From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Orphan Train comes a novel about buried secrets and the redemptive power of forgiveness
Cassie Simon is a struggling artist living in New York City. When she receives a call from a magistrate telling her she has inherited sixty acres of land in Sweetwater, Tennessee, from her grandfather, whom she never knew, she takes it as a sign: it’s time for a change. She moves to the small Southern town where her mother, Ellen, grew up—and where she died tragically when Cassie was three.
From the moment she arrives in Sweetwater, Cassie is overwhelmed by the indelible mark her mother’s memory left behind. As she delves into the thicket of mystery that surrounds her mother’s death, Cassie begins to discover the desperate measures of which the human heart is capable.
Christina Baker Kline was born in England and raised in Maine. The author of five novels, including the runaway bestseller Orphan Train, Kline has taught literature and creative writing at Yale, New York University, and Fordham. She lives outside of New York City.
This is one of those books that had me reading passages – especially the italicized parts that took place in the past – out loud, so I could feel the way the language fit in my mouth, as well as my brain. I don’t do this a lot, but when I do, it’s always with a book I want to truly savor.
Author Christina Baker Kline has woven a tapestry depicting a mother and daughter who never get to interact directly, but impact each other’s lives both directly and indirectly. Cassie, the daughter, is curious, questing, artistic. Ellen, the mother, long since deceased, feels like a living presence, despite existing only in flashback-like sequences.
The supporting characters – Cassie’s lover, her father, Ellen’s friends – are woven just as vividly as the women at the heart of the story, and even Sweetwater itself feels more like a character than a mere place.
This novel isn’t particularly long, but it also isn’t a fast read. Instead, it’s one to be absorbed slowly, like an unwinding country road through a field of wildflowers.
Goes well with Sweet tea, fried catfish, and hush puppies.
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.
In Michael Murphy’s action-packed Prohibition-era novel of suspense, a mystery writer returns to the bright lights and dark alleys of New York City—uncovering a criminal conspiracy of terrifying proportions.
In 1933, America is at a crossroads: Prohibition will soon be history, organized crime is rampant, and President Roosevelt promises to combat the Great Depression with a New Deal. In these uncertain times, former-Pinkerton-detective-turned-bestselling-author Jake Donovan is beckoned home to Manhattan. He has made good money as the creator of dashing gumshoe Blackie Doyle, but the price of success was Laura Wilson, the woman he left behind. Now a Broadway star, Laura is engaged to a millionaire banker—and waltzing into a dangerous trap.
Before Jake can win Laura back, he’s nearly killed—and his former partner is shot dead—after a visit to the Yankee Club, a speakeasy dive in their old Queens neighborhood. Suddenly Jake and Laura are plunged into a conspiracy that runs afoul of gangsters, sweeping from New York’s private clubs to the halls of corporate power and to the White House itself. Brushing shoulders with the likes of Dashiell Hammett, Cole Porter, and Babe Ruth, Jake struggles to expose an inconspicuous organization hidden in plain sight, one determined to undermine the president and change the country forever.
Michael Murphy is a full time author and part time urban chicken rancher in Arizona. He lives in Arizona with his wife of forty-one years and the four children they adopted this past year. In August, Random House Alibi will publish his ninth novel, a historical mystery set in the prohibition era, The Yankee Club.
I’ve been a mystery fan ever since I cracked open a reprint of one of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe novels in a bookstore/cafe in Ashland, OR, when I was fourteen. I’ve been a noir fan almost as long, so you can imagine how eager I was to read The Yankee Club when I was offered the opportunity.
Jake Donovan, former detective, now author of a series of novels based on his own experiences, is the perfect literary detective, hard-boiled but never hard-hearted. Laura, childhood friend turned actress, is his perfect partner in (solving crime). While either could easily have become stereotypes, author Michael Murphy gave us, instead, characters that are an homage to the genre, but are still fully-realized on their own.
As well, the collection of supporting characters are well-rounded and interesting. Gino, owner of the speakeasy The Yankee Club, reminded me very strongly of some of my own family members (who ran boarding houses and diners near the Jersey shore during the prohibition years). Similarly Frankie, Mildred (whom exists mostly off-screen, but is nevertheless incredibly real, and Miss Belle Starr are people you’d expect to meet in Murphy’s version of New York, and yet each of them has their own moment, their own surprise, that makes you realize the level of crafting that went into this story.
And the story itself is fantastic. Mystery. Intrigue. Personal jeopardy and emotional drama. All of these things abound, but none of them ever threaten to overwhelm the plot. The combination of fictional and real-life events works really well, and I especially enjoyed the real people peppered amongst Murphy’s creations.
Bottom line, this is a gritty detective story, a romance, and a glimpse at a period in time not too far before our own, and woven through it all is the very real poignancy that comes from facing the knowledge that going home again is never exactly what you expect, but leaving it is never entirely possible.
The best part about this book, however, is that it’s merely the first in a series.
Goes well with a juicy steak, a perfectly baked potato with sour cream and chives, and a J&G.
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.
At the urging of one of the blog tour companies I work with, I signed up for an account with NetGalley earlier this year. This allows publishers to send me widgets for the books I’ve agreed to review, so I can download them straight to my kindle. It also allows me to leave feedback – usually a few good lines from my review and a link to the rest – directly for the publisher.
I’ve been reading like crazy all year – as I always do – but I’m a little behind on reviews that are NOT for tours – so here’s my NetGalley wrapup for titles I’ve read in the first half of 2014 that do NOT have separate review pages in this blog.
Don’t Even Think About It by Sarah Mlynowski
I always love Sarah Mlynowski’s work and this is no exception. She’s funny, smart, and her characters – teens in this case – are always believable, although they tend to occupy a slightly heightened reality. Great work, great read.
The Art of Arranging Flowers, by Lynne Branard
If you, like me, have ever spent your last ten dollars on fresh flowers when you should have spent it on milk or bread, you will love this novel. It’s a delightful human story about relationships, loves, and lives, and of course flowers. Mix in a little bit of magical realism, and you have a bouquet of compelling storytelling wrapped in raffia. READ THIS BOOK
Dangerous Dream: A Beautiful Creatures Story, by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl
I hadn’t read the books, but only seen the movie, when I read Dangerous Dream. Nevertheless, I was sucked into this richly created world and enjoyed finding out what happened next with the characters. It made me buy the books, for a better understanding of what had come before. It may be YA, but it appeals to all ages.
All of the above books are available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
Publisher: Twilight Times Books
Print Length: 344 pages
When an entire village on the Salisbury Plain is wiped out in an apparent case of mass spontaneous combustion, Her Majesty’s Secret Service contacts The Holmes Agency to investigate. Unfortunately Sherlock Holmes and his wife, Dr. Skye Chadwick-Holmes, have just had their first serious fight, over her abilities and attitudes as an investigator. To make matters worse, he is summoned to England in the middle of the night, and she is not — and due to the invocation of the National Security Act in the summons, he cannot even wake her and tell her.
Once in London, Holmes looks into the horror that is now Stonegrange. His investigations take him into a dangerous undercover assignment in search of a possible terror ring, though he cannot determine how a human agency could have caused the disaster. There, he works hard to pass as a recent immigrant and manual laborer from a certain rogue Mideastern nation as he attempts to uncover signs of the terrorists.
Meanwhile, alone in Colorado, Skye battles raging wildfires and tames a wild mustang stallion, all while believing her husband has abandoned her.
Who — or what — caused the horror in Stonegrange? Will Holmes find his way safely through the metaphorical minefield that is modern Middle Eastern politics? Will Skye subdue Smoky before she is seriously hurt? Will this predicament seriously damage — even destroy — the couple’s relationship? And can Holmes stop the terrorists before they unleash their outré weapon again?
Buy, read, and discuss A Case of Spontaneous Combustion
Please note: at this time, this title is only available in digital formats. A print edition is planned.
About the author, Stephanie Osborn
Veteran of more than 20 years in the civilian space program, as well as various military space defense programs, she worked on numerous space shuttle flights and the International Space Station, and counts the training of astronauts on her resumé. Her space experience also includes Spacelab and ISS operations, variable star astrophysics, Martian aeolian geophysics, radiation physics, and nuclear, biological, and
chemical weapons effects.
Stephanie holds graduate and undergraduate degrees in four sciences:
astronomy, physics, chemistry and mathematics, and she is “fluent” in several
more, including geology and anatomy.
In addition she possesses a license of ministry, has been a duly sworn, certified police officer, and is a National Weather Service certified storm spotter.
Her travels have taken her to the top of Pikes Peak, across the world’s highest suspension bridge, down gold mines, in the footsteps of dinosaurs, through groves of giant Sequoias, and even to the volcanoes of the Cascade Range in the Pacific Northwest, where she was present for several phreatic eruptions of Mount St. Helens.
Now retired from space work, Stephanie has trained her sights on writing. She has authored, co-authored, or contributed to more than 20 books, including the celebrated science-fiction mystery, Burnout: The mystery of Space Shuttle STS-281. She is the co-author of the “Cresperian Saga,” book series, and currently writes the critically acclaimed “Displaced Detective” series, described as “Sherlock Holmes meets The X-Files.” She recently released the paranormal/horror novella El Vengador, based on a true story, as an ebook.
In addition to her writing work, the Interstellar Woman of Mystery now happily “pays it forward,” teaching math and science through numerous media including radio, podcasting and public speaking, as well as working with SIGMA, the science-fiction think tank.
Sherlock Holmes and Skye Chadwick-Holmes are back in the fifth installment of Stephanie Osborn’s fabulously entertaining Displaced Detective series, and while this story is complete in one volume (unlike the others which were pairs of companion stories), it feels just as meaty and satisfying as its predecessors.
What I really love about this series is that Osborn bases her mysteries in real (if sometimes theoretical) science, and that she relays the science in ways that are easy for people like me, who were music and theater majors, to understand. From the moment the mass disappearance (death) of an entire town was described, I was able to make reasonably accurate guesses about the technology that caused it, but this in no way spoiled the story, because knowing the cause wasn’t enough, the real mystery was as much in the “why” as in the “how.”
As well, I love that, a year into their marriage, Skye and Sherlock are evolving as individuals and as a couple. While they are separated from each other for much of this story, when they do come together, the reasons for their separation explained, we see two people who have become better because of their relationship. Anyone can write “falling in love” reasonably well. Writing about a couple who can stay in love takes finesse, which Osborn has in great amounts.
Over the last several years, Sherlock Holmes has been reintroduced to us in many, many guises, and the beauty of the character is that there’s room for every version, and enjoying one doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy others. Regular visitors to this blog know that I’m a massive fan of Laurie R. King’s Sherlock Holmes/Mary Russell series, and that I especially love that she’s incorporated early feminism and the art culture of the early twentieth century into her work.
This doesn’t mean that I like Osborn’s work any less. In fact, I think these two series make really good bookshelf buddies, because both give us a glimpse at Holmes as a married man, and both do it in unique ways.
Back to Stephanie Osborn’s latest offering, though, I’ll confess that at one point I, who was an original viewer of Sex and the City felt that Skye and Sherlock’s relationship was a bit too restrained, even when they were out of the public eye, until Skye herself reminded one of their friends, and we readers as well, that Holmes is from a more restrained time and culture. It’s worth noting, also, that the relationship they have is absolutely true to the characters Osborn has created, and that these are genre-defying science-fiction/mysteries and not romance novels.
While A Case of Spontaneous Combustion is best enjoyed after reading books 1-4 of the Displaced Detective series, fast reads all, it also has enough backstory to be a satisfying standalone.
Goes well with: Falafel, with extra-garlicky tahini sauce, tart strained yogurt and cucumbers, and a side of tabouleh, with mint tea.
Homicide detective Alex Drummond is confronted with the past through his son’s innocent question. Alex’s tale of his troubled senior year unfolds revealing loss, drunken abuse, and mysterious visions of murder and demonic children. Is he going insane? With the help of his close friend Paige Kurtley, Alex must find the source of his misfortune and ensure his sanity.
“A well written story that flows off the page.”
~ Coral Russell, author of Amador Lockdown
“Another awesome book by Weston Kincade – a paranormal coming-of-age mystery page turner. I could not put it down… I promise you will not be disappointed with this one.”
~ Chantale, Geeky Girl Reviews
“A Life of Death is a completely amazing story. Fans of paranormal mystery and suspense stories should enjoy this book. Definitely give it a read as soon as you can!”
~ K. Sozaeva, Now is Gone
“A Life of Death is my favorite kind of book, characters' emotions are painted in details. It's so vivid and alive I get a sense that Alex, the main character, is a younger version of Weston himself. This book in beautiful in unexpected ways.”
~ Helmy Parlente Kusuma, author of There is Hope
“A Life of Death is quite simply, absolutely superb. I loved this book, it was an emotional and entertaining journey that had me hooked.”
~ David King, An Eclectic Bookshelf
“A very good story.”
~ Kathleen Brown, author of The Personal Justice Series
“The title drew me in and the novel itself is an experience that should not be left unread.”
~ Bruce Blanchard, author of Demon's Daughter
“Mr. Kincade did a wonderful job telling this story. The characters are well developed and easy to relate to. I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed this book."
~ Christi, Alaskan Book Cafe
Check Amazon for Pricing Digital Only
Release date May 27, 2014.
Weston Kincade sent me this book directly, months ago, in multiple installments, which is how it was originally published. More recently, he asked people to re-post reviews for the current “complete” edition.
As my original review was lost in a database glitch, I sat down to re-read Kincaid’s work, in order to update my thoughts, and I’m not sorry.
On the surface, Kincaid’s story is a simple mystery, but once you look past the surface, you see a family drama, a battle between natural and supernatural, and a close look at what it means to be a victim, and to overcome victimhood.
Kincade’s characters are all fully realized, dimensional people, but what I really liked about them is that they’re not all “pretty” people. They are human, they get into fights, aren’t all rich and well-to-do, and sometimes, aren’t even all that likeable.
And yet, the story – Alex’s story, and that of his son – is compelling. You want to find out why Alex sees the visions he does, and you really care about his relationship with his son.
Marketed primarily to YA/NA audiences, A Life of Death has something for everyone, of every age, which is as it should be when it comes to good storytelling.
Goes well with Open face meatloaf sandwiches and RC cola.
Returning to the story begun in the novel Immortal Coil and continuing in the bestselling Cold Equations trilogy, this is the next fascinating chapter in the artificial life of one of Star Trek’s most enduring characters.
He was perhaps the ultimate human achievement: a sentient artificial life-form—self-aware, self-determining, possessing a mind and body far surpassing that of his makers, and imbued with the potential to evolve beyond the scope of his programming. And then Data was destroyed. Four years later, Data’s creator, Noonien Soong, sacrificed his life and resurrected his android son, who in turn revived the positronic brain of his own artificial daughter, Lal. Having resigned his commission, the former Starfleet officer now works to make his way on an alien world, while also coming to grips with the very human notion of wanting versus having a child. But complicating Data’s new life is an unexpected nemesis from years ago on the U.S.S. Enterprise—the holographic master criminal Professor James Moriarty. Long believed to be imprisoned in a memory solid, Moriarty has created a siphon into the "real" world as a being of light and thought. Moriarity wants the solid form that he was once told he could never have, and seeks to manipulate Data into finding another android body for him to permanently inhabit...even if it means evicting the current owner, and even if that is Data himself.
I pre-ordered the digital edition of this book several months ago when it was first announced, so I knew it would be arriving on my Kindle around 2:00 this morning. I was pleasantly surprised when it actually showed up at midnight, because I’m very nocturnal. Translation: by the time I went to bed around 2 AM, I’d read 81% of this novel.
The Light Fantastic is the sequel to Lang’s own Immortal Coil, which, I confess, left me conflicted when I first read it. The adult part of me, the part that is an improviser and a writer, really liked it, though I felt that Data and Rhea’s relationship was both too fast, and not believable (this despite the fact that I liked Rhea as a character). The part of me that was 16 or 17 when TNG premiered on TV and crushed on Data had other issues, but adult-me was able to ignore them.
But then David Mack gave us is Cold Equations trilogy, and those expanded upon Data 2.0’s mindset and choices, and gave us better insight into the Fellowship of AI, and left a door open for more with this beloved character.
And now Lang has wrapped up a truly amazing arc. We get to find out how Data’s been spending the last two years of his life. We get a glimpse into his life with the newly restored Lal, his daughter, who is in the midst of the android equivalent of adolescence, and then she’s abducted – by Moriarty – yes, the hologram – and we’re thrown into a story that is both a mystery and a story about what it means to grow up, grow old, raise children, and explore one’s identity.
Data as a father is both hilarious and heartbreaking – especially as he’s still acclimating to his new body and his permanently engaged emotions.
Lal as a teenager is also hilarious, and frustrating, and it gave me new respect for the way my own mother must’ve felt when I was a teenager myself.
Geordi, of course, is along for the ride, because no Sherlock can be without his Watson, and along the way we are introduced to a few favorite characters from both TNG and TOS.
Overall, The Light Fantastic is a truly satisfying read, and if Data doesn’t sound exactly the way we’re accustomed to him sounding, well, he himself states in the novel that he isn’t entirely certain how much of him is HIM, and how much is leftover Noonian Soong.
The tag, of course, teases a new mystery, and I have no idea if that will pan out, or if the soft canon of the novels will eventually merge with the soft canon of the STO game and the Countdown to Trek 2009 (in which Data was Captain of the Enterprise), but if it doesn’t, I would totally buy a series of intergalactic mysteries featuring Data and LaForge.
Goes well with French-pressed coffee and a chocolate croissant.
An investigative journalist gets an unlikely tip from a mysterious informant. Dismissing it as impossible, she disregards the information and drops the story. Until the informant turns up dead, as predicted.
Plunged into the murky waters of a seedy underground prostitution ring, this psychological thriller provides twist upon dark twist in a story that would ultimately pin the church and several government officials in the largest murder cover-up the city has ever witnessed.
But is it true, or has the journalist merely been used as a pawn in a greater scheme? And how many people is she willing to sacrifice trying to figure it out?
When she arrived at the little facility her building provided, a quick look around confirmed she was the only one there. Just as she’d hoped, and exactly how she liked it to be. Smiling in satisfaction, she flipped on the television that was perched on the wall, and turned up the music on her iPod as loud as she could handle it. The multiple distractions would help her get through the extra mile she was planning to conquer. With chilled water bottle in place, she cranked up the treadmill to a nice brisk pace.
As her breathing picked up speed and her muscles began to warm, Ana’s eye caught a red flash along the bottom of the screen. Breaking News filled the bar, and the too-chipper-for-their-own-good reporters were suddenly getting serious. Since the volume was still muted, Ana couldn’t understand exactly what was going on, only that they were showing the wide stretch of river that ran along the outskirts of the city. She wiped the first beads of sweat from her brow, and used the remote to turn the volume of the television higher while simultaneously adjusting her music.
As the reporters spoke, home-video footage of something floating in the water rolled before her eyes. The camera zoomed in, the frame ever so shaky, and it became clearly apparent that the “something” was a person – face down with long brown hair spread out like a Catholic halo. It appeared another victim had been pulled out of the water; the count was quickly tallying up. A young woman this time, and possibly one who had gone missing the night before.
Ana’s pulse skipped a few beats as they replayed the video over and over. There was something familiar about the long, lean body. Slowing the treadmill to a stop, she ripped the ear buds from her head to give the segment her entire attention.
…it appears at first glance that the victim suffered from a deep cut to the throat, and received multiple stab wounds to the chest…
The beads of accumulated sweat turned cold on Ana’s brow. She immediately reached for her phone and dialed Kylie’s number.
“What the hell, Ana?” Came her friend’s groggy voice.
“Turn your TV on. Channel four. Hurry.” Ana said, eyes transfixed to the screen in front of her. “Recognize that face?”
…It’s thought the victim may be one of the young girls recently reported missing. The screen flashed candids of three possible women. All brunettes. All tall and thin. All roughly the same age. Among them was a photo of Mara, just as Ana had expected there would be.
But the body was too bloated and disfigured to be absolutely certain, and an autopsy would be needed.
… The body will be taken in for processing where officials hope to shed more light on the case in the near future. In the mean time, they’re cautioning residents to avoid….
“Did you see that?” Ana’s voice escaped in more of a demand than a question. “Please tell me I’m seeing things.”
“Oh my god…” Kylie whispered into the receiver, confirming the dread that was building in Ana’s stomach. “Do you really think it’s her?”
“I know for a fact it is.” Ana declared, the pull in her gut getting stronger by the minute. “The autopsy will confirm it.”
“So, what does this mean exactly now?”
“That maybe I should have been listening a little closer when I was talking to Mara.” She said with regret as she swiped her forehead with the back of her hand. “And maybe I should have asked more questions. There’s a story here, I’m sure of it now.”
“What are you going to do?” Kylie’s voice was decidedly more alert now.
Ana shook her head. “I have no idea.”
Though if she were to be truthful with herself in that moment, she’d already made up her mind. Ana flipped off the television, and left the little gym to get started.
About the Author: Renee Novelle
Formerly a freelance journalist, Novelle has found placement of her pieces in both online and print publications since 2008. Additionally, she has written multiple screenplays, and contributed her writing to many non-profit and for profit organizations. She has launched several blogs over the years, which garnered international attention.
In 2013, Novelle returned to her first love – fiction. Writing under the names Renee Novelle and R.S. Novelle, she has a publication schedule that includes Psychological Thrillers, Suspense, Paranormal Fiction, Contemporary Women’s fiction, Chick Lit, and New Adult.
Though she received her Bachelor’s of Science in Communication, summa cum laude, she considers herself a constant student of the written word. She’s an avid reader, an enthusiastic quote poster, and rarely takes “no” as a final answer. She has an unhealthy obsession for theater, dance, music and art, and strongly believes that wine is simultaneously the beginning of, and resolution to, all of life’s problems. She believes in following dreams, and that in the end, you always end up where you’re meant to be.
About the book Of Dreams and Shadows by D.S. McKnight
We live. We die. Is there anything more? Jenna Barton is about to find out. After moving to the coastal North Carolina town of Parson’s Cove, Jenna has unwittingly stepped into the middle of a mystery involving a missing child. Unfortunately, the predator is still on the loose and Jenna has become his new obsession. With a little luck and a bit of paranormal help, Jenna might survive.
D.S. McKnight has enjoyed a varied career—from working as a radio DJ on a small AM station to serving as president and co-owner of a marina, until Hurricane Ophelia took aim at the Carolina coast. Currently, she works at an insurance agency as well as hosting her blog – Novel Notions.
It is her love of the North Carolina coast that fueled her desire to write. Of Dreams and Shadow: Forget Me Not (book 1) is her first novel.
For approximately 2 1/2 years, I spent every available moment in Parson’s Cove – the fictional town where Of Dreams and Shadow takes place. I knew the town – the name of the streets as well as the locations of shops and restaurants. I knew the characters, how they looked and what they liked. I witnessed the tragedy that set the story into motion. So, I found it difficult to let go when it came time to say goodbye. Fortunately for me, I was able to visit the story in other ways. One way was to become the reporter for The Parson’s Cove Daily News:
The Parson’s Cove Daily News
June 19, 1997
(Parson’s Cove) Area authorities continue to search for Sarah Jones. The four year old girl was last seen the morning of June 17, while playing outside of the family home located on Sandpiper Drive. Parson’s Cove Police Department spokesman, Sgt. Joe Wilkes confirmed that there was a witness to the abduction. The suspect is described as a male however there was no further description available. The suspect is believed to have been wearing dark clothing.
Neighbor Bob Williams spoke for the family. “At this time, the family is asking for prayers for the safe return of their daughter.” When asked how the family was doing, Williams became visibly upset. “I guess they are doing as good as possible considering the situation.”
Besides canvassing local businesses, search and rescue teams have been called in. “Bloodhounds are a valuable asset in this type of investigation,” Sgt. Wilkes said.
Sarah is described as a white female child approximately three feet tall with light brown hair and green eyes. She was last seen wearing pink shorts and a white top.
Residents are asked to contact the police department if they remember seeing anything suspicious in the area.
Watch the Trailer
Read an excerpt
June 17, 1997
Details…they were the making or breaking of any plan and he
felt sure that his plan was perfect. He surveyed the yard one last
time, slid back into his hiding place and waited. It wouldn’t be
long now. She would open the door and come out to play as she
did every morning: swinging, pulling her wagon, playing with her
doll. Only this morning would be different, this morning would
Laying in her wagon was his gift, a necklace he had taken from
his mother. He was certain Sarah would love it. A door slammed,
pulling his attention from the wagon to the patio where the little
“Big…black…bug’s blood,” she said slowly. And then, looking
rather pleased with herself, she continued a bit faster, “Big, black
bug’s blood, big black blugs blug, blig black blug’s blug.” Shaking
her head, she stepped off the patio, “I don’t like bugs anyway…well,
maybe ladybugs…and butterflies,” Sarah added as a swallowtail
Sarah found herself following the butterfly’s trail, stopping
when it lit upon a flower and continuing on as it once again took
flight. “Come back butterfly,” she called as the butterfly
flitted from place to place, always just out of her reach. The
tinkling sound of her laughter floated across the yard to his
hiding place. He couldn’t believe his luck. It seemed that fate
was lending him a hand as the butterfly fluttered ever closer to
Just a little further, sweet Sarah.
She stopped, looked up at the butterfly as it changed course,
then set off in the opposite direction. He clinched his fist. Fate,
he thought, is like a fickle strumpet. But patience on the other hand,
was quite the virtuous lady. Damn. He hated virtuous ladies. And
strumpets…they weren’t any better.
The swallowtail, perhaps tired of playing the game, circled
around and carried Sarah back toward the wagon. Its flight was
now one of purpose. It had nectar to collect and flowers to pollinate
and a curious little girl was a hindrance. The butterfly, however,
didn’t need to worry. It had lost Sarah’s attention. She had seen the
Picking up the silver chain, she watched as the blue stones
glistened in the sunlight. It was the most beautiful thing she had
ever seen. Sarah slid the necklace over her head and ran back to the
house calling out for her mother.
Liza Jones opened the door. “Is everything okay, Sweetie?”
Sarah lifted the pendant. “See what I found.” Her voice dropped
to a whisper, as she looked over her shoulder. “Do you think a fairy
Liza shook her head. “I don’t know about a fairy, but someone
certainly did.” She put out her hand. “I think maybe you should
give the necklace to me. We don’t know whose it is.”
Sarah’s lip began to tremble. “But I found it and it’s so pretty.
Can’t I please wear it for a little while? I won’t lose it.”
Liza smiled as she touched her daughter’s cheek. She hated
telling her no. “Okay, as long as you’re careful. But when we find
out who owns it, no tears.”
“No tears, Mommy,” Sarah agreed. “I promise.”
Liza closed the door, her mind already going over the phone
calls she needed to make. She felt certain that one of the neighbor’s
children had been exploring in their mother’s jewelry box.
Smiling, Sarah whirled around and set off for the swings. Her
soft caramel curls, caught in a ponytail, danced about as she skipped
across the backyard. She hoped her mommy couldn’t find the owner
of the necklace.
As she sat in the swing and pushed off with her feet, Sarah
noticed her shadow. It moved along the sand, stretching out just as
she did. Higher and higher she went, her shadow following below.
Taking a flying leap from the swing, Sarah sailed through the air,
landed on the soft grass and toppled over. Giggling, she righted
herself. Her shadow did the same. And so the game of chase began.
Like a small rabbit, Sarah scampered across the lawn, her
little feet swiftly changing course. Sometimes, depending on the
direction she was going, Sarah noticed that she was being chased by
her shadow. Other times, she was doing the chasing.
The slamming of the neighbor’s back door didn’t go unnoticed.
Boys! She thought to herself as she wheeled in the opposite direction,
making sure to avoid the fence. Glancing over her shoulder, she saw
the neighbor boy peeking over the pickets.
As she neared the back of the yard, Sarah slowed to a walk,
sat down, and leaned against a large boulder, her shadow all but
forgotten. She fingered the silver chain before carefully lifting the
pendant. Blue stones surrounded a small crystal, reminding her of
the flowers that grew in her mother’s garden. “Buttercup, Poppy,
Forget-Me-Not,” Sarah recited her favorite nursery rhyme, “These
three bloomed in a garden spot—” her soft voice trailed away to
nothing as the sensation of being watched rolled over her.
Sarah lifted her eyes from the necklace and glanced toward the
wood line, looking for anything that seemed out of place. Seeing
nothing out of the ordinary, she continued to search the yard,
looking for the source of her discomfort. She paused, realizing that
the only place left to look was behind her. The hair on her arms
began to rise as did the instinctual feeling to run to safety. Slowly,
she turned her head to look over her shoulder. Her eyes rested on
the dark figure standing behind her right shoulder.
“Shadow?” she asked in a bewildered voice.
“Who else could it be?” hissed the childlike apparition as it
took position between Sarah and her house. A ragged whimper
wrenched from deep in Sarah’s throat, her eyes darted, looking for
an escape but seeing none. From across the fence, the frightened
eyes of the neighbor boy found hers, his small hand waved for her
“Mommy!” she cried out, her eyes welling with tears.
“Thy mother hearest thou not, sweet Sarah,” the specter hissed
as it took a step closer to the child.
Sarah’s mind told her to flee yet her body refused to move.
Tears streamed down her face. The shadowy figure looked over
its shoulder at the house. Satisfied, it turned its attention back to
Sarah. Cocking its head to the side as though in thought, Sarah’s
silhouette paused for just a moment before lunging and engulfing
the child. Sarah had no time to scream. She was gone, swallowed
by the blackness that was the shadow. The dark figure of the little
girl stretched upward and outward as it shifted into the dark shape
of a man.
This post is part of a virtual book tour sponsored by Pump Up Your Book. For more information and the list of tour stops, click here.
Venice, a long time ago. Three prominent Venetians await their most loathsome and foul dinner guest, the erstwhile envoy from the Queen of Britain: the rascal-Fool Pocket.
This trio of cunning plotters—the merchant, Antonio; the senator, Montressor Brabantio; and the naval officer, Iago—have lured Pocket to a dark dungeon, promising an evening of sprits and debauchery with a rare Amontillado sherry and Brabantio’s beautiful daughter, Portia.
But their invitation is, of course, bogus. The wine is drugged. The girl isn’t even in the city limits. Desperate to rid themselves once and for all of the man who has consistently foiled their grand quest for power and wealth, they have lured him to his death. (How can such a small man, be such a huge obstacle?). But this Fool is no fool . . . and he’s got more than a few tricks (and hand gestures) up his sleeve.
Greed, revenge, deception, lust, and a giant (but lovable) sea monster combine to create another hilarious and bawdy tale from modern comic genius, Christopher Moore.
Christopher Moore is the author of twelve previous novels: Practical Demonkeeping, Coyote Blue, Bloodsucking Fiends, Island of the Sequined Love Nun, The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove, Lamb, Fluke, The Stupidest Angel, A Dirty Job, You Suck, Fool , and Bite Me.
I’ve been a fan of Christopher Moore’s books forever. In fact, when I grow up, as a writer, I want to be Christopher Moore (albeit, a version of him with breasts and technicolor hair) so when I was offered the chance to read an ARC of his latest novel, The Serpent of Venice I told the publicist I’d give one of my dogs for the opportunity. Fortunately, that wasn’t actually necessary, and the ARC arrived shortly after, only to sit on my table, mocking me, until my TBR stack was caught up.
It was worth the wait.
This book combines Moore’s take on Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice with his usual comic view of the world, and adds in elements of other literary classics as well (care to try the Amontillado, anyone?). It’s also a sequel to his previous novel Fool, which, I confess, I have not read.
The characters are a blend of the familiar Shakespeare figures and Moore’s own creativity, and while the story has a slightly slow beginning, it ends up being a rollicking roller-coastergondola ride through the streets and waterways of Venice, with enough real moments balanced by laugh-out-loud preposterous situations to keep everything flowing well but still ensure the reader is capable of drawing breath.
While knowledge of Shakespeare (and Poe…) isn’t essential to the enjoyment of The Serpent of Venice familiarity with the original play certainly didn’t hurt. Similarly, while I didn’t feel like I’d missed much by not having read Fool, I’m sure it would have increased my understanding of some of the nuances in the novel.
Goes well with A plate of spaghetti with marinara sauce and a glass of red wine.
This review is part of a virtual book tour hosted by TLC Book Tours. For more information, and the complete list of tour stops, click here.
In the tradition of Kristin Hannah and Susan Wiggs, Mary McNear introduces readers to the town of Butternut Lake and to the unforgettable people who call it home.
It’s summer, and after ten years away, Allie Beckett has returned to her family’s cabin beside tranquil Butternut Lake, where as a teenager she spent so many carefree days. She’s promised her five-year-old son, Wyatt, they will be happy there. She’s promised herself this is the place to begin again after her husband’s death in Afghanistan. The cabin holds so many wonderful memories, but from the moment she crosses its threshold Allie is seized with doubts. Has she done the right thing uprooting her little boy from the only home he’s ever known?
Allie and her son are embraced by the townsfolk, and her reunions with old acquaintances—her friend Jax, now a young mother of three with one more on the way, and Caroline, the owner of the local coffee shop—are joyous ones. And then there are newcomers like Walker Ford, who mostly keeps to himself—until he takes a shine to Wyatt . . . and to Allie.
Everyone knows that moving forward is never easy, and as the long, lazy days of summer take hold, Allie must learn to unlock the hidden longings of her heart, and to accept that in order to face the future she must also confront—and understand—what has come before.
Mary McNear lives in San Francisco with her husband, two teenage children, and a high-strung, minuscule white dog named Macaroon. She writes her novels in a local doughnut shop, where she sips Diet Pepsi, observes the hubbub of neighborhood life, and tries to resist the constant temptation of freshly made doughnuts. She bases her novels on a lifetime of summers spent in a small town on a lake in the northern Midwest.
It’s the little details that make or break a book for me. On the surface, Up at Butternut Lake may seem like just another contemporary romance. It’s got the cute small town setting, the strong women who are going through personal struggles (two of them, actually, Allie, and Jax) and the newcomer who still has ties from out of town. But that’s just the surface, and it would be a mistake to write this book off just because it includes a few common tropes.
Instead, look at the details: in the early pages Allie’s young son Wyatt spins on a diner stool. We don’t have a lot of classic diners left in the USA, but trust me, there isn’t a kid alive who could resist the urge to spin on one of those. (I know this from experience because my family owned just such a diner on the Jersey Shore, and we kids used to spin on the blue vinyl stools til we were nauseous.)
Then there’s Allie herself. She’s at the lake in part because it’s a personal haven for her, full of good memories, but also because, having lost her husband, she wants to be in a place where she can rebuild trust in herself, without the often-stifling offers of help. She isn’t a misanthrope; she just needs to find her footing.
These are the sorts of details, details of plot, setting, and character, that Mary McNear has given us in Up at Butternut Lake, and this is why it’s not ‘just a romance’ but a story about strong women, and the people whom they love.
Goes well with Sweet tea and strawberry-rhubarb pie.
This review is part of a virtual book tour hosted by TLC Book Tours. For more information, or to read the entire list of tour stops, click here.