Woman with a Gun, by Phillip Margolin – Review

About the book, Woman with a Gun Woman with a Gun

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (December 2, 2014)

This compelling thriller, from New York Times bestseller Phillip Margolin, centers on an intriguing photograph that may contain long-hidden answers to the mystery of a millionaire’s murder.

At a retrospective on the work of acclaimed photographer Kathy Moran, aspiring novelist Stacey Kim is fascinated by the exhibition’s centerpiece: the famous Woman with a Gun, which launched the artist’s career. Shot from behind, the enigmatic black-and-white image depicts a woman in a wedding dress standing on the shore at night, facing the sea. But this is no serene, romantic portrait. In her right hand, which is hidden behind her back, she holds a six-shooter.

The picture captures Stacey’s imagination and raises a host of compelling questions: Who is this woman? Is this a photograph of her on her wedding day? Does she plan to kill herself or someone else? Obsessed with finding answers, she soon discovers the identity of the woman: a suspect in a ten-year-old murder investigation. Convinced that proof of the woman’s guilt, or innocence, is somehow connected to the photograph, Stacey embarks on a relentless investigation.

Drawn deeper into the case, Stacey finds that everyone involved has a different opinion of the woman’s culpability. But the one person who may know the whole story—Kathy Moran—isn’t talking. Stacey must find a way to get to the reclusive photographer, and get her to talk, or the truth about what happened that day will stay forever hidden in the shadows.

Buy, read, and discuss Woman with a Gun

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Goodreads


About the author, Phillip Margolin Phillip Margolin

Phillip Margolin has written eighteen novels, many of them New York Times bestsellers, including the recent Worthy Brown’s Daughter, Sleight of Hand, and the Washington Trilogy. Each displays a unique, compelling insider’s view of criminal behavior, which comes from his long background as a criminal defense attorney who has handled thirty murder cases. Winner of the Distinguished Northwest Writer Award, he lives in Portland, Oregon.

Connect with Phillip:

Website | Facebook.


My Thoughts

How often do we see a photograph, a painting, a sculpture, and want to know the story behind it? How often do we actually go after the story once we’ve begun to wonder. In Woman with a Gun, Stacey Kim does what all of us (or at least I) have fantasized about – she sees the picture “Woman with a Gun” and is driven to find out the story.

I enjoyed the layers of this tale – the actual police investigation and Stacey’s more writerly one. I enjoyed the use of language, and the depth displayed by all of the characters. Stacey was especially engaging, but the photographer Kathy Moran was equally compelling, and all the other characters held my interest and never felt flat or at all like ‘stock’ characters.

I’m usually a step ahead of the story when it comes to whodunnits, but in this case I enjoyed being in the dark to the very end, and further enjoyed the blend of ‘mystery’ and ‘thriller’ that author Margolin mixed up for this novel.

I haven’t read any of his other work, but my Amazon wishlist has just expanded by several titles.

Goes well with Steak, mashed potatoes, a green salad, and a stiff drink.


Phillip’s Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

This review is part of a blog tour sponsored by TLC Book Tours. For the complete list of tour stops, see below or click HERE.

Tuesday, December 2nd: The Steadfast Reader

Tuesday, December 2nd: Staircase Wit

Wednesday, December 3rd: Books in the Burbs

Thursday, December 4th: Under My Apple Tree

Monday, December 8th: The Daily Dosage

Tuesday, December 9th: From the TBR Pile

Wednesday, December 10th: Kahakai Kitchen

Wednesday, December 10th: Great Minds Read Alike

Thursday, December 11th: Bibliotica

Friday, December 12th: FictionZeal

Monday, December 15th: Fuelled by Fiction

Tuesday, December 16th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Wednesday, December 17th: The Book Binder’s Daughter

Thursday, December 18th: Jenn’s Bookshelves

Friday, December 19th: Reading in Black & White

Monday, December 22nd: Ace and Hoser Blook

Tuesday, December 23rd: Living in the Kitchen

TBD: BoundbyWords

Release, by Hope Russell Nunki (@hotbluestar) – Review

About the book, Release Release

  • Paperback: 360 pages
  • Publisher: Noon Key Productions LLC (November 15, 2014)
  • Ecstasy. Absolution. Escape. After three years of desperation, her release may be a new beginning… or it may be her end. Miscarrying Theodore on Leap Day devastated Mandelyn and Henry in ways that weren’t obvious at first. As year followed year, postpartum depression, marital dysfunction, and ethical corruption quietly metastasized under the guise of a lovely home and stable careers. To free herself of yearning and regret, Mandelyn turns to journaling with a virtual counselor, waxing nostalgic for past loves-sharp-witted Joshua, mercurial Sam, and enigmatic Dante. Never mind that Joshua came out of the closet after years of chaste camaraderie, Sam toyed with her emotions, and Dante, after a steamy year that culminated in a summer trip to India, simply faded from her life without explanation. Never mind that, discovering her journals, Henry makes a heartbreaking decision: “I release you. Go. Find yourself. See if something or someone- in your past or in your future-holds the keys to your happiness. Maybe you’ll find that you have what you need somewhere inside you. If you don’t live this life fully, Mandelyn, it won’t be on my account. I think you know I love you, but if the character of my love doesn’t fulfill you, I don’t have anything else to offer. Quantum nonlocality, Proustian memory, and the energy vortexes of Sedona, Arizona play into the Odyssey takes through the chasms between science and religion, perception and reality, masculine and feminine, head and heart, love and lust, and forgiveness and gratitude.

    Buy, read, and discuss Release

    Amazon (paperback) | Amazon (Kindle) | Facebook


    About the author, Hope Russell Nunki (in her words)

    “I am a former professional mascot, signmaker, thespian, and school teacher. The common thread among these roles is a passion for illuminating common yet complex issues in accessible yet unusual ways. With a degree in theatre arts, communications, and English from Simpson College, I taught, directed plays, and coached speech teams in central Iowa before returning to my roots in the suburbs of Chicago.”

    “With more than 15 years of experience in professional services marketing, I ghost-write and by-lines articles by day. By night, I volunteer her time and opinions far too easily and laugh really obnoxiously. I serve at the pleasure of my Alpha Chi Omega alumnae chapter, the local Panhellenic society, my daughters’ elementary school association, and the Society for Marketing Professional Services. I practice hatha yoga intermittently and run 5K races poorly. My husband and I are raising four daughters who are convinced we are the modern day incarnation of the March family.”

    Connect with Hope

    Website | Facebook | Goodreads | Twitter


    My Thoughts

    When I was offered a review copy of this novel, I hesitated for a while, but only because I had so many reviews that I’d committed to. As it is, I waited longer than I meant to before posting it. This is in no way a reflection of Hope Russell Nunki’s fantastic novel.

    From the first scene, where Mandelyn comes home to find her husband Henry confronting her with information about her files, through the next chapter, where we learn about their stillborn son, four years earlier, through the rest of the novel, the author writes with a clear voice, in first person (which can often be tricky). We feel her protagonist’s pain even when we sympathize with Harry…and we want to see her life improve.

    What follows is a journey through pain and loss to self-awareness, and eventually self-fulfillment. The pitch I received described this novel as both ‘poignant’ and ‘hilarious’ and both are equally true. This is contemporary women’s fiction at its best: full of characters that sound real, emotions that ring true, and situations that may be somewhat heightened versions of reality, but never lack plausibility.

    It’s a gripping debut novel, a compelling read, and one I highly recommend. As well, I look forward to what Hope Russell Nunki creates next (no pressure.)

    Goes well with Koval white rye, and a cheese plate.

    The Language of Hoofbeats by Catherine Ryan Hyde (@cryanhyde) – Review

    About the book, The Language of Hoofbeats The Language of Hoofbeats

    • Paperback: 342 pages
    • Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (December 9, 2014)

    From the bestselling author of Pay It Forward, comes a story of the heartbreak and healing power of family. New to a small town, Jackie and Paula envision a quiet life for their kids: a young adopted son and two teenage foster children, including the troubled Star. However, they quickly butt heads with their neighbor, Clementine, who disapproves of their lifestyle and is incensed when Star befriends her spirited horse, Comet. Haunted by past tragedy and unable to properly care for Comet, Clem nevertheless resents the bond Star soon shares with the horse. When Star disappears with Comet, the neighbors are thrown together—far too close together. But as the search for the pair wears on, both families must learn to put aside their animosity and confront the choices they’ve made and the scars they carry. Plumbing the depths of regret and forgiveness, The Language of Hoofbeats explores the strange alchemy that transforms a group of people into a family.

    Buy, read, and discuss The Language of Hoofbeats

    Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


    About the author, Catherine Ryan Hyde Catherine Ryan Hyde

    Catherine Ryan Hyde is the bestselling author of twenty-four novels, including the 1999 smash hitPay It Forward, which has been translated into more than two dozen languages, and was made into a major motion picture starring Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt, and Haley Joel Osment. In addition to her novels, Hyde is the author of more than fifty short stories and is founder and former president (2000–2009) of the Pay It Forward Foundation. During her years as a professional public speaker, she addressed the National Conference on Education, met with AmeriCorps members at the White House, and shared a dais with President Bill Clinton.

    Connect with Catherine

    Website | Facebook | Twitter


    My Thoughts

    The Language of Hoofbeats wasn’t a ‘fall in love from the first paragraph’ kind of book for me. Instead, it drew me in slowly – oh, okay, this is a lesbian couple. Cool. Wow, they have more pets than I do (I work in rescue. Five dogs live in my house). Oh! These are foster children…etc., but by the time teenager Star was across the street picking burrs from the hide of Comet the horse, I was hooked. I wanted, not just to read about this family, but to cook them a mess of pasta and salad and garlic bread, and join them for dinner.

    Between J-Mom and P-Mom, the kids, the pets, and the couple across the street, there were a lot of characters to sort out, but their stories all unfolded gently, layering themselves like the petals of a blooming flower, until, at the end, what you had was a story of loss and love, of grief and acceptance, and the answer – or one answer – to the question, “What is family?”

    As someone who is blessed to have a solid nuclear family as well as an extensive chosen one, and as someone who grew up with activist parents and now works in rescue, this novel spoke to me on many levels. It’s not funny, but it does have moments of humor that come from life. It’s not horribly said, but when the tears flow, they’re laced with the essence of truth.

    It’s a quiet book, one that makes you really count your blessings, and be grateful for what – and who you have, but it’s also a compelling and entertaining read

    Goes well with Warm pita, hummus, and yellow lentil soup.


    Catherine Ryan Hyde’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: TLC Book Tours

    This review is part of a blog tour sponsored by TLC Book Tours. For the complete list of tour stops, see below, or click HERE.

    Tuesday, December 2nd: Patricia’s Wisdom

    Tuesday, December 2nd: Fueled by Fiction

    Thursday, December 4th: Bibliotica

    Friday, December 5th: Eating and Reading

    Monday, December 8th: My Bookshelf

    Tuesday, December 9th: BookNAround

    Wednesday, December 10th: Jorie Loves a Story

    Thursday, December 11th: 100 Pages a Day….Stephanie’s Book Reviews

    Friday, December 12th: Joyfully Retired

    Monday, December 15th: 5 Minutes for Books

    Monday, December 15th: Back Porchervations

    Tuesday, December 16th: Laura’s List

    Wednesday, December 17th: Too Fond

    Thursday, December 18th: Peeking Between the Pages

    Friday, December 19th: I’d Rather Be at the Beach

    Saturday, December 20th: Books a la Mode – author guest post

    Monday, December 22nd: ebookclassics

    Tuesday, December 23rd: Nightly Reading

     

     

    Langston’s Daughters, by Juliette Harper (@jharperbooks) – Review

    About the book, Langston’s Daughters Langston's Daughters

    • Publisher: Skye House Publishing
    • Release date: December 3, 2014
    • Formats: paperback, ebook
    • Pages: 156

    Kate, Jenny, and Mandy. Langston Lockwood’s daughters. His tyranny drove them away. His suicide draws them home. They inherit his land, his millions, and his mysteries. Meet the women of the Rocking L and the men who come into their lives. Together, they begin the journey to discover the truth about The Lockwood Legacy. From the pain of the past they find the strength to build a dynasty.

    Langston’s Daughters is book one of The Lockwood Legacy.

    Buy, read, and discuss Langston’s Daughters

    Amazon (ebook) | Amazon (paperback) | Goodreads

    Per the author, this title will be available from Barnes and Noble soon.


    About the author, Juliette Harper

    Juliette Harper is the pen name used by the writing team of Patricia Pauletti and Rana K. Williamson. Like the characters of their debut series, The Lockwood Legacy, Juliette is a merging of their creative energies.

    Pauletti, an Easterner of Italian descent, is an accomplished musician with an eye for art and design. Williamson, a Texan from a long line of hardheaded Scots, knows the world of the Lockwoods like the back of her hand.

    Connect with Juliette

    Website | Twitter


    My Thoughts

    This novel is not only the debut novel from a writing partnership I’m sure will go on to great success, it is the first in a series about Langston Lockwood (now deceased) and his three grown daughters, Kate, Jenny, and Mandy. It’s a romance. It’s also kind of/sort of a western, in that it takes place on a ranch in Texas. Neither of those is my favorite genre, but even if half of the writing partnership that makes up “Juliette Harper” wasn’t one of my oldest blog-buddies, I would say the same thing about this book: It’s a great, fast read full of engaging characters and situations that carry the essence of truth.

    What a particularly liked was that each of the three women at the center of this novel were distinct characters with their own habits, preferences, personalities, and voices, but that they still ‘felt’ like people who had shared common experiences and had grown up together, as sisters should. Author Harper also excelled at finding, and relating, the human moments that happen in all families – the way bickering can lead to either laughter or tears, and the way people who disagree with each other can still love one another.

    Of course, no romance is complete without hunky guys, and this novel manages to make them (I liked Josh Baxter especially) seem as real and dimensional as the three central characters, and the same is true for all of the supporting characters, and even the community in which the ranch exists. As well, Langston himself, despite having committed an off-camera suicide before the novel even opens, is a very real character, and his presence, while not physical, still looms large throughout the story.

    When Mandy is in town noticing the number of empty storefronts, it resonated with me, and likely will with most aware readers, because small towns are facing that all over the U.S., and especially those in parts of the country where farming and ranching remain significant ways of life, as well as crucial parts of the economy. That scene is just one of the many ways Langston’s Daughters has been imbued with levels of depth and realism not found in typical romance novels.

    If you want a book that has romance and intrigue without the cookie-cutter heroines and twinkling-blue-eyes heroes that could easily be stock characters, you need to read Langston’s Daughters. If you love books featuring smart, strong women who appreciate and are appreciated by smart, strong men, you need to read this novel. If you like the idea of waking up at six in the morning to ride a horse up to a ridge, this novel is for you.

    I can’t wait for the sequel.

    Goes well with: Chili, corn bread, and a cold beer.

    Sewing Can Be Dangerous and Other Small Threads, by S. R. Mallery (@sarahmallery1) – Review

    About the book, Sewing Can Be Dangerous and Other Small Threads Sewing Can Be Dangerous

    • Publication Date: December 16, 2013
    • Publisher:Mockingbird Lane Press
    • Formats: eBook, Paperback, Audio Book
    • Pages:
    • Genre: Historical Fiction/Short Stories

    The eleven long short stories in Sewing Can Be Dangerous and Other Small Threads combine history, mystery, action and/or romance, and range from drug trafficking using Guatemalan hand-woven wallets, to an Antebellum U.S. slave using codes in her quilts as a message system to freedom; from an ex-journalist and her Hopi Indian maid solving a cold case together involving Katchina spirits, to a couple hiding Christian passports in a comforter in Nazi Germany; from a wedding quilt curse dating back to the Salem Witchcraft Trials, to a mystery involving a young seamstress in the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire; from a 1980s Romeo and Juliet romance between a rising Wall Street financial star and an eclectic fiber artist, to a Haight-Asbury love affair between a professor and a beautiful macrami artist gone horribly askew, just to name a few.

    Watch the trailer for Sewing Can Be Dangerous

    Buy, read, and discuss Sewing Can Be Dangerous

    Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

    Buy the audio version of Sewing Can Be Dangerous

    Amazon | Audible.com | iTunes


    About the author, S. R. Mallery S.R. Mallery

    S.R. Mallery has worn various hats in her life.

    First, a classical/pop singer/composer, she moved on to the professional world of production art and calligraphy. Next came a long career as an award winning quilt artist/teacher and an ESL/Reading instructor. Her short stories have been published in descant 2008, Snowy Egret, Transcendent Visions, The Storyteller, and Down In the Dirt.

    Unexpected Gifts, her debut novel, is currently available on Amazon. Sewing Can Be Dangerous and Other Small Threads, her collection of short stories, was released in Jan. 2014. Both books are from Mockingbird Lane Press.

    Connect with S.R.

    Website | Facebook | Goodreads | Twitter


    My Thoughts

    I don’t sew. I mean, I can hem pants if I really have to, and I can sew a button on, or make basic curtains, but I don’t have the love of fabric that real sewists (my mother’s word) have. I grew up in a house, however, where going barefoot meant you’d probably end up impaled by a straight pin, or three, and background noise nearly always included the cozy hum of a sewing machine’s flywheel punctuated by my mother’s cursing whenever something didn’t go according to plan.

    Despite not being a creator of fiber arts, myself, I have dabbled in crewel embroidery (and still do on rare occasions), I’ve tried to learn to knit (I had an excellent teacher, I am incapable of relaxing my grip enough), and I’m fascinated by quilting, and really will try it one day. The mostly-straight lines I can cope with, but quilting also involves math, and geometry was never my favorite subject.

    Reading about sewing, and other kinds of fiber arts, however, is something I love to do, so when I had the chance to review Sewing Can Be Dangerous and Other Small Threads, I asked for it in paperback, partly because I knew the short stories would make the perfect “bath book,” and partly because I knew I could pass it on to my mother. (It’s part of her Christmas present this year. Shhh! Don’t tell her!!)

    I planned to read this book in the bath over a few days, but the first story hooked me so deeply that I was absorbed by Mallery’s prose and forgot to fill the tub. Also, like potato chips, you cannot (well, I cannot) read just one short story, so I had to keep going. Before I knew it, I’d read away a whole night, and only the fact that I didn’t have a bright enough light made me put this book down.

    My favorite piece is the the second story, which is about quilts and curses, and appealed to my love of all things spooky and dark, but every single story is a gem – or, more accurately, a hand-sewn bead among a collection of hand-sewn beads. Mallery’s voice is clear and consistent even when moods and tones are radically different, and it was lovely having so many different women as protagonists. Many of these stories could easily be expanded into longer works, if the author chose to do so, but they also stand well in their current format.

    Read this for yourself, even if you don’t sew. And buy a copy for a woman in your life who does sew, because she’ll love it.

    Goes well with Bold dark coffee laced with egg nog and mince pie served slightly warm.


    Sewing Can Be Dangerous and Other Small Threads Blog Tour Schedule Sewing Can Be Dangerous Blog Tour

    This review is part of a blog tour sponsored by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours. For the complete list of tour stops, see below. For more information, click HERE.

    Monday, December 1
    Review at Unshelfish

    Tuesday, December 2
    Review at Bibliotica

    Wednesday, December 3
    Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective

    Thursday, December 4
    Spotlight & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Reviews and More

    Friday, December 5
    Guest Post at What Is That Book About
    Interview at Dianne Ascroft Blog

    Monday, December 8
    Review at WV Stitcher

    Tuesday, December 9
    Review at 100 Pages a Day – Stephanie’s Book Reviews
    Guest Post & Giveaway at Historical Fiction Connection

    Wednesday, December 10
    Review at A Book Geek

    Thursday, December 11
    Review at Book Nerd

    Friday, December 12
    Review at Based on a True Story

    Monday, December 15
    Review at CelticLady’s Reviews

    Tuesday, December 16
    Review at Book Babe

    Wednesday, December 17
    Review at Just One More Chapter

    Friday, December 19
    Review at Book Drunkard

    Fog Island Mountains, by Michelle Bailat-Jones – Review

    About the book, Fog Island Mountains Fog Island Mountains

    • Paperback: 176 pages
    • Publisher: Tantor Media, Inc. (November 4, 2014)

    What if you could rewrite a tragedy? What if you could give grace to someone’s greatest mistake?

    Huddled beneath the volcanoes of the Kirishima mountain range in southern Japan, also called the Fog Island Mountains, the inhabitants of small town Komachi are waiting for the biggest of the summer’s typhoons. South African expatriate Alec Chester has lived in Komachi for nearly forty years. Alec considers himself an ordinary man, with common troubles and mundane achievements until his doctor gives him a terminal cancer diagnosis and his wife, Kanae, disappears into the gathering storm. Kanae flees from the terrifying reality of Alec’s diagnosis, even going so far as to tell a childhood friend that she is already a widow. Her willful avoidance of the truth leads her to commit a grave infidelity, and only when Alec is suspected of checking himself out of the hospital to commit a quiet suicide does Kanae come home to face what it will mean to lose her husband.

    Buy, read, and discuss Fog Island Mountains

    Amazon | Books-a-Million | Tantor Media | Goodreads


    About the author, Michelle Bailat-Jones Michelle Bailat-Jones

    Michelle Bailat-Jones is a writer and translator. Her novel Fog Island Mountains won the Christopher Doheny Award from the Center for Fiction in New York City. She translated Charles Ferdinand Ramuz s 1927 Swiss classic Beauty on Earth. She is the reviews editor at the web journal Necessary Fiction, and her fiction, poetry, translations, and criticism have appeared in a number of journals, including the Kenyon Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, the Quarterly Conversation, PANK, Spolia Mag, Two Serious Ladies, and the Atticus Review. Michelle lives in Switzerland.


    My Thoughts

    I’m not sure how to describe this novel. It’s very short – under 200 pages – but those pages are meaty and rich and vibrant and there is never a point at which I felt like I was being stiffed on pagecount. Instead I felt like I was instantly immersed in a world full of interesting characters, family drama, and the ups and downs of life, as lived in a small island village.

    Stories involving cancer are either grim to the point of morbidity, or sappy to the point of nausea. This book was neither. Instead, it felt like a real family dealing with real problems – sibling rivalry, love, loss, fear of losing a spouse or a parent, set against the backdrop of this village full of friends and colleagues and other locals.

    It’s also about belonging…interestingly, Alec, the ex-pat from South Africa, often feels more like he belongs on this tiny Japanese island than his family seems to…it makes everything so much more poignant, and so much more complex.

    I enjoyed the quietness that ran through this novel, and I also enjoyed the convention of a third party relating the story. It was an interesting stylistic choice, but it made everything feel like we were seeing it through a soft-focus lens, and that really worked for the story Bailat-Jones was telling.

    Goes well with green tea, miso soup, sashimi (but no octopus because the texture is gross) and tempura. Stereotypical, I know, but appropriate.


    TLC Book Tours

    This review is part of a blog tour sponsored by TLC Book Tours. For the complete list of tour stops, see below. For more information, click HERE.

    Tuesday, November 4th: The Discerning Reader

    Thursday, November 6th: BookNAround

    Tuesday, November 11th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

    Thursday, November 13th: Bell, Book, & Candle

    Monday, November 17th: Book Nerd

    Thursday, November 20th: Too Fond

    Monday, December 1st: Sara’s Organized Chaos

    Tuesday, December 2nd: Bibliotica

    Wednesday, December 3rd: Regular Rumination

    Friday, December 5th: Patricia’s Wisdom

    Monday, December 8th: Book Dilettante

    Tuesday, December 9th: Olduvai Reads

    Wednesday, December 10th: Svetlana’s Reads and Views

     

    The Spoils of Avalon, by Mary Burns – Review

    About the book The Spoils of Avalon The Spoils of Avalon

    Publisher:Sand Hill Review Press
    Info:Paperback; 300p
    ISBN: 978-1937818289
    Series: A John Singer Sargent/Violet Paget Mystery (Book One)
    Genre: Historical Fiction/Historical Mystery

    The death of a humble clergyman in 1877 leads amateur sleuths Violet Paget and John Singer Sargent into a medieval world of saints and kings—including the legendary Arthur—as they follow a trail of relics and antiquities lost since the destruction of Glastonbury Abbey in 1539. Written in alternating chapters between the two time periods, The Spoils of Avalon creates a sparkling, magical mystery that bridges the gap between two worlds that could hardly be more different—the industrialized, Darwinian, materialistic Victorian Age and the agricultural, faith-infused life of a medieval abbey on the brink of violent change at the hands of Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell.

    First in a new series of historical mysteries, The Spoils of Avalon introduces two unlikely detectives and life-long friends—beginning as young people on the verge of making their names famous for the next several decades throughout Europe and America: the brilliant and brittle Violet Paget, known as the writer Vernon Lee, and the talented, genial portrait painter John Singer Sargent.

    Friends from the age of ten, Paget and Sargent frequently met in the popular European watering places and capitals, frequenting the same salons and drawing rooms in London, Rome, Paris, Florence, Venice, Vienna and Madrid. Both were possessed of keen minds and bohemian tendencies, unorthodox educations and outsized egos (especially Paget). Their instant, natural bonding led them to address each other as “Twin”, and they corresponded frequently when they were apart.

    Henry James once described Violet Paget as having “the most formidable mind” of their times, and he was an active fan and patron of John Sargent, introducing him to London society and his own inner circles of literary and artistic genius.

    Watch the Book Trailer

    Buy, read, and discuss The Spoils of Avalon

    Amazon | Goodreads


    About the Author, Mary Burns Mary Burns

    Mary F. Burns is the author of PORTRAITS OF AN ARTIST (Sand Hill Review Press, February 2013), a member of and book reviewer for the Historical Novel Society and a former member of the HNS Conference board of directors. A novella-length book, ISAAC AND ISHMAEL, is also being published by Sand Hill Review Press in 2014. Ms. Burns’ debut historical novel J-THE WOMAN WHO WROTE THE BIBLE was published in July 2010 by O-Books (John Hunt Publishers, UK). She has also written two cozy-village mysteries in a series titled The West Portal Mysteries (The Lucky Dog Lottery and The Tarot Card Murders).

    Ms. Burns was born in Chicago, Illinois and attended Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, where she earned both Bachelors and Masters degrees in English, along with a high school teaching certificate. She relocated to San Francisco in 1976 where she now lives with her husband Stuart in the West Portal neighborhood. Ms. Burns has a law degree from Golden Gate University, has been president of her neighborhood association and is active in citywide issues. During most of her working career she was employed as a director of employee communications, public relations and issues management at various San Francisco Bay Area corporations, was an editor and manager of the Books on Tape department for Ignatius Press, and has managed her own communications/PR consulting business, producing written communications, websites and video productions for numerous corporate and non-profit clients.

    Connect with Mary

    Website | Facebook | Goodreads | Twitter


    My Thoughts

    I love a good mystery, and I went through a phase when I was totally in love with all permutations of Arthurian legend, so when an opportunity to read and review this book landed in my inbox, I was delighted to do so.

    John and Violet are a detective duo to rival Holmes and Watson, and the presence of a woman does much to open the genre. From the first page, I bought their lifelong friendship, and was laughing when their banter seemed funny, empathizing when they had different ideas. From the start, I felt like I knew these people, and would enjoy conversing at the dinner table, long after the meal’s grown cold, with them.

    Similarly, the plot, taking place in two timezones (Victorian England and Glastonbury 200 years or so before that) was woven together just as the Lady of Shalott might have done, and indeed this story was a ‘magic web of colors gay,’ though, of course, as there’s a murder, some of them were also more muted. I especially enjoyed the way author Mary Burns used excerpts from The Idylls of the King as chapter headers.

    As a standalone novel, The Spoils of Avalon would be a great read, and I heartily recommend it, but wait! There’s more. Or at least, I hope there will be more, because this book is being marketed as Book One in a series of adventures for John and Violet.

    I can’t wait to see what happens next.

    Goes well with Hard cider and a chicken pot pie, especially if it’s raining while you read.


    The Spoils of Avalon Blog Tour Schedule 04_The Spoils of Avalon_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL

    This review is part of a blog tour organized by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours. For the complete list of stops, see below. For more information, click HERE.

    Monday, November 3
    Review at Buried Under Books

    Tuesday, November 4
    Review at Book Dilettante

    Wednesday, November 5
    Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective

    Friday, November 7
    Review & Giveaway at The True Book Addict

    Monday, November 10
    Review at Just One More Chapter
    Interview & Giveaway at Unabridged Chick

    Tuesday, November 11
    Review at Layered Pages
    Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews

    Wednesday, November 12
    Guest Post at Passages to the Past

    Thursday, November 13
    Review at Curling Up By The Fire

    Friday, November 14
    Interview at The Maiden’s Court

    Monday, November 17
    Review & Interview at Jorie Loves a Story
    Interview & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books

    Tuesday, November 18
    Review at Impressions in Ink

    Wednesday, November 19
    Guest Post & Giveaway at Historical Fiction Connection

    Thursday, November 20
    Review & Giveaway at Beth’s Book Reviews

    Friday, November 21
    Review at Bibliotica

    The News Sorority, by Sheila Weller – Review

    About the book The News Sorority, by Sheila Weller The News Sorority

    A provocative look at the three remarkable women who revolutionized television broadcast news

    For decades, women battered the walls of the male fortress of television journalism, until finally three—Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric, and Christiane Amanpour—broke through, definitively remaking America’s nightly news. Drawing on exclusive interviews with their colleagues and intimates from childhood on, bestselling author Sheila Weller crafts a lively and eye-opening narrative, revealing the combination of ambition, skill, and character that enabled these three singular women to infiltrate the once impenetrable “boys club” and become cultural icons.

    Raised in Louisville, Kentucky, Diane Sawyer was a driven, elegant young woman in a time of societal upheaval. Her fierce intellect, almost insuperable work ethic, and mysterious emotional intelligence would catapult Sawyer from being the first female on-air correspondent for 60 Minutes to presenting heartbreaking specials on child poverty in America while anchoring the network flagship, ABC World News Tonight.

    Katie Couric, always convenient l y underestimated because of her girl-next-door demeanor, brazened her way through a succession of regional TV news jobs until she finally hit it big in New York. In 1991, Couric became the Today show cohost, where over the next fifteen years she transformed the “female” slot from secondary to preeminent. Couric’s greatest triumph—and most bedeviling challenge—was inheriting the mantle of Walter Cronkite at CBS Evening News, as the first woman ever to anchor a prestigious nighttime network news program.

    A glamorous but unorthodox cosmopolite— the daughter of a British Catholic mother and Iranian Muslim father—Christiane Amanpour made a virtue of her outsider status. She joined the fledgling CNN on the bottom rung and then became its “face,” catalyzing its rise to global prominence. Her fearlessness in war zones and before presidents and despots would make her the world’s witness to some of its most acute crises and television’s chief advocate for international justice.

    The News Sorority takes us behind the scenes as never before to track Sawyer’s, Couric’s, and Amanpour’s ascendance to the highest ranks of the media elite, showing that the compelling desire to report the news—a drive born of curiosity, empathy, and humanity—must be matched by guts, awesome competitive fervor, and rare strategic savvy.


    My Thoughts

    I was offered this book by a publicist who found my blog, probably through some other review campaign, and I leaped at it, because I read Sheila Weller’s previous book Girls Like Us (about women in music) and loved it. I’ve also interviewed her for All Things Girl so, I sort of knew what to expect.

    I was not disappointed.

    Weller takes us through the lives of three women at the forefront of news media – Christiane Amanpour, Katie Couric, and Diane Sawyer – weaving them in and out of each other, and letting us see them as girls, as women, as people, as the faces of the news.

    I enjoyed learning more about these women, all of whom I’ve watched since forever, and I also enjoyed Weller’s narrative style. She makes biography read like a novel, and is always candid but seems to make an effort to do so from a place of kindness. You can tell that she may not always agree with her subjects, but she always respects them.

    If you want to feel as if you truly know these women, read this book. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll never look at television journalism the same way again.




    For decades, women battered the walls of the male fortress of television journalism. After fierce struggles, three women—Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric, and Christiane Amanpour—broke into the newsroom’s once impenetrable “boys’ club.” These extraordinary women were not simply pathbreakers, but wildly gifted journalists whose unique talents—courage and empathy, competitive drive and strategic poise—enabled them to climb to the top of the corporate ladder and transform the way Americans received their news.

    Drawing on exclusive interviews with their colleagues and intimates from childhood on, The News Sorority crafts a lively and exhilarating narrative that reveals the hard
    struggles and inner strengths that shaped these women and powered their success. Life outside the newsroom—love, loss, child rearing—would mark them all, complicating their lives even as it deepened their convictions and instincts. Life inside the newsroom would include many nervy decisions and back room power plays previously uncaptured in any media account. Taken together, Sawyer’s, Couric’s, and Amanpour’s lives as women are here revealed not as impediments but as keys to their success.

    Raised in Louisville, Kentucky, Diane Sawyer was a young woman steering her own unique political course in a time of societal upheaval. Her fierce intellect, almost insuperable work ethic, and sophisticated emotional intelligence would catapult Sawyer from being the first female on-air correspondent for 60 Minutes, to early on interviewing the likes of Boris Yeltsin and Michael Jackson, to presenting heartbreaking specials on child poverty in America while anchoring the network flagship ABC World News. From her first breaks as a reporter all the way through her departure in 2014, Sawyer’s charisma and drive would carry her through countless personal and professional changes.

    Katie Couric, always conveniently underestimated because of her “girl-next-door” demeanor, brazened her way through a succession of regional TV news jobs until she finally hit it big. In 1991, Couric became the tremendously popular cohost of Today, where, over the next fifteen years, she transformed the “female” slot from secondary to preeminent while shouldering devastating personal loss and launching an audacious and lifesaving public health campaign. Couric’s greatest triumph—and most bedeviling challenge—was inheriting the mantle of Walter Cronkiteat CBS Evening News, as the first woman to solo-anchor a prestigious nighttime network news program. Through it all, her contradictions—she’s wry and sarcastic yet sensitive; seriously feminist while proudly sorority-girlish—made her beyond easy typecasting, and as original as she is relatable.

    A glamorous, unorthodox cosmopolite—the daughter of a British Catholic mother and an Iranian Muslim father, raised in pre-revolution Iran amid royalty and educated in England—Christiane Amanpour was an elite, wily, charismatic convent-school girl who would never have been picked out of a lineup as a future war reporter, until her character flourished on catastrophic soil: her family’s exile during the Iranian Revolution. Once she knew her calling, Amanpour shrewdly made a virtue of her outsider status, joining the fledgling CNN on the bottom rung and then becoming its “face,” catalyzing its rise to global prominence. Amanpour’s fearlessness in war zones, and before presidents and despots, would make her the world’s witness to some of its most acute crises and television’s chief advocate for international justice.

    Revealing the tremendous combination of ambition, empathy, and skill that empowered Sawyer, Couric, and Amanpour to reach stardom, The News Sorority is at once a detailed story of three very particular lives and a testament to the extraordinary character of women everywhere.
    Kindle Edition: Check Amazon for Pricing Digital Only
    Release date September 30, 2014.

    Us, by David Nicholls – Review

    About the book, Us Us

    Hardcover: 416 pages
    Publisher: Harper (October 28, 2014)

    David Nicholls brings the wit and intelligence that graced his enormously popular New York Times bestseller, One Day, to a compellingly human, deftly funny new novel about what holds marriages and families together—and what happens, and what we learn about ourselves, when everything threatens to fall apart.

    Douglas Petersen may be mild-mannered, but behind his reserve lies a sense of humor that, against all odds, seduces beautiful Connie into a second date . . . and eventually into marriage. Now, almost three decades after their relationship first blossomed in London, they live more or less happily in the suburbs with their moody seventeen year-old son, Albie. Then Connie tells him she thinks she wants a divorce.

    The timing couldn’t be worse. Hoping to encourage her son’s artistic interests, Connie has planned a month-long tour of European capitals, a chance to experience the world’s greatest works of art as a family, and she can’t bring herself to cancel. And maybe going ahead with the original plan is for the best anyway? Douglas is privately convinced that this landmark trip will rekindle the romance in the marriage, and might even help him to bond with Albie.

    Narrated from Douglas’s endearingly honest, slyly witty, and at times achingly optimistic point of view, Us is the story of a man trying to rescue his relationship with the woman he loves, and learning how to get closer to a son who’s always felt like a stranger. Us is a moving meditation on the demands of marriage and parenthood, the regrets of abandoning youth for middle age, and the intricate relationship between the heart and the head. And in David Nicholls’s gifted hands, Douglas’s odyssey brings Europe—from the streets of Amsterdam to the famed museums of Paris, from the cafés of Venice to the beaches of Barcelona—to vivid life just as he experiences a powerful awakening of his own. Will this summer be his last as a husband, or the moment when he turns his marriage, and maybe even his whole life, around?

    Buy, read, and discuss Us

    Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Goodreads

    Watch the trailer for Us


    About the author, David Nicholls David Nicholls

    David Nicholls’s most recent novel, the New York Times bestseller One Day, has sold over 2 million copies and been translated into thirty-seven languages; he also wrote the screenplay for the 2010 film adaptation starring Jim Sturgess and Anne Hathaway.

    Trained as an actor before making the switch to writing, Nicholls’s previous novels include Starter for Ten (originally published in the U.S. as A Question of Attraction), adapted into a film starring James McAvoy, for which Nicholls also wrote the screenplay; and The Understudy. He continues to write for film and TV as well as writing novels and adapting them for the screen, and has twice been nominated for the BAFTA awards. He lives in London with his wife and two children.

    Connect with David

    Website | Facebook


    My Thoughts

    I loved One Day, so when I was offered the chance to review US I leapt at it, and I’m glad I did. This book is wonderfully crafted, the dialogue is snappy, but realistic, and the characters feel like real people.

    It takes a special kind of author to write about the (possible) end, and definite shift, of a marriage while still being witty, but Nicholls is an expert at that kind of poignance mixed with humor, and even at their worst his characters, and his plot, are thoroughly engaging. Personally, I was hooked quite early on, when there’s a bit of internal monologue from POV character Douglas about how if is son had needed another year of school, his marriage would have had one more year of perceived solidity. It’s such an unaffected observation, and on the surface it’s funny, but then you realize how very fragile he really is.

    Author Nicholls was an actor before he started writing, and I suspect that’s why his use of language is so dead-on. He writes with an actor’s ear, and his words are meant to be spoken aloud. Indeed, this is one of those books that had me reading bits to the dogs (hey, any audience is better than none) and following my husband around the house telling him, “No, wait, you must listen to this scene.”

    Small surprise, then, that his books end up as movies down the line. Consciously or not, they’re written to be cinematic.

    Us is the kind of novel that turns into an immensely popular art film, the kind that all the cool people see, but that never makes it into the mainstream multiplexes. I have no problem with that, as these are precisely the sorts of novels I most enjoy.

    If you, too, like wit-infused realism, then Us is the novel for you.

    Goes well with Thai food and iced coffee


    More About this Tour

    TLC Book Tours

    This review is part of a blog tour hosted by TLC Book Tours. For the complete list of tour stops, see below. For more information, click HERE.

    Monday, October 6th: The Daily Dosage

    Tuesday, October 7th: nomadreader

    Wednesday, October 8th: From L.A. to LA

    Thursday, October 9th: Spiced Latte Reads

    Monday, October 13th: BookNAround

    Tuesday, October 14th: Bibliosue

    Friday, October 17th: 5 Minutes For Books

    Monday, October 20th: Patricia’s Wisdom

    Tuesday, October 21st:  A Bookish Way of Life

    Wednesday, October 22nd: Vox Libris

    Thursday, October 23rd: The Scarlet letter

    Monday October 27th: Read. Write. Repeat.

    Tuesday, October 28th: Lavish Bookshelf

    Wednesday, October 29th: nightlyreading

    Thursday, October 30th: Always With a Book

    Monday, November 3rd: Alison’s Book Marks

    Monday, November 3rd: Drey’s Library

    Wednesday, November 5th: More Than Just Magic

    Thursday, November 6th: Walking With Nora

    Monday, November 10th: Booksie’s Blog

    Wednesday, November 12th: Literary Lindsey

    Thursday, November 13th: Books and Bindings

    Friday, November 14th: Every Free Chance Book Reviews

    Sunday, November 16th: Giraffe Days

    Monday, November 17th: Doing Dewey

    Tuesday, November 18th: Bibliotica

    Thursday, November 20th: The Book Binder’s Daughter

    Friday, November 21st: Bookshelf Fantasies

    Friday, November 21st: Book Loving Hippo

    Friday, November 21st: Books in the Burbs

    Monday, November 24th: I’d Rather Be At The Beach

    Tuesday, November 25th: Svetlana’s Reads and Views

    Wednesday, November 26th: missris

    TBD: Reading in Black & White

    TBD: …the bookworm…

    TBD: BoundbyWords

    The Dunning Man, by Kevin Fortuna – Review

    About the book, The Dunning Man The Dunning Man

    • Paperback: 140 pages
    Publisher: Lavender Ink (October 19, 2014)

    The six stories in Kevin Fortuna’s hilarious and gripping debut story collection, The Dunning Man, feature anti-heroes who reject society’s rules, and often show a gritty, Irish American take on the worlds in which they live. Characters from all walks of life—a rogue hip-hop star, a blackjack dealing mom, a middle-aged drunk plowing through his inheritance, and an empty nester housewife trying to make peace with the past. They each exist in the here and now, living for what’s possible and what’s left—not what they’ve left behind. Redemption awaits all, but only along the rutted, gut-churning path of honest self-examination. Age quod agis.

    Set in Atlantic City, New Orleans, Washington, D.C., the Hudson Valley and Manhattan, Fortuna’s stories depict the violent clash between society’s expectations and the chaotic arc of individual destiny. These are powerful tales of truth seekers imbued with larger-than-life personalities and the all-consuming need to find something worth seeking.

    Buy, read, & discuss The Dunning Man


    Amazon
    | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


    About the author, Kevin Fortuna

    Kevin Fortuna lives in Cold Spring, New York. He obtained a Bachelors degree in English Literature from Georgetown University, where he graduated summa cum laude. He is the recipient of a Lannan Literary Fellowship, the Quicksall Medal for Writing, a Fellowship in Fiction at the Prague Summer Writers Workshop and a Full Fellowship in Fiction at the University of New Orleans, where he received his MFA.


    My Thoughts

    I really enjoy short stories because they have to be so well crafted from start to finish or they just don’t work. Economy of phrase is essential, but not just economy, also precision, and style.

    Kevin Fortuna’s collection of stories, The Dunning Man has all three.

    I enjoyed all of the pieces in the book, but the first one, which took place en route to Atlantic City, resonated most with me, probably because I know the Academy Bus gates at Port Authority so well, and understood the frustration of the crowded queues for certain routes.

    Every tale in the collection is absolutely worth the read, and what I particularly appreciated was that Fortuna’s voice changes slightly for each story, to better match the protagonist he’s depicting, but still remains discernable as being the same author writing. It’s a fine line, but it proves that his point of view is clear and strong, and I look forward to more from this author.

    Goes well with A slice of Famous Ray’s pizza and a cold beer.


    Kevin’s Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

    This review is part of a book tour sponsored by TLC Book Tours. For the list of tour stops, see below, or click HERE.

    Tuesday, October 28th: A Dream Within a Dream

    Thursday, October 30th: Built by Story

    Monday, November 3rd: The Book Binder’s Daughter

    Monday, November 10th: I’d Rather Be At The Beach

    Thursday, November 13th: Bibliotica

    Monday, November 17th: Conceptual Reception

    Tuesday, November 25th: guiltless reading

    Tuesday, November 25th: Read a Latte

    Friday, November 28th: Walking With Nora

    Saturday, November 29th: Tiffany’s Bookshelf