Book Reviews: Stolen Memories by Mary Miley and Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Stolen Memories
Mary Miley
CreateSpace, November 2015
ISBN 978-151-8883705
Trade Paperback

If you asked me for a book that you could really sink your teeth into—a murder-mystery with just a hint of romance—one that is a delight to read, but not “light reading”…..you know, something that keeps your eyes glued to the pages you are frantically turning and sneaks into your thoughts at random times; but doesn’t necessarily rip out your heart & run away with it–I’d happily hand you Stolen Memories.

1928 was a fabulous time to be a young woman in Europe.  It was particularly exciting and opportunistic for the intelligent, courageous woman carving a path for her own independence and paving the way for others to follow. Eva Johnson, however, is not that woman.   Rather, she is a self-serving, manipulative, nasty thief who has no problem spilling a bit of blood along her way.

When she awoke under the concerned eyes of a doctor in France, Eva had no idea what landed her in a hospital bed.  She has no memory, at all.  She surely does not remember marrying that angry giant hulking around her bedside.  More importantly, she can’t fathom being married at all.  Even in the absence of her memories, she’s sure there’s been a huge mistake.  This initial unease and uncertainty perfectly set the tone for her tale.

Eva desperately wants to regain her memory to reclaim her true self, nothing about being a part of this eccentric family feels relatable.  Those around her share her goal, but for very different reasons.  Deciding who to trust is a daily challenge.  Information is fed to her intermittently and often, inaccurately.  Her every move is watched and scrutinized.

Under such close inspection, we begin to see some interesting things.  While some may simply want to recover their stolen property, someone wants her dead.  Further muddying the waters, Eva is just not herself.  With seemingly natural inclinations towards kindness, she stuns her family.  It is particularly entertaining to watch a mystery unravel while the participants continue to be puzzled.  The many moving parts make for a quick, compelling read.

Reviewed by jv poore, September 2016.

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Counting by 7s
Holly Goldberg Sloan
Puffin Books, September 2014
ISBN 978-0-14-242286-1
Trade Paperback

This is one of those treasures recommended for ages 10 and up that I believe everyone can thoroughly enjoy, not just older elementary and middle-grade people.

I can’t imagine the person who would not be charmed, then completely smitten with young Willow, who at the tender age of 12 has her world shattered.  An admirable and awe-inspiring person Before, her strength, courage and resolve After show the reader what a real-life super-heroine is all about.

Even cooler, we see her spirit, determination and natural kindness pour out and touch so many.  Those touched by Willow intuitively and impulsively stand a little straighter, try a little harder and become more generous.

Few books have the ability to render sobs, then a smile, but this one does.  I would chastise myself for letting this sit on my shelf for so long instead I’m going to consider the timing serendipitous, because now I can pass this jewel on to my son’s middle-grade classroom library.

Reviewed by jv poore, September 2016.

About The Reluctant Farmer of Whimsey Hill—and a Giveaway!

NANCY RAVEN SMITH grew up in Virginia where she ran horse sport events. On her farm, she, her husband, and their two daughters rescued horses, dogs and cats. They are advocates for animal rescue. Later in California, Raven Smith traded her event experience for film work. Her screenplays have won numerous major awards. and then she discovered a passion for writing mysteries. When not writing, Raven Smith enjoys white water rafting, snorkling, travel, and here family. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and Romance Writers of America. Her debut mystery, Land Sharks – A Swindle in Sumatra was chosen as an Amazon/Kindle Scout Selection Winner.

The Reluctant Farmer of Whimsey Hill is by Bradford M Smith with Lynn Raven & Nancy Raven Smith. The Prologue is included below.

http://www.NancyRavenSmith.com
http://www.Facebook.com/NancyRavenSmithWriter
http://www.TheReluctantFarmerofWhimseyHill.com

We all know the saying—opposites attract. But the real question is how long can such a relationship endure? My husband, Brad, and I put that question to the test.

When we met, I owned a horse named Junior and a yellow mutt named Amy. I loved both dearly. My dream was to live on a farm and rescue dogs, cats, and ex-race horses.

Brad was a city boy who was not into animals. In fact, he’d had some bad experiences with them and was not interested in sharing his life with anything four-legged. He much preferred working in his field of robotics for the Navy.

According to the Meyers-Briggs Personality Test any such union as ours would be doomed. The only problem was that we took the test after the wedding and after Brad agreed to move to a farm in rural Virginia for a year to see if he would like it. At the end of that test year, I promised he could choose whether we moved back to the city or not.

Twenty years later, we came to empty nest syndrome and retired from our farm. We lost count by then of the number of animals we rescued. Our phone was on speed dial of every rescue group in our area. It had been a wonderful time filled with children, some ours, some not, and all kinds of four-legged critters.

When we moved to California, we often found ourselves telling farm stories to our new friends. They kept insisting that we write a book. Finally, even my screenwriting mentor from Women in Film said we should write it. So we made the decision to do it.

At that point in our lives, our oldest daughter Lynn and I had studied as screenwriters. Brad had done a lot of technical writing. Our youngest daughter Debi contributed stories, but chose not to participate in the writing.

Brad, Lynn, and I had weekly lunch meetings at the Cheesecake Factory in Beverly Hills near where Lynn worked at the Paley Center for Media. Our original concept was to gather our family stories, have Lynn, Brad, and I write separate short stories, and end up with an anthology. We quickly found that that left the book with a confusing timeline and not much of a storyline because the stories had three different, jumbled points of view and frequently overlapped. It just plain didn’t work.

In the end, we settled on creating a spine for the stories, telling the story from Brad’s fish-out-of-water point of view. That worked. In keeping with the spine, we picked the theme that “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” (Neale Donald Walsch) This was the most important decision we made and when we did so, everything else fell into place. It also allowed for the stories to be light and humorous as we had envisioned.

We reorganized the stories to follow this new spine for the book. It covers from the time Brad agreed to live on a farm against his wishes through to his decision that he loved the farm and the animals.

But here’s how we physically handled the writing. We organized the stories chronologically to fit the spine. Lynn and I would often interview Brad for his version of the story and his word usage. Brad and Lynn both had full time jobs, so I was elected to do the first draft. Brad would go over my draft, rewrite and give notes. I would do a second draft, Brad would again rewrite, and we would pass it to Lynn for her notes and a rewrite. We’d go around this way until we were all pleased with the outcome. Then our final version of the book moved on to beta readers.

For myself and Lynn, we found such pleasure and camaraderie from readers and other authors that our next projects include new books.

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PROLOGUE

HOW NOW BLACK COW

1971

If a black cow crosses your path, is it worse luck than a black cat?

I’m not a superstitious man. And yet, here I stand in the middle of the road about a mile away from our farm in rural Virginia wearing my best navy pinstriped suit.

Doesn’t sound like such bad luck, does it?

But if this were a good news, bad news thing, that would actually be the good news. The bad news lies at the other end of the thick rope I’m clutching in my hands.

That’s where it circles the neck of a Black Angus steer named Pork Chop.

There’s no doubt in my mind that this unruly beast was put on earth to torment me.

My family disavows all connection to Pork Chop. They refer to him as “my cow,” as in, “Honey, your cow’s out” or “Daddy, your cow needs to be fed.” Somehow this animal has managed to alienate my entire family. Not an easy feat with a family as besotted and overrun with animals as mine is.

But for once, Pork Chop is not being rowdy. Actually, quite the opposite. He’s lying on his side with all four feet stuck out stiffly. He looks dead, but he’s just asleep. I can see his chest rising and falling steadily. Dead might be easier to deal with.

Judging by the long shadows cast by the nearby pine trees, it’ll be dark soon.

Pork Chop weighs nearly six hundred pounds, and there’s no way I can move him on my own. As much as I’d like to, I can’t leave him lying in the road to go for help. He could be injured or cause an accident. But if I don’t go for help, who knows how long I’ll be stuck here. Pork Chop isn’t my family’s favorite animal, yet they’ll never speak to me again if he gets hurt.

A honk shatters the quiet. A neighbor slows down in his dusty, battered Ford pick-up.

I raise my hand to wave him down. He waves back and drives on. I can see him snickering in the rear view mirror.

Our working farm neighbors don’t know what to make of me. I’m still the outsider who works nine to five for the federal government.

I can understand their confusion. The country is not my habitat of choice. As a Boston native and a Cornell graduate with a Masters in Electrical Engineering, order, logic, and cleanliness matter to me. The robots I work with suit me perfectly. When I program them, they do what they’re supposed to. Robots never pee, poop, bite, kick, or drag me where I don’t want to go.

Unfortunately my wife’s animals do.

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To enter the drawing for a copy of
The Reluctant Farmer of Whimsey Hill.
just leave a comment below. The
winning name will be drawn on
Monday, June 26th.
Open to residents of the US.

Book Review: Deadly Shore by Andrew Cunningham

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Title: Deadly Shore
Author: Andrew Cunningham
Narrator: Greg Hernandez
Publication Date: January 31, 2017

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Purchase Links:

Audible // iTunes // Amazon

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Deadly Shore
Andrew Cunningham
Andrew Cunningham, January 2017
Narrated by Greg Hernandez
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the author—

It’s July 5th, and the Cape Cod roadways are clogged with tourists heading home from the holiday weekend and trying to outrun an approaching potentially catastrophic hurricane. But in the blink of an eye, their lives are thrown into chaos when terrorists bring down the bridges to the Cape. Instantly, a half million terrified people have no way to escape. And when the terrorists threaten to release anthrax on the captive population if their demands aren’t met, fear turns to all-out panic.

With time running out, Marcus Baldwin, a private investigator and former CIA operative, and Sara Cross, a disgraced ex-homicide detective, are brought together by a sole clue to the identity of the terrorists. They quickly realize that they may be the only ones with even a chance at stopping the plot before it’s too late.

With Hurricane Chad barreling up the coast on a path for a direct hit on Cape Cod, it becomes frighteningly clear to everyone trapped on what has now become an island – one way or another they are probably all going to die.

A while back, probably 15  or 20 years, there seemed to be a lot of natural disaster novels  and I snatched up every one of them I could find. They’ve been pretty scarce since then so, when I read the description of Deadly Shore, I had to have it and I mean to tell you, this is a good one. Not only do we have an approaching hurricane that keeps growing in strength, we also have a nifty terrorist crime going on. The hurricane doesn’t actually play a large physical role; it’s the looming threat of the storm that matters to the people on Cape Cod.

The hallmark of a good disaster novel is that all kinds of things happen that are beyond the pale, so to speak, definitely over the top and without much basis in reality. To truly enjoy it, you have to be willing to put aside your inclination to look for what doesn’t make sense and just go with the flow. Carrying out the dastardly plot in this book is as disbelief-suspending as it gets from the initial plan itself to the acquisition of the necessary materials to finding just the right group of henchmen to controlling all the pieces parts…well, you get the idea. Oh, and don’t forget the plethora of coincidences that not only bring together a former CIA operative and a disgraced cop but allow them to come across the perfect clues just when they need to. And I loved every minute of it 😉

As for the narration, a funny thing happened on the way to the finish. Usually, I’m very aware of the narrator’s ability to differentiate characters but, this time, I got all the way to the end before I noticed that Mr. Hernandez didn’t do such a great job with voices. And you know what? It didn’t matter. Mr. Hernandez has a really pleasing tone and is easy to listen to plus he has the ability to convey the tension and sense of doom a book like this needs. I might not  be able to quickly identify a character by the voice but Mr. Cunningham’s dialogue is written in such a manner as to let me know who’s talking when.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed Deadly Shore and found myself hanging out in my driveway because I wanted to hear what would happen next. That, my friends, is a sign of an exciting audiobook, don’t you think?

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2017.

About the Author
Andrew Cunningham

I was born in England, but have spent most of my life living in the U.S.—including  25 years on Cape Cod before moving to Florida. A former interpreter for the deaf and long-time independent bookseller, I’ve been a full-time freelance writer and copy editor for many years. A 4th-degree Master Blackbelt in Tang Soo Do, I finally retired from active training when my body said, “Enough already! Why are you doing this to yourself?” I’m married, with two grown children and two awesome grandsons. My wife and I spend as much time traveling as we can, and are especially fond of cruising the Caribbean.

​I have been gratified by the response to my books. When I published Eden Rising back in the spring of 2013, I had no idea what to expect. When I sold my first few copies, I was excited beyond belief that someone was willing to take a chance on it. Numerous books and thousands of copies later, I am still humbled by the emails I get from readers telling me that my books kept them up late into the night.

In October of 2014, Wisdom Spring made me an official Amazon Bestselling author, a thrill I never thought would happen. But it still comes down to being able to bring a few hours of escape to a reader. That’s what it’s all about for me.

WebsiteFacebookTwitterGoodreadsAmazon

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About the Narrator
Greg Hernandez

For more than 20 years I worked as a radio news reporter and news writer.  I spent half of my broadcasting career at ABC News Radio in the Washington, D.C., bureau.  I covered all the federal agencies as well as Congress and the White House.  I reported on a wide range of stories during my career, including financial and entertainment industry news.

I have worked as a federal government spokesman at three separate agencies for more than 20 years.  At the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA, U.S. Commerce Department), I introduced podcasting in 2005 just a few weeks before Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast of the United States.  The 19 podcasts I narrated and produced from August 2005 to June 2007 were downloaded more than 600,000 times during that period.  They’re still online at the following link.

http://www.noaa.gov/podcasts/podcast-archive.html

I enjoy narrating audio books because it gives me great satisfaction bringing to life books of all genres, especially mysteries and thrillers.

TwitterACX

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Play an excerpt here.

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Follow the tour:

Jun. 21st:
Kristina Stanley (Spotlight + Audio Excerpt)

Jun. 22nd:
Dab of Darkness (Review)
Buried Under Books (Review)

Jun. 23rd:
CGB Blog Tours (Spotlight + Audio Excerpt)
The Bookworm Lodge (Spotlight + Audio Excerpt)

Jun. 24th:
A Book and A Latte (Review)

Jun. 25th:
Lomeraniel (Review, Spotlight + Audio Excerpt)
Jorie Loves A Story (Review)

Jun. 26th:
Between the Coverz (Review, Spotlight + Audio Excerpt)
Bound 4 Escape (Review)
Audio Audits (Review)

Jun. 27th:
Hall Ways (Review, Spotlight + Audio Excerpt)
The Book Addict’s Reviews (Review, Spotlight + Audio Excerpt)

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Waiting On Wednesday (72)

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event that
spotlights upcoming releases that I’m really
looking forward to. Waiting On Wednesday
is the creation of Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week’s “can’t-wait-to-read” selection is:

Continue reading

Book Review: Sweet Tea Tuesdays by Ashley Farley

Sweet Tea Tuesdays
Ashley Farley
Leisure Time Books, May 2917
Ebook
Leisure Time Books, March 2017
ISBN 978-1-946229-37-3
Trade Paperback

From the author—

Three best friends met every Tuesday for twenty-six years. And then they stopped.

When new next-door neighbors Georgia, Midge, and Lula first assembled on Georgia’s porch in Charleston for sweet tea, they couldn’t have known their gathering was the beginning of a treasured tradition. For twenty-six years they have met on Tuesdays at four o’clock, watching the seasons change and their children grow up, supporting each other in good times and in bad. With their ambitions as different as their personalities, these best friends anticipate many more years of tea time. And then, one Tuesday, Georgia shares news that brings their long-standing social hour to an abrupt halt. And that’s only the beginning as unraveling secrets threaten to alter their friendship forever.

Picture yourself and a couple of neighbors enjoying a glass of sweet tea on the front porch once a week, spending a little time catching up on each other’s doings and the latest tales about the kids and the men in your lives. Some weeks, you’ll watch the sun set; others, you’ll just savor the warm afternoon and coastal breezes. There are tears sometimes, a lot of laughs, perhaps the occasional spat, and the tea just might become a glass of wine. Most importantly, this is tradition and the essence of friendship, the very reason front porches were created.

Lula, Midge and Georgia are such normal women and so nice (for the most part) but not too much so. I would welcome them all into my life if I could do so and, after reading about the years on that porch, I feel as though I know them as well as my own best friends, alas both now departed. These are seasoned women who have seen and experienced much in their lifetimes and therefore they are compellingly interesting. When life deals Lula what she sees as a bad hand, the effect is nearly catastrophic and heartache is inevitable while continuing to care about her becomes really difficult. Many of us have been faced with problems similar to that which nearly brings the three friends to an apparent impasse; would we react the same or differently?

With each book Ashley Farley writes, she just gets better and better and she has become one of my favorite contemporary Southern fiction authors. Sweet Tea Tuesdays is a summer afternoon’s paean to friendships and family and the ordinary lives of women and I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Georgia, Lula and Midge.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2017.

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Purchase Links:

Ebook:

Amazon

Print:

Barnes & Noble // Indiebound // Amazon

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About the Author

Ashley Farley writes books about women for women. Her characters are mothers, daughters, sisters, and wives facing real-life issues. Her goal is to keep you turning the pages until the wee hours of the morning. If her story stays with you long after you’ve read the last word, then she’s done her job.

After her brother died in 1999 of an accidental overdose, she turned to writing as a way of releasing her pent-up emotions. She wrote SAVING BEN in honor of Neal, the boy she worshipped, the man she could not save.

Ashley is a wife and mother of two young adult children. While she’s lived in Richmond, Virginia for the past 21 years, part of her heart remains in the salty marshes of the South Carolina Lowcountry where she grew up. Through the eyes of her characters, she’s able to experience the moss-draped trees, delectable cuisine, and kind-hearted folks with lazy drawls that make the area so unique.

Catch up with Ashley

WebsiteGoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterestInstagram

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Follow the tour:

Monday, June 5th: I’d Rather Be At The Beach

Tuesday, June 6th: Kritters Ramblings

Wednesday, June 7th: A Chick Who Reads

Thursday, June 8th: Reading is My Super Power

Friday, June 9th: Bibliotica

Monday, June 12th: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom

Monday, June 12th: Jathan & Heather

Tuesday, June 13th: Tina Says…

Thursday, June 15th: From the TBR Pile

Friday, June 16th: View from the Birdhouse

Monday, June 19th: Based on a True Story

Tuesday, June 20th: StephTheBookworm

Wednesday, June 21st: Buried Under Books

Thursday, June 22nd: A Bookish Way of Life

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The Un-Nesting Syndrome

Returning guest blogger Sunny Frazier, whose first novel in the Christy Bristol Astrology Mysteries, Fools Rush In, received the Best Novel Award from Public Safety Writers Association, is here today to remind us that nesting in our early years doesn’t hold up too well as we get considerably older and we end up with stuff that needs to be purged in one way or another.

The third Christy Bristol Astrology Mystery, A Snitch in Time, is in bookstores now.

sunny69@comcast.net   //  http://www.sunnyfrazier.com

I’ve been noticing a trend starting up among people my age (66). We wake up one morning, look around and feel suffocated by STUFF. It’s everywhere. It needs to be dusted. There’s no memory of where it came from, who gave it as a gift. It’s not a treasure. It becomes one with our environment. We start wondering if we’ve become hoarders.

When I left home, I owned my clothes and not much else. I rented a furnished studio apartment in the Los Angeles area for $80 a month. I remember putting inexpensive kitchen curtains on lay-away (they were probably all of $20) and used them to block the bar brawls across the street.

When I went into the service, I brought nothing with me as the Navy supplied everything I needed. When I was discharged, everything I owned fit into a trunk, two suitcases and a few boxes shipped home.

As a college student, I furnished my apartment like every other college student: cinder block bricks and boards for bookshelves, industrial wooden wire spool for a coffee table, a mattress on the floor served as a couch, plastic milk crates were converted to coffee tables.

Past that stage, when adulthood begins to set in and there’s a clearer picture of the future, nesting starts. I’m sure it’s primarily a female thing, making a nest for the future husband and children. Appliances and furniture first, then fluffy pillows, artwork on the walls, decorative vases. Children bring home their efforts from school and it clutters on the fridge.

Over the years the souvenirs lose meaning. Wedding, birthday and anniversary presents get dusty in the cupboard and never used. Nobody wants to inherit the family china. What were once treasures are now packed away and forgotten. Once in a junk drawer, in the garage, stuffed in a closet or a spare room, it’s never seen again.

I told my friends, many of them grandmothers now, that I was purging all this debris in my life. Nearly every one of them said they were at the same stage. They have things too good to throw away but never used. Clothes from a few decades back but no longer age appropriate or the right size. It’s hard to throw away things that are still serviceable. I hoard notebooks and paper, early writings are wilting in folders and boxes. Are they worth keeping? I don’t know anymore. Everything goes on the computer these days as we become a “paperless” society.

My game plan is to gift Goodwill much of my belongings. Someone will find good use of it all. Some cash-poor person will be able to choose a nice present for someone they love. My things will find a good home. I’m not a yard sale or swap meet person. I’ll donate my military uniforms to the local theatre group. With the rest, I will fill up my trash cans and wave goodbye as the garbage man hauls it off.

The nest has become too full. I want to go back to simpler times when I had next to nothing and was happy. This isn’t spring cleaning—it’s life cleaning.

Book Review: What You Break by Reed Farrel Coleman

What You Break
A Gus Murphy Novel #2
Reed Farrel Coleman
Putnam, February 2017
ISBN 978-0-3991-7304-2
Hardcover

Michael Connolly has Los Angeles, Ian Rankin Edinburgh, Laura Lippman Baltimore; the late Robert Parker Boston; Tim Hallinan Bangkok.  Others write about localities they know.  And Reed Farrel Coleman not only lives in Suffolk County, Long Island, New York, but takes us on a guided tour, in this novel featuring his somewhat flawed ex-cop Gus Murphy, still suffering after the death of his 20-year-old son, John Jr.  Gus, divorced after the death blew up his marriage, lives and works at a second-rate motel, driving a van to and from MacArthur airport and a LIRR station, picking up and dropping off passengers to and from the Paragon and providing security services in exchange for a free room.

The night bellman, Slava, who had once saved Gus’s life, is a close friend. When his friend’s past catches up with him and his life is threatened Gus is faced with a dilemma: sacrifice his friend or attempt to help him.   Meanwhile, another of Gus’s friends, the ex-priest Bill Kilkenny, asks him to take on finding out why wealthy Miceh Spears’ granddaughter was murdered.  The two plots move along simultaneously along the highways and byways  stretching from Queens County and Brooklyn right across Long Island.

Coleman even delves into the social and economic differences between various localities, with the Long Island Expressway sort of dividing north (white and wealthy) and south (for the most part poorer) and how enclaves protect the richer from others.  The novel takes a penetrating look at Gus, his personality and psyche, his assets and flaws.

A good read, the novel is recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, February 2017.