September 12, 2019

Before and After by Judy Christie and Lisa Wingate - Review


Book details
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Ballantine Books (October 22, 2019)
ISBN-13: 978-0593130148

Book description
The incredible, poignant true stories of victims of a notorious adoption scandal--some of whom learned the truth from Lisa Wingate's bestselling novel Before We Were Yours and were reunited with birth family members as a result of its wide reach

From the 1920s to 1950, Georgia Tann ran a black-market baby business at the Tennessee Children's Home Society in Memphis. She offered up more than 5,000 orphans tailored to the wish lists of eager parents--hiding the fact that many weren't orphans at all, but stolen sons and daughters of poor families, desperate single mothers, and women told in maternity wards that their babies had died.

The publication of Lisa Wingate's novel Before We Were Yours brought new awareness of Tann's lucrative career in child trafficking. Adoptees who knew little about their pasts gained insight into the startling facts behind their family histories. Encouraged by their contact with Wingate and award-winning journalist Judy Christie, who documented the stories of fifteen adoptees in this book, many determined Tann survivors set out to trace their roots and find their birth families.

Before and After includes moving and sometimes shocking accounts of the ways in which adoptees were separated from their first families. Often raised as only children, many have joyfully reunited with siblings in the final decades of their lives. In Before and After, Wingate and Christie tell of first meetings that are all the sweeter and more intense for time missed and of families from very different social backgrounds reaching out to embrace better-late-than-never brothers, sisters, and cousins. In a poignant culmination of art meeting life, long-silent victims of the tragically corrupt system return to Memphis with Wingate and Christie to reclaim their stories at a Tennessee Children's Home Society reunion . . . with extraordinary results.

Meet the authors - Judy Christie and Lisa Wingate
Judy Christie is an award-winning journalist and the author of eighteen books of both fiction and nonfiction. A former editor at daily newspapers in Tennessee, Louisiana, Florida, and Indiana, she holds a master’s degree in literature from Louisiana State University in Shreveport. She and her husband live in rural Colorado.

Lisa Wingate is a former journalist, an inspirational speaker, and the author of numerous novels, including the New York Times bestseller Before We Were Yours and the national bestseller Tending Roses. She is a two-time ACFW Carol Award winner, a Christy Award nominee, an Oklahoma Book Award finalist, and a Southern Book Prize winner. She lives with her husband in North Texas.


My thoughts
I just finished Before and After during my lunch today. I loved this book I think even more than Before We Were Yours. I just can't seem to say enough about this book or to really put into words how it made me feel but I will try.  It was so personal and I really felt for each person's story you shared. I can't imagine going through what those children and some of the parents went through. I highly recommend you read Before We Were Yours and then reading this book. There is something about this book and these stories that just stay with you even when ou are not reading it. You will not be able to put either book down.

Dying for Devil's Food by Jenn McKinlay - Review


Book details
Series: Cupcake Bakery Mystery (Book 11)
Mass Market Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Berkley (May 7, 2019)
ISBN-13: 978-0451492630

Book description
It's going to take every recipe the Fairy Tale Cupcake crew has to whip up a quick defense for Mel Cooper when her high school reunion goes from a cakewalk to a car wreck...

Melanie Cooper has zero interest in catering her fifteen-year high school reunion, but Angie insists it's only right that they bask in the success of Fairy Tale Cupcakes--and Mel's engagement to the delicious Joe DeLaura is the cherry on top!

Everything is going better than expected until Cassidy Havers, resident mean girl and Mel's high school nemesis, picks a fight. No longer willing to put up with Cassidy's bullying, Mel is ready to tell the former homecoming queen to shut her piehole and call it a night. But as Mel and Joe prepare to depart, Cassidy is found dead in the girl's bathroom, next to a note written in lipstick that points right to Mel -- making her the prime suspect.

Now, Mel must follow the clues to find the real killer and keep her reputation from being frosted for a crime she didn't commit.

Meet the author - Jenn McKinlay
Jenn McKinlay, the New York Times bestselling author of the Cupcake Bakery Mysteries (including Wedding Cake Crumble, Caramel Crush, and Vanilla Beaned), has baked and frosted cupcakes into the shapes of cats, mice, and outer-space aliens, to name just a few. Writing a mystery series based on one of her favorite food groups (dessert) is as enjoyable as licking the beaters, and she can't wait to whip up the next one. She is also the author of the Hat Shop Mysteries, the Library Lover's Mysteries, the Bluff Point contemporary romances, and the Happily Ever After contemporary romances. She lives in Scottsdale, Arizona, with her family.

My thoughts
Jenn has hit it out of the park again with another addition to one of my favorite cozy mystery series. I had to agree with Mel I would not have wanted to go to her class reunion either, but she can't tell her best friend no. So she goes and the mean girl is still a mean girl. I have to say I felt a little like karma got her when she ended up murdered. I was glad that Mel's friends rallied around her when she was accused of murder and everyone had a little part in helping solve this case. I did like that there was an unexpected new friend to Mel towards the end. I don't want to say more and ruin it. I love this series.

Wedding Cake Crumble by Jenn McKinlay - Review


Book details
Series: Cupcake Bakery Mystery (Book 10)
Mass Market Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Berkley (April 3, 2018)
ISBN-13: 978-0399583834

Book description
Wedding bells and death knells are ringing for the Fairy Tale Cupcake crew in this latest mystery in the New York Times bestselling series

With Angie and Tate's wedding just around the corner, it's a happy--but very busy--time for Mel. Not only is she doing double duty as both the maid of honor and best man, but her bakery, Fairy Tale Cupcakes, has just been hired to provide cupcakes for a famous author's book signing. But when the author turns up dead, it's just the start of a murder mystery that Mel must solve.

Meet the author - Jenn McKinlay
Former librarian Jenn McKinlay is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Bluff Point Romances, including Every Dog Has His Day, Barking Up the Wrong Tree, and About a Dog, as well as the Library Lover’s Mysteries, the Cupcake Bakery Mysteries, and the Hat Shop Mysteries. Jenn lives in sunny Arizona in a house that is overrun with kids, pets, and her husband’s guitars.

My thoughts
Jenn is one of my favorite cozy mystery authors and I love when I get a chance to continue on in this series. Finally Tate and Angie are getting married but multiple murders may put a damper on things. I felt bad for Angie and Tate as a good friend as well as other wedding vendors are turning up dead. I would not been as calm as Angie. I love how all the characters play off of each other. I love how the brothers stepped up and became protective of not just Angie but the whole bakery.

Winning is Not Enough by Jackie Stewart - Review


Book details
Paperback, 576 pages
Published April 16th 2009 by Headline (first published October 18th 2007)
ISBN 9780755315390

Book description
Sir Jackie Stewart is one of the most highly regarded names in global sport - winner of three F1 World Championships, 27 Grands Prix and ranked in the top five drivers of all time. On retiring from the circuit, he went on to build an equally impressive international business career.

In the 1960s and into the 70s, with his black cap, sideburns and aviator shades Jackie Stewart was an unmistakable icon in a glorious era of style, glamour and speed. On the track, his story is one of drama, excitement, tragedy, controversy, celebrity, danger and massive success.

Beyond the sport his life is a compelling tale of battling against the odds and achieving world-wide recognition as an outstanding sportsman, a role model and a highly accomplished and respected businessman.

My thoughts
I thought this was a very interesting biography.  I have a lot of respect for Sir Jackie.  I learned a lot about Formula One racing and him by reading this.  The only issue was the last couple of chapters could have been condensed a little but other than that I loved the book. 

August 8, 2019

Desolate Shores by Daryl Wood Gerber - Review

I received this book free from the author.  All opinions are my own

Book details
Series: An Aspen Adams Novel of Suspense (Book 1)
Paperback: 266 pages
Publisher: Beyond the Page Publishing (August 13, 2019)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1950461203
ISBN-13: 978-1950461202

Book description
A chilling murder, an elusive killer, and a family mystery that hits too close to home . . .

After finding the body of her best friend on the icy shores of Lake Tahoe, Aspen Adams refuses to stand by and watch as the local sheriff’s department begins their search for the killer. Launching her own investigation, she’s soon confronted with a growing array of secrets—both about the friend she thought she knew and about many of the people in her own life. As fragmentary clues and escalating dangers threaten to derail her, she must also cope with the disturbing behavior of her deadbeat sister and troubled teenage niece.

Determined to overcome her personal demons over past failures, Aspen is driven to unravel the conflicting evidence and a shifting range of suspects to bring the killer to justice, even as a family trauma unfolds that threatens to upend her life. And as her investigation inexorably leads her to a shocking discovery and taunts her with a solution that is just out of reach, Aspen realizes that the killer wants nothing more than to see her and her niece dead . .

Meet the author - Daryl Wood Gerber
Agatha Award-winning author Daryl Wood Gerber writes the bestselling COOKBOOK NOOK MYSTERIES and FRENCH BISTRO MYSTERIES. As Avery Aames, she pens the bestselling CHEESE SHOP MYSTERIES. In addition, she writes stand-alone suspense thrillers, including GIRL ON THE RUN and DAY OF SECRETS and DESOLATE SHORES. Fun tidbits: Daryl jumped out of a perfectly good airplane, and she hitchhiked around Ireland by herself. Also, as an actress, Daryl appeared in “Murder, She Wrote.” She loves to read, cook, and golf. She has a frisky Goldendoodle named Sparky who keeps her in line!

My thoughts
I really enjoyed this book. It was a mystery that just pulled me right in. The characters were well done and I liked that we got a bit of a background on most of them.  I am sure as the series goes we may learn a little more about the main characters.  I liked how the police force kind of let Aspen do her own digging to look for clues.  The way Aspen and Nick played off of each other was a nice start to a continuing story line.  I hope things get better with her niece Candace and sister Rosie.  The clues the author gave helped me form my own opinions of what was going on. One of my theories was right and one was wrong.  I am looking forward to more in this series. 

Book Love by Debbie Tung - Review


Book details
Hardcover: 144 pages
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing (January 1, 2019)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1449494285
ISBN-13: 978-1449494285

Book description
Bookworms rejoice! These charming comics capture exactly what it feels like to be head-over-heels for hardcovers. And paperbacks! And ebooks! And bookstores! And libraries!

Book Love is a gift book of comics tailor-made for tea-sipping, spine-sniffing, book-hoarding bibliophiles. Debbie Tung’s comics are humorous and instantly recognizable—making readers laugh while precisely conveying the thoughts and habits of book nerds. Book Love is the ideal gift to let a book lover know they’re understood and appreciated.

Meet the author - Debbie Tung
Deborah “Debbie” Tung is a cartoonist and illustrator based in Birmingham, England. She draws about everyday life and her love for books and tea at “Where’s My Bubble?” wheresmybubble.tumblr.com. Debbie is also the author of QUIET GIRL IN A NOISY WORLD, which has been listed as a recommended read in O, The Oprah Magazine. Her comics have been shared widely by Huffington Post, 9Gag, Bored Panda, and Goodreads, among others.

Her upcoming book, BOOK LOVE, will be published in January 2019 by Andrews McMeel Publishing.

Follow Debbie on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr @WheresMyBubble.
www.debbietung.com

My thoughts
I loved this book. The girl in it is so much like me. I do many of the same things. I found myself smiling while reading this book which is something I do not normally do.  I will reading this again and again when I need a pick me up. 

August 7, 2019

Relative Fortunes by Marlowe Benn - Spotlight


Book details
Lake Union Publishing
August 1st, 2019

Book description
Set at the height of the Roaring Twenties and the early women’s movement, RELATIVE FORTUNES  is a thrilling historical mystery from Marlowe Benn.

At its center is 24-year-old Julia Kydd, a voracious young bibliophile who cares little for politics—until the death of a high-profile suffragette pulls her into the heart of the fight for equality. As the mystery unfolds, each fresh clue leads Julia deeper into a tangled web of familial strife, clandestine love, and political backlash.

For fans of Rhys Bowen and Jacqueline Winspear, RELATIVE FORTUNES is a riveting historical mystery that feels as relevant as ever, offering a window in the social upheavals of life in 1920s New York...and the price of women’s independence.

Meet the author - Marlowe Benn
Marlowe Benn (also known as Megan Benton) was nominated for UCLA’s 2013 Kirkwood Prize for fiction. Her poetry has appeared in the Chicago Review and other outlets, and her history of American book culture between the wars, Beauty and the Book, was published by Yale University Press in 2000.

A Conversation with Author Marlowe Benn

Q: Why did you choose the 1920s and the suffrage movement as the backdrop for this mystery? What about the time period inspired you?

A: I grew up to the jaunty sound of my dad’s old ‘20s records, and the era has always fascinated me. In many ways it was a more radical time (especially for women) than many realize. Beyond finally achieving the right to vote, women enjoyed at least the possibility of heady new social freedoms: emerging access to birth control, fashions that defied old notions of modesty, and the opportunity to live as independent, self-sufficient adults. Not everyone embraced these new freedoms, or even condoned them, but the old restrictive conventions had been challenged, if not breached.

Q: In the afterword, you nod to the ways you borrowed from actual history to weave together this story. Can you tell us a bit about your research?

A: It was important to me to anchor the novel accurately in its time and place. I spent a lot of time with magazines and novels of the era, absorbing details of everyday life (what one took for a headache, the price of a coffee, what books people were talking about) and how people talked. Learning the slang was great fun!

I also tried to blend real characters and details with fictional ones. I spent months in university archives studying the craze in the 1920s for beautiful handcrafted books of the sort Julia publishes. Her Capriole Press is of course fictional, but most of the printers, publishers, and collectors she meets are real people. Similarly, the Grolier Club was in fact the nation’s premier private club for bibliophiles, and as Julia complains, it was not only exclusive but was also firmly men-only until the 1970s.

Q: Wealth and status are not always symbols of goodness in Relative Fortunes. Why did you choose to expose the dysfunctions of the rich and powerful? What did you want to say about wealth and its relationship to virtue?

A: While there’s no shortage of aphorisms equating worldly riches with moral poverty, wealth per se isn’t inherently good or evil. The problem arises because the rich often view their wealth as natural and benign—invisible—while the poor see and feel sharply the injustices and exploitation that wealth usually relies on and perpetuates. That blindness can skew a rich person’s way of seeing the world: at first, they simply don’t notice others’ suffering, which of course translates into indifference. Julia truly understands the privileges of wealth only when she faces losing them. Of course, eventually the rich do notice—hence the centuries of rationales to justify and reinforce their class advantages. I hope that Julia’s reversal of fortunes, which opens her eyes to these issues, also helps readers see them better.

Q: For much of the book, there’s a sort of cold war going on between men and women. But there are some characters who cross the picket lines—literal and figurative—to advocate for women’s rights. Why was it important to you to show different kinds of men working as advocates for and as obstacles to women’s equality?

A: All the men and women in the book illustrate the gender realities of the time. It’s important to separate the overarching and pervasive nature of patriarchy from the attitudes of individual men—who can be cruel and exploitive toward women, or fair-minded and respectful. The system is one thing; individual behavior is another. For example, both Philip and Chester depict how society defaulted financial authority to men, but they use their privileges in different ways. How individuals embrace or challenge society’s larger conventions is what gives them dimension and interest as characters.

Q: Not all of the women in this novel agree with each other on issues like abortion, suffrage, and financial independence. Did you try to reflect a generational divide between younger feminists and older feminists, or married versus unmarried women? Why was this something you wanted to explore in this book?

A: I wanted to portray a spectrum of values among the women in the book without correlating attitudes or beliefs with any particular age, education, social class, marital status, and so on. The youngest woman in the book, Julia, for example, ultimately has more in common with the values of the oldest woman, Aunt Lillian, than with those of Vivian Winterjay, who is much closer to her in age and social class. I think it’s important to resist stereotyping according to such categories because then we stop listening to and respecting each other, and a dangerous polarization can set in. Our present-day world is a cautionary tale of the damage that can result.

Q: Julia is a character brimming with professional ambition and a desire for independence. This aspect sets the book apart from others set in the same time. What inspired you to veer away from the more traditional narrative of a marriage plot, where a woman is desperately seeking a husband?

A: Julia’s central problem is economic, which she quickly realizes is a far more powerful factor in marriage than romance. Even today, girls can’t escape the pervasive fairytale that tells her pure and complete happiness comes from attracting, and being chosen by, a man who will thereafter take care of her. Perhaps because of what Julia’s witnessed, particularly in her parents’ marriage, she’s wary of that myth. Fortunately, she lives in one of the first modern eras when a woman could assert her right to enjoy love and relationships outside of marriage—as long as she had the means to support herself. Less fortunately, women’s opportunities to earn a sufficient livelihood were not yet plentiful. Hence her choices—like those of so many other women throughout history—are painfully few.

Q: What inspired you to write Relative Fortunes?

A: As a child I was fascinated by the hugely popular mystery novels from the 1920s written by S. S. Van Dine (the pen name of Willard Huntington Wright). Wright’s urbane and sophisticated sleuth, Philo Vance, both intrigued and infuriated me. As an adult I began to imagine ways I’d like to “revise” him and his elegant world. By a happy quirk of luck, those old novels are now being reissued in new editions, so readers can consider for themselves how my Philip Vancill Kydd might have been transformed into Philo Vance by an ill-humored writer. Of course, it’s also true that my characters took on identities of their own quite beyond this original idea. At first Philip was more like Philo, but neither Julia nor I could bear spending much time with him! So Philip now shares mostly superficial and circumstantial features with Philo. I hope the differences can be credited to the derisive mind of my fictional version of Mr. Wright.

Q: What do you love most about writing historical fiction?

A: For years I happily wrote nothing but carefully researched and argued cultural history. Now with fiction I can begin where the archives end. It’s like turning old black-and-white photos into a full-color video. Research reveals the past; fiction puts it in motion. And once history comes to life, it’s clear that people then wrestled with troubles a lot like our own.

I love writing mysteries because they’re ultimately about justice, and what’s more complicated than guilt and innocence? I especially relish writing about crimes that pit the law against my characters’ moral code. In the end justice is often about power, and the struggle over who gets to decide what’s right or wrong makes for great stories in any genre. Historical mysteries are a great way into the life’s most meaty stuff.

Q: What authors do you most enjoy reading?

A: This list is a long one, and it’s always getting longer. Kate Atkinson is firmly at the top. Other authors who’ve rarely let me down are Alice Munro, Meg Wolitzer, Amor Towles, Siri Hustvedt, Jesmyn Ward, Ngaio Marsh, Josephine Tey, Penelope Fitzgerald, and Amanda Cross. On a different day, you might get a different list.

Q: Have you made any good literary “discoveries” lately?

A: Absolutely! Terrific books published in the past few years that deserve to be better known include Max Porter’s Grief is the Thing With Feathers, Graham Swift’s Mothering Sunday, Danielle Dutton’s Margaret the First, and Jess Kidd’s Himself. Older books unjustly overlooked, I think, include Josephine Tey’s Miss Pym Disposes, Muriel Sparks’s A Far Cry from Kensington, and Barbara Neely’s Blanche on the Lam. I could go on and on.

Q: Tell us about your writing process. When and where do you typically write, and how often?

A: I love routines, which means I lead a very boring writing life. I’m fortunate to have a study that overlooks Puget Sound and Mt. Rainier. Yes, I know! The view can be a distraction, but it also keeps me at my keyboard most days from morning until mid-afternoon, when my brain is tired and my muscles want their turn. Then I head outside to work in the garden or go for a walk, or I catch up with errands, email, and everything else that gets bumped to later because I’d rather be writing.

Q: What author would you most like to meet?

A: That’s easy—Kate Atkinson, though I’d probably just gush about how much I admire her prose and genre-be-damned imagination. If there’s an afterlife I’d seek out Carolyn Heilbrun, the trail-blazing feminist scholar. As Amanda Cross, she wrote #MeToo mysteries starting in the early ‘60s, back when misogyny and harassment were seriously risky to talk about, even with a pseudonym.

Q: We have to ask—what are you working on next? Anything that you can tease for readers who are looking forward to your next book?

A: I’m working hard on the next Julia Kydd novel, tentatively called The Passing of Miss Pruitt. It’s May 1925, and Julia is back in New York. Eager to launch her Capriole Press, she quickly makes friends in the publishing world—authors, editors, illustrators, publishers. Soon she’s caught up in murder and the theft of a new novel manuscript claiming to reveal explosive truths about the Harlem cabaret scene. She’s drawn into the exhilarating yet treacherous world beneath the Harlem Renaissance, where notions of race, sexuality, and power are slippery, and identities can be deceptively fluid.