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

Thursday, October 20, 2016

2016 Book 373: AN ADDRESS IN AMSTERDAM by Mary Dingee Fillmore

An Address in Amsterdam by Mary Dingee Fillmore 
ISBN: 9781631521331 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781631521348 (ebook)
ASIN: B01LYJWNH6 (Kindle edition)
Publication date: October 4, 2016 
Publisher: She Writes Press

Rachel Klein hopes she can ignore the Nazis when they roll into Amsterdam in May 1940. She's falling in love, and her city has been the safest place in the world for Jewish people since the Spanish Inquisition. But when Rachel's Gentile boyfriend is forced to disappear rather than face arrest, she realizes that everything is changing, and so must she so, although she is often tired and scared, she delivers papers for the underground under the Nazis noses. But after eighteen months of ever increasing danger, she pushes her parents to go into hiding with her. The dank basement where they take refuge seems like the last place where Rachel would meet a new man but she does. An Address in Amsterdam shows that, even in the most hopeless situation, an ordinary young woman can make the choice to act with courage and even love.

Spring 1940 and Rachel Klein's thoughts are on the Nazi occupation and the plight of the Jews in the Netherlands, her family in Germany, and love. Rachel sees how Amsterdam is quickly changing and is willing to do whatever she can to protect as many people as possible in An Address in Amsterdam by Mary Dingee Fillmore.

For eighteen years, Rachel has been an ideal and dutiful daughter, never causing her parents any worry. Now that Rachel is growing older, she's forming her own opinions and is very concerned about what she sees happening to her Jewish friends and neighbors. She's also very worried about what might happen to her own family in Amsterdam. Rachel's mother Rose wanted the family to leave and go to London and stay with an elderly aunt, but Rachel's father, Jacob a dedicated physician, feels that the Dutch will never allow the Nazis' to more than a physical presence. As Rachel sees more and more hatred aimed at the Jewish population, and her lover Michiel is forced to leave or face arrest or worse, she joins the underground movement as a courier delivering messages, newspapers, and even forged documents. Rachel learns that not all of the Dutch are willing to blindly follow the Nazis and put their lives not to mention the lives of their loved ones on the line by helping to hide and protect Jewish families and other members of the underground movement. When things begin to get really bad in Amsterdam, Rachel talks her parents into hiding, but will it be enough to protect them from the Nazis?

I found An Address in Amsterdam to be an engrossing read. The beginning of the story read a bit slow, but after the first 40-50 pages, the story picked up steam and I kept turning page after page just to see what would happen next. Ms. Fillmore provides a dramatic story of acts of heroism, courage, and love in the face of adversity. Rachel comes across as a typical teen at times filled with teen angst and drama, and then she is seen as the unbelievably courageous and heroic woman willing to do what she can in the face of fear and unknown horrors. This is not just the story of one girl and the underground movement, but rather the story of one girl, one family, one love, and the Dutch gentiles working to help and protect Dutch Jews in a time of unspeakable acts of bigotry, hatred, and horrors. It was impossible to read An Address in Amsterdam and not be touched by the ugliness directed towards the Jewish population. However, Ms. Fillmore has taken a story about a group of people that we know doesn't end well at all and imbued it with a sense of hope that things will get better and that love will help these people make it through. Do things end well for Rachel and her family? You'll have to read the story to find out. If you enjoy reading historical fiction then I recommend you grab a copy of An Address in Amsterdam to read. 

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

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

2016 Book 362: MERCURY by Margot Livesey

Mercury by Margot Livesey 
ISBN: 9780062437501 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780062437532 (ebook)
ASIN: B01A5CB3FS (Kindle edition)
Publication date: September 27, 2016 
Publisher: Harper

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Donald believes he knows all there is to know about seeing. An optometrist in suburban Boston, he is sure that he and his wife, Viv, who runs the local stables, are both devoted to their two children and to each other. Then Mercury—a gorgeous young thoroughbred with a murky past—arrives at Windy Hill and everything changes.
Mercury's owner, Hilary, is a newcomer to town who has enrolled her daughter in riding lessons. When she brings Mercury to board at Windy Hill, everyone is struck by his beauty and prowess, particularly Viv. As she rides him, Viv begins to dream of competing again, embracing the ambitions that she had harbored, and relinquished, as a young woman. Her daydreams soon morph into consuming desire, and her infatuation with the thoroughbred escalates to obsession.
Donald may have 20/20 vision but he is slow to notice how profoundly Viv has changed and how these changes threaten their quiet, secure world. By the time he does, it is too late to stop the catastrophic collision of Viv’s ambitions and his own myopia.
At once a tense psychological drama and a taut emotional thriller exploring love, obsession, and the deceits that pull a family apart, Mercury is a riveting tour de force that showcases this "searingly intelligent writer at the height of her powers" (Jennifer Egan).  

Donald and Vivian are living the American dream. They're married with two adorable children, in a loving and committed relationship, and have a close circle of family and friends nearby. Sadly, their dream relationship begins to take a wrong turn and things go from bad to worse in Margot Livesey's latest, the psychological thriller Mercury.

Donald was born in Scotland and came to the United States with his family as a child. He went back to Scotland as an adult and studied medicine before returning to the US to work as an ophthalmologist. He enjoyed his career and serendipitously meets and falls in love with Vivian (Viv). Soon they have two lovely children, a boy and girl, get married, move to the suburbs, and restructure their lives to suit their families needs. Fast forward a few years and Donald is working as an optometrist and Viv is no longer working in high finance but is now a horse trainer working at a local stable with her childhood best friend. Viv seems happy with her life as a trainer, mother, and wife until a new horse is brought to board at the stables. Soon she is spending all of her time at the stables, obsessing over training with this horse, obsessing over possible danger to this horse, and just obsessing. She's no longer the woman Donald married and Donald isn't quite sure when things went wrong, how to fix it, or whether he even wants to fix his marriage.

I found Mercury to be an engrossing read that hooked me from the very beginning. Although I read this book in one day, it is quite possible (and highly probable) that I would have finished it in a few hours if I weren't dealing with a migraine that progressed from moderate to severe throughout the day. Even with the multiple breaks I was forced to take, I couldn't wait to return to this story to find out what happens next. Ms. Livesey has crafted an incredible story with amazingly real and realistically flawed characters that made me believe the action was really happening rather than mere words on a page. I was intrigued by this book's synopsis and the cover image and smiled when I got to the point where the image layout made sense (read the book and you'll understand). I also enjoyed reading about a character with my first name, Vivian (even though I didn't really care for the abbreviated Viv). I could tell you more about what happens in the story but I won't (okay, there is a parrot that you'll enjoy reading about). It is sufficient to say that Mercury includes family angst and drama, marital discord (not knock-down drag-em-out fights or anything but discord nonetheless), obsessions, lying to family and friends, cover-ups, and more. If you enjoy reading books about family drama, psychological suspense, or just want a good book to read, then I strongly urge you to grab a copy of Mercury to read. Trust me, this is one must-read book you'll want to read sooner rather than later. I also recommend you make sure you have sufficient time set aside to read this book (like a weekend) because you probably won't want to put it down once you start.

Disclaimer: I received a free digital copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes 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."

margot-livesey-ap-photo-by-tony-rinaldiAbout Margot Livesey

Margot Livesey is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels The Flight of Gemma Hardy, The House on Fortune Street, Banishing Verona, Eva Moves the Furniture, The Missing World, Criminals, and Homework. Her work has appeared in the New Yorker, Vogue, and the Atlantic, and she is the recipient of grants from both the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation. The House on Fortune Street won the 2009 L. L. Winship/PEN New England Award. Born in Scotland, Livesey currently lives in the Boston area and is a professor of fiction at the Iowa Writers' Workshop.

Find out more about Margot at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Guest Author Post by Andrea Kane - SAMANTHA

I'm always excited when an author decides to visit The Book Diva's Reads, and doubly so when it's one of my favorited authors. I'm honored to host a visit from Andrea Kane, an author that I've come to know and relish by reading her psychological thriller novels and am getting to know and appreciate in a whole new way through her historical romance novels. Today, Ms. Kane will be discussing the growth of a character in the novel Samantha.

How Samantha Grew as a Character

A spin-off is a very complex thing to write. To my way of thinking, it has to be a stand-alone title, one that has its own complete story and its own complete characters. And yet, it also has to be seamlessly tied to the book from which it originated.

Samantha was my very first spin-off, born from my very first novel, My Heart's Desire. It was as special a book to me as Sammy was as a character. From the instant she appeared on the pages of My Heart's Desire—Drake's loyal and loving younger sister—I knew she had to have her own book. It wasn't a question of "if"; it was only a question of "when". And the "when" took some time—several years to be exact. Sammy had to grow up, and I had to mentally watch her do so. Transitioning from a precocious fifteen-year-old girl to a ready-to-take-on-the-world eighteen-year-old, Sammy embarked on her first London Season with her own ideas of what it would yield. And it wasn't a stream of boring noblemen courting her and trying to win her hand.  Nor was it an endless sea of vapid parties and equally vapid conversation. No, Sammy's goal was to meet and marry the man of her dreams—a man that, with all her naiveté and innocence, she expected to walk into her life and automatically be the hero she'd imagined him to be. Naturally, things didn't go quite that way.

As a result, even during the course of her own book, Sammy had some growing pains to overcome. And overcome them she did. She matured from an innocent young woman to a strong and determined adult, one who had to overcome dangers and to learn to fiercely protect the man she loved. And the man she loved was a complex and challenging man—a man she had to grow to understand, to heal, and to accept as her true and lifelong hero.

I don't think I've ever loved writing a character more than I did Samantha. It was probably the romantic in me, the dreamer of happily-ever-after, and the believer in the age-old story of how true love conquers all. I hope you feel the same way after you've read Samantha!

Samantha by Andrea Kane
Book Details

Genre: Historical Romance
Published by: Bonnie Meadow Publishing LLC
Publication Date: October 18th 2016
Number of Pages: ~418
Series: Book 2 in "Barrett Family Series" (You won't want to miss Book 1, My Heart's Desire, either!)

Don't Miss Your Chance to Read Samantha! You can purchase your own copy at Amazon, at Barnes & Noble, AND add it to your reading list on Goodreads!


Lady Samantha Barrett wondered if her imaginary hero would ever become real. Of course, he must be devastatingly handsome and just a bit dangerous. Now, her coach is filled with a collection of Gothic novels and her head with romantic notions as she eagerly leaves her brother’s country estate for her first London season. Still unsophisticated and too innocent by far, Samantha is ill-prepared for the hypocrisy of the ton or for the formidable stranger who crosses her path—a stranger she is sure must be the man of her dreams…
Remington Worth, the Earl of Gresham, is reputed to be anything but a hero. He is, however, intrigued by the fresh, young Lady Samantha. At sea, Remington had been a brilliant captain. To help save his country, he has accepted the Crown's commission to become the most deadly and loyal covert agent, posing as a notorious womanizer and blackmailer. His latest mission is to investigate the mysterious disappearances of England's prized merchant vessels. With an iron will, he will allow no one to get in his way or touch his heart—until Samantha.

Read an excerpt:

In walked the man of her dreams.
Samantha stared, transfixed, as the vision stepped directly from the pages of her latest gothic romance into the noisy, smoke-filled tavern.
He had arrived...her long-awaited hero.
It mattered not that he was a total stranger to her... nor that he patronized so seedy an establishment as this... nor that he pointedly displayed an ominous-looking knife handle from the top of one muddied Hessian boot. All that mattered was his towering height, his thick black hair, his uncompromising jaw, his piercing gray eyes. And that dimple...it was just where she'd always known it would be; in his left cheek. It flashed briefly as he nodded a greeting to someone, then vanished into the taut lines of his face.
Yes, it was irrefutably he...the hero of all her fantasies.
Breathless and eager, Samantha watched as he carelessly swung off his great coat, shaking rivulets of rain from it with swift, purposeful strokes. Simultaneously, he surveyed the room, his cool gaze taking in the shoddy furnishings and seedy occupants in one enveloping glance.
He moved forward, commanding and sure, coming closer to where Sammy sat... close enough so she could see the drops of water glistening in his raven-black hair, causing the ends to curl a bit at the nape. He seemed to be looking for someone.
Instead, he found her.
Dark brows raised, not with instantaneous, adoring surrender, but with decided, disapproving surprise.
Without hesitating, Sammy flashed him a smile, drinking in his splendid, chiseled features and exciting, leashed power. He was just as she had imagined him...no, better.
Her heart tightened in her chest as he approached her.
"What despicable cad deserted you here, little one?"
"Pardon me?" Sammy blinked in confusion.
With apparent disgust, her hero scanned the room. "You needn't feel ashamed. Just tell me what unscrupulous blackguard accompanied you to such a place, then abandoned you."
"Oh, nothing like that, sir." Sammy assured him brightly. "Actually, it was I who spotted this establishment from my carriage window and chose to stop here. Given the circumstances, it seemed the best place..."
"The best place... to what?" He looked censuring now, his gray eyes chilling, stormier than the skies that heralded tonight's downpour. "Is this your idea of an evening adventure? If so, you've either lost your way or your mind! Tell me, have you looked about you? I seriously doubt that you have, else you would have bolted. And, thankfully, it seems that these low-lifes have yet to spot you as prey. Had they done so, I assure you that your elegant gown would have long since been tossed up over your foolish, beautiful head!"
Sammy sucked in her breath. This wasn't at all the way she'd envisioned their first meeting.
Following her hero's icy, pointed gaze, she surveyed the dimly lit tavern, trying to see what was upsetting him so. True, the tables were a bit shabby, even broken in spots, and the pungent smell of gin... mixed with some other, unrecognizable foul odor... permeated the room. And, she had to admit, the occupants of the tavern did need to shave... as well as to bathe. Still, they'd shown no signs of harming or even approaching her; so why was her hero hinting at violence?

"I don't know what you mean, sir," she confessed, bewildered. "Despite their rather coarse attire and unpolished manners, the gentlemen here have made no improper advances toward me. They are merely enjoying their spirits and each other's company."
The stranger gaped in utter disbelief.
"Gentlemen?" he managed. Leaning forward, he lowered his voice to a muffled hiss. "Sheltered innocent, what you see are pickpockets, highwaymen and drunks... and an occasional murderer or two." He straightened, emphatic and fierce. "This is Boydry's... as unsavory a pub as they come... not the bloody Clarendon Hotel!"
"Really?" Samantha was finding it very difficult to share the intensity of his tirade. She was too busy drowning in the hypnotic spell of his towering presence. And, after all, he was only trying to protect her... the foremost duty of a true hero.
"If such is the case, then why are you here?" she asked, half-tempted to stroke the hard, uncompromising line of his jaw. "You don't appear unsavory to me."
His dimple flickered in response. "Don't I? That is only because you don't know me."
"No... but I'd like to."
He blinked. "You'd like to..."
"Oh yes. Don't you see?" Sammy leaned forward, making an animated sweep with her hands. "It's as if Mrs. Radcliffe had penned it; a young woman alone...darkness...danger." A pause. "Of course I would have preferred a castle turret to a tavern..." she gave a philosophical shrug, "...nevertheless, you've arrived...and you're exactly as I pictured you."
"You have lost your mind," he muttered.

Author Bio:

Andrea Kane
Andrea Kane is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of twenty-seven novels, including thirteen psychological thrillers and fourteen historical romantic suspense titles.

With her signature style, Kane creates unforgettable characters and confronts them with life-threatening danger. As a master of suspense, she weaves them into exciting, carefully researched stories, pushing them to the edge—and keeping her readers up all night.

Kane's beloved historical romantic suspense novels include My Heart's Desire, Samantha, The Last Duke, and Wishes in the Wind.

With a worldwide following of passionate readers, her books have been published in more than twenty languages.

Kane lives in New Jersey with her husband and family. She's an avid crossword puzzle solver and a diehard Yankees fan. Otherwise, she's either writing or playing with her Pomeranian, Mischief, who does his best to keep her from writing.

Connect With Ms. Kane on Facebook, Twitter, & her website.

Tour Host Participants:

Take a minute to stop by some of the other blogs in the tour! They have exciting features, reviews, and special giveaways!

Enter for a Chance to Win!

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Providence Book Promotions for Andrea Kane and Bonnie Meadow Publishing LLC. There will be 5 US winners of one (1) eBook copy of Samantha by Andrea Kane. The giveaway begins on September 28th and runs through November 3rd, 2016.

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Thursday, October 6, 2016

2016 Book 349: STRONG COLD DEAD by Jon Land

Strong Cold Dead (Caitlin Strong #8) by Jon Land
ISBN: 9780765335135 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781466821088 (ebook)
ASIN: B01CXNZDIU (Kindle edition)
Publication date: October 4, 2016 
Publisher: Forge Books

Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong returns in Jon Land's Strong Cold Dead, a thriller with heart-stopping action and a high-stakes terrorist plot
The terrorist organization ISIS is after a deadly toxin that could be the ultimate weapon of mass destruction. The same toxin holds the potential to eradicate cancer. There is a frantic race to see who can get to it first, even as Caitlin Strong begins to assemble the disparate pieces of a deadly puzzle.
At the center of that puzzle is an Indian reservation where a vengeful tycoon is mining the toxin, disguising his effort as an oil-drilling operation. This is the same reservation where Caitlin's great-great-grandfather, also a Texas Ranger, once waged a similar battle against the forces of John D. Rockefeller.
In her highest-stakes adventure yet, Caitlin Strong faces off against a host of adversaries that just might include the beautiful Comanche girl with whom the son of her ex-outlaw boyfriend Cort Wesley Masters has fallen in love, along with a mythic monster culled from Native American folklore that the tribe believes has risen to protect its land. The lives of those Caitlin loves most are threatened by the villains she’s pursuing; her own moral code is challenged. The fate of both the country and the state she loves are dangling on the precipice of a strong cold death.  

History seems to be repeating itself with the Strong family front and center as representatives of the Texas Rangers. In the nineteenth century, Caitlin's great-great-grandfather, Steeldust Jack Strong, fought a legendary oil man to protect the autonomy of a Comanche reservation. Now Caitlin is fighting against a slimy oil man and an international terrorist group in order to protect her family and the same Comanche reservation in Strong Cold Dead by Jon Land.

Caitlin Strong is a Texas Ranger from a long-line of Texas Rangers (her father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and great-great-grandfather were all Rangers). She is a one-person wrecking team, subscribing to the kick-butt first, ask questions later methodology. Her method works and has tons of consequences but works nonetheless. Caitlin single-handedly stops what is building up to be a city-wide riot between Austen police and a local gang by having a retired Ranger drop an aerial stink bomb over the gang territory in an effort to subdue the gang and arrest the gang leader. Needless to say, the riot is stopped in its tracks but Caitlin is front-and-center as the person responsible for hundreds of homes being stink bombed. The very next day, she is called to a Comanche reservation because her lover's son is protesting against a drilling company when he should be a thousand miles away at school. Who knew something as benign as a protest over drilling would lead to international terrorism? In a race to beat the clock, Caitlin, her lover Cort Westley Masters, her guardian-protector Guillermo Paz, a Homeland Security agent, and even a Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer must work together to stop these terrorists in their tracks.

Strong Cold Dead is the eighth book in the Caitlin Strong series by Mr. Land. I found it to be a fast-paced, thrill a minute, and engrossing read. Caitlin and friends must contend with a Comanche shaman that is reportedly over one hundred and forty years old, a curse that supposedly protects the reservation and its inhabitants, a disreputable oil man, a malcontented and disenfranchised young man tired of being bullied, and an international terrorist group whose leader seems to be making up the religious rules as he goes along. Mr. Land takes the reader on a few twists and turns before the final pages and there worth it. Yes, there's a lot packed into this story and there are wannabe bad guys, bad guys, and really loathsome evil guys. Once again, Mr. Land has mixed a historical storyline with a contemporary storyline and it works. I could go on and on about Caitlin and this story, but all you really need to know is that if you enjoy reading suspense thrillers, then you'll want to read this book. Did I enjoy reading Strong Cold Dead? Yes, I did and something tells me I'll be rereading the entire Caitlin Strong series while I'm waiting for the next installment. (Yes, this series is just that good!)

Disclaimer: I received a free digital copy of this book for review purposes via Partners In Crime Tours. 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."

Author Bio:

Jon LandJon Land is the USA Today bestselling author of 38 novels, including eight titles in the critically acclaimed Caitlin Strong series: Strong Enough to Die, Strong Justice, Strong at the Break, Strong Vengeance, Strong Rain Falling (winner of the 2014 International Book Award and 2013 USA Best Book Award for Mystery-Suspense), Strong Darkness (winner of the 2014 USA Books Best Book Award and the 2015 International Book Award for Thriller and Strong Light of Day which won the 2016 International Book Award for Best Thriller-Adventure, the 2015 Books and Author Award for Best Mystery Thriller, and the 2016 Beverly Hills Book Award for Best Mystery. The latest title in the series is Strong Cold Dead, to be published on October 4 and about which Strand Magazine said is "certain to rank Land among a handful of our most talented thriller authors of this decade." Land has also teamed with multiple New York Times bestselling author Heather Graham on a new sci-fi series, the first of which, The Rising, will be published by Forge in January of 2017. He is a 1979 graduate of Brown University and lives in Providence, Rhode Island.

Catch Up with Jon on his website and on Twitter & Facebook

Tour Participants:


This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours for Jon Land to celebrate the release of his 8th Caitlin Strong thriller, Strong Cold Dead. There will be 5 winners of one (1) autographed copy of Strong Cold Dead by Jon Land. This giveaway is limited to US & Canadian residents only. The giveaway begins on September 28th and runs through November 3rd, 2016.
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Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Book Blast: THE BEST OF FAMILIES by Harry Groome

Contemporary Fiction
Date Published:  May 2016

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The Best of Families is the revelatory midlife memoir of a Philadelphia socialite, Francis Hopkinson Delafield. Uncomfortable with the mores of one of the city’s oldest families, Fran begins his story the summer after he graduates from prep school, when he dutifully marries his pregnant French Canadian girlfriend only to have her disappear within months of their marriage. Disillusioned and angry at the whole world, Fran quits college and enlists in the army. He is badly wounded in a war that no one seems to know or care about, and upon returning home from Vietnam, he is confronted with navigating the roiled waters of a second marriage while both his parents and his wives hold secrets that alter his life forever.
Praise for The Best of Families:
“With wit and compassion, The Best of Families captures perfectly the floundering of WASP society at mid-20th century. Trapped in the empty rituals of an upper crust that is well past its sell-by date, young Fran Delafield struggles to free himself from family and tradition. Love, the war in Vietnam and fatherhood turn out to be his path to an authentic life, and his salvation. Harry Groome interweaves romance and tragedy in this lively, evocative novel.” — Rebecca Pepper Sinkler, former Editor of the New York Times Book Review
“…a heartfelt, captivating read, packed with familial politics and strife.” — Kirkus Reviews
 “A wonderful, fascinating, tragic and ultimately redemptive story that begs to be told.” — Ellen Lesser, author of The Shoplifter’s Apprentice
“Not only is The Best of Families a page-turner, but the story truly moved me, and haunts me still.” — Chase Twichell, author of Horses Where the Answers Should Have Been: New & Selected Poems
 “…a great read that makes a convincing and timeless case for the power of the individual—the power to build your own happiness out of the unwieldy materials you've been handed.” — David Ebenbach, author of Into the Wilderness
“One of the great pleasures of life is a good book that tells a story so compelling that when you put the book down, you can’t wait to pick it up again. For me, The Best of Families is such a book…(it) blew me away with its believable razor-sharp dialogue and compelling plot…” — Len Lear, editor, the Chestnut Hill Local

My Family; Our Story

Mark Twain once wrote, “In Boston they ask, how much does he know? In New York, how much is he worth? In Philadelphia, who were his parents?”

As a Philadelphian I’ll answer that provocative question this way: My name is Francis Hopkinson Delafield Jr.—Fran to most everyone—and I was born into one of the city’s oldest families, a family of Social Register–registered blue bloods who were born on third base but thought we’d gotten there by hitting a triple. Without a doubt, we Delafields are a nest of good old-fashioned WASPs: unimaginative, out-of-touch, sporting Bermuda shorts, bow ties, and Capezios…well, the list goes on and on, but I think old Mr. Twain would get the picture. And, although it goes well beyond what he asked, of course we’re all products of private school educations. Every entitled one of us.

What’s more, having learned how my connection with my parents—I don’t know the proper term for it: biological, cultural, spiritual, genetic?—has shaped my life, I understand why my sister, Heather, always says that everything that takes place in our parents’ circle of friends is tribal. And over time I’ve gotten a better grip on why it’s easier for them to stay rooted in the past than to face the changes the future might bring, certainly the kind of changes that I’ve forced my parents to accept.

Heather also was the person who thought it would be a good idea for me to confront my past rather than sweep it under the rug the way I do most things. Write it all down, is what she said—hence this midlife memoir, or whatever you might choose to call it. She thought it might help me understand, maybe even help me forgive, a lot of what’s happened in our family, and from this I guess you can tell that, as uncomfortable as parts of this will be for me to tell, Heather thought it might heal some old family wounds, maybe even help me learn some things I needed to know.

So to begin, a little bit of background.

In 1941, just before my father went off to the war, we moved to 1212 Poor Richard’s Lane in Chestnut Hill, to a cinderblock-and-glass house that Dad had designed and which Mom and he have ever since referred to as “Twelve-Twelve,” as if it were a Newport mansion or a building of similar historical significance. With the 23 trolley clanking up and down its cobblestone main street, Chestnut Hill, both fashionable and unhurried in its pace, could easily have been a Hollywood set, even a Norman Rockwell Saturday Evening Post cover. It was there that Mom saw our family as members of the “impoverished aristocracy” and viewed herself as one of Philadelphia’s grandes dames. And, after the war, it was where she and Dad entertained their well-heeled friends, rolling back the worn rug in the living room and drinking and smoking and dancing into the wee hours of the morning to the big bands—Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw—as though they never again would have a care in the world.

But Twelve-Twelve is more than just a place where my parents entertained. It’s where Heather and I grew into our teens, doing pretty much everything that was expected of us. Maybe even a little more. Heather was a high-honor student, president of her class, and captain of the field hockey team at the nearby girls’ school. I started at the local day school for boys but, after eighth grade, went away to the Episcopal School in New Hampshire, just like my grandfather, father, and Mom’s brother, my uncle Robert Peltier, had before me.

I think that’s enough history and will begin my story in 1955. I was eighteen, had just graduated from Episcopal, and was on my way to a summer job in Quebec with my closest friend, Potter Morris. As you will see, this trip, as brief as it was, set the cornerstone for all that follows and altered my life forever. Please know that many of the revelations that I uncover here—several of which my family have jealously kept secret from the outside world—may come as a surprise to you because a number of them aren’t exactly what you’d expect of a family like mine.

Francis H. Delafield, Jr.

September 1968
About the Author
Harry Groome is the author of the novels Wing Walking and Thirty Below and the award-winning Stieg Larsson parody The Girl Who Fished with a Worm. Harry was a finalist for the William Faulkner Short Story Awards and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. His short stories, poems, and articles have appeared in dozens of magazines and anthologies, including Gray's Sporting Journal, Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, Descant, and Detroit Magazine. He is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and holds an MFA in Writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts.
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Sunday, October 2, 2016

2016 Book 262: Review of BEHIND CLOSED DOORS by B.A. Paris

Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris
ISBN: 9781250121004 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781250121011 (ebook)
ASIN: B01CXO4VRI (Kindle edition)
Publication date: August 9, 2016 
Publisher: St. Martin's Press

Everyone knows a couple like Jack and Grace: he has looks and wealth, she has charm and elegance. You'd like to get to know Grace better. But it's difficult, because you realize Jack and Grace are never apart. Some might call this true love.
Picture this: a dinner party at their perfect home, the conversation and wine flowing. They appear to be in their element while entertaining. And Grace's friends are eager to reciprocate with lunch the following week. Grace wants to go, but knows she never will. Her friends call—so why doesn't Grace ever answer the phone? And how can she cook such elaborate meals but remain so slim?
And why are there bars on one of the bedroom windows?
The perfect marriage? Or the perfect lie?

Jack Angel appears to be the perfect gentleman and husband. He adores his wife and is protective of his new sister-in-law. He's an attorney that fights in court on behalf of battered women. Grace Angel appears to the be the perfect wife, loving and nurturing and never more than a few steps away from her husband's side. Is theirs the perfect marriage or can looks be deceiving in Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris.

Jack and Grace have a whirlwind romance and before you know it, Grace has quit her job, sold her house, and is ready to be a full-time wife. Jack was the perfect gentleman and lover during their courtship and is quite accepting of the fact that Grace's younger sister, Millie, will be moving in with them when she finishes at school. Grace knows many men aren't so accepting of having a younger sibling, much less one with Down's Syndrome, move into their homes after marriage, so this is just one more thing to admire about Jack. Grace quickly learns that Jack is not the man he pretends to be on the day of her wedding and during her honeymoon. Every attempt she makes to deflect Jack results in her being seen as deranged or psychotic. As a result, Grace does the only thing she can do in this situation and that's bide her time and pray that things will change for the better before Millie comes to live with them. Just how far is Grace willing to go in an effort to protect Millie from Jack?

I found Behind Closed Doors to be a fast-paced read that kept me on tenterhooks from the beginning to the very end. Jack is quite skilled at manipulating not only Grace but his circle of friends and acquaintances as well. The more that is revealed about Jack and Grace's relationship, the more we realize that Jack epitomizes the psycho in this psychological thriller. I've read books with plenty of bad guys and books with plenty of evil guys, and Jack is probably in the top ten on both lists. Ms. Paris provides a nice little twist at the end of the story that was somewhat unexpected but pleasing nonetheless (no, I'm not going to tell you what the twist is...read the book!). The story is presented from Grace's perspective from both the past and the present. This story contains some hot-button topics such as emotional, mental, and physical abuse, not to mention murder. The abuse isn't presented in graphic detail, but it isn't exactly glossed over either. If you enjoy reading psychological thrillers, then you'll definitely want to add Behind Closed Doors to your reading list. I look forward to reading more from Ms. Paris in the future.

Read an excerpt here.

Disclaimer: I received a free print copy of this book for review purposes from the publisher. 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."

Watch the book trailer: