Saturday, May 28, 2016

Book Review: The Changing Season by Steven Manchester


Emotional and engaging, The Changing Season displays Steven Manchester's consistent ability to create dramatic stories that pull you in.

Billy Baker is looking forward to a summer of fun hanging out with friends before they head off to college in the fall. He also wants to take advantage of all the time he has with his faithful canine companion, Jimmy.

That was before the accident that shook the entire town.

It was before Vicki captured his heart.

It was before the summer job that, all too soon, became way more than the means to pay for college.

Having read Manchester's work in the past, I expected The Changing Season to be filled with young adult angst, love, and friendship. With this novel, the author created a cast of characters that is at some points inspiring and at others frustrating. This is a book about that difficult time between the end of childhood and the beginning of adulthood that often finds plans changing quickly.

What I feel is different about this book, as opposed to his others, is that it's not as optimistic as I expected. Angst is good. Drama is good. Suffering and learning from it is all right. But I truly came away from The Changing Season wishing the throttle on the angst had been pulled back a bit. Is it realistic drama? Sure. But a little more happiness wouldn't have hurt.

The pace is slow and steady, which is fine for such a story. The reader gets to understand Billy and what he's dealing with. They also get to experience how life changes for Charlie, his best friend, as a result of choices he makes.

While I wanted a different ending for some of the people, it's good that Billy has made a decision, reconciled himself to his past, and is ready to explore his future.


Hardcover: 276 pages
Publisher: Story Plant (February 16, 2016)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1611882265
ISBN-13: 978-1611882261

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher. This review contains my honest opinion, which I have not been compensated for in any way.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

"Waiting on Wednesday": Breaking Rockefeller by Peter B. Doran



"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

My pick for this week:




The incredible tale of how ambitious oil rivals Marcus Samuel, Jr., and Henri Deterding joined forces to topple the Standard Oil empire

Marcus Samuel, Jr., is an unorthodox Jewish merchant trader. Henri Deterding is a take-no-prisoners oilman. In 1889, John D. Rockefeller is at the peak of his power. Having annihilated all competition and possessing near-total domination of the market, even the U.S. government is wary of challenging the great “anaconda” of Standard Oil. The Standard never loses—that is until Samuel and Deterding team up to form Royal Dutch Shell.

A riveting account of ambition, oil, and greed, Breaking Rockefeller traces Samuel’s rise from outsider to the heights of the British aristocracy, Deterding’s conquest of America, and the collapse of Rockefeller’s monopoly. The beginning of the twentieth century is a time when vast fortunes were made and lost. Taking readers through the rough and tumble of East London’s streets, the twilight turmoil of czarist Russia, to the halls of the British Parliament, and right down Broadway in New York City, Peter Doran offers a richly detailed, fresh perspective on how Samuel and Deterding beat the world’s richest man at his own game.

I love books about big business. I also recently listened to The Tycoons: How Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, Jay Gould, and J. P. Morgan Invented the American Supereconomy, so this is also a good choice for a follow up.

What are you "waiting on?"

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Book Spotlight: Am I Going to be Okay? by Debra Whittam



Title: Am I Going To Be Okay? Weathering the Storms of Mental Illness, Addiction and Grief

Author: Debra Whittam

Publisher: Turning Point International

Pages: 253

Genre: Memoir/Women’s Psychology/Applied Psychology

Am I Going To Be Okay? is an American story with a universal message. Ms. Whittam traces her history in the form of stories about her all too human, and sometimes unhinged family; she throws a rope to the little girl living there, and in adulthood, is able to pull her out to safety, bit by bit.
Her history is peopled with folks from a different time, a time before therapy was acceptable, 12 steps unimaginable and harsh
words, backhands and even harsher silences can be spun to appear almost normal. She writes of a mother who would not or could not initiate love nor give it without condition, and a father, damn near heroic at times, abusive at others, a survivor with his head down and his sleeves rolled up.
Ms. Whittam approaches her past with the clear-eyed tough but sensitive objectivity necessary to untangle the shame from the source. She speaks of the people that affected her life so deeply with an
understanding of their time and place in American culture; a family not far removed from immigrant roots when men carried their own water, emoted misplaced anger, and with fresh socks and food found on the trail, were confident, unflinching and at that same time tragical- ly failing to the little ones they ignored.
Like many of us, details notwithstanding, Whittam responded by numbing, running and gunning. Alcohol gave her hope, soothed a crushed soul for a time and wrecked her on a train, until finally she had the courage to accept it wasn’t working for her anymore. It was time to stop drinking and take inventory and accountability. It was time to accept, forgive and move forward. She healed where she was broken.
It is in the telling of this story that Whittam teaches us the difference between just surviving and surviving well, the importance of shared introspection and a careful eye on the wake we leave
behind in our actions. Her story is a guide to surviving abuse and addiction. It is also about witnessing and dealing with the shrinking faculties of aging parents in the unavoidable circle of life. Finally, she offers a realistic sense of hope, forgiveness and a life we can shake hands with. 

For More Information

  • Am I Going To Be Okay?
    Weathering the Storms of Mental Illness, Addiction and Grief is available
    at Amazon.
  • Pick up your copy at Barnes & Noble.
  • Discuss this book at PUYB
    Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.
Book Excerpt:

In my therapist’s office, during my first year of recovery from alcoholism, I saw one of her graduate school psychology books on her bookshelf. It was sitting alongside many of her self-help books which I had borrowed during the past year. I read several hoping to find a cure from my irrepressible anxiety that I had previously drunk away. I imagined the wordy text was far from my ability to comprehend as I was at that time only able to retain small bits of information. I asked my therapist if I could borrow that college text titled “Human Growth and Development.” I read it from cover to
cover within a short amount of time and surprisingly, was able to digest and retain it. I had to quit doubting my ability. Being hard on myself was no longer the answer. I wanted more.
That following summer I enrolled in a graduate course of the same name. I wanted to see if I could retain enough material to pass a higher level learning class. I loved it and I got an A.
No longer living in a world governed by my need to numb myself through copious amounts of alcohol, I started doing what I wanted to do with my life. Encountering the self-doubt I had always carried within me became the guidepost by which I continued to prove my “what ifs” unnecessary in
order to keep myself safe.

My intention in writing this book is to reach out to all who struggle with being frozen in fear of “what if.” This book may trigger emotions that have been shoved down so far they might not have a clear story to them yet. It might trigger memories of resentments, regrets or painful unhealed episodes of your life. These moments may have happened long, long ago or may have been more recent. We go back into the past to find answers. The idea is not to stay there long, but to find healing through understanding the ‘why’ of it. Then begin our process of learning to self-sooth and love ourselves. Nothing is going to happen that you can’t handle. Nothing.
Isolated within my world of fear, I wouldn’t attempt anything outside of that small world. I had no foundation to stand on as a spring-board toward finding out who I really was, so I joined a 12-Step group. The beauty of being in a community of recovery, from whatever we might be working on, brings connection. at is what I needed so badly.
I hope, within these pages, you are able to find a spark that ignites your longing for more. I urge you to find your own path of being okay by whatever non-mood altering way that makes sense to you; even, or especially, if it is unfamiliar to you. In writing this book, I intended to show how we can all go through our fears and do “it” anyway, whatever “it” is.
Letting go of fear suggests we “just breathe” and be ourselves. Thee “how” of being okay is within these pages and within yourself. Stop listening to the repeated echoes of old messages in your head, messages like “You’ve done it again,” “You aren’t good enough,” “You should just give up.” These messages cause you to doubt yourself. Instead, listen to the other voice inside which says, “You can do this,” “There is a way.” Don’t ignore it. Don’t push it away. Don’t argue with it. That voice is there, even if you can’t hear it and I am here to help you find it. I look forward to hearing you say,
“I AM going to be okay.”
About the Author

Debra Whittam is a licensed, practicing mental health therapist in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, who specializes in addiction, anxiety and depression, grief and loss. Whittam is passionate about her work in all areas of her specialties, especially addiction. Working in a detox unit for over three years before beginning her own private practice, Whittam realized, while counseling patients in the life and death arena of the detox unit, how much the loss of a beloved through death or a relationship impacted those struggling with addiction.
In this memoir, Whittam skillfully infuses her memories, stories and professional insights to remind us that the most important relationship we will ever have is with ourselves. She splits her time
between Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York and Paris, France.

Am I Going To Be Okay? Weathering the Storms of Mental Illness, Addiction and
Grief
is her first book.
For
More Information


Monday, May 23, 2016

Book Blast: A Pressing Engagement by Anna Lee Huber

02_A Pressing Engagement

A Pressing Engagement (Lady Darby Mystery #4.5) by Anna Lee Huber

Publication Date: May 17, 2016
InterMix
eBook; 83 Pages

Series: Lady Darby Mysteries
Genre: Historical Mystery

Add to GR Button

In this delightful novella from the national bestselling author of A Study in Death, Lady Kiera Darby has one last mystery to solve before she can walk down the aisle...

Scotland, 1831. With her wedding to fellow investigator Sebastian Gage only a day away, Kiera is counting down the hours. But just when matrimonial jitters threaten to consume her, Kiera receives a welcome distraction in the form of a mysterious gold necklace.

The Celtic torc, thought missing for decades, was directly involved in a recent investigation. Now, Kiera feels compelled to uncover the truth behind its sudden reappearance.

But with an overwhelming flock of wedding guests, a muddled cat, an unpaid favor, and a ferocious storm throwing things into disarray, it’s anyone’s guess whether Kiera and Gage will actually make it to the altar...

Includes an exclusive preview of the next Lady Darby Mystery, As Death Draws Near.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | iBooks

Praise for the Lady Darby Mysteries

“[A] fascinating heroine…A thoroughly enjoyable read!”—Victoria Thompson, national bestselling author

“[A] clever heroine with a shocking past and a talent for detection.”—Carol K. Carr, national bestselling author

“[A] must read…One of those rare books that will both shock and please readers.”—Fresh Fiction

About the Author

03_Anna Lee HuberAnna Lee Huber is the Award-Winning and National Bestselling Author of the Lady Darby Mystery Series. She was born and raised in a small town in Ohio, and graduated summa cum laude from Lipscomb University in Nashville, TN with a degree in music and a minor in psychology. She currently resides in Indiana, and when not working on her next book she enjoys reading, singing, traveling and spending time with her family.

For more information please visit www.annaleehuber.com. Connect with Anna Lee Huber on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Book Blast Schedule

Tuesday, May 17

Wednesday, May 18

Thursday, May 19

Friday, May 20

Saturday, May 21

Sunday, May 22

Monday, May 23

Tuesday, May 24

Wednesday, May 25

Thursday, May 26

Friday, May 27

04_A Pressing Engagement_Book Blast Banner_FINAL

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Interview with Aimie K. Runyan, Author of Promised to the Crown

03_Aimie K. RunyanAimie K. Runyan, member of the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and Women's Fiction Writers Association, has been an avid student of French and Francophone Studies for more than fifteen years. While working on her Master's thesis on the brave women who helped found French Canada, she was fortunate enough to win a generous grant from the Quebec government to study onsite for three months which enabled the detailed research necessary for her work. Aimie lives in Colorado with her husband and two children.

For more information please visit Aimie's website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads.

Where did you grow up?

Placerville, California. A tiny town in between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe. To give you an idea of what it’s like—Thomas Kinkade lived there for many years, and for better or worse, the town greatly resembles his paintings.

When did you begin writing?

Seriously, February, 2013. I first became enamored with writing in the third grade. I got a notebook, handmade by one of the class grandmothers. It was cardboard and notebook paper covered with cheap leopard print fabric. I loved the thing. We were told to write whatever story we wanted and I was positively giddy at the prospect. I dabbled in awful poetry, the occasional short story, and even a novel when I was in middle and high school. I hung up the fountain pen for many years until I took a writing course in graduate school. I wrote a short story that stuck with me for many years, and finally decided to novelize it when my children started sleeping through the night and I was coherent enough to string sentences together.

What is this book about?

Three women, Elisabeth, Rose, and Nicole, who come from very different walks of life and fall on hard times. They accept Louis XIV’s offer to travel to his colonies in Canada to marry settlers. They face trials and triumph in equal measure, but find their way in the new world chiefly because of the friendship they forge on their crossing.

What inspired you to write it?

A lecture in a grad school class! I was taking a Canadian Civilization course as well as a creative writing class. The professor mentioned these brave women who gave up their lives in France to marry strangers… I was intrigued. I also needed to write a story. It was possibly the fastest I’ve ever put 10,000 words on paper. The story got a great response from the class and I shelved it as I went on a teaching career, marriage, and children. It never truly escaped my brain, and will probably remain the dearest story to my heart.

Was the road to publication smooth sailing or a bumpy ride?

Remarkably smooth! I say this not to brag, but to encourage. I went from a blank page to an agent in about 14 months and a book deal 6 months after that— we did a heavy edit together and only one round of submissions. It certainly hasn’t been a Hollywood-worthy story, but I’m perfectly fine with the lack of angst!

Where can readers purchase a copy of your book?

Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books A Million, Target, Walmart, Hudson Booksellers... my office…

What is one piece of advice you would like to share with aspiring authors everywhere?

It’s a grueling business, but a good tribe will keep you sane. Write the book of your heart and keep working on your craft. Whenever things go badly—just keep writing.

What is up next for you?

The next book in the Daughters of New France series, Duty to the Crown, releases in October from Kensington. You’ll get to follow three of the younger women from the first book as they find their own places in the society of New France.



02_Promised to the Crown

Promised to the Crown (Daughters of New France, Book One) by Aimie K. Runyan

Publication Date: April 26, 2016
Kensington
Paperback & eBook; 352 Pages

Series: Daughters of New France
Genre: Historical Fiction

Add to GR Button

Bound for a new continent, and a new beginning.

In her illuminating debut novel, Aimie K. Runyan masterfully blends fact and fiction to explore the founding of New France through the experiences of three young women who, in 1667, answer Louis XIV s call and journey to the Canadian colony.

They are known as the filles du roi, or King s Daughters young women who leave prosperous France for an uncertain future across the Atlantic. Their duty is to marry and bring forth a new generation of loyal citizens. Each prospective bride has her reason for leaving poverty, family rejection, a broken engagement. Despite their different backgrounds, Rose, Nicole, and Elisabeth all believe that marriage to a stranger is their best, perhaps only, chance of happiness.

Once in Quebec, Elisabeth quickly accepts baker Gilbert Beaumont, who wants a business partner as well as a wife. Nicole, a farmer s daughter from Rouen, marries a charming officer who promises comfort and security. Scarred by her traumatic past, Rose decides to take holy vows rather than marry. Yet no matter how carefully she chooses, each will be tested by hardship and heartbreaking loss and sustained by the strength found in their uncommon friendship, and the precarious freedom offered by their new home.

An engaging, engrossing debut. Greer Macallister, USA Today bestselling author of The Magician s Lie

An absorbing adventure with heart. Jennifer Laam, author of The Secret Daughter of the Tsar

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

Blog Tour Schedule

Tuesday, April 26
Review at Historical Fiction Addicts

Wednesday, April 27
Review at Let Them Read Books

Thursday, April 28
Interview at Book Nerd
Interview at Books and Benches

Friday, April 29
Review at A Chick Who Reads

Saturday, April 30
Review at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book

Monday, May 2
Review at A Book Drunkard

Tuesday, May 3
Review at Seize the Words: Books in Review

Wednesday, May 4
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews
Interview at A Literary Vacation

Thursday, May 5
Review at Reading Is My SuperPower

Friday, May 6
Review at Puddletown Reviews

Monday, May 9
Review at Cynthia Robertson, writer

Tuesday, May 10
Review at A Bookish Affair

Wednesday, May 11
Review at Creating Herstory

Thursday, May 12
Interview at Creating Herstory
Interview at Author Dianne Ascroft's Blog

Monday, May 16
Review at Beth's Book Nook Blog

Tuesday, May 17
Spotlight at Passages to the Past

Thursday, May 19
Interview at The Book Connection

Monday, May 23
Review at CelticLady's Reviews

Tuesday, May 24
Review at A Holland Reads

Wednesday, May 25
Review at Curling up by the Fire

Thursday, May 26
Review at Just One More Chapter

Friday, May 27
Review at Bookramblings

Monday, May 30
Review at Broken Teepee

Tuesday, May 31
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time

Giveaway

Two copies of Promised to the Crown by Aimie K. Runyan are up for grabs! To enter, please use the GLEAM form below.

Rules


  • Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on May 31st. You must be 18 or older to enter.
  • Giveaway is open to US residents only.
  • Only one entry per household.
  • All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion
  • Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.


Promised to the Crown


04_Promised to the Crown_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL

Monday, May 16, 2016

Book Review: Danse Macabre by Cristelle Comby (Giveaway)

I am rerunning my 2014 review of this novel. Having just recently read, Russian Dolls, I can say I am eager to read the other books in this series.

A suspenseful, thrilling mystery awaits you in Danse Macabre, the third Neve and Egan Cases novel by Cristelle Comby.

Private investigators Alexandra Neve and Ashford Egan are hired by a distraught mother to find her missing daughter. The mother is certain her talented ballerina wouldn't simply run away like the police have suggested. Neve and Egan soon find they have a serial killer on their hands during one of the coldest winters in England.

Fascinating, intriguing, and filled with twists and turns, Danse Macabre is a fabulous mystery novel. It kept me guessing, and I wasn't quite sure how things were going to turn out. I certainly wasn't expecting that surprise at the end.

Combe is a masterful storyteller, slowly adding pieces to the puzzle that ultimately creates a page-turning novel. I loved the relationship between Neve and Egan as they battle their own demons while solving the case. And though I wouldn't necessarily say it's something you would pick up for a seasonal read, it is set in the weeks leading up to Christmas and New Year's.

There are some gruesome parts, but this novel is so well done I didn't mind them at all.
Murder mysteries don't get better than this one.

EXCERPT:


‘Stay here,’ I whisper to Egan, before moving back to the train tracks. I take two steps in the darkness to get away from my partner’s hideout, before flicking my torch back on.

The boys’ light is quick to narrow on me. ‘Whozthere?’ one demands.

‘Hi guys,’ I reply, as kindly as I can. I show them my empty hands as I keep walking in their direction. ‘I’m not a cop, don’t worry.’

‘Whatcha doing here?’ baseball cap asks.

I decide to tell them the truth, hoping curiosity will be enough to keep them from running away. ‘I’m a private investigator. I’m looking for a man. We believe he may have used these old tunnels to escape a crime scene.’

‘Really?’ the kid asks again. ‘A PI, like on the telly?’

Not really, no. Sadly, my life is nothing like what Hollywood makes it look like. ‘Yes,’ I lie. ‘Just like in the movies.’

‘Do you have a gun?’ the guy with the metal bar asks.

My eyes narrow on him as I pay good attention to his posture and the way he now holds the bar with both hands. I’m being plain, I know, but I want him to realise his move wasn’t subtle enough for me. ‘Yes, and a taser.’ None of it is true, but I square my shoulders and continue with my bluff. ‘Trust me; you don’t want me to use either on you.’

Both kids look at each other nervously.

‘Don’t worry, boys; I don’t intend to.’ I smile at them again, a wide smile. They’re teenagers, I’m a woman; I don’t need any weapon, after all. ‘I only want to know if you’ve seen anyone weird down here.’

‘B’sides you, ya mean?’ baseball cap asks.

I flash him my most charming smile in reply.


‘No one,’ his friend answers. ‘But we don’t come here very often. Only when our mum’s too busy to take us to Dad’s herself. It’s a shorter walk down here than up there.’

Genre: New Adult, Detective Mystery
Pages:
254
Release:
October 2014
Publisher:
self-published
ISBN:
9781502723772

I received a free digital copy of this novel from the author. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.


Cristelle Comby will be awarding a autographed copy of the complete 4 book series, to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.



a Rafflecopter giveaway



Monday, May 9, 2016

Musing Mondays - May 9



Musing Mondays is a weekly meme now hosted at Jenn's new blog Books And A Beat that asks you to choose one of the following prompts to answer:
  • I’m currently reading…
  • Up next I think I’ll read…
  • I bought the following book(s) in the past week…
  • I’m super excited to tell you about (book/author/bookish-news)…
  • I’m really upset by (book/author/bookish-news)…
  • I can’t wait to get a copy of…
  • I wish I could read ___, but…
  • I blogged about ____ this past week…
THIS WEEK’S RANDOM QUESTION: What is the best book you read LAST year?

Well, this shouldn't be too hard to figure out since my reading is so much less the past two years than it used to be. Sigh!

There were actually two books that were my favorite in 2015--for very different reasons: one because of the author's steady work in and knowledge of the genre she writes, and the other, because she went outside of her comfort zone and tried a different style in a genre she has already established herself in. The second author is today's pick.


Why I love Heather Haven's work: Strong female leads are her trademark and she creates them well. 

How is Death of a Clown similar to her previous work?

In creating Jeri Deane she stayed true to her trademark. Whether or not her main characters realize their strength all the time, it is there. In this book, Haven truly got into Jeri's head and dissected everything she feels, creating one of my favorite characters.

How is Death of a Clown different from her previous work?

Everything else I have read by Haven has been light and funny. Her main characters are sarcastic, witty young women who kick ass. While murder is a serious business, in Haven's other books there isn't the intense drama and powerful nature that is found within Death of a Clown. This book is set at a circus during World War II. Since the author is the daughter of former circus performers, this also allows her tap into that family history to create a book whose setting is equally as well-drawn as her characters.

You can learn more about the author at http://heatherhavenstories.com/

What was your favorite book from 2015?