Thursday, January 27, 2011

Review of Blood Club by Walt Schnabel

Blood Club

Walt Schnabel

Surry Cottage Books

276 pages

A family in crisis moves to a small picturesque town in New England hoping to become the close and loving family they once were. But there’s more waiting for them in this quaint New Hampshire town then colorful autumn landscapes and brilliant white winters, something lurks just out of the realm of believability, something ancient, something evil and something all consuming that wants it’s next sacrifice. Will this family be a victim or a victor, will they succumb or will they survive.

Mr. Schnabel takes us on a fantastical journey surrounding one small New Hampshire town but in his doing this he brings to our attention some real evils that we humans face each and every day, the addictions, the abuse and the bullying we each do to one another, so that interspersed with the fantasy he gives us all old fashioned good sense and morality lessons, He does this with contemporary dialogue that’s one minute to the point and the next prose like. He does it with characters that are the quintessential residents we imagine in New England, and he get’s the quirky to a tee. The family he portrays in this drama could be living next door to or in any of our homes and he makes them likeable and believable and he gives them some allies that are formidable in their fight against evil. This is very much a good vs evil novel and I love the Native American link that he gives us and also love his Native American character. The story fits well together for the most part and I only noticed a small continuity problem that led me on a merry chase between the middle and end of the novel trying to connect the plot dots. But it in no way effected my liking of the novel which was inventive, creative and interesting. And it also gives those of us who love explosive endings one of those too.

So if you’re a fan of the age old good vs evil tale, a fan of a good mystery, a family drama or urban fantasy you’ll really like this one. But be forewarned, you’ll have no fingernails left at the end of this one and be prepared for your pulse to increase as well.
Thank you Mr. Schnabel for an enjoyable read.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Interview with Antoinette van Heugten author of Saving Max

Starting Tuesday February 1, 2011 the General Fiction Book club at B&
Will be featuring Saving Max Antoinette van Heugten's debut novel. If you're looking for some excitement in those lonely long days of February come join us.

Here is the interview she so graciously did for me.

Hi Antoinette and thank you for taking the time to talk to me today.

First let me say thank you for agreeing to participate in February when B&N General Fiction Book Club features your amazing debut novel Saving Max. And I want to emphasize how truly amazing it was, you had me enthralled from the first paragraph and didn’t let me go until the very end.

Your bio tells me that you have a unique perspective and insight into your novel as you are the mother of two autistic children and are a former trial lawyer, which is the occupation of your heroine in Saving Max, Danielle Parkman.
Debbie- How old are your children If you don’t mind my asking?
Antoinette --My children, Jack, Brendan and Sam are 26, 23, and 22. Jack and Sam are my stepsons and Brendan is my son. When my husband and I married, Sam was 6 and Jack was 10.

D - Did you give up being a lawyer to devote more at home time with your kids and husband?
A --Yes, I did give up being a lawyer when I remarried. I was a partner in a New York law firm and found that I couldn't adequately meet the needs of the boys and my husband while traveling around the world!

D - How long did it take you to write the novel and did you in the past aspire to be an author?
A- It took me about four years to write the novel. I had an agent at the time who insisted I rewrite the novel from the perspective of the detective, which wasn't at all the book I wanted to write, but I was so new to the writing world that I did what she told me and I hated the outcome. When I fired her and got a new agent, I rewrote the novel again from the mother's perspective. I was determined to write the book the way I wanted to and finally did so. I've always written (even though my lawyer's training should have made creative writing impossible!) and always dreamed of seeing my novel published. This has been a dream come true.

It also states that you wrote the novel not just for entertainment but to clear up some misconceptions regarding autism.
D - Tell us without giving away too much information to those who haven’t read the novel yet, what kind of misconceptions.
And what is the one thing that you want us to learn from or take away from this novel.
A - The primary misconception I wanted to clear up is the public's assumption that autism has only one definition, usually one that all autistic persons sit alone in their rooms banging their heads, are incapable of true communication or being integrated into society. If readers take away one thing from the novel, I hope that they learn that autism is a spectrum disorder and that each person exhibits their autism in different ways. For example, my son has Asperger's, which is very high functioning autism. He is very intelligent, has a job and is very affectionate. My older stepson is mentally challenged and also has autism, which prevents him from doing a lot of things, but he has a job and is a delightful person.

D - During the writing process, did you learn anything new about yourself and if so what.
A - I learned in writing the novel that it really was very difficult and terrifying to raise these boys, worrying constantly about their futures and their happiness. I also learned that a mother has to advocate constantly for her child in order to give them what they need, despite what the professionals and others say about their inability to function in the world. I learned that raising my children was the primary life lesson I've had in my life and my gave me the greatest joy and pride in just having the privilege to help them along their journeys.

D - As I mentioned before you are a mom and wife, does your family treat you any differently now that you’re a celebrity.
A - -I certainly don't consider myself a celebrity! My family is very proud of me, especially my husband, who is my biggest fan. The boys are also proud of me, but I'm still just mom around the house.

D - What kind of literature do you like to read, do you have a favorite author?
A - As you might guess, I love to read thrillers and prefer to read fiction over non-fiction. My favorite authors include Scott Turow, Anita Shreve, and Ian McEwan.

D - Tell us something about yourself that would surprise us
A - -It might be surprising for readers to know that I am an avid horsewoman, having taken up the sport again at the age of 52. I have two retired racehorses, one of which is Lights on Broadway, who won over $500,000 in purse money and then wounded up on a slaughter truck before he was rescued. Riding and writing are the most important and satisfying parts of my day.

D - Will you be writing another book?
Fiction or non-fiction?
A - -I am definitely writing another book! It is called THE TULIP EATERS and is a novel about a woman who discovers that her parents may have been Dutch Nazis during the Second World War. When I graduated from college, I got a grant to study the Dutch underground during the war and spent two years in Amsterdam at the Dutch War Institute. My parents were Dutch and were young people during the war, so I had a great personal interest in the subject. There is, of course, a murder (two, in fact)! Although it is fiction, the novel is based on true facts about Dutch resistance fighters and the over 100,000 persons who were Dutch Nazis during the war. The heroine is another very strong female character. I hope readers enjoy it!

Here's a link to her website

Monday, January 24, 2011

Review of A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

A Discovery of Witches

Deborah Harkness

Viking a division of Penguin

592 pages

A Discovery of Witches the first in the All Souls Trilogy is a masterpiece of literary fiction, filled with factional and fantastical beings brought to us by the lyrical narrative of a most talented storyteller.

In the beginning there were myths and legends brought about by a smidgen of truth and in that truth we find Historian Diana Bishop at Oxford doing research for an upcoming lecture where she comes across a strange medieval manuscript that’s locked not by a physical key but by a magical one, one that will require her to open the door to a painful past that she has stubbornly refused to acknowledge. In the shadows watching is the enigmatic Matthew Clairmont a renowned professor of genetics. Diana and Matthew soon discover that their fierce attraction to each other is not only strange but forbidden as well and they will have challenges to face the least of which is their supposed predisposed mistrust of each other’s species. He is a vampire and she is a witch. Will they find the answer they must, will they fight for each other or against each other and will this be a new beginning or the end.

Deborah Harkness brings us an amazing story filled with fact and fiction, legend and myth and gives us a fantastical twist to the age old question of where do we come from. She brings her story to us using a plot that is both fantastic and easily believed by her audience by adopting historical references and facts and mixing them with occultist beliefs and horror stories. She will mesmerize her readers with her dialogue so much so that the almost 600 pages will fly by in the blink of a witches eye. She takes us to magical and real places with effortless and picturesque descriptive narrative as we live vicariously the lives of her characters through our eyes by her words. She also gives us characters none of which we’ve ever experienced before by making them unbelievable and real at the same time and by giving them the substance they need to make them unforgettable to her readers. The characters will each tell you their own story interspersed into the novel so that they all become an important part of the whole. Our hero Matthew and heroine Diana are two of the most unlikely lovers ever to grace the pages of a book and they will quickly become part of your must read again and again tales. Her romance is innocent and reminiscent of times long ago while also being sensual as to appeal to today’s most critical reader. But this is much more than just a romance it’s an epic tale that will alter your ideas of good vs evil, it’s a mystery of historic proportion and is filled with the fantasy that readers today can’t seem to get enough of.

So fill all of your fantasies in one read and give yourself over to the care of this amazing storyteller for the duration of her book and relish in the knowledge that there’s more to come. Make this a must read for 2011 and I promise you won’t be sorry.

I hate to put this novel in a box of likes because there’s nothing out there to really compare it to so instead if you are a fan of Diana Gabaldon, JR Ward or the Karen Marie Moning Fever series you will love this book and also fans of The Historian, Dracula and Dracula the Undead will love the fantasy in this one.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Review of Three Seconds by Anders Roslund & Borge Hellstrom

Three Seconds

Anders Roslund & Borge Hellstrom

Silver Oak Publishing

496 pages

Three Seconds is the 6th novel featuring detective inspector Ewert Grens and police officer Sven Sundkvist.

The chamber of commerce of Sweden wants you to think it’s all lily white and crime free but the underbelly of crime still exists and with it the organizations that rule the underworld. On the other side of the fence sits the law enforcement officers who try to fight crime and with the help of certain citizens, undercover operatives they succeed more than they fail. This is a case of good vs evil only the lines will smear and soon even the best of you will have trouble separating the good guys from the bad.

Piet Hoffmann is living a double life and soon the family man will have to be put away in order for the hardened criminal to come out and play. But the play will be rough and he may not survive. Erik Wilson is Piet’s handler and while he’s out of country learning how to be a better police man someone is attempting to put Piet out of commission, permanently. Ewert Grens has spent 35 years solving crimes and he’s got a solid solve ratio going but he may have just found one of those that will have to be put on the cold case shelf unless he get’s some cooperation and unless he get’s some straight answers.

Authors Mr.’s Roslund & Hellstrom know how to keep their audience’s attention and they use every trick in the book to do it, conspiracy theories, drug trafficking, prison infiltrators and corrupt officials nothing that you haven’t seen in the paper or on the network news but they have such a way with words that you actually feel like you’re living the life they’re describing. The characters are all three dimensional and excellently portrayed in the novel with each part so crucial to the outcome of the tale. Piet, Erik and Grens each play a main role and play it beautifully and out of the three I think that it’s Piet who steals the show with his attention to detail to the ninth degree and yet it’s his love for his family that really brings out the humanity in him. The only trouble you might have is the dialogue that may seem at times a bit choppy but if you were able to get through any of Stieg Larsson’s novels this one will breeze by.

Whether you’re a fan of crime drama, thrillers, police mysteries or conspiracy theory novels this one has all the bells and whistles to fit the bill. It’s an action packed, edge of you seat, non-stop roller coaster ride of an adventure one you’ll not soon forget by a pair of brilliantly intricate storytellers. By the time you finish you’ll have a hard time telling up from down.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Review of Marrying Daisy Bellamy by Susan Wiggs

Marrying Daisy Bellamy

Susan Wiggs


432 pages

Publish Date 1-25-2011

Daisy Bellamy has struggled to get where she is today, a coveted photographer, okay it’s a wedding photographer and not the free lance artist she’s dreamed about, but it’s a start. She hasn’t always had an easy life even though her family is synonymous with and an icon in Avalon NY. She’s made many mistakes getting to this point and however reckless she and Logan O’Donnell were in the conception of their son they’ve made up for it by being great parents and staying fast friends. Logan wants more but Daisy’s unsure and one of the reasons is sexy Julian Gastineaux, see she’s been in love with Julian since that first summer they met, at Willow Lake, the summer before everything changed, the summer before her wild weekend with Logan and the conception of Charlie. She thought over time that those feelings would diminish but she was wrong because Julian is still the erotic star of her dreams both nighttime and daytime. But Daisy knows or should that dreams don’t necessarily come true and that happiness is what you make of it. Will she and Julian find happiness, will she find it with Logan, will she find it at all. Believe me the journey will be worth it to find out.

In this episode of The Lakeshore Chronicles Susan Wiggs gives us the plot that all military families can relate to and at the same time be appreciated by the general population as well. She explores emotions that are not always pleasant and she makes her characters look at themselves honestly in their mirrors, while she takes her reading audience through the proverbial wringer. She gives us flowing dialogue that we can actually visualize in our minds eye. Her characters are all from her beloved series, some we’ve known from the beginning and some are just making our acquaintances but all are impeccably portrayed and important to this story. Her hero and heroine are the ships that pass in the night and unrequited love kind. The ones that you heart cries for but you’re never sure what peril will befall them next. And yet they are strong minded people who you could easily see as an acquaintance or friend. Her heroine is an outstanding example of female fortitude and moxie mixed with the angst young people feel especially when it comes to the opposite sex. Her romance is heartbreaking, heart wrenching, sad and happy, full of longing and promise. Her love scenes are hot and sensual without being over descriptive or crude.

If this is your first trip to picturesque Avalon NY, you’ve certainly chosen a good time to visit because Ms. Wiggs has outdone herself in this epic love story and I assure you that in the annals of romance this will be at the top of the all time best. If you are a fan and loyal reader of The Lakeshore Chronicles you will be happy to see all your old friends to catch up with as well as the featured story. This novel has every bell and whistle a romance fan could want, but if you want to know who marries Daisy Bellamy, well then you’ll just have to read it for yourself. This would make an excellent stand-a-lone novel, but after you’ve read it I’m sure you’ll want to go back to the beginning and see where it all began and keep on reading until you’re a rabid fan just like the rest of us. When in the far distant future archeologists want to describe the great American Romance, Marrying Daisy Bellamy will be on display. Thank you Susan Wiggs for this first must read of 2011.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Review of These Things Hidden by Heather Gudenkauf

These Things Hidden

Heather Gudenkauf


352 pages (pub date 1-25-2011)

Allison Glen learned just how hard and far the mighty fall when their pedestals crumble, once Linden Falls Ohio’s golden girl in the eyes of her town and her family she’s sent to prison for a monstrous crime, even with blood on her hands she’s released early and quickly learns what it means to be completely erased not only by the town but by her parents as well. Younger sister Brynn has also suffered the consequences and has started over away from the scene of the crime and the painful memories. Brought to town by their father’s hospitalization Brynn sees Allison for the first time since she was taken away in the back of a police car. Charm Tullia is about to realize her dream of becoming a nurse although it’s become clear to her that her beloved step-father will not be around to see it. Claire Kelby has been fortunate enough to see her dreams come true, she has her bookstore and finally she’s a mother thanks to someone’s ultimate sacrifice. These women will fit together the puzzle pieces of our startling, incredibly emotional and realistic story.

Heather Gudenkauf brings us a sordid tale of lies, secrets, betrayal and death. It’s about loss of innocence, of growing up and learning the hard knock lessons of life. The story line could be taken from any headline, but Ms. Gudenkauf goes us one better, she gives us a behind the scenes look at what really happened, she does it in pieces so we’re always wondering what we missed and how to piece it together. She brings it to us with at times child like dialogue that points us in the direction of mental illness and at other times she gives us maturity beyond the age. Her characters run the gamut too from childlike to sophisticated, but don’t let them fool you they’re hiding things and it’s up to us to find out what and who. They will also pull at your heartstrings and draw deep emotions from you as well to the point you’ll have to reinvent who the villain is several times during the novel. It’s not a romance but it’s a love story, the love of a sister, the sacrifice for a child, the unconditional parental love and the parental love that comes with a price.

Still waters run deep and secrets are revealed to agonizing results in this highly charged novel. If you’re looking for a intensely emotional, complicated piece of literary fiction it’s all in this read. It fit’s in the mystery, women’s literature or literary fiction category and it’s a superb tale told by an excellent storyteller.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Review of Here Lies Bridget by Paige Harbison

Here Lies Bridget

Paige Harbison

Harlequin Teen

224 pages pub date 2-1-2011

What if you died, who would miss you, what kind of impact have you made on your own little word, well if you happen to be Bridget Duke you might want to forget you asked. Bridget has it all, or so she thinks until she finds out some really hard truths about herself

Paige Harbison first time author, college student and 19 year old wunderkind has a great read on her hands with this novel. She hit’s on all the issues that affect kids today, peer pressure, fitting in, wrong from right and who decides what’s wrong and what’s right. Her plot is funny, exasperating, sad and redeeming, it’s a coming of age tale, but it’s also so much more than that, it’s Grimms and Aesop rolled into a comedic tragedy, it’s all about life lessons and ownership in our own choices. It’s a YA that people of all ages should read. All her characters are very well portrayed and realistic as in, if I read another duh or you know I might just scream, but that the audience this is truly aimed at will love. Her protagonist Bridget is frustratingly authentic as the snobby, poor little motherless rich girl who controls her life by controlling (or trying to) the people around her.

People of all ages will enjoy this novel, some for the mere entertainment value, some for the educational value. If you’re a teen buy it for a friend, if you’re a parent buy it for your teen. If you’re neither or both buy it for yourself. It’s just plain good writing and good reading. And Paige kudos to you and here’s to a long and prosperous career.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Review of Wild Man Creek by Robyn Carr

Wild Man Creek

Robyn Carr


368 pages

Colin Riordan loved being in the wild blue yonder until one day it all came literally crashing and burning around him over him and through him. It’s taken months of intense therapy and a scrape with illegal possession but he’s on the right track. Jillian Matlock has had few certainties in her life and one of them had been her career, but add one unscrupulous man and the world as Jill’s known it ceases to exist. Together Jill and Colin find what neither ever thought they would, the question is, are they smart enough to hold on to it and keep it.

Ms. Carr extends our Virgin River family with the addition of Jill and Colin who both have ties to the community some stronger than others. In this episode in her continuing series she doesn’t give us natural disaster, or crime to chew on. No she gets right to the heart of the matter, she gives us a couple who experience the once in a lifetime “grand passion” we all read about and then goes about seeing if they’re smart enough to recognize and grow it. So it’s the epic story of boy meets girl but can he keep her and vice versa. I have to admit that so far these are my favorite hero and heroine in her series, why, because the challenges facing them are something that every one of us could easily face, there’s no big time disaster looming making them closer, it’s just plain old life that gets in the way. And she does it with such compassion and grace that her readers can’t help but fall in love with the characters and feel the pull when they fall and the heat when they love. She let’s us catch up on the former goings on in her beloved Virgin River so as not to leave anyone out and she brings us a side story that’s been percolating for a few novels between Jack and Denny, but I won’t give any of that away. Her romance is sensual, earthy, and heady and her love scenes will put the flame under the coldest of hearts.

So enjoy the trip back to Virgin River, catch up with old friends and meet new ones. Fall in love with the characters as they fall in love with each other. Experience the small town problems and solutions that our residents come up with. As someone relatively new to Virgin River I think you can read this as a stand a lone, but I for one am going back to the beginning to experience it all from the start and I know then I’ll make heads and tails out of what I missed. And I suggest that for you as well.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Review of The Proper Care and Maintenance of Friendship by Lisa Verge Higgins

The Proper Care and Maintenance of Friendship

Lisa Verge Higgins

Grand Central Publishing (Publish date 1-26-2011)

352 pages

Four very different friends have remained so with much effort, but when tragedy strikes and deathbed requests are made the least that will happen is head scratching, the most will be life changing.

Ms. Higgins has a sure to be hit on her hands in this her first foray into mainstream women’s literature. The first thing that was apparent to me was her astonishing storytelling capability, the second is her capacity to pull some deep emotions from me while reading. She gives us a heart-wrenching tale that will affect even the most stoic readers and she does this with a gracefully flowing narrative that will transport her readers from the most exotic of locations to the mundane of everyday life. She makes this happen with the most incredibly unforgettable characters not stopping with the stars of her novel but right on down the line to the most minor of roles. Her main characters are outstanding in their density and Ms. Higgins does an excellent job of making them very real to her audience. They were not only authentic in the roles they played but also very multi-dimensionally faceted in their personalities. She did an excellent job of making them believable and at times frustratingly so. This is not a romance even though there are romantic elements to the story it’s instead a love story about what it really means to be a friend, what it takes to keep that friendship alive and makes those of us who haven’t done that ashamed and looking up names that we have forgotten about along the way of growing up and growing older.

Anyone who has ever had a lifelong friendship should not only read this but buy it for that special someone they call friend, every woman who’s ever experienced the whole hearted friend love between herself and another woman should experience this awe inspiring novel. And every man who loves a woman will get a better insight into her should he read this tale.

So go out and get this the first “Best Read” of 2011, you won’t be sorry and you will be a better friend if you do.
Kudos to you Ms. Higgins for an inspiring, heart warming and very emotional read.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Review of Outside the Ordinary World by Dori Ostermiller

In honor of the B& General Fiction book club feature novel of the month I'm republishing my review of this amazing piece of literature. Enjoy

Outside the Ordinary World
Dori Ostermiller
374 pages

It’s the rare novel that stays in your mind for a long time after you read it and yet that’s exactly what you’ll get with “Outside the Ordinary World”.

Sylvia Sandon is a complicated woman, which stems from her complicated childhood. Married with two daughters of her own she finds herself following in the footsteps of her mother, footsteps that she doesn’t want to walk in and yet seemingly without conscience thought she’s doing. The secrets of her past have found their way into her present and by reliving them finds herself on a precipice she would rather not straddle.

Dori Ostermiller gives us a remarkable and unforgettable story of family crisis, family failure and possible triumph and she does it with her amazing skill of storytelling. Her eloquent prose like dialogue takes us deep into the psyche of a troubled woman and the people who surround her. She’s not afraid to use hard language to tell us her tale and yet at the same time uses literary phrases to describe a scene or thought that enables her readers the ability to visualize her words. Her characters are all well thought out, three dimensional and all totally necessary to the novel. Her protagonist Sylvia is an exceptionally portrayed character and readers will find themselves entranced by her and will share in her sorrow and cheer in her triumphs and at times will want to slap her silly. This is no romance but there is a thought provoking love story here, one that will make her audience sit up and take notice, one that will resonate within all of us, especially those of us who like me can relate to it. The love scenes are creative and thoughtful and here is where you’ll find her most imaginative prose.

Outside the Ordinary World is a masterpiece of the written word. It’s a hard story to tell and yet one that needs to be told. So if you’re looking for a world class piece of literary fiction, a story on the dark side of family turmoil with that all elusive light at the end of the tunnel, then give this wonderful novel a try. It’s not an easy read but it’s one that needs to be read. So if this is the kind of tale that floats your boat believe me you will not be sorry that you took the plunge. It’s bound to get critical accolades, it’s that good.