Wednesday, August 16, 2017

{Blog Tour: Excerpt & Review} DINNER CONVERSATIONS by Jason Reid




About the Author:


Jason Reid is an entrepreneur by trade and a dad by passion. He currently lives in Murrieta, California with his wonderful wife and amazing four children. Over the years he has written numerous business books, a novel, and children’s The Protector Bug book series.

SOCIAL LINKS





Book Blurb:

You are going to LAUGH! You are going to then wonder if these conversations actually happened. You are going to wonder what kind of guy would actually say these things to his family.

The answer is simple—yes, these conversations did actually happen. They occurred over a period of roughly 5 years, mainly at my dinner table.  I took them verbatim and posted them on Facebook so that all my friends could get a good laugh.

I must be honest with you, some of you are going to laugh and say things like “…that sounds like something I would say or want to say” others are going to think that I am a horrible parent. I am ok with either thought process.

What I hope is that after laughing, scratching your head and wondering what is wrong with Jay Reid, you realize that you need to create more of your own Dinner Conversations.

Please join me @ www.Facebook.com/ DinnerConversations to read more and post your own.

Order Your Copy:



Description from Back Cover:

If you are a parent that ever wished you could just say all the things that pop into your head, well you can, and I do. I’m the guy who, for better or worse, has always said whatever happened to pop into his head and frankly so do my kids.

If you want a break from raising your kids and just laugh at how I raised mine you will love, Dinner Conversations!

This book is a simple collection of actual conversations I had with my wife and 4 children over the years around our dinner table.

I guarantee you will laugh or better yet you will feel like you are "The Father or Mother of the Year", in comparison. If your children disagree with you or your parenting style, just have them read this book. They will walk away from it with a new eye-opening perspective and suddenly be very thankful for the great job you did raising them.


Book Excerpt:

Kids
"You have to pay how much in taxes?!?"

Jay
"Yep, half or more of my money goes to pay taxes, the rest goes to pay for you guys. I have almost nothing left over."

Kids
"That's crazy!”

Jay
"I agree, but I am stuck with all of you."



Charlene's Review:

Dinner Conversations is not a "story" book. It is a series of conversations, spanning several years, that took place with his wife and kids around their dinner table. In his intro, Mr. Reid describes his parenting style and his emphasis on two rules he would like to see other parents copy (paraphrased):

            1) If home, all family members sit down to a family dinner (except on parent date nights)  
            2) Dinner should be fun, you should laugh and not be afraid to speak your mind        
   
Mr. Reid then gives us examples throughout the book, of his family’s banter, such as:  

pg. 200 Cat Games - I get home from work to find Ryan pointing a laser pointer at the ground and Kyle trying to catch it.

Jay - "What are you doing?"
Ryan - "The Cat wont play with us, so Kyle is pretending to be the cat and catch the laser"
Jay - "Cant you go play video games like normal kids?"
Kyle - "Video games rot your brain"
Jay - "Oh... Judging from what I am seeing, the damage is already done." 

Dinner Conversations is a light, fun-filled read, but my favorite part of the book is at the end where Mr. Reid outlines 13 Tips for Creating Your Own Dinner Conversations. It’s about time we all go back to the basics of family, and this book can help you appreciate that.


*A physical copy was provided by the publicist in exchange for an honest review for the purposes of the blog tour.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

{Review} THE SMELL OF OTHER PEOPLE'S HOUSES by Bonnie Sue Hitchcock

ASIN #: B00Y6Q9BB8
Page Count: 240
Publish Date: February 23, 2016
Publisher: Amazon (Kindle)
Summary on Goodreads:

In Alaska, 1970, being a teenager here isn’t like being a teenager anywhere else. Ruth has a secret that she can’t hide forever. Dora wonders if she can ever truly escape where she comes from, even when good luck strikes. Alyce is trying to reconcile her desire to dance, with the life she’s always known on her family’s fishing boat. Hank and his brothers decide it’s safer to run away than to stay home—until one of them ends up in terrible danger.

Four very different lives are about to become entangled.


Charlene's Review:

The Smell of Other People's Houses is an artfully crafted story of varying character lines that intersect in a brilliantly heartfelt story of familial angst and the overwhelming power of perseverance. Each of the main characters has a secret, a burden, and a story, all their own, and are all looking for a hero, amid the sometimes brutal and poverty-stricken areas of Alaska. As the story unfolds, and the characters' paths become entwined, they begin to rescue each other.

Ms. Hitchcock has a tremendous talent with words, invoking emotion through short, powerful statements. She captures the fragility and despair of the human condition in its most bare and painful reality, while allowing the reader to glimpse the hope and love secreted away underneath the surface. I can't recall the last time I cried reading a book, and the blows that caused the tears were swift and fleeting, but long-standing in emotion.

The Smell of Other People's Houses is a study in love, as misguided, skewed, and full of faults as it can be, and the power of being loved despite our unworthiness.


*A physical copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


** Review was originally posted on February 29, 2016 on the Collected Works site.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

{Review} THE FLIGHT OF THE PICKERINGS by John Grayson Heide

ASIN #: B01AE2NDR0
Page Count: 320
Publish Date: January 10, 2016
Publisher: Amazon (Kindle)
Summary from Goodreads:

Guy Pickering is a good man and good husband to his wife Dorothy who grows wackier every day with dementia. Guy sees the end coming and wants to be in control, but Life has other plans. His most private moments spiral out of control as a nosy neighbor intrudes, a rebellious teenage grandson shows up and finally a fame-hungry reporter spotlights them in front of a world-wide audience.

Filled with tender moments and comic twists, this book engages the reader in one family’s journey, a final voyage that all of us will take, sooner or later. The Flight of the Pickerings is a love story that touches on the right for self-determination while infusing deep humanity and humor.


Kathy's Review:

The best word I can think of to describe this book is “quirky.” I went into it thinking it would be depressing, describing a woman with dementia and her husband’s decision to end both her life in his. However, nothing goes as planned for Guy Pickering in his attempt to put an end to Dorothy’s discomfort. A series of off-the-wall events takes place, each thwarting his plans.

The book also jumps back and forth in history – from the day that Guy and Dorothy met to their late teens/early 20’s. However, the book fails to really tell their love story once they got together.

And then, probably the most strange piece of this novel … sometimes, inanimate objects have thoughts/feelings on what is happening in the book. Guy’s car, for instance, and the airplane. The cat has one brief paragraph. Other random characters are thrown in, and didn’t seem central to the story, so I largely ignored them.
Mostly, I read to the end to find out if Guy was successful in his quest. I won’t give anything away here, but I would say that the book wraps up nicely and on a hopeful note.

Author John Grayson Heide certainly has an interesting point of view, and was able to provide a light-hearted take on a very difficult topic, so kudos to him for that!


** Review was originally posted on January 19, 2017 on the Collected Works site.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

{Review} THE LEGEND OF THE DAGGER PRINCE by T. A. Gallant

ISBN #: 978-0997244700
Page Count: 182
Published: April 8, 2016
Publisher: Timotheos Press
Summary on Goodreads:

In the days of King Tsedecc, the seventh generation after Qccesed the Great, a kidnapping shatters young Prince Korbin's idyllic world. In short order, everything he knows is called into question as he hears horrifying things about the world around him. In the deadly aftermath, nothing can ever be the same. A twisting tapestry of virtue and intrigue, The Legend of the Dagger Prince is much more than a coming-of-age tale or an adventure story, although it could aptly be described as both. This carefully-woven medievalesque fantasy is a rich journey toward redemption, exploring hard lessons regarding the cost of loyalty and honor-and the price of deceit. Eminently quotable and flavored with a subtle Old World literary feel, The Legend of the Dagger Prince is the opening salvo in T. A. Gallant's exciting new series, The Annals of Adamah.


Lupe's Review:

Ok. This was a book blog review so honesty is required. And I think the story could have been much stronger. And I hated the ending. I didn't understand who the narrator was supposed to be.

*edit* After careful reading, I get it now!

However, the plot of the story was great and paced well. I did like the main character, Prince Korbin, though I wish we could have seen more of the antagonist, whose name I will withhold for spoiler reasons. The twist at the beginning was not what I expected and I appreciated the flow of the story and the treachery and mayhem and justice and hope sprinkled within. That being said, if you like quick, low fantasy (no magic or anything here, sorry, just real kingdoms and fighting), then this is for you. If you like more high fantasy or something with more detail or even romance? Then steer clear.


*A hard copy was provided by the author and publisher in exchange for an honest review.

** Review was originally posted on April 23, 2016 on the Collected Works site.

Monday, August 7, 2017

{U.S. Giveaway} EASTMAN WAS HERE by Alex Gilvarry

Summary from Goodreads:

An ambitious new novel set in the literary world of 1970s New York, following a washed-up writer in an errant quest to pick up the pieces of his life.

The year is 1973, and Alan Eastman, a public intellectual, accidental cultural critic, washed-up war journalist, husband, and philanderer; finds himself alone on the floor of his study in an existential crisis. His wife has taken their kids and left him to live with her mother in New Jersey, and his best work feels as though it is years behind him. In the depths of despair, he receives an unexpected and unwelcome phone call from his old rival dating back to his days on the Harvard college newspaper, offering him the chance to go to Vietnam to write the definitive account of the end of America's longest war. Seeing his opportunity to regain his wife s love and admiration while reclaiming his former literary glory, he sets out for Vietnam. But instead of the return to form as a pioneering war correspondent that he had hoped for, he finds himself grappling with the same problems he thought he'd left back in New York.

Following his widely acclaimed debut, From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant, Alex Gilvarry employs the same thoughtful, yet dark sense of humor in Eastman Was Here to capture one irredeemable man's search for meaning in the face of advancing age, fading love, and a rapidly-changing world.


ISBN #: 9781101981504
Viking Release Date: August 22, 2017
Price: $27.00
Also available as an e-book
For more information visit www.penguin.com or www.alexgilvarry.com



About the Author:


Alex Gilvarry is the author of From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant, winner of the Hornblower Award for a First Book, named Best New Voice 2012 by Bookspan.  He has received fellowships from the Harry Ransom Center and the Norman Mailer Center. He is a professor at Monmouth University where he teaches fiction.


Giveaway Info:

This giveaway is open to U.S. residents only and will end on Sunday, August 20th. TWO winners will be chosen and contacted for their mailing address. Winners will have 24 hours to respond or another winner will be chosen in their place.

Good Luck!!!







Q&A with Alex Gilvarry

Q: EASTMAN WAS HERE, your second novel, follows Alan Eastman—a washed-up writer, public intellectual, cultural critic, and philander—whose marriage has just fallen apart. In part to win back his wife and to revive his writing career, he sets off to Saigon to cover the end of the Vietnam War. What was the impetus for writing this particular story?

A: I was reading Norman Mailer a lot because I was invited to his house in Provincetown for the Norman Mailer Writer’s Colony. Before going, all I knew about Mailer was that he liked to battle feminists on television and that he once wrote a very problematic essay I read in college called “The White Negro.” Doesn’t the title alone just make you shiver? So I started reading him to do my homework. The Armies of the Night (very good), The Executioner’s Song (twice as long as it needs to be, but good), An American Dream (just awful), The Prisoner of Sex (embarrassingly bad), and Harlot’s Ghost (gave me tennis elbow). It was very hard to find the sympathetic Mailer, but I was entertained by his transparent feelings in his work. Just counting all the phallic imagery he uses can entertain you for one summer. Machismo, envy, homophobia, sexism—he couldn’t mask anything, and because of the era, why would he?!

In one of his biographies I found a very interesting tidbit that stuck with me. That the New York Herald Tribune wanted to send Mailer to Vietnam in order to write dispatches on the ground war. The deal never happened, supposedly because the Herald’s owner didn’t like his out-spoken attitude against the war. I imagined Mailer would have turned his dispatches, had he written them, into a book, like he did with so much of his journalism.

What would that book have been like? I wondered. Perhaps it’s a book that’s supposed to be about Vietnam, but then it turns out to be all about its author and his love life. I was going through a really bad break up when I was thinking about this book and I had my own crazy feelings that I needed to purge. So that’s how Alan Eastman was born.

Q: The author Liz Moore described EASTMAN WAS HERE as a “wry throwback of a novel that… [is] in the tradition of satirists like Kurt Vonnegut.” Your first novel, From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant, was also told through satire. What in particular draws you to this method of storytelling? 

A: My heroes were Woody Allen and Steve Martin. Then later Gary Shteyngart and Mordecai Richler. Donald Barthelme, too, a great satirist. You are what you eat. But what draws me is the emotional state humor, and laughter, can place you in. Especially in the written form. You are somewhat vulnerable after laughing. Therefore couldn’t I break your heart, next?

Q: Eastman has self-aggrandizing and self-crippling notions of masculinity. Can you describe what it was like to channel such a misogynistic protagonist?

A: Well, a misogynist can never be funny, himself. Nor does he deserve to be considered interesting. The humor comes out of watching his ignorance and blindness. He is a fool. We are laughing at him, not with. And to see the fool through a certain lens, going about his life, thinking of himself as a great lover and thinker of his time, I found this to be compelling, and a way to showcase a certain truth about an era. Certainly the truth of gender discrimination. In the book, Eastman lectures a central character, Anne Channing, a war journalist, on masculine writing versus feminine writing. And on how women are perceived as writers, through the male gaze of a Man author. Or as Mailer would put it, a “major” writer, which always meant male. And I find this attitude still exists in our readership and book buying practices. I found certain prejudices in my own reading habits. This is a point made much better by Siri Hustvedt in her essay “No Competition” from A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women. I’m not going to mansplain what women have known for ages. Read Siri’s essay.

Q: The female characters in the novel are arguably more successful, more driven, and certainly more emotionally mature than Eastman, exposing and threatening his hypermasculinity. In this way, your novel is a nod to feminism and just one of the ways you puncture some of the romantic illusions still attached to the 60s and 70s. Can you elaborate on the role female characters play in EASTMAN WAS HERE?

A: I found that some of the best writing on the Vietnam War was done by women, particularly Gloria Emerson and her book Winners & Losers. A must read. It won the National Book Award in 1978. It was Emerson who I had in mind when I was creating the character of Anne Channing in the novel. I wanted to place Eastman up against great female characters, who are very strong and together, and Eastman can’t always see this about them because he’s too busy reducing them to sexual objects. But I do this on purpose to show just how ridiculous he is, and men of his kind. And the women in his life do threaten him in a variety of ways. Professionally, personally, romantically. Feminism was such an integral part of this era, and men, like Eastman, were very threatened by it.

Q: Even though the novel takes place in 1973, it feels completely relevant and in tune with what’s happening in today’s tumultuous cultural and social landscapes. Let’s face it, America elected a man who sounds less presidential and more like Alan Eastman every day. While writing EASTMAN WAS HERE, were you consciously thinking of what was happening in this country?

A: Not so much with the election. I set the action at the end of the Vietnam War, where America is withdrawing from an occupation. So I was very much thinking of the end of our presence in Iraq. But why Vietnam when there are so many books about it? That answer is more subliminal. My father was in the Vietnam War and stationed at Than Son Nhut airbase. Yet he’s a very anti-war individual, an intelligent man when it comes to world conflict. I grew up with his stories and like many boys of my generation, a desperate need to please him. Maybe that’s why I engage with this stuff.

Writing, I thought about how Vietnam very much shifted into Cambodia with US involvement and the Khmer Rouge, just as the focus in Iraq has now shifted into Syria with ISIS. I hoped I would learn something from these parallels. The results have been costly and disastrous now, just as they were then. But this is only the social milieu, the backdrop, for what is essentially a love story set in two cities. New York and Saigon. Nothing blows up in this book. Eastman barely leaves his hotel, the Continental, that mysterious place where Graham Greene stayed and all the war correspondents in Vietnam after him.

Q: In the book, you simultaneously celebrate and dismantle the romance attached to the 1970s New York and its literary lions, like Mailer, Roth, Bellow, and their kin. In your opinion, how should we evaluate the legacy of those writers?

A: Man, I love this period. New York still had Book Row and Elaine’s and Paris Review parties at George Plimpton’s house. Book deals were made at parties. Books were sexy, and had plenty of sex in them. You know what else was sexy? The Upper East Side. Go figure. I think the writers you mention have all said regrettable things or have had periods of scandal, and they all lived to publish another book, win a Pulitzer or National Book Award, no matter how bad their behavior got, personally or publicly. Of course things turned out fine for them—they were men! I address this very issue in the novel when Eastman meets Anne Channing, a real war reporter, good at her job, better than him in every way. She makes him face all of this male ugliness. But the book isn’t a reprimand or a chastising of WMNs (“White Male Narcissists” to quote David Foster Wallace). It’s a love story.

Q: When authors like Mailer, Bellow, or Gore Vidal were at the height of their popularity, they were not only writers, but public intellectuals, constantly debating the day’s issues—Vietnam, civil rights, etc.—on TV and through op-eds. For better or worse, we don’t really have an author today quite like Mailer. As an author, do you feel you have a responsibility to take up profound social issues? Should authors be more publicly outspoken?

A: I think I have a responsibility to capture the time I live in, and many of our novelists take up social issues. If there’s something that bothers me, like Guantanamo Bay remaining open, I write about it. Sure, I wish some of our major novelists would dig in a little more and get dirty. However, Mailer and Vidal and Mary McCarthy and Susan Sontag weren’t only novelists, they also wrote compelling non-fiction, reportage, social criticism. It was during a time when magazines would send writers, sometimes novelists, into dangerous places like Vietnam. Mary McCarthy went to Vietnam for the New York Review of Books. James Jones reported on it for the New York Times Magazine. What they wrote made them public intellectuals of a certain kind, first. Then came television. And it wasn’t always very successful. Just take a look on YouTube at Mailer’s appearance with Gore Vidal on the Dick Cavett show. It was a disaster!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

{Review} SUITCASE GIRL by Ty Hutchinson

Description from back cover:

In the first book of the Suitcase Girl Trilogy, Agent Abby Kane discovers an unlikely connection with a little girl found outside the offices of the FBI.

In an effort to learn where the child came from, Abby brings the girl home with her, thinking a family environment might jog the girl's memory. Abby's efforts pay off as the investigation points toward human trafficking. Only it doesn't end there.

As Abby continues to dig, indicators suggest there's something more, something unthinkable ... and quite frankly, unexplainable.


Charlene's Review:

Abby is back, again, in knee-deep in a multi-faceted mystery. What appears to be a case of human trafficking turns into more than Abby and her partner bargain for when a girl is left inside a suitcase outside FBI headquarters. Abby brings the girl into her home and sets off a series of events that could change Abby's life forever.

I am an admitted fan of Mr. Hutchinson's work, and this may very well be his fastest-paced Abby Kane novel yet. The mystery and suspense were palpable in Suitcase Girl, and as is usually the case, a quirky secret is found that keeps you guessing all the way through, and into, the next book of the series. There is little to be said that doesn't include a spoiler, except READ IT! The ending is explosive and I was greatly disturbed to be left hanging - great move Ty! I will be anxiously awaiting Book 2: The Curator.


*A physical copy was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

{Release Day Review} MRS. SAINT AND THE DEFECTIVES by Julie Lawson Timmer

Summary from Goodreads:

Markie, a fortysomething divorcée who has suffered a humiliating and very public fall from marital, financial, and professional grace, moves, along with her teenage son, Jesse, to a new town, hoping to lick her wounds in private. But Markie and Jesse are unable to escape the attention of their new neighbor Mrs. Saint, an irascible, elderly New European woman who takes it upon herself, along with her ragtag group of “defectives,” to identify and fix the flaws in those around her, whether they want her to or not.

What Markie doesn’t realize is that Mrs. Saint has big plans for the divorcée’s broken spirit. Soon, the quirky yet endearing woman recruits Markie to join her eccentric community, a world where both hidden truths and hope unite them. But when Mrs. Saint’s own secrets threaten to unravel their fragile web of healing, it’s up to Markie to mend these wounds and usher in a new era for the “defectives”—one full of second chances and happiness.


Mandy's Review:

This was a slow-starter for me. Not because of the writing or the story-telling, both of those were done very well. The reason I found this to be a slow-starter was thanks to Markie, the main character.

Markie was raised by parents who were concerned with how things looked; keeping up with ... scratch that ... surpassing what the Jones' had was a vital way of living their life. They were comfortable hobnobbing with the elite society and abhorred anything that caused the slightest wrinkle in their societal blanket. So, needless to say, Markie's divorce put a stink in their nose they couldn't get out ... yet they had to play the part of the dutiful parents while making sure Markie caught the hints they threw her way of HOW MUCH they were "helping" her. I can understand why that would make her want to break away and marry someone COMPLETELY different from what she was used to.

Kyle was flighty and non-committal at best. Markie kept his appointments straight, made sure he knew who was who and put complete trust in him to handle all of their assets. She ignored the lipstick-stained collars, ignored the strange perfume smells coming off of him when he came home late ... you get the idea. Because Markie was raised to maintain a certain societal status, that status often requires a wife to turn the occasional blind eye to her husband's wanderings. The problems really surfaced when Markie found out Kyle had diddled one of the other moms in the little club Markie was a part. From there, things went downhill fast; Markie found out Kyle had extended all their loans to maximum number of limits allowed. Markie lost her husband, house, friends, status, all of it.

After the divorce, when Markie moves into the new bungalow in a different town, she meets Mrs. Saint. Okay, maybe 'meets' is the wrong word. Markie was overtaken by Mrs. Saint.

Mrs. Saint is a tiny woman with an enormous personality. She takes one look at a person and knows what they need to become better, to solve their problems. It's a gift, really, but an unwelcome one where Markie's concerned. I loved Mrs. Saint. Yes, she probably could've worked on her overbearing nature a bit but the woman totally means well and wants the best for everyone.

So, why was Markie the main reason this novel was a slow-starter for me? Her attitude. I could not stand it. She blatantly turns a blind eye to her husbands comings and goings. Then, after the divorce, she allows her son to do whatever he wants and REFUSES to believe he's doing anything wrong ... until the police show up at her door late one night. Markie always stayed annoyed and mad at Mrs. Saint while thinking the worst of her every suggestion and action. She frustrated me so much I could only read one chapter at a time before closing the book angrily. It wasn't until about half-way through the novel that I FINALLY was able to read more than one chapter at a time.

Mrs. Saint should've been the main character of this novel. Her and her defectives is what the book should've revolved around, not Markie. Markie could've still had her divorce and issues and moved in next door - but as the antagonist, not the protagonist. If it was written from that perspective, I would've likely given this book five stars. They way it is now,  I'm giving it three stars ... all because of Markie.


*An ARC of this novel was provided by the publicist, Goldberg McDuffie Communications, in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, July 21, 2017

{Review} THE ADDRESS by Fiona Davis

Summary from Goodreads:

After a failed apprenticeship, working her way up to head housekeeper of a posh London hotel is more than Sara Smythe ever thought she'd make of herself. But when a chance encounter with Theodore Camden, one of the architects of the grand New York apartment house The Dakota, leads to a job offer, her world is suddenly awash in possibility--no mean feat for a servant in 1884. The opportunity to move to America, where a person can rise above one's station. The opportunity to be the female manager of The Dakota, which promises to be the greatest apartment house in the world. And the opportunity to see more of Theo, who understands Sara like no one else . . . and is living in The Dakota with his wife and three young children. 

In 1985, Bailey Camden is desperate for new opportunities. Fresh out of rehab, the former party girl and interior designer is homeless, jobless, and penniless. Two generations ago, Bailey's grandfather was the ward of famed architect Theodore Camden. But the absence of a genetic connection means Bailey won't see a dime of the Camden family's substantial estate. Instead, her -cousin- Melinda--Camden's biological great-granddaughter--will inherit almost everything. So when Melinda offers to let Bailey oversee the renovation of her lavish Dakota apartment, Bailey jumps at the chance, despite her dislike of Melinda's vision. The renovation will take away all the character and history of the apartment Theodore Camden himself lived in . . . and died in, after suffering multiple stab wounds by a madwoman named Sara Smythe, a former Dakota employee who had previously spent seven months in an insane asylum on Blackwell's Island. 

One hundred years apart, Sara and Bailey are both tempted by and struggle against the golden excess of their respective ages--for Sara, the opulence of a world ruled by the Astors and Vanderbilts; for Bailey, the free-flowing drinks and cocaine in the nightclubs of New York City--and take refuge and solace in the Upper West Side's gilded fortress. But a building with a history as rich--and often tragic--as The Dakota's can't hold its secrets forever, and what Bailey discovers in its basement could turn everything she thought she knew about Theodore Camden--and the woman who killed him--on its head. 

With rich historical detail, nuanced characters, and gorgeous prose, Fiona Davis once again delivers a compulsively readable novel that peels back the layers of not only a famed institution, but the lives --and lies--of the beating hearts within.



Mandy's Review:


Y'all, I am a little blown away by this book. First of all, it has one of the things I love the most in a novel: two time lines from two different centuries but they're connected in some way. Secondly, this story does not play out in all of the ways you think it will.

I. LOVE. That.

Our experience begins by getting to know Sara and the situation she's in. She was formerly a seamstress who left her position after having a run-in with her boss' husband ... who was a little handsy. When she left there, she went to work at a fancy London hotel working her way up to head housekeeper. While in that position, she notices one of her guests' child getting ready to climb up on an open windowsill, about four or five stories up. Sara runs to the room and pulls the little girl off the ledge just in the nick of time. Her heroic act garners her a job offer at a new hotel being built in New York.

Sara is unsure about traveling across the pond to an unknown territory and starting her life over. Then she looks at her mother and considers the life her mother has had ... and that decides things for Sara.

Fast forward to the fabulous 80's and we meet Bailey, an alcoholic and drug user fresh out of rehab. Bailey is bound and determined to start her life anew but there's a problem. All of her old friends are all users and there's NO WAY Bailey can be around those people or she'll be using again in no time. With only one option left, Bailey contacts her cousin Melinda, future heiress to the Camden fortune.

As Bailey helps Melinda remodel the Dakota, she gets to learn about the history of the place and falls more in love with it in the process.

I don't want to tell you everything that goes on but just know this book has everything. Love, desire (more implied or insinuated - it's very clean, no vulgarity), mystery, intrigue, twists, turns, ups, downs ... this is truly a roller coaster ride that I will gladly ride again and again. It is VERY rare when a book surprises me and gives me something I wasn't expecting. This novel did that and more.

In case you couldn't tell ... this is a 5 stars out of 5 for me. Brava, Ms. Davis! Brava.


*A physical ARC of this novel was provided by the publicist in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Teaser Tuesday


Time for us to join the land of memes again! =) Teaser Tuesday (hosted by The Purple Booker) is great for finding new books to add to your TBR pile and it's really simple to play along. Just ...

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers! Everyone loves Teaser Tuesday.


This week, our teaser comes from the soon-to-be-released novel, THE ADDRESS by Fiona Davis



"Theo strode into the room but stopped when he spotted Sara. For a moment the two remained frozen, their eyes fused on each other, before the young girl rushed to him."


Ooohhh ... I just started reading this novel so I haven't gotten to this part yet but I can feel the tension. Is it anger? Sexual? Whatever it is, I can't wait to find out! - Mandy

What are you reading? Let us know in the comments below!

Saturday, July 8, 2017

{Review} CRIMES AGAINST A BOOK CLUB by Kathy Cooperman

Hey, everyone! Real quick I (Mandy) just wanted to apologize for not posting anything the past couple of weeks. The hubs and I are trying to get the eldest ready to leave for grad school while dealing with another surgery I had to have last week. I plan on scheduling some posts on here so be on the lookout.

Hope everyone had a great 4th! Now, let's get into this review, shall we?


ISBN #: 978-1503942981
Page Count: 320
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Release Date: May 1, 2017
Summary from Goodreads:

Best friends Annie and Sarah need cash—fast. Sarah, a beautiful, successful lawyer, wants nothing more than to have a baby. But balancing IVF treatments with a grueling eighty-hour workweek is no walk in the park. Meanwhile, Annie, a Harvard-grad chemist recently transplanted to Southern California, is cutting coupons to afford her young autistic son’s expensive therapy.

Desperate, the two friends come up with a brilliant plan: they’ll combine Sarah’s looks and Annie’s brains to sell a “luxury” antiaging face cream to the wealthy, fading beauties in Annie’s La Jolla book club. The scheme seems innocent enough, until Annie decides to add a special—and oh-so-illegal—ingredient that could bring their whole operation crashing to the ground.

Hilarious, intelligent, and warm, Crimes Against a Book Club is a delightful look at the lengths women will go to fend for their families and for one another.


Mandy's Review:

So, first, I was intrigued by this novel because of the title. Anything referencing books or book clubs and I want to know what it's about ... and the fact that there were supposedly crimes against a book club? Uh, yeah. I was hooked and definitely wanted to know more.

Annie and Sarah are each other's antithesis. Sarah is tall, beautiful, with a handsome, brilliant husband and high-powered corporate job. Annie is short, a little frumpy, with an intelligent, OCD-driven husband. Annie has three children where Sarah has none, but she wants to have them. Sarah is adept enough to become friends with anyone in any social situation; whereas Annie struggles with being posh enough to fit in, even in a book club. Sarah embodies L.A.-living. Annie's content in La Jolla's suburban, touristy landscape. The two really have nothing in common except for the fact they slightly envy each other. Annie would love Sarah's figure and social aptitude. Sarah would love a husband who's home every time she needs him and children running around the house. You would think Sarah would be the main character and Annie the sidekick but it's actually reversed, which gives this Character Writing 101 a bit of a twist.

Annie is the brain behind the new anti-aging cream. It's her idea to start the business, her idea for the formula, and her idea on how to sell it. The availability of the special ingredient and how Annie came to acquire some was a bit ... unrealistic. It's a little difficult for me to believe that, with as moral as Annie seems to be, she would have kept this special ingredient in the house with her for as long as she did without disposing of it sooner.

Sarah, being a lawyer and Annie's best friend for 20 years, should have known that Annie was hiding something and sniffed it out of her at the beginning of their enterprise. Again, another small unrealistic scenario that if it didn't happen we wouldn't have had a novel to read. In spite of that, even I found myself drawn to Sarah like the ladies in the novel. I wanted Sarah to be my friend and to hang out with her.

In the end, things do turn out well for Annie and Sarah at the expense of another. Don't be upset with them, though. The person being sacrificed made the decision all on their own and actually insisted upon it.

If you don't consider the events too closely (as I tend to do sometimes), then this novel would be a fun, quick read. I'm not sure I found the hilarity in it, although there were a few amusing tidbits thrown in towards the latter part of this novel. Overall, for me, I'd give this about 3 out of 5 stars.


*An ARC was provided by the publicist in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, June 23, 2017

{Review} ALLIE AND BEA by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Bea has barely been scraping by since her husband died. After falling for a telephone scam, she loses everything and is forced to abandon her trailer. With only two-thirds of a tank in her old van, she heads toward the Pacific Ocean with her cat—on a mission to reclaim what’s rightfully hers, even if it means making others pay for what she lost.

When fifteen-year-old Allie’s parents are jailed for tax fraud, she’s sent to a group home. But when her life is threatened by another resident, she knows she has to get out. She escapes only to find she has nowhere to go—until fate throws Allie in Bea’s path.

Reluctant to trust each other, much less become friends, the two warily make their way up the Pacific Coast. Yet as their hearts open to friendship and love from the strangers they meet on their journey, they find the courage to forge their own unique family—and begin to see an imperfect world with new eyes.


Mandy's Review:

How to begin.

When you begin to read the novel, it seems like a fairly straightforward story about two unlikely people winding up together in an unusual situation. When you finish reading the novel, you realize it has much more depth and weight to it than you first realized.

Bea is a 70-something lady who has been a widow for a few years. Her husband had left her a small savings that she's been trying to live on. The problem is her Social Security check was never quite enough to cover all the bills, so she had to use a little bit of the savings every month. One day, after writing checks for all of her bills and dropping them off, she gets a call from the IRS saying she owes $300. Bea willingly gives them her checking account information to pay them off, even though it would further deplete her meager savings. The call was a scam and her checking account was wiped out. All of her checks were going to bounce. Panicked, Bea decided to pack up what she held most dear into her van and drive to another city, living in her van until the new month rolled around and her next Social Security check gets deposited into her new checking account.

With no money in hand and only a quarter tank of gas, Bea sets off. This new way of life causes Bea to decide to be someone she's not: a scammer. So, in essence, the student becomes the teacher. It works a couple times allowing Bea to get enough gas to take her further north up the California coast. On her way, she sees a hitchhiker and refuses to pick her up ... until the girl runs out in front of the van, causing Bea to slam on brakes.

Grateful that Bea has stopped, Allie climbs into Bea's van begging her, screaming at her, to drive. Allie had barely escaped from a guy involved in a possible human trafficking ring. Of course, she wouldn't have been with him had her parents not been arrested for tax fraud causing her to be placed in a foster home where one of the girls threatened to hurt her real bad. Running away from the foster home landed her in a prostitute ring, which Allie REFUSED to do ... thereby pissing off the pimp and causing him to call the guy that Allie barely escaped from and then running into Bea.

The two drive up the coast, all the way into Washington state, learning things about themselves and each other that change them forever. It's on their way back down the coast where real life finally catches up with them.

What I love most about this novel is the character development. Bea goes from being a reclusive, negative Nancy to someone who cautiously learns to trust strangers and has started to give herself over to experiencing new things. Allie starts the novel as a privileged, naive young lady and becomes a homeless, street-smart pre-adult wiser than her years. The emotional impact of this novel happens to more than just Bea and Allie, they happen to the reader as well. There were two passages that really spoke to me:

"I'm changing my mind about what's wasteful and what's not," Bea said. "Seems all my life I had to make choices between what I considered wasting money and what I now see was wasting my life. If it keeps you from wasting your life, it can't very well be a waste, now can it?" 

"I guess I wonder why I didn't try to do more," Bea said ... "I had all these hours that added up to all these days, and I look back and it seems my goal was mostly to make them go away. But that's not a proper life. That's not really living."

We shouldn't wish our day, week, month away. We should enjoy what we have and make the best of what we have. We should try new things. We should open ourselves up to new experiences, even if they scare us. That's how we truly live. Spending money on experiences isn't wasteful if it keeps you from wasting your life. Spending money on experiences isn't wasteful if it helps you experience new things that helps you grow as a person.

My only wish was that Bea's ending was fleshed out a little more. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate how the novel ended but there's so much the reader doesn't know. How did Bea deal with all of the bounced checks? Did she ever go back to her home and take care of everything? Did she go back to visit her best friend? I guess her ending was left a little more open than Allie's and my curiosity is getting the better of me. Regardless, we could all learn something from Allie and Bea.

4.5 out of 5 stars.



*A physical copy was provided by the publicist, Little Bird Publicity, in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, June 19, 2017

{Review} ANY DAY NOW by Robyn Carr

Summary from Goodreads:

For Sierra Jones, Sullivan's Crossing is meant to be a brief stopover. She's put her troubled past behind her but the path forward isn't yet clear. A visit with her big brother Cal and his new bride, Maggie, seems to be the best option to help her get back on her feet.

Not wanting to burden or depend on anyone, Sierra is surprised to find the Crossing offers so much more than a place to rest her head. Cal and Maggie welcome her into their busy lives and she quickly finds herself bonding with Sully, the quirky campground owner who is the father figure she's always wanted. But when her past catches up with her, it's a special man and an adorable puppy who give her the strength to face the truth and fight for a brighter future. In Sullivan's Crossing Sierra learns to cherish the family you are given and the family you choose.


Mandy's Review:

I wanted to like this novel. I do enjoy a series of novels set in the same small-town setting with each novel focusing on one or two members of the town. And while there were things I did enjoy about Any Day Now there weren't enough to make me want to read the first novel in this series.

What did I enjoy? I enjoyed the idea of a campground in the middle of Colorado that is owned by on old man. A campground that soothes a troubled soul and helps people to find their way in life. I enjoyed the small-town feel where most everybody is there to support one another, where people give strangers a sense of familial belonging.

Sierra is one of those people. She came to Colorado to be near her older brother. Within a few days, she has a new job and her own place. With this new start, Sierra is hoping to be able to forget her past. Unfortunately, her past, like all of ours, has a way of catching up with her. It threatens her new peace, her new life, her new existence. She's scared to deal with it but Sierra knows that the only way to finally be rid of her past is to face it head-on.

Now, what I didn't like ... I didn't like how Sierra was written. I had other issues with the writing but Sierra is the main one. In the novel, the reader finds out Sierra is 30. The way she's written, though, makes her sounding and acting more like she's 20. Who she's supposed to be and who she actually is, in my head, don't jive. The two just don't mesh. I've been through A LOT of what Sierra has been through and, I can tell you, by the time I hit 30 I was more sure of who I was and who I wanted to be. Yes, I had some reservations and I was scared of certain things in a relationship but I found a way to deal with them and get (mostly) over them. I guess what I'm trying to say is that, by 30, a woman has reached her maturity and Sierra was written a little immaturely.

I feel like I'm talking in circles about Sierra so I hope you understand what I'm trying to convey about her. Overall, the novel is a quick read but not one that I'm interested to read again. It also doesn't interest me to read any more novels in this series. I'd say this is a 2.5 stars out of 5 for me, but don't let that stop you from giving it a whirl if this is your type of genre.


*A physical copy of the novel was provided by the publicist, Little Bird Publicity, in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

{Review} IN FARLEIGH FIELD by Rhys Bowen

Summary from Goodreads:

World War II comes to Farleigh Place, the ancestral home of Lord Westerham and his five daughters, when a soldier with a failed parachute falls to his death on the estate. After his uniform and possessions raise suspicions, MI5 operative and family friend Ben Cresswell is covertly tasked with determining if the man is a German spy. The assignment also offers Ben the chance to be near Lord Westerham’s middle daughter, Pamela, whom he furtively loves. But Pamela has her own secret: she has taken a job at Bletchley Park, the British code-breaking facility.

As Ben follows a trail of spies and traitors, which may include another member of Pamela’s family, he discovers that some within the realm have an appalling, history-altering agenda. Can he, with Pamela’s help, stop them before England falls?

Inspired by the events and people of World War II, writer Rhys Bowen crafts a sweeping and riveting saga of class, family, love, and betrayal.


Review:

I'm always on the hunt for a historical piece that doesn't get TOO factual. I love period pieces but so many of them get bogged down in factual events they forget that they're writing a fictional story. It's very frustrating to me because I have such a difficult time finding that perfect blend of fact and fiction set in the past. I even dreaded opening the pages of this novel while still hopeful that it wouldn't let me down. It did not disappoint. In Farleigh Field is that rare gem of a period piece with the perfect blend of fact and fiction.

Let's forget about the World War II aspect for a minute and let's talk about the love triangle. Ben, Jeremy, and Pamela have grown up together. Jeremy is devastatingly handsome and the son of a rich patriarchal family - what more could any female ask for? Ben is the son of a local vicar (priest), so he's not rich and, while he's good looking, he's not better looking than Jeremy. Can you guess where this is heading? I bet you can. Pamela is in love with Jeremy. Ben harbors an unrequited love for Pamela. The war brings about many changes, oftentimes within people. This is true of Jeremy, Ben, and Pam. All three go to work for the war effort but is it for Britain or Germany? Can the friendships, and love, survive the travesty of war?

This is one of THE BEST period fiction novels I have read in quite some time. The only issue I had with it is that some of the females seem a little too naive but, then again, that was how they were portrayed back then. That's how they acted. They couldn't appear to be smarter than the men of their time. So, taking that into account, I can become okay with it but I still don't like it - but that's just the modern, independent woman in me talking.

In Farleigh Field is my first Rhys Bowen novel but it will not be my last. I loved the writing style, the setting (Downton Abbey-esque), the imagery, the characters ... just, everything. I would highly recommend this novel to you period fiction fans who like more fiction than historical facts.


*A physical copy of this novel was provided by the publicist, Little Bird Publicity, in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, June 16, 2017

{Review} KNOLL by Stephen Hillard

Description:
(Taken from back cover)

Bus McIntyre, a small-town lawyer and Sixties survivor, is presented with evidence from the cold-case murder of his father Dean, a hard-drinking cop, four decades ago. It reveals Dean's ties to a dead Mafia kingpin - and the assassination of JFK. Meanwhile, Banner McCoy, a young NSA data analyst assigned to a project code-named KNOLL, goes into hiding when she learns its objective: eliminate anyone with information on what really happened in Dallas on November 22, 1963. When Bus falls into the agency's sights, all paths lead to a small Louisiana town full of secrets, where the late don's aged but indefatigable hit man awaits, determined to tie up all loose ends.


Charlene's Review:

Let me start by saying I have always been interested in the whole JFK conspiracy theory. KNOLL is a historical fiction based in part by truth and speculation, while leaving the mystery as to how/why for all the generations past and present. Using present-time characters with a tie to the past allows a whole new generation of readers, removed from the actual events, to delve into the mystery surrounding JFK's murder.

I stumbled through the back and forth of characters (Bus and Banner) between chapters and it confused me to no end, at first. I felt a little disjointed. And yet, it was this quality that ultimately led me into feeling the whole thriller part of the story. Feeling slightly out - of - sorts left me with an eerie feeling, like many experience while thinking back on this time in history. We may never know the TRUTH.

While the flow slowed me down, the eccentric but strangely emotion-evoking characters kept me reading. Seemingly unconnected people, all held together by a mysterious string of coincidences and circumstances. Bus's lone journey on his motorcycle especially speaks to the human condition - setting out on a journey to find the truth, and ourselves, in the process.

Whether you label it thriller, fiction, or mystery, or just read it as a book about a man seeking the truth about his father, KNOLL is a commendable work.


*A physical copy was provided by the publicist, FSB Associates, in exchange for an honest review.




Thursday, June 15, 2017

What We're Working On


Hello, again!

Since we've been gone for a year, I wanted to give you a quick update on what we're currently reading and the reviews that will be popping up on our blog. I've broken them down by reviewers, just in case you have a favorite:

Mandy's Current Reads/Future Reviews:

From Little Bird Publicity
IN FARLEIGH FIELD by Rhys Bowen
ANY DAY NOW by Robyn Carr
ALLIE AND BEA by Catherine Ryan Hyde
SUGAR PINE TRAIL by RaeAnne Thayne

From Goldberg McDuffie Communications
MRS SAINT AND THE DEFECTIVES by Julie Lawson-Timmer

From Random House
WHERE THE LIGHT FALLS: A NOVEL OF THE FRENCH REVOLUTION by Allison & Owen Pataki

From Viking/Penguin Books
HOW TO FIND LOVE IN A BOOKSHOP by Veronica Henry


Kathy's Current Reads/Future Reviews:

From the Author
RARITY FROM THE HOLLOW by Robert Eggleton
SHAKY MAN by Mark S. Parker

From Blue Rider Press & Plume at Penguin Random House
SIRACUSA by Delia Ephron

From Gallery Books
THE MAP OF BONES by Francesca Haig


Lupe's Current Reads/Future Reviews:

From Gallery Books
THE MAP OF BONES by Francesca Haig


Charlene's Current Reads/Future Reviews:

From FSB Associates
KNOLL by Stephen Hillard


We've just finished a giveaway for Bob Proehl's A HUNDRED THOUSAND WORLDS but I'll make sure you're in on the next giveaway we have.

Have a great day, everyone!!!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

We're Baaaaaaaack!!!


Okay, so the pic is an old one of mine (Mandy) that I took while tent-camping in Alabama a few years ago. I used it because, let's face it, my expression emulates the title and brings you joy - LOL.

We've been gone from here for over a year and, let me tell ya, it's just not the same. First of all, while Wix is a great platform, I cannot find a followers button to save my life. And let's not talk about a comment section - I have to add that as a separate element to each post?! Are you freakin' kidding me?

So, anyway, needless to say, I've missed you. We've missed you. I miss seeing your faces, your comments, your involvement in our giveaways and interviews ... I've just missed everything about y'all. *tear*

You may still see Literary R&R comments, buttons, tags, etc. on here. I am slowly working on changing those to the Collected Works links, buttons, the whole kit-and-kaboodle so your patience is greatly appreciated.

Gah, Blogosphere peeps, you're fucking beautiful and it's SO GREAT to see y'all again!!!

*MUAH*
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