil trial for fraud. Her former friend Frank Shaver claims May conned her out of large sums of money. As the book progress, we alternate between the trial and the past. We learn how May Dugas came from humble beginnings, and slowly turned into a crafty social climber.

The fictional May Dugas wanted excitement, romance, money, and a higher social status -- something that just wasn't available in her small town of Menominee, Michigan. She quickly attached herself to the wealthiest man in town, but he was a little too tame for her tastes. Ok, so she faked a pregnancy. But she did leave town to spare poor Robby's heart and reputation. She had his best interests at heart. She went off to Chicago in search of a better life. Ok, so she kept taking Robby's money and pretended to still be pregnant. She never expected him to show up in Chicago. He was supposed to be getting on with his life, not pining away for her. Ok, so she started "working" at a fancy whorehouse, it was just to pay the bills and maybe meet a handsome rich guy. Robby was crushed when he learned May wasn't pregnant, but hey it isn't like she didn't try to warn him off. She was trying to be honest mixed with a little dishonesty, if that makes sense.

Robby wasn't worth her time anyway. A bigger fish named Dale Andrews has caught her eye anyway. Ok, she wasn't honest about what she did for a living. She was trying to spare him the embarrassment. Ok, she got caught up in a fraudulent stock scheme. She was setup I tell you!! She was setup!! I was on May's side, but who is going to believe her? Her fiance Dale and his rich daddy sure didn't. May almost had a little piece of happiness, but Pinkerton detective Reed Dougherty put a stop to it. But May was not about to be outdone. Ok, so she blackmailed Dale's father into giving her money. It was so she could leave town without tarnishing the good name of the Andrews family. So what that she had to leave Chicago, there are plenty of other rich...I mean nice men out there for May.

May can find a man anywhere. Milwaukee, San Francisco, Shanghai, Hong Kong, London, and New York are all full of rich...I mean nice men out there for May. It was in Tokyo where May met and fell in love with Johnny Graham. Ok, so she was on the run from authorities in San Francisco. But they were looking for a woman named Pauline or was it....Oh I can't remember May Dugas had so many alias I can't keep them straight. She wasn't being dishonest. She changed her name to give herself a fresh start. Johnny Graham should have been her fresh start. I was truly on their side. Yes, Johnny came from a wealthy family, but it truly didn't seem to be about the money this time. If only that nosy Reed Dougherty could mind his own business. He truly ruined May's chance at true love.

The trial with Frank is a bit of a joke to me. How can a lawyer like Frank claim to have been swindled. Nobody forced her to give May money. Nobody forced May to give Frank extravagant gifts. They were friends. They confided in each other. Sometimes they were a little bit more than "friends." But this is the early 1900s people, so we won't talk about that. Shhhhhhh!!! Two women having romantic feelings for each other in the 1900s is the big elephant in the room. But Maryka Biaggio handles that part with a lot of grace.

I wanted to believe in the good in May. But it was kind of hard to after reading the last chapter. Has she truly learned anything, or will the cycle always continue? I don't know if the real May Dugas was such a complicated character, but the fictional character was a joy to read about. When the book was over, I just wanted more, and I think other readers will, too.

Rating: O.M.G. !!!

Note: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (Doubleday) as part of a blog tour with Authors On The Web

Please welcome Maryka Biaggio !!

Here's a little Q&A with Maryka Biaggio, author of Parlor Games.

1.      When did you first stumble upon the story of May Dugas?
In the summer of 2010 my parents and I were traveling through Menominee, Michigan, and decided to stop at their Information Center. Prominently displayed on a shelf was a pamphlet by Lloyd Wendt entitled Life of May Dugas of Menominee. It started with this line: “She was down in our files as the most dangerous woman in the world.” That got my attention! We straightaway drove to the Menominee Historical Society to purchase the pamphlet. When I expressed interest in May Dugas, the attendant showed me the only memento they had of her—a gorgeous bejeweled black gown. May was not only dangerous—she possessed a sense of style as well as the money to afford the best of attire.

2.     What about May intrigued you?
Once I read Wendt’s write-up of May’s life (as told by his Pinkerton detective informant), I knew I had to write about her. The story posed so many questions: How much of a challenge was it for her to break out of societal expectations of the time? What motivated her? How did she feel about the men she extracted money from? Was she a victim of powerful men or did she lure them in with blackmail in mind? 

3.     Did writing this novel require special research or travel? Have you been to many of the places May visits in the book?
I did a great deal of research online about the period, customs, and events. But I also traveled. For instance, I visited the National Archives in Washington, DC, to search for May’s passport and travel records. While I was in San Francisco, I checked out her stomping grounds at the historic Palace Hotel. In Chicago I studied buildings that were in existence when she frequented the city. I had traveled in China in 1985, not too long after it opened up to outside visitors, and I drew on that experience in portraying May’s sojourns in the bustling cities of Hong Kong and Shanghai. A professional meeting had taken me to Mexico City in the 1990s, so I was familiar with its sights and the surrounding geography. I also arranged a trip to the south of France while I was working on the novel. I paid the requisite fee to enter the exclusive gambling lounge at the Monte Carlo Casino, where I was able to soak up the ambience of the scene—the beautiful, inviting decor, the serious expressions of the gamblers, and the shuffling of chips—just as May did during her visits there.

4.     Which place that you haven’t visited would you most like to see?
The Chateau de Pallandt, the country estate of the Dutch Baron who May wed, is still in existence. May and the Baron were married on the grounds and lived there for many years before moving to London. This gorgeous property is now a luxury bed and breakfast owned by Baron and Baroness d' Hooghvorsis. I would love to go for a stay and gift a copy of my novel to the current proprietors.

5.     How much of the novel is based on historical record?
All the key events in the novel are based on actual occurrences as reported in either Lloyd Wendt’s pamphlet or newspaper reports of the time. I wanted to be true to this woman’s fascinating life, which I hope heightens the reader’s interest in her. Of course, the daily events and conversations are my constructions, albeit designed to paint a picture of the larger events.

6.     Without giving anything away, what were your favorite scenes to write?
Writing about May was such a delight!  Once I found May’s voice, the story flowed rather easily. I especially enjoyed writing about her first big adventure in Chicago.  It wasn’t easy going, and she really did need to call on her wits and wiles to avoid the pitfalls that many young women succumbed to in America’s big cities at that time.

7.  May is a captivating character and many readers end up rooting for her. Did you want the readers to feel conflicted about May?
Absolutely. In order for May to have successfully traveled the world and entered the circles of so many interesting and wealthy men, she had to have charm and charisma. I wanted the reader to experience that firsthand and contemplate May’s motives for telling her story. Was she trying to dupe the reader or simply confide in and earn the trust and approval of her listeners?
8.   May is quite a unique character. Do you see yourself in her at all?
I’d like to think I have a bit of clever resourcefulness about me. My family moved around a great deal during my childhood and adolescent years, so I had to learn to adapt to strange places, meet new people, and foster fresh friendships. Perhaps I gained some measure of adaptability and resourcefulness from that experience. I did have great fun trying to figure out how May pulled off her many exploits, but I myself am too encumbered with a diligent superego to ever attempt such intrigues.

9.   How has your background as a professor of psychology helped you in your writing?
I hope that after eight years of study and thirty years of teaching clinical psychology I have translated some of what I know into my writing. Since I am knowledgeable about human development, personality functioning, and diagnostic categories, I tried to bring that understanding to bear in imagining May’s formative years, motives, and some of the self-delusions she may have operated under.

10.   Was this your first writing effort outside of academia?
No, from an early age I was fascinated by fiction and have always wanted to write a novel. During my academic career I took some university courses in creative writing and dabbled in short stories. But it wasn’t until the year 2000 that I decided to take the leap into novel writing. I toiled over and submitted three novels for publication before I wrote Parlor Games. I view those novels as my proving ground. With each one, I felt my mastery improve, and I want to keep pushing myself to ever-greater writing challenges.

11.   What’s your writing routine like?
I rise early, take a brisk walk, breakfast over articles about writing, and read the daily newspaper. Then I steal away to my study and write all morning, blocking out, as much as possible, the distractions of e-mail, phone, and doorbell, as well as the neighborhood children squealing at the school bus stop. I don’t schedule appointments during this time if at all possible. I like to immerse myself in writing for a good three hours every weekday. That time flies by, and my usually astute stomach sometimes forgets when lunchtime has arrived. I often use afternoons and weekends for research and other writing-related tasks.

12.   Are there any authors, writing in either historical fiction or other categories, whom you’ve looked to for inspiration?
Barry Unsworth is one of my favorite authors. I had occasion to meet him at a writer’s conference a few years before his passing. We talked about two of my favorite books by him—Sacred Hunger and Sugar and Rum. He was charming and personable, and I will forever remember the wonderful conversation we shared. Barbara Kingsolver’s novel of a missionary family in the Congo, Poisonwood Bible, influenced me a great deal, particularly the skill with which she captured the voices of her varied characters. One of my favorite books about a real person is Joyce Carol Oates’ Blonde, a fine literary work that brilliantly evokes Marilyn Monroe’s complex personality. It’s my favorite book by Oates and she, in fact, has divulged that it’s one of her favorites as well.  

About Parlor Games
The novel opens in 1917 with our cunning protagonist, May Dugas, standing trial for extortion. As the trial unfolds, May tells her version of events.
In 1887, at the tender age of eighteen, May ventures to Chicago in hopes of earning enough money to support her family. Circumstances force her to take up residence at the city’s most infamous bordello, but May soon learns to employ her considerable feminine wiles to extract not only sidelong looks but also large sums of money from the men she encounters.  Insinuating herself into Chicago’s high society, May lands a well-to-do fiancĂ©—until, that is, a Pinkerton Agency detective named Reed Doherty intervenes and summarily foils the engagement.

Unflappable May quickly rebounds, elevating seduction and social climbing to an art form as she travels the world, eventually marrying a wealthy Dutch Baron. Unfortunately, Reed Doherty is never far behind and continues to track May in a delicious cat-and-mouse game as the newly-minted Baroness’s misadventures take her from San Francisco to Shanghai to London and points in between.

The Pinkerton Agency really did dub May the “Most Dangerous Woman,” branding her a crafty blackmailer and ruthless seductress.  To many, though, she was the most glamorous woman to grace high society. Was the real May Dugas a cold-hearted swindler or simply a resourceful provider for her poor family?

As the narrative bounces back and forth between the trial taking place in 1917 and May’s devious but undeniably entertaining path to the courtroom—hoodwinking and waltzing her way through the gilded age and into the twentieth century—we're left to ponder her guilt as we move closer to finding out what fate ultimately has in store for our irresistible adventuress. 
About the Author
Maryka Biaggio is a former psychology professor turned novelist with a passion for history. Twenty-eight years after launching her academic career she took the leap from full-time academic to scrambling writer and now splits her time between fiction writing and higher education consulting work. More information about Maryka and Parlor Games can be found on, including a discussion guide, historical information, recommended reading and a fun Parlor Talk” feature. You can also find out more about Parlor Games on Facebook.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

My take on: Cherokee Talisman

"In 1775 perspective came with the color of your skin." 

Powerful words by David-Michael Harding, author of Cherokee Talisman. That statement was true then, and it's still true today. I don't know much about this particular piece of history, but Cherokee Talisman is a fictional but well-researched book.

Chief Tsi'yugunsini aka the Dragon wants to protect the land of his ancestors from the greedy hands of white men. Not everyone agrees with him. A deal for land is supposed to be in the interest of peace. From the white man's perspective, buying land from the Cherokee is for their own good. But where does it end? One large parcel of land can become two, then three, and on and on until all Indians are completely wiped out. They're savages right, what do they need with the land. Dragon can see their motives and he wishes others in his tribe would do the same.

When Dragon takes the young Totsuhwa under his wing, the two men band together to protect the land. This is where some of the more graphic details of the book begin. As history progresses, Indian women and children are being kidnapped, raped, and abused. Dragon and Totsuhwa's actions are certainly violent, but given the era and what had already been done to so many Indian tribes is it really that far out of character? You and your ancestors are being killed and in some cases forced off of your land. Someone is trying to force you off what is yours. Someone else believes they are entitled to what is already yours. I think most people would fight to keep what is rightfully theirs. As Totsuhwa matures, he marries and teaches his own son to adhere to Cherokee traditions. But, Totsuhwa's relationship with his son is constantly being put to the test by white men. You start to wonder if they will ever find some peace.

The writing is very detailed, but it was also very dense. It took me awhile to get through some parts and I had to reread some passages, because I didn't understand some of the material clearly. The writing is also very realistic and makes you question why some former leaders of this country are so revered despite their role in trying to wipe out an entire race. Overall, this was a very sad and graphic read.

Rating: Give it a try

Note: I received a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review

Monday, February 18, 2013

My take on: The Dogs of Winter

Looking at the cover of The Dogs of Winter by Bobbie Pyron, I was expecting a cutesy story of a young boy and his dogs. Boy was I wrong. Instead, I read a story about a young boy with incredible courage and strength. Bobbie Pyron took the true story of Ivan Mishukov, and turned it into an adventurous, emotional, and heart-breaking piece of fiction.

In The Dogs of Winter, five-year-old Ivan Andreovich lives in a bubble. His mother is his whole world. He enjoyed watching her cook and clean. At night, Ivan cherished the moments when his mother read to him at night from a book of fairy tales. Theirs was a peaceful life, until he came along. Ivan's mother met a man, a rather evil man. He wants Ivan gone. He doesn't like Ivan. The feeling is mutual, Ivan just wants this man to go away. Ivan doesn't get his wish, instead this sweet little boy has his life turned upside down. His mom disappears and Ivan is abandoned on the streets of Moscow.

Alone and scared, Ivan clings to the memories of his mother. He clings to the good times. He clings to the memory of her in a red coat. He clings to a single black button from that precious red coat. Everywhere he goes, Ivan is looking for his mother and hoping she is wearing that red coat. He misses his mother, and knows she is missing him. He asks every person on the street if they've seen his mother. Ivan is lost literally and figuratively. He needs help. Who will help him? Who can he trust?

Help comes in the form of a group of street kids. They know how to steal and hustle. They spend their nights huddled under benches in the warm train stations. The more time Ivan spends with them, the less he feels like himself. His mother taught him to be respectful and not to steal, but that's what Ivan has to do to survive. The memories of his mother are also starting to fade. What did she look like? What did she sound like? Does she remember what he looks like? He's not even Ivan anymore, he has become just another street kid. Kids who most of the time are invisible to the public.

Ivan doesn't stay with these kids for long. There's too much fighting going on. There isn't much trust within the group. Instead, Ivan finds solace in a pack of dogs. The dogs don't get angry at him. The dogs don't judge him like the people on the street. The dogs take care of him emotionally and they watch over him. Now that his mother has become a distant memory, the dogs are the closest thing to having an actual family.

As the weeks, months, and years go by this young boy goes from being sweet, innocent Ivan to the wild "Dog Boy." He doesn't remember what it feels like to sleep in a bed, brush his teeth, take a bath, or eat at a table like a normal boy. He is no longer "normal" by society's standards. Normal for him is living in abandoned shacks, hollowed out trees, or on trains. Normal for him his begging strangers for money. Normal for him is dodging the police and the nuns who want to put him in an orphanage. Normal for him is digging through the trash for food. Normal for him is caring for the dogs when they're sick and playing with them in the woods when they're healthy.

While I was reading the book, I was starting to believe that the streets and the dogs were the best option. He could languish for years in an orphanage. The streets offer him the opportunity to be free without rules. But every time the winter rolls around, you can't help but feel sorry for this young boy. He needs more loving and tenderness than a pack of dogs can provide. Sometimes you forget that the main character is just a child. He develops the maturity and resourcefulness of someone much older.

Ivan's relationships with the dogs are at the heart of the book. You start to wonder if they can survive without the other. Whenever they get separated, Ivan and the dogs always find their way back to each other. Ivan and his dogs can communicate with each other with sounds, gestures, and emotions. The dogs know when he is hungry, happy, or sad and vice versa. I loved this book. I loved the writing. I loved the characters. The book is adventurous, engaging, happy, sad, and an overall emotional roller coaster all rolled into one.

Rating: O.M.G. !!!

Note: I received the book from the publisher (Scholastic) as part of a blog tour with Virtual Author Book

Friday, February 15, 2013

Do Book Buying bans work??

I'm sure book buying bans work for some people. I tried it myself for a month. It did work, but as soon as the month was up......

I'm soooooooooooooooooo weak when it comes to books. It doesn't help that I'm going to grad school to learn about book publishing. In my children's book publishing class we went to not one but two bookstores on Monday. On that little field trip, I just couldn't resist buying Boy Toy by Barry Lyga and The Archived by Victoria Schwab. I loved I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga, so I'm eager to read some of his earlier works. The tagline for The Archived, "Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books," sounded too good to resist.

I've seen so many good reviews and Youtube videos of Cinder by Marissa Meyer, I had to buy that and the sequel Scarlet.

Other books bought:

Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife by Francine Prose -- A hardcover book at the bargain price of $5.97, who can resist? Plus, I love reading about historical figures.
State of the Union by Douglas Kennedy -- Another bargain book, and I've read another book by him in the past.
The Reading Group by Elizabeth Noble -- A fiction book about a women's book club, I'm so there. I love reading books about people who love books.
Rush by Maya Banks -- This is the first in a trilogy. It's erotic fiction, and I'm open to it. I love Tiffany Reisz's books, so it's time I give another author a try.
Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape by Jenna Miscavige Hill -- Books exposing Scientology have been a bit of a hot topic lately.
One for the Books by Joe Queenan -- The author is a columnist and he is obsessed with books.
The Ladies' Paradise by Emile Zola -- I don't read enough Classics, so I thought this would be a good one to start with.
Out by Natsuo Kirino -- I've never read any Japanese fiction, this one would be my first.
Splintered by A.G. Howard -- A retelling of Alice in Wonderland !!
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes -- I've read so many good reviews, I had to have it.

In all honesty, I wonder when I will get around to reading these books. When I see a shiny new cover, it's so hard for me to not buy it. I own hundreds of books, some of them I bought years ago and have yet to read them. Is this a problem? Is this an addiction? Am I a book hoarder? All three questions probably apply to me. What's the point of buying something you're not going to read for weeks, months, or perhaps years? I see it as a building my collection. If you're not a book nerd, maybe you don't understand. I'm very attached to my collection, and don't see myself parting with a lot of my books. What about everyone else? Do you find it hard to stick to book buying bans?

Monday, February 11, 2013

My take on: Dancing to the Flute

Dancing to the Flute by Manisha Jolie Amin is the story of how an abandoned boy becomes a man in rural India. When the book opens, this young boy doesn't know his own name or where he came from. Where are his parents? Doesn't anyone miss him? He is left to his own devices. In the small village of Hastinapore, this young boy has found a way to survive. Doing odd jobs for the local businesses and villagers is keeping food in his belly. But he is really just surviving, he isn't really living. He has a passion for music, but it will take a very special person to bring it out of him.

This impressionable young boy eventually finds friends and most importantly a name. Malti, a young servant girl, and her boss, Ganga Ba, become his surrogate family. Thanks to Ganga Ba a formerly nameless boy becomes Kalu. Malti and Bal, a young boy sold into indentured servitude, teach Kalu the true meaning of friendship. Both Malti and Bal know what it feels like to not have family around. Malti's parents love her and are in her life, but her brother Raja is given prominence in the family. Raja is allowed to pursue higher education, while Malti has to earn money for the family. One day Malti will be married to a man of her parents choosing. In the meantime, her happiness isn't important. Bal has a family, but they've sold him into slavery. Bal keeps his head down and does as he is told. A happy and fulfilling life is also very low on the totem pole for Bal.

Kalu, Malti, and Bal are just existing. They seem like forgotten children. They live in the moment. The future is a foreign concept. Kalu worries about where his next meal will come from. He worries that people will reject him now that his injured foot is starting to smell. He doesn't desire to know about life beyond Hastinapore. After hours spent bartering his services for food, Kalu's sole refuge is climbing high into the branches of a banyan tree. Thanks to a makeshift flute, Kalu can sit high above the village and belt out beautiful music. Up in the tree there is nothing for him to worry about. He can just pour his heart out through the music. His musical talents attract the attention of Vaid Dada, a local medicine man/healer. The vaid changes Kalu's life in so many ways.

The vaid offers Kalu a chance to pursue his passion for music by studying with his brother Guruji, a renowned musician. It seems like an easy choice. Kalu has the opportunity to finally learn and escape life as a street kid. But what about Malit and Bal? Is it right for him to want for himself while his friends are left behind. He doesn't want to forget them. He doesn't want to lose their friendship. They can relate to him more than any adult can. But Kalu comes to realize that leaving Hastinapore is the right choice. Kalu transforms from a misguided street kid into a man. He has a voice and the power to be someone great, and all it took was guidance from the right person to bring it out of him.

Kalu is the main character, but I felt the most empathy for Malti. She has to sacrifice herself into a loveless marriage, just so her parents can achieve a higher social standing. Her husband doesn't care what she thinks or does, provided it doesn't embarrass him. I don't want to give too much away, but it takes a lot of marital strife before Malti finds her voice.

Dancing to the Flute give me a deeper understanding of the culture in India. Caste systems still have the power to influence society, and because of that Kalu, Malti, and Bal are afraid to go against what they've been taught. The prose is also very lyrical, which I didn't always like. Sometimes I felt like I missed something or I just wasn't getting the symbolism, so I had to reread some passages. As a whole, the book is very rich in detail and demonstrates how music and friendship have the power to change someone's life for the better.

Rating: Give it a try

Note: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (ATRIA/Simon & Schuster) in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

My take on: Hysteria

I loved Fracture by Megan Miranda, so of course I leaped at the chance to read her next book. The cover of her latest book, Hysteria, pulled me in. Where is that girl's face? What is her story? Is she crazy as the title would suggest? What is causing the hysteria for the main character? For me, the book contains just as much mystery and intrigue as the cover.

Teenager Mallory Murphy's life is in a state of flux. Her boyfriend Brian has died by Mallory's hands. She can't remember the exact details, but we're told it's self-defense. Megan Miranda reveals snippets of that night throughout the book. It wasn't until the end when I was really certain of what had happened. Mallory feels extremely guilty about that night. Anyway you slice it, Mallory took someones life. How do you go on with life knowing that someone died by your hands? Mallory feels like the whole world is staring at her. People know what she did and they avoid her. She feels like a demon seed within her own family. Mallory thinks her parents are afraid of her, and that they don't want to be around her. Life just isn't the same. Her best friend Colleen is the only person Mallory feels like she can turn to. Despite being grounded all the time, Colleen makes the time for Mallory. Their friendship is about to be tested when Mallory is sent away to Monroe Prep, a fancy schmancy boarding school.

Monroe Prep should be a fresh start for Mallory, but she can't seem to escape her past. Brian is dead, but he continues to haunt her dreams. She's even starting to believe that the dreams are real. Things in her dorm room are still in their place, but Mallory knows something is off. Someone has invaded her space, and she can feel it. Someone is trying to drive her crazy. Who is it? It can't be Brian's mother, she is in a mental hospital. Mallory is convinced it is Brian. She can feel his presence. It's getting harder and harder for her to sleep. Mallory feels like she is going crazy. Colleen isn't a few houses away like in the past. Who can Mallory turn to? Reid is the one friend Mallory has made at school, but she is afraid to tell him too much. Reid's family has known Mallory's family for a long time, but the two teenagers weren't always close. Now that they have reunited, Mallory doesn't want to screw up their friendship. But, you know this friendship is going to be challenged.

A fellow student is murdered and Mallory is the prime suspect. Oh no, not again?!?! Mallory doesn't seem like a violent person, but she clearly isn't herself. She seems to be descending into madness. Maybe she has finally broken from reality, and in that state could Mallory have committed murder? Megan Miranda did a great job of building the suspense throughout the book. The book has a mix of horror and paranormal elements. I was constantly wondering where the book would end up.

It feels very much like a teenage whodunit murder mystery. But the end of the book was a little bit of a letdown for me. When we finally learn who the murderer is and why, I thought I had missed something. I reread the last few chapters a couple of times. I wanted to make sure I understood everything. I wasn't in love with the ending, but as a whole it was a very good thriller.

Rating: Give it a try

Note: I received an e-galley from the publisher (Bloomsbury) in exchange for an honest review.