Tag Archives: Blog Tour

Review: A Complicated Marriage: My Life With Clement Greenberg by Janice Van Horn

Complicated MarriageMy rating: 3.5 stars– 3 stars for the first half, 4 stars for the second half.

Summary via Goodreads:

In 1955, Jenny Van Horne was a 21-year-old, naïve Bennington College graduate on her own for the first time in New York City. She meets 46-year-old Clement Greenberg who, she is told, is “the most famous, the most important, art critic in the world!” Knowing nothing about art, she soon finds herself swept into Clem’s world and the heady company of Hans Hofmann, Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, David Smith, Helen Frankenthaler, among others. Seven months later, as a new bride, Jenny and Clem spend the summer in East Hampton near Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner, and she feels even more keenly like an interloper in the inner circle of the art scene. A woman disowned by her anti-Semitic family for marrying a Jew, she would develop a deep, loving bond with Clem that would remain strong through years of an open marriage and separate residences.

Jenny embodies the pivotal changes of each passing decade as she searches for worlds of her own. She moves from the tradition of wife and mother to rebellion and experimentation; diving into psychoanalysis; the theater world of OOB and the Actors’ Studio; and succeeding in business. Throughout, A Complicated Marriage is grounded in honesty and the self-deprecating humor, grace, and appealing voice of its author.

I picked this book for review because it reminded me of Patti Smith’s Just Kids. It wasn’t until I started reading it, and realized how strong the resemblance is, that I remembered I didn’t love Just Kids.

Particularly for the first half of the book, the resemblance was strong. There was an odd distance between the narrator and the events she described. There were a lot of mentions of friendships and parties with people I knew nothing about– and I know even less about the art world than the music world. The only familiar name in A Complicated Marriage is that of Jackson Pollock.

While I didn’t dislike the book at first, it also didn’t really click for me, I just didn’t get drawn in. That changed about halfway through– while it took more than a week to get through that first half, I read most of the second half in one day, and didn’t have to struggle to get around to the last piece.

Once the author came into herself, the book became interesting in and of itself. The time she spent in the theater world, the exploration of the complicated aspects of her marriage, the relationships she built at this time, all these mature. I think some of her distance in telling about them may have gone as well, but whatever the reason, I enjoyed it far more at this point.

I came out of the book with a little more understanding of the personal side of the American art world in the second half of the last century, some insight as to how an open marriage could work for some people, and a look at a girl who grew into a very interesting woman.

I read this book as part of a TLC Book Tour, and was provided a copy of the book for review.  Thank you for this opportunity.  You can find out more about Janice Van Horn at her website.  For other perspectives on A Complicated Marriage, check out the other stops on the tour:

Tuesday, May 14th: Turn the Page

Wednesday, May 15th: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews



Posted by on May 31, 2013 in books, reviews, tour


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Review: The Long Way Home by Mariah Stewart

Long Way HomeMy rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

A very enjoyable, quick read of a young woman trying to find her place in the world.

Summary via Goodreads:

As the only child of a wealthy investment manager, Ellie Chapman has never known anything besides a life of perfect privilege. But her years of good fortune come to an abrupt end when her father is exposed for swindling billions of dollars from innocent investors in a massive Ponzi scheme. And just like that, Ellie loses everything: money, job, home–even her fiance, who’s jailed as her father’s partner in crime. With no job prospects on the horizon, no cash, and her family name in tatters, Ellie has only one place to go.
Sleepy St. Dennis, Maryland, is hardly where Ellie intends to stay, however. Keeping her identity a secret, she plans to sell the house her late mother left her in the small town and use the proceeds to move on with her life. Unfortunately, her ticket to a new beginning is in dire need of a laundry list of pricey improvements, many of which she’ll have to do herself. And until the house on Bay View Road is fit to be sold, the sole place Ellie will be traveling is the hardware store. But as the many charms of St. Dennis–not to mention Cameron O’Connor, the handsome local contractor who has secrets of his own–begin to work their magic, what begins as a lesson in do-it-yourself renovations might just end up as Ellie’s very own rejuvenation.

This was an all-out feel good book.  I’ve read most (but not all) of this series, and that isn’t always true for the other books, at least within the range allowed by the romance genre.

I really liked getting to know Ellie, a young woman who had lived a life of privilege, and then had everything taken from her– not just material things, but she lost her father and fiance when they were jailed for crimes she never imagined them capable of. She’s devastated, but is ready to start rebuilding her life.  This is a character archetype that generally appeals to me– clearly damaged by life, but continuing even while dealing with the injuries.

And where better to rebuild than St. Dennis. Ellie doesn’t know that, she thinks she’s just passing through.  Ellie is suspicious of everyone, since most of her friends deserted her when life got rough, and she treats the people in the town accordingly.  But the people here know what it is like to face adversity, and they make allowances.

Cameron was a nice guy, perfect for her, and understands what she’s going through, or at least the part about living with a parent with a bad reputation.  He was a solid character, if possibly a little too good to be true, but I enjoyed watching the interactions between him and Ellie.

And yes, there were steamy bits, but they were just bits.  This isn’t the book to read for extended erotic interludes. You can consider this a plus or a minus, depending on your preferences.

Once I could relax and know it was an everything-will-be-OK kind of book, I liked the twists and turns the plot took, I liked the new characters that were introduced.  One of the fun things about a series like this is the cameos by the characters in previous books.  There is no need to have read them, but if you have, you get a quick visit to where the characters are now.  I like that.

This romance won’t be for everyone, some will find it too nice. Me? This is exactly the way I like it.

I read this book as part of a TLC Book Tour.  Thank you for the opportunity to read this book and participate. You can find more about Mariah Stewart on her website or on Facebook. For other views on the book, check out the other tour stops:
TLC Book Tours


Posted by on February 12, 2013 in books, reviews, tour


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Review: The Shoemaker’s Wife by Adriana Trigiani

The Shoemaker's Wife CoverMy rating: 5 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this sweeping story of a shoemaker and his wife.  It was my first book from Adriana Trigiani, but it certainly won’t be my last.

Summary via Goodreads:

The majestic and haunting beauty of the Italian Alps is the setting of the first meeting of Enza, a practical beauty, and Ciro, a strapping mountain boy, who meet as teenagers, despite growing up in villages just a few miles apart. At the turn of the last century, when Ciro catches the local priest in a scandal, he is banished from his village and sent to hide in America as an apprentice to a shoemaker in Little Italy. Without explanation, he leaves a bereft Enza behind. Soon, Enza’s family faces disaster and she, too, is forced to go to America with her father to secure their future.

Unbeknownst to one another, they both build fledgling lives in America, Ciro masters shoemaking and Enza takes a factory job in Hoboken until fate intervenes and reunites them. But it is too late: Ciro has volunteered to serve in World War I and Enza, determined to forge a life without him, begins her impressive career as a seamstress at the Metropolitan Opera House that will sweep her into the glamorous salons of Manhattan and into the life of the international singing sensation, Enrico Caruso.

From the stately mansions of Carnegie Hill, to the cobblestone streets of Little Italy, over the perilous cliffs of northern Italy, to the white-capped lakes of northern Minnesota, these star-crossed lovers meet and separate, until, finally, the power of their love changes both of their lives forever.

This is how you make an interesting story about two seemingly ordinary people. “Turned over to a convent to raise” isn’t a common story, but it doesn’t have to be an interesting one. “Heading to America to work menial jobs and send money to family at home” is a common story, one told many times before. In Trigiani’s hands, even the ordinary details serve to bring the characters to life, to lift them off the pages of the book.

I loved the characters, who weren’t perfect, but were real. They were interesting people, inspiring in a small way, the kind you can believe, the sort of people you could imagine knowing. They’d have interesting things to say, great stories to share.

Trigiani’s writing makes it all come alive. I feel like I have a real sense of rural Italy, of New York and New Jersey, of Minnesota, of life in the shoe maker’s shop, in the sewing factory, and at the opera.

I loved the relationships in this book. The straightforward friendships found in unexpected places, the loving parent-child links, the more troubled parents and children, the complicated siblings, the love interests that were good while they lasted, the marriages that lasted… In all these cases and more, they rang true.

The writing is beautiful, the story is mentally and emotionally engrossing, the characters are rich and believable. Everything I’d want from a sweeping family story is here in this book.

I read this book as part of a TLC Book Tour.  Thank you for the opportunity to read and review this book. For more information about Adriana Trigiani, see her website:, her Facebook page, and her Twitter account. For other viewpoints on the book, check out the other tour stops:

TLC Book Tours


Posted by on May 4, 2012 in books, reviews, tour


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Review: Domestic Violets by Matthew Norman

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Domestic Violets is a book which is simultaneously very odd and very down to earth.  I can see why people are adding it to their best of 2011 lists.

Summary via

Tom Violet always thought that by the time he turned thirty-five, he’d have everything going for him. Fame. Fortune. A beautiful wife. A satisfying career as a successful novelist. A happy dog to greet him at the end of the day.

The reality, though, is far different. He’s got a wife, but their problems are bigger than he can even imagine. And he’s written a novel, but the manuscript he’s slaved over for years is currently hidden in his desk drawer while his father, an actual famous writer, just won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. His career, such that it is, involves mind-numbing corporate buzzwords, his pretentious archnemesis Gregory, and a hopeless, completely inappropriate crush on his favorite coworker. Oh . . . and his dog, according to the vet, is suffering from acute anxiety.

Tom’s life is crushing his soul, but he’s decided to do something about it. (Really.) Domestic Violets is the brilliant and beguiling story of a man finally taking control of his own happiness—even if it means making a complete idiot of himself along the way.

When Domestic Violets started off with the main character talking about his erectile dysfunction, I knew this wasn’t going to be like anything else I’d read. It took me a little longer to decide if this was a good thing.

It was, largely because Tom Violet was such a great character– someone that wasn’t at all like me, but who had me very interested in his life none-the-less. I ended up reading it in a single day.

If I didn’t have much in common with Tom, I recognize my world in his.

I loved his skewed view of how to handle office politics. I’d hate to work with him, but I loved to read about his strategies at work, both before and after he makes his big decision there.

On a different note, I really appreciated the handling of the strained relationship between him and his wife. Not that I’d want to be in that relationship, but although the details are different, I recognize the kind of stress that happens in a marriage after some number of years have past.

I even appreciated the handling of the paths that can lead to adultery, even in people who really don’t think it could happen to them.

Tom has an entire network of interesting relationships– with his parents, his wife, his daughter, coworkers and friends.  Each was well written, adding to the picture of Tom as a person.

Beyond work and his relationships, Tom is dealing with the questions that many of us face in middle age: Who am I? Who do I want to be?  There are no easy answers for Tom, but what fun would it be if there were?

In the end, Domestic Violets features a funny guy facing the challenges of modern life, and I’m really glad I saw the world through his eyes for a little while.

Domestic Violets would make a great book club read, particularly for clubs that end up reading a lot of books from a female perspective.

I read Domestic Violets for a TLC Book Tour.  Thank you to TLC and Harper Perennial for providing me with a copy of the book and allowing me to take part in the tour.

TLC Book ToursFor other views of the book, check out the other tour stops:


Posted by on August 24, 2011 in books, reviews, tour


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Review: Money Can’t Buy Love by Connie Briscoe

Money Can't Buy LoveMy rating: 2 of 5 stars

Summary via

Lenora Stone used to say if she didn’t have bad luck, she wouldn’t have any luck at all. At age thirty-eight, instead of socializing with Baltimore’s A-list, she photographs them for Baltimore Scene, a glossy magazine filled with beautiful people who, unlike Lenora, never have to worry about car trouble and overdue bills. As much as she’d love to slam the door on her overbearing boss, quitting isn’t an option. She’s barely making her mortgage payments and, though her condo might not be a palace, it’s hers. Lately even things with her boyfriend Gerald haven’t been right. They’ve been together for three years but he can’t seem to ask the one question she’s been waiting for. But what Lenora doesn’t know is that her luck is about to change…

Just when she thinks things can’t get worse, Lenora wins the jackpot in the Maryland lottery. In a heartbeat, all her dreams become possible. She quits her job and indulges her every desire-starting with a shiny, silver BMW and a million-dollar mansion. Gerald is finally ready to put a ring on her finger and the city’s most exclusive women’s group is dying for her to join, officially moving Lenora from behind the lens, into the limelight. But in Lenora’s lavish new world, all that glitters definitely isn’t gold. Her old friend’s are concerned about her sudden changes, and Ray, a sexy, young landscaper Lenora covered for the magazine is looking for more than a purely professional relationship.

As her life starts to come together, the things Lenora holds dear begin to fall apart. Has her world really changed for the better, or does fortune come with a heavy price?

I’ve been thinking about this book for several days now, and I’m starting to think I’m missing something about it.

Books that pick up to read and don’t end up enjoying tend to fall a few categories:

  1. The book isn’t for me. I can see why others would like it, and I can appreciate aspects of it, but we’re not a good match.  A recent example of this would be The Book of Lies by Mary Horlock.
  2. The book isn’t well written. Honestly, this doesn’t happen all that often with professionally published books– my minimum standards aren’t all that high, and a publisher doesn’t often release a book that’s bad enough to be an actual problem for me, and make me really not enjoy a book with an interesting concept.
  3. I just don’t get the book. I’m missing some vital thing about it that would explain why it was worth spending my time reading it. The Finkler Question fell in this category for me.

I think Money Can’t Buy Love falls into category 3, simply because it doesn’t seem to belong in either of the other two.

It isn’t badly written in any general sense. The words flow well, the characters behave consistently, their voices fit with their actions.

But even with that said, I’m missing why I’d want to read this book, other than the description sounding promising (which is why I asked to read it in the first place. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t have finished reading it if I didn’t commit to this tour).

On the one hand, what was missing for me in this book was the fun. I just didn’t want to spend any more time with the main character who made one bad decision after another, and not even in an entertaining sort of way.  I admit,

I’d have given a character in her teens or early 20s a little more leeway, but by her late 30s, I’d expect a woman to be making better choices– making mistakes is fine, but Lenora isn’t doing well in her behavior with her job, her friends, her love life or her finances at the beginning of the book.  After she wins the lottery, her decisions go even further downhill, and I didn’t enjoy watching it.

On the other hand, I didn’t feel that her mistakes were giving me any insight into myself or the world around me, so it didn’t even seem like something that I didn’t have to enjoy, because it was good for me.

So in the end, I’m sitting here thinking I missed something.

If you read and enjoyed this book, I’d love to hear why. Now that I’m done writing this, I’ll spend some time reading other reviews, to see if I can find what they appreciated about it..

I read Money Can’t Buy Love as part of a TLC Book Tour. Thank you to TLC Books and Grand Central Publishing for providing me with a review copy and allowing me to participate. For other opinions on this book, check out the other tour stops:
TLC Book Tours


Posted by on August 9, 2011 in books, reviews, tour


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Review: Almost Home by Mariah Stewart

Almost Home (Chesapeake Diaries #3)My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed the first book in this series. I liked the second one a lot. This one was a solid “like”.

Summary via

When she was young, Steffie Wyler always knew exactly what she wanted to do with her life: 1. Make ice cream. 2. Marry the coolest boy in town. 3. Live happily ever after. These days, Steffie is the proud owner of One Scoop or Two, a wildly popular ice cream parlor. But the cool guy left town right after high school, before they could scratch the surface of their mutual attraction to see what, if anything, lay beneath. Steffie’s made a great life for herself in St. Dennis, but true love has never come knocking.

Wade MacGregor left for college in Texas and remained there to start a successful business with his best friend, Robin Kennedy, but he’s always felt something was missing. Then life throws him a curveball: A third partner has robbed the company blind, and Robin has died—but not before entrusting Wade with a precious secret. Now back in St. Dennis, Wade’s determined to do whatever it takes to protect his friend’s legacy—and to figure out, once and for all, if the sparks that fly whenever he’s with Steffie are just temporary fireworks or the lights in the window leading him home.

Certainly, I enjoyed returning to St. Dennis and all the characters from the previous books. I liked Steffie in her previous appearances, and had been looking forward to getting to know her better.

Part of the problem was that I didn’t feel like I had a deeper understanding of her character by the end of the book. Sure, she was fun to hang out with, and I really enjoyed the look into the working of her ice cream creation process, but I never felt I knew her as more than a good buddy.

Part of the problem is all mine. The base story was a very standard romance plot– girl falls in love with boy, boy moves away. Boy turns into man, girl turns into woman, but somehow something is missing in both of their lives until they meet each other again as adults.

For someone that likes romance novels, I have very little patience with the ideas of love at first sight and that there are matches that are fated to be. On the other hand, these are such staples of the genre that it makes no sense to fault a book for containing them.

Wade (the love interest)did have a creative story, one that I haven’t seen before. It had moments of both predictability and of being over the top in what it asked me to believe, but mostly it was the blend of fun and touching that I would hope for.

As with the other books in the series, the strength is in the characters and their relationships. I particularly like the links between friends that cross generations, and I think the way the books actually let some of the folks older even than me be real people is a very refreshing change of pace.

If you’ve been following the series, go ahead and pick this one up. If you haven’t, I’d suggest starting at the beginning.

TLC Book ToursI read Almost Home as part of a TLC Books Tour.  Thank you to TLC and Random House for providing me a copy for review.

For other opinions on this book, check out the other tour stops:


Posted by on May 19, 2011 in books, reviews, tour


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Review: Heart of Deception by M.L. Malcolm

Heart of Deception: A NovelMy rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

This review was a very tricky one for me to write.  I had trouble capturing my feelings about this book in general.  More of an issue was that while I liked Heart of Deception, I’d expected to love it.  I really enjoyed Heart of Lies, and I thought the next book was going to be even better.  I also really enjoyed meeting M.L. Malcolm at BEA last year, and hate the thought of saying anything less than glowing about this book.

I need to be clear here. Overall, Heart of Deception was a good read for me. I just was hoping for more. I liked all of the aspects that I wanted more from. If I didn’t like them, then I could have just written them off.

So for every issue I have, keep that in mind.

What was this book about?  Here’s the publisher’s summary:

A man of many contradictions, Leo Hoffman is a Hungarian national with a French passport, a wealthy businessman with no visible means of support, and a devoted father who hasn’t seen his daughter in years. He is also a spy.

Recruited by the Allies to help lay the groundwork for their invasion of North Africa, Leo intends to engage in as little espionage as possible—just enough to earn his American citizenship so he can get to New York and reunite with his daughter, Maddy. But while Leo dodges death in France and Morocco, Maddy is learning shocking truths about her father’s mysterious past—haunting knowledge that will compel her down her own dangerous path of deception and discovery.

Part of the problem was that I couldn’t figure out what kind of book it was, so I could set my expectations accordingly. I love books that bend genres, but they have to blow away my expectations for all areas they touch.  That’s probably not a fair expectation, but there it is.

I really didn’t get enough of a feel for the time and place of Maddy’s world to see this as straight historical fiction.  Leo’s world was full of those details, but primarily as they related to the spy story.

The spy story is great for a subplot, but isn’t enough to sustain the book. Given the description of the book, I expected Heart of Deception to be more about Leo, but his sections weren’t what dominated the book, at least for me.

I continue to find Leo an fascinating character, able to negotiate any deal except the one that will reunite him with his daughter.

The other characters were interesting, but there weren’t enough of them with the depth for an all out family drama.

Maddy was almost enough to carry the book for me. While I didn’t always like her or her actions, she did make an intriguing character to follow.

I’m conflicted over whether I felt she was justified in her behavior toward her father (given what she knew, not what I as the reader knew). I don’t know if I ever quite bought into her grand love affair, particularly her lover’s side of it. I do think that there was depth to the book here that I didn’t quite latch on to; a comparison between Maddy and her mother, and the difference in the way they handled a sudden, all consuming passion.

The other characters weren’t as well fleshed out, and the only one I liked at all was Maddy’s old Katherine.

The various stories that made up the plot were good, but scattered. They didn’t necessarily connect up in a way that compelled me to see this as a cohesive book.

In the end, I think much of this book is a bridge between the first book in the series and the next one, which I believe is the last. I’m certainly looking forward to reading it, and hope that it redeems the issues I had here.

Would I recommend reading Heart of Deception?  Read Heart of Lies first.  If you enjoy it, go on to this one, but adjust your expectations better than I did.

TLC Book ToursI read Heart of Deception as part of a TLC Book Tour. Thank you to TLC and Harper Collins for the opportunity to participate, and for providing me with a copy of the book to read and review.

For other viewpoints on Heart of Deception, see the other tour stops:


Posted by on April 21, 2011 in books, reviews, tour


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