Monday, April 20, 2015

Fascinating Locations in Louise Penny's Mysteries

#11 in the series will be on sale August 25, 2015
Minotaur Books is doing a series leading up to the publication of Louise Penny's new book in the Chief Inspector Gamache series revealing the places that have inspired the fictional places in her mysteries! You can check them out HERE.

Sunday, April 19, 2015


Miss Me When I'm GoneMiss Me When I'm Gone by Emily Arsenault

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was my introduction to Emily Arsenault.

A friend mentioned Miss Me When I'm Gone to me because she thought I would relate to the description of one of the characters as a collector of people. There were other aspects that drew me to the mystery as well.

THE STORY: Gretchen Water's successful writing career is cut short when she dies after falling down a long flight of stone steps outside a library. Jamie, her best friend since college, is asked to become literary executor of Gretchen's unfinished work.

The story is cleverly told by alternating writings from Gretchen's notes and her earlier book with first person narration from Jamie, who is pregnant with her first child. 

"Tammyland", is a memoir about the author's divorce interspersed with the lives of certain iconic women of country music. The amount of research that went into writing the sections purportedly from the actual book is massive and adds to the enjoyment even for those of us who aren't country music fans.

WHAT I THOUGHT: This is definitely what I call a literate mystery. It's not so much the action but the research into finding out why that is compelling. And while you're following along with Jamie as she tries to pay tribute to her friend, you'll learn a little about country music!

FIRST LINE: "This gem might be well known among seventies tabloid readers and longtime county music fans, but perhaps not to the general reader: Tammy Wynette once saved Burt Reynolds from drowning in a bubble bath."

BOTTOM LINE: Highly recommended from readers of Laura Lippman and Tana French.

Title: Miss Me When I'm Gone
Genre: Literate Mystery
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
No. of Pages: 336
Copyright: Original edition (July 31, 2012)
ISBN-10: 0062103105
ISBN-13: 978-0062103109

Emily Arsenault is also the author of The Broken Teaglass, In Search of the Rose Notes, and Miss Me When I'm Gone. She lives in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, with her husband and daughter. (From Amazon) Her newest book What Strange Creatures came out in original paperback July 22, 2014.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

What Happens When You Read A Lot?

I just came across a blog posting which discusses some of the issues I have been thinking about concerning reviewing which I do for books and stage plays. It seems that I find it more and more difficult to embrace either as openly as I might once have. I have often found myself changing my mind after 'a little reflection' as one respondent commented. Were my expectations too high?

Read this post from Socratic Salon called "Can You Keep Raising the Bar for Books"  and let me know what you think.

Thursday, April 9, 2015


Murder at Barclay MeadowMurder at Barclay Meadow by Wendy Sand Eckel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I get excited when an unexpected book shows up in my mailbox. Last week it was a new cozy mystery from Minotaur. Since I am drowning in books, I, of course, immediately read a few lines with the idea of setting the book aside. Instead I found myself drawn into the story immediately.

THE STORY: Rosalie Hart thinks she has the perfect marriage until she discovers her husband Ed is having an affair and wants a divorce just as their daughter Annie heads off to college.

Unwilling to stay in the home they shared, Rosalie escapes to the farmhouse left her by her late aunt on Maryland's Eastern Shore. But Barclay Meadows doesn't turn out to be a safe sanctuary when Rosalie discovers a body floating in the marsh.

Everyone insists that the death was accidental, but Rosalie senses something is wrong and begins to ask questions.

WHAT I THOUGHT: This debut novel by Wendy Sand Eckel uses social media in a clever and totally integrated way. She also makes cultural references that connect with the reader's experiences. And, what might be the best part for some readers, there are recipes! Do I have to confess that I read this book in just a couple of days? It's well-written, has enough scary moments (but not too many), and lots of interesting quirky characters. The small town setting is charming and you'll want to join me in a road trip to visit the area. I will be watching for the next entry in what has all the ingredients to be a popular new series.

FIRST LINE: "Before my only child left for her first year of college, she suggested I create my own Facebook profile."

BOTTOM LINE: A most worthy entry to world of cozy mysteries. The book will be released on July 28, 2015.

Title: Murder at Barclay Meadow
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Publisher: Minotaur
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
No. of Pages: 320
Copyright: July 28, 2015
ISBN-10: 1250058600
ISBN-13: 978-1250058607

Disclaimer: An advanced reading copy (ARC) of this book was provided to me by the publisher Minotaur for an honest review.

"WENDY SAND ECKEL is a psychotherapist who lives in Annapolis, Maryland, where she enjoys her family, multiple pets, and life on the water. Murder at Barclay Meadow is her first novel." (AMAZON)

Thursday, March 19, 2015


How to Succeed in Hollywood without really Acting
How to Succeed in Hollywood without really Acting by Peter Skagen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you want to work in the movies as an actor, get a copy of this book right now! Even if you are just curious about how things work in the industry, you should read this book!

Every business has its own language, rules, and etiquette. Unless you have contacts (i.e. family) already working on films, you are apt to make mistakes that label you as a newbie. In most cases, they aren't looking for untested talent. Everyone connected with a film wants people who can make them money by KNOWING WHAT THEY ARE EXPECTED TO DO, DOING THEIR JOB, and NOT WASTING TIME. And that, according to the author, is more important than talent. Movies cast types. Do you know your type?

You can avoid a lot of missteps and be ready when opportunity knocks using the information author Peter Skagen has shared. Kagen, an actor, writer, and producer, explains necessary audition skills and how to behave on set once you are cast. Highly detailed, the book is also very readable, full of personal anecdotes and stories about well-known actors with some great quotes thrown in. The fact that there is a lot of repetition underscores the importance of some of the guidelines being shared.

I have worked in live theater all my life and had no idea how different working in film was. The reader also gets some insight into the variety of jobs that make up the team necessary to get a movie made. I have already shared this book with several talented young friends who want to 'make it' in Hollywood. This is required reading.

BOTTOM LINE: Great information and advice in a readable format that you can't get anywhere else. This book is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED to those interested in film acting. 

Title: How to Succeed in Hollywood Without Really Acting
Author: Peter Skagen
Genre: Non-Fiction
Publisher:  Poubelle Publishing
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
No. of Pages: 332
Copyright: December 30, 2014
ISBN-10: 099376570X
ISBN-13: 978-09937657047
Disclaimer: An advanced copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher/Net Galley for review purposes. 

"Peter Skagen – the un-acting coach -- is a working film and theater actor, screenwriter, playwright, producer, director and coach with an MA in screenwriting from California State, Northridge. Through his wildly successful in-person courses, he has helped countless actors achieve their dream of becoming not just screen actors, but working screen actors. He focuses on story, craft, business, and real-world technique -- the 90% of the business that doesn't take talent." (From GoodReads)

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Descent (2015)

DescentDescent by Tim Johnston
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Tim Johnston's novel is very disturbing. I realized it shortly after beginning, but I kept reading.

OPENING LINE: "Her name was Caitlin, she was eighteen, and her own heart would sometimes wake her - flying away in that dream-race where finish lines grew farther away not nearer, where knees turned to taffy, or feet to stones." 

Visiting Colorado on vacation, Caitlin, with her younger brother Sean tagging along, goes for a run leaving her sleeping parents behind. What happens then is every parents' worst nightmare. Only Sean returns.

The story explores the aspect of each person's life as it is affected by the disappearance, not just the immediate family but others in the community as well. The author brings the Colorado mountains to life. As a matter of fact, his descriptions would easily transfer to a visual story telling medium.

For most of the story I was totally anxious about what was going to happen and it only got worse as the end approached.

Don't misunderstand. This is an excellent story beautifully told. Almost like a impressionist watercolor painting, details and feelings are only suggested in beautiful and emotional language. And the reader doesn't see everything all at once. Instead bits and pieces are revealed over time.

This haunting thriller will stay with you for a long time.

BOTTOM LINE: Well written, plotted, and with incredibly real characters, this book is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Title: Descent
Author: Tim Johnston
Genre: Literate Thriller
Publisher:  Algonquin Books
No. of Pages: 384
Copyright: January 6, 2015
ISBN-10: 1616203048
ISBN-13: 978-1616203047
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Net Galley

Disclaimer: An advanced copy of Descent was provided to me by Algonquin/Net Galley for review purposes.

Tim Johnston , a graduate of the University of Iowa and the University of Massachusetts Amherst, has done a lot of writing and won awards for it, but Descent is his debut novel. He currently teaches in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Memphis.

Saturday, January 17, 2015


The Poison TreeThe Poison Tree by Erin Kelly
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I first read Erin Kelly back in 2013 when her third book The Burning Air was offered on NetGalley. In my review I pledged to read both of her other books immediately since I had picked up her first The Poison Tree at a library book sale.

Since May of 2013 it has languished in a pile of other titles I have been meaning to read. Sometimes, just because the book is in the house or on my Kindle, it moves down the list. My loss because this is a truly compelling psychological suspense story.

OPENING LINE: "I let the telephone fall from my hand." With those few words, we are already drawn into the spiderweb.

The setting is London. Our narrator is Karen, an outstanding student and linguist, ready to graduate university. Her future is set. She just has to choose her path when she meets and becomes infatuated with Biba, an actress and free spirit. Eventually she moves into the crumbling mansion where Biba and her brother live. The lifestyle is bohemian and seductive and ultimately destructive. Lies and unspoken truths unfold layer by layer.

Even though the story jumps back in forth from 1997 to 2007, the transitions are beautifully handled. The reader is never confused about time and place. Erin Kelly writes so well that there were sentences I should have marked so I could find them again. These are the two things that make a book special for me: good writing and surprise. The Poison Tree has both.

Time to find a copy of The Dark Rose

BOTTOM LINE: If you like Kate Atkinson, Donna Tartt, or Tana French, you should try Erin Kelly. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Title: The Poison Tree
Author: Erin Kelly
Genre: Psychological Suspense, Thriller
Publisher: Viking / Penguin Books; Reprint edition (January 6, 2011)
No. of Pages: 336 pages
Copyright:2009 / Reprint 2011
ISBN-13: 978-0-670-02240-3
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Library book sale

Erin Kelly was born in London in 1976 and grew up in Essex. She read English at Warwick University and has been working as a journalist since 1998, writing for newspapers and magazines including Red, Psychologies, Marie Claire and Elle. She continues to write about health, lifestyle, women’s issues and parenting. Her fourth novel, The Ties that Bind, is out now, followed in August by Broadchurch: The Novel, inspired by the first season of 2013's mega-hit ITV series.

She lives in north London with her husband and daughters. (paraphrased from Erin Kelly's website)