Tag Archives: Book Tours

The Sunday Salon: A Week of Author Meetings

The Sunday Salon

 

Dork DiariesI’m taking my daughter and one of her BFFs to meet Dork Diaries author Rachel Renee Russell this afternoon, and their enthusiasm is absolutely palpable. They’ve been talking about this for weeks, ever since I mentioned it to my girl, who then told her entire lunch table, and her friend reportedly started “almost crying and jumping up and down.”

So, yeah, they’re a little excited.

I get it. Oh, you know I absolutely get it.

Today’s event follows on the heels of the lecture I attended Monday evening with Colum McCann, which was everything I thought it would be and then some. And then some more. I was – and still am – in complete awe. He’s just as amazing a speaker as he is a writer – and so genuine, personable, and funny as hell. I haven’t had a chance to recap the event here, but I wrote a post here that I’m rather proud of and that I think captures the event.  (“One Book One Community: Colum McCann’s Gift to Pittsburgh and the World.“)

(Oh, OK. Because I can’t resist.)

Melissa and Colum McCann

Me and Colum McCann!

(You have no idea how many times I’ve looked at this photo to make myself believe that I really did meet and talk with Colum McCann.) 

In the Body of the World

It was a good week book-wise, too. I listened to Eve Ensler’s memoir In the Body of the World on CD and … my God. First of all, it’s a miracle that Eve is alive at all to tell this story – her experience with cancer and the god-awful aftermath. Eve Ensler does not sugar-coat her cancer story in the least, and if you’re familiar with her work, nor would you expect her to. Still, this memoir is raw, searing, gritty, honest, and downright real. It can be difficult to read or listen to in parts, but at the same time, it is absolutely riveting to hear her talk about how her cancer is part of her work with the women in the Congo and her past history of abuse.

Time is short. Must run to the next author event. Such a fun week this has been.

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Book Review: The Returned, by Jason Mott

The ReturnedThe Returned, by Jason Mott
Harlequin Mira
2013
343 pages

Remember the 1999 M. Night Shyamalan movie “The Sixth Sense” with Haley Joel Osment’s infamous line, “I see dead people”?

Well, in Jason Mott’s debut novel The Returned, lots of people are seeing dead people. That’s because, as per the publisher’s description, “all over the world, people’s loved ones are returning from beyond. No one knows how or why, whether it’s a miracle or a sign of the end.”

Among those returning to life is eight year old Jacob Hargrave, who died in 1966. Needless to say, this comes as somewhat of a shock to Harold and Lucille, his now elderly parents. (When greeting him at the door, Harold struggled to recall his only son’s name.) Fifty years have passed since Jacob’s drowning on the day of his eighth birthday party. But there Jacob is, still eight years old, back from the dead.

And Jacob’s bringing a lot of company from the Great Beyond.

In this blockbuster of a fall publishing season, The Returned by debut novelist Jason Mott is getting a lot of buzz. Part of the reason is because Mr. Mott’s novel has already been adapted for television by ABC Studios, Brad Pitt’s Plan B Entertainment and Brillstein Entertainment Partners for a forthcoming drama series called Resurrection.

It’s easy to see why. The Returned has an intriguing premise, one with questions that we’ve all asked ourselves – and some we probably never have. For example, it may be a no-brainer to assume Harold and Lucille would gladly welcome their eight-year old son back into their lives after accepting his death and moving on after fifty years, right?

Maybe. And …maybe not.

With the return of the …well, the Returned, as they are called, comes the arrival of many moral, ethical, and religious questions that the people of Arcadia (the Southern town in which the novel is set) wrestle with. They’re not alone; the Returned are resurfacing all over the globe, often far from the places where they originally lived and died. (We get very brief – as in, a page or two at the most – snippets of other formerly deceased people who are now Returned.)  It throws society and government into a conflict as to how, exactly, to deal with all these people.

Conflicted is a good description for my feelings about The Returned, which is based on a dream that Mr. Mott had involving his own deceased mother. Despite not being much of a dystopian fiction reader, I liked the plot and concept of this novel. I felt Mr. Mott did a good job keeping the story realistic, evidenced by phrases showing that this could potentially happen in the very near future:

“‘Things just seem to be getting worse all over,’ the newscaster said. It was a Spanish man with dark features and a light-colored suit. Lucille had a brief impression that he was talking about something to do with finances or the global economy or gas prices or any of the other things that seemed to be getting perpetually worse year on year on year.” (pg. 148)

But in the very same passage, we see how Mr. Mott’s prose tends to be repetitive and wordy (“year on year on year.”) It is heavy on the similes and needed tightening in parts (Instead of “It was a Spanish man,” perhaps simply “A Spanish man wearing a light-colored suit…”) For that reason, the story felt distracting to me at times and the stumblings with the prose often “took me out of” the novel.

Other novelists may not have been skilled enough to return his reader to the plot and core issues. Fortunately, Mr. Mott did. Which is good, because as The Returned demonstrates, there are a lot of multi-layered questions here and Mr. Mott is exceptionally talented at getting his reader to think about them.

“‘Something has happened,’ he belted out, startling the church. ‘Something – the cause of which we have not yet been made privy – has happened.’ He spread his arms. ‘And what are we to do? How are we to react? Should we be afraid? These are uncertain times, and it’s only natural to be frightened of uncertain things. But what do we do with that fear?’” (pg. 53)

and

“They were all gripped with a feeling that something about the world was betraying them, right at this very moment, and perhaps it had been betraying them for years.

They felt that the world had been lying to them for all their lives.” (pg. 160)

Here, The Returned becomes a commentary on our current society and state of affairs within our country, which speaks to the reason why I think The Returned is having such widespread appeal. Two universal feelings are at play here: the feeling of wanting to control the uncontrollable, and the desire to play the “what-if” game. What we wouldn’t do sometimes for that one last conversation with that person long gone, that one moment of clarity, that one insight of understanding to realize that even if fate had intervened and if circumstances had been altered, the truth wouldn’t change and would in fact still be the same. Passages like these are where Mr. Mott’s poetry background (he has an M.F.A. in poetry from the University of North Carolina Wilmington) shines. 

“It was enough to make him see the truth: that no matter how much he had loved her, no matter how much he had wanted her, their romance would not have worked. And in spite of how it turned out for her, even if he had stayed with her all those years ago, if he’d gone off with her and, perhaps, been able to keep her from dying, it wouldn’t have changed anything. The thing that he loved about her would have died the longer she stayed with him until, eventually , she would be gone. Maybe not physically, but all that he loved about her would be gone.” (pg. 268)  

I’m curious to see how The Returned will do as a TV series. I’m thrilled for Jason Mott’s success with it and with the novel, and I suspect the show will do well. Despite having some issues with the novel, author Jason Mott has demonstrated that he is a writer worth watching. 

If you’d like to read The Returned, you’re in luck! The publisher, Harlequin MIRA, has provided me with a copy of The Returned for one of my blog readers! To enter, simply leave a comment on this post telling me who you would like to see return (it can be a relative, friend, pet, or celebrity). Contest closes September 30, 2013, 11:59 EST. Contest open only to US or Canadian residents only (as per publisher’s rules). 

TLC Tour HostAs always, thank you very much to TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour. I was provided with a copy of The Returned in exchange for my honest review. I did not receive any additional compensation for this post.

Read more about The Returned and what other bloggers thought. 

 

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Book Review: Equilibrium, by Lorrie Thomson

EquilibriumEquilibrium, by Lorrie Thomson
Kensington Books
2013
315 pages

With her debut novel, Lorrie Thomson has written an ambitious story about mental illness, suicide, the aftermath of a family’s grief, and the courage to love again.

From the publisher’s description:

In the year since her husband died, Laura Klein’s world has shifted on its axis. It’s not just that she’s raising two children alone—fact is, Laura always did the parenting for both of them. But now her fifteen-year-old daughter, Darcy, is dating a boy with a fast car and faster hands, and thirteen-year-old Troy’s attitude has plummeted along with his voice. Just when she’s resigning herself to a life of worry and selfless support, her charismatic new tenant offers what Laura least expects: a second chance.

Darcy isn’t surprised her mom doesn’t understand her, though she never imagined her suddenly acting like a love-struck teen herself. With Troy starting to show signs of their father’s bipolar disorder, and her best friend increasingly secretive, Darcy turns to her new boyfriend, Nick, for support. Yet Nick has a troubled side of his own, forcing Darcy toward life-altering choices.

Equilibrium is a novel that I should have liked much more than I did. There are several aspects of this story that resonate closely with my own life (my father also died when I was a teenager, although not from suicide or mental illness). I could identify with Darcy’s reaction to her father’s death. But at the same time, there was a part of me that couldn’t completely connect with these characters, which is why I had some difficulty with this novel.

Maybe it was the writing (the novel starts off a bit slow and is somewhat predictable in parts) or maybe it was because there were too many plot scenarios going on. I’m not sure what, exactly, it was and I’m sorry to say I didn’t finish this.

Nonetheless, this is an ambitious novel in terms of its subject matter. I truly commend Ms. Thomson for calling attention to the issue of families experiencing mental illness, and especially for writing about it while her own family was going through the experience of her son’s diagnosis with schizophrenia. That could not have been an easy task.

Just as some books grab us at the perfect time, I think some books also reach us at the wrong time. Maybe that was the situation with me and Equilibrium. For whatever reason, this one just wasn’t for me.

TLC Tour HostI received a copy of Equilibrium from TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest review. No other compensation was received. As always, I’m grateful to TLC Book Tours for including me on the tour.

Other reviewers had much more positive experiences with Equilibrium, and I encourage you to read their thoughts here.

 

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Book Review: Sea Creatures, by Susanna Daniel

Sea-CreaturesSea Creatures, by Susanna Daniel
Harper Collins
2013
314 pages (advanced readers copy)

“When I put my face in the water, I saw a massive iron propeller, each blade sheathed in toothy barnacles. There had been a ship here after all. I circled it. The act of snorkeling, to me, was like standing in a pitch-black room where you sense you are not alone, then lighting a match. It’s a pleasure, certainly, to see up close what is shrouded from land, the busy citizenry of the sea – but it’s also chilling. With the mask on, I had the feeling of wearing blinders, and each turn of my head could reveal something that had come forward from the deep, like this menacing piece of metalwork, its fat blades so stagnant that it seemed they might burst into motion if I continued to watch them. The rules of reality didn’t seem to apply.” (pg. 124, from the advanced readers copy)

Susanna Daniel’s sophomore novel Sea Creatures is not really about snorkeling or ancient shipwrecks.

Yet this passage above – referencing a snorkeling trip that her narrator Georgia takes with her husband Graham – is so very symbolic of the deeply buried and unspoken issues in their marriage. If you read between the lines, it becomes literary sea glass as Ms. Daniel subtly and quietly unfolds the themes haunting her characters (and, soon, her reader).

After Graham loses his tenured position at Northwestern, the couple and their toddler son Frankie move back to Georgia’s hometown in South Florida. There, they begin a new life aboard their houseboat with extended family nearby and a new research assignment at sea for Graham.

But even in new places, unresolved issues have a way of refusing to stay buried. What we couldn’t see before sometimes has a way of surfacing in new surroundings.

Because of severe parasomnia, Graham sleeps with one arm cuffed to the wall. (The National Sleep Foundation describes parasomnia as “all the abnormal things that can happen to people while they sleep, apart from sleep apnea. Some examples are sleep-related eating disorder, sleepwalking, night terrors, sleep paralysis, REM sleep behavior disorder, and sleep aggression.) This condition obviously alters Graham and Georgia’s family, not to mention their relationship; early on in the novel, we learn that it is the reason for Graham losing tenure at Northwestern and Georgia losing her business.

Aside from some trust issues, the couple is also struggling to understand why their three year old son Frankie isn’t talking anymore. (Because the novel is set in the early 1990s, playing doctor with Google or soliciting one’s Facebook friends for their parenting advice wasn’t as commonplace as it is now.) Georgia dedicates her days (her life, really) to teaching Frankie sign language and caring for him. She’s a bit of a helicopter parent (“When I put my face in the water, I saw a massive iron propeller, each blade sheathed in toothy barnacles”) but because of living on the water and Graham’s parasomnia, her protectiveness is easy to understand. She’s an incredibly relatable and sympathetic character: still grieving the loss of her mother several years after her death, struggling to make sense of these separate mysterious afflictions taking hold of her husband and son, and being adrift in her hometown without the identity of her business or the traditional ideals of motherhood and spouse to guide her. 

At the suggestion of her stepmother, Georgia takes a part-time job assisting a reclusive artist named Charlie, who lives – literally – in the middle of the sea amidst a collection of stilt homes. (If this sounds familiar, it is. Ms. Daniel revisits the terrain of her first novel, Stiltsville here.) 

“It’s a pleasure, certainly, to see up close what is shrouded from land, the busy citizenry of the sea – but it’s also chilling.” (pg. 124, advanced reader’s copy)

Away from Graham (and with professional help), Georgia learns the cause of Frankie’s selective mutism and realizes that she needs to make some life-changing decisions that will impact every single person in her life.

With the mask on, I had the feeling of wearing blinders, and each turn of my head could reveal something that had come forward from the deep ….” (pg. 124, advanced reader’s copy)

Among the reasons that Sea Creatures is such a gripping story is because we know it was a real place. According to Susanna Daniel’s website, “[b]oth of Susanna’s novels, Stiltsville and Sea Creatures, are partially set at Stiltsville, a collection of wood homes perched on pilings one mile south of Cape Florida, in the middle of Biscayne Bay. Susanna Daniel grew up spending weekends at her family’s stilthouse….”

That knowledge helps solidify a sense of place, yes, but Ms. Daniel already has that covered. Her talent for description allow her to render landscapes and characters in such vivid detail that they feel as real to us as our own home and reflection.

There’s much more that I feel I could say (this would be a great book club novel!) but I need to be careful of not revealing spoilers. To be sure, Sea Creatures – like life – takes some predictable turns. There were also other plot twists that kept me guessing and ultimately surprised me. In the end, Sea Creatures more than skillfully stayed on course, with Ms. Daniel delivering an emotionally engrossing read.

TLC Tour HostThank you very much to TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour. I was provided with a copy of Sea Creatures in exchange for my honest review. I did not receive any additional compensation for this post.

My heartfelt apologies to Trish Collins of TLC Book Tours and Susanna Daniel for being a few days late with this review.

Read more about Sea Creatures and what other bloggers thought.

For more information about Susanna Daniel, her other books, and how to connect with her, visit her website at www.susannadaniel.com 

 

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Book Review: The Virgin Cure, by Ami McKay

The Virgin CureThe Virgin Cure
by Ami McKay
Harper
2012
319 pages

If you decide to read The Virgin Cure (and this review is going to try its damnedest to convince you that you absolutely must), make sure you don’t skip the Author’s Note at the end. That’s because Ami McKay’s concluding commentary is just as important – and just as haunting – as her sophomore novel itself.

There she writes that “in 1870, over thirty thousand children lived on the streets of New York City and many more wandered in and out of the cellars and tenements as their families struggled to scrape together enough income to put food on the table.” (pg. 317)

Let that sink in a moment.

Thirty thousand children. Living on the streets.

The Virgin Cure takes its title from a myth – and a very real fate that befell many young girls of this time.

“Sold into prostitution at a young age, many girls from poor families were brokered by madams (or even their own parents) as “fresh maids.” Men paid the highest price for girls who had been “certified” as virgins. At this time in New York, syphilis was an overwhelming, widespread puzzle of a disease with no remedy….An even greater tragedy than the human wreckage resulting from this disease was a deadly myth that preyed upon young girls. The myth of “the virgin cure” – the belief that a man with syphilis could “cleanse his blood” by deflowering a virgin – was without social borders and was acted out in every socioeconomic class in some form or another. In fact, the more money a man had, the easier it would have been for him to procure a young girl for this unthinkable act.” (pg. 318)

I had no idea.

A lot of people don’t, which makes this historical novel such an important one. Although Ami McKay’s main character of Moth, just 12 years old, is fictional, she represents a part of our history that should not and cannot be forgotten. She has awoken in me an interest to read and learn more about this time.

When we first meet Moth (named thus because of a whispered word that her long-gone father supposedly heard from a pear tree), her destitute and fortune-telling mother has arranged for her to be sold as a maid to the wealthy Mrs. Wentworth. Whether Moth’s mother truly believed she was giving her daughter a better life or whether she knew the hardships she would encounter is irrelevant; Moth soon becomes one of the many street urchins in the Bowery section of New York City,

Despite her hardships, Moth never forgets her mother nor gives up loving her, even when almost every other person in her life gives up on her or assigns the 12-year-old to an unimaginable fate.

“Sometimes, for a moment, everything is just as you need it to be. The memories of such moments live in the heart, waiting for the time you need to think on them, if only to remind yourself that for a short while, everything had been fine and might be so again. I didn’t have many memories like that ….” (pg. 222-223)

You know Moth is going to succumb to the temptation of prostitution because the rewards and comforts of that life are just too great. (Even if the jacket copy didn’t give away that particular plot twist, the reader easily sees that coming, despite longing to step inside the pages and prevent the inevitable from happening.)

What isn’t expected (among a few twists that Ms. McKay expertly gives us) is the kindness shown to Moth by Dr. Sadie, a female physician (a rarity in the 1870s!) who cares for the girls living at Miss Everett’s “boarding house.”  And this is also where the Author’s Note section becomes especially powerful, as Ms. McKay shares that Dr. Sadie is inspired by a real person – in this case, Ami McKay’s own great-great grandmother Sarah Fonda Mackintosh, who studied under Drs. Elizabeth and Emily Blackwell.

I absolutely loved this aspect – and really, every single aspect – of The Virgin Cure. I was fascinated that a Dr. Sadie actually existed, and her courage left me breathless. If I have any criticism of this novel (and this may be the only one, and it’s minor), it is that I wanted to know a little more about Dr. Sadie.

Through her precise writing, command of what must have been countless research, and evocations of emotions on every page, Ami McKay immerses her reader in every aspect of life in 1870s New York, bringing such a depressing, politically corrupt, and overall difficult time period to vivid life. She does this by including ephemera from that era alongside the narrative. Lyrics, poetry, letters, descriptions of clothing, author’s notes, and more provide more of a vivid picture (if that’s possible) of the timeframe and hardships.

I loved this additional information. As it was, I was right there in the Bowery with Moth slurping oyster stew, and with her lacing up Mrs. Wentworth’s corset, and in the hall as she was kissed. My heart broke several times in this book, over and over again. (If you have a tween-age daughter or love a girl who is that age, know that there will be parts of this that will be absolutely heart wrenching to read.)

But it is for those very reasons that I cannot emphasize how important a book The Virgin Cure is. And like much of life itself, then and as well as now, the heartbreaking parts are also what gives this novel its unparalleled beauty.

5 stars
Highly recommended read (a new designation that I am giving to those books that are truly exceptional for one reason or another and that I find myself recommending to others repeatedly)

TLC Tour HostI was thrilled to receive a copy of The Virgin Cure from the publisher, via TLC Book Tours. I did not receive any compensation in exchange for my honest review. As always, my thanks to TLC Book Tours for inviting me to participate in this tour.

Click here to see the other bloggers participating on the tour and what they thought of The Virgin Cure. 

Connect with Ami McKay through her website, Facebook pageTwitter account, and Pinterest board.

 

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The Sunday Salon: Confessions of a Literary Groupie

The Sunday Salon

A therapist once told me that The Husband and I had too many “cerebral interests.”

I think it was probably her way of saying that we needed to get off our asses more, the thinking being that we needed to spend more quality time together doing things like mountain-climbing in Nepal as opposed to hanging out together at home with our noses in our respective books.

You know, like there’s something wrong with that.

Whatever. The Husband and I just celebrated 20 freakin’ years of wedded bliss so obviously, we are a match made in cerebral heaven.

The point is, I love that The Husband is a kindred spirit like me in regard to certain authors that he goes all groupie for. It doesn’t happen often, mind you. But when it does, it happens kinda quietly, like this:

Me: “Wow, hey, look, Pittsburgh is naming the 16th Street Bridge for David McCullough [one of The Husband’s favorite historians and a native son of the ‘Burgh] and he’s giving a talk at the Heinz History Center on his 80th Birthday.”

The Husband: “Yeah, I might like to go to that.”

Me, seizing the moment and going straight to the website to purchase the tickets. “Really?”

The Husband: “Yeah.”

As expected, the David McCullough tickets sold out in something like one day. So that’s where The Husband is now – you know, just hanging out with David McCullough, celebrating his 80th birthday. I’ve asked him for a guest post for the blog (The Husband, not David McCullough, although he’s welcome to write something too) but this might be as good as it gets.

Meanwhile, I’m chillin’ at home with the kids (we tried to entice them with a visit to the History Center itself two weeks ago and weren’t too successful) while saving my energies for a rock concert of another sort. One Direction comes to town in less than 27 hours (and counting) and for those who don’t follow me on Facebook, Betty is quite the fan. She’s especially enamored with Harry Styles, who I’m told is my future son-in-law. Through some divine intervention, we scored two tickets to the Pittsburgh show tomorrow night (which has been sold out for more than a YEAR since tickets went on sale).

Not to be left out of all this excitement, I have tickets to see George Saunders live and in person when he comes to town in December as part of the Pittsburgh Arts and Lectures series. I’ll also be seeing Colum McCann and Ann Patchett, also be part of the series.  (Hey, Pittsburgh ain’t considered one of the most literary cities for nuthin’, y’ know.)

Because of this, now I want to read everything by each of these authors. You know, just so I can sound intelligent in conversation while fist-bumping and crying while holding my cell-phone-as-lighter up with the folks next to me.

In Persuasion NationWith Saunders,  I loved Tenth of December – which was the first book of his I’d read. (While reading it, I realized that I’d previously read his short story “Home” in The New Yorker.”) This week, I became an official fangirl – I’m a real cheap date; it usually takes two books, max – when I picked up In Persuasion Nation at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

Despite getting some interesting looks at the pool with this cover (which is why I usually take my Kindle to the pool), this collection of short stories is fantastic – perhaps better than Tenth of December, in my opinion. I loved this – but I recognize that Saunders’ brand of satire and dark humor is probably an acquired taste. I devoured In Persuasion Nation. 

(Needless to say, I want more.)

E Street Shuffle

Continuing on the literary groupie, theme, this week I also finished E Street Shuffle: The Glory Days of Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band, which I’m probably not going to review. That’s not a shot against author Clinton Heylin nor a criticism that this  wasn’t a good book. Rather, it has to do with the fact that I’m a fairly new Springsteen fan (I know, shuddup) and E Street Shuffle‘s audience is the diehard crowd. It’s the person who knows every song since the ’70s and enjoys reading a lengthy dissertation about the production of each one of them and the albums they landed on. To me, an appreciative but (compared to this) casual fan, that was way too much detail.

The Virgin Cure

 

I’m currently reading The Virgin Cure by Ami McKay and I’ll be rockin’ out on the TLC Book Tour circuit in 10 days. This is a fantastic historical fiction novel,  one that I’m really enjoying – although enjoying isn’t quite the right word here because it is actually a heart-wrenching read. Children are roaming the streets as beggars (if they haven’t been sold by their own mothers). desperate to survive in New York City, in 1871. Twelve year old Moth is one such child, and in telling this story, Ami McKay takes her reader right into the tenement houses and mansions alike. It’s really fascinating learning about this time period – and, as this story progresses, about an aspect of it that I hadn’t thought too much of.

What’s rocking your literary world this week?

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Book Review: He’s Gone, by Deb Caletti

He’s Gone
by Deb Caletti
Bantam Books Trade Paperbacks
2013
323 pages 

It seems somehow fitting that, when the book blogging world is beginning to buzz with all things Book Expo America (BEA) related, that I’m reviewing a book by an author who would never have made it onto my radar if it wasn’t for BEA.

An explanation is probably needed.

You see, back in May 2010, I attended the Book Blogger Convention (as it was called back then, and which is part of BEA) and I happened to sit with this table of bloggers at breakfast.

We’d gotten swag bags, of course, so naturally our talk turned to the books provided to us in the bags.

Amanda (not pictured) was beyond ecstatic to see that a Deb Caletti book was included. Each of us had different titles. Amanda raved about Ms. Caletti’s writing. We all swapped books around the table. I’d never heard of Ms. Caletti before that moment, but I figured, why not. When another book blogger likes someone that much, I usually pay attention.

And then The Queen of Everything sat on my bookshelves for another 2.5 years (nearly a year of that in storage) before I picked it up again.

And I loved it.

(The Queen of Everything is a young adult novel, just so those who are purists and don’t read YA know of this in advance. But, it’s really good.)

So when I saw that TLC Book Tours was offering up Ms. Caletti’s first fiction for adults, I knew I wanted in.

And for the most part, I loved this one too. He’s Gone represents a nice segue from the young adult market into adult fiction (although I personally don’t draw any such literary distinction, as I’m one of those adults who reads YA).

There’s still the temptation to categorize Ms. Caletti’s fiction as light, but He’s Gone is not that. For starters, this novel focuses on the very real, very heavy, and very dark issue of physical and emotional abuse, as told and experienced through the eyes of Dani Keller. Married with the typical issues that befall blended families, Dani and Ian seem to have a typical life of professional success. They live somewhat comfortably on a houseboat in Seattle, drawing little attention to themselves, until one morning when Ian turns up missing following a party with Dani and his colleagues.

Unfortunately, Dani’s not too much help in the investigation, as she’s had a bit too much to drink and her memory of the night’s events is fuzzy, at best. For some in the novel, she’s an easy character to cast judgment on; her role as “the other woman,” “the homewrecker”) has lent itself to many opportunities for blame and scorn from Ian’s ex-wife and his kids. She also sees herself to blame, too – which is common for people who have been victims of domestic violence.

While she doesn’t remember the actual circumstances that led up to Ian’s disappearance, what Dani does remember is the beatings and the verbal abuse from her ex-husband Mark which had her seeing Ian as someone who could rescue her. Now, as she tries to do whatever she can to rescue Ian, Dani reflects on the reasons she initially turned toward him as she discovers who really is the missing person in their relationship.

Ms. Caletti, a National Book Award finalist, kept me turning the pages, constantly wondering did he … and maybe she did … or maybe they did …. He’s Gone is an engrossing, psychological read that has been compared by some to Gillian Flynn’s bestselling Gone Girl for the mindbending directions it takes the reader.

That being said, there were a few things about He’s Gone that left me puzzled and wondering. It’s hard to say too much without spoiling the plot – and I’m not a detective or a mystery reader so what the hell do I know? – but there were some aspects of the police investigation into Ian’s disappearance that seemed strange. Like … possibilities that could have been looked into a bit more thoroughly.

That’s all I’m sayin’.

But I was happy with the way the novel was resolved, and I’ll certainly be reading more of Ms. Caletti’s work … so that’s really all that matters, right?

Thank you very much to TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour. I was provided with a copy of He’s Gone in exchange for my honest review. I did not receive any additional compensation for this post.

Read more about He’s Gone and what other bloggers thought here.

For more information about Deb Caletti and her other books, visit her website at www.debcaletti.com.

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