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

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Thursday, April 30, 2015

2015 Book 129: PLEASANT DAY Review and Excerpt

Pleasant Day by Vera Jane Cook
ISBN: 9781937327613 (paperback)
ISBN: 9783958306691 (ebook)
ASIN: B00TUALPS2 (Kindle edition)
Publication date: February 19, 2015
Publisher: Moonshine Cove Publishing, LLC


WITH MURDER IN COMMON FRIENDSHIP IS INEVITABLE. 
In the town of Hollow Creek, South Carolina, two separate murders, fifteen years apart, unite fifteen-year-old Pleasant Day and sixty-year-old Clarissa Blackwell. As Pleasant Day struggles with her mother's distance, her father's infidelity and the death of her best friend, she draws closer to Clarissa, an older woman with the secrets to heal her. But Clarissa has struggles of her own as she faces betrayal and seeks to come to terms with old wounds. With her unpredictable psychic ability to 'read people' Clarissa uncovers the answers to a deadly crime and to Pleasant's true identity. In the end, both Pleasant and Clarissa's worlds are transformed by the truths they're forced to accept, and both find solace and strength in the histories that have shaped them. 


Pleasant Day is an atypical teenage girl living in a somewhat atypical family in rural South Carolina. Pleasant is an intelligent and well-read girl with a penchant for profanity when speaking. Her father is her idol, but he likes to go out drinking and he's having an affair. Pleasant is a witness to both as her father generally takes her along on his evening "drives" to the bar and rendezvous with his lover. Her mother comes across as a kind and gentle woman that is emotionally distant from Pleasant. Pleasant's brother, Sawyer, more concerned about his appearance than anything else, feels that Pleasant may be spending too much time reading. Pleasant's life is turned upside down one summer when she learns that one of her best friends has been found dead in unusual circumstances and her other best friend is implicated in that death. Pleasant's summer is about to spiral completely out of control with a chance encounter with Clarissa Blackwell.

I found Pleasant Day to be a fast-paced read. I did have some difficulty getting into this story because my inner prude kept rearing its head with the mild profanity spouted by Pleasant. The more I read, the better I understood Pleasant and began to see her usage of profanity as a shield. Pleasant's family life isn't abusive nor does she live in abject poverty, but her family life is sorely strained by her father's habitual adultery, her brother's "effeminate" qualities, and the passive-aggressive behavior of her mother. Struggling to deal with the impact of learning of one friend's death by murder, she literally runs into a woman that will bring the devastating effects of another murder into her life. This story is told in the alternating voices of Pleasant and Clarissa. As Pleasant and Clarissa become better acquainted, secrets are revealed that may have devastating results (no, I won't tell you what the secret is . . . read the book!). I thought Pleasant Day was part coming-of-age, part family drama (trust me, there's plenty of drama), and part mystery. If you're looking for a unique read for this spring or summer, you'll want to put Pleasant Day on your TBR list.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from the author via Virtual Author Book 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."



Excerpt

Chapter Three Clarissa Blackwell 

Everything had to be put in its perfect place. Everything had a perfect place, forks to the left of the spoons, brooms to the right of the vacuum cleaner and toothpaste always hidden away in the medicine chest, not bludgeoned to death with all of its exposed white blood. Clarissa thought that was the problem with toothpaste, it always wound up looking like it had a drunken binge the night before and was spitting up all over itself. Whenever possible, she purchased toothpaste powder. Life had to have order. Wayward toothpaste and shapeless tubes did not belong in a perfect world. In a perfect world, days had purpose and toothpaste tubes had spines. Clarissa Blackwell was the creator of purpose. Life had a driver's seat and she was in it. Turmoil was unbearable and caused her too many visions she couldn't explain. 

Her house was her pride and joy. Nice expression, pride and joy. It didn't matter who entered her lovely Victorian home, it only mattered that she could read on their faces how they envied her. How perfectly comfortable everything looked. That's the thing about fine things, they couldn't alienate, they had to invite, as hers did. Her garage sale finds had to whisper their desire to be picked up. Her paintings had to demand pleasing stares and the cushions on her chairs had to long for a derrière to deflate their puff. Nothing could utter pretension or scream 'Go Away.' 

Clarissa Blackwell was very much like her house. She demanded notice, as well. Though she was soft spoken and never did anything out of the ordinary, people stared at her. They assumed she must be somebody, like a movie star or surely someone they'd seen on television, like a famous female sports figure. Maybe something or other to the president? A newscaster? They were always a bit distressed to learn that she was no one, no one famous that is. 

Clarissa had the look of a woman who grew up well, the look of confidence, poise, flair, even though the way she felt inside was often a contradiction to her external presence. She was grateful that her intelligent face made her appear worldly and wise. She would have preferred being beautiful to looking as if she were perpetually sucking on sour drops. She would have welcomed a very straight aquiline nose to the one she had, it naturally turned up, nothing she could do about it. But it gave her a condescending demeanor as if she were constantly sniffing something foul. But when Clarissa smiled, she became approachable, like her house and all things in it. Clarissa made a point to smile often. 

She was approaching sixty-six, a little secret she kept from others. Well, why shouldn't she? She believed that the body was a temple one should treat with respect. She looked much younger, she was sure, because her temple of a body had not been abused for years. She ate foods that did not oink or go moo, and she power walked the distance between Summerford and Edgefield two or three times a week, a good mile and a half. Well, she power walked in between stopping at garage sales, visiting a friend or two, and lunching at her favorite coffee shop in Edgefield. 

Clarissa rarely ever went into Hollow Creek. It was another half mile or more out of the way but she'd read about a new health food store opening over there called The Fine Fettle. She assumed she could get almond milk and fish oil and other absolutely fabulous things like pure goat soap and organic face creams. As wonderful as the Edgefield Café was, it was just a café and it was more prone to BLTs and burgers than soy milk shakes and protein bars. 

The Fine Fettle did not disappoint. Clarissa was quite content sitting there in a nice, large comfortable booth with the sun streaming in the window. She'd treated herself to the whole wheat spiced pumpkin pancakes and organic coffee all the way from Maine. She was thinking, as she stared out the window at the picturesque town, that it was worth walking the extra half mile to get into Hollow Creek more often. She'd definitely want to return to The Fine Fettle. As she took a napkin to her mouth to wipe off the remaining homemade maple syrup, she happened to look out the window. A scream immediately caught in her throat and she held her breath—to her absolute horror, there was a girl on a bicycle riding straight toward the little café looking like a demon on fire. She was maybe fifteen or sixteen years old, old enough to know better, Clarissa thought. The girl made a sharp left at the curb and Clarissa breathed a sigh of relief. If she hadn’t made that sudden turn she might have gone through the plate glass window and landed right in her lap. 

It was only for a second that Clarissa had gotten a glimpse of the girl's face. In the glare of the sun the girl had looked just like Chloe Rappaport. It had to be an apparition because Chloe Rappaport had been dead for years, but Clarissa could have sworn she'd just seen her on a blue bicycle racing down the main street of Hollow Creek like a wild savage. Of course, Chloe had died at twenty-three, not at fifteen. But Clarissa had known Chloe at the age of fifteen and this girl could have been her double. 

Clarissa's body shook, as if cold, as if she'd been frightened by something. The girl on the bike had startled her so much. It was like seeing Chloe again. It wasn't the familiarity in the girl's face altogether but something about the attitude of that girl, nothing cautious about her, no sensitivity to the speed at which she was going. She appeared so cocky, just like Chloe had been at that age. How close had she been to the girl, at least twenty feet away? It must have been the glare from the sun. It had made some remote resemblance appear familiar, chillingly familiar.

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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Guest Post: Dale Wiley - THE INTERN

One of the many great things about being a book blogger, other than getting to read some wonderful books, is being able to host a visit by an author. Today, The Book Diva's Reads is pleased to have Dale Wiley, author of The Intern, visit and discuss the path The Intern has taken to becoming a bestseller. 




HOW THE INTERN WENT FROM A DUSTY SPOT ON THE SHELF TO THE BESTSELLER LIST
By Dale Wiley

I've written all my life. I wrote mysteries and things about superheroes when I was a kid, started writing longer-form pieces in high school, studied under Stanley Elkin in college and peppered friends and family constantly, asking them to read this piece or that piece.

During most of that time, spent reading Hemingway and Fitzgerald and Flannery O'Connor for school, I tried to write "literary" fiction, about the inner workings of the heart and the truth of the human condition. At that same time, when I was driving home from college or one of my many road trips, I would put in audio books by Grisham and Ludlum and Baldacci, and enjoy the miles as the author told wild, mysterious tales. There was a certain "ha-ha-haaaaaa" tone that opened many of the audio books at that time and I wish they had never retired that, as it had such good associations for me.

My senior year, I decided that if I enjoyed listening to and reading those as much as I did, that I should try my hand at writing them. My first attempt was very post-modern, called Prime Time, and it was pretty great, but utterly unpublishable, because it was a plot that used characters from TV to meet together in one twisted, crazy storyline. Think of The A-Team meeting the cast of Facts of Life in a Scooby Doo cartoon. 

I actually got as far as meeting with a publisher in New York. But she told me the manuscript would need to be 300 pages. I looked at her like she had pumpkins for eyes. I told her I could write three 100-page stories, but there's only so much you can do with the Fonz trying to solve mysteries with Arnold Drummond. She told me that would not work. Sadly, we parted ways.

The next manuscript I worked on was The Intern. I was tired of reading every thriller where everyone was so completely serious. And so impervious to pain. I wanted my character to give as good as he got, to complain when he hurt and be funny. It took about 18 months, but I was pretty happy with the result.

I shopped it to agents, and was just sure I was going to be famous before I even left law school. I got a couple of feelers, but nothing too exciting. Life then rang the door bell, and marriage and babies left me thinking less and less about writing fiction.

In the midst of parenthood, I did find the time to write a non-fiction book about an old-time camp meeting in Georgia, called There Is A Fountain. I self-published it and it did fine, but it was a much more limited audience than I thought The Intern would have. It was interesting to put together the history with a short memoir, but I felt like the topic was limited enough that it probably wasn't going to hit the charts any time soon.

I got divorced in 2009, and toyed with writing again. I had started projects all along the way, but nothing that lasted or kept my attention. Then, in 2012, I started working on a new novel called Sabotage. It was big and bold and, I think, very good. When I completed it in 2013, I got some inquiries but not enough to quit my day job.

Memory crept in, and I started thinking about The Intern, how much I had enjoyed writing it and how different I thought it was. I remembered the joy of seeing the story evolve, and the rush that went with having the comedy mesh with the thrills. That's not easy to do, you know. Writing comedy involves one cadence, thrillers a different feel. Putting them together is very intricate.

To my surprise, it read really, really well. I polished it and re-wrote a couple of sections, but it was very tight; I'm sure this was due to how much I wrote back then. 

As I was looking at both of these manuscripts, I discovered Smashwords, which has been a revelation to me. It is the first pseudo self-publishing outfit I've ever found that doesn't require up-front payment, but instead works with you and only makes money as you sell books. That's a real partnership. The owner, Mark Coker, laid out the blueprint of how to get interest on-line and how to work to have a shot at getting your work noticed. I followed it completely. When the release date came and all of the orders came, it was a thrill. Seeing myself on iBooks bestselling lists was breathtaking. And then two weeks later, when Apple added it to the Biggest Books of Spring storewide promotion with Toni Morrison and Clive Barker and Harlan Coben, I had to be resuscitated. As a life-long reader, this is the stuff of dreams.

We're a month into this process. The book has not left the iBooks charts. It continues to climb on some of the longer-term charts. Sabotage is coming out in August. And this guy is happy that he dusted off an old thing and made it new again.


Meet the author:

Dale Wiley is a Missouri attorney who has had a character named after him on CSI, owned a record label, been interviewed by Bob Edwards on NPR's Morning Edition and made motorcycles for Merle Haggard and John Paul DeJoria. He has three awesome kids and spends his days working as a lawyer fighting the big banks.








The Intern by Dale Wiley
ISBN: 9781311987716 (ebook)
ASIN: B00USSDLPA (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Dale Wiley via Smashwords
Publication date:  March 1, 2015

It's 1995. Things are going great for new Washington, DC intern Trent Norris. He's out on his own, he's found a fabulous woman to date, and if he doesn't love his internship, he doesn't hate it either. Life is nice.
But things can change in a moment in DC, and Trent finds himself the prime suspect in two murders and a slew of other crimes. Overnight he becomes the most wanted man in America.
Trent has to find a way -- any way -- out. He finds a way to hole up at The Watergate on a senator's dime and enlists a comely call girl as his unwitting ally. But with the media eating him alive, he knows he doesn't have long before they catch up with him. Can The Intern find his way out of this mess?
From tony clubs in Georgetown to Capitol Hill murders, The Intern has all the twists and turns of a classic DC thriller, with an added comic flair.











This is a giveaway hosted by Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours for Dale Wiley. There will be ONE U.S. winners of a kindle ebook copy of The Intern. The giveaway is open to US residents only. The giveaway begins on April 20th, 2015 and runs through May 31st, 2015. Stop by our tour stops too because several of them are giving away limited edition print copies of The Intern!
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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

2015 Book 117: THE BONE TREE Review

The Bone Tree (Penn Cage #5) by Greg Iles
ISBN: 9780062311115 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780062311146 (ebook)
ASIN: B00M70YWKK (Kindle edition)
Publication date: April 21, 2015
Publisher: William Morrow & Company


Greg Iles continues the electrifying story begun in his smash New York Times bestseller Natchez Burning in this highly anticipated second installment of an epic trilogy of blood and race, family and justice, featuring Southern lawyer Penn Cage.
Former prosecutor Penn Cage and his fiancee, reporter and publisher Caitlin Masters, have barely escaped with their lives after being attacked by wealthy businessman Brody Royal and his Double Eagles, a KKK sect with ties to some of Mississippi's most powerful men. But the real danger has only begun as FBI Special Agent John Kaiser warns Penn that Brody wasn't the true leader of the Double Eagles. The puppeteer who actually controls the terrorist group is a man far more fearsome: the chief of the state police's Criminal Investigations Bureau, Forrest Knox.
The only way Penn can save his father, Dr. Tom Cage--who is fleeing a murder charge as well as corrupt cops bent on killing him--is either to make a devil's bargain with Knox or destroy him. While Penn desperately pursues both options, Caitlin uncovers the real story behind a series of unsolved civil rights murders that may hold the key to the Double Eagles' downfall. The trail leads her deep into the past, into the black backwaters of the Mississippi River, to a secret killing ground used by slave owners and the Klan for over two hundred years . . . a place of terrifying evil known only as "the bone tree."
The Bone Tree is an explosive, action-packed thriller full of twisting intrigue and deadly secrets, a tale that explores the conflicts and casualties that result when the darkest truths of American history come to light. It puts us inside the skin of a noble man who has always fought for justice--now finally pushed beyond his limits.
Just how far will Penn Cage, the hero we thought we knew, go to protect those he loves?


The Bone Tree is the fifth book to feature lawyer-turned author-turned politician Penn Cage and the second book in the trilogy that began with Natchez Burning. The underlying premise in both books is the discovery of the truth about a series of racially motivated/civil rights murders, mutilations, and rapes that occurred in the 1960s at the hands of the Double Eagles. One victim of this groups’ violence was the Dr. Tom Cage's black nurse, Viola Turner. Mrs. Turner was raped not once but twice at the hands of the Double Eagles and her brother was viciously murdered by them. Fast forward forty years and Viola Turner returned to Mississippi to die, even though she was warned to never return. Although dying of cancer, Ms. Turner is being treated by her former boss (and lover), Dr. Tom Cage. When Viola Turner does die, her son Lincoln Turner is sure it is murder and accuses Dr. Cage as the murderer. Now if you think that's not enough to deal with, in the background we find two different journalists attempting to uncover the dirty truths of the racial murders back in the 1960s and locate the infamous "Bone Tree", and then the FBI shows up with information that may link the Double Eagles and the local mafia with the murders of not only President Kennedy, but also Robert Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The Bone Tree begins pretty much just where Natchez Burning ends. The action takes place over the course of only four days, but there is a lot crammed into those four days. Unfortunately, there are a lot of good people that are killed as a result of the journalistic and police investigations. The journalists, FBI, and Penn Cage must all work around corrupt police forces, corrupt businessmen, and, of course, the corrupt members of the Double Eagles who are willing to do whatever it takes to protect their legacy and way of life. The bad guys are willing to bribe, threaten, or kill anyone that gets in their way, and sadly Penn Cage is pushed to the point where he is willing to not only bend but break the rules to arrive at the truth.

Just as with Natchez Burning, The Bone Tree shows that we can never really know someone, whether it's our parents or spouse. People keep secrets. Some of those secrets are kept in fear of retaliation and some are kept out of shame. Both Penn and Tom Cage are trying to come to grips with this idea as Tom Cage fights to survive to see another day and Penn fights to protect his family. The Bone Tree also shows just how far a good man is willing to go to protect loved ones. There's a lot going on in The Bone Tree, but somehow the 816 pages didn't feel like 816 pages. Yes, this is a long and involved read, but that's primarily because there is so much going on and there are a lot of characters and action intersecting in the main plot and subplots. I wish I could say I read this in one sitting, but even I have to sleep. This was another amazing suspense-thriller by Mr. Iles that I didn't want to put down, even when I could barely keep my eyes closed. Are all the questions raised in Natchez Burning answered? Are the bad guys arrested and held accountable for their current and past misdeeds? I could tell you, but I'll just say read the book to find out. If you enjoy well-written and intricately plotted suspense thrillers or if you've read Natchez Burning, then you'll want to grab a copy of The Bone Tree ASAP. I recommend waiting until the weekend to read this as you won't want to put it down. Alternatively, you could simply take a few days personal leave to read this book. What, you haven't read Natchez Burning? Okay, I'm in shock, especially since I told you (okay, strongly suggested) to read it last year. What are you waiting for? Now you'll need to take a week off so you can read both Natchez Burning and The Bone Tree. I plan on taking a week off in a few months just to reread both of these books . . . perhaps I'll just take a week or more to reread all of the books featuring Penn Cage. 

Just to add a little more excitement, Natchez Burning, is on its way to becoming a cable series with Sony and Amazon studies. Read more about this series here.

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, April 20, 2015

Guest Post and Giveaway: Gary Grossman, author of OLD EARTH


The Book Diva's Reads is always pleased when an author stops by to visit and chat. Today Gary Grossman has graciously agreed to let us in a few secrets about writing his latest thriller, Old Earth, namely a love of history and research.






History.  Can you Dig It?
by Gary Grossman

Thank you for inviting me to contribute to The Book Diva's Reads blog just as Old Earth, my newest globe-hopping thriller, is released.  

The novel offers a fast-paced story that crisscrosses time – all time. From the beginning to now, through the Inquisition of Galileo in the 1600's to a discovery made in modern day America. All through Old Earth, I try to sweep readers along with relatable characters and relationships, an international conspiracy that's relatable, bite size science and history, and ultimately action and intrigue. 

But, there's another element that's critical to my writing. It's research. I love research. I'm a research junkie. When it's not for my thrillers, it's for the documentary television shows I produce, the classes that I teach, and sometimes simply for the sake of expanding my interests.

What research really does for me is provide the historical foundation for building credible stories.

Old Earth started with a group of paleontologists digging for dinosaur fossils. They find something interesting, something inexplicable that leads them on a global search for answers. Research came into play to understand Earth history and the arguments that divide people over science and religion. Research shined a light on how I could work Galileo into a very contemporary tale, retelling his Papal trial and tying his work into my present day characters. Research gave me in-depth intel on modern day weaponry and military hardware and an insiders' view of The Vatican. Research gave me tours through museums and roads maps in multiple cities. Research is everything.

My good friend, author WG Griffith, actually goes out and experiences the things his characters will do. He's far braver than I am as he base jumps, dives into ancient wells, ventures through urban sewers, and feasts on things I'd never eat.  

But that's not to say I don't dig down deep. For Old Earth I worked through details with a geologist, a dinosaur expert, a former military intelligence officer and more. I interviewed, I wrote, I gave them the material I crafted, and then rewrote with their guidance.  

Also, Old Earth offers a scientist priest and a conspiracy theorist, both loosely based on actual people. Their work gave me the framework to introduce interesting, exciting characters who could propel the drama forward.

Finally, research opened my mind to the inciting incident which launches the plot. Quite by accident, I discovered that years before Galileo focused on the stars his feet were firmly planted on the ground as he experimented with a device to gauge temperatures. He called it the thermoscope. We know it as the thermometer.  

That nugget…that remarkable piece of history figures so prominently into the story that Galileo even ended up on the cover of Old Earth.  

The research that brought me to Galileo, in turn transported me to his Inquisition. With a little more exploring, interviewing and writing, I had the material to plot a parallel drama – switching back and forth between the past and the present. Without it, I wouldn't have had the historical underpinning to make a present day thriller exciting.

So what does all of this mean to hopeful and current writers and avid readers?

I have to put in the perspective of my very first book, "Superman: Serial to Cereal." It's a book about the history of the Superman character principally from movies serials to the TV show starring George Reeves that was sponsored by Kellogg's. I felt that if you're going to ask the audience accept a man who can fly, be impervious to bullets, and his believe his best friends can't recognize him when he takes off his glasses, then you better build a credible story around him.  

My conceits for Old Earth include the startling discovery Galileo makes in 1601, that links to a hermit's find in Siberia in the mid-1800s, to a mine disaster in Wales in the early 1900s, and finally to a paleontological dig in Montana today. Get on board with those connections, add a secret society that has guarded the mystery for centuries, meet people around the world who hold pieces of the puzzle, and hopefully you'll dig the history in Old Earth.

I hope I've engaged friends of The Book Diva's Reads and you'll check out Old Earth. It's published by Diversion Books and available in print, eBook and Audible editions. Let me know what you think. You can reach me via my website www.garygrossman.com, email at gary@garygrossman.com or Twitter @garygrossman1.  

Thanks!



Author Bio:




Gary Grossman, author of wildly popular Executive series, is a print and television journalist, an Emmy Award-winning network television producer, and a film and TV historian.

Catch Up:









Old Earth by Gary Grossman
ISBN:  9781626816343 (paperback)
ISBN:  9781626816336 (ebook)
ASIN:  B00QW2SD9A (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Diversion Books
Publication date: March 10, 2015

"An ambitious tale loaded with heaping doses of adrenalin, Old Earth sweeps the reader away with history, intrigue, espionage, engaging characters, and an intelligent conclusion – all elements of the perfect thriller!" —Steve Berry, NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author, The Lincoln Myth
Gary Grossman, author of the wildly popular Executive series, returns with a high-octane thriller that digs into the history of the Earth to find the secrets people are willing to kill to keep concealed.
In the summer of 1601, Galileo Galilei made a startling discovery in the mountains of Eastern Italy that, if made public, could shatter faith in religion, bring down governments and lead to worldwide turmoil.
For more than 400 years the secret has been guarded by a small group of incredibly powerful people, willing to do everything in their power to keep these discoveries from being made. But now, a university dig in Montana headed by paleontologists Quinn McCauley and Katrina Alpert threatens to expose the secret Galileo unearthed, the event that caused him to turn his study to the stars, and the hidden reason the scientist was convicted of heresy by the Inquisition.
McCauley and Alpert find themselves in a global game of cat-and-mouse, seeking answers for a mystery that has endured for centuries, hunted for what they might discover.
Old Earth weighs age-old arguments between science and religion in a tense thriller that spans time and questions recorded history.
"A high energy combination of history and intrigue, and last but not least, a great book to bring along the next time you travel." —Peter Greenberg, CBS News Travel Editor
"Old Earth's richly detailed and unique premise will delight fans of Dan Brown and Michael Crichton." —CJ Lyons, NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author 








This is a giveaway hosted by Diversion Books for Gary Grossman. There will be ONE winner of a signed print copy of Old Earth, eBook copy of Old Earth, and a Galileo Thermometer. The giveaway is open to US residents only. The giveaway begins on April 1st, 2015 and runs through May 2nd, 2015. 

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Sunday, April 19, 2015

Book Showcase: LAVINA by Mary Marcus

Lavina by Mary Marcus
ISBN: 9781611882018 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781611882025 (ebook)
ASIN: B00THMCG4U (Kindle edition)
Publisher: The Story Plant
Publication date: April 28, 2015


Mary Jacob grew up as an anomaly. A child of Louisiana in the early sixties, she found little in common with most of the people in her community and in her household, and her best friend was Lavina, the black woman who cooked and cleaned for her family. Now, in the early nineties, Mary Jacob has escaped her history and established a fresh, if imperfect, life for herself in New York. But when she learns of her father's critical illness, she needs to go back home. To a disapproving father and a spiteful sister. To a town decades out of alignment with Mary Jacob's new world. To the memories of Billy Ray, Lavina's son who grew up to be a musical legend whose star burned much too bright.
And to the echoes of a fateful day three decades earlier when three lives changed forever.
A decades-spanning story both intimate and enormous in scope, Lavina is a novel rich in humanity, sharp in its indictments, and stunning in its resolution.


Read an excerpt:

Me, I'm guessin' I'm a haint. Don' know another name for what I am. Ain't no angel 'cause I don' have wings. Anythin' that happen since I die, weren't like I thought it would be. Never seen my mother, the pearly gates of heaven, or the baby girl I lost 'for I had Billy Ray. What I sees is what I lef behind.
A deep green summer in nineteen hundred and sixty three. Hot it were, but it were always hot hot in Louisiana in August. Some say you could fry chicken eggs on the cement. I died that summer, nearly every colored person in Murpheysfield come to my funeral. Coffin were shut, had to be. Tem at the church, they did everythin' but call me Saint Lavina, her who died serving the Lord in the path for freedom. Why there was even a picture of me on the funeral program. Me in my best wig.
I sees two houses. My own, a rundown, no-count place I never finish payin' on with a dirt-poor yard and a broken front step. When it rain, the front flood and when it don', it just set there filled with red dirt and dust. Got too lazy to plant me any zinnias. Go inside and there's that old bathtub a settin’ there in the kitchen and the hot water heater rustin' in the corner where the spiders spin them threads. Spider webs on account of I didn't spend near as much time in my own house as I did over at the Long's. It’s a big ole white house on Fairfield with fourteen rooms I kept clean with my own hands and knees, lemon wax, and my purple feather duster.
I lef two chirrun behind, and them two I can see like it were yesterday. My own boy, golden brown and shinin', comin' soon on bein' a man. A handsome man as you'd ever see. Little harmonica in his hand, he were born to play that thing, funny sound it make, touch you way down in your toes. He Billy Ray Davis, born at the Confederate Charity Hospital, middle of the night in November. Next day I took him home 'cause they needs the bed and we was strong.
Now, my girl, she were white as an egg, born to a sickly woman what never take care a her. She start off growin' like some old weed in the yard. I knows right away she stronger than any of them pretty flowers. She Mary Jacob and she settin' at the kitchen table with her nose in some thick old book. She tappin' on the black-and-white floor. Tat chile, she love to read. And when she read, she tap.
You can't turn back the hands of time. Te seasons they come and go, no matter that you ain't there no more to feel the hot of August and September turn into the cool of October. And you can't feel November in your knee when November come. But you remember what your life was, and a lot of it were full of pain like your knee always was. Pain don' hurt you when you die. Tat ole blackbird pain, he fly away. You ain't happy when you is dead. But you ain't so sad neither. Ain't like living. One moment you is happy, then you turn around you is sad.
Tem that dies watchin' over them that lives and that's the truth. But that's all we can do. Can't reach out and give them two a shake and a talkin' to, like I'd like to. Wouldn't hear me if I did. Tat don' mean I ain't watchin' to see what happen. I is always watchin' . . . I is always watchin'.


Meet the author:

     Very Briefly…

    I was born and raised in Louisiana, but left for New York after graduating from Tulane. I worked very hard to get rid of my southern accent, and now I wish I hadn't. For many years, I worked in the advertising and fashion industries for Neiman Marcus, Vogue, Lancome, Faberge, and San Rio Toys where I worked on the Hello Kitty Brand. My short fiction has appeared in North Atlantic Review, Fiction, Jewish Women's Literary Journal, and others.

    My husband, Joel Goodman and I live in Los Angeles and East Hampton, New York. We have a grown son, Amos Goodman.

     Why I Write

    Reading a book has always seemed to me to be the greatest magic trick. You hold an inanimate object in your hands, you look down and wham, you're transported into an entirely different reality. You encounter people you know instantly and go to places you've never been before. Deep reading is  a relationship of complete trust when it's really working.

    To say my best friends are books may be an exaggeration–but my favorite books are like best friends: they make me laugh, they entertain me, we have fun together, I find out appalling things, wonderful things and I'm continually moved.

     I never get sick of them (and books never get sick of me) unlike my human friends. Books are also very low maintenance (unlike people) requiring no more than a nice shelf and a little dusting once in a while. And, of course, books don't have anything else to do other than hang out with me (unlike my flesh and blood friends and family who have such busy schedules).

     I have an electronic reader now that I like, but am just a little afraid of, that stores thousands of books and that seems to me to be both slightly sinful as well as gluttonous but in the nicest possible way. When I get in bed with my electronic reader and it lights up the dark, I feel like a teenager with a flashlight.

     All my close friends are so called creative types; consequently no one really except strangers or half acquaintances ever ask me why I became a writer. I was thinking about it this morning why writing has always seemed to me to be the only thing to do (other than painting or pot throwing or drawing, though I can't do any of those) and that's because writing is the only form of power I really trust. And doesn't involve telling other people what to do. Which I never seem able to do with any kind of authority or enthusiasm.

     Fahrenheit 451 is the scariest book that has ever been written.

     I'd be insane or dead if it weren't for books.

Connect with the author:

Website     |     Facebook     |     Goodreads     |     Tumblr
Email: MaryMarcusFiction[at]gmail[dot]com



Friday, April 17, 2015

2015 Book 116: WHISPER HOLLOW Review

Whisper Hollow by Chris Cander
ISBN: 9781590517116 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781590517123 (ebook)
ASIN: B00N6PBE7O (Kindle edition)
Publication date: March 17, 2015
Publisher: Other Press


Set in a small coal-mining town, a debut novel full of secrets, love, betrayal, and suspicious accidents, where Catholicism casts a long shadow and two courageous women make choices that will challenge our own moral convictions
 
One morning in Verra, a town nestled into the hillsides of West Virginia, the young Myrthen Bergmann is playing tug-of-war with her twin, when her sister is killed. Unable to accept her own guilt, Myrthen excludes herself from all forms of friendship and affection and begins a twisted, haunted life dedicated to God. Meanwhile, her neighbor Alta Krol longs to be an artist even as her days are taken up caring for her widowed father and siblings. Everything changes when Myrthen marries the man Alta loves. Fourteen years later, we meet Lidia, a teenage girl in the same town, and her precocious son, Gabriel. When Gabriel starts telling eerily prescient stories that hint at Verra's long-buried secrets, it's not long before the townspeople begin to suspect that the boy harbors evil spirits—an irresistible state of affairs for Myrthen and her obsession with salvation.


Whisper Hollow is the story of three women: Myrthen, Alta, and Lidia, set in the small town of Verra, West Virginia. This mining town is filled with secrets and some people will go to great lengths to keep those secrets hidden.

Myrthen Bergmann was a first generation American, born to German immigrants in 1910. She, along with her twin sister Ruth, and her parents lived in a small mining community in West Virginia. Just days before Myrthen and Ruth's sixth birthday a tragic accident resulted in Ruth's death. A few years later Myrthen decides to dedicate her life to God and has the goal of becoming a nun. Myrthen sees herself as devout and pious; others see her as judgmental, hypercritical, and without compassion. Myrthen's desire for a cloistered life dedicated to God changes when she is caught in flagrante delicto with a male suitor, Giovanni "John" Esposito, and rushed into marriage.

Alta Krol is only a few years younger than Myrthen and has had a crush on John Esposito. Alta knows that there isn't any hope for her with John, but it doesn't stop her from dreaming about him. A few years pass and Alta is married to Walter Pulaski and the mother of a young son. Her life isn't great, but it isn't altogether bad either. She loves Walter but she isn't in love with him and she accepts that her life as a wife and mother in Verra, West Virginia is all she's going to get or is it?

Fast forward a number of years and both Myrthen and Alta are widows due to a tragic mine explosion. It is now the 1960s and Lidia Kielar is a teenager in Verra. She marries her high school beau and they have a beautiful son, Gabriel. Gabriel isn't the usual toddler and seems attuned to something no one else can see or hear. This doesn't bode well in a small Appalachian town where people may believe in ghosts and ghouls, but they don't want anybody to uncover their secrets.

I was very excited to learn about Whisper Hollow a few months back. As a native West Virginian, I'm always interested in reading stories set in my home state. The story is told in alternating voices of Myrthen, Alta, and Lidia over the course of 53 years. The reader is provided background into the family dynamics for each lady as well as given glimpses into small-town mining life. Whisper Hollow, for me, was a story about secrets, guilt, and the lies we tell ourselves. Some of those lies become so distorted and warped over time that we simply can't face the truth. The biblical quote at the beginning of the book sums this up quite nicely: "Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known." I enjoyed reading Whisper Hollow and found it to be a fast-paced and engrossing historical read. I found the characters to be well-developed and realistic, and the settings and action to be plausible. If you like historical fiction or simply stories set in small towns, then you'll definitely want to grab a copy of Whisper Hollow to read.

Click here to read an excerpt.

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


Saturday, April 11, 2015

Book Showcase and Giveaway: NOISE by Brett Garcia Rose

Noise by Brett Garcia Rose
ISBN: 9780991549405 (paperback)
ISBN: 9780991549412 (ebook)
ASIN: B00KYY4MM4 (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Velocity Imprints
Publication date:  June 14, 2014


The world is an ugly place, and I can tell you now, I fit in just fine.
Lily is the only person Leon ever loved. When she left a suicide note and disappeared into a murky lake ten years ago, she left him alone, drifting through a silent landscape.
Or did she?
A postcard in her handwriting pulls Leon to the winter-cold concrete heart of New York City. What he discovers unleashes a deadly rage that has no sound.
A grisly trail of clues leads to The Bear, the sadistic Russian crime lord who traffics in human flesh. The police—some corrupt, some merely compromised—are of little help. They don't like Leon’s methods, or the mess he leaves in his wake.
Leon is deaf, but no sane person would ever call him disabled. He survived as a child on the merciless streets of Nigeria. He misses nothing. He feels no remorse. The only direction he's ever known is forward.
He will not stop until he knows.
Where is Lily?


Excerpt: Profanity alert!

Twenty-Eight
The sounds I cannot hear: The whistle of the hammer as it arcs through the air. The wailing of pain and the begging of The Bear. The dripping of blood from thawing meat onto the wet concrete floor. The beautifully crude threats.
My own hideous voice.
I drag The Bear into a walk-in freezer by the hook sunk through his shoulder and toss him into a corner on the floor. When I reenter the freezer, dragging the oak table behind me, The Bear is hard at work on the hook, trying to muscle it out, but it's sunk deep, through the tendons. Hope is adrenaline, fear masks pain, begging helps no one.
I yank him up by the hook and then hold his hands outstretched, one at a time, as I nail his wrists to the table with railroad spikes. I put all of my 240 pounds behind the hammer, but even so, it takes several swings. His body shakes, the nails sink further into the wood, his face is pain. He screams, but I cannot hear.
The building above burns a deep blue hue with my smuggled-in accelerants.
The sound of the hammer into The Bear. The pain in his eyes. I have never seen so much hatred. It is beautiful to me, to reach this center, this uncomplicated base, to disassemble the past and honor a new history. It is another film, also homemade and rough, an overlay, an epilogue. The Bear is broken but I have spared his face, and to see those eyes, that is what I needed; to see his hatred flow into me, my own eyes sucking down the scum like bathtub drains. His life whirls into me and I taste the fear, the hope, the sharp sting of adrenaline pumping and the reeking muck of despair. His pain soothes me, a slow, thick poison. We will all die.
I know it now; I am a broken man. I always was. I imagine Lily watching me, Lily keeping score, making lists, balancing all. As a child from far away, she was the queen, even more so than her mother. But she didn't survive. The world was not as we had imagined, not even close. The world is a cruel, bastard place, Lily cold and lost somewhere, me hot and bleeding and swinging my hammer. Life as it is, not as we wish it to be.
The sounds I cannot hear: The laughter of the watchers. The groan of my sister as The Bear cums inside of her, pulling her hair until the roots bleed. The Bear screams and shits himself inside the dark freezer. Lily's wailing and cursing and crying. I scream at The Bear with all my mighty, damaged voice, swinging the hammer at his ruined hands, hands that will never again touch anyone. Lily at the end, beaten and pissed on and begging to die.
Lily is dead. I am dead. It will never be enough.
I remove the stack of photos from my wallet that I'd printed at the Internet café a lifetime ago and place them face down on the table in front of The Bear. I draw an X on the back of the first photo and turn it over, laying it close to the pulp of his ruined hands.
The Bear offers me anything I want. An animal can feel pain but cannot describe or transmit it adequately. The Bear both is and is not an animal. I lack hearing, so the Bear cannot transmit his experience to me unless I choose to see it. His pain is not my pain, but mine is very much his. I swing the hammer into his unhooked shoulder, and then I draw another X and flip another photo.
His lips move, and I understand what he wants to know. Five photos.
In my notepad, I write: you are a rapist fucking pig. I put the paper into the gristle of his hands and swing the hammer against the metal hook again. It’s a sound I can feel.
Anything, The Bear mouths. He is sweating in the cold air of the freezer. Crying. Bleeding.
In my pad, I write: I want my sister back. I swing the hammer claw-side first into his mouth and leave it there. His body shakes and twitches.
I turn over his photo and write one last note, tearing it off slowly and holding it in front of his face, the handle of the hammer protruding from his jaw like a tusk. You are number four. There are a few seconds of space as the information stirs into him and I watch as he deflates, the skin on his face sagging like a used condom. He knows what I know.
I turn over the last photo for him. I turn it slowly and carefully, sliding it toward him. Victor, his one good son, his outside accomplishment, his college boy, the one who tried to fuck him and they fucked my sister instead.
I remove another mason jar from my bag, unscrewing the metal top and letting the thick fluid flow onto his lap. I wipe my hands carefully and light a kitchen match, holding it in front of his face for a few seconds as it catches fully. He doesn't try to blow it out. He doesn't beg me to stop. He just stares at the match as the flame catches, and I drop it onto his lap.
The Bear shakes so hard from the pain that one of his arms rips from the table, leaving a skewer of meat and tendon on the metal spike. I lean into his ear, taking in his sweet reek and the rot of his bowels and, in my own hideous voice, I say:
"Wait for me."



About the author:

Brett Garcia Rose is a writer, software entrepreneur, and former animal rights soldier and stutterer. He is the author of two books, Noise and Losing Found Things, and his work has been published in Sunday Newsday Magazine, The Barcelona Review, Opium, Rose and Thorn, The Battered Suitcase, Fiction Attic, Paraphilia, and other literary magazines and anthologies. His short stories have won the Fiction Attic's Short Memoir Award (Second Place), Opium's Bookmark Competition, The Lascaux Prize for Short Fiction, and have been nominated for the Million Writer's Award, Best of the Net, and The Pushcart Prize. Rose travels extensively but calls New York City home. To learn more, go to BrettGarciaRose.com, or connect with Brett on Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.











Enter to win a digital Kindle version of Noise by Brett Garcia Rose. Giveaway ends 11:59 PM ET on Friday 04/17/2015 and winner will be announced 12:00 PM ET on Saturday 04/18/2015.

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