December 27, 2010

Mailbox Monday: December 27, 2010

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house during the previous week. Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists! Mailbox Monday, which was started by Marcia at The Printed Page, is on blog tour—and Lady Q at Let Them Read Books is hosting during the month of December.   Rose City Reader will be kicking off 2011 as January's host. 

Last week I received Peace and Plenty:  Finding Your Path to Financial Serenity by Sarah Ban Breathnach, which I received from the publisher for review.

SYNOPSIS:  "When money is plentiful, this is a man's world. When money is scarce, it is a woman's world." Unearthed in a 1932 Ladies Home Journal, this quote is the call to arms that begins Peace and Plenty, Sarah Ban Breathnach's answer to the world's-- and her own personal-- financial crisis. As only Ban Breathnach can, she culls together this compendium of advice, deeply personal anecdotes, and excerpts from magazines, books, and newspapers-- particularly those of the Great Depression-- to inspire readers who are mired in today's financial difficulties.

Focusing on her own personal path, Sarah Ban Breathnach will relate never-before revealed details about how she fell from the financial top to the bottom. Readers will immediately see how deeply she understands the plight of those trying to maintain a happy and comfortable home, while at the same time not even knowing if they will be able to make the mortgage to keep that home.

Sarah has proved to be the voice of comfort for years to women who are spiritually bankrupt, and now she will reach to those who are financially strapped, showing them how to pull themselves out of their psychic and fiscal crises while providing deep comfort and reassurance throughout.
(Publication Date:  December 29, 2010)

As a Christmas gift I received Classic Quad Set 14 (Desk Set / Hollywood Cavalcade / How to Steal a Million / I Was a Male War Bride) - 20th Century Fox.

SYNOPSIS:  Desk Set (1957/Color/103 minutes/Widescreen)


Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy star in this sophisticated workplace comedy. Joan Blondell and Dina Merrill co-star. Special features include a commentary track, a "Movietone News" newsclip about the fashions inspired by the film, the original trailer, a still gallery and trailers for several more classic Fox films.

Hollywood Cavalcade (1939/Color with B&W segments/97 minutes/Fullscreen)

Don Ameche and Alice Faye star in this spectacular comedy about the early days of Hollywood, from the silent era to the birth of Talkies. Special features include a documentary on the making-of and significance of the film, featurettes on Buster Keaton and Fatty Arbuckle, an outtakes clip, a "Movietone News" newsclip on the premiere, a restoration comparison, an advertising gallery and a still gallery.

How To Steal A Million (1966/Color/123 minutes/Widescreen)

Audrey Hepburn and Peter O'Toole star in this light-hearted museum heist classic. Special features include a commentary track, an A&E Network "Biography" episode on Audrey Hepburn, two trailers and two TV spots.

I Was A Male War Bride (1949/B&W/105 minutes/Fullscreen)

Cary Grant and Ann Sheridan star in this gender-bending comedy about the travails of bringing a spouse home from the war. Special features include a still gallery, the original trailer, a "Movietone News" newsclip going behind the scenes of the film and trailers for other classic Cary Grant films.




So there is my short but sweet Christmas week Mailbox Monday. What goodies arrived in your mailbox last week?



December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Wishing you all, readers, authors and publishers alike, a very Merry Christmas, a joyous holiday season and a New Year filled with health, happiness and love!

Thank you for supporting me over the last year and I look forward to a new year with you!




December 24, 2010

Book Review: The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley

Book Description:  History has all but forgotten...

In the spring of 1708, an invading Jacobite fleet of French and Scottish soldiers nearly succeeded in landing the exiled James Stewart in Scotland to reclaim his crown. 

Now, Carrie McClelland hopes to turn that story into her next bestselling novel. Settling herself in the shadow of Slains Castle, she creates a heroine named for one of her own ancestors and starts to write.

But when she discovers her novel is more fact than fiction, Carrie wonders if she might be dealing with ancestral memory, making her the only living person who knows the truth-the ultimate betrayal-that happened all those years ago, and that knowledge comes very close to destroying her...

Article first published as Book Review: The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley on Blogcritics.

The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley is one of those books that is for the patient reader; it has a slow buildup and plenty of character development and background but the payoff is absolutely phenomenal. 

The story itself, along with the unhurried and fluid way Ms. Kearsley expertly tells it, reminds me of Ciji Ware's A Cottage by the Sea.  Both stories primarily take place in a European cottage by the water (The Winter Sea in Scotland; A Cottage by the Sea in Cornwall, England) with a plethora of history and both have alternating time storylines, with flashes between the present and in the past. 

Much as Ms. Ware's Cottage made me want to travel to Cornwall, so too does Ms. Kearsley's book cause me to desire to journey to Scotland's coast and the city of Aberdeen.   The descriptions are perfectly lovely, leaving me hungry for my own little warm Scottish cottage, complete with a power meter, a roaring fire and a table full of Scottish fare.   

Historical fiction lovers will delight over the retelling of the 1708 Jacobite invasion, where Ms. Kearsley uses actual persons, along with a few fictional characters to move the story along.  I enjoyed both the real characters as well as the ones that came from Ms. Kearsley's imagination.  I fell in love with Sophia and John Moray, whose romance was sweet and passionate, and I enjoyed the warm relationship Sophia had with Kirsty and with the Countess.  I also liked the similarities between Sophia and John's tale, along with the current day Carrie's tale.  Even those characters who were to be disliked or not trusted were so strongly drawn that they inspired powerful feelings while reading.  All were vivid in my mind, leaving me to believe that The Winter Sea would make a stunning movie. 

The only drawback, in my opinion, to the book was the realistic use of Scottish dialect and terminology.  I had to read some of the passages more than once to understand what was being said and it could be somewhat taxing but it's a minor personal gripe given the overall excellence of the book. 

The ending of the book and conclusion of both stories were enormously rewarding, leaving me with a lump in my throat and a warm, gladdened heart. There were no loose ends left; to the contrary, the puzzle pieces of the tale came together beautifully to tie into a festive literary present. 

I would not hesitate to recommend The Winter Sea to any reader, but most particularly those who love romance and who love historical fiction.  The Winter Sea will not disappoint. 

A stunning, gorgeous and heartwrenching tale that is perfect for the holiday season, The Winter Sea is available for purchase at major booksellers, including Amazon. I am an Amazon affiliate. If you make a purchase through my link, I will receive a small commission.

For more information on author Susanna Kearsley, please visit her website or her guest post on Psychotic State Book Reviews.

Review copy of this book provided by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. In no way did the provision of the book affect the outcome of my review.






December 21, 2010

And the Winners Are . . .

For a brand new copy each of Jack Caldwell's romantic Western Pride and Prejudice adventure Pemberley Ranch . . .

Carol N Wong
&
Babs




For a brand new copy each of Susanna Kearsley's touching and heart wrenching alternate time tale The Winter Sea . . .

Nina Say
&
Soap Box In My Mind



Congratulations to the lucky winners!  I will be emailing each of you directly for your mailing address. Please respond within 72 hours so that your new book gets out to you timely.


Thank you to all who visited my blog and entered this giveaway. I do appreciate each one of you taking the time to visit and post here. I enjoyed reading your thoughts on Darcy versus Fitzwilliam and what inspires you. 

I hope everyone will stick around for future giveaways, reviews and interviews.

Thank you again to Danielle Jackson and Sourcebooks for making each of these giveaways possible.

Compliments to randomizer.org for selecting the lucky winner.

Happy reading!

 


December 20, 2010

Mailbox Monday: December 20, 2010

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house during the previous week. Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists! Mailbox Monday, which was started by Marcia at The Printed Page, is on blog tour—and Lady Q at Let Them Read Books is hosting during the month of December.

First up is The Mistress' House by Leigh Michaels, which I received from Sourcebooks for review.

SYNOPSIS:  Number Five, Upper Seymour Street is the perfect love nest.   Tucked away in a discreet corner of London, it's an ideal site to conduct affairs…

Except this elegant townhouse has a way of making its residents fall in love instead.   Anne -- the perfect mistress for the rakish Earl of Hawthorne;  Felicity -- the perfect challenge for Richard, Lord Colford;  and Georgiana -- the perfect nightmare for Major Julian Hampton...

the residents of Number Five, Upper Seymour Street.  (Publication Date:  February 2011) 







Next up is Only Mr. Darcy Will Do by Kara Louise, which I received from Sourcebooks for review.

SYNOPSIS:  In this variation, Mrs. Bennet's greatest fear comes to pass. With the death of Mr. Bennet in the early summer after Elizabeth returns from Kent, Longbourn is entailed away to Mr. Collins. Elizabeth and Jane take on positions as governesses in London; their mother and sisters move in with the Phillips' in Meryton. Elizabeth could not be happier with the family for whom she works, but soon comes to discover that they have a long-standing association with the Darcys. As she is thrown into his presence, she comes to a greater understanding of his goodness while comprehending the even greater disparity in their stations.


(Publication Date:  March 2011; originally published as Something Like Regret)





And lastly, Letters from Home by Kristina McMorris which I received from the author for a blog tour through Pump Up Your Book Promotions.

SYNOPSIS:  In love and war, nothing is as it seems . . .

Chicago, 1944. Liz Stephens has little interest in attending a USO club dance with her friends Betty and Julia. She doesn't need a flirtation with a lonely serviceman when she's set to marry her childhood sweetheart. Yet something happens the moment Liz glimpses Morgan McClain. They share only a brief conversation - cut short by the soldier's evident interest in Betty - but Liz can't forget him. Thus, when Betty asks her to ghostwrite a letter to Morgan, stationed overseas, Liz reluctantly agrees.

Thousands of miles away, Morgan struggles to adjust to the brutality of war. His letters from "Betty" are a comfort, their soul-baring correspondence a revelation to them both. While Liz is torn by her feelings for a man who doesn't know her true identity, Betty and Julia each become immersed in their own romantic entanglements. And as the war draws to a close, all three will face heart-wrenching choices, painful losses, and the bittersweet joy of new beginnings.

So there is my Mailbox Monday. What goodies arrived in your mailbox last week?




December 17, 2010

Author Interview: James LePore and a Giveaway

Today I am happy to welcome James LePore, author of the very soon to be published Blood of My Brother, a terrific tale of action, adventure and intrigue, to Psychotic State Book Reviews. He has graciously answered some questions about his writing, locations for novels and his advice for struggling writers. 

Hi James, welcome to Psychotic State and thank you for taking the time to chat with me and my readers.


Congratulations on your recent publication of Blood of My Brother. What can you tell us about the book?

JL:  I started writing this novel in 1985, put it away, returned to it in 1999, finished a first draft in 2001, and completed it, that is, wrote a final version, in the spring of 2010.

It was a long time in the making, and, for that and other reasons, is very dear to my heart.

Did your background in law lead you to make your central character, Jay, an attorney?

JL:  Yes. This was my first attempt at a novel, and, although the story is not about the law, I wanted to be comfortable inside Jay’s head.

Do you agree with the old adage “write what you know” or do you think there’s something to be said for venturing into unknown waters?

JL:  To me ‘write what you know’ does not mean write about flying if you are a pilot, or write about the law if you are a lawyer. It means write about the things you know in your heart, like the pain of love gone wrong, the night fears that somehow don’t seem so bad in the light of day, or the reasons why we like or dislike ourselves as human beings. Writers need framing devices and authenticity is important, so writing about the empirical things you know is a good idea, but the real stories are buried in the heart.

How did you get the idea for such a quick, page turning thriller?

JL:  As you can see from my answer to your first question, this story has been in the back of my head for a long time. I have lost a childhood friend, as many people have, I am sure. When these losses occur, we have other people to fall back on. We grieve and we move on. But what if we didn’t? What if we had cut ourselves off from other people, believing we didn’t need them? What if we were left completely isolated after such a loss? This was the thought from which Blood of My Brother grew.

Blood of My Brother takes place in Newark, New Jersey, Miami, Florida and Mexico. I know you have lived in New Jersey. Why Miami? Why Mexico?

JL:  I love the tropical look and feel of these places. My thought was: what better venues for a thriller involving murder, high-level drug dealing, romance and great danger?

Your descriptions of both Miami and Mexico are vivid and vital to the book. Have you traveled there yourself or did you do a great deal of research to bring the settings alive?

JL:  I have spent a lot of time in Florida, and love Miami. It is hot there in more ways than one. I have also traveled extensively in Mexico, particularly in Oaxaca along the Pacific coast. You have to see this part of the world to understand how physically beautiful it is and also to feel the undercurrents of danger and passion that lie below what I believe is a deceptively serene, even passive, cultural surface.

What was the most difficult part of writing an intense book like Blood of My Brother?

JL:  Balancing pace, which is obviously crucial to a suspense or thriller novel, with character development, is my biggest challenge as a writer. Isabel, Jay and Danny, and even the secondary characters like Frank Dunn and Gary Shaw, have to come across as flesh and blood human beings, with problems and heartaches that generate empathy from readers, who are themselves, it goes without saying, flesh and blood human beings, with their own problems and heartaches. Much character development necessarily gives way to pace, but not all. I think the novel is much better for the flashbacks of Jay and Danny as boys, and of Isabel as a young girl.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

JL:  Yes, since I was a boy.

What advice would you consider most valuable to an unpublished author?

JL:  Assuming the following: your work has 1) been professionally edited and is as well-crafted as it can be, and 2) has been rejected by the traditional publishing world—then I would seriously consider hiring a consultant and self-publishing. As the old monolithic publishers and booksellers fade away or re-shape themselves, the e-world and the print-on-demand world grow exponentially. Go for it.

When you’re not writing, what author or authors do you enjoy reading yourself?

JL:  I like Michael Connelly. Also, someone just suggested Charles McCarry to me, and I will try him next.

I have read that you have a “Top 50” list of favorite novels. What novel currently sits atop the list?

JL:  Cry The Beloved Country by Alan Paton

Can you take us through a normal day in the life of James LePore?

JL:  I read a half dozen newspapers online with my morning coffee. I have a thirty-minute workout routine. I write for four or five hours. (Five pages are a lot. I’m happy with two or three. Sometimes it’s only one). I try to get outside in the afternoon, to do something where I don’t have to use my brain too much. I read in the evenings when I’m not watching bad TV.

I read that you are currently working on your next novel. Care to share any juicy details with us?

JL:  It’s the story of Matt DeMarco, an aggressive, star-quality assistant district attorney in Manhattan, whose son is wrongly accused of murdering his (the son’s) beautiful Lebanese girlfriend. Matt finds it unbelievable that the authorities refuse to drop the charges despite mounting evidence that points to another killer or killers. When a detective friend of his is killed—and then another—Matt begins to see the reasons for this bizarre state of affairs. With the help of an old girlfriend—a half-Chinese, half African-American attorney named Jade Lee, with problems of her own—Matt decides to track down the real killers. Matt and Jade quickly find themselves immersed in the world of Middle East power politics and hard-core terrorism, in which betrayals, double-crosses and lies are commonplace, and where they believe they will find the real killers—unless they themselves are killed first.

And lastly, if you could use just one word to describe Blood of My Brother, what would it be?

JL:  Redemption.

Thank you so much, James, for taking the time to answer my questions and best of luck with Blood of My Brother!

BLOOD OF MY BROTHER BY JAMES LEPORE - ON SALE DECEMBER 25, 2010

When Jay Cassio’s best friend Dan is murdered in a job clearly done by professionals, the walls that he has built to protect himself from the world of others begin to shatter. Now Jay, a successful lawyer, must find out why Dan died and find a way to seek justice for his murder. Isabel Perez has lived a life both tainted and charmed since she was a teenager in Mexico. She holds powerful sway over men and has even more powerful alliances with people no one should ever try to cross. When Jay catapults into her world, their connection is electric, their alliance is lethal, and their future is anything but certain.







About the Author

James LePore practiced law for twenty-five years before retiring in 1999 to pursue writing and photography. 

He has written four novels and numerous short stories based on the characters found in his novels. 

For more information on Mr. LePore, please visit his website

To read my review of Blood of My Brother, please go HERE

AND A GIVEAWAY! 

Thanks to Lou Aronica at The Story Plant, I have a signed hardcover edition of A World I Never Made by James LePore to give away!


A WORLD I NEVER MADE BY JAMES LEPORE

Pat Nolan, an American man, is summoned to Paris to claim the body of his estranged daughter Megan, who has committed suicide. The body, however, is not Megan’s and it becomes instantly clear to Pat that Megan staged this, that she is in serious trouble, and that she is calling to him for help. This sends Pat on an odyssey with Catherine Laurence, a beautiful but tormented Paris detective, that stretches across France and into the Czech Republic and that makes him the target of both the French police and a band of international terrorists. Megan has taken a Saudi businessman as a lover, not realizing until it is too late that doing so has put the lives of many—maybe even millions—at risk.




Doesn't this book sound phenomenal?  Don't hesitate! 

To enter, simply leave me a comment and let me know what book would sit atop your "Top 50" list.  If you'd like to add why, please do, or you can just select your novel. 

Personally I would have to select Pride and Prejudice - - I love Jane Austen's wit and humor and she so slyly makes very wry cultural statements on marriage for that time period, as well as creating a wonderful romantic pair in Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth.  I must add that Daphne DuMaurier's Rebecca isn't far behind - - a perfect gothic romance with a wonderfully hideous female villian, or two! 

U.S. and Canada only (my apologies to our overseas friends) and no P.O. boxes.

NO EMAIL ADDRESS WITH YOUR ENTRY = NO ENTRY!

Contest to end on Sunday, January 2, 2011 at 11:59 P.M. PST and the lucky winners drawn by randomizer.org on Monday, January 3, 2011.
Good luck!

December 16, 2010

Happy Birthday, Jane!

Happy 235th birthday, Jane Austen! 

In honor of one of my favorite authors' birthday, Sourcebooks, the world’s leading publisher of Jane Austen fiction, is offering a unique deal to readers who want to celebrate Jane by reading special editions of all six of Austen’s beloved novels in a 21st century format.

Special e-book editions of Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Sense and Sensibility, Northanger Abbey, Persuasion and Mansfield Park will be available for free today and tomorrow!  These celebratory editions include the full novels, plus the legendary color illustrations of the Brock brothers, originally created to accompany the books in 1898.

In addition to the Jane Austen classics, readers can also enjoy these bestselling Austen-inspired novels. The following bestselling e-books will be free today and tomorrow in honor of her birthday:

Eliza’s Daughter by Joan Aiken
The Darcys & the Bingleys by Marsha Altman
Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife by Linda Berdoll
What Would Jane Austen Do? by Laurie Brown
The Pemberley Chronicles by Rebecca Ann Collins
The Other Mr. Darcy by Monica Fairview
Mr. Darcy’s Diary by Amanda Grange
Mr. & Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy: Two Shall Become One by Sharon Lathan
Lydia Bennet’s Story by Jane Odiwe
Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy by Abigail Reynolds

Available wherever eBooks are sold.

So don't delay!  Celebrate this wonderful woman's birthday with some free e-books!



December 15, 2010

Book Review: Blood of My Brother by James LePore

Book Description:  When Jay Cassio's best friend is murdered in a job clearly done by professionals, the walls that he has built to protect himself from the world of others begin to shatter. Dan Del Colliano had been his confidante and protector since the men were children on the savage streets of Newark, New Jersey. When Dan supports and revives Jay after Jay's parents die in a plane crash, their bond deepens to something beyond brotherhood, beyond blood. Now Jay, a successful lawyer, must find out why Dan died and find a way to seek justice for his murder. Isabel Perez has lived a life both tainted and charmed since she was a teenager in Mexico. She holds powerful sway over men and has even more powerful alliances with people no one should ever try to cross. She desperately wants her freedom from the chains these people have placed on her. When Jay catapults into her world, their connection is electric, their alliance is lethal, and their future is anything but certain. Once again, James LePore has given us a novel of passions, intense moral complexities, and irresistible thrills. Filled with characters you will embrace and characters you will fear, Blood of My Brother is a story about a quest for revenge and redemption you won't soon forget.


Pick up James LePore's Blood of My Brother and you will find a book that has unstoppable action,  twists and turns and plenty of suspense.  Fans of Robert Ludlum will enjoy this lighter option. 

Mr. LePore makes liberal use of flashbacks throughout Blood of My Brother and to great benefit.  The flashbacks give us insight into attorney Jay Cassio, private investigator Dan Del Colliano and the mysterious Isabel Perez and how all three tie together.  I felt the flashbacks were the strongest part of the book, along with the action-packed portion of the story that took place in Mexico.

Mr. LePore proves to be a fluid storyteller as well as a master of vivid descriptions.  Reading Blood of My Brother I could hear the Newark neighborhood kids playing ball, feel the humidity of Miami and Mexico, as well as the melodic music and accents.  It's easy to visualize the stories of Jay, Dan and Isabel as a movie, so well developed are both their characterizations as well as the overall storyline.  There were a few places in the book where I felt the storyline may have been a bit slow paced but the action quickly picked up and made up for any drags I perceived. 

Readers of taut action will thrill over Blood of My Brother's chase sequences and rundowns with a Mexican drug cartel, while those readers who enjoy suspense stories with a bit of mystery will find no complaints.  Blood of My Brother whet my appetite for action, excitement and international intrigue and I was left satiated upon the book's conclusion. 

I would recommend Blood of My Brother to any reader looking for a solid story with action, intrigue and mystery.  You won't be disappointed. 

Blood of My Brother is available for preorder now at major booksellers, including Amazon.  It will be released on December 28, 2010.  I am an Amazon affiliate. If you make a purchase through my link, I will receive a small commission.

For more information on author James LePore, please visit his website.

Review copy of this book provided by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. In no way did the provision of the book affect the outcome of my review.


   

December 14, 2010

Book Review: The Remains by Vincent Zandri

Book Description:  Thirty years ago, teenager Rebecca Underhill and her twin sister Molly were abducted by a man who lived in a house in the woods behind their upstate New York farm. They were held inside that house for three horrifying hours, until making their daring escape. Vowing to keep their terrifying experience a secret in order to protect their mother and father, the girls tried to put the past behind them. And when their attacker was hunted down by police and sent to prison, they believed he was as good as dead. Now, it s 30 years later, and with Molly having passed away from cancer, Rebecca, a painter and art teacher, is left alone to bear the burden of a secret that has only gotten heavier and more painful with each passing year. But when Rebecca begins receiving some strange anonymous text messages, she begins to realize that the monster who attacked her all those years ago is not dead after all. He s back, and this time, he wants to do more than just haunt her. He wants her dead.


There are very few books today that I can honestly open up and read in one sitting.  The Remains is one of those books.  This book will draw you in from the first page, grab ahold of you and won't let go until the last word. 

The plot is a fantastic one, with a 30 year old crime coming back to haunt central character Rebecca in the form of nightmares, flashbacks and text messages.  The build up is done expertly and with author Vincent Zandri's subtle hand, making for some suspenseful reading and a few unexpected twists.  The Remains is also a horror story, slightly akin to Stephen King as Mr. Zandri expertly weaves together psychological terror but Mr. Zandri also has a restrained and even crafty touch.  His terror doesn't show itself freely in the mirror or window but rather whispers ominously in your ear. 

I was fulfilled by Mr. Zandri's writing style, which was direct and to the point, without being brutal, and descriptive enough without being considered flowery prose.  Story points were intertwined without being farfetched and I liked the relatively liberal use of flashbacks throughout the story, enlightening the reader bit by bit on what Rebecca was facing.  As she remembered or learned what she was up against, so did we.

Rebecca herself was a brilliant heroine, a smart and savvy professional who is over forty, who is not stunningly beautiful and yet doesn't know it and she doesn't put herself in harm's way out of ignorance or flat out stupidity.  In other words, she's a woman that is easy to relate to and effortless to support.  I felt her uneasiness in the book and felt that uneasiness turn into fear.  I was sad with her, afraid with her and relieved with her. 

Even the cover of the book ties together nicely, being stunning and appropriately creepy. 

The only downsides to The Remains (and there were only two brief ones) were that Rebecca's friend Robyn seemed to have an interesting potential sideline story that was either not fully developed or somewhat dropped - - which may have been just my viewpoint and opinion - - and the handful of misspellings and typos that I noticed in the book.  I am a stickler for accuracy and misspellings and typos drive me absolutely crazy.  Fortunately, The Remains is such a solid, well-told story that I was able to overlook the mistakes and enjoy the thrilling ride. 

This was the first book I have read by author Vincent Zandri but based on this book, it won't be the last.  He is most certainly an author to watch. 

The Remains is available for purchase now at major booksellers, including Amazon. I am an Amazon affiliate. If you make a purchase through my link, I will receive a small commission.

For more information on author Vincent Zandri, please visit his website, blog, Facebook page, or follow him via Twitter.

The Remains counts toward my progress in the THRILLER & SUSPENSE READING CHALLENGE.

Please be sure to check out Night Owl Reviews, where Vincent Zandri is guest blogging today and follow the virtual tour for The Remains at the below stops:

Wednesday, December 15:  Book review at The Book Faery Reviews
                                           Book review at Donna's Blog Home

Thursday, December 16: Book review and interview at As I Turn the Pages
                                       Book review at Proud Book Nerd
                                       Book review at Colloquium



Review copy of this book provided by the author and Pump Up Your Book Promotions in exchange for a fair and honest review. In no way did the provision of the book affect the outcome of my review.







December 11, 2010

Book Review: Law of Attraction by Allison Leotta

Book Description:  Law of Attraction introduces Anna Curtis, a newly-minted prosecutor at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, D.C. The young woman has already developed thick skin to deal with the brutality she encounters with her daily stack of domestic violence cases. Yet when Laprea Johnson walks into Anna’s life—battered by her boyfriend on the morning after Valentine’s Day—there’s something about this particular case that Anna can’t quite shake, something that reminds the prosecutor of her own troubled past.

At the trial, Laprea makes a last-minute reversal, lying on the witness stand to exonerate her boyfriend. Shortly after he’s freed, Anna is horrified to hear that Laprea’s body has been found in a trash heap—and Anna’s own boyfriend, public defender Nick Wagner, is representing the accused. Torn between bringing the killer to justice and being with the man she loves, Anna makes a series of choices that jeopardize her career, her relationships, and her very life as she uncovers the shocking truth behind the murder.


Law of Attraction is federal prosecutor Allison Leotta's first novel and boy, am I glad I had the opportunity to read it.

I love legal thrillers.  Call it a perk or a side effect from my day job, take your pick.  My fondness for this genre, as well as my own professional background, leads me to be very demanding (and somewhat snobbish) of these types of books.  I want realism without being dry, I want an exciting plot without being overly fictionalized and I want to be lost in the story.  Ms. Leotta delivers mightily, with Law of Attraction bearing strong literary resemblance to John Grisham, Cody McFadyen and Joseph Finder (huge props from this reader) and yet firmly standing on her own as well. 

I was drawn into Anna's story from page one.  The comparisons between the fictional Anna and Ms. Leotta herself are many, leaving me to believe that since I particularly liked Anna I would like Ms. Leotta as well.  Anna is a strong heroine, without being overbearing, and with her flaws, leading her to make decisions that put her in jeopardy without being contrived or with Anna coming off as dimwitted.  Rather, Anna is a well-rounded and very likable character that you not only want to root for, you do. 

The supporting characters in Law of Attraction are just as well written and fully formed, from defense attorney hottie Nick to serious fellow prosecutor Jack to victim Laprea and her abusive boyfriend D'Marco.  Rarely are the victims well fleshed out but Ms. Leotta makes Laprea more than just a body and that only improves the book.   Furthermore, Law of Attraction, despite the subject matter, isn't crawling with a cast of characters.  Ms. Leotta keeps the roster relatively short and tight, leaving the reader an easy path to follow and the benefit of knowing the characters thoroughly. 

Ms. Leotta's background as a prosecutor and her knowledge of law shows clearly throughout Law of Attraction.    I found the writing to be riveting, the dialogue realistic and with incredibly descriptive detail.  I not only couldn't put this book down, I didn't want to.  Law of Attraction is a page turner that will keep you up until the wee hours, fighting off sleep in order to finish it (and then leaving you disappointed that you have turned the final page).  The ending left me hopeful that perhaps future books about this particular cast of characters will follow. 

Law of Attraction is a masterful debut novel that left me surprised, shocked, entertained and, most importantly of all, very satisfied.  I would not hesitate to recommend it to fellow readers and will be looking forward to future works by the talented Allison Leotta.

Law of Attraction is available for purchase at major booksellers, including Amazon.  I am an Amazon affiliate. If you make a purchase through my link, I will receive a small commission.

For more information on author Allison Leotta, please visit her website HERE

Law of Attraction counts toward my progress in the THRILLER & SUSPENSE READING CHALLENGE

Review copy of this book provided by Crazy Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review. In no way did the provision of the book affect the outcome of my review.




December 9, 2010

Guest Author: Susanna Kearsley

Today I have the honor of welcoming Susanna Kearsley, author of the atmospheric historical fiction The Winter Sea, to Psychotic State Book Reviews.  Welcome, Susanna! 

I asked her to share with us what her inspiration for The Winter Sea was. 

My Inspiration for The Winter Sea
by Susanna Kearsley

Thanks for inviting me here, Lori. You’ll have to forgive me if I ramble on a bit in my answer to your question, but the inspiration for my novels never seems to come from just one source. Usually a few things happen separately that somehow come together in my mind, like atoms connecting to form a new molecule.

In the case of The Winter Sea, the first thing happened nearly twenty years ago, when I was browsing in a favorite bookstore in Toronto and I came across a non-fiction book called Playing the Scottish Card, by historian John S. Gibson, all about the Franco-Jacobite invasion attempt of 1708. I’d never heard about this little bit of history, and since Scotland and the Jacobites are one of my “things,” I bought the book and took it home to add to my TBR pile.

Around that same time, I went backpacking through England and France with a friend, and while staying at a B&B in Cornwall I got chatting with our landlady, who’d moved there from the other side of England because, when she first came down to Cornwall, she felt she “belonged” there. Later on, she’d learned that one of her own ancestors had come from very close to where she now lived, on the Cornish coast, and that set off an interesting train of conversation, as we drank our tea and talked about the concept of genetic memory.

Fast forward fifteen years or so. I finally took the book by Mr. Gibson down and read it, and was fascinated by the whole adventure and the reasons it had failed. And one day while I was reading it, I happened to be talking to my father on the phone, and we were talking about the book that I’d just finished writing, Every Secret Thing, which was a thriller with a body count that made my father sigh and say, “I wish one day you’d write another book like Mariana.”

And the moment that he spoke the words, the atoms came together. Mariana is the story, told in two times, of a woman who buys an old house in the English countryside and finds her own life getting tangled up with the life of a woman who lived there in the 17th century. So that particular atom – the dual-time story structure – came together all at once with the idea of genetic memory and the story of the Jacobite intrigues in northeast Scotland, and just like that, I had my inspiration for The Winter Sea.

It needed all three parts to make it happen…but I like to let my father take the credit.


THE WINTER SEA BY SUSANNA KEARSLEY – IN STORES DECEMBER 2010

History has all but forgotten…

In the spring of 1708, an invading Jacobite fleet of French and Scottish soldiers nearly succeeded in landing the exiled James Stewart in Scotland to reclaim his crown.

Now, Carrie McClelland hopes to turn that story into her next bestselling novel. Settling herself in the shadow of Slains Castle, she creates a heroine named for one of her own ancestors and starts to write.

But when she discovers her novel is more fact than fiction, Carrie wonders if she might be dealing with ancestral memory, making her the only living person who knows the truth—the ultimate betrayal—that happened all those years ago, and that knowledge comes very close to destroying her…


About the Author

After studying politics and international development at University, Susanna Kearsley worked as a museum curator before turning her hand to writing. Winner of the UK’s Catherine Cookson Fiction prize, Susanna Kearsley’s writing has been compared to Mary Stewart, Daphne DuMaurier, and Diana Gabaldon. Her books have been translated into several languages, selected for the Mystery Guild, condensed for Reader's Digest, and optioned for film. The Winter Sea was a finalist for both a RITA award and the UK's Romantic Novel of the Year Award, and is a nominee for Best Historical Fiction in the RT Book Reviews Reviewers Choice Awards. She lives in Canada, near the shores of Lake Ontario. For more information, please visit http://www.susannakearsley.com/.


And now for a GIVEAWAY!  The lovely Danielle Jackson at Sourcebooks has offered a brand new copy of The Winter Sea to TWO lucky readers!   If you love historical fiction books, especially those with dual time storylines, you don't want to miss out! 

To enter, simply leave me a comment with your email address and let me know what inspires you to write (if you're a writer) or read. 

I love to write and to read.  Reading wise, my first criteria is the storyline - - does it intrigue me?  Is it something I have interest in?  Does reading the description on the book jacket cause me to shut out everything else around me?  And on a purely shallow note, if the book itself is particularly gorgeous or stunning, that may garner a read from me. 

Writing wise, I can get inspired by snippets of conversation I overhear, a story on the news or recalling a dream, as well as hearing a particular piece of music or even being in the shower (I have long said I do my best thinking in the shower sometimes). 

How about you? 

U.S. and Canada only (my apologies to our overseas friends) and no P.O. boxes.

NO EMAIL ADDRESS WITH YOUR ENTRY = NO ENTRY!

Contest to end on Sunday, December 19, 2010 at 11:59 P.M. PST and the lucky winners drawn by randomizer.org on Monday, December 20, 2010.

Good luck!


December 8, 2010

Author Interview: Jack Caldwell and a Giveaway

Today I am happy to welcome Jack Caldwell, author of the newly published Pemberley Ranch, a retelling of Pride and Prejudice set in post-Civil War Texas, to Psychotic State. He has graciously answered some questions about his writing, Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet and being a male writer of Jane Austen inspired fiction. 

Hi Jack, welcome to Psychotic State and thank you for taking the time to chat with me and my readers.


JC: Thank you. I’m very happy to be here.

I just finished Pemberley Ranch and I adored it! And this is coming from a reader who will generally shy away from westerns so this is effusive praise. How on earth did you get the idea to marry Jane Austen with the post-Civil War era?

JC: I’m very happy you enjoyed Pemberley Ranch. One of the themes of Pride and Prejudice is the preconceived notions and miscomprehensions the principals have about each other, and how two good people can overcome them. In Austen’s work, the over-riding issue is the class system of the Regency period. I decided to take Darcy and Elizabeth into a time period where the walls preventing understanding were much harder to scale—the Reconstruction Era in southern United States after the Civil War. Thanks to war-fever and propaganda, the civilians on both sides were unaware of the full truth, and they made their decisions on closely-held beliefs, rumors, and lies. I made Elizabeth a Yankee and Darcy a Rebel—and let the sparks fly!

Speaking of Jane Austen, how long have you been a fan of her work?

JC: I first read Jane Austen in 1981, after watching the BBC Pride and Prejudice mini-series on PBS. I have been fortunate to read all her major works.

Being a male author who is not only a fan of Austen but also writing an Austen-inspired book, did you feel there were more or less expectations placed on you?

JC: I am beyond grateful that the mainly female readers of Austen-inspired fiction have embraced a male writer. I knew I could write Darcy and the other male characters. My concern was to get the females right, especially Elizabeth. I was attracted to her because I enjoy strong women. My family is full of strong women and I made sure I married one. My female characters can stand on their own two feet; they are not angst-filled wallpaper. Thankfully, the readers seem to enjoy my take.

Pemberley Ranch included a wide assortment of characters from various Jane Austen works, with wonderful creative license on your part with some of them.

JC: There was no way I could be a slave to Austen canon and have the story work, so I had to make changes. As for characters from other Austen novels, like Northanger Abbey and Emma, there is a reason in the Jane Austen Fan Fiction universe I am considered the “King of Crossovers.” It’s fun.

Which character did you find most interesting to write and why?

JC: Much of the history of the period is told through Will Darcy, so I would have to say him. However, the romance between Charlotte and Fitz was a lot of fun to write.

Which character was the most difficult for you to express and why?

JC: Evil is poisonous. Every time I visited Whitehead’s thoughts, I felt like taking a shower.

Pemberley Ranch is a feast with its rich history and narrative. How much research went into writing it?

JC: I’m a history buff, so it was a matter of inserting what I knew into the story. Still, I want to get things right, so I did research during the six-month writing period. I learned some new things, like Morgan’s Raid into Ohio in 1863 and the struggle for the Texas constitution of 1876, which is still used today.

What was the most difficult part of taking Regency era British characters and transporting them to Texas?

JC: Not all that hard. Remember, I had to toss out some of Austen canon to get the story to work. The structure of behavior, especially between men and woman, was not that different. The hardest thing was to ditch some of Austen’s great lines. I got to keep a lot, but I had to re-word them for 1872 Texas.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

JC: Yes. I have always had stories in my head. Unfortunately, in high school an English teacher thought my writing terrible, and I was discouraged. It would be over a dozen years before I wrote again.

What advice would you consider most valuable to an unpublished author?

JC: Are you writing for yourself or an audience? Do you want to sell a book? If so, you must make compromises.

Frankly, the language in Pemberley Ranch is not as raw as I originally wrote it. It was a lot more like Huckleberry Finn. However, my kind and wise editor explained to me that while certain words may have been authentic for the period, they are considered unmentionable today. People won’t buy it and libraries won’t stock it. What good does it do me to “stay true to my vision” if nobody reads the thing?

If you truly are a good writer, if you have any talent at all, you can get the same point across using acceptable words. It’s why I like classic movies. You don’t have to have nudity to have a really sexy scene—you just have to have talent. Watch the fireworks scene in Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief, and then tell me what you think.

Besides Jane Austen, are there any other writers that inspire you or that you enjoy reading?

JC: For the Regency, I strongly suggest Patrick O’Brian (Aubrey/Maturin series) and C.S. Forester’s Hornblower novels. There is a wonderful gang of writers at Austen Authors. I have incredible respect for J. K. Rowling—her seven-year epic Harry Potter series is an instant classic. It’s much more than a bunch of children’s books.

What is a normal day in the life of Jack Caldwell like?

JC: I do have a day job—I am an economic development consultant. But that includes a lot of writing, as well. As I am a Cajun, I do all the cooking at home. Gumbo, anyone?

Can you tell us what you’re working on now? Any chance you may be working on another Austen-themed novel?

JC: Funny you should ask. My next novel, set for release in the spring of 2012, is a grand sequel to both Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility. I told you I was King of the Crossovers.

The book’s title is The Three Colonels. It is set mainly in 1815, during the Hundred Days crisis that began with Napoleon’s escape from Elba and climaxes with the Battle of Waterloo. It’s a huge cast, and while the Darcys are all over it, the central characters are some of Jane Austen’s fighting men—particularly Colonels Fitzwilliam and Brandon—and the women they love. I have original characters in it, and introduce the dashing and dangerous Colonel Sir John Buford to the Austen universe. If the book is successful, it will lead to other post-Regency novels.  (Lori's note:  Hooray!  But Spring of 2012 seems so far away . . .)

If you could sit down with Jane Austen and ask her one question, what would that question be?

JC: I would love to pick her brain and find out how she came up with such immortal lines. Is there a better start to a novel than, “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man, in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife”?

In an Old West brawl, who emerges victorious:

• Mr. Rushworth or Mr. Collins? Rushworth would only have to sit on Collins to make him cry “uncle!”

• Kid Denny or George Whitehead? Denny would take Whitehead, unless ole George shot him in the back first.

• Charlotte Lucas or Jane Bennet? I’ve gotta put my money on Charlotte—she has to deal with Sheriff Lucas every day. She’s tough.

• Mr. Darcy or Fitzwilliam?  Darcy vs, Fitz? I’m not going there! Let’s have the readers comment on that, shall we?  (Lori's note:  Great idea!  See below)

And lastly, if you could use one word to describe Pemberley Ranch, what would it be?

JC: Exciting.  (Lori's note:  Absolutely agree!)

Thank you so much, Jack, for taking the time to answer my questions and I wish you the best of luck with the exciting Pemberley Ranch.  Readers, go get this book now! 


PEMBERLEY RANCH BY JACK CALDWELL – IN STORES NOW

When the smoke has cleared from the battlefields and the civil war has finally ended, fervent Union supporter Beth Bennet reluctantly moves with her family from their home in Meryton, Ohio, to the windswept plains of Rosings, Texas. Handsome, haughty Will Darcy, a Confederate officer back from the war, owns half the land around Rosings, and his even haughtier cousin, Cate Burroughs, owns the other half.

In a town as small as Rosings, Beth and Will inevitably cross paths. But as Will becomes enchanted with the fiery Yankee, Beth won’t allow herself to warm to the man who represents the one thing she hates most: the army that killed her only brother.

But when carpetbagger George Whitehead arrives in Rosings, all that Beth thought to be true is turned on its head, and the only man who can save her home is the one she swore she’d never trust…

“It’s Pride and Prejudice meets Gone with the Wind—with that kind of romance and excitement.”

—Sharon Lathan, bestselling author of In the Arms of Mr. Darcy

About the Author

Jack Caldwell, a native of Louisiana living in the Midwest, is an economic developer by trade. Mr. Caldwell has been an amateur history buff and a fan of Jane Austen for many years. Pemberley Ranch is his first published work. He lives with his wife in Minnesota. For more information, please visit http://webpages.charter.net/jvcla25/ and on http://www.austenauthors.com/, where he regularly contributes.

AND A GIVEAWAY! 

Thanks to the lovely Danielle Jackson at Sourcebooks, I have not just one but TWO copies of Pemberley Ranch to give away! 

Don't hesitate to get your own copy of the first version of Pride and Prejudice set in Texas - - it is worth every moment spent reading and then some.  To read my review of this fantastic adventure, click HERE

To enter, simply leave me a comment and let me know who you think would be king in an Old West throwdown - - Darcy or Fitzwilliam.  Feel free to add why, if you'd like, or just choose your man.

Me personally?  I am choosing Darcy.  Nothing against Fitz, I wouldn't want go up against him and he certainly proves his mettle in Pemberley Ranch but it's Mr. Darcy . . .

U.S. and Canada only (my apologies to our overseas friends) and no P.O. boxes.

NO EMAIL ADDRESS WITH YOUR ENTRY = NO ENTRY!

Contest to end on Friday, December 17, 2010 at 11:59 P.M. PST and the lucky winners drawn by randomizer.org on Saturday, December 18, 2010.

Good luck!

December 7, 2010

Book Review: Pemberley Ranch by Jack Caldwell



Book Description: 

In the aftermath of the Civil War, the Bennet family has just moved from Ohio to the town of Rosings, Texas, set on creating a fresh start. But their daughter Beth still prefers the familiarity of Ohio to the plains of Texas-that is, until she encounters Will Darcy, the reclusive owner of Pemberley Ranch. Will and Beth are instantly smitten, but pride, prejudice, and a gang of villains determined to take over Rosings threaten to keep them apart. This fresh idea in the world of Jane Austen retellings brings together the world of Pride and Prejudice with the struggles of the antebellum South.

Article first published as Book Review: Pemberley Ranch by Jack Caldwell on Blogcritics.

Let's get this out in the open.  I am not a fan of the Western genre.  At all.  I like historical fiction but cowboy tales?  Not so much.  So you might wonder why I would choose to read Pemberley Ranch.  Simple.  Because it's a different take on my beloved Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet and I am willing to read any work that revolves around them. 

That being said . . . I don't give ratings on my reviews but if I did, I would give this book five stars.  I absolutely adored Pemberley Ranch and consider it one of my favorite Pride and Prejudice variations.     It moves our Regency-era Fitzwilliam Darcy and Lizzy Bennet to the post-Civil War Old West (Texas) Wil Darcy and Beth Bennet and includes a wonderful helping of gunfights, saloons, easy women and romance.

Perhaps most unusual for a Pride and Prejudice variation, Pemberley Ranch is written by a male author.  Mr. Caldwell does a phenomenal job of seamlessly blending the timeless Darcy-Bennet romance with the abounding history of this country after the Civil War and comes up aces.  He does a faultless job of showing the conflict between the North and South and the many prejudices that were rife in the nation, even after peacetime.  Such prejudices figure prominantly in Pemberley Ranch, as prejudices (though of a certain kind) figured prominantly in Pride and Prejudice.

Mr. Caldwell's writing is fluid, engaging and wholly appropriate.  The dialogue is seamless and the descriptions of character, location and situation are colorful.  I appreciated the storyline Mr. Caldwell penned and loved the adventurous aspect overall. 

Mr. Caldwell also did an exemplary job taking creative license with supporting characters.   Characters who had previously had little exploration by Jane Austen (Anne de Bourgh, Denny, Colonel Fitzwilliam) get meticulous treatment in Pemberley Ranch, and realistic to boot.  Furthermore, Mr. Caldwell doesn't limit himself to Pride and Prejudice characters and liberally plucks familiar persons from Ms. Austen's other works, including Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park, Sense and Sensibility and Emma

Pemberley Ranch is a fantastic exploration of the post-Civil War period as told through the eyes of the Darcys and the Bennets from a male perspective.  I have always been a fan of John Jakes' North and South trilogy and while Pemberley Ranch isn't nearly as detailed and thorough as that series, it's a wonderful educator on our nation's history, as well as an engrossing read. 

I would highly recommend Pemberley Ranch to not only fans of Jane Austen but also fans of historical fiction, particularly those centered in the Civil War era, as well as fans of the western genre.  Pemberley Ranch covers a lot of bases and does so with entertainment, wit and aplomb.  Those readers who prefer their books without any sexuality (there is a sexual scene in the book) or offensive language (there are a few obscenities) may take issue with Pemberley Ranch but others should find no fault with it.  I look forward to future works by Mr. Caldwell and I think Jane Austen herself would have been pleased with the Old West spin on her beloved characters. 

Pemberley Ranch is available for purchase now at major booksellers, including Amazon. I am an Amazon affiliate. If you make a purchase through my link, I will receive a small commission.


For more information on author Jack Caldwell, please visit his Facebook page HERE or the site Austen Authors HERE

Pemberley Ranch counts toward my progress in the JANE AUSTEN IS MY HOMEGIRL READING CHALLENGE

Review copy of this book provided by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. In no way did the provision of the book affect the outcome of my review.




The Winner of Prisoners in the Palace Is . . .

April!


Congratulations, April!  You are the lucky receipient of a brand spanking new copy of Michaela MacColl's Prisoners in the Palace, an adventurous telling of Princess Victoria's year before she became Queen Victoria and all the goings on behind closed doors.  I hope you enjoy this wonderful book as much as I did.

I will be emailing you directly for your mailing address.  Please respond within 72 hours so that your new book gets out to you timely. 

Thank you to all who visited my blog and entered this giveaway. I do appreciate each one of you taking the time to visit and post here. I enjoyed reading your thoughts on your favorite royals and agreed with many of them.  Me personally, I have always enjoyed reading about Queen Victoria and I followed Princess Diana throughout her public life - - she was a fantastic public figure.  It looks like her son Prince William has inherited his mother's charm and naturalness and will step comfortably into her shoes. 

I hope everyone will stick around for future giveaways, reviews and interviews.


Thank you again to Lara Starr and Chronicle Books for making this giveaway possible.

Compliments to randomizer.org for selecting the lucky winner.

Happy reading!
 


December 6, 2010

Mailbox Monday: December 6, 2010

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house during the previous week. Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists! Mailbox Monday, which was started by Marcia at The Printed Page, is on blog tour—and Lady Q at Let Them Read Books is hosting during the month of December.

The sole item I received last week was Wither (The Chemical Garden Trilogy) by Lauren DeStefano, which I received from the publisher for review. 

SYNOPSIS:  Thanks to modern science, every human being has become a ticking genetic time bomb—males only live to age twenty-five, and females only live to age twenty. In this bleak landscape, young girls are kidnapped and forced into polygamous marriages to keep the population from dying out.

When sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery is taken by the Gatherers to become a bride, she enters a world of wealth and privilege. Despite her husband Linden's genuine love for her, and a tenuous trust among her sister wives, Rhine has one purpose: to escape—to find her twin brother and go home.

But Rhine has more to contend with than losing her freedom. Linden's eccentric father is bent on finding an antidote to the genetic virus that is getting closer to taking his son, even if it means collecting corpses in order to test his experiments. With the help of Gabriel, a servant Rhine is growing dangerously attracted to, Rhine attempts to break free, in the limted time she has left.



That is my Mailbox Monday. What goodies arrived in your mailbox last week?



November 29, 2010

Mailbox Monday: November 29, 2010

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house during the previous week. Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists! Mailbox Monday, which was started by Marcia at The Printed Page, is on blog tour—and Julie at Knitting and Sundries is hosting during the month of November.

The first item I received was The Remains by Vincent Zandri, which I received from Pump Up Your Book Promotions for a blog tour. 

SYNOPSIS:  Thirty years ago, teenager Rebecca Underhill and her twin sister Molly were abducted by a man who lived in a house in the woods behind their upstate New York farm. They were held inside that house for three horrifying hours, until making their daring escape. Vowing to keep their terrifying experience a secret in order to protect their mother and father, the girls tried to put the past behind them. And when their attacker was hunted down by police and sent to prison, they believed he was as good as dead. Now, it s 30 years later, and with Molly having passed away from cancer, Rebecca, a painter and art teacher, is left alone to bear the burden of a secret that has only gotten heavier and more painful with each passing year. But when Rebecca begins receiving some strange anonymous text messages, she begins to realize that the monster who attacked her all those years ago is not dead after all. He s back, and this time, he wants to do more than just haunt her. He wants her dead.


The second item I received last week was Thr3E by Ted Dekker which I received from Hachette Book Group for review. 

SYNOPSIS:  Enter a world where nothing is what it seems. Where your closest friend could be your greatest enemy.

Kevin Parson is driving his car late one summer day when, suddenly, his cell phone rings. A man who identifies himself as Slater speaks in a breathy voice: You have exactly three minutes to confess your sin to the world. Refuse, and the car you're driving will blow sky high.

Kevin panics. Who would make such a call? What sin? Kevin ditches the car. Precisely three minutes later, a massive explosion sets his world on a collision course with madness.

From the #1 best-selling fiction author comes a powerful story of good, evil, and all that lies between.



That is my Mailbox Monday. What goodies arrived in your mailbox last week?



Book Review: On Maggie's Watch by Ann Wertz Garvin

Book Description:  Maggie Finley has returned with her husband from the big city to her Wisconsin hometown, where she reunites with her best friend and awaits the any-minute-now birth of her baby. She's determined to create a safe haven on Hemlock Road, a neighborhood that has always meant security, community, and love. One way to do that: resurrect the defunct Neighborhood Watch program.

The Watch folks are mostly concerned with dog poop and litterbugs. But Maggie's done some digging and discovered a potential threat living just around the corner-a threat that must be eradicated. And the more Maggie tries to take control, the more out of control she gets...


Article first published as Book Review: On Maggie's Watch by Ann Wertz Garvin on Blogcritics.

On Maggie's Watch is author Ann Wertz Garvin's debut novel about a dark subject but handled with lightness and humor.  I was interested in the book because I normally find books that revolve around a small community and cast of characters fun to read.  On Maggie's Watch did not disappoint mainly because of main character Maggie's over the top actions and reactions. 

As someone who herself has gone online to see what sexual predators are residing in and around my neighborhood, I related with Maggie's quest to keep her child and her neighborhood safe. I chuckled out loud picturing Maggie in her purple pajamas, on her bike, stalking the stalker and her handful of pranks.  Her attempts at vigilante justice are humorous and yet also have a strong, serious undertone.  In less capable hands, Maggie could have been a brash, borderline annoying character but Ms. Wertz Garvin keeps her from falling in that precipice while also allowing her to remain very relatable, a commendable task.

I enjoyed the supporting characters, from best friend Julia whose no-nonsense personality allows her to tell it like it is to husband Martin who oftentimes seems oblivious to Maggie's obsessive nature to the overzealous Beverly Finker and helpful handyman David.  Personally I would have loved to read more about some of the neighbors - - who knows what delicious secrets and dirt Maggie, heading up the Neighborhood Watch, could have learned - - but the neighborhood cross between Melrose Place and a Fannie Flagg novel  is simply too tasty to resist. 

The best part of On Maggie's Watch is Ms. Wertz Garvin's writing style and overall story.  She has taken a relevant and timely issue and managed to pen a thoughtful, funny and inspiring book.  Maggie's journey, as told through Ms. Wertz Garvin's eyes, is worth the read - - from her marriage teetering on the brink of disaster to the domino effect her Neighborhood Watch sets off to the deep affection she shares with her best friend.  All ring true and will leave you, the reader, anxious to share in Maggie's tale and desperate to know how it all ends. 

For a debut novel On Maggie's Watch is surprisingly poignant and sinfully rich with plotline and personality.  It will strike a powerful chord in every parent out there and every female will relate to the joy and fear pregnancy brings and the inate maternal instinct to protect your child at all costs.   On Maggie's Watch is worth the read and I encourage you to pick it up.

On Maggie's Watch is available for purchase now at major booksellers, including Amazon.  I am an Amazon affiliate. If you make a purchase through my link, I will receive a small commission. 

For more information on author Ann Wertz Garvin, please visit her website HERE

Review copy of this book provided by the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. In no way did the provision of the book affect the outcome of my review.