"No one can be lonely who has a book for company." ~ Nelle Reagan

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Monday, November 24, 2014

Dangerous Denial by Amy Ray (book review)s

Dangerous Denial
Author:  Amy Ray
Published: April 2014
Publisher:  Barking Rain Press
Pages: 212
Edition: advance reader's copy
Source:  A complimentary copy was provided in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

Denying the past proves deadly for BK Hartshaw and Trevor Mayhew in this gripping noir novel where nothing is as it seems.
BK is a rising star at a public relations firm, and tonight’s charity ball should be a high point in her career. But a closely guarded secret threatens to destroy her chance for happiness with the only man she’s ever loved… a man who is also hiding a deadly secret.
Trevor has tried to put the past behind him, pretending it never happened. But the conniving father he’s been running from for years has finally found him—and is determined to settle the score once and for all.
BK and Trevor’s deeply buried secrets are about to catch up with them—and everyone they know and love. Who will pay the ultimate price for their dangerous denials?

My Thoughts:

Revenge is a dish best served cold.  Or at least it proves to be at a charity ball fundraiser for abused women and children where Lenny shows up for the ultimate vengeance against his estranged son.  under the guise of a robbery.  The author then takes us back in time to meet a young manipulative and dangerous young man who masters a plan to get the girl he wants. Unfortunately this involves her giving birth to a boy that is not his own and Lenny's abuse of the young boy Trevor ensues. When child protective services doesn't intervene, Trevor's maternal grandmother takes him and together they hide away in another city.  

Dangerous Denial takes a few trips back and forth in time which is essential to plot development but at times seems disjointed and the transitions rough, leaving the reader to fill in blanks in relation to how scenarios may have played out.  It's not necessarily altogether a bad thing as it contributes to the mystery that so intricately plays out with great suspense.

Trevor is not the only character with a deeply troubling past though.  BK, Beatrice Katherine, was teased relentlessly as a child by her older sister and step-sister but likely even more detrimental to her self-esteem were the comments her mother made about her weight.  Self-conscious about her body image and feeling responsible for her father leaving, BK determines not to be fat and develops anorexia.  When BK's mother remarries, BK and her older sister are sent to live first with an aunt and then to private school where BK meets again her best friend Shelby.

It all converges at the ball BK is in charge of for a client, an entrepreneur whose goal it is to raise funds for a facility for abused women and children.  That evening Shelby is kidnapped and Lenny is on scene to put an end to his "son's" life.  As bullets are fired, BK collapses and readers believe there is more than one intended victim in the room that night.

Amy Ray's debut novel is hard to put down while being difficult to read.  The victimization of a young child is truly heart-wrenching, in both Trevor's (in greater measure for the sheer brutality of it) and BK's cases.  The beginning chapters develop the disturbing background which culminates in a twisted and suspenseful climax. Easily read in one sitting, Dangerous Denial demonstrates this new writer's ability to create characters and situations that are difficult, a plot that ensnares, and most of all, it evokes an emotional response from the reader.  Well done for a debut novelist.  

Dangerous Denial is Amy Ray’s first published novel. Early in 2015, she will have a short story published in Love Free or Die, the fourth book in the New Hampshire Pulp Fiction anthology series.
Before embarking on a writing career, Amy owned an old fashioned five and dime store where, in addition to regular priced merchandise, she had a display of items that actually retailed for five or ten cents each. She lives near the short but picturesque seacoast in New Hampshire with her husband and daughter. In her spare time she enjoys packing boxes for Operation Christmas Child, reading, knitting, and tap dancing.
Find out more about Amy at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Christmas at Tiffany's by Karen Swan (book review)

Christmas at Tiffany's
Author:  Karen Swan
Published:  October 2014 (paperback)
Publisher:  William Morrow ( a division of Harper Collins)
Pages:  592
Edition:  Advanced Reader's Copy
Source:  An advanced reader's copy was provided by the publisher and TLC book tours in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

What do you do when the man you pledged your life to breaks your heart and shatters your dreams? You pack your bags and travel the big, wide world to find your destiny—and your true love . . .
Ten years ago, a young and na├»ve Cassie married her first serious boyfriend, believing he would be with her forever. Now her marriage is in tatters and Cassie has no career or home of her own. Though she feels betrayed and confused, Cassie isn’t giving up. She’s going to take control of her life. But first she has to find out where she belongs . . . and who she wants to be.
Over the course of one year, Cassie leaves her sheltered life in rural Scotland to stay with her best friends living in the most glamorous cities in the world: New York, Paris, and London. Exchanging comfort food and mousy hair for a low-carb diet and a gorgeous new look, Cassie tries each city on for size as she searches for the life she’s meant to have . . . and the man she’s meant to love.

My Thoughts:

I dream of being in New York at Christmas. I want to visit Rockefeller Centre, see the enormous tree, the store windows glowing with the baubles, trinkets and beauty of the season.    I have ever since seeing it in the movies.  Of course, visiting London and the UK in general are on my bucket list and well, what's more romantic than visiting the Eiffel Tower lit up at night?  For now, Christmas at Tiffany's is my literary travel guide.

In the first chapter of Christmas at Tiffany's the author introduces us to Cassie and her three best friends Kelly, Anouk and Suzy.  They have each flown in to join in the 10th anniversary celebration for Cassie and her husband Gil.  They're dressed in the latest fashions, adding glitz and glamour in contrast to the traditional attire of the couple's local friends. At the end of the evening, as Cassie tracks down a local friend, she overhears a phone conversation which reveals a romantic involvement between her husband and this friend.  Devastated, Cassie is consoled by her three besties who take her away from Scotland to spend a few months living and working with each of them.  For ten years Cassie has lived in a big house in Scotland, rather alone but content with her life.  Now that has all changed and her friends are determined to help her find or reinvent herself, beginning with a trip to New York to live and work with Kelly.

Not only do we see this giant of a city through Cassie's eyes, we stand on the side lines at fashion shoots and shows, run through Central Park, certain of complete collapse;  meet the celebrities too.  We feel her anguish over a botched show and though she is most certainly out of her element, she learns more about herself and begins to regain her confidence.

Following New York, Cassie continues on to Paris and then London, searching for the woman she has forgotten she is.  With a list of things she must see in each city, Cassie embraces the experience, coming to terms with her new life and the prospects ahead, including men!!

Karen Swan is one of those writers who writes half-tomes, this one weighing in at over 500 pages; with fluidity that allows the reader to devour it chapter after page much to the detriment of a good night's sleep! Christmas at Tiffany's is a warm, humorous and touching tale of friendship that spans years and trials and comes out stronger in the end.  This winter pick up a copy of Christmas at Tiffany's and travel the world with Cassie and her friends.  It's the best kind of armchair travel and no lay-overs!

Meet the author:

Karen Swan began her career in fashion journalism before giving it all up to raise her three children and an ADHD puppy, and to pursue her ambition of becoming a writer. She lives in the forest in Sussex, writing her books in a treehouse overlooking the Downs. Her first novel, Players, was published in 2010, followed by Prima Donna and Christmas at Tiffany’s in 2011.

 Purchase Links

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Village of Secrets: Defying the Nazis in Vichy France by Caroline Moorehead (review)

Village of Secrets:  Defying the Nazis in Vichy France
Author:  Caroline Moorehead
Publisher: Harper Collins
Published:  October 2014
Pages:  384
ISBN 978-0062202475
Genre:  History, Non-fiction
Source:  an advance reader's copy was supplied by the publisher and TLC book tours in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

From the author of the New York Times bestseller A Train in Winter comes the fascinating story of a French village that helped save thousands hunted by the Gestapo during World War II.

High up in the mountains of the southern Massif Central in France lie tiny, remote villages united by a long and particular history. During the Second World War, the inhabitants of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon and its parishes saved thousands wanted by the Gestapo: resisters, Freemasons, communists, and, above all, Jews, many of them orphans whose parents had been deported to concentration camps. There were no informers, no denunciations, and no one broke ranks. During raids, the children would hide in the woods, their packs on their backs, waiting to hear the farmers' song that told them it was safe to return. After the war, Le Chambon became one of only two places in the world to be honored by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among Nations.

Just why and how Le Chambon and its outlying villages came to save so many people has never fully been told. With unprecedented access to newly opened archives in France, Britain, and Germany, along with interviews documenting the testimony of surviving villagers, Caroline Moorehead paints an inspiring portrait of courage and determination: of what was accomplished when a small group of people banded together to oppose tyranny. 

A major contribution to the history of the Second World War, illustrated with black-and-white photographs, Village of Secrets sets the record straight about the events in Chambon and pays tribute to a group of heroic individuals for whom saving others became more important than their own lives. (from the cover)

My Thoughts

This year is the 100th anniversary of World War I, the war in which Hitler fought and was awarded medals and wherein his commitment to anti-semitism began.  In 1919 he identified the goal of the German government was to remove the Jewish people altogether.  In World War II Hitler was a leader in this cause.

In Vichy France, despite the threat of punishment, even death; people and communities took it upon themselves to protect and aid those affected by Hitler's mandate.  Village of Secrets: Defying the Nazis in Vichy France brings to light those efforts.  In the encampments of the foreign Jews, Moorehead reveals how nurses and attendants secretly brought in medicines and bits of food.  Farmers took in children whose parents had been taken to be incarcerated.  Villagers took children into their homes, put them in Christian schools, changed their names, protected them; all at great risk to themselves.  Despite interrogations and threats, there were those brave souls who put the needs of others before their own.

Village of Secrets is difficult to read.  Just as Schindler's List, The Diary of Anne Frank, and many more; Village of Secrets tells it like it was.  The internments, the cruelty, the starvation, the anguish, the dying...it's all here.  There is a lot of information and detail that could possibly lend itself to the addition of another book.  Certainly there were other communities that contributed to the safe protection of individuals on the SS hit list - Moorhead focuses on Vichy France.  Not to diminish the efforts of any who did the same, but to herald a recognition of this small area of France who defied the odds for the greater good.

An extensive bibliography supports Moorehead's story, including recently made available archives in France, Britain and Germany.  Moorehead's Village of Secrets is a complexity of characters, an examination of the human spirit, and a tribute to those who didn't falter despite overwhelming threat.  It's a spot of light in a world that was dark with inhumane treatment of a religious people who were persecuted for being themselves.  

To this day, World War II bears a strong impact.  History influences the present and the future.  There is still persecution. There are still wars.  Hatred is not an unknown quantity among man. That is why it is important to reveal and appreciate the efforts for good, the sacrifices, and the hope for a better nation and world.  Hopefully we can be as those in Vichy France should we ever find ourselves having to choose between what is right and our very lives. 

You can find VILLAGE OF SECRETS on Goodreads, and purchase links include AmazonIndieBound, and Barnes & Noble

Meet the author: 
Caroline Moorehead is the New York Times bestselling author of A Train in Winterand Human Cargo: A Journey Among Refugees, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. An acclaimed biographer of Martha Gellhorn, Bertrand Russell, and Lucie de la Tour du Pin, among others, Moorehead has also written for the Telegraph, the Times, and the Independent. She lives in London and Italy.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Memory Card Full by Liz Weber (review)

Memory Card Full
Author:  Liz Weber
Publisher: Greenpoint Press (indie publisher)
Published:  September 2014
Pages: 256
ISBN 9780988696877
Genre:  memoir
Source:  a complimentary copy was provided by the publisher and TLC book tours in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

A book for anyone who has loved and lost and found the space in that loss to become the person they were meant to be.
When Rufus, Liz Weber’s oddly proportioned but adorable dog dies of old age, her life begins to unravel. She is forced to let go of the one constant in her life and move forward. Memory Card Full is a memoir of her life as a bartender, model and aspiring writer in Manhattan before and after Rufus. Without him, she is alone and broken-hearted and her life spirals downward while her friends and family struggle to understand what she is going through.
Prior to Rufus’s death, Liz Weber’s life was far from dull. Whether serving drinks to a gaggle of quirky regulars at a bar or walking around in her skivvies for extra cash as a lingerie model, she fought hard to remain a self-proclaimed “professional free spirit” and aspiring writer, even it meant enduring a lush for a manager or a cranky, Israeli-folk-music-loving boss. None of it really mattered as long as she had Rufus, who taught her about unconditional love in an untraditional way.
Memory Card Full is the story of Liz’s journey through grief, which leads to an  unexpected encounter with the long unheard voice of the woman inside of her. On water skis at an adult sleepaway camp, Liz realizes that there are important things in life that Rufus’ love had caused her to avoid. Embracing her power and strength, she is finally able to accept that letting go of him is the best way to go on and find love for herself and others.
Frank, funny, and deeply moving, Memory Card Full is a memoir for anyone who has loved and lost and found the space in that loss to become the person they were meant to be.
My thoughts:
A shattered mirror was the beginning of a difficult and painful journey for Liz Weber as her senior canine companion's health declined.  Liz would have to put him to rest, euthanizing her precious companion who had always been her constant through bad employers, bad jobs, and poor boyfriends.

Now alone and on vacation in Mexico, the message Memory Card Full displayed on her camera becomes a minor catalyst in her life.  As Liz reviews the photos, determining what can be deleted so she can take more pictures; fond memories flood back as photos of Rufus dominate the screen.  She must delete some old memories to make room for the new.  This is painful but it is done and Liz moves forward....a metaphor for her life.

I don't believe Rufus really held Liz back but it is evident that her acceptance of the loss of this beloved family member was a long time in coming.  Life was difficult but when Liz realizes how her life has become stagnant, she give herself permission to grieve but move forward.  She does so by taking a class, dating and doing what she has always longed to do...write.

Memory Card Full is a sometimes humorous and touching memoir written by a likable woman who finally finds her destiny.  It's an easy and fast read and extremely touching.  Having dogs myself, these precious members of the family are wonderful monikers of endless love and compassion.  To say goodbye is never easy and Liz felt it keenly.  Her pain is evident but her ability to turn her life forward with purpose is an example to us all.  

“Sometimes things have to fall apart in order for us to put them back together again.” (Memory Card Full)

Liz Weber is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn. Her work has appeared online at Narratively, and Apartment Therapy. When she is not contributing to lifestyle websites, including Citypath and Bored and Thirsty or doling out dating advice to the urban female set on the popular website The Fat White Guy, she’s blogging about her past as a children’s party performer (she makes a mean balloon sword) and the time she drove her moped through a souvenir stand in Mexico. Her short story about working in a male strip club for women was featured in the 2009 Staten Island Arts Festival.
Visit Liz at her website.

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion

 The Rosie Effect
Author:  Graeme Simsion
Published:  October 2014
Publisher:  Harper Collins
Pages:  414
ISBN 9781443435901
General:  General Fiction
Source:  borrowed

Don Tillman and Rosie Jarman are back. If you were swept away by Graeme Simsion’s international smash hit The Rosie Project, you will love The Rosie Effect.

The Wife Project is complete, and Don and Rosie are happily married and living in New York. But they’re about to face a new challenge.

Rosie is pregnant.

Don sets about learning the protocols of becoming a father, but his unusual research style gets him into trouble with the law. Fortunately his best friend Gene is on hand to offer advice: he’s left Claudia and moved in with Don and Rosie.

As Don tries to schedule time for pregnancy research, getting Gene and Claudia back together, servicing the industrial refrigeration unit that occupies half his apartment, helping Dave the Baseball Fan save his business and staying on the right side of Lydia the social worker, he almost misses the biggest problem of all: he might lose Rosie when she needs him most.

Get ready for The Rosie Effect, the new hilarious and heart-wrenching romantic comedy of the year.

My thoughts:

Graeme Simsion has authored another entertaining romantic comedy in The Rosie Effect, the follow-up to the much loved The Rosie Project.  I adored The Rosie Project because I laughed so much throughout this endearing story about a brilliant man who was terribly socially inept.  He has OCD and is even, perhaps, slightly autistic and he is hilarious, though he's not trying to be. By the sixth page I was in tears - joyous tears of laughter.  I love it when a book can reach me that way.

Rosie and Don are an adorable couple who, like most any couple out there, fail to communicate what they need from each other in a manner that the other understands.  Don's mishaps as he is trying to prove himself are plausible and quite funny but I wouldn't say The Rosie Effect is as humorous as The Rosie Project. The Rosie Effect is a deeper exploration of the human condition and the dynamics of a married couple learning to communicate and to love and accept each other and themselves.

While The Rosie Effect is humorous, there's a lot more depth in Don's character as he discovers he is soon to be a father and doesn't know how to handle the news.  He endeavours to be supportive, learning all he can about pre-natal care and nutrition, purchasing the best and safest pram and crib he can.  But, despite his efforts, Rosie is unsure about Don's ability to bond with a child.  Don must examine himself and learn how to show he is emotionally available and save his marriage.

Gene, a professor of psychology and Don's best friend, is a surprise in this book!  In The Rosie Project he comes across as a bit of a sleaze (who am I kidding, a big sleaze) with no concern for how his behaviour affects his wife Claudia.  Fortunately in The Rosie Effect Gene has matured and we learn a bit more about this man as a friend and father as he plays an important supportive role in this story.

I love The Rosie Effect.  It offers a lot to the reader.  You will laugh, you may require a tissue or two, and you will likely become introspective in regards to your own relationships.  I may not have laughed as much as I did while reading The Rosie Project, but Simsion evokes more emotion at different levels with The Rosie Effect.  I'd venture to say his plot has matured along with his characters and that, my friends, is a good thing too.

Sensitive readers:  language/profanity warning

Meet the Author:

GRAEME SIMSION is an IT consultant and educator. He wrote The Rosie Project as a screenplay before turning it into his first novel. The screenplay won the Australian Writers Guild Inscription Award for Best Romantic Comedy Script in 2010 and then won the 2012 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Best Unpublished Manuscript. Follow him on twitter @GraemeSimsion.


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