The Betrayed, by Heather Graham (@heathergraham) – Review

About the book, The Betrayed The Betrayed

Series: Krewe of Hunters

Mass Market Paperback: 400 pages

Publisher: Harlequin MIRA (September 30, 2014)

One night, New York FBI agent Aiden Mahoney receives a visitor in a dream—an old friend named Richard Highsmith. The very next day he’s sent to Sleepy Hollow because Richard’s gone missing there.

Maureen—Mo—Deauville now lives in the historic town and works with her dog, Rollo, to search for missing people. She’s actually the one to find Richard…or more precisely his head, stuck on a statue of the legendary Headless Horseman.

Mo and Aiden, a new member of the Krewe of Hunters, the FBI’s unit of paranormal investigators, explore both past and present events to figure out who betrayed Richard, who killed him and now wants to kill them, too. As they work together, they discover that they share an unusual trait—the ability to communicate with the dead. They also share an attraction that’s as intense as it is unexpected…if they live long enough to enjoy it!

Buy, read, and discuss The Betrayed

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


About the author, Heather Graham Heather Graham

New York Times and USA TODAY  bestselling author Heather Graham has written more than a hundred novels and has been published in more than 20 languages. An avid scuba diver, ballroom dancer and the mother of five, she enjoys her south Florida home, but loves to travel as well, from locations such as Cairo, Egypt, to her own backyard, the Florida Keys. Reading is still the pastime she still loves best, and she is a member of many writing groups. She’s a winner of the Romance Writers of America’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Thriller Writers’ Silver Bullet. She is an active member of International Thriller Writers and Mystery Writers of America, and also the founder of The Slush Pile Players, an author band and theatrical group.

Heather annually hosts the Writers for New Orleans conference to benefit both the city, which is near and dear to her heart, and various other causes, and she hosts a ball each year at the RT Booklovers Convention to benefit pediatric AIDS foundations.

Connect with Heather

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts

After I reviewed Heather Graham’s The Hexed a few weeks ago, I fell so much in love with the world she’s created that I ran right out and bought (well, okay, I used my iPad in my pajamas and clicked to get the kindle edition) the second in this Krewe of Hunters series, The Cursed.

And, just as when I read The Hexed, once I started reading The Cursed, I couldn’t put it down. The same is true of this book, The Betrayed.

This one takes place in Tarrytown/Sleepy Hollow, and while it’s a more reality-based Sleepy Hollow than the popular TV series (which, I confess, I enjoy despite the many, many historical inaccuracies), it at least acknowledges that the series exists (and that it’s good for tourism). The new hunter, Aidan Mahoney is everything you want in a paranormal romance hero: sensitive, strong, protective, but never patronizing.

The new female lead, Maureen “Mo” Deauville (who comes with a sidekick in the form of giant Irish Wolfhound Rollo) is funny, spunky, smart, and just a little bit reckless – all the perfect traits for a paranormal romance heroine.

Together they fight crime – cliche, I know, but, it’s what happens. What is NOT cliche is Heather Graham’s uncanny ability to weave historical subplots with contemporary plots, and give us just enough romance to keep the homefires burning softly, but not so much that the plot is overshadowed.

Yes, there are ghosts, and people talk to them, but Graham makes that work, as well, treating the ability to see and speak with the dead as something special, to be savored, and used on the side of good, rather than something sinister.

If you, like me, prefer your spooky stories with believable characters and accurate history, you should grab a copy of The Betrayed right now. Then you should read the rest of Heather Graham’s amazing novels, because you will NOT be disappointed.

Goes well with roasted pumpkin seeds (with garlic salt) and spiced apple cider.


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, September 15th: From the TBR Pile

Monday, September 15th: Books a la Mode – Spotlight and giveaway

Tuesday, September 16th: Bewitched Bookworms

Wednesday, September 17th: Snowdrop Dreams of Books

Friday, September 19th: Supernatural Snark – Spotlight and giveaway

Monday, September 22nd: Read – Love – Blog

Tuesday, September 23rd: A Chick Who Reads

Wednesday, September 24th:  Hopelessly Devoted Bibliophile

Thursday, September 25th: Queen of All She Reads

Monday, September 29th: Saints and Sinners Books

Tuesday, September 30th:  Mom in Love with Fiction

Thursday, October 2nd: Musings of a Bookish Kitty

Thursday, October 2nd: Ladybug Literature

Monday, October 6th:  Bibliophilia, Please

Wednesday, October 8th: Sara’s Organized Chaos

Thursday, October 9th:  No More Grumpy Bookseller

Monday, October 13th: Peeking Between the Pages

Wednesday, October 15th:  Bibliotica

Monday, October 20th:  Tiffany’s Bookshelf

Thursday, October 23rd: My Shelf Confessions – Wonderfully Wicked Read-A-Thon Giveaway

Thursday, October 23rd: Harlie’s Books

How to Build a Girl, by Caitlin Moran (@caitlinmoran) – Review

About the book, How to Build a Girl How to Build a Girl

• Hardcover: 352 pages
• Publisher: Harper (September 23, 2014)

What do you do in your teenage years when you realize what your parents taught you wasn’t enough? You must go out and find books and poetry and pop songs and bad heroes—and build yourself.

It’s 1990. Johanna Morrigan, fourteen, has shamed herself so badly on local TV that she decides that there’s no point in being Johanna anymore and reinvents herself as Dolly Wilde—fast-talking, hard-drinking gothic hero and full-time Lady Sex Adventurer. She will save her poverty-stricken Bohemian family by becoming a writer—like Jo in Little Women, or the Brontës—but without the dying-young bit.

By sixteen, she’s smoking cigarettes, getting drunk, and working for a music paper. She’s writing pornographic letters to rock stars, having all the kinds of sex with all the kinds of men, and eviscerating bands in reviews of 600 words or less.
But what happens when Johanna realizes she’s built Dolly with a fatal flaw? Is a box full of records, a wall full of posters, and a head full of paperbacks enough to build a girl after all?

Imagine The Bell Jar—written by Rizzo from Grease. How to Build a Girl is a funny, poignant, and heartbreakingly evocative story of self-discovery and invention, as only Caitlin Moran could tell it.

Buy, read, and discuss How to Build a Girl

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Goodreads


About the author, Caitlin Moran Caitlin Moran

Caitlin Moran was named the Columnist of the Year by the British Press Awards in 2010, and Critic and Interviewer of the Year in 2011 for her work at the Times of London. Her debut book, How to Be a Woman, won the 2011 Galaxy Book of the Year Award and was an instant New York Times bestseller.

Connect with Caitlin

Website | Twitter


My Thoughts

If I hadn’t gone to a performing arts high school (and been an only child in an upper middle class American family) I might have turned out very much like Johanna – depressed, and never quite fitting anywhere. As it is, I’m certain that I’ve met this girl, or girls like her, when I’ve worked with high school students.

Fourteen is a difficult age, especially when nothing else in your life is remotely ‘normal,’ and Caitlin Moran captures the angst and alienation of the teen years incredibly well, then surrounds Johanna with a cast of eccentric, often annoying, but never boring characters, and the sense of glimpsing a world that’s not quite as pretty and happy as our own is only enhanced.

And yet, as much as Johanna and her family are imbued with a sense of otherness, there’s also something profoundly, painfully, viscerally REAL about them that makes you want to alternately hug them and shake them until they come to their senses.

This book is gritty, even grim at times, and yet it’s also a brilliantly written coming-of-age story with elements of snark and black comedy that should not be missed.

Goes well with Fish and chips and a really good craft-brewed lager.


TLC Book Tours

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

Monday, September 29th: BoundbyWords

Tuesday, September 30th: The Scarlet Letter

Wednesday, October 1st: Fourth Street Review

Thursday, October 2nd: Lit and Life

Tuesday, October 7th: The Steadfast Reader

Wednesday, October 8th: Luxury Reading

Thursday, October 9th: Snowdrop Dreams of Books

Friday, October 10th: Bibliophilia, Please

Monday, October 13th: A Bookish Affair

Tuesday, October 14th: Bibliotica

Tuesday, October 14th: Sara’s Organized Chaos

Wednesday, October 15th: guiltless reading

Thursday, October 16th: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World

Friday, October 17th: Books à la Mode

Monday, October 20th: Consuming Culture

Tuesday, October 21st: Drey’s Library

Wednesday, October 22nd: The Whynott Blog

TBD: Book Addict Katie

The Moonlight Palace, by Liz Rosenberg – Review

About the book, The Moonlight Palace The Moonlight Palace

Paperback: 174 pages
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (October 1, 2014)

Agnes Hussein, descendant of the last sultan of Singapore and the last surviving member of her immediate family, has grown up among her eccentric relatives in the crumbling Kampong Glam palace, a once-opulent relic given to her family in exchange for handing over Singapore to the British.

Now Agnes is seventeen and her family has fallen into genteel poverty, surviving on her grandfather’s pension and the meager income they receive from a varied cast of boarders. As outside forces conspire to steal the palace out from under them, Agnes struggles to save her family and finds bravery, love, and loyalty in the most unexpected places. The Moonlight Palace is a coming-of-age tale rich with historical detail and unforgettable characters set against the backdrop of dazzling 1920s Singapore.

Buy, read, and discuss The Moonlight Palace

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


About the author, Liz Rosenberg Liz Rosenberg

Liz Rosenberg is the author of more than thirty award-winning books, including novels and nonfiction for adults, poetry collections, and books for young readers. She has been the recipient of numerous prizes, including the Paterson Prize, the Bank Street Award, the Center for the Book Award, and a Fulbright fellowship in Northern Ireland in 2014. She is a professor of English and creative writing at Binghamton University, in upstate New York, where she has received the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. She has guest-taught all over the United States and abroad, and has written a book column for the Boston Globe for the past twenty-five years. Her previous novels, Home Repair and The Laws of Gravity, have been bestsellers in the United States, Europe, and Canada. She and her husband, David, were raised on Long Island, and went to the same summer camp at ages seven and eight, respectively.


My Thoughts

TLC Book Tours provided me with a copy of The Moonlight Palace via NetGalley, which meant the version I was reading was an uncorrected proof. Some of the punctuation and capitalization hadn’t yet been standardized in the ebook I had, but rather than finding it annoying, I actually think it lended to the otherness that pervaded the novel.

Rosenberg’s writing in this novel is lyrical, as if we’re seeing Agnes, her family, and the boarders in their once-grand (and now putting the ‘shabby’ in ‘shabby chic’) home, through a gauze filter and soft pink light. I got the sense that she was being meticulous with her word choices, because once I started reading The Moonlight Palace, I was completely absorbed.

Agnes, of course, is a wonderful character, and we get to experience her coming of age in a way that makes us realize how jaded we Westerners can be, at times, while also appreciating how very lucky most of us are. I’m not certain that the author meant her book to force readers to confront their inherent privilege, or if it’s just that’s that where my own consciousness was when I was reading it. I think it’s possibly a little of both.

But political and cultural awareness aside, what Rosenberg has done is give us something that could have been a Singaporean version of Tales of the City or Grey Gardens (and yes, I’m aware of how vastly different those two works are), and instead, has woven a tale that puts us in the middle of the same sights and sounds that Agnes experiences, with her perspective to aid our understanding.

The Moonlight Palace is a wonderful novel, and it will draw you in, and keep you there, until it finally releases you to go hunt down a warm meal and a hot cup of tea.

Goes well with Coconut curry chicken and strong black tea.


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: Reading Reality

Monday, October 6th: Great Imaginations

Tuesday, October 7th: A Bookish Affair

Wednesday, October 8th:  Savvy Verse and Wit

Thursday, October 9th:  A Bookish Way of Life

Friday, October 10th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Monday, October 13th: Bibliotica

Tuesday, October 14th: Book Dilettante

Wednesday, October 15th: Svetlana’s Reads and Views

Thursday, October 16th: Brooke Blogs

Friday, October 17th: Good Girl Gone Redneck

Monday, October 20th: The Whimsical Cottage

Tuesday, October 21st: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Wednesday, October 22nd: BookNAround

Thursday, October 23rd: Broken Teepee

Friday, October 24th: Wensend

Monday, October 27th: Books on the Table

Tuesday, October 28th: Missris

Wednesday, October 29th: Time 2 Read

Thursday, October 30th: Kahakai Kitchen

Date TBD: Lavish Bookshelf

A Breast Cancer Alphabet, by Madhulika Sikka (@madhulikasikka) – Review

About the book, A Breast Cancer Alphabet A Breast Cancer Alphabet

Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: Crown; First Edition edition (February 25, 2014)

From NPR News executive editor comes an indispensable and approachable guide to life during, and after, breast cancer.

The biggest risk factor for breast cancer is simply being a woman.  Madhulika Sikka’s A Breast Cancer Alphabet offers a new way to live with and plan past the hardest diagnosis that most women will ever receive: a personal, practical, and deeply informative look at the road from diagnosis to treatment and beyond.

What Madhulika Sikka didn’t foresee when initially diagnosed, and what this book brings to life so vividly, are the unexpected and minute challenges that make navigating the world of breast cancer all the trickier.  A Breast Cancer Alphabet is an inspired reaction to what started as a personal predicament.

This A-Z guide to living with breast cancer goes where so many fear to tread: sex (S is for Sex – really?), sentimentality (J is for Journey – it’s a cliché we need to dispense with), hair (H is for Hair – yes, you can make a federal case of it) and work (Q is for Quitting – there’ll be days when you feel like it).  She draws an easy-to-follow, and quite memorable, map of her travels from breast cancer neophyte to seasoned veteran.

As a prominent news executive, Madhulika had access to the most cutting edge data on the disease’s reach and impact.  At the same time, she craved the community of frank talk and personal insight that we rely on in life’s toughest moments.  This wonderfully inventive book navigates the world of science and story, bringing readers into Madhulika’s mind and experience in a way that demystifies breast cancer and offers new hope for those living with it.

Buy, read, and discuss A Breast Cancer Alphabet

Amazon | Books-a-Million | Goodreads


About the author, Madhulika Sikka Madhulika Sikka

MADHULIKA SIKKA is a veteran broadcast journalist with decades of experience. Among other media outlets, she has worked at NPR News and ABC News.

Connect with Madhulika

Website | Twitter


My Thoughts

There are two ways to read A Breast Cancer Alphabet. You can read it straight through, in which case it feels very much like one woman’s memoir of a trip down breast cancer lane, at times witty and at other times poignant, and mostly a mixture of both. Alternately, you can read the introduction, and then flip through the actual alphabetized entries at random, going forward and backward as your mood dictates. Either way, you’re likely to learn something new, either about breast cancer, or about the woman who wrote the book, journalist Madhulika Sikka.

Either way, what you’ll find is information that is witty and engaging, but also honest and useful about this disease that affects so many of us, across cultures, heedless of age, income level, or geography.

To be honest, it’s not the kind of book you sit down and read straight through, like a novel. Even if you read it in order, it’s probably best in small doses…it makes a great “bathroom book” in that way. (Which is not to denigrate the author or the book – I get the majority of my reading done by multitasking in the bathroom or in the actual bathtub.)

It would make a great gift for the mother, daughter, or sister of someone going through breast cancer, or someone who’s just been diagnosed, and it’s designed to feel almost like a journal, and not at all like the encyclopedia of a malady it could easily has become.

All around us are companies pushing pink products because it’s October. Most of them use Breast Cancer Awareness Month as just another marketing ploy. If you really want to think pink this fall – or at any time of year – I heartily suggest this book. Not only will it help you, or someone you love, you’ll also be supporting another woman.

Sisterhood is never something to look away from.

Goes well with a strawberry milkshake. Or a lot of liquor.


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.

Wednesday, October 1st: The Reading Date 

Thursday, October 2nd: Peeking Between the Pages

Friday, October 3rd: Guiltless Reading spotlight/excerpt

Monday, October 6th: WV Stitcher

Tuesday, October 7th: Lisa’s Yarns

Wednesday, October 8th: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews

Wednesday, October 8th: Life is Story

Thursday, October 9th: Melanie’s Muse

Friday, October 10th: Bibliotica

Monday, October 13th: A Chick Who Reads

Tuesday, October 14th: Nightly Reading

Thursday, October 16th: Back Porchervations

Monday, October 20th: Lesa’s Book Critiques

Monday, October 20th: From the TBR Pile

Tuesday, October 21st: Sincerely Stacie

Tuesday, October 21st: My Shelf Confessions

Thursday, October 23rd: Luxury Reading

Monday, October 27th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Butternut Summer by Mary McNear – Review

About the book, Butternut Summer Butternut Summer

• Paperback: 400 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Original edition (August 12, 2014)

Caroline’s life is turned upside down the moment her ex-husband, Jack, strides through the door of her coffee shop. He seems changed—stronger, steadier, and determined to make amends with Caroline and their daughter, Daisy. Is he really different, or is he the same irresistibly charming but irresponsible man he was when he left Butternut Lake eighteen years ago? Caroline, whose life is stuck on pause as her finances are going down the tubes, is tempted to let him back into her life . . . but would it be wise?

For Caroline’s daughter, Daisy, the summer is filled with surprises. Home from college, she’s reunited with the father she adores—but hardly knows—and swept away by her first true love. But Will isn’t what her mother wants for her—all Caroline can see is that he’s the kind of sexy “bad boy” Daisy should stay away from.

As the long, lazy days of summer pass, Daisy and Caroline come to realize that even if Butternut Lake doesn’t change, life does. . . .

Buy, read, & discuss Butternut Summer

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Goodreads


About the author, Mary McNear Mary McNear

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Mary McNear is a writer living in San Francisco with her husband, two teenage children, and a high-strung, minuscule white dog named Macaroon. She bases her novels on a lifetime of summers spent in a small town on a lake in the northern Midwest.

Connect with Mary

Facebook


My Thoughts

Mary McNear has created, in Butternut Lake, the kind of small town most of us would secretly love to live in, even when we pretend to be ultra-sophisticated urbanites. She’s also created a group of characters, old and new, who feel like just the sort of people who would actually inhabit such a town. I fell in love with her work when I read and reviewed Up at Butternut Lake in April, and that love has only grown stronger with Butternut Summer.

In this book we have a lovely dose of family drama – Jack has been estranged from his wife Caroline and their daughter Daisy for most of the latter’s life – set against two romances – the slow, reconnection between Jack and Carolyn, and the almost-immediate connection between Daisy and Will. Each relationship is given its own attention, and its own rhythm, and McNear has done a particularly good job at showing the reluctance of former lovers to risk renewing their relationship as well as the intensity of young love.

While it’s not a character, per se, the local diner, Pearl’s is as important to the plot of Butternut Summer as the U.S.S. Enterprise is to Star Trek. Not only is it the center of much of the action, saving the place is a core factor of Caroline and Jack’s relationship. It’s the coffee shop we all wish we could visit, park Luke’s, part Mel’s, and part something else entirely, and visiting it again through this novel reminded my of my own childhood visits to my own family’s diner in New Jersey.

If you want a compelling story full of interesting, believable characters and a rich setting, you need to read Butternut Summer.

Goes well with Broasted chicken and mashed potatoes, and a glass of iced tea.


TLC Book Tours

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

Beyond Coincidence by Jacquie Underdown (@authoraire) – Review & Raffle

About the book Beyond Coincidence Beyond Coincidence

Publisher: Escape Publishing – Harlequin Enterprises, Australia Pty Ltd (Sept 1, 2014)
ebook, 220 pages
Beyond Coincidence:  Mixing romance, history, and a touch of the unexplained comes a new novel from Jacquie Underdown about love that needs to cross oceans and time before finding a place to come true.

In 2008, 250 Australian and British soldiers are uncovered in a mass grave in Fromelles, France, lost since the Great War. One soldier, bearing the wounds of war so deep it has scarred his soul, cannot be laid to rest just yet.

When Lucy bumps into the achingly sad soldier during a trip to France, she doesn’t, at first glance, realise what he is – a ghost who desperately needs her help. Lucy can’t turn away from someone who needs her, even someone non-corporeal, and they travel back together to Australia in search of answers and, hopefully, some peace.

This chance meeting and unexplainable relationship sets into motion a chain-reaction of delicate coincidences that affect the intertwined lives of family, friends, and lovers in unexpected, beautiful ways.

Buy, read, and discuss Beyond Coincidence

Amazon | iBooks | Goodreads


About the author, Jacquie Underdown Jacquie Underdown

Jacquie resides in hot and steamy Central Queensland, Australia, with her husband and two sons. On permanent hiatus from a profession she doesn’t love, she now spends her time wrapped up in her imagination creating characters and exploring alternative realities.

Jacquie is an author of a number of novels, novellas and short stories that are emotionally driven and possess unique themes beyond the constraints of the physical universe. She strives to offer romance, but with complexity; spirituality, without the religion; and love, with a tantalizing splash of spice.

Her novels express a purpose and offer subtle messages about life, the spirit and, of course, love.

Connect with Jacquie

Blog | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts:

I love a good ghost story, and I love a rood romance, so it should come as no surprise that I loved Beyond Coincidence as it combines both. Even better, coffee – my own obsession – is a major theme in the book.

At first Lucy seems like a fairly cookie-cutter romance character, but she quickly becomes much more dimensional, and not only because she can see Freddy, the ghost of a long-dead Australian soldier. I love that she has a dream of opening her own business, and that the author used Lucy’s entrepreneurial spirit in everything she went through in this novel.

Freddy, the ghost, is equally compelling, at once sweet and sorrowful, rugged and wry, with his period slang and big heart. You want to either hug him or slap him on the back and take him out for a friendly drink – or both, but as he lacks corporeal form, one cannot do either. Still, as much as Lucy becomes his champion, he also becomes her protector, as much as he’s able.

And then there’s Nate, the third point in the novel’s triumvirate. He’s Freddy’s descendant, and it becomes obvious very quickly that he and Lucy are going to click, even though our first introduction to him is less than savory. He quickly wins Lucy’s – and our- favor, however, and when he and Freddy join forces, Lucy becomes one of the luckiest women in the world.

Either Freddy’s story or Lucy’s story would make excellent reading fodder, but by combining them author Jacquie Underdown has created something truly special that transcends conventional romance novel tropes. Her plot is solid. Her characters are fantastic. Her use of dialogue is so good that I can hear the Australian accents each character has, and even the nuanced differences in the way each of them speaks.

I would be happy to read more of Lucy and Nate in the future, but I’d be equally happy to discover what comes next.

If you want an entertaining read – perfect for a rainy day, or a long soak in the bath – Beyond Coincidence is an excellent choice.

Goes well with A double latte and lemon pound cake.


TLC Book Tours

This review is part of a blog tour sponsored by TLC Book Tours, who are also hosting a giveaway raffle. See below to enter. For more information, and to see the complete list of tour stops, click HERE.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Review: Daring: My Passages, by Gail Sheehy (@Gail_Sheehy)

About the book, Daring: My Passages Daring: My Passages

• Hardcover: 496 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow (September 2, 2014)

The author of Passages, a book that changed millions of lives, now lays bare her own life passages in a captivating memoir that reveals her harrowing and ultimately triumphant path from groundbreaking 1960s “girl” journalist to fearless bestselling author who made a career of excavating cultural taboos—from sex, menopause, and midlife crisis to illness, caregiving, and death. Daring to blaze a trail in a “man’s world,” Gail Sheehy became one of the premier practitioners of New Journalism at the fledgling New York magazine, along with such stellar writers as Tom Wolfe, Gloria Steinem, and Jimmy Breslin. Sheehy dared to walk New York City’s streets with hookers and pimps to expose violent prostitution; to march with civil rights protesters in Northern Ireland as British soldiers opened fire; to seek out Egypt’s president Anwar Sadat when he was targeted for assassination after making peace with Israel; and to break the glass ceiling in a media world fueled by testosterone, competition, and grit.

Daring: My Passages is also the beguiling love story of Sheehy’s tempestuous romance with Clay Felker, the charismatic creator of New York magazine and the mentor who inspired her to become a fearless journalist who won renown for her penetrating character portraits of world leaders, including Hillary Clinton, both Presidents Bush, British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, and Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev, among others.

Sheehy reflects on desire, ambition, and wanting it all—career, love, children, friends, social significance—and coming to terms with waiting until midlife to achieve it all. With candor and humor, she describes her early failures; the pain of betrayal in a first marriage; her struggles as a single mother; the flings of an ardent, liberated young woman; the vertigo of becoming an internationally bestselling author; her adoption of a second daughter from a refugee camp; the poignant account of Clay’s decline; and her ongoing passion for life, work, and love.

Fascinating and no-holds-barred, Daring: My Passages is a testament to guts, resilience, and smarts, and offers a bold perspective on all of life’s passages.

Buy, read, and discuss Daring: My Passages

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound


About the author, Gail Sheehy Gail Sheehy

Gail Sheehy is the author of sixteen books, including the classic New York Times bestseller Passages, named one of the ten most influential books of our times by the Library of Congress. A multiple award-winning literary journalist, she was one of the original contributors to New York magazine and has been a contributing editor to Vanity Fair since 1984. A popular lecturer, Sheehy was named AARP’s Ambassador of Caregiving in 2009. She lives in New York City.

Connect with Gail

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts:

I remember being six or seven years old and hearing my mother talk about this book called Passages with her girlfriends. “Read it,” she would tell them, “and make it your Bible.”

While I often stole reading material from my mother, even then (by the time I was ten we would be in a monthly race to see who got first crack at Redbook and Ms.), I confess, Passages was not one of the books I ‘borrowed.’ I think I was a little too young, and more interested in getting to the part of The Hardy Boys novel where Frank and Joe find out why the room had no floor.

I also confess that for some time I thought Passages was one of those nice-lady inspirational books, never mind that my mother is – and always has been – a fierce woman who would often remind me that, “Ladies are women who don’t have to work,” and who gave me her original copy of Our Bodies, Ourselves when I turned sixteen, following up with the then-current version when I turned twenty-one. I mean…this was not a woman who would read and respond to some namby-pamby nice-lady book.

But the title stuck with me, in the back of my head, so when the awesome women at TLC Book Tours invited me the chance to review the memoir of the author of the book that had so influenced my mother’s life, I HAD to say yes.

Wow! Am I glad I did, because Gail Sheehy has had a really interesting life, and she tells her story with a voice that is both strong and confident as well as witty and wry, all qualities that she’s obviously honed through her incredible career. I sat down with this book at the beginning of the week, and read it as if it were a novel. I was gripped. I was hooked. I wish Gail Sheehy would live to be a thousand so that she could write fifty more amazing memoirs. (Can you tell I was a Theatre major and am not so good with the math?)

Daring: My Passages is more than just one woman’s memoir. It’s a glimpse at the early days of American feminism, at the civil rights movement, and at how our society continues to change and evolve. And for the sense of history alone, it’s worth the read, especially for women, and most especially for young women, who are being told that feminism means hating men (it doesn’t) or that it’s somehow wrong (it’s not.)

As well, though, it’s the poignant story of a woman, who shares the universal struggles we all share – finding her voice, finding her place in the universe, growing up, growing older, dealing with parents who are human and flawed and inconsistent…as well as those struggles that are uniquely her own: making a name in journalism, and later as an author of books, navigating workplace romances that become life-long relationships, and dealing with a partner whose health is being eroded away.

It is the combination of the universal and the unique, the public and the personal that make Daring: My Passages such a compelling read. And read it you simply must.

As an aside, one of my favorite novels as I was growing up (around the time I was fourteen or fifteen, I think) was Allen Drury’s Anna Hastings: the Story of a Washington Newspaperperson, and there were times when I wondered if Gail Sheehy might have been one of the people who inspired Anna’s character.

Goes well with a perfectly cooked steak with sauteed mushrooms, potatoes mashed with gouda, and an endive salad, and either a J&G or a glass of Scotch.


TLC Book Tours

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

Review: Meet me in Barcelona, by Mary Carter

About the book, Meet Me in Barcelona Meet Me in Barcelona

Publisher: Kensington
Pages: 352
Genre: Mainstream fiction
Format: Paperback/Kindle/MP3 CD, Audiobook, MP3 Audo, Unabridged

A surprise trip to Barcelona with her boyfriend, Jake, seems like the perfect antidote to Grace Sawyer’s current woes. The city is dazzling and unpredictable, but the biggest surprise for Grace is discovering who arranged and paid for the vacation.

Carrie Ann wasn’t just Grace’s foster sister. Clever, pretty, and mercurial, she was her best friend—until everything went terribly wrong. Now, as she flees an abusive marriage, Carrie Ann has turned to the one person she hopes will come through for her. Despite her initial misgivings, Grace wants to help. But then Carrie Ann and Jake both go missing. Stunned and confused, Grace begins to realize how much of herself she’s kept from Jake—and how much of Carrie Ann she never understood. Soon Grace is baited into following a trail of scant clues across Spain, determined to find the truth, even if she must revisit her troubled past to do it.

Mary Carter’s intriguing novel delves into the complexities of childhood bonds, the corrosive weight of guilt and blame, and all the ways we try—and often fail—to truly know the ones we love.

Buy, read, and discuss Meet Me in Barcelona

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Chapter 1 Excerpt | Goodreads


About the author, Mary Carter Mary Carter

Mary Carter is a freelance writer and novelist. Meet Me in Barcelona is her eighth novel. Her other works include: Three Months in Florence, The Things I Do For You, The Pub Across the Pond, My Sister’s Voice, Sunnyside Blues, She’ll Take It, and Accidentally Engaged.

In addition to her novels she has written six novellas: “Return to Hampton Beach” in the anthology, Summer Days, “A Southern Christmas” in the upcoming 2014 anthology Our First Christmas, “A Kiss Before Midnight” in the anthology, You’re Still the One, “A Very Maui Christmas” in the New York Times best selling anthology Holiday Magic, and “The Honeymoon House” in the New York Times best selling anthology Almost Home.

Mary currently lives in Chicago, IL with a demanding labradoodle. She wishes she could thank her gorgeous husband, but she doesn’t have one. In addition to writing she leads writing workshops.

Connect with Mary

Website | Writer’s Workshop | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts

I was expecting Meet Me in Barcelona to be kind of fluffy (not in a bad way), and light, skirting the line between romance and contemporary women’s fiction, and I would have enjoyed it if that’s what it had been. Instead, I was treated to something even better: a study of the dynamics of aging, of relationships, and of what defines family.

Protagonist Grace could have been me or any of my friends at thirty. Reasonably stable in work and her relationship, watching her parents diminishing before her eyes, and trying to balance the need to provide care, with the equally important need of self care.

Carrie Ann is a true sister, just not one of blood, and watching both women work through their issues is an exercise in the patience and love we should all have,a as well as an acknowledgement that no one is perfect, and everyone deserves a second chance.

Grace’s boyfriend Jake is, in many ways, the perfect boyfriend – employed, loyal, loving, and driven to help Grace integrate past hurts into her present life in order to work through them, and come out on the other side.

In any other novel, this would be a love triangle. Instead, it becomes the base of a strong pyramid, and Barcelona becomes as much a character as a setting in the novel, enhancing every aspect of the story.

This novel has something for everyone: romance, intrigue, pathos, and family bonding, and it’s all wrapped up in Mary Carter’s delicious prose. It’s a great Sunday afternoon with a pot of tea novel. It’s a great reading in the bath novel.

It’s a great novel. Period.

Goes well with Paella and a really good craft beer.


Meet Me in Barcelona at Pump Up Your Book

This review is part of a blog tour hosted by Pump Up Your Book. For more information, including a raffle and the complete list of tour stops, click HERE.

Review: The Crystal Cage, by Merryn Allingham (enter to win a copy)

About the book, The Crystal Cage The Crystal Cage

Publication Date: August 4, 2014
Publisher:eHarlequin, eBook; ASIN: B00JTPU72S
Genre: Historical Romance

Captivated…or captured?

Appearances don’t always reveal the truth. Grace Latimer knows this better than most. Illusions of commitment and comfort have her trapped—until bohemian adventurer Nick Heysham charms his way into her world. Commissioned to recover a Great Exhibition architect’s missing designs, he persuades her to assist in his research. The mystery of the Crystal Palace seduces Grace, and once she discovers clues about a forbidden Victorian love affair, she’s lured into the deep secrets of the past…secrets that resemble her own.

As Grace and Nick dig into the elusive architect’s illicit, long-untold story, the ghosts of guilt and forbidden passion slip free. And history is bound to repeat itself, unless Grace finds the courage to break free and find a new definition of love…

Buy, read, and discuss the ebook of The Crystal Cage

Amazon Kindle | Barnes & Noble Nook | Kobo Books | Add to Goodreads


About the author, Merryn Allingham (in her own words) Merryn Allingham

My father was a soldier and most of my childhood was spent moving from place to place, school to school, including 03_Merryn Allinghamseveral years living in Egypt and Germany. I loved some of the schools I attended, but hated others, so it wasn’t too surprising that I left half way through the sixth form with ‘A’ Levels unfinished.

I became a secretary, as many girls did at the time, only to realise that the role of handmaiden wasn’t for me. Escape beckoned when I landed a job with an airline. I was determined to see as much of the world as possible, and working as cabin crew I met a good many interesting people and enjoyed some great experiences – riding in the foothills of the Andes, walking by the shores of Lake Victoria, flying pilgrims from Kandahar to Mecca to mention just a few.

I still love to travel and visit new places, especially those with an interesting history, but the arrival of marriage and children meant a more settled existence on the south coast of England, where I’ve lived ever since. It also gave me the opportunity to go back to ‘school’ and eventually gain a PhD from the University of Sussex. For many years I taught university literature and loved every minute of it. What could be better than spending my life reading and talking about books? Well, perhaps writing them.

I’ve always had a desire to write but there never seemed time to do more than dabble with the occasional short story. And my day job ensured that I never lost the critical voice in my head telling me that I really shouldn’t bother. But gradually the voice started growing fainter and at the same time the idea that I might actually write a whole book began to take hold. My cats – two stunning cream and lilac shorthairs – gave their approval, since it meant my spending a good deal more time at home with them!

The 19th century is my special period of literature and I grew up reading Georgette Heyer, so when I finally found the courage to try writing for myself, the books had to be Regency romances. Over the last four years, writing as Isabelle Goddard, I’ve published six novels set in the Regency period.

Since then, I’ve moved on a few years to Victorian England, and I’ve changed genre too. The Crystal Cage is my first novel under the name of Merryn Allingham. The book is a mystery/romantic suspense and tells the story of a long-lost tragedy, and the way echoes from the past can powerfully influence the life of a modern day heroine. The next few Allingham books will see yet another move timewise. I’ve been writing a suspense trilogy set in India and wartime London during the 1930s and 1940s, and hope soon to have news of publication.

Whatever period, whatever genre, creating new worlds and sharing them with readers gives me huge pleasure and I can’t think of a better job.

Connect with Merryn

Facebook | Goodreads


My Thoughts

I’m a big fan of architecture, history, and romance, so when you combine all three as marvelously as Merryn Allingham has in The Crystal Cage there’s very little chance I’ll be anything but happy. This book made me very, very happy.

First, it’s told as sort of parallel plots, a contemporary story about art promoters/historians trying to track down solid information about an architect of import, partly for the sheer satisfaction of finding the truth, but also for – let’s face it – money and notoriety. The three central figures of the contemporary plot form a triangle of sorts, with main character Grace at it’s apex, in a relationship with Oliver, whom becomes less and less pleasant as the story progresses (seriously, I would have walked out on him in chapter two), and Nick whose bohemian lifestyle belies his ability to love and commit.

For me, Grace’s personal journey toward finding herself as well as the right partner was just as interesting as the historical mystery, because it was so real, and so believable. Who among us hasn’t fallen into a relationship that seems like a good idea only to become a trap as life goes on.

And then there’s the historical love affair with the architect and the object of his affections, though I would argue that he also has a triangle, one where his life’s work is one of the points. Choosing between love and art is never easy, and his story is easily as compelling as the contemporary one.

Author Allingham does an amazing job at making each story connect to the other while still retaining period-appropriate language, tone, and action. The events in the past are no less vivid than those in the present, only slightly softened, as if being viewed through a mirror.

If you want a satisfying romance with an historical twist, excellent characters, and a compelling plot, I heartily recommend The Crystal Cage.

Goes well with Braised lamb shanks and a spring salad.


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This review is part of a blog tour sponsored by Historical Fiction Virtual Book tours, which is also running a giveaway raffle (see below). For more information, including the complete list of tour stops, click the banner above, or click HERE.

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Review: Early Decision by Lacy Crawford (@lacy_crawford)

About the book Early Decision Early Decision

• Paperback: 320 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (August 26, 2014)

A delightful and salacious novel about the frightful world of high school, SATs, the college essay, and the Common Application—and how getting in is getting in the way of growing up

Anne Arlington is twenty-seven, single, and in demand: she is the independent “college whisperer” whose name is passed from parent to parent like a winning lottery ticket, the only tutor who can make a difference with the Ivy League.

Early Decision follows one application season and the five students Anne guides to their fates: Hunter, the athletic boy who never quite hits his potential, a kind, heavily defended kid who drives his mother mad; Sadie, an heiress who is perfectly controlled but at the expense of her own heart; William, whose intelligence permits him to dodge his father’s cruel conservatism but can’t solve the problem of loneliness; Alexis, a blazing overachiever whose Midwestern parents have never heard of a tiger mom; and Cristina, who could write her ticket out of her enormous, failing high school, if only she knew how.

Meanwhile, Anne needs a little coaching herself, having learned that even the best college does not teach a person how to make a life.

In this engrossing, intelligent novel, Lacy Crawford delivers an explosive insider’s guide to the secrets of college admissions at the highest levels. It’s also a deft commentary on modern parenting and how the scramble for Harvard is shaping a generation. Told in part through the students’ essays, this unique and witty book is so closely observed that it has been mistaken for a memoir or a how-to guide. A wise and deeply felt story, Early Decision reveals how getting in is getting in the way of growing up.

Buy, read, and discuss Early Decision

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Goodreads


About the author, Lacy Crawford Lacy Crawford

For fifteen years Lacy Crawford served as a highly discreet independent college admissions counselor to the children of powerful clients in cities such as New York, Chicago, Denver, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and London. Her “day jobs” included serving as senior editor of Narrative magazine and director of the Burberry Foundation. Educated at Princeton and the University of Chicago, Crawford lives in California with her husband and two children.

Connect with Lacy

Website | Twitter


My Thoughts

If you, like me, remember being flooded with college applications in high school, each one more interesting and attractive than the last, then this book, Earl Decision is for you.

The story is fresh and original – instead of a coming of age novel about one kid getting into his or her dream school, it’s a novel about a woman, Anne, who gudes kids toward finding the school that best matches their dreams, allowing both the kids and Anne herself to come of age along the way.

Anne is twenty-seven, but that’s not important. Coming-of-age is something that can be done no matter what age you are. Some of us are still doing it in our forties – figuring out our dreams, our desires, and how they mesh with the prosaic reality of everyday life.

But I digress. What I loved about this novel, was the crisp, contemporary language, and the way Anne adapted her use of language for whatever situation she was in. Talking with a bigwig lawyer, she used more formal speech. Speaking with a lazy high school boy, she turned to soft joking. It’s a skill we all need, and many of us lack.

I also thought the book felt cinematic. I could totally see it as a movie on ABC Family or Lifetime, with a quartet of well-scrubbed twenty-year-olds playing the teenagers and Amy Adams or Allison Mack (has she done any work since Smallville) playing Anne. What I mean is, the places described in this novel felt real. You could feel the air conditioning, hear the lawn mowers, taste the tea.

Finally, I thought the convention of showing us the examples of student essays was fantastic. It took me back to my own high school days, and the endless practice essays our teachers would make us write. (I confess, my default essay mode is a five-paragraph persuasive essay to this day.)

Whether you’re looking at colleges right now, or have a child who is approaching the application frenzy, this novel will entertain and educate, and never disappoint, except when you reach the last page, and realize it’s over.

Goes well with A fruit and cheese plate and mango iced tea.


TLC Book Tours

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