Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Stupid laptop!!

My laptop battery gave out!! Booooooooooooooooooooo!! I write all of my posts from my laptop in the comfort of my room. The home computer is tough to pry from my younger brother's grasp. During the day I have free reign, but I would usually write from my laptop. I ordered a new battery, but I have to wait until Friday. That's a long time for me to go without my laptop. It's really sad how attached I am to a piece of technology. Even if I don't have anything to do, I can find a way to waste time on my laptop. I'm sure I'm not alone on this. There's nothing wrong with the home computer, but all my personal stuff is on my laptop and I can't access it. So posts will be infrequent until I can get my laptop functional again. I will post my review of The Book of Lost Fragrances on Friday. Stay tuned!!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

In my mailbox: The long time no see edition!!

In my  mailbox is a weekly feature hosted by Kristi at  The Story Siren. It gives fellow bloggers a chance to share the books they bought or received via the library or for review. I decided to do a vlog this week because it's been soooooooooooooooooooo long since I showed my face on my blog!!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

It's time for a guest post!!

Please welcome Seré Prince Halverson author of The Underside of Joy. Today she is guest posting.

                 What does the underside of joy mean to you?

The narrator of The Underside of Joy, Ella Beene, begins the book talking about a recent study on happiness. That was the first thing I wrote, and I wrote it before I knew the rest of the story. As I wrote, and rewrote, that idea of happiness—in all its different forms—kept presenting itself. Meanwhile, Ella was in the thickest part of grieving.

Really, the longer answer to what the underside of joy means to me is the novel itself. But the shorter answer can be found in one line in the book: The most genuine happiness is kept afloat by an underlying sorrow.

This is true for Ella and it’s true for most of us, I believe. And I don’t mean that to be a downer. It’s just that we all have sadness in our lives. It’s what makes the happiness so sweet. Some of us get stuck in that sadness. Some of us are so busy striving to be happy, happy, happy that we don’t look at the hard stuff. But that hard stuff can get demanding and start throwing a fit if we don’t give it its due attention.

The underside of joy is even present in those golden shining moments when life feels almost perfect. The sun warms our faces; the children are getting along; we’re connecting with people we care about. But if we’re honest, we also feel the shadow beneath, whether it be the aching absence of a loved one or the understanding that this moment is fleeting, that we can’t hold it, that it cannot hold us.

Seré Prince Halverson  is from a lot of places, but she now lives in Northern California and it feels like home. She worked for 20 years as a freelance copywriter while writing fiction and raising kids. She and her husband and have four grown children. She is also a mom and a stepmom, and has a mom and a stepmom. The Underside of Joy her my debut novel.

Visit her blog at: and her Facebook page.

My take on: The Underside of Joy

"We all break the surface into this life already howling the cries of our ancestors, bearing their DNA, their eye colors and their scars, their glory and their shame. It is theirs; it is ours. It is the underside of joy." Pg. 303

There is a point in everyone's life when you think you have it all. The house, the marriage, the kids, the career and the social life. Nothing can bring you down. You think everything is perfect. But what happens when everything comes crashing down? That's the big question in The Underside of Joy by Seré Prince Halverson.

Ella Beene found her happiness when she married Joe Capozzi. A failed marriage and several miscarriages left Ella going aimlessly through life. The quest for a better life led Ella to the small town of Elbow, California. A town where everyone knows each other. A sense of family is really important. Ella not only married Joe, but she also married his extended family, which includes his two children Annie and Zach. Their mother, Paige, abandoned the family three years earlier. She was in such a deep depression, she had to leave. No one in the Capozzi family tried to understand Paige's reason for leaving. Ella filled a void that was missing for Annie and Zach, and the children filled a void that was missing for Ella. She knows everything about them. Their smell. Their likes and dislikes. She is their mother.

What really makes a parent? Is it DNA? Or is it an emotional connection? That all comes into question when Joe dies. Paige reappears out of the blue right after Joe's death. The timing was highly suspect. How about some respect for the dead? Ella's feelings didn't seem to matter to Paige. Ella is in mourning and so are the children. Their pain didn't seem to be a big concern for Paige. What she wants is paramount. The pain she feels is more important. Ella is a very emotional person, but she tries to keep her pain inside. The children seem to want a relationship with Paige, but Ella is unsure of what to say. Does she encourage this relationship? If Ella pushes too hard or too soft, she could damage her relationship with the children.

Paige wants more than just a few stolen moments with the children, she wants custody. She maintains she was always in contact with them. Over the course of three years, she wrote dozens of letters to the children. Ella insists those letters don't exist. Or do they? Upon Joe's death, Ella learned so many things she didn't know before. He hid the truth about their financial situation. The family store was going failing right under Ella's nose. His family has a history of keeping secrets. Rather than face the truth, they choose not to talk about the past. It was a learned behavior for Joe. In my opinion, he let her believe in a lie. Rather than letting her know the truth, Joe led her to believe everything was Ok. Maybe it was his way of protecting Ella, but shouldn't that have been her choice? Why did he get to choose? It was a marriage. Ella begins to question whether or not she truly knew Joe.

This was an emotional roller coaster. You can see both sides of the issue. Ella has done more for the children than Paige has. She is the only parent they have left. How can a judge even consider disrupting their lives further. But Paige was very sick. She didn't have a word for what was wrong. She sought help, learning she had postpartum depression, before she became a danger to the children. That should be commended. That is being a parent. She chose to get her mind right in order to be a better parent. She did what was best for the children at the time. But does that mean, Paige should never be allowed a second chance? Of course she should. This world would be so different if people didn't get second chances. By the end of the book, I was wishing I could know more about these characters. I was attached to them, and by the end there is hope for them.

Rating: Superb

Note: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (Penguin) at the request of KMSPR

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

My take on: Defending Jacob

It isn't often that a book leaves me with my eyes bulging and my mouth wide open. I just wasn't expecting  Defending Jacob by William Landay to pack such an emotional wallop. The entire book brings into question how well you know your children. When push comes to shove, could you truly be objective? When it comes to your children, are you operating on blind faith? Can you see the truth even when it is staring you in the face? What lengths would you go to protect your child?

Prosecutor Andy Barber is put to the test when his son, Jacob, 15, is accused and eventually put on trial for murder. A fellow student, Ben Rifkin, is stabbed to death in a local park. The authorities are under immense pressure to arrest someone. Reading the early part of the book made me think of the West Memphis Three. In my opinion, there was a rush to judgment in that case. When a local kid is murdered, you better catch the person quick. It doesn't matter if there is no evidence, just arrest someone to appease the public. In cases like that people doesn't always want to listen to the facts, they just want someone to blame.

In Defending Jacob, the initial evidence that led to Jacob seemed rather flimsy. Jacob was a nerd, he had few friends and was routinely bullied by Ben. So what? That's a pretty big leap to make. When Jacob is arrested, Andy learns that his son's fingerprint was on Ben's sweatshirt. I still thought, so what? The two boys went to school together. There could be an innocent explanation for the fingerprint. Jacob admits that he found Ben's body, and touched him to see if he was still alive. Still sounds perfectly innocent. But as the book moves on and the layers begin to peel, you begin to have doubts about Jacob.

Andy never wavers in his support for Jacob, but his wife Laurie is full of doubts. He believes a local pedophile is responsible. Up until the murder, Andy had been harboring a painful secret. His father is serving life in prison for murder. In Andy's mind there was no reason to mention it. His father's past has no bearing on present or future events. Andy turned out to be an upstanding citizen. He makes a living putting criminals away. He did all he could to prove that he wasn't his father's son. But Laurie and Jacob's defense team believe that exploring the family history might give some insight into Jacob's psyche. Andy believes it's a waste of time. But it also seemed like he was afraid of learning the truth. Did he pass on some kind of violent gene to his son? Is this his fault? Laurie seems to take on all of the guilt. She didn't commit a crime but walks around like she did. She's carrying the guilt for the entire family. She becomes a shell of her former self. She starts wondering what she did wrong. Was there some clue in Jacob's childhood? Could this have been prevented?

The book definitely points to the different reactions men and women have. It does seem to play on stereotypes in this respect. Andy is torn apart by the ordeal, but doesn't fall to pieces like Laurie. He wants concrete facts, not psychobabble. Laurie gives into her emotions. She wants to explore the psychological aspects of her son. She has this deeper emotional attachment to Jacob that Andy doesn't have. 

Jacob seems like a typical brooding teenager. It's like pulling teeth to get through to him. But he often displays no emotion. Like he is above all of this. The suffering of others don't really affect him. He buys a knife just because he can. People at school knew about it, but he would never use it right? Does all of this make him a murderer? I don't know. It's a question that isn't answered by the end of the book. It's all up to your own interpretation, which is what makes this book so fantastic. The last few pages will leave you emotional and highly upset. Can a person really sink to such despair? What am I talking about? You have to read the book to find out!!

Rating: O.M.G. !!!

Note: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (Random House) as part of a blog tour with Pump Up Your Book

Monday, February 20, 2012

It's Monday, what's on the cover?

It's Monday, what's on the cover? A rather fragrant looking cover? The Book of Lost Fragrances by M.J. Rose. I wonder what that perfume smells like. Does it have some mystical power? It's a very pretty cover. Perfume plays a big role in this book. It's historical fiction and it's been awhile since I read one. This one is part of a blog tour, a review will be posted on March 2. Here is M.J. Rose on her book....

Friday, February 17, 2012

Q&A with Catherine McKenzie

Here are a few questions I had for Catherine McKenzie, author of Spin.

1. If a reporter hasn't followed a starlet into rehab, they will soon. How did you come up with the idea for Spin? Did Lindsay Lohan provide any inspiration? It’s funny, as I wrote the book and went through the long and winding road to publication, I was worried that that very thing would happen! Lindsay Lohan was not the specific inspiration. Rather, a bunch of celebrities were going in and out of rehab and the media was in a frenzy about it. All kinds of inside information was leaking out about their stints in rehab and the paparazzi were stationed outside trying to get the perfect shot. That’s when I began to wonder why no one had ever followed a celebrity into rehab. And about 5 seconds later I thought I’d write a book about it. 
2. Would you ever do what Kate did? No, I don’t think so. I think one of the underlying points of the story is that what she is doing is morally wrong – I really believe that everyone is entitled to as much privacy as possible in general, and in particular when they are seeking recovery.
3. How do you find time to write and still practice law? I’m a good multi-tasker, I guess. I also break writing down into little pieces – 500 words a day or a chapter a week so that it’s manageable. I also give myself deadlines because otherwise my books would still just be ideas.
4. In three words how would you describe your book?
How not to be immodest … hmm … I hope people would describe it as: funny, thought-provoking (does that count as one word?), compelling.

My take on: Spin

What happens when you mix Girl, Interrupted with a little bit of TMZ? I think you get Spin by Catherine McKenzie. What would you do to get your dream job? Would you lie? Cheat? Steal? Compromise your morals? I personally might tell a lie or two if it meant getting my dream job. Then I would say 10,000 prayers, hoping I wouldn't get caught. But I wouldn't do anything criminal or morally wrong. The main character in Spin, Kate Sandford, chooses to compromise her morals. Job or no job, Kate gets more than she bargained for.

Kate has a chance at her dream job, writing for a music magazine. But Kate seems to be making more of a career out of lying and being in denial, rather than as a writer. She has a close-knit group of friends, some of whom believe Kate is actually 25 instead of 30. Hmmm? Starting a friendship off with a lie can't be good. But I guess I can understand making yourself younger because who wants to be lonely. The biggest thing Kate is in denial about is her alcohol consumption. Just one more drink. Just one more drink. Kate doesn't know her limit. Blackouts are normal to Kate. When she gets an interview for a job at the Line, a hot music magazine, Kate is thrilled. So thrilled she gets rip-roaring drunk the night before the interview. But, it was her also her birthday. That makes it Ok right? It's normal to get drunk the night before a job interview? No, no, no, no.

Of course she bombs the interview, but days later a job opportunity presents itself. Amber Sheppard, the "it" girl of the moment, is in rehab. All the gossip rags want the inside scoop. A sister magazine of the Line wants to send Kate to rehab and get all juicy details. If she does, the editors at the Line will give Kate another chance. If this hasn't been done already, it will be soon. Think of all the gossip rags and websites tripping over themselves right now trying to find out where Demi Moore is or the vultures who want inside details on Whitney Houston's funeral. We really aren't that far away from a "reporter" stooping to this level.

Kate agrees to the assignment, but struggles internally with it. Rehab is actually a good idea, but Kate doesn't believe she has a problem. She is just there to do a job not work on her problems. Once she meets Amber, Kate begins to see her as a friend. Kate begins to care. Was this supposed to happen? Morally, how can she betray a friend simply to get a job? Kate begins to see that she isn't all that different from everyone else in rehab. There is even a little bit of romance along the way for Kate, which I thought was a bit of a stretch. Shouldn't she be working on a relationship with herself before exploring a romantic one with a man?

The story is engaging, and actually quite timely given how much social media is on the rise. But I thought  the ending was wrapped up a little too neatly. I don't want to give away too much, but Kate didn't seem to lose a lot in the end. Perhaps I watch too much Intervention!! But it is a book worth checking out.

Rating: Give it a try

Note: I received a copy from the publisher (HarperCollins) in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

My take on: Fallen

Looking at the cover of Fallen by Traci L. Slatton, I thought perhaps this is a paranormal book. Are there vampires? Goblins? No and no. It's a post-apocalyptic world, where people have been stripped of everything. They have to rely on each other for survival. New alliances and intimate relationships are formed. But at the core of this book, is a love story. A love story that might not have happened if the entire world hadn't changed.

Deadly mists are killing billions of people. The poisonous gases strike without warning, consuming flesh before completely dissolving its victims into little droplets of water. If you do survive an attack, your mind descends into madness. Those lucky enough to still be alive band together. One woman, Emma, relies on her maternal instincts and her new healing powers to get her through. Emma was traveling in Paris with one of her daughters, Mandy, when the entire world changed. Her husband and eldest daughter were visiting family in Canada, the only safe haven left. Emma mothers not just her own child, but several others she encounters. Emma and her brood move from place to place, scouring the land for food and shelter.

It becomes more and more difficult for Emma to protect her children. Sometimes she is forced to put them out of their misery after a mist attack. Imagine growing incredible close to a child you consider to be your own, only to have kill them. It's painful to watch them suffer. You want so desperately to end their pain. It's an incredible burden to carry with you. Wouldn't it be nice to have someone to share that burden with? Relief for Emma comes very early in the book. Arthur, the leader of an all-male camp, saves Emma and the children from the mists. An intimate alliance is formed. Arther provides food, shelter, and protection while Emma takes her place in his bed. No emotional attachments are necessary, this is just a relationship of convenience...or so they think.

Two people who don't really want to change, end up doing just that. Arthur is ridged. He loves being the protector and he loves being in charge. He is extremely jealous and sometimes views Emma as a possession rather than a person. But, Emma finds a way to soften Arthur. She makes changes to the camp. She insists on clean clothes, clean teeth, and makeshift bathrooms. Despite her present circumstances, Emma still dreams of her past. She wants to go back to her husband and daughter. She wants to go back to life Before the change. But Arthur wants to build a life After the change. He wants to rebuild society. He exudes confidence, but Arthur is hiding a secret. A secret that could shake Emma's faith in him. He does everything to protect Emma from his past. Arthur wants to build a life with Emma, who is resistant. Emma believes she's not in love with Arthur. But if you read the book, you will think otherwise. Over time she cares what Arthur thinks. She looks forward to talking with him, eating with him, and waking up to him. The numerous times they become separated, Emma is thinking about Arthur and Mandy. Her husband doesn't dominate her thoughts like Arthur.

Arthur and Emma are at the heart of the book, but the other characters are just as interesting. An herbalist, Laurette, from a rival camp comes to heal the sick, but she isn't afraid to put people in their place. Newt, a young girl who can not only see the future, but can connect with people deeply on an emotional level. Alexei, a rival camp leader who is determined to destroy Arthur. By the end of the book, I wanted to know more about everyone. What will they do? How long can they survive? Will they find happiness? The book ends with a very emotional cliffhanger. This is the first of a trilogy, and I can't wait to find out what happens.

Rating: Superb

Note: I received a copy of the book from the author (Traci L. Slatton) in exchange for an honest review.

A different take on Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day: A Date Which Will Live In Infamy
By Mark Svartz,
Author of I Hate You, Kelly Donahue

On the night of February 14th, millions of happy couples around the world will express their undying love for each other as they celebrate the holiday known as Valentine's Day. Meanwhile, millions of single people will be home alone on this night of romance -- in the case of girls, eating pints of Haagen-Dazs while watching The Notebook and, in the case of guys, fantasizing about single girls who are home alone eating Haagen-Dazs while watching The Notebook.

Now, in theory, that doesn't sound so bad. I like undying love. I like ice cream. I like fantasizing. But for some unexplainable reason, I HATE VALENTINE'S DAY!

And I know what you're thinking. Cue the obligatory antivalentinist objections we've heard over and over. "It's manufactured romance!" and "It's a fabricated Hallmark holiday designed to encourage commercialism!" Well, sir, to those complaints I say, "Poppycock!" (And I almost never say "Poppycock!" so you know I really mean it.)

First off, who the hell cares that it's forcing people to be romantic? Woe is me, for we have to endure a universally mandated day of kissing and under-the-shirt-over-the-bra boob touching. Oh the horror! Sorry to disappoint you, but Valentine's Day is no one's Vietnam. If you need a day to gripe about, shift your objections to Flag Day. Forcing romance is way less offensive than forcing flag.

And as for the ol' anti-consumerism angle, I'd buy your argument, but then you'd probably just yell at me for buying it. Honestly, I hate Valentine's Day as much as the next guy, but not because of consumerism. Hell, I love consumerism. I love it so much, I might just buy it some heart-shaped chocolates. Sure, consumerism leaves a bitter taste in the mouth when it comes to extravagant excesses like fur coats and heroin. But when we're talking about positive, feel-good purchases like flowers, candy, and humor novels that have been referred to as "demented and hilarious," "laugh-out-loud," and "a book that will be remembered for a long, long time" -- consumerism is A-OK with me.

So, why do I hate Valentine's Day? Well . . . cause I just do! It's just one of those guttural reactions, kind of like how I despise black licorice, hairless cats, and Pat Sajak. The heart hates what the heart hates. And since I'm sure there are others out there who share this same innate disgust for February 14th, I will now give you five irrefutable reasons to validate your derision.

1. Indian Airlines Flight 605
What happened on this flight? Oh no biggie, it just crashed on Valentine's Day in 1990, killing 92 innocent people. Why did it crash, you ask? I dunno, maybe because of "Failure of the pilots to realize the gravity of the situation and respond immediately towards proper action of moving the throttles, in spite of knowing that the plane was in idle/open descent mode." Hmm, sounds like a couple of pilots were too busy celebrating this day of love to focus on not-murdering Indian people. Thank you for crashing planes, Valentine's Day!

2. Rob Thomas
If there was no February 14th, one Robert Kelly "Rob" Thomas would never have been born in West Germany in 1972. And if Rob Thomas would never have been born, the band Matchbox 20 would never have been formed. And if Matchbox 20 would never have been formed, the song "3 A.M." would never have been written. And if the song "3 A.M." would never have been written, I would never have felt the urge to stab my eardrums with a screwdriver every time I turned on the radio from February '98-July '99. Thank you for ruining 18 months of my life, Valentine's Day!

3. Ras Marye of Yejju Marches into Tigray and Defeats and Kills Dejazmach Sabagadis in the Battle of Debre Abbay
Do you remember where you were on February 14, 1831? Well, if you were Dejazmach Sabagadis, you'd be in Tigray, getting defeated and killed by Ras Marye of Yejju in the Battle of Debre Abbay. And it would suck so hard! Thank you for allowing Ras Marye of Yejju to march into Tigray and defeat and kill Dejazmach Sabagadis in the Battle of Debre Abbay, Valentine's Day!

4. Arizona
On February 14, 1912, Arizona was admitted as the 48th U.S. state, producing such notable Arizonians as Republican Senator John McCain, The Family Circus creator Bil Keane, and David Spade. Thanks for nothing, Valentine's Day! [NOTE: If this piece runs in any Arizona papers, just on the off chance that some of them are literate, let's replace Arizona with the equally insignificant Oregon, which was also admitted as a U.S. state on February 14th. And instead of the "notable" Arizonians, let's go with such "celebrated" Oregonians as sportscaster Ahmad Rashad, Miss Teen USA 2003 Tami Farrell, and . . .  hell, just go with Sally Struthers.]

5. The Day Love Died
February 14th is supposed to be known for love, eh? Well I seem to remember it as the day love died. On this day in 1989, boxer Mike Tyson and actress Robin Givens officially got divorced, ending one of the most passionate romances in the history of humankind. But you don't see that printed on a greeting card, do you? You don't see I DIVORCE YOU stamped on any heart-shaped candies. If a love as true as that of Mike & Robin could fall apart on February 14th, the whole day is a sham. A SHAM! Thank you for destroying love and turning a shy, harmless, pigeon advocate into a raging, ear-biting, convicted rapist, Valentine's Day!

Note: Mark Svartz is the author of a new novel, I HATE YOU, KELLY DONAHUE. This humor piece does not reflect the true feelings of the author. He is in fact a huge fan of the great states of Arizona and Oregon, as well as the distinguished work of its citizens, particularly Ahmad Rashad and his beautiful wife, Mrs. Huxtable. He also bears no ill will towards accomplished musician Rob Thomas or Indian Airlines or actor and ornithologist Mike Tyson. But as for Ras Marye of Yejju, he can go to hell. Not cool, Ras Marye of Yejju! Not cool.
© 2012 Mark Svartz, author of I Hate You, Kelly Donahue
Author Bio
Mark Svartz, 
is an author, artist, and award-winning advertising creative. Like most kids who were born and raised in Brooklyn, his lifelong dream was to write a book called I Hate You, Kelly Donahue. Amazingly, he is the only one who succeeded. The others are all failures.
This is Mark's first book and to make sure that people find it online, he will now mention random popular terms that will show up in searches: Lady Gaga; Obama; porn; Justin Bieber; Twitter; nude celebs; Oprah; kittens; boobs.
Mark currently lives in New York City and he thinks you are all awesome.
For more information please visit, or and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter

Monday, February 13, 2012

My take on: I Hate You, Kelly Donahue

Just about everyone has a person at their job that they can't stand. You don't like the way they chew, walk, talk, or gesture. It doesn't take long before you're plotting carnage against this person because you just can't take it anymore. I Hate You, Kelly Donahue by Mark Svartz is what we all secretly think but could never say.

This is definitely a grown-up book. There are pictures and language that are for adult eyes only. The book is essentially a diary on the plot to bring down Kelly Donahue. Every object is a potential weapon to murder Kelly. Every time she walks by is a chance to learn her habits, including how many times (4.2) she goes to the bathroom. If he learns her habits, perhaps he can learn her weaknesses. Be kind to her face, while secretly gathering information.

Feed her cupcakes so perhaps she will get obese and die of a heart attack. Feed her peanut butter cookies, hoping her allergies kick in and kill her. Dating her is out of the question, right? How can he lower himself by getting close to someone he hates? Well he does it, but for a good reason. Get even closer to Kelly, and she will never suspect his true motives. Mark is a soldier, and he is taking a hit for the good of the country. There is no way this could go wrong?

Deep down we all have these feelings, but we just can't admit them. This book will allow you to secretly indulge in your fantasies. His thoughts are funny, juvenile, and creepy all at the same time. Funny because Kelly is oblivious to what is going on around her. Juvenile because the narrator just seems a little immature. Creepy because Mark comes with five ways Kelly could meet her demise. Each plot was more elaborate than the next. If you need a distraction from a long day at work with a person you can't stand, take a little time out to read this book. You will be laughing at all the crap that got you down, and possibly plotting a little revenge!!

Rating: Superb

Note: I received a copy of the book from FSB Associates in exchange for an honest review.

It's Monday, What's on the Cover?

It's Monday, and it's time to discuss the covers of books I'm reading. It's been a while since I've done one. I'm trying to read at a faster clip, so I won't always have time to take a look at the covers. But, I have the time today. The Underside of Joy by Sere Prince Halverson has a rather simple cover, but the story is anything but simple. A woman has just lost her husband and could potentially lose her step-children to their biological mother. They've only known one mother, and it's their step-mother. The cover is so simple, I wonder why it was used. It's a beautiful watercolor picture of a flower. But what's that got to do with the story? I'm not far enough into the story to see how the two go together. But come back on Feb. 20 when a review and possibly a guest post will go up.

With Defending Jacob by William Landay we get another look at a deep family drama. A father and small-town prosecutor does all he can to prove his son's innocence after he is accused of murder. The cover is a snapshot of small town, but with a dark cloud hanging over it. This one appealed to me because I'm always interested in the depths a parent will go to protect their child. I'm wondering if this a case of a town rushing to judgment. Snap up the first person without actual proof. At least that's where I think the book will go. A review will be posted on Feb. 22. Happy reading!!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Q&A with Mary Kay McComas

Here are a few questions I had for Mary Kay McComas, author of What Happened to Hannah

  1. Hannah's emotions seem very true to life. What kind of research did you do to shape her character? First, thank you. I’m pleased to know you think Hannah’s a believable character.
What research I did revealed what I think is pretty much general knowledge and common sense: victims have trust issues and difficulty forming relationships; that abusive behaviors are not genetic, they’re learned; that fear and terror can be as motivating as they are crippling, etc. I didn’t do a lot.

Empathy, I believe, works the same for writers as it does for readers in that if we can’t relate to a person or a character in a particular situation directly most of us are capable of the compassion required to understand and, hopefully, share the feelings and emotions of someone else as if they are our own. It’s how Hannah came to life for me and, I hope, how you connected with her.

2. Why did you want to bring light to domestic violence/family abuse? I didn’t. Unfortunately, I’m not that socially motivated. I was simply telling Hannah’s story. However, if I‘ve accidently flipped over an ugly rock that isn’t disturbed nearly often enough then so much the better. I can’t take any moral credit for it but I’m glad it happened.

3. Who are some of your favorite authors? Do you take any inspiration from them?
 Oh man. There are so many great authors out there and they all inspire me: Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Nora Roberts, Linda Howard, Georgette Heyer, Patricia Gaffney, so many more … and in no particular order. But I think the crusty goodness on my crème brulee would be Elinor Lipman who writes a mixed bag of sharp dialogue, wonderful humor, social satire and genuine emotion that appeals to me. Elizabeth Berg who is an incredible wordsmith – her stories are wonderful but she also chooses and strings her words together in the most beautiful way. Jeanne Ray who doesn’t publish often enough, if you ask me. And Lois McMaster Bujold who has a masterpiece character in Miles Vorkosigan. I love believable characters, from any era or genre, who can see humor in the best and the worst of the human condition and circumstances.

4. In three words how would you describe What Happened to Hannah? Hope. Courage. Family.

5. What are you working on now?
I’m about half done with Something About Sophie which should be out in 2013. It's a story about the destructive forces of guilt and about the importance of honesty ... particularly to yourself. It's a story about hope, too, I think, and the good things that can sometimes come from bad situations. But mostly it’s about the power of love and the things people do, both right and wrong, to protect it.

Thanks for the invite, Bookangel. Great blog.

My take on: What Happened to Hannah

Twenty years ago Hannah Benson ran away from the nightmare that was her own home. An abusive father and a painful secret have kept Hannah away from Clearfield. Hannah built a life and a career for herself, but the physical and emotional scars of the past are always with her. But Hannah's bubble is about to burst when tragedy brings her back to Clearfield.

A phone call from her high school sweetheart Grady, who is now the town sheriff, brings the past back to the present. Hannah's mother has died, leaving her niece Anna without family. What does Hannah know about raising a teenager? Will they even like each other? Will Anna reject her? Hannah's first instinct is to wonder why her sister Ruth can't raise her own daughter. Ruth died years ago. Her abusive father died the night Hannah ran away. It seemed very insensitive to me that Hannah never wondered what happened to her family. Hannah saved herself, which she had every right to. Hannah spent years protecting Ruth, and taking the brunt of her father's abuse. All she ever wanted was for her mother to love her and protect her. Despite all the disappointments, wouldn't some part of her want to make sure they were Ok? She let everyone believe she was dead, a lie generated by her mother.

Hannah will have to face all her internal demons when she goes back to Clearfield. Grady takes everything Hannah says and does with a grain of salt. There is something about her that he doesn't trust. As kids, Grady spent years breaking through Hannah's shell. Grady's small acts of kindness were met with resistance from Hannah. She wasn't used to kindness. A wrong look, a wrong word or a wrong action were all it took to set her father off. When someone, like Grady, tried to be nice to her Hannah didn't know how to handle it. But eventually, Hannah and Grady fell in love. A love that had to be hidden from her family. A love that fell apart the night Hannah ran away. In the present day, just Hannah's mere presence pulls at Grady's heartstrings. Despite his feelings he knows Hannah is hiding something. How can he get close or trust her if he doesn't know the truth? He has is own children and his heart to protect.

Hannah's fears seem very real, which is something that kept me coming back for more. Just being in Clearfield brings back so many memories, actually very vivid flashbacks. Just going in the family barn is traumatic for Hannah. In her mind it's 20 years ago, and she is hiding from her father again. Anna is struggling internally just like her aunt. She doesn't want to rock the boat, fearing her aunt will reject her. Anna wants to go with the flow, rather than saying what she wants. She has close friends and a promising athletic career. If Anna fights for what she wants, Hannah might leave. If Hannah leaves, she would be just another person who has abandoned Anna. Her mother struggled as a parent. Her grandmother raised her with more grace and love than she did Hannah. Now that both of them are dead, she can't risk losing her only family connection.

Discovering Hannah's secret is at the heart of this book. What that secret might be is alluded to throughout the book. I had a strong feeling of what is was. It's a secret that could jeopardize her relationship with Anna and her freedom. Trying to get to the bottom of her secret is what kept me coming back for more. My one criticism would be that the resolution to the story seems a little rushed. The ending seems too good to be true for Hannah. But overall, this is a very good book. You have hope for Hannah's future, she can overcome her past.

Rating: Superb

Note: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (HarperCollins) in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

My take on: The Accidental Bride

I read an eclectic mix of books. Mysteries, YA, biographies, and memoirs. The only genre I'm squeamish about is science fiction. Every now and then I do like to step outside of my comfort zone. The Accidental Bride by Denise Hunter is outside of my comfort zone. Why? It's a Christian fiction book. I don't read too many of those because I'm afraid of being preached at. I didn't get that feeling until the tail end of the book. The rest of the book was quite enjoyable. The quirky plot line helped a lot.

Shay Brandenberger is a struggling single mother. She's raising her daughter, Olivia, at her childhood home in Moose Creek, Montana. Trying to maintain the family ranch is difficult. She's often too proud to ask for help, but Shay needs it. Having fallen behind on the mortgage, the bank is threatening to take it away. To make matters worse Shay is constantly worrying about what others think. She can't stand the "that's her" looks. Her husband left her and is now deceased. But the shame of being abandoned for the second time is almost too much for Shay to handle.

Shay was abandoned years ago by her high school sweetheart, Travis McCoy. Shay and Travis were all set to elope when he decided he wasn't ready. The lure of rodeo life was just too much for Travis. If you've grown up in a small town all of your life, I guess the lure of the big city is too much. But Travis lost major points in my book by literally abandoning Shay without any money or her personal belongings. While it wasn't intentional, it reeked of immaturity.

After a life on the rodeo circuit, Travis has returned to town to care for his parents' ranch. Despite years of estrangement, Travis and Shay will be forced to face their feelings for each other. A local celebration brings them together. The celebration has it all: food, music, and a wedding reenactment with Travis and Shay as the "happy" couple. This is where you need to stretch your imagination. Due to a confused Pastor and Travis and Shay's long-forgotten marriage license, the wedding turns out to be legal. That is what drew me to this book. How in the world is this possible and do they really want a marriage? Whose fault is it? Or is it simply an act of God. Travis is shocked but realizes this could be his second chance. Shay wants no part of him, but deep down she still has feelings for Travis. He wants to stay married and help Shay out financially. An injury forces Shay to broker an arrangement with Travis, which didn't seem very Christian to me.

A marriage of convenience just seems wrong. Despite all the good things Travis can do for Shay, I believe marriage should be out of love. Shay fights against Travis' attempts to show love. But she's always wondering if he has an ulterior motive. She can stand up to him so easily. She can tell him what she wants and doesn't want, but when it comes to the busybodies in town Shay's self-confidence seems to shrink. She gets too caught up in what people think instead of believing in herself. Travis constantly doubts himself when it comes to Shay. How many times can he apologize before he gives up? If you're looking for a light romance and can forgive the stretches in the plot, pick up this book.

Rating: Give it a try

Note: I received a copy from The B&B Media Group in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, February 6, 2012

My take on: Home Front

I'm usually a repeat offender when I find an author I like. But what happens if I didn't like an author's book? Do I go back for more? A couple of years ago, I read True Colors by Kristin Hannah. I found it to be a little on the sappy side. It just wasn't for me. Last year, I won a copy of her novel Night Road. I hate to admit it, but I have yet to finish it. I started Night Road, but had to put it aside for other books. I hear that one is very good.

When the opportunity arose to read her latest book, Home Front, I decided to go for it. From what I know of her books, they tend to deal with the bond between sisters and the secrets they keep. Home Front is very far away from that. It deals with a failing marriage, the bond with their children, and a mother suddenly called off to war.

After a troubled childhood Jolene Zarkades found her calling in the National Guard as a helicopter pilot. She has a sense of pride. She has a sense of duty. Feelings that she has never been able to make her husband, Michael, understand. He doesn't want to understand. Following the death of his father Michael buries himself working at his law firm. Family is secondary to Michael. Missed birthdays, missed dinners, and a lack of affection just go over Michael's head. Family is paramount to Jolene, despite Michael's absence. Her daughters, Betsy and Lulu, mean everything to Jolene. Making sure they get breakfast every morning, making sure they get to school on time, and being involved in their lives are important to Jolene. Take away the military career, Jolene's life sounds like a lot of marriages.

The only person Jolene can vent to is her best friend Tami. Both of them are in the guard. Both know what it's like. Except Tami has a spouse who supports her career. It just seemed so cruel for Michael not to support his wife. He knew who and what Jolene did before they got married. When Jolene and Tami are deployed to Iraq, Michael still refuses to support Jolene. She's a wife and a mother, her place should be with the children while he gets to continue his career. It doesn't help that Michael tells Jolene he is no longer in love with her. Wouldn't it have been nicer to send her off to war with love?

Michael has some help from his mother, but he has to both mom and dad in Jolene's absence. With a brooding almost teenager in Betsy and a bubbly five-year-old in Lulu, Michael has a tough job. Jolene always solved the problems. Michael has no idea how to be like her. Meanwhile, Jolene is thrust into several combat situations, yet she tries to sugarcoat it in letters and pictures to her family. How can she truly let them know what is going on in Iraq? She can't let them lose hope in her return.

It takes a new case, involving a soldier accused of murder, to make Michael see the light. But is it too late? When Jolene comes back from Iraq she is different physically and emotionally. Overcoming her physical limitations are somewhat easier than dealing with her emotions. Physical wounds can be patched up and treated with medicine. It's much harder to rid herself of the emotional scars. Can she back to normal after everything she endured in Iraq? Is Michael with her out of pity or lover? How can she trust him again?

There is so much good stuff in this book. It is very timely as well. It calls into question the services or lack there of for soldiers returning from war. We salute them with medals and other forms of recognition, but what about their emotional health? This book feels very real and well-researched. You will come away with a greater understanding of military families and a sense of compassion for them.

Rating: O.M.G. !!

Note: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (St. Martin's Press) at the request of  Wunderkind PR.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Super Bowl Sunday!!!

I'm not the biggest football fan. I'm just anti-team evil. Or as they are more commonly known, the New England Patriots. Today, I'm throwing my full support to the New York (even though they play in New Jersey) Giants!! And, as a little inspiration for the big about a look back at the game-winning drive the last time these two teams met in the Super Bowl!!!