Friday, April 30, 2010

Giveaway: The Tale of Halcyon Crane

As you can tell from my review of The Tale of Halcyon Crane that I LOVED it. So, I'm ecstatic to say that we have 3 copies of this wonderful novel to giveaway.

In order to enter, there are a few simple rules:

1)You need to be a follower of our blog through Google Friend, Twitter and/or our Facebook page. (I will be checking)
2)Tell us why you want this book
3)Enter the contest by Friday, May 14th at Midnight CST.

Another huge thanks to Jason @ Henry Holt for providing us with the copies to giveaway.

Good Luck!!


Thursday, April 29, 2010

Julie's Review: The Tale of Halcyon Crane

Summary: When a mysterious letter lands in Hallie James’s mailbox, her life is upended. Hallie was raised by her loving father, having been told her mother died in a fire decades earlier. But it turns out that her mother, Madlyn, was alive until very recently. Why would Hallie’s father have taken her away from Madlyn? What really happened to her family thirty years ago? In search of answers, Hallie travels to the place where her mother lived, a remote island in the middle of the Great Lakes. The stiff islanders fix her first with icy stares and then unabashed amazement as they recognize why she looks so familiar, and Hallie quickly realizes her family’s dark secrets are enmeshed in the history of this strange place. But not everyone greets her with such a chilly reception—a coffee-shop owner and the family’s lawyer both warm to Hallie, and the possibility of romance blooms. And then there’s the grand Victorian house bequeathed to her—maybe it’s the eerie atmosphere or maybe it’s the prim, elderly maid who used to work for her mother, but Hallie just can’t shake the feeling that strange things are starting to happen.

Review: Do you believe in ghosts? Would you if your family history was filled with them? Would you question your sanity if you felt like someone was touching you, when there was no one around? I ask because that is what Hallie James is dealing with in The Tale of Halcyon Crane by Wendy Webb. I just can't say enough about this fantastic novel, well I can but then I'd ruin the book for you and that I don't want to do.

This book takes off from the very first page. Hallie James receives a letter that declares her mom recently died. This sends her into a tailspin because she always thought that her mom died in a fire when she was young. A few other things happen in Hallie's life that cause her to run to Grand Manitou Island to research her new found heritage. The way Ms. Webb writes this novel it makes you feel like you are in step with Hallie, experiencing everything she does. Instantly I liked Hallie. She seemed very real and genuine.

There are some fascinating secondary characters in this book. The island itself is a character with its own history and secrets. My favorite character next to Hallie and Will, is Iris. I kept trying to figure her out and I couldn't. Where my brain was taking me, was so not where the story ended up. Just one of many twists and turns in the book. The ending of the book was such a shock that I had to go back and re-read it twice to make sure I understood what had occurred.

Ms. Webb does an excellent job of making sure you are attached to the characters and all of their stories. So much so that the story would freak me out at times. The night I started reading it our garage door opened on it's own twice. The 2nd time I made my husband unplug it. LOL Sure it's a coincidence but freaky nonetheless.

As I said above I can't really say much about the book that wouldn't give it away. What I can say is that you want an edge of your seat ghost story, family drama, mystery and well written book, you need to run out and buy The Tale of Halcyon Crane. While this book is a ghost story, more than anything it's about family, knowing your heritage and embracing it.

I can't wait to see what Ms. Webb has up her sleeve for her next novel. Frankly, the way she tells a story she could write about how to paint a wall and I'd be in line to buy it. She is a solid storyteller and a gifted writer.

Typically I don't do this but this book reminds me a lot of The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe and Darling Jim by Christian Moerk.

Final Take: 5/5


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Giveaway: Silk Legacy

Mr. Brawer is kind enough to allow us to giveaway 1 copy of his historical fiction novel, Silk Legacy.


A domineering silk industrialist clashes with his progressive suffragist wife and his radical unionist brother in early Twentieth Century Paterson, New Jersey where silk magnates rule the city with an iron fist and treat their immigrant laborers as an expendable commodity in their insatiable quest for wealth. Silk Legacy is a story about how the men fought back and how the women battled for suffrage, child welfare and reproductive freedom.

Jealousy, infidelity, arrogance, greed—the characters’ titanic struggles will catapult you into the heights of their euphoria and the depths of their despair. Who will triumph and who will be humbled is not certain until the last page."

Did that pique your interest? Leave a comment by May 9th letting us know how you follow us (Twitter, Facebook, RSS Feed, Google Friend).


Author Interview: Richard Brawer

Photobucket Yesterday, I posted my review on a solid medical thriller, Beyond Guilty. Today, I'm happy to say that the author, Richard Brawer, was willing to do a little Q&A with GJR.

GJR: Why did you decide to write the book from an African-American point of view?

RB: “Beyond Guilty” was inspired by a screen play written by my daughter. In her script, the protagonist is an African-American male wrongly convicted of murder and sentenced to death. Despite her being a lawyer in the movie industry and the screen play winning a number of awards including $1000.00 from a “Writer’s Digest” contest she was not able to generate interest from her associates in Hollywood. I said to her, “Let me write it as a book with an African-American female protagonist as there are many African-American actresses looking for a meaty, leading role.” Thus “Beyond Guilty” was born.

However, in the process the book took on a life of its own and dramatically deviated from the screen play. The only parts that remained the same were that the lead character was wrongly convicted of murder and sentenced to death; and she escapes death row and fights to prove her innocence. There is no island in her screenplay, and all the fighting, chases, and the ending are entirely different from the screenplay.

GJR: Were you interested in nanomedicine before you wrote the book, or was it something that seems to fit in with the plot of your book as you were flushing it out?

RB: The only thing I knew about nanomedicine before I researched it was from an article I read in a magazine. I like to incorporate something educational in my books. In my mysteries it is historical vignettes about the Jersey Shore. In “Beyond Guilty” it’s nanomedicine. In my daughter’s screenplay, after her character escaped he had to salvage his DNA to prove his innocence. Seemed like old news to me. So I thought, why not go cutting edge?

Having no medical experience, I researched nanomedicine on the web. But did I portray it correctly? Did I write it so a layperson could understand it?

To answer the first question, I started sending e-mails to the authors of the articles I read. One scientist, Robert A. Freitas Jr. J.D., Senior Research Fellow for the Institute for Molecular Manufacturing, was kind enough to edit my references to nanomedicine and has written an essay at the end of the novel explaining how far this research has come and when it will be available.

I’ll let you answer the second question.

GJR: Do you see your story as a Darwinian survival of the fittest?

RB: Not really. I see it as a good thriller.

GJR: Besides, Eileen who was your favorite character to write? Why?

RB: Colonel Springer. I had to create a truly bad guy, but I wanted him to have one redeeming characteristic. I don’t want to spoil any part of the story so I’ll let the readers find out what that one saving attribute is.

GJR: Have you always wanted to be a writer?

RB: After graduating the University of Florida and a stint in the National Guard, I spent 35 years working in the textile industry. I lived at the New Jersey shore and commuted an hour and ten minutes to New York City by train. To fill the time I read the newspaper in the morning and books on the ride home.

Always having a vivid imagination, I would occasionally come across a newspaper article that really hit me and would wonder what would happen if―?
Then one day I read a horrendous article in the newspaper about a father in Boston whose child was born with brain damage and he refused to take him home from the hospital. He thought he could return the child like a damaged piece of merchandise he bought in a store. (Interesting that this coincides with the child recently returned to Russia.) The nurses were outraged and their disgust was quoted in the article. That’s when my imagination took over and I asked myself, “What if the child was misdiagnosed?”

With mysteries being my favorite genre to read I took that thought and began making notes. The notes turned into paragraphs and the paragraphs into chapters. Thus in 1994 my first Murder at the Jersey Shore mystery, “The Nurse Wore Black” was born, and I was hooked on writing.

GJR: Your other book, Silk Legacy, is a historical fiction novel; what made you change to the thriller/medical thriller genre?

RB: As you can see by my answer to the above question it was the other way around. I started writing mysteries. But I also liked to read historical fiction.

I was born in Paterson, New Jersey, America’s first industrial city and the home of the silk industry in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. I mentioned I worked in the textile industry. That’s because my family had been in that business since my grandfather started a silk company in 1904. I wanted to instill in my daughters their heritage so I started interviewing the family in depth and researching Paterson. The stories were so fascinating I thought they could make a wonderful novel. The result was “Silk Legacy” which is only very loosely based on the stories I heard. As you can see from my website it has received fabulous reviews.

GJR: Are you working on a new novel? If so, can you tell us the premise?

RB: I am working on “The Bishop Committee”. Here is what I am thinking might be the book jacket. The book is set in the year 2002 just after 9/11.

…In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist…Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Farewell address to the nation, January 17, 1961

In the 1990s, with the demise of the Cold War and no one vowing to annihilate the United States, Congress guts the defense budget to fund special interest causes. Obsessed with the idea that a weak military threatens the existence of their country, The Bishop Committee, a Vietnam era military-industrial cabal resurrects itself to sell weapons to terrorists to create a new enemy for the United States to battle.

Jason Sorren, head council for Rathborn United Industries uncovers evidence that will expose the conspirators and is relentlessly pursued to retrieve it. When his traditionalist Quaker girlfriend is drawn into the battle and kills to save Jason, her life is thrown into turmoil.

Jason’s quests to expose the conspirators and rescue his girlfriend from despair make The Bishop Committee a page turning thriller.

The educational part is about modern day Quakers. What do you really know about today’s Quakers? Are there Orthodox, Traditionalists and Reformed as in other religions?

You can read the first chapter of “The Bishop Committee” on my website, Click the “In development” tab on the left of the home page.

GJR: Who are your favorite authors to read? Why?

RB: I like mysteries, thrillers and historical fiction. Harlan Coben, James Paterson, Clive Cussler, Jeffrey Archer, John Jakes, Howard Fast, James Lee Burke, Tim Dorsey, Carl Hiaasen, Ed McBain, Tony Hillerman, Edward Wright, Michael Connelly, David Baldacci. (I could go on and on. I like to read a lot of different authors.)

GJR: What are you currently reading?
The Machiavelli Covenant by Allan Folsom. A conspiracy novel.

GJR: What author’s have influenced you?

RB: The two authors that got me hooked on mysteries and historical fiction were, Brett Halliday’s Mike Shayne mysteries. Being short, quick reads they were great for the commute. And a fabulous historical fiction novel set post Civil War, Sow Not In Anger by Jack Hoffenberg 1966.

I'd like to thank Mr. Brawer for taking his time to answer our questions. Stayed tuned later today for a giveaway of his historical fiction novel, Silk Legacy.


Monday, April 26, 2010

Julie's Review: Beyond Guilty

Summary: A wrongly convicted woman escapes from death row. Can she prove her innocence before it's too late? Teenager Eileen Robinson lives in an ideal, middle class African-American family in Houston, Texas. Through a careless act she causes the deaths of her two younger sisters. Tormented and alienated from her mother, she moves in with a drug dealer. At twenty-one she is a single mother of two falsely convicted of killing a state senator's son and sentenced to death. At thirty-two she is executed. Or is she?

Review: I have to say that Beyond Guilty is a book that grabs you from the first page and never lets you go. Eileen Robinson has acted irresponsibly; she is immediately and indefinitely punished for it. After the initial turn of events her life just continues in a downward spiral. She meets and lives with a big time drug dealer, has 2 kids and then gets thrown in prison for murder. This is where the book really gets going. You pretty much already know for the above summary that she isn't executed, if she was, Mr. Brawer wouldn't have a novel to write.

The book weaves in a high-tech medical innovation called nanomedicine or nanorobots. Now while this is extremely complex, Mr. Brawer makes is so you actually understand it. The thing is as well, this exists today. It wasn't something that Mr. Brawer plucked out of his imagination. In order to save his company, Sloan Wexler, CEO of Merlin-Akre Pharmaceuticals, has commissioned human trials which the FDA has not sanctioned. These are conducted on a remote island with 12 subjects, Eileen being one of them.

There are some good twists and turns in the book. I enjoyed how we did get to see Eileen grow as a character. I didn't always think she made the best choices but then again she was in a do or die situation. How would I know how I would react in that situation? Throughout the book we see Eileen in survival mode and how she thinks on her feet in order to survive. That being said there were times when I wanted her to shut up, which was hard because the novel is told from her point of view.

There were a lot of interesting and disturbing secondary characters in the novel. It makes you think about what people's motivations are and what they'll do to attain personal satisfaction.

Is everything tied to greed? How far are we willing to go to find cures for diseases? Is it worth risking lives, even if they aren't innocent? These are all interesting questions that I thought of while reading Beyond Guilty. It really does make you think about bigger issues than just the plot of the novel.

If you are looking for a fast-paced, medical thriller, go out and pick up a copy of Beyond Guilty by Richard Brawer.

Final Take: 3.75/5

Visit us tomorrow when we have an interview with Mr. Brawer and a giveaway!


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Guest Blog: Josi S. Kilpack

Tuesday, I posted my review of Josi S. Kilpack's yummy book, Lemon Tart. Today I'm thrilled to present her guest blog spot about confidence and her journey to becoming an author:

I recently spoke to a group of junior high students as part of career day presentation on becoming an author. I’d gone through having realistic expectations about income, learning about the craft of writing, and knowing the market—all essential parts of being a writer. I looked at my notes to make sure I hadn’t missed anything and saw the word “Confidence” written on my list of things to work on. I looked at my audience again. How on earth do you talk to a bunch of 14 year olds about having confidence? For a moment I was transported back to those awkward years of never wearing the right thing, rarely saying the right thing, and never quite trusting myself to be the right thing in any given situation. Just the memories were painful but somehow I was supposed to tell these kids how to do something I hadn’t been able to do at there age?

I didn’t dream of being an author, I didn’t dream of being anything, really, other than graduated some day so I could do whatever I wanted all day (ha, ha, ha). In the blink of an eye I scrambled through my story to find a way to explain confidence, and to simply remember how I ever developed. I remembered a few specific things directly related to my writing. First, I remembered writing an ongoing story to a friend in 8th grade where I put kids we knew and boys we liked as characters in this story. It was nothing special, in fact I’m very glad I don’t have those notes because I’m sure they would embarrass me greatly were I read them now. But I remembered my friend telling me that I was a great storyteller. I had never thought of myself as a great anything, and I didn’t even believe her, but the fact that she said it meant something and I held onto that tightly. Years later, in college, I, for the first time, had a teacher tell me I was a good writer. She wrote it on a research paper I’d done on sex change operations. I still wasn’t thinking about becoming a writer —the dream was still too big, but I cherished her words. I don’t recall anyone telling me I was good at anything since that junior high note and her words made me consider, for the first time, that perhaps I was good at writing. What a thought! Within a couple of years I was a mother. I didn’t know how to cook, clean, or how to do my daughter’s hair. So, I started to learn and while learning to make tuna casserole I learned how to set a goal, finish it, and be proud of it. Now, I’d set goals before, I’d been proud of things before, but these things created a different kind of satisfaction because I was now old enough to realize that by learning to make tuna casserole I would never not-know how again.

Fast forward another 15 years and I’m supposed to tell these kids how to be confident —but having rehearsed my own story I had an answer. Create success and then celebrate it. There are times when we do well without having made concerted effort to do so —the notes I’d written to my friend— these are still successes. There are other times we do what we need to do, but do it very well —the paper my teacher complimented— these are also successes. And then there are times when we purposely work toward something —learning to make tuna casserole— and we do what we set out to do. In every instance we have the choice of shrugging off, counting the accomplishment as unworthy of notice and moving on, or we can take a step back, notice the improvement we’ve invited into our lives, and let ourselves feel good about it. Every time we allow ourselves to feel good about something we do, I believe we create a greater desire to do it again. We want to feel good, and noticing our successes allow us to do that. So I looked at these awkward kids stuck in an awkward age that feels as though it’s going to last forever and told them to start looking for things they do well, start setting small goals they can achieve, surround themselves with people who will applaud their accomplishments, and, in so doing, begin growing their confidence which is so essential no matter what they decide to do as adults. Maybe it’s working extra hard to get that A on their paper, maybe it’s not getting any cavities at the dentist, maybe it’s saving up for a favorite video game —the goals shouldn’t be big, they should simply be attainable. And when they are achieved, they deserve to be celebrated. Perhaps they’re celebrated with a journal entry, perhaps they are shared with someone who pats you on the back, or maybe they are simply something pondered and approved in their own mind. However it’s done, the celebration is the important thing. There are plenty of things to feel lousy about in life —whether you’re 14 or 47— but there are many things worthy of celebration too.

It was a powerful concept to try and explain, I hope they heard me. Even if they didn’t, however, I was reminded all over again of my journey —and I’m proud of that journey. I have dreams yet to realized, perhaps I still have dreams I haven’t dreamed about, but I sincerely hope that as I move forward on my path that I will take the time to feel good about those things I accomplish. After all, if I won’t celebrate the little things, who will?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Giveaway: The Season of Second Chances

I am excited to announce that we have 3 copies of Diane Meier's wonderful debut novel, The Season of Second Chances: A Novel. If you haven't read it, click me to read my review of the novel. Here is an interview with Ms. Meier as well.

In order to enter, there are a few simple rules:

1)You need to be a follower of our blog through Blogger, Twitter and/or our Facebook page. (I will be checking)
2)Tell us why you want this book
3)Enter the contest by Sunday, May 2nd at Midnight CST.

Good luck!!

Thanks to Jason @ Henry Holt for supplying us with the copies to giveaway.

Author Interview: Diane Meier

Photobucket Last week I reviewed a wonderful book, The Season of Second Chances by Diane Meier. This was her debut novel (SHOCK!!) and she was kind of enough to humor my questions.

GJR: You run a successful Marketing firm, Meier, in NYC, how did you find time to write a novel?

DM: I don’t think I could have done this in the ‘old days’ before computers. The fact that I could pull down the Teddy Hennessy (the name of this book right up until the last minute) file, and read what I’d written the night before -- in a moment or two between clients, or write a hundred words while waiting for a job to go on press – all of this was made possible by the ease of the computer.

And while I wouldn’t belittle the process or the talent to suggest that it was in any way “a breeze”, it was almost a way to re-charge between the storms that make up a life of marketing.

Two other important factors:
1. My work has required me to develop the discipline of being able to move between tasks, skill-sets or clients – seamlessly and with no loss of creativity or focus. It was great training for writing a novel, while still deeply involved with other work.
2. Frank is always working. Always writing. He produces a major book a year (see Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show, his latest or, screenplays, stage-plays and journalism. I didn’t want a life where I went off to dinner or the theater without him and came home to say what an evening he missed. I chose to join the enterprise of creative output, even if it meant long nights at the keyboard, instead!

GJR: In the novel, we see the house that Joy purchased transform into a home at the same time that Joy transforms into a new person as well. Is this something that you planned on from the start of the novel or did it emerge while you were writing?

DM: Very much planned. It seemed to me that a person who has no idea about their own personal or authentic style, no idea of how they really want or need to live – would have no idea of how they needed a home to function. And those of us who have renovated or built houses know that the first thing you need to ascertain, is how you want to live; how you need this house to partner with you in a life that is personally expressive and fulfilling. I also felt that being asked to consider these “domestic” questions (about personal style and taste and the functioning of one’s life) would begin to develop that part of Joy that had been closed down for so long. And conversely, when she started to see her own life reflected in the choices she (and Teddy) have made, I believed that Joy would begin to respond to the world around her with more confidence and less need to insulate her emotional core. Of course, I also believe that this authentic and unique idea of where you stand in the world (your taste, your values, your history, your creativity), is vitally important to a well-developed, fully expressive life. And that’s what creating Joy meant to me.

GJR: Since this is your first novel, did you have any preconceived notions about writing a book? What is easier or harder than you thought?

DM: Since I had a serious professional writer of both fiction and non-fiction right under my own roof, I had no illusions about writing a book, selling a book and promoting a book. For good and bad. There have been two wonderful surprises for me, however – the relationships with my agent, Mitchell Waters (if only all agents were like Mitchell). He’s a combination of avenging angel, patient teacher, sandbox pal and guard dog. And I know that we will be friends forever. My editor, Marjorie Braman, told Mitchell, when she read the manuscript, that she knew we would be friends – and she was right. I love her like the sister I never had. And together, the three of us (okay, so it’s not biology) “birthed” this book. The collaboration was a treat, rather than a problem. And I’ve loved their delight in its success. They have every right to be personally delighted! And I really enjoyed the sharing.

GJR: I loved the fact that Joy was in her late 40s because a lot of female characters that are on a self-discovery journey are in their 20s or 30s, what made you decide to have a Joy a bit older than the typical female heroine? I love the fact that we got to see her blossom into a new person, how it wasn’t an overnight change.

DM: Well, thank you –I agree. Joy says, early in the game, “Change rarely happens in doses large enough to choke you.” Except in regard to major, usually tragic, events imposed upon us, we rarely change in massive ways overnight. I also wanted to show a truth that allows us to grow and change and find deeper meaning in life – anytime. As long as we’re still breathing we’re capable of change and improvement. I think we deal with a number of sexist issues in this book, but there are also some ageist issues skirting the sidelines. – And certainly one of these is that we live in a culture that seems to believe that people over 40 are kind of washed up in terms of power or attraction or vitality. This is anything but true. And I think we’re about to see a kind of revolution around this subject. Watch this space, as they used to say on old billboards….

GJR: How did the term “coyotes” come to be? I think it’s perfect and hilarious.

DM: Well – there are ‘wolves’ – a term that used to be used for ‘men on the make’. Coyotes seemed to be a kind of ‘low-rent’ wolf, I suppose. And, Frank and I live up in a very rural part of the country, along a river valley – and we hear the plaintiff cries of coyotes in the night. It’s a little spooky and disconcerting – I liked that suggestion about these guys. And -- the real-life coyotes are so social that their cries are meant to alert the rest of their pack when they’ve made a ‘kill’. That seemed appropriate for these fellows too. As though they ticked off the “new meat”, as much for the sake of their status within the pack as for their own needs – if you know what I mean…

GJR: One of my favorite secondary characters was Bernadette Lowell. I found her to be so wise and such a visionary. Her character is undertaking a huge curriculum change at Amherst. Who was your inspiration for this type of project? Does something like this currently exist in academia?

DM: Bernadette is a combination of a number of women – Camille Paglia, Betty Friedan, Matina Horner and – oddly enough, Julia Child. Of course, she’s nothing like any of them, really – but all rolled together, we get a kind of Mother-of-us-all - Bernadette. I love her too.

I don’t think that the idea of schools “branding” themselves by creating proprietary “ways” of learning /programs of teaching has happened at the college level. We see a bit of it in the nursery school stage today, and in the 1970’s there was some good experimental work going on in establishing different ways of reaching elementary school children who were either very bright or dysfunctional.

But – with the exception of Saint Johns (, and a few particular art/craft schools, I can’t think of a college or university that hangs its hat on its very different structure or approach to learning. But if a college or university were my client, it would be the very thing I’d suggest they consider.

GJR: Are you working on a new novel? If so, can you tell us the premise?

DM: It’s called The Lowell Girl. And it is, indeed, about Bernadette, whom I create as a Boston Lowell. The book draws on the actual history of the “Lowell Girls” – true heroines of the American Labor Movement – from the very earliest days of 19C (Industrial Revolution – Millwork) Factory Labor. And it tells the (fictional, of course) story of Bernadette’s development into the impressive woman we meet in SSC.

I am SO delighted to hear that she made such an impression on you.

GJR: Besides your husband, Frank Delaney, who are your favorite authors to read? Why?

DM: What’s this “besides”? I do love Frank’s work. I can hear you all say – “Well, she would say that, wouldn’t she”. But I don’t think so. Here’s my challenge to your readers – if you don’t see yourself picking up Ireland or Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show(or Shannon: A Novel or Tipperary: A Novel) – try the audio books and let Frank read them to you. I promise -- you’ll be hooked. They’re heart-stopping.

But okay – besides…. I love Henry James and Edith Wharton. I love John O’Hara – especially his short stories. I love Gore Vidal’s essays. I love all Truman Capote – including his dashed off essays for “Interview”. I think that Amanda Vaill’s biographies (Everybody Was So Young and Somewhere about the Murpheys and Jerome Robbins, respectively, were first rate. I’ve read everything I can get my hands on about Paris in that period between the First and Second World Wars. Especially the handful of women there who sort of mid-wifed the Modernist Movement – from Margaret Anderson and Sylvia Beach to Gertrude Stein and Janet Flanner. I’m not sure how I’m going to use it, but it’s really calling out to me.

I love Crackpots: A Novel by Sara Pritchard. It’s the kind of talent you didn’t think they’d discover anymore – a completely unique voice. I love Katherine Lanpher’s Leap Days: Chronicles of a Midlife Move – about her move to New York –from the Midwest when she was forty (talk about Second Chances!).

GJR: What are you currently reading?

DM: Cathleen Schine’s The Three Weissmanns of Westport. It’s a witty, sardonic and touching book – that is NOTHING like it’s terrible Chick-Lit cover. You look at the cheesy cover and wonder what this book could possibly have to say to you – but pick it up! She’s a marvelous writer. And it’s made me want to go back and find all of her previous books. They’re on order now from Amazon. Bet you will love her.

I read a lot and, apparently, I read very some very unusual things. I just picked up a book on taxidermy. Go figure.

Two of my favorite books are not likely “top choices” for your audience, and they may say more about me than about the books :
Wish I Could Be There: Notes from a Phobic Life by Allen Shawn.
Sontag and Kael: Opposites Attract Me by Craig Seligman.

What holds them together is a deeply personal and almost obsessive degree of attention to a very narrow subject. As I happen to feel strongly (and positively) about both Sontag and Kael, my interest in the Seligman book was piqued from the get-go. I fell in love with his writing (and his values) in the process. But I have very little experience with phobias, so I’m not sure how I stumbled across Shawn’s book, but it’s become a favorite. It’s an unwavering attempt at clear-eyed honesty within a subject that wants nothing more than to hide. A very brave and captivating book. (And – selfishly ---- a great lesson for a novelist who writes in the first person.)

I want to thank Ms. Meier for taking time out of her extremely busy schedule to answer my questions. I know that I will be anxiously awaiting her book, The Lowell Girl. I also know that I have several new books to add to my wish list on Amazon.

If you are curious about her marketing firm, click here.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Jenn's Review: Lemon Tart

Summary: Award-winning author Josi S. Kilpack introduces a new series of culinary cozies that is sure to tantalize mystery lovers. In this debut volume, cooking aficionado turned amateur detective Sadie Hoffmiller tries to solve the murder of her beautiful young neighbor a single mother who was mysteriously lured from her home while a lemon tart was baking in her oven. At the heart of Sadie's search is the woman's missing two year-old child. Whoever took the child must be the murderer, but Sadie is certain that the police are looking at all the wrong suspects including her! For an added treat, original mouth-watering recipes for Sadie's Lemon Tart, Homemade Alfredo Sauce, Carrot Cookies, Brownies, and Granny's Gingerbread Bundt Cake are sprinkled throughout the book.

Review: With my love of food-lit and mystery novels Lemon Tart seemed like an ideal read... and it is truly the best of both worlds. It was a quick, light read full of surprises and delicious recipes.

This is the first book I've read in a long time where the voice of the story is not that of the law enforcement or the criminologists who are doing the lead investigating, but that of a friend and neighbor looking in from the outside. At first, that took a little adjusting to, but once I switched mind frames, it was very refreshing. Sadie is the town busybody that knows everyone... and that everyone knows. So when a neighbor is murdered and a toddler goes missing, what can she do but investigate? Sadie knows her neighbor better than anyone else in her cul-de-sac, but how much do any of us really know our neighbors?

Sadie takes food and cooking seriously; thank you's, apologies, and bribes, all come with a yummy homemade treat (for which Ms. Kilpack graciously supplies the recipes at the ends of chapters). She also has a knack for nosing into trouble. Sure, many of Sadie's problems and fears would be alleviated if she told the police all that she knows, but with her thirst to save the murdered women's reputation, the discoveries she's making about her friends and family, and a neophyte detective who suspects her of murder, Sadie has a hard time not withholding evidence.

Ms. Kilpack's character's are well developed and her plot has plenty of layers. For me, the only sticking point in the plot was the lack of FBI involvement in the case of the missing toddler. This nagged me to the point where I actually looked up the protocol. Apparently it is suggested that the FBI be notified, but it is up to the discretion of law enforcement working the case. As we are only seeing the investigation from Sadie's point of view, I suppose the FBI may have been involved, but I would think that if they were involved, they would have interviewed Sadie. I also would have tossed Sadie into jail for interfering with an investigation long before the lead detective is fed up with her, but then again, he does seem to have a soft spot for her.

While I love a good heavy crime novel, this was a nice light mystery with some great food-lit infusion ~ a perfect summer read. If you are a fan of comfort food and delicious intrigue, this book is for you. I can't wait to dive into the rest of the series, try some of the scrumptious recipes, and perhaps check out some other titles from Ms. Kilpack.

Final Take 3.5/5

Monday, April 19, 2010

Julie's Review: The Third Rail

Summary: Harvey’s third Michael Kelly novel finds the tough Chicago PI eyeball deep in a burgeoning reign of terror focused on the transit system, the venerable CTA. Kelly witnesses the first murder on an L platform and sets off in hot but futile pursuit. After the second murder, he receives a taunting phone call from the killer, who alludes to Kelly’s knowledge of ancient Greece. As Kelly dredges his memory for a suspect—and recalls painful moments from his youth—the FBI barges in, citing terrorism; spooky suits from Homeland Security lurk on the periphery; and the body count rises. Hizzoner, the Daleyesque John J. Wilson, summons Kelly to make him an offer he can’t refuse. The expert use of Chicago politics that distinguished Harvey’s previous novel, The Fifth Floor (2008), is much in evidence here as well. Hizzoner is still practicing realpolitik, Chicago style, and the main plot is based on a real-life CTA accident in the 1970s. But the edginess and noir sensibility that were central to the earlier book’s appeal are lessened a bit this time by Kelly’s becoming an insider; the mayor seems to admire and trust him. That said, the action is nonstop, Harvey once again captures the unique zeitgeist of the city, and Kelly, tough smart, and a bit rough around the edges, is a true native son.

Review: I love books where they take you to locations/cities/places you've never been, because then you can let your imagination take over. But who can resist a book that is set in the city you grew up going to all that time? I can't and well Michael Harvey's The Third Rail is set in my beloved Chi-town. This is the third novel that features P.I. Michael Kelly but it's the first that I've read. I enjoyed the book greatly and already told my step-dad to download the books. (He has a Kindle)

The book opens with a brutal shooting on Chicago's North-side on the L platform. Kelly runs the assailant down but ends up getting the raw end of the confrontation, when he's hit in the head. The book never lets up after that. We follow Kelly on an adventure throughout the city that becomes personal in more ways than one. The FBI is brought in to work the case as well and of course that's always where things get sticky. This is where Kelly fits in. He's called upon by the Mayor of Chicago to work the case "independently" and to take care of the situation as he sees fit. So, he works the case how he sees fit, telling the Chicago PD and FBI only the essentials.

I can't really delve into the details without giving away the book, so I won't. I will say there are some good twists to the plot. One I figured out fairly early the other one hit me upside my head. I truly didn't see it coming.

For those of you that love history, the book goes into the 1980 L derailment that killed 11 people. Mr. Harvey even has nice Internet links at the end of the book if you want to learn more. I always enjoy when an author takes a real event and puts a fictitious story around it. For me, it makes me want to learn more about the real event.

A couple of minor things: 1) At times the writing could be a bit choppy, but that could be the writer's style. Sometimes it worked in the book and sometimes it didn't. It does lend itself to a fast-paced storyline. It just didn't work well in some of the more intimate conversations. 2) Based on the cover that had an slip over it from Michael Connelly saying that Mr. Harvey is "A major new voice", I figured he was a new author and was surprised that in fact this is his third Michael Kelly novel. It's a bit misleading but in the end I didn't mind because I typically enjoy reading new authors.

So, for you fans of Mr. Connelly and Mr. Coben, Michael Harvey is an author you will want to get to know.

I would like to thank Dana Kaye at Dana Kay Publicity for sending me a copy of The Third Rail.

Final Take:

This book will be released tomorrow, April 20th.