Favorite Quotes on Books and Reading

"A book is a gift you can open again and again." Garrison Keillor

Literature is a textually transmitted disease, normally contracted in childhood.” Jane Yolen

"It is what you read when you don't have to that determines what you will be when you can't help it." Oscar Wilde

"Books have furnished, burnished, and enabled my life." Julia Keller

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

2016 Book 42: NO ORDINARY LIFE by Suzanne Redfearn

No Ordinary Life by Suzanne Redfearn
ISBN: 9781455533909 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781455533893 (ebook)
ASIN: B014E0E9WQ (Kindle edition)
Publication date: February 2, 2016 
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Suzanne Redfearn delivers another gripping page-turner in her latest novel, a story about a young mother's fight to protect her children from the dangerous world of Hollywood. Faye Martin never expected her husband to abandon her and her three children . . . or that she'd have to struggle every day to make ends meet. So when her four-year-old daughter is discovered through a YouTube video and offered a starring role on a television series, it seems like her prayers have been answered. But when the reality of their new life settles in, Faye realizes that fame and fortune don't come without a price. And in a world where everyone is an actor and every move is scrutinized by millions, it's impossible to know who to trust, and Faye finds herself utterly alone in her struggle to save her family. Emotionally riveting and insightful, No Ordinary Life is an unforgettable novel about the preciousness of childhood and the difficult choices a mother needs to make in order to protect this fragile time in her children's lives. 

Faye Martin is a single-mom to three children. Her husband walked out and hasn't been seen for several months. She struggles to do what is right and provide for her family, but her back is against the wall when her son's school calls in social services. After relocating to LA, her youngest daughter becomes a viral video sensation and Hollywood comes knocking and rocks her family's world in No Ordinary Life by Suzanne Redfearn.

Faye became pregnant and a wife at age 19. Her husband, Sean, is a long-haul trucker that spent more time on the road than at home. Now that he's gone, she has to work and juggle doing everything possible for her children. After her youngest, four-year-old Molly, becomes an internet sensation, is signed to appear in a national television advertisement and then to act in a nationally-syndicated television show, she thinks things will be easier. Unfortunately, Faye finds out that life is harder than ever before. She is caught between the Hollywood moneymaking machine and making the right choices for her young child. Just when she thinks things can't get any worse, her estranged husband reappears with his hand out for a share of the money. A stroke of luck on the set one day means that she now has two children in show business, her youngest daughter and her eight-year-old son. Her time is spent dragging them to appearances, rehearsals, and filming, and her twelve-year-old daughter is getting lost in the shuffle. Now she is dealing with deranged fans, her greedy ex-husband, her increasingly wild tween daughter, and the production team for the television show. Can she stand up for her children without jeopardizing their careers? Can she make the right choices for everyone without hurting anyone?

I found No Ordinary Life to be a rather quick, enjoyable, and easy read. Although I found the scenarios interesting and fell in love with the precocious Molly and her endearing brother Tom, I didn't really like Faye, Sean or almost any of the other characters. I felt for Faye and her situation, but it seemed as if she made bad decision after bad decision and never really learned from her mistakes. It was easy to understand that she had been pulled into an environment that was completely foreign to her, but rather than seeking assistance she just continued to struggle. Don't get me wrong, I don't feel that Faye is a bad mother, just a woman prone to making the wrong choices for the right reasons. Perhaps Faye is a little too flawed and realistic and the epitome of living a life with the notion that the "grass is always greener." No Ordinary Life provides a fascinating glimpse, albeit fictionalized, into the life of a celebrity family. In this era of instant gratification, it isn't possible to hide from adoring fans or the media when out in public and that can be daunting for adults, much less for children. Ms. Redfearn has crafted an engaging story that highlights the pitfalls of being a child celebrity and the hassles of being the family of a celebrity, as well as providing a bit of romance, a touch of greed, envy, petty jealousies, plenty of family drama, and more. If you enjoy reading about the behind-the-scenes life of being a celebrity, then No Ordinary Life is the perfect choice for you. Trust me, you'll adore Molly and Tom, as well as all the drama in front of and behind the cameras.

Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book for review purposes from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Enter to win a print copy of No Ordinary Life courtesy of the publisher, Grand Central Publishing (thank you Grand Central Publishing) using the Rafflecopter form below. This giveaway runs from 12:01 AM ET on February 10, 2016 through 11:59 PM ET on February 17, 2016. The winner will be announced on February 18, 2016. This giveaway is open to residents of the US and Canada only.

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Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Book Showcase and Giveaway: BAGGAGE by SG Redling

Baggage by S.G. Redling 
ISBN: 9781503950603 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781511324052 (audio CD)
ASIN: B00ZINSL00 (Kindle version)
Publication Date: January 26, 2016
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

Over the years, terrible things keep happening to Anna Ray on February 17. First, there was the childhood trauma she's never been able to speak about. Then, to her horror, her husband killed himself on that date.
A year later and a thousand miles away, Anna tries to find solace in the fresh start of a new job in a new place. She takes comfort in her outspoken cousin Jeannie, the confidant and best friend who's there whenever she needs help. On the day of the dreaded anniversary, Anna and Jeannie hit the town, planning to ease the pain with an alcohol-induced stupor and then sleep...
When Anna awakes the next morning, she thinks she can put one more February 17 behind her, but fate is about to intervene in the form of two gruesome murders with eerie similarities to her violent past. This time, however, she won't be an abandoned daughter or a grieving widow. This time, she'll be a suspect. 

Read an excerpt:

I would already be home if I would stop turning around to stare. Cold drizzle soaks through my jeans and my ponytail has taken on so much water it whips like a sprinkler when I turn my head but I keep turning to look. I've seen it nearly every day for six months and I still try to take it all in. After all, the world ends tomorrow. Again.
I'm standing on a hunk of slate that juts out over the culvert on the hairpin turn on Everly Road. From here I can see most of the campus—the glassed-in wing of the library, the dome of the student center, and through the bare branches of the oaks and sycamores that line the wide green, I see the Jenkins Building where I work.
When I took the job in September, this vista exploded with reds and yellows. My boss said my walk home would get a lot less interesting come winter. Well, it's February 16 and I can't think of a thing I'd rather stare at or anywhere I'd rather be. I'm in no hurry at all to get back to my dark apartment and rental furniture. I'm certainly in no hurry to get home to my neighbors.
Mostly I'm not in a hurry to see what's waiting for me.
Messages on my answering machine. Letters in my mailbox. No matter where I go, they find me. No matter how often they find me, I won't hear or read any of them.
Unfortunately, I can't stand here forever and I continue my trek home. When I cut across the road to Everly Place, the ugly, sprawling complex cuts off my view of the town below. Here it's just a parking lot and dumpsters surrounding the squat two-story collection of inexpensive college housing.
My mailbox fights me again, like it does every day. I'm tempted to not struggle with the sticky lock, to leave the envelopes and flyers to build up until the mailman has no choice but refuse to deliver any more. Would they do that? Would that work? If you ignore your mail long enough, does it stop coming? Tempting, but I don't put a lot of faith in that plan. The thing about messages you don't want is that they are stunningly persistent. I don't read the writing on the envelopes I pull out. I'm not careful and a few of them catch and tear on the inside lip of the box.
I climb the outside stairs to the second floor, my ears peeled as always for signs that my nightmare neighbors are home. At the landing, I pause. Silence. Thank God. At least I'll be lucky for a little while. At least I'll be able to face today's messages with a little less aggravation. Purse down, shoes off, mail tossed onto the coffee table. I head to the kitchen and see the message light flashing on my answering machine. Maybe it's just telemarketers. I bargain with myself: If it's just telemarketers, well have a salad and hot tea. We'll treat ourselves to something healthy and spend the rest of the evening in soft pajamas with one of those good books we've been meaning to read. I push the button and listen.
"You are receiving a call from an inmate at the Jefferson City Correctional Center. Press one to continue this—"
I hit delete and reach for the corkscrew.
There's no point in putting it off now. I flop down on the couch, trying not to think about how much I hate this furniture. Seriously, I need to get a new couch. Just because I'm broke and this is a rental doesn't mean I don't deserve a couch that doesn't feel like burlap and smell like a German shepherd. Let's not even discuss the hard wooden arms, covered in drink rings and cigarette burns from the fabric to the uncomfortably sharp edges. The good news is the couch matches the scuffed and scarred coffee table that completes my living room suite. I have no easy chair, and there's a TV in the corner I've never turned on. My "dining room" consists of a faux-brick breakfast bar and two stools. The only window at this end of the apartment sits over the sink, and it does little to illuminate the space. A mercy, considering the space.
The wine surprises me. I didn't look at the label—it's the second of the six bottles I picked up at Kroger over the weekend. Buying six bottles at a time gets me a discount and, more importantly, saves me a couple trips. Some part of me argues that it should save me a lot more trips than it does, but the rest of me shuts that little bitch down. The monsters trolling my brain today squash any fear of alcoholism like the ninety-eight-pound weakling it is.
Another sip of the wine—Merlot? Pinot? Who knows. Alone, I don't have to pretend I can distinguish them. Hell, another glass and I won't even be tasting it, but I let myself toy with the idea of getting up to read the label. Kidding myself, of course. I don't care what kind of wine it is; I probably wouldn't remember on my next trip to town anyway. The only reason to get the bottle would be to keep it beside me to make pouring easier. And to put off looking at the mail.
Just do it. It's not like you're going to read it.

Meet the author:

S.G. Redling, a graduate of Georgetown University, has spent fifteen years waking up the good folks of Huntington WV and its environs on the WKEE-FM morning radio show. She recently wound up her headphones for the last time and is focusing on thrillers, mysteries, and urban fantasy. When S.G. isn't writing (don't tell Christine Witthohn!) she loves to paint, travel and embarrass herself by speaking wretched Italian.

Connect with the author:     Website     |      Facebook      |      Twitter


Enter to win one print copy of Baggage by S.G. Redling. The giveaway ends at 11:59 PM ET on Tuesday, February 15th and the winner will be announced on Wednesday, February 16th. This giveaway sponsored by Wunderkind PR and is open to US residents only (sorry). 

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Monday, February 8, 2016

2016 Book 40: THE OPPOSITE OF EVERYONE by Joshilyn Jackson

The Opposite of Everyone by Joshilyn Jackson 
ISBN: 9780062105684 (hardback)
ISBN: 9780062105707 (ebook)
ASIN: B00RTL4HWA (Kindle edition)
Publication date: February 16, 2016 
Publisher: William Morrow

Born in Alabama, Paula Vauss spent the first decade of her life on the road with her free-spirited young mother, Kai, an itinerant storyteller who blended Hindu mythology with Southern Oral Tradition to re-invent their history as they roved. But everything, including Paula's birthname Kali Jai, changed when she told a story of her own—one that landed Kai in prison and Paula in foster care. Separated, each holding her own secrets, the intense bond they once shared was fractured.
These days, Paula has reincarnated herself as a tough-as-nails divorce attorney with a successful practice in Atlanta. While she hasn't seen Kai in fifteen years, she's still making payments on that Karmic debt—until the day her last check is returned in the mail, along with a cryptic letter. "I am going on a journey, Kali. I am going back to my beginning; death is not the end. You will be the end. We will meet again, and there will be new stories. You know how Karma works."
Then Kai's most treasured secret literally lands on Paula's doorstep, throwing her life into chaos and transforming her from only child to older sister. Desperate to find her mother before it's too late, Paula sets off on a journey of discovery that will take her back to the past and into the deepest recesses of her heart. With the help of her ex-lover Birdwine, an intrepid and emotionally volatile private eye who still carries a torch for her, this brilliant woman, an expert at wrecking families, now has to figure out how to put one back together—her own.
The Opposite of Everyone is a story about story itself, how the tales we tell connect us, break us, and define us, and how the endings and beginnings we choose can destroy us . . . and make us whole. Laced with sharp humor and poignant insight, it is beloved New York Times bestselling author Joshilyn Jackson at her very best.  

Paula Vauss was born in a juvenile detention center to her teenaged mother, Karen "Kai" Vauss. To say that Paula and Kai had a strange relationship is a major understatement. As an adult, Paula's relationship with her mother consists of sending a monthly check to her mother's postal box. Paula's life is thrown upside down when her last check is returned with a somewhat twisted karmic message in The Opposite of Everyone by Joshilyn Jackson.

Paula Jane Vauss was named Kali Jai by her mother, but her maternal grandparents changed her name when completing her birth certificate. Paula knows her mother is a tad bit strange, but she has no idea about her paternity other than providing her skin color and somewhat distinctive eye-shape. Growing up with Kai was different, in that Paula never knew what their last names would be or what story her mother would create for their backstory. Paula doesn't hate her mother, but she's quite sure her mother is glad she's no longer an active part of her life. In an effort to pay off the guilt she feels for one childish act of anger, Paula has spent most of her adult life sending her mother money. After receiving a note with her last check stating that her mother is dying and no longer requires her money, Paula is somewhat relieved. That relief quickly turns to worry and, in turn, causes months of anxiety and panic attacks. The panic attacks lessen somewhat when she is confronted with a half-sibling she never knew about, a brother born while her mother was in prison and given up for adoption. Just as she's getting used to the idea of one half-sibling, she uncovers information that she may have another half-sibling. Where is this youngest sibling and where and when did Kai actually die? Can the lone wolf, diva lawyer become a loving and caring older sister? Does she even want to?

If you follow most of my reviews, you know that I generally read a book in one day and sometimes in one sitting. Well, I flew through The Opposite of Everyone in one sitting over a span of just a few hours (yes, it was just that good). Ms. Jackson has a unique way of storytelling that grabbed this reader after only a few pages into the book and I reluctantly put it down only after reading the last page. I enjoyed the way Paula's story was told, with what can only be described as flashbacks to provide the backstory. Paula is a kick-ass diva lawyer and even that is spotlighted with a few cases throughout the story. She has a sort of, kind of, almost, maybe, not-quite love affair going on with her private investigator, Zachary Birdwine. All of the characters are distinctive, eccentric, and wholly believable, as well as relatable. Mixed into this tale of one woman's family and a search for love and forgiveness are the Hindu myths of Kali, Ganesh, and Hanuman. You wouldn't think a Southern fiction story mixed with Hindu myths would work, but Ms. Jackson doesn't just make it work, she has it make perfect sense. If you enjoy stories with quirky, flawed characters or are simply looking to read a great story, then you'll definitely want to grab a copy of The Opposite of Everyone. Did I enjoy The Opposite of Everyone? Yes, I did and I'll have to wait a few weeks before I read it again (told you, it is that good).

Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book for review purposes from the publisher via Edelweiss. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

2016 Book 35: A CURE FOR MADNESS by Jodi McIsaac

A Cure for Madness by Jodi McIsaac 
ISBN: 9781503951624 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781511358965 (audiobook)
ASIN: B013WTKH08 (Kindle edition)
Publication date: January 19, 2016 
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

Clare Campbell has worked hard to create distance between herself and her troubled family. But when she receives news of her parents' murder, she's forced to return to the quiet town of Clarkeston, Maine, to arrange their funeral and take legal guardianship of her unpredictable and mentally ill brother, Wes.
While Clare struggles to come to grips with the death of her parents, a terrifying pathogen outbreak overtakes the town. She is all too familiar with the resulting symptoms, which resemble those of her brother's schizophrenia: hallucinations, paranoia, and bizarre, even violent, behavior. Before long, the government steps in—and one agent takes a special interest in Wes. Clare must make a horrifying decision: save her brother or save the world.  

Claire Campbell is making a life for herself on the West Coast, as far removed from her family in Maine as possible. She maintains phone contact with her parents and brother, but hardly ever goes back to Maine to visit. Claire’s life will never be the same after receiving a phone call telling her that her parents have been murdered and she's now the legal guardian for her older brother in A Cure for Madness by Jodi McIsaac.

Claire left Maine shortly after her graduation from college. The exact reasons for her departure aren't clear, but she's kept herself apart from her family for years, maintaining contact via phone calls only. With the murder of her parents, she has no choice but to return to Maine and straighten out her brother's care, as well as make arrangements for her parent's bodies. All Claire knows about her parents' murder is that the act was committed by a fellow church member before the murderer killed himself. Little does she know, but that one reportedly random act of violence is the beginning of a health care crisis for the town of Clarkeston, Maine. When the CDC, USAMRID, and the National Guard arrive, the town becomes quarantined and it appears that Claire's brother may hold the key to a cure. Claire is forced to choose between her brother's health and welfare and that of her hometown and possibly the society as a whole.

I found A Cure for Madness to be a fast-paced, engaging, and enjoyable read. Ms. McIsaac has crafted a nightmare scenario that sounds slightly absurd but isn't too farfetched to be unbelievable. Added into the mix of a bizarre healthcare crisis, a family with conservative Christian values, mental health issues, public safety versus personal freedoms, government surveillance, man-made diseases, conspiracies, and more. Claire has to deal with the notion that Wes has been in-and-out of mental institutions for most of his adult life, but he is her beloved older brother and his decline began with an incident involving Wes avenging her virtue (I know it sounds old-fashioned, but trust me and read the book to find out more). A Cure for Madness provides a lot of thrills and chills, as well as a touch of romance. I wish I could tell you more about this amazing story, but you'll just have to read it for yourself. Seriously, you need to add A Cure for Madness to your TBR list and set aside a weekend to read this book. I'm looking forward to reading more from Ms. McIsaac in the future.

Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book for review purposes from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Book Showcase: THAT OTHER ME by Maha Gargash

That Other Me by Maha Gargash
ISBN: 9780062391384 (paperback)
ISBN: 9780062391391 (ebook)
ASIN: B00X3N8SGE (Kindle version)
Publication Date: January 26, 2016
Publisher: Harper Perennial

From the #1 internationally bestselling author of The Sand Fish, Maha Gargash's second novel is set in mid-1990s Dubai and Cairo and tells the story of how secrets and betrayals consume three members—an authoritarian father, a rebellious abandoned daughter, and a vulnerable niece—of a prominent Emirati family.
Majed, the head of the eminent Naseemy family, is proud to have risen into the upper echelons of Emirati society. As one of the richest businessmen in Dubai, he's used to being catered to and respected—never mind that he acquired his wealth by cheating his brother out of his own company and depriving his niece, Mariam, of her rights.
Not one to dwell on the past—he sent Mariam to school in Egypt, what more could she want from him?—Majed spends his days berating his wife and staff and cavorting with friends at a private apartment. But he's suddenly plagued by nightmares that continue to haunt him during the day, and he feels his control further slipping away with the discovery that his niece and his daughter are defying his orders.
Mariam despises Majed, and although she blames him for her father's death, hers is a strictly-organized, dutiful existence. But when she falls for a brash, mischievous fellow student named Adel, he might just prove to be her downfall.
Largely abandoned by Majed as the daughter of a second, secret marriage, the vivacious Dalal has a lot to prove. The runner-up on "Nights of Dubai," an American Idol-type reality show for Arab talent, Dalal is committed to being a singer despite the fact that it's a disreputable career. When her efforts to become a celebrity finally begin to pay off, she attracts the attention of her father, who is determined to subdue Dalal to protect the family name. As Majed increasingly exerts his control over both Dalal and Mariam, both girls resist, with explosive consequences.
An exhilarating look at the little-known Khaleeji (Gulf-Arab) culture, That Other Me explores the ways social mores contribute to the collapse of one family. 

Read an excerpt:

Chapter 2
The stone flies high into the air. Then there's a deafening crack at the second-story window and muffled squeals from inside the girls' sakan, the dormitory of the Emirati college students in Cairo.
I had raised my fist high and thrown blindly. I had not expected my aim to be so perfect. All I wanted was to get Mariam's attention so she would sneak out and meet me. I stand in place, stupefied. A girl—not Mariam—rushes to the window. She is in her nightgown, her head wrapped in a polka-dot head scarf. She would have spotted me had Azza not yanked me out of the glare of the streetlight. We squat down behind a dusty hedge as the window is pushed open.
"Ehh! What’s going on down there?" That's the voice of the abla, one of the matrons responsible for the sakan girls. I try to stay still, but Azza's perfume, a sharp bouquet that is an insult to any flower, shoots up my nostrils. I sneeze, and that gets the matron hollering out into the night again. "I can hear you down there, you mangy hooligans. This is a respectable building with decent people living in it, you hear me? Show me your faces, you cowards." She is a barrel of a woman, blocking my view of the group of girls now huddled tightly around her. "I'm going to call the police. I'm going to call them right now."
I hear a girl suggest that it might be thieves. "Or murderers," a silly one adds. The abla retreats and shoos the girls away. Once she slams shut the broken window we straighten up, and Azza clicks her tongue. "What you go through for your cousin," she says. "What's wrong with just showing up at the door and asking to see her?"
"It's after nine," I reply, brushing the dust off my jeans and silky purple blouse. "You know she can't leave after nine." I gaze at the entrance of the building. I'll have to bribe the doorman. Not willing to part with my money so easily, I'd kept this as a last option. "They're grown women in there," I grumble, "and they treat them like children." Suddenly I'm struck by the importance of this mission. "I will demand that they treat those students—so clever that they are studying law, medicine, engineering—with respect. 'Stop treating them like prisoners!' That's what I'll say. 'Give them the freedom to come and go as they please, to have some fun!'"
"But what if they don't want any of that?" Azza asks. "Maybe they're just here to study and leave with degrees. Don't forget, you're talking about Emirati girls."
"Young women," I correct her. "Seventeen years old, like me. Nineteen, like my cousin Mariam. And older, too."
"But they're Emiratis."
"And what am I?"
"Well . . . yes . . . But your mother is Egyptian, thank God." She raises her arms to the sky. "You've got that Egyptian mischief in you." She starts giggling for no reason. I give her a nasty look, which she ignores. I turn my back to her and start walking away.
"Sometimes I think you do things without thinking," she persists as she hurries after me.
"Sometimes you make the stupidest comments. Now will you stop it?" I swing around to face her. There's just a ribbon of moon on this January night, but I know she can see my glower. She may have brought the car, her father's battered maroon Fiat, but she knows that she is in the company of future promise. Yes, that's how I visualize myself, ever since I found out today that I have a confirmed appointment to meet with the famous composer Sherif Nasr. "Look," I tell her. "All I want is for Mariam to be with me right now, to celebrate my good news."
She points at the doorman. "But what about him?"
"Leave him to me," I say. "Just go and get the car and meet me a few buildings down, at the corner of the street."
"But how will you get past him?"
"Just go, pretty one," I say, even though she's the opposite of pretty, and I march to the entrance of the sakan.

From That Other Me by Maha Gargash. Copyright © 2016 by Maha Gargash. Reprinted courtesy of Harper Perennial, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

Meet the author:

Maha Gargash was born in Dubai. She has a Bachelors degree in Radio/Television from the George Washington University in Washington D.C. and a Masters from Goldsmiths' College in London. In 1985, she joined Dubai Television to pursue her interest in documentaries. It was a field that provided extensive travel opportunities and opened many doors. Through her programmes, which focus mainly on traditional Arab societies, she became involved in research and scriptwriting, which evolved into her first novel, The Sand Fish (Oct/Nov 2009).

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