• Historical Fiction
  • General Fiction and Women Writers
  • YA Fiction
  • Suspense and Thrillers
  • Memoirs and Non Fiction
  • Classics and Mashups

Thursday, July 24, 2014

"What Is Visible" by Kimberly Elkins ~ Fascinating...


A vividly original literary novel based on the astounding true-life story of Laura Bridgman, the first deaf and blind person who learned language and blazed a trail for Helen Keller.

 At age two, Laura Bridgman lost four of her five senses to scarlet fever. At age seven, she was taken to Perkins Institute in Boston to determine if a child so terribly afflicted could be taught. At age twelve, Charles Dickens declared her his prime interest for visiting America. And by age twenty, she was considered the nineteenth century's second most famous woman, having mastered language and charmed the world with her brilliance.

 Not since The Diving Bell and the Butterfly has a book proven so profoundly moving in illuminating the challenges of living in a completely unique inner world.

With Laura-by turns mischievous, temperamental, and witty-as the book's primary narrator, the fascinating kaleidoscope of characters includes the founder of Perkins Institute, Samuel Gridley Howe, with whom she was in love; his wife, the glamorous Julia Ward Howe, a renowned writer, abolitionist, and suffragist; Laura's beloved teacher, who married a missionary and died insane from syphilis; an Irish orphan with whom Laura had a tumultuous affair; Annie Sullivan; and even the young Helen Keller.

Deeply enthralling and rich with lyricism, WHAT IS VISIBLE chronicles the breathtaking experiment that Laura Bridgman embodied and its links to the great social, philosophical, theological, and educational changes rocking Victorian America. Given Laura's worldwide fame in the nineteenth century, it is astonishing that she has been virtually erased from history. WHAT IS VISIBLE will set the record straight.


Published by Grand Central/Hachette Publishing
Pages:  320
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Author:  Kimberly Elkins
Website:  http://www.kimberlyelkins.com


Kimberly Elkins was a finalist for the National Magazine Award and has published fiction and nonfiction in the Atlantic, Best New American Voices, Iowa Review, Chicago Tribune, Glamour, and Village Voice, among others. WHAT IS VISIBLE is her first novel.


When I decided to preview this novel on Netgalley with a "taste" of the book, I never thought I would be caught up, leading me to purchase it just so I could finish the story.  This is a fascinating account of Laura Bridgman, the very first known woman who was both deaf and blind, and who learned to communicate.  It is a book I imagine will mesmerize everyone.  I was held rapt, absolutely.

While "What Is Visible" is a historical novel, Kimberly Elkins writes with such grace and delicacy that it flies off the pages as a real account.  Absorbing and disturbing at times, it's a book I couldn't put down and raced through the night hoping to finish.  It took me longer than I had eyes to keep open!

Each of the characters she describes are vivid in their every day lives in her novel.  I was completely engaged with Laura and the Doctor.  I was drawn in like a voyeur, able to see what a magnificent and complicated person Laura was, and how she loved the Doctor who sculpted her life.  I think the underlying study of what her inner life might have been like was most compelling.  This is a novel with teeth, but also with a strong heart at the center.  Laura seems to reach for us from its pages and she touches us!

I can't say enough about the genius of Ms Elkins's writing.  The novel is beautifully crafted.  The characters engender caring and tender feelings.  The story is moving.  You can tell her heart is in this book.

This is a must read!

5 stars                                          Deborah/TheBookishDame

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Summer Reading~New Books


This is my newest collection of books I'm planning on reading in August or before.  I'm including below a couple of pictures of more which I don't yet have in earnest, but which I've ordered.  Just about everything has a blue tinge!

My head is doing better and it's getting easier to read again, so I'm excited about that.  I'm hoping as the months increase, my eyes will get better and I'll be back to my reading speed again.  I'm coming out of my slump, as well.  It feels great!

So let me give you some summaries of the above books:

In 1860, Alexander Ferguson, a newly ordained vicar and amateur evolutionary scientist, takes up his new parish, a poor, isolated patch on the remote Scottish island of Harris. He hopes to uncover the truth behind the legend of the selkies—mermaids or seal people who have been sighted off the north of Scotland for centuries. He has a more personal motive, too; family legend states that Alexander is descended from seal men. As he struggles to be the good pastor he was called to be, his maid Moira faces the terrible eviction of her family by Lord Marstone, whose family owns the island. Their time on the island will irrevocably change the course of both their lives, but the white house on the edge of the dunes keeps its silence long after they are gone.

It will be more than a century before the Sea House reluctantly gives up its secrets. Ruth and Michael buy the grand but dilapidated building and begin to turn it into a home for the family they hope to have. Their dreams are marred by a shocking discovery. The tiny bones of a baby are buried beneath the house; the child's fragile legs are fused together—a mermaid child. Who buried the bones? And why? To heal her own demons, Ruth feels she must discover the secrets of her new home—but the answers to her questions may lie in her own traumatic past. The Sea House by Elisabeth Gifford is a sweeping tale of hope and redemption and a study of how we heal ourselves by discovering our histories.

*Note:  I'm a sucker for books about the Scottish coasts and its legends.  This one about mermaids and selkies should be good.

A heartbreaking, wildly inventive, and moving novel narrated by a teenage runaway, from the bestselling author of Midwives and The Sandcastle Girls.

Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands is the story of Emily Shepard, a homeless teen living in an igloo made of ice and trash bags filled with frozen leaves. Half a year earlier, a nuclear plant in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom had experienced a cataclysmic meltdown, and both of Emily's parents were killed. Devastatingly, her father was in charge of the plant, and the meltdown may have been his fault. Was he drunk when it happened? Thousands of people are forced to flee their homes in the Kingdom; rivers and forests are destroyed; and Emily feels certain that as the daughter of the most hated man in America, she is in danger. So instead of following the social workers and her classmates after the meltdown, Emily takes off on her own for Burlington, where she survives by stealing, sleeping on the floor of a drug dealer's apartment, and inventing a new identity for herself — an identity inspired by her favorite poet, Emily Dickinson. When Emily befriends a young homeless boy named Cameron, she protects him with a ferocity she didn't know she had. But she still can't outrun her past, can't escape her grief, can't hide forever—and so she comes up with the only plan that she can. 

A story of loss, adventure, and the search for friendship in the wake of catastrophe, Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands is one of Chris Bohjalian’s finest novels to date—breathtaking, wise, and utterly transporting.

*Note:  I've started this one.  Bohjalian is a great author, so what's not to love.  I'm excited to get further into this post apocalyptic novel.  Something new for him...

Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet . . . So begins the story of this exquisite debut novel, about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee; their middle daughter, a girl who inherited her mother’s bright blue eyes and her father’s jet-black hair. Her parents are determined that Lydia will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue—in Marilyn’s case that her daughter become a doctor rather than a homemaker, in James’s case that Lydia be popular at school, a girl with a busy social life and the center of every party.
When Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together tumbles into chaos, forcing them to confront the long-kept secrets that have been slowly pulling them apart. James, consumed by guilt, sets out on a reckless path that may destroy his marriage. Marilyn, devastated and vengeful, is determined to find a responsible party, no matter what the cost. Lydia’s older brother, Nathan, is certain that the neighborhood bad boy Jack is somehow involved. But it’s the youngest of the family—Hannah—who observes far more than anyone realizes and who may be the only one who knows the truth about what happened.

A profoundly moving story of family, history, and the meaning of home, Everything I Never Told You is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait, exploring the divisions between cultures and the rifts within a family, and uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another.

*Note:  I did a preview read of this one, as well.  Great writing.  This one was a recommended read for me.  It captured my interest immediately.  I'm interested in getting to it very soon.

From the author of Queen’s Gambit, which People magazine called, “A must-read for Philippa Gregory fans,” a gripping historical novel about two sisters who tread as dangerously close to the crown as their tragic sister, Lady Jane Grey, executed after just nine days on the throne.
Early in Mary Tudor’s turbulent reign, Lady Catherine and Lady Mary Grey are reeling after the brutal execution of their elder seventeen-year-old sister, Lady Jane Grey, and the succession is by no means stable. In Sisters of Treason, Elizabeth Freemantle brings these young women to life in a spellbinding Tudor tale of love and politics.

Neither sister is well suited to a dangerous life at court. Flirtatious Lady Catherine, thought to be the true heir, cannot control her compulsion to love and be loved. Her sister, clever Lady Mary, has a crooked spine and a tiny stature in an age when physical perfection equates to goodness—and both girls have inherited the Tudor blood that is more curse than blessing. For either girl to marry without royal permission would be a potentially fatal political act. It is the royal portrait painter, Levina Teerlinc, who helps the girls survive these troubled times. She becomes their mentor and confidante, but when the Queen’s sister, the hot-headed Elizabeth, inherits the crown, life at court becomes increasingly treacherous for the surviving Grey sisters. Ultimately each young woman must decide how far she will go to defy her Queen, risk her life, and find the safety and love she longs for.

From “a brilliant new player in the court of royal fiction,” (People) Sisters of Treason brings to vivid life the perilous and romantic lives of two little known young women who played a major role in the complex politics of their day.

*Note:  Elizabeth Fremantle became one of my favorite historical fiction authors when she wrote "Queen's Gambit" last year.  A brilliant read...   I can't wait to get to this one!


The Girl With All the Gifts is a groundbreaking thriller, emotionally charged and gripping from beginning to end.

Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class.

When they come for her, Sergeant keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don't like her. She jokes that she won't bite, but they don't laugh.

Melanie is a very special girl.

*Note:  Creepy!!  This is a novel I just ordered from Amazon after a "taste" of it on Netgalley.  It's a fabulous read....I can't tell you more.  :]

"Funny and moving. After this, nothing will ever taste the same again."—T. C. Boyle

It's 1973, and David Leveraux has landed his dream job as a Flavorist-in-Training, working in the secretive industry where chemists create the flavors for everything from the cherry in your can of soda to the butter on your popcorn.

While testing a new artificial sweetener—"Sweetness #9"—he notices unusual side-effects in the laboratory rats and monkeys: anxiety, obesity, mutism, and a generalized dissatisfaction with life. David tries to blow the whistle, but he swallows it instead.

Years later, Sweetness #9 is America's most popular sweetener—and David's family is changing. His wife is gaining weight, his son has stopped using verbs, and his daughter suffers from a generalized dissatisfaction with life. Is Sweetness #9 to blame, along with David's failure to stop it? Or are these just symptoms of the American condition?

David's search for an answer unfolds in this expansive novel that is at once a comic satire, a family story, and a profound exploration of our deepest cultural anxieties. Wickedly funny and wildly imaginative, Sweetness #9 questions whether what we eat truly makes us who we are.

*Note:  Can't resist this one!  I like a book like this for a change.  I'm getting a snap of it on Netgalley this week...but you can find it for purchase on B&N and Amazon.

So, those are my newest choices.  Wonder what you're reading this summer....


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

"One Kick" by Chelsea Cain ~ Explosive!


From the author of the critically acclaimed New York Times bestselling Archie Sheridan/Gretchen Lowell thrillers: The first in a nail-biting new series featuring Kick Lannigan, a young woman whose complicated past has given her a very special skill set.

Famously kidnapped at age six, Kick captured America’s hearts when she was rescued five years later. Now, twenty-one, she finds herself unexpectedly entangled in a missing child case that will put her talents to the test.

Trained as a marksman, lock picker, escape artist and bomb maker by her abductor, Kick could not return to the life of the average young girl after her release. So, in lieu of therapy, she mastered martial arts, boxing, and knife throwing; learned how to escape from the trunk of a car, jimmy a pair of handcuffs, and walk without making a sound—all before she was thirteen.

Kick has trained herself to be safe. But then two children go missing in three weeks, and an enigmatic and wealthy former weapons dealer approaches her with a proposition. John Bishop uses his fortune and contacts to track down missing children. Not only is he convinced Kick can help recover the two children—he won’t take no for an answer.

With lives hanging in the balance, Kick is set to be the crusader she has always imagined herself. Little does she know that the answers she and Bishop seek are hidden in one of the few places she doesn’t want to navigate—the dark corners of her own mind.

A heart-stopping, entertaining thrill ride, One Kick announces the arrival of a blistering new series by a stunning talent in the thriller realm.


Published by:  Simon & Schuster
Pages:  320
Series:  Kick Lannigan Series Bk 1
Genre:  Thriller/Mystery/Suspense
Author:  Chelsea Cain
Website:  http://www.chelseacain.com


Chelsea Cain is the author of the New York Times bestselling Archie Sheridan/Gretchen Lowell thrillers Heartsick, Sweetheart, Evil at Heart, The Night Season, Kill You Twice, and Let Me Go. Her Portland-based thrillers have been published in twenty-four languages, recommended on the TODAY show, appeared in episodes of HBO’s True Blood and ABC’s Castle, been named among Stephen King’s top ten favorite books of the year, and included in NPR’s list of the top 100 thrillers ever written. According to Booklist, “Popular entertainment just doesn’t get much better than this.”

CHECK out her website for a link to a Goodreads giveaway!!!  http://www.chelseacain.com


It's after midnight and I've just finished another Chelsea Cain novel much to my delight.  She's a long time favorite thriller/suspense novel writer who never fails to give a great "ride" for the money.  Chelsea is one of those authors who calls you to pick up every book she writes because you know you're going to get consistent thrillers that speed along and are gripping.  "One Kick" is no exception to this rule.  I'm excited to have this introduction to a new set of characters and a new series.

Loved, loved the story here of a young woman who is a grown up "rescue" from a child kidnapping.  The details of what she went through in her transition back to "normal" are exceptional and believable.  They add a broad dimension to this thriller based on finding two children who have also been kidnapped. 

Kick Lannigan is a wiry and wild protagonist who is worthy of a series of her own.  I absolutely love her.  Beautiful and brilliant, she is also physically powerful and; yet, psychologically vulnerable.  A startling combination for a potent storyline.  Her strange relationship with John Bishop adds that sugar and vinegar aspect to the plot that's pitch perfect!  These two are dynamic and fun to read about.

I couldn't put this book down all day until I'd finished it.  I think you'll love it if you're interested in a fast-paced suspense novel.  Great storyline with fascinating characters.

5 stars                    Deborah/TheBookishDame

Monday, July 21, 2014

"The Matchmaker" by Elin Hilderbrand~A Summer Hit!


A touching new novel from bestselling author Elin Hilderbrand in which a woman sets out to find love for those closest to her - before it's too late.

48-year-old Nantuckter Dabney Kimball Beech has always had a gift for matchmaking. Some call her ability mystical, while others - like her husband, celebrated economist John Boxmiller Beech, and her daughter, Agnes, who is clearly engaged to the wrong man - call it meddlesome, but there's no arguing with her results: With 42 happy couples to her credit and all of them still together, Dabney has never been wrong about romance.

Never, that is, except in the case of herself and Clendenin Hughes, the green-eyed boy who took her heart with him long ago when he left the island to pursue his dream of becoming a journalist. Now, after spending 27 years on the other side of the world, Clen is back on Nantucket, and Dabney has never felt so confused, or so alive.

But when tragedy threatens her own second chance, Dabney must face the choices she's made and share painful secrets with her family. Determined to make use of her gift before it's too late, she sets out to find perfect matches for those she loves most. The Matchmaker is a heartbreaking new novel from Elin Hilderbrand about losing and finding love, even as you're running out of time.


Published by:  Little, Brown & Co.
Pages:  357
Genre:  Fiction
Author:  Elin Hilderbrand
Website:  http://www.elinhilderbrand.net


Elin Hilderbrand does her best writing on the beaches of Nantucket, as well as on the charming streets of Beacon Hill in Boston. She has three magical children who beg her not to sing along to the radio or dance in public. The Matchmaker is her 13th novel.


I know, I know....beach reading, right?  My daughter said to me tonight, "Mom, don't give in to the girly and the light!!  Go back to your dark and drafty reading material, quick!"  I know.  But, honestly, Elin Hilderbrand just can't be resisted.  Her stories that take place on Nantucket are like cherries dipped in chocolate glimmering on a cold, silver plate to me.  I can't help myself...I'm just hooked every summer!

This is a particularly gripping story of Elin's.  It starts out light and fluffy, I'll give you that.  But, before you know it, you're a huge fan of the main character, Dabney.  You're feeling like her best friend.  And, you kind of remember well that boyfriend you had that you were madly in love with in  high school that you haven't seen in years.  And before you know it, you're drawn in and can't stop reading.

Elin Hildebrand's characters are simply charming.  They are the friends you never had but wish you did.  They are real and vulnerable, wholesome and lovable.  The family members she writes about are your family, too.  I just couldn't get enough of the people that populate this novel.

As Dabney is reunited with her first love, my heart was laid out right there with hers.  As she negotiated around all the obstacles in their path, I held my breath for them.  And when tragedy began its viney way towards them, I was shell shocked along with them.

This is the first book in a long time that's lifted my heart; made me laugh and cry in the same sittings.
In fact, I cried a bucket at the end.

It's a summer read, of course.  But, it's a great one!

5 stars                           Deborah/TheBookishDame

Sunday, July 20, 2014

"Frog Music" by Emma Donoghue ~ Magical and Spirited!


From the author of the worldwide bestseller Room: "Her greatest achievement yet...Emma Donoghue shows more than range with FROG MUSIC—she shows genius." — Darin Strauss, author of Half a Life

Summer of 1876: San Francisco is in the fierce grip of a record-breaking heat wave and a smallpox epidemic. Through the window of a railroad saloon, a young woman named Jenny Bonnet is shot dead.

The survivor, her friend Blanche Beunon, is a French burlesque dancer. Over the next three days, she will risk everything to bring Jenny's murderer to justice—if he doesn't track her down first. The story Blanche struggles to piece together is one of free-love bohemians, desperate paupers, and arrogant millionaires; of jealous men, icy women, and damaged children. It's the secret life of Jenny herself, a notorious character who breaks the law every morning by getting dressed: a charmer as slippery as the frogs she hunts.

In thrilling, cinematic style, FROG MUSIC digs up a long-forgotten, never-solved crime. Full of songs that migrated across the world, Emma Donoghue's lyrical tale of love and bloodshed among lowlifes captures the pulse of a boomtown like no other.


Published by:  Little, Brown & Co.
Pages:  416
Genre:  Fiction/Historical Fiction
Author:  Emma Donoghue
Website:  http://www.emmadonoghue.com
Purchase this book:  Amazon   or  Barnes & Noble


Born in Dublin, Ireland, in October 1969, I am the youngest of eight children of Frances and Denis Donoghue (the literary critic, Henry James Professor at New York University). I attended Catholic convent schools in Dublin, apart from one eye-opening year in New York at the age of ten. In 1990 I earned a first-class honours BA in English and French from University College Dublin (unfortunately, without learning to actually speak French). I moved to England, and in 1997 received my PhD (on the concept of friendship between men and women in eighteenth-century English fiction) from the University of Cambridge. From the age of 23, I have earned my living as a writer, and have been lucky enough to never have an ‘honest job’ since I was sacked after a single summer month as a chambermaid. After years of commuting between England, Ireland, and Canada, in 1998 I settled in London, Ontario, where I live with Chris Roulston and our son Finn (10) and daughter Una (6).

a bit more about Ms Donoghue:

Although I work in many genres, I am best known for my fiction, which has been translated into over forty languages.
My latest novel, Frog Music (2014), is a multi-faceted murder mystery set in San Francisco in 1876.
Room (2010) is narrated by a five-year-old called Jack, who lives in a single room with his Ma and has never been outside. An international bestseller, Room was shortlisted for the Man Booker and Orange Prize, and won the Hughes & Hughes Irish Novel of the Year, the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, the Commonwealth Prize (Canada & Carribbean Region), the Canadian Booksellers’ Association Libris Awards (Fiction Book and Author of the Year), the Forest of Reading Evergreen Award and the W.H. Smith Paperback of the Year Award.
I began by writing about contemporary Dublin before the Boom in a coming-of-age novel, Stir-fry (1994), and a tale of bereavement, Hood (1995, winner of the American Library Association’s Gay and Lesbian Book Award, and recently republished by HarperCollins in the US), and I returned to my transformed home city with a love story that contrasts it with smalltown Ontario in Landing (2007, winner of a Golden Crown Literary Award).
I have a great love for the short story form; my stories have been published in Granta, the New Statesman, One Story, the Sunday Express, Mail on Sunday, The Lady, the Globe and Mail, as well as 30 other journals and anthologies.  They have been broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and 4, RTE and CBC. Touchy Subjects (2006) is a set of nineteen contemporary stories about social taboos that moves between Ireland, Britain, France, Italy, the US and Canada.
I became a YA author by accident. Kissing the Witch (1997), my sequence of re-imagined fairytales, was published for adults in the UK but bought by Joanna Cottler Books (HarperCollins) in the US; they managed to win me a whole new 12-and-up audience, and Kissing the Witch was shortlisted for the James L. Tiptree Award. 
Perhaps inevitably, given my scholarly background and bent, I moved into historical fiction with Slammerkin (2000), a whydunnit inspired by a 1763 murder.  Slammerkin was a Main Selection of the Book of the Month Club, won the 2002 Ferro-Grumley Award for Lesbian Fiction, and was a finalist in the 2001 Irish Times Irish Fiction Prize. 
I followed it with a sequence of short stories about real incidents from the fourteenth century to the nineteenth, The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits (2002), and then Life Mask (2004, a finalist for the Ferro-Grumley Award), which tells the startling true story of a love triangle in 1790s London. The Sealed Letter (US/Canada 2008, UK 2011) is a domestic thriller about an 1860s cause celebre (the Codrington Divorce), joint winner of the Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Fiction and longlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction.
Three and a Half Deaths, my first mini ebook (UK/Ireland only), brings together four stories of calamities ranging from 1840s Canada to 1920s France. And  Astray (2012, shortlisted for the Eason Irish Novel of the Year) is a sequence of fourteen fact-inspired stories about travels to, from and within North America; one of them, ‘The Hunt’, was a finalist in the Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Short Story Prize, the world’s most valuable award for a single story.


Naturally, I'm a huge fan of Ms Donoghue after having read "Slammerkin" and "Room," but even I was caught off guard by this strange sounding book with an odd plot...  I need not  have been.  "Frog Music" is just as engaging and challenging as her other books.  I absolutely loved it. 

There's a sort of "Deadwood" (if you remember the TV program from some years ago) quality about this book.  It's dark and it's filled with singular characters that lift off the pages like illuminated glyphs.  The characters are small miracles from the mind of Donoghue.  Exacting in detail, beautifully rendered, they speak with perfect pitch their roles in this vignette of the old west and settling of a still wild San Francisco in the 1800's. 

Blanche, the central figure, is a sympathetic, baudy-house lady with a pretty little Frenchman lover and his fellow who depend upon her, a sickly baby who wrenches her heart and a friendship with Jenny, a gal who wears pants and totes a gun in a time when it's against the law for women.  The mystery of who shot and killed Jenny carries the plot of the story, but it's the surrounding details that really make this book sing.

Emma Donoghue is a genius at making her stories come alive in the details.  We can sense the tension, feel the fear, joy and love of the characters, hear what they hear, and see what they see.   The songs of the era shared in the book are lilting and eerie, lending another element to support this petite, masquerade of characters.

This is a book that picks you up gently at the beginning and before you know it you're hooked.  It's the kind of book that's difficult to describe.  One where the writing tends to outshine the summary.  You know the type...

I highly recommend it.

5 stars                                   Deborah/TheBookishDame

Friday, July 11, 2014

"Little Mercies" by Heather Gudenkauf- Absorbing!


In her latest ripped-from-the-headlines tour de force, New York Times bestselling author Heather Gudenkauf shows how one small mistake can have life-altering consequences…

Veteran social worker Ellen Moore has seen the worst side of humanity—the vilest acts one person can commit against another. She is a fiercely dedicated children's advocate and a devoted mother and wife. But one blistering summer day, a simple moment of distraction will have repercussions that Ellen could never have imagined, threatening to shatter everything she holds dear, and trapping her between the gears of the system she works for.

Meanwhile, ten-year-old Jenny Briard has been living with her well-meaning but irresponsible father since her mother left them, sleeping on friends' couches and moving in and out of cheap motels. When Jenny suddenly finds herself on her own, she is forced to survive with nothing but a few dollars and her street smarts. The last thing she wants is a social worker, but when Ellen's and Jenny's lives collide, little do they know just how much they can help one another.

A powerful and emotionally charged tale about motherhood and justice, Little Mercies is a searing portrait of the tenuous grasp we have on the things we love the most, and of the ties that unexpectedly bring us together.


Published by:  Harlequin MIRA
Pages:  320
Genre:  Fiction
Author:  Heather Gudenkauf
Website:  http://www.heathergudenkauf.com


Heather Gudenkauf is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Weight of Silence and These Things Hidden.

Heather was born in Wagner, South Dakota, the youngest of six children. At one month of age, her family returned to the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota where her father was employed as a guidance counselor and her mother as a school nurse. At the age of three, her family moved to Iowa, where she grew up. Having been born with a profound unilateral hearing impairment (there were many evenings when Heather and her father made a trip to the bus barn to look around the school bus for her hearing aids that she often conveniently would forget on the seat beside her), Heather tended to use books as a retreat, would climb into the toy box that her father’s students from Rosebud made for the family with a pillow, blanket, and flashlight, close the lid, and escape the world around her. Heather became a voracious reader and the seed of becoming a writer was planted.
Heather Gudenkauf graduated from the University of Iowa with a degree in elementary education, has spent her career working with students of all ages and continues to work in education as a Title I Reading Coordinator.

Heather lives in Iowa with her husband, three children, and a very spoiled German Shorthaired Pointer named Maxine. In her free time Heather enjoys spending time with her family, reading, hiking, and running. She is currently working on her next novel.


It wasn't until I read Heather Gudenkauf's bio. that I discovered she has "profound unilateral hearing impairment."  Now that I'm deaf in one ear, I feel a new kinship with her.  I wonder if this hearing loss of  hers contributes to her extraordinary sense of characterization and conversational timing as she writes.  I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and can hardly wait to read her latest, "Little Lies."

The opening chapters of the book are shocking and simply drag us into the story.  The predicament of the social worker mother is one we immediately identify with, and; now that her same "mistake" is in our nation's attention this summer, it's even more compelling!  I was physically rocked by what happened to her and her child.

The secondary storyline kept close pace with the primary one...it was just as gripping.  Ms Gudenkauf is a great storyteller who knows how to captivate and keep us guessing.  None of her characters are run-of-the-mill.

If you're looking for a book that is different and will hold your attention throughout, this is one of them.  I've been tired reading books with similar plots and themes.  Heather Gudenkauf took me on a journey I appreciated and will look forward to in others of her books.

5 stars                                Deborah/TheBookishDame

Saturday, May 3, 2014

"Spun" by Catherine McKenzie~Novella Continues "Spin"


In this funny and touching novella, bestselling author Catherine McKenzie returns to the story of Amber Sheppard, It Girl and celebrity train wreck from McKenzie’s reader-favourite novel, Spin.
Life has been rough for starlet Amber since leaving rehab. She’s been two years sober, but no one seems to believe her -- not the gossip media, not casting agents, and most certainly not her spotlight-loving parents. With her friendships ruined by betrayal and her career at a standstill, Amber’s just trying to get her life back on track. It doesn’t help that her former love, movie star Connor Parks, keeps trying to draw Amber back in, not just to their relationship but to his hard-partying ways. One fateful night, Amber breaks down and agrees to join him on board his private jet as it readies for take-off -- a decision that will change her life forever and expose her to a whole new level of scrutiny and heartbreak.


Published by:  HarperCollins
Pages:  150 
Genre:  Contemporary  (Novella)
Author:  Catherine McKenzie
Website:  http://www.catherinemckenzie.com
Twitter:  @CeMcKenzie1
Purchase:  Amazon


A graduate of McGill University in History and Law, Catherine practices law in Montreal, where she was born and raised. An avid skier and runner, Catherine’s novels, SPIN, ARRANGED and FORGOTTEN, are all international bestsellers. Her fourth novel, HIDDEN, will be released in June, 2013 in Canada and in Spring 2014 in the US. Her novels have been translated into French, German, Czech, Slovak and Polish. And if you want to know how she has time to do all that, the answer is: robots


It's been a while since I read "Spin," but it wasn't difficult to remember the very brave and clearly drawn characters Catherine McKenzie drew in the novel.  So jumping into this small novella was easy and a whirlwind of a ride.  I do; however, recommend your reading "Spin" for the joy of it, if you haven't, although I don't think it's necessary to really get the impact of this one.

McKenzie whips us into a frenzy from the first pages of "Spun;" thus the title, I believe.  We are torn from one direction to the other as her protagonist Amber works to resettle herself as a starlet after rehab.  Not such an easy job with the confusion and expectations of so many who make demands of her and surround her.

Bringing back some of the old characters in new displaced roles was genius.  I loved seeing them in this new light.  Their individual struggles made them even more interesting, and caused the whole lot of them to blend a tighter web.  Beautiful characterization of people slightly on the warp. Comedic in a slightly tilted way.

At the end of the book I found myself deeply touched to tears.  I don't know why exactly except that I felt finally Amber had found her way to the "light."  She had kicked aside all the things and people who held her down, and was ready for a new life.  I thought she deserved it.

Quick and easy little novella.  I loved the way it wrapped up the "Spin" novel...

4 stars                     Deborah/TheBookishDame

Friday, April 18, 2014

Book Haul~Week of April 18th

What a great week for books this was!  I'm delighted to get some of these, and can't wait to get to reading them.  It's such an burst of excitement to hear my little Yorkie barking when the mailman drops off a book.  She's all prancing and dancing around the door and I'm in a flurry to find out what's been sent by the very generous publishers.  My health has steadily been improving, and these books keep me encouraged and busy.  So, let's see what's new!


“Maeve Kerrigan [is] a fascinating and plausible character…What she has is persistence, integrity and emotional intelligence, and a very deft way of insinuating herself into a reader's affections.”—The Irish Independent (UK)
Vast wealth offers London defense attorney Philip Kennford a lot of things: a gorgeous house with a pool in the backyard, connections in the top echelons of society, a wardrobe worthy of Milan runways. But his money doesn’t provide a happy marriage, or good relationships with his twin daughters…and it does nothing to protect his family when someone brutally murders his wife and daughter in their own home.

*Many thanks to St. Martin's for this one!


At the height of the Cold War, Marilyn Monroe was the most infamous woman in the world. But what if she was also a secret Soviet spy?
In 1947, a young, unknown Norma Jeane Baker meets a mysterious man in Los Angeles who transforms her into Marilyn Monroe, the star. Twelve years later he comes back for his repayment, and Marilyn is given her first assignment from the KGB: uncover something about JFK that no one else knows...

*With thanks to Weinstein Publishing and FSB Media Associates for this opportunity to review.


In 1860, Alexander Ferguson, a newly ordained vicar and amateur evolutionary scientist, takes up his new parish, a poor, isolated patch on the remote Scottish island of Harris. He hopes to uncover the truth behind the legend of the selkies—mermaids or seal people who have been sighted off the north of Scotland for centuries. He has a more personal motive, too; family legend states that Alexander is descended from seal men. As he struggles to be the good pastor he was called to be, his maid Moira faces the terrible eviction of her family by Lord Marstone, whose family owns the island. Their time on the island will irrevocably change the course of both their lives, but the white house on the edge of the dunes keeps its silence long after they are gone.

It will be more than a century before the Sea House reluctantly gives up its secrets. Ruth and Michael buy the grand but dilapidated building and begin to turn it into a home for the family they hope to have. Their dreams are marred by a shocking discovery. The tiny bones of a baby are buried beneath the house; the child's fragile legs are fused together—a mermaid child. Who buried the bones? And why? To heal her own demons, Ruth feels she must discover the secrets of her new home—but the answers to her questions may lie in her own traumatic past. The Sea House by Elisabeth Gifford is a sweeping tale of hope and redemption and a study of how we heal ourselves by discovering our histories.

*Most graciously sent by St. Martin's Press, thank you!


Edgar Award finalist and international bestselling author Brian Freeman brings the long-awaited return of Lieutenant Jonathan Stride to the bitter cold of Duluth, Minnesota.

Sixteen-year-old Catalina Mateo shows up unannounced one night in Detective Jonathan Stride’s home, dripping wet from a desperate plunge into the icy waters of Lake Superior. Her sodden clothes stained with blood, Cat spins a tale of a narrow escape from a shadowy pursuer.
*Thanks to Quercus and author Brian Freeman for sending this one for a review.  Thank you!

Overview :

"Every note of the characters' correspondence rings true."—Le Nouvel Observateur
"A page-turning novel with a skilfully woven plot."—Page des Libraires
"Rich in deftly turned prose and subtle character study."—Sud-Ouest
"A wonderful book about the archaeology of memory."—Le Magazine Littéraire
"Elegant, restrained, and poetic."—France Inter

The three figures in the photograph are frozen forever, two men and a woman bathed in sunlight . . .

The chance discovery of a newspaper image from 1971 sets two people on the path to learning the disturbing truth about their parents' pasts.

Parisian archivist Hélène takes out a newspaper advert calling for information about her mother, who died when she was three, and the two men pictured with her in a photograph taken at a tennis tournament at Interlaken in 1971. Stéphane, a Swiss biologist living in Kent, responds: his father is one of the people in the photo. Letters and more photos pass between them as they embark on a journey to uncover the truth their parents kept from them. But will the relics of the past fill the silences left by the players?

Winner of fifteen literary awards, this dark yet touching drama deftly explores the themes of blame and forgiveness, identity and love.

*Many thanks to Meryl Zegarek Public Relations Inc. and Gallic Books, for this very exotic little book.


The New York Times bestselling author John Hart raved that “If you like stories of good people struggling to do right in the world’s forgotten places, there is no one better suited than Corban Addison to take you on the ride of your life.” In The Garden of Burning Sand, Addison, the bestselling author of A Walk Across the Sun, creates a powerful and poignant novel that takes the reader from the red light areas of Lusaka, Zambia, to the gilded chambers of the Washington, D.C. elite, to the splendor of Victoria Falls and Cape Town.

Zoe Fleming, an accomplished young human rights attorney, has made a life for herself in Zambia, far from her estranged father—an American business mogul with presidential aspirations—and from the devastating betrayals of her past.

When a young girl with Down syndrome is sexually assaulted in a Lusaka slum, Zoe joins Zambian police officer Joseph Kabuta in investigating the rape. Piecing together clues from the victim’s past, they discover an unsettling connection between the girl—Kuyeya—and a powerful Zambian family who will stop at nothing to bury the truth.

As they are drawn deeper into the complex web of characters behind this appalling crime, Zoe and Joseph forge a bond of trust and friendship that slowly transforms into love. Opposed on all sides, they find themselves caught in a dangerous clash between the forces of justice and power. To successfully prosecute Kuyeya’s attacker and build a future with Joseph, Zoe must risk her life and her heart—and confront the dark past she thought she had left behind.

*This one was sent by Quercus, as well.  Interesting book...


It's October in Buffalo as four long-time friends, The In Accord Book Club, gather around a fireplace while a fierce windstorm amasses strength outside. They are deeply disappointed with the unfaithful characters and lackluster resolution of the novel they've met to discuss. When they agree to each write a richer, more satisfying conclusion in lieu of their next month's selection, none has any idea of the tempests about to erupt in her own world.

*Also kindly sent by Kelley & Hall book publicity and promotions.  Thanks, Jocelyn!

I now have lots of work on my hands!  Maybe you'll choose one or two of these books to read along with me.  Keep reading and hope to see you back here as I continue my reviewing journey...


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

"The Red Lily Crown" by Elizabeth Loupas~Author Interview!


Elizabeth Loupas returns with her most ambitious historical novel yet, a story of intrigue, passion, and murder in the Medici Court...

April, 1574, Florence, Italy. Grand Duke Cosimo de’ Medici lies dying. The city is paralyzed with dread, for the next man to wear the red lily crown will be Prince Francesco: despotic, dangerous, and obsessed with alchemy.

Chiara Nerini, the troubled daughter of an anti-Medici bookseller, sets out to save her starving family by selling her dead father’s rare alchemical equipment to the prince. Instead she is trapped in his household—imprisoned and forcibly initiated as a virgin acolyte in Francesco’s quest for power and immortality. Undaunted, she seizes her chance to pursue undreamed-of power of her own.

Witness to sensuous intrigues and brutal murder plots, Chiara seeks a safe path through the labyrinth of Medici tyranny and deception. Beside her walks the prince’s mysterious English alchemist Ruanno, her friend and teacher, driven by his own dark goals. Can Chiara trust him to keep her secret s…even to love her …or will he prove to be her most treacherous enemy of all?


Published by:  Penguin Group
Pages:  448
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Author:  Elizabeth Loupas
Website:  http://www.elizabethloupas.com


Elizabeth Loupas held various positions in radio and television, and worked as an editor, writer, and marketing consultant.  She holds degrees in literary studies and library/information science.  She lives with her husband and two beagles. She is the author of The Second Duchess and The Flower Reader.


The Bookish Dame is delighted to host Ms Loupas today with an author interview.  Thank you so much for joining us, Elizabeth!  Love your interesting life, and it's so great to share it with our readers.  Let's get right to it...

1)      Tell us something about yourself, please.  How do most people describe you?

Most people would probably describe me as kind of solitary and stay-at-home. I suspect I’m the only writer in the world who grew up reading Little Women and wanted to be Beth.

                Briefly, from where did the idea for your novel come from?

When I was researching The Second Duchess, I learned that Barbara of Austria and her younger sister Joanna traveled south from Austria together and were married at virtually the same time—Barbara to Alfonso II d’Este, Duke of Ferrara, and Joanna to Francesco de’ Medici, Prince of Florence. This intrigued me, and in early drafts of The Second Duchess, there were actually scenes in which Joanna (in Florence called Giovanna) visited Barbara in Ferrara. Those scenes were cut (primarily because they would have been historically inaccurate), but I didn’t forget Giovanna. A little reading about Francesco uncovered the fact that he was historically obsessed with alchemy, and the story pretty much exploded from there.

2)      Who first told you that you could write well, and how did it affect you?

The first person who encouraged me to write stories (as opposed to school “reports”) was my junior high school home room and English teacher, Maida Dugan. How I adored her! I wrote rambling romantic tales (even then I loved historical fiction) for her and she commented on them very kindly and patiently. I wish I could talk to her today and coax her to tell me what she really thought!

She also assigned us poems to memorize, and I always chose the long story-poems—Poe and Browning and Longfellow. To this day I’ll start reeling off lines and lines of poetry when something jogs my memory, much to the amazement of my husband.

3)      Which contemporary authors do you most admire?

This will vary from day to day, depending on my mood. Some contemporary authors I’m reading at the moment are Deanna Raybourn, Lisa Brackmann, Kate Quinn, Sharon Kay Penman, Anne Rivers Siddons, and Kate Morton. I hate making lists like this because I want to include hundreds of authors!

4)      Who are your favorite classical authors?

This is another case of wanting to make a huge list of thousands of names. The swashbucklers, of course—Dumas, Baroness Orczy, Sabatini, Shellabarger, Dunnett. My beloved comfort reads—E.F. Benson, Angela Thirkell, Miss Read, E.M. Delafield, Flora Thompson. Jane Austen, the Brontes, Elizabeth Gaskell, Nathanial Hawthorne. The Pre-Raphaelites—the Rossettis, Swinburne, and Browning, of course, although he wasn’t technically a Pre-Raph. Oh, and now that I’ve strayed into poetry, Edwin Arlington Robinson. Sorry, I’ll stop now.

5)      What was your first book as a child?  What’s your all-time favorite book?

The first books I owned were Little Golden Books. (Am I dating myself?) I remember The Pokey Little Puppy and one that had a fuzzy yellow cat—the pictures of the cat were flocked with velvety stuff so you could actually pet them. I was enthralled. I don’t think I have one all-time favorite book. Perhaps the six books of the Lymond series by Dorothy Dunnett—it’s all one story, so that would count as one book, right?

6)      Best book you’ve read in the past 6 months?

The one I got lost in most deeply was a re-read, ...And Ladies of the Club by Helen Hooven Santmyer. It’s enormous and reading it is like living a whole alternate life.

7)      What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?

The one (which shall remain unidentified) where I was shouted at repeatedly by my boss (who shall remain nameless). Or even worse, was trapped into sitting by while he shouted at someone else. I don’t do shouting well at all. See above about me wanting to be Beth March.

8)      What’s your earliest memory?

Being sick with the measles (according to my mother I was about three at the time) and “coloring”—scrawling all over with a bright red crayon—a drawing my older brother brought home from Sunday School. I swear I can still see all those loopy red scribbles. My brother was not amused.

As a child who liked to draw and color, in a family with musical talent, I called myself the “artical” one. I suppose now I’d describe myself as “writacal.”

9)      What’s your most treasured possession?

Barring the beagles—and I’m probably more their possession than they are mine—the first thing I’d grab in a fire would be a banker’s box filled with pictures, including the baby book my own mother lovingly created, and my own scrapbooks through the years. Oh, and I suppose the external hard drive I use for computer back-ups, so I’d have all my digital pictures and documents.

10)   Are you working on a new novel?

I am! It’s still in very early stages, so I don’t want to talk too much about it, but it will have something to do with the introduction of chocolate to Europe, and a priceless casket of cacao beans that was a Spanish princess’s betrothal gift to a French king...
Oh, so delightful!  You certainly are the "artical" one, Elizabeth.  I look forward to the next book in your cache.  I'm a huge fan!
This is a delicious book of intrigue, mysticism and glamour.  Ms Loupas never fails to pull us into a story.  She had me from the first chapter with her brave and brazen young Chiara, and her introduction of the strong and stand-offish Englishman, Ruanno.  The chemistry in this book isn't just alchemy!!
Brilliant in details about the time and place of the Medici in Florence, this novel is vivid and engaging.  I couldn't help visualizing as I read. Elizabeth Loupas is an alchemist herself with the use of color-effects and characterization.  These characters are fiery and beautiful to read about.  It's a sophisticated novel, not fluff.
The plot of the story is well-developed with intrigue and mystery.  I learned a great deal about the tools and mystique of alchemy, the House of Medici, and the culture of Florence.  And the enchanting love story had me turning pages, as well.
This is a "must read" for historical fiction aficionados.  You will love the depths the story brings you into.  I dare you not to identify with Chiara! I dare you not to be obsessed with the House of Medici in all its glory and madness!
5 stars                Deborah/TheBookishDame


Monday, April 14, 2014

"Days of Blood and Starlight" by Laini Taylor

Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a world free of bloodshed and war.

This is not that world.

Art student and monster's apprentice Karou finally has the answers she has always sought. She knows who she is—and what she is. But with this knowledge comes another truth she would give anything to undo: She loved the enemy and he betrayed her, and a world suffered for it.

In this stunning sequel to the highly acclaimed Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Karou must decide how far she'll go to avenge her people. Filled with heartbreak and beauty, secrets and impossible choices, Days of Blood & Starlight finds Karou and Akiva on opposing sides as an age-old war stirs back to life.

While Karou and her allies build a monstrous army in a land of dust and starlight, Akiva wages a different sort of battle: a battle for redemption. For hope.

But can any hope be salvaged from the ashes of their broken dream?

Published by:  Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Pages:  544
Genre:  Fantasy
Author:  Laini Taylor
Series:  Daughter of Smoke and Bones #2
Author's website is www.lainitaylor.com
Purchase this book:  Barnes & Noble  and  Amazon


Laini Taylor is the New York Times bestselling author of Days of Blood & Starlight, Daughter of Smoke & Bone, the Dreamdark books Blackbringer and Silksinger, and the National Book Award finalist Lips Touch: Three Times. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband, illustrator Jim Di Bartolo, and their daughter, Clementine.

An Award-Winning Trailer for "Days of Blood & Starlight"

Not having read the "Daughter of Smoke and Bone" all the way through puts me at a disadvantage to review this sequel.  I decided to try it, however, because I had heard such accolades about Laini Taylor and her writing style.  I have to tell you this book was a mixed bag for me. 
I thoroughly enjoyed her world-building and her prose in places.  Although the density of her lovely prose was just overwhelming at times and diminished her story.  I wanted more about the angelic beings to be described and thought I'd probably missed out on that in the first book.
Her main characters were engaging and beautifully created so that they held my attention throughout.
Absolutely a book of strong characters, but I don't think the story befits them.  It's a book of beautiful descriptions of places and magical things, but I don't think the story itself is particularly moving.  Probably because I'm not much on demons and battles...and the love story got lost for me.
I suspect this is a great sequel to those young readers who loved "Daughter of Smoke and Bones," however. It had all the makings of being that kind of book.  So, if you're one who would like to start a new series, I would say go for this one, but start from the beginning.  It's gotten rave reviews from those who are familiar with the series.
I would give it a 4 stars for one who hasn't read the first book, but who finds magical prose and angelic beings interesting. And, I do like the way Ms Taylor writes. Laini leaves a cliff hanger at the end that portends the third book in the series for all her many fans.
4 stars                             Deborah/TheBookishDame