Thursday, May 14, 2015

I'm a Winner!



Look at the happy message I got from Goodreads today: "You are one of our First Reads lucky winners! You will soon receive a free copy of Broken Promise: A Thriller [Linwood Barclay​] in the mail."


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

THE SOUND OF GLASS (2015)


The Sound of GlassThe Sound of Glass by Karen White
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Sound of Glass was my introduction to author Karen White, who writes what has been called 'grit-lit' (as opposed to 'chic-lit') because of her southern settings. The location of the story is Beaufort, South Carolina. I have a very close friend who lives there with her daughter part of the year and that caught my attention.

THE STORY: Merritt Heyward learns that she has inherited a big old Victorian house from her late husband's reclusive grandmother. Feeling guilty about his death and at loose ends, she leaves Maine determined to take up residence in Beaufort.

Before she can catch her breath, her too-young widowed step mother appears with Merritt's ten year old half-brother wanting to move in with her. Loralee claims to be cash strapped with nowhere else to turn. Reluctantly Merritt agrees they can stay for a short time even though she longs for time alone to heal.

WHAT I THOUGHT: Luckily I approached the end of the book just around bedtime. Unfortunately I didn't fall asleep because I kept thinking about what I had read. Even though there were secrets and conflicts, the characters were people you came to care about. Although the story basically revolves around Merritt, it is impossible not to love Loralee, who at first glance appears a stereotypical Southern lady, but is actually a wise and wonderful woman.

I did find it took a while to get the family genealogy straight in my mind as I was reading. I also found Merritt annoying sometimes in her ability to be standoffish. But Karen White writes well and tells a compelling story. I will certainly look for some of her other titles. And if you are like me, the descriptions of Beaufort will make you want to visit and drink sweet tea on a big old veranda overlooking the river.

FIRST SENTENCE: "An unholy tremor rippling through the sticky night air alerted Edith Heyward that something wasn't right." (Prologue, Beaufort, South Carolina July 1955)

BOTTOM LINE: Three women with unhappy secrets weave a tangled web as they tell their stories holding the reader spellbound. Highly recommended.

DISCLAIMER: An advanced reading copy (ARC) of this book was provided to me by NetGalley for an honest review.

Title: The Sound of Glass
Author: Karen White
Genre: Grit-Lit (Southern Women's Fiction)
Publisher: NAL
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
No. of Pages: 426
Copyright: May 12, 2015
ISBN-10:  0451470893
ISBN-13: 978-0451470898

Karen White, a New York Times bestselling author of 19 novels, writes 'grit-lit' or southern women's fiction, as well as "a contemporary paranormal mystery series set in Charleston, South Carolina." She lives near Atlanta, Georgia with her husband and two children.

Monday, May 11, 2015

AT THE WATER'S EDGE (2015)


At the Water's EdgeAt the Water's Edge by Sara Gruen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After reading and loving Water for Elephants a few years back, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to request Sara Gruen's new title and I guess I wasn't alone. "At the Water’s Edge debut[ed] at #6 on the New York Times bestseller list, #5 on the Indie bestseller list, and #12 on the USA Today bestseller list!"

THE STORY: Madeline Hyde and her husband Ellis never go anywhere without his best friend Hank. Drinking, dancing, spending money, and amusing themselves consumes their days; but they throw away their privileged lives when they disgrace themselves at a fashionable Philadelphia New Year's Eve party. To escape, Ellis and Hank decide to make good on the many times they have talked about hunting down the Loch Ness monster. Maddie has always thought of their discussions as a game. After all, it is 1944 and World War II is raging; but Hank finds a ship that will take them across the Atlantic and thus begins a journey that will change them all.

The remote Scottish Highland and its inhabitants aren't particularly welcoming to this frivolous trio who expect to be waited on in the middle of difficult times. While the men go off to search for monsters, Maddie, left behind, learns more about the people and how they survive. She makes friends and begins to understand what life can really be.

WHAT I THOUGHT: A mixture of historical fiction (the Scottish during WWII), romance, coming of age, mysticism (Loch Ness monster hunting), and more, the book seems over the top sometimes but is always compelling. It is impossible not to think of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series (without the time travel) when you read this story.

FIRST SENTENCE: "The headstone was modest and hewn of black granite, granite being one of the few things never in short supply in Glenurquhart, even during the present difficulties."

BOTTOM LINE: Women everywhere will be reading this book - a great beach read!

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

Title: At the Water's Edge
Author: Sara Gruen
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau (an imprint of Random House)
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
No. of Pages: 368
Copyright: 1st edition (March 31, 2015)
ISBN-10: 0385523238
ISBN-13: 978-0385523233

Sara Gruen is the #1 New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Water for Elephants, Ape House, Riding Lessons, and Flying Changes. Her works have been translated into forty-three languages and have sold more than ten million copies worldwide. She lives in western North Carolina with her husband and three sons, along with their dogs, cats, horses, birds, and the world’s fussiest goat. (From Amazon)



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 GONE (2011)


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 for 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 MEADOW (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)