The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab #bookreview #literaryfiction #magicalrealism #TuesdayBookBlog

A Life No One Will Remember. A Story You Will Never Forget.

France, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets.

Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world.

But everything changes when, after nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore and he remembers her name.

I don’t possess the words to adequately describe this book and how it made me feel.  Schwab states that over the nearly ten years she worked on it, she put her heart and soul, teeth and blood and bones into this one.  And it shows.  It’s a magnificent work of art.

Imagine if you were forgotten by everyone you meet.  In your presence, they know and recognize you, but the second they leave the room or wake up beside you, you’re a stranger.  Because of this, you can’t hold a job – no employer would know who you were.  With no way to earn money, you have no home.  No closet full of clothes, no belongings, no friends.  No loved ones who remember you.  It’s an incredibly lonely life, but over the three hundred year span of this story, Addie really lives and experiences all the world has to offer – beauty, pain, love, hate, heartbreak, suffering – everything you can imagine.

It’s difficult to review this without spoilers, but trust me when I say this book offers a profound and thought-provoking examination of life and what it means to live.  A blend of survival story, love story, historical fiction, and magical realism, you’ll experience a wide spectrum of emotions.  I actually teared up at one point, and trust me – that’s quite a feat.

With beautiful writing, quotes you’ll make a note of, and extraordinary character development, I can’t recommend this book enough.  If I could give it more than five stars, I absolutely would.  It will linger in your mind long after finishing the last page.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

The Deep by Alma Katsu #bookreview #supernatural

Someone, or something, is haunting the Titanic.

This is the only way to explain the series of misfortunes that have plagued the passengers of the ship from the moment they set sail: mysterious disappearances, sudden deaths. Now suspended in an eerie, unsettling twilight zone during the four days of the liner’s illustrious maiden voyage, a number of the passengers – including millionaires Madeleine Astor and Benjamin Guggenheim, the maid Annie Hebbley and Mark Fletcher – are convinced that something sinister is going on . . . And then, as the world knows, disaster strikes.

Years later and the world is at war. And a survivor of that fateful night, Annie, is working as a nurse on the sixth voyage of the Titanic’s sister ship, the Britannic, now refitted as a hospital ship. Plagued by the demons of her doomed first and near fatal journey across the Atlantic, Annie comes across an unconscious soldier she recognises while doing her rounds. It is the young man Mark. And she is convinced that he did not – could not – have survived the sinking of the Titanic . . .

I’m fascinated by anything Titanic, and I’d read a few titles on this author’s backlist, so it was a no-brainer for me to request this book from NetGalley.

Don’t go into this novel expecting an in-your-face horror story.  The Deep is more of a slow burn tale with a literary feel.  The author does an exceptional job of interweaving real Titanic passengers and historical events with fictional characters to tell her story.  She also uses Violet Jessop, an actual survivor of both the Titanic and the Britannic, in a supporting role as a friend of her main character, Annie.

Annie is a mysterious MC.  At various points in the story I would be annoyed by her actions, then understand them the more I read.  You may also wonder if she’s a reliable narrator, an aspect that just makes a story more enjoyable for me, because I’m constantly questioning everything.  The dual timelines are blended seamlessly and gradually reveal backstories of these characters.

While this novel is certainly atmospheric, I’d personally hoped for more…haunting.  Reviewers are split on this, so it’s really a matter of preference.

If you’re fascinated by all things Titanic, I’d recommend adding The Deep to your reading list.  It’s a slower-paced book, but the characters are well-crafted, and the blend of fiction and nonfiction is done well.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

#IndieAuthor Friday Kathleen Jowitt #literaryfiction #LGBT @KathleenJowitt

Happy Friday!  I love it when the snow starts falling on the blogs – even though it was nearly 70 degrees a couple of days ago.  Welcome today’s indie author, Kathleen Jowitt with her novel, Speak Its Name!

A new year at the University of Stancester, and Lydia Hawkins is trying to balance the demands of her studies with her responsibilities as an officer for the Christian Fellowship. Her mission: to make sure all the Christians in her hall stay on the straight and narrow, and to convert the remaining residents if possible. To pass her second year. And to ensure a certain secret stays very secret indeed.

When she encounters the eccentric, ecumenical student household at 27 Alma Road, Lydia is forced to expand her assumptions about who’s a Christian to include radical Quaker activist Becky, bells-and-smells bus-spotter Peter, and out (bisexual) and proud (Methodist) Colette. As the year unfolds, Lydia discovers that there are more ways to be Christian – and more ways to be herself – than she had ever imagined.

Then a disgruntled member of the Catholic Society starts asking whether the Christian Fellowship is really as Christian as it claims to be, and Lydia finds herself at the centre of a row that will reach far beyond the campus. Speak Its Name explores what happens when faith, love and politics mix and explode.

What do you wish you’d known before you were published?

That I could trust my own judgement, and that there isn’t necessarily a correlation between the quality of a book and whether or not it gets published. I went through years of rejections before getting fed up and self-publishing – and winning a Betty Trask Award as one of the best debut novels by authors under the age of 35. These days – well, it’s an amazing ego boost to know that authors of such stature as Joanne Harris, Michèle Roberts and Simon Brett have read my book and liked it, but I’m glad that I’ve got beyond the point where I’m dependent on the approval of others. I write to please myself these days, and if anybody else enjoys it, well, that’s a bonus! I know now that I can trust that what I write is good.

What are your favorite books in your genre?

Mine’s a bit of a specialist genre. If I have one at all, it’s Barchester – named after Anthony Trollope’s classic series of novels –  in which the interplay between religion, politics (usually, but not necessarily, local) forms an important part of the plot, in which faith is dealt with critically but sympathetically, and in which the Church is very much a human and fallible institution. My favourite Anthony Trollope is probably The Warden. More recent examples of the genre are Susan Howatch’s Starbridge series and Catherine Fox’s Lindchester – both very addictive, and populated with characters you want to hug or to slap, sometimes both at the same time.

What is something memorable you’ve heard from your readers/fans?

Readers have told me that I’ve made them laugh and that I’ve made them cry. That’s pleasing – I have always tried to look for humour and to make my characters human and relatable. What surprised me was that several people called it a ‘page-turner’: they neglected their work, they stayed up well past their normal bedtime, to find out what happened. I suspect that this was something to do with my very ruthless editing: I took out everything that didn’t need to be there, so what was left ended up more suspenseful than I’d expected.

What’s your favorite kind of cookie and why?

Oatmeal and raisin. They’re not too sweet, and they have an interesting texture. I like the cinnamon, too. Although if we’re talking about classic British biscuits, then it’s a toss-up between lemon puffs and fig rolls. Fruit, spice, and texture seems to be a running theme here!

What’s the last thing you watched on TV/Netflix?

I’ve got into figure skating recently, and have been following the Grand Prix series on Eurosport. This afternoon’s event is the Internationaux de France, so that will be the next thing! The last thing I watched was Only Connect – a quiz show where contestants have to find the connections between sets of clues. It’s one of the more difficult quiz shows on TV, so if I get anything right I feel quite pleased about that!

Book you’d want with you if you were stranded on a desert island?

A long one! I usually say The Count of Monte Cristo, but I think that perhaps a very comprehensive anthology of poetry would be better: I could keep going back to it and always know that I’d find something new.

Author Bio

Kathleen Jowitt was born in Winchester, UK, and grew up deep in the Welsh Marches and, subsequently, on the Isle of Wight. After completing her undergraduate degree in English Literature at the University of Exeter she moved to Guildford and found herself working for a major trade union. She now lives in Cambridge, works in London, and writes on the train.

Social Media

My website:
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Buy Links

Amazon US
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#IndieAuthor Friday: Connie Chappell #LiteraryFiction #CozyMysteries

This week seemed to fly by – but here we are again at Indie Author Friday with Connie Chappell!  Connie is my kind of people – Harry Potter fan, loves chocolate chip cookies, and I’d totally re-watch The Crown.  Read on for the wonderful compliment she received from a reader.

Proper Goodbye

Beebe Walker returns to Larkspur, Michigan, to reveal to her estranged father the truth about the homeless woman recently buried in his cemetery. Her father doesn’t want to hear the truth when the woman in the grave he’s been tending for months turns out to be his long-missing wife.

Wild Raspberries 

Callie MacCallum was Jack Sebring’s lover for twenty years. After his death, she’s drawn into a Sebring family battle between wife and daughter-in-law.

Deadly Homecoming at Rosemont

A budding historian must solve a locked-room murder to vindicate the town’s former police chief who is suspected of the crime. While her instincts are sharp, her stubborn one-woman approach places her directly in the killer’s path.

What’s the most constructive criticism you’ve been given in your writing career?

Of course, the most constructive criticism can also be termed outstanding advice. I sat one-on-one with bestselling author Larry Beinhart (Wag the Dog) for an hour discussing my manuscript, Deadly Homecoming at Rosemont, A Wrenn Grayson Mystery. He told me to write in a straight line. The timeline within my narrative summaries moved around, making it difficult to follow. Whenever I find myself struggling with a section of a novel, I take a look at the timeline. Often all that is needed is to drag Larry’s advice out again, straightened out the timeline, and then watch the section drop neatly into place.

What is something memorable you heard from your readers/fans?

A woman bought my first release, Wild Raspberries, at a book signing. I saw her the next week. She rushed by me, obviously in a hurry or late for an appointment, but on the way past she said, “I loved the book. It made me late for work twice last week.”

What character in your book are you least likely to get along with?

My novel, Proper Goodbye, includes a character named Mona Gabriel. She has position as a doctor’s wife, but she’s a gossiper, troublemaker, and always wants to push herself in if doing so associates her with success of an undertaking. It’s hard to image she walks around accident free, what with her nose up in the air the way it is.

What is the last thing you watched on Netflix?

I watched the series, The Crown. It was fabulous. So much so, I turned right around and watched it again. Very well done. It exposed the private lives of the royal family, along with a great deal of history. A young Queen Elizabeth II faced many decisions to weigh and struggle with. The order of succession and the passing on of the crown was particularly fascinating to understand from the royal family’s point of view.

If you were a character in fiction, who would you be?

I would want to be any character in the Harry Potter series if it meant I got to see the castle, Hogwarts, and the grounds surrounding the castle. I love castles and large old stone structures. They are amazing feats of construction for their time.

What is your favorite kind of cookie and why?

My favorite kind of cookie is chocolate chip, right out of the oven. Warm. Melt in your mouth chocolate. Yum! I consider chocolate one of the four basic food groups.

Author Bio

Connie Chappell is the author of three novels. Wild Raspberries and Proper Goodbye are companion novels. They are written around unique and stunning premises. Her Wrenn Grayson Mysteries series was launched in 2016 with Deadly Homecoming at Rosemont. The construction of a mystery holds her values as a writer to the centerline. It is her job to keep the reader focused, on track, and riveted to solving the mystery. The series’ second installment, Designs on Ivy’s Locket, is set for an October, 2017, release by publisher, Black Rose Writing.

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Indie Author Friday: Myrtle Brooks #indieauthor #literary @JGCitygin

It’s finally Friday!!!  And that means it’s time to welcome another indie author to Books & Such.  Myrtle Brooks is here to share her intriguing story about an infant adopted and raised by Old Faithful geyser and a mother buffalo.  She also offers valuable writing advice and names the cereal that describes her colorful personality.

The story, a fable on man’s edification through nature’s examples, begins during the era of the First U.S. Cavalry in Fort Yellowstone, and the founding of the National Park Service 100 years ago in 1916.

At the turn of the twentieth century, an infant of mysterious origin is adopted by Old Faithful geyser and by a mother buffalo named Bearer of Song. Beloved to all the park, Flower of the Steam Basin grows up with their stories, proverbial sayings and teachings: in a land where the animals, winds and geysers speak their own languages.

Having met a child her age and her parents, trust ripens between families, and Flower of the Steam Basin gains a closely protective circle of human friends. At nine, she is brought face-to-face with Retired Lieutenant Ned Halpen of the Yellowstone Cavalry, whose exemplary career embodied the role of protector of Yellowstone’s spiritual and physical heritage.

In the wake of Lt. Halpen’s passing, her sacred vow to continue his legacy brings both reward and mortal danger. And when the circle is breached, Flower of the Steam Basin and her father are forced to choose between her well-being and the performance of her sworn duties.

This is her story as seen through the eyes of Yellowstone.

What’s the most constructive criticism you’ve been given in your writing career?

‘Your book is too long. Tighten it; make it concise. But don’t hack at it.’ This from a friend of a friend, a retired professional editor. As a result I edited two novels, including Geyser Girl, a book of short stories and a screenplay. I eliminated what was unnecessary and cumbersome without destroying the art.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Be persistent, write what you love and be objective.

What do you love most about the writing process?

I love how it courses through the veins. When you love what you do, even the most difficult tasks (editing, writing the query and synopsis, marketing) will flow. Tears, frustration, labor pains, yes. But it is a labor of love.

A penguin walks through the door wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he here?

“I have traveled the world and lived others’ lives vicariously. From this, I have gained empathy; I have understood the common bond between all creatures and the necessity of friendship.

“Now, please do be a friend and show me to the nearest walk-in refrigerator.”

If you were a box of cereal, which one would you be?

Trix. I’m a big kid with a colorful personality.

 If you were an animated character, who would you be and why?

Belle, Beauty and the Beast. She looked beyond the beast’s physical appearance, even beyond his gruffness, with a deep-seated spiritual discernment; sought the innate goodness in him, understood he was cursed and tried to help him. It has been my favorite fairy tale since childhood because of the traits she holds which I try to emanate in real life.

Author Bio

As written beneath her yearbook photo, Class of 1970, the expressed lifetime goal of the author herein known as Myrtle Brooks, is: “to realize the love present in everything.” Maturity has taught her that this is a vision meant to be shared.

When not at home in her beloved Brooklyn, N.Y., she may be found dancing with the big rigs on the interstate as she heads for national parks and places of quiet beauty.

Knowing her place, she enters such sanctuaries as a respectful visitor and humble observer;

Whereupon she is lovingly greeted and made welcome as family.

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Release Day: Veil of Walls by Patricia Panahi #NewRelease @PatriciaPanahi

Welcome Patricia Panahi – today is release day for her debut novel, Veil of Walls!

Anahita Sadeghi, a typical, happy-go-lucky American ten-year-old, was not too keen on traveling to the other side of the world to meet her father’s family. But her month-long vacation turns into a nightmare when her Persian relatives refuse to let her return to the States.  She is forced to deal with the dizzying maze of social customs, resist her grandmother’s efforts to mold her into the proper Persian girl, dodge her aunt’s schemes of marriage, and fight to make her own life choices until she can find a way to return home.  Longing for her friends and her freedom, only the enigma of her missing aunt, Scheherezade, gives Ana a glimmer of hope of one day escaping Iran for good.  Will Ana’s family marry her off and forever bind her to this country, or will she break free of Iran’s walls and find her way back to America?

What’s your writing background?

I’ve had the passion to write stories since I was a little girl and actually studied English in college, but lacked the confidence to pursue it as a career.  I began getting serious about writing in the 1990’s and published The Well Woman Cookbook, God Outside the Box – a spiritual journey, and a couple of short stories.  I have worked on my first novel, Veil of Walls, for over a decade and I’m ecstatic to finally see it become a book.

What gave you the idea for Veil of Walls?

Although I was born in the states, I lived in Iran for 16 years prior to the Islamic Revolution and was intimately familiar with the culture.  Noticing all the misconceptions about Iran in the West prompted me to write a story that depicts the country, the culture, and its people in a more realistic way, yet be entertaining to read at the same time.  So I wrote the story in the time period I was familiar with – 60’s and early 70’s – and while all the characters are fictional, I drew on my own bewilderment when I first went to Iran and tried to navigate the intricacies of that very ancient and complex culture.

Which characters were the most and least difficult to write and why?

The two aunts were difficult as they were diametrically opposed in personality – one traditional and bitter about life, the other a bohemian intent on living life on her terms.

But the main character, Anahita, was the most difficult.  This was her story and written in first person. She is faced with so much loss and so many changes in her young life that to put her deep emotional pain and her attempts to cope in words so readers could feel the depth of her anguish and the exhilaration of her success took a great deal of soul searching on my part.  I had to allow myself to feel what she was feeling in order to express it.

Tell us 5 random facts about yourself.

I am bilingual/bicultural, although my American side tends to be dominant.

I have recently retired from teaching English at the University of Hawaii.

I love to travel and have visited 15 countries so far.

I have been happily married to the love of my life for 22 years.

I have a passion for good books, Persian food, and cuddly cats.

Author Bio

Born in Massachusetts, Patricia Panahi moved to Iran at the age of nine. She later returned to the States and completed her graduate work at San Diego State University.  Panahi has taught English in Iran, California, and Hawaii, owned and operated The Light Spot Bookstore and Coffee House in San Diego, and directed English language programs for international students for the University of Hawaii. VEIL OF WALLS is her first novel.

Social Media
Twitter:  @PatriciaPanahi

Buy Links
Black Rose Writing

Available in ebook format in approximately two weeks.


Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel #bookreviews

An audacious, darkly glittering novel set in the eerie days of civilization’s collapse, Station Eleven tells the 20170404spellbinding story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity.

One snowy night Arthur Leander, a famous actor, has a heart attack onstage during a production of King Lear. Jeevan Chaudhary, a paparazzo-turned-EMT, is in the audience and leaps to his aid. A child actress named Kirsten Raymonde watches in horror as Jeevan performs CPR, pumping Arthur’s chest as the curtain drops, but Arthur is dead. That same night, as Jeevan walks home from the theater, a terrible flu begins to spread. Hospitals are flooded and Jeevan and his brother barricade themselves inside an apartment, watching out the window as cars clog the highways, gunshots ring out, and life disintegrates around them.

Fifteen years later, Kirsten is an actress with the Traveling Symphony. Together, this small troupe moves between the settlements of an altered world, performing Shakespeare and music for scattered communities of survivors. Written on their caravan, and tattooed on Kirsten’s arm is a line from Star Trek: “Because survival is insufficient.” But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who digs graves for anyone who dares to leave.

Spanning decades, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, this suspenseful, elegiac novel is rife with beauty. As Arthur falls in and out of love, as Jeevan watches the newscasters say their final good-byes, and as Kirsten finds herself caught in the crosshairs of the prophet, we see the strange twists of fate that connect them all. A novel of art, memory, and ambition, Station Eleven tells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it. –

This novel has received much acclaim, but I’m always skeptical when so many people rave about a book.  I’ve probably read more post apocalyptic novels than the average person, some good, some not so much, but when I learned this author would be speaking at my local library, I took a chance and bought the book.  And it was so worth it.

This was a different take on the post apocalyptic world and I appreciated the fresh perspective.  The story moved seamlessly between different POVs and past and present and the contrast between those two worlds made me realize how much we take for granted in our every day lives.  Parts of this novel were alternately heart-breaking, humorous, haunting, and inspiring and I enjoyed learning how some of the characters shared connections – some of which they were aware and some not.

Part of the last half of this novel seemed to drift off the path slightly and I skimmed through several pages, but the story found its way again soon after that.

An extremely well-written book by one of the most eloquent speakers I’ve come across.