Thursday, August 31, 2017

{Review} THE ATWELLE CONFESSION by Joel Gordonson

Goodreads Summary:

After discovering rare gargoyles mysteriously positioned inside an ancient church being restored in the small English town of Atwelle, the architect Don Whitby and a young research historian Margeaux Wood realize that the gargoyles are predicting the bizarre murders that are occurring in the town. 

Five hundred years earlier when the church is being built, two powerful families in Atwelle are contesting control of the region in the delicate backdrop of King Henry VIII's dispute with the Pope over the King's divorce. In the middle of these conflicts, the same bizarre murders are being committed in the town. 

Two stories of identical macabre murders five hundred years apart ─ One surprising solution in the mystery of the gargoyles and the Atwelle Confession.

Mandy's Review:

I agreed to read and review this book because the premise of it is in my wheelhouse of stories that interest me. Also, the cover looked creepy and evil and I loved it. The cover above is not the same as the cover on the ARC I received. My cover is below ...

So, what we have here is a mystery spanning centuries connected by some carved gargoyles inside of a church. Each gargoyle is different and hints to part of the past of the two families who helped build the church. Why in the world a gruesome story is depicted inside of the church is something Don and Margeaux is trying to figure out. Are the gargoyles cursed? Is someone just using the symbolism to conduct their deadly deeds?

There wasn't really any depth to this story. The reader only catches glimpses here and there of some of the characters' pasts. I cannot think of one character I got to know at a really personal, emotional level. This read like a story a person would tell around the campfire.

Not all of the conversations were awkward in the book but enough of them were to make me wonder about the quality of the editor's handiwork. Also, some of the scenes in the book felt staged, like an old black-and-white movie. The example I want to give you is towards the end of the book so I won't post it here to prevent any spoilers but when I read it I was like, "Really?! That isn't believable at all."

I started out intrigued and excited to read this novel only to end up disappointed by the lack of character depth and cheesy situational flow. I didn't hate this book but it's also not one I'd go out of my way to recommend, which means this book will only get two stars from me.

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

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

{E-Book Review} HOW TO FIND LOVE IN A BOOK SHOP by Veronica Henry

ISBN #: 978-1409146889
Page Count: 336
Publisher: Orion
Release Date: June 16, 2016

Goodreads Summary:

Everyone has a story . . . but will they get the happy ending they deserve?

Emilia has just returned to her idyllic Cotswold hometown to rescue the family business. Nightingale Books is a dream come true for book-lovers, but the best stories aren't just within the pages of the books she sells - Emilia's customers have their own tales to tell.

There's the lady of the manor who is hiding a secret close to her heart; the single dad looking for books to share with his son but who isn't quite what he seems; and the desperately shy chef trying to find the courage to talk to her crush . . .

And as for Emilia's story, can she keep the promise she made to her father and save Nightingale Books?

Mandy's Review:

Maybe it's because I'm a book nerd but ... how amazing and romantic would it be to find love in a bookshop? I mean, you're already in a place surrounded by your loves and then to find a human in that same place and to fall in love with them ... *sigh* ... So, that's what drew me in: the title and my own imaginings.

Every person has a story. While I love to hear (and read) everyone's story, sometimes it can be a bit much when there are a bunch of stories being told at one time. That's one of the issues with this book. At one point, I almost made a list of characters and how they were connected with Emilia because it was starting to become a bit congested. What I would have LOVED was to have "How to Find Love in a Book Shop" be the title of the series and then each book be based on a couple who met in Nightingale Books and fell in love. Instead of Emilia being one of the main characters, let Nightingale Books shine as the main character in the series.

Okay, I'll stop with my critique of what the author should've done and just tell you about what I read. This really was a good story with a lot of hope and happiness thrown in. There was a bit of sadness here and there but it wasn't at all overwhelming. Emilia's father, Julius, bought the bookshop when Emilia was a baby. He grew the business into the success it was at his death. When Emilia took over the business, she saw that the success was customer-based only. The finances were almost nonexistent. So, with the help of some of her friends and acquaintances, Emilia struggles with updating the bookshop and almost gives in to a businessman to sell the place for a profit. Over the course of these ups and downs, some bookish matchmaking happens with very promising results.

How to Find Love in a Bookshop is, of course, going to have a happy ending for all involved. If that's a bit of a spoiler for you, I apologize, but it's to be expected with these quick, easy, romantic reads. Isn't it? I did enjoy my time at Nightingale Books. It was a fun, light-hearted read that I'd give 3 stars.

*An e-book was made available through NetGalley by the publicist in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, August 25, 2017

{Re-Read Review} IT by Stephen King

Goodreads Summary:

To the children, the town was their whole world. To the adults, knowing better, Derry, Maine was just their home town: familiar, well-ordered for the most part. A good place to live.

It was the children who saw - and felt - what made Derry so horribly different. In the storm drains, in the sewers, IT lurked, taking on the shape of every nightmare, each one's deepest dread. Sometimes IT reached up, seizing, tearing, killing . . .

The adults, knowing better, knew nothing.

Time passed and the children grew up, moved away. The horror of IT was deep-buried, wrapped in forgetfulness. Until they were called back, once more to confront IT as IT stirred and coiled in the sullen depths of their memories, reaching up again to make their past nightmares a terrible present reality.

Mandy's Review:

I chose to re-read this novel before the first movie comes out September 8th. My first reading of IT was when I was 13 and, maybe because a large portion of the story centers around children close to my age at that time, it resonated with me. My re-reading of IT did not diminish my love for this novel. It enhanced it.

If, for some ungodly reason, you have never read IT and have no clue what it's about, I'll give you the gist of it. Basically, there is a cycle of evil that takes place every 25 to 27 years in Derry, Maine. (Side Note: The new movie comes out 27 years after the horrendous television mini series. Coincidence? I think not.) In 1958, through (seemingly) preordained circumstances, seven children form a group and are known as the Losers. The bond between them felt more than just the bond of friendship, it felt almost supernatural. Despite their fears, they are determined to face down the evil residing in Derry and kill it. Only when they're called back to Derry 27 years later in 1985 do they realize they only hurt it the first time. This time, they won't stop until they're dead or IT is.

Most people who have not read this novel don't want to read it because of the clown and their fear of it. The evil in Derry manifests as a clown BECAUSE people have a fear of clowns, but the evil in Derry is a shapeshifter. The reason it mainly preys on children is because of a child's innate belief in all that is fantastic and strange. So, when a child hears something scary in the dark, they relate that sound to something (a werewolf, or mummy, or a rat, etc.) and whatever they BELIEVE the sound to be coming from that's what the evil in Derry transforms itself to.

So, yet again, I have laughed, sat in suspense, and have been heartbroken by this novel. When I got near the end of the book last night, I was thinking to myself, "NO! No, I have to go back! I have to go back to when they were kids playing in the Barrens and forming their circle of friendship. I don't want this to end!"

To those who wonder how in the world I can be heartbroken by a horror novel, I'll tell you: the same way you (and I) were heartbroken over Harry Potter. Like Harry Potter was about more than just magic, IT is about more than just an evil clown. It's about a child's guileless belief in all things, it's about how adults grow up and become adept at glancing over evil happening right in front of them, it's about how as children grow they forget the wonderful magic they were tapped in to, and it's also about how we often forget those that helped us the most during our darkest times. To say IT is about nothing but evil and horror is not doing this novel justice. It's also about love, faith, beauty, simplicity, and power. It's about something outside of us yielding its power over us, whether it be evil or good. God, I could talk all day about this but I'll stop now. You just have to give this a chance if you haven't read it before. Look beyond the obvious and see IT for what it really is.

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.


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 @ 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:

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

"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."

"That's crazy!”

"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

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


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 or

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.
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