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

My Sister’s Grave by Robert Dugoni (@RobertDugoni) – Review

About the book My Sister’s Grave My Sister's Grave

Paperback
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer (November 1, 2014)

Robert Dugoni’s bestselling legal thrillers have earned him comparisons to John Grisham, Scott Turow, and Nelson DeMille, among others. In MY SISTER’S GRAVE (Thomas & Mercer; October 14, 2014), Dugoni returns with the powerful and poignant story of a homicide detective determined to avenge the murder of her beloved younger sister – regardless of the cost.

Seattle cop Tracy Crosswhite was a high school chemistry teacher when her teenaged sister Sarah disappeared one night on her way home to their small town of Cedar Grove. A young ex-con, Edmund House, was quickly tried and convicted of her murder. Twenty years and a career change later, Tracy has dedicated her life to questioning whether the right man went to jail. When Sarah’s remains are uncovered from a newly-exposed lake bed, new evidence seems to support Tracy’s theory that the original prosecution was deeply flawed.

Working with a childhood friend, now an attorney, to exonerate House and find Sarah’s true killer, Tracy begins to uncover long-held secrets that point to a shocking – and potentially catastrophic – truth about what happened to her sister on that long-ago night. Somewhere in Cedar Grove, a killer is waiting, and Tracy must summon the strength to confront the past in order to save her future.

An explosive whodunit with a family love story at its heart, MY SISTER’S GRAVE is a thriller that’s difficult to put down, and marks an exciting new chapter for acclaimed writer Robert Dugoni.

Buy, read and discuss My Sister’s Grave

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | Goodreads


About the author, Robert Dugoni Robert Dugoni

Robert Dugoni is the critically acclaimed and New York Times-bestselling author of the David Sloane series: The Jury Master, Wrongful Death, Bodily Harm, Murder One, and The Conviction. Murder One was a finalist for the Harper Lee Award for literary excellence. He is also the author of the bestselling standalone novel Damage Control, and the nonfiction work The Cyanide Canary.

Connect with Robert

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts

Part police procedural, part family drama, completely gripping, I loved this novel. Tracy, the lead character, could easily rival Temperance Brennan or Kate Beckett as a prime-time television heroine, and all of the other characters in the story were equally interesting and dimensional.

I especially loved the author’s vivid descriptions and realistic dialogue. I also appreciated that we’re in the thick of things from the first page, with no slow build (not that those are bad) which I found really effective. In fact, the experience of reading My Sister’s Grave was so cinematic that I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see it opening in theaters next year.

Oh, if only what we were given on the screen was as smart, savvy, and (in the right amount) sexy as this novel!

On the other hand, the fact that this was a novel meant that I could savor each page, until, finally, I had to stay up to the wee hours of the morning to finish the last few chapters.

If you want a novel that’s just dark enough for a gray November afternoon, one that reaches out and grabs you, and doesn’t let you go until the very last page, you will LOVE My Sister’s Grave.

Goes well with A double cappuccino with a dash of cinnamon and a slice of pecan streusel apple pie.


Robert Dugoni’s Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

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

Tuesday, November 4th: Crime Book Club

Tuesday, November 4th: Read Love Blog

Friday, November 7th: Not in Jersey

Monday, November 10th: Mockingbird Hill Cottage

Monday, November 10th: Psychotic State Book Reviews

Tuesday, November 11th: Mary’s Cup of Tea

Wednesday, November 12th: My Bookshelf

Thursday, November 13th: Inside of a Dog

Thursday, November 13th: Lesa’s Book Critiques

Thursday, November 13th: Bibliotica

Monday, November 17th: Mystery Playground

Monday, November 17th: Red Headed Book Child

Tuesday, November 18th: Words by Webb

Wednesday, November 19th: Tales of a Book Addict

Friday, November 21st: Brooke Blogs

Monday, November 24th: A Bookworm’s World

Wednesday, November 26th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Date TBD: Simply Stacie

The Heart Does Not Grow Back, by Fred Venturini (@FredVenturini) – Review

About the book The Heart Does Not Grow Back The Heart Does Not Grow Back

Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Picador (November 4, 2014)

EVERY SUPERHERO NEEDS TO START SOMEWHERE…

Dale Sampson is used to being a nonperson at his small-town Midwestern high school, picking up the scraps of his charismatic lothario of a best friend, Mack. He comforts himself with the certainty that his stellar academic record and brains will bring him the adulation that has evaded him in high school. But when an unthinkable catastrophe tears away the one girl he ever had a chance with, his life takes a bizarre turn as he discovers an inexplicable power: He can regenerate his organs and limbs.

When a chance encounter brings him face to face with a girl from his past, he decides that he must use his gift to save her from a violent husband and dismal future. His quest takes him to the glitz and greed of Hollywood, and into the crosshairs of shadowy forces bent on using and abusing his gift. Can Dale use his power to redeem himself and those he loves, or will the one thing that finally makes him special be his demise? The Heart Does Not Grow Back is a darkly comic, starkly original take on the superhero tale, introducing an exceptional new literary voice in Fred Venturini.

Buy, read, and discuss The Heart Does Not Grow Back

AmazonBarnes & Noble | Books-A-Million | Goodreads


About the author, Fred Venturini Fred Venturini

Fred Venturini grew up in Patoka, Illinois. His short fiction has been published in the Booked Anthology, Noir at the Bar 2, and Surreal South ’13. In 2014, his story “Gasoline” will be featured in Chuck Palahniuk’s Burnt Tongues collection. He lives in Southern Illinois with his wife and daughter.

Connect with Fred

Website | Twitter


My Thoughts

As a digital diva and comicbook (Stan Lee says it should be one word, and you do NOT argue with Stan Lee) geek, I love a good superhero story no matter what the format is.

With The Heart Does Not Grow Back Fred Venturini has given us not only a good superhero story, but a just plain good story. I would happily have read about Dale’s life even if he hadn’t been able to regenerate most of the vital bits of his body (hint: there’s one he can’t; spoilers, sweety: it’s in the title).

While I confess, the first chapter was a bit difficult for me – I have a hard time reading about kids being bullied, despite the fact that I was never bullied myself – but I stuck with it, and I’m glad I did, because ultimately, this story is funny, poignant, and comes from a place of emotional truth.

As I learned as an improvisational actor, if you start from truth, you can do anything you want, no matter how implausible, and your audience will take the journey with you.

I enjoyed my journey into Fred Venturini’s world immensely, and I recommend it for anyone who has a taste for superheroes, sci-fi, or underdogs saving the day.

Dear Mr. Venturini: MORE PLEASE?

Goes well with A foot-long chili cheese dog, crinkle cut fries, and a cherry Coke.


About the Tour

TLC Book Tours

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

Tour Stops

Monday, October 13th: Benni’s Bookbiters

Tuesday, October 14th: Books a la Mode – author guest post

Wednesday, October 15th: Read a Latte

Thursday, October 16th: Benni’s Bookbiters - an unofficial soundtrack

Monday, October 20th: Bell, Book & Candle

Wednesday, October 22nd:  My Shelf Confessions – Wonderfully Wicked Read-A-Thon Giveaway

Thursday, October 23rd: Saints and Sinners

Monday, October 27th: A Fantastical Librarian

Wednesday, October 29th: In Bed with Books

Tuesday, November 4th: Read-Love-Blog

Thursday, November 6th: Sweet Southern Home

Friday, November 7th: The Steadfast Reader

Monday, November 10th: Fourth Street Review

Monday, November 10th: Guiltless Reading

Tuesday, November 11th: Bibliotica

Wednesday, November 12th: From the TBR Pile

Thursday, November 13th: More Than Just Magic

Friday, November 14th: The Feminist Texican [Reads]

Monday, November 17th: A Book Geek

Thursday, November 20th: Bibliophilia, Please

Monday, November 24th: Tiffany’s Bookshelf

TBD: Book Marks the Spot

Introducing: A Home For Christmas by M.K. McClintock (@mkmclintock) with Giveaway

A Home for Christmas Book Blast

About the book, A Home for Christmas A Home for Christmas


Publication Date:
November 5, 2014
Trappers Peak Publishing
eBook; 74 pages
ASIN: B00NE43C0O

Settings: 19th Century Montana, Wyoming, & Colorado
Genre: Christmas Short Stories/Western/Sweet Romance

Includes three historical fiction short stories to delight and entertain this holiday season.

CHRISTMAS MOUNTAIN
In search of family she barely knows and adventure she’s always wanted, Katherine Donahue is saved from freezing on a winter night in the mountains of Montana by August Hollister. Neither of them expected that what one woman had in mind was a new beginning for them both.

TETON CHRISTMAS
Heartache and a thirst for adventure lead McKensie Stewart and her sister to Wyoming after the death of their parents. With the help of a widowed aunt and a charming horse breeder, McKensie discovers that hope is a cherished promise, and there is no greater gift than love.

LILY’S CHRISTMAS WISH
Lily Malone has never had a real family or a real Christmas. This holiday season, she might get both. From an orphanage in New York City to the rugged mountains of Colorado, Lily sends out only one wish. But when the time comes, can she give it up so someone else’s wish can come true?

Praise for A Home for Christmas

“5 stars! I have just finished reading three short stories written by M.K. McClintock, part of her collection A HOME FOR CHRISTMAS. I really enjoyed these charming historical fictions CHRISTMAS MOUNTAIN, TETON CHRISTMAS and LILY’S CHRISTMAS WISH!” – Nicole Laverdure

“Heart-warming and inspiring.” – Kat Cambron

“A delightful collection of stories sure to warm any reader’s heart.” – Elizabeth Loftus

Order the eBook

Amazon | Kobo

Watch the Book Trailer

(Or click HERE.)


About the Author, M.K. McClintock MK McClintock

MK McClintock is the author of bestselling historical western romance and award-nominated historical romantic mystery. She spins tales of romance and adventure inspired by the heather-covered hills of Scotland and the majestic mountains of home. With her heart deeply rooted in the past and her mind always on adventure, she lives and writes in Montana.

Learn more about MK by visiting her website and blog. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.


A Home for Christmas Book Blast Tour Schedule

For the complete tour schedule, see below, or click HERE.

Monday, November 3
Literary Chanteuse

Tuesday, November 4
Unshelfish

Wednesday, November 5
Book Nerd
The True Book Addict

Thursday, November 6
So Many Books, So Little Time

Friday, November 7
Bibliotica
Let Them Read Books

Monday, November 10
Susan Heim on Writing

Tuesday, November 11
What Is That Book About

Wednesday, November 12
Historical Fiction Connection

Friday, November 14
Passages to the Past


Giveaway

Giveaway

To enter to win the following prizes, please complete the form below. Giveaway ends on November 14th at 11:59pm EST. One winner per giveaway item.

– PB Trilogy of the Montana Gallagher Series + Woolrich Rough Rider Throw (Open to US residents only)
– Ebook Trilogy of the Montana Gallagher Series (International)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

To open the Rafflecopter form separately: click HERE.

The Red Book of Primrose House by Marty Wingate – Review

About the book, The Red Book of Primrose House The Red Book of Primrose House

Publisher: Alibi (November 4, 2014)
Sold by: Random House LLC

In Marty Wingate’s charming new Potting Shed Mystery, Texas transplant Pru Parke’s restoration of a historic landscape in England is uprooted by an ax murderer.

Pru Parke has her dream job: head gardener at an eighteenth-century manor house in Sussex. The landscape for Primrose House was laid out in 1806 by renowned designer Humphry Repton in one of his meticulously illustrated Red Books, and the new owners want Pru to restore the estate to its former glory—quickly, as they’re planning to showcase it in less than a year at a summer party.

But life gets in the way of the best laid plans: When not being happily distracted by the romantic attentions of the handsome Inspector Christopher Pearse, Pru is digging into the mystery of her own British roots. Still, she manages to make considerable progress on the vast grounds—until vandals wreak havoc on each of her projects. Then, to her horror, one of her workers is found murdered among the yews. The police have a suspect, but Pru is certain they’re wrong. Once again, Pru finds herself entangled in a thicket of evil intentions—and her, without a hatchet.

Buy, read, and discuss The Red Book of Primrose House

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | Goodreads


About the author, Marty Wingate Marty Wingate

Marty Wingate is the author of The Garden Plot and a regular contributor to Country Gardens as well as other magazines. She also leads gardening tours throughout England, Scotland, Ireland, France, and North America. More Potting Shed mysteries are planned.


My Thoughts

Marty Wingate’s first Potting Shed Mystery, Garden Plot fell into my life last spring, just when I needed it, and I absolutely loved it, so when I was offered the chance to review the sequel, I jumped at it.

I’m glad I did.

The Red Book of Primrose House picks up a few months after the end of the first novel. Pru Parke is still dating Christopher, and has taken up her post as head gardener of Primrose House. I love that their relationship has grown, and that Pru’s job has also been developed.

Of course, it’s not all smooth sailing. Navigating a relationship is never easy, but Pru and Christoper live many miles apart, and must balance work and distance, with the need to actually spend time together, and author Wingate handles it with humor and grace, and just enough romance to keep things moving.

As well, there’s a mystery to be solved: Ned, a village institution in his own right, is brutally murdered (as if murder is never NOT brutal) and Pru can’t help but investigate, especially since she seems to be a target. This plot, the A-plot, is also handled with grace. Author Wingate spins a good story, and keeps us just enough unsure of the perpetrator that when they are finally revealed we are not disappointed that were right, but relieved we weren’t wrong.

Of course I loved every word Marty Wingate wrote, and even wanted to be holed up in Pru’s tiny cottage with my own Christopher (my husband’s actual name, I swear) building a fire, but what I find really compelling about these novels is that all of the elements – gardening, history, romance, mystery – are perfectly blended with each other to form a coherent whole that is both entertaining and thoroughly engaging.

I really hope there are more Potting Shed mysteries in the future, because Marty Wingate has, in me, a fan for life.

Goes well with Buttery roast chicken, spring vegetables, fresh strawberry shortcake, and a nice white wine, followed by cups of hot tea.


Marty Wingate’s TLC Book Tour

TLC Book Tours

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

Monday, November 3rd: Bibliotica

Tuesday, November 4th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Wednesday, November 5th: A Chick Who Reads

Thursday, November 6th: A Bookish Way of Life

Thursday, November 6th: Luxury Reading

Friday, November 7th: 5 Minutes for Books

Monday, November 10th: Reading Reality

Monday, November 10th: Omnimystery News - guest post

Tuesday, November 11th: Kahakai Kitchen

Wednesday, November 12th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Thursday, November 13th: Under a Gray Sky

Friday, November 14th: Back Porchervations

Monday, November 17th: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews

Tuesday, November 18th: Dwell in Possibility

Wednesday, November 19th: From the TBR Pile

Thursday, November 20th: Open Book Society

Friday, November 21st: 2 Kids and Tired Books

Monday, November 24th:  A Book Geek

Tuesday, November 25th: Brooke Blogs

Booking Through Thursday: Scary

Booking Through Thursday Booking Through Thursday asks…

“What’s the scariest book you’ve ever read?”

I love horror novels as much or more than I love horror movies, but most of them only affect me in the moment. Like many people of my generation, I grew up reading Stephen King novels as they came out. I was a teenager when I read IT for the first time, on a visit to my grandparents’ house in New Jersey.

While their neighborhood was nothing like small-town Derry, Maine, it did have the same kind of old-style gutters depicted in the novel, and I spent most of that summer crossing the street to avoid the possibility that a killer-clown might be peering up at me from within one.

I’ve often said that Stephen King and Garrison Keillor have the same folksy style, but that the difference is that Keillor isn’t going to have a monster show up to dismember you on page twenty six. I believe one of the reasons King’s work sticks with us isn’t the films, which, let’s face it, are never as scary as the books, but the fact that he sounds like every hometown storyteller, sucking you into small-town life.



It (Mass Market Paperback)

By (author): Stephen King

“A great book…a landmark in American literature.”—Chicago Sun-Times

Welcome to Derry, Maine…

It’s a small city, a place as hauntingly familiar as your own hometown. Only in Derry the haunting is real….

They were seven teenagers when they first stumbled upon the horror. Now they are grown-up men and women who have gone out into the big world to gain success and happiness. But none of them can withstand the force that has drawn them back to Derry to face the nightmare without an end, and the evil without a name.
List Price: $9.99 USD
New From: $5.01 USD In Stock
Used from: $0.34 USD In Stock

The Unforgivable Fix, by T.E. Woods (@tewoodswrites) – Review

About the book, The Unforgivable Fix The Unforgivable Fix

Publisher: Alibi (October 14, 2014)
Pages: 320

On the heels of her runaway hits The Fixer and The Red Hot Fix, T. E. Woods ratchets up the tension with her newest explosive thriller in the fast-paced Justice series.

The killer won’t come for you, you fool. He’ll come for me.

Detective Mort Grant of the Seattle PD has finally decided to sell. The home where he and his late wife raised two kids feels too large and too full of old memories. His son is married and raising a family of his own, and despite desperate efforts to find her, Mort has lost touch with his wayward daughter. That is, until the day she walks back into her childhood home and begs for his help.

For the last four years, Allie Grant has been the lover—and confidante, confessor, and counselor—of one of the world’s most powerful and deadly men. But a sudden, rash move has put Allie in the crosshairs of a ruthless Russian crime lord. Mort knows of only one place where Allie will be safe: with The Fixer.

As a hired desperado, The Fixer has killed twenty-three people—and Mort was complicit in her escape from the law. She has built an impregnable house, stocked it with state-of-the-art gear, armed it to the teeth, and locked herself away from the world. But even The Fixer may not be able to get justice for Allie when real evil comes knocking.

Buy, read, and discuss The Unforgivable Fix

Amazon  | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | Goodreads


About the author, T. E. Woods T.E. Woods

T. E. Woods is as eager as her fans to return to the thrilling world of the Justice series. She’s busy writing the next installment and is developing a new series set in Madison, Wisconsin.

Connect with T.E.

Facebook | Twitter

Connect with T.E.’s publisher, Alibi: Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts

I’ve just read all three “Fixer” books back to back, so the plots of each are a bit muddled in my head, but it doesn’t matter, because whether you read these in order (beginning with The Fixer) or not, you will be plunged immediately into a fast-paced story of action, adventure, and intrigue.

You will also see that T.E. Woods is incredibly deft at weaving those three elements together without ever ignoring plot or characterization. Whether the character in question is an embezzling corporate executive about to get his just desserts or the owner of the local coffee joint, everyone you meet in the pages of one of these novels feels incredibly real.

Since one of those characters – the main character – is a hired assassin, the incredible dimension and depth of each personality can feel a bit creepy at times, but that vibe actually works, making the books seem that much more visceral.

What I loved about this series -all of it- is that the dialogue is always both snappy and appropriate. Adults sound like adults, and their language always fits their station in life. The pacing, also, is excellent. Nothing is a constant rush; when the reader needs to breathe a bit, we’re given the chance.

What I didn’t love about this series: these books move so quickly, that one doesn’t merely read them, one devours them, and then one is left waiting for more. I was having such a great time immersed in The Fixer’s world that I really didn’t want the experience to end.

Goes well with champagne, strawberries, dark chocolate, and baked brie en croute.


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.

Monday, October 6th:  A Fantastical Librarian

Monday, October 6th:  Patricia’s Wisdom

Monday, October 6th:  Kritter’s Ramblings – Red Hot Fix

Tuesday, October 7th:  Tiffany’s Bookshelf

Tuesday, October 7th:  Kritter’s Ramblings

Monday, October 13th:  Patricia’s Wisdom – Red Hot Fix

Thursday, October 16th:  FictionZeal

Friday, October 17th:  Mystery Playground - “Drinks with Reads” guest post

Monday, October 20th:  She Treads Softly

Tuesday, October 21st:  Kahakai Kitchen

Monday, October 27th:  From the TBR Pile

Wednesday, October 29th:  Bibliotica

Wednesday, October 29th:  Queen of All She Reads

Thursday, October 30th:  Mockingbird  Hill Cottage – Red Hot Fix and The Unforgivable Fix

Friday, October 31st:  Back Porchervations

Friday, October 31st: The Novel Life