Bookish Review of 2013, part 1

2013 has been a great year for me with regards to reading. I’ve read a total of 411 books (hopefully it will be 412 by the end of 12/31/2013 but as of 12/30/2013 it is 411), far exceeding my original 2013 goal of 263 books. I’m extremely grateful to the authors, publicists, publishers and assorted others such as BookBrowse, BookTrib, SheReads, Shelf Awareness Pro, GoodReads and LibraryThing for providing me with a host of advance reading material. I’m also very grateful to my local public library, the Kanawha County Public Library for its fantastic digital offerings, not to mention its great librarians, staff and events.

I’ve been fortunate to read some great books this year and to be introduced to some wonderful authors. (My favorite fiction author list grew by leaps and bounds this year.) I was recently asked by friends and family members to name a few of my favorite books for 2013 and I had to stop and think about it, for quite some time. The problem wasn’t naming my favorites but limiting it to just a few books. I decided to tell everyone to wait until January 1, 2014 for me to fine-tune my list. In an effort to do just that, I decided to make a list of favorite books published in 2013. Okay, I admit that the list is kind of long, but I simply couldn’t eliminate any books from this list. (I thought about doing a list of favorite new-to-me authors, but felt that might be overkill.)

Favorite Books Published in 2013 (Jan – June)

Cover of Snow by Jenny Milchman was my seventh read for 2013 and a fantastic mystery-suspense-thriller not to mention an awesome debut by Ms. Milchman. If you enjoy reading about wintry settings during the winter months, then this is one you’ll definitely want to read.

Speaking From Among the Bones by Alan Bradley was my sixteenth read for 2013 and the fifth in the Flavia de Luce series. Who is Flavia de Luce? Flavia is an eleven-year-old detective and child genius (in my opinion). Think Encyclopedia Brown meets Nancy Drew with a touch of Columbo, Hercule Poirot, and Miss Marple. You haven’t read any of the Flavia de Luce books? What are you waiting for…the next book is scheduled for release in mid-January 2014, so you have some time to get caught up!

Next is A Cold and Lonely Place by Sara J. Henry. This was my twenty-fourth read for the year and the second in the Troy Chance series set in the Adirondacks. Yes, this was another mystery-suspense read and another great book with a wintry setting.

Calling Me Home by Julie Kibler was my twenty-eighth read. This is another remarkable debut and is a wonderful blend of historical and contemporary fiction. I enjoyed this book so much that I’ve recommended it to friends, family and my local book groups. I cannot say enough good things about this book so I’ll simply say this: read this book!

Garden of Stones by Sophie Littlefield was another out-standing historical fiction book and my forty-fourth read of the year. Publishers Weekly said “Littlefield has a gift for pacing…page-turning action and evocative, sensual, harrowing descriptions.” 

My fifty-fifth read for the year was The House Girl by Tara Conklin. The House Girl was the #1 IndieNext Pick, a GoodReads Choice Nominee for Best Fiction, and more. This book has been lauded and applauded by BookList, BookPage, the Library Journal and more as an “exquisite debut novel” and “the rare novel that seamlessly toggles between centuries and characters and remains consistently gripping throughout…” This is another book that strongly urge you to read.

My eighty-fifth read for the year was another outstanding historical fiction read, The Ashford Affair by Lauren Willig. I’ve read and thoroughly enjoyed Ms. Willig’s Pink Carnation series and was just as delighted with The Ashford Affair, another great blend of contemporary and historical fiction.

Another debut work that I found quite enjoyable was written by an acquaintance and one of my favorite librarian’s, Sarah Title’s Kentucky Home. This is a contemporary romance that had just the right amount of romance and humor and was my eighty-seventh read for 2013.

My one hundred and first read for the year was Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline. I’ve been blessed to read a number of outstanding works that combined contemporary and historical fiction and Orphan Train definitely fits in this category. I’ve actually read this book twice this year, with my most recent reading as part of a local book group as our December group read. Orphan Train was just a delightful the second time around.

2013 also seems to be the year for great debut works, and The Raven’s Gift by Don Reardon is no exception. This dystopian suspense thriller kept me on edge from the first page to the very last and was my one hundred and thirty-ninth read of the year.

Part 2 of this review will feature books read from July through December of 2013 and features more great debuts not to mention great mysteries, suspense-thrillers, and perhaps more historical fiction.


Alice Close Your Eyes by Averil Dean
ISBN:  9780778315865 (paperback)
ISBN:  9781460323748 (ebook)
ASIN:  B00EB3FIZ4 (Kindle edition)
Publication date: December 31, 2013 
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA

Ten years ago, someone ruined Alice Croft’s life. Now she has a chance to right that wrong–and she thinks she’s found the perfect man to carry out her plan. After watching him for weeks, she breaks into Jack Calabrese’s house to collect the evidence that will confirm her hopes. When Jack comes home unexpectedly, Alice hides in the closet, fearing for her life. But upon finding her, Jack is strangely calm, solicitous . . . and intrigued.

That night is the start of a dark and intense attraction, and soon Alice finds herself drawn into a labyrinth of terrifying surrender to a man who is more dangerous than she could have ever imagined. As their relationship spirals toward a breaking point, Alice begins to see just how deep Jack’s secrets run–and how deadly they could be.

Alice Croft isn’t the typical twenty-something. She’s a published YA author with a history of cutting. Her maternal grandmother died when she was nine years old and her mother died when she was ten. She then became a ward of the state and went into foster care. Although Alice owns her home and is reasonably successful as an author, she isn’t happy with her life. She feels that the wrongs from her past must be addressed and she thinks she’s found just the man to do it . . . Jack Calabrese. Jack is an ex-convict, relocated from the East Coast after his incarceration and estranged from his family. Jack is currently working as a carpenter and lives on Vashon Island. When he finds Alice in his home, the two begin a strange relationship dance that can only lead to a dangerous end.

Alice Close Your Eyes is described as an intense psychological thriller and it is definitely that…intense. The author leads the reader in such a way that it isn’t possible to tell whether Alice is leading Jack or vice versa in their strange game of sadomasochism. This isn’t a story that I enjoyed reading (my inner prude had difficulty with the very explicit sexual scenes). The action within the story constantly flips between flashbacks of Alice’s past and her current torturous relationship with Jack. Alice Close Your Eyes was a quick read but again a difficult one for me. I didn’t like either of the main characters; both Alice and Jack have some serious issues, in my opinion, and their co-dependency appears to drive the other further out of control. If you don’t mind explicit sexual descriptions and want to read a taut and extremely intense psychological thriller, then you may want to add Alice Close Your Eyes to your TBR list.

Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Book 403: WAKE TO DARKNESS Review

Wake to Darkness (Brown and DeLuca #2) by Maggie Shayne
ISBN:  9780778315551 (paperback)
ISBN:  9781460322482 (ebook)
ASIN:  B00DPAN5O0 (Kindle edition)
Publication date: November 26, 2013 
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA

Stranded with a murderer…

Rachel de Luca’s uncanny sense of perception is the key to her success as a self-help celebrity. Even before she regained her sight, she had a gift for seeing people’s most carefully hidden secrets. But the secret she shares with Detective Mason Brown is one she has promised to keep. As for Mason, he sees Rachel more clearly than she’d like to admit…

After a single night of adrenaline-fueled passion, they have agreed to keep their distance—until a string of murders brings them together again. Mason thinks that he can protect everyone he loves, including Rachel, by taking them to a winter hideaway, but danger follows them up the mountain.

As guests disappear from the snowbound resort, the race to find the murderer intensifies. Rachel knows she’s a target. Will acknowledging her feelings for Mason destroy her…or save them both and stop a killer?

Rachel DeLuca is a renowned self-help author. She recently received a cornea transplant that restored her vision after twenty years. Unfortunately her corneas were taken from the body of a serial killer (you’ve got to read Sleep with the Lights On, Brown and DeLuca #1 . . . trust me!). Rachel teamed up with police detective Mason Brown, the brother of the deceased serial killer, and their efforts resulted in the death of the Wraith (read the first book!). Now there’s a new killer on the scene and this killer is retrieving the donated organs. Can Mason keep Rachel safe or will she become a victim of this new killer?

Wake to Darkness starts with a gruesome murder of a transplant recipient and once again Rachel seems to be linked to the murders . . . again. She feels everything the victims feel, and sees the murder take place in her dreams. Rachel is still grieving the loss of her brother at the hands of another serial killer and adjusting to being sighted. She’s also visually experiencing the joys and wonders of winter and Christmas. Add in spending the holiday with one of her twin nieces, a new killer on the loss, an on-again/off-again/I-don’t-know-where-we’re-going relationship with Mason Brown and you’ve got quite a story. Mason is dealing with his own stresses. He still feels guilty about his brother’s suicide and learning that he was a serial killer. He’s trying to stand in as a father figure for his nephews and be supportive to his sister-in-law and mother. Holiday stress, ongoing grief and guilt, a fragile new romance, a teenage alcoholic, a depressed sister-in-law, a blind dog, and a blizzard all add up to one fantastic mystery. Ms. Shayne has provided another great read with Wake to Darkness. I love the tension between Rachel and Mason, and this story ratcheted up the tension by adding in teenage angst, drama and alcoholism. I started reading Wake to Darkness late at night and couldn’t sleep until I finished the story. I found Wake to Darkness a fast and entertaining read and hope there’ll be more to come in this series. If you’ve read Sleep with the Lights On then you’ll definitely want to read Wake to Darkness. If you haven’t read either book and enjoy mysteries mixed with humor and romance, then you need to add both of these books to your TBR list.

Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Guest Author Post : Frances Fyfield – BLOOD FROM STONE Tour

The Book Diva’s Reads is pleased to participate in this Partners In Crime blog tour and host a visit from Frances Fyfield, author of Blood From Stone. Ms. Fyfield will be discussing what differentiates collectors and thieves (an idea that is central to her must-read book).

Marianne Shearer is at the height of her career, a dauntingly successful barrister, respected by her peers and revered by her clients. So why has she killed herself? Her latest case had again resulted in an acquittal, although the outcome was principally due to the death of the prime witness after Marianne’s forceful cross-examination. Had this wholly professional and unemotional lawyer been struck by guilt or uncertainty, or is there some secret to be discovered in her blandly comfortable private life? Her tenacious colleague Peter Friel is determined to find out of that last trial held the reason for her taking her own life. The transcript holds intriguing clues, but it is another witness at the trial who holds the key to the truth.

Collectors and Thieves

“She walked into the exhibition. There, on the far wall, was that glorious little painting she had always wanted. Without thinking, she took it off the wall, put it under her coat and walked back into the street.”

The world divides in many ways. Those who have children those who don’t, those with one kind of aspiration, those without any, those who are honest, those who aren’t, those who prefer argument to debate and those who would just as soon knock you over the head. There are those for whom ill-gotten gains are infinitely preferable to the fruits of hard earned labour. Those to whom debt is anathema and those who could not live without it. And then, the first and last of the great dividing lines, there are those who Collect and those who Don’t. It roughly corresponds to those en route to heaven and those who might risk going to hell. 

The boundary between Collectors and non Collectors is pretty thin. It can mark the difference between someone in the throes of developing criminal tendencies and the Innocent, who never will. Being a true Collector is a bit like a being a gambler with a set of dice always in sight. The minimalist versus the acquisitive would be one way of putting it, though it’s more complicated than that. I’m talking about the Collector as the one who has the bug for amassing things of a certain type and who will do anything, or almost anything, to get another object of desire to add to the pile. Someone who dreams of it.

Book collectors are a benign case in point (though not always so benign). We all know people who have books as the foundations of their houses, books creating walls and tables and bringing down the attics. Not too many of these Collectors turn into Thieves, I hope. Maybe you’re one of the other collecting kind, who favours furniture, motor cars, stuffed animals, ceramics, fabrics, photographs, cigarette cards, concert programmes, glass, works of Art. Believe me, if you collect pressed Autumn leaves from 1936, or bus tickets from 1954, I’m on your side. You are one of Mine. Collecting keeps us Collectors sane. We might otherwise go round hitting people. 

My version of this condition is collecting paintings, which is why I’m currently writing about characters infected with this form of the disorder. Paintings and the collection thereof, have driven people mad. History is full of nutcases who’ve gone mental in pursuit of works of Art. Why do they do it? Why is it that collecting paintings, or other stuff, can turn a person into a criminal?

It’s Love of a kind, of course, and Love makes criminals of us all.

Because I’m a Collector, I think I have a better understanding of thieves. Collecting Art is as mysterious as Art itself. As soon as humankind learned to draw and paint, they collected, even when starving. As soon as man was stirred by curious things that illuminated his world, he wanted to own them, be they gemstones or drawings in caves. The Romans were collectors of Greek antiquities; the British were collectors of European Art since ever they crossed the Channel. Half our famous institutions, the British Museum, included, are based on the work of ambitious collectors who brought work home, while the great American Collectors can be said to have rescued the Impressionists. Fascinating though they are, it isn’t the major Collectors who interest me as much as the small- fry individuals with passions equally obsessive. Like me, and possibly you. Why do it?

One academic, studying the phenomenon of Collecting in the 1950s, had no hesitation in calling it a Disease, defining certain strands in the psyche of the Collector. First, the possessive instinct, the desire for the hunt, the need for spontaneous activity and risk in an otherwise passive or isolated life. The desire to break boundaries, to go out gambling and also, a pathological desire for social standing. Others studying the collecting phenomenon, say that the Collector wants to conquer the object he desires to own, his appetite made sharper by adversity and rivalry. The Collector may have little self- confidence in anything other than this strange way of mastering his own inferiority. He/ she will go to any length to acquire and add to the collection. (NB: an awful lot of these characteristics are found in high class Thieves.)

The Collector in pursuit of social standing and self-worth in a Society that might ignore him, may be the most dangerous of all. If his Collecting does not impress, fails to gain him veneration and respect, he becomes bitter and twisted and hides it away, himself also, to let his house collapse in upon itself. He may be the one who stabs the canvas and buries his treasures. There are of course, other Collectors who collect out of sheer love of the thing and a desire to rescue beauty, to look after it for as long as it takes, be it a book or a sketch. These are peaceful people, rescuers, preservers, sharers, but woe betide anyone who tries to steal from THEM. Stealing from honourable collectors makes Them, in turn, dangerous and volatile enemies. Steal from an honest Collector at your peril. You may turn a kind person into a savage, armed with weapons. Never, ever, try to steal someone else’s children if you value your life. 

Suitable themes for Crime novels? Oh yes. 

I have never yet stolen a painting, although the desire to put something under my winter coat and walk away with it is not unfamiliar. Especially if the painting looks small, cold, and neglected. 

My characters, my thieves, might not share my inhibitions.

Frances Fyfield

About the author:

“I grew up in rural Derbyshire, but my adult life has been spent mostly in London, with long intervals in Norfolk and Deal, all inspiring places. I was educated mostly in convent schools; then studied English and went on to qualify as a solicitor, working for what is now the Crown Prosecution Service, thus learning a bit about murder at second hand. Years later, writing became the real vocation, although the law and its ramifications still haunt me and inform many of my novels. 

I’m a novelist, short story writer for magazines and radio, sometime Radio 4 contributor, (Front Row, Quote Unquote, Night Waves) and presenter of Tales from the Stave. When I’m not working (which is as often as possible), I can be found in the nearest junk/charity shop or auction, looking for the kind of paintings which enhance my life. Otherwise, with a bit of luck, I’m relaxing by the sea with a bottle of wine and a friend or two.” Frances Fyfield

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Book 388: BLISS Review

Bliss by Hilary Fields
ISBN:  9780316277389 (paperback)
ISBN:  9780316277341 (ebook)
ASIN:  B00BWQW7L6 (Kindle edition)
Publication date: November 19, 2013 
Publisher: Redhook

Nothing says “oops” like your naked a** skidding in the salmon mousse…

A year ago, pastry chef Serafina Wilde’s seemingly perfect life fell to pieces. So now, when her eccentric Aunt Pauline calls from Santa Fe needing her help, Sera jumps at the chance to start over. Pauline even offers to let her take over the family business, “Pauline’s House of Passion,” and turn it into a bakery… provided she agrees not to ditch the “back room.” Cupcakes and sex toys don’t exactly mix but Sera is willing to try, and what she finds in the beautiful City Different is the best life has to offer — if she has the courage to go for it.

Serafina (Sera) Bliss Wilde was orphaned at the age of thirteen and was then raised by a very eccentric aunt. Serafina’s love of baking helped her to maintain an even keel after her parent’s death, and her passion for baking grew into a career as a pastry chef. Sera was fortunate enough to be hired by one of New York’s top chefs straight out of culinary school. She was unfortunate enough to accept being that chef’s girlfriend. After four years of his cheating and constant belittling she crashed. Again she was unfortunate to crash during one of the biggest weddings of the season and was subsequently fired. Realizing she had a serious alcohol problem on top of her ego problem, Sera turned to her Aunt Pauline for support, successfully went through rehabilitation, and attempted to start her life over in New York as a caterer. One year later Sera receives a frantic phone call from her aunt and rushes off to Santa Fe to help out. Little does she know that this one trip would result in her biggest challenge to date.

Sera is no novice at starting over, but her move to Santa Fe may be the biggest step she’s taken in quite some time. With the assistance of her Aunt Pauline and the support of the Back Room Babes or BRBs, Sera agrees to stay in Santa Fe and start her own bakery, Bliss. She also meets a gorgeous hunk that just happens to be her landlord and business neighbor. It’s hard enough being a recovering alcoholic, but add to that the challenge of starting a new business and a steamy romance and the tension builds. The last thing Sera needs is to be confronted by her ex-boyfriend and former boss, but that’s exactly what happens. Will Sera be able to deal with all of these stressors and make a success at her new venture and romance? 

Bliss was an interesting read for me as it pulled out my inner prude due to the frank sexual discussions (often lead by Aunt Pauline and the BRBs). It was interesting reading about the relationship between the conservative twenty-something and her widely-liberal sixty-something aunt. I also enjoyed reading about Sera’s self-discovery, not to mention her romance with Asher. Parts of the story brought a smile to my face and others made me laugh out loud. I think I may have enjoyed the story a lot more if I had been able to quell my inner prude. Bliss was a read that was a little bit coming-of-age, second chances, and romance with a lot of minor themes including alcoholic recovery, sexual awareness and acceptance, and the issue of bullying in relationships. If you enjoy reading about second chances and self-empowerment then you definitely want to add Bliss to your TBR list.

Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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The Price of Innocence (Theresa MacLean #6) by Lisa Black
ISBN:  9780727882912 (hardcover)
ISBN:  9781780104454 (ebook)
ASIN:  B00FFYW7IE (Kindle edition)
Publication date: November 1, 2013 
Publisher: Severn House Publishers

The key to Theresa MacLean’s latest case lies in a 25-year-old unsolved murder… 

Called out to investigate a suspected suicide in a luxury high-rise apartment, forensic scientist Theresa MacLean only just escapes with her life when the building is blown to smithereens. An accident – or something more sinister? A mostly empty block of trendy apartments in downtown Cleveland seems an unlikely terrorist target.

The following day, Theresa is examining another suspected suicide in a wealthy neighbourhood when the cop accompanying her is shot dead by an unseen assailant. Could the two events be connected?

As Theresa painstakingly pieces the clues she uncovers evidence of a dark secret in the murdered cop’s past.

The latest Theresa MacLean book, The Price of Innocence, starts off with a bang . . . literally. Theresa is called in to investigate a possible suicide in a luxury apartment building in downtown Cleveland. Theresa and her cousin, police detective Frank Patrick, barely exit the building before it is blown up. This narrow escape is quickly followed by the murder of a police officer the very next day. Then that police officer’s beneficiary is found dead, followed by another explosion in a building that is beside the initial explosion site. Two explosions, one murder, and one suspected suicide in such a short period of time are a little too coincidental to Theresa. Will she be able to find the connection between these incidents before another murder takes place?

Although Theresa is a forensic scientist, this isn’t a CSI-type story . . . well not quite. Because of Theresa’s familial ties to the police department, namely through her cousin, she does work in the field quite a bit and routinely bounces ideas off of her cousin. She also spends quite a bit of time in the laboratory testing evidence and writing reports. Theresa is naturally inquisitive and often takes the initiative when questions arise due to the evidence on a case. This time around Theresa’s investigation takes her into the past of the deceased officer and reveals possible ties to drug dealing and an unsolved case. The story takes a few twists when Theresa becomes flirtatious with David Madison, the ex-husband of a school teacher that sexually molested a male student the same age as her eldest son. Another twist comes in the form of a local millionaire/entrepreneur that may have ties to the deceased police officer. The Price of Innocence is a fast-paced read that offers murder, possible terrorism, illegal drug deals, and hints of romance. If you enjoy mysteries then you’ll definitely want to add The Price of Innocence to your TBR list.

Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Book 365: THE LAST CLINIC Review

The Last Clinic by Gary Gusick
ISBN:  9780345548887 (ebook)
ASIN:  B00DACZTX8 (Kindle edition)
Publication date: November 18, 2013 
Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books

Beloved evangelical minister, Reverend Jimmy Aldridge is shot while protesting in front of an abortion clinic in Jackson, Mississippi. It’s up to female sleuth, transplanted Yankee hate crimes investigator, Detective Darla Cavannah to find his killer before the city comes apart at the seams. Unfortunately, her partner, Detective Tommy Reylander, is a lazy, self-aggrandizing Elvis impersonator and a member of Reverend Jimmy’s church. To make matters worse, Darla has a case of the hots for the prime suspect, the mysterious Dr. Stephen Nicoletti, the director of the clinic and one of the strongest woman’s rights advocates in Mississippi. Assisted by computer geek Uther Pendragon Johnson, Darla’s search for the killer takes her from genteel northeast Jackson to a raunchy strip club south of town, and to an exclusive society in Natchez dedicated to reenacting the rituals of antebellum manhood. In the end, Darla discovers not only the killer, but something far more sinister.

Darla Cavannah is a detective in Jackson, Mississippi and a darned good one at that. Her boss, Sheriff Shelby Mitchell, knows that and overlooks the fact that she’s a Yankee. Unfortunately she’s assigned a partner, detective Tommy Reylander, for her current investigation that isn’t so forgiving. Added to the mix of North-South hostility, a woman’s place is in the home mentality, bigotry against a talented Black computer associate, and prejudice against an immigrant physician, is murder, politics, and a little romance. Will Darla and Uther be able to find all the answers before another murder takes place?

Mr. Gusick has taken the good and the bad from the New South and combined them into one fast-paced mystery. The Last Clinic provides a little bit of insight into the good old-boy South with characters like the murdered minister and members of his congregation. Some of the old bigotries and prejudices are seen in Detective Reylander’s attitude and behavior toward Detective Darla Cavannah and computer associate Uther Johnson. The story takes a number of twists and turns that keeps the reader off-balance as the investigation leads to a strip club and a high class brothel, not to mention a trail of murders across the United States. The reader will be surprised to learn that Rev. Aldridge wasn’t as pious as he appeared in public. I liked Darla and Uther and enjoyed reading about their interactions and investigative teamwork. I found The Last Clinic to be a quick and enjoyable read. Although I thought the ending was a bit bizarre (no I won’t reveal the ending, read it for yourself!), I hope there will be more coming from Darla (and Uther) in the future.

Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Let’s Celebrate Books – An Update

Yesterday was Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day (TYCBD). My plan was to take my twin 6 y.o. nieces to my favorite local indie bookstore and buy them books. The plan was kind of, sort of, almost successful. We did make it to the bookstore, Taylor Books. We did purchase books. This is where the kind of, sort of, almost comes into play…my darling nieces decided that they needed “big kid” books as opposed to more age appropriate books. Rather than have a meltdown in the store over this issue (mine not theirs), I decided to let them choose their own books. Here’s where things became even more interesting.

First a little background information on the girls might be helpful. My youngest nieces are fraternal twins. A. likes the color pink, adores all things glittery and glam, and is into gymnastics. J. likes the color purple, loves all things related to dinosaurs, dreams of getting a bearded dragon lizard, and is taking dance class. They are both cheerleaders for a local basketball league, and they love to wrestle with one another. I expected that J. would want to get a book on lizards, dinosaurs, or dragons. She insisted she wanted a book on horses, no problem. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from A. since she likes to keep us guessing. A. wasn’t quite sure what book she wanted but wound up choosing a book on bizarre sea creatures. Again, not a problem but definitely not what I expected.
Here are my diva nieces (I had to obtain their permission to post this picture and they were quite adamant that it was only allowed if I didn’t show their faces) perusing their books. Actually they’re just hiding behind the books for the picture.

Miss A. chose a National Geographic Kids book, Weird Sea Creatures by Laura Marsh. The photographs are bright, colorful and awesome (my favorite is the blob fish) and the text is filled with fascinating facts about these creatures.

Miss. J. chose Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry. Told you it wasn’t age appropriate but J. carried this book around and browsed through it for the remainder of the day. She told me she was going to read it “in her head” and she might, someday, tell me about it.

After choosing our books, Miss A. wanted a hot cocoa, which I purchased for her at the bookstore’s cafe, and yes I got a Chai Latte. Miss J. wanted candy so we left the bookstore for our local candy and nut store (conveniently located a block away from the bookstore and directly across the street from the library). 

The remainder of the afternoon and evening was spent browsing through their books, glancing at a few movies (we never really watched a movie in its entirety), and enjoying their new game called “Let’s torture Auntie Vee.” This was the most fun I’ve had in quite some time. My only regret is that I can’t afford to buy them books every week. Maybe I’ll have to institute a recurring “Take My Nieces to the Library” weekend event. We can spend our Saturday afternoons browsing through library books and then read “in our heads” for the rest of the day.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Saturday. Did you participate in TYCBD? If so, where did you go and what books did you buy? Please share.

Happy reading!

Let’s Celebrate with Books…

Today is the fourth annual Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day. The purpose of this day is to instill a love of books AND promote bookstores in our children. Don’t have any children to take to a bookstore today? Take your nieces, nephews, cousins, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, or neighbor’s child with you to a bookstore day. I’ve already specially ordered a book for my 12 y.o. grand-niece (regrettably she isn’t local so I’ll be mailing this to her) and will be escorting my twin 6 y.o. nieces to our favorite local indie bookstore, Taylor Books.

Over 500 bookstores across the United States, Canada, England, Australia and Germany will be participating this year. If your favorite local bookstore isn’t participating this year, please inform them about this event and perhaps they’ll be added next year.

Want to learn more about this event? Please visit Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day to learn more. If you participate in today’s event, please come back and let us how your day went.

Bookish ramblings…

There are quite a number of reviews that will be posting soon, including reviews for The Last Clinic by Gary Gusick and The Price of Innocence by Lisa Black. I’ll be reading and reviewing a number of other books this month, including: This Dark Road to Mercy by Wiley Cash, Splendour Falls by Susanna Kearsley, Bliss by Hilary Fields, Wake to Darkness by Maggie Shayne, and many more…

I’m seriously considering posting my favorite books of 2013. This will be the first time I post a list of my favorite books and I’m trying to keep the list relatively small. The problem is I’ve read over 375 books this year and enjoyed quite a few, but I’ll restrain myself and keep the list to 25 books or less. This list will not post until December 31st just in case I read a book at the end of the year that needs to be added to my favorite books of the year. 

I hope you all stay safe and warm during this chilly weekend. Go out today to celebrate Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day then curl up with a few good books and enjoy the rest of the weekend. 

Happy reading my friends!

Book 342: BELLMAN & BLACK Review

Bellman & Black: A Ghost Story by Diane Setterfield
ISBN:  9781476711959 (hardcover)
ISBN:  9781476712000 (ebook)
ASIN:  B00DO1Q6IC  (Kindle edition)
Publication date: November 5, 2013 
Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books

Bellman & Black is a heart-thumpingly perfect ghost story, beautifully and irresistibly written, its ratcheting tension exquisitely calibrated line by line. Its hero is William Bellman, who, as a boy of 11, killed a shiny black rook with a catapult, and who grew up to be someone, his neighbours think, who “could go to the good or the bad.” And indeed, although William Bellman’s life at first seems blessed—he has a happy marriage to a beautiful woman, becomes father to a brood of bright, strong children, and thrives in business—one by one, people around him die. And at each funeral, he is startled to see a strange man in black, smiling at him. At first, the dead are distant relatives, but eventually his own children die, and then his wife, leaving behind only one child, his favourite, Dora. Unhinged by grief, William gets drunk and stumbles to his wife’s fresh grave—and who should be there waiting, but the smiling stranger in black. The stranger has a proposition for William—a mysterious business called “Bellman & Black” . . .

William Bellman commits a horrible deed as a child and, unbeknownst to him, that one small deed will overshadow the rest of his life. William grows into a rather mature and responsible young man, settling down and helping to take care of his mother, as well as actively participating in his father’s family business. He quickly becomes his uncle’s assistant and is soon expanding the business with suggestion after suggestion. He grieves his mother’s death and gradually moves on, marrying and raising a family. But then his life seems to fall apart with death after death and grief beyond all bounds. It is William’s grief that brings his introduction to the mysterious man in black.

It isn’t really possible to describe Bellman & Black without giving away the storyline or the ending (if I did that you wouldn’t have to read the book . . . read this book!). Suffice it to say there are a number of unexpected twists and turns that kept me on edge and thoroughly engaged until the end. Bellman & Black is just as lyrical and linguistically entrancing as Ms. Setterfield’s debut work The Thirteenth Letter. It differs in that this is a true Gothic ghost story but with panache. The underlying premise of the story is that small actions may bring about major repercussions in our lives and we never know when those repercussions will arrive. I generally try not to read other reviews before I write my own for fear of being influenced by what others have written, but this was not the case with Bellman & Black. Others were disappointed and felt that this book was too different from Ms. Setterfield’s first. I thoroughly enjoyed this story as well as the differences. I found the characters very realistic, engaging and all too human with their flaws (some major and others minor). Ms. Setterfield is quite adept at drawing her readers into the scenes and truly paints a picture with her words. If you enjoy reading well-written stories and Gothic ghost tales, then Bellman & Black is one book you definitely want to read. 

Watch the book trailer: 

Listen to an audio excerpt here.

Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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