February 27, 2015

Interview with Julie Klassen

Hi Julie, welcome to Psychotic State Book Reviews!   Thank you for taking the time to chat with me and my readers.    You recently released The Secret of Pembrooke Park and it’s receiving a lot of press and excellent reviews.   Congratulations!
Thank you! And thank you for having me here.

If you had to describe The Secret of Pembrooke Park in just five words, what would they be?

Hmm… maybe: Treasure sought; true love found. Or: Overlooked sister finds true worth.

What was your favorite part of writing The Secret of Pembrooke Park?    

I enjoyed so many things: brainstorming with author-friends, the mind-challenge of crafting a mystery, and perhaps best of all, visiting the English manor that inspired Pembrooke Park.

What is it about the Regency period that attracts you? 

I am drawn to the chivalry of the period--gentlemen in tall boots, ladies in lovely gowns, the manners and repressed attraction where the mere touch of gloved hands at a ball sparked romance.

How long did you research the Regency period before you began writing?  

If reading Jane Austen’s novels and watching every film or mini-series based on them counts as research, then several years! J Otherwise, I have for the most part conducted research all along the way. I buy new research books for each new topic/profession/location I tackle. Research is an ongoing part of being a writer. There is always more to learn.

If you were able to travel back in time to the Regency period, what thing do you believe you’d like the best?  What would be the most difficult part of living in the Regency period?

Before I had done much research, I thought it was a wonderfully romantic period (and it could be, if you had money). I would have liked the balls the most, because I love to dance and have greatly enjoyed the English Country Dancing I have done over the last few years. But now that I have learned more about the medical care, sanitation (or lack thereof), and restrictions women faced, I realize I am better suited to current times.

Can you tell us about your path to being a published author? 

I have always wanted to be a writer, but it wasn’t until I had worked as a fiction editor for several years that I got serious and completed my first novel. I learned a great deal by working with other authors and editors, and I’m very thankful for that experience. Since I worked for my ideal publisher, I submitted my first novel under a pseudonym so that it would be reviewed objectively. Thankfully, my colleagues liked it and wanted to publish it before they knew who had written it.

What is the single best piece of advice you’ve received as an author that you would like to share?

Perhaps, “Less input, more output.” Eventually, you have to lay aside the research and WRITE!

Some random questions . . .

If you were a character in Gone With the Wind, you would be . . .

Depends on the day! I took two different online quizzes and one said Scarlett and the other said Melanie. That’s quite telling really, because I am one of those adaptable middle children who fills whichever role is needed in a given situation.  

Structured routine or fly by the seat of your pants?  

I am not very structured or organized by nature, but I am working on it!

The book currently on your nightstand is . . .

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier is on the top of the stack.

Your favorite guilty pleasure movie is . . .

Lost in Austen—it’s so shockingly delicious. Enjoyed Austenland, too. (Do you think I might romanticize living in Jane Austen’s time a little too much? J )

The fictional character you would most love to meet is . . .

Mr. Darcy, assuming he was about to fall madly in love with me. Otherwise I think he would be quite intimidating.

The actress who could best portray you is . . .

Laura Dern
Off the top of my head, maybe the talented Laura Dern (if I had a thinner nose and she had a wider…everything else) . We’re both tall, blonde, and similar ages.

One fun thing about you most people don’t know is . . .

Let’s see…. I once taught ballroom dance to a group of people with various disabilities. It was challenging but rewarding.

Can you share with us what’s next for you?

With pleasure.  I have a new book coming out in July, called Lady Maybe. It’s about a woman whose startling secrets lead her into unexpected danger and romance in Regency England. Then in December comes The Painter’s Daughter, my first novel with a marriage-in-name-only premise.

Thank you, Julie, for taking the time to sit down with Psychotic State Book Reviews.  Best of luck to you with The Secret of Pembrooke Park!    

Rebecca De Mornay
You’re welcome. And thank you—I enjoyed your fun questions.
For more information on Julie and The Secret of Pembrooke Park, please visit her website.
Be sure to enter Julie's fantastic giveaway here.
And is it just me or is Julie a dead ringer for actress Rebecca DeMornay?  

February 20, 2015


Description:   The New York Times bestselling author of Blackberry Winter imagines the inspiration for Goodnight Moon.

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown (Goodnight Songs) is an adored childhood classic but its real origins are lost to history.  In Goodnight June, Sarah Jio offers a suspenseful and heartfelt take on how the "great green room" might have come to be.

June Andersen is professionally successful, but her personal life is marred by unhappiness. Unexpectedly, she is called to settle her great-aunt Ruby’s estate and determine the fate of Bluebird Books, the children’s bookstore Ruby founded in the 1940s. Amidst the store’s papers, June stumbles upon letters between her great-aunt and the late Margaret Wise Brown—and steps into the pages of American literature.

My Thoughts on Goodnight June by Sarah Jio

Where to begin?  First, I loved The Violets of March, my first Sarah Jio book and I looked forward to Goodnight June based on that fact alone.  Second, having the book take place primarily in an independently owned bookstore made my heart sing and the rest of me green with envy.  (If you don't already know my fantasy career would be a writer owning a little bookshop.  Sigh.)  But I digress . . .

I loved, loved, loved Goodnight June.  The locale, with me fantasizing about my dream job, was enough to make this a splendid read for me but Ms. Jio did a fantastic rendering of how Goodnight Moon may have come to be conceived.  Yes, this is a work of fiction but at times it was easy to think "this really could have happened."

I liked the character of June and I appreciated how she was presented to the readers and how the bookstore was introduced into the narrative.  As a hardworking New Yorker, she had no intent or interest in staying more than a few days in Seattle and quickly handling her great-aunt's estate . . . until the Wise Brown mystery surfaced.

Rather than telling the story in flashbacks, Ms. Jio spins it through the letters between Ruby and Margaret Wise-Brown and these letters make for fascinating reading.  I could so easily envision both characters in my mind, as well as other supporting characters mentioned, and the wonderful little Bluebird Books.  Can I please have a Bluebird Books with cozy little loft apartment upstairs?  Please? 

We do get June's backstory told with flashbacks but they are fairly short and to the point.  Her mother and sister are supporting characters but the majority of the book deals with the letters and with June's present day situation of how to handle the estate, what to do with the bookstore and if she should share the story of Goodnight Moon.

The plot is fairly standard - - can June save Bluebird Books?  What about that handsome chef/restaurant owner next door?  Will June deal with her own inner demons and realize that returning home might be the best tonic?   Even with a standard plot, Goodnight June excels and surpasses my expectations (which were high, given my love for The Violets of March) and Sarah Jio soundly delivers.

With a few cameos by famous Seattle residents, Goodnight June is sure to satisfy.

Goodnight June is a must-read for any book lover.  If you're partial to Margaret Wise Brown and her library of children's books, including Goodnight Moon, it's a perfect fit.  Goodnight June will leave you feeling warm and fuzzy inside and wishing for a Bluebird Books of your own.

Highly, highly recommended.

Goodnight June is available at major booksellers and retailers.


Author Website



FTC Disclosure: I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.  The provision of this book did not affect the outcome of my review.  I was neither paid nor compensated (ha ha) for this review.

February 19, 2015


Description:   At age three he was using knives to frighten his teenage aunt. By 14 he was a thief, animal abuser, and peeping tom who liked to pull little girls into the woods to scare them.

Ted Bundy killed at least 35 girls and women, and possibly hundreds. Was his first victim eight-year-old Ann Marie Burr who disappeared from their Tacoma, Washington neighborhood in 1961? Her body was never found and there were no clues, just two tenacious detectives who spent the rest of their lives trying to solve the case. Was Bundy telling the truth when he told a hypothetical story about killing Ann and dumping her into a muddy pit?

With new information about Ted Bundy's childhood, interviews with those who knew him best, and the memories of the Burr family, Ted and Ann is the story of one the 20th century's most fascinating cold cases. Rebecca Morris is an award-winning journalist who has worked in radio and television news in New York City; Portland, Oregon; and Seattle, Washington. A native Oregonian, her reporting has appeared in The Seattle Times, The Oregonian, People, Entertainment Weekly, New York Newsday, American Theatre, and many other publications. She lives in Seattle.

My Thoughts on Ted and Ann: The Story of a Missing Child and Her Neighbor Ted Bundy by Rebecca Morris

As a reader of true crime, I am in that rarefied (and often misunderstood) group of individuals who not only read about the worst of humankind but have certain cases that I will always follow and seek out.  Ted Bundy is one of those for me.

Mention Ted Bundy and invariably you will be met with something along the lines of "worst serial killer ever", a sentiment which is arguably true, or even "most infamous serial killer."   The true number of Bundy's victims will likely never be known, as well as his first true victim but this book attempts to decipher whether or not young Ann Marie Burr was indeed a then teenage Bundy's first victim.

Ted and Ann, despite the title, isn't so much about Bundy and his horrible trail of murder.  Any listener expecting to get a rundown on Bundy's biography and his crimes will be disappointed.  Instead, this book is about what the disappearance of a child does to a family and a community. 

Author Rebecca Morris, with help from Ann Marie's mother, takes the listener to Tacoma, circa 1961, and into the aftermath of the inexplicable tragedy of a missing child.  We hear of the fear, the confusion, the denial and the pain of not knowing where your child is or what happened to her.  

Other than Ann, Beverly Burr is the strongest character depicted in the book.  Not surprising, given that Ms. Morris spoke with her.  I had mixed feelings about Beverly.  Immense sympathy for her, obviously over the loss of her eldest child as well as the marriage that was less than fulfilling for her even before Ann disappeared, but also frustration over events after Ann's disappearance.  The Burrs' daughter Mary, only three or four years old when her older sister vanished, grew up to have a myriad of problems.  While I think the recounting of Mary's problems highlighted how every member of a family blighted by a disappearance or murder is affected - - some very severely - - I found the actions of Beverly and Donald Burr puzzling and even infuriating.  One particular case in point was leaving daughter Julie's young children in the care of Mary when she was clearly unreliable and unfit, as well as taking those children - - without Julie's consent - - to visit Mary while she was in jail.  

This was a difficult conundrum for me to find myself in because I normally relate to the victims and their families in most true crime books.  That said, both Beverly Burr and Donald Burr were complex individuals who were less than perfect and reacted in different ways to the loss of their daughter.  Ultimately I cannot judge how they dealt with such a horrific blow to their family.  It certainly didn't spoil the book for me.

The author also presented a few new facts about the young Theodore Bundy, claiming that he not only was killing animals before his adolescence (something not claimed or verified in any other books to my knowledge) but also that he was taking little girls into the woods to urinate on them.  These actions, combined with his prowling, window peeping and nocturnal activities, show that the young Bundy was displaying antisocial behavior from a very early age and even provide us with a glimpse of the sociopathic, efficient predator he would grow into.   

Ann Burr, close to the time of
her disappearance
I appreciated that Ms. Morris was able to structure her book in such a way that both Beverly Burr and Louise Bundy were seen as victims.  Both were mothers who lost their eldest children, both suffered from it for the remainder of their lives and neither deserved it.

The largest detriment of the book, in my opinion, was information that was repeated more than once that didn't need to be.  Whether it be an editing mistake or simply filler, it took a bit away from the substance of the book.

Knowing the Bundy story, as well as the general facts on the Burr disappearance, I knew the book would end without a conclusive and definitive answer as to what happened to Ann.  For some listeners, this may be a huge drawback . . . and an understandable one.  I felt the "behind the scenes" information on both the Burr and Bundy families offset the lack of answers. 

Narrator Lee Ann Howlett does a commendable job with a difficult story.  Her delivery is pitch perfect and she adds a special nuance to the tale rather than taking away from it.  I would not hesitate to listen to other books by this narrator.

In the end, I would recommend Ted and Ann: The Mystery of a Missing Child and Her Neighbor Ted Bundy to those readers/listeners who include true crime in their library and/or are interested in the infamous Ted Bundy.  While there is no ready conclusion as to the fate of Ann Burr or Ted Bundy's potential role in her disappearance, I do believe, based on the information provided in these pages, that he was responsible for her disappearance and probable death.  
Teenage Ted Bundy

Ted and Ann: The Mystery of a Missing Child and Her Neighbor Ted Bundy by Rebecca Morris is available for purchase at major retailers.  



Author Website


FTC Disclosure: This audiobook was provided by the narrator, Lee Ann Howlett, in exchange for a fair and honest review.  In no way did the provision of this audiobook affect the outcome of my review.  I was neither paid nor compensated for this review.  

February 17, 2015

THE SECRET OF PEMBROOKE PARK by Julie Klassen, Spotlight and Giveaway

In the spring of 1818, twenty-four-year-old Abigail Foster fears she is destined to become a spinster. Her family’s finances are in ruins and the one young man she truly esteems has fallen for another woman — her younger, prettier sister Louisa.
Forced to retrench after the bank failure of Austen, Gray & Vincent, the Foster family optimistically pool their resources for another London Season for her sister in hopes of an advantageous alliance. While searching for more affordable lodgings, a surprising offer is presented: the use of a country manor house in Berkshire abandoned for eighteen years. The Fosters journey to the imposing Pembrooke Park and are startled to find it entombed as it was abruptly left, the tight-lipped locals offering only rumors of a secret room, hidden treasure and a murder in its mysterious past.

Eager to restore her family fortune, Abigail, with the help of the handsome local curate William Chapman and his sister Leah, begins her search into the heavily veiled past aided by unsigned journal pages from a previous resident and her own spirited determination. As old friends and new foes come calling at Pembrooke Park, secrets come to light. Will Abigail find the treasure and love she seeks...or very real danger?
Early Praise
“Jane Austen meets Victoria Holt in Christy Award–winning Klassen’s latest deliciously spooky and sweetly romantic historical.” — Booklist
“Regency romance with awesome castles, secrets, hidden rooms and, of course, romance . . . . Julie Klassen has hit this one out of the ballpark.” — Romantic Times Book Reviews Top Pick
“If you are looking for a book which combines the enticing elements of a Gothic with the mannerly charm of a Regency, look no further, because this lovely Inspirational is just your cup of tea.” — Heroes and Heartbreakers
“While there are plenty of Regency authors out there, the lovely Julie Klassen is by far one of the top and a must read for fans of Austen/Brontë style and prose. Klassen’s latest, The Secret of Pembrooke Park has a touch of both – the mystery of Brontë and the fun of Austen.”— Books and Beverages
The Secret of Pembrooke Park is perfectly packaged with several threads of the gothic suspense, Regency romance and inspirational themes while presenting a well plotted story with intriguing characters in an amazing setting.” — Burton Book Review
Author Bio
Julie Klassen loves all things Jane—Jane Eyre and Jane Austen. A graduate of the University of Illinois, Julie worked in publishing for sixteen years and now writes full time. Three of her books have won the Christy Award for Historical Romance. She has also been a finalist in the Romance Writers of America’s RITA Awards. Julie and her husband have two sons and live in St. Paul, Minnesota. Learn more about Julie and her books at her website, follower her on Twitter, and visit her on Facebook and Goodreads.
February 16              My Jane Austen Book Club (Guest Blog)
February 16              vvb32 Reads (Excerpt)                             
February 17              Psychotic State Book Reviews (Spotlight)
February 17              My Kids Led Me Back to Pride and Prejudice (Spotlight)    
February 18              Addicted to Jane Austen (Review)                                
February 18              Peeking Between the Pages (Review)                                     
February 19              Jane Austen in Vermont (Interview)                                          
February 19              Living Read Girl (Review)                                                
February 20              My Love for Jane Austen (Excerpt)                                           
February 20              Truth, Beauty, Freedom & Books (Review)                            
February 20              Laura's Reviews (Guest Blog)                                        
February 21              A Bookish Way of Life (Review)                                    
February 21              Romantic Historical Reviews (Excerpt)                        
February 22              Reflections of a Book Addict (Review)                                    
February 23              Austenesque Reviews (Guest Blog)                                         
February 23              Peace, Love, Books (Review)                                        
February 24              vvb32 Reads (Review)                                         
February 24              Poof Books (Excerpt)
February 25              Babblings of a Bookworm (Review)                                         
February 25              Austenesque Reviews (Review)                                    
February 25              Luxury Reading (Review)
February 26              So Little Time…So Much to Read (Review)
February 26              More Agreeably Engaged (Excerpt)
February 27              Psychotic State Book Reviews (Interview)                             
February 27              Booktalk & More (Review)
February 28              Laughing with Lizzie (Spotlight)
February 28              The Calico Critic (Review)
March 01                   Leatherbound Reviews (Excerpt)                                              
March 01                   Delighted Reader (Review)
March 02                   CozyNookBks (Review)                                       
March 02                   Laura's Reviews (Review)                                               
Grand Giveaway Contest 
Win One of Four Fabulous Prizes 
In celebration of the release of The Secret of Pembrooke Park, four chances to win copies of Julie’s books and other Jane Austen-inspired items are being offered.
Three lucky winners will receive one trade paperback or eBook copy of The Secret of Pembrooke Park, and one grand prize winner will receive one copy of all eight of Julie’s novels: Lady of Milkweed Manor, The Apothecary's Daughter, The Silent Governess, The Girl in the Gatehouse, The Maid of Fairbourne Hall, The Tutor’s Daughter, The Dancing Master, and The Secret of Pembrooke Park, one DVD of Northanger Abbey (2007) and a Jane Austen Action Figure. 
To enter the giveaway contest, simply leave a comment on any or all of the blog stops on The Secret of Pembrooke Park Blog Tour starting February 16, 2015 through 11:59 pm PT, March 9, 2015. Winners will be drawn at random from all of the comments and announced on Julie Klassen’s website on March 16, 2015. Winners have until March 22, 2015 to claim their prize. The giveaway contest is open to residents of the US, UK, and Canada. Digital books will be sent through Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Good luck to all!