Thoughts on Before the Fall

June 17, 2016 Book Review, reviews 7

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book nor the content of my review.

Thoughts on Before the FallBefore the Fall by Noah Hawley
Published by Grand Central Publishing on May 31st 2016
Genres: Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 400
Source: complimentary review copy


Before the Fall has been packaged as the summer blockbuster and I can certainly see why. A private plane slips off the radar only 16 minutes into its flight between Martha’s Vineyard and New York. Eleven people are on board but only two survive: a painter, Scott Burroughs and JJ, the 4 year old son of David Bateman, creator of the number one 24-hour news station {pretty much patterned after Fox News}.

The story begins with the crash along with Scott’s miraculous survival and rescue of JJ. Told in alternate chapters we get a behind the scenes look at the lives of those who were on board the fatal crash. We also get to see the aftermath with the news media and various government agencies involved in the investigation. It’s both fascinating and terrifying. What the news media {especially David Bateman’s own company} does to Scott and anyone surrounding him is a testament to culture today. Even how the various government entities choose to handle the investigation is scary – most are compassionate and matter-of-fact but the few that are not….woe to those in the warpath.

This author is brilliant in portraying ‘real’ people. His characters are so involved and believable. The characters’  actions leading up to the plane crash go far beyond stereotypes. Part of the joy in reading Before the Fall was for that very reason – Noah Hawley created totally believable characters with a back story, emotional depth and unique traits.

There are two issues I had with the book that kept me from giving it a solid 5 stars. The first being when we are seeing Rachel’s ‘before the crash’ chapter. Rachel is the 10 year old daughter of David Bateman and Maggie. Precocious, brilliant and a sweetheart, but her chapter drifted more into her mom’s thoughts rather than Rachel’s. Perhaps I misread the chapter, but it just didn’t quite sit well with me.

The other issue was in the last few pages. Survivor Scott is giving an interview and some of the things he says doesn’t make sense to me. It’s impossible to be more specific without going into spoilers.

[Tweet “Believable characters + a look at society’s obsession with news makes this the summer book to read”]

After reading Before the Fall and seeing what a brilliant storyteller Noah Hawley is, I plan to read the rest of his previous novels. And maybe even turn the television on to watch some Fargo! Read it. Before the Fall is so worth the hype!

Before the Fall is a She Reads Summer Selection. To see what other members are saying visit She Reads here.

Many thanks to She Reads and Grand Central Publishing for providing a free copy to review. All opinions are my own.





Sunday Serenade: Allison with The Book Wheel

June 5, 2016 Book Talk 9



Sunday Serenade was created as a way to feature innovative and creative book bloggers. Allison from The Book Wheel has a unique method of connecting authors and readers with her #30authors annual event. I love that Allison is inclusion-focused, dedicated to expanding a reader’s library of authors to read and follow. Allison is also one of the loveliest bloggers you could ever know, so willing to share her experiences and knowledge.

Hope you enjoy learning more about The Book Wheel as much as I enjoyed interviewing Allison!

You’ve accomplished so much with your blog: to begin with the creation and coordination of #30Authors, now in its 3rd year, and subsequently publishing an anthology. How did you come up with the idea for #30Authors? What’s been your favorite aspect of the feature? Least favorite? 
Thank you! #30Authors was something I came up with when Jenny Milchman asked me to figure out a way to connect readers, bloggers, and authors. I sent her a general idea of what I was thinking and she was 100% supportive, so off I went to plan the event. At the time, I thought no one would join and that the idea would go nowhere but the responses were overwhelmingly positive. After the first year, Adria Cimino from Velvet Morning Press approached me about taking the concept and turning it into an anthology, which was published last year. A few of the original contributors also wrote a story for the book, which was incredibly generous of them considering all of the author proceeds (including mine) go to charity.

As for my favorite and least favorite parts, it’s a tough one, so I’m going to cheat and give you two favorites. First is seeing the friendships that bloom between bloggers and the authors they host. When I pair people up, I’m basically playing matchmaker, so when they develop a relationship I get really excited. Second is seeing the successes of the authors who contribute. Most of the authors I pick are authors I have read and loved or that other bloggers have read and loved, so when those authors become great successes, it’s pretty amazing. I mean, book bloggers knew about them before the general public! I think that’s awesome. For example, in 2014 Andi at Estella’s Revenge recommended Cynthia Bond, who joined us and went on to become an Oprah Book Club 2.0 pick. In 2015, Sarah from Sarah’s Bookshelves was raving about Bull Mountain, so I asked Brian Panowich to join in and he went on to become an Amazon Editors Pick last year.

My least favorite part is 6:30 am every single morning of the event. I know that sounds really bad but every morning for the entire month of September I wake up early, cross my fingers, and hope the blogger scheduled that day actually posts their review. 97% of the time they do and I can breathe a sigh of relief but the other 3% leaves me pestering another blogger to please, please, please double up at the last minute. Luckily, the pros of the event far outweigh the cons and my day is usually great by 7 am!

One thing I was not aware of is that you and the authors in the anthology donate the proceeds – how cool is that! Makes me love the event more, if that’s even possible! I must admit, though, that the 6:30 am wake up call would not be a favorite of mine either!

Recently you highlighted a sponsored post with Buick for its’ Audiobooks integration. Can you tell us about that experience? Do you plan to continue working with sponsorships; what are the benefits and pitfalls?  

You know, that whole experience was so surreal. When I first got an email from Buick asking me if I was interested in heading out with a guest to Big Sur, California to check out their new integration with, I assumed it was spam. I even called up a few authors who used to be reporters to pick their brains. After a bit of digging, I learned that it was, in fact, legit and said yes. Even so, I was nervous when my husband I showed up at the airport because part of me was still convinced it was a ruse. Thankfully, they let us on the plane!

The trip itself was incredible. When we got to the airport, we had a 2016 Buick Regal GS waiting for us, along with a copy of All the Light We Cannot See, which was the book we were listening to for the trip. I was expecting 100 people looming around a large conference room, chatting about cars, but it was only 10-12 of us at the Ventana Inn, including guests. So we spent our days sightseeing (while listening to, of course) and getting to know each other. I met some really great people there – two of whom are joining in #30Authors this year.

As for the future, I’m open to working with other brands, although I don’t actively pursue it. I know that my experience with Buick was atypical and I can’t expect that type of treatment all of the time (although one can hope), but I really enjoyed working with a company that’s outside of my wheelhouse. I don’t blog about cars – at all – and it was fun to branch out.

[Tweet “Blogger/author collaborations & unique blogging experiences with @thebookwheel “]

It sounds like a surreal experience, but one I imagine has left you with a wonderful impression of both and Buick! Dare I ask what kind of car you drive ;-D

Allison, you also have ads strategically placed on your site. How long have you worked with ad agencies and affiliates? Are you pleased with the results? What advice would you give to other book bloggers about branching into ad and affiliate marketing?

I love that you think the ads are strategic because it’s really quite random! I’ve worked with ads and affiliates since 2013’ish and I’m pleased with the results. Until recently, the ads were fairly inconsistent and while I can’t remember ever approaching an advertiser myself, I’ve developed relationships with some great agencies who keep me on their list. I’m certainly not paying my rent with the income, but it does help me buy a few books.

As for advice, I’d like to start off with this: monetizing is tricky business. When it comes to monetizing your book blog, there are people who are for it and people who are vehemently against it. Even so, ads and affiliate links are more common now, so there’s not as much backlash as there used to be. Then again, maybe that’s because it’s really hard to make any real money from affiliate links….

It’s sad that there has been a backlash in certain aspects of book blogging. I hate that you’ve had to experience the backlash and especially appreciate your willingness to be candid about monetization given the negativity. I’ve gone back and forth myself with ads/affiliate marketing but found I wasn’t even making enough to buy a few books, much less cover blogging expenses. That’s awesome you’ve been able to see a slight profit from it!

What is next for Allison and The Book Wheel?

I have no idea! The past few months have been crazy. I started a new job in public policy and hired a personal trainer to get back into shape and while I love both, my time management skills are severely lacking. #30Authors is coming up this September, so that’s my priority right now. A few bloggers have offered to help out this year and I think I may have to learn to relinquish a bit of control and let them. The event is growing and I can only do so much!

As for The Book Wheel, some days I’m ready to throw in the towel and other days I’m thinking about my next steps. I’ve taken a live and let live approach to The Book Wheel the past year or so and am quite enjoying it. I would like to start reading ARC’s again (the last one I read was a year ago) and pick up the pace on my political books, but I have no sense of urgency about it. I guess now that I think about it, my next step is to figure out a next step!

Any advice you have for book bloggers who want to expand their focus? Such as branching into sponsored posts, creating unique features as you did with #30authors or moving into lifestyle/politics/etc into their blog?

You do you. The book blogging world can be as harsh as it is rewarding but at the end of the day, you have to live with what you’re putting out there in the world. If you want to work with authors, then come up with a way to work with them. If you’re passionate about something other than reading, then incorporate that into your blog (Tara at Running n Reading/It’s Tara Leigh is a great example of this). It’s important to remember that your blog is your blog, and you don’t have to answer to anyone but yourself, so do what makes you happy. And if you’re not quite sure you are ready take the leap, pick up You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero and get ready.

Allison you’ve been a wealth of information! Reminding us to focus on doing what makes us happy is a key point.  Isn’t that why so many of us got into blogging to begin with?!?

To learn more about The Book Wheel and Allison, visit her website; connect on Twitter or Facebook and follow along on Pinterest.




Mini-Views of the Detective Helen Grace Series

June 3, 2016 Book Review, reviews 6

m. j. arlidge series


Eeny Meeny begins with a most horrifying murder – a young couple is kidnapped, left in an abandoned empty diving pool with no way out and given a gun with a single bullet. The instructions left with the couple state that only one will make it out alive, the choice is theirs – to live, one of them must die.

It is quite possibly the creepiest, most terrifying concept for a thriller I’ve ever read.

Detective Helen Grace is on the case, along with her dedicated team. Helen has a tragic history that has left her with numerous scars, both on the inside and the outside. Her job is her life; no real friends and no family to speak of. Not only does Helen have to deal with a horrifying murder investigation, she’s got one reporter breathing down her neck and causing all kinds of trouble. {reminded me of a few news journalists I’ve seen on tv. . .}

The plot is fast paced, never a dull moment, even when there’s alleged down time. DI Helen Grace’s character is slowly revealed through her actions. The red herrings are spot on and reminiscent of Agatha Christie.

Towards the grand finale a couple of issues arose – all of a sudden Helen has a breakthrough but for the reader, it feels rushed, almost contrived. Don’t get me wrong, the denouement totally works, it just happened without warning. While the revelation of the killer is shocking, the confrontation is rushed. ugh! I want to talk to someone about this book!!! If you’ve read it and want to commiserate, please send me a tweet! Would love to discuss!

As a series beginning, Eeny Meeny introduces a writer of immense potential in the thriller genre.

side questions ~ for those familiar with the police in the UK – do the police typically only carry batons? then check out guns as necessary?

AND, if you’ve read this one – what happened to Louise?!?

[Tweet “Must-read new thriller series from U.K. author!”]

Pop Goes the Weasel is #2 in the DI Helen Grace series. {did I mention I read all 4 U.S. versions over Memorial Day weekend?!?} In this one, married men are turning up dead and with missing body parts. Said body part is then delivered to the home or office of the deceased {lovely, right!}.

Once again, Helen Grace and her team are on the case. It’s been a few months since the fall out from the serial killer in Eeny Meeny, and the team is slowly returning to normal. Helen has a new boss that butts heads with her every chance she gets. The dogged reporter from Eeny Meeny is back to once again wreak havoc on the investigation.

It’s fascinating to read a series back-to-back. The progression of writing skill is apparent. Arlidge continues to develop Helen’s character and that of her team through slow revelations and conflicts. While there has been a rash of books published in recent years that focus on psychological suspense, Arlidge’s Helen Grace series takes us back to the true thriller and police procedural. Pop Goes the Weasel is even better than Eeny Meeny and I wasn’t sure that was possible!

One caveat, it is important to read Eeny Meeny first as there are spoilers from the first book in Pop Goes the Weasel.  Reading this series is not for the faint of heart, but there are also no gratuitous gory violent scenes. The violence included is necessary for the development of the plot. If you enjoy a good who-done-it though, then definitely pick this series up!

Stay tuned for reviews of The Doll’s House and Liar Liar {to be released in the U.S. on June 7th}.





May In Review

June 1, 2016 Book Talk 4

May in Review


“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. . .”also known as the month I am glad is over!

If you missed my icky graphic post on why I believe May was no fun then you’ll want to read We Interrupt Our Regularly-Scheduled Program to Bring You This Important Announcement

That important announcement really messed with my blogging mojo, amongst everything else. . .but, whew! it’s over.  Not a lot of reading nor blogging done in May, but over Memorial Day weekend I was able to read all 4 of M. J. Arlidge’s Detective Helen Grace series! I feel drunk on reading – ever have that feeling?!?

Books Read in May

books read in may


The Helen Grace series by M.J. Arlidge including:

My review for Eeny Meeny and Pop Goes the Weasel will be up tomorrow while The Doll’s House and Liar Liar will be reviewed on June 7th {release day in the U.S. for Liar Liar}

Also read

What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. ~ J.D. Salinger

On the Blog

Spotlight on Laura Barnett: Authors Who Have Influenced My Work

Sunday Serenade with Aloi from Guiltless Reading

Armchair BEA Giveaway ~ Congratulations Autumn for being randomly selected winner

Armchair BEA: Aesthetics for Books and Blogs

Armchair BEA: Introductions

June Books I Can’t Wait to Read


Marked for Life by Emelie Schepp

All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda

Ink and Bone by Lisa Unger

Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet by H.P. Wood

Life Moves Pretty Fast by Hadley Freeman



Wishing you and your family a most wonderful June!



Spotlight on Laura Barnett: Authors Who’ve Most Influenced My Work

May 26, 2016 Spotlight Author 2

I am constantly fascinated and amazed by the authors who influence a writer. It’s like taking a peek at a writer’s bookshelf, but even better! This way there’s more background on why a particular author is chosen!

So, it is with immense pleasure that I bring you author, Laura Barnett.  Her debut novel The Versions of Us, was released in the U.S. earlier this month after first being released in the UK June, 2015. Plus 24 additional countries have since published The Versions of Us!  In case you missed it, my review is here.

Without further ado, welcome Laura Barnett!

Laura Barnett

I wouldn’t be the writer – or the person – I am today if it weren’t for Anne Tyler. I was thirteen when I read my first Tyler novel, A Slipping-Down Life: the book had come free with my mum’s women’s magazine, and she passed it on to me.

It was so much better than I was expecting: there, caught between those flimsy paperback covers, was a young woman’s whole life, rendered in all its blazing ordinariness and tawdry glamour. Since then, I’ve read every novel Tyler has written, and her particular brand of clear-sighted, emotionally cogent, unshowy realism has probably been the biggest single influence on me as an author.

While writing my debut novel, The Versions of Us, I discovered another author who would send shockwaves through my understanding of the power of literary realism. Elizabeth Jane Howard was, for a time, married to Kingsley Amis, and was also, for me anyway, the far more interesting writer. She died in 2014, but I read an interview with her the year before – just as I’d started the first draft of The Versions of Us – and thought she sounded wickedly intelligent and fascinating.

I began the first of Howard’s five-novel series, the Cazalet chronicles – about an upper middle-class English family before, during and after the second world war – and was dazzled by it. Her writing is intense, almost hypnotic, and incredibly detailed – we get everything from the characters’ innermost thoughts to the brands of shampoo they are using. I read all five Cazalet books in quick succession, and they gave me so much courage in my own attempts to capture life as it is actually lived, and pin it to the page.

My other ambition for The Versions of Us – and for all my writing, really – is to explore love not as an idealised, impossible dream, but as the real, flawed, multi-faceted, difficult emotion we all experience day to day. The writer who has most influenced that aspect of my work is probably Richard Yates. I read his novel Revolutionary Road – as devastating an examination of a bad marriage as anything ever written – shortly before my own wedding. It probably wasn’t the best timing, but I took such a useful lesson from it about not being afraid to confront the most challenging aspects of love, as well as its many joys.

The Versions of Us is published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Laura Barnett is an author and a journalist based in southeast London. An arts journalist and theater critic, Laura writes for The Guardian, The Observer, The Daily Telegraph and Time Out London. An interesting side note ~ Laura has an article in the British Vogue on migraines. The article perfectly sums up the life of a chronic migraineur. {Laura, as a fellow sufferer since age 19, I can empathize with you and the women in your family. Thank you for your wonderful article and attempting to quash a few myths about it being ‘just a bad headache.’}

Website | Twitter

from Goodreads:

the versions of us

In one moment, two lives will be changed forever . . . and forever . . . and forever.

The one thing that’s certain is they met on a Cambridge street by chance and felt a connection that would last a lifetime. But as for what happened next . . . They fell wildly in love, or went their separate ways. They kissed, or they thought better of it. They married soon after, or were together for a few weeks before splitting up. They grew distracted and disappointed with their daily lives together, or found solace together only after hard years spent apart.  With The Versions of Us, Laura Barnett has created a world as magical and affecting as those that captivated readers in One Day and Life After Life. It is a tale of possibilities and consequences that rings across the shifting decades, from the fifties, sixties, seventies, and on to the present, showing how even the smallest choices can define the course of our lives.