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

Monday, December 29, 2014

Book Promo: FOUND NEAR WATER by Katherine Hayton









Crime / Thriller / Mystery

Date Published: July 2014


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Rena Sutherland wakes from a coma into a mother’s nightmare. Her daughter is missing – lost for four days – but no one has noticed; no one has complained; no one has been searching.

As the victim support officer assigned to her case, Christine Emmett puts aside her own problems as she tries to guide Rena through the maelstrom of her daughter’s disappearance.

A task made harder by an ex-husband desperate for control; a paedophile on early-release in the community; and a psychic who knows more than seems possible.

And intertwined throughout, the stories of six women; six daughters lost.













About the Author



Katherine Hayton is a 41 year old woman who works in insurance, doesn't have children or pets, can't drive, has lived in Christchurch her entire life, and currently resides a two minute walk from where she was born. For some reason she's developed a rich fantasy life.




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Sunday, December 28, 2014

Book 427: PERDITA by Hilary Scharper

Perdita by Hilary Scharper
ISBN: 9781492602446 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781492602453 (ebook)
ASIN: B00M1UM7N0 (Kindle edition)
Publication date: January 20, 2015
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark


Marged Brice is 134 years old.
She'd be ready to go, if it wasn't for Perdita . . .
The Georgian Bay lighthouse's single eye keeps watch over storm and calm, and Marged grew up in its shadow, learning the language of the wind and the trees. There's blustery beauty there, where sea and sky incite each other to mischief… or worse…
Garth Hellyer of the Longevity Project doesn't believe Marged was a girl coming of age in the 1890s, but reading her diaries in the same wild and unpredictable location where she wrote them might be enough to cast doubt on his common sense.
Everyone knows about death.
It's life that's much more mysterious…

As a historian Garth Hellyer has met people from all walks of life. One of the many things he does in his work with the Longevity Project is validating and confirming the ages of people over the age of one hundred. Garth enjoys the work and the people he meets, but Marged Brice is quite unlike anyone he's ever met before. First of all she claims to be 134 years old and even produces a birth certificate to prove her age. Unfortunately that one piece of paper isn't enough to confirm her age or identity. The only other thing she has to offer are her diaries . . . and Perdita.

Perdita is a story of the early 1890s and the present. Marged's story is told via diaries written over the course of a few years in her young adult life. She writes of living with her father, mother, aunt and uncle, as well as her father and uncle's job tending the lighthouse. Marged is an intelligent young woman and seems to be one with the wild nature she is surrounded by on the bay. She tutors the children of visiting summer families and works with one of Canada's famed naturalists, Dr. McTeague. She also falls in love with a beloved Canadian artist, George Stewart, as well as with a physician, Dr. Andrew Reid. Her story is unusual only in that she has lived for so long. Garth's story is the contemporary tale and is filled with his attempts to uncover the truth about Marged. Garth's story is also about love and loss, just as much as Marged's story. The final element in this story is Perdita. There are bits of the superstitious and paranormal woven into Marged's story -- ghosts in the graveyard and a ghostly presence at a séance, but these pale in comparison to Perdita. Is Perdita the ghost of a dead child? Is she the love-child of a Greek god? Or is she the figment of Marged's imagination?

I enjoyed reading Perdita although I felt it dragged at times, namely in a few of Marged's diary entries. Ms. Scharper has done an amazing job of creating images within this reader's mind of the beauty and savagery of the Georgian Bay with her highly descriptive words. I liked getting to know about the daily duties of Marged's life in the late 1890s. Perdita is not just a story within a story, but a story within a story within a story as the reader learns about Marged, Garth, and the lost tale of Perdita. Would the story have been the same without the supernatural presence of Perdita? Could Marged's story have been as convincing without Perdita? Probably not. What I can say is that if you enjoy reading books that combine historical and contemporary storylines then you'll definitely want to grab a copy of Perdita to read.


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."


Thursday, December 25, 2014

Book Showcase: PERDITA by Hilary Scharper

Perdita by Hilary Scharper
ISBN: 9781492602446 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781492602453 (ebook)
ASIN: B00M1UM7N0 (Kindle edition)
Publication date: January 20, 2015
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark



"Stunning…richly complex and unpredictable." —Historical Novel Review
Marged Brice is 134 years old. She'd be ready to go, if it weren't for Perdita . . .
The Georgian Bay lighthouse's single eye keeps watch over storm and calm, and Marged grew up in its shadow, learning the language of the wind and the trees. There's blustery beauty there, where sea and sky incite each other to mischief…or worse…
Garth Hellyer of the Longevity Project doesn't believe Marged was a girl coming of age in the 1890s, but reading her diaries in the same wild and unpredictable location where she wrote them might be enough to cast doubt on his common sense.
Everyone knows about death. It's life that's much more mysterious…



Excerpt

MARGED BRICE
Cape Prius—1897
July 3
Seven hours passed, and the waves were—Mr. Thompson said they were fifteen feet or more in front of the Lodge. The rain had not ceased, but the sky had turned an evil gray, and we heard thunder far off in the distance….
"The storm is moving fast," said Mr. Thompson, and he shook his head glumly.
I began to pray fervently. It was but three o'clock in the afternoon, but the entire sky had turned a livid gray, and it seemed as if night had dropped upon us like a curtain falling. Now we could see lightning blaze across the horizon….
The rain came down in sheets, and the waves took on an even more ominous and angry aspect. My heart sank as I thought of the boats in that water.
Then—"There," shouted Mr. Thompson, gesturing toward the eastern skyline.
And appearing suddenly from around the Point, we could see the outline of a large boat. Its foremast was rolling horribly—up and down, back and forth—and we could see, as it neared, that the first jib sheet was ripped to pieces. The mainsail was shredding rapidly in the wind, and the waves were pushing it toward the shore, where it would surely be smashed into pieces against the rocks. We saw the men lowering the lifeboats and then push off, desperately making for shore.
"Allan," I cried. He had run out into the storm without warning toward the boats, and I leaped out after him.



About the Author

Hilary Scharper, who lives in Toronto, spent a decade as a lighthouse keeper on the Bruce Peninsula with her husband. She also is the author of a story collection, Dream Dresses, and God and Caesar at the Rio Grande (University of Minnesota Press) which won the Choice Outstanding Academic Book Award. She received her Ph.D. from Yale and is currently Associate Professor of Cultural Anthropology at the University of Toronto.



Author Website      |      Goodreads 









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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Book 415: THE ROSIE EFFECT Review

The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion
ISBN: 9781476767314 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781476767338 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781442376014 (audiobook)
ISBN: 9781442376007 (audio CD)
ASIN: B00L6C313E (Kindle edition)
Publication date: December 30, 2014
Publisher: Simon & Schuster


The highly anticipated sequel to the New York Times bestselling novel The Rosie Project, starring the same extraordinary couple now living in New York and unexpectedly expecting their first child. Get ready to fall in love all over again.
Don Tillman and Rosie Jarman are back. The Wife Project is complete, and Don and Rosie are happily married and living in New York. But they're about to face a new challenge because...surprise! Rosie is pregnant. 
Don sets about learning the protocols of becoming a father, but his unusual research style gets him into trouble with the law. Fortunately his best friend Gene is on hand to offer advice: he's left Claudia and moved in with Don and Rosie. 
As Don tries to schedule time for pregnancy research, getting Gene and Claudia to reconcile, servicing the industrial refrigeration unit that occupies half his apartment, helping Dave the Baseball Fan save his business, and staying on the right side of Lydia the social worker, he almost misses the biggest problem of all: he might lose Rosie when she needs him the most. 

We met Don Tillman and Rosie Jarman in The Rosie Project. Don was looking for a wife; Rosie was looking for her father; what happened next was comical and magical. Well, Don and Rosie are back. They are married now and residing in New York City. Rosie is completing her doctoral dissertation while attending medical school and Don is working as a university researcher. Just when you think things are on an even keel in their relationship, they are thrown a curve . . . they're having a baby. Can Don overcome his regimented lifestyle to be there for Rosie? Can Don help to save his friends' marriage? Rosie has accepted Don with all his limitations, but is there an end to her level of acceptance?

Mr. Simsion has crafted another wonderful story with The Rosie Effect. Just as with The Rosie Project, Don and Rosie appear to be at cross-purposes at times and this leads to a series of unfortunate misunderstandings. Although Don doesn't show his happiness or excitement about having a baby to Rosie, he goes out of his way to find them a larger apartment (which they share with beer dispensing equipment), researches fetal development, and even enlists his father to develop a soundproofed crib since their upstairs neighbor/landlord is in a rock band. Don is also on a quest to get his best friends Gene and Claudia backs together.

I found The Rosie Effect to be a delightful, fast-paced read filled with lots of joy, laughter, and some sadness (much like life). The joy and laughter often came from Don's machinations (give him credit for trying to help his friends as well as his lack of understanding that the wedding must be celebrated every year on the anniversary date) and exploits (the park arrest and subsequent attempt to obtain counseling were laugh-out-loud funny). The reader gets to see another side to Gene and he becomes more sympathetic in this story than in The Rosie Project (trust me and read the book to get the lowdown). Rosie is changing, partially due to the pregnancy and due to her struggles with her dissertation, medical school, and Don's apparent lack of feelings about the pregnancy and impending fatherhood. Mr. Simsion provides us with new characters, such as Dave the Baseball Fan, a judgmental social worker, and an aging rock-star. If you read The Rosie Project, then you'll want to run and get a copy of The Rosie Effect. You haven't read The Rosie Project?! What are you waiting for? Grab a copy today so you'll be able to follow Don and Rosie's story in The Rosie Effect

NOTE: You may want to read these books at home unless you don't mind quizzical stares from strangers when you're reading and laughing out loud in public. I recently reread The Rosie Project while waiting to be seen at a physician's office [no I didn't reread the entire book while waiting, just parts of it]. For a while I thought the staff was going to send me for a psych consult until I explained what I was reading. Fortunately the doctor's nurse had read the book and completely understood my behavior.

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


Monday, December 22, 2014

Book Showcase: DUKE CITY HIT by Max Austin

Duke City Hit by Max Austin
ISBN: 9780553390315 (ebook)
ASIN: B00L6YJ67W (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Alibi (Random House)
Publication date: December 16, 2014





Duke City Hit (Duke City Trilogy, #2)







Book Synopsis: 
Max Austin takes readers back to Albuquerque for another action-packed thrill ride in Duke City Hit, as an elite assassin takes aim at—well, everyone.

 According to Vic Walters, the secret to happiness is low overhead and few demands. Living rent-free in a modest bachelor pad behind his boss's house, he has no debts, no entanglements, and no expensive relationships. He works just a few days a month, but his bank accounts keep growing.


Vic is a high-priced hitman with a legendary record of success. That is, until someone starts eliminating his marks before he can get to them . . . until his manager puts him in the middle of a vicious drug-cartel feud . . . and until a young man walks into his life with a big .45 and a startling revelation.

For Vic Walters, it's time to step out of the shadows. Which means it's killing time in Duke City.


About the author:


Max Austin is the pseudonym of writer Steve Brewer. He lives in Duke City (Albuquerque), New Mexico.










Tour Giveaway:

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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.



Excerpt:

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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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

Book 401: STILLWATER RISING Review


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."