December 21, 2009

The Winner of "Divorce Sucks"!


The lucky winner of "Divorce Sucks" by Mary Jo Eustace is . . .


Dr. Gerbil!!

Congratulations to Dr. Gerbil! You did not leave me an email address so I will give you until midnight on Wednesday, December 23 to contact me with your mailing address.  Should I not hear from you, I will power up randomizer.org again and let it choose a new winner.  
Thanks to everyone who visited my blog and entered the giveaway. Please stick around for future reviews and giveaways.

Thanks again to Julie Harabedian and FSB Media for making this giveaway possible.




Mailbox Monday: December 21, 2009



Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page where we share what reads we have received in our mailboxes the previous week.


I certainly did keep the postman and UPS truck busy this week.  Here is what I received:


Sent by authors:


The Last Surgeon by Michael Palmer

The New York Times bestselling author and master of medical suspense delivers another shocker of a thriller filled with insider details and a terrifying psychopath



Four murders.  Three accidents.  Two suicides.  One left… 
THE LAST SURGEON


Michael Palmer’s latest novel pits a flawed doctor against a ruthless psychopath, who has made murder his art form. Dr. Nick Garrity, a vet suffering from PTSD—post traumatic stress disorder—spends his days and nights dispensing medical treatment from a mobile clinic to the homeless and disenfranchised in D.C. and Baltimore. In addition, he is constantly on the lookout for his war buddy Umberto Vasquez, who was plucked from the streets by the military four years ago for a secret mission and has not been seen since.


Psych nurse Gillian Coates wants to find her sister’s killer. She does not believe that Belle Coates, an ICU nurse, took her own life, even though every bit of evidence indicates that she did—every bit save one. Belle has left Gillian a subtle clue that connects her with Nick Garrity.


Together, Nick and Gillian determine that one-by-one, each of those in the operating room for a fatally botched case is dying. Their discoveries pit them against genius Franz Koller--the highly-paid master of the “non-kill”—the art of murder that does not look like murder. As Doctor and nurse move closer to finding the terrifying secret behind these killings, Koller has been given a new directive: his mission will not be complete until Gillian Coates and Garrity, the last surgeon, are dead.


Books I won:


truly, madly by Heather Webber

Lucy Valentine is as smart as can be, as single as you can get, and so not qualified to run a matchmaking service. But when her parents temporarily step down from the family business, Valentine, Inc., it’s Lucy’s turn to step up and help out—in the name of love.



Plus, her rent is due.


Here’s the problem: Lucy doesn’t have the knack for matchmaking. According to family legend, every Valentine has been blessed by Cupid with the ability to read “auras” and pair up perfect couples. But not Lucy. Her skills were zapped away years ago in an electrical surge, and now all she can do is find lost objects. What good is that in the matchmaking world? You’d be surprised. In a city like Boston, everyone’s looking for something. So when Lucy locates a missing wedding ring—on a dead body—she asks the sexy private eye who lives upstairs to help her solve the perfect crime. And who knows? Maybe she’ll find the perfect love while she’s at it…



Books I received as gifts:



Hollywood Kryptonite by Sam Kashner and Nancy Schoenberger

When George Reeves, who had achieved international fame by playing Superman for five years on TV, was found dead by gunshot in 1959, the death was officially recorded as a suicide. According to Kashner and Schoenberger (A Talent for Genius), however, unanswered details about Reeves's demise shroud what in truth was foul play. In this page-turning hybrid of bio and murder mystery, the authors entertainingly pick at the loose ends and point their pens at a killer. Reeves, they show, was hardly as wholesome as his TV image implied. His life was filled with hard-drinking men, manipulative women, mafiosos and a career that plummeted like a comet after The Adventures of Superman went off the air. The authors set down this B movie-style tale with hard-boiled relish. They introduce archetypal sleazebag characters with an entertaining terseness?"Eddie was a tough guy with a heart of tungsten"; "Leonore Lemmon wore the reddest lipstick in New York"?that occasionally veers into cheap Hammett imitations. The well-articulated backdrop of low-budget TV production only enhances the cheesy milieu, however. By laying out Reeves's life before solving the mystery of his death, the authors present the equivalent of a crisp black-and-white TV docudrama, and manage to evoke all the irresistibly creepy nostalgia of a bygone era. Photos not seen by PW.


Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris

Holidays on Ice is a collection of holiday-themed fictional stories and personal essays written by David Sedaris, the best-selling humorist. Holidays on Ice was one of Sedaris' first works when originally published, and it's been re-released with the addition of a few passages, most of which have been previously published elsewhere. Even if you've read it before, Holidays on Ice is laugh out loud funny, and die-hard Sedaris fans need to spend their holidays reading this collection




Purchased by me:



The Best Day of Someone Else's Life by Kerry Reichs

Despite being cursed with a boy's name, Kevin "Vi" Connelly is seriously female and a committed romantic. The affliction hit at the tender age of six when she was handed a basket of flower petals and ensnared by the "marry-tale." The thrill, the attention, the big white dress—it's the Best Day of Your Life, and it's seriously addictive. But at twenty-seven, with a closetful of pricey bridesmaid dresses she'll never wear again, a trunkful of embarrassing memories, and an empty bank account from paying for it all, the illusion of matrimony as the Answer to Everything begins to fray. As her friends' choices don't provide answers, and her family confuses her more, Vi faces off against her eminently untrustworthy boyfriend and the veracity of the BDOYL.



Eleven weddings in eighteen months would send any sane woman either over the edge or scurrying for the altar. But as reality separates from illusion, Vi learns that letting go of someone else's story to write your own may be harder than buying the myth, but just might help her make the right choices for herself.




The Man Who Loved Jane Austen by Sally Smith O'Rourke

New York artist Eliza Knight stumbles across an antique dressing table that includes the added bonus of secreted letters, apparently between Jane Austen and a real-life Mr. Darcy. Caught up in her romantic notions about Austen's Pride and Prejudice and the possibility that Darcy may have been more than Austen's invention, Eliza enlists the aid of an eccentric researcher as well as a handsome and mysterious Virginia horse breeder, Fitzwilliam Darcy. Three years earlier, on a horse-buying junket to England, Darcy had a life-altering experience that makes him now anxious to buy the one letter written by Austen before it goes to auction at Sotheby's. For Eliza, the letter represents a possible fortune; for Darcy, it represents possibly requited love. O'Rourke alternates between the past and the present in this fascinating novel that pays tribute to Jane Austen's enduring ideals of romantic love..





Murder is Binding by Lorna Barrett

Stoneham, N.H., the picturesque setting of the pseudonymous Barrett's charming first in a new series, boasts a newly renovated main street devoted to a variety of bookstores. When Tricia Miles—mystery bookstore proprietor and city refugee—discovers her unpleasant cookbook store neighbor stabbed to death and a rare book missing, Tricia soon finds herself under the sheriff's surveillance and dubbed the village jinx. Determined to clear her name and track down the stolen cookbook, Tricia enlists a few friendly locals to aid in her investigation. When her difficult older sister, Angelica, arrives unexpectedly, Tricia worries she's in for another headache, but Angelica turns out to be a willing conspirator in Tricia's search for answers. The mix of books, cooking and an engaging whodunit will leave cozy fans eager for the next installment








Vampire Darcy's Desire by Regina Jeffers

Vampire Darcy's Desire takes the greatest literary romance of all time and reinvents it around the hottest publishing genre--vampire romance. No story lends itself better to adaptation. Two lovers trying to overcome that which separates them: their pride, their prejudice, Darcy's vampirism and the evil workings of master vampire George Wickham.












According to Jane by Marilyn Brant

 It begins one day in sophomore English class, just as Ellie Barnett's teacher is assigning Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice". From nowhere comes a quiet 'tsk' of displeasure. The target: Sam Blaine, the cute bad boy who's teasing Ellie mercilessly, just as he has since kindergarten. Entirely unbidden, as Jane might say, the author's ghost has taken up residence in Ellie's mind, and seems determined to stay there. Jane's wise and witty advice guides Ellie through the hell of adolescence and beyond, serving as the voice she trusts, usually far more than her own. Years and boyfriends come and go - sometimes a little too quickly, sometimes not nearly fast enough. But Jane's counsel is constant, and on the subject of Sam, quite insistent. Stay away, Jane demands. He is your Mr. Wickham. Still, everyone has something to learn about love - perhaps even Jane herself. And lately, the voice in Ellie's head is being drowned out by another, urging her to look beyond everything she thought she knew and seek out her very own, very unexpected, happy ending.




So what books came into your house last week?

December 20, 2009

Review: A Highlander Christmas by Janet Chapman



Synopsis:  Camry MacKeage has absolutely no intention of telling her parents that she left her job as a NASA physicist for the small-town life of a dog-sitter -- which is why she's spending the holidays alone in coastal Maine with her furry friends Tigger and Max. Unfortunately, her irresistibly handsome rival, scientist Luke Pascal, accidentally spilled the beans. Now he's on a mission from her mother to tempt Camry home for the family's annual winter solstice celebration. But Luke is hiding his own secret, and he'll need a little bit of magic to earn Camry's trust...and a whole lot of mistletoe to seduce his way into her heart.  (from Amazon)


When I started this book, I wasn't sure I was going to like it.  First, I felt as though I had walked into an existing conversation and missed the beginning.    And secondly, I feared that this book would be as unbearably sweet and fluffy as an oversized cotton candy. 

Happily, I was incorrect.  While A Highlander Christmas is part of author Janet Chapman's Highlander series, and I had not read anything previously by Ms. Chapman, other than the initial first chapter or so of the book, I quickly got into the story.  The character of Camry was a fun and interesting one, being smart, sassy and determined.  Luke was a terrific hero, well suited for Camry.  While their initial meeting and result was a bit predictable, their banter was energetic and fun to read.  Yes, they fell in love in record time but it's entertainment.

For those readers who want nothing but realism in their books, A Highlander Christmas will not be for you.  You must embrace and accept the idea of magic, as well as suspend some belief, to get everything out of this story.  I personally tend to like stories with fantasy and the supernatural element and A Highlander Christmas gives you a nice dose of both.

While I don't recall there being objectionable language, and there is no real violence, other than a brief fight scene, there is a bit of sex and sexual matters.  I didn't find it objectionable nor did I find it gratituous. 

For myself, I ended up enjoying A Highlander Christmas and found it to be a pleasurable, if light, read -- perfect for a rainy (or snowy) afternoon, or to loll over while soaking in the bathtub.  It may not be one of those stories that continues to stick in your mind long after you close the book, but it's a satisfying read while you're immersed in the pages. 

A Highlander Christmas can be purchased now at all major booksellers, including Barnes and Noble and Amazon.

Author Janet Chapman's website is here.

Many thanks to Sarah Reidy and Pocket Books/Simon & Schuster for the opportunity to read and review this book. 

Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.


December 15, 2009

Review: A Blue and Gray Christmas by Joan Medlicott


Synopsis:  In this stunning holiday story, a cache of Civil War-era letters and diaries sweeps the ladies of Covington up into a dramatic and heartwarming historical saga that inspires them to plan an unforgettable Christmas for two families forever changed by war.



When a rusty old tin box is unearthed at the Covington Homestead, longtime housemates Grace, Amelia, and Hannah discover that it contains letters and diaries written by two Civil War soldiers, one Union and one Confederate.


The friends are captivated by the drama revealed. The soldiers were found dying on a nearby battlefi eld by an old woman. She nursed them back to health, hiding them from bounty hunters seeking deserters. At the end of the war the men chose to stay in Covington, caring for their rescuer as she grew frail. But while their lives were rich, they still felt homesick and guilty for never contacting the families they'd left behind.

Christmas is coming, and the letters inspire Amelia with a generous impulse. What if she and her friends were to fi nd the two soldiers' descendants and invite them to Covington to meet? What better holiday gift could there be than the truth about these two heroic men and their dramatic shared fate? With little time left, the ladies spring into action to track down the men's families in Connecticut and the Carolinas, and to make preparations in Covington for their most memorable, most historic Christmas yet.

I had never read anything by Joan Medlicott before and I thought this book sounded like a festive Christmas read.  I loved it from start to finish. 

While it is part of a series (the Covington series) the book works as a stand alone as well.  The story and the characters are fresh and relatable, with the trio of housemates, Grace, Hannah and Amelia, the center of the story.  And as much as I enjoyed the ladies themselves, I thought the best part of the story was the story of Tom and John, the two Civil war soldiers, one Union and one Confederate, who survived the war together and whose stories were told entirely through the letters Grace, Hannah and Amelia found buried on their property. 

Historical fiction can be a tricky thing - - an author must be accurate without being overly academic and Ms. Medlicott's use of letters only to transport the reader to Tom's and John's time is inspired and immensely satisfying.  Reading their letters, you feel one man's anguish at leaving his life behind and another's glimmer of hope at starting life anew. 

Woven within the Civil War stories and the stories of Grace, Hannah and Amelia is also the story of Denny, the local pastor, and his desire to marry Sarina, Hannah's former daughter-in-law. 

All this is set to the backdrop of the Christmas season, with the underlying theme of family and Christmas miracles. 

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good, heartwarming tale, a true feel-good story.  Enjoying historical fiction is simply an added bonus.  For the discerning reader, there is no language, no sex and no violence, other than a few Civil War injuries mentioned.  This is a great read for a book club or a reader of any age.

A Blue and Gray Christmas can be purchased at major booksellers, including Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  

Author Joan Medlicott's website is here.

Many thanks to Sarah Reidy and Pocket Books/Simon & Schuster for the opportunity to read and review this book.

Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.  

December 14, 2009

Mailbox Monday - December 14, 2009







Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page where we share what reads we have received in our mailboxes the previous week.


This past week was like Christmas - - twice! - - for me.  Here is what I received: 

Sent by publishers: 


The Circle of Friends: Book V - Heather by L. Diane Wolfe

A new beginning awaits Heather Jennings. The position at Clemson means she will finally realize her dream of coaching basketball. Heather is ready to focus on her duties, using sheer force if necessary to prove her independence.



Unfortunately, her triumph is hampered as father and greatest advocate lies dying of cancer. Battling her grief, she must also deal with a sister who appears incapable of responsibility or achievement. And once basketball season begins, a talented but cocky player who resembles her in every manner challenges all that remains of Heather’s patience.


Heather’s life changes when she encounters a man capable of handling her bold and feisty attitude. Straightforward and smug, he entices her to date him, and despite his gruff nature shows a great capacity for compassion. However, the last thing Heather needs is a serious relationship with a man equally fixated on work and opposed to marriage…



Recollections of Rosings by Rebecca Ann Collins

The eighth novel in the bestselling Pemberley Chronicles series, with fascinating social history of the Victorian period as a backdrop. A catastrophe at Rosings reunites two sisters, the daughters of Charlotte Lucas and Mr. Collins, who are forced to confront the ghosts of the past and find new direction for the future.









The Scarlet Lion by Elizabeth Chadwick

A page-turning novel of honor, intrigue, treachery and love, continuing the story of England's greatest knight of the Middle Ages, William Marshal, from bestselling author Elizabeth Chadwick, "an author who makes historical fiction come gloriously alive" (The Times of London). A writer of uncommon historical integrity and accuracy, Elizabeth Chadwick has created a stand-alone follow-up to The Greatest Knight that was nominated one of the landmark historical novels of the last ten years.






The Stolen Crown by Susan Higginbotham

A War of the Roses as never heard before, readers will find a story focusing on the period before 1485, a sympathetic Buckingham, a Richard III who unquestionably murders the two princes in the tower, and a partiality towards the Woodvilles, all told through the unique perspective of sweet Kate, sister to Elizabeth Woodville, Queen of England.






Purchased by me: 



But I Trusted You and Other True Cases by Ann Rule

Ann Rule, who famously chronicled her own shocking experience of unknowingly befriending a sociopath in The Stranger Beside Me, offers a riveting, all-new collection from her true-crime files, with the lethally shattered bonds of trust at the core of each bloodsoaked account. Whether driven to extreme violence by greed or jealousy, passion or rage, these calculating sociopaths targeted those closest to them -- unwitting victims whose last disbelieving words could well have been "but I trusted you...." Headlining this page-turning anthology is the case of middle-school counselor Chuck Leonard, found shot to death outside his Washington State home on an icy February morning. A complicated mix of family man and wild man, Chuck played hard and loved many...but who crossed the line by murdering him in cold blood? And why? The revelation is as stunning as the shattering crime itself, powerfully illuminating how those we think we know can ingeniously hide their destructive and homicidal designs. Along with other shattering cases, immaculately detailed and sharply analyzed by America's #1 true-crime writer, this fourteenth Crime Files volume is essential reading for getting inside the mind of the hidden killers among us.





Searching for Pemberley by Mary Lydon Simonsen

Through letters, diary entries, and oral history, a couple in the nearby village share stories of the people they say inspired Jane Austen. They also tell their own love story, made difficult by their vastly different backgrounds-she was one of the social elite while he was the son of a servant.








A Veiled Deception by Annette Blair

A fun new mystery series from the author of Gone with the Witch.



The right dress can be magic; the wrong one—murder! From the national bestselling author of Sensation's Witch series comes the new Vintage Magic mystery series, featuring Madeira Cutler. While opening her own vintage clothing shop, Maddie must clear her family's name when her sister's wedding festivities hit a snag: murder.






So what books came into your house last week?  





Review: Fastened to the Marsh and Interview with Author Jan Durham



Synopsis:  The story traces a family's legacy from arrival of an 18th century indentured servant to the begrudging return of her last legitimate descendant in the 21st century. Through flashbacks the reader is introduced to a procession of stalwart women who draw their strength from their connection to the rhythmic life on the marsh and an unfailing conviction that what cannot be bested must be borne.

I have recently become interested in historical fiction again, after quite a dry spell, and Jan Durham's book is a historical fiction lover's delight.  Fastened to the Marsh reminds me of John Jakes' works, with its richly woven tapestry of southern history (especially that of Georgia, my home state) but less voluminous and with more emphasis on interfamilial relationships and spiritual matters.  Marsh does not offer up as many characters as a typical Jakes tome, but the characters Ms. Durham does create come vividly to life and draw the reader instantly into the story. 

Ms. Durham starts her book in the present day and treats the reader to flashbacks throughout that not only explain Savannah history but help to move the present day story along.  No parts of the story are cliche or even predictable.  Ms. Durham avoids causing Marsh to sound like cut and dried history which can cause me to close the book.  Instead, she creates a story that played like a vivid film in my mind. 

Fastened to the Marsh also has the distinct honor of highlighting the women through the generations.  If you've read about history or taken history classes, you know about the men that fought in the wars, that built the plantation houses, that farmed the lands and oversaw the families.  Ms. Durham, while including the men in the story, makes her tale center around the importance of the women, showcasing their strength and tenacity as well as their caregiving and homemaking and thus, gives them a proper place in history. 

My mother suggested I read this book and I'm glad she did.  Fastened to the Marsh drew me in quickly and didn't let go until I had read the entire history of the original Elizabeth and her descendants.  Fastened to the Marsh isn't a huge production of a sweeping saga but rather a more intimate portrait of a family through the ages.  Here is hoping that Ms. Durham gifts us with a sequel to this lovely story. 

If you enjoy historical fiction, particularly early American history, with a dash of romance and adventure, and with living, breathing characters, Fastened to the Marsh is for you.  For the discerning reader, there is no objectionable language, no descriptive sex or violence. I highly recommend it.  Fastened to the Marsh would also be a wonderful choice for a book club. 

Fastened to the Marsh is available now at Amazon and at Bonaventture Books

*          *          *                            
I am delighted to welcome Jan Durham, author of Fastened to the Marsh to Psychotic State. She has graciously agreed to answer some questions for my readers.



Hi Jan.  Let’s talk about your new book, Fastened to the Marsh. How did you get the idea?


When we bought a home on Skidaway, I started studying the history of the island and exploring the historical sites that remain including the graves of Elcy Waters and her infant son Thomas within a crumbling tabby fence. Intrigued by a woman who died in 1808 at the age of 26, I began imagining what her life must have been on a remote plantation and started writing down my thoughts. From those reflections emerged the women of Marsh Oaks Plantation from the arrival of an 18th century indentured servant to the begrudging return of her last legitimate descendant in the 21st century.

How much research went into writing Fastened to the Marsh?

Perhaps too much. I love history and often become so involved in my research that I forget to write. To me, history is not just about dates or specific events; it's the story of the people who lived them.


As a reader, I dislike finding a contemporary idiom in the middle of a period novel, so as a novelist, I am very intentional about my research. I read primary documents such as journals or letters written by people who lived during the period to become familiar with the language they used and to gain their perspectives on the happenings. I become immersed in the era as I research clothing, transportation, customs, anything that seems to distinguish the period from the present day.


Then I create characters who might have lived during that time. Many of my characters are loosely based on real people, often anonymous individuals mentioned in a newspaper account or an ancient chronicle. Several of the characters in Forsaken, the novel I am working on now, were inspired by people mentioned in 16th century Spanish chronicles and letters that documented the impact of the conquistadors on the New World .

Fastened to the Marsh had several generations of a southern family and, as a result, quite a few characters. Which character was your favorite and why?

He wasn't my favorite, but I enjoyed writing the character of Edwin Heard. Arrogant and self-centered, he says things I might actually like to say but don’t. Oblivious to the needs of others, he ignores his only daughter Eliza, blaming her for not being the son he so desires. When she needs him most, his only concern is how her behavior has embarrassed him. As I wrote his death scene, I sensed Eliza's approval.

Was there one character in the book most like you?

I think I related most to Elizabeth Leigh Brinson Crawford. She was the first character I created and I chose her name from my family tree. During the span of my years, I seem to have changed my identity several times as I explored new vocations and Elizabeth , for quite different reasons, does the same.

The daughter of a wealthy tradesman in Clovelly , England , Elizabeth is still unmarried when the reversal of her father’s business hastens his death and leaves her penniless. Educated beyond the norms of her era for a life that no longer exists, she recalls her father’s admonition that what cannot be bested must be borne and becomes an indentured servant. When she is transported from a mundane but predictable future in the drawing rooms of Georgian Britain to a life of uncertainty and even drudgery in a spartan British colony in America, she manages to reinvent herself more than once in order to survive.

A dear friend of mine, after suffering several losses in her life, shared her philosophy that after each loss, you must create a new “you.” Each of the women of Marsh Oaks suffers great losses and after each, they face having to create a new life.

Any chance that readers will get a chance to revisit any of the characters from the book?

The most frequently asked question when I speak to a group is, “Are you writing a sequel?” I consider that a true compliment.

Many readers ask what happened to the first Elizabeth after she left the island. As I moved on to the antebellum period and Eliza's story, I did envision the events that took place during the intervening century just to ensure continuity, but I didn’t write about them. I never imagined readers would be so concerned about Elizabeth that they would want to know too, but the question has come up so many times that I am researching the late colonial period. Although it was not the next novel in my queue, I’m considering not a sequel, but a supplement that would relate the story of the women of Marsh Oaks from the colonial era to the civil war—from Elizabeth Brinson to Betsy Rogers.

Can you let us know what you’re working on now?

Before I finished Fastened to the Marsh, I was already plotting a new novel that has no connection except that it too takes place on a Georgia island. I have finished the rough draft and am revising this second historical novel.

In 1526, seventy-five years before Jamestown , a Spanish fleet sailed from Hispaniola with 600 people—including African slaves—to found the first European settlement in North America , but it lasted only a few months and was abandoned. Although no archeological evidence has been found, primary documents provide sketchy facts about Mission San Miguel de Gualdape on the coast of Georgia . The novel Forsaken speculates about the human aspect of the demise of the colony through not one but a series of catastrophic events—both physical and behavioral—that doomed the settlement.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

I'm told that every English major wants to write the Great American Novel, but the possibility always seemed extremely remote. My greatest regret is that I didn’t heed that desire and begin trying to write sooner. I had a superb—and demanding—high school English teacher who taught me to love the written word and still critiques my work.

Any particular authors that inspire you or that you enjoy reading?

So many it's hard to enumerate them. I loved the Brontes, Daphne du Maurier, Hemingway, Faulkner, and Maugham as a student and currently enjoy reading Philippa Gregory and Geraldine Brooks. Norah Lofts' Wayside Tavern and Michener's The Source influenced the format for my writing and when my very serious writing critique group compared my next novel to Ken Follett, I was quite flattered.

Can you take us through a normal day in the life of Jan Durham?

I would love to say that I rise early and go to my desk to write uninterrupted for several productive hours, turning out a wealth of flawless pages. That would be a complete untruth. I am still in the stage of my career as a writer that I let the mundane interfere with the magnificent. Unfortunately I consider writing my reward for having done the things I have to do, but I’m working on it. Next year I will write first!

If you could offer one piece of advice to an unpublished author, what would it be?

Learn all you can as soon as you can! The publishing industry is very competitive and costly.


With the advent of word processing, almost anyone can write a book, but publishing one is a different story. With so many to choose from, publishers have to be sure a book “has legs” before they invest time and money in it. I was very fortunate to find a publisher for my first novel in a relatively short time and we’ve all heard of authors who attain overnight fame with a first novel. It does happen, but the norm is that would-be authors spend years honing their skills and pitching their work trying to find agents and publishers. For most authors, writing is a pastime not a career and only about 5% of novelists support themselves by writing.


Once a book is published the real work begins. Hemingway may have had the privilege of being a recluse (as many who love to write would like to be) but today published authors are expected to carry the major load for the success of their work. Marketing leaves little time for doing what we love most.

So why do I bother? To paraphrase Somerset Maugham, I write not because I want to, but because I have to. When I’m not writing, I can’t wait to get back to it.

If you could use only one word to describe or sell Fastened to the Marsh to a reader, what would it be? Why?

Belonging. The contemporary heroine of Fastened to the Marsh is a successful woman approaching retirement yet still searching for a sense of belonging that has eluded her since childhood. The novel explores a multitude of issues including family relationships, caregiving, aging with meaning, and the will of God in our lives, but the overarching theme is finding where we belong, the place that is the source of our strength and security.

The title is taken from Sidney Lanier’s poem “Marshes of Glynn.” As the marsh hen fastens her nest to marsh grass to protect it from the rising tide, the poet fastens his hope on the greatness of God. For generations of the women of Marsh Oaks, their home on the marsh is a metaphor for belonging, the source of their strength and security.

And lastly, if you could be your favorite literary character for one day, who would you choose and why?

That’s a difficult question because I tend to relate to the writer rather than the character. I suppose I would be Elizabeth Bennett from Pride and Prejudice. I have always thought that I was born several centuries too late, but I believe I would have had difficulty adapting to the mores of English society just as Elizabeth did. I still would prefer to be Emily Bronte, Jane Austen, or Agatha Christie.

Thank you, Jan, for taking the time to stop and chat with us today.  I wish you the best of success with Fastened to the Marsh, as well as your second historical novel.




About author Jan Durham:

A native of Savannah, Jan Durham spent most of her adult life in Atlanta after earning her B.S. in Secondary Education from Georgia Southern, but she has never lost her love for her roots in the marshes of coastal Georgia.

She attended Candler School of Theology and after ordination as a clergy member of the United Methodist Church focused on issues of aging and congregational care. She has been a volunteer chaplain with hospice and started an adult day center for families coping with Alzheimer’s disease.

She is the author of After the Example of Christ, a model for servant ministry by and for older adults, published through the General Board of Discipleship and used in congregations throughout the United Methodist Church. She also co-authored a manual on congregational respite care with the Georgia Department of Aging and the Georgia Alzheimer’s Association.

Jan now lives on Skidaway Island on the Georgia coast where the 19th century graves of a woman and her infant son enclosed in a tabby wall inspired her historical novel Fastened to the Marsh. She continues her involvement with the Alzheimer’s Association and hospice.

She is a member of the Landings Writers’ Group. She is currently working on a second novel set on Sapelo Island.

Review copy of Fastened to the Marsh borrowed from a relative.   

December 11, 2009

Review and Giveaway: Divorce Sucks by Mary Jo Eustace



Synopsis:  Hock the platinum. Take down the vacation photos. Cancel the joint checking account.



There's no question . . . Divorce Sucks. And perhaps no one knows that better than author Mary Jo Eustace, whose ex-husband Dean McDermott married Tori Spelling a mere thirty days after their divorce was finalized. One part tell-all and one part guide to get readers on their feet after a bitter breakup, this hilarious addition to the bestselling Sucks series tells everything readers don’t want to know about divorce - from what a phone call with a lawyer will cost; to how to handle your newer, younger replacement; to what Hollywood divorcees are actually thinking when they watch their ex walk the red carpet with a millionairess. Sometimes horrifying, sometimes gratifying, and never merciful, this book will give readers an inside look at one of today’s most public divorces while reminding them - hey, it could always be worse.


I have to be honest.  I selected this book thinking that it was going to be Mary Jo Eustace's version of what happened during her infamous split from Dean McDermott, when he left her for Tori Spelling.  Trashy, I know.  But I thought maybe a light, gossipy book would be a nice change. 

Divorce Sucks, despite it's somewhat lighthearted, joking (and yet all too true) title, is a tell-all but not of the gossipy variety.  Instead, Ms. Eustace shares what it's like to be over 40 and facing an unexpected and sudden divorce.  Add to that the celebrity factor (Ms. Eustace was somewhat of a local celebrity in her native Canada, along with ex-husband McDermott, with Tori Spelling bringing the tabloids and entertainment news into what should have been a very personal family matter), two children (one of whom was an infant that had been adopted a mere three weeks before McDermott left) and a very recent relocation to Los Angeles, where Ms. Eustace had no ties, no employment and no roots.  Hmm, yes, I think the title might be fairly accurate.

I'll get this out of the way right now.  I have watched Spelling and McDermott's reality television show.  While I didn't and don't like how their relationship came about, I must admit that their program has been entertaining.  Mary Jo Eustace, however, was somewhat of  a mystery - - the "first wife", rarely mentioned in the media during the highly publicized split, other than in brief passing or reported as being McDermott's "older" former wife (a fact that Ms. Eustace jokes about during the course of her book).  Divorce Sucks proved to me that Mary Jo Eustace has a wonderful personality and pokes fun at herself in order to provide somewhat of a "how to" survive divorce and come through it with your emotional and mental health intact.

Despite the book not being the gossipy froth I had originally thought, and not going through a divorce myself,  I enjoyed the book.  I found Mary Jo Eustace to be down to earth and relatable.  She sells the book, thanks to her witty writing and ability to be humble.  She admits to feeling sorry for herself and says "hey, it's okay".  She admits to wearing the same shirt for months on end during her woe-is-me period.  She admits to feeling uncomfortable and out of sorts at being the only single gal at get-togethers with couples and wonders who exactly gets custody of the joint friends when you and your husband split up.  She talks about navigating the unknown waters of the dating pool as a single mother as well as going back to work to support herself and her children.  While McDermott and Spelling are mentioned, Ms. Eustace stays away from the low-blows and name-calling and focuses instead on how to get over and get beyond. 

Bottom line, even though I don't need the divorce advice for myself, I would enjoy sitting down over a glass of wine or a manicure to chat with Mary Jo Eustace.  Any reader looking for advice on how to deal emotionally with a divorce will benefit from her book, just as any reader looking for a book written in a chatty, comfy BFF style will enjoy picking this one up. 

Divorce Sucks is available at major booksellers, including Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Many thanks to Julie Harabedian and FSB Media for the opportunity to read and review this book.

Review copy provided by the publisher

And now for the giveaway!! 

FSB Media has provided me with a copy of Divorce Sucks to give away to a lucky reader.  Here is all you need to do if you'd like to pick up this copy: 

* Leave me a comment with an email address to contact you (worth 1 entry)


For 2 extra entries:


* Become a follower or subscriber of my blog (if you already are, thank you; let me know if you already are, and let me know if you become one) (Just click on the "Follow" or "Subscribe" buttons located on the left side of my blog)


For 3 extra entries:

* Add me to your blogroll and/or mention my giveaway on your blog or Twitter it (and leave a link)

That's all! You can get up to 6 entries! This giveaway is open to U.S. and Canadian residents only. No P.O. boxes.

The contest ends on Sunday, December 20 and I will draw the winner (using Randomizer) on Monday, December 21 and email the lucky readers.

Good luck!



December 9, 2009

Mr. Mailman: The Man Who Loved Jane Austen



Mr. Mailman is a meme started by the lovely Juju at Tales of Whimsy that is perfect for me, as it allows my impatient nature to be soothed somewhat by sharing with everyone else what I'm anxiously waiting on!  (Great idea, Juju!)

Today I am hoping to find:












The Man Who Loved Jane Austen by Sally Smith O'Rourke

Synopsis from Amazon:  New York artist Eliza Knight stumbles across an antique dressing table that includes the added bonus of secreted letters, apparently between Jane Austen and a real-life Mr. Darcy. Caught up in her romantic notions about Austen's Pride and Prejudice and the possibility that Darcy may have been more than Austen's invention, Eliza enlists the aid of an eccentric researcher as well as a handsome and mysterious Virginia horse breeder, Fitzwilliam Darcy. Three years earlier, on a horse-buying junket to England, Darcy had a life-altering experience that makes him now anxious to buy the one letter written by Austen before it goes to auction at Sotheby's. For Eliza, the letter represents a possible fortune; for Darcy, it represents possibly requited love. O'Rourke alternates between the past and the present in this fascinating novel that pays tribute to Jane Austen's enduring ideals of romantic love.
Doesn't that sound great?  Yes, I know, I am an Austenaholic and will consume any and all Jane-related material with gusto but it really does sound like a fun read and I can't wait for the mailman!

How about you?  Is there anything you're waiting by the mailbox for? 


December 8, 2009

Teaser Tuesdays - December 8, 2009





Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly book meme, hosted by mizb17 at 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 it for other readers)


*Share the title and author so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR lists if they like your teasers!

My teaser for today is . . . .





"It pains me to think of Pa and Ma's thinking me dead and hurting in their hearts, grieving over me.  Maybe someday I can write and say the truth of it.  Maybe not ever."  John's letter, late 1860s



A Blue and Gray Christmas by Joan Medlicott, p. 97





Please leave me a comment with your teasers if you don't have a blog, or leave me your link if you've posted. Happy reading!


December 7, 2009

Mailbox Monday - December 7, 2009





Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page where we  share what reads we have received in our mailboxes the previous week. 

Here is what I received this past week: 



A Blue and Gray Christmas by Joan Medlicott

SYNOPSIS:  In this stunning holiday story, a cache of Civil War-era letters and diaries sweeps the ladies of Covington up into a dramatic and heartwarming historical saga that inspires them to plan an unforgettable Christmas for two families forever changed by war.



When a rusty old tin box is unearthed at the Covington Homestead, longtime housemates Grace, Amelia, and Hannah discover that it contains letters and diaries written by two Civil War soldiers, one Union and one Confederate.


The friends are captivated by the drama revealed. The soldiers were found dying on a nearby battlefi eld by an old woman. She nursed them back to health, hiding them from bounty hunters seeking deserters. At the end of the war the men chose to stay in Covington, caring for their rescuer as she grew frail. But while their lives were rich, they still felt homesick and guilty for never contacting the families they'd left behind.


Christmas is coming, and the letters inspire Amelia with a generous impulse. What if she and her friends were to find the two soldiers' descendants and invite them to Covington to meet? What better holiday gift could there be than the truth about these two heroic men and their dramatic shared fate? With little time left, the ladies spring into action to track down the men's families in Connecticut and the Carolinas, and to make preparations in Covington for their most memorable, most historic Christmas yet.



A Highlander Christmas by Janet Chapman 

SYNOPSIS:  Camry MacKeage has absolutely no intention of telling her parents that she left her job as a NASA physicist for the small-town life of a dog-sitter -- which is why she's spending the holidays alone in coastal Maine with her furry friends Tigger and Max. Unfortunately, her irresistibly handsome rival, scientist Luke Pascal, accidentally spilled the beans. Now he's on a mission from her mother to tempt Camry home for the family's annual winter solstice celebration. But Luke is hiding his own secret, and he'll need a little bit of magic to earn Camry's trust...and a whole lot of mistletoe to seduce his way into her heart.




Dead Pan by Gayle Trent

SYNOPSIS:  A "delightful new series." -- Kaye's Penguin Posts Cake decorator Daphne Martin once again finds herself and her cakes at the center of a murder mystery. Half the town gets sick following a cake event, but for poor Fred Duncan, a bout with potential food poisoning quickly turns fatal. Now it's up to Daphne to sort through the likely suspects and figure out who frosted Fred.


So what books came into your house last week? 



December 4, 2009

Review: Buckley's Story and Interview with Author Ingrid King



Synopsis:  Buckley’s Story is the story of how one small cat changed the author’s life in ways she never could have imagined. In this warm-hearted memoir, Ingrid King shares the story of Buckley, a joyful, enthusiastic and affectionate tortoiseshell cat she meets while managing a veterinary hospital. When Ingrid leaves her job at the veterinary hospital to start her own business, Buckley comes home to live with her and Amber, another tortoiseshell cat who had adopted the author several years earlier.



Buckley is diagnosed with heart disease after only two years of living with Ingrid, and caring for Buckley through her illness only deepens the bond between cat and human. Interspersed with well-researched information about cat health in general, and heart disease in particular, the author describes the challenges and rewards of managing illness in a feline companion, and ultimately helping her through the final transition. Ingrid shares both the day-to-day joys of living with a special cat as well as the profound grief that comes with losing a beloved animal companion.


Buckley’s Story is a celebration of the soul connection between animals and humans, a connection that is eternal and transcends the physical dimension.


I will say right off the bat that I am a sucker for animal stories.  I love them.  And so, on the one hand, I can be extremely biased toward any type of animal story.  On the other, I can be more critical because I am such a fan.  I knew when I agreed to read and review Buckley's Story that it would be an emotional experience for me.  I too am a cat person and I have been a parent to three cats over the last almost twenty years.  As author Ingrid King did, I have had to make the humane and yet agonizing decision to allow two of them to pass on.  And like Ms. King, I have also learned more about life and myself from these little masters. 

Buckley's Story is a wonderful, happy and emotional read whether you are a cat person or dog person.  Ingrid King writes solely from the heart.  Her delight over Buckley, relief that Buckley and her 'sister' Amber form a bond and grief over Buckley's loss resonate from every page.   Reading Ms. King's recollections of Buckley's diagnosis, illness and eventual passing away made my soul ache in remembrance of what I had been through but at the same time, it was strangely cathartic.  Knowing that the pain I felt at losing a pet - - something not everyone understands and acknowledges - - was shared by Ms. King felt like a soothing balm.  And reading too that I was not alone in feeling the spirits of my deceased little ones still with me, and getting signs from them, was akin to joining a secret club. 

I fell in love with Buckley - - with her determination to find her forever home, her tenacious nature and her joyful demeanor.  Her exuberance at greeting life each and every morning gave me pause and should give every reader pause to think about life and how very thankful we should be for every moment.

The subtitle of Buckley's Story is Lessons from a Feline Master Teacher and that is no exaggeration.  Buckley taught Ms. King many different things during their time together and Ms. King has honored Buckley's memory by sharing those things with us. 

Buckley's Story isn't a big read - - it comes in at 118 pages - - but what it lacks in volume it makes up for, tenfold, in touching your heart and spirit.   This is one book that will be a permanent fixture in my library.  I cannot encourage you enough to read this book and share it with friends and family - - but keep a box of tissues handy.

Buckley's Story: Lessons from a Feline Master Teacher is available at major booksellers, including Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Author Ingrid King's website is here.

Many thanks to Dorothy Thompson and "Pump Up Your Book Promotions" for the opportunity to read and review this book.




Review copy provided by the author.     


And now, as a special treat, in addition to the review, I am pleased to welcome author Ingrid King to Psychotic State!
Ingrid, thank you for taking the time to chat with me and my readers.

My pleasure! Thanks for having me!

Let’s talk for a moment about your new book, Buckley’s Story. Do you think Buckley guided you in telling her story?

Absolutely. She definitely had a paw in writing her story.

Did you find writing Buckley’s Story to be cathartic?

Writing the book was a big part of my personal healing process after she passed away last Thanksgiving weekend. I wanted the book to be a lasting tribute to my little cat. The tears that came with writing certain chapters of the book helped me release some of the devastating grief I experienced after I had to let her go. Revisions and rewrites were a bit of a mixed blessing - on the one hand, the chapters about the beginning of our love story together brought lots of wonderful memories and smiles, while working on the last two chapters brought back those final days back in vivid detail every single time. But ultimately, writing the book was such an incredible celebration of her life that the joy outweighed the sadness.

Do you think Buckley’s Story will become a jumping off point for a writing career for you?

It already has. It not only made me realize that writing is my true passion, I'm actively pursuing writing for various cat related publications as well as continuing to write for my own E-Zine News for You and Your Pet and for The Conscious Cat. I'm also starting to think about my next book.

Do you still have signs that Buckley is around you?

I feel her with me almost all the time. I had a difficult time feeling her presence after she first passed away - I think that's only natural, when we're in the initial throes of grief. I know she tried really hard to make her continued presence known, and she left me some pretty obvious signs early on that I talk about in the book. Now that some time has passed, I feel my connection with her constantly. There's a palpable sense of her energy in what used to be her favorite spots around my house. At my book launch party in early November, I felt her joyful spirit celebrating right along with me. I think she's quite proud of the book and the success it's had so far!

How is Amber doing as an only cat?

Amber is doing really well. I think animals are so much more connected with Source, and they understand much better than we do that there really is no death. We just change form as we transition from the physical to the non-physical dimension. Our loved ones never leave us, it's just hard for us sometimes to feel the connection because our grief gets in the way. I know Amber still communicates with Buckley all the time. She actually blogged about her continued connection with Buckley on The Conscious Cat! (here's the link if you'd like to include it: http://consciouscat.net/2009/11/27/ambers-mewsings-13/ )

What can you tell us about Casey’s House?

Casey's House is a private rescue group in Bluemont, VA. Cindy Ingram, the owner and founder of Casey's House, is one of these amazing souls who have dedicated their lives to the well being of cats, and the sanctuary that she has created for older and hard to adopt cats is absolutely wonderful. I am in total awe of what people like Cindy can accomplish with very little funding and a whole lot of heart, dedication and hard work. I will be forever grateful to Cindy for rescuing Buckley from the farm in Southwestern Virginia - if it wasn't for Cindy, I might never have met my little cat.

Please tell us about “Healing Hands”.

Healing Hands is my Reiki business. Reiki is an energy therapy that originated in Japan. The practitioner transfers healing energy to the patient through a light touch either directly on or slightly off the body. I provide Reiki treatments for pets and for people.

You also author a blog called The Conscious Cat. Can dog owners benefit from this blog too?

Anyone interested in consciously creating a happy, healthy life for themselves and their pets can benefit from The Conscious Cat. I offer posts on a lot of different topics: cat health, pet health in general, human health, book reviews of animal-themed books, interviews with authors of animal-themed books, advice on how to create a happy life, law of attraction, feline lifestyle, and more.

Can you take us through a normal day in the life of Ingrid King?

On a typical day, I'll get up around 6am, feed Amber, and then have my coffee with Amber purring away in my lap after she's enjoyed her breakfast. After that, I usually check e-mail and catch up on Facebook, Twitter and several blogs. After breakfast, I try to get my daily walk in, then I'm ready to get started with my writing and any other computer work that is on the to do list for the day. I take a short break for lunch, and then return to the computer. In the evenings, I either read or watch some tv. I go out to eat with friends at least once or twice a week. But since I started my own business, no two days have been exactly alike, and I really like that about being my own boss. I love being in charge of my schedule and being able to just go with the flow when I feel like it!

If you could use only one word to describe or sell Buckley’s Story to a reader, what would it be?

Heart-touching.

Last, but certainly not least, what is your favorite memory of Buckley?

Oh my gosh, it's really hard to pick just one! I think Buckley's first Christmas with Amber and me is one of my favorites. I don't think this little cat had ever experienced Christmas before, let alone gotten presents. That first Christmas, I totally overdid it, and so did many of my friends. Buckley, and Amber, got so many presents! Buckley was in kitty heaven - I don't know what was more fun for her, the actual presents, or opening the packages wrapped with tantalizing ribbons and bows. She played with abandon, rolling around with her new catnip toys.

Ingrid, thank you so much for joining us and thank you for sharing your memories and story of Buckley.


About author Ingrid King:

Ingrid King is a former veterinary hospital manager turned writer. She publishes the E-zine News for You and Your Pet, covering topics ranging from conscious living to holistic and alternative health. She shares her experiences with consciously creating a joyful, happy and healthy life for pets and people on her popular blog, The Conscious Cat. Ingrid lives in Northern Virginia with her tortoiseshell cat Amber.





Ingrid King's blog The Conscious Cat is here.
For further information on Healing Hands go here
For further information on Casey's House, go here

December 3, 2009

100 Followers and a New Look!



I have actually made it to 100 followers!  (101, as of today, wow!) 

The lovely Rachel from Parajunkee's View not only has the honor of being my 100th follower but also has the far greater honor of being the brains and design behind my new header.

What do you think?  isn't it fabulous? 

I encourage you to check out Rachel's blog not only for her reviews (which is what initially drew me to her site) but also for her wonderful designs. 

Thank you, thank you, Rachel for making me squee with happiness over the revamped look of my blog and thank you, thank you to my readers who allow me this rewarding hobby and who do me a great justice by reading it.

Happy Thursday!

Review: Tales for Delicious Girls by Barbora Knobova


Synopsis:  "Tales for Delicious Girls" offers witty, refreshing, clever and ironic insight into relationships between men and women from all points of view. The book is a modern relationship manual, providing answers to the most pressing dating and friendship questions that strong, independent, modern women want to know. "Tales for Delicious Girls" deals with wishes, desires and dreams - as well as hilarious mishaps and dating disasters. However, "Tales for Delicious Girls" is not simply a humorous book. In addition to entertaining the readers, the tales will inspire women to think about their own life and relationships, see themselves through different eyes and realize that they are their own best friend, the pillar of their own life, and the only person they can always count on. "Tales for Delicious Girls" encourages women to love, respect and appreciate themselves, to live the life they have always wanted, and become aware of their true uniqueness and deliciousness. This book will make you cry till there are tears in your eyes. It will become your faithful companion, and will help you find yourself. It was written for you because you're delicious - the most delicious girl in the world.

If you are a women of official dating age (in other words, 16 and up) you can officially become a Delicious Girl.  Don't think upon seeing the word "relationship" in the book's description that this is one of the many relationship how-to books that crowd the shelves today.  It's not.  Author Barbora Knobova has taken true life stories, condensed them into very short story format (most tales log in around 2 pages) and shared them with readers. 

Ms. Knobova's writing style is casual, comfortable and fun.  She lays it all on the table and while reading her book, I could imagine having a conversation with her about these same experiences over coffee.    Never does she sound condescending or preachy - - another bonus.  Instead, she is merely one girlfriend shares woes, joys and insight with another. 

The best aspect of the book, in my opinion, is the positive reinforcement it gives out.  Too often women are encouraged to find that soul mate, or your life isn't complete; to play games in order to get that ring on your finger; to settle and give away aspects of yourself in order to become part of a couple.  No such punches are pulled in Tales for Delicious Girls.  Ms. Knobova encourages women to be their own person, to be their own best friend and to listen and trust that voice inside you - - if that voice says JB is never going to be what you want him to be, dump him!   Ms. Knobova tells us that we deserve the very best that life has to offer.  What a wonderful, insightful message to send out to not only teen girls just wading into the dating pool and beginning life, but to women of all ages. 

Tales for Delicious Girls was a relatively quick and easy read.  As mentioned above, most of the tales are relatively short and incredibly humorous.   I had a most enjoyable evening shared with Ms. Knobova and her stories, a few of which allowed me to remember my own earlier mistakes and either shake my head or chuckle. 

I would recommend this book to all my girlfriends and encourage them to believe in themselves first and foremost, love themselves and become a Delicious Girl!

Tales for Delicious Girls can be purchased at major booksellers, including Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Author Barbora Knobova's website is here.

Many thanks to Dorothy Thompson and "Pump Up Your Book Promotions" for the opportunity to review this book.




Review copy provided by the author