Review: Camp Utopia and the Forgiveness Diet, by Jenny Ruden

About Camp Utopia & the Forgiveness Diet Camp Utopia & the Forgiveness Diet

Paperback: 300 pages
Publisher: Koehler Books (July 1, 2014)

Sixteen-year-old Baltimore teen Bethany Stern knows the only way out of spending her summer at Camp Utopia, a fat camp in Northern California, is weight-loss. Desperate, she tries The Forgiveness Diet, the latest fad whose infomercial promises that all she has to do is forgive her deadbeat dad, her scandalous sister, and the teenage magician next door and (unrequited) love of her life. But when the diet fails and her camp nemesis delivers the ultimate blow, Bee bids sayonara to Camp-not-Utopian-at-all to begin what she believes will be her “real” summer adventure, only to learn that running away isn’t as easy—or as healing—as it seems.

Her wry and honest voice bring humor and poignancy for anyone, fat or thin, tired of hearing “you’d be so pretty if…[insert unwelcome judgment about your appearance from loved one or perfect stranger].”

Buy, read, and discuss Camp Utopia & the Forgiveness Diet

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Goodreads

About the author, Jenny Ruden Jenny Ruden

Jenny Ruden has published short stories and essays in Nerve, Salon, Eclectica Magazine, Literary Mama and High Desert Journal. She won an Orlando award for creative nonfiction, was named a finalist in Glimmertrain’s short fiction contest, and has been nominated for the Pushcart prize two years in a row.

She has worked with teenagers for over ten years as a teacher of Reading, Writing and GED, and has an MFA in Fiction from the University of Oregon. She lives with her husband, two daughters, two basset hounds and cat in Albuquerque, New Mexico

Connect with Jenny

Website | Facebook | Twitter

My Thoughts

Camp Utopia & the Forgiveness Diet is everything I needed to read when I was fourteen, and sixteen, and twenty-one. It’s fresh, funny, and grounded in a heightened reality that never takes itself too seriously.

Protagonist Bethany is painfully real, depicted at the age when so many of us were battling the desire to conform to peer-defined norms with the equally strong urges to be true to ourselves. She faces the world with a combination of spunk and sadness, idealism and naivete that make her pop out from the pages and seem as if she’s recounting her story from across the kitchen table. So much did I feel for her, that I wanted to pull her into a hug, and assure her that things would eventually get better, even if she never lost an ounce.

While her sister (and her sister’s boyfriend) were also interesting characters, it is TJ, the boy-magician next door, who really captured my attention. How many of us have just such an unrequited love in our lives, even today. How many of us have done stupid things in an attempt to seem bolder, more interesting, more attractive?

Jenny Ruden has written a story that is part comedy, part drama, and wholly true, in the way that the best stories always are. Maybe you can’t lose weight by writing names on pieces of paper, but you can gain a stronger perspective of who you really are in the world by reading this novel.

Goes well with a plate of apples, strong cheddar cheese, and a handful of cashews, and a glass of peach 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.

Book Blast: The Typewriter Girl, by Alison Atlee is Now Available in Audio!

The Typewriter Girl_Blog Tour & Blast Banner_FINAL v2

Author Alison Atlee’s The Typewriter Girl is now an audio­book, nar­rated by Audie win­ner Ros­alyn Lan­dor, and in celebration she’ll be touring the blogosphere from August 4-29 with HF Virtual Book Tours!

The Typewriter Girl

Audible Audio Book Edition Release Date: April 4, 2014
Listening Length: 12 hours and 39 minutes
Publisher: Audible Studios
Language: English

Genre: Historical Fiction

Add the Typewriter Girl to Goodreads



A Pub­lish­ers Weekly Best Books of the Year pick: The Type­writer Girl is a “spec­tac­u­lar debut, set in a per­fectly real­ized Vic­to­rian England.”

When Bet­sey Dob­son dis­em­barks from the Lon­don train in the sea­side resort of Idensea, all she owns is a small valise and a canary in a cage. After an attempt to forge a let­ter of ref­er­ence she knew would be denied her, Bet­sey has been fired from the typ­ing pool of her pre­vi­ous employer. Her vig­or­ous protest left one man wounded, another jilted, and her char­ac­ter per­ma­nently besmirched.

Now, with­out money or a ref­er­ence for a new job, the future looks even bleaker than the deba­cle she left behind her.

But her life is about to change … because a young Welsh­man on the rail­road quay, wait­ing for another woman, is the one finally will­ing to believe in her.

Mr. Jones is inept in mat­ters of love, but a genius at things mechan­i­cal. In Idensea, he has con­structed a glit­ter­ing pier that astounds the wealthy tourists. And in Bet­sey, he rec­og­nizes the ideal tour man­ager for the Idensea Pier & Plea­sure Build­ing Company.

After a life­time of guard­ing her secrets and break­ing the rules, Bet­sey becomes a force to be reck­oned with. Together, she and Mr. Jones must find a way for her to suc­ceed in a soci­ety that would reject her, and fig­ure the price of sur­ren­der­ing to the tides of love.

Praise for The Typewriter Girl

“Atlee’s out¬standing debut unflinchingly explores … the unforgiving man’s world of Victorian England.” –PUBLISHERS WEEKLY (starred review)

“Easily one of the most romantic books I’ll read all year … John and Betsey are compelling and worth rooting for.” –DEAR AUTHOR (a Recommended Read)

“Sweeps readers to a satisfying conclusion.” –LIBRARY JOURNAL

Buy the AudioBook

Amazon UK
Amazon US

About the AuthorAlison Atlee

Alison Atlee spent her childhood re-enacting Little Women and trying to fashion nineteenth century wardrobes for her Barbie dolls. Happily, these activities turned out to be good preparation for writing historical novels. She now lives in Kentucky.

For more information please visit Alison Atlee’s website. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Goodreads and Pinterest.

The Typewriter Girl Blog Tour & Book Blast Schedule

Monday, August 4
Review at Peeking Between the Pages (Audio Book)
Book Blast at Mina’s Bookshelf
Book Blast at Princess of Eboli
Book Blast at Literary Chanteuse
Book Blast at What Is That Book About

Tuesday, August 5
Review at A Bibliotaph’s Reviews (Print)
Book Blast at So Many Books, So Little Time

Wednesday, August 6
Book Blast at Let Them Read Books

Thursday, August 7
Book Blast at Mari Reads
Book Blast at Book Lovers Paradise

Friday, August 8
Book Blast at Book Blast Central

Saturday, August 9
Book Blast at Caroline Wilson Writes

Sunday, August 10
Book Blast at Book Nerd

Monday, August 11
Review at Just One More Chapter (Audio Book)
Book Blast at Gobs and Gobs of Books

Tuesday, August 12
Book Blast at Queen of All She Reads

Wednesday, August 13
Review at Historical Tapestry (Audio Book)
Book Blast at The Lit Bitch
Book Blast at CelticLady’s Reviews

Thursday, August 14
Review at A Bookish Affair (Print)
Guest Post at Historical Tapestry

Friday, August 15
Review at Brooke Blogs (Audio Book)
Guest Post at A Bookish Affair

Saturday, August 16
Book Blast at Broken Teepee

Sunday, August 17
Interview at Closed the Cover

Monday, August 18
Review at The Maiden’s Court (Audio Book)

Tuesday, August 19
Book Blast at Layered Pages
Book Blast at Always with a Book

Wednesday, August 20
Book Blast at Literary, Etc.

Thursday, August 21
Review at Books in the Burbs (Print)
Book Blast at Bibliotica

Friday, August 22
Review at Bibliophilia, Please (Audio Book)

Saturday, August 23
Book Blast at Reading Lark
Book Blast at Ageless Pages Reviews

Sunday, August 24
Book Blast at Passages to the Past

Monday, August 25
Review at Flashlight Commentary (Audio Book)
Book Blast at Historical Fiction Connection

Tuesday, August 26
Interview at Flashlight Commentary

Wednesday, August 27
Book Blast at Susan Heim on Writing

Thursday, August 28
Review at Luxury Reading (Print)
Review at The True Book Addict (Audio Book)
Review at Jorie Loves a Story (Print)

Friday, August 29
Interview at Jorie Loves a Story

The Typewriter Girl Swag Giveaway

One copy of The Typewriter Girl (Audio Book or Print)
Set of earbuds in a cute typewriter print pouch
A Typewriter Girl Happily-Ever-After t-shirt (features last lines from famous novels)
A vintage style postcard “from” Idensea, the setting of The Typewriter Girl
A “dream wildly” ribbon bookmark with typewriter key charms

To enter, please complete the Rafflecopter giveaway form below. Giveaway is open to residents in the US, Canada, and the UK.

Giveaway ends at 11:59pm on August 29th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
Winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter on August 30th and notified via email.
Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Typewriter Girl_Blog Tour & Blast Banner_FINAL v2

Review: A Better Place, by Barbara Hall

About the book A Better Place A Better Place

Print Length: 270 pages
Publisher: Open Road Media (July 1, 2014)

A Southern novel in the tradition of Anne Tyler and Anne Rivers Siddons, A Better Place marks the adult fiction debut of one of television’s most successful and creative writers

In an attempt to discover why her life hasn’t worked out the way she had hoped it would, Valerie Caldwell returns to the Southern town she left twelve years earlier to visit her old haunts and two friends from her school days, Tess and Mary Grace—much to their alarm and chagrin.

Buy, read, and discuss A Better Place
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

About the author, Barbara Hall Barbara Hall

To TV audiences she may be better known as a four-time Emmy-nominated writer and producer (Joan of Arcadia, Judging Amy) and the co-Executive Producer of Homeland, but to avid readers she’s a novelist with 11 published works whose imagination has been honored by numerous institutions, including the American Library Association in both their Best Books and Notable Books categories.

An accomplished author, Hall wrote three young adult novels including: Skeeball and the Secret of the Universe, Dixie Storms and Fool’s Hill, as well as the mystery House Across the Cove. Her other novels include A Better Place, Close to Home and A Summons to New Orleans.

Connect with Barbara


My Thoughts

From time to time, I get invitations from NetGalley to review books, and from time to time I take them up on the offer. After all, free books are never bad.

Anyway, I finished reading this book today, while fighting a migraine, completely convinced it was something I committed to for one of the blog tour sponsors I work with, only to realize it actually wasn’t, which is good, since I’m writing this review at ten pm.

I loved the book! It’s author Barbara Hall’s first foray out of YA and into contemporary adult literature (according to what I read in Publisher’s Weekly, and it’s the perfect novel for a lazy summer’s day. The characters are the kinds of southern women you expect to find in a small town, and their dialogue never felt at all unreal.

Likewise the theme of the novel – the romanticizing of home and youth – is a universal one, and one that I, at an age significantly older than the characters in this novel, am still prone to engage in.

But there’s another theme, one the main character Valerie brings up about a third of the way into the book: Everyone wants their life to have a story.

It was that thought that really made the rest of the novel sing for me, because I think it’s completely true.

Comparisons to Anne Rivers Siddons are actually pretty spot on, in tone if not in detail, and I look forward to more of Halls work in this genre, though I’ve never been opposed to reading YA even though the Y part still applies to me.

Goes well with Sweet tea and chicken salad.

Review: Further Out Than You Thought, by Michaela Carter

About the book, Further Out Than You Thought Further Out Than You Thought

• Paperback: 320 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (August 5, 2014)

From award-winning poet Michaela Carter comes a taut and erotically charged literary debut, set against the chaos of the 1992 L.A. riots, about three twentysomethings searching for meaning in their lives

In the Neverland that is Los Angeles, where make-believe seems possible, three dreamers find themselves on the verge of transformation. Twenty-five-year-old poet Gwendolyn Griffin works as a stripper to put herself through graduate school. Her perpetually stoned boyfriend, Leo, dresses in period costume to hawk his music downtown and seems to be losing his already tenuous grip on reality. And their flamboyant best friend and neighbor, nightclub crooner Count Valiant, is slowly withering away.

When the city explodes in violence after the Rodney King verdict, the chaos becomes a catalyst for change. Valiant is invigorated; Leo plans a new stunt—walking into East L.A. naked, holding a white flag; and Gwen, discovering she is pregnant, is pulled between the girl she’s been and the woman she could become. But before Gwen can embrace motherhood, she’s forced to face the questions she’s been avoiding: Can Leo be a father? Can she leave the club life behind, or will the city’s spell prove too seductive?

Weaving poetry and sensuality with an edgy urban sensibility, Further Out Than You Thought is a celebration of life, an ode to motherhood, and a haunting story of love, friendship, and one woman’s quest for redemption.

Buy, read, and discuss Further Out Than You Thought

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | GoodReads

About the author, Michaela Carter Michaela Carter

Michaela Carter is award-winning poet and writer. She was born in Phoenix, Arizona, studied Theater at UCLA and holds an MFA in Creative Writing. Her poetry has been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes, won the Poetry Society of America Los Angeles New Poets Contest, and appeared in numerous journals.

Recently she co-founded the Peregrine Book Company, an independent bookstore in Prescott, Arizona, where she works as a book buyer and storyteller. She lives in Prescott with her partner and two inscrutable children, and teaches creative writing at Yavapai College. This is her first novel.

Connect with Michaela

Website | Facebook

My Thoughts

Reading this book was like living the life I didn’t actually have when I was in my twenties. Like Gwen, I was in California during the Rodney King riots; unlike her I was in the relative sanity of northern California, which was largely untouched by those events. Like Gwen, I was dating someone who would probably have been better as a short-term relationship, than not. Unlike Gwen, by the time I was twenty-five, I’d met my now-husband, and had stable employment that didn’t involve nudity.

The fact that some of Gwen’s story resonated with me, even though we’re vastly different people, tells you how much I enjoyed reading Further Out Than You Thought (A LOT) and should also give you a clue as to what I thought of the author’s work, but to be explicit: I think Michaela Carter is an important voice in contemporary fiction. She has a knack for creating vivid characters that are real enough to feel like people you might actually encounter, while still existing in the somewhat heightened reality that fictional characters tend to inhabit.

Similarly, she creates situations that resonate with her readers. Who hasn’t been torn between the comfort of a known relationship – even one that isn’t healthy – and the knowledge that breaking out of that comfort is the best thing you can do for yourself? Who hasn’t made a few low-percentage choices with jobs, school, and family from time to time?

This book isn’t a comedy, but like all really good stories, it’s replete with the sorts of organic comic moments that come from a life well-lived, just as it’s also got a full measure of pathos, but never lets you feel like you’re drowning in sadness or grimness.

While I, personally, would have dumped Leo in chapter one, I can see why Gwen remains attached to him, and I think all women have had a Leo in their life: the sensitive romantic who is completely ill-equipped to exist in the real world.

This novel is just gritty enough, just based in reality enough, just funny enough, just dramatic enough, to give us an accurate portrayal of the secondary coming of age that happens to most of us in our twenties. Better yet, it leaves us – or at least it left me – satisfied with how the story ended, and eagerly awaiting whatever author Carter publishes next.

Goes well with an iced cafe latte and two slices of pepperoni pizza, served on a paper plate, and eaten on a foggy beach.

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.

Review: Sweet Water, by Christina Baker Kline

About the book Sweet Water Sweet Water

Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (July 1, 2014)

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.

Buy, read, and discuss Sweet Water

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Goodreads

About the author, Christina Baker Kline Christina Baker Kline

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.

Connect with Christina

Website | Facebook | Twitter

My Thoughts:

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.

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.

Review: Inamorata, by Megan Chance

About the book, Inamorata Inamorata

Paperback: 420 pages
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (July 8, 2014)

American artist Joseph Hannigan and his alluring sister, Sophie, have arrived in enchanting nineteenth-century Venice with a single-minded goal. The twins, who have fled scandal in New York, are determined to break into Venice’s expatriate set and find a wealthy patron to support Joseph’s work.

But the enigmatic Hannigans are not the only ones with a secret agenda. Joseph’s talent soon attracts the attention of the magnificent Odilé Leon, a celebrated courtesan and muse who has inspired many artists to greatness. But her inspiration comes with a devastatingly steep price.

As Joseph falls under the courtesan’s spell, Sophie joins forces with Nicholas Dane, the one man who knows Odilé’s dark secret, and her sworn enemy. When the seductive muse offers Joseph the path to eternal fame, the twins must decide who to believe—and just how much they are willing to sacrifice for fame.

Buy, read, and discuss Inamorata

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

About the author, Megan Chance Megan Chance

Megan Chance is a critically acclaimed, award-winning author of historical fiction. Her novels have been chosen for the Borders Original Voices and IndieBound’s Booksense programs. A former television news photographer and graduate of Western Washington University, Chance lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two daughters.

Connect with Megan

Website | Facebook | Twitter

My Thoughts:

Inamorata is exactly the kind of novel I generally really love, historical, but in a period not too far from our own, lots of art and music, romance and intrigue, but for some reason I had a difficult time getting into it, re-reading the prologue several times.

Finally, things began to click and I fell into the story I’d been anticipating. Love, scandal, personal and political machinations abound, and the twins, Joseph and Sophie, are catalysts for all of it, while Odile and Nicholas give us the most compelling characters, at least in my opinion. All the characters circle around each other, though, and just as in real life, none of them are truly heroes or truly villains, though Nicholas is the primary antagonist.

I liked that author Megan Chance didn’t give us entire backstories for these people, instead letting us come to know them slowly, both in their novel-present self-assertions, and in the flashbacks that revealed their histories, slowly, the way you learn about actual people…one glimpse at a time.

I also really liked the author’s choice of Venice as a setting, rather than, Paris, London, or Rome. Venice is such a magical place all on its own, and adding these characters – especially Odile – to that city was completely inspired.

And that’s what Inamorata is really about – inspiration, where we find it, what we do with it, and who we use in the process.

Goes well with Buttery rosemary roast chicken, and a glass of chardonnay.

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.

Review: East India by Colin Falconer

About the book, East India East India

Publisher: Cool Gus Publishing (July 8, 2014)
Formats: eBook, Paperback

In any other circumstance but shipwreck, rape and murder, a man like Michiel van Texel would never have met a fine lady such as Cornelia Noorstrandt.

He was just a soldier, a sergeant in the Dutch East India company’s army, on his way from Amsterdam to the Indies to fight the Mataram. Such a woman was far above the likes of him.

But both their destinies intertwine far away from Holland, on some god-forsaken islands near the Great Southland. When their great ship, the Utrecht, founders far from home, surviving the Houtman Rocks is the least of their worries.

As they battle to survive and the bravest and the best reveal themselves for what they are, Cornelia’s only hope is a mercenary in a torn coat who shows her that a man is more than just manners and money.

He makes her one promise: ‘Even if God forsakes you, I will find you.’

But can he keep it?

Described by one critic as ‘Jack and Rose in the seventeenth century’, East India will keep you wondering until the final page.

Watch the Book Trailer

Buy, Read & Discuss East India

Amazon | Barnes & Noble (Nook) | Google Play | iTunes | Kobo | Goodreads

About the author, Colin Falconer Colin Falconer

Born in London, Colin first trialed as a professional football player in England, and was eventually brought to Australia. He went to Sydney and worked in TV and radio and freelanced for many of Australia’s leading newspapers and magazines. He has published over twenty novels and his work has so far been translated into 23 languages.

He travels regularly to research his novels and his quest for authenticity has led him to run with the bulls in Pamplona, pursue tornadoes across Oklahoma and black witches across Mexico, go cage shark diving in South Africa and get tear gassed in a riot in La Paz.

He currently lives in Barcelona.

Connect with Colin

Website | Facebook | Twitter

My Thoughts

Both author Colin Falconer and the wreck of the real ship the Utrecht were new to me when I first began reading East India, which was provided for me to read and review, but as someone who is fascinated by ships and the sea, and who spent her first year hearing a foghorn signal her waking and sleeping hours, I was destined to find this novel captivating.

I really enjoyed the way the first chapter was set in the present day, but then we jump immediately to 1628, to see Cornelia Noorstrandt embarking on a nine-month journey to join her husband, an agent of the Dutch East India tea company. Her point of view is a blend of pragmatism and and hope; and her interactions with Michiel van Texel are always complex and compelling, the feelings between them both sweet and agonizingly sad.

But this isn’t a romance, it’s a story of survival. The ship sinks. The survivors shelter on an island, and do their best to survive, as relationships, status, and situations constantly shift.

Another author would take this tragic tale to extremes. Colin Falconer, however, tells his story with the perfect balance of vivid descriptions and nuanced details. Not only can you see the wood of the ship, the blue of the ocean, the less-than-fresh clothing, you can also taste the tang of salt on your lips, and feel the water soaking your skin.

As I’m sure many readers are doing, I’ve googled the shipwreck for more information, and am adding Colin Falconer’s work to my must-read list.

Goes well with Hot tea and a toasted English muffin with cheddar cheese melted on it.

East India Blog Tour Schedule

East India Blog Tour

Monday, July 28
Review at History & Women

Tuesday, July 29
Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views

Wednesday, July 30
Review at Just One More Chapter

Tuesday, August 5
Review at Book Nerd

Thursday, August 7
Review at Bibliotica

Monday, August 11
Review at A Library of My Own

Friday, August 15
Review at Jorie Loves a Story

Monday, August 18
Review at The Book Binder’s Daughter

Thursday, August 21
Review at Beth’s Book Reviews

Monday, August 25
Review at Casual Readers

Saturday, August 30
Review at Book by Book

Wednesday, September 3
Review at Unshelfish

Tuesday, September 9
Review at The True Book Addict

Wednesday, September 10
Review at A Bookish Affair

Friday, September 19
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Review: The Yankee Club, by Michael Murphy

About the book, The Yankee Club The Yankee Club

Publisher: Alibi (August 12, 2014)
Pages: 280

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.

Buy, read, and discuss The Yankee Club

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

About the author, Michael Murphy

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.

My Thoughts

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.

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.

Guest Post: Paul DeBlassie III, author of The Unholy

About the book The Unholy The Unholy

Title: The Unholy
Publisher: Sunstone Press (200 pages)

A young curandera, a medicine woman, intent on uncovering the secrets of her past is forced into a life-and-death battle against an evil Archbishop. Set in the mystic land of Aztlan, The Unholy is a novel of destiny as healer and slayer. Native lore of dreams and visions, shape changing, and natural magic work to spin a neo-gothic web in which sadness and mystery lure the unsuspecting into a twilight realm of discovery and decision.

Buy, read, and discuss The Unholy

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Guest post from Paul DeBlassie III: Using Reality to Write Great Horror Novels

I’ve always believed that you should write what you know when it comes to writing books. Some authors might be able to get away with using their imagination and implementing research (good for them!), but in my own experience it really helps to log into my past experiences and expand on the ideas in order to come up with a terrific storyline.

Paul DeBlassie III did just that. The Unholy comes out of over thirty years of treating patients in his psychotherapy practice who are survivors of the dark side of religion. Can you imagine all the storylines he could come up with? These patients have all been used and abused and cast to the side.

Paul says, “I’ve seen that when this happens to people, those around the victim, to include family and friends, often turn a blind eye and deny what has happened. Rather than writing a self help book, I decided to approach this realm of human suffering in fiction. To tell a story moves the reader into a deep and unconscious dimension that bypasses conscious defenses, leaving us open to truths that otherwise would be blocked. So, dramatizing the dark side of religion, pulling what can be the most vile and evil, and pivoting it against an innocent and sincerely searching soul leaves the reader on edge, hopeful, but unsure as to what will happen and who in the end will survive.”

“To have written out a list of what to do or not to do in the midst of religious abuse might have helped some individual,” he continues, “but would have left many people stone cold because there is no emotion in such guidance.”

Paul tells us that The Unholy is a story of pure emotion, fear and rage and hope and challenge, that inspires and frightens and causes us to stay up late at night in order to finish the story. “Dream and chronic nightmares plagues people who’ve gone through the horror of being abused within a religious system. It could be emotional, spiritual, physical, or sexual torment—or all of the above—a true encounter with the unholy—that people undergo during childhood or adolescence or adulthood.”

About the author, Paul DeBlassie III Paul DeBlassie III

PAUL DeBLASSIE III, PhD, is a psychologist and writer living in his native New Mexico. A member of the Depth Psychology Alliance, the Transpersonal Psychology Association, and the International Association for Relational Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy, he has for over thirty years treated survivors of the dark side of religion.

His latest book is the psychological/paranormal thriller, The Unholy.

Connect with Paul

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

Review: 2 A.M. at The Cat’s Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino

About the book, 2 A.M. at The Cat’s Pajamas 2 AM at The Cat's Pajamas

Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: Crown (August 5, 2014)

2 A.M. AT THE CAT’S PAJAMAS begins on a quiet morning in a Philadelphia apartment the day before Christmas Eve, where we meet the precocious and smart-mouthed nine-year-old Madeleine Altimari. Madeleine’s mother has recently died, and her father is still lost in his grief. Meanwhile, Madeleine finds solace in music and aspires to become a jazz singer. Just two days shy of her tenth birthday, she is about to have the most remarkable day of her life.

After facing down mean-spirited classmates and rejection at school, Madeleine decides today is the day to find Philadelphia’s legendary jazz club, The Cat’s Pajamas, and make her debut. On the same day, Madeleine’s fifth grade teacher Sarina Greene, who has moved back to Philly after a divorce, is nervously looking forward to a dinner party that will reunite her with her high school love. And across town at The Cat’s Pajamas, club owner Jack Lorca discovers that his beloved venue may close be closed due to financial woes by the end of the night. As we follow these three lost souls over the course of twenty-four hours, we also meet a cast of unique and brilliant characters who surround them – from the warm-hearted cafe owner Mrs. Santiago to Melissa, the former “snake lady” exotic dancer who might be Lorca’s last hope for love. With sharp wit and irrepressible spirit, Marie-Helene Bertino turns Philadelphia into a magical place where anything can happen.

Buy, read, and discuss 2 A.M. at The Cat’s Pajamas
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | Goodreads

About the author, Marie-Helene Bertino Marie-Helene Bertino

Marie-Helene Bertino is the author of the story collection Safe as Houses, which won the 2012 Iowa Short Fiction Prize and The Pushcart Prize, and was long-listed for The Story Prize and The Frank O’Connor International Short Story Prize.

An Emerging Writer Fellow at New York’s Center for Fiction, she has spent six years as an editor and writing instructor at One Story.

Connect with Marie-Helene

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My Thoughts

There’s an entire episode of the TV series How I Met Your Mother devoted to the concept that “nothing good happens after two am.” This novel, however, turns that concept on its ear.

Marie-Helene Bertino has created a collection of characters who could populate almost any large city. All of them are a little bit eccentric, incredibly interesting, and compelling to read about. Any one of them could have been the central character in this novel, but the author chose to make nine-year-old Madeleine the focal point, and in doing so, she’s given us the best child character ever.

She’s also proven that you can write a book about a child without it being children’s literature (not that there’s anything wrong with that), which is something a lot of contemporary authors seem to have forgotten.

In any case, nine-year-old Madeleine reminded me of, well, me at that age. Okay, I wasn’t into smoking, and I didn’t curse (much) but the very structured singing practices in my room? Check. The not having a ton of friends? Check. (I have a few very close friends, but I was never one for big crowds.) The never quite fitting in, and mostly not really caring, except maybe a little? Check and check again.

It is these very real factors that made Madeleine sing on the page even when she wasn’t actually, you know, singing.

I also liked the way the novel is set in today’s world, but had a very noir feel to it. No, it’s not a hardboiled detective novel, but it feels like it could slide into such a story for color, and be right at home.

The adult characters are just as well-defined, and well-realized. I was often annoyed with Sarina (Madeleine’s teacher) for not standing up to the principal and being more of an advocate for Madeleine, just as I wanted to slug Madeleine’s father, a lot, and then hug him after. Even the glimpses into the mind of Pedro the dog (no, really) were fascinating to me, because everything just…worked.

At times poignant and sweet, at times pathetic and sad, and at times raucously comic, this novel defies categorization, but should not be overlooked. It’s fantastic, and fresh, and if you don’t read it, you’ll be missing a treat.

(Also, you can feel smug about how you’re ahead of the cultural zeitgeist because 2 A.M. at The Cat’s Pajamas was featured on NPR’s Weekend Edition on Saturday.)

Goes well with espresso and a plate of cannoli…or a caramel apple.

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.