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

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Book Excerpt: LIES A RIVER DEEP by Vera Jane Cook

Lies A River Deep by Maggie Thom
ISBN:  9781619371262 (ebook)
ASIN:  B007G4KHT2 (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Musa Publishing
Publication Date: March 2, 2012

Sometimes, when lies unravel, and enemies are revealed, vengeance and fate embrace.
In the summer of 1962, at a high school graduation party, Bessie Day Hardy is brutally raped. Fifty years later, the consequences of that horrific night will transition into unforeseen events that will shatter her serene and uncomplicated life.


It was a day like any other. Days have a sameness, even new, they offer little beyond weather changes and sudden deaths.
"And how are you today?" Bessie asked, showing a smile that age had not yet dulled. She'd always been cute because of it. Sixty years ago, or more, she was the little girl whose cheeks you pinched, and though she was old now, she still wore her hair in curls; silver grey undulations that framed her face and brought out a blithe desire in others to pinch where her dimples dipped, even to kiss her there unabashedly.
Grey looked up and nodded. "Same," he said.
The air was damp with April moisture as Bessie Day Hardy wrapped her scarf closer to her neck and shivered. Air that hung heavy like wet clothes caught flapping in the rain made it hard to breathe. The scarf had been a gift in a white torn box, under red Santa Claus wrapping, from the Episcopal Church of Saint John the Apostle Christmas party, just last year. The lime green and caramel colored wool that she loved to feel against her lips, an anonymous kindness from someone who had written: Bless you and have a very Merry Christmas. Someone, she imagined with fresh white skin, pearl teeth and eyes that sparkled blue in daylight, light as the sea, but darkened with the night, turning cenereal behind the shadows of dusk.
"We ever going to see the sun again?" She sighed. A wind kicked around the corner and her body felt the chill, enemy winds that carried the threat of sodden attacks to bones too brittle to fight. Later, she would feel the ache and she would rub her muscles more for the distraction than the release of pain.
"If we live long enough," Grey said.
Bessie chuckled. Living long wasn't the blessing it used to be. Aging was in the way. Couldn't leave a person alone, had to show up and make her breath short, expose every damn vein in her body and give her the unsightly imprint of impending death. Nobody wants to look at mortality too closely and aging people carry its threat, vulnerably apparent; the weight of its nearness is a monster in the wings where heaven is a nebulous and cracked mirror; don't look into it, the young whisper: don't look yet.
But the old were once young. Bessie Day Hardy still carried the traces of adolescent giddiness in the creases of her lips and her middle-aged ardor for Chauncey Hardy still glinted in her eyes at the memory of his smooth hands in hers, and his fine soft hair against her breast. His step was lively. She could hear it, sometimes, when the house was quiet. Chauncey's step on the stairs, in the kitchen, on the bedroom floor.
Damn house was quiet now, even her cat walked too softly to hear.

Meet the author:

Pharaoh's Star is Vera Jane Cook's most recent release. The Story of Sassy Sweetwater was Vera Jane's second southern fiction novel and was a finalist in the ForeWord book of the Year Awards for 2012 and received a five star ForeWord Clarion review, as well as an Eric Hoffer honorable mention award for ebook fiction in 2013. Dancing Backward in Paradise also received a 5 Star Clarion ForeWord review and an Eric Hoffer notable new fiction award in 2006, as well as the Indie Excellence Award in 2006. Also by Vera Jane Cook: Lies a River Deep, Where the Wildflowers Grow, Marybeth, Hollister & Jane and Annabel Horton, Lost Witch of Salem. Her next novel, Pleasant Day will be published in 2015 by Moonshine Cove Press.

Connect with the author:  

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Goodreads      |     Blog      |     Google+ 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Guest Post: Gil Reavill - author of 13 HOLLYWOOD APES

The Book Diva's Reads is pleased to host a visit by Gil Reavill, author of 13 Hollywood Apes, discussing the quandary on writing about Hollywood.

Writing About Hollywood (OR NOT)

As a subject and a setting for a writer, Hollywood offers a lot of gnarly challenges and a few hidden advantages. It's well-trodden ground, for one thing. The greats have pawed over it pretty thoroughly: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Nathanael West, Didion, Waugh, Chandler, James M. Cain, Robert Stone. So rookies are beat before they write word one. (I've heard this called the Mona Lisa Quandary, meaning that if you can't paint the Mona Lisa you feel convinced that you have to quit painting.)

Another drawback is that Hollywood has already written itself. It's pure meta. The medium has been the message for a long time now. How to compete with an entity (and Hollywood is not a locale so much as a state of mind, or perhaps a state of mindlessness) that pumps out so much stuff, spins off so much verbiage, is jawed about on every talk show and in every beauty parlor in the land? It's like writing about the air.

My own brush with the place began back in the early 1990s. A publisher wanted me to do a book on movie landmarks in Los Angeles, everything from famous locations, star homes and studios to theme parks and historical sites. The difficulty was, I lived on the East Coast. I knew L.A. only vaguely. But this would be my first book, and I desperately wanted to nail down that credit. It was an absurd, foolhardy idea, writing about a place I had visited not more than a half dozen times. I took the gig.

I fell in love with the city. Since I was there as a freelancer, I could avoid rush hour and choose my time on the freeways. That’s everyone’s first entry into L.A., the freeways. It's a town defined by motion. I liked Los Angeles for the same reason I liked New York City. There's no place like it.

One great aspect of Hollywood makes it easier, not harder, to write about. Research resources are everywhere. All that press agent blather and media reporter prose, well, it’s been piling up for almost a century now. I spent a lot of time at the Margaret Herrick library on La Cienega, where the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences keeps its archives. If you want to ground yourself in a place, a good first move is to check out its history.

Los Angeles became home. I moved into a bungalow in the Hollywood Hills that was formerly owned by Simone Simon, the French-born star of Cat People and The Devil and Daniel Webster.

I wrote a lot of screenplays and even got one produced, Dirty, a corrupt-cop crime thriller starring Cuba Gooding, Jr. I got deep enough into the Business ("Don't call it the Business!" Nicholas Cage's screenwriter character wails in Adaptation) to realize that the process of making movies could be a cruel and shallow money trench, disheartening at best, downright wrist-slashing depressing at worst.

I spent my free time, which as an unemployed screenwriter I had a lot of, collecting agent jokes. You're in an elevator with a gun in your pocket that has only two bullets in it. Suddenly the doors open and Saddam Hussein, Adolph Hitler and a Hollywood agent get in. Q: What do you do? A: Shoot the agent twice.

For my first crime novel, Thirteen Hollywood Apes, I wanted to write about Los Angeles and the film industry, but sought to approach the subject slant-wise, not on-the-nose. My lead character, Detective Layla Remington, doesn't have anything to do with filmmaking. She comes from a cop family. Her father is big on noir classics like Maltese Falcon and Double Indemnity, but as a lifelong L.A. resident Layla herself looks at Hollywood with a somewhat weary, somewhat wary eye. She's seen too much to be star struck.

I placed Layla not in Los Angeles proper but in Malibu. The celebrated beach town is not Hollywood, not exactly. It serves more like an adjunct or an annex. You can't toss a rock along Zuma Beach or in the Malibu canyons without hitting someone with some connection to the movies. At the same time, Malibu was just far enough out of the studio swirl to allow for a sense of perspective. They don't usually make films there. It's where they go after they've made them.

Write what you know, my betters have always instructed me, so I used a lot of my L.A. experience in 13HA. My experience years ago renting Simone Simon's former home got transformed into this passage in the book:

Pia Liebstein lived in a mini-mansion that was originally owned by Simone Simon, the kittenish Thirties film star, lead actress in the movie 1942's horror classic Cat People. In Los Angeles, owning a place with an old Hollywood pedigree bestowed some added cachet. Not that Liebstein needed the boost. But at dinner parties she liked regaling friends with Simone Simon's practice of making golden keys to the house for her numerous lovers. Then Pia would casually toss one of the antique keys onto the table, to the oohs and aahs of her guests.

These few sentences underscore another plus about using Hollywood as a setting or subject for a novel: it's just so much damned fun. Golden keys for a starlet's lovers? Movie folks are outsized, eccentric, definitely not run of the mill. And when they do turn out to be run of the mill—say, when you hear platinum blonde actress Jean Harlow wanted nothing so much as to be a cooking, cleaning, kid-raising housewife—even that fact becomes interesting.

The initial crime in my novel, the triggering incident, to use screenplay terminology, is the mass murder of thirteen chimpanzees. The victims had all retired from show business careers and taken up residence in a animal sanctuary. Eventually, of course, I get around to a few human murders, too. But again, talking about show chimps was another way to talk Hollywood using a tangential, slightly off-kilter viewpoint.

So, Layla Remington, a non-Hollywood cop with cinephile father. Malibu, a place where actors sometimes live and where stars sometimes retire. Both elements duck back from the immediate, overwhelming glare of moviemaking. If there's a 500-pound gorilla in the room—or, you know, thirteen Hollywood apes—maybe it's better to step out onto the porch and describe the scene from there.

About the book:

13 Hollywood Apes by Gil Reavill
ISBN:  9780553395051 (ebook)
ASIN:  B00LDQOZW4 (Kindle edition)
Publication Date:  December 16, 2014
Publisher:  Alibi

In a savvy, stylish thriller debut perfect for anyone who loves the crime novels of Michael Connelly or Nevada Barr, Gil Reavill unravels a chilling tale of murder and mayhem among humans and their closest evolutionary relatives—a primate family that may just be too close for comfort.
As a wildfire rages outside the Odalon Animal Sanctuary in the rugged Santa Monica foothills, the retired Hollywood movie chimpanzees housed there are shot and left for dead. When Malibu detective Layla Remington reaches the grisly scene the next morning, she’s deeply disturbed—and even more confused. The victims are not human, so the attack cannot be classified as homicide. Yet someone clearly wanted these animals dead, and executed them with ruthless efficiency. Miraculously, there is one survivor: a juvenile male named Angle.
But as Layla reaches the veterinarian’s office where Angle is recovering, a man with rock-star good looks and a laid-back Southern California attitude swoops in and removes him. And just like that, an unusual case turns truly bizarre. Soon reports surface of ferocious attacks against Odalon employees . . . with Angle as the prime suspect. As a wave of senseless violence reaches its apex, Layla chases a mystery man and his chimp—but everything comes back to that terrible night at the sanctuary.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day 2014

Today is the fifth annual Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day. This is the second year I've participated and once again I took my glam diva 7-year-old twin nieces to our favorite local indie bookstore, Taylor Books. I thought I was excited about today (book celebration day), but my nieces had my brother call me at 9 this morning to ask what time we were going to the bookstore. The plan was to meet around 11:30ish and they were impatiently awaiting my arrival at 11:25. I arrived a few minutes later only to be told I had to wait until they finished their hot chocolates before we looked at books. 

What exactly is Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day? This is a nationwide event designed to help promote a love bookstores in children. The event was started five years ago and was recognized in 80 bookstores. This year over 700 bookstores will be participating. I'm happy to say that two bookstores in West Virginia are participating in today's celebration. To find a list of participating bookstores, please visit: http://www.takeyourchildtoabookstore.org/bookstores.

Miss A., the older of the twins, decided that she wanted to get books from the My Weirder School series by Dan Gutman. She chose three books: Mr. Harrison is Embarrassin' (Book #2), Mrs. Lilly is Silly (Book #3), and Mr. Burke is Berserk (Book #4). Apparently their teacher is reading the first book in this series to them in class and Miss A. is hooked.

As with last year, Miss J. opted for a slightly more advanced book - Diary of A Wimpy Kid - The Ugly Truth (Book #5) by Jeff Kinney.  I asked why she wanted a book from the middle of this series and her response was simply "It's what I want to read."

After paying for the books, we went back to our table in the cafe so I could finish my chai latte. The girls consented to another picture, again as long as I didn't show their faces (told you they were divas). Here they are with their books. Best part about today, other than getting books for the girls, was the fact that they were eager to get books to read. I almost wish there was a Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day every few months. I know, overkill, but I'm simply glad the girls like to read and want to "own" books. 

Did you participate in Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day? Please share where you went and the books purchased.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


Stillwater Rising (Stillwater Bay #1) by Steena Holmes
ISBN: 9781477825150 (paperback)
ASIN: B00JEOZE2C (Kindle edition)
Publication date: November 11, 2014
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing

After losing her son in an elementary school shooting that devastates the tight-knit community of Stillwater Bay, Jennifer Crowne finds herself unable to settle back into her role of perfect stay-at-home mom and committee organizer. Meanwhile, her best friend, Mayor Charlotte Stone, struggles to keep the town together, and Charlotte's husband, the school principal, may not be the hero everyone thinks him to be.
As they try to heal from this irrevocable trauma, Jenn and Charlotte find themselves at a crossroads within the town and within their friendship. For Jenn, broken and grieving, there is no going back, and she demands that the school be closed so that she can bury the past. Yet Charlotte is equally desperate to hold the town together, fighting the school closure and helping the shooter's mother regain her place in the community. Jenn and Charlotte's relationship is put to the ultimate test as each weighs her own interests against the bonds of their friendship.

It's hard to imagine the heartbreak of a parent that has lost a child. What's even more unimaginable is when that loss is at the hands of another child. We've all read headlines or listened to stories about the horror of school shootings. Even though we may empathize with the families, it is difficult to imagine the pain the families feel or how they can ever learn to live with their grief and heartbreak. Stillwater Rising is a story of one town's struggle to survive in the face of such tragedy and loss.

Ms. Holmes has presented a story that not only shines a light on the tragedy of school shootings, but shows how the fictional small town of Stillwater Bay bands together to survive. At the heart of the story are three women: the mother of one of murdered children, Jennifer Crowne; the mayor of the town and wife to the school principal, Charlotte Stone; the mother of the murderer, Julia Berry. Jennifer is in deep mourning over the loss of her youngest child, Bobby. She used to be an active member of the community, but is struggling to survive each day without her son. Charlotte is trying to be there for her town, her friends, and her husband. She's also struggling to provide some semblance of normality for the town by being strong. There are some that feel she doesn't understand because she isn't a parent and didn't suffer a direct loss as a result of the tragedy. Julia Berry is another parent struggling with grief, but also with guilt. It is her son that perpetrated this atrocity and she feels that she must be responsible since she was his parent. In addition to her guilt and grief, she is also struggling with a serious health condition. As a direct result of her guilt, she has become a hermit and has confined herself to her home. All three of these women are dealing with their own sense of guilt over that fateful day. One feels the answer is to shutter the school, tear it down, and build a memorial to honor those lost. One feels that closing the school isn't the answer as it will put the teachers and staff out of work and harm the economy of the town. The other is simply overwhelmed by her guilt and feels that she should run away from Stillwater Bay in order to allow the other grieving families peace and space. 

Stillwater Rising wasn't an easy read but it was a touching story about recovering from an impossible loss. The characters were realistic and the action wholly plausible. I find it difficult to quantify Stillwater Rising in any specific genre other than contemporary fiction. This isn't a lighthearted read, but it is a powerful story about hope and survival in the face of tragedy. I don't know if this is the type of story for everyone, but it definitely left this reader with the sense that people can work together to overcome their worst nightmare. The healing may not take place in a few months, or even a few years, but with hope and respect for one another it is possible. I'm looking forward to reading the next book in this series, Stillwater Deep, as I want to watch this community continue to heal.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via NetGalley and BookSparks PR. 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."

Monday, December 1, 2014

Book 400: MURDER AT THE CHASE Review

Murder At The Chase (Langham and Dupré #2) by Eric Brown
ISBN: 9780727884251 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781780105772 (ebook)
ASIN: B00OERTV0U (Kindle edition)
Publication date: December 1, 2014
Publisher: Severn House Publishers

July, 1955. Donald Langham has interrupted his romantic break in rural Suffolk with the delectable Maria Dupré to assist a fellow writer. Alastair Endicott has requested Langham's help in discovering what's happened to his father, Edward, who seems to have disappeared without trace from inside his locked study.
Before he vanished, the elder Endicott had been researching a book on the notorious Satanist Vivian Stafford. Could the proposed biography have something to do with his disappearance? Does local resident Stafford really possess supernatural powers, as some believe?
As Langham and Dupré question those around them, it becomes clear that there have been strange goings-on in the sleepy village of Humble Barton. But is the village really haunted – or does someone merely want it to look that way? With a further shocking discovery, the case takes a disturbing new twist.

Donald Langham, mystery-thriller writer, and Maria Dupré, literary agent, are recuperating from the emotional trauma and physical wounds from their last encounter with a blackmailer (Murder by the Book). They are also in an established romantic relationship and looking forward to spending some time together in the country away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Unfortunately, their weekend in the country quickly becomes a hunt for a missing person, an investigation into a purported centenarian occultist, and more. All the while Donald is looking for the perfect opportunity to propose to Maria as Maria obsesses over whether or not he's actually interested in a permanent relationship. Will murder and mayhem keep these two off-balance? Can they ascertain the truth about the Satanist and the village's hauntings? 

I found Murder at the Chase to be a fast-paced and enjoyable read. I did have a few issues with the male Vivian character as I usually enjoy reading about characters that share my first name, but sharing it with a guy?! (Okay, it wasn't that big a deal but it was a little strange at first to read about Vivian the guy.) Donald and Maria are in an established relationship, so there isn't as much about the romance as there is intrigue in the storyline. Their weekend in the countryside is interrupted by a request to investigate a missing person with the classic locked-room scenario. As their attention turns toward the investigation of the missing person, they are introduced to a host of characters: an aging ex-Hollywood movie star with a secret past, an eccentric and lascivious artist, a lovable and young bumbling country vicar, the shy son of the missing person with a secret, the purported centenarian Satanist, and a crafty private investigator. This missing person case becomes a murder investigation when the Satanist's body is found with his head bashed in. The only problem I had with this book was the expectation of a locked room murder because there isn't an actual murder victim in a locked room. Murder at the Chase does provide murder, mystery, mayhem, and a hint of the macabre with the occult storyline. If you enjoy old-fashioned whodunits, then you'll definitely want to read Murder at the Chase. (No, I won't tell you if Donald pops the question . . . you'll have to read the book to find out for yourself!)

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free 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."