• Book Reviews,  Writing

    Lake Season: a book review

    Lake essentials: Chacos sandals, a blanket, coffee & a good book

    𝑨 𝒍𝒐𝒔𝒕 𝒍𝒆𝒕𝒕𝒆𝒓, 𝒂 𝒏𝒆𝒘 𝒍𝒐𝒗𝒆, 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒐𝒍𝒅 𝒔𝒆𝒄𝒓𝒆𝒕𝒔 𝒃𝒆𝒄𝒌𝒐𝒏 𝒕𝒉𝒊𝒔 𝒔𝒖𝒎𝒎𝒆𝒓 𝒂𝒕 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝑩𝒍𝒖𝒆𝒃𝒆𝒍𝒍 𝑰𝒏𝒏.

    Synopsis: In a new series by Denise Hunter, when their parents die in a tragic accident, Molly Bennett and her siblings pull together to fulfill their parents’ dream: turning their historic Bluebell, North Carolina home back into an inn. The situation would just be temporary—three years at the most—then they would sell the inn and Molly could get back to chasing her own dreams.

    Adam Bradford (aka bestselling author Nathanial Grey) is a reclusive novelist with a bad case of writer’s block. Desperate for inspiration as his deadline approaches, he travels to the setting of his next book, a North Carolina lake town. There he immediately meets his muse, a young innkeeper who fancies herself in love with his alter ego.

    Molly and Adam strike up an instant friendship. When Molly finds a long-lost letter in the walls of her inn she embarks on a mission with Adam to find the star-crossed lovers and bring them the closure they deserve. But Adam has secrets of his own. Past and present collide as truths are revealed, and Molly and Adam will have to decide if love is worth trusting.

    Review: I paused for a moment before accepting this review opportunity. I am typically not a big romance reader but there were enough other moving parts to intrigue me. By the second chapter, I was hooked because it’s not your typical romance.

    Complex grief – when there is more than one loss at the same time – is incredibly difficult in real life and the author was able to capture and write about it perfectly. I appreciated that the siblings were actually siblings – they had issues, differences in grief, and different lives yet they still managed to work together in a realistic way.

    This is the second book this year that I have read where an old house a previous post office. I don’t know why but I love this premise. Maybe because mail is falling by the wayside in favor of emails or perhaps it’s because of the art of letter writing is becoming a thing of the past.

    Without giving any spoilers, I liked the relationship between Molly and Adam much better than I expected to. Add that to the fact that Adam is a writer and you had me hooked – I enjoy a good plot involving writers written by a writer.

    Last but not least, the characters were surprisingly well-developed for the first book in a series – another typical drawback for me with a series.

    This was a pleasant book to read on a rainy afternoon and I’m looking forward to loaning out this book while waiting for the second book. If you’ve read my reviews in the past, a big sticking point for me is who I can recommend a book to and for this book – the answer is anyone who enjoys romance with complex characters and multiple storylines that don’t always revolve around romance.

    Thanks to TLC Book Tours and TNZ Fiction for a free copy of this book in exchange for promotion and my honest review.

    Purchase Links

    Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

    Connect with Denise

    Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

  • Book Reviews

    Body Leaping Backward: Memoir of A Delinquent Girlhood

    • Hardcover: 240 pages
    • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (July 16, 2019)

    The “mesmerizing . . . daring and important”* story of a risk-taking girlhood spent in a working-class prison town —Andre Dubus III

    Synopsis: For Maureen Stanton’s proper Catholic mother, the town’s maximum security prison was a way to keep her seven children in line (“If you don’t behave, I’ll put you in Walpole Prison!”).  But as the 1970s brought upheaval to America, and the lines between good and bad blurred, Stanton’s once-solid family lost its way. A promising young girl with a smart mouth, Stanton turns watchful as her parents separate and her now-single mother descends into shoplifting, then grand larceny, anything to keep a toehold in the middle class for her children. No longer scared by threats of Walpole Prison, Stanton too slips into delinquency—vandalism, breaking and entering—all while nearly erasing herself through addiction to angel dust, a homemade form of PCP that swept through her hometown in the wake of Nixon’s “total war” on drugs.

    Body Leaping Backward is the haunting and beautifully drawn story of a self-destructive girlhood, of a town and a nation overwhelmed in a time of change, and of how life-altering a glimpse of a world bigger than the one we come from can be.

    Review: For a child of the 80’s, married to a child of the late 60’s-70’s, this was a raw and emotional read. If you didn’t live through this time period, you tend to get a Forest Gump, hippie, free love idea of this time period when in reality teens growing up in the 1970’s faced tremendous amounts of upheaval, drugs, absentee parents due to their own drug and alcohol use and/or divorce and remarriage, etc.

    It’s quite honestly a miracle that a lot of them are here today and are functioning and successful members of society – like Maureen Stanton, the author of this book.

    Her writing style is unique and while her memories are interspersed throughout the book, I never got an angsty teen vibe. This book read as a mature reflection of her child and teen years and is not one I will soon forget.

    I also enjoyed the historical backdrop of Nixon’s presidency and war on drugs. I feel this is a time period many would like to forget and that I don’t read much about it in the books I read today.

    Body Leaping Backward was a quick read and memorable – especially for those of us who know and love people who grew up during this time. It would make a great gift for your adult child of the 70’s and one I would wholeheartedly recommend to anyone wanting to better understand this time period in our country’s history – I know it gave me a lot of insight into the world my husband grew in.

    Thanks to TLC Book Tours, the publisher, and the author for a copy of this book in exchange for my review and promotion. All thoughts are my own.

  • Book Reviews,  Writing

    Book Review: Gold Digger – The Remarkable Baby Doe Tabor

    ✂️✂️✂️✂️/5

    I am thrilled to be featuring this book in partnership with @tlcbooktours 

    𝐅𝐮𝐧 𝐟𝐚𝐜𝐭: there used to be a fancy restaurant named “Baby Doe’s” that looked like a real mine, perched above downtown Dallas. I grew up fascinated by Baby Doe so I thoroughly enjoyed this work of historical fiction featuring the gritty heroine, Lizzy “Baby Doe” Tabor.

    𝐒𝐲𝐧𝐨𝐩𝐬𝐢𝐬: 1878, Colorado. When Lizzie Doe’s family loses everything in a fire, the twenty-year-old is forced to marry and go west to prospect a gold mine in Colorado, in hopes of sending money home to her parents. Miners, unaccustomed to such delicate beauty, nickname her Baby Doe, after a newborn deer.

    But Baby Doe proves herself tougher than they imagined when she finds herself abandoned, pregnant and running the mine alone. Her pluck gains the admiration of Silver King Horace Tabor, married and twice her age, and running for U.S. Senator. In Tabor, Baby Doe finds devotion and true passion. When scandal and economic ruin threatens Tabor’s life, Baby Doe must make a painful choice. Baby Doe Tabor was a real-life, deeply complex heroine, rising and falling and rising again with beguiling grit and stubborn spirit.

    𝐑𝐞𝐯𝐢𝐞𝐰: Historical fiction can be be hit or miss for me because some of the same stories are told over and over. That’s not the case with 𝑮𝒐𝒍𝒅 𝑫𝒊𝒈𝒈𝒆𝒓. Perfectly capturing the grit of the mining west and the larger than life characters, I was drawn in immediately and finished the book in an afternoon.

    A strong female lead character written in a way that highlights both her imperfections as well as her strengths – without making the reader dislike the character isn’t easy to do. Rebecca Rosenberg was able to accomplish this and I finished the book liking Baby Doe even more than I did when I started reading.

    The appearance of other historical figures like Doc Holliday made the book even more enjoyable and lent credibility to the story.

    The writing was excellent and the characters were well developed and realistic. Historical novels about the west in the late 1800’s can be tough to read at times because life was hard and circumstances were often bleak. This book was no exception but the strong characters balanced out the desperation often felt in plots from this time period.

    My one drawback was that I wished the story was drawn out a bit more. This novel was fast-paced for historical fiction but this was more of a personal preference than anything else.

    I’m looking forward to reading more from this author. Thank you to TLC Book Tours, the author Rebecca Rosenberg, and Lion Heart Publishing for a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion and feature.

    To enter to win this fantastic Gold Digger giveaway please visit this link. Good luck!

  • Feminism,  parenting,  Writing

    Wednesday Words: Gender and Fear

    Are books written by female authors really that different from books written by male authors?

    I recently read The Turn of The Key by Ruth Ware and The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell. I am typically not a big thriller reader but I enjoyed both immensely. I connected with the characters and could feel what they were feeling – the sign of any good book.

    What is it like to experience fear as a female? As a male?

    I am currently reading Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chbosky and entering stage left – quite literally – is real life.

    Hold that thought…

    While I am still really enjoying Imaginary Friend, there is a stark contrast in how the female writers convey fear in their stories and how male writers convey fear in equally terrifying situations.

    For me, the female authors nail it. The fear is palpable. My heart races. I have to put the book down.

    The male writers, while the scenarios are terrifying, feel more procedural with pieces of emotion that never quite fit together. With Stephen King being the one exception, thrillers/horror written by men don’t get to me the same way as that same genre written by a female author.

    But please hear me, I think there are great thriller writers of both genders – there’s just something different.

    Back to real life, stage left…

    There have been multiple incidents during my daughter’s currently running musical. These haven’t been small issues and everything came to a head Saturday night and the police were called.

    Because we pressed charges I cannot get into specifics. The officers were professional and understanding and did everything possible to make sure we felt safe.

    But on Monday, I found myself struggling to explain the fear in the situation to a male administrator. I knew I was using the right words, the correct terminology, the right description of emotions and it was still a struggle – bordering on unintentional blame shifting.

    Later in the day, I spoke with a female and using the same verbiage and facts, she understood the situation without questions or issues. The male administrator did follow through on everything he promised he would and he was very professional – it was just different. And that difference even carried over into my feelings about the situation vs. my husband’s feelings – that’s just how this goes.

    That evening my reading world and my real life collided. The differences between genders that day and the differences in the writing by the authors were the same and it was an eye-opener.

    How, as a society, have we landed on two different languages for one of the most basic of human emotions?

    Everyone gets scared. Everyone faces situations that can be frightening and threatening. But when it comes to the basic understanding, there is a huge gap.

    I understand some of the factors going into the fear that men express but I’m not going to speak for them here. But what I will say is that beyond men not being free to express fear, there is a gap in experiences.

    Like it or not, men are most likely larger, stronger, and quicker. There is still a gender pay gap leaving them with more resources… I could go on but I won’t. The fear that females experience, just from a physical perspective, is unique. From an emotional standpoint, the intimidation women feel is also different.

    Having struggled so much in real life that day, it magnified the differences while reading. Oddly enough I never noticed, before this week, the stark contrast in writing.

    Perhaps that is because I don’t read a lot of thrillers but I suspect it has more to do with the shift in lenses I view the world through because of the events of that day.

    So in writing, is it possible to close that gap? And of course, closing it in real life would be even better.

    Have you noticed these differences in your own reading?

    And last but not least, I cannot imagine going through life not being well-read. This is only one of countless situations were works of fiction opened my eyes to human experiences in real life and caused me to think and question my own perspective.

     

  • ARC's,  Book Reviews,  Recommendations,  Writing

    Zapata: a book review

    Synopsis: When engineer Avery McAndrews is offered a last-minute assignment to the rough and tumble border town of Zapata, Texas, she doesn’t think twice. Used to pushing past stereotypes, she’s sure this project will earn the long-awaited promotion. 

    Instead, she’s thrown in the crossfire between warring drug cartels and soon discovers that her captor, Javier Ramos, is more than just a power hungry drug lord. He’s crazy. 

    As lead attorney for the cartel, it’s Alejandro DeLeon’s job to manage Javier. But this time, Javier’s cruelty reaches epic proportions, and Alejandro finds himself wanting to risk everything to save Avery.

    Running for their lives with Mexico’s underworld at their heels, Avery and Alejandro discover unintended and intensifying emotions, feelings neither sought and neither seem prepared to control… 

    Review: Drug cartels, drug lords, a kidnapping, and a romance – that’s I where expected the story to get weird. But it never did. Avery is tough and there was never an unlikely scene created by her making a silly decision just so he could rescue her.

    Living in Texas, I was intrigued by this book but also curious about how accurate it would be. The short answer: the author did her research and nailed it. The setting and characters were believable, as well as their relationships.

    This was a quick and immersive read. I enjoyed watching Alejandro and Avery’s relationship unfold in a realistic manner.

    I am a bit of an El Chapo, Pablo Escobar, Narcos, etc junkie and this book filled the paperback void I have had. There was plenty of action but none of it was too disturbing or over the top – just real.

    I asked on Instagram if you’ve ever wanted to make up a new genre. This book is one of those and I would classify it as “realistic romance.” If that’s already a thing, please let me know because I would love to read more books where kisses are not shared while bullets are flying and bombs are exploding.

    The one thing I wished more for was more character development. But apparently this book is the first in a series (yay!) so I understand why an author would hold back and some details.

    Thank you to TLC Book Tours for a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review and promotion!

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