Spotlight on Family Interrupted, by Linda Barrett – Read the First Chapter

I’m really excited to be presenting the first chapter of Linda Barrett’s new novel Family Interruped, and to tell you my thoughts about it. But first…

About the book, Family Interrupted:

Family Room

Two years after their 12 year old daughter’s accidental death by a motorist, Claire and Jack Barnes go through the motions of celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary. When artist Claire produces her gift–a full-scale oil painting of their daughter–Jack has had enough. With his daughter gone, his wife focused on the past and his 20 year old son living on his own, Jack feels like a stranger in his own home and moves out the day after the party.

Claire understands they’re heading for divorce. Two days later, when she’s alone in the house, a young woman comes to the door and hands over her infant. This is their son’s baby. The girl says, “I told Ian she’d be too much work, and I’ve got other plans.” She disappears. Ian is ready to put the baby up for adoption because his daughter deserves a good, solid family, better than what the Barneses have become. Jack and Claire must figure out what to do next.

Intersecting the main stories of the Barnes family is the subplot involving the driver of the car. No alcohol, no speeding involved. But guilt seeps into the driver’s soul and changes her life. Who will forgive this woman?

Buy your copy from Amazon

About the author, Linda Barrett:

Linda Barrett

Linda Barrett is the author of 13 novels of contemporary romance. She’s earned many industry awards through Romance Writers of America, including the Holt Medallion, The Award of Excellence and the Write Touch Reader’s award. Family Interrupted is her first women’s fiction story. A graduate of Hunter College, Linda now lives in the Tampa area with her husband. They have three grown sons and the most adorable, intelligent, super-duper grandchildren ever!

Connect with Linda Barrett

Website: Linda-Barrett
Facebook: Linda.Barrett.353

My Thoughts on the First Chapter of Family Interrupted

You can’t really judge a whole novel from one chapter, but if the first chapter of Family Interrupted really is representational of the rest of the book, I can’t imagine not liking it. Sure, on the surface the subject is grim: a couple recovering from the death of their twelve-year-old daughter and trying not to let their marriage go down the tubes, but really, that’s just the background. The rest of the story is one of finding yourself when the thing that used to define you suddenly…doesn’t.

I like the way Barrett writes – her language is vivid, but still accessible. I also like that she’s not afraid to use touches of humor. One of the gritty realities of life is that grief and laughter are often inextricably intertwined (to borrow a Douglas Adams phrase I’ve loved since I was thirteen). Laughter through tears is a core part of that, just as grinning through a fight, or weeping after sex are both normal reactions for some of us.

Ultimately, I can’t know from one chapter what will happen with Claire, but I do know that in Barrett’s deft hands the story will be interesting, compelling, and really real.

Read the First Chapter of Family Interrupted





Houston, Texas



Bellisima! Brava! Your best work yet, Signora Barnes. Maybe you give Leonardo some competition?”

I rolled my eyes and grinned at my instructor. “Leonardo can rest easy.”

Dr. Colombo teased, exhorted, or flirted with his students on a regular basis, especially the talented ones, but comparing my work to the Mona Lisa was going far, even for this powerhouse.

I stepped away from my easel and focused on a portrait of a young girl peeking sideways under half-closed lids. I’d called it, GIRL WITH SECRETS. The child held secrets I wanted to know.

“Your daughter, yes?” Colombo asked, his voice a deep rumble.

DNA didn’t lie. I nodded and said, “On the outside, Kayla’s mine, brown eyes and blonde hair, but inside, she’s her dad, an unquenchable extrovert. Sometimes, my daughter’s surrounded by   more friends than my house can hold.” My pride in Kayla overrode the mock complaint. “She’s twelve-and-a-half, almost a teenager—almost grown up—as she likes to remind me.”

“Ah-h.” He sighed as if he understood. “I have two daughters, Signora, and I know how they too much wanted to be  women, but were not ready, never ready in the eyes of their mama.”

Click here to read more of the first chapter of FAMILY INTERRUPTED !

In Their Character’s Words: A Guest Post from J.R. Rain’s SAMANTHA MOON

Moon River

Guest post from Samantha Moon

by J.R. Rain

Some call me a vampire.

I say, why use labels? I’m uncomfortable calling myself anything other than a mother. That’s the one label I am comfortable with. I’m a mom first and foremost. A private investigator next, even though that is fairly recent. Seven years ago, I wasn’t a private eye, but a federal agent.

So, even that was subject to change. Perhaps someday I might find myself better suited for a different job, although I will always help those who need help. Although I’d always admired Judge Judy, I would never want to be in her position: to judge the actions of others. That took wisdom…a lifetime of wisdom. Technically, I’m only in my mid-thirties, although I look much younger. Still, far too young to judge others.

Truth was, my current lifestyle was perfectly suited to private investigation. Other than meeting new clients, who tended to want to meet during the day, I got along just fine working the night shift.

So, yes, one of the constants in my life was that I was a mother. Of course, even that was threatened just a year or so ago, when a rare sickness almost took my son from me. A son who was growing so fast.

Supernaturally fast.

Don’t ask.

I have a daughter, too. A daughter who offered many challenges, the least of which was that she could read minds as easily as she read her Facebook newsfeed.

Yes, I was a mother…and a sister. My sister has had a rough time of it, of late. She’s recently been introduced to the some of the darker elements of my world, and might be holding a grudge against me. But she would get over it. She’d better. I need her in my life.

Of course, there was another constant in my life…a constant that I ignored. A constant that I denied. And, as they say, denial isn’t just a river in Egypt.

Denial is my sanity.

You see, I have to deny what I am. Who I am. Or I would go crazy. I know I would. In fact, a part of me is certain that I just might be crazy. But not let’s not go there.

Yes, call me anything. But please, just please, don’t call me a vampire.

At least, not to my face.

About the book, Moon River:

Moon River

Seven years ago federal agent Samantha Moon was the perfect wife and mother, your typical soccer mom with the minivan and suburban home. Then the unthinkable happens, an attack that changes her life forever. And forever is a very long time for a vampire.

Now in MOON RIVER, private investigator, Samantha Moon, is asked to look into a string of bizarre murders, murders that are looking more and more like the handiwork of a bloodthirsty vampire. But when her sister, Mary Lou, goes missing, Samantha, Allison and Kingsley take the fight underground…into the dark heart of a vampire’s lair.

Buy a copy from

About the author, J.R. Rain:

J.R. Rain

J.R. Rain is an ex-private investigator now writing full-time in the Pacific Northwest where he lives in a small house on a small island with his small dog, Sadie, who has more energy than Robin Williams. He will be publishing a slew of new novels over the next five years, so stop by often and check out what’s new.

Connect with J.R.

Facebook: J.R. Rain, Mystery Author
Twitter: @jr_rain


Review: The Alligator Man by James Sheehan

About the book, The Alligator Man:

The Alligator Man

Kevin Wylie’s crooked boss wants to run him out of town, and Kevin’s long-time girlfriend is ready to take a hike. He decides that now is the time to leave Miami, visit his father, who he hasn’t seen in 28 years, and get some answers. Heading back to his hometown, he doesn’t realize that he and his dad will become embroiled in a murder case.

The victim, one of the richest and most-hated corporate criminals in America has been dubbed The Alligator Man since pieces of his clothing were found in a local swamp. Billy Fuller had every reason in the world to want Johnson dead and all the evidence leads right to his doorstep. But legendary trial lawyer Tom Wylie believes in Billy and he and his son reunite to fight the courtroom battle for Billy’s life.

The Alligator Man is a story of greed, anger, love, redemption and two powerful trial attorneys who fight to the end– and risk everything–for the truth.

Get your copy from Amazon.

About the author, James Sheehan:

James Sheehan

James Sheehan was born and raised in New York City, the fourth child of Jack Sheehan and Mary (Tobin) Sheehan. There would eventually be six children. He moved to Florida in 1974 to attend law school and became a lawyer in 1977.

He was a trial lawyer for thirty plus years. Prior to that time, he worked at various jobs: paper boy, shoeshine boy, iron worker, stock proofer, grocery boy, dishwasher, short order cook, and restaurant manager.

Presently, he is a law professor at Stetson University College of Law and the Director of the Tampa Law Center.

James currently resides in St. Petersburg, Florida near his two sons, his 5 grandchildren and one great-grandchild. James youngest daughter, Sarah, lives in New York City.

Connect with James:

Website: James Sheehan, Author
Facebook: James Sheehan, Author
Twitter: @James_Sheehan_

My Thoughts:

I’ve been reading James Sheehan’s work for a couple of years now, after being introduced to it when his publisher sent me one of his novels asking if I’d review it. I said sure, and now they send almost everything new that he writes, although The Alligator Man actually came to me via TLC Book Tours first. Apparently the Universe REALLY wanted me to read this book, because the copy from his publisher showed up a few days later.

The Universe was not wrong. The Alligator Man is a legal thriller that merges Sheehan’s consistently solid writing style with an entirely new set of characters, and I enjoyed it immensely. (Translation: this is NOT one of his Jack Tobin novels. It’s a one-off with new characters.)

Sheehan’s own experience as a Florida resident and as a law professor and director of the Tampa (Florida) Law Center serve him well for the ‘a’ plot of the book – the story of Kevin Wylie and his father Tom and their attempt to prove Billy Fuller’s innocence. The courtroom scenes pop the way few such scenes ever do, and the language feels authentic.

The ‘b’ plot – the reforming of the father/son relationship between Kevin and Tom – is well drawn, but not quite as compelling. I’ve read reviews referring to these scenes as ‘wooden.’ I wouldn’t go that far, but I’ll confess that I felt like there wasn’t quite enough depth in those parts of the novel. Maybe that’s natural masculine reserve, or maybe it’s just my own perception.

This issue in no way impacted my engagement with the novel as a whole.

In any case, if you like legal thrillers, if you like courtroom drama, if you (like me) spent many hours of your lifetime glued to episodes of Law & Order, but wanted to go deeper, you will (like me) thoroughly enjoy The Alligator Man.

TLC Book Tours

This review is part of a virtual book tour organized by TLC Book Tours. For the rest of the tour stops, follow this link.

Review: Weak at the Knees by Jo Kessel – Enter to Win a Gift Basket


About the book, Weak at the Knees:

Weak at the Knees

“We got so busy living life that we forgot to live our dreams.”

Danni Lewis has been playing it safe for twenty-six years, but her sheltered existence is making her feel old ahead of time. When a sudden death plunges her into a spiral of grief, she throws caution to the wind and runs away to France in search of a new beginning.

The moment ski instructor Olivier du Pape enters her shattered world she falls hard, in more ways than one.

Their mutual desire is as powerful and seductive as the mountains around them. His dark gypsy looks and piercing blue eyes are irresistible.

Only she must resist, because he has a wife – and she’d made a pact to never get involved with a married man.
But how do you choose between keeping your word and being true to your soul?

Weak at the Knees is Jo Kessel’s debut novel in the new adult, contemporary romance genre – a story of love and loss set between London and the heart of the French Alps.

Buy a copy from Amazon.

About the author, Jo Kessel:

Jo Kessel

Jo Kessel is a journalist in the UK, working for the BBC and reporting and presenting for ITV on holiday, consumer and current affairs programs. She writes for several national newspapers including the Daily Mail, the Telegraph, the Guardian, and the Express, and was the anonymous author of the Independent’s hit column: “Diary of a Primary School Mum.”

When Jo was ten years old she wrote a short story about losing a loved one. Her mother and big sister were so moved by the tale that it made them cry. Having reduced them to tears she vowed that the next time she wrote a story it would make them smile instead. Happily she succeeded and with this success grew an addiction for wanting to reach out and touch people with words.

P.S Jo’s pretty certain one of her daughters has inherited this gene.

Other books by Jo Kessel include Lover in Law.

Connect with Jo:

Facebook: Jo Kessel
Twitter: @jo_kessel
Goodreads: Jo Kessel

My Thoughts:

Jo Kessel’s novel Weak at the Knees is a breezy sexy romp with some deep self-examination mixed in. Written in first person (something many authors struggle to pull off, but Kessel handles amazingly well) this is Danni’s story, and she tells it in a such a fashion that I felt as though I was sitting on a couch, drinking wine, and chatting with an old friend.

Danni has been in an exclusive long-term relationship with Hugo (whom she’d maybe chuck in favor of Hugh Grant if given the opportunity, but whom she recognizes would be seen as Hugh Grant by a significant sector of the world’s population (namely American women) just because he’s British. Technically un-married, they live together, and have a very old-married-couple lifestyle.

Enter Olivier, the sexy French ski instructor. He’s hot. He’s willing. He’s French. But he’s also married, and so the rest of the novel is a balance of desire vs. responsibility, possibility vs. practicality, and all of the other life-choices that become so much more intense when they involve matters of the heart as well as matters of bedroom heat.

Kessel has drawn her character’s well. If Danni is like a best friend giving you a couch cushion confessional, then Hugo and Olivier as seen in her eyes are not merely the relationship equivalents of the angel and devil sitting on her shoulders, but real, dimensional men with thoughts and feelings of their own.

While this book isn’t really a comedy, it has many of the comic elements that come from life. Situations have both a funny and a tragic side, and Kessel shows us both.

Weak at the Knees is a fast read, incredibly enjoyable, and far more complex than the cover blurb implies. Read it. You won’t be sorry.

Goes well with hot tea, Milano cookies, and a comfy sofa.

This Book is Part of a Giveaway!

Pump Up Your Book and Jo Kessel are giving away a $100 Amazon Gift Card & a French Gift Basket that includes a whole lot of goodies associated with the book, including a bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, a famous wine from the Rhône wine region of southeastern France!

Terms & Conditions:

  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive one $100 Amazon Gift Card and one winner will be chosen to win the gift basket.
  • This giveaway begins October 7 and ends January 18.
  • Winners will be contacted via email on Monday, January 20, 2014.
  • Winner has 48 hours to reply.

Enter to Win:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Review: Buying In by Laura Hemphill

About the book, Buying In:

Buying In

Bright, ambitious Sophie Landgraf has landed a job as a Wall Street analyst. The small-town girl finally has her ticket to the American elite, but she doesn’t realize the toll it will take—on her boyfriend, on her family, and on her. It isn’t long before Sophie is floundering in this male-dominated world, and things are about to get worse.

With the financial crisis looming, Sophie becomes embroiled in a multi-billion-dollar merger that could make or break her career. The problem? Three men at the top of their game, each with very different reasons for advancing the merger. Now Sophie doesn’t know who to trust—or how far she’ll go to get ahead.

Set inside the high-stakes world of finance, Manhattan’s after-hours clubs, and factories in the Midwest and India, this is the high-powered, heartfelt story of a young woman finding her footing on Wall Street as it crumbles beneath her. Written by an industry veteran, Buying In tackles what it means to be a woman in a man’s world, and how to survive in big business without sacrificing who you are.

Buy a copy at Amazon

About the author, Laura Hemphill:

Laura Hemphill

After graduating from Yale in 2003, Laura Hemphill spent seven years on Wall Street, at Lehman Brothers, Credit Suisse, and hedge fund Dune Capital. She left finance to write Buying In. Her writing has appeared in Bloomberg Businessweek and on Laura lives with her husband and daughter in Manhattan, where she’s working on her second novel.

Connect with Laura:

Website: Buying In: the Book
Twitter: @HemphillLaura

My Thoughts:

Buying In rides the edge of being contemporary women’s fiction and falling into the recently coined category, “New Adult,” largely because the main Point of View character, Sophie is a recent college graduate on her first real job, struggling to swim in a high-stakes, high stress environment.

While I’ve never worked in the same part of the financial industry Sophie has, I spent more than half my life in the real estate finance industry as a loan officer, loan processor, and underwriter, for local brokers and for corporate bankers, so I’ve had a taste of what was happening in 2007-09 – the period this book covers – during the great financial collapse.

My own experience made me more likely to empathize with Sophie, but while I enjoyed the novel as a whole, there were times when I found Sophie a little unlikeable. I wanted to accost her in the bathroom and shake some sense into her, and suggest she grow a spine. I also found myself tempted to skip ahead to the other characters’ POV chapters, especially those of Vishu, her Delhi-born colleague, and Ethan, her boss, although once Sophie hit it off with client “Hutch,” and her trajectory began an upwards trend, I became more interested in her story. (Vishu’s story, specifically, is really touching.)

A lot of this novel gets bogged down by financial details that could cause the average reader’s eyes to glaze a bit, and some of the characters in the non-work areas of Sophie’s life feel a bit one-dimensional – SPOILER ALERT: she breaks up with her boyfriend, and because we barely know him, we don’t feel the impact we should – but overall, Buying In is readable, and I think the author has done really well with her first novel.

Unlike Sophie, I had almost twenty years of industry experience when I saw the credit crisis coming, and I was smart enough to bail out when I had the chance. Sophie’s choices may not always have been ones I agree with, but they did make for interesting conflict, both within herself and with others, and by the novel’s somewhat abrupt ending, I had the sense that she would, ultimately, figure out who she was, and get what she wanted.

Goes well with Chinese chicken salad eaten at one’s desk, and a bottle of water.

TLC Book Tours

This review is based on the NetGalley uncorrected proof of the novel, provided courtesy of TLC Book Tours. For the complete list of tour stops, click here.

Spotlight On & First Chapter Of: What Remains by Bart Baker

About the Book, What Remains:

What Remains

When Conner Carter is banished from New York for cheating on his socialite wife, he flies across country to Sonoma, California to stay with his brother Cody, Cody’s ridiculously wealthy husband, Rhett, and their two adopted Cambodian children. Since childhood, Conner has been jealous of the gilded life Cody has led, but Conner learns that what glitters often tarnishes and shatters in shocking and dangerous ways. Having always taken life’s easiest route, Conner now finds that path closed when he is forced to step up for his brother when Cody’s personal life crumbles after Rhett goes missing in Colombia on a documentary film shoot. Conner’s world unravels when the woman he’s fallen in love with, their black Puerto Rican nanny, Zinzi, finds her violent past catching up with her. From the tattered and surprising pieces of these characters’ intense and complicated lives, these people will discover the strength in What Remains.

Buy a copy from Amazon

About the Author, Bart Baker:

Bart Baker

With two feature films, eleven movies for television, four television series credits, as well as eight theatrical plays produced around the world, What Remains is Bart’s second novel. Bart’s first novel, Honeymoon with HarryHONEYMOON WITH HARRY, was a critical and commercial success and the movie rights were bought by Warner Bros./New Line Cinema for a feature film. He’s recently sold a film project in conjunction with the hit song by Miranda Lambert, OVER YOU, to the Lifetime Network. Bart lives in Ellisville, Missouri with his family.

Connect with Bart:

Goodreads: What Remains

Read the first chapter of What Remains, by Bart Baker:


“Do I know you?” I asked, casually flirting as I shook the hand of the outstanding brunette in the Versace cocktail dress. It’s a skill I’ve perfected for these opaque charity fundraisers I get bullied into attending.
“We slept together two years ago,” she stated with a razor’s edge etched into her voice. “You never called.”
Not the best statement to make when I’m standing with my wife of three years.
Now before you cast stones, it’s not like I was the only one cheating throughout our marriage. She had her dalliances with men far more successful than I, men she gravitated towards once we were married as if to show me what she hoped I’d become while simultaneously reminding me that I never would. I possessed no natural status of my own.
Any cachet I owned, I married into.

Continue reading the first chapter of What Remains!

Review: The Seacrest by Aaron Paul Lazar

About the book, The Seacrest:

The Seacrest

They say it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.

Finn McGraw disagrees.

He was just seventeen when he had a torrid summer affair with the girl who stole his heart—and then inexplicably turned on him. Finn may have moved on with his life, but he’s never forgotten her.

Now, ten years later, he’s got more than his lost love to worry about. A horrific accident turns his life upside down, resurrecting the ghosts of his long-dead family and taking the lives of the few people he has left.

Finn always believed his estranged brother was responsible for the fire that killed their family—but an unexpected inheritance with a mystery attached throws everything he knows into doubt.

And on top of that, the beguiling daughter of his wealthy employer has secrets of her own. But the closer he gets, the harder she pushes him away.

The Seacrest is a story of intrigue and betrayal, of secrets and second chances—and above all, of a love that never dies.

Buy a copy from Amazon or Smashwords.

My Thoughts:

When author Aaron Lazar contacted me with an invitation to read and review his latest novel, The Seacrest, I said yes, even though my to-be-reviewed stack is a bit overwhelming, and I’m glad I did, because I’m a fanatic for “beach books,” and this qualifies.

I should clarify that when I say “beach book,” I mean anything with a coastal flavor. Elin Hilderbrand’s work is my typical summer addiction, and as I was reading The Seacrest, I was mentally comparing Lazar to Hilderbrand, and thinking, “This book could easily be a male POV equivalent.” I stand by that, but I mean it in a good way, except that where some of Hilderbrand’s characters (mostly the men) seem to be pastel-clad cardboard cutouts, ALL of the characters in this novel are fully realized.

I particularly liked the way the book alternates scenes in the present with flashbacks of first love, and young love. I enjoyed the way the characters flaws and personal issues not only served the story, but also made them seem more real. Love is messy and crazy and earthy, and Lazar does a really good job of capturing that – the conflict, the indecision, the hopes and dreams – in a way that is never smarmy, and ultimately very satisfying.

Finn and Libby, the central characters of the story, are people I wouldn’t mind buying blueberries or art from, or meeting in the local diner. I love that Finn’s dog Ace is such a stalwart companion, as are Libby’s horses. I love the tease in the first several flashbacks, when you’re not quite certain who “Sassy,” – Finn’s first love – is.

The characters whom we meet ONLY in flashbacks (ome more recent than others), Finn’s wife Cora and brother Jax, are no less real, and no less dimensional. Their story is as compelling as the central tale, and provides both counterpoint and balance. (Also, as an amateur cellist myself, I had to grin at Cora’s choice of instrument.)

I haven’t read any of Aaron Lazar’s other work, but if all of his writing is as interesting and entertaining as The Seacrest he’s found a new fan in me.

Goes well with: Blueberry muffins and a steaming mug of French roast coffee with a dollop of half&half.

About the author, Aaron Paul Lazar

Aaron Lazar

Aaron Paul Lazar writes to soothe his soul. An award-winning, bestselling Kindle author of three addictive mystery series, writing books, and a new love story, Aaron enjoys the Genesee Valley countryside in upstate New York, where his characters embrace life, play with their dogs and grandkids, grow sumptuous gardens, and chase bad guys.

Connect with Aaron:

Website: Lazar Books
Facebook: A.P. Lazar
Twitter: @aplazar
Goodreads: Aaron Paul Lazar

Review: Ade’ by Rebecca Walker (giveaway copy available)

About the Book, Ade’, a Love Story:

Ade, a Love Story

In Adé, a free-spirited American woman and a Swahili Muslim man fall in love on the exquisite island of Lamu, off the coast of Kenya. There, they create their own paradise: living in a traditional small white house and creating their private language of intimacy. After an intense courtship, Adé asks for Farida’s hand in marriage.

But when Adé and Farida are forced to leave the island in preparation for their wedding, Farida is faced by the unsettling and often violent realities of life on the mainland. And just as the Persian Gulf War begins, Farida succumbs to a disease that almost kills her, and alters her relationship with Adé forever.

A transcendent love story turned tale of survival, Adé explores what happens when one couple’s private idyll is interrupted by a world in the throes of massive upheaval.

Buy a copy at Amazon.

My Thoughts:

Magical. Lyrical. Haunting. Those are the three words that came to mind from the first page of my copy of Rebecca Walker’s amazing novel Ade’, a Love Story, and by the time I was just a few more pages into the story, I was already swept into the tide of Farida’s life – from college student to world traveler to lover, to, finally, just WOMAN, she seemed as real to me as many of my own friends. I could see her in my minds eye, asking local people in various desert countries to help her broaden her vocabulary, until their words felt like her own, and I could feel her thirst for connection and passion.

Her friend Miriam also reminded me of people I knew – still know – and while I can’t say that I disliked her, there were times when she annoyed me a little. “Stop trying so hard,” I’d tell the version of her in my imagination. But then I’d remember my own feelings of being an outsider.

Ade’, the title character himself, was also very real to me, but I saw him in soft-focus, through Farida’s eyes. Maybe it helps that my mother dated an Iranian man when I was a toddler (my father was never in the picture) or that I grew up in a diverse group of people from many different cultures, but I could almost hear his accent, his speech patterns – almost smell this skin.

It’s no secret that I read in the bath a lot. Even though my copy of Ade’ was a digital copy, and an uncorrected proof version at that, courtesy of TLC Book Tours and NetGalley, I took my Kindle into the bath with me to read this novel, and didn’t come out til the water was ice cold and my fingers and toes totally pruney. Why? Because this book is THAT entrancing. The language, the settings, the characters – all so vivid and so real.

Rebecca Walker, I know from her bio, writes for Marie Claire so it’s possible that I’ve read some of her stuff without knowing it, as I’m a long-time subscriber to that magazine. At times her voice seemed incredibly familiar, and that only made me enjoy the book more.

Ade’ is a love story, and I am in love with Ade’ and with Ms. Walker’s writing. Brava!

Goes well with: falafel, sweet potato fries, and yellow lentil soup.

About the author, Rebecca Walker:

Rebecca Walker

Rebecca Walker is the author of the best-selling memoirs Black, White and Jewish and Baby Love, and editor of the anthology Black Cool. She is also the editor of the anthologies To Be Real, What Makes a Man, and One Big Happy Family. Her writing has appeared in Bookforum, Newsweek, Glamour, Marie Claire, The Washington Post, Vibe, and Interview, among many other publications, and she blogs regularly for The Root.

Connect with Rebecca Walker:

Website: Rebecca Walker
Twitter: @RebeccaWalker

The lovely people at TLC Book Tours have given me the opportunity to make a gift of this book. Leave a comment telling me about YOUR one true love, and you could get a copy of your own.

TLC Book Tours

Review: Fiesta of Smoke by Suzan Still

About the book, Fiesta of Smoke

Fiesta of Smoke

Against a backdrop of rebellion and intrigue, love between Javier Carteña, commander of insurgent Mexican forces, and Calypso Searcy, an American novelist at the pinnacle of her career, sizzles with passion across a broad sweep of history. Encompassing time from the Conquest of the 1500s to the present, the story races across space as well, from the forests of Chiapas to the city of Paris. There, an international investigative reporter named Hill picks up the swiftly vanishing trail of Calypso’s disappearance, and unwittingly becomes involved in one of the great dramas of the twentieth century and one of the great love stories of any age.

Buy a copy from Amazon.

My Thoughts:

It seems appropriate that I’m posting this review on November 1st – Dia de los Muertos is in full swing in La Paz, BCS, Mexico, where my parents live – and I’m still bearing traces of Halloween glitter as I write this morning. Not that Fiesta of Smoke is a Halloween story – it’s not. What it is is a genre-bending epic that takes us to Mexico in the present, recent past, and ancient past, Paris, and points between. It’s part adventure, part fiery romance, part historical, part political…but in this case the actual novel is much, much, more than the sum of those parts.

In fact all those different aspects provide the setting and history we need in order to truly understand the dynamic between the lead characters, Javier, Calypso, and Hill. The first two have a relationship that reminded my of my loud Italian relatives, screaming at each other one moment, making out in the next, all with an underlying connection that is largely invisible to outside observers. (Though, in my family, gunfire was generally not on the menu.)

Then there’s Hill, who falls for Calypso the first time he sees her – which may or may not be the first time WE meet her, as she’s doing perfect developpes on the Pont Neuf. (That scene really captured my attention. I haven’t been in shape enough to be a proper dancer in decades, but I remember what it’s like to want to combine a perfect setting with a perfect movement.)

The three leads move around each other in ways that often reminded me of a Celtic knot, coming together, falling away, their patterns and adventures a great dance through history, geography and passion. Politics, too are involved, and reading this novel while listening to my mother describe the various modern political parties (I think PAN is in power right now), was a bit of a trip.

If my description is vague, it’s because it’s so hard to take a 500+ page novel that is beautifully written – and let me interrupt myself here to mention that author Suzan Still’s depictions of food are as tantalizing as her use of language – this book reads like an opera, truly – and condense it into a few paragraphs.

Read Fiesta of Smoke. If you’re not doing NaNoWriMo, read it this month – it’s the perfect November novel – it’ll keep you warm on cold nights, and fuel your imagination on dark mornings. If you ARE doing NaNo, read it anyway. Writers have to read, right? Either way, you will be swept away, as I have.

I’m supposed to be spending Christmas with my parents in Baja Sur, but suddenly my itch to go south of the border is stronger than ever.

Goes well with: chicken mole, grilled chayote, and Indio beer.

About the Author, Suzan Still

Suzan Still

Text taken from the author’s website: Suzan Still holds a masters in art and writing and a doctorate in depth psychology. A retired university art professor, she also taught creative writing in a men’s prison, where she became increasingly concerned with issues of social disenfranchisement–as the reader of Commune of Women will discover. She continues to explore this theme in her novel-in-progress, Fiesta of Smoke, which focuses on the coming revolution in Mexico, where she has traveled for over thirty years. As a writer, she favors the novel form but also has published poetry and nonfiction and is an avid journal-keeper. Also, she has led dream groups for over twenty-five years. Her fascination with dreams will be evident to the reader of Commune of Women, while, as an artist, she is delighted to introduce her artwork to the world as the cover image for the novel. Her interests include painting and collage, sculpting in marble, photography, foreign travel, gardening, cooking, antiques and all things French. Suzan lives in the foothills of California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains on land that her family pioneered, with her husband and an assortment of rescued fur children, who take her for her daily walk in the woods.

Connect with Suzan:

Facebook: Suzan.Still

Special thanks to the folks at TLC Book Tours for giving me the opportunity to read Fiesta of Smoke. Here’s an opportunity for you: the first person to comment on this post can get a copy of Suzan Still’s previous novel Commune of Women.

I feel compelled to add: for the average American tourist, Mexico is very safe. Yes, there are “drug wars” but those are mostly around the US/Mexico border, and mostly involved drug cartel members killing each other. Most of Mexico has fewer fatalities in a whole year than major U.S. cities do in a month. Be smart, be aware, but don’t be afraid.

TLC Book Tours