TLC Book Tours: Mercury by Margot Livesey

I confess. I forgot about this book. Not that I read and forgot it. But that I received it from the publisher some months before and then left it lying around and it got lost in my stacks of books. So I panicked when I got the email about the blog tour – and my post was due in four days!!

Luckily, I found the book. It was in the pile of books by my table that I thought I had looked at, but it turns out I didn’t really and there it was, right at the bottom, where it really didn’t belong.

And also, it was such a great read that I blew through it effortlessly, after an initial slow start. I had struggled with my previous book tour (The Yard – you can read my review), so I was just relieved that this one was more readable.


I requested to be on this book tour because I remember really liking one of Livesey’s previous books, Eva Moves the Furniture, a strange ghostly read about love and loneliness.

Mercury was a rather different read. It opens, slowly, with Donald, an optometrist recounting his move from Scotland to Boston when he was a child, his relationship with his wife Viv and her running of Windy Hill, a riding stable, where Mercury, a dapple-grey Thoroughbred, “the most beautiful animal Viv had ever seen” has just been boarded.

Donald’s words have a bit of an ominous tone:

“Looking back over the months following his departure, I can see that I lost track of certain things.”

And the truth is, I wasn’t really sure where Livesey was taking us, where she was bringing Donald and his family. But just as his part of the story is ending and Viv takes up the narration, things all click into place. And there it is, the something that happens (no I’m not going to tell you more than that), and the way it plays with their lives. Regret. Hesitation. Uncertainty.

The synopsis (you can read it here at Goodreads) describes the book as an “emotional thriller” but I feel like putting the word “thriller” tends to make one think of life and death situations, lots of screaming and chasing and mayhem. So if you’re coming into this book thinking “thriller! Yes!”, well sorry, that’s not really it.

But to me, this book was, in its own way, thrilling, it had a quiet intensity to it that hit home because it was a book about consequences, about how the  actions (or non-action) of ordinary people can lead to such unexpected results. There are a lot of nagging ‘what if I had done this’ thoughts throughout the story. And it made me wonder, what if this were me? What if a loved one had done something like this? What would I do? Could I still love that person? Would that even matter?

Mercury is an unforgettable story about relationships and second chances, about desire and ambition. It is thrilling and haunting in its own way, and hits home in its sharp look at moral dilemmas.

In a conversation with author Lily King for Literary Hub, Livesey says:

For me, the deeper meaning of a novel often emerges slowly. I try to make the characters and the situations vivid and gradually, as they come into focus, I begin to understand what it is I’m moving towards, what lies at the heart of the novel.

And that’s the beauty behind Mercury.

margot-livesey-ap-photo-by-tony-rinaldiMargot Livesey is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels The Flight of Gemma Hardy, The House on Fortune Street, Banishing Verona, Eva Moves the Furniture, The Missing World, Criminals, and Homework. Her work has appeared in the New Yorker, Vogue, and the Atlantic, and she is the recipient of grants from both the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation. The House on Fortune Street won the 2009 L. L. Winship/PEN New England Award. Born in Scotland, Livesey currently lives in the Boston area and is a professor of fiction at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

Find out more about Margot at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.


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I received this book for review from its publisher HarperCollins, as part of a TLC Book Tour


Don’t forget to check out the rest of the tour stops

TLC Book Tours – The Yard


This is a book with such potential.

I was immediately drawn to it by its setting – Trinidad and Tobago. And a wealthy Indo-Muslim  family whose ancestors first settled there as indentured labourers.

It opens intriguingly. Father Khalid visits an old relative, discovers she is long deceased, but there is a strange young boy sitting in her house, covered with flies, scared, alone. He brings him to his home, to his family of a wife and young daughters, adopts him and gives him the name of Behrooz. But the families of Father Khalid’s siblings, who also live in the Yard, are wary and unaccepting of Behrooz.

Behrooz develops a friendship with Father Khalid’s second daughter Maya, rebellious and headstrong. This turns into something a bit more than a friendship and after a night together, Maya flees for the anonymity of London.

This dramatic story is an exploration of religion, tolerance, of keeping a family together.

When I say this book has potential, I meant that while it is set in a very different place, that is, of Trinidad and Tobago, and from the perspective of an East Indian Muslim family, the story takes place largely within this compound of The Yard. The family rarely ventures out, and as a result, the reader doesn’t either. And that is such a pity, as this is one of the few novels that are set in Trinidad and Tobago, but other than an introduction to the family’s history in the country, I felt like the story was too enclosed in the Yard.

I understand what the writer is trying to do with the book, that is, the Yard, the family, that isolation. But I think in this case, too much happens within the Yard. People arrive, people disappear. And with so many characters, a family tree would have helped sort them out better.

I feel like I am being very critical of this book. I am not a professional book reviewer. I accept these books for review on my blog but I never know if anyone reads these reviews. And I do want to be honest, especially with a story that has potential. It could have used a more experienced editor who could have guided this debut author with a more confident hand, pointed out some awkward turns of phrases, and tried to rein in some tropes and constructed a more solid character in Maya.

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I received this book for review from its publisher and TLC Book Tours

Check out the rest of the tour stops here

Aliyyah Eniath was born in Trinidad and Tobago; her ancestors hailed from Uttar Pradesh, India. She’s a director at Safari Publications, a magazine publishing house, and founder/editor-in- chief of Belle Weddings (Caribbean) magazine.

Her debut novel The Yard (literary, romance) is published by Speaking Tiger Books in both paperback and ebook formats.

She explores the ideas of breaking free from imposed boundaries (familial or otherwise), understanding and feeling supported in who you are, overcoming self-doubt, and finally being true to yourself. Her writing looks at strict religious ideologies and their potential consequences and begs for a softer approach and innate understanding and compassion towards every human being.

She writes from the perspective of East Indians whose forefathers were brought to Trinidad from India through the British colonial indentureship scheme in 1845.

Find out more about Aliyyah at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

TLC Book Tours: Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson



Another Brooklyn cover

Jacqueline Woodson is best known for her memoir in verse, Brown Girl Dreaming, which won the 2014 National Book Award, the Coretta Scott King Award, a Newbery Honor Award, an NAACP Image Award, and the Sibert Honor Award. 

Her latest book, Another Brooklyn, isn’t in verse but it somehow reads like it is. 

In other words it is lyrical and it is stunning. 

Running into an old friend on a train triggers memories, both good and bad, for August, who is in Brooklyn to bury her father.

In 1973, aged eight, August, her four-year-old brother and her father move from Tennessee to Brooklyn, New York, after her mother starts hearing the voice of her dead brother Clyde, who was killed in the Vietnam War. In a new city, a new apartment, August and her brother are friendless, unsure of themselves. But she soon falls into a group of three girls: “Sylvia, Angela, Gigi, August. We were four girls together, amazingly beautiful and terrifyingly alone.”

And they navigate their world of growing up as girls, trying to find their place in this world, in 1970s Brooklyn, with absent mothers, drugs, uncertainty, and changing times. 

Another Brooklyn is a collection of memories and a wonderful freeflow of vignettes past and present. 

I may not have grown up in 1970s Brooklyn but a story like this, told with such grace and power, with brevity and confidence, just carries the reader in, fills her with emotions, and doesn’t let go. 



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I received this book for review from its publisher and TLC Book Tours

Don’t forget to check out the rest of the tour stops!

Jacqueline Woodson AP

Jacqueline Woodson is the bestselling author of more than two dozen award-winning books for young adults, middle graders, and children, including the New York Times bestselling memoir Brown Girl Dreaming, which won the 2014 National Book Award, the Coretta Scott King Award, a Newbery Honor Award, an NAACP Image Award, and the Sibert Honor Award. Woodson was recently named the Young People’s Poet Laureate by the Poetry Foundation. She lives with her family in Brooklyn, New York.

Find out more about Woodson at her website, and connect with her on FacebookTwitter, and Tumblr.

TLC Book Tours: Run the World by Becky Wade

Run the World cover

Let’s begin at the beginning. Here is where I tell you I don’t run.

(And there you go, with a horrified “what?” and go find a book blogger-runner whose review you’d rather read.)

Yes I don’t run but I sometimes read running-related things. So this is a review from a non-runner’s point of view. I hope you will bear with me!

So Becky Wade is an American. A young American runner. Who has never left the country. I always am fascinated by that. But that’s probably because the country I’m from is so tiny you can drive from one end to the other and still be in time for breakfast.

But Wade is a resourceful one. She gets hold of a yearlong fellowship (the Watson Fellowship) which gives its recipients money and then tells them to get lost. Really. As in they are not allowed to enter the US (or their home country if they’re not from the US) for a year. They don’t get a whole lot of money though so it’s not about living it up in fancy hotels but it’s enough to buy some plane tickets and do some traveling and pursue their interests. What a truly amazing thing to be able to do!

It is brave of her to do this. Not everyone would be willing to give up a year in which they could be starting a career for instance, which most college graduates are looking to do, or, in her case, putting her training on hold, to go out into the world for a year. When I first heard of this I had thought woah how fantastic, wish I could have done this! But as I thought about it more, traveling the world for a whole year isn’t easy. You have to be able to adapt to your always changing situation, to be ok with living out of hotels/motels/strangers’ homes. And be content living out of a backpack. I can imagine that being extroverted would really help too! (So not me).

Also here I should add that Wade was a very successful athlete already when she left on her yearlong adventure. She had multiple NCAA All-American Honours and two Olympic Trials qualifiers to her name. But she wasn’t contented with that. She wanted to learn how runners in other countries train.

So Wade wants to Run the World. She visits 22 countries including Nigeria, Ethiopia, New Zealand, Japan, Switzerland and more over 12 months.

Runners will definitely gain some insights from this book. When she runs with some Kenyans, they start off at a stroll, oh about 20 minutes or so, then a leisurely jog, not much faster than a walk, then all of a sudden, break into a run. That is, they run by feel and warm up naturally, something that Wade wasn’t used to at first. It is interesting to learn of how runners are so well-respected in Japan, how important races are broadcast on public TV, and some athletes and events can even bring Super Bowl-like ratings.

But non-runners like me will also find it a pretty good read as she delves into different cultures, learns about different cuisines around the world, and even provides some recipes from her new friends, like brown soda bread from Ireland, Rosti from Switzerland, and Anza biscuits.

I especially enjoyed reading about her stay in Ethiopia, where running is once again, by feel. Time, distances, speed is rarely predetermined. And the line leader uses snaps and finger points to warn of obstacles such as roots and cracks were in the way. And their coffee ceremonies, a wonderful tradition that revealed their communal culture.

I was a bit disappointed that her stay in Japan was mostly via Japanese expatriates. She did stay with a Japanese family in Kyoto  for a few nights but her experience in Japan was largely through the expat (i.e. white) scene. It sounds like it may have been hard for her to break into the Japanese running scene and that is a pity.

Five months after her year-long world adventure, Wade  won the California International Marathon in 2 hours, 30 minutes and 48 seconds, gaining her a qualifying time for the Olympic Trials and a sponsorship from Asics. So all that knowledge and insight she gained from her world tour may have helped in her success!

Run the World is a bit of a different read for me, and while I may not really fall into its target audience, it was an enjoyable read. It allowed me to marvel at the passion people have for running. And to realize that what had always seemed to me like a simple sport can differ in so many ways around the world. From the way warmups happen, to the food that fuels runners, to the different styles of running. It was definitely an eye-opener.

Go Becky!

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I received this book for review from its publisher and TLC Book Tours.

Don’t forget to check out the rest of the tour stops

Becky Wade AP photo by Deborah Kellogg-1Becky Wade is a professional long-distance runner who competes for Asics. At Rice University she was a four-time All-American and the winner of the Joyce Pounds Hardy Award, Rice’s highest athletic honor, and the Conference USA honoree for the NCAA Woman of the Year award. After graduating Phi Beta Kappa from Rice with a triple major in history, psychology, and sociology, Becky traveled the world on a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship and visited 22 countries to explore long-distance running cultures.

In her 26.2-mile debut in December 2013, Becky won the California International Marathon, qualifying for the 2016 Olympic Trials. Currently, she is fulfilling her dream of running professionally and chasing Olympic aspirations, while coaching and working part-time at a shelter for homeless youth.

Connect with Becky on Instagram and Twitter.


TLC Book Tours: The Summer Guest by Alison Anderson


Don’t you love it when a book just completely takes you by surprise, just wows you and leaves you sitting there, unable to stop thinking about what you read?

All I knew heading into The Summer Guest was that it was by Alison Anderson, who translated Muriel Barbary’s The Elegance of the Hedgehog which is such a fantastic book that I hope you have read (or will now go and read!).

Its synopsis begins:

What if Anton Chekhov, undisputed master of the short story, secretly wrote a novel—a manuscript hidden long ago that might have survived?

And that may have plenty of people going ooh. And… here is where I admit to you that I have not read Chekhov’s stories. This probably will appall some of you. You’re wondering, what business do I have reading this book?

antonchekhovBut here’s the thing, it’s not all that  important to have read Chekhov’s work to enjoy The Summer Guest. Sure, you may have a better understanding of things but it’s ok. I still really liked reading the book anyway. And it has also made me want to read Chekhov now, whom, you have to admit is quite a dashing man.

The Summer Guest unfolds from three different perspectives.

We have the diary, a newly uncovered diary from the 19th century, written in Russian by Zinaida Mikhailovna, a young woman trained as a doctor but recently blinded by an illness. She keeps the journal to fill her hours, now that she is unable to work. Anton Chekhov and his family rent the guesthouse on her family’s country estate and they become friendly.

Then we have Katya Kendall who runs a small publishing company with her husband Peter in London in 2014. Their business isn’t doing well so they hope that this diary by Zinaida Mikhailovna will help get them back on their feet. Their marriage isn’t doing very well either.

Ana Harding is a translator who lives in France, and who once worked with Katya’s company. Her Russian “was perfectly adequate, but she didn’t go looking for translations from Russian; they found her.” She takes on the project, as she had no reason to refuse, a job is a job, she needs the money. But she soon “befriended the diarist in that odd way translators sometimes have,  if they are lucky, of knowing their authors through a text, of inhabiting their identity and seeing through their eyes”.

Anderson, as a translator herself as well as a novelist herself, fully understands the difficulty of being one.

“She had had enough of being invisible, of slipping inconspicuously behind the more glamorous author whose photograph beckoned from the back cover of a book they had both written. As translator, she mused, she was no more than the lining of the dust jacket. This substance she craved – beyond meaningful texts, beyond creativity – should lead to an identity.”

There are long excerpts from the diary, observations about country life, conversations between Anton and Zinaida, Zinaida’s reminisces about her life. But there is also talk about alcoholism, consumption and other problems of 19th century Russia. And of course, the sad fact that Zinaida, the young and intelligent Zinaida, is wasting away from her illness.

In the bed I inhabited a warm, safe place. The sound of my breathing lulled me into memory: childhood. Papa, before. With us still. Outings to the islands on the river. Games in the field. Snowdrifts against the house where we hid. Sleigh rides. The thaw, Easter. The kulich and paskha and brightly colored eggs: the days of feasting and dancing. The priest blessing the house. The visitors, telling us how we’d grown.

The Summer Guest is a quiet novel. It is gentle and feels like it should be read sitting on a riverbank, under the shade of a willow tree, with some cold lemonade swigged from a bottle and strawberry sandwiches wrapped in brown paper. But gentle does not mean easy or simple. It has such beautiful, elegant prose, a well-constructed plot, complex characters and an ending that made me sit up and rethink the whole story. It may not be a book that you race through, but it is a book that stays with you, that makes you consider the importance of translators. And now I am so completely intrigued by Anton Chekhov, who, as Alison Anderson writes in a blog post:

“Chekhov had a very interesting love life, but one which could only be supported by speculation and conjecture, since many of the more explicit letters he wrote were destroyed either by his sister Masha in her task as guardian of his literary estate, or by Soviet academics.”



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I received this book for review from its publisher and TLC Book Tours.

Don’t forget to check out the rest of the stops on the tour

Alison Anderson APALISON ANDERSON, a native Californian, works as a literary translator in the Swiss Alps. Her many translations include the Europa edition of Muriel Barbery’s The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Ingrid Betancourt’s memoir, and the work of JMG De Clezio. She has also written two previous novels and is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Literary Translation Fellowship, as well as fellowships at the prestigious MacDowell Colony and the Hawthornden Retreat for Writers.

Find out more about Alison at her website.

TLC Book Tours: The Bridge Ladies by Betsy Lerner



Old age is nothing if not managing losses: physical ability, appearance, memory, spouses, friends, economic independence, and finally freedom.

As a child, Betsy Lerner was fascinated by the Bridge Ladies, who would show up at her house, “their hair frosted, their nylons shimmery”, and settle down to play Bridge, “communing in their strange language of bids and tricks”. But as she got older, like most teens, she wanted to be different, she hated life in the suburbs, dreamt of living in New York, and saw the Bridge Ladies as “conventional”, nothing more than mothers, daughters and wives. In her forties, she finally returns to New Haven “crucible of my pain”, where her mother still lives on her own. With her mother recovering from surgery, the Bridge Ladies take turns to come by every day, and Lerner marvels at their friendship and seeks to understand their relationships, their lives, their game.

“Friendships now are often made of geographic convenience and circumstance, not the deeper bonds of religion and community. Facebook may connect us across the world and throughout eternity, but it won’t deliver a pot roast.”

But it is also very much an exploration of her own relationship with her mother, which has been a rocky one, where they “circled each other like wary boxers”.

Lerner at first just sits in on their game, watching, learning, listening to their conversations. But then she starts to learn the game on her own, discovering it to be far more difficult than she had imagined.

I wanted to read this book as I had enjoyed Lerner’s Food and Loathing: A Life Measured Out in Calories. She is remarkably honest about her life, and also is funny. Not easy to do when one is talking about eating disorders and depression, but she still managed to do that. And Lerner continues to write candidly about her life and her relationship with her mother, and somehow manages to get the Bridge Ladies to open up about their lives, their families.

Which is more difficult than it sounds, because one fascinating thing about this group of Bridge Ladies, although they have known each other for years and meet regularly, is that they never really open up about things that bother them.

“I discovered that they never trash anyone, never talk about something that bothers them, and never share a deep feeling.”

So somehow Lerner manages to embed herself into their lives, getting them to talk to her about how they met their husbands, their marriages, their children, even things like birth control and infertility. You really have to admire Lerner for that.

“I had been terrified that I wouldn’t take to motherhood. I was most paranoid about not being able to hear the baby cry out in the night. What if I slept too deeply, or didn’t have that sixth sense, the so-called maternal instinct?”

I still remain clueless about Bridge and have no desire to take it up. But I am so glad I read this book. It made me miss my mother, who lives half a world away in Singapore. When I next see her, I’m definitely going to pass this book onto her. The Bridge Ladies was wonderfully written, funny and sad, and full of heart.

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I received this book for review from its publisher Harper Wave and TLC Book Tours.

betsylernerBetsy Lerner is the author of The Forest for the Trees and Food and Loathing. She is a recipient of the Thomas Wolfe Poetry Prize, an Academy of American Poets Poetry Prize, and the Tony Godwin Prize for Editors, and was selected as one of PEN’s Emerging Writers. Lerner is a partner with the literary agency Dunow, Carlson & Lerner and resides in New Haven, Connecticut.

Find out more about Betsy at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

TLC Book Tours: An Incomplete Revenge by Jacqueline Winspear



With the country in the grip of economic malaise, Maisie Dobbs is relieved to accept an apparently straightforward assignment to investigate a potential land purchase. Her inquiries take her to a picturesque village in Kent during the hop-picking season, but beneath its pastoral surface she finds evidence that something is amiss. Mysterious fires erupt in the village with alarming regularity, and a series of petty crimes suggest a darker criminal element at work. A peculiar secrecy shrouds the village, and ultimately Maisie must draw on her finely-honed skills of detection to solve one of her most intriguing cases yet.


Her shoes, with a single strap buttoned at the side, were of plain black leather. A silver nurse’s watch was pinned to her lapel.

Maisie Dobbs is like the shoes she wears. Dependable. Sturdy. Stable.

You can pretty much count on her for an interesting case. It isn’t necessarily the most thrilling of mystery series, but the Maisie Dobbs books by Jacqueline Winspear can always be depended for a good mystery read. 

In case you’re new to Maisie Dobbs, this is the fifth book in the series. Dobbs lives in post-WWI London, has her own detective agency, was a former wartime nurse, and who rose up in society (she first started with a below-stairs job). Which is all well and good, but there is this thing that she does, a kind of psychic, putting out the feelers kind of thing, that helps her solve her cases. And that doesn’t always jive with me. And yet, here I am, reading the fourth book in the series. It’s curious, it really is. I find her coldness and her proper-ness a bit off-putting, and am uncomfortable with her psychic ability yet I keep going with this series. I think it is because of Winspear’s deftness with drawing up for the reader what post-WWI England was like, the feel of the streets, the society, even the economic situation. And for me, I always look forward to the appearance of her assistant Billy Beale, and her father, Frankie, a former coster-monger. Also, thankfully, An Incomplete Revenge relies relatively less on psychic weirdness, except for a spot of dowsing with a hazel stick. And brings Maisie not only to a small village in Kent but also to a tribe of gypsies. 

I do think that among the four Maisie Dobbs books I’ve read, this one may be my favourite so far. It was well-paced, the mystery was interesting and weird enough (but not too weird), and other parts of Maisie’s life progressed and went along and it feels like she may be getting somewhere, emotionally and mentally. She has even taken up a class! She has things to do outside of her work!

There are 12 books in the Maisie Dobbs series. When I started this series, I wasn’t entirely sure if I would continue, but I did. And this fifth book has peaked my interest in Maisie’s life  more – I can’t wait to see what else Maisie (and Winspear) has up her sleeve in the next book.

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I received this book for review from its publisher and TLC Book Tours.

Check out the other stops on the book tour. This is part of the Month of Maisie Readalong.


winspearJacqueline Winspear is the author of the New York Timesbestsellers Leaving Everything Most LovedElegy for EddieA Lesson in SecretsThe Mapping of Love and DeathAmong the Mad, and An Incomplete Revenge, as well as four other national bestselling Maisie Dobbs novels. Her standalone novel, The Care and Management of Lies, was also a New York Times bestseller. She has won numerous awards for her work, including the Agatha, Alex, and Macavity awards for the first book in the series, Maisie Dobbs, which was also nominated for the Edgar Award for Best Novel and was a New York Times Notable Book. Originally from the United Kingdom, she now lives in California.

Find out more about Jacqueline at her website,, and find her on Facebook.

Maisie Dobbs books:
Maisie Dobbs (2003)
Birds of a Feather (2004)
Pardonable Lies (2005)
Messenger of Truth (2006)
An Incomplete Revenge (2008)
Among the Mad (2009)
The Mapping of Love and Death (2010)
A Lesson in Secrets (2011)
Elegy for Eddie (2012)
Leaving Everything Most Loved (2013)
A Dangerous Place (2015)
Journey to Munich (2016)

Mendocino Fire


You have to want to write, but love you can do without wanting: which makes it sound as if it’s the simpler thing.


I thought I knew my authors but Elizabeth Tallent was an unfamiliar name. I was instead attracted to its title, more Mendocino than Fire.

The book and I got off to a rocky start. The first couple of stories weren’t connecting with me, but when I got to Mystery Caller, I just wanted to stop and read it and then reread it all over again. Because that was a story that just worked for me, it just clicked right into place and I knew that this story – even if none of the other stories worked for me – that this story would make things alright.

Ten years later, this can happen to her: someone can set his coffee cup down on the counter instead of in its saucer, and she can, for that, love him.

Other stories, like Eros 101, weren’t quite so much my style:

Q: Examine the proposition that for each of us, however despairing over past erotic experience, there exists a soul mate.

A: Soul? In some fluorescent lab an egg’s embryonic smear cradles a lozenge of silicon, the vampiric chip electromagnetically quickened by a heartbeat, faux-alive, while in a Bauhaus bunker on the far side of campus, a researcher coaxes Chopin from a virtual violin, concluding with a bow to her audience of venture capitalists, but for true despair, please turn to Prof. Clio Mitsak, at a dinner party in her honor, lasting late this rainy winter night, nine other women at the table, women only, for the evening’s covert (and mistaken: you’ll see) premise is that the newly hired Woolf scholar will, from her angelic professional height and as homage to VW, scheme to advance all female futures, and the prevailing mood has been one of preemptive gratitude, gratitude as yet unencumbered by actual debt and therefore flirtatious, unirksome even to Clio, its object.


Yup that’s one long sentence. But goodness, the way Tallent writes, it makes me envious. It is elegant and evocative, her observations of every day life.

Her husband has taken the twins to soccer practice. She wants them gone, and they will be – rarely does domestic life offer such a happy intersection of desire and circumstance.

To be honest, at times while I was reading these stories, I wondered if I were just not literary, not learned enough to fully appreciate this book. It felt like these stories are meant to be dissected, analyzed by lit students, by creative writing MFAs and writing workshop participants.

(Or perhaps it was just the way I was rushing through this collection of stories, needing to read them in order to write this post. Or perhaps it was just the state of mind I was in while reading them. Because sometimes you just need to be in the right frame of mind to be reading certain books. And these days my mind seems to be framing me towards comics and SF/fantasy.)

But back to Mendocino Fire – is there something there for the rest of us? Yes, from the fishing community to the redwoods to the cafe on Telegraph Avenue, the stories are about all of us. The fears and hopes we have about our relationships, that secret desire to call an ex and listen in on their background noise to figure out what’s been going on in their lives, that dreadful knowing that a loved one is on his last breaths. Old love, new love. Loss, desire. Pain and suffering, joy and happiness.



Elizabeth-TallentElizabeth Tallent is the author of the story collections Honey, In Constant Flight, and Time with Children, and the novel Museum Pieces. Since 1994 she has taught in the Creative Writing program at Stanford University. She lives on the Mendocino coast of California.

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I received this book for review from its publisher and TLC Book Tours 

Check out the rest of the tour stops

Tuesday, October 20th: Books on the Table
Friday, October 23rd: Bibliotica
Monday, October 26th: A Bookish Way of Life
Tuesday, October 27th: Back Porchervations
Wednesday, October 28th: Olduvai Reads
Thursday, October 29th: she treads softly
Friday, October 30th: M. Denise Costello
Tuesday, November 3rd: Read. Write. Repeat.
Wednesday, November 4th: Worth Getting in Bed For
Thursday, November 5th: Imaginary Reads
Friday, November 6th: Raven Haired Girl
Monday, November 9th: Lavish Bookshelf
Tuesday, November 10th: Dreams, Etc.
Wednesday, November 11th: You Can Read Me Anything
Thursday, November 12th: The Well-Read Redhead
Friday, November 13th: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews

Pardonable Lies by Jacqueline Winspear




In the third novel of this unique and masterly crime series, a deathbed plea from his wife leads Sir Cecil Lawton, KC, to seek the aid of Maisie Dobbs, psychologist and investigator. As Maisie soon learns, Agnes Lawton never accepted that her aviator son was killed in the Great War, a torment that led her not only to the edge of madness but also to the doors of those who practice the dark arts and commune with the spirit world. Determined to prove Ralph Lawton either dead or alive, Maisie is plunged into a case that tests her spiritual strength, as well as her regard for her mentor, Maurice Blanche. The mission will bring her to France and reunite her with her old friend Priscilla Evernden, who lost three brothers in the war, one of whom has an intriguing connection to the case.


It’s always a bit odd reviewing a book in a series. Do I talk about the series expecting any blog readers out there to know about the characters and their background? Or do I have to begin at the beginning?

Good thing I actually have a post about the first Maisie Dobbs book, right here! So I can cheat a little bit.

But here’s what you might need to know about Maisie Dobbs:

– she was a nurse during the First World War

– she honed her investigative skills while under the mentorship of Dr Maurice Blanche and now runs her own agency

– her first job was as a maid, and her employer catches her reading in the library and sends her off to school. She’s a bit of a prodigy

– this book is set in 1930s London.

Pardonable Lies is the third book in the series.

And Maisie has not one but three mysteries to uncover. Two men lost at war. One young girl accused of murder. How will she manage?

To make things worse, there seems to be someone following her and trying to kill her!

That always makes things exciting.

And it is interesting to see how Winspear is developing her character – as well as bits about the other side characters that feature in Maisie’s life. Winspear has a good eye for details and setting the scene when it comes to 1930s London. Often it is subtle, the street scenes, the clothes Maisie wears, little details like bandages and newfangled technology like long-distance phone calls! I mean, how did detectives or the police manage then without recording devices?

But while I was reading this book, I had another on my mind that I was also reading (why yes, I always have several different books going at once – do you?). A different crime series, involving a rather precocious youth.

I know it’s unfair to compare Maisie Dobbs to Flavia de Luce. Flavia is young – a child really although if she heard me say that she would likely slip some poison into my next cup of tea or something more devious like eye drops. But she is so much fun to read about, and I feel like she’s become a good (imaginary) friend of mine. The Flavia de Luce series is one that I never hesitate to jump on, grab hold off and lose myself in.

And Maisie, well, compared to Flavia, there is an aloofness. Her work is her life. Sure the work might be exciting, thrilling even, but when she’s not working, I’m not all that sure who she is sometimes.

Again, as I mentioned, it’s not entirely fair. I’ve read seven Flavia books and just three Maisie Dobbs. So I’m still in the process of getting to know Maisie Dobbs.

She kind of reminds me of House MD, yes, the TV doctor addicted to Vicodin, whose love is not the medicine or the healing of the patients but about the puzzle. Especially when she talks like this:

“Sometimes it’s as if truth were like a festering wound, ready to break open and be cleansed. It seems as if the information I am seeking is just there, lying in front of me on the path, asking to be discovered, asking for a kind of solution – or absolution. Then again, it can evade me, like a small splinter that escapes under the skin. Then I have to wait, be patient. I have to wait for it to fester.”

One of the best things about reading a book like this is beginning to understand how life must have been like as a woman in those times, a single woman, a career woman, a woman who has come up in the world and risen above her ranks. It has such wonderful historical details of life during that time that the less-than-stellar plot resolution is easily forgiven. Hopefully the later books in the series – there are seven more for a total of ten books – will give me a better complete picture of Maisie Dobbs!

Pardonable Lies is a well-researched, atmospheric, fun read. I would encourage those who are interested in historical fiction and less traditional mystery series to give Maisie Dobbs a try.

winspearJacqueline Winspear is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Leaving Everything Most LovedElegy for EddieA Lesson in SecretsThe Mapping of Love and Death, Among the Mad, and An Incomplete Revenge, as well as four other national bestselling Maisie Dobbs novels. Her standalone novel, The Care and Management of Lies, was also a New York Times bestseller. She has won numerous awards for her work, including the Agatha, Alex, and Macavity awards for the first book in the series, Maisie Dobbs, which was also nominated for the Edgar Award for Best Novel and was a New York Times Notable Book.

Find out more about Jacqueline at her website,, and find her on Facebook.

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I received this book from its publisher and TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review

Check out the other tour stops!

Migratory Animals by Mary Helen Specht



Austin, Texas.

Flannery has spent many years moving farther and farther away from her family in Austin, wherever research grants in climate science have taken her. The last to Nigeria where she meets Kunle, falls for him, they want to marry but she has to leave. Funding has dried up and she returns to Texas to figure things out.

And there in Texas is Santiago, her former boyfriend who still pines for her, whom she can count on for a temporary place to bunk, a yard sale junkie and a foodie. And her good friend Alyce, an artist, currently living on a ranch with her architect husband and their two boys. Alyce, on a fellowship, is having trouble working on her art, her insomnia and depression not helping either.

Also in Texas is her sister Molly, who is beginning to show signs of Parkinson’s, which their mother suffered from. But Flannery isn’t able to cope with this realization that her sister will end up like their mother, and guilt-stricken, avoids her.

Flannery is torn between life in Nigeria with her fiancé and her research, and her old life in Austin surrounded by familiar faces, family obligations.

Migratory Animals is a story about friendships, family, and the concept of home.

While Flannery is the key character, and whose homecoming brings this group together, it is her friends that stood out. I can’t help but feel for poor Santiago, who tries to mend the relationship between his two best friends by taking them to a cooking class. And Molly who is facing her greatest fear, succumbing to this illness that nearly tore their family apart.

Migratory Animals is an impressive if melancholy debut. It has a little something for everyone – an international perspective, an American home base, a diverse group of friends, family relationships, love, even a little science about snowflakes and climate and even tapestry. It is an emotional, thoughtful, and a little bit quirky sort of book.


Mary-Helen-Specht-200x300Mary Helen Specht’s work has appeared in numerous publications, including the New York Times and Colorado Review. A winner of the Richard Yates Short Story Award, among other prizes, she is a former Fulbright Scholar to Nigeria and Dobie-Paisano Writing Fellow. She earned an MFA in fiction from Emerson College and now teaches creative writing at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas.

Find out more about Mary at her website and connect with her on Twitter.

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I received this book for review from its publisher and TLC Book Tours

Check out the other tour stops:

Tuesday, January 20th: Based on a True Story

Wednesday, January 21st: Read Her Like and Open Book

Thursday, January 22nd: A Bookish Affair

Friday, January 23rd: A Patchwork of Books

Monday, January 26th: Olduvai Reads

Tuesday, January 27th: Book Loving Hippo

Wednesday, January 28th: Lavish Bookshelf

Monday, February 2nd: Ageless Pages Reviews

Tuesday, February 3rd: Peppermint PhD

Wednesday, February 4th: Books and Things

Tuesday, February 10th: Tina Says …

Wednesday, February 11th: Jorie Loves a Story

Thursday, February 12th: Books and Bindings