Tuesday, September 30, 2014

BOOK TOUR: Montreal by Debra Schoenberger


Category: Adult non-fiction, 64 pages
Genre: art / photography
Publisher: Blurb
Published: August 24, 2014
Content Rating: G

Montreal as seen through the eyes of a street photographer. These unusual images show Montreal and Montrealers from an entirely different perspective.



On my blog here, since the beginning of 2014, I have done quite a number of book reviews and tours.  But I'd never participated in a tour for a book of someone's photography.  And I wanted to make sure I had a handle on what exactly "street photography".  As it turns out, my inkling was essentially correct.

According to the site "Street Photographers", photographers in this genre "capture un-posed moments, interpreting life around them and challenging our perceptions of the world".  I like that it includes 'regular people'.  If you look at newspapers and popular magazines, the majority of photos are of celebrities, politicians and the like.  But as most of the living and dying that goes on in the world is done by us 'regular people', it's nice to see someone celebrating that ... in this case, through photography.

There are also several amazing pictures of scenery and architecture in Montreal.  I've been farther east and farther west than that in Canada, but have yet to visit that fine city.

I wish I could plaster a bunch of Ms. Shoenberger's photographs on the blog so you could see how wonderful real, regular life is.  But I cannot cross that line of showing her work without her permission.  It is not right, and it could seriously mess up my real, regular life.

My recommendation would be to get this book in either the hard or softcover editions.  Unless you have a larger monitor than I have on my little laptop.  That, and it'll look fabulous on your coffee or end table.  I'd like to get a copy for my daughter (who is 11 years old), who comes out to the patio every evening and wants to use my tablet to take a picture of the sunset.



"My dad always carried a camera under the seat of his car and was constantly taking pictures. I think that his example, together with pouring over National Geographic magazines as a child fuelled my curiosity for the world around me.

Although I worked in the field of photography for over 20 years, it wasn't until very recently in 2010 that I bought myself a secondhand professional camera and started experimenting with street photography. I shot over 50,000 images that first year and gradually began to improve.

Photographers I admire are Vivian Maier, Robert Frank, Steve McCurry and Edward Steichen to name but a few amongst the many incredibly talented people over the last century.

Street photography is my true passion. Having a slightly off-kilter sense of humour helps keep me looking for the unusual."

Street photographer, Debra Schoenberger aka "girl with camera" captures the more unusual side of Montreal in her foot travels around the city. The images portrayed in the book are from 2010 to 2014

View more photos from her world travels on her profile page at Your Shot National Geographic.


(Click above to see the rest of the tour schedule!)

(Disclosure:  I received an e-copy of Montreal from the author and publisher via iRead Book Tours, in exchange for my unbiased opinion.)

Monday, September 29, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: A Penny for the Hangman by Tom Savage


In Tom Savage’s chilling novel of suspense, an ambitious reporter is beckoned to an island paradise for the story of a lifetime. But this scoop might just be the death of her.

Fifty years ago, on the Caribbean island of St. Thomas, two teenagers born to privilege were convicted of slaughtering their parents in cold blood. Today the men are free and a Hollywood movie has been made about the murders. For Karen Tyler, an eager New York journalist, the case is irresistible. She has been invited to the Virgin Islands for an interview that’s too good to pass up . . . and sounds too good to be true.

Karen packs her bikini and her digital recorder and follows an ingeniously designed trail that leads her to a wealthy, mysterious figure. The man claims to be one of the notorious boys, but Karen soon learns that all is not as it seems. On this isolated utopia of sun and surf, a young reporter far from home fights for the truth—and for her life. Because the shocking secret behind the infamous atrocities has remained hidden all these years. And the killing isn’t over yet.



Our day (ok, maybe my day) had the Menendez brothers.  Karen Tyler, journalist had Rodney Harper and Wulf Anderman, two boys (15 and 14) who were extremely intelligent and banded together at school as a shield against the relentless teasing and bullying of their classmates.

Wulf kind of goes along with whatever Rodney says and does.  More's the pity because Rodney is a sociopath.  A Penny for the Hangman opens with an excerpt from Rodney's diary:

"This is a day unlike any other day, ever, in the history of the world.  It is my birthday, and it is my new beginning. I, Rodney Lawson Harper, am 15 years old today, and I have a plan. ... On this day, this BIRTH day, I promise DEATH, the most famous event in the history of the Virgin Islands.  Oh, what a triumph it will be!  A glistening, wet, red triumph!"
Did I mention Rodney thinks he's probably the smartest person on the face of the earth?  And that he believes Wulf will do whatever Rodney wants because his friend loves him?  Could no one see this coming?

Less than one year later, on Friday, March 13, 1959, Rodney's plan was put into action.  He and Wulf conspired to kill both sets of their parents.  When the dust settled, the housekeeper was dead as well.  Wulf did not exactly follow the plan, which resulted in both boys being apprehended by the police, tried for murder and sent to separate prisons in the US.

IMO, Rodney is just plain evil.  Make that E-V-I-L.  Mr. Savage does an excellent job of leaving us a breadcrumb trail to follow as we wind ourselves deeper into the madness of Rodney's new plan, and Karen's adventure/nightmare.  Karen believes the man who sent her the ticket to the Virgin Islands to get the 'real, untold story' about the case is, in fact, one of the boys, now grown up.  She just doesn't know which one.

Even with such mystery, I cannot see traveling overseas on my own, to meet someone the world considers to be a convicted murderer.  Then there is the fact that she has to go visit him on a private island only accessible by boat.  I'd be leaving breadcrumbs of my own, notes with people of where I was going, etc. etc., in order to have some sort of trail.  It's a little stretch to believe a savvy New Yorker would go along with that, but the lure of that particular story, especially in light of the in-book movie being filmed of the crime, would have been difficult to pass by.

Karen's best friend's 'questionable' boyfriend has followed Karen down to the Islands, thinking to trump her story for himself, to get the glory and the byline.  Stupid.

As Karen is drawn into a killer's web, so Mr. Savage draws us into A Penny for the Hangman.  Pretty soon, none of us can leave, even if we wanted to.  Karen learns something about her past, that is at once disturbing and wonderful.  Am I going to tell you?  In a word, "No."

Why?  Because that's like telling someone every little thing that goes on in the Haunted House.  There's no surprise.  There's no thrill.  And that would be a crime.  If you like thrillers, and can stand a healthy (?) dose of creepy, you have got to read A Penny for the Hangman.



Tom Savage is the author of six previous novels and numerous short stories. His books have been published in fifteen countries, and his bestselling novel Valentine was made into a Warner Bros. film. Raised in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, he now lives in New York City, where he worked for many years at Murder Ink®, the world’s first mystery bookstore.


(Disclosure:  I received an e-copy of this book from the author and publisher via TLC Book Tours in Exchange for my unbiased review.)

Click the logo just above to follow the rest of the tour, including guest posts and author interviews.

BOOK REVIEW: The Sweetest Thing You Can Sing by C.K. Kelly Martin


Losing weight over the summer gains Serena some popularity, but it also means discovering first-hand the pains of being a fifteen-year-old girl in a world that both sexualizes and shames young women. After narrowly avoiding exploitation in a shortlived relationship, Serena aligns with a new friend who was the victim of an explicit image that was shared at school. When Serena finds herself in a relationship with a new guy, she is surprised to find a different set of expectations. But have her previous experiences damaged her too much to make it work? As Serena struggles to find who she is as opposed to who she is expected to be, she begins sighting Devin – her older brother who disappeared months earlier.

#FRC2014 - Rebels by Jill Williamson



The Safe Lands have long kept the true meaning of Liberation secret from their people. But after being sentenced to Liberation themselves, Mason and Omar soon discover the truth. 
Levi watched his brothers’ public sentencing and tries to hold out hope they are still alive, He is forced to focus his attention elsewhere, however, when his new wife, Jemma, is captured and made the Safe Lands’ newest Queen. His only choice to save Jemma may be to take up Omar’s old role of undercover vigilante, leading the rebels in their quest to overthrow the government. But will Levi’s new role be enough?

Meanwhile, Jemma’s sister, Shaylinn, is ready to give birth to the “Safe Lands’” children … but not even Ciddah is sure they can be delivered safely in the midst of a rebellion. And Mason must face the fact Omar’s illness could be fatal.

If they can all unite their efforts, together they may be able to expose the Safe Lands’ lies to the people. But if they fail, they will all surely die.



Unlike many of Williamson's readers, Rebels introduced me to a new author. Rebels is the final installment in The Safe Lands trilogy. As a new reader to the series, the 'Safe Lands' did not seem very safe to me at all. But I'm sure most of the people who did not live in the Highlands would agree with me. There was kind of a Logan's Run feel, but here the older citizens of the society are 'liberated' and very few people know what occurs during or after liberation. Many assume it is death. No one has ever returned from liberation - until now.

There is a prevalent illness in the Safe Lands, called the 'thin plague'. One of the side effects is that babies are unable to be conceived naturally and artificial insemination is the order of the day, whether or not the surrogates are willing. When they no longer have enough women able to carry children, they go outside the Safe Lands borders to kidnap the women they need.

I knew going in that this was a dystopian novel. I have nothing against the genre, but have seen enough and see enough 'real life' to make me sufficiently pessimistic about human nature. So I tend to read a lighter fare.

Having said that, I was pleasantly surprised by Rebels. Yes, there was a lot of "how can people do that to each other", but there was also a lot of hope. There are still relationships, people still have babies, people still get surprised by other people (for good or bad). Many, many story threads are expertly woven together to form a consistent picture and story.

The only thing that surprised me more was seeing Rebels listed on GoodReads as (also in Christian fiction). There are some Biblical references and kerfuffles with the 'Kindred', a group of people who live in a group of underground houses to keep themselves safe from the Safe Landers - and who are a conservative people. Many don't want outside influences disturbing their way of life. The upshot is the book does not thump you on the head with religion.

Reading Rebels also made me glad my younger son has a keen interest in the 'prepper' shows.

Rebels engages readers of many levels. I worried over Mason and Omar's safety as they settled into their new lives in the Lowlands. They were both under the standard liberation age of 40, but they were 'strikers', or people who had committed infractions against the Safe Lands, so they were liberated early. I struggled with Shaylinn as she faced having twins early in the underground housing. I gave hearty thumbs up to Tova (the Kindred leader's wife) who got past her distrust of the outsiders for the sake of helping Shaylinn deliver her twins. And so many others. Rebels is a sweeping story and a rambunctious ride. It's also a darned good answer to the question "what should I read next?"



Jill Williamson is weird, which is probably why she writes science fiction and fantasy novels for teenagers. She grew up in Alaska with no electricity, an outhouse, and a lot of mosquitoes. Thankfully it was the land of the midnight sun, and she could stay up and read by the summer daylight that wouldn’t go away. But the winter months left little to do but daydream. Both hobbies set her up to be a writer. Her debut novel, a medieval fantasy called By Darkness Hid, won an EPIC Award, a Christy Award, and was named a Best Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror novel of 2009 by VOYA magazine. Jill has since published twelve books. Jill loves working with teenagers and encouraging them to respect their dreams. She speaks and gives writing workshops at libraries, schools, camps, and churches. She lives in Oregon with her husband, two children, and a whole lot of deer. 


(Disclosure:  I received a print copy of Rebels from the author and publisher via the Book Sparks' Fall Reading Challenge 2014 in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.)

REVIEW/INTERVIEW: Stirring the Plot by Daryl Wood Gerber



Halloween in Crystal Cove, California, is a big deal, involving a spooky soiree where the Winsome Witches, a fund-raising group, gather to open up their purse strings and trade superstitions. But party magicians, fortune-tellers, and herbalists are only the beginning of this recipe for disaster…

Jenna Hart has packed The Cookbook Nook chock-full of everything from ghostly texts to witchy potions in anticipation of the annual fund-raiser luncheon. But there’s one unexpected addition to the menu: murder.

When the Head Priestess of the Winsome Witches is found dead under mysterious circumstances, there’s no logical answer and plenty of blame to go around. With her aunt, Vera, unable to call on her ability to foresee the future, Jenna will have to use more than just sleight of hand and a few magic tricks to conjure up the truth…

Friday, September 26, 2014

BOOK REVIEW/INTERVIEW: The Unexpected Earl by Philippa Jane Keyworth


Six years after being jilted without a word of explanation, Julia Rotherham finds Lucius Wolversley standing before her once again--unexpected, unannounced, unwelcome. With her heart still hurting and, more importantly, her pride, Julia must chaperone her younger sister, fend off fortune hunters, orchestrate a fake engagement, and halt an elopement--all whilst keeping the man who jilted her at arm's length. But what Julia doesn't know is that this time, the Earl has no intention of disappearing, and this time, he has more than an explanation to offer....

Thursday, September 25, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: To Dwell in Darkness by Deborah Crombie



In the tradition of Elizabeth George, Louise Penny, and P. D. James, "New York Times" bestselling author Deborah Crombie delivers a powerful tale of intrigue, betrayal, and lies that will plunge married London detectives Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James into the unspeakable darkness that lies at the heart of murder.

Recently transferred to the London borough of Camden from Scotland Yard headquarters, Superintendent Duncan Kincaid and his new murder investigation team are called to a deadly bombing at historic St. Pancras Station. By fortunate coincidence, Melody Talbot, Gemma's trusted colleague, witnesses the explosion. The victim was taking part in an organized protest, yet the other group members swear the young man only meant to set off a smoke bomb. As Kincaid begins to gather the facts, he finds every piece of the puzzle yields an unexpected pattern, including the disappearance of a mysterious bystander.

The bombing isn't the only mystery troubling Kincaid. He s still questioning the reasons behind his transfer, and when his former boss who's been avoiding him is attacked, those suspicions deepen. With the help of his former sergeant, Doug Cullen, Melody Talbot, and Gemma, Kincaid begins to untangle the truth. But what he discovers will leave him questioning his belief in the job that has shaped his life and his values and remind him just how vulnerable his precious family is.



I got this book in the mail yesterday afternoon.  I finished reading it shortly before midnight.

Seeing this is the 16th installment of the Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James series, the characters are well-established.  I also had to switch tracks (a little bonus train analogy there) from the American Line to the English line as 'cell phone' became 'mobile', 'gas' became 'petrol' and 'officer' became 'constable'.  But as I am a serious anglophile, that part came easy.

Although I did visit London when I was a child, it has been a long time ago, so I was very grateful for the map inside the cover and in particular the marking of the important locations in the story.

In a London train station, busy with both commuter traffic and a concert, an incendiary grenade is detonated.  First, it was only supposed to be a smoke bomb, to draw the media's attention to a protest group.  But the man burst into flame due to the device containing phosphorus.  So: who made the switch, and why?  This is one of many, many riddles Superintendent Kincaid and his team (both formal and informal) must unravel.

Many of the players (on both sides of the law) cannot be taken at face value.  Everyone has their own motive and story.  This one will keep you guessing right up until the end.

And, Ms. Crombie has given us one of the best 'hooks' to whet our appetites for future books.  I got to the end, and turned the page, expecting there to be more.  I was like, "WHAT," and tried to find out when the 17th installment will be coming out.

At least we can go to GoodReads and TBR the earlier books in the series.  And it's great that we can do it all with one click for each book from the author's page.  Now, GoodReads needs to get a "one click to TBR all of an author's books" button.

"To Dwell in Darkness" reads very well as a standalone novel.   But if the first 15 are as good as this one, I'll be a happy camper for quite a while.1


From Ms. Crombie's website:

Deborah Crombie was born in Dallas and grew up in Richardson, Texas, a suburb north of Dallas, second child of Charlie and Mary Darden. A rather solitary childhood (brother Steve is ten years older) was blessed by her maternal grandmother, Lillian Dozier, a retired teacher who taught her to read very early. After a rather checkered educational career, which included dropping out of high school at sixteen, she graduated from Austin College in Sherman, Texas, with a degree in biology.

She then worked in advertising and newspapers, and attended the Rice University Publishing Program. A post-university trip to England, however, cemented a life-long passion for Britain, and she later immigrated to the UK with her first husband, Peter Crombie, a Scot, living first in Edinburgh, Scotland, and then in Chester, England.

After returning to Dallas and working for several years in her family business (manufacturer’s reps for theatre concessions) while raising her daughter Kayti, she wrote her first Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid/Sergeant Gemma James novel. A Share in Death [Scribner, 1993], was subsequently given Agatha and Macavity nominations for Best First Novel of 1993. The fifth novel, Dreaming of the Bones(Scribner 1997), a New York Times Notable Book for 1997, was short-listed by Mystery Writers of America for the 1997 Edgar Award for Best Novel, won the Macavity award for Best Novel, and was voted by the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association as one of the hundred best mysteries of the century. Her subsequent novels have been received with critical acclaim and are widely read internationally, particularly in Germany.

In 2009, Where Memories Lie won the Macacity Award for Best Novel.  In 2010, Necessary as Blood received a Macavity nomination for Best Novel.

Crombie's novels are published in North America, Japan, Germany, Italy, France, Norway, the Netherlands, Czechoslovakia, Spain, Romania, Greece, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and numerous other countries.. The latest novel in the series, No Mark Upon Her, will be published in August, 2011 by Pan Macmillan in the UK, and in February, 2012 by William Morrow in the US.

Although she travels to England several times a year, Crombie now lives in McKinney, Texas, an historic town north of Dallas, sharing a 1905 house with her husband, Rick Wilson, two German shepherds (Hallie and Neela), and three cats. She is currently working on her fifteenth Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James novel, as yet untitled. 


(Disclosure:  I received a copy of "To Dwell in Darkness" from the author and publisher via TLC Book Tours in Exchange for my honest and unbiased review.)

Booknificent Thursdays

Is your TBR shelf looking a little bare? (*lol* I know, as if!)  Well, fill that shelf (those shelves) to overflowing, by checking out other reader/reviewers books by clicking on the button above.  I love the word Tina's word 'booknificent' and party with her and the other folks as often as I can!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Beyond Coincidence by Jacquie Underdown


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

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

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



Lucy traveled from Australia to France, solo, to recover from the demise of a relationship.  She visit the new cemetery at Fromelles, where a cemetery is under construction to re-inter the remains of the British and Australian soldiers buried there in WWI.  She goes early in the morning, and as she absorbs the atmosphere of the sacred place, she nearly runs into a man.  He is wearing a period soldier's uniform, and compliments him on its authenticity.  Lucy gets a little nervous, though, as the man talks as if he had fought and died in that battle.  She leaves quickly and, upon reaching her car, turns for a last look and the man is gone.

So begins Beyond Coincidence.  Lucy is like most of us, a little skeptical, and figures the soldier has followed her to Paris.  She runs to her car, gets in and locks the door.  When she turns on the ignition, the soldier is in her passenger seat.  He knows her name.  She is the first person that has been able to see him since he was dug up five months previously, and he asks for her help in getting his remains identified so he can have his name, Frederick Ormon, on the headstone.

I really liked the character of Lucy.  A woman traveling alone across oceans and continents, even in our day, really is an adventurer.  If a ghost showed up in my locked car and asked for help in getting his remains identified and finding out what happened to his wife and baby, I wouldn't be heading for the nearest wifi to trace his family tree, I'd probably be heading for the nearest bar.

Now, some people don't believe in coincidence at all.  Some believe there is such a thing of "too many coincidences".  Lucy lives in Brisbane,  Freddy was from Ipswich and his great-grandson, Nate lives in Ashgrove.  All these are in the same area of Australia.  Why did Lucy go to Fromelles in the first place?  The initial coincidence is joined by many others in this novel, but never into the realm of fantasy - which is a plus for me.

And what about Freddy?  Most literature and media paint a picture of ghosts as being almost exclusively evil.  Freddy is quite the gentleman - I can picture him in a Jane Austen book.  Of course, people were more formal 100 years ago.  OK, so he does have this habit of popping in on Lucy unannounced, which makes her jump - but he's not doing it as a prank.

Lucy goes to ask Nate if he would provide some DNA so the cemetery authorities could use it to match with that pulled from Freddy's remains.  Nate comes home in a taxi, barely sober enough to get to his own door.  He is boorish, and Lucy is sure his particular apple fell very far indeed from the family tree.

I also appreciated the glossary of terms at the back, that gives the meaning of the Australian terms sprinkled throughout the text.  Some, like ANZAC, are intuitive; some definitions can be approximated from the context; and yet others, like "bonzer" and "come a gutser" ... well, the non-Aussies amongst us just need a little help with those terms.

I don't want to give too much away, but I love talking about Beyond Coincidence.  It is a thoroughly engaging story.  I will probably read it again someday, and that is unusual for me.  I very nearly did reread it while preparing this review!  You have the courage and sacrifice of the soldiers from long ago, the ups and downs of Lucy and Nate's romance, some tense moments from the ex that was Lucy's reason for going to France in the first place, and a best-hoped-for resolution.  This is a feel-good book that anyone with a dash of romance and a sense of adventure will enjoy.



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

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

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


(Disclosure:  I received an ecopy of this book from the author and publisher via NetGalley and TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest and unbiased opinion.)

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

#FRC2014 - Week 3 - Ghosting by Edith Pattou

Course: Poetry 101

Required reading: Ghosting by Edith Pattou

Department: Young Adult

Course Date: Week of September 22

Have a love for drama and poetry? Then this course is a must for you! Throughout this class you will learn about a group of teenagers’ perspectives on an end-of-the-summer prank gone wrong, written in verse. Alcohol, guns and a dare— within minutes, events collide and a group of teenager’s lives are altered forever.



On a hot summer night in a Midwestern town, a high school teenage prank goes horrifically awry. Alcohol, guns, and a dare. Within minutes, as events collide, innocents becomes victims—with tragic outcomes that alter lives forever, a grisly and unfortunate scenario that’s all too familiar. But victims can also become survivors, and as we come to know each character through his/her own distinctive voice and their interactions with one another, we see how, despite pain and guilt, they can reach out to one another, find a new equilibrium, and survive.

Told through multiple points of view in free verse and stream of consciousness, Ghosting is an unforgettable, haunting tale.

(also available as an paperback, audiobook download and mp3 cd)



As I have done in previous coursework, I started reading the required text without consulting the syllabus, so when I leafed through the book, the shortness and irregularity of the lines made me wonder what was going on.  Before the end of the first page, the free-form poetic descriptions had me caught in their spell.

Ghosting is arranged as a series of poems (or chapters, if you will).  Each poem is narrated in first person, and descriptions of activity are handled by the narrator referring to the others in the 3rd person.  It reminded me of an essay I wrote for a college English class describing the afternoon my father passed away.  The first person POV, along with the frequent use of present tense, makes the horror more immediate.

For example:
past tense - The bullet grazed my arm; I saw the blood drip out of the wound.
present tense - I see the bullet grazing my arm and the blood flowing out of the wound.

One reason a high school graduation is called 'commencement' is because it represents a transition from the end of childhood to the beginning of adulthood.  A young person's 'whole life' is supposed to be 'in front of them'.  But you add a little angst, a little cockiness, some alcohol, a little bit of drugs, a little sneaking out, and a gun in the glove compartment and some people's lives will never be the same.

I don't know if Ms. Pattou channeled young people or is just extremely observant,   The range of emotions through which the characters go, and which her readers feel is staggering  - and I mean that it the best possible way.

For people who run screaming at the thought of poetry, Ghosting reads like a novel. The action is tense, the wording concise and taut, and the characters are unforgettable.  

When I finished the book, I went and hugged each of my children - two young men (ages 16 and 17) and one tween girl (age 11).  And, as 'extra credit' (bonus), we had a good talk about the balance between responsibility and  recreation.  Score!



From her website:

Edith Pattou is the author of Ghosting, a contemporary novel for young adults, told in free verse. She also wrote three award-winning fantasy novels for young adults – East, a retelling of the Norwegian folk tale "East of the Sun and West of the Moon," and the two Songs of Eirren, Hero’s Song and Fire Arrow. She is also the author of the New York Times bestselling picture book, Mrs. Spitzer’s Garden.

She was born in Evanston, Illinois, grew up in Winnetka, and was a teenager in the city of Chicago where she attended Francis W. Parker School. She completed her B.A. at Scripps College in Claremont, California where she won the Crombie Allen Award for creative writing. She later completed a Masters degree in English Literature at Claremont Graduate School followed by a Masters of Library and Information Science at UCLA.

She has worked for a medical association, a clothing boutique, a recording studio, the Playboy Foundation, a public television station, a school library, two public libraries, two advertising agencies, and two bookstores.
She has lived in Chicago, Los Angeles, Denver, Durham, NC, Cambridge, England, Stockholm, Sweden, and currently resides with her husband, Charles, in Columbus, Ohio.

From the course description:

Edith Pattou has found acclaim as a writer in middle-grade fantasy with such award-winning books as East, which received starred reviews in Booklist and School Library Journal; was selected as a Top Ten Book for YA, an American Library Association Notable Book, a School Library Journal Top Ten YA Book, one of the 100 Best of the Best YA Books for the 21st Century by the Young Adult Library Services Association; and was nominated for numerous state awards. It’s a nominee for NPR’s all-time Best YA Novels list.


(Disclosure:  I received a print copy of Ghosting from the author and publisher via the Bookspark Fall Reading Challenge 2014 in exchange for my honest review.  Bookspark set up the challenge as a set of  classes, with different "required reading".  I have tried to keep up the educational lingo in these review posts because I appreciate the hard work that went into planning the program, and because it's FUN!)

BOOK BLAST/GIVEAWAY - The Wedding Part II by Sheena Binkley



Tia Simmons can’t wait to be Mrs. Charles Robinson. She has everything planned, from the venue to the caterer, making everything completely perfect. Or, so she thought. When she hires Camille to be her wedding coordinator, paranoia comes into play when she thinks her best friend is trying to sabotage her wedding. Along with the issues she’s having with Camille, she also has to deal with her new extended family, making her wonder if she’s going nuts. But when unexpected news shatters Tia’s world, she’s not sure if she should tell anyone about it or if she should keep it to herself until the wedding is over. 

Charles Robinson is totally in love with Tia and would do anything for their special day. Whatever Tia wants, he’s in agreement with. Except hiring Camille as their wedding coordinator. When issues clash between the three, will it test their friendship? Along with the issues he’s having with the reappearance of his father and a brother who can’t be trusted, Charles has to wonder which is more important – trying to do the right thing or being happy. 



Sheena Binkley first discovered her love for storytelling when writing her first story for a class project at the tender age of nine. Since then, she has composed several short stories and numerous tales that are not only engaging, but simply entertaining. She is also a freelance writer, penning articles on various topics including education and entertainment. Besides writing, she loves reading, shopping, and spending time with family and friends. She lives in Houston (where the weather is always unpredictable) with her husband and son.


Easy entry!  Win a $25 Amazon gift card or a signed paperback copy of The Wedding Part II.  Click the button for more details!

BOOK REVIEW: Who Am I? by Megan Cyrulewski


Megan Cyrulewski is an ordinary person who has faced extraordinary challenges and now wants to inspire people and show them that hope gives them the power to survive anything. Who Am I? is about her journey into post-partum depression, anxiety disorder, panic attacks, visits to the psych ward, divorce, domestic violence, law school, and her courageous struggle to survive with her sanity intact-and how a beautiful little girl emerged from all this chaos.



I've dealt with clinical depression for my entire adult life.  Either I didn't have PPD after any of my three children, or I was already depressed and didn't notice anything out of the ordinary.  How agonizing it must be for women to endure this after a 'blessed event' (and that is said with no sarcasm).   But I was lucky in that I had the support of my husband.

To be going through PPD and then have abuse heaped on top of oneself by the person who should be the biggest cheerleader at that point is heart-rending.  It hurts enough hearing of someone going through that, or seeing someone you love going through that, but to be actively abused during the post-birth weeks and months is devastating.  And Megan Cyrulewski went through it for years.  Frankly, I don't know how she did it.

Thank God for her parents, who were supportive above and beyond the call.  But that's what you do for family.  My parents are both deceased, but my father-in-law is a great example of this.  

In Ms. Cyrulewski's case, the abuse eventually escalated into physical violence, when her ex tried to take their daughter by force for visitation (in the police department parking lot, no less), and was strangling her.  

Who Am I? is about as real as it gets.  The writing is fluid and the emotion is raw.  It will make you ache for Megan and her daughter, and for anyone going through this danger.  When you read it (not if - it's too important for that) you will get angry.  But anger is not necessarily a 'bad' emotion.   When anger lights a fire under you to defend someone (or something) unable to defend themselves (and there is no shame in that, for the sufferer) - it is good.  If you are going through PPD (which is tough enough), and/or (God forbid!) being abused, it can give you the strength to reach out for assistance and get yourself and any children out of that situation.

If you are hurting from abuse, tell someone.  A parent, a sibling, another relative, your clergyperson, a neighbor, the police.  If you are 'alone', you can go to http://www.womenshealth.gov/violence-against-women/ for a list of resources.  If you are in another country, and cannot find resources on your own, I will 'adopt' you as my (insert your nationality here) sister and turn to the internet and see what I can find.

Who Am I? should be available in every library, bookstore and other organizations serving women's health and safety.  (That's my opinion - and I'm sure it wouldn't hurt Megan's feelings either :O) ).

Teaser Tuesday/1st Chapter 1st Paragraph/Top Ten Tuesday

Every Tuesday, Bibliophile by the Sea hosts the First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where readers share the first paragraph or (a few) of a book s/he is reading or thinking about reading soon. Care to join us?  

The early morning sun spattered honeyed light over the village as Lucy steered off the road near the town's sole church.  Fromelles was like many of the rural communities Lucy passed en route from Paris, seemingly unremarkable aside from the blood-soaked history entrenched in the soil.

Lucy locked her car, headed across the lush fields where, within the earth, soldiers' remains have laid in wait for nearly one hundred years.  She beheld the red-brick perimeter walls of the unfinished cemetery, gaze drawn to the Cross of Remembrance.  it pulled her towards it, like a beacon beckoning.

Click on the cover to see the book on GoodReads.  I will post a review of Beyond Coincidence tomorrow, September 24th.

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
- Click on the button above to go to the linkup!

"That would explain why he vanished," said Melody, so softly she might have been talking to herself, "I couldn't understand.  I thought he was still beside me.  And then he was gone...."

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. This feature was created because they are particularly fond of lists at The Broke and the Bookish. They love to share their lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists!

Each week they will post a new Top Ten list. Everyone is welcome to join. All they ask is that you link back to The Broke and the Bookish on your own Top Ten Tuesday post AND add your name to the Linky widget so that everyone can check out other bloggers lists! If you don't have a blog, just post your answers as a comment. Have fun with it! It's a fun way to get to know your fellow bloggers.


1.  The Unexpected Earl by Philippa Jane Keyworth (review/interview posting 9/26)

2.  Montreal: Street Photography by Debra Schoenberger (review posting 9/30)

3.  Catwalk (An Animals in Focus Mystery #3) by Sheila Webster Boneham (review posting 10/1)

4.  Embellished to Death (Faith Hunter Scrap This Mystery #3) by Christina Freeburn (review/interview posting 10/1)

5.  The Heavens are Telling by B. D. Riehl (review posting 10/4)

6.  Fit to Be Dead by Nancy G. West (review posting  10/7)

7.  Lost Under a Ladder by Linda O. Johnston (review posting 10/8)

8.  Yakimali's Gift by Linda Covella (review posting 10/9)

9.  Captain Shelby by Jesse Giles Christiansen (review posting 10/10)

10.  A Tangled Web: Allan's Miscellany 1846 by Sandra Schwab (review posting 10/10)

Three things of note:
1.  I've got several books that I've already finished to be reviewed in this same time frame.
2.  Although I generally do enjoy the books I review, I'd like to fit in at least one "just for fun".
3.  Omigosh, I'd better GET READING!

Monday, September 22, 2014

BOOK REVIEW/INTERVIEW- And All That Madness by Joan Merrill


AND ALL THAT MADNESS is a Casey McKie mystery. When the New York Jazz Society acquires a fifty-year old letter from Georgia Valentine, questions arise over the legendary vocalist’s death. Did she give herself a fatal dose of heroin, as the original investigators ruled, or did someone kill her? And if it was murder, what was the motive?

Casey moves her operation from San Francisco to New York to investigate the cold case, questioning Georgia’s musician friends, her widower, a drug dealer, a Broadway actress, a mafia boss and the authorities who declared the death a suicide. This quest takes Casey to New York’s most venerable jazz clubs, a Harlem nursing home, a mob-owned Italian restaurant, a lesbian bar and One Police Plaza, home of the NYPD.

She joins forces with an attractive detective from the Organized Crime unit, and, as the case progresses, so does their relationship. With no shortage of suspects, Casey ultimately uncovers evidence revealing a surprising killer. Author Joan Merrill has produced yet another captivating mystery as part of her on-going detective series featuring SF detective Casey McKie.



I was a little surprised by the cover.  Most book covers these days are a little more ... showy, maybe?  But seeing as it is the fourth of five Casey McKie mysteries, it could be a choice for the series.   And that is the only question I had about the book.  (OK, maybe not the only question ... there is a review down there. VVVVV)

Other than that, there is no question about this book.  It's good.  It makes me want to put the rest of the series on my TBR list.  Ms. Merrill's knowledge of the ins and outs of the jazz world shine through in the writing.  The references, the feel of the jazz clubs in New York, even the atmosphere in the Jazz Society's archives ... it was like I was there, following the clues, snapping my fingers, smelling the danger.

Casey is a great main character.  She is loyal, intensely dedicated and heaven help you if you cross her, it's all over but the mug shots and the fingerprints.  She's even got a local detective watching her back ... et al.

We shouldn't really be surprised that the spirit and the words of story flow like a smooth tune.  Ms. Merrill knows her jazz.  This book is engaging.  I'd even travel to a big city to be able to listen to some jazz now.  And that is nearly a miracle.  I'd certainly travel to a big city to buy a print copy of And All that Motive (releasing 2014), so long as there was a good jazz venue.  I can highly recommend this book to you.



Joan Merrill has written five Casey McKie mysteries, all taking place in the world of jazz:And All That Murder (2009), And All That Sea (2010), And All That Stalking (2011). And All That Madness (2012), And All That Motive(2014).

All books (except Motive, which will be published in early fall), are available at amazon.com and Kindle. And All That Madness is available as an audio book, narrated by long-time KCSM radio host, Alisa Clancy. To download, go to audible.com or iTunes.com or for the CD version, go to joanmerrill.com. An audio book of And All That Stalking is under production.

Joan Merrill has worked in the jazz field for over twenty years, producing fourteen shows for NPR’s Jazz Profiles and four shows for the Smithsonian/PRI series Jazz Singers. She’s represented various jazz singers; produced the video documentary “Saying It with Jazz” featuring Carmen McRae and others; and produced three CDs under her own label. She also created and curates the website: carmenmcrae.com

Merrill is currently producing a musical revue tribute to Doris Day, entitled “Que Sera! Celebrating Doris Day” with Kristi King. See QueSeraTheMusical.com Paperback versions of the Casey McKie mysteries may be purchased at reduced rates from the website: joanmerrill.com.

Joan on Twitter: https://twitter.com/JoanMerrill20



1. Are the stories in the Casey McKie mysteries entirely fiction, or have some been gleaned from real events?

In AND ALL THAT MADNESS, I have cited several true events from the days when jazz artists were harassed by the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. When presenting an historical event, I use real
names, dates and places and adhere to the facts. Other events have their basis in history but have been adapted to the story. In these cases, I use different names. AND ALL THAT MADNESS has a great deal of history. In AND ALLTHAT SEA, the references to the black market in Saigon during the Vietnam War are also based on fact.

2. How did you decide on a Jazz music atmosphere for your books?

I adhered to the principle “Write what you know.” I worked for many years in the jazz business, as a producer and artist representative. (In fact, I currently produce a musical revue, a tribute to Doris Day, not exactly jazz, but close.) I think people like to learn something from reading and I thought jazz would be an interesting milieu for them to explore.

3. What has happened in the story up until the starting point of "And All That Madness"?

Nothing that has any relevance to the story. All is explained in the first chapter.

4. Which character from your books would you most like to be able to invite over for supper? 

Well, having my characters to dinner would be a strange experience.  I would have to create their dialogue and manage their movements.  It would be like a ventriloquist sitting down to dinner with his puppets. Might be fun.

5. Which writers have inspired you?

I wouldn’t use the word “inspire,’ but I am influenced by Sue Grafton mainly and like the mysteries of Donna Leon, Martha Grimes, Elizabeth George, PD James, Ruth Rendell, and others.

6. Do you set an atmosphere for yourself while writing? (Location, lighting, music, food & drink, etc) 

I go to Starbucks with my laptop, get a large mocha and sit in one of their comfy chairs and work for two hours. Every day.

7. What part of the writing process do you most enjoy? Least? 

I like planning the main plot, researching and writing. Editing I like but I must admit to disliking proof-reading because I don’t do it well. I may read a manuscript several times and still miss minor typos. Lots of them, as it turns out. And I don’t much like marketing and promotion. I just like creating the characters and stories.

8. Where is one place in the world you would like to visit that you have not as of yet? 

Maybe Alaska on a cruise, the San Juan Islands by ferry and the Canadian west by train. Notice I chose places where I wouldn’t have to fly. My last major trip was to Italy, two of the most beautiful
places in the world, Venice and Lake Como, but it put me off airline travel. Permanently.

9. What do you hope your readers get from your books? 

Aha, good question. I hope they are able to lose themselves in the story and are intrigued enough to go to the end. And the real payoff is if they are surprised by the outcome.

10. Any advice for young folks interested in writing? 

Yes, don’t wait for someone to give you permission. Just do it. And if you think you need it, take a class, not in ”creative” writing, but in fiction writing techniques. Just to get you started.


(Disclosure:  I received a copy of "All That Madness" from the author and publisher via Virtual Author Book Tours in exchange for my honest and unbiased opinion.)

This is one of four reviews I have going today.  Here are links to the others:

The last will be added later today.